Sunday, December 29, 2013

On to Onederland!

A healthy holiday gift!
Despite the call to weeks of food debauchery, referred to innocuously as The Holiday Season, I managed to lose 2 pounds and firmly place myself into the 10% weight loss circle since my stroke last year.  Losing this 24 pounds has been a long time coming, and I must say I am glad to be 1.5 pounds below this benchmark for improved health.  My next goal? Onederland!  I haven't been there in years.  My goal is to reach Onderland in the first quarter of this year--that is 13 pounds to tip over, and 15 to be firmly in Onederland.  It is ambitious, but doable since food debauchery slows to a standstill for me this time of year and there is the "New Year Resolution" burst to push me on my way.

There is also the slow cookery book my sister gave me for Christmas!  I love it and am on my second recipe, an aromatic rice vegetable pilaf that will make a great combo side dish for the roast beast on today's menu.

There are probably two more towels on this warp!
Finishing things up is high on my list of things to do the first quarter of the year.  I will be thinking in terms of quarters because of the Ravelry Group Spin Your Stash. We've decided to set our goals in quarterly form to give us a chance to focus more.  The first quarter will be to spin a project's worth of yarn.  Though I would like to spin enough heavy yarn for rugs, I am going to start with finishing up yarn for the throw project that has been going on for what seems like forever.  Regular readers have seen this before:
Pretty forever yarn.
Yes, it is pretty, but after awhile, well, I'd just like to see the end of this project.  I also have a huge pile of that merino/alpaca blend I want to use as warp!  I thought of putting it aside, but I'm kind of stubborn, so I will forge ahead with this project.  Yep, it will be more of the same for you, dear reader, but please bare with me.  I am sure to have some observations to share to keep it interesting.  And I'm sure to have a few weaving mistakes!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Dish towels are done!

Dish towels!
Yes! Finally a stack of dishtowels to show for all the time I've spend weaving.  I haven't been able to show the table runners I made because of a few serious problems which will add to my book "100 Weaving Mistakes Not to Make, Lessons from My Adventures in Weaving."

These haven't been ironed yet.

I've already given one set away.  There has been  a little back up in my Holiday Gift Giving. We saw a break in the weather and a break from work so we headed back east to see some family for a few days.  This was decided with little planning, just deciding the day before and it kind of messed up my efforts to mail packages on time.  I wasn't able to give them the hard press (weaver for ironing) until I got back.  In fact, I gave a set to my brother without this last bit--I meant to press at a hotel but never got to it. Oops.

Another pic of the towels. You can see the selvages!
I've woven 11 towels from this warp so far.  I still have enough on there for a few more.  Will this warp ever end?  I am writing a note to self about this--no more giant towel warps! I think I have more than 11 yards on there! Though it has been fun to weave,  I can't try that nice Canadian Snowflake pattern from Laura Fry. I am very much looking forward to working on it! 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Big changes for the holidays

The tub and shower combo in our new bathroom
Note to self: don't schedule a big remodeling project during the holidays. Which is just what we did sandwiched between Thanksgiving and Christmas we had our master bathroom redone.  And no, we did not do it ourselves-- the DH and I know our limitations. We prefer to hire skilled craftsman for fear the tile job will look like the selvages on my first weaving project or worse, my first try at hand spinning. Lumpy, bumby and uneven does not a lovely job make. So we hired a local firm called Chris Kare and they did a really nice job and it was all done within two weeks.  Baxter, our dog, also made fast friends with the workers and I think he'll miss the excitement.  Fortunately, Baxter didn't "help."

The cabinets.
There are before pictures, but I won't be showing them. Just think vintage 70's blue bathroom and you can picture it for yourself.  It was in really bad shape so it had to be done.  Now I wonder how I ever put up with the old one.  This month also marks our 30th wedding anniversary, so the new bathroom makes a great gift to ourselves.

As they worked on the project, they came across some electrical problems and we ended out having an electrician come in to straighten them out.  This is the sort of thing that can happen in older suburban tract housing so we weren't completely surprised.  While he was here we had him check out a couple of other things and install some lights. Voila!

Overhead light n my studio!
We added an overhead ceiling fan and light to my studio!  It gets hot there in summer, so DH suggested a ceiling fan.  The man is brilliant!  We purchased one with lights so not only can I cool the place down for summer weaving, but see during winter evenings!  I hadn't realized how much I missed overhead lighting until this beauty went in. The suburban tract housing I've been living in the past thirty years all lacked ceiling lights in the bedrooms.  I realize now how much I missed light from above.

My towels have not languished. I have one more hem to do, which I will get to as soon as I am done blogging.  Once they are hemmed, it's into the washer for some wet finishing and then a good hard press before they are wrapped and sent to family as gifts.  I am really happy with these towels and I'm looking forward to posting them on Ravelry.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Black Friday Weave-A-Thon

Early into the Black Friday Weave-A-Thon
Stores were not the place to be Friday morning.  Seeing how long the line was at Kohl's, I decided I really didn't need the $10 coupon, or any of the stuff I'd picked out. At home I had a plenty of towels I needed to have woven in time for the holidays (Gift Spoiler Alert!) and I realized my time would be better spent at my loom.  Standing in a ridiculously long check out line is the last thing I want to do on a day off.

One down, and another started!
This is how I ended out spending six to eight hours straight at my loom on Friday.  The countown to the holidays has started and I have to get weaving if I want to have them off the loom, finished and in the mail in time for the holidays!  With Thanksgiving coming so late this year, there is a shortage of weaving days before the deadline--especially since I have to mail everything.  Oddly, I can get something delivered to addresses in Holland faster than I can to some addresses in the U.S. so I will keep that in mind as I finish these towels.

On to my second turquoise towel!
I managed to lose 1.6 pounds this week despite the Thankgiving Eat-A-Thon.  I did a turkey-free Thankgiving and made a lasagna.  It was really good and lasted us two days of solid eating.  It was semi "healthy" as I used the low-fat ricotta. I am really glad I did this as I don't think I'd want to face the traditional leftovers today.  The lasagna is long gone.

This leaves me with a 7.6 pound loss for the month of November.  I am skimming .4 pounds above my goal of losing 10% of the weight since my stroke.  I know I can easily polish this off this week between the gym and healthy eating.  I am very psyched about how I am doing.  My decision to give up sweets has really paid off.  And I don't feel deprived as I really enjoy eating real food!

Today, I made it to my last towel.
Weaving is a calorie burner, by the way.  I put the heart rate monitor on Friday and found I wasn't exactly sedentary, though I was pretty far from my aerobic range.  Today, I started weaving after the gym and got much better heart rate readings--not aerobic, but better than Friday.  So, I think it would pay to do some cardio prior to sitting down to a weaving spree.  Well, I'd better get back to it.  I have one last towel to weave!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Just say "no" to green shakes

Pico di Galo Chicken is my luncheon answer to green shakes.
Weaving has taken a backseat to working out these days as my training shifts into high gear.  There are days I go to the gym twice.  My training is in the afternoon and I don't want to get out of the habit of waking up early and going, so I've ended out exercising twice a day.  I lost three pounds this past week, so I think the extra effort is paying off.

I met with a nutritionist this week, and forgot to tell her I was a foodie.  The idea of a shake that includes lettuce, papaya juice and cilantro is gross.  Yes, cilantro is good for me, but doesn't it belong in Southwest cooking?  So I put together a new lunch recipe which I call Pico de Galo Chicken.  It has plenty of fresh cilantro, vegetables and some  quinoa which apparently is better than anything else in the world despite the bitter coating you have to wash off before cooking.  Wheat is apparently "out" in dieting circles.


3 cups of quinoa
12 ounces of roasted chicken breast, chopped
1 cup of cilantro chopped (this is loosely packed)
juice of two limes
One box 12 oz box of grape tomatoes chopped in half.
1 chopped zucchini
pepper to taste
Serve with a dollop of Guacamole

Makes 6 servings.
Lunches ready for the week.

I'm not suppose to eat wheat. Wheat though is not the cause of my obesity.  I am fairly certain it is the sugar that is so often paired with wheat that has caused my problem.  When I saw the YouTube out of the University of California The Complete Skinny on Obesity, I realized the underlying cause of my weight problem. I'm a sugar addict.  And, yes, sugar is addicting and has the same affects on the brain as drugs and alcohol which is why we crave it and can't seem to get enough.  And yes, sugar likes to become fat while being toxic to the liver just like alcohol.  So, I've given sugar up cold turkey.

But, I have to take some of the nutritionists suggestions, since wheat is now "out" I will give up the 12-grain toast that has been my breakfast. I am going along with the nutritionist and returning to oatmeal for breakfast even though it gives me gas. Sorry co-workers.

But I am standing fast against hemp seed.  I mean really, hemp seed? Are you kidding me?  What's wrong with the humble walnut, a yummy and good source of all those great oils we are supposed to have?  Why do you, oh nutritionists, have to come up with hemp seed? Yuck.

I love nuts. I had to give up seeds and nuts years ago when nutritionists were pushing low fat diets. There is no way some green shake drinker is going to get me to replace yummy nuts with rope seeds, now that we are allowed to eat fats again.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Rose gets WIRED!

No product placement--I paid for all this stuff.
Gadgets have been piling up as I try to lose weight.  Just this week, I added a Polar watch and a Tanita scale to my arsenal of electronic gizmos to help me track my progress.  I bought the FT4 Polar, which is fairly basic, but it tracks my workouts so I know how many calories I'm burning.  I also have the basic FitBit which tracks my steps. I wouldn't mind upgrading to a fancier FitBit, but for now it works.  If FitBit wants to send me a free one, I would be glad to rave about it.  Same to you Polar! Yep, I'll gladly test free stuff.  Okay, back to the blog.

I'm not sure if I could upgrade my Tanita scale which I love by the way. I can stand on it several times in a row and still get the same weight and body-fat percentage.  I like that!  So, I am using that to track my progress now.  The earphones are for my MP3 player. It is impossible to drown out the crappy gym music without risking harming my hearing, so instead I play bi-neural beats in my ear that are supposed to enhance inner peace.  I figure inducing some inner peace is a good idea, considering the weird music now popular among someone.  I don't know who, certainly not me.

New tie ups for the Fanny.
The LeClerc Fanny has some new tie ups.  I love them.  Weaving is much nicer now that I've gotten rid of the ones I tried to make.  The loom had been used as a direct tie-up before I purchased it, so, it came with only  four tie-ups. Feeling cheap, I made  my own.  I finally e-mailed The Loom Doctor for some new ones. Yes, The Loom Doctor is an actual person. Not making this up.  He fixes all types of looms and his specialty is Leclerc.  Quite a few looms can be fixed with LeClerc parts, he says.

Weaving has sped up, except for exhaustion from working out.
The new tie-ups have sped up my weaving. The new training regime has slowed it down.  I pretty much ache all over now.  So much for complaining about my trainer.  I had an easy one before and never felt a sore anything and now I'm kind of achy.  Ouch.  I suppose it shouldn't get in the way of weaving. I'm a little tempted to put on my heart rate monitor and see how many calories I burn working at the loom! I have lots of fat to burn, so such information could be useful!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Somber anniversary

This week marks the one year anniversary of my stroke--the thankfully small stroke from which I recovered.  Since then I've worked hard to improve diet.  We are now eating very well, whole grains, lean meats, yummy vegetables, fresh food, reasonable portions--junk food is banned as much as possible.  And exercise!  The hallmark of these efforts has been investing in a personal trainer.

As I mentioned last week, the new trainer has been a disappointment. Her workouts were way too easy and she didn't explain much in the terms of what she was doing or why, or give me important tips. There are other things, but I won't bore you, dear reader. Let's just say she was nothing like my last trainer who taught me a lot. Unfortunately, my last trainer found a better job.

Now, my gym has some phenomenal trainers, mine just isn't one of them.  My husband is on his second and both have been very knowledgeable and helpful, providing him with specific homework for his non-training days and explaining the point of what they were doing--how they were trying to get his arms stronger and things like that.  It's a really nice gym all in all: small and intimate, which I like.

On this one-year anniversary of my stroke I am missing the one goal most dear to my heart.  Getting to the magic "10%" weight loss since my stroke.  Losing 10% of your weight is supposed to have all these heart healthy benefits. A 10% goal over a year's time is modest one and not crazy or faddish. I was 238 at the hospital that fateful day.  When I joined the gym  in March, I was 234 and started losing 3 pounds a month with my first trainer, which was pretty good for me especially with my diet taking time to really get on track. The first trainer had lots of good tips and these took time to incorporate. Plus the gremlin Stress Eating can really mess me up.  But since changing trainers, I've stopped making progress.

As I've mentioned, one of my bosses at work is an Exercise Physiologist.  I like to volunteer as a test subject for the graduate students. I stood on the fancy InBody520 (I ordered it, that's my job) and my weight was 223 and my body fat over 50%.  I was disappointed though not without understanding reality. On October 18, I had hoped to be a bit closer to my modest goal of the magic 214 which would herald the 10% heart healthy loss I've read about. The class also put me through a battery of tests and my fitness level was disappointing. But I learned some important things.  Cheers for higher education!

I will not lose heart!  I went ahead and ordered one of those Tanita Scales from Amazon and a cool Polar heart rate monitor.  They use Polar's in the lab (yes, I order supplies for those too!) and  Tanita scales are reported to be highly regarded.  My boss also recommended I audit the Exercise Physiology course next semester.  I like this idea as I really need to get a handle on what the heart rate is for the "fat burning zone" when I do my cardio. This is why I bought the Polar so I can have an accurate heart rate during workouts and keep myself in that fat burning zone.  I also want to get stronger and I am curious how my heart rate reacts to strength training.

Well, now I am off to see if I can get out of the my modest neighborhood to head north on a short errand. Naperville managed to map out their marathon to block off access to main roads leading north from my neighborhood of modest homes including routes to Edward Hospital!  The ironic part is Edward Hospital is a major sponsor and they strategically placed their booth right at the spot where Washington was blocked so no one could turn north to reach their facility--a public relations tour-de-force! As I love irony, I did nose around and attempt to reach the facility via "the back way." No luck.  I suspect this would not have happened if my neighborhood was filled with the McMansions Naperville is famous for.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Natural New Year

New warp for the loom
November, for me, is the start of the "natural" New Year.  From an agrarian standpoint, the garden is harvested and put to bed (I don't grow turnips) and my thoughts have already turned to what I would plant next year.  The leaves are off the trees--or at least they should be--and things are quiet and waiting for spring to return.  Of course, the leaves aren't off my trees.  They are still green on my suburban plot and they are only just thinking of turning gold. I live in the Chicago suburbs and they should be almost gone by now. Climate change strikes again.  In the past, this time of year was left to the oaks who like to cling to their leaves so they can choke up drains in spring.

Usually, when I am putting my garden to bed, I am thinking of what I can do better next year.  Next year, we will have a garden.  There wasn't much this year because it was tough for us, with me having that small stroke and the DH breaking his arm in spring.  I wouldn't call it a bad year though. The arm healed nicely and my health has improved.  My weaving has improved too and the past natural year brought new-to-me looms.  I just cut off the first project on the loomcraft, and have some glitzy holiday table runners to finish.

Fresh off the loom glitzy table runners.
Since it is the natural new year, I like to reflect on my life in general.  Next year will be better.  Next year, I will go to Paris and wander the streets and stop along the Seine and draw Notre Dame.  I will visit the Louvre and the Musee Dorsay and sit at a cafe and sip cappuccino.  I will also wander the streets of Rouen and visit Chartre.

Next, I will improve my fitness level.  I had been working with personal trainers since March.  I'm not sure the current one is working out.  She likes to use free weights, something I've been doing on my own for the past decade.  I don't find this sort of workout particularly challenging.  Why, I ask myself, should I spend all this money going to a gym for a workout I can do myself at home?  I have DVD's and the internet to teach me all the moves.  In fact, I just learned some new moves as part of a challenge on Ravelry's Anti-Lard Alliance.  I am doing the Complex Challenge for November--which is a big challenge! Now why is it that I learned about a complex from a group on a knitting website and not my personal trainer?  Anyhow, if I am going to a gym, I want challenging workouts that use the cool gym equipment, not just more of the same-- free weights and a chair.  I can do that at home.

Next, I am going to do a lot more weaving.  I went ahead and ordered new tie-ups for the Fanny.  It only came with 4 and has been lagging due to my lousy homemade ones. Why, I wonder, has it taken me so long to do this?  I've had the loom since December! And of course, in January, I will make all kinds of fiber resolutions to go with the traditional New Year.

But in November with the natural year wound down and the days growing shorter to a sort of quiet sleepiness, it is a good time to reflect on life.  It's a time to think on the past, be thankful, and consider the future. With this, I can make each day as I live it peaceful and productive.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Spare minutes

Part way through plying
Hand spinning for me is a simple pure craft, purely relaxing and pleasant in a tactile sort of way. Years of practice has allowed me to spin nice even yarns in short burst of time.  Once I've made my decisions regarding fiber and set my wheel up for the thickness desired, I can spin consistently in what I like to call "spare minutes."

A few spare minutes later and the bobbin is full!
Spare minutes could be 10 minutes I have before it's time to head to the office, or I could be waiting for a pot of water to boil.  My wheel is set up conveniently close to the kitchen.  I live in a ranch house with an "L" shaped living/dining room so the wheel can be right outside the kitchen only a few feet from the stove.  This is very convenient because I can hear the water boiling, stop spinning, add the pasta, set the timer and maybe stir a pot. Then I can return to spin some more.  I can get quite a bit of yarn spun in the 8 minutes it takes to cook my favorite whole wheat pasta!

I wound this off while waiting for salmon to bake.

And so. I do most of my spinning in short bursts of time.  With the exception of the Tour de Fleece, this is pretty much how I do my spinning. Occasionally, I might sit down for an hour or so to relax in the evening, but usually my spinning time is relegated to those little bits of time that open up here and there within a day.

Spare minutes let me start on another bobbin of this colorway.

If I have a whole hour, I like to go to my loom.  Weaving takes a bit of concentration and I like to have at least 20 minutes free before I will sit at the bench and start treadling.  It isn't something I would want to work at while something is on the stove! It is too easy to get lost in weaving and end out with a pot of something burned. But spinning seems almost made for interruptions--it is easy to stop and and pick up again five minutes later.  And so spare minutes turn into yards of yarn.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Weaving fears

Ready to be plyed, this yarn will be part of a future weaving project.
Unused for nearly a year after purchasing it, my first floor loom picked at my conscience.  I had purchased it speculatively, knowing I wanted to learn to weave, but also knowing I wouldn't have time for at least a year.  I finally did learn to use it and have been enjoying the art for the past five years.  Three floor looms later, the thought of a loom sitting untouched for a year is at the base of my weaving fears.  And not mine alone, from what I read in the Ravelry's Warped Weavers thread about what scares weavers the most.

Naturally, there were other answers, like expensive warps gone to waste, but many shared this worry that one day they would wake up and not want to weave anymore.  A scary thought indeed for the average weaver who has more than one floor loom and thousands of dollars tied up in equipment.  Some have even built lovely studios or transformed bits of their homes for the purpose.  My guest bedroom is now had long workbenches for fiber prep and a loom.  I wouldn't know what to do with all this equipment if one day I decided to stop weaving, or what I would do with the extra rooms in my house if they didn't hold looms.  It is a strange thought, and an even stranger consolation to remind myself that at least I purchased it all used!

And all the yarn and the plans and the designs waiting to be explored.  I have more ideas than I have hours in the day to weave. I know weaving will be with me for years to come, but the thought of one day deciding to stop is still sobering!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

From stinky to clean

Spinning progress last week.

My other new book From Stinky to Clean and Back Again: Daily Life in the Suburbs will gain its name and first chapter from the never ending pile of laundry at my house.  I am amazed at the amount of laundry two people can make and know it must be worse in households with greater population densities.  Don't worry! I won't let this book get in the way of One Hundred Weaving Mistakes Not to Make, A Zen Journey into Weaving Craft. Gladly, I just discovered a new mistake!

Don't try a new complicated pattern on a large project such as a throw.  Try it out on a towel or something small made with fibers you didn't pay a lot for.  I was planning to do make this mistake with the Canadian Snowflake draft I received from Laura Fry.  Fortunately, common sense crept into my head and I will use it for a future throw project.  First, I will make some towels. It is really important to get to "know" a pattern before diving into a big project, at least this is for me.  I've only been weaving a few years and it takes a few dozen misweaves before I feel comfortable and understand how the pattern works. (I just made up the word misweave, but it means what it sounds like it might mean.)

This where I am today-not much done!

Knowing how the pattern works is essential to finding your way back if you tend to daydream while weaving (me!me!me!) and find yourself lost in the pattern.  Canadian Snowflake has a long repeat so I definitely want to make some towels first.  Towels are my go-to sample source because they are so useful even if the pattern is a mess!

There isn't much to show for a week's work here on the Craftstead.  I have 25 inches worth done on the new runner, and a few inches worth of towel.  Yes, I have a long way to go, especially if I want to free the Fanny up to make some Canadian Snowflake towels!

Sunday, September 22, 2013


Working on my second runner. The red band is an experiment.

Now that I'm on my second runner, I am being extremely careful about mistakes.  I lost concentration a couple of times while weaving and had to backtrack. So far so good.  I've made it through about 15 inches of weaving without a mistake.  I find that it takes me a foot or two of weaving a new pattern before I am familiar enough with it to know when I've gone astray. It is easy to let my mind wander and find myself lost in my treadling, not sure where I am in the pattern.  Now that I've woven it for four feet, I can look at the design and know exactly where I am or if I've gone astray.

I'm using a different weft thread on this runner. Rather than the 8/2 dark green Tencel, I'm using a 3/3 Rayon in a brighter green.  It isn't that obvious in the picture, but the green is a bit thicker and I like how the design shows up. I found the cone in a re-sale shop, likely left over from a weaver's estate. This rayon is super slippery and took a bit to get used too.

The draft I'm weaving has some properties of overshot.  In the red band in the front, I tried weaving it as an overshot, using some glitzy red thread as the tabby (weaver talk for plain weave). This did not work out, because I needed a wider set for it to work out. So I abandoned the experiment and went ahead with my original plan. It will be interesting to see how the cloth turns out.  I don't expect it to be sturdy, but it's a decorative item so I hope it will be okay.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Three looms, three wheels, one Rose

I was up early to weave some red towels
The downside to OLAD--Obsessive Loom Acquisition Disorder-- is an obvious one.  You end out with a lot of looms.  I'm glad I've been cured as my floor looms have spread around the house like weeds ina] neglected garden.  Except I don't want to neglect my looms! I do love my looms.

Which begs the question--three looms and one WeavingRose!  How do I get around to all of them?  Yesterday, I wove on the Fanny.  I was tired of the purple towel and wanted to get it over with.  This morning, I woke up before dawn and wove what you see in red.  I also carded some alpaca, and I'm glad to say, I'm finished that carding project.

Three more skeins of roving to spin!
The alpaca will follow the colorful Montadale I've been spinning for a future weaving project--a throw, which I'll weave on the large loom upstairs.  I don't use that loom in summer because the room is kind of warm, so now that the weather is cooler, I'm ready to start weaving some big stuff.

But I haven't left Lulu behind, and the sparkly project I showed you last week.  I've been weaving on that today, and have about another foot to go.  That is a fun loom to weave on and I'm loving it.  My two smaller looms share a bench, so I plan to do a couple days of weaving on each one before switching the seat over.  Good thing I wove on the Fanny yesterday as I was having serious brain farts in terms of treadling and it was easier to fix my mistakes as I'm more familiar with the design.

Freshly dyed Jacob fleece
Plans to make throw rugs from handspun is also keeping me busy.  I dyed a Jacob fleece Iris hoping to get a nice heathery color with the two toned fleece.  This is going to be a great project once I get to weaving it.  I plan to use my favorite linen warp and a warp faced rosepath motif in this violet with natural sheep gray and tan.  I have hairy Karakul and Icelandic to spin up for those last two colors.

That's about all of the fun on the Craftstead.  Lot is getting done this weekend!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Timeless Weekends

Finally! Weaving my Holiday Place Mats on the new to me loom!

What I love the most about weekends is the opportunity to live without the clock--to wake up, to eat, to craft or even clean as the mood strikes and to mix up these tasks in a bit here and a bit there.  No catching a few minutes of spinning while keeping one eye on the clock so I know when to charge out of the how to head to work.  No eating lunch at a prescribed time. On weekends, I can graze among my craft projects--weave some on one loom, do a bit of carding, weave on another loom, maybe throw a load of laundry in.  No time constraints.

We do run errands on the weekend, but even those are done when we get to them. The DH just asked me when I wanted him start the charcoal on the grill, so I asked him when did he want to eat?  Of course, asking me is husband-code for "I'm hungry. I want to start the grill now." I've figured out the correct response.  Who needs a clock to tell us when to start a grill? Stomachs work fine.

Hand painted Montadale that will become weft for a throw for my sister.
Of course, we are surrounded by clocks even on weekends.  Ever notice they've managed to put a clock in absolutely everything?  This does come in handy when I'm keeping track on workdays, but really it is rather silly.  At night, I can wander the house by the lurid green light of all these LCD displays offering to tell me the time.  Darkness is a luxury we only get to enjoy when camping.

Yep, there is nothing like a timeless weekend to help me enjoy my crafts.  And when there are free minutes during the time constrained workweek, I can still carve out niches to relax and enjoy.

My back is much better now! It was a slow start this week but now I've pretty much resumed all my favorite activities---you know weaving, spinning, carding etc.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Reading and recuperating

Work stopped Tuesday evening halfway across the reed.
Back spasms brought crafting to a painful halt on Wednesday afternoon.  I stood up from my desk at work and realized I was in trouble when my back went crazy and it was difficult to walk.  So much for life in the rat race.  I was out for the weekend only feeling good enough today to sit and write my blog--both sitting and walking were on my "ouch" list.  I had hoped to have finished sleighing the reed (weaver talk for threading) have everything tied to the cloth beam and be able to actually start weaving. I hoped to be enjoying some weaving this weekend.

Instead I was flat on my back on an icepack.  The time was not wasted as I caught up on napping and reading.  Having just been to the Northwoods, we had picked up quite a few books. One of them was by the late Justine Kerfoot, a Gunflint Trail old-timer, Woman of the Boundary Waters. It is a book formed from her columns in the local newspaper about life up north back when the Gunflint was a trail, and not a wide, paved and plowed road.  She started there in the 20's so her memory ranged far back.  I kept with my Minnesota author theme by reading Kent Nerburn's The Wolf at Twilight: An Indian Elder's Journey through a Land of Ghosts and Shadows. This is the sequel to Neither Wolf nor Dog. Both gave insight into a culture trampled by the stampede of Western "civilization."

As I was in Minnesota, I couldn't miss a few books by Sigurd F. Olson.  Right now I'm in the middle of The Lonely Land about a canoe trip (not sure if it is up or down when a river flows north) on the Churchill River in northern Saskatchewan some 50 or so years ago. I am glad to learn this environmentalist left behind quite a few books to find and read.

There is nothing the DH and I love better when we travel than finding a local bookstore, or a shelf of books for sale as is the case at Sawbill Lake.  I especially love books filled with the natural history of an area.  It is difficult to find these books at the local bookstore unless they are by a particularly well known author.  It is the bookstores in places like the Boundary Waters, or Estes Park on near Yellowstone or Acadia National Park that are filled with interesting books about the region.

I have to admit that besides weaving and other craft pursuits, I love to travel and read books.  So though I was incapacitated for several days, and though I didn't get anything done in the way of crafts, I certainly enjoyed some good books.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Rat-race redux

Finished threading the heddles! One step closer to weaving,
Re-entry into the rat-race after a week of serenity in northwoods was bumpy.  Plunging right back into maxed out traffic due to the start of school and imbecilic office politics just raised the old cortisol levels and I found myself reaching for the deadlies, sugar.  Sugar as in two bouts of cake, one Ben&Jerry, a row of ChipsAhoy and even leaded soda! That is five strikes and standing on the scale put me up four pounds from my last official weigh in.

This is very annoying.  My sister and I joined Fat Secret and we will be doing a sugar cleanse this week.  As I write I have a bowl of my "power ice-cream" which is not Ice cream at all.  It is:

3 cups of unsweetened soy milk
2 scoops of vanilla Designer Whey protein
1 20 oz bag of frozen blueberries
Zap this in the blender and it makes two bowls.  Frozen, use a spoon, when it melts use a straw.

It also comes in chocolate form which is like this:
3 cups of unsweetened soy milk
2 scoops of chocolate Designer Whey protein
1 20 oz bag of raspberries.
Zap in blender till mixed and you have a treat for two!
No, I don't have a Wooly Winder.  Finshed 8 oz of roving though!
Fortunately, I have been working on my fiber projects, so my spirits are up.  It took this weekend to kind of get my brain back in line again, and free myself from the frustration of all the imbecilic nonsense at my day job.  I don't play politics at work because I have a job where I actually have to work--I don't get a lot of time for trouble-making chit-chat or playing on Facebook (as my 13 friends well know).  But I do have ears and unfortunately, I forget my earplugs.

Today, I spent over an hour at the gym doing my total body strength routine capped with a good dose of yoga.  Tomorrow it will be cardio and yoga. The DH's trainer has him doing these really cool moves on the Eco-Mill treadmill and I want to try themout.  I think it will make the treadmill, well, a bit less of a treadmill.
My prize from being a member of a Ravelry LSG team!
And so today, I plan to spin, weave a few towels, sleigh a reed maybe, dream up super project like bold placemats made with the fabulous cotton I won from an LSG team, bake some chicken ahead for healthy lunches--all that kind of smart stuff.  And stay away from sugar!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Peace in the Northwoods

Camping in the Northwoods
Nothing quite beats a refreshing vacation.  The DH and I just spent a peaceful week camping on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) in Minnesota.  We found this FREE camping spot which was perched just above a lake that entered into the Boundary Waters. We were on the lake but the vegetation obscured it.  Not perfect, but free, private and for the first couple of days we were the only people in this tiny campground.

What you don't see are the kayaks we rented to tool around the lakes.  It was a lot of fun, but the words "canoe area" are a big clue to which is the preferred mode of transport in these parts. Though we enjoyed skimming over the water, and the kayaks were light enough to carry on a short portage, climbing out of the things to get onto shore was awful.  I know the people on YouTube make it look easy, but trust me, it's not.  I couldn't get out of the thing without getting soaked so we had to limit ourselves to one lake at a time and no portages.

Newly edged towels in need of wet finishing.
Thinking of portage, I brought along some towels to finish.  Not only did I do the edges of my towels but I came up with three new mistakes for my book One Hundred Weaving Mistakes to Make and How to Fix Them: Finding Inner Peace While Blundering Along the Weaver's Path.

I added the subtitle because I did a lot of reading at the campsite, in particular Anatomy of the Spirit by Caroline Myss. I am very interested in spirituality and I find her books filled with things to think about.  I love to think, as it keeps me busy while I'm doing things like edging towels.  All this thinking and not paying attention helps me discover new mistakes!

What a yucky hem!
First, there is this really yucky hem I was sewing.  Now what was I thinking? Oh, yah, stuff about chakras instead of a hem stitch should pick up one stitch from above and one below and follow the line of the rolled edge. It should look more like the turquoise towel below, at which point I was paying attention AND thinking on weighty spiritual matters--yes, a New Age multitasker.

A nicer rolled edge.
Mistake #2:  My choice of thread wasn't the best.  I used some of the 8/2 cottolin (cotton linen blend) thread I wove the towels with. I think some high quality sewing thread would have been better--finer and less obvious.  I usually raid my embroidery thread stash for a close match but as I packed for this trip, I had the bright idea of using the thread I wove with to make the sewing as sturdy as the towel.  I  also did a blanket stitch to bind the edge so the towel won't unravel if the sewing comes out.  I will test these towels to see if using this heavier thread helps them wear longer.

The other problem I see is that my rolled edge is kind of heavy.  I wove five rows of plain weave on each side of the pattern to make this edge.  Next time, I will weave only three.  I think this will allow me to make a finer edge.  I won't be sure if the five row or three row edge is the mistake until I make and test my next set!  So stay tuned for future tips on weaving and the path of enlightenment.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Weaving as life

Half-way through warping the loom.
Weaving is an apt metaphor for my life right now.  The craft has a slow start for me, a planning stage of mulling things over and figuring out design followed by the painstaking warping phase.  First the warp is measured out and accurately threaded to create the design before weaving can begin.  I feel like I am in the warping phase of my life right now.

Nine months ago, I was sitting in the emergency room unable to move my hand hoping that the people around me knew what they were doing.  Fortunately, those people did and I was able to recover quickly from what turned out to be a small stroke.  Since then, I've been making significant changes in my lifestyle, but like weaving, there is a lot to it.

My husband and I joined a gym back in March, realizing we needed to make drastic changes.  I took the plunge and signed us up for a lot of personal training and I've been going twice a week for months.  But like warping a loom, the process has been slow and painstaking.  I've needed to build a foundation for fitness and as I've trained and grown fitter, my diet has changed with it.

And like warping, their isn't much to show for all the time.  After four months, I've lost nearly 3% of my body fat and still have at least 20% to go before I reach my target of 25% body fat, which is a healthy place for women. That's a lot of fat to burn.

So I feel like I'm still putting the warp on my lifestyle change.  There has been so much to change foodwise.  I've really had to learn to stop thinking sugar is a "treat." I've had to learn that I'm not depriving myself when I skip that piece of cake, which inevitably turns out to be two or three pieces of cake.  When I "deprive myself" of the cake, I do myself a big favor because I won't feel like garbage later. That wasn't an easy lesson to learn.  Took me a few stupid "treats" before it clicked.

Weaving goes a lot faster than warping.
Today I spent more than an hour at the gym doing total body strength training which I topped off with some yoga and meditation.  Yes, there were times during my circuits when I asked myself, "What am I doing?"   But when I was done, I felt really great--a kind of great I've never felt from food or beer or sleeping late.

I think I'm almost to the end of warping this lifestyle change.  Oh, I may have to do an adjustment here and there, but I think I'll be weaving soon.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Making strides in book research

The warp rolled onto the back beam.
 Yet another chapter of  One Hundred Weaving Mistakes Not to Make, And Five New Ones, is well on its way to being researched.  The warp on the table runners shown above went on with deceptive ease.  Even the postal paper I purchased to separate the layers rolled on without a hitch.  I though I would finally have a blog where I didn't have mistakes!

But, no, I still had the lease sticks to put in!  It turns out that I flipped one of the neat one inch packets of warp when I spread the second cross and tied it to the back beam. Yikes! There it was staring at me laughing "Muwahahaha! Your project is ruined!"  But I remained undaunted and found a way around it, once more  using the "tape" method I used to save the warp on the Fanny.

About 1/4 of the heddles are threaded.
I got out my handy tape and used it to tape the threads into correct order before pulling the two sections that crossed out of the lease sticks.  Then I went ahead and threaded them.  I am using my new-to-me loom the 8 harness Loomcraft, named LuLu which I found on Ravelry and purchased in May.  The design is a 7 shaft pattern I came up with myself using free weaving design software.  I started with a tie up I found in the book 8 Shafts, a Place to Begin, and went from there. I hope to have the loom threaded so I can start weaving next weekend.

This hand-painted Montadale Roving is a joy to spin.

On my Ladybug wheel is the beautiful purple and turquoise roving above.  The "Sleeping Beauty" colorway is the creation of one of the many local wool producers who sell their wares at Esther's Place as part of the Illinois Fiber Cooperative.  This is beautiful stuff and I have an entire pound.  I hope to have enough to weave the warp of a throw.  I would use the merino/alpaca blend I was spinning earlier this year.  This would create a 100% grown and made in Illinois product! I think this will be a first for me, as I purchase so much fleece from Wisconsin and upstate New York.

That's all for now.  I have to get back to threading that loom!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Worth the time

This purple towels will go to my Mom.

Taking the time to do something right is worth it. This weekend, I restrung the Fanny, and now I am weaving error free towels.  Twisting of the warp in the back was contributing to uneven tension and broken warp strings. With seven or eighth towels worth of warp left, I had to do something about it.

I cut the first three towels off the loom and unstrung it, using tape to keep the order of the threads.  It's a sectional beam so I was able to "keep the cross" in one inch increments.  I rethreaded the entire project, and now I have a nice, evenly tensioned web to weave on.  So far so good.

This yarn will add color to what I spun for the tour.
As for yarn, I havefinished the merino/alpaca blend I started months ago.  I have about three thousand yards of fine warp--enough to make a double batch of pretty throws.  My next project is a color splash to go with all the brown yarn I spun on the Tour.  This yarn from the above braid will allow me to add a fair-isle effect to the sweater's yoke.  This yarn should be pretty!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Tour de Fleece Winner's Circle!

1800 yards of finished yarn!
Twenty-year-old fleece is now few-days-old yarn, thanks to the Tour de Fleece and it's annual spinning madness! It was a great tour this year, volunteering to serve as a moderator and captaining the team for the Spin Your Stash group.  I managed to spin about 36 ounces of wool making about 1800 yards of two-ply yarn. I've rounded these figures up a bit because I lost the paper I was using to keep track. I had to figure my yardage from memory.

I am glad the tour is over.  I spent a few hours per day at my wheel to keep up with it and then there was all that time on Ravelry checking out posts and more.  Right now, I'm pretty tired of spinning and want to go back to my slower spinning pace.  And I need to weave. I miss weaving.

I just finished threading four inches worth of heddles on the Fanny.  During the Tour, I got the idea to fix some tension issues by cutting the first three towels off the loom and retying it.  Then I got the idea to re-thread it--I'm not sure this was the best idea I've ever had but it seemed brilliant and correct at the time.  I am also in the middle of winding a warp for the new-to-me loom.  So I do have lots of things to keep me busy now that I'm not spinning all the time.

Though one thing is finished, I'm in the middle of plenty more.