Thursday, February 28, 2008

presents plus comfort=friendship

Edited slightly to give you some helpful details and links so as not to be obscure:
When you least expect it, when you're needing comfort, life gives you shwarma. (Shwarma is like Middle Eastern fast food) Or something like it. (This is my attitude, and it's been dang hard to find shwarma here unless I make it!) The professor has a childhood friend who is very dear to us. This childhood friend is married to Pam, (also dear!), who just happens to be a Fulbright scholar working on research about women in Egypt for her PhD. Many threads connect us...the professor's childhood friendship with her husband, and also, my research interests. When I started my ill-fated PhD in religious studies, some of my interests were similiar to Pam's.

Now, I got an M.A . out of that experience, and my advisor retired, abandoning me in the middle... enough of that sad tale, which I'll tell another time.

On to the real story. While Pam was in Egypt, she stayed with some friends who knew the value of good shwarma spice. I'm about to run out of this spice, and even though you can mail order spices in the USA, you can't smell it in advance, or know it's "right." Pam emailed me before she left Egypt, and said, "Anything you want?" I knew what to ask for. However, her friends insisted that only shwarma spice from Libya would do. Today, in the mail, I got two blue ziploc baggies containing--delicious smelling spices. I can't wait to start cooking with this-all the way from Libya!
Cushioning the precious spices were two handstitched applique pillows. Gorgeous. I may use them flat on dressers so I can admire them visually and sit on them less!

These weren't my only treats this week, either! On Monday, I got to meet two lovely women, mother and daughter, who will be opening a Yarn Shop in Russellville, KY !!

Now, let me be the first to say that I completely babbled to them when I met them... diarrhea of the mouth, as my high school band director used to say. I felt embarrassed when I got home. Whew, a true sign of how badly I need to talk sometimes! (the dogs just don't seem like an audience..) Despite this, I was given a lovely present from them. Check out this coral skein of fingering weight merino, bamboo and nylon yarn, hand-dyed by Ashley herself. If you want to buy something subtle and luscious like this, wander over to her etsy shop, enchanted yarn & fiber and support them in this new enterprise.

Now, at the bottom of this photo, the last set of presents from this week...several skeins of the new Jamieson & Smith Shetland Supreme 2-ply, a little "I love Wool" button, and two chocolates. These were sent to me from The Inside Loop editors as a wee gifty gift for contributing to their first issue. I'm stunned by the hand of this worsted shetland, it is nearly silky. I'm not much of a lace knitter, so I'm considering doubling these to do some fingering weight colorwork--someday.

Sometimes the karmic cosmos knows you need a present or two, and I've been so lucky this week. -- No, nothing bad is happening. we're healthy, etc. We're just juggling a lot right now. The professor is travelling a lot to give talks at other universities, I'm thinking lots about "what will come next" for me when the book is finally finished, and it causes me, urr, to feel a little overwhelmed. Hence, the need for some sincerely neat presents....thank you, thank you to my friends, and to all the blog commenters who keep me company here! (...and gosh help me if I blather like that again in public, really. Someone slap me or something.) --OK, I meant that metaphorically, of course...but I was definitely out of control! Has this ever happened to you?!

Monday, February 25, 2008

artiste? not so much.

On Friday, I had an appointment on the south side of Nashville, so we journeyed 75 or 80 miles (one way). After the appointment, we stimulated the local economy, buying all sorts of things we can't get near home. We were near the new Whole Foods grocery store, which drew me like a magnet. (Yes, I live in a town where one can't purchase chicken sausage or go to a real cheese counter...) Then we ate out at Kalamata's, complete with baklava to go! Yesterday, I made Meyer lemon gnocchi for the first time, because? I found Meyer lemons in Nashville. I'd never seen them before!

I find travelling and diverse cultures inspirational when it comes to my knitting designs. I like people watching, finding out what looks good, what stylish folk are wearing, and what music, art and culture affect that. A while back, I designed the below pitch in direct response to a concert I attended. I'm posting the pitch here...because, well, it never sold, I never had the time to make it up in its entirety, and it's a great way of demonstrating how this design pitch works. (I've cut out crucial bits like my name and address, you just see the arty parts.)
Now, this would have been a complicated design, and, as I mentioned in the last post, I don't often sell those. The context is that I love jazz, and played sax and sang through college in my university's jazz ensembles. Alas, after I finished school, I started teaching, had to get up early, and became an old fogey. I don't make much music anymore. For now, I offer up this as the tribute it was intended to be...on the blog rather than on the needles or my axe.
Congo Square-a Pillow or.. a Work of Art

Congo Square is inspired by the composition written by Wynton Marsalis and Yacub Addy. It celebrates Beauregard or Congo Square in New Orleans, the only place in the USA where slaves were legally allowed to gather and make music from the 1720's until 1856. It is where many of our musical traditions were born. This Kennedy Center performance, with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and the Ghanian group Odaadaa was so electrifying that I wanted to commemorate its meaning in my own design. The physical shape of the design represents the square in New Orleans, and the brown both represents the (likely) dirt and brick of the square, and the African-Americans who danced on it. The bright notes of red, yellow, blue, green and orange reflect the clothing of the musicians onstage and the colors of the market in the square.

The square design is ideal for a pillow, but can also be framed in a shadow box, or through the use of several squares, can be made into an afghan or table runner. The design swatch is knit with a size #6 needle out of a variety of light worsted weight wools, including Dalegarn’s Freestyle, Knit Picks Wool of the Andes, Knit Picks Andean Silk, and some vintage Royal Society Imported Needlepoint yarn from Great Britain. (essentially, yarns from the stash.) The color scheme is somewhat flexible, although I’d like to maintain some of the browns and bright colors that were inspired by the performance I attended. The I-cord chain should be gray or black to represent the chains of slavery.

This swatch is somewhat reduced in size compared to what I imagine the final product to look like—I wanted to give you an idea of the design, but I see the black note stems as being longer, as shown in the sketch.
Is this interesting? Annoying? Want to share your inner artiste? Comments below, please!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

ISO: Stimulating, creative and deadline oriented...

Nothing so sweet as a warm spot, in a patch of sunlight, in February. My office is the smallest, warmest room in our house, lined (of course) with wool insulation, a spinning wheel in motion, and a productive heating vent. The dogs, the professor and I have perfected the art of finding the warm spot lately.

Second only to the literal warm spot is the figurative one. Nothing makes me happier than to hear that my handspinning article might inspire some to try spinning, to go back to spinning, or just--do more spinning and knitting with handspun. This was great to hear!

This week was busy, and I'm thinking about what my particular freelancing niche means. The book is in the stage where I write little, but review detail-y technical things--a lot. I can be detailed oriented in reviewing patterns, but it causes me to be googley-eyed with concentration and...possibly irritable. I'm looking forward to finishing this stuff so I can go back to writing and designing more, and editing less.

I do this detailed stuff because I dread any negative responses when the book is out. Gasp, the remote..possibility of a pattern mistake. Confronting these issues has led me to think about knitwear design more. I usually design beginning to intermediate patterns, I aim to avoid mistakes, and turn in my work on time. I like to review the editor's revisions, just to catch any possible ambiguities that arise. I focus less on being an "artiste" who designs, and more on being a designer who does a businesslike job. I want my finished designs to be functional, hardwearing, and useful. This is what works for me.

In doing my book, which has so many designs in it that I couldn't possibly do them all myself, I've discovered a whole range of (apparently successful?) designer responses. I'm working with 15 designers. These are composite descriptions of my experiences...

-There's the highly competent --crochet-- designer who updates the writer/editor (me, in this case) frequently, meets deadlines with ease and jumps to respond to emails.
-There's the laid back person who I didn't hear from much, but who turned in an entirely functional design--early to on time.
-There's the incredibly creative sort who has delays (which I only hear about when I ask, politely, what's going on over there...) and
-the incredibly creative sort whose sample was on time, her concepts are incredible, but she missed a whole line of math. (it happens.)
-The consummate professionals
-The enthusiastic beginning designers who need a helping hand...and everything in between.

(There are folks who make this kind of experience a joy, and even folks who decided, at the last moment, that they wouldn't submit to the book...some for personal reasons, ok, and others? because of ideological ones. No kidding.)

These are variables that could tear a full-time editor's hair out, or on the other hand, make her day a perfect dream.

I get it. I had sympathy for knitting mag. and book editors before, now I have empathy. I see why I don't always get to review my patterns before publication. If the deadline is tight and the designer isn't available immediately? No review. Or, what if the designer feels this isn't part of her job? If enough editors hear that, they no longer offer a review. (review of the pattern is just one example, there were a lot of examples I could dream up here..sizing, schematics, charts, formatting, whatever.) I did schematics, gauge measurements, formatting, all sorts of things to shape these works of art for publication..and I'm not even the tech editor. I try to make every email to a designer be positive, professional & friendly. Not everyone's positive in return.

None of the positive responses necessarily correlate to the most successful designers. I've been overwhelmed by the talent, creativity and energy I encountered--but sadly, professional affiliations, amount of publications, or other things do not indicate professionalism, an ability to meet a deadline, or answer an email. In the end, I wanted functional, creative design that met the deadlines and answered questions with prompt ease. The editing of this portion of my book has been harder than I thought, and I have a great tech editor helping.

Why am I mentioning this? Many knitters somehow set knitwear designers on a pedestal. Everything they produce must be perfect, and often, immediately available. Designers should be instantly available to resolve any crisis that any knitter might encounter...even if it's knitter error that made this happen. More to the point, the compensation for doing all this is very low. Many design ideas never sell...and designers are pressed to do other things to make a living. There are even knitters who blast these patterns online before asking for help--thus sullying the pattern and designer--even if the pattern is functional. None of this is news, but it bears repeating. Pssst. Designers are people, and none of us are perfect!

So, in this light, I always hope for knitters/crocheters/spinners/rughookers,etc. who are thoughtful, creative, problem-solving folk who can appreciate a good design, even if it has a flaw in it. We should all be able to do grade school math on our own. We should ask for help, if we need it, with manners. We need to experiment, create, and walk a mile in someone else's felted clogs before creating a fuss... 'Cause the world is unhappy enough these days. Let's try to make peace, solve our (pattern) problems, save this fibery space for something positive?

Just my two cents. In the next post, I might post an artiste design idea of my own, or talk about my trip to Nashville last Friday. Or maybe? I'll just take some time to knit.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

new new new!

There's a great new online publication on the scene, particularly suited to those in the British Fibre Arts world. However, they are kind enough to allow U.S. citizens like me submit to it, and even better--read it. Here's the link to the magazine:
The Inside Loop

and to my article:
Imagine Your Handspun

I hope my readers will hop on over there for some interesting patterns and a good read!

Before I sign off to do some work, I wanted to respond to a few comments. As other blogger folk know, I can't access your emails from the comments to respond privately. So, I wander around the web, scattering comments on others' blogs when I get a chance. Sometimes, just sometimes, there's no blog to wander to, or the post needs to be more public. Here are some of those:

Karen, I absolutely remember you from Rhinebeck, and I'm so glad to hear from you!! One of the best parts of travelling to so many festivals was the chance to meet wonderful kind people like you. Every festival was full of fun encounters, and for that, I am very grateful. I hope to see you again--someday soon, ok?

Renaissance Wednesday, I've commented on your blog, but I've got to post here, too. Spinning is easypeasey. It's fun. I learned when I was about 12, while volunteering at a living history site. (I worked there, on and off, as both volunteer and employee, through about age 23, I loved the place.) I was so enthusiastic that my parents found me lessons, and I spun by myself, complete with my Ashford Double Drive Traditional wheel sent in a kit from New Zealand. I was on my own all the way through college, with spinning wheel, without meeting anyone else my age who knew how to spin. I did eventually meet other spinners and join guilds and things, but it took a while. If you want to learn to spin, check out Interweave's many helpful brochures on the subject...and get started! My book will also have some fun beginning spindle ideas, but it won't be out til early 2009. Start now! Don't wait!

As Angela knows, I'm always happy to offer advice to my friends for exciting and vicarious spinning and knitting adventures. If you have questions, let me know and I'll do my best. I believe information and my poor advice are most useful when offered generously to others. :)

Thanks to all for the nice comments and excitement around the zafu cushions. I knew you'd understand why I was so proud.

So, what are you waiting for? Hop over to The Inside Loop right away!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

handspun mittens plus

OK, I promised a real blog entry with fiber arts content, and here it is. (co-o-okie! co-o-okie! one more time! C is for ...)

Ahem. My friend Angela requested more info on the mittens, and others might be curious too. First, you start with this batt from Grafton Fibers. This is Corriedale wool and about 4 oz. In order to do a mitten or sock with this sort of color transition, you need to carefully unroll the circular batt. It will then look rectangular. (sorry, no photos of this step)

The batt must be divided equally into two, being extra careful to keep the color transitions equal in both halves. Then, divide each half into the number of plies you wish to spin. I usually do a 2 ply yarn, so each half got divided into two. At this point, there were 4 roughly equal "rovings" of about an ounce each.

In order to keep the colors transitioning at an equal pace, you have to spin a fairly even yarn. I started with the black, and worked towards the bright green. When I got to the end of that 1 ounce of roving, I then took the next "roving" and started with the bright green and worked out towards the black. I took the 2 oz and used a ball winder to create a center-pull ball. Then I plied that ball, matching the black outside yarn to the black inside yarn. This made the first skein, which would result in the first mitten. Since I wanted to keep everything relatively matching, I did the second skein right after the first one, exactly the same way.

My yarn was a two-ply worsted weight. I like thick, densely knit mittens and this worked out well for me. My mittens were knitted in a "Joanne makes it up as she goes along" design since I've knit so many, but I recommend Ann Budd's book The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns if you're looking for help finding a pattern. I have small hands and used #4(3mm) for the cuffs and 7 (4.5mm) dpns for the rest of the mitten, which used 32 stitches and probably was about 4.5 sts to the inch.

I made sure to roll the skeins into balls so that the black was on the outside (cuffs can get dirty) and I started with the cuffs. I noticed the second skein had more black than the other, so I saved some of that for the second thumb. This was a fun and satisfying short project, and since I got the batt in May, a reasonably fast "marinade" in my fiber and yarn stash. You'll note that I did not end up with much yarn left when I finished the mittens. Does this mean that a person with a medium or large sized woman's hand couldn't make this work? Absolutely not! Just spin finer yarn and use small needles. Your mittens will not be as thick but will cover more square inches.

I walked down to the opening night reception last weekend and imagine my surprise when I saw this. My cushions were right in the gallery window! I went back again to shoot a photo of my achievement (since my stuff isn't in galleries all the time or anything) and discovered this. The juried show had winners, and the first place winner was moved to hang right behind my cushions. Wow. I mean, they could have moved the zafus, right?

Several people have asked me how big these things are, and what I think they can be used for. The white and gray Icelandic one is about 16 inches across, and maybe 5-6 inches thick. I knit them with size 17 needles, and probably could have used even bigger needles if I'd owned any.

The green Cotswold and brown Romney one is about 12 inches across and maybe 4-5 inches thick. I stuffed them with wool; I think they would make lovely cushions to sit on, for meditation or just couch decoration. I also think they'd be just fine as "organic sculptural forms," which is what they called them in the gallery. (yeah, whatever...:) I loved making these and hope they sell!

Any thoughts about the mittens? Zafu cushions and gallery windows? Need to join me in the cookie monster song? Please drop me a line and let me know!

co-o-kie! cookie cookie cookie

I plan to post something with content soon, really. In the meanwhile, I heard a hilarious interview on NPR this week with Cookie Monster. Not statisfied with the radio-only version, (even my imagination has its limits), I felt it was completely necessary to share this online video of my favorite monster with you.

Click Here to laugh with my favorite monster. (Oh, and I'm beginning to consider eating microphones, sardine ice cream, and other treats myself. The diet has stalled out a bit after a maximum loss of 9 lbs, got to go back to the stair climbing, and I'm dreaming of dessert...) I broke down and ate my fill Friday night to Saturday night. Glazed chicken with carrots, potatoes, and sweet potatoes along with a prune and plum/apple chutney sauce, salad, challah, and apple crumble for dinner, French toast for Saturday morning breakfast, sushi and stuffed grape leaves for lunch, and fabulous pasta leftovers for dinner. Uh oh, as Cookie Monster would say. Let's just say that 9 lbs of loss was an all-time best?!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

bread & milk?

We don't get much snow around here. The big joke in South? One person says, "Did you hear that there's snow on the weather report?"

and the response is, "Do you have bread and milk?" I have no earthly idea why all these households in the South don't have milk and bread the rest of the time, or why, if there's an inch of snow, there should be a run on the store to buy these two items. Logic is completely unrelated to this weird custom!!

However, this morning, when I went out to snap a photo of a rare morning around here (freezing rain, topped by some slippery snow flurries, which would not cause any discussion in upstate New York or New England, but of course, we have no salt, sand, or plows, so schools are closed), I saw a man walking up the hill with a half a bag of Wonder bread. A bread emergency? No kidding.

My enjoyment of a nice brisk 20 degree day with flurries was marred by the fact that there are still folks in my area with tarps over their roofs, or no roofs at all from the bad storms and tornadoes we had in the last couple of weeks. The university is doing a "Show of Love" bake and art sale tomorrow to collect donations and other household supplies for community families that have been affected.
On the fibery front, I've been busy lately. Here's some handspun that I just washed and dried. From left to right: Gray Mohair and handdyed alpaca/wool pink blend 2 ply, a skein of Jacobs wool, spun from the lock, 1 small skein of spindle spun Finn wool over a big pile of Romney and fine wool cross brown singles, and finally, another skein of 2 ply Finn wool (for mittens, someday.) The 2 ply Fin wool is fingering to sport weight; everything else is approximately worsted weight. I'm thinking of doing a two color sweater maybe with the dark brown wool, but I'll think on that as I spin some more.

I've finished the first mitten from the Grafton Fiber batt. I've got the Black Watch color scheme going here, and you'll note that the afterthought thumb is GREEN. 'Cause, of course I like to think I have a green thumb! The second mitten will have a black thumb, perhaps, just to play up the joke. Are you interested in learning how I got from the batt to the mitten? Let me know in the comments and I'll do a tutorial.

Finally, in preparation for Valentine's day, the professor has given me some very beautiful tools. (actually, he gave them to me in mid-January, but whatever..we're not strict about dates here!) I've used my Heart's Ease Socks as a backdrop so you can remember the Valentine's theme... These are two pairs of very fine antique scissors, made in France, and recently rediscovered and offered for sale. The professor also got me a special horn comb. I'm filled with delight over these tools. He'd apparently been thinking about it a while, because we use both his mother's scissors and great-grandmother's scissors all the time. He thought of these new ones as an investment in the future. That's a pretty romantic notion, isn't it?!

Have a happy, affection-filled day tomorrow, with extra hugs from me! :)

Friday, February 08, 2008

reading dates

Thanks for all your comments about the storms and your reassuring thoughts in our direction. It's been an unsettling and scary week. Harry and Sally demonstrate that in this photo. They are both barking at me, all at once. This hasn't been unusual lately, and you can imagine how loud it is. (the command Hush! doesn't always work. :) We're tired, the storms were pretty frightening, and work plows ahead as usual.

It's been a productive work week--most of the photos for the book have been selected at this point! I've worked with the editor all week long. We're probably going to reshoot a few images one more time so that the projects look just right. I'm also working on the first draft for another article, and for some reason, it was hard to do. Sometimes I plow through when things are hard to write--and at least now, I have a draft. (working writers don't have time for writer's block.) I'm glad it's Friday!

There's no new knitting to show you yet--my hat's getting use (on my head) and the zafu cushions are on display at our local gallery. The art show opens with a reception tomorrow night. I'm still pretty excited about how they came out. (photos in the last few blog entries for folks who hadn't seen them.) I hope others find them as fun to sit on and touch as I felt about knitting them. Not sure how you blog readers felt--there was so much else to comment on this week!
Today, as a reward at the end of a long week, the professor and I took an hour off to go to our local library's used book sale. This raises money for the local library and allows our community to recycle good reads. We love reading and books, and go to lots of book stores whenever we travel. In our town, there's only one big chain bookstore, and one small used book store and that's it. (I don't count the campus bookstore, it's big on textbooks only.) For us, this sale is a sweet treat. We read a lot. One of my education grad. school professors repeated over and over again:

Good Readers Make Good Writers. Good Writers Make Good Readers.

Yup, research shows that is the case for all kids (and adults) who are learning to read and write. It's also true for full-time writer types like me. In an average, busy month, I will likely read no fewer than 4 books. Many months, I read at least twice that, especially if I'm travelling. Not all of it is great art--much of it is not, but in our pile today were books by James Fenimore Cooper, Salman Rushdie, William Stafford, and Horatio Alger...along with plenty of junk fiction. We buy fiction and non-fiction, poetry and memoir, paperbacks are 50 cents, hard covers, a dollar. An empty box stands near our bookshelves, and when we're done with a book, if we no longer want it, we recycle it right back to the library book sale.

We schedule the date on our calendar, and we look forward to it. I bumped into an acquaintance or two at the sale, and their responses confirmed what I already know. "Wow. You're getting an awful lot of books." Or, I gesture to the professor and mention this is our special date. The person looks at me like I have fleas and says, "A Date?!" (The hot follow up will be when we curl up in bed or on the couch with the dogs and READ. We'll read each other the funny parts out loud. If I read a good book, I'll put it on the professor's pile to read. He'll do the same for me.)

Sadly, American households don't read much, and even those who read probably don't invest as much in "the book" the way we do. We're working hard on indoctrinating our two year old nephew long distance. We sent him books for his birthday, and I hear there are a lot of requests for Meat..Ball! Meat..Ball!, which is probably the professor's favorite book.

So, if you're not a fan of the paltry TV offerings, consider reading a book to yourself, your kid, or your sweetie. It could result in a hot date. Or, in my case, it just might make me a better writer.

(Your comments just make my day! What about those zafu cushions? Did you have bad weather where you are? How about reading? A cheer for reading?!)

Thursday, February 07, 2008

we're ok.

We had some weather around here on Tuesday. Here's a news clip about it. We're very lucky, but at least 55 people, and hundreds more injured, were not. Many buildings, farm animals, homes, and other facilities were destroyed.

Weather is an odd thing. No matter where you live, you think you've experienced something bad and have a hard time relating to weather you haven't experienced. On the east coast, I'd encountered thunder storms, snow storms, and hurricanes. Nothing prepared me for how tornadoes worked except for The Wizard of Oz. So, what happens?

If it's day time, the wind picks up and the sky darkens and become a horrible shade of green and gray. It sometimes rains. If you're listening to the radio or have a weather alarm, it may give you an alert that there's a thunder storm warning or a tornado watch. A warning means that there IS a storm or tornado, it's on its way. A watch means conditions are ripe for a tornado, but one hasn't happened yet.

Up at the university, there are alert systems called a "Cow" and "Calf" system. The students and faculty know the drill of getting into lower hallways and basements when the calves sound the alarm. (no idea why they are called this, I think it's an acronym.) At home, I have a weather bug alarm on my computer that makes cricket sounds. I listen for those, and I watch my dogs. Their agitation means a storm is on the way.

What about the sirens? We have sirens, but they are hard to hear during a storm. There's a howling wind, a lot of rain, and often police and ambulance sirens are going continuously as they rush to areas with downed trees, powerlines, or other dangers. If you live in a rural area, there's no siren to warn you, and unless you've worked to get the weather alerts sent to you automatically and you still have electricity, you might not get warning. Weather reports in rural areas aren't always very good, even when they do happen...watching your animals' reactions can sometimes be a surer prediction.

Tornadoes happen fast. When a tornado warning is issued, the instructions are to "Git in your basement or cellar, git under a work bench or other piece of equipment. TAKE SHELTER." The radio announcers lose their radio voices and their real accents come through. The panic can be heard through the airwaves, and on the local station, they start praying on air.

We've had two storms in the last week or so. A week ago, we had a storm with big winds that took down mature trees, broke windows and ripped up roofs and chimneys. That one did not make the national news. When I told my family we were ok, they hadn't heard of the storm. This time, we were just lucky. It was a long sleepless night with serious wind, rain, sirens, and waking up several times to check the weather alerts, but we didn't even make it down to the basement because I think we missed the warning that was issued past midnight. Only a half hour to an hour from us, lots of people died, trailers and homes were destroyed, a high school lost its roof, lots of farm animals perished.

A tornado is a localized thing. Some folks we know from Kansas laugh and say they watch them on their porch--if it is really headed your way, there isn't much you can do. When one strikes, it's sudden. There's no telling how long the funnel cloud will touch down, or who it will claim.

On Wednesday morning, there were big winds, the temperature dropped and the sky was dark. An older man on the street laughed and said he'd said his prayers and gone to sleep--no use worrying at his age. Everyone went to work Wednesday morning. People in areas hit spent the day digging out and helping their neighbors. By last night, all of us were so tired, even if nothing had happened to us but a sleepless stormy night. I went to the drugstore, and waited in line for a prescription. The pharmacy lady said, "I'm sorry, I don't know if I'm coming or going, I'm so tired."

I spoke up. "That's ok. We're all worn out about now; we've been through the same storm, we need to be kind to each other." The pharmacist lady was grateful for our muted response, our patience. We're all grateful it's over. This isn't like a snow storm; there were few cancellations afterwards, no snow day. We all dove right back into work, and that's why I didn't post yesterday, I was too tired. Only now, by Thursday AM, do we know the full extent of some of the damage, and with one full night's sleep, we can see what we've been through. The National Weather Service decides where the tornadoes hit, but we all know we saw quite a storm.

Monday, February 04, 2008

my alternate reality

I hear there was a big sporting event on television? I'm one of the very few in the USA who cannot be counted in the ratings numbers. I'm not a sports fan, and no one even pretends I am and invites me to a party. In past years, I've done long distance drives or gone shopping during this time period--because there's no one on the road or in the stores. I usually love these moments, when I get the highway or grocery store to myself. It wasn't meant to be this year.
The professor was away on business and after a few days of all dogs, all the time, I was looking forward to human companionship. You see, I'd already knitted this mitten out of the special Grafton Fiber Batt with the great color transitions--but the mitten was too tight and I want to use every bit of this batt, so here's what it looked like before I ripped it out. I'll try again when I get my patience back, I figure.
So, ok, no problem. Then the professor calls from the airport and says, "Umm, not feeling so good. Maybe a fever. I'll call you when my plane gets in." About 4 calls later, the professor lets me know that he is about to drive home, without his luggage, and nope, not feeling any better. I start defrosting that chicken broth, the kind I have saved for this sort of occasion.
The professor drives the 70 miles from the airport and just about falls into the shower and bed. It's about 6 pm. Dinner was practically non-existent, but I got soup into him. I walk past the living room---and someone (I'm not naming names here, but the pawprints looked like Harry...) has had an accident right on a dog bed that matches the living room and that Sally's been favoring. There are Harry sized wet pawprints all over the wood floors. This looks like someone's sick or vindictive. Harry's prone to the latter.
The professor starts moaning upstairs about whether he should cancel an important meeting on Monday. I put the dogs outside and start mopping parts of the living room and hallway and while I'm at it, why not mop the kitchen floor? The dog bed is hard to clean...the outside cushion and sheet inside pop in the washer, but the cotton and wool batting on the inside is soaked small feat. I wonder if the dogs have been doing the water chugging competitions again. I throw it away. All of it. At this point, I've seen enough illness for one evening.
Everyone lets me sit quietly by myself on the couch to watch a Jane Austen special for just a little while and regain my calm. Then Harry goes outside again and starts barking his head off --- and I start yelling into the darkness of the backyard. It wasn't good.
I'm getting into bed around 10. Everyone else here is in their bed (or crate). The phone rings. "Hey, we found the professor's luggage? Can we bring it by at, say, midnight? We'll leave it on the front porch."
The professor thinks this will be just fine until morning...but Harry disagrees, so after midnight, our little man dog barks to wake us up to go get that suitcase. It was a long night.
I did finish my second zafu, this one is bigger still and made out of Icelandic wool, and I'm hoping that I'll be able to get it safely to the art gallery. I'm hoping the black cloud that's been hanging over this household has moved on already. I'm thinking that maybe next year, if I'm invited to a party? It might be safer just to go.

Friday, February 01, 2008

yeah, but what did you knit?

It's been a pretty creative week around here. That's largely because my Thermal sweater, the primary knitting project, is on size 3's and I'm on "sleeve island," where I'm endlessly trapped going around and around on sleeve one. I will finish it. Someday. So, instead, I hopped into writing, knitting and creating other things to break up the sleeve-y monotony.
I was motivated by the wool cushions I saw yesterday and posted about. (I'm going to avoid that word for cushion because although it is technically correct, there are some unfortunate alternate meanings for my British and Aussie friends. Sorry about that!) Right after posting yesterday, I dug into the stash and started creating.

Meet my locally grown version of a Zafu. All Kentucky and Tennessee grown wool, hand-dyed Cotswold and naturally brown Romney, stuffed with Romney cross white wool, sewn up with handspun Cotswold. Only things not local? A shell button (with great green accent, sorry you can't see that) and the green thread to sew that on.

This measures perhaps 12" across...and several inches deep, it's definitely cushion-like. It'll be entered into a local juried art show sponsored by Artworks, a new arts organization I've joined. I hope they like it. Oh, and I won't charge anything like $1600. Hah, for a day's work! As if. It's a cushion, for gosh's sake. A hand-dyed, handspun, handknitted and stuffed cushion, but gee whiz...(wait, did you think I could get $1600 for it??!)
The part that keeps me giggling is that a couple of years ago, I pitched a round knitted cushion design concept everywhere--I mean, that idea made the rounds! and no one wanted it. Maybe I should rethink that one.
What I like best about this zafu thing is that it can be an organic piece of touchable sculpture (artspeak) or a cushion... Just a high-end cushion.
My second project? I also needed a black hat because my hair has grown long and I have a hard time fitting it all into some of my winter hats. (big head+big hair=Knit new hat.)
I found a great idea in Cathy Carron's Hip Knit Hats. I love this book. I've now knitted multiple hats from this book. Carron's designs are flexible enough so that I can just dig into the stash and create with it. Two strands of Lite-Lopi wool, and one strand of Irish Mohair boucle later, I was in business. A day later, I'd finished the knitting, and a day after that? A dry, felted bucket hat. The professor thinks it looks a bit mad hatter-ish, but I take that as a compliment!
That's the news on knitting 'round here. Just wanted you to be sure I wasn't only telling stories. I actually do knit and spin too! (and write, I do write. Of course...remember that book thing..?)