Entropy vs. the thumbtack

Well, moving on…
Yes, I could teach workshops on firmly repressing your feelings.
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I was surprised that Rebecca likes this corkboard covered with odd things. It is so not her – she’s very tidy.

Unfortunately, like many people who make things out of recycled materials, I like to have them out where I can see and brood over them, with predictably cluttered results. Here, among other things, I have old wooden spools; wrapped in multicolored thread, they’re….spools wrapped in multicolored thread. But they’re cute! I’ve given them as Christmas ornaments to people who either liked them a lot or are excellent actors. Jane liked hers.

The picture of the cat wearing a head scarf is something my daughter won (plus a cookie) at the Islander store. The other postcards, with the rustically posed trees, are from the town in northern Minnesota where my mom was from. I’m not about to use them in a collage; I just like to look at them sometimes.

There are various supplies in bags – embroidery thread, flowered beads from a broken necklace (a gift from my daughter’s friend :( very sad), and silver buttons and hooks from a Norwegian sweater.

There’s a felted tag I embroidered, to the best of my ability; my daughter used to wear it on her backpack. Now she hates it, but she loves the ruffled scarf that she hated a year ago when I knitted it…mothers get used to these things.

There’s a silver vial on a chain that I hope held something exotic or dangerous, and two medals belonging to my uncle by marriage, Josef Hrabek. I was told that they were Russian, Tsarist-era medals, but someone who sells these things on Ebay told me they were actually Polish. I should have known, because I can sort of read one, about St. Michael, so they’re not in Cyrillic. Strangely, I love this evidence of their unreliability. As I said in one of the captions, that side of my family was apparently full of compulsive liars, or storytellers. My mother’s family also abounded with storytellers, but they didn’t expect you to believe them.

Someday, I’ll tell you about the bootlegging. And the baby beauty contest.

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This hurts so much

One of my friends died during the last month, very slowly and painfully. I can’t talk much about her yet in real life because I start to grind my teeth and make weird gasping noises, which seems to be my substitute for actual crying. But I found this and it was everything I wish I’d been able to tell her.

“Whenever I saw her, I felt like I had been living in another country, doing moderately well in another language, and then she showed up speaking English and suddenly I could speak with all the complexity and nuance that I hadn’t realized was gone.”

It’s from Truth and Beauty, the book Ann Patchett wrote after her friend Lucy Grealy died.

If you can articulate feelings like this, no matter how clumsy they sound, say them.

I think that may be the only good advice I’ve ever given.

The No Sew Rag Rug

First off, I need to acknowledge the contribution of Shanan to this piecemeal rug technique; she watched movies, tried different adjustments, and came up with a rug so large that I can barely lift it. Also, Rebecca was willing to be my first real student, and helped point out the design flaws by making fun of me once she became more skillful than I am.

I finally filmed the rug video with my web cam because it was the only way I could upload. Frankly, I’d be surprised if it was very helpful (and, oh, I am so weird on video). I wasn’t able to get good closeups with the web cam, either. Why does amateur p_0_r_n_0_g_r_@_p_h_y look so easy? Must inquire….Essentially, if you aren’t dedicated to the idea of making this rug, this video is like watching paint dry. However, if coupled with some photos explaining details, I think it’s…functional. These rugs are very simple; after you begin the rug with a small braid, the rest of the work is just one half-hitch knot after another. It’s the perfect movie-watching craft.

Oh, dear. I might make another video. I really have taught a lot of people to make these things.

Here’s a gallery showing an (almost) finished rug, the lockerhook tool, and photographs of beginning the rug, making the half-hitch knot, and attaching new strips of fabric.


Also, I’ll answer any questions, even if I have to crouch on the desk in front of my web cam and demonstrate knots. Just email me at the blog.

I have some lingering guilt over calling this the No Sew rug, since you need to make about 8 stitches (or whip out a hot glue gun – I fear them). But I liked the little rhyme.

February 21: Happy birthday, Mr. Auden

"Landscape with The Fall of Icarus", ca. 1590-95, by Pieter Breugel the Elder

“Landscape with The Fall of Icarus”, ca. 1590-95, by Pieter Breugel the Elder

In celebration, here is Wystan Hugh Auden‘s poem about Breugel’s painting (above).

Musée des Beaux Arts

About suffering they were never wrong,
The old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

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“Musée des Beaux Arts” is my favorite of Auden’s poems; I’m suppose it’s almost everybody’s favorite (if they read him), but I love it dearly so I won’t pretend to be original. It has everything I need – poetry, painting, death and survival. That first line has been stuck in my head forever.

Click here for a much larger version of the painting. The Breugel images are from Wikimedia Commons and are in the public domain.

Our Lady of the Unfinished Object

I can't believe this...they discontinued the sport-weight alpaca in "Caribbean Sunset."

They discontinued the sport-weight alpaca
in “Caribbean Sunset.” I may have to intercede.


These days, I am continually ripping out my knitting. I’m trying to figure out why – I mean, it’s really noticeable. Even non-knitters watch me and cringe. It’s not as if my knitting is getting any worse, although I admit I used to felt dropped stitches into oblivion. (Oh, felting – so forgiving. I love you.) And I never used to be a perfectionist about knitting. The closest I’m getting to an explanation is that I feel more confident in my skills, I’m trying more difficult projects, and I really want to master all these increases and decreases and sizing and my greatest fear…cables.

Knitting was something I never imagined I’d do (in spite of Grandma Sofia, She-Who-Knitted-Socks-In-The-Dark). It’s made me so happy. Being a mother was something I wanted, but couldn’t imagine doing well, mostly because my parents were odd, to the point that I did better in boarding school. No lessons there. But unimaginable motherhood has made me more than happy – it’s finally made me feel alive. I had definite goals for my academic career and my marriage, and they were both disastrous for me.

In spite of that, I know I need to plan ahead more, but there seems to be something seriously askew in the way I plan. For one thing, I think I plan on finishing things. I always think I’m going to arrive…somewhere. I never do. And I’ve become very tired of that lingering sense of unease over not being done.

So I salute everyone who has given up their guilt over unfinished objects and endeavors.

Speaking of planning: Rebecca and I just recorded a video on making “no sew” rag rugs that is so Lucy and Ethel (and so poorly edited by me) that I may make another one on my webcam that doesn’t involve misplacing tools and giggling. It’s meant primarily as promotional material for classes I’d like to teach, so maybe I shouldn’t seem quite so flighty. Either way, I’ll post some kind of how-to video this weekend, partly because la belle couseuse over at Silk and Wool requested instructions. Apparently she has a large pile of old baby clothes to dispose of and has made some beautiful crocheted rugs out of them. Head on over there if you like to crochet and have boxes of old clothing to use up. I certainly would never, ever hoard fabric like that. But I hear that other people do.