Thursday, May 31, 2012

My First Creation

Cutting a wee door and wee windows out of an empty cigarette package is the first craft activity I remember. The little house was built for either the Viceroy or the Chesterfield family. I was sitting on the living room floor at the feet of my mother, who was supervising my use of the scissors. She said I was three years old.

That was the beginning of a long list of craft projects that I have worked on in my nearly sixty-eight years. My cousin Barbara, who lived next door, and I used to hand sew doll clothes. We were pre-Barbyites. Our 18 inch dolls, Susie and Clarissa, were fun to sew for, and had quite the extensive wardrobes. A neighbor, who owned a Boston bulldog, taught me to crochet. That project was a small purse about the size of an index card, and it was made of shiny, navy blue cord-like material. I don’t recall crocheting again until, as a young mother, I made two granny square afghans. They were done in popular colors of the 1960’s, cream, gold, avocado, and orange. Gifts to my mother and mother-in-law, they have returned to me. 

Another neighbor introduced me and some other girls who lived on our block to sewing.  And I was fortunate to live half a block away from the local high school where summer classes were offered in sewing. When I picked out the fabric for a peasant blouse and matching dirndl skirt, my mother gave me some good advice. She suggested that the white background I had selected would soon be boring and that the same fabric with the yellow background would please me longer. She was right. I’ve reused her suggestion many times over the years.

I see that swanky Lake Drive has been mistakenly substituted
for Larkin St. for some of us.  This album clip  is from  the local
 Shorewood , WI paper, perhaps summer of 1950.

While raising five above average children (We live in the vicinity of Lake Wobegon.) I fit in a little knitting, a little weaving, some batik, puppet making, and quite a bit of sewing. Do you remember Aunt Lydia's Rug yarn? That is what I used to weave the pillows pictured below. Spinning was not yet in my repertoire. And the choice of yarn was not as plentiful as today.

As the nest grew empty I took courses in ceramic, graphic arts, and painting. When my children started filling their own nests, I started quilting baby blankets and then “big bed” quilts. I took classes at the University of Minnesota’s Split Rock Arts Program, embroidery from Ilse Aviks, and shibori from Ana Lisa Hedstrom. I spent a number of glorious weeks on Washington Island at the tip of Wisconsin’s Door County attending classes at Sievers School of Fiber Arts. They included dyeing with Mary Curran, where my mind was opened to the wonderful possibility and mystery of color; tapestry weaving with Sarah Swett, where I learned the intricacies of painting with yarn; and felting and dyeing with Chad Hagen, where I first fell in love with dyeing wool. Stephanie Robertson took the terror out of the silk screen process with her casual, free approach. But the class I took repeatedly was Mary Jo Scandin’s  Batik. OOOOOOH, Batik!

A couple of years ago I looked around at all my supplies, materials, and notebooks, and decided, instead of being an art supply collector, it was really time to call myself a fiber artist. I have tried many media, but have become master of none. I have decided that is okay. That's why the subtitle of this blog is “enthusiasms of a deliberate dilettante.” Mr. Webster defines a dilettante as--a person who pursues an art or science merely for amusement; a dabbler. That may sound like a negative to some, but I say that I relish the opportunities that have presented themselves as I have dabbled, not to mention the wonderful, talented, understanding, and sharing individuals I have met along my path.
And I hope to meet you there soon.

Good Stitches.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Family, Friends, and Fiber

Last week began with a Mother’s Day soft ball game with all of my five children and their families present, and ended with lunch with some of my Tuesday knitting friends after we attended the 18th Annual Door County Shepherd’s Market. In between there were two water aerobic sessions, open knitting, and coffee with my friend, Ginnie, Her knowledge of and enthusiasm for sharing local history are astounding.

At the Shepherd’s Market I saw fantastically spun art yarns, and beautiful felt pieces and baskets. The vendors encouraged handling the wonderful array of natural and dyed fibers. And the funny faced, shorn alpacas brought by Kele Alpacas hummed their discomfort of being away from their field fellows. I purchased the roving pictured below from Nora Ahlen of Homestead Sheep and Fiber Products, Baileys Harbor, WI. It is an aqua and gray cloud of Romney, Wensleydale and silk noil.

Kathi Cascio of Apple Hollow Fiber Arts, Sturgeon Bay, WI offers fair trade Ghanese baskets among her fiber and related products. It was hard to chose from the plethora of wonderfully patterned baskets. I chose a small one to hold a ball of yarn while knitting.

Right now it contains the beginnings of an Elizabeth Zimmerman bonnet from The Opinionated Knitter. My version is in stockinette and will be embellished with embroidered flowers. I’m using the bonus yarn pictured a couple of posts ago.

One additional stop made after the Shepherd’s Market was to Jenny Ribbens’ Red Sock Yarns new location in Fish Creek, WI. Her move was well timed for the beginning of the Door County summer tourist season. No knitter’s vacation could be complete without a visit to a local yarn shop. Congratulations, Jenny.

Good Stitches.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Mellow Yellow Scarf 

I finished a scarf yesterday. It was something simple I designed when I needed a project that didn’t require much concentration, but wasn’t boring either. I chose a mellow yellow as a rest from all the intense multicolored dyeing and knitting I have been doing. 

After I finished it, I spread it out on my bed to examine it. I placed tiny post-it notes where I noticed things I would change when writing up the instructions. When I started the scarf, but before I started the pattern with the bobbles and yarn overs, I didn’t think to include the yo’s next to the garter stitch edge. So I noted that on a post-it. I also decided to remove the first bobble. I made another note for that change.

At the other end of the scarf I wanted to omit the two yo’s that are part of the bobble, yo repeat. They looked out of place. Another note. I also needed to add another row to the garter stitch border at the end of the scarf.  The green yarn was there as a "lifeline" in case I made another mistake and had to rip back to the beginning of a pattern repeat where there was a plain row of stitches. I, finally, worked that out after a couple of frustrating periods of one step forward and two steps back.

After pulling the green yarn out, I blocked the scarf, and rewrote the instructions. If you would like to make this scarf click on mellow yellow scarf  under Pages found on the right hand margin of this blog. The pattern is free.

One of the aspects of knitting that I find myself enjoying most is the fun and satisfaction of working out my own patterns. I can follow a pattern, but find that if I have the basic stitch counts and techniques down pat, I can play with the rest. I like doing variations on a theme. When I was quilting, I would start with a central panel and build outward until I obtained the size I wanted. I loved playing with my scraps. Now, I have a whole new set of toys- yarns, needles, spinning wheel, dyes. If you are like I am, you know the joy of it all. If you are timid about designing, GIVE IT A GO! The challenge, including fixing mistakes, and the eventual accomplishment will tickle you from the inside.

Good Stitches.


Saturday, May 5, 2012

I’ve created a monster.

Well, actually, I’ve created two, fraternal, not identical twins. I just finished my first pair of socks. Let’s just say that during gestation something went slightly awry. While I was working on the ribbing of the first sock, I showed it to my Tuesday knitting friends. I said, “It seems so loose. Is that right?” They replied, “It will be all right.” By the next week I had turned the heel with no problem, and was working my way down the length of the foot with some skepticism.
I said, “This is really big.”
The Tuesdays asked, “Did I do a swatch, check my gauge?”
“What size needles are you using?”
“That’s kind of big.”
“I matched my gauge and needles to the directions.”
I took out my handy dandy Boye Knitting Gauge and measured again. I was one stitch off my original count. I was knitting looser. Pshaw!
One of the Tuesdays said, “One stitch per inch is going to make a difference.”
I knitted on, deciding that these would no longer be my first hand knit socks. They would be my son’s first hand knit socks. When I got home, I measured his feet, twelve inches. I finished the sock and showed it to my friends. They were speechless, but smiling. Slightly daunted, I started the other sock. Could I duplicate my mistake? The answer? Well, not really. First, I started the toe decrease too soon. I tinked several stripes and tried again. I still didn’t end with the same color at the toe, but the cosmic they knows that one foot is always smaller than the other. This way my son can figure out which is which, and be able to say the red toe is for the smaller foot. He has graciously accepted the banded pair, calling them his, “lounging socks.” And I have not yet succumbed to single sock syndrome.

Sock One and Sock Two.

Toe One and Toe Two

Get in-gauged and Good stitches.