Monday, May 19, 2008

Catching up

This little guy has a real smile of contentment. When we visited him on Saturday at the NH S&W he was bouncing off the sides of his pen and bleating loudly. Turns out he missed his mates. Sunday all three black lambs were there together and quiet reigned in the pen. His older neighbor with her jaunty red coat was there, too, keeping an eye on things.

Sunday was the day of the Sheep to Shawl contest. I didn't get down to the museum until after 11 AM so just caught the tail end of things. The kids were all decked out like farm animals and seemed pretty pleased with their accomplishment.

The Gogh Gogh's in their pajamas and nightcaps were almost finished with their shawl. They spun a soft gray yarn for the weft and had handpainted the warp. It was quite stunning! The brightly colored knotted fringe really set it off nicely.

Later in the afternoon I ran into Paula Roberts in the Home Ec building. She was wearing a 'coat of many colors' made by a friend. As you can see some of the squares were larger and some were quite small. Lots of color!

I had the opportunity to talk with a lot of people while I was working on my 'crayon sheep' tapestry in the guild building. Some wanted to know if I would have it done by the end of the day. Tapestry weaving is like painting with wool. You make a plan and then make decisions about what colors to use and where to put them as you go along.

Sunday I was working on the shaded side of the sheep's mouth working mostly with blues. By combining a lighter blue and a darker blue I was able to create a third color that was in between the two. This is called 'optical blending' and it really gives a weaver more choices for creating modeling affects.

Another technique used to blend colors is called 'hatching' and you can see that in the lower left side where the yellow area changes to yellow/green and then to green. I used the same technique on the lower right side but you don't see the hatching as much because the colors are very similar.

Hopefully I will complete this tapestry some time this summer. All the sheep tapestries I have woven before had natural colored sheep so it will be interesting to see this weaving as it develops.

Another thing that happened last weekend was that all the tadpoles hatched! This noon it was warm and they were swimming all around but when I went out this afternoon we had clouds and lots of wind. It wasn't really warm any more so they were hanging out at the edge of the gully. The black spots are all tadpoles.

I zoomed in with the camera to catch this one in case some of you have never seen a tadpole up close. He'll grow a lot bigger in the next few weeks and then we'll be looking to see if his hind legs are beginning to grow. It does take a while for him to become a frog!

In the meantime I have been doing more work on the pond yacht. The sails are on, the varnishing is complete, the base is done and it just needs a few more details to be all done. Yesterday I carved a tiller and made the rudder this afternoon. There was enough wind today for a great sail!

Friday, May 16, 2008

What A Weekend!

This dahlia about sums up what it was like last weekend at the New Hampshire Sheep & Wool Festival! We had absolutely gorgeous weather both days! It was a chance to visit lots of animals, fiber and friends.

It was a beautiful drive down and back with all the colors of spring still in the landscape, too many to count. The mountain behind our house has a rusty cast to it with all the maple trees coming into flower and leaf. People usually think of mountains being covered with pine trees, especially in Maine but there really are a lot of other kinds of trees with leaves instead of needles.

Of course the sheep are the big attraction and there were lots of them, all shapes and sizes and colors. These ladies were no doubt discussing the accommodations, or maybe they were talking about all the sweaters and shawls they saw as people walked by them.

Hey, ladies - did you see the one carrying four bags of fleece? What do you think she'll make with all that wool?

Oh, my - this is such a big place and there are so many people! I think I'll just snuggle down in this hay and be quiet as can be. I'm new to all this. I think I'll just watch everything for a while and then maybe take a nap.

What's all the excitement out there? Why are they dressed up?

Every building had its share of old friends and new fiber finds, books, tools and interesting things to see. Then there were the tents and pens, more friends, and food.

How about all those alpacas? They came in lots of colors! And shapes!

This little one seemed a bit top heavy but didn't seem to mind.

I didn't really bring much home but I did find a pretty fiber blend at Friends' Folly to ply with some singles I spun from a BFL cross color blend I bought at Rhinebeck last October. If you look at the singles you might say the three balls lean toward blue/green but there are so many other colors in the blend when you look closely. There is a lot of violet and gold and bittersweet orange. The new blend is softer - has a blue/green base but also has a lot of the same violet and a soft gold. I just began spinning it last night and wrapped the first sample of plied yarn around one of the balls for comparison and to see how the combination would look. I think the blends compliment each other. The Pogo blend softens the colors of the BFL blend and the final yarn is going to have lots of depth.

You can see that each of the three balls of singles spun up showing lots of color variation. In the background is the new fiber for the second ply. It is much softer in general but has lots of colors showing. On the bobbin the effect is a soft gray blue/green - very pretty. It reminds me of seeing islands in the fog.

All too soon it was time to head for home. We gathered together at the round planter and while some sat and talked some checked out the bins at a nearby tent to see if there was something else we might have missed.

Carol, Rikki, Linda and Sue were just a few of fiber friends that day. It was fun to bump into each other here and there throughout the day and compare purchases at the end of the day.

I got home at 6:45 and grabbed a quick bite of supper before heading out the door to Stone Mountain Arts Center where Dan and I went to the Alasdair Fraser/Natalie Haas concert. It was a full day, but it was a great day!

Sunday I was up and on the road early to be back at the fairgrounds to demonstrate tapestry weaving at the guild building - but that is another story!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

What A Difference AWeek Makes!

Well, actually I guess it is almost two weeks! How easily time gets away when there are lots of things that need attention. The narcissus pushed their way up through the leaves next to the front step and are getting pretty tall now. The rhubarb is up and stretching its leaves over near the rock wall. The baptisia is showing. I managed to rake the front yard and then the garden in front of the side wall. Having sunny days means that there is no stopping the green shoots from reaching for the sky.

What this means is that if I don't get out there and do something about all the mess winter left us - I won't ever be able to clean up the garden until fall. Who needs an excuse to cut work inside when it is really nice OUTside where there is also work that needs to be done? As soon as those tender green daylilies were exposed Hunter thought I had been cleaning up just for him. He was over the fence in no time and those green shoots were 'lunch'. He is satisfied now with the grass in the back yard so the daylilies have been recovering. Once they get to a certain height he loses interest in them. Their delicacy is gone.

As soon as the snow departed from the road gullies we heard the first peepers. This was a Tuesday evening. The very next day those chirpy little froggies had begun laying their eggs. Wednesday morning I noticed the first egg mass. Thursday morning there were two more! Every day I check them to see if there are any changes. The tiny tadpoles are still just very small dark squiggles in the eggs but the gelatinous coating seems to have softened and enlarged giving the mass an older plumper look.

The demented robin is still attacking the bedroom window. The other birds sit in the trees laughing to see him doing this foolish thing. I wonder when he will wise up and find something else to occupy the early morning hours?

Even when inside the house it is evident that the birds are back and very active. We hear "Phoebe, phoebe!" at all hours and see tons of chickadees flitting through the branches of the trees looking for mates and good nesting sites. We'll be checking the nest in the birch tree to see if anyone uses that this year and keeping an ear cocked for the familiar 'hmmmmmm' of the hummingbirds.

The old apple tree where the sheep love to scratch themselves is putting forth its own green shoots. This tree is nothing more than a hollow trunk now with a few strong branches and a few weak ones left. It is always a surprise to see it come back to life each spring. This year we are having more of a real spring. Sometimes we only get a few days you could call spring before the temperature shoots up to 80* and we are through right into summer. Mainers are not meant to endure such changes! This has been a pretty nice spring so far!

I have been juggling inside and outside work as it is too nice to stay inside all the time. The snow slide took out the breezeway in March and I am slowly cutting up the roof and wall materials and removing the old shingles to take to the dump. The front half is nearing completion. It will look much nicer from the road once the debris is all cleaned up. With the breezeway gone the clothes get dry so much quicker than on the old clothesline that went down in the same disaster. I just got the sheets hung up the other day when the wind picked up and I thought they would sail away. They were dry in minutes!
In the boatshop I have been working to finish the pond yacht restoration. That involved sanding and varnishing. Didn't take too much time to sand the 36" hull and apply a new coat of varnish, but it did take a whole day for that varnish to dry. Then it needed coat after coat to really show off the grain of the wood. This 'boy's boat' is over 100 years old. It came to the US on the last voyage of the Lusitania before it was blown up by German torpedos. It had layers of old varnish that were very dark with age and a lead keel that was loose in the hull. The sails and spars were lost somewhere along its life and new ones were needed.

The new sails and the rigging await the construction of the new base. That is my afternoon's labor. We cut a nice piece of oak for this and the patterns are all ready to make the new lifts and carriers. She'll be something to see when all shipshape!

I spent a good portion of time getting ready to do a dye workshop down in Massachusetts last Sunday, too. Evenings were spent folding sample cards, winding off yarn and knotting groups of ten for the dye exercises - over 500 of them! and making labels. Saturday I packled the boxes and made the dyes and set off south. Sunday morning it was pouring rain but inside the facility, the Essex Art Center in Lawrence, the group of ladies from the Boston Area Spinners and Dyers and I had a colorful day. I love doing this workshop and never tire of seeing the colors the students produce.

Maybe it was just the weather creating so many areas of light and shadow coupled with the time of year and the coming of the leaves - I was amazed at all the colors I saw - so many of them ones that had been created in the dye workshop that day! There were reds and pinks, ochres and many shades of yellow/green, variations on gray in the clouds - blue-gray, periwinkle, pink and yellow, lights and darks, soft pastels and intense colors! As soon as the pond yacht is ready to sail away my yarns and rovings will fill the pots and pans with color. The breezeway that is now an open deck with dance with color like a million prayer flags! I can't wait!