Archive for March, 2008

Knitting With Abandon

Last week I took a class labeled Knitting With Abandon, Micki Smith – teacher. She happens to be an original Loose Lady (of Six Loose Ladies fame) with a reputation of being an accomplished knitter and designer, fun and innovative. We were to bring colors of leftover yarn that we thought went together color wise, paying little attention to weight or fiber content. I chose shades of blue, red and purple.

free form swatches

Micki showed us how to knit little free-form swatches, building on them with different colors to make irregular shapes.

We outlined each of them in a single crochet, eventually sewing/crocheting them together to conform to a pattern shape.

outline crochet

There were no rules here but clearly there is a learning curve to produce a quality product.I learned to double finer yarns and filling in the spaces with single crochet was challenging. Close inspection reveals my learning process. I’m hoping a nice lining will make up for inexperience.

crocheting the spaces

I intended to photograph the rectangle all finished but I forgot so you’ll just have to imagine what it looked like before I sewed it into a purse. I added a little flower I was playing around with in the same yarns just for fun and added a picot edge to the flap. It still needs a lining and a snap. Tomorrow.

finished purse

Portable design wall

portable design wall black sideThanks to lots of innovative people on the QuiltArt list and elsewhere, I’ve constructed a new portable design wall for the studio. With all the wonderful under-eave storage we had installed during the building process, there was little wall space left for a fixed design wall. So after viewing several examples and reading several summaries online, we purchased a rolling clothes rack (Bed, Bath and Beyond), two 4’x8′ boards of insulation (Home Depot) and some 72″ wide felt (JoAnn’s). I decided to make one side white and the other side black, mostly because I could see advantages to both colors and couldn’t settle on just one.

portable design wall white sideWe cut the boards to 7′ and notched the bottom edges to fit over the bottom of the rolling rack. Next we covered each board with felt. We used spray adhesive to glue the two sides together around the rack – the pieces of leftover insulation board were cut to size and positioned between the two large panels, sprayed with glue, and pressed together. We laid it down and weighted it overnight… and voila!

I’ve already used the wall to photograph a new quilt. Between the lights in the studio and the light streaming in from the windows the texture shows up very well. And I can move it around to get the desired effect. And it’s ready just in time to start a new project.

And the winner is….

ME! Remember the Fleece Challenge I mentioned back on March 4th? I’ve finally gotten to see the other entries. I’m posting pictures even though they are hard to see because the backgrounds are so busy. Everyone was wonderfully creative as you can see and the judges said it was very hard to choose the winner. But in the end, they chose my tree!

AnnDona

Ann’s felted bowl with delicate fiddle heads and pussy willows; and Dona’s “Basket Case” complete with chocolate bunny and lovely felted egg.

PauletteNancy

Paulette’s felted lion and lamb; and Nancy’s felted mother sheep with her three lambs.

JenMy tree

Jen’s beautiful felted breath of spring; and finally, my tree.

If you are near Proctorsville, Vermont in the next month, you can stop into Six Loose Ladies shop and vote for the viewer’s choice. Bravo everyone! Well done.

Spring?

I’ve been reading reports of tulips and daffodils, forsythia and picking fresh strawberries. Those folks definitely live in warmer climes. This is what the first full day of spring looks like up on our mountain in lovely Vermont:

first full day of spring

Sugaring

sap drippingWe’re a week late since we were away for a few days, but we dipped our toes into maple syrup making today. Using 10 borrowed buckets and taps we drilled holes in 8 of our sugar maples and hung the buckets to begin collecting sap. The temperatures have been above freezing during the day and colder at night, perfect for the sap bucketssap to begin rising. As soon as we drilled the holes, sap began dripping out and the ping, ping, ping of the drops hitting the bottom of the bucket was a welcome sound. Now we have to be diligent to empty the sap buckets every day and begin the boiling process. Depending how much sugar is in the sap, it can take 40 – 60 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of syrup. It’s lots of work but a very sweet reward.

Fleece Challenge

What do you do with fleece that isn’t good for anything? Post a challenge, of course. Six Loose Ladies did just that with three partial fleeces that were matted, brittle and just generally nasty. fleecesFor the bargain sum of $5, we could take a grocery bag full of this “wonderful” stuff and be creative with it. The colors range from “white” to black with brown locks. After washing, they smelled better but were still less than lovely. So now, what to make?

I was particularly drawn to the gray fleece with lovely tan locks. It was by far the dirtiest and it was the one I had the least of, but it looked like bark to me, so it got me thinking of trees. I have limited felting experience, can’t spin, don’t weave, not enough to knit with… So I picked the brains of a few trusted friends and a few books to figure out how to engineer a felted tree sculpture with a wire armature.

tree1thumb.jpgI started with the white, extremely matted glob. I separated it into several pieces as best I could and then wrestled it into a trunk and several branches which I wrapped rather tightly with some wool yarn. I tried wet felting it into a more dense structure with only limited success. I had better results with some fibers that I was able to tease out and wet felt like you’re supposed to to make an additional branch. That offered just enough encouragement to keep going. (I forgot to photograph this “rag mop” stage. One really had to use imagination to see a tree here.)

Next step was to figure out the wire armature. I used some 4 strand stuff from my husband’s “used wire” box. The idea was to add vertical structure to the trunk, roots to make the tree free-standing, and to separate the wire strands and twist them with roving so that I could felt into it later. This time the matted nature of the white fleece came in handy. By twisting the roving ends into the strands of wire I was able to attach it to the trunk without having to use any other substance.

tree2thumb.jpgtree3thumb.jpg

Next I made some pre-felt out of the dark fleece. I teased out small clumps and wet felted them until they were thin sheets or strips. I wrapped these around the trunk and branches and needle felted them to the surface. With lots of effort I was able to shape the trunk, branches, and roots into a respectable looking tree shape.

The next step was to apply the grey fleece to look like bark. I separated it carefully to preserve the curly tan locks, using them as additional branches and trunk texture. They were needle felted in small pieces, covering all the dark fleece. And voila, I’m done.

tree4thumb.jpgtree5thumb.jpg

Judges have been selected and judging will be on March 16th at Six Loose Ladies shop. Stay tuned…

More….

feederRemember that bird feeder picture from Thursday’s post? Here’s what it looked like this morning. We had another 8″ overnight. I’ve shoveled it out and filled it up and I hope the birds will hop below snow level to feed. This has been a very snowy winter and some friends who were skiing at Okemo yesterday said it is akin to skiing out west.


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