Monday, July 25, 2011

Temari bling

I recently bought some metallic threads to use on my temari from Barb Seuss's on-line shop. They certainly add sparkle to a temari. A fun way to try all my new metallics was the first ball in Barb's book
Japanese Temari: A Colorful Spin on an Ancient Craft. (All of the temari in this post are based on patterns in that book, with my choice of colors. I am currently working my way through the book.)

Metallic thread used with the pine-needle stitch to fill empty spaces is fun and easy.
  A more subtle approach is to just use the metallic to divide the ball.
On this temari I used some gold to outline some of the shapes. 
This simple wrapped design has a more elaborate obi; after I stitched it I noticed that the colors I chose perfectly match the colors of a Moroccan bowl I had out on display while I was working on it.

Monday, July 18, 2011

It's a shawl world after all

I used to say "I am not a shawl person." I couldn't really imagine myself wearing one because clothes that aren't firmly attached to my body seem to get entangled, fall off, or get in the soup. Yet I  knit three shawls just because I like knitting them. I enjoyed the challenge of my first lace shawl,  Print O' the Wave Stole designed by Eunny Jang.
I enjoyed the portability while traveling: one tiny ball of lace weight yarn provides hours and hours of knitting enjoyment. The magic of blocking to transform a pile of random looking yarn into a thing of beauty was so satisfying. I love the leaf shapes on Muir designed by Rosemary Hill.
   Recently, a curious thing happened—I started wearing my shawls. And you know what? Wearing a shawl isn't all that hard; so far I haven't had any shawl mishaps. My smallest shawl a Swallowtail Shawl by Evelyn A. Clark.
It's the perfect little addition to take along when I'm worried about a slight chill on a summer evening. My larger shawls are quite effective against overly powerful summer air-conditioning in restaurants or movies. The best part is that the shawl can be put in a very small zip plastic bag and into the purse, to be whipped out when needed.
It saves the inconvenience of lugging around a large sweater in hot weather and the embarrassment having people say things like "You're really going to take that?" I am a shawl person after all.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Cranes scare bikers

On a recent bike ride on the 40 mile (64 km) Military Ridge Trail near Madison, bicycling traffic came to a complete halt due to some very agitated parents. There was a great hullabaloo while they called and strutted threateningly on and near the trail.
Was it respect for the birds or the fact that a Sandhill Crane is 4 to 5 feet tall (1.2-1.5 meters) and armed with a long sharp bill? It turns out that a chick that is only about a day old ignores parental efforts to herd it away from people—it likes the newly mown grass on the edge of the trail. Even there we could rarely see it because it was so tiny.
Eventually the parents switched tactics and tried to decoy us up a hill and away from where the chick  was. They just don't get it that bicyclists don't like to ride in tall grass, but at that point we felt it was safe to ride away on the trail and leave them in peace until the next cyclists came along. It looked like the new parents had a busy afternoon ahead of them.
Nitty gritty: Wisconsin had the very first rail-to-trail in the US and has gone one to develop an extensive system with hundreds of miles of car-free trails on former railroad beds. Most of them are surfaced with crushed limestone and a bike with fairly skinny tires can handle them. Between the trails and an amazing network of paved secondary roads, Wisconsin is heaven for bicyclists. And don't forget the cheese!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Just a tourist here myself

   I like to play tourist in  my regular stomping grounds and see things with a fresh eye. (There is nothing like being on a bicycle to help us notice the details; rest stops are an ideal time to explore places that in a car we would be whizzing past.)  This week we stopped in at the Cedar Grove Cheese factory in Plain, Wisconsin to see where some of our favorite local cheese comes from. We saw them shoveling sheep milk cheese.
It wouldn't surprise me to see enough cow cheese to shovel, but sheep aren't all that common in Wisconsin. The nice young man at the counter, an aspiring opera singer, said they produce over 10,000 pounds (about 4,5000 kilograms) of cheese a day. Most of it is cow cheese and they specialize in organic and rBGH-free cheese. Besides being shipped out in big trucks, some of their cheese goes all over the world via UPS. After sampling and buying cheese, refilling our water bottles, and enjoying the air conditioned store, we checked out their Living Machine next to the factory.
Cedar Grove uses tanks with natural microbes and hydroponic plants to clean up their wastewater so it's clean enough put it into Honey Creek. It processes about 7,000 gallons (26,000 liters) of water a day.
  A couple of days later, a very challenging hilly ride took us from North Freedom across the ancient Baraboo Range to Loganville. Even though two state highways intersect there, minutes can go by between vehicles; it's a very quiet little town. By the time we arrived, our packed sandwiches seemed rather paltry, so we were happy to discover Aunt Ozie's Cafe where we refueled with a tasty lunch including some of the best home-made potato salad I've ever tasted.
Across the street is Burmester's Grocery Store, where one can do a bit of time travel to a really old fashioned grocery store.
The stock is a little sparse; I wanted a candy bar and fortunately Mr. Burmester had several Snickers bars on hand.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

WWDD (What would Daruma do?)

I am fascinated by Daruma, the name the Japanese call Bodhidharma, a 5th century monk who was the founder of Zen Buddhism. Images of Daruma are very common in Japan and dolls and figures of him often allude to how centered he was as a result of all his meditation. Legend has it he meditated for so long that his legs atrophied and fell off. There are Daruma toys that due to a rounded bottom come back upright after you try to tip them over. I have a toy that consists of a Daruma figure on top of a stack of wooden cylinders. Using the mallet that is included, one tries to knock each of those cylinders out from under Daruma without upsetting him. This game is almost a form of meditation; one needs to concentrate and center oneself to succeed. The version I have is 15" (38 cm.)
One of my favorite things about Daruma is that although he is so centered, he is often depicted as rather wild-eyed and ill-tempered. So as I waited in line last week to rebook after my second cancelled flight of the day, I liked the fact that a famous holy man could be depicted like this a 3" (7.6 cm) figure.
Even if he felt ill-tempered I imagine he wouldn't have yelled at the ticket agent and neither did I.
   The next day when I got up at 4:30 a.m. for my third attempt at leaving town, I could identify with this small (1 3/4"/4.4cm) carving of Daruma yawning.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Celebrating the world's tallest flying bird

Continuing my series of temari inspired by cranes, I made one that reminds me of the Sarus Crane, the worlds tallest flying bird. When it flies, quite a bit of black is visible on its wing tips.
 You can learn more about this magnificent bird that lives in India, Nepal, and Pakistan at the International Crane Foundation's site.
 I wrapped this 3.6" (9.2 cm) diameter temari with DMC coton perle 8. Like cranes, this embroidery thread comes in black and white and lovely shades of gray. This is the first temari I've made with Nordic Gold thread. It really set off the sections of threads and made them look more like feathers. Compare it to the previous ball that I did before I got the gold.