Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Looking Toward Autumn

It is a bittersweet time of year. Summer is winding down and school begins next week. While spending full days with my kids may have driven me around the bend, it was nice free-floating through the days with little or no plans, routines or schedules. However, at this point, it's getting a bit old and I'm now looking forward to getting everyone into school. It's during those hours, if I have a car, that I'm a free agent and get a lot of things done ~ like build a house . . .

And although Mabon is still a few weeks away, I felt compelled to redress the altar. The painting stayed (it has become a focusing tool for me), but the horizontal surface saw some changes. Tom made a cool batik cloth in art last school year, so that's on there along with a bowl of corn cobbed from the Century Museum corn cobber at the Fair, my prayer beads, a few crystals and the deer antler. I let the candle burn awhile t0 usher in the seasonal shift that's occurring now. I would love dearly to have my Kwan Yin and Mary figures displayed somewhere safe, but this rental is so small and with the daily influx of child and cat activity I don't dare leave them out to get broken. The Kwan Yin is porcelain gifted to me by my grandmother. The Hummel Mary figure, not glazed in colors, but porcelain white, was also my grandmother's. I'd put a request in for that specific object long before she passed on because I knew it to be her spiritual icon. They are both lovingly wrapped and packaged safely until I have a safe place to keep them. Sometimes, when I need a dose of loving compassion, steadiness and connection to MotherSense, I haul them out for the duration of a much-needed meditation. They work well together, Kwan Yin and Mari (my preferred spelling for Her), on that altar ~ the next time they're out, I'll get photo of them. They might even wave and smile, beaming unconditional love.

Monday, August 29, 2005

At the Fair

The family went to the Dutchess County Fair this past weekend. We saw resplendent roosters (no, we didn't buy any) and sheared sheep. At one point, I saw a woman walking around with a bag of fleece. Fleece!Only another spinner would understand my wooly lust, but I was eager to find out where she got it from. She was lost in the crowd as we sat waiting for the shearing demo to begin. It was all I could do to contain myself. When the shearing was done, I asked one of the demo spinners in the Wool Barn if people were selling fleece at the Fair ~ turns out it was one of the other demo spinners done for the day taking her stuff home. Oh well . . . maybe I'll make it to the Sheep & Wool this October . . . with money won from gambling or the Lotto or I could shake down a leprechaun on the way.

At the vintage machines area, I bought a slot loom, aka Amish loom, knitting loom. The cash goes to keeping the Century Museum going and I got a nifty new gadget to knit yarn on. They look wickedly easy to make which means I could make a few and share a skill with the Girl Scouts. Here's what I started just yesterday ~ just the little bit of a future scarf peeking out to the left there. I bought the loom started with the Museum's demo yarn, but it's being continued with Lion Brand Homespun (which isnt' ideal if just learning how to work with the thing, snags too easily, but I'm managing).

The kids endured, whining and grumbling, our bizarre passion for agriculture and animal husbandry finally making it alive to the rides. Many threats were issued (a few we invented involving duct tape, bamboo and toes) to stave off the immediate run for the Rides ~ the veritable Money Pit of attractions. Fair food was enjoyed by all (as well as the subsequent gastrointestinal disturbances). The day at the fair was a long one, but memorable: as in, I will remember not to ever ___________ (fill in the blank) again!

And here is the green sock on the Magic Loop hanging out with the last of the summer Echinacea. It didn't get to go to the Fair.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Three Kids Walk Into a Dentist's Office . . .

Well, they were in the Chair. I was in the Waiting Room. It was there I saw another woman casting on and in a rare fit of I-don't-know-what I decided to chat with her. Naturally, I asked what she was knitting: little dog coats. Oh. I'm still working on a sock with the Magic Loop and I reached into the bag to show her the booklet. She waved it away with her free hand and said, "Oh, I only knit one thing!" One thing? Dog coats? That's it? And she only uses Red Heart yarn. Nothing fancy, glitzy, luxurious; no stash?! It is here I discovered that I've become a Knitting Snob. I mean, how can someone in their right knitting mind knit only ONE thing? It's admirable in a way because she sells her little dog coats (her own design) at local pet shops, but only that one thing . . . At that point, I tried desperately to drop the conversation ~ it's clear she didn't have a clue. Luckily, her turn to hit the Chair came up.

The punchline is: Be careful who you knit with.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

What Is It?

Could it be cooled lava? An aerial view of some distant unknown planet? No. It's very dirty wool. It is wool I bought through the internet based on the knowledge that 1) it was Corriedale and 2) it was cleaned. In the case of the former, I will chalk it up to a certain amount of ignorance regarding sheep's wool. I've met Corriedale before and it didn't look or feel like this ~ it was comparable to Merino (in my humble opinion), soft and luxurious even in a relatively dirty state. But I could be wrong ~ it could be Corriedale. As for the latter, it wouldn't have taken a rocket scientist to figure how un-clean the wool was. It was perhaps skirted, dung tags and burrs removed, but it still reeked of sheep. Which is fine if you are a sheep looking for a date.

So, I spent the day scouring wool. I've done it on and off now for about 6 years. I've come to ignore the advice from Lee Raven's very fine book on beginner spinning, "Hands On Spinnning." Her warnings regarded water temperature, agitation and the dreaded by-product of felting. Well, I can tell you that I have tried felting, on purpose, and I must have been doing it wrong because the wool didn't felt. In fact, it was hardly interested in adhering together at all; it just sort of laid there in helpless, formless globs. As a result, I've learned that wool can indeed take a proper scouring and still be good looking wool to spin. This "Corriedale" saw two suds baths with one rinse bath and a quick spin in the washing machine (as in, set the machine to Spin Only, no rinse, otherwise it really might felt). Once done, it looked a bit like this:

Alright, so it still looks like the aerial view of some distant unkown planet! (Where's Flash Gordon when you need him? Do you suppose Emperor Ming secretly spins in his Royal Chambers at night?) Anyway, I have to admit it feels much better. It probably just needed a bath after the long journey through the postal system (it was also seriously compacted). It's got interesting color, good crimp and ranges 2" to 2 1/2" in length. It still doesn't feel as luxurious as Corriedales I've met, but it'll be quite good for sock yarn. (Ian has already put in an order for a pair.)

And, on a final note: I know that most folks in the shepherding/wool industry possess sheep dogs. I am the proud owner of Wool Cats, fierce protecters of the Wool! I believe at last count I still have six (6) of them. Here is Darth Vader (yes, that's his name ~ don't ask) minding the unwashed bits while I was tackling the scouring.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Using Anything

After managing household and animal husbandry, I settled in to play on a piece that came as a vision (I think). Working with glass at Kirsten's the other day, the Vision mutated into something that included the found and broken medium. All the colored slivers glimmered like jewels. The stuff itself represented deconstruction and reconstruction simultaneously; it appealed to my sense of artisitc curiosity. Here it is as done so far . . .

Also included in the construction of this piece is Gorilla Glue . . . 'nough said.

Technical Notes: Butterfly Madonna, Oil on gessoed masonite, glass shards and Dollar Store glass bits.

What to make of it? I don't know. I'm the last to know, but I'm not finished yet either. Needs mirrors and something else . . .

Saturday, August 20, 2005

One Sock, No More Yarn

While a lesser version of last weekend's Electrical Maelstrom was occurring yesterday, I was able to finish one Denim blue sock. I thought I'd be a hotshot and make due without using stitch markers, but the Yarn Gods smote me with confusion and a need for the corrective Frog Song (y'know, 'rip-it, rip-it'). Stitch markers are a knitter's best friend ~ if they're diamond, all the better. Pictured is one finished sock using every last inch of yarn I had available to me. Until I get the call from the craft shop, I'm starting another pair in Lion Brand's Wool-Ease Forest Green Heather (my rebound color) while hanging out at the job site. At least there is light.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Carving Out Time For Peace w/ a Grapefruit Spoon

Because my body and soul craved it, I made time for yoga. Unfortunately, my children did not agree and persisted in yelling at each other at the tops of their youth and pre-teen lungs while I attempted to maintain balance in Tree Pose. Yoga doesn't work, in fact it fails miserably, if I have to leave my little sanctuary in order to join in the screaming and demand my rights as a serene Zen-type person (dammit!). At least things were calm by the time I hit the mat in Savasana (aka, the Corpse Pose). Miraculously, I was able to deal with the rest of the day while I sproinged around like limp spaghetti for a couple of hours. But that bliss only lasts so long. Apparently, there's always something to scream about. Nonetheless, yoga asana practice is my Axis Mundi even if dead in the middle of craziness. It's my moving meditation and much different from knitting, spinning or painting. Knitting and spinning allows me to space out; painting requires playful focused attention. Yoga grounds me.

It would seem that my throne has been usurped. My daughter proudly showed the progress on her scarf to a friend while announcing that the new-found chair (w/ the perfect found cushion given me by a friend) was HER knitting chair. Hmmm . . . At any rate, here she is knitting in The Chair ~ the use of the tongue whilst knitting enhances concentration.

In the meantime, I hear the electricians are returning this weekend. I'll have to make coffee again. This should be their last visit for quite awhile. Soon, windows ~ I have no idea how they'll be installed. Another to bridge to cross . . .

Update on the Denim yarn, Stardate whatever: still in limbo. I'm nearing the toe an' she can't handle anymore, Captain! Well, I wonder what other project I can start? Time to peruse the Knits magazines . . .

Sunday, August 14, 2005

'Lectric Dreams

It has been a very busy weekend at the site. We had electricians, about eight of 'em, and they were a highly ambitious and hardworking lot. Much appreciated, I can tell you. It was rather exciting (and mildly embarassing) to ask how we turn the lights off when we leave. After casting odd glances in our direction, it was patiently explained and demonstrated that all we needed to do was flip the switches. Duh . . .

At present, most of the house looks like this:

And there are more holes for the windows that are coming sooner than expected. I'm feeling a bit charmed in the realm of construction ~ apparently, windows manufactured sooner than expected is nothing short of a miracle. There must have been a special planetary alignment that week just for window manufacturing. Here is a new hole in the future studio as of this weekend . . .

I don't dare show more than that right now. The place is a bit of a mess after the Electrical Swarm.

At one point, I sat down to knit a tiny bit more of that sock (I'm still waiting to hear from the store on the rest of that Denim). Naturally, one of the electricians noticed. He told me he likes to knit cables and that making sweaters is his favorite activity in winter. Rather interesing to pull cables for a living and then to enjoy knitting them when not. Knitters just come out of the wood work around here.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Look, Ma! A Free Chair!

How could I leave it behind? A rattan chair in perfectly great condition! What a find . . . literally. Uh, wait. I mean: it followed me home. That it needed to be loaded into the cargo area of my Subaru is of little consequence. It just needs a cushion now that it has a home and great potential for becoming my knitting chair (also reading and sketching and whatever). So cool in a really sublime way.

On to the discussion of fiber. What is the Numero Uno rule of knitting? One would think I should know it by now, but I wrecklessly shunned it, I tempted fate, I threw caution to the wind. Devil may care! What is that Rule? Make sure you have enough yarn (and maybe then some to add to stash) to complete your project. I went to two (2) chain craft stores to find Wool-Ease Worsted Weight Denim with a fair amount of certainty that either one would have the stuff. To my utter annoyance neither had that weight stocked in Denim. Oh I could have gotten the new chunky knit stuff from Lion Brand in Denim ~ they had plenty of that. But it was useless to me. I resigned myself to ordering it through the first chain craft store where I was told Denim was already on order. I quickly left my name, home and cell numbers with emergency contacts as I need the wool to finish the pair of socks. (Otherwise, according to comedian Steven Wright, it could be matched by thickness rather than color.) The sympathetic woman handling the order understood the situation and assured me that I'd be the first to be called. Whew! I swear on a healthy stack of stash yarn I'll never do that again!

As a consolation, I bought two skeins of Wool-Ease Worsted Weight in Forest Green Heather. At least I'll have enough yarn for those socks. And I feel much better . . .

Anyway, here's the progress thus far. The little pathetic lump of yarn at the top of the photo represents all that I have left until I can get to the store. (Notice how the new chair made a great prop for my present work? Its already fitting in!)

Monday, August 08, 2005

My Summer Vacation

We're building a house for the summer (a continuing saga). On the outside, it looks like an abandoned Christo project, but on the inside . . .

it looks pretty cool. It's a post-and-beam timberframe. We love the red Doug Fir.

And here is our builder . . .
This is a cool shot of a future Great Room (as in, "Wow! What a great room!") view from the 2nd floor promenade (okay, it's just an open hallway). The tub is proof that we are indeed moving closer toward civilized habitation. (At present, the subject of windows has me frothing at the mouth, so don't even ask.)

The kids and I had the lake all to ourselves for about 3 hours before the summer renters and Manhattanites emerged from their summer retreats. Here are the kids enjoying a tourist-free lakeside beach. I got to read the NY Times in its entirety ~ a rare treat.

After we were thoroughly sun-drenched, water-logged and sanded, we had a barbeque dinner in the future back yard. I love barbeques because I don't have to cook.

Builder by day, chef by night . . .

and every Burnt Varmint Chef needs sous chefs.

Leaving on a somewhat fibery note, the Princess got new knitting needles just for Her Royal Self. Kid's knitting needles from Lion Brand ~ they are cute, one red and one blue (don't know why) with little kitty heads. She commented that my Brittany walnut wood needles were 'okay,' but these little needles are just right. She didn't have to cook either.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Going Loopy

As promised, here are some pics of the sock-in-progress. Technical notes: #4, 40" circular needle and Lion Brand's Wool Ease (or Wuh-leeze! the perfect cop-out wool), Denim. I don't know if this sock is knitting up faster because I know what I'm doing (i.e., I know how to knit socks) or if it's the Magic Loop ~ hence the name. I'm leaning toward the latter. In this photo, I'm obviously at the heel flap. The instep stitches just hang out on the loop and I use the needles to do the work in the necessary areas. Much to my delight - I mean, chagrin - I need to get some more Denim Wool Ease. Somehow, another skein of something interesting manages to make its way into the basket on the way to the register. What can one do? A stray ball of yarn is a terrible thing ~ I simply tell people it followed me home and I can keep it . . . somewhere.

And here's one of the many reasons why I can't get things done during the day . . .

Obi Wan felt his presence was a necessity during the sock's photo shoot. Honestly, what would I do without him? Clearly, I have issues with strays whether the fuzz comes with four feet, two feet or none.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Princess Knitting

I'm teaching my daughter to knit. It wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be. I was beginning to feel like a failure as a parent not passing down a skill ~ especially when other parents made the assumption that ALL my children must know how to knit because, well, that's what I do. My oldest son picked up the needles for a short time during the school year, but it doesn't hold a candle to Halo 2 right now. My middle child is hardly interested (so many playdates ~ who has time to knit?). Well, as Meatloaf said, two out of three ain't bad. Knitting isn't my daughter's passion (yet) ~ we're still in a serious Barbie/horsey/stuffed animal/neat shoe/save the ozone phase (okay, so I put that last one in to see if you're paying attention). However, she is showing promise and likes doing something Mommy can do; she just needs her tiara. (I refuse to share the crown!) Soon we'll be thumb-wrestling over shoes and yarn stashes.

I am pleased with the sock using the Magic Loop. If you haven't gotten the booklet, it's well worth it. The site is www.fibertrends.com ~ Sara Hauschka discovered the neat idea and Bev Galeskas wrote it into the booklet. It's been liberating working on just ONE circular needle. I'm not concerning myself with stitches slipping off or not having all four DPNs. I believe they've made a convert out of me. I will return to 4 DPN sock knitting on occasion to retain Ye Olde Ways, but for quick-get-the-man-some-socks knitting, this is surely the way to go. Photos to come soon!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Shop Therapy Gone Wrong

I've been in denial. I finally have to admit I have a problem. I don't think it requires 12-Step. I rather doubt there is a division for such a malady. "Hi, I'm Dawn and I am a compulsive poultry shopper ~ chickens are friends not food (unless prepared properly)." The family went to a perfectly innocent 4-H Fair to look at animals and eat fair food and maybe, just maybe, get my hands on some local fiber. No fiber, but there were a variety of chicks for sale. I bought 4. (I call it the Noah's Ark Syndrome ~ animals need to be purchased in twos.) Now they are living in a makeshift cage in my living room. Here they are outside. They are kind of cute, aren't they? This fact coupled with a recent loss of many hens had me making the snap decision to drop $20 on their fuzzy butts. The trouble with buying chicks is that it's a crap shoot as to what you get. In this bunch, if I'm really lucky, I might get all hens. Yet another roll of the dice might yeild 1 rooster, 3 hens or 2 and 2. We begin to crap out if there are 3 roosters, 1 hen. The true and obvious loss is 4 roosters. Last time, my husband succumbed to a tag sale purchase of three chicks ~ they were all roosters. We have two left from the Canine Debacle of 2005, plus one sweet hen, Mabel (donated). We've taken two chickens to the vet at a great cost ~ cooking them up was not an option. (I could hardly imaging myself prepping pets for dinner.) I get an egg, a free-range egg, a day from Mabel. I'm hoping to get something like that from these four next summer. If they're hens ~ which they are. Right?

Well, here are the others . . .

Robin and Mabel in red and Goldie with the great comb and resplendant neck frill. Goldie is currently coming off steroids. At least that's what we think the vet gave him during his stay. He wasn't this big when we sent him in.

So, the moral of the story: Make sure you're in a safe store for Shop Therapy. A cozy book store, an expensive clothing or shoe store, or better yet the local yarn shop.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Knitting Cop-out

Itching to knit, but afraid to actually dive in to the 'good' stuff, I started a pair of socks using the Lion Brand wool/acrylic worsted with the Magic Loop. It's a cop-out, I know, but at least it'll move the Creative Block (and, yes, it needed to be capitalized) I've been grappling with. I'll post pics of the progress when I have progress.

Here are the black-and-white buttock paintings soon to be gessoed. Smudge, the fat rabbit, should not be confused with the paintings. He just wanted in on the photo session.

The paintings are slightly obscured and cropped to protect the innocent.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Rude alpaca

Those dewy-eyed, docile alpaca have a secret. They save their unruliness in their wool. All through my academic career I obeyed rules only to come to the Fiber School in a constant state of rebellion. They say don't spin alpaca solo ~ it needs to be mixed with gentle sheep wool. "But it's so soft and luxurious," you say. "How can something so fantabulous be that difficult?" Alpaca is like a spoiled child in this respect; it's going to twist how it wants to twist and there's no discussion about it!

But I have managed the unruly alpaca in its 100% form and here's how it came out:

There it is in 654 yards of loveliness, but note the beady, furtive eyes . . .

Now below is a tamer alpaca/dyed mohair blend.
This is about 255 yards. If I choose to make the Magic Loop socks, I need another scant 5 to 10 yards. I think I can scrape that together and get started. With the mohair, this alpaca spun up a little loftier ~ the future halo effect should be fun, even in socks.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Testing the waters

Okay. I've done it. I'd been mulling it over some time now and it's done. I'm now a blogger. It's my intention to keep the creative processes the focus of my blog ~ whether I'm painting, knitting, spinning or weaving. But other stuff in daily life does seep thru. I'll keep the angst to an extreme minimum; unless it's amusing (which it rarely is when in the middle of it).

So, let's get started . . . I want to knit something. I can't seem to choose a project. I'm on the fence about socks. Then I thought I might do something featured in Knits magazine from "Folk Bags," but lacked the proper wool (and I don't dare add to the stash now). Besides, I'm busily adding to the wool quota spinning off some alpaca/mohair ~ it's already plied and waiting to be niddy-noddied. Maybe I'll have enough for socks on the Magic Loop method . . .

Also I have some canvases waiting to be gessoed over so that maybe I can paint . . . soon. These were free canvases a friend retrieved from the bin at campus. They have red bands and what appear to be black-and-white buttocks. Truly not my style of painting and clearly begging to be blocked out of existance to become something else. I don't think I want to paint socks though.

Above is one of my recent oil paintings done on two 24" x 36" canvases. I titled it "Making Stars." But this a sample of some of the work I do (and also an op to test out the image-retrieving device on this puppy).