Monday, August 30, 2010

Send A Message to the Universe

Want to send a message to the universe? Of course you do!

Here's how.

Knit or crochet a 12" x 12" square and have it be part of my project for the 2010 Maker Faire. I have instructions that I will gladly email to you. Or you can just email me a message to be pinned onto a square. Like a Tibetan prayer flag, your message will be caught by the breezes of Flushing Meadows Corona Park and carried off into the universe. My email is thehousemuseum(at)

The only catch is...if you are a knitter or need to use Lion Brand's Hometown USA yarn. There are three ways to do this. One is to come to my house and pick up yarn. Another is to wait a little bit - I am working on organizing a Manhattan location. The third is to buy a skein of that yarn at your local craft store. Ok, there are actually four ways - if I know you and see you regularly, I will deliver yarn to you. Ok, five ways. I might be convinced to mail you yarn but, truthfully, I am trying to avoid this option because it is pricey and very inconvenient. But you could convince me...

I think it is going to be a very fun project. It already is! Let's do this together.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

As the World Turns

Thank you to all who offered their well wishes - everyone continues to heal and make remarkable progress. Sitting still, for better or worse, is not a strong suit in Dan's family. In this case, it is a good thing because everyone is highly motivated to get moving again.

Lest it all sound terrible, please let me assure you that we did manage to have a bit of fun in Maine, even if it was cut short and the weather rather rainy and cold (something that I was actually quite happy about considering this summer).

The lovely Lucy on the rocks at the beach at Morse Mountain. Beautiful, subtle light and waves that were huge and dangerous, removing any thought whatsoever of actually going in, if the temperature of the water were not deterrent enough.

It's Maine. What more can I say?

Between all the phone calls, planning, organizing, talking and talking again, and convelesing, some other kinds of work was done.

My friend, Patrick, has two huskies. He made mention of how they shed each spring and I made mention of the fact that this was highly prized spinning fibre. At first, he didn't believe me but, later convinced, he sent me a box of fur.

I have slowly been carding and spinning it into yarn that another friend of his will weave into something special for him. This is my first experience working with dog fur. I first washed it as I would any raw fleece - lots of hot, hot water and detergent. Like any fleece, the amount of dirt that came out was rather shocking. But as you see, it is now a lovely white colour. The staple (length) is very short, like yak, which presents its own challenges for spinning. Patrick requested a thick and thin single ply - a little tricky since one must have a lot of spin to catch up the short hairs but not so much that the single is overspun. Definitely a fun challenge except, perhaps, for the amount of dog fur in my mouth and nose by the end of a spinning session.

The beginnings of my Hand Towels for the Apocalypse. I think it will be good if I can finish on time.

At long last, the socks I was knitting all through our Knitting Sprawl (west) adventures. Between the heat and general laziness, it took me months to finally finish them.

And these! My mom made these for me out of some hand painted yarn that I gave her as a present. Don't you love giving people handpainted sock yarn as a gift so that they can make you socks from it? A perfect system.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Hand Towels of the Apocalypse and Other Disasters

My dear, dear readers! I am so happy that so many have been in touch about participating in the project for the Maker Faire. I will be finalizing the details over the next couple of days and I will post information early next week. I feel hopeful that we may actually be able to do this thing!

I have been quiet for several days because we had some unexpected things come up - most importantly, Dan's parents were in a car accident in Maine. While their injuries are not life threatening, at their age (83 and 92), any injury has the potential to be life threatening. They are home now and ever so slowly getting better. Fortunately, Dan and his siblings are tip top at stepping in during a time of crisis. And they are the best planners and organizers, bar none. So, in addition to having our fall plans changed rather suddenly, we have been working out who can be where and when to help out with the care of Dan's mom and dad. Send some healing thoughts their way if you are so inclined.

Additional to that, Dan himself needed to have surgery, which happened this morning. So, at least, we are on the other side of things with everyone working towards getting better, not worse.

Meanwhile, I have dug into my case of yarn and renewed my acquaintance with my size N crochet hook.

Also, I have been working on a new piece for an exhibition titled Drill, Baby, Drill at Gowanus Edge Curatorial Exchange. I am creating a set of Hand Towels for the Apocalypse. Seeing as it opens next week, it might be nice to get started with that, eh? If you are in town, drop by for the opening on September 2nd from 6 to 9 p.m. Click here for details.

Friday, August 20, 2010


Change is afoot my friends. You take a step, imagining that you know where the next step will land, and whoa - look out!

Over the weekend, I listened to a phone message from David Blumenthal at Lion Brand Yarns. It was something like this, "Robyn, call me. I have a very special opportunity that I want to talk to you about."

When I hear David's gravelly voice on the answering machine using the words "special" and "opportunity," I know the wisest thing is to run in the opposite direction. Cases of yarn occupying valuable real estate in my living room can not be far behind. And I wasn't wrong. At any moment, the UPS guy will be ringing the bell and we all will be bumping our knees against a case of the most colourful colours available in their yarn, Hometeam USA.

It is all in aid of this:

The Mercury/Titan rockets at the New York Hall of Science.

This year, Maker Faire, a DIY craftacular extravaganza, is happening in Flushing Meadows Corona Park in our fair borough of Queens. They expect 90,000 people to attend. Among the wide variety of makers, inventors and innovators displaying their wares will be Lion Brand Yarns, natch. David wants me to yarnbomb one of the rockets. It is NOT an advertisement for Lion Brand Yarns, but they are the sponsor.

Here was my thought process: Yes! NOOOO! Yes. NOOOOO! Maybe. NOOOOOOO! And finally, yes.

The time frame is very short. It totally screws up our plans to be in Newfoundland. It is a whole bucketful of crazy, hell, it is the Great Lakes of crazy. But I'm doing it.

The plan is to make a piece that will spiral up the rocket, 12" wide with colour changes every 12". Each square of colour will have a message to the universe pinned to it or stitched in it. (Kind of like Tibetan prayer flags - the idea is to let the messages be caught in the wind and enter the Universe.) I estimate we will need about 600 squares. Lion Brand will be hosting a couple of square making workshops at a location to be determined. People also will be invited to mail in squares. It will be a communal effort.

12" x 12"

Join us!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Darwinian Destash

As part of the prep work for subletting my studio, I am going through my stash of fabrics, yarns, and trimmings to see what I can weed out. Let me tell you, it is all survival of the fittest over here. Even the slightest flaw gets that item relegated to the destash pile.

First to go are three cones of trimmings that come from I don't know where. They are lovely, don't get me wrong. People want these trimmings. They love these trimmings. But I want them out of my life.

Very pretty crocheted lace trim. This one made me pause with my hand over it....stay or go? Go! There are approx. 72 yds of this beauty.

These are two braid trimmings. I really don't know why I have these at all since I have never had a reason to use them. Away with you! Lots of yardage here too - each one has about 100 yds.

I have listed them in my etsy shop for what I think is a fairly good bargain. If you think I am being too greedy, let me know and I will lower the price.

Coming soon - lots and lots of Jamieson and Smith 2 ply jumper weight shetland wool. I have a skein of nearly every colour, so if you are needing just one more to finish your project, please let me know. I probably have it. I ordered this yarn way back when at the very, very beginning of my Knitting Sprawl adventures, before I really had a clue of what I wanted to do beyond knit suburbia as fair isle patterns. I took Alice Starmore's advice and ordered one of each colour to experiment with. My experiments mainly told me that I really don't love Jamieson and Smith's yarn. Is it sacrilege to say that? Perhaps, but truthfully, I thought it broke easily and wasn't that pleasant to handle.

But that's just me.

You love it. You want it. I have it. You need it.

Call me, darling. It's waiting for you.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sleep Away

Finn and Lucy are away this week. This is the first time in 13 years that I have been at home without children to care for and with no specific project to work on. My list of things to do has been growing ever longer this morning as I sit down to decide and prioritize the agenda. But I am not a fool - while my list is filled with items like cleaning my studio*, also high on the list are things like spending one day at the Temple, a full day from morning sitting through evening sitting. Such a treat! My one-day residency.

Finn and Lucy are away this week at camp.

Here it is. Or part of it, anyway. It is a large farm and wilderness retreat in New England. They will be sleeping outside for most of the time in either tents or structures they make themselves.

While at the base camp, however, they will be sleeping here:

This is Lucy's bunkhouse.

She was pretty excited about sleeping in a mound.

Here is Finn's tent. He was somewhat less excited. I tried not to mention their bitter complaints about the discomforts of sleeping in the RV earlier this summer. Suddenly those beds seemed like the pinnacle of luxury. Yes, better not to mention that.

This will be their kitchen.

Everyone helps with all the chores. They will be fishing, rock climbing, doing archery, carving spoons and generally just spending time in nature with their eyes open.

I hope they embrace this amazing opportunity.

* I am subletting my work-only studio in Long Island City. It is just two-blocks from PS.1 in the heart of this happening neighborhood and in a building filled with other artists. If you are interested, please let me know and I will send photographs and other details.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Take Control

Recently, I finished reading this book, which I highly recommend. I was turned on to Derrick Jensen when my teacher quoted extensively from an essay he wrote about hopelessness in a dharma talk a couple of weeks ago. To paraphrase, Jensen, who is an environmental activist among other things, discovered that his feeling of hopelessness about the state of our earth was actually liberating. Maintaining a notion of hope is, in some ways, maintaining a notion that someone other than yourself is going to fix things. When you lose hope, then you can really get down to business, see things as they are and do what needs to be done. It was rather a mind blowing idea to me. In fact, I seldom have been so provoked by an idea.

When I returned home I immediately looked up this Derrick Jensen person and discovered that he has written several books, including a very recent one about education. As this is a favourite topic, I ordered it, along with two others. I was extra pleased when the author wrote to me and asked to whom he might autograph them. (It is remarkable how much this little act of kindness on his part left me with a very positive feeling about him and his books.) I asked him to inscribe this one to Finnian and Lucy, and he did.

If you are familiar with John Taylor Gatto's writing about education and, in particular, the damage that schooling based on an industrial model does to the lives of children, and ultimately, our society, then you will not be taken by surprise at what Jensen writes. On the other hand, if you have never encountered this, then his book will be quite an eye-opener. For me, it was an excellent reminder and much-needed dose of inspiration to keep on going on this unschooling path we have chosen.

Although, I did have a fist pumping, YYEESSSS! moment when Lucy was speaking with her friend in Newfoundland on the phone a couple of weeks ago. She was trying to convince her friend to homeschool this year so they would have more time to hang out together. For some reason, Lucy had set the phone on speakerphone, so we all heard the conversation. It went like this:

L: Hannah, you should homeschool. It will be great. We can go cross country skiing.

H: But how will I get educated if I don't go to school?

L: (in a shocked voice) Hannah! You need to take control of your education!

Maybe someday Lucy will be inscribing her books to Derrick Jensen.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Totally Gluten-Free Post

Dan is nearing his sixth month without eating wheat. Despite being told when he was a child that he had a wheat allergy, he continued to eat it all of his 46 years. He didn't have high hopes for much change when he decided to try a wheat-free diet. In fact, I am sure he was wishing nothing would change so he could continue to eat all the wonderful things that include wheat - a large part of his overall diet. When, within three days, he was feeling noticeably "better," which is to say, like a toxin was leaving his body, he wasn't completely thrilled. Wheat-free is hard. Not impossible, just hard.

Almost six months later, he is a changed man. He no longer has asthma. Did I just write that? Yes, I did. The man with the lifelong, chronic and occasionally serious asthma almost never experiences any symptoms anymore. He leaves home without his inhaler, such is the change that has happened. As if that isn't enough, he now says he can recognize between feeling "good" and feeling "bad." If that doesn't make much sense to you, then be happy about the state of your own health. Dan was in such a perpetual state of poison that he never knew what it was like to feel good. Now he does. He has lost 20lbs and his skin looks healthy. Also, he is happier and nicer, which makes our whole family happier and nicer.

If I sound like I have the enthusiasm of a convert, let me tell you friends, he's been SAVED!

Here are some wheat-free muffins (oatmeal, raisin, walnut, maple muffins, thanks for asking) I made yesterday. One thing Dan misses, beside wheezing and feeling horrible, is something to which he could apply butter. He wasn't much of a muffin man before, but now he has found muffin love, wheat-free style.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Alpaca (50%), merino (30%), silk (20%), chain plied, DK weight. 162 yds.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Lazy Faire

This summer, we have been able to enjoy - as much as the heat has allowed - gardening in the rich, black soil of Queens. It may not be the bread basket of the nation, but compared to the gravel masquerading as soil in Newfoundland, it feels like a miracle. It is quite an amazing thing to push a shovel into the earth and feel it slip right in without the bone shattering clunk of hitting a boulder 1cm under the surface. If you think there is a certain bitterness in my voice, I will just tell you that it took me three years to dig a usable bed the size of a full sized mattress in Gillams.

In any case, there are no such obstacles in Sunnyside. The only obstacles have been (1) leaving for the month of June, which as it turns out, is rather a critical month for plant development. And (2) not being around to tend the garden for about eight years previous. The weeds have had an opportunity to set up shop.

No worries, however, as my style of gardening is distinctly laissez faire. If a plant sees fit to put down roots, then I am not necessarily going to dissuade it. Crab grass, poke weed and trumpet vine excepted. This year my philosophy has yielded some interesting results.

These are some heritage tomatoes that re-seeded themselves from last year. Apparently my sloppy fall clean up techniques have paid off in that we now have about five of these tomato plants producing a lovely, regular crop of fruit.

Did I say laissez faire? Perhaps I should have said lazy faire.

Another example of neglect resulting in beauty. This bulb was a holiday gift from a friend last winter. I put it in one of the pots that I bring in each fall, it bloomed, we loved it, and I proceeded to forget about it. When we returned in late June, it had sprouted greenery and, lo, this bloom surprised me over the weekend. Maybe all the steamy heat has had a positive pay-off of some kind.

On a less positive note, my lazy faire technique isn't such a great response to morning glories. While I love their injection of colour to each morning and their beautiful example of impermanence, they have a tendency to take over and strangle everything within range. And if it isn't within range, they will grow and spread until it is. My friend Patti (who no longer blogs, mores the pity) and I received the seeds for these morning glories from a mutual acquaintance. Patti was first to plant hers and within a year she was describing them in metaphoric terms - how their beauty was at first exciting, their ability to survive in difficult circumstances admirable until one has the slowly dawning realization that what was, at first, a sign of strength and resilience was in fact a pathology, a strangling oppression that smothered everything and anything in their wake....much like the acquaintance who gave us the seeds. She wisely ripped them out immediately. And just like with our acquaintance, I have been much slower to commit the ruthless, if glaringly necessary, act of removing their presence from our lives.

The glory of morning glory metaphors!

This is a little sweet potato plant. I have no idea if it will yield anything but it seemed worth trying. When we left for our trans-Canadian adventure, I left an organic sweet potato on the kitchen counter. Without casting aspersions on Dan's housekeeping abilities, I will say that it was still there five weeks later when we returned. And it had sprouted. Being organic, I took a chance that it might do something in the ground. We'll see.

Other tomatoes of a less heritage nature.

Kale, which is growing beautifully.

Peppers - a bumper crop.

This is funky tropical seeming plant that our neighbor had in her yard. It is an unusual specimen. What is more unusual is that I transplanted a piece of it to this spot about three or four years ago and it has never shown any sign of having successfully made the transition until this year. What is it? Do you know?

And finally,

A little yarn. BFL, chain plied, 175 yds.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

How To Be Alone

After a day of sitting at a zazenkai with a fever, I came home and found several of my friends pointing to this. I love it.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Running Hot and Cold

Please pardon the interruption in the fibre fest with some local politics. I was feeling a little like Anthony Weiner yesterday.

My head is a bit cooler today, although the temperatures are back up into the soupy region of the thermometer. However, let us sink back into some soft, fuzzy goodness.

Yes, that's the ticket.

You may remember this lovely skein from back in, I dunno, December '09. I just listed it on Wee Ball Yarns. Still as pretty as the day we met.

These are some little skeins I made up a while back when I thought I would participate in the Phat Fiber gift box. But I could never make enough little skeins to meet their minimum, and frankly, who am I kidding? I can't keep a steady inventory of yarn going and I honestly can't build up or maintain a customer base. I had a realization in these past few days, which was that this spinning thing of mine is as close to a hobby as I may ever get. It feels weird to say that - somehow decadent and yet very bourgeois. Ah well, so be it.

These are some "all natural" undyed skeins.

Oh my goodness...all this wool. A cool breeze is needed! I am sweating just looking at these pictures!

Ahhh....that's better. This is Wee Ball island in the Bay of Islands - the namesake for my wee etsy shop. So lovely, so mysterious. This photograph was taken by Shawn's partner, Keith, a couple of winter's ago. I look forward to catching this view this coming winter.

Ok, back to the yarn...

More mini-skeins. I will be listing these in the next couple of days.

Ei, ei, ei! I need winter!

This was Wave Hill last winter during my residency. Wasn't it beautiful? I confess that I was driving behind an air conditioning repair truck today that had pictures of snowy landscapes all over it and I had a moment of genuine longing. But I am, as a friend recently put it, a winter fanatic.

Enough drifting into wants and desires: here are a little pair of slippers I made with yarn spun out of some hand dyed fibre I bought in Berlin a couple of years ago.


But I think I would rather eat a live chicken than put them on my feet right now.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

USA Out of NYC

I am proud of New York City today. Yesterday, the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously not to designate as a landmark the building where a proposed Islamic community center is to be built. And yes, it will include a mosque. Republicans of the ilk of Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin have weighed in against this community center claiming it is an affront to the victims killed on 9/11/01 (the community center will be two blocks from Ground Zero.)

It is important to point out that the LPC does not consider building use in deciding landmark status. They vote on the historical and cultural value of a structure, so technically, they were neutral about the plans to transform the building into this community center. But with people from Alaska and wherever the hell Newt is from stirring up racial hatred, it was actually impossible for them to remain neutral, and that makes it all the more impressive that they didn't succumb to FOX news style pressure (take a lesson Mr. President!) and gave the green light to this project.

Part of what was so irksome about the right wing bandwagon attaching itself to this cause was how cynically they use New York City and 9/11 as symbols of their fear-based, hate-filled agenda. Any other time, they only see New York as a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah that they would happily see fall off the face of the earth. Hey - it would mean eight million less Democratic voters!

The title of this post comes from the cover of a poetry journal that came out shortly after 9/11. It summed up how a lot of people in the city felt when they heard people saying things like "We are all New Yorkers now" from the safety of their homes in Kansas. As much I believe in no separation and that we are all one, there are different experiences, different lives. So, no, if you lived in Kansas or Alaska on 9/11/01, you actually have no idea what it was like to be in New York on that day, and the days and weeks immediately afterwards. You don't. And that is perfectly fine really. Just back off when it comes time for the people who were here to make decisions about how we want to proceed.

Sometimes I tease Dan about how he has ended up in a field (preservation architecture) that is so staid and stuffy, usually after some reception where we have stood around talking about stained glass or slate roofing for two hours. The only way you might know they are actually deeply passionate about these topics is when they loosen their ties slightly when something really hot comes up, like finding replacement stone from an original quarry. Baby! Hold me back! So yeah, sometimes I wonder at how a working class lad like Dan has ended up in such refined company. But you know, maybe I have been wrong the whole the time. Preservation architecture might actually be the crucible for our modern day politics.

Go Preservationists! Way to kick butt! Tastefully, of course.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Table Service

Why is it that when I have 100 things to do, I do 100 things. When I only have one or two things, I do zero things?

Exhibit A:

Ceci n'est pas une pipe.* Neither is it a photograph of neatly stacked laundry, nor my clean bathroom, nor a stack of paid bills.

But 'tis what I have done today.

Lucy, on the other hand, has been quite productive. Look - she has even published a book!

Actually, she was googling her name the other day (have you never done that?) and discovered that someone with very nearly the exact same name published this book in 1923. This Lucy G. Allen was an instructor at the Boston Cookery School, of Fannie Farmer fame. It is a text book for young women training to become servants in well-to-do Bostonian homes.

Lucy was so taken with this idea that she decided to write up her own version of Table Service, albeit a much shorter version. From somewhere deep in her psyche, she was able to capture the tone of the time and the text.

Exhibit B:

Table Service by Lucy G. Allen

Table service is one of the finer arts. The servicing of the table includes many subcategories such as flower arranging and doily choosing. Table service is not the servicing of those at the table as some may think, it is the service of the table itself. Take the dinner table for instance. In olden times most would use a table cloth; now only on a few formal occasions does one use one. The modern alternative is the place mat. There is also the question of what to keep on the table while it is not being used for eating purposes. Now that we are in a time where simple is best, I recommend a nice vase of flowers.

Where did she come up with it? I do not know. But she was absolutely delighted when the book arrived this morning and it sounded exactly like she imagined.

Exhibit C:

I am sure the ability to parody textbooks from the 1920s will serve her well in life. Quite sure.

* Apologies to René Magritte.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Goal Oriented

Dear Blog,

Help! I am being held captive by a crazed maniac with a giant sword! It is just Finnian with his new, um, creation. He has been begging to get the materials to make a sword for games that he plays with other homeschoolers in Central Park. They are live role playing games or something like that, but the main point seems to be that everyone runs around for hours hitting each other with styrofoam swords. On the plus side, I have never seen anyone hit anyone else in anger so I think it is an ok way for children to use play to act out aggression while understanding the difference between that and actual violence. (This is my 13 years of watching boyhood develop talking - I never would have said that 13 years ago.) Anyway, Finnian made careful designs for this sword, most of which were centered on making it as large as possible. I think it is safe to say that he has succeeded in his goal. He also may have succeeded in using the most duct tape outside of the Red Green Show.

Hey, we all gotta have our goals. For some, it is to make the largest weapon imaginable, while for others it is to add one new yarn to their etsy shop each day.

Done and done.