Thursday, February 16, 2017

Knitting Up a Storm

I woke up to rain on the skylights this morning and it's continued on and off all morning.  We're ready to see the snow go.  According to the Bible story, a rainbow is God's symbol to Noah that he will bring the rain to an end.  I'm ready for that too.
I bought a book on how to knit stuffed animals but after knitting all the pieces up, was simply incapable of sewing them together in any fashion that was remotely cute.  I threw these pieces in the trash, put the book in a library donation pile and knitted Owen the blue bear.  I learned that I'd rather do all the shaping on my needles rather than do it this way.
At least I thought that's what I preferred until I got to the end of this "carrot" and find that I have knitted an orange codpiece.  The Arumagami book is challenging but I managed all the other veggies in the book, just not this one.  I'm looking on Ravelry for an alternative pattern.  I need to hurry though as Olivia's birthday is March 1st.
These are the veggies I've knitted so far and the garlic is my favorite.
I finished the market bag last night but in looking at it this morning I realize that it's inappropriate for a four-year-old girl.  It's just too big for her.
I tore it back this morning from 100 stitches to a base of 80 stitches.  The lace pattern is simply Row 1 - *knit 2 tog, YO* repeat, and Row 2 - Knit.  It should go quickly but if it has to be late, I'd rather it's cute and the right size.
I've been knitting away on my daughter's scarf (which she has asked me to sew into a cowl) but since her birthday is in April and this is almost done, I'll set aside for now.  I look forward to seeing it blocked.  These are all colors that she loves and wears.

I made the mistake of signing up for two art classes that were offered concurrently so have been spending huge amounts of time on my projects, and in fact, I have a class tonight which is five-week course sampling four printmaking techniques.  I did take my bin of handwovens to the last session of my drawing class and sold a couple hundred dollars worth, including the iridescent scarf, and they've asked me to bring my stuff back to our next session.  I've been weaving like a mad woman, in between everything else.

And then there's the issue of body maintenance - I try to get to three Tai Chi sessions a week and continue with my home program in follow-up to four months of physical therapy.  This week my body took a beating, starting with a visit to Urgent Care Sunday morning because I woke up with my right eye glued shut.  Stye!  Remember those?  I spent 2 1/2 hours in the dentists chair Tuesday afternoon getting prepped for a crown and tomorrow is my one-year follow-up mammo.  It's been a year!

My mother used to say that the demands of caring for her old body had become like a hobby, one she didn't like. Speaking of my mother, I found a box containing papers that she had saved.  I had a number of boxes in our garage in Red Rock but procrastinated in taking care of them to the point that mice made nests of most everything.  Ian found the mess when packing up the garage and put anything salvageable in a bin.
One of the boxes lost to the mice was all the artwork that I had saved from my kids school days so I was delighted to find that she had saved this of Christina's.  I'm using it as the image for my Dry Point class tonight.
Ian went to Costco Monday while I was at A6 for my volunteer shift.  iPads were on sale and this one came home with him.  He's already claimed my old one and can't believe how much he likes and uses it.  I'm deliberating on whether or not to buy an external keypad. I'm cheap!

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Books, Books, Books

I got on a kick last year which influenced my reading for about six months.  It all started when I found a deaccessioned library copy of After You Marco Polo by Jan Bowie Shor.  My mom and I had read it together in the early 70s and I've always remembered it.  It was even better the second time.  The book was published in 1955 and I read it in 1969, then again currently. It surprisingly retains it's relevance as the backdrop is the Silk Road which has been heavily bombed after years of war. I love cultural geography books and this one is at the top of the game.

After I finished that book I wanted to read more about the region so got onto Amazon to see if they had anything relevant or interesting.  I found The Silk Roads: A New History of the World by Peter Frankopan which 238 readers had given 4.5 stars.  The author does a remarkable job of condensing 5,000 years of world history into 500 pages. It was a slow read and I found myself picking it and putting it down, trying to digest the interrelationship of western civilization with the rest of the known world. If you read nothing else, read the last chapter, or the last two chapters!

This reminded me of another book that I had enjoyed years ago - Caravans by James Michener and I bought this too, this time from Dudley's, a local and very cool Indy bookstore.  Michener wrote this over 50 years ago and his Afghanistan then is just relevant than it was when he wrote it.

The narrator is a Yale man, posted by the State Department to Kabul who ends up inadvertently striking up an unlikely friendship with an American-educated Afghani engineer who has a passionate vision for his country's future. I'm glad this was my book because I ended up writing all through it, but the thing that made me the most sad was when the engineer quipped, "Do you know what I expect...seriously? When a thousand men like me have rebuilt Kabul and made it as best as The City once was, either the Russians or the Americans will come with their airplanes and bomb it to rubble."

I had received a prepublication copy The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko by Scott Stambach about the same time and since it's set in Belarus, it seemed on-topic to me.  It ended up being what I call a stick-to-your-ribs book, it's going to hang around in my thoughts for a while.  I have never read anything like it.  I kept trying to pigeon-hole it, thinking this is what Solzhenitsyn's Cancer Ward would look like as a YA book, but that wasn't quite right so I thought, this is a Russian version of John Green's The Fault in Our Stars but it was so much more than that.  It's a coming of age story for children who won't have the opportunity to come of age.

What do you say about a hospital in Belarus that exists to serve children born with birth defects following the Chernobyl meltdown?  The beginning is a little awkward as our narrator Ivan, born with multiple birth defects, introduces his fellow "asylum inmates."  The hospital staff are less than admirable with the exception of one extraordinary and wonderfully compassionate nurse.  Ivan and leukemia-patient Polina strike up an unlikely friendship followed by romance in the face of their devastating odds, and it is their pluck and determination to live and thrive that are at the heart of this book.  For the subject matter, it's surprisingly easy to read.

For Christmas Ian had given me My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk, the Turkish author who won the Nobel-Prize prize in literature.  Pamuk does a great job of putting faces on lives of 16th century Istanbul. This was a good companion book to The Silk Roads.  However, by the end of 400 pages I had grown impatient with their Islamic rule of order. One man noted "my dearly departed mother advised me that there were two types of people in the world: those who were cowed and crushed by their childhood beatings, forever downtrodden, she said, because the beatings had the desired effect of killing the inner Devils: and those fortunate ones for whom the beatings frightened and tamed the devil within without killing him off." If you liked Humberto Eco's book The Name of the Rose, I think you will like this.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Happy February!!

I must say that February looks an awful lot like January which looked an awful lot like December.  Mind you, I'm not complaining.  We're getting used to parking on the snow and ice and wearing snow boots for daily footwear..It's just that I've never lived anywhere so cold that snow doesn't melt in between storms.  It's good weaving weather, that's for sure.

It's good for knitting too.  I finished Owen's birthday bear and got it out in the mail today.  This little blue bear is handspun blue-face Leicester that I put in an indigo pot a couple of years ago at Mim's house.  The dye came off on my hands while I was knitting so once I was done, he got a good dousing in a vinegar bath to fix the color.  Either that worked or else I was finally able to rinse out the residual dye.
Laura was in Bend today and stopped by before going home to Prineville.  She wanted to see what I was working on so I showed her the second set of confetti towels.  She said they're the tide pool colors of her DIL's kitchen and she bought the one on the left.

And speaking of dish towels, this is Pat Clark, our amazing instructor and mentor to many at the class critique last Saturday.  She gave us a new assignment and again two periods of open studio, so at the Monday night session Sue brought up my colorful dishtowels.  She bought several towels from me at the guild holiday sale last November.  Pat stopped by visit Mary Wonser with whom I was sharing a booth and ended up buying a couple towels too.  Helen announced she was tired of hearing about my wonderful towels.  She wanted to SEE them.  So they asked me to bring them to the final class session this Saturday.

As I was leaving our open studio session today, Pat reminded me to bring my woven items and to not be embarrassed to attach price tags.  I told her that I've been setting examples aside and hoped it would be okay if I talk a little about color blending in weaving.  She loved it so I'm going to get to talk a little about optical color blending.  I think they're going to be blown away by iridescence.  I know I am.
I started a dish towel warp in the bright happy colors of zinnias.  I've been a little frazzled this week and was squeezing out a few minutes here and there, and as you all know, haste makes waste.  I was short four warp threads.  The few times I've done this before have resulted in a tangled mess so in desperation I wound nine years of the missing threads onto a TP roll and secured it with a sock looper.  I posted this to 4-Shaft Weaving on Facebook and another weaver said that when this has happened to her, she winds the yardage onto a bobbin in a heavy shuttle and sets it on the floor for tension.  I will definitely keep that in mind.
I had some time today to start dressing my loom.  I cannot wait to see how these colors build and develop when the optical color blending happens.  I was careful to make sure that there's a light value in each pair.  I have an example I'll show on Saturday of two analogous colors with the same value that lost their way.  I'm a little nervous about talking to art school artists about color but at the same time I'm really excited about it.

Friday, January 27, 2017

And More Print Making

I had to carve the rest of the block here at the house.  I've got it on a piece of non-slip rug backing to keep it from sliding around while I'm using those very sharp tools.
I kept in mind that this is a class exercise and didn't beat myself up too much about the carving.  I only had a couple of hours yesterday afternoon and a couple more this morning.
I was working like a madwoman trying to carve out as much of the background material as time would allow.  I learned a lot about my tools through this exercise and really appreciated the .12 mm u-gouge that I splurged on.
Pat had me first print on the sepia prints that I had made last Monday evening.  I makes me think of music somehow.
And then for my record she had me print just the block in black ink.
These were the two prints combining watercolor and the inked block.  Actually, it's not water color - it's acrylic.  I am not a painter and simply couldn't get the hang of watercolor.  I misregistered the print on the right which left a space of white across the top and left side.
I brought it home with me to mix up some more acrylics and fill in those gaps.  It has a South American feel to me.  I weave a lot of towels using the colors of Fiesta Ware and without even thinking about it, chose those same colors for this print.  Tomorrow is the class critique, the second lecture and the next class exercise.  I hope it's as much fun and this one was!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

More Art to Ignore the Snow

I've signed up for another class at A6, a three-week class on drawing.  It's not the traditional drawing class since everyone has taken that years ago and in fact a number of the 22 students enrolled have art degrees, some have have MFAs.  I refuse to be intimidated.  Pat Clark is our instructor who is also the founder of the A6 gallery.  She is also the former department head of the art department at Long Beach State which is now a School of the Arts, as in Dr Patricia Clark.  I am sooooooo lucky!

We have classroom instruction and lecture followed by studio time beginning last Saturday and for the following two Saturdays.  In between Saturdays Pat has set aside two open-study periods where we can meet with her for assistance if we want.  I want!  Saturday's class began with us each selecting one print out of a group of five.  I chose the above interior scene.
Our next instruction was to put a sheet of tracing paper on top and outline anything we could see.  This is what I could see.
We set those aside and queued up to one of the five stations placed around the studio.  We had ten pieces of paper and started with blind contour drawings, one page for each station.  In a contour drawing you never lift your pencil, and this means you sketch by only looking at the subject and never at your paper - without lifting your pencil.  I added the watercolor today but this was my blind sketch of a rangy plant.
The next exercise was contour drawing looking at the subject.  I haven't done this in 35 years and back then I cannot tell you how stressed I was.  This time I had a blast, we all did.  The subject of one station was a down jacket all wadded up.  That was crazy.
The final part of the exercise on Saturday was to superimpose the traced image on top of one of our 10 drawings.  This is what I took to Pat last night for my open-studio session.  We were a small group so I got a lot of personal attention.  She liked this and wants me to paint it with watercolors.
I fooled around with watercolor pencils today and for the life of don't see the attraction.  First you have to apply the color by pencil and then you have to go back with a wet brush and smear it all together.  You have to do everything twice -what a pain.  I won't be doing this for my project.
I have this palette of watercolor paints that's probably ten years old but they're still good and I'm glad I didn't give up and throw them away in the move.  Lots of stuff got tossed.
Last night Pat had me trace my drawing in grease pencil so I could superimpose it on my wood block.
This is my woodblock, or as much of it as I was able to carve last night.  We pulled three proofs using a mustard gold and now I have to finish carving the rest of the block.  I am meeting Pat at A6 on Friday at 1:00 to print my woodblock in black on top of my watercolor piece.  Everything about this is new and exciting. The lectures are rich and challenging and this is just the first of three weeks.  On the break I ran out and signed up for the second part of this which will be in May.  And in case you're wondering, yes, this is expensive.  But I rationalize that since my credit card is filling up with medical bills, why shouldn't I put something on it that makes my world go round. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

And Still Snow

I had felt since the first weekend in this month that I probably caught a cold from one of the kinders at SMART on Thursday the 5th.  Each day it was a little bit worse, but not terrible, and I was congratulating myself on dodging that bullet - until Thursday morning last week.  The virus threw itself around my knees and wrestled me to the ground.
My regimen became one of read, knit, nap.  Maybe if I had felt better I might have tried to salvage this knitted hippopotamus but trying to attractively attach the 13 pieces together did not produce a smile in my mucus-addled brain and it went into the trash.  The birthday is only three weeks away and I'm working on Plan B with an adorable pattern I got from DIL Missy this past weekend.
I've also started work on the fruits and veggies I want to knit for Olivia and her birthday is six weeks away so no time to lose there either.
Ian has maintained his trail to the bird feeder where business is brisk.  The last I heard the official total for all three storms is 57.5" but it's more in some places and less in others.  We are pretty sure we've have 5' of snow here.  We had extreme snow in Red Rock but this is a first experience for me, this much snow lasting this long.
The weight of the snow is relentless.  You can see our willow bush is flattened creating a tunnel for Sammie's "poop trail."
And poor girl, once she finishes her business in her path she can't turn around so has to back up all the way to the porch.  She went through powder just once and hasn't tried it since.  She was almost buried and I think it scared her.  Driving is disorienting because there are 3' walls (sometimes more) on both sides of all roads reducing the visibility and sometimes the lanes and making a numbing sameness to every street.  I found myself having to pay close attention to landscape markers that I could identify because not all street signs are visible.

Icicles are an indication of an ice dam at the edge of the roof which block the snow from sliding off.  We don't have gutters so at least we don't have that to worry about.  We let these melt on their own since they're on the west side but Ian's been knocking the rest of the down.  Our roof has a steep pitch so we have just one area of concern but son Josh has a flatter root.  When I was out there this weekend, he was shoveling the deepest areas from his roof.  Everyone is exhausted and harried.
The roof of a school building collapsed before school started Thursday morning and caused the closure of all schools since then.  The remainder of that building has since been demolished.  Several schools have damaged structures and repairs are underway while inspections continue.  Missy went to her school last Thursday and they wouldn't let the teachers go inside.  Her school is one of those identified as at-risk.

This is today's newspaper and the hope is that some of the schools can reopen tomorrow.  The secondary concern is that rain and temperatures in the mid-40s are in tomorrow's forecast with expected flooding.  My weaving guild meeting tomorrow is cancelled for that reason.  The city has been a beehive of activity for the past two days as front-loaders are piling the mountains of snow into trucks and hauling it away from parking lots and intersection.
I had this warp ready to weave last week but was just too miserable to do a thing with it.  These are even more pastel than the first set.  If I ever deliberately acquire variegated yarn in the future I will be looking for more contrast in colors.
You can see that the top cone has more contrast in color and value including yellow.  I sure have a lot of it left - not the stash-buster I was hoping for.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Still Snow

 It snowed for the past week but this snow fell on top of the past two storms and quickly became unmanageable.  Ian has kept at the paths in our yard so Sammie has a place to pee.  It's so traumatic for her.  She holds it until she can't and then she desperately sniffs, trying to locate one of her spots.  But for all that, it was an utter joy to have some sunlight today.  The birds were singing and so was I!
Thank goodness we had the good sense to buy a TroyBilt snowblower when we did because they come at dear price now.  Son Josh bought the same model last weekend.  It was the last one in the store and he paid top dollar for it, but was glad to get it.  He said it was from the money he had saved to put power in his shop but then he realized he wouldn't be able to enjoy it if he were dead.  He says that we are now a Two TroyBilt family.
Ian gamely posed with his indispensable snow shovel. You reach a point where there's no where else to put the snow. Yesterday was declared a Snow Emergency - schools were closed, the public was encouraged to stay off the roads, the mayor released all non-emergency personnel and set up an EOC to deal with the large number of traffic collisions.  That is the 4th snow day this school year.  

Our backyard isn't going to get shoveled and doesn't need to be.
However the night before last we were abruptly awakened about midnight by Maddie yowling like I've never heard before, arching her back and storming around our room.  It was unearthly.  I looked out our door and right in the left corner there was a crouched raccoon staring into the house.  Ian was concerned that might have gotten trapped beneath the deck, and was struggling to get out at this end.  Just to be safe the next day he dug out an area in the event other animals might be trapped under.  We don't need to discover we have a ripening raccoon come spring.
As long as I can remember I've heard the expression that "it's too cold to snow," but I'm here to tell you that is not true.
I made the best of my Snow Day Challenge and finished off the towels using variegated yarn.  I'll probably call them confetti for my record keeping.
With the extra 3" panel in the center, these towels are larger than I'm accustomed to.  I think they might be better in a bathroom.  I'm sure they're more absorbent than terrycloth towels.

 I've pulled these together so make another Four Towels from Four Cones challenge with the last cone of variegated.  After five days we are going to be able to get out tomorrow and run our errands so weaving will wait.  Our weather is predicted to warm up on Sunday with several days of rain in the forecast.  That should keep things interesting.