Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Easter is Coming and So Are Our Spring Shows

Easter is just days away now.  How did that happen, lol?  Am I the only one who thinks they have more time than there actually is?  I've been doing more spring cleaning -- washed some windows this past weekend (because I couldn't see out of them they were so dirty) and raked and pulled weeds and mulched a bit.  The warm weather has been wonderful.  I love sleeping with the windows open.  We are having fierce April showers today, with lots of wind, and the temperature is going to drop a bit, but spring is definitely here.

Spring brings with it a host of fiber festivals -- all those wooly sheep are ready to be sheared! Our first show this season is the 105th Connecticut Sheep, Wool, & Fiber Festival at the Tolland Agricultural Center in Vernon, Ct.  It will be held Saturday, April 26, 2014 from 9 am until 4 pm.  There will be workshops and seminars, sheep dog trials, a spinning bee, a fleece sale, vendors, food and lots more.  Barb and I will be in the Green Barn, so come and see us!  We'll be debuting some new patterns and creations for your pleasure!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Dan Tracy Designs

Meeting creative people is one of the best things about vending at fiber festivals. I met woodworker Dan Tracy at last year's Long Island Fleece and Fiber Fair (coming up on May 17 & 18 this year).  Dan had a beautiful array of hand-turned wooden bowls, knitting needles, crochet hooks, and buttons.  I was particularly taken with his hand made tools -- I loved the feel of the wood in my hands.  How can wood feel so much like silk?  I suggested he try his hand at rug hooks, and gave him one of mine to take home.  (I am a collector of hooks, both old and new, so I have plenty to share.) It wasn't long before he sent me a rug hook of his own making -- he even wrought the actual hook from brass. The handle is made of spalted maple (spalting is the discoloration that occurs in wood from stress or fungus affecting a tree while it is alive).  Isn't it a beauty?  I love it.  The brass hook is nice and deep which makes grabbing wool strips easy, and the handle fits my hand just right.

It wasn't long before Dan made more hooks . . .  and started making proddy tools after he discovered that many rug hookers make prodded rugs too.  He uses a variety of woods:  buckthorn, curly maple, cherry, apple, spalted maple --  some natural, some dyed -- each one more beautiful than the last.  He makes pencil hooks as well as regular hooks, and he offers a variation in the length and width of the shafts and the handles, so you are sure to find one you love.  He signs each hook, too.   

These are not just hooks to last your lifetime, they are heirlooms!

A rug hooker mentioned snippet bowls to Dan recently, so of course, he made some snippet bowls.  He sent me pictures of them.  They were all lovely, but I confessed that I am a slob, and my snippets all land on the floor until I force myself to get out the vacuum and suck them up.  A few days later, my very own personalized snippet bowl arrived in the mail.  Dan is not just a great woodworker, he's a really nice and thoughtful guy.

I will be selling Dan's hooks and proddy tools at the shows Barb and I do this year, so if you want to test one out, come by our booth. (Go to the Shows and Events tab in the navigation bar above to see where we'll be this year.) Of course, you can contact Dan yourself at his website: Dan Tracy Designs, where you can see a video of Dan in action and read about his process.  He's also on etsy and Facebook. Dan will be here live and in person for the Long Island Fleece and Fiber Fair at Hallockville next month, so stop by and see him and his exquisitely made wood work.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Spring Cleaning

Pete had to fly out to Phoenix for a funeral last weekend, so I took some time to get a little more organized.  I spent a lot of my time on the beach during our too brief vacation in February figuring out how to make our house, and particularly my studio,  more efficient.  I cleaned out the living room cupboards (we got rid of almost all our old records and video tapes) and rearranged the furniture as soon as we got back, but I put off tackling the studio until now. 

I have multiple projects going at any one time, and I am always losing things.  I tried using baskets -- I love handmade baskets and have quite a collection of them -- but they are all different sizes and shapes and I don't want to stick labels to them.  So I found these great plastic bins by Sterlite (I know -- plastic is bad and not biodegradable, but these will last me forever) that are not only the perfect size for a lot of my partially made projects, but are stackable!

I used my trusty Brother P-Touch ( a Christmas gift from Pete a few years ago) to make labels for each basket.  I have them stacked neatly on a table in my studio.  No more fishing through multiple unmarked baskets.  And I love that if I want to take something upstairs to work on in front of the television at night, I can just grab a basket and everything is right where it should be.

I also spent time organizing my worms -- all those leftover strips of wool fabric from previous rug projects.  I had set up this system using an old TV cart and some  bins a couple of years ago, but I have been lax in putting the leftovers away.  I had bags of them all over the place.  When I'm finished using the wool, the cart rolls right under my work table, out of sight.

  Cleaning up all the clutter made a big difference in my work space.  So now it is back to work!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Easter's On Its Way

My sister Barb has been at it again.  She's created a bunch of cute, colorful creatures to celebrate the season.  Visit her at thimblefolk to see more.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

New Season, New Rug

Paisley Sheep
While I have not -- obviously -- been writing, I have been working.  This rug, Paisley Sheep, has been in my brain for a couple of years.  It has changed some since the initial design -- I always thought it would have a black background -- but it is one of those rugs that hooked up quickly, because all the work was done in my head.  I love when that happens, and I LOVE this rug.

The sheep's coat is made from the Standing Wool Rug technique, another rag rug technique that I learned from Nola Heidbreder and her sister Linda Pietz years ago in a class called "Historic Rugs".  Lots of people incorporate this technique into their mats these days -- they are often called "quillies" after the Victorian paper craft of quilling.  I like to stick with the original name, but I don't stick with the original technique.  I like to shape my circles using a needle and thread, squeezing and manipulating them as I go, often using layers of different colored wool.  I love to do it, but it takes a lot of time, as every piece is hand sewn and then applied to the linen backing before I begin hooking.  I've used the same technique to add interesting edges to smaller mats as well.

The leaves and paisley shapes in the background are hooked with by sister Barb's hand-dyed wools -- the colors are Irish Moss, Watermelon, Citron, Vintage Teal, Mango, and Nova Lox.  You can find them in her etsy shop: thimblefolk.  The brown is my own hand-dye, Hedgehog Brown.  I decided, once I had the body of the sheep completed, that a black wool background would create too harsh a contrast.  The brown worked out just right.

The finished mat measures approximately 18 by 20 inches -- not too big.  The pattern will be available in my etsy shop shortly. Click here to get there: The Paisley Studio.

Happy Spring!  The warm weather can't be too far away.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

On the March

I'm so happy to see the back end of February. Even though there is still snow on the ground and the thermometer read 18 degrees when I woke this morning, the days are getting longer, the sun is growing stronger, and the birds are returning to Greenport. March means spring is drawing near!

A few weeks ago a large flock of robins (what were they doing here so early?) descended on our front porch, eating all the winterberries from the Christmas bouquet in my sap bucket.  I watched them for a while, flitting and flying against the monochromatic background of white snow and gray sky.  I thought about how their wings are sort of paisley-shaped and wouldn't it be fun to hook a whimsical bird with paisley designs all over it? I decided to design a new pattern called Birds and Branches. It's a fairly large mat, to fit the piece of linen left over after I draw a White Whale Tavern pattern.  (I am always trying to find a way to piece together my patterns so that I don't waste any costly linen.)  

I measured the piece of linen and did the arithmetic to have the pattern fall with a four inch border, but, of course, I measured wrong and the pattern is too big.  Arrgh.  Measure twice, cut once.  I'm now in the process of redrawing the pattern to fit the linen.

The bird pattern sparked another paisley-centric design, this time with a sheep instead of birds.  I have paisley on the brain, obviously.  I also have sheep and fiber festivals on the brain -- our show season will start in a month and a half with the 105th Connecticut Sheep and Wool Festival on April 26, 2014, followed by the Long Island Fleece and Fiber May 17 and 18, 2014.  I want to have lots of new stuff for our customers, so I'd better get down to business!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Its All We Talk About . . .

Snow.  More snow.  It is snowing here right now.  It is all anyone is talking about. We shovel it and make snowmen and post pictures of it on Instagram.  My next door neighbor texted me a photograph of our house in the gloaming the other day, saying how beautiful it looked.  It does look beautiful.  Warm and cozy.

Our trip to St. John went a long way toward making the winter bearable for me.  Also, there have been days of absolutely brilliant blue skies and sunshine.  I notice the sun rising earlier and setting later, and there are lots more birds singing lots more songs.  Still, I am really weary of winter.  The weathermen are predicting temperatures close to 50 by Friday.  We shall see.  I have a feeling this isn't over yet.