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gimme your stuff

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"It is not best to swap horses while crossing the river." --  Abraham Lincoln

While poking around on the Internet this morning, I came across a delightful blog titled "Gimme Your Stuff."   As I looked through a score or more of postings, it seemed to me that this would be a great segue into the New Year.  It feeds my curiosity about other cultures and allows me to meet new people. 

The basic concept is to swap goodies of all sorts with folks from around the world.  At one time friends sent me Kit Kats from different locales just to see if the chocolate used was the same - it wasn't.   British and Hong Kong Kit Kats are far superior to American versions in my opinion.  The chocolate is richer. 

With that said, I think you have a hint that I love chocolate, especially dark chocolate - really dark chocolate.  But from what I understand, the American government in its paranoiac wisdom has decided to ban the international receipt of packaged foods, this includes chocolate.  Sigh.   Anyway, as I am to make a list of my likes and my goods to offer, here goes:

Likes:
chocolate!

tea - especially unusual flavors or packaged in a decorative manner

anything shiny as I have magpie tendencies - buttons, beads, stickers, holograms, silver bits, etc.

current newspapers - what is your country's take on current affairs?

Maps.

Old medical books and journals.

magazines - especially fashion or craft ones!!!!!!

anything handmade - I treasure my father's collection of flies for fly fishing and my great
grandmother's doilies.

As I am in my 2nd year of studying French -  Any magazine, book, movie, or music in French! 

Cookie recipes.

Fabric - one never has enough, especially any with text or that you feel represents your locale.

A postcard of your village, town, city, or country. 

Photos of your garden or your favorite green place.

Soaps - purchased or homemade.

One new year's resolution is to start a daily visual journal - anything for it.

Surprise me!

What I can offer:
Yarn - I once owned a yarn store. 

Old postcards.

Buttons.

Beads.

Recipes, especially cookie recipes.

Children's books - mostly current, but sometimes vintage.

Fabrics of all sorts.

Bits of lace.

Magazines.

Current American newspapers.

Unusual ribbon.

Photos of my garden.

Gardening tips.

Canceled stamps.

Soaps - purchased and homemade.

Let me surprise you!


subconscious

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"The subconscious is ceaselessly murmuring, and it is by listening to these murmurs that one hears the truth."  --  Gaston Bachelard

I am finishing up the final details on new needlefelt designs.   It never ceases to amaze me how much my art influences my designs and my designs influence my art.  The above photo is a detail of a pillow worked in wool yarn on felted wool.  When not designing or knitting, I embroider.  Inspiration comes from the interior landscape - patterns of the human body as seen through a microscope.
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This is an image of a healthy red blood cell count.  Circles floating and overlapping. 
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Flip the over the pillow front and you have a myelinated optic nerves cut in cross section.
Strucmyelin

Thank you to Florida State University's Psychology Department and Nagoya University School of Medicine Department of Medicine The Branch Hospital for the above medical images .


christmas cheer

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"At Christmas play and make good cheer,
For Christmas comes but once a year."  --  Thomas Tusser

I don't need a vacation, I needed last night.  A friend took me to see the holiday lights set up at the Lincoln Park Zoo.  Weeks of scrooginess evaporated in the cold night air.  Play and good cheer were in abundance as we strolled along the paths.  Forget a partridge in a pear tree, try the honking and screeching of flamingos.

An early New Year's Resolution - don't try to be Super Knitter, especially around the winter holidays.  I have workaholic tendancies and need to remember that down time is a time to reflect and reenergize. It's too easy to get sucked into the studio vortex and forget about the world taking place outside it.   


knitted ferrari

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"Perseverance, secret of all triumphs."  -- Victor Hugo

I have met my match in knitting endurance with the young British artist Lauren Porter.  She is featured above with her thesis piece - a hand knitted, life-sized red Ferrari!  She has rightly received much deserved press, including a recent interview on Britain's Radio 4 which you can hear more of on her website. 

Speaking of knitting frenzies, this winter the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs is hosting the  Winter Delights Stitching Salon.  For the months of January and February a range of textile art related activities will be occurring throughout the city.  The city should receive a knitted award for finally catching on to what has been occurring for years and turning it into a full festival.

The photo was posted on the Annanova website.


postsecrets

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"I have great belief in the fact that whenever there is chaos, it creates wonderful thinking. I consider chaos a gift."  --  Septima Clark

Last night I hit a mental wall.  It was one of those moments when all the demands of life become too overwhelming and the body insists on some respite.  I slept for 10 hours.  The puppy loved it too.  I think she managed to sleep on my forehead most of the night.  She views my forehead as her personal pillow which I find annoying, but as I was too tired to care, she had her way.

I woke this morning to my ritual of coffee and a review of email.  As I wandered along the Internet Highway, I came across an intriguing blog which collects postcards of people's secrets.  What a brilliant idea!  Some are funny, others poignant and a few downright wacky, but all are amazing and from the heart. 

The one I have posted above got me thinking about my own beliefs.  Beliefs are often attributed to religion, but there are many other forms of belief - moral, political, diet, childrearing, etc.  Here are a few things which I happen to believe are true with no particular order to the list:

1)    Santa isn't a person popping down the chimney to bring goodies to children.  Santa is the childlike spirit within every adult.

2)    Nothing tastes better than dark chocolate, except maybe when coconut is added to the mix.

3)    My daughter is the coolest, greatest, prettiest, and most talented daughter in the whole world.

4)    Everyone should work in the retail or restaurant business for at least 6 months if only to learn how to be nice when you aren't getting what you want.

5)    Art is a critical element to a fine education, as much as reading, writing, and arithmetic.

6)    Everyone should either live abroad for 6 months or have a neighbor from another region of the world to learn that your perspective isn't the only perspective on world politics. 

7)    Lavender smells better than roses by a fraction of .00000000001 percent. 

8)    Gardening teaches you about nature and how to respect her.

9)    Puppies train people.  People don't train puppies.

10)  Knitting is a great form of relaxation - most of the time.

To see more incredible postcards, go to postsecrets.


happy holidays

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"[Inspiration arrives as a] packet of material to be delivered."  --  John Updike

I woke last night in a cold sweat and a racing heart.  My nightmare?  Being smothered under a warehouse of yarn.  One has to wonder why one continues in one's chosen profession if it has the possibility to illicit such nightmares.  After several licks of my nose and chomps on my fingers, my puppy finally nudged me out of bed to face another day with "the sweater." 

Humor and renewed faith came in the form of a cup of coffee and the ingenious "early xmas gift" from Keri Smith.   She has a knack for putting everything into perspective. Don't forget to make some of her "instant snow."  It doesn't require any shoveling!


lesson learned

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“We work in the dark, We do what we can, We give what we have, Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task, The rest is the madness of art.” -- Henry James

Some lessons are best learned the hard way. 

I have been experimenting with needle felting for the past two years as it allows for many sculptural possibilities.  When an editor from Lark Books inquired whether I would be interested in submitting designs for a new book on the subject, I jumped at the chance.  I've been wanting to expand the scale of my experiments, so I submitted some designs for rugs and pillows.  Warning boys and girls!  Do not attempt to needle felt large flat expanses of wool if you wish to continue the use of your arms.  After 8 hours working on one 14 x 14 square, I was ready to toss my needles out the window.   I couldn't get a symmetrical piece that didn't have bald patches.  I finally called my editor in desperation.  He laughed.  "Aren't you glad I didn't accept the rug designs!"  Oh, ugh.  But he was right. 

Salvation came in the form of a small company called A Child's Dream Come TrueThey have fabulous handmade felt as well as commercially processed 100% wool felt.  You can't needle felt onto synthetic felt which is the stuff commonly found at Jo-Ann's or Hancock's.  You need the good stuff - real felt.  I can now needle felt to my heart's content without my arm wearing out. 

If you feel inspired and can't weight for the book to hit the shelves in September, take a look at the kits available from A Child's Dream Come True and Wysteria Editions.  The roving I am using in my designs comes from Wysteria Editions.  They carry a fantastic color line. 


progress

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"Never discourage anyone...who continually makes progress, no matter how slow."  --  Plato

I have spent the past week making sweaters for an upcoming book of maternity knitting patterns.  I have never felt so dull witted.  My brain is as dull as a broken pencil.  I have ripped a v-neck out of one sweater three times in the attempt at the perfect drape.  I want these sweaters to be usable beyond the nine months of maternity, so fit and construction are critical.  The process is unbelievably slow and with the holidays coming up, deadlines are looming.  I've already sent my regrets to friends for two parties, but I need a break. 

The juggle to maintain a sane balance between studio, family, friends and teaching is a constant, but there is something about the winter holidays that throws it all out of whack.  Part of me wants to feel the magic that the holidays evoked in me as a child.  I want to sing carols and make piles of cookies.  I can't have it all, but I can grab hold of what is offered.  Last weekend I visited the Christmas market in Daley Plaza where a charming miniature village reminded me that some magic still exists.  This weekend I will hopefully make it to Lincoln Park zoo for the holiday lights display.  Meanwhile, I will keep on knitting (and felting, but I will save those trials and tribulations for another day).      


snowballs

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"The aging process has you firmly in its grasp if you never get the urge to throw a snowball." -- Doug Larson

Winter is the uber knitting season.  As millions of ice crystals fell on Chicago this weekend, I sat snug in my house knitting a sweater.  This morning I woke up stiff.  Could I possibly be aging and unable to handle stretches of such strenuous exercise?   Yeah, I am getting older. Twenty years ago I could knit or embroider for 12 hours at a time with little concern for my physical well being.  These days an hour has my shoulders kinking up. 

Snowstorms once meant days off from school, hot chocolate, and sledding.  These days it means battling traffic, shoveling, and traipsing through months of salty slush.  When did I become such a snow grouch?  I admit that the urge to throw a snowball overcomes me when cut off by another booger in traffic, but maybe one thrown out of nowhere at my daughter on her way to school might prove an excellent winter detraction.