Monday, January 30, 2006


Scott has been playing with Effetre sizzle stix in his lampwork beads. These chunky lentils are sheer rosy pink and lavender bases encased in Effetre dichroic glass on a crystal background. The results are predominantly shimmering pinks and purples, accented with golden/greenish areas. Makes me think of how a mermaid's fin might look, possibly spurred on by spending yesterday afternoon with my own little mermaid and merman, who frolicked in a pool with friends and never wanted to leave their watery playground. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, January 29, 2006


Looky here! Non-charred sourdough from the earth oven! And it was good.

and looky here! Parts for our newly obtained weaving loom. Needs a little spiffing up but will be awesome once we put it together. And then learn how to use it?! and bonus, unexpected happy thing of the day -- an Ashford Traveler spinning wheel, purchased for a very good price from the exceptionally pleasant woman who gave us the loom.

Can a warm, sunny midwinter Saturday get any better than that? Yes, it can! Just add in a delicious fondue dinner and dessert from Mom and Bren, in celebration of Scott's birthday. Life: mmm, mmm, good!

And today there will be knitting galore. :-)

Saturday, January 28, 2006

in pursuit of the perfect sourdough

This morning's mission is to refine our techniques for baking sourdough bread in our earth oven. We're learning that this is an art in its own way!

We began digging the foundation for this oven on a horrendously hot and humid weekend last summer, suffered a collapse of our first oven attempt (totally common occurrence for newby earth oven builders), and have pulled the charred remains of a loaf of bread from it on more than one occasion. But we've also used it to cook some good meals and desserts. Some loaves of bread were not overcooked and they were incredibly delicious -- complete with the crispy crust that's characteristic of bread baked in a wood-fired oven.

Each time we bake something in the oven, we figure out a little more about how to do it better next time. The pizzas we made for dinner with Grandma around xmastime were pretty darn good and our sourdough starter has had a couple of months to develop more flavor, so today we're hoping to have some yummy bread to give to the woman with the loom, and some to bring for the fondue dinner gathering tonight. This summer we're aiming to replace this earth oven dome with a masonry one and set up some benches from our granite slabs, which were old hitching posts, steps, and foundation blocks from the older house that used to be on our little property.

mmmm....fresh baked bread from a wood-fired oven....mmmm Posted by Picasa

Friday, January 27, 2006


psst...hey there...yeah, you. Can't talk now. Nesting instinct in high gear here, as we prepare for the arrival of the newest member of our family. Today we're moving furniture around, wiping construction dust off of everything, vacuuming high and low. Why?

Tomorrow we will adopt a weaving loom!

It's a 4-harness, counterbalance, 6 treadle, 48" loom, and it's ours, all ours, for free! Happy happy, joy joy! As best I can tell, it looks something like this. Okay, off to become reacquainted with the shopvac. I can only hope we'll feel as energized by the loom as Scott and the kids were by hooking up with new pals for an amazing day at OSV yesterday!

Thursday, January 26, 2006


This felted wall hanging has been bouncing around the house since before Christmas, waiting for me to get around to finishing it. It had already been felted, but needed to be fulled. Felting is when the fibers are adhered to each other enough to be a cohesive fabric, but fulling is when you add heat and agitation to make the wool shrink and the fabric become much stronger. So I dunked it in hot water, squeezed it out as best I could, put it in a plastic bag, and slammed it on the counter many times, then repeated the whole process a few more times, making much noise and splashy mess and having quite a lot of fun. The finished piece is 2 x 3 ft. and will hang on the wall in the downstairs bathroom, which was renovated in a big way last year. The design was inspired by the Excerpt page of images from Atlantis: The Legend of the Lost City by Christina Balit.

Also put a bunch more jewelry up on Glastonbury Glassworks , continued discussion with a site that's interested in selling our work, and agreed to teach a soapmaking workshop at Pixie Sticks this spring. Finally got a good picture of the Spa bracelet by using the black background again! Scott experimented with applying pixie dust to some new beads. He needs to refine his technique a bit, but ooh, pixie dust shimmers beautifully. After ice skating and archery (where Jesse scored thiiiis close to a perfect bullseye!), Jesse rigged up a contraption with alternating flashing lights and black light that make highlighter ink glow, and Leah spun some of the apple green merino Roz sent home for her on Tuesday. Leah also received an incredibly special letter and gift from Christie at Taqwa Glass in Provincetown, where we spent some time over Thanksgiving. Contentment maximus. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

another wooly noggin hugger

Made myself a fun little hat at Roz's studio last night. There were 3 feltmaking friends there. Roz, Barb, and Carol were working on strip felting, but I did that last week and one other time too, so I decided to give Beth Beede's hat-on-a-ball technique a try this time. It was so much fun! Now, generally I'm not a hat-wearing kind of person, but I saw some handmade polar fleece hats at the Girdwood Forest Fair while we were in Alaska this summer and I just loved them. Decided to try to recreate their whimsical style in a wet felting application and am tickled by the results. Must make more. :-)

Kids and Scott had another sparkling day at Mystic Aquarium with another family of friends, including a private guided tour of the outdoor exhibits with a staff member who was getting a big kick out of quizzing these 5 kids and marveling at how much they knew about the critters and ocean life. Plans in the works for many more adventures with these folks, as connections were made on so many levels. Posted by Picasa

Monday, January 23, 2006

dichro mojo

Remember how I wasn't satisfied with my pictures of dichroic beads on a clear background, including the focal bead of the Ice Princess necklace? Well, Scott had the idea to try a black background and look at the difference!

Because I was so tickled with this discovery, I went ahead and put a few more beads and vessels up on Glastonbury Glassworks, with more to come. Yahoo! Posted by Picasa


Reasons why:

1. Jesse and Leah: Because they had sleepovers and saw Peter Pan with Grandma this weekend, and because they're looking forward to visits to Old Sturbridge Village and Mystic Aquarium with friends this week.

2. Scott: Because finally we had a home renovation project that didn't turn into an enormous undertaking. Upstairs hall sheetrock is in place and the first layer of joint compound is on. (We're not paying too much attention to how this spiffed up hall will then lead to refinishing all wood floors upstairs and painting the majority of the second floor. Let's just focus on the small victory at hand, shall we?)

3. Debbie: Because I've finally figured out the magic combination of needles (1 size smaller than suggested) and sweater size (smallest pattern option, believe it or not) to get my Philosopher's Wool cardigan solidly underway in a gauge that should fit. And I love it! And because in the past 48 hours I've had fantastic conversations with 3 old friends who are now scattered around the country, and 2 equally fantastic in-person visits with friends locally. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, January 22, 2006

you can take the family out of Pittsburgh...

...but you can't take the 'burgh out of the family.

Oh, the things you might do with bedsheets and fabric glue in 1995, after having grown up in Pittsburgh in the 1970s, era of the Steel Curtain, with a somewhat warped father who referred to himself as Coach Kenny Noll. (Chuck Noll was the Steelers' Head Coach and Ken was my dad's name. See below.)

Here's a group shot from our annual Super Bowl Bash, 1996. (Sorry for the quality -- picture of a picture from the pre-digital photography world.)

And if there's a heaven, here's one guy who's dancing around it with a Terrible Towel in one hand and an IC Light in the other. Go Steelers!

Posted by Picasa

a horse of a different color

This blog is mostly about glass and fiber arts, but there's one member of this family whose creativity lies in the mechanical realm. Pulleys, gears, batteries, electronics, gadgets, science, and inventions are Jesse's passions. I just never know what he'll have rigged up in his room or what he'll be experimenting with outside. He creates some fantastic gizmos. Even though they're not made of glass or fiber, they're his works of art and sometimes I'll show them here.

Here you see a secret vault. The yellow thing to the left is a Lego Mindstorms RCX brick, which launches Legos to a mechanical engineering level. The RCX brick is programmed through computer software, then the programs are transferred to the brick. When different sensors are attached to the brick, they work with the programs, so you can create Lego robots that follow zig-zag lines, seek heat, do funny dances, activate when a light is shined on them, measure speeds and angles, and a million other funky things. This particular creation is the result of a challenge on the Mindstorms software. Using the remote control, the wheels at the top roll back and lift the vault door. Then a different remote control button is pushed to cause the vault drawer to roll forward. (It's partially out in this picture, underneath the vault door to the right of the contraption.) In reverse, the drawer retracts and reveals another small compartment hidden on the backside of the drawer. And another button closes the vault door again. The next planned additions are to make it operable only after it "sees" a card with "secret code" (lines drawn by Jesse, like a UPC symbol) and to put the whole thing on wheels so it can scoot around the house in search of heat or light.

And because this is a blog about fiber and glass arts, here's a knitting machine made out of Legos! No, it wasn't made here, but I can imagine something similar in our future, once I show the video clip to my favorite inventor. I wonder if he could invent one to knit a Philosopher's Wool fair isle cardigan... :-) Posted by Picasa

so close and yet so far

This is the start of a sleeve for my new sweater. I'm so excited to finally be starting it, which I did (start it, I mean) an obscene number of times yesterday. Apparently my gauge is way off because I keep changing needle sizes and still haven't reached the goal. So today I will go down 2 more needle sizes and start again. Darn good thing I'm totally ga-ga about the Philosopher's Wool patterns because otherwise I would've probably abandoned this project by now. But today we have a sheetrocked hall and will be kidless for the afternoon, so I'm going to start again, with optimism and determination. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Logan's Kiwi adventure

Had a great evening yesterday with our friends at Pixie Sticks. This is Logan, who found great amusement in driving Leah's Kiwi at high speeds, making a breeze, seeing just how far that brake spring would stretch, and exactly how many times he could put his fingers near the whirring hooks before one of them would nip at him.
See that stash of Opal? I was happy to learn that they now have a 6-ply sock yarn, which will make those patterns/colors that I love in socks that are thicker and warmer than their usual. So yup, some of that stash came home with me. Lots of other wooly goodies there that are calling my name too, including Lorna's Laces and some new yarns from New Zealand.

Thanks, Audrey and Ami, for what Leah proclaimed "the best knit nite ever!" Posted by Picasa

Friday, January 20, 2006

noggin warmer

Finished this quick knit hat for Scott last night. He likes it fine, but told me he really wants one like Leah's. But I want to start my Philosopher's Wool Tradition cardigan today, so I told him he's going to just have to make do, or he could knit his own. Interestingly, he watched the Philosopher's Wool video with me this morning, so he just might be thinking about picking up the needles. Wouldn't that be cool?! When he showed mild interest in my cross stitch 15 years ago, he finally decided to give that a try and ended up sweeping blue ribbons for Best of Cross Stitch, Best of Needlework, and Best of Show at the Eastern States Exposition!

His preference in wool hats doesn't matter right now anyway, since we're having this string of spring-like days that made for a beautiful romp at Mystic Aquarium with friends yesterday. We haven't been there since our membership expired a few months ago, but admission's free this month with Wolf Pack hockey ticket stubs (of which we have 14!), so it was fun to see the changes at the aquarium since this summer and enjoy having the place practically to ourselves.

Stats on this project: Pattern from Men Knit, but I don't remember if it's in issue 1 or 2. Yarn is mostly from Green Mountain Spinnery, with a stripe or two of yarn we picked up at Plimoth Plantation. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

just a little whacked

Is it weird to have a portion of my house look like this and have it evoke a sense of comfort? I swear to you, that was my first reaction when Scott and Jesse demolished the hall on Saturday.

Ah well, I guess life in this crazy ol' house is bound to warp us all a bit. But that's okay with me. :-)

BTW, this disaster area is all cleaned up now and the ceiling has insulation. Sheetrock soon! Posted by Picasa

felt good

Spent yesterday evening with a group of feltmaking friends at Roz's studio. Had fun with show-and-tell, strip felting, and general talk about all things wooly and felted. The picture at left is a not very flattering image of my favorite of our nuno felt scarves. Scott made this one and the curly locks at the ends are a gorgeous combination of colors that feel oh so fun to wear. The felted areas on the remainder of the silk add just enough texture and warmth, while remaining light and drapey. The works-in-progress and recently finished items shown by the other feltmakers were great to see too. I need to add some more wisps of wool to the strip felted piece I started yesterday and then roll the heck out of it to make the wool turn to felt and shirr the fabric strips. Also need to finish fulling the felted wall hanging for our bathroom, which was started before xmas.

Stopped in at West Hartford library on the way home to pick up a book on some of the new techniques I'll be trying on my Philosopher's Wool sweater. I am nuts about all of their patterns, so I might as well get comfortable with the techniques. Picked up an Alice Starmore pattern book while there too. :-)

Kids are romping with all their pals at ice skating, scouts, and archery today, so I better get to work and take advantage of this peace and quiet! But I'd rather be knitting... Posted by Picasa

Monday, January 16, 2006

bliss x 4

Leah's fair isle hat is finished and she loves it. It's the Stained Glass hat pattern from Green Mountain Spinnery, using the two-handed technique shown on the free video at Philosopher's Wool. The purple and dark blue are too similar to show up distinctly, but otherwise I'm pleased with the results, especially considering it's my first attempt at two-handed colorwork.

A visit to Adams Family Farm's spinning bee on Saturday gave us a chance to try out Weavettes, hand-held weaving looms, and also to meet the merino sheep and interview Adams Farm folks about them for Leah's upcoming article in Spindlicity.

Scott and Jesse demolished our upstairs hallway this weekend and also built an awesome Lego Mindstorms contraption (pics coming soon, even better if I can figure out how to upload a video of it in action). Scott braved the slippery mush yesterday to head for Lexington, MA, to attend a meeting of the Boston chapter of the International Society of Glass Beadmakers. He has been to two of these meetings so far and comes home totally jazzed about all things glassy. This particular meeting was with the metalworkers at Lexington Arts Center, many of whom bought Scott's beads and oohed and aahed over our finished jewelry. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, January 14, 2006

merino lifting us from the muck and mire

My car was back in the shop yet again yesterday. It's out of warranty now and I'm tired of its shenanigans. This one was a biggie, too, to the tune of >$2,500. Which of course was just fabulous news to receive during the month in which I have the lowest work volume (and therefore lowest pay) every year. Thank heavens this one will be covered by VW of America, but boy did that little exercise suck up all my energy for the day. I'd like a vehicle like these women are resting on -- a trustworthy, unpretentious, non-frilly, it'll-get-you-there kind of vehicle (only way smaller and infinitely better on gas, and preferably biodiesel-compatible).

Elizabeth Zimmermann said, "Knit on, with confidence and hope, through all crises." So that's what we did last night. Scott and Jesse had tix to the hockey game, but Leah and I chose to stick around home, knitting and spinning and reading and chatting and making a little pudding to soothe the soul. Ahhh...

I just might finish the fair isle hat today. Posted by Picasa

Friday, January 13, 2006


The epic scarf is finished. After blocking (which I've never done before, but will certainly do again -- wow, what a difference it makes!), it's a whopping 8 feet long! This means I can wrap it twice around my neck, loosely, which is exactly what I was hoping for. The garter stitch grafting was a piece of cake once I found the right sequence of stitches to Kitchener. Unfortunately, the grafting is far from invisible because of the color and shade variations that are the nature of handpainted yarn. I'm a little bit bummed about how much the grafting shows. On the other hand, it did make it possible for me to use up all of the yarn and the scarf is about a foot and a half longer because of that, so I guess it's a trade-off. I could un-graft it and try again with better coordination of yarn colors, but I doubt the grafting will be very obvious when the scarf's in use anyway, so for now I'm DONE with it. And it feels mighty fine around my neck this morning. :-)

So, scarf: check.
Dichro necklaces: check.

WIPs: 2 pairs of socks and a fair isle hat.

Next up:
Finish felted wall hanging.
Help Leah start Grandma's scarf with handspun yarn (plied and set twist on second skein last night).
Finish fair isle hat.
Cast on glittens and Philosopher's Wool sweater.

Interesting links that connect to places we've visited recently:
Augustine volcano eruption images, about 150 miles from where we were in Alaska this summer.
Blog of a friend of Scott's sister, Vickie, who helped build an ice hotel in Iceland this winter. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Shimmer city!

More info at Glastonbury Glassworks.
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


I spent many hours as a passenger this weekend, so I took advantage of the time (and Jesse's book light) to knit the endless rows of laceweight garter stitch on this scarf. Back when I started it, I decided to knit from one end to about halfway, then break off my yarn and do the same from the other end to about midpoint. This was so I could use up all the yarn and get as much length as possible, because this yarn is fairly precious and I didn't want to end up with a tiny leftover ball of it or, worse, run out near the end of the pattern. So the plan was to then Kitchener/graft the two halves together.

Yesterday was grafting day. Also my birthday, which I figured gave me fair justification for finishing my scarf before stringing the jewelry that's on order. Kids and Scott were out to get the new Lego Mindstorms sensors and remote control that have them nearly crazed with excitement, so I downloaded the most recent episodes of Cast-On, positioned myself happily in a sunbeam, and started grafting. Now, I am a lefty who does Kitchener right-handed. I knit and crochet right-handed because that's the way I was taught. I can do these things fairly well, despite thinking of them in reverse at all times, so you'd think I could maneuver a needle to graft as a rightie, yes? No. Awkward as can be, but somehow my hands won't let my brain make the leap to grafting as a leftie, so I bumble on (in private) as a faux-rightie grafter.

So anyway, I grafted about an inch of stitches before realizing the join was not invisible, as Kitchener is when it's done right. So I picked out my stitches -- a tedious process -- and turned one of the scarf halves over, figuring I have it backwards and positioning it correctly will solve my problem. Dove back in again. Grafted about an inch and a half before I had to admit to myself that, no, that's not working right either. Ugh. Pick, pick, pick the stitches out.

Then a horrible thought rushed in. Everything I've ever grafted has been stockinette. What if you can't graft garter stitch? Ack! No, there must be a way...right? Well, thank goodness for the internet because it is possible to graft garter (instructions at link are way down at the bottom of article). But by then I was tired and my birthday falafel dinner was ready, so that'll wait for another day.

Luckily, Leah and I recharged at the Madley Spinners gathering in the evening, where I focused on a mindless bit of socknitting and chatted with Paige, while the Goob flitted about like the little social butterfly that she is, schmoozing with the spinners and so proudly showing off her work. Jesse and Scott, meanwhile, were doing spinning of a different kind. Theirs was spinning tires on a remote control Lego car that flips over when it runs into things and continues cruising around upside down until it runs into something else, then flips over and continues again. I have been informed that this is called an acrocar. Acrocars are fun. Acroknitting...not so much. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

We like sparkly things!

The Ice Hotel in Quebec sparkles in the most fantabulous of ways! Almost everything in the place is made of ice and compacted snow (hard as a rock), but it's masterfully designed with sunshine backlighting ice carvings and illuminating rooms. The water that makes up the ice is pure, so it's crystal clear, accented in some areas by texture and carving to make it opaque, and highlighted in other areas by colored lights and fiberoptics that slowly color-shift. Every room is a work of art, so not only did we marvel at the technical challenges of creating a working hotel out of ice, but the creativity and ice sculpture masterpieces were a delight everywhere we turned. You can see us here (well, not me, since I was behind the camera, but Bren and Zach, Scott, Jesse and Leah, and my mom) at the Absolut bar in the Ice Hotel.

The remainder of our weekend was spent romping in Quebec City, careening down a crazy-high slope on a toboggan, and relaxing in the ultra-luxurious Chateau Frontenac. All of this because Z's teacher is doing a unit study on Canada with his class. Hey, we're all about living and learning here! ;-) Many more pictures in this photo album.

Thanks for the kind words and much excitement about the Ice Princess necklace. My Gram took that one home to Pittsburgh with her, but since you all asked, more are in the works! Scott already made the focal beads and I'm hoping to string them up today. Will let you all know when they're ready and pictures are up on the soon-to-be-updated Glastonbury Glassworks website. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, January 05, 2006


No doubt about it. Yesterday had a distinct, though unintentional, theme.

It started with ice skating with friends in the afternoon. Kids "forgot" their wrist guards. Luckily, all wrists and other joints remained intact this time.

Then came Gram's choice of this Ice Princess necklace. The focal bead is Scott's lampwork, a dichroic glass bead complemented by a mix of sterling silver, rose quartz, Swarovski crystals, glass seed beads, and a Bali silver magnetic clasp. Despite how happy I've been with my photos of dichroic glass on a black base, I've been unable to get a decent pic of dichro on a clear base. You can just barely see the pink shimmer in this focal bead, but trust me when I say that this necklace sparkles beautifully.

More icy goodness with the surprise of free box seat tix to the Hartford Wolf Pack hockey game in the evening, where we were joined by more friends. Jesse and Scott enjoy watching hockey. Leah and I were happy to be there, but just as happy to knit in times between hullaballoos on the ice.

Finally, we're firming up plans to visit the Ice Hotel in Canada this weekend or next. And when I say "finally," I really mean FINALLY because we've been wanting to visit this place for years and it looks like this is the year it'll FINALLY happen!

A very (n)ice day indeed, except that part where Gram got on the plane to head back to the 'burgh, but we'll see her again soon, if she can squeeze us into her social calendar! :-)

Otherwise, not much news in the knitting department. I'm working on a scarf in handpainted laceweight wool and am in the mindnumbing portion where it seems that I knit and knit and knit, but the ball of yarn is not getting any smaller. I am certain that this is directly related to how excited I am about the fair isle hat-in-progress and the Philosopher's Wool sweater that I'm anxious to cast on! Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Colorful bursts for gray days

Scott is having much fun with the dichroic glass stash and so am I. And I'm tickled with the pics I've been able to take of these lampwork beads because I've heard countless times that it's extremely difficult to get a good photo of dichro and it would be very frustrating if I couldn't share an accurate representation of these beauties' shimmer.

Leah is moving right along with her spinning. This is her third skein of yarn, Mohair Blended Cloud in Blue Spruce colorway from Adams Family Farm. It's a blend of mohair, wool, alpaca, silk, angelina, and rayon shimmer. The picture is fairly accurate in color, but doesn't show the sprinkle of green and purple sparkle throughout, just enough to bring this yarn to life without being flashy. Leah spun the singles and I plied them for her because she isn't comfortable with treadling backwards yet. We were happy to see that this skein is well balanced, hanging in a U without twisting -- a goal reached!

Besides being motivated by the success of her current spinning efforts, Leah is thrilled to have been accepted as a contributor to the new Kidspin section of Spindlicity online magazine! Her first article will be in their spring issue.

I've been challenging myself with the two-handed fair isle knitting technique, learned from the downloaded video clip from Philosopher's Wool. I'm nuts about their sweaters and ordered the Traditional pattern to knit for myself in cardigan style sometime soon, but thought it would be a good idea to get comfortable with this type of colorwork on a smaller project. I bought yarn and a stained glass hat pattern at Green Mountain Spinnery last weekend and set out on my mission Monday. Boy, was it awkward at first, but in just 3 inches of knitting on this hat, I'm already significantly more comfortable and psyched to do more.

No pictures of Jesse's most recent undertaking because it's still in research and development mode. A few days ago he created a remote-controlled Lego Mindstorms vehicle that moves into a Lego garage, the door of which is opened by a Lego gear mechanism, and moves forward slowly until its sensor touches the back wall of the garage, then backs up a short distance and causes the garage door to automatically close. From there, he returned to a lifelong interest in steamboats. Now he wants to build a working model, so the past couple of days have been filled with research, reading every library book available on the subject, online browsing, drawing schematics, and visiting the hardware store. The model steam engines that we've found aren't functional and the functional steam engines aren't within a price range we'd consider, so Jesse and Scott have been working diligently to come up with plans made from inexpensive, available materials. I haven't been a participant in this process at all, so I'm curious to see what they'll come up with and where Jesse's mechanical interests will go from there! The rocket they're building is almost ready to launch too.