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.