Taking a Break…

IMG_0360I admit that it IS totally ironic that after all that the blog and I have managed to plow through over the past two!! years: the first summer of painting the old house, then, the sorting, and packing up of every single thing we owned; the autumn of the “Big Move” (three truck loads, three van loads), my mom’s illness and continuing (thank goodness) recovery, the ever-demanding painting and repairs needed in our new house, the unpacking on this end (still not done a year and a half later: those boxes are now sitting,  not-so-patiently, waiting for their turn), that NOW would seem to be the time to “just be”…to push the re-set button…but, I think that THAT is what we need to do.  The blog and I are taking a “summer vacation”.  We will be back in September.  If you send us your email address (to andrea@danglingthreads.com), “we” will knock on your “door” as the days once again get shorter, and the nights, cooler…take care.

Time to Commit

IMG_0342It eventually happens in any project…that moment when you have to stop the playing and decide the end-game.  I have had so much fun combining colors–both in the strand that I am crocheting, and with the “circle” that I am adding it to.  Although some combinations just weren’t practical because of the varying thicknesses of each of the yarns, the wealth of possible choices was still seemingly endless.  (My general approach to this problem was to combine a thicker yarn with a very thin one; or to work two similar yarns together.  The goal was for all of the finished motifs to be about the same size…sort of tricky in lace- weight yarns, apparently…)

I found the process to be very Zen-like.  Similar to the “sheep” activity, when I was counting stitches and repeating that graceful in-and-out of the yarn and hook, there was no mental space left for worry or random harassing thoughts…at least, I couldn’t do both at once.  And, THAT has been a wonderful way to start each day. I have even found myself snatching time for a bit of that peace during the rest of the day as well…just a few minutes for “one more”.  What a wonderfully colored pile of circles I have!  I don’t think there are two alike!

From the beginning, I thought to make two scarves.  Choosing color combinations takes time.  I wanted to spend more time crocheting than fiddling with all the possible color choices.  I felt that working on just one scarf would end up limiting the number of color combinations  I would get to make…When it was finally time to “lay out” my scarf, I was hoping that the final piece would be colorful beyond any expectation.  Two scarves would require many, many circles…hence, many, many colors.  You might even say that making two was a “practical” approach to the problem…hmmm….

For the past week or so, I had begun to work out possible layouts in my mind…to combine the small circles with circles in squares? to combine circles in small squares with circles in larger ones? to combine all of those possible motifs, all together? (never could work out a way to do that last one).  In most cases, I couldn’t figure out an elegant way to join any different motifs together.  (With forethought, there ARE ways to join varied crocheted motifs as you work…but, this was an open-ended, “making-it-up-as-I-went-along” thing from the beginning.)  That was a big part of its appeal…no plan…just to play.

So, in the end, I have chosen the simplest solution (which, not so coincidentally, should also have the smallest number of “ends” to weave in…ALWAYS a consideration, especially after all those ends in all of those circles (692 of them)…  8!!! ends…in EACH one!).  I am going to lay them out in a grid: the classic crochet solution.  Each block is interesting on its own.  Altogether, they should be stunning. I am hoping to keep this “fun” to the finish.   Time will tell.

Round Three…

IMG_0335The circle thing continues to be ever-engaging.  Not quite sure why.  (One might think that at 400 and counting, the process might be getting just a bit tedious.)  Not so.  Maybe it is the truly infinite changeability of the colors from my somewhat limited palette of yarn when I crochet two of them together.  Maybe it is that my little pile of circles just keeps growing. Or, it might be the fact that I am simply making progress on something vaguely creative…amidst all the house work.

We are having overnight guests in a few days.  Deadlines always propel progress.  In the past week, I have painted the guest bedroom (a lovely soft blue), the accompanying bathroom (a much brighter blue), and my laundry room.  That last was not in the “deadline” plan.  But the washer and dryer were already disconnected and pulled out to put in the new tile…painting, while it was easy seemed to make sense and the growing pile of laundry created a deadline of its own.   All of that should feel like enough.  But, it is the pile of colorful circles, ever-growing, that gives me the most satisfaction…

I have decided to crochet in that narrow line of color, before turning the circles into squares.  I think it will add a certain complexity to the finished piece (and, it gives me yet another opportunity to play with my colors)…so…Round Three…

My “Art” Chair

John went to an auction last week.  (I stayed home and scratched my itches.)  He brought me home a chair! just for fun!  I am calling it my “Art Chair”.  It is bright and happy and oh, so comfy.  I have put it in the corner of my studio, next to the dormer where the afternoon light shines in.  I think it will be a great place to just sit and think and make plans for new work…a promise of sorts…

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“Sophie” Circle Count…

It has been a rough few weeks.  Went out into the field to “advise” where to plant a few forsythia bushes, hoping to camouflage the well head a bit.  I tried to “help” by pulling a few weeds…and, the next morning woke up with a swollen face, eyes, nearly shut, itching like crazy…Got drugs…turned out I was allergic to those…I became one huge rash from head to toe, and even in-between those. Itch? beyond belief!  OUCH!

IMG_0330 I am in “recovery mode” now…(SO glad for that).  The bright spot is my circle count…301, and counting!  Not sure how many I will truly need, but my quick estimate is about 1000!  Still having fun playing with colors…ordered a few more skeins to add to the mix…

Wondering About Those Travel Projects?

My re-entry home was tough…but, it always is.  My kids go the extra mile to make me feel special whenever I visit…yummy dinners (which I don’t have to plan, shop for, or cook), intriguing side trips (no need for Siri), and, a cozy spot to read or work (on whatever thing my little heart desires)…I definitely need to visit far more often!  Funny how all the problems left behind are still here when I get back home.  Where is that Dust Fairy???

It IS back to “reality”…though things here have been improving.  More and more of the dust tsunami is gone; the tile guy has been making real progress; and, the freezer may soon once again work…  Winter is OVER.  Spring has arrived.  And, the “traveling” projects fared pretty well.  So, this is my theory.  At home, one can get so wrapped up in the “must-do’s”…there is no time for “what if?”   Getting away from the day-to-day, and working on just a few activities can truly help one focus.  There is a lot of unscheduled time…random moments of pick-up work can turn into true progress.  There is time to think, and time to act on the idea without the distraction of duty.   I had such fun just “playing” with my stuff.  So here is how it went:

THE “SOPHIE” SCARF…

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I think I finally made a bit of a plan for my “Sophie” scarf.  Haven’t decided yet if it is simply going to be a grid of “circle in a square” motifs (that could be very colorful, low risk, low stress), or a more complex layout with bands of squares, big and small, separated by stripes of circles.  The latter plan sounds much more interesting, and truly appeals, but it will be a construction nightmare (maybe another trip should be in my plan just to work this out.)   All would have to be assembled “as I go”…winging it, hoping for the best.  Trusting that random serendipity will be beautiful…hmmm.   I figured I didn’t have to decide; I knew to begin, I would need lots and lots of circles…so I happily crocheted them:  many, many circles…playing with both yarn and color combinations.  (By crocheting with two strands at a time, I can increase my color variations almost exponentially…definitely, a “Sophie” strategy.)  The caveat, though, is that “lace weight” is a somewhat loose term as far as yarn goes…resulting in circles of various sizes…combining yarns can be somewhat equalizing…but only if that is the driving factor in pairing choices…a concept I can appreciate…but for me, the choice based on color will always win…I may regret it…but, right now…that is far too much worrying for a “travel” project…

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Dreading dealing with all of the ends, I decided to weave them in as I go…This has turned out to be a rather “zen” kind of activity…good thing, because the “ends” tend to be a bit endless…

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THE SWITCHBACK SCARF with the undecipherable directions…

Took my balls of Noro sock yarn…ready to go.  Kate sat down with me the very first night (good daughter that she is), and showed me how to get started…(tried and tried to understand just what those written instructions were telling me to do)…and, GOT IT…off I went…fun.  But, I hated all that orange and brown…what a way to start…after about a foot of crocheting, with orange and orange, turning into to brown and gray, I decided to rip it all out.   It is a sad tale…but, one with a happy ending.  I decided I could be “the boss” of my yarn.  I cut out the orange and the brown.  I started again.  The colors played out as I worked…(even a bit of the orange)

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Not quite done with it…and, there is trouble lurking in the last bit of both balls…IMG_0283

more orange…and after that lovely bit of lavender, I know what is coming…gray and then, that brown.  Still the boss of my yarn balls, I think I am going to quit while I am ahead, and finish it off…if I could find my instructions…

(Have to admit, it has been so much fun working with the colors as they come off the balls…I bought another skein in a different color way!!!…no brown or orange though… another travel project???

THE NEVER-ENOUGH TIME FOR WATERCOLOR JOURNAL…

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The paints were especially engaging.  That three-hour time difference…getting up at 4 in the morning?…never minded it…that just meant more time to mix pretty colors.  Each session, I would pick a color to be “the star”…and I would mix and muddle the others in however I wanted.  So engaging…until disaster struck.  I had packed up my box and put it in my suitcase to move from one lucky kid to the other…the paints were still wet…ALL slid into a muddy mess…SO GLAD I had it wrapped in a plastic bag, but, I got a real understanding of what Alizarin Crimson can do…

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The idea of washing it all down the drain seemed far too extravagant…plus, not very ecologically sound (been to California, lately?  just getting rid of “garbage” can be a full-time activity).  So, instead, I started fiddling with my “custom” mixes…

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And, still had fun…even more fun, really…

That is it.  That is “what I did on my Spring vacation”…

Catching Up

It has been a grueling few weeks…my painting project was interrupted by the “tile demo disaster”…that’s as in “demolition”.  What a lot of work.  We chiseled up the tile down the hallway, into the pantry, into the “music closet”, into the bathroom…onto the landing to the basement, bit by bit.  Once the tiles were gone, it was pretty clear that we needed to take up the backer board as well…more chipping…some with a hammer and chisel…some with a tire iron and sledgehammer.  All had to be put in boxes…boxes and boxes…a BIG job…and, a very dusty one.  The dust got everywhere; even upstairs.  We cleaned it up.

Then we started in on the dining area.  We were dreading this one (but for entirely the wrong reason, as things ended up).  The floor in there is heated with pipes running in loops encased in several inches of concrete under the tile…so, we were thinking that getting the tiles separated from the concrete without causing leaks to spring in the pipes would be “tricky”.  The tiles popped right up!  Easy…little did we know what was coming.    Left behind were the concrete ridges of the thin-set…which, in the end (after much ineffective, tedious chiseling…inch by inch) had to be ground away with a monster tool…And, even though we thought we had set things up to capture all the dust with lots and lots of strategically placed plastic sheets and drop cloths, it turned out to be a TOTAL dust bomb.  At one point I couldn’t even see John working two feet away.  And, guess where all that dust went?  EVERYWHERE.  Even found some in the refrigerator…If it was out (first floor, second floor, didn’t matter) it got dusty…really dusty.  Pretty much every dish in every cupboard had to be washed…and that was just the easy part.  Days of vacuuming and damp mopping…If you are an optimist, you could say that at least I now have a VERY clean house; if you are not, you just know there is STILL dust lurking, yet to be found.  And, I haven’t even been able to think about dealing with the studios…ever tried to dust buttons? dolls? fabric?

So, that is my excuse for “no work…no blog”.  But, I have literally, left the dust behind for a few days, visiting my kids…and I brought along a few projects…

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I found this little journal on the sale shelf at Anthropologie, thinking to keep it in my bag to record odd thoughts as I was out and about…I was sick two weeks ago and not feeling like doing much…I dusted off my tray of washi tape (really, I had to dust it off!!!)…sat in my chair and played.  I made the book “mine”…maybe, now, I will actually use it…I packed it in my suitcase…have found a great new artist (thanks, Paula!)…wrote her name down…

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Kate and I found this funny scarf in a yarn store at Christmas…tracked down the pattern, found the yarn…she finished hers (of course).   I couldn’t make sense of the pattern.  I brought it with me…got a lesson (Kate is very patient)…and, now, I’m on my way!  The original pattern calls for crocheting from both ends of a skein of Noro Taiyo sock yarn (very long, unusual color ways–can’t believe I am actually crocheting with ORANGE yarn, but things are looking up…the purple is next!)  I wound my skein (working from each end) into two (somewhat) equal balls.  The idea is that you work an inner and an outer loop from one ball, drop it, pick up the other and do the same…the colors sort of wend out of the balls in unexpected combinations…totally fun (now that I know how to do it!!!)

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Am thinking to make another “Sophie Digard”-esque scarf…so I packed a little box.  I want to make “a circle in a square”…but not a “granny” one.  That doesn’t seem like an original thought, but I looked and looked for directions…and, found none.  So I decided to try drafting my own block (never done that before).  This is definitely “a work in progress”…and probably will be, for quite a long time…  It is even more of a challenge because “lace weight” seems to be a rather loosely used category in the yarn world.  I crochet with two balls at a time so I can have even more “colors” to work with…but with the variations in the thicknesses of the yarns, my process creates blocks of varied sizes…which leads to alternative adaptations to the pattern…and, another trial block…definitely, not a solved problem…but still, I truly love playing with all those colors…

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And, last but not least…I brought my watercolors.  I treated myself to these before we started all the moving business.  Never got to them.  In a flash of optimism, I  tracked down a palette box…and, never got it loaded.  I did put together a little tin of half pans to take to Amsterdam (why do I always think I need a project when I travel??)  But, “it was too cold to sit and paint”…”no benches”…lots of excuses.  I pulled out the “real” box last week (dusted it off) and filled it up.  As I did that, it occurred to me that I didn’t even know what  some of these colors were…Cobalt Green…Payne’s Gray…Tartan Blue…so I packed them, with a few brushes and a watercolor book to simply “play”: one color at a time…this is the Anthro Red page (a lovely, warm, mineral-like red, in case like me, you didn’t know…)   Quiet fun.  Engaging…

That’s it.  Not sure what the “take-away” is here.  I am having a “vacation”.  My kids like to take me out to see things.  We “shop”, in a random way, especially in used-book stores and thrift shops.  We eat out at great little restaurants.  We sit around, drink wine, talk and laugh about things.   And, in quiet moments, I treat myself to some play…it is all good.

 

Sorting…Revisiting My Stash

_MG_5489_MG_5487“Moving” is a very small word: it does not even begin to convey the impact of the process on one’s life.  Maybe that is even more true when one has done it as we did…wrapping and packing every single thing in the old place, and carefully conveying it to the new one.  And, since that new place has required lots of sanding, painting, and repair (still needs some of that), the expanse of time between the packing up and the final settling in has made each thing look new as it comes out of the box.  And, that has meant even more “curating”…do I still need it?  do I still want it?  do I still love it?

Case in point: my stash.  Some of it came out of boxes like old friends, especially my fabric.  It is now all stacked in neat piles in a dedicated closet.  Just fabric…only the stuff I love.  Whenever I walk into that closet,  I am surrounded by my history as an artist.  It is very reassuring…all is patiently waiting there for me “to get back to it”.

My “paper” stash grew from a more recent interest.  That might be why there is so much of it…of all types: torn tear sheets from magazines and old books with intriguing images for collage, printed papers (many that I have made, myself), textured ones, cards, vintage ephemera…the list (and piles) go on and on.  Every single thing looks like a possibility: stacks and piles of potential.  As an artist constantly seeking inspiration, it is tough to toss or donate any of it.  It is just too soon.  The randomness of it all makes it hard to steal a few moments to work with it though…

And then there is the stash of…I don’t even know what to call it…the “odd bits”?  I have been accumulating this stuff for years…lovely old buttons, vintage ribbons, handmade lace, embroidered trims, intriguing pieces and parts.   Except for when making my Christmas ornaments, I have NEVER used ANY of it!   Why?  Not sure.

I have decided that once I truly  get “back to work”, that that will change.  It is time to “use the good stuff”.  So, for the past few days, I have been spending random breaks from chipping up floor tile for sorting through it.  I have had some of this stuff for over thirty years, and have not truly looked at it since.  It was stashed and forgotten.  Taking a fresh look, piece by piece, has been engaging.  For some, the process is probably like looking through an old photograph album.  Each thing brings back a memory.  What I kept is now a truly curated stash.  If I didn’t “love” it any more,  it got consigned to the “flea market pile”…maybe some of these things can inspire someone else’s art.

IMG_5493IMG_5482IMG_5486IMG_5496It is my intention to have my future work be inspired by some piece of what I chose to keep as a starting point…I think the next chapter is going to be challenging and new…as I said,  “moving”…way too small of a word…

Patience is a Virtue

_MG_5477Gray, sub-freezing days do not inspire me to do much of anything…except, maybe to crawl under the covers with a good book.  I am not a winter person, probably due to those many New York winters of endless snow shoveling.  A few weeks ago, on a rare day out, I treated myself to a visit to the local garden shop.  This isn’t just any shop; this one is owned/connected to the Anthropologie store across the highway.  And, it is one of my absolutely favorite places to wander and to linger.  As with its parent store, the displays and merchandise are always original, creative and over-sized.  Such was the case of the huge tin urn filled with eight-foot tall tree branches sporting lots and lots of fuzzy buds…some sprouting gorgeous hot pink flowers!  It was two degrees outside.  Inside, there were flowers…blooming!  An unexpected sign of spring.  So refreshing.

Looking out my back door a few days later, I noticed a tree that had some fuzzy buds on it. Could it be?  I grabbed my clippers, crawled over the pile of snow and ice left by the plow, and cut some branches.  (Mine were NOT eight feet tall.  Maybe, two feet, if I was being gracious.)  I scrounged up a vase and arranged my finds in a sunny spot on my kitchen table.  And then, I waited.  And waited.  Nothing, for days; for weeks, even.  Ready to give up and toss them out, I grabbed the bunch…but, there right in the middle of my hand, I noticed this little pink thing peeking out!  The next day, nothing new.  D-A-Y-S later, a few more fuzzy buds yielded a hint of pink.  This morning, I counted nine.  Not splashy over-sized Anthropologie-worthy blooms…but, for me, still, a truly encouraging sign of the new season to come…and it can’t do that too soon for me.

UPDATE, March 2:  Nearly all the fuzzy pods have popped!  I have the promise of Spring on my kitchen table!  Tried to take a photo, but it all doesn’t fit in the frame…isn’t that wonderful?