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.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

We will always have Paris...

Selfie in the Louvre
We can say that now, having been there.  Paris was awesome and we enjoyed wandering around and seeing what we could see.  We do "slow" tourism, so there was no rushing around in a human clump from site to site.  We were able to spend 8 hours in the Louvre, for instance, taking our time to look and enjoy.  It was a massive buffet of artistic inspiration and the venue as striking as the art.  Bleary from our long day, we almost couldn't find our way out--we were stuck in an inspirational loop that kept sending us down a hall full of Roman sculptures instead of out of the Pyramid exit.  That was the night we found the Lebanese restaurant, I think, and a really good bottle of wine.

Rain at Place de Colette metro stop
Paris in the rain is a thing, but we only got one afternoon of it and an excuse to sit in a cafe, drink wine and watch it.  This was a nice outdoor Cafe on the Place de Colette next to the Comedie Francaise.  It was made especially interesting because there were city offices where people could get married, so there were a number of people on Saturday strolling past us in their wedding finery to tie the knot.  And people with umbrellas. I wanted to get a shot of people walking every which way with umbrellas, like in that painting, but the wine was good and I was relaxed.

Joan of Arc
My three favorite things were the Unicorn Tapestries at the Cluny, the Monet Waterlilies at the Orangerie and Sacre Couer at Montmartre.  All three of these had a spiritual dimension.  The Unicorn tapestries were beautiful and well worth finding your way to the Cluny.  The Parthenon was pretty amazing too.  Okay, and the pastry, and the little art galleries on tiny pack streets, and the Seine, the Tuillerie and the alien exhibit at their MOMA.  We spent quite a bit of time sitting in various parks enjoying the sunshine, including the Tuillerie.  We had dinner at 8 at night and slept until 10.  I suppose I could go on and on.

Paris is in me now--maybe it was always there, a byproduct of French class and knowing the language.  I know that all I saw and did will inspire and resurface in my art.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

It's been a long time....

I opened my Etsy shop with these two pieces.
My blog has been uncharacteristically quiet for the past few months.  Summer has been keeping me busy with travel, time in the sunshine and crafting.  Today, I opened my Etsy Shop with a couple of pieces of amethyst jewelry.  I plan to add some weaving soon, but I really wanted to get this shop going and yesterday I went a little nuts at this beading store in Downers Grove.  I also have one of these bracelets, but don't worry, I have no intention of mass producing.  I like one-of-a-kind items.  Two-of-a-kind in this case.  I love making jewelry.

The bracelet and ear rings I'm selling are made with the same quality stones and findings as the one I made for myself--the part of the ear-ring that goes in your ear is gold-filled for instance.

I'm still pretty new at this--no light box, no jewelry boxes and no labels, yet. But I have plans for creating a more sophisticated store.  Right now, I just need a sale or two to get me off the ground, so I'll be pretty busy weaving, knitting and beading so I have things for my shop. This is exciting.  Opening a shop is something I've been thinking about for a long time and with my birthday coming up, I figured it was the time to do it!. It is called Craftstead Studio, in honor of this blog.