Crater Lake

Leaving knitting and weaving at home, Thor, Granddaughter F and I met up with the rest of the family and spent several wonderful days in Crater Lake National Park.  We were happy (oh so happy) to exchange Willamette Valley‘s muggy heat wave for the pleasant summer weather of the higher altitudes of the Cascade Range and especially enjoyed the cool nights. We never tire of the scenery; it’s always breathtaking.  Here are some photographs we took (using just our iPhones) of the lake from about 7,100f/2,164m:

On this visit we added something new:  One night drove back up to the lake’s rim, bundled up, sat at the caldera rim in chairs, marveled over the Milky Way (!) and watched the star show in the cold night air.  It was a perfect, clear night (if you didn’t mind the chilly wind), an absolutely amazing experience.

Crater Lake is one of top ten dark sky locations by the National Parks Dark Sky Team.  According to the Crater Lake Institute,

Star gazing at Crater Lake is best on nights without clouds or a full moon. On such an evening, the stars are too numerous to count. They appear so bright, that one might be tempted to lay down, and take off one’s shirt to get a “star tan.” Venus and the Milky Way appear to cast a shadow. By full moon, the light intensity is such that colors are discernible to the unaided eye.

The beauty of the night sky at Crater Lake is largely due to its isolation and the extensive amount of land surrounding the caldera that is preserved in a natural state.  Along with large tracts of wilderness comes a virtual absence of artificial lights allowing the pupil of the human eye to widen and become receptive to distant stars, some of which are thousands to millions of light years away. At Crater Lake there is no light pollution from nearby settlements and cities. There is no light pollution from night advertisement and local traffic.

At Crater Lake, the transparency of the night sky is enhanced by the summer climate. The humidity of the air and the frequency of cloud cover is low in the High Cascades of South-Central Oregon. The views of the night from the 7,000′ elevation at Rim Village are optimum because of the low density of tree cover and the unobstructed view of the horizon is all directions created by the pre-historic collapse of Mt. Mazama.

As we have neither the skills nor the equipment to photograph stars, I found this time-lapse video on YouTube (shot by gryfinryder) that will give you an idea of what we saw (sans the snow).  For some excellent pictures shot by a professional natural history photographer, take look at Phil Colla‘s work.  One of the pictures taken at Crater Lake he shares is of the Milky Way!

If you’ve not seen this brilliantly blue lake (the deepest in the U.S. and 9th deepest in the world), it’s worth a visit!

Rested and relaxed, Thor and I returned to a cooler Willamette Valley with Grandson O.  It is still too warm to comfortably knit, but my loom …🙂

Have you taken a vacation or trip this summer where you left your fiber work behind?!

Posted in Miscellany | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

Designing Patterns for Punched Rugs

As I wrote in an earlier post, thanks to a mini workshop I took from Wooly Walkers at the June 2016 Black Sheep Gathering, I have added rug punching to my fiber arts.  After making smaller projects, I want to to design and punch a rug for our new house.  My research into punch and hooked rugs patterns has revealed that American folk art – decorative and whimsical – seems most popular.  I, however, have never been fond of American folk art so I wasn’t sure how I would proceed.

RugDesignHRecently Thor and I were browsing the aisles of a large bookstore, and my attention was caught by this 1,000 piece puzzle titled, “Hoffman House Rug Design.”  In 1957  Franklin Lloyd Wright designed this rug for the home of one of his clients, Max Hoffman. (For some reason, the rug never made it to Hoffman’s House.  It found a home in Wright’s own house, Taliesin, in Wisconsin.)

Admitting that my eye for rug patterns was drawn to designs influenced by the art and designs of Piet Mondrian and, especially, Franklin Lloyd Wright, I started looking at images on the web for ideas.  Here are some nice ones:

Then Thor and I started drawing.  Here are some drafts:

We’ve moved on to experimenting with colors.  Here are a few drafts:

It’s taking a while, but we’re getting closer.  As these pictures reveal, our designs are not even close to American folk art – which is lovely, but just not us.

Do you make rugs and, if so, what kinds of designs do you like to incorporate in your rugs?


Posted in Miscellany, Rug Making | Tagged , , , , | 17 Comments

Weaving TOG Granddaughter F

Granddaughter F will be here in a few days!  Every visit my goal is to teach (or remind) her a hand craft.  This visit it is weaving (again), and my 15″ Cricket loom from Schacht awaits her.  (Her last weaving project was done on a Harrisville Design’s lap loom.)

CottonLoopRugCottonLoopPlacematsIn preparation for my Granddaughter F’s visit, I ordered two (matching) kits from Cotton Clouds:  The Cotton Loop Rug (left) and the Cotton Looper Placemats (right).

WaitinWeavingPicg for the kits to arrive, I envisioned us sitting companionably in the long summer evenings, happily chatting, as we connect the loops into the weft yarn.  Then we would weave side by side – Mormor (grandmother) on the floor loom and Granddaughter F at the Cricket.

I saw it so clearly in my mind!  I shared this bucolic vision with Thor, who, knowing both Granddaughter F and me, mildly suggested I might want to revisit that vision.  I was resistant to that; my plans were perfect!

CottonLoops (2)Then the kits arrived; my vision began to tarnish.  Each kit consisted of an 8 oz. spool of cotton rug warp and 3 pounds of cotton loops for the weft.  I hadn’t realized how many loops would be in 3 pounds!

After taking several hours one evening to connect 3 pounds of cotton loops, I knew my energetic 8 year old granddaughter would not find much fun in looping all tCottonLoopsWefthese into weft!  Here is the pile (to the left) of loop-weft I made from the first 3 pound bag of loops.  Thor, thankfully, did not say “I told you so.”

The next evening I sat down with the second 3 pound bag and connected the loops.  I saved approximately 25 for Granddaughter F to loop together herself.

CottonLoopRugWeavingI next warped my floor loom for the rug and the Cricket loom for the placemats. I have already woven several inches of the rug on the floor loom; tomorrow I’ll weave one or two of the four placemats on the Cricket.

Ahhh, as I admiExcitedGirlre the colorful rag cotton loop rug growing on my loom, another vision forms in my mind’s eye:  Granddaughter F walks in, sees the looms and exclaims, “Oh, this is beautiful!  Which loom is mine?  Please – puh-leeze – can we start weaving?!?!”  (Pic source)AngryGirl

I’ll let you know if my visions had any link to reality.  There’s always a chance Granddaughter F won’t be excited by the prospect of weaving.

Were you successful in encouraging your (grand)child to weave?  Any tips to share?

Posted in Weaving | Tagged , , , , | 15 Comments

Surprise Rug Yarn: Cowhair

RugYarns (2)Last week I wrote about my day of washing and drying of Borgs rug yarn.  What I didn’t share was that among the other colored (i.e., non-green) skeins were several with labels reading “Wholly produced in Sweden RugYarnTag2 (2)by Klippan’s Yllefabrik A/B….CUM Textiles Industries Ltd. Denmark.”

Klippan’s Yllefabrik A/B, established in 1879, spun the yarn for CUM Textiles Industries Ltd.  CUM Textiles was located at 5 Rømersgade in the Capital Region of Copenhagen, Denmark.  I just finished a Google street map tour of the neighborhood but found no trace of CUM Textiles. 

I looked for information on CUM Textiles and came across one of its publications (thank you, Smithsonian Institute), an 84 page book titled “Scandinavian Handweaving and Textiles.”   (You will see there are a couple of download options.)  Weavers who are interested in traditional Scandinavian textiles undoubtedly will find it interesting. 

On its first inside page I read that “CUM was awarded 14 Gold medals at the International Textile Exposition in California 1967 —1968-1969.”  On the inside of its back page reads, “Largest selection of handweaving yarns in Scandinavia.”  If that is so, I wonder why I found so little information about CUM Textiles.

(By the way, if you try your own on-line search, be sure and type “CUM Textiles” or you may be surprised/horrified by the results that come up.)

RugYarnTag1 (2)Look at the other side of the label, however:  Matt Yarn (Cowhair)!  Now “matt” is the Swedish word for rug, and both Borg and Glimakra sell matt yarn – “the perfect yarn for weaving rugs and Southwest style runners. It is great for weaving tapestry designs.”

But it isn’t often one comes across yarn made of cowhair!

HighlandCowsPicI would hazard a guess that the cowhair came from a Scottish breed of cows called Highland (pic source), which have a history dating back to the 6th century A.D.  Highland cows have shaggy, thick, wavy, double-haired coats – the longest hair, in fact, of any cattle breed.  Like most double-hair coat wool-giving breeds, the outer coat covers a downy undercoat.  Their coats are many colored:  black, brindle, red, yellow, HighlandCowPicwhite, silver and dun (i.e., a grey-gold or tan).  Given their size, it will come as no surprise to learn they are brushed rather than sheared.

Here’s the link to the Highland Cattle Society and The Livestock Conservancy should you want to read about this breed.  It is a hardy breed, and given that these cattle thrive in cold weather, it is no surprise they are popular in Northern Europe.

HighlandCowsinDenmarkI love this picture of Highland cattle grazing in Denmark with a hang glider overhead.  (It was taken by David Bengtsson and posted on the National Geographic Your Shot.)

After reading about these beautiful animals – and especially information shared by farmsteaders who raise them – if you live someplace cold and windy and want to keep cows – or have enough room to raise an animal for unusual fiber –  you may want to consider the Highland.  Or maybe not. 🙂

In conclusion:

  1. Has anyone made rugs with rug yarn made from cowhair?
  2. Does anyone know the fate of CUM Textiles?
Posted in Fibers, Miscellany, Rug Making, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

A Find: Swedish Rug Yarn

We’ll be moving into our new house in a few months, so I really shouldn’t be adding to my stash.  That’s especially true considering I recently added punch needle rug making to my fiber arts repertoire thinking it would be a great way to use up stashed yarn! But how can a true fiber addict turn her back on a good sale?!  That’s a rhetorical question, by the way.🙂

The owner of Eugene Textile Center bought up the stock of a book store (!?) that went out of business.  She displayed the yarns on the center’s back porch, offering them at a great sale price:  US$4/lb.   I bought four bags of Borgs Vävgarner rug yarn, each containing ten 100g skeins, of single ply, tightly spun Swedish rug yarn in a beautiful mossy-olive green, and about another 12 or so skeins of complementary colors.

The skeins felt what I would describe as “old” (I would hazard a guess of several decades old) and smelled dusty, so I decided to take advantage of a spurt of hot summer weather and wash them and let them dry on the back porch.  I could fit 10 skeins at a time in a large enameled pot, so I scoured the yarn in batches.  If you’ve never done this before, it’s quite simple.  Here’s what I did:

  • GreenRugYarnI filled the pot with cold water, added Eucalan soap, pushed the skeins into the pot, put on the lid and brought the water to a boil.
  • Then I added some vinegar and simmered for 10 minutes.
  • I next moved the skeins into a large colander waiting in the sink.  There they dripped and cooled a bit.
  • When cool enough to handle, I took the skeins to hang outside to drip and dry in the breeze and morning sunlight.

Be forewarned … this process may be a bit messy.

During this recent burst of yarn scouring, the pot boiled over several times; I slopped and dripped a lot of water from the pot onto the floor as I fished out skeins (dripping water on the stove and counter).  I then set them in a very large bowl which I next walked to the sink (water dripping from the overhanging skeins) where I transferred the skeins into a large colander to drip and cool a bit before transferring them back to the very large bowl.  I then walked through the house to the back door to the back porch.

3burnerstoveSoon I won’t worry as much about the spillage.  As we’re building a new house, I asked for a gas outlet on the covered back porch.  In the future, I’ll be doing all my canning, yarn scouring and dyeing outside.  I already bought a heavy duty, outdoor three-burner gas stove.  (In the interim, however, this recent yarn-scouring frenzy reinforced my decision to NOT extend the hardwood flooring that will be throughout the new house into the kitchen.)

Thor and I have been working on designs for a rug that I will make in the punch needle method.  The beautiful green wool rug yarn will be the main color.  In my next blog post, I will share some of the designs we’ve been toying with.

Posted in Fibers, Punch Needle Rug Hooking, Rug Making | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

Back to Basics

Many people who blog about their forays into fiber arts and crafts are motivated by an attempt to “get back to” the basics:  making their own clothes, reducing their corporate-created consumption footprint and eschewing the fast fashion industry.  For related reasons, some also turn their efforts to “get back to basics” to the food they consume.

CookieKit3I was thinking about this the other day when I saw this “Cookie Kit” by Scratch & Grain advertising the “fresh, delicious, made-from-scratch taste.”  It is the brainchild of two enterprising young mothers in CookieKit1Portland, Oregon whose “mission [is] to make homemade baking fun and easy.”   For this cookie kit, the home baker need only add one egg and two tablespoons of unsalted butter to make “9 to 12 amazing cookies.”

Except its use of “all natural,” “organic” and/or non-GMO ingredients, I’m not sure how the Cookie Kit differs significantly from the various goodies-from-a-box (or bag) offered by companies such as Betty Crocker, Duncan Hines or Pillsbury (all best friends of my mother).   Take a peek at the ingredient lists provided by the makers:

CookieKit4 (2)

Scratch & Grain Gluten-free Chocolate Truffle Cookie Kit

Cooki (2)

Scratch & Grain Chocolate Chip Cookie Kit







Betty Crocker’s Chocolate Fudge Cake Enriched Flour Bleached (wheat flour, niacin, iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), Cookie_BCSugar, Corn Syrup, Cocoa Processed with Alkali, Leavening (baking soda, monocalcium phosphate, sodium aluminum phosphate). Contains 2% or less of: Corn Starch, Modified Corn Starch, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and/or Cottonseed Oil, Propylene Glycol Mono and Diesters of Fatty Acids, Distilled Monoglycerides, Carob Powder, Salt, Dicalcium Phosphate, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Artificial Flavor, Xanthan Gum, Cellulose Gum).

Curiously …


1957 advertisement

During the early years of the commercialization of American home baking (starting in 1930), food scientists created cake mixes where the home baker (mothers were targeted), need add only water.  Their surveys/focus groups, however, revealed that the home baker didn’t feel her cake-from-a-box was truly homemade.  She had to do more work … hence the food scientists adjusted the mix to require the addition of egg and oil.  (Click here to read more on this interesting topic.)

BettyCrockerCorporate cake and cookie makers effectively used popular media – radio, TV and print – to reassure the home bakers that the cakes made from their products would be easy, perfect, use “just the good things you’d use yourself,” and create little mess to clean up.  In 1949, NBC’s The Light of the World announcer Stuart Metz exclaimed, “Now, even amateurs bake better cakes with Betty Crocker Party Cake Mix than experienced homemakers using their best 2-egg recipes.”  (Source)

TV commercials?!  Watch this televised guarantee from 1952 by Adelaide Hawley Cumming (hired by General Mills to portray Betty Crocker from 1949-1954) or a commercial where Burns & Allen pitch a Betty Crocker “calico cake” in 1957.

BettyCrockerPicFor a long time, using prepackaged mixes of all sorts have been very popular.  This advertisement shows what is apparently a woman overjoyed with her souffle made of Jell-O, mayonnaise and eggs.  (Click here to see other mid-20th century advertisements for and pictures other mid-century meals.)

Certainly convenience is a significant issue.  Who has the time to cook and/or bake everything from scratch when working full-time outside the home, commuting, raising a family, and/or taking classes?  Few people, I dare say.  Another issue is many households may lack the “essential” ingredients and supplies for basic baking.  Thus it is far easier and less time-consuming to make a “homemade” cake or cookies that really aren’t “from scratch.”

My mother used canned and prepacked goods whenever possible; she positively hated to take the time to cook.  (Anything remotely domestic or motherly took back seat to her Jehovah’s Witnesses door-to-door work.)  Perhaps because I associate canned and boxed goods with the ghastly meals, salads and desserts I was served growing up I have always tried to avoid them.

Yet for those with little time to devote to baking specifically or cooking in general, products like those offered by Scratch & Grain may be the perfect answer.  For those with limited financial means, however, the mixes sold by Betty Crocker (or one of similar companies) may be the answer:  Scratch & Grain’s cookie mix retails for $7.99 compared to $1-$3 for a commercially prepared cake mix.

Did cake/cookie mixes play a large role in your upbringing?  Are they fond memories?

Posted in Cooking, Miscellany | Tagged , , | 22 Comments

Finding Treasures

I enjoy roaming the aisles of used book stores.  Over the years I have found some amazing HandweaversWorkbookbooks for very little money.  Recently I came across a 1956 edition of A Handweaver’s Workbook by Heather G. Thorpe (originally published 1936, reissued in 1974).  Not surprising given its age, the book is hardbound, and the pages are printed on heavy acid-free pages. It is also in perfect condition, nary a pencil mark! What a find!

Browsing through it, I was impressed by its thorough yet not overwhelming approach to introducing weaving.  I learned some interesting facts I’ve not seen newer weaving survey books or learned in a weaving class.

Did you know (I didn’t!) that …

PorteeCrossThere are different names for crosses on warps made withe a paddle dependent upon their position:  The first cross at the end of a warp is called a porrey cross; the second cross is called a portee cross.

A “reed” is called a reed because in “olden times …  reeds were … actually made with flat reed strips for partitions and the with twin wound between them to keep them spaced apart.”

“Tromping” is a “dialectic variant of the verb to treadle” used in printed materials to avoid confusion “because of the similarity in print of the words treadling and threading.”  (Thorpe notes that it “is a visual aid only and not intended necessarily that you use it in your speech.”)

HeddleJigYou can easily tie your own string heddles using a homemade “jig” made from 4 pegs and a piece of wood?  (This is so much easier than the way I’ve done it!

The crackle weave originated in Jämtland (Sweden’s second largest province), known there as Jämtlandsväv. It was renamed “crackle” by Mrs. Mary Meigs Atwater (1878-1956, “the grand dame and grand mother of the MaryMeigsAtwaterrevival of handweaving” in the US; pic source) who thought the pattern looked like crackle in certain pottery glazes and was worried that English speakers wouldn’t be able to pronounce its name.

The self same Mrs. Atwater rediscovered how the “summer and winter” weaving structure was woven.  According to Thorpe, “[w]ith the coming of machine-made textiles, weaving in the home died out as we know, and this was one of the first weaves to be forgotten.”  (Brava for Mrs. Atwater!  Click here to read Helena, Montana’s Independent Record‘s 2003 article about Mrs. Atwater.)

J&RBronsonbook2The Bronson weave was named after the two brothers, J. & R. Bronson, who in 1817 brought the structure to the attention of weavers in The Domestic Manufacturer’s Assistant.

Have you found fiber art related treasures in second hand stores and bookshops?

Posted in Weaving | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments