Handspun Cowl

Last summer, I took a class on spindle spinning at Eugene Textile Center. Since, I’ve been practicing off and on. I have six ounces in lavender and another six in maroon to show for it. The lavender was my first, so it’s bulkier and less consistent than the maroon. Both were tucked away in a bag on the top shelf of my shawl shelf.

firstCowl1Relaxing on the couch next to my Jasper, listening to a little Buffy the Vampire Slayer this afternoon, I knit up my first ever cowl…in lavender. I chose garter stitch for a rough yet stylish look. It measures 20 inches when laid flat for a total of 40 inches around and six inches wide. The Merino wool gives it a low itch-factor. Merino is one of the least scratchy wools in my experience thus far.

One of the aspects I love about this yarn is the little bits of bright blue and red through out it. They help make the lavender more versatile  It looks good over bright red, which makes up more of my wardrobe than I’d like to admit, and with blue jeans.

I’m already looking forward to spinning my next yarn.

Long Brown Gloves

Two years ago, I bought this terrific brown wool sock yarn intending to turn it into a pair of fingerless gloves. One thing led to another, and I never quite got to knitting them…until now.

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Dana Victoria Mitts by Robbyn Kenyon is a Victorian-inspired lace pattern with bobbles and leaves running from fingers to elbows. I found it on Ravelry. The mottled brown yarn I used threatened to dash their sophistication. So, I set red and white beads between the leaves, giving them a casual, every day glamour.BrownGlovesPost1

These gloves took just under 1 skein of Cascade Yarns Heritage Hand Painted Sock Yarn in Indian Summer (color 9931) and approximately 150 beads. I don’t remember how long I spent knitting them, but it was somewhere in the neighborhood of three weeks or maybe 10 hours of knitting time. I had to re-knit a few times at the beginning before I got the hang of the pattern. After that, it was smooth sailing.

 

Waves of Land and Sea Stole Pattern

Long and thin, this stole crosses the line between scarf and wrap. You could add more rows and maybe chain on fewer to begin with, but you’ll lose the luxurious, dramatic aspect of the design. I like the drama. I made the sample using Cash Vero DK by Cascade Yarns, a soft, thick blend of […]

Coastal Adventure

When I set off today for the fabled South Jetty with Jasper, I wasn’t expecting such a Big adventure as we had. Perhaps the giant pink potholes we brooked along the way should have allerted us to the magical nature of the day’s trip. I somehow missed that.

We parked way, way, wayout at the end of the road just shy of the jetty itself and took the path over the dunes and through the grass. Wild strawberry was blooming optimistically. We stopped to get a shot for The Practical Herbalist’s Herbal Folio on Strawberry. That was the first of several fortuitious experiences.JasperontheDune1

As we crested the last dune, we saw sea monkeys on the distant waves. They were riding them like the surfers off Hawaii’s shores. Up and down they glided on the waves. One even caught the smallest of tunnels before he slipped from his board into the drink.

We decided to walk away from the jetty, where various people played in the sand, to the open areas. Jasper frolicked with the waves once or twice, as young dogs will do, but mainly he was on a mission. We were searching for treasure.

We walked for a long while before coming to a huge twisted tree laying on its side on the shore. Jasper was wary. He takes his job as protector seriously. I approached with confidence. When he saw it was good, his mind turned again to digging up crab shells, clams, and sticks.

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After some time in contemplation, we noticed two sea monkeys approaching. Jasper barked and made a bunch of show in warning them off. They were bigger than he expected and black from chin to toe. They would have been menacing if they hadn’t been arguing over where they’d left their treasure. We watched them pass and eventually re-enter the water without incident.

As soon as they’d been consumed by the waves, we set off again. Strolling along, the ocean rolling in and the breeze blowing, Jasper at my side, it was peaceful and glorious there today. In the moments before I found it, I knew a treasure was at hand. The sand dollar was perfect, unbroken, hiding half under a blanket of sand. Jasper was all for eating it, but I said,

“No, this is a gift from the ocean, a story-keeper.”

With that, we continued on awhile longer. Jasper choose two rune sticks for me, suggesting I add a new rune. The next set I make will see an addition to the Elder Fulthark, Jae-Jae, the rune of the Whole Story that asks you to consider things from from a Bigger Perspective.

Eventually, it was time to head back to the city. Sticks and sand dollar in hand, we climbed the formidable dunes and wove our way through the maze of sea grass back to our ride. The ‘Rover was right where we left her. Happily and quite tired, we climbed in and turned back homeward bound. It was a very good adventure.

A Day with My Ancestors

Every year since I’ve forgotten when, I’ve celebrated All Hallows’ Eve and The Day of the Dead with my Ancestors. E00EE673-2A62-47E3-8F8F-E41B7CB30176.pngThis year is going to be no exception. Already, I can feel the early arrivals gathering, though, and that’s new. Usually, I don’t feel their arrival until the day of the festivities. Perhaps, I’m getting more perceptive…or perhaps the party’s more anticipated this year than usual. Whatever it is, I feel the excitement building.

At dusk on Halloween, we’ll light a fire and invite the Ancestors to join us until dusk the next day. We usually enjoy dinner shortly thereafter followed by Halloween movies and sweets. The next day, we’ll go about the business of living…with an entourage of ancestors along for the ride. I’m hoping to get out to an end-of-year farm sale and maybe do a bit of canning or, better yet, go mushrooming. Last year, we spent the day in the woods finding the most abundant, delectable mushrooms. My Babcia had a ball out there with me. I took a walk with my Buttercup and my Grandfather, too, later in the day.

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Occasionally, I get requests for dinner. One year, someone really wanted a mustard sandwich. Another it was chilie. This year I feel some kind of festival food is in order, but what I don’t know. I’ll just have to see what shows up in the next few days.
A few of my moOne of the especially neat parts about my Ancestors is there are so many of them from so many places and times. This past year, a shaman told me that our Ancestoral family can include folk who don’t appear to be I the family tree as we amongst the living see it. Those are the folk with whom we share a Spiritual heritage. So, I could be sharing food from any cuisine in the world. Part of the fun is seeing who shows up.

re recently dead Ancestors make only the briefest of appearances before sailing off to visit other relatives amongst the living. Those folk may not even stay for dinner, but I’m never hurt by it. I’m honored they stop by

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to say hi and send them off with Blessings for their intended companions. Sometimes, entirely new folk show up; hearing their stories and how they’re related to me is always a bit of a challenge. It’s not like I can just step into their space and listen–half the time my family amongst the living finds one way or another to interrupt me. Plus, listening like that is really tiring. Still, I try to catch all I can of their conversations and stories. They’re an amazing lot. Sharing a day and a night with my family, both those in the land of the Dead and those amongst the living, is one of the highlights of my year.

The Master Tree is Finally in My Portfolio

I don’t know why it takes me so long sometimes to get new pieces into my photo gallery. It does. Eventually, though, they get there.

Today, I posted pictures of The Master Tree. It’s a piece Patrick and I created for Master Duer to recognize the importance of his mastership to us and to our fellow students. We presented it to him last August at the annual school picnic. Keeping the project under wraps until the moment we presented it was surprisingly challenging. The shock on Mrs. J’s face when she first saw it, moments before we presented it to them, was wonderful. I think when we’d mentioned it to her before the picnic, we called it a quilt, so I think she was expecting something quite different.MasterTree6_ph

Just as Master Duer went through a whole lot of transformation over the past year as a martial artist, I’ve been going through my own transformations as an artist. Until that day, I hadn’t thought of my work as art so much as quilting…or knitting or sewing or any other crafty word for the techniques I was using. Sure, I’ve called it art, but the truth of that hadn’t really sunk in until the picnic and that presentation.

So, we hadn’t intended to set Mrs. J’s expectations on something else, but I think we did. She most kindly kept the presentation a secret for us until the moment came, and holding that secret was worth it. Master Duer was clearly touched when I held up The Master Tree for the school to see and Patrick explained the piece to everyone. It was a terrific moment.

Like much of my work, The Master Tree is filed with symbolism. If you’d like to learn more about it, check out my portfolio, of course. Making it was a journey that took me into new territory as a fabric artist. It’s one of the bigger projects I’ve done recently and has opened the door to a new series of pieces. I hope to be posting pics of a few of those in the upcoming weeks, but at the rate I’m moving, it’ll probably be months. Until then, you can check out The Master Tree in-person at Duer’s ATA Martial Arts where it now hangs.

Long-standing Project Completed

I started a cute little crocheted blue and white beaded bag. It was a simple design just big enough to fit my keys and a driver’s license so I wouldn’t have to carry a big honkin’ purse when I went for a night on the town. Since I really don’t go out on the town all that often, I just sort of set it aside half completed. That was two years ago.

Last week, I finally finished it.Bluebeadedbag1

This isn’t the first time I’ve started a project and set it aside for seemingly ages. I have a partially completed appliqué quilt top that’s been ever so slowly growing since before my boy was born. I had a stash of cotton yarns bought to become dishcloths four years ago I just finally crocheted this fall. Two of my king-sized quilts sat layered and ready to go for several years and through a couple of moves before I finished them off. I never intend to set stuff aside this long. Really, I don’t.

But, when I finish a long-standing project it feels sooooo good. It’s like tension I hadn’t realized was there suddenly releases and I can relax more deeply than ever before. Dare I say it’s like a crafter’s orgasm? Maybe with less of the sexual connotations but all of the ecstasy?

However you describe it, finishing long-standing projects is deeply satisfying with the added bonus of making space for new projects…like the socks I intend to knit with the terrific sock yarn I found on clearance at The Knit Shop this morning.

Soap Disaster…

And when I say disaster, I’m hardly exaggerating. It was a veritable explosion of lye and oils that roiled like a monster from the deep as it transformed into soap all over my table.

The facts were these:

One week ago, in the quiet, cool early morning, I set out to make a batch of soap. Intending to use up the last of my lye, and thus make space on my overcrowded shelf, I’d carefully calculated and reviewed instructions the night before. soapdisaster1I’d sniffed through my stock of essential oils and dry herbs and settled on a lovely combination of petitgrain, rose and benzoin. I’d measured all the ingredients into clearly marked containers to ensure that in my early morning foray I wouldn’t make a mistake. When I set to work the next morning, I had no clue as to the devilish disaster that would unfold.

That morning, with the oils heated, I mixed my lye. As expected, the lye solution heated fast…too fast. The oils were still a hundred degrees hotter than needed when the lye solution began to cool off. I scrambled for a way to heat the lye safely while controlling the temperature of the oil. Possibly, the stage for fiasco was set then, as I realized I’d have to mix my components at a temperature fifty degrees lower than I’d intended to achieve. Does lye soapanify oil faster at low temperatures than at high?

I don’t know if temperature was the factor that caused what happened next. What I do know is that when I carefully combined my lye solution with my heated oils, the reation kicked off post haste. In seconds, my mixture was at trace and looking like it might set equally fast. Quickly, I added my essential oils and herbs. This is the second point at which, possibly, I might have avoided calamity had I chose to forego those heavenly scents in my finished soap. Instead, with the speed of a gazelle, I stirred in the final ingredients and poured.

My first clear sign of trouble was when the first mold started to morph in shape. By then, I’d already poured the small molds and was nearly done with the big one. I watched as the mixture in that first mold boiled over with the others quickly following suit. Somehow, the temperature had spiked.soapdisaster2

As you can well imagine, chaos ensued as I scrambled to make something useable of the situation. I managed to save about two thirds of the batch. It has set-up into about the ugliest soap I’ve ever seen. Lumpy in varying shades of brown, these will be no gift bars. I’ve encountered no pockets of lye when I extracted the soap from my large mold, so it looks like we’ll be able to use it…perhaps as a shower soap so’s no one but family will have to experience its hideous cleaning power.

“Rose Ribs” Socks!

I’m still learning about knitting socks. So far, I’m liking the challenges they present. My most recent practice was with a pattern called “Rose Ribs” designed by Evelyn A. Clark from Ann Budd’s Sock Knitting Master Class.RoseRibsSocks3

I used a skein and just a smidge more of a wool sock yarn I found on clearance two years ago, Red Heart’s Heart and Sole, a superwash wool and nylon blend made in Italy. It’s a sturdy, super fine yarn that was comfortable to knit. When I bought it, I wasn’t so sure I liked it, but it was cheap and I reckoned if I didn’t like the socks it made at least I wouldn’t be out much cash. Happily, it turns out the colors striped up cheerily. They may not go with much I own, but do they really have to?RoseRibsSocks1

The hardest part of sock knitting has always been getting the size right. This time around, I got the first one wrong again. I knitted my first too large; a weeks worth of evenings passed through my mind in a sort of rapid rewinding as I unraveled it.

RoseRibsSocks2The up-side of re-knitting is that I get a chance to get to know the pattern…really, really well. That paid off for me as I started in on my third one, which was the one that’ll make the pair. I had the pattern so well memorized by then I didn’t need to count every row or even look up the changes as I worked. It took me just two evenings from start to finish, half the time it took to finish the second and about a quarter the time it took me to finish the first.