Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Snapshots from the Chain Link 2017 Design Competition


One of the best parts of attending a CGOA conference is seeing what other people are making. (And wearing!) Being surrounded by so much creativity is inspiring, and nowhere is the creativity more evident than in the Design Competition.

Here are some highlights of this year's entries....

Each of these three pieces won a prize. The lovely wrap on the right was constructed
entirely from chain stitch and single crochet.

This amazing wall hanging won the People's Choice Award.

Another prize winner - a beautifully creative combination of beadwork and crochet
by Hazel Furst. Notice that many of the capital letters are musical notes, and the
hangers are made from conductor's batons.

That gorgeous shawl in the foreground was designed by Susan Lowman.

Never heard of this designer.... (cough)

A stunning Tunisian capelet by Juliette Bezold, who used contrast stitches to highlight
the increases and decreases. Sweet!

"Rainbow in Cloud" - this adorable blanket took first prize in the Home Decor category.

Peacock-feather detail from an amazing outfit. I wish I could have
gotten a good shot of the entire project.

Fabulous hairpin lace tunic by Annette Hynes.

Detail of a lovely freeform crochet wrap by Kristin Lynn. Star stitch, Solomon's knots,
and bullion stitch are just some of the interesting techniques used.

"Rock Steady Seasons of Indiana" by Gwen Blakely Kinsler. How creative is this!

I know you've seen this project already,
but check out the ribbon! I won a prize! :D

There were so many beautiful entries - I wish I could have gotten photos of them all. (A complete album should be available soon on the CGOA website.)

Next year's conference is in Portland. Start making your travel plans!

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Monday, July 31, 2017

Shapshots from Chain Link 2017

I just got back from 5 wonderful days at Chain Link 2017, the annual conference of the Crochet Guild of America. This year's meeting was held just outside Chicago, a short 2½ hour drive away.

Here are some favourite memories from the meeting....

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The lovely hotel:


Crocheting in the sun while making new friends:


The Marketplace (cue heavenly choir):


Yumiko Alexander's elegant booth:


Beautiful yarn and breathtaking roving:


Enticing samples and amusing pottery:


Wonderful food:


Interesting people:


A tiny ball of new yarn on my lap:


And a kindred spirit for a roommate:


Not pictured: the learning, the laughter, the fun, the late-night crochet sessions, the tea at 2 am, the airplanes flying past our hotel window at the rate of about one every minute, and the fantastic crochet fashion show. Wish you could all have been there!

Tomorrow I'll post some photos of the design competition.

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Do you belong to any craft guilds, or have you ever attended a craft conference? Do tell.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Cycling's Big Heart

When Mr. M came home from the library the other day, he handed me a book, saying "I thought you might enjoy this."

Shut Up Legs! by Jens Voigt (with James Startt)

Those of you who follow professional cycling, or regularly watch the Tour de France, will immediately recognise the name (and probably the voice) of Jens Voigt. For those of you who don't: Jens is a retired professional cyclist, also a happy husband and proud father of six. Born in East Germany, he competed as an amateur for his country before turning professional in 1997. Over the course of his career, he started 17 times in the Tour de France, and rode in countless other world tours and stage races, winning several, but more often playing a supporting role to help his teammates win. He closed his cycling career at the age of 43 by setting a world cycling record of riding 51.11 km (31.76 miles) in one hour.

Jens is a warm, funny, articulate guy, with a gift for saying the unexpected. His voice comes through clearly in his memoir.

On the long hours spent in hotel rooms between race stages:
I’m really good at falling asleep in the afternoon. I’m actually world-class when it comes to taking naps.
On food and drink in various countries:
I don’t know how they do it, but in Italy, even the gas stations have awesome coffee. France was just the opposite.
On sports and friendship:
- One of the great things about cycling is all the great friends you meet out on the road.
- Those days, when I was able to really turn myself inside out for the team, for my friends, go down as some of the greatest moments of my life. I was just enormously proud!
On working through the years of doping scandals:
- If you think that you’re always getting beat by drug cheats, then why continue racing? ….[T]hose of us who wanted to race with dignity had to focus on the positive. We had to believe that winning clean was possible.
- Perhaps I could have won more big-time races if I had cheated [doped], but my life would have been much more stressful. My career would have become this maddening cycle of lies and the constant fear of getting caught…. I was always satisfied in knowing that I had achieved the maximum results possible with my natural talent and work ethic.
On his first major crash, in the 2009 TdF:
[T]he next thing I remember is waking up in my hospital bed at about 10:30 that night…. slowly, piece by piece, I started moving different body parts…. after that very painful process, I understood that nothing was broken beyond repair. And from that point on, it was just a matter of time before I was back.
On kindness from rivals after crashing again in the 2010 TdF:
They waited for me, slowing down and looking back over their shoulders to make sure I was still on their wheels…  There is Cav, a 2-million-dollar superstar of our sport, risking elimination from the biggest race in the world to slow down and wait for a beat-up, tired, hurting guy whom he probably didn’t even know all that well. He and his teammates saved my day by making their own day harder…. To make it even more impressive, there was no TV crew around to capture this display of fairness and camaraderie…. Little stories like these are seldom told and make the beauty of sport, the beauty of cycling, to me. The surprising and unexpected moments of humanity among rivals is what, to me, is so precious about sports.
On money:
Maybe I could have become richer … by being more tenacious or by changing teams more often. But I’ve always been happy with where I’ve been, and as a professional cyclist I’ve basically been happy with the amount of money I’ve been making at any given time…. because when it comes to money, I have always been of the mind that if I’m making enough, why do I need more? It’s like, how many beds do you need to sleep in?
On balancing career and life:
- If you dedicate yourself to achieving perfection, you probably won't have time to go fishing.
- Family was always important to me. Cycling was not my only priority. I also wanted to be a good dad, a good friend, and a good husband.... I come from the country. I come from a simple life, and I always wanted to keep life as simple as possible. Start out simple, because life will get complicated enough by itself.
On popularity:
I don’t have brilliant earrings. I don’t have tattoos. I don’t have a Porsche or Ferrari in my garage. It’s just me. I didn’t grow up in a materialistic culture. Yet maybe that’s what connects.
If you haven't already figured it out, I'm loving this book. There've been so many "Yes!" moments in it for me. He seems like a kindred spirit. I like his attitude towards money, his desire for a simple and balanced life, his loyalty to his friends, his generosity to his rivals, and his outspokenness. I admire his willingness to sacrifice himself for his team members (rather than expecting everyone else to sacrifice themselves for him).

Here is what the English-speaking world's most famous cycling commentators had to say about Jens during Stage 10 of the 2008 TdF:

Phil Liggett: “That man is worth twice his salary, I don’t care what you say, for a team. He’s brilliant….”

Bob Sherwen: “Well, Jens Voigt will go until he drops, he’s that kind of rider. He rides on stomach, he rides on guts, and his heart, I think, is twice as big as anybody else’s here this afternoon....”

Here's one last quote from Jens himself:
As you get older, you come to realize that sports, like life, are not just all about me, me, me! It's not just about winning, winning, winning. And in bicycle racing, you start asking yourself, "Okay, how can I improve the status of the team? How can I help my friend to win?"
What a great attitude, and great read, from a truly great cyclist. Thanks, Jensie.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

It Doesn't Matter How Many Miles You Ride

Deception Pass, September 2016

Last fall, during Bike MS Washington, there were policemen stationed at either side of Deception Pass to control the flow of cyclists and cars across the bridge. When I reached the bridge on the homeward leg of Day 1, the policeman asked, "How far are you riding today?"

"Only 60," I replied.

"A lot of you are doing the 60," he said. "But you all say it as though you're embarrassed. Why is that?"

"I guess we were all hoping we could go farther," I said.

Crossing Deception Pass

Cycling, like most activities, has its instant camaraderies, its friendly ambassadors, and plenty of cheerful encouragement between enthusiasts who meet on a common road. It also has its snobberies and self-appointed elite, who gauge a rider's worth by his equipment, clothing, mileage, speed, and - if you can believe it - the smoothness of his legs.

Even for those of us who belong to the former group, there's a certain shamefacedness in admitting that we don't ride hundreds of miles every week. (Some of us don't even ride one hundred miles a week.)

I think this is partly due to social pressure, and partly to aspiration. The social pressure needs no explaining; it's merely the cycling variant of keeping up with the Joneses. The aspiration, however, is harder to deal with.

Once you get a taste of longer rides, and realize that yes, it is humanly possible to ride x number of miles and survive, you want to keep going. The numbers cease to frighten; instead they become alluring. Twenty, forty, sixty, eighty - heck, why not a hundred? Why not a hundred and twenty? It's a kind of Rockefeller-and-money thing: you always want a little more. And, if you're like me, you always feel a little inferior in the company of those who have achieved it.

Rest stop, Bike MS Washington 2016

After my surgery last month, the transport tech who wheeled me out of the hospital (I could have walked, but you know how hospitals are) was wearing a bike-print headwrap.

"Are you a cyclist?" I asked.

"Yep," he said. "Are you?"

"Just a hobby cyclist," I said apologetically. "My rides are mostly short. I've never even done a century."

"I've done, let me see, five centuries since my knee replacement," he said cheerfully, "and I forget how many before that." He went on to tell me about some severe back and leg problems he'd suffered through, the many surgeries he'd had, and the riding he'd done before and after each.

"I dream of training for a century," I said, "but life seems to keep getting in the way. Every year I think 'maybe this will be the year', but something comes up to prevent it. So I do my little 15- and 20-mile rides, and keep hoping."

"Hey," he said. "It doesn't matter how many miles you ride. Some people make a big deal about distance, but as far as I'm concerned, if you're out on the bike, you're a cyclist. Getting out there is what counts."

Then Mr. M pulled up with the car. I got out of the wheelchair, thanked the tech, climbed into the car, and went home.

~

I've thought about the tech's words a lot since then. Recovery was supposed to be fairly quick, but in some ways it hasn't been. For several weeks I couldn't ride at all, and when I did get back on the bike, it didn't go well.

So now I'm starting from scratch, and things are slowly (oh so slowly) improving. I can ride a mile without hurting badly afterwards. Maybe next week it will be two. (Meanwhile the flowers blossom and fade, and the year is flying by.) When I get frustrated, which happens on most sunny days, I try to remember a fellow cyclist's kind words:

It doesn't matter how many miles you ride. Getting out there is what counts.


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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Old Yarn, New Yarn, and (what else?) Wildflowers

I'm not a hoarder. Really I'm not. Except, perhaps, when it comes to craft supplies and UFOs. It's hard to let go of all those crafty bits and bobs because, of course, they might come in handy some day.

That day finally came!

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Many a time, whilst cooking eggs, have I looked down at the cast-iron pan and said to myself, "I really should make a cover for this handle." (Then my thoughts jump ahead to something else and I forget all about it until I use the pan again.)

A few mornings ago, as the eggs scrambled (possible soap opera title?), it struck me that wool, being naturally fire-resistant, would make a great handle cover. Felted wool. Hmmm. Hadn't I just seen some in the crafty hoard stash?

Why yes - a failed eyeglass case. Just the right length too - it only needed a bit trimmed off, and some taking in around the edges:


And a lazy daisy for added beauty. Bingo!

A few days later, rooting through a pile of fabric, I came across another piece of felted wool. (No idea what I had planned to make with it.) Perfect for the other cast iron skillet!

I rashly cut into it, and promptly found that the piece I cut was too short. So I franken-stitched it together with the piece trimmed from the eyeglass case (which of course I had kept because it might come in handy), then seamed the long edges into a tube and stitched one end shut. It turned out kind of cute, I think:


A minor triumph for crafty hoarding.

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My favourite nephew and his wife just returned from Iceland, and a few days ago he sent me a package. A large, lightweight package. Could it possibly be ...



Yes, it could! Icelandic wool, straight from the source. And some delicious Icelandic chocolate.


What a lucky aunt I am. :)

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Sunday is hot and sunny and gorgeous - a little foretaste of summer. A good day to try riding again.

There's a bumper crop of buttercups this spring. Don't they look cheery against that blue sky?


These particular buttercups are growing at the edge of a marsh. Just behind them, almost hidden in the tall marsh grass, are several flag iris:


And completely hidden in the grass are some waterfowl that make a sort of grunting noise - possibly merganser? As I can't see them it's hard to make a positive identification.

A tiny flash of pink at my feet is a flower that looks like a member of the pea family. Later research suggests Marsh Pea (Lathyrus palustris):


Across the road a blackbird watches me from an aspen full of wind-tossed leaves:


(What a welcome sound is the rustle of leaves, after so many months with no leaves at all.)

A mile up the road are some large drifts of tiny white blossoms - stiff sandwort, I think:


A season or two back I remember seeing one sandwort plant here, and this year there are several square yards of it. You never know which wildflowers will star on the annual stage.

Just a few feet away is a new-to-me flower, later identified as Hairy Penstemon (P. hirsutus). It seems to be past its flowering prime, so I feel lucky to have caught it:


Back on the bike, with Tallulah keeping a wary eye out for cars:


Meadow Anemone are very large and plentiful this year:


Some wild grass going fluffily to seed:


Hoary vetch (much more beautiful than its name):


Last week Mr. M saw a large, smooth-shelled turtle (on a different road). I'm now approaching a spot where I saw a similar turtle a few years back. So I'm keeping a lookout, in case I get lucky again. And what do you know:


I can't tell if it's the same one I saw in 2013 - the size is pretty close, but this one's shell is more scarred. Do turtles have territories? If they do, this is probably the same one. Another sighting and I'll have to give it a name. ("How about Erda?" says Tallulah.)

Locust trees are flowering now, their sweetness stealing through the air:


Tiny fruit of field pennycress:


Later I pass what looks like black or dark brown flowers growing in a field:


They turn out to be dried blossoms of some kind. Does anyone know what they are? (I'm stumped.)


Just up the road is another marsh, with what looks like small yellow flowers on red stems growing up from the water. A little research suggests they may be bladderwort, a carnivorous plant (and another new-to-me flower):


Here endeth the first ride of June.

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What's blooming in your neck of the woods?

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Sunday, May 28, 2017

An Interesting May

May is to spring what October is to fall: over-the-top beautiful. (A niece of mine recently said: "Isn't it amazing to live in a world where trees turn pink for a couple of weeks every year?" Yes - it is.)

This most beautiful of months even had a most beautiful day: Thursday the 18th. The lilacs were in full bloom, flowering crab and redbud trees were miracles of pink and rose and red, creeping phlox spilled like pastel waterfalls over emerald lawns, winter cress shone like sunshine in the fields, and new-leaved maples and oaks sported every shade of green, all under a bright blue sky with just the right amount of slow-sailing, puffy white clouds. A day I wished I could package up and send to all my friends and loved ones (or, better yet, have them here to share the joy).

These glories were observed, I regret to say, not from the seat of a bicycle, but from behind the windows of a car, thanks to a surgery that happened early in the month. (Not major surgery - but even a smallish surgery, coming on top of flu, can really pack a wallop. Dang.)

~

A quick look back at the last ride of April, when a lingering cough was my only lament:

Clockwise from top left: lichen, wild apple blossom,
wild plum blossom, pussytoes, baby maple leaves

A tom turkey strutting and displaying in the woods near the road

Then came May, and with it the joys of modern medicine.

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Why is surgery so depressing? Is it the after-effects of anesthesia, or simply a reaction to having one's innards pulled about by sharp tools and burned by lasers? Or a combination of the two?

And then there's the frustration caused by weakness. Knowing that wildflowers are out there blooming, and not being able to get to them, is (for me) like having really good friends in town for only a few days and not being able to see them.

One evening Mr. M drove me outside of town to a spot where I hoped this flower would be blooming:

Jacob's Ladder or Greek Valerian

The blossoms had closed up for the evening, but I was glad to have caught them before they disappeared. In all my rides, I've never seen them growing anywhere else, and they've become a favourite part of May.

We stopped by the marsh where the kingcups grow:


And on the way home caught this apple tree against the sunset:


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There was plenty of May beauty nearer at hand, too. Lilacs in the yard:


Pine buds glowing in the morning sun:


And wild columbine next to the garage:


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Two new patterns were published this month, in Love of Crochet Summer 2017:

The Sandbar Shawlette, a lacy, bead-edged, crescent-shaped shawl worked in a soft, almost flannel-like cotton yarn:

Photo copyright Love of Crochet

Below are the original swatch (upper left), and the completed project on the blocking board:


Also published was the River Rock Necklace, worked from chain-stitch and simple knots:

Photo copyright Love of Crochet

Here are the original sample (left), and the finished commissioned necklace before mailing:


These projects were worked last August and September, which seems like a lifetime ago.

Some newer commissions kept me busy in May, including a very exciting project that will debut later this year.

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Yesterday I could stand it no longer; I had to have a wildflower fix. Gingerly and with trepidation, after a month of no riding, I got back on the bike. It was probably the slowest ride I've ever taken, and certainly one of the shortest, but I ran into plenty of old friends.

Rosy wild geranium:


Tiny stitchwort:


Daisy fleabane - this one just three inches tall and almost hidden in the grass, but already blooming:


Buttercups:


Dame's Rocket, the glory of roadsides throughout late May and early June:


Black Medick, with its miniscule clover-like blossoms:


A wild berry vine in bloom:


Honeysuckle in several shades (here we have cream and rose):


Bonus photo of picturesque old shed:


Golden Alexanders, showing signs of spittlebug occupation:


And the final shot before I had to turn back - red-twig dogwood in bloom:


An uncomfortable ride, but worth it. :)

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And here we are on the cusp of June (hard to believe, isn't it?). The exuberance of early spring is past, and flowering shrubs and trees are settling into their workaday green. The beauties to come will be smaller and quieter, but worth seeking out nonetheless.

One last memory from early in May - young ash leaves glowing in the morning sun:


How was your May?

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