Friday, December 31, 2010

Another turn of the wheel

The last day of the year 2010. So, I suppose the last year of the decade. Just as I like to celebrate Yule, so I like to mark in some way the end of one year and the beginning of the next. It is a dark and dank and depressing day at the end of a year that has been less than easy in some ways. But it is nearly over and done with, and tonight is the time to see the past in some kind of perspective and move forward into an as yet unknown year, full of the promise of all sorts of good things as well as the mundane or difficult.

It is simply the turning of the wheel.

Before the season is over, photographs of two of my favourite decorations.

The tree, of course. This was a particularly nice one, with spiffy new gold baubles and so on after a few too many bit the dust in previous years to do a decent job.

And then, my favourite gold-and-sparkly twig garland.

This year, we have had extra lights to keep back the dark, which has been lovely, although the DSM will insist on trying out all the settings so sometimes they are flashing frenetically enough to damage hapless passers by.

I have been knitting, the best I could manage during the various socialisings and festivities. As the weather was so cold and snowy, I thought that one new hat might not be sufficient, so whacked out another.

The first is the one I mentioned earlier, the second a simple hat in Noro Kureyon that I had to hand, as one does....

Both need felting, which I have not yet done. But as the weather turned as I finished them to much milder and wetter, there hasn't been quite the urgency.

Sometimes I makes resolutions, sometimes I doesn't. This year I have - kind of - made one.


But actually, that little word "knit" encompasses a few sub-categories. It stands as well, of course, for spin; and has to include write; and then, eyes now functioning better, maybe bead; and who knows, with the newly emancipated DSM to urge me on, possibly even weave. Who knows? There is a whole new year stretching ahead!

So, fingers crossed, and good luck and a merry old time to us all.

I hope you have a head full of Plans, as I do!

Happy New Year.

Friday, December 24, 2010

A blog post

I have been trying to find the time to write a Christmas - or, rather, Yule - post. I have spent a lot of time pondering what I was going to say - words of wisdom about the meaning of the midwinter festival, the delight of the lunar eclipse on the actual Solstice (even if I didn't actually observe it......)

The frozen beauty of the woods and fields around our cottage, still remaining diamond bright even several days after the snow fell. The sparkling jewels in the snow from the ice crystals reflecting the light from the full moon. Occasional soft hoots from the tawny owls.

The enormous pleasure of piling on hand spun, hand knit garments to keep the cold from toes and fingers, wrapping shawls and scarves around our necks, and burrowing under throws on the sofa of an evening. It has been that cold. Never above freezing in daytime, down to around -10C at night. Today was positively balmy - -2C.

But events have conspired against me. Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday we were out and about - teaching, Guild, going to see "The Merry Widow" in Leeds (I do rather prefer the original, somewhat more risque-sounding title of "Die Lustige Witwe"!) and pub-lunching on Monday. And then the countdown to the weekend started, and orgy of cleaning and baking. This was always meant to be a low-key holiday, just us two and my sister. But somehow, the things that I regard as essential traditions take up quite a bit of time. I added to them this year, too, as I have made some things rather than buying others.

So, no-one to blame but myself.

And so, it is done. The veggie sausage rolls, the mince pies, the cashew nut roast and all the sauces and trimmings, the almond macaroons and a luscious lemon sponge are all safely made and suitably stowed. The parcels are all wrapped, and the children have spent the afternoon decorating - both human and feline!

The tree has been tied to the bookcase to prevent disasters, and totally weighed down with lovely new golden globes and stars and "cranberry" bead ropes by my sister. The DSM has festooned the inside and the outside of the house with fairy lights, some of which are flashing hysterically and will have to be turned down after I at least have had a seasonal libation or two. We went through the boxes of decorations all together and selected out the ones we liked best, then distributing them around - one of the nice things about having a beamed ceiling is decorating them for Christmas.

Meanwhile, the two younger felines have found an awful lot to play with in the form of strings and tinsel and int'restin' cardboard boxes (Neelix has simply been sleeping and eating as usual, having seen it all before.) Although Ruby did bring in a contribution to the feast, which we unkindly rejected on account of it being a very dead small rodent. No clue where she found that poor thing in this harsh weather.

And now all I have left to do is the Christmas Eve meal, now traditionally of a side of salmon. It is easy, seems sumptuous and gives us leftovers - what more could we ask? Well, the odd drink, of course. I am torn, tonight, between mulled wine and my favourite advocaat, another tradition.

Do you think I could have both?

Now I am aiming for two days with lots of spinning and knitting, not much of either having taken place over the last week. I have been working on a rather nice hat kit that a SOAR friend gave me, that has taught me to knit ridges, and last night I spent a happy couple of hours on the alpaca and silk lace shawl. (We three had gone over to Magrat's taking a moussaka with us, instead of having a regular Coven meeting.)

All further meal preparation will be shared, as will the clearing up. More family and maybe neighbours may drop by. There is the Christmas Doctor Who.......

Sounds totally ace to me!

However we celebrate, no matter what we believe, the midwinter festival is, I am certain, of enormous significance. I hope that your personal celebration be rich and satisfying, or at the very least a pause in any madness.

Merry, Merry.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Well, we are back from Cornwall.

But before we left, and on the way home, we managed a few treats.

Firstly, HP&TDHpt1. (Harry Potter, if that is a bit abstract.) I thought it was good. Can't quite use the word "enjoyed" and I certainly wouldn't really call it a "children's" film. Although I suppose the aspects of it that I found most harrowing were those that would pass over the heads of many of the very young children in the audience, by which I mean the hopelessness that the three young lead characters had to portray - rather well, too. But I did, along with everyone else flinch and squeak when the snake reared back up........

And then, "Macbeth", the film version with Patrick Stewart on television the next night. Cor. Riveting. As it started, and DMIL saw that it was a modern dress (ish) production, she bagan muttering pretty loudly, but by the end she was either as glued to it as we were, or comatose. By golly, the good Captain can act.

Next, a visit to Mevagissey, in the quiet and extreme chill of the winter, with the wind howling around the harbour gnawing at our finger tips. But I had to take photos, there was such a richness of shape and colour all around.

We had previously made a quick visit to Charlestown, and I had found a few good images there as well.

I am sure that the few dog walkers who saw me furiously photographing a little broken backed fibreglass dinghy though I was barking, but I though that the shapes were really interesting and I liked the old blue so reminiscent of indigo against the stained white.

I love going to Cornwall in winter.

On the way home, we finally made it to "Get Knitted"

We were quite good, although I did buy a teeny skein of "Jitterbug" and some "Cascade" yarn to make a felted bag. I had never seen it before, and was very taken with the range of colours. I was also very taken with this:

Just inside the door in the loo. Sit down, and look to your right at floor level.

Too cute!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Expect the unexpected

Fortunately not in terms of difficulties with the roads or weather. But it was cold, so very cold. I have never seen a hoar frost like the one that seemed to be blanketting the entire western half of the country!

Trees and grass were quite amazing, but the bits I loved best were the strings of ice crystals on what I assume were spiders' webs.

So, safely arrived, we took advantage of a brilliantly clear if bitterly cold day to visit our favourite beach, of course.

And we lingered to watch the sun go down.

Next day, we were taking DMIL to a hosptial appointment to have a possible skin cancer looked at (she has had them before). It was decided on investigation that it likely was and that as she had family around to keep an eye on her it would be removed immediately. It was all really quick and efficient - two hours from arrival to departure. And the staff were all delightful as well as efficient.

We came home armed with all kinds of stuff and lots of instructions, and started tucking in to a bowl of hearty veg and pearl barley soup that I had brought down with me - and that had, by the way, remained completely frozen from Monday to Thursday morning! Said it was cold!

Too soon to relax - part way through, the wound site began bleeding, and despite following instructions, we couldn't calm it down. So, the DSM had to make the trip to the local cottage hospital with DMIL, and they spent another couple of hours there whilst the staff got the bleeding under control.

All seems to be well now, thank goodness. But it seems prudent to us to extend our visit by a couple of days to get past the first dressing change by the district nurse tomorrow. So the morning was spent making volleys of phone calls to rearrange things - succesfully - and in my case making a risotto for lunch.

I did bring Christmas cards down with me to write - I think that is going to turn out to have been very far-sighted of me! Apart from that, I have put several inches on the alpaca and silk lace stole, and have finished the first Wollmeise sock and cast on the second.

So, fingers crossed..........

Sunday, December 05, 2010


The shawl is finished - kind of. It needs a good steam press before photographing, hence........

I'm now sort of floundering around doing a bit of sock, a bit of lacy stole, seeing if I can get a hat out of the yarn left over from the shawl, looking at piles of yarn wondering what I could do with them, contemplating casting on for a large, long rectangle that would fold in to a rather cool shrug.

We went over to see my sister yesterday, just because, and also to help her finish off her knitted thing. Which looks lovely - and before it had the front bit attached, she tried it on with just the ends folded, and it looked fabulous. Hence my thought. But do I really want to knit for hours and hours on a massive rectangle in K1P1 rib?? Could it work with cables? Could I ever metamorphose in to an organised, purposeful person who has some clue what she wants to do?

I drove the new to us vehicle over yesterday, which was much easier than I had anticipated (Now, there's a surprise!) A lot of the snow was in the process of melting and the roads were clear anyway. Among all the other fancy bells and whistles that we had not set out to have are heated front seats. Such decadence. Although apparently they come with dire warnings not to leave them on too long for fear of actually scorching delicate parts of the anatomy. I had been slightly concerned that I might have felt a bit odd with the wider car, but apparently not. I guess that is a good thing, as we have every intention of keeping it for a long time!

Anyway, we are off to Cornwall for a few days tomorrow. Quite difficult to know what to pack. Apart from my red Croc wellies for beach-walking, I suppose.

And one, one knitting project to concentrate my mind........

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

More snow

This was the view from the bedroom window mid-morning.

Can it get much better than this? Snow and sheep!

Although it does mean that we have considered it more prudent not to drive off over the moor to collect the new car. We don't think that the road is actually blocked, it just seems sensible not to venture out in these extremely adverse-for-driving road conditions. Even with 4WD. We have even abandoned our usual routine of going to fetch the paper.

The Snowshoes decided that that given their name, if not heritage, they would go out. But not for long. A brief foray to check the boundaries and see just what that pheasant up the back was doing, and then it was back indoors. But they are bored. And therefore either playing (together! amicably!) or being bad. So, a couple of cat - Ruby - photographs.

Me? Scratching the bottom of the chair? Of course not!

And this is my camera peering at Madam through the long purple tunnel. I hadn't realised that it had danglies inside it.

And I have been playing, too. Not just striving to finish the shawl (I'm knitting as fast as I can....) or to press on with the Shetland/Zwartbles cross (and gawd knows what I am going to do with the yarn when it is all spun up. Of which more later, no doubt.) No, playing with my new....well, toy doesn't seem the right word. Little beauty? My Preciousssss?

(Apologies for wobbly photos, it's the excitement.)

My beautiful, beautiful new Golding. I had stalked it for probably months on their web site, expecting every time I went to drool that it would have gone. But no. And one day, I just snapped, snapped, I tell you. The only fly in the proverbial is the ENORMOUS Customs charge. I've practically repaid the National Debt. Sheesh, it's a rip off! But there we go, one has to suffer for one's pleasures........

I need more tea. It is too early for a hot toddy as yet. Although I suppose I could follow in the footsteps of my dear old granny - I do in so many ways - and add a slug of scotch to it. Or, maybe not!

Back to the shawl. But before I go, can anyone tell me what has happened to the Blogger spell check, if anything? Is is hiding, discontinued, or am I just being dense?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Shiver; shiver

It is very cold. There is a little snow on the ground. The sky today has been a beautiful clear blue.

It is bloody fantastic! Gimme more!

So, the first shiver is for the lovely wintry weather, into which we have ventured the last couple of days. Yesterday, we went to Harrogate to the Knitting and Stitching Show. We hadn't intended to go, but a long-time friend rang me and said how about meeting up, and I thought this was an excellent idea. Which it was. We met her for lunch, then had a browse around for a couple of hours, during which time we bumped in to another old friend that we don't get to see all that often and ended up spending a good twenty minutes chatting with her over a cup of coffee. Nice.

I bought very little. Unfortunately, one of the very few things I bought was very expensive, and not even craft related! I had been searching for a black leather handbag of a particular type, and lo and behold I found one. Just don't ask what it cost.......

After leaving the K&S - which on balance was no more than "all right"; in other words, not enough fibre and spinning related stuff, so we may not bother again (heard that before!) Anyway, we toddled off to Bettys and re-met the one friend and joined another - the three of us were at college together far more years ago that I want to contemplate, and it is always nice to get together. We have plans for New Year now. Goody!

So, today. There has been an exhibit at the Bronte Parsonage Museum that I serendipitously read about in "Selvedge". It looked really interesting, and with only a couple of days left, I dragged the DSM over there will he nil he.

Even he said that he was glad that I had done. The artist was
Su Blackwell , the pieces site specific and totally appropriate and delightful. The link should give some idea of her work; the pieces that I particularly loved were those in the children's bedroom, the "Genii" and castles and books, and lovely representaions in a delicate form of the young Brontes imaginings.

Mind you - why, when I go to Howarth, is it always

We had a nice lunch; then I bludgeoned the DSM is calling in at a nearish by garage to start the hunt for a replacement car for my beloved Jimny. (I'm being so mean to him at the moment....) Here's the second shiver. We found one straight away! We won't actually collect it until Wednesday, but they had a couple of what seemed to be really nice ex demo models at reasonable (gulp!) prices. We had intended visiting the other branches of this Suzuki dealer, but they all work off the same computer stock system so there was no point, and there was one out on the forecourt, all ready to try. So we did, and decided on it, and should have it in time to go to Cornwall the week after next.

It's very hi-tech - hope I can cope! Oh, and silver, which is boooooring, but that can't be helped.

We have now earned a little peace and quiet over the reat of the weekend. With the cold and snow, it is a good one to stay in and spin. I fancy lighting a fire - I need to check if there is any wood.

Mulled wine would be nice....and crumpets. Just how many indulgences can I fit in, eh?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Good intentions butter no beetroot

Or something.

Be a better blogger, I vowed. Yeah, right. What I hadn't realised was that although the DSM had been at home for the entire year, actually being able to label him Officially Retired might be different. So quite apart from other aspects of life intervening, getting used to it being winter and Very Dark (sometimes) there would be that to contend with as well.

Must try harder.

So, wazzup? The usuals. AH on Friday - nice day, one new spinner enabled. At this rate, we shall be taking over the world (I wish!) Guild the next day, more new members, all lovely and full of enthusiasm. I'm trying to persuade the Guild that we should run a proper class for the newcomers (and yes, I do mean I would lead it, among others) so I am hopeful that will happen some time next year.

So that's all good.

Then, I have been doing stuff. I always do something, no matter what. Remember this?

The red/pinks/green/silk hackled blend that started life as an AH class demo? Well, I finally finished spindle spinning and plying it.

I really, really like this yarn. Slightly thicker than I normally spindle spin, but I have managed to keep it quite soft; and it is very pretty. Funny how something so totally unplanned can work out - just right. That's without ever knowing what right might be! Unfortunately, there is slightly less than 100 grammes (haven't worked out the yardage yet) so I am a bit limited in what I can make with it. I'm thinking another cowl, so I shall be off to Ravelry to hunt up a possible pattern or three.

I did that - and looked everywhere else I could think of - for a pattern for a stole for the "Volcano" yarn I spun from Freyalyn's fluff. Whatever I tried - holey, cabley, stitch whatever patterny - just didn't look right. In the end, I was forced to realise that the way this yarn had come out, it needed simple stocking stitch. So, I am doing a Danish type (ie, long wingspan) triangular shawl in stocking stitch with a small garter panel up the spine and a garter edging - and I may very well knit a vaguely holey edging on to that.

I love the way the colour has worked - I did a kind of fractal thing - split the roving in half lengthways, spun one half, split the other in half again and spun those, then plied. There is a lot of creative mileage in those fractals! I am very tempted to get some more of the same colourway, and do a different version, just for the heck of it. (Plus, I like the fibre.)

So, the new week has started, and there are a few things on the calendar. I am going to accompany the mater to her hospital appointment on Wednesday, which will be fun. I am really hoping that we can get her some delaying treatment.

And then on Friday, we are after all going to Harrogate for the Knitting and Stitching Show. I Am Not Going To Buy Anything. No, I am not. But old friends are going that day and it is a good excuse for a get-together, so why ever not, eh? Then we have an unexpected trip to Cornwall coming up, but that's ok. A half day workshop before that. And then, well, there's something - oh, yes, Christmas.

I suppose I should be making some sort of preparations for that, h'mm?

Yeah. Keep you posted on that one......

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Before and after and now

On our first day in Wisconsin, we decided not to let the previous day's travel stop us doing things, so we headed out to one of the iconic fibre stores we had known of for years through the SOAR market.

(However, the aformentioned tiredness did lead to me forgetting to take my camera, so no photos yet!)

We were awake early, of course; had breakfast, hooked up with a friend from the UK and headed out to The Fold
We have known Toni Neill, the owner, for pretty much as long as we have been going to SOAR, and it was lovely to actually get to see the treasure house that is her store. She was lending us wheels for the week; but we spent a very long time, fortified with cups of tea, browsing and....purchasing. A little yarn, a few spindles - I spent ages trying them - and some super fibres, most notably some gorgeous black baby llama, some of which I have been spindle spinning, and some silvery grey/blue
merino and silk.

Eventually, hunger drove us away, and in the next little town along we stumbled upon a delightful french-style bistro-creperie, crepes from whence fortified us for a return to Lake Lawn and a restorative nap before having a slightly rowdy dinner with a multi-national group of friends.

That was the first visit we made; our last (yes, I know, weird running order) was to another totally iconic store, Susan's Fiber Shop.

Susan's booth at the market is always instantly recognisable by its size, the vast range of goodies, and Susan at the centre of things in a state of perpetual motion, multi-tasking to the ult. 'zactly the same at the store! She simultaneously showed spinning wheels to a potential purchaser; helped someone out with a recalcitrant wheel whilst at the same time giving her an impromptu spinning lesson; answered several telephone calls; and talked to us. Eventually, she even took us to meet her Teeswater sheep in the paddock just outside. Way cool!

See what I mean? (And yes, we did buy something....)

About a third of the store....

And, the Teeswaters.

We had made a couple of other visits - and I'll leave the very best until last. But another goodie was a visit to Madison to have lunch with Deb Menz, and Sara Lamb who were waiting to go teach another workshop the following weekend. Not only did we get a great lunch out of them, but we also had a studio tour. Now, normally I would not say that I had a jealous bone in my body. Normally. But I am human, believe it or not, and I own to major, major envy of Deb's studio. The entire ground floor of a house. Almost as much space as we live in. She does know how lucky she is, so I forgive her..........

How a studio should be - full of inspirations, equipment, colour - and finished pieces, of which I also have photos but they need cropping. Maybe later.

I was alone in the fibre store area for a while.....I resisted temptation, wasn't that exemplary of me?

The last visit to describe was the first we made immediately post-SOAR. We drove across to Minneapolis-St Paul to visit a cousin of mine. The younger brother of the cousin closest to me in age and with whom I had spent a lot of time at one stage, although not so much now, as she moved to Thailand!

Anyway, I knew he had an American family, and it seemd too good an opportunity to miss to catch up, so we went.

I am so glad we did. I only wish we had arranged things differently so we could have stayed longer, but there, we didn't, so we will just have to go again. We had such a warm welcome from the entire family, including the dog and cat; were plunged into an enthusiastic round of Halloween activities; fed the most delicious brie and apple soup; and swapped family stories for way too long.

Unfortunatly, I only took a couple of photos, so this is a nice one of my cousin's wife, but you can't really see Zachary as he is busy being a skeleton!

And this is Andrew jr, as a rather too giggly, friendly alligator.

Andrew jr loves, just loves having visitors to stay, and (fortunately we were warned) rushes in to see them very early in the morning. We were awakened by several more enthusiastic "trick or treat" happenings before I suggested that we had sufficient candy for seven am; whereupon it went quiet for all of three minutes before the door opened again....there was a pause...and a small bouncy dog was encouraged onto our bed. Good job we like animals. Actually, it was heaps of fun, I loved being treated as family - but then, I suppose we were!

I need to stop - get supper and so on. There is knitting to do, fresh on the needles (startitis creeping in again.)

More later......

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

First post post SOAR

We have been home since Saturday lunchtime...and without internet or phone from then until yesterday afternoon!! This thanks to the endless efficiency of AOL/Talktalk - it took us most of Monday to find out what the problem was and to get it sorted, costing us about £15 in mobile phone charges until we threw ourselves on to the mercy of a friend and took over his phone for the afternoon.


Our flight home was pretty smooth and uneventful. I like Aer Lingus, although they were not responsible for the strong tail winds that got us in about an hour early. And, mirabile dictu, as the DSM does not have to get himself in to work, he is not having sleeping difficulties, so I am not suffering the usual horrific "jet lag", merely a normal version thereof.

I am not as yet entirely sure how I am going to divide up the tale of the last few days of our trip. So, I shall first finish off SOAR details with the cochineal Retreat session.

What this did, basically, was turn my orthodoxy on to its head. Some of what I learned I shall definitely put in to practice, some of it not. I already knew that Demetrio used alum at 20%, which is double my amount; I don't think I shall emulate, especially as I am just as likely to use no mordant at all with cochineal. I think the fact that his textiles have to survive in Mexican sun is highly relevant, and Pennine greys will not require such stern measures!

But I was impressed with how he added his mordant to the pot (this for premordanting). The pot was brought to a boil, and the alum added dry directly to it - now, our received wisdom is to carefully mix the alum in a little hot water to dissolve it as much as possible first, which is always hard to achieve; I really do think that chucking it in to a pan at a rolling boil works better.

The other main difference is that the boiling continues - and I have always been very cautious and careful with reds as the orthodoxy is that too high a temperature will lead to brown shades. Very obviously not the case.

His additives were always baking soda and lime juice, and he is adamant that these are the best to use, but I am not so totally convinced about that. It is after all the ph that is the critical thing, no matter how obtained. He put the lime into the dyepot, and did the moderating with the alkaline afterwards - and back again, just because you can!


Demetrio tending his dyepot.

Cooking - close to a boil, anyway.

My very own sample skeins. I had taken some whitefaced woodland that I had already spun for natural dye projects, and I am really pleased with the results. I have around 100gms here, which should be enough for a small project.

The three skeins on the left as you look at the photo are from the three strengths of dyepot; the other two are done with the strongest pot, one alkaline, one acid. And they look just as nice now that I have them back home.

I really enjoyed this class; I learned quite a bit, and being in lovely sunshine with old friends didn't hurt any either. It's a nice memory to cherish, which is another reason to get a meaningful if small project out of the yarn samples.

We do have a lovely cochineal dyed rug we bought from him - I have yet to photograph it, but will get it up here eventually!

Anyway, that's about it for SOAR this year. Will we go again? We don't know yet. As it is in New England next year, we have a plan, but early days yet.

Next post will be, I think, on "visits". We made a few.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Putting down a marker

Since leaving Delevan on Sunday, we have had such a busy and good time that there hasn't been a minute to post.

So, I'm going to leave it now until I get home and have enough brain back to do things proper justice.

Here are three photographs of sunset from the house we are renting.

Utterly gorgeous.

There is lots to tell!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Last night of SOAR

I don't have the time or energy to do a post that will do justice to my class this morning, so I will do a proper one at a later date. It was cochineal dyeing, with Demetrio Bautista Lazo - I do hope I have got that right, but if I haven't, I will do so next time.

This afternoon, I did a kind of "wild spinning" class with Jeannine Glaves, who is an old mate, and a hoot, not to mention a good and interesting teacher - and I have learned that I never want to spin Tyvek, old ties, old nylons, tinsel, kapok or Easter basket grass (don't ask....) Ever again. So, useful, eh? (I seem to have been hanging out with Canadians too much!)

We had dinner a deux in the bar, as we couldn't face the dining room food even one more time - marginally better, well, quite a bit really. Sigh.

We have acquired lots of lovely spindles (watch the website after we get back) and a bit more fibre for us. Now, there's a surprise!

And I managed to brave the noise levels and socialise a bit tis evening, which was fun. But now I have crashed, so have come back to our room to start on the packing.

We are off to Minneapolis tomorrow, and then back this-aways for four nights. We have a few fun things lined up, but I hope to get one or more blog posts done whilst it is all fresh in my mind.

I like this tribe.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Good things: SOAR 3

Yesterday, I shopped. The SOAR market is always a good one, although quite small. This year, it seems larger, with some vendors new to me as well as old favourites. I stuck to my plan to buy larger quantities for more "serious" projects, and thus far have some utterly delicious merino/silk in a green they call "Spinach"; some mauve, lilac, purple stuff; and - some cormo! (Blue-greens) The very pleasant vendor not only is happy to ship internationally, but takes Paypal, so I now have a supply lined up. I am happy.....

We also each bought two huge pottery mugs decorated with a sheep and a spindle. Even the DSM, who does not understand my crockery obsession, agreed that they were too good to miss. No photos as yet - I will do a big catch-up at some point.

Today, I had my first class, and what a humdinger it was. I own and really like the dvd by Jacey Boggs; now I have done my first class with her, I am totally a fan. She is an excellent teacher, explains things very concisely and clearly, and as many times as you need. Then she leaves you to do whatever it is whilst she moves around the room checking on progress and being very encouraging. We are lucky to have such wonderful young teachers coming up - and, she is likely to appear in the UK some time, so rush to sign up when she does.

When she has time, she tells stories. Not necessarily for those of a nervous disposition! Seems she was teaching in Amsterdam. Seven months preganant and accompanied by her mother, she decided to visit a live sex show. She gave enough of a description to make the thing seem vivid....and as she herself said, weird The things you learn at SOAR!

After that, things went downhill a little. Lunch was more of a disaster than usual, as he person serving soup admitted that it was made with a chicken stock. And whilst I have no problem with a cheese roll from time to time, every day gets, shall we say, monotonous. Even the carnivores are getting disgruntled with the same lunch every single day. There are no vegetarian entrees, except for pasta with a tomato sauce that has appeared twice. I would say that I am amazed that a place considered fairly upmarket could have so little understanding of special dietary requirements, but I know that the origin of the problem almost certainly lies elsewhere. But we don't want to miss meal times because the company is so good!

The other downer was, as expected, the Open Studio. Although it is possible that things might pick up, as the DSM stayed on when I bailed, and has not yet returned. But it was basically a spin in, for which we paid a retreat class price. The lack of interest was obvious - only around half of the possible number actually attended.

Ah, well - I have cochineal dyeing tomorrow. When I get around to posting pics, there will hopefully be one of the gorgeous little rug we bought from the mentor. The results from the workshop were spectacular, but they were using alum at 20% as mordant, which is double what I use. But then, the goods have to survive in the Mexican sun, rather than the West Yorkshir Pennines!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


So, here I am at Day 3 - which would normally be the last workshop day, but in my case is the last day of a rather splendid mini-vacation.

Each day has taken more or less the same form. Get up insanely early with the DSM, drink a pretty foul cup of tea, go to breakfast, which is probably the best meal of the day, come back to room. Wave bye bye to the DSM, read a bit. Toddle of to pool, where I doggy paddle around for half and hour or so, back to room, make pot of coffee, read, knit spin.

I had intended to walk the grounds, but we have had a lot of rain one day, and extremely high winds every day, so I have marched the endless corridors instead!

Go to meet the DSM for lunch, then afterwards more of the above. Lunch is probably the second best meal of the day, supper generally the least satisfactory. The arrangements for non-meat eaters at this SOAR are strange, and we nearly bust a double gasket on the first evening when there was only meat and vegetables and sald. The salad is good, but identical every day, twice a day. Most strange - the best quality food in ages, but absolutely no notion of how to treat vegetarians. But this is Wisconsin - which means cows......

In all other respects, this location for SOAR is brilliant. All under one roof, comfortable rooms, lots of nooks and crannies with comfy chairs for gathering. It would be nice to think that we might be returning in future years, but for one thing, the resort is in receivership (!!) and lli8kely to close; for another, massive change, SOAR is moving to a chain hotel in a city next year.

For now, I stay silent on the matter.......

Today, though, I varied my routine and went a-visiting some of the workshops with my camera. Not easy to take good photos at SOAR, the classrooms are not usually well-lit. But I got a few, and chatted my way happily around the place.

This is the DSM and the famous (or should that be infoamous??) Denny, both taking the bast fibres class with Stephenie Gaustad. It looks to have been a brilliant class.

This was on the wall of Deb Menz's classroom. Please note the letters in green! Love our little ole fibre world.

Then I visited Sara Lamb's silk ribbons class (hope I've got the title right!) I appear to have given her a halo, but that is probably appropriate!

After that I did have a little wander outside, because the sun was shining. There was intersting tree bark - this is an unfamiliar variety of oak with humungous leaves most of which have now blown away in the gales

And I couldn't resist the red fire hydrant in the flower bed.

Tomorrow, the market opens. Need I say more? The intention this year is to by larger quantities of fewer fibres, to try to avoid the "problem" of having four ounces of something pretty to fit to a project. And there will be spindles........

Friday and Saturday, I am taking classes. More on that after the event.

Monday, October 25, 2010

O Frabjous Day!!

Firstly - so much for all my good intentions of a post a day while at SOAR. Ah, well. A resume.....

More than reasonable trip over, enlivened only by someone thinking that she had lost her passport somewhere in Dublin Airport. Ooops. In my defence, we had thought that we had loads of time to make the transfer, but when we arrived at Security, we were told that they had made the last call for boarding for our flight, so we were all of a doo dah. We were fast tracked through security and rushed to the gate, where I realised that my passport and boarding card were no longer in my hand. The DSM did not freak out, and rushed back to see if I had left it in Security which seemed the most likely thing, but - no. When he returned, it was only then that it dawned on me that I could have put them in my carry on when I replaced the Kindle after screening,,,,phew.

Anyway, we had not realised, but you still go through US Immigration at Dublin, so even though that made us last but two on to the plane, when we arrived in Chicago we just had to pick up baggage and go through Customs and we were done.

The other slightly enlivening thing was having two female pilots (both petite blondes, I saw them). I know it should not be a surprise, in this day and age - but it is. They were great - most informative on the flight, and a brilliant landing.

We picked up our car, and had an easy drive up to Delavan. Immediately bumped in to a friend, so we had a meal together before I crashed.

Saturday morning, we bumped in to another friend going in to breakfast, so we joined forces and after eating went off on a trip to pick up our loaner wheels and do a little pre-market shopping. Had a super lunch in a creperie! and then went back - and crashed. And I know, this is all meals so far, but we gathered a group up for dinner and had a lovely time before - you guessed it - crashing.

Sunday morning, the weather was frightful - there had been torrential rain during the night and it was still heavy in the morning. But we had to do a little shopping for essentials (like tonic to go with the gin) so after a nice breakfast in Delavan itself, we checked out the nearby malls. And this is where the blog title comes in.

I have very few ambitions in life - one was seeing the Northern Lights, which happened a few years ago; but another was to see/visit something read about in books or seen in movies.

Wait for it........

I don't think that think that I really and truly believed in their existence - I mean to say, how can a supermarket have such a ridiculous name? But there it was, and we shopped there to prove it. SOAR and this too - how did I get to be so lucky?

And SOAR and all its madness has started, and we have met up with the tribe. Class began this morning for the DSM - I have been swimming, walking, reading, knitting and chatting. Bliss.

There will be more later.