Friday, April 30, 2010

Where do I Indulge in my Craft?

I carry a project with me most places, including church. I don’t always pull it out, but I like having it with me. I’ve been carting Argosy

around with me for about a month and a half, but I have not given it the attention it deserves. It is nice, when out with friends at a coffee shop, to be able to pull out some knitting. For one thing, this is a good diet aid. It’s hard to eat a sugary pastry while trying to not muck up one’s handwork. At home in the evenings, I’ve been working on the handquilted/embroidered project (“Julia”) as that is destined for the guild’s quilt show later this summer. Basically, Argosy has become my “traveling” handwork, while “Julia” has become my evening handwork.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Skills I Would Like to Acquire

There are several skills to which I aspire. I would like more experience with cabling. (Which is why I put in the patterns I mentioned on Tuesday.) I would also like to learn entrelac. This looks like a lot of fun and for someone as color-oriented as I am, this seems like a technique I would really enjoy. Also, there’s not a tremendous amount of counting involved. I pulled this picture off KnittyOtter's blog as an example.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

One Great Knitter

The question of the day is regarding a knitter who inspires one. Well, three knitters have been very helpful to me, and I would like to thank them here.

I have to give my kudos to Melody Johnson as a great knitter, in that she really opened my eyes to the fact that knitting had changed since I last paid attention to it in the ‘80s. She had some postings about modular knitting and others with simple patterns where she worked out complex colorways. Because of her, I began exploring the world of modern knitting, discovered Knitty, and Interweave Press, and so much else. Thank you, Melody!

If I had to pick a second great knitter, I would pick Stephanie Pearl McPhee, the Yarn Harlot. Her blog is funny and full of life, but her books are full of practical wisdom and have pushed me into greater competence.

Another author who has been immensely helpful is Margaret Radcliffe. Her Knitting Answers Book is at my side whenever I'm knitting because she explains the various cast-ons and bind-offs well, she shows you how to get unstuck when you're stuck, and she gives lots of practical advice for nearly every situation one might encounter.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Knit & Crochet Blog Week - Day 2

The question today is about a pattern or project to which I aspire.

I offered to make something for someone close to me. She said “afghan.” I showed her pictures of the Yggdrasil Afghan, and she started talking about color schemes. (We’re thinking celery green.) I will say that my initial reaction was “GULP!” As I look at this pattern, I see a project that will challenge me both in terms of skills and perseverance. I think that when (not if) I complete this, I will have accomplished something of which I can be very proud.

Another project I want to make for me is the Every Way Wrap, pictured here. It's the second from the left at the bottom of the page (in burnt orange). I started it last fall, but I was using a multicolored yarn, and all of those wonderful cables just did not show up.

I want to do a shout-out to the gal at Flying Pig Knits, whose blog alerted me to this week. She writes an amusing, self-deprecating blog that I find really fun to read.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Knit & Crochet Blog Week - Day 1

The question of the day for the K&C Blog Week is how did I get started into the world of fiber. Here is my answer:

I grew up surrounded by pretty lace doilies, elaborately embroidered table runners, warm quilts, and tatted lace handkerchiefs – all done by my grandmother, who died four years before I was born. I was utterly fascinated by all of these items and would study them, trying to figure out how they had been constructed.

My mother had a sturdy Kenmore sewing machine in a nice cabinet that could be used as extra table space when the machine was folded away. She would occasionally make garments for us, and when I was in the third grade, she started showing me the basics of sewing, including signing me up for a sewing class through 4-H. A couple of years later, she showed my sisters and me the basics of embroidery, and we all diligently practiced our embroidery stitches for a summer, completing some small doilies, I think.

On an autumn weekend in the sixth grade, my study of a crocheted doily led me to a piece of string and a bent paperclip. I figured out how to get slip knots in a row that looked like the knots on the doily. When I showed this to my parents, my father exclaimed, “You’re teaching yourself to crochet!” Neither of them knew how I would go about joining to form rows and the suggestion was to ask my teacher on Monday. At morning recess, I stayed behind for a minute and showed my teacher what I had done, at which point, she opened her desk drawer, pulled out her crocheting, and showed me the basic stitches. Then, she cut off a piece of yarn and suggested I use a pencil to practice with. My brother (a fifth grader at the time) got fascinated, and he got his own piece of yarn and began practicing as well. Then, someone showed us basic knitting stitches, and we went around with two pencils and the same pieces of yarn, practicing all the time.

At Christmas, we each got some acrylic yarn, real aluminum knitting needles (size 8, I believe), and crochet hooks (size J). We made ourselves scarves that winter and were very proud. I don’t believe my brother stayed with the yarn beyond that scarf. Throughout my teen years and into my twenties, I sewed the occasional piece of clothing and knitted and crocheted various items. Along the way, I discovered needlepoint and latchhooking and counted cross stitch and plastic canvas projects. I usually had at least one project going of some sort, but there were long stretches when I was not actively working on anything.

In my early 30s, my youngest sister took up painting, and she had a fairly successful craft show career going for several years. I worked with water colors and artists’ chalks and took a pottery class. During the years of my 20s and 30s, I read books about art and architecture, went to museums and art shows and absorbed a lot of color theory. I finally bought my own sewing machine in my early 30s and started making a lot of clothes for myself. In my mid-30s, about the time I got married (in a dress I made myself), I discovered quilts and quilting and made a promise to myself that the year I turned 40 I would make a quilt (and be done with that fascination, or so I thought). I actually took a beginner’s quilting class over a long weekend the autumn I was 38.

Three months before I turned 39, my brother died in a car crash. Soon after that, as my family was coping with this huge loss, my brother’s first wife (and the mother of his son) approached me about some sort of tangible memorial that we could collaborate on for my 5-year-old nephew. We made a picture quilt for him with background fabrics that shaded from black through dark blues into medium blues into light blues and into white. It was around this time that I finally finished crocheting a blanket I had started about six years earlier.

One quilt led to another and then another, and then I discovered my local quilt guild and joined it. I took classes, including one in fabric dyeing, and my self-study of color found expression in the mixing of dyes and the joys of experimentation. This was a chance to join my love of watercolors with my love of fiber.

As a guild member, I volunteered for various projects. When the guild needed a vice president for programs, I volunteered for that. I got to meet the various speakers who came to the guild, including Frieda Anderson, who carried her knitting with her wherever she went. The yarns she used looked yummy, and the process again looked intriguing. Frieda has a good friend named Melody Johnson. Frieda’s blog has a link to Melody’s blog. Melody is not only an art quilter, but she is a gardener, a painter, and a knitter. She has published patterns on her website. In my 40s, I found myself rediscovering the simple pleasures of knitting and purling.

Now, at 50, I have the following projects going in my life:

1. A quilted wallhanging on which I have done a lot of handquilting, some couching, and some fusing. I will probably add beads and some machine quilting before I finish. (For simplicity’s sake, I’ll call this piece “Julia” – the name of one portrayed.)

2. A pair of socks that still consists of two balls of yarn and a designated pattern.

3. Several wallhangings and a probable bed-sized quilt based on the Scraptastic work I’ve been doing

4. A flower quilt that is a collaborative project for the quilt guild (soon to be a raffle quilt)

5. A scarf I am knitting from the Argosy pattern

6. Some roving I’ve been slowly handspindling into yarn (slowly because I only seem to take it out about every two or three months)

7. Some summer dresses that at this point are yardages of fabric and designated patterns

8. A butterfly quilt that is in the fabric compilation stage

9. A galaxy quilt for which I have the fabric but still need to finish designing

There is another project on this list, but more about that tomorrow…

Friday, April 23, 2010

Knit & Crochet Blog Week

Next week, all of the postings (which I have already written!) will be in response to Knit & Crochet Blog Week. The questions were really interesting, and I hope the responses are, too!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

I'm Still Here!!

I am going to wrench the TV away from the NFL draft in a few minutes and claim it for "Project Runway." So, this will be a very quick post.

This past weekend, I pulled out the fabric paints and painted a canvas bag to use for schlepping my stuff (lunch, book, knitting, etc.) to and from work. I also used some of my Scraptastic pieces to really personalize it.

It has been so much fun lugging my stuff around in this bag this week.

This is the piece I made on Sunday. I like the look of several flowers, different sizes. I want to make more of these!! (This is about 20 inches by 35 inches)
This piece hangs over my cutting table, and it serves as both inspiration and reminder: (When I like a passage in a book, I pull out the watercolors and paint the words into a small poster. I have a few of these around.)

Finally, the Brat Cat was annoyed that I was in the sewing room, playing with a cat, and that she was not that cat. Here she is, looking peeved.
I plan to post something every day next week as part of a special blog around. See you then!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Scraptastic #2

When I posted the first Scraptastic pics a couple of weeks ago, I said that I had some ideas in mind about where to go. This is where I wanted to start. I keep looking at these, and I am not sure if I like them or not. I think I want to keep playing with this idea. The pieces below are 19" x 19". I am going to cut a larger background this weekend and put multiple flowers. What do YOU think about where this is going?

Trust me, these are reasonably square. The distortion comes from the angle of the camera.

In order to take these pictures, I had to move a certain someone whose nickname is "Baby Boy." When I got through taking the pictures, I put the cover back on the work and set him back on the cover. He wanted to cuddle.....

I said, "Okay...."

 Then, of course, I had to send a picture to Hubby Dearest for his entertainment.

Last evening, I finished reading Anne Tyler's "Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant" (1982). I spent about four days in this book, and I don't know whether I liked it. I am quite fond of her novels, but there was a character in the book who reminded me so strongly of someone in my life that it colored the way I read the book. The character, Cody, had such a warped understanding of his life and held such intense, unreasonable grudges that every time he came back on stage, my skin crawled. I kept wanting to shake him and say, "Please take about three steps back. Try to understand where everyone else is coming from." Of course, the tragic, fatal flaw in such characters is that they are incapable of doing so, and that flaw blinds them to the goodness around them, and it changes the way that other people in their lives relate to them. When people are trying very hard to not upset someone who flies off the handle at seemingly random times about even the most casual of remarks, it drains the energy of everyone around them.

On the list of the most influential books of my life is Ray Bradbury's "Dandelion Wine." In the introduction to the paperback version of the book, he talks about "going around back and coming up and looking at the world through someone else's eyes and saying, 'Oh! So THAT'S how you see it!'" That sentence is probably the single most important sentence I ever read. It has governed every relationship I've had, and every time I've messed up a relationship, it's because I lost sight of the truth of that sentence. I think that's why a character like Cody in Tyler's "Dinner" affects me so much - because he never encounters that idea, and great suffering results from that absence.

So, what books or sentences have affected YOU?

Friday, April 9, 2010

What I've Been Reading, #1

I just got through reading a really good book that I want to recommend. Now, I do not have any connection to the author, and I'll confess that I borrowed the book from a friend. It's just that this is one of those books where you want to go and grab everyone you know and say, "Read this book!!!"

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen is the story of a young man who ran off and joined a traveling circus during the Depression. He is a trained veterinarian and a sensitive, caring young man with a strong survival instinct. By the end of the first two chapters, the reader has been so deeply immersed in two very different worlds that s/he can practically smell what the narrator is smelling. The book carries the reader deep into the desperation felt by those on the edges of society during the Great Depression as well as the social problems faced by the elderly of our modern day. I kept stealing time for this book from other tasks because the worlds it describes were so fully fleshed out and compelling.

I have also just finished reading another very good book - although not as riveting as WFE. The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier is also a historical novel. It is about the creation of one of the masterworks of the late Middle Ages, a set of six tapestries woven, probably in Brussels in the 1490s. The story is told in a variety of voices, with each chapter being narrated by a different character (although some characters get two chapters, each at a different point in the story). I love books by this author, and I think the main reason is that she loves her characters, and she has clearly done her research so that the historical details ring true. This is a short book, and I was stunned at how quickly I sped through it. I kept going back and re-reading chapters, just to prolong the delicious experience.

Now, I promised actual craft content, so here is a shot of one of my current projects - a whole lot of handquilting. Those pink diamonds are maybe a third of an inch wide. The stitching is designed to "hammer" down the background of a quilt destined for my guild's show this summer.

Also, I HAVE to share this picture of the cutest guy in the house. (Hubby Dearest has long said he could get more respect if he dyed his hair orange....) This is our 15-year-old Big Guy who went missing for two weeks in mid-winter and came home down a quarter of his weight and with a little frostbite. He's as cuddly as he looks.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Triduum and Easter

This blog is about creativity and living fully. That's my excuse for today's posting. Today, I am offering some scenes from the Triduum and Easter as I lived them.

Holy Thursday:
It's the footwashing ritual, and people are standing in line all over the church (there are six footwashing stations set up). I am ferrying water from the basement for one of the stations in the back of the church. A man and his two young daughters (perhaps 3 and 4 years old) approach. The first little girl gets her foot washed, then she is guided in washing her father's foot, then her father washes the foot of the other little girl, then that little girl washes the foot of the college student who was next in line. Both little girls had incredibly serious faces on through this whole procedure, and every adult in the vicinity was wearing a goofy "awwwww" face.

We are in the lower chapel (a space that on Sundays seats 180 people for overflow liturgies). There are no chairs in the space, just a large tent-like structure in the middle of the room. The only lights are very subdued spots up near the ceiling (and aimed at the ceiling) as well as a few lit candles. The procession comes down from the upper chapel, bearing the Blessed Sacrament. When the procession crosses into the space, we all kneel and sing the "Tantum Ergo." It's an incredibly powerful time, hearing all of these voices chanting this centuries-old hymn. I want to try to capture this in a quilt - and I think I know how to proceed: triangles of purples, dark greens, and deep russet oranges punctuated by fragments of cream and buttery yellow.

Good Friday:
Somehow, in the midst of getting instructions from Hubby Dearest about where I was to go and when, I didn't actually look at the program of the service (nor did any of my three compatriots). So, there were two of us gals holding lit candles that weren't quite seated properly in their stands and two strong young men holding a cross on their shoulders through an entire section of the ritual all of us had forgotten about. Of course, I sway (all of the time - I am incapable of being still), and the candle I was holding . . .  well, it fell over onto my friend! I grabbed it back, and she didn't get burned; however, she had wax all down the front of her shirt and on her glasses (and, she told me the next morning, in her hair). One of the fellows standing nearby, after ascertaining that she was okay, ran her glasses to the basement for cleaning. I felt SO stupid and SO clumsy. Somewhere during my 50th apology on Saturday, she told me to knock it off; that she recognized an accident when it happened.

During the Veneration of the Cross, I was again struck by the power of being in a parish that draws in people from all over the country and all over the world. We see every skin tone and many styles of dress. We hear the liturgy sung and spoken in many accents and hear a wide variety of life experiences. The Venerations that people offer range from my two fingers on the cross and a bow to full prostration. When we got home that evening and heard what the goofus homilist had said at St. Peter's in Rome, I was again glad that I had had such a good experience locally.

Holy Saturday:
I had been informed that I was one of two co-coordinators. So, when we arrived at 10:30 a.m., I took the detailed order of service off by myself and started reading carefully, making notes, underlining, etc. We then proceeded to have two rehearsals (and these rehearsals followed a three-hour choir and band rehearsal). The first rehearsal was with the RCIA folks who would be receiving sacraments. Hubby Dearest was in charge, and halfway through the proceedings, I hollered, "By the way, I'm Liz. I'm married to [him], and I'll be helping out tonight." Oh, yeah, he had forgotten to make the introductions. He's so cute. The second rehearsal was with the priests, servers, and co-coordinators.

We co-coordinators had to know where every person (other than the choir, band, and readers) was supposed to be and what they were supposed to be doing so that we could keep things on track. If we are obsessing about details, then the rest of the assembly can relax into the flow of the liturgy. That was why, at one point in the afternoon, I was stepping through (and reciting aloud) the places where some of the communion ministers would need to go and stand; I played all four roles so that I knew them cold. Psychologists tell us that people have different learning styles. I have a strong kinesthetic bent. I have to experience something in order to know it. Hearing it doesn't do me much good; reading about it helps a lot; but doing it implants it for me. That evening, I used all three methods with the four ministers: I told them how the procedure would work, I demonstrated it for them, and then I made them step through it. They all did the procedure flawlessly in the liturgy itself.

Easter Sunday:
I was scheduled as a communion minister at the 8:30 (after getting home at 1:30). Okay. No big deal. I've been doing this schedule for Easter all of my adult life. Then, I found Hubby Dearest in the lower chapel. There was no usher scheduled for the 10:00 in that space. So, I became the usher. The space seats 180? We had over 300 people. When things started getting crowded, I made the following announcement: "We have a lot of parents with little kids and other folks who also have difficulty standing. If you can stand for an hour, would you please give up your seat?" Two dozen people popped up and ran to the outer edges of the room. It was a beautiful moment. The very best moment was just before the liturgy started, and a young mother carrying a small child and towing a toddler came rushing in, looked at the crowded space and almost burst into tears. I greeted her and said, "We have a seat for you." The look of total relief on her face was matched by the grins of the people standing nearby. They had played a role in this young mother's morning getting better.

Oh, the Easter dress? It wore beautifully! No tugging, no awkward fit, it just covered me and floated along, garnering compliments along the way. It's a little heavy, and a little warm. I might shorten the sleeves, and I definitely have to attend to the fraying, but all in all, a very good dress.

I promise actual craft stuff in the next posting.