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Archive for April, 2007

Another Rushed Hello from NYC

Friday, April 27th, 2007

We’re on dinner break from NYUkefest. We perform in an hour and a half. I just finished altering my dress, talk about close deadlines!!!

I am having SO much fun. So much. The other performers are such cool people. I talk too much which is sometimes a problem, but when it comes to meeting people I’ve only met once before, it’s really a benefit to just blurt out hellos before I wonder if I’m overstepping my boundaries. Friendly is the right side of things if I guess wrong, so that part is going just fine. Everyone is great, so friendly and wonderful, and everyone just gets along well, it’s as ideal as it could be.

Mom called, she and Fred made it to New York this afternoon but will come in to the East Village just in time for the show. They know people here so they have more than one thing to juggle in their short time in the city.

It will be SO good to have Mom in the audience. I always am glad that our relationship is so nice these days and how she really seems to be my best fan. I do always miss my father, who taught me to sing harmony and introduced me to the concept of syncopation, which is a very important part of the early jazz I prefer to sing (from the 1920s).

I’m grateful for this cafe. The name of the place is Chomp! and it’s at 196 Second Avenue near 12th Street, on the east side. It’s a new place, a very fresh-food, friendly place, all the sauces are made in house, and the owner is really enthusiastic. And we got connected to the internet relatively easily, which was really great given our difficulties elsewhere.

Off to sing. It will be a good evening.

We Made it to New York

Thursday, April 26th, 2007

It rained the whole way so we took about 11.5 hours to get to NYC. It was pleasant being in the car together, though… we had a nice time.

Wednesday night late we found a huge Whole Foods Market (two stories, almost a city block wide) and ate at the deli. Good food and a non-tourist environment, not fancy but just right. I felt so spoiled to have so many food choices past 10pm.

Thursday morning we met up with a bunch of other folks here for the Ukefest, they were from the UK, Sweden and France… had breakfast at a deli close to the hotel and then spent the pleasant sunny morning playing music and chatting. It was lovely.

At another point Brian ran into a few performers from Australia but I wasn’t there at that point. So far, we’re the only folks from the USA who we’ve seen in the uke circles. That will change tonight when we get to the first of the many concerts this weekend.

Right now I’m in a cafe drinking tea after eating a great salad made just for me. Brian had a pannini (sp) sandwich and fresh squeezed juice. He’s playing uke quietly here and I’m saying hi to you all. I took a lot of photos but will download and develop when I’m not on battery power in a public space.

I’m still hoping to find at least one yarn shop and one museum. We’ll see how that goes.

Quick, Quick…

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007

Brian and I will be on the road all day on Wednesday, driving to the New York Ukefest. This will be the extent of my posting until I can get online long enough to do you justice.

If anyone is in NYC and wants to meet, I may be accessible on Thursday and/or Sunday… maybe even for breakfast Saturday though I won’t know for sure until I get there. I will be online intermittently (the hotel does not have access, or did not last year, but the place where the festival is held is wireless… of course, where it’s so crazy-busy that it’s hard to sit and type). If you want to meet, though, please send me email and I will indeed get it and write you back if at all possible.

My goal is to get to the radical lace and subversive knitting exhibit, probably Thursday. I also hope to hit at least one yarn shop. There is one between the hotel and the theatre so I know I’ll get there, but if I’m lucky I’ll find my way to School Products as well. One day at a time, one hour at a time, I’m not quite in charge of my schedule this trip either (that is a high-class problem and I know it).

Oh, my beloved New York, here I come!

Dallas-Ft. Worth Fiberfest: a Class Act

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007

dallasjerryandmelody.jpgI do have photos of the Arboretum and other Dallas spots for my next post, but that goes past my DFW Fiberfest story. I had one last wonderful photo left to share with you, though, and some thanks to make.

The board of the DFW Fiberfest made everything work so smoothly it was a delight. I’m used to driving wherever I go, whether it be Minneapolis (14 hours), New York (11 or so hours), Boston (16 to 20 hours depending on how often one stops), or Chicago (3.5-4hr). When you drive, you can take care of your own last-minute needs. However, I flew to Dallas and was feeling a bit powerless over that part of the trip.

Then I got there and was whisked off to the Whole Foods grocery store where I could get food I needed. They made sure I had a refrigerator in my room so I could keep the food a while. And when my big box containing 3 pasta machines for my polymer clay class never arrived, they didn’t flinch but instead whisked me off to JoAnn Fabrics where I could buy what I needed to make the class go without a hitch. Top notch.

However, beyond the business workings of it all, they were warm and caring people who made us feel absolutely welcome and valued. From going out of their way to pick restaurants where I could eat (and not yet not bore the other diners), to giving me gifts, making sure we had a quiet room to mellow out during lunchtime, and even showing up halfway through the afternoon with a cold bottle of water without even needing to ask. Melody looked up halfway through her Sunday afternoon class to find she was being handed cough drops (she needed them, and again she did not even need to ask).

I have never felt so valued and so welcomed. I sincerely hope I get to return there again. I understand that they rotate instructors from year to year… may I be blessed with another rotation.

Thanks to Margo Lynn, Molly, Jerry and Mary Kay.

And isn’t this photo of Jerry and Melody just the best? Good folks, they both are, and looking fine in this shot.

Dallas: Sunday Polymer Clay

Monday, April 23rd, 2007

dallaspolymeresther.jpgSunday in Dallas, I taught my Polymer Clay class for Fiber Folk. We mostly talk about techniques that would work well for buttons, although folks can use them for other things (buttons, shawl pins, hair sticks, pens, crochet hooks) as well. In polymer clay, there are a lot of high-contrast techniques that are impressive but they work less well for blending into a sweater or jacket than faux wood or dallaspolymertray3.jpgivory/layering techniques. I focus on the more subtle techniques for this class when working with knitters/crocheters, because of this.

I had eight folks signed up for this one, which was about maximum capacity for the kitchen area I was assigned (because of access to the toaster oven I needed). Polymer clay class is always exciting. It is fascinating to see how folks using different colors in the same techniques can turn out such different works.

dallaspolymertray4.jpgOne woman had made a lovely soft felt shawl the day before. She made very lightweight buttons to embellish the felt piece.

Another student had purchased a whole set of polymer clay working tools (including rubber stamps) at a garage sale and she expermented with those as she worked. Esther was given some wooden coffee stirrer sticks and carved them into points on one end, and made them into hair sticks. Several folks covered pens and/or crochet hooks. It was a prolific time. Esther even worked through her lunch hour (actually 2 hours) and really got a lot of clay worked. It was a wonderful time.

dallaspolymertray1.jpgI took photos of some of the trays that came out of the oven. Also see Esther wearing her new hair sticks, straight out of the oven!

Sunday after all the classes were done, we said quick goodbyes to Margo Lynn, Mary Kay and Jerry. Molly was a great sport and trucked Lily and Melody and me to dinner at a sort of French-food eatery where we sat in the corner and decompressed, talked, laughed, told stories and generally wound ourselves down from the fun weekend.

Lily had been scheduled to fly out on Sunday night… but as New York dallaspolymertray2.jpgwas having major weather troubles, her flight was cancelled and she was rescheduled for Monday morning. We all moved to a hotel closer to the airport fot one night and Melody and I talked until all hours again. Great fun.

Monday was to be goodbye time for we instructors… Lily and Melody would head home in the morning. I had never been to Dallas before, and since I like to “collect cities” I had planned a day of adventure into my trip plans. I was looking forward to it…

Dallas: Saturday Night Adventure

Sunday, April 22nd, 2007

In order to travel light on the airplane trip to Dallas, I shipped two packages ahead of time. Sunday’s polymer clay class requires pasta machines (made of metal) and polymer clay (heavy as a brick but smaller). I shipped the clay on Saturday and the machines on Monday. The clay got there early in the week, and the machines never made it.

Therefore, Saturday after our great Indian food, we headed over to the closest JoAnn Fabric store. Luckily for me, polymer clay is enough mainstream now that JoAnn has pasta machines (made specifically for polyclay artists) on the shelves regularly.

Lily decided she wanted to go with us. She lives in New York City where real estate is sky-high expensive and there is not room for the sort of mega-store that JoAnn can be. In my area, we used to have many “traditional” JoAnn stores (mostly fabric, smaller stores) and now we have one traditional and one superstore (called ETC, Expanding Your Creativity, which is more than half crafts… I worked part time at this type of store in Lansing for six months about five years ago). The superstores are becoming the new standard for JoAnn. Lily was excited to experience this with us.

So Margo Lynn, Lily and I trucked off to the closest JoAnn ETC store. We found two pasta machines on the shelf and I put them in my cart along with a few slicing blades. Then we wandered to the yarn aisle, where we perused the JoAnn store brand of yarn, deciding which we liked and which not, and whether we thought the price was where we wanted to be. You know, the normal knitter experience.

Lily found a few books and magazines on the shelves containing her designs, and we had fun looking at those and other books we had not seen yet. The collection of crochet books was larger than I’d seen before in one place.

Once when I was working at the Lansing JoAnn, I noticed a pile of books waiting to be shelved, and on top of the pile was LuAnn Udell’s Lark book in the “Weekend Crafter” series, “…Rubber Stamp Carving: Techniques, Designs & Projects” which contains a self-portrait I carved and printed on soft block media, about 4″ x 6″. That was really thrilling… I picked it up and showed my piece to a co-worker… and then returned to my post at the cutting counter.

The store was nearly empty except for us, because it was nearly closing time. We all went home with something, though small, other than my needed class supplies. We headed back to the hotel.

Melody and I talked far longer into the night than we really should have… that slumber party thing… with no mom to tell us to calm down and sleep. It worked out so well for us to room together… Lily prefers her own room to mellow out after teaching, especially since she’s on the road so much. Melody and I wanted to share the cost of accommodations, and we got along famously. She grew up in Chicago, so she’s a midwesterner who knows my most-familiar city well. We had so much in common!

In the end we had to sleep and teach one last day of classes. I was ready. Polymer clay is the sort of class that can only go well, or better. I’ve been teaching it for 15 years and every class has been good or better or fabulous! I was happy this was my final class, there was no way to have anything but a good day. I was not disappointed.

I got no photos of the JoAnn adventure, so I’m sharing one that didn’t actually fit well into other parts of my story. This is the Board and we three out-of-state instructors, just before we all took turns drawing tickets for the raffle prizes. You can see how nice it was there, with all these great big windows letting in the outdoor beauty without the outdoor elements. In the photo’s back row you see Jerry. In the front you see Melody, Lily, Margo Lynn, me, Mary Kay and Molly.

Dallas, Saturday Evening: Indian Food

Sunday, April 22nd, 2007

dallasindianfood.jpgOn Friday on the way to dinner, both Melody (MacDuffee) and I noticed that there was an Indian Restaurant we passed. We schemed Friday night in our hotel room to ask for Indian dinner on Saturday or Sunday. Luckily for us, everyone else agreed. They ended up taking us to a different place, which was fine with us. The place was called Clay Pot, if I remember right.

This was a different Indian cuisine than I’ve had before, which was really cool. It had a lot of sauces with nuts in them, and one of the choices was mango duck which I’d not seen before. Jerry got a chicken with pistachio sauce dish which was absolutely a work of art presenteddallasindiandinner.jpg on the plate (see photo). Gorgeous. Mine (eggplant and potato with spicy tomato sauce) was not as beautiful in presentation, but it was really tasty. I really enjoyed my meal, and the great company at the table. We had most of the crew… Margo Lynn, Jerry and Molly from the board (Mary Kay could not join us), and Lily Chin, Melody MacDuffie and I who were the teachers flown in from out of state. Such fun, and such food!

Here is a blurry photo taken of us by a restaurant employee. We have Jerry, me, Lily, Margo Lynn, Molly (not looking at all like herself, somehow) and Melody.

Dallas: Saturday Toe-Up Socks Class

Saturday, April 21st, 2007

dallasjane.jpgOn Saturday at the Dallas-Fort Worth Fiberfest I taught Toe-Up Socks. We used my First-Time Toe-Up sock pattern as the class handout. This sock has the easiest toe of any toe-up sock I’ve ever tried and my students consistently enjoy making this pattern.

Toe-up socks, for the uninitiated, are done “upside down” from a standard western-style sock construction. Some reasons to do them this way are a)you can knit it to fit without knitting a gauge swatch before starting, b)you can knit until you run out of yarn and stop knitting at whatever height they end up… especially good if you might run out and perhaps can’t get/can’t afford another ball of that yarn), c)there is no chance of making a twisted ring of knitting at the top and having to rip out and start over.

The down sides of toe-up socks are a) that you start with relatively few stitches and a whole bunch of needles (we call it wrestling the porcupine when we are on the very start), and b) if you bind off too tightly, the sock won’t fit over your heel and therefore unwearable.

Fortunately, we spend a lot of time in this class talking about the second of the issues, and this toe starts with a square of flat stockinette fabric which is made on 2 needles, before starting to work in the round with more needles. It’s a little fussy for one round (you pick up stitches around that square) but it gets better quickly.

These days, I make almost all of my socks with this toe (though I alternate this heel with afterthought heels depending on a number of factors including my mood of the day). I like making socks with sweater yarns, thicker than typical sock yarns, and I never know how much sock I can get with a ball of yarn. I typically buy two balls and stop when I’m out of yarn on each one. Since I have small feet and like short cuffs, I get plenty of sock with all but sometimes the bulky yarns. It works for me!

dallasthankyousign.jpgThe class I had on Saturday was my largest, I had eleven folks on the roster. The room was set up like a classroom with tables, and I felt so far away from the folks in the third row that I asked permission to move the tables around. We made a nice U-shaped space and I could be close to everyone that way. I think the more people you have, the more essential it is to be accessible to everyone. Folks in the back row often won’t ask for help when they need it. This worked out great.

I had a number of folks in the class who had tried to make various other toe-up socks previously with varying degrees of success (usually not so good). In this class I had them bring worsted-weight yarn so they could a) see what they were doing more clearly, and b) have a chance at finishing a real sock, at least the foot. Several of them worked like crazy knitting their foot at lunch. I told them we would make a heel after lunch whether they were ready or not, and they would just have to rip and re-knit later if they weren’t ready. Had I not done that, we would not have finished class in time.

In the end it worked out very well. There was a two-hour lunch which was ideal for this particular class timeframe. I think only one person really ended up with what I call a “frankensock” which is something containing all the parts of a sock but which will not fit a human foot. She was having struggles with her eyesight (cataract surgery) but was happy with what she did accomplish and was all excited to start a real pair with some of her handspun yarn very soon.

I really enjoyed the class. I had two students from Friday who were also in my Saturday class: Sabine and Jane. Jane actually followed me to Sunday’s polymer clay class as well, and I was very grateful for her constant company over the weekend. She hadn’t heard of my work before she received the flyer for the fiberfest, but she then visited my site, ordered a pattern to see if she liked my style, and then signed up for all 3 classes. We had some serious fun together for three full days. I’m happy about that.

dallasparknearcenter.jpgI didn’t remember to take photos in my class on Saturday. Here’s a photo of Jane from Friday’s class, actually. And here is a photo of something that really touched my heart… someone snuck into my classroom after class that day when I had stepped out, and left me this little thank you note, bigger than life. Thank you, to whoever you were. I had a great day, too.

And just so I can share this photo with you, here is a shot of the park across from the convention center. Folks were there all the time, especially folks walking dogs. It was a beautiful view we could see any time we were in the vendor area in the hallway. What a nice change it was from Michigan snow and the Friday tornado warning! It was windy but beautiful and sunny Saturday. I enjoyed the view.

Dallas: Fashion Show

Friday, April 20th, 2007

dallasfashionjennifer.jpgApologies for this last delay in posting. I found out that this weekend was the deadline for applying to teach somewhere and I dropped everything to put together proposals for 7 classes and a bio. Send good vibes on that one for me if you would.

Friday was exciting. After class, thedallasfashionlily.jpg board made sure the out-of-town instructors would get good food. They took us to a favorite nearby restaurant. It was starting to blow and rain, and our fearless leader, Mary Kay, stayed tuned in to the weather report as we were on our dinner run. We were expecting hail and severe rain weather. We got that and more.

We did sit and order our meals at the restaurant and were waiting for it to be cooked when the sirens went off. The restaurant was all windows so we decided to get our food to go and run back to the nearby convention center where the festival was based. The dallasfashioncrochetskirt.jpgmiddle of the building is a storm shelter so that was the safest nearby place for us. We piled into the car with bags of food and drove through large hail to get to the festival. We had greeters posted at the back door of the loading dock. We ran helter-skelter from the car to the building, and ate in the safe area of the building.

dallasfashionbeigejacket.jpgIn the end, the all-clear happened in time for us to start the fashion show only 10 minutes late. Even though we had so many door prizes to give out that everyone in the audience went home with at least one prize, and even though we had four collections of items to show, we did not go over at the end of the timeframe. Mary Kay was in charge of the show and she did a great job making sure we all were ready to go on when it was our turn. She coordinated dozens of garments and it went without a hitch.

dallasfashionmargolynn.jpgThe first collection was a trunk show from the Berroco yarn company. The second was from a local yarn shop. The third was student works, the fourth was instructor works. There was a lot of breadth in the work, from scarves to lace shawls, to baby garments, adult garments and accessories. Some were knit, some crocheted. All thought-provoking, some downright incredible.

Most of us modeling were instructors or Board members, with a few friends. There was one exception. Jennifer heard there would be a fashion show. She’s a local model and called the Board offering to participate. She did a great job. She fit Melody’s tiny crocheted tank tops perfectly. The one she is modeling here fit her so well that Melody ended up gifting her with the item. It was in a magazine at one time, I don’t have the details. We were very happy to get to know Jennifer and to have her in our show.

dallasfashionmarykay.jpgHere you have an assortment of garments from all sections of the show, in no particular order. We have Jennifer in a crocheted tank by Melody MacDuffee, followed by Lily Chin looking absolutely wonderful in a Swarovsky-Crystal beaded top of her own design (I don’t know if it was knit or crocheted). Then you see an adorable child’s crocheted skirt set (I don’t know the designer), and me in beige perhaps for the first time since 1977, in a linen-stitch chanel-style jacket that fit wonderfully, from the yarn shop collection.

After me is Margo Lynn (listmom of the KnitTalk Yahoo group and Board member, the one who suggested me to the Board for this festival) wearing a sunshine-coral beach set, crocheted top with tassels and ribbon with a straw bag, I think also from the yarn shop. This is in sharp contrast to the jackets she wears so often, which made it easy for her to camp it up a bit and play the cheerful teen on the runway.

Then comes the fun of the evening… Mary Kay, board member, wearing what was intended to be a scarf/boa made of synthetic “fur” eyelash yarn, a tube which she turned into a top just for fun during the show. She had a great time with that as did all of us.

dallasfashionmelissa.jpgOn the right we have a really cool lady whose name I don’t remember and I’ve lost her card… she has a yarn line with lots of cashmere, the line is called JoJo.dallasfashionjojo.jpg I bought some of her superwash fingering for socks but I have misplaced the yarn also at this late hour… I’ll dig that out before this travelogue is done. Anyway, she’s wearing a sweater with an unusual hemline from Berroco and holding a Berroco child’s garment. I liked how the sweater draped but wasn’t sure about the hemline, I think the pattern is on Berroco’s website and may check it out more later.

The final photo at left is a local knitter whose name I seem to remember is Melissa, wearing a top from Berroco which fit her so well it was a shame she could not take it home. She won my Fabulous Heftones In The Garden CD in the door prizes and was delighted, it’s her sort of music. I was thrilled for us both. Her red purse was made from car seat belt material, it was really quite shiny and interesting, I liked it.

OK off to bed for now, I have a class in the morning. More Dallas yet to come, stay tuned!!!

Dallas: Preview of Fashion Show

Thursday, April 19th, 2007

dallaslegwarmers50.jpgOne of the parts of my contract with Dallas-Ft. Worth Fiberfest was that I had to have a contribution to the Friday night fashion show. Some of you who have been following my blog for a while have seen my hints at the project I developed.

I knit a pair of over-the-knee legwarmers, inspired by Turkish sock colorwork. There are 13 colors of yarn: four turquoises, four hot pinks, three hot greens, a yellow and a purple. There is wool, angora, silk and cotton. Turkish knitters mix it up and you get a much more rich look than if a piece is matchy-matchy with the same brand/texture of yarn. I love this depth.

dallasfashionselfportrait.jpgI also brought my self-portrait for show. I’m proud of the piece and folks seem genuinely interested in it. I’m glad I brought it, especially since Margo Lynn, my contact, said she was hoping I’d bring it.

For the record, the shawl is my Perfect Hug Shawl in the Goddess size, knit with Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Astrakhan which is a soft boucle, held together with Louisa Harding Impressions kid mohair/polyamid ribbon yarn. Because it is many sizes too large for me, I could wrap it around me in sort of a Stevie Nicks fashion, which made it dramatic for the fashion show… yet because it was pink like my unitard, it didn’t distract from the legwarmers or the self-portrait, which were the focus of my presentation.

I have a lot of photos of the garments/people in the fashion show but no time to post them all right now. At least you can see the two pieces I entered. Yes, I’m sure I looked this wild in the photo of me with the self portrait. I did my best to be a good model and stand still a while in a few key spots. In reality, poor Molly was using my slow old camera to take these photos and I was definitely a moving target. I’m still a toddler when it comes to keeping still! I like to think that’s related to my artful passion for life or something, yadda, yadda. It sounds good, anyway!

Dallas: Turkish Sock Design

Wednesday, April 18th, 2007

dallasturkishclass.jpgFriday in Dallas, I taught Design Your Own Turkish-Style Sock. What a fun class it was. I had four folks (it was a Friday so folks had to take time off work, and it was a more advanced class). They made my day a pleasure. Here you see Linda, Kris, Sabine and Jane, happily knitting away.

I taught a version of this class in Allegan (Michigan Fiber Festival) last August, but I had the luxury of a day and a half. This meant that my students were able to go home and work on their projects. Some even started a second sock that night. They came back for the final half-day session where we talked about top-of-cuff finishes (including stretchy bind-off methods) and alternative heel types. However, in Dallas I had one day and no time for homework. I made a few adjustments which made it work fine in one day.

We decided to do the socks on 24 stitches so that they could get all the structural parts of the design done in time (in Allegan we used 32 stitches, click link for photo). There was less knitting time required for the foot, especially, which allowed me to get the heel started right after lunch. Fortunately, there was a two-hour lunch break and the folks who needed to catch up were able to do so during that time. It worked out very well.

dallasturkishsocks20.jpgThe socks turned out incredibly cute at that size. They just loved their projects. Everyone was close to finishing up the top of their sock at the end of class, and the socks were looking great.

I forgot to take photos of the class projects at the end of our day. Luckily for me, Sabine and Jane were in my Saturday class as well, and they brought their finished works for me to see. Here they are! I must say I’m delighted, and they were, too.

Moved Blog Post

Wednesday, April 18th, 2007

I moved my post, Just Plain Happy (about focusing on happiness), to April 11 in order to not interrupt the flow of my Dallas Travelogue. Just click the link if you’d like to read it in the order in which I actually wrote it.

I Love Skyscrapers

Tuesday, April 17th, 2007

dallasskyscrapers1.jpgI’m getting settled in again after being gone so long. I know some of you are waiting semi-patiently for the travelogue.

The truth is, I lost my power supply to this laptop on the trip (I think I left it in the waiting area at Detroit Metro Airport on the way to Dallas… drat). I had enough battery for one night and that was the end of that! Thankfully, Diana and Eric (brother and sis-in-love) found me a new one and had it ordered/shipped in time for me to get it on Tuesday afternoon.

It was a busy Tuesday, anyway, and I did not have much time to write or even sit at my desk. However, I downloaded 250 photos while Brian and I were rehearsing and I developed a few for you after rehearsal. Wednesday I will start the travelogue…

dallasskyscrapers2.jpgMeanwhile, here are some photos I am very happy with. I took them out the window of my friend’s car on Monday as we were sightseeing.

I love skyscrapers. I love, love, love big cities. The first big city I ever really experienced was Toronto, in 1975. I was a Junior in High School.

That trip changed my life. I felt so right when I was in the city. During that trip, I took a lot of photographs from the sidewalk pointing the camera straight up. I was in love. I’m still in love. Can you tell it from these city photos? Aaaaah….


More everything later. For now I need to sleep. Thanks for staying tuned in while I was away.



Tuesday, April 17th, 2007

I’m home. Dallas was wonderful in every way. More soon…