Monday, September 28, 2009

Instant Attitude Correction

If I had still been grumpy when I woke up this morning (which I wasn't - I'm lucky that way and generally don't retain my bad moods for long) the sight outside my front window would have turned me around.

I'm madly in love with "golden hour" light, especially when shining through my dogwood trees while they're waving the big "Fall is coming!" flag.

Come on, October! :)

Sunday, September 27, 2009


Not one but TWO knitting projects have come to a screaming halt. And I do mean screaming.

My incredible witchy socks, which performed so well for me in the foot and heel shaping, have decided to look like crap in the broomstick area. I was trying to insert a lace design up the back of the calf (shaft starting just after the heel, with the whisk section at the calf) but it just isn't coming out well. Plus I'm running out of yarn. Plus the yarn itself has some issues (knots and weird ply-flyaways and thick felted sections) so I think I'll start these over with different yarn. But not this week.

Last night the cabled red socks also decided to laugh in my face. I needed to add some increases to counter the cinching effect of cables all around once I got past the heel, but that meant the yarn pooled in a nasty way. I understand that's all Greek if you don't speak knitter. Translation: I had to make a structural change, which created an aesthetic problem. Further translation: They now suck.

This is the problem with designing your own projects, which is better than simply copying what other people have already done. Even though that means they've already worked out all the problems I seem bound and determined to discover. *sigh*

Friday, September 25, 2009

Paoli Illumination

Want another chance to see me in a ridiculously unflattering costume?

Saturday, Oct 17th, from 7-9pm, is the annual Paoli Battlefield Illumination. There will be continuous guided candlelight tours, going from scene to scene. You'll learn about the Paoli Massacre from first-person interpreters telling the stories of the nighttime battle. 300 luminaries will represent the casualties of this American Revolutionary War battle. $5 per person or $20 for a family of 4 or more.

The Paoli Battlefield is located at First & Wayne Aves, next to the Paoli Memorial Grounds in Malvern.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Reading Roundup

Here are a few more great books I've read lately:

The Thirteenth Tale: Lyrical and involving. I didn't care for the twist at the end but I'm sure others loved it. Not my usual sort of book but really lovely writing.

Under and Alone: True story of an ATF agent who went undercover with the Mongols. In case you're unfamiliar, they are a motorcycle gang that makes the Hell's Angels look like yuppies. A very honest account of how living as a patched-in biker changed him.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford: I nearly didn't get this one, due to a review that said it was exactly like the movie (which was good, but not earthshaking). While it's true that the events are the same, the read is a completely different experience. It seems clear that years of research went into the project, but his knowledge leaks out in a hundred tiny ring-of-truth period details. The history illuminates rather than glares. Hansen's writing has a cadence that really brings you into his moment. This book is a freaking time machine. I'm halfway done and already dreading the end - I don't want it to be over. Sample paragraph:

Jesse, on the other hand, was the soul of friendliness and commerce, acknowledging each of Bob's remarks, letting the boy ingratiate himself, rewarding him with trivial tasks that Bob executed with zeal. Then he asked Bob to strike a match as he read the dial of a pocket watch in a gold hunting case, stolen from a judge near Mammoth Cave. The clock instructed him and he retreated into the dark and after some minutes returned with a kerosene lantern and with a burlap grain sack over his arm like a waiter's towel. "You can stick with me, but don't heel. I don't want to bust into you every time I have the notion to change direction."

Bob muttered, "I'm not a moron, for Heaven's sake," but kept his head down - one might have thought his boots had ears.

Living History

Last Saturday was the colonial thing at the Plank House. It was a great day, but I was too busy explaining the sheep-to-clothing process to run around and get pics of everyone else (sorry, I'm a rotten Blogger). There was a girl making lace at an unbelievable rate of speed. Unbelievable because she was flipping her tiny thread bobbins through a complex memorized pattern like a cracked-out hummingbird, yet she says the final product grows by an inch an hour. Ug. There was also a candle maker, quill maker, blacksmith, lap-loom weaver, and lots of others, including those explaining the buildings and clothing. My costume-maker Delores introduced a little modern technology: She had clothes for people to change into, took their digital pics, and printed them out on the spot. The kids were (mostly) really adorable. I should have had her do mine, but suddenly we were slammed and then suddenly we were packing up for the day and I had a sunburned strip on the back of my neck.

Ok, I'll admit it - part of my camera avoidance may have hinged on the clothing. Multiple layers of stiff, heavy fabrics turned my already abundant figure into something resembling a pregnant mammoth. My waist wasn't just hidden - it was lurking in a cave in Afghanistan somewhere. I drew the line at the white apron that was supposed to go over all of that, and I noticed I wasn't the only one.

I started with a pile of raw, dirty fleece, explained the washing process to get to the pretty white fleece, then the carding. The Coopsworth locks turned out to be super rough when spun, so I used that as my table demo. I carded out a handful of locks into a fluffy mass, then handed some to each person. "This is sort of fun, but you can't really make clothing out of it. See how it comes apart? Now put a little twist in it...(Here I showed them how to twirl it into a few inches of yarn, with varying degrees of success)... and see how strong it is?" A few yanks on the ends and their eyes would light up. "That was pretty awkward doing it with your fingers, though, right? We need a more efficient way to do that." Ideally I would have had a spindle, but I can't use one so I just talked about it. And then I'd show them the wheel (my Kromski Minstrel), and my balls of yarn and knitted house socks I made for Matt. Then I'd get them to look at their own clothes and see the tiny knit stitch duplicated in their t-shirts.

If they were hankering for more I got into plying, knitting, weaving, and felting. It was mostly grownups who were interested in all of that. Men wanted to figure out the engineering of the energy transfer with the wheel, while women wondered how long it took to do everything. I used my bag as an example (2 evenings to spin, 3 days to knit), freely admitting that I had skipped the long and nasty process of scouring the wool by buying it cleaned and combed, and the day of boiling and stick-poking by chucking it in the washing machine.

Everyone seemed to really enjoy it. Not too many glazed-over eyes. I let some kids guide in a pre-drafted strip of wool while I worked the pedals, then gave them the yarn they made. I even recruited another knitter to the Wonderful World of Spinning - she's coming over tomorrow to learn. :)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Purse Abundance!

1) I found a vinyl laptop bag that was $20 but looks surprisingly like nice leather. So now my precious Mac will be safe going to and from work.

2) I've been hunting everywhere for a medium sized, lightweight bag that stuff won't fall out of. Seems pretty basic to me, but the "in" thing now is either Big Enough to Carry your Car or Too Teeny for Anything But Your Phone. Plus I love leather but it's heavy, especially with all the extra staps and buckles everyone feels compelled to add now. I have tons of totes, but bad thing happen when you throw them willy-nilly into the back seat. Ask me how I know.

I tried Etsy (awful print fabrics) and lots of stores and finally gave up when Holly told me about Laura Bee. I picked out what I wanted - OMG! YARN FABRIC - in an oxblood Naugahyde (yeah, I know, but it works, trust me!) and convertible straps that can either go across the body or over one shoulder. I loved it, but it was pricey she was backed up and I had to wait 6 weeks to get it.

3) So I cancelled my order the next day and Matt started to make me - yes MAKE ME - the cutest purse ever, with a inside lined zipper pocket, the cell phone pocket. I picked the fabric (which didn't photograph well, but the color is better, keep trusting me) and made some of the piping. Heather did the initial sewing. But he did everything else - the design, the handles, the crazy complex top part that was patterned after my favorite bedraggled bag. It's awesome.

The carrot bag was already well underway when I heard back from Laura Bee, that custom orders are non-refundable (I was hoping that since she hadn't started it yet they'd let me off the hook, but nope). It came more quickly than anticipated, so now I have two cool purses!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009


I just finished reading 1491. Holy cow. If you are at all interested in history, or the interaction of cultures, or human effects on the natural world, you should read this book. It starts off pretty dry, but stick with it. About a third through it hits pure gold (pun intended).

In short, the true story is a world apart from the image we were taught in school. In both North and South America, the populations were denser than previously thought, and built extravagant architectural systems. They had a much more comprehensive agricultural impact than I would have imagined, too. I don't want to give too much away, but the lasting effects of those Amazon farmers are pretty impressive.

And tucked back in Appendix B, I found something that made my Fiber Artist soul sing: The Inkas (Incas) left behind knotted strings called khipu. For a long time they were considered a sort of abacus, but second look has revealed them to be a form of written record! They used fiber (cotton or alpaca), color coding, and different types of S and Z plying to transmit data. William Conklin says "90 percent of the information was put into the string before the knot was made." Then there's the knot itself, tied going either up or down the string, and the type of knot... wow. They are still working on the translations. I think it's going to take a while. :)