31 December 2008

say hello to my little friend

For some time now, Mary has been listening to me pine away about wanting a spinning wheel. I've spun quite a bit on my drop spindle and every time I come across someone who is using a spinning wheel, I have to fight back the urge to knock them down, grab it and run away cackling.

I don't need to have such thoughts anymore.

May I introduce you to Herb, my new Ashford Joy spinning wheel:

I drug Mary out to the Spinning Loft in Howell, MI (when you go their website be sure to move your mouse over the second sheep from the left, that one has attitude issues but its funny) the other day to pick this baby up. I've been saving money for a while for it and then got some Christmas money and decided the time had come to take the plunge.

I actually got it a couple of days ago but today was the first day I was actually able to sit down and fiddle with it. There has been some cussing involved. Mostly because I didn't feel the need to go through the recommended practice exercises. I figured since I can spin on a drop spindle, this should be cake.

Um....yeah....not working so well.

When I got the wheel, it came with a whopping pound of roving so here is what I have to torture while I practice:

One of the exercises is to take commercial yarn and practice with it so you can watch how the twist gets applied and get comfortable with moving your hands around. I've been using some Vanna White that I had left over from the last afghan I finished. Its actually excellent yarn for this exercise as its a four ply that I'm spinning in the opposite direction of how it was plied so I can really see what's happening.

I plan to goof around with it a lot more today but decided Dooley needed a break from some of the swearing. I think I want to take classes, I want to spin lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of yarn. Classes are good.

I did get this book so I plan to memorize it in the hopes that it will somehow help me get good at drafting. If anyone has any recommendations on better books or even videos, I'm all ears.

So today is all about spinning. And watching movies. I have a weakness for movies that are creepy fairy tales and ones that are based on comic books. So Hellboy II is perfect since it combines both generes.

I'm still plugging away on the Babette Blanket. This one is an endurance test.

I finished the two-round squares (there are 50 of those) and the four-round squares (there are 49 of those) and am now working on the six-round squares. Those are like speed bumps, those two extra rounds really add on a decent amount of working time. Can't wait to start the eight-round, ten-round and twelve-round ones. But I'm not complaining, gives me something to do when my back is being crabby and I have to lay down.

I've been thinking a lot about the new year and how I usually sit down and make art goals for the year. I've decided I'm not doing that this year. I'm giving my muse the freedom to do whatever pleases her most, whether it is knitting or spinning or building castles out of popsicle sticks. She's calling the shots, I'm not forcing anything. We'll see what comes out of that.

Now if you'll excuse me, Herb and I have a date...

28 December 2008

Where I Stand Sunday

The sudden thaw has set the earth to rushing. Pools of melted snow and ice frantically push around everything in its path, hurrying toward a destination that I don’t understand. As I stand in the middle of the frenzy, it feels almost as if the past year is slowly leaking away to take its official place in the category of the past. The ground that was so snugly dressed in the face of winter is now peeled back, exposed and raw and set to the task of rebuilding. Its old and new at the same time, the end and the beginning that will have each one of us stepping over the line into the next year.

Where I Stand Sunday is an ongoing photo essay examining the different places I spend my life standing. Too often we take for granted the everyday places we spend our lives walking on. The ground we tread on has its own stories to tell.

27 December 2008


First off, forgive me for being a total slacker and not posting a happy holiday wish to all of you. Whatever you celebrated this season, I hope it was full of love and friendship and good things. I thank all of you for stopping by to listen to my rambling here....

So on that note, here is some more....

I got to thinking a lot the past couple of days about how I spent last year's holiday vacation. I spent nearly every single day working on something, getting a solid start on many new art quilts and just generally submerging myself in all things art.

This year I've not even stepped foot in my studio even once.

I've been having serious identity issues lately when it comes to my artwork. For a long time I've skirted the line between art quilts and mixed media, really working hard to smoosh the two together and make them play nice. But there is a part of me now that is wondering why I've gone to so much trouble. Maybe its time to stop working in three layers and keeping to definitions and just let everything do what it wants to.

I feel like I have some decisions to make as we are heading into the new year but the hard part is that I'm not entirely sure what those are. As contradictory as it sounds, I feel like I need a label, a category for it. I know that I'm moving in a different direction again. I just have to figure out how to balance it in my head (its that damn Virgo logic kicking my butt again, everything needs to be defined and in order. Bah.)

Its kind of an odd thing to realize that 2008 is pretty much over. That means there is a whole new year to start working through, need to find me some new goals and go after them.

In the meantime, I've found yarn has been doing more then its fair share of feeding the creative need. I've been totally obsessed with the Babette Blanket. Here's proof:

That's around seventy-five squares so far. To be honest, the pattern is pretty boring. Very one-trick-pony kind of work. But I am incredibly amused with all the color changes. I think its probably because there is no way I would have made these color combinations on my own (some of them are down right frightening.) I've been arguing with myself when I come across one that makes me twitch about whether or not I should "fix" it. I'm trying to have faith in the fact that I like how the picture on the pattern looks and if I go messing about with all the colors, it won't look the same. So I'm going to leave it be and not whimper too loudly when I'm creating a block with pea green, baby pink, gold and taupe in it. {{shudder}}

I also realized the other day that this thing is going to be gigantic. The yarn I'm using is a much heavier weight so I'm thinking you'll be able to fit about thirty people underneath it. Should work out well.

And I don't know what the deal is but someone seriously needs to give Mother Nature a serious kick in the behind. Its 58 degrees here today. There is so much water running down the street in my neighborhood right now that it actually sounds like a stream. Unfortunately it wasn't enough to melt the massive piles of snow that we've been shoving out the way for the past couple weeks but it did manage to make a dent in some of them. At least enough snow melted in the backyard so Dooley has more then just a little path to walk around. Little man is pleased with that.

I do need to tear myself away from my crochet addiction for a bit and get some work done. I had a bunch of other projects I hoped to complete while I was off on shutdown and I've not picked at too many of them. Time to get myself moving...

But first I think I'll make a few more squares for Babette....


21 December 2008

Dooley love's portrait!

One of the things I love best about the internet is that I get to make friends with people that I would otherwise never meet.

Such is the case with Pattie. Pattie is also a Where I Stand Sunday poster but the thing that I think makes her incredible is what a talented painter she is. She paints in oils and I always find myself drooling over her work, its just beautiful!

So the other day Pattie asked me if I would mind if she painted a portrait of Dooley. I said of course and this is what she created. (Scroll to the bottom of the post to see him.) I showed my mom (who squealed with excitement) and she now has big plans for showcasing the painting among her favorite photos on the mantel.

I can't tell you how tickled I am to see him in paint! Its just so cute! On Pattie's post she says that she is willing to paint your pet's portrait too, I really recommend it, she's a fabulous painter and a super nice lady!

sometimes conforming is fun

I admit that I have been trolling the internet for more afghan patterns. I simply wasn't feeling the love for the last pattern I picked out. Mary and I have been IM'ing links back and forth to each other. There are so many patterns to choose from, its unbelievable.

I'm blaming it on the fact that we got six inches of snow and are supposed to get more today. It looks really cold out there (especially when the weather man has started factoring in time limits for how long it is safe to be outside) so I figure it is a good idea to just keep making blankets in case something catastrophic happens and there is never any heat again and the only thing that stands between me and frostbite is that one crocheted blanket I never took the time to finish.

(Okay, unlikely, but it sounds better then "I wanted to make this.")

So the place that I decided to go mooch off of for inspiration was Ravelry. This is not something I do lightly. To seek inspiration there is like locking yourself into the yarn store of your dreams with no money, no credit card and no knitting needle/crochet hook. It can turn you into a raving lunatic if you don't go in focused on one project. (I have visions of a special ward in a mental health institution dedicated to knitters/crocheters who just couldn't control themselves and now use their yarn stash to pad their cells. I'm serious, its that powerful.)

While poking around on there, I remembered a project that I had marked as a favorite. The Babette Blanket.

Now this blanket basically sucked knitters into crochet like a tractor beam. It developed a cult following almost instantly. Don't believe me? Then check out the flickr group dedicated to it, and the Ravelry group (gotta belong to the site to see that one, join if you haven't already, its free) and just for good measure, google it and see how many people have blogged about it.

So I figured in light of my desire to cover the world in crocheted afghans right now, why not join the cool kids and make one too?

I started it yesterday:

This thing is like crack. There are over 200 blocks in it. Granted, 50 of them are only two rounds (those are what is pictured above) but that's still a lot of blocks. I figure this one ought to keep me entertained for a long time. (Maybe...toss some stress in there and it could be done by the end of the week.)

Its a scrappy blanket. Which meant I actually had to spend money on pink yarn. (Yes, it was mildly painful. But I recognize that it balances the overall color scheme of the whole thing so I pulled up my big girl panties and picked out two shades of it.) I'm not using the yarn suggested in the pattern because, well, I'm not made of money to be honest. Talk about pricey pricey.

So its all Vanna White yarn again. Washable, on sale, good quality, played nice on the last one I completed. Gets high marks in my book.

I'm pretty sure Dooley will approve of this one as well. Although I had to take little man to the vet yesterday and it took four cookies and tons of baby talk to get him to forgive me. It was a rough visit but all will be well. Poor little man.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go give myself hand cramps and crochet the rest of that blanket...

Where I Stand Sunday

The decorated tree and holiday jingles push themselves into my mind and wrap around memories from past Christmas seasons. My mother cooking Polish food for Wigilia on Christmas Eve, my father trying to decide between the Elvis or the Bing Crosby Christmas music, my brother as a little boy in pajamas bouncing up and down as he opens the latest star wars toy, me in a pink barbie nightgown smiling big for the camera as I show off the cool present Santa just brought me. The magic has not gone from this time of year, simply been transformed into a different kind. Now I find myself ticking off in my mind all the people that I am happy to have in my life, for the quiet moments when I can sit still and simply be happy for what I have, and for every moment of the creative life I have discovered in myself. Its in those moments that life feels the most fragile, yet also the most real.

Where I Stand Sunday is an ongoing photo essay examining the different places I spend my life standing. Too often we take for granted the everyday places we spend our lives walking on. The ground we tread on has its own stories to tell.

19 December 2008

done, baby, done

A sort of totally obsessive seizure took hold of me the past two days about getting the afghan done. It could have been the tantrums of the weather people predicting that we were going to be buried alive in snow and ice.

Or it could have been the fact that I refuse to be defeated by yarn and felt the need to prove to an inanimate object that I am indeed the boss of it. (Don't look at me that way.)

Or it could have been the fact that Dooley kept dragging down squares of the unfinished thing to lay against them. (Because, you know, I am cruel to the dog and the twenty other afghans he has to lay on just aren't sufficient. What kind of sister friend would I be if I denied him this one?)

So I finished it. Here it is:

There are some puckers but there is nothing so obvious that I want to set it on fire. But I know what I did wrong and won't repeat the mistakes on the next one (yes, I plan to do more, I'm bitten by the afghan bug, I want to cover the whole world in crocheted yarn).

Little man has given it his seal of approval:

The next one will be this one. (Again, need to register with the lion brand site to see it if you aren't already a member.) I'm doing mine in shades of green, not a fan of the color choices they used. And I'm using vanna white yarn again, very cushy stuff.

I don't know what's come over me but it keeps my mind still, which is a big feat in and of itself. Although with the announcement from the white house today, its nice to know that I will be getting a paycheck for a few more months.

If you are in the path of the current monster snow storm, you have my sympathies. Here is what it looks like out my front door:

I contemplated stepping into the snow to show you how deep it is but when I noticed that its buried the shrubs almost to their halfway point, my sense of self preservation kicked in and decided to just take this picture instead. This photo was taken about an hour ago, its deeper now and just for good measure, it periodically being sleeted on. I plan to go no where today or tomorrow.

Amazingly enough little man loves this weather. Even though the snow is up to his belly, he bounds around in it and then comes back into the house where I have to wrestle him to the ground to pick the snowballs out of his fur. He thinks its a fun game. Me? Not so much.

If you need me I'll be watching bad movies and crocheting. Stay warm and snuggle in for the day.

16 December 2008

its actually worse

I didn't think it was possible, but I have discovered something even more tedious then sewing sleeves onto the backs of quilts: weaving in 1,345,981 yarn ends.

I am slowly making progress on putting together the afghan from two posts ago. And I mean slowly.

Most of the problem resides in the fact that I just can't leave things wrong. I could just fudge everything together. In all honesty, you'd probably not even really notice that the edges weren't perfectly straight because of the border I have to add after its all in one piece. But its making me all twitchy just considering it. So I'm picking apart the blocks as I go and mumbling obscenties as I sew in all the loose ends. (Yes, I know I could have crocheted over them as I went but to be honest, I didn't like it how it looked. Did I mention that I'm painfully perfectionist?)

Dooley keeps eyeing the thing. Its sitting on the coffee table and I'm puttering with it in the evenings. I think he's scheming, trying to figure a way to pull it all back down on the floor. I'm thinking its going to take me longer to do the finishing on this thing then it took me to actually crochet it.

On the upside of things, my holiday vacation begins tomorrow. So I've got lots of time to plot and putter around the house. One of my biggest acitivites is to clean out a big portion of my mess in the basement. Sounds joyous, doesn't it? Come on, I know you're jealous. Tell you what? Since I'm such a generous soul, you are more then welcome to come over and help me do it. (I can feel all the dirty looks you all are giving me, knock it off.)

I'm also thinking about some collages and I've got to organize the website and finalize details for the 2009 Breaking Traditions Art Quilt Exhibit and I'd like to finish that afghan and Dooley dog needs to go to the groomer and I need my teeth cleaned and...um...yeah. Busier then when I'm actually at work.

But it should be good. At least there won't be 2.5+ hours of commuting in the course of the day. That's always a bonus.

14 December 2008

Where I Stand Sunday

I am one of millions standing at the center of the circle looking out at the chaos surrounding us. Knowing that our fates lie in the hands of one man is, at best, unsettling. He will either solidify our existence or let us fade as easily as the snow bearing my footprints. Imagining a different future hits too many walls as options are choked before they can even begin to formulate. Days, hours, minutes, seconds tick by as we wait wait wait wait wait….

Where I Stand Sunday is an ongoing photo essay examining the different places I spend my life standing. Too often we take for granted the everyday places we spend our lives walking on. The ground we tread on has its own stories to tell.

cheaper then therapy

Its been a long week. Work is spectacularly tense, its all just a waiting game now. Last weekend when things were just beginning to heat up in the senate over the bailout package, I proceeded to drag down pretty much every single skein of yarn I own from my studio into the living room. I also made a few trips with books and just sat around and tried to find something realitively mindless to work on.

I settled on this afghan that I started a while back but got distracted by other projects. (That link is to the Lion Brand yarn website. You do have to register to see their patterns but its really really worth it. They have patterns for knitting and crocheting and better then half are free. I've stalked the site for a couple years now and have never gotten any kind of spam from being registered there so I highly recommend it if you dig free patterns.)

I also find the circles highly amusing. And forcing them to become squares just makes me all giggly for some reason. I am totally entertained with this pattern for some reason.

I tend to crochet a lot quicker then I knit. Not sure why but I do. And regardless of which one I am doing, I tend to work at Wonder Woman speed when I'm really stressed. As a result, one week later I had this:

I had about six of the smallest size done when I started, the rest were completed during the week.

When I laid them out for that photo, I was not surprised (although still annoyed) that they aren't exactly fitting together correctly. I had a suspicion that they might not and now that its confirmed, I have to decide what to do. The way I see it, I have three options:

1) Sew them together the way they are and hope that the border I have to crochet on after I've done that hides any wonkiness (although the perfectionist Virgo in me just barfed at the thought of that).

2) Rip back a couple of the small ones and fix the mistake that I know is living in them and see if that does the trick (please note that I will have to fix sixteen of them if I go this route).

3) Attempt to block them into submission so they match up enough to sew together without looking like I was following two different patterns when I made the thing.

I'm not sure that I want to pursue option #3 because I used acrylic yarn for this. Its the Vanna White brand that Joann's carries and I have to say that, as far as acrylics go, its a pretty nice yarn. Anyone ever try to block acrylic? I just have visions of melted yarn blobs that will make me want to tear my hair out.

I had considered using a superwash wool for this (knowing that blocking would have been a snap if there were size issues) but here is the reason I did not:

Dooley love claims most of the afghans in the house for his own. And I have absolutely no issue with that. (He does look quite striking against the colors, no?) Knowing that little man will lay on this when he's smelling like roses and when he's...well...not smelling like roses, means that washability is a number one priority. All the afghans we do have that are acrylic wear like freakin' iron so that's why I prefer to make new ones out of that fiber content. (And acrylic has really come a long way in recent years. The stuff I used on this one is very soft and cushy, not plastic like at all.)

So if anyone would like to offer some words of wisdom as to how to tame the wonky size issue I'm having with this thing, it would be appreciated. I'm going to fiddle with it today but I don't do a lot of the types of afghans that are done in blocks (now I'm beginning to remember why).

But I know that crooked or not, it will be well loved. As observed by the fact that I had to lure the westie off it with a cookie to take a picture of it alone.

Note the blurry tail. He was all excited and wagging like a maniac.

I'm wondering if he'll give it back so I can finish it...

07 December 2008

Where I Stand Sunday

n. To soothe in time of affliction or distress.

(e.g.: new winter pajamas with skating penguins on them, a crocheted afghan in progress in my favorite colors, the sleepy snoring of an exhausted westhighland terrier, an addictive book, a fresh layer of undisturbed snow, a house infused with Christmas decorating, the hum of the furnace battling the chill, a loving group of family and friends.)

Where I Stand Sunday is an ongoing photo essay examining the different places I spend my life standing. Too often we take for granted the everyday places we spend our lives walking on. The ground we tread on has its own stories to tell.

04 December 2008


When I got to work today, my boss called me into his office and gave me this:

There was no pleasure it in it this time. We just kind of looked at each other and I finally said what we were both thinking, "Hope this isn't the last one."

To be honest, I have written and deleted several posts about what is going on with congress and the auto industry. I've written and deleted several posts that have nothing to do with it in an effort to keep the blog perky and upbeat.

But the truth of it all is that I'm worn through with worrying about it. You can taste the anxiety in the air in my office, its uncharacteristically quiet as everyone has their heads down hoping to will into existence the things that we all are hoping for.

I am not going to lie: I am supremely furious at all the people strutting around saying we should just go bankrupt. They are ignorant to think that the bankruptcy of any of the Big 3 will not effect them. If they get what they are hoping for, they will find out all too soon that they were dead wrong.

These companies are not statistics or numbers on wall street or some report that the auto analysts can frown at and shake their heads. These companies are PEOPLE. Fathers, sons, brother, mothers, daughters, aunts and uncles. We deserve better.

So the blog is going to be quiet for a while. I've got nothing nice to say right now and I really can't bring myself to pretend like there is nothing wrong.