Saturday, December 31, 2005

Another hour or so last night, and the ornament is finished.


and back:

I really like the way this one came out. The hardanger is #8 and #12 pearl cotton, the tassel is #8 pearl cotton, and the twisted cording is #5 pearl cotton (only two strands, which surprised me. It gives a nice size cord when it twists back on itself.) So I used all three sizes of thread that Shaun's co-worker (Maggie) gave to me.

I hurried up and finished this last night, even though I still have my cold, because I wanted it ready for Shaun to take to work today and give to Maggie. But they're closed for New Year's Eve, silly me. Oh well, I'll take it Monday.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Here are some of the things I meant to post before Christmas, but never got around to. First, we have a crafty endeavor of the botanical kind.

I can't stand to buy a wreath for $25 or more, when every year there are dozens of branches blown down around the house and the Lab that are free for the taking. I'm so cheap that I even reuse the bow, pinecone, wire framework, and wrapping wire from year to year. This year, I got fancy and added some lichen-tufted twigs. I think it looks quite snazzy.

Here's a shot of our inside tree this year:

Emma had quite the haul of presents. Shaun's dad and stepmom always go a little overboard on the gifts. While I'm not a fan of giving excessive presents, just to be giving presents, they did send lots of books and clothes this year. Clothes she can grow into are always appreciated, and I love that she loves to read. I think the prize this year was the paintbox my sister and her boyfriend sent. She absolutely loves it.

The Thursday night before Christmas, I got all inspired and decided to bake a loaf of Christmas bread, to have on Christmas morning. After I got going, I decided that this would also make good presents for the babysitter, the people at the Lab, and to take to a Christmas Eve party. So I went to town with the bread-baking. (it's actually not as much work as it looks like- one recipe makes two loaves.)

This is Julekage, the Norwegian version of Scandinavian Christmas bread, and one of my favorite recipes. It's a sweet bread, made with milk and eggs and cardamom and candied or dried fruit, with drizzly icing, and is entirely yummy. I could eat a whole loaf myself. Actually, I almost did. Shaun and Emma don't like it, so Dad and I polished it off. I should make this more...

Lastly, here's what I did on Wednesday. Start to finish, about eight hours.

Emma and I have both had massive colds (contracted from my dad) this week, so after he left on Wednesday morning, we both camped out on the couch all day. Thank goodness for Winnie-the-Pooh and Maisy DVDs. Between the movies, Emma's afternoon nap, and early bedtime, I finished the entire front of a large hardanger ornament, while trying to forget that I couldn't breathe and my sinuses were about to explode. This will be a present for a woman Shaun works with, because she gave me a big bag of unused spools of pearl cotton in various sizes, found in her mother's things after she passed away.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

No, I haven't fallen off the face of the earth. I've just been in a fibery/blogging/creative slump. Full of holiday non-cheer. I've had all these ideas that I think "I want to put that on my blog" but it seems like a lot of work and I never seem to get to it. We don't have internet access at home, so the only time I have online is during the day at the lab. (Which actually is fine, because there's usually some down time while I'm waiting for the autoclave to finish or something, and that way we don't have to pay for our internet and we get a blazing-fast connection.)

I also haven't been doing much except crocheting snowflakes the past three weeks anyway, and seriously, how many pictures of snowflakes do I really need to post? Suffice it to say that there have been a lot. BUT, I am now CAUGHT UP on orders! I have had three blissfully snowflake-free evenings this week, and actually got some spinning done. I finished spinning the green multicolored Colonial top (that I started spinning here), bringing the total bobbins of singles to five. I plied more than half of it into a lovely soft three-ply last night. Tonight I'll finish plying, and will hopefully get to post some pictures.

I guess the other reason that I haven't posted much recently is that my dad is visiting again, and once again, there's excessive cleaning, litterbox scooping, cooking, and stressing. I had just about recovered from having him here in October, and here he is again. Naturally, even thinking that thought makes me feel like a horrible person. I mean, of COURSE I don't want him to sit in his house in Maine alone, having the first Christmas without Mom all by himself, but I wish...what? That he hadn't come? No. That we could have gone to Maine? No, because then we would ALL have been in the house without Mom.

That the car accident had never happened and Mom was still alive?


Saturday, December 17, 2005

When you go to tuck in your two year old after her 10 minutes of "alone-reading-time" before bed, and she stands up in her crib to give you a big hug and says "You make me happy, Mama," how can you do anything but melt? I have tears in my eyes just remembering.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

This is why I haven't posted much recently:

The most recent batch of snowflakes... still have many to do.

I miss spinning. I miss knitting. I miss doing anything other than snowflakes. So far I have used up three spools of #30 crochet cotton on snowflakes. At 500 yards per spool, that's 1500 yards. Nearly a mile of thread turned into snowflakes.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

While Emma and I were at the beach this morning, I saw a new bird! It was a Black Turnstone, foraging along the edge of the water. They are really striking, especially when they fly. Quite a beautiful pattern on their wings.

This brings my life list total to 381 species of birds!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Snowflakes are taking over my world. I have never crocheted so many snowflakes in one week. Tonight or tomorrow I should be able to finish up the last of the five mobiles I got orders for last week, then I have to make two mobiles, several more large individual flakes, and two "garland strings" of three flakes each for the gallery, three garland strings for a friend, and two mobiles for a different friend.

The response to my work has been amazing and gratifying, but I may never get to do anything else fibery for the rest of my life.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow! Happy December! The snow started about noon today, and continued through the whole afternoon. We have about three inches, on the parts of the yard that weren't shaded by fir trees. Emma was thrilled, and kept wanting to "Go play snow go play snow go play snow!"

The feeders in the backyard were swarming with juncos and chickadees, who left the most amazing pattern of tracks in the snow.

Here's the view straight out from the back deck, over the valley.

The front yard (I keep typing "yarn" instead of "yard") and view across the cul-de-sac were equally lovely.

A fresh snowfall is so pretty. It's early for us to have this much snow, but I expect it'll be gone tomorrow, as it's already starting to warm up a bit.

The shrub rose in the backyard is still blooming, and this bud looked beautiful with its cap of snow.

Monday, November 28, 2005

This is unbelievable. The crocheted snowflake mobiles have been on display in the gallery for four days, and I have already sold all three and gotten orders for two more. If this keeps up, I’m going to be crocheting snowflakes for the rest of the winter. I’m not complaining, though!

I finished the fourth mobile on Saturday. I think I like this one the best so far. The curvy wiggly stick on the left is so cool.

In addition to the mobiles, I also put some individual large snowflakes and garlands of three small-to-medium ones in the gallery. Two individuals and one garland have sold. Why haven’t I done this before?!

To take a break from crocheting, I spun a bit on Saturday. I got this last time I was off island, because I apparently have no power to resist the siren song of Ashland Bay Colonial top. This is 16.3 oz, in the Multicolor Green colorway.

This is such pretty stuff. It’s basically dark green, but with yellow, medium green, purple, red, light blue, royal blue, and black tossed in as well.

It spins into yarn that is a dark forest green, almost black, from a distance, but when you get close all the other colors pop out. Just beautiful.

This picture shows up a bit too blue on my monitor, but you get the idea. The singles are about 36 wpi, spun worsted, and will be three-plied.

This is my “comfort yarn”, the yarn I love to spin. It’s my default singles size. When I sat down to spin on Saturday, it was like taking a deep breath and sliding into a hot bath. Plus, this top is so well prepared that I don’t even have to think about it. My fingers just go, my foot treadles, and my mind can drift. I watch the fibers being drawn out and twisting around each other, the colors blending and changing, and it’s like I sort of step out of myself.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

What will I remember most about Thanksgiving 2005? Little Miss Emma, overtired and overdue for her nap because Mama is up to her elbows in pie crust, excited about the prospect of eating pie later, chasing the cat down the hallway and shrieking "Stop running! Stop running!"

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

I’ve been caught in a snowstorm since last week! No, not the cold kind. The FIBERY kind! I’ve been crocheting furiously to make all the snowflakes I need for the mobiles.

I’ve had many of these done since last winter, but everything in the four columns on the left was made since last Thursday. The biggest ones take nearly two hours to make and are 6-8” across. All are made from #30 crochet cotton and a #12 hook.

Three mobiles for an art gallery:

After finally talking to the woman who called last week, instead of just leaving each other phone messages, it turns out that she actually wants the mobiles to decorate her art gallery for an opening they are having the day after Thanksgiving. Her business partner/ boss/person-who-handles-the-money (I’m not really clear what the chain of command is in the store) vetoed the idea of buying the mobiles outright, because they won’t need them after this show is over, but he did say that if I would let them use the mobiles to decorate the gallery during the show, they would let people know they are for sale and give them my card so I can sell direct. This isn’t exactly the outright sale I was expecting when I got the initial phone messages, but I’ve already sold one mobile, and the show doesn’t even open until Friday! So I get free gallery space and potential buyers, and they get free decorations that fit right in with their show- the title is “First Snowfall.” So while I’m not technically “In The Gallery,” I am in the gallery!

I’m really very excited about this whole thing, because Arctic Raven Gallery is one of the most upscale shops in Friday Harbor. It showcases the traditional art of Pacific Northwest and Alaskan Native Americans. They have beautiful (and pricey) pieces of art, beautifully displayed, and a large client base. They have one basket on display that is absolutely stunning, though unfortunately it's not on their website. It’s a lidded, watertight, coiled grass basket that has patterns on it made by using different naturally colored grasses. It measures about 2” in diameter. The price? $1500. (!)

I still have to make a fourth mobile, since I already made a sale and the gallery still wants three for the show. That doesn’t have to be done until next Monday. I also need to make several individual flakes for the gallery and get them done before Friday morning.

So, take a deep breath and dive back into the snow!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

I got a call yesterday from the woman who bought the snowflake mobile from me at the Fair last August. She wants to buy three more, plus a lot of single snowflakes!!! WooHoo! Now I have to get busy and make a pile of snowflakes. I already have a bunch of small-to-medium-sized ones done, but I used up all the large ones on the first mobile.

This is welcome news, because it will allow me to do things like, you know, get the propane tank filled so we can be warm this winter...

I hate being a grown-up sometimes, mostly when there are bills to be paid.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The needle felting went well! I used up the scraps of handspun turquoise and cranberry yarn (the spinning waste and tails I snipped off after weaving in the ends and couldn't bear to throw away) and made this:

I was going for a random, swirly look, just playing around to get the hang of using the needles. Making dots is great fun, and spun yarn (as opposed to unspun roving) makes great lines.

So random, right? Imagine my surprise when I folded the piece as it will be folded for making the little purse, and saw this...

Is it just me, or does this look like a Picasso-ish face??!! This is not the kind of thing that I would ever have planned on purpose, but I love it! That squiggle in the lower right corner even looks like an ear! Ah, serendipity.

Just a couple pictures to close... As I was felting away yesterday afternoon, there was a thud on the window. I peeked outside, and a Golden-crowned Kinglet was lying on the ground. It was on its back, but it looked like it was trying to turn over. I went out and helped it. I put it on the deck rail so it could sit for a while and get its bearings. These are such sweet little birds. Luckily, it was only stunned, and flew off after about five minutes. While it was recovering, though, I stealthily snapped a picture or two.

And lastly, look what I discovered while watering the plants on my kitchen windowsill this morning!

That's a bloom spike on one of my Phalaenopsis orchids! It's the darker-purple less-stripy of the two unnamed Phals I showed last May. Hooray!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Quick post- gotta run because Emma needs to get home for a nap! I just wanted to show off what I did last night.

Remember the felted bag? Well, it's done. I finally had a vision of how I wanted to embellish it. I embroidered a line of lazy-daisy flowers around the top edge, lined it, and it that was all it needed. I wanted something simple and clean, and this works great.

Some people hate making lazy daisies, but I think they're fun. These were purposely each made a little different shape, so it looks like they're dancing.

The lining:

I sewed the lining in entirely by hand so that the stitches wouldn't show on the outside. And the straps are lined to prevent stretching.

This was such a fun project! I can't wait to get to work on the two smaller felted bags from the same yarn. I'm going to do some needle felting on those- I had a bit of a birthday gift certificate left over at my local yarn store, and I got some felting needles this morning. (Because I need another hobby...)

You can also see this bag in my store.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

I wove off the rest of the too-long warp last night, resulting in just over five yards of fabric. I had to cut it off the loom and re-tie at one point, to even out some tension issues, but the shorter piece is just right for a runner.

Yes, I was standing on the coffee table to get the picture. The long length will be cut into several pieces, probably more placemats and possibly a runner. The variegated yarn works better as warp in long pieces than in short ones. You see the complete color progression, unlike in the placemats, where there's light on one end and dark on the other and it looks unbalanced. I may see if I can lightly overdye just the edges of the placemats, to even out the variegated yarn.

I also washed and dried the four placemats I showed yesterday, and they look much better now. The weave shrank up a bit and "interlocked". Here's a comparison of before and after:

Monday, November 07, 2005

In another screeching change of direction, I started a weaving project after finishing up all the cranberry yarn. I do seem to flit not only between projects, but between types of projects, don't I? I guess that keeps it all interesting. And there are so many fun fibery things to do, that I want to do them all!

So Saturday night, I wound a warp for placemats. And, not being content with just winding the warp, I proceeded to thread up my rigid heddle loom, tie it on, and weave two placemats. Can you say obsessed? Another waaaaaayyy too late night.

I do love the look of a freshly dressed loom! There's such a world of possibilities and anticipation.....

I wove the second two placemats Sunday.

These haven't been wet-finished yet, so they still look a little uneven. I'm reasonably pleased with these, though the variegated yarn wasn't thoroughly successful as warp. The yellow pooled more than I thought it would. It worked well in the weft, though.

Hemstitching is a much more polished finish than knots for the warp ends. Plus, you do it while the fabric is in progress, so once you're done weaving, you're done!

I do have a confession, though. (Why am I admitting this??!!) It's apparently not a good idea to be calculating your warp length at 9:00 at night. I was so eager to start the project that I didn't think through my calculations very well. Instead of winding a 7 foot warp, I did a 7 yard warp! Oops. I think I'll do a couple runners as well....

And here's a shot of the glorious sky today, after three days of rain and a hailstorm last night. This is the view from the lab where I work.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

What does it say about me that I put off plying this yarn until I could photograph the bobbins full of singles?? They were just so pretty that I had to wait until after there was some sun for the photo-op. Luckily, that happened yesterday afternoon.

Full bobbins are such a happy sight. Then again, so is a big pile of unspun roving. And skeins of yarn. Ok, face it, fiber in any form makes me happy. All that potential!

I spun the first two bobbins on Wednesday night, the third and fourth on Thursday, and plied it all last night. This picture seems to show the color best of any of the pictures I took of this fiber:

That’s 13 oz. and 1110 yds. of yarn, spun worsted and slightly thicker than my “default” yarn, but just two-plied so it’s still sport-weight. It’s destined for a knitted shawl with a bit of lacy-ish openwork, unless I decide to just sell the yarn.

I also finished up the first skein of laceweight on my new lace flyer. This is the same 50:50 Merino/tussah silk blend that I’ve been spinning forever. It seems like I’ll never get to the bottom of this bag of fiber- it just keeps going.

This skein is 554 yds. and 1.3 oz, and is about 78 wpi. The lace flyer really makes a difference for spinning this fine. The singles didn’t drift apart once when I was plying.

And look what I have still blooming! The fuchsia baskets that I planted last spring are still going strong....

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Another busy weekend! I had a finishing binge on Sunday, and finished up all the hardanger sachets. Sewn, stuffed, lavendered, ribboned, listed in my store, done. These are such a nice fun little project.

The other thing I did this weekend was a knit bag. I have a bunch of yarn from when I was learning to spin four years ago that I haven’t really known what to do with. When I was spinning it, I was thinking cabled sweater, but after I got it all spun, I wasn’t in love with the yarn. It was my first spinning, after all.

It’s under-plied, and the singles were not evenly spun. Some areas are very loose, others are pretty tight. I’ve had five big skeins of this yarn just sitting around, with no plan in mind, for years. I was sort of afraid to use it because I thought it wasn’t “good enough.” Well, it’s just useless effort if the yarn is just hidden away in the closet. So I pulled it out on Thursday, and knit a bit.

I was astonished at the transformation. The loosey-goosey ugly yarn turned into a velvety-soft, buttery piece of knitting!

While the fabric felt wonderful and soft, I knew that if I knit a sweater or something, it would pill horribly because it's a fine wool (Finn) and was so loosely spun. So I got the brilliant idea to make something felted/fulled. So I cast on a bunch of stitches (I don't even know how many- I kept meaning to count them, but never did) and started knitting a tube. Now, while I am not particularly fond of knitting stockinette flat, I do like stockinette in the round. Knit knit knit knit.... mindless and fast. A few hours on Friday night and a few hours on Saturday, and I had this:

A loosely knitted, floppy bag. Knit on US9 (5.5 mm) needles, it measured 14.5" wide and 14" tall, excluding handles. This entire bag was knitted from one skein of yarn, and I somehow managed to have it come out even, with only a foot or so of yarn left over. A trip through a hot wash cycle in the machine, and I had this:

A very cute, sturdy bag, measuring 12.5" wide and 9.5" tall, excluding handles. The fabric shrank up into thick, velvety yumminess. I really like the way the handles came out. I slipped the first two stitches of each row to make an i-cord edge, and it gives the straps a nice substance. This will be lined with cotton fabric.

I knit up a large rectangle last night, and used up a second skein of this yarn. I'm going to full this piece before sewing it up, because I think I'll cut it apart to make two smaller bags instead of one large one. All these bags will be embellished in some way, I'm just not sure how yet. It's an evolving project.

Last but not least, I'll close with a shot of what followed me home last weekend from my trip off-island. More Ashland Bay Colonial top! The actual color is much less pink than in the picture, at least on my monitor- it's really a rich cranberry. Yum! I can't wait to start spinning this!

Friday, October 28, 2005

Finally, pictures of the finished gansey! I finished this Wednesday night, after knitting the collar three times. First I did it with neck gussets, but that made it too small, then I did it without the gussets, and that was fine, except that I didn't like the transition between the body and the collar. I frogged it again, and added a round of purl between the body stitches and the collar stitches, and that finally looked right to me. Luckily, the yarn held up really well to being frogged that much!

You may notice that there is a slight difference in the overall look of the patterning in these pictures, compared to the last picture I posted.

After I had finished the entire front and back and joined the shoulders with the straps, I realized that the proportions were all off. There was too much space above the underarm gusset for the armhole, and the area below the gussets looked stubby. So, I took a deep breath, frogged the shoulder straps and an inch and a half of each of the front and back, and snipped one of the stitches in the stockinette portion. I picked out one complete round of the stockinette, and put all the stitches back on the needles. I used the yarn unravelled from the tops of the front and back to knit another inch and a half of stockinette into the middle of the sweater. Then I spent two hours kitchenering the whole thing back together. Whew!

I am, however, very glad I spent the time to do this. The sweater looks better, it will fit better, and I won't have the problem of wonky proportions staring at me every time Emma wears the sweater. Best of all, you can't even tell where the kitchenered row is!

(It's at the red arrow...)

So the sweater is done, I like it, and I only had to use three skeins of yarn. I got both sleeves, the cuffs, and the collar from the third skein! There isn't an appreciable difference in the feel of the fabric between the body and the sleeves, despite using a slightly thinner yarn.

Here's what I have left over:

Ten yards! I was getting a little nervous toward the end of the second sleeve!

A shameless plug- I put the last two skeins of this yarn up for sale in my store, if anyone's interested.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

I'm feeding a friend's cat this week, and she lives down a mile-long dirt road flanked by big fields. As I was driving there this morning, it was an amazing sight. The whole fields were covered by spiderwebs, each glistening with fog. Most were the big wheel-type like this:

But I also found this 3" one, which was particularly fancy:

The fields were purely beautiful.