Saturday, January 10, 2009

Saffron and Plum and Turquoise

I love the way the saffron scarf came out. I mixed a little salmon in, so it has wonderfully subtle variations in color, and will be just the thing after the dye is set and rinsed and the whole thing washed. But for now it is crusty with dye and needs to set for a couple of days before I can try it out, so all I can do is look.

I also pulled out a silk blank with a burned-out velvet floral design and started playing with it. I'd seen one online where the individual flowers had been painted different colors, and it was so pretty that I wanted to try it. But I'm starting to suspect the artist who did that other design was using a different technique, because when I started to flow the colors onto the velvet they kept on flowing. My salmon and fuchsia flower colors blended with the emerald and kelly green leaves, making unexpected (and not particularly attractive) splotches of muddy brown. I overdyed it with a light lavender, which helped bring all the different colors to a closer tone but still wasn't what I was looking for. Then I dyed the fringe plum - and decided I liked that enough that I added a lighter plum overlay to the whole thing. And instead of laying it flat to dry, I've got it wadded and rippled, so as to make striations in the plumb color. We'll see what we get this time.

Meanwhile, I'm still working on craft project ideas to take to the Women's Wild Winter Weekend retreat at the end of February. I have the silhouette of this year's logo and am going to experiment with making pins similar to the one I made for the purse last year. I need it to be a fairly simple, fast (45 minutes or less) activity for about 45 women, so instead of using the sides of milk jugs I'm trying to use a thin craft foam from Hobby Lobby as a backing. I'll give it a shot over the weekend. And I'm also experimenting with a very simple silk painting project on a 10" hankie, with the weekend's logo stenciled over it in fabric pen. We'll see how it turns out, and whether it's viable as a group thing.

Friday, January 9, 2009

In Search Of Color

The grey weather indemic to a Wisconsin winter has left me craving color in a downright visceral way. I woke up early this morning with a bad dream that involved tornado's and a badly soiled baby diaper - not hard to analyze that one, I guess - and found myself reaching for my beading supplies. I made this:

I also discovered that in dim winter morning light, even with overhead lighting, I really need to have my reading glasses to accomplish anything involving pearls. But the interesting thing was how eagerly I was reaching for anything, everything jewel-toned. I need some rich, deep color in the middle of this very grey season.

Once I finished the necklace and decided I didn't have enough time for matching earrings, I put it on and tried to get dressed. That's when I realized that my winter wardrobe (excluding the Holiday drama) really boils down to shades of grey, black, and oatmeal. You'd think that being the queen of the second-hand impulse purchase, I'd have every color imaginable in there; but even the blues and greens were muted slates and olives. Nothing that actually worked with the new necklace. I ended up with another grey ensemble and a garnet necklace that comes nowhere near satisfying my craving.

And so I feel some purely selfish silk dying coming on tonight. I have a silk scarf blank with rayon velvet, a twin to the origins of the pleated raspberry scarf Mari received for Christmas. I'm thinking tones of saffron - warm, bright, and reminiscent of very good karma.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Do Be Careful

Sybil has been our neighbor for as long as we've been at the Stone Jug. She's a tiny little thing, a former career girl (professional skater and dental hygienist) who never married and has no close family. The neighbors across the street do a very nice job of keeping an eye out for her, but we try to keep aware of her status as well.

Her property is 27 acres of primarily woodlands which had a starring role as the location for our vows renewal ceremony in 2007. Her house is tucked into a hollow just below ours and a bit further back into the trees, which means that she has a bear of a driveway in the winter. She's also reached that point in her life when a broken bone can be a very serious thing indeed.

She called this morning to ask if she could park her car in our drive for a few days? The ice on her drive has gotten so bad that if she can get her car out, she doesn't want to take a chance putting it back. I asked how she would get home, then? She says the hired man tromped a pretty good path through the snow the other day, and she'd just walk in his footsteps through the woods from our house to hers. I asked if she at least had a cell phone, in case she should fall? It seems she had one, but can't seem to figure out how to charge it. So, she'd just go carefully.

I popped down there before work, sliding my car a good 4 feet on the way down her drive, and dropped off Tasha's discarded cell phone. It's mostly charged, and even though it's turned off it will still dial 911. And I did manage to get my car back out of there by putting my all-wheel drive into the very lowest gear and creeping up the left edge of the drive, where my wheels could dig into the snow a bit. She has the same model car, so she should be able to manage it.

Sybil (though I know you will never read this), it's lovely that you want to spend as much of your senior years as possible in the little valley of your dreams. But it does seem increasingly dangerous for you to live alone. Please, please don't fall in your driveway (or ours).

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

In which we appreciate the artistry of Julie and the colors of pea soup

My sister in law, Julie, is a mother of small boys, so her knitting tends more towards "interesting and funky" than "lacy and cute." She makes a steady flow of these cute little soaker pants for her own little guy and for select customers, and also sells dye-to-order, knit-to-order items through And she's really good, which makes me unbelievably proud, since I got her started on her first "Granny's Favorite" washcloth way back when. She also does wonderfully creative embroidery, apparently off the top of her head. She was one of the test knitters for the Knucks featured in's Winter 2008 issue - and you should see the bulldozer she created across the back of a pair of pants last fall!

Anyway, Dad has commissioned me to make a pair of socks for his friend when I have a moment. Not the "Dan's Socks" heavy work sock pattern I use so much, but some lacy ladies socks in funky jeans-friendly colors. An excuse to knit, with no deadline - my kind of project. He had seen some colorwork socks in a catalog and sent me the page as a design starting point, but although I love colorwork I just didn't think that doing it on size 1 needles was going to be my best option. I showed him some of the swatches from the Blue Moon Fiber Arts website (love those people. I want to shop there when I grow up.) and he agreed that a handpaint would be a good way to go. Then I wimped out and bought a couple of skeins of a computer-printed bamboo/wool/nylon sock yarn.
But Julie has been urging me to learn to dye yarn. (What was that about not needing another hobby?) And I came across this 100% wool sock yarn on e-bay in what appeared to be a sort of beige and looked easy enough to over-dye. It arrived yesterday, and the beige turned out to be variegated tones of light tan, light puce, and light olive - in other words, about the color that pea soup turns when you really shouldn't eat it anymore. Good yarn gone bad, and in desperate need of being dyed. So now it isn't a whim, or a new hobby, but rather a community service.
Julie thought my silk dyes would probably work on wool, but just to be safe I ordered some project-specific dyes from Dharma Trading Company. I really need a yarn swift (especially since I can already see 2 or 3 other potential dying projects in the yarn from my stash), but they are just a bit more pricey than I can accept in these uncertain times. I may explore the instructions for the tinker-toy version I've seen online, or I may just use a chair back. And I don't have a ball-winder, but for the same reasons I'm thinking I can wind a ball by hand. Maybe I'll even try the "electric drill and masking tape" method of ball-winding, if I'm feeling brave. (I know that using power tools on your knitting supplies sounds like a really bad idea, but it has apparently worked for others.)
In any case, wish me luck.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

And Here We Are

My New Years' Resolution, as it were, is to concentrate on finishing some of the things I've started. I want to get a bit more organized, and have a better sense of the order of upcoming events in my life. This may or may not be related to my upcoming job change.

I have an official date now - January 31st will be my last day at my current desk. I've explored different options for commercializing my photography, and I do think I could generate some income with a bit of time and effort. The question of the day, of course, is whether that income (together with unemployment, at least for the short term) would be sufficient to keep the heat on. And I guess the other question of the day is whether Rick and I have the stomach and risk tolerance to find out.

Meanwhile, I am job-hunting. I've scanned the papers, Craigslist, Jobnet, Milwaukeejobs, the Federal job website and every other list or lead I can think of. I've networked with friends and professional contacts, and forwarded my resume to headhunters. Paralegal. Four year Business Degree and three year Paralegal Degree. Fifteen years of multi-state and international experience with emphasis on transactional and real estate law. (I did that real estate transfer one time for a small beachfront in South America.) What have you got for me?
I tell you, it feels like the meat market. After 21 years (this week) of marriage, I haven't had to date in a long time. But still, here I am giving out my number and trying to make an impression with strangers about what an interesting person I am and how nice it would be to have me around. I have an interview on Thursday, and all I can think about is what I should wear. I'll also need to update my portfolio, and I'm agonizing over what writing samples to submit. I'm certain that in this economy they have been flooded with resumes - so not only do I need to stand out from the crowd, but I need to distinguish myself from all those eager young faces in such a way that my higher price will seem worth it. My competitors will primarily be fresh young things straight from 2 years at the local tech school who will work for an hourly wage roughly equivalent to what I earned as a charwoman. It's just sad.

Anyway, I have had some positive results lately. Christmas was good:

We finally got Rick's glasses picked up, although he says the bifocals make him seasick and I have to keep reminding him to wear them. (The eye doctor says it could take up to a month for him to adjust to them - longer if he won't keep them on his head.)

I finished Christy's leg-warmers, and will have them in the mail this week. I also finished sewing the fish and angel charms and the neck chain and such onto the liturgical stole, and gave it to RaeAnn on Saturday. She loved it, and there were tears and hugs, and according to reports she wore it on Sunday. (I was surprised to hear that she was wearing stoles now since I thought she had to wait until her ordination, but I guess that since she's licensed, the full regalia is expected of her. In any case, she didn't have any stoles of her own and has been borrowing them.) The blue one will see her through the post-Christmas season, but Lent is coming (purple) and then summer (green). I've got a twitch to make her more! (What you see below is the reverse side, with the scriptures that I was too chicken to write out with a fabric pen. I was afraid the pen would bleed through, requiring me to beat my head on a wall for a very long time. So I used an iron-on.)

A shawl has magically appeared on my needles, although I'm not quite sure how it happened. Still, it's my first real project on those Addi turbo's I got from craigslist, and it's coming along nicely. Red Heart Symphony (their synthetic mohair-wannabe, which I love) and Bernat Matrix (which was looking so lonely and cheap in the clearance bin that I just had to give it a home), held together on what are probably size 15's. My standard recipe for a triangle shawl, shown at left - although I'm considering whether I want to add some kind of scalloping along the edges of the V. I think if I drop down to size 8's while doubling the stitches, then do some sort of picot edge, it might give the piece interest without being a jarring change.

And finally, I pulled out the anniversary shawl (and very nearly worked on it). It still is waiting for that last little bit of lace - about 130", if I recall correctly. Time to get it done. Really. Any moment now.