Saturday, December 3, 2011

Snowball for Christmas

I've been knitting away a couple rows at a time for the last few days making a Christmas ornament. The pattern is from a new book I bought called 55 Christmas Balls to Knit by Arne & Carlos, two Norwegian guys who are apparently very big in knitting in Europe. All the patterns they present are based on old Norwegian patterns that they have collected.

I did this one with some angora that a friend bought at a street fair in NYC and sent to me. I just love it. It's quite fast to make and a great introduction to the Fair Isle technique.

I had to get some red yarn today so I could make more!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Knit and Sew, part 2

Since I had so many compliments on my pillow, I thought I'd show off the back.

From the back, you can see much better the wild crochet stitch that I did, alternating blue, red and gold.

Great challenge, great fun, and I think I'll do it again. Maybe this winter.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Knit and Sew

At long last, I have a work that combines knitting and sewing.

Above, a pillow cover that I knitted: sari silk yarn, cotton crochet yarn, rayon and wool yarn, chenille yarn and some special yarn from a shop in San Francisco.

What you can’t see is the cover itself, a royal purple silk and cotton blend, and the invisible zipper. The hardest part? Not the knitting. Learning the new crochet stitches to do six rows of crochet for the flange was a challenge.

But doing the last part, making the full pillow undercover and back cover itself, was probably the most challenging… Not that I can’t sew. It was just that in my mind, the pillow was done and making the case was just cleanup work. Silk. It slid. I had to baste. I had to sew. I had to remove the basting. I had to resew a couple parts.

But, it was worth it. It looks gorgeous. And what a great stash buster!

And the Artist? He’s busy getting ready for the annual Open Studios event. Be sure to see his museum show if you’re in the area. It has received rave reviews.

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Quilt 20 Years in the Making

I’m extremely proud that a little quilt I started at least 20 years ago has been finished.

Until about a month ago, only the center, with the grey and the blue and pink flying geese was almost completed. (It’s my own design, for what it’s worth.) The unfinished quilt top sat in my stash of fabric for years. Once in a while, I’d take it out and look at it longingly, wondering if I’d ever complete it.

20 year quilt -1 - 72

What happened? Why didn’t I finish it? It wasn't that big. Quite simply, I never made space for myself to sew (although I thought I had), I never knew how to put on the binding (this was true), and I never had any real motive to finish it (this was also true).

Why did I finish it? Several reasons. About seven years ago, I joined a fiber art group that meets once a month. Meeting once a month encourages you to complete things to show off, so I knitted, for which I have developed a passion. I completed a large “quilt” and an advertising banner. I knit three sweaters. I knit a pillow top. But, I never finished my little quilt.

One day, a wonderful member of our group named ellen edith called me up and said, “Come on over, I’ll show you how to do the binding.” You bet I took her up on it. She made a sample for me to take home to refer to. I made a “cheater” quilt of fabric I recently designed. I made a set of placemats. I made another set of placemats and some napkins (also 20-year-old projects!).  I still knit.

ellen edith passed away. The threat of mortality struck me. I decided it was time to finish all the projects I have hanging around.

I had only one more excuse. No space. I had a room, it was just poorly arranged with the wrong equipment. I bought a new sewing table. What a present to myself! Why didn’t I do it years earlier? Forget the cost. Look at the reward!

So, now I have no excuse to finish the rest of my 20- and 15- and even 25-year-old sewing projects. It feels so good!

Thank you ellen, thank you CCTA, thank you my dear, sweet husband, thank you everyone who’s given me encouragement through the years.

You, too, can finish things, all you procrastinators. Just be persistent. And be very kind and giving to your fiber friends. Actually, be kind and giving to all your friends. You never know...

20 year quilt - 2 - 72

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Incredibly Busy Time for The Artist and Me

The Artist and I have been so busy we can barely remember what’s coming next! For The Artist, his museum show, Studio Made: The Santa Cruz Woodworkers, at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History, has been up for two weekends and is showing to huge groups of people and rave reviews. Before he can take a breath and pat himself on the back, it’s off to the American Craft Council Show this weekend, August 12,13 and 14 at Fort Mason in San Francisco.

This is the only large out-of-town show he is doing this year and since some of his work is in the museum show, he’s been madly trying to finish up some new work for the ACC show.

I, of course, am at the start of a new accounting year and all its new spreadsheets with updated budgets, our time compromised by our yearly audit, with its batch of fresh, young auditors, never quite seeming to understand our business like we do. We pay to train them so that they can sign off that our books are clean. What an interesting concept.

But - the interesting stuff. Let’s see some shots of the museum show!

Ron entrance - 72

The Artist showing off his work, the Medieval installation, work of other woodworkers:

Ron - chandelier - 72
Ron and Penny - 72

Installation - 72

Ron-Award3_edited-1 72

The Artist receives a thank you from his fellow woodworkers for his time and effort in creating the graphic and media material. As one of "the guys" said, "How ironic that the guy who makes reproductions of ancient instruments is our go-to guy for the latest technology."

Ron with MAH show sign - 72

Rather tired after First Friday, where a record number of people passed through the exhibit.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Weaving in New Mexico

The Artist and I recently returned from a vacation in New Mexico. Since I promised several followers a report, I submit it herewith, even if a little late.

After I told The Artist that next time we went to New Mexico, I wanted to go in the summer, he suggested that we go in late June, so that I could also attend the Poisoned Pen Mystery Book Conference in Phoenix. That was it! Count me in.

We took two days getting to Santa Fe in my trusty little Mini. Outside Needles, CA, the temperature hit 104.
By the time we reached Phoenix, it was 111.

We stayed in a B&B for three nights in Santa Fe, having encountered a dust storm in Grants. This was the same wind that fed the recent large fire in Los Alamos, if I’m not mistaken.

I just love the sky in New Mexico. So blue, so clear. The flowers stand out so crisply.

Flowers 3-72
Flowers 4-72Flowers 5-72

For a couple days, we window shopped around Santa Fe, visited Canyon Road, chatted with other visitors in the B&B and developed a new eating pattern: eat a big breakfast, a sturdy, late lunch at a great restaurant and skip dinner. This produced a a wonderful, relaxing time.

Then, it was on to Taos and Chimayo and weaving. I was determined to visit several places on the New Mexico Fiber Tour. In the past, we had only been to Taos in the heart of winter, so it was a real treat to visit in the summer. We took the low road up from Santa Fe and unexpectedly visited the Taos Pueblo, an interesting and very peaceful place, populated for about 1,000 years. Then on to elk burgers and lunch at a very good restaurant on the main street, a two-lane main highway which goes right through town. As we ate, loads of cattle, tractor trailers and piles of hay went right past the large windows. It felt like we were in a small town in the West, which we were. What a throwback in time!

Right next door was Weaving Southwest. The front gallery had very colorful, interesting tapestry weavings, but as I turned around, and my eyes caught the floor-to-ceiling bins of brightly colored yarns, I nearly fell over. In the rear were probably 20 looms, including little inkle looms, upright Navajo looms and big, traditional New Mexican looms handed down from Spanish ancestors.

While The Artist examined the construction of the looms, I had a very interesting conversation with the owner, whose grandmother started the business and and mother does the dyeing. She indicated that since water is do scarce in New Mexico, they use the dyepot over and over until the dye batch is exhausted and the water comes out clear. I bought some yarn and moved on to La Lana Yarns, a natural dyeing store down the street, where I picked up some madder and naturally dyed yarn.

We took the beautiful High Road back to Chimayo and stayed at a very quiet, very peaceful B&B  even using the hot tub. Sleep  came very easily as we were extremely relaxed. Next day, we visited several local weavers: Rose Vigil (Living Traditions), Trujillo Weaving, Lisa and Irvin Trujillo (Centinela) and then drove back up to Truchas, where we met Harry Cordova in his small shop. I learned so much about weaving from each of the weavers. I also learned about churro sheep, which has stiff hair as well as fur. I’m sorry to admit that I did not take photos of the shops. I was just too interested in the weaving. I guess that’s a reason for going again.

Somehow, we managed to find time to eat lunch at Rancho Chimayo, which served the best chile rellenos I’ve ever had.

On to Phoenix. The Artist visited MIM, the new Museum of Musical Instruments (and took over 200 photos). I attended the book conference with my long-time book lover friend and got a couple more mysteries.

We had a great time and The Artist now wants to make me an upright Navajo loom.

I'm ready to return already, but The Artist has a museum show coming up...

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Rain. Heavy Rain. In June. It’s Just Not Right.

Take my word. You Easterners don’t need a photo. Just remember, it’s not supposed to rain in California in the summertime. Oh, well. Every time it rains, I don’t have to water my garden, but I’m beginning to think Al Gore was right.

But on the bright side, last weekend I made Cherry Chutney. Memorial Day weekend is the perfect time to do it. Long weekend, cherries abundant. It will be ready for Thanksgiving. I saved the cherry pits, boiled up the juice and this weekend, am planning to make wool dyed with the cherry juice. My cotton straining cloth came out green, so I’m very anxious to see  what color the wool ends up.

After I tried weaving with it, I decided that the integrity of my earlier red onion skin wool was destroyed because the fibers were so weakened, and I have to make some more, heating it at a lower temperature. I asked for the sloughed off dried skins at the local grocery and I think they emptied the bin for me. I had to divide the reds and yellows, but that’s OK. Two big tubs!

The big show at the local museum is getting closer for the artist, and he’s finished the hanging light.
Light - 72
I love the angles in this. Note the little carved bee in the center of the flower. It's made of zebrawood, Kingwood, and lacewood. The hallway is the only place we have the height to hang the the light, but we can’t illuminate it because there is no outlet.

It’s a good weekend for soup. At the Farmers’ Market this AM, several farmers had a very worried look. Cherries will split if it rains, strawberries will mold. They thanked me for coming out. It’s more like February than June.

Last night was the anniversary event for my 20th year at my place of work. Amazing. I started with a one month temporary job there over 21 years ago. It’s been a good 20 years. Never boring, always interesting. My thanks to those who made it possible.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Cooking up Pink Geraniums for Dyeing

Yesterday’s experiment in natural dyeing was truly extraordinary. Last week, I boiled up some fresh pink geranium flowers. Once the broth had cooled, I strained the mixture and put it in the fridge, being careful not to mistake the carton for my yogurt during the week. (This is a joke, folks.) I decided that there was less risk of mold if I kept it carefully labeled in the fridge.


Pink Geraniums


Yesterday, I heated the liquid in my trusty ex-fondue pot, added some stannous chloride (tin mordant), which fizzed up a little, then cream of tartar, and watched the mixture turn from clear light pink to opaque. How strange! Unless you kept stirring it, the mixture formed a couple layers of sediment, which can be seen below. (I wish I could remember the technical term for this from my high school chemistry class, but I may have been too interested in my lab partner that year.)


Pink Geranium Soup 2011


Once I rinsed it, the wool was a gorgeous yellow! Deep, dark, gorgeous yellow.

Pink Geraniums

Finished Product

This whole experiment of mine this spring has truly made me more interested in chemistry (other than food preparation) than I have been in ages.  Just fascinating.

The tin worked this time, so I think that the time I used it on the red onion skins and it turned out so badly was because the temperature was too high.

On another note…

Each year The Artist and I give a Craft Award for the High School Show at out local Art League. This year we gave it for wearable art made of homework folded into airplanes:

HS Show 2011

Flying Homework Wedding Dress

Fiber wedding dress bodice

Closeup of Woven Bodice

Our goal is to encourage young people in Fine Craft.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Red Onions Anyone?

This weekend’s dyeing and weaving project was red onions and it met with mixed success.

The first batch, using cream of tartar and alum as mordent, worked great, but the second batch, using cream of tartar and tin chloride came out darker, but with the consistency of string. Perhaps I boiled it and felted it. Or maybe I put too much mordent in it. Anyway, my first experiment using tin for mordenting was not too successful. The onion skins are from a generous farmer at the Farmers’ Market.

Red OnionsRed Onions. Left: alum; right: tin chloride

Last weekend’s experiment using walnut shavings looks quite good. I did not pre-soak the shavings, from a Nakashimi-style table-to-be by The Artist, made from a very large walnut slab given to him. For next weekend, however, I have some shavings soaking and the sample should be much darker.

Walnut light


Weaving will have to wait a little; I’m trying to finish knitting a sweater or two.

The Artist is finishing up his work for the museum show and doing a poster for the group.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Weaving Beets

Remember all that yarn that my cousin gave me?  Well, I’ve started to use it.

The photo below is the first batch of yarn that I dyed with natural ingredients, woven on a 4” square  hand loom that my husband made for me. 

So what did I dye it with? Red beet juice left over from cooking the beets. “Red?”, you say? Yes. Red. I used cream of tartar and alum as mordents, and it came out a creamy yellow. I was a little bit in a hurry to see the results, so I didn’t leave it in the pot too long.

Weaving Beets 72

I plan to do a series of these weavings. I will use the yarn that my cousin spun from sheep that she raised. I understand that Lincoln is very good for weaving, so I will probably use that. It comes from sheep that look like they have dreadlocks and is rather coarse. Keeping with the natural, hand made look, I will dye the yarn with various fruits, vegetables and spices from my garden or the farmer’s market or my cupboard. I plan to do these in very small batches, hopefully one a weekend. It should keep me busy all summer!

I already have carrot tops in the a pot and plan to do beet greens, red onion skins and red cabbage soon.

And The Artist? His joiner motor died. He’s using some wood that was given to him to make a Nakashimi-style table, a style he’s never done before. I’m very excited about it. He’s also finishing up his pieces for the MAH show.

By the way, the Big Creek Pottery retrospective currently at the Museum of Art and History is fantastic.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Stitches West was GREAT!

I had such a wonderful time at Stitches West, the big fiber event in Santa Clara this weekend.

On Friday, I took an all-day class in Knitting Rugs, not my first choice, but I registered late, and had to take what was left. It turned out to be a big surprise, with a wonderful history lesson in how our ancestors creatively reused anything made of fiber up to the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. We are now only beginning to appreciate their efforts as we attempt to create our own  interpretations of  reuse of materials.

My two favorites of the rug samples we created are shown below:

Rug class samples

The beginning of the the rug on the left is the center core of a washboard rug, comprised of  knitted strips of yarn. (To be historically correct, I should use wool, but the center is the remains of some silk yarn.) This would be a great use of extra wool, especially the shades of purple in the Noro that I still have left from my sweater. Combined with purple alpaca, it is extremely soft. How, then, could I ever put it on the floor?

The rug on the right is based on a Shaker confetti rug, with strips of cloth knitted into the rows of plain knitting. Of course, Shakers never used batiks, like I did. This is a perfect one for me and would be a good use of all those extra strips of batik that I cut up for the jacket I was going to make but eventually made placemats!

Below on the right is my favorite rug of our teacher, Rose Ann Hunter.

Rug class - 1

On Saturday, I took a one-hour market class in mitred squares from Cindy Craig. Mitred squares are also known as Domino Knitting, whereby decreasing in the center of a long strip rather than at the ends forms a square. I have a project started that uses large mitred squares and felt I really needed some pointers. I certainly got what I was looking for and Cindy’s class was a huge help.

Below right is my first attempt and on the left is my second attempt. (Note that the angle on the lower left red square is going the wrong way.) Huge improvement. Thank you, Cindy! As with anything, it’s practice, practice, practice.

Mitred squares examples

Of course, the highlight of Stitches West is the market. I was able to find the things I was really looking for on the first day. Then, I could relax and appreciate the yarns the rest of the time.

Friday, I went alone, but on Saturday, I went over with my friend, Annie, the inkle loom weaver. On Saturday, it snowed both going over the mountain and returning in the evening. (This comment is for the benefit of my friends on the East Coast who think it’s always at least in the 50’s here.) Annie showed me a booth that I had missed where I found an antique bone weaving needle. Thank you!

On the more serious side, I bought yarn to use with yarn I already had. I got some dark yarn to make another heavy sweater I can wear around our cold house. Books. I’m such a sucker for books. But, I found some really good ones I had to have. I even found something to use in my other fiber arts.

I got a Ravelry button and a Stitches West button.

Even though I’ve now been knitting for about 6 years, I feel like I’m such a new knitter. I enjoy it so much. Just keep it up!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Spring in February

Blossoms in February 2011

I figure I’d better get these plum blossoms posted before the weather changes.

I know there’s several feet of snow back east, but here, it’s a very early Spring and the alley behind our house is lovely. Of course, the blossoms drop within about a day, but for the weekend, they’re lovely and their sweet scent is not overpowering.

The Artist has been busy not only carving his Medieval tables, but also making me some looms. I’ve always wanted to weave, as if knitting and sewing is not enough, and after I saw a tiny little 2” square hand loom in an old magazine, I asked him if he could make one for me.  The Artist researched hand looms on the Internet and presented me with not only a 4” loom, but the instructions (from 1936) as well. I’m practicing. What will I “make”? I have no idea if I will ever have a finished product. But I really like it and I can use up all my yarn bits.

Little Loom samples - first 5


Then, on Wednesday, I received an even larger loom from The Artist. I’m almost afraid to start using it, but I sure do like it! It’s 24”x18”.

Big loom

Friday, January 28, 2011

Exciting Day in the Life

Wednesday was an exciting day in my life. The Artist’s work appeared on the cover of a national magazine.


We had known that the owner of the dulcimer was writing an article for the magazine and she had notified The Artist that it would be in the Winter 2011 issue, but to have it appear on the cover (and the CD that accompanies each magazine) was a gigantic surprise and brought us both tremendous pleasure.

I give huge thanks to the author, a prominent banjo and dulcimer musician, Mary Z. Cox, for her very kind words and thoughtful insight into the true value of historical instruments. Mary maintains a great appreciation for instruments made in the traditional way and believes that musical instruments have real personalities and destinies of their own.  As The Artist said last night, “She really gets it!”

But… the day wasn’t over!

Wednesday evening was the annual Gail Rich Awards in our home town. The awards honor the abundance of creative artists—dancers, craftspeople, musicians, writers, artists, actors, entrepreneurs, teachers, clowns, exhibitors, purveyors—who make our town so culturally rich. This year, one of our good friends was honored. We had to attend and waited in line for a half hour before the awards began.

Rio Theatre

Of course, I took a copy of the just-received DPN magazine to show everyone we knew and some of those we didn’t! Turns out one of those we didn’t know formerly owned a well-known dulcimer shop in town. (People at shows still ask us if we knew the shop.) “Didn’t know that magazine was still in business,” he quipped. Well, it is and at volume 37, #1, it’s better than ever; in fact, I think it's the best one yet!.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

New Chandelier!

For Christmas this year, I gave The Artist a class in “Warm” Lighting at the local community college. I’ve taken so many great classes there: Exploring England (just before we visited), Quick Books, Intro to Photoshop, using PMC, just to name a few. I thought that he should also be exposed to more of the education that the place offers than just the degree in English that he received quite a few years ago.

The Artist started the class by catching the cold that I had. But, true to himself and his work habits, he went in with a plan, remained focused, and completed a new chandelier for the living room within the two intense weeks of 9-5 class.

Plasma welding and sand blasting glass were the two main crafts used in creating what is probably really called a drum pendant light, but to us is a medieval chandelier. We plan to swing across the room like Robin Hood (or Errol Flynn) on it. Or not.

New Chandelier-final hanging

I thoroughly expected The Artist to make something that would be a prototype for an art piece in his business, but noooo, he had to replace that disgusting, ugly, hideously bright chandelier that we had (and hated) with one that looks wonderful over our round dining room table and gives off soft, glowing light, with the same wattage and number of bulbs as the other.  I love this one.

New Chandelier-it works

He did enjoy the class and met lots of people. All is not lost on the art front. He’s now doing something in wood that’s along the same lines.

And moi? What am I up to? I have a few more designs just released on Spoonflower and am starting to knit a new jacket, as soon as I can get the gauge right.

Weather has been wonderful lately. Makes me want to make lists of things to do and vigorously check them off. The moon over the last several nights has been delicious, rising just as we sit down to dinner, and waning just as I wake up. Makes you forget about all the problems that exist in the world for a few minutes.