Monday, November 30, 2009

Tis the season?....

As is the case for most of you, I'm guessing, Christmas is creeping up on me. And some of the things that are included in the holidays really give 'creeping' a literal meaning! I heard Bob Dylan singing "The Little Drummer Boy" on the radio before I could cover my ears quickly enough. Don't get me wrong; I love Bob Dylan, but "The Little Drummer Boy?" Really, Bob? It just shouldn't be.

My enthusiastic and non-Grinchy neighbors already have the lights on their houses all lit up.

Some of you might remember that last year, Gus climbed our tree and knocked it over, so we had to tie it to the stair banister. He climbed it more than once. I can't even imagine what Booker will do to a tree, or any holiday decor. So it won't go up until the last minute.

I am particularly drawn to the photo above that I have been playing with. I took it in Maine. It is of a pile of ropes and net and lobster traps and an upside-down boat, all set off by a pile of Christmas lights. I don't know what the lights were doing there, but I kind of like the idea of just taking a mess of lights out and tossing them in the yard, then plugging them in. I think it might make a spectacular statement. After all, if Bob Dylan can sing "The Little Drummer Boy," anything is permissible... Perhaps I will make this photo my holiday card. Pa-rum-pa-pum-pum.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Dealing with UFO's

In the knitting world, UFO's are 'unfinished objects,' and some of us have many UFO's floating around the house in various states of un-doneness. I have been trying to get some of these done. I finished the first of four grandchildren sweaters. I figure I need to knit sweaters for them now, while they are young, before they reach the age of dreading the Christmas sweater. This one is done in angora. All the ruffly edges are actually crocheted, so this knit up pretty quickly!

It is to have one button at the top neck. I have several big tins of buttons from various grandmothers, and from my mother-in-law. I may wait until the kids come and will let them choose their own buttons from the tins. These button tins have been a source of joy to my oldest grand-daughter, especially. When she was younger, they were her favorite thing to play with, and she would scoop them from the tins into bowls, stirring them into 'button soup.' There are buttons from a number of eras in the soup, some even of bakelite. Some are truly vintage treasures, and some are just recycled shirt buttons, as my mother-in-law never turned a shirt into rags without first saving the buttons.

On the other hand, I can see the kids parents' horror if they chose some of these buttons from the past. Some of the most shiny and appealing could turn a sweet sweater into gaudy and appalling! So maybe I could pick out a special pile for each to choose from.

... Or maybe I'll just make my own choice and sew it on, then tell them the button came from the Grandmas' button soup tin.

I also finished the Project Linus blanket, and will take it out to the gallery (which is a drop-off location) this afternoon. It is 36"x 36", and of a washable acrylic, which is what they request.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

For the beauty of the earth...

...for the glory of the skies...

...for the love which from our birth over and around us lies;

...For the beauty of each hour of the day and of the night, hill and vale, and tree and flower,

...For the joy of ear and eye, for the heart and mind's delight,

Lord of all, to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise!

Happy thanksgiving, today and every day.

(Words from the hymn For the Beauty of the Earth by Folliot S. Pierpoint
Images from my camera at various times and places, except for the old photo, which is of my mother's family.)

Monday, November 23, 2009


The Blue Pig Gallery is doing a portrait exhibit in January and February. Gallery artists were given a local personality to paint. The person I was paired with is deceased, or I would have gone and taken my own photos to paint from. However, his wife gave me an old photo to work from which is her favorite image of him. It is from WWII, and is a pretty dark photo. I figure that painting a person's widow's favorite picture is quite difficult, at best. So I have just decided to paint it loosely; make it look like a 'painting,' rather than a painted copy of a photograph, and to not allow myself to stress over it. It is not a commission, so there is not that added pressure to please someone who will be having to put out money for it. Anyway, I did an underpainting in about an hour, then put in about another hour today, and I think I'm about ready to let it dry and see if it's 'done enough.' It's not large or small, at 12"x 16". I do think it captures the fun-loving expression his wife loves about the photo, at least.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


18"x18". Wool weft on cotton warp, sett at about 8-9 epi. The inspiration photo can be seen here. (As always, you can click on the image to see it larger.)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Illustration Friday: Music

The IF topic today is music. Music has a big role in my family. My father is a musician, he can play the piano and just about any other instrument he might want to play. Most of his children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren have inherited his love of music. We sing. We love to sing! One of my greatest joys is to sing with my grandchildren or to have them sing to me.

The tapestry, "Prairie Polka," is one of my Heritage Series tapestries. It was inspired by these two small contact photos of my dad with his parents (my grandparents) when he was young . They lived in Kansas, thus the wheat fields and distant grain elevator in the tapestry. This is the smallest of the Heritage tapestries, at about 36"x36" square. It is still in my collection. In fact, it hangs in my studio.

Technically, this was a challenge for me to weave. It was woven sideways, so I could do a lot of eccentric weft work in the prairie. That was a lot of fun! The sky then, which was to be a gradation, had to be hatched, instead of the color blended gradation I could have done if it was woven bottom to top. There was also, then, the long vertical line of the bottom border, which I had to use a join on, as a long slit would have caused problems. And then the line work in the wheat bundle in the border was also going up the warp, so was woven in the 'weft-wrapping' technique I frequently use, but which is also a slow technique. All of those technical issues had to be decided before I began weaving, as I was making the choice whether to weave it bottom to top or from side to side. I prefer to always weave bottom to top, unless there is a very good reason not to. In this case there were very good reasons to weave it either way, but I chose to do it 'the hard way' so I could do the prairie in eccentric wefts, in shapes that would be vertical when the tapestry is hung. Weaving it sideways also made the accordion easier to weave. (I know a lot of this is complex technical gibberish to many of you, so just pretend it's not here.) I learned a LOT from weaving this tapestry. It's good for me to remember it all today.

(Also, to continue the music topic, Booker's official AKC name is now "Booker T Sings the Blues." I thought it should have been "Booker T's Mama Sings the Blues"!)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A beautiful backside...

Isn't this cool? I may just frame it, and forget what's on the other side! This is the back of my "January" tapestry, which I just flipped over to trim all these ends and sew slits, so I can block and mount it. But I like the Rya-looking back so much, I hate to destroy it by trimming all those pretty ends down! It has that all-over fur look because of the many, many little pieces of yarn I had to use to create all those many, many tiny shapes! I don't think I've ever done a piece with such a pretty backside! (So, was this NOT the beautiful backside you were hoping for? Perhaps you are on the wrong blog!)

I am keeping this up high to work on, hopefully out of Booker's reach, though it is getting harder to find such places as he is getting so much bigger. We had a bad day yesterday. He ate one of my favorite handknit socks. I have not yet forgiven him.

ps. As my reward for not killing Booker yesterday, I am treating myself to Norah Jones' new album from iTunes today! Not a big enough reward, but it's a start.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Fiber Remnants...

When we were in Maine we were along Highway 1, which is known as the 'Antique Highway.' Just about every other building housed an antique shop of some sort. Though we didn't really go to shop this time, we did go in and, if it was allowed, took photos of 'still life objects.' And a few of those objects did find their way back to Colorado. One of the things I couldn't resist was this small Turkish kelim portion. When I buy something I have a hard and fast rule for myself; I have to love it and I have to know where it will fit in my house and life. This small kelim fit both those qualifications, plus it was on sale and very affordable and it would fit in my suitcase! How could I not buy it? It is part of my small collection of handwoven pieces from other places, other looms, other hands. I have a backstrap woven piece from Guatemala that my husband brought me, a tapestry from Honduras that one son brought me, and some kente cloth from Africa from the other son in my 'collection.'

This Turkish kelim fragment fits beautifully across the back of a Morris chair my husband made for the sitting room. It has become a favorite perch for Gus since I put it there.

This final fabric remnant looks like it should be retired to a museum! It is Booker's handknit puppy blankie.... or what's left of it. Especially when he was very young, he drug it around the house with him, like a security blanket. He still loves his blanket, especially when he's tired. He drags it out of his crate and hauls it somewhere to lay his head on. Bits of the treasure have found their way into the anthropological dig that is our backyard. (Need I say that the blanket was NOT in this condition when it was first given to him?)

Anyway, just a bit from the fiber archives at the Spoering Museum to start off the week! Now I must go see what the two 'boys' are doing... it has become much too quiet, and that is rarely a good thing!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Illustration Friday: Unbalanced

I did this little digital image this morning for the IF topic, 'Unbalanced.' There are several stories that created this image. Neither are really 'up' stories, and both probably illustrate my own lack of balance!

When I was young (aha! Story #1 begins!) in the summer between second and third grades, I had told my older sister that I could fly. Such a secret, I now know I should have kept to myself! When she and a friend got me on a teeter-totter, they decided to hold me 'up' and make me fly down to prove myself. They held me up a loooong time, and I finally jumped off, landing on a rock and breaking my arm. Of course, the truth was that I couldn't fly in front of them and under such stress.... that is my story and I'm sticking to it.

The other thing that motivated this image is a current one. Having just completed a tapestry and a group of paintings for an exhibit, I have been experiencing the mood crash that comes from depleting myself, creatively. I am not 'up' but sitting heavily at the other end of the see-saw. In other words, feeling quite unbalanced! Having experienced this crash many times before, I know that I need to fill myself back up with inspiration somehow, and move on to a new creative project. The studio is clean, and the portraits are drawn up, so I will pick myself up and begin again. Back to the drawing board......!!!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

In all it's messiness...

The "January" tapestry is off the loom. I'm sharing it with you in all it's messiness; weft not trimmed, warp not all tied off, slits not sewn, and unblocked. It will look better soon, but for now, it and I shall rest a bit from each other.

The cutting off party was a very selective one. Those who attended enjoyed a light repast of Pupperoni's, dried salmon bits, and a couple of Starbursts left from Halloween.

For the rest of the afternoon, I will clean up under and around the loom. It is frightful in the studio, and I look forward to tackling that mess before I tackle the mess that is the finishing of the tapestry.

This photo looks a bit too dark. I have yet to get a good picture of the thing, but when I have it mounted, I'll get it in some good light and will get a better image.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Gus, gooseberries, and more

I have finished one more of the child &/or baby sweaters I am doing. This one is garter stitch, in a stretchy cotton nubbly yarn. I've used the yarn before, and love how it knits, how it feels, and it's easy care. But the sweater wasn't all that exciting when I got the knitting done, so I added the flannel flower patches to make it cuter.
Otherwise, I'm almost done with the Project Linus blanket, though I had to go get one more skein of yarn yesterday to finish it up. I have several other sweaters in progress; a front or two here, a couple of backs done, and several sleeves on the needles. When I get tired of working on one, I grab another. Booker is learning that my knitting is MINE, but I don't trust him enough to leave it lying around in reachable places. Not after he ate that baby sweater sleeve, and I had to knit another one!

As for Gus and the gooseberries; I've not been taking as many photos lately, but the other day as I was picking up the 3,ooo,000th crabapple from under the tree, I noticed how pretty the gooseberry bush is. I love it's subtlety in color. Not at all like it's lack of subtlety in taste!

Gus was watching from the kitchen door. Since I had the camera in hand, he got shot, too. See the trees reflected? All of those leaves are down now, and this was just taken the other day. Gus is cracking me up lately! He makes this long sound that sounds just like SNL's Mr. Bill saying "Nooooooo!" And he seems to always time it just right, too. When I'm getting after Booker for grabbing a sock or shoe and running with it, Gus will be saying "Nooooooo!" in the background. If only Booker would listen!

Still weaving... almost there! My thoughts are racing ahead to the portraits I need to paint when I get the tapestry woven.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


The Blue Pig Gallery has given me a second space for November and December, to hang some tapestries. Is the phrase 'breaking through the glass ceiling' appropriate? This is the first time fiber has been allowed in the gallery. I don't have room for a lot of work, but the gallery theme for the two months is 'little piggies' (as in miniature work), so I have put smaller pieces in. And at extremely modest prices, I must say, so as to not discourage the gallery from having fiber again.

This is my painting space, with all my miniatures (all under 8x10"). It looks pretty crowded to me, but, hopefully it will thin out a bit before the show is over!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Fiddley bits...

Yesterday I wove a hard-to-decipher area of fiddley bits of weaving.

Today, I have another area that looks much the same. BUT... after these fiddley areas comes about 2 1/2 inches of pretty clear, much simpler weaving, and then this tapestry will be woven! If I don't get the flu and the dog behaves, I may be cutting it off next week. Finally.

Tomorrow I work at the gallery all day. I'm taking a bit of painting to do, but mostly I plan to knit in the quiet times. I hope to finish the Project Linus blanket while there.

It's a shame I can't take the loom to the gallery with me... perhaps I would get the tapestry woven with a no-dog day stretched out before me. But my 6-foot Shannock won't fit into any of my tote bags.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Moon rise...

Did you see the moon last night? It was spectacular! Here's a photo I shot of it, enhanced for my grandkids with the words of a song that I sing them. My oldest grand-daughter would sing it along with me before she was a year old. It's one of my favorite memories, so when I see a huge full moon, I have to sing the song.

I still am not able to get good night shots. My husband looks at the Astronomy Picture of the Day website, and sent me a link to this photo of the moon. Evidently it took two merged shots to create it (yea, Photoshop!). Isn't it lovely?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A bit more progress...

In praise of Photoshop...

I recently saw a call for entry for a big Illustrators and Graphic Design competition, and there was a graphic 'blurb' on the prospectus that said 'No Photoshop?!' I am assuming that was a joke (?) or some other sort of poorly planned 'statement,' as the exhibit does not forbid the use of Photoshop in it's entry requirements. How stupid! Photoshop has become one of the most reliable and best used tools for illustrators, graphic designers, and designers and artists in almost all media! It has been used to amazing and stunning effect for the past 20 years by those who have taken the time to learn how to make the most of it in their studios. It has, I believe, gotten somewhat of a bad rap, due to it's misuse, mainly by amateur photographers. The general public is most aware of Photoshop as it was used by the Iranian government to fake an extra missile to their news photo. Or by those who take a photo like this:

and do something hideous like this to it:
But Photoshop has so many uses for an artist! I have it open on my desktop all the time. I have come to rely on it for so many things, both in my painting, and most especially in my tapestry design. With Photoshop, I can crop photos, rearrange elements and/or make them larger or smaller, more or less significant in the composition. When I design a tapestry that begins with a photo, I can take a somewhat uninteresting photo like this:
and crop it; enhance the contrasts and simplify the shapes, taking out some I don't like and rearranging others, and come up with a design I want to weave, like this:
Then I can even use Photoshop to make my cartoon, by having it 'find the lines.' I then can print it out, actual size on several pieces of paper, and tape it together to stitch behind my warp to weave from.

Before Photoshop, I'd have done all of this by hand, with markers and paint, taking much more time and effort.

When I paint, I use Photoshop to pick the composition from a photo, perhaps combining elements from several photos. I also, when 'stuck' at the easel, will photograph the painting in progress, put it into Photoshop and try different paint effects without having to make a mess of my canvas by experimenting directly on it. When I see what is needed to proceed with the painting, I go back to the easel and can pick the brush up with more confidence.

I have come to consider Photoshop as useful a tool to my art making as my tapestry beaters or my brushes, and I would not like to create without any of these useful tools!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Killing time...

I am killing time, as I print out a bunch of stuff and have to sit here 'supervising' the printing process. I found this site, which uses your computer camera to take photos as if you are in a scratchy old French photo booth. Too fun to pass up!


I just hung my paintings for the November-December miniatures exhibit at the Blue Pig Gallery. I'll hang the tapestries on Saturday. Here's the front of the invitation I'm sending out. If anyone is nearby, there's an Artists' Reception on Friday, Nov 13 from 5-8 p.m. I'll also be at the gallery all day (9-6) on the first Saturday of both months... probably knitting instead of painting, as I usually do while there! Come say 'hi', if you're in the area!