Saturday, May 26, 2012

Weaving on a small scale,...the peony is kaput,... and an army of snails...

Last weekend I started cleaning the 8-dent reed of my Herald loom. A tedious task. Firstly, I made up a batch of "cleaning" gunk from a recipe I found online: A cup of white vinegar, the juice of a lemon and an unspecified amount of Borax. I used too much Borax and ended up with a paste that was much too thick so I diluted it with some water. After an application of this gunk, it's a matter of scouring between each dent with steel wool and/or whatever implement does the job.

I found that tearing a "lock" off the pad of steel wool gave me a good abrasive length which could be used to floss between the reeds. But the steel wool would tear apart in no time. Spinning experience to the rescue!... I found that by twisting the length of steel wool as if it were a protein fiber imparted much needed strength to it, and I was thereafter able to make it last a great deal longer.

I think there are near about 400 dents in the reed (it's an 8dpi reed) and I managed to clean about a quarter of it last weekend. Hoping to finish the job this weekend. Having the holiday on Monday will help.

In the meantime, I'm testing out some different yarns on my 7" Hazel Rose Loom. It is very similar to the Weave-It, weavette, etc. looms of many a year. The Hazel Rose is a lovely loom. My first square was an experiment using some of my own hand-spun fingering weight. It was not a success, the yarn is much too fine for this loom and I'm now the proud owner of a very airy little woolen square. But it is twill... Eh...

My second experiment was also headed down what appeared to be the path of failure. I used some reclaimed sari silk that I purchased 3 years ago. A beautiful twisted rope for which I never found a use. I bought it because it was beautiful! The lesson I learned weaving the following square is to weave loosely! The sari has no elasticity. None whatsoever, and there I was, pulling each warp and weft as taught as could be. Well! By the time I got to weaving the last quarter of the square it was all I could do to pull the silk through the warp. So it was slow going on the last lap, but well worth it, I really like the way it turned out. I think I will line it, fold it in half and make an eyeglass case of it. I have more of this yarn so more squares are on the way.


Bye, bye, peony. :( I purchased it four years ago. It has always grown quite vigorously but failed to produce much in the way of bloom. It's first year saw all the buds turn black. Disappointment. In it's second year it produced one flower with the usual heady perfume--for which I love them. My thinking at the time was that it wasn't getting enough sun, so I transplanted it. It's third year--the first in it's new location--produced good growth but no blossoms. Which brings us to the present--it's fourth year.

Things looked very promising just a few weeks ago: a good many plump buds swelling up with their soon-to-be heavenly scent and mesmerizing beauty. And lo! A week and a half ago one of those buds burst open in all it's glory. The olfactory was predictably pleased, as were mine eyes. But no sooner had that bud shown itself to the world but every other bud on the bush turned black! Big bummer. I'm afraid the time has come to take drastic measures. I had been told by a landscape architect friend of mine that if a peony's buds turn black they will always turn black. She was right. Today I tore it up and it will now beautify my garden in a different way by composting down to provide food for future floral beauty works.


It was rainy late this afternoon and I went out back to check on the status of the snails--with the bad case of munchies. I'd been seeing them as I puttered around the garden during the day. Not one to get greatly alarmed at the site of a critter here and there I simply picked them up and relocated them to the other side of the patio where the compost heap stews away.

I've been having my suspicions though, because for the past few years my plants have struggled, especially tender young annuals.

Well, this evening was an eye opener. The problem was not a few snails... there was an army of snails. Most of them congregating under the bird feeder. I picked up about 30 of them to move to the heap.

I went back out about an hour later and found the same thing! Scooped them all up too. I went out again after cello practice and ditto. I have never seen so many snails! And what's more there were some slugs amongst them. Ewww. I'm not squeemish about too many things, but slugs are so slimy, slippery, and icky. I didn't relocate them, they fared a less fortunate fate. Not sure if the correct spelling is 'squish' or 'splat', but it's quick, done, and over with. I don't like killing living things, but on the other hand they weren't making themselves very welcomed. Maybe next time I'll try scooping them up with a stick so they can enjoy the compost heap as well. What's certain is I'm not picking them up with my fingers the way I do the snails! Ew.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Knit wise... an update, and book miscellany...

The Quercus Alba is coming along well: I'm about half done. The Malibrigo is knitting up very soft. Probably another month of subway knitting to complete it.

This picture is the result of "browsing" at Seaport Yarns. Browsing. Ha! My wallet has an anxiety attack if I but turn in the direction of a yarn store. But how could I resist? Aren't these gorgeous!!!

The smaller skein is from Noro's (always beautiful) "The World Of Nature" series. The large skein is from Lorna's Hand-Dyed Yarns. It's called "Unicorn Parade."

Miscellany in the book department:

I recently purchased a few new reads, "My Two Moms, Lessons of Love, Strength, and What Makes A Family" by Zach Wahls. I totally recommend it; think all parents should read it. Excellent. Some very good lessons in this book. And an easy read too.

The other book is "The Hand, How Its Use Shapes The Brain, Language, and Human Culture" by Frank R. Wilson. I'm only on the second chapter, but fascinating so far. I'm particularly interested in this book for obvious reasons: all those things I do with my hands. Plus, I am wondering (and secretly hoping) if I might find a few pointers in the book that may help me with a few of my more challenging students. Challenging in that they struggle a little harder than others.

Speaking of hands, I guess it's time to put up a new "Quote of Note". Coming in the next day or so. :)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Off topic: A small tribute... Donna Summer

A sad day indeed.

Taking a moment to remember a beautiful spirit who gave us much.

Rest in peace, Donna Summer

MacArthur Park

A prominent LGBT blogger wrote this afternoon ...

"I submit that Donna Summer owns more square miles of emotional real estate in the hearts of older gay men than any other artist." (Joe.My.God *)

Yes indeed.

Donna Summer was at the height of her ascendency when I moved to NYC in 1978 and shortly thereafter, my coming out years.

As you can hear in the video above, her voice was wonderful even as she advanced in her career.

Last Dance

"I'm so sad. This woman was the queen of disco and so much more. Her records sound as good today as they ever did. That she has never been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a total disgrace, especially when I see the second-rate talent that has been inducted. She is a great friend to me and to the Elton John AIDS Foundation and I will miss her greatly." - Elton John, reacting to the death of Donna Summer.

* Not always work safe. But a great blog with strong opinion. If you're interested in what the extreme opponents of LGBT people are up to on a day-to-day basis, this site will inform you, bluntly. Not pleasant, not pretty, sad and pitiful at times, but essential to be aware of.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Loom has arrived, the cold is departing, and I made a mistake...

The loom got moved from lower Manhattan to my apartment on Sunday. The move went very well. A minor glitch in that I expected to ride in the van with the loom to my apartment, seeing how I don't drive. The movers informed me that it would be against the law, and what with the frequent stops and searches by the downtown police, would be risky business to try and thwart the law in this case. So I hailed a cab. Ended up arriving at my apartment before they did!

Actually, the title of this post is wrong. I made two mistakes. Regarding the loom, it's not a Harrisville after all!! It's a Herald! I don't mind in the least, and from feedback I'm receiving on Ravelry it seems I got the better of the two. It really is a nice loom. Can't wait to try it out. The opportunity looms (I had to) as I will be on a week's vacation soon.

So without further ado, Hark! The Herald:

The cold arrived Monday after the sore throat I had Saturday and Sunday. It is much better today. Can't fathom why I've had 2 colds in 2 months! That is unusual for me. But the weather Saturday was warm, sunny and beautiful. A rather abrupt change from last week. I'll chalk it up to the weather.

Apart from getting the manufacturer of my loom wrong, I spun up a spool full of the lovely blue merino much too thin! Well let this be a lesson. Must do better at checking my grist more often. This is for the scarf I'm knitting and must therefore match my previously spun yarn. I don't know if the whole spool is too thin as I'm only a quarter way through plying it, but up to this point it's much finer than what I previously spun.

It's funny because it didn't feel or seem that I was spinning thinner. Something else with what I've plied so far is that some of it is under-spun. Golly! Luckily I have plenty of fiber to finish the scarf. I'll just have to pay attention and regroup when I start the next spool.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Odds and Ends...

I stopped by The Strand bookstore (a city treasure) on my way home from the music store this evening to browse the crafts section. I almost wasn't going to as I wanted to eat and get home early enough to practice cello. A visit with their crafts section is unpredictable. I've made some great finds there and I've also left empty handed.

I'm glad I stopped by: Found a 1978 copy of Marguerite Porter Davison's A Handweaver's Pattern Book for $25. It's a book of 4-shaft drafts for several weaving patterns. I also found a booklet titled The Fallier Manual for Traditional American Hooking (1987) by Jeanne H. Fallier. It appears to be crammed full of really useful instructions and tips for everything, from dyeing wool to hooking backgrounds, shading, scrolls, and color.

This would be an apropo time to mention something that's been in the works for over a month now. I'm getting a 4-shaft, 6-treddle loom! Yippee!! (I think I did pretty good keeping my secret, no?) It's a 40-year old Harrisville loom (Yay! Harrisville Designs is in my home state of NH) that I've seen sitting at the elevator landing outside of Seaport Yarns here in the city (It's motto is "The Yarnaholic's candy store" -- a very befitting motto), for as long as I've been visiting the place. I inquired about it a month and a half ago and made an offer.

I may well replace the reeds as time goes on--they're a little rusty. I'll see how well they clean up. The heddles shouldn't be too much trouble to clean up. Otherwise it's a good solid loom. I'm very excited. Will post pics when I actually have it in the apartment... probably next weekend.

We've had some wet days lately, some thunderstorms late at night and very early in the morning. Some misty and drizzly days. Today was such a day, wet but not terribly uncomfortable, refreshing even.

The atmosphere and sky at sunset delivered this picture to my office window last evening. I snapped it with my cell phone which does not take wonderful pictures, but this one came out alright I think:
The garden got over an hour of my attention this afternoon and I came upstairs afterward and snapped these 2 pics, one of each end of the backyard. An overview of the patio:
It feels a bit more like spring now. I must say April was a bit cooler than most that I remember.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Fiber wise... Inspiration

Isn't it amazing where inspiration may lurk? Sometimes in the unlikeliest of places!

Today I stumbled upon a color inspiration that I may well use on some wool during this year's Tour de Fleece. I have it in mind to do some dyeing in addition to spinning for the festivities. Today's gift colorway came to me from the corner of a doorway off a New York City sidewalk while I was waiting for the B48 bus to come along on my way to work.

I had been pacing back and forth looking every which way up, down, and around, taking in the scene at the corner of Manhattan and Driggs Avenues. On one particular crossing, with my head bowed downward my eyes caught site of some bright spots in the shabby looking doorway.

Were it not for the wad of discarded blue chewing gum, the remnants of a dull magenta lollipop (I can picture the young boy or girl savoring it's sweetness), and the end of what must have been a gorgeous tulip, the scene would have been it's usual weary drabness. But these 3 unlikely items came together by virtue of their color, and I thought "Wow, that would make a nice colorway!"

So I dug out my cell phone and snapped a pic. I've circled the 3 areas:

Doesn't look like much at first glance! But I extracted the 4 main colors and I am quite tempted to try them as a colorway on some wool, perhaps toned down and/or highlighted and re-arranged a bit here and there:
I'll post the results when it's done.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Knit wise... More lace...

Yet another lace project. It's called Alder Frost and is available for purchase on Ravelry ($2). A simple scarf perfect for subway knitting. Easy to read chart, 16 row repeat.

Still, this one is special because I'm using my own hand spun merino. The wool was purchased at the NY Sheep & Wool Festival last fall and I posted pics of it when I first started spinning it. I'll post new pics here. 3-ply fingering weight. Size 8 needles.

I just read in the directions for the scarf that the sk2psso called for should start with a slip 1 purlwise... and I've been doing mine slip 1 knitwise. Hrumph! I'll do one with a purl slip to see how different it looks, if it's a negligible difference I won't bother to change.

I just used up my first skein on the train home, and will have enough on the bobbin by this weekend to ply another skein. So for the next two days I'll be working on the Querus Alba scarf.

A rather pleasant juggling act going on between the spinning, knitting the handspun, and knitting the QA.