Saturday, May 31, 2008

Minor Disaster and a New Friend.

It was supposed to be a relaxing Saturday morning. No company, no commitments, my husband brought in coffee at 9 am and printed out a crossword puzzle for us to solve together once I woke up. Then the call from downstairs - DD the older " Daddy, the fish tank is leaking"

He races down, as do I, and then we send up DD the younger for towels and go to the garage for buckets. We fill the largest bucket with water but the fish and shrimps hide in the rocks so we need more buckets for live rock so we can capture the animals. After about 30 minutes and most of the towels in the house, we finally have the leaky tank out on the deck and various containers of things around the living room/kitchen. The wool Karastan carpets are rolled up and luckily only slightly damp, but the wood floor is wet with salty water. But no more water pouring out of anywhere.

Some readers may remember this tank we set up just over a year ago. Or maybe the TAST piece that it inspired. My husband and I both loved seeing all the beautiful fish in the coral reef movies and we both love the sea, and we thought this would be our little bit of the ocean. But I'm sorry to say that after a year, the honeymoon was over. We had gobs of green hair algae everywhere, most fish we had tried in the tank died, and after reading more and more about salt-water fish, I had become troubled ethically by having a salt-water tank since the rock and fish are mainly from the wild.

So as we sit amidst chaos, we ponder the future of our tank. Do we get a new one or give the whole thing up? I called the fish shop we frequented and they would take the fish and shrimp and coral and even the live rock back. So we decided to give it up. It was a hard decision because we had become attached to the animals, especially the banded coral shrimp, Jose. He was fascinating because he had 2 sets of small clear claws that he used to sift through the algae for bits of food. By the way, the description on the page I linked to for a photo says they are peaceful, but Jose was not. Every new thing we put in the tank, including anemones, was poked at least once by Jose.

Once the living remnants of our abandoned hobby were safely delivered, we were left with a mess to clean up. I have never done so much floor cleaning and vacuuming in one day. I do not recommend this as a reason to clean the house, even if it does look quite nice down there now! Our final job will be a donation to the Jacques Cousteau Society in memory of our tank. I think saving the coral reefs is more important than having a poor substitute in one's house.

On a happier note, when I finally had a chance to sit down at the computer tonight, I had a lovely message from Anne in France, both here on my blog and on my Stitchin Fingers page. Of course the first thing I did was check out her web site and I found that she has a lovely 3-D garden (jardin) in her 2007 Broderies section in her Galeries section (my Canadian French from 20 years ago is just enough to allow me to get through a site in French as long as there are photos!) Be sure to take a look.

Well, I have some baby bibs to get ready for this week for a friends first grandchildren who are due at the end of June. They know it will be twins so I get to make two bibs. Then I'm back on to the CQ horse pillow. So time to stitch.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Finally a rose garden

When we moved into this house 4 years ago, I decided on this spot for roses, since it has the most sun. It is at the end of the driveway and in front of the fence we put in to enclose the back yard for the dog. As you can see, not a pretty site - and I learned early on that roses in Virginia always get black spot!

But I'm nothing if not an optimist, so after buying 4 new rosebushes in the last week, I decided it was high time to put in an actual garden. With help from my husband we decided on a basic plan then went off to a large home improvement chain store to get border and soil. And after several hours of work, I have my garden. We have yet to decide on an appropriate medium for the pathway area, but since it took 4 years to get to this point, a few more weeks of thinking are nothing. We are contemplating light gray gravel to go with the driveway, since oyster shells are rather difficult to come by.

I also did some cleanup and planting on our woodland path. A large dead tree came down during a storm in the fall so I had to do a bit or rearranging.
Now it looks a bit more like a path. You'll have to take my work for it that I also planted almost a dozen plants in here as well. The lighting is not conducive to a clear photo at the time of day I finished my work.

This is how the dog helped. Actually, she was usually lying down, but managed to stand up and check on my progress a couple of times.
This is our pond on the deck. A raccoon or cat recently ate one of our goldfish, which is quite sad since they actually survived over winter and had grown to be quite large. The pond was originally going to go in ground, but then we discovered that it would be impossible to make a hole that big in the clay!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Weaving Colours

Just like background colour can change the look and feel of an embroidery piece, so the warp and weft colours can completely change the look of a woven piece. Here are some photos of the finished products of last night's weaving class. This first one is one of my placemats. The thin white lines are the guide for cutting them apart (yes I'm nervous, but I've been given instructions). As I mentioned yesterday, I love the way the variegated green looks as warp and weft with plainweave. But notice how the green barely comes out with the pattern band.
Joy kindly allowed me to photograph her piece which uses the same green variegated warp. She used black and white novelty yarns and ribbon to create this length which will be cut up to make pillows. In some places you can barely tell it is the same yarn I am using.
I had some warp left at the end of my weaving so I tried some purple yarns. I've seen this purple and green colourway in a few things, including some orchids, so I thought it was worth a try. Most of the stripes are plainweave, but I did do a couple of bird's eye pattern strips as well. It was great fun seeing how the colours work together and good practice to get the feel of odd yarns.
Cherri suggested that I be sure to add an extra yard whenever I measure my warp so I have experiment room and I heartily agree. It is fun. Here is the final, uncut, piece. Almost 5 yards long. It really didn't take too long, and as a novice, it was amazing to see how much came off the cloth beam. As I was weaving, I really didn't get a sense of how long it was!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Weaving placemats - My second project

My enthusiasm for weaving has not diminished, in fact I keep coming up with new ideas for things I want to try. Between a trip to our local wool shop to drool over the various yarns I might try, to the book from my university library with all the patterns and ideas, I think I could get seriously involved in this.

So, here is what I've been doing this month, but forgetting to post. My warp is a green variegated thread (not sure which fibers since not everything is labelled). It is rougher than my last warp so was a bit picky to set up - and I made a major mistake but with help from Cherri I recovered and I now feel I really understand how to set things up. Not that I think I know everything, I don't think I'll ever know everything about weaving or needlework (or anything else for that matter).
The warp was measured to allow room for experiment, and the harnesses threaded for bird's eye patterns, so I started with a tan weft doing several patterns, but as you can see, they really didn't show up with the colour I used.
Then I tried white, which did show up much better, so I tested a couple of patterns and then chose what I would do. Cherri showed me a technique that puts a plainweave set in the base colour between the pattern set, which looked really nice (no photo) but it did make me realize that a whole placemat of the pattern with white would look washed out.
So I'm weaving plainweave ends and middles with the warp yarn, and three rows of pattern in white at each side of the placemat. I love the random plaid patterns that emerge with the plainweave.
What is really neat, and I'll try to get some photos tonight, is that one of the other students, Joy, used the same warp, but she is using novelty yarns, mainly in black, for her weft, to make pillows. It is a good lesson in how changes in colour can really change the woven look. And the eyelash yarn adds so much to the piece.
Tonight is my last night at the Arts Center for this session, and there are no month long summer sessions because of the children's summer camp. I'll be finishing my placemats tonight, but I won't be stopping my weaving. I plan on moving to one of Cherri's studios to continue learning more. In the meantime, I have a holiday weekend approaching and I must get to work on the President's Challenge for my EGA chapter. I'm making a CQ pillow for DD the younger who wants her favourite horse in the middle. DD the older drew the horse and I've been trying to stitch him. Even with a couple of photo in hand, and many years of watching DD the younger ride the horse, I still don't seem to have it quite right, although she likes him.
DD the older drew the same horse as a carousel horse for a poster contest for the county fair. You can see I'm a bit off! She also included the barn donkey pulling a cart, and the barn pig, and some of the other horses, including the foal we saw being born. She thought a smaller carousel horse would be nice. Mind you the horses are jumping around the fair grounds like a Mary Poppins movie, which is why you can't see the carousel.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Loving what you do and Perimenopause?

It is interesting how threads from various ideas come together eventually, at least they often do for me. As I was thinking about doing what I love and rules in art, I was also reading about perimenopause. Stay with me here because they do come together in the end.

Since I am a woman in her forties (okay late 40s if I'm being truthful) and a medical librarian, I have been looking for a good book on menopause/perimenopause. The years before menopause, when we get the familiar signs that it is coming, are called perimenopause - for those who haven't heard the term. I look at most non-fiction books from a librarian's perspective. What are the writer's credentials and experience? are there footnotes to current peer-reviewed research? Is it a reputable publisher? etc. I looked through the shelves at my public library and took out some likely candidates to read through. One has especially been good - The Wisdom of Menopause, by Christiane Northrup. It started right off with her describing her feelings of irritability with everyone around her, which is what I've been feeling quite a bit lately. It was wonderful to know I was not alone in feeling this way, and reassuring to know it was my hormones in a wildly fluctuating state.

Dr. Northrup writes that the change in hormones changes the wiring in our brains. All the hormones for nurturing that we need for child-rearing are no longer affecting our brains the same way, so we can now focus on new things. As she writes (on page 19)
" Our hormones are giving us an opportunity to see, once and for all, what we need to change in order to live honestly, fully, and healthfully in the second half of our lives."

Doesn't that sound like a great opportunity.

She ends chapter 1 with :
"Take advantage of the clarity of vision that is the gift of menopause, and use that gift to let the second half of your life be truly your own."

The reason this comes back to loving what you do is because during the last year or so, even as I've been getting irritable, I've found myself more productive than ever at work, and more willing to try new things with my stitching, and now I'm weaving! Never mind the riding lessons. Luckily my husband is very encouraging and even offered to go to Vermont so I could take a class at Eaton Hill Textile Works - where they are weaving the silk lining for the jacket at Plimoth Plantation. (alas, the summer classes are only for dying, not weaving, but then again.....)

So now I'm looking at perimenopause as a time to take a good look at what I want to accomplish with the next half of my life. I want to fill the time with activities I love and people I love, and as little cleaning as possible.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Doing what you love with no rules.

My post today has been inspired by two blogs. Jude at Spirit Cloth writes about changing the world by doing what we love, and Sharon B wrote about an article in Bonefolder, in which women who create books discuss the multidisciplinary aspect to artistic book making. Sharon thought that maybe this was because it is an art without history and long standing rules. And she compared this to the women who love crazy quilting and art journaling, where there are no rules. Jude does the most amazing quilting, though that really doesn't do justice to her work, so the two blog entries seem to have come together in my mind. I am inspired by both these women who love fibre arts so much. And I appreciate that they both write blogs so I can keep up with their work. And both have pushed me to try new things - although I had already given up on a lot of rules.
I love embroidery, and working with children, and I forget the rules when teaching kids embroidery, since in the end, what matters is the kids being happy with what they have created. When I buy supplies for stitching, I usually forget the rules as well and just buy what appeals to me. When I do use a pattern, I usually change things to make what I want. Even in my profession, which I love, I've pushed beyond conventional practice a few times to do what I think needs doing, and have been able to advance professionally because of this. I am now learning to weave, so I have to follow some rules, but as I learn and read more figure out how weaving is supposed to work, I will be breaking the rules and creating what I want to see. And I know my posture, and the way I hold the guitar and my fingering and timing are all wrong, but I love playing classical guitar, and it turns out, my daughter love to hear me practice as she falls asleep. What a nice thing to find out on mother's day.

Speaking of mother's day, I finished the fringe on the shawl for my mother, my first woven piece.
Thanks for all the encouragement and support Mom. Sorry the present will be late.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Two great finishes!

My first woven article is done! I am pleased with how it turned out, but even more, I enjoyed the whole process thoroughly. I was so worried that after so many years of wanting to learn to weave, that I would be disappointed once I actually did it, but it is more fun than I anticipated. Just to watch the fabric grow each time I sat down to work was very gratifying. But it was also exciting to see the way the colours changed depending on what colour was in the next pic.

Here is the final hem stitch to my piece from a week and a half ago.

And here is the shawl blocked on the guest room floor. I still have to weave in a few ends, or at least trim the ends of the ends I wove in. I'll do that a little neater next time - although I won't have so many colour changes anyway. I also need to decide on the fringe. I alternate between a macrame like knotted trellis or adding some extra warp threads to fill out the fringe and make it short. Part of me thinks that a long, knotted fringe would fit with the modern sort of feel of the shawl, but then a short, full fringe would keep the focus on the weaving. Any thoughts?

Here is my other finish from last week. The Gilt Sylke Twist from Plimoth used to decorate a pre-made satin box. I'm keeping this because the spools of GST fit in perfectly.

It is quite interesting that Mary Corbet at Needle 'N Thread and
Carol Ann at Threads Across the Web also thought to do strawberries with the GST. There must be something about the gold bits that lend themselves to strawberries.

Finally, another garden photo - roses. Another bonus living in Virginia - roses in April. Mind you we have black spot by June, but what the heck.