Have Ewe Any Wool?

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Hardanger / Hardangersøm

Just what I need...yet another fiber craft to tempt me! This one is traditional to my heritage though, so it's definitely something I need to explore a bit more. Lucky for me, there are several Hardanger groups in the area....so I should have no problem finding somewhere to learn this fascinating craft!

Lucy gave a fabulous presentation on Hardanger at the Norwegian Cultural Center. This was part of the cultural enrichment programs sponsored by my Sons of Norway Lodge. Her presentation was definitely inspiring! Lucy showed us so many beautiful pieces - both her own and then others she's collected from estate sales, eBay, and various other places. She quite an accomplished stitcher! (The piece shown here is one of her own that was entered in a competition. Click on the photo for a closer look at the detail.)

I just LOVE the heart motif Keepsake book Lucy made - "Valentine's Day on the Hardanger Fjord". The inspiration for this piece was the breast plate of a Bunad. The top is a cotton fabric, and underneath, was a wool felt. The inside is comprised of several over-sized envelopes - perfect for collecting all the keepsakes! What an awesome idea! Best of all, she'd written out the pattern and plans for us all so we can make one of our own. Of course, I'll have to learn Hardanger in order to make mine!

Some of the Hardanger pieces are absolutely awesome. Hardanger is considered rather "simple" in that most pieces are white-on-white and use only a very small set of patterns and stitches. However, through numerous combinations of stitches and threads, these simple "stitches" become elegant works of art.

Here are a couple of bags decorated with Hardanger. I envision the one on the left as a jewelry pouch - carefully wrapping it's contents in soft velvet...beautifully accented with a lovely Hardanger motif. The one on the right is a more traditional Norwegian purse that one would wear with their Bunad...simple and elegant. (Click on the photos for a closer look.)

I especially like this item - it's a needle holder or needle book. (I'm sure there's some special term for this, but I'm calling it a needle book). I think something like this would be a fabulous first project for me - though I'll probably opted for a much simple and smaller design.

We didn't limit ourselves to Hardanger...we let other needle arts slip in as well. "Cross Stitch" is the national stitch of Denmark. The Five Wise and Five Foolish Virgins cross-stitch piece was fascinating - so full of color! And then there was the combination of cross stitch and Hardanger in the gorgeous piece on the right. Be sure to "click" on the photo to view the detail of the Hardanger stitches - there's a lovely variety displayed in the center of the piece.

Lucy designed this piece in honor of Maine - the edging is done in ribbon...and the inspiration for this piece was the blueberries of Maine. I just love the colors - and the edging is just gorgeous!

Here's Lucy at work - showing us how to make some of the traditional stitches. This work definitely requires good light and very sharp scissors so you snip the appropriate threads. Stitches are generally worked as 5 stitches over 4 threads or 7 stitches over 6 threads using a blunt needle. It's quite fascinating!

Finally, there was a historical piece. The mother of a friend of Lucy's was a Holocaust survivor. This piece is a needlework sampler that her friend's mother had done while in school in Germany. The piece shows lace, a variety of stitches, Hardanger, sewing techniques, clasps, embroidery - basically a sample of all the needle arts. What an awesome piece of history! Through our stitching, we are truly linked to our sisters - past, present, and future - connected by our many threads.

Labyrinth Weaving Ravelympics Event - Complete!

I've officially crossed the finish line on all three of my "Ravelympics" projects!

The first two projects were finished earlier this week. I finally finished the third project at noon today and posted it to the finish line. The woven strap is approximately 24" long and I intended for it to eventually become the strap to a tote bag. The pattern is one of the simplest patterns for weaving - a diagonal stripe. To finish to the strap, I braided each of the ends to "hold it together" until it's officially "put into use". However, I may just keep it "as is" and file it away as the historical example of my first finger-weaving project.

My weaving is a bit uneven, but it's much better than I expected. As I progressed, my ability to create even rows increased dramatically. I could definitely see the difference between the start and the finish.

I think the next finger weaving project I'll try with include a chevron pattern. Eventually, I'd like to try an Indian motif, but I think I need to become a bit more skilled before I tackle something as intricate as that!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Happy 100th Birthday Aunt Rita!

DH's Great Aunt Rita celebrated her 100th birthday this month! (left - Great Aunt Rita, middle - my fabulous MIL, right - Great Aunt Helen). I was honored to be invited to share in the celebration of this phenomenal event. I'll be thrilled if I have even half of her energy and stamina when I reach 100!

Special chocolate bars and a personal birthday wish from President Obama and his wife helped commemorate this fabulous event.

The Haekelbeutel Is Done!


Friday night, I sewed the handles onto the Haekelbeutel bag. I was a bit disappointed - it looked rather plain - actually, rather blah. I think that if I were to make this bag again, I would definitely used either variegated yarn for a bit of variety, make each round a different color, or make the the final round of each square a different color. (This project is the perfect "stash burner"!)

I decided to use a contrasting color for the edging around the top of the bag and around the handles to add a little interest. I had some lilac colored Sugar 'n Cream in my stash - just perfect for picking up the flecks of purple in the body of the bag. I'm quite pleased with the final result and I LOVE the shape. I'll definitely make this again...once I figure out a way to minimize the "weaving in" of the loose ends or at least a way to make it less painful!

Phew....with the bag completed, I now have two of my three "Ravelympics" projects complete! Just one more to go...."Labyrinth Weaving". My final project, a woven strap with a diagonal stripe, is my inaugural attempt at "finger weaving". I've managed to weave about twelve inches so far, so I'm about halfway done. I'm FINALLY starting to get the hang of finger weaving and becoming MUCH more proficient.

This project has definitely been a learning experience. I had several false starts and tear outs as I tried to master this very simple method of weaving. Ultimately, in semi-defeat, I left this "event" for last. I had originally tried weaving by attaching an end to a chair, but it was too hard to keep track of my warp and weft and it "wobbled" a little too much. I added a pencil to try to keep the yarn in line and make it easier for me to identify the threads in their proper order. The "pencil method" helped some, but not quite enough - I was still struggling with the thread line-up. I finally started using a clipboard...as had been recommended. It worked like a charm! Hopefully, I can complete this project tomorrow before the torch goes out!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

More Ravelympics Progress!

Tuesday evening, I finally finished the 4 strips that comprise the Haukelbuetel Bag. I crocheted the squares together into four strips of four squares. The crochet joins were MUCH faster than if I'd sewn them together...however, it certainly didn't reduce the high number of loose ends to weave in! Once the strips were assembled, I crocheted them together in what forms the bottom of the bag. I'm fascinated by the assemblage instructions - the strips remind me of a pinwheel at this point.

Tonight, I finished sewing the strips together to make the body of the bag. Next, I tackled the handles. Once again, I had an ENORMOUS amount of ends to weave in. So many that my fingers are actually sore! (It probably doesn't help that it's a bit tight as I crocheted with a size "C" - a bit small for worsted weight, but it's the size that was recommended by the Crochet-a-long.) Wahoo! I should be able to finish this tomorrow night!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Spinning event - complete!


I've completed my spinning event for the Ravelympics...all that's left is to update my data on the site. The total yardage of my two-ply yarn is 788 yards. The WPI is approximately 20, so it's quite thin - definitely a lace weight. I LOVE the subtle variegation!

My second event, the "Bag Jump" is over half-way there. I've made quite a bit of progress on the Haekelbeutel (Crocheted Bag). I've completed all 16 of the squares and have started sewing them together. I hope to have it completed this evening. Then, all that's left for the event is making the handle!

The final event is the weaving project...which I really haven't touched since the first full day of the Olympics. I hope I can get to that before I run out of time!!!

On Sunday afternoon, we went to Warrenton to visit DH's grandma. The roads are clear - for now, anyway! However, there was still quite a bit of snow dotting the countryside!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Valentine's Day....Part II and "Snowshoe Thompson"

Valentines Day Part II...

The re-shipment of the Valentine's Day Flowers arrived on Thursday...and they were beautiful! (Please pardon my feeble attempt to "artfully" arrange the flowers.) Instead of roses, I received some very vibrant red tulips and some gorgeous purple Irises. I loved the rather unique and non-traditional mix of flowers - the colors are stunning!

The irises took a few days to "bloom", but now they're gorgeous! I love irises...and these are exceptionally beautiful! They are much more vibrant in real life - much more purple and less blue. The closeup on the right captures much of the natural beauty of these flowers.

Not to be left out, my Christmas Cactus is blooming even more now in seeming competition with the Valentine's Day flowers!

Snowshoe Thompson...

Friday night, at the Sons of Norway Lodge meeting, the program was about how the Norwegians brought skiing to the US. The program was absolutely fascinating! I learned so much from the slides and the fascinating movie that was shown. Norwegian skis were typically 9 ft long or longer and the skiiers wore baggy wool pants rather than tight aerodynamic ski suits...nothing like modern skiing at all. Most of their skis seemed to be in the 12-14 foot range...with some as long as 18 feet! The Norwegian type of skiing became quite popular in the mining towns of the mid-1800's and competitions arose as a mode of enterainment. One thing that really stuck in my mind was that someone was clocked at 88.5 mph going downhill on Norwegian skis....can you imagine? That's faster than the speed limit on the Interstates!

A Norwegian immigrant named Jon Torsteinson-Rue ("Americanized" to John Thompson and later nicknamed "Snowshoe Thompson") is credited with bringing skiing to the Western US. His skis were wooden and were about 9-12 ft. in length and quite heavy. He settled in the western US after answering an ad for a mail courier in the Sierra's and proceeded to deliver the mail (via skis) between Genoa, Nevada and Placerville, California for 20 years. His mail run was about 90 miles through the mountains near Lake Tahoe - and he did it in record time. I was just amazed!

The local people called him "Snowshoe Thompson" because they'd never seen skis...they'd only seen snowshoes....and evidently, they thought that the Norwegian's just had "funny looking snow shoes"! He was such a hero in the region that they built a memorial honoring him in Genoa, Nevada. The town he was from in the Telemark region of Norway dedicated a huge chunk of granite to be added to the memorial. Believe it or not, Jon was never paid by the postal service for delivering the mail, but he did it anyway. There's a fabulous write up about him here: Snowshoe Thompson if you'd like to read more. It's fascinating!

A little knitting progress...

During the lodge meeting, I also made some great progress on my "Ditto Socks" - I'd nearly completed the cuff of the first sock! I was so busy watching the presentation that I was completely unaware of the progress I'd made! (I had started the evening with only about 3 rows complete.)

Snow Update...

It's been nearly 2 weeks since the back-to-back "big snows", and there's STILL a lot of snow around here! The streets are pretty much clear...except for the melt/re-freeze that is a daily occurence. However, with these mounds of snow, I'm beginning to think that some of the snow banks will STILL be around in April! There are some predictions for snow later this week, but we're all hoping and praying that the forecast changes.....we've had enough - over 76 inches so far this year!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Ravelympics Progress

I've entered 3 events for TEAMMA in the 2010 Ravelympics. I think I'm on track for "crossing the finish line" in time for the closing ceremonies of the 2010 Olympics - which marks the end of the Ravelympics.

My first event is the "Flying Camel Spin" - for this event, I committed to plying the 4 ounces of silk that I had spun into very thin singles prior to the Olympics. I've FINALLY finished plying! Wahoo! It took several evenings to do it...and I was beginning to think I'd NEVER finish! Now all I have left for this event is to determine the WPI and the total yardage. I was amazed at how long this took to ply - 4 ounces of silk produces an amazing amount of plied yarn!

My second event is the "Labyrinth Weaving". I'm trying a new form of weaving - at least, it's new to me. I'm finding that I need a "third hand" for this...even though I have a chair stabilizing the "loom" for me. I had to add a pencil in order to stabilize it more and keep the "weft" neat and orderly. I'm finding this "simple" form of weaving to be quite the challenge - definitely an Olympic event for me! This is the event that I'll probably finish just before the deadline!

The final event I'm participating in is the "Bag Jump". I'm a bit "crochet challenged" and need to hone my skills - I thought this would be the perfect event to stretch my skills. I'm making "Inga's Haekelbeutel" - it's a cute bag made of 16 granny squares that are rotated 45 degrees, so it's not the usual "square" project. It took me nearly 4 hours to complete the first square to my satisfaction. Thankfully, my skill and speed have GREATLY improved!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Antony and Cleopatra

Finally! A predicted snow/sleet event fell far short of expectations - much to everyone's joy! Weekend plans were NOT canceled! Things are starting to return to normal. On Friday, all Metro stops were FINALLY open - both above and below ground. Wahoo!

Thankfully, the theater had re-opened as well so I even managed to get out with some girlfriends for a fantastic "girls night out". We loaded ourselves onto the train and headed downtown. A quick change of trains at Metro Center and we were off to China Town.

The streets were plowed, and the sidewalks shoveled, but with piles of snow everywhere (you can see the snow just above our heads), it was difficult going when we had to cross the streets. Typically, there was a single path about 10 inches wide to "squeeze through"...but somehow, we managed!

We'd discovered "Chinatown Express" last summer and had watched them make home made noodles - oh they looked good! We've been wanting them ever since...but we had to wait until our plans brought us downtown again....and Friday was the day! This time, they were making home made dumplings.....mmmmmm! Check out the fabulous colors in the window! All the chicken, octopi, and other delicacies! The fresh noodles were FABULOUS!!!! What a great way to kick off Chinese New Year!

After our delicious dinner, the three of us were off to the Lansburgh Theatre to see Synetic Theater's presentation of "Antony and Cleopatra". It was superb! This theater group does NOT use any words - strictly dance, movement and music. Their interpretation of "Antony and Cleopatra" was absolutely exquisite! The performance was just as eloquent Shakespeare's written words - awesome! Absolutely awesome! The engaging music, fabulous set, elegant costuming and the sheer talent of this group is indescribable! They're playing through the 28th of February, so there's still time to buy tickets and see it for yourself - you definitely won't be disappointed!

As a fabulous finish to the evening, we stopped in at "Red Velvet Cupcakery". Wow....the choices! I was good....I picked up a cupcake for DH as well and carefully carried it home - quite a feat when dealing with public transportation and very crowded trains! (By the way, the cupcakes were delicious! I had the "Morning Call - expresso infused cake with coffee buttercream" and I got the "Peanut Butter Cup - chocolate chip cupcake with salted peanut butter topping.)

All photos courtesy of my friend, Paula...she's loving her new camera!!!