Monday, August 21, 2017

A performance ...

Last weekend (the 12th, specifically) I performed in a "performance potluck" at Briggs Opera House in White River Junction, VT. The event was called "Freedom" and the theme was "What would you do if you weren't afraid?" A month--or so--ago I was approached by an acquaintance from orchestra who wanted to know if I'd be interested in taking on the piano part in a new trio (for oboe, violin, and piano) called "No Go Ego", composed by the producer of the show. After looking the part over, I agreed--it didn't seem all that challenging and I was game for a new adventure. I soon found out it was challenging: Very syncopated with a tricky motif that was hard to finger!

I worked very, very hard for a few weeks to "get it in my fingers" and I succeeded--to a degree. The piece continued to keep us all right on the edge of failure. To top it off, we three each had to take turns playing the triangle that was set up between us. I admit to consistently missing the first ding of the triangle after the piano comes in. An interesting and fun aspect of the piece is the flipping of a coin before it starts. If the coin lands heads up, we are to finish with the first ending; if it lands tails, the second ending is played. We tossed heads.

There is an electronic version of the piece on YouTube, if you want to hear what it sounds like:

I'm quite happy that our trio was first on the program--got it over with! Not perfectly... but the composer said he was ok with mistakes if the spirit of the piece was right. It went pretty good, I think. Always hard to tell when you're the performer.

The program was great! There were some really good poems, performance pieces, dance, and other music in the program. There were refreshments after the performance and a dance party. Oh what fun! I haven't really danced since I left NYC 4 years ago and it felt so really good to have that religious experience once again! The theatre is set up with good speakers and the stage makes a great dance floor. The choice of music was perfect.

I'm looking forward to possibly taking part in the next "potluck" scheduled for November, which theme will be "fear of death". My composer friend in Greenpoint, Brooklyn (my old neighborhood) wrote a most fabulous piece called "Koori" (means "ice" in English) for piano, four hands and glockenspiel which score I have, and quite possibly my acquaintance and a percussionist friend of his will play it. I love this composition! (I may have shared it here before)

Woven... a new table scarf

I finally sat down to finish this bit of weaving last week; it had been on the loom for at least a few months! When the weather finally warmed up earlier this summer and the grounds became dry enough for outside work, the scarf took a back seat to the garden and yard.

There was some struggle getting this piece warped... I decided to try back to front warping of the loom for the first time and had some problems. Unfamiliar territory and all that. The result being: Intermittent loose warp threads during the weave. A few weights placed on the loose threads quickly gave them the discipline they needed to become part of the cloth. But too much slack kept creeping in, especially towards the end of weaving, especially on the outside edge of the cloth, near the selvedges. I made it to the end, that's what matters.

It's a wonderful feeling when the weaving mojo hits; a productive, relaxing, and satisfying rhythm develops between the pressing of the treadles, throwing of the pattern shuttle, placement on the fell, passing of the tabby, and beating of the fell line. (The fell line is the leading edge of the cloth, where new threads are beat in place.) That feeling arose last week--the groove paid a visit. And it was nice.

This piece required very forceful beating of the tabby threads (in "overshot" patterns, the pattern threads are held in place by plain weave in a thinner thread; this plain weave is called the tabby). One of the challenges in overshot is getting the pattern to square up. Had I not beat as forcefully to pack the tabby tight, the pattern would have come out elongated. I'm not sure the choice of thread weights in this draft are optimal (I found this draft in "Hand Woven" magazine, Nov/Dec 2016 to be specific). On the other hand, the resulting fabric has a fabulous 'hand' and is quite opulent, so it was worth it.

I did not follow the instructions to a tee: For one thing I only wove 3 repeats of the main pattern to create a cloth 31" long which is just right for my table. Also, the directions called for weaving a section of plain weave to use as a backing. I didn't like the idea of covering up my work, so I did not back it. I simply pressed under the selvedges and ends and hand sewed them in place. The result is elegant, yet honest. My selvedges in this piece were not what I would call "pretty" by any means, but being pressed to the back, they become obscured--even when viewed from the back--because of the colors of the threads and the patterns. A win-win solution in my book!

I really like this scarf, now that it's done and it's inspired me to think about designing my own over shot piece. (Click on pics to make the bigger.)

I love how the interplace of warp and weft, blue and red, has created these beautiful purples:

The backside, as I decided to finish it:

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Other garden news ...

I was much inspired when visiting a garden in Rumney (next town north of here) this summer. Absolutely stunning. It really got my juices flowing, so I've been out removing turf from areas that will become new flower beds next year. Need I mention that 2 days ago I sprained some muscle in my lumbar region while digging a new bed? And it wasn't even from the act of shoveling. Yes, I had been shoveling quite heartily, but then got down on my knees to have a tug at some stubborn bit of turf when it happened. That sudden, sinking feeling that a muscle somewhere wasn't supported quite well enough. Ugh. I know from experience that these achy things take a lot longer than one would think reasonable to heal over! I'm still able to dig, so that's good. The movements that are not so graceful as a result of this physical altercation with reality are dressing and undressing the lower regions and getting into and out of furniture: chairs and beds especially. This one wasn't a bad stretch. It's only been 2 days and already quite a bit better.

Over the summer I have removed turf from the edge of the deck in front of the house and, for now, put some annuals in: Impatiens. It will eventually become a perennial bed. Already, I have planted a Delphinium (purchased on a whim at a hardware store!), a cranesbill, and a couple of foliage plants whose names elude me at the moment, and it's too dark to go out and check. I want to get at least 2 more Delphinium's to keep the one company. (I also put lattice on the bottom part of the deck this summer. Just today, I purchased a paint sprayer and hope to have it painted by end of week. Wish me luck.)

The long-term plans are to have the front lawn surrounded by perennial beds, a woodland area down back, and a large, round garden up behind the house. Sounds daunting at the moment. A bit at a time, one step in the front of the other, and it will get done.

The summer has been good for flowers and berries. Not so good for the vegetable garden. A neighborhood cat decided that one of my raised beds was a giant kitty litter box and scratched up all my carrot seedlings. I harvested 3 carrots last week and that is the end of it! Since the incident, I bought and applied some cat deterrent spray. I had many, many strawberries, and the raspberry bush has been exceedingly bountiful. My tomatoes have fruit, but I'm not sure we're going to be warm enough to ripen them before it's too late. Time will tell.

Some miscellaneous pictures of some flowers about the place this summer:

Daylily babies ...

I wonder if you recall that a few years ago I visited my friend on Cape Ann and took part in some daylily hanky-panky? My friend, the person behind Distinctive Garden Designs, had me pick out a few daylilies in her garden and cross-pollinate them. It was enjoyable, but at the time it was anyone's guess whether my handiwork would bear fruit, so to speak. As it turns out, seeds were produced, and my friend sent them along with instructions for growing them.

I placed them in the refrigerator, as instructed, but then plum forgot about them! In mid-summer, 2 years ago, I suddenly remembered and it was conveyed to me that since they'd be sprouting late, they may not make it through the winter. Bummer. But I tried, and lo-and-behold, they survived. Last year they grew into quite nice plants over a foot high but too young to produce blossoms--if indeed they were going to produce blossoms. It was still anyone's guess.

This is their 3rd year in the ground and they came up well. I was going outside every day towards the end of June to see if they'd put out any scapes (stems on which blossoms are formed). Suspense and more suspense as the days went on. I reassured myself by taking a look at some other, established lilies in the garden and noticing that they hadn't yet put out scapes. So all remained hopeful. One morning I went out to check ... "Y-E-S! S-C-A-P-E-S!" I exclaimed before quickly glancing up to see if my neighbors were home. No. Good, I can still pretend not to be crazy. :) I had SCAPES!! Oh, I was so thrilled. Scapes on plants that I bred. Blossoms-to-be on my babies!

They have, for the past 2.5 to 3 weeks, been blossoming beautifully! And quite the surprise to me: Each plant (there are at least 8 different plants) produces a different colored/shaped blossom! This is an education. For some reason I figured--since the seeds are all from one pollination--that each plant grown from these seeds would be the same. They are not! It's not like twins or octuplets or some such at all. My friend says it's like siblings: All same parentage, different looks.

Well, here they are. Introducing my babies:

My friend says this one is worth watching and may be a candidate to register and produce for the market. How exciting!:

I am documenting each plant so when I transplate them this autumn, I will know which plant produces which blossom.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

TdF 2017, in conclusion ... and day lilies ...

What a grand time this has been. To spin with thousands of people the world over and meet through the modern miracle known as the internet. Oh, there has been some beautiful spinning this year. Seeing the fruit of everyone's efforts has been truly inspirational. Mind you, there is never any pressure in TdF: One sets one's own goals.

The only goals I set myself were to spin some 2-ply yarn, and to try something a bit more challenging on the challenge days. I'm very pleased with my personal achievement this year: 986 yds. of skeined, 2-ply yarn--which does not include the singles still on the great wheel--so I'm rounding up to 1000 yds. Not bad at all considering the rest of life has had to continue as smoothly as possible.

Feeling a little after-glow this evening and I'm celebrating with some lovely Chardonnay. Here is my group portrait of TdF 2017 (click to enlarge):

The blue matted roving which I carded up came in at 280 yds. of 2-ply. These yarns are intended for weaving.

Although no longer part of TdF I started in today on some of the luscious caramel colored top I picked up a few weeks ago.

Today was a big day on another front: The day lily plants that I have grown from seed these past 3 years are blossoming! The first blossom opened this morning. You may recall these seeds were the result of some hand pollinating I did at my friend's extensive day lily garden in MA. Yes, I'm a proud parent of a new hybrid; it's quite exciting really. Here it is:

Friday, July 14, 2017

Tour de Fleece, continuing ...

We are at the end of the 2nd week of TdF. Here are this week's accomplishments; not a lot of time these past few days for treadling, but at least half an hour each day. (BTW, for anyone who is unfamiliar with Tour de Fleece: It is an international spinning event which takes place during the Tour de France. There are several teams which one can join if one wishes; this year I'm spinning with Team Warped Weavers and Team Spinning Men. [My favorite team name of all time is Team Russian Underpants! :)] Many of the teams are set up on Ravelry and that's where I joined. So we spin every day the cyclists pedal, and on the days they have challenges, we set ourselves a challenge. It's a great motivator, and very inspirational to see everyone's progress on a daily basis.)

The green is finished: 244 yds., 2-ply. (click on pictures to enlarge them.)

Last Sunday was a challenge day, so I took the great wheel out of the closet, gave it a little tune up and did some spinning "from the fold". It was a nice day and I was able to take it out on the deck where I spun in the glorious sunshine and bird song. It was uplifting. "Spinning from the fold" is a way of spinning long-stapled wool one-handed which is necessary on the great wheel because the other hand is turning the wheel. Wool with shorter staple lengths can be spun "long draw" but I need a few hands-on lessons in that technique. I've done some long-draw with cotton on an Indian charka, but I would greatly benefit from working with an experienced spinner in this matter. One of these days, I'll sit with someone for some guidance. Spinning from the fold creates a semi-worsted yarn, long-draw typically creates a woolen yarn, and short-draw (and it's permutations) usually create worsted yarn. (Woolen yarn is where the fibers in the yarn are arranged haphazardly, it is lofty, light, and warm. Worsted yarn is where the fibers of the wool all line up parallel to one another, it is strong and warm, but not as warm as woolen spun yarn.)

A few years ago I found a "minors" head for my wheel. It is an accelerator wheel. It makes me laugh to use it because it adds so much twist so quickly. A quarter turn of the big wheel puts in more twist than you can imagine. My first "cop" (a wound of spun singles) isn't quite done, and I plan on spinning a second, then plying them together.

This week I've set to work on the blue, matted top I had in my stash. Running it through the drum carder did a great job of resuscitating it and making it viable for spinning. I'm near finished on my first bobbin full. It will also become 2-ply yarn.

I was at a wonderful newish local yarn store this afternoon, Scratch in Lebanon, NH and found some absolutely delicious merino/tussah silk blend which looks like something you'd find on a hot fudge sundae! I can't wait to spin this gorgeous fiber. I also found some brilliant red silk hankies to spin.

A garden post coming soon.

Saturday, July 8, 2017


Ah yes, ain't it nice! We are having a nice summer; plenty of rain to keep the gardens happy, plenty of sunshine to urge the plants to grow. It felt like quite a rocky start this year, but we are well under way now.

It's hard to believe the 4th of July has come and gone! At this rate, it seems autumn will be around the corner in no time! I will have to find a better way of thinking about this... let's see... there are still a good 2 (probably 3) months of summer. OK, that works.

It has been a busy month, rushed off my feet really. I participated in a chamber music workshop at the Upper Valley Music Center in the middle of June. I was assigned to a Beethoven quartet: My first time ever performing in a quartet and I thoroughly enjoyed it. We will be playing the piece again in September for the grand opening celebration of the music school's new building.

On the heels of the workshop, I hosted the same two Fresh Air boys I hosted last year. They both wanted to come back this year, and again: I can't believe they've come and gone already! A week was spent in preparation--cleaning house top to bottom, and they were then here a week. We had a lovely time and I hope to see them again next year.

Our orchestra has spent the past 5 Wednesdays rehearsing for our concert next Sunday. We are playing Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue", Copland's "Billy The Kid Suite", and Steve Reich's "Duet for 2 Violins and Strings". It's a terrific, challenging program, made more so by the short time frame. I made a poster for the concert:

Beginning July 1, I've been spinning away as part of "Tour de Fleece". I hadn't participated in a few years and it's nice to be back at it this year. But before I show pics of my TdF progress, here's a picture of the 8 ~50 gram ea. samples I finally finished spinning up. I spun 2 of them the first 2 days of TdF:

The colors are really lovely, I think--all natural. I must find something special to make of them.

My TdF progress so far (we are today on day 8, it runs through the 23rd):