Of Rats and Jen (Inactive)

Tales of a Perpetual
Work In Progress

Large Energy

Filed under: Beading - Confessions of a Chantraphile,Daily Life,Family,Shopping Adventures — folkcat at 1:42 pm on Monday, November 13, 2006

It’s said that it’s a good thing to shake up your life now and then. Energy flow that never changes too easily becomes congested or blocked. It can even become so backed up that it breaks out in places and directions you have no control over.

Even something as simple as rearranging your furniture can make a difference. So what do you suppose happens when, as Gryphon and I did recently, you swap the purposes of two rooms in your house?

The result seems to be that Large Energies are moving in our life. Life-changing sorts of Energies. The kind that turn everything upside down.

Life Altering Choices

I can’t talk about much of it yet, because it’s so early in the planning stages. But I will say that Gryphon and I made a decision last week that we’ve considered previously, but that we never felt it was the right time for. Now it feels right.

There are many cogs to make mesh in order to get this thing to happen, and we haven’t even begun pulling them out of the parts bin yet. So there’s nothing real to tell about this one – yet. But trust me, you will be fully informed when there is.

Family Matters

In the midst of conquering our own shaky reaction to making this decision, we received news on Friday that Gryphon’s mother, living with his sister and her husband in New Jersey, was starting to fade and likely to leave us before much longer. Big stuff to absorb, even though you know it’s going to happen one day.

Big Little Bead Buys

On Sunday, I made a significant purchase of beads from a friend. She had made arrangements to buy the remaining stock of Delicas, and many 11/o, 8/o, and 6/o beads, from another friend who used to own a bead store (but who closed it about the same time I closed mine). The purchase price was at wholesale, and that’s the price that was passed on to me.

There were several other friends who were present for this purchasing opportunity as well, all gathered in my living room with clipboards, pencils, calculators – and tray after tray of beads in little flip top boxes. The process of making our selections took several hours, and included a dinner break.

It’s safe to say that a room full of five beaders on a discount shopping frenzy for that long a time stirs Large Energies.

It’d also be safe to say I went a little crazy with my selections. I love Delica beads, but never had a chance to accumulate many different colors. Here, we had leftover stock from a store that used to offer every color of Delica that was made. But I was getting wholesale pricing, and better yet, didn’t have to buy in wholesale bulk quantities (bags of 50 grams or more) to get it. I could get retail packages of smaller quantities, but at the wholesale price.

So what did I wind up with? See this box in front of the television? The one that measures 12 inches on a side?

Bead Box 1

Go ahead, take a closer look.

Bead Box 2

Yup, there’s beads in there.

Bead Box 3

Lots and lots of beads. I probably quadrupled my Delica stash alone with this, adding a significant number of colors I didn’t have before.

I won’t tell you how much, even at wholesale cost, these came to. Suffice it to say the number has more digits than you’d think I would commit to at this time, what with a tight budget and a spinning wheel already on layaway.

And get this – Gryphon was totally okay with this purchase. He recognizes that I haven’t bought any Delicas since I had my own bead store, and that I don’t anticipate having any good opportunities to buy them at prices I’m comfortable paying in the future. None of the local bead stores carry them at this time, and mail order quantities get difficult. Gryphon agreed to this large a quantity because he recognizes, as I do, that this is a long-term, deep stash purchase. I probably won’t be buying much for Delicas or Japanese seed beads for a long, long time.

And the purchase is with a friend who is offering us very good terms for payment. I’ve done work for her before, and part of this will be paid in the form of future services for some projects she’s got in the pipeline. (We are doing a written agreement – we’re all friends, but we’re not stupid. And I do watch The People’s Court!)

Passing On

After the shopping frenzy ended on Sunday, Gryphon and I were still reeling from the bead buying Large Energies when he received a call from another of his sisters. His mom had passed away Sunday afternoon, less than six hours earlier. It’s still too early for many decisions to have been made, but it appears there will be no actual service – merely a gathering of family, if they can get them in from their disparate locations, to scatter her ashes on her husband’s grave in Fort Dix cemetery.

Gryphon is now the eldest Kubeck, being the first born. Being the one who moved away from home the longest ago, though, his sister Judy, with whom Mom lived for the last several years, has been the rock taking care of the family in New Jersey all this time.

Judy, if you ever see this, we want you to know that you’ve done an amazing job there. Thank you.

If anyone wants to send Gryphon any good thoughts, you can leave a comment at his blog. He doesn’t update often, but he will see what you say.

My Family

More Large Energy – it’s my own mother’s birthday today, and I expect to be talking to her about that decision that I mentioned earlier when I call to wish her a Happy Birthday. That conversation alone will hopefully start putting a few cogs in place…


Today is otherwise a day to try to get my feet back under me. I need to make plans to get some Christmas Knitting felted and stitched together. I actually need to make contact to acquire a few snail mail addresses to send gift items to.

I need to get a little bit of comforting, normal routine – such as normal ever is – back in place to help me recover from the turbulence in the Large Energies of the past week.

It’s All for the Good

Well, almost. I mean, you never want a parent to die, after all. But otherwise, every single thing this week has felt right – for all that it felt like a major earthquake under our feet.

I promise, you’ll know what there is to know when there’s something definite I can report. In the meantime, rest assured that we’re a little shaken, but we’ll be okay!

Target Update

Filed under: Daily Life,Shopping Adventures — folkcat at 2:35 pm on Friday, October 20, 2006

The Truth Behind the Target Cover-Up

As I posted yesterday, Target’s Customer Service Desk attempted to explain away their associates’ over enthusiastic offerings of “Can I help you find anything?” as a response to online customer surveys that demanded it be easier to find items in the store, or at least find someone to help you locate what you want.

This has been revealed now as, well – maybe not a complete pack of lies. But they’re sure not playing with a full deck.

In comments, it was revealed that Target recently signed up with a Mystery Shopper Service. For the uninitiated, Mystery Shoppers are people hired to pose as ordinary store customers, who then report back to their organization about the service they received. Sometimes they are given specific tasks to perform to evaluate specific areas of store function.

In this case, Target is evaluating how helpful their associates are. All associates have been instructed to ask anyone who passes within ten feet of them if they would like help finding anything, or to at least greet them. If you happen to ask a Mystery Shopper, the Shopper will be noting and reporting your name as successfully completing the task.

Skewed Results?

Clearly, however, all Target associates know that this is going on. Thus, the rabid, insistent, endless pestering of customers with offers of unneeded help.

What I fail to see is how this will produce an accurate evaluation of what goes on in Target stores on a normal, ordinary, everyday basis. If the test subject knows what’s being tested for, and is even given instructions on how and when to respond, and the exact code phrase to utter, then you only learn how well they perform that specific task at that specific time.

What you do not learn is how consistently they are cheerful, helpful associates under ordinary circumstances. (Which, actually, Target associates are. It’s one of the reasons we do shop there regularly.)

How to Survive This in the Meantime?

Some ideas have been bandied about in comments and e-mail. Among the t-shirt slogans suggested for wear in the stores during evaluation periods:

  • No thank you, I don’t need you to help me find anything, and if I do, I’ll ask.

  • I’M NOT A SECRET SHOPPER! (I actually think this one would be quite amusing. Would the associates wonder if it was a test?)

Knowing that coming within ten feet of an associate is supposed to trigger the question, it should be possible to try to navigate the stores, treating the associates like sandbars in the Mississippi that must be kept a certain distance away from the boat. It might be difficult to find a path that lets you get close to what you’re shopping for, but you’ll get more exercise than if you walked straight to it!

And Gryphon suggested that, knowing it’s a Secret Shopper thing, maybe we should just smile knowingly when they ask the question…

Now, as to why it’s okay for the associates to know they’re being evaluated, but not to let the customers know that’s why they’re being annoyed to heck – any theories?

Target Stores – Window Shopping Killjoys?

Filed under: Daily Life,Shopping Adventures — folkcat at 1:14 pm on Thursday, October 19, 2006

Gryphon and I just got home from our weekly Target shopping trip. We shop there regularly because we use their pharmacy for our prescriptions. We also find that they routinely have pretty good prices on a fair number of items that we use.

Today, however, we were almost ready to nuke the place. By the time we left, Gryphon and I had collectively and seperately been asked “Can I help you find anything?” by at least ten different staff members.


Yes, ten. In the space of about, oh, twenty minutes of shopping.

It’s our practice at Target to always include a round of window shopping – cruising around the store, seeing what’s new on the shelves and discovering products we didn’t realize they had.

This is not a concentrated search for any specific object. It’s an aimless gathering of information, to be stored in our brains for future reference. It is not necessary to “help” us “find” anything. And on the occasions where we haven’t been able to guess where something is located, it hasn’t been that difficult to find a staff member, and the staff has always cheerfully steered us in the right direction.

In other words – No, you can’t help us find anything. And for the love of god, please stop asking!

Personally, I wind up feeling like they want me to hurry up, make my selection, and get out of the store. “Can I help you find something? {Unspoken – Please let me help you find something, you’re taking far too long and it makes me nervous to see you walking around this much.}

The Customer Service Desk, when we attempted to complain about this today, said they were happy that we were asked so many times, because it meant that the staff was doing their job. They dismissed our complaint with a comment that the results of their online surveys said people frequently had trouble finding things, and that meant that being more helpful and available was a good thing. The official policy is that every staff member is supposed to ask every guest this question.

Shooting Themselves in the Foot

Ultimately, I think Target will find this hurts their sales. It’s a common understanding in the retail business that the longer your customers – or guests, as Target is wont to call them – linger in the store, the more they will buy. In other words, window shopping is good for the bottom line.

Which means it’s just as true that making your guests feel rushed is bad for the bottom line.

Perhaps Target is taking the name of the store too literally. Do they really want me to come in with a specific target in mind, to obtain only that target, and then to leave the store promptly? Because that’s what the current policy is encouraging me to do.

Heck, if they want to take this seriously, they shouldn’t waste so much energy and staff time making attractive displays. No one’s going to be lingering long enough to be distracted by them, anyhow.

Edited later to add: Two commentors have suggested (one more tactfully than the other) that perhaps the stores are doing this as a shoplifting deterrent. That is a valid point. However, the staff behavior in question is no less annoying to legitimate, non-thieving customers, even if that is the reason for it.

NH Wool Arts Tour, Conclusion: The Wheel Deal

Filed under: Craft Shopping,Shopping Adventures,Special Events,Spinning — folkcat at 2:24 pm on Thursday, October 12, 2006

The final two stops on the Wool Arts Tour were hardly picture worthy. Western View Farm had several vendors under tents in the back yard of a farmhouse; The Fiber Studio had a few vendors selling hand-dyed yarns and personal care items like lotion and soap.

The only story left to tell about took place at The Fiber Studio. Gryphon and I had already examined multiple spinning wheels at Mirage Alpacas, and were beginning to get a feel for what I wanted. At the Fiber Studio, Gryphon decided to stay in the car and rest while I took a look around.

I headed for the wheels on display, and began treadling. And conclusions were reached.

I recognize that every wheel does its job reasonably well, and that wheels that don’t suit me are probably perfect for someone else. The following opinions are purely based on the suitability of the wheels for me, so please don’t take them as a blanket generalization.

There were Kromski wheels. There were Ashford wheels.There was a Louet.

I put my feet to the Kromski treadles. Each Kromski wheel struck me as relatively noisy as it spun. There was a persistent rattle and hum. While many would not be bothered by the low level of noise, I am easily disturbed by extraneous noises in my environment, and I already live in a downtown apartment location with lots of traffic sounds, and fairly noisy neighbors. So Kromski went off my personal list, as I couldn’t tolerate the noise.

I tried the Louet. It was – okay. The footman attached to the wheel so close to the hub that getting it started took a lot of effort. So beginning to treadle tended to be jerky, and getting it to go in the direction of your choice was a little tricky. I’m looking for smooth, easy to operate action – strike the Louet.

I had seen most of the Ashford wheels at Mirage Alpacas, and found treadling them to be a little jerky. Several had treadles small enough to be an uncomfortable fit for my size 10 extra-wide feet. But there was an Ashford Traveller on display at The Fiber Studio, so to be fair, I gave it a try. It seemed to treadle smoothly enough, even changing directions fairly well. But even through my heavy walking shoe soles, I could feel a little *click* in my feet with every step. That would drive me insane as it was – and in use at home, it would be worse, since I’d almost certainly be treadling barefoot 99% of the time. That was the final nail in the coffin for Ashfords for me.

At last, I turned to the remaining wheel in the room – a Lendrum Double Treadle (DT). At a glance, it was apparent this was a well-built piece of woodwork. You know how it is when you’re looking at two nearly identical pieces, same materials, same pattern – yet you can tell immediately which was made by a master of the craft? That’s how it was when I looked at the Lendrum.

I put my feet to the treadles. Good size. Began pumping. Smooth action, the best of any wheel I’d tried that day. Direction changed easily. I listened – only a mere whisper of sound as the wheel whipped around.

The Lendrum also met my criteria for appearance – clean lines, not overly frilly, yet not so Modern Art-ish that you felt it should be in the Guggenheim instead of your living room. Kromski’s had always looked to me like they had too much gingerbread; there are certain Louet models that are so stark as to be outright ugly. I wanted a wheel that would be a pleasure to look at as I worked, since I’d be looking at it a lot.

But did the Lendrum have the features I needed? My desire to spin laceweight demands those capabilities, and my budget insists that whatever wheel I settle on be able to fill my needs for a long, long time. I asked the owner for some documentation I could look at, and she pulled out some pages listing the specifications and the optional add-ons.

The Lendrum as purchased (in the regular package) does not include the Fast Flyer that gives laceweight ratios. The Complete package for $115 more adds both that and the plying head, but doesn’t give a break on the price when you buy the bundle. Since the Fast Flyer only costs about $30, it’s easy for me to add that now, and worry about the plying head later.

I got Gryphon from the car and told him what I’d found – and that I was as sure as I could be that this was the one. He came in with me, and we talked to the owners of the shop.

They said that they had two Lendrum DT’s in stock, and that if they needed to order one from the manufacturer for me it could take six months or longer to come in. But they didn’t want me to lock in my decision until I’ve taken the spinning class at their store at the end of the month. So how do we deal with this – what if it happened that the class confirmed my conviction that the Lendrum is the wheel for me, but they’ve sold both of their stock wheels in the meantime? Not likely to happen, perhaps, but it was still a possibility.

I couldn’t swear that they’d do this for everyone, so please don’t try to make them offer you the same plan. The Fiber Studio does do layaways as a regular policy. But in this case, they insisted that they would let me put money down on the Lendrum, and they’d hold one for me – but that I could change my mind and get a different wheel if, after the class, I felt differently.

How cool is that?

So we plopped a down payment on the counter, and made the Wheel Deal. I have a Lendrum DT in reserve, to be confirmed or not when I take the spinning class, and to be paid in full no later than when Gryphon gets his Christmas bonus at the beginning of December.

There WILL be a wheel in this house before the end of the year.

It gets worse – she’s already got a name. Dizzy Lizzy Lendrum.

I think this spinning thing just might take.

NH Sheep & Wool, Part Three: The Search for the Wheel Truth

Filed under: Craft Shopping,Shopping Adventures,Special Events,Spinning — folkcat at 1:31 pm on Wednesday, October 11, 2006

On to Stop #2 on the Wool Arts Tour, Chauncey Farm in Antrim, NH.

Chauncey Farm Stand

Among the things that caught Gryphon’s eye:

A 700-pound pumpkin;

700 pound Pumpkin

Me, watching a very hungry alpaca;

Hungry Alpaca

The hungry alpaca’s shy, two-tone penmate.

Shy Alpaca

Lots of great vendors at this stop. Great yarn, lovely rovings, fun t-shirts. I don’t recall seeing a spinner sitting and spinning anywhere, though I may be mistaken.

I resisted all the fiber. I was on a mission at this point, after all. I had acquired my drop spindle, and now I wanted to see spinning wheels and talk to their owners. I admired the offerings available at Chauncey Farm, and came away with only a jar of homemade apple jelly (delicious!) and a bumper sticker that says Spin Free or Dye.

Next Stop: Mirage Alpacas

Over the river and through the woods, driving over hill and dale…it takes a while to get to Mirage Alpacas, but it’s worth it.

The only pictures Gryphon took here were of the field of alpacas one passes on the way from your parking spot w-a-a-a-a-y down the road to the entrance. Here’s the best one:

Field of Alpacas

After this, Gryphon got as lost as I did in the examination of spinning wheels and the (friendly) interrogation of their spinners. Mirage Alpacas is a distributor of a few makes of wheel, including Ashfords, and they have a room where many models are set up for test runs. While I didn’t actually spin anything on them, I did get a feel for the true size of each model, how it would sit in relation to my body as I spun at it, and I tried how the treadling felt and how easily one could make the wheel spin in either direction.

Adjacent to this was another large room with many vendors, and almost everyone seemed to be spinning. Almost all of our time at Mirage was spent talking to everyone about their wheels, getting their opinions about the different models.

One vendor had us each sit down at her Majacraft Rose and try the treadling. Amusingly, this was just as a reporter from the Hillsborough Villager newspaper came around taking pictures. He got some good shots of Gryphon pretending that he was actually spinning on the Majacraft. Then I pulled out my Lucite-shaft CD drop spindle and he photographed me spining on that. I think they publish later in the week; he told us that even if they don’t get into the paper, they put additional photos in the gallery at the website.

Other wheels I got to see included the Hitchhiker. It’s a cute little wheel, but not for me. I’m so set on spinning lace weight that there’s no point in my even considering a wheel that isn’t equipped to do that easily.

The one disappointment at Mirage was that the flyer for the Tour had listed demonstrations of a sock-knitting machine, and that wasn’t to be found anywhere. We did, at least, learn why – the woman who would do the demonstrations has been stuck running the Mirage Gift Shop for the last two years, and the sock machine demonstration isn’t supposed to even be listed in the flyer anymore. Ah, well.


The last two stops, and the resolution of the quest for the wheel!

NH Wool Arts Tour – Part Two: Children Rule at The Wool Room at Meadow Brook Farm

Filed under: Craft Shopping,Shopping Adventures,Special Events,Spinning — folkcat at 12:31 pm on Tuesday, October 10, 2006

As I mentioned yesterday, I turned Gryphon loose with the camera during the Wool Arts Tour. His picture taking tapered off as the day wore on, but I still think he took the best shots there were to take.

I decided we would do the Wool Arts Tour “forwards”, from stop #1 to stop #5, because I knew there was a vendor at the first stop that would have the laceweight spindles I wanted. (I showed my purchase yesterday.)

Wool Room Sign

The Wool Room hosted many very interesting vendors and demonstrations.

Spinning Buffalo

This woman, for instance, was spinning buffalo hair. She had baskets of the stuff for touch-and-feel, and brother, was it ever soft! It has a very short staple and may not be the best for a beginner spinner to work with, though she told me that it was what she began with. Apparently, she took up spinning because her family has a buffalo farm. They collect the fur from fences and shrubbery. Not that I can imagine shearing a buffalo – can you?

Walking Wheel

This was one of a couple of great wheels we saw in use on Saturday.

Diagonal Weave Rectangle Shawl Loom

The Spinning Bunny had this interesting loom set up. It’s adjustable in size, and weaves rectangular pieces. A continuous yarn is wound from nail to nail around the frame, somewhat like 70’s style string art, and where it crosses itself it’s woven over-and-under. I imagine this must be fascinating to work with!

Folkcat Learns About Crockpot Dyeing

When we first walked into the site, we thought this was a refreshment stand. After all, there were beverage bottles with colored liquids lined up along one side, and a crockpot on the other! But no, it turned out to be a demonstration of crockpot dye techniques. I’ve been wanting to try that as my next dyeing experiment, though I may still use my Kool-Aid and Wilton food colors where “real” wool dyes were being used here. I got copies of the how-to handouts and paid close attention as she explained how to layer the roving and dye in the pot.

One of the most striking features of the exhibitors at The Wool Room was how many of them were fairly young children.

Triangle Shawl Loom

This young lady was doing a very skilled job of weaving on a triangular loom. She’s making a ruana. What you can see is actually the second layer of weaving that’s on the loom. She completed one layer, than another layer on top of that. Before removing the work, she’ll sew two edges together while it’s still on the loom. How clever is that?

Young Spinner

Here we have a demonstration of just how easy spinning is to learn. You don’t even have to be this high or anything. Heck, she’s barely any taller than the wheel when she’s sitting! She’s doing a great job, though – and look at the concentration on her face!

The Wool Room opened up an extra back room to display an assortment of small looms with equally small operators.

Structo 4-Harness Loom

Gryphon was fascinated by the work being done here. The loom is a 4-harness one made of metal, but even more interesting is the fact that it was made by the Structo company – better known for making metal construction toys. Not sure when this one was actually manufactured, but it obviously still works well.

Inkle Weaving

And this young lady was nearly finished with a length of orange and cream ribbon on an inkle loom. When asked about her work she was very articulate about how the loom was warped, how the weaving works, and what her next steps were. I wish I had a close-up of her weaving, her selvedge edges were perfection!

Coming Next

Off to Mirage Alpacas, and what will Folkcat do about a wheel?

A Whole World in the Grain of Wood

Filed under: Daily Life,Shopping Adventures — folkcat at 12:42 pm on Monday, October 2, 2006

Well, I had a spiritually upsetting weekend. I won’t be telling you all the details, but let me start by showing you what happened very late Friday night.

Broken Teak Tray
Broken Teak Tray

This isn’t just a crack, the tray is broken into two separate and distinct pieces.

This upset me for a couple of reasons. First, my mother has had a tray exactly like this all my life. I can’t remember a time she didn’t have it, and she still uses it today. I have many images in my mind of her setting up a nice little midday meal or evening snack for herself on her tray and taking it to where she lounges on the couch. It always seemed a scene of peaceful contentment, watching her there.

When I grew up and (eventually) got married, moved to New Hampshire, and began a life as part of a couple, I had a notion of something similar for myself. It never occurred to me to look for a tray like my mothers. But then, one day at the Still Good Shed at the Nashua Landfill, there it was – the identical twin to my mothers, except that the finish was intact, where hers had been worn off by years of use and cleaning.

It wasn’t until a couple of months ago that I began my own little evening ritual, however. I decided to begin having a glass of wine with a little snack, around 9 o’clock in the evening, on those weeknights when I’m home alone and Gryphon doesn’t get home from work until after midnight.

The elements of the ritual quickly codified themselves. A votive candle lit at the front of my little white table that pulls up to my armchair. The room lights dimmed. A television or movie selection that I am eager to watch, that engrosses me. A glass of wine. A little cheese and crackers, or some similar indulgent snack.

And my wooden tray, the one like my mothers, like the one that she uses for a similar purpose, but that she probably doesn’t think of as a spiritual ritual the way I do – just as a moment of relaxation.

The wooden tray was the object that defined that little white table as an altar for the occasion. Carrying the tray in with the food and wine signaled the start of the ritual. Gazing at the rich teak grain in the candlelight pleased the eyes, setting the mood.

And then, late Friday night, the tray was broken. It doesn’t matter how. But I was shocked when I realized how much grief I suddenly felt in my heart.

I like to think I have a healthy perspective about material objects and what they mean to me. Most things are, after all, just things, and I know that and treat them accordingly.

But a very strong part of my personal belief system involves the power of ritual objects. Ritual objects are not just things. They contain, and help define, personal power and energy.

I had known ever since I found it lo, ten years ago at least, that this tray was special to me, if only for the connection I felt with my mother when I used it. But just since August of this year, it had become a powerful ritual object for me as part of my nightly wine ritual.

And now it was broken.

I sobbed, inconsolably, for much of Friday night. Saturday morning, I examined the markings on the back of the tray, hoping against hope that I could find something about it on the web. I knew my mother had hers since at the least the 60’s, so I didn’t feel much confidence.

Teak Tray Mark
The Markings read “Backman/Made in Finland”

I was able to find exactly one reference. In 2004, in an auction of Scandinavian Modern furniture and home decor items, a larger tray with the identical marking was part of a lot of four assorted trays. The lot also included a smaller tray without a marking that matched mine in appearance and size.

The auction estimate for the lot was $100-$200. I have no idea what it actually sold for.

The problem is clear. I have/had an Eames period Scandinavian Teak tray with the original finish and a known maker’s mark. Even if I can turn one up, it’s likely to be in a collector’s sale or auction.

Without my tray, it felt as though my ritual could not continue.

How We Restored the Ritual

Gryphon felt my pain about the loss of the tray – and my ritual – and he determined that we would find some way to restore it, and fast.

Saturday, we bundled into the car and headed up to Concord, with a plan to visit The Viking House, a Scandinavian gift shop in Concord, NH. They sell kitchen wares and home goods, as well as imported Scandinavian and European foods and collectibles. If anyone had a wooden tray with Scandinavian Modern lines, they would.

My heart was heavy all the way there. But when I walked in the door, one of the first things I saw was a display of wooden trays, plates, and bowls, including this:

Monkey Pod Plate
Monkey Pod Tray/Plate

The grain is beautiful. The wood is Monkey Pod, and was marked as such on the back with a woodburner.

I’m especially fond of this section where the grain ripples.

Rippled Monkey Pod Grain

A Ritual Reclaimed

My wine glass had been broken as well, but it was only one of the cheap basic type that you can get anywhere – and that we have a dozen or so of in the house. With my new wooden tray, I reclaimed my wine ritual on Saturday evening.

I felt much relieved.

Hope Continues

I still hold out hope that I’ll find another tray like the teak one someday. The new Monkey Pod tray is lovely, and is now my ritual object. But it will never give me the same feeling of connection with my mother that the teak tray did.

If anyone sees something like it out there, I’d love to know. I can’t afford to pay collector’s prices, so we’re looking for an attic treasure or a yard sale or flea market find. The marking is photographed above. The tray is pressed from teak plywood, and measures about 16 inches by 8 inches. I can’t offer a reward or much of a finder’s fee, but if someone actually did find my tray for me, I’d find some way to thank them effectively.


I know what happened this weekend can’t begin to compare with the loss of a pet, a loved one, with surviving a hurricane or other disaster. For me, personally, however, it was one of the largest losses in my life thus far. Which I know means that A) I’ve been very lucky, and B) I’m sure it will be outstripped by some larger event eventually.

I guess I’m saying that, if you’ve been reading this and thinking “Why is she so upset over an old, broken tray?”, I hope you’ll understand it within the context of my own life, and see it for the large event it feels like for me. Or imagine how you’d feel if an object of importance from your personal – or your church’s – altar was destroyed. Because that’s what happened to me.

Thanks for listening, and Happy Knitting and Spinning to you!

What a Blogger Will Do

Filed under: Craft Shopping,Knitting,Knitting Groups,Shopping Adventures,Special Events,Spinning — folkcat at 12:34 pm on Friday, September 29, 2006

We had quite the cheerful crowd at Knitting Around at Panera last night! When I walked in with my friend Anne, there were already four happy, chatty knitters sitting by the fire – Bea, Judy, Lucille, and Kathy (all blogless). The needles flew as fast as the conversation, and we had a grand old time!

In Which I Go The Extra Mile For My Readers

Oh, the things a blogger will do just for something different to write about. Yesterday, it was time once again to cast on for socks.

Now mind you, I’ve been perfectly content with my sock knitting technique. I knit one at a time, and I can switch at will between 5 dpns, Magic Loop, and 2 circs. And I’ve never been bothered by the so-called second sock syndrome – I just accept repeating the entire process as a natural part of sock knitting.

So what approach did I take last night as I began a new pair? Well, any of the above would have been boring, because you’ve seen me knit socks in each method before. And there was no novelty factor to be found in either my pattern (my own Barefoot Diva Socks) or the yarn (Knit Picks’ discontinued Essential Stripes in Sunset, which you’ve all seen a million times on many blogs and in the catalog, I’m sure.)

How, then, did I make a new pair of socks worthy of blogging? By teaching myself a new knitting parlor trick!

And so, without further ado, I present to you my first

Two Socks on Two Circulars

Two Socks on Two Circulars
Two, Two, Two Socks in One

Yuppers – last night I bulled my way through the mental gymnastics of figuring out how to get this cast on, and how to manipulate the needles, balls of yarn, and the knitting itself. All so that I would have something new and different to show you.

The things I do for you!

The Truth

Okay, it’s not entirely that I did this for the blog and my readers. I’ve been meaning to try this out anyhow, just to see what the fuss was about. You, my readers, provided a handy excuse for going after it sooner rather than later. Thank you!

What do I think of it? Well, it’s a bit of a trick keeping things straight. I’m working on two 40″ Addi Turbo size 1’s, and while the length has never been an issue when working a single sock on two needles, I’m wondering if shorter cables might simplify the maneuvering as I switch between socks. Still, it’s clearly doable with what I’ve got, so I don’t think I’ll go to the approximately $30 expense that getting two sets with shorter cables would entail.

As a knitter used to whipping out single socks fairly quickly, it is a little discouraging to see what feels like only half the progress for the same amount of knitting time. The mind’s eye has trouble making the leap to realize that the half amount of progress should be multiplied by two for a true measure of accomplishment.

Since I’ve only managed around an inch of each sock so far, I think it’s too early to really pass judgment on the 2 socks/2 circs technique. So I’m going to continue to evaluate this as my work progresses.

Coming soon!

A week from tomorrow (Sat., Oct. 7), I’ll be making the rounds of the 2006 NH Wool Arts Tour. Gryphon will drive, and I’m hoping to bring a couple of my friends along for the adventure. I’ll try to remember to take pictures, but I’ll also be shopping – I’m hoping to come away with one or two nice laceweight spindles.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Wednesday Weekend Review

Filed under: Daily Life,Knitting,Shopping Adventures,Spinning,Yarn Recycling — folkcat at 4:48 pm on Wednesday, September 6, 2006

I’ve alluded recently to the notion that we had to make a point of getting me out of the house all day Saturday. This led to a nice little fiber crawl with my friend Bea. As promised, here’s my post about the goodies I bought that day.

Stringy Start

First stop was Colonial Needleworks in Bedford, the best local source for fine supplies for cross-stitch, needlepoint, and related needle arts. This was our first visit to the shop, and I had a goal – a better selection of colors of Size 8 Perle Cotton, to use for bead knitting.

I met that objective.

Perle Cotton and Metallic Floss
Perle Cotton and Metallic Floss

The metallic floss is also a DMC product, and it’s intended use is for a special style of beaded crochet chain necklaces that another friend, Judith, has designed. It’s featured in the current issue of Bead Patterns Magazine, an online subscription-based beadwork publication.

Misplaced Memories and Missed Exits

Next stop was the Elegant Ewe in Concord, where I hoped to buy a McMorran Yarn Balance. But apparently, I was misremembering that it could be found there. So instead, I had to settle for two skeins of Noro Kureyon in Color #40 for my entre-lac knitting bag that I’m working on.

Noro Kureyon #40
Noro Kureyon, Color #40

Poor me.

After lunch in downtown Concord, we moved on to the Fiber Studio in Henniker. At least, we tried to. Eventually, when I started seeing signs that said Sunapee, I realized that we couldn’t possibly be in the right place.

So I pulled off of Rte. 89 at exit 9, and checked the maps. Sure enough, we should have taken exit 5, a ways back, to switch over from 89 to 202. Oops.

Bea and I suspect that the problem was that a little before we would have come to exit 5, we saw a huge accident on the other side of the divided highway, and that distracted us at just the moment we should have seen the signs that would cue us to change roads.

The maps didn’t show any easy direct route from where we were to where we wanted to be, so backtrack it was – all four exits.

Achieving Balance

Upon arrival at the Fiber Studio (at last!), I found the Yarn Balance I’d thought would be at Elegant Ewe.

McMorran Yarn Balance
McMorran Yarn Balance

Yay! It’s a little hard to see in the picture, but there is in fact a clear acrylic box sitting there with a balancing arm at the top. It’s a devilishly clever little gadget. Basically, you hang a length of the yarn that you want to know the yardage of on the v-shaped notch on the arm. Snip or add bits of yarn until the arm balances level. Then, measure the length in inches. Multiply that number by 100, and you have the number of yards per pound!

Magic. That’s what it is. (Okay, I know it’s science. But it really seems like magic the way the balance was designed to make the process so simple any idjit can make it work!)

Between this and my Wraps-Per-Inch tool (acquired on a previous shopping trip), I now know that the pink lambswool thrift store sweater that I’m recycling is a fingering weight yarn (22 WPI), and that I have 1815 yards of it. Give or take a yard or two. Plenty for a shawl! I’ll have to cruise the patterns and see what I like.

These two tools together will give me a much better sense for what I have in my yard sale and thrift store finds – and what I spin for myself! It all starts to feel a little less random now…

It Followed Me Home, Can I Keep It?

Of course, I had to study the wonderful roving offerings at the Fiber Studio, too. I’ve previously mentioned that I lusted after a purple merino/tussah silk blend that I chose to leave behind.

This time, I couldn’t resist. Surprisingly, though, it wasn’t the purple that followed me home – it was this lovely green blend.

Merino/Tussah Silk Roving, Green
Green Merino/Tussah Silk Roving

That’s 4 ounces of merino/silk, just waiting for me to work my way through some of my other spinning. And it’s soft…so s-o-o-o-f-t….my precious-s-s-s…

Health Update

Had a doctor’s appointment today. My weight is up, as is my sugar, but so is my good cholesterol.

The good news is that my doctor completely understood about the reasons why the weight and sugar numbers are up (and the sugar number wasn’t up into alarm regions, just up compared to my normal). She agreed that the problem with the mold allergy probably began in the spring, escalating as the grout cracks in the tile and the mold behind them grew. And that the difficulty with breathing that resulted is responsible for my inability to exercise this summer, and the slippage in my diet as I tried to eat what I could, when I could, and to just feel better for the moment.

Dr. M prescribed an albuterol inhaler for me that should help me breathe more easily and get back to exercise. (I used to have one a decade ago, but the asthma had pretty much gone away until this summer.) The way the budget falls, we can’t pick it up until tomorrow. But I feel a lot of relief over the allergy issues because A), we know the source now, and B) relief is on the way.

The bad news is, once again I have a doctor who’s leaving the practice on me. Since being in New Hampshire, I haven’t had the same doctor for more than a year at a time – if even that long. I keep trying to establish an ongoing relationship with one, but then they get pregnant and quit the practice, or move elsewhere, or something.

This time, Dr. M. will be moving to California because of her husband’s new job. He’s an engineer who was laid off here, and that’s where he could find work. She’s not happy with it – she says she’s moved ten times in the past eight years for similar reasons. I have to give her a lot of credit – where most doctors would just send out a form letter to their patients informing them of the change, she said she felt the only right way to do it was tell each one personally as she sees them. And at the end of the visit, she spontaneously gave me a hug!

I had my issues with Dr. M at first, but over the months we have come to understand each other and work together well. Judging from the empty spaces for doctors’ names on the plaque in the waiting area, I suspect they’ve had a lot of turnover on the staff recently. Dr. M. has specified a PA in the office for us to see next time, and we’ll have to wait and see how the local staff settles out to see who there is to sign up with next.

Thank you, Dr. M. You’ll be missed. And I think I’ll be dropping a gift bag off sometime in the next month for you before you go – something tells me the candy-apple red of Wearable Hug #14 would look good on you, and would be perfect for those cool California nights…

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