Monday, February 21, 2011

Spring will come

Of course we all know that spring will come no matter what, but with snow Saturday night and all day Sunday it doesn't seem as sure.  A friend wrote that she had mowed the lawn for the first time.  Mine is simply a memory, hidden by snow.

But, the winter aconites have come up and are blooming.  Of course they bloom almost as soon as they emerge from the ground and I did have to brush away the dead leaves that were the mulch over them but there they were!  And here they are:

Even on an overcast, dull day the brilliance of their yellow is instantly cheering.  I love their fringed green "collars".  They grow from very small, hard brown corms.  The emergence of such color from a drab, unpromising thing seems truly miraculous.

Meanwhile, the warp is off the loom.  The first scarf has double-faced twill borders at both ends and will make a tiny, rolled plain weave hem.  The second scarf was woven into a tube at both ends  so I can tuck the cut ends inside and sew it shut thus making the scarf double woven on all sides.  They haven't been hemmed and washed so the photo will have to appear later.

I am especially glad to see these yellow flowers because on Wednesday it will begin to snow and keep at it for four days.  I won't be mowing the lawn right away!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The new scarf warp

The new scarf warp is underway.  The center is plain weave but the selvedges are actually tubes.  I think you can see that in this photo:
The warp you see to the right is the deep blue you saw here a few days ago and the weft is the blue violet color which makes the tubular selvedge (to the left) stand out and modifies the blue in the warp so that they look nice together

 We have had strong winds all day.  They blew over tractor trailer rigs on the highway just west of town and toppled trees in that area, too.  In the heart of the city, where I live, it simply blew away anything not attached but as far as I know did no damage at my house.  The storm that was blowing in arrived about an hour ago (close to 7 PM) with lightning and thunder and snow blowing in the wind.  The warmth we enjoyed yesterday is gone and winter is back with a vengeance. 

I grew up in central California where winter was foggy, sometimes rainy, and summer was rainless and very, very hot.  There wouldn't be much change for weeks at a time so that the jokes and cartoons about planning a picnic and having it rain didn't make sense to me because that just never happened.  Now I live where the weather comes to us from Alberta, from Seattle, from San Francisco and from the gulf of California.  Each point of origin brings something different and things often change very rapidly.  I really love the drama of our weather; it's my favorite part of the local news, in fact.

As long as the power stays on, I will weave this evening and see how far I can get.  What you couldn't see in the photo above (it has advanced out of sight) is the fact that the leading edge of the scarf was woven in a double-faced twill so that there is a pretty solid band of the violet at the edge.  It is my intention to make a very small rolled edge so that the scarves (there will be two) are bordered with violet all the way around.  These will be the fourth and fifth scarves this year without fringes.

Once more  I am grateful for a roof that doesn't leak and for the furnace (just over a year old) that keeps my house warm.  Being warm and dry when it is blowing and snowing outside feels very luxurious to me!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Looks can be deceiving

Take a look at this:
And at this:
Looks a lot like spring, doesn't it?  And it felt like spring today, too.  But--and it's a big one--tomorrow the high temperature will be 25 degrees colder and it is supposed to begin snowing heavily for the first of two or three days.  The moral of this story?  It's still February.

I have beamed, threaded and must sley and tie on the new warp so I can start weaving.  If the force is with me I ought to be able to post photos of work in progress tomorrow (Wednesday). 

Thursday will be spent mostly at the University hospital.  Almost two years ago I volunteered to be part of a research study so tomorrow blood will be drawn and a punch biopsy taken and some neurological tests run.  I am hoping all of this leads to something helpful because having little pieces taken away at intervals is getting old.  The bright spot is a complimentary ticket I was given to see Ballet West's new production of "The Sleeping Beauty" tomorrow night.  There was a time when I had season tickets to the ballet but when the choice was dropping those or the opera or symphony, the ballet went.  That isn't to say that I don't like ballet--I do!--but I love the symphony and opera even more.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Two very dissimilar days

I spent most of yesterday, Friday, in the car running errands; I took care of nine in all.  That's what comes of saving them up for one big, choreographed day.  I need hardly say that I got nothing done at the loom, but since one of them was a haircut now I am not only caught up but spruced up, too.

Today was not a loom-based day, either, but a wonderful one nonetheless.  This morning I went to the local theater carrying the Live-from-the Met HD broadcast of John Adams' Nixon in China.  This evening I went to the Utah Symphony concert.  Twentieth century music all day long!

The orchestra at the Met was conducted by John Adams, himself.  Stage direction and the direction of the videography were done by Peter Sellars.  Because of the way the opera was photographed I think that in some ways my experience in a movie theater in Salt Lake City was even better than what those in New York City had.  In the opening scene, where the chorus stands on stage and sings what is essentially rules of behavior  written by Mao, we see close-up shots of the heads of people in the chorus blown up on the screen so they are huge.  The composition of these shots is wonderful.  Sometimes we see only a part of a face so that I was strongly reminded of Alex Katz's huge paintings of faces.  I knew right then that we were in for a rare treat.

And I was right.

The opera follows the three days that Richard and Pat Nixon and Henry Kissinger were in China in 1972 on that historic trip.  This is the first time that I have ever seen an opera about events that I can remember and I wonder if that made it more moving.  We saw the meeting in which Mao tottered in (during an intermission feature we learned from the man who was ambassador at the time that Mao had been bedridden for some time before the visit and had to be taught to walk again for the meeting). 
The words sung were those--in the beginning of that scene at least--that were actually exchanged.  In the second act we see Pat on tour at the Great Wall, a glass factory, at a farm and seeing "children having fun".  She is guided on this tour by three women, dressed in blue suits wearing utilitarian glasses who are present throughout the opera who nearly always acted and sang in unison.  They were a chilling trio and struck me as almost reptilian.  Later in the act there is a ballet that upsets Pat Nixon who got caught up in it and tries to intervene to stop a flogging, among other things.  Some aspects of the ballet and its aftermath were a little confusing because the cause of the melee that ensued after the dancing ended wasn't clear to me.  During this act Madam Mao flips out--there is no other way to say it succinctly.

The third act takes place on the night before the Americans fly back to the United States.  The Nixons,  Chou En-Lai and Mao and Madame Mao (who is frankly pretty scary) are in it.  The three groups, if you will, do not interact with each other

Present throughout is Chou En-Lai (I am using the spelling used in the opera) who at the time was dying of untreated pancreatic cancer, a fact evident his behavior as well as the white lilies in the third and final act.  The last words of the opera are his.  In his last aria he wonders whether anything good had been accomplished by this visit (I'd say yes!) and his last words after singing about the fact that he has had no children haunt me:  "The chill of regret lies heavy on the morning grass".  A lot of the libretto, other than the verbatim parts, seemed to me to be very poetic.

It was a brilliant production that left me limp at its end.  I have thought about why it was so affecting and am still turning that over, but isn't that a sign of good theater?

I got home in time to feed my cats, prepare and eat my dinner and finish reading the paper before it was time to leave again this time for the symphony concert.  I went early enough to go to the pre-concert lecture given by the guest conductor, Pascal Rofe.  As his name suggests, he is French and although young has already had a distinguished career.

The program was all 20th Century music:  Stravinsky's Song of the Nightingale, Shostokovich's Concerto No. 1 for Piano and Orchestra. and Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra. The Stravinsky was short and enjoyable.  The program said that the concerto had been performed here at a time when I should have heard it but I cannot recall it.  (Was I out of town?)  The orchestration is quite unusual: the full complement of strings and one trumpet plus the piano, of course.  Our soloist was Joyce Yang who played well and with good energy--just the right amount. 

I had been waiting, I confess, for the Bartok.  I first heard this piece quite by accident.  When I was 13 or 14 we had our first television set and just after I got home from school the Ernie Kovacs show was on.  He was a brilliant and innovative man, I think, who died much too soon.  One entire show was given over to Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra played while there were images on the screen.  I recall the first image very, very clearly (a deserted street at night), so much so that I could identify the place in the music where there was a close-up of a dead leaf blowing along the gutter.  I had, at that age, never heard music that sounded like that and remembered it distinctly.  I really like this concerto a lot and by now know it well so that as I listen I can anticipate some wonderful part that is coming up next. 

So there you are, a day full of running around and crossing things off my to-do list and today lots and lots of wonderful music.  I liked today better....

All this and a change of leadership in Egypt.  Sometimes I think the world moves faster than I can take it all in.  Interesting times.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Color photos

It turns out that my camera will take black and white photos.  What a surprise to me!  Clearly, I need to spend more time with the (very dense) instruction manual which makes me feel very dense.

Here are new photos:
While I was at it I thought I would photograph the worsted wool for the new warp. 

The colors in person are just a little darker than what you see here.  They nearly look as though they wouldn't work together but wait until you see how I use them!
On to work.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

New scarves

Tonight there are two freshly finished scarves.  The warp in both is a medium light blue violet and the wefts are blue green and a sky blue, respectively.  Oddly, they photographed as if they were black and white.  When it is daylight I will take new pictures to see if I can show their colors properly.  They, like all rayon chenille scarves, feel like a dry liquid.  Either one will suit my other coat--or the olive one, too, for that matter--and will probably go to the symphony this Saturday evening with me.  One will be sold.

In the meantime I have measured out the warp for two more scarves, these made of fine worsted wool.  This worsted isn't as fine as that in the double weave warp a week ago but still isn't very big.  The labels inside the cones say 2/18 and 2/16 although they look finer than that to me.  It doesn't matter that much because I have figured out how they need to be sett, measured out the length and number of threads I need and have it ready to beam tomorrow.

There will be some double weave in these, too, but not at all in the same way as the silver gray and light olive.  These are a deep blue and a deep blue violet.  You'll see!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Wore my new scarf tonight

I wore the new scarf tonight with my olive coat and went to the Utah Symphony concert.  This is the second Saturday night in a row with a concert and there will be one next week, too.  I have tickets to four this month.  What riches!

Tonight's concert began with a Mozart overture (from the Abduction from the Seraglio) which was crisp and transparent and delightful.  It was followed by the Bartok Concerto No. 2 for Violin and orchestra.  Our soloist was Augustin Hadelich, who from my vantage point seemed to be a youngster (born in 1984, he is young) but played like an angel.  I don't know the Bartok well, having heard it only once before but I enjoyed it very, very much.  The audience applauded and applauded and young Mr. Hadelich returned and played Paganini's Caprice No. 24.  Everyone knows that piece and loves it.  The audience went wild.  I decided that if a butterfly could play the violin it would sound like that:  light, exact and yet fluid.  It's definitely a show-off sort of piece and he can show off for me any time!  I doubt that Paganini, himself, played it any better.

After the intermission the mood changed totally with no more fireworks but more contemplative pieces.  First there were three pieces, by Rachmaninov arranged by Resphigi, part of "five study tableaus" (my translation) which evoked scenes.  The first depicted a fair and was lively and light hearted.  The second depicted Red Riding Hood and the wolf.  It sounded to me as if the wolf got her at the end or perhaps he was grumbling that she got away.  The third part was the sea and the seagulls.  It certainly evoked the sea.  I liked all three pieces which were new to me. 

Finally, we heard Debussy's La Mer.  Debussy painted images for me.  I could "see" the movement of the water in all three movements.  The first was calm, the second more playful  and the last brought the wind into the picture with the sea and the wind in dialogue.

For someone who experiences colors when hearing music as I do, the second half of this concert was even more wonderful.

My scarf and I came home and I did the inital preparations for the pasty for the quiche I am taking to a potluck tomorrow at mid day.  It will be good and cold for me to roll out and pre-bake before filling the pastry shell for final baking in the morning.  (Chicken and broccoli and cheese--yummy.)

I am weaving a couple of chenille scarves.  I wanted one to wear with another coat and put on a blue-violet warp long enough for two only to discover that I don't have enough of that yarn to cross it with the same color.  No problem; I crossed the first one with a medium teal and have begun the second one with a sky blue.  The blend of colors is interesting and will also work for me.

Between pieces this evening I was thinking about using more of the very fine worsted wool for another scarf or perhaps a shawl.  I have a navy and a deep blue violet which I may use together.  I might put some double weave into the scarf or shawl but not in the same way as my new scarf.  In my mind's eye the result is beautiful.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Photos at last

I finished the scarf and the souvenir in which I experimented with some variations today.  First I filled a metal pail with very hot water and a little hand dishwashing detergent and took it outside.  I gently set the souvenir on the surface of the water and then set the folded scarf on that.

I was pretty sure that this yarn would track if I washed it by moving it in the sudsy water so I allowed it to wet (hence the detergent) in hot water with no movement at all.  I left the pail of water outside where it was very cold today (in the teens, Farenheit) so that the water would cool completely rather quickly.  I left it out there until late this afternoon when the water was stone cold.  I brought the pail inside, emptied the water, added warn water and a little detergent and washed the fine wool cloth by hand, working it in the water.  Two rinses with a little white vinegar in the second one later is was done.

I allowed the wet cloth to drip dry and then pressed it on both sides until it was dry.  I found out that the press was too hot because I scorched the scarf in one place.  I'll bet you can't imagine how dismayed I was because it took a long time to weave using two shuttles and very fine wool!

Some years ago a woman in my weavers guild who with her husband had a dry cleaning shop told me when I scorched some white wool that sponging it with hyrdrogen peroxide (the kind you buy in the first aid section of a drug store) can remove scorching in wool.  So I put some on a clean, white cotton cloth and gently sponged my scorched wool.  I was concerned that I might bleach the colors but considering the obviousness of the scorch--what did I have to lose?  IT WORKED!

Of course I had turned down the temperature on the press before I finished the pressing.  It has a lovely hand, and is soft and light.  I got out my camera and set to work.

Here is the scarf showing both ends so that you can see that on one side the hem (where I wove separate layers, turned the raw edges to the inside and stitched the two folds together invisibly) is light olive green and on the other the light, silvery gray.

Here you can see the souvenir piece lying on top of the scarf.  The turned back corner shows the olive green side with gray squares which reverses on the other side.  After a little plain weave I wove another piece like the scarf but without spacing the doubleweave squares as I did in the scarf.  I like both variations but am glad I wove the scarf as I did.

If you click on the photos you get a closer look.

So, there you have it!