Monday, August 24, 2009

Accentuate the Positive!

Gather 'round me, everybody

Gather 'round me while I'm preachin'

Feel a sermon comin' on me

The topic will be sin and that's what I'm ag'in'

If you wanna hear my story
Then settle back and just sit tight
While I start reviewin'
The attitude of doin' right

You've got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
And latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between

That was the late great Johnny Mercer with his spot on Accentuate the Positive diddy.
I adore Johnny Mercer and often listen to his songs, which is not hard to do as we usually have Big Band on the XM playing in the background. I woke one night recently, while on vacation at Disneyland and this song was playing quietly in my head. Oh how I wanted to go home and make some spindles, or play in the wood. I missed the quiet intensity of my work, and the freedom to knit and spin whenever I wanted. Plus there were people. Lots of people. Did I say people? Some people even ventured into my bubble, without asking! I love the tranquility and peacefulness of my shop, and I wanted my laptop to compose this post right away!

This song seemed to be the perfect opening to a post about bottom whorl or top whorl. My spindle spinning started in the mid eighties with a large, unfinished, very heavy round with a dowel stuck through the middle. No, it was not balanced, which did not seem to matter as keeping it going was a puzzle for me. I do have a photo of my young son spinning away on it, laughing up into my face. True there is much Phil can do with great talent, this is not parental boasting, I was quite miffed that spindle spinning came second nature to him, and not to me. I kept with it over the years, but I knew that if maybe I had had a teacher things would have gone differently for me, at least I would have enjoyed it much more.

I did find spindle makers that made spindles, as they became more and more visible in the media. I ordered a Jim Child or two from Hatchtown. I found another spindle maker advertised in Spin Off and purchased one of those. And Bingo! The top whorl felt better in my hands, I was able to spin proficiently and more to the point, I was having the time of my life! One reason was the twirl. My hands cramp, and the arthritis I tend to have especially in the winter makes it hard to do handwork of all kinds for long periods of time. The twirling was a maneuver that did not compromise my hands or arms. I know after all the years I have spent making, using, and teaching spindle spinning that had I had access to a teacher I might have been spinning happily on spindles long before it clicked. Even now I have friends that are ardent spindle spinners and they are passionate about their favorite version of spindle, bottom or top.

This song above seemed like a good way to say that either is best. If bottom whorl rocks the boat for you (extreme praise) then by all means go for it. If top whorl is the cream in your coffee, good! I never forgot a chance meeting with a lady at SOAR, early in our spindle making adventures. She said to me "you have forgotten us". She said this with such sadness that I worriedly asked what she meant. She mentioned that all the spindles on the table were top whorl, none were bottom whorl. I never forgot her, and her honest and quiet request. I wish I knew her name and could say "thank you", as I had done exactly that. I had inadvertently forgotten about a third of the spindle spinning world. I would think, now, about 6 years later, it is becoming more of a percentage than that. I do make all my spindles both Bottom or Top, no it does not say that on my ridiculous web site, (more on that later) but at shows and festivals I routinely take a large amount of bottom whorls and come home with none.

We can cohabitate together, no need to draw a line, and turn up our noses at our spinning siblings that do it "upside down" Ha. After all, spindle spinning is the thing!!

Here in Utah we have a wonderful Retreat once a year in Park City. It is at a private home of a lovely lady named Cathy. She passed away after a short illness about 18 months ago, however her Retreat lives on, as her gracious husband still hosts his mountain acres for our camping, and tent filled alley between the trees, in a pristine country meadow replete with wildlife. This Retreat is somewhat magical, the vibes of friendship and sharing are legend. Small scale vending is encouraged to offer spinning and knitting goodies for attendees. We always have a small table of spindles and spend the day enjoying a rare and restful day with spinning friends, some I only see once a year at this Retreat. During shopping some friends elected to indicate their spindle selection by licking the whorl! Where ever did they learn this!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

On Being a Student in Boulder

I found after returning from Boulder, refreshed, rested, smarter and wiser, how I would go about my next blog entry. Over the last days, I have spent reminiscing about the class on Spinning for Weaving with Judith MacKenzie McCuin at wonderful Shuttles Spindles and Skeins; spending time with my sister/friend Connie, and finding Peet's Coffee Shop, (sob, none in Provo!) and all the fun with the Boulder fiber folks. Not surprisingly, I learned another books worth about spinning and weaving. I found to my great chagrin that I had spun myself into a boring yarn corner. I can spin impeccable sock yarn, lovely hard wearing sweater yarn, lace yarn for anything light and lacy, durable yarn of all gauges for mitts, hats, stoles and shawls. I was happy that my finished yarn was perfect for the project in mind. It would be soft and long wearing and it would end up as a heirloom gift.
Then, as I listened at Judith's knee, (do you think she would mind if I rested my head on her knee while she spoke? Or would she pat this addled woman on the head and keep teaching?) I managed to keep to my chair or drift with the assorted students as she helped with spinning here or warping there, I learned a great truth about my own spinning. The magic of Judith is she is able to put everyone at ease and soon you think you are with a talented teacher and not the living legend that she truly is. One of the new ideas I took away was my spinning was in a rut. Oh I like my rut, it's comfy and I'm pretty capable but there is a whole world of new fibers to explore. My long repressed desire to spin and weave bast fibers stretched it's arms and clapped that I had recognized it's lure at last. In fact Judith called Connie and I the "bast" girls. Faint.
I have an antique maple loom and I am now thinking a great new loom purchase sometime soon would be a good thing. It is time to listen to my inner weaver, a quiet voice that I have ignored over 30 years. Life is short, and I have found to my surprise that hitting 50 does not mean the end of the road, but means instead that "my" life has just begun. I have done: the barefoot and pregnant, Homemaker, Mommy, Caretaker, and finally Craftsman and now ME. Weaving is going to be part of the best time in my span.
Judith mentioned in her quiet way to be adventurous, and think about what we leave behind. What do you want to be your legacy? I whispered to Connie "5 thousand spindles!" We both laughed but then I thought about 5 thousand spindles. I have easily made far more than that, and each one I am satisfied and pleased to send on its balanced way. While Judith finished her three day class, I held in tears of pride and sat a little straighter. I am leaving a legacy.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Peanuts, Boxes and Bubble Wrap, Oh My!

To someone who is charged with shipping on a regular basis, these three things are attractive, precious, desirable, and kind of addictive. I have several friends that remember me and my never ending quest for packing materials and will show up with a car filled with boxes and paper. The really special friends bring me peanuts and bubble wrap. For the latter group, if they do this often enough, they will be mentioned in my last will and testament for a share of my prodigious stash and equipment. (Now if this works as I am planning, I will never have to search for boxes or packing material again!)
I have a good friend that owns a photography studio and he will bring me dozens of boxes. Tantalizing, sturdy, double thick boxes that I can not use. They all have the dreaded black triangle indicating that the box held hazardous materials. Like say, camera film. I am sure you know how very deadly a box of film can be! When I tell him I cannot use the boxes, he poo poo's me and says the boxes are wonderful and perfect for shipping. Now if I can only get the post office guy to agree with him I would be happy. It does not help that when I go to mail my boxes, the mail room staff sing out with "Hi! Spindle Lady!" They are mesmerized that I am a wood turner, which funny as it sounds is a shock when someone calls me that. I am a Spindle maker, I spin, knit, and buy stash. Oh yeah, I also am a Professional Wood Turner. Ha. Still makes me laugh.
When I was growing up, living in a house with no less than two artists, and knowing I had not the talent of my very gifted parents, I determined for something else. I humbly decided that I would become a potter and live on Nantucket Island. I would be world famous and my pots and other pieces of work would be eagerly sought by a large group of pottery fans. Blush. Instead I walked into that Scottish castle spinning store and zigged more than zagged. I have not looked back once (although a house on the beach of Nantucket would be nice) and still wake with the thought that I will come in close proximity to wool and wood sometime today. And tingle.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Full Spindle and Empty Arms,

Have you ever had a moment when you realize you are going to be somewhere where some spindle spinning is possible? You excitedly grab a spindle and some fiber, thinking that having a spindle and a bag of fiber in you bag is better than not. During my "small purse" phase I would stick to light spindles and fine fibers, possibly a silk and cashmere blend in a forest green with a haunting fall russet running..................excuse me, fiber porn. The one thing more frustrating than not being able to spin, was a spindle, fiber, time on your hands and a full cop. My more adventurous spinning friends would simply wind the ply into a ball or do that Andean plying thing (suckers) and keep going. Being slightly OCD I would tidily set aside my spindle and reach for another one, for of course I had a project planned, number of spindles needed and one of my very nifty Lizzy Kate's. Yes, I AM THAT Lizzy. I can brag here, cause, I can. I am not a fly by the seat of my pants kind of spinner. Oh I would love to be, but it would keep me awake at night, torment my pleasure of spinning and totally disarrange my spinning plans. Yes Connie, I can not be a free and easy spindle spinner. But honestly, aren't you glad that I am more of a planner? If I were easy there would not be a Bare Bones, Katherine's Cup, Damsel Monique, Ethan Jakob, OK you get it.
So I set about fixing my dilemma. I wanted a fine spindle with lots of cop room. Engineered to have a light bottom, but a firm rim, still light and fast. I came up with the Damsel Monique, named after my eldest girl. Fortuitously I might add. I was getting the snake eye for all the other spindles were named after everyone and their dog, but not one named for my most demanding girl. Paradoxically once I broke that large whorl barrier, I did find ways to make more than one spindle that offers lots of cop room, but coming up with the Damsel Monique was the astounding moment when I wanted something very specific (for little ocd me) and came up with the idea. It was not easy. When I first started making them, I hated it. They were difficult, moody, temperamental, beautiful, and very frustrating. Hey, they really are like my daughter Monique! Over time I found ways to correct the difficulties, tame the moodiness, and now they are fun to run on the lathe. Perhaps I should be writing a book on the fundamentals of child rearing? You heard it here folks! A first rate spinning analogy!
However being a spindlemaker does have it good points. When I went to work the other morning, turning on the lights and all the equipment, I found this rose on my lathe that Monique left for me. Talk about starting the day off right!

Monday, June 22, 2009

New Spindle on the Way!

We have a new spindle on the horizon! Bart had an idea for a spindle so he ran one for me to try out. It is different from what we have now, always good when one is designing a new spinning tool. This one is going to have a loo...oong, sustained, and fierce spin. I got the distinct impression that it was leading the dance - kind of bossy. I liked its decisiveness. I am going to put up a photo of one at the end of the post. What I love most about a new spindle is the exploration of what it will do in all the different kinds of woods. What it will do best given the myriad fibers possible. How shall I size the shafts? What fun! Honestly, can you believe this is my mode of employment? I remember many many years ago my 5 pound bottom whorl with a dowel through the middle of the round, and very uncomfortable to spin. It was not really 5 pounds, but it seemed like it. I did manage to conquer spindle spinning with it, and I do have a photo of my then 11 year old son spinning on it, so I did enjoy working with it. My big problem; I had no teacher. There were no classes offered in my area, and no spinning guild that I could go to for help. I loved it so much that I determined someday I would be able to explore making them myself. How I was going to do that with no equipment and a big fear of power tools, I had no idea.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Mr. Belvedere

When Bart and I adopted our dog Dallas from the Shelter, we were not looking for a dog. We were desperately searching for your beloved Brown Tabby Mr.Belvedere. Mr. Belvedere was a stray, an old and very dear friend offered to us knowing we were looking for a cat that needed a home. I have known Kathy (who is a very devoted spinner and weaver) for many many years and have watched her snatch untold animals from starvation, cruelty and homelessness. She has spent much of her families disposable income on helping these poor animals. If you ever meet her (lucky you!) do have her tell you the Duck Man story. I promise you will pee your pants at least twice before it's done.
Mr. Belvedere was a year old outdoor cat that had been abandoned at the local vets office. As usual Kathy had had him neutered and was looking to place him with a family that would love him. Kathy informed me he was exceptional, a well mannered gentleman cat indoors, and he was.
I could go on forever about how wonderful it was to have him in the house. If you were sad, Mr.Belvedere offered hugs and kisses, he stayed by your side if you were anxious. He loved my daughters, particularly McKenna my youngest. His one bad habit was a lust for the outdoors that knew no limits. We tried everything to keep him in, and occasionally he would manage a "great" escape. One Sunday Mr. Belvedere had made good his attempt at a crafty jailbreak, and made it outdoors. It was his undoing. Within an hour McKenna knew he was in trouble and we started looking for him right away. I had a strange feeling that I would never see him again; I was wrong.
I called a local shelter and asked if they had any Brown Tabby's. The lady at the Shelter said "uh.........yes" like I was crazy. When we arrived I knew why. They had hundreds of homeless and lost cats, most of them tabby. Mr. Belvedere was not there, and my heart broke to see all the frightened kittens, cats and mommy cats with their little lost families. Since we were there, Bart suggested we walk through the dog kennels. At the end of the last room there was a hand lettered sign that said "Newf Lab Cross" in the holding pen was a big black puppy, looking like a little black bear cub. When my eyes met hers it was all over, her eyes said "Thank heavens your here! I've been waiting!" There was no discussion or talk between us, we were looking at the dog that was ours. When we opened the kennel door she ran the length of the room looking in each kennel. I was disappointed, I thought she would run to Bart and I, then embrace us as her new family. Only after she looked in each pen did she come to us and let us hold her and pet her. The girl at the counter said she had been found roaming the streets with her brother who had been adopted several days before. I was floored. She had been looking for her brother! Before we had signed the papers or paid the fee, we knew we had hit the jackpot. She is so loving and devoted. I swear she has a sense of humor. Her intelligence is amazing and she has her own favorite movies and TV shows. Yes, she watches TV. I kid you not.
We did find Mr. Belvedere. Even my youngest daughter McKenna does not know how he died, other than he was run over by a car, we never told her the whole truth. Bart found him about 2 blocks from home, laying in the road. He had not been hit by a car but had been tortured in ways that defy description. All I can hope for is Karma, waiting for whoever did this. In the end, Mr. Belvedere brought Dallas home.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Just like eveyone else!

Even as I write this I am still unbelieving! I am going to Boulder to visit Shuttles Spindles and Skeins, but not just to paw and handle yarn, no indeed. A very good friend of mine, Connie, has waved a carrot that I cannot pass up. A three day class with Judith. Yes... that Judith. Did I merely sniff at the carrot and delicately nibble from the side? No, I grabbed that carrot and ran like a ravaging rabid rabbit. I am going to a Judith class for three days, visiting with Connie, and spending some time with those wonderful Colorado people that I so fell in love with last time I was there. Does it get any better? Oh yeah... and I might buy some yarn!
I remember the first time I stumbled onto a spinning and weaving store. I was walking with my Mom, strolling around the shopping district of the small California town I was raised in, and we saw that the new "Scottish Castle" styled building had finally opened. Mom and I had been watching its progress for months, and could not wait to see what it would end up representing. It was a complete surprise to walk in and be hit with the sight of spinning wheels, looms, all the tools to use both and the most intoxicating scent of fresh Australian fleece. I was astounded by my reaction to the room I was in. After all I was a 12 year old cool beach girl with no experience with spinning or weaving. However, on a very fundamental level, I was home. Not once since 1972 have I ever woken without the thrill that sometime today, I might be spinning, knitting or in some way flinging wool around. Going to Colorado to just be a student, surrounded by other fiber crazed people, and best of all hanging with Connie, well it's that Scottish Castle moment again!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Confessions of a Spindle Maker

Did I ever mention that yarn is good? I don't mean a fun pretty soft yummy item in a hard and sharp edged world, but a very good thing. A thing to get out of bed for. A subject that will make you dream in the night of possibilities. Socks for your feet and the feet of loved ones, socks that give that extra softness to a child or friend that needs a woolly hug. Mittens for your hands in the winter when you never get warm, but you will if you add a ply of Quiviut. A scarf out of cashmere that you always wanted, and how surprised you were when you found that cashmere is fun and relaxing to spin on a zippy little spindle. I have spent my life spinning my own yarn, and I could go on for a books length on why there is nothing as satisfying as your own yarn creation. Then during an exciting trip to Boulder for a teaching engagement, I had an epiphany! I was in a very lovely yarn store teaching advanced spindle spinning, and a class on spindling good durable sock yarn, in fact it was Shuttles Spindles and Skeins. There was yarn all around, stacks of yarn, dowels dripping with yarn, bins all displaying yarn already spun, soft and ready to knit. It was a lighting bolt moment, swift and sure, why can I not purchase yarn and start knitting right away? Why was I the martyr of hand spun? Did anyone care that I only spun my own yarn? I spend my days making tools for the spinner, and I love to spin, but why did I never realize that I could purchase yarn? I was not breaking any rules, no one was going to turn me in to the spindle police for cheating. So I did. Buy yarn I mean. Yes indeedy. And might I add, even as I buy roving, fleece (ah the luxury of a freshly shorn fleece!) and all those indulgences of the blends of cashmere, silk, angora, yak, and quiviut, in any and all combinations you can imagine, purchasing yarn is an ever expanding pleasure. There I was in one of the most lovely yarn stores, but I had a problem, time was tight, I had a class and was doing a trunk show at the same time. Maggie Cassie has an incredible group of knitters for her staff, all master knitters I marveled, so all I had to do was teach and preen (just kidding) but I wanted hours of quiet browsing, after all I had a very yarn less life to atone for. The yarn goddess must be serviced and once you lay your heart at her shrine, there are sacrifices to be made. My students soon realized that I did not need that sixth bottle of water nor did I need to "wash my hands" one more time. When I would get up with some excuse to enter the other part of the store (where all the yarn was) snickers soon followed me. I had to give up my furtive exploring. I was even forced to purchase the yarn I wanted after I flew home. My first choice for a sweater was in low supply and I did not have time to make second selection. It was Cascade 220 in the color Lichen, and if you have not knitted with some, do indulge soon. I know, you've known about it for years! When I returned home I tried to earnestly explain to my good fiber friends how wonderful yarn was. I was petted on the head, my back was rubbed, I even had my hand held. I found that everyone else had of course known this all along. I am last to arrive at the yarn party.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Greensleeves Cleanse and Purge Spring Retreat 2009

Every few months or so I have a Retreat at our country house in central Utah. Many of my good friends -and students who have become good friends -attend for the four day weekend. Our house is an old Victorian farmhouse in a very small village (yes we have village sized towns in Utah, plus it is a very chi chi way of describing a small backwater) of about 800 people. The house is just big enough for about 22 people if we squish. For the entire four days we spin and laugh, knit and laugh, eat and laugh, gather and talk and laugh till our sides hurt. Conversation flows and rides a thousand topic waves, we never tire of our fiber in hand. I am very fortunate to have so many friends that share my love of fiber, twirl and weave. Becoming a teacher has enriched my life in so many ways but my favorite bit of bliss are the friends I have made while teaching. Quite a few students have become dear friends and are some of the people that come for Retreat. I am particularly fond of our Retreats, it gives me carte blanche to spin and knit as much as I can in those days. Spinning gets put by the wayside with all the work that I do in the shop. Retreat is guilt free fiber time, and I can get mighty greedy.

The Great Cleansing Retreat started auspiciously on Thursday morning. By evening we all were in the grips of an insidious food poisoning. I have a very delicate digestion , and it is this that my very good friend (who is also delicate in the lower regions) Jo-ann says did save me. After eating the thoughtful and well prepared meal (which is always a shared potluck) I felt woozy and decidedly sick. In an hour it was all over. I had had my Armageddon and even felt like I would live to see another day. For that hour I was tormented by the horrific sounds I was making and the thoughts that every one would “know” that I had become ill. Not a polite thing for the hostess to do, I imagined.

It was not until going downstairs, first thing in the morning, and hearing everyone else's Armageddon story that I realized we all had been ravaged by that most awful scourge of gatherings; food poisoning.

About 2 am it started and it struck at each and every person who had eaten the meal. Even with all the illness, and I could go on about the lines at both bathroom doors and the camaraderie that develops when someones sleeping head is feet away from a very busy bathroom, ( Sorry Jane!) and kudos to Cyndi who had slept in her van and inadvertently became locked out and had the great outdoors as her privy until someone heard her pathetic and light scratchings to get in, we had one of the funnest Retreats ever. Laughter was not in short supply and if one was careful about how hard one laughed, all was well. I am sure most of us lost pounds, food was eaten but carefully.

I convinced my friends to share in a group portrait, eliminating those that arrived Friday, missing all the fun of the night before and the one fellow (Hi lucky Mike!) who did not eat the dinner and so did not join us. We wave our banners bravely!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

First Historic Post!

Many people have obsessions that they chase their entire lives. I have been lucky that the stars combined to allow me to do what I most (almost, well one other thing, no not world dominion) wanted to do. Here is a bevy of spindles waiting their individual turn to be born. I do not think of them as stacks of wooden rounds I simply must plow through, rather, each one is a heirloom tool, sitting quietly until I dust off the excess wood and let them shine.
Don't they look promising? Yes, these have all been born and there were some babies that I will not soon forget. In fact, way in the back- down almost to the bottom of the stack- was a whorl of Australian Red Gum with amazing bee's wing figure that refused to go on the show table. I tried to make it go in the stand at Snake River Fiber Fair. Really I did. But, she is sitting on the shelf of McKenna's room. She is mine although McKenna does not realize it yet. Most things pink end up in my daughters room, but this time, she be mine! She ended up being a new Mjolinor that Bart said he wanted to create for plying. Whatever. I will call her Baby, although she is a big girl. Well, she comes from the best of the big girls now doesn't she? I will have to take a picture and put it in my blog, cause, I have one.