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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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!

Monday, September 5, 2016

The Big Banana ...

I can scratch another item off my wish list (which remains a mile long regardless! :)).

For the past 2 years I've toyed with the idea of obtaining a kayak. I kayaked once--maybe 8 years ago--in Los Angeles, in the canals of the part of town called Venice (of all things!). My friend and his partner who live in Long Beach took me. It was great fun and it's been on my mind since.

Since I first caught sight of Spectacle Pond just 10 minutes (at most) down the road, the desire to get a kayak has only got stronger. I kept my eyes open last year for a good used one, but even at that, the price still seemed a bit too lavish for the times.

Last week, I was in downtown Plymouth and saw The Plymouth Ski and Sport store's sign--by the common--advertising "used kayaks" on sale. They had one on the sidewalk out front of the store, on consignment for an older gentleman who can no longer enjoy it. An older 14' Wilderness Systems "Seacret" for $250 and it came with an expensive (I was told) wooden paddle, bilge pump, skirt, and a few odds and ends. I snatched it up!

Being solid yellow, at 14 feet long, it looks like a big banana and that's precisely what I've christened it: The Big Banana.

At 59 lbs., it's as much kayak as I can manage to handle. Any heavier and I'd need help getting it on and off the car and into the water. But it's quite doable and a good workout as it is!

I signed up for a 4 hour class with L.L.Bean Saturday on the Connecticut River in Wilder, VT. It was a very good class, thorough, educational and taught by 2 very pleasant, encouraging instructors. I can highly recommend their classes. I learned the basic paddling techniques, braking technique, nomenclature, safety, launching, etc. It was lovely out on the river on Saturday; very sunny, very clear skies, very pleasant temperatures.

This morning I went out for my first foray on Spectacle Pond down the road from here. We had another beeeautiful day today--clear skies, very sunny, very comfortable temperatures, and the water was calm. When I arrived at the public beach, a couple from a nearby town were enjoying the water with their 2 chocolate labs--who were having the time of their life fetching balls and frisbies from the water.

I set off and paddled around the perimeter of the pond, cutting short at the far side, deciding to do the remainder of the pond--beyond the narrower passage--next time. Being my first time 'solo' it seemed reasonable to remain somewhat near the shoreline (although I cut across the pond to make my return).

I was half way out when I realized I'd left my camera in the car! But I have a picture of Spectacle Pond from a few weeks ago, taken from the public beach (I've never seen more than 4 people there at once!):

Oh, it's peaceful on the pond. Oh, my. There are no more than half a dozen camps on it's shores, including one girl's summer camp and the children are gone for the summer. I can't wait to spot my first moose or bear on it's shores. Thinking I will, one of these days, go out at dawn to watch the sunrise on the pond.

There is also Stintson Lake up on Stinton Mtn. which is also pristine, albeit a bit more populated. There are no public beaches on Stintson, but there is a public boat dock and I could use that.

So begins my kayaking adventures.

P.S. I started my third towel this afternoon (of six). Had one of my quilt tops quilted at the local quilt shop last week and am sewing on the binding this weekend. Thinking I should bring the spinning wheel down one of the days... starting to get itchy about spinning again.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Towels progress ...

Weaving is underway and is, in my humble opinion, looking pretty good! I am working very hard not to fuss with selvedges: There is a way to get into the zen of it and I'm making progress. It's going much better now than any time previously. And... my selvedges look better! I warped long enough to make six towels and I'm think of experimenting with color on a few of them. Perhaps I will substitute yellow for white weft in the next towel, perhaps.

The yellow dot is the head of a pin which I insert into the last row of color when I'm done. It let's me know where to start when I come back to the loom. I also have an orange headed pin. The yellow pin signifies that the pinned row was block 2, and the orange pin signifies block 1. When I return to the loom I will see that I finished with block 2 and will know to start treddling at block 1.

On the music front: We have learned that our winter program will include Beethoven's Eighth Symphony and Brahm's Variations on a Theme by Haydn. We've got our work cut out for us! I already have the music and there is much woodshedding to do! It should be a great program. Already have the kernel of an idea for the poster.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Owl ...

It's been back these past two nights (and probably more, I just happened to be out at the right time these past 2 evenings). I try to get a picture of it but my camera is not good at taking pictures in the dark. I managed to get a reasonable representation this evening though. Wanting to share it.... the bird is breathtaking. I always find it perched atop my garden arbor, surveying the lawn. It's quite large and majestic. Is quite tolerant of my presence outside which surprised me. Beautiful, beautiful! And I love their calls. It's a Barred Owl.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Implementing 8 shafts ...

So my new little 8-shaft loom will now be utilized to it's fullest. Sunday, I wound a warp for a set of kitchen towels. Monday, I sleyed the reed, and today I started threading the heddles. These towels will be woven in what's called a 2-block broken twill, which means the weave structure is broken twill, but since I have 8 shafts I can create 2 separate blocks of twill which will enhance the intricacy of the overall pattern.

Twill. I just love that name--as I do many weaving terms. It means that instead of having a weft thread pass under one warp thread, then over one warp thread as in "plain" weave: over, under, over, under, ... the weft thread passes under 2 or more weft threads at once, and over 1 or more. A very common twill structure is 2 over, 1 under. It creates a visual diagonal rib in the cloth because the over/under is offset at the edge of the cloth (the selvedge). If the offset is moved out of linear order prematurely, the solid diagonal rib is lost and the twill is "broken". It's still twill, but the pattern is scattered instead of on a linear diagonal.

Here is a good example of twill:

And here is an example of "broken" twill:

There are several ways of "breaking" twill. The above is just one example.

Here's my warp after I finished sleying the reed. White, magenta, blue. Because I'm having 2 blocks, the cloth will end up with squares of color combinations: white/magenta, magenta/blue, white/blue, magenta/white, in addition to the 3 solid colors. Very exciting!

My visitors ...

The 2 boys arrived on a Tuesday afternoon, about an hour and half late due to an accident in CT which held up the bus. Poor kids. Myself, I was held up 15 minutes just north of Concord due to an accident. One of the head coordinators was several minutes late because she, too, had been held up by and accident!! A friend from Massachusetts met up with us, and we all went out for dinner before heading our respective ways.

It was a really interesting and exciting experience. It took about 24 hours for the three of us to relax and start being ourselves. The day after their arrival, we hiked over 2 miles to a gorge and waterfall in Franconia Notch, then somewhat democratically decided to do Chinese for lunch. It was a great hike, I do love walking in the woods. Many wild plants had ID tags on them and it was super interesting to learn their names. The falls and gorge themselves are an awesome spectacle (The Flume Gorge). After lunch, there was a very definite change in our relationship; a turning point. It was fun to be relaxed and know that the 9 days would probably work out just fine.

I learned about myself as well as about their lives. It helped me realize what it might have been like to have children, and what type of parent I might have been (I hope).

I made a few mistakes up front, but you know, live and learn... we went to a candy store after lunch (a big one--Chutters) and came to realize that I would not have been amiss to assign a quota for each of us, say .25 to .5 lb of candy, before entering the candy store. However, I was pretty impressed with their restraint and it ended up a good experience. Our stop at Walmart on the way home to get some videos was a close call--perhaps because they'd had time to absorb some sugar. They were full of energy and talking almost incessantly (Thank god! That really pleased me, and helped me to relax too.) and proceeded to fill our cart with movie after movie! Whoa! I now wish I'd set the limit before we went in, say, 2 good movies and if we need more we'll come back. So I had to find a way to say that we couldn't get as many movies as they were finding... and they were finding a goodly number of them! Sets of movies no less! Ditto the board games. (But I'm glad to have the games, nice when company comes over.)

We got home, they played cards and monopoly while I checked the situation at work and put out some fires. It was nice to see them getting along well with each other.

We met up with a couple friends of mine from Canada at Polly's Pancake Parlor in Sugar Hill (great pleasure to see you both again, jak), then we drove over to Mt. Washington and down Crawford Notch. Absolutely breathtaking scenery there!!

We spent time at beautiful Wellington Beach on Newfound Lake, only 20 minutes from my house. They had a blast, spending almost the whole of our 4 hours there in the water. I brought some spinning with me, but didn't get much done because there was a strong breeze. I'm not complaining about the breeze. Oh no. It was very warm and humid that day and night. I stopped and bought some oscillating fans on the way home.

One afternoon someone left the front screen door open, and at about 1 a.m. one of the boys came downstairs to say there were several flies in his room. Yup. Flies, moths, and others. So between the two rooms, an hour went by while I got rid of the bugs! It was then about 2 a.m. so I went out to catch more of the Perseids meteor shower and took in 3 or 4, big, bright, and beautiful shooting stars. So it was worth being up. The other bonus was finding a big barred owl perched on my garden arbor, surveying the lawn. I wanted to take a picture, but my camera was in the car and I knew if I moved, it would fly away. I don't think I got to sleep til about 5 a.m.!

There were some challenges for me, and I'm glad there were. To be sure, some things would have been less--shall we say delicate--had they been my own children, but nothing unmanageable. I took the advice of a friend: I was here to spoil them like their grandparents, and then send them back home to their parents. :)

I was occasionally proud of being able to juggle 3 or 4 things at once, attending to their needs and requests, and making sure they were having a real vacation.

One evening while I was in the kitchen they helped themselves to my antique sewing machine--it was a good opportunity to start talking about sewing. So the next day we went to the quilt shop and bought fabric. I told them I'd teach them how to sew an infinity scarf, but one of them was bent on making a cape. A cape! I told him about the work involved in tailoring a cape--we most likely didn't have enough time to make one. He really wanted to make a cape, so I said if he had a plan for one, he should go for it, but I might be of minimal help. He did it! (And wore it constantly afterwards: Around the house, and out on our excursions!) It was very creative. The living room looked like a fabric tornado had hit it that evening. The fabric was everywhere! They both really enjoyed cutting and creating and sewing. I wish these arts were taught to boys more, and I wish, wish, wish, the stigma attached to men doing supposedly "women's work" would go away. Everyone would be so much happier, and I think healthier if they were allowed to create without all these gender biases. Both were wearing their creations when they boarded the bus to depart.

I think the beach was probably their favorite outing. To be sure, Wellington State Beach on Newfound Lake is gorgeous. The Flume gorge and falls also scored high. That was a 2 mile hike; we also hiked around Quincy Bog which is about a mile, and we hiked up West Rattlesnake: A 2 mile hike. West Rattlesnake is not a tall summit, but the view of Squam Lake from there is fantastic (the lake where "On Golden Pond" was shot).

It was wonderful! We did many fun and exciting things together, and I'm pretty sure they enjoyed it. Both said they wanted to come back next year.

I am very happy I did this. On a scale of 1 to 5, I'd rate the experience a 5 in spite of a few minor challenges. I am happy I was able to do this. As a single, 59 y.o. gay man, I had some doubts it would even be possible. I found out this morning, after the bus was loaded but waiting on 2 more children, that I was not alone in my age bracket. One couple was in their 70s!

I'll definitely do it again.

Here are some pictures of our adventures. For privacy reasons, I am not including pictures of the boys.

Bonus picture: Me and my friends from Canada (jak, do advise if you'd rather not have this picture up here)