Category Archives: Weaving

Preparing for First R I Christmas

 

Chr cookies & Dirk

Here comes Santa

Dec. 19, 2015

Today my daughter in Raleigh gains another year. She has chosen not to be with us most of the past 10 years, which feels like a sad ache in my heart. Her son, our only grandchild, is now 11, and we cherished the visit we had together just before we moved away, the first time we’d seen him for five years. At Christmas it’s hard, focusing on today and the here and now, with the awareness of our missing family, but not allowing it to overcome our joyful “todays.”

Our daughter in Connecticut is near-by, and a regular part of our lives in Rhode Island.  She gained a year on Thanksgiving, and I’m amazed that my children are adults! We’ll be with her for Christmas, and are looking forward to that visit. Her m-i-l is in the hospital, mending a broken bone, so our Christmas will now take a different shape, because she will be in rehab, getting her walking back to a secure place before she can go home.

We had hosted Thanksgiving here for my daughter and her husband and his parents. I’m glad we shared the long visit before his mother was hospitalized. That was the second Thanksgiving dinner, the first, shared it with a friend from church who is also in choir. Now I use turkey a couple times a week in various creative ways! I think I won’t do turkey for Christmas this year…

I’ve baked gingerbread men for the third time, plus PA Dutch sand tarts this week, and they will quickly disappear, as we share them with friends and neighbors. As I cut them out, Dirk decorates them, so it doesn’t take as long. I remember the cookie-baking get-togethers we used to have with my NC daughter and friends, a separate table set up for decorations so the small children could decorate cookies while one mother watched the oven, and all of us cut out cookies and brushed them with Dirk’s “egg wash,” so the colored sugar stays put. I think they ate as many decorations as we used on the cookies, but that’s part of the fun. I missed my CT daughter on those occasions, but choosing a job in a distant place brings that sort of sadness.

I sit here in our new home in Rhode Island, listening to the traffic out front on Route 1, smelling the bayberry candle, enjoying the glimmer of the candles in the windows, the lights that wind up the bannister to the upstairs, the stockings hanging under the mantle, the reflection of the tree lights, and enjoying the taste of the gingerbread cookies with almonds as decorations, nicely roasted in the oven.

I gave hand-spun knitted mittens to my gardening neighbor across the street, and hat and mittens to my cousin out west. Dirk has hand-spun socks from a sheep we both knew and nurtured for about 15 years, and I have two new pairs of socks, one from Leah, the white Romney on our business card, and one partly her fleece, partly mohair from Cindy the goat. I’ve since returned to spinning, to replace what I’m using.

Dirk on the horn

The past month has been bursting with music, as I attended about eight concerts between Dirk’s two community bands: LaFayette and Wakefield Concert bands; and we both sing in the church choir, which also has instrumental music at this time of year. The choir director was glad to have us join her, with Dirk and his French Horn, too.  I love every minute of it! My quilting friend, whose husband is also in the two bands, comes to most of the concerts, but she leaves her quilting at home for these inside concerts. In summer, I spun with the drop spindle, and she hemmed her quilted lap blankets for charity as we listened to the music at two outside concerts a week, sitting by the two harbors.

At church, I learned to make a wreath. The call went out for women to gather bringing greens. I trimmed the holly and rhododendron away from the house, bundled it in a bed sheet, as I used to do for the sweet treats for the sheep—sweet gum, tulip poplar and honeysuckle. Never before had the old sheet contained poisonous branches. But the sheep are no longer here. I kept them away from such noxious bushes when we had the flock. I also helped a neighbor saw off a bayberry branch and a holly, so her pathways in her large garden were open again. The tips of the branches came to the church for the wreaths, along with a bundle of red berries from another of her bushes. The doors at church all have wreaths or sprays, and we had a later meeting to create arrangements of greens with the left-overs to bring home. I’ve knitted tiny socks to hang on such an arrangement or the tree, and given some to our neighbors and some friends. Those hang sefely low down on our tree, for the cats to enjoy the tree in their own way.

The newest cats, the two strays who appeared in our neighborhood in NC about four years ago, are no longer kittens, so for the first time are not pulling down the tinsel and knocking the unbreakable ornaments around the room. The older cats gaze at the tree, then take their usual nap in a chair. The dogs investigated the tree, wondering what it was doing inside the house, then went back to ignoring it, also. A kitten does make Christmas more fun.

I had completed hand-spun socks for my husband (don’t tell him—I’ve tucked them away until Christmas), and needed a next project. When I cleaned out my three-drawer small plastic file in which I store samples for class, as well as “exotics”—silk, bamboo/corn/soy synthetic silk, angora from Elaina at Avillon Farms and from Sheryl Wicklund, from their fluffy bunnies, “Angelina” which sparkles in various hues, and makes an interesting addition when spinning wool. I even found some cotton, my least favorite to spin, but I need to demonstrate when I teach a workshop; the takli spindle has never been unwound, after at least 10 years!. In the process of tidying, I found some Wensleydale wool combed top, and started to spin it so as to decrease my stash. After the first day, I learned my daughter’s mother-in-law had fallen and was in the hospital, so I set aside spinning, and went to get some washable acrylic for a lap robe for her. In our Twisted Theads Book Club meeting at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh a couple years ago, the featured book was Yuhas’ Knitting from the Inside Out. The dahlia lap robe/baby blanket from that book is lovely, and I’ve nearly finished it in less than a week, even with cookies and cards to do. I’ll take a picture when it’s done.

Pat's lap robe

Some women have been coming over to knit on Tuesday mornings. A neighbor had put a sock in her closet eight years ago because she forgot what to do next. She’s now finished the pair and bought yarn for another. Another lady, a waitress nearby, saw me knitting a baby sweater when we were eating there, and wanted to know how to do that. She comes when work allows. I’d hoped to gather a near-by circle of fiber crafters, and it’s beginning—I’m happy! Another woman who plays in the So. County band, has started gathering spinners from the near-by area to join her at the new yarn shop in Wakefield: Two Dots. We’ll meet there again soon.

Santa arrived in Wickford by boat, just like in Holland! I shouldn’t be surprised, with all this water around, and a great many boats. The police boat must be one of the only ones, except the regular fishing boats, that aren’t already “shrink-wrapped” for winter in dry dock—well, and the flotilla of kayacks escorting Santa and the harbormaster! Driving by the harbor, all those dry-docked, shrink-wrapped, boats look like huge, angular snowballs, all in a row, sleeping through the winter.

I just finished a tapestry-weaving class with Jan Austin from our Rhode Island Weaving Guild. I’ll spend more time practicing the craft after the holidays are over. My Dutch rigid-heddle loom is a good size for tapestry, and I made a couple neat bits of art during the class.

I’m moving my Eastern Star membership to a lodge near our new home. My daughter is also in Eastern Star, and is Mother Advisor to the Rainbow Girls in eastern CT. I’ve been able to help her with some of the activities, sewing days being one. I’d sewn for my daughters when they were small, and have continued to sew. Two of the mothers made dresses for themselves for formal occasions, and plan to continue sewing for their daughters now they know how to read a pattern, lay it out, measure, etc. It was rewarding to watch the women learn techniques needed to made a dress fit properly. I’m also amazed and proud at how quickly my daughter has learned a leadership role in both organizations.

The sun is nearly at the horizon, and I realze the shortest day of the year is only a couple days away. I am getting tired of it being nearly dark at four p.m., and look forward to warmer weather and long sunny days again. I’m not complaining—it’s been in the 60’s for a good part of December! Paperwhites are blooming inside now, and daffodils and hycinths are shooting up on my plant shelf in a west window. These fragrant blooms make the winter a great deal more pleasant inside. Two people have given me amyrillis plants. One is blooming, and the other will be when this one fades. What beautiful blooms to brighten winter days. We’ve listened to three versions of “A Christmas Carol” on TV already (Jean-Luc — Patrick Stewart, is my favorite Scrooge) and have saved some other favorite programs to watch at a later time. I’m listening to Mitch Albon’s The First Phone Call from Heaven. Just finished his The Timekeeper  on library books on CD—delightful way to spend a cold and windy afternoon. The fall weather has been like in NC—in the 60’s—until today, when we’ve suddenly entered winter. The deck had an ice slick over it this morning, making putting out bird seed a chancy business! And now, back to knitting…

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Filed under Birds, cats, climate, community, Dutch loom, Family, Friendship, gardening, Homespun yarn, knitting, music, sheep, spinning, Weather, Weaving

Winter surprises, frozen dyed wool, and kitty entertainment

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I’m working on a curtain for our new home, and needed some bright green yarn. I went looking through my dye pot-stash with various colors of dye, late last evening. After I’d plied the mohair I intended to dye it spring green. But I had none 😦  I measured enough of the color green I did have into the hot water, dipped in the Bombyx silk I’ll use to wrap some of the yellow yarn as the green begins, but the color appeared to be too dark for my design. Plan B: I picked up about 1/4 lb. of white Shetland from Vanity Fair’s shearing last spring, put that in the dye pot, added some vinegar and let it simmer, almost, for about a half-hour. Since it was 11 p.m., so I just turned off the heat and the vent fan, left the pot covered, and this morning, continued the process, rinsing out the soapy, dirty water, since I washed the fleece in the same operation, and put cream rinse in the last rinse, when the water was clear. Then, on auto-pilot, I took the wet wool outside and spread it out flat on an old window screen where it could dry, where the sun will hit it pretty soon. As I rinsed my equipment and cleaned up the sink, I found a little more green wool, so brought it out to dry with the rest. When it touched the screen it immediately froze to it!! I forgot–it’s 20 degrees out there! This is one of the delightful winter days when it is brisk and snappy. Note the ice on the screen where the wool had been before I picked up the end and rolled it up. Maybe it will dry faster open to the air in a large donut… It’s wet, so even in the wind it won’t blow away. My pretty green wool is a big ice cube! The ice is still on the deck from our freezing rain of two nights ago, the birdbath has to be tipped over and the ice knocked free to put water in it again at least twice a day. The pansies have shriveled up to little dark-green humps, the lovely kale which I should have harvested at Christmas, is in about the same shape. The onions are visible, but only about two inches is peeking up straight–the rest of the leaves are flat on the garden dirt, partly covered by autumn leaves. Spring onion omelets will just have to wait. However, in NC, when it gets warmer again, in a week or two, the crocuses will bloom as will the pansies, and my garden will come back to life.

Time to shift gears–that wool won’t be available to spin for some time, and I’m still searching for the right dye color.

The next task today is to warp my loom to start a throw rug in the log cabin pattern. I haven’t done this pattern before, but a good friend, also a weaver, assures me it’s not difficult. I looked it up in two of my books last evening, and it looks possible. I turned on the little robo-vacuum to pick up the fluff from the spinning I’d been doing the past two days, preparing the mohair to dye. In the meantime, the robot-vacuum buzzed around tidying, while I pulled out the card table, loom, shuttles, and other necessary bits of equipment to warp my rigid heddle loom. While I was setting up my work space, Boots, our charming two year-old rescued stray cat, was entertaining himself chasing the robo-vac around, cuffing at it, leaping in the air when it came to his toes, crawling under the cedar chest to see what the machine was finding under there that he might have missed. I appreciate the little machine picking up some of the fuzzies for me while I do other things, but it had not occurred to me what a very entertaining bit of hardware it would be for my cats!

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Filed under Birds, cats, Dutch loom, Dying wool, gardening, Homespun yarn, knitting, sheep, spinning, Weather, Weaving

Spinning workshop preparation; Nova Scotia tartan off the loom

May 14, 2013

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If you were on my list for taking a spinning workshop this weekend, this is the email I’d be sending to you. It occurred to me, that you might want to be included in the communication about our activities on a spinning weekend coming up. It is a pleasure to share this art with others,  and the weekend of spinning is fun for each of us.

<I’m thinking ahead to the weekend and getting things ready for you.  A few items…

If you have any spinning or fiber prep. equipment, by all means bring them: spinning wheel, drop spindle, or whatever. That includes fiber you may have saved from brushing your fluffy dog or cat, or roving from anywhere.

If you have any special food preferences, let us know, so we can be ready. Dirk enjoys baking challenges–such as a gluten-free weekend, which we’ve needed to do a couple times. He’s learned a couple new recipes just for that eventuality.

If there is any particular goal you have for the weekend, let me know Sat. at breakfast, so I can plan to cover that with you.

If you want to take a field trip to a farm where there’s roving available, and many lambs, let me know. Lynn Michaels’ farm is only about 5 min. away, and if she knows we’re coming, she’ll be glad to have us. Another neat farm to visit is Elaina Kenyon’s in Efland, which is an hour away…  I’ve done this once on a workshop weekend, but it does clip a couple hr. from Sat. afternoon. She has around 50 angora rabbits, Angora goats and kids, and Shetland sheep and lambs–really neat place to visit. She has roving from all those animals, also, of course.

If you’re available, this Thurs. is our 3rd Thurs. guild meeting in Raleigh at the Thompson Crafts Center on the NCSU campus. If you’d like info. about this meeting, you can either go to Yahoo Groups and join “Twisted Threads Fiber Arts Guild” and check the recent emails, or ask me, and I’ll gladly send you the summary Jane sent out–a talk about spinning wheels and their challenges, and how to tinker with and fix them. She’s asked people to bring their wheels, so you may get to try several if you ask nicely 🙂  It’s a “bonding thing,” people and their wheels. Everyone likes their certain one(s) for whatever reason, but it just comes down to personal preference. People are usually fine with letting you spin on their wheel for a few minutes. Later in the year we’ll have our “round robin,” where there will be at least a dozen wheels, and everyone goes around, 5 min. for each wheel–that’s fun!

I’ll look forward to meeting you on Sat. morning at 8:30 for breakfast. We finish up about 4 p.m. both days. I’ll have the dye pot on while we eat breakfast, so we’ll be ready for the dying demo early, then get to spinning more challenging fibers Sunday, and hopefully you’ll rotate to different wheels to try them on Sunday.

If you have any questions, let me know, and until then, enjoy this lovely weather,>

By the way, I finished the table runner in the Nova Scotia tartan that I started on a rainy night last week. Here’s a picture of it, not yet blocked, but fresh off the loom. I need the space for spinning wheels this weekend, so wanted to complete this project. Each time I look at the tartan, it reminds me of lovely vacations on Cape Breton Highlands, Cheticamp, Mabou, Badeck on the Bras d’Or Lake, Antigonish… ah, summer!

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Filed under community, Dutch loom, Friendship, Homespun yarn, Netherlands, Nova Scotia tartan, sheep, spinning, spinning workshops, Weaving

Weaving outdoors on antique Dutch loom

May 8, 2013

I had no idea I’d let this blog lapse for so long! This is due to receiving my mother-in-law’s mother’s loom, a rigid-heddle style from the Netherlands, which her mother had woven scarves on during WW II to help support the family during Hitler’s occupation of Holland. I won’t go into all that. You can read up on the “War Resistor’s Museum” in Amsterdam, and get an accurate picture of what their lives were like during those years of hunger and fear.

The loom occupies my mind. I’ve searched for pictures and instructions on how to use this loom from European search sites, and found nearly nothing. I found one picture that vaguely resembled my loom, but no instructions, no helpful You-Tube videos, to my sorrow. My friend, Louise, who learned to spin in a workshop here last winter, helped me get it set up and warped, and has given me further suggestions and web links along the way. She also suggested I begin to attend the Triangle Weavers in Chapel Hill, which is an inspiring group of  talented weavers.

This evening I decided I was going to follow through on something I’ve wanted to try since I first received the loom: use my own home-spun yarn to warp the loom and make a Nova Scotia tartan table runner for myself. I knew it would take up considerable space to warp the loom, so decided to put the card table outside (thanks, Dirk, for moving the table for me) and used the railing on the deck ramp as my warping peg. That worked out well for two hours, until my back was breaking, and the mosquitoes had come out, and weren’t responding to the Permanone. I came in to turn on water to make tea, picked up my camera, and as I opened the door to return to the deck I heard raindrops falling! I grabbed the big yellow raincoat we use to splash down to the barn to feed the sheep in nasty weather, and draped the card table and loom with it, moving the table right against the railing, covering that, too. I came back in, poured the tea, and heard thunder! Went out again with my beach umbrella furled, bungee-corded it to the railing, tipped it for maximum coverage, and ran back in.

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I had no idea weaving called for such fortitude. Spinning is so relaxing–just lean back and wool flows to the bobbin with little effort. Weaving is another story. I played Nova Scotia jigs and reels of Natalie & Buddy MacMaster and Kendra MacGillivray as I warped the loom, walking back and forth, back and forth, taking a few dance steps from long-ago classes in Irish folk dancing. I pulled out long lengths of yarn to reach around the “warp peg” and back, and got tangled in the rose bush, which is heavily leaved out and budding now. Yarn got hooked in the buckle of my Birkinstock, dog ran by a few times, cats stayed inside the house, simplifying things greatly. Cardinals, wrens, woodpeckers, nuthatches came for their evening meal, while I walked back and forth. As I trimmed the knots to an even length, I tossed the ends into the rose bush for the birds to weave nests with. When it got dark, the birds disappeared. And an hour later, I gave up, too.

I’ll attach pictures of this evening’s adventure, and another picture of a small project I completed recently. I am using a great deal of my handspun yarn, and old sock yarn, also, as I find patterns I can make on this old loom, a treasure, indeed.

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Filed under Birds, cats, dogs and cats, Dutch loom, Family, Gaelic music, Homespun yarn, Netherlands, spinning workshops, Weather, Weaving