Tuesday, January 29, 2008

There Are No Blue Ducks

WARNING: Personal rant ahead. May contain language or statements sure to offend someone.

Perhaps it's because I am housebound by the 48 below weather, but I am struggling a bit today with those people who seem to be offended by creativity.

This has been an ongoing theme in my life. I was raised by loving parents who just wanted to protect me from a harsh world, but who didn't understand that what I needed to do involved taking risks and accepting the consequences. I was often discouraged, criticized and mocked for stepping outside of their expectations or understanding, and I have struggled all of my adult life to overcome the insecurities that those early years have instilled.

And now I am witness to several small dramas being played out in the lives of young artists and actors that I know that reflect my own youth. I have tried very hard to understand the actions and motivations that drove my parents to say and do things that I found cruel, and now as a mother myself, I am once again seeing my peers committing those same errors with children who just need to express themselves and I am having trouble remaining rational about it.

I had a moment yesterday that I was truly ashamed of. I was chatting with friends about one of the young people who is currently struggling to reconcile his desire to act and dance with his need for his family's acceptance and I just blurted out words to the effect that his family were all horrible, stupid, mean people. I instantly regretted those words, before I even saw the shocked looks on the faces around me, but I truly felt them as I spoke them. I am genuinely fed up with people who mock or attack anyone who steps outside of their own comfort zone!

As a culture, North Americans claim to prize individuality, creativity and independence. Yet, anyone who exhibits any one of those traits is immediately the target of attacks ranging from gentle teasing to outright death threats. Look at the Dixie Chicks. It seems that most people would prefer to follow the lead of others, meet community approval and keep their heads down. If you are an artist, a vegan, a Bhuddist, an Atheist, a spinner and weaver, a puppeteer, gay or lesbian, tattooed, ethnic in any way, or just marching to your own drummer, you become the target of someone's anger and criticism.

This leads me to the title of this post. Eons ago, when my son was in grade two, he was given an Easter coloring sheet (that fall-back excuse to prove that art is being taught in school) that featured a duckling amongst some spring flowers--daffodils and the like. Being the marching-to-his-own-drummer type, he pulled out a pale blue crayon and began to color the duck. His teacher, looking over his shoulder, snatched up the paper and told him to get a new one. His mother, who was volunteering in the classroom, saw the look of bewilderment on his face and mosied over to check it out. The teacher waved the coloring page in my face and told me he had ruined it. "There are no blue ducks!"

Well, I did not see blue. I saw red. Who the fuck cares what color "real" ducks are when you are in grade two and given a coloring sheet?!? People who think that reality television is the height of entertainment; that opera is boring because it's in a foreign language; who think Picasso ruined art by putting two noses on people; who consider Chinese food an ethnic experience; who are more interested in Britney Spears' meltdown than her music; who go to church on Sunday and break all the ten commandments the rest of the week; who know you can't make a living weaving or dancing or painting. People who drive a truck or wait tables for a living; who dutifully purchase whatever Madison Avenue tells them to; who own an SUV, two quads and an RV; who decorate their homes according to Debbie Travis and entertain according to Martha Stewart--to the letter; who protest art exhibits featuring nudity because they're pornographic; who download free porn; who fill their family webpage with LOLcats and dancing babies....oooooh, I could go on! But I won't--you get the picture.

I want the world to be a kinder, gentler, smarter place. I want the world to welcome kids who need to paint or dance or sing or weave. I have fought hard to nurture and encourage creativity in my own kids, and I am reaping the dividends already.

So, here's my proposal. Let's all strive to nurture and encourage creative kids, be they our own or anyone else's. Volunteer for children's theatre groups, or teach an arts and craft class at the Y. Attend dance recitals and school plays. Buy chocolate bars and raffle tickets from kids raising funds for band trips. Color outside the lines, or color a blue duck!

BTW, I have nothing against LOLcats.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Dumb

I have a friend who occaisionally sets her Facebook status to: "***** cannot brain. She has the dumb." Apparently, I have also contracted The Dumb.

I have been working on a yoga shawl commission off and on for about a year now. It has been pushed back and sidetracked, and the client has shown remarkable patience. This is not a complex piece of weaving--plain weave, 20/6 silk warp, 20/2 wool weft--but the fates have conspired. Until last week, anyway. I cut the last section off the loom on Friday. Hallelujah!

The piece was commissioned at 40-48" wide. I have a 24" loom. No problem, we'll just weave strips and piece. All was hunky-dory. The pieces all came off the loom beautifully and I spent Friday afternoon and Saturday morning very carefully grafting the pieces. I would have defied you to find a seam! Then into the wash to full. Perfect!

And about 5 minutes into the wash cycle, The Dumb wore off. I realized that I had grafted using the wool from the weft. It made perfect sense as I was doing it. Grafting the weft with the weft yarn. Of course! Except, wool shrinks when fulled--that's how fulling works. I should know. I offer workshops on felted (or, more properly, fulled) knitting.

Mercifully, the goddesses were smiling upon me. The damage was minimal, suggesting, perhaps, that I had left sufficient slack in my grafting to compensate for The Dumb. Yes, there is a wee bit of ruching there at the end, but all it took was a little steam and a wee tug to straighten it out. Whew!

There were other symptoms, as well. Agreeing to meet someone who really irritates me for coffee and getting sucked into the ensuing drama. Going to the store for cat food and coming home with $100 worth of groceries, but no cat food. Volunteering to write a puppet-show script. Going out to the bar with my son and drinking the house red. And, of course, the ongoing inability to find a pair of scissors or an orifice hook when they are needed.

So now I am left wondering where I may have contracted The Dumb. I know I did not get it from *****. She lives too far away. Unless it is a computer virus, of course. But no, I think it is far more likely that it may have been the gal at my favorite coffee haunt who could not make change for $6.12 when I gave her $20.12. Or perhaps the woman who backed into me twice with her shopping cart at the grocery store--in two different aisles. Or any of the fools in this post. Or perhaps it came to me through my television--after all, American Idle, oops, I mean Idol, is back on the air!

So now I need to know: Is there a cure for The Dumb? Somebody save me before it's too late!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The FO Files

Ahh, the sense of accomplishment when you finish a project...

The New Year Yarn socks turned out really well. I tried to get all fancy and make lace, then textured socks,but the stitches obscured the beauty of the yarn. In the end, your basic sock pattern seemed to work best for the yarn, showing off the sparkles and the stripes to perfection!
Don't you love it when a project turns out exactly as planned?

And while uploading sock pics to my computer, I also cleared out the Christmas weaving pics. Once again, something that worked out exactly as planned. I'm getting a little alarmed by this trend... This is the silk scarf I wove for Miss Lexi. Warp and weft of 10/2 silk sett at 12 epi, with shots of handpainted silk chenille placed randomly. The closeup is even more impressive.

Then the rest of the silk chenille went as a weft over a turquoise 10/2 silk warp. The warp ends were also embellished with beads, which I don't seem to have a picture of. Humph! And the color resolution doesn't do much justice to the dye work, either. But, it's a finished object and you have to take my word that it was as lovely as the others.

I also made these exquisite little cashmere gloves for my sister. I used a leftover ball of 3200 ypp lace yarn, knit at 12 st/inch, so they were somewhat painstaking to complete, but they are gorgeous! The only problem was that I modelled them to my hands, which are slightly larger than my sister's--perhaps with the unconscious hope that she would give them back if they didn't fit? Alas, that did not happen--she still wears them, baggy though they may be on her delicate digits. As I type, I have a silk and wool yoga shawl ready to go into the wash. Yay, productivity! I guess that's what happens when you have a studio!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Just a Buncha Random Stuff

I've obviously been housebound too long and my mind is rambling...

First, the rant: I cannot believe the obliviousness of most of the people I have been encountering lately! From drivers who do not look before backing out of parking spaces, to those people who s-l-o-w-l-y push their shopping carts down the dead centre of the aisle so no one else can pass by, to the gaggle of silly teen girls who all ran into me--one at a time, in a cluster--at the mall. Ooops, we didn't see you there. Yeah, right, it's hard to spot a 5'10" woman with bright silver hair and an even brighter purple shawl! They didn't see me because THEY WEREN'T PAYING ATTENTION TO THE WORLD AROUND THEM!!! (One of those same teenage girls rather hilariously bumped into a pillar only seconds after charging into me!)

Why doesn't anyone look around and see what obstacles are in their way anymore? Or what obstacles they themselves may be creating? I do not have a Ninja-like awareness of every atom within a hundred kilometer diameter of my location, but I do notice pillars in front of me. LOOK AROUND PEOPLE--YOU ARE NOT ALONE! No wonder I don't want to go out.

And on the subject of oblivion: I stopped by my local green-logoed coffee establishment today to pick up latte, and as I was heading over to grab a lid, something caught my eye. I looked down and my knitting was dangling out of my bag, lowering itself from the centre-pull ball still in my purse like a big purple spider. At least I caught it in time and didn't lose yet another project in the street!

Next, a movie review: Check out the independent New Zealand movie Black Sheep. Unless you are squeamish, that is. It's pretty darn gruesome. But what else would you expect when an insane Kiwi sheep rancher genetically engineers the perfect sheep and animal rights activists attempt to free it? Of course there are mutants with a taste for human flesh. Sheep mutants! The movie is really rather formulaic and there are plot holes that you could drive a semi through, but the concept of flesh-eating sheep is tooo entertaining. And very well executed by the special effects team--the sheep driving the Land Rover is a sight to behold! And the film makers have plugged in all sorts of little zombie movie gags, too, if you're into that stuff. If you are brave enough to rent/buy this cinematic epic, check out the special features, which includes a look at the meticulous construction of the killer sheep puppets. Talk about fibre artists!

And you've got to love the catchline! Absolutely fabulous!

On the fibre front: I have finished the New Year Fireworks socks. They are currently blocked and drying and I will post a pic when they are done. There was almost a whole skein left over, so I am making yet another pair of ribbed wrist warmers with that. I have a little more work to do on the latest yoga shawl, and I am spinning away on my 3-ply silk and merino blend. Why must I spin so fine? There are days when it seems that I will never get knitting this stuff! The fibre for my color workshop samples is here, and I am itching to get to work on that, but I have to get the silk and merino off one wheel, silk and seaweed off another, and some bright orange merino off wheel number three. So much for having multiple wheels so I can rotate my work! I guess I need another wheel...

Saturday, January 05, 2008

A Room of My Own Revisited

Way back in this post, I whined about not having a separate space for my fibre work. Well, I am whining no more! I have a Room of My Own!
The lovely and talented Miss Lexi moved out, creating a vacancy that my family all worked to help me turn into a studio space where I can take my work more seriously and make all the mess I want. So, without further ado, I invite you into my studio...

Of course, there is a comfy chair for spinning.

And a cozy daybed to curl up and read, or to double as a guest bed for the occasional visitor.

A sturdy work table, where I can leave all my crap laying around until I darn well feel like cleaning up!

Plenty o' room to store equipment without creating an obstacle course.

And all my sheepie stuff that is too cutsie for my family to have to look at, but amuses me to no end.

All of this is surrounded by nice neutral walls that do not throw any color, and daylight-adjusted lighting. There is even a 5-CD stereo that gives me up to 6 hours of uninterrupted music to keep my toe atreadlin'. Still to come is a great big bulletin board to put inspirational pictures and design notes up on and a floor lamp for slightly less glaring lighting when the mood strikes.

I can work in peace, leaving things out as I step away to make a cup of tea or perform brain surgery, and know that things will be where I left them when I get back. I can focus without the distractions of Wii or Much Music grating on my nerves. I can invite company in or shut them out as the mood strikes. I HAVE A ROOM OF MY OWN!

And on another note: Apparently, this post is stirring up some interest amongst folks with chronic illnesses and disabilities. Why has no one thought of making cane cozies before? I'm feeling rather clever to have found such a simple solution to such a common problem. If you want or need one, please contact me at spindleprincess@gmail.com and I will be happy to fill you in on the details.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

New Year, New Yarn

After a very busy and difficult year, it is wonderful to be starting fresh with 2008! And to celebrate, I spent this New Year's Eve and New Year's Day creating my own fireworks. Or, at least a yarn inspired by the colors and sparkles of New Year's fireworks. Yes, I know I'm supposed to wait for January 7, St. Distaff's Day, to resume my labors, but I just couldn't wait! Besides, this yarn wasn't labor, it was a pure pleasure!

The particulars: Two-ply worsted.
20 wpi/sock weight
5 tpi
-One single Louet Northern Lights in the "Tropical Skittles" colorway.
-One single a blend of Ashford Merino top in the "Grape Jelly" colorway.
Blended with Firestar nylon in the "Tropical" colorway.

Both singles are spun worsted, the Louet on my drop spindle and the Merino on my brand new Kromski Sonata. In my brand new studio. Yes, all kinds of changes for the new year!

Mmm, yummy!

I have cast on a pair of basic socks with the yarn. I generally use a three-ply for socks, but I wanted the color pattern in the yarn to show through, and the third ply obscured it too much. Hence the little extra bit of twist--it will serve to compensate for the missing ply and make the two plies a little more durable.

I have a list of ambitious projects for 2008, and I'm ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work! Stay tuned.