Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Can You Feel It? Or, Relax, It's Just A Blueberry

According to the calendar, we only have a couple more days here in Gillams.  Late to arrive and early to leave this year - a situation that can only be explained by saying that my life is an embarrassment of riches at the moment...as the above picture illustrates.  Blueberries?  I got 'em!

This year has been a very good year for berries - less good for cherries and apples.  Our trees are barren of fruit, which I have been told is because the coordination of flowers and bees and weather was off.  Last year was rich in fruit and hardly a berry to be seen.  It goes like that.

On Friday, I went with a friend to Harry's Harbour on Green Bay.  It's a beautiful place with some excellent hiking trails and you are almost guaranteed to see whales in the bay.  We didn't this time, so that's why I say "almost".  One thing we did see were lots of blueberries and we made a plan to go picking the next day.  My friend knows the best spots deep in the woods, although how she can see that we need to stop here and not there in a landscape that all looks the same is beyond me.  I'll chalk it up to the fact that she has been picking berries in these woods since she was a child.  Whatever the reason, we drove deep, deep back and stopped at the mysterious place and, lo, there were blueberries.  Lots of them.  There also were lots of raspberries, although they were coming to an end, and squashberries.  It was berry heaven.

Picking can be loud and social or it can be quiet and solitary.  I was happy that my friend chooses the quiet and solitary method.  We both went our separate ways and picked in silence, alone with our thoughts and surrounded by abundance.  It never ceases to amaze me, this abundance.  I marvel at how the land offers up so much in such a short period of time after such a long, harsh winter.  The land, the plants, the trees - they are almost vibrating with life.    

It was warm in the sun but there was a cool breeze to temper the heat.  The air moved and the land spoke, Here!  You can have this!  As my bucket began to fill, I thought about what would happen if we hadn't come today and picked these particular berries.  Would a moose or a bear or a bird have eaten them?  Would they have ripened and fallen to the ground, undisturbed by any hand or paw or beak?  All over the island, at that exact moment, all of it was happening: berries were being picked and not picked.  We were picking and snacking and would go home and make our jelly and do what it is that we do with blueberries.  Bears were munching and filling their stomachs and adding layers of fat before  going home to do what bears always do before winter.  And the berries themselves were ripening in a particular order, the older ones dropping to the ground to make room for the next ones to get plump and blue.  The energy of it - the aliveness of it.  I could feel it.  And the thing is - it's always like this. It's always right here. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Looking Beyond the Surface

Yesterday morning, I scuttled back down to the basement to finish dyeing the remaining fleece I had soaking.  I wanted to experiment with a more nuanced palette, what Ani called "watercolour" technique.  Must say that it was touch and go - they looked somewhat lame-ass right up until they were dry but now I am liking them.  Subtle, yes, but lovely.  The top two in the photograph are Shetland and the bottom two are BFL.

I think I have enough wool dyed now to keep me going through the winter.

I haven't posted any photographs of a skein of Louet calls "sock yarn" but I think is a bit thick for sock yarn.  I dyed it in my first go-round and somehow missed a big patch, leaving a blotch of white that looked clearly like a mistake and not like a deliberate patch of white.  The good thing about dyeing yarn (as opposed to fleece) is that you can re-dye it without worrying too much about felting.  So I tried again and I wasn't altogether happy with the second time around either.  It just looked a bit blah...


But I had a sneaking suspicion that its looks might improve when I balled it up, and lo...

I still don't think it is for socks but at least it is pretty.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

I'm Dyeing Over Here

During Ani's workshop, I was busy being her assistant, chief photo documentarian and head chef so I wasn't able to lay hands on wool nor dye.  I watched (and photographed) as others did their thing but for myself, nothing.  I also listened carefully to what Ani was saying.

After the dust settled and everyone headed home however, to the dye pots I went.  And what do I now have in my hot, little hands?  

Oh, only this....

Two skeins of machine spun Merino, DK weight.

And this: (it is all Merino/Silk, 85/15%).  

A closer look at how the wool and silk absorb the dye differently, resulting in gorgeousness.

Oh yes, Ani done taught me right.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Saturday, August 09, 2014


Even those with short memories might recall this:

Yarn spun from two of the handpainted fleeces from the workshop last weekend.  I chose them and spun them with the intention of making a hat for a friend.

Just 24 hours and 12,000 deft movements later...

Yo, that's some mad skillz, whaaa?

(That was for Bob/Seiyu.  Normally I would never speak nor write in that manner.  He, however, insists.)

(Bob - I am laughing so hard right now!)

Friday, August 08, 2014

Photo Fall-out

Here is the yarn that I spun from one of the dyed fleeces knit up into a swatch.  Yes, I will take one sweater knit in this, please.  Thank you.

Also spun up these two little skeins with the idea to make a hat for a friend who likes bright colours.  I made her a hat from yarn I made when I first started dyeing with Kool-Aid.  It was just as you might imagine in terms of colour but I used very scratchy wool so I always felt a little guilty when I would see her wearing the hat.  For better or worse, she (finally) lost the hat this past winter so I have an excuse to make her a new one.  I am thinking stripes might be the answer.  Results to follow.

Ms. Eleanor has opinions about all this fibre-y stuff.  Occasionally she comes bearing gifts...

When Ani was here she forced me to...well, not forced exactly...she suggested that I feel how soft the little vole's fur is, and she is correct.  He or she is very soft.  Crazy soft.  Soft like you might want to collect these little gifts and figure out a way to use their pelts to make a hat or cape but then some PETA-crazed activist would pour red paint on it because they didn't know that you were actually using, in a practical way, the remains of dead voles killed by your cat, so you set that idea aside and just take pictures instead.

PS.  Eleanor's name isn't really Eleanor.  Her owner calls her L'il Babe.  That's all I am saying about that.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Dyeing Workshop - Widdershins Style

Ani is here!  Living at the edge of the continent, we don't have the biggest, most frequently used airports and so our flights in and out tend to happen at odd hours.  However, I deliberately booked Ani's flight to arrive at a reasonable hour.  The day before she left, I saw that they had changed her itinerary so that she would now arrive at midnight.  It isn't the late (or very early) hour that makes it so irritating but the fact that it means driving at a time when moose are likely to be on the roads.  As it turned out, it almost didn't matter because her plane was so late that the sun was just about coming up by the time we reached home.  Welcome to Newfoundland!  We made up for all that the next day by having a delicious lunch at Corner Brook's only sushi place.  If you are thinking that Corner Brook and sushi are a very odd combination, I won't argue with you but somehow, some way, they are doing it right.  We felt much better.

Then we settled in and got to work.  We had eight participants.  Eight LUCKY participants.  Ani did not hold back in sharing all her experience and knowledge from decades of working with wool.  As she said, it isn't possible for anyone to copy her because we all have our own ways of doing things so there is no reason not to be generous with information.  And so it proved to be - everyone did their own thing.

And what a thing it was!

This is Eleanor - a loaner cat from our friend Olive who has been keeping mice out of the kitchen this summer.  She supervised the workshop in a quiet, but insistent, way.  Thanks Eleanor!

Not surprisingly, colour was king at this workshop.  Everyone played with mixing colours and the surprises as each roving was unwrapped never got old.  It was impossible to know what would emerge so there was a magical feeling each time.

The magic didn't stop with the dyeing.  I took one unclaimed roving that was nice but not especially fabulous.  But look!  That is a beautiful yarn.  And it looked even more lovely - and yet different again - when I knit it up.

It was a glorious weekend.  Thank you Ani for everything!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Checking In

So how's this artist residency thing going?  Well, setting aside teenager wrangling, meals, laundry, visitors and workshop preparations, it is going well, thank you very much.  Each morning, I sit on the front porch (that's "bridge" to you) with my sketch book and notebook and sometimes a book book and see what happens.  Oddly enough, I have been writing, not drawing.  Several ideas have been reoccurring so I am letting them cook a bit.  I know that my ability to say with words is much less than my ability to say with things so at a certain point, images will come back.  

Yesterday, driving into Corner Brook to bring Lucy to the movies with a friend, I suddenly remembered how I used spontaneously stop and photograph things, especially graveyards, and how I never do that anymore and how I need to do that again.  It is vital to skip out of the groove of "this is the drive to Corner Brook" and all my other habitual patterns if I want to dig into what this place is again.

Meanwhile, the beach never fails me.