Wednesday, February 29, 2012

leaping about going nowhere and sleeping a lot

night clouds moving fast - what once was normal activity, while increasingly possible, is overwhelmingly still exhausting. I require naps, and not just quick half hour long lie-downs. Slept on and off all afternoon and evening, and forgot to put the hens to bed 'til the wee small hours...

As always, not just looking around in awake/alert mode, but also looking up at the sky - a very low layer of clouds moving FAST, windbreath speeding the patches of light and dark so quickly it looked like time-lapse rather than realtime, and the very odd illusion that the fixed stars were moving lights. I actually did a double-take once I realised that what I had first seen as too many airplanes in the night sky were actually the clear patches through to constellation fragments. No photos would do justice to the moving reality...
: :

eventually the holiday ornaments will need to be packed away till next winter, but not just yet...
• • •

more knitting - enjoyed making heart of gold so much that it seemed a good idea to make another one... Used some bluegreen yarn (of unknown content) from the stash basket, is very un-scratchy, soft and light, maybe an alpaca blend? Vintage buttons, courtesy of B & K. Decided that a decorative baby crow design, from Hexipuff Charts: Birds, would be a fun addition. I sure hope that it is not unkind to give parents-to-be baby things made from wool, (not machine washable, but not plastic...)
vest, and detail...

more pictures - On Saturday, while G was visiting, we took a very short walkabout the neighborhood, so as to have an opportunity for me to try out some of the features on the Canon (his old camera). Is far more complex, with many more options for adjusting variables than my Coolpix. I must remember that it took me months to become familiar with even the simple interface, and shall persevere. I suspect that the more adaptable interface will be particularly useful for composed photographs. Even so, a few images from our truncated walk were worth saving...

Mossy landscapes continue to be very appealing to me -
am considering a tiny worlds of moss calendar next year

A nearby holly tree, pruned to a single trunk with high branches.
Stand inside - the sunlight illuminates the leaves and berries...

med fu update - had six week post-surgery followup, body is healing well, continuing symptoms are within normal range. May begin resuming daily life activities as pain and stamina allow. Have another month before required to decide about internal radiation. Met with radiation doc - recurrence odds shift from 1 in 10 to 1 or 2 in 100. No guarantees. I plumb hate this shit...

random internet treats - stashed here for easy recovery if desired:
a vintage diagram of dart-moving for patternmaking
lovely china pattern from Emma Bridgewater
dairy-free creme brûlée recipe, must try this for G
adorable felt dolls from Kyrgyzstan by way of Australia

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

multicolor stencil technique

As I work my way through the various projects for the baby gift box, I keep getting ideas... I found a new/used cotton onesie at the Goodwill up the street, a nice peach color, but very plain. It calls out for some decorative fabric paint to tie it in to the whole color theme...

While I could use freezer paper stenciling to come up with a motif, I am inclined to do a multicolor cave horse instead, since I already have the stencils cut. The nice thing about freezer paper stencils is that you make a unique design each time, but it requires cutting a new stencil each time. The nice thing about a reuseable stencil is that, depending on the substrate, you can have it available to decorate objects for years to come, without having to re-cut your design.

Stencil decoration is one of my very favorite ways to add original embellishment. A one part stencil is basically the same as the kind you can buy at a craft store, but by making your own you are not limited to any particular style or aesthetic... A multiple color stencil, while more complex, is still a relatively low-tech process.

This three color stencil patch decorates a black linen summer jacket

A multiple color stencil is a little more complicated to do than a single color. What I use is the clear acetate that you can get at a copy shop, used for report covers, a finepoint "sharpie" waterproof marker pen, and an exacto knife. I choose a design that I want to copy, making sure that it is either one of my own artworks, or copyright free.

1. First I trace onto a piece of acetate the overall design, then mark a few dots at various places around the edges, not covered by the design. (these dots are used to line up the different colors of the stencil) cut out the dots only on this piece. Then put the acetate back on top of your design.

2. On another piece of acetate, trace the parts of the design that you want to be in color #1, and trace the location of the dots as well. Cut out the color #1 parts, but do not cut out the dots, just leave them marked on your sheet. then tape the color #1 sheet on top of your design outline and original design.

3. Take another piece of acetate and do the same thing with where you want color #2, and so forth. (five colors is as many as I have done) what you should end up with is a stack of stencil acetates that combine to form your total design, all marked with "dots" in the same place, and one acetate with the "whole" design, which has the dots cut out.

Then comes the messy part... painting! First I use the whole design acetate to locate where on my fabric or garment I want the design to go, then rub chalk through the "dots" to leave locator marks on my project. Then I carefully line up the stencil #1 with those marks, and dab the appropriate color fabric paint through the stencil. Let that color dry, then repeat the process as many times as needed to complete your design. Then I brush away the chalk locator marks, and heat-set the fabric paint.

heart of gold

completed baby vest

The finishing details were added last night while over at K's Tuesday Project Night... I'd found some bright yellow buttons, which then suggested to me that adding a bit of duplicate stitch embroidery to the front would be fun and cheerful. When I mentioned the idea, K kindly offered me a look through her box of wool yarn, which yielded some beautiful thin weaving yarn in the right color.

detail of embroidery

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

last week's look-see

Walking around and around the same streets of my neighborhood, it can feel challenging to continue to find interesting things to photograph. I long for greater variety, for new neighborhoods to look at, which has the result of both pushing me to walk further, and to look deeper at what is there to be seen, even in soggy grey February...

it was not raining when I set out on my walk

spring comes to the city,
and flowers find a place to bloom, however unlikely...

I never tire of the patterns underfoot

green softens the brick patterning

along the top of the wall, tiny steps down to a hidden pool

slender dancing birch maidens grow up to be strong trees,
with the lines of age etched deep in their skin

trees grow slow, lichen grows slower,
we flit across time in the blink of their eye

so soft a sign of springtime ahead

the imprint of the past leaves marks on the future

grow where you end up, store what you can for when it is needed...

the sun just set, the sky still vividly blue,
and the workaday folk head for home...

• • •

Finished knitting the baby vest (for the gift box that will be sent to friends A & S). Even with my very unusually slow progress, this was an easy knit, and for someone with a bit more time and focus, it could be done in a evening or two, (rather than over the course of a week while watching DVD Westerns and napping.
• • •

Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday field trip

In which our plucky heroine shares some pictures from today's excursion to the range... shooting holes in my cancer diagnosis felt really good!

Dorje and Little Sister got to go play this afternoon... has been a month since my surgery, and was time for a therapeutic trip to the range...

I was taking it kind of easy, seeing as it was my first time since my operation, keeping the target fairly close in...

Little Sister is a Ruger Bearcat. I didn't do too badly considering how much of a beginner I am, and that it has been over a month since my last target practice

I'm a better shot with the rifle. Dorje (Tibetan for diamond thunderbolt) is a Henry lever action.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Thursday thoughts & thankfulness

Have not really felt like posting lately, as am really wishing that I was stronger and/or healed already; walked over two miles yesterday trying to out-walk my dark megrims. Our upcoming trip to the indoor range, and fun with sudden loud noises, will surely blast my gloomy thoughts to smithereens...

Truly I am fortunate to have had so little prior experience with long convalescence... and will continue to work on learning patience, and making my peace with uncertainty. Those tasks are lifelong, though many ignore them, I never have; this new difficulty opportunity sorely tests what progress I've made and finds it not enough, not yet. To live in the now is a challenge.

It is known (to some) that by dwelling in the present,
conceding what is necessary to past and future,
but no more than is necessary,
it is quite possible to live happily ever after

~ Edgar Pangborn

Found this music while reading a very thoughtful post over on Cold Antler Farm...

The kindness of my friends continues to brighten my days:
As my box full of knitting needles are all put away "somewhere safe" and hence entirely unfindable, my desire to productively use some of the yarn stash has been curtailed. Well, I am now in much better straits, since J came over a few days ago, brought me two sets of double-pointed needles and stayed for evening tea and chat. Also while talking with C, and mentioned the current dilemma; she sent over a large stash of vintage straight needles on loan, as well as assorted cotton yarn suitable for knitted dishcloths. Once I finish the baby vest, dishcloths are a good quick easy project to add into the rotation; I shall make some for her, and then a bunch more for the kitchen here. Handknit ones work eversomuch better than the storebought ones, and I like having enough that they can get changed out at least once a day. They just get run through the regular laundry.

N came by with a assortment of dinner meals all packaged up, and also brought me some chicken bedding. It was great to see her, and have time to visit. I really respect her knowledge and useful points of view, and as well, it is a delight to hear about the ongoing process of her great art project: the remodeling of her home. For some, that might not sound much like art, but she has not only done most of the planning, but her ideas for the interior and exterior involve much imagination and artistry of both various professionals in stone, iron and wood, and also her own efforts. The outdoor gardens around her home are equally lovely and creative, the most current addition is the rainwater/greywater garden that spirals water through between curving raised beds that grow assorted edibles...

Longago, as a little child, we had a kitchen gizmo, the Toas-tite maker, and my mom would use it on the stovetop to cook circular sandwiches full of melty cheese, or tuna and cheese, and on a few notable occasions, melty cheese with crispy bacon in the middle. Little did I realise that this venerable gadget is now highly collectible; me, I prefer to keep it as a relic of my youth, and to use for creating tidy picnic fodder. In fact, I bet it would work equally well over a wood fire as on the kitchen stove.

New Studio Ghibli film opens here this weekend, an adaptation of Mary Nortons classic novel "The Borrowers", which I read and loved as a child... Might have to go see it in the theater,
(I just had to post the UK trailer rather than the USA one, I plumb HATE the Disneyfied voiceovers, and b'sides, "The Borrowers" tales are set in the UK)

Monday, February 13, 2012

shake-n-bake Crafternoon

in which our plucky heroine brings back a popular activity - Sunday Crafternoon (No, we are not going to be frying chicken) on the 26th of February...
A social afternoon of tea and handicraft is something that has been missing from Acorn Cottage for several months. I can still provide an assortment of tea for folks, but will need your help, since my usual pre-Crafternoon baking frenzy must of necessity be curtailed, some assorted sweet or savory snacks would be an excellent addition to bring. Projects are welcome but not required, (I'll either be knitting or doing beadwork) and the latchstring will be out from noon till five-ish. Drop a line or give a call if you need directions...

Friday, February 10, 2012

spyglass grasped

When the year was turning, I did not find any calendars in the shops or online that pleased me enough to want to bring them home. Usually several random folks give me calendars, (though not as many as give me soap as a gift... come the ZA, I have a whole medicine chest full of soap) but not this year. Decided that meant that I must needs make some sort of calendar, for though I was entirely uninspired to do any kind of drawings as in years past, 'tis needful that there be a minimum a calendar near the computer, and one in the kitchen. I like the idea of changeable artwork moving through the year. I chose an assortment of my favorite images from last year, had them printed on cardstock, and left the whole thing sitting on a clipboard, the whole project feeling like just too much trouble to bother with...

While rambling round the neighborhood yesterday evening, was thunderclapt with the realisation that this was very bad juju indeed, and must be remedied. Whatever levels of mind might think that there is no future for our plucky heroine must needs be contradicted in very concrete and material ways. So, today's project has been to assemble the calendar from the assorted parts into a functional and beautiful tool for looking forward. A day spent with my dear friend Rois, and midst tea and cakes and lunch and talk and japanese movies, there was quite a bit of cutting and stamping and pasting of paper bits. Came home and sorted through my favorite quotes to come up with twelve that feel like positive words for the next twelve months (since am getting such a late start, the calendar will go through January 2013):

It is known (to some) that by dwelling in the present, conceding what is necessary to past and future, but no more than is necessary, it is quite possible to live happily ever after
~ Edgar Pangborn

It is only people who live humdrum lives who get surprised if things seem a little bit odd. If once you push your mind and body a little further than they are accustomed to be pushed you get used to things getting odder and odder the further you go
~ Elizabeth Goudge

All things are literally better, lovelier, and more beloved for the imperfections that reflect the human effort that went into their making.
~ John Ruskin

Time is a dressmaker specialising in alterations
~ Faith Baldwin

A true source of human happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life, and elevating them by art
~ William Morris

If you don't like having choices made for you, you should start making your own
~ Neil Stephenson

In the universe, there are things that are known, and things that are unknown, and in between, there are doors
~ William Blake

To see that your life is a story while you're in the middle of living it
may be a help to living it well.

~ Ursula LeGuin

Act as if what you do makes a difference.
It does
~ William James

The Things
that Make us Happy
Make us Wise
~ John Crowley

Try to remember a life gentled by daily acts of domestic faith —
the pot set to boil, the bed made up, the table set
in calm expectation
that when the sun sets
we will still be here

~ Lynn Ungar

Nothing is a mistake - there is no win and no fail - there is only make
~ Corita Kent

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

wishful Wednesday - possible projects

Some days up and some days down, finding that balance point between, where equanimity lives, is a challenge that I suspect will be lifelong. The amplitude of that wave has been run through the graphic equaliser of long years, and even with this level of current challenge, is well below the red zone. There are some gifts that come with silvered hair and smile lines...

Currently working on the baby-gift bundle, and while the sweater is about halfway done (whoever called it a five hour sweater obviously knits like the wind) As that will be finished in the next few days, I've been finding a number of projects online that appeal:

Next will be a cloth puzzle ball, sometimes made up in felt as a pincushion, but one of my long-term standard homemade baby toys, being easy for tiny hands to grab, and fun for slightly bigger hands to roll. Rambling round my long list of crafty blogs, I found this charming baby vest, which looks both simple to knit, simple to apply to said baby, and like the most useful sort of keep-warm layer. Must check and see if there is any nice soft DK yarn in stash.

And on the keeping things both useful and tidy, this charging station might be a good addition to Acorn Cottage. Astonishingly, I have not one but two of those small Samsonite cases; one (collaged with old children's book illustrations, is used for carrying teaching supplies when I am a guest instructor, and the other was just impossible to leave behind at a garage sale a few years ago. It would be a lot nicer to see a tidy traincase on one of the bookshelves here rather than the current tangle of cordage.

These are probably the most whimsical storage tidys ever for knitting paraphernalia! If'n I'd something like this, my knitting gear would not now be lost somewhere in the depths of the guest room, but could remain readily to hand.

so, it seems that my wish for this Wednesday is to be able to continue making things for many years to come... fingers crossed that will prove to be the case.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


in which our plucky heroine welcomes whatever folks found their way here via Home On The Range, where Brigid did me great honor to include me in her list of "Folks Smarter than the Average Bear". This post hints at how I ended up, among other things, finding her blog, which has not only real delicious recipes, but some of the most evocative and poetical essays I have had the pleasure to read, on what I would once have considered highly surprising topics. Truth is, one need not agree on every aspect of the bright world to find and cherish common ground, the common ground is what sustains us all...

you never know just how your life will unfold... Luck, or fate, brings changes, brings new folk, friends shift with time and interest, love finds you all unexpectedly... and with these changes may come new directions and interests...

Constant all my life is the connection between hands and eyes and imagination. I've always been a thingmaker, though I call myself artisan rather than artist, and we could sit down all one long evening and chat over tea or whiskey about where those borders are drawn, or even if they exist. There are other interests that live now mostly in the past; I've not gone riding in years, having moved away from my horsey friends and the days when I would trade tack repair for hours on horseback.

One new fascination is with firearms, a skill that I long wanted to learn, seeming as necessary and useful in my estimation as knowing how to swim, yet not at all a part of the way I was brought up as a youngster. Would that I had spent as many hours as a child learning to use those tools, as I did in the pool. But years bring the knowledge that one cannot begin anything any sooner than the present day, and the bravery to say yes, when opportunity arises. A year ago I had basically never held a gun in my hands, and while I am still very much a beginner, I have learned a fair amount in the intervening months.

I wrote this poem last spring, on returning home after my first time handling a rifle:


long years gone beyond nubile
yet virgin still

met with forethought
eased into your familiar territory

the mind shifts
as the body learns
as the spirit passes
the henge gateway

would that at sixteen
kindness and love had touched me
so carefully

It is another skill to work on, and I delight in learning new ways to connect the hand and eye and intention... It is an activity that connects folks who would otherwise see each other as entirely the "other sort of people"... it is a tool in my toolkit of competent and resilient skills to know... and the thing that surprised me to find out, it is also a whole lot of fun... The reason this all came to mind, is that I found myself asking some of my local pals if we could arrange a trip to the indoor range in the next week or so. I am feeling well enough for an excursion, and am thinking that taking along a magic marker to customise one of the paper targets would be a bit of great mental health therapy, I would really enjoy shooting holes in the cancer diagnosis that I am currently struggling with!
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in the meanwhile... our plucky heroine is happy to be knitting again, the repair work done on my left hand, completed in June before all this other medical foo began, has happily resulted in an entirely functional set of front paws. I can knit easily without pain, and have been happily working on baby gifts for some friends whose first child is due this summer. Can you say octopus rattle? In the center of the head stuffing is a plastic film canister with a jingle bell inside. When shaken, it sounds quite a bit like the noise a can of spray paint makes, which given that octopus and squid are known to spray out jets of "ink" somehow seems appropriate...

There has also been a lot of watch-the-screen time, as resting is prescribed (as well as as much daily walking as I can muster). I've really enjoyed the whole Lonesome Dove series. Not having or watching teevee may mean that I miss things (but really, life is short and participation is much more fun than passive observation) but it also means that I get to enjoy things for the first time on my own terms. Online I have been really enjoying the anime series Natsume Yujin-cho; there are a lot of episodes, and the visuals are really lovely. The sound is all in Japanese, but fortunately I have no problem with subtitles)

On the calendar later this spring, the renowned Salley Mavor, artist and children's book illustrator, will be visiting here in Portland from her home on the other coast. She will be at Gossamer (useful source of wool felt and other crafty tidbits) in April. I had the honor of having her judge my artwork to be number one in the 2010 Felt Smackdown of works inspired by her book "Wee Felt Folk" Her presentation will definitely be something to look forward to.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Saturday snippets

Gryphon was here for a bit towards the end of the week, a sustaining and easeful treat; we went walkabout on a sunny Thursday afternoon. Path may indeed be drawn on the bottoms of our feet, but to have a journey-companion is an ongoing delight:
It feels like early spring and has been a warm winter; though there is no snow, the snowdrops are nonetheless very welcome:
a few blocks away, patterns decorate the sidewalk, neighbors creating art by pressure-washing away surface grime:

our plucky heroine has walked through a gateway into an unknown land, armed only with her hard won knowledge and toolkit... I know that there is a pathway to be found, somehow and somewhere, and that my feet are carrying me along it, my strong heart and the love surrounding me are keeping me upright. I know who I was when I started this journey, but I do not know what gifts there are for me in this new land, and where or when I will find the gateway back to more familiar terrain. I know that I will be changed by the time that I spend here, I do not know in what regard...
I pray for fortitude, and humor, and a cheerful heart. I need not pray for boon companions, since I already have the best folk surrounding me, my friends and family, my medical team, and my dear sweetheart. As my body continues to heal, I must trust that I can continue to make good choices about my further treatment and health. It is difficult, as my diagnosis is in a grey area as far as what to do next, and the decision, and consequence of that, are up to me. Not a happy situation for a gal who is not fond of gambling to be in, but needs must. Fortunately I have several more weeks of healing before any choices are required.

My strength returns a little more each day, and my stamina for walking likewise. I have napped a lot more and cried more than ever I have since I was a toddler. There is some lingering deep-to-surface nerve impingement in my right leg, which while not structural, is most annoyingly distracting, like electric flames, and being neurological, not affected by everyday meds. Hopefully it will dissipate in the next few months.

Our plucky heroine is abashed by the kindness of unknown strangers - yesterday L came over with a knitted prayer shawl for me from the church ladies at her church. It is a soft and warm reminder of the rippling circles of lovingkindness that we are all held within, the circles that sustain not only yours truly, but all of us...