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Trees, plants, and rocks

So no weaving to show, but…read to the end and you’ll find out where I’m at with that. Meanwhile, more about nature – real and attempted recreations.

The oak trees in my neighborhood were HEAVY with pollen this year. Yellow sidewalks were the norm. Then I thought that issue was over, only to have oak droppings (aka male pollen structures) SO thick that I literally could have shoveled them. Of course they were light and easy to pick up by hand, but SO much of it!

oak male pollen structures

In my last post I shared a photo of some steps that had been painted. Here’s another way someone adorned their front steps, this time with potted plants. Isn’t that beautiful? Far more costly and short-lived than the painting, but so lovely!

beautiful steps with plants

In my garden…last year I planted a pink peony. I was pleased to see that I’d actually get flowers this year. And it is beautiful. BUT….

pink peony

And this is a big but…this peony has virtually no fragrance! WHAT?!?! Since when have they been developing peonies with no fragrance? And WHY? I have 2 rose bushes that came with the house, and they produce lovely looking roses, but no fragrance. And now a peony with no fragrance? That’s NUTS!!! I’ve even considered pulling out those roses and replacing them with roses that smell like roses, but never even considered the possibility that peonies wouldn’t smell!

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Now for the attempted nature recreation. My daughter informed me that her son is enthralled with geode-dyed Tshirts, and she thought he’d like to make one with me for a project. I looked at some YouTube videos on them, and was clear that this was most definitely not a project he would enjoy doing. So perhaps I’d make him a geode T for his birthday? Sure, I said, why not?

Hah! Why not, indeed! I knew I’d have to do some testing before I ready to do a T for the boy. So I tied up a few face masks, a piece of fabric, and an old blouse from my closet. Unlike most dyeing, the fabric has to dry completely before applying the dye.

tied fabric for testing geode dyeing

Then I applied the dye – which was NOT easy – and the ice. I was not at all confident that the dye I’d put directly onto the fabric was where it needed to be, so I applied more dye on top of the ice.

attempted geode dyeing, iced

Wait overnight for the ice to melt. I could clearly see that I’d used WAY too much dye. Wait 24 hours for the dye to set. Untie, rinse, hang to dry. Epic fail. While the fabric looks sort of like a typical tie dye, the masks and blouse were ugly and awful.

results of geode dyeing attempt #1

Of course, I’m not one to give up so easily. I did learn things in that attempt. One being that it’s important to use sinew to tie, not string, another being to use less dye powder, a third that a blouse is nothing like a Tshirt in terms of fabric softness or thickness. And I watched another YouTube video by a different person with a few helpful hints.

So today I tied up a Tshirt of mine for geode attempt #2.

geode dyeing attempt #2, tied and drying

It’s drying now. Tomorrow I’ll buy another bag of ice and dye it. Then Saturday it’ll sit for a day. Sunday I’ll untie it and rinse it and see how it looks. Depending on these results, I’ll decide if I need another trial, if I can go directly to dyeing a shirt for the child, or if I’m done with this whole thing.

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So. Weaving. Although it is true that I certainly don’t need any more clothes, I remain intrigued about weaving and then sewing garments. I bit the bullet and ordered some patterns from Sarah Howard at GetWeaving. Sarah specializes in making sewing patterns for handwoven fabric. Her patterns are generally simple and use narrow widths of plain weave fabrics, focusing more on color and texture than weave structure. And she’s been remarkably helpful and responsive to my emails.

That excited me. So I’m planning a cotton warp for lightweight crop pants. Yay! Time will tell, of course, how this will all work. I never claimed to be a seamstress. But at least I’m happy to be planning again, and using up some of my lightweight, mercerized cotton stash.

I’ve done it again

It’s again been weeks since I posted. I guess the reality is that when I’m not weaving, I don’t make writing a blog post a priority. And I haven’t woven anything since the last post. Nothing planned, no warp wound, nothing beamed. Naked looms. And I’m okay with that, at least for now.

With no shows, I don’t have a clue how I’m going to sell all the things I already have woven, so the impetus to weave new things just isn’t there. Yes, I want to weave some fabric just for me, things I will make into garments for myself, but really? I already have plenty of clothes. I don’t need anything more. In fact, I need to weed out my closet and drawers. Again. So once more, the impetus to weave isn’t there. The biggest driver is the yarn stash. Yarn and yarn and yarn.

The only thing I’m absolutely sure of is that I do not want my kids to get stuck with all of this – raw materials or finished products – years from now. So I have to make a plan. And I don’t have one yet. Sigh. The never-ending dilemma, right?

I have managed to get some more completed products up in my Etsy store, but again, taking decent photos, sitting at my computer to clean up backgrounds, and writing descriptions doesn’t excite me, so it’s going much more slowly than is good.

Anyway, here are some fun photos. Check out this cool painted concrete stairway I found on one of my morning walks.

painted stairs

I do have a set of 3 outdoor stairs, but I don’t know that I’m anywhere near ready to take on this project. Maybe I could try doing something in sidewalk chalk and see how that feels and looks.

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I have been out on the water in my kayak a few times. Yesterday I had a few nice glides by great blue herons. Unfortunately they are very easily spooked so I made it a point to be on the other side of the water from them, and to not paddle while I passed, so the image is grainy and lacking in both depth and color. But these are indeed beautiful birds.

great blue heron in the bay

I am enjoying kayaking, sometimes with the Genesee Valley Chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club, sometimes solo. They each have their benefits and drawbacks. Two things are true. First, I do better at getting into and out of the kayak when I’m not feeling rushed. Two, getting out of it is more challenging than getting in. After I’ve been sitting, basically like sitting on the floor for 1-1/2 or 2 hours, my legs need a fair amount of time to get back up to speed. When I’m by myself I can take all the time I need, although sometimes a helping hand would be nice. When I’m with the group I tend to feel rushed and more help than I’d like is given. I trust I’ll get a balance worked out.

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Last year I divided a bunch of my bearded irises; they tend to need thinning periodically. After the fact I realized I wasn’t very judicious in my work; I hadn’t made any effort to mark them by color, and wasn’t sure I hadn’t given away all of my favorite colors. Fortunately I hadn’t. On the left is a lovely peach, and on the right a gorgeous periwinkle. Not only do I love color of the periwinkle, this iris is remarkably fragrant. Yum! I’ve had irises in a vase in my house for a few weeks now, changing them as they wilt, and still love the smell.

my favorite irises

I have an iris I don’t remember at all in my front garden, where there were none. I’m thinking that someone gave it to me last year in exchange for my divisions, but that’s just an assumption. I have no actual recollection. 😀 And didn’t take a picture of it.

Still in the gardening front, remember that little rose-like flower from my last post? Well here it is open.
related to herb robert?

I haven’t managed to find it yet in my online search. The flowers look like anemone, but the leaves are nothing like that. I wonder if it’s related to herb robert? Anyone else have a clue?

I have lots of other garden shots. My climbing hydrangea is putting on a great show this year.

my climbing hydrangea

And a month ago my crab just couldn’t be beat. I can’t believe this was planted just 5 years ago!

my flowering crabtree

I got smart this year and put my lettuce, sugar snap peas, and cucumbers in pots, and then put the pots on tables or similar. I don’t think the bunnies can reach them, but squirrels and chipmunks can climb. I hope I actually get to eat some of them this year.

While I like living on a corner, I do long for more privacy. I’ve tried various things to make my chain link fence both less ugly and more private. This year it was like a lightbulb went off. Stop trying to cover the fence with ribbon or fabric, and cover it with plants!

So I put in a variety of things. A few clematis that will take some years to fill in nicely, and in the meantime, morning glory seeds, cardinal climber seeds, and some hanging baskets/troughs with plants that drape. It won’t be perfect this year, but everything takes time to fill in, so in a few years, I’m hoping I can see the light at the end of that particular tunnel.

I’ve also gotten 375 of those Postcards to Swing States written, and finally, after literally years, upgraded the operating system of my laptop. That, of course, necessitated a variety of changes to software, and resulted in learning curves that are still not flattened out. Dealing with photos, for instance, now feels like it takes me several more steps and time than it did before.

It feels like I’ve done other stuff, but obviously nothing I have a photo of to either jog my memory or share.

Mish-Mash Post

I have no idea how it’s been almost a month since I last posted. I sure don’t feel like I’ve been sitting around doing nothing. On the other hand, I don’t feel like I have much to show for my time away from the blog. So this post is an assortment of things that come to mind, most with photos. These are not in chronological order, or any order.

In my last post I reported that I was going to go kayaking. I did indeed, on Black Creek. It was a stunning day, temps in the high 70s. RIT maintains an amazing launch for their integrated paddling program. It’s actually wheelchair accessible, and is available to the public any time RIT isn’t actively using it. The launch is amazingly easy, and you’re guaranteed to not get wet feet either getting into or out of the water. There’s a very cool double arched bridge you paddle under on Black Creek. You can just see a bit of the second arch on the left of my not-so-well-taken photo.

bridge on Black Creek

That was on April 10. Then we had snow, rain, below freezing temps, and nothing that called me back to the water. Finally, on May 2 the morning was very pleasant and I decided to postpone my morning walk and go kayaking. I went to the place closest to me, a little public park with a launch onto Irondequoit Creek (to the left) or Bay (to the right). Although we’ve had a decent amount of rain lately, we’re still in an overall precipitation deficit, and the water in the Creek was low. That also means that the launch was, um, a bit ugly. Especially after the great launch noted above. Still, I had the Creek to myself at 8:30 in the morning, and got an hour in before the sky darkened and I decided I had to leave.

I did see that someone – beaver? muskrat? other? – had made themselves a nice little home in the bank. There was another entrance not far away, and I’m assuming they were connected by a tunnel in the bank.
critter home in the creek bank

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I continue to have fun with sourdough. Sometimes I’m really happy with the results, other times not so much. This was a loaf I particularly liked.

cheddar-pepper sourdough loaf

I added some grated sharp cheddar cheese to the batter, along with black pepper, cayenne, and crushed red pepper. It was just the right amount of cheesy-ness and peppery-ness for me. If only I’d taken any kind of measurement of how much of anything I added….

Today I made some sourdough crackers. The brown ones are very nice. The lighter ones are just okay, and I doubt that they’ll keep well. (After posting I baked the crackers a bit more in my toaster oven to crisp them all up.)
sourdough crackers

I’m confused. I had them in the oven for longer than the recipe called for and they still didn’t get very brown. I think my oven must be off as this is a common occurrence, but the confusion is that my sourdoughs always cook in the appropriate amount of time. I guess I just have to get an oven thermometer and check it out.

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A house I pass by regularly had a few of these little beauties in their garden this morning. Never saw them there before. I’m usually pretty good with flower ID, but this has me stumped. The flower bud looked like a tiny rose. I’d estimate that the whole thing was about 2″ tall. And those leaves are pretty distinctive. Anyone recognize this?

tiny rose-like flower

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I get ideas in my head and can get pretty obsessed with trying my hand at things. I pretty much always have socks on my needles, and gradient dyed sock blanks were intriguing me. I rarely work with wool so all my dyes are made for plant-based fibers (cotton, bamboo, Tencel, etc.). BUT. There’s a woman, Rebecca, who blogs and has YouTube tutorials as Chemknits, who has experimented with dyeing wool yarns with everything from fiber reactive dyes to koolaid to food coloring to skittles. So I watched a bunch of her tutorials and jumped in. I successfully dyed a sock blank with my hyacinth and eggplant fiber reactive dyes.

dyed sock blank

A sock blank is made on a knitting machine. I bought three double-knit blanks. That means that each blank is made with two strands of yarn, so that when I dye them, I will have two identical balls of yarn, one for each sock. I’m not a person who can get into wearing 2 different socks.

I’m very happy with this as my first venture down this particular rabbit hole. Here’s a sock I’m knitting with the yarn, about 3/4 done.

knitting with dyed sock blank

That dye experiment was so successful I decided to try to use the same method with a pair of cotton leggings. Hmmmm….This is the exact same hyacinth dye I used on the wool. Nowhere near as dark.

dip dyed leggings

So I mixed up more dye, same color, in various strengths and hand painted over those leggings. Still not excited.

hand painted leggings

My perisistent/stubborn self would not be bested by these leggings! I mixed up MORE dye – hyacinth and navy mixed together, and did a modified version of immersion dyeing, gradually pulling out the legs throughout the dye process.

immersion dyed leggings

I can tell you I won’t be going through this process again with the other pair of leggings I have to dye. I’m not sure what I will do, but it won’t be trying 3 different things!

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I made 2 more warps of towels. The first was yet another Ms & Os draft. It didn’t do exactly what I had in mind, and what I’ve seen others accomplish, but they are certainly fully functional towels.

8 more Ms & Os towels

Although I’m intrigued with how others achieved some cool effects with Ms & Os, I decided I needed to move on to other drafts and other colors. In my stash-busting effort, I went with a variety of greens, with a few blues, purples, and a pink thrown in the mix. I’m calling these Moss Creek, partly for the color, and partly for the ‘bubbly’ section that is very reminiscent of water running over little rocks in a stream.

8 Moss Creek towels

The towels are up in my Etsy shop, as are some other things. I plan to list more scarves and wearables in the next several days, as I have my Mother’s Day sale going on and want people to have plenty of options.

To do that, I’ve had to take more photos of my shawls and scarves. Towels are pretty easy to photograph. Other things? Not so much. I do not have a good location in my house. Period. I’ve tried hanging sheets as backdrops, both indoors and out, and I end up spending a lot of time in Photoshop trying to clean up the background, still to end up with something that I’m not happy with. I recently asked for and received permission from my neighbor to try to use their fence as a backdrop. If I wasn’t spending so much time writing this post I would have tried it out today. 🙂

potential photo backdrop

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My daughter’s nanny got Covid, so I’ve been helping out with childcare. The other day I took the little one to the zoo. He mostly wanted to climb on their wonderful new climbing area. I’d guess it’s 40′ wide and 80′ long, perhaps larger. Mostly made with fallen trees/logs and ropes. Some of those logs were planed on one side to make a flat surface for walking on, and they were attached aat various heights and angles. It was great fun for little kids!

zoo climbing area

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A friend of mine told me about a project sponsored by the Rochester Central Library called Knit Democracy. It’s a very cool concept: a collaborative knitting project AND a method of learning more about how our electoral system works. So of course I signed up. I completed four ‘building’ blocks and four ‘window’ blocks and submitted them. I’ve since gotten more yarn and as soon as I’m done with the socks I’ll knit more blocks.

blocks for KnitDemocracy project

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Last for this post, I also signed up for another stint of writing postcards to swing states. They send you the postcards, the names & addresses, and the script. You hand write them out and provide the stamps. I’ve committed to 400 postcards this time around! I’m aiming for 10 postcards a day, 40 days total, to get them all done. I think I’m on day 8. I’m hoping it encourages people to vote.

postcards to swing states

I’ve done my part…

…to stimulate the economy. That’s what those checks from the feds were for, right?

You may recall that last year I got an inflatable kayak. I loved it, and went out on the water pretty much every week. Until I couldn’t. Why? Leaks. Leaks which were patched and held. Until they didn’t. And were patched again, and failed again. Finally it was too much for me and I gave up.

In February I started calling marinas and boat sellers looking for a professional to do the needed repairs. No one would do it. Most weren’t even interested in talking to me. One kind man explained why he no longer did such patching…because those patches always fail. Sometimes quickly, sometimes not, no predicting the when.

So I did a lot of thinking and talking, and finally decided that I didn’t want to give up kayaking. Yet if I was going to buy a kayak it had to be light enough that I could load and unload it by myself, and do so easily enough that it wouldn’t discourage me from getting on the water.

By March 1 it was time to go visit Oak Orchard Canoe & Kayak and talk to the experts there. And reader, I bought a kayak! I made a lot of decisions that day and put down a deposit. I returned April 5, had the roof rack installed, and picked up my boat!

kayak on top of my car

This sweet little boat weighs just 32 pounds, easy enough for me to pick up and carry a short distance to the water. (And all the places I went to last year, a short distance was all I needed to tote my kayak. If I decide I need to carry it farther, I can buy a set of wheels.) I bought everything I needed to load and unload this boat independently, and to store it safely in my garage.

kayak in my garage

I brought it home on a Monday. On Tuesday I put it on my lawn and did some practicing of getting in and out of it. Trust me, I am not a graceful person, but I’m pretty confident I can do it.

I also practiced loading and unloading it onto/off of my car by myself, without a pro standing by me and saying, “Now do this.” My first load took me just over 16 minutes, and that included me doing something wrong with the tie down straps, twice, and having to re-do it. Unloading took only about half the time.

I was really eager to get out on the water, and Thursday was slated to be the day – beautiful weather.

Then a conversation with a friend convinced me otherwise. Although I almost always went out alone last year, I didn’t start until late May. Now, even though the air is warm, the water is very cold. So there will not be a lot of other kayakers on the water to help if trouble ensued. Much as I didn’t want to admit it, I knew she was right. 🙁

BUT! Today is a new day. A young woman I’m FB friends with has invited me to join her, her sister, and her mother-in-law for a paddle in a nearby creek this afternoon. YAY!!!! I’m VERY excited! In fact, it’s time for me to go outside and load the boat so I’m ready when she calls with confirmation of the time.

Good things are happening

Good things like not one but two batches of towels finished and listed in my Etsy shop. First up is that neutrals warp I talked about in the last post. The towels turned out great, if I do say so myself.

8 neutral towels in Ms & Os

You can see that although I was able to ease in the hem, it still flares a little, but I’m okay with it.
natural Ms & Os towel

In fact, I liked the towels so well that I decided to put on another warp in that Ms & Os structure, although designed differently. A threading error and reed sleying error, both of which happen often, and I was off and running with a warp that alternated stripes of color with natural, undyed cotton.

8 Ms & Os towels form a flower

The colors in these towels make them brighter than the neutrals, but still not as colorful as my work tends to be. 🙂

8 folded towels in a stack

Now, I’m working hard at using up my stash. That means using both color combinations and yarn sizes that are a bit of a stretch for me. This towel warp has 8/2 cotton (natural), 10/2 cotton (peacock and burgundy), and 12/2 cotton (goldenrod, pink, and sage). I therefore had to sett the yarns differently to make sure I had a good quality cloth at the end. I sett the 8/2 cotton at 24 ends per inch (EPI), which is my standard for towels, the 10/2 at 28 EPI, and the 12/2 at 32 EPI. I’ve never mixed setts in a single warp before and wasn’t sure how easy or difficult this would be to accomplish, and how the finished fabric would look and feel.

Well. The combination of 16 ends in each of the colored stripes and a 12 dent reed made adjusting the sett super easy. And the finished fabric? It’s a tad lighter than my usual, especially since I used those same yarns for weft, but that means that if you want to get your hand inside a glass to dry it, this towel will serve better than my usual. Of course, I can’t remember the last time I dried my dishes; they simply sit in the drainer overnight. But the weight and feel of the fabric? I bet most people wouldn’t even notice the difference. It’s all equally stable and functional. One more tool in my belt that I will need to use as I proceed. 😀

I started by weaving one towel with each of the six colors in the warp. As I wove I liked them all, the darks and the lights. But with a warp for eight, I had to pick two colors to repeat. Sure I could have used entirely different colors, but I didn’t have anything in my stash that I thought worked well with everything. I ended up doing a second towel each in the goldenrod and natural. And honestly? When all are finished these ended up being my favorites for sure.

goldenrod Ms & Os towel

I feel like there is a lot to learn, a lot of creativity left in the Ms & Os structure, and so have a third towel warp, again designed slightly differently, measured out and ready to beam. But I plan to stop there and give my customers something more like my rainbow blocks. At least that’s what I’m thinking at the moment. Only time will tell, though. Stay tuned…you may be the first to know. 😉