Thursday, February 24, 2011

Weaving My Spinning

I have wanted to do this forever! I'm weaving with my own handspun yarn. I bought the tussah-merino for this years ago and started on the blue. I don't even remember when I finished it, plied it and skeined it. It sat in the stash, waiting patiently while I spun the grey.  It wasn't as obviously beautiful as the blue and it took forever!  But at the back of my mind while I've been spinning, I've been planning to use the handspun to weave a pinwheel scarf.

Here's the scary thing, though.  A loom, especially a floor loom, puts quite a bit of tension on the warp threads. I was afraid that my handspun wouldn't stand up to the stress. Some people say it probably will.  Some people recommend soaking the warp in unflavored liquid geletin to strenghten it. Some people say to use handspun only in the weft or on a rigid heddle loom, if you must weave it.

But think about it.  Spinning was, in fact, one of the first activities taken over by the Industrial Revolution, but that was only in the 1800's. What did weavers do for thread before that?  They used handspun, of course.  So it's obviously a doable thing.  In fact, some cultures still use spindle spun threads to weave.  So there!

The St. Francis Upon the Hill Renaissance Faire is coming up.  We demonstrated spinning last year.  It worked so well that we've been invited back and asked to weave as well. One of the questions we got last year was "What do you do with all that stuff? (that you spin)"  I quickly knitted a shawlette out of handspun llama to show one thing.  Getting ready for the Faire this year, I thought about that pinwheel scarf.  Was there any way I could get the grey done in time??

Well, I did.  It spun up a little thicker than the blue, but it's done! Warping the loom was a challenge. The yarn still had residual twist in it and it wanted to wrap itself all over the place.  But many hours of coaxing later, I got the loom warped.  Bringing it up to tension was kind of nerve-wracking.  But hey, if I break a warp thread, so what?  It wouldn't be the first nor the last that's broken.  I know how to fix a broken thread.

The yarn has some residual fuzz to it. It pays to take time to get the weaving right because un-weaving it is difficult.  The threads kind of want to lock together and have to be teased apart.  But still.  It's working!

I wonder what they'll ask this year.  Probably "What do you do with all that stuff you weave??"  I guess I'd better plan on weaving something and making it into a bodice or vest or something.

Which gives me an idea...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Will The Circle Be Unbroken

This evening is the first time I've had the chance to just sit with my blog. Yesterday morning I was writing in my journal and trying to work through everything that's happened recently. It's kind of unsettling (to say the least!) to have your livelihood change so radically. I thought quite a bit about being intentional with my life. I tend to let myself be blown by the winds without seeing what I can do and simply doing it. Simple things like walking every day. Before I know it, my day is filled with little things, big things, everything, and I never get my walk in. Why don't I simply walk?  Not in a few minutes.  Not when I finish this one more thing. Now. Go walk.

I'd finished up my entry when my cell phone went off.  I've had my phone in my pocket more than usual these days because my best friend's mother recently entered the last stages of dying and I wanted to be sure I was there for her. I glanced at it and, sure enough, it was my friend. Her mother was starting the last of the shutting down process and it wouldn't be much longer. I thought about what I could say.  Honestly, what can you really say at such a time?  This isn't a Hallmark moment. I did remember the hospice nurse telling my mother to keep talking to my grandmother as she died - that hearing was the last to go. So I asked my friend if she had brought her harp, if she was playing her mother out. She said no, there had been no time.  So I offered to bring mine and play her out. Then I went and played my big harp - just playing. The cell phone went off again. Would I come and play for her mother and sit with her?  And I did, although I've never done such a thing before. I quickly tuned the travel harp, packed the car and left for the nursing home.

I didn't quite make it. Her mother passed before I got there, but I played for them both. I must have played for over an hour. I wanted to play well for them, but my hands were shaking - I get performance anxiety really badly. I missed notes.  I didn't have time to trim my nails and I buzzed strings. But this wasn't a concert. This was a way of bringing peace to both of them. My friend asked for tune after tune, most of which I'd never played on the harp. Years of classical piano training and theory stood me in excellent stead. I got through with basic tunes and simple accompaniments.

After my friend asked me for every tune she knew her mother loved, she was ready to let her go - or at least to begin. I took her out to lunch while the hospice nurse prepared her mother for her last journey. On the way back, my friend asked if I could stay with her while they took her mother's body away, which, of course, I did.

I learned an amazing amount from the hospice nurse. The best thing to do at such a time is to simply be there. This man has the gift of silent presence, which means more, I think, than any grand words or pithy sayings.

And so I'm wondering. Is it time to leave the techie, busy world and play people through their transitions? Harpists frequently play at nursing homes. Is that what I'm supposed to be doing?

Will the circle be unbroken
By and by, Lord, by and by?
There's a better home a'waiting
In the sky, Lord, in the sky.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Warm Hats Not Hot Heads, or Back To Political Activism

You know, for a girl who grew up in the 60's and came of age in the 70's I'm a total failure. We left Ohio before Kent State. My first visit to Haight-Ashbury was two years ago. I wasn't at Woodstock. I didn't participate in many other aspects of the 60's resulting in my being the antithesis of my friend's declaration - "If you remember the sixties, you weren't there."  I guess I wasn't there.

In fact, my sole foray into political activism was two years ago and was a total bust It resulted in my becoming, at the tender age of 53, a confirmed independant. I've yet to meet a political party I can deal with, let alone agree with.

Now anybody who has made more than a cursory glance at this blog has probably figured out that I love to knit.  (That has more to do with Carolyn Jones as Morticia Addams than with any back-to-basics movement.) I've knit for charity. I've knit hats for the military.  I've knit hats for chemo patients, both those I know and those I don't. But one day last week, I decided to poke my nose back into the political arena by knitting a hat. Please welcome onto the stage, folks, Warm Hats Not Hot Heads.

So what is WHNHH? A simple way of saying enough is enough; of saying cut the argument, name-calling, divisiveness, and pass-the-buck-ism. How?  By knitting a hat. Knitting a hat for every Senator and Congressman we have.  So here I am, knitting a hat for my Congressman.

Well, okay, not MY Congressman.  My buddy - the one who introduced me to this whole movement snagged my Congressman before I got a chance to.  Both Senators were taken by the time we figured out that we were both in the same district - it's a long story. So I'm knitting for Congressman Lamar Smith - my Congressman before I moved.

Dear Congressman Smith:

Hi, I’m Debbi. I was once your constituent, but I've since moved out of your district. I do remember you, though, and voted for you. As I'm sure you've figured out by now, I'm a knitter. I’ve knit hats for chemo patients, hats for the military, and hats for anybody else who asks. But now I'm knitting a hat for you.  You've probably noticed that quite a few of your colleagues have received similar hats. All these hats have been knit by people who have two things in common - we love to knit and we want to make a difference in our world by encouraging rational dialogue.

The beautiful thing about this movement, it seems to me, is that it applies to everyone equally. It matters not on which side of the aisle you sit. It’s a way of bearing witness to the divisiveness that threatens us all. Abraham Lincoln was truly right. “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

Of course I hope you like the hat and that it keeps you warm. But what I would really like you to do is to keep it on your desk to remind you, whenever the going gets tough and the harsh words fly, that you have a responsibility to your constituents (and to us all) not to take the low road of anger and discord, but to take the high road of respect and reasoned dialogue.

With best wishes,

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Finishing Up, Starting Anew, and Last Minute Objects

Okay, who sent the "Interesting Times" thing my way??

The Shawl
Finished Shawl
As all of my Ravelry friends know, this shawl has been a love-hate thing for me. I saw the shawl at  Kid N Ewe this past November. It must have stuck in the back of my mind because, when I was thinking about upcoming demonstrations and remembering how chilly it got last year, I remembered the shawl and how nice and warm it looked. On New Year's Eve, on our way up to the boat, George and I ran by the yarn shop that carries the pattern to get it so I could get started on it that evening. George picked up the pattern while I grabbed the yarn - Cascade Yarns Eco-Wool.  Eco is one of my favorite wools. It comes in natural sheep colors.  It's a heavy yarn but not too bulky.  It smells wonderful and it's warm!

However...  I made the Ultimate Mistake.  I didn't look at the pattern before I bought it. I didn't read the pattern through before I started it. I admit it was strange - charted like no pattern I'd ever seen, but hey - I was doing okay with it.  Until page 4.  After having worked the last row of the chart on page 3, I turned to page 4.  I let out a shriek that could be heard up and down all 50-something miles of that lake!  Page 3 ended with a wrong-side row.  Page 4 started with a wrong-side row.  All was not well.  It took me about 30 minutes to figure it out, but I finally figured out that the wrong side row charts had to be blended to create the row.  Except that there was no way to figure out just how they should have been blended.  So I reverse-engineered the thing from the cover photograph.  This meant, however, that I had to rip out the row I had just knit and do it over.

And that was just the beginning.  It's been over a month with every page and every chart a challenge, but I finally finished it Sunday evening.  And it is gorgeous!  It's big and warm and smells wonderful and is beautiful and I love it!  It's worth all the agony.

And it's been a learning experience. I think it's made me a better knitter and taught me that I know far more about knitting than I ever thought I did.

A Sadder But Wiser Knitter - and her shawl

Update on the Sabina Shawl
Sabina Shawl after wet-finishing
I wet-finished the woven shawl and it turned out even better than I had dared hope. It's gorgeous! It resulted in a request to weave another - which I'll take to be my first commission!!  That's kind of exciting!

New Techniques and the Rigid-Heddle Loom
The Mitered Keyhole Scarf on the Loom
While teaching my first rigid-heddle weaving class, I got to seriously looking at proejcts for my students. I stumbled across this wonderful project  the Mitered Loop Keyhole Scarf from WeaveZine. It directly addresses something my students whine about - "What can I make when I only have 10" weaving width??" Folks, most of the fabric of human history has been woven at or less than 10" wide.  What to do?  Edge-join it (for you woodworkers) or selvege join.  This scarf is an exercise in weaving a very long strip and then looping it and selvege-joining it.  It also teaches clasped-weft technique where two wefts are used in every shot - one on the left side of the weaving and one on the right.  I'm weaving this project directly from the instructions in the project to test it for my students.  But I have gorgeous yarns queued up to weave the next one!

It's good to get the rigid-heddle loom out again. I had a failure on it - trying to weave log cabin dishtowels on double heddles in CotLin.  Sadly, CotLin sticks together and gave me fits trying to get a clean shed.  I'm going to try again in bamboo.

Valentine's Day
A Valentine's Day Card (cover)
With everything that's happened recently, I didn't have anything for my dear husband for Valentine's Day.  He's always so good about getting cards and flowers and never forgetting anything.  I am the world's worst at taking the time to do those kinds of things.  About mid-afternoon, I thought about finishing the caps for his fingerless mitts - I did finish those today - but went upstairs to the long-neglected studio... and got inspiration! An hour and a half later, I had a six-page (counting covers) Valentine's memory book with photos of us through our marriage and sentiments. AND I had it photographed and uploaded to my design team group.  Woot!

But more important, it said what I wanted to say to George.

Two pages of the Valentine's Book

Valentine's ATC's
With the panic about the kittens, I didn't get to the ATC swap.  That's kind of sad, because one of the cards was a Valentine for my swap friends.  I'll have to post the other one later.

Interesting Times
Be like the bird that, pausing in her flight
awhile on boughs too slight
feels them give way beneath her and yet sings
knowing that she hath wings
--Victor Hugo
We're trying to remember this poem... as we recover from us both being laid off from our jobs this morning.  Interesting times, indeed.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Shawl Is Finished!

The Bamboo Shawl on the Sabina
Yea!  I finished the bamboo lace shawl!  Lots of folks have done this shawl.  I bet it's one of the most popular projects ever published in Handwoven. It's fun to weave and it's so classy and elegant.  A gorgeous hand and drape straight off the loom, even before it's finished.  I'm saying right now, I want one of these for myself, so I'll be off soon to order more thread!  (I'd just go to the local fabric store for it, but I want colors they don't carry to use for dish towels for the boat.)

Close-up of the Shawl
I'll be interested in seeing how the shawl finishes.  The selveges are a little fluttery as are the plain weave sections.  I think that's because the lace blocks draw the warp in some and the plain weave blocks can't compress that much.  So the result is something like seersucker fabric.

The Sabina is awesome. When she came home, we were afraid that no matter how much work George put into her, she'd never weave well.  It's hard to get next to something that's held together with screen door hooks!  But we were wrong. Not only is she beautiful, she weaves like a dream.  She holds her own with any modern loom I've tried. I am very much looking forward to the next project!

Well, the immediate next project needs to be warped onto the Baby Wolf.  I'll probably do the 8-harness Peacock Shawl.  I've wanted that shawl for years and I have the supplies.  I just need to get her done!  If I'm close enough to getting the light blue spun for the pinwheel scarf I want to do, I may try that.  It would be wonderful to weave my own handspun.  Whichever project is next, though, it will need to go onto the Baby Wolf.  She's my demonstration loom and it's only three weeks until the St. Francis in the Wood Renaissance Faire.  I'd like to have whichever project about half woven off before the Faire so I can finish it there.  As soon as the Faire is over, I need to start warping on the next tartan project for the Highland Games.  It's always something!!

Kitten Update
The girls went in to be spayed today.  They're home now and sleeping.  I hope they get over this quickly and are back to their normal bouncy, loving selves.  I hate for them to be in pain and uncomfortable, but it's for the best, I know.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Lost and Found Kitties and Snow

It's been a difficult year already and it's just getting started.  After my daughter went back to college, I came down with the worst cold / flu I've had in ages.  I ran a 102-degree fever, which is unusual for an adult and very unusual for me.  I had the worst sniffles and cough, but no sore throat.  The doc tested me for flu, but I came up negative, so he thought it was allergies.  I doubted it was allergies, and then George came down with the same thing three days later.  Hmm...  Well, we're both over it now, so that's a good thing.

On Monday night, George stayed up almost all night transitioning data between the old company we worked for and the new one - The last day of January was the witching time.  I stayed up doing my ATC's.  All three cats were upstairs with me, keeping me company.  Finally, I just couldn't keep my eyes open any longer and came to bed.  I did notice the cats didn't climb into bed with me.  It must have been 45 minutes later that George woke me up in a panic.  The front door had blown open and the kittens were both outside.  He rushed out to get them, but they both ran away from him.  I got up and got dressed and went out with him to search the neighborhood.  No sign of them anywhere.  It was raining and cold - not the place for kittens to be.  If the Siamese got out, he came right back, for which I was incredibly grateful.  If we'd lost Ming, too, the world would have just come to an end right there.

So began three days of anxiety and searching.  The forecast was for the coldest weather we've had in years and the two kittens were out in it. Tuesday evening, George was out searching the neighborhood for them when he saw the feral mother cat and Myst.  Myst ran away from him, but at least we knew she was alive and safe.  There was no sign of Calliope.  We left the garage door opened a bit for them and put food out.  We also put food out on the deck where we had found them originally.  The next morning, George woke me up by putting Myst down on top of me.  She had come home during the night and stayed in the garage.  We were so overjoyed to see her, but had still seen no sign of Calliope.  We saw no sign of her until last night.

The forecast last night was for snow.  It hasn't snowed here in 25 years.  We both searched and searched for Calliope, to no avail.  It was overcast and quiet, as it frequently gets before snow.  Just before I went to bed, I checked out on the deck.  Somebody had eaten all the food I'd put out there.  I refilled the food bowl and put it back out on the deck.  I noticed that a freezing rain had started, which hadn't been forecast.  I called to Calliope, and thought I heard a very faint meow.  I couldn't be sure and I thought it might have beeen my imgination.

I came back in and told George.  He went out and stayed for quite a while.  I could hear him meowing and talking.  He came back in, all excited.  He had seen Calliope!  She was eating the fresh food, but she ran away when she saw him.  I told him to put some of her favorite salmon in the bowl and I put on my robe and hurried out.  I sat on the deck in the freezing rain and called and waited quietly.  George brought the salmon and waited with me.  We called and called and heard Calliope meow.  Slowly, her meows got louder and closer.  Suddenly, there she was on the deck.  I told George not to move and not to make a sound.  It was the hardest thing I've ever done to see her and not to lunge for her.  She ate some of the salmon and obviously wanted it, but was so skittery.  We stayed perfectly still and she got less skittery and started eating.  Finally she came up to me and bumped me with her head and let me pick her up.

Calliope Snoozing

She seems fine, although she was very hungry and cold.  She ate two bowls of salmon as soon as she got in and snuggled with me in bed.  It was delightful to have three cats piled on top of me again!

A million thanks to all our friends and neighbors for their good wishes and prayers and for helping us look for the kitties.  And thanks to our vet and SCAT - our cat adoption service, for their advice.  Here are some tips:
  • Keep the garage door open just a bit and put out both food and the litter box.  The used litter box helps the cat to identify home by the smell
  • Young cats and kittens rarely go more than 1/2 mile from home, so they're probably close by.
  • If necessary, use a trap to catch the kitty.  Traps are frequently available to borrow or rent from animal rescue groups.  Do be sure to check the trap frequently.
  • CraigsList is sometimes a useful way to find or advertise a lost animal.
  • Many rescue groups and shelters have photos of the animals they've taken in which can be seen on the web.  Be sure to check all those resources.
  • When picking up a lost cat, be careful, calm and quiet.  Move slowly and let the cat come to you.  Rushing any animal and/or grabbing at them usually frightens them, even if they know you.  If they're hurt or frightened for any other reason, you'll need to be even more calm, quiet and deliberate.
  • And, of course, spay or neuter your pet.  Spaying/neutering reduces the desire to roam and, if they do get out, lessens the number of unwanted animals in this world.  There are many low-cost spay/neuter programs around.
Snow on the Deck
Well, by Northern standards, it isn't much, but it snowed last night!  Actually, there's ice under the snow, which is making things interesting.  It's starting to melt now, but still.  I wouldn't go out.

The X-Terra in the Snow
I think this would be a good day to stay home.  It's looking like maybe soup or chili for supper.