Wednesday, December 29, 2010


We bought our house about 10 years ago off a lady that was throwing everything away and moving to Seattle on whim or a dare. She showed up to settlement with her last puff of smoke being breathed out of her nostrils, a fleece zippered Henley unzipped and displaying her less-than-impressive saggy bra and its contents, and a face covered in soft down reminiscent of a cover model for Weekly World News.

We said she looked like a more grizzled version of Neil Young.

After settlement, we rushed back to Our House, and immediately set about ripping out the kelly green carpeting that was wall-to-wall and top-to-bottom. We rolled rooms' worth of this musty, piss-stained, and smoke-redolent carpet and plopped it all in the living room. Then, we ordered cheesesteaks, fries, and sodas, and used the rolls of spent carpet as an impromptu dinette. The following day, we set about attacking the custom window treatments, discovering that years of smoking had turned the ecru swaths of fabric camel-y yellow. Still, by the end of the weekend, all carpeting and drapery were in the basement and we could move on to the next step: removing wallpaper from walls and ceilings. Oh what fun!

Over the next few weeks, we managed to repaint the entire house and refinish the downstairs floors and meet our neighbors. We also learned that our hunch about the former owner was correct - she was batshit crazy. One neighbor told us she'd accused him of peeping on her from across the street (he'd sit on his front porch and just watch the goings-on in the 'hood). Another told us she forbid any neighbor from visiting her. Another said she called the cops if she didn't like the way a car was parked along side the house. She was generally severely anti-social though if you happened to catch her at the right/wrong moment, she'd talk for hours about various conspiracies.

5 or 6 years ago, she moved back to Philadelphia. She apparently stopped by to complain to our next-door neighbor about how we'd removed her bushes from the front yard and how dare we put a deck on the back of her house! As diplomatically as possible, the neighbor told her to shove off. We didn't really react when we learned she was back. It didn't really matter to us one way or the other. Plus, it wasn't as if our paths would cross.

Fast-forward to just recently. I'm at my current work location. Who should come in (wearing the same Henley-zippered fleece, I think, even) but the lady that sold her house to us. She's going on about her DVD collection and demanding to know where all of her labels went and it takes me a few minutes to get her to calm down enough to fully explain just what the hell is her issue. And, it's a valid issue, albeit tinged with her brand of crazy: when her brother died, she donated his DVD collection to this particular branch. She bought labels to affix to each DVD and did so before donating them. She's now pissed that all of the DVDs she donated seem to have been repackaged and her $100 labels have been trashed and wasted. She demanded to know who would be so cruel as to dishonor her brother's memory and damn it, she'll just take all of the DVDs back since clearly we don't want them.

I do what I can to explain to her that some of the DVDs were repackaged for security reasons and that others, like the multiple disc series, were split apart so that each disc was in a security case. This upsets her more and she wants to know why she can't just have a Bat-Shit Crazy Lady's Brother Memorial DVD collection here.

So, whatever. We go around and back and forth like this for a few minutes, and then I confess that I know her and that triggers a different response from her entirely. She's convinced, momentarily, that I've been stalking her. How else would I know her name? Or where she used to live? I re-explain the connection and then something jogs her memory and she calms down a bit, only to then start asking kind of accusatory questions about what we've done to the house. I defer them by commenting with things like, "The house was in such good structural shape when we moved in," and "Everything was nice and clean" (if not covered in a thick film of years of living alone and smoking heavily). Eventually, she leaves, but with the promise to return to check on my progress. Uh. OK.

Today, she returns. She comes in with a clipboard and darts her eyes around the room, looking for people. I generally look up at everyone that comes in - it's a good practice, establishes non-verbal contact, and often makes patrons feel more comfortable approaching me - so it's not out of character for me to look up and, when I do so this afternoon, I see her. She moves quickly over to the DVD collection and starts making checkmarks on her clipboard, though she seems to just be using her finger and not any writing implement. I let her do her thing, not wanting to poke the bear, and knowing that she'll come over to me anyway before she leaves.

And she does come over, clutching the clipboard to her chest, and demands to know where the labels are and why the DVDs are not in their original cases. Again. Same as the last time. And I explain it all, again, same as the last time. She's not as frenzied this time and it only takes one round of explaining for her to seem to understand. I think we're done and she's walking away, and then she turns and says, "I don't believe what you told me last time I was here."

I look at her and ask her what she means. She proceeds to tell me that there's no way she left that house in any kind of good condition because the last two days she spent in it were the worst of her life and the movers packed her trashcan and I have no right to tell her such lies, even if they are well-intentioned, because she would have paid for a cleaning person to come in and clean the house if that's what I'm after, she'll give me a check right now for the cost of cleaning. I keep looking at her, hoping that these words coming out of her mouth and into my ears will start making some type of sense, but she continues on with this rambling rant for another 5 minutes. "I thought about what you said the last time and you're just wrong." And then she does what I imagine to be her best flounce and tromps out.

The End.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy Holidays

We're on the eve of the Eve, people.  If you haven't busted out with your mad wrappin' skillz, perhaps you will find this informative video helpful.*

*Among the most frequent admonishments administered to our acrobatic pussycats is this: "Are you helping or hindering?" Without fail, they are always hindering...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ten Favorite Places for Online Shopping

When I got the email for this week's Ten on Tuesday, I misread it as 10 Favorite Small Shops Online - a subtle difference. Anyway, I was initially very excited at the thought of paging through different ToT posts today, learning about everyone's favorite indie shop. Then, I reread the prompt, realized my mistake and decided I was gonna do my interpretation anyway - I'm pretty sure we can all already count as among our favorite online shopping spots (which, truth be told, is probably the site I window-shop the most).

1. Threadless

I love their $10 tee sales, but more than that, I love browsing through the clever tees.  And then, I love buying them for Mike so I can see the tees in action.  Like this one. Communist Party. 

2. BoyGirlParty
I found BoyGirlParty the way I find most things on the Internets. I did a search for squirrels.  In this case, I was searching only Etsy, but no matter - squirrels abound on Etsy (just like everywhere else).  I have this very notepad and I ration out its sheets like sheets of titanium, encrusted with diamonds, and woven with threads of gold.  

3.  bomobob
I've not actually purchased anything from this shop, but in looking for a replacement for another Etsy shop that seems to be on hiatus (new baby, understandable), I came across this shop.  I am a sucker for vignette-y photos of fluffy weeds and seeds.  I have no doubt I will make multiple purchases from this shop - right after I favorite every item for sale.

4. RebekahMakes

FO Natalya Mission Falls superwash merino
I like old cameras, and I cannot lie.  They don't have to work, they just have to be old.  I don't usually buy my cameras online.  I prefer to discover them in the nooks and crannies of antique and consignment shops.  But I am particularly lusting after the Antique Devry Box Camera on this site.

5. ThinkGeek


ThinkGeek is the place I jump to when I'm shopping for nerds.  Whether they're Trekkies, engineers, gear heads, or just plain old DIYers, I can find something for everynerd at ThinkGeek.  

6. FledglingFactotum, and 7. laceramiste

Unique, beautiful gifts for the fiber artist and quilter in your life.  I have a quilt pendant necklace and love it (I found mine at a craft show and cannot find the artist online).  These two shops each have interesting items, many of which I'd buy and/or gift!

8. studiokmo 
I have a thing for maps.  I have a couple on display in my house, but nothing quite as lovely (and insanely awesome) as what you can find in this shop.  I bought the above prints a couple of months ago - simple line drawings of my adopted hometown.  But, what really inspires me are the crazytalk mapcuts.  Even if you can't afford one (they're mostly $500 and up, except for the wee 10x10 personalized mapcut - that's an affordable $90), you should click on over and marvel at the skill and patience.*

9. dlkdesigns

 I stumbled on this shop by accident and luck and I am so glad I did.  I can't reveal what I've purchased from this shop, but I will tell you it involves two points on a vintage map.  I think I'll be revisiting this shop a LOT.  Maps on Scrabble tiles? Yes, please.

10. Three Potato Four

I saved this one for last because it's a two-fer - not only do they have a fairly fabulous online shop, but 3P4 happens to be right around the corner (and down the road, and over the bridge, and on the side of a hill) from me. I just ordered some fun stuff from them yesterday and opted for the in-store pick-up, so I can't wait to do that Saturday morning!

*My friend Stacy did one of these mapcuts for fun and leisure (not for sale!).  She's awesome.  When I grow up, I want to be as crafty and lucky and lovely as her. :-)

Tuesday, November 02, 2010


About a month ago, my friend A. and I took a quilting class together. The instructor showed us a way to cut and sew simple, curved patchwork. Just as advertised, it was super-easy and QUICK! By the next day, I'd finished piecing my squares (all 84 of them).


When laid out one way, the effect is similar to blades of a windmill.


I'm not normally one to follow directions when it comes to crafting (see: every sweater I've knit has failed because of this tendency), and so I decided to play around with different ways of piecing this quilt. I liked the idea of staggered, deconstructed windmill blades. To lend a bit more to the staggering, I threw in the occasional scrap of solid (as in, uncut) fabric, and then sewed the squares into vertical columns.

I used my living room carpet as my design board, something I've done dozens of times in the past. I carefully laid everything out, paying attention to pattern and color repeats and proximity. Then, I took a couple of photos, and went to bed, just like I'd done the same dozens of times before.


The next morning, Mike got up and went about his morning routine. When he came back up to say good-bye, he said, "Uh, did you need the fabric to stay in order from last night?"

Half asleep, I mumbled back that it didn't matter, I'd taken a photo. "Why?"

"Well, I think one of the cats got to it last night."

Suspect is a female torty flops-a-lot kitten

And while there's another cat in the house, we honestly knew it wasn't her doing, whatever it was that was done. Aside from her incessant chattering and constant need to be ALL UP IN YOUR GRILL, Penny's not a bad cat at all. She's more likely to nap upon the laid out craft-in-progress than anything else. Unless it's yarn - she will chase a ball of yarn like it's going out of style. Good thing I'm not so much into the knitting these days, right?

Anyway, I figured whatever Lucy had done to the fabric was no big deal. I figured maybe Miss Flop had decided to flop on the fabric and that maybe that had caused things to move slightly askew. Mike didn't elaborate - and I went back to dozing for another 20 minutes or so.

When I finally did get up and moving, I went downstairs and found this:


And honestly, the only thing I could do was laugh. I tried to imagine her delight as she played with the fabric strips, batting them around the living room and into the dining room. Then, I picked them up, laid them out again, numbered them in the order I wanted, and folded them into neat little piles before storing them in a large zippie bag.

All's well that ends well - I managed to finish the top a couple of days after the "incident". It's not at all close to the order I'd originally intended or, for that matter, the second order I laid out. Still, I like it and can't wait to finish this one. More photos when that happens, for sure!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Almost better than all the rest

Me: Hey, Alex, I'm the best!

Alex: Yeah, Heather, I fink you are the best!

Me: Hey, Alex, Miki is second best!

Alex: *giggles* yeah, Miki is SECOND BEST!

Me: Alex, I'm going to get you and Iris some ice cream. Because I'm the best!

Alex: Yeah, Heather, we're best friends, too!

Me: And what's Miki?

Alex: Second best! Because I fink you are the BEST!


(I may or may not have told the kids that Miki might try to steal their ice cream because that's what second best does.)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Rhinebeck and kitties and lucky number 14

Rhinebeck haul

I had a blast at Rhinebeck, just as usual. I did not come home with another spinning wheel this year, though I did manage to procure a Jumbo Ball Winder, and not too soon - my old plastic ball winder is falling apart. I'm trying to convince myself to keep it, but it's really seen better days.

I did finish fixing my Swirl Shawl (Rav link) and I got SOOOO many compliments on it. Thanks everyone - it was nice to be fondled by yarn-y friends and strangers. Here's the only finished picture I have of the shawl (I'm all the way to the right):

Rhinebeck 2010
photo from David of Southern Cross Fibre

Even with the blocking incident(s), I felt pretty happy with the overall project, though I don't think I'll knit it again. However, I've got the shawl/wrap bug and have cast on for Revontuli (Rav link). I'm doing mine in a laceweight yarn (something I picked up from Nangellini's here in Philadelphia) and substituting yarnovers for all of the increases. It took a good three starts to get it right, but I'm moving along nicely now.

Revontuli  laceweight

In other news, our new cat, Lucia, has been spending her nights with us. She's really come such a long way from those early days when I wasn't sure if she was even in the house (I was convinced she'd found a wormhole or something. A portal. To Hoth, maybe.). Penny is still adjusting to Lucia's presence and generally seems to accept her. It's funny to watch the two of them interact - Lucia, easily 12 pounds of awkward one-year-old kitten, flops over and submits instantly to Penny, a 6.9 pound lady of the night cat. Here they are sharing a sunbeam last week:


Speaking of sharing stuff, Mr. Sparks and I celebrated 14 short years of wedded bliss yesterday. We were too busy buying kayak paddles, wine, clothes, and running 378 other errands (including a romantic trip for two to the local dump) to have a proper night on the town, but I think it was even better to do mundane chores with the one I love.

Love you, Miki. And, I'd *probably* say yes again.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Finished Uh-Oh

Long ago and not so very far away, I bought the yarn and pattern for the Swirl Shawl (Rav link). It was the first time I bought not only the yarn a pattern called for but also the exact colorway used in the pattern. Anyway, I think it was on the joint PhillyKnitters/Ravelry yarn crawl and, as I recall, I was sicker than a dog...

Anyway, it seemed like a nice, portable project. Each hexagon was a little project in itself and made for measurable progress. Instead of crying out "one more row", I'd demand the time to finish one more hexagon! After I got through the first set of hexagons, I could knit the decreasing pattern in my sleep. I'm not a fast knitter, but I could finish one hexagon, from cast-on to bind-off, in about 30 minutes, making it the perfect TV-knitting. It was long enough for a sit-com, but not so long that my hands would grow tired or my mind start to wander.

As spinning and quilting became more and more prevalent in my crafting life, I set aside the shawl and stopped working on it for about a year. I'd pack it on trips with the intent to work on it, but it would just sit in my bag, taking up valuable spindle-space. Then, this August, I decided to finish up some in-progress projects. Not only would I be able to clear some things off the needles, but I might even come up with a nice, new handknit for Rhinebeck! Score, and score.

It only took a few weeks to finish the shawl - when I stopped working on it, I was 80% done. Sunday morning, while lounging about with my Mom, I bound off the last hexagon, wove in the last of the ends, snipped the excess yarn, and gave the shawl a nice, warm dunk in Eucalan. Then, to help make the hexagon swirls really pop, I set about pinning and blocking the piece. And that's when I put the Uh-Oh in the FO...


It doesn't look bad in that photo, but what you can't see is the first half of the shawl and the three hexagons that unraveled as I blocked and pinned. Each hexagon is worked from the outside in, often with picking up stitches on 2 or 3 sides of the adjoining hexagons. So, the unraveling would start at the center and if I were a more skilled knitter, I'd be able to save the hexagons without completely unraveling each one.

Here's a close up on one unraveling as I blocked:

It's kinda hard to see, but my problem is factoring in both the yarn overs and the decreases when fixing the boo-boos. I've fixed two since blocking the item yesterday, but I've also found another one, bringing the total to 7. At first, I couldn't figure out why this was happening, but then I realized the tails I'd woven in for the center bind-off were too short for the zealous blocking I'd performed - what was adequate for a scrunched up, unblocked tangled of yarn was severely inadequate for my expected results.

My plan is to fix the remaining hexagons and then go back and secure the center of each hexagon. Then, I'll reblock and, hopefully, will then have the finished object I've been wanting. Still, mistakes and post-blocking surgery aside, I'm really pleased with how this project turned out. The yarn is gorgeous, especially in brilliant almost-autumn sunlight, and I cannot wait to wear it!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Here's a neat little contest that 44th Street Fabric's hosting!

Ceremony Panorama

ceremony panorama, originally uploaded by The Heatherness.

Working my way through the 1,000+ photos from Rich and Morgan's (2nd) wedding. I have several favorites, but I'm really pleased with how this panorama of the ceremony turned out.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


PICT3319, originally uploaded by The Heatherness.

This picture makes me laugh.

Monday, July 26, 2010

A tale of one lost kitty, and how you can help

About two weeks ago, my library received a furry visitor: a handsome boy, all black save for a white spot on his chest, with medium to long hair. It was a drizzly, cloudy day and this guy obviously wanted to come in to the library where it was dry.

It's no secret that I'm all for cats in the library, but I was overruled and out-numbered. Out he stayed, though he never strayed too far from the door. In fact, if he wasn't at the door, he was sleeping right up against the glass block behind my boss's desk.

As the days passed, it became more and more obvious that this was not just another stray cat. He craved human attention, for one. Any time I would go out in the courtyard, he'd come running from his spot near the glass block, meowing and purring. He'd jump up next to me while I sat on the ledge of the wall and demand to be pet. He even gave himself self-service pets - not content with the amount of attention I was giving him, he'd rub his whole body under my hand in an attempt to say, "Hey, LADY! I need some petting!"

When it became clear that he wasn't going to leave, I started asking around to see if anyone knew of someone looking for a new cat. Nobody was initially willing to take him, citing housing situations, multiple pets already in the house, and a general dislike of cats (I KNOW. Dislike of cats? What?). By now, my boss had given me the go-ahead to feed our courtyard kitty (we'd been named Megadeth. I don't know why...).

Late last week, it was determined that if Megadeth was not removed from the library property, he would be placed in a kill-shelter. I ramped up my efforts to find him a home, if only temporarily, and late Thursday night the call came in - my friend A. would help rescue him. She couldn't keep him for the same reasons that I couldn't (existing cats in the house, no way to quarantine a new cat) but she was pretty sure she could convince her mother-in-law to foster him for a night or two.

The earliest I could facilitate the rescue was Sunday morning - Friday and Saturday were going to be spent driving to NJ and preparing for a triathlon (Mike, not me. I'm just the cheering squad/photographer). So, A. and I agreed to meet around 9am and crossed our fingers that we'd have luck catching the cat. A. found a vet that accepted walk-ins and we discussed the best and worst case scenarios. Best: the cat would have been micro-chipped and would soon be reunited with his owner. Worst: he'd be full of bad kitty diseases and we'd have to have him euthanized.

We arrived at the library around 9:30 and I approached the cat's typical hiding spot, fully expecting him to come jumping out from the azalea bush and onto the ledge. That had, after all, become our routine the last 10 days. When that didn't happen, though, I started to think an even worse case scenario had played out - until I remembered that on Mondays, library staff would be greeted at the front door by this cat... We were at the back door! On a hunch, I ran around to the front door. A quick second later, and Megadeth was running over to me, talkative, hungry, and in need of love. I scooped him up, took him around back, and got him into the carrier with hardly any trouble. We then drove from the NW part of the city to the SW part of the city, listening to the cat meow and cry and otherwise carry on for 25 minutes. He was not, as you can imagine, amused. But, he was still fairly well-behaved.

Less than an hour later, we had the all-clear for Dave, the Cat Formerly Known as Megadeth (we renamed him in the car; he likes the name, too). He tested negative for FeLV and FIV, got dosed with some Frontline, and was ready for his first foster home. So, back up to the NW part of the city... Once we had him at his temporary home, Dave walked around, sniffed, ate some kibble, and begged for some love. Since leaving him yesterday around noon, I've heard that he's nothing if not a gentleman - he hasn't sprayed or marked once in his strange, new home and he regularly checks on his fosterer. He's eating and drinking and grooming and, above all, napping like any house cat should.

A. was hoping to get him to the vet tonight for a more comprehensive examination, including, perhaps, an estimation of his age. To our untrained eyes, he appears to be altered and he has not been declawed. He's a fluffy guy, complete with ear and toe tufts. He likes to bonk his head on you and when you pet him, he leans in to get *thatmuchmore* love. I've not known many cats as sweet as this guy.

Dave's story isn't over yet. He needs a forever home in order to complete this story. Do you know of anyone that needs a sweet fluffy guy in their life? Please send them my way.

Want to help but can't commit to taking this guy as a foster or a forever cat? Please donate whatever you can to help offset Dave's vet fees by clicking on the button below:

Update: Dave will be going to the vet Tuesday for his exam. And, A. has offered self-cleaning litterbox to whoever takes Dave as their forever-cat.

Update #2: Dave has been to the vet and once again charmed everyone. The vet places his age at around 3-4 years old. Dave is NOT altered, he is an intact male - so, we're going to explore low-cost neutering for sure. *points to donate button above* Dave also is on antibiotics for a wound on one of his front paws. Hopefully, the antibiotics will clear up the infection. If not, Dave will need surgical attention. *points harder and more emphatically to donate button above*

Update #3: Today is N-Day for Dave - he's getting neutered (perhaps as I type!). Thanks so much to those of you that have donated - we've got more than half of Dave's vet bills covered! If you haven't donated (any amount!!!) but would like to, it's not too late - click on the PayPal button above.

Also, Dave still needs a home! He'll be recovering from his surgery for the next couple of days, but he'll be ready for his forever home as soon as early next week. Know of anyone that needs a handsome kitty? Point them in my direction!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Ten on Tuesday

10 things I like about where I live:

1. I'm in a great quasi-suburban neighborhood in Philadelphia, a mere 17 minutes by slow train to Center City and a quick 12 minute stroll to trail heads that drop you into the Wissahickon Creek area of Fairmount Park.

2. Aside from living in Philadelphia, I'm pretty close to other major cities and can always justify a quick day trip to NYC, DC, or Baltimore.

3. I'm close to home - my husband and I grew up in rural Salem County, NJ, a mere 45 minutes away by highway (closer to 2 hours if we take back roads because we tend to get lost).

4. I've found my place in a great group of friends. Whether it's knitting, library-talk, or just whatever, my friends are the best. I would not have met them all if I didn't live in Philadelphia.

5. We've got history - William Penn, Lenni Lenape, Swedes, and more. It's fun to play tourist in your own city!

6. We're a scrappy town, a city full of 'tude. There's nothing quite like a Philly fan, and don't youse guys forget it. Any given sport, any given season, you're going to hear someone complain about the shittiest team, the best team, the worst play, the miraculous play, and so on. Chances are they're talking about the events of a single game. We can smack talk the crap out of our players and teams but still profess undying love for them at the end of the season. We're allowed to do that, but don't you visiting teams try it.

7. FOOD. Restaurants, cheesesteaks, water ice (say it with me - wooder ice), the Italian Market and Reading Terminal Market, trucks at Penn, the hot dog man outside of the museums, and the "don't tell mom I let you eat a pretzel from the guy outside of the stadiums".

8. I like that I live in a place that has all four seasons, though to be honest, I'd trade some summer for more winter. Still, the surrounding counties are full of parks and vistas and trails and all kinds of fun stuff to do out-of-doors. And the drive to get to, say, French Creek or the Jim Thorpe is especially nice if we take the twisty back roads and our motorcycles.

9. Speaking of out-of-doors, I love that we're pretty close to both the Appalachian Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean. Any given long weekend, we could go either direction and bask in the glory of nature.

10. I really love my house. We've been here for 10 years now and have done a lot to improve our living space. Most of the work we did ourselves. One Thanksgiving, I tiled the kitchen floor, another late August, we built a deck in a week. We've rewired, retrimmed, repainted, receilinged, and repurposed. I love that we have a secluded walled garden and a garage. I love that we're an end-of-row and have lots of windows and trees. It's still very much a work-in-progress (as I type, there's a guy doing demolition to our front porch ceiling), but it's our work-in-progress.

Sunday, May 02, 2010


I feel less jealous of everyone that spent this past weekend fondling fleeces and ogling yarn and fiber at Maryland Sheep and Wool because I spent the weekend before at the Spinning Loft's Spring Retreat 2010. It was held at a magnificent bed and breakfast and I spent the mornings learning, the afternoons spinning, and the rest of the time waiting for food to be delivered magically. Forget spa weekends and cabana boys - give me a suitable supply of fiber, a box of wine, and my own personal chef.

Shearer Elegance
Shearer Elegance, the B & B owned by Beth's parents.

Mornings were spent playing with fiber. On Friday morning, we played with fine wools, flicking and then spinning the locks. On Saturday, we played with long wools and combed and spun the locks. Sunday morning, we played with the down breeds and hand-carded then spun the locks. I think I'm remembering the order correctly: Friday was Merino, Cormo (amazingly luscious locks of cormo), and Corriedale. Saturday was Lincoln, Leicester Longwool, and Wensleydale. Sunday was Jacob, Dorset, Cheviot, and Scottish Blackface.

Locks for lovin'

Friday and Saturday afternoons found us engaging in the orgiastic joy of more spinning and more fiber. Beth and Chelsea had set up a lovely mobile shop in one of the front rooms of the B&B and I believe every one of us wandered through that room 25 times each day, fondling and plucking new fluff to add to our growing to-buy piles. Friday, some of us learned more spindling techniques. Saturday, spinners got to practice long-draw techniques. And Sunday, we all gathered 'round the table and got schooled in the fine art of drum-carding. I managed to keep my to-buy pile manageable and even put some things back (I'd had several spindles vying for my attention, but then I decided - right after the last set sold out of the mobile shop - that I really wanted a pair of hand combs and should save my money for those).

When we weren't in class or shopping, we spun. There was charkha action, spindle plying, and 20 or more spinning wheels whirring away on the patio, the porch, and in the parlor. In addition to the half bobbin of stuff from class that I spun, I plowed through nearly 4 oz of Polwarth from Southern Cross Fibre in the Pandora colorway (laceweight, on the Matchless), came within mere micro-ounces of finishing Gnomespun's Polwarth in the War for the Oaks colorway (laceweight, on the Bee) (I've since finished it, chain-plied it, dunked it, and neglected to photograph it).

Incidentally, I've finally figured out what the P in Polwarth stands for: "Please, Hammer, don't hurt me." You see, when I'm spinning Polwarth it's all I can do to warn others away with a simple "You can't touch this!" I think if we all remember what the P stands for, my spinning can become more productive. I'm only half-kidding....

Spinning and stuff

And, of course there was the Stuff That Came Home With Me - Yarn Hollow and Spunky Eclectic made up most of my loot with the two prominent fibers being Wensleydale and Polwarth (surprise!). I also bought 2 oz of Tussah silk top dyed by cjkoho in the Bethie colorway - my only other experience with spinning silk was right after I got my first wheel and while it was not a bad skein, I now know a lot more about spinning and think I can do a finer job with the silk. We'll see!

All in all, it was simply a wonderful weekend spent doing something I truly love, meeting new and interesting people, and learning about different sheep breeds and fiber prep techniques. I can't wait to sign up for next year's retreat (Beth! You MUST have another one!!!) nor can I wait to go home and play with my fiber!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


I have a new spindle! Actually, it's now no longer my newest spindle, but it's a newer spindle.


It's a Wildcraft spindle that I bought from the Spinning Loft, along with a poof of possum/cashmere/merino that remains unphotographed. I'm kinda in love with this spindle.


I haven't spun anything from fluff to yarn on it yet, but I did play and ply with this lovely spindle. I'd tried a while back to figure out chain plying on a spindle and my first attempts were mild successes in that, yes, I made some kind of yarn.... But, I didn't do it well. Practicing the technique would be ideal, but instead I set the idea aside and focused my energy on doing spinny things that I already knew how to do reasonable well. For instance, this gorgeous 3-ply:


I used an oatmeal BFL combo - Majestic and Deep Thoughts (Southern Cross Fibre) and a bump of BFL I picked up from Briar Rose Fibers while at Rhinebeck. I actually spun the BRF BFL super-fine and had a bit left over that led to me practicing chain-plying on a spindle - I mean, what else was I gonna do with less than an ounce of super-fine singles?


And a shot for perspective - wee little skein and pretty wild spindle!


I feel like I really got the hang of chain plying on a spindle and even enjoyed it, but it's definitely more of a slow and steady activity for me. I think this little skein measures just around 50 yards and it's a little finer than sock weight. I love the fuzzy halo on it and hope I can use it in a project that will showcase rather than hide it. If not, I'll just keep it on my nightstand and pet it before drifting off to sleep.

I'm hoping to have a blog post soon about the wonderful Spinning Loft Spring 2010 Retreat I just attended. I fell in love with a closet, got bested by a jetted tub, and learned new words (like blumpkin. Really, don't Google it...). I also learned spinning and fiber prep techniques and spent more hours spinning than I thought possible! It was, in a word, wonderful. I can't wait to share it with you!!!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Third time really is the charm

When my dear friend Kate revealed she and her husband were expecting, I knew I just had to make her a wee quilt. More than serving as my go-to quilt guru, she's known in her circle of friends for creating magnificent scrappy and designer quilts to celebrate and commemorate life's milestones. I'd been trying to come up with a way to show my appreciation for all her help and encouragement, you know, a way to say, "Thanks, friend!". Admittedly, I got the inspiration for the quilt a little later in her pregnancy than I should have - I should have started planning and searching for patterns and fabric back in November when she shared the news. Instead, I found the fabric in Connecticut on the way home from helping my sister move into her new place in late January: Arcadia by Sanae for Moda.

Ready for seaming!

This would be my first time working with a pre-cut stack and I wanted to make sure I made the most of each little bit, so I started looking for patterns. My first stop was Moda Bake Shop - after all, the pre-cut was a Moda layer cake - and after just a few minutes of browsing the different patterns, I settled on one that looked perfect AND, as an added bonus, used the same fabric that I'd bought!

This would be my first quilt that followed a real pattern, so I took my time, measured twice, and carefully cut just once. As I pressed open each seam, I couldn't help but grow more and more excited about this quilt.

One half of the original plan.

I had grand plans for laying out the different squares *just so* and even tried to apply some level of logic to it - if pattern A is here, then pattern D must share the seam - so, I took great care in laying out the pieces and taking photos of the order I wanted.

Layer Cake Quilt
...and the other half of the original plan.

That's not how it went down though - whatever order I'd wanted was forgotten and it's just as well. There's no real point in making things more stressful than they have to be, right? And with a deadline on this quilt (finish it before the baby shower), I figured that would be stress enough! I pieced the top and then attached the border, thrilled that I'd had the foresight to set aside the squares of fabric that were the more neutral of the bunch.

Less than perfect seams that are, actually, just perfectly fine!


I cruised right along with this quilt top and hit a snag only when I tried to come up with a suitable backing fabric. At first I considered doing the same pattern for the back, making the quilt totally reversible. And while the pattern was definitely the easiest thing I've done on my sewing machine, I found the idea of a solid back more appealing. I considered yardage from the Arcadia line, but couldn't pick just one. I considered something more neutral and even picked up a yard or two of Me & My Sister's Nesting Stripe Brown to see how that worked with the quilt top.

But then, I found myself browsing some fabric/quilting blog or another and read about The Fabric: Sweetwater's Make Life Silly! I thought it was perfect in so many ways: expectant parents are making life, having a baby makes life crazy and new and different, and when the dust settles, we're still able to make the most of our little lives. The multi-colored print also tied in nicely with the colors of the quilt top, don't you think?

I would make this quilt again and again.

I knew I wanted to use the Make Life... fabric for the binding, but I didn't want it to get lost on the back. Fortunately, I had quite a bit of the border pieces leftover from the front borders and I quickly attached them to a large cut of the backing. I used a straight, horizontal line with a tangerine-colored thread for the quilting and spaced the lines randomly. I tried to do the continuous binding technique on this quilt, too, but missed some important step it seems. No worries - it came out fine.

Quilting and borders and binding, oh my!

I enlisted the help of Mike for a quick photo shot:

BaBoJo quilt photo shot
In that one shot, I told him to love the quilt. He did a good job, eh?

Then, it was time to give the quilt to the parents-to-be. Referencing a seemingly old joke, we wrapped it in a tarp and presented it along with the other gifts. The shower invitation suggested we bring a 1/4 yard or more of fabric that reminded us of the parents-to-be with the hope that Kate could one day make a wonderful scrappy quilt from it. I thought it would be fun to wrap the tarp (which wrapped the quilt) with the remaining yard and half of the Make Life Silly fabric. Kate was initially very excited about the fabric more than the gift it wrapped, though that might be because she thought she was only getting a tarp.

Kate and Nate tell the story of the tarp.
Not surprisingly, it originated with my husband.

Kate gets a little verklempt as she realizes the
quilt's been for her wee one all along.

Thank you, once again, Kate, for turning me onto quilting. I cannot wait to meet your new little person and I hope that whatever you do, you make life silly!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A quilt for Alex

Before finishing the quilt for Iris, I knew that I wanted to make one for her older brother, Alex. In a moment of frustration (my machine needed service!), I visited Etsy and went crazy on fabric for an Alex-appropriate quilt: trains, planes, and diggers!


I followed no real pattern and actually spent a lot of time playing around with the different sequences before settling on a square and strip sort of thing.


I pushed the limits of my little Singer when quilting this one - I did wide, long zig zag stitch on the diagonal and then went back and did the same stitch horizontally. It turned out great - I just wish I had used construction site yellow instead of all purpose white thread.


The fabrics for this quilt were of different weights and I neglected to pre-shrink them. So, when I did wash the quilted top, I had some fraying. I used a short and wide zig zag stitch to pull those sections together and am not unhappy with how that turned out!


Using the technique that Kate showed me for the continuous binding, I finished off the quilt with different length scraps. Everything was ready just in time for a birthday ... nap!