Sunday, September 22, 2013

Why We Love Cindy

Some of The Design Team, Denise, Channyn, and I, made it over to the annual Finger Lakes Fiber Festival.

It was a dark and stormy day. Everyone at the festival agrees that while we have had one festival that was freakishly cold, this is the first one that rained. It rained a lot and we were not happy about the rain, but the tents and barns held up. It is too early to tell if it will rain all day today as well, but it seems cooler today, so wear a coat if you go.

But back to Cindy.

Cindy was our high school art teacher for Denise, Linda and me (Channyn, unfortunately, is too young to have participated). Wildly creative. Back then, there was no Square 1 Art, in which every child makes exactly the same project with minor variations and then brings home a brochure - not the art, mind you, that comes home much later - filled with tchotchkes that you can purchase with the artwork on it. No, this was the 80s. We tried everything. I remember learning how to solder to make jewelry, batiking, macrame, tie dying, drawing, painting, water color painting, scratch boarding, making color wheels, and baskets! Oh my, the baskets. The art room had this supply closet that seemed a million miles long, filled with treasures, including big balls of yarn. In fact, it was only 2 weeks ago that I finally marched down to the basement and brought the 35 year old woven baskets that my mother used for her plants this whole time and, well, threw them away.

Cindy told me this lovely story. She has granddaughters, and she has an art workshop at her house, and they all get together to craft. And one of the projects was a fairy mailbox. So I'm thinking, "Wings on a mailbox?" Nope, they decorated the mailbox for the fairies, and Cindy explained to her 5 year old granddaughter that the fairies can't speak, but they'll bring you gifts. And you can write notes to them. They don't have money or credit cards, but they'll bring you gifts from the forest. Amazed and beguiled, her granddaughter was treated with a rock, a pinecone... Ahhh, now that's fun. That's just beautiful.

Cindy, it turns out, has bought a wheel. And she's bought fiber. LOTS of fiber. She showed me two bags of wool just waiting to be spun up. Now she needs to learn how to use the wheel.

Cindy, we invite you to join The Design Team. We'll set up a date to teach you to spin shortly. Make sure you sleep well the night before; our meetings are workouts. You'll be breathing hard at the end and wondering how you lived so long without us in your life.

Next, we were beguiled by Pat. Pat knits. But the true details of Pat's intriguing nature came out over dinner at the Hot Pot in Henrietta, where she explained that she likes to take old pictures and use Photoshop to change their context. Intriguing, I say. Pat, we welcome you to join The Design Team as well.

But back to the Finger Lakes Fiber Festival.

What did we buy? I bought a crochet stick. Don't mock me. You may recall that Denise taught me how to add borders to my blankets a couple of weeks ago. I couldn't find the crochet hook that Ed's Aunt Evelyn gave me, so I ended up using that thing you use with a spinning wheel to pull your yarn through the hole. Sadly, the girls keep telling me the parts of a spinning wheel, and it all sifts right out of my head because... well because I just don't care. I spin with a spindle, not a wheel.

Anyway, I wanted a wooden crochet hook. Now, you're going to want to know what size, aren't you? I wanted a wooden crochet hook that would go through the edges of my knitting, and catch the thread nicely, and not be too thick or too thin and have a hook that seemed like it wouldn't drop the thread. So I bought, for $7, a vintage wooden crochet hook. Back then, they didn't put numbers on crochet hooks. So you'll have to settle with knowing that I am quite satisfied with whatever size it is. And that, my friends, is that.

What else did we see? We were seeking inspiration, because, at the moment, we all have a satisfying quantity of fiber in our stash. Channyn bought a shawl pin. Channyn makes beautiful shawls. Denise bought a spindle that had a vintage bracelet around the rim by Miss Lucy P. We were intrigued by the idea of using old jewelry or jewels to decorate spindles.

This spindle is made from a vintage broach
We saw Christmas tree ornaments at the Nistock Farms booth - clear plastic round balls with lovely fiber stuffed inside - why, you could decorate a whole tree with that. I am quite sure I have heart-shaped ornaments in the basement just waiting for such a purpose.

We sampled some deliciousness at the Healthy Sisters Soup and Bean Works. What a wonderful charity, whose purpose is to help women receive job training, earn a stipend, and develop self-confidence in order to enter or re-enter the workforce. Guess what I'm serving up for dinner tonight? Curried Lentil Soup Mix, packaged by Juana. I'm going to use my first ever chicken soup stock, which I created this week, as the base.

I love this winner in the fiber competition - Jan Delles won the Nylah Syed Memorial Award for Best Use of Silent Auciton Winnings.

Nylah is Denise's eldest daughter. She passed away a few years ago, and we miss her so much. I know that Nylah would have adored this basket - it is so clever and original. Of course, now I want to make one just like it. One of Nylah's favorite events to go to was the Genesee Valley Handspinning Guild's silent auction, held in January each year. You buy raffle tickets, and members bring stuff from their stashes that they don't want anymore, and you put raffle tickets in bags and hope to win something. Nylah's tastes were always esoteric. I took her one year when Denise could not, and we had absolutely the most fun ever.

Denise and Channyn are headed back to the festival today to hear Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, The Yarn Harlot, speak. I, in the meantime, will spend the day filling boxes that my son prepared for me yesterday, as we are preparing to put our house up for sale and need to condense our treasures.

By the way, I've come into quite a quantity of bleached white tussah silk. If you'd like to buy some, it is $3.50 an ounce. All proceeds go to cover gas to go to the grocery store to convince the bakery to give me more empty frosting buckets to hold the dyed silk and alpaca after The Design Team spends another wild weekend creating.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

It was Mayhem, I tell you, Mayhem!

I LOVE it when the girls come to do crafts. This Saturday, though, they came with some prerequisites. First, no huge dinner prepared by my husband (last time he made us a double batch of his world famous Spaghetti a la Bolognese). Channyn claimed that they wanted to bring some food and were "hoping to eat light." Oh, and Denise, tired from a stressful week, didn't want to do anything big this time.

Bua ha ha ha ha.

Come to my house, my friends, and it's wildness and mayhem.

First through the door was our friend Linda, carrying a cage. Followed by two dogs. Followed by another dog. Followed by Denise and Channyn, three children (we actually have 12 children between the three of us), two spinning wheels, and several collections of in-progress projects. Let us not forget the food. In the end, they actually forgot to bring two apple pies inside. I thought that was pretty funny.

We toured the current stash, and reviewed the giant frosting buckets full of dyed fiber. Channyn set to spinning.

Channyn's project
And then Channyn cooked an amazing meal. Which was not light. Not the least bit. Then Linda also started spinning. Denise reviewed my project and came up with a solution that absolved me from learning to crochet, bless her heart. And then she got to thinking that a wee project - nothing big, mind you - just a couple of ounces of silk, space dyed in the kitchen, wouldn't hurt. The space dying took longer than expected because we had to go into the basement and garage a few times to find the officially designated "craft microwave oven", which I eventually found inside a dog kennel in the garage.

The girls were impressed with my recently purchased bakery trays. I can stack them!
Somewhere in there, Denise laid out her current project, which was bee-utiful, and the dogs concluded they wanted to sit on it. It is a testament to our maturity that we now think it a compliment when dogs want to sit on our work. Not so much when one of them peed on it, but one of Denise's children was kind and washed out the panel that was blessed.

Denise finished cleaning up all the loose ends on this. Now all that's left is sewing it together.

Here's my project. I am making a lap blanket for a man friend. But I am addicted to angora, so it is a lovely fluffy bunny lap blanket. Because I did not follow a pattern, I need a way to add on some additional strips of manly color (black) to the blanket, and thought that I would need to learn how to crochet to accomplish it. But Denise showed me how to knit a panel on from a different direction. I still have one more panel to go, but this came out amazing.


The addition of a black panel really made a big difference

By the end, Denise looked like she was going to fall over. Her eyes were almost shut. She went home with a bin full of carded fiber that I made up after our last dyeing adventure - lovely blue, lovely purple, and lovely aqua. I think it is enough to keep her busy for a year. Linda actually fell asleep on the couch in between attacks by the dogs and general rabble rousing. I think she found the spinning rather stressful. I tried to comfort her by showing her a big ugly ball of my early spinning, and I assure you that Linda's spinning was a million times better than my early work, but still, it takes a while to get your mojo when it comes to spinning.

Linda's spinning is coming along exceptionally well
Here's my example for Linda of how not to spin:

It keeps me humble

We also reviewed Channyn's Tweed, which was pronounced very nice but not Tweed. NOT TWEED! Yes, it seems I created Heather. I have no idea what heather is, but there you go. So I am back to contemplating how to get Channyn her tweed. I have a theory that if I were to make a bold colored silk - say, yellow or orange - and then blended that in with the over-dyed Barbie wool in it's 70-10-10-10 mix, that the silk would end up nobby (nobby apparently is a requirement for tweed), and then I might have something. So it is back to dying and back to the drum carder.