Monday, March 30, 2015

Interesting Reads - Two Books and a Website

Since I'm reading books constantly, blogging about them all would become tedious, for all of us.  But some recent reads are worth mentioning.  Not sure how I found it, but I just finished The Circle by Dave Eggers.  Highly recommended & fascinating:

The Circle (Dave Eggers novel - cover art).jpg  Ideas about the social construction and deconstruction of privacy, and about the increasing corporate ownership of privacy, and about the effects such ownership may have on the nature of Western democracy. Dissemination of information is power.

At the same time, I happened to be reading The Organized Mind by Daniel Leviton, which helped explain some of the multi-tasking, fast-paced work in The Circle and its effects on our brain.

In this impressively wide-ranging and thoughtful work, Mr. Levitin stresses the many ways in which evolution designed our minds to succeed in an environment that was utterly unlike the world of information overload we now face. And he aims to help us cope by providing concrete suggestions for solving the daily problems of modern existence.

And as a result of both books describing how the internet gathers information about us and targets us with what our apparent likes and dislikes are, I'm even more attracted to using StumbleUpon, a collection of the best pages on the Internet, according to what I, myself, choose to see.

Image result for stumbleupon

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Expressing Ourselves

I stumbled upon this vocabulary wheel on StumbleUpon (yes, yes I know - that's so bad it's not even a pun).  Sometimes it's hard to express what we're feeling.  I believe it was developed for therapists, but it's certainly useful for the rest of us.  Starting with the basic emotion in the center, one may move outward until the right description is found.  Journaling may never be the same!

Find the Perfect Word for Your Feelings with This Vocabulary Wheel

Monday, March 23, 2015


Yes, lacemaking does seem to be a dated art.  But I'm fascinated with it.  I've been crocheting since I was 8, taught myself to knit over these last few years, and just learned to tat recently.  Bobbin lace and hardanger lace are on my bucket list.  The following is from the Lacemakers of Puget Sound website, Oh yes, I foresee joining them in my near future!

An Introduction to Handmade Lace

Bobbin Lace

Bobbin lace is a miniature form of off-loom weaving, making an openwork fabric by looping, interlacing, braiding, or twisting of threads. Bobbins are used to hold the threads being manipulated, and pins inserted into a pillow hold the thread in place on the pattern. Bobbin lace is sometimes called “pillow lace”.


Tatting is a form of lace created by knotting thread using a shuttle or a needle. The thread is knotted to make curved lines (chains) and circles (rings). Small loops called picots embellish the work, and are connectors for the rings and chains. Currently, tatting is experiencing a revival due to its portability, versatility, and the development of new techniques.

Knitted Lace

Lace Knitting is a creative craft, and easy to learn. The laciness is created by deliberately-made holes, formed by increasing, decreasing, and yarn over stitches in the pattern. Knitted Lace is usually worked with fine threads or lace-weight yarn and smaller knitting needles, but can be worked with any size yarn or needles. Motifs and cloths are usually round and started in the center with four or five double-pointed needles, then transferred to circular needles when needed.


Needlelace dates from at least the fifteenth century. It is created with a needle and thread, the stitches being embroidered on threads which have been couched to a pattern drawn on fabric. Other stitches are added to these, connecting the outlining threads. The backing is later cut away, leaving only the lace.

Crocheted Lace

Crochet techniques with very fine thread or yarn are used to create lace. Irish lace is a famous version of crocheted lace, made with fine thread, and composed of motifs of raised flowers and shamrocks, connected by chains which are decorated with picots.

Other laces

Various other techniques have been used to create lacy textiles around the world, including knotting, hairpin lace, darning on net, embroidery on sheer fabric, and teneriffe (thread wound on a circular loom, and connected with darning stitches).

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Ply-Splitting Technique

Another weaving technique that fascinates me is ply-splitting.

Ply-split braiding is a technique where one twisted cord (“splitter”) passes through another twisted cord or cords splitting the plies of the latter cords (“splittee” cords). This is unlike weaving or many forms of braiding where cloth is formed by threads interlacing in an over-under sequence. Pattern is formed by cord color, and splitting order.  
Ply-split braiding is an ancient art that is practiced for making elaborate camel girths and other animal regalia of hand-spun goat hair, wool or sometimes cotton in northwestern India. The first written description of the technique appeared in 1976 with Virginia Harvey's "Split-Ply Twining".[1] In the introduction, she describes seeing two camel girths at Convergence 1974, and says that Peter Collingwood "suspected the pieces were produced by pulling one yarn through the ply of another". The ply-split girths examined for this publication were created with only one technique, now known as single course oblique twining (SCOT).

In preparation for the workshop on San Juan in May, I'm gathering my books and materials. In my library, selected for that "some day" (which is now fast approaching):

<I>How to Make Ply-Split Braids & Bands</I>  <I>How to Make Ply-Split Baskets</I>  

Ply-split Braiding, an introduction by Julie Hedges    

Some inspiring images of ply-splitting:



In my repertoire at the moment is only a single key chain (sample pic above), but I'm hoping to get to the point of designing my own baskets.

It's always good to have goals.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Mathematics and Fiber Arts

For lack of a better term, I'm a closet mathematician.  I love math, but do tend to hide it pretty well.  Until, that is, I find some books that correlate math with fiber arts.  Now I absolutely have to come out of the closet!!

First I found Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes by Daina Taimina, which is absolutely fascinating in explaining a complex geometric concept in very understandable terms.  Basically a hyperbolic plane is a surface in 3-space with constant negative curvature. (And that's the simple explanation.  It certainly gets more complicated from there. Just check out if you need to know the details.)  That's why this book is so captivating.  And her fiber creations are beautiful.  And yes, she includes the pattern and how to calculate how to create your own crocheted versions.

Image result for crocheting adventures with hyperbolic planes     Image result for crocheting adventures with hyperbolic planes

Daina Taimina... sparked great interest in this new tactile way of exploring concepts of hyperbolic geometry, making this advanced topic accessible to wide audiences

Naturally this led me to another discovery: Making Mathematics with Needlework, edited by Sarah-Marie Belcastro and Carolyn Yackel.  From her website:       So, what is in the book? Every chapter (except for the introduction) has four sections. First, there's an overview intended for both crafters and mathematicians, so it should be understandable to mathematicians who don't know anything about crafting and also for crafters who don't know anything about mathematics. Then, there's a section of detailed mathematics that is intended for mathematicians. All of the authors have made an effort to include basic information so that mathematical enthusiasts who are not professional mathematicians can follow the bulk of the material. The third section of each chapter contains teaching ideas, and these range from elementary-school level to graduate level. Finally, every chapter has a project, with instructions written for and tested by crafters.
There is an index with both mathematics and craft terms, and the usual acknowledgements, credits, table of contents, and such.

Just being able to read the mathematical equations associated with mobius bands, picking up stitches in knitting, crochet designs, the algebraic structure in socks, cables & braids, and so much more, makes me ever so happy.

She also talks about toroidal snarks on her website, but that is another topic for another day.

And now my secret is out.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Learning to Tat

In college I did some tatting - self-taught and rather awkwardly.  I've dreamed of learning to tat the right way, with the smooth back and forth with the shuttle.  So with the help of several books, a DVD, and youtube, I'm finally learning!  Making my hands work together is obviously going to take some practice.  But so far I love it!!
Tatting is a technique for handcrafting a particularly durable lace constructed by a series of knots and loops. Tatting can be used to make lace edging as well as doiliescollars, and other decorative pieces. The lace is formed by a pattern of rings and chains formed from a series of cow hitch, or half-hitch knots, called double stitches (ds), over a core thread. Gaps can be left between the stitches to form picots, which are used for practical construction as well as decorative effect.
Tatting dates to the early 19th century. The term for tatting in most European languages is derived from French frivolit√©, which refers to the purely decorative nature of the textiles produced by this technique. The technique was developed to imitate point lace.

And this is exactly what I wanted retirement to be....taking an interest in something and having the time to just delve in, learn, and work at it.  The photos below are NOT my work....I have a long way to go before sharing anything I've done!!
And one more nice thing....shuttles!  Plastic ones, wooden ones, carved ones....oh so many possibilities!!  Special tools truly do make a difference on oh so many levels.

Monday, March 2, 2015

What Is It About Books?

Cleaning out, sorting, downsizing all seem to come to a standstill when it gets to the books. What is it about them that make me (us) hold onto them?  Why is it so hard to part with them?  They are heavy and take up so much space.  They seem to be almost an intellectual security blanket.

An article from one of my favorite blogs advises to remember why you love books, then give them away.

What I love most about books is …

  • discovering them
  • curling up with them
  • getting lost in them, and then sometimes found
  • inspiration that sparks action
  • finding one sentence that lingers for days
  • giving them away
Both this article as well as a friend within the last week recommend reading:
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo.  

However, since I'm dealing with books right now, all the more reason to read it on my ereader!  It's just making that shift from the satisfying physical heft of a book to knowing I can read it in another format.  Maybe it's a generational thing?