Wisconsin – Not Just About the Cheese!

Arizona August heat meant it was time for Emmett and Caesar (that would be Denny and Claudia) to get on a plane to someplace a little cooler that we’ve never been before.  Wisconsin was a place of many pleasant surprises – more than just cheese! and we certainly loved it.  And there was a matter of checking out part of Michigan’s UP, too. Here is a summary of our 2014 adventure!

Forks, Water, Cheese – Roadtrip 2014

Water, Water Everywhere…

It’s Miller Time

Wisconsin State of (af)Fairs

Riding the Rails

All Things Polish 

Dodging (Rain)drops – All Things Madison

West Lake Winnebago

Family Roots in Hermansville

(A)Door(able) County

Green Bay, Cedarburg and the Way Home

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Fiber Circuiting

Hello, hello, hello.  The past few weeks have felt like a work out circuit more so than working on any given project.  A little of this, a little more of that, working on a lot of things and not really getting anything that I had planned in my head done.  When I get into this kind of a funk, I am more prone to rip things out that are not making me happy.  That said, I was able to complete a shawl with the yarn that I head previously used for a vest, which I totally ripped out after having completed it – yes, I had bound off the last row, sewed the seams and woven in the loose ends.  It was an interesting experience, and having lived through it, I am actually glad I did it.  It was empowering.

IMG_0310What I ditched was the Die Cut vest by Sara Morris; what I valiantly attempted and completed to my satisfaction (but not without a few expletives ) is the  Mount Vernon Shawl by Tanis Grey – with much better results. I still have a lot of the same yarn left.  I might use it to work on mitered squares, or use it as a back drop for some of the weaving samples I just took off my workshop loom.  Ah.  That was another whole project!  I had about 2 yards left on the warp from the Bonnie Inouye workshop, and so I used all the leftover weft bobbins, with various different treadlings from the workshop.  What resulted is a collection of various sizes, shapes and color combos that are quite interesting.  That will have to percolate in my brain for a while.

IMG_0311Speaking of completing things from workshops, I also got busy carding and finishing off the cotton lint (dyed and natural) from the Joan Ruane spinning class.  It’s the skein that is on the top of the picture.  That will have to be used as a weft – I am not going to knit with it because I don’t have enough for something substantial, and I hate a short scarf.  What was really great about this was that I was getting pretty good at spinning at a higher speed and with shorter fibers (no less), so when I work on the good stuff I will be a regular whiz at it.  Life is good.  The skeins that you see below the cotton are this fabulous merino/silk blend from Handwerks, my friend Laura’s hand dyed yarn.  I am using a pattern from DanDo – it’s called Urban Chic and I just started it.  Of course, that was after I ripped out another pattern I was working on that I had saved from 2004.  The directions were terrible, so I won’t embarrass the author.

Can you get the feeling of circuiting through different fiber crafts, picking up one and leaving the other hanging until you circle back to it?

Lastly, here is the finished product of the circular scarf (mobius to those of you who know what that is) that I was working on before Denny’s hip replacement.  Let me tell you, even though it was 90+ degrees outside, the yak/silk/mohair combination was perfect for inside the hospital.  Got a lot of complements, too.  It pays to rip out what you don’t like.


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Fiber Frenzy

Dye Class Skeins 2It’s been a busy day.  Signed up for a dye class at Tempe Yarn and Fiber.  The great part was a that there were only five students, so we pretty much ran the roost and had a blast playing with the colors.  You can see the results.  Fearless color mixing.  Well worth the forty minute drive. Dyeing can be fun, but I am still at the point where I need to be supervised when dyeing.  There is a very strict protocol for “protein” versus “plant” fibers.  For me, it’s a lot safer working with vinegar than soda ash.  Either way, I don’t have a “dedicated area” for dyeing at home, and the number one rule is NEVER use dyeing utensils for food-based activity once you’ve used them for dyeing.  That said, there is so much discovery and fun in the whole process.  It’s a few steps past easter eggs, with a lot of creativity involved.

My Skeins, DryingThe finished product!  I have three skeins that were completed in the class and that are now hanging out to dry.  From the far left – Desert Rocks and Grass.  In the middle, Desert Sage.  At the far right, Cranes on the Platte (see Smithsonian March 2014).  Sunsets, landscapes, cityscapes – all are inspiration for color ways that are awesome when used with yarns.

I had been knitting a vest pattern by Sara Morris – Dye Cut Vest.  I ended up ripping it all out after I was done.  I hated the armholes and it was not a flattering pattern.  I loved the yarn – Meadow, in Fennel, by The Fibre Company – but it will have to find another project to give it life.  These things happen all the time, and when they end up like this, you just have to suck it up and move on.  Part of the party.

Origami Baby KimonoI also just finished this “commission” for my sister – a colleague is expecting a child, congratulations!  Valley Yarns 100% cotton, should work well for the babe in arms.  It sure was soft to work. It took about 12 hours, and went quickly. Once you’ve gotten into the groove of knitting, you find that you’re attracted to projects that give a pleasing tactile interaction with the yarn.  I find if I don’t like the hand of the yarn, it feels like the project takes forever to work (and that is not fun).

My poor spinning has been taking a back seat, and I do miss it.  This past week I managed to finish carding the rest of the cotton slivers we dyed from the cotton spinning class I took (now when was that, again???).  So now it’s a matter of sitting at the wheel.

Bonnie Inouye Bonnie's SamplesBonnie Inouye is a REALLY talented weaver, and I was lucky to take her class this February.  We learned about working color in the warp and utilizing computer programs to design network drafting, turning drafts, and what seemed like thousands of techniques.  Three full days and it felt like a full semester of work!  She’s inspiring, and open to new ideas and methods.  Here’s my humble sample of A parallel, half-curve draft, with a rep weave variation:

My Workshop Sample

Ha.  And you thought I was sitting on my lazy butt all this time.

IMG_0265After the workshop I flew out to Santa Clara to visit with my sisters in fiber and play at the Stitches Convention.  Talk about an unlimited source of inspiration!  Most people walk about wearing something they’ve made.  In this picture with Laura and Jocelyn, in Laura’s Handwerks booth, I am wearing my Eco-vest, in a linen-cotton blend.

My Finished ScarfI did manage to finish my linen scarf.  I’ve worn it a few times, but really have to break it in to get it softer.  With time, with time.  Overall I am happy with the way it came out.  I managed to minimize the loom waste, and I really enjoy working with linen.  My next project will be an attempt at making a variation of the Hunger Games Catching Fire scarf that Katniss wears when she is hunting in her home District, 12.  I have a lot of good leads on patterns, it’s a matter of pulling the salient structures from them and weaving a few samples.

Pure Elegance, Moss StitchLast but not least, here is a project that I am working on as a fun diversion for a no-brainer scarf that will look great and has such a decadent hand to work – Yak, silk and mohair, hand spun.  This one is all for me!!!!!

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Eggs and Salami

Who would have thought.  After all these years, that one breakfast entrée on the menu at Matt’s Big Breakfast would take me back to my childhood?? But one inhale and tastebud sensation later I am 6 years old, in a Belleville, NJ kitchen on a Saturday night, eating my Mom’s salami frittata.

Matt calls it  a salami scramble.  And it is served in an omelette format.  Old world style salami from Molinari’s in San Francisco.  Fresh eggs all scrambled up.  It didn’t last long on my plate.  In my book, real Italian salami is the sopressata version – wine and whole black peppers in the mix.  Nothing beats it.  When we were living in NoCal we could always get a small link or two.  In Arizona I have seen some pre-sliced versions that come close.  But Matt’s went to the source and got the good stuff.  And I am grateful.

Back in the early Jersey days we didn’t live too high on the hog.  Those were the Golden Circle bread days, when you could only get tangerines and pomegranates just in time for Thanksgiving, salami and cheese wheels were made to order, and you could even get a fresh live (yes, live, feathers and all) chicken if you visited the right places in the Down Neck section of Newark.  Only being able to eat things at certain times of the year made them special.  They tasted so much better for the wait.  And it was an excuse to have a mini celebration.

I guess that’s why I really like the message of the eat local movement.  It’s really a move back to when things were simple.  Fresh meant it came from a place less than a day’s ride away, and we enjoyed everything in the moment.  When it was gone, there were a load of memories (and maybe a few extra calories) to carry with us.  I am sure I burned those calories up a long time ago.  Walking was the major mode of transportation (as was the bus) – I walked to school, the library, grocery store and the local deli as well as all the childhood hangouts.  Keeping warm in the winter and cool in the summer were challenges.  Now the challenges are different.  The struggles never end, just change perspective.

This year I’ll be in a full house for Thanksgiving.  And if nothing else, I am more aware of my thousands of reasons to be grateful and give thanks for everything I have in my life. Now pass that sopressata down the table!!!!

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Garden Carts and Salad Bowls

IMG_0067I had been so thrilled at the indoor progress of the seedlings that I planted them  outdoors as soon as the 100 degree weather dropped out of the forecast.  The garden cart that I ordered came in, Denny drilled some holes for drainage, and away I planted.  All four tomato seedlings shriveled into thin air.  Plan B – plant the seeds outside.  Sage came up, then the thyme, and the tomatoes as well.  Marjorum is limping along.  Sprouts had a three for $10 sale on seedlings, so I bought basil, rosemary and oregano for moral support.

IMG_0066Ok – a few weeks later it’s some progress in the “salad bowl”.  That is my nick mane for the huge planter that we inherited and placed where the basketball hoop had been ripped out by the previous owners.  It covers a piece of metal that sticks out of the concrete.  Since it is a bowl shape I decided I would try to grow greens there.  Hence, the name salad bowl. The greens are growing, although one whole row wasn’t happy and left for parts unknown.  Some are getting bigger than one quarter inch.  My guess is that it wants more sun (the shade thing is really tricky in this part of the yard).  But them’s the breaks.  I keep it watered.

On Sunday I had “thinned” out all the tomato seedlings and now on Tuesday there are only two left.  Was the tomato food that I added too strong?  Or was there too much Dawn in the spray I used to get rid of the white aphids that decided to domicile?  I had already removed a cocoon from the basil and transplanted it to a bush in the yard.  I am glad so much of nature is getting the reward of my investment, but I am looking at it go up in smoke.

I may be knitting today.

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Beating Out the Tangle

Bureau ScarfAt last – off the loom.  A frustrating project, but a lot of learning involved.  One big thing I learned about my new loom is that I have to discover a way to minimize loom waste. The first step on that will be figuring out a better tie-on for the sectional beam (it has no predrilled holes).  After that it will be a matter of figuring out the “sweet spot” on squeezing the last shot of the shed.  The treadling was so much better than I could have hoped for.  Due to the overall length of the finished project, I decided to convert the use from a people scarf to a bureau scarf, and it looks fine in the bedroom.  On the up side, I’ll see it every day instead of the odd occasion that one can wear wool in the desert.  Here is the up close and personal shot of the pattern:

Detail on Bureau ScarfSo, overall, I would have to judge the project a medium success.  It all comes down to being able to go with the flow and learn from mistakes.  After all, things are always what they seem!  I have my next project planned for as much as I can call it planned, and am looking for a good time to start measuring the warp.

Box Lace ShawlAll that aside, I have been working on my knitting list as well. I was FINALLY able to finish the box lace shawl (design courtesy of Cheryl Oberle and her fantastic pattern book, Folk Shawls. I am already on to the next project (filler in the evening) – a lacy cable scarf from Interweave.  Details on Ravelry. There is nothing more satisfactory than finishing a project that you can call your own.

Now if I can only get working on that cotton spinning.  I have some lint that needs to be carded, and about 6 ounces of roving to practice my “technique”.  That would be “as taught by” Joan Ruane, who is one of the most patient teachers I know.  Previous attempts at spinning cotton have been a disaster, and I had sworn it off.  But I guess now was the right time and place.  I’ll get there.

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Growing in Phoenix

SeedlingsSeptember in Phoenix.  Time for planting.  Yes!  The monsoon season has added a supply of water, the temperatures are starting to cool down, and we are approaching the winter rains.  So now is the time to get the herbs and veggies in the ground.  At least, that is what I am told.

At any rate, this year I decided that I am ready for the challenge of trying to grow a real garden.  Last year I planted rosemary and sage in the ground.  Both did really well, and the rosemary is thriving, but the sage was eaten down to the roots by the bunnies. Caught them in the act. Well, they have to eat too.  So it seems that if I want to grow anything edible in the yard, it will have to be a raised-bed container approach.

Armed with enthusiasm, I sent away for way more seeds than I would need in more varieties than I could possibly use for my first experiment.  Back-up for Plan B, is the way I look at it.  In at least one moment of lucidity, I picked four items and proceeded with the indoor phase, starting from seed.  As you can see, the San Marzano 3  tomato is the tallest.  Marjoram and thyme are tagging along.  This morning, however, I had to start over with the sage.  What is it with the sage?  One of my ABSOLUTE favorite herbs. You would think with all the varieties of sage in the desert it would be a slam dunk.

The adventure continues…….

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Really? Really???

Twice this week I have been in a conversation in which “really” is being used in a “new” way.  At least, new for me.  Where I would normally hear “you’re kidding”, is replaced by saying “really” twice – the second time has emphasis and elongation on the first syllable.

The context is exclamation over behavior that is apparently and inarguable rude, or ignorant.  Also to people who should know what they are doing and flagrantly act dumb about it.  I have to admit it’s a lot better than “duh”.  And it is certainly a perfectly appropriate venting forum, at least for me, since I have been at the mercy of contractors and their minions for the past 6 weeks.  The master bath will be beautiful when it is finally done.  And at a psychological cost.

I could have used “really, really” a thousand times in the past six weeks.

You mean the air conditioner doesn’t keep the room cool in 110 degree heat when you keep the door open? An open door doesn’t keep the dust out? Spackling tools scratch the surface of stone countertops? Glass shower doors need one inch clearance for hinges?  Standard depth sinks need a cabinet depth of at least 24 inches? Really? Really???

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Loving My New Loom!!!!!!

Back View - check out those two beams!

Back View – check out those two beams!

Front View, looking up - warped and tied.

Front View, looking up – warped and tied.

Fiber people who know me have heard me talking about getting a new loom for AGES upon AGES.  During this time I have moved three times and across two states, and my old loom came with me.  2013 changed all that.  First there was the portable four harness LeClerc to take to workshops and meet with my study group.  Then I finally got up the nerve and the money to make the big move from four harnesses to eight, and for good measure threw in a second beam, and added the thrill of rear hinge treadles (which I had never heard of before).  Sometimes a girl just has to take some risks.  Good thing that they paid off.

My first – and up to now only – loom had been a four harness LeClerc Nilus jack loom.  It served me well over the years.  There were always those new looms seductively calling from conference floors – new LeClerc’s, Gilmores, magazine pictures of Goldings (don’t ask – they are works of art that cost a fortune).  But I never had that final calling – the right loom wasn’t there yet.  At least until I borrowed my friend Alice’s Kessenich eight harness table loom.  The craftsmanship sold me on the spot.  It wasn’t too long afterwards that I was on the phone ordering my very own Kessenich.

1st Kessenich WarpAs usual, there’s a big difference between dreaming the dream and living it.  How many nights did I wake up in a sweat, measuring and re-measuring the doorway widths?  A bunch.  I even taped out the dimensions on the floor to make sure I had the right clearance.  Soon enough it was in the crate on the driveway, then we slid it right into the room, no problems (the old loom was donated to an ASU grad student).  Now was the challenge to set up my first warp on the loom!  Did I mention the sectional beam that I had ordered as the primary beam?  Up to that point I had only used cloth beams and warped from the front.  (Time to pick yourself up the floor from laughing).  Talk to any weaver about changing gears from front-to-back warping to back-to-front warping, add sectional warping, and you’ve got a great comedy routine.  Well, it’s one way to add flexibility to your style.  This loom has a ratchet and pawl tension system, so the warp is wound using an “s” versus the traditional “c” configuration.  Another learning experience.  It sure can hold a great tension!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHow about the rear hinge treadles?  Bernie from a local guild had mentioned the fact that they existed when I attended the shadow weave workshop.  I immediately scoffed at the idea.  But when I started to research loom configurations, there was actually some good information about them.  Eight harnesses is a big load to lift with a treadle.  Especially with oak. Granted, you’re never going to raise all eight at the same time.  But the added weight can take its toll on your knees, especially when you are used to working with four harnesses.  I can’t even begin to explain how great rear hinge treadles work.  They reduce the effort by 70% – so much so that it I have a better time treadling than I did with my four shaft.  One of the hidden gems of the weaving world.

So I am currently working on a Handwoven eight harness plaited twill scarf project.  Trendsetter Yarns, 2/30 lace, 100% merino.  Fawn warp, light grey weft. 12 dent reed, sett 2-3 30 EPI, 506 ends (with floating selvedge).  Sixteen inches so far, and a long way to go on a 110 inch warp.  Wish me luck!

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Ground Cover Project – Completed!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAReady to go!  Here is the completed blanket, with a knitted carry-all that I made from the weaving thrums and extra yarn.  Still have some yarn left over, but the fringe effect sure helped use up a bunch of it.  Today I will be dropping this off at the designated Ground Cover collection area.  What a lot of work!  But I learned a lot about the 2-2 twill structure in a “bound” treadling.  It makes a dense fabric that is a great thickness for a warm blanket.  Knowing what I know now, I would have constructed it differently so that the joins would not have turned out so rustic.  But, that adds to the charm.  I may have to make a similar one for myself!  I am just so glad that a homeless person will get good use out of it.

Thanks, Ann Morton, for organizing this project!

Before the final sewing.

Before the final sewing.

One section on the loom, in process.

One section on the loom, in process.

Scraps from the warp, getting knitted into a carry-all.

Scraps from the warp, getting knitted into a carry-all.

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