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These are my monkeys and this is my circus…

People ask me, “How was your Thanksgiving?”  I look at them with wild eyes and complete terror.  There are a few backstories here that all converged into one three ring circus and you’d better grab a cup of coffee and spike it with something good, because it is going to be a long one…

First, and this has everything to do with my out of control stress level, and nothing to do with my creativity, but everything to do with how I channel that creativity.  You may recall, especially if you follow me on facebook, that three months after my husband died, our beloved dog Bjorn died, of Pancreatic cancer.  It was such a blow to all of us, and my daughter and I handled the stress in basically the same way.  I adopted Ranger, and she attended a birth of Norwegian Elk Hound puppies, and immediately bonded with one of the puppies she helped deliver, which she swears is her beloved dog Bjorn.  Bjorn was and Ranger is a Norwegian Elk Hound, we are long time friends with the breeder and all of my dogs in the last 30 years or so have come from her, some rescues, some older females needing a home, and sometimes a male that is intact and available for breeding and continued showing once they have achieved their championship.  Please know that dog breeding and showing is not something I’m remotely interested in, but I do love the breed, I know the breed, and I’ve had some pretty spectacular dogs/friends/family pets come from her line.  Please no lectures on adopting rescues, I bring dogs in who need homes, some just happened to be champions.

Anyway, my daughter’s puppy grew to enormous size, and though she tried desperately to keep him in her apartment, he could effortlessly break through crates, gates, and doors and was making her landlady unhappy.  The dog Trygve, ended up boarded at the kennel for almost three years.  I told her when she got the dog that she could never move home.  Hahahahahah!

Not only has she moved home, with all her looms and yarns and the beginnings of a metals studio and knitting machines, and all the paraphernalia a techie/Trekkie young adult acquires, she brought the dog  home from the kennel.  So besides my lovely 13 year old Saphira, who sleeps on the couch all day, I have my brat Ranger, whom I adore, and she has her beloved Trygve.  And there is the cat.  Did I mention she brought home one of those too?  Both Ranger and Trygve are intact males, Trygve’s father is a Westminster champion Elk hound, and the breeder wants to breed both dogs.  So there is a bit of testosterone flying through the house.  The last couple of weeks have become untenable, the pissing contest between the two male dogs has become a nightmare, and I had no idea, other than freezing sperm and neutering both dogs, or giving one or both up, what to do that wouldn’t devastate someone.  And we have had enough devastation believe me…

On top of this, my son, whom I’ve mentioned, has been stationed in the middle east for the last year.  I don’t talk about the stress of that, because there isn’t anything that can be done except to carry on with grace.  Which I hope I’ve done.  He is due back this month, but for security reasons, we aren’t told when troops are being moved.

Because my family all had plans that would required extensive driving from us, and dog boarding and I’d seen everyone in the last month, my daughter and I opted to visit a long time family friend who would be alone for Thanksgiving and so nobody had to cook we went to a mountain house out in rural northwestern part of NJ, where they cooked a lovely Thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings and served it family buffet style.  We took a short hike just off of the Appalachian Trail and took a couple photos of Catfish Pond.  It was beautiful, breathtaking, and a perfect way to appreciate what life has to offer and how powerful nature is.  It was a lovely lovely day. NJ at its best.

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Towards the end of the meal, I got a brief message from my son that he was enroute back to the states, they had stopped in some unknown country, obviously he couldn’t say where, and the relief was palpable.  One of the best Thanksgivings, simple and meaningful.  

Then we got home…

I won’t go into the worst of the details, except that doors and gates did not keep the two males from doing what males do, and we suspect that there was a dog fight, though no one was visibly hurt, but my entire downstairs, kitchen, living room carpets, was covered, or rather painted as my daughter describes it, with, there is no other way to say it, dog shit.  Everywhere.  The half dozen or so places where the dogs peed were nothing at this point.  It took us two hours to clean everything up, about a gallon of Natures Miracle, and I have never been so depressed in my life.  My daughter had a meltdown, and I wanted to join her.  

The Thanksgiving friend in the drive to dinner, after mentioning the pissing contest between two intact males, asked why we weren’t using belly bands.  What the hell is a belly band I ask.  I look at my daughter who has a degree in animal science, and has worked in the animal field for more than 10 years and she just shrugged.  So as we sat in the living room after the complete destruction of my house, she pulled up her cell phone and looked up belly bands.  Yes, this is a thing and it is a well known option, and basically you put the dogs private parts in a sling, wrapped tight around their abdomen and they pee no more in the house.  

She drove to Pet Smart the next morning, and bought a package of disposable belly bands.  She ordered a dozen washable belly bands from Amazon.  Can I say my life has been transformed?  My dogs are model citizens, only one has tried to mark something in my house, and the band caught it and they have learned to wait patiently while I remove the bands for them to go outside, and wait patiently for them to be put on when they come back in.

And I got word that my son is in Texas.  He will be home in a couple more weeks.  Which is just the best news and has already made me stressed as I think about yet another person added to this circus!  He will be living in the guest room until he finds a place to live, and is allergic to the cat.  His stuff is in storage, there is no room here to put it, but we will figure all that out. 

So what does any of this ridiculous sordid tale or tail should I say have to do with creativity and what I do best.  First, in a completely coincidental side bar, I had an opportunity to volunteer in the costume department for the Shakespeare Theater of NJ.  I am a subscriber and found out that they are always looking for skilled volunteers, which I am, and for a few days I left my circus of a household, and brought my sewing tools, and reworked all kinds of Victorian garb for their production of A Christmas Carol which opens this week.  It was a terrific experience and so completely different from the work I do regularly.  

Completely different but related side bar… Last month at the guild meeting, members of the Lost Art Lacers came to give us a demonstration on bobbin lace.  If you have followed my blog for awhile, I was at one point an avid/active bobbin lacemaker, thanks to a mother-in-law who taught me well.  I hadn’t seen many of these women in a long time, since I reduced my supply of lace pillows and paraphernalia, in a ridiculous attempt to downside my fiber holdings.  Hahahahah!

Anyway, it had been mentioned at the meeting that between my daughter and I, we owned 36 shaft looms.  When I would want to try a new pattern in lacemaking, I’d just make a new pillow, which is why I had a ridiculous amount of them, plus all my mother-in-laws collection.  But acquiring looms was something quite different.  One of the lacemakers asked me if I had warps on all of the looms.  She recently acquired a loom but unlike her collection of lace pillows, she only had one.  It really stopped me in my tracks, many of them do have warps, but my personal favorites, that I don’t use for teaching purposes, in fact are quite naked.  And it bugs me.  

So while all this chaos of a circus is performing all around me, I became intent, no obsessed with getting a warp on my 36″ Tools of the Trade loom.  

Another sidebar, you can see how all this is coming together.  I hired my daughter to help me run my textile business, because she is really really good.  And she is.  She does everything better and faster and more creatively than even I can do it, and so I recently put her in charge of dyeing yarn.  It is winter, and that is my winter routine, wind off various skeins of white or natural yarn and run a dyepot or two every morning.  She is a scientist at heart and has taken to the chemistry of yarn dyeing like it is her job.  Which it is.  We have found a good place to dry skeins, using an old belt holder I found in my husband’s closet.  There is yarn everywhere…

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All of that means, I have lots and lots of lovely colored yarn, and no place to put it.  The shelves are full, and so I have a naked loom, I’m stressed, I love designing warps when I’m stressed, and I pulled this hunk of leftover warp that’s been sitting on my shelf since the 1980’s.  It was white loop mohair, 15 ends each 8.5 yards long.  At some point I must have stuck it in a dye bath.  


I used this as a beginning point, and pulled up a towel draft I used a number of years ago for some kitchen towels, I think the original draft came from a project in Handwoven.  This has been reworked extensively, and I pulled a bunch of dyed wool and mohair skeins from the wall and started to play.  It felt so good to lose myself in designing something colorful and fresh.



I figured out how much was on each skein, by hand counting, and then sat at my desk and plugged in the colors.  They are all so pretty together.  I had my daughter wind the skeins into balls.

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Problem was, the warp came out 43″ wide.  My lovely naked loom is only 36″ wide.  I redrafted the design for the 36″ width, but that left more leftover yarn than I wanted.  And I realized that for all the freakin’ equipment I own, I don’t have a 36″ wide 6 dent reed.  The sett will be 12 epi, but because this is a sticky warp, I want two in a dent, in a 6 dent reed.  

So back to the original draft.  Disappointed, the only thing to do was to clear the 45″ from this magical fabric.  The knots are over the back beam!

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And I wound and wound and made three beautiful warp chains.  

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Here they are bundled up and there is a small bag of what’s left.  I can’t wait to see how this looks.


And so, on top of all this drama, filled with monkeys, and cats and dogs and belly bands and troops returning home, and more yarn and textile equipment than I know what to do with (but no 36″ 6 dent reed), I have a beloved outlet for my stress, and I’ve taken extra time to enjoy what nature has to offer.  This beautiful sunrise called to me the other morning.


Which of course, red sky in the morning…  led to this…

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Meanwhile Friday I decorated for Christmas, which meant pulling my little Target tree, pre-lit, no ornaments for obvious reasons, out of the box and plugged it in.  And I sit by the gas fireplace, and calmly reflect on how wonderful my life is at the moment thanks to a couple of belly bands, and a house full of yarn and bright colors, and how good my daughter is at whatever I need done, and I looked at the old hand forged fireplace set I bought in the 1980’s, which of course I no longer need, because I don’t have a wood burning stove, and thought, what a great yarn drying rack…

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Unfortunately I woke up yesterday morning sick.  There is a wicked virus going around, and I think I have it.  I have to teach Saturday all day, for a local guild so I’m doing my best to lay low.  Fortunately I have lots to keep me busy when I lay low…

Stay tuned…