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Archive for January, 2009

Gratitude Today

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

And now for a positive post to make up for grousing about snow in the previous column.

I saw an acquaintance today who has a long-term relationship that works well. I was talking with her about how lucky I feel to have Brian in my life.

I said something I’ve said many times, but it seems bigger to me lately. For years I knew that other people found relationships that really were happy. However, for decades I did not really believe that I could be one of those happy people.

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And then somehow my life turned down a different road (that turn took several years but things are truly different now). When I was dating Brian, I would tell myself “It’s not too good to be real… it’s good and it’s real.” I believed by then that I could be happy.

And I am. And he is. We’ve been married 12 years and he still lights up when I walk in the room.

I count my blessings every day.

(Photo is Brian introducing me at this last Saturday’s concert. We opened for Juggernaut Jug Band at Mama’s Coffeehouse in the greater Detroit area. He quoted our new President’s first words at the first inaugural ball of many… “First of all, how beautiful is my wife?” And then we laughed… a blurry but wonderful photo.)

Enough Snow, Already

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

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OK, I openly admit that being concerned about how much snow we have here is a minor issue. My life is good, my business is busy, my health is better than it has been in years, and my husband loves me. There is really little to complain about.

That said, I don’t complain about 85F/29C degree days when others are miserable. I do not tolerate cold well, and snow on top of cold is frustrating. It seems every time I need to go anywhere, even several times a day when I’m running errands, I have to brush/scrape the windshields on my car again.

Yes, I have a car and it’s good and it’s paid off. Yes, I could ride a bus. Can I whine for one post and get it out of my system? Even though it shows that I have time to complain about somewhat petty issues?

The photo above is my mother’s driveway. The snow is taller than the lamp post (globe lamp is at right, above car), and taller than my car.

The photo below is the Sears parking lot. Those little blue boxes in the pile of snow? They are shopping carts frozen in the pile, but good. They won’t come out now until there is a long thaw.

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I am not making up this stuff. There are places that get more than this every year. We usually get a bit of snow and then we get a thaw and the snow goes away. THEN we get another snow. This year it just keeps piling up and piling up.

When we get 3″ or less, it seems we drive around as though nothing is unusual. Over that, and things slow down quite a bit. The Friday before Christmas we got so much snow, so fast, that the public transit bus got stuck on Michigan Avenue, a prime ambulance route. It was rough that weekend.

Lately, though, it’s one inch at a time. No thaw, just a bit more and then a bit more and then a bit more…

I am so eager to have 80F or more, and wear my African caftans again. It will happen, but not this week.

End of whine. Now I’ll go knit for a friend who had surgery today. As I said, I realize that my life is really good if I can focus on mere snow as a rant!

Creative Kid Knitter

Friday, January 30th, 2009

kidwithhorsesweater.jpgAbout a week ago, a young knitter came in to Rae’s shop with her mom and they hung out a while. I was delighted to see the child’s creative project. She figured out how to make a sweater/coat for her stuffed horse.

I asked the child and Mom if I could take a photo for my blog. They decided that might be fun! They know my regular kid knitters and perhaps they have seen photos of the other kids here before.

So I present to you a very creative kid, who made up her own project without a pattern! She’s a winner in my book.

Crayons and More

Friday, January 30th, 2009

A few nights ago I crayon1sm.jpgsat down with crayons again, this time alone. I remembered that there was something especially soothing about the motion of rubbing a crayon back and forth to color something in. So I opened my 64 crayon box and drew a triangle, and rubbed to fill it in. Then I got out another color, drew 2 sides to add a triangle to the side of the first, and filled that one in.

I continued in this way until the paper was mostly filled in. I notice that many of the colors have new names on them, and some are totally new colors. A lot of the new colors are really light and transparent. They look really good in the box but I am not sure I’m sold on them as drawing tools. Not that they asked me, or anything.

I ended up with this first image (see above).

It was very fun to make but I did not like how light so many colors were. There was not enough “oomph” in this image crayon2.jpgfor someone who goes by ColorJoy LynnH.

So I started thinking of what I could do to make it more fun and more bold. I remembered my friend Barbara Hranilovich talking of how she “draws on her paintings and paints on her drawings.” I love that idea, and I adore her artistic style. So I pondered…

I considered taking a very dark-colored crayon and tracing around the sides. I considered a marker. I might have played with a silver paint marker but I had tried mine the day before and it had dried out.

Then I was up in the attic space that used to be my block printing/mailart studio, looking for a rubber stamp or three to make a get well card. And I saw some fabric paint. I love fabric paint, it is like rubber and it sticks to plastics and all sorts of things that other paints can not handle. I took some downstairs.

The next thing I knew, I had used pearlescent turquoise/aqua and shiny red fabric paint to embellish the crayon image. I like it a lot better now. Here is the result. It still is about enjoying the making of lines (and dots, and triangles) more than making a beautiful image, but it makes me smile.

Eileen’s Biggie ZigBag

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

Eileen R. has knit the most spectacular BiggieZigBag I have seen, even better than mine I think. She is on the last strap straps (she corrected me on this Thursday night) and then needs to felt it, she’s on the last stretch. And you know what? She’s planning to knit a second one. I’m honored.

Eileen has been showing her Zig around town a lot lately (thanks, friend). In great part because of her, my ZigBagZ class tonight at Rae’s has a healthy number of people in it.

I’m sure you’d like to see her work. Here is a shot of the sides:

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Here is the base:

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Wonderful job, Eileen. See you tonight! (Anyone else want to join us?)

How to Knit a Mattress

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

While I’m on the “knitting as art” train of thought… A woman named Rachel John did a project where she knit 1000 strands held together at the same time as if they were one strand of yarn. This is full-body knitting, she did it on her knees and used both arms to make this work (with needles really small compared to the “rope” of yarns she was using to knit).

There is a video How to Hand Knit a Mattress: Rachel John, Extreme Knitting, 1000 Strand Knit” on Youtube. It is not quite 7 minutes long. Fascinating.

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What interests me every time I read of projects this out of the blue, is how did the artist keep the idea long enough to make it happen? Many of us have big ideas but often we squelch them before they see the light of day.

Yet some follow the inspiration. Who does and who does not? How do they make these projects happen all the way to the final outcome? How do they find funding, display space or other support so that they can complete the whole idea?

Then again, I knit my self portrait and I am not sure I can follow the whole thought process to explain it. I would have thought it improbable that I could finish, but I stuck with the possibility I might make it work.

I do know that my friend/muse Susan Hensel was waiting at the other side of the project, expecting that it would work and that she would like to display it in her “Threads in Space‘ knitting as art show.

(When that web page was put up, my project was not yet finished so my computer rendering is what she used as the image for my piece. You can follow my own blog entries on this project in my Self Portrait Category of this blog.)

Susan has inspired me many times to take things into reality, when I was not sure if I could really make them happen. I don’t see her enough any more, but she has really been an inspiration to me on more than one occasion.

The first example of her support was my performance art project, “The Fabric of Friendship.” In that case I told her of an idea I had and Sue said, “Let’s make that happen.” Then we did. In the end it feels like magic but it was a lot of people coming together to make it work. It was wonderful.

Rae also helped me figure out which yarns I could use in the portrait and in what way, and she believed in my project every step of the way. I had to buy a LOT of yarn, some sockyarn and several kinds of laceweight (they have over a thousand yards usually, and I needed only a few hundred each but couldn’t buy smaller skeins). She helped me afford the supplies so that I could do the project.

Have you ever done a project that would normally seem beyond your resources? How did you make it happen? Did you depend on friends or colleagues for emotional, resource or financial support? How did it go?

Prepare to be Inspired

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

I followed a link from an inspiring video, to another inspiring video.

Bicycle-as-Tool Inspiration

The first was about coffee growers at a Co-Op in Rwanda got cargo bicycles to make their work go better. It talks about a coffee roasting business in Portland, Oregon which was involved in finding a way to make that happen.

No, it’s not charity in a traditional sense… but it was help to the farmers nonetheless. And helping the farmers in turn helped the roasting business get excellent coffee. Fascinating.

I found the bicycle/Rwanda site through Brian. He is interested in all things bicycle, or so it seems, and he came across this somehow. I loved it.

Neighborhood Kids’ Inspiration

Somehow I followed a link from that page, to another page, to another, and I found myself at a web site called TED.com The organization asks fascinating people with sharp minds and something to say, to distill a talk into a very short timeframe. I listened to the talk by Dave Eggers, a writer who does much more than just write. This particular video is 24 minutes long.

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He talks about a tutoring center he was a big part of starting, in San Francisco. It is the coolest place, a place I would definitely want to hang out at if I were a kid. The front end of the building is a store selling pirate supplies… you can buy a plank or a hook or an eyepatch. And behind that is a very busy tutoring center where kids get ***One-On-One*** attention.

Many of the kids do not speak English at home so this extra attention really helps them increase their school scores, and they can’t get the same help without the center. Eggers really stresses how important personal help can be to changing a kid’s school experience.

I love how he has set it up so that if someone can only volunteer with the kids a few hours one day a month, the center makes it easy for them to do just that. One session with a kid still makes a difference for them. His program in San Francisco spawned a similar one in Brooklyn, NY and then subsequent ones in Los Angeles and now several others. The website explaining this project/concept is called Once Upon a School.

I started listening to his speech thinking I was tired. His talk energized me so much I ended the video with an adrenaline rush and the sense that I had enough energy to scrub floors or run around the block! No, I did not do either… but I felt totally awake.

The TED.com site has some talks by some amazing people. I am interested to hear the Jane Goodall speech when I get some quiet time to listen. If Mr. Eggers, a person I’d not known of before, can inspire me that much… I am eager to hear any number of the other speeches/talks available on their site. Whew! Nothing like a nice healthy dose of optimism!

A Bus Cozy

Monday, January 26th, 2009

You have heard of Teapot Cozies? They are a sweater to keep the teapot warm (and the tea inside it). I designed a pattern for one, which can be viewed at right. Mine is rather mundane next to some exhuberant ones with many colors, ruffles, flowers and more. I call mine a “teapot sweater” for that reason.

You know I sometimes like knitting as art rather than for practical purposes…

Well, I’ve shown you a gas station cozy here before (some Lansing knitters took part in that project), and I’ve seen a pink tank cozy (as in military armed vehicle) though I don’t remember if I shared that with you or not. These two projects had social/political commentary as part of their message.

And I just this week heard of a bus cozy in Mexico City. Yes, and it appears one could drive the bus while it was wearing its sweater. As far as I can tell the project was for art’s sake or perhaps for a chuckle.

The article says the bus cozy is knitted, but it appears to be crocheted in any place I can see the stitch work. I think crochet is much more appropriate for this project, as it tends not to stretch as much as knitting.

Whatever you call it, I call it fun!

Urban/Graffiti Knitting in Tel Aviv

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

An online knitting friend has been finding web reports of urban knitting/graffiti in her city of Tel Aviv, Israel. It is different than that I’ve seen in previous reports which were either North American or European/UK in origin. It just might make you smile.

(For what it’s worth, I think some of it is actually crocheted, but some languages have only one word for knitting/crocheting. You either knit with one hook or you knit with two straight pointy tools. So either the reporter does not know the difference perhaps, or maybe it’s a translation issue.)

Report #1

Report #2

Shawl, Curtain, something like that…

Saturday, January 24th, 2009

This is actually an old project but I just got the last photo.

I got inspired by Debbie New’s book ‘Unexpected Knitting” when it came out. I cast on for a scribble lace shawl/stole. I used three rows purple mohair laceweight and one row of a thick/thin white/turquoise/purple which I bought the last time we went to Indianapolis for a Ukulele Festival (perhaps 3 years ago).

It turned out more square/less rectangular than I expected. I did wear it for my debut in New York City scribblelacecurtainweb.jpgat the Ukefest there in 2006, folded into a triangle of sorts (and worn over my turquoise silk gown which first was my wedding dress).

The shawl was really very warm for how sheer the fabric is. The above photo was taken by Brian’s sister at that New York performance.

Then I took it home and somehow never wore the shawl. And I had a window I was wanting to cover a little bit, but not cover all the light.

So I folded the shawl and put it on the rod on the front door, and it works. I would prefer it without the fold, I like flat panels better than ruffled curtains. However, it worked without any hassles or delay, and I like that.

How fun is that? Clothing turned into curtain without a single alteration except a change of mind and attitude!

Socks by Students

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

I had such a fun sock class recently! We met for three weeks in a row at Rae’s and made some well-fitting socks, using my First-Time Toe-Up sock pattern.

I got a photo of a few of their projects before everyone left. As usual, everyone is in different places in their projects. In the middle is a pair of gray socks in Louisa Harding Kashmir Aran, above them is a single sock on needles in the same yarn. The lavender is Louisa Harding Kashmir DK (same yarn but thinner), and the bottom right was standard sockyarn of some brand I don’t remember.

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Two projects here were by the same student and one student’s project did not make it into the photo. I think they did a great job.

More Tuesday Photos

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

Tuesday Adventures

I showed you the crayon shots from my tea date with Rita/Yarnhollow Tuesday, but I’m not done with photos. Rita and I went to City Knitting and it was so fun I didn’t take any photos. It was a social and yarn-petting ritaatmariessm.jpgadventure which distracted me from my camera.

Scored a Prize

I did pick up a Piecework magazine, which is a gem. I love their focus on historical textiles, and their breadth of topics. You can open the pages and find embroidery, beadwork, crochet, knitting, and no doubt things I can’t think of right now. It is a spectacular, high-quality publication.

The one I just picked up has an article on the animal- and person-shaped purses called monederos, knit in the Andes by Quechua people. The Bolivian ones are a bit different than those from Peru, and older ones are different than newer ones, but they are all wonderful. Piecework had Ann Budd replicate some of the details from the people-shaped purses and write patterns. The tiny hat, hand, skirt and leg patterns are free as PDFs on their website. Thank you, Piecework!!!

As you know, I have a strong interest in the hats which come from the same area/cultural group. I am delighted to find an article on this topic. There is also a very good book on the purses called Andean Folk Knits: Great Designs from Peru, Chile, Argentina, Ecuador & Bolivia by Marcia Lewandowski, which I own. It’s harder to find information on the hats I love, but the purses definitely deserve the attention they are getting.

Lunch with Rita

Rita and I took suggestions at the shop for a place to lunch. We ended up at Marie Catrib’s (warning, the website takes a long time to load and then plays music). The restaurant has a lovely vibe, with food that feels on the quality-level of Zingerman’s (a spectacular deli in Ann Arbor) but with the addition of a mideastern set of offerings. It was a great choice. They offered good tea choices (not to take for granted), and a lot of great-sounding/looking foods.

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I was able to order a salad, one ingredient at a time for my allergy restrictions, for which I was grateful. I also had some wonderful “unseasoned potatoes” cooked in olive oil and a little salt. Rita had schwarma and seasoned potatoes, and was kind enough to take some home to her husband. Poor Brian did not have the same luck!

I’m showing a photo of Rita which was not her favorite. I like this one which is not a smiley one, because it shows her looking thoughtful and listening well, which are things I really like about her.

Then I show a photo of the table full of beautiful food, a turquoise teapot (!) and yellow-green teacup. This is artful stuff, friends. Not just the flavor of the food, but the color, presentation and vessels all combined to an artful and pleasant lunch experience. Art can be found anywhere!

Evening Party

After I got home I changed into red white and blue formalwear (including a white baby alpaca shawl knit for me by the wonderful Alison Hyde). Brian and I, as The Fabulous Heftones, participated in a block party on the 2000 block of East Michigan Avenue (across the street from Rae’s shop) which was hosted by four businesses on that side of the block. We sang at the Gone Wired Cafe’ and Everybody Reads bookstore, at a combination Food Bank Benefit/Inauguration Party.

We sang in the area where folks waited in line to get wristbands to enter the event. We got great feedback from folks listening in line… and we saw a lot of friends. There were SO many people I definitely will miss someone, but among the knitters we saw were Julie, Rita and Irene B.

We got a wonderful thank you letter from the organizers of the event. They raised almost $5,000 for the Lansing-Area food bank that night. I loved being part of this for many reasons, but one of them is that the first time I ever heard Brian perform was at a Food Bank benefit around 1989, down by the Riverwalk Theatre in one of the smaller museums down in that stretch. How cool to join him for a bit of a repeat!

I got a zillion photos of the Gone Wired space during the party. This space used to be a retail store with a mezzanine and I climbed up there to take some photos. Doesn’t it look gala and fun? I just LOVE the East side. Thank you, Colleen of Gone Wired, for asking us to play. (We love Colleen… and her daughter C is one of my youthful knitters… it’s all in the family on the 2000 block.)

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Dagwood’s

We sang relatively early, and were done about 7:15. That meant we had time to go home, change into more casual garb, and go to Dagwood’s Tavern for the Open Mic night hosted by friend Jen Sygit. Love that place, love the people who work there, love the musician comaraderie, the variety of musical styles, everything.

I was so exhausted, we came home a little early from Dagwoods and I pretty much crashed on the couch till 4am or something… what a spectacular day I had!

First Crayon Event

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

Tuesday was a whirlwind, Wednesday promises the same. No time for a story, other than to say I visited my friend Rita/Yarnhollow in Grand Rapids’ Eastown for a few hours on Tuesday. We had tea at Kava, visited City Knitting and all the great ladies there, and then had lunch at Marie’s.

Rita brought her crayons to Kava. We scribbled as we chatted. Here are the results. Rita did paisleys (otherwise known as Mangos in India) and I started with a circle and ended up with something between a sun and a circus tent. Much fun.

I think it was good to have someone to chat with while we did this. For me, it kept me more focused on my friend than being artful. The scribbles were just that… free and easy.

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I am not done coloring yet. Would you care to join me?

A Design Challenge

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

I’ve known my friend Jo since 1st grade. It’s really great that we still see one another a few times a year.

Jo is truly, totally allergic to wool. I love her and I wanted to knit for her. Except I am such a wool-focused (well, animal-fiber anyway) knitter that I was really stumped. What made it even more of a challenge is that I needed to knit with yarn I already had in the house.

I had some Cotton Classic (worsted weight mercerized/shiny cotton) in many bright colors. I’ve been using it for baby hats, mostly, over the years. Baby hats don’t take much yarn, and I had lots of this yarn which I must have bought from an internet friend if I remember right.

jopurse50.jpgSo I gave it a good old college try. Jo likes purses. She would just as soon collect them like Ms. Marcos collected shoes, I am guessing. I figured that even a so-so purse would make her smile, though I wanted a better than so-so purse.

I made this summery shoulder bag from two colors of the cotton. I made two handles and twisted them together to make it more visually interesting, and for a stronger strap.

Luckily for me, Jo said she liked it. I am inclined to believe her, I know she likes the colors and she likes that I made her something. I hope she actually finds something to do with it in her life.

I sure wish I could knit her some nice wool socks… but she would really be in pain to touch them more than a few seconds. That sort of gift would be all about me, not about her.

I keep trying. One year I knit her socks from Cascade Fixation. It’s pretty good but not as comfy as wool. I guess I can keep trying.

Meanwhile, we’re still friends. That was the ’60s when we met. I love that we’ve stayed in touch that long!