Thursday, December 17, 2009

A little stress for the holidays

Well, I've been going full speed on a long cabled cardigan for my step Mom, hoping to finish it for Xmas. She was in the hospital all of last week for tests and my husband & I & one of our daughters took turns staying up in Baltimore & hanging out with her at the hospital. Above is the view from our hotel room - I got to walk around the Inner Harbor one morning, a lovely cold walk. I thought I'd get a lot of knitting done during my 2 days but I ended up ripping back 6" on both fronts and then barely recouping that loss.

The pattern was not very clear about where to place the pockets, so I put them in 6" from the cast on edge rather than 6" from the top of the ribbing...details...Must consult schematic!

So yesterday I finally finished the fronts, weighed them and went to look for the remaining yarn for the sleeves... you've guessed it, there's not enough.

Only three lonely balls, 150 grams, and the two fronts weighed about 300 g. Don't you ordinarily figure the back/both fronts/both sleeves as being roughly equal in size & weight?

So the yarn is long discontinued, I only found one ball on ravelry and haven't heard back from my begging p.m. I always, always buy extra - maybe they only had 15 balls? So I was in deep despair, but on my way to work I realized that this is clearly not my biggest problem at the moment so I should not obsess over it.

Yes, I could have finished it as a long vest, but the recipient is not really a vest wearing person. She prefers a long cardigan with pockets. So it does need sleeves.

I had a massage scheduled after work and my friend worked all the kinks out of my back & shoulders. When she was done, it occurred to me that I could unravel the back down to the ribbing and reknit it as stockinette - do you suppose that would reap enough yarn for plain sleeves? It's this sweater:(ravelry link).

This is the back - I don't really like the design that much, and it's a natural to make the back plain. Maybe a few stitches in seed stitch at the sides for transition?

I have already found something else to give my stepMom for Xmas, so I'm not in a hurry. It's just frustrating, and I'm ready to be done with this particular sweater. And I was hoping to have something really special for her - she's been undergoing a series of tests over the last several months and after last week they have decided she doesn't have hydrocephalus after all, but possibly Parkinson's. Not what she was hoping to hear, although it means she does not have to undergo surgery again. They sent her home with a new medication to try and will follow up in a month or two.

But truly the the hardest part of our lives at the moment is that her husband is dying. He's 89, he's had a good long life, but those of us who love him dearly are very sad to see him slipping away, and I worry so about my stepMom being on her own.

Maybe he will get through the holidays. It would be a wonderful thing to have our family together for one more celebration. The girls will all be home by Xmas eve, and we'll play it by ear. Or by Jack!

Meanwhile we are busy at Bluemont with First Night preparations. We organize and run these wonderful New Year's eve events in Warrenton & Leesburg. I will be singing with the Flaming Shillelaghs - an Irish band - this year. I'm really looking forward to that. I sang with them in August when they needed a singer to fill in for a few concerts and a wedding reception and it was great fun.

OK, take a deep breath, go for a walk, pat the puppy. Count my blessings.

Friday, December 4, 2009

My Blog-o-versary!

Thanks to Teena in Toronto for pointing out that today is my blogoversary!

Well, then I just had to post.

Things have been really, really busy. Lots of family crises, large & small, but thankfully none of them life threatening. We've been going into DC about once a week to spend time/check up on/do things for my stepMom & her husband. This is a 3 hour round trip drive. They have been pretty much apartment bound for a year - he has congestive heart failure and is on oxygen 24/7 and she is dealing with serious mobility issues as a result of normal pressure hydrocephalus.

We've been taking her up to see the hydrocephalus specialists at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore since August and she will be hospitalized all of next week for fluid drainage and tests, more tests - but hopefully the outcome will be a decision to replace the shunt that was put in 18 months ago and hopefully the new shunt will function properly and she will be able to walk again.

That's a lot of hope, and probably Too Much Information. But it's part of how I've been spending my time this year. I do get a lot of knitting done on all the car rides and in the hours of sitting & waiting - I'm currently working on a cardigan for my stepMom which I hope to have ready for Christmas.

My Mom is getting Rather Fuzzy and it's upset me greatly. The lady who has been doing light housekeeping & shopping for her for several years is no longer available and while I've set up regular home visits through Mom's retirement community, it breaks my heart that I can't get out to visit her more often.

I've been talking about moving her to a similar community that is much closer to me, but that's a big project and may not be in her best interests. We have talked about it and will continue to explore that option. I would like very much to take her up to Michigan in the spring to visit her three sisters there.

And our Ruby has been having a rough time lately. So far, all three of her fall semesters have been very challenging, for one reason or another. She is a remarkable, brilliant, creative and talented young woman and we know she will pull through this rough patch. But damn, it's hard to watch from afar.

So my heart is being tugged one way and another. I'm struggling with depression in the face of so much stress, but I've started walking most days and I'm trying to get lots of sleep and take care of myself. I've had some great classes this fall and some nice singing opportunities. I have a wonderful supportive partner and husband and a wildly cute new puppy. I live in a beautiful part of the world. All these things feed my soul.

This lovely photo is from the campus of the John C. Campbell Folk School where I went last month to teach Shaker Rag Rugs, with the able assistance of my pal Lucy Best (who will be teaching her first solo class in February on sock machine knitting). We had a great class as evidenced by their smiling faces:

Rugs! Lotsa rugs.

I will be teaching a new 8/2 Cotton Towel class this weekend. I say will with great emphasis, because they are calling for snow tomorrow, and when it snows in Virginia, everything generally comes to a screeching halt. We are recommending that the weaving students bring sleeping bags and a toothbrush and we'll just weave all night!

I'll let you know how that works out!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Weaving & Knitting Classes

OK, it took me a full month after returning from Colorado to get that last blog post up, and here's another one right on it's heels. I need to let some folks know about my updated teaching schedule, and this seemed like the best place to spread the word.

I just returned from a 2 day Acadian Weaving class at The Mannings. We had a great class, Carol & Ron are always terrific hosts, the studio is well prepared and I came home with just a little yarn and, oh, a little loom to play with. (Shh! A Schacht Flip!)

And here are the warps from the class. This is a two harness class, with the looms set up for plain weave, so all the design is in weft manipulation. Didn't they weave some pretty cloth?

Next up is a late addition to my schedule - I will be teaching Shaker Rag Rugs at the John C. Campbell Folk School November 1st - 7th. There is still room in this class, so if you're interested, don't delay! It should be a fun week, relatively low pressure for a weaving class as students will be working on individual looms & weaving one or more small rugs.

December 5 & 6, 2009 I will be doing a new class for the Blue Ridge Spinners & Weavers Guild here in Virginia - an 8/2 Cotton Towel class focused on weave structure. There will be 6 different weave structures and it will be a round robin class with students weaving 2-6 towels over the two days.

I've also designed two other brand new 8/2 Towel classes - one on Color & Weave and one of Swedish Weaves - these will be ready for 2010 and will be in my next teaching brochure.

So far, my 2010 teaching schedule has a Tartan sample & scarf class for the Waterford Weavers Guild February 20 & 21 - a round robin class in which students weave samples in class and then go home & weave a scarf on the remaining warp on their looms. There may be a warping class - Beam Me Up Scotty - a few weeks before the tartan class. I'll let you know!

March 7 - 13 I'll be back at the Folk School for a Traditional Island Knitting Sampler class. We will explore Shetland lace, Fair Isle colorwork, gansey and Aran cables and patterning over the course of the week. If anyone has a great idea for a name for this class, I'd love to hear it! Somehow Island makes me think pina coladas... North Island? Help...

In May we will have the Peace Weavers booth at Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival, and I will be at The Mannings Spinning Seminar June 12th, doing something interesting - at past seminars I have done wool waulkings, demonstrated point spinning on hand spindles & a great wheel, & demonstrated traditional warping & beaming techniques.

The only other class on my schedule now is Acadian Weaving at the Campbell Folk School in October 2010. I am hoping to have another try at teaching a weaving class at Webs, maybe tartans in the fall. I will post an update when I have more information.

You can contact me by commenting on this blog to ask for more information, or click through on any of the links above. I hope to see you at a class or an event sometime this coming year!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Crazy Summer

Our summers tend to be very busy, and 2009 was no exception. We had a wonderful staff at Bluemont but money is tight so the staff was a little smaller and there is just so much to do! We put on 67 concerts and special events in 9 communities. We started with Scott Ainslie, an old friend and one of my favorite musicians on this planet - that's Scott above, performing on the steps on Dodona Manor in Leesburg. We finished up the summer concert season with April Verch, a Canadian fiddler & step dancer who delighted us all. The other high points for me were working once again with Eric Brace & Last Train Home and the Junkyard Saints of Baltimore. A whole lot of wonderful music.

But there is always time to enjoy the music.

On the home front, we got to see a lot of our girls, especially Lily Rose, as she agreed to come work for Bluemont, one last summer. Here she is giving away the doorprizes at a Leesburg concert, with Desiree's able assistance and a few small volunteers. Hannah was in Belize until mid-July, working on the Coral-Edventures project again, doing some coral reef research and teaching at an ecology camp for local kids. Ruby had a summer internship at NYAC in Washington DC.

Healthwise, this summer was a little rocky. I developed iritis in my left eye in mid-June, and while it was mild and resolved fairly quickly, as soon as it was all better, I had iritis in my right eye! I have had iritis numerous times - it is one of the common symptoms of reactive arthritis - but never one eye after another like this. And then in August I got shingles. I was appalled when the doctor told me what the funny rash on my back and left hand was, but it proved to be a mild case and turned around with one dose of anti-viral medication. The lesions are very slow to heal, though - I can still see them on my hand 6 weeks later.

Also, Peter landed in the hospital in August with blood clots in his lung. They kept him a week while they pumped him full of coumadin and waited for it to take effect. We are still looking for the cause of the blood clots - after many tests and visits with our GP, the next appointment will be with a hemotologist. But it's lucky he went to the ER - we were told that 50% of people with pulmonary embolisms don't make it to the hospital. Reality check!

I headed off to Colorado in September to teach some classes in Colorado Springs. First I spent almost a week in the Boulder area, visiting my nephew Miles and his kids. The photo above is from my morning walk around a small pond a few blocks from Miles' house. My sister Carolyn came out with her daughter Jodie and we did a modest yarn crawl - 3 stores in 2 days - and got Jodie sucked into the knitting vortex to boot. We went to Mew Mew's Yarn Shop, Shuttles, Spindles & Skeins and The Recycled Lamb

Here is the family portrait - from L to R, me, Jodie, Caleb, Miles & Carolyn, with Josh in front.
I really enjoyed getting to know Miles & his kids. He's a wonderful Dad and a great guy.

Through a kind introduction from Joanne Seiff, I went up to Longmont on the Sunday to meet up with Deb Robson & Donna Druchunas. We knitted and chatted and got to know one another a bit - it was a delightful afternoon; one of the high points of my trip. Then I took a drive from Longmont over to Lyons where I explored a great quilt shop and then drove up a windy road through part of S. St. Vrain Canyon. As I drove up into the rocks & trees it felt like a cool drink of water and I realized that i had been in plane/car/suburban town for days and days. I live in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and I'm used to a regular dose of forest & mountain; it was so refreshing.

Then it was down to Colorado Springs for a week to teach a 3 day 18th Century Linens weaving class for the Pikes Peak Weavers Guild. I also had the pleasure of being the program for their monthly meeting; I sang my Cottage to the Factory program of old songs relating to sheep, spinning & weaving, and threw in an old ballad and a love song for good measure. I also taught Shetland Lace & Aran Knitting for a day at Green Valley Weavers & Knitters in Colorado Springs.

Here are the intrepid linen weavers, after 3 long days of weaving fine threads!
Next class we'll take the photo at the beginning of the workshop...

This is the view west from Weldon & David's ranch - if it were clearer, you would see Pike's Peak. It's a beautiful place out on the high desert plain east of Colorado Springs. They have 160 acres and about 100 beasts of all kinds: cattle, horses, alpacas, sheep, goats, turkeys, geese, ducks, chickens, 3 pigs and numerous cats dogs & birds. A lively and busy ranch. I took a lot of animal photos - here are the sheep. Weldon was a wonderful host and it really was great having fresh goat's milk every day - now, if I can just figure out how to make that work at home.

After a week in & around Colorado Springs, I went back to Boulder for a few days before I left. Here is my new best friend and great nephew Josh while out for a walk with his favorite creatures.

And I'll leave you with the Fenn men, heading for home.

Monday, June 22, 2009

busy, busy

I have thought about blogging over the last month or so, but jeez, life has been so busy! In mid-May, we went up to Massachusetts for Hannah's graduation from Smith College. Now that our girls are just about grown, I really appreciate the times when we can all be together.

Smith has lots of traditions. On the Saturday before graduation, they have Ivy Day which involves a parade with the seniors in white dresses and the various groups of alums wearing colored sashes and matching hats and carrying funny signs about what college life was like in their day.

Here are the happy spectators

And here is a dress I particularly liked. Imagine having hips so small that you might wish to accentuate them!

And this was a great chicken bag I kinneared.

Here is our latest graduate! Hannah graduated with a degree in English and she won the Rosemary Thomas poetry award for the best group of poems.

We are all very proud.

One more family group - Monday after Lily had flown back home, we took a break from packing the van & car. It's a good thing we are good at packing - there was a lot of Stuff.

Since then, things at Bluemont have been clicking right along. We finished hiring our summer staff, and a great team they are - but I've spent a lot of time orienting and training and then answering lots of questions. In between, we moved our Miss Ruby into an apartment in DC, where she has an internship for the summer, I attended three year end guild meetings and I taught a weekend of classes for the Albemarle Weavers Guild in Charlottesville - Beam Me Up Scotty, and a pair of lectures on Tweeds, District checks & Tartans, and 18th c. Household Textiles. This was a great group - it was a lot of fun.

There were 12 for the warping class, mostly working in pairs at the warping board and then at a loom.
My friend Sarah leapt out of the way when I approached her warping with a camera, but then she returned for a smiling portrait: Warped, but Happy.

Most recent FO (finished object): Ishbel shawl made with Fleece Artist Sea Wool in the Autumn colorway.

Currently on the needles: a Baktus scarf.

Currently on the loom: bottentacke samples for the Weaving Study Buddies group - you'll have to wait until next post for the photos. These are due to be mailed by July 1st, so I'm away home to weave some more!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

cool video!

Thanks for sharing this, Rosemary!

And for something a little more serious - check out this film about women artists who did not choose between art and having a family:
Who does she think she is?
The trailer on the website is powerful - I hope there will be a screening in DC or Baltimore.

We are heading off to Massachusetts tomorrow morning to attend our Hannah's college graduation! We are looking forward to some family time. Road trip!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Marvelous Maryland

In spite of the weather, we had a terrific weekend! In spite of the economy and rain all day Sunday, we grossed the same amazing amount that we have the previous two years!

Thanks to everyone who came by to shop, to say hello, to wish us well.

Special thanks to Carolyn, Evelyn, Becky & Annabella for helping in the booth!

I think of how Heather Ordover of Craftlit often says - Knitters are the best people! Well, she's right.

Here is the puppet display, before it was ransacked.

And this was the line to our booth at 9:05 am - the first hour was an absolute feeding frenzy! We sold out of several colors of Peace Fleece and were very busy. (Note blurry image implying action & excitement!)

I also had time to get out & around. I finally got a Ravelry badge, now firmly attached to my sock bag. Wanna see what's in my big bag? I made a few purchases...

MS&W swag - 2 bags, 2 shirts for me, 3 shirts for friends.

A wonderful sheep & spindle mug from Jenny the Potter, and a necklace, too. Amy Singer of Knitty sold them to me - how cool is that?

I spotted Heather Ordover slipping in and out of Jenny's booth, but failed to catch her standing still. I did score a CraftLit tee and some of the gorgeous Scarlet Letter yarn from The March Hare.

Some goodies from Jennifer at Spirit Trail Fiberworks, including one of Lanea's cool bags.

I think of this as The Jetson's Spindle - I didn't get the most techno looking one but I tell you, it spins like a Dervish! I think it is called a Trindle. This was from Gale's Art, and I got little merino roving sample pack there, too. Then a sock flat from Kid Hollow Farm and a skein of Schaeffer Anne from our booth neighbors, Cloverhill - I couldn't resist the colors. I love that yarn.

I stopped by to see Melinda & Tess at Tess Designer Yarn at the end of the day on Sunday and picked up a few skeins there, too: two skeins of Twinkletoes for some bright socks and one skein of Petite Silk, destined to be a lace scarf someday soon.

And yes, there were a few fleeces that followed me home. I split a fleece with my sister, Carolyn - we scored it as we were starting to take down our booth! It's a Romney/Finn cross, white, long staple, lovely crimp.

And two half fleeces from my favorite sheep farmers - Betty Levin

and Ellen Raja - both are Blue Face Leicester. I plan to spin them from the lock to preserve the wonderful color variations.

Nice staple length, huh?

I think all this should keep me busy for a while. Have a wonderful Mother's Day weekend. Tell your Mother you love her!