Sunday, October 28, 2012

Lessons from Knitting

I have been knitting a little baby blanket--lace, knitted from the center. I like patterns like this that start small and get bigger as you go. I was following the pattern, diligently doing each yarn-over and decrease stitch where the pattern said. And then I hit trouble. This always happens with lace. I follow the pattern and then after a few inches look back at what a pretty thing I am making. But it turns out that it really really helps if you understand the purpose of each stitch so that when things go terribly wrong, and if you're knitting lace they can't help but go wrong at some point (just forgetting one yarn over can cause quite a mess), you can fix them. After tinking* a couple rows, I felt like I was in a place to go forward again. And this time I looked at the pattern, how it repeated, and how each stitch was functioning in the fabric. What do you know. The knitting is going faster and I have lost that little tug of fear that comes when I look up to watch my little niece that the whole thing will have gone completely wrong when I look back down at the knitting. I suppose this is a little life lesson for myself. Look at the pattern, respect the structure, don't sweat the details.

Lace Blanket from 60 More quick Baby Knits

And I just have to mention that Emily said the greatest thing to me last night. We were headed to my sister's house which is about a 30 minute drive away. She said, "And I will drive because that is an hour of knitting." Could you ask for a better spouse?

*"tinking" is knitting backwards. You can't just pull the needles out and rip if you're doing lace because for me, the mess would be unrecoverable. So you have to unknit, one stitch at a time. TINK = KNIT backwards.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Eppie's Capulin and the San Luis Valley

I work some of the week as an occupational therapist in a handful of rural school districts in the southern half of the San Luis Valley (which is HUGE!). Today I decided to take a little detour on my way home and see if Eppie Archuleta's studio is still in Capulin. I had heard that she now lives in Medanales, NM with her children, but I remember not too long ago there being activity at her studio. Clearly it was longer ago than I thought.
 I don't think anyone has woven here in a very long time.
Eppie is a matriarch in the traditional hispanic weaving community. Her mother was Agueda Martinez and Eppie herself had several daughters who have become famous weavers in their own right. Here is a link to the blog post I did in 2008 which mentions Eppie and remains the number one blog post viewed on my blog (and considering this, I wish I knew more about her and could really do her justice).

Sometimes I like to drive through the less traveled places to get a feel for the real life of a place. The San Luis Valley is a very very large place in area (someone just told me that the state of Virginia could fit inside it, though that seems a bit of a stretch... unless I have to drive to a meeting in Antonito from somewhere like Crestone which could take something like 2 hours) and a very small place in terms of people who live here. It is the kind of place where you run into your boss at the grocery and your neighbor at the Vietnamese restaurant. Frequently. (This means you should be careful what both your boss and your neighbor know about you.) Today I went through Capulin which is a small town 10 miles west of the highway surrounded by center pivot farms and a few Amish families.

As I was coming north I didn't know exactly where I was in relation to my house, but I knew I was south and west of my farm-surrounded rental house. The valley is like this. The roads are numbered differently in each county, but if the mountains are not obscured by forest fire smoke, fog, snow, or blowing sand, you can figure out where you're going. The roads are mostly gravel and run in one mile blocks. They are numbered differently in the different counties, but if you watch the mountains, you can find your way home. I took a quick right knowing I had to head further east and came across another frequent sight in this part of the valley. It was an Amish buggy with two rows of seats containing at least 7 children. The one driving seemed to be a teenager though I suppose there aren't any rules about younger kids driving buggies. I see buggies frequently, fortunately so far, before I have collided with one. Often they are on the paved roads with no shoulders moving 15 mph to my 65. They don't have lights or blinkers. Just one big horse and a little carriage full of children. It scares me. But at the same time I am fascinated by this slower pace and often feel somewhat envious of these people who seem to have simplicity at the forefront of their lives.

The cranes are back. They have returned to the barley fields surrounding my house and seem to be sticking for a bit to eat before heading south to the Bosque del Apache in New Mexico and beyond. Most of the ones I've seen are greater sandhill cranes and they seem so big. Their haunting cries are a welcome sound in the morning as they fly over the house headed for the fields.
This is a place where farming is a way of life.
There are frequently sheep in my yard... which is somewhat appropriate considering the amount of wool I dye. (Starting about 2 months ago we started hearing this loud sound that seemed somewhat like a rifle shot, but it was happening about every 4 minutes, usually at night. The first night I heard it it freaked me out and I closed and locked all the doors and windows. Finally our neighbor was chasing a sheep behind our shed and we asked him what the noise was... coyote gun. It is a propane-fueled pop that scares the coyotes away when the sheep are not in their corral at night. Who knew.)
Wildlife on the road...
Rural places are good. They can bring rest and fill my mind with wide open spaces.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The city of love.

I was in Loveland, CO this past weekend teaching a class I named The Tapestry Butterfly. It is a design/weave class and my students did a fantastic job. Loveland is the city you can send your Valentine's cards to and get them stamped with a love-themed postmark. Loveland is also a city where you can find gluten free food, there are many lakes (old sand pits full of water??), and the political yard art seems to sway toward the Romney camp, though that could just be my imagination.

The class was in this community building downtown. It was a great place to have a class and is clearly used for many things including baby showers and birthday parties.

My students were wonderful, cooperative, and Helen's smile was priceless.

I had a few returning students who are weaving amazing things.

 This design was a large tulip. As Barb started weaving I glanced over and realized there were mountains in the background. So beautiful. I would very much like to see the finished piece one day!

Sherry's bag had this button attached. I may need to figure out where to get one of my own.

The drive can be the challenge for teaching workshops. A 5 hour drive isn't the worst thing, but when I start listening to the radio on scan and chewing lots of gum (I'm not a gum chewer generally), I know that I am getting tired. Coming up through Colorado Springs I hit the radio scan phase and realized there is a whole lot of radio I don't want to listen to in Springs. (Plus the antennae on my car has long since fallen off and I only get the really strong stations. Their classical music station was nice until I lost it in the hills.) I had to resort to Neko Case and Regina Spektor for the rest of the drive. Driving through the north end of Colorado Springs I had to laugh at the road maintenance mile sign by the Gay and Lesbian Fund positioned strategically a few hundred yards before the Focus on the Family Visitor's Center exit sign. Can't possibly be a coincidence. (My apologies for those of you with positive interactions with Focus on the Family. Mine growing up were decidedly negative.)

Coming home I had to take 285 through the mountains. I was driving south on the 5 lane freeway from Loveland into Denver and realized I couldn't possibly manage my jangled nerves long enough to make it all the way through Pueblo. I took a hard right and drove through the Rockies. Coming out of South Park and seeing the Collegiate Peaks makes me sigh in relief to be out of the big city and back in the land of very tall mountains.

A button one of my students had on. I'll have to visit this yarn shop one of these days.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Warped and ready to go!

I have taught a good number of workshops now, but still have difficulty getting everything pulled together and ready to go. The hardest is flying to a workshop. How do you limit the yarn supply after all? But today I am driving. I'm teaching in northern Colorado and am looking forward to revisiting my old graduate school stomping grounds.

I spent much of the fall in my dye shed (whoop whoop!) dyeing yarn for upcoming classes. I love doing this, especially when the weather is warm. And I accumulated a great pile of yarn and felt good about my readiness for the future. And then I decided to be responsible when packing for the class this weekend and made a spreadsheet with yarn inventory.  Fortunately, people seem to like my yarn and I tend to sell much of it at workshops. Unfortunately that means that I am constantly out of some colors. It looks like I have another 30 colors or so to dye for the spring. Lets hope we get some warm days in November! (And yes, I'm still working on red and apparently also brown. I dyed brown for this class and though I did some test samples first, the large skeins came out a beautiful mauve color.)

So my cardboard boxes and suitcases are packed. My Mirrix is warped and ready for the car (when oh when will Mirrix make a carrying case for their looms?). I have rolled up a couple tapestries as a surprise show and tell for the tapestry gang I'm going to teach, and I have spent some time hunting down and printing off all appropriate maps. I am ready. I just have to make it through a day of kids and meetings before heading north on a five hour drive to Loveland. I suppose the packing and readiness for workshops will just fall into place after awhile, but for now I still bite my fingernails (and I'm not a fingernail biter) worrying that I am going to forget something important, like my brain I suppose.

Thanks to Kathe Todd-Hooker for this bumper sticker!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A new small format piece

Here is my newest little tapestry still on the loom, but finally finished... (well, the weaving part is finished. It still has to have the ends finished, be vacuumed and steamed, hems sewed, mounting device figured out and attached, frame finished, photographed...)

I suppose this is annoying, but that is the back and I don't want to show you the front quite yet. It will be entered in a few shows and we'll see if she gets to travel! Small format work is not my strong-suit, but I had a lot of fun with this little piece. I am currently experimenting with some new ways of mounting small tapestries and I'll let you know how it all turns out in the next few weeks. 

I just came across a quote I scribbled down last time I saw Mary Cost, a tapestry weaver from Santa Fe. She said, "The thing I don't like about small format is that you have to deal with your issues too fast." I wholeheartedly agree... with something of a grin.

This piece was inspired by the changing aspens in the Colorado mountains this fall and a beautiful hike to Cherry Lake in the Sangre de Cristo mountains north of Crestone, CO.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

My little knitter

I thought that my little niece who is almost 8 months old was suddenly interested in my knitting. She is learning to locomote very well under her own power and she worked hard (and fast) to get over to my knitting (which admittedly I left on the floor) while I was in the other room (for about 3 seconds).
 But, it turns out that she was really angling for the plastic bag I keep the knitting in.

She is an adorable kid if I do say so myself. Maybe one day she will learn to knit. I can't wait to see what she does with my piano (when I get it out of piano-jail that is).

(Little knitting hint: those zipper bags that bed linens sometimes come in are great for knitting projects. Especially if you're like me and have many of them going at once. I think these particular bags were from some thermal curtains. Sometimes I'll buy one product over the other just because of the plastic bag it comes in.)

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Taos Wool Festival 2012

What would the first weekend in October be without the Taos Wool Festival? I currently live about 90 minutes from Taos, IF the gorge bridge is not closed for painting, repaving, random un-explainable reasons, or because someone jumped AND if San Antonio mountain's weather allows us to pass (sometimes it is a Lord-of-the-Rings-like scene with wizard-created blizzards, struggling hobbits, massive snow drifts, and avalanches--okay, San Antonio isn't really avalanche territory. The mountain hasn't killed me yet, but it has come close twice).

I did some great finishing work on the way down... (Thanks to dear Emily who agreed to drive. This is a great blessing for a knitter.)
 I should have known it was going to be a wildlife sort of day today. I saw a great blue heron on my short dog walk this morning and on the way to Taos, we saw a lot of tarantulas crossing the highway...

They migrate this time of year... or more specifically the males migrate when they look for a mate. Some quick internet research also indicates that they perish soon after. It makes me feel a little better about the one we saw too late.

Other wildlife included the alpaca (always so adorable), llamas, pygora goats, angora bunnies, and churro sheep.

And some of the greatest wildlife I saw was in Ellen Sibelius's booth. The creativity of fiber people never ceases to amaze me. Here is a Ravelry link to Ellen's creations. They are really quite astounding. This is a dragon in green and a baby dragon coming out of an egg in the middle. She had your basic farm animals (cow, sheep) and then all kinds of other creations (a wooly mammoth!, a biplane, whales, elephants, buffalos). I think this woman laughs a lot on a daily basis. 

Tapestry was represented by the Sullivans and Fred Black. I didn't get a photo of Fred's beautiful rugs. Alex and Bettye Sullivan had a booth as usual. It looks like the Alex, Bettye, and Fred are all showing at Tierra Wools now (Los Ojos, NM--a great place to visit if you are near Chama!).

There was a lot of beautiful yarn there. I resisted some of this, though it was not easy. My brain kept telling me that I already had beautiful yarn at home and that I didn't need to take home this also. I just bought a blue silk blend at String Theory and until that was used up, I didn't really need any more. I made it all the way home without this yarn, but Emily may have to hide the car keys tomorrow to keep me from driving back to the festival to get some of this.
This is, of course, not weaving yarn. Tierra Wools had the most beautiful churro yarn for weaving.
But tapestry being what it is (a very time-intensive pursuit that doesn't lend itself to changing materials often at least in my practice), I left these hanging also.

Taos Fiber Arts was there with their great yarn and roving. And after visiting the festival we stopped by their shop on Ranchitos Road.
There is a yarnbombing going on in Taos at the moment and TFA has decorated their own portal with bikinis.

 And the big guns were behind the building in the courtyard. Whoa Nellie!

Julie and Ashley Cloutman (the mother/daughter team running TFA) were at the festival, but they had some great people holding down their store. They have a beautiful gallery room with replica blankets, examples of jerga, and this fantastic replica loom where this woman was weaving jerga. You can see many more photos of this gallery and loom in an earlier blog post I wrote about Taos Fiber Arts HERE.

Taos was packed today. The farmers market was going on and we had to circle a couple different parking lots to find a space to park. At one point we were driving very slowly behind a couple walking with big bags of stuff, hoping they wouldn't notice the dark blue Camry lurking 100 feet back. Alas, after stalking them following them for an eternity a few minutes, it was clear they were not leaving but just dumping off their loot and walking off to search for more. When we finally did find a place to park, this was parked right behind us. I knew we were in for a great day...

As Julie and Ashley say,