Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Inside Projects

 I want to be outside digging in the dirt, and it hasn't really been too cold, but I just don't want to be cold and wet and muddy!  So, I've been doing inside jobs, like painting the office a lovely brown-toned mint and off-white, and knitting a lot.  The other day, I went to a knitting group meeting, and afterwards, stopped by the local yarn store.  The selection was so disappointing, all hand-dyed and variegated and not suitable at all for what I had in mind, which was a brown tweed for a sweater for my son.  I ordered some yarn I felt lukewarm about, and left unsatisfied.

  But, there's a quilt shop around the corner.  So I went in.  And they have a whole wall of batiks, which, in my quilting days, I loved!  Turns out, I still do.  I bought a bunch of fat quarters in colors I thought would go with the last quilt I was making when I quit quilting, way back in 2004, when I got my first loom  
  When I got home, I pulled out that quilt, still in pieces, and looked long and hard at it.  Wow.  If something you've made yourself makes you say Wow, it must be worth finishing.  I worked on it a little last night, and then started knitting and watching t.v.  And I noticed that the sweater I'm knitting is the same colors!  Clearly, I like orange and green together.  Which is weird.
  Anyway, I've been re-bitten by the quilting bug!  Which is also weird.

 And while knitting, I've learned to make fingers, which you would know if we're friends on facebook, but I'm still extraordinarily proud of the fact that I know how to make fingers.  I want to make more.  But first, I have to finish that sweater, and then, that quilt.

Over the holidays, I got gift cards from people at work, and made a trek to IKEA, where I'd never been before.  Oh, my!  And I bought this shelving unit for my yarn.  Before, it was all over the studio, in bookcases that I wanted in the library.  Now, the bookcases are full of books, and well, just look at that lovely yarn!  Makes me want to weave something!
 In the meantime, take a gander at this orchid.  I'm learning how to take care of them, since I've inherited 4 from Mom.  They're very different from anything I've grown before, but I'm getting the hang of it.  This one's hanging out at work with me.
  Speaking of work, I should get back to it.  Talk to you soon!

Saturday, November 2, 2019


This week, I lost the person who taught me to love fiber, food and flowers.  My mom, Joyce Hoffman, passed away Monday, after a long battle with cancer.  She is the one responsible for my room full of looms, the other room full of fabric, and my never-ending curiosity about food and its possibilities.  She gave me my first garden plot, a shaded square by the carport, when I was five, and she helped me plan another garden that nestled in between the chimney and kitchen when I was nine.  I am who this person helped make me, both because of who she wanted me to be, as well as who I didn't want to be.
  As I sat by her bedside for the last three months, I knitted sweaters and socks, fumbled with embroidery and kept her t.v. humming with programs on architecture and DIY, things we neither are good at but both love to think about.  
  I hope she's where she imagines the afterlife to be, hanging out with people she's missed, walking with our childhood dogs, a world without pain.  This picture is one LouAnn posted on Loomy Tunes this week, and it perfectly captures Mom's joy when weaving, with such a lovely group as the Tuesday Weavers.  This is how I'd like to remember her, with that smile.

Monday, October 7, 2019

New Rabbit Holes

  I always have excuses for not writing, it seems, but this one is very valid.  You see, my mother is dying of cancer in a nursing home, and I've been working on-call for the last three months to help take care of her.  At first, way back in July, it meant being at her house from six in the morning until four or five in the afternoon.  After a few weeks of that, it became obvious that my sister and I couldn't do it ourselves anymore.  
  Liz found a nursing home not too far from our homes, and I started spending a few hours each day sitting with Mom, and then shopping for things she might want.  I always showed up at the nursing home with bags full of things that might tempt her.  She tried to keep up a brave face, knowing we couldn't give her the care she needed, but she was sad to leave her home.
  Now, "the disease has progressed," and I don't spend as much time at the home as I did, because she sleeps most of the time.  When she's awake, I move her bed, fetch her yogurt smoothies and ice water, and listen to whatever streams of consciousness she has going on at the time.  She wanders through her life like a time-traveler, only to be jerked back to the present by the expression on my face, or just the reality of the grim surroundings.
  And so, that's been the background of my life this summer.  I always bring knitting to the nursing home, for those long gaps of Mom sleeping between semi-consciousness.  I've been knitting two sweaters simultaneously from a pattern by a Danish designer, Lene Holme Samsoe (https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/ella-34).  

I started in white cotton, making a short sleeve pullover.  This sweater was all over Instagram this summer, tagged Sommerella, and the comments were always in German or Danish, and I don't speak either, so it too me a while to find the design.  I could only find it on Ravelry in English, but it's called Ella, and has long sleeves, and is in wool.  There's a problem in the pattern in the increases, and on the white cotton sweater, I simply put more stitches in the body to make up for it.  But when I asked my sister if she liked it, she said she'd prefer a different color. I bought Valley Yarns' Goshen, a blend of cotton, Modal and silk for hers, and decided to make it a cardigan.  On the first try, I didn't allow for the lace increases on either side of the button band.  When I got to the sleeve separation, I could see it didn't work, stitch count-wise, either from my mistake, or from the pattern.  
  In my frustration at two sweaters going awry, I decided to try something completely different.  Liz saw a coat in Coldwater Creek's catalog that she loved but didn't want to spend $200 on.  Well, this coat was covered in machine embroidery, and I could see that even if they paid someone in China to make it for a dollar a day, that coat was worth $200.  But rather than say anything, I thought, huh!  I wonder if I could make that?  Now, I haven't embroidered for the sake of embroidering since I was nine when Mom made me work on that stupid sampler she'd bought me to teach me to embroider.  Oh, how I hated that ugly thing!  I'm pretty sure I tossed it out somewhere along the way to be free of it.  
sleeve hems
peplum sunflowers
  But now in the age of YouTube, anyone can learn anything, can't we?  I watched a zillion YouTube videos of how to embroider, and got started.  Instead of using tan jersey knit, like the original jacket, I used nubby raw silk that I just happened to have 15 yards of.  I bought all her favorite tones of peach and matched it with some olive greens, like the jacket had, and started sampling.  
  So far, I've done the edges of the sleeves and almost finished the peplum in the back.  And what do you know? I like embroidery!  Especially when my obsessive knitting makes my arm and hands ache, and I need some quiet, non-screen time.
  I did go back to the sweaters, separated successfully for the sleeves, and am running the garter stitch down the bodies of both.  They're my t.v.-watching and nursing home projects, and both are getting quite large.  Thank goodness it's cool enough finally to hold them in my lap!
  A couple of weeks ago, my friend Pam asked me if I was going to Convergence next year, since it was in Knoxville.  While we were chatting, I looked it up on line and saw that, not only is it in Knoxville, a place I miss so much, but that it's also my birthday week!  Now, you might have guessed that my life the past few months has been bleak and cheerless, and that I need something to cheer me up.  So, I registered for Convergence!  I'm going!  I renewed my membership in the Handweaver's Guild of America, and bought the week-long package, with meals and everyday entrance and discounts on classes.  Then, I signed up for two classes:  eco-friendly dyeing and inkle weaving.  
first try
  Well that did the trick, for many days.  I was so excited!  I'll be staying at LouAnn's house, and going into Knoxville everyday, hanging out with my friends from all over, and rubbing elbows with lots and lots of weavers.  But how long had it been since I've actually woven?  From time to time, I'll go in the studio, and maybe I'll wind some skeins of yarn for the two sweaters, or I'll just go in there to air the room out, but I haven't woven much at all this summer.  I did start a tartan, one I designed to practice weaving tartans, but hadn't had much success.  I couldn't find anything, book or video, that tells what to do with the selvedges.  And from the sample here, you can see that my sett was wrong, and I beat in too hard.  I cut this part off, and it was stiff as a board.  So I let it sit in a darkened room by itself while I knitted.
janky selvedges
shuttles ready!

  But when the rush of excitement about Convergence was on me, I went back in the studio and tried again.  I replaced the 12-dent reed with a 15.  See, the Harrisville Shetland I'm using says it has a 12-15 epi, but it must be the twill that brings it in more (maybe some are saying, "Duh!"), and I'm so used to weaving overshot with fine threads that my beat was way too hard.  I've been working on it this weekend, and I think I'm doing better.  Not all my squares are square, but they're almost there.  And it's fun.  I keep reminding myself that this is my learning warp, and to have fun with it. 
  I'm still plugging away occasionally on the white bread cloths in Swedish Lace, and have every hope of finishing them for Christmas!  And one of those sweaters needs to be done by then, too.  The embroidered jacket doesn't have a timeline.  It'll be done when it's done.
   And as it cools off, I'll be out in the yard, making plans for next year, planting roses and perennials and bulbs.  Enjoy fall, wherever you are!


Thursday, June 20, 2019


 Another gap in time!  I apologize, if you've been waiting to hear from me, and I'd like to say I've been busy, but really, there's always something else I'd rather do than sit at a computer when I'm not at work.  This time, I am at work, on a slow Thursday due to weather.  Planes don't fly as much, especially smaller planes, when there are pop-up storms everywhere, like there are today.
  We should all just curl up with a good loom, like Purl has!  My mom isn't doing well, and didn't want her loom in the house to nag at her when she can't use it.  So I took it home with me, and Purl called it hers.  It has a warp in the reed right now, but I'm not sure what it will become yet, and the heddles wait for me to thread them.
  I'm almost done with the airplane scarf from Bertha Gray Hayes book.  I finished the Alpace-tencel warp, and started the second with tencel and hand-dyed bamboo.  But I ran out of the tencel and had to switch to just bamboo.  It's not obvious in the picture, but it kind of fades from silvery to more blue as it goes on.  
  When it's done, it's time to put my big girl panties on and make the Davidson tartan.  Mom bought the yarn for it many years ago, but never got around to making it, and I've promised to do it.  Why am I so nervous?  It's just weaving twill!  But I'm worried about all the ends from weaving stripes, and nervous about weaving with wool, because I've been weaving with cellulose fibers for so many years, and well, I just want it to be perfect!  I'll let you know how it goes.

I've been knitting a lot.  I thought my promotion at the airport from the front desk to the Charter department would mean I couldn't knit at work anymore, and at first, I was right, too much to do.  But once I was trained and got the hang of it, there is a lot of time with nothing happening, like now.
  So, this winter, I've made two sweaters, both wool.  The one on the left is Rowan Felted Tweed in a pattern I bought on Ravelry, Naima by Ankestrick.  I love the eyelet pattern that runs from the raglan sleeves to the pockets and on to the hem.  It was super easy to make, and it's the perfect everyday sweater for those chilly days in the office.  Just barely visible is the fair isle knitting in the left pocket.  It was supposed to be in both pockets, but I didn't think it showed enough to bother with twice.  

Now, I'm onto something completely different:  a cotton lace cardigan inspired by a sweater in the Sundance catalog.  I had a ton of cotton flake yarn from a Tuesday Weavers challenge many years ago, so I've been using it up.  I love the way it makes the lace look, with its thick and thin textures.  I'm working on the sleeves now, and they are just garter, which is a little boring, but a good thing to knit in the office, so I can drop it when I need to do something.

 My next knitting frontier is going to be brioche stitch.  My first attempt was a failure, so I need to approach it more scientifically.  As in:  Follow the directions!

Jennifer is still for sale!  $1000, pick up only!  I have a couple of people interested, but they haven't pulled the trigger yet.  I do love her; you've seen many projects on her over the years, but she just takes up too much room!  I have to sidle my way through the studio, and I want room to spread out.  If you know anyone who would love her, please let them know, and let me know!

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Gray Weekend

 This weekend was gray and rainy.  It rained from Thursday afternoon to Sunday afternoon, and the water pooled everywhere in my yard.  So, I stayed inside and sewed and knitted, and always had lots of help and attention.  Huck may be gray, but she always cheers me up.

I've almost finished the gray flannel dress, just needs buttons, buttonholes and a hem.  I chose the heart buttons because the dress needs a little cheeriness, too.
  And the supposed-to-be-black sweater is done now, but this weekend, it still needed to be sewn together.  It occurred to me as I looked at this photo that there was a theme here, and went out to photograph the sky.  But it was just more gray, and it was raining, and it didn't look as good as all the gray inside.
  The sun is out now, and I need to go take advantage of it.  Have a more colorful week, wherever you are!

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Mindful Weaving

Or, It's Not Always the Loom's Fault
I've been in the studio a lot these early mornings, because I am still getting up as early as a pastry chef, but not actually going to work until 9:30.  I've been weaving along on the dish towel warp on Tootsie, after several detours, and I was enjoying it, took this picture, and then proceeded.  Below is what happened next.  I didn't notice that the lace squares weren't alternating until the next set was done.  That was disheartening, but not enough to unweave 29 rows to make it right.  That's all right, I told myself.  The first towel will be mine!  And then, I noticed all the skipped threads on the second to farthest left square.  Well, this towel will definitely be mine, I told myself.  And after I put in the tape measure to keep track of the length--these towels are 25" x 36"-- I saw that the wefts had been busy wrapping themselves around the clips on the tape measure.
 This is when weaving makes me curse.  I scare the cats and the dog thinks I'm yelling at her and I feel bad.  It's a hobby.  It's supposed to be relaxing.
  But really, it's my fault, of course.  I don't pay attention. I get so excited, especially in this case when I hadn't woven in so long, and just can't be bothered with noticing all that can go wrong.  
  So I slowed down and started to pay attention.  I still notice my mind drifting other places, to work or relationships or money or other things, and that is inevitably when things go wrong and I have to rein my brain back to the present.  
  I wonder why spell-check doesn't think unweave is a word.  We all know it is just as important as unknit.

  After weaving the natural dish towels, and knitting a gray sweater for the last three weeks, I needed a little color.  I went through the dyed warps I have waiting, and picked the indigo multi-fiber warp from our dyeing afternoon two Octobers ago.  I decided it would look perfect in a scarf, using Bertha Gray Hayes' Bomber Flight pattern, finally using it in a scarf for my sister.  But now that I work in aviation, too, I'm going to make one for each of us.  
  I'm not thrilled with the extra long floats, but the alpaca-tencel-wool weft is pretty sticky, and I'm hoping it will full enough to prevent any big snags when worn.  I'm beading the hem-stitching with opaque crystal beads, and have about 9" woven so far.  They have to be shorties, because there's only about 4 yards of warp, but I don't think my sister likes long scarves like I do.

Yesterday, I sat down with my knitting to watch the latest episode of Fruity Knitting--if you don't watch it on YouTube, you need to!--and got immediately covered in cats.  It wasn't very comfortable, but oddly comforting.
  Back to the studio.  Have a fine, fibery week.

Saturday, February 2, 2019


Have I mentioned that I no longer bake for a living?  Nor do I cook! And what a pleasure it is!  I schedule airplane charters for people who can afford that sort of thing, and I get to knit in between busy spells. I've already shown you the socks and the two purple sweaters I knitted while working at the front desk, but this current sweater has been knit while I've worked in Charter.  I just measured the fronts, that are being knitted simultaneously, and they only lack 3 inches before I bind off for the armholes.  First, Huck wanted to be in the picture, but Purl couldn't let her have the sweater to herself.  Anyway, quick sweater, fun to knit, perfect t.v. watching knitting.  I like it.  The Boyfriend Sweater by Shirley Paden, from Interweave Knits Spring 2014. 
 The other thing I have been thinking a lot about is landscaping.  This is the front of my sister's house, that I rent from her.  She has told me to plant what I want, as long as I sketch it out first.  It is what they call a Blank Canvas, wouldn't you agree?  There used to be large trees in the front yard but they, like all trees in the south, wanted to fall down, so she beat them to the punch and had them all cut down.  Now, I am planning and sketching and dreaming and trying to decide where to start.  I'd really like those boxwoods to go away...

And last night, I started cutting out 
dresses from fabric I bought in the fall.  This is a flannel twill cotton that is dreamy-soft.  I'm making another version of Grain Line Design's Alder dress.  This one will have long sleeves.
The other is cherry-red fine wale corduroy.  It'll be Merchant & Mills Hattie dress, or sort of a combo of Hattie and Ellis, two patterns that come together in the envelope.  One has a lower waistline that I like, and the other has sleeves and pockets, though the pockets are too big.  I made a smaller pocket pattern.   Both will be warm and cozy, so I need to get going before it's spring.  Then, there's lots of linen!

One more thing to work on: try to figure out why my dog needs to bring a new stuffed animal to each meal.  I hadn't noticed until this morning that they were beginning to become a crowd!
Okay, time to get back to work!