Friday, October 14, 2016

The Colors of My Life

And now for something completely different... for me anyway. Yesterday was the quarterly visit to have the hair managed--could be cut, could be color, but usually something needs to happen about every three months. This time, on a complete whim as I sat there in the chair, I decided to go for a streak of color--no, make that two streaks. "Should they be the same color? Different colors? Different colors shading into other different colors?", Gabrielle asked. Oh heck, why do a little when you can do a lot, "Different colors shading into other different colors!" So now I have two mermaid hair streaks--or as I prefer to think of them, peacock feathers. They look pretty dramatic in these photos, but really they hide and shyly peek out from under a fall of natural hair (well, it's a natural color for some people...). I sported the new do at the Weaver's and Spinner's Association meeting last night and was surprised to see that every third or fourth person there had peacock hair of some variety. I guess people who deal regularly with textiles just gravitate towards color in fiber--even their own. Of course a less charitable person might say it's something women of a certain age who should know better also do. Come to think of it, I mostly see strong women artists of my age who show their inner beauty with an outer flair (flare?).

It's been awhile since I've posted. Spinzilla is now over--I spun almost three miles (5008 yds) of fiber. That's more than I did last year, but less than I hoped to do this year. I really had it in my head that I had the bandwidth and the stamina to do 5 miles. Snort. Maybe next year during the flying pig migration. The yarn on the left, I plied from previous spinning sessions. In the middle is my super-secret project yarn that I intended to spin for Spinzilla, and to the right (looking much like the yarn in the middle) is the roving (black alpaca and white silk) from which the project yarn was spun.

 Besides completing my Spinzilla project yarn, I also finished my first baby sweater! The picture at right is from right after I finished knitting before I sewed it together, added the buttons, wove in the ends, washed and blocked it so it looks a bit rough. Of course I didn't take a picture of it when it was completely done... But maybe I can get a picture of the adorable Brynn Jacob (who was born just last week!) in it. Jessie was a bit miffed at this project as I still have four baby sweaters on the needles that I started for her and never finished. It was much easier with this one as all I had to do was knit. Had Brynn been my baby, this sweater would also still be on the needles and relegated to the corner of the textile studio.

Today is a very special day for me, it's my wedding anniversary. Twenty one years ago today, after knowing each other for less than six months, Dave Griffith and I were wed. I made my dress (with a lot of hand-sewing help from my mom), Dave made the cake, wrote the vows, and wrote our invitations. The text on the invitation is as true today as it was then, and I can only hope for 2121
more years to come.

Now it's time to get into the studio and get some glass in the kiln. I have much more to write--the promised details on Ichiyo ikebana, the current status of the renovations at Stone's Throw, the progress on the glass studio, the textile studio, and the greenhouse (aka as the wet studio), but there's plenty of time. Next week Becky is coming for a week of sybaritic pleasure (lots of fiber will be involved, some spa time, shopping, a fair bit of wine, laughter, and relaxation--as well as no housework, no cooking, no laundry, and no chauffering!). There might be posting.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016


Spinning on the back deck yesterday by one of the new ponds
I mentioned in my last post that I am recommencing my ikebana studies and working towards my Master's certification in the Ichiyo School. Well, as of yesterday, I am also beginning the Master Spinner Program through Olds College in Alberta, Canada. I have wanted to take that program for a few years and not had the bandwidth. Part of the beauty of the move to Austin and re-establishing myself is that I get to also reset my bandwidth. So come mid-February I will be in Orlando for a week immersed in the coursework for the first year of the Master Spinner program.

After the week of in-class work, the rest of the coursework is independent study that will take anywhere from a couple of months to a year to complete. Work is sent back to the college for grading, and consists of spun samples and skeins and writings. The writings are regular college level and require standard formatting and bibliographic references. The program consists of six course levels (typically taking six years to complete) and covers all stages of fiber prep, a wide range of fiber types (specific sheep breeds to cellulose, cotton, silk, nylon, angora, etc.) spinning techniques (woolen, worsted, novelty), dyeing--in short, everything you'd expect to learn in a Master's program. I am so excited!!!!! This February course is a jump-start for me and I *might* even be able to also take level 2 next year while we're in Montana in June: Olds College is just north of us in Alberta and they offer all the courses in the Master's series every June during their Fiber Week.

Plying from both ends
of the same ball of singles yarn
Now on with our regularly scheduled programming: Spinzilla! Yesterday I spent clearing off bobbins (plying the singles on them into yarn and then skeining it). I get to count the plying towards my Spinzilla yardage, just not the spinning... Since this is the first technical spinning post in a while I probably should revisit some terminology. Spinning fiber means twisting it so that it holds together and is stronger than it is untwisted. If you leave the fiber in this state it is called a single and there are things you can do to it to keep it from untwisting. Most commercial yarn you see has been plied which means to twist two or more singles together in the opposite direction from which they were originally spun. Because you twist them in the opposite direction when you ply them together, the twists balance out and the yarn hangs straight--it doesn't come untwisted.

There was one project I had on a bobbin that I couldn't just ply off and that is a gradient yarn I am making from a couple of smooth batts from Lunabudknits. I bought two batts so that I could spin each one following the color gradient and then ply them together the same way. That will give me one long skein that goes from pale lilac through violet to soft dark grey. This isn't the project I wanted to do for Spinzilla, and yet I do want to finish it, and all yardage counts! Last night a few of us from our Spinzilla team got together at Hill Country Weavers and spun for a couple of hours and I finished spinning the first batt and made good progress on the second. I hope to finish it today--though it's already noon and I am still working on Other Things than spinning.

dark brown llama roving and Jig
The main project I had planned for Spinzilla is a blended yarn spun from dark brown llama and black merino sheep wool. The llama roving (roving is fiber which has been washed and then combed or brushed--brushing is called carding and is done with something that looks like a pet brush--so that it all lies in mostly one direction and is ready for easy spinning) is gorgeous, but I want to make a sweater out of it and llama fiber doesn't have any bounce to it like wool does. The bounce comes from the crimp of the fiber and it's what makes a baggy sweater go back into its original shape when you wash it. Llama fiber--at least the fiber I have--is more like silk and will have great drape, but it doesn't have crimp, so it won't have much memory and is likely to bag. That's why I want to blend it with the merino wool which is still a very soft fiber but also has good crimp and will help the sweater hold its shape. The bad news is that I don't know if I have any black merino on hand, and the batch I ordered from Ashland Bay isn't here yet and might not be before Spinzilla is over. The good news is that Austin is surrounded by great fiber stores, and the Happy Ewe in Jonestown has plenty of the exact roving I need. I'll take a road trip this afternoon after I get some more spinning in...

Empty bobbins and plied yarns--
Ready for Spinzilla!

Monday, October 03, 2016

Endings and Beginnings

Another chapter in Atlanta is now ended. Everything is out of our home of 13 years and we are scheduled to close on it, transferring it to the new family who will make it their own, this afternoon. I'd like to say I'm sad because of all the people I have in Atlanta, but I'm not. I'm sad at being away from them but not sad to let that house go and to embrace Stone's Throw more thoroughly. I need to move on.

And I wasn't the only one who needed to move on: The three fish from the pond in our backyard also had to find another home as the contractor doing repairs for the new owners had to drain the pond and leave it empty for several days so he could re-line it. So I bought a cooler, a pump with a couple of aerator stones, and a cigarette lighter adapter to run the pump, and the fish rode in the front seat of the UHaul with me to Austin. Now they have their own little pond on the back deck with some of the plants from the Atlanta pond (which were also going to be displaced by the work there) to shelter them. In fact I had so much fun setting up the pond for them that I set up another one on the other side of the deck seating area and stocked it with six little koi from the water garden store here. The longterm plan is to put a big pond in the front yard next year for fish and water lilies, but for now they are good on the deck.

I was in Atlanta last week and part of the week before to have another glass sale in the studio and for that one I even managed to part with some of my dragon's hoard: sheets of glass for stained glass from Youghiogheny, Kokomo, Fischer, St. Gobain, and even Fremont. I let go two of the unused fiberglass forms and patterns for Tiffany's koi and peony lamps that I had always planned to do, but never set aside the time. It felt good. I met a lovely couple of Makers and she wanted to pick up stained glass after a many-year hiatus. I enjoyed sharing my handpicked sheets from the past 30 years with her, and was even able to part with many of them with just a small twinge of regret. Domenick, who did date nights and taught glassblowing at the studio some years ago, bought the remainder of the hotshop equipment so now it's empty too. Oddly I am more sad writing about these endings now than I was when they happened.

Now I'm home, and today is the first day I've posted since summer ended and my favorite season of the year, fall, began. I love fall! To me it is the season when everything begins. In fall I can work in my garden and plan and plant for spring. Fall is the start of the textile season with spinning, weaving, knitting and crocheting taking the upcoming project stage. After the heat of summer breaks I finally have energy again and a whole season of pent up ideas to get to (I don't have energy for anything in summer and one of these years I'm going to plan it so that all I have to do is swim for exercise and lie around in a hammock the rest of the time and read).

Fall also ushers in Spinzilla, the annual handspinning event that starts today and takes place during American Craft Week to raise awareness of spinning yarn. Spinzilla is a great way to kick off the fall and winter fiber season as it's the perfect time to produce all the yarn needed for a a large project or to finish a spinner's split. Last year I worked on the alpaca roving that I split with Ruthann--the fleeces were from her animals, I spun the yarn and we each took half. This year I am going to make yarn from some Montana llama roving I have been saving and some black merino combed top I have coming from Ashland Bay for a big fall project. More on Spinzilla tomorrow.

Other beginnings this week include starting the Post-Instructor course in Ichiyo Ikebana with Executive Master Elaine Jo. I studied with her for several years in Atlanta but had to give it up for time constraints after I finished the Instructor certification. Now I am picking up again and studying with her remotely to finish my Master certification, and I am also going to start a study group (the precursor to an official class) in Austin for Ichiyo Ikebana. As a special treat, I get to attend the fall Ichiyo retreat south of Atlanta the first of November for three days. Ikebana also gets its own post later this week.

Lest ye think I have set glass on the wayside, fall is also time to work on websites, exhort galleries to order glass art for Christmas, and this year, it's time to finish setting up the glass studio! Last week's items moved from Atlanta included Bettina, the biggest glass kiln, and the rest of the furniture and tools (mostly molds) that I need for my work. I also brought my own stained glass tools--though no sheet glass yet: that's for the final move currently slated for the beginning of December. Yep, for this move I brought everything including the kitchen sink! Dan unhooked the big restaurant sink I had n the kitchen and now I need a plumber here to set it up. Later this afternoon I'll take a break from spinning to ship one order and work on two others.

But now it's time to SPIN! And I think I'll sit myself outside on the deck, by the ponds, and spin there.