Tuesday, February 23, 2010

One Look at the HGA COE

An inspiring look at Vila Cox's beautful samples toward the Handweavers' Guild of America Certificate of Excellence.

And her equally beautiful shop of handwovens.

I am stumbling slowly toward considering putting together an application. Very, very slowly. I recently joined a weavers' guild (my daughters find this very amusing, and it makes me feel somewhat medieval, as if next I will join the Guild of Those who Handcraft Armor). As part of that venture, I joined the study group working on samples for the Certificate of Excellence in Handweaving. (For you other overachievers, there is a COE for Handspinning and Dyeing. No Knitting, as far as I can tell.)

The primary motivation for our study group to finish our samples is the imminent approach of the next meeting. Last week, the three of us who attended all finished our samples about an hour before we got together. Well, it worked: guilt is a great motivator.

Right now, I'm clearly at the vitarka stage. I'm sampling toward sampling - trying to find the reference sources, try the technique, strive for something not completely ugly. That's why I was struck by Vila's blog. So beautiful.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Stranded Mittens

First, a breath of spring. Yesterday the air felt softer and the light more yellow and brighter. Spring is coming. And today I went from the car into the airport and then from the car into the store without my down jacket. Still, I'm enjoying knitting mittens:
I'm trying to riff on the Komi mittens in Charlene Schurch's Mostly Mittens. The yarn is Cascade Eco in grey and white. Atypical for me, I'm using stash and enjoying it. And I'm trying to just do a little of this pattern and that from the reticulated pattern section in Schurch's Sensational Knitted Socks. The overall pattern specs are from Ann Budd's The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns.

I blocked half the mitten before continuing; it felt very tight when I slipped it on for a test. Especially with the thick floats inside the mitten. But the yarn softens quite a bit, and even with the stranded colorwork, I was pleased to find that it fit so far. I'm getting a gauge of about 5 stitches to the inch, worked the ribbing over 32 stitches and then increased to 38 for the hand part of the mitten. FYI - I wear a size 7 1/2/glove.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

One-Pointed Focus

You hear this phrase quite often in the yoga world. One-pointed focus: meaning the experience of concentrating on one thing at a time.

As a result, tada drastuh svarupe avasthanam: and then the true self - the Seer, from drsti - to gaze - the purusa - that unchanging part of the self (versus prakrti - everything else, which is at the mercy of constant change - our bodies, our possessions, our emotions, the world around us) emerges.

There's no multi-tasking in yoga. And as a sign of how little one-pointed focus the mind has: as I wrote that sentence, I was thinking of the "there's no crying in baseball" line from A League of Of Their Own, and then about Madonna and Tom Hanks, and then realized that I was no longer thinking about yoga or focus or this post. Ah, the mind's ability to slip seamlessly from its current thought into memory and imagination and misperception.

So, we focus on our breath or our movement or a chant, which gives the mind the experience, at least briefly, to feel the experience of focusing on one thing. The more agitated our mind is, the more concrete the object of focus. For a child, physical movement. For someone with a more settled mind, perhaps a breathing technique, a more subtle and less tactile focus.

But the overall goal is to try to stick with that object. As you experience what it feels like to allow the mind to concentrate, you begin to sense - very gradually and,generally, in a very subtle way - what it feels like to allow the mind to rest, to engage with its object of focus, to move toward samadhi: that sense that you are so engaged in what you're doing that you feel connected - as when you are reading a good book, and you don't hear what your parent asked you because you're so immersed in what you're reading. (Or substitute your childhood memory here.)

This is the long way around for me trying to re-discipline myself to do my pranayama practice every morning. Because it makes a huge, giant difference in how I feel going into the day. Especially compared to not doing it and then spending time checking email and blogs and Ravelry.

...And I'm trying to downsize the number of projects that I'm working on, which is also a challenge. (Yoga aids you in recognizing yourself - as though you are looking in a mirror. And it helps "clean" that foggy mirror. But it doesn't make the behavior go away on its own. To which I say, nuts (see Rex Stout and Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin for that one.)  Recently I volunteered to teach weaving and spinning at a local history museum. I have always sworn that I would not learn to spin, don't need one more craft to distract me. But they're going to teach me! For free! I fear the results.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


If you, like me, have the amazing sound of k.d.laing singing Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah going round and round in your head (it's a wonderful thing, but amazingly persistent), you can download the version from the opening ceremony of the Olympics on ITunes. For $1.29. Definitely worth it.

I played it before students came in to class this morning, at full volume, then again during Savasana, more quietly, and it was truly beautiful, in that way that gives you goosebumps.

(Here's a link to an earlier version. Still beautiful.)

Colorwashing the Kitchen

Continuing the obsession, or shall we call it fascination and be kind, with color. It would be a good idea to finish one of these projects before embarking on the next. (I am almost done with the liner for my second Fiddlehead mitten, so there is some progress toward completion there. Especially with The Amazing Race kicking off tonight...)

Anyway, today's post illustrates my experiments with colorwashing. The inspiration for colors is the notecard in the next photo, laying on top of Benjamin Moore's Color Samples brochure. I love these little jars of paint. For $3.99, you can try a gazillion colors. (Well, five at this count, and I do need to focus.)

I'm looking for a  warm, yellow-orange on the walls, and from admiring Kristin Nicholas' blog and the tiny glimpses of her painted walls in her books and blog, am trying for a similar worn-in but glowy kind of color.

So far, the main candidates are Benjamin Moore Semolina (the upper swatch in the next photo) with Sweet Butter ( the second swatch.) This is the wall behind the refrigerator, where my experiments have been sequestered while the rest of the room gets a coat of paint on ceiling and soffits. I have until next weekend to figure this out.
Last, we have my first effort. I mixed a concoction of three parts glaze, one part water, and one part paint in each color. I brushed on long, diagonal strips of each, then worked the colors together with a plain solution of just the glaze. Color, yes, close to what I'm looking for. Technique, sadly wanting. Lots of brush strokes and unevenness in the flow of the colors. My neighbor asked if I was going to paint a green vine on it, and I thought, no Olive Garden in my kitchen.
Tomorrow, my plan is to prime and then do a base coat of the Sweet Butter or Yellow Lotus (Ben.Moore's dead ringer for my favorite yellow, Ralph Lauren Homestead Yellow), then use cheesecloth to work with the colors to try to get more of an effect of softly-edged, subtle shifts in tone.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


I've somehow been hit by some spam in the comments. Please ignore these links until I figure out how to remove them...

Affordable Color

Hand-dyed warp inspired by this painting: The Poet's Garden by Van Gogh. I bought a postcard of the painting last week in the shop at the Art Institute of Chicago, where entry is free all of February. A great deal and a great opportunity to surround yourself with color and light.
The warp is an unmercerized 8/2 cotton which I had on hand. The dye is Procion MX and the method is hand-painting cellulose fibers from Teach Yourself VISUALLY Hand-Dyeing by Barbara Parry. I mixed stock solutions of Lemon Yellow, Fuchsia and Turquoise (3 Tsp. to 8 oz. of urea water - okay, the urea is there to keep the fibers wet enough to absorb the dye), then mixed several colors by eye (also using some Black) to match the greens and yellows in my postcard of the painting. It's surprising what a difference just a drop of the red or blue can make when added to the yellow.
The warp is intended for a sample of lace weaves for a study group of my weavers' guild. We are working on samples toward the Handweavers Guild of America Certificate of Excellence. The final samples should probably be neutral colors, but for this test - and given my current need to be surrounded by color - I decided to flaunt tradition and play with dyeing while I test the lace weaves out. And below, one of a pair of my new $6 lamps from the Salvation Army:
And a detail. Very Leda and the Swan, without Leda.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Color Continued

Two book recommendations full of color for the dead of winter.

Paint Style by Lesley Riva. This book references Benjamin Moore colors, so if you like the effect, you can easily duplicate it - good for the color challenged. Effects from very subtle tone-on-tone stenciling to full-on graphic walls in deep, modern colors.

And Color by Kristin by Kristin Nicholas. Her eye for color is inimitable: you can just visually soak in the combinations that she puts together. Again, many specific color suggestions to emulate in projects that are doable but gorgeous.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Blankie of Sweaters

I spent three hours yesterday afternoon, cutting apart two sweaters from the Salvation Army (total cost $4) and sewing them back together as patchwork blocks. This delighted me, and I'm still pondering what, exactly, gave me such enjoyment. The cost? The re-use of discarded materials? The speed with which something turned into something else - instant gratification, compared to knitting or weaving a blanket.
I think my favorite part was just moving ahead: no pattern, no pinning, no instructions. I cut the sleeves and ribbing and neckline off. Then, I cut the front of the blue sweater into strips, then sub-divided those into rectangular blocks. All by eye; no stopping to measure or even things out, beyond cutting off the stray, stand-out sloppy edge. I sewed a blue piece to a gray, then alternated colors, with four blocks per row. I built rows until I ran out of sweater.
I did break down and iron the seams, before sewing the strips together. Then I very lightly felted it in the washing machine; this may turn into a baby blanket, and I wanted to see what would happen if I washed it.
I haven't figured out the borders yet. And I did block the blanket after washing it, so it looks much more even than in the first photo. (Even instant gratification finds some obsessive detailing creeping in....) But so far, very satisfying.
Which is a good thing, because today continued the theme of things not found. Went to lunch at a cafe nearby, only to get there as they closed. Drove down to the Goodwill store for more sweaters; but it's actually a Salvation Army and was closed for Sunday. Then to Home Depot for Ralph Lauren paint, which they no longer carry. Amazing.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010


I'm trying to heed the message that the universe is sending me: to let go.

My 8:30 am student didn't show for her appointment. While waiting for her, I started work on a sock. I leaned across the sofa to get something, put my hand down, and snapped the wooden needle off the cord. Then, I stopped at the knitting store specifically to use up the last $8 of my gift certificate. No gift certificate. I left the package of copies for my teacher at the knitting store. Luckily, I remembered when I was half a block away. I went back, which meant that when I was halfway to the yoga studio, it was too late to go back to the car for my yoga pants, which meant that I had to teach in my jeans.

I could go on and on. About my notebook from teacher training, which is missing. The car keys I could not find on Sunday, which were in the back seat of the other car. There is more, but right now, I can't recall the details.

Enough. I get it. Don't expect to hold onto things, especially the things that you really want at that moment. So the class I taught was all about exhaling, trying to find some release in a pose, spending Savasana with legs on a chair and arms wide open, to tell the system to just relax. This afternoon, I'm sitting and knitting, trying to finish my new pair of Fiddlehead mittens. Remember, I lost one of them a few weeks ago.