Sunday, December 31, 2006

happy new year

Joy is peace dancing.
Peace is joy resting.

We wish you peace and joy in 2007.
 Posted by Picasa

Saturday, December 30, 2006

and then there were three

Two of Leah's friends got spinning wheels recently. One of them came over last night to learn how to begin. Of course the whole family got into the fun and the next thing you know, they're getting excited about different plying options and fondling our to-be-spun stash and planning a trip to Webs and realizing that they'll definitely need more bobbins and maybe even another wheel and joining us at Spa Knit & Spin and....whew! Oh yeah, this spinny fiber stuff sure can put a new twist in your life and draw you in! (heh heh) Posted by Picasa

Friday, December 29, 2006

the next generation

Among the Christmas gifts this year were some special ones made with love by the next generation.

The necklace below was a gift for my sister, made by her son Zach, age 8, with a little help from Uncle Debbie. (I didn't want to be an "aunt" and he already had uncles, so when he was a very little guy and used common sense to apply "uncle" to my name, it stuck.) We used beach glass Zach found when he visited us at the lighthouse, wrapped with the fine pure silver wire that Scott melts onto some beads, accented with sterling and glass beads. Because the silver wire is so soft, it was difficult to keep it from getting kinks as we intertwined the wraps, but Zach worked hard on it and was very happy with his creation. Next is a pair of bobbin holders, made by Jesse as a gift for Leah. He used scrap wood from window trim, cut to shape and sanded soooo smooth, and polyurethaned for a nice shine. The elastics are just some hair elastics from when Leah's hair was long. They'll do a fine job of keeping her new bobbins in order when she's not actively working on her lace. These socks were knit by Leah as a gift for me. I knew she was working on them because I had to help her out, as they are her first pair, but she fooled me by saying they were a gift for grandma. The first sock took months, but she started the second one about 5 days before Christmas and finished it on Christmas eve. High on the pride of having finished a substantial project, she's now on a mission to finish the poncho that she started for herself this spring. And I have discovered that hand knit socks feel good, but hand knit socks received as a gift from someone you love feel GREAT.
We saw Stomp in New Haven last night. Vid clips and images are at their site, but as always, they portray only a smidgen of what happens in a show and don't begin to convey the power and energy of these performances. If you ever get the chance, go. And prepare to never look at a plunger the same way again. :-) Posted by Picasa

Sunday, December 24, 2006

peace on earth...

Friday, December 22, 2006

I can't believe it has come to this

Reminder: The subject of this post is a Super Secret Xmas Surprise for Zach. Please help us keep the secret by not discussing in Z's vicinity!

Yes, indeed, I have sunk to a new low. I always thought dressing dogs in sweaters and coats was dumb, but I guess that's because I have a Very Big and Furry Dog. But then this adorable little foster pup entered our lives and we fell in love with him and then we noticed that he shivers like crazy when he's outside in the cold. So what's a crafty gal to do? Fashion him a coat of hand-felted wool, of course! We used this free pattern as a guide, making a prototype out of some scrap fabric and modifying size/shape to fit the little Squirt. Still needs some modifications and who knows how practical it will really be, but it will definitely keep his skinny little bod warm.

Since a few people have asked, I suppose I should point out that, yes, it will be able to go into the wash. This is wool that's already been shrunk and felted, so the washing machine is fine for it. I have a big sheet of this felt, so if he ends up wearing a coat on a regular basis, his permanent family can always make some more of them for him to wear while one's in the wash.

The very first time we took him out in his coat, the first person we met was a nice woman whose Italian Greyhound was wearing a sweater. She gushed about how pretty the Squirt's coat is, wanted to know where we got it, and how she could get (make) one of her own. She'll be coming over soon for an evening of feltmaking. We learned that she used to make lampwork beads, so I'm very much looking forward to getting to know her better. :-) So apparently we're not the only family wrapped around someone's furry little paw and I guess that's not such a bad place to be. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, December 21, 2006

comfort and joy

Boy, this feels good. Again we're having a Christmas season that feels magical and joyous, focused on making memories with family/friends and creating gifts from the heart. There's no feeling of running ourselves ragged or the mall rage that I see described in the headlines. There will be no credit card hangover come January. There's also no gimme-monster disrupting our peace, which makes me happy but is a little frustrating for gift-giving relatives who try to pry a wish list out of my kids, with little to no success because they have a hard time thinking of things that they want.

Most rewarding of all is that we've been able to maintain a focus on giving. There are modest handmade gifts in progress all over this house, with some already wrapped and under the tree or stashed in secret spots. And the thanks keep rolling in from the charities we support, including the VFW's collections (cookies and other items) for the troops, the Alzheimer's Association, the American Cancer Society, the Heifer Project, the American Red Cross' apheresis division, and our newest and largest single donation to date, Doctors Without Borders. This last one was spurred on by reading Mountains Beyond Mountains and then a message from the Yarn Harlot. Doctors Without Borders seemed to be the perfect link between something disturbing that's happening in the world and something we can do about it. I always thought Ben & Jerry's 1% for Peace policy was a very good thing and was thrilled to realize that in the past month or so we too have donated about 1% of our annual income to projects that are important to us (and that's just in the past 4-6 weeks, so we must have gone significantly higher than that for the year). Best of all, it's painless. No, it's not just painless; it's invigorating, empowering, motivating.

As a sign at Rose Island Lighthouse said, "The goal is to leave things better than you found them. Imagine if everybody in the world..." Posted by Picasa

Monday, December 18, 2006

cross and twist

We went to another meeting of the New England Lace Group this weekend. There was a gift exchange, where we gave a spangled bobbin decorated with one of Scott's glass beads, accented with sterling silver and iridescent seed beads. I didn't take a picture of the bobbin we made, but you can see examples of spangled bobbins here. Spangled just means it has a loop of beads on the end, to help keep the bobbins from rolling and getting mixed up. In the gift exchange, Leah received a package of DMC metallic embroidery floss. She is excited about using these pretty colors in shimmering snowflake/star lace or maybe some lace hearts or easter eggs.

The pretty snowflake below was a work in progress by one of the members of the lace group. It's a teensy little project and she said it's challenging to work in such a tight space, but we marveled at the delicate results. The sparkle of the silver and blue metallic threads is lost in this image, but believe me when I tell you it's very, very pretty.

I'm not learning lacemaking with Leah, but I do overhear the discussions and try to help her figure out problems as she's working on her lace. Most interesting to me was the realization that all the lace we've ever seen is made up of two movements, cross and twist, similar to how all knitting is made up of two stitches, knit and purl.

Here's a picture of Leah's most recent lace project. It's a piece of edging lace, which is why the right margin has more of a texture than the left. Used as intended, the straighter edge would be sewn to a piece of fabric and the bumpier edge would be the free edge of the lace.

The blue thing to the left is the pattern she used. The lace is made right on top of this pattern, with each dot in the pattern representing where a pin will need to be placed and each line giving an indication of how the threads of each stitch should travel. There are numbers to help the lacemaker figure out how to tackle the puzzle of where to move next, after each stitch has been completed. The lace needs the support of the pins as it's being made, but once you travel past an area, the crosses and twists provide enough structure to maintain the pattern and the pins can be removed.

Leah decided it would make a nice bookmark too, so it became a gift for her Grammy at yesterday's Christmas celebration on Scott's side of the family. This was her first attempt at ground work, the honeycomb-like sections in between the cloth stitch and half stitch sections. They were challenging, mostly because of their newness, but she did pretty well on them and there's a definite improvement in her cloth stitch and half stitch sections, on which she has had a bit more practice.

We borrowed some books from the lace group's library, so there are lots of fun and interesting options ahead! Posted by Picasa

Thursday, December 14, 2006

of lathes and lace

First, the halloween treat bag that Leah made for Jesse this year has surfaced from the boy's room and I remember that I said I'd show it here when it popped up. She made it all by herself, while I was sick enough to be unable to help. I think it was a perfect project for her to do on her own, as the frayed edges and general unpolished sewing skills are actually a good match for Halloween ghoulishness.
Moving forward to the current holiday season, the elves here have been having much fun. I took a wood turning workshop and used a lathe to turn these wooden ornaments. It was a blast to see the wood chips fly and watch the shapes emerge as areas were carved away and curves were created. The black lines were added by holding a piece of wire tight against the wood, creating friction as it spun on the lathe, leaving a bit of wood burning. For years I've been interested in messing around with a lathe, so now a lot of the mystery is gone and I know for sure that it really is as enjoyable as I thought it would be. Leah Lacemaker is moving along with glee. She meets once a week with her lace teacher and has already learned about 6 different stitches. She made a good portion of this candy cane before she realized there was a mistake waaayyyy back, but she wanted it to be done right, so we patiently un-did a fair bit of work and she re-made the lace correctly. This type of bobbin lace is called "tape lace." She knows enough to work basic ornaments in any shape with this technique. Now she's working on another project that alternates between three different stitches, very different and very pretty. I'll post a picture of that when she gets further along on it.
We're all wiped out today because we went to see Cherish the Ladies perform their Celtic Christmas show in New Haven last night, so the plan for tonight is a rare vegging marathon in front of the tube to watch some of the Christmas shows we have on loan. Posted by Picasa

the puppy post

Reminder: The subject of this post is a Super SECRET Xmas Surprise. Do not discuss in the vicinity of Zachary!

Did I mentioned that our little foster pooch is little? I mean really little. And really adorable.

Here he is climbing Mt. Kodi...

and showing off his puppiness by attempting to chew everything in sight... and looking like the furballs got caught in the act (or maybe Kodi is just looking like, "Mom, would you please make him stop pestering me?")...
and tolerating the indignity of being dressed in Favorite Baby's lovely dress and bonnet!
Did you notice the one ear up, one ear down? Too darn cute. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

festivities and friends

The past few days have included:

- a tour of the 2nd floor collection at the Springfield Armory

- Christmas by Candlelight celebration at Old Sturbridge Village

- a secret project unlike anything I've ever tried before, using Honduran rosewood

- a festive afternoon with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra

- a date with my husband (gasp!), hanging with old friends, drinking good beer and seeing live music, including one guy on stage that I've been seeing for, oh, 25 years now. (Hi, Pril!)

- bead sales, soap sales, and possibly felt sales when we weren't even trying

- two starts to another baby hat in an attempt to get gauge, so far without success. Third try is planned for tonight, after I get home from working on another secret project, this time with cocobolo

- attempting to take passport renewal photos for my kids without having them look like mug shots

- lacemaking lessons and ornaments in progress

- and a teeny tiny imp who is living here for 2 weeks and getting a phenomenal amount of attention until he arrives at his permanent home with Z-man (see Santa pic above) on Christmas morning. Shhhh...this little bugger (3 lbs.) is a big secret to keep from Zach!

 Posted by Picasa

Saturday, December 09, 2006

ho ho ho FO FO FO

heh heh...these FOs (finished objects) don't actually have anything to do with Christmas ho ho ho, but I couldn't resist that goofy title.

First is a pair of socks in luscious Lorna's Laces sock yarn, oh so soft and squishable. I didn't get much knitting done while we were on vacation in October, but the knitting I was able to do was mostly on these socks, usually while on the train. I finished them up while on vacation in November. They are what has become my "usual sock pattern," toe-up, Widdershins gusset, 2x2 ribbing, 1 sock at a time on two size 2 circular needles.
Next in the FO parade is a hat for Scott. It's made of leftover yarn from my Philosopher's Wool sweater. As we were packing for the lighthouse trip, we realized that this spring I threw away Scott's old Steelers hat, which was a gift from my dad but had become pretty grungy from years of wear. Since Scott's bald as can be, he needs something toasty to protect his noggin in the winter, so I cast on for this project while waiting for our boat ride to the island and finished it the next day. I guessed how many stitches to use (70-something on who knows what size needles that I grabbed at the last minute) and made it up as I went along. Certainly no great feat of knitwear designing, but it fits him well and he likes it plenty. I'll probably line it with fleece soon (or maybe Leah will) for extra warmth and cushy softness. Last is a sweet little baby hat. It's the Hedda design from Dale of Norway baby collection 129, done in Dalegarn baby wool. I am smitten with this hat, from its spiffy snowflake design to the supersoft yarn to the fun twisted sprout and tassel on top. The only problem here is that it turned out small. This is kind of funny because my previous Dale of Norway experience was the Ladybug sweater that I worked on in Nova Scotia and eventually had to admit had a problem when I realized the 2-year-old size was turning out big enough to fit Leah, who was 7 years old at the time. That sweater remains in a time-out in my closet, but since that turned out so big, I figured I'd knit snug on this hat as a remedy. It's not too tightly knit, still with plenty of stretch and no puckering, but the 9-18 mo. size turned out to be newborn size. Ah well, at least there are a couple of newborns in my life, so hopefully one of them will get to wear it a couple of times before it's outgrown.The pine tree perch pictured here is in my front yard, but there's also one in our living room now. Jesse and Leah are, as usual, delighting in the stories and memories accompanying each ornament, and spending a few minutes after dinner each evening laying under the tree and looking up into it, causing their vision to blur and enjoying the glow of the lights. Posted by Picasa

Friday, December 08, 2006

a knitter's view of the Festival of Trees

We visited the Festival of Trees at the Wadsworth Atheneum earlier this week. Oh, sure, there were folksy trees and sparkling trees, touching decorations and whimsical ones, traditional items and some that were way off the beaten path, but what were the ones a knitter photographed?

A goofily Scrooge-like sheep...

tiny bears with so many hand knit sweaters, scarves, and hats... and a wreath made of balls of yarn, with knitting needles stuck in here and there!
The red dot on the identification card indicates that the items have sold (as a fundraiser for the Atheneum), so apparently I'm not the only one who thought these things were a fun change of pace. And yes, we were happy to see that our Creativitree also had a red dot on its tag.Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

liking lighthouse living

Ah yes, our week as lighthouse keepers at Rose Island Lighthouse off Newport was indeed a special one. We celebrated Jesse's 12th birthday while there, learned much about alternative energy (there are no public utility services to the island), had weather that was both surprisingly good and surprisingly rough, and thoroughly enjoyed all that the lighthouse and its island's history had to offer. We worked hard to contribute our fair share to the place, as is the responsibility of the lighthouse keepers and visitors to the island, but had plenty of time for relaxation, walks around the periphery of the island, reading, knitting, kayaking, fishing, playing games, collecting sea glass and shells, and watching the boats go by. All that fresh air and clean living had us all in bed by 8 p.m. most nights, up early to do our daily tasks and look forward to another great day. I never knew it before, but it's true: "If once you have slept on an island..." Posted by Picasa