Monday, January 16, 2017

Count down ...

25 rows and counting... ain't lifting off in the near future! But that's 12 rows down from my last post on the 'big honkin' shawl'. I found some lovely, beautifully colored beads at GemStar in Enfield, NH last week for the outside edge of the shawl. I snapped them up because it's unsure at the moment when in NYC I'll next be--may be a week or two away.

Over the long weekend I wound a warp for my next weaving project--an 8-shaft overshot table runner in 4 colors. Oooh-la-la. I forget how pleasant winding the warp can be--especially on a project that is neither too big nor too small. It goes surprisingly quickly, and the methods--much gratitude to those who came before and worked them out--are so ingenious. I'm warping the loom back-to-front this time for the first time ever. My standard has been front-to-back dressing of the loom. The difference is that in back-to-front warping, the entire warp is wound on to the warp beam before threading the heddles and sleying the reed. In front-to-back, the reed is sleyed, the heddles are threaded, and then the warp is wound on through the whole kit and kaboodle. Back-to-front is supposed to be (or maybe that's just my fantasy) a little more streamlined and easier. We (the queen's prerogative! :) ) shall see.

Also this weekend I made up my mind to shelve the Celtic quilt for a short time, and proceed to something less intense. I found a lovely old Amish design that I will interpret as a scrap quilt. It's much, much, much less detailed than the Celtic top and is just the sort of relaxing project I need at the moment, coming out of an almost year-long struggle with matters existential. Can't life be just the bugger sometimes!? I picked out colors from my now rather extensive stash on Saturday, started cutting on Sunday, and got most of the pieces I need ready today. Tomorrow I may start sewing the first blocks, but I need to do laundry and work starts again so we shall see.

I'm happy and thankful to report that music has been progressing in ways almost beyond my dreams. I think I knew it was possible to awaken the muscles of my left side and shoulder from the surgery of years ago, and recent strides are making it a reality. I'm working very hard on a piano piece for left hand, hoping to play it on inauguration day (not to bring up that whole sordid and frightening affair). I'm pushing it, to be sure. I'm down to the last page note-wise; there are some phrases at the end very similar to phrases at the beginning but different in subtle ways. Then there's the element of speed--the piece needs to zip along. What am I working on, you ask? I'm not saying, it's a secret! :) But when it's ready--whether this week or not--I'll post a video of it here.

Cello is also progressing well, if I dare say so. It really is very difficult to play an unfretted, stringed instrument! It also takes considerable discipline on my part at the moment. It's very easy indeed to rationalize putting off practice! Progress is slow, but when I take an objective view I see that I have and am making progress. I never expected it to be easy. On the contrary, I knew from piano that taking lessons as an adult is hard. It really is! But fulfilling, and worth every moment of struggle.

Remembering Martin Luther King today,

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Winter ...

In all it's glory. We--those who shovel the driveways, decks, and walkways--have been fortunate that the season's snowfalls--so far--have been light, fluffy, powdery ice crystals.

I have learned that the trick to shoveling the driveway is to have an arsenal of approaches; a battery of physical positions that one can switch into and out of frequently so as to vary stresses on the body. And most successful of all are the variations that allow workouts on contrary motions. So I can now switch between left and right dominant motions, over or under grasps, shoulder or hip workouts in a way that doesn't get me all tired out before I reach the end of the driveway. I suppose this awareness stems from the time I spent taking Alexander Technique lessons. To be sure, shoveling the drive is an aerobic exercise, and with a little mindfulness can employ the whole body in a balanced workout instead of a grinding, dangerously repetitive routine. Mind you, I'm not glorifying shoveling! I'd just as soon stay in and knit. But if one must shovel, it behooves us to do so in a way that is most beneficial! Honestly--if one's going to work that hard, let there be some benefit to it! :)

But it sure is beautiful ... our most recent storm ...

A cowl ...

Golly, this one was finished shortly after the VT Sheep and Wool festival. It's report must have got lost in the shuffle!

From a single skein of 'art' spun wool, a cowl... or... cache pot! :)

Yes, it works as a cache pot in a pinch--if one feels compelled to cover up for a special occasion:

Or, if one has a torso as small as a small alabaster sculpture, it can make do as a keep-warm wrap:

But best of all, it's a stylish, warm, cowl. I am especially fond of the colors and textures in this yarn.

Happy New Year! ... And a big honkin' shawl...

First and foremost, Happiest of New Years to all! It's my sincere hope and wish that your dreams comes true, and peace be yours. Looking forward.

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Yes, a big honkin' shawl. One of the reasons, perhaps, why activity here on the blog has been--shall we say--lean. I'm surprised to discover this evening that I haven't specifically mentioned this shawl before. Heaven knows, it's been in the works for a while. It will be large when finished and blocked. It is currently up to about 800 stitches around the perimeter and I still have several rounds to go. It takes at least half an hour to forty minutes to add just one row of stitches!

You can't tell from this picture, but the finished shawl will be square. The pattern is called "In My Garden", knit in Estonian lace stitches.

I have 37 more rows to go; at the current rate that's about 18 hours worth of knitting. Gee, makes me hope I mis-calculated!! But not, and it will go by quickly and I know that when the knitting is done, I will miss this project. As is the case with most large projects, it becomes part of one's routine--the fabric of one's life, one can say. And I will feel a little lost when it's done and I can no longer turn to it for a period of meditation and/or relaxation and--during difficult times even--solace. But not to fear: There are other projects lined up!

Just this evening I decided I will incorporate crimson red beads into the last row of the border. I think that will look quite striking. There is a wonderful place in the city called Bead Paradise (I've mentioned it before)--one of my favorite stores in the whole town--that will have the perfect beads for it ($$!!), but also, nearer to home now, is a place in Enfield, NH: Gemstar that sells beads in addition to minerals and gems. If I'm still working on the shawl in 2 to 3 weeks from now, I will visit Paradise in NYC because I know I can find something very special there; otherwise, I shall traipse over to Gemstar and visit the Shaker Museum which is not far from it on the same trip. That's always a treat.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Odds and ends ...

Heh. "odds and ends" ... pretty apt description as we wind down 2016. An 'odd' year to put it mildly. More like 'storm at sea, and being tossed against the rocks and cliffs' kind of year! But we are at the end.

Actually, I had different odds and ends in mind when I decided to write this post--miscellanea of crafts and happenings.

The mood to spin visited last month and I spent some serious time treadling away in the kitchen on my old flax wheel. Until it decided it wasn't in the mood. In the space of a moment it went from spinning with a smooth purr, to throwing it's drive band off and refusing to take up new yarn. I couldn't figure it out! So I put it back in it's corner and fetched the Kromski castle wheel. Whether it's because the castle wheel feels more at home in the living room, or because I wanted a change of scenery--I know not the answer--spinning activity was moved to the living room.

I've been spinning up a set of 2 oz. samples, each from a different breed of sheep; a set that was given to me from some dear friends in Canada. Thank you, J and B! I'm spinning them all 2-ply, loose-ish singles, but well plied. 3 of the samples are currently spun up.

Top to Bottom: 76 yds of Scottish Blackface, 80 yds of Shetland, 70 yds of California Red. The California Red is absolutely fabulous. Will keep it in mind next time I'm shopping for fleece.

I need to think of something special to make when all the wool is spun.

* - * - *

I was asked by the Shaker Museum in Enfield if I would decorate a tree again this year for their Festival of Trees fund raiser. Why not!? I had much fun doing one last year, and I even had an idea in mind for this year.

Pasta! Every bit of it except for some acrylic paint and glue.

* - * - *

I put my own tree up last weekend. Decided on a table top size this year. Simply hasn't felt like a big tree kind of year. But most of my ornaments--which I collected over the past 30 or so years--fit. It calls in much spirit of the season and I'm glad I did one again this year. I even put the ceramic one in the kitchen, and another small one in the music room! My word, how extravagant!

* - * - *

The other day I drove down the hill to Rte 118 on my way to Wentworth and the view of Moosilauke was too good to simply drive by. I had to pull over and admire the beauty for a few moments and snap this picture. Sigh. Breathtaking.

This seems as fitting a place as any to mention that the air up here is 6 degrees F at the moment and was 1 degree when I awoke this morning. Nippy!

* - * - *

A couple months ago I bought a new orchid! The tag said it was Alcra. Pacific Nova - "Pacific Heights", but it blossomed this week and that ain't it! It is, in fact, a Miltonia, otherwise known as the pansy orchid for obvious reason. Very beautiful markings. They look hand painted!

Will share a few knitting projects soon ...

Monday, December 12, 2016

'Tis the season ...

I have a handful of posts to write and they'll be coming shortly. But in the meantime, I had a very welcome visitor today. I saw him for the first time a few days ago and it appears he's made this place home for a while. It's taken 3.5 years to see one of these gorgeous birds up here. I wish the photo was clearer but it was taken through the window and at high zoom. I cleared it up a little using software.

A few hours later, the Mrs. made an appearance:

I am so happy they're here.

There has been lots of bird activity lately as I keep the bird feeders stocked.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The finished towels ...

Much to report. I'll start with the towels I was weaving on my 8-shaft loom. They were finished about 3 weeks ago!

I am pleased with the outcome--found a few stray floats after all was done, but nothing bad. They are cheerful towels.

The warp got to be a bit wonky towards the end; some looseness somewhere. Since it was near the finish line and I had access to the tie-on, I thought about untying and tightening up, but the wonkiness was already into the fabric so I simply cut the last towel short. I ended up with 5 full towels and one half towel which will come in quite handy, I'm sure.

I ordered cotton last week for a holiday table runner, an 8-shaft overshot project. I'm most anxious to start that!

In the meantime, I got my large loom warped for a lap blanket using some stash yarn. The project had a few hiccups right at the start: After threading the entire read (at a width of 42") and a few dozen heddles, I realized the set (meaning the closeness of the yarns) was going to be too tight at 12 ends per inch (epi).

But I had woven a small sample before I started and according to that sample, 10 epi was too loose, hence the decision to go to 12. Well! When I rechecked my sample, it turns out I had woven it at 8 epi, not 10!! So I had to un-thread the whole shebang and swap in a 10 dent reed (meaning 10 ends per inch). It took a few days to catch up to where I had been on the task of threading.

After that little snafu, weaving proceeded quite well, except that I noticed the selvedges were going to need to be salvaged when I finished the weaving. In the particular weave structure I employed, called "Monk's Belt Block", there are weft "floats" where the cross-threads float over 5 warp threads; when those floats fall at the selvedge the result is not pretty. My "make it work" solution was to use a crochet hook and add a line of slip stitching all along the sides. It worked a charm and even looks good!

While I was washing the blanket, I noticed one spot on the back side where the threads from one of the frames failed to weave properly and were left to create a float of about 1.5". Ugh. I suspect the shaft got stuck or something and I never noticed seeing how the results are only visible on the back of the cloth. So I'm going to tie them down with black sewing thread in a few places. That should take care of that.

It came out pretty, though, in my opinion: (click for larger picture)

Oh... and it's toasty warm being 100% wool. Just in time for the quite chilly temps that came in last night!

Here's the not-so-pretty selvedge where the floats meet the edge:

And here's what the edge looks like with the addition of the slip stitching. Much improved:

The large floats on the back where, for some reason, that particular shaft didn't work. I think tying these all down with black thread will be fine:

And, it fits my small sofa perfectly!