Finished Objects: Dishtowels!!!

This has been going on for weeks. I warped the loom almost a month ago and since then I’ve been working on a set of dishtowels off and on. I’ve been posting pictures of the weaving on the loom, but they all kind of look the same and I hated to keep boring all of you with the pics. The work has been disrupted by snow, doctor’s appointments and knitting  emergencies deadlines, but this week I finally got to the end of the warp; the weaving was done.

Yesterday I pulled out my best sewing shears, gritted my teeth and cut the warp. I mean, I’ve been so careful to not injure any of the warp threads for days and days, and now I have to cut them?! Yikes! But as soon as I’d pulled the cloth out it was totally worth it,. Look, look!!

Cloth
Here’s the cloth handing over my stair rail showing two different sections of the 5 yard length of weaving. The cloth on the left required me to change color bobbins every twenty threads and the right section of cloth was made using natural colored cotton weft. If you are a weaver and interested, these towels are turned twill, 20 tpi, made on my 8 shaft Schacht Baby Wolf loom. I used 8/2 unmercerized cotton thread.
Cutting towels apart
There were five towels in the length of cloth; each towel is about 30″ long. Today I cut them apart (I wove in a tiny white strip to give me a cutting line…)
Ironing Towels
Pressed a folded hem on each side of the towels…
Sewing Hems
sewed the hems down…
Finished towels.
and my towels are done. I have three of the white weft check towels and two of the plaid check towels. My kitchen is going to be very, very happy with these. I’m now trying to think of how to make curtains in these colors for the kitchen window. 

I folded up the loom this afternoon and rolled it back into the office to its usual hibernating location. As I wedged it back into the closet I do believe that the spinning wheel shivered his treadles at me. He’s right. It is about time that he got to come out to play.

Next week it will be spinning time! Woohoo!!

Say Hello to my Little Joker…

Actually this is the second The Joker and the Thief shawl by Melanie Berg that I’ve knitted. When I picked the yarn to make the shawl I struggled with the color choices and ended up putting together two color combinations. The first shawl was navy with a bright fushia/gold gradient (that one is mine, mine, mine and has already seen a lot of wear…), and the second one was interesting but probably not the right colors for me. That’s cool. It is Christmas time and I know exactly who I am going to gift this shawl to. I knitted on it like crazy over the last week and tomorrow it will begin winging its way to its new home.

Cat on shawl
What! This Joker wasn’t made for me??

To give MacKenzie credit it was kind of easy for him to get confused about ownership concerning this shawl since he spent most of the time I was knitting it lying on my legs with it draped over him. Such a sweet boy… (Actually not. He gets pretty grumpy if he doesn’t get his way so I mostly go along with his requests. Mostly. Did I mention that he is a big cat?)

Gathered shawl
This is what the shawl fabric looked like before blocking. Yikes! Gathers and cat fur…
Shawl close up
After blocking the fabric opened up and the criss-cross stitch became more showy.
Shawl
and here is the finished product!! I’m pretty sure this shawl will be happy in its new home.

I used a Frabjous Fibers Cheshire Cat gradient pack for the jewel tone colors and added the burgundy color from the stash. It was a little intense settling on the colors by I am happy with the end product. Here all the details on Ravelry.

Almost ready for Christmas. Woohoo! Bring it on, Santa!

 

The Start of August: Garden Swing, Socks, Butterfly

My exceptionally annoying rib pain has improved (love those pain killers!) and I have gotten a lot of knitting done this week. The July socks are finished!

Finished Socks
The Lacy Cable socks (by Veronik Avery) fit well and the MJ Yarns Opulent Fingering is soft and cushy. The pattern was a little hard for me to memorize, but by the second sock I was doing much better and knitting faster. 
Finished socks
The twisted garter stitch heels were really slow to knit. I’m hoping that they wear well. The toes are normal garter; the decreases are worked in the knit row so they are hidden. Here are my project notes on Ravelry.

The other progress that I’ve been making is with the new seat for the garden swing. I got the crocheting finished last week and headed right outside to get it sewn onto the frame of the  garden chair.

Seat on Garden Swing
I’m just tying the crocheted seat to the frame right now to kind of stretch it into place. I’m working out an idea for a permanent crocheted attachment to the side frames. I also need to sew the tube that covers the bar at the bottom of the chair back. 
Cat on swing.
MacKenzie is not waiting for me to finish. He’s ready to sleep in his swing again now. Yep. I need to get that bottom stretched tighter, huh.

It is a little smaller than I wanted it to be but it is growing in size as I get it stretched to the frame. I’m still thinking about how to attached it to the sides; in my mind I have an idea of how to crochet the attachment. I have a few more days to think about this because my ribs are still too sore to take on the task right now.

Butterfly
I do need to get the chair done soon. Look at what I’m missing by not being able to read outside in the garden. 

August is starting out right. Woohoo, August!

 

FO Tee, a Garden Swing, and an Excited Spinning Wheel.

I know that I have been a little whiny lately. I started methotrexate a little over a month ago and the adjustment to the new medication has been challenging to say the least. This week was better. Much better.  So sorry for the whining. I promise hope that I won’t be doing that again for a long time. Check out all the things that were accomplished this week.

Knitted Tee
I got the Clove HItch Tee finished! Here are the project notes on Ravelry.
Tee Sleeve.
Look at how cute the lace detail is on the sleeve. This yarn is a linen blend and will be cool to wear even though it is a worsted weight knit.

The whole time I was knitting this tee I worried about how big the neck opening was. As soon as it was cast off the needles I tried it on, and yep, too big. I ran a drawstring around the neckline on the inside to draw it up a little and to prevent more stretching. Neckline problem totally fixed: it fits great! The top is loose and a comfy layering piece. I’m thinking that I would like to make a second one with long sleeves using a winter yarn that will be lighter in weight. Maybe in navy blue. I plan to keep that garter stitch band on the sleeve and will continue the sleeves in stockinette below the band.

Crocheted lawn seat.
I have now crocheted the entire back of the lawn swing and am continuing on to make the seat. I draped this over the back of the swing; it’s longer than it looks in the picture.

The lawn seat is coming right along. The fabric will stretch when I sew it into place so it will be more open looking when it is done. I haven’t completely decided how to attach it to the side pieces of the frame. I’m afraid that the attachment solution won’t be very elegant, but hopefully it will be functional.

Wednesday I went out to visit a friend’s alpaca ranch (she has sheep too!!). I am consumed with jealousy. Such cool animals wearing fabulously cool fiber; she has a whole dyeing and processing operation going. I didn’t take any pictures because next week there will be a summer camp there and I get to teach kids how to spin! Ha! Stay tuned for the summer camp report. 🙂

Today I took the car to get its oil changed and battery replaced. I know that this sounds like a small thing, but I am rocking my good week and getting a lot of things done. After I got home I cleaned out the garage and packed my spinning wheel into the car because tomorrow we go to a class to learn how to spin camelid fibers.

Spinning Wheel
Look! The wheel is already strapped into the car and ready to go. It is so excited! This is its first trip out in almost a year; no more sulking in the corner for this little guy.

That’s right. I still have a bag of paco-vicuna that I am nervous about spinning. The spinning class is taught by Chris Switzer who has quite a reputation as a master spinner of these fibers in this part of the world. I am taking the paco-vicuna bag and a chunk of my alpaca fleece with me to the class to get feedback on spinning techniques for the yarn that I dream of creating. Not that I’m intimidated, but the class registration says to bring some things that I’ve made from my homespun yarn with me. I have spent an hour finding things that I’ve made; I’ve decided to only take two three things. Maybe three is too many? If I take two substandard items she might think it’s a fluke. If I have three, it’s pretty sure that’s the type of spinner I am. Whatever. It’s best to not overthink this. I’ll take three that I like and that will be that. I’m taking the class with a friend who likes to spin crazy lace weight yarn and it is going to be wonderful!!

I finished reading all of the bee books this week too. I feel another post coming on. Some of the books were a little bit of a chore to finish, others were just amazing. Hmmm….

All the Light We Cannot See

One summer I spent a few weeks at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics in Boulder, Colorado taking a course for teachers. We learned about light (the electromagnetic spectrum), stars, space exploration, and all things fun for geeks of the science teacher persuasion. We developed lessons and activities to teach these topics to our own students, and we even built simple AM radios.

Out in the courtyard between buildings at LASP my team and I spread out our antenna (yards and yards of wire hung in trees and across the ground), plugged in the earplug, and hunted up and down the radio-wave spectrum using our tuner looking for a signal. Suddenly, it was there. A voice and music from far away; a momentary connection to an invisible person that launched us into yelps and leaping high-fives in the afternoon heat. Even for people who can’t survive without computers and smart boards it was a magical moment.

In the book All the Light We Cannot See the author Anthony Doerr tells a tale about connections such as these and so much more. On the surface it is a tale about a boy, a girl, and a fabulous diamond. Under the surface we discover that the “Sea of Flames” diamond is cursed with mystical powers, the boy is a genius whose talents will be consumed by the Third Reich, and that the girl is blind but sees better than many others around her. Their story is framed within the shocking human waste and chaos of war.

This should have been a grim story, and the likelihood that I would continue reading it was slim, but I was captured quickly by the humanity of the characters and the sense of wonder they brought to their worlds. Werner, our young boy in this book, keeps a book of “questions” of the kind only a budding scientist would collect. He builds a radio from scraps, and he and his sister Jutta listen to voices over the airwaves. They learn about the world outside their oppressive coal mining community, and they hear science lessons for children in a French voice that captivates them. “Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever,” says the voice. Their eyes are opened.

Sea Shells
Marie-Laure loves to explore the inhabitants of the ocean shoreline. She especially loves the whelks and collects shells.

Marie-Laure, our young girl, blind from a young age, is raised by her father in a museum in Paris, France. She is a clever young lady who observes, learns, and applies logic to the world around her. She collects pine cones, explores the inhabitants of oceans shores, learns how to classify mollusks by variations in their shells ,and reads Jules Verne  novels in Braille.  Her father loves her greatly.

The lives of Werner and Marie-Laure intersect through the radio. Werner becomes part of a unit that hunts for radio transmissions by freedom fighters in occupied Europe. Marie-Laure becomes involved in outlawed radio broadcasts. Through the radio these two are destined to meet each other. Because this is war, and there is an enchanted diamond of immense worth involved, nothing will be simple. Lives are lost, conditions become desperate, both Werner and Marie-Laure will be trapped in fire-bombed and burning Saint-Malo, and the sea reclaims its own. Human potential will be lost, a promising future obtained. What a book!

The book is much richer than the central characters and storyline. It is peopled with a host of other characters who are connected to Werner and Marie-Laure. It has themes within the central theme. Science lives in its pages, and books shine throughout. We become aware of the immense destructiveness of war; lives and cultures will be impacted for generations to come. We begin to understand our inability to control our own lives, and glimpse the amazing power of self-determination. As with the diamond in the book it is possible for great gifts and curses to exist at the same time. What is the light that we cannot see? I’m pretty sure that it is radio waves, microwaves, the heat from burning coal, and so many things that are obvious looking at an electromagnetic wave chart. “How does the brain, locked in darkness, build for us a world full of light?” Marie-Laure’s great-uncle asks in the book; the light we cannot see is also about souls, promises kept and lost, and the connections that bind us all together.

“Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.”

 

Hello Stash!

“Knit on, with confidence and hope, through all crises.” -Elizabeth Zimmerman

Almost two years ago today my life took a sudden, unplanned turn. I was a biology teacher, and there was almost nothing about my job that I didn’t love. The opportunities for creativity were endless. The kids were amazing. The expansion of knowledge and understandings within the field of biology are explosive and every year there was something new to learn about and teach. Technology made it possible for me to create unique and meaningful learning experiences for my students.  The hands-on activities and labs were endless. I loved, loved, loved my job. OK, grading papers was a little tough, the hours were endless, and teachers were taking a beating in the press, but I loved the job.  Actually, it wasn’t a job; for me it was a more like a calling.

The first day of fall break I received a phone call, rushed to an ER, and suddenly I was reminded that our lives are not entirely our own.

I retired.

Good-bye biology classroom. Hello yarn stash.

This is the yarn stash. All of the yarn in the drawers is sorted by type and color.
This is the yarn stash. All of the yarn in the drawers is sorted by type and color.
Yarn bins
Individual knitting projects are kitted up into these plastic bins.

It’s funny how things turn out. Crash landing into retirement is not for the faint of heart, but it can take you to the place where your heart is.  During the first few months of retirement I packed away the contents of my biology classroom and waded into the craft room of my house to clean out my stash. Let me tell you, this is a stash to be proud of. I had more yarn than some of the yarn shops I frequent. I’d been buying yarn for years and stashing it with plans for its use some day “when I retired”.  I also had acquired a spinning wheel, a loom (OK, I have three of those…), several quilt kits and some fleeces to spin from friends’ sheep. Then there were the books. Boy, do I have books. I love to read every day outside by the gardens. Yep, I have more than one garden bed, and they all have names.

loom in closet

Maybe I hadn’t planned for this turn in my life, but I was well prepared for the day when it arrived. While being consumed by the best job in the world I was stockpiling those other things that I love so that they would be there for me when I walked out of the classroom.

So this is me, evolving into a new life form. This blog will chronicle my adventures as I begin this new stage of my life with all of the fiber that I have stashed, the books that I already love and the ones that I will discover, and my struggles in the garden.  Hopefully the biology that I have loved for so long and taught to so many young people will also be a part of this new life.