Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Tuesday tidbits

Somehow, yesterday got lost... There were things accomplished, but without any longterm memory storage happening. I suspect there was a nap involved. Sigh, there is still a lot of rearrangement and housey-tidying before four folks and their canine companion show up later this week.

Two small sewing related tips: my Fiskars spring loaded scissors was being cranky, like there was a dull section on the blades when I cut fabric. Since there are no all night sharpening stores, I bravely if gingerly decided that smoothing it with the sharpening steel from the kitchen might help, since it could hardly make the situation worse! Et voila, the scissors now cuts with great abandon and glee... In additon, I decided to follow the general wisdom which I usually ignore, and change out the machine needle for starting a new project. What a difference it made in the smooth formation of the stitches, and the bobbin thread is behaving much more cooperatively.

Project BH is on temporary hold this week, whilst I busy myself making another dress for SR, this one of a truly yummy madder-red japanese cotton, with woven in heavier threads in dark and light grey/taupe. Now that I have a TNT pattern for her, it will go faster. Two hours today and the dress is cut out, the skirt sewn together but not yet hemmed, and the bodice center front/back and shoulders stitched, which allows the neckline to be bound. Next up will be binding the hemline edge, stitching in the sleeves, bodice and sleeve seams, seam cuffs, and finally the waistband insertion and pockets. I suspect at least four more hours, maybe more...

Sunday, July 28, 2013

an upsondowny sort of week

... in which, in amongst other things, our plucky heroine takes a trip to see the Maneki Neko exhibit at the Bellveue Arts Museum

Last week started out a bit rough, with worry and un-useful thoughts, being all sore from oncology-doctor visits, and concern about housey stuff and the confidence of my patrons. Truly, sometimes girl gets all in a kerfluffle and takes time to find my balance again...

On Monday last, I remembered to send a progress report/photo to the one person I am currently working on regalia for... got an email with this in reply "You are a witch of art! A damn fine good witch." Somehow the day looked a lot brighter! Despite being deep into how eras end, folks die, and things change, somehow always art abides . . . I think I rather like the identity of "witch of art", seems to go hand in hand with being the "crone of honor" at the upcoming wedding this summer

On Tuesday last, on the way to work, all absent minded I left my favorite hat on the seat of the bus. Of course, once off the bus it was immediately apparent what was missing, as the unrelenting sun beat down on my unprotected noggin, but it was too late, the bus had pulled away back into traffic. I cried, and my poor head was very overheated by the time I walked from the bus stop to work. Fortunately W was able to lend me a hat, and a bandanna, so there was no sunstroke on the way home from work. It might be necessary to include hat-strings on all the hats, in the same way that mittens for littley-kids have a string that goes from one to the other?

Mid-Tuesday preparations for the trip to Seattle and back were almost complete, though my folding luggage cart seemed to have mysteriously gone missing. Ah well, nothing will stand in the way of my long awaited trip to see the many faces of Maneki-Neko!

another run north on the Bolt Bus, coming into Seattle on Tuesday evening at deep dusk, one of the benefits of living north of the 45th parallel is that summertime nights come late.

The next day I arrived in downtown Bellevue almost two hours before the museum opened... it is not a downtown that caters to foot traffic, being even more an example of our modern temple to automobiles and their moneyed devotees than my former trip to Beaverton

An on-street information kiosk decorated with sculptural decorative finials. I was wishing that they would ring gently in the summer breeze

a building courtyard had these lavender glass pillars set in a reflecting pool with a multistory waterfall; oddly beautiful

This was my destination, and the exhibit was a wonderful treat!

On the third floor of the museum, between two wings of the building is this lovely reflective water courtyard

Visiting my Seattle friends is always both challenging and very very worthwhile. Not only are there different activities in a different city, but there are all the fascinating wide-ranging thoughtful conversations, that inevitably send me home with weighty chunks of idea to mull over and chew on... Current query relates to "what is your purpose in life", which has a direct connection to my current area of greatest challenge (finding economic stability) Not sure yet where those thoughts and ideas will lead, but am definitely enjoying the trip.

Girl returned home sleepy but filled with happy gratitude: I have wonderful friends and family and I have people that love me and are not afraid to say so! On the bus home, a few phone calls brought unexpected but hoped for answers, one of my recent medical tests had "normal cells" as a result, which is excellent news; my lost hat was turned in to TriMet and came back to me, and a serious inquiry for some custom regalia will definitely help with the hollow piggy bank syndrome next month, if that actually turns into an order. Life is good...

Friday, July 26, 2013

maneki neko takes over the world

...in which our plucky heroine indulges in a minor obsession

While not in any way a "collector", girl has long held a minor passion for maneki neko; there are more than one of these beckoning cat images to be found here at Acorn Cottage, and the chance to both see a major exhibit of this Japanese folk art as close as the Bellevue Arts Museum and visit my beloved Seattle friends was impossible to resist...

Enter the domain of Maneki Neko!

makneki neko takes over the world...

or, at least a gallery room in the museum!

There were traditional maneki neko in all sorts of colors sizes and styles...

A white maneki neko with auspicious motifs on the red bib below the collar

There was an entire wall display of black maneki neko... (partially visible on the back wall to the left of the entry photo)

Each one with subtle differences in size, expression, and decorative details... reminded me a bit of those children's puzzles to "find what is different" puzzles to "find what is different"

A very simple shape, with wonderful zen brushstrokes

some of the beckoning cats were displayed in and around Japanese furniture

on the tansu stairs... I particularly like the shadows

this tiny maneki neko is an ojime, and is only a little bigger than my thumbnail

There were plenty of variations on Maneki neko, these two are playing Go...

an amazingly large hammered copper Maneki neko in the guise of a Buddhist monk

These blinking maneki neko were in very lively positions

There were related artifacts, like this carved wooden confection mold

Downstairs, there were several modern interpretations, artisanal invitationals, like these carved crayon sculptures of a maneki neko and a pile of golden coins

or like these modern ceramic highly decorated ones

and now, back to our regularly scheduled life...

Sunday, July 21, 2013

outside the box

... in which our plucky heroine finds herself all red-faced...

Way back in December I started working on a sewing-charms necklace; though I made progress on said charms, adding the details to the carved bone "measuring tape" brought my project to a screeching halt... Last night Bill, in town for a Japanese toolmaking workshop, suggested that I use my gravers!?! Embarrassing that I, Tool Girl, never thought of it, and what a difference it made! Sweet sharp little steel shapes that are designed to, well, cut grooves in things...

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Saturday snippets

Pomegranate tee shirt completed... the sleeve and bottom hemlines were all turned and featherstitched, the neckline was edgebound and featherstitched. Using the variegated topstitching thread added another fairly subtle aspect that is quite pleasing. I like that the thread is a strong long-staple cotton, and that the thread is manufactured in Italy, it has a matte finish, which means it is just a little more difficult to use than the polished finish on C&C Button-and-Carpet thread, but the extra visual richness is worth it.

Natural dyeing with Harlequin Glorybower aka Clerodendrum tricotomum... Gosh! I have this plant growing in my yard. It has only ever had a very few blossoms so far, but there are others around Portland. I planted it for the incredibly paradisaical fragrance of the flowers. Well apparently it is used as a dyestuff in Japan, and those lovely metallic blue berries are used as "the other blue dye".

a few years back, someone, I think Leiutgard, gave me some woven acorn ribbon with very odd edges*, and this seemed like a good use for it. The edges are being wrapped with a doubled layer of tricot to smooth them, and the ribbon will be nicely non-stretch. Project BH does not need bouncy straps!

Project BH - XP1** stitched and evaluated... as suspected, needs work. Basic pattern shapes semi-effective, volume control close. Will be adapting two of the basic pattern pieces, and have just realised this morning that I also made some errors with the added seam allowances that had a negative impact on certain vital structural components. In addition, trial mockup fabric is too flimsy, requiring edges to be padded... not sure where to go with this, possibly try actual muslin rather than nylon tricot? However, this weekend is dedicated to studio work instead of obsession/personal sewing, so plucky heroine will be slaving away in front of a hot kiln instead of a sewing machine!

* I think the edges were cut with a hotknife, since they are somewhat rough and stiff

**am currently engrossed in pattern development to create my own "pretty" bras that actually fit the girls, hence the name: Project Boulder-Holder. XP = ExPerimental patterning, version 1, 2, etc...

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Thursday thoughts

... in which our plucky heroine is glad to turn her focus back to the brightside...


After starting the week with my quarterly visit to my rockstar oncologist (visit went same as it ever does, for which I am grateful, labwork back in a tenday), it was quite a relief to return to my regularly scheduled life and times here at Acorn Cottage. The pomegranate tee shirt is finished, though still needs the final photography before sending away to its new home, and my thought is to also trace out the stencil design for future reference, since it turned out to be one of the more inspired neckline motifs.

Tuesday a few friends gathered to go have dinner at The Cheese Bar and invited me to join them. It turned out to be a delightfully delicious evening, as we each picked something different and shared the variety all round the table. Somehow, while not usually fond of pickled things, the bowl of mixed vegetable "house pickles" which arrived first was just the right sort of nibble-y appetizing thing that set my mind to considering putting up something other than pickled beets this year. I certainly hope to return to this haven of cured foods again. Before we left, a trip to the case at the front of the Bar, where all sorts of fascinating imported cheese (as well as cured meats) are available for purchase, let us taste just a few more treats. A small piece of aged Gouda came home with me, very different from the young cheese, it is rich and very nutty, almost sweet, with an odd sort of internal crunch. I think it will be a good companion to fruit, as a dessert.

And speaking of fruit, it was quite dismaying to check my little fig trees in front of Acorn Cottage, and find that the only one that had figs ripening this year had been almost stripped of fruit. The figs ripen so slowly, and were just almost ready, but six of the eight fruit were gone from the tree yesterday. I did find two figs at the very back still on the branch. I suspect two legged rather than four legged varmints. The trees, in their large pots, will get moved to the backyard once I figure out a good spot, sigh...

Girl has been thinking about how to actively move forward towards goal of better financial stability and improved employment. Have ideas. Must maintain forward momentum, keep shiny side up rubber side down, and hold in forefront of mind both the intention and the fact that IF IT IS TO BE IT IS UP TO ME... No one else will do the needful work to make it happen, and no magic wand will be waved for a happy sunset with optional prince or horse to ride off into. Lest self set in concrete rigidity forevermore, instead be both flexible and brave and make changes... New motto is to be fearless wherever appropriate, and to move through fear whenever necessary. Shall see how that makes a difference. Would that all this learning took place decades earlier, but truth be told, cannot make anything happen any sooner than it does.

Monday, July 15, 2013

wakey wakey

Woke up today by the most horrific nuclear city strike anxiety dream EVER, and I almost never have anxiety dreams... here's hoping it is not precognitive in either a literal or figurative sense! Shall be more at ease once I pass through the oncology gauntlet tomorrow, and hopefully get another three-month reprieve. The between-times have been easier, just a bit, but each time that three-month appointment comes back it seems even harder, cancerheid seems to be stronger... Ongoing therapy feels as if it has not yet taken the edge of my deep somatic distrust and sorrow.

Was supposed to meet friend R downtown today, and our communication got a bit scrambled, so I went home after waiting almost an hour. Turned out she had parental-foo to deal with, totally understandable, and I did get home therefore before the worst of the heat came on today. Got home just in time to answer a telephone query from G about the DMV, since he needed to fill out an accident report after being rear-ended in Eugene and having his new Harley totaled. Fortunately he himself was not badly hurt, and so I got a surprise transitory hug, when he passed through town. 'Tis a sign of at least that chunk of pain healed, that casual contact with him no longer tears my heart.

Not sure if any of my various northern pals will have time to stop off I-5 on their ways home from Oregon Country Fair, but a girl can hope... those are some of the most beloved of friends, and it would be a real treat to have a plethora of hugs to gather like a bouquet to carry with tomorrow...

Sunday, July 14, 2013

well that was fun

...in which our plucky heroine gets to be a Babylonian once again...

Decades ago, on a trip to the Los Angeles County Zoo, Doug (husband to my dear old friend Sharon) christened us "the babylonians" because when we get together we just babble on and on and on. Sharon and I have been friends since the start of tenth grade, and have stayed in contact with each other through life changes large and small, ending up in more or less the same corners of the country from time to time, and even occasionally sharing a house. She currently lives in the next state north, so we don't see each other quite as often; while our stories are quite different, there is nothing like the kind of longtime knowledge that braided lives journeying through time gives.

We had a chance for a rare visit this weekend. She came down on Amtrak from Olympia, and we were able to have rather a bit of an adventure day in the city, and hours and hours of catching up. Somehow, we never run out of things to talk about, with enough overlapping interests to keep connected, and enough difference to keep things interesting. Somehow, Sunday came far too soon, and our friends who were giving her a ride back to Olympia showed up around lunchtime. Hopefully there will be less time, and no medical foo* between now and the next visit!


Last year (I think) I planted a hardy fuchsia alongside the front walkway here. Now I have flowers. Just a few this year, but with luck, it will be a HappyPlant and will thrive there, and grace my home for many years to come. Everyone I know with hardy fuchsia finds it to be of cast iron constitution, which makes it an excellent addition to Acorn Cottage where I want plants that don't require fussing; I already have several time-consuming activities of choice, and have no desire to add another, though I do very much appreciate the beauty of the local gardeners that do put most of their avocational efforts into their surroundings.

At ATW 2013, I took a workshop on natural dyeing... Friday I finally got around to rinsing out the mini-skeins of wool. In addition, after deciding that I was unlikely to do anything with the minty-green yarn from just the copper sulfate mordant, I overdyed it with some turmeric from the spice shelf, turning it to a vivid chartreuse. The wool is hanging to dry on my front porch, where it gets lots of air circulation but is out of direct sun

turmeric yellow, copper sulfate (mordant) overdyed turmeric,
turmeric overdyed indigo, madder overdyed brazilwood, and indigo...

Not sure what I will do with these, so far my ideas are either use it for couched embroidery on wool (plausibly period) or else do some colorwork on the upper edge of a felted bowl/bag (not period at all) I am leaning towards the embroidery, since I have quite a bit of wool yardage small pieces, that could also become Useful Bags of Holding.

* last year I dealt with the challenge of endometrial cancer, and she suffered a horrific systemic bone infection in her foot that put her in hospital for weeks. Something we never imagined as young girls in gym class all those years ago, but we are both still here, still walking in the bright world (if a bit more slowly), and still fascinated by the natural and human world we find ourselves in...

Thursday, July 11, 2013

jersey edgebinding

...in which our plucky heroine takes a bit of time at the ironing board to prepare the next step for transit handwork
Once the reverse applique stitchery around the neckline is completed, the binding can be applied. I cut it about 2" wide, then press it folded in half. (rather a bit wider than needed) Often, it helps to add some cornstarch to the water in the spray bottle*, to encourage the jersey fabric, which wants to curl up, to lay flat while being worked. I also gently press the edge binding in a curve, which helps me apply it to the neckline. Next step, decorative handstitching around the neckline, just inside the folded edge. Once that is done, the excess width will be cut away, leaving a tidy embroidered edging.

* My ancient thrifted iron, while it has a nice smooth stainless steel sole, was probably originally sent to Goodwill for leaking water intended to generate steam. I simply use a small spray bottle from the dollar store when steam is needed; might not be ideal, but the price is certainly right!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

handcraft old and new

The green stag tunic embroidery was completed Friday at AnTir/West War... I stitched like a madwoman all the way from Portland to Gold Beach, and then betweentimes for the next day as well. The stencil painted stags are outlined in couching, and then filled in with herringbone stitch. I am quite grateful to Seb Barnett for her help in setting up my campsite on Thursday, and it was a real pleasure to create her new tunic, and to see her again after all these years! It was also rather a challenge to create a garment at a distance, with only four measurements...

Back in my early days in the SCA (I am guessing maybe back around AS 29 - AS 32 or so...) I donated at least a dozen enameled Mano d'Oro* medallions to the Kingdom of AnTir... back before digital cameras were common, back when gold was around 300USD/oz... so this is a picture of a historical artifact.
These were quite a challenge to make, as I cut shapes from specially milled 24K, and fused the pieces over purple transparent enamel and then layered clear flux over all. There will never likely be any more like these made in my lifetime**, so I was quite grateful to Countess Laurellen de Brandevin for allowing me the chance to photograph a bit of my early work.

*the Mano d'Oro is an award "given on the advice of the Minister of Arts and Sciences, for excellence in and service to the arts and sciences of An Tir"

**current spot price for gold is close to 1300USD/oz, and while the amount of gold actually used in a medallion like this is still very very minimal, it does require actually purchasing enough gold to have it custom milled. The gold used here is about the thickness of barbeque foil. Gold leaf, which is used for other decorative applications, is only a few atoms thick and will be torn to shreds by the Brownian motion in the enamel when it is melted/liquid, and I believe it is also 23K rather than 24K gold.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

ATW 2013

in which our plucky heroine has a wonderful time traveling to AnTir/West War and back... (along with about 1300 other folks from up and down the west coast)

We left Portland at by around 9 on Thursday last. I had sent my camping gear south already, on Monday, with my friends Ulfred and Elfrida who were heading down early to help with site layout for the event. I was riding down with Ayla, who I'd not met before, and my friend Ursul. There was much chat along the way, as Ayla was relatively new to our particular group, but she seemed to have an extremely varied set of interests and skills, so will soon find her way.
when we finally got near the coast, it was necessary to take a small break, walk around, and feel the cool wind

every bend in the highway had something else lovely to look at... had we not wanted to get to the site in a timely fashion, it would have been a real treat to actually hike down to the beach

There is such amazing scenery along the Oregon coastline; if fortune favors me with the chance, I would so love to spend some time there again, with more chances to explore and take pictures

the bridge over Coos Bay, came up almost too quickly for me to get the camera out of the daypack...

We decided to stop for lunch in Coos Bay; when the sign for the Blue Heron Bistro, promising German food/seafood called to us. It was an excellent choice, the homemade sausage I had for lunch was an excellent example of the genre, and my companions seemed to be equally satisfied. Happy the day when a new good road food spot is found, and should fortune ever send me back through Coos Bay hungry, there will be another stop there...


most fortuitously, the spot I set up camp was just to the west of this small stream, which meant that I had the soft sounds of water to grace the start of day, as well as morning shade on my tent, which is a great treat (means not being rousted out of bed by excessive heat at daybreak)

This was the view looking south when I stepped outside my small tent in the morning. This is the most beautiful and best site I have ever been at for an SCA event; there are forested hills like this in all directions, relatively flat pasture to camp on, apparently new this year the site owner put in an abundance of piped potable water taps, and basically no visible intrusion of the modern world.

Whilst visiting with my friends Marya, Lawrence, and Freydis, (who kindly shared their morning kasha with me) I found out that Marya has made birchbark boxes! I get so enthused to see the recreation of uncommon techniques!

After breakfast, it was time for those who came here for the martial activity to head to the war field...

...there was an impressive equestrian presence...
...our Royalty on horseback, riding across the war field

riding round the camping neighborhoods...

a knight and his horse share a quiet moment before the war

Here is another perspective from the SCA event West/An Tir War,
held in Gold Beach, OR on July 4-7 2013

Vasilisa is a woman of many talents, she wove the headress she is wearing. My friend Idynthrysis created the bronze temple ornaments.

a closeup of the temple ornament, and of the weaving...

Friday evening as the sun is low in the sky, shining across the hills above the encampments...

As the sun set over the hills, and dusk settled gently over the encampments, the nighttime stars came out... Never in my everyday life is it possible to witness this, as the sky darkens the stars come into view almost one at a time at first in the gradually darkening sky, till at full dark the sky is ablaze with stars... Such beauty, hidden from sight forever in the city, is so exciting to me, as rare and precious a gift as travel itself...


on Saturday morning, in the Arts and Sciences pavillion, a "salon"... Mistress Mathilde Hadebyr and Meistara Kathlin in Storradthaa demonstrate Norse whipcord braiding. In addition HL Gersvinda Gaeslinger shared her knowledge about applied viking knotwork and mica embellished decoration from the Birka finds.

Saturday afternoon, for the first time ever, I dyed at the War! Marya was teaching a class on "Mostly Madder". and we got to experiment with several different dyepots, and ended up with a beautiful assortment of colored yarn. This picture shows tumeric, which yields a vivid golden yellow.

Here is Marya with her jar of madder roots... madder is a dyestuff that yields an assortment of different reddish orangish colors

Cooks from several kingdoms gather at the War for the "Cooks Playdate". They spend the days creating all sorts of wonderful period foods, and in the evenings they set up an enormously long series of tables and have a feast. The food tables, barely visible on the right side of the picture, are only halfway to the far end of the feast tables...

passers by are encouraged, if hungry, to sample the various dishes and I was more than happy to oblige, when called across the field by several of my friends. I needed no extra encouragement to give the ritual compliment that "period food is yummy!"...

Here you see part of the long series of tables set for feasting by the participants in the Cooks Playdate. When seen across the field, they look very much indeed like the illustration in a manuscript, with the bright colors, the decorated table, the pavilions in the background with banners waving in the coastal wind

Couldn't fit all the tables into one picture... this is the other end...

Yseult of Broceliande, at evening court, shortly before being called forward to be recognised as a Companion of the Order of the Laurel.
Drum, violin, and hurdygurdy... On Saturday night, there was yet more merriment, and the camp of the Kingdom of the West was filled with revelry and music. Though I toddled off to sleep in my little tent beside the stream, the sound of the drumming sent me off to dreamland...


On the way home I rode back to Portland with Ulfred and Elfrida. We stopped in Bandon, and after a short visit to the local cheese factory, we ate a late lunch/early supper at Tony's Crab Shack. Another memorable roadfood meal, I had rock cod broiled with garlic butter, yum! Very local, very fresh, very tasty...

soon we were back on the road, heading back over the Coos Bay Bridge, then up along the Umpqua River and back to I-5...
Driving through the Willamette valley, heading north to return to our everyday lives, with tired feet and happy memories.