Goodness.  I’m embarrassed that it’s been so long since I visited with you. The holidays, work, and a variety of factors kept me away from Between the Threads for over a month.  But I’m back with some nice projects to show for it.

During October, I spent some time at the loom weaving up 5 yards of material from Harrisville Shetland Wool cones.  It was a very nice twill structure and I used some handspun for a contrast.

Then I decided to full the fabric as I prepared to make a coat.  I threw it into the washer on hot, just for a few minutes. And then…. uh, I got distracted by my daughter who “needed to talk.”  Let’s just say that when I ran frantically to the washing machine to pull the fabric, it was felted beyond belief.  It was toast!  The part with the purple handspun was thick enough to use for a horse blanket.  Weave structure- gone! The magenta part at the top of the picture brightened considerably, but shrunk significantly so that a coat was out of the question.

Time to make lemonade:)  I needed a new purpose.  The purple accent fabric was cut off, doubled over, and now makes a nice surface for pressing on my ironing board. Then I went to a workshop one night at my local, independent fabric shop.  It was all about working with wool.  I raised my hand.  “Anyone have any suggestions for a this?”  I told my story and got ideas for a vest.

I’m not a big vest person.  They tend to look boxy on my short body.  But with little else to use it for, I got a nice pattern from Kwik Sew and set about making a vest.

The first order of business was making something flattering out of a thick wool felt.  It was all about reducing bulk.  I spent hours carefully fitting the pattern with added darts in the front and back and using ideas from Sandra Betzina on working with boiled wool.  In this picture, you can see one of the back pieces.  I used a diamond shaped dart to create shape, but instead of cinching the fabric together like a traditional dart, I cut out all the fabric.

I did this because Sandra says it takes out all the bulk.  It worked beautifully when I pressed the edges together and zig-zagged the seam after backing it with fusible interfacing.

You can’t even see the seam on the right side of the vest.  The thread is buried in the felt.  It was a cool trick.

Well, I eventually finished the vest before the holidays by putting a nice lining in it.

And I wore it for Christmas, adding earrings and a pin my husband gave me that morning which he had picked out specifically for the vest.

Tim Gunn always says, “Make it work.”  I think, this time, I did.

Juggling each part of my life is a skill I’m learning quite well.  Fitting fiber into the daily circus is yet another challenge; but I would say it’s a necessary one. It provides me with satisfaction–making something beautiful hopefully, and it gives a focus beyond meals, children, and my day job.  Sometimes, the little projects keep things on an even keel.

I finished this little project last weekend.  It sat waiting for months and after my friend Annie got me back on track, I was able to finish it.

I’ve had a bag full of fiber in my closet for the longest time.  I finally grabbed three hanks and spun them individually before plying.  It was a combination of mohair, wool, and suri alpaca.  I thought I wanted to make socks, but the fabric was too dense.  Maybe a hat, but I’ll have to see.

I did manage to warp my loom a couple of weeks ago when I had two solid days to devote to it.  This week, I’ve carved out time to weave.  The fabric on the bottom is hand-spun as weft, the top half is the same yarn as the warp, creating more of a textural pattern.  I hope to use this fabric for a coat.

Finally, I am busy planning another weaving project.  One of my guilds is studying krokbragd.  So I’m trying to figure out the yarns for the project.  I often use my “Yarn Store in a Box” from Halcyon Yarns for planning because there are so many sample cards to work with.

So I may not be able to juggle like a circus clown, but I can juggle projects and other responsibilities like a pro– most of the time.  Until I drop the ball.

I woke up to the first real frost of the season this morning.  While the lawns all had that beautiful sparkly crust, I had to sigh at the thought of things to come.  It was time to bring out the cozy scarves and gloves.

One thing I like about this season is a return to the  kitchen and some great fall cooking.  I joined an online group called “French Fridays with Dorie” which is cooking through the entire new cookbook of Dorie Greenspan.  Dorie is a classically trained chef and James Beard award winner who has just published “Around My French Table.”  It’s a masterwork and everything I’ve cooked has turned out beautifully.  She really embraces the art of writing with clear directions and plenty of personal insight.  It’s “old school” in an age of sloppy cooking on the Food Network. Dorie is the real thing.

Here are a couple of pictures of dishes I made using her great directions.

In addition to the Mustard Tart and Shepherd’s Pie (Hachis Parmentier), I’ve managed to put together a roast chicken to die for, apple cake, and gougeres (cheese puff appetizers).

I found that joining this club is a great way to sample all Dorie’s work.  The recipes are chosen according to season and availability of ingredients.  What fun I’ve had, and my family is pretty happy too.  Viva la Dorie!

I’ve got one of her books and a DVD, but there’s nothing like meeting Judith MacKenzie face to face.  I had the wonderful good fortune to be invited to the home of a new friend last weekend, who just happens to be friends with Judith.  While she was visiting this woman, they decided to host a workshop on Wheel Mechanics and Spinning the Diameter of Yarn You Want.  It was that great combination of learning and good fun.

I have found over the years, that the best instructors are those who combine technical knowledge with good storytelling abilities.  Jacey Boggs has that quality and Judith has it in spades.  This woman has had a full and interesting life!  And she shares her tales with gusto.

So you walk away from her workshops needing time to process all her wonderful tips about the science and art of spinning while also smiling about her stories, adventures and passion for history and experience.

It was an amazing day and I will treasure it.

I think it’s a universal feeling that we all need to “run away from home” once in a while.  Between a job, kids in school, homekeeping, and organizing guild workshops- a day in the country is in order to get me centered.  And on this amazing fall day last weekend, we took the bikes down to Gambier, Oh where it connects with the Kokosing Gap Rail-Trail. The trailhead is located near Kenyon College, lovely in its own right.

But our eyes were focused on the rural fall landscape where trees meet cornfields and the sound of cows and their abundant smell are in the air.

We make an annual trip to this trail because of it’s quiet beauty.  We are lost in our thoughts as we progress on the 13 mile trek.  My mind goes toward the colors and how they might inform my weaving.

We always visit the Kenyon Environmental Center adjacent to the trail.  There are gardens, hummingbird feeders, and a central Ohio fall landscape. 

 I hope you find the time to get away before the Fall colors disappear.  This beautiful season goes much too quickly.  Don’t let it pass you by.

Jacey Boggs taught a 2-day workshop for my guild last weekend. Now I know why she’s the rock star of fiber!  Both in style and technical know-how, this chick rocks it out of the park.

To make people feel comfortable, she wore a sweater at the beginning of class.  Then she explained to the mostly middle-aged crowd that she had tattoos and “did we mind” if she took off her sweater.  Yep, her arms are pretty covered, but the magic of her spinning instruction quickly overshadowed her body art.

Jacey offers instruction on a multiple of cool art yarns.  These aren’t just thrown together willy-nilly.  She has figured out the technical approach to making art yarns that can be controlled and duplicated with any fiber you choose. She also talked about what you can do with the yarns and feels they are particularly appropriate for accents to knitting and weaving projects.

Coils, fauxcle, corespinning, wrapping, attaching foreign objects, you name it, we tried it.  The group was so enthusiastic which made it particularly fun.

We were enchanted with Jacey’s winning personality and her straightforward approach to teaching us all her secrets.  She was a gem of an instructor.  We learned so much.

I would recommend a workshop by Jacey any day.  But book her now.  She is so popular, she is scheduling up to 2 years in advance.  By the way, I interviewed her for an episode of WeaveCast.  I am still editing the audio but when it’s ready to post, Syne Mitchell will be sure to put the word out.

Ann Arbor continues as a blogging theme this week because there was so much to see and do.  I can’t conclude this series without mentioning the delightful time we had at the Ann Arbor Sunday Artists Market in Kerrytown. 

On a leisurely Sunday morning, my husband and I strolled through the market looking at all the beautiful handmade items.  I was very fortunate to stumble upon this woman, making lovely baskets for sale.

Rose Clawson owns Baskets by Rose, a small company featuring her flat reed, handmade baskets.  I thought her prices were very reasonable too, so at the end of our visit, we walked back to our hotel with this lovely basket that now sits at the side of my loom holding supplies.

Shopping makes you hungry, so we walked into the covered food market and ordered from this crazy menu at the Kosmo Lunch Counter and the B-Bim-Bop was divine.

Good food, great handmade crafts.  It was a terrific morning.

This year marks the 120th anniversary of the birth of Agatha Christie.  It seems like as fitting time to admit that one of my guilty pleasures is collecting mysteries.  Over the years I’ve amassed a respectable collection of British tomes including books by my favorite, Dorothy Sayers, whose main character Lord Peter Wimsey is an icon of the golden age of mysteries.  Those Brits sure know how to write. Along the way I’ve discovered Josephine Tey (Inspector Grant), Gladys Mitchell (Dame Beatrice Lastrange Bradley), Patricia Wentworth (Maud Silver), and so many more.

Imagine my delight during my trip to Ann Arbor a few weeks ago, when I discovered the book shop Aunt Agatha’s, a mecca for the mystery lover.

Let me take you inside to see the treasure trove of mysteries this shop offers.

Let’s just say it took me a while to get through the place. Every nook and cranny had something interesting which I adore in a good independent bookstore. And while there were plentyof new titles offered, Aunt Agatha’s had a nice collection of used books.

I wrote earlier that I adore the old British mysteries and while I bought one of those, I actually ended up purchasing two old Annette Funicello mysteries.  Of course they are cheesy!  They were put out by Disney when she was one of the Mouseketeers, but I got one when I was a girl and they were irresistible!

Nancy Drew will never be topped, but Annette is still an icon of American culture and I will look forward to seeing her solve a mystery in her wholesome way.

My husband and I took a trip to the city of Ann Arbor a few weeks ago for our anniversary. In addition to taking a tasting tour of some great restaurants, we enjoyed walking the streets to get a feel for the local culture.  When we came upon a small city park, I was surprised to find trees decorated with knitted items.

Then it hit me that I had heard about this kind of display before in other cities, but just hadn’t seen it up close.  According to the tags on the scarves, it was the work of the “yarnabomber.”

I think this group exists to decorate public spaces but I couldn’t find much about it on the internet.  Their work sure beats graffiti!

Every tree in the park had some type of lovely knitted creation wrapped around it.  Cheers to the yarnabomber; may they decorate many more cities with beautiful fiber.

As summer comes to an end, I find that I am often pulled away from my spinning and weaving to tend to the ebb and flow of the garden.  After all, this is what we’ve been waiting for; the harvest after all this work is upon us. Tomatoes must get picked, eggplant cut from the vine. 

It’s been a very productive year for my tomatoes, eggplant and beans. 

When the harvest comes into full swing from the middle of August until halfway through September, I spend more time with my cookbooks to see all the ways I can use this wonderful bounty.

But all is not lost on the fiber front.  Many of these wonderful vegetables deserve a slow cook.  Once they are in the pot simmering away, I can usually grab a few minutes at the spinning wheel trying to make some headway on a pile of roving.

Life requires balance.  We need time for our food, rest and fiber…oh and work too:)