Saturday, December 29, 2012

Camp Verde, AZ

A few days ago, my family stopped by Camp Verde, AZ to visit my in-laws. On our way out, the kids asked if we could pause for a moment or so by the river near the house. Running water and trees? I'm so there. So I snapped a few shots along the way.


And, since this is sort of a crafting blog, here are a few of the items that I made for Christmas presents. The first is a pair of socks that I cranked out on my antique sock knitting machine. I was really proud of the way I got the stripes to match up on these!
And this is a necklace I put together for my daughter. The pendant is one that I bought from an artist last summer at Fibers Through Time. I made the chain from copper wire, using the Viking Wire Weaving technique. (Look over to the left there in my 'popular posts' for the link to the tutorial on how to do that.) I was really pleased with the way this turned out.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Photography, roses, cattail fluff, and serendipity

This is the picture I was going for today, for my 'picture a day' project. I have roses growing around an itty bitty pond in my front courtyard. The pond has a few cattails that have decided to grow in it, and my kids love playing with the cattail fluff. They'll grab a handful and just blow, making all sorts of dancing bits of fluff fill the air. So, my daughter thought it would be pretty to have the fluff fill the air around the rose. Both she and my son had a great time blowing fluff for me, and we eventually got the shot.

But...I looked over, and spotted something else just as cool. So I kept shooting, but changed where I was aiming without my son being aware of it. Is this not an awesome shot? I so want to title it, "I DO believe in fairies!!" It looks like he has a glowing creature cradled in his hands. I love it.

So, what did I learn today? Remember to look all around you! Sometimes the coolest capture is not what you're focused on originally.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Juggling balls and restocking the shop

Now that most of the Christmas crafting is done, I'm starting to pay attention to my poor neglected Etsy shop again. My stock there has been dwindling down, and it is time to do something about that. So today I started taking photographs of some of the juggling balls sets that I had lying around. They had been in a little craft store, but unfortunately it was a victim of the struggling economy and closed its doors earlier this year. So I had some back stock. While I was updating, I got a request for a custom set of juggling balls, in blues and greens. I figured while I was at it, I'd make up a whole batch of a half dozen sets in some of the more popular color patterns. So, before dinner I spent awhile wrapping golf balls in wool roving.
After dinner, I rolled up my sleeves and got into the physical part of the process. I coat my hands with a drop of the dish soap, pick up one of the proto-balls, and soak the bundle under some hot running tap water. Then I toss the ball back and forth between my hands, rolling it around and around, until the wool shrinks down and velcros itself together. Once I had them all well felted, I threw the whole lot into the dryer to tumble around for a final hardened finish. Man, that many golf balls in the dryer are loud!
I'll be taking more pictures and getting these up in the shop over the next few days. Time to re-stock!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Beginning to look a lot like Christmas

The Christmas cards are mailed, the packages to distant family are shipped, and today the family took the afternoon off and we put up the tree together. Yes, it really is as tall as it looks! I have to stand on a step stool to decorate the top branches, and I still can't reach the star. My son can, though. How did I get to be the tiny one in the family? I can remember the days when I used to be big... Anyway, there is still some shopping to do for the in house folks, and maybe some more cookie baking to do. We've already gone through a batch of my great-great-grandmother's cookies. They were fun to make with the kids (kids = young adults at this point, but they are still my kids!), and made a lovely late night indulgence the other evening with a bowl of peppermint stick ice cream and a hot mug of licorice spice tea.

I have a few more projects that I want to finish up (pictures after Christmas), but now that the tree is up I can pretty much relax and enjoy. I do so love this season!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Daily moments and Chrismas presents

I'm going to pop some filler pictures in here, that I've been taking for my 'picture a day' project. Now, if you are one of my close relatives, don't scroll down past these pictures until after Christmas. The rest of you? Wander on down to see what I've been up to as you choose.

I've been putting the lights on the Christmas tree...

And enjoying the roses blooming in my front garden...
Noticing the textures in the orange grove near work...
And enjoying quiet moments in the studio. (Actually this is my son holding his trombone behind the candle. But it counts as quiet because he wasn't actually playing at the time.)

Annnd..... (Relatives all gone yet?)
Very busily weaving 6 sets of 4 napkins for my extended family. This started out as white 10/2 mercerized perle cotton for the warp. I hand painted the warp with four colors of brown/rust/cream, using the method I showed you all in this post: . Then I used solid colors of 10/2 cotton for the weft, making it so each set of napkins was unique. Total time in the project was 30 1/2 hours, which means these napkin sets are too labor intensive to make for sale at a reasonable price. But they'll make lovely Christmas presents, don't you think?

And this is why I haven't been posting much recently. My family reads my blog here, and I didn't want to post process pictures of their presents and spoil the surprise. But I figure they can stand it for one post a year. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Everyday Beauty

I'm working on Christmas presents right now, which means that I can't show you all what I've got going on in the studio until later on. So, instead, I'll be posting some of the shots from my 'picture a day' project.

Sometimes, the moments of quiet ordinary beauty can be breathtaking. If we stop to notice them.

(This is simply the sun shining through onto the table while I was making a fresh batch of sun tea.)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Yard Work

There hasn't been much going on in my studio for the past little while, because I've been up to my eyeballs in yard work.

The temperatures here in the Phoenix desert were nasty hot this past summer, so all that lovely yard work got put off...and put off...and put off. But the heat has broken, and the weather is absolutely wonderful out there once again. So I have spent several weeks outside each day, trimming and weeding and sweeping and generally cleaning up. Along the way I weeded out my courtyard and planted my fall garden. It looks like this now.

That window there leads to my studio. I've refilled the hummingbird feeder that hangs right outside, and the birds are back again. I love looking up from my work to watch the flying jewels when I hear the buzz of their wings. The pond there in the middle has a little waterfall that leads down into it, so I also get the trickle of falling water as music for my work when I have my window open enjoying the breeze.

In the side yard, I removed a sapling, trimmed back my rosemary bushes (and made rosemary bread from the trimmings), and gathered up most of the river rock that was strewn about the yard. Combined with some stepping stones, I think I made a lovely winding pathway from the driveway through the side yard to the street.

And yes, that is my Studio Cat there inspecting the new pathway. She makes it her duty to keep an eye on whatever project it is that I'm up to. Like, fixing the pump for the pond, which I also did as part of this yard work binge.

In the back yard, things have gotten generally mowed and picked up. And, I spent several days taking out the patch of dead bamboo. Remember that I said that the temperatures here were nasty hot this summer? It finally did away with my bamboo patch. Not one sprout came up this season, and the remaining stalks dried up and turned brown. So, out it came. Now I have all of this lovely dried bamboo stacked against my house, waiting for inspiration. I turned last year's harvest into a grape arbor. Hmmm...what should I do with this batch?

I'm sure something will come to me. In the meantime, the yard is looking much better, and I got compliments from several trick-or-treaters yesterday as the Halloween crowd came around.

Now...I should probably get back to the studio!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Dreaming of a move

My 'baby' boy turned 18 recently, and he graduates high school this year. Now, when my (now 20 year old) daughter first started school in kindergarten, we took a pact to try to remain in one place and one house while the kids were growing up and in their school years. We wanted to give them a time of stability and continuity as a foundation for going forward. So we found a lovely house in the Phoenix, AZ suburbs, and it has served us well. baby boy is graduating this year, and heads off to join his sister at college next fall. That means, should we choose, that we are no longer tied to this house. For the sake of jobs and local family, we'll still stay in the Phoenix area. But sometime between when we moved in here and now, the powers that be put a big mucking football stadium within walking distance --and earshot-- of our house. I'm starting to feel kind of closed in here, as what used to be farmers fields in the neighborhood are filled with arenas, outlet malls, and apartment complexes. It is almost time to move back out beyond the borders of the urban crowding.

So, I've started looking and house listings, and dreaming. And you know one of the things that excites me most about this possible opportunity? I just might be able to find a place where I can expand my studio!

I currently use what used to be our guest bedroom. It is jam packed with looms and sewing machines and bookshelves and storage totes and cutting tables and...and... And I just don't have enough room to work on more than one project at a time. If I have the loom unfolded for a weaving project, there isn't enough space to open up the cutting table to do silk painting. If I have the loom folded up and shoved over so I can get to the sewing machine, I'm blocked from getting in to the sock knitting machine. Etc. Wouldn't it be awesome to find a place where I can spread out, and really flex my creative muscles?

I looked at one house that had a separate apartment down in the basement. Hmmm...main room for the looms and such, a bedroom for storage, and a complete kitchen where I could do the silk painting and dyeing. Very intriguing!

Then I found another listing that had a whole separate 1 bedroom house tucked in behind the main house. Imagine the fun of taking over an entire house for playing with creativity! And if I was in a separate building, I could set aside the fact that I really 'ought' to be doing laundry, or dishes, or vacuuming, or... I'd be away, and at work. But still close enough to trot across the yard home when I needed to. Which means I could still be doing 1 am weaving projects. Love it.

So many possibilities...

After my son graduates. It will be next summer at the earliest, and then we'll see what we can find when. is a fun mental game. I don't take to change easily, so taking 8 months or so to mull the idea over in my brain means that when the time comes, I should be able to leave here.

So...what would be my ideal studio...?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

weaving and slippers

I realized that I hadn't posted the finished picture from my most recent weaving project. I had made a hand painted warp, and then used three different weft colors to make three different garments on the same warp. On the left in the picture above is the dark greyed blue weft. In the middle is the maroon. And on the right is the light blue. I love how the colors blended to make three different looking fabrics!

The fabric on the left has already been cut and sewn into a ruana, and is out the door and sold. The other two are sitting on my loom staring at me, telling me to get back to the sewing machine already. They want to be finished, so I can start on my next batch of fabric. But I have been down this whole week with a nasty cold and a persistent case of the Idon'twannas. Next week. I'll get back to work when I can see straight.

In the meantime, I'm going to kick back, put my feet up, and enjoy the fact that the weather is finally cool enough to enjoy wearing my hand felted wool slippers. Ahhhh..............

Monday, October 1, 2012

Weaving sun beams

I love weaving in the afternoon, with the lowering sun streaming in through the studio windows. I took a picture while I was sitting there, and loved it so much that I had to share with you all.

I just switched to my third color of weft yarn, so I should have this woven off with about 4 more hours of active work. I am really, really loving this fabric!

Now, off the computer and back to work.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Ready to Weave...

There! The loom is warped. 10 hours of active work time into the project, and I can 'start weaving'. That is 408 pieces of yarn, all 43 feet long, dyed and transferred to the loom under the same tension and with no tangles. I suspect it will take me about another 12 hours to weave it all off.

My next step, after weaving the header, will be to sample different weft colors. I added about a foot to the length of the warp for this purpose, so I can play and see which color combinations I like best. I picked out three weft yarns at the beginning of the project (one for each ruana/shawl), and have three other ones to try just because I have them on hand. The other benefit of sampling for the first foot of the weaving? By the time I'm done, the edges of the weaving will have drawn in to their working size, so I'll have a consistent width in the finished ruanas.

Here's hoping it all works like I have envisioned!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Threading the Heddles

I'm still working on getting my loom warped up for the next set of ruanas. I've dyed the yarn, sleyed it through the reed, and today I'm in the process of threading the heddles. To do this part, I have to take the back beam off and sit down right inside the loom. That puts things at a really convenient angle to work with. And I even have a head rest of sorts.


Here's my view from inside the loom. Each individual piece of yarn gets threaded through the eye of one of those metal heddles. That makes it so I can raise and lower various threads when I get to the actual weaving portion of the project.

This part of the process though? It is kind of tedious. And I can only work for about a half of an hour before my legs fall asleep. So it is kind of slow going today, as I keep getting up and then getting distracted by this bright shiny thing called the internet...

Oh yeah. Internet. Like what I'm doing right now. Off the computer and back to work!!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Marking the order of warp chains for dyeing

It was a pretty laid back day today. But I did manage to get the freshly colored warp chains transferred over to the loom, and put them back in the same order that they were in on the dyeing table. I'm happy to say that writing numbers with a sharpie on scraps of plastic bag worked well. I tied the numbered bits of plastic on the ends of the warp chains before dyeing them. They came through the dyeing process without the numbers washing away. Yay! Anyway, now to warp the loom with the pretty pretty yarn.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Tutorial: Warp Painting

Earlier this summer, I wove this prototype hand-painted cotton ruana/shawl. I loved the way it turned out so much that I'm in the process of making three more for the Etsy shop. (If they make it that far. I've got tentative nibbles on two of the three already.) This week I've been working on measuring and painting the warp. A couple of folks have asked me how I do that, so I took some pictures as I went along. I used 3/2 Valley mercerized perle cotton from Webs ( and the Dharma fiber reactive Procion dyes ( (In fact, all of the various powders and such are from Dharma.) So the specific instructions are for that combination, but you could use the basic idea with whichever dye system and fiber you're working with.

How to Paint a Warp

-cotton warp yarn
-Dharma fiber reactive Procion dyes in various colors
-Soda ash fixative

Tools (Note: do NOT use any of these items for cooking ever again!)
-measuring cups
-measuring spoons
-wooden spoon
-bin for mixing chemical water
-smaller bins for the dyes
-sponge brushes
-saran wrap
-breathing mask
-rubber gloves

Chemical water = 3/4 c urea + 1 qt water
Dye = 1 c chemical water + 1 tsp soda ash fixer + dye to taste (about 2 tsp)

First, measure out your warp. I'm going to assume you already know how to do this part. In this case, I made warp chains that will be 3" wide.
Instead of tying up your warp with the typical choke ties, use a looser figure 8 tie. This will keep things pretty much in order, but the dye will be able to get under the tie to the yarn. The first time I tried this I tied things too tightly, and ended up with white stripes. It was a cool effect, but not what I wanted this time around. (It would be fun to experiment with, though!)
Chain up your warp to keep it under control. This is another thing I'm assuming you already know how to do, so I can keep the tutorial focused just on the dyeing.
Toss your warp in a bucket of water to soak for awhile. This will let the dye penetrate more evenly and completely.
Gather up your materials.
Protect your work surface with long strips of cellophane wrap.
Wring out your warp chains. Lay them on the cellophane strips, leaving an inch or so gap between each one and an inch or so at the edges. If your warp is shorter than your work space, you've got it easy. If not, you can do what I did and work in sections. I've got the still chained ends of the warp hanging off my table into totes, so I don't get water all over my floor.
If you want to get your warp chains on the loom in the same order that they're laid out on the table, you'll need to mark the chains somehow. I've used plastic with water proof marker here. I've also tied a string onto the end of the chains with one, two, three, four, etc. knots.
Now it is time to mix up your dye. First, make up your chemical water. For my 14+ yard long warp I ended up using almost 4 quarts. You can mix up more as you go along though, so no need to go overboard.
Put on your dust mask and gloves. You don't want this stuff in your lungs. Mix up your dyes. I made a cup of each color at a time, and mixed more as needed as I went along. (The recipe is up at the top of this tutorial.)
Now for the fun part! Wet down your sponge brush and have at it. The colors will wick up the cotton yarn, and blend into each other where they meet. Know your color theory as to which colors will blend to give you which effects. Colors that are across the color wheel from each other will give you more earthy tones. I chose wine red, turquoise, cobalt blue, and black, to keep things in the red/purple/blue range.

Check to make sure the color is saturating all of the yarn. Turn it over to look on the bottom. Squish the color around with your fingertips. You want enough dye to saturate, but not so much that you end up dripping onto the floor. (I did anyway. I'm a messy artist.) (Having some paper towels around won't hurt.)

When you're done painting your current section of warp, fold the edges of the saran wrap in over the yarn. Start at the far end, and roll up the warp and saran wrap toward the unpainted end.
Lay out another strip of saran wrap, and carefully carry your roll of painted warp back down to the end of the table.
Straighten out the next section of warp to be painted.
Back to the fun part!
When you are all done painting, transfer your warp rolls into something that you don't mind getting dye on. (They'll ooze). Make sure your tote doesn't have a hole in the bottom, or you'll have an awful mess. Trust me on that one. Now, leave the yarn and dye to sit for 12 to 24 hours. This will set the dye.
So, the next day unroll your warp bundles somewhere where you don't mind things getting a little messy.
Re-chain up your warp. Now it is safe to move it around again without much fear of tangles.
Take your wet drippy colorful bundle of warp, and rinse it out with cool running water until all the excess dye is washed away. I dumped mine in the shower this time.
Hang the chains to dry. Now you're ready to warp up your loom!