January 2010

Whenever I’m lucky enough to spend some time outside, without having to rush somewhere, I try to focus my mind on the natural world around me.  After I learned to spin and weave, I began to notice how the colors of nature, even in winter, would be perfect color design combinations in fiber projects. For example, look at the photo my son took while hiking in one of the Cleveland Metroparks.

  First of all, I’m amazed that these small plants can remain green in the middle of winter in Northeast Ohio.  But on further inspection, I’m struck by the colors that work so beautifully together.  There’s green, a reddish brown, dark brown and light tan all of which would look terrific together woven in wool; maybe for a wool coat.

Driving back and forth to his college in Northwest Ohio, I was constantly amazed at the colors of the plants just off the roadside or the stumps of crops in the farmers field.  Winter still delights with color even if it’s subdued.

And then there are the design possibilities.  This abstract makes me think of Native American designs.

I’m not a tapestry weaver, but I think that would be the appropriate technique in this case.

As I rush from one appointment to another, day to day, I am thankful that the time I spend spinning and weaving slows me down long enough to notice the quieter details of life.  They are right outside my window, somewhere in my hometown, or along the roadsides I travel.  What a beautiful, colorful gift.

Double Weave Pick-Up Mug Rugs

Last Fall I purchased an 8-shaft table loom so I could weave small projects and have a portable loom to transport to workshops.  Fortunately I discovered a used Mountain Loom on eBay and won the auction.  In preparation for an upcoming workshop on painted warps this Spring, I thought it would be wise to understand the loom by trying a small project from a Weaver’s Craft magazine I purchased a few years ago.

These double-weave pick-up mug rugs ended up being fairly challenging.  First of all I had never tried double weave and the pick-up part of it was pretty confusing.  After reading and re-reading the article numerous times, I dove in and promptly screwed up the first two mug rugs.  But eventually, the logic sunk in and I prevailed.  The results are three sufficiently lovely mug rugs which have an inverted pattern on each side.

These designs were included in the magazine.  Now I think I’ll trying graphing out my own designs with different colors and themes.

My husband is the oldest of six children, so lucky for me, he grew up with many skills–cleaning the house, fixing numerous household gadgets, diapering his little sister all those years ago, AND some pretty decent talent in the kitchen.  While I do most of the day to day cooking for our family, he has moments of great kitchen inspiration.  Lately it’s been bread.

By happy chance, I was reading Gourmet magazine (the last to go to print) when I saw a review of My Bread, by Jim Lahey.  His “no-knead” bread technique became famous when Mark Bittman of the New York Times featured his methods in a column a few years ago.  It took Lahey a while to write a book on the subject but it was worth the wait.  I ordered it from the library and my husband has been making bread for weeks.

No Knead Bread

Pan co' Santi- Raisin Walnut Bread

The kids and I are getting spoiled.  Every few days when I arrive home from work, another magical loaf awaits.

Stout Brown Bread

Guinness Extra Stout is one of the ingredients in the bread, but why not drink it as part of the meal too.
And now for dessert…..

Chocolate Coconut Bread

I can’t wait to cut into that Rye Bread he made yesterday!

For more of Pat’s food photography, including our food adventures in Italy, visit his Flickr site.

I am new enough at weaving that  I am still trying different weave structures for the first time.  One of my guilds decided to spend the year exploring the Summer and Winter weave.  This is a structure that weaves one pattern on one side and the complete opposite on the other side.

Since I have an 8-shaft Louet David loom, I can work with four pattern blocks using all 10 of my treadles. The threading was straight forward, however I’m still not sure I understand  the tie-up.  But I don’t think you have to completely understand something before you dive in.  It all seems to be working out nicely.

Summer and Winter towels

On the underside, the pattern is inverted.  This project will net me two lovely towels with enough left over (I hope) to provide samples to my guild.

One of the frustrations of this project that actually led to an interesting learning process was that I couldn’t seem to find 10/2 unmercerized cotton in anything other than a natural or cream color.  So I purchased blue Procion dye, wound off enough for the weft and dyed the yarn in my basement.  One of the guild members generously donated soda ash as the fixative.  I was so happy with the results.

10/2 cotton-warp natural, weft blue

I take particular pleasure in learning new things.  Summer and Winter has been so much fun, I think I’ll explore it again.

I went with my family last night to an amazing lecture at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.  Deia Scholosberg and Gregg Treinish (who grew up in Northeast Ohio) talked about their 7,800 mile trek Across the Andes in South America.  For almost 2-years this couple put together a route that used old Inca roads, trade routes and paths to walk the spine of the Andes.  Besides the weather and hacking through forests, the two battled typhoid fever and a variety of parasites to reach the tip of South America at the Tierra del Fuego in Argentina.

Gregg and Deia

The sold out audience was spellbound as the couple talked about the people they met, the cultures they experienced and the dangers they encountered. My husband, two boys and I spent a couple of hours afterward over a beer talking about what motivates people to tackle such difficult dreams.

Natives of Peru encountered on the hike

Gregg and Deia are wilderness guides and had a great deal of hiking experience before they approached the Andes, but nonetheless, it was a journey that required a great deal of tenacity.  The National Geographic Society was so impressed by their feat, they named them the 2008/2009 Adventurers of the Year.

Now Gregg and Deia are graduate students at Montana State University.  Their next adventure will be mounting an expedition this summer in the Northern U.S. Rockies to understand the ecosystem of the Northern Continental Divide.  You can read more about their plans at Connecting the Gems.

I belong to two spinning and weaving guilds in my community and I’ve had the good fortune to meet many interesting and talented people.  One of them is Mary Louise Van Dyke, a weaver for over 60 years who has done amazing ecclesiastical pieces for her Episcopal church in Oberlin, Ohio.

Advent altar frontal

Her work is so special that I interviewed her for an episode of WeaveCast.   We met in her church with Allison, the sacristan, who cares for the woven pieces.  For two years, Mary Louise labored at the four harness loom located in her retirement community, painstakingly placing each design thread in it’s place using the Theo Moorman technique.

In addition to the Advent frontal based on “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” she also wove another large green frontal for “ordinary time” based on the Tree of David.  To see many of her other pieces, view them at my Flickr site.

Ordinary time green altar frontal

The worship experience is greatly enhanced when the altar is adorned with the beautiful  work of an artist who understand Biblical symbolism.  Mary Louise’s work is a gift to everyone who visits and worships in her church sanctuary.

Every life consists of one cloth continually woven from birth to death.  Some threads are fragile, others unbroken; colors and hues undulate through various spectrums or seasons of life.  The structure of the weave can go from plain to complicated, weft and warp going in opposite directions but ultimately creating a life fabric with many interesting patterns.

Shuttle, threads, cloth

And so it goes with my life.  As a lover and student of fibers I see how my spinning and weaving reflects life around me.  The threads of my life are my family and friends; people provide the structure.  But “between the threads” are all the things that make life so amazing, all the discoveries that fascinate me.

I tend to think that this interest in everything is what led to a career in journalism.  Isn’t journalism all about being curious?  Curious about people and their stories, curious about the created, natural world; books; history; cooking; artisan craftsman.

I always tell my children to ask questions–about everything.  Don’t be afraid to be interested in what other people do and ask about the threads of their lives.

This blog is about where my curiosity takes me and some of the interesting people and stories I discover along the way.  I hope you’ll join me in this journey.