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Tuesday, February 12, 2013


Not too long ago, I developed a renewed interest in embroidery. I did some as a kid, but it never grabbed hold of me in a significant way. My mother was an avid cross-stitcher, and there were often threaded needles stuck into the arms of the couch where she had last been sitting, so you had to be wary. As of late, I have wanted to do more embroidery projects, whether it be stitching a pocket on an apron or embellishing a knit piece. I blame Natalie Chanin. Her techniques are so appealing and addictive and her aesthetic is compelling. I want everything to be reverse applique. I did some projects using her methodology a few years ago, and I think I am gearing up for some more.

As is my wont, I have been gathering my "props." I didn't really have a stash of embroidery floss, so I went about collecting some. Now I have a dilemma. I would like to keep the floss neat, clean and organized, and they are so pretty in their little skeins, see?

Winding the floss on these little plastic bobbins and putting them in this plastic box may be orderly, but it is so...plastic.

My mom has a big, wooden DMC box with little drawers, and while it works for her, I don't think it offers the visibility I would like. I want to be able to see all my colors without having to search through drawers. Winding the threads onto the bobbins is tedious, but not nearly as tedious as getting a knot when you pull out an end from skein the wrong way or, if you are being really fastidious, removing the labels, pulling out your desired length, then wiggling the labels back onto the skein. And it is a good TV watching project.  

I recently ordered (today!) some handwoven, hand dyed cotton fabric from A Verb for Keeping Warm out in Oakland, CA. I like them so very much, and I wish I could shop there in person and take classes with them on a regular basis. Alas, with 2/3 of the country between us, I have to rely on mail orders and their newsletter to get my fix. The fabrics are striped, and I am envisioning some inclusion of stitchery to make something special. I don't know what, don't know when, but when I decide, I will let you know.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

The Rest of the Story

Oh, and I almost forgot. I also had eye surgery in November, which also accounts for some of my absence. It was altogether unpleasant (one of the bonus side effects: motion sickness), and unfortunately, was not quite successful. I am facing the possibility of a repeat on one eye sometime in the future, but it requires some serious consideration. I did not tolerate some of the anesthesia and/or pain meds well, which contributed to the overall misery following the surgery. And it was no fun. And it might not work-- again. And it took longer for my eyes to heal than I expected. And my eyes itched like crazy for weeks. And I hate IVs. But, I also hate the issue I would like to correct, so it's a toss-up.

So, back to swag! When I was in Tallinn, I visited two yarn shops. One was packed to the gills with imported novelty yarn. Now, I don't want to get all yarn snobby here--novelty yarn has its place if you want to make fuzzy monster feet baby booties--but I was not about to drag furry nylon home in my already bulging bags. The other shop was tucked in to a little street very near the opera house. They had a tiny loft where they kept the "local" goods: some yarn that looked a lot like Kauni (which was no where to be found on my stops) or Aade, which is very Kauni-like. (Lots of "handicraft" or gift shops had some yarn and often some felting wool. If they had yarn, it was always Aade, but they might only have a colorway or three.) This was similar and may, in fact, be Aade. (It was not labelled.)

I also picked up some naturally colored wool that the clerk told me was produced in a small mill locally. At least that's what I think she said. Her English was limited, though it far, far surpassed my measly six words of Estonian (four of which I have since forgotten.)

In an interesting coincidence, I found some naturally dyed yarn in a lovely handicraft shop (one of my favorites) that was make in Viljandi. I purchased several skeins, as well as a pair of lovely hand knit mittens (knit with the same yarn) and the book Ornamented Journey. The yarn was actually dyed by a friend of my friend, and we tried at the last minute to arrange for me to travel to Viljandi to see her operation, but it didn't work out. Next time!

I also picked up a copy of Designs and Patterns from Muhu Island. Hoo boy. It is a huge book in every way--size, weight, and content. It is so exquisite. I hemmed and hawed since it was so large, and I knew that I would be schlepping it around all day in Haapsalu, again the next day when I walked from my hotel to the train station, in Tallinn on the tram to my next hotel, and home to the US, but after I visited the table the third time (and the woman working the table gave me that nervous smile that told me I was verging on stalker weirdness), I decided to take the plunge. You should read Kate Davies's synopsis here because she captures its essence well.

So if you're keeping track, you will note that I was, by the end of my visit, quite a pack mule: all the yarn in the last two posts, the two books described (plus a copy of Ornamented Journey in Estonian, which I bought before I saw an English translation later), as well as a lovely, lovely cookbook my friends gave me, written by the owner of the cafe I dined at three times in Haapsalu. Yes, it was that good, and it was charming as all get-out, and if I could transport it--and the darling waiter who, by my third visit was giving me the same look as the book lady--here to my neighborhood, I would.) Plus there were chocolates, textiles, domino sets that featured knitting motifs, juniper utensils and cutting boards, a juniper wood mug (it was a "thing" so I got one), sleeves from a super cool store called Naiiv, some fancy schmancy stockings from designer Kristina Viirpalu, and three Haapsalu shawls. (I will try to get photos of the shawls that do them justice. Maybe this week, when it's supposed to get a little warmer again.) I was masterful in my packing, both in planning ahead to allow room and in getting it all back home without having to pay extra bag or overweight fees! A number of the items were holiday gifts, so I'd gotten a good jump on my Christmas shopping. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Gone Girl

And then, POOF!, she was gone. Wow, where did the time go? I guess other things just got in the way: dyeing, travelling, house guests, the holidays, and now it's almost Valentine's Day.

One of the big things that happened in my blogging absence was that my yarn was featured in Anne Hanson's Fall Into Full Color Club. The yarn she selected was Aries Oceanus, and the colorway was a grayish, blueish, reddish, greenish, iridescent purple called Abalone. It was a multi-step dyeing process, so there was a good deal of depth to the color. It was a lot of fun to do, but it was also quite challenging. 700 skeins is a lot of skeins when you are the only Yarn Zombie in the Craft Dungeon! It was so nice to get such great feedback from Anne's club members, and it was an amazing opportunity to get Fleur de Fiber into so many new hands.

So, I know I promised swag pictures from the trip. So, remember how I mentioned that within four hours of landing I found a city bus to my hotel, took a shower, figured out how to get to the harbor on the tram, and had Finnish wool in hand? This is what I got. There is a mitten kit and some sundry skeins from the vendor at the outdoor craft market that happens--get this--every day down by the harbor. I hear it even goes on in winter, so long as the crafters can set up. These are some hardy people, but I was happy to be there buying wool in summer, thank you very much. I am from the northeast and I live in Chicago, so I am average hardy for a resident of the Lower 48, but I prefer not to do outdoor shopping in winter if it can be avoided.

On my second day in Helsinki (my only full day, actually), I found a yarn shop down by the harbor in a little mini-mall of shops geared to tourists. I picked up these two skeins of hand dyed yarn. Helsinki is very, very expensive, and I remember thinking that these were pretty spendy, but I don't remember what I paid. It was at least 25% more than you would expect to pay in the US, but it was vacation yarn, and that doesn't count, right?
The next yarn acquisition was in Haapsalu. There was a yarn vendor at the street fair, and she had these thick, squishy, sheepy skeins of yarns for sale. The colors were heart-breakingly saturated. I have it on good authority that the Nancies (Bush and Marchand) also stashed some. In Haapsalu, I also bought some lace yarn. It doesn't photograph particularly well, and, frankly, is not all that exciting. It is yarn that is about what it becomes, not what it is. Also, the yarn used to make the shawls isn't from Estonia. I could have passed it over as there is already some stashed, but I was there, it was there, and, well... (To be continued...)