Saturday, November 25, 2006

and from the other end of the spectrum

On the same day that half the family was exploring antique lace, the other half was learning about ancient tools. Scott and Jesse headed off to the Bone Work workshop offered by the CT Museum of Natural History and Archaeology Center. Jesse was psyched to hook up with Jimmy for the day, as they are two young men with many similar interests. Well, the two of them hit it off beautifully on this day. They took their research seriously, asking many questions and remaining very interested in all the things they were shown.

They worked very hard to transform a chunk of bone into a fine and sharp arrowhead (shown at right in pic below), using only simple tools -- an awl and some files. Jesse's is destined for a spear for his atlatl; Jimmy's will be worn around his neck.
The day that began with primitive tools ended with some pretty cool engineering. This is one version of a Gatling gun that's been in the works here for a while.
The original idea came from Instructables, one of Jesse's new favorite websites, but we don't have a K'nex motor and didn't have all the pieces required to make the Gatling gun shown, so there has been much fiddling and remodeling and trial and error. It's 8 barrels, spinning with the power of a Lego RCX brick, projectiles launched via rubber band power. This one worked fairly well and even shot a distance of 26 feet (oh, yes, we have pages of data on this!), but it misfired a lot because of the way Jesse had it rigged up. He actually redesigned the whole thing recently and is in the process of refining that version before it's ready for video documentation and introduction to the world. We'll keep you posted. ;-) Posted by Picasa

lacemaking 101

Leah's interest in lacemaking began when she learned that we were going on a trip that would include Belgium, and Belgium is well known for its skilled lacemakers. She popped in and out of lace shops through Bruges and Brussels, drooling over all the pretty work, chatting with the owners, who are generally importers at this point, not true lacemakers. When we visited the Begijnhof in Bruges, we were lucky enough to find a very kind lacemaker demonstrating her art.

(I just uploaded this video to YouTube and it's still processing, so all I'm seeing right now is a white box with a red X in it, but hopefully you'll be able to see the video soon. If that doesn't work, you could watch this video or this one.)

We also visited the Kantcentrum (lace center) in Bruge for many more examples of lace styles.

When we came back home, she came into my office one morning with a set-up of leftover sock yarn wound around colored pencils (as bobbins) in an attempt to figure out how to do this lacemaking stuff on her own. I knew then that she really did intend to pursue it, so we did a little surfing and were tickled to find that the New England Lace Group was having its next meeting and a demonstration at Old Sturbridge Village. So last weekend we got to go behind the scenes at OSV to see their antique lace collection and listen to knowledgeable folks discuss the history and details of each fascinating piece. They even have a fragile example of lace made of fine strips of straw! The OSV employee who showed us around is one we've known for years, as she is also the spinner we've spent much time with on our visits there. She recognized us quickly and we realized who she was once we figured out that it was the same person, but in current day clothing! (Strangely, it felt downright odd to see her in slacks and a cardigan -- no bonnet and skirts! Apparently I really do live in a warped little fantasy world.)

Anyway, the behind the scenes lace tour was fascinating and then we attended the lacemaking demo in the Visitors' Center. This is the kind of work the women of the group pulled out of their bags... Is that not gorgeous? Even as a work in progress, it's a beautiful sight.

The lacemakers welcomed Leah with open arms. I had been in touch with them ahead of time and they were all ready to get her hooked on lacemaking. Even though they tried to suck me in too ;-), I smiled and told them I already had enough hobbies. (Gee, d'you think so?!) Instead, I sat in the sunshine to knit and gave Leah her space. They set her up with starter supplies, loaner equipment, contact info for 2 lace teachers near us, and much encouragement and enthusiasm. A couple of hours later, Leah had completed her very first attempt at bobbin lace.
Sure, it's far from perfect, but three are three different stitch patterns in there and it's a start. Ready to try it again when she got home, Leah started to wind her bobbins and decided that was really slow and tedious, so she and Scott and Jesse brainstormed and came up with the idea to put a bit of rubber tubing on the bobbin winder of our sewing machine, stick a lacemaking bobbin into the rubber, give it a little support with Scott's hand, and voila! A zippy, spiffy, bobbin winder!
Here's her most recent effort. This too has a couple of different stitches in it. Still with some errors, but also some sections that are beginning to show some consistency.
Best of all, she is more excited than ever about lacemaking. Today at the library, I found a huge book with instructions for many, many (hundreds?) bobbin lace stitch patterns. Don't tell Leah yet because I'm holding off on bringing it home until after we get back from the lighthouse, but I think it'll keep her challenged and fascinated for a long time to come. Posted by Picasa

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Creativitree

The Creativitree

a Christmas tree showcasing
the collaboration of two creative families,
donated for silent auction at the
(The beautiful temari above was created by Paige.)
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Knew Yawk Knitting and then some

Friday was balmy and beautiful for a much-anticipated jaunt to NYC to see Radio City Music Hall's Christmas Spectacular.

The day started off in the right direction when we hooked up with a bunch of friends (some planned, some a happy coincidence) on the train, and it just got better and better from there. We started out with Grand Central and Times Square. Then the kids spent a memorable couple of hours skating at Rockefeller Center. We all had fun pointing out so many places that we recognized as we navigated the city blocks.

Got in a little knitting in the sunshine while we waited for the show and munched some snacks from the street vendors. Hooked up with some more friends along the way, did the Stage Door Tour, and then settled in for what is truly a Spectacular show. We loved how they brought in new effects, like a 3D film of Santa flying through NY and over many of the places we had been that day, while still performing the most loved portions from past shows, like the toy soldiers falling like dominoes and of course the famous Rockettes and their eye-high kicks.

Following a raucous dinner, we headed for the 86th floor lookout of the Empire State Building for quite the view and a special birthday song for Jean. Some of us could barely keep one eye open for the train ride home, and we didn't actually get back to our house until 2 a.m., but it was all worth it. That was an awful lot of fun wrapped up in one big, fabulous day! Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

random indicators of the insanity

1. My house has a fully decorated xmas tree in it, weeks before Thanksgiving, and it's not ours.

2. Activities this week have ranged from porcupine quill embroidery to making a fully functional Gatling gun out of K'nex.

3. Dropping a grand total of two glass things onto the floor and seeing them shatter has been proclaimed "research." Nope, even boro icicles will not withstand fumble fingers 4 ft. above ground level. (Uh, those would be mine -- d'oh!)

4. There are sometimes short people here for horseback rides while wearing goofy glasses.

5. Discovering that they make Sterno in gallon-sized cans is a cause for great rejoicing.

6. We are preparing to take up residence in a lighthouse.

7. I have less time than ever for those beloved glass and wool obsessions, so I plan to head to the yarn store tonight for supplies to start three new projects. (Edited to add: Oops -- make that four new projects. I forgot the one for which I will use needles of a smaller diameter than toothpicks, possibly closer to the diameter of paper clip wire. Furthermore, I'm looking forward to this and think of it as "fun." If that's not insanity, I don't know what is.)

8. My people boogied to Boston today to see plastinized (plastinated?) people and a Greek teaser for a trip that will be finalized this week. I have more work than ever on my desk and am spending my time blogging. Well, at least I have my priorities straight! ;-) Posted by Picasa

Friday, November 10, 2006

evolution of an icicle

We thought it would be fun to make some glass icicles for the xmas tree we're donating to the Atheneum. Scott started with some long, thin cuts of sheet glass and ended up with some seriously fat corkscrews, as you can see on the left.

We agreed that he needed some help, so I found a lampwork icicle tutorial. With this info, he was able to make the group of four that you see in the center.

But we decided that borosilicate glass would be a better choice for icicles because otherwise they might be too delicate. So he dug around in his stash and found the boro starter pack he received as a gift from Wale Apparatus at one of his lampworkers' group get-togethers. This is only a starter sampler, so he didn't have a lot to work with, and he doesn't have a lot of experience with boro, in general, but he managed to get a few decent icicles out of it.

Now there are rumors that this house is in need of more borosilicate glass. Ah yes, wise move, Wale Apparatus, giving out that little teaser, like any good pusher. "Here, just try it. You won't get hooked, really." :::wink, wink, nudge, nudge::: And the next thing you know, Scott's eyes are glazed over and he's heading for a quick fix from the closest pusher, Plumgully. ;-)Posted by Picasa

Thursday, November 09, 2006

break from work, play with glass!

Yesterday afternoon we all finished up some stained glass stars and glass/bead/wire doodad ornaments for the xmas tree we'll be donating to the Wadsworth Atheneum's Festival of Trees, in collaboration with friends. Jesse really enjoys using the soldering iron and did much of the work with the glass. I wrapped the wire thingies and had a blast doing it. I love everything about them and will definitely be making some more.

Scott also ran the kiln last night, so he'll have some newly annealed glass goodies to share soon. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Well, since I'm currently in the process of transcribing an interview with a priest (for NASCAR, believe it or not), it seems only fitting that I make my first ever confession in front of a man of the cloth...

Forgive me, Father, for I have not knit a single stitch in over a week.

That's how it's done, right? heh heh...

The honest to goodness truth is that I have not held my knitting needles since the flight home from Paris. You see, first I got slammed in a bad way with jet lag and some cruddy virus, and then I got slammed in a good way with an explosion of work opportunities. They are huge and there's an abundance of them, so I've been able to pick the cream of the crop and sculpt this job thingy to be exactly the way I want it. While these opportunities are indeed worth of the happy Snoopy dance I've been doing on a regular basis, they are sucking up quite a bit of my time and energy right now to get things into place. That's cool, though, because my sweet little home-based biz is morphing again and I'm more excited than ever about where it's going. But since it's all computer stuff, that leaves me with pooped arms come the end of my workdays. At that point, I figure picking up the pointy sticks is just asking to be driven to my knees by carpal tunnel problems. So the whole family has been reading after dinner every night instead. And we like that too. :-)

Meanwhile, Leah sewed a trick-or-treat bag for Jesse. This was while I was sick, so she did every step of it completely on her own, bless her industrious little seamstress heart. I'd show you a picture of it, but I think it's in Jesse's room and it's dark out right now, and I don't dare navigate his lair of Lego/K'nex landmines without assistance of daylight. We have otherwise been doing some felting and glass work in preparation for decorating a Christmas tree to donate to the Wadsworth Atheneum's Festival of Trees. I'll post more about that later.

But now, back to work I go. Happily.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

photos from the recent romp