Thursday, November 12, 2015

Full spectrum

I had learned to weave this design, Maillestrom, a few weeks ago but I didn't have any red rings at the time. I haven't really been working any chain maille for the last several weeks, it's just too hard on my shoulder.

Today I've been crying for no good reason except depression, and the embroidery kits I hoped to get in the mail didn't come yet, so I figured I'd give myself something to cry about. First I spent an hour using my very limited executive functioning skills to mostly prepare some goods to show a shop manager who may start carrying my jewelry. I still need to write descriptive hang tags for each and every item, but at least the ones to bring are selected and organized. That took a good hour and was exhausting for me, but I did get it done.

Then I went ahead and worked this up, a full-spectrum Maillestrom all the way to red, and created a necklace for it out of the last bit of chain I had stuffed away. My shoulder definitely gives me a reason to cry now, if my exhaustion and frustration from the organizing before didn't already. But it's done. I have never had so many rings break or go flying for such a small project before, ever. It was a mess. It's a good thing the finished product is worth it. I put plain anodized aluminum rings between the colored ones, but I think I like all colored outer rings better, so the next time I work one up it will be with all uncolored or all colored rings.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Learning Hardanger skills and pulling thread

I decided to put my hand to learning Hardanger, an embroidery style I've never learned before. I'm using Roz Watnemo's study series leading up to full Hardanger, a set of four bookmark projects teaching all the various stitches involved before getting to the fourth piece which involves most of the learned stitches plus the traditional cutting of warp and weft fabric threads; they're distributed through the Nordic Needle shop storefront and webstore. So this is Bookmark #1.

First came learning kloster blocks. I had my head pretty well wrapped around this concept already, so it worked out pretty well.

 The center is now done with kloster blocks and box stitch in this photo. Box stitch made me a lot crazier than did kloster blocks somehow. I had to be sure while working out that I got the stitch count exactly right at all times or working back on the diagonals it just wasn't going to match up. Much holding of breath ensued.
Next I did the edge patterns, still done entirely in kloster blocks and box stitch, but somehow with less to anchor the counting or at least it felt that way.

 Finally after that the eyelet stitching was added. In real Hardanger, only a few of the blocks would probably have eyelet patterns; the rest would be cut. But this used four different eyelet stitches to pull center stitches out, making it pulled thread work. And here is the finished bookmark!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Aleph-bet sampler

Not exactly a traditional sampler, but this aleph-bet presentation is embroidered in a different color and different stitch pattern for each of the twenty letters. Yes, it took a little mental stretching to come up with twenty two different easy to produce, small scale filling stitches, and no, not all of them came out great. Still, the piece is done, my shoulder is in a disaster state now so I can't imagine what I'll do with my time next. I can't even hold a book.
Incidentally I started it last Thursday. Oh, and the strange lines you can see underneath aren't lines on the fabric, they're just markings on the blocking board I used.

Sunday, October 18, 2015


Last week a member of the blackwork embroidery group on Facebook shared her interpretation of this pattern and several other members then showed their full and partial pieces made from the same one. I figured I ought to join in.

Blackwork has its roots in Elizabethan embellishments. It can be used to create decorative finished edgings on garments, or to create entire decorative pieces with assorted filling patterns. It's very versatile in look. And while I often use the traditional black, many other modern stitchers enjoy using the very complete modern palette of embroidery floss colors, mixing and matching all sorts of rainbow hues and even variegated flosses. 

In this piece I used just the traditional black cotton floss for the majority of the work. I went ahead and used 3 strand gold floss for the needle case chain, and a silvery blending filament along with the black floss for the thread in the needle. Just a single strand of black 6 strand floss is used throughout; that's enough to stand out on the 14 count Aida cloth (14 count Aida or 28 count even weave are the most commonly used, though sometimes I've used 18 count; I wouldn't want to sentence my eyes to dealing with 36 count even weave cloth, Aida at least has more visible holes, though it's hard to find needles that are small enough for those holes but large enough to thread with a strand of embroidery floss).

In any case, this is now ready to be framed. I think it needs black and gold mats and an Art Deco style frame of some kind.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Cabin Creekwood Escape

Yes, I disappeared and ran away again after my last post; I was in central VA from September 8 until yesterday, the 20th. No computer, no phones, no texts, no connectivity at all. Just mountains and lakes and creeks and hiking trails. 
Primitive American art. Depicting sheep.
I figured I might be in the right place ("Cabin Barnwood") when I saw the art in the entry. Then I saw the bedroom (which was lovely, but the bed was so high that short-legged me had to jump into it every night, it was rather funny…I think I need to recommend they add a step stool to the room.

Bedroom…the window frame's not low.
The bed's really, really tall!
But it was a lovely one bedroom cabin; it had a living room area with a futon, armchair, end tables, and wood stove guests were encouraged to use at will; a full kitchen with microwave, coffee maker, full sized fridge, and so on (I brought pots and kashered the appliances); and a dining area too. There were two patios, one overlooking the creek and woody area, the other right outside the main entrance, that area having a patio table and chairs which were pristinely clean and lovely to sit at for meals, reading, and crafting. There was a fire pit area with adirondack chairs, also comfortable (though the first time I tried to get a fire going, it was after two days of pouring rain, so the best I could manage was a multi-hour "camp smolder" rather than "camp fire;" still, it lit and stayed lit). There was even a nice bench creekside where I could read or just sit and listen to the creek.
Said creek
I was a straight shot down the road from public Sherando Lake Park, operated by the National Park Service, so I spent several days there. Since it's out of season, post-Labor Day, payment was on honor system at various scattered payment booths, but that worked fine. I sat at the lake beach, which was delightful; and I walked and hiked. I hiked up one trail that essentially seemed a direct vertical line. After 25 minutes I turned around and went down.
It doesn't look as steep as it
was. But trust me. It was steep!
For one thing it was just going to keep going up, and up, and up, and for another it was predicted to begin raining that day and I knew that if it rained there was no way on earth I could possibly get down that trail except on my butt, it was the perfect flash flood spot that couldn't possibly be safely descended on foot in wet conditions. Plus I was worn out and my out-of-shape legs had had it.

Still I bravely set out a few days later on another trek uphill. This time I went up a different trail to the Lookout Rock spot, about 3/4 mile straight up hill again. I wound up having to stop every 30 paces or so to catch my breath. I imagined abashedly other hikers appearing just nonchalantly walking straight up, finding me red-faced, huffing and puffing, but fortunately I had the side of the mountain to myself the whole time. And I did reach the lookout point, and I did get a beautiful view of the lake area from above.
The view from the rock. I don't know where the other pictures went
but I did get photos of the lake from above too.

No other hikers on the trails, but these
adorable little 3" lizards were everywhere
near the summit running all over the
rocks. I got photos of several different ones
but I figured I'd just share one because
once you've seen on badly taken photo
of a little lizard, you've probably seen
all you need to see.

I have some photos also of the view from below at the beach level. It was really delightful, they truck in sand so it was nice and sandy, children had made a big pyramid sand castle one day; but because it's also the same lake stocked for boating and fishing, there are little minnows and larger fish swimming around everywhere, much more so than at other lake or ocean beaches I've ever been at. The water was clean and had no smell (which was a relief), the swimming area had no algae and the water is tested regularly, there were benches provided but people brought in their own beach or camp chairs to bring down farther on the beach. One older gentleman was having a good time one day with a fishing net, just seeing what he could occasionally scoop up and have a look at in the net and show his wife; he was waist deep, she was just dipping in her toes, but looking into the net to see what he'd found each time he had something new.
The green color is just the reflections of the sand and trees;
the water was clear and blue.

Lookout rock is 9/10 of the way up this mountainside, 1/4
of the way from the left. But it's just too small to show up in
this photo. Still, I'm impressed with myself I got up there.

The really impressive part of my having done all the hiking is that in my own personally impressive way, I broke two toes the first few days I was there. Not by doing anything strenuous, I just had a tiny slip on a rock at the cabin, slipped maybe 2", but my toes curled under at just the wrong angle. Between the broken toes, the gout in the big toe on the same foot, and the pain I usually have in my other leg, plus the fact that with my shoulder injury I have to keep a sling on to do much walking and I sprained that shoulder catching myself when I slipped and broke the toes, I give myself many extra brownie points for even venturing outdoors the rest of the trip, which in fact is when I did the most hiking. I didn't make it to the Appalachian trail, sadly, which is right there on site too, because that seemed absurd with the injuries, but I hope to be able to return to this lovely spot and go on the AT then.

I did take one other field trip, which is particularly impressive for depressed, introverted, easily-scared and anxious me, to the town of Grottoes about 35 minutes from the cabin, where there is a fabulous cavern with full one-hour tour. It's as wonderful as Luray or any of the commercial ones, but it's operated by the local municipal park service as a public park, so it's entirely non-commercial. The tour cost $15 with a AAA discount (the ticket seller asked whether I had membership in that or several other organizations, I didn't even think to ask), for the complete tour with a well-trained guide. The caverns have everything you can imagine and in fact are known for their rare shield formations, not found in most caverns and still not well understood by geologists. These caverns have been continuously toured and open for over 200 years, and there are many signatures of Civil War soldiers (from the ages when defacing such places was normal), as well as stories and depictions in the museum area of Civil War soldiers discussing the caverns and their visits. 

But the highlight of the whole trip was this, the flowers my husband sent me before the first Shabbos there to sweeten my Shabbos and send his love.

Monday, September 7, 2015


At this age he couldn't eat, but he could feel included in Judaism all the same.
I had a meeting this morning to discuss inclusion of children with special needs within the synagogue community and children's groups this morning, with our wonderful new youth director Carmiya. She's preparing for the major Jewish fall holidays, when youth groups are full and prayer services are long. While I hadn't consciously prepared much thought (we had only decided late last night to have this brief meeting), as we talked I realized that most of what I was saying about inclusion both in generalities and specifics boiled down to one word.


Listen to the parents who come and tell you their child needs a one-on-one who is really aware of the potential for elopement. Listen to the parents' concerns about the suitability of activities for their child. Listen to the parents' explanations of negative dynamics between specific children. Few parents in real life in most places are seeing their children as special snowflakes. Most just want safety and happiness for their children.

Listen to the children when they come to you. If they report problems with adults who don't understand the limitations or problems the individual children face; if they report problems interacting with other children. Children don't usually come to adults with made-up concerns; if they report a problem, it's usually because they are experiencing a problem within their perception.

Listen to the children when they are among themselves. Be alert for bullying, for isolation, for negativity. At the same time, you may be lucky enough to merit observing a real miracle of children accepting each other no matter what limitations each has.

Inclusion can mean making sure the doors are open to those with physical difficulties yet closed to those who might endanger themselves by leaving without supervision. It can mean making prayer materials available in multiple media and leading prayer in different ways. Sometimes though, inclusion means opening our ears and our minds and thoughts. Just listen.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Elul Challah

It's the Hebrew month of Elul, the month leading up to Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkos, and Shemini Atzeret-Simchat Torah. Most of the year we eat braided challah bread on Shabbos and holidays. For the holidays mentioned above of the month of Tishrei, we often use round challahs formed in a spiral. So logically (not) in Elul I like to make braided round challahs. 
First I divide each challah's dough into four sections,
rolle them into snakes, and do this center cross-over

Next I do the next-most-outer cross-overs,
starting with any pair, going around consistently
in a circle crossing one snake over it's paired neighbor

See, I've now crossed the left snakes and the top snakes

After that, I cross the snakes to their neighbors, continuing
the weave pattern. At this point it's messy but you'll see that
it doesn't matter because the messy part gets tucked underneath.

I've tucked the mess underneath and made nice tall round braided loaves.

And now they're cooling, along with pumpkin bread, and brownies are in the oven.