Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Not Warp Speed

I'm not sure where the term "warp speed" -- as in extremely fast, so Star Trek-fast that you zip from one universe to the next in less time than it takes to type this, less time, in probability, than it takes to blink your eyes. Because warping a loom is a slow, deliberate process. About as far away as you can get from thos satisfying traverses across millions of miles of space and time in a fictional warp speed. (Caveat: there may be a real science principle at work here. but I majored in English.) This, then, is my 4-harness Schacht loom, which I bought with money from returned wedding presents, 33 years ago, in the process of being warped.

Here are some of the 400 threads, being individually threaded through the heddles (a long rectangular strip of metal with an eye in the center for threading).

This is a page from Marguerite Davison's Handweaver's Pattern Book. Published in the fifties, I think, it's a recipe book of old weaving drafts, or patterns, for 4-harness loom. I using the Finnish Twill pattern. I've used this one before for towels and napkins and I like it (despite having no Finnish heritage).

And more slow: jigsaw puzzle.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Tired Knitting

Today we had several tired knitters in the shop. Familiar tales of slogging through unhappy projects or trying to winnow down to less on the needle. General knitting malaise.

Except for the customer knitting a dragon scarf for her husband. He was very clear about the yarn selection. Something shiny, like dragon scales.

Even though I don't have a dragon scarf to knit (though I suppose that I could), I decided to focus in on finishing an old Fair Isle cardigan. From a Debbie Bliss magazine maybe two years ago.

One sleeve almost done. Another to finish. Then pesky finishing details. But I do want to knit this, which is a change in a good direction.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013


My first swatch for the fair isle vest.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Designing a Fair Isle Vest

I've started designing a Fair Isle vest for my husband. This is one of the only things that he has ever asked me to knit.

And I've been working on it, but in a round-about way, slowly moving toward the goal. I've knit Komi mittens from Mostly Mittens. I've modified the Komi patterns to accomadate a much warmer, thicker yarn. I've knit and taught my colorwork cowl pattern (see a post below). And this fall, I led a knitalong with a project of a steeked, stranded colorwork vest modified from Fyne from Rowan.

As you see, I try to learn the new skill, and then modify/wrangle it into a slightly different size or yarn or method. I've been trying to keep track of these riffs by making notes on my Ravelry project page. Unfortunately, I have a very bad track record of losing mittens and hats before I write the changes down. And on a more positive note, I've taken lately to giving away things that friends or family admire. (You like this cowl? Here, it's yours. Very fun.)

For this vest, I'm using a photo of a Ralph Lauren vest that my husband admired a few years ago. Luckily, it was still in my knitting files on the computer. The picture provides color choices and an idea of the balance between peeries (small designs) and motifs (larger, more complicated patterns, usually not television-watching-while-knitting friendly).

The yarn is Rowan Felted Tweed DK. This is the only DK-weight yarn that we sell at the shop that has the range of colors needed for Fair Isle. And even with, hmm, 28 shades, there are still holes that a traditional company like Jamieson and Smith, which has at least 100-150 different colors of yarn in a fingering weight, would offer. (I just noticed that we don't have Mineral: a bright yellow.)

Phase 1 of this project was teaming up with a friend who also is knitting a Fair Isle vest for her husband. Hers, which will be natural colors of amazing yarn from Long Island Livestock, will be very different from mine.

Phase 2, which is my project for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (non-stop knitting, movies, and a fire) is swatching to try to figure out the charts and colors that I'll be using.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Virtual Cookie Exchange

For this year, or maybe next:
the Splendid Table's Virtual Cookie Exchange.

My contribution: Scotch Shortbread, from my mother-in-law's Scottish neighbor, Peggy Sellers.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Mix together 3 cups flour, 2 cups cornstarch, 1 heaping cup confectioner's sugar. Add 1 lb. butter, softened and cut into pieces. Work dough with hands until it begins to come together. Press into a jelly roll pan. Pinch edges. Prick dough evenly with a fork. Bake about 30 minutes. Remove from oven. Cut into squares, Return pan to oven and lower temperature to 300 degrees. Bake another 15-20 minutes, covering pan, if needed, with foil so that the cookies don't burn. Remove from oven and cool in pan.

Yield: about 30 cookies, which keep well for at least a week in a covered container.

Enjoy with tea and a jigsaw puzzle or a friendly game of Uno.


Color work cowl in Swans Island Ecowash Organic DK weight. Cayenne. Graphite.
Stranded color work is so reassuring. Charts. Repeats. Concrete progress and rounds ticked off. Time measured not with a teaspoon but with each completing of a symmetrical, mirrored, rhythmic movement simultaneously sideways and upwards.
Always moving. Yet still. Controllable. Controlled. The future known. Anticipated. Clear beginning. Definitively complete and completed.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


Practicing a crocheted steek on a debbie bliss sweater started two years ago. It is a lovely way to stabilize the stitches. I am learning so much from Mary Jane Mucklestone's class in the Fair Isle Vest on Craftsy. And I am prepping to lead a Fair Isle knitalong at the yarn shop.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Summer a comin

The ice cream truck playings its tinny come-hither tune.
Cherries. Grapes.
A garden with the possibilities of a salad of thinnings of arugala and mesclun and nasturtium.
Maybe I can sit still for a moment to notice.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Crochet Motif

Perseverance. My first crochet motif.

(From the pattern I'm not usually in a limo by Maria Kreays. Inspired by a scarf worn by Rory Gilmore.)

Knitting is linear. Crochet is so much more 3-d. At the same time that you try to figure out which tiny stitch is the next, you are also winging it and finding your own way through the maze.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

99 points on the wall

Take that! Just got 99 pts in Words with Friends for the simple word "jars." J on triple letter, s on triple word. Ah, simplicity.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Being yourself

I've come across 2 references in the last day that urge self-acceptance. Be who you are. Don't try to change.

Such an interesting concept. One reference was in a meditation book by Pema Chodron. Buddhism seems to push us toward complete self acceptance. Warts, misbehaviors, maltreatment of the self and others. Still...observe...know yourself...dont be agitated.

The second reference appeared in Quiet. Yeah for introversion, shyness, sensitivity. Reclaim your power by staying true to your nature. Accept introversion. See, says the author: introverts have done incredible things.

I need to think about this. So different from the more familiar guidelines of act/change/improve.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


Working on a sample of soumak. The warp is 5/2 pearl cotton. The weft is rug yarn from Halcyon.

I am using Collingwood's Techniques of Rug Weaving. The sett is not correct - at 18 epi it's much too close. And I am finding that the plies in the weft separate and twist in opposite directions. This is the first try on this sample

Monday, April 15, 2013

Las Vegas

Spent the weekend in las vegas for my nephew's wedding (4th wedding in 12 months in our extended family). Lots of dancing and laughter and this time even wedding cake.

We saw Seinfeld and Penn and Teller. Red Rock Canyon (why cant Illinois have mts?) Reading and crochet by the pool. (Splendours and Glooms: magic...puppets...victorian waifs...)

Now waiiiiiittttingg for our flight home.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Color wheel

Today at weaving guild we painted a color wheel in acrylics. The exercise dramatized color, tint - color + white - and shade - color + black.

I wanted a smock and one of those little easels from preschool.

Seriously, it is still fun to sit at a table, talk to your friends, dip a paintbrush into the water glass, and try to stay inside the lines.

I'd like to have another kindergarten outing to learn the difference between saturation and value in colors.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Memento Mori

This week we read Muriel Spark's Memento Mori for book club. Response was surprising: of 6, 2 adored it, 4 found it depressing, sad, difficult reading.

What??? Were we reading the same book? For me (amongst the minority) this is a joyous book about a group of octogenarians who have not grown past the jealousies and loves and self-pity and machiavellian machinations of their much younger years. Nearer and nearer to death they march, with no diminution of their attachments to the past and memory as well as to life.

The leitmotif of the novel is the phone call that each character receives. A voice - which is heard, variously by different characters, as a young man, a woman, an old man, even someone insistent on leaving a message when he does not reach the intended recipient - tells the caller, "Remember you must die." And how each character responds is a look into how we respond to the ultimate, unavoidable conclusion to a life. Clearly, we each must die.

Those who are most calm, even welcoming to the caller, exhibit a life well led. Given Sparks' Catholicism, it is not surprising that Miss Taylor and Charmain, two such characters have a strong faith, a commitment to the church. But a third character, Inspector Mortimer (often cited as the example of paganism, but I think that goes too far) has a Horatian mindfulness: the capacity to appreciate. He loves his wife. He loves his grand-children. And he loves his garden. Scenes of Mortimer at home repeatedly show him in the garden, or contain descriptions of his house and his garden - reminding the reader of an earthly alternative to religion: the appreciation of beauty in the shape of a tree, or the affection of a loved one.

As I hiked with the dog through the woods today - and saw three female deer, so silent, almost invisible in the foliage that has not yet begun to leaf out and turn green - I pondered Mortimer's centrality to the novel. He appears very little, but like another character,Lisa, who is the deus ex machina, he is spoken of quite often. Kept in front of our readerly attention, he reminds me of the importance of noticing the little things that aggregate into the quiet splendor of a day. The thing about Mortimer is that he notices. And he acts. There is this lovely simplicity and clarity, so it makes sense that he is the first to ascertain that the mysterious caller is Death. Still undisturbed, Mortimer explains to his wife the importance of keeping Death always in one's awareness; it enriches life, bringing it to a more lively pitch.

Of course, it was to be expected that today, when I went hunting for something completely unrelated on the Internet, that I would come across a post about this very subject. From a yoga teacher. Who quotes a poem about death. Which mentions King Lear, which is my favorite play and the one I tried to talk the book group into reading. Here's the post.


Sunday, March 24, 2013


Back after over a year of not posting. Inspired by blogs like Brain Pickings and beginning to return to visiting a few weaving or knitting or book blogs here and there, I am hoping to get back in the habit of writing a little, at least a few days a week.

It's been so long that Blogger has a new look, the world is different, and I just got certified as a scuba diver! Something that I've always wanted to do.