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Archive for April, 2009

Two Classes this Weekend

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

Time for a business announcement…

I am teaching Darn That Sock! at Threadbear Fiberarts on the west side of Lansing, Michigan, Friday night May 1, from 6-8pm. I bring everything you need, you can bring a handknit sock or two for repair if you like. Cost is $20 and includes a handout. (One publicity blurb said $30 but that is incorrect.) Call Threadbear at (517) 703-9276 to register, or just come to the shop at class time (the class is definitely a “go” so that will work).

I am teaching Fix and Finesse at Rae’s Yarn Boutique on the east side of Lansing, on Sunday, May 3, from 1-4pm. Bring worsted weight yarn and appropriate needles, or I will bring some supplies. Email info@raesyarnboutique.com to pre-register.

I appreciate every single student in every single class I teach. This is my “day job” and I’m grateful for all the classes I have the pleasure of teaching. I hope to see some of you there!

Belated Birthday Photos

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009


isabelwithcupcake25.jpgI have been sitting on some fun photos I took two weeks ago at my little friend Isabel’s 5th birthday party. There were two small people and many grownups, and many cupcakes. Much fun!

Here are some photos of Isabel and her cake which looked like the number “5.” Remember, food can be art, and perhaps it is never more true than with decorated cakes.

There were several cupcakes that the kids decorated isabelponderingcake20.jpg(with assistance from mommies). Then there was the bigger cake. Isabel’s mommy, April, loves to decorate cakes. She did the frosting part but had Isabel help her put the colored sugar sprinkles on it.

I got a photo of Isabel with her small friend, eating cupcakes (they did have dinner first). Isabel is welcoming spring twofriendswithcake25.jpgby wearing her bathing suit for a few hours each day, and she decided to do that part way through her party. She sure is a fun one!


It is Really Spring

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

Friday: Hot and windy.
Saturday: Very windy, buckets of rain
Sunday: Cooler and some rain
Monday and Tuesday: Wear coat but no need to button

It’s really spring:


I took a walk around noon on Sunday, and saw these birds enjoying the weather and their new nest. Then I walked a short distance and saw such green leaves on the trees (there were no leaves here to notice on Thursday), that I wanted to take a photo for you.


This was the first click of the camera, pointing toward my house from another block. I could hear kids playing. Zoom in on this photo:


The kid in the next yard was bouncing on a trampoline and I caught him in mid-air. Of course, I tried to do it again, and had no luck. Love this shot.

A few steps away, I took this photo:


This was the first day I had seen any trees blossoming. There were no leaves or blossoms on Friday morning, but by Sunday it was like someone changed the channel and everything was alive and growing. Incredible. Brian says on Saturday our Rhubarb plants grew several inches between when he left for work and when he got home.


Here is a final photo. We have myrtle/periwinkle groundcover on every side of the house and one side of the garage. It blooms a little each year but never much, with a few flowers here and there. this year it is going crazy!!!

We are infrequent gardeners, for the most part, so we plant things that can thrive without much attention. We have myrtle and peonies, daylilies, coral bells and hostas, and climbing roses which came with the house. Actually, the hostas and coral bells are the only things we brought in new since Brian bought the house. We have a few new small bushes, too, which do fine without us.

The area in this last photo was dirt and nothing else about 5 years ago after we had our porch replaced. There are hosta plants in that patch which have not peeked up yet, and the myrtle seems to finally be part of the whole this year. Just look at those flowers!!!

Thank goodness. We survived the meanest winter in recent memory. Deep sigh…

Whoops… Last Weekend

Monday, April 27th, 2009

Actually, *last* week Saturday I taught a Polymer Clay with shine and sparkle, at Threadbear Fiberarts in Lansing, Michigan. Here is one photo of that class, unfortunately without Barb who was sitting front right. (Sorry, Barb, the photos I have of you show your eyes closed.)


Barb was the one who made that class happen, by asking for a sparkly clay class. Thanks!


Here are some of the fun things they made. This group made a LOT of wonderful things during the class session. It was fun to see what happened, they sure were inspired!


Weekend Mix

Sunday, April 26th, 2009

They have a spring salad Mix, why not spring weekend Mix?

Perfect Friday

Friday was incredible. I had been suffering from a spring (rain-allergy) headache for 4 days, and then Friday was perfect. It was dry and warm and breezy, and I felt like a million bucks!

It was wonderful. I felt like a kid who had a birthday, with a pile of presents too big to open them all. I took a long walk, without my camera. Actually I took some ice cream and ate that while I walked. Total luxury!!!

polyclaygifts25.jpgSome days I drag and it seems nothing happens. Some other days, I can do enough for a week, and that was how Friday went. I cleaned and I took 2 bags to charity and I planned business things, went on my walk, cooked, and cleaned some more.

I sat on the porch (in my hammock) while the sun went down. There were no mosquitos, so I enjoyed staying on the porch knitting until the sky was truly dark.

For me, the most precious place in summer is my porch. Loved that.

April Turned Around: Gratitude

I was just looking through my April photos. Three weeks ago we got pounded with some serious snow. Today it is really spring.

Yesterday/Saturday, it rained so much that you could not see to drive. There were rain advisories warning of wind gusts up to 75mph (120.7 kph).

But today, the grape hyacinths are all blooming where Friday there was not a single bloom. And the wind has calmed down. It’s not as hot as Friday, but it’s still spring, and I am enjoying it.

Polymer Clay A-Rama!

Saturday daytime, I taught a Polymer Clay Canemaking class at Yarn Garden in Charlotte, Michigan. I forgot my camera, but we had much fun and made things related to the first photo here.

Music, Music, Music

Saturday night was all about music, with friends performing Swing Jazz at Altu’s restaurant. After that, we went to a 60th birthday party. One room was music, the other room was chat and knitting. My kind of event!


Sunday (today) we will spend time with Brian’s family. It’s a bit of a drive, so I am going out for a bit of a walk before we get in that car.

Yes, I think I like spring weekend mix better than spring salad mix. I hope you have a good one, too.

Fun Knitted Shoes

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

knittedshoes1.jpgA college-aged dance friend wore these shoes to our dance event several weeks back. I asked her if I could take a photo.

I don’t know a thing about the shoes. I’m sorry that I can’t help you find any for yourself… but we can all smile at her style.


Friday, April 24th, 2009

Yesterday, I saw the first three dandelions in our yard. We won’t love the multitudes which will follow, but the first means it is warm on the ground. This one had an insect drinking up nectar, and was feasting from the looks of it:


Today, only a week or less since we had sleet:

82degreesapril.jpg For my friends outside the USA, this is 27.7C, and that means warm. The sun shines, the birds chirp, and it is spectacular to have the front door wide open.

Today I have a day at home alone. This means that I have laundry and a million other domestic things to do, which wait for me to be home. I will definitely go on a walk sometime soon, but home with doors/windows open is wonderful enough.

Winter this year was cruel. It got cold and it never let up. We had snow on top of snow. There was no melting period between accumulations (which has been the pattern we have come to expect). Pretty close to everybody in Lansing, Michigan has been quite ready for a day like this, for a very long time.

My favorite temp is 84F. Today is April, and we’re approaching heaven already!

 (Update: at 5:30pm the thermometer said 87.2… heaven. I got out the hammock on the porch!)

Kids Knit Hats!

Friday, April 24th, 2009

I have three hats to show off today. All were knit by kids I work with.

Example 1, A. (age 14) knit herself a Topper-Down hat with lovely self-striping yarn (I believe this yarn was a gift). It fits her perfectly and goes great with her “I love it” coat.


Example 2, M. (age 13) HANDSPUN some yarn with rovings gifted to her. She held two strands together and knit an EZ Fit Hat (pattern by my friend, Rae Blackledge). At the top of the hat, she was getting low on handspun so she held one strand of handspun with alternating stripes of dark blue Nature Spun yarn and green O-wool. I think it looks magnificent! It’s worthy of two photos.

maitriezfithat25side.jpg maitriezfithat33back.jpg

Example 3, B., a boy in the 3rd grade class I volunteer with, started a wristband on 5 stitches late last autumn. He found himself increasing by many stitches on every row, while I was working with other kids. The next thing we knew, he had a very large triangle with many stitches per row.

brianhatfront.jpg brianhatbacksm.jpg

To his credit, he did not give up and he kept knitting. He changed colors when he started getting bored, so there are many stripes.

A few weeks ago he really wanted to be done, and it was no longer a wristband. He was hoping he could make a wristwarmer like his friend, but the triangle was much larger than his hands. I told him we could make it into a hat.

So I found the largest side of the triangle and made that the bottom of his hat. I sewed together the 5 beginning stitches to the bind off at that point. Then I put the hat on his head and figured out how to fold the piece of fabric to fit his head. I took it home, and continued to sew with the hat on my styrofoam wig head. I had to put some excess fabric on the inside, which makes a little sculptural bump at the top of the hat.

In the end, it fits him and he’s pleased. We are talking first project, friends. There are “hiccups” because he was learning, but he finished something pretty big!

A boy in 3rd grade, I think that is about 8 or 9 years old. This is quite a lot of stitches for a child of that age. Go, B.!!!

It’s all about relationship…

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

Counting My Blessings

I just came away from lunch with my friend Altu (first photo is me and Altu in Egypt, December 2004). We have a regular Thursday sushi date, but had two weeks off for unavoidable reasons. It was such a joy to spend a few hours with her. There is nothing better than a few hours with another self-employed woman who loves and respects me.

Last night I spent a few hours with my friend Rae, who is my boss much of the time I am working (second photo is me, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee and Rae in Toronto, spring 2007). I’m not an employee, but it is her shop where I teach most often. She has been quite busy for about six weeks and we had not had the luxury of time together because of that. It was great to get that time again.

torontostephanieraeandlynnh.jpgWhen I wrote the post about quiet, boring success, I thought again about the process I went through while knitting my self portrait. Brian brought me meals for two weeks so I would not have to take time to cook while I was working (fourth photo is me with Brian at New York Ukefest, 2006). Rae gave advice on the yarn I could use to succeed, and believed in me enough to offer a discount on the yarn (which was over $200 total even with a significant discount).

Ten or eleven days into the knitting, Altu convinced me that the work I had done, was actually looking like me… at a time when I almost gave up hope that I was doing the right thing. And Susan Hensel, every time I called her with progress, said “I am keeping a spot on the gallery wall for your piece. I believe it is a great idea and I look forward to seeing it.” (Third photo is me with Susan Hensel at the “Threads in Space” gallery opening reception, for which I knit the self-portrait; July 2006, Minneapolis, Minnesota.)

Without this team of four, I would not have made my goal. I give to people when I can, and they give back when the occasion requires it. I do not take this for granted.

I need no gold, no fancy things. I have a team… not just these four, though they made that one goal happen for me. My loved ones are my treasure.

How I Got Clear

My father died in 1973. I was 14 years old, he was 40. My brother’s first wife died suddenly at age 27, I was about 30 years old. I have had other losses, though these were the ones which really hit me and changed how I live my life.

It is interesting, often I click with new acquaintances out of the blue… and find out later that they, too, lost a parent when they were a teen. This happens with more regularity than statistics could predict. I believe that those of us who have experienced this sort of loss, approach life differently. I believe we don’t wait until tomorrow as much, and we really value those we love, in the here and now.

newyorkukefestheftones06.jpgWhen I love someone, I tell them so. Even if they can’t say it back, I say it. I know that some cultures do not say these things out loud. I actually understand that acting with love is much more valuable and powerful than saying it in words, but I try to do both.

I have no expectations of words in return, I know how my loved ones feel about me by how they interact with me. But I know deep within my very cells, that when you say goodbye to someone, there is a small chance you won’t see them again. And I need to know I left things well.

We All May be Right in the End

Petty squabbles are just not worth it. Relationship is much more important than “Being Right.” I would say that many of my worst struggles in life were when I needed to “Be Right,” more than I needed to love and accept. (Accept that two people could disagree and still both have a different correctness to their beliefs, perhaps? That we could both be right and not believe the same thing? After all, isn’t there an old parable/story about several blind men describing an elephant, by only touching one part of the elephant?)

I did spend many years being loyal to people who were not loyal back. I was good and nurturing when those actions were not appreciated. As an adult, I have learned to water the gardens of those who water mine.


I found out, somehow, that I do not have to give more than the other party, to be equal to them. I don’t know how I started with that belief, but I no longer live that way. It took some very dark times to learn new behaviors, but obviously the work I did when I was that low, gave me a new life.

I have very few disagreements in my life these days. My life is very good, better than ever before. I am surrounded by people who treat me well. I do what I can to keep my heart, my feet and my words in such a place that I don’t create trouble or conflict where I go.

Sometimes I choose where I spend time and effort, based on my need for respect. Sometimes there can be conflict even with that respect, but those conflicts typically have ways they can be worked out. No, I don’t compromise my beliefs, but sometimes walking away or saying nothing is a stronger choice than trying to change the mind of someone whose mind is already set.

Today I am surrounded by people who love me, respect me, treat me well, deserve to be treated well in return. You know, we humans naturally spend life chasing stuff… it seems to be instinct, almost, and I am not immune to it. In the end, though, stuff is fun, stuff is nice, but stuff does not really matter. It really all comes down to relationship.

Or that’s what I believe.

(Wow, two philosophical posts in one week… are you still with me?)

Doug Berch in Woodworkers Journal Article

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

dougandsam.jpgMy friend Doug Berch builds mountain (lap) dulcimers. That’s his day job. (He also is a performing musician, who has several CDs currently available.) Doug is a thoughtful, caring and real friend, and I don’t know what I would do without his friendship.

You know that I talk here about how important my self-employed friends are to my life. Doug is part of that support group.

As an aside, Doug’s wife Cynthia is my regular Tuesday lunch date (she is the one who put balloons in flower pots amongst the snowdrifts this winter). She is a knitter as well as a musician, and has tested a few patterns for me. Without this couple, my life would not be as full.

Doug has been interviewed in some length, on the Woodworkers Journal Ezine. I knew many bits of this story, but it is told in clarity here. It fills in a few gaps I didn’t know until now.

dougbrianbishopsm.jpgOne of the many things I love about Doug is that he really respects the wood (and the tree it came from). I’m not comfortable working with wood, but he really reveres it.

He says he does everything he can to let the tree’s natural beauty be the star of his woodworking. I am sure he uses other words to say it, but I love how he does not try to embellish what nature does so well. He always respects the tree from which the instrument was made.

It is truly a lovely article, from someone who has known Doug since his first years building his first few instruments. I recommend you check it out.

Photos: 1) Doug playing hammered dulcimer with Sam Herman; 2) Doug at left, talking to Brian Bishop (a violin/fiddle instrument maker). Both photos taken at Sam Herman’s 21st birthday party, Magdalena’s Teahouse, October 2008.

Vaudeville in Lansing

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009


vaudeville1sm.jpgSunday night, Brian and I (as The Fabulous Heftones) participated in a full-length vaudeville show. The venue was Central United Methodist Church in downtown Lansing, directly north of the Capitol building.

It is a wonderful historical building (early 1900’s), one of very few in Lansing still respecting the original style in which it was built. I just love being there, and performing on that stage is a real treat. Its vintage matches our music and something just feels right about that.

The event was a benefit for Earthwork Music, a wonderful organization supporting the work of many excellent young songwriters/ performers in Michigan. It was great to have such fun and also do some good for people we really respect and regard so highly.

vaudevilleskit3sm.jpgTop-Notch Planning

Katie and Ben put together an amazing real-vaudeville-act cast from beginning to end. There was a sword-swallower, two jugglers (one on a unicycle), a magician, a ventriloquist, a stiltwalker, a strongman (who juggled bowling balls, tore a phone book in half and balanced a bicycle on his head), a contortionist, a “hula” hoop dancer, a knife-thrower, a bunch of skits with “groaner” punch lines, Laura Bates, backed by an excellent trio, and The Fabulous Heftones on stage; and Heartland Klezmorim as the house band. The costumes were an artform alone.

Rachael Davis was scheduled, too, but illness kept her from being part of the fun, I am sure she was disappointed about that. I do not have a program, so I am missing the names of most of the performers. The talent was 100%, names or no. It was an honor to be part of this event, on every level.

vaudevillehoop3sm.jpgI have put together a Vaudeville in Lansing Photoset on my Flickr page, of 36 photos from the event. There are no photos of us performing, because it was my camera and I did not give it to an audience member this time (some of the backstage photos were worth that decision, I think).vaudevillebikesm.jpg

Costuming is an Artform

For this show, I rolled up my hair to pretend it was flapper length. Mind you, my hair reaches past my waist. I braided the bottom 1/2 of the length into 3 equal braids, then put a barrette in each end and rolled it up like a foam roller. I then used nearly two dozen hairpins and clips to hold those three rolls up at chin level.

Iheftonesflappersm.jpgt didn’t look quite right yet, and I did not have a hat of the right style. So I found a long black scarf and wrapped it around my head twice, leaving the ends dangling. Then I got out a small square red scarf, rolled it up and made it into a bow with four loops and two ends, and pinned it to the black scarf’s knot, to approximate a silk flower.

It worked relatively well, and I think I look pretty flapper-like. I can’t tell you how eager I was to take those hairpins out, though… that much hair weighs a lot, and the pins just hurt.

I tell you what, pins or not… this was about as much fun as you can have on a rainy Sunday evening! Thanks to Katie and Ben for inviting us to join the fun!

The Boringness of Success (Title by Christine Kane)

Monday, April 20th, 2009

I think I found Christine Kane’s blog through Luann Udell’s blog, I’m not sure. How I found her is not as important as her message today.

She talks about how success is not typically flashy. Success can actually be boring, so we need to recognize it when nobody else does.

I have said for years, we don’t get “discovered” by sitting on the couch being brilliant or talented. It’s step by step, getting out there, that takes us further. It is doing publicity, shaking hands, connecting with others, counting knit stitches, playing scales on an instrument, practicing any discipline one more time.

Walking into a room of people we do not know, instead of staying home dreaming, is success. Doing those things that are important but difficult, is where we can truly be proud of ourselves.

A Personal Example

In summer of 2006, I knit my Self-Portrait in 10,374 Stitches. It first took me about 2 weeks to make a graph I thought might work. I then took 6 days to find the yarns for the project, which in retrospect was not enough time.

I cast on and knit solid for 14 days, and ended with a final day tying knots and doing duplicate-stitch embroidery accents. Most of the time I was knitting, I thought that the project would probably not work.

I am glad I was in my late 40’s and not my teens when I attempted this close-to-insane idea. I think that even 10 years earlier, I would not have stuck with the project to the end. It seemed crazy to think I could really make it work. Without the encouragement I received from my beloved Brian, Rae, Altu and artist friend Susan Hensel, I might have quit.

I tell you, I knit for 11 days, full time, stopping only to eat and sleep… before I had an idea that it might actually look like me when I was done. Yet thanks to previous life experiences, I knew that the only way to really know the end, was to take it to its conclusion. My project worked. I’m still thrilled. Thrilled.

Yet my real success was in not stopping. My biggest success perhaps was continuing to knit on day 10, when I had 3/4 of the graph completed and it looked like I was on the wrong path entirely.

I don’t always stick things out. I have fears and distractions like anyone else. But every time I stick with the plan on boring or rough days, I am successful.

Now, Please Read Christine’s Column

Christine says it much better than I ever could. Please read this, if you ever doubted yourself:

The Boringness of Success


Sunday, April 19th, 2009

Thanks to Howlin’ Hobbit for this link. Tweenbots are, to over-simplify, a fancy cardboard box with wheels and a motor… and a smiley face. They also have a little flag saying “help me” and a desired destination.

So the creator of the Tweenbot puts the wheeled box in one place (one corner of Washington Square Park, NYC) and sends it on its way. And humans who encounter it, help it get to the other far corner of the park. In about half an hour.

I have always said that most humans are good. Most of us would help a stranger (even those people who might be catty at the office are likely to help on the sidewalk, or so I believe). I love that this experiment seems to support the “mostly good” thought.

It’s sort of silly, yet I found it worthy of more than just a smile. It also made me feel good. I mean, this happened in New York City and people helped. So there, pessimists!

Click here for the Tweenbot web page.

Kim’s Maxi ZigBag Progress

Saturday, April 18th, 2009

In an earlier post, I showed you this assortment of yarn that Kim chose for her BiggieZig (from my Maxi ZigBagZ pattern):

Kim has been knitting like there is no tomorrow. This is not her only project. Yet she came to see me just over a week ago, to learn how to make the double-I-cord handles for the bag.

When her handles are done, she will be able to shrink/felt it. I am amazed at her progress.

So here is how the sides of her bag look now:


She wanted a bag that reminded her of a garden. I think she has succeeded.

Terrific job, Kim! It is looking just gorgeous.