Sunday, February 26, 2017

The peripatetic yarn returns, and thereby hangs a yarn..

Ages ago I was given a wonderful gift, of a fiber share, that's like a CSA but done by a sheep farm raising animals for their excellent fleece.  Lovely spun yarn, some hand dyed in variegated reds, some left natural, and I used a lot, and shared some around. Seemed greedy to keep it all.  

So having traveled from New England to Canada, or maybe the Canada part was cut out, to here, some of it went up the street to a friend with big ambitions to use this fabulous yarn.

Yesterday she came down to visit, announcing she was clearing her cluttered spare room, and giving away some yarns she ought to share. And she handed over the bag of yarn I'd given her way back, thinking it was from her sister.  Hm. So, glad to see it again, and instantly made a hank into knittable balls, and set to work.



Here's my soon to be cowl, in Shaker stitch, moving right along. In fact the pic is several hours old, and the piece is now much bigger, knitting along to audiobooks.  I did try it in a honeycomb stitch, adapted to straights from a pattern using circulars which I don't like, and anyway don't have big enough ones.  

But I found that this yarn, what with the variegation in color and the texture, didn't work with the honeycomb stitch, and I started over. As usual, the camera doesn't convey the richness of reds, and this is much stronger than the color shows here. 

I cast on 51 stitches, need an odd number for this stitch, and size 8 needles, and went from there.  Just winging it, really, and it's looking okay up to now. Shaker is a great stitch, all garter, but looks much posher, and it's interesting to knit -- one row knit, next row knit one then knit under the next stitch, do that to the end. That's what creates the interesting loops on the right side.  It's a good stitch for a scarf, since it traps air, which keeps it warm, without being heavy. It drapes well, too.  When the length is enough to finish, I'll knit the two ends together as I cast off, making a firm ending.  I might at that point turn one over to make an interesting shape, a mathematical mystery whose name totally escapes me, but it will return as soon as I hit publish, guaranteed*.

This is more fun than framing, which I have been doing for two upcoming shows.  Then I promised to write some pr for the same shows, Creative Collective ones.  And I have to get moving on making paper to use in the artist book demos coming up in April, which is not so far off after all at this point.  I think people will enjoy handling handmade paper, along with various other items.

And a frantic search for a piece by Unified Field, that's the joint artist Stefi M and I used to be when we weren't being just ourselves, because it suddenly had a buyer.  Which meant we had to find it.  Whose house?  crated? whose studio?  did we still own it? etc. etc. and I did unearth it, in excellent condition, already framed, labeled, wired, priced, ready to go.  So it now lives in California, I believe, and the buyers are happy.  

I totally failed to get a pic of it before it left, of course, and it predated my digi days. So I can't even show it. I'm such a washout!  It was a set of images, polaroid shots, of artworks we'd created together,  then mounted on black paper, but with torn surface areas. It all sounds chaotic, but in fact it was a good harmony of blues and blacks and greens and great background texture, and if I can ever locate a pic, I'll give you a link.  Title is Poseidon's World.

And the moral of the story is: art lasts, and can find a home even years after it's made.  Of course, I have had people try to buy a work they remember from years ago only to find that I've broken up and reused the piece, or sold it in another form, or something!  Not a curator, more interested in what's happening now and in the immediate future, really.

It is nice, though to think of my work, in various different media, painted, monotypes, stitched, knitted, crocheted, sculpted, assembled,  living in a number of different countries, like seeing your kids, all individuals,  go off and settle in their own places.

I guess it also means it's never too late to check with an artist if a piece you saw ages ago and still like is still available.  You never know, it might be! 

*Mobius, mobius!! remembered it as I was about to hit the button. There should be two dots over the o, but who's counting.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Memories! Feb 16 1963

Today is the anniversary of Handsome Partner's and my wedding day!  No, we were not trying for a Valentine wedding just coping for months with the standoffs between the Catholic situation and the city registrar, and had to take the first date, and exact time, the registrar would attend the church!  

Since Catholic priests in England can religiously but not legally marry couples, the registrar has to be present to perform the legal part. The Catholic Church being outlawed since the Reformation. But religious people can't just have the registrar marry them, since they need the religious wedding.  So, registrars hating to come out and about with their little briefcases, you have to keep all your arrangements flexible (!) until you can get all the parties together. Religious ceremony in the Church, then you all troop into the sacristy to get the legal one done and all the signatures.


This is not such an issue in a smaller town, where you probably all know each other anyway and there are more friendly relations, and the distances are not so great. But in a big city, which is where we were, it's fraught!  So when he finally announced that he would attend for twenty minutes, no more, from 3.20 p.m. to 3.40 p.m. on Feb 16, we just took it.  Very little advance notice. 



Budget wedding, starting as we meant to go on, with pix in black and white, donated by photographer friend, one set, wedding cake made and iced by my best friend's mom, and sent across England in the passenger seat of her friend's truck, longhaul truck driver, flowers, very few available, terrible storms that year, flowers all stuck in the Scilly Isles unable to be imported, but anyway donated by Student Union staff.  We had our reception there, and they were all excited to be catering a wedding!  Dress borrowed from a work friend of mine, and altered to fit, plus veil.  Thirty guests, all of whom were in the one group pic!  

The priest who married us had been forbidden by his boss the parish priest to preach a sermon, since there was a danger that this mixed marriage, Handsome Partner a different religion, might look serious! Dear Father Clinch, a Jesuit, told us he was ignoring that totally and preached a lovely little sermon about how any group coming together in God's name was welcome and a celebration. Most of our friends not Catholic, and they were quite impressed and a bit weepy about how nice this all was.  And it was fun. 

Handsome Partner's been gone for almost six years now, and it was really interesting to find these old pix, and see him young and with flaming red hair! Not the white haired old guy current friends knew. Well, I guess we both looked a bit younger then.

DIY, showing our true colors even then....So much has happened in both our lives, many adventures, some I'm glad only happened once, some would be nice to have again.That suit was in use for many many years, as a special suit, interviews, weddings, etc!  Scientists not being snappy dressers. 



Then this week, best Valentine evah arrived in the mail from honorary granddaughter Heather, which you see here. Lovely double origami, one heart on another.  Now with my other Asian art items where I can see it all the time, and will love forever.

 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Ellen Wilkinson in new jacket and dress outfit, insists on quiet

Ellen might have a hard time around here, what with Dollivers and the Kennels, and the Tinies, and Elton belting out tunes, when she's trying to get on with her legislative planning work.  

So she's ensconced in the little rocker one floor away from the noisy group, and is quite pleased with her new jacket and dress outfit, suitable for office wear.  




She plans on not following the Westminster AKC Dog Show.  Such a workaholic.  She wasn't even keen on spending time on the fitting of the jacket and posing for the photoshoot.  The Dollivers are baffled.

The agility section got off to a wonderful start -- did you see the beagle? great at actual agility but saw no reason not to look around now and then, and stop at the top of the climber to wag at the crowd, and down on the rug to do a quick cleaning job...he was as star turn.  I wonder if there is a trophy for Funniest Hound? typical beagle ham.  Pretends he can't do the weave, runs off. Then comes back and does a weave a border collie would be proud of. We need dogs in our lives!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Ellen Wilkinson, off the straight and narrow already

So Ellen, the new arrival, spent her first night with the Dollivers, and that may have been a mistake.  She's already demanded to get out of the costume I kitted her in for her debut, and into some decent working gear.  They must have been working on her.

Anyway, I found some blue silk yarn, and got to work in bed last night, listening to a Miss Read audiobook, read by Gwen Watford.  She played a wonderful Dolly Bantry in a couple of Miss Marple television movies, perfect delivery.  But I find her a bit hard to follow in audio, since I must have been lipreading a lot of the movie dialog.  She swallows syllables in true southern Brit style.

 
And this morning as Ellen nagged at me in a tiny, firm Yorkshire voice, I finished the dress, but she wanted it sleeveless, and a jacket and hat to go with.  So she's got the dress and a nice scarf tucked in at the neck and the jacket and hat are promised.  Clearly she's a quick study.  She's a little over six inches tall, much smaller than the Ds, which they are glad about, since she can't wear their clothes. We have lost the pin she wore the other day, and I have a bad feeling I may find it with a bare foot at some point, pun intended.
 

 
Last evening I was wondering what to choose between doing fed taxes and knitting doll dresses, decisions, decisions.  And it will be no surprise to blogistas to hear I did both. When in doubt, just do everything, lifelong mantra. For better or worse.  
 
So taxes are done, and they owe me a bit, and state taxes now to do, and maybe they'll owe me a bit, too.  It's annoying to have to file, since I only do it to reclaim taxes paid directly on account of withdrawals from IRA. Income doesn't reach taxable threshold.  But a little bit will arrive in my bank soon, I hope. Always welcome.

So here's Ellen on her way to being once again a busy working Parliamentary woman.  I expect she'll want a briefcase, but the Ds are unlikely to think of that, they being more along the lines of more and better jewelry.  She is probably not into jewelry, nor into taking over a dog from the Dolliver Kennels, who are about to come into their own again, with the Westminster AKC Dog Show coming up.

We have a Whippet, a Wirehaired Terrier and an Irish Setter in the kennels, plus a shaggy mixed breed, who didn't get in on account of not agile enough for the agility section.  The first year of our Kennels, a Wirehaired Terrier won, so there was a general barkup at the Kennels, complete with eggcup standing in for the big trophy. And Wrangler NameMe in pole position.

Friday, February 10, 2017

New knitting group, and pussyhats rule!

Today was the first meeting of a new knitting/crochet circle, at a local library,  and it was great fun.  Five members plus the librarian who organized it, and one baby who came with her mom and gave us cuteness overload! And another person who will join but didn't know about the group till she stopped in at the library this afternoon.

And, in the course of talking and sharing and showing and learning, wonderful instant interchange of ideas, I produced the pussyhat in search of an owner, and it is now owned by Mary the librarian. She plans to wear it to the March for Science coming up in DC!  



And another old friend I don't see half often enough, turned up, and we were both very happy about that. She accepted a pussyhat pin and promptly put it on.  



I will have to knit a few more at this rate! it's wonderful.  Also the group learned the significance of the safety pin movement.

But this was just on the side, since the main item was the rapport of the group, and the talents going on, ranging from a knitted scarf in progress, to a brand new knit work cast on today, to afghan segments for Warm Up America, to  crocheted cup shapes useful for many purposes, to relearning crochet, amazing range of skills and sharing.  This will happen every two weeks, unless we decide to up the ante!  and it's in the afternoon, good for folks who are not keen on night driving, and fits in with moms with school age kids, since they can get home for the bus.

All in all, a very good use of a Friday afternoon.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Art keeps breaking through, and so does the mailbag

Today, midst blizzard and various concerns about Handsome Son having to get into work, which he did no problem, he tells me, he could have made a better story of it...anyway, the big verdict on the travel ban came down amidst my work in art and the February mailbag, and running an online quiz, and mucho cooking. And it sounded like a welcome bit of good news, for now.

So, it's the Shakuhachi effect, everything that happens happens, and it's not an interruption of something else.  And I was deep into my February mailbag, so this was good.  The mailbag is small, but lovely, heh.

Anyway, I try to share it around so that people in my address book, and if I don't have your address, you could remedy that..anyway, from the people in my book, each month a different group.  Great fun to do.  I even rounded the cards' corners so that they'd travel safely in the mail.  My loss of faith in my local post office is complete, since some people got last month's mailbag three weeks late..but I will mail from the next town where I have a meeting tomorrow.

So here's the bag, original landscapes, using alcohol, Sharpie and watercolor crayon.  Custom made! Colors are brighter than seen here, since the white paper tends to shine through for the camera lens.


The mailbag does tend to draw me back into painting, and that's very good, when fibers are trying to ensnare me..

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

A doll emerges, complete with her own personality

So today, I wrote a little list of all the things I have to attend to, in order to stop having to think about them all at the same time. And making the doll was on there.

So I thought, fine, let's see if my thumb's up to it.  And took a closer look at the doll parts and realized I'd done the hardest sewing back when I knitted them.  All the parts complete and only needing to be stuffed and joined up.

The funny thing about doll making is that a personality emerges whether you want it to or not.  It did with the Dollivers, and this little doll, half their size, starting out from a Duchess Kate pattern, suddenly turned into Ellen Wilkinson, and if you don't know about her, go here.  

She was a powerful orator, a tiny redhaired woman, my mom's heroine in politics, our local MP as well as a national dynamo.  So when she started showing up, I had to card some red handspun yard, for red hair, and I couldn't resist giving her suffragist type clothes and posing her with my Hillary ballot.  I think she would have approved.  She usually wore a two piece skirt suit, as far as I know, not a snappy dresser, too busy doing her job, really.




Not so surprising that she emerged, perhaps, since I was making the doll while live tweeting and hearing the proceedings of the dramatic court proceedings this afternoon in the SF federal circuit court hearing on the Trump immigration ban. When the moment is right, the doll appears.

What a time to be alive.  Powerful women lawyers commenting and explaining throughout, via Twitter, powerful female federal judge on the panel examining the case.  I was engrossed even in the machinery of the law, where they were arguing whether a stay or a writ of mandamus would have been correct, and who had standing and how, and so on.  

And when the DOJ lawyer complained that things were moving so fast, the judge shot back, well, it was the government who forced the speed by filing the emergency request.  In other words, a different way of appealing it would have allowed the court to keep the stay until full deliberations were completed, giving lawyers time to prepare. The government shot itself in the legal foot by its dramatic reaction.  Couldn't help feeling that the DOJ was not very well served by its lawyers.  And the other side was stronger. But we'll see how this comes out.

Rapidly developing into a shade tree lawyer here! 

Monday, February 6, 2017

Stress abated, art ideas spring up, yay.

The last few weeks have been about all kinds of things, but not much about original art ideas and excitement of that kind. More about the sort of work that experiments with known forms and ideas, great to noodle with, but lacking that thunderbolt of excitement that happens when you see an elegant idea coming at you.

I have to thank the EGA friends for this one, since at yesterday's guild meeting I was showing the brain project stitching kit I'd been given by Cynthia, and had been unable to get going on for various reasons. One is that in winter my thumbs and fingers needed for stitching are badly cracked no matter what care I lavish, and are either exposed and too tender to handle needles, or protected and too clumsy to do it. that goes for spinning, too.  Can't spin the shaft with bandaids in place, not enough friction.


Anyway, I was also a bit stymied because the image, painted on the canvas, was oriented backwards. That is, the visual narrative ran right to left, very uncomfortable for a Western artist to handle. the brain project is an exciting idea,  the creation of a neurologist,  it encourages the acceptance of stitching and creative work for anyone as a great brain function and exercise, which is all good. If you look here, you'll see that there are also canvases oriented left to right.  You'll also see some great ideas that people have put into action on the project.

And some people were putting their brains minds to this, Ginny suggesting I just look through the back and trace the outlines in reverse, work that way.  Which went a good way toward the solution, the only prob being that I wanted to preserve some of the original painted color in the finished work, and working from the back wouldn't do that. 



Then after I got back from a lovely hike this afternoon, it burst on me how to do it and be happy, and have a much more meaningful result.  I would photograph the canvas, print out the image on my fine silk, reverse the silk, layer the two together and have a much better run at this.  



I can stitch right through the silk, with care not to fray it, maybe tape it down all around, though removing the tape might be a real trick.  But anyway, that's only process. The idea is there. The notion of the self reflexive brain, the hemispheres, the overlaying of complex thought and action, it's all there...in fact it's better than the original concept.

Alas, can't actually stitch it yet, you should see what a time I had just getting the silk organized and the pix done, with my out-of- commission thumb.  But it will heal again and I'll seize whatever days I get before it acts up again.  So thank you all!  very happy outcome here.

Also, Ginny, you have a lot to answer for, just as well you don't read my blog, one of the books you handed around at the program had doll patterns, for making dolls...and I remembered knitting all the body parts for Kate in my Knit your own Royal Wedding. Clearly dates me, since she now has two kids.  But anyway, back then I knitted her body in a nice silk yarn.  



So, having kept it in a little bag in the KYORW book, I took it out today.  And, smugness here, since I had at one point actually got all my dollmaking bits into one place, I was able to pick out stuffing, and hair making yarn, and stiffening wires, and all that.  


So I think I can do that even with a gimpy thumb.  I'm going to take a try anyway. 

It also gives me an idea of maybe teaching some simple dollmaking to kids at this year's Festival of the Arts in September. Must think more on that and see if the PTB like it.  No, no, mustn't add yet more to my plans...but it might be fun, all the same..

Friday, February 3, 2017

Experiments in weaving and blanket sections

Hard to write happy little blogposts these days; the anxiety and consequent activism always with me, but I won't bore you with all the actions and petitions, and encouraging, and signing and that. Just assume it's happening.  Local actions, too, turning friends on to helping the food pantry, that kind of thing.

However, some good stuff in art is also happening.  Some sections for my WarmUp America blanket offerings, well, they're activism, too, come to think of it.  





But anyway here are the first few, together with the cardboard template I cut to make sizing simpler.  And I'm knitting diagonally for the same reason.  

A friend stopped over, saw the sections, and threatens to bring over a large stash from her house once she's tidied up enough to get at it, because I can Use It Up!  I'm guessing that the blanket sections need to be machine washable, so I'm using my handspun for other projects, and donated stash for the sections.

Also I've been looking at some cool ideas for shaped weaving.  


Here's a little experiment with triangular freeform weaving on my potholder loom, small enough to mess about with and try out. I'm using my handspun for this. It's not true tri weaving (for that you need nails or notches on three sides) but it is a single warp yarn which becomes the weft too. That's the interesting part.  

And of course, since there are no notches on the hypotenuse, the weaving has to be freeform, not a solid triangle.  You work differently with a real tri loom, one of which I will probably make. 

With this one, you have a lot of threads packed into the corner but spread out across the hypotenuse, and I'm using the concept to push them about and try out different ways of seeing them. I will probably go in with a different thread, too, and work in the spaces.  This could be fun.  This picture is just the first arrangement, done more thread pushing since then.  More to weave to finish this triangle.  And it's just a motif idea that might work into other projects.  And I will loop each end over the next as a finishing method when it comes off the loom.

You can get or make real tri looms as big as 7 feet, but I doubt if I'll go that big..I will make at least one, though, once I get organized into correctly spacing the notches on the hypotenuse -- have to be the same number of notches or nails as on the other sides. Usually you go for the same spacing between notches or nails, which will be the same number if you're working a square or rectangular shape. Here it can't be the same spacing, in order to have the same number.

If there are short sides, it not being an equilateral triangle, it's not a very obvious bit of math. Fun to try, though. And it's a very different approach to weaving, since you continually feed off a ball of yarn, no bobbins or butterflies to fuss with.

I've also been seeing ideas for looms cut into the shape of pieces of garments, like pattern blocks, only notched ready to weave. I really fancy weaving myself a vest, using my handspun. Lined with silk or linen, could be very nice. But that's for another day.  Only challenge is cutting the cardboard pieces to the correct size. The actual notching and weaving not so complex.

So that's where art is at the moment. Exhibiting in April and May through July, not fiberarts, other pieces.  Artist in Residence stint in April. Quite a bit happening.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Urgently needed break for art and nature

Since recent events, many frightening and some very heartening and exciting, are consuming a lot of attention and activist energy, I thought it was time for an art break.  A trip to Princeton University Art Museum, to be exact.

Current major exhibit is of Indian art, from the 16th and 17th centuries, with technical notes as well as narrative explanations. In there I bumped into two friends, and had a great visit.  




 We are all on the same page politically, and plunged into a mini meeting!  I was wearing my pussyhat pin and explained I don't do well with hats.  They had evidently just been saying something like that, too, and were interested in my pin.

Upshot was that I gave one friend a pin from the extras I now carry in my purse, and she pinned it on immediately, very happy with it, and with the safety pin part of the design.  I explained that it was two messages in one pin. 

They were not yet aware of the safety pin movement, so now they are. And the other friend who said she was not a pussyhat pin wearer, decided that she would put safety pins on her outfits from now on, to declare herself a safe person.  So this was a very happy meeting all around.  I feel like yeast!

Then I went off to the other galleries, to see a wonderful show about things bigger than ourselves, the sky, space, huge paintings and prints and anime of massiveness and response to overwhelming events. 


 Very instructive to see right at this moment.

And a visit to the early Roman and Greek gallery, to admire again the tesselated pavement from ancient Antioch.  It's one of the items I always pay my respects to in the museum.

This is where I force information on you, dating back to my days of studying classical Greek.  Tessera, also written as tettera, is the Greek word for four, or square.  Hence tesselations.  I like that the Greeks had alternative spellings and pronunciations for this word.  Maybe it was the passage of time that did it.

Moving right along...feeling very much better for seeing the art and the friends, on the way out, I noticed the forsythia in bloom, early, must be a sheltered spot outside the museum.  







And looking the other way, the background of the big Any Body Oddly Propped installation, outside the Museum, with people for scale.

Good, if freezing cold, afternoon. The longish walk to and from where I'd parked counted as my day's walk today.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Plainsboro Library Staff Show Reception

Just to show yet again, that artists are people with day jobs, here's the first ever gallery show presented by the staff of Plainsboro Public Library.  Any staff member could enter work, and most of them did. Some were exhibiting work for the first time.

The array of talent, in painting, photography, including  glass prints,  book art, video (yes, a mesmeric changing and dissolving montage of the ocean at Virginia Beach, must see this), font design, weaving, pottery, 40 pieces in all, the work of eleven artists, just has to be seen. It's only up for a few more days, so if you're local, hurry over.

Deputy township mayor Neil was in attendance, here center, talking with library staff



and the library director MaryAnn, left,very happy with the quality of the show and the attention it was getting





and food is important, too, another quality feature




It's just a lovely experience to study, slowly, and appreciate the work of our staff when they're not running the library. 



Sharon M, seen here admiring other artists' work, is the creator of the video seen in still image below. It runs continually, on a loop, all the hours of the library opening.
 
Center are two of Regan T's photographs, atmospheric and magical
 

Nicoleta is well known to the young stitchers at the summer EGA outreach program in the library, since she volunteers to assist at the sessions to lend her considerable stitching and teaching skills to their efforts. Her weaving and pottery are wonderful.


Here's Sharon M.s video, but you have to go see it in person

 


This book art with collage, work of Vanessa J., is one of the most moving items in the show. It's a book about how young people of color don't always know what their older generation went through. A lot of feeling and fact packed into a small artist-made book.
 

 Darren's work studies fonts and blueprints.  It makes you look!

And there's more! this is only a taste of what's there.  I came early to get pix before the crowds arrived for the reception. Thank you all, library staff, who are all also friends, for creating both a terrific gallery show and a great library atmosphere every day.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

AIR 2017 prep in progress

As soon as I agree to a project, currently the four week residency for AIR 2017, Artists' Books, I initially plan to think about it later. It's not till April, plenty of time, I say to myself. Need to get on with weaving and spinning right now.

Then I start getting ideas and need to do something before they get away.  So I start like this:



 and that unleashes a whole lot of other ideas, some for teaching, some for exhibiting, some for my own need to Do Something with the huge portfolio of drawings and paintings under my worktable.

Organizing them into artists' books serves several purposes, so that's part of the process.  And since there will be four sessions, I have a bunch of empty folders for collecting said ideas.  And then I need a crate so I don't go wild searching for the materials when the time comes.  



The participants will see the crate and a selection of reference books and materials when they show up, but probably have little thought of the chaos that preceded the organization.

Then I go back to the original thought I had, and had made a few examples for participants to reverse engineer.




This book idea's a folder for installing separate pages or photos or other items.  And I realized, since I'd changed the original idea I got it from, I should do some diagrams to remind myself show participants how to proceed.  So far so good.  This is just the first draft of instructions, and I need to organize them ready to copy off.


This little foldy thing is fun to make, once you get the directions working. I did it from written instructions and quickly decided I'd better whip up some drawings otherwise it would be at least difficult if not hopeless, to convey this to speakers of other languages. For a lot of people stopping by at this sort of event, English is their third or even fourth language, fluent in everyday use but not necessarily up on the mildly technical terms needed in art. Diagrams and demo work best.

In the course of the search I also unearthed a couple of huge portfolios I'd made for other purposes, so I'll upcycle them and use them to show how to make a portfolio for even quite big watercolors and drawings. That big one in the foreground of the top pic is one, monotypes and stamping and other things going on.

The danger of pulling out old stuff like this is that the trip down memory lane can get a bit lengthy, with all kinds of new ideas flying out at you and demanding attention, while you beat them off like a cloud of gnats, trying to keep to one point at a time.

If anyone wants to try her hand at the foldy book thing above, take a shot.  I searched but did not come up with anything in video on this design, but if you do, let us all know.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Pussyhat Project interrupts our weaving odyssey briefly

If you want to be part of the Million Woman March on Washington the day after the Inauguration, you don't have to march to be in it. There are marches in many cities, as a women's solidarity action, to show our numbers and strength and encourage each other to keep up the good fight for our continued rights.

If you want to see how I'm taking part, right in my living room, go here 

I'm knitting a PussyHat, or maybe two, if there's time, I found out about this a bit late, to be sent to organizers of the project who will distribute to marchers to wear on the day and keep as a symbol of support.  But go to the Field and Fen link above, and you'll see more.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Current Weaving, the b side

Here's the other side of the cardboard loom, with the second weaving in progress, what you might call the b side if you remember vinyl.



The blue section at the top is, I think, silk, anyway, it drafted and spun like buttah, just lovely to handle;  there will be other blue and purplish shades for the sky area of this landscape. The red and white, which will suggest wildflowers, I spun then plied just enough for this section.  And for the section with a bit of sparkle, wheat shining in a breeze, I plied a gold embroidery thread with a Coopworth homespun I'd spun and dyed. I fact, come to think of it, I plied the first four sections, starting at the bottom and working up.

I just thought you'd like to see that it is possible to use both sides of your loom at once, with the one warping. I did this on the sawblade, if you remember, worked a treat.  No need to get all organized and warping a second time when the stuff's already there waiting.  Unless you really love warping, and I don't know of anyone who really does. I'm being pretty careful to maintain the same width as on the first weaving, to make it a companion piece.

So my new year in art will be about more spinning, and maybe building a couple of spindles.  I still need a few little hooks for the top of the ones I made, before I find out if they're working well.

And if you are thinking about new adventures in art, maybe for the first time, go for it!  nothing to lose, a lot of fun to gain.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Weaving and spinning and the thoughts they trigger

I've finished the weaving on this small piece, and changed my original plan to continue over the back of the warp, since I just measured and found it's a perfect Fibonacci rectangle as it is, so better leave it that way.  It's 12 x 7.5 inches.  Needle still in place, but only for the moment so as not to lose it.  I really like the mackerel sky in this piece, just what I was hoping for when I plied that blue and fluffy white you saw earlier.



I was in the midst of this when a friend dropped in, bringing an out of town friend she'd promised a tour of my house, i.e. art, to!  I heard the friend asking shouldn't we have called first? can we just walk in, like this? to be reassured that G. and I have an arrangement.  She shows up, I can tell her, no hard feelings, if it's not a good time.  She's a close neighbor, so there's no travel to consider.  Anyway, the friend had a lovely time exclaiming and asking and generally enjoying, and I think the kitchen backsplash was her favorite feature.  This keeps an artist humble, when her diy is the center of attention!

Back to the loom: I'm thinking of turning the loom over, leaving the current piece in place for now, and making a related piece, on the back of the warp, which I had run right over the back of the loom. Another Fibonacci rectangle, is the idea.  And there will be enough ends to tie off both pieces and do the finishing process.

And, aside from the original art aspect, they will be great material for photographing and printing on silk as part of the transparency series.  Just sayin.

What I've found in the course of using parts of the magic bag of roving ends is that I now have a huge array of colors and textures of roving at hand, low cost, great for experimenting and finding out more about the fiber and about me as a spinner.

Art is all about coming face to face with yourself, which is why it's a challenge.  And spinning this fiber has shown me that the difficulty I run into with drafting is not always me, after all. Some fibers are difficult and resistant, some just want to draft and spin with little help. So the fiber preparation is also a factor, which I hadn't considered.  

The other great insight is that I can use the bag of mixed fibers like a palette, and I've been spinning up just what I want to use next in my design, rather than wanting everything in place ahead of time ready to use.  This way there's much more spontaneity, and I think the weaving is better for it.  It's a more painterly way of working, rather than the plan-and-execute style of traditional weaving. This is a high falutin, artspeak way of saying it's more fun this way. I find I'm more interested in color since I've been working in textiles.  Up to then art was mainly about shapes, relationships and texture, for me, but now color is getting in there, too.

I'm also looking at the kick spindle, which is a kind of intermediary between the drop spindle and a wheel, but simple and very appealing, minimal mechanics.  I can and do handle machinery and tools, but when it comes to making art, I'd rather not.  

The kick spindle enables you to spin the spindle with your foot, leaving both hands free to draft, which might be just the ticket for me. Not that a new toy will improve the skill, only experience can do that, but it would be sort of fun.

The only drawback is that when you go to investigate kick spindles, you find yourself in the world of automotive engineering.  Evidently there's an auto part of the same name.  This is baffling when you're in search of something to spin with, but hilariously funny when a search comes up with a hectic mixture of both worlds.

I also kept back some petals from the birthday bouquet, which lasted ages, and have put them in the freezer for future dyeing capers.  




The stripy tulips made it, and the red carnations.

So the upcoming New Year is full of planned adventures, including the artist book making which will be the Spring residency, library keen to have me come back and giving me a free hand as to what to do.  I will be putting in some winter time into creating new books I never tried before, great opportunity for that.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Presents, becoming art even as we speak..

Christmas Eve, and to my great joy, a gift to me from me, ends of combed top and roving, angora goat, arrived today, on a Sunday, several days ahead of schedule. Cheerful postie wearing a Santa hat, too.

So a lot of squeeing and playing and excited tweeting ensued. It's two small bags of ends,  plenty for me, and each bag totally different colorways.  Unbelievable softness, and there's sparkle, and dark, and variegated carded colors, just a wonderful deal. From Goats Magosh, and I like these people now! See the handwritten note on the invoice.


 
Then, another gift arrived early, including some lovely glass beads, a crystal string now on the tree, where it catches rainbows every morning, and will stay up after seasonal items come down.



and some now in the current weaving in progress.  In fact, there are a few more inches done since I did this pic yesterday.



This is yarn I spun and dyed, and plied, even, and you've seen it at various stages.  The loom is cardboard, and I warped up the back, too so I can continue working over the top and round, making a longer piece than you see here.  Very crafty stuff, this.

All very much well on the art side of life right now.  And many more plans in mind, as always.

Merry Holidays to us all! and if Sunday is just a nice December Sunday, enjoy that.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Dyed and Plied and thoughts of weaving creeping in

Since my spinning is more about making raw material for weaving, the attention I've been paying to better consistency and fineness of yarn is about artisanship more than about immediate use.

But the plying, or playing, adventure has continued and now I think a weaving needs to be made.  I plied together two yellows, one from turmeric, very strong color, with a subtler one, from I think yellow onionskin.  I also used up the rest of that fluff I showed you yesterday, and plied it, correctly this time, with the fluffy blue, which is why there are two balls of that in the pix.

And, since readers do like a bit of insight into the creative (!) process, I thought you'd like to see what's up on the future weaving scene.  I was thinking about the landscape possibilities of the colors of yarn I've woven and dyed in the last few weeks, and have some ideas here. 

But, rather than force them on you, would you like to take a look and see what the colors and their placement and relationship seem to say to you, about subject matter? as you see, I moved them a bit from one pic to the other, looking for balance.




You'll notice that the red and white variegated yarn is about the same sort of thickness as the yellow variegated one.  This is funny, because the red and white are what's left of spinning I did ages ago as a beginner, after dyeing the roving with KoolAid, and that was the best I could do for singles.  Quite ropy!  then the yellow one is now two of my singles plied together.  So it's a quick visual of how I improved my single spinning.  And I'd welcome any reactions to this very raw beginning of an idea.

Plying goes incredibly fast compared to spinning, and I keep on being left behind by it, needing to wind on before I realize it. And I found that though I can ply with my left hand, to get the z twist I was supposed to do yesterday and forgot, I have a lot of trouble winding on with my left. I'll keep doing it, though, to get the skill up.  

And then I found I can in fact spin either s or z with my right hand, now that I come to try it, yay.  This is very useful. So I ended up spinning z with my right hand.  All this is handy for many purposes in life, aside from spinning.  Always good to keep up dexterity if you can. And to avoid over using one part of your body and having to compensate for it.

Anyway, I was upstairs poking around the studio looking for looms (in my case this means cardboard bits with notches cut in them, for small works, picture frames for bigger ones).  Simple rules. I found that my favorite has some weaving on it, in gold foil thread, so I left it alone, and it might be incorporated into what I'm going to do, we'll see.  Anyway, I found the cardboard backing of a large drawing-paper book, opened up all the notches and now have a new loom ready for action.  I'll warp it with cotton crochet thread, strong and easy to handle.  Before I warp it, I will just see if I can manage a Fibonacci ratio in this work, always good for results. That's where one side is in a ratio of 1:1.6 to the other side. As in a 5x8 or 3x5 index card, nice immediate balance.  This is more likely to be 8x13, though.

I usually like to weave tapestry, which is where the warp threads, the vertical ones, are completely covered by the weft threads, the horizontal ones.  The other sort of weaving, where both are equally important, is fine for functional items, such as most of our clothes, but doesn't appeal to me for art purposes.  I've made purses and belts with the regular tabby weaving, but to make more visually interesting work I don't think you can beat tapestry.

And I usually create it the way I do all art: alla prima, meaning just plunge in, no calculating or presorting or sketching or any of that.  Not my style at all. It's surprising what images emerge from weaving done this way, where you just let things happen and go with what seems interesting.

I might look at my transparencies, too and see what suggests itself from there.  So this is my Solstice thinking!  Happy Solstice, everyone, and the nights will creep back a little from now on.  Except for friends in the antipodes, where summer will start to retreat before too long. Always hard to imagine you steaming hot when we're whining about ice!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

How I Overcame my Fear of Plying and Lived to Tell the Tale

Years ago, when I was first trying my hand at spindle spinning, someone asked me if I'd plied any yarn yet.  I was so far from even creating yarn at that point that I just gave a hollow laugh.

But now, slightly better at spinning, and now that the Coopworth is finished, and I have merino left I was wondering what to do next.  The merino has sort of lost its loft, so I carded a bit, and made a fluffy mass to spin with, and while I was at it, thought hm, why not make a fun yarn, for knitting or tapestry or anything really.

And, since I had a ball of fluffy fun yarn someone gave me, very soft, seemed compatible with the merino, I took the last ball of merino I'd spun, and figured that I could ply on the spindle by attaching the two yarns together to the spindle and going from there.

It worked amazingly well, considering I'd been thinking plying was very technical and needed all kinds of gizmos and wheelie things and boxes with little doors on them (don't ask, seen all these thing in action on YouTube).  

I now realize that spinning, like gardening and cooking, can be done very simply or can require all kinds of toys to make it work, but that's strictly the choice of the maker. 

I just let the balls of yarn bob about at will while I plied, not worrying too much about exact distribution of twist, it's meant to be a fun yarn, and liking this a lot.  I can ply my own different colored yarns, too, now that my singles are not so hefty.

It would have worked even better if I had remembered two things: to ply in the opposite direction from the spinning, and to observe what the twist on the blue yarn was, s or z.  I spin s, so should have plied z, if I'd remembered.  Fortunately, the fun yarn is forgiving also fluffy enough to hang onto my own yarn if it tried to unwind itself.



The picture shows you the carded fluff I had made the yarn from, but I had no yarn left to show you, so I'm just showing the raw material, along with the blue fuzzy yarn.  I imagine you can spin and ply at the same time if one of your plies is already complete, but not in the hands of this spinner.  Unless you wanted a very chunky art yarn in the ply, really roving plied as if yarn,I guess.  Well, that's for another day.

Currently in the dyebath: the rest of the spun Coopworth, same color as the last lot, and my fingerless gloves knitted from same, just to see if they will look good.  I might need to felt them slightly to reduce the size, since they came out rather generous even for my big mitts, being really a man's pattern.  Or maybe they'll shrink at little overnight in the dyebath.  We'll see tomorrow when they emerge.

All kinds of weaving ideas are coming at me as I spin, not really being a spinning to knit sort of person. And the new plying adventure looks very much like a sparkling sea or maybe dappled sky...stay tuned.  And three plies of some of the green and gold and maybe I'll dye some yarn with black walnut, for shrubbery or foresty sort of effects..more ideas coming at me than I can do at once, how unusual for me(!)

Monday, December 19, 2016

Yarn results, wet and dry

Here's the results of the yarn experiment, Coopworth dyed, as yarn, in approximately equal mix of yellow onionskin and beet/red cabbage dyed.  Here it is rinsed and still wet, and you see the golden color predominating.



And here it is dry, with a lovely green tinge appearing, making it look a bit like old gold.  About 50 yards here.  



I kept all the dye, and will use it for the last of the Coopworth which I plan to spin later today.  Amazing how fast I got through that, considering the Spanish merino has been around in my life for about six years and still some to go. But I have improved my skills a bit.

You can re use natural dyes until they are exhausted, or until you are, whichever comes first.  I like the idea of using two at once to see what comes of the blend, and plan to go on with this idea.

I was asked recently, thank you, Cynthia, for making me realize I had neglected to say anything about this, about dye fastness and does it apply here.

The natural dyes I've used, with or without mordant, but with proper prep of the fabric or dye, have been pretty fast, but being natural, they will fade somewhat in time and with washing.  

Some seem to be indestructible, such as black walnut.  And some fade only a little after many washings, such as turmeric.  And the spinach dye I used for tshirts is still a nice delicate pale green. The yellow onionskin likewise, still holds a tint, but a bit faded. This is after many washings. The red onionskin and red maple artwork faded quite a bit, but still looks good to my eye.

This fastness issue is the reason modern, aniline based and other, dyes came into popular use, but some of us still like the natural subtlety.  If you doubt fastness before washing, good to use a saltwater bath, by the way.  That often fixes the stray dye that has not been thoroughly rinsed out.  And it doesn't hurt anyway.

Fastness isn't usually a major concern of mine, since I'm often creating yarn for making artworks that will never be washed anyway.  All art needs to be protected from direct sunlight, as you know, and particularly fiber arts using natural dyes. So in case you own any, mine or other artists' please protect them, when you choose a wall for hanging them.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Coopworth roving spinning and dyeing with two colors

Today was spinning again, very calming on a day when I went out to the car to do an errand or two, one being a second trip to the libe to get the DVD unlocked, which the circ lady had omitted to do, can't open it, before the bitter wind gets up again, and found, scream, a totally flat tire.  I mean sprawled over the ground. 

Called AAA, which was not easy, since they seem to have been overtaken by that dialing fraud which connects you with items not related at all to the real people.  Ended up ditching my rapid dial and doing it the old fashioned way, and got through to the real site.

They were not too long in coming, about 45 minutes, pretty speedy in weather like this, and the nice man said oh this is no problem, let's put the spare on, nice looking spare, brand new, huh? Oh-oh, pity it's flat.  Second scream.  So he inflates it said it's okay for now, but the other one's a goner, need to replace it.  Which I will do tomorrow, the tire people not being able to fit me in today, if the promised snow and ice don't materialize too much.

The good news is that it was at my own house, and I was waiting in the warm.  And that I had spinning planned.

The Coopworth, on the medium sized spindle, is working nicely now, my yarn definitely improving in consistency and fineness. I think the fistful of fluff method is best for me, at least it's working okay for now.

So I figured why not break out some natural dyes from the freezer and see how they go.  Wound the full spindle onto the niddy noddy (sometimes you need a glossary for the spinning world) and washed it the usual way.  

Except that the end of the nn suddenly shot off in my hands, and the hank of yarn skidded after it.  Which was when I noticed I'd forgotten to put ties around it to keep it organized in such an event. Third scream.  Now two wet handfuls of yarn snarl.

Nothing daunted, I did beat it on the floor the usual way anyway, you do this to set the twist, then figured it would be better to cut judiciously in a couple of places and wind it in loose open hanks, so as to get it unsnarled in my lifetime.  It can be spliced later, so it's just annoying, not a disaster.




Which is why you see the setup, yarn patiently waiting,  in four bits instead of one posh hank, for the addition of a jar of yellow onionskin dye and the rest of the beet and red cabbage.  Putting them together just to see if they make a nice combo or just mud.



Here it is with the beet and red cabbage



and here with the addition of the yellow onionskin dye. You can see a golden area there, among the purplish color.

I like this pic -- sneaky view of the underside of the oven hood, a nice inadvertent composition in fact.  This image might do well printed on silk to add to my transparency group.  But where was I...

You can't tell when the dyes are liquid, whether they're happy together, so I have to do the dyeing to find out what happens.  Remembering the green yarn I got from the last batch of beet and red cabbage, it may be that I get a green and gold sort of shade.  We'll see.   

Brought it to the boil, then turned off the heat. Leaving it overnight, and tomorrow we'll see what's what.  This is about 50 yards. 

Spinning is getting to be, as promised, more meditative, with fewer medieval curses, as I improve.  So this is good.