Saturday, September 24, 2011

Change in direction....

Larry and I have decided to forego the local festivals (see previous post!) at West Branch and Romeo in favor of a long, lovely drive to North Carolina in late October to the fabulous Southeast Fiber Festival near Ashville.  We will rent a car and take our time driving, from Thursday mid-day (if I can find a person to guide my Thursday class through a discussion) until late-day Monday.  He loves Asheville; I love the antique shops along the way (think BUTTONS!), and both of us are eager to see what has become of the Asheville show, which is held at a huge agricultural center across the street from the Asheville Regional Airport.  Since I was last there three years ago, it has GROWN.  And I finally get to meet Stacy Budge, the maker of our wonderful UrbanGypZ fingering yarns.  So that's the decision.  I will have much more to say about this in a month.  Meanwhile, fiber aficionados should check out their website (which can also be accessed through the events tab on   svb

Friday, September 23, 2011

West Branch Ho....

If it ever stops raining -- and only if it does -- I may head out on Saturday morning for the three little fiber events at Flint (International Alpaca Festival), Romeo (Mt Bruce Station Autumn Festival), and West Branch (Northern Michigan Lamb and Wool Festival).   I'll make report if and when I do!    svb

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Tea Party as Old Soviets???

I was hugely amused today, while re-reading Bloomsbury giant Leonard Woolf's little essay Principia Politica, written in the heyday of the anti-Communist witchhunt, to find sentences about the diabolical communists that sound, for all the world, like a critique of the Tea Party.  The 'enemies' list, of course has changed.  But I'm taken with Woolf's clear sense of the ideological importance of enemies' lists and the whipping of communities into a froth of hatred.  It's pretty ironic actually that Obama is being tarred with the broad brush of Socialism!!!!!  Makes me smile, though darkly.    Here's a sample. 

"The persistent appeal to communal hatred is one of the most remarkable features in Russian communism.  We have already noticed it in the use of ideology by Soviet rulers.  The theme is always an attack upon guilty men or guilty classes -- capitalists, kulaks, imperialists, war-mongers, Trotskyists, or some other species of deviationist.  The Russian people are subjected to an uninterrupted stream of what is now called propaganda.  It is an unending stream of incitement to the hatred of wicked people who are represented as the unscrupulous enemies of Russia and of the masses.  It is these capitalists or kulaks, imperialists or Americans, and their dupes and hirelings, who deliberately prevent the workers of Russia and of the world from attaining the Marxist or communist millenium.  Therefore the first duty of the good communist is to hate them and the second to liquidate them."


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Young's Jersey Dairy and YARN? A Travelogue....Part Two

....and, as promised below, here are the woodworkers' pictures, surrounded by the beautiful things they have crafted.

....and here is a spinner named Michelle who was simply SPINNING, smiling as if she had never been happier in her life, just to make everyone else smile.

I loaded up on some gorgeous felted bags (ready-made in my view for those who use circular knitting needles and other rounded tools) and smaller tool kits from an Ohio woman who also makes darling necklaces with pictures -- with slogans like "I love to hook" (!!!).  I bought at least a dozen.

And then I left.  This was a day trip.  Someday, it will come over me that women in their late 60s aren't supposed to drive 7 hours in one day.  But, until then, I'll continue to do it.  And of course, on the way out, I took another final, long glance at the huge tents -- and captured another scene that will never be found on the streets of Detroit.  Here I am, taking the picture of some parents taking pictures of children on a wondrous tractor:

Happy Knit and Crochet!!!   And thanks to Ohio for having such lovely weather today.   svb

Young's Jersey Dairy and YARN? A Travelogue....Part One

Some years ago, I went to Yellow Springs, Ohio, to see what on earth could be going on at a dairy -- a fiber fair was alleged to be going on there, and I couldn't quite believe it.  But -- I went.  Yellow Springs is near Dayton, Ohio, in the middle of dairy and corn country, lovely rolling fields, healthy stands of deciduous trees and conifers, stunning wildflowers (at this time of year, mostly golden hues).  Then, it was a small affair, enclosed in a single good-sized building, with maybe 20 vendors.  They had great ice cream at Young's Dairy -- I remember that part vividly.

Well.   I saw the notice again on Knitters', where I go for information about fairs and festivals, and was astonished to see how many vendors had signed on.  So this morning I quickly got a cute little red Focus from Enterprise Car Rental and headed to Yellow Springs.  I learned two things along the way -- maybe three things.  First:  Ohio is just as rollingly beautiful along Highwyay 68 as I remember, and there are more Amish than I recall.  Marvelous black buggies, beautiful horses.  Second:  The corn is MUCH less ripe than it should be -- heavy rains?  Late planting?  Warm weather in late September?  Look at how green it is!  (Click on shots to enlarge):

Third, and perhaps most important:  Gasoline in central Ohio is 3.39 a gallon, not the 3.70 we are paying.   WHY? 

So I arrived at the Dairy and encountered a huge surprise:  Once, this was a small-scale dairy store on beautiful grounds.  Now, it's a full-scale amusement park, complete with miniature golf (called Udder and Putter, for god's sake).  Here's the ice cream building and a small part of the blocks-long parking lot.  And here is also a small slice of the amusement parkl, complete with children:

But let's get to the point.   "A Wool Gathering" begins with a big, bright blue banner:

As you walk through the gate, you find HUNDREDS AND HUNDREDS of people, all having the most magnificent time -- including dozens of members of the Society for Creative Anachronism, two of whom can be seen in this shot (to the right):

Notice the SIZE of those big tents -- my photograph doesn't begin to capture the scale of things.  This fair has exploded over the years.  I found some friends inside, but also some new people -- like Michelle the spinner and two gifted woodworkers whose buttons and spindles I bought in profusion.  He of the spindles works under the name "Sunset Turnings," and I must say he knows a thing or two about wood finishing.  She of the buttons has THE cutest calling card I've ever seen (it's a piece of wood in the shape of a button!!!) -- Brenda K, of "A Remark You Made."   Both of them have shops, and I hope you'll all go have a look.  I bought more wooden buttons than is decent.

I can't download more pictures (at my limit), so I'll undertake another entry:   svb

Monday, September 12, 2011

Autumn in Michigan

Autumn typically comes late in Grosse Pointe -- the result of our location very near the warmth of Lake St Clair (in my case, it's only a half-block away).  It's SO pretty at this time of year -- and I must say, I greatly appreciate weather in the 70s instead of the 80s and 90s.  I am NOT a tropical plant.  Here is what's happening in my gardens!!!  Purpley bushy stuff!  The last of the hostas!  Enjoy the season!

Home from the Wisconsin festival!

On Thursday night just past, Lois and I took off in our rented Dodge Avenger (what a name!  and what an uncomfortable car -- the windshield wipers sound like little grenades every time they move back and forth, and the seats aren't made for real bodies) and aimed for a super-inexpensive Super 8 in the southern part of Chicago, just off of Interstate 294.  Do NOT EVER stay in a Super 8 that's less than 50 dollars.  I honestly think that's the dividing line.  This one was so awful that we considered trying to find another place.  But we were exhausted.  Let's just say that, in the morning, Lois saw a pair of men's underpants in the hallway. We also chose to find breakfast elsewhere.   Enough said.

But then, of course, we found our way to Wisconsin -- and Matilda (the trusty GPS) took us to small Wisconsin towns, where we found some wonderful vintage buttons.  Here's the sort of thing we saw in one particularly nifty 'mall' in one of those small towns:

The Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival, held annually in Jefferson, Wisconsin, at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds, is a truly wonderful show.  We have been hearing some sad stories about Michigan's festival -- one vendor told me, e.g., that the buildings have developed leaks so that displays and goods are ruined with water.  The Wisconsin fairgrounds are in amazingly good shape -- and, most important, the vendors are numerous and of uniformlygood quality.

A sad note:  Diane Edwards (Annie's Handspun) told me that, at the Ann Arbor Fiber Expo, she had TWO handknitted sweaters stolen.  Now, this has nothing to do with Ann Arbor's show -- rather, it has to do with a shift in our world.  Fiber people are notoriously and STILL honest, almost to a fault.  More and more, though, thieves and scam artists are zooming in on festivals.  One of them, I was told, scammed a large number of exhibitors on the last day of the Southeast festival at Asheville, NC, on the very last day, virtually the final hour, with a fake checking account and a bogus story about how she was buying for retail.  Sad but true:  Crime is increasing, and if we have to start being suspicious at our fiber-related events, it will be shocking and sad.  In our shop, we have experienced only ONE bounced check -- and it was done (you guessed it) by a scam artist claiming to be a cancer victim in need of warm hats and scarves (I fell for it and gave her a hefty discount -- she paid us with a bogus check, accompanied by a bogus driving license).   

But let's talk about pleasant things:  Such a variety appeared at this show!  I sometimes choose not to buy otherwise nice yarns from small producers because (to give one example) I don't much like tiny color runs -- they knit up looking speckly and sometimes muddy, as with this really beautiful display of yarn, done with very tiny dashes and dots of dark color on lighter grounds -- mind you, some people LOVE that effect -- it's just not my cup of tea.  I like my color runs longer, and I REALLY like yarn with surprising colorations:

....but who could pass up the gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous SOFT-SERVE just outside one of the main buildings?  We couldn't -- two really nice fellows trying to support FFA (Future Farmers of America, for all of you city-lubbers).

I didn't take too many pictures -- too busy looking at all of the possibilities -- two huge buildings, crammed to the proverbial gills with potential studio offerings.  If money were no object (it's a recession in Michigan!), I would have had to rent a truck to come back home.   Look at this wonderful scene -- a woman working fair isle from a double spooled feeder.

I bought some single-spool yarn feeders from an amazing man, the father of the young owner of Sun Valley yarns, that are MUCH better than the ubiquitous ceramic yarn bowls.  They don't break, and the yarn doesn't collapse when it gets to the outer edges.  The man who makes them (the ones I bought) is a talented woodworker who had the good sense NOT to use stain or other noxious substances -- just beautiful varieties of wood and hard-finish oil.

Here is the MOTHER of the very young, gifted owner of Ewe-Nique Yarns, with her brand-new grandchild.  In the center of the photograph, behind her, is a basket full of wonderful little scarf kits -- dyed by the brilliant young owner -- called Skeleton Scarves.  They contain ultra-soft kid mohair and an amount of hand-dyed silk.  Made on big needles in garter stitch, with occasional shots of the silk, they end up looking like froth with fossils mysteriously embedded in the body of a scarf.   SOME (not all) of my shopping bags full of wool can be seen in the left of the photograph.  I didn't get a photograph of the young genius herself.  Next time!

Finally:  Here is Larry struggling to deal with the STUFF I brought back -- Ann Reisler's big, fluffy skeins of pencil roving spun with yarn or angelina; Ewe-Nique's amazing kid mohair (hand dyed -- see the photo of her mother above); some first-shear natural gray lambswool yarn; the wooden spinners; on and on.  The scarf kits that I mentioned are in the middle of the drafting table, tumbling to the front.  Also got some really gorgeous glass buttons from Michigan's Diane Edwards (Annie's). 

Now I'm going to start another page and show you some photographs of fall in my garden!


Monday, September 5, 2011

OKAY OKAY I can take a hint....!

OKAY OKAY!  What a lot of heckling friends!

Here are the other four hats -- cooked up especially for Labor Day, which, I'm pleased to say, is COOL instead of hot and humid.  All of them look too short and squat in the photographs -- my photography, I'm afraid, isn't professional.  But:

The first one is a crocheted Noro Kureyon thing (I don't like the hand of Kureyon, so I'm using it up on hats and other utilitarian objects) with two tagua nut buttons to conceal the beginning of rounds-- mostly puffs and half double crochet with crab-stitch edging.  The second one is also crocheted with a single strand of hand-paint that I bought eons ago -- hard to see the stitch pattern, but it's an open shell pattern.  The knitted terra cotta one is the same Rowan Drift that I used below to make the experimental Tunisian hat.  A simple box stitch with crocheted chain top-knot.  The last one is a triple strand seed stitch knitted cloche with a rolled brim -- 41 stitches, then 43 for the body, 7 inches worked even in seed, then decreased to 42 for the top, decreases in six wedges, initially of 7 sts each  -- three strands include a Plymouth wool-acrylic variegated and tweedy light worsted-weight yarn, the name of which is lost in the mists of time; a strand of Valley Yarns novelty metallic/mohair; and a strand of fluffy wool-acrylic two-tone yarn from Reynolds ("Main Street").  Crocheted pieces were done with my default hook (Size H).  Hats were done on 13's.

Wish I were a better camera-woman -- they all look better than the photos show, and are great fun to cook up. This has become a winter tradition at Artisan Knitworks:   I go on a hat orgy, everybody stays warm.  Except me.  I don't wear hats.  I have a natural 'hat' of nice, thick, gray hair.

So get a big pile of wool in colors and textures that you like and cut loose, blending yarns at will!


and here's a funny little Tunisian hat....

On Labor Day, what better thing to do than to cook up a simple little Tunisian crochet hat?  I've made five hats so far this weekend -- for sale in the studio -- and this one was kind of a lark.  Here's what to do:  You need one ball (less than 90 yards) of superbulky wool or its equivalent, if the yarn is very, very lofty -- I used Rowan "Drift."  It's working up at about .75 sts per inch on a size humungous hook (see the photos -- I think it's about a size S, an old plastic thing with a straight handle, and so suitable for Tunisian.....).  The body was worked sideways in a strip.  Chain 9.  Work Tunisian simple stitch for about 19 inches.  Break yarn.  Slip-stitch the two ends together, RS facing.  Decide which side is up (!!!).  On top side, single crochet in back loops all the way around, then decrease radically (1 decrease in every 3 sts over and over until you have only 3 or 4 sts left.  Fasten off and pull yarn end through the remaining sts.  Go to the other side, now designated "the bottom."  Work 1 round of single crochet all around; fasten off.  Darn in yarn ends.  Take a picture and put it on your blog!


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Mortgages and Tunisian Crochet.....???

Two topics at once:   First, the mortgages part.   Some time ago, as many friends know, I bought a big ol' house (c. 1896) to rescue, fix up and flip.  I pumped oodles of money into it.  I will never reveal how much (the idea was to hide money from the unproductive stock market).  Of course the joke was on me, and so I find myself possessed of a HHHHUUUUGGGE mortgage (and other things) in a market that won't permit a decent house sale.  And it's a house that's too idiosyncratic for Grosse Pointers, with a handful of exceptions -- a quirky urban house, marooned in a suburb.  So much for the Big Flip. 

So I went to an event in Novi, Michigan, sponsored by many banks for the benefit of mortgagees who were experiencing financial pressure.   WOW.   It was at the so-called Showplace, a gigantic expo center with a three-block-long parking lot.  The lot was FULL.  Inside, the scene was just plain grotesque.  Bankers were lined up at half-block-long lines of tables across the full width of an enormous ball room -- in fresh little Polo shirts, differently colored according to their bank (Chase was royal blue).  Each little banker had a shiny silver laptop -- hundreds of them, the lids propped open.  Meanwhile, clients sat on the sidelines behind ropes, as if in a deli waiting to order chopped liver and pastrami, clutching little slips with NUMBERS.  After 3 hours, my number came up.  The little fellow in the crisp, obviously new blue shirt was polite enough -- but it was clear from his demeanor that he was in it for the money, literally.  He even had a card specially printed for the occasion (how much did those mathing laptops, matching shirts, and new cards COST??).  I tried to take a panoramic photo of the scene, but it wouldn't fit into one frame, so I just got a couple of random shots.  Had to quit because a couple of Red Shirts (another bank) were eyeing me.  Folks, this is emblematic of our time.  What a commentary.  You can't really sense the depth or width of the ballroom......

IN THE MEANTIME:   While turning out hats for the winter season, I've also been working on a very thick, very easy Tunisian crochet shawl to show people when I offer Tunisian Crochet again at the studio.....just to demonstrate what nice objects can be made from Simple Stitch and a bit of crocheted fringe (beginning project!) and lovely yarn.  In this case, I used 30-year-old LaGran mohair from my attic stash (I have an entire closet full of mohair, if you must know!), a strand of Silk Garden Lite (Noro), and for a bit of drama and light-catching interest, some to-and-fro rows of Trendsetter's Dune, one of my all-time-favorite yarns, at the ends and at the center.  It's about 7 feet long and slightly less than two feet wide.  Of course, I used one of Bag Smith's humungous Size S, 18-inch, hand-carved wooden Tunisian crochet hooks.  The starting foundation row had only 28 stitches.  Here it is!!!!   You, too, can do it.  It took me less than a week, working on it only for brief snatches of time.  Every row (and each stitch) occupies an inch.  The Dune doesn't show in the photo (blame my cheap-o camera), but it's in the 7th, 9th, and 11th rows, third photograph.  The shawl is light, frothy, and hugely fun. Next will be a wide Prism black mohair three-quarter length coat  with Dolman sleeves, with some Trendsetter Tonalita (and the occasional shot of Dune) worked with the mohair, done mostly in rectangles with slight armhole and neckline shaping.  Might add a stand-up collar made from a Tunisian strip.  This one will have HUUUGGGE buttons, mismatched and vintage.

More soon, after the Wisconsin show has come and gone.     svb

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Wisconsin Ho...!

This Thursday, after my freshman class ends at 4:50, Lois and I will take off (from the university area) for Jefferson, Wisconsin, the site of the annual Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival.  It's a great show, medium sized, full of wonderful local and regional artisans working at a consistently high level.  I have always loved this drive.....It's my old stomping grounds, sort of -- a Minnesotan can't help but love the landscape and people of Wisconsin.  Besides, it's in Wisconsin that I broke my nose while skiing at Trollhaugen in southern Wisconsin, more or less on a dare.....You do NOT go skiing with a couple of daredevil lads and take their word for how you can ski down the expert slope with no experience whatsoever.  They flew OVER a deep pit; I fell into it -- so much for the lovely Romanesque nose.  Sigh.  To this day, it doesn't work properly (I sniff all the time).  Years later, a plastic surgeon tried to get some of the fragments out and straighten the nose....didn't work.  The fragments part anyway.

Other memories are more positive.  Wisconsin's glaciated regions are drop-dead gorgeous.  There are butte-like landforms that invite climbing, vast reaches of sculpted hills and valleys.  The most famous, of course, are the Wisconsin Dells landforms, but much of Wisconsin is just as beautiful as that riverbed area -- boulders deposited by glaciers, and the sharp edges of the escarpment where you can still see where the glacier ended. 

In the countryside, a fat dairy cow inhabits every field -- I swear.  Well, perhaps I exaggerate.

But it's a wondrous place, and I do hope Lois can put up with some rhapsodic exclamations from time to time.  I'll also want to stop in Milton, Wisconsin, at the odd old house that's been made over into a craft and art center for the entire county.  Last time, I bought some great hand-sewn bags there.

More later, with photographs of the event.  Happy Labor Day.  We are closing the studio for TWO DAYS IN A ROW, for the first time in the firm's existence.  Everyone is tired.