26 December, 2009

And we're back!

That was a fantastic winter break. Kenny and I escaped from everything. We were housesitting for friends in Asheville, followed by a very brief but restful stay at another friend's in Cashiers. Highlights from the first house included the Snowpocalypse, lots of hanging out with best friends and lots of drinking delicious winter drinks (hot toddies, hot "Irish tea"-- a new invention, hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps and homemade whipped cream), playing board games, going to the Grove Park Inn to see the gingerbread house competition, and seeing Avatar very late at night. Highlights from the second house included having our official cake tasting (my favorite, no surprise: carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. Kenny's favorite: chocolate cake with raspberry filling and raspberry frosting), going on walks with two borrowed dogs, and watching TONS of How I Met Your Mother. (Hilarious).

So now it's time to go back to Brasstown and resume my position at the Folk School. It's officially the second half of my stint there, and I'm looking forward to a really focused three months of being a good host, working efficiently, and getting my projects done. Oh, and taking classes, of course. I'm hoping January will the be the month of torch work (hellooo, glass beads!) but we'll see how the registration gods are feeling. It may be a full couple of months, and maybe not.

The best part about this coming week is that it's WINTER DANCE WEEK!! And Kenny is here as a student and gets to do everything with me. Plus, I get to train a new Host, and settle into the big room. Bring on the second--and better, I'm sure-- half!r

16 December, 2009

In praise of an audiobook

Every once in awhile I take advantage of a super sale over at Audible.com, and at some point in the summer I apparently downloaded, then proceeded to forget all about this book:

A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel
This week Kisha, Jenna and I are working relatively short and easy days. Hello, 11am-4pm, could I ask for better sleeping in time? It's sooo nice. Anyway, when I'm not "working" I've been trotting around Brasstown listening to A Girl Named Zippy. It's great. Seriously. Excellent. I'm not going to pretend to be a literary critic, but here are some things I liked about it:

1. It's narrated by the author. She knows what she's talking about.
2. It's a kid's point of view, and somehow, maybe because it's somewhat autobiographical, it's just so well-written and poignant and hilariously kid-like. In the best kind of way.
3. It's long. What better than a long book/movie/drive/meal that you already like? Why not make it last as long as possible?
4. It's stand-alone entertaining. I never felt that familiar twinge of "I could be doing two things at once right now" that I usually feel while, I don't know, watching Hulu. This book sucked me in and made me content to just listen.
5. Did I mention hilarious? But also sad sometimes?
6. I hesitate to make comparisons when the one thing can completely be it's own, but she sort of reminds me of David Sedaris in that self-effacing matter of fact way of storytelling.

Anyway, it was way worth my $however-much-I-paid-for it, and if you have a long drive or just some free time coming up, I highly recommend A Girl Named Zippy. I'm sure the actual book is great, too. I'm off to see what else this author has narrated. Go, audio books!

11 December, 2009

Another project in the Done pile

I finished my quilt from the weekend class!

It still has some stitching to go before it's done, plus it needs loops on the back so I can hang it, and not thumbtack it to the wall.


Too sleepy for words. How 'bout some pictures?

Here are some things I made this week. First, a series of small snowflakes, all under 3" across:

Then, some medium-sized snowflakes, about 6" across:

And then I made some complicated masterpieces. Which for some reason, I kept trying to rush through. This was such a stressful week and I was just coming out of the weekend class which is nothing but rushrushrush, so my soldering is sucky and my cutting is just off enough to make problems. Even so, I love them:
(actually, this one wasn't complicated.)

(This is my absolute favorite piece! I love it. Love it love it love it.)


And then, of course, some jewelry.

The little snowflakes plus the earrings and pendant will be for sale in my Etsy shop tomorrow!

07 December, 2009

Look what I learned today!

Piecing out my 1st project

This morning we learned how to score and break glass. Then we learned how to foil the pieces and solder them together. And folks, that's basically all there is to stained glass! It reminds me of the wooden shapes the kids at my Montessori school like to play with. You basically cut them out, do the edges, and then get all kaleidoscopy on 'em, arranging them every which way until you find something you like. The snowflake is a little harder, since you have open spaces in the middle and it's hard to make the piece stable without bulking it up too much.

Here is my finished snowflake, all washed and hung on the wall:

Finished snowflake

06 December, 2009

Unintentional menu hilarity

Unintentional menu hilarity
It's the little things that make my day.

This is the best one yet. Lettus. Chadder cheese. Tortilli chips. And to top it off, cookies with Walmuts. MMMmm!

Only a weekend + a week...

That's all we have left here at JCCFS until Xmas break. We were just gone for two weeks, though! Crazy. So I have a weekend plus a week, and for the weekend class I took a whirlwind tour through the land of quilting. There were only 5 ladies in my class including myself, and we each went in a totally different direction when given the class' topic: Winter Trees. One did classic Xmas tree quilt blocks, one did a very country-themed "Folk Art tree," and two did more like a forest silhouette, but in very different ways. I didn't arrive with any preconceived ideas, so I went straight for the book that I drool over every time I'm in that studio doing setup. I flipped through it until I found a tree-like idea that I thought I could riff on, and dove in. It turned out to be half hand-quilting, half machine quilting. The former, of course, takes way more time. Since I had limited access to the sewing machine, I went ahead and did all the machine sewing and quilting that I needed to and will finish the hand work... um, at some point. (The last thing I needed was another unfinished project, but it shouldn't take too long. A good move for the leaves, and a few episodes of something for the binding.)

Anyway, since it's not yet done, I won't reveal the entire piece. Here are some details, hints, and peeks:
Original inspiration
(the image above is from the book. Not my work!)

Closeup of the inner circle

Leaves pinned down, border acheived

The book I adore; borders being added
(as usual, click to make 'em bigger.)

04 December, 2009

It's growing... it's groooowinnnng!

Inch by freaking inch, it grows. Behold: my English Paper Piecing project.

Only scraps from the quilting classes used... well, until last week when I was in Brooklyn and it was raining and I stumbled into fibernotion and their charm packs got the best of me. So, only a little money has been spent on this project. The goal: adult-sized quilt. The laptop: included for scale.

[Speaking of scale, I'm really pleased that I only came away from Thanksgiving with about 2.5 pounds added to my frame, considering I ate almost that much bacon and chocolate. It seems to be solely in my midsection, unfortunately. Bring on the moderation! And the salads! And the dancing!]

24 November, 2009

Steek success! Oh boy!

A few days ago I sat down in the Folk School library with my Fair Isle cardigan, which due to all it's funny soon-to-be-cut-open panels was resembling some sort of kangaroo cozy more than an actual human-shaped sweater, and got out the scissors. I took a few deep breaths, announced to the room that I was about to do my first steek, and sliced it open. I did the neck opening first, since it seemed the least intimidating, and just as I suspected, it went just fine. No stitches went running down or across my work, nothing unravelled in my hands... that sweet standby Shetland 2-ply just stayed right where it was supposed to. There was a dance going on and Charlotte was about to start calling but wanted to see me steek, so I went ahead and did the arm holes, too! And lo, miracle or miracles, my kangaroo bag was suddenly the perfect size and shape. I just steamed the folds and tacked down the cut edges, and look how fantastic the fit is! Now all I have to do is knit two identical arms and do the button band/collar, and I'll have myself a real Fair Isle cardigan, made by me. I feel unstoppable. :)
Photo on 2009-11-24 at 11.05 #3
Photo on 2009-11-24 at 11.03
Photo on 2009-11-24 at 11.08
Photo on 2009-11-24 at 11.05
Photo on 2009-11-24 at 11.05 #2
Photo on 2009-11-24 at 11.04 #2

23 November, 2009

Whoa, time to play catch up.

I'm sitting in the CLT airport, enjoying the free wifi ("Google's holiday gift to you!") and just realized I never reported back on how woodturning, well, turned out. Here's my bounty:

My bud vase from the last post has been oiled, but the little rice bowl and wonky plate have not. Apparently when you turn green wood your pieces can warp when they dry, and that certainly has been the case for my poor plate. I'm keeping them in my closet to dry and then when all warping has occurred, I'll take them back over to the woodturning studio and re-sand the bottom feet so that they'll sit down flat. Check out this tiny little rice bowl, from the side:
I love it so. And it will look much better once oiled, I'm sure.

This past weekend I spent hours and hours doing NW Morris dance, and my legs feel great: used and sore and in desperate need of a deep stretch. More soon from vacation; I'm off to Vermont to enjoy heaps of homemade food! (And in case you're wondering what project I chose for the flight.... observe my English Paper Piecing quilt below! It is small now, but inch by inch, it grows.)
(I'm only using scraps from the quilting classes that pass through the Folk School, so it's an entirely free project so far. Which is fine, since that's exactly how much money I make!)

16 November, 2009

Intro to Woodturning: or How I'm Learning to Love the Lathe

See that? Please shed a tear for me, because that is the last photo I'm going to take with my beloved, long-term digital camera, the Sony Cybershot. Bought in Summer 2006 and carted around to South East Asia and Ukraine (not to mention my myriad adventures Stateside), this little camera has lived in a Gillette razor zipper bag that Kenny sort of tossed at me three and a half years ago when I said I needed a camera case. It was working fine on Friday when I took pictures of my papermaking loot, but today when I went to document my wood turning teacher at the lathe, it wouldn't focus. Which actually, sidenote, is totally appropriate given the subject matter, because today my understanding of woodturning was exactly as blurry as the photo above. At first I thought, hey, good job capturing my internal landscape, little Cybershot. But then it wouldn't focus at all, ever again, finis. Luckily I am often the recipient of my father's hand-me-down electronics. I am blessed with a rarity, for someone my age: my Dad actually not only digs but really goes after new technology. He can also be a little ADD about getting new stuff (I say it with love, Dad) so he is upgrading more than the average user, in general. This means I have his "old" camera waiting for a day just as this (it's better than the one I had until today), and I shall retrieve it when I'm in Williamsburg for a hot second on my way to Northern climes. Goodbye, little Cybershot. You will be sorely missed, especially when I'm trying to learn the ins and outs of my new one. P.S., what the hell do you do with broken electronics? I cannot throw Gillette Cybershot Globetrotter away. We've shared too much.

Anyway, this week I am obviously in wood turning. Photographs of the rest of this week shall be brought to you by my iPhone. Here we have what I managed, with lots and lots of help, to turn today:
It is a bud vase, meaning it has a hole on top but the bottom is solid (thank GOD.) This took me all day. It is very difficult.

Hmm, what to say at this point... it was Monday, also known here at the Folk School as International Frustration Day, celebrated by those of us who are in class as beginners. I am this week's only beginning woodturner (yipee!) which means I naturally demand lots of extra attention from my instructor, a hilarious Mormon from (where else?) Utah, who is both incredibly talented and a very good teacher. A brilliant combination, I must say. He is usually pretty good at coming over when I have made a terrible noise, either with my mouth or with the lathe, and patiently explains again about bevels and angles and uphills and downhills and sharpening tools and rotating the shaft. Heh. Also, I think it's important to say that what I know about Mormons I learned from reading Dooce, which is like someone saying they know about Ukrainians because they have seen Everything is Illuminated. By this I mean, I have a limited but probably somewhat accurate understanding of Mormons, and they are awesome. I ran an errand for my teacher tonight and bought two half gallons of ice cream ("anything with chocolate and nuts, but no marshmallows") and several 12-packs of soda. Ahh yes, the soda thing. I remember reading about that.

In other news, the Folk School and its grounds have been particularly beautiful lately... check it:
Cold misty morning while on a little jog

Ringing the dinner bell at twilight: my point of view

15 November, 2009

Make the paper and print it!


This last week was spent immersed, literally, in the world of paper making. It was cold and cloudy here on Monday and Tuesday, which were also the days we spent pulling sheets from vats of freezing cold water! It was actually pretty fun, and our teacher, Frank Brannon from Asheville's BookWorks book arts center, was a big help in making it so much fun. And also we had hot tea and a warm room to go take a break in. All in all, not so bad. Even though our hands and arms were wet and cold (and occasionally our legs and feet, as well), it was peaceful out on the porch of Keith Lower, as we were in the old greenhouse and the sounds of water dripping onto the stone floor reminded me of some sort of zen garden. Drip drip, light conversation, and the flow of just pulling as much paper as we wanted to. My only experience with paper making before this class were the very shoddy attempts I made with the kids in my Montessori summer camp this past July, and I can now confidently say that were were going about it all wrong! Next summer will be much, much better (and so will our paper).

We made sheets from abaca; flax (both bleached and unbleached-- big difference in the texture and time it took to form); and cotton that had been dyed by adding a pair of someone's old purple jeans (it faded to a nice light mauve, fortunately!). All our paper was done by Wednesday, so we started my favorite part: the printing.

I was mainly focused on producing things I can use for the planning of our wedding. In paper making, this obviously points to invitations, thank you cards, and perhaps a few bigger prints used for signage or to put next to the cake or who knows, for the front of a guest book, maybe. With those things in mind, I managed to squeak out these:







(All the center block designs on the cards come from this book, my new favorite thing ever. Best $7.95 you'll spend, no matter what your craft medium is. Seriously, i can see them becoming amazing Fair Isle charts...)

I feel like this week I got to focus more on process and less on product, and yet I still ended up with a ton of things at the end of the class. Probably my favorite part was at the very end, when we learned how to put it all together with some very basic bookbinding. Check out these little sweeties:

They're each really small and thin, but it was the best use for the pure unbleached flax sheets that we pulled. They're so thin and smooth, they feel like skin. I was sort of grossed out by them until I cut off the wrinkly edges and covered these little books, and then aha! I suddenly liked the flax. They're finished with a silver bead:

And they have a print of a woodgrain stamp on the first page, just barely showing through the shadow of the cover:
I basically love them. I made more than I need; I'll put a few up on Etsy. :)

I'm on Flickr a lot.

Jessica K.. Get yours at bighugelabs.com/flickr