Feb 24
Haunted buildings and knitted art
icon1 basicallybenita | icon2 News | icon4 02 24th, 2009| icon3No Comments »

This past weekend, Scott and I were to be guest speakers at a writer’s convention, only to have the wintery-mix type of weather cause most of the writers to cancel at the last minute. Still, we met some interesting people and caught up with old friends at a building in Converse, Indiana, that has a reputation of being haunted. The building is in the process of being restored (it has housed everything from a surgery, to a dentist office, to a local KKK chapter, to a brothel, to a gambling den, to the local Odd Fellow’s lodge and is currently the location of the Wood Carver’s Guild).

The third floor of the building had been added by the Odd Fellows sometime around the turn of the last century and, as you can tell by the picture below, still retains some of the simple beauty that was once this massive room. They have applied for a grant to restore the windows and I hope they get it. Several of the rooms have been restored on the first and second floors, and part of the third floor is being renovated. This large meeting hall is being used for storage and a restoration staging area and, most likely, will be restored last. And, yes, there really was an old fashioned wheel chair in here. I took several pictures of it because one of the characters in Johnny Saturn is currently confined to one of this style.

Then, Sunday, we made it back to Indianapolis in time to go to the open studio session at the Indianapolis Art Center. It was a packed house and I hadn’t been able to be there for a few weeks so it was good to see all our friends.

Here is me knitting on my alpaca scarf. As you can see, it is now long enough to keep me warm as I knit.

While I was sitting and knitting, I happened to notice an easel sitting near me. The paint splotches on it were amazingly close to the colors in my scarf. So here is my work-in-progress on the easel. It may not be a work of art, but it sure made an artful pose!

Here is the scarf knitted from the Thermograph yarn I spun the past summer. I liked the easel so much that I posed this scarf on it as well. The knitter and owner of this scarf calls it “Summer Sunset”.

This next weekend is the annual Spinning Retreat at Lindenwood in Donaldson, Indiana. I have my clothes already packed for it and know what I’ll be taking to spin. I hope to finish up the superwash BFL that I started a couple of months ago, and then I want to respin the Targhee that I dyed this past summer in indigo and cochineal. If I get all that done, then I’ll start plying the Targhee yarn. I’d love to get it onto the loom later this summer and weave the fabric I intend it to be.

And lastly, I finally got the latest issue of SWIFT News out in the mail. With 7 spinning samples to be attached into each and every issue, it took longer to assemble than I had anticipated, but it is soooo worth it! I love having something for the members to actually see live and the touchability of these items make it all worth while.

Feb 20
Knitting cartoon
icon1 basicallybenita | icon2 News | icon4 02 20th, 2009| icon3No Comments »

Here is a really cute webcomic Scott found for me. The website is www.knitprincess.com and it’s brand new. I really liked this one.

Feb 19
The Lonely Sockie
icon1 basicallybenita | icon2 News | icon4 02 19th, 2009| icon3No Comments »

The Lonely Sockie
By Benita Story

My hand-knit sockie is so pretty
Hanging there on its frame.
The colors, they are the brightest,
Like some flowers I could name.

Oh, this sweet hand-knit sockie,
So alone in all the world,
Wishes it had a pretty mate
So let it be knit and purled.

One day the lonely sockie,
If its warmest wish come true,
Will have another mated sockie
So that its heart won’t be blue.

Feb 18
Another workshop is scheduled!
icon1 basicallybenita | icon2 News | icon4 02 18th, 2009| icon3No Comments »

Just to let you know, there will be another beginning weaving workshop the weekend of June 12-14, 2009.

If you want to learn how to weave and live in central to east-central Indiana (or in west central Ohio), please join us for a fun and instructive weekend!

Feb 17
Keeping my eye on the prize
icon1 basicallybenita | icon2 News | icon4 02 17th, 2009| icon3No Comments »

It’s that time of year when most of my waking hours seem to be spent doing something related to taxes. That’s okay since I like math, love being organized and enjoy getting a paycheck on a regular basis.

But this does not mean that part of my mind hasn’t been on the things I love most and that’s doing something with fiber. I’m antsy to get a loom warped, but that isn’t going to happen in the near future because I’m about to take everything out of my studio to tear out the carpet, install hard wood flooring and replace all the woodwork in there. Once I get this done and the studio reassembled, then I have to continue this floor installation and woodwork replacement down the hall and into a bedroom. I have the feeling, though, that once my studio is back where it belongs, I will have to spend some time warping just so I can weaving while giving my knees a rest.

One thing that helps me get through these dark days of taxes is this:

This is a reminder of where I’d rather be and what I really love in life. These sit on my desk at work, right in front of my computer monitor so I can see them all day long. The little shepherdess is named Melody because she looks like she’s humming while she works. They make me very happy when I glance their way.

This past weekend was spent working on the house and getting this next issue of SWIFT News ready for the printer. This issue is 32 pages long and has 7 live spinning samples in it donated from the some of the members of SWIFT just for this issue. These samples cover everything from a beginner’s spinning, to the finest silk, to a cabeled yarn, to an incredible blend of 13 different protein fibers. Very interesting, indeed! I can’t wait to get this issue out into everyone hands so they can see it for themselves.

Other than that, I’m still working on my scarf (I’d show it to you, but it looks the same – only longer), and the currently idle library shawl has been snorting derisively from inside the drawer behind me at work. It is getting impatient to be completed. As soon as I have the scarf done, I will get back to work on it. I hope it isn’t so angry with me for ignoring it that it tangles up all the yarn on me and makes me sit through hours of sorting and untying it all. From the noises coming from the drawer, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to open it and see a bird’s nest of dark green wool waiting for me.

Feb 11
Review of Shear Spirit
icon1 basicallybenita | icon2 News | icon4 02 11th, 2009| icon31 Comment »

One of the hardest things to give up while trying to cut back on expenses has been books. But because we simply cannot do without new reading material (although we are rereading old books), we signed up for Marion County library cards (we live in Madison County, but all our business and the fact I work in Marion County made this the best choice for us).

I had read about the book Shear Spirit in one of the magazine I take (I think it was Spin-Off, but it could have been Wild Fibers or Handwoven), and it was one I wanted to look at, but I never could find it at any of my local book stores. But, I found it at the library and checked it out. I am glad I did.

This book is about 10 fiber farms across the country, what animals they raise, how and why, farming practices, philosophy of life, history and lots of beautiful pictures of it all. Several of the farms use sustainable and organic farming practices, some of the farmers are full-time, some have one partner working a day job and some with both partners having day jobs. The backgrounds of the people involved include civil engineers, geologists, fishermen, hippies, parents, farmers, and everything else you can think of, but they all have one thing in common and that is to preserve something for future generations. And, as a nice bonus, at the end of each chapter (farm) are knitting or crocheting patterns for items made using the fiber from that farm.

I was pleasantly surprised at how many use natural dyes for their colors. Being a natural dye enthusiast, I am glad they do and that they talked about it. They gave me some wonderful ideas on how to do larger dyebaths using the sun as the heat source that I am going to have to try out.

Shear Spirit is one of the most inspirational books I have ever read on the subject of fiber animal farming. If you enjoy reading Wild Fibers magazine as much as I do, then you will LOVE this book. I have friends who own fiber farms, and I grew up on a working dairy farm, so I know the amount of work these farms take. The stories don’t gloss over this at all, but neither do they emphasize the work only. The people clearly love their farms, animals and lifestyle and at least one said she wished she had majored in textiles in college rather than accounting (Hear! Hear!).

I loved this book so much, that I have asked my LYS to order me a copy the next time she places a book order. When I finished telling her about it, she said, “I think I’ll order a copy for me, too!”

Feb 9
How it went
icon1 basicallybenita | icon2 News | icon4 02 9th, 2009| icon3No Comments »

Well, the workshop is over and I’m back in the real world. It was a wonderful class, and, although neither student was able to finish her project (Robin borrowed the Wolf Pup she was using to finish hers at home and Ann decided she was far enough along to warrant cutting hers off the loom), I think we can safely say there are two new weavers in the world today. In fact, Ann got a quote for a loom from Susan that she is taking to her tax accountant to tell him what her refund needs to be. I am so excited for her, I may just have to volunteer to go to her house when it arrives and help her set it up and put that inaugural warp onto it.

While I helped Susan restore the shop to something resembling a store, she and I discussed how to present this type of workshop in the future. I think next time I’ll set it up as a more basic class with a simpler, one-shuttle project of a narrow width to be assured the student will have enough time to finish it by the end of Sunday, then offer a Beginning “B” class with a more complex design, finer threads and wider finished project. I may dictate a 6” wide scarf in a twill weave structure with yarn no finer than 3/2 perle cotton in the Beginning “A” class and allow then to go as fine as 5/2 cotton for towels for the Beginning “B” class. I still need to work this out, but rest assured, there will be more workshops.

So, here are my students’ projects.

The beginning of Ann’s project.

Showing both sides of Ann’s project.

The beginning of Robin’s project.

Both sides of Robin’s project.

And here is Ann holding her fresh from the loom project. I can’t wait to see it Wednesday night at our fiber group meeting (BASK) after it has been wet finished and hemmed. It might not be long enough for a scarf, but it’d be perfect as a table centerpiece cloth.

And the best part of all of this is that I have made two new friends with which to share fibery experiences. Nothing beats that!

Feb 7
Have I ever mentioned…
icon1 basicallybenita | icon2 News | icon4 02 7th, 2009| icon3No Comments »

…how much I love teaching?

Starting yesterday and going through tomorrow, I am teaching a three-day beginning weaving workshop at my LYS. I only have two students (Ann and Robin) for this, which I believe the current economical troubles our country is having is the reason the class is small, but I also get to have more one-on-one time with each of them.

Yesterday, they learned all about the loom, the equipment involved with weaving, and wove samplers taking them from tabby to twill to other loom-driven patterns, all while learning about selvedges, even beat and consistency. I purposely did not put a floating selvedge on their sampler warps, because I wanted to let them discover for themselves why you need a floating selvedge on just about every weaving structure except tabby.

Ann and Robin weaving

Also, yesterday, they looked at some simple, four-harness patterns and designed the scarves they are going to weave. Then they picked out their yarns, with much deliberation and heavy consideration involved. Robin and I, for example, had the Weave-It Pro program up on my laptop and put in the yarn selections she had made (a nice brown, a sage green and a lavender). When the “cloth” appears to show what it would look like woven, we both shook out heads and said “Oh, noooo…!” at the same time. Switching the lavender out for a dark blue made all the difference in the world and took it from “Oh, no….” to “That looks nice!”

But I think we were all tired last night. I know I introduced to them lots of new concepts and terminology and their brains must have been hurting for all I crammed into them. Taking a class that lasted for 8.5 hours all in one day is a long day for anyone.

Robin and her sampler – doesn’t she look so proud!

Ann and her finished sampler.

Today, bless their hearts, they were initiated into the fine art of warping their looms. I loved it when I mentioned this yesterday, and Ann looked at me with a sad face and said, “I suppose this is inevitable, isn’t it?” I assured it was.

First, we measured out the warp (each had 120 warp ends in a 12 dent reed for a 10” wide in the loom project – going for an 8” wide scarf). Ann started because her warp is all one color. Robin and I helped hold up the warping board and Robin got to see what Ann was doing. When it was Robin’s turn, she had the added difficulty of having two colors in her warp and three ends of each at a time, which Ann got to see. With only two students, they were each exposed to their other’s project in a way that would not have been possible in a larger class. As it was, it took longer for them to get their looms warped than I had originally planned. I am hoping that with a solid day of weaving tomorrow, they will actually be able to get their projects done.

Also, while threading the loom, they each made two threading mistakes (crossed threads and wrong heddles), so they got to see how to trouble shoot, how to correct, and how to make string heddles to replace one on a wrong shaft with one on the correct shaft.

We left today with their warps all wound and tied on, the headers woven and bobbins wound and at the ready. I even gave them a “pop quiz” using a table top loom on the loom parts names and the path the warp takes on the loom, without looking at their own looms for guidance.

Both my students seem to be enjoying the class, both are talking about the looms they want, and Robin even said that warping the loom wasn’t as bad as she thought it would be. Bully for her!

Feb 5
Working with the Environment
icon1 basicallybenita | icon2 News | icon4 02 5th, 2009| icon3No Comments »

All right, already!

On one of the blogs I read, Extremely Frugal, I learned about an alternative to using fabric softener sheets in the dryer. I know these sheets are supposed to shorten the life of a dryer, and you have to buy them and what do you do with the sheets once the fabric softener is gone from it – it’s just another item for the already over-flowing landfills. Not to mention, fabric softener makes fabric less absorbent, which doesn’t do my handwoven towels a lot of good.

Well, she mentioned using a crumpled up piece of aluminum foil instead, if all you use a dryer sheet for is static reduction – the tumbling in the dryer already softens the fabric. By golly, if it doesn’t work! I still get some static on synthetics, but I only have one or two items of this, and they don’t get worn all that often because they are hotter than Hades to wear. I’ve managed to get one piece of aluminum foil to last nearly a month, which, for me, is about 20 loads. At this point, the sorry looking thing was sprouting holes. I could have used it longer, I suppose, but I replaced it.

Now what do I use the old piece of aluminum foil for? Does anyone know if you can recycle this? I know that aluminum pots can leach enough to work as a modifier for dyeing, so I wonder if I boil the piece of foil with some yarn if it would work, too. I see an experiment coming up here.

It was bitterly cold this morning when I left for work, -7 to be exact, but it is supposed to get up to 50 on Saturday and rain, so the snow we have should disappear. I have to admit I will be glad to see it go. The drifts on my property are tall enough and in the right places for me to not be able to get my car around to the garage, and it has been sitting out at the end of the drive for the past week or so. That’s a rather long walk in the dark for me each morning and night.

Feb 3
Knitting, weaving and snow!
icon1 basicallybenita | icon2 News | icon4 02 3rd, 2009| icon3No Comments »

I finally finished the first ball of the solid purple yarn in my scarf and it measured 28”. So, I’m going to knit about 2.5 balls to get it to the length I want, but that leaves me with 1.5 balls of the solid purple and most of the ball of variegated left over. I thought about mittens, but, while cleaning out the front closet, I found a pair of purple mittens that very nearly are the same purple as in the scarf.

Okay, I don’t need mittens. I thought about knitting a hat, but I hate hats – I don’t even wear the hood on my coat unless it is below zero, the wind is blowing hard and I have to scrape my windshield. So, a hat isn’t really useful to me. This yarn is so beautiful that I really hate to waste it.

My friend, Sandy and I had a discussion about this because she is making the same scarf out of the same yarn (although she is starting with the variegated when I started with the solid so we can tell them apart). Between the two of us, we will have enough to make a third scarf to give to someone else. Neither of us want to waste an inch of this lovely yarn, and making a third scarf just makes more sense than hats that neither of us would wear. We are going to take turns knitting it so it will be from both of us all the way.

Of course, now we have to decide who to give it to. Obviously, it needs to be someone who will know how to take care of alpaca and someone who will appreciate not only the nice fiber but the colors. We can think of several people, but one stands out higher than the rest. No names, because we want to surprise her with it.

On another note, the three-day beginning weaving workshop I am teaching is this weekend. I have the looms warped with the “learning sampler” warps (I use 3/2 perle cotton because it is nice and smooth and easy to weave) and only need to pack up the supplies, woven samples, tools, handouts, laptop computer and printer. I love teaching and I am looking forward to Friday very much when I get to introduce the students to their looms and the world of weaving.

The only bummer about this is that Laura Fry will be teaching a weaving workshop this weekend at the Indianapolis Art Center and I can’t go. I have always wanted to take a class from her, but the timing is a bit off for this one.

Central Indiana is once again getting snow. The weather service had predicted 1-2 inches of the white stuff, but we got 4″ in 3 hours this morning. Here is what it looked like outside my office about an hour into the storm.

There have been a LOT of accidents today, including a 20+ car (and semi and fire truck) pile-up on I-69 just north of Indianapolis. The last I heard two people were killed, but looking at the pictures of it on the web, there could have been many more. The interstate is closed both directions, which means I need to find a different way to get home tonight since I go up I-69. I am stunned at the extent of this accident and have been praying for those involved and their families all day. I think the storm caught all of us a bit unprepared, especially as quickly as it came down. My house is a cornfield away from I-69 and seeing it from our house is very easy, but when I spoke with Scott around lunch time, he said the snow was falling so thickly that he could see only about half way across the field.

Drive safely getting home tonight.