Friday, August 23, 2013

The Beauty of What Isn't and a Woven Pillow for the Patio

 Life continues to bounce along at break neck speed, which necessitates that any personal crafting be geared toward short, easy-to-interrupt projects.  It would be delightful to have languorous, expansive blocks of time to work, but THAT is just not happening in my world lately.  The little pillow pictured at left proved just the right Crafty Fun for when I am crazy busy, but find myself with an available five minutes here and there.  It can be picked up and put down without counting stitches or losing my place and is easily transportable.  Best part, the mindless rhythm of the weaving is very Zen and provides good pondering time.  Perfect!  It took me a month or longer to finish, but only because I worked on it so intermittently.  It could easily be completed in an afternoon.

Weaving seems to be my obsession of the moment and I was engaged in some Google Image Time Wasting when I came upon this incredibly awesome rug from the Free People Decor Blog:

Spectacular, isn't it?  You can get the instructions FREE on the Free People Blog.  They suggest making the round loom from cardboard, but I chose to make mine from wood so that it would have a longer shelf life.   I will definitely be having another go at this project as I ran into some technical difficulties that I would like to see if I can correct.   My intention was to make a Big Ole Runner for the long hallway that runs through my house....but then I started to think on it a bit.  I have five dogs.  They are finally all housebroken---even Sophie!---but we are contemplating getting our next foster rescue puppy and a rug like that would be calling out to be peed upon.  Hmmmm.

I persevered, even though I wasn't thrilled with the colorway I was using.  I was determined to use materials already on hand...rope  lying about the shop and some of the poorly spun yarn from my first efforts at spinning.  I figured if it didn't work out, I would lose only a bit of time, rather than a chunk of change.  The colorway made me want to ditch the project halfway through, but I thought of my friend Meryl, who says that "If you are not happy with your project, you are simply not finished with it yet."  Words of wisdom, for sure, and I figured that maybe I just wasn't finished.

First time efforts are always a challenge, but they are important for stretching personal boundaries, so I kept weaving...and grew happier with the colorway.   Maybe this rug was going to happen after all!

I persevered...but then I started thinking about Cooper.  He is our most anxious dog.  He was a foster rescue  that proved too damaged to be adoptable, so we decided to try to Love Him To Mental Health. is that working out for us?  You be the judge!  We adore him but he comes with challenges.  Surely, the different textures would make this just the sort of rug that Cooper would go for the next time a thunderstorm rolled though.

Hmmm....I was starting  to rethink the whole rug concept when I noticed that the textile was not going to lay flat.  Damn. This rug was simply not going to happen.  Grrrr. I put it away in frustration and one day I happened to glance at it and saw that it was a pillow.  Seriously....the edges were curling in and it was obviously a pillow....I just hadn't seen it at first.

I re-purposed an old sweatshirt to make a  pillow form. Fortunately, I am rich with pillow stuffing stuff, thanks to Cooper.  The tapestry is attached to the pillow using a simple crochet stitch.  The crochet flower center covers an unsightly pucker and a Swarovski Sew On Crystal Stone adds just a touch of sparkle. VOILA!   I love seeing it  on one of the chair just outside of my studio----I only hope that Cooper doesn't notice it!

It is funny, the tyranny of expectations can be a real downer and even blind  us to the joy of what IS.... all ya gotta do is tweak your expectations a bit.  This piece was determined to be a pillow,  so I adjusted my vision, and got something pretty cool in the end.  Different, but cool, nonetheless.

The Pillow Epiphany reminds me of the  Stevie Nicks Jacket That Wasn't .   I had fallen in love with a Shambolic Felt Jacket made by my friend Marlene Gruetter.  It was ethereal and flowing, light and airy...simply gorgeous....evocative of the sorts of costumes worn by Stevie Nicks back in the day.
I made arrangements for Marlene to come to Florida for a workshop and got ready to get all ethereal and such.  Except that it didn't work out that way.   A heavy hand with fiber and a lack of experience produced a heavier jacket than I had anticipated, so I got something else....equally wonderful but very different.  I vowed to try again another day and went about living my life.

One day a package  note, no explanation. I opened it and laughed through misty eyes.

Inside I found a Stevie Nicks Jacket...

                                                   ..... and a Tambourine.

I sure do love you, Marlene.

 Friends make the journey a whole lot more fun.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Goat Babies, Chicken Babies, and a Primitive Rug, too!

Happy Chaos has ruled the summer but I am eager to get back into a more disciplined routine since Fall Show season will soon be upon me and there is work to be done! 

I was tickled to spend a few hours with Nick Regine, AKA the "Professor of Crystal" for Create-Your-Style with Swarovski Elements.  We filmed a short "how to" video on embedding Swarovski Crystal Elements into a felt project.  Check it Out!

Nightmare of nightmares....Shortly after I returned from my visit with Nick,  I learned that Swarovski has discontinued its line of Crystal Yarn.  This is a REALLY BIG DEAL in my world because all of  my felted cuff bracelets and necklaces feature Swarovski Crystal Yarn.


You know how you feel when your favorite lipstick is discontinued?  That's how I am feeling about my crystal yarn.  The fear of not having it available is making me stingy with what remains in my stash.  What is a gal to do?

Learn to spin her own glitzy yarn, of course! 

I have been a Hand Spun Yarn Groupie and Spinner Wannabe ever since purchasing a used wheel at SAFF three years ago. I maintain a selection of beautiful hand dyed merino wool  for felt making, so spinning seemed a logical craft  to pursue.   I took one lesson and left feeling overwhelmed and uncoordinated.  I tucked the wheel in a corner where it looked lovely but did nothing further with it until this summer.   The Great Crystal Yarn Crisis forced my hand....the only way I was going to get crystal yarn was to make it myself.   Fortunately, my weekly fiber group is bursting with talented Spinners willing to share their knowledge.   Special thanks to Kelly Agrue, whose work makes me swoon.  Her patience and sense of humor helped get me over the hump, while Barry's calming influence reminds me to slow down a bit.   I  channel his words of wisdom when I start to panic and spin out of control:

  "...Don't are allowed to stop the wheel."  

So I do. 

I stop, take a deep breath, gather my wits, and begin again.   Although I have not produced quality hand spun YET, I know it is only a matter of time and practice before I get there!  My collection of poorly spun yarn has grown beyond reason; fortunately, my friend Deb brought a pillow to a guild meeting that provided just the inspiration I needed!  She used her own gorgeous hand spun yarn with some commercial yarn to weave the stunning pillow pictured.  A spectacular Swarovski Crystal stone in Crystal Volcano makes the pillow POP!  Deb gave the group a quick weaving lesson  and then gifted me with a loom of my own.  

Deb's spectacular pillow

SHAZAM!   I am hooked!  It has truly been a summer filled with wonderful opportunities for creativity.  I never thought I would enjoy weaving, but find the folk art quality of loomed rugs to be particularly appealing.  I made my first primitive rug from my poorly spun yarn --- I love the process and the look.  The rug was a bit small and somewhat crooked,  so I crocheted a trim to extend it and even things out a bit.  YUM!  It is soft and fluffy...a new favorite hangout for the pups.

Lampshade in the works

Next on the list...a crochet lamp shade featuring my own version of  Swarovski Crystal Yarn.  I  strung random crystal beads and pendants onto my plying thread and, with some trial and error,  managed to ply a bit of sparkle into the yarn.  I am finding my way and enjoying the adventure. 


Ruby meets her little girl

Ruby the Nubian Dairy Goat finally delivered her babies.  Every birth is a miracle and this one was no exception.  I happened to be in the pen when she went into labor so I got to be there for the big event---what a gift!  Despite the fact that Ruby was a bottle baby who had never been nurtured by a mama goat, she has done a splendid job with little Abner and Annabelle.  The video shows her with them moments after they were is all cuteness and sunshine---nothing gross, I promise! 

I am glad that I bucked dairy goat tradition and let Ruby mother her kids.  It has been a total win-win!  There is plenty of milk for the babies and for me... they are growing like weeds and, at seven weeks, are starting to eat hay and grain.   Poor Ruby is becoming impatient with relentless biting babies tugging at her teats.  (...and seriously, who wouldn't?)   They will be going to new homes once they are weaned.  Poor Mama has taken to running away from them when they approach  from behind so I figure that the weaning process has officially started.

We have some new chicks, too!  Remember Teeny Tiny Mutant Hen?  We had pretty much given up on her ever laying an egg, but then she surprised us.   It took her an extra year to catch up, but she is now laying teeny tiny eggs with delightful regularity.    She went broody in May and turned into a real warrior as she sat

Teeny and her babies.  She's on the lower right. 

on a clutch of eggs, daring anybody to come close.  Three healthy, regular sized, chicks hatched and, at two months old, they are already bigger than Teeny!  Despite the matter of size, she is very much the mother hen, clucking and fussing over her brood.  Should one fall behind and peep in distress----as lost little chicks so often do---she marches over and gives the straggler a loud verbal dressing down, followed by a sharp peck on the head.  She keeps her brood away from the other hens, preferring to hide under the goat barn.  She

Teeny scouts the yard to make sure it is safe to venture out.

comes out periodically to survey the yard and if it looks safe, she leads her babies out for a spin around the garden. 

Interestingly, her three chicks are more nervous and skittish than any others born here.  I am guessing that, as is often the case with humans, this nervous chicken has managed to pass her dysfunction along to the next generation.   

Thanks, Ma! 

Where is a chicken therapist when you need one?