Friday, September 29, 2006

More Undertones

Weaving has its own color lessons, some hard-learned.

I have had this warp on the loom:

red warp

for curtains. Much red, and the combination of reds I used gave a little too *orange* a reading, for the intended use.

What to do? The weft:

red warp2

Weft choice may change the whole color reading of a fabric, for better or worse, and it is always wise to put on a few extra inches to test out several weft colors. In this case, I chose a wine red 8/2 cotton weft to tone down the reds in the warp, and tie all of the other colors together. The fabric is finished now, woven, washed, and ready to make into the curtains, soon!, but not today (more dyeing fun is on tap).

And in the undertones of life category, or it's a small world part #675:

My son Jesse called me this morning. On his way to work he heard Tracy Ullman interviewed on NPR, about her new knitting book. He thought I'd like to hear it, so I clicked on the player and listened. It is cute, has a little humor for everyone, including the ever-fearsome danger of losing ones needles to airport security. But in the small world department, the piece is put together by regular morning show host and commentator Renee Montagne.

When I was first learning to weave, Renee was a friend of a friend, working for Pacific News Service in SF. Our friend Roger introduced us, and for some un-remembered reason one evening we went to Renee's apartment, down a long dark alleyway, to brightly painted rooms.

Renee had a loom she needed to get out of her space, and I was learning to weave. We agreed to store it in our downstairs room. I can see it still: a four harness jack loom, stained a dark walnut. Renee told me I could weave on it, warped as it was with white wool yarn, but I was too intimidated; I only fondled. I later wished I had offered to buy the loom, but I didn't. Young, married and pregnant, we were planning a move, and didn't think we could take it along.

Renee left San Francisco soon after that, as did we. I think of that loom whenever I hear her voice on NPR, which has been often over the years, and wonder if she ever got back to weaving.

And the kicker, so to speak? While that loom was in my basement 30 years ago, I was pregnant with that very son who called this morning. His life has been connected to my weaving all along, for better or worse. When he hears of knitting, or sheep or weaving, he thinks of me.

Lovely circuitous world, sometimes, eh?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Beware the Undertones

The same blue, the same formulas, a different orange in each mix:


It does make a difference. The undertones range from browns to greens to greys, depending on the orange in the mix.

I have been dyeing, dyeing, dyeing for days. More yet to come, but the end is near. These samples are for Book 2 of a collaborative work with Deb. As soon as I finish these, I'm back to dyeing another round for Book 1, sold out, but coming soon! to a website near you: Color By Number

Edited to add comments to comments (oops, I forgot):
Last week Beryl said...
You make it all sound so idyllic -- and, of course, in your case it is:-). I, on the other hand, have spent my recent days cursing loom problems and floats that appeared too far down the piece to correct.

Ah, yes! the simple, in that Simple Pleasures title is the plain weave that I do, versus the very complicated structure weaves possible on complex looms, like my friend Beryl does. Me? not so much with the complex, I'm more the inkle, the plain weave and the knotted pile kind of weaver. Which just goes to show that there are a multitude of possibilities with all the simple pleasures I mentioned: one can knit stockinette, or lace, traveling stitches or cables. One can spin plain vanilla wool yarn, or wash wool, hand comb, spin worsted, count twists and ply up a cable yarn. One can *just dye* or one can measure and weigh. It seems to me each person can find what they want, these craft pursuits can be all things to all people.

And Cindy said:
I want to weave a silk ribbon on my inkle loom. I would love to know about how you plan to do it. Are you spinning a silk from a mawata silk cap?

No, I'm not spinning from mawata. I want a smooth yarn, which closely approximates a reeled yarn. I spin from top or bricks, mostly Bombyx, but occasionally tussah, with a tight twist and ply. See the Summer 2001 SpinOff, I think back issues are still available.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Amazingly Simple Pleasures

dyeing2 Sept 2006

Sometimes I just have to sit back and be grateful for the pleasures of spinning, dyeing, knitting and weaving. These activities are calming and centering, even while they are engrossing and all-consuming of time, money and thought.

Coming home from a trip, the first thing I want to do is spin. I can sit and plan, recover and ruminate, and bring the tempo of my life back to the present from the far flung.

My life here is of a different pace than the world seems to be. Slower yes, but also more deliberate, less distracted. There are not constant sounds, lights and movement at home. While on the road, or even in my little local town, away from home, the busy-ness of the world can overwhelm. Multi-tasking has a place in the world, and I am capable of ramping up the energy to participate in it. But I prefer the slow, quiet, deliberate rate of activity of my own world, even if only for a small part of each day.

The time frame of accomplishment in spinning, knitting and weaving is measured in small increments, in baby steps. This is very likely part of the attraction that knitting has had in recent years: an antidote to the scurrying rate of the modern world. We hear of high touch versus high tech, and that may indeed be a part of it, but how much is related to actual heart rate, and the idea that we can work at a pace that is in tune with our own breath.

Spinning is the obvious anti-modern-speed component of my activities. It is a process oriented craft: if the process is not one that appeals, the time spent is just another irritant in the world. But when the process is the pleasure, the yarn piles up, almost unbidden.

I have stepped down the pace of my weaving over the last few years, working less at the floor loom banging out fabric, and more at the upright loom, spending hour after hour tying knot after knot. I have always enjoyed the warping process, the step by step threading of reed and heddles, and now, the effort of winding a circuitous and continuous warp on the upright loom, tying the threads one by one to the heddle string, and stretching each strand across the warp as I tighten the tension.

A well-warped loom is a pleasure to look at, satisfaction and anticipation all rolled into one. It seems like the first step, but many decisions have narrowed the choices to a set of threads, a series of threaded heddles, prior to the actual winding of the warp.

warp Sept 2006

I set up three warps this week, each on a different scale; curtains in cotton threads on the floor loom, knotted pile in wool, and a handspun silk ribbon on the inkle loom. As I finished preparing each warp, I have moved on to the next, wanting to get all of the projects underway on their respective looms, their plans and thoughts out of my head and into the world. The weaving will be starting soon too, each at its own pace: the floor loom for energetic activity, the knotted pile for more contemplative work, and the silk ribbon for tactile pleasure and rhythm. Evenings are for knitting, sometimes just a row or two when, as now, the rows are long or need focus. In my usual schedule, dyeing runs in spurts, and right now I am dyeing every day.

Whether through grace or good fortune, or as the result of hard work and effort, spinning, dyeing, knitting and weaving fill my days at home. I can focus on the task at hand, the pace is my own, the work is a pleasure. There is no need to call on patience, no virtue of mine anyway, because this is what I want to be doing.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Tied to the Dyepots

Kate asked for an inside picture of the yurt. I gasped, it is in such a state that I could not, in good conscience, have a photo taken. Yikes, time to clear out and clean up, after several whirlwind project messes. Then I remembered these photos, taken when the yurt was first built, and not all the boxes were unpacked. These are scans of photographs, the quality is not that good, but you get an impression of what the inside looks like. First the outside:

Pacific Yurts, 24' diameter, and yes, red. There are lots of other colors available, most people probably get a green or brown one to blend in with their surroundings.

I've mentioned the yurt as a perfect studio to some people lately too, so I'm hoping these don't scare Adam, Shelia. Or if they do, they scare him into building a studio over your garage.

The inside:

yurt2 (2)
to the right of the door, one of the worktables, bead stuff, and the upright rug loom.

yurt3 (2)
the back of the yurt, opposite the door. The end of another table, yarn, another upright loom, and my floor inkle loom.

I realize I don't have a picture of the south side, where the floor loom, more shelves and my spinning wheel reside. You'll have to imagine it though, as nothing on this green earth could get me to take a photo of it now. In its present state, the clutter on the floor serves as a deterrent to any intruders. Trapped in fluff, they would be.

I'm tied to dyepots, stirring, and checking, rotating and refilling, so I am spending time on the backporch dyespace, not in the studio. But I can look at these pictures, imagine being there, imagine all the clutter cleared away, and room to work again. Someday. Soon.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Moving On

Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau, Alaska, August 2006

The rest of the cruise involved ports of call in Alaska and British Columbia, tours to glaciers, salmon ladders, totem pole museums, and train rides to mountain tops. We had much sunny weather, to the surprise of the locals, who said the summer had been unending grey skies and rain.

We did have one variation from the posted schedule: instead of touring the glaciers at Tracy Arm, we were able to go into Glacier Bay. Several rangers and a naturalist from the National Park Service came on board, and guided us through the bay all day with commentary on what we were seeing. The glaciers were fabulous, even though we saw no major calving. It was sunny and brisk, unexpectedly clear weather, perfect for viewing on the top deck.

russell island
Russell Island, Glacier Bay, August 2006

In Glacier Bay is large island named Russell Island. Sue, whose great-grandfather was a geologist named Israel Cook Russell, asked the rangers if the island was named after him. They looked it up, and indeed, it was: Israel Cook Russell had explored the bay, when it was much smaller (before the glaciers had melted back so far) during the late 1800's. Sue's Great-grandfather was a geology professor at Ann Arbor, one of the founders of the National Geographic Society, a contemporary and friend of John Muir, who also explored the bay at about the same time.

Once we were underway home, knitting classes began again. Joan S. had a Tips and Techniques class, from which this sample emerged:

joan's tips

This is several button hole variations, and some invisible wrapped short rows, making a nice sleeve cap, eh?

In the afternoon, Joan S. taught a CPR class for knitters: how to fix mistakes. Well, *I* had one:

boundary waters1

This is the center section of Boundary Waters, and there was a mistake in one quarter-section of the lace. Joan slipped the whole thing on Nancy's Try-it-on-Tubing, which allowed us to spread out the lace and find the error. Then Joan isolated the area, dropped the stitches down past the mistake, and put the live stitches on a needle. She then knit back and forth in that area, until the stitches were brought back up to level with the rest. Or rather, Joan started knitting back and forth, then handed the whole pile to me. Me? Well, not so good with the back and forth, I eventually pulled back several rows and re-knit. But! I knit enough to learn the process, and successfully used the technique later, on a smaller area which needed to be fixed.

But the Try-it-on-Tubing allowed me to see the size of the lace shawl: not big enough. I was on row 70 in the photo above, of 170. It measured 11" and I had not even used one ball, of 12 balls of yarn. This would make a shawl of 45" square or thereabouts. Too small, to my thinking. Such is my new confidence with lace that I decided to alter the pattern, and add a few more rounds of this simple pattern, before beginning the next section.

Here is a close-up of the tubing on my needles, allowing me to stretch out the knitting:

try-it-on tubing

It fits snugly over the tip, at both ends, and then the knitting can be stretched out, either to try on (as in sweaters) or to see the lace progress, as I've use it here.

Today I stretched it out on the tubing again:

boundary waters2

and have 15 inches of this section complete, into the second ball of yarn. I will move on to the next pattern section, which I also plan to increase, so that the finished shawl will be at least 60" square.

You all must know where this is headed? I'll have a shawl that is 90" square. A blanket. But fun to knit! and fun to think, at least for now, that I can fix errors, make the design changes I want to make a bigger shawl, and move on.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Birthday Suit

birthday suit3

By the second day at sea, Sue and I had our morning routine down: wake up between 5:30 and 6:00, stare out the window for a while at the sea going by, call for a room service pot of tea, and start knitting and laughing. Eventually, Nancy (next door) would hear us, and bring her knitting in, and order up a pot of coffee. Adriana would sleep in, or take her shower and get dressed, and then join us, and we'd knit and sip and laugh until we had to (!) get dressed and ready for breakfast.

So I had no inkling of conspiracy when all began as usual on Saturday. It was my birthday. I told my friends, of course, but not the travel agent or the cruise lines, because who really needs to have a shipload of strangers sing happy birthday, and wave balloons, and generally celebrate a personal event?

Anyway, Nancy came in to knit, with Adriana, and we ordered coffee. Nancy had a bag with her. She had been plotting, and had many people involved.

First, she had been secretly making this silk jacket for me (above), for several weeks. It is machine knitted and dyed, then reknitted, loosely based on a Sewing Workshop pattern: the Plaza Jacket. Nancy left off the small sleeves, and added some trim between the pieces, and hems and facings of knitted fabric. Here's the back:

birthday suit

As you can guess, the photos were taken here at home, having no good pictures of it at sea. Well, we do have the picture of me unwrapping and wearing it in bed, but, sheesh, I'd need lots of incentive to post that here!

The funny part? Nancy gave me her notes on how she made the jacket:

nancy's notes (2)

Now if you think you need to make a jacket just like mine, these notes contain dye formulas and samples, dimensions and knitting instructions, all on one page, sorta, kinda organized in no particular order. Just to be helpful: some of the notes say things like "e wrap on, add black band after", and "568 rows, trim 20 rows #3, sleeve opening 75 sts, facing 20 rows" and the like. All somewhat Greek-ish to the uninitiated (me). But (and you knew there would be a *but*) there is hope: You can learn all about what she does because Nancy has an article just published in the Fall SpinOff on her knit-dye-reknit techniques. She's even on the cover (well, her felted bag is, that is), yay!

A better picture of my birthday jacket is up on Nancy's redesigned new website. Noodle around a bit, there are things to see, classes, and shopping opportunities. You'll also find out she and Deb will have a vendor booth at SOAR this year at Tahoe.

Nancy also had enlisted friends to send cards, some included gifts:

birthday haul

People, people, people, how did you keep this a surprise? I've talked to many of you in the weeks leading up to the cruise, and not a peep from any of you. You are all good, and it was great fun to open all of the cards and gifts, thank you!

Nancy, Sue and Adriana made my birthday fun and very special. Thanks to all of you who sent cards, and gifts: you have to know I cried. The rest of the day was spent in knitting classes, and some spinning time in the fresh sea air. The Joans had planned a cocktail party that evening for the knitters, and they all wished me a Happy Birthday in song, so I was well and truly feted.

Only one question remains: how did Nancy know I would like the jacket's colors? :-)

Friday, September 08, 2006

At Sea, With Knitting

Our first full day on board was at sea, motoring up toward Juneau. Two knitting classes were scheduled that day, Joan in the morning and Joan in the afternoon. It was easy to remember the teacher's name(s).

Joan S. started us off with Orenburg shawls. Yippee! Heading for Alaska, there were bound to be examples for sale in the formerly Russian oriented coastal towns. Now we would know what we were looking at, and how they are constructed.

Joan S Teaching (2)

This photo shows Joan S. hard at work, hieroglyphs on the flip chart, microphone in hand. What I also like about this photo is that it is clear we are having our class in a bar: see all the bottles? Behind a cage??? That's right, they must have known we were coming, they locked up the booze. Also barely showing in the photo above is the head of a big brass tiger, after which the bar was named: the Bengal Lounge. More about the tiger later.

I did ask, Marcy and Claudia, if they had my favorite single malt (Laphroiag) but no, they did not. No reason to drink then, so we got back to knitting.

Here is a shot of several samples from the class:

joan's class1

Notice how people tried out lace designs, did neat, even knitting, and were adventurous? Me? Not so much:

joan's orenburg

Astute knitters will note a few, um, mistakes design features in my sample. We start knitting at the bottom edging, sideways, and then do two mitered corners. So far, so good. Then we pick up stitches and knit up the body of the shawl, both side edgings included. There are a few anomalies here, such as edging blips that expand, and oops! a few extra stitches in the center which show up and then disappear, or not, and no, no single malt was involved. At the end of the central area, the final edging is knitted sideways, mitering corners and attaching the edging as it is knit. You might notice the lower edging on my sample has two bumps, the upper edging has three. That would be non-standard. I'm happy to have learned the whole process, though, and wouldn't this make a nice washcloth in linen?

We broke for lunch (never miss a meal) and then Joan M-M taught us toe-up socks. Sue and I combined ours and made a little pair of booties, showing all of the toe-up techniques:


Sue's is the neat and tidy one, mine is the big and floppy one. We knew they were not the same size, but figured a baby wouldn't care, or maybe we'd get lucky and find a baby with two different sized feet. We decided to dye and felt them, first the dyeing:

cruise socks

I am so predictable with the color, eh Nancy? Then I ran a place ribbon in the eyelets to hold them open, stuffed them with plastic bags and tossed them in with a load of washing (the plastic bag stuffing was a waste, but I did get two very clean plastic bags out of the wash).

The ribbon was replaced by a longer one and booties occurred:


Long time readers may recognize the ribbon from the sachets in this post. I am, as has been noted, predictable.

I liked the toe-upness of the socks, and plan to try a pair soon, so I won't forget. I have some dyed sock yarn from Nancy's dye class last January, which might just look cool toed-up, so to speak.

The day ended with wine, knitting, dinner and rocking gently to sleep at sea. We had more classes to look forward to the next day, and of course, more food to eat.

I leave you with my favorite trip photo so far:

Glacier Bay (2)

Glacier Bay, taken by Adriana (out of sequence, I know). Yes, we had great weather. The brass tiger? A story for another day.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

If Yarn Floats Your Boat,

then you should have joined us on this trip. Yep. Knitters knitting northward, for ten days, to Alaska. We brought on board lots of yarn, then we did ourselves proud, buying up yarn in Alaska and Canada. We had enough among us to, yes, float a small boat.

I blame Joan Schrouder. When she came to teach a class here last February, she mentioned the cruise. It was full. Did that daunt us? No. We decided we'd take the trip, even if there was no room in the knitting classes, and be stalkers. We would follow that woman anywhere. She is a knitting Goddess. The *other Joan* was delightful too, and we enjoyed meeting her. But Joan-the-Goddess, talented, kind, even tempered knitting guru that she is, was our personal siren on this trip. We signed up to be Knitting Stalkers (I don't really think the travel agent got it. We might have sounded a bit scary. Stalkers, on a cruise).

What could be more fun? We imagined peeking around columns, sneaking up on unsuspecting knitters and (gasp!) sitting with them and knitting.

Alas, it was not to be. Openings occurred, we were signed up. Classes were chosen, materials were purchased, appropriate clothing was contemplated.

Therein lies the rub. Clothing? What does one take? Alaska? Weather reports had predicted rain, and temps about 60ยบ F. The cruise line mentioned Formal Dinners. We knew *comfortable* was in order, beyond that: ??? So I called the cruise line. I asked about luggage limits, weight limits, carry-on procedures, all the necessary information to make good decisions.

The answer? Anything goes. No weight limits, carry anything you like, check as many bags as you like, even the very unhelpful information that one woman had once brought eleven, yes 11, bags to check in.

Carte Blanche.

Here is what 4 women packed to spend 10 days on a ship, with shore excursions:


You will see 3 spinning wheels in there (Lendrums, folded up and packed in their carry bags), several suitcases each, and hand carry bags. We packed shamelessly.

We (that is the local we: Sue and I), planned to drive to the East Bay to meet up with Nancy and Adrianna, the non-local pair of our small group of four. Then we would be dropped off at the BART station, and take BART to Alaska (by way of the Embarcadero, and a brief walk to the pier).

Hmmm. Look closely at the pile of luggage. Clearly, this would not work.

Car service! We called and requested a Town car. They noted *four women, cruise* and laughed. They sent this:


We laughed. Then we loaded up, and sure enough, hardly enough room. We had luggage hanging out of the trunk, wheels in the back seat, suitcases in the front seat with the driver, and us inside, on the side seat:


We laughed (there was much laughing). Then. We disembarked, so to speak, and a porter whisked it all (almost) away, while we checked in and boarded, carrying knitting bags and our wheels.

Other knitters were boarding too, and they recognized us as knitters. How could this be? We looked so normal . Ahem.

We were stamped and cruise-carded, and photographed (security) and sanitized, then let loose to find our staterooms (hah! to find our cubbies). We were in adjoining staterooms, thanks to Nancy's forethought in requesting them, otherwise we might never have crossed paths again. The first day, the first trip around the ship, was boggling. But Nancy had cruised before, so she was able to shepherd the rest of us to the buffet.

Ah, food. We ate lunch, still in port, at the dock in San Francisco. Then we repaired to the upper decks, to watch the launch and trip through the bay, toward the Golden Gate:


And under:


I've been under before (on fishing trips) but it never seemed so close, nor have I been on so stable and calm a vessel. It was way fun, exhilarating, and a grand adventure began.

We explored the ship (there are maps everywhere, otherwise we might have been lost forever in a maze of decks and stairways), got our sea legs working, and found a few knitters here and there among the 1500 other passengers.

We finally went to our cubbies, prepared to settle in, unpack and break out the wine. That's all we had to do until dinner time (food looms large on these trips), and thank the gods we had knitting and spinning with us. The alternative is the casino, adult-day-camp games (very odd), onboard shopping, various bars and drinking establishments, and the ever available, eternal: eating.

Nancy found this very unhelpful factoid while we were out at sea: the ship has planned and provided 340 pounds of butter per day at sea. 340 pounds, for ten days. That's over a ton of butter alone. I think I ate my share, certainly, and a membership to Curves is in my immediate future.

More later, as the days progress. We have knitting classes and shore excursions, photos and tales to come. But right now? It's breakfast time. I can't (for the love of all that is holy) miss a meal.