Thursday, December 24, 2009

Season's Greetings!

Warmest wishes to everyone for good cheer, joy, peace and love.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Loose Ends

Today a short report on a knitting project I completed over the weekend - a new pair of fingerless gloves for myself, using some jumperweight Jamieson & Smith 2 ply wool that I had in my stash. They only took a couple of weeks, knitting mainly in the evenings for an hour or so. See all those loose ends on the inside-out glove? They are the result of changing colors many times to make the pretty little Fair Isle motifs on the right side. I spent several evenings weaving in all those yarn ends - not my favorite thing to do.

But I tackled those ends as soon as the knitting was done. I was eager to wear my mitts!

The pattern, Knab Fingerless Gloves, is from Ann Feitelson's book The Art of Fair Isle Knitting, using seven colors of the jumperweight wool and US size 1 1/2 double point needles. I made a few minor modifications to fit my hands and suit my own tastes. Today is the winter solstice, shortest day of the year. I'm celebrating by wearing my comfy, colorful mitts - and no loose ends inside or out!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

No Swimming Today

The temperature was a nippy 14 degrees this morning when I stepped out on the back porch to watch the sun rising behind the trees on the far side of our pond. The light sifting through the trees and casting gleaming streaks across the ice made me catch my breath. It's true - I'm an easy target for being captured by nature's beauty, but the view from the back porch this morning just seemed like the perfect expression of a winter's day, even though there is no snow on the ground. The delicate early morning sunlight showed every little object to its best advantage, right down to the frostiness of the air.

Our river birches were certainly looking their best. Now that all leaves have departed, you can easily see the papery bark on their trunks. That texture really speaks to fiber-oriented people. You just have to step up close and touch those curling shreds, examine the lines and traces on the inside surface, a secret code to decipher.

And how about autumn leaves frozen in the icy water, their colors still dusky for a little while, one last memory of the year's growing season, before they darken and decompose. Some of the leaves this morning were dusted with a sugary frosting.

I'm a four-season person. I love to watch the seasons shift and enjoy the treasures offered by each one. One of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver, seems to spend much time watching these things too. In her poem Messenger from her collection of poems, Thirst, she puts it perfectly -

"Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be

Best wishes for a beautiful day for all.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

It's Never Too Late...

... to be thankful for the riches in your life.

Over the long Thanksgiving weekend I had time to finish knitting something for myself - this warm, cuddly cowl.

As I was working the last few stitches, I kept thinking about the special people and critters who contributed in one way or another to the final product. I'd like to give them some recognition and thanks.

First off, the beautiful cowl pattern Buttermilk Sky is an original design by my sister Bonnie. I think it's the first cowl I've ever made. I wasn't sure how the furry yarn would work with the stitch pattern, so it was a pleasant surprise to see how the yarn and texture complemented each other. I think Buttermilk Sky would pair beautifully with many yarns. The stitch pattern is easy to learn and the knitting goes quickly, so there's plenty of time to make a couple for holiday gifts if you're in need of gift ideas.

The yarn is some that I spun earlier this year. It's a 50/50 blend of my angora rabbits' wool with some fine fawn-colored alpaca fleece. My friends, Bonnie and Carl of ABC Ranch, blended the fibers and processed them into a lovely spinner's roving that required absolutely no preparation on my part. All I had to do was sit at my spinning wheel and let the fibers glide through my fingers. The resulting 2 ply yarn was lofty and soft and measured 13 wraps per inch. I used a US5 circular needle which yielded a plush fabric with lots of halo.

Of course, there would be no yarn and no cowl whatsoever without the beautiful wool of my three angora rabbits. Each one is a different color and has his own personality. All three are friendly and easy to work with. Let me introduce them.


Tai Pae

And Tobin

Thanks, woolly boys!

So, in this one simple knitting project, I have lots to be thankful for. As if that isn't enough, the weather forecasters are predicting some cold temperatures in the next few days. I won't have to wait too long to try out my cowl. Life is good!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Fruit of the Loom

Next weekend, November 13, 14, and 15, the Columbia Weavers and Spinners Guild will hold its 20th annual Holiday Exhibition and Sale. I've been a participating member in the sale from the beginning and always look forward to this fun, but rather intense affair. Like all of the twenty-some participants, I've been hard at work all year, trying to produce fiber art that will represent the best of my skills. Many of my things are purchased by people I don't know, and I never see these items again. This year I decided to take some photos of my weavings for the sale so that maybe five or ten years from now, I'll have a reminder of what I was making back in 2009.

First of all, handfuls of brightly-colored woven bookmarks. These are so much fun to weave on a simple inkle loom. The color combinations and patterns are endless.

Next, a bevy of little drawstring treasure bags. On most warps, I like to weave a yard or so of fabric just for these little bags. This allows me to try out color, yarn and design ideas that might not be suitable for table linens. These bags are perfect for small gifts, jewelry, glasses, and special treasures.

Breadcloths always seem to be a popular item at the sale. A loaf of homemade bread nestled in a handwoven breadcloth is a gift that will be remembered for years.

I only have a few table runners this year. Several were given to special friends over the course of the year, so just three will be going to the sale.

While I may not have many runners, I'm bringing armloads of towels. Handwoven towels seem to be a perennial favorite project among weavers, and I'm no exception. They are also an extremely popular item at the sale. We usually have a wall of towels in a rainbow of colors, literally something for everyone's tastes. We find that people who purchase the towels often use them for other purposes such as table runners or even wall hangings!

So there's a summary of my woven items for the sale. In addition to the weavings, I'll be bringing some knitted items - several hats and scarves using my own handspun/hand-dyed yarns. And finally, an assortment of colorful little holiday hat ornaments - great for hanging on the Christmas tree or to warm the head of your favorite house elf!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Look out! It's a bat!!!

OK, relax. He just wants to wish everyone a wickedly Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Honeysuckle's Last Blooms

Just as summer was giving way to autumn, I took the last pieces of Honeysuckle Twill variations off my studio loom. I had written about this project in a post early last month. The warp was a lustrous 10/2 Tencel yarn in natural. The neutral base allowed me to play with any color I wanted, but I decided to work with "flowery" colors for the most part.

Three of these pieces were breadcloths, using 5/2 perle cotton as the weft and a pretty straightforward twill treadling. Here are two of them.

One of my favorite weft pairings for Tencel is 8/2 unmercerized cotton. The resulting fabric is a nice blend of the two yarns. The Tencel gives a bit of sheen and a drapey (but not slithery) hand to the cloth. The cotton contributes cushy softness and adds absorbency. This blue towel is woven with the 8/2 unmercerized cotton using a satin tie-up.

For the final piece of this warp, I used a balanced twill tie-up. A balanced tie-up is one in which the number of warp threads rising is equal to the number of warp threads remaining down, so that neither the warp or weft is dominating on the face of the cloth. Again the wefts were 8/2 unmercerized cotton. I used a delicate salmon and light apricot - a final nod to the lighter palette of early summer.

I haven't quite settled on my next project for this loom but weaving these last few Honeysuckle fabrics was a fitting way to bring my summer weaving to a close.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Raddled, Beamed, Knotted, Weaving!

This post is a follow-up to the previous one. During the past week I made some headway in getting all those miles of warp threads onto my loom. On Wednesday I spread the warp in the raddle at the top of my loom, being careful to keep the colors in their correct order.

My Louet Megado loom has an excellent built-in raddle on its castle, as do all of the Louet looms. A raddle is a device which keeps the warp threads in their proper places and helps distribute them evenly on the warp beam.

Once the warp was arranged in the raddle, I attached it to a dowel rod which I then lashed to the warp beam and carefully wound the 15 yard warp onto the warp beam. (I know, I know, these terms sound like something out of Star Trek, but, hey, weavers have been warping, beaming and throwing shuttles long before Gene Roddenberry was even born!) The photo below shows the warp coming down from the raddle, over the back beam, and finally wound nice and snug on the warp beam below. Spreading the warp in the raddle and then beaming it on took two hours.

The next step was to tie each warp thread to the corresponding thread of the old warp which was still on the loom. I plan to use the same threading as I used in my Owls towels, so tying the new warp onto the old saved the step of threading the heddles (the vertical white nylon items in the next photo.) I used square knots to tie each of the 520 new threads to the 520 old threads. I estimated I could tie about 100 knots in a half an hour, so that's another two and one half hours of prep time - and a lot of square knots!

It was late Friday afternoon when all the knots were tied and the old warp was pulled forward to the front of the loom. It in turn pulled the new warp through the heddles, through the reed, and all the way to the front of the loom. At that point I was able to cut off the old warp and tie the new warp ends on to a rod attached to the cloth beam. (The woven fabric is rolled onto the cloth beam where it remains until the weaver unrolls it and cuts it off.) This step took another hour. I didn't take photos of this process because the anticipation was too great! After all that preparation, I just had to get the warp tied up and begin weaving. So... that's exactly what I did.

As luck would have it, Saturday was a grey old day, perfect for staying inside and tossing my shuttle back and forth at my loom. Here's a look at the cloth so far. The weft for the first piece is 8/2 gold tencel. My inspiration for this fabric was an autumn sunset in our woods.

Now that the loom is dressed again, I can look forward to many happy weaving hours. I haven't yet added up the time spent in preparation. I'm sure it will sound like a lot of time and trouble to non-weavers, but for weavers, it's all part of the process. And as the saying goes ... You have to be warped to weave!

Monday, September 28, 2009

In the Beginning

It amazes me still, even after so many years of weaving and so many projects - how a collection of cones of yarn turns into finished woven cloth. I perform the many little steps of the process which I know so well, but seeing the end product still holds a bit of magic for me.

Today's post focuses on how I start a new project. Over the weekend I measured the warp for a series of towels, breadcloths and other household linens. I'll be using a pattern of my own design and 12 different cotton and cotton/linen blend yarns.

For these yarns, I'll have a sett of 24 threads per inch, which means there will be 24 threads in each inch of my warp. This warp will be 21.7" wide. With a bit of simple math, I found that I'll need 520 warp ends for this project. Each warp thread will be 15 yards long. The planning got a bit trickier here because I wanted to arrange my yarns so that there are mainly tans and khakis at the selvedges, shading through some rusty colors into deeper berries and eggplant at the center. I had only small amounts of some of the yarns, so I started planning at the center and worked out to the selvedges. Doing my calculations from the center out allowed me to adjust the warp thread count according to how much of each color I had.

After I got my color arrangement worked out, I measured the 15 yard warp in bundles or chains of about 80 threads each. Measuring the warp took three and a half hours. Frequent color changes slowed down the measuring process somewhat.

Once the warp was measured, I laid it out in the order it will be arranged in on the loom. My first thought was "Wow, that's a lot of yarn!" Just for fun I decided to do a few more calculations to see how much yarn it was. 520 warp threads at 15 yards each equals 7,800 yards of yarn or almost 4 and a half miles, if you stretched it all out end to end. In addition I estimate that I'll use about 6,000 more yards of yarn for the weft. That makes a total of 13,800 yards or 7.84 miles of yarn for this project. That is a lot of yarn.

From all those miles of yarn I expect to end up with approximately 13 and a half yards of woven cloth. It's amusing to think about that mileage scrunched up into towels or runners, etc. This project is especially satisfying for me because all the yarns came from my weaving stash. Nothing extra will need to be purchased. Hmmm, almost 14,000 yards of stash yarn gobbled up by one project. Might even make a knitter overwhelmed with stash yarn consider coming over to the dark side ...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Keeping Time

a true story with a happy ending

This clock belonged to my maternal grandparents, John and Anna Kruse. They lived in the area just southeast of St. Louis, across the Mississippi River in Illinois. Married in October of 1914, they farmed the fertile Illinois land and raised six children, five sons and a daughter. The youngest child, Anita, is my mother. Anna passed away when my mother was in her early teens. When her father passed away in 1959, my mother inherited this clock. She brought it back to Kansas City where we were living at the time. Over the years, my family moved to the Chicago suburbs, and later, when my dad retired, my parents relocated to central Florida. John’s and Anna’s clock moved along with them.

Time passes ... In the summer of 1997, my daughter (also Anna) and I took a meandering road trip down to Florida to visit my parents. During our visit, my mom asked if I would like to have her family clock. I was very pleased to have a physical connection to the grandfather I remembered fondly and the grandmother I had never known, and so the clock came back to Boone County, Missouri with me. When she gave me the clock, Mom said she thought it might need repairing, she didn’t know for sure. Over the years, I’d intended to find someone reliable to take a look at it. Time slipped by though, and I never got around to seeing if it could be repaired.

Now some more years roll by, until it is last month, August of 2009. After vacationing with my sisters in Massachusetts, my mother journeyed back to her hometown in Illinois for a short visit with family and friends. Since she was in our neck-of-the-woods, (relatively speaking) my husband and I drove to Waterloo to spend a couple of days with her. One afternoon we all visited my mother’s brother, Hubert, who lives with his son Hubie and daughter-in-law, Karen. It was a pleasant afternoon, catching up on one another’s activities and listening to my mother and uncle reminisce about their childhood on the farm.

One thing about my cousin's and uncle's home that is impossible not to notice is the extraordinary number of clocks in every room - clocks of many styles and shapes, all ticking and some occasionally chiming. In the past few years, my cousin Hubie has developed a passion for collecting old clocks, and has become very knowledgeable about fixing them. One thing led to another, and when we left that evening, we’d arranged to mail the family clock to Hubie to see if it could be fixed. Within a few days of receiving it, my cousin emailed that he’d adjusted and oiled the clock - and that it was running like a champ. He wondered if I’d like my uncle to refinish the wooden clock case. I remembered seeing all the beautiful old pieces of furniture my uncle had refinished in their home and said yes.

I was so excited to learn that my clock was working and looked forward to its return, especially after Hubie emailed a photo of it, resplendent in its finished state. In the meantime I asked my mother what she knew about the clock and when it had stopped working. She doesn’t know how long her parents had the clock, possibly it was a wedding gift. She did remember that the last time it was keeping time was in April of 1943 when her mother passed away. Imagine! The old clock had stopped working sixty-six years ago. World War ll was being fought, FDR was president, and people gathered around their radio sets to hear the news of the day. Now, like Rip Van Winkle, the clock has awakened in the twenty-first century, where people wear digital wristwatches run by tiny batteries and we hear about current events nearly instantaneously via the internet.

Last week the clock arrived in the mail, safe and sound. Not only does it keep time, it is stunning in its new transfiguration. My uncle removed the dark stain and gave it a lighter warm finish that shows off the beautiful grain of the wood. Now it sits on a shelf in our living room where we can see it from all directions. It has a quiet but distinct “tic toc”. Its chime is rich, mellow and soft. In the evenings its sounds make a perfect soothing background accompaniment to reading and knitting. I’m still musing on its history and thinking about how coincidental yet fitting it is that members of our Kruse clan gave it a second life.

I don’t know... Perhaps it’s the English major in me, always looking for a story. A newspaper clipping or postcard tucked in the pages of a library book, old black and white photographs of stern-looking families strewn on the counter of a flea market mall ... these fragments can set me pondering and speculating. What’s the story here? So now, as I knit or spin, I look up at Anna’s and John’s clock ticking so placidly, and my imagination stirs. What family vignettes did the old clock witness as it quietly marked time and the children grew? And also, why did the clock stop running after Anna’s death? Was she the one who faithfully kept the clock wound? Or perhaps, with the loss of this farm family’s homemaker, with so much to be done and several sons in the armed services, there simply wasn’t time to bother with the clock.

I don’t expect I’ll ever know the answers to any of my musings. But one thing I do know. The blood that flowed through the hands of that earlier clock-winder also flows through my hands as I take on this task. I look down at the little clock key in my hand and then up at the clock’s face. In the reflection of the glass cover, I see my family smiling back at me.

Dedicated to my mother and grandparents.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Delicata ... Deliciosa!

It's only in the past two years that I've become aware of Delicata winter squash. On a whim I picked one up at the farmers' market and took it home to bake, just like any other winter squash. What a revelation! Delicata's flesh is rich and buttery without the somewhat stringy texture of acorn, butternut, etc. After that first experience, I was always hunting for Delicata at the farmers' market when winter squash season rolled round. To my frustration, they were not plentiful, usually only one or two scattered among a few vendors. Even more nettling was the fact that the Delicatas I'd managed to scrounge resulted in such tasty soups, stews and more.

Over the past winter I decided there was only one way to obtain more of this delectable squash - and a pretty obvious solution at that. A packet of Delicata seeds was included in our Fedco seed order. Now I've never been big on growing winter squash. They have no manners in the garden, sprawling all over the place, taking no mind of the needs of their veggie neighbors. And then there's my biggest garden nemesis, the nasty, ugly, destruction-bent squash bug. (Did I mention that I don't like them?) They can take down a squash patch in days with no remorse, leaving more repulsive little nymphs in their wake. However, the siren squash had so completely won me over that I willingly gave over a spot to three hills of Delicata.

Yes, the plants did send out vines in all directions, cozying up to the dill and scallions, sneaking across the path into the tomato rows. Each week I gently lifted the vines and repositioned them back in their allotted space. No, the squash bugs did not do them in. (They were far more interested in the three zucchini hills nearby.) The Delicatas produced first many big showy blossoms, and then to my delight, they began to set fruit. Ultimately the plants succumbed to the prolonged dry spell we've had late this growing season and a powdery sort of mildew I'll need to read up on this coming winter. But a couple of weeks ago, when we gathered up the fruits and cleared out the plant debris, we had a bucket of seventeen squash - far more than we've had from the farmers' market.

Delicata squash are not long keepers like Hubbard and some of the other winter squash, so I'm anticipating a flush of Delicata-centered meals for the next several weeks. The dish I fixed last night was so simple but oh-so delicious.

Preheat an oven to 425°. Slice the squash into 1/2" sections and clean the seeds out of the centers. (A melon baller worked like a charm for this task.) Place the rings in a single layer in a shallow baking dish. Brush them with a mix of olive oil and melted butter. Turn them over and brush the other sides, then sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until fork tender.

That's it! Now eat 'em with your fingers. The skins are so tender that if the squash are organically-grown, you can eat them, skins and all. I think they'd be fun to stack in towers or other imaginative presentations if you're so inclined. For my part, I'll skip the fancy presentations and enjoy the sweet treats as they melt in my mouth.

Friday, September 11, 2009


Well, here are some clues to the answer for my last post. I should have known that not everyone is as "plant-geeky" as I am.

1. These blossoms are both plants in the Mallow family, however, neither are grown specifically for their flowers.

2. One has edible parts. The other bears fruit that is of interest to fiber crafters of many skills.

3. In the bad old pre-Civil War days, African slaves on plantations would have dined on one of these after a hard day of processing the other.

I can't bear to have a post without a pic, so here's an honest-to-goodness flower who is all over our vegetable garden - Grandpa Ott's Morning Glory.

Good Luck!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

September Pop Quiz

Just for fun and perhaps a bit tricky. First person to correctly identify the following two blossoms will receive a small handmade reward. Leave your answers in the comments.

Blossom #1

Blossom # 2

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Weaving Honeysuckle

No, I have not become so befuddled by the abundance of garden produce that I have taken to putting flowers, leaves, vines, or, perish the thought, vegetables in my weaving projects. Honeysuckle Twill is the name of the pattern that I am currently using for a long warp on my 8 shaft floor loom. My source for this small but versatile overshot threading is A Handweaver's Pattern Book by Marguerite Porter Davison. My warp is 10/2 tencel in off-white, set at 24 ends per inch. The original draft is a four shaft pattern. I decided to convert it to eight shafts in order to explore many possibilities.

The first photo is a piece woven in the traditional overshot manner, using two wefts. One weft is the fine tencel and weaves the ground cloth, or tabby, as weavers call it. The second weft, a 5/2 perle cotton in a deep purple, weaves the pattern. If I were to cut away all the purple wefts, a solid white plain weave fabric would still remain. The upper portion of this photo is how Honeysuckle Twill looks woven in its original, traditional overshot manner. In the lower part of the photo I expanded a portion of the design to create a border.

The second photo is of another runner still woven as four shaft overshot. However, I used two colors for the pattern weft (blue and lilac) and I also changed the treadling order, ie., the order in which I step on the treadles(pedals.)

For the next piece I used a very pale blue cotton as the tabby/ground weft and a light spring green 5/2 perle cotton for the pattern weft and again changed the way I was weaving the pattern. This piece is not woven as four shaft overshot but is an improvisation that requires eight shafts. Unlike the previous pieces, the reverse side of this cloth looks nothing like its front.

For the next piece, a towel, I completely abandoned overshot, retied my treadles so that different sets of warp threads were lifted together, and started weaving with just one shuttle. The weft is a light blue 10/2 perle cotton. There is no neutral colored ground cloth acting as a background for a pattern weft. This fabric is reversible. I especially like the arrangement of the large and small blocks of pattern.

The last piece in this post is still on the loom. I'm weaving with a deep berry 8/2 unmercerized cotton. This design is actually a small segment of the previous one, just repeated over and over. It creates a small over-all design. I wanted a daintier pattern because this cloth is destined to be cut up and sewn into treasure bags and other small items. I like the pattern for its appearance, but I also like that it doesn't require as much concentration as any of the other patterns, so the weaving goes faster and I'm not as likely to lose my place if someone talks to me. (This loom is in the studio where I teach.)

For this experimentation with Honeysuckle Twill I put a 13 yard warp on the loom. I think I've used just over half of the warp, so there are still more variations to come. In addition to playing around with changes in how the warp threads are raised, I have a variety of yarns to try out as weft, so most likely I'll run out of warp before I run out of ideas. That's the best kind of weaving - a pattern that leads you down many paths with always one more path to explore!

Monday, August 24, 2009


The weaving post I had intended for today is not quite ready, but last evening's garden walk suggested another theme. Our raspberry bushes are producing a modest crop, enough to put on our cereal or ice cream, or, best of all, just pop the little nuggets right in your mouth. Last night's berries looked so exquisite in the bowl, I just had to snap a picture.

Then, as I was walking back from the dock with berries and camera still in hand, the Giant Burgundy Cockscomb waved me over and had their picture taken too. Their sumptuous, velvety red seemed a perfect partner for the raspberries. This particular type of cockscomb is often nicknamed the Brain because of its convoluted shape. Mine are still maturing so I'm hoping they get brainier!

The other item I harvested from the garden was Red Burgundy Okra. Now I'm not a fan of slimy okra dishes but when I saw these plants in bloom last year up at the Seed Savers Heritage Farm in Decorah, Iowa, I had to give this okra a spot in the garden. These are handsome plants with attractive flowers. And what's better, I've found that the fruits taste pretty darn good, and not one bit slimy, if dipped in egg, dredged in seasoned cornmeal, and fried in a bit of canola oil. The deep red candle-like shapes are also fun to arrange in various poses ...

I have to sneak a bit of weaving into today's post, so here's a runner I wove in 2007 that fits in with my red theme. This is a very old tied overshot pattern named La Belle Creole. My source for the draft was Mary Meigs Atwater's Recipe Book. The warp is 20/2 perle cotton, set at 30 ends per inch. The pattern weft is 10/2 perle cotton. Don't look at all those geometric shapes too long or your eyes will start to cross!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Tomato Post

It's true. They overwhelmed me, took over the kitchen, and demanded their moment of glory.... the tomatoes, that is. So here is a tribute to our 2009 crop of tomatoes. If you don't relish the summer love apples, you'd better not read on. But many of us spend 8 or 9 months of the year anticipating the arrival of the bona fide, juice-squirting-in-your-mouth item. 'Round about mid-June or early July, many local gardeners, myself included, start to see these orbs forming on our tomato plants.

Then days and weeks drag by, until finally the warm days and nights work their magic, and the tomatoes start to look like this.

Finally all is well! We have lovely, tasty tomatoes to enjoy with any meal we choose. Bruschetta topped with cherry tomatoes - yum! Pasta a la Caprese - you bet! Pizza with tomato slices, fresh garlic and herbs - bring it on! We laugh scornfully at those sorry supermarket globes masquerading as tomatoes.

And then one day, I look around the kitchen and all I can see on every flat surface is this.

That's when my delight morphs into panic. What to do with all these tomatoes before they get overripe and - horrors! - have to be thrown out. Some we give away to gardenless friends and neighbors. Some years I can the surplus. This year I've been slow-roasting them with garlic, fresh basil and a bit of olive oil. This marvelous concoction, the essential tomato goodness, can be frozen and pulled out deep in winter for pasta sauce, pizza, and much more. Tasting those roasted tomatoes makes summer bloom in your mouth for a few minutes, even on a sullen January day.

So here's to ya, my tomato lovelies - the Sweet 100s cherry tomatoes, the Jaune Flammes, the Orange Bananas, the San Marzanos, and the Aunt Ginny's Purples - all heirloom varieties obtained from members of the Seed Savers Exchange across the country.

I have a favorite memory of chatting with my Dad about the virtues of gardens, and tomatoes in particular. I quoted a phrase from a country and western song I'd heard on the radio. My Dad immediately knew the song and the artist. That tune and that memory always surface at this time of year. It's a song by Guy Clark. Here's the chorus:

Homegrown tomatoes, homegrown tomatoes
What'd life be without homegrown tomatoes
Only two things that money can't buy
That's true love and homegrown tomatoes.

On a muggy August day in Missouri, that about sums it up for me.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Weavers of the 21st Century

I learned to weave when I was in my late twenties. With that first project, a sampler, I was hooked. I couldn't get enough of throwing a shuttle across a warp and watching cloth - handwoven cloth - grow before me. That was over thirty years ago. In that time, I've always had a project in progress on a loom, and my enthusiasm has never diminished.

For the past twenty some years, I've been fortunate enough to share my weaving obsession by teaching weaving classes at Access Arts in Columbia, MO. In addition to several adult classes, I teach a children's class once a week. Today I'd like to shine a spotlight on my young weavers. Anyone who wants a definition of enthusiastic weavers should visit this class. All the children in this class arrive eager and ready to sit down at their looms and get busy. They spend an hour and a half weaving and chatting with one another. They may not be aware of it, but they are reinforcing skills that support what they are learning in school: doing math problems, reading a pattern, remembering a sequence, developing fine motor skills, making decisions on color and design .... And they're having a good time at it!

When I was a kid back in the middle of the 20th century, I wove on one of the ubiquitous potholder looms. While I thought it was great fun to mix and match all those colored loopers and see how the colors worked - or didn't - together, I sometimes wonder how I would have liked the more complex and versatile looms my students weave on. In my heart of hearts, I hope that at least a few of the children who have passed through my classes will continue weaving as adults and that weaving will find a niche in their creative spirits to enrich their lives as it has mine.

In the meantime, here's a gallery of Weavers of the 21st Century in action.

E working on her table runner:

C weaving pillow fabric:

O concentrating hard on her pattern:

A weaving kitchen towels:

A weaving fabric for treasure bags:

M working on her first project:

E proudly posing with her pillow:

Weave on, kids. Help me pass this shuttle along to the next generation.