Another New Year

We took a pass on the celebrations this year. We saw a movie (Unbroken), got Chinese food, and came home. Mads and I were still up at midnight, so we wished each other a Happy New Year and then switched back to watching Netflix. Very low key, very enjoyable.

Today was for football and catching up on some dyeing. The dye pots have been hot all day and I’m thrilled to be back in the swing of it. Next show is the Madison, Wisconsin Knitter’s guild at the end of February. Looking forward to trying out a new show and meeting new people.

My one resolution for the year is to be creative every day. That means either art journaling, knitting, spinning, or trying something new (or maybe blogging?). I can’t make any promises, but I will try to post pictures of whatever creative endeavor comes out.

Happy New Year – my gin and tonic is getting warm.

Faberge Exhibit

Sassy’s favorite egg

 A couple of months ago, my sister called and asked if Sassy and I wanted to go to the Detroit Institute of Arts for the Faberge Exhibit. We had toured the Kremlin when we were in Moscow in 2001 and she thought it might be nice to see more of the collection. On Sunday we all headed over there.

The treasures were in cases, so I couldn’t get as close as I wanted. It’s hard to focus on all the detail when you’re packed in with lots of other people. Plus – these things are so filled with detail that it’s completely impossible to see everything. You’re looking at enameling covered by gold stripes filled with precious gems, and then more enameling…unbelievable. 

Only one of the eggs was open. Most of them had descriptions of the surprises that were originally inside the eggs, some with small pictures of the surprises. There were parasol handles, candy boxes, frames, icons, cups, miniature animals, chess boards, candle holders – you name it, if the Romanov family bought it, there was at least one example on display.

My favorite egg

At the end of the exhibit Sassy and I were waiting for the others. I turned to her and said, “You know, every time I approach the story of the Russian monarchy, I want the ending to be different. I want them all to live.”


I want the Tsaritsa to say, “Hey Nicky! We need to come clean about the Tsarevitch’s health – let’s tell the people that he’s sick.” And, “Rasputin – get lost. You stink and you’re a pig. Take a hike!”

I want the Tsar to say, “Maybe it’s not such a good idea to spend oodles of money on incredibly intricate but ultimately useless gifts. Mama, Alix, this year for Easter let’s just have a nice dinner and hide eggs for the kids. What we save on our Faberge bill will buy lots of bread for the people.”

I know it’s simplistic to wish they had seen what was coming and somehow plan for it, but it doesn’t stop me from hoping and then feeling bad every time they die at the end. 

Ghost Clock

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about creativity in all forms. I am primarily a knitter and a spinner, although I do A LOT of dyeing as well. I’ve always been curious about drawing and sculpting, but haven’t had the time or inclination to actually do anything about it.

I do have a couple of favorite sculptures that I’d like to share with you.

This is the Ghost Clock. 


It’s located in the Renwick Gallery in Washington, DC. The Renwick is the home of the American Art Museum’s Craft and Decorative Arts program. The first time I went there, I was expecting crafts along the line of knitting and spinning. I walked into a gallery and saw this piece and thought, “Why would they drape something and leave it in the gallery? That’s really silly. They should take it out and repair it and then bring it back.”

Then it hit me, it’s a sculpture – created entirely out of wood. It was carved by Wendell Castle out of bleached Honduras mahogany.

I must have stood and stared at this thing for 20 minutes. It’s on a large pedestal with a couple of other sculptures, but you can walk around and see it from all sides. It is gorgeous and I can’t even imagine the craft it took to create it.

If you’re in DC, take a trip over to the Renwick. It’s not far from the White House so if you’re there for the whole historic tour stop by and see it.

12 Shawls in 2012 – 22.5 Degrees Shawlette

I finished this bad girl back in January and just haven’t had a chance to post it. The pictures are dark, but the yarn is very dark and it’s hard to get a good picture of the actual shawl. I had a co-worker take pictures and he got this good one of me wearing it.

It’s a simple garter stitch shawl but look at those little scallops on the edges! They’re a little fiddly and I cursed them while I was making them, but they’re adorable once they’re finished.

This is a gentle sloping shawlette that is incredibly warm. I’ve discovered that if I keep something wrapped around my neck, I stay a lot warmer. It probably hasn’t hurt that we’ve had the mildest winter ever (not that I’m complaining).

22.5 Degrees Shawlette, designed by Martina Behm
The designer, Martina Behm, has a lot of great designs that are in my queue over on Ravelry. They’re simple, but lovely (Hitchhiker is the highest on my list right now.) You’re going to need to sign into Ravelry to get to those links (if you don’t have an account – get one now).

The Schaefer Anne is lovely to work with. I used my Addie Turbos and the yarn slid like a breeze. (The bamboo needles I started with were quickly traded out.) The mohair makes me itch a little bit. If I the shawl on outside of my fleece or jacket, the itching lessens.

A quick knit and I get tons of compliments when I wear it.

Pattern: 22.5 Degrees (free pattern!)
Designer: Martina Behm

Yarn: Schaefer Yarn Company, Anne (60% merino wool, 25% mohair, 15% nylon)

Colorway: burgundy/green/black

Yardage: ~500 yards

Time to knit: 8 days

Book Review: 365: A Daily Creativity Journal

365: A Daily Creativity Journal: Make Something Every Day and Change Your Life!, Noah Scalin
originally published: December 2010
finished reading: 20 February 2012
cost: $10.36 (e-book purchased with a gift card)

The idea of doing a 365 project intrigues me. At the same time, it terrifies me. I keep inching closer to the thought of committing to creating something every day for an entire year. Can I do it? Yes. Will I do it? I don’t know. Every time I get close to thinking I’m going to start, something urges caution and I delay again. I’m afraid of getting lazy or bored or distracted.

Scalin’s 365 project was skulls. He created some brilliant art work – a giant snow skull, a skull involving ketchup and mustard bottles, sushi – they’re amazing! This book is meant to spark ideas for every day of the year. Many of them sparked in my head while reading and I can see returning to the book over and over to get re-sparked. His blog featuring his 365 skull art is incredible to scroll through.

His other blog, Make Something 365 is, by turns, intimidating and inspiring. He has done interviews with people who are just starting out on their 365 journeys and he features interviews with people who’ve completed. It’s an incredible mix of art (photos, drawings, one guy is listening to a Billy Joel song every day and writing a review about it). I scroll through and think to myself, “that’s a GREAT idea – why didn’t I think of that?” or “my idea is crap compared to this one” or “I could totally do a 365 project!”

I’m gathering ideas and courage to start my own 365 journey. This part of it has been fun. I can imagine that the project itself will be fun too. I just need to get moving.

12 Shawls in 2012 – Pie Wedge Shawl

On Ravelry there’s a group called, yes, 12 Shawls in 2012. My friend Katherine pinned a couple of shawls and I got pulled in. I had started a shawl on New Year’s and I figured, “what the heck”? So here’s my first shawl of 2012.

This is the Easy Pie Wedge Shawl. When you bought the Helen’s Lace (multi) from Lorna’s Laces, the pattern was on the ball band. It took about 1200 yards (there’s still some left in the ball).


I started it on 1 January 2012 and finished it on 12 January 2012. It was a fairly easy knit, just garter stitch and yarn overs. I will admit that I had to fudge a couple of times because I ended up with more stitches than I should have had. No one will know and I can’t actually remember where they are. That’s just my caveat that you have to pay attention a little – not a totally mindless knit.

This picture shows the colors a little better than the above shot. The colorway is called Black Watch, and there are some rather dark bits, but it’s mostly green and blue – really lovely.


I wore it to work today, because I could and with our unseasonable warmness, had to take it off about 30 minutes after I walked in the door. 


It’s lightweight, quite soft, and exceedingly warm. I couldn’t be happier with my first shawl of 2012.


Details:


Pattern: Free and Easy Pie Wedge Shawl
Designer: Lorna Misner
Yarn: Helen’s Lace Multi (50% silk/50% wool)
Colorway: 304 Black Watch
Yardage: ~1200 yards
Time to knit: about 2 weeks


Up next: Milkweed Shawl

Project 365

I’ve been reading lately about people who commit to doing something creative for an entire year. It’s an interesting concept and one I’m thinking about trying. There are a couple things holding me back:
  1. What if I attempt it and don’t complete it?
  2. Are there enough different ways to be creative about something?
  3. When it gets hard will I push through or will I give up?
When I’m thinking about something, I read about it. I found a ton of interesting stuff on this concept. First, the guy who created and started calling it Project 365, Noah Scalin. He made a skull every day for a year (some of them are way cool). He’s also written a couple of books and in the promotion of his second book, Unstuck, there are a lot of articles talking about the project. Like this one.
Scalin has 6 ideas about how to come to the project in a way that helps stick to the commitment and not just think about it.
  1. Let go of preciousness
  2. Freedom comes from limitations
  3. Get out of your environement
  4. Get out of your comfort zone
  5. Get things by giving them away
  6. Collaborate

He expands on each of these in the linked article above. Go read it, it will only take a minute or two. (I’d buy the book, but I already took the “no new books” pledge.) He’s been featuring other Project 365’ers on his website and they’re all doing cool things too.


So, back to my initial questions.

  1. Attempt, but can’t complete?
    • So what? I’ve started things over and over and I keep starting them again. Scalin himself said that the Skull Project was his third attempt at a 365.
  2. Different ways to be creative?
    • Seriously? I’ve been stretching myself and trying different things my whole life. I sat here and thought of at least a dozen ways to create my  365 idea.
  3. Push through or give up?
    • Here’s the thing. For me, it’s like working out. If I know that someone’s waiting for me at the gym – I haul myself out of bed and go. If I know someone’s waiting to see me succeed (or fail) or simply to live the project along with me vicariously, that’s incentive enough to show up. Every. Day.
    • Anyone want to be a 365 buddy? We could bounce ideas off each other and shout encouragement through the interwebz.



I like the idea of doing a “thing” every day. It does help me to limit the box, so to speak. So my 2 ideas are either a giraffe or a snowman/woman/person. Any thoughts on which one I should do? Any ideas about materials to use? Any encouragement? Any naysayers? I’d love to hear from one and all. Drop me a comment and tell me what you think.

Last Yarn of 2011

I’ve been working on a technique my friends Erica and Jillian have been encouraging me to try. Stop me if you’ve heard this one, but you take 2 different rovings/tops with at least one color in common, strip them down to about the width of your thumb and then hold them together while spinning. This creates a barber pole effect in the single that becomes dots of color when plied. 


It is amazing to me that when I search my stash I find some stuff that makes me think, “Why on earth did I buy this?!!??” Either my color sense has changed, or the fiber feels like something I don’t want to spin anymore, or someone gave it to me and I didn’t have the heart to rid myself of it.

Karaoke & Milk/Seacell/Wool fibers

Either way, I found these 2 fibers in my staff at the end of last year. 


On the left we have Karaoke in the Mermaid colorway. Karaoke comes to us from Louet and uses the leftovers from tofu production – yes, one more product made from soy. I had 4 oz and it cost me $11 for the bundle.


I don’t know if you can tell in the photo, but the fiber takes dye beautifully. It is lustrous and rich. However, the Karaoke, it clumps like nobody’s business. Stripping it will help with the clumpiness, but destroys the brilliant color by breaking it up. Since I was going to strip the fiber anyway, it was a great candidate for this technique.


The fiber on the right was dyed by Creatively Dyed Yarns (CD). This is made from 20% milk protein/20% seacell/60% wool. I found this amazingly soft, but the colors no longer spoke to me (too much white). I had 4 oz and it cost me $24. I figured the softness of this would counteract the clumpiness of the Karaoke and all the white would brighten it up. The common color is a deep purple that is a large section in the Karaoke and just random 1.5 inch bits in the CD.

First single



I split the fiber in half and set one half aside. Proceeded to strip the other half, making sure there were an equal number of nests. Then I started. Here we have the first single. Again, apologies for my camera, the left side of the photo seems to capture the colors the best. The deep green from the Karaoke really comes through in the single, although overall, I think it looks very, very purple.


I took up the half of the fiber that I had set aside, stripped it and spun it as another single. There’s no need to show you another picture the second bobbin looks remarkably like the first. Although there was a lot more white in the second half of the bundle, so it was lighter than this first single.

2-ply yarn

The resulting yarn looks like this. Excuse the blurriness, but this shows the layout of the colors the best of all the pictures I took. It is quite soft and while overall the deep colors have muted to lavender there are several pops of deeper color peeking through. It’s a serviceable yarn and I haven’t decided what to do with it yet, it my be cast into the basket with other purple yarns to become something for my Sassy, the lover of all things purple.




fiber: 50% soysilk/30% wool/20% milk protein/20% seacell
weight: 7.6 oz
length: 336 yards
weight: worsted

Book Review: “Spin Art:

Spin Art: Mastering the Craft of Spinning Textured Yarn, Jacey Boggs
originally published: November 2011
finished reading: 30 December 2011


I must admit, the first time I saw Jacey Boggs’ yarns I wasn’t impressed. As a knitter and a spinner, what use did I have for yarn with felted eyeballs in it? I figured she was a fad and that she’d blow over and disappear, leaving the field for serious spinners. I can’t tell you how wrong I was and how happy I am to have been so wrong. 


This last summer I took a 3-day class with Jacey at the prodding of a fiber friend. My mind was blown. Apparently, when she takes on a challenge, Jacey jumps in head first and completely immerses herself in the task. When she started spinning, she spent 4-6 hours a day making yarn. That’s pretty incredible for a new spinner. I’ve been spinning for almost 20 years (off and on) and she said things that made me re-evaluate what I was doing and actually do it better.


What does that have to do with this book? Let me tell you. Boggs spent so much time spinning in order to figure out what the fiber will do so that she could then make it do what SHE wanted (know the rules so you know which ones you can break). If you understand the structure of fiber and the effects of the work you’re doing, you’ll understand the resulting yarn and be able to incorporate it into your own work very precisely.


Spin Art is essentially a multi-day workshop with Jacey sitting next to you and showing you what to do. She starts you off with easily do-able yarns. Even if you’ve never tried “art yarn”, you can make these first few. Once you conquer those, you will be able to work your way through the book trying everything. The pictures are wonderful and while her descriptions may seem strange, do exactly what she says the first time through. It will all become clear, I promise.


One of my fiber challenges for 2012 is to work my way through this book. I expect to be hung up on a few once I actually get started, but I plan on spending as much time as I need to get a good, usable yarn before moving on to the next one. I have plenty of stash for this project and I plan on turning it into some incredible yarn. 

I have fallen down

and I’m having a hard time getting back up. I was doing so well with the blogging thing – then work blew up. I had a week of meetings for which I had to prepare (not just show up and look engaged). Then I was in the process of cleaning off my desk for my 2-week holiday (hooray). This just doesn’t leave much time for blogging and thinking about creativity.


However, I was creative and engaged in daily art. Here’s what I’ve been working on:

  1. finished Hens’ Christmas stocking
  2. finished Little Big Man’s hat
  3. finished Sassy’s hat
  4. down to the toe on my sister’s second sock
  5. actually wore a sweater I knit to a holiday party (first outing!)
I’ll try and post pictures of everything in the coming days. It’s a busy time, but now that I’m not getting up and going to work every day, I seem to have a little more free time. At least until the first of the year…