Sunday, November 23, 2014

Little suburb near the prairie

Improved studio area in portion of family room.

We were busy around the house this weekend and re-arranged some furniture--hard work for the middle aged.  We have a long family room so I managed to squeeze two looms--the 27" Fanny and the 30" 8 shaft Loomcraft into new spaces that will take advantage of the natural, southern-exposure light of the family room.  I really like the way this has turned out.  Now I just have to weave there.

But today we took a seven mile walk on an 1800 acre restored prairie not far from my home.  The vistas were gorgeous--there were long periods of no sign of civilization. Rolling hills and trees blocked development that has spread into the cornfields of Illinois.  We have restored prairie just a a few blocks from our home.

It's a good time to be grateful to the Universe for plopping us here in this particular suburb so close to so many really nice natural areas. In just a few blocks in the other direction, we reach a long swath of riparian habitat that has been saved and restored.  Riparian refers to along the river and these habitats are vital for the survival of lots of species and I've seen beaver and other critters down in the "woods" and an amazing number of migrating birds. And, of course, the Great Horned Owl. I love hearing it hoot at night near my house, thanks to lots of green space provided in planning neighborhoods.

I am thankful for green space. And I'm trying my best to create a non-toxic environment on my own small plot of suburb.  We've successfully grown some nice prairie flowers but next year I want to go one step further. I have a large area in the back yard to devote to milkweed, bee balm and other plants to help bees and butterflies survive the harsh conditions civilization has created.

I have a special love for the Monarch Butterfly who has suffered from our predation on their habitat.  It is only a small backyard, but I figure, every back yard helps. And the front yard too! That is where we've had the most success with prairie plants like blue false indigo, goldenrod, yellow and purple coneflower, aster and more.  I want to expand that too. It is super pretty in summer and a few more feet would be nice.

Sunday, November 16, 2014


Carpal tunnel surgery

This is what my hand looked like about a month ago. It was two weeks after carpal tunnel release surgery and just before I had my stitches out. It looked worse before this.  Getting the stitches out was a giant relief because the tightness kept me from using my hand freely. Yes it hurt--not horribly but more annoyingly. In the long run, it was worth is though as my hand no longer goes numb. I've had trouble with carpal tunnel for years--decades in fact--perhaps dating back to my journalism days when I'd be up till all hours typing like a madwoman. Now my life, in contrast, is leisurely.

I have what one person told me was the "old-fashioned" kind of surgery, which means the type perfected in the last decade or so. Now they are using lasers and such, but I figured I should get what is tried and true. Now that the swelling is down and my palm is starting to look almost normal the difference is amazing.  No hand going numb at inconvenient times. I have lots of exercises to do (and I do them with both hands) and all kinds of stuff I need to do to get rid of the scar--vitamin E oil palm massages and this special kind of strip I wear over it at night that is supposed to get rid of the scar. You can get these at the drugstore.
Cormo dyed deep green was untouched for weeks.
The worst part of this was not being able to do anything fibery for several weeks. I did try to spin a bit toward the end, but it was awful. I had to wait for the stitches to be out. And then it took a bit to get my strength back up so the spinning went nicely.

 I did catch up on my reading and my friend Beth brought me her copy of the classic Keep Me Warm One Night Burnam & Burnam's out of print book about traditional weaving in Canada prior to the Industrial Revolution. It is a beautiful book and absolutely fascinating.  And then I'm working on my Master's so I did some reading for that too. Unfortunately it isn't a Masters in Fine Art because the university where I work doesn't have that, But I think Management and Organization Behavior can come in handy, especially when I have time to volunteer for weaving groups.

So this is why I've been missing from my blog for so long. Once I got use of my hand back, I've managed to do some spinning, but generally I had to play catch up--for one I had to write a paper for school. There hasn't been much going on with the looms either. I do have plans to move things around studio wise, but I'll save more of that for later.

The surgery really wasn't that bad. It was the stir crazy of not being able to use my hand that was the worst. It was the pain of unthinkingly picking something up with the bad hand that was unpleasant. The palm is still a bit sore, making yoga not so great, but all of that is going away, slowly but surely.  My major exercise has been walking, and in the past month I've managed to walk 140+ miles, which isn't bad. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Fellowship of the Lard

Walking is my favorite exercise, so it is not a stretch that I'm attracted to anything that includes walking as part of the activity--like walking meditation. I had made a commitment to myself to incorporate walking meditation into my life. Plus I would get out in the fresh air, feel the wind on my face and those dried autumn leaves crunching under my feet.

Weaving and my other favored activities are indoor things--unless it is a beautiful day and I can bring a spinning wheel or knitting outside. But I love being outside rain, snow or shine--which is why the gym didn't work out for me--too noisy, too monotonous, too inside. So when I read Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh's description of walking meditation I thought this was a good fit for me. Walk and breath in nourishment or healing, let each step touch the earth and let anxiety slide out with every step--that kind of thing.

But what's all this about walking to Mordor? Isn't that the Lord of the Rings or something? Well, yes. On Wednesday I was trolling around Ravelry, the online community for the fiber obsessed, when I came upon this challenge to walk from Hobbiton to Mordor and back--a 6,893 mile round trip, which has the potential of taking me nearly four years if I average 5 miles per day--which is about what gives me the 10,000 steps for a healthy heart.

Ouch! Completely crazy right? But I'm such a geek, I went out that very day to purchase new batteries for my pedometers--a 2.6 mile walk to the drugstore and back. I put the battery in at the drug store and then off I went home to log into the group Anti-Lard Alliance and sign up for the challenge.  I wanted to know how far I was walking! I was already planning to add the two miles I know I walked the day before!

There is an excellent spread sheet created by group member MeganMME that details the entire journey so I can see where I am. Right now, I'm 10.5 miles away from Hobbiton--and the last good view of "home" was 1.5 miles behind me.

I'm a few weeks behind most of the Fellowship since the challenge started in September. But I have time to catch up. And I still don't know if treadling my loom will register on the pedometer as steps!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Straight to the dye pot

BFL/Wensleydale cross
Not much weaving was accomplished since my feat of lightening warping last weekend. The project is on hold for a bit as things get busy. I did manage to get to a fiber fair this weekend--my first in a long time--and despite Fiber in the Park being very small, I managed to find two fleeces. Shown above is a BFL Wensleydale cross grown by Kathy McClure, a talented dyer as well as excellent shepherd. She washes her sheep before she sheers them, which is why this fleece looks so absolutely gorgeous. It was also why I was able to bring it directly home and drop all 2.25 pounds in the dyepot.
Green fiber drying.
Now it is drying away--it dyed a bit unevenly but that will all be taken care of when I card.  It should give the yarn some depth.  I plan to knit a sweater from the resulting yarn. I also purchased a natural colored Romney fleece, but haven't had a chance to take photos.

Just so you know, life is getting busy and I won't be playing with fiber nor be blogging for the next several weeks. I will be getting back to it all soon though!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Weekend Warper

A different way to warp
Warping can take me weeks--I'm a slow weaver. Not this time. It started over coffee Saturday morning when I did  the calculations.  After breakfast I started winding and had half of the warp on the loom before it was time to do some errands. The Fanny has a sectional warp beam, so I've been developing a hybrid warping method that takes advantage of the sectional beam without having to buy all the expensive equipment. Essentially, I warp five inches at a time right off the warping board. I have this heavy metal comb I use to help keep the threads straight. It is heavy, so it also provides nice even tension while I wind the warp onto the loom.

Cross-free warping
Warp gremlins are active in my home, and they love messing with my cross. Not only does my cross get flipped, but I've had twisting behind the cross. So I thought I would try cross free weaving by winding my warps in consecutive one inch bundles. Since this handspun yak scarf is just is just 9 dents per inch, and the warp only 8 feet long, this was the perfect project to experiment with.  So far so good, though next time I'm using duck tape to hold the one inch width of thread. This idea came from sectional warping--on the Leclerc video they show tape being used to keep the threads in order for threading.

Warp gremlins, by the way, is what I blame for my own lack of attention to what I am doing. All these processes are slow with plenty of time for my mind to wander. Despite my best efforts there are still a few mess-ups on this rather straightforward warp. Good thing I'm not a surgeon.
Weaving with handpun
 My favorite goose-eye treadling is being used for this scarf. Because the warp is under tension and stretched, despite it being 100% yak down, I am using a very light beat so I can get a nice even fabric with a good drape.  The weft, you may recognize, is the merino yak braid I purchased from Unwind Yarn Company back in February and spun up this summer. This has to be one of the fastest yarn to project conversions yet.  If I get this done in one week, I'll be breaking a personal record. But I doubt it. We will see next week.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Stash satisfaction--Stashafaction

My new wedding ring
Ten years ago, I would have told my husband not to waste money on jewelry. If he was going to spend a lot of money on me, I wanted more fiber equipment. With four looms, four spinning wheels and two carders, I no longer say this. I also have bins of fiber and plenty of workbench space. And so, I have moved on from the stage of active equipment acquisition, to the busy realm of using what I have.

My plain wedding band was so tight, it was getting painful  and I had an engagement ring I hadn't been able to wear for more than a decade.  When two cuts were needed to get the wedding ring off, I realized it was time for something a little different.  We decided to combine the two into one new ring. The two dark stones flanking my original diamond (tiny at the time as we were just starting out) are amethyst, which happen to be my favorite stone.  They aren't as sparkly and I think they anchor and show off the diamonds. Symbols are important, and what better symbol than one of enduring love?

For me, it is also a symbol of enduring stash and a new status in my fiber hobby--Stashafaction.   This newly coined word means stash satisfaction. That's when we pretty much have all the stash we will need for awhile.  Oh, we may pick up some fiber here and there, but that's about it.  We really don't need equipment or anything else.   We are Stashafied.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

When you don't have to be right

Freshly spun yak/merino blend
As I reread Thich Nhat Hanh's Mindfulness Survival Kit, it is like I am reading it for the first time.  It is hard to believe I only read it six months ago.  The way of thinking is very alien to my milieu--for instance what is referred to as "right view" isn't about being right, or even having views at all.

Back in my journalist days I had to come up with at least an opinion every week--commonly known as an editorial. I recall Jack Sanders, the executive editor of the newspaper group I worked for, telling us that we didn't have to be right, we just had to make a good case.  And when writing articles, I would basically gather and present disparate opinions on any given topic--in local news that would be the school budget or plans for a highway bypass.

So if any of you wonder why when you turn to any news channel/website/paper etc. you are deluged with strong, right seeming opinions, please keep in mind that these people are having these strong opinions for a living.  Yes, it is just a job.  You can ignore all of them if you want.  They know they don't have to be right, they just have to make a good case.

Carded Icelandic--some say it is best combed.
So practicing mindfulness has been no easy task.  Even in a pursuit as seemingly peaceful as spinning and weaving we have have views and opinions--which is wheel is better--which warping method is better.  There is a joke that if you get a half-dozen spinners together you get a dozen opinions on the best wheel.

So really we live in a cacophony of opinion.  Probably way too many opinions for our own good.  And so I will continue to reread the book on mindfulness and hope to at least still to a dull roar my own racing opinions and take a moment to breathe, enjoy the moment and simply be.