Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Introducing my assistant

You may not know that I don't write these posts by myself.  I am coached by my friend, Bob...aka Roberto del Gato, aka El Diablo, aka Blob.  I'll let you guess what I may call him on any given day.

He lives for us to sit at our kitchen table, Library0021
wedging himself into whatever space is left between our two notebook computers.  If I'm not paying enough attention to him (he loves tummy rubs), he sits up and gently pats my shoulder with his paw.  Once I've given him enough back scritches, he then falls into his favorite position...lying next to my computer, resting his head gently on the keyboard. 

Moving him is another issue.  We just returned from the vet's office, where he weighed in at a healthy (uh huh) 19.8 lbs.  The thing is, he shares the same bowl of dry food our other two (skinny) cats eat from.  I find some solace in this absolute proof that genetics do play a part in what shape we become. 

While the vet and I were talking, I happened to mention Bob's penchant for eating all things fibrous...preferably wool...although I have seen him desperately trying to gobble strings and threads from any place he can find them.  I told her this in defense of his limited exercise space.  Half our house has been closed off to cats due to his snacking habits...a result of his decision to chomp off the warp on my loom on several occasions, followed by my discovery that he had chewed open the bottoms of MANY skeins of hand spun yarns hanging from the walls.  Sometimes while I'm knitting, my work in hand takes off like I've just landed a tuna...because I've been sloppy and left my working ball of yarn vulnerable.  Where is this going, you ask?  Her diagnosis:  he's a wool sucker!  No kidding!  I had to come home and google this to confirm her words.  This is actually documented in the halls of veterinary science.  Who knew?

I'm signing off now, to go sit and work on my lace shawl...without an assistant.  ---Martie

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Princess of Procrastination

About this time last year, my stepdaughter, Jamie, came to NM so we could research THE perfect place for her wedding.  Somewhere in those days, she asked if I would consider knitting her a lace shawl for the blessed event.  I agreed, excited and honored.  Then...well...then I proceeded to put it on the back burner until last fall.

By late fall/early winter, I suggested a pattern she might like and sent yarn samples.  She made her decisions and I set the five skeins of Rowan's Kid Silk Night yarn aside, next to my desk at work...and there they sat until about a week ago. 

The pattern is from Rowan Magazine 41, and is called "Anice" (designed by Sharon Miller).  I think Monte told me that this would be easy.  Having survived knitting Charlotte's Web Shawl last year (a most miserably written pattern, IMHO), I felt this would be a breeze.Aniceshawl_2

So the Princess of Procrastination (self-proclaimed, I will admit)  started it a couple of days ago.  I started in the evening, under a small Ott lamp, with the white yarn on white Denise needles with the white magazine on my lap underneath.  WRONG.  After doing the first seven rows of the border over twice, I gave up and started over last night on wooden needles (much better) and no magazine in my lap.  For the border pattern, I called on the same trick that saved me while knitting Charlotte's Web...I wrote out each pattern row on an index card.  Armed with my Kacha Kacha and my cards, I managed the bottom border with only one error.

I've decided to make note of my progress here each week, so I will be accountable to you for my progress.  I have so many memories of being up all night working on school papers I waited until the last minute to do...I'm in fear this could end up in that same category.

Since I'm not a seasoned lace knitter, I welcome any suggestions you have for tricks to make this a success.  ---Martie

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

She's hot!

Our friend Gayle walked into the shop today with two sacks of show and tell.

Out came THE most fabulous knitted bags I have ever seen.  Really.  Bar none.  After gasping for air for a couple of minutes, I composed myself enough to ask  permission to take photos to share with you (I would have begged if she'd made me).  Library0002
Here are three of them for you to dream aboutLibrary0003
tonight...knitted of her multitudinous balls of novelty yarns, along with lots of fancies from Common Threads in Taos. 

What you can't see is the linings.  Each has a beautiful, brightly colored (some polka dot) fabric with coordinating ribbons binding the edge at the top.  I'm telling you, that girl's on fire.  I wish I could channel her creativity!Library0004_2

Here's a puzzle I hope you can help me with:  her sister sent the forms for these bags and the only tag she could share with us was in Chinese (I only experience with Japanese, for comparison, is a sushi menu).  It is a black mesh in the shape of these bags.  I would love to order these to have in the shop, but know not where to start.  Anyway help you can give me is greatly than that...if you can lead me to a distributor, I'll give you a bag form for your effort!Library0001

I'll part with a photo of the genius behind these pieces of brilliance (in all senses of the word!). ---Martie

Monday, June 18, 2007

Craft in America

I watched the PBS video Bobbie sent me on the recent series, "Craft in America",Melissaquilt
and was glued to my chair for the full three (one hour) episodes.  I don't know where to start on this...and being speechless (or wordless, as the case may be) is not something that usually happens to me.

To say that these three programs have had a profound effect on me is an understatement.  My mind is going a million miles an hour and my feet are barely able to stay on the floor.  The inspiration of "meeting" so many

wonderful crafts people, hearing about their inspiration, processes, and dedication has rekindled a fire in me that has been burning low.  Not that these people haven't Colorchangeyarn
had other interruptions in their lives...but they have followed their bliss and against all odds, have made a commitment and found joy creating their chosen crafts.

As many of you know, Taos Sunflower was germinated and grown based on my love of spinning.  The original plan was to have an outlet to sell my hand spun yarns, and have that money do some good in the world.  I have spent the last five years being a business person, three of those five not even touching my wheels.  Happily, I'm spinning again and the money from those sales has been put right back out into our I'm partially back on track, and hope the message from this series puts me even more solidly back on the track to my love of dyeing and spinning.

Watch for changes in our shop as we refocus on products that have actually been made by or passed through the hands of crafts people.  It's going to be great fun to represent this (relatively) small community, and should provide inspiration for all of us! ---Martie

P.S.:  As if you hadn't already guessed, I *highly* recommend that you see this video.  In fact, I would welcome your comments on how it affects you.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

A quiet Saturday

I am joyously home this weekend, excited to spend some time at the dye pots.  I have assistants this weekend, residents in a birdhouse we were given but never managed to put up. Library0007
It sits on the table top approximately 5 feet from where I stand to do my own work.  Since I'm at the shop so much, this is has not been an issue for them (both parents feed)...but it is now.  Yesterday as I was standing there, getting my stuff organized, one of them landed on the back of the chair across from me (about 2 ft.) and gave me the riot act, all the while holding a worm in its mouth.  Library0011
Today we're doing a little better.  They wait until I turn my back to fly in and out.  I'm hoping to catch flying lessons for the babies when that day comes...they are getting louder by the day, so I'm guessing it won't be long.

I've decided to bail out and come in to spin.  Bobbie sent me a video on a series PBS ran recently on Craft in America...anyone seen it?  What started out this morning Library0032
looking promising for a day of dyeing outdoors has suddenly changed to a hail & rain storm.  (Please note the warning signs I chose to ignore, hovering over the mountain behind my house.)

Afternoon showers in the mountains make my heart sing...the smell is intoxicating and my wildflowers (including sunflowers) love them.  As the old saying goes...want to see different weather?  Just wait 15 minutes...  ---Martie

PS:  As long as were talking about bugs, I can't help but share this moth photo with you. Library0030
It was on the wall outside my front door when I came home a few days ago.  I think it is beautiful...makes me think of ancient basket, weaving and pottery designs.  If anyone recognizes it and can tell me what kind of moth it is, I'd sure love to know.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

You can help

It seems that you can't pass a day without being privy to a discussion, report, or rant about global warming.  If you've watched Al Gore's film, you know it's not anything new, we've just accelerated it beyond belief with our lifestyles (man's quest to make life easier has come home to roost).  We see it here, and no doubt, you see it wherever you live.  On any given day, you can let yourself get really depressed by all this.

Answers and theories abound, and we'd like to add our contribution.  I say we, because this actually comes from Mr. Sunflower himself, who normally knows I react fairly poorly to his suggestions.  Here it is, in all its glory and simplicity:  stay home and knit. 

I went searching for representations of the carbon footprint everyone is talking about and found two I will share today.  One is rather stylized,Ecofoot
the other is some sort of scientific photo I could not find an explanation for.  I have decided the latter would make a beautiful knitted fabric,Chromasiafoot
and wonder how many carbon hours one might save the world by staying home to recreate it in yarn...

Any suggestions from you on this topic are invited.  I think we, as knitters and crocheters, can be more proactive about these issues.  Let me know!  ---Martie

Friday, June 8, 2007

Our shopping spree

Monte and I returned this week from the TNNA show in Columbus, Ohio, where we scouted out new yarns for fall and winter.  It is pretty overwhelming to have hundreds of vendors in one location!  This show was the best of the few that I've attended so far, because the market is changing rapidly and there were more smaller companies offering their specialty yarns and products. 

Let me start by saying that what's hot right now is shawls.  We saw them in all styles...lace, stockinette, long, short, bulky, fine.  There were so many hand painted shawl and sock yarns it was hard to not buy them all.  We stocked up and when they start arriving, I'll report more details.  I guess I'm going to have to stop sleeping when these come in, so I can manage more knitting hours. 

Great news!  Cheryl Schaefer and Schaefer Yarn Company had a large booth filled with her fabulous yarns. Yarndryingw
Cheryl was the first person to enter the market with hand painted yarns in the 80s, and all these years later they're still painted one at a time.  Read about this awesome family at Schaefer Yarns.  We actually spent almost all of Sunday morning in her booth, carefully choosing sock and shawl yarns, as well as some wonderful afghan kits.  I hope to have some samples knitted and in the shop by Wool Festival.

A top priority for this season's buy was to start stocking yarns from Be Sweet.  For those of you who're not familiar, these yarns and products are manufactured by a cooperative in the East Cape area of South Africa, in support of the Xhosa women.  We are proud to be supporting businesses help women around the world have better lives, Xhosaknitters
and hope that you'll be as delighted with their yarns as we are.  For more about Be Sweet, visit their website at Be Sweet.  These should be in stock by mid September.

Look for a new look in the shop...we're working on new displays for you to see these special yarns to their maximum advantage.  For those of you who're planning to visit during Wool Festival this fall, we're stashing yarns now for our sale bins, so start dreaming about them now!

Lastly, for those of you who have followed our kitten adventures...Yoda Man went home with Joan, as planned, and Shermie Jr. and Leo went to the Taos Feral Feline Friends shelter just before we left for Ohio.  From there they'll go on to their new homes.  It was hard to let them go, but it was the right thing for my household.  For now, we're still feeding a couple of ferals at the shop and hope to have one of them be an indoor kitty by winter.  ---Martie