Jul 22, 2009

The Haunted Spinning Wheel

by Teresa Clayton, The Treadler

Before you go reading much further,
This warning I ask that you heed.
My story is terribly scary,
Be wary before you proceed.
Let's hope that it's presently daytime,
But, if you must read this at night,
Secure every door, every window.
The room should be well lit and bright.
Please, if at some point you are startled,
by noises above or below,
Steer clear of the cellar and attic.
(They're never good places to go.)
What a sign of the times that we live in,
When you notice wherever you look,
there are suddenly so many vampires,
On the T.V. and in every book...
No wonder my trusty, old spinner,
The antique I once did adore,
Should instantly find itself haunted.
(It never was haunted before.)
What proof do I have? I've got nothing.
But, trust me I've not lost my head.
Though, I have no real proof of that either,
(Least, none that supports what I've said).
I just get the feeling it's haunted,
and hypnotically drawing me in.
I cannot stop treadling I tell you!
I spin and I spin and I spin...
Who needs all this yarn? What's the purpose?
Does anyone know what this means?
Am I but a pawn in some cruel master plan,
that revolves around 3 million skeins?

Jul 20, 2009

"To the Bat Cave!" or, How My Brother Got Stuck in the Laundry Chute

Sometimes I wonder if describing myself as a "fiber addict" is really the way to go. Certainly it isn't a new concept. A great many arts and crafts enthusiasts have referred to their intense enthusiasm as "addiction". If you know what I'm talking about then you are no stranger to the all-consuming hold that a special project can take as it overpowers your every thought and free moment.

You might speak lovingly of that hypnotic click of needles as you knit and purl your way into the wee hours of the night. Perhaps you know too well the feel of rushing wind produced by your spinning wheel when it is treadled at full throttle. If you have more than one weaving loom you certainly could be labelled as having "issues" by those who do not understand, those that have trouble navigating through the wonder that is your woven world.

I say we quit defining our habits in negative terms. We are not addicts. We are super heroes. I AM THE TREADLER. Tarrum, Tarrah!

When those who knew me back in high school inquire, "Whatever happened to that Teresa girl who crocheted over 300 granny squares during Spring Break?" Let no one reply, "Oh, didn't you hear? She lives in a padded room now. Last I knew she had cocooned herself in four thick walls of wool."

NAY! Let them instead be heard to say, "Do you mean mild-mannered Teresa Clayton? Are you referring to that fantastic individual who has her own woolen Fortress of Solitude? I understand that she has fine-tuned her tremendous powers over fiber. And, isn't it interesting that she and the elusive super hero, THE TREADLER have never been seen together. Could she be that legendary hero? Wow, what a spinster! She's so cool."
When I was young I never once said, "When I grow up I want to be addicted to wool. I want to spend all of my free time spinning my own yarn and creating my own patterns and making dolls of wool, wool wool!"
No. When I was a child my brother and I were each other's trusty side-kicks. The basement was our bat cave and the laundry chute our secret passageway. I was the oldest of 5 children so there were enough of us for an entire super-squad. We were very close in age and Mom rarely left us home alone together but for brief periods say, just long enough to get my brother good and stuck in the "secret passageway".

There he was, surrounded by siblings, his head protruding out of the top of the chute while his feet dangled from the opening somewhere down in the basement as Mom (for the moment thrust into the role of our evil nemesis) returned from a quick errand.

Before I continue you might ask why my brother, the second oldest child, was the one stuck in the chute? Well, he had 4 sisters. He was pretty much out-numbered and out-voted during each and every dramatic episode. As a general rule he was unanimously nominated to go first and last. After all, once a mission had been accomplished there really was no need for the rest of us to repeat it.

So, Mom was home and our heroes found themselves, and their trusty side-kick, in another tricky pickle. Acting with lightening efficiency we quickly covered our brother up with all the available dirty laundry we could muster. My brother agreed that quietly surviving under a pile of soiled socks and assorted damp towels was far preferable to the dastardly doom of discovery.

My sisters and I then nonchalantly helped mom into the house with the groceries before we meandered on downstairs to the bat cave. There, above a hearty heap of laundry were my brother's dangling feet. (Those feet hung perfectly still in what I knew to be pensive anticipation of how this episode might resolve itself.) I began to leap into the air attempting to latch on to the brother who was just out of my reach. After only a few efforts I was able to jump high enough to grab hold of his right ankle where I too, now dangled over the family laundry pile. Soon my sister had hold of the other ankle and then well, it all happened so quickly.
That's how it goes sometimes when you're saving the day. Before you know it the danger has passed, you're tangled up with your siblings in dirty laundry and a new evil nemesis, in the form of a very put-out and frustrated brother, must be dealt with.
So, fellow fiber enthusiasts are you with me? Are we mere mortals in desperate need of an intervention or do we aspire to be Super Heroes of the arts and crafts world?

Do I take the above assorted novelty yarn samples and weave myself a super cape? Or, are they simply destined for the yarn jar labelled, "Strings too short to save".

Jul 19, 2009

Fleeced - "A Day of Beauty"

It was my sister who introduced me to the concept of a "Day of Beauty". This would be a day when some out-of-the-ordinary improvement is made upon an aspect of one's physical appearance (or at least that is how I understand it is supposed to be...in theory... )

This weekend I thought I might try out one of 'em thar Days of Beauty for my own dang self. Like so many things I do it would have been better left to the imagination.

Ever look in the mirror and say, "Girl, you need somebody else to take over the command station," or "Wow! There really isn't anybody at the helm at all is there?" That's become my mantra. I give you my new bangs. (For emphasis of perspective I've super-imposed graph lines.)

No, I did not cut them myself. You will note that the right quadrant is decidedly shorter than the left when viewing the picture straight on. If we were playing Battle Ship I would be speaking of quadrant F-3. I did leave a tip for the stylist because it is partially my fault. I'm the one who said I wanted a change and I'm the one who said I wanted a low-maintenance hairdo. The stylist (who, incidentally has beautiful hair) suggested "we" go short. She said this in response to my inquiry as to what would be the best hair cut for "somebody like me". I thought she meant a short style would make my face look more feminine or younger, you know, something flattering. I told her to, "go for it". (Ah yes, "Go For It". In retrospect that's more of a phrase men might bellow when breaking huddle at a football game as opposed to something a lady sings when enjoying her special, special Day of Beauty.)I'm also the fool who said, "Do my bangs look a bit uneven?" This question triggered a flurry of additional activity in quadrants B through F-4. I am a quick learner though. When she said, "How's that?" I replied, "Perfect". (All around it was a day for misusing words.)

When it was all over, my glasses were back in place and I was holding the hand mirror she gave me so I could review my situation from all angles. I asked her why it was that "we" went so short, why was this the best hair cut for me? She replied, "You said you were low-maintenance. The less hair you have the less hair you need to maintain." Who can argue with that logic? By then I was too busy shaking with laughter anyway. (Thankfully my hair grows rather slowly. I've got a good 3 weeks of hearty laughs ahead of me.)

I learned a lot from my day of beauty: First off, I've matured a bit since 6th grade when a hair cut such as this would have had me crying instead of laughing. Secondly, I've matured as a hand spinner as well. When I first started spinning my own yarn it would have bothered me to watch all that hair get swept into a dust pan and thrown away. (Back then I tried to spin anything from dryer lint to medicine bottle cotton.) When it comes to fibers I'm decidedly more selective now.

Which brings us full circle. This is, after all a web log of textile adventures. I've finished dying the 15 lbs of soft, white wool. The dye lab is now dismantled for the season and I have a lovely supply of fibers to utilize in the months ahead:

The above picture shows my efforts of the past few weeks. I'd like to close this long post with a special comment about my craft. I work primarily in wool. No animals are ever harmed as a result of my need for wool. I use fleeces from healthy, well-cared-for sheep. Having just been fleeced myself I know that this is not a painful experience (physically).

Jul 4, 2009

Spoiler Alert!

Warning: Within this post I shall announce the long-overdue revelation of the 2 winners in my finger puppet contest. (If you've been enjoying the suspense of not knowing who the winners are then please do not read beyond this point.)

I was supposed to have made this announcement on June 21st, the first day of Summer. But, it was also Father's Day and the whole thing got procrastinated. I could say I planned to procrastinate when I entitled the contest, "The Great Procrastinator's Finger Puppet Contest" but that would be a bold-faced lie for if I had planned to procrastinate I'm quite sure I would have put that off as well and we would have had to wait until the first day of Autumn for our winners to be announced.

In all fairness to me I would like to mention here that Summer itself has procrastinated its appearance. I was at the Duluth Harbor watching a tall ship come in yesterday (putting off writing this) and I was very glad to be wearing a long-sleeved turtle neck.

It was a sultry 56 deg. F. as I steadied my camera and took this photo.

If you look closely everyone on board is knitting. (NOT, but back in the heyday of the Tall Ship there was a heck of a lot of textile play going on I assure you! It is widely believed that knitting began with men. They were sailors making their nets. )

Oops, a digression, imagine that.

How the two winners were chosen: There is a random winner and a 2nd winner that I just pick. I decided to discover the random winner first as that would automatically reduce the number of entries from which I had to try and choose the 2nd winner. HERE I WILL BE BRUTALLY BLUNT. There are several entries that I'm crazy about and, as I suspected might be the case, the random winner was actually one of my favorite entries.

Congratulations GRUMPY CRUMPET. Your entry happened to be #10 of 16 total entries. The random number generator at random.org selected you and good thing too because as much as I was crazy for your entry I might have chosen to take a pass on attempting to make the mandatory bagueatte of wool that your finger puppet carries at all times. As I am now forced to attempt this feat I might cheat and make the baguette of apoxie. Either way I'm sure it will be quite delicious!

NOW, down to the hard part, subjectively choosing one other finger puppet to make from the remaining entries. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Sarah's Wendy-O, the celtic witch. I love making witches and I've never made a celtic one;
  • Beads and Yarn's Mamarazzi, or what I like to call the point and shoot fingerpuppet. Can I ever relate to what you described!
  • JuneMoonToon's Everspring Fairy who perches on your finger reciting poetry. That's great! What's also great is your blog of written work and lovely pictures!
  • Annita EVERYBODY take a moment to click on this link and see the fantastic knitted characters!! Annita your short rows and shaping all done with stockinette stitch are super-delightful. I love the way you sculpt with knitting!
  • Becka Rahn "a finger puppet on artist's time who apologizes for spacing out on a deadline." Sounds like I would have to create a self portrait and I don't like looking in the mirror. What I do like is checking out your blog and seeing all the creativity!! Fantastic etsy shop as well!
  • Jo James' Abrahand Lincoln. Fantastic idea! Imagine how daunting it would be to make a finger puppet after one of my most favorite presidents for one of my most favorite folk and doll artists! I'm a long-time fan of all things Cart Before the Horse! P.S. I had to come back and add this MUST SEE TO BELIEVE link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DVL_UPAn8eU (After watching it you'll know why I'm daunted to even imagine making a finger puppet for this artist!) The art dolls steal the show and well, the music has been stuck in my head ever since I saw it. (Not complaining. I wanna dream in stereo too.)
  • Lisa Lectura I love your big-eyed art dolls. Everybody take a peek.
  • Angelique I'm crazy for SugarCain humor. The Yoda-eared fingerpuppet with Bette Midler's personality would be larger than life. Let me add that your doll-making adventures introduced me to Paverpol and I dipped some knitting into that stuff and, well it's still drying all these many months later but, hard as a rock it will be!! By the way, I think your paper doll work is terrific.
  • Gnomegarden HA! A finger puppet with a small electrode in the tip? That's just BATTS. And speaking of batts your blends are sparkly fun for hand spinners. (Note to those that do not spin yarn: Batts are blends of wool and other spinning fibers that create all kinds of colorful fun. Gnomegarden is a pro a making fiber candy for the textile artist.)

So, you can see it wasn't easy to select from all these antics! I really got myself in a pickle this time but, I did choose a winner: Congratulations go out to......(drums are rolling, commercial breaks are taken, when we return I extend this blog another hour by recaping what I just wrote, then the drums roll some more...)

Here's a good place to mention something else that's totally unrelated to the procrastinator's contest: After I took the picture of the Tall Ship yesterday I drove on down London Road and visited Glensheen Mansion. Now all kinds of stories abound around this historic site but, what somebody like me would most wish to point out is that during the tour I saw the cutest little saxony spinning wheel sitting in the master bedroom.
And, we're back! When last I left you I was just about to announce the winner of the 2nd finger puppet. With no further ado, congratulations go out to...

SARA'S ORGANIZED CHAOS That's right Sara! You will see Suzy the Floozy come to life in finger puppet form under the condition that you promise not to use her for evil. The legal documentation to this effect should be finalized and ready for your signature shortly and the building of this puppet will commense from there.

So, when will these puppets be completed? I don't blame you for wondering that! Certainly you can understand why I might decline to answer. I plan to begin right away! I shall begin with Grumpy Crumpet's french creation and the picture will be posted here. Now, I'm off to google baguette (which I'm not even sure I've been spelling correctly). Wish me luck! And, thanks to everybody who played along!