Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Year of UFO's

No, this is not an UFO.  This is the newest member of my family, Purl.  This is her official baby picture, the one that will be framed and on the dresser, alongside Leo, Wally and Weft.  I finally had a print made for Bella's framed photo, and she'll soon be on the dresser, too.  
  Purl, true to her name, loves yarn.  Several times in the past few weeks, I've come home to, um, interesting rearrangements of balls of yarn in the living room.  It's been eight years since I've had a kitten, and I need to kitten-proof some things still.
  And, yes.  She is the most adorable kitten you've ever seen. At least since Weft, that is.

I did finally finish the lace pillowcases, though nothing else got done the last few months of 2017, fiber-wise.  They got into the mail in time for Christmas, and were seen with oohs and ahs.  I thought I was glad to see the backside of them, and then, a week later, I saw an intriguing lace pattern that I had to change and start knitting.  
  And I started a sweater for Mom, the Birkin by Caitlin Hunter.
 It's a gorgeous Scandinavian color work pattern, and I think my tension is too tight so far for it to fit.  There might be some ripping out, but not just now.
  And I decided to try to knit some Brioche stitches, because I never had, and there's a great podcast called Fruity Knitting that I love, and they just kept going on and on about it, so I had to try it.  If you haven't seen their podcast yet, and you love knitting, you must watch it.  So, yeah, I'm also knitting their brioche hat.
  And then there's the overshot scarf, one of which I did finish before Christmas but didn't give away, because, honestly, I think my friends and family are getting a little tired of my scarves!  But it's lovely, and I really liked the second weft, some leftover Noro lace yarn that swerves in and out of matching the warp in a way I liked. Unfortunately, I made some bad bead choices for the second hem stitching, and it will need to undergo surgery to remove and replace them.
 The third and final weft for that warp is black 6/2 bamboo, and I didn't think I'd like it, but I really do!  I didn't bead the hem stitching this time, because I couldn't find the proper needle.  I will probably go back when it's done and bead the ends, because I like the way it makes scarves hang on the wearer.  I'm about 1/3 of the way done, and then, I MUST start something else. 
  Because the whole point of the blog entry is to say that I am determined that 2018 will be the year I finish all these started projects!  I have two sweaters that are completely knitted, but not sewn together.  Both sweaters, by following the directions, came out with sleeve caps that are too small, and have to be re-knitted.  l WILL do that this month, and get those two done.  I WILL finish Mom's sweater, and that pair of socks over there, and that brioche hat, and that dress that's been lying unfinished on the sewing machine since the lace took over my life last summer, and I'd even like to finish that last quilt I started 12 years ago before I got my first loom.
  Because, don't you sometimes look around your studio and think, oh my gosh!  What's going to happen to all this stuff when I die?  Who's going to care about it?  Wouldn't it be nice to have this "begun" stuff finished?
  For example, this warp has been, I'm ashamed to say, sitting in a garbage can, ends threaded through the reed, for almost a year.  I only just put the ends in a garbage can a few months ago when I noticed Weft sleeping on it!  Well, it was a mess.  See how in this photo it's in a box?  That's because when I started to thread the heddles, Purl couldn't leave it alone.  And as soon as I put it in the box, Weft jumped in and got ready for a nap!  
  It's now threaded and wound on, and getting ready for its first weaving.  It's kitchen towels, in Swedish Lace from that book, Lace and Lacey Weaves by Mary E. Snyder.  
  After the black and fuschia scarf is done, I do need to start one more thing:  A group of weavers in Brasstown is having a napkin challenge, 8/2 cotton, 16" square, and due on Mother's Day.  I've chosen hand-manipulated lace, because you know I love it!  And there's a lot of plain weave involved to make them go fast.
Another thing I've started but decided I didn't like and won't finish is the KAL by Mason-Dixon Knitting, Log Cabins.  I made one square, and my heart is just not in it. Purl likes it very well, or just enjoys being in my lap, tearing up whatever I'm knitting.
  And you know, the year is young, and I must just even finish the tapestry that's been on the loom in the living room for the last 2 years.  You never know!  Happy new year!

Monday, October 23, 2017

Continued Laciness

 A rainy day here in Brasstown, NC, which is fine, because I always have lots to do inside.  I have a few more strips of lace to finish for the pillowcases for Christmas, and can I confess something to you?  I am tired of knitting lace!  So tired that I started knitting again on the lavender sweater that will be too scratchy to wear, and is scratchy to knit.
  But I must keep on knitting lace!  I am determined to finish, and I chose, silly me, to have inserts in each one, as well as edging.  I designed the daisy insertion shown here because I wanted a daisy insertion and couldn't find a pattern for one.  That was fun, and I even knitted a swatch, or two, or three before I got it right and carried on.
  I love the darker pink one, called Valenciennes.  I showed it last blog entry in black, which I inadvertently changed needle size and ruined.  It will be redeemed later, see below.  It's complicated and needs watching, meaning no t.v. or conversation or anything to distract, so it's taking a while.  I have about 18 inches so far, and need 40.
The lighter pink is called Leaf and Berries, for some unknown reason.  It does kind of look like Ginko leaves, but I don't see the berries.  Its insert is done, and I only lack about 10 inches of it.  Again, it needs concentration, so it's not going quickly.

I needed diversion, so my friend Lillian shared what she'd learned in a class at the Folk School on Boro stitching, a Japanese mending technique.  We spent a lovely afternoon stitching samplers and talking, and then I put it on the back burner to get back to the lace for a couple of weeks.  First, we had Fall Festival, I caught a bad virus, and then there was the Book Arts Building Grand Opening.  As pictured, it was not a gluten free menu.  But it was fun and went well.  

This morning, after weeks of collecting possibilities, I started a Boro project.  My softest, most favorite pair of jeans are becoming embarrassing, so they went first.  Traditionally, Boro is blue and white, but I say it's what I want it to be!  Pink silk with crocheted daisy, green perle cotton and green daisy it what I want it to be today.  It's kind of hard on the hands, but it's also kind of addictive and very meditative, so I will plug away at it today.  This is where the scraps of black lace, along with the swatches I've been working on.  They'll be incorporated kind of crazy quilt style onto other patches.
  But first, I have to go get the yarn I dyed yesterday with Lillian and Pam at Pam's house.  Pam had just taken a class with Judith MacKenzie on instant indigo dyeing and shared what she learned with us.  How lucky am I to have friends like this?!?!  Pam wound a warp of bamboo and cotton for me, and she taught us how to mix up the indigo, and away we went. 
I have one more warp of Alpaca, tencel and wool I need to go take out of its bath when there's a break in the rain.  It will be so fun to weave scarves out of the stuff we dyed!

And now I have to get back to "work."  I'll leave with some cuteness.  Weft loves all boxes and bags equally.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017


Mexican Lace insert.  See the Aztec Eagles?
 Maybe I should catch up from March, because certainly a lot has happened since then, but I feel the same way about that as I do about my current crafting:  It's too hot.  All I want to do is lace.  I want to knit it, think about it, Google it, talk about it.
  If I'd taken the time to blog in June, I'd have posted photos of all the sewing I've done, mostly for my vacation wardrobe.  But vacation starts on Friday--Yippeeeee!!!--and that's all done.
  All I want to do is lace.  
not my favorite...
 I started knitting lace about 8-9 years ago, when I decided it'd be fun to make lace-trimmed pillow cases for my loved ones.  Maybe I blogged about it before?  If not here, perhaps on Loomy Tunes?  But that was my first, and I loved it, but it seemed rather...slow.  And I don't typically go for handicrafts that are purely decorative.  I like stuff that does stuff!  Clothes me, feeds me, keeps me warm.  
  A couple of months ago, I finished Matt's cabled sweater, just in time to send it to him for his birthday, and my mother said she wanted a sweater, but it had to be Fair Isle.  So I obsessed about Fair Isle for a while, bought books, made false starts, and finally settled on making one for me first to see if I could do it. 
  Well, that's just too hot to hold in my hands, and boy!  Does it take every cell of concentration my brain can give!  I ain't got time for that!  And I can't remember exactly what happened, maybe I just moved a pile of knitting and the lace knitting bag appeared and I thought, hmmm, I'll do that for a minute...  

Altered leaf border
 That was a month ago, and I haven't been able to do anything else.  I finished a several-years-old piece of pink lace and gave it to a friend for her granddaughter's next dress.  I finished the unbleached linen lace to trim a blouse I haven't cut out yet, but know the lace will be perfect for.  And then, I just started working my way through Barbara Abbey's book, Knitting Lace.  It's an amazingly thorough book, full of gorgeous, and some weird, designs of knitted lace.  
New today
  I've gotten to the point where I can change the patterns a little to make them nicer for me and my purposes, but I haven't gotten to the point yet that I can design my own lace.  I'd sure like to learn that!  In the meantime, I'll just keep knitting tiny, frivolous, lovely lace and keep as cool as I can.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Before and After

It's been another long week at the Folk School, Scandinavian Week, full of happy people discovering crafts from that region of the planet.  It's been fun incorporating Scandinavian food through the menus, but keeping in mind that all-too painful Scottish Week fiasco of too much of a "good" thing.  I kept it in my comfort zone, using mostly baked goods to convey the theme.  Last night, in the finale dinner, sweet-sour cabbage was in the main menu, and dinner was finished with Danish Apple Cake, a lovely little item that will make it into the regular dessert rotation.
But the week started off with re-dyeing the jackets I dyed way back in the fall.  I used Procion dyes on polyester. Don't do that, dear reader!  It just leads to heartbreak and wasted dye.  This time, they came out--and stayed--vibrant and lovely, after 3 washings.  I love them.  No matter how bumpy the week got this week, and it got kinda bumpy, my jackets cheered me up.  They're drying in the sun on the deck after their second wash, and stayed those colors after their next.

I had to let someone go who I had come to consider a friend this week, someone who was very, very good when he was good, but who was very, very, very bad when he was bad.  It hurts to trust someone so much, and to believe that they can be great, if only they would let themselves be great, but that's not my doing, not because I didn't believe in him enough.  He's angry and saying mean things about me now, which is part of what happens every time I let someone go, but it stings more this time.   He's young, and he can still learn from this, I hope, and I do wish him well.  Someone else is training to lead the evening shift, and she is off to a rough start.  The seemingly never-ending quest for my own team to run the kitchen is again in search mode.
 When I came home early this week, a sure sign of spring was waiting in my kitchen window.  It's big.  Fortunately, it was between the window and the screen, definitely outside.  In the morning, she was gone, but there was a smaller version in the dining room window.  As long as they stay on their side of the glass, we can co-exist.  If they come in, and survive Weftie, they will be escorted outside.

After such a week, what do the crafty do to pick up their spirits?  They start a new project!  I'm almost done with the turquoise socks, but they're too fussy for this week.  Matt's sweater is moving along, but too much concentration needed this week for such a thing.  Oooh, look at the lovely pastel sock yarn sitting over there!  Maybe a simple lace pattern?  Toe up?  Okay!  Go!

Monday, March 13, 2017

New Title

I remember very clearly the day I was beginning to read Deborah Chandler's Learning to Weave, when she says to the reader:  "You are a weaver."  She said in reference as to what to call oneself when one begins to read, and she meant it to be said proudly, to not be wishy-washy about what the reader was about to become.  So now, I am a weaver, 13 years later. 
  As of yesterday, I have a new title:  I am a spinner.
Every full time employee of John C. Campbell Folk School gets to take 2 classes a year for free, and I'm shocked at how many people never take advantage of it.  I picked my classes out my first week!  But I didn't pick spinning; those of you who know me know I have tried, failed and put it behind me.  But so many of my new friends here in Brasstown spin and love it, and well, I signed up for the class and got in.  The rest is now history! 
  June Rollins, a very talented painter who works in the JCCFS craft shop also took the class, and here she is, studiously spinning.  She is taking the week long class that follows, From Sheep to Shawl, also with Martha Owen, the resident artist for spinning, knitting and all fibery things that aren't weaving.  Martha is a wonderful teacher, patient and full of great stories.  Her teaching methods helped me get over the problems I had the first time I tried to spin.  I wish now I'd kept that first spinning wheel!  But by now, it's probably loved and used by someone who didn't give up so easily!

There were ten of us in the class, and here we are carding, not my favorite part of the day.  It's very hard on the hands and shoulders, but I bet when I get more practice, it'll be something nice to do on the porch on a sunny day.

But our last day in class wasn't sunny, was it?  No, it was snowy and beautiful, and it all melted by lunch time.  Alas, tomorrow, more snow is predicted, so carding will have to wait. 

Until then, I can practice more spinning from the stuff I brought home from class, on the wheel that followed me home.  It's a Kromksi Minuet, previously loved by a friend of Martha's who passed away last summer. I also bought her carders and a little of her sock yarn.  All her stuff, loved by her, was left to her husband to disperse.  Martha is selling it to her classes to help out the husband left behind.  I was going to name the wheel Susan in honor of her, but then saw that Johan, the wheel's maker, signed it on the bottom, so that will be the wheel's name.

 At the end of every class term, there is show and tell, and here is our class's table of spun yarn.  We all learned a lot in just a couple of days, and had a wonderful time.  The kitchen did a great job in my absence, making wonderful meals for all the students, and I'm so grateful they gave me the time off to learn something new.

Maggie Davidson, Spinner

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Brain Freeze

This week, I had several projects ready to go.  The inkle loom is threaded to make 7-block letter pick up; the hand-dyed warp I've had draped across the 4-shaft Aritsat is slung across the raddle, waiting for me to pick a pattern; the warp I'd wound for lace dish towels would be enough to make them 20 inches wide, enough even though my original goal had been 25 inches. 
Weftie tries to figure it out
  And then, I realized I couldn't figure out how to pick up the letters' threads.  Anne Dixon says to "pick up the threads you need, and drop the ones you don't."  Well, that sounds simple!  But I realized while picking up threads, I wasn't sure, couldn't even figure out, had now idea which ones I needed and which I didn't.  I picked some up, put them back down, tried blustering my way ahead, which never works...  I have no idea what I'm doing, or how to fix it.  The videos on YouTube aren't any more help, basically saying the same thing, to pick up the right ones and drop the wrong ones.  I don't want to impose on weaving friends in social situations, because that's like people asking me why I don't bring sweet treats every time I meet them!  And so, the inkle sits idle.
  And then, there's the painted warp on Jenny, the 4-shaft Artisat.  I didn't think 5 inches of hand-painted beauty was enough, so I wound some black bamboo borders, only to run out on the second side, 12 threads short.  Well, shoot!  I just went with it!  After a LOT of re-calculating, I decided to use Johann Speck's Design No. 33 from Marguerite Porter Davison's book.  It's one of my favorite patterns.  I have the daisy centered in the purple center, and the lines radiating out are in the black borders.  The 12 threads too many are going to beaded.  I've never beaded on the warp, threading the beads onto the warp threads, but I'm going to try it today.  Dull or shiny?  A pattern?  Or randomness?  These are the questions I will answer today, as soon as I wind on to the back beam, and make sure there aren't any threading errors.
bath towels with skipped threads
  And then, there's the darn bath towel warp and it's sticky shaft problems.  Looks like it's mostly shaft 5 that gets hung up on its neighbors, but how do I fix it?  I think it's because the loom is still a little wonky after being disassembled by the mover and put back together by an impatient weaver, but it's already warped, and I don't want to un-warp it.  I think I'll finish the first towel with all its errors, cut it off and then figure out what's going on.
  Next weekend is my spinning class with Martha Owen at the Folk School, and I'm pretty excited.  You know I've gone back and forth about spinning over the years, and I still don't think I'll be a spinner yet, but to learn from an expert like Martha is going to be a wonderful experience.  I'll know how, even if I don't incorporate spinning into my daily life.  And to spend a weekend with fibery folks is never a bad thing.
  Last night was the Empty Bowls fundraiser for the Cherokee and Clay County food banks here in western North Carolina, and we made stew, bread, salad and cookies for about 200 people.  I just saw an email from the organizer who said it was a success.  The potters from the folk school and beyond make a lot of bowls, and the guests choose a bowl for the price of their ticket, and are fed by my staff and a whole bunch of wonderful volunteers.  They can then buy more bowls at $20 each, and the bowls were beautiful.  Each member of my team got a bowl for their efforts, and I got a gorgeous vase.  At least, I think it's a vase!  The potter, Mike Lalone, who made it, told me, "it works, too!"  as he handed it to me, but I'm not sure what that means.  I'll just put dried flowers in it, for now!  
  I've been knitting a lot, too, mostly on Matt's sweater, using a lovely soft merino wool, spun in Michigan, and such a treat to knit.  I've used a pattern from the Winter Knits magazine, which is just fussy enough to be interesting, but easy enough to watch t.v. while I work on it.  I want to have it done in time for his birthday, because the end of May in Nashville can be so chilly!  Just kidding.  I know he'll say something about the inappropriateness of a sweater at that time of year, but I don't want to keep it until Christmas.  Maybe I'll make him some Bermuda shorts in time for Christmas!

  And my parting shot is a room that cracks me up when I'm in it.  My studio is upstairs in the loft, usually used as a bedroom, complete with a large bathroom.  The bathroom is currently the warping room, complete with two warping boards and lots of yarn!  Knitting and weaving books are by the toilet for extended research.  It's a light-filled room during the day, and a comfortable place to wind warps, in hearing of the stereo, and conveniently located to the looms.


Sunday, February 5, 2017

Picking Stuff Up

A little tension trouble!
 I'm still inkle weaving this week, when I'm not cooking.  It occurred to me this week that I never take photos of the food I make anymore!  But it's just food for 100 hungry crafters, three times a day, and if it's interesting enough, or pretty enough, to take photos of, I'm usually too busy to grab my phone.  My kitchen team is so great now, that things are finally running smoothly, and cooking is actually becoming fun.  I never thought we'd get here, but here we are!  Whew!  Students' comments have gone from 75% negative to over 75% positive in the last two months.  What a relief!
  The weather has kept me in Brasstown for the last few days off, and even though it's supposed to be in the 50's with sun this afternoon, there was freezing rain this morning and it's not above freezing yet.  Bella wants to walk!
  Until then, I've been learning pick-up on the Inkle loom. I had to break down and buy Anne Dixon's book on Inkle weaving.  None of the available YouTube videos were clear enough in their instructions on how to do pick-up.  There was a lot of assumed information, that I didn't know, like how to warp for pick-up.  I'd heard Dixon's book wasn't very clear, either, but it's been so helpful for me.  I'm glad I laid the groundwork with the plain weave stuff, so I can follow her instructions.  I already had a warp on the loom that I thought I could use for letters and patterns.  Turns out it's a little too narrow for letters, so I have just been following her beginning pick-up patterns.  What fun!  The patterns develop slowly, and it's a little confusing at first, but as I kept the attitude with this first warp that there were no mistakes, only learning opportunities, I just played.
  I am finishing the warp with a pattern I made up, using both heddled and unheddled pick up together.  I'll have at least a little strip of belt I can use for something, and getting good practice in.  The next warp will be some hand-dyed carpet warp with some solid mercerized cotton, to learn how to weave letters.

I've spent the evenings binge-watching bad t.v., and knitting some fun socks.  I bought this yarn from a sale bin a few years ago, and felt like using it up this week.  I started toe-up, two circulars, and have just turned the heels.  I'm using a lace pattern from the newest issue of Interweave Knits, from the yummy patterns they have for weddings.  I'd love to make the lace sweater I've borrowed this little pattern from, make it longer, and out of something soft, like JaggerSpun Zephyr, that lovely 50% wool-50% silk yarn.  Meanwhile, the socks are just easy enough to watch t.v., and just difficult enough to enjoy.
  C'mon, clouds!  Go away!  Bella and I want to play!  Or I'll just have to weave...