Wednesday, June 25, 2008

finally! I've finished something important!

That's right, I do sometimes get around to completing important tasks, like beginning to work on enclosures for Lace Stories. I'd been waiting for some commercial yarn and walnut hulls with which to dye it before beginning the last (and probably longest) phase of binding my book. But the other day, it occurred to me that I had just the right handspun.

A couple of months ago, I ordered several pounds of brown sheep mill ends, and the browns that they send me were a lovely color. I spun some up and was dismayed with how scratchy the stuff was, and dismissed it. Sure, this yarn isn't great for garments, but books don't itch! And thus, Lace Stories (um, one of them) is no longer naked.

I've also finally completed some of the title plaquettes. I'm happy with finished product; I've gotten pretty good at hand-embroidering my writing. In fact, I'm a little freaked out by the fact that the embroidery looks like my handwriting. I did it freehand, after all. I'm sure that hands have a memory for how they draft letters, but I'm surprised by how much it affects my stitching. The movements, after all, seem pretty different.

I think the enclosure is a great compliment to the book. Here they are, finally united!

Monday, June 23, 2008

my love affair with secret belgians

I've found a new book structure to love. And oh do I love it. It's based on an unusual sixteenth-century binding that Hedi Kyle (a book arts goddess on all accounts) is said to have rediscovered.

I'm glad she did, because there's something about this structure that elevates it from utilitarian object to functional art. I think it's got to do with how the covers and spine piece enclose the textblock, and the straight lines and angles that march from the book's tail to head.

The secret belgian model that drove me to make my own belongs to Margaret Couch Cogswell, who's currently and artist in residence at the Penland School of Craft. She was kind enough to let me photocopy her binding instructions, which originate from a Paper Book Intensive workshop that Emily Martin taught years ago. I'm amazed that I hadn't seen a secret belgian until my trip to penland; it's such and engaging structure. Or maybe my taste in handbound books is a little wonky. Whatever the case, I'll be making a lot of secret belgians in the coming weeks.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

the spinning and the knitting

Clearly my fiber obsession has hijacked the blog, but it's summer, and I need to order more supplies. Being all out of book cloth and paper means that I can't really do much anyhow. So until I place an order on monday, I'm savoring the fiber.

It's been a few months now since I started spinning, and although I already have a lot of finished yarn, I've been reluctant to knit with any of it. Mostly, all I want to do is pet and squish my handspun stash and then spin some more to ensure that all those hanks don't get lonely. But last week, I decided it was time to test out the goods. I've been anxious to knit a baby surprise jacket, and the superwash merino I spun from a gifted roving seemed perfect. My decision to use size 7 needles was a little arbitrary; the chosen yarn was not a consistent weight. nevertheless, I loved knitting my own handspun.

Once I managed to complete a few garter ridges, I just wanted to knit and watch as my sweater grew. The handspun really was a pleasing match for this garment. Sadly, I was about 65 yards short of having enough yarn, so I improvised with some chocolatey-brown silky tweed that I'd been saving for a sweater project. It's rustic look made it a great compliment to the handspun.

Now I just need to finish seaming, weave in ends, and find exactly the right buttons.

I also finished a few new hanks of handspun, including a sport weight that I'm very proud of.

I love the rustic look of this yarn, as well as it's colors. This was my first attempt at handpainting and then steaming my roving instead of kettle dyeing, and it turned out beautifully.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

alpacas among us

On Tuesday my sister and I made a grueling trek to the alpaca farm closest to my parents' home. We had to traverse steep hills, cross rivers, and make countless left-hand turns, but after three miles of traveling the rough terrain that is route 145, we finally made it. Our destination did not look like an Alpaca farm from the front; it was a large cape cod with picture windows overlooking a small gravel driveway and neatly trimmed patch of front lawn. I was convinced we had parked in some unsuspecting person's driveway, so we sat in the car for a few minutes, debating whether we should knock on the door or turn around and spare ourselves from an embarrassing encounter with a non-alpaca farmer.
We did decide to get out of the car, and as we neared the front door, I could see a few alpaca, freshly shorn, grazing in the back yard. This was indeed Saltaire Alpacas. After Pattey's (the farm's owner) son let us in the front door, we waited in a living room full of fiber (and an ashford traditional spinning wheel just like the one I have at home) until Pattey emerged to take us on our tour.
Saltaire Alpacas is not a huge farm, in fact, it's more of a very large backyard that's been converted to small pastures with a few shelters. Despite it's small appearance, the alpaca had plenty of room to frolic, graze, and do whatever it is that alpaca love to do. We met a number of the herd ... rather, they deigned to sniff at us occasionally. But to offset the adults' standoffishness, we did have a close encounter with the season's first cria, a little apricot-white male who had not yet received his name.
After visiting with the herd, we did, in a sense get to pet them. Once inside the house, Pattey showed her collection of yarns spun from her herd, rovings, and my favorite, entire alpaca blankets stuffed into giant plastic bags. After inspecting every animal's fleece, and talking to Pattey about what makes a good spinning fiber, I chose two blankets to take home (a gift from my sister, who will be getting a lot of handspun as a thank-you!).

The first belongs to Thel, a true black and one of the Saltaire herdsires. His coat was so beautifully crimpy and lush that I had to take it home with me. The other blanket belongs to AJ. It's soft, soft, soft, and is a lovely light fawn color. My sister bought herself a skein of handspun, and in addition to our purchases, Pattey gave us a bag of second cuts from one of her cria and some roving from Erin, a fawn alpaca.
I spun up a skein from Erin's roving as soon as I got home, and I was in love. The roving is really well-prepared (it shed virtually nothing on my leg as I spun), and there's a bit of a reddish tinge to her coat that adds depth to the finished yarn.
Our field trip has inspired me to make the most of my time in the northeast, and visit as many fiber destinations as possible. My next stop will be the twist of fate spinnery, in Portland, CT. And this time I'll be dragging my mom along for company!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

my first meme ...

I was tagged to complete a meme, so here are my answers!

1. What was I doing ten years ago?

Ten years ago I was still haunting the halls of the frighting place we call high school. (yes, I'm still kind of a young'un), obsessed with writing, and dreaming of traveling to the Aran Islands.

2. What are five things on my to do list?

Finish my MFA! That's the first thing on my to do list.
Establish a successful enough small business centered around my bound books, printed matter, and fiber activities.
Found a community center for book/fiber arts somewhere in the southeast (that is not Asheville)
Get hitched (sorry, Z, but when people ask questions like this, I've got to respond honestly ;))
Have a garden.

3. Snacks I enjoy.

Anything with hummus, but especially good old pita. And candied pecans (they will be the death of me). And most importantly, Fudgesicles.

4. Things I would do if I were a billioniare?

Get that center for book/fiber art going. Also, I'd establish and fund a craft-based business that could employ people in an impoverished community (ala Alabama Chanin), pay off those pesky student loans, and give lots of money to rural studio (I am very much in love with Alabama). Oh, and I'd buy a house. An old one, maybe with a sweet tin roof. They're really cute!

5. Places I have lived?

Connecticut, Alabama, Ireland, and Maryland.

6. Peeps I want to know more about:


A coffee shop kind of day

Two updates in a single week is just about unheard of here at the Might Could Blog, but I'm trying to be better about giving updates on my progress. And I actually have made some progress since Tuesday. I've been working away on some new journals for the shop and for the farmer's market (erm, hopefully ...), and I'm very pleased with how they're coming out. The first batch will be finished tomorrow and ready for their glamour shots. I tried something a little different for surface design: a mix of doodling with pigment pens, staining with acrylic paints, and embroidery. We'll see how it looks when the books are completely assembled.

I got a little bit of unexpected bookbinding help today from a remarkably capable eight-year old who I met while sewing book sections at my favorite local coffee shop and eatery, The Paperback Cafe. She approached me shortly after I arrived. I think she couldn't resist the giant block of beeswax and stack of book sections. She didn't visit for very long before she moved onto another table, but a little later she was back, and full of questions. Within an hour, she was sewing book sections together almost entirely by herself. Her tension was pretty good, she loved "boning" over the sections before we added another, and she couldn't stop fondling the beeswax. I think, perhaps, another bookbinder has been born. Hopefully I'll see her at the workshops I'll be teaching at the public library this summer, and I can instill a little more love for bookbinding in her.

After my impromptu lesson, I headed over to Saybrook Yarns for their Thursday Night Knitters group. Everyone was casting on for a baby surprise jacket (which I'm working up in my own handspun). I met a lot of lovely women, got to give a few lessons on decoding the pattern directions, and met another spinner.

I should take a moment to express my love for Elizabeth Zimmermann. I certainly didn't learn to knit by reading her books, but now that I've discovered them, I'm hopelessly in love. I'm already in the throes of planning two zimmermann-esque sweater, one for myself with some lovely black silky wool, and pink farmhouse yarns silk blend I have in my stash, and one for Z. I'm thinking beaverslide dry goods worsted for his. It seems like exactly the right kind of yarn for a manly-man sweater. Oh Elizabeth, you make my heart go a-flutter!

I'm still moving forward on the spinning front, too. My new favorite yarn is might could spun in azure, which I dyed myself. I think it was a really successful yarn. It's still thick-and-thin, but that was somewhat intentional.

I love how the greens, yellows, and blues compliment one another. I will be doing some more dyeing in this colorway in the future.

I've got some lovely and fine heathered yarn on my bobbins right now. I plan on finishing a hank tomorrow, so it, too, will be going for glamour shots. And of course, it will be deserving of its very own blog post.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Lace Stories

I've been terrible about the updates, really, I have, but important life things, like moving and finishing with the semester got in the way. Now I'm spending the summer with family, doing more spinning than is probably healthy, and working on a new batch of blank journals.

But I finally forced myself to take some photographs of the book I labored over all semester. Since January, I've been making moack-ups, writing and re-writing text, making loads of paper, knitting, in-designing, and printing. And I'm not even near finished. Of the 30 books in my edition I have exactly one bound. And it doesn't even have the right pastedown paper. Nevertheless, I'm one proud Mama, because Lace Stories is my best book yet. Okay, so it's only my second, but it feels like I've made a lot more ...

Without further delay, here she is:

I knit the lace panel on the front cover from impossibly fine linen I found at habu textiles (their yarns are nothing short of amazing). Nearly the entire book is composed of linen and wool if you don't count the book board and book cloth, and those cute little copper weatherstripp=-09ing nails I found to keep the lace tacked in place. I wanted the materials to refelect the subject matter, and in New England (as well as many, many other places), way back in ye olden days, linsey woolsey was the yarn of choice.

I'm really proud of how my linocuts turned out for this book. At first, I was planning to do all kinds of intricate three-color reductions, but obviously, I changed my mind. I'm glad I did, because in simplifying my imagery, it's more suggestive and it looks a bit more rustic. Also, since I'd alread printed a faint lace background on all the paper (including a lovely rainbow roll that these photos do not do justice), too many colors would have quickly turned this piece from a controlled exploration of color and pattern to a cacophony. I'd already done that with my first book, and I was ready for something else.

The one-color lace linocut is my favorite; I wanted the finished print to look like a woodcut, and I think I succeeded.

Once I actually finish a few to my liking I'll borrow the parents' nikon and make more deserving photographs, but for now all I've got is my sad little outdated, negligible megapixel camera to do the job. In fairness, she didn't do too terribly.

This week I'll be working on enclosures and embroidered title plaquettes, which I'm sure will be lovely. Oh, and I'll be spinning and finishing those blank journals. I'm such a busy girl ...