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Archive for June, 2009

Cool Socks from Tajikistan

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

Tajikistan is one of the countries which was once part of the USSR. According to one website, it belongs in the category of “Central States” with these other countries: Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

I know almost nothing about Tajikistan, but back at Christmastime one of our nephews brought his girlfriend to a family party. She was wearing these:

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She did not know much about them. A friend’s family member (I think Mom) “back home” made these. The friend gave her strict orders to WEAR the socks, not to save them as museum pieces.

I did make a fool of myself at the party. She humored me and let me take these photos. Mind you, this was the middle of a Christmas party with at least 30 people crammed into a large family room and the hall next to it. The light was not optimal and we were distracted by other things. I am very happy with the photos I did get.

Parts of the sock definitely look crocheted. I see single crochet on the foot/toe, if I peg it right, and probably “Bosnian Crochet” at the top edge (this is a slip stitch crochet in the back loop only). The leg portion is very confusing to me, and I can’t tell how it was made. At a distance it looked garter stitch, but it was not stretchy enough for that. I assume it’s a sort of crochet I am not familiar with.

I love many kinds of socks, the more colorful the better. I’m particularly fascinated by how they are made in other parts of the world, even better if they are somewhat tied to historical methods of creating them. These fit in that category.

I have a number of embroidered items from Uzbekistan. I have learned a bit about this area through books and websites, and a bit of reading. The only thing I know about Tajikistan is these socks. I think I need to learn more!

Cool, huh?

So What Season is it, Anyway?

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

Is anyone else as eager to see pure, true summer as I am???

Less Chill than Expected Last Friday

Last Friday night, we (The Fabulous Heftones) were singing up at NorEast’r Festival in Mio, Michigan. For those familiar with Michigan’s lower peninsula, you basically drive to Grayling which is on highway I-75, and then turn east and drive 40 miles or so. It’s about 3.5 hours from home, and one can expect colder nights there than here in Lansing.

The predictions were for 45F degrees (7.2C) in the tent at night. It never got that cold, which was a lovely surprise. I took my ear muffs along with me just in case I would need them after dark. I found no need for them, which was great.

A Few Lovely Days

On Sunday/Monday, I was in Columbus, Ohio for the TNNA yarn-industry trade show. It was gorgeous while we were there. There was a threat of rain but we saw no real sprinkles at all.

Monday I walked to North Market (my favorite thing about Columbus, and only a few blocks from the Convention Center) a few times. It was so glorious to just walk a few blocks that I allowed full happiness to perch on my shoulder.

What a wonderful day it was! This was an example of how small things can make us happy if we let them in. Waiting for *big* things before we feel satisfied, is just a preseciption for disappointment, but really being in the moment, walking in the sun for 2 blocks to lunch, can just change your life from drab to wonderful. Or so it works in my own life, anyway.

On Tuesday, it was 84F degrees (28.8C), my favorite temperature of all. I like it hot, and I went for a long walk with friend Cynthia in the midst of the gorgeous sunshine in the early afternoon. Heaven.

I did buy some peach-colored geraniums Tuesday for the west side entrance to our house. I mostly did a lot of work in my office, rather than staying out in the garden. After 4 days away… two to sing and two for the yarn/knitting business… I needed to sit at my desk for a while. At least I could open the front door and listen to the birds out there while I worked.

An Unexpected Change

On Wednesday, it was 69F degrees (20.5C). Brr. I wore wool legwarmers and wool socks. I need a sweater until it is at least 74F (23.3C), personally. I know that some can go in a Tee Shirt at 69F, but I’m not one.

It’s supposed to rain on and off for several days. The plants and mosquitos are delighted.

As for me, I’m kicking myself for not making time to sit on the porch in my beloved hammock on Tuesday afternoon. What was I thinking??? This is Michigan, and I need to expect changes at any time.

Thank goodness it’s merely June. I have some more heat coming my way. I can feel its promise, finally.

Fun Polymer Clay Beads

Monday, June 15th, 2009

Recently, I taught a session of “Polymer Clay Play Day” at Rae’s shop. I had a student join us who is a painter, not a knitter, and that brought new ideas and questions to a class I have taught for 18 years. It was a lot of fun.

For some reason I was so into the class that I did not remember to take photos of the trays going into/out of the oven, as I usually do. However, Gwen stuck around long enough for me to get this shot of her wonderful beads.

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Since I typically teach at yarn shops, most often I see buttons as the end project in my polymer clay classes. This was a refreshing change of pace. Aren’t these just lovely?

Duct Tape Mannequin

Sunday, June 14th, 2009

annapurpleducttape33.jpgOn Tuesday night, June 16, Rae and I are co-teaching a session from 6-8 at her shop. Participants will make a Duct Tape Mannequin to their own shape.

The photo here is my teen student, A., who made hers (with our help) as soon as the colored duct tape shipment hit the shop. Her mannequin is on display at the shop right now.

Rae will make a green or purple one. I have chosen a light turquoise/aqua color for mine. Does anyone in town (Lansing, Michigan) want to join us??? To register, you can write Rae at: info AT raesyarnboutique DOT com .

Dallas: Monday Arboretum

Saturday, June 13th, 2009

dallasarb2.jpgI taught in Dallas, Texas, back in April of 2007. The event was Dallas-Ft. Worth Fiberfest.

It was a wonderful experience in every way… the committee treated us very well, the students were great, I met new friends. I took a lot of photos… but when I returned from Dallas I had to then prepare to go and sing in New York City at New York Ukefest 2007.

I posted some photos of the weekend on this blog, but never showed you the garden shots I took on the Monday after my work was over. Since it’s spring in Michigan, and since I’ve been talking about gardening as an artform, I figure I will do that now, though the photos were taken 2 years ago.

dallasarb3.jpgMonday was a totally new experience in Dallas, one I very much enjoyed. A friend who grew up there and who I’ve known online for over 10 years, met me and took me on a tour.

I saw many wonderful things. The best, perhaps, was the Arboretum. Gorgeous. May these photos bring you at least a small feeling of the peacefulness and beauty we saw there.

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Sidewalk Art

Friday, June 12th, 2009

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sidewalk1.jpgWhen I was in Kindergarten or First Grade, the movie Mary Poppins came out. In the movie, Bert (Dick Van Dyke) drew wonderful chalk drawings on the sidewalk and somehow he, Mary Poppins and the two children, were able to go inside a picture and have an adventure. Until it rained, if I remember properly.

As a child, we did not have sidewalk chalk in our lives. Bert used regular artist’s chalk for his wonderful drawings. The big, chunky chalks used by kids in my neighborhood just were not available to us at that time.

sidewalk2.jpgSometimes I take photos of kids’ drawings as I find them. This time I found them outside Red Cedar School, the last Monday of the school year. I can not help but wonder what ages these children were.

Some drawings are more impulsive, some were clearly very carefully thought out before any lines were drawn. Just notice the style differences from photos 1 and 2, both tulip images.

Love this!!!

sidewalk3.jpgHave you ever been able to draw on cement with chalk? Were you young or grown? Was it fun? Do you have any hints for a novice??? (One friend advises that you get chalk on everything you are wearing. This is good to know before diving in, I’d say.)

Join Me at Nor East’r Festival?

Thursday, June 11th, 2009

This weekend, Friday and Saturday, Brian and I (The Fabulous Heftones) are performing at Nor East’r Music & Art Festival in Mio, Michigan. The exact location is the Oscoda County Fairgrounds.

This festival is north and east of us, in the lower peninsula (the closest town I know is West Branch).


We have several performances/workshops in the two days we are there:

Friday, 6pm, Main Stage

Saturday, 9am, “The Parlor” (second stage)

Saturday, 12:10pm, Main Stage

Saturday 2pm, Beginning Ukulele Workshop, Area A

Saturday 3pm, Experienced Uke, Area A

Our sponsor (that is, for The Fabulous Heftones) at this event is the Atlanta Veterinary Clinic. We have been asked to announce and recognize this fine organization when we are on stage, and I am getting a little head start on the thank-you process here and now! The other sponsors are no less appreciated, but I don’t know them all at this point.

We are very happy to be performing for this festival! We have never attended, in great part because it is held the same weekend as the TNNA spring show (a knitting/needlearts trade show, the biggest one of the year if you prefer to knit with wool).

I will be driving down to Columbus, OH very early on Sunday morning to join Rae and her mother for TNNA, for the two days of that event (they leave Thursday morning; Rae is teaching sockyarn dyeing on Saturday and Sunday).

Whew! The joys and “high class problems” of having two great careers simultaneously! I call this “a high class problem.” Knitting and singing, my day career/night career? I’m a lucky woman.

(Photo is The Fabulous Heftones, singing at Cooper’s Glen Festival in Kalamazoo, August 2006)

Nuno Felt Class Results

Thursday, June 11th, 2009

Last Sunday I taught two folks how to make Nuno/Laminated felt scarves at Rae’s Yarn Boutique. We used silk gauze, 60 inches long (not quite 2 meters) and about 6″ wide, maybe (15cm).

Rae and I had prepared about ten silk pieces by dyeing them in different colors, Friday. This meant that each base piece the students could choose from, was a different color.

Gwen chose a blue/purple/turquoise, upon which she applied merino wool in blues/turquoise. Carol chose bright sunny green with champagne-colored wool/alpaca fiber. (Click photo to see this image at 800 pixels wide, to see the detail. The blue scarf is crunched up to show the transparency of the bottom layer.)

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We placed bubble wrap on the table, then we applied a very thin layer of loose fibers on the wrap in a shape just larger than the fabric. We then placed the fabric on the fibers, and applied another layer of fiber. It was sort of a silk sandwich, with wool as the “bread.”

carolwithnunoscarf66.jpgWe sprinkled warm detergent-water on the sandwiches, then applied another layer of bubble wrap on top (with a tight roll of bubbles at the center), and rolled and rolled and rolled the bubble/fiber/silk bundle, trying to stay relatively even with our application of pressure.

After somewhere between 80 and 200 rolls, the fibers had stuck together and to the silk enough that we could remove the bubble wrap and work with just the scarf/wool mixture. We dropped the wet bundle on the table over and over, trying to shock the fibers more, and force the fibers through the fabric layer in the middle as much as possible.

At some point, we just sort of scrunched up the bundle and semi-gently rubbed the whole crumpled wet thing between our hands. Finally, we sort of smoothed out the scarves on the table, rubbing any spot that had not yet adhered as well as other places. A bit of a fresh water rinse and a roll in a dry towel, and they were nearly dry to the touch.

nunocarolscarfonmelinda.jpgYou just can not tell from photos how drapey and fine these scarves are when finished. We used such a small amount of wool, it just added fuzzy softness on the surface but did not interfere with the hand of the fabric.

This sort of “laminated felt” can be cut and sewn on a machine or by hand, and it can handle more stress on its seams than standard, wool-only felt. It is really luxury stuff!

The first photo here is the table with two finished but slightly damp scarves. Next is Carol wearing her scarf, which clearly goes well with what she wore that day. Third is Melinda (she works for Rae) wearing Carol’s scarf. You can see how the color of her blouse can be seen through the translucent fabric of the scarf, and you can see how flexible the final product is. Nice, huh?

Working with Kids: A Flag

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

I can not tell you how wonderful my time was with the 3rd graders this year. I started out in late fall, absolutely certain that I would go twice a week for maybe a month, and then I would set them on their own. Then I found myself charmed, just in love with being in their presence. And I couldn’t bear to quit.

This was a volunteer thing. I can’t really afford to give up time every single week to volunteer at this time in my life. I am self-employed without a secretary or other helpers. I not only knit samples, write patterns, write class handouts, schedule, do publicity, teach… I dye yarn, wind it into skeins, print labels, attach labels to skeins. I also invoice clients, make the bank deposits, package mailings and take them to the post office. I lay out my advertising, print my patterns, deliver patterns to shops within driving distance.

There is sometimes not quite enough time to sleep. I have volunteered a lot in my life, but right now is not a good time for it.

Yet regardless of what made good sense for my business, I found it impossible to say goodbye to these energetic, young, wonderful, joyful people. And now that school is over, I find I miss them very much. I’m very sad they are out of my life.

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Musings on Teaching Kids

I feel inspired to talk here about teaching kids to knit, in general.

I have taught probably hundreds of young people to knit, from age 5 all the way through high school. Most of the time, by about age 10 or 11, they become so busy after school that they find no time to knit.

Occasionally I’ll have an amazing young teen or two stick it out (these almost always have parents who encourage and support the knitting in the busy schedule). The teens are a lot of fun, because by then they can accomplish whatever they choose to do. They are rare, though. I do enjoy them when I have the luck to teach them.

I must say that my favorite age to teach (kids, that is) would be 3rd grade or so, about 8-9 years old. At this age, they are rather fearless, in part because their job in elementary school is to deal with learning new things all the time.

They learn to write, first printing and then in cursive, they learn to ride a bicycle, they learn their math basics, they learn to spell, they master their limbs in physical education. They start to piece together how the world around them works.

At this age, they are not yet self-critical. They are not playing it safe so that their peers will not be mean to them. They don’t need to conform. Yet.

A third grader does not usually expect to do something perfectly. They expect to make several stabs at a new skill. and get better as they continue to try. This is an excellent mindset for learning to knit.

LynnH’s Rule #1 of Kids’ Knitting: NEVER RIP a Child’s Work!!!!!

A child has to work very hard to master the movements of knitting. They are using two tools (one in their non-dominant hand) and a floppy string/yarn, to make something that requires a bit of fine motor skill mastery. Some kids struggle to make a few stitches. No matter how bad it looks, don’t rip!!!

A knitting teacher’s best tool working with students this age, is a sewing needle. If you can not fix the piece by chaining up a dropped stitch or knitting a few together to un-increase above the spot where increases were not needed, you need to sew the piece together and let the child keep working.

pakistaniflagafter.jpg It does not matter how much you need your own work to be right. A child who watches you take out his/her hard work, will almost always stop knitting. For the sake of your young students, you need to leave your perfectionism at home in your own knitting basket.

“Perfect,” as my friend Howlin’ Hobbit says, “is the enemy of Good Enough.” Well, he says it something like that, anyway. Elementary kids are all about “good enough.” Honor their intent.

The Successes that Can Emerge

You have seen two hats (here–scroll down, and here) made by boys who started out making a five-stitch wristband. I should have taken photos of the knitting before I sewed them into hats. They were incredibly messy, very large triangles. Where one side of the triangle could reach all the way around the boy’s head. Yup. Not what was planned at all. Cool, anyway!

It took some head-scratching for me to figure out how to make these pieces turn into something real, but it worked. It’s all about hand-sewing, my friends. About 10-25 minutes per hat, and worth every stitch!!! The boys were beside themselves, delighted to have made something that could actually be worn.

Follow Inspiration

So today I bring you before/after photos of another project. Sometimes kids notice that a small bit of knitting on a long knitting needle, can look like a flag early in the knitting. This term, I had two boys who wanted to make flags. One finished, one did not.

Many of the kids in this classroom were not born in the USA. They are in Lansing because their parents are studying (most of them Graduate Students) at Michigan State University. In fact, in this room I am quite sure that a majority of the kids do not speak English at home.

I just love this cultural diversity! It makes me very happy to be in a place where we have a sense of the largeness of the world and the alikeness of the people upon it. (Yes, I’m an idealist, and it’s quite lovely!) In this room, sometimes a sentence will start with… “In your country, how do they….?” I eat that up.

The Process of Completing a Flag

The boy who made today’s photographed project, was born in Pakistan. He wanted to make a Pakistani flag. I did not know what they looked like, but the school has flags lining the halls and so he could take me down the hall to see one.

He needed a moon and star. There was no way to knit these in, given this child’s knitting skills.

I went home and got a piece of white wool felt that I’d made while teaching a wet felting class some time ago. I took it in, we cut it up, and we glued the bits to his acrylic-worsted-weight-yarn flag. It worked enough for the child.

He then bound off the flag, and it was quite the mess! It turns out that two edge stitches had raveled all the way down to the cast on. I took his flag home to make it work.

I used a sharp-pointed needle with a large eye, and I worked all the green ends to the back of the fabric where they were hidden.

Then I used his white yarn tail to sew the flag to a chopstick. I finished the end and then used some white glue on the back side, to stick the yarn to the chopstick.

Smiles All Around

I think it looks great. Mind you, all of those knitted stitches, he knit himself. He guided me through cutting the star, and helped me cut the moon. He stuck the felt pieces on (with my help applying glue). So, he did in fact knit this piece. I just sewed the ends in for him. I admit there were a LOT more ends than I expected on this project!!!

He was a happy kid. I was proud of him.

I miss “My Kidz.” Pout.

More Scribble Lace

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

I was at Rae’s shop recently when Rae’s Aunt Pat stopped in. She had seen my two pieces of scribble lace at the shop and got inspired. Look at what she is making!

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The thick/thin yarn she hand dyed herself. She is using a laceweight yarn with mohair in it. I think she is using more rows of laceweight between the scribbles than I did. I think it looks WONDERFUL.

Nice job, Pat!

A Cure for My Blues

Monday, June 8th, 2009

I have been fighting the blues for a few days. The best answer for me usually is time with a child, or music and motion, at least when things are too quiet around me.

Sometimes that means dancing. Lately it means playing Jen Sygit’s new CD: “So Long Pollyanna” relatively loudly and cleaning house.

Today I was dealing with some music business. I found this amazing YouTube video of “Stand by Me” with musicians all around the world overdubbed into one incredible performance. It brought me to hopeful and grateful tears. I expect some of you will enjoy it, too.

Playing for Change: Song Around the World
“Stand By Me”

A Different Sort of Scribble Lace

Sunday, June 7th, 2009

I like a sort of knitting that Debbie New introduced. She calls it “Scribble Lace.” Basically, you knit on large needles, alternating several rows of very thin yarn or thread and then one row of a notable, dominant yarn.

The effect is that the thin yarn almost disappears to the eye, from any distance. The thicker yarn looks like a wool scribble suspended in air. Or this is how it usually works, anyway.

I did a project with a sticky, mohair-blend purple laceweight yarn and a wooly thick-thin multicolored yarn, several years ago. First I wore it as a shawl (see photo above) and then I put it on my front door as a curtain. I show two photos and tell that story in this blog entry.

A New Look with Scribbles

Rae and I are doing a series of short Tuesday-night sessions called “Technique Tuesdays.” We spent time thinking of possible interesting techniques that we can teach in either one or two 2-hour sessions. One that came to mind was scribble lace, and we put it on the schedule for June 23 from 6-8.

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I realized that the example piece I already had, was a bit on the extreme side. I figured some folks might want something a little more wearable in Lansing (I wear mine on stage, where extreme is good).

I also was feeling a real need for a turquoise shawl or stole, as turquoise goes with all the clothing I own, and the only turquoise wrap I have right now is woven rather than knit. (I got in in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, in January of 2001. It’s a lovely piece, but I like to wear knitted items when I work.)

SO: I picked out a Malabrigo lace yarn, very soft merino wool, in dark turquoise. Then I chose a solid turquoise Louisa Harding Kimono ribbon to use with it, as the “scribble.” Now I have a set of yarns which match in color, where the main contrast is texture (smooth/fluffy to shiny) and to a lesser extent, size. The laceweight I am using this time, is puffier and more visible than the mohair was, but I think it looks great in this combination.

Now the shawl is more about texture than anything, and it can work well with many garments. What is interesting, is that in the photo I seem to have unmatched yarns. In real life, they are nearly identical in color.

Since I am using yarns that are not sticky, particularly the ribbon, this piece is a little more on the luxury side. It’s soft, gorgeous, and not as indestructible. It needs to be treated like the special item that it is, where the first one I made was made with all feltable yarns that sort of fight back when they are treated with rough handling.But, oh! The Malabrigo lace yarn is like butter. It’s thick enough to be warm, not at all scratchy, just incredible.

The new piece is not finished yet, but it stays at Rae’s shop these days as an example of one possible version of Scribble lace. It is really creating a lot of interest. I am looking forward to the class. I love comparing student projects in classes like this! The yarn choice makes a huge difference, and all choices are worthy.

(For the non-knitters out there, the white line in the middle of the piece is called a lifeline, a place one can rip back to without a lot of hassle, if one makes a knitting mistake with tiny yarn. I did make a mistake that did require me to use that line and knit the top part of what is shown here, a second time. Totally worth it!)

Wool Felt: Pincushion and Nuno Scarves

Saturday, June 6th, 2009

I teach wet felting quite often, both at Rae’s (East Side of Lansing) and Threadbear (West Side). Several weeks ago I taught at Threadbear on a Friday night, and we decided to make wool balls and cut off the tops and bottoms, to make pincushions. Here I show the project I created that night.

feltpincushion.jpgIt was a very fun project. Every time I make wool balls I try different approaches. This time, I used feltable wool yarns to hold the fluffy wools together. I like the way the colors contrast with this particular piece.

I layered different colors, like color-changing jawbreaker candies. When we cut it apart (with an electric carving knife), it makes me think of geodes. (Geodes are rocks which hide crystals inside, even though they look ordinary on the outside.) A lot of folks say it reminds them of sushi, or hard candies with different colors inside.

Nuno?

Tomorrow/Sunday, I will be teaching “Nuno” felting at Rae’s. Basically, this is where you use wool fibers and a woven fabric, and you work the wool until it felts through the woven fabric.

You can do something as simple as a neck scarf with this method. However, amazing things are being done by fiberartists, particularly those who create wearable pieces. With Nuno, you can make a thinner felt piece, and it can be cut and sewn more easily than all-wool felt. It can drape beautifully with sheer areas between wool fibers, or it can be made very dense for items such as purses.

Friday night, Rae and I dyed some fine, drapey silk fabrics in all sorts of fun colors. We will use those on Sunday as the middle of a “wool sandwich” and make long scarves as our project in a short class.

The scarves are quite translucent, so where the wool is thin it will let light through. I made a very skinny version as a hair tie, and even though there is a bit of wool making it thicker, it drapes beautifully and has a transparency which enhances the soft texture of the surface.

I am looking forward to seeing what my students do. Let’s hope I have some photos for you later this week.

The Last Day of School

Friday, June 5th, 2009

I saw my 3rd grade knitters today for a short while. It was their last day of school, and it was an intense experience to be there when the final bell rang for the year. There were a lot of goodbyes, a lot of happy faces, and one very sad one. I gave encouraging words and caring to the sad child, and did what I could to be a loving and cheerful presence to the rest.hatnomanredcedar.jpgWe did not knit today. I had been working on sewing pieces of unruly knitting into recognizable shapes, so that I could get the kids finished products when I could. I have more photos for a later blog post, but here is a project I helped a boy finish about a week ago.He was another of my kids who started with 5 stitches, and kept increasing accidentally until there was a substantial piece of fabric. The only thing this would agree to be turned into, was a hat. So I made sure it reached around his head, and then I took it home. I put it on this wig head and sewed edges together (tucking extra fabric inside the hat). It became something he could wear with pride.I love 3rd grade! Most of the kids are not perfectionistic, they just like the process of making something. A few will always be pickier but they tend to be more aware of what they might be doing wrong. The others, they knit for the joy of doing something with their hands.I’m still trying to catch up on that incredible, ominous to-do list. For now, contemplate what it might be like to just create for pure joy and NOT NOTICE the “hiccups” in the product. After all, the child got a hat when he started a wristband. I can’t see that as anything but a big success.I already miss “my kids.” I really need the time that is now free in my schedule, but I find myself loving all the kids I work with. Today is bittersweet for that reason.Keeping on keeping on, learning as we work, that is what 3rd graders do well. I think I will contemplate that lesson today… just keep doing it, don’t worry about perfection, just keep practicing. Mastery follows practice.Happy summer to those who were set free today!