Monday, August 25, 2008

Partaking of the Bruised Plums of Paradise*

This is a special bulletin of the Magpie Telegraph Alert System.

Elisem, who is not only a jewelry maker and artist of immense talent but who also shares my birthday, is having a birthday sale. Not only that, but she's once again offering a draw for a gift certificate to those who spread the word and let her know about it (see that post for the details).

This time around, my pocketbook and I would like to thank the person with exceptional taste who bought Going Under the Hill. My credit card company and bank, on the other hand, are surely disappointed that I won't be going into further debt with them.

A few other things I'm coveting to an almost alarming level: Knock Three Times and Say Athena Sent You, Rose of the Vineyards, and (a little smaller, but shockingly adorable) Treasure Box.

Someday, I will end up with one of her very long linked necklaces, and a necklace-crown. Not today, though.

Another person whose jewelry I like very much, and who would probably appreciate the traffic, is Katie, aka Dragon's Den Jewelry.

Go on. Covet. Buy if you are so inclined and can. Elise's sale goes until September 1.

This has been a special bulletin of the Magpie Telegraph Alert System.


In other news, we definitely have a plum tree.

This is after Saturday's good-sized harvest

A very full plum tree.


We harvested three bags of mostly-ripe plums on Saturday and dropped them off with my mother-in-law to take along for her Sunday family visits. I'll get more today. They're a little tart, and absolutely yummy.

The over-growing nature and layout of the backyard - in particular the outrageous recent growth of the magnolia - means that our plum tree, unlike our neighbour's, is mostly in shade. Thanks to this year's record-breaking rainfalls**, we have an amazing bounty of plums, and thanks to the shade, ours aren't ripening quickly on the branch, while the neighbour's are very ripe. She doesn't seem to be interested in picking them, which means the local critters aren't eating ours.

That, and the squirrels are far more enamored with the black walnut tree (aka "The Stinky Nut Tree") hanging over the back of the yard from another neighbour. If I get it together enough, I'll collect some black walnut shells for dyeing.

Low-hanging black walnuts. They smell. The less ripe they are, the more potent the smell. Also, they are sticky.

But the moral here is: the more plums I pick now, the fewer will be squished into the ground in a couple weeks.

I took the loppers to the plum and magnolia on Saturday and almost immediately regretted it. I only took off a branch or two on each, and only new growth branches that I felt were seriously heading in the wrong direction, but I seem to have re-emphasized the lopsided nature of both trees. Both have already been pruned heavily in certain areas, and I think I just added to the weirdness. I'm hoping they both figure it out and send out slightly more well-behaved branches back into those areas next year, but somehow I doubt I'll be that lucky. Nature is nothing if not persistent, but it also never quite does what I want or expect.

*Title from "The Bruised Plums of Paradise," earrings by Elise Matthesen, currently living with me. The earrings, not Elise.

**Seriously, five times more rain than Vancouver? Hell's bells, man, that's just wrong.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

I love it when a plan comes together

The super-secret joint knitting project that I last blogged about here was finished and delivered shortly before I went on vacation. All parties involved are (pick one or more:) pleased, surprised, happy, relieved, in recovery, totally into the bright colours.

A group of four knitters (me, Sarah, Lydia, Tanya) and a crocheter (Liisa) in my graduate department pooled our collective string-wrangling prowess together and made an afghan for another grad student (Christine), herself a knitter, who was having a baby. Er, make that had a baby, a few months ago, and a very cute one at that. I don't make a habit of putting pictures of other people's kids up on my blog, especially without explicit permission, so you'll just have to trust me.

I can, however, post some pictures of the finished blanket. Well, mostly finished. I think this was before the crochet ends were woven in. The "finished" pictures all feature a very cute infant, whose mother I will have to speak to in-person before I go posting his adorable mug willy-nilly all over the innernets.

Yarn: New Bernat Satin. Very light and soft, 100% Acrylic, 100% (the most important thing!) puke-washable

Each colour of square contains a different pattern. The patterns for the squares are from this book of knitted baby washcloths. We used six red rocking horses, ten orange butterflies, eight yellow duckies, six green bunnies, four blue sailboats, and two purple baby carriages.

Each of the knitters took a colour and pattern, according to how fast we thought we could knit and how much time we had over the next several weeks. I'm always looking for a good cause for procrastination, so I jumped on the ten orange butterflies that evening, while Lydia took the yellow duckies. Tanya took the red (and eventually also the blue), and Sarah took the green. I finished relatively quickly (yay, procrastination!) so later on I also did the 2 purple squares. For those who are interested in such things, we got almost exactly four squares out of a ball of yarn.

For yuks, here is the "napkin layout": After Liisa proposed the project and we all signed on, Lydia, Liisa and I made the initial covert field trip to Mary Maxim in late February to pick out yarn, look for some patterns, and then sit down somewhere with food and figure out the logistics. Finding the washcloth pattern book* was an inspirational lucky turn, and "somewhere with food" ended up being the foodcourt of the mall, so between bites of my A&W rootbeer and burger, I sketched out the general game plan and layout on a food court napkin.

All the best plans are drawn on a napkin.

We were, of course, hoping the squares would all turn out the same size... but realistically, four different knitters all getting exactly the same size squares? Not likely. Lydia did some blocking, which helped, but Liisa was the star who took all the squares and made them fit together using the wonderous power of crochet. She even managed to do it while keeping our original layout intact. Here's a closeup of her excellent crochet border.

All hail the magic of crochet!

*I'm not usually one for the simple washcloth patterns, but I think I might have to get this other booklet by the same designer.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The grass and sunlight are woven in for free

I'm home from Pennsic. This year I camped in a new location with a different group. (I-79 side of the Serengetti rather than on Runestone Hill). Being with a small group was quite a bit different compared to the 40+ people in my encampment last year, but I did miss the other group a little. Our encampment was so quiet. Well, OK, quiet in some ways. I haven't completely passed judgement on the location, but I could definitely have done without the almost constant air horns and jack brakes from the highway.

However, it was nicely flat (a bonus, seriously), shockingly convenient to the merchants, main food court and A&S tents, and I did not miss climbing the steep part of the hill every day. I did miss the sound of drums coming up from the lake all night long, though, and the feeling of being more at the centre of things. I'll have to wait a couple months until it's in long-term memory before I decide if I liked the good parts of it enough to camp over there again.

This was taken shortly before tear-down, so the camp fence and lanterns are already gone.

I played in a very excellent pickup dance band from Sunday through Tuesday. I'm still not a spectacular recorder player, but I'm starting to be able to hold my own on melody and play most things up to speed, which makes me happy. I still need a lot of work on recorder, though.

At heart, I suspect I'll always be a brass player. I believe I want need a sackbut. Possibly before the natural horn. Some day.

I was pretty good about not buying too much. I did have to pick up the obligatory spindle:

Yes, it's a heart. Yes, the pink felt baggie came with it. It would make me sick if it weren't so darn pretty.

...and the traditional couple of bags of naturally-dyed roving from Brush Creek Wool Works.

I had to get the red. Their cochineal red with tin mordant is almost exactly the colour we got. In fact, these were the reddest bags of the batch - the rest of her selection were noticeably lighter. I suspect the evenness of her colour compared to ours is because she dyes rovings, not raw fleece of questionable cleanliness. Her cochineal with alum mordant roving was close to our raspberry batch. It makes me feel considerably better to know we got what the pros get with our cochineal dyebaths. Oh, and that yellow? Onion skins with tin. Really, how awesome is that? Onions are the new neon.

I also picked up a pretty thing for my hair, a tiny hard leather pouch, two small handbound leather journals (with handmade paper! and refillable! one for me and one for Daniel to use as a sketchbook), some herbs for a friend and tea and honey - nothing to break the bank. No looms this year, thanks, and I even passed up on the expensive but lovely closed-toe shoes. I walked past the harps and sighed.

Once again, Dread Viscountess Seelie offered rigid heddle weaving classes, so a lot of my second week was spent weaving and generally playing with string. This year we were re-creating several specific archaeological textiles on the rigid heddle loom, using the multiple-heddle technique she taught last year. A few of us offered up our looms as teaching looms, so in all we had five looms going with different warps. We all wove a few inches on each pattern. All designs were woven on standard 20" Beka SG-20 rigid heddle looms, using either two or three heddles as required (3 or 4-shaft patterns), and no pickup sticks.

First a 1-2 Rippenkoper. This is a three-shaft design, requiring only two heddles. Basically, it switches between a 2-1 twill and a 1-2 twill, weft-faced to warp-faced, and also reverses.

Next, a rosette twill. This is 4-shaft design, done using three heddles.

I think this might actually be the back, but I like this side better.

And finally, my absolute favourite, the Jorvik 1336 (i.e. "Coppergate") textile. A honeycomb, or wabengawebe with a twill. I messed up the pattern more than once, being highly distractible on a good day, even more so there. A couple times I only did one repeat of the pattern, and once I did three. But I definitely want to make some long pieces of this one and do something with them.

Front of an apron dress, perhaps? Hmmm.

There was also a loom with a standard 4-harness twill warp, but since I did the twills and double-weaves last year, I didn't do more of those. One of the looms had to go back with its person early and we ran out of time, and since I was planning to put that very warp onto my loom at home, I was asked if I could weave up 5-6 samples to send off to the instructor and others in the class. It's definitely no hardship! I'm learning a lot, and getting the warping experience I was looking for.

So, now on my loom and weaving up nicely, a 2-1 Lozenge. This one is another three-shaft pattern, so it only requires two heddles.

Sample one of five. Or maybe six.

There really is something to be said for sitting under a sun shade, warping looms with a group of women, chatting with the person across from you, muttering the count of the warp thread quietly between sentences... "Here's the three. So, did you guys get wet last night? No, I was very dry - two fours coming through - but it was freaking cold when I woke up at three in the morning. Is that sixteen? OK, tie that off."

Someone might have caught a video of Seelie weaving in one of the classes, in which case I'll definitely post a link. Most of the drafts for these patterns can be found at the complex weavers medieval textiles study group, in the section on the textiles discussed in Lise Bender Jorgensen's book. The Coppergate textile draft is from Thora Sharptooth's site.

Aside from the RH weaving, I didn't take too many classes - one exception being a viking wire weaving class. I got to make a necklace, and wire-wrap a bead. I need to finish it with a hook for it to be completely done - but the part where you pull it through the drawplate is so much fun. It's like magic.

What do mean you don't go to Pennsic to weave?

I leave you with this. It was visible from Currie Road, near the west gate.

Everyone goes to Pennsic, didn't you know?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Post-Pennsic Weaving Post coming...

... as soon as I get home this afternoon. While I begin to tackle the mounds of laundry.

My God. The laundry.

hides under the blanket again

Friday, August 01, 2008

Things I Can't Get at Home

I am in PA. One would think I would be at Pennsic, since it is well underway, I have a medallion, and my Very Medieval Tent is set up in our campsite over there, looking very medieval indeed.

One would be wrong.

I'm at my parents house, the house I grew up in, sitting at the kitchen table. The kitchen has been redone recently, but the table looks exactly the same. For some reason, when Mom, Dad and I sit at it to play cards, we sit around it in exactly the way we always did: Me with my back to the door and fridge, Mom to my right, Dad to my left (or directly across the table).

It's very strange, these long-term habits.

What is even stranger is that I'm sitting at this table, in this chair, and I have internet access. There is an unexplained, open wi-fi connection that my laptop picked up automatically without asking - suddenly it was downloading email. There's really only one neighbouring house physically close enough to account for it, so my suspicion lies there. I try not to make a habit of borrowing wi-fi connections, except under dire circumstances, so I'm trying not to use it too much or even think about it, lest it disappear suddenly. But I'm also a little delighted that I won't have to pay for internet access over at Pennsic while I'm here just to do an email check every couple days, or run the 5 miles into Butler to a cafe for free access.

The connection is much stronger if I park myself between the grand piano and the Hammond B3 in the sunroom, which I like to think is due to the overwhelming power of such an awesome confluence of keyboards.

I'm also avoiding the work that I'm supposed to be getting done, which is why I'm at the house and not in the tent. So, here is a montage of a few things I can't get at home. From L to R: Frosted Chocolate Vanilla Creme Pop-Tarts, a Butterfinger bar, (American) Mountain Dew, Strawberry Quick powder, Pepperidge Farms Mint Milano Cookies, and handwritten notes from my Mom, with hearts and smiley faces.

Sugar overload

Don't worry, I won't eat it all in one sitting. The cookies are to share with Mom, and the Strawberry Quick is entirely for Daniel. To be fair, I could probably find Butterfinger at home if I knew where to look, but lately, even the places that sell Nestle chocolate bars haven't had them. This flavour of pop-tarts, my only pop-tart weakness, are sometimes even hard to find here. I haven't seen them the last few times I've been down, and the last time a friend offered to bring some back with her for me, I got S'Mores (nope, not even close). The Mountain Dew is just one of those goofy things. I always loved Mountain Dew. Canadian Dew did not, until quite recently, contain caffeine, and the version with caffeine at home has a special name and still doesn't taste the same. I don't drink it, ever. This is probably related to the general cross-border Coke/Pepsi thing. American Coke is made with high-fructose corn syrup. I've never liked it - I grew up drinking Pepsi. Canadian Coke is made with real cane sugar and is wonderful and amazing, but Canadian Pepsi is icky.

And because I'm more than a little homesick, and I miss my Daniel and my fuzzy boys, here are a couple shots I took while playing with the silly features on my old digital camera a couple weeks ago. They were still on the camera when I emptied it just now.

Everything looks better with the polarizing filter!

Okay, enough dawdling. Back to work. I want to be at Pennsic tomorrow!