It’s a cow! (tell me it looks like a cow)

This project is a departure for me.  I’m still not quite sure how it happened.  I mean, I meant to make a cow–but I thought it would simplistic or cartoonish.  I can’t draw.  I can’t shade.  But something about this seems to be working.  It’s funny.  I worked more than half my life as a floral designer for special events—mostly weddings.  I always found that even though I was designing a bouquet in my hand, right in front of my face,  I had to look in a mirror to see what it really looked like.  It’s shape.  It’s color balance.  With this project, for some reason, I started taking pictures at various stages.  I was having a devil of a time figuring out the shading of the lower snout and mouth.  I couldn’t even tell you how many times I ripped it out and tried again.  The camera shots helped.  Even if I looked at the shots immediately after having taken them, still in the camera, not even downloaded, it gave me perspective.  A perspective that was separated from me. It’s a curious and useful tool.  It could also demonstrate how I tend to get in my own way when I design.  The mirror or camera image seems to separate my id from my ego and just shows me the truth.  Or so I hope.

Cow on the hooking frame. Coming along.

Tibetan Diamonds

I’m thrilled to report that upon my husband’s return from some extensive travels, I have managed to not kill a single houseplant (or fish).  And my reward, you ask?  The darling guy brought me home a sack of mineral dyed yak yarn from a carpet studio in Tibet.  And when I say “sack”, I mean sack. As innovative as men tend to be about these things, he very thoughtfully wrapped the whole lot up in a pillow case for me to unveil—and it was a clean one, too!

I like diamonds, too, but my guy knows fiber is this girl's best friend.

Portrait of an Heirloom

What makes something an heirloom?  This is a question I typically ask myself when I start any new design, but especially when it is for a newborn.  When a child enters this fast paced, do it yesterday, mechanized, computerized, factoried, harried world, it seems to be all the more important to have one little piece of quietude to wrap them in.  Something that was made slowly, meticulously, and with great care.

my recently finished Aran Cabled Baby Bunting in a new color, but the same beautiful organic chunky yarn


incubating creativity

Around here, we have a rather intimate view of the lives of the birds we share our yard with.  We witness the jealous sparring of the chickadees, playful flights of the blue jayes, romantic strolls of the geese couple who roost with us every year, and even the exhibitionist habits of the robins who mate on our fence post.  Spring advances and the nest building begins as the expectant parents prepare for their broods.  The morning dove nests in the eave over our screened porch, the oriole builds its amazing hanging nest in the birch by our front door, and the blue jaye takes up residence in the bush by my studio window.  Day by day, we wake to a whole new family that’s ventured into the world.  We count heads of hatchlings of all sorts and listen with amusement to their morning symphony of peeps and chirps—which I may feel is just squawking if I haven’t yet had enough coffee— and worry over them all staying safe from the foxes and hawks, and even negligent new parents.  — They mean well.

a collection of starter homes

As the season passes, and fledglings have enough of their hovering parents and advance into a world of their own, we start to find abandoned nests blown across the yard or fallen on a trail.  We collect them and marvel at the skill and craft that went into the building these ephemeral homes, these little snapshots of other creatures lives—and of ours, too.  It’s a wonder to see the imprint our life has made.  There are nests lined with hair from our dogs and those that are carefully woven confections of grass and stray pieces of shredded packing material that escaped the recycling bin.  My favorites are the ones that include little bits of ribbon or yarn from my work.  I suppose I can share my creative inspirations with them.  I’m in good company.

a nest lined with hair from my dogs is filled with acorns made from real caps, a wine cork (left) and rolled paper (right)
just pretty

Russian Join

One of the most irksome parts of knitting is attaching a new skein of yarn after finishing the first.  This is especially true for me since I do so much knitting in the round.  I rarely have a seam I can hide a tail in.  Then the clouds parted, the gloom lifted, and yarn join nirvana descended from the heavens.  I was in love.

I can only guess that the Russian Join originated if not in Russia, then at least someplace in Eastern Europe (a quick Google search failed to elucidate me).  That could explain why this Polish girl gravitates towards it.  In truth though, everyone should add this simple technique to their repertoire as it offers a near invisible  yarn join for so many different types of yarn.  In the example below, I’ve used two different colors of cotton yarn for visual clarity.  Other than that, the only tools you need are a yarn darning needle and a pair of scissors.

Thread the first yarn through your needle. Cross the tails of the two skeins of yarn you are joining.
Loop the first yarn back over itself, capturing the other yarn. Thread the needle through the center of the yarn for about 3".
Pull the tail of the yarn, tightening the loop snugly down against the other strand.
Repeat the same steps with the other yarn tail.
Trim off any excess tails.
And there you have it.

And it progresses

I’m still searching for a few more pieces of fabric to complement the background colors. Unfortunately, whenever I find the perfect piece of wool to work with, inevitably it is being worn as part of some lucky person’s ensemble (pants, skirts, etc.). A little inappropriate to get all grabby about it.

Studio Reads: An Exact Replica of a Figment of my Imagination, a Memoir

An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination

I was taken by the title immediately.  How could I not be?  Looking at the those words on the back cover of another book I was reading, I had to see what it was about.

“A child dies in this book: a baby.”  The author, Elizabeth McCracken writes.  And it is her child.  But what is so beautiful and unique about this tale is that while tragic, it is written as a love story.  It is written with wit and humor along with the pain as she eloquently describes the life, death, and the role this child still has to play in the life she and her family continue to live.  Their son is not lost.  He is just not with them the way they want him to be.

Work in Progress

my design traced out and ready to be transferred to the foundation fabric

It was dismally rainy here a couple of days ago, so I holed up in my studio and tackled designing a rug to hook.  I love oriental rugs, so I took my lead from that.  I combined some motifs from rugs I have in the house with adaptations of a photoshop brush or two and then threw in a dash of  traditional primitives in the form of a penny design.  Me being me, I couldn’t have a perfectly centered asymmetrical pattern.  I’m always intrigued with what the mind’s eye needs to fill in, so I let things run amok and fall of the edges of the piece.

the design is on its linen foundation and is ready to get hooked!

I’m anxious to get hooking and start playing with colors.  I’m thinking mottled creamy tones for the background with soft pinks, browns, greens, and turquoise for the main body of the design.  But you never know with me.  That may well all change.

Studio Reads: The Dressmaker of Khair Khana

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana

I’m well aware that a reading list from the depths of an active studio should be filled with tomes of design inspiration and manuals of technique.  And, don’t worry.  I have plenty of those.  The list is dizzying.  But while I spend most of any given day either pouring over those volumes or listening to audio books while I work, it seems to be a rare treat when I get to actually pick up and interact with a real story.  Finger the pages.  Cling to the cover.  So I am delighted to just have finished the The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon.  This beautiful true story tells the tale of a young woman and her family surviving the harrowing years of war and Taliban rule in Kabul.  Their strength, wit, and courage inspire while the never failing can-do resiliency and adaptability resonates.  From the safety of my American middle class upbringing, I have never confronted true hardship, but by the end of my reading of this book a basic tenant I hold dear was reaffirmed.  The best business plan is simple and this:  Believe in yourself and what you do.  If you don’t,  no one else will.