Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Bah, Humbug!

I had two conversations with really smart, wonderful people yesterday, both of whom said "I hate Christmas". I was somewhat shocked by this--hating Christmas is like hating cuddly puppies and kittens or wanting to kill baby ducklings--but I also understood what they meant.

I don't HATE Christmas, but I am sick and tired of the endless commercials that begin in October, telling us that the perfect gift will buy us the love of our families and friends. I am sick and tired of the multitude of mangled Christmas carols that seem to be playing everywhere I go. (Seriously, we really do not need a reggae-jazz-hip-hop fusion version of O Holy Night!) I am sick and tired of the family tensions that everyone seems to experience this time of year (If you don't show up for Christmas dinner, everything will be ruined, and it will be your fault!) I am sick and tired of Christmas already, and it is only November.

For me, Christmas officially jumped the shark on October 29. While the menfolk of the Boyd homestead were outside setting up our Halloween haunt, I was channel surfing inside and I came across a commercial. In a deliberately poorly-set shot, an older gentleman dressed in an ill-fitting Spandex elf costume was prancing around and chanting in heavily-accented English: Nausea, heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach, diarreah! Then the cheap Chyron effect of holly leaves and the message: Season's Greetings from Pepto-Bismol! WHAT???

Where do I even begin to list the things that were wrong with this picture? The annoying "audition" campaign that Pepto-Bismol has been running for some time now, apparently shot in some former Soviet Republic on 1980's vintage equipment? The eyeball-scarring image of this poor man in that elf suit? The timing of the airing of this atrocity--almost two full months before the "big day"? Or that someone at Pepto-Bismols corporate headquarters even felt that we wanted season's greetings from an elf singing about diarreah?

And then people wonder why their friends say "I hate Christmas"...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Going Medieval

I spent last weekend leading a very interesting workshop. I was approached by a group of people affiliated with The Knights of the Northern Realm in Edmonton to teach them a bit about medieval spinning and weaving techniques. After a little research, I determined that spindle spinning and tablet weaving would fit the bill and be the most approachable options for absolute newbies. And they all took to it like naturals!

My gracious host and hostess Troy and Lisa took me into their home and fed me extremely well. We had potluck lunches, where I was introduced to Ski Queen, a Norwegian goat cheese that tastes like nothing else in this world and is now my favorite thing. The wine and the conversation flowed freely, and I think I learned about as much from my students as they did from me.
And in between the fun, we went downstairs and spun. Saturday started out with a brief history of spinning and weaving in medieval Europe, then a carding and wool combing demo. Then I gave them spindles!
The whole gang, from left to right: Kirby, Dan, Troy, Janet, Jannicke, and Lisa.
Jannicke spun like she had been doing it all her life. Her only explanation was that her Grandmother was a knitter and she had played with wool since she was a child.
The Masters in Arms in the group, Dan and Troy caught on pretty quickly, too. I was quite amused that Troy, a trained fighter, blacksmith and electrician, complained that he could feel the muscle ache that spinning caused. I think these guys have a new respect for "women's work". Dan is also a professional Fool, so clearly I am a great teacher if I can teach a Fool to spin!
Sunday, we played with linen and silk, then made lucet cords and tackled tablet weaving.

This was clearly Troy's thing....

...his very first braid was better than the one I worked. Look at that thing of beauty!

Lisa worked a fringed edging.

And Jannicke wore hers to dinner!

All in all a really fun weekend. And I know that I have created at least two new fibre fanatics. I stayed an extra day in Edmonton to avoid bad highway condition up north (yes, winter is here), and I took Lisa out to Celeigh Wool, where she bought two new Forrester spindles for herself and Troy, and almost a kilo of wool top and roving! And when she comes up to work in Fort McMurray next week, we're gonna play on wheels and looms. Yay!

I seem to have made a favorable impression--they have invited me to come to their Tournament in July and demonstrate spinning and weaving. Maybe even a warp-weighted loom....hmmmm. Lots to think about as I plow through the Christmas knitting!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Lest We Forget

Today is Remembrance Day. At the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month, we pause to remember the sacrifice of those who have died in the defence of our country.
I personally do not believe in war. I believe that violence begets violence. But I also know that there are times when one must stand and fight. We fight for freedom--freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from tyranny. We fight to preserve honored traditions. We fight for fairness and justice. We all wage our own little wars every day to make the world a better place.
Some of us fight with our words on the internet, some of us fight with big guns and armored personnel carriers.
Wars bring freedom and wars bring suffering. Both of those should be remembered, because without suffering and sacrifice, the freedom we have becomes meaningless.
There are a lot of brave, committed human beings fighting today in wars that a lot of people don't believe in. They are fighting for reasons that many of us take for granted. They are fighting for principles that even the leaders that sent them to those wars don't seem to believe in any more.
I really admire the strength it takes to be a soldier, no matter what the cause. You must march bravely into a situation you know may be fatal on the say-so of someone who is thousands of miles away, for no comprehensible reason. And you must do your duty, whether it makes sense or not. And you must keep your head high and keep going, no matter what. You must believe in the Greater Good, no matter what horrors you witness. That takes a kind of courage and commitment that I wish more people would show in their daily lives.
I would prefer to live in a world without war. I think we all would. Maybe by taking a minute today to remember the courage and commitment of our troops, as well as the pain and suffering caused by the wars they must fight in, we can move toward that world.
For all the veterans, past, present and future...Lest we forget.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

This 'n' That

Life goes by pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. --Ferris Bueller

With so much going on, it's hard sometimes to sit down and take stock of what's actually happening. The past two weeks have seen:

A Zombie Crypt Crawl--a house to house Halloween party with a Zombie theme. What a Blast! But I learned that zombies drink waaaaay too much and get bad hangovers.

Halloween itself. The Haunt was a huge success, though we were tweaking the technology right up until the first trick-or-treaters arrived. We had about 150 visitors, some of whom entered the inner sanctum for sips and nibblies. Hectic, but great fun!

The spinning of a thick 'n' thin yarn for a tam for Lexi. I used some leftover Merino/alpaca blend top from Silver Valley Fibres, dyed it, cast on the tam, then lost the project somewhere in Edmonton! Along with a set of Britanny 6mm dpns. I can respin the wool--I'm working on it now--but I'm pretty cut up about those needles.

And a dye day. Five skeins each of 20/6 silk and sport weight Celeigh Wool Shetland in violet; three skeins of handspun, two skeins of Shetland and one skein of 12/2 silk in turquoise; two skeins of 12/2 silk in an unreproduceable shade of gold; all three pots were exhausted on the Corriedale roving at the top left. The real challenge was finding space for all of this to dry!

Plus a trip to Edmonton to celebrate 2 birthdays and visit the Edmonton Weavers' Guild sale, and the knitting of an almost completed shawl, a pair of mitts and a sock. Time for a day off! Yeah, right.

I also found a little time to monkey around with the blog layout. I'm soooo technically challenged. As odd as it sounds coming from someone who spends weeks spinning fine lace yarns, then months knitting shawls, I don't have the patience for the plodding steps required to do computer graphics! Nonetheless, I'm pretty happy with my new title bar.

Still on the agenda: another dye day (today), prep for a medieval textiles workshop that I will be giving in 10 days, paint and organize the soon to be guest room/studio. After that, Lexi will be home for a visit, then the madness of the Christmas season will begin. Oh, and another yoga shawl commission has to be squeezed in there somewhere...

Pause for a deep breath.

I'm not complaining, really. It's good to be busy when you are busy doing things that you love. I still have time every day to walk the dog and the weather has been lovely for the first week of November--cool and rainy, but the little snow we have had has not stayed and the temperatures are still above zero most days. Life is good.