Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Finishes, Major and Minor

The Valley Forge Dogwood scarf is finally off the loom, and I was mighty pleased with the results if I do say so myself. 

This is the pattern made me want to weave. Like the dogwood blossom it's named for, I cannot get enough.

Pick whichever ones makes you happy, and that's the "right" side.

This shot shows the two ends. I'm rather proud that the circles are fairly close in size, which means I was keeping my beat pretty even throughout the project. Pretty good, considering how long the thing was on the loom!

For those that keep track of these things, the piece is 5" wide x 6' long.The warp and tabby are 2/10 cotton, and the weft a lace weight merino yarn that I wound tripled. It's warped and woven 24 threads to the inch, and the pattern comes from the "Overshot Novelties" section of Marguerite Davidson's Handweaver's Pattern Book.

Got it into the mail and off to the biggest big sister just in time for Christmas.

The minor finish was finally framing a piece I've had for several years. Michael Everett (http://michaeleverettstudios.com/) is a Florida artist who does wonderful pencil drawings of Florida landscapes. I bought this print from him at a local art show. I've been wanting to frame it, but for some reason they don't seem to make the sectional pewter frames anymore; they've been on back order at several major suppliers for years now. So I got a black frame on sale and spray-painted it.

 It's still not the optimal frame for this piece - I miss having my professional framing buddy Jenn  from Jacksonville handy! - but at least I can get it on the wall.

And in the spirit of New Year's Eve, I leave you with this little ditty by Odgen Nash...

Tonight’s December thirty-first,
Something is about to burst.
The clock is crouching, dark and small,
Like a time bomb in the hall.
Hark, it's midnight, children dear.
Duck! Here comes another year!


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Frog is a Verb, Not a Noun

NOT the kind of frog I'm talking about.
I'm not sure where the term "frogging" came from, but for those who don't know what it means, it's when you pull a knitting project completely apart, wind the yarn back up and either completely give up or start over again. I'm told it comes from saying "rip-it, rip-it, rip-it" as you pull your work apart. There's been so much frogging at my house, you'd think we lived in a swamp.

I went back to work on the Wool Peddler's Shawl from Folk Shawls by Cheryl Oberle. First I had to do some un-knitting and re-knitting to get the stitch count right. But more trouble lay ahead. When I had started the project, I kntted American, not Continental Style. And I knit tight. So tight, that when I tried to purl the knits and knit the purls to begin the lace section, I could not get the needles into the stitches. So "rip-it, rip-it, rip-it" and start over again Continental style. Unfortunately, when I reached the point where the lace begins, something went very wrong very soon. I don't think third time is going to be the charm with this, so I'm going to take it to my LYS after the holidays and hope that I can just un-knit back to where all was well and get myself sorted out. I hope.

Off I went to a third project, the Lacy Prairie Shawl from Folk Shawls by Cheryl Oberle. And it just would not work. It's like I had a mental block about this thing. It's not that hard a pattern, but I was knitting it and ripping it out so much, I felt like I was in a time warp. I finally decided that the problem is that I've already one triangular shawl, the Garter Stitch Prairie Shawl from the same book in the exact same yarn, Cascades 220 Heather. I used it to teach myself garter stitch. So why am I making another triangular shawl in the same yarn from that book? So it is officially frogged. I bought all the yarn Oberle called for in her pattern, but stopped it well before the number of stitches called for - the thing was getting quite large, and I wanted a shawl, not a blanket! So I've plenty of yarn for another project. Which will not be another triangular shawl.

When you have this...

You don't really need this.

I went back to the Seriously Simply Shawl that I had started at a class a while back. No matter how I knit and un-knit, it just would not work. So I studied on the thing, and realized I had made a serious error fairly early on in the class. Nothing for it but to frog it. I re-started it several times, realized the pattern was actually asymmetrical, decided I didn't like it, and, well, "rip it, rip it. rip it."  It is well and truly frogged.

Back to the stash, until inspiration strikes.
  But all has not been lost. I got a ball of King Cole ZigZag superwash sock yarn off the sale rack a while back. It looked bright and fun, but proved to be very frustrating. I tried various patterns, but the colors pooled terribly and the projects were frogged. I finally tried the Easily Enjoyable Lace Scarf by Polly Macc, and it was just what the doctor ordered. The color variegation couldn't be falling more nicely, the pattern took about 3 repeats to memorize, and it has become the perfect waiting room/doctor's office project. I'd hoped to have it ready for Christmas. It's not quite there yet, but not to worry. We have a tradition in our family. We promise projects for Christmas, but we never specify which one!

This piece is not going to go bounding off the lily pad!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Inch by Inch, Row by Row

That is how the garden grows, and that's how things are progressing here.

The Valley Forge Dogwood scarf progresses steadily and has passed the half-way mark. Had an interesting set back. I was happily weaving away, then realized things just looked off. Not unattractive, just wrong. I wish I'd had the presence of mind to take a picture of what I was getting, but it was late and I was plunged deep into that "What is wrong and what do I do about it?!" panic mode. I finally figured out that my pattern, which is from the Margaret Atwood book, has the treadling pattern written right to left, and my treadles are tied up left to right. I had been "stomping as writ," that is, treadling right to left. And yes, it was very late when this was happening, I should have been in bed hours before. Some artist's tape and a sharpie to remind me of my treadle order has solved the problem. I could re-tie my treadles, but not only would crawling around under that loom be physically painful, but I'm afraid I could mess up my loom for life because of the way the Wolf Pup's harnesses are hooked up to the treadles. The artist's tape solution is much easier.
Ana one, ana two, ana t'ree....

Once this scarf reaches length, if I've some warp left (The odds are good, I give myself lots of room on warps) I may re-treadle the "error" just for my records. The pattern I was getting was not unattractive, it was just not the Dogwood. But that's the fun of overshot. It's not any thing, it's just what it is. Like the Vulcan IDIC - Infinite Diversity, Infinite Combinations. (Gee, Star Trek and hand weaving; I wonder if anybody's ever gotten them in the same sentence before?)

When I took Art History in college, I annoyed the instructor when he announced that "op art" was a completely new was of dealing with color and shape and I asked if he'd ever looked at an overshot coverlet. He was not pleased when I brought him pictures and could show him that women in the hills and hollers of Tennessee and North Carolina were getting "op art" effects on their looms 100 years before Andy Warhol and his crowd came up with it. A quick browse through the 'net let me find this picture of a Double Bow Knot piece, probably woven early in the 20th century, though the pattern is much older. I couldn't find what I was looking for, a picture of a older coverlet where the weaver had used various colors in her warp and weft. The book Textile Arts from Southern Appalachia: the Quiet Work of Women has some marvelous examples of coverlets woven in the late 1800s and early 1900s that show a skill with pattern and color that would make a modern artist weep with envy if they would look at them. (A personal rant I will spare you because as someone who does "craft and "fine art" and  "illustration" I know I can far too easily start frothing at the mouth on the subject. Suffice it to say that it really annoys me that somebody can go on line, print out a bunch of black and white images, cut them into strips, paste the strips onto squares of foam core, piece the squares into a kimono shape with wire loops, hang them on a wire, enter them into a Fine Arts show and win a prize, while I can hand-spin silk, dye it, hand-weave the fabric, sew a kimono and not be able to even bring it into the same room as the foam core and glued-up printer paper because it is "craft." Grrrrrrrrr.....)
From HistoricWeaving.com, a piece that shows what my art professor assured me were uniquely 20th Century approaches to the use of color and form for "vibrational optical effect." Yeah, right buddy. 

I decided to re-visit Wendy Johnson's Seriously Simple Shawl that I started at a knitting class at my LYS in an attempt to learn to knit lace and read charts. Step One: figure out where you left off. First the stitch count was off. So I did a stitch-by-stitch reading and realized nothing on the chart corresponded with what I had on my needles. I finally figured out that while in class I had missed the center stitches, and had been doing so for  several inches. Nothing to do but start over again. Which meant going to You Tube to figure out how to do a tab start. So I started again. And promptly got into trouble again. And again. Sometimes the only thing keeps me sane is my conviction that you learn more about an art or craft when things go badly than than when things go well because it makes you really dig into how it all actually works. But then, there's also wisdom in the quote "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. If you can't do it then, you may as well give up, there's no point being a damned fool about it." So that is now a ball of yarn and set aside for the time being

"Seriously Simple" is in for a serious wait.
So I went back to another start, the Lacy Prairie Shawl from Cheryl Oberle's Folk Shawl book. Her Simple Garter Stitch Prairie Shawl was the first major project I ever did - though I suspect it's about half the size it's supposed to be. When it got big enough I could almost sit on it - and I am not a short woman - I decided it was time to call it a day. (I really like the patterns in this book, but now that I've been working them, they seem awfully big to me, some of them nearly blanket-size. Has anybody else noticed this?) I still had about half the yarn I'd bought for the project left,  Cascade Heathers, a beautiful flecked green that reminds me of the rhododendron and mountain laurel on the Blue Ridge, so I decided to tackle the other prairie shawl.  When I took a closer look at what I'd done, I decided I was not happy with the lace, it looked lumpy to me. So true to form I've taken it apart and am started it on larger needles. I think my guess was right; I am happier with how it's coming together. That at the moment, I can only knit even the simplest lace by myself in complete silence with no distractions. It takes my complete concentration, even a cat going by is enough to mess me up!
Teah, the Queen-cat, plotting her next distraction
Ever onward....

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Little Dresser

Okay. I used to have a roll top desk. It was a lovely thing - probably the nicest piece of furniture in the house. But it was also a very large thing and I have to think back more than a decade to remember the last time I actually sat down at it and used it like, well, a desk. Mostly it held the bills and accumulated whatever miscellaneous pieces of paper that wandered in the door. So I've sold the thing to somebody who has coveted it for years and will actually use as a desk.. So to find a home for the various bits and pieces that were living in the desk, I bought myself a small dresser and refinished it.

The first step was actually the hardest. My usual thrift stores came up completely dry, then the second and third tier stores let me down. I even looked at some new ones. They wanted $70 and $110 for laminated chip-board junk I could twist with my bare hands. But the last store I stopped at, with an attitude more of "dotting the I's and crossing the T's" than any real hope, had just what I wanted - a small, simple wooden dresser. It had taken some hit points over the years, but it was sturdy and the price was right - $30.
I was sanding the first drawer when I realized I needed to get a picture!
I cleaned it up, and sanded it down.
I liked the handles, but one was missing, so all of them had to go.
I put 2 coats of MinWax Mission Oak PolyShades on it and added simple porcelain handles. It came out darker than I had really wanted, but it fits neatly in the home office. So I am a happy girl.
Pretty good for a first try in refinishing!
Heaven only knows what trouble this success is going to inspire me to get into!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

More Finishes, Major and Minor

First, the Major. The Oak Tree Sample is done! It's not a large a piece, about 8"" x 4", but I am quite pleased with it. Seeing as I can't even remember when I started it, I also count it as a major check-off on the Getting Things Done list and that makes me feel good, quite important on a week that is proving to be full of thorns.
I made only one real change on it, swapping a little cross-stitch motif between my initials and name with a satin-stitched star that I thought picked up on the shape of the eight-pointed star motif above it.

I may hem-stitch the thing, partly because I've never done any hemstitching and it would be good for me to learn, partly because I prepared this piece of fabric back in the days when I was using iron-on hem tape and I think  it would be good to that stuff off the fabric and away from the sampler entirely.

The "minor finish" involves an over-due Christmas present. A while back they were handing out a free print at the local library of a painting by Diane Pierce, a Florida artist I admire hugely. I snagged a couple, thinking one would be perfect for my best birding buddy. When Micheal's had a half-price sale on picture frames, and I had a good coupon I could couple with it, I got a basic black frame. The thing would look like Buddy Holly's glasses on Diane's osprey's, so I got a couple of cans of Rustoleum's Hammered Gold spray paint and Bob's Yer Uncle, as they say.
The Frame, ready for its transformation.

A dry and a wet Fly-Lady Rag - my best pals!

I think the final result is quite splendiferous!
Two check-offs on my Things to Get Done List in as many weeks. Yoohoo!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

First Finish of The Year! Or, The End of a Beginning.

You know how the natives in the Arctic are supposed to have something like 200 words for snow? I don't know if that's true, but I know for a fact that there are something like 150 different kinds of sand in Florida. Seriously. For real. We even have an Official State Sand - Myakka Fine, in case you're wondering. When you've got as much of the stuff as we do, you get to be something a connoisseur of silica before it's melted into glass. I'm not sure what the sand in my yard would officially be called. I've heard it called sugar sand, I've heard it called ball-bearing sand. But I know for a fact that it is the very dickens to find anything that can actually grow in the darn stuff. So when I find something that doesn't go belly up within a matter of weeks of being put into it, I get all excited. And so we enter into the saga of the Beach Sunflower. Or East Coast vs. West Coast.

Beach sunflowers are a Florida native. They do exactly what their name implies - grow on the dunes - and are well adapted to whatever Florida cares to throw at them. I got some a couple of years ago for the back, and was quite happy with them. They handled the heat, the sun, the sand, got bushy and strong and bloomed profusely. But the husband is from the MidWest and does not share my love for things that sprawl loosely and freely and trimmed them down with the idea they would grow back more neatly. Flowers are not shrubs, so I had bare ground again.

East Coast Beach Sunflower before Tom took the shears to it.
So I got myself some West Coast Beach Sunflower. Here Tom and I found a plant we could agree on. They bloom in all but the coldest weather and can handle the sun and heat and require little to no care, which makes me happy, and they stay low and form a tidy mass, which makes Tom happy. I had a chance to go to Pinellas County couple of weeks ago, so I got to by to my favorite nursery and get more West Coast Beach Sunflowers. Half of them went in the back to fill in the spaces left by the Great Sunflower Whack Job, and half in the front. I had to be careful to make sure I removed any remnant of the East Coast sunflowers since the two are closely related and when they cross, the taller, bushier East Coast variety is dominant.
Last year's  planting of  West Coast Beach Sunflower - Much tidier!
Then Sunflowers in the back will be growing in front of and around my Peggy Martin Roses, aka "Hurricane Katrina Roses." I set these out two and three years ago with hopes of having them climb the 3 center pillars of the pergola and get into the rafters a bit. They've started to do that, and well, you just have to love it when a plan comes together. Some of the canes have already hit the top 15' long mark and are draping prettily in the rafters. They have 2 really big blooms a year, but they bloom off and on in all but the coldest weather.I babied them a bit their first year; now I fertilize them about twice a year, water them occasionally during the worst of the dry season, and that's about it - you really do have to be tough to live in my world. But this is what they in return for that modicum of care. You just have to love these guys.

My Peggy Martin Roses
The story behind these roses is amazing. They came from the garden of a gardener name of Peggy Martin who lived in Plaquemines Parrish near New Orleans. Nobody really knows where they came from originally, but she was always glad to give cuttings to anyone who admired it. When Hurricane Katrina roared through, the Martin family was devastated; the flood waters swept away her parents, her home, her husband's commercial fishing boat. Her garden was under 20' of sea water for more than 2 weeks. When she was finally able to return, this rose was growing back. Inspired by its story, people who had these Peggy Martin Roses used cuttings from their bushes to help growers like the Antique Rose Emporium in Texas to sell these roses and donate part of the proceeds to a fund to help restore gardens destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. That is how I got my first two, and I was so impressed with how well they did that I got a third. You have to be tough to survive on my patch of ball-bearing sand, and these guys have the right stuff!
So delicate looking, but so tough.
The front yard has been a whole other battle. There had been a yew hedge in front of the house, but it had gotten tattered and scraggly, so we'd had it taken out and replaced it with plumbago last spring - another plant which has done well for us. We also planted a Cracker Rose, an antique species rose. I've another in the yard, great plant in completely the wrong spot. It did not read the part of the book where it's supposed to top out between 4 and 6 feet; I think it wants to be 8 feet or so. I have to keep cutting it in half so we can see out the dining room window. I'm afraid that one will have to go. But you have to love a plant that does so well in such hostile territory, so I've sited another Cracker Rose where it can get as big was it wants to be. Once the Beach Sunflowers spread out in front of the plumbago and new Cracker Rose gets some size on it, this space should look a lot nicer.
These babies have a lot of growing up to do!
So bit by bit we're getting the yard a bit more up to snuff - though we have no intention of ever having one of those perfectly manicured St. Augustine grass ChemLawn things some of the neighbors have. Our yard will never look like the greens of Augusta. But as long as it doesn't bear too close a resemblance to the first turn at Churchhill Downs, we're doing okay!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

We Have Lift-Off!

Took three tries to get the threading right.

Wove a bit, realized two threads of the weft weren't enough, so I had to re-wind the bobbin and make it three. Spent an evening and the better part of a morning winding the lace-weight yarn onto cones and tubes so I can wind it onto bobbins more easily - which meant I was doing a lot of very tedious untangling. (Thank you NetFlix and National Geographic Channel for just the sort of mildly interesting but not too involved TV I can do this kind of work to. The "Navajo Cops" are my pals!)

Wove some more, realized the sett was completely wrong, so had to take all the threads out of the reed and take it from 36 threads to the inch to 24, which basically meant throwing away about 3" worth of the warp I wound.

But to get the pattern I wanted just like I wanted it....
Pattern: Valley Forge Dogwood


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

There is a warp on my loom!

 I can't say how long I've been trying to make this happen, suffice it to say this warp and I have been through a lot together. But at long last it is on the loom, everything it tied on, and actual weaving is about to commence. Wonders never cease.
Shuttles loaded and ready
I'm planning to weave a scarf in Valley Forge Dogwood, an overshot pattern that's one of my favorites.  I took a picture of a test swatch that I did, but for some reason blogspot kept turning it on edge every time I tried to post it. I'll try again later when I've a bit more patience with electronic neurosis. It's a lovely pattern and confidence is high it will look great.

On other fronts, the Oak Tree Sampler has passed the half way point. Most of this week was spent on the boarder. The blue outer border and inner rust borders are Montenagran and Double Cross Stitch, which take 12 and 10 stitches respectively to cover 6 threads, so they are not speedy. But they are a lot easier to do in front of the television that free-standing motifs!
Kelvin-Helmholtz Waves
And in the realm of "Just Cool Stuff," I was driving home from doing some volunteer work at a local nature preserve when I was rewarded with a glimpse of these clouds. They're called Kelvin-Helmholtz Waves, and develop when a level of cirrus clouds occur between air currents of differing speeds or directions. I've seen them a couple of times before, but what made this especially cool was that I saw three layers of them! The top two were very clear, the bottom layer was hazy, but still definitely Kelvin-Helmholtz. So why am I having to use an image off the internet and don't have my own shot of this amazing moment? Well, when you're on an overpass on a 4-lane divided highway, it's not a good idea to stop for pictures no matter how amazing the phenomenon you're looking at.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Television Brain

I've been working on "The Oak Tree Sampler." Now that the alphabet is sorted out, I moved on to the central "oak tree" motif. It got way too complicated - and a right royal PICNIC it was too. (In computer help desk parlance, that stands for Problem In Chair Not In Computer.) I was happily working away, but when I stepped back to look at the work, I realized something was wrong. Namely, I'd worked the trunk in the wrong color. All that rust is supposed to be green. Sometimes my seam ripper is my best friend.

I guess I miss fall so much I decided to make it an autumn oak!
So, back to work. But I moved indoors, which meant I was in front of the television. Now I don't watch television as much as I listen to it because I'm usually stitching or knitting when I'm in front of the idiot box. Unfortunately, I tried this while watching a British mystery, Death in Paradise, a piece set on a British protectorate in the Caribbean.. And between the British accents, the island accents, and the fact you're trying to keep track of the clues - the next day when I sat down to stitch, I realized the BBC and cross stitch motifs on linen are not a happy mix.
Heard about your brain on drugs? Well, this is your stitching under the influence of TV.
Then I had a huge debate about the color. It's green. It's okay. But it was bugging me. I even pulled out my thread collection and considered changing it. As I compared the green to the other colors in the piece I could see exactly what the designer was doing, which lead me to seriously question what I was doing. It finally dawned on me what my problem was. The leaves are oak-like. My art training is as a botanical illustrator, and DMC 3363 is not a very oak leaf-like color. I decided to get over myself and stick with the original color. Especially as I had consulted with my sister and she had wisely pointed out that you can only rip out your stitches so many times before your linen starts falling to pieces out of sheer frustration with you.
There is not a thing wrong with that green!
Things seem to be going much more smoothly now.
Sometimes I need close supervision.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Book of the Month: Gorgon

Much I did not know when I picked up this book. Like there was an extinction 250 million years that made the one that wiped out the dinosaurs look like not such a big deal. That the epoch before the dinosaurs had had incredible biodiversity. Or that the mammals had been poised once before to become major league players on the field of life, but were nearly wiped out. Peter D. Ward's Gorgon is not one of those in-depth science books with lots of graphs and charts and the sort of in-depth analysis that my darling-dear adores, and it really wasn't even that much about it's title character, but it does give one insight into how messy science has to be at times to work, and how scientific  ideas evolve.

Peter D. Ward was one of the scientists who helped develop the theory that it was an asteroid that did in the dinosaurs. After the decade-long flurry of discovery and debate that lead to the acceptance of an asteroid causing the K/T extinction, Ward and scientists like him found themselves at loose ends. He wound up working South Africa, in a hostile high desert area called the Karoo, looking at rock laid in an era certainly not in his expertise, the Permian. The Permian Era was considered a bit of a drag. There were some interesting critters, but the general consensus was that not much had been going on, and it petered out. The Permian was sort of the gray area that came before the glory days when the dinosaurs reigned.

Ward uses his own struggles personally and professionally dealing with the miserable conditions of the Karoo and the steep curve of learning about the Permian after being an expert on the Cretaceous to shed light on how the scientific community struggled to come to grips with the story the Permian rocks around the world were telling. That the period when Pangaea was a super-continent had been one with a tremendous variety of life, that included a variety of proto-mammals and a group they christened the "mammal-like reptiles" because they bore traits of both groups. (The top land predator was the title creature of this book, the Gorgon, was one of these. Originally about the size of a dog, by the end of the Permian, the largest Gorgons could be 10 feet long and boasted 4" long fangs.) That all the ideas anybody had about what happened to these creatures as the Permian came to a close and Pangaea broke up were completely wrong. There was nothing gradual about any of it, there were no graceful exits. The extinctions were fast and brutal and hit on land and sea at pretty much the same time.

That is where the book gets scary and extremely relevant because what killed off 90% off all life on Earth was climate change. The Earth warmed - and apparently warmed in a hurry. Here's the kicker. It seems that when the Earth warms, decay accelerates and oceans acidify, both of which pull oxygen out of the atmosphere. The Permian atmosphere went from a bit higher in oxygen than it is now to about 10% - which is what you have at around 14,000' elevation. Nearly everything suffocated on land and sea. The proto-mammals and lizards did not have very efficient lungs, so they nearly all died out. Bird ancestors on the other hand, survived better because their breathing systems are extremely efficient; they even have air sacs in their bones to help them draw as much oxygen as possible out of the atmosphere. Once scientists knew about the bird/dinosaur connection, they looked at dinosaur bones and saw the same bone structures. So dinosaur and bird ancestors survived the Permian extinction because they could survive in low oxygen better. It took the dinosaurs being wiped out in an oxygen-rich situation for mammals to get a second chance to become an important life form again.

The real significance of the realization that an asteroid played a major role in wiping out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago is not that a chunk of interstellar rock killed off a large portion of life on Earth. It lies in the realization that great extinction events can happen quickly, that the idea great changes happen slowly, in "geologic time" is false, that major biologic changes can happen with devastating speed. In many ways, Gorgon is about what happens once we have crossed that intellectual Rubicon.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

"E" is for Error

That letter cost me dearly!
I've been working on the "Oak Tree Sampler" by Darlene O'Steen. She is the only cross stitch designer I look for by name. Other designers use traditional sampler motifs as well as she does to create samplers than look old as soon as you're done, but she also incorporates lots and lots off different kinds of stitches. I adore this, because while I love cross stitching, I hate doing nothing but cross stitches. Many an otherwise wonderful sampler is ruined for me by being nothing but cross stitch. For me, that's up there with watching paint dry. Very big yawn! Different stitches are interesting to do, add depth and texture to the piece, and many have histories all their own.

I've had this pattern, well, the tag on it says I got it at a needlework shop in Jacksonville, and I left there in 1992. I promise the sampler hasn't been hanging around nearly that long! It's a great design, but I'm working it on unbleached linen, which means it is brown, and the dark fabric is hard on my eyes. The best time to work on it is late afternoon when the afternoon sun is streaming onto the back porch. Yes, I have an Ott Light and it is a wonderful thing, but you cannot beat real sunlight for certain applications.And I like sitting on my back porch. That's one of the great glories of living in the south, the whole back porch thing.

The alphabet is pretty straightforward, with the letters alternating with a dark blue and rust color. If the letter is Rust, it is supposed to be done in Rice stitch. This is Rice Stitch.
The numbers represent the order in which you make your stitches.

 If the letter is done in Dark Blue, it is supposed to be done is a Smyrna Cross. This is Smyrna Cross.

Each line represents one thread of linen fabric
 Things were clicking along; A, B, C, D. Then I hit "E". "E" is Rust, therefore it's supposed to be done in the Rice Stitch. All those R's should make it easy to remember; maybe Darlene even thought of that. Wouldn't put it past her, clever woman that she is.

First, I remembered to change to Rice Stitch, but when I looked it over before I moved to the next letter, I realized I'd forgotten to change the color. The "E" was Dark Blue. No way out of it, it would have to go. If you look at the diagram of Rice Stitch, you'll see why that was a challenge; all those tiny "leg" stitches (Stitches number 5-10) are golden opportunities to cut your linen. Please don't ask me how I managed not to. At least that was one area where the embroidery gods were on my side. They were probably having too much fun with the rest to be bothered. Or they know that there is a very definite point at which I will make a brief stop at the garbage can on my way to the wine and where's the fun in that?

I re-threaded my needle and went back to work. Stepped back - and realized I had the right color, but this time I had stitched the "E" in the Smyrna Cross. Now I enjoy doing the Smyrna Cross; there's a rhythm to it that's almost Zen. If there is a polar opposite to Zen, it is something very similar to taking out a Smyrna Cross. And there were 18 of the blasted things in that "E". That finally accomplished, I put everything that was not Rust thread out of sight, and chanting the steps to the Rice Stitch (mostly) under my breath - or as my buddy Jackie likes to say "consulting with the smartest person I know" though it sure didn't feel that way at the time - this time I managed to stitch a Rust-colored "E" in Rice NOT Smynra Stitch.

When you think about the mathematical possibilities, I made every mistake possible in this combination that didn't involved actually messing up the letter. The letter "E."

I wonder if Sue Grafton ever had this many stupid aggravations with one of her novels?

Friday, February 22, 2013

2013: The Year of Getting Things Done

Now that I've finished "My Big Fat Irish Vacation," I can finally Move on to what I've been working on since oh, about mid December. I've never been much for New Year's Resolutions - the whole New Year's thing has always struck me as rather contrived. But this year, I made myself a real live Resolution. Namely, Get Some Things Done.

By "Things," I mean finish the unfinished things that are lying around the house in one form or another and making me feel bad. The key to getting on the list of Some Things To Be Done is to be 1) an unfinished thing and 2) and unfinished that is annoying me. By "Done" I mean either completed, sent to Goodwill, trashed, or broken into component parts, unraveled, or whatever it takes to make it Over With. The blog account of my Irish vacation has been one of these Things To Be Done. And getting that done has been Step One. Well, sort of. The Public Step One. There are other things as well -

Some knitting
The red piece is the "Peddlar's Shawl" from Cheryl Oberle's book "Folk Shawls." I've been working on it since oh, about 2009 or 2010. Got into trouble about the time I was supposed to get off the garter stitch section and onto the lace border - though now I've a LYS (Local Yarn Shop) that should be able to help me out. The other two are much more recent - my first attempt at a pair of socks and a "Seriously Simple Shawl" that was suppose to teach me how to knit lace and read a chart. What they mostly taught me was that is is a Really Bad Idea to take two knitting classes at the came time. A Very, Very Bad Idea.

Some paintings, various mediums....

The dogs belong to some friends and were due last Christmas. The other two, well, let's not talk about how long they've been floating around. The crystal bowl of strawberries in the still life has been thwarting me, and the owl, well, that one may have to be completely re-designed. We shall see. It may wind up being sanded down and turned into a drawing before it's all over.

 This picture is just of one part of the tangle the warp got into; I didn't show the rest for fear of frightening the little children. I have been working on it, and it's actually all smoothed out and I am re-threading it - for the third time! This had better be the most beautiful Valley Forge Dogwood scarf of all time!!!

Some stitchery

I don't recall how long these have been floating around, but they deserve to be completed.

Even some home maintenance.
I started this stencil long ago, got about half way, and realized that I was going to have to stand in the kitchen sink to do the next part - which would be disastrous for me and the sink. I am determined that I am going to figure out how to either get that segment done so I can complete this thing, or paint it over and Forget About It! And get that roll of painter's tape off the cat shelf.

There are other things as well, some less photograph-able, some with a bit less priority. But while I am one of the most easily distractable people on the planet, my goal this year is No New Projects until I get some of these old ones out of the way. It's another form of de-cluttering really, finishing what I've started.

 The posts at first will come thick and fast because for a little while because while I've been working intermittently on the Ireland posts, I've also been working somewhat more steadily on some of these other projects. As the posting catches up with the work, it will slow down. But it should be an interesting ride, so see how much of this mental list I can get through - or will I make myself "mental" along the way?

My Big Fat Irish Vacation Day 10: Home Again

Wouldn't you know it? Departure Day dawned bright and clear. Which is undoubtedly a Very Good Thing when you're going to spend the day flying across a rather large chunk of the Atlantic Ocean, but all that was was on my mind was how I really wouldn't have minded taking off in the rain if we could have had those last few hours in Dublin. Because while we had seen a lot and done a lot, it was sinking in how much we hadn't done and hadn't seen. Ireland is a small island, but it isn't that small, and all the places missed were running through my mind. Donagal, Dungarvan, Wicklow, Waterford, Kerry - the place names run like a song.

Playing the bodhrain in Dublin
 Dublin Airport continued to amaze. Clean, fairly easy to find our way around in - and we were actually able to get a half way decent breakfast. And the customs agents were pleasant and managed to not make us feel like livestock. All of which was good because not only was I not thrilled about my vacation ending, I'm never happy to be in a airport. I don't enjoy being in a metal tube with several hundred other people and thrown through the air at a few hundred miles an hour.

 At least I knew what to expect now with Aer Lingus, and could look forward to another episode of Top Gear. It was the US end of things I was dreading, and rightfully so - for all the talk of international customs, the US security was much more unpleasant, and JFK was dirty, noisy, and we weren't on the ground 10 minutes before I saw a fist fight. Yep, welcome home, girl. The US flight that was miserable - nothing like being crammed in like an unwilling sardine with a bunch over-excited folk bound for Disney. Though in all fairness, the kids were fine. The parents, on the other hand....

Connemara Road
So where does that leave me? Wanting to go back. Often and badly. I literally dream about Ireland. And while much of it is beautiful and fascinating, what I really fell in love with were the people I met. I know full well that folk are pretty much the same everywhere you go, good uns and bad uns, fair and foul, but I was charmed by the people I met.
St Patrick's Cathedral at Rock of Cashel

So what now? Well, we're saving our pennies, planning for another trip, hopefully set up better now that we've gotten our feet wet. Tom sent off all the birth certificates, wedding certificates, and all the rest on Saint Patricks Day - it seemed appropriate - and is now officially an "Irish citizen of Foreign Birth By Right of Descent." So retiring to Ireland is still an option. And if I get my own mother's birth registered, I also have that prerogative - it doesn't do to forget I have my own ties in County Clare (t'is great Whalen country! as I was often told) and Dublin.

So with that, I'll end the Ireland saga with a favorite version of a favorite song. And while it was sung by Mary Black when they signed the Easter Accord in 1998, this is our favorite version.