Tuesday, February 28, 2006

next steps in knitting

While listening to a Redwall book on tape and soaking up a sunbeam today, Leah learned long tail cast-on, knitting in the round, and the magic loop technique. She's working on water bottle holders as gifts for some friends right now and plans to learn how to knit socks next. This girl's smitten with knittin'! Posted by Picasa

happy kiln

This is how the glass kiln looks this morning. Mmmm...what a yummy collection of beads Scott has in there!

The last coat of polyurethane will be on the floors this morning. We can't put furniture upstairs for 2 more weeks, but I should be able to get to the picture-taking set-up place for beads as soon as tomorrow. Meanwhile, we've been having fun seeing many friends in a play, dissecting owl pellets with Zach, having a pizza party and romp with Max, letterboxing, participating in a library program, looking forward to a Chinese New Year celebration and birthday party today, and delighting in the hand-me-down clothes from Denise and games/art supplies from Nora. Yahoo!!! Posted by Picasa

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Father-Daughter Spinfest

While I was knitting and Jesse was building a new contraption and we were all listening to Swiss Family Robinson book on tape last night, this is what was going on nearby. We all stopped and smiled when The Father in Swiss Family Robinson talked about creating a spinning wheel and weaving loom for The Mother. :-) Posted by Picasa

blue spruce scarf

Yesterday, Leah finished knitting this scarf out of her handspun yarn. The fiber is Blue Spruce Cloud from Adams Farm. Leah's knitting skills are not such that she could handle much of a pattern yet, but the variegated colors make the scarf interesting anyway! We put a little ruffle around the edge to give it a more finished look and blocked it yesterday. She's almost done spinning and plying her purple-gray fiber too, so soon we'll get to decide what to make that into. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, February 23, 2006


I found these on my desk this morning. Apparently Scott decided to make some bright beads in springtime colors to carry him through the last days of February in the Winter That Never Was.

(Sorry for the poor quality of the picture. Can't get to my usual picture-taking set-up because of floor refinishing in progress upstairs.)

More beads to show soon too and also some new listings at The Collective.

Meanwhile, I just love it when the universe drops connections into our world. Like this (click on Other Stories: Heading to the Great White North). And this. Which brought us right back to thisPosted by Picasa

Monday, February 20, 2006

heard here today

J, 11: "Mom, what should I use to collect water from the stream? It looks a little odd. I want to test its pH and do some other experiments on it. Can we get a microscope like the one I used yesterday at the George Washington Carver exhibit?" and "Here's my MP3 player. I'd like more of those military history podcasts."

L, 7, when asked if she wants to help make the dough that will become pizza baked in the earth oven: "No, thanks. I just finished knitting that hat to donate to the people in Mongolia and now I'm practicing writing in Chinese. Will you take me to the library later for another Narnia book on tape?"

heh heh... :-)

fire and ice

My mom had planned to take the kids out to breakfast as a late Valentine's Day date, but she was game for coming along on our adventure to the New York Botanical Garden, so off we all trotted. NYBG is not too far into the Bronx, so it's an easy ride and oh so worth it. We were there in the dead of winter, so I'm sure we only saw a tiny fraction of what they'd have to offer during warmer weather, but we hustled around the place from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. and still didn't exhaust the offerings! From the giant kapok tree to the cactus garden to the quintet and circus show to the botanist microscopes (Jesse's absolute favorite station) and George Washington Carver activities, every bit of the NYBG was enticing, exciting, and extremely well cared for. And hey hey hey, there's the Bronx Zoo just down the street. We haven't seen the last of the Bronx.

Kids were listening to their MP3 players during the rides, so they'd pipe up about tidbits from NASA and military history and singing science along the way. Home again, Scott was all atwitter about his day at the International Society of Glass Beadmakers meeting. He always comes home from those gatherings very pumped up because of many positive comments about his lampwork beads and even more so because all the artists there share their techniques. So he was busy at the torch when we got home, trying out a few new things. Jesse made a couple of beads while we talked about the day. Then we got the news that the big old porcelain kitchen sink, from the house where my dad spent his childhood, will be available in 4-6 weeks! Wowza, thanks Uncle Bob!!!

Eeep -- I'm so excited!! Life is good! Posted by Picasa

Sunday, February 19, 2006

flowers in February

Today Scott will romp with his beadmaking buddies at the International Society of Glass Beadmakers meeting. They'll hash out some details of the upcoming Glass Bead Extravaganza, which we've attended as guests in the past but will be exhibitors this year. Scott will also finalize his participation in The Collective.

Kids and I will enjoy the colors and fragrances and all sorts of interesting exhibits and events at the New York Botanical GardenPosted by Picasa

Saturday, February 18, 2006

a hobby a day keeps the doctor away

That cold had me down but not out this week. I still managed to hang with homeschooling friends on Monday; go to Madley Spinners on Tuesday; do ice skating, brownies, and archery on Wednesday; and have dinner out with a friend on Thursday while kids and Scott were roller skating with buddies. By Friday, I was mostly back on track, so we headed to Middletown to take care of some errands and stopped at Wesleyan Potters to see Jeannie Thomma's exhibit of hand-felted purses, pouches, and scarves. And of course we browsed the gallery shop there to admire the glasswork and knitting and felting and weaving and many other art forms. We were all quite enthralled by the tour of the pottery studio and weaving loft at Wesleyan Potters too.

Leah and I then topped the week off with another fantastic Knit Night at Pixie Sticks, where we chatted with many fun and enthusiastic folks, and were inspired by their projects and all the luscious fibers surrounding us. Pics from that event are on Audrey's Pixie Sticks blog. Whee !!!!! Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

blizzard fodder

I have a cold, so I'm going to go take a nap, but first a quick summary of what's going on here lately.

Smallish floor refinishing project is turning into a much bigger undertaking, thanks to old pine turning a drastically different color than new pine when polyurethaned. We expected this, to some extent, so we're just rolling with it while we figure out what to do next.

There's lots of snow outside and lots of happy creative people inside. Collection of results above, clockwise from 12:00: Jesse's Lego Mindstorms spinning wheel motor (yes, it works!), Scott's first skein of handspun Autumn Maples, 1 finished sleeve of my sweater, pair of Socks That Rock 3/4 of the way done, light green dishcloth made by Leah (one of many made and gifted in the past few days), 1/2 finished second sleeve of my sweater cushioning a couple of bead sets and mamabeads, Leah's scarf-in-progress of her green handspun.

Must listen to more Chronicles of Narnia on CD. Must nap. :::sniff, sniff::: Posted by Picasa

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Men at work

The men in this house were hard at work with the sanders yesterday. Jesse was in charge of changing the sanding belts for different grits and using the edger. Once they got to a finer grade of sandpaper for the big sander, he was even allowed to give that a try. He was so proud to take control of this loud, powerful machine and to show off his finely sanded floor areas. As always, he delights in being able to take part in real work with Scott.

The snowflakes in the picture are actually wood dust, which has now settled on every horizontal space in the house. We camped on the first floor last night, with a few upstairs windows open for ventilation, while the first coat of polyurethane dried. Ooh, shiny!

Today's snowstorm is not one of wood particles, but actual snow. Luckily, we have good books on CD to enjoy together, a popcorn stash at the ready, and I'm ready to cast on the second sleeve of my sweater. Let it snow! Posted by Picasa

Saturday, February 11, 2006

muppet scarf

Leah finished knitting this scarf just before bedtime last night. The yarn and needles were a xmas gift from Aunt Vickie. We decided it's a muppet scarf because of the colors and the soft feathery fuzziness and the generally happy, snuggly feelings when wearing it.

Next up: a scarf knit of Leah's green handspun yarn.

Scott plied his first skein of Autumn Maples. It's soaking to set the twist now. Posted by Picasa

Friday, February 10, 2006

Danger, Will Robinson!

We have been further sucked into the home renovations vortex. The most recent black hole started with renovation of the first floor bathroom. That's basically done, but we're short a couple of trim pieces. Since we want those to match the original chestnut trim elsewhere on the first floor, we pulled some off the upstairs hallway doors. And since the upstairs hallway still had plaster and lath, we tore that all down, insulated and sheetrocked. And since the hall will need to be painted, we might as well paint the connecting big open upstairs rooms (the color of which was never quite right anyway). And since we're going to paint, we should probably refinish the floors, since they're long overdue. And so on. Ginnie, Claire, and Joni, I see you out there, nodding and smiling in full understanding.

Yesterday was a flurry of moving-like maneuvers. Most of the second floor has been emptied (ooch, my aching bod) and I'm now coming to you from a temporary office setup in the glass room. Yes, I quite like my 3 foot wide desk! While we were roller skating with Zach, Casey, Harris, and Riley last night, Scott punched all the nail heads down into the floor so they won't tear up the sander sheets. I'll work this morning and then we'll bring the sander home and get to work on spiffing up the floors. We hope to have the first coat of polyurethane on tonight and will camp on the first floor for a couple of days while the multiple coats of polyurethane dry. We're hoping for a big snowstorm too. The spinning wheels, Legos, books on CD, and a big basket of yarn have already been moved to the first floor in preparation for being cut off from our bedrooms and the yarn closet. No clothes, toothbrushes, or towels are downstairs yet, but the truly important stuff is available. At least everyone here has their priorities straight. :-)

If you don't hear from us over the next few days, it's likely because we've inhaled polyurethane fumes for too long and are looking somewhat like the dude above. Or maybe it's because we went to Jen's 359th annual bonfire bash and are looking somewhat like the dude above. Either way, it's not just a life; it's an adventure! Posted by Picasa

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Autumn Maples

This is Autumn Maples, a hand-dyed Romney and mohair blend from Pleasant Valley Farm, Cumberland, Maine. Scott looooves spinning this stuff and is absolutely tickled with the results he's getting!

(Me too.) Posted by Picasa

little bit here, little bit there

Slowly but surely, I've been adding a few rows at a time to my sweater, so the sleeve's more than halfway done. Scott's fitting in a bit of spinning whenever he has a chance, so there's a new bobbin of a pretty red variegated. And a chapter here and a chapter there, so we're almost done with Prince Caspian from the Chronicles of Narnia, a series we've tried to read multiple times but never really caught our attention, until now. And a puzzle here, a puzzle there, and the kids are almost through Zoombinis Island Odyssey cd-rom.

Also much fun ice skating and doing archery with friends yesterday, and Leah's first article has been submitted to Spindlicity. Still trying to empty the upstairs and get ready for refinishing the floors, but Narnia and the Zoombinis and the pile of Spin-Off mags, borrowed from Nutmeg Spinners Guild, keep calling our names! Ah well, I can think of worse distractions. :-) Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

yes, mom, we have beads

And today we will dismantle most of the rooms on the second floor in preparation for the floor sander we'll be renting soon.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Beadmaker Baker Bobbins

I present, for your enjoyment, Scott's first two bobbins of handspun singles. This is the Springtime roving we bought at the Nutmeg Spinners Guild auction on Saturday. His first bobbin ever is on the top and and #2 bobbin is on the bottom, so you can already see improvement. He's plying them now and exclaiming repeatedly about how beautiful they are and how much fun this is and...and...look, it's YARN! Posted by Picasa

fans of the Fiber Bowl

In anticipation of all the Super Bowl hoopla which would reach fever pitch yesterday, Webs hosted a fiber festival of grand proportions. There were complimentary snacks and drinks, frequent drawings for giveaways, demonstrations, and oh, the yarn! Knitters gathered throughout the store, chatting and working on their projects, sharing techniques with each other. Leah delighted in the freedom of doing her own thing with the spinners toward the back of the store. Paige chose supplies for 2 luscious sweaters. I settled in at the front of the store and just loved being surrounded by all these knitters and the fibery goodness. I kept smiling when I thought of the gift of my very own Boye Needlemaster set, received earlier in the day. I can't wait to try these needles out and love knowing that I'll have whatever size I need for future projects, all tucked neatly in their handy dandy compact carrying case!

Upon arriving home, Scott proudly showed me his 2 full bobbins of handspun yarn. He's so totally hooked! I told him they have lots of pretty, variegated spinning fibers at Webs and he asked how much we'd need for a sweater. heh heh...

Super Bowl celebration was fun and varied too. Jesse had been refining his atlatl earlier in the day and was especially thrilled to show the workings of his steam engine to all and talk about internal combustion engines with Tommy. All 4 of us were decked out in our black and gold, including my stash of Steelers pins from the 70s and all our shirts with Steelers logos on them. We had a great time watching the game and schmoozing with our hosts, came home totally tired and fantastically satisfied.

Yeah Steelers and Webs!!!!Posted by Picasa

Sunday, February 05, 2006

the evil plan, she is working

Ah yes, you wouldn't know it from the blog entries this week, but the creative stuff continues. I made a felted bag on Tuesday. Leah's 2/3 of the way done with Bren's knit scarf. Jesse has wisps of smoke coming out of his ears as he's building all sorts of inventions with his new, fully functional steam engine model. The art of sheetrocking continues to be practiced in this ol' house, so now the upstairs hall is ready for paint. And I have a couple of pairs of socks that are heading for the finish line.

The Steelers banner is hanging in its new location, an old folks' home in Pittsburgh, not far down the road from Gram and Pap's old house. Mom's in the 'burgh for the game right now and it's been fantastic to hear from so many old friends who are thinking of my dad (as are we) and cheering for the Steelers today!

A biggie here this week was yesterday's Nutmeg Spinners Guild meeting. This was Leah's first time there and she was treated like royalty. There are probably 75-100 folks at the meetings and they're all enablers! She was showered with compliments, encouragement, kindness, and goodies -- including a handknit vest, a shawl pin that doubles as a hair ornament, a fistful of knitting needles, some llama fiber, and a big ball of angora/cashmere roving to spin! Oh, and then there's all the yummy fiber we bought -- handpainted Autumn Maples, a pound of natural Montdale to dye, handpainted Springtime, and a reference book about spinning. And also a pile o' magazines borrowed from the group's lending library. Wowza! And on top of all that, we also ran into some folks we know from the Newington SnB, Madley Spinners in Colchester, and Adams Farm, plus met some new people, so all in all it was like a big happy fibery party. Proclaimed "best day ever" by the little Goob, who makes such proclamations about once a week, but really, it was an incredible day for any fiber fanatic.

So then we came home last night and everybody was excitedly sharing the stories of their day (Scott and Jesse equally had a blast of a day, romping with Rich McDonald and his kids and then going fishing) when Scott piped up with the words I've been waiting to hear: "I guess I better learn how to spin, huh?" Yes, dear, that's a fine idea. :-) So off to the new spinning wheel we went for a quick demonstration and he set to work on the Springtime roving. He stuck with it until time to make dinner, then came back again after dinner and spun until bedtime. Leah critiqued his first yarn as overspun, but we all know that's totally to be expected, and he does seem up to the challenge of mastering this little contraption, so....bwahahaha...methinks we'll have some fresh Daddy handspun in the stash soon! Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

making your own Steelers banner

The Steelers banner in this blog post was offered through a Pittsburgh Freecycle group and created quite a stir. Some of the people realized I only have one to give away and asked for some info on how they might make their own. There are many ways this could be done, but here's how I made mine:

Background is a king size cotton bed sheet, black. Top seam of the sheet is the top edge of your banner.

Iron Wonder Under fusible web to the backside of a king size white cotton sheet; a half yard or so of black cotton fabric (not the black sheet -- this is a different piece of black fabric for the letters); and 1/2 yd each of blue, yellow, and red cotton fabrics.

For white circle, fold white king size bed sheet in fourths. Have a friend hold one end of a piece of non-stretchy rope/string at the folded center corner. Run the string to the nearest opposite corner and position your hand, holding a marker, 2-3 inches in from the edge. Holding onto that point on the string, swing your marker hand in an arc. This will mark out 1/4 of a circle. Cut along this curved line, all four layers of fabric, open the white sheet, and you will have the white background circle.

Position white circle on black background and iron in place. The Wonder Under will fuse the white to black when heat is applied. I think I did this by laying the whole thing out directly on my wood floors, but you might need to lay out towels to protect your floor surface from the iron's heat. Follow the Wonder Under instructions exactly and methodically adhere the entire circle area -- tedious, but worth it. Pay extra attention to the edges of the circle to make sure they're well adhered. (If you prefer, the Wonder Under and ironing could be skipped altogether and the pieces could be pinned in place, then sewn. This would be cheaper, but it would be awkward to maneuver that much fabric through a sewing machine.)

For the letters, I chose a suitable font and messed around to get the biggest size I could print of a capital S on an 8-1/2" x 11" sheet of paper. Using that same font and size, I printed out the other letters in lower case, each on their own sheet of paper. Then I used an enlarging copier to blow up the letters even more and transfer to legal size paper, so 14" tall. (I suppose this could all be done freehand too.) I then used the papers as my templates and cut the letters out of black fabric with Wonder Under backing. Lay the letters out on the background, but don't fuse them yet!

For the diamonds, fold 1/2 yd of fabric in fourths. This fabric should also have Wonder Under adhered to its back. Draw a slight arc from one corner to the one diagonal to it, with the center of the arc bending slightly toward the folded center corner. (If unsure about this, do a test run on a piece of paper first.) Cut along this arc, open it up, admire your perfectly symmetrical diamond, and position it on the background circle, but don't fuse yet!

Use the scrap corner cut from your first diamond as template for the other 2, also cut from fabric backed with Wonder Under. Position all the diamonds on your background. Refer to something official from the NFL to make sure they're in the proper color order!

Fiddle around with positioning so your letters are evenly spaced and in a straight line, with the center of the S lining up with the fold line across the center of the white circle and also lining up directly with the meeting point of the 3 diamonds. Stand back as far as you can to get a good overview of your design. When you're happy with the layout, read the Wonder Under instructions again, then take a deep breath and iron the letters and diamonds to fuse them in place.

Add grommets along the top for more strength of the hanging points, if you want. When we hung ours, we used two furring strips (1"x2"), overlapped about 8" at the center, screwed together at a few places along the overlap. Slid this wood into the seam tunnel at the top of the black sheet and stapled the sheet in place at a few points across the span so it wouldn't bunch up on the wood. This keeps the top edge nice and straight for hanging (see second picture of blog entry). The wood was then attached to our house, so the weight was evenly distributed along the wood and kept the fabric from tearing in the weather. If I remember correctly, we also lashed the bottom corners down, but this would probably be best done if you add strength to the bottom corners by sewing some more layers of scrap black fabric to the backside of those corners and installing grommets.

Youns are now ready to hang 'em high and drink an Arn City beer in celebration! :-)
Go Stillers!!