Category Archives: felted work

Who are you? Hoo, hoo, hoo, hoo?

Yes, I really want to know, too. That deaf, dumb and blind blogger, all over the map but unlike the pinball wizard, way too many distractions and far too little time. I’ve been considering giving up this blog altogether because I’m just too inconsistent about it, hell weeks go by and the other thing is that sometimes I write things in jest and people take them too seriously. It’s safe to assume that most of the time I’m either biting my tongue or it’s in my cheek.

I’m now firmly in Florida for the duration of winter but not before I had my fair share of it. Post-Christmas was spectacularly beautiful although we couldn’t get off the mountain. We have a 28 degree grade the last half mile up so if there’s any snow, ice or combination, that’s it for us and all of our neighbors living on the shoulders of Little Mount Pisgah. Rich gave up shaving somewhere about day 3 and  I fully expected him to yell out, “Heeerre’s Johnny!” and pop around a door. He had a little cabin fever thing going but it WAS beautiful and we took advantage of our mountain and the new flying saucer Santa brought us for Christmas.

We drove down here to St .Petersburg on the 30th, each in a car, each with a cat. Sophie sat on my lap and braked every single time I did. Both cats are happy to be here as they are free to go out and porch sit whenever they please. McCloud is slowing down noticeably and we are at that point where we are thinking he may not be long for this world but it’s normal old cat behavior. Occasionally we think about taking him to the vet and then ask ourselves why. Maybe that sounds negligent but I’m of the school that believes at some point intervening with vet trips and steroids and shots and fluids just adds stress on top of achy joints and overworked kidneys. We take excellent care of our animal companions but I just don’t know about starting down that path. We love him so much and he’s a wonderful cat and companion, nearly perfect except for his table manners. It’s hard to imagine life without him. For now, he doesn’t complain, sleeps more and more and somehow has given us the message that we shouldn’t be schlepping him around in our arms as we have in the past. Pet me, but don’t manhandle. I took a great photo of him and had it made into a postage stamp. Sometime in the future I’ll send Rich a nice card with a postage stamp of his cat.

Then I went back to Asheville for a fiber workshop weekend and discovered that the electric heat, the propane back up and the water pump had all failed. Three freezing days in the house and melting snow to flush toilets as repairs were made- that was a thrill and since I went on and on about how cold I was on FaceBook I’m not going to redo that drama here.

(now that I’m back to taking photos with my new camera I should probably figure out how to get one of those watermark things.)

Florida is for the birds and I’m loving it. We bike ride down to the bay. As of today, I’ve started back at Boyd Hill. I wondered about the avian pea-brain and what kind of memory they have as I walked along the enclosures saying my usual hellos. It’s been about 7 months (as I type that, I’m amazed. I guess it took most of a year to rebuild the mountain house, get settled in, grow a garden, discover the bears and find a routine.) so I wouldn’t have been surprised if they had acted as if I was a total stranger. But no. (Wheezer and the familiar evil eye she always gives me. She detests going out for education programs and although she doesn’t fight it, she’s never been thrilled with the person who takes hold of her jesses.)

The little screech owls clearly recognized me as did the two red-shouldered hawks that I handle, Shadow and Thinman. Turk and Pugsley, the turkey vultures, not so much. The other owls seemed vaguely attenuated to my voice and our new eagle, Abiaka, responded to me like the stranger that I am.

(Mystic, one of two barred owls, is sort of the program whack job. She’s very curious and always disheveled and frequently, for no apparent reason, just flings herself off the glove and hangs upside down.)

(Shadow is a favorite of mine. She really gave me a good once over when I first came into the enclosure.)

(She didn’t hesitate about hopping on the glove but she spent dinner time listening to me talk to her instead of eating.)

(Thinman, on the other hand, had no problem eating his mice and then moving on to Shadow’s)

Mostly these days I am seriously focused on getting my feltmaking to a level that feels satisfactory in all respects- teaching, marketing and most of all, creating. To that end I’ve been getting ready to launch that website, getting my winter classes and workshops going (nicely!) and trying to block out time to do my own work on projects. Today I made a stunning piece of felt that I laid out over a year ago. The layout entailed dyeing 4 different types of wool, 3 forms of silk, fussing over the design endlessly- and then I was afraid to felt it for fear of ruining the components. I finally tackled that this morning and the colors are fantastic and it has a nice dense heft to it. I just don’t know what I’m going to do with it. I’ll show it to you once it dries and take suggestions. Yesterday I made this lovely shawl of merino wool felted to hand-woven silk. I’ve got a great vintage French celluloid button that I’m going to attach and then I’ll probably turn it over to Florida Craftsmen Gallery for sale. It’s nice and airy, soft with a little warmth,perfect for Florida winter nights.

Kids are fine, Rich is fine and we have the full contingent of friends who struggle with illness, friends who are coming to visit, possible termites and mildewed porch columns. Life, mostly good.  How’s by you?

In our woods…


…there are so many acorns! Red oak, white oak, pin oak. The squirrels and bears spend hours digging through the leaves and eating the nuts but they leave a lot of very cool acorn tops. Inside I have lots of raw wool and silk and fiber dyes. And it’s very very pleasant to work in the kitchen, watch the birds, look at the mountains. These little hand-dyed silk bags have half a dozen large wool acorns with real tops and they are scented with either cinnamon or lavender essential oil so they are pretty nice to stash around the place- in or out of the bag. I hope they get a nod at the upcoming craft fair. I’m trying to make some items that are both nice and affordable; I’m also hand dyeing some silk gift bags with ties and silk tissue holders. What do you think?

Playing with Purple


(It’s sunny and mild but still a bit blustery from that low pressure system. I couldn’t get these pansies to hold still for a sharp photo.)

Awfully quiet around here. It’s nice, now and again, to spend time with oneself. After a day or two I consider whether I’m good company or not or if the three-day rule will apply and I’ll start to stink. Doing okay so far. Feeding myself well, reading a couple of good books. Thunderstruck by Erik Larson is interesting although I wish Marconi would hurry up and get his wireless up and running once and for all.  The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga is really good but pretty gritty. I chose those because I’ve been invited to join a book club here on the mountain and I figure it would be good to actually read the chosen books rather than turn everyone to the dark side with poker and bonfires as happened with BCMA (Book Club My Ass). It was only a short slide from there to fiber obsessions and now we’re all tangled up with wool projects and too busy to read.

I’m completely tangled up with wool right now, getting ready for another craft fair. I guess it’s not nice to call them Arts and Crap Shows although probably accurate. You know what I mean; some really nice woodcarving, baskets, glass, wool and then a whole lot of bright red and green acrylic toilet paper covers. The other thing about these pre-holiday fairs is that it’s nice to have things that sell well at a certain price point and that’s usually less than something you’ve poured your heart and soul into. Still, my experience tells me that I need to pretty much give up on the money-making end of artistry; I’m currently earning about 1/75th of what I used to earn and I didn’t have all these material costs back then, at least once I’d paid off my student loans. But I’m having fun.

(I just had to look and see if eschewing is a word. It’s not.) Choosing to eschew the traditional red and green, I’m going purple, at least with this week’s projects. It’s a good color for pansies and it’s the color of Advent, which is still a long way off. That reminds me of this funny bit from Catalog Living Blog:

“Embarrassed by their premature arrival, Gary & Elaine’s decorative Christmas trees made their way upstairs to hide for another month.”

In any case, having to make all of this holiday stuff before Halloween is not my favorite creative thing but I’m on it with the scarves and mittens. Besides, I can re-purpose the wine bottles. I’m off to hike along the Blue Ridge and get some exercise while the sun is still out. Enjoy your weekend!

(These mittens seem better suited to a prosimian than primate h. sapiens. In the interest of evolution I think I’ll have to work a little gusset into them and lengthen the thumbs.)

La vita e bella

Put an accent mark over that e for me, will you?

As the nights get cooler (41 last night), the days become clearer and this morning is the first morning we see all the way to Cold Mountain. We find that fitting, Cold Mountain, as in, when it’s cold we see that beautiful peak all the way from here, on Little Mount Pisgah. As the nights get cooler, the birds eat more and more at the feeders each day. We literally have hundreds and they empty 3 full feeders 3 times each week. Yesterday we stopped at Wild Birds Unlimited and picked up one bag we had in storage and bought several more during the Fall seed sale and left them there in storage. That works well; we use the free storage plan and don’t have so much of it piled up in the garage for little meece. Give those mice an inch and they take a mile, moving in to scout through the various wools for some luxurious bit to line a nest. It must be like shopping at Luxe Home, finding what is stockpiled here in the way of fleece. McCloud, however, continues to be a great mouser despite his age and slow decline in renal health. Speaking of critters, the bear waltzed across the deck last night. We weren’t fast enough to see anything but her retreating rump once she triggered the motion lights but we think she has figured out that those are only on one side of the house. She made a second pass back on the other side sometime in the wee hours, knocked over the locked can of bird seed and ate most of the new bag, leaving the remains spread all over. She has wiped out three ground hornet nests thus far and we thank her for that, but it’s clear that we now need to pull in the feeders at night and keep the can in the garage.

Speaking of fleece, friend Kristen from BCMA came for a few days last week while Rich was in NYC meeting with ESPN. We had a wool frenzy of sorts, with piles of it all over the studio, the kitchen, the media room. We had the drum carder going a mile a minute, making delicious batts of various fine wools, silks, bamboo, some glitz for sparkle. From there we used the batts for felting and spinning. We did some dyeing (if I were to get near a doctor now she would surely think I’m on the way out; the blue cast to my skin and nails is something to behold) and at night we watched television, vaguely, as Kristen was spinning and I was knitting.

All that effort meant that we a) didn’t get out of our pajamas for 3 days and b) had to stop periodically for fuel. Kristen loves to cook as much as I do. One night we made Killer Shrimp, basically a large bowl of the biggest jumbo shrimp and artery annihilating spicy buttered broth with a crusty soft loaf from Ecce Panis for dipping. The fennel seed (from our garden!) and red pepper make it so tasty and warm. Use really jumbo shrimp or prawns; it’s worth it. Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients
2 tbl rosemary
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp celery seed
1/2 tsp fennel seed
1 cup white wine
2 quarts chicken broth
8 oz clam juice
3 oz tomato paste
1/2 lb butter
2 lbs shrimp or prawns, tails on

Directions

Combine rosemary, fennel. Lightly chop the spices with a chef’s knife. In the end there should still be recognizable pieces of the rosemary, etc.

Place all ingredients except wine in a large pot. Simmer for about an hour.

Add wine. Continue to simmer for a total cooking time of no more than 2 hours.

Just before serving, add raw shrimp. Simmer until shrimp is done, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Serve in large bowls, each person gets a lot of broth. Eaten with fingers. Wear bibs. Serve with french bread for dipping in broth.

Another night, Kristen made a limoncello semifreddo, which was basically the creamiest lemon-lime frozen custard ever. Look up a recipe online and you’ll see what I mean. Kristen will be back again in a couple of weeks; we are getting ready for a local holiday craft fair, which we affectionately refer to as the “arts and craps” show. Although it’s clear (to us) that we create the finest fiber art ever, we want to recoup some of the money we’ve spent on wool this past year because, after all, there is a big fiber fair here in Asheville at the end of the month and all new opportunities to stock up. So we are making items that will sell. Felted catnip kitty toys!

All of this good food is putting me in mind of Italy. Today I am packing for our “honeymoon”, never taken because we have been such busy bees, and this time next week I will be enjoying lunch on a hilltop outside of Parma, en route to our ultimate destination in Tuscany. There we will park ourselves at Daniel’s and Manuela’s olive and vineyard estate and enjoy day trips all around the area. One night we will enjoy 5 star dining at La Frateria di Padre Eligio in the convent of St. Francis and drink a toast to our marriage and (arrghhh) my sixtieth birthday. La Frateria is part of Mondo X, an organization that speaks to me; I think you’ll enjoy reading about it.

We were a bit anxious about the timing of this trip because there was another major life event looming on the horizon, one I haven’t told you about as I erred on the side of caution. We are grandparents! Rich’s Anna had a son 2 weeks ago today. This is our first grandchild and although we wanted to be proudly broadcasting about it, the circumstances haven’t been appropriate until now. Anna has been in a rough place in her life with many challenges that made having a baby especially high risk and we were very worried, often extremely discouraged. She considered adoption briefly but decided against that and, in the way of many grown children, advice was neither welcome nor heeded as she moved through her pregnancy. Anna went into labor a month early and as I was fretting and fuming, Abby admonished me, rightly so,  to snap out of it, that this was a new life, a gift, a child to be welcomed and loved, a mother to be supported. Baby Kellan wasted no time and came after 3 short hours, weighing in at 5 pounds. A new baby breaks down barriers and changes lives and now, two weeks later (a lifetime!) Anna and her husband and baby Kellan are doing very well at home. He is still on a monitor for apnea but he’s gained 12 ounces and stretched out 2 inches and reports from doctor and visiting nurse are very good. Anna and I chat online about feeding schedules and sleep patterns and those whimsical little newborn smiles and she seems perfectly in tune and madly in love. This has reminded me that babies and parents don’t usually get to pick and choose and that makes life all the more interesting. It has also reminded me that many times parents are able to rise up and do for their children what they can’t do for themselves. We are very, very proud of the start Anna has given Kellan and we can’t wait to hold him as soon as we get back. He looks very much like Rich did as a baby and we think he’s beautiful!

That’s it for now and I need to hustle to get the indoor plants in for the winter and take care of all those things you need to do before you leave on a big trip; for me that’s every single thing from estate planning to sorting through 30 years of photos but in the end I’m lucky to find my passport in time to head out. Have a great week.