Monday, November 28, 2016

First Sweater in Two Years

Or perhaps more. My ability to knit has been so constrained.

And it took under two months to make.

l snagged a bunch of handspun hand painted yarns and started knitting mitred squares kinda willy-nilly without much of a plan. I just grabbed the next yarn when one ran out and while most of them looked pretty good together the sleeves which scraped the bottom just didn't blend that well.

The rest wasn't really fabulous either color-wise. In the back of my mind was always the thought that I might need to overdye but mostly I was thinking of a strong colour and couldn't settle on anything.

The wild collection of colours made me think of an "art" activity from when I was very young: cover a sheet of paper with all the Crayolas as thick as they'll go and then cover the whole with black as thick as it'll go. With something pointy scrape off lines or designs to reveal a rainbow under the black.

I grabbed rubber bands from the kitchen drawer and tied them around various bright spots on the sweater, crumpled it up and tossed it in a hot dyepot with a generous glug of black dye and let it exhaust without stirring.

The black reads as deep purple but it's dull enough that the circles of colour preserved by the rubber bands still pop - and it had the added benefit of relaxing the knit fabric to enhance the nature of the silk yarn.

I'm not unhappy although if I'd had more yarn I'd have made longer sleeves. But I'm back to making sweaters and that makes me really happy.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Not Rocket Science

I used to know someone who actually was a rocket scientist and so I was delighted when she was struggling in a dye class to be able to declare that dyeing was in no way, shape or form rocket science. She very graciously didn't groan, grimace or even roll her eyes at me.

This bangle too is not rocket science.
I had a vision for this bracelet (but honestly my ideas as often as not don't quite pan out exactly) and except for having to use a different size bead in one instance, it worked out pretty much as planned. I enjoy projects that allow you to use up the far too many of that really awful colour fire-polished bead you thought you'd cleverly buy in bulk (check), or use beads of different shapes (check), different colours (check), or different finishes (check).

It's a bangle which means I designed it to be stiff, and because I stitch tightly it wasn't that difficult to stiffen, but it would work equally well (for the more relaxed stitcher) as a close-fitting bracelet with a clasp.

I also think (and time may prove me wrong) that it will also work well much, much smaller (and with different seed beads to adjust the curvature) as a necklace enhancer on a beaded rope or string of fat beads, or as hoop earrings.

Stay tuned!

Sunday, November 13, 2016


I'm not even going to talk bout what happened last week because don't even get me started on how that could do with some improvement.

I know I always complain about deadlines but this time for real I've been set back close to a month what with Hawaii (yes, I know, and I'm not complaining, I'm just saying) and then my mother visiting which definitely cramped any creativity I might ordinarily be deploying to come up with new designs for the next batch of classes at Lady Bug Beads.

Students have suggested on more than one occasion that I simply haul out some old-to-me new-to-them designs and I suppose I could but truthfully my tastes have changed and some of those old ones should stay in the attic forever but there is one that I've been wanting to rework for ages.
 I don't absolutely hate it or anything, but it screams for more colours (not just two) and the focal is so puny you miss it unless you know it's there and even then it just looks like a mistake.  I like the pearls but you can't get nice pearls for the prices I used to pay back then so the price of the kits would skyrocket if I wanted to re-issue them and the rope motif is nice and all but it's spaced too widely and seems a bit spare to me.
So I fixed it.

More interesting focal, more colours, more dense, different beads.

Doesn't feel stale to me anymore.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Not Entirely New

I know you've seen this before, but I thought it was a fun experiment anyway.

Last time I used the medium rondelles to help with the tension adjustment and I wanted to see if the size of the rondelle mattered. It does a bit, but not a ton: the beaded bead with the largest rondelle is a little squishy compared with the one in the centre, and the smallest is a tiny bit firmer.

The tiny rondelles are about the size of a Czech size eight seed bead, so this might well work with sizes six and eight seed beads - probably Czech, probably not a rather square seed bead like a Matsuno, and probably, depending on the colour since colour occasionally seems to affect shape and size, Miyuki and Toho beads.

Then there are the demi beads and the mini duos - so many possibilities!

I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Big Island

So sue me, I was in Hawaii on vacation. The Big Island.

Not too shabby.
On our first full day we drove up the coast to see the petroglyph field. I don't know what those symbols mean (I don't read that language) but it was pretty cool all the same. Weird though because the petroglyph field is sandwiched neatly between a golf course and a, umm, whatchamacallit, condo village - you know, a bunch of fancy samey-samey condos scattered randomly-but-not-randomly around a little courtyard with shops and restaurants. In the middle of nowhere.

Then we drove down a little further to a beach to see green sea turtles. We should have been there earlier in the morning because we only saw two but they were quite close enough and looked pretty chill there on the algae-covered lava rocks in the sun.
Then we ate lunch. I had poke. It was good. You should try it if you like sushi or sashimi.

I think we may have gone to some beach or another that afternoon - it was a black sand beach (from the black lava rocks one assumes) and apart from the sand getting ridiculously hot, it was a pretty decent beach with good swimming waves and prettiness.

I also found a place that offered yoga classes on an open deck overlooking the ocean, so even though it's already a bit hot and humid at eight-thirty in the morning, the sea breeze makes it all pretty perfect.

And I managed to go twice.

The next day, or perhaps the day after, we realised that we simply had to go to the green sand beach, one of only four in the entire world. Bonus: it's just about at the southernmost tip of the United States. You thought Key West was the furthest south, and it is: of the continental US.

Only thing is that this beach has nothing, not even a road to it, so you drive south, and the take South Point Road until the cardboard sign proclaiming the turn-off to the green sands beach which goes to a rough gravel parking lot. You then start walking towards the sea until you find the massive ruts left by countless four-wheel drive vehicles that have bumped and scrambled over the dunes, digging ever deeper tracks until the tracks are impassible, and then making a new path. So you walk and you walk in the crazy wind and heat and humidity with a pack on your back with beach stuff and water and a snack or two and you keep trying to walk close to the sea because (a) it's prettier than the endless yellow rutted dirt and (b) you can't miss the beach if you stick to the coast and you try your very best to keep your long-legged 6'3" son in view so that you don't get lost and let me tell you, you're just about exhausted after two and a half miles of this and then you see this beach way down in the cinder cone and indeed the sand is green and you go "WTF? I can't get down there! I don't do rock-climbing  and I'm definitely not belaying anything or rappelling anything else even if I had the equipment and then you walk around to where a few people are hanging around the 4WD vehicles and you see that the rocks have sand-carved steps that just fit your feet and so you walk down the side of the cinder cone to the green sands as if it were the staircase in an old movie.
It's obviously not an emerald green, it's more olive, but it's most definitely green. The water is cerulean and azure and aqua and turquoise and the swimming was good, especially after the windy, hot trek with the too-heavy backpack.

And then after catching your breath and cooling off you walk up the stairs and make your way back, hoping you're not lost when you don't find the parking-lot immediately, but eventually you do and then you savour the work to get to the place that's like magic in this gorgeous place.

The next day was The Day of the Tour.

I don't usually care for organised tours because of the crowds and the spoonfeeding and the expense but if we wanted to see sunset from the summit of Mauna Kea we'd need a 4WD vehicle in which we'd have to make our way down from fourteen thousand feet in the pitch dark because no lights because of the observatory and all those telescopes.

So we did the tour thing.

On the plus side: lots of time to knit on the bus and no driving. I don't adore driving on windy roads quite honestly.
After driving up and up they fed us an early dinner (in retrospect I think to help stave off altitude sickness by filling us with carbs) and drove up and up some more, showed us the various telescopes scattered around (three types: regular but humungous telescopes, microwave humungous telescopes and I think infrared humungous telescopes) and told us Stuff about them. One of the big ones had a mirror something like thirty feet across and was somewhere in the six to eight inches range thick, weight some crazy number of tons and took years to make in I think New Jersey or somewhere far away. It had to come up the mountain on roads barely wide enough for two small vehicles to pass each other and remain completely horizontal at all times, otherwise its own weight would have shattered it.

And then we watched the sunset in borrowed parkas and gloves until it was dark.
And then they took us to a really dark place where they set up telescopes and used green laser pointers (which more than a couple of people really wanted) to indicate various constellations and whatnot in the sky, and then showed us cool stuff in the telescopes. 

We saw Saturn and its rings, a double star (one blue, one yellow), a gas cloud (i.e. star breeding grounds), a thing that looked like a green Froot Loop but which may have been a dead star but I don't quite remember, and all sorts of other celestial objects. 

It was so dark that we could easily see the Milky Way stretched out across the sky above us, from one horizon to the opposite one.

That was not awful in the least.

And then we got home and my mother was bitten by a six-inch gross centipede and had a really bad reaction and it turns out that on the entire Big Island around midnight if you need anything pharmacy or medical the only choice you have is the Kona Community Hospital. No urgent care pharmacies, no open pharmacies or supermarkets for that matter.

Needless to say it was a very long night and I've never seen anyone in quite that much pain; it looked worse even than when my son broke both his radius and ulnar and the people at the hospital just said "Yes, it stings a bit, doesn't it; we'll give you ibuprofen and benadryl" until I persuaded them that it was a bit more serious than that. Not life-threatening as it turns out, but quite awful.

So far it's been a week and the swelling still hasn't gone down all the way.

The next day we saw gorgeous things on the way to Hilo
We took the scenic route and stopped wherever we found pretty (or wherever the inter webs told us was pretty. Mostly they were right).

In Hilo I ate fruits I'd never had before.
Rambutan and mangosteen and longan. And fruits I hadn't had for ages: guavas and persimmons and dragon fruit and they were all rather good.

Let me just say now that I'm in love with all the things inside Volcano National Park and I think I'd consider going back there after I've seen Asia and the Northern Lights and the Canadian Maritimes and Alaska because LAVA! 

So my kids and I hiked across Kilauea Iki: four hundred feet down to get into the crater, across the length of the crater (it looks almost like a double crater, a bit like the outlines of a figure-eight), four hundred feet up the other side, and around to get a pretty view and back to the car which makes it about four miles total and I loved it so much I almost felt like going back in reverse but my mother was hanging out in some coffee shop waiting for us so that didn't happen.
From above the crater looks completely flat but when you get down there you can see that things have been happening under the floor of the crater since it was smoothed out, creating fissures and uprisings and cracks and hillocks. The hiking path across the crater is marked with piles of rocks and the place is like another planet. Barren and harsh and black and yet there are plants - not many, not large, but finding a foothold here and there and surviving.

It was pretty magical actually.
And we walked through a lava tube. These are formed by lava rushing off somewhere, the top layer solidifying but underneath it rushes and roils and keeps a pathway open and that's a lava tube. The Thurston Tube is probably eight to ten feet in diameter and perhaps (I'm guessing wildly) fifty feet long.

Driving through the park is weird. There are trees and scrub grass as far as you can see and then suddenly it's all lava rock where there was a flow that wiped out everything in its path and then the trees and grass appear again on the other side of the flow. We didn't drive all the way to Kalpana on the coast, but from the road we could see the steam at the coast where the lava hits the ocean.

We had to turn around to get to the Jaggar Museum so that we could se the lava glow in the Halemaumau Crater at sunset.
Only thing is, there's so much lava there right now that well before sunset the lava spatters and rivulets were easily visible and utterly mesmerising so we stood there in a howling breeze and for the first time ever I wanted a really good telephoto lens for my phone because this picture is the best it would do, no matter how many photos I took.


It's the best.

Around Hilo we did lots of driving around to see gorgeous things, farmers' markets, waterfalls, eating, that sort of thing. No complaints.
It wasn't hideous at all.
I do miss the sea though. Oh yeah, and my kids.

Sunday, October 2, 2016


So I was poking around the inter webs and I saw a picture of a chain comprised for four-sided components and four-sided things make me think of cubes and so after noodling around a bit I made it into a cube and I liked it but it was squishy with the fire-polished rounds and it quickly occurred to me that if I was having difficulty making it firm then 99.9% of people taking my classes would be likely to end up with a puddle of beads so I tried teardrop beads instead of fire-polished beads.

They kinda looked nice but a bit messy and uneven and still squishy.  
Then there was an ill-fated foray into all super duos (below) with an ugly failed attempt at stiffening the corners and a few even more foolish ideas involving internal support none of which made it beyond about a third of the way through until finally I broke out the tiny rondelles (far right above) which made the whole thing just sing.
I mean, it was operatic.

I'm not sure why the rondelles which are not that different in size from the fire-polished beads work so very much better and result in a perfectly firm hollow beaded bead, but they do. Weird. I may need further experiments - oh wait! I did one already: If four-sided units make a nice firm truncated cube then five-sided units should make a nice firm truncated dodecahedron, shouldn't they?
Indeed they do.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Out and About

I spent a long weekend in Wisconsin so I made little gifts: tissue holders for the upcoming sniffle season and eco wraps (beeswax-saturated cotton as a substitute for plastic wrap or wax paper).
Deb has a wonderful studio with areas for different media and plenty of work surfaces. 

She was clearing out odds and ends and I managed to snag a bunch of silk yarn
Which is turning into knitting. Yes it hurts my hands but they're messed up and will continue to degrade no matter what and I'm tired of being constrained so I'm doing it anyway.
I dyed some rather insipid silk noil fabric.
Deb was working on an embroidery piece which was well-started when we arrived but really took flight while we were there. Can't wait to see how it ends up
Lots of weaving happened.
All that I managed to photograph were a couple of knotted pile pieces partially hidden by one of Deb's embroidery pieces that Sara will use in a bag (what else?)
And drum carding
Which resulted in bundles of yum
And we ate well, had great discussions, took inspiration and bounced ideas off each other. For me it was a perfect immersion in things that I love away from the schedules and chores of the day-to-day.

Then I came home and made a velvet cushion cover for the bench at the foot of my bed. 
It's been thoroughly quality tested.