Saturday, August 29, 2015

Books Books Books

I got a call from the school district library services office on Monday asking if I could work this week, so I ended up subbing Tuesday-Friday.  The new librarian was supposed to start on Monday the 31st.  However, Thursday I was in the middle of a class visit when the secretary popped in to see if I could work this coming week.  She needed to know as she was leaving and wouldn't be in on Friday.  Yikes - I might even make a social security quarter this month!

Since I have no time to weaving right now I thought I'd catch up on my book recommendations.  I have only included the ones I really liked.  And now I'm all caught up.

Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen by Susan Gregg Gilmore.  This read like a cross between Fannie Flagg and Anne Rivers Siddons - a good Southern tale. It takes place in a small town and focuses on the preacher's famly, a preacher with feet of clay, and more about his daughters and the women who carry this story. The ending was a little tidy, tying up loose ends a little too neatly for my taste, which is why I couldn't give this four stars. It's a fantastic debut work - very entertaining.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin.   My bookclub chose this book and we lean toward literary works, so this felt like a spoof on our tastes, with so many of the book clubs and book discussions developing throughout. The anatomy of a book club, its expectations, a reader's response to a book made this great fun to read and fun to talk about.

Language Arts by Stephanie Kallos.  This is the slowest reading of Kallos' three books and the jumping around in time made it hard for me to get sucked in, however, the writing is beautiful and even, slowly developing and revealing more about Charles with every chapter. While there are many threads, this is his story. He was an only child but his parents were so absorbed in their hateful marriage that they treated him as an afterthought. He drifted through an indifferent childhood, which developed into a pot-smoking bar-tending adulthood. It wasn't until he met and fell in love with his wife that he actually showed volition. I was really frustrated with Charles and kept hoping for a dramatic character change, but instead I changed in my appreciation for him as I understood the things he had endured in his lonely friendless life. I wanted him to grow a spine and do something dramatic and when I closed the book, I realized that his teaching career and the kindness and love he showed for his autistic son was sufficient and a lot more than many men manage to accomplish.

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain.  If you enjoyed The Paris Wife, then you are in for another treat here.   McLain has written another fictionalized biography, this time of Beryl Markham, most well known as a woman pioneer in aviation.  It's just about the same time period as her first book but this time the setting is Kenya and it's about Markham's skills as a trainer of thoroughbred race horses and the lifestyle that goes with it.  Karen Blixen, aka Isak Dinesen, and Denys Hatton Finch are part of Beryl's circle of friends.  I gave this 5 stars.

Made in the U.S.A. by Bellie Letts.   We have the "coming of age" genre and I see an emerging genre for abandoned children - I'm calling it Boxcar Children after Gertrude Warner's series. I'd place Janet Fitch's White Oleander in that category, Amanda Coplin's The Orchardist, Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch and now this one. The reality is that most abandoned children don't have a happy-ever-after ending so this little fantasy was a pleasure to read. I knew that Billie Letts had passed away so was stunned when I recently visited an indie bookstore in Bandon, Oregon to find this on the bookshelf. I was sorry to close the book.

The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman.   I have only read Dove Keepers for my book group and am otherwise unfamiliar with this author. I'm glad I took the opportunity to read this through NetGalley. You know how Dove Keepers is going to end because it's like the Titanic - the boat sinks. I had no idea where this story was headed. I understood that it was fictionalized memoir of Camille Pizzarro, but it really wasn't his story but his mother Rachel's. The setting is early 19th century on St. Thomas where the Jews have just been given freedom by the Danish king and is a multi-layered recounting of this group who wound their way after the Inquisition from Spain to Portugal, to France, to Barbados, then to St. Thomas. It's a history of that period as well as a story of prejudice from without and within, of loyalties, secrets and forbidden love. I always love it when I enjoy a work of fiction and learn something new at the same time and this book provided both  for me.

We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.  Diffenbach tackled the foster care system in her thoughtful first book and has returned with a second equally thoughtful book on the subject of immigration and all the laws and lunacy that surrounds it. She also puts a face of the untold agony, suffering and loneliness that is unwarranted and unmerited, thanks to the self-serving actions of politicians in our nation's capitol. I struggled initially with Letty's irresponsibility and was skeptical of her turn-around, but then I've seen that in sobriety in real life and had to give her that. It's not any one person's story, but an ensemble cast though Alex was my favorite.  What a kid.  The romance seemed out of character and a little too convenient which is why this is a 4-star book, not quite a 5.

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George.  I struggled a little in the beginning with the French names and setting, but once I cleared that I sailed into this book. My first thought was - physician, heal thyself! This poor damaged bookseller could put the perfect book in anyone's hands but his own, and then we learn his misery is the self-inflected, the product of hurt and pride. He refused to use his first name as he drifted through those twilight years, and I noticed one of the first changes in his awakening was acknowledging his first name, Jean. I'm calling this a book fantasy, short of serious literature and much much more than a romance. Imagine a literary apothecary on a barge! With cats!! The one silly thing that niggled at my mind was - where were the cat boxes??  I loved this book.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

And Still More Sampling

We had a handyman come out and install replacement blinds downstairs and a couple other things that needed doing to show the house better.  I liked the blinds so much that I asked Ian to pick up a couple more when he was in town.  And then I installed them.  Ian can't see to do it because of his bifocals so I just measured how the handyman did it and then did it the same way.
It's so much better!  The old shade rolled down from the top so to keep the sun off my loom, I had to drop the shade which radically reduced my natural light.  It's almost like day and night.

This is my first sample.  I like the appearance and hand of the plain weave but don't think it would drape well in a garment.  I do like the heathered appearance the two color-related warp threads make so might try that with twill.
This is my second sample done on eight shafts which were so heavy that I had a hard time lifting them all the way up and the underside is a mess of skips and floats.  I might try to salvage this as a purse.
This is the third sample.  I talked to Laura about it yesterday because I was so frustrated.  She reminded me that wool stretches in the warp and will take up when tension is removed.  Once again my problem was that I was beating too hard.  She said "breathe the weft into place.  Make sure you can see daylight."  And that's what this represents.  The first several inches were a disaster.  It's much better here but not what I want to sew into a jacket.  This is a draft from Anne Dixon's 4-Shaft book so next I'll try the other two treadlings and then wet finish the sample.
I still don't have an answer to what to weave from the Kellbourne Woolens yarn so have decided I need to make yet another sample.  Laura suggested color and weave or summer and winter.  I found this summer and winter pattern in a 2012 Handwoven and since I've never tried it before, I'm planning on this for my next and hopefully last sample.

Meanwhile, there's the "elephant in the living room" - our house sale.  After I got home from subbing Wednesday, our realtor called to say that the first people who had looked at the house weren't ready to buy at that time but they're ready now.  Since we've only shown the house three times,  it had to be the woman who said that she liked the house but the property wouldn't work for horses and cows.

They came out about 6:00, and this time it was Jennifer and her husband Travis and daughter Miley.  They came first, followed shortly by their broker and her husband.  After standing all day, I stood yet another hour as we walked around and talked.  They had decided that it will work for horses and cows  after all and yesterday sent us an offer for $5,000 over our asking price to displace the contingent offer currently on the house.  That buyer still hasn't sold her home so she has until Wednesday to come up with financing or remove the offer.  But the new buyer is also selling their house to someone who is also selling their house.  There are currently four contingent offers associated with our house, not including the one we made in Oregon that we're going to let go.  I can only laugh.  What else can I do??

Monday, August 17, 2015

Sampling Some More

This is the beginning of the sample.  I thought I'd go with what I know and wove this as turned taquete.  Epic fail!
So I switched to plain weave and wove until I ran out of this yarn.  I held slightly different shades of similar colors when I warped so it gives an interesting heathered look.  I'm not sure how I feel about the off-white, but this is my first time to weave with wool with fabric as the intended outcome so everything is experimental.
I finished it this morning and have since washed and pressed it, which dramatically improved the hand.  I ordered some Fray-Check from Amazon that's supposed to arrive tomorrow.  I'm planning to cut and piece this in four pieces to make a mock vest-back.  Might as well put it to use.
It seems silly to try and invent something when I have so little experience so looked through Sharon Alderman's book for help.  This is the draft I've chosen and I've been wanting to use my eight harnesses anyway.
I quickly wound another short warp 9" wide and sleyed it.  I'll at least be able to weave a little ways on it tomorrow.  The good news is that the Kelbourne Woolens yarn has a twill sett of 12 epi and this draft has 12 threads per square.  Once again, I worked until I was starving, wolfed down my lunch and now my stomach is mad at me.

Obviously school has started again as I've gotten calls already for sub jobs and I've accepted two. Wednesday I'll be at a totally bilingual elementary school.  It might be a little rough this soon after school is back in session but I found the kids there to be exceptionally helpful and engaged listeners during storytime.  I hope I don't end up eating my words.

Sammy plays with her squeaky toys when she is feeling a little nervous or insecure.  This morning I noticed that she seemed to have quite the collection going so when I called her name and she lifted her head up - she had a cache of four!  We're busy fixing and cleaning, getting ready to start showing the house again in September.  I guess she senses something is up.

Friday, August 14, 2015


I got an email back from Kelbourne Woolens yesterday in response to my inquiry about sett.  She measured the wool and got 18 wpi and since I have this box of Harrisville mill ends that I bought from Allison about ten years ago, I decided to sample with that so I can better plan which skeins of yarn to pick.  Do I want two colors or five?  I don't know but hope this will help me find out.

This is a great collection of yarn but there's only one ball of anything and rarely two.  It took me forever to pick my yarn for sampling.  I just picked color since I have no idea of the yardage.
It looked like a yarn bomb went off.  I had it everywhere.  In spite of all the choices, it was difficult to find six colors that even remotely went together or that were interesting.
These are the colors I ultimately went with and have wound and sleyed a 2 1/2 yard warp that I will thread tomorrow.  I bought a kimono-style jacket/vest pattern from an indie pattern maker years ago and am finally going to put it to use.  I measured across the front of the vest and only need 12" so am weaving this 15" wide to provide for take-up.  I'm anxious to get an answer here so I can order my yarn before Kelbourn Woolens forgets all about me!
Meanwhile, I finished another set of towels.  I sold six at the farmers market last week and have six more to replace them.  There was a seventh towel but it was too short to sell so it's in my kitchen.  Oh darn.  We have three more markets and then the season is over.  I think I'll plan to weave one more set of towels and call it good.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Branding Cattle

Sunday was our valley's third farmers market this year with three left.
Just across the road from us an entire branding operation was in full swing and boy were the cows unhappy about that.  I should have made a video to capture their loud discontent.
Our property owner's association leases the greenbelt to a rancher and today was the second day to get them them rounded up and branded before returning them to graze.
Daniel's assistants are some of our neighbors who ride Western and love to put them cow-punching skills to the test.  It's hard work with long hours in the saddle and these guys (and gals) love it.  So many folks in our valley ride English so this is their day.
The horses have been training for this and they love working too.
Nancy took a break in the afternoon to walk over to buy a couple towels from me.  She said they had expected to be done by now but six calves broke free, so they had to round them up and release the others in order to brand the renegades - and boy was her butt sore!

I hope you can see that she's wearing her chaps - most of them are.   It's my theory that they're pronounced "shaps" because their purpose is to protect legs from the chaparral.  
This shopper just rode in to check us out and socialize her horse a little. She's was a huge hit with the kids. The farmers market is only four hours long but it's become a social occasion and one that many of us look forward to twice a month in the summer.

Friday, August 07, 2015

Stash Busting Towels Redux

These are the stash buster towels.  I have five pairs of colors and I'm lifting the colors alternately in harnesses 1 and 3, then 2 and 4, and I discovered that even when I put the same pairs together in the warp, they will still be different colors when I weave them.  From now on when I do Hit or Miss like this, I'm using an odd number of pairs.

 I'm going to try to illustrate what I mean.  This is all the threads.

Here I've lifted harnesses 2 and 4.
Here I have lifted harnesses 1 and 3.  You can see how raised warp colors change position.  I thought I was going to have a five-block repeat because I was using five pairs of threads, but instead I have a 10-block repeat and the colors appear much more randomly than the towels I have woven in the past with four pairs of threads.  I'm always learning someone new in weaving.
I have been eyeing these cones of yarn for the past couple of weeks and finally decided what order to put in pairs in.  As much as I like red and turquoise together, I talked myself out of and paired the red with orange instead.
After I had started winding the warp sections, I changed my mind and moved them around.  I've decided that each color block is going to be its own bout in the future, in case I change my mind, so I don't have to do this again.

Originally I had placed the two red and orange blocks in the center and realized that simply wasn't going to work.  I like how you can change up your colors when you warp from the front and posted this picture in my Facebook studio page.
Once I had the towels underway I posted again with his picture to show that you can change colors when you're warping from the front.  I'm always pushing the color boundaries but I really felt like I had hit a clinker with these.  I told Ian that I was going to have six towels for my inventory.  When I finished weaving for the day and sat down to look at the computer, I found that the response was very positive and I had a private message, requesting to buy the whole set.  Since then I've been commissioned for another one.
Here's the set of six though in the future, I think I'll make it a set of four.  
Speaking of color, my color cards from Kelbourne Woolens arrived this week.  The gorgeous yarns are a blend of merino wool, baby llama, silk and linen.  Each skein is 545 yards and weighs 100 grams.  I need to calculate how many yards are in a pound so I can figure out the sett.  I get ten skeins from this collection so once I have the sett I'll be able to figure out what kind of yardage I can get.  Oh boy, this is like "If the train leaves the station in Duluth, traveling south at 50 mph...."  Math makes my brain ache.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Books, Books, Books

I didn't realize how long it's been since I wrote a post on books and since I've been doing a lot of reading to kill time, I have quite a few books I'd like to share.  I'll try to stick to my favorites to keep the list from getting too long.

The Persian Pickle Club by Sandra Dallas:  This is a depression-era tale that takes place in a small Kansas town where a group of resilient women get together each month to quilt and gather strength from their friendships.  Think Fannie Flagg.  I didn't realize until I looked it up just now but it was also make into a movie.

Crazy Ladies by Michael Lee West:  This is another tale of Southern Women, placed in Tennessee and centers on squabbling sibling who are the crazy ladies.  Sprinkled with cultural references, this is much in the style of Fannie Flagg and Billie Letts.  I couldn't put it down.

The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson:  I received this coming-of-age debut novel in prerelease from NetGalley.  The setting is Barbados where two sisters are sent to live with their grandmother while their mother, who fled to Brooklyn looking for a better life tries to get back on her feet.  Grandmother is too aged to care for the girls alone and the community comes to her aid.  I enjoyed the setting and the references to their slavery past - a fresh story.

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline:  This has been on everyone's list and for good reason and it may already be on yours.

Among the Ten Thousand Things by Julia Pierpont:  This is another debut novel I read in prereplease and I still am not quite sure why I requested it because the title and cover are not attractive at all.  It's set in New York City, about a family whose father is a famous artist.  He can't seem to decide how to be an artist and a family man and the ensuing children are dragged behind him like cans on a just-married car.  It's these resilient and resourceful children that redeem their family.

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf:  In this slender volume is a big story and I will certainly miss the recent Haruf and his ability write a lot in a few words.  I've read all this works so was entertained when he slipped his earlier books into the context of this one.  If you haven't read Haruf, start with Plainsong and then keep going.

Gasa Gasa Girl Goes to Camp: a Nisei youth behind a World War II fence by Lily Yuriko Nakai Havey.  This is the only nonfiction in this group and is a must-read if you've read either The Buddha in the Attic or When the Emperor was Divine by Julie Otsuka or you have an interest in our government's internment of Japanese Americans.  Havey is an accomplished watercolorist and her pieces are sprinkled throughout the book so if you read it as an ebook, make sure you use a device that lets you see the images in color. It's beautifully done and begins with Lily learning that they're all going to camp - oh boy!  It's not a humorous time but she writes without rancor and brings a fresh voice to this chapter of our history.