Sunday, November 30, 2008

Turkey, spinning wheel, holiday giveaway!

I haven't quite digested the fact that the holiday season is here. I have however, digested a lot of turkey, sweet potato, stuffing, shrimp and grits, and other festive foods. And now I'm getting ready for the holidays.
This will be my first year spending it here in Alabama with Z instead of back in Connecticut, and although I will miss making cookies with my Mom, sister, and cousins, and the Christmas Eve and Day family festivities, I'm excited about decorating my own house and having people over for multiple celebrations. In preparation for the season, I spent Thanksgiving weekend doing nothing but eating with friends, knitting like a fiend, and watching more cartoons than I probably have in years. On Thanksgiving I made a delicious cider brined turkey, my first ever, and it turned out beautifully glazed and golden. We had fun photographing each other and the dogs, and joined our friends for a massive dinner, which featured duck roasted in an outdoor brick oven, smoked turkey, and my brined bird. All that eating and socializing drove Z and I to spend the rest of the weekend curled up on the couch, and we watch movies and cartoons as I knit us each an Elizabeth Zimmermann winter cap and finished a tomten jacket I had started a few days prior.
Now I'm getting ready to return to life as usual, which isn't actually so bad either. I'll be making paper and handmade boxes this week, cleaning the house in preparation for holiday decorating, and continuing my gift knitting. I've got a long way to go, but since I've knocked out a couple of presents already, I think I'll be able to manage.
Of course, life as usual also means spinning on my brand new Kromski minstrel, which arrived in the mail just two weeks ago. I tried out one of these pretty wheels while I was at SAFF, and knew it was my wheel. As soon as I sat down to spin, I wanted to buy the minstrel immediately, but I was a good girl. I sold my Ashford traditional and a huge stash of rovings that I'd never actually have time to make into yarn. And then I got to buy my wheel. Now that it's in my home, assembled and in near constant use, I'm thrilled, and as you can see, so is Zelda. The Minstrel spins like a dream, it's easy to carry from place to place, and the design is just fancy enough. I love how it looks in our living room (the place where it stays so I can hang out with Z and spin at the same time). Once the holiday season is over, I have big plans to knit a sweater from my own handspun; I've already got about 1/3 of the yarn done, and will be spinning the rest when I'm not doing all of the other things on my "to do" list!
In addition to the work and domestic chores, I'll be participating in Sew Mama Sew's giveaway day on December 3rd. Check back that day to play along and maybe get a handmade book from me! Also, this coming Sunday I'll be at the DCDC craft fair selling all manner of handmade bookish things. It's being held at the UA Arboretum from one until four in the afternoon, under the pavilion. Support local artists and buy handmade this year!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


I've finished an embellished journal, and I think I'm in love. There are several more waiting to be sewn at home, but until they're finished, I'll be lavishing this pretty thing with lots of attention. I can't wait to make more!

Monday, November 10, 2008

painting, embroidering, and baking

That's the brief synopsis of how I spent my weekend. Lately I've been experimenting with using just fabric to cover my books. It seems like a good idea, since I'm awfully fond of embroidering designs of my book covers, and skipping the whole adhering fabric to board part would save me a couple of steps.
I've spent a long time thinking about how to make my fabric into usable, sturdy covers, and now I've finally applied all that thinking to coming up with an actual project. They're turning out beautifully. I coated natural covered heavyweight canvas with tinted gesso to get a sturdy but flexible material, and I've been playing with different fabric and beaded/button embellishments. I can't wait until I've got finished journals to photograph!
I should have four available for sale at the greencup books zine and media fest this Friday and Saturday in Birmingham, that is, unless I encounter problems with the binding. I don't think that's going to be the case, though. I already know how I'm sewing the journals, and I'll be reinforcing the spine with coordinating gessoed pieces to prevent it from cupping inward.
I did take a short break from bookbinding on Saturday to make perhaps the most delicious cake ever. Since October, I've wanted to make a spice cake, and when I found this recipe, I could no longer resist the temptation. My finished cake, with molasses-cream cheese icing, toasted pecans, and homemade caramel sauce, was a hit. Since I was feeling festive, I even gathered some magnolia leaves from the front yard and used them to line my cake plate. It was so lovely that my heart sank a little when we started cutting into it. But as soon as I took a bite, I had no remorse for destroying a thing of beauty. Now if the remnants weren't in the fridge taunting me ...
I just need to make more book covers and I'll forget all about it.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Congratulations President Obama!

We did it! I've been wearing a stupid-silly grin ever since about 10:00pm eastern time yesterday evening (alright, I may have taken a couple of hours off for some sleep), and it's not dissapearing anytime soon. I am so thrilled that I got to vote in this election, and that my vote was counted as part of the "youth voter" demographic for one last time. Our vociferous support for Obama helped him win the white house, and I think it's shown us how much influence we actually do have.
Above all, I'm hopeful for the future. I know that amidst the noise of celebration, some have asked, "hopeful for what?", and "what kind of change?" While I won't pretend to speak for everyone who's savoring victory today, I would like to identify what it is I'm looking forward to.
A good bit of the Obama campaign was based on grassroots efforts; people worked within their own communities to register voters, host benefits and house parties, and canvas for their candidate. And now we've seen an example of how much influence individual actions can have at the national level. I see Obama's victory as the beginning of a time when we uphold community service as a mainstream value, and when everyone is motivated to donate some time to uplifting their cities and towns.
Obama's message hinges strongly on this ethic of service, and after hearing his address at grant park, I don't think that will be changing anytime soon. He addressed the public as a president who's willing to forego the platitudes and cynicism we've gotten used to hearing over the past eight years.
I, like millions of others, heard his call to action, and I'm inspired. For some time now, I've wanted to make a career out of community-based arts education, and in a political climate that seems to respect, and hopefully, reward those endeavors, I feel emboldened. I'm excited for the next four years - for the good work that will be done in Washington, and for the good work I will do here, in Tuscaloosa.
Now, let's take a day to celebrate!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

festivals! workshops! elections!

Happy election day! The months of nail-biting are finally about to end, and I'm excited because it means there'll be one less thing for me to fret over. Amidst all the election anticipation, I've been busy preparing for and traveling to festivals. The most recent one I attended was last weekend's Southeast animal fiber fair. It was spectacular, and I plan on returning next year. I met some wonderful people, including Britney of the knit witch (I brought home one of her gorgeous yarn bowls and have been using it ever since), and Nanney Kennedy of Seacolors Yarn.
I'm so thrilled with all of my SAFF purchases, which included a new kokovoko spindle, a 1-yard mini niddy noddy, yarn from the plain & fancy sheep & wool co., and from brooks farm.
Of course, I couldn't leave a fiber fair without picking up a couple of fleeces. I knew I wanted to find the perfect romney fleece while I was there, and I succeeded. On the first day, while wandering the main sales area, I found a farm that specialized in romney sheep, and pickup up this lovely 7.5lb charcoal fleece. It was one of only a few fleeces they had on display, and after spending no fewer that five minutes with my hand submerged in this beauty, I knew I had to have it. I've washed about a pound of the fiber, and it's turning out gorgeously. Once all the dirt and lanolin is out, it's a soft charcoal gray with cream and brown tips. It goes perfectly with the small kid mohair I picked up at the fleece sale. The curly little locks were too cute for me to pass up, and now that it's washed, they're extra lustrous. I'm working on carding some of the romney and mohair together for a spinning project that will eventually become a cabled sweater. Who knows; maybe next year I'll be entering the finished piece into the garment contest at SAFF.
My two new fleeces have invigorated my love for fiber prep. Working with a beautiful raw fleece is such a joy. When I've finally finished that sweater, I have a feeling I'll wear it often, and if anyone asks, I will be quick to take credit for the fiber preparation, spinning, and knitting that went into its creation.
As much as I'd love to dwell in the fiber world forever, I'm also making big plans in the book arts segment of my life. This week, I've been preparing to teach a geltin monoprint holiday card class at One Night Only Artique in Tuscaloosa. On Sunday, my co-teacher and I practiced the techniques we'll be teaching and how we'll be structuring the class. I made about a dozen prints with textures, cutouts, and a little bit of painting. This is one of my favorites.

I'm looking forward to teaching this weekend, and if all goes well, I'll be teaching a similar workshop for kids in the spring.
I'm also going to be leading a pamphlet-making activity during Thursday evening's Art Night event to advertise the printmaking and other upcoming workshops. If you're in town, stop by One Night Only any time after 6:00pm and make a pamphlet with me!