Sunday, February 22, 2009

Spring Preview

It's been an unusually cold winter, and now it's that time of year when everything looks dead.

Time for the annual Rhode Island Flower Show and a chance to see and smell live plants and dirt. Can you believe this garden with delphiniums in full bloom is inside the Convention Center?

This year's theme was "Gardens of the World," and two exhibits really got my attention.

One included sand sculptures of ancient Egptian designs, being sculpted live by a man dressed as an ancient Egyptian slave.

The other was a tropical jungle scene complete with waterfalls, fake thunderstorms and a jeep!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Delicious Yarns

My box of fine tapestry wools arrived from Weaving Southwest and I just could not resist. I wanted so badly to weave with it right away, so although I have 3 floor looms with tapestries partially woven, and numerous smaller frame loom projects, I jumped right in.

My copper pipe Archie Brennan loom had an empty warp, 5 inches wide, so I thought, Why Not? My computer is loaded with photos, and lately, I've been thinking a lot about trees. I want to try weaving from a photo and interpreting it very loosely for a change.

Back to the subject of yarn, this kind comes in skeins, which look so lovely, but require some time to wind into balls.

I have a perfectly functional Ball Winder, which makes balls that stand up and can be unwound from the inside.

I've had this since I bought my very first loom in 1972, at the original Earth Guild just down the street from my apartment in Cambridge; a few years later I moved to North Carolina, and shortly after that they moved to Asheville, where they still operate. It cost me about $5, and it now has more miles on it than any car I have ever owned.

Back in my semi-production weaving days (I made about 60 scarves and 60 shawls one year in the late 70's) I spent entire days winding balls. My Ball Winder has never caused any swearing or gnashing of teeth, unlike my Swift.

When the swift was new it would often surprise me by suddenly collapsing, allowing the half unwound skein to fall down. Somehow, like a child in the terrible twos, it grew out of that difficult phase, and has been a model citizen ever since.

Nevertheless, I was on the sofa watching TV with my husband the evening after the box arrived, and did not feel like going into the studio, so I just draped a skein around my knees and started winding an old fashioned ball.

It's so ROUND! So I made some more. I love the way they look, and for tapestry they are not terribly awkward to handle. Still, I think I'll have to spend a day with the ball winder and swift some day soon.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Yearning for Yarn

I just discovered that one of my favorite yarns is being discontinued

This "Fine Tapestry Yarn" is a custom spun, one ply, lustrous wool that looks like handspun, and at 2944 yards per pound, it can be used in multiple strands for color blending.

It is from Weaving Southwest, and comes in 5 shades each of 20 delicious hand-dyed colors. Right now it is on sale for 50% off, because they have decided to carry it only in white.

I wonder if that's because so many of the tapestry weavers in the area are master dyers?

I used to dye, but gave it up. It's too much like cooking, standing there stirring the pot for hours, and unlike my New Mexico pals, I had to do my dying in the house.

I remember the time I was stirring a black dyepot on the kitchen stove next to the spaghetti sauce; I lifted a skein of wool to check the color, and it slipped off the stick; as it fell back into the dyepot a big blob of black dye flew into the spaghetti sauce. I just scooped it out with a spoon, and the sauce tasted just fine. This was before we knew about the toxicity of dyes.

I already have some of this yarn, but have not yet used it much in tapestries.
I did weave some small table runners with it, and they turned out pretty nice, but the yarn is so hairy that if I put a piece of jewelry down, it inevitably gets stuck!
Then I wove a tiny rug, and I do love the texture.

So, although I have tons of yarn, this is too good to resist. I called them up yesterday and ordered about 15 of the 4 ounce skeins.
Actually, I ordered more than that, but they were already out of many colors.

One word of warning, the palest shades are VERY pale.
When I bought this a few years ago, I ended up with 3 different colors that all look white, and I can't really tell them apart.

Monday, February 2, 2009

A Brief Escape from Winter

Last week my husband had a meeting in Florida, so I decided to tag along.

I take back all the nasty things I've said about Florida in the was heavenly.

We had just experienced almost 3 weeks of sub-freezing weather, so the warmth and sunshine were even more welcome. Here's my front yard the day before we left.
I don't like my beaches lined with high rise hotels, so I fell in love with Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, at the south end of Key Biscayne.

We went there to see the 95 foot tall Lighthouse, but stayed for the pristine beach.

The Everglades National Park was also amazing: blue herons (like this one), egrets, wood storks, anhingas, and alligators were everywhere.

We arrived home to 4 more inches of icy slushy stuff, and we're expecting more tonight.