Saturday, August 1, 2015

A new toy? And more pretties ...

Nope, it's not a toy; that is 100% certain. It is a very hefty, extremely well-built (weren't they all back then?) vintage New Home sewing machine!

I said (to myself) I'm not going to be a willy-nilly collector of antique and vintage sewing machines, and I'm not. It may not be so apparent now that I have an antique, a vintage, and a modern machines, but I'm quite adamant that I'll only pick up machines that are special.
This New Home is one I've had my eye on for well over a year, having seen it in numerous pictures, and this one came along at a very nice price. I'd say there are only 2 or 3 other machines that I would snatch up if I came across them. That's not too bad, is it?
It sews so beautifully and there are a number of very small details that make sewing on it (as well as my late godmother's Singer 66) a dream. For starters: The relationship of the spacing around the feed dogs to the presser foot, in relation to the needle. I can see, very directly and clearly where the needle will first enter the cloth, it's not couched way back where it's hard to see. No quessing required! I love these old work horses.
I've started another scrap quilt on it. I'm still working on the watercolor quilt (on my modern machine) but it's in a go-slow phase.


Pretties and beauties and awe

These Echinacea smell so lovely, as this butterfly will attest:

This "Easter" lily is from 2014. I put it in the ground last year and it came back! I put this year's lily in the ground as well. What a nice reminder is this trumpet's perfume!

Is this not the most beautiful turquoise!? Newly acquired top this afternoon. It comes from Aker, a new sheep farm in Enfield, NH:

The dandelion-dyed skein finished yesterday, also showing the beginning of the Umbilicaria-dyed spinning. Quite apparent these are natural dyes. The soft hues, swoon!:

And this is my plan for the scarf using all these skeins I'm currently spinning up. A series of varying length rectangles knit in intarsia technique:

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Row by Row ...

I purchased my local quilt shop's (North Country Quilters) "Row by Row" row kit a few weeks ago and have been working on it this past week. The design is a representation of Smith Millennium Bridge in Plymouth. Applique. I will make it a wall hanging to place in my stair well.

I haven't done applique before and this piece is going to be a combination of machine stitching and hand stitching. In all honesty, I find hand stitching has a depth of beauty and quality that the machine cannot match. I love hand stitching. The big pieces were laid down with the machine. The smaller pieces: The trees, the rocks, and the moutain tops (which are not yet cut out) will be hand stitched in place. I took liberties with the directions and did not use fusible adhesive to lay the pieces in place, but simply basted them by hand instead. That's more my aesthetic at the moment.

I love the design. I'm currently stitching the 3 central trees in place. The darkest one on top is done, the middle one is pinned in place (see the big green dot of the pin head!), and the lower one is simply placed in situ "to see" what it will look like. There are a few more trees for the far right, the mountain tops, one of the bridge's posts to finish.

The ducks are my own touch--my signature birds! :)

In other news, the cochineal dyed wool makes a pretty yarn:

I will be making a scarf with these skeins.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Umbilicaria and Cochineal ...

I was given a nice quantity and variety of natural dyestuffs recently (thank you!) and decided not to sit around waiting to use them! I found a few ounces of Falkland wool in my stash that goes back to my Brooklyn days: I'd purchased it at The Yarn Tree when it was on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg. (That's where I first did natural dyeing and where I learned to spin. It was a beautiful place, full of natural fibers of every kind.) So with wool in hand and dried Cochineal bugs heated to just below boiling and then simmered for an hour--twice, to make 2 extractions of color, I set about imparting the beautiful bug red to the wool.

I used alum to mordant the wool, a process that helps the wool absorb the dyestuff. Simmered in an alum bath for an hour and left overnight, I then squeezed out the excess water and carefully lowered the wool into the dilution of dye with water and let it simmer for an hour. I left it in the dye pot overnight.

My water is hard and I knew that would have some sort of effect on the results. Maybe at some point I'll try the exact same proportions of mordant, water, and dye using distilled water to explore the differences.

I'm very happy with the resulting color, a clear, light magenta. I think I used a tad too much alum as the wool has a very slightly sticky feel. I used 10% of the weight of the wool in alum. I'll try 7% next time; I've read it's best to err with too little rather than too much. I'll wash the yarn when I've done spinning it in hot soapy water, it'll be overplyed anyway so the wet finish will be good. (I've been overplying and subsequently steaming balance into the yarn, which is not my usual process. Usually, I ply a balanced yarn. But I'm currently quite fond of these slightly undertwisted singles, overplyed. Barber pole and all that!)

The cochineal dyed wool is on the right. The wool on the left was dyed with umbilicaria--I'll get to that shortly.

It's spinning up all nice and pretty!

Notice my 'lazy kate'? I discovered recently that these glass flower frogs make the best lazy kates for my spindles! I use it when winding off and it works a charm! The deeper ones are best for this purpose. And they're cheap in junk shops.

Umbilicaria is the second dyestuff I worked with last week. It is commonly known as "rock tripe", a type of lichen I believe. It needs to be harvested carefully so as not to deplete the source. I worked with an extraction that had already been done (although there is a bag of dried umblilicaria amongst the goods I recently received, so I will have the experience of doing the extraction myself at some point): The raw material is fermented in ammonia for a goodly amount of time to extract it's dyes. I diluted the extraction with water and followed the same procedure as for the cochineal. I'm a little nonplused by the color since I was expecting something brighter. Again, the results could be due to my water, the mordant I used (alum) and the fact that I did not use any assists or modifiers (cream of tartar, vinegar, salt, soda, etc.). Experimentation is the ticket when natural dyeing. I think there is much experimentation in my future.

While the Falkland wool was undergoing color changes, I spun up this small skein; it's Wellington Fibers (thank you!).

Saturday, July 18, 2015

More yarn, more birds, more flowers ...

Enjoying the creation of these small skeins during Tour de Fleece. Even though I did not officially sign up, I've been spinning every day. Bright orange skein was finished yesterday.

I spied a goldfinch this afternoon, visiting the bird feeder out front. I love these dear pretty little birds.

The ever changing colors of summer ...

Clematis is starting to blossom:

The blue of these delphiniums is one of my favorites:

These mullein (sentinels to the forest beyond!) are 7' tall some of them!:

Ciello enjoys bathing in the fountain:

This nasturtium caught my eye for it's lovely soft coloring:

Christmas in July!:

Sunday, July 5, 2015

More twist ...

Since taking out one of my Kundert spindles 2 weeks ago, I've kept it spinning on a regular basis. It feels great! I'm enamored, at the moment, with the notion that a few simple tools are the total requirement for spinning, plying, and winding yarn. These 3 (l to r), spindle, nostepinne, and niddy-noddy, are portable enough to keep in my bag. Ready to make yarn anywhere, anytime. Such a glorious art.

I wound off this little 48 yard, 2-ply skein this evening; it was begun yesterday morning. I'm also finding myself keen on making quick, smaller skeins. One reason for this: As the spindle gathers more yarn it gets heavier which affects the new yarn being made. Keeping my cops (the wound-on yarn) smaller manages a slightly more even, convenient, yarn. IMO.

I'm ever so grateful I learned how to spin on a spindle. It's a beautiful art. What's more, it lends itself so well to slowing down the pace of life. Ahhhh, a few spins of the spindle and all's better. There's no hurry, I can sit and make something with my hands and the simplicity of things as they are, seems clearer. And it's useful too!

* * *

I went to see some Shakespeare out-of-doors in Plymouth last Thursday. Twelfth Night in the open air ampitheatre in Plymouth. The theatre is situated a stone's throw from the old train station which is now the senior center, and the farmer's market is there on Thursdays as well. The ampitheatre sits on the Pemigewasset River. Beautiful, beautiful setting. There will be presentations of Shakespeare every Thursday for the month of July. I think I'll go to all of them!

Since I arrived a bit early, I strolled over to the edge of the river and captured some watercolors on the Pemigewasset River.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A weekend to remember ...

I left for NYC Friday, in the early afternoon; on the bus. Made my way from 42nd St. to Greenpoint and spent the night at my friend's apartment. He was kind enough to lend us one of his two electric keyboards for our recital Saturday afternoon and I packed it and my cello into a hired car and headed over to Windsor Terrace, for the church where we'd be holding the recital. We were allowed use of the hall and it was a very nice space, complete with raised stage, lights, etc.

I quickly ran through portions of my piece with the pianist for the first time, as did a few of the other students who were playing with piano accompaniment. It was a nice ice-breaker and helped shake off a few nerves. When everyone had arrived, we ran through a group piece a few times and deemed it suitable to play at the end of the recital.

I was the next to last student to play so I had plenty of time to experience butterflies, and practice centering. It went well and I am happy about that. Might even have video to share next week some time. :)

Back in Greenpoint I celebrated at my favorite Thai restaurant, then spent another lovely evening visiting with my friend. He is a composer, pianist, accordionist, organist, and gay--like myself, so there is never a loss of topic for conversation.

Sunday was a very special day. I left the apartment early and got to our staging block before the commotion began. Equipped with my camera and video recorder, I was set to capture the day for posterity.

The Supreme Court decision which came down Friday was cause for celebration, and there was no lack of jubilation in the streets on Sunday! Oh what a joyous occasion. What a long road it's been from Stonewall (1969) to today. There were definite moments of emotion at the March. As always, turning on to 5th Avenue causes a welling up, as does passing in front of The Stonewall Inn where it all began. There were other moments as well, during the parade, at the realization that the roaring crowds are cheering the end of an oppression. It is overwhelming and very fine indeed.

A day at work yesterday and back home today. I'm thrilled to be able to partake of these events in the big city and then return to a place where it's a bit quieter. :) Without further ado, here's my 6 hour Sunday experience condensed into 9 minutes. Following my video is another video about the March that I really like, so there it is too! It was a very special day indeed! :)