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At Last!

It seems that the dragon loom and I have finally come to an agreement. I have a system now that helps me keep better track of where I am in the pattern. It seems kind of obvious in hindsight, but it took me awhile to realize the way the pattern worked, because I wasn’t looking for it. I was simply following the directions by rote, not really paying attention to it. Once I did see it, though, it was easy to work with. The pattern sequence is 8 turns of the tablets, made a bit more complex by the fact that I’m actually working with five packs of tablets, and they go in two different directions for half the sequence, and in the same direction for the other half, but it’s two consecutive picks for each turn. So I started counting off each pick, one and two, change direction, one and two, change direction, etc. That wasn’t working, because while yes, the two picks were identical, the next two weren’t, and carried the same numbers, so I was still losing my place. I had to count them off as one through eight, and once I started doing that, everything flowed much better. If I’m in pick five, I know exactly which direction the cards are turning, and therefore which way I need to turn them next in order to continue the weave, or to unweave in case of a mistake. It has been much easier!

Aneira is doing well with therapy, and she and I talk each night at bedtime about how her day went, rating everything on a scale of one to ten. Lots of hugs and kisses are given, along with lots of “I love you”. There are those who would say that all the repetition of those words devalues them, but my personal belief is that your kids can never hear them too often. Kids too easily fall into the habit of believing that their parents hate them. Not only that, but there’s also the fact that anything can happen during the course of a day, and sometimes whatever happens can mean that you never have the opportunity to say those words to that person again. So I say them as often as I can, to make sure the girls know how much I love them. So far, I’ve been lucky, and both of them are still tightly bonded to me. I don’t know how much longer that will last; Aneira will be thirteen in a couple of months!

Valkyrie is rapidly becoming the queen terror of the house. It’s a good thing I’d bought a whole bunch of Clorox wipes at Costco, because they’re getting a lot of use as we work on potty training. She and Vanir are very close, but the old man, Thor, still wants nothing to do with this little upstart. And she’s way too smart for her own good: she has already figured out that doorknobs are what allow one to open the door and escape a room. I have watched her working on them, and she’s going to get it right sooner rather than later! She stands on her hind legs, takes the doorknob in her mouth and tries to twist it. If she had opposable thumbs, I’d be in deep trouble already!

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At a Loss

I don’t know what I want to do tonight. I’m sitting in my little studio, staring at Pinterest, and I don’t know what I want to do. I’ve got three bands in various stages of weaving on three different looms, and I’m looking at other patterns for another band. I’m also looking at tatting patterns, because it’s been awhile since I picked up a shuttle and my fingers are itching for one. I’ve also got two blankets on crochet hooks that could use some work, and I saw some interesting crochet stitches on Pinterest too.

And then there’s Valkyrie, with whom I’ve made some strides today and who is just cute as a button, and I want to play with her too. And Vanir has been very lovey-dovey since Valkyrie arrived, so cuddling him is a must, too. And I have to say, I don’t understand how it is that he is still as adorable as a puppy when he is an adult and nearly five years old now. Yeah, my dogs aren’t spoiled or anything!

There are also my adult coloring books, markers, and colored pencils…I could spend some time coloring with my kids. There’s so much I could be doing, so much I want to do, and can’t figure out which want is greater than the others! Sigh. So I think what I’m going to do is read more of Tablets at Work. I need to know more about how tablet weaving really works. I’ve made so many mistakes with the strap on the dragon loom that it’s not funny. If I lose my place, I generally end up cutting the weft thread and pulling it out back to the beginning of the pattern repeat, because I can’t figure out how to unweave it without compounding the problem. So studying is probably the best idea. It’s not like the book isn’t interesting, because it absolutely is, it’s just that I’d rather be doing than reading. Sometimes, though, you can’t jump ahead like that, and this is one of those times.

 

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A Birthday!!!!

Fourteen years old!!

Yes, I had a birthday a few days ago, and so did Thor, our now-fourteen-year-old Sibe. We share a birthday, which is pretty cool, I think. And while I’ll tell you how old he is, since I don’t think he cares, I think I’ll refrain from mentioning my age, in favor of my vanity. Most people express disbelief upon hearing my age, swearing I look younger than I am, but I’m never sure if the disbelief is genuine, or politeness lol.

So the day in question didn’t start out so well. A couple of days earlier, I had woken up to find my left knee painful and starting to swell. No idea what I’d done to it. I hadn’t fallen, wrenched it, or banged it into anything. Just, out of nowhere, blammo! And over the course of the next two days, it blew up to twice the size of the right one. I couldn’t bend it far, and couldn’t straighten it completely either. It hurt to touch it or move it. The PIP thought I should go to the ER the night before my birthday, but I refused. And by morning, I really had no choice. So off to the urgent care I went. Xrays were excruciating, but showed no breaks and no reason for all the swelling. Orders have since gone out for an MRI. Fun stuff. So I ended up with a compression bandage on the knee, naproxen for daytime, hydrocodone for bedtime, and instructions to wait for the MRI folks to call.

Then I had to head up to Denver International Airport, because my birthday present was arriving on Alaska Air. Naturally, the weather turned ugly, and since I was driving up alone, I opted to avoid the highway and take the back roads, which were themselves pretty nasty. I don’t ever do the highway in bad weather. Call me a wimp, but contending with idiots who are far exceeding the dry speed limit of 75 mph is not my idea of a relaxing drive. Thus, back roads. It takes longer–a lot longer–but I feel more confident of surviving the trip!

Without further ado, let me introduce my present:

Introducing Valkyrie, Tovik’s Warrior Goddess

She is an adorable bundle of trouble! I admit to being nervous about introducing her to Vanir, but the two of them are fast friends already. She follows him everywhere. Thor is less thrilled about the new arrival. It hasn’t been long since Bandit left us, but we agreed that the kids needed this, and I’ve known the owners of Tovik Siberians ever since I got Thor eleven years ago.

This is the first time I’ve ever had a pack that consisted only of Northern breed dogs. I figure Valkyrie’s mask will eventually fade, but right now she’s got striking markings. And when I finally get a picture of the three of them together, they’ll look beautiful together. And boy, am I glad the boys are neutered!!! She’ll be spayed after she’s a year old, to make sure she grows properly into adulthood. I have no desire to breed!

Of course, she latched right onto the PIP, Mr. I-Don’t-Want-A-New-Dog-Yet, who cuddles her every chance he gets, and she considers the girls of the household to be furniture, to be ignored as much as possible. Annoying, lol! Unless we’re giving out treats, of course. But what a cutie!

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Eaten Alive

Three of my dragons

Bet that title got your attention!! But it’s not what you think. This dragon loom eats little novice weavers like me for lunch. I’ve never used a single-sided inkle before, and the tensioning method is unfamiliar to me too, so every time I’ve had to loosen the tension to move the warp, there have been threads dropped, tension too loose, just a plethora of mistakes that have to be fixed before I can get back to weaving. Not that I’m not loving it! Being smaller and lighter than my other inkle looms, I can carry it all over the house, and weave in my recliner pretty easily, in front of the tv. And it is most certainly pretty.

I’m not sure if I like the leather tablets or not. On the one hand, they turn very easily. On the other, little bits of leather scrape off the rough back and end up in the warp, kind of like leather dandruff, and the tablets seem to get caught in the threads more easily. Not sure how to adjust that. But the weaving is fun.

It’s been the only fun over the last couple of days. I had a doctor’s appointment the other day, follow up to fasting labwork that had been ordered because, let’s face it, I ain’t seventeen anymore. Well, he had news for me: I’m diabetic. I know, thousands upon thousands of people have it and live perfectly normal lives, with the exception that they have to be a bit more careful about what they put in their bodies. But my mother had it too, and her kidneys failed as a complication. Dialysis three times a week, three hours each session. Eventually this complication killed her. So you can imagine that my reaction to the news was anything but, “I can handle this.” No, it was more like down-to-the-bone terror, because all I could see was my mother’s death, and I’m thinking, “I can’t go anywhere. This can’t happen. My kids are too young and still need me.” Silly, right? Like I said, my rational brain was pointing out the fact that 30 million people in the US alone live with diabetes on a daily basis. I’m not the first. Rationally, I know that. But something else kept bringing up pictures of my mom.

It’s taken me several days to equalize from the diagnosis. I’m well aware that I have to make changes now, and I’m finding out that those changes to my eating habits are the hardest ones to deal with. I only ever drink iced tea, for instance. Occasionally, I’ll crave soda for about a week, and then I’m done for awhile, but iced tea is my be-all, end-all. And it must be sweetened, otherwise I may as well be drinking essence of grass. And I’m not a horse.

I also can’t stand the taste of milk. If you want me to turn green, hand me a glass of milk and make me drink it. So now it’s pretty much just water.

Fortunately, I enjoy fish quite a bit, but not so much a fan of chicken. There are a few dishes I like, but overall, I like my fish or my red meat. And getting rid of white rice and potatoes, both of which are staple foods in my house? Doom! Disaster! Devastation! Dogs and cats living together! Give up fries and potato salad?! Could you break my heart any more? My sweet tooth is brokenhearted as well, although it’s probably what got me here in the first place. Oh, yes, this is going to be painful.

As I am fond of saying, there is nothing “golden” about the so-called golden years. The golden years are when you are young and your body can still do amazing things, even while existing on a steady diet of Froot Loops, McDonald’s, and Taco Bell. And no, I’m not quite a senior citizen yet! But though mentally, I am still a spry seventeen year old girl, the body begs to differ. I won’t catalogue things here; let’s just say it laughs at me when I ask it to do certain tasks, like running. Not a chance, Lance. In a horror movie, I’d be the chick who falls down and crawls as the killer is coming up right behind me.

So it’s a brand new day, a whole new chapter of change. It’s gonna hurt, but it’s gotta be done. Wish me luck…I’m pretty sure I’m gonna need it!

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Here Be Dragons

Dragon tablet/inkle weaving loom

It didn’t occur to me until after I typed the title, but it refers to not only the dragon loom in the picture, but also to me. Our high school mascot was a dragon, so of course every student that has ever graduated from there is called, naturally, a dragon. Kind of amusing, but there you go.

The beauty in the picture came from Toplyfiberarts on Etsy. It arrived today, and I’m very happy with it. The only thing I didn’t like about it was the fact that it didn’t have a base; none of them do. So when it is freestanding, it leans on its pegs. That was what I didn’t like. So, immediately, the PIP and I headed out to a specialty lumber yard. The loom is made of African mahogany, and treated with linseed oil, and we wanted the new base to match the loom, thus the specialty yard. We found a nice piece of African mahogany there, although less figured than the loom itself, had it cut to the size we decided on, and then bought a quart of linseed oil before heading back home.

The PIP, as you’ve seen in the earlier post about my new shelves, is a fair hand with woodwork, so when we got home, he proceeded to sand all the edges until they were nicely rounded, then he put me to work applying the linseed oil. Initially, the wood we bought was a different color, but the addition of the linseed oil deepened the color until it matched the loom. Okay, I am certain it’s a dead match. The PIP, who is a perfectionist, to put it in polite terms, says it’s “very close”. What that means, in the language of the rest of the world, is perfect match. He is one of those people who will look at a shelf and say, “It’s not level. It’s off by .0004 millimeters.”  I am the person whose fingers, at that point, are itching to slap him silly. My usual response to such statements is to tell him that he is the only person in the known world who would even notice that. I can’t fault the results of his quest for perfection, but I can tell you that the journey is maddening to everyone around him.

The loom came with a warp already on it, and it’s something new for me. The warp itself is #10 crochet cotton, but the weft surprised me: I swear it is sewing thread. It never occurred to me to use sewing thread for weaving, but it works. As with anything where you want fine detail, smaller is better, and sewing thread definitely falls into that category. So the weaving looks fabulous, but I’m working it very slowly because I’m afraid to break the weft thread!!

Also new to me are the leather tablets that arrived already threaded onto the warp. Leather is about the only material I’d never used as a tablet before. I know they’re historically accurate, so it’s interesting to use them. Depending on how things go with the weaving, I may make some of my own. I’ll certainly be adding more thread to my stash to use in weaving!

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What Makes a Fiber Artist?

Beautiful, unwoven warp

As I was walking past my loom on my way downstairs, the warp caught my eye, and I thought how beautiful the unwoven warp was, just under tension and the strands lying so perfectly side by side, everything symmetrical, and suddenly my brain said, “What makes a fiber artist?”

I think the answer is subjective for everyone. For me, I don’t think the answer lies in how good you are at the art. It’s an “eye of the beholder” thing. It’s something as simple as seeing the beautiful potential in that warp, even though it hasn’t been woven yet. It’s the feel of the tools in your hands. It’s the excitement of looking at different types of yarn, thread, cord, and imagining what you’ll do with them. It’s the inability to walk into a yarn store and come out empty-handed, because even though you have more yarn than you have projects planned, you have an idea for that delicious yarn you just picked up and had to have. It’s realizing that you spend more time in your studio than you do anywhere else in the house.

I’m not a great weaver. I’ve got a long way to go before I reach that point, and it may never happen, partially because I have so many fiber interests, and I’m learning all of them at once. Partially it’s because there’s always more to learn. I may wind up just being competent, in the end, and I’m okay with that. But does that mean I can call myself a fiber artist? Well, let me answer like this:

In Sister Act 2, Whoopi Goldberg is talking to Lauryn Hill, and she says “When you wake up in the morning, if you can’t think of anything but singing first, then you’re supposed to be a singer.”

By that criteria, I’m a fiber artist.

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Sweet!!!

The horn tablets are a bit larger than the bone.

It’s very quiet in the house since Bandit crossed the Bridge. The boys seem to be lost, Vanir more than Thor. Bandit was who he latched onto when he joined the family as a puppy, and he’s been looking for her since she’s been gone. We all have, really. The girls are really devastated, but taking it better than the adults. Fourteen years of “Where’s Bandit? What is she doing?” doesn’t evaporate overnight. She was part of the family, and it’s hard not to have her here. I keep looking for her goofy grin. I even miss yelling at her not to eat the crap she finds outside. There wasn’t much she wouldn’t eat. If she could chew it, clearly, it was edible. The more gross, the better.

I don’t understand how it works. For the most part, when the dogs are inside the house, the older two were sleeping, and thus things were quiet. I don’t understand how it’s even quieter now. But it is, and for now, at least, we’ll have to get used to it.

As for my little weaving experiment, I’m not going to call it an unqualified success, because it’s still on the loom and not finished, but I’ve woven quite far on the DMC satin strap, and it’s continuing to do well. Nothing has snapped or begun to unravel (and now that I’ve said that, I’ve jinxed myself), and I really believe if it was going to, it would have already done so (now I’ve really done it). But as I’m weaving, the bone tablets work their way closer to me with each quarter turn, and at the end of every sequence, I’m pushing them back up the warp. And unlike cardboard tablets, obviously, bone is thicker and more abrasive to the strings, so I’m surprised, really, to see so little wear on the strings. Tablet weaving also requires the weft to be beaten into place more firmly than other types of weaving, and the satin has taken it all like a trooper!

So I’ll almost certainly continue to use the DMC satin for weaving. The downside of that is that it’s pricy, and you can’t get all the available colors in one store. They’re $.99 per 8.7 yard skein. The cost of buying enough satin is  going to be exorbitant. To buy 3 skeins of each color at DMC itself would be measured in hundreds of dollars. I’ll have to work on that slowly lol. But I think it will be worth it. And the way the floss separates on its own at the ends, it’ll be perfect for tassels at the end of the strap.

The horn tablets finally arrived today. Getting them here has been quite the adventure. They were sent once before, from the same company that sent the bone tablets. They made it all the way to Denver, got rerouted to San Francisco, and were returned to Germany, for no reason either the merchant or I could discern. So they sent them again, and this morning before the mailman ever got here, the tracking information said that they had already been delivered and left with someone at the house. Well, of course, the package wasn’t here. This began a round of calling the post office several times, trying to find out what had happened to it. I have been reminded how much I hate computer menus. It took two hours to get to a point where the computer recognized my request to speak to a representative, and then find out that I was going to be on hold for at least another hour. I was still on hold when I heard the mailman filling the boxes outside. I got down there in record time (for me), and found out that the package was in the box waiting. Yes!

Oddly, the bone tablets are a bit smaller than the horn, because according to my order, both sets are 4 cm. Weird. But I’m happy with both, so it’s not a big deal.

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