Monday, August 25, 2014

On The Road Again...

Always there comes an hour when one is 
weary of one's work and devotion to duty, 
and all one craves for is a loved face, 
the warmth and wonder of a loving heart.  
~ Albert Camus

I have another work trip this week...

I would rather be home.  

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Plan

Adventure is just bad planning.
~ Roald Amundsen

Whenever things aren't going the way we expected and we are feeling a bit anxious, my husband and I look at each other and say, in exaggeratedly cheerful voices, "It's an adventure!"  The laugh that follows often helps break a bit of the tension.  So, while adventures can definitely be good things, I can relate to the quote above...  ;)

Anyways, I have an approximate plan for my next backstrap weaving project - I'd like to make a bag to store and carry my loom and half-woven projects.  I'm thinking to try a very simple design - just two panels, separate casings for drawstrings along the top edge of each panel, stitched together along the sides and bottom.  Something like this:  

I'm incorporating three new components to my weaving to make this bag.  First, I am using thinner yarn than before.  Second, I'm adding vertical stripes of different yarns, instead of one continuous warp.  Here you can see my plan for the stripes - my colors are blue, black and white:  

Finally, on the front panel only, I am going to overlay a design made with yellow embroidery floss on the middle, blue section.  I haven't sorted out what pattern yet...  Something geometric is possible (and traditional)...  But maybe I'll do something semi-realistic, like outlines of butterflies and/or flowers...  

I'm off to a slightly shaky start - my order of yarn came in the mail yesterday and it wasn't nearly enough!  Yikes!  :(

Apparently I should have done some calculations before haphazardly ordering a handful of skeins of yarn.  

So, now I'm awaiting another shipment of yarn AND mentally adjusting to the fact that I can no longer pat myself on the back for how inexpensive my loom bag project is...  ;)

Let's see if I have any more "adventures!" in store for me on this project...  

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


People never notice anything.
~ J. D. Salinger

Well, I'm falling seriously in love with my backstrap loom!  As soon as I finished weaving my backstrap, I started a second project - a guitar strap for my husband.  

I stuck with a plain weave - but I used a variegated yarn in colors that he likes - blues, green and yellow.  

Here's a shot from my view during the actual weaving process:  

Isn't it cool how the colors in the yarn lined up to make those little bars - almost like frets on a guitar!  

I did the whole project in maybe 5 hours - spread across 2 evenings during the week and Saturday morning.

I wove it in the family room - my husband was in and out of that room many times - sitting on the sofa reading a book, watching TV, using his tablet, etc.  

Thank heavens he never asked me what I was weaving!  

There was a bit of sewing involved - attaching the woven strap to the "hardware."  

It came out shorter than I had expected - there was "take up" - which means that the lengths of yarn in the warp get shorter because they have to go around the weft threads.  But, overall I'm really happy with it.  

And happy that - despite the fact that I wove it right under his nose, so to speak - it came as a complete surprise to my husband!  And he loves it!  

Next up - I'm going to weave a simple bag to hold my loom sticks.  I'll be using a thinner yarn, adding vertical stripes and a supplementary weft pattern - a bunch of weaving terms, I know.  But hopefully I can show you what they all mean.  :)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Where Has the Time Gone?

I would have given anything to keep her little.  
They outgrow us so much faster than we outgrow them.
~ Jodi Picoult

My two nephews used to come visit us each year in March, during their Spring Breaks from middle school and high school.

Here they are in 2008 at a water park - I think it might have been Aquatica:

In 2009, I splurged and took them to Discovery Cove, where they got to swim with dolphins!  

See the younger one, on your left?  Here's a close-up of him feeding a bird in the aviary:

And here he is again  - yesterday - a week after he moved down to Florida to attend a university:

We went back to Discovery Cove and he still likes swimming with the dolphins...

...feeding the birds...

And goofing off in a wet suit jacket that was NOT made to fit him...  ;)

When did that little boy turn into a young man?  Where has the time gone?  

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Project Completed!

Without ambition one starts nothing.  
Without work one finishes nothing.
The prize will not be sent to you.
You have to win it.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

So, once you finish a practice narrow band or two, the backstrap weaving guru, Laverne Waddington, recommends weaving your own backstrap.  (Never mind that I purchased one to use with my loom!)  

I used my variegated red yarn and prepared a warp one yard long and approximately 4 inches wide.  I had a bit of a rocky start - apparently I was experiencing "sticky sheds" - where some of the threads didn't switch position (from upper to lower or from lower to upper) when they were supposed to.  You can see it in this picture - where I have some long stretches of thread:  

But I got some advice on and was able to overcome that.  Here you can see my view when I am weaving:  

And here you can see that, once I got into it, I quit having problems with sticky sheds:  

Once it was all woven, I had to finish the ends.  I did the easiest thing - made lots of little braids out of the warp threads and then strung my cord through the loops left at the end of each braid:  

Here are some shots of my finished backstrap:  

I am REALLY happy with how it came out!  Of course, there are errors...  But, for my first real project, it was quick and is useful and, I think, attractive.  The weight and texture are really satisfying between my fingers...  :)

Now, what to do with the backstrap I bought?  

Hmmm...  All I can think of is to inspire someone else to try backstrap weaving, and gift it to them as a starting strap...  

What do you think?  Any takers?  ;)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Gratuitous Kitten Photo

If you are allergic to a thing, 
it is best not to put that thing in your mouth,
particularly if the thing is cats.
~ Lemony Snicket

My loom and yarn weren't the only things that came in those boxes - look who got new window seats!  ;)

The cats are still getting used to the seats - if they prove to be a hit, we may get 2 more, so that no one has to share...  (Not that we spoil our cats or anything!)  ;)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Narrow Bands #1 and #2

Practice isn't the thing you do once you're good.  
It's the thing you do that makes you good.  
~ Malcolm Gladwell

Well, as you probably guessed from yesterday's post, my backstrap loom arrived in the mail and I spent some time over the weekend making two practice narrow bands.  

I used our coffee table to anchor the rear "beam" and started with the blue yarn I had picked up at Joann's.  

The front "beam" is anchored to my body with a strap around my hips.  

As you can see in the picture below, creating nice edges takes a bit of practice:  

I also received, in the mail, three skeins of a 100% mercerized cotton yarn that was specifically recommended for beginners working on a backstrap loom.  I had picked a variegated red color.  

I was still having problems with the edges when I first started...  

But part-way through it "clicked" for me - thanks in no small part to the advice from more experienced weavers on Ravelry - and, as you can see, I did much better!  :)

Next up - I'm going to try to weave my own backstrap - this is recommended as a good first "real" project.  I'll be using the same, red yarn.  Hopefully the changing colors of the yarn will give it some visual interest, as I will be doing plain weave and won't be adding any pattern.  

The main challenge here will be the width - it will be about 4.5 inches wide - my two narrow bands were more like 1-2 inches wide.  We'll see how much more difficult that is...  

Fingers crossed!  ;)

Monday, August 11, 2014

Now This Is What I Call A Good Day!

“Well," said Pooh, "what I like best," 
and then he had to stop and think. 
Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, 
there was a moment just before you began to eat it 
which was better than when you were, 
but he didn't know what it was called.” 
― A.A. Milne


Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Birth of a Great Idea

Great ideas start with completely unrealistic thoughts.
~ Markus Mettler

With all that time freed up by not taking in a foreign exchange student, I decided to dive into something new!  (A contributing factor was my husband asking me what gift I wanted for our upcoming wedding anniversary...)  

You may remember that I was fascinated by the weavers I met and watched in Peru:  

This type of weaving is called "backstrap weaving" because one end of the "loom" is attached to the weaver's body by a strap around her back.  The other end can be attached to anything sturdy.  And the "loom" itself is not much more than a series of sticks...  

One cool thing about this is that it makes your weaving project portable - something that is NOT true of my floor loom projects!  

So, I did some research and asked my husband for the equipment that I need to try my hand at backstrap weaving:  

A backstrap loom from Magical Moons on Etsy:  

(Didn't I tell you that it was mostly just a series of sticks?  )

And a handwoven backstrap from Guatemala, purchased through The Fair Line on Etsy:  

I joined the Backstrap Weaver's Group on Ravelry:  

And I prepared my first warp, using mid-weight, 100% mercerized cotton, as recommended in this tutorial:  

I was able to use my floor-loom warping board and here is a close-up of the cross that both types (maybe all types?) of weaving use:  

Now, I'm just waiting for the mail...  and dreaming about weaving...  

For example, I'm envisioning that my first project will come out something like this:  

Even though the picture in the "first project tutorial - a narrow, plain weave band" looks more like this:  

In any event, it's sure to be an adventure!  

Wish me luck!  :)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Wherein the Universe Intervenes and Saves Me From Myself

It is a bittersweet thing, knowing two cultures.
Once you leave your birthplace nothing is ever the same.
~ Sarah Turnbull

Okay, okay - enough with the pestering - I'll 'fess up...

The whole "just say no" thing didn't exactly get off to a great start.  

But - bottom line up front - we do NOT have an 18-year-old exchange student from France living with us.  

(And it would only have been for three weeks anyways...)  

So, here's the full story:  

A friend on Facebook posted about an international exchange program that was desperately seeking five additional families to open their homes to teenagers from France and Spain.  

It's only a three week program, there are two, day-long activities per week planned for them AND there is a three-day trip to Disney over the middle weekend.  So, it wasn't exactly a huge commitment, right? 

We applied, the Orlando coordinator approved us and matched us with an 18-year-old young woman from France, and it looked like all systems were go.  

Then, the state-level coordinator saw our application and made the executive decision to shut us down, because we live too far from Orlando.  

When we heard the news, my husband's response was, "Oddly enough, I'm a little disappointed."  

Mine was, "Oddly enough, I'm a little relieved."  

I do hope they are able to find a home for her and she is able to participate in the program - but there's nothing else that I can do.  It is not "my fault" if she can't come.  So often, it feels like the people that I care about won't be able to have, or do, the things that are important to them if I don't help.  This time, I am officially off the hook.  

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Aloha from Florida

For a child, it is in the simplicity of play that the complexity of life
is sorted like puzzle pieces joined together to make sense of the world.
~ L. R. Knost

At the last minute (i.e., after the party had already started), one of our regular families asked if they could bring some cousins with them - who were visiting from out of town.

It turned out there were SEVEN cousins, bringing the guest count to our July pool party up to 28!  Our biggest crowd ever - the pool looked like a public pool:  

For the first time ever, we actually ran out of food!  

Happily, the food is not the main draw...  

It kind of amazes me that two dozen kids can keep themselves happily occupied for hours in a swimming pool - no TV, no video games, no technology - no need for adults to propose or organize games - just mix in some life jackets, some goggles, and a couple of pool toys and sit back and watch... 

We celebrated two July birthdays - a 51-year-old and a 12-year-old.  The 12-year-old selected "Hawaii" as the theme and I was able to provide leis, grass skirts and even a coconut bra for the guests of honor!  

I'll let you figure out who is who...  ;)

We even had a tiki-shaped pinata - which the 12-year-old managed to bust open on her second swing - hence the distinct lack of pinata pictures in this post!  ;)

I may be biased, but even with the food shortage, I think it turned out to be a really fine Hawaii-kind of a day in Florida.  :)

(And no, I haven't forgotten that I owe you an update on my "Just say No" vow...)  

Monday, August 4, 2014

Wherein She "Skirts" the Issue...

A clever person solves a problem.  
A wise person avoids it.
~ Albert Einstein

"So," you ask, "how are you doing on that vow to learn how to say 'no'?"  

Well...  Oh!  Look over there!  It's sewing!  

Yup!  I got to do some sewing this weekend!  I'm making eight little skirts (all size 4T) for the daughters of my friends at work.  

The simple pattern is from the One Yard Wonders book - you add some pleats to rectangle-shaped panels and then an elastic waistband.  

Here is a finished one:  

I LOVE the fabric - it is old fashioned and just perfect for a little girl...  In fact, I'm making four of these skirts.  

I did take the opportunity to try a technique that I've never done before. After stitching the lace trim to the skirt, I cut the fabric behind the lace down the middle and then folded it over (away from the lace) and stitched it down.  Here is the back view:  

Turns out it didn't make a big difference on the white skirts, because the fabric didn't really show through the lace.  

But it made a nice difference on these red skirts with yellow ribbons:  

The red fabric bled through the yellow ribbon and darkened its color a bit.  The ribbon looks much brighter when the fabric is pulled away from it:  

I was a little disappointed with this "ribbon" - it's actually some kind of plastic and it doesn't drape nicely with the cotton.  I couldn't feel it when I bought it, so I didn't realize that - guess I need to actually READ the packages in the future...  

I'm making two of the red skirts and two skirts with this fabric - the same design, but a blue color scheme:  

For this one, I'm using green, semi-glittery ric-rac.  I might apply three stripes - if I'm not too sick of sewing straight lines by then!  ;)

"Okay," you say, "very cute skirts, but I still want to hear about your progress on your vow..."  

"Of course!", I say.  

"No problem!", I say.  

Only, darn it all, I'm out of time for today...  

I'm afraid it'll have to be next time...