Sunday, November 10, 2013

Mini Collections 4,5 & 6

Two weeks ago we spent a wonderful weekend "up north" in a condo on the shore of Lake Superior near Two Harbors, MN with our friends Bryan and Michele.  We took in the sights, did some easy hiking, ate lots of good food and spent time looking at the lake from our condo window while catching up on each other's lives. 

We spent some time on the beach at Flood Bay where we were hoping to be lucky enough to find Lake Superior agates washed ashore.  We did find some small agate pieces but I was distracted by many other categories of pretties and here are three of my favorite little groups of finds.

Spotted and textured


Smooth and shapely

We hope to get a chance to go back again soon. It was inspiring, restful and restorative all in one. Can't ask for more from a weekend!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Filling fall with projects . . . . .

The feel of autumn is definitely in the air here this week.  Even the quality of the daylight seems different.  The days are getting shorter and it is dark now when I get up at 6 each morning.  All these signs of seasonal change bring little waves of apprehension, for as much as I love September and
October  the inevitable gray, cold days of November, December, January and February will have to follow.

I feel this dread of winter a bit more intensely each year.  I begin to understand the draw of sunny climes and the migration of Minnesota elder snow-birds to Florida or Arizona for the worst months of snowfall and sub-zero temperatures.  I am not ready to follow this pattern quite yet but here at our house we begin to speak of "a couple months in a warmer spot for January and February someday" - someday.  Maybe someday.

But for now I begin to cocoon.  The loom and the spinning wheel, the wool and all the yarn and fiber begin to pull me indoors.  The distraction of the vegetable garden and the flower beds will be all tucked away for the season soon.  The family room and weaving corner feels cozy and promising as a winter evening retreat.  This is angora from a goat named Madeline, a large bag of lovely softness waiting to be spun - a gift from my friend Betty.

I am still working away at my ever present sock knitting.  I do not really ever tire of producing these.
But I have promised myself a change of pace with a larger project for the early winter months.  I am searching for the perfect pullover sweater pattern.  I want something very simple, a casual look, probably wool yarn.  I will decide within the next couple of weeks so that I can get started and have a chance to wear the finished product this winter!

I have strung the loom with a warp for eight placemats, a simple plain weave, woven with this multi-strand yarn filler pictured above.  These will weave up quickly and then a warp of log cabin placemats is next.  My plan after that is for something a bit more complex and challenging.  I need that motivation to keep me from lapsing into hibernation mode as the snow looms ahead!

I am drawn to this draft for a halvdrall runner.  Havdrall is a Swedish supplementary-weft structure that works a lot like crackle.  It would definitely be a challenge.  I will let you know how this goes! 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Oh, the days dwindle down to a precious few . . . .

Life seems to go in fits and spurts of activity, then into the doldrums and hours of accomplishing nothing, with no predictable pattern.  Some weeks are filled with much excitement or at least activity and then days of boredom, if not drudgery.

Onto this unpredictable pattern we try to overlay an actual schedule of work, meals, chores, precious hours with family and time for art.  It is a wonder we can keep it all together as well as we do.

Our summer in Minneapolis was a strange mix of weather.  And so we never seemed to get in a real summer frame of mind. I promised myself some evenings of spinning and blocks of time to get projects on and off the loom, but the summer slips away.

I have been far removed from any fiber work except for some sock knitting. I think because it is a project easily picked up for short bouts, I can always fit it into my day.  I try to remember to carry a sock-in- progress with me to work for lunch hour knitting.

I have enjoyed working my way through a new (new to me) sock technique - toe up socks, one at a time.  I used the pattern from Pink which has an accompanying video instruction.  The tutorial takes you through the whole sock knitted on #5 needles with worsted weight yarn.  

They knitted up quickly, I liked the finished product and though I am sure the pattern is for teaching purposes I have purchased yarn for a second pair.  These will be the perfect sock for Birkenstock sandals (alas, ever the old hippie!) for the cool fall weather that is just around the corner.

We shall see if September will bring the motivation and free time to fill with spinning, weaving,  knitting and all things fiber.  The early days of fall still do promise warm hours for swimming, outdoor grilling and soaking up the colors of the garden. But like this poor, fading daylily, the summer weather fades.  

Relish it while you may.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Mini Collection #3 : Vintage Sewing Supplies

These charming vintage needle folders and sewing supplies make me feel a connection back to all the women who hemmed and mended and replaced buttons for their precious families.  . . . . 

 . . . . . . .  a labor of love.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Still on the loom!

Still on the loom!  That is the only sad report I can give on the progress of the denim coasters.  Sad and a bit embarrassing.  I have had no motivation to work consistently on these.  Three sets have been woven so enough warp for 5 or 6 coasters remains.  I decided to add a fat plied yarn to the last 2 sets just to vary the weaving.

This also gave me an excuse to ply 6 strands of bronze colored rayon chenille into a nice thick yarn.  I now hope to get two sets of coasters with this chenille alternating with the denim strips.  This should be a nice pop with this particular warp of blue, brown and bronze.

The socks that could never be finished are finally finished!  Honestly, I have forgotten when I started these but I have been knitting them forever.  The second sock took an especially long time.  I'm surprised that they match and that the first one hasn't faded while waiting in the knitting basket!

I started this new pair the very next evening.  I love the feel of these already.  I am using a 3 ply yarn that I made from 3 cones of yarn I found at a garage sale years ago - I believe it's acrylic, which is usually not my first choice, but I love the weight of the plied product, a little heavier than standard sock yarn and the knitted rib top has a nice hefty feel.  I guess it is an experiment to see how this yarn performs as a sock.  We'll see. 

I am considering my next project carefully, scouring magazines and books for inspiration,  I want to do a pattern that I haven't done before or adapt one I love to a new use. Celia set me on this quest when she suggested that I should weave something totally different!  Change is good. Celia will recognize this mantra - she evidently will use it to influence me now!

So, all right  . . . . . .   Change is good!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Mini Collection #2

I had so much fun making these brooches from all the little bits of yarn left in my stash.  All those odds and ends of pretty little leftovers that you can't bear to let go.  Heaven forbid that you would throw any scrap of yarn away! They all speak to me of past projects. Some even have the added bonus of a vintage button tucked into the center. Each one is a little individual piece of fiber work to be enjoyed on it's own.  

But after taking the photos for their blog appearance I find that I love them all together.  As a group, they make a strong visual statement.  I think this would make a charming framed collection and a fun accent in any room.  Here is the link for this collection in my Etsy shop.

Think spring.  Maybe if we all concentrate we can conjure up warm sunshine, spring showers and before you know it  .  .   .  . spring flowers! 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Books,books and more books . . . . .

I have been reading some unusual book choices this winter based on suggestions from my family.  I liked all of these very different books for very different reasons. Getting recommendations from trusted sources has led me to books that I might never have chosen on my own.   So for the new year I started out with two big commitments.

First I read 1776 by David McCullough on the recommendation of my son, Joseph.  He had recently finished it, really liked it and left his copy at our house.  I started it shortly after Xmas.  As you would guess it is about the Revolutionary War.  Coming to this meticulously researched book with only a high school history based knowledge of the subject, this was fascinating.  The campaigns and battles were brought to life by the descriptive details of the locations and the American and British officers.  The descriptions of the conditions endured by the soldiers were heartrending and the quotes from their letters to families were touching.

It was a slow read for me because there was so much to absorb.  But it was worth the time and the effort. A good read.

At the same time, I read Cloudsplitter by Russell Baker, recommended by husband, Patrick.  This book of historical fiction was an account of the religious fanatic, John Brown, abolitionist and ultimately terrorist, told in the voice of one of his surviving sons, Owen Brown.  An historically fascinating but sad account of how one man's obsession, though well intended, destroyed his whole family. An excellent read. 

I just finished Flight Behaviors by Barbara Kingsolver, recommended by daughter, Celia. She gave this a 5 out of 5 star rating and Barbara Kingsolver is one of my favorite authors.  So it was a no brainer choice!  Very good read - climate change, monarch butterfly migration, love, loss, sexy scientist, and ultimately a coming of age story about a likable main character, Dellarobia Turnbull.  Read it!

To the mix I added Of Human Bondage by William S Maugham.  Looking for a next book to read I asked Patrick for suggestions and he tossed this out, I'm not sure why.  It is one of those classics that I have always meant to read so it seemed about time to do it!

Wow!  I loved it.  It had all the old English charm of Dickens, the strict class divides, wealth, poverty, privilege, and great contrasts.  But it was again a wonderful coming of age story about Philip Carey, a timeless tale of his journey to maturity and an appreciation of what life can be.  Beautiful, moving - an excellent read.

I have moved on to some choices of my own, The End of Faith by Sam Harris about the clash between religion and reason in the modern world.  This has been on my list for a long time.

I am also rereading The Middle of Everywhere by Mary Pipher about connecting with the newest members of American society - refugees, written from her volunteer experiences in Lincoln, NE.

And most recently, Patrick and I are both reading Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis, an explanation of why modern wheat causes so many health problems and the science behind it.  Patrick has just found that he is wheat sensitive so we are redesigning our diet to be gluten free.  We may need the companion cookbook!

There is never enough time to read all the wonderful books on my list but if you have suggestions, please pass them along - a reading list can never be too long or too varied.

Read on . . . . . . . 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Cozy, snowy days . . . . .

As predicted, we are having a snowy day here in Minneapolis land.  Nothing like the 2-3 feet of snow in the northeast part of the country but the snow here was preceded by rain and then lots of ice pellets.  Now it has been snowing off and on most of the day so it is a day to avoid driving.  It is a day to cozy in and indulge in your favorite quiet activities.

I have been spending some time glueing the liners into my black and white origami boxes and folding map boxes.  This is such calm, rhythmic work - it is very Zen-like, it must be good for my heart and certainly my mind. 

I also got a warp for coasters strung on the loom.  I know this looks like overkill to put a 5" wide warp on this 42", 8 harness loom but my table loom, which is my go-to coaster loom, does not have a working home indoors.  It is tucked away in the storage room until spring when I can use it on the screen porch. So, coasters on the big loom in the winter!

These will be woven with narrow denim strips making very quiet, warm looking coasters in this blue and brown colorway.  They should weave up quickly and require only tying fringe knots to be completed.

Snow removal in the backyard for Maxi is complete.  He really doesn't like the deep snow and we have spoiled him by always shoveling a path just for him!  Patrick used the snow blower to clear the driveway so we are all dug out just in time for it to snow some more over night!

And here is Maxi in his favorite cozy pillow nest on a cold afternoon.  Smart dog!

Now, time for tea . . . .  hope you find your warm and cozy spot.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

and now . . . instant collection #1

 I am trying to take a serious look at all my stuff.  It leads me to believe that I have the hoarding gene that is common among artists, crafters, collectors and apparently, my family.  I truly am never very successful at getting rid of much from my stash of supplies and objects of inspiration.  All of these things hold a power over me and have a special charm, especially as I group them into small collections, which is my tendency.

I have decided to share some of these mini collections.  I will try to post a photo of a group occasionally.  Some of these will warrant some words and others will stand alone.  I hope you enjoy seeing these as much as I have loved gathering them.

As part of the reviewing and purging, some of these instant collections will be sold on my Etsy site but for now they are still mine!!!! 

This first instant, mini collection is made up of the little totems that set in the corner of my worktable.  They watch over my projects as I progress.  I often wish they could speak, make a sound of some sort or at least change their expressions.  I would welcome their critique of my work.  We have shared this space long enough that they must understand where my head is, as I work here in this little space.  As it is now, I am usually carrying on a conversation with myself!

I have had some of these little creatures for a very long time.  Most were not originally mine, some were given to me, some were left behind by growing children and some inherited from the collections of departed loved ones.  As a group they have become important companions in my work space. . . . and they do make me smile.

What keeps you company at your desk or worktable? 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Starting a new year . . . . . . .

Here are the log cabin placemats in progress on the loom.  In contrast to the warping prep and stringing the loom for this project, the mats weave up very quickly.  Very satisfying!

They are all woven and off the loom now.  All that remains is to stitch the ends.  I do this finishing step on the sewing machine to save time and to give them a secure finished hemline.  I hope to have them listed in the shop early this next week.  There will be a set of four available for sale.

Notice the cardboard pieces sticking out on the roll of woven placemats.  This is an easy and accurate way to measure the space between mats, coasters or any multiple project pieces on the loom.  It also gives you the correct length for the fringe for each piece as you weave.  Cut 1 inch strips of light weight cardboard, repurposed cereal or cracker boxes are just the perfect weight.  Then you simply weave in the correct fringe length of the mat that you have just finished plus the fringe length of the next mat that you will weave.  Continue weaving and filling in the fringe strips until you have finished all your mats.  When you take these weavings off of the loom cut between the appropriate strips and you will have beautifully straight fringes cut to the perfect length every time!

The beginning of a new year always sends me into an inspired burst of list making!  I guess I am making resolutions but they take the form of sketches, rewritten versions of last year's lists and promises to finish half-worked projects.  I love the feeling of starting fresh, giving myself permission to abandon work that isn't working and going down new paths.

Make your lists, your plans, your resolutions.  It is 2013!