Wednesday, May 28, 2008

My new loves

When we unpacked all our goodies from the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, this fellow Mrjacob
was one of the real heartbreakers.  Isn't he beautiful?  I can't recall his name just now.  He is a Jacob, purchased at the Jacob Conservancy booth.  I will have to give a lot of thought to just how to best treat this fleece...I don't want to just card him all up and have him end up being some sort of grey.  Any suggestions from you?

Then at the festival, the first booth we hit was a rug hooking booth, "Hooked on Ewe".  It was, when all was said and done, our favorite booth of the festival.  Linda Harwood, the owner, is THE sweetest woman.  She took loads of time to help us and has helped me since in several phone calls (she's not much of an internet person...I sort of applaud her choice, depending on what day I'm on and what mood I'm in).  Here is my first ever rug hooking project, a country kitty.Countrykitty
  I have since done my usual thing and spent countless hours googling rug hooking sites and buying a gazillion books on the different techniques and history of this craft.  I fear this is terminal love.  I fell asleep last night, designing my own project in my head.  Sigh.  You know what this, buy the rag cutter.  Then...start haunting thrift stores for woolen garments to disassemble and over dye.  THEN...Mr. Sunflower figures out I've started rat stashing more stuff for yet another hobby and I start getting more creative on where to stuff things.  Good thing he recognizes that all of this is cheaper than therapy!

Lastly, I was so inspired by the Gee's Bend quilts we saw in Santa Fe that I zoomed into Santa Fe Quilts the very next day to pick up some thread and a hoop.  This past week, hoop in hand, I went spelunking through our closet shelves, looking for a king size quilt that I had pieced and pinned to backing 16 years ago, when I was working with some good friends at a quilt store in Encinitas called "Sew Bee It".  I had dutifully packed it for the journey to NM, planning to quilt it, by machine, soon as I got settled.  Well, so much for my intentions.

Yesterday I finally picked the darned thing up and smooshed one of the center blocks into the frame.  Thread and needle in hand, I started to quilt it by hand. Quilttop
Several hours later, I was still glued to my rocker, making very uneven but very happy little stitches in the ditches.  This is when I remembered, once again, that this is the part of quilting I had always wanted.  Not piecing on a machine, or quilting it on a is the hand work I crave.  If you look closely you can see one and a half blocks where I've removed the safety pins as I stitched along.  This is a story to remind you that you should never give up on yourself and your unfinished projects!

Friday, May 23, 2008

The privilege of nature

This morning brought me a first class seat into the daily struggle to survive in our forest.  Sitting here at the table, with my back to the window, I heard a loud crash.  Grosbeak
Upon closer inspection, I could see an Evening Grosbeak had crashed into the window and was lying in the flower bed, in obvious distress. I was weighing the options to either let nature take its course or go outside and set it somewhere safer in hopes it would recover when I noticed a Red Tailed Hawk Hawk
sitting on a rock about 10 feet away.  I knew then that as hard as it would be for me, I had to stay out of the picture.

The hawk watched me, and no doubt also saw Maynard, our cat, watching him through the French doors.  I stepped back, out of his view, but  positioned so I could see the Grosbeak in the flower bed.  Within seconds, like a flash, the hawk swooped in and took the Grosbeak.  I watched him fly off into the forest with his catch.  It was stunning. 

I am so fortunate to be able to be the observer.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

How cute is this?

I recently received an e-mail and photos from Linda Reed of Denver, who had taken Terri Ranck's Handspun Heaven class at our shop last year and went home super inspired.  If you have ever wondered how to use some of our smaller, one of a kind skeins of hand crafted yarn, this adorable sweater is a great example.


The base yarn she used is Malabrigo worsted weight, and in some places it's held with the hand spun yarns.  Check out the brilliant use of the skein that had flowers spun into well as  the skein that had the scraps of silk.  I am wild about this sweater! Linda has generously knitted this for a three year old daughter of a co-worker, and says she has many more little people in her life to knit more sweaters for.  I can't wait to see what she does next! 

Thanks for sharing these photos, Linda...and giving me permission to share them with our blog readers.  You're a huge inspiration for those of us who need some prompting to stop worrying about following patterns line by line!  ---Martie

Monday, May 12, 2008

Some thoughts on green

As I was washing a new fleece yesterday, using all that water, I kept thinking about being green, and what that means to each of us.

If you heard my interview with Brenda Dayne on her pod cast Cast-on (episode 63), you heard me say that I worry how everyone is tossing the word "green" around.  It seems to be everywhere these days.  It reminds me of what we've seen over the decades with the word "organic"...and how it got abused and overused.   Even Wal-Mart has jumped on the Green Wagon, hoping to make you feel all warm and cozy about spending your green dollars there. 

While I had my telephone interview with Brenda, she had a brilliant idea, to my mind, anyway.  I waited to see if she'd bring it up on air, and since she didn't, I want to open the dialog here.

What if the yarn industry had a rating system so consumers could make informed choices on their purchases?

Think about it.  You walk into a yarn shop and look at a skein of yarn, and wonder how "green" it really is.   Then you flip the tag and see how it's rated...maybe a system of stars...or ????

Imagine an industry rating system based on questions like some of these:

  1. Where did the fibers come from?  Were they man-made, and where?  What pollution was caused as a result of their manufacture?

  2. How about the people who work in the factories to make this happen:  are they getting paid a living wage?

  3. What practices are used for dyeing?  Is it a process that uses excessive amounts of non-recycled water?  Is it polluting area water systems?  Are the workers protected adequately?

  4. What kind of chemicals were used in the process of spinning these yarns?  Has anyone ever wondered about how things like soy and bamboo and some of the other exciting new yarns are made? I'd like to know what chemicals and ingredients are involved to bring these to our doorstep...

  5. What's the carbon footprint for the skein you're holding? 

These are just a few things that come to mind after only one cup of coffee. 

And while I'm on the subject, does anyone think about how wool is processed to make it "super wash"?  At one point in history, I was told by someone from the local wool mill that a product like Teflon was used to tame those pesky wool scales.  Now I imagine it's probably some hideous chemical that eats them right off.  Imagine what you might be wearing next to your skin to save the trouble of a ten minute soak in a sink (with all due respect to those who have time constraints and machine wash for a big family).

I welcome your thoughts on this subject.  Do you have more questions about where your yarns are coming from?  Please add to my list!  Perhaps we can start a bit of grass roots movement to help us be more aware when we spend our hard earned dollars.

And what about my work?  I use water collected from my roof for my dyeing and wool washing.  I use a dye system that allows me to use the same pot of water over and over, and with clear strikes, so there is no dye residue left in a dye bath needing to be tossed out.  My wool washing water (using Seventh Generation soap) is stored and recycled as grey water for use in our garden. to start the day.  I hope you all have a great week...and I look forward to hearing your ideas about all of this.   ---Martie

Friday, May 9, 2008

Our trip to Maryland

Monte and I decided it was high time we go visit our friend, Bennie, and see her in her new life in Maryland (instead of Taos, where she lived until last year).  We took the long trip to the airport, spending a Sunday afternoon visiting the Folk Art Museum in Santa Fe.  There we saw a showing of Gee's Bend quilts by two quiltmakers, and a vernacular art show inspired by the quilts...fabulous.  The show leaves the museum, I believe, after this Sunday, May 11, so if you're in the area and not seen it yet, I urge you to go.

Then we spent the night in the lap of luxury at The Madelaine,Themadelaine
a B&B right smack in downtown Santa Fe, but down a little dead end street so it's hiding in plain sight.  This Queen Anne Victorian is one of only two in New Mexico (the other is in Las Vegas, NM).  Imagine yourself knitting away the summer afternoons on her porch.  If you're ever traveling to Santa Fe, I highly recommend you stay here...there are also two adjacent B&B properties, owned by the same owner...and oh yes, there is a full service spa right on the grounds next to the house.Madelaineporch

Tuesday we flew into Baltimore, and with Monte as my navigator, we managed to find our way to Bennie's home stomping grounds in southern Maryland.  She and her mom graciously hosted us for our stay, along with seven Pomeranians, Bumper, the Boston Terrier, and Kitty Dog, the black manx cat who has no idea she's not a Pomeranian, also.  Having these little guys around helped me not miss my dogs and cats so much.

Wednesday, Bennie took us to meet her friend Christina Allen. Chipchristina

I don't know how to even begin to describe this wonder woman.  First, we met her Jersey Buff turkey, Chip.  He's an heirloom breed, and half of those left in existence live here on this amazing farm.  Then, we met one of Chip's babies...well, you know what I mean.  Christina has a small herd of sheep that get to spend the nights in this fabulous barn (one of my dreams is to have an old barn).  Mydreambarn
Next door to the barn is Christina's studioBabyturkey, known as Corn Crib Studio.  She's a professional water color artist when she's not growing all their food, weaving, spinning, knitting, sewing, making soap, and running a museum quality framing shop right there on her farm.  She is one seriously amazing woman and has now elevated to being my new role model (still trying to figure out if she sleeps or not...can't imagine how the rest is getting done in the same 24 hour day I have).

Thursday we visited Bennie's friend Sara.
Her farm is a little off the beaten path in Mennonite country.  There she has around 60 sheep, a dog, her 33 year old horse, and Chester, the kissing mule. Chesterkissme_2
I feel seriously in love with Chester, and walked over to get kisses before I actually found out he truly does give kisses! 

Next to one of the pastures, to see the sheep.  They were sleeping way off in the distance, under a big tree, when Sara first called them. Callingsheep
What happened next was poetry in they flew across the pasture toward us.  Ontheirway
Such sweet girls!  Sara, who happens to have a full time job besides running this immaculate farm, is now my other role model/Super Woman model.Sheephome

On Saturday we followed Bennie and her sweetie, Richard, to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival.  I don't know how to describe it to you, if you've never attended.  It was mind boggling.  I was on such overload, I actually forgot to take pictures.  We hit the fleece sale first thing, and then tried hard to see something of every booth after that...before leaving around 3 p.m., completely exhausted.  Parting with Bennie Bennierichardmonte
at the end of the day was hard...we're all trying to decide if she should be living in Taos or we need to be living on one of those beautiful farms in southern Maryland!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Cast on: Knit like the wind

It's up!!!  Episode 63 of Cast on has been up for a few days...I hope you have time to listen to it soon.  I am the Luddite who thought that you had to have an iPod to listen to a pod cast (duh) up until Brenda Dayne contacted me for my interview a couple of months for the uninitiated, all you need is your computer, preferably a higher speed internet connection, a cup of tea, your knitting, and an hour of time to sit and listen and enjoy. 

I will say here that my interview conversation with Brenda was one of THE most fun conversations I've had in ages...and it took us all over the board, in terms of I consider it a major miracle that she was able to piece together our conversation in such a cohesive fashion.  She is clearly a talented journalist and editor.

While you're there...if you love what she's doing and want to hear more, you might do as I am doing and listen to her archives to be sure to get all caught up.  Oh...and a little donation would be wonderful, if you can spare it!   ---Martie