Category: musings

And then It Was Done

And then It Was Done

Garlands of peppers hang next drying herbs and hooked rugs.Here in my spot of Maine a switch has been pulled.  Summer tomato salads have given way to a pot of simmering lamb stew(with tomatoes).  Morning strolls to the garden are no longer barefeet and tank tops, but oversized sweaters and thick slippers.  Rest assured, no matter the season, there is always a steaming cup of coffee involved.   Almost to my horror at this point–not really, but really—the tomatoes keep coming, despite the blighted state of their affairs.  I’ve frozen, canned, jammed, and sauced them in every way I can think of.  The summer squashes are rife with powdery mildew even though we’ve had only scant rain and the garden well has run dry.  Even still, they keep fruiting.  There’s a basket of garlic in my studio that rivals my baskets of wools.  There’s a tsunami of hot peppers coming in that my husband dutifully strings to dry, even though he is a little scared of them.  But my studio feels festive and decorated for celebration with vegetal garlands hanging from my display rails along with drying herbs, my finished rugs and freshly dyed skeins of wool.

My garden always gives me solace.  Maybe more so this year than usual, but in equal measure to my work—which has taken wild turns into unexpected territories.  There is more to muse over on that topic, but for the moment I’m going to enjoy my hooking and the burbling of stew on the stove.

I hope you are all well in these tumultuous times.  Not only are my thoughts with you, so are my actions.

Be well,

Jess

An enormous basket of garlic holds reign in my studio along with baskets of wool.

The Year is 2020

The Year is 2020

The year is 2020.  I spend an inordinate amount of time making cloth masks on my 1930s Singer.  I’m hooking a Pandemic rug.  It’s snowing in May.  My hair is purple.  Life is different.  Worse.  Better.  Changed.  Evolving.  To be determined.

 

Face mask with wording, "I care, do you?"

I feel like we are living in a Snow Globe.  Shake it to enhance the innocence, naïveté, denial.  Hide behind glittery objects.  Oh, so sparkly.  I can’t explain what’s going on.  Why is data (science) a four letter word?

Still, I find joy in the garlic–planted last fall during more hopeful times–persisting in pushing through its straw mulch.  The seedlings that lay in wait to put down roots in the garden until this snow and minor league temperatures pass.    The patio slowly taking shape as I lay it down stone by stone.  We have a home, a garden, a patio.   All of them riches, by any measure.  We are still trying to decipher the world and determine how to help make it a better place for everyone.  And, yes,  I entirely acknowledge there’s not much in the way of grammar going on.

Be well,

Jess

The garlic coming in before the snow.
Scraps and Anger

Scraps and Anger

Like many of you, mask making has become a significant part of my daily tasks.  When I finished yesterday’s allotment, I realized a low grade fury had been building as I worked over my sewing machine.  I grabbed discolored and worn antique flannel and a scrap of quilting cotton from the late 1800s and made my Vote mask.  Born of scraps and anger.

Vote written across a face mask.

1930s Singer Sewing Machine
I do almost all my sewing on an antique sewing machine. Now I can’t decide if it’s fitting or tragic that in 2020 I’m sewing masks on a 1930s Singer.

Stay safe.  Be well.

I Can’t Om Alone

I Can’t Om Alone

There are so many things on mind, yet my head is blank at the same time.  I’m a gifted worrier, which is usually a good thing because it keeps us prepared and ahead of the game.  Now the only things I have control over are the little, frankly stupid things, and I feel myself getting edgy and raw.  I miss my yoga classes, which generally help center me, among other things.  And I’m grateful for the online resources that enable me to continue my somewhat hobbled practice at the edge of my dining room.  I’ve always chanted, hummed easily and enjoyably in class, even tiny classes.  But at home, I find I can’t Om alone.

I hope you are all safe, healthy, and well, though I know everyone isn’t whether you or a loved one is unwell or you or loved one is on the front lines of trying to save us all. My gratitude to everyone for doing their part.  I look forward to the day that we can all take one big breath, chant one long OM, or do anything and everything else together again.

Be well.

Day Lily sprouts sheltered under a chair covered with snow.
We’ve been having alternating days of snow then warmth. Even the weather is unsettled. On a recent snowy morning I captured this image just outside my studio door. It seemed to speak to how we are all feeling.

 

Budget Garden Tricks

Budget Garden Tricks

The news is overwhelming.  I am not surprising any of you with that statement.  Of course, I take solace in my hooking, my fabrics, my knitting.  But I also find hope and inspiration in the newly popping seedlings lined by my windows preparing for garden season.  I don’t usually attempt seedlings, preferring to defer that task to my wonderful neighbors at Morning Dew Farm.  But there were a couple things I wanted for my garden this year that weren’t available, so I took the small task of starting a few thing on for myself.  And immediately ran into problems.  I’ve cataloged for you here a few of my little low to no budget garden tricks to keep this train on the rails.

Paper Bag Seedling Pots
Sunflowers don’t like their roots to be disturbed. To start them inside successfully, they must be in a container that will biodegrade when planted in the ground. I made these pots out of paper bags and they’ll go right into the soil with their seedlings when the weather warms. I just need to remember to remove the tape, which does not breakdown.
After two weeks, my hot pepper starts had failed to break ground despite keeping them near the wood stove. Looking for a quick fix, I put them in a storage bin lined with Christmas lights and topped with a piece of Plexiglas glass. I confess, I always give my husband grief for his hoarding tendencies.  But being to assemble this little contraption from our barn stash has quieted me for the moment. Within Hours, my seedlings started popping.

 

My little bean seedling has a new home in a pot made from scraps of my rug hooking linen.
I have a drawer full of rug hooking linen scraps that I’ve deemed too large to throw out and too small to be particularly useful. Then my pole bean seedlings outgrew their egg carton start. My little bean seedlings now have a new home in pots I made from scraps of my rug hooking linen.  You could use any scrap fabric on hand.
Peg Loom Rag Rugs

Peg Loom Rag Rugs

I first came across peg looms at one fiber festival or another a few years back and was immediately enthralled.  What I was seeing were gorgeous alpaca rugs and throws. My immediate thought, however, was that I might try my hand at peg loom rag rugs.  The idea simmered for a time.  And then a time too long.

I’m a tremendous fan of recycling and reusing.  Much of my work involves the repurposing of old wools, cashmere sweaters, vintage and antique cloth and other materials.  While my love affair with rug hooking is unequivocal, I’m always curious about other techniques, processes, and learning opportunities.  New ways to use materials I may have collected, but aren’t necessarily my go to’s—cottons for example, are a constant tease.  Weaving would seem an obvious destination for a girl with my fiber proclivities, but two things held me back:  the space requirements of a number of styles of looms and the limitations of a shoulder injury.  Here I circle back to my introduction to a peg loom and the possibility of it fulfilling  my dream of creating rag rugs.

The Appeal

Unlike most looms I’d known, a peg loom is compact and requires very little space, is portable, and could work with the stash I already have.  It is simply comprised of a wooden block  base drilled to accept pegs.  Each peg, in turn, has a hole drilled through the bottom diameter to accept your warp threads or yarns.  That’s it.  You can use as many or as few of the pegs as you like for a piece.  The more you use, the wider your weaving will be.  The length of your warp threads determines how long your weaving can go.  When I divulged my plans to my hubby, thinking I could give this a go with a scrap of 2 x 4 and some dowels, he surprised me with a beautiful, well thought out finished maple piece.  The pressure was on!

Getting Going

I had a few stops and starts with peg loom weaving.  And I’m going to insert here a big thank you to Anne at Cape Newagen Alpaca Farm for the confidence building time she spent with me!   The finished weave is a bit different than the more traditional under/over method.  Fabric created on peg loom creates a weave that leaves only the weft visible.  Rather than beating the weft into place as you go, the warp is cinched up at the end to create the density of the fabric.

My first few attempts found me experimenting with core spun alpaca, vintage flannel yardage, and recycled saris.  The latter two were torn into strips that I joined as I went.  I definitely have been bitten by the bug now and have more plans.  I want to experiment with chunky warps and, alternatively, more delicate wefts.  Visions of denim and antique silks are a tease.  The possibilities are enticing.  Rag rugs have always appealed to me, but different materials could make wonderful table runners or placements, window shades or pillows.

Peg Loom Rag Rug

The Fruits of Summer

The Fruits of Summer

Nothing may signal the height of summer more than a robust tomato harvest.  Rich ruby reds, sunset golds, and greens that yellow around their shoulders while their bottoms blush pink as they ripen— so many varieties are in the garden this year, I couldn’t tell you them all.  I’m a big fan of the variety pack, and love the surprise begotten by both a lack of knowledge and no memory of what I ordered way back in February.  Each of the fifty tomato plants, plus the volunteers we let grow, is a surprise package.  I never know what we’ll get.  One thing for sure, though, is that we have bounty!  My day falls into a a comfortable rhythm:  tomatoes are quartered and slow roasted for hours while I hook or scribble out ideas for new designs.  Packaged, frozen, and start again.  We gather ponderous bulb trays full of these juicy beauties from the garden, and they even travel with us when we escape to camp for a few days of respite from everything but our tomato chores.  In the roasting, the tomatoes’ flavors mingle, intensify, nearly caramelize.  While we can enjoy the fresh flavorful fruits of summer right off the vine now, come fall then winter, these roasting days of tomato summer will sustain us.

 

Discovering Rufus Porter

Discovering Rufus Porter

My recent design rabbit hole started with a desire to create a historic looking mural for our home. Somewhere in my search for folk art painting techniques I stumbled upon one Mr. Rufus Porter and the rug hooker in me took over. His motifs struck a chord. While I’ve yet to paint anything, I’ve been enjoying designing rugs inspired by his work. This little footstool is the first of many to come.

I’ve been dabbling with woodworking lately. This primitive little stool paired beautifully with my Rufus Porter inspired rug.
It took some trial and error to get the background colors just right for both mood and visibility, but I love how it came out.
The knot in the wood became the perfect little accent to the “legs” of the stool.