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Archive for January, 2015

Progress

Success! I've gotten as far as the first repeat!

Success! I’ve gotten as far as the first repeat!

Last night, as Genius on my Mac segued from Bob Seger to Foreigner and Bon Jovi to Blackmore’s Night (I’m pretty eclectic in my musical tastes), progress was finally made on my finger woven strap. It was awesome. I won’t claim it came together right away, but – and I don’t know any other way to explain it – I’m learning to see the threads so I can catch a mistake before it goes too far. I actually caught a couple last night and fixed them. Pretty proud of that! So it’s about eight inches long now, and 1/2 inch wide. Still need lots of practice; my selvedges aren’t perfect, and there’s a little bit of color stippling in some areas. And, of course, there’s plenty more to learn about pattern work. The diagonal pattern is pretty, but it’s also fairly plain. Lots more work to do, lots more fun to have!

Of course, now that I’ve had some success here, impatience rears its ugly head again. What can I say? I’m an Aries; it’s my nature. Now that I’ve crawled a bit, I’m ready to skip walking and go right to running again. I’m actually controlling that urge quite well, I think!

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That sounded like a really interesting title, actually, at least to me! Homeward Bound doesn’t mean what you think it does though. It was our field trip yesterday, and it’s a pet crematorium. In point of fact, it’s the only pet crematorium for hundreds of miles, apparently, and also the one that cremated our Smoky, so during our tour I found myself standing across from a shelving unit holding dozens of urns identical to hers. Not my best day ever. I’ve learned far more about the cremation process than I ever wanted to know. I can see how it might be wise to know something about it, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it, right? I definitely did not like it. The staff were all very nice, don’t get me wrong, it’s just the subject matter. It’s not something I like to spend much time thinking about.

I did take the advice of opusanglicanum on my cooking problem yesterday, and made an attempt at Yorkshire pudding. It actually went pretty well, as far as the cooking mechanics. As far as flavor, well, never having eaten Yorkshire pudding before, I have no idea if I did it right. Alone, they were pretty bland. With gravy they were awesome! So, I’ll probably make them again. I put them with a kind of end-of-the-month-toss-together meal: egg noodles with onion gravy and hamburger meat over them. Not exactly gourmet, but filling nonetheless. Thank you to opusanglicanum!

Radiology. Oh, radiology, how confusing you are. Actually doing an x-ray isn’t as bad as learning what’s involved in one. You measure the part you’re going to radiograph, figure out how big the image needs to be, follow the chart for the kvps and mAs, place the animal, and snap. Overly-simplified, but essentially that’s it. It’s learning about the kvps abd mAs themselves, and the cathode and the anode and how everything actually works together. But I managed to get an A on my final anyway, so it’ll be on to the veterinary technician program in about two weeks! In the meantime, I can catch up on my favorite television shows, of which there are few, and restart…again…my finger weaving project.

I refuse to be beaten by a few strands of string. Absolutely refuse. So one way or another, I am going to get the hang of this and get it right. I am not going to change materials, and I am not going to chuck the thing across the room. What I am going to do is alternate between the finger weaving and the fur I’m spinning for the rescue. Yes, I’m still doing that. There’s a lot of fur! And speaking of which, if there are any spinners out there willing to volunteer for the rescues, I’d like to encourage you to contact them. Right now I’m spinning for SOS-SRF, and I know they’d be happy to hear from some more spinners, but there are other rescues out there that can always use help, even if it’s not crafts or fostering. There are some, like SOS-SRF, that use crafts donated to them by selling them in eBay auctions to raise money to support the dogs they help. So never think there’s nothing you can do. Even kids can help!

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What I should be doing right now is studying. My final is Friday, and it’s my final final for the veterinary assistant refresher before I go into the veterinary technology program next month. I need to come as close to acing it as I possibly can, but my brain is fried. Kaput. Done for. Instead, here I am again, for the third time today, which is a record for me, especially as I’ve been inconsistent in blog posts for quite awhile! And, I’m playing with yarn again. Naturally.

The children, thankfully, are in bed and actually staying there, which itself is miraculous. Bryony is generally put to bed and is out of it again within ten minutes. Tonight she isn’t giving anyone any trouble.

Unlike my little finger weaving experiment, which is giving me tons, as if to make up for Bryony’s lack. I’ve frogged and restarted several times now since last night. I’ll get about twenty rows in, lose something somewhere, and in my lack of experience, I can’t yet simply unweave back to the mistake and correct it, because I’m not familiar enough with what I’m doing to even recognize where the mistake is, only that there is one. So, at present, once again I’m looking at a complete restart. If nothing else, I will be an expert on how to start a finger weaving project. My expertise in finishing one, however, is very much in doubt. At the rate things are going, I’m far more likely to take the whole mess and pitch it across the room.

It’s possible my problem is my choice of material. I used embroidery floss for my first experiment, and only twelves strands for that. While it was pretty, it didn’t look the way it was supposed to, so somewhere I made a mistake that I didn’t recognize, and that probably came about because 6-strand embroidery floss is made for the express purpose of being able to separate it, which means that in a project such as finger weaving, it’s not really a wise choice. Eventually, as you’re picking up threads, those threads have separated enough that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish between one thread and the next one.

So, for the second experiment, which is the one pictured in yesterday’s post, I decided to try perle cotton. It’s a three color strap utilizing 36 strands, 12 of each color. I may have been too ambitious here. It’s possible I should have stuck with worsted weight yarn and fewer strands until I was better at this, something that’s easy for me to see mistakes. Problem is, I’m a big fan of small. No, really.

In beadwork, the smaller the beads, the more detail you can put into the image you’re creating. For the computer savvy, it’s like pixels. If you have a 32 inch tv, the smaller your pixels, the sharper, more defined the image on the screen, right? Well, it’s the same with yarn. The thicker the yarn, the clunkier the project becomes. Some projects, obviously, are meant for clunky yarn. This is not one of them, thus the perle cotton. Once again, I’m running before I walk. The downside of this is the constant frogging and restarting. But there is an upside: if I keep at it, I will eventually get it right and have a strap I can be proud of. There’s my motivation.

 

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Dear Mr. Cosby,

You have no idea how difficult this is to write. I’m one of your biggest fans, and have been for most of my life. I grew up with you. You were a household icon. I watched Fat Albert on the weekends, the Cosby Show as a teenager, your stand-up comedy routines, applauded your remarks on education and how our youth needed to pull up their pants, speak proper English, and quit blaming everyone else for their shortcomings and joblessness. When you spoke, I, among others, listened.

Now, I don’t know what to listen to. I don’t know if you truly did what’s being said, not having been there myself. Add to that the fact that we’re talking about years ago, so any physical evidence would be long gone anyway. But I am a smoke=fire person. I can’t help it. It seems logical to me, and in this instance it breaks my heart. I have a hard time believing that any man who has spent decades with a woman he claims to love, who has fathered children with that woman, four of whom are girls, would be able to commit such reprehensible acts. And yet.

You have four daughters who live in your home. You have millions of other daughters out in the world, girls who grew into women while watching you and seeing you as a secondary dad. We took home life lessons from you just like we did our own dads. We hung on your words and took them to heart. And though this situation doesn’t make your previous words less true, it does taint them. How can it not?

With apologies to Michael Jackson’s fans, I never believed that he didn’t do it. Sorry, folks, I think he did. Again, smoke = fire. The amount of smoke tells me whether or not someone set fire to a piece of paper in an ashtray, or burned down several thousand acres. I was excused from a jury because of that thought process. As a woman and the mother of two little girls, there was no way that I could look at a man being accused by several different, unrelated women and be fair on a jury.

There are far more than merely “several” women accusing you. You, the voice of sanity and reason in the Black community. You, the father of four women. You, the iconic, legendary TV dad. You.

I am trying so hard to believe that you would never. And yet. How many women have come forward to accuse you now? The last I heard was twenty, from different races, different states, different walks of life, different careers, yet similar stories. How can I ignore this? How can I, with my smoke and fire mentality, believe that you didn’t do it? Rape?

There, I said it.

Rape.

This is a word that, by definition, strikes terror into every woman’s heart…including your daughters. It’s a word we are all subject to, as women, and pray to never fall victim of. It’s a word that has been used on too many of us. How can any man who is a son, brother, cousin, father, grandfather to a woman subject another to that fate. But you? You??

I don’t want to believe it. I really don’t. It tarnishes so many childhood memories. I believed in you. I trusted you. My parents used you as a role model for my brother and me because they trusted and believed in you: “Here is a Black man, on television, the very epitome of wholesome. He doesn’t swear. He doesn’t drink. He doesn’t do drugs. He’s been married to the same woman for years. He’s raised five children. He portrays only upper-middle class Black characters in his work.” Of course you were lauded. We had so few role models of color to look up to when we were children in the 70s.

And now this. I hope the truth comes out, good, bad, or indifferent. I hope the truth isn’t what I’m hearing. I hope I can hang on to that childish trust and belief I had once upon a time. I hope you are worthy of that.

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Cooking Issues

So here’s a question for anyone that likes to cook: I need something new I can do with ground beef. Hubby is a really picky eater, worse than the children, really. The only meat he truly likes is ground beef. He’ll tolerate others, but not really like them. The rest of us are quite heartily sick of hamburgers (and the umpteen variations of same), meat loaf (and the umpteen variations of same), spaghetti (repeat), and chili (repeat ad infinitum). I’ve made meatball soup, which is a hit but you can only eat it so often. I’ve made Cuban picadillo, which I love but my family hates because it calls for olives, which none of us like. I’ve made curried beef, also a hit but can only be eaten so often. Googling ground beef recipes very rarely nets me anything that isn’t a variation of some basic food. I can’t tell you how many versions of tacos, burgers, meatloaf, etc. I’ve seen, and if there’s one thing I don’t want, it’s a variation on the same old, same old. I need new, exciting, exotic (within reason!!!)!! Please sing out if you’ve got something interesting!

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Practice finger weaving project. Please ignore the clutter!

Practice finger weaving project. Please ignore the clutter!

I mentioned yesterday that I was trying this weaving technique, and I have to admit that it’s caught my interest. It’s a form that’s apparently been found all over the world and goes back thousands of years, which would intrigue me all by itself, and is called sash weaving as well, but it’s challenging to me. It’s simpler than loom weaving in that there’s considerably less time spent in warping, but more difficult in that you have to use your fingers in positions that they’re not normally in, and are therefore a touch uncomfortable until you get used to it. I must have read the directions on how to position my fingers about thirty times last night, and tried to change the shed according to those directions a good forty times before I finally figured it out. Once I did, it was kind of a “duh” moment, so I’m honestly not sure if it was me, or if the instructions were just a hair too vague. There aren’t many instructional videos on YouTube, either; in fact there are very few that actually show true finger weaving. If you look up finger weaving, you’ll get a mix of videos that include finger knitting, which is entirely different, some video tutorials that stopped way too soon for me, and some historical discussion.

do have some books on finger weaving that I bought months – if not years – ago, that have been sitting on my shelves waiting for me to get around to them. I’m not even certain what pushed me into trying it now. The instructions in the books weren’t much more help, past a certain point, than the videos. So I’ll either have to find someone who can show me what to do, or figure it out on my own. Or see if there’s a finger weaving group on Ravelry, which is very likely my best bet!

The technique isn’t hard to learn; it’s mostly learning by repetition. The difficulty is in making certain you keep the warp threads in order, and keeping tension consistent. That being said, naturally, being me, I tried to run before I walked and went straight to a pattern that looked simple enough, and in theory it is. It was a diamond pattern that requires you to first start weaving in two different directions. You start at the center, and on the left side you weave to the left, and on the right you weave to the right for the top half of the diamond. For the bottom half, you start from the outside threads on each side and weave back to the center. I could not get the hang of it, and restarted a number of times before finally throwing the mess across the room. Like I said, running before walking. It was doomed to end that way. So right now I’m limiting myself to the simplest of patterns, like a good girl, until I understand the process better, then I can mess around with it more.

My main problem is that there are so many aspects of fiber arts that interest me that I can’t seem to keep myself to one type until I’m really good at it before moving on to one of the other forms that I want to learn about. So as a result, I’m about average at all of them. 🙂 It could be worse though, I suppose. Just imagine if money was no object! I’d never dig myself out of this studio. Wait, that’s a lie: I’d have an awesome studio built to my specs in the backyard, attached to the house by a breezeway, and would probably have to be dragged indoors by my family, who’d be starving to death because I’d be so caught up I’d forget to cook! Hmm…something to be said for limitations after all!

Well, I’m off to put children to bed and resume work on the strap I’m playing with now. Nighty nite, folks, and sweet dreams!

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A very early loom-beaded piece made for my mother

A very early loom-beaded piece made for my mother

I’m curious how many others are out there who are as involved in various crafts as I am. I do tons of things, although not all of them well. To recap, my interests are loom beading, weaving, spinning on wheels and spindles, knitting, crochet, naalbinding, chain maille, stained glass, and Kumihimo. I guess I should include finger weaving as well, since I started trying that out yesterday (I was incredibly frustrated, too, I might add, but I still enjoyed it). So holler out in the comments if you play in the same arenas, or maybe others I haven’t tried yet! I love feedback; it makes me feel special. 🙂 What do you do? How long have you been doing it? Why did you start? Did you start playing with one craft only to have it lead to another?

For me, weaving was a childhood dream, but one I didn’t get to until a couple of years ago. Beadwork was my second love, and was largely self-taught. Beads were inexpensive, and so were looms for beginners, so that collection built up fast. There are beads everywhere in my little bedroom studio, mostly seed beads. My preference is 11 aught Delicas, and over the years I’ve learned not only loom beading, but freehand and other techniques. I’ve also upgraded from the cheap beginner’s looms to much nicer ones!

Weaving I came to a few years ago when we moved to Colorado, and it’s made me very happy to finally be able to do this! Of course, I have more yarn than I could possibly use, with more always on the way! I’ve learned that I have no willpower when it comes to yarn or tools!

Weaving is my “gateway drug”. It led me to Ravelry, which led me to all of the other fiber arts, and even stained glass. Yes, I know, there’s no connection. Well, it was suggested I take a weaving class. The local community college was offering one, so I signed up for that and jewelry making, since I needed two classes. Then they dropped the weaving class, and I still needed another class, so I took stained glass, not expecting to really like it. I expected to love jewelry making, and I hated it. The blow torch is not my friend. But stained glass? Wow. Just wow. Once I got past the terror of breaking glass – on purpose!!! – I absolutely loved it. Who knew?!

Sanity is at a premium around here. Truly. The children have reached the ages where they can’t get along for five minutes without someone whining or shrieking at the top of their lungs. Mix with bipolar parents, and the results are predictable if you don’t have a way to stay sane. The ability to lock myself in a room, turn up the music, and tune out the stresses of the day is a gift.

Take today, for instance: first thing this morning, as usual, I let the dogs out. No one has yet had coffee, I’m running a bit late, Aneira is still in bed despite needing to be in the truck in fifteen minutes, and Bandit falls down the outside stairs and lacerates her right eye. Being late is now a fact, as we now need to take care of the dog. Assess her situation, get her settled in the crate, it’s now eight am, Aneira is late, jump into the truck and get her to school. Come back home and realize that I really need to take Bandit to the vet. I don’t want that eye to be infected, and although the wound isn’t bad, it needs to be protected. By nine am, she is unhappily tucked into the cone of shame, and Bryony is up. Get coffee and breakfast going, then hobble out the door once again for a post-surgery doctor’s appointment. Naturally, there is nowhere to park, and for someone with handicapped plates, that’s saying something. Finally find a space, and get up to the office just in time, only to learn that the health insurance that just sent me an approval letter two weeks ago has suddenly decided I’m ineligible. So, while waiting to be seen by the doctor, I begin what will ultimately be a series of calls to correct the problem (note, as of right now, the problem has still not been corrected). As I sit on hold, the nurse takes my blood pressure: lo and behold, and what a shock (not) – it’s 158/102. Is anyone surprised? Nope, I’m not.

After the appointment, I returned home and decided that I was done for the day. It’s Monday, after all, notorious the world over for being the crappiest day of the week. I of course returned to the fighting of the two girls. Aneira, smug in her older sister role during fight number 3 in the last half hour, has informed five-year-old Bryony that her things are gross, which is the end of the world for Bry, whose glass-breaking shriek can probably be heard by her cousins in New York and vibrates down my spine to my tailbone, and back up to my ears. Wanna guess where I am right now?

You got it. Hiding in my little studio blogging and playing with string with the music blasting. Have a good night, folks.

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Specifically, the fur of a Siberian Husky. I wanted to blog about this today, because I’ve gotten a lot of strange looks when I’ve mentioned spinning dog hair, and many folks are downright grossed out by the idea. So here we go.

I got into spinning, and bought my wheel primarily for the purpose of spinning dog hair. Yep, you read it right. I’d heard of people doing it for the purpose of creating keepsakes for pet owners whose pets have crossed the Rainbow Bridge, and I thought it was a fabulous idea. Then I thought, why wait till I’ve lost one of my babies? Thor drops enough fur in the course of one grooming to make another dog. Why not start spinning his fur now, while I still have him? To date, I have two boxes worth of his undercoat, with more on the way all the time. He’s a woolly-coated Sibe: there is never an end to his shedding. There may be a little less to comb out during parts of the year, but whether it’s less or more, it’s always a copious amount. If you’ve never owned a Sibe and saw what I brush out of him during a regular grooming, it would boggle your mind. Seriously.

Because he’s got a fairly long staple, learning to spin using his fur was not as traumatic as I expected it to be. And because he’s my dog, practice fiber was, of course, free. How can you beat that? If you run out of stuff to spin, go groom the dog, and voila! – you have more spinnable fiber at no cost other than your time to groom him, which is bonding time, in my eyes.

To address the idea that it’s gross to spin dog hair, I submit this for you to ponder: most people who aren’t allergic to it have worn wool. Wool, as a very general rule, comes from a sheep. Sheep live in pastures. Many of them have limited contact with the humans who own them. They don’t live in the house, they’re not (for the most part) getting regularly bathed. At the point that their coats are sheared, the unprocessed wool is full of feces, urine, and vegetable matter, if not other things. It also doesn’t smell very good.

Now picture the average pet dog: they’re in your home, which means they’re pretty much clean. Certainly, they’re not as dirty as the average sheep. Yes, wet dog is a fairly unpleasant scent, but just like sheep’s wool, the fur can be cleansed of that scent. There’s less work involved, too. I sit down, call Thor over, leash him, and brush him. Nothing to it.

Also consider this: Sibes are Arctic breeds. They’re bred to withstand temperatures that we in the lower 48 will never see. They have the ability to keep themselves warm. How warm must their fur be? Answer: pretty rutting warm, as well as pretty rutting light!

So, all in all, to me, spinning dog hair is a great idea. And since dog hair has been found in even prehistoric yarn, well, obviously, I’m not the only one who thinks so!

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