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Archive for December, 2008

Oh, Joy! Oh Happy Day! It’s a Boy!

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

Someone dear to me has longed for a baby for over a decade, perhaps two decades. She is a tiny person, not all of 5 feet tall. She had a 42nd birthday yesterday.

isaacbabyhat.jpgMy loved one got pregnant this year after long ago having given up hope. The baby was born today. Seven pounds, 8 ounces! Ouch. She is so little!

My mom is taller than this person and Mom’s babies were both significantly under seven pounds. Mom was not comfortable at all. I think the discomfort of the ninth month is nature’s way of making a woman look forward to labor followed by sleepless nights. They just want that child in their arms!

I can not tell you the joy in my heart for this family. It is so wonderful when things happen like this. We can not place an order for it, we are not in charge of how it goes. These folks have a lucky star over them today.

I am rejoicing in the news, I’m almost giddy.

Holidays are so intense. I had a holiday party with the knitting guild tonight and one is tomorrow night with the dance troupe. We have a funeral scheduled tomorrow afternoon (they are twice as sad in December). However, today is 100% joy.

Today’s photo is the hat I knit for the new child. It is from the Ann Norling Fruit Cap pattern (a brilliant design which has 3 options and many sizes on 2 sides of one sheet of paper). I used a handpainted pima cotton from Araucania for the blue and Tahki Cotton Classic for the green leaves. I find that moms like this hat so much they will ask for a replacement when the child outgrows the first one. The perfect gift!

Winner Names

Monday, December 15th, 2008

I wish I had photos of prizes right now for you, I thought I would. However, Monday was one task after another (many out of the house) and I could not sit still at home for photos before the sun went down.

However, I am going to announce the names of the winners of my contest, and then show you photos later, hopefully Tuesday.

The winners are (in alphabetical order):

Chelle
Deborah Robson
Debbie
Nicole
Rachel
Riin
Trish

At least one person said they should not win in more than one contest here. It is my opinion that those who come here often, make more chances to win for themselves. I think rewarding loyalty is a very good policy!

Although I am dating this post for Monday, it’s past 2am and my Monday is not finished yet. I will have a few days off when the holidays hit, but that time has not happened yet.

I’ll surely be busy at home those days, but I must admit that I adore any day without an appointment. Soon I will have several in a row, and I will drink them in with delight, like a lovely cup of hot chocolate.

For now, though, I will go on to the next task so that I can sleep sometime tonight.

A Simple Pleasure

Saturday, December 13th, 2008

Saturday was crazy. I taught one class in the morning, one in the afternoon. Then I went to Altu’s restaurant to hear our friend Art Cameron sing and to say goodbye to Altu who is going on vacation Sunday. THEN we went to a music/knitting/food party, and knit and talked while others played music. Not Simple.

orangepeppers.jpgBut I did get to go home for a short while before going to Altu’s. I sat still and enjoyed the quiet while I could.

I am learning to rejuvenate myself in smaller bits of time lately. It’s a lovely skill to develop.

As Art Cameron says in one of his songs… take long walks… take longer walks (the song has much more than just this message in it). One thing I got from the song was a sense that appreciating the moment is essential to living a fuller life.

Here is a color moment: the other day, Brian and I shared slices of an orange bell pepper. I love them more than other bell peppers, they just are sweeter or something. They tend to have a shorter shelf life than the other colors, so we just dive in and enjoy them as soon as we buy them.

And the color of the pepper was so beautiful on my turquoise dishes, I had to stop a moment and take a photo. I find that this color combination just warms my heart. Pretty, isn’t it?

What do you do on busy days, to stop and smell the roses? How do you slow down and notice little things when life is crazy?

Note: Winners of my contest are chosen and prizes are getting matched up and will be photographed and announced on Monday.

Classes-o-Rama, Eternal Optimism

Friday, December 12th, 2008

The Right Kind of Busy

I’ve been swamped in all the right ways this week. Work is a lovely thing, and I have been doing more of it lately than usual (let’s face it, Aupolymergiftsjarlid.jpggust will always be slow for knitting teachers and winter will be better).

Monday I worked with the knitting Third Graders (much fun). I usually have Tuesdays off, but instead I taught 5 people how to do wet-felting at Threadbear Fiberarts. Wednesday I prepared for company, then I had kid knitters at Rae’s followed by a dance rehearsal; Thursday I had two students for “Knitting Study Hall” and five more for wristwarmers, also at Rae’s.

I had Friday “off” but of course that means grocery shopping and cooking… and some administrative work while I had the time to sit still. I did have time between two appointments and I had a cup of tea at a cafe, and knit for about 35 minutes. That was a lovely luxury.

Bewildered Again

I really wanted to dye yarn this week. I don’t know how I thought I would really make that happen!

Saturday I have two classes to teach at Rae’s, one in the am and one in the pm, then we have two musical events to attend. Sunday I have one class and then Brian and I will perform music for a private holiday party.

I’m a Bit Funny

Why do I continue to look at a calendar as full as this, and think I can add dyeing yarn on top of it all? I realize I only get one full day without work appointments this week, when I think about it. Somehow I think I can do more work that day… and at least this week, I couldn’t make it happen.

Last week I had Saturday off, this week I had Friday. I think I should be impressed with myself, that I can maintain this optimism in spite of evidence to the contrary. I think I won’t need to sleep? That I can take fuel from the air rather than cooking? Is anyone else out there this funny?

Actually when I think about it, at least one person can be as unrealistic as me. Stephanie/Yarn Harlot posts about her list of holiday knitting every year, how many hours it needs to be completed and how far behind she is each day. I never am clear about how deep I’m in, but I think I like my type of denial better than a list waving at me and telling me how ridiculous I am being!

polymergifts400.jpg

Hints and Tips?

I’m wondering if we can call realistic scheduling an artform? I think we can. Is anyone out there good at it? Does anyone out there have advice that a seriously-distractable creative-artist-type could actually use to make things work better?

I did start to use Microsoft Outlook’s calendar and to-do list features relatively recently. I like that I have a to-do list that comes up like an alarm clock reminding me what day I must do things. However, I keep moving things down the calendar. I will not forget, but I can not make everything happen without some effort on my part.

I’m not complaining, really. Work is my friend. I love my work! Last Sunday, Brian went to a music party and I went to Rae’s to teach polymer clay. I was so happy to be teaching it was totally fine with me to miss the party. And we did have an absolute blast in that class! And then I get paid for doing it. This is as it should be, right?

But sleep and cooking and vacuuming for company all get sort of kicked aside for work, and preparing for work, and other appointments out of the house. I do it every time. Today we have two loads for the dishwasher because I ignored that task yesterday. It doesn’t go away when I look in another direction!!!

I get going on one thing, think of another I left partly done, finish that, go to a third thing then remember the unfinished one… I don’t do this every day but it seems I spend days off like this, trying to do all the things I can’t do when I’m not at home. I think I wrote this blog post in about 6 different bursts, before and after dinner. I think I started it about 9 hours before I hit “post.”

Balance is the Goal

What do you do, to make it balance? Do you have a way to be realistic? Do you somehow know how long something will take before you plan time to do it? I think that’s where I fall down… I don’t know how long it will take.

I also don’t account for things like phone calls from loved ones, or lunches with friends that can go more than 60 minutes. Relationship is very important to me but it needs to balance with income-producing activities.

And that said… I’m going to go rehearse with my beloved Brian, to prepare for the holiday gathering we will sing for on Sunday. They want us to do some Christmas music. We have to re-learn our favorite classics every December for such events. It’s pleasant to rehearse together, though it is also work-related.

I can’t wait to hear any hints anyone has. Or stories of the same balancing-act learning curve are fine, too.

Photo: Polymer Clay Gifts class last Sunday at Rae’s Yarn Boutique. I forgot to get photos of my knitting/felting students’ works this week. These photos, however, should cheer any soul!!!

Creative Kidz

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

I am enjoying my young knitters this term. I have a 14 year old, and a girl who will be 13 years almost any minute now. Both are very talented and able to work on their own. They are finding their own styles, something very important at that age.

maitrihandspun.jpg

This first photo is handspun yarn made by the 13 year old. She learned about spinning from Rae, and someone gave her a spinning wheel (what a huge gift to a youth). She loves it! This yarn was made of bits and pieces of different-colored rovings, some of which were gifts to her. It is her first finished 2-ply yarn.

She would love her next skeins to be all one color. Personally, I love the energy of all these colors! I’m trying to convince her to make a felted bowl with this yarn, where she will not need two items to match. We will see what she decides, since it is her yarn and not mine!

annahandwarmers.jpg

The second photo is by the 14 year old. She made these wristwarmers with handspun yarn, but Rae spun it and the young lady did the designing and the knitting. I’d say she did a pretty great job!!!

Question of the day: What sort of creativity did you use for self-expression when you were young? Was it large-motor (sports or dance), small-motor (knitting), intellectual (debate), writing, traditional art, theatre, gardening, cooking?

For me it was a little of all of the above (perhaps less intellectual although I loved English), I think. I was a very social child and so singing in choir and theatre were perhaps most important in High School. Some kids are encouraged to be more practical than creative, and they find fascinating outlets when they need to feel creative. What did you do or not do?

I’m tallying all the comments from my birthday/blogiversary week contest. The tension builds…

Back to Functional

Monday, December 8th, 2008

Temporary Delay

I missed a day blogging… had about 24 hours where I could barely surf. For some reason, Firefox 3 won’t function on my laptop. I tried it months ago and it would crash instantly so at that point I went back to version 2 and it worked fine. Lately my computer has been so dog-slow I was groping for a fix.

I figured they had fixed a few bugs in version 3 since my first try, so I re-installed it a few days ago. Crazy… it works better for everyone else I know. I couldn’t even get it to start fully before it froze up. It just doesn’t seem to like my computer. I don’t like this computer much, either…

After a day of fixing a low-disk-space issue, Firefox still hung. I uninstalled version 3, reinstalled version 2, and I’m up and functional again. I have prizes to award and that’s on the short list. I’m still writing thanks to everyone who commented in the last week or so, and I’ll announce prizes soon. I did not forget!

Music to Smile By

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(Anyone recognize the shape above? Nostalgia!)

This morning I’m listening to Roger Miller… bah doo dah do wacka do… brilliant music with a few musicians (guitar, keyboard, drum, and an amazing upright bass player on most cuts) and no special effects. He was a brilliant songwriter and performer.

He’s known for “King of the Road,” “Do Wacka Do” and “You Can’t Rollerskate in a Buffalo Herd” but unfortunately some of his most brilliant works never really made the radio. I mean… My Uncle Used to Love Me but She Died? (My favorite is “In the Summertime,” doo dah bah doo doodle doo.)

He had a fresh look at the world. “Rollerskate” is his version of the same sentiment as the Rolling Stones “(I can’t get no) Satisfaction,” a sort of protest of advertising. Brian and I sometimes sing “Kansas City Star” at jam sessions, it’s great for a smile and some harmony, and the chords are easy for folks to jam along.

Anyway… starting the day with Roger Miller after getting back online? I think it will be a good day! Wanna listen to him doo do do waak doo doodle doo? See if you can listen to this video on YouTube:

Added later: I found a YouTube of Roger Miller on the Muppet Show, doing a medley of four of his songs accompanied by a flock of muppet chickens. Perfect concept… his vocalizing works perfectly with the chicken idea, too funny!

Now I get to go teach kids to knit…

“…How bizarre, how bizarre…”

Monday, December 8th, 2008

Does this door sign crack anyone else up? I only wish there was one room to handle this subject. It sounds so simple!

powerdistributionroom.jpg

That is right up there (in the bizarre idea department) with a phrase I overheard last night. Brian was watching YouTube, something about all the machinery it takes to make frozen pizzas in a factory. No problem, it talks about spraying (!!) tomato sauce on the cooked crust… and then it has a (get this) “meat applicator.”

I mean, it sounds a little like roll-on deodorant put that way. I grossed out a little and giggled a lot after hearing that.

But a meat applicator is nothing next to this photo Brian has on his web page. I actually took the photo, in rural southeastern Minnesota. It isn’t something one would find in the city here in Lansing. Finding it felt pretty Twilight Zone, something out of the blue for someone like me.

If you are vegetarian, you should not click… you have been warned.

Patterns (part 2): Road-Tested Legwarmers!!!

Saturday, December 6th, 2008

I am pleased as punch to announce a truly versatile pattern, my Road-Tested Legwarmers! Find them on my shopping cart Right Here!

legwarmers400.jpg

These fit all legs, tall or small; slight or ultra-curvy. As a legwarmer wearer, I guarantee these can work for you… walking the dog, waiting for the bus, dancing, or keeping warm in a frugally-heated house.

I include standard instructions for a specified gauge of 4.5 st/inch and small/medium/large sizing. However, there are knit-to-fit instructions for any size or shape leg, almost any yarn/gauge from 5.5 to 4.0st/inch.

I have been a dancer my whole life, and have always loved the look of legwarmers. I wear them whatever the style police say. I wore them in the ’70’s, the ’80’s, and never stopped all these years.

Lately, strangers of all ages come up to me to say how great I look while wearing my legwarmers. I get a kick out of that!

They are always a practical thing, I am surprised they have not remained a staple for generations. They just plain can make you warmer, whether over leggings/tights in dance class or the grocery store, scrunched under jeans or under a skirt to keep breezes at bay.

 Three Looks, All Sizes, One Pattern

legwarmersmarie400.jpg

To tempt you more fully, there are three “views” or looks, all within the same pattern.

View A is shorter and shown in a solid yarn (above in Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride Worsted, Amethyst… at left, Persian Peacock on a curvier leg), with an almost fitted look except a little room at the ankle.

View B is mid-length, knit in self-striping yarn (shown in Noro Kureyon 40) and at the length I specify, it normally slouches a bit at the bottom. This gives you room for tugging them up over your knees for warmth if needed.

View C is longest of the three. It features Fibonacci stripes in two colors. Wear both with the same color top or bottom, or wear one up and one down if the mood strikes.

My 14-year-old knitter, A., is knitting a pair in View C right now, in the same colors pictured here. These are long enough on me to be thigh-high legwarmers if I get really cold, or just feel like being extra stylish. They also can be folded down at the top and slouched a bit at the bottom for a more standard look.

Literally for Every Leg! Goddesses Jump In!

Trust me, there are many legwarmer patterns out there written by people who never wear them. Many of these patterns are too big, thinking that “just in case” is better, but then they slide down all day, and you tug them up constantly. Many come in one size, or possibly two.

I am absolutely sure you can make a pair of legwarmers with this pattern, that will fit whatever size or shape leg you have. Goddess-curvy ladies, this is your pattern! They will be comfortable on anyone, and they will not fall down.

Come on in, the water’s fine! You know you would love to give it a try, right?

There is still time to knit a pair as a gift for the holidays, they do not take long to knit at all. I knit the purple pair in two days, and I taught on those days as well.

I hope some of you are as excited by these as I am!!! Let the fun begin.

Oh, Joy! Two New Patterns (part 1)

Saturday, December 6th, 2008

A Moment of Achievement

My current job (as a self-employed knitting instructor/designer) is the best work I’ve ever stripehatwithmusiclightened.jpghad. I’m most happy in front of a classroom, and almost equally pleased to pick up knitting needles and “make up” something knitted on them.

Less fun is writing down what I made up in such a way that others can knit it, too. Writing patterns is tedious, but part of the big picture.

It is very important that I not miss details, or the internet may vibrate with news of my inadequacy. That part of the picture makes me bite a few fingernails, so to speak.

I Cannot Do This Alone

I am topperdownhatarucaniaweb.jpglucky to have folks who test knit my patterns for me, or otherwise help out. There is no way I could do what I do as thoroughly as I do it, without that help.

For this set of patterns, workers included (in no particular order): Rachel B of the comments, Dorene, Diana, Rae, Marie, Anna, Rachel of Rae’s Yarn Boutique, and students in my Topper-Down Hat class at Rae’s. They test knit, took photos, gave input on wording, modeled, helped me rearrange paragraphs so that things read more easily, letopperdownhatbrian400.jpgt me know how curvy legs liked my prototype knit-to-fit instructions, and provided moral support.

Also, Tracy A. volunteered to model for me. In the end I did not need that help… thanks for the offer!

The Current Designs

This week I have finished/released two new patterns. One is my Topper-Down Hat. It starts at the top with a square (I have used this start in bags and socks as well, if you have knit my patterns before). You increase until it fits.

There are stitch counts if you want to use my specific gauge (4.5 st/inch) and follow my spelled-out numbers, but there is also a section on how to knit to fit using any yarn/gauge that blocks the wind. It is suitable for DK to Bulky weight yarn (one size smaller worsted to two sizes larger, usually 5.5 to 4.0 stitches an inch specified on the ball band).

Many top-down hats are pointy at the top. Often they have you cast on a few stitches and start with about as many Double-Pointed Needles as you have stitches, which is fiddly at best.

Topper-Down lets you work flat for a good number of rows and stitches, and later pick up stitches around the square when there is enough fabric to not be quite so clumsy. And it’s nice and flat on top, to boot! I am very happy with the end result.

Guys Welcome

I specifically wanted a hat that was guy-friendly. Last guild meeting, my knitting acquaintance, Moose, won the hat kit I donated… and liked it enough to knit it for himself. I was delighted. I knitted a prototype for Brian which he wears, too.

Yet in pink and turquoise it is lady-friendly, too. And, in self-striping Noro Kureyon as one student knit it, the hat is kid friendly on top of it all.

The Topper-Down hat is on my website for purchase as a paper pattern in page protector, through the US mail. It is also in the three shops where I teach most: Rae’s Yarn Boutique and Threadbear Fiberarts in Lansing, MI, and Yarn Garden of Charlotte, Michigan.

Soon it and the legwarmer pattern will be available at KnittingZone.com (as PDF downloads) as well. Please buy locally if you can, otherwise the web sources will make sure you do not miss out.

(My second pattern this week is a legwarmer pattern, I will wait to go into photos and details on that one until my next post.)

And yes, I will have prizes from the 6-Year ColorJoy Blogiversary to announce very soon as well!!!

ColorJoy is sometimes Color Itself

Friday, December 5th, 2008

twiggydressgarden.jpgI can not spend a week contemplating the concept of ColorJoy “Art as an everyday attitude” without examining color itself at least one day.

I have an acquaintance for the last year or so, who is totally colorblind. He asked once “is color really that good?” I had to say that for me it is. I make a living in part because of my love for and skill with color.

For him it is a non-entity, but sometimes he has to stop people and ask them to explain things differently. Fascinating, but hard for someone like me to fathom!

I am going to attempt explaining how/why some colors look well together. There are books the size of large dictionaries written about the subject, but I will try to keep the words simple and the paragraphs brief. We can only hope that I can make it more understandable.

Hue, Value and Chroma/Saturation/Intensity

munsellcolorwheel.pngWe usually define a color by its hue. We say “blue” or “green.” If we explain further, we say “dark blue” or “light green.” That additional word defines what is called the value of the color.

Hue is where a color sits in the rainbow or on a color wheel around the edge. Hue is red, orange, yellow, green, and so on.

Value is light to dark. Artists measure it in percent of white. White itself is 100% light, and this is called a value of 10. Black is 0.

Most crayons, at least red and green, are about halfway between white and black. They might be called red 5 and green 5. Dark blue might be blue 2 and light yellow might be yellow 9. If you look on the back of a tube of Liquitex acrylic paint from the last 20 years or even more, you will find hue and value defined in this way.

Chroma, also called saturation or intensity, is the missing piece. Martha Stewart has made a living putting gray in all her colors. The purple goes with the orange, because all the colors are mostly mid-values, say 5 to 7, and there is a bit of gray in all of them. Many Debbie Bliss yarns are also on the subtle/gray side, usually mid-to-light values, and go well with one another.

My world changed when I took an art class as an adult, and the professor talked aboucitygirls2sm.jpgt chroma. I finally had a way to define the colors I had always loved. That day was magic, when I finally had words for my preferences.

I love very saturated colors, those with no gray at all. Once someone wanted to insult me and they said I loved “retina damage colors.” We were not talking about actual physical damage, but the underlying message was that I was not sophisticated.

I was not insulted. I have found out that sophisticated is not my place in life, anyway. I’m about boldness with manners, and joy and fun and energy. Or those are attributes I aspire to and sometimes attain in bits and pieces as I go through my life.

But I love high-chroma colors. Martha Stewart likes lower-chroma. I have my style. She has hers. I realize her business is thriving more than mine ever will (she has a full-time staff, I have not a single employee), but I still need to be myself. (Photo of my knitting girls in Indian clothing shows high chroma pink, yellow and orange, with a mid-chroma green.)

Warm/Cool

Back when Color Me Beautiful (color analysis for makeup and garments) was very big, we learnravenfrogfootiestwofeet400.jpged about colors as seasons. They divided into two seasons (or color groups which flattered certain people) which were relatively higher chroma and two groups which were relatively lower chroma.

But those two groups were then broken into two other categories: Warm or cool. Warm means there is some yellow in it, and cool means thpair163-20.jpge absence of yellow and often presence of blue undertones.

For the record, Summer is cool/low chroma/soft and feminine.
Winter is cool/higher chroma (above left footies green/blue/purple), bold or classic.
Spring is warm/higher chroma/fresh, clean and sunny.
Autumn is warm/lower chroma (right socks yellow/green/teal), confident yet subtle.

There was a lot of disagreement about whether this concept was helpful or not. I think it depended a lot on who did the analysis and who was being analyzed. As for me, it gave me permission to wear the clothing colors I already knew felt wonderful to me. I was categorized as a winter, though I knew that some of the winter colors did look better on me than others.

I was a bit afraid to wear my favorites before this time, they were brighter than what others around me were wearing. But when I realized that I looked wonderful in the colors I already loved, and I figured out it was about cool/saturated, my life truly changed. Those who followed their season instruction book without understanding it (or were not evaluated well), maybe did not benefit as much as I did.

What does not work?

When I see people trying to put together groups of colors and one does not work, usually the problem is a chroma issue. One color has way more or less gray than the others. However, the second possible issue is if one is warm and the rest are all cool, or the reverse.

What does work?

There are standard color ideas that may help you understand how to combine colors. Here are short explanations.

Monochromatic Color Scheme

A monochromatic scheme includes many versisusanluksdetail.jpgons of the same color, often with white and black included in the range. Imagine someone who looks wonderful in faded jeans. This person may wear the faded jeans, and a medium blue t-shirt, with a blue chambray workshirt over it.

Or if you think of Japanese ikat fabrics, often they use variations between white to light blue, medium blue, and dark-almost-black blue, all from indigo dyes. Many artful batik-type clothes are also blue/blue/blue.

(Photo is a detail of one of Susan D. Luks’ short jackets in a Monochromatic Red scheme including grays and black.)

Analogous Color Scheme

analogousclothing20.jpgAnalogous (uh-NAAHL-uh-gus, where naahl has the vowel sound of “pal”)  is when you pick colors next to one another on the rainbow or color wheel. Many of my friends favor the cool colors. They may choose hot green, emerald, turquoise, blue and maybe purple (or a smaller portion of that range). They leave out the yellow, red and orange. This would be called an analogous color scheme.

Does anyone remember the color schemes of the mid-1970’s? Do you remember there would be a room shown in red/pink/orange and maybe yellow… then the same idea shown in blue/green/purple? This was a limited analogous set of choices, one warm and one cool.

I know I dress funny, or very different than the rest of my world. However, here’s a photo of me last Sunday. I was wearing one item in each color from hot green to hot purple, through the blues and turquoises in between. This is a large analogous color scheme.

Analogous Variety

Thisartistyarns375x375.jpg would be a few colors all sitting together on one side of the color wheel (analogous), plus one color from somewher across the wheel, out of sequence. My favorite clothing color scheme is greenish-turquoise, purple and fuschia/hot pink, which can be described as analogous variety. Never mind I picked them from my gut instinct first, then later analyzed what they might be called.

What we call pink is typically a light/high-value magenta (purple-red in art terms), rather than light red. So I like purple and purple-red, plus a blue-green, which lives across the wheel from the others.

(Photo here is a batch of yarn I dyed several years ago. The turquoise/blue/purple are analogous, with warm pink grapefruit as the color providing variety.)

A Bigger Picture

Each of these schemes can be low-chroma or high-chroma. I could take cobalt blue, hot green and purple and make it look very LynnH. Martha Stewart or Debbie bliss might use periwinkle blue, soft sage and lilac. Both are the same analogous hues, but one is high chroma and one low.

For that matter, my scheme might have a relatively dark purple and a relatively light green. The values would be all over map, the colors all together on the wheel, and the saturation would all be high.

If you want to put colors together and you are not experienced at it, stick to something simple. Either pick monochrome/one color (turquoise, turquoise, turquoise if you are me), or pick simple analogous colors (blue/purple or green/yellow, for two examples). Or just pick two colors you really like together and pick several versions of each. I once did a large swatch which was several yarns in turquoise (green-blues, in this case all medium to high saturation, cool) and several yarns in hot green (light value, high saturation, warm). It was beautiful, with maybe a dozen different yarns in the same weight all used together.

If you use enough of any two colors, it will look good. Combining fibers and textures makes it more interesting if you are knitting, the yarns do not need to match though an approximate similar gauge helps a lot.

(Photo above left is my 126th pair of socks, from my Turkish-Style Toe-Up sock pattern. Color scheme is light pink, medium pink, purple.  So we have purple-red and purple, a two-hue analogous scheme.)

What I Left Out Todaybiggiezigstitchpatterns16.jpg

For the record, both polymer clay and knitting with two colors on one row (stranded buttons200x200.jpgcolorwork) both require some contrast. Contrast can be dark/light or warm/cool. I will leave that subject for more chat on another day, though you can imagine how important this idea is to the sorts of artwork I do best.

The inclusion of translucence/opacity and matte/shiny surface texture issues also impact our interpretations of color. These issues are particularly important with glass work, less so with painting, polymer and knitting. All color work is interpreted along with this visual information which is not truly part of the color itself.

But that must be left for another day. I have written a book of sorts tonight, even though it’s a short one.

Does this get you thinking about your own favorite color schemes? Do you have a favorite sweater, perhaps, that you can make sense of in these terms? How do you think you might use this information? Gardening? Knitting? Quilting? Home decoration?

ColorJoy is sometimes Action

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

I started to title this “ColorJoy is sometimes Performance” but I think the word action is more all-encompassing. I think first of dance and music, then poetry and theatre, as ways we might encompass “Art as an Everyday Attitude.”

However, perhaps sports can be ColorJoyful as well. I’m not a sports fan, but imagine someone jumping a hurdle, doing any sort of gymnastics, perhaps a martial art, even a baseball player jumping to catch a ball. All of these things can be beauty in action, with or without sound.

My dance instructor is sometimes disappointed about some arts events. They tend to focus on things which can be put in place and sit still properly. Things in frames on walls, for the most part. She is right, dance is every bit as much art as a painting but it is much harder to present, and it does not stay put for a full weekend in one place.

And even when music and/or dance are included in an event, very often poetry is left out. I was delighted when the act just before us at the Old Town JazzFest Lansing last August, was a group of poets. That was a delight and a treat! Definitely a move in the right direction. There was dance before the poets, as well. Score! Go, Lansing.

My friend Ruelaine Stokes is a poet (and a photographer). Her words stand alone as pictures/ideas which engage the mind. However, the best part of a Ruelaine poem is hearing her perform her words. Nobody can present words the way she can!

Ruelaine has authored, with three other excellent Lansing poets, a book titled 4 Against the Wall. She has given me permission before to publish one of her poems here.

She has written many wonderful poems, including one which describes a peach so perfectly that you can taste it. However, I return to the one presented below more than others. It is set in the springtime, but although I see snow out my window today, perhaps we all can enjoy her picture of that time of year. My favorite phrase: …the trees will buy new dresses. Magic!

When I read this poem, I can imagine Ruelaine performing it at the front of a room. See if you can imagine a voice which is intentional as it speaks each word. Read it slowly and with meaning. Slow it down to maybe even half the speed of your first instinct, and really hold out the last word of each line. Or read it out loud to yourself, if you can indulge that luxury.

from the “book” of common prayer
wash my heart & call me clean
a hard time is over

yesterday I listened to the grass grow wild
green under the snow

& now I see the water fall
from your eyes

let it rain
let it rain down on me

forgiveness is mine/listen to your lover

the trees will buy new dresses
the birds will flower

I called it a hard time, lord
but it’s over

tea is on the table, honey in the pot
bread and butter
even the radio wants
to be my friend

that hard time, lord
it’s over

________________________

Photos: Habibi Dancers in Saudi Thobe dresses at Sparrow Hospital Diversity Days; Dagwoods’ Tuesday night open mic, with Brian and our Japanese visitor, Aki, playing music while friend Phil (may he rest in peace) and Lindsay dance; Jam session in a local living room at a birthday party; four Habibi Dancers at Frances Park overlook in Lansing.

Colorjoy is sometimes Making Things

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

greenhandspun20.jpgSometimes the idea of ColorJoy is about making things, about being creative in any number of ways. I remember the six years when I taught computer seminars for a corporate training company (where we were forbidden to wear even dress pants, only skirts/dresses were allowed), I had a lot of restraints on how I could do certain things during the workday.

My instincts for costuming as an artform were limited to a great degree during that time. I could not wear African or Indian clothing to work during those years. I was getting away with what others could not, when I wore a sweater and cotton hose with my skirt rather than a sport jacket and sheer nylons.

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I made myself a pact during those years. I committed to myself to do at least one small creative act each day. Sometimes I was driving 2 hours one way to teach and then driving 2 hours back, and there was studying to do after work (learning the next versions of software as new ones were released). I sometimes had time to eat and sleep, pretty much,sparroweudora.jpg before heading out to work again.

So some days my creativity was making dinner. Some days I would rubberstamp the envelopes which held my payments for utility bills.

I could not always spend even an hour on making “true art,” whatever that might have meant at the time. But just getting out rubber stamps made me feel more free. I needed to keep that commitment to my artistic self while I was working to pay the reasonable expenses of living an adult life.

Today I am picturing a big variety of creative products. Some are more accepted in this world as art, some are considered creative by some and not others. All are part of my concept of ColorJoy: Art as an Everyday Attitude.

The first photo here I’m really excited about. I bought some turquoise and hot green Romney (a breed of sheep with shiny, somewhat rugged fiber) wool roving in August 2006 at Michigan Fiber Festival. It was dyed and carded by my friends at Heritage Spinning in Lake Orion, Michigan (north of Pontiac and Detroit).

Since I got that roving, nothing else has been on my spinning wheel. It was merely 8 ounces of wool, but I just had so much to distract me at home that I seemed to never spin.

Sometime this year, Rae invited me to bring my wheel to her shop and spin there. I do sometimes have quinoapeasalad.jpgwaiting moments between classes, and surely enough, I got going on that roving again. I finished the first 4 ounces and then before I knew it, I had a second bobbin with the second 4 oz on it.

On my birthday last Friday, between feeding guests cake, I spun. And then I took each bobbin full and made a center-pull ball of yarn. I plied the yarn from each ball to itself (one strand from each end of the ball). And I ended up with two very pretty, very fuzzy, shiny, colorful skeins of yarn.

I insist on spinning yarn a bit thicker than other spinners, I just do not enjoy spinning thin. I also insist on spinning a bit thick and thin. So the yarn looks very much handspun and imperfect. I love it that way. It looks green now that it is spun up and plied, and it seems to be about an aran weight or bulky yarn. I am planning some ribbed legwarmers before winter is over.

In the case of my handspun, I did not dye the fiber, friends did. I spun it. In the second photo, I show my dyeing creativity. In that case I purchase commercially spun yarns and add color to them. It’s a different sort of “Making Things.”

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The next photo is about costuming… not for work or everyday life (a passion of mine), but for the stage. The costume I am wearing was created by Phaedra of the Habibi Dancers. She’s a very skilled costumer and I traded her some computer expertise for this costume several years ago. I wear it all the time, it is as if this one was made just for me. Others have tried to borrow it but I seem to be who it really fits. Love it.

Next was a lunch I whipped up one day and it was very creative since I’d never put those ingredients together before. Also it was very tasty! I had some leftover quinoa (a pseudo-grain according to Wikipedia, which contains very high quality protein), and I put it with frozen peas, chopped red bell pepper, black olives and fresh parsley. I assume I put olive oil on it, and very likely gomasio (crushed sesame seeds and sea salt. Yes, that was a creative act!

Next is a multiple-person creative project. My young knitter A. is wearing a hat she knit… from yarn spun by Rae. She is now making wristwarmers with the leftover yarn.

fabheftonesbarndoor.jpgLast but best of all, is my bass. It is called a Heftone and it was invented and built by my Father in Law, Larry Hefferan in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He started out wanting a portable outdoor-friendly bass that could have notes played. “Gut bucket/washtub basses did not do for him what he envisioned.

The first Heftones had weed-whacker cord for strings (very colorful but hard to tune). They had plastic buckets for sound chambers. Now he uses a commercially-purchased hand drum and hand-carves the neck and other parts to go around that. They have electric bass strings. Brilliant. I adore playing my Heftone.

Do you have any particular commitments you make to yourself regarding creative output or thought? Do you find creativity in your everyday moments such as gardening or cooking? What makes you feel like you are in touch with that inner artful being?

ColorJoy is sometimes Noticing Small Things

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

It is fully winter now in Lansing. We awoke Monday to several inches of wet, heavy snow. One tree near our house lost a branch because of the weight. It was white on the ground and the sky was white from corner to corner.

In the morning it did not snow much, but things got pretty nasty just as people were going home from work. I had a list of errands to run and only accomplished two. Just stopping at a red light and then trying to start again without sliding sideways, was a big effort. Home was the reasonable choice.

Of course, kids were building snowmen and throwing snowballs in our neighborhood. I did not get any photos of that, unfortunately. It was great that someone could enjoy the weather!

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Monday morning I knit with the 3rd graders, again. They are so excited to knit! At this point every child has learned, each child has his/her own needles and yarn, and they are very happy about it. Some of the kids are truly amazing. I have two girls and a boy who picked it up so quickly, even faster than some adults catch on.

The personalities are so fun in this room. One boy loves the idea of knitting and can do it properly when I watch, but he is doing all sorts of creative things on that needle when I walk away. He started with 9 stitches and now he probably has 30, even with much help. He likes asking for help, so this is no problem, at least not to the child.

Another couple of the kids are in a big hurry as if it is a race. Some are so strong they pull their hands apart when working, which makes huge loops and see-through fabric. It’s still knitting, so I’m good with it. All are delighted to be part of the magic of making fabric with yarn and “sticks.”

Since this classroom is quite international, some of the kids have not seen snow like this before. They are enjoying that part, too.

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So here I present to you, two photos I took this morning from the front yard of the school. Make special notice of the bright colors of ordinary things, really popping out. In one there are red fire hydrants, the other yellow gates. The yellow is a bit hard to see in this small version. (You can click on these snow photos today, and it will take you to a larger version on my Flickr page.)

You should have seen how bright the orange construction signs looked on the way home! All color becomes bigger than life when the sky and ground are fully white. Of course, a photo cannot capture the immediate surprise and color of these things in real life. Even a street sign can appear electric green on a snowy day, where we might never notice it in midsummer.

I am prepared to take it one moment at a time… I will make a point of noticing small colorful bits and other small comforts (such as the hot water bottle currently warming my feet). If I need a blue sky, I will need to wait another week. Check out our weather as predicted through Friday Night:

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I get the hint. Looking for small delightful things will be the order of the day, and the next day, and the next!

Where do you find surprises, color or otherwise, in your life? Is it a garnish on a restaurant plate? Berries on a bush covered with snow? A child’s laugh in the next room? Remember, any comment this week is one more entry in my Blogiversary contest, so don’t be shy!