Friday, April 28, 2006
Those of us who were born and grew up after World War II tend to look at it all as ancient history. The fact that we know how it all turned out can dominate our perception and make it a stretch to understand how truly terrifying it all must have been. The people who lived through it didn't have the benefit of historical perspective and hindsight. The 1940s must have been very dark times.
The Night Watch, is set in wartime London and a lot of the action goes on during the Blitz, when nightly German raids destroyed many neighborhoods in London. The Battle of Britain wasn't fought on faraway battlefields; it was fought in the streets of London and destroyed many homes and altered the lives of ordinary people. The characters in The Night Watch are caught up in all this as well as in the mores of the era--one character is sentenced to prison time for a suicide attempt. The story is told backwards, in a series of vignettes. A very original approach--the reader knows what happened before understanding why.
Sarah Water's other novels are set in Victorian times and I loved both of the others I've read--Fingersmith and Tipping the Velvet. There is one yet, Affinity, that I need to track down. And I'll be doing it soon.
An interview with Ms. Waters is here.
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
And yes, everyone yelled at me for driving myself back to the doctor yesterday when I had the allergy reaction.
Diane has completed her Mumbo Gumbo quilt top. It's colorful and spicy, much like its maker. She's displaying it from Bonnie's upstairs balcony.
Bonnie, whose days are consumed with the owning and operating of a UPS Store, was thrilled to have actually completed a new quilt. I'm impressed... Completely completed, as in quilting and binding totally finito. It's a great primitive look, beautifully and exuberantly quilted.
Casey, as always, brought a number of inspiring things to show us. She's doing a class through Quilt University, working on a Water Study. It's full of experimentation , using Angelina and glitter along with cellophane shrivelled by a heat gun to simulate foamy water. It's a very effective use of technique and her workmanship is exquisite. She brought another quilt to show, a class piece from her Keiko Goke workshop. And she was working along on a nice, crunchy knit shawl, which is destined for a family friend in Korea.
More detail of this water study piece here.
We see Kasia all too seldom. Tonight she was fresh from participating in a successful gallery night in Milwaukee and has sold one of her art quilts! Yay Kasia! She also wowed us all with her newly completed portfolio, which showed the care and detail we always see in her work. Inspired by mandalas, Kasia does a lot of quilts featuring circular elements and themes.
But her biggest news tonight is that she is going to be a grandma for the second time later this year. Kasia is below, looking through Casey's altered book.
As for me, I dragged along the Kimono shawl and completed repeat number eleven. Arrgh! According to the pattern, I'm not even halfway through. I wish I could move through this lacy knitting as quickly as some of the other knitting bloggers do. They put me to shame. But I'm getting into the zone, enjoying the meditative journey, trying to convince myself that speed is overrated.
And Caroline won't actually be needing that shawl for months and months
Yesterday I ran over to my allergist at 9 a.m. to get my regular allergy injections--like I've been doing for twenty years--then high-tailed it to work, about ten miles away. I barely got settled at my desk before becoming aware that something was amiss. My eyes suddenly were swollen, hives were all over my face. Hot and itchy. But when I could feel lumps in my tongue I decided I better call the doctor.
GET BACK HERE NOW they said. I was developing a fairly impressive anaphylactic reaction to my injections.
I jumped in the car and drove the ten miles back, to be greeted at the door of the doctor's office by two nurses and the doctor. They shot me full of adrenalin, gave me antihistamines and a handful of prednisone, and made me sit in the office till I looked human once again and it was reasonably certain the reaction was subsiding.
Holy smoke, I NEVER should have driven by myself. If that reaction had progressed to breathing difficulty, I could have been a goner along the side of the road before anyone else knew anything was wrong.
There's a lesson: when I got back, I told the gang at the library that if this ever happens again, ASSUME I'm not thinking clearly.
Hay fever. I've always said it was the world's most boring affliction. But I guess even hay fever has its moments.
Monday, April 24, 2006
This smaller group made for a nice, relaxing afternoon. There's nothing like knitting with old friends.
Deb is progressing nicely with her Palette Fair Isle Cardigan. One of these days I'm going to dip a toe into multicolor knitting too. I actually have been hoarding a cool little mitten pattern, kitted up in multiple colors of natural wools, for about three years now. We wouldn't want to rush in to anything with undue rashness.
But hey--I AM knitting lace these days. Can't accuse me of being mired in the morass of fun-fur scarves and cotton warshcloths.
Liz is working on an Einstein Coat in a blushing salmon shade of Lopi.
Laurie is in the home stretch of a pink cotton shell. We all admired the lustrous cotton yarn and hard as it may be to imagine, we may be toying with venturing away from wool exclusivity.
Liz, Karen, and Laurie were nice enough to bring treats and we all worked hard all afternoon to make them disappear. When the camera started clicking, Karen was working on this project:
Sunday, April 23, 2006
Presenting sights of the newish Milwaukee Public Market. Jane and I visited yesterday and had a fine time oohing and ahhing over all the wares--artisan breads, intriguing cheeses, spices, sushi, Middle Eastern foods, and lots of free samples. It was a great way to spend a Saturday morning.
I love the patterns of the items on display--all the color is so inspiring.
We had lunch with Will at Sheherazad on Oakland Avenue (his new band has a gig next week and actually got a mention in the entertainment pages of The Onion), and then spent the afternoon browsing antiques, which was fun, but the shop was one where everything was shut away in cases. We agreed that the tactile aspect is a big part of the experience. It all felt more like a display.
I didn't come away from the antique shop empty-handed, oh no. I spotted a length of mid-century fabric and it joins the stash. Very pleased with this bit of lovely and lustrous cotton.
My DH and I ended up heading back into Milwaukee for dinner, which seemed like a huge luxury, the price of gas being what it is these days. We had been wanting to try Tenuta's on South Clement in Bay View for a long time and it fully lived up to our expectations. I'm a sucker for good ravioli and this was excellent. It was a fine evening.
Knitting content: the knitters will meet here today. Have to run a dustmop around the place...
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
I have a nice and growing collection of artsy blogs I check regularly for a shot of creativity juice. Thank goodness for these voices regularly sending out the good vibes and the positive energy. What's above is from Keri Smith's Wish Jar Journal, which is always, always worth a visit.
Those of us who worry about being derivative might ponder the de Kooning quote. It's very consoling, isn't it? I love it--don't think I'll ever eat a bowl of soup again without thinking of this.
Got home late, tired but still a bit wired. Ephemera is now in three large pieces and it will be a simple matter to do the final assembly. Then the real dithering can begin, and everyone knows I can dither with the best of them. It's been going on for a couple years now, and I could easily stretch it out a few more years.
I also worked some to get the studio in better order. That felt good. I can start to tidy up the messy bits from this quilt and look to moving on a bit, finishing some UFOs, including one that's been strewn on top of my sewing surface for a full year now. (And thank goodness for my large sewing surface. In the last year I have managed to make three quilts, working around this other project...)
There are loads of scraps from Ephemera and I'm thinking to put them into a Mile-a-Minute lap quilt. With these controlled colors, it would be a more sophisticated look than the very berserk and scrappy Mile-a-Minute I made a couple years ago. That will be good busy work for the next retreat.
And the way I work, this scrap piece will probably have more flash and impact than Ephemera itself. Sigh.
Tidying done, I turned to vegging out with the Kimono Shawl. I finally have a few shots to show progress. Half done with the tenth repeat.
This bottom picture isn't really showing its true colors. It's a clear light gray; the upper photos are truer to real life. So pleased with this--it's now long enough to provide warmth as I knit.
Monday, April 17, 2006
And did I make use of it. I was able to ignore everything else and sew from 9 to nearly 5. And the quilt is nearly together, closer than this photo above would indicate. It's in four large pieces, which is certainly better than being in about 80 pieces, which is where it was when I began today.
Working improvisationally, it's a bit of a slower go than it would be were I just doing assembly-line piecing. There was fitting and adapting and a bit of Plan B to be worked into it all.
So this is the canvas I'm constructing. I've used a lot of batiks and prints that looked reminiscent of old-time wallpaper and garment fabrics. I've also printed scanned photos, autograph album pages, and newspaper articles on fabric and used them in the piecing.
Once this is all together the embellishment will begin. I have several elements I hope to use--a curved flying geese element, some fairly large vintage photos, and vintage postcard images.They may not all work, but I'll have to play with it all the images and elements and audition my various ideas.
Then I plan to quilt in various purple-y rayon threads. There may be some bobbin work and other thread embellishment. Finally, there will be beads and charms--things like tiny religious medals. This should all keep me occupied for some months yet.
That's the game plan. Of course, now that i'm fired up and rolling on this project, I have to go back to work tomorrow.
Sunday, April 16, 2006
Making one change in the house can have a ripple effect, and the coming of this new oak cupboard has been a case in point. A great catch-all of a rolltop desk had been in the space before and was chock-full of fourteen years of having sat in the same place. Phone books, maps, paper clips, stationery, stamps, cancelled checks... Well, believe me, it was all there. That desk had never been used much as a desk, but it was a very handy place to dump things.
This spawned a Great Reorganization spree--collecting the aforementioned stuff and integrating it with similar stuff in other drawers, taking measurements, trekking to WalMart, buying interlocking Rubbermaid drawer organizer boxes. Not my preferred weekend activity, but I feel like I've accomplished something. Including throwing away at least half a dozen bubble pipes and wands that have been in one particular drawer for a LONG time. The kids are 27 and 24--if they ever need bubble pipes and wands again, they can go buy their own.
This is all prelude to the arrival of the new cupboard, which happened Saturday afternoon. And isn't it a beauty? It looks right at home. I couldn't be more pleased. We unpacked my mother's Purinton Apple dishes and I had a great time arranging them all on the shelves. Just like playing house...
The former owner of the cupboard is a friend who goes WAAAAAY back with me, one of the infamous Mount Mary crew. We've known each other since we were eighteen--back around the time the earth cooled. She's such a delight--I will think of her every time I look at the cupboard. And she tells me she's similarly happy that her hutch is now living at my house.
And Jane, I had no idea you had a picture and profile on the web till I Googled you. Too funny.
Saturday, April 15, 2006
We closed at noon on Friday, and while I might question the wisdom of that decision, I took the time off and ran with it. Got a lot of mundane things accomplished--laundry, grocery shopping, banking. And a decent meal was prepared. Now THERE is an accomplishment.
Will is here and he and I sat up late, discussing techno issues. He's doing a lot of the website for his employer and it's interesting to hear about his web issues. He's also assisting me with my iPod, and that's an ongoing educational project. Those little devices certainly do a lot.
My latest iPod passion is podcasts, although I have to laugh at the masochism of it all--listening to "What's fresh at the farmer's market today?" from a California Public Broadcasting station is guaranteed to produce extreme frustration and existential angst in Wisconsin residents like me who are only just beginning to see a green blade of grass or two in our neck of the woods.
There was time for sewing yesterday, and knitting too. There aren't good ways to photograph quilt progress too well. I'm assembling blocks, and it's moving along. I should get some photos posted of the Kimono Shawl, which is coming along slowly and steadily. I'm on the ninth repeat of twenty-five. Looking good.
Today the big news is of a furniture variety. My new (to me) hutch is arriving this afternoon. It's a Victorian antique with Eastlake detailing. I bought it from my college friend Jane, who in turn bought it in upper Michigan, so it has a nice ancestral tie-in with my DH. I have the perfect spot for it, where it no longer fit in with Jane's scheme. Can't wait to see it!
The top has glass-fronted doors, and this means VISIBLE STORAGE and DISPLAY! The dilemma is what exactly to store and display. No lack of possibilities around here... I have two complete sets of dishes packed and I can unpack one set. What to do?These?
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
So I'm feeling pretty good about what I'm seeing but there's a long way to go. I would have more pictures to show but Blogger is being very poky tonight.
This seems like a long week, even though it'll be abbreviated, with a lovely long weekend ahead. Our new-to-us hutch arrives this weekend, courtesy of the strong muscles of the males of the family. Can't wait to move into it, although THAT fun stuff has to be preceded by the moving out of the desk which is in that space now. I know I can do without the desk in that spot. But the desk holds a cartload of STUFF, some of which needs to stay in the area for convenience. Like phone books, paper clips, stamps, etc. I have some kitchen drawers that could be organized to deal with all this but that doesn't sound like a real fun job to me. One more example of how a little job grows bigger and bigger.
I plan to have a good deal of time this weekend for sewing. With luck I could have most of the piece assembled by weekend's end (which is Tuesday--Yippee!)
Sunday, April 09, 2006
Then I had a concise email from Casey: "Wanna go?" Of course I wanted to go.
We drove down with Judy, another comadre from the Milwaukee Art Quilters, and had a marvelous day. Sometimes you just have to make the effort and it will be richly rewarded.
We saw tons of friends, including the greatly missed Nancy, who now lives waaaaay Up North. And yes, I bought a few things (she said with more than a hint of peevish defensiveness in her voice).
One of my favorite vendors, Bohemian Elements, had their usual evocative mix of ethnic fabrics and trims. I sunk the big bucks of the day into three yards of gorgeous indigo ikat fabrics.
Wendy Richardson's QT Studio had some wonderful overdyed fabrics and I couldn't resist this chartreuse bit of heavy cotton damask. I also picked up a Sewing Workshop vest pattern. I think the plan of action will be to make it first in the damask, then once I understand how the pattern works, I'll try a pieced version with the indigo ikat.
Artgirlz Charms. Possibly to embellish Ephemera, the Peace pin to embellish me. I also bought a couple beaded African bracelets for self-embellishment.
The best cheap find: Casey and I got into a $5 make-It-And-Take-It class taught by one of my art heroes, Lesley Riley. The class led us through photo transfer using gel medium, and aging techniques using art materials and instant coffee.. Very fun--we both ended up with four transfers to bring home, got to hobnob with Lesley, and learned something new. How cool is that?
I have been so conflicted with my quilting. Last post, I alluded to an announcement, and had more than one email asking, "What's up?". I'm afraid it's more a denouement than anything else.
Last fall, I had been so vocal and excited about working on my Ephemera piece. But lately it's been languishing and me too, right along with it. I've been thinking up reasons NOT to work on it, feeling very much up against the wall. This working full-time is a killer, and so often I come home at night with little creative zip left in me. The announcement was going to be the Packing Away of Ephemera, to be replaced by something new and fresh.
I'm happy to say that in the past days, a couple of things have rekindled my enthusiasm. One thing is Bird In the Hand, a blog done by a woman who also works full-time at what I would imagine to be a fairly draining job. She comes home and does marvelous art in the evenings and on weekends, lives an artful life, and manages all this with grace and style. I keep this blog filed under Creativity in my Bloglines file. It never fails to lift me up and inspire me. If she can do it, I can do it.
And being out with quilters, seeing the show, and seeing so many friends from over the years, has recharged the batteries in a substantive way. I'm going to continue on with Ephemera and see if I can at least get it assembled. And then see how I feel about it. Once it's assembled I suspect I'll feel very good about it indeed. Onward!
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
Today I drove fifty miles each way to attend a workshop called Verbal Judo--Handling Difficult People. The timing was good-after our patron meltdown of a couple weeks ago, I figured I could use some tips on people-wrangling. The presenter was a police officer, and he had workable-sounding ideas for dealing with and de-fusing human powder kegs. Hope that will help the next time we have a fist-pounding, screaming harpy to deal with. And her arrogant spouse too.
What is there about a library that brings out the worst in some people?
Tomorrow I have an all-day workshop on FrontPage, anointed official web-design program of the Waukesha County Libraries. 9 to 3, and then I'm done for the day!
So what's happening in my fiberworld? Seven of us did indeed meet at Espresso Love in Mukwonago on Sunday, spending the rainy afternoon companionably knitting. It was all going so well until the young chicks staffing the place brought out the vacuum cleaners half an hour before closing and proceeded to clean. Loudly. We were nice about it, but later agreed we were too nice. Next time we'll not sit still for that sort of thing.
No pictures today, but the Kimono Shawl is approaching 24 inches in length. That's about 1/3 completed inches-wise, though the pattern calls for 25 pattern repeats and I'm on #8. I've also been working on the long-running Trekking socks, which have only been underway since October. I need to get those done and move on. Perhaps to the Jaywalker Sock. I have at least eight kinds of sock yarn that would make up into dynamite Jaywalkers.
I've also been giving some serious thought to my very dormant quilting and am on the verge of an announcement.
Saturday, April 01, 2006
Twice a year this small-scale fiber fest is held on a small mohair goat-raising farm in the heart of deepest southern Wisconsin country, about half an hour from where I live. The spring date is always the first weekend of April. I think I've described making my way through stinging horizontal snow to get from barn to barn at the show. Today, though the clouds were gray and glowery, and though the temp hovered around 40, there was no snow. Hallelujah for that, at least.
The hunky fleece shearing guy was there, keeping up a line of snappy patter as he clamped each goat between his knees and made with the clippers. A goat might bleat just a bit, but he (or she) clearly knew who was boss, and the shearing proceeded without incident. I imagine there is quite a learning process there for anyone aspiring to shear sheep or goats. This shearer told of dropping the bomb on his parents that he planned to pursue this line of work (I'll bet THAT was an interesting conversation...), training in California and Australia, and devising his shearing clothes, made of felted wool. (Jeans become saturated with lanolin and then get slippery, with no between-the-knees traction for holding onto wiggly (or even flailing) goats.)
Parentheses within parentheses: can I do that?? Paging Lynne Truss...
Even his shoes were felted wool, very primitive-looking moccasin-type shoes. You could imagine a shearer in 9th century Britain wearing similar footgear. Practicality is timeless.
LondonDairy Alpacas brought a couple of very sweet young alpacas. Their huge eyes are very affecting and they're just as docile as they look. The two alpacas were very attached to each other and were touching each other in some way almost all the time. Except when I took the picture I guess.
The yarn selection was not huge but it's all The Real Thing--grown, dyed, and spun on farms, and much of it is in natural shades. What processing is done off the farm is all done right here in Wisconsin. And the prices are excellent.
I bought ten skeins of off-white sportweight wool from White Dove Farm. One of my first knit projects was a scarf made from one of their kits. The yarn retained some of the lanolin smell. I love that smell and could just bury my face in it. And to be honest, as I drove home from Tall Grass, I kept pulling a skein from the bag and drinking in that aroma.
Is that the definition of a wool junkie?
More pictures here.