Sunday, June 26, 2011

Free-Form Crocheted Lace

This week, I'm laboring against all odds to clean out the huge, huge house sufficient to sell it....In fact, it goes on the market tomorrow, which is pretty terrifying.  We haven't finished painting the deck, which we must do before it rains tomorrow night, and the third floor (1,000 square feet, for god's sake) looks like a yarn museum.  A very MESSY yarn museum, I should add quickly, complete with dress form and yarn winder, etc., and you do NOT sell houses that way.   I won't mention the basement, which is full of rugs and MANNEQUINS.  You walk into the 1896 basement, turn left, and run smack into a gigantic CROWD of mostly-headless mannequins.  Talk about a nightmare.

At odd moments, I am working at a free-form lace shawl -- some images for you to enlarge.

Size H hook, with a mohair-acrylic yarn (Botticini) that I bought I know not why many, many years ago.  It will settle down when I get done and give it a stiff block.  But, for now, the challenge is to complete the entire shawl without breaking the yarn, all the while keeping it flat.  It tends to ruffle out at the edges, so I have had to backtrack a couple of times.  This technique, like other free-form craft forms, has its own DNA.  Each maker does it a bit differently.  Mine looks completely unlike Myra Wood's productions, even though I was introduced to this cut-loose exercise from her some years ago in a class at the Madrona fiber retreat (Tacoma, Washington). 

I was a crocheter before I was a knitter -- thread crochet, of course, not wool -- so when I am under stress, crochet is my default position.  It calms me down, soothes the raveled sleeve, and so on.

More later, when the house is ready for Grosse Pointe house hunters, who spend far too much time planning their next, bigger house purchase, and tend to keep track of every little flaw in a house so they can deduct it from the price.  This time, they have a shock coming.  I have no intention of paying for someone else's renovations.  I'll simply take it off the market.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Australian Goats!

Yesterday, we had a wonderful encounter (complete with trunk show) with Brandyn of Cotlinton Angoras, a firm now situated mostly in the USA for purposes of manufacturing and distribution, but with solid roots in Australia, where the angora goats still live.  Brandyn and her husband had a farm for long years (still do, but it's being run day to day by someone else, I gather) with a large herd of very fine angoras (NOT angora rabbits, which yield very fine, hairy yarn!  Angora goats yield mohair).  The yarn is delicious -- smooth, silky, strong, natural in color, ready for knitting, crocheting, or dyeing.  There are some darling little boxes with yarn, beads, and patterns (both knit and crochet) called Tucker Boxes, which is Australian basically for lunch boxes (!!!) (see?  I speak Australian!).  You can also dye the yarn or the resulting shawls, scarves, and so on.  She also left us some bags of yarn all by itself in three weights, for people who want to make something else out of it.  This should help educate people as to the merits of pure, fine-grade mohair, which is NOT scratchy or nasty, but which instead is one of the most alluring luxury fibers the world has ever known, with only a slight halo unless it's deliberately brushed.     More later.   I need to rest!    svb

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Wild Ride Concluded...

Well, the trip to Columbus for this year's big TNNA event was (to make some kind of pun) uneventful, in the sense that nothing awful happened, and there was NOT A BIT of construction on I-75, which I take to be some kind of modern miracle.  One of our clients, Lois, who may well become a part-time employee, went with me, and I was glad for the good company.  

At the show itself:   We spent a few minutes at lunch and, of course, at Jeni's Ice Cream (at the wondrous Farmer's Market near the convention center), where you can find Cherry and Goat Cheese, Lavendar-Honey, and a number of other amazing flavors.  I am sure there are better ices in the world, but I can't say that I've ever found anything better.  Over our splendidly abundant Mediterranean lunch plates and ice cream, I have to say that we had an unpleasant encounter with a shop owner from a Detroit suburb who, against all odds, still refuses to learn my name or even to remember that we know one another.  I get very tired of this idiotic game, which might be called East Side-West Side.  The West Side thinks it's superior to the East Side.  I had hoped we would be over this kind of Queen of the Mountain nonsense upon high school graduation.  But no.  Once again, and even though I saw her two weeks earlier in her own shop, where I pointlessly invited her to a reception, she did the same diengenuous "Don't I know you?" thing that she's done for the last four times.  We have even co-sponsored visits by a certain well-known knitting designer (I'll withhold specifics).  This kind of thing makes me want to yell, "When was the last time YOU were asked to address the United States Supreme Court?"  But why?  I would make a spectacle of myself -- as I'm probably doing right now. 

Inside the convention floor, I had a wonderful time with Laura Bryant, whose work is changing -- it's as if she is cutting away everything except the essentials of design (color, structure, texture) to get at the essence of a particular garment.  She thinks that something is going on, too, and it's really gratifying to watch her work through this stage in her own development.  What a brilliant woman, and possessed of one of the nicest life-partners imaginable (the handsome Matt).  At Trendsetter, I finally met Heidi, the woman with whom I trade e-mail notes, and got to hug Barry.  I was surprised not to see my Tonalita vest design -- but he may not be ready to publish the pattern.  Everything happens in its own good time.  Trendsetter Yarns don't really fit the studio's hand-crafted profile -- but I carry them anyway, because I'm the owner and I think they're beautiful.  I can be indulged.

Beyond that, I filled in some holes in the studio's holdings.  I ordered some of Lorna's Laces new sock yarn (Sole Mates) in a half-dozen colors, filled out our button collection from 3 or 4 different vendors, and picked up some wonderful one-skein lace patterns from a new firm, Fickle Knitters.  But two encounters were the most memorable.  I found an American cotton-spinning and hand-coloring firm from Pennsylvania and bought up quite a lot of their product (lofty, delicious balls that will please people who can't work with wool).  And, most fun of all, I had a riotous conversation with Leslye Solomon, who mercifully has no memory of my temper tantrums in one of her continental knitting classes:  I sat there, doing it just fine, bitchily insisting that I couldn't do it, didn't want to do it, might leave any minute, etc. etc.  What a crank.  What a terrible grump. 

The button problem is actually more complex than it appears.   I had hoped to be able to maintain a fairly large collection of hand-crafted, dichroic glass buttons.  But, in the present economic climate, a lot of the glass button makers have either stopped producing glass or diverted energies to other glass products.  The good news is that we have one of the nation's finest glass button makers in our own midst.  So this past week, I called up the gifted Terrie Voigt and asked her to stop by with some of her least symmetrical buttons -- and of course I grabbed a huge pile of them.  But I continue to be worried about the button makers.  Terrie says that the shops aren't calling as often as they used to, and others have told me much the same thing.  How could they stay in business?  Worrisome.

But that was it.  There were quite a few absences on the floor -- people who apparently didn't think that travel and set-up costs could be justified in the present economy.  Let's hope recession eases and that Americans don't stupidly blame the whole thing on Barack Obama, which would be to blame the messenger.  More later.    svb

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Housecleaning, Harris Tweed, and a Wild Ride

Today, I'm still cleaning and sorting and rearranging -- the house goes on the market on June 22, and at the moment its a wooly, dusty shambles.  Friend Jean Rudolph stopped by and hauled off most of the Harris tweed that I bought years ago when I visited the Hebrides, some of it purchased directly from crofters working in their small homes on Lewis and Harris, the rest bought at mills on the north side of Harris.  All of it is wasted in my third-floor rooms; Jean is a tailor; so it goes to Jean.

On Saturday, I plan to leave Grosse Pointe Park in what Enterprise Rental Cars calls an Intermediate automobile -- that means big, in my view, but what do I know? -- and drive pell-mell to Columbus, Ohio, where the annual summer TNNA convention occurs.  (TNNA stands for The National Needlearts Association, the main trade group for people in knitting, crochet, needlepoint, and -- to a much lesser extent -- other forms of embroidery).  The winter TNNA event is in California, and it's usually smaller, less well-attended, and given over mainly to warm-weather fibers, which don't appeal to me as much as do animal products.  So I only go to the Long Beach meeting every two or three years.  Once I get to Columbus' convention center, I'll go through the market to see what's being sold this year, hug some friends, have dinner (I have hopes of connecting with a couple of colleagues, with luck at one of the truly great restaurants on High Street), and then drive pell-mell back to Grosse Pointe Park, collapsing in a heap on the sofa and probably sleeping the next day until ten in the morning.  I'll let you know if any of this happens.


Saturday, June 4, 2011

JUNE FEST, plus more Sally photos....

Today is June Fest in St Clair Shores, on which day, and if it doesn't rain, the main drag in the town is shut down and all of the merchants set up tables, hand out samples, mutate into circus hawkers.  Two of our friends have agreed to sit in front of our two tables and show everyone how to spin -- Larry plans to hand out coupons by the hundreds -- and, most important, we will meet lots of new, good people.  That's the real joy, isn't it, of having this enterprise.  Also today, some more new acquaintances will come into the place to learn how to knit.  This is community building at its best -- but it's also a healing community.  That's perhaps my favorite part, and the thing that keeps me going, even when revenues drop in summer -- even when people don't want to learn how to make seams!

And while I'm at it:  Here are some more of those clients/friends at Sally's recent workshops.  Look at the absorption, the determination to learn, in these beautiful faces.  I'd like to see more of this kind of thing in my university classrooms!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Riin Gill Visit......!

When my two wonderful beginning knit-crochet people came last evening, they found ---PILES AND PILES of utterly gorgeous yarn and roving and combed top........Riin Gill (who makes and sells Happy Fuzzy Yarn) had arrived!  Riin is an up-and-coming Michigan fiber artist, a dyer and spinner, expanding her stock and colorways and fiber offerings steadily and brilliantly.  She brought us some of the prettiest and most ARTFUL hand-painted Tencel I've seen in a very long time, truly painterly, and in colors that are both engaging and unpredictable.  I do so look forward to seeing where Riin goes -- each time I see her, she has done something new and adventursome.  Sometimes, hand-painters are content to do the same thing, year after year.  It's at that point, I confess, that I stop watching them develop -- because they aren't developing anymore.  Not this young woman.  Two of the skeins walked off the premises before she had pulled out of the parking lot.  The only problem I see right now is that she is still not making more than about ten skeins in a single, reliably similar colorway.  But never mind.  That's better than the four she used to do.   She works in turkey roasters in her basement!!!

NOTE, please, if you are a client, that Riin will return for a trunk show on July 16 from noon to 6:00.  This is a rare opportunity -- you get to buy MICHIGAN (she lives in Ann Arbor) and you get to buy GORGEOUSLY, all in one stop.   She will have yarns (including some handspun) and fiber suitable for spinning or needle-felting.  They will dazzle you.    They certainly dazzle ME!      svb