Friday, July 24, 2009

County Fair Time

County fair time again - already! Seems the summer flies by faster every year. Each year, employees help out at the highway department booth answering questions about county road construction, the snow plow/sanding trucks, and whatever else might be related to the county highways. I always enjoy a couple of shifts at the booth - it allows some relaxed visiting with coworkers and the public. The public doesn't always like us so much, so it's an opportunity to answer questions and be informative in a more positive way than we are usually portrayed.

One of the things I like best about our booth is the culvert. We have about 3 culverts each year that the kids LOVE to decorate. The culverts are used where needed, so the kids think it's cool to know that their autograph will buried out there somewhere! I can imagine they look extra hard in all the construction zones when driving by.

This little guy was all over the culvert - inside and out - and covered in the chalky lumber crayon. One look at this kid brings to mind one of my favorite mottos from the days I was a daycare provider - "if the kids are dirty, they must've had fun!"

I think he had a lot of fun!


I did get a chance to visit the Creative Arts building. The usual entries were there - but I noticed there was not one tatted item. NOT ONE!

Note to Self: Enter tatting in the fair next year - one in almost every category of Division 18, Hand Made Lace. Class 01 Article trimmed with tatted edging [what could I make?], Class 02 Other tatted articles [bookmark?], Class 03 Tatted doily [hmmmm], Class 05 Christmas Item [angel or ornament?], Class 06 Not Listed [what else could I make?]. I have a whole year to get these done.)

Last year I entered a crocheted doily just for the heck of it and won a 2nd place ribbon. That was the first time EVER entering anything in a county fair, so that was fun. I remember as a kid wanting to be in 4H and enter things like my farm cousins did - sewing, bunnies, calves, chickens, etc. But, I was a city kid, and 4H clubs were a little out of the way. (Besides, we didn't have a barn for the things I wanted - namely a horse.) With no other tatting competition (or very little, anyway), I should be able to get all the ribbons, and maybe it will spur some interest in tatting in this area. Hmmmmm.

Monday, July 20, 2009

My First Tatted Doily

Here's my very first tatted doily.
This is a doily pattern by Celtess called Amusement, and was recommended to me as a 'morale booster' for beginners on the InTatters site. (I knew my morale needed boosting, so this was a perfect suggestion that I readily grabbed onto!) I used HH Lizbeth size 20, "Jewels" thread to see how a variegated thread would look. As I tatted each round, I really felt like I was getting great practice with my tension, picots, joining, etc., and it was beginning to seem . . . well . . . easy! And then I got to the end. And just how to end it rattled me a bit. The pattern didn't actually say to join the last ring to the first ring, but by looking at the picture on the pattern, I knew it had to be done. Somehow. (It was amusement all right - to anyone watching me!) I now have pretty good experience picking out stitches and opening rings. The thread got pretty worn. (Sad when even the dogs leave the room because they can tell mom is frustrated . . .) How disappointing when trying to do the final stitches to complete my first doily. I guess I just need to keep doing it until something clicks in my brain and I can see it. And the last chain is not looking good. See that? (Ok, maybe more than just the last chain is not looking good - that would indicate consistency, right?) I can see that the chain tension is too loose in many places, which I probably do unconsciously trying specifically not to pull it too tight since I know I crochet very tightly. I'm also not so sure I block my work properly. And how on earth does anyone tat with thread smaller than size 20? Holy cow, I can barely see the stitches well enough to attempt sewing final thread ends into the caps. Yikes.

I just . . . need . . . practice. (That's the perfectionist in me talking.)

I did think of a couple of questions while I was tatting. How do you know if a pattern is good for a variegated thread? And I'm sure variegated thread has varying lengths of repeats, so how does one know what is good? Or do you just wing it with colors you like? I think I misunderstood picot sizes too. I thought that if they were used mostly for joining, they should be pretty much invisible. Now I'm thinking they should only be 'invisible' if the pattern specifies that.

I think if these kind of questions are coming to mind, I must be learning. And that's a good thing! I wish I knew the pattern designer - I think I will be doing this again to practice more.

It looks good from a distance. I still like how it turned out, and I think I did a pretty good job. I'll have to save this one to have something to compare my more experienced work to - someday!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Bluebirds, Berries and Blooms

We have babies! I have been enjoying the backyard so much this past week, I haven't taken the time to post about it. I have lots of pictures to share!

There are bluebird babies in one of four bluebird houses that we have set up as part of a bluebird trail. The trail of houses continues to neighboring properties. We wait every year for the bluebirds to return, and hope that they take up residence in our yard. They are very patient, sweet, non-agressive birds, so they sometimes lose out to swallows. (We much prefer the bluebirds, as they do not swoop our heads every time we go outside!) The bluebirds play and perch all over the yard with their beautiful blue feathers shining in the sun. It's fun to watch as mom and dad take turns bringing food to their babies. We watch as the parents arrive to feed them, perching on various things along the way to the house scoping out the possibility of any predators watching them before getting home. The babies chirp like crazy for the few moments being fed, and then become immediately silent when their parents fly away. Amazing how they know to be absolutely silent to protect themselves. The wonder of nature! We have ripe wild rasperries in the woods behind us, and today I captured this photo of mama (or is it dad?) bringing a berry for lunch.

So, I spend quite a bit of time in the backyard admiring my flowers and ignoring the weeds. (I figure if I let the weeds get tall enough, I can pull them standing up!) The flowers are doing nicely, but I do need to get out there and rearrange some. I didn't plan out the blooming throughout summer progression very well. This is my view of the backyard from the deck.

Today I was crawling around following a bee from flower to flower to get the perfect shot. I took about 20 shots to get one that I liked. Wonder what the neighbors thought?

This is one of my crazy lilies. This thing had so many blooms on it I don't think they all opened. The ones that did open were in a sphere - all on one stalk! Crazy thing.

The dogs are loving our unusually cool weather. We usually have the upper 80's and into the 90's in July, but this past week has been very odd sweatshirt and jeans weather in the 60's. Today it is barely reaching 80, but is beautiful with low humidity. Taffy chases her frisbee as many times as we will throw it, and has done this for pretty much all of her 10-1/2 years. She's in good shape! Ruby prefers to strike a sexy pose, as if she's modeling for Boxer Magazine.

I did finish some crafty goals this week. I finished this crocheted doily for Andrea - the daughter who has decided she likes crochet and tatted stuff after all. Especially since she needs doilies for her new apartment to protect the furniture. (Imagine that - NOW it's important to protect the end tables . . .)

I also finished my very first tatted doily this morning. I have it blocked, so will have to post a picture of that one tomorrow when it's dry. I just can't get that joining the last ring to the first ring thing. The last step to finish that doily is practically a story in itself!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Blog Stalking (and Mind Wandering)

Does anyone else go blog stalking? You know, where you start out reading someone's newest blog entry, and then you find yourself looking at their blog roll, scanning the creative names of other blogs? Some of the names are really clever and/or outrageous, so you start clicking on those blogs to see what they're all about. Intrigued by many beautiful arts and crafts, creative writing, some great photography and clever do-it-yourself projects, you click your way deeper and deeper into some pretty interesting blogs. Soon, you're adding addresses to your Reader just so you don't forget the great blogs you just found. Or you can't find your way back to one that you need to see again. I am so guilty. I have found great blogs and websites to explore as I've been searching for any tatting classes or groups near me. After seeing tatting groups and classes and conventions in other parts of the world, it seems funny we don't have a class or a guild or something specific to tatting here in my immediate area. Unfortunately, I don't see anything other than the Lace Society, which involves all the different lace-making techniques, not just tatting, and anyone that knows me knows that I DO NOT need to be enticed into another hobby. I will have to stick with my online learning of the art of tatting and maybe start a group someday. (Keywords: maybe, someday)

So, other than blog stalking, I'm working on a small crochet doily for my daughter Andrea's apartment. She broke down and asked for one after being pretty sure she didn't like crocheted stuff. It looks too "old-ladyish". But, she has now discovered that she actually likes (really!) the beauty of thread crochet and tatting, and requested a doily - er, maybe with pineapples? Wow, she has been paying attention. (She also knows it would take much too long for me to tat a doily of much size - her color scheme could change 4 times.) I should be finishing that in the next couple of days, and returning to work on tatting a beginner doily I started before the butterfly exchange.

I am also working on a photo book for Mom & Dad, who are celebrating their 50th Wedding Anniversary this summer. I asked them to pick out some of their most favorite pictures from over the years, so I have a shoebox full of wonderful photos that I've been scanning and uploading to work with. I get sidetracked there too - admiring the photos, digging deep into my childhood memories and thinking about other things I could do with the photos. (See? Like I need another project.)

Needless to say, my mind has been wandering and I haven't completed any new projects to take photos of. But here's one of my favorite photos that was in that shoebox - me with my Grandpa Herbert when I was about 4 years old.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Official T.A.T. Apprentice

Ta Da!

It's official. The three years it took me to complete the Apprentice - Phase I of the Tatters Across Time Proficiency Program was worth the effort! My projects for this phase were returned to me today, along with evaluations and comments by 3 evaluators and congratulations on passing. Congratulations to me!

It seems the most noted things I need to work on are tension and joins. I guess I knew that, but it helps to see the comments and suggestions from the evaluators to really get the 'why' part, and know what to work on to improve. I'm sure I will refer to those comments and suggestions many times as I continue learning and building on the various skills. I am determined to learn how to tat for some reason, though I'm not really sure why it intrigues me so - other than the fact that it is beautiful and unique. I'm just stubborn enough [understatement!] to figure it out.

I know, I know. Practice, practice, practice! And then I can work on Artisan - Phase II.

Strawberry Heaven

Mmmmmmm. Once again, I've been on my annual trek to pick strawberries at a local pick-your-own farm. I went right after work yesterday with a friend in the nice, unusually cool weather (which was much more pleasant than the sweaty June/July temperatures we usually pick berries in!) and came home with one, manageable flat of nice strawberries. I have been known to come home with 2 overflowing flats of enough berries to make dessert and jam for the entire community, so I thought I'd pick a more reasonable amount this year. $16 bucks worth of berries!

Here's what I'll be doing today:

Strawberry Bread

1-1/4 C. fresh strawberries (OR 10 oz. pkg of thawed, undrained frozen berries)
2 eggs
3/4 C. oil
1-1/2 C. flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 C. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon


Puree berries in blender
Whisk eggs and oil in a small bowl
In large bowl, combine the flour, soda, sugar and cinnamon
Add the berries to the flour mix and beat well with a spoon
Add the egg and oil and beat well
Pour into greased 9x5 loaf pan
Bake at 325 for about 70 minutes
Remove loaf from pan 5 minutes after taking out of oven, and cool completely on a rack

I serve with Strawberry Butter - softened butter whipped with powdered sugar and more berries.

I found these Strawberry Fun Facts. I'm still trying to picture myself tying baskets of berries to the horns of the cattle for the elves . . .