Thanks to being browbeaten into compliance, I've submitted my shawl (despite the fact that it's still not flat and thin enough and needs to be blocked again) to the Puyallup Fair to be judged in the Home Arts category. I love that quilting, cross-stitching, sewing, pickling, canning, knitting, crocheting, etc are still called the home arts. I've been trying to think up other, more suitable names for them, like:
1. You've Become your Mother Arts 2. Go Home and Fix your Husband a Drink Arts 3. Would You Like Some Cool Whip on that Jello Arts 4. Jesus is my Accessory Arts 5. Feminism Never Happened Arts 6. I am a Feminist and I'm Doing this Because It's Fun, I Swear Arts 7. I have Fourteen Cats Arts
I also have to say that I was pretty amused by the guidelines for submission. One area the judges will pay special attention to is cleanliness of the submitted piece of knitted, crocheted, quilted or cross-stitched work. I'm picturing a nicotine-stained afghan knitted in Red Heart Pound of Love acrylic with bits of Spam still stuck to it. The image is very clear.
It's a cosmic punishment for being so smug when he first came home with us. I know that. That's what happens when you have pride. You get part of your cuticle torn away from your thumb. Poor Christian.
We're having some aggression issues with Sasha. We were foolish (so foolish!) when we first brought him home, and we have unleashed upon ourselves Nature, red in tooth and claw. Literally. I doubt that Sasha had any structure in his previous homes, if his behavior is any indication. He gets frustrated very, very quickly and his moods can change faster than a teenage girl's. All of the bird books espouse structure and consistency in the same way that books about human children do. They need rules, the books say, they need to rely upon their humans for the guidance as well as for food and shelter as, in their captive situations, they cannot provide any of these things for themselves. Don't begin patterning your bird with negative behavior when you first bring them home as it will lead to problems down the road. Carefully monitor your bird's posture and vocalizations as they will tell you what your bird is feeling and how to respond to it. Yep, yep, all true.
The charming and hilarious video below? Oh, if we could only go back and undo what has been done. He's nesting now, trying to build a home for a mate that will never come. He's mercurial and irritable and wants everything his way because we've set no boundaries. Christian can no longer pick him up from the ground or play with him in the same manner as he could even a week ago.
Birds bite because that's the only way they know how to communicate certain messages. This morning, Christian tried to step Sasha up onto a t-perch. Sasha didn't want to go, but Christian persisted, as he had always been able to do in the past. Sasha latched onto his thumb and wouldn't let go. I had to intervene with another hand-held perch and put Sasha back in his cage to allow Christian to tend to his very badly battered hand. It was torn in two places and bitten in several others. It's gotten very hard to tell which bites are new and which are old as Sasha will preen the scabs off the old bites if given half a chance.
It's a hard thing, wanting an animal to love you because you love it. We know Sasha is very attached to Christian, but fear of being bitten has changed a relationship that they both had grown to enjoy and rely upon. We now have to totally restructure how we interact with Sasha, try to establish a wholly different relationship, and that will be hard. We had gotten so complacent about being able to pick him up off of his cage and play with him that it will be a wrench to have to be more disciplined about using hand-held perches. I'm actually quite heartbroken that this poor bird that has had such an inconsistent life up until now has to endure more change because we were too lazy to pattern our interactions with him properly from the first day we brought him home.
Thanks to Rich (and, via him, Douglas Adams) and my obvious and compensatory (yes, I know about 50 people lately have said I need a kid) love for and obsession with parrots, I've become a little fixated on the Kakapo (fluffy bunny), the extremely endangered, flightless and utterly weird New Zealand parrot (pooper head). Now, my favorite living artist, Eleanor Grosch, has a print of the Kakapo (chicken butt), and all proceeds from purchases of the print go to Kakapo (squidgy doo) rescue.
There is a fine line between observing a problem and creating one. This is a perfect example of the latter. Considering that the folks unwillingly sucked into this controversy are actually involved with animal welfare and conservation at home (and here, as one of the ambassadors went to EVERGREEN and lives here half the year) and chose to come to our beloved zoo as an opportunity to share their work, the argument that they are "part of the exhibit" is offensive and ludicrous, especially as it implies that the very people who are working the hardest to protect their own environment and who have traveled around the world to help us greedy bastard consumers understand that our wastefulness has far-reaching consequences are naive enough to be hoodwinked into a being part of a Victorian sideshow.
You all know about my fixation with alpacas. During the first visit to the farm of long-lashed will-destroyers, I purchased from the farm store a beautiful hank of dark turquoise fingering weight alpaca yarn spun from the animals at the farm with a shimmery metallic thread plied in. I debated long about what to knit with it, as it was very expensive, $36 a hank, and I wanted to make something particularly lovely and worthy of the cost and effort. I couldn't decide and couldn't decide and kept buying more and more of the yarn every time we'd drive to Bellingham to visit the IL's and would stop at the farm (well, I'd take the exit without any say from Christian as I usually drive and he is at my mercy). No one else was buying it, and it was all one dye lot, so I kept accumulating it at $36 a pop until I had four of the five hanks available, which equalled 1,460 yards of yarn. That's a lot. I just couldn't bear to knit anything boring with it, so I kept swatching and frogging and setting it aside to think on it.
Late last year, while reading one of the many knitting magazines that litter our bedroom floor and make me twitch either with disgust from the hideous waste of perfectly good wool or with lust over yarn I could NEVER afford, I came across an article on knitted lace. There were pictures of the most incredible shawls I'd ever seen, straight out of Queen Victoria's dress wardrobe. Catherine the Great would have gone to war over some of these pieces (she apparently was given a gift of a spectacular wedding-ring shawl from the Hebrides and had the eyes of the knitter put out, ugh, so she couldn't knit any more, but the knitter's daughter had learned the craft and passed down her skills to following generations, bless her). Anyway, I really wanted a good project to be portable and beautiful, so I found a pattern I liked from KnitPicks.com (as they had really jumped on the lace train (snork)), the candle-flame shawl pattern, and brought it on the plane with me to England last January. I only finished about a few inches on that trip as we were so busy, but I had lots of time this last Spring in which to knit and finished the body in about three months. It wouldn't normally have taken nearly so long, but I had to periodically set it aside to work on other projects, like hedgehogs and sweater sets.
Once it was done, though, it seemed a little drab. I had purchased second hand a book on traditional knitted shawl patterns and the author had charted out some beautiful edges. She also included instructions on how to actually knit the edging onto the body of the completed work by picking up edge stitches every other row. As I really wanted to make this damn thing spectacular (I had visions of walking into a performance and hearing everyone gasp with awe and admiration of the sheer gorgeousity of the thing), I picked a wide border that I thought would compliment the overall pattern of the body. I had also, unfortunately, read an article about beading your knitting, and HAD to buy Czech glass beads in the same color as the yarn to add to the yarn overs in the edging. Yeah. Just a little mad.
So, I threaded on all the beads and started to knit, and it took a really, really long time. I fortunately realized fairly early in the trim knitting that I'd run out of yarn and had to ask the farm to send me the final hank of yarn that had, fortunately, not been purchased. I was getting so close to the end by the last week of July that I spent six hours knitting last Monday while Shelly and I watched the Thin Man movies I had received from Christian for our anniversary (thanks, honey!). Well, after seven and a half months, 5,470 feet of yarn and 1,500 pre-strung beads, I finished the damn thing. And boy, did it look terrible. However, it's supposed to. Lace knitting looks like a pile of twisted ass when finished, as it has to be aggressively blocked to lie flat and look proper. I read all the lace blocking instructions on reputable sites and decided to make my own blocking frame out of PVC and eye hooks. It took about five hours last Friday night to cut the pipe, drill the holes and screw in the hooks. This is what it looked like (and it's modular so I can take it apart to store and make any size to allow for varied garment blocking):
I had to soak the shawl in warm water and mild detergent, and then gently press out the excess water with a towel. Bask in the lumpy shrivellness:
To get all the little edge points to stick out and get the body to lay flat, I strung each point with twine and ran the twine through the hooks:
Christian helped me, and once all the twine was in place, I pulled it tight and began to see the incredible definition of the lace pattern in the body and on the edge:
I cannot tell you how this sight made me feel. It was so lovely and graceful-looking that I could barely believe that gallumphing me had knitted it.
When I took it off the frame after it had completely dried, it only sprang back the tiniest bit. All of the edging peaks stayed peaky and the pattern definition stayed defined. The pretty beads make a wonderful clacking sound when they hit together and give the piece a lovely drape, so my efforts were rewarded.
The final measurements of the thing top 9 feet long by 3.5 feet wide. Should provide me with plenty of coverage, if I can only think of something worthy with which to wear it. Maybe I'll have to make a dress. Hmmmm...
The topic for the second hour of KUOW's Weekday was birds in the home, so I HAD to call in and put in a plug for parrot adoption. You can listen to it here. I'm about 35 minutes in. Do I always sound that over-eager and knowitallish? Ugh. Still, good topic.
I'm an opera singer and SAHM. I live in Seattle with my husband Christian and daughter Viv, where we have a little red house which we share with two snakes, two box turtles, three parrots and all of my neuroses and allergies. God, we're going to be devoured by our pets.