Saturday, February 3, 2018

The Endless Placemats (and a Couple of Pineapples)

Sigh  l really like the idea of weaving.  I like the feeling of history, of mystery, of magic.  Watching fabric form beneath your hands.  I was meant to weave.  Looms find me almost as often as cats do.  I have bought *one* loom--actually there were two table looms at an auction for $7.  Bob found four table looms that were being thrown away as a school got away from such hands-on activities (I re-homed five out of those six looms).  Bob pulled a large tapestry loom from a dumpster, and intercepted a large floor loom on its way to surplus.  I won a small inkle loom as a door prize.  A friend of my mother gave me a small floor loom.  Obviously, it is my destiny to weave.

I just don't actually do it.

When one thinks of weaving, one thinks of the actual process of making cloth.  It's rhythmic and mesmerizing.  One hand tosses the shuttle and then reaches up for the beater, pulling it forward just as the other hand catches the shuttle and lifts it out of the way.  The feet are in the ballet, changing the threads just before the beater slides into place.

But saying that's all there is to weaving is like saying all there is to cooking a fine dinner is arranging the food on the plates and lighting the candles.  There are a few preliminaries.  The warp is a bunch of separate threads all cut to a specific length (usually at least a couple of hundred of them)  They have to be tied to a back roller and rolled on, in order, under even tension.  Then one by one you thread them through a heddle (which determines the pattern) and the reed (which holds them at the proper distance apart) and then tie to the front roller--again, all under equal tension.  *Then* you start weaving.

So I came up with the brilliant plan of putting on enough warp to weave about eight placemats (because all the threading and stuff takes just as long for eight as it does for four so why not?)  That way, whenever I got the urge, I could go do the toss the shuttle thing.

That was, I think last March.  They're not done yet.  They were one of my New Year's resolutions--didn't quite get done in January.  It takes about 20 minutes do to the weaving for each placemat.  What gives?

A few years ago I had lunch at the home of a weaving friend (who actually weaves) and there were some almost-lovely placemats on the table that she had gotten as part of a weaving exchange.  Almost lovely, because at each end of them was a lumpy turned-under and sewn almost straight hem.  I didn't like the look of that.

There's a way around that.  Instead of folding under the end a couple of times and sewing it down, you can do a thing called "hemstitching" where you take four warp threads and do a little embroidery stitch around them, and continue on down the width of the weaving.  It looks nice.  What I hadn't thought all the way through was that I have some 360 warp ends on these, so that means 90 little groups at each end, or 180 little groups per placemat.  I'm not fast at this.  It takes me 20-30 minutes for each end.

So the rhythm of weaving is toss the shuttle for about 5 minutes to get a placemat started, then do hemstitching for 20 minutes.  Do the mesmerizing, meditative dance of weaving for 15 minutes--and it's time to hemstitch the other end.  Hence--placemats that have been on the loom for 10 months.

Pineapples have nothing to do with this.  But Bob wanted his pineapple in the blog, and why not?  He does successfully grow a few pineapples each year, but they're usually about 5 inches tall and a couple of bites each.  This year he grew two large (and very sweet) ones.  In less time than it's taken me to weave a half-dozen placemats.

And back to the reading list:

The Universal Traveler.  This is a sort of self-help, creative problem-solving book that showed up during the book purge.  I think it may have been a required book for a creativity class I had to take when I was getting my degree.  I enjoyed the class, but not this book--it's just a little too cheerful, as in "Unhappy in your job??  Try to hang out with the positive people at work, and think of ways to make your job seem like a vacation!"   Yeah, right.  It's leaving the house.

Madam Bovary.  Also showed up in the book purge.  A classic that I had never read.  *Very* Romantic era (came out in the 1850's) sturm und drang descent into dissolution and degradation.  I'm keeping this one.

Monsterology.  A friend gave me a gift card to Barnes and Noble for my birthday so I added this to my collection.  It's part of a series of children's books that I love.  Sepia toned pages, hand drawings, font that looks like handwriting--if someone recalls seeing a letter, there's an envelope with the letter in it, small artifacts.  I find these charming.

The Story of Colour; an Exploration.  Despite the many hundreds of physical books in the house, I downloaded this one on a whim (the positive side of e-books is that you don't have to make shelf space for them.  It's a study of the meanings of color in different cultures, and how a culture can actually change your perceptions of color.  It's a subject of interest to me.  Unfortunately, while this has some interesting information (I didn't know that there wasn't a word for the color orange in English until the 1500's when orange trees were introduced) it reads like a collection of high school essays.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

All. The. Books.

I have finished going through all of the books (well, all of the books in the guest room . . .)  We have three laundry baskets full that will go to Friends of the Library.  Does this mean that now I'll move out a bookshelf and move in my lady's desk and make the Gryffindor reading room?

Heck, no.  The remaining books have stretched and fluffed and those sitting sideways on top of other books are now actually on the shelf in a proper upright position and the end result is about 2 1/2 empty shelves.  Which Bob is eyeing with lust in his heart--his room is a bit overflowing (which is a major understatement).  Yeah--go ahead.  I'll come up with a Plan B for Gryffindor.

So has that been a waste of several days of going through a few hundred books?  No, actually.  I *like* books, and specifically, I like *my* books.  I was thinking that if I went to someone's house and saw these books on a shelf, that I would like to get to know this person.  And it's nice to have them dusted and tidy and a few have been selected for reading in the near future.   The hard part was giving up some of the ones that I actually like.  For example--since I was a kid, I've been a fan of Sherlock Holmes.  But how many "complete collections" do I really need?  (answer--two.  One with the original illustrations and an annotated version.  I like annotations when I'm feeling intellectual but find them distracting if I just want to enjoy the story).  How many copies of Beowulf do I need?  (answer--four.  One of my original textbook with linquistic and literary criticism, my Seamus Heany one because it was translated by a poet and kept the feel of the original, one from 1939 that was a give from a former boss and has some interesting art deco illustrations and one that's a graphic novel, aka comic book)

And you do find gems.  One is a collection of letters from famous women.  The book was published in 1929  (have I mentioned that I like *old* books?).  What gave me pause was the introduction, decrying the dying art of letter-writing:

"The typewriter has done away with the pen; a machine age, which was to have provided leisure, demands more hours in service to it than did the time of hand crafts and long working days.  The motion picture, the radio, the motor car, the washing machine are jealous masters. "

What would the author think of the millions of people now enslaved to their cell phones?

Bob's lighting a fire--I think I'll go read a book.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Winter! And Many Books

Last year I bemoaned the fact that we never had winter.  No moaning this year!  OK--it's not winter by Northern standards, but for Florida it's been pretty darned cold.  I even saw this:

Wild ice!  Something rarely seen here.  In Florida we have domesticated ice--it comes in regular cubes or half moons, from indoor freezers.  Not this free-form style, outside.
It almost feels like we've been on a vacation.  Saying things like "It's a good time of year to go out in the kayaks, but it's too cold right now."  Wearing sweatshirts and hats and jackets.  Things are familiar, but strange.
So that does mean spending time indoors (usually summer is our indoor time).  I've started on my first resolution--The Gryiffindor Reading Room.  I want to get that lady's writing table out of Chez Wicca.  Then I can move the small floor loom that's in the living room out there and actually use it.   I can't where it is--I've tried once, and the cats chewed up my weaving.  I've thought about re-homing it, but it's smaller than my big one and doesn't put as much stress on the weaving threads so it would be good for using my handspun.   Of course, then we'll have to build a cat tree to replace it because it's popular as a cat hangout now.  That's another project.
So the table will (hopefully) be moved to the guest room.  That's a bit of a challenge--right now, it holds a bed, a office armoire, my big floor loom, a table for the squirrel cage, and six bookshelves.  The only way to fit it in is to lose one of the bookshelves, which means (gasp!) rehoming some books.
There's two of them.  So that's what I've started on today--going through book by book and seeing what I can let go.  It's hard.   Some I'm just sentimental about--where I got them, what I was doing in that stage of my life.  Most are stuff I'm interested in, even if I haven't read them for years.  Some are like finding old friends--"hey, dude, I didn't know you were here. How's it going?"  But there are some that have just wandered in over the years, and maybe they can wander back out again.

I've managed to clear off two shelves' worth--but that may be temporary.  Before they go to the Friends of the Library, I have to let Bob look them over and I bet a bunch of them are going to go right back on the shelf--he's sentimental too.

Even if I don't get to move out a bookshelf, at least they'll be dusted and a bit more organized.  That's something, isn't it?


Sunday, December 31, 2017

And the New Year is Almost Upon Us

In less than a couple of hours it will be 2018.  It's rather arbitrary, actually.  It's just a day, like any other day, but we declare it to be a beginning of sorts.

I'm OK with that.  I like the idea of setting aside days and declaring them to be special.  Like Thanksgiving.  I have a British friend who thinks it's silly to have a big turkey dinner on a Thursday afternoon.  But I like the idea of taking time to think about things to be thankful for--like having a family to spend Thanksgiving with (or conversely, being able to have it alone in the peace and quiet of your own home).  To raise a glass and say "I'm thankful."

And in the dark days of December it's a good time to think about the time that's been, and the time that will be.  Taking time to think about what you've done and what you might do.  Arbitrary or artificial, it's still a time to think about your priorities and make resolutions (which rarely get followed but you still feel noble about making them).

So I'm taking a bit of time at the tail-end of the year to review and plan.  That's the nice thing about the blog--I can look back.

Last January I was wondering while I still bothered to blog, and decided that this year would be project-oriented--and to try to keep track of my reading.  Looking back, I seem to have done pretty well with that.


And we're starting to pay attention to the house.  We got it painted this year, and a lot of junk hauled off from in front of the barn and a car port put in instead, and cleaned up the bird pen.  I made a display of my handspindles instead of just having them lying around and we made a new art gallery wall.  I ditched and old junky cabinet in the Wicca House and built a great workbench.
Of course, I had to maintain my addiction to spinning and knitting--one big shawl, 2 smaller shawlettes, 3 cowls, 2 pairs of socks, a scarf, and a pair of slippers (not handspun).  The weaving--not so much.  The set of placemats that I put on the loom in March are still unwoven.
Did some odd things--pushing into skills I really don't have but what the heck.  My Viking loom from Njal's saga.  A dive helmet from floor mats.  My pig skull mask from Worbla.  Amazing what you can do if you just dive in.

And there's always the garden, and my various fosters (this year--4 squirrels, 13 possums, and 3 foxes)

And yes, I read--by my notes, 22 books.  Also 12 National Geographic magazines, 12 Smithsonians, 4 Spin-off magazines and 4 Ply magazines and who knows how many articles on the internet.

So what's to come in 2018?  I do have a few goals.  I want to rehab the den--it's where we spend most of our indoor time and it's pretty shabby.  Things like--when we got the big-screen TV we just stuck it in where the old smaller TV had been which meant that it was in front of our CD's and DVD's but we'd rearrange that some day--I think it's been 4-5 years now.  The old pressboard entertainment center is getting sort of sad.  So it will get a makeover (Sorry, Bob.  He's happy the way it is).

I want to get rid of some stuff -- clutter -- to make room for other stuff.  I want to set up a display area in Chez Wicca for stuff I've made.  I've had a dream for a few years of setting up a Gryffindor Reading Room--years ago I got some decadent red-and-gold brocade curtains at a yard sale, and I have a 1920's lady's writing desk that's in Chez Wicca because I don't have room for it in the house.  I'd love to set up a tiny curtained alcove--that means getting rid of some books (gasp!) and a bookshelf.  We'll see.

In general, I want to de-clutter.  We've done really well with that this past year but there's much more to go.  One does tend to collect detritus throughout one's life.

I've really been toying with the idea of a project book.  Some people keep meticulous notes when they make something.  Me--I just make stuff and hope I remember what I did (I usually don't).  What I really want to do is make it like a story book--with drawings and sketches and odd things tucked into envelopes.  But I saw to myself--I'm lousy at drawing and sketching.  On the other hand--I also don't know how to sculpt or work with foam but I seem to do OK there.  We'll see.

And now there's 45 minutes left in the year.  And I have to get up early and go to the museum--new year or not, the critters still want to get fed.

Happy 2018!


Saturday, December 30, 2017

Winding down the Year

Only a couple of days left in 2017.

Christmas came, of course, as it always does.  I'm not really big into the whole Christmas thing (we don't decorate because it would mostly entail picking up after the cats) and I tend to try to hide from all the commercialism.  On the other hand, neither am I a Scrooge.   I like to blast Christmas music and take myself to the kitchen to make fruitcake and rum balls and other goodies of the season.  Make up goodie bags (with near-lethal eggnog) for my friends at work. Make meat pies to have with sherry while watching The Hogfather.

 Buckle down and get some Christmas gifts made.  I did pretty well this year (meaning I wasn't up late on Christmas eve trying to finish anything.

This was for Amanda. 

I had treated myself to a gorgeous yak/silk fiber blend in purples and bronze greens and used a bit of it to make a cowl (in the previous blog post).  I spun up the rest to a laceweight and produced this.  Yep--I'm pleased.  Pity we don't have feel-a-vision--it's sooooo soft and draping (and weighs only 3 ounces).

Being as I actually got this done well ahead of time, I also made a scarf/shawlette for Della (Bob's sister).   A few years ago I went to a fiber festival and bought some alpaca/silk in a red-to-bronze colorway, and spun it just for the pleasure of it.  So I dug that out, and as there was only 2 ounces I filled in with some fine black merino/silk yarn that I happened to have around.

I'm also super pleased with this--I call it "Dragon Wing"

On a lighter  note--the family seems to have become involved with the Vikings so I decided to make Don (Della's husband) the head Viking of the clan.  Like Michael's dive helmet, this is made from floor mats and craft foam.

And I must say that Don wears it well.

(and yes--I'm very aware that the authentic Viking helmets didn't have horns.  But it didn't look like a Viking helmet without them.  It's a fantasy, right??)

Finally, for a friend who sews, and is a Dr. Who fan, a TARDIS.
Perhaps foam work and knitting is more my forte than wood working.  It actually looks a bit better than this--the glue was not cooperating in drying, and we were actually late to the party because I was getting it done and just took a quick picture.  It's honestly not lopsided.   But the fun comes when you take off the top:

A sewing kit!

And she had made a gift for me--and I have to say that I think it turned out better than my Tardis.

He's the most wonderful and appealing doll and is called The Seeker.  I spend the rest of the party carrying him around.

Christmas itself was spent with the family--what with the kids (hah!  The "kids" have a 14-year-old son but they're always the kids to me) mostly living overseas it's the first time that they and Della and Don and Bob and I have gotten together for Christmas in 10 years.   It was fun, if a little low-key.  The "kids" had gotten Zeke (the four-year-old) a major huge swing set/fort/climbing wall for Christmas, and to give credit to Santa Zeke had been sent to Grandma's (aka Della) for the weekend while everyone else got the thing built.  So by Christmas day they were all just a bit zonked and ready for a nap.

And so winds down the year.  Unlike last year (see the post last spring on "Winter is (not) Coming) we've actually had some cold weather here.  Time to settle down with some hot chocolate, a good book, and a cat (or two, or three).

Reading:  The Intentional Spinner--even though I've been spinning for 30-something years it's always good to learn something new

A Curse as Dark as Gold--story of two orphaned girls trying to keep the wool mill going (which employs most of the town) after their father's death.  There is mystery and magic involved--it's a sort of retelling of "Rumplestiltskin".  What I love is that the author really did her research--all the textile terminology and descriptions of the equipment and the techniques is spot-on.   It's a pet peeve of mine when you're getting involved in a story and then the writer gets something totally wrong and just sort of snaps you out of it.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Pens, Peppers, and Other Odd Stuff

A friend gently hinted that maybe I should write another blog post.  Normally the problem when one sits down to write is "what do I have to write about?"  That's not my problem.  I've been doing so much stuff that it's hard to organize it enough to write about.  Maybe my theme for 2017 should be "The ADD Year."

Maybe I'll just bullet point it.  Since the last post (which was what? 3-4 weeks ago?)

*  Cleaned up the bird pen.  This is the pen and coop we have for peacocks that for some reason or another can't be free range.  The last occupants sadly left this world this past year, and the foster opossums that were using it have gone to the wild.  But we have a peacock, Babs (really dumb name--he was the last one I ever hatched and didn't plan on keeping and got tagged because he was the baby), that was hatched with deformed legs.  Babs is 12 now, and hurt himself landing too hard a couple of months ago (peacocks fly up to roost at night--he's been sleeping on the chimney for a few years because he can't perch).  He's been recovering on the back porch but he'll need to go to the pen.  I decided that it was too dark and gloomy, so I powerwashed it and used leftover house paint to spruce it up and Bob put up some new fencing and stained it barn red.  It looks better--but it also now matches the red carport (with the beige car) and our beige house with the red chimney and it's all getting very matchy-matchy.

At first I thought I would use a paint sprayer to save time but alas--sprayer did not cooperate and whatever time I saved was spent unclogging it.  For some reason Bob found my painting attire very amusing.  I dislike getting paint spray in my hair or eyes and I don't like breathing it so I was properly protected.
My realization was that when you take away my hair, I look just like my brother!
Anyway--no before pictures of the pen because it looked like a gloomy gray prison, but it's better now.
[Hate to admit to the silver lining, but now that Babs isn't perching on the chimney, and we've have some lovely cold weather, we can actually have a fire in the fireplace]
* Garden.  The greens are growing like crazy, but a cold snap knocked out the pepper plants so we had to do a final harvest.

So all of those had to be cut, cleaned, roasted, and frozen--ready to pop into soups and stews.

*  We went to a ComicCon!  Not one of the big ones, but a local one.  Confused them by asking if they had a senior citizen discount.  This sort of thing is just fun--sort of an out-of-season Halloween.  Lots of costumes.  Some discussion groups (although I was getting distracted by looking out a window and seeing a trebuchet throwing basketballs.  Sword fighting out front. 


*I had a birthday.  My Medicare Birthday!!  How the hell did that happen?  My present from Bob?  Well, some women get jewelry and swoon "He went to Jared's."   My swoon was more like "He went to Harbor Freight!"

*  We took a welding class.  We got a little wire welder last year but haven't practiced it much.  Pretty much at the last minute before we left I said "what the heck--put it in the car.  Maybe they'll have time to look at it and make sure it's working properly".  Well, when the class was supposed to start the instructor couldn't get their welder to work (of course, it had worked the day before when he tested it).   About the time we could see the "what the heck am I gonna do now?" look of beginning panic on his face we put on our hero capes and saved the day.   By the way--the machine works fine.  I'm just a lousy welder.

* Stuff I'll talk about next time.  Meaning I've been busy making Christmas presents and obviously won't post pictures yet.

*  And the misc. stuff.   Christmas cooking (eggnog and fruitcake both get better with alcohol and age).   Marmalade (I was given a couple of bags of citrus, more than we could readily eat).   Spinning and knitting, of course.

OK--I'm cheating.  The large fall-colored shawl got finished in October--I just didn't get around to taking a picture.

So, yeah.  A bit busy.  Keeps me happy. (Oh--and still at the museum two days a week)

And looking over the last couple of posts, I realize I've been remiss in keeping up with my reading.  Catching up:

Streetcat Named Bob--read this just before my trip to Boston because Mike and Margo were going to show me the movie of it.  Very sweet story of a guy hitting rock bottom--wanting to get free of drugs and out of his rather awful life.  He got adopted by a cat who saved him.

The Martian--Wheeee!  I thought the movie was great but it's nothing compared to the book.  Neil Degrasse Tyson used the term "science porn" and that's pretty accurate.  And the author (Andy Weir) is obviously a McGyver fan.

Dracula--because I read it every October

Hogfather--because I read it every December

A Christmas Carol--ditto

Sunday, November 26, 2017

And the Howl Happened

About a month ago.  In all the previous years I haven't written  much about the Howl because I've either been crazy busy getting ready for it, crazy busy doing it, crazy busy cleaning up after it, and then too damned tired to even think about it.

That's not what happened this year.  After the Howl being a major part of our lives for the last 15 years or so, this year we backed off.  Mutually the Sick Puppies (Jeff, Rob, Bob and myself) decided that we were officially burned out.  Time to let someone else take over.  

We still gave suggestions.  Jeff did a lot of consulting, and finally couldn't stand it and built one scene.  Bob and I helped a bit at the last with some decorating, and I got people into costumes.  For the Howl itself, we opted to work the line, keeping the customers entertained while they waited.  That's actually really fun--I get more scares on the line than I ever have on the Trail itself.  That--and get our pictures taken a few dozen times.   I did get a costume made to go with the Swamp Beast mask.  (not obvious from the pictures, but I did made hooves (which meant wearing high heels, something I'm not used to) and the legs were padded to give that animal "backward knee" look.  I was pleased to no end when I heard someone comment "how can they stand with their knees locked backward like that??"

Bob reprised his Spider Lamprey persona:

And yes, that will freak the hell out of people when it comes at them in the dark (I'm very pleased with that mask)
It felt good not to be exhausted, but a little strange and sad.  We used to start coming up with ideas around - - - May.  Start building in June.  Lots of enthusiasm.  But over the last several years we just sort of ran out of ideas.  And energy.  And there is that desire to do "even better" every year, with the constraint that we had to build from scratch (and then immediately tear it all down).   It's just time to make room for something else in our lives  (although Halloween will always be my precious and my biggest holiday.  I just love the idea that people give into whimsy for one month of the year).
Oh--remember the Toucan mask?  Laura made a costume to go with it.  Maybe one year *I'll* go cute instead of creepy---yeah, no.