Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 ...

I just had a fabulous piano practice followed by another fabulous practice on the cello. Shortly, I will go down stairs for a glass of wine. A great way to see the year out.

What a year it has been!

It was a year of accomplishments. First were the driving lessons, the dreaded test--which I aced! Then I found a car via Craigslist and went to see it in Queens: The anxiety about whether it was a good buy, and could the seller be trusted? Actually buying it, followed by inspection and registration. Packing, and packing, and packing. Selling many books. Finding a movers. Then the big night when the birds were moved up here. Magical. I will never forget that night. Moi self followed a week later, and here I am after 8 months.

They've flown by. It's been a blur, yet it all seems pretty clear. Funny dichotomy. The bird's room was built; they didn't totally destroy the spare room but they did a number on it. Mostly the ceiling. From the look of it now, you wouldn't think they spent 6 months in here--if it weren't for the ceiling tiles that still need replacing. They're happy in their new lives, I'm happy they're happy. Can't wait to give them some outdoor flight area (screened) this spring.

On the music front, I would say my piano playing has moved up a notch or two this year. I'm incredibly happy about this. Ditto, the cello. My teacher no longer calls me a beginner. The word he uses these days is "intermediate".

On the fiber front, the crocheted afghan was completed along with various smaller projects in knitting and weaving. I obtained a great wheel and a flax wheel. I started to learn how to do piecework and quilting. I'm not afraid of the sewing machine any more.

As the year ends I realize I have so much to be thankful for and I'm overjoyed by it all. I'm living up here in the hills where the animals live. It's so utterly peaceful and beautiful. For the first time, this year I saw a bear (up close even!), moose, wild turkeys. So many stars, those content where they are and those shooting across the universe.

Yesterday I signed up for a song-writing class at Plymouth State University. Class starts next Monday. So going to get the New Year started well, as well.

I have one resolution (although lurking around my mind, the thought that I need to start taking walks again wants to make itself a resolution too, but I will resist!). My resolution for next year is to record myself at least a few times at the piano and possibly cello, to post here.

May the year 2014 bring you all joy and may all your dreams come true.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Pedal power ...

Thanks to a dear, kind, and generous Aunt of mine, I now have my godmother's old pedal sewing machine. It came home with me week before last and now sits in the spare bedroom (along with my "office" and loom). I'm so thrilled! Can't wait to start sewing with it.

It's plain to see that it was very well cared for: It's in excellent condition. The bobbin plate is missing, it needs a new drive belt, and a bobbin winder belt, and I'm pretty sure these items are all obtainable from various places on the internet. It didn't have a bobbin, but one from my other machines fits.

My first web search uncovered the year the serial number was issued: 1910; it's one of 15,000 and was built in Elizabeth, NJ. That makes it 103 years old. Looking pretty good for it's age!

Another search turned up a xerox of an original user's manual for this model. It wasn't free, but I figured it would be worth the money to have. It arrived in the mail today, and what a thrill! The pictures look exactly like mine, it's got all the instructions for threading, adjusting tension, etc. and best of all, has part numbers which will make it much easier to scour the internet for spare parts.

So exciting!!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The wrestling match ...

Quilt sampler: The last class was missed because I was in NY. All it needs are the remaining borders, assembly of the backing, padding, and top; and quilting.

I decided to finish my Trip Around The World first, though, seeing how it was started before the sampler. So yesterday I went to the quilt shop and purchased enough material for the final border, and 3 yards of backing material which comes in 108" width. The quilt, remember, fits a queen sized bed.

The third and final border went on pretty well. It gets to be quite a large piece of fabric to maneuver: I had to sit on the sofa with quilt in my lap to pin on the borders, and then lots of tossing and twisting--and perhaps a bit of muttering--to get the fabric fed through the machine straight. Heehee.

The muttering was nothing! After the top was finished I plowed ahead and laid out the padding, set the backing upon it right-side-up, followed by the top right-side-down. By some grace, I managed to get it all pinned up and trimmed, and ready to sew the final outside seam. Maneuvering was out the window at this point, it was now a wrestling match between me, the machine, and the three layers of quilt. Good golly Moses! I came out alive, the machine is still functional, and the quilt is sewn together without too many pleats. Mind you, the recipe doesn't call for any pleats. I have a few, and as they say: It's a design feature. It's going to take some practice.

Not bad all around. My first big quilt after all.

For the backing I chose a complimentary dark green pattern, and decided on wool batting for the filler. It's 100% Merino wool. Mmm, warm.

What's left is hand sewing of the opening from which I turned the layers right-side out, and quilting of some sort. It has been my intention to tie it together at regularly spaced intervals the way it was done years and years ago. But now I'm having second thoughts; I might just go ahead and quilt it in a very simple pattern of squares and outlines for the borders. Not sure yet.

It fits!!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

What? Today is the 23rd? ...

Already! Good golly. There has been quite a bit of crafting and holiday preparations going on and it seems I'd better try to catch up here before the year is out.

November was not a good month, and I've spent a bit of time this month getting back on track. In spite of the struggles, progress is occurring on many fronts and lot's of wonderful experiences have been coming this way.

We had a reasonable snow storm a few weeks ago with well over a foot of snow falling over night. It was ever so marvelous to watch as the flakes fell, giving the appearance of the earth actually moving in an upward direction. Made me feel light and giddy. The day after was bright and shiny and beautiful. That evening as I peered from my second floor window, the lawn was all a'glitter in it's sparkling diamantic robe, softly reflecting the moonlight. And peaceful.

The side stairs were blanketed when I first stepped out to get some wood.

As you can see, my outdoor thermometer was a bit frazzled by the whole ordeal.
And there's the case of the mysterious "walking trees". There can be no doubt that the tracks in the snow lead directly to the foot of these trees. My better sense tells me that perhaps I've had deer about the place checking out the bark on these trunks.

I made a trip to the city last week--which journey down was an absolute nightmare: It took 8 hours instead of 5 due to backed up traffic all over the place! I'll be looking into "park and ride" locations from CT for future trips. Snapped a few pics during my commute to the office one morning, showing some snow on the city.

The last picture is taken in front of the stock exchange on Wall St. just around the corner from the office. The other tree--the one decorated by nature herself--was from an elevated subway platform in Williamsburg.

I stopped at WEBS on my way down to the city--for one (that's "1") skein of Noro for some fingerless mitts. Is it surprising to learn that I left the store with four ("4") skeins of Noro plus 2 cones of weaving cotton/linen?

The tree is up!

And I've been busy making confections...

I'm trying out some new recipes this year and the apricot/citrus balls are smashingly delicious, the cherry/chocolate squares are very special, and the peanut butter/chocolate squares are very similar to a popular brand of candy bar. Dangerous situation having so many sweets needing testing--and further sampling, of course.

Still to come: An antique pedal sewing machine and quilt making progress.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A favorite ...

... in many respects. Valentina Lisitsa is one of my favorite pianists. It was wonderful to meet her at a party in Alexandria, VA 5 or 6 years ago, and most thrilling to watch her and her husband play Rachmaninoff duets.

This is also a favorite arrangement of a favorite Schubert melody (I have a lot of favorite Schubert melodies) and a wonderful piece for the season.

Doesn't it sound like she must have a third hand here? ;)

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Take one ...

I just finished my squares and set them out slowly and attentively. This is the first arrangement. I could go on shuffling the squares around until kingdom come, but I'm not going to. If this arrangement is somewhat harmonious I'm going to keep it. I'll have a glance at it several times over the next few days and if something needs moving I'll move it, but so far I like it. Decision time: borders. There will be a thin-ish border followed by a wider one.

ETA (Edited to add): Well! That didnt' take long. When I saw the pic on screen I almost immediately some adjustment. Can you see it?

(I slightly re-arranged the top left corner.)

Also today, finally started warping the loom for my stair treads. Really feels good to have some activity over in that corner with the loom.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Log cabins and flying geese ...

Those are the names of the squares we learned to piece this week. For the record, the names of the last two we learned are Nine-patch variation (as I thought) and Friendship star. Class provided enough time to finish one Log cabin and one Flying geese square; this week I'll make two more of each. That will finish the blocks needed for the sampler quilt. Next class we'll start to stitch our blocks together and put the borders on. We'll also learn how to do a bias edging.

Flying geese on top, log cabin on botom:

I am very fond of the log cabin design. I've seen the motif in knit patterns and have come close to picking up such a project. For now, I'm most pleased to piece them out of cotton fabric. In case you didn't know, the red square in the center is traditional and is supposed to represent the chimney of the log cabin, itself viewed from above. Although a bit more time consuming than some of the other squares, they are fun to piece together.

In other news ...

For the fourth time this year I had the car inspected Wednesday. A heads up to anyone contemplating a move from one state to another: If you can manage it, wait until you arrive at your destination to buy a car! Of course, that was not possible for me as I needed the car to transport my birds. But it meant having it inspected in NY then inspected again when I arrived in NH. The law in NH requires vehicles to be inspected in the month of one's birth, so I had to have it inspected in November yet again. Two things: I waited until the last week of the month, and it failed inspection. Needed work: a rusty section of tail pipe had to be replaced. Unfortunately, the place which inspected it could not do the work so they referred me to a place in Holderness, just across the river from Plymouth, and that garage couldn't schedule me until Wednesday. It's OK time wise as the state allows 10 days from the time of registration to get the inspection sticker--I had also waited until the last minute to re-register. So the car was inspected for the fourth and last time this year on Wednesday, and after the tail pipe was fixed I got the new sticker.

After leaving the car off to be worked on, I walked across the bridge back into Plymouth for some breakfast and snapped this pic of the Pemigewasset River starting to freeze over, and a section of Plymouth. Picturesque, isn't it?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Quilt sampler in it's third week ... and goings on ...

Wednesday was our third class and we tackled 3 new patterns ... Hrmmmppph! I can't recall their names and just discovered that I left my book in the car. I don't feel like going out to get it because it's 10:20 pm and 10 degrees outside. It's all toasty in here; why spoil a good thing? I'll post the pattern names tomorrow.

Two of the patterns are slightly higher on the challenge scale. Feeling pretty good about the modified 9-patch square (hey, I think that's what it's called after all!), but the star (not the correct name) needs practice. I would have put the seam ripper to use and re-done a few of the connections but teacher advised against it, so they remain in place to remind me of the tricky bits.

The third new square was a piece of cake and it's become the vehicle for my 'signature' in this quilt. It contains the image of a bird.

Continuing to play around with placements as I add new blocks.

No walks last week as I'm back in painting mode. Most relieved and happy to report that the bulk of the painting is now done; I tackled my own room last week. Color scheme:

The prior owner's daughter painted a mural behind the door of what's now my room when she was the occupant and I've decided to keep it. I think it's a charming work of art and it melds in nicely with my new paint colors.

The office is now in a corner of the old bird's room. The loom is in there, and so is the harpsichord but that is just temporary. It will end up in my room by the end of next week. For the time being the spare bed will be a futon. When I can scrounge up the money I'd like to install a murphy bed.

I was planning to warp the loom for my stair treads today but ran out of time. That's OK because I took the afternoon to attend a wonderful concert in Plymouth by the New Hampshire Master Chorale. They do great work. You may recall I heard them perform Bach's Mass in B minor earlier this year, which was splendid. They did not disappoint this afternoon either. The program opened with Arva Part's Te Deum, a stunning piece and I leave a link to a Youtube performance here at the bottom. Sit back and enjoy. The concert featured projected photography by NH artist Christopher M. Georgia. How very special. He gave a lecture on his work before the concert began. He specializes in night time photography. Beautiful work. There's a video on his site worth watching.

A beautiful and fulfilling afternoon.

Me in the walking hat, and other poses ...

The hat in use on this rather chilly (18 degree) morning, not too long after getting out of bed. On my way out to fetch some much needed wood for the stove. Looks like the veil of sleep hasn't entirely lifted!

The stove is now lit and the cozy warmth is finding it's way around. The house stays quite comfortable while the embers glow, the stove heating both the main and second floors of the house. I have the oil set at 56 and it must come on over night because when I awake in the mornings, although it's chilly, it's not really cold.

My dear friend Bobbie (Distinctive Garden Designs), a landscape designer and daylily hybridizer from Cape Ann (whose garden is drop dead gorgeous!!) stopped by to visit this week and she snapped several pictures of dear old moi. Here are a few:

Friday, November 15, 2013

Quilt sampler ... week two ...

In this week's class we made our nine-patch blocks. Still to go are nine-patch variations, log cabin, square dance, friendship star, and flying geese blocks.

I'm continuing to play around with placement, seeing how different arrangements change the overall look. When it came to picking out fabrics, it was suggested that we look into batiks, but since I just made Triple Around The World in batiks I strayed. Besides, this sampler will have several different block patterns in it and I want to highlight the patterns, so I picked strong--mostly solid--colors. Batiks, to my inexperienced eye, would meld the whole into less discernible patterns.

One of the arrangements I like so far:

Of course nothing is definite until all the blocks are constructed.

I need a new knitting project! What will it be?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A walking hat ...

Some of the "walking yarn" has ended up in a hat I can wear while walking and spinning more walking yarn. :)

The band of color is wool I dyed and spun a few years ago. If I recall correctly I gave it the name "Mountain Sunset". Handpainted with acid dyes.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Afternoon walk ...

It was lovely and invigorating to walk in the cool temps today. The feel and smell of it reminded me of my youth.

For the record, this was this morning's view from the dining room. The picture says it all:

I spent the day puttering around taking care of odds and ends, including some mending of a few woolens that the moths had taken for snacks.

Lovely day.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

This, that, and a hat ...

Returned from my NY visit last night. It was a good trip with the exception of the traffic coming out of NY. I didn't account for Friday evening being the time when masses of people exit the city for the weekend. A couple of crawls added 30-40 minutes to the length of my trip. Obnoxious drivers were out in force last night as well, or so it seemed -- there's always a few isn't there?

Zuccotti Park in NY (site of the infamous Occupy Wall Street protest a few years back) is only a few blocks north from the office and it was looking very splendid yesterday. The twinkling lights and the autumn leaves were quite a treat for the eyes. (Lights are more visible when the picture is enlarged. Click to enlarge.)

Before the trip I finished the fingerless mitts. I quite like them, what's not to love about Noro? They'll go well with my rainbow scarf and travelling rib hat.

New on the needles is my "walking yarn" which is knitting up into a hat. I think it's going to be a nice warm toque.

Just started it this afternoon. Unlike most hats I've knit, this one is knit flat and then stitched up the back. I was thinking about it earlier and this strikes me as a good idea. Here's why: Knit hats can stretch to the point where they are too lose to don with comfort and style. I have a hat I spun and knit in-the-round with Targhee wool and it has stretched too much. Just about my only recourse now is to weave some elastic thread into the brim, but I'm not keen on that idea although I've done it on sweater cuffs and hems. A hat that is seamed up the back, on the other hand, can be unsewn and taken in to fit again. Yes, I think that's a good idea.

Can I rant a bit here? Thank you. I'm knitting this hat from a pattern which comes from a reputable source and I'm flabbergasted at how badly the instructions are written up. The gauge stipulates 6 rows = 1'. Well obviously that's a typo and it should be inches, not feet. OK. However, right at the outset the pattern calls for 1 foundation row followed by 7 repeats, and says that these 8 rows should make 1". Well that's a contradiction isn't it? Are we to believe the gauge at 6 rows = 1" or the pattern which reads 8 rows = 1"? Good question. Additionally, the pattern calls for size 6 US needles but it doesn't specify mm's. So I had to choose between 4.0 mm and 4.25 mm. I opted for the 4.0 mm and knit my own swatch and recalculated the number of stitches required to fit my head. I cannot fathom why some patterns are so miserably written! End of rant.

This morning I finished my homework for the quilt sampler that we are making in class. This week's assignment was to cut and sew the 8 "rail fence" blocks. Then I played around with arranging them for their place in the final quilt which will have a total of 25 blocks of various patterns. Quite a lot of fun.

I was given a small scrap of fabric by a kind and generous classmate after I mentioned how much I loved the pattern. It's a blue chintz with birds, how could I not love it? I'm going to incorporate one of the birds somewhere in the sampler. :) (For the fun of it sometime, Google "chintz" images for a bit of eye candy!)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Spectrum ...

Woohee! HooHa! and Hurray! The rainbow scarf is done. My goodness, that was a long knit. Fine yarn and small needles slows time down. It's been about a year since I bought the wool at the NY Sheep & Wool Festival.

To be fair, there were pauses before and after the time I spun it up, and then there was the interruption from the move. Oh, I don't care! It's done, and it was fun! And a fine result in my opinion.

In this view of being blocked the color gradations are clear. A beautiful dye job. When I have enough time (retirement?) I shall turn to the dye pot myself.

Since it's nice to have something on the needles, I'm currently making up some fingerless mitts. Quite the contrast to the scarf: These things knit up in no time. Can get a pair done in a few hours. The yarn is Noro.

In other news, tomorrow is the start of my new quilting class. Excited about that. Thursday I'll be heading to NYC for the monthly check-in and I'll be driving back Friday night.

Today I bought paint for my bedroom and plan to work on it next week. Golly, that will just about wrap up the paint works for the time being! Happy, happy! :)