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Monday, August 18, 2008

Scratching the Fiber Itch (Michigan '08, part I)


I had a great time in Michigan, and judging by the number of small-but-itchy welts on my wrists, hands, feet and ankles, the mosquitoes enjoyed my visit, too.

On my way over on Tuesday, the jam-packed Jetta had a blowout about 3 miles from the Michigan border. Hanging out by the side of I-94 waiting for service wasn't the best fun ever (I should have been counting semi-trucks whizzing by to pass the time), but the tow truck arrived pretty quickly and I was on my way on the spare in about 90 minutes. (There was no way I was going to try to change a driver's side tire given how busy it was on the highway. That decision turned out to be a good one because, as we discovered, my tires have some kind of special wheel lock caps for which no tool was included in the tire kit. The mechanic ended up prying them off the tires with a big ol' knife. Good times.)

When I arrived at the fairground, I selected a nice spot not too far from the marginally better bathrooms and proceeded to set up the new tent. My test-run in the backyard had gone much more smoothly (less wind, I think), and it took a bit longer to get set up than the first time. I managed to nip my finger between a pole and a clip and I christened the entire tent with blood droplets. (Come to think of it, perhaps that's why I was so popular with the mosquitoes.) Fortunately, once the tent was up, the rest of the week was a breeze.

I cannot recommend the Cobb Portable Barbecue Grill highly enough. It is lightweight, easy to use and clean, and the outside stays cool when the fire is lit. It attracted a lot of curiosity, and I was super-popular with the over-65 male demographic. I enjoyed a number of grilled meals, including portabellos, zucchini, peppers, and brats. (This was a vast improvement over the all PB&J diet of trips past.)



I took three classes, Mechanics of the Spinning Wheel, Two Socks on One Circular Needle, and Felt Shoemaking. The sock class was just "meh." It was an all-day class, and it was a technique I could have figured out on my own had I devoted the time to reading some instructions. Amy Tyler taught the spinning class, and it was different than the one I took with her at Midwest. She has a laid back approach and I enjoyed this one as much as I did her previous class. Kelly Brandt taught the shoe class and it was a lot of fun. (I had taken a class with her last year.) In the morning we made our felt and began to make our shoe pattern using some formulae she had developed. In the afternoon, we cut the felt and the leather soles and stitched the felt to the bottoms. I don't think anyone finished by the end of the day, but we did get to a place where we could finish on our own. I've got a few steps to complete, but I was pretty happy with the results for a first-time effort. I doubt I will be cobbling on a regular basis (or ever), but it was a unique experience.

More to come in part II...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

In which I prepare to return to nature

True, so long as returning to nature is withing proximity of flushing toilets (public, but flushing), showers (a bit more rustic on this front), and a new tent tall enough to stand up in so that I no longer have to lie on my back to wiggle into my pants.

Tuesday I'll be heading up to Allegan, MI for the MI Fiber Festival. This trip is many things, including a self-imposed challenge as to just how many things I can fit into a Jetta.

New tent. Check.
New air mattress that (hopefully) doesn't have a slow leak. Check.
New Cobb Portable Grill and various accoutrement. Check.
Various tables and camp chairs. Check.
Wine. Check.
Projects. Check.
And so on and so on.

Every year I try to improve my little nylon home-away-from-home a smidge, and this year could be a charm. Not having to hunch over in the tent will be a vast improvement. Too bad I don't have a satellite to pull in Olympics coverage--I have been glued to the TV like snot on suede since the Opening Ceremonies. I do need to 'fess up: I am not a sports fan. I watch one annual sporting event, the Indy 500. I am, however, and Olympics junkie. I want desperately to go to Vancouver in 2010, and I am really excited that Chicago is in the running for 2016. That being said, I may either have to cozy up to someone with TV in their RV or hit a local bar to watch some of the games while I am in Allegan.

I'll be taking a few classes that I hope to report on, including a shoe making class which incorporates creating custom felt to make slippers, shoes, or boots with leather soles. Could be fun, could be a soapy, wet mess.

So I will be off the grid (my cell doesn't even work up there) until Sunday. The dear, sweet, oh-so-tolerant husband and the cats will keep things running smoothly in my absence, I'm sure. See you next week.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Coming to you from the Craft Dungeon

There is still fine tuning to be done on the basement, but it is now in a condition where I can actually use it. I have my sewing machine and a cutting table set up, and I've got another area dedicated to messier, wetter projects like dyeing. Now, I just need to start making stuff.

I've come to the realization that I needed to resolve some photography issues. My yarn p0rn left something to be desired. I've ordered a few mesh pop-up cubes to construct a light box and hopefully that will help. I was getting so frustrated with the lighting conditions--either the flash was too flashy or the pics were dark and slightly out of focus. Neither condition is very useful.

I'm still stalled on the two sweaters, Ribby Pulli and Mr. Greenjeans, that are on the needles. Frankly, I often hit a wall at about 70% completion. And, given the season, the urgency isn't there at the moment. I want to finish something I could actually wear right now. I've got a simple pair of ribbed socks that should be done today, and I plan to cast on for a simple top for the waning days of summer. I also need to commit to having a brainless pair of socks going at all times. Too many times recently, I left the house empty-handed for lack of a simple, portable project. Bad planning on my part. Yesterday I stash-tossed for some skeins perfect for ribbed or stockinette socks to have on hand ready to go. New Rule: as soon as the last pair is kitchenered, cast on the next. Do not pass go until this step is completed. Also marinating in their own project bag are the Hydrangea Socks. The Flat Feet yarn is so unpleasant that I just can't get motivated to continue. I think I am going to destash the other two sheets I have because it is just not making me happy. I doesn't make sense to force myself to knit that way when I have so many other choices.

After weeks and weeks of waiting, I am finally going to be getting some ripe tomatoes! There are BLTs in my future, my friends. In fact, I think there are some ready to be plucked now. Mmmmm...BLTs + iced tea = nirvana. (But only if you use real mayo and not that fauxnnaise or light mayo which is too sicky sweet.) BLTs are really important around here because we used to have a few moderately-priced diner-ish places that excelled in them. As the neighborhood has gotten swankier (yea! higher property values, boo! goodbye to super-cheap, good food), they have gone away. My only recourse is to stink the joint up by frying bacon up here at home. If that's what it takes, then I shall do it.