I prefer winter and Fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape — the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show. ~Andrew Wyeth

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The felting fun continues... and yes... ant hills in the desert.

My commenter's are sooo smart. The Wordless Wednesday photo was, indeed, an ant hill. These are Harvester Ant hills, from what I've learned researching the subject.
On Friday morning I woke up early and walked out into the desert that surrounds the home that we were staying in for the weekend. The sun had not come up yet and was only on the distant mountains to the south.
And there I was, not too far from the houses, but feeling like I always do in the Nevada desert... very cold and far away from civilization. I love this feeling. I'm close to houses, but on my own in this desert environment.
And here I was...
the only thing moving around in the sagebrush and dirt. This was about 7:30 a.m.
This is kind of a tradition with me. I've been here three times now and it's like I HAVE TO DO THIS on the first morning or I don't feel like I'm really there.

The sun slowly rises and the light moves.
Revealing shadows on the closer mountains to the south and west. Then it rises over the eastern mountains behind me and the desert floor comes alive with color and, sometimes, movement in the form of rabbits. This year there were no bunnies to be seen. It was very cold and quiet... as if every living thing (except me of course) had moved elsewhere.
The plants lit up with the sun.
And the golden light reflected on the many plants that live here in this dry place. They had rain the day before and now the sun probably felt good.
I have not seen other desert areas. This is all I know about what a desert looks like, but I find it beautiful. Its stark and Eco friendly landscape is open and free. It doesn't need much to survive... a lesson to us all.
There were lots of sign that rabbits use this area.
This is rabbit scat covered with frost. This debris covers the desert floor. Must be great fertilizer.
And then there are the ant mounds... everywhere. No ants... but lots of ant mounds. They must be hibernating.
with a gravelly surface.
surrounded by a large dirt area that is kind of a mystery. The Desert USA website says that this might be for minimizing flooding or providing a barrier to wildfires, or to discourage intrusion of plant roots... or this dirt area might deny cover to potential predators. I find this so interesting. To think that a group of little ants could construct a "mound" of gravel and dirt with such instinctive and remarkable intelligence. It boggles the mind. Another reason to tell man to pick up its old development sign that has fallen over nearby. Man is so messy... Oh! It didn't fall over. It was cut down and left there. After all... they own the land and if it falls on an ant mound or a bunny den..." What's the difference. There are thousands of these mounds and rabbits. Who needs all of these rabbits anyway?" Talk about intelligence...
So, with that angry thought in my head and trying to find my center again. I took one last look at the elegance of the morning...
Felt the sun starting to warm my coat...
 and was reminded of a  Gerard Manley Hopkins poem called The Windhover. This is the beginning of it.

"I caught this morning morning's minion, king-
    dom of daylight's dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
    Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,..."
You've got to love how Hopkins puts words together, even if you don't always understand what he means? What do you think he means? I think it's like a prayer... but his poems always feel this way to me.
These words are how it felt out there, standing , walking... into "this morning morning's minion" I was the "minion", I was the underling with the "wimpling wing".

I walked back to the house. I can't remember if someone had started the coffee or if the water was ready to pour into the French press, but I swooped down on that coffee like a "dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon,...".  The kitchen room was warm and  the fragrance of oatmeal, apples and cinnamon was wafting in the air. We sat down together, gave thanks and ate the delicious breakfast.
Then the felting began.
First we washing machine felted the hats and slippers that we made before we arrived. Remember the raggedy, mistake ridden, first attempt at knitting myself a pair of slippers? Remember the flat "alligator" that turned into something that resembled a slipper?
And I had to make TWO of them?
And one was bigger than the other?  Then the fringe seemed too long and it all fell into the slipper and I thought they would never look like these?
Well, after three machine felts and two hand felting sessions.
 There you have it... voila!
I'm so proud of them I could bust. They fit. I was able to "size" them, with the hand felting, to look the same... and, well...  THEY DO!
This little slipper/shoe/boot was a big accomplishment for a beginning knitter.
The only problem now is that the Prospector just called me into the living room to watch a finch, who is building a nest on the porch. Because my slippers are outside drying after the last hand felt. This little opportunist was trying to pick pieces of the fringe off of the slipper for its nesting material. The nerve. I had to bring them in.

So... back to the retreat.
On Friday we started machine felting our slippers and hats. While the washing machine was doing all the hard labor for us, we started making flowers for the hats.
We laid out layers of wool roving. The first layer is the leave shape, laid on bubble wrap. Then the first layer of flower petals is made on top of a "resist" of plastic. The resist can be anything flat that will keep the two sides of felt from felting together, i.e. it “resists” the felting process. Two more layers are created, each with a plastic "resist" in between the layers. This is so that the whole thing doesn't stick together when you felt it. The only place that you want it to stick together is in the middle.
We choose the colors that would go with our hats.
Our hostess had the guide for making the flowers copied and in plastic sleeves so the soapy water wouldn't mess up the directions.
We jumped right in. The photo above shows the hole in the plastic "resist" were the felted wool will stick together and hold the flower together. We rub the center first with warm soapy water, to felt the wool together and then rub the flower wool slowly under some tutu fabric, pulling each layer out through the hole as it starts to felt.This is very labor intensive. If you have arthritis or carpel tunnel problems, hand felting is probably not a good choice for an art project. This involves lots of pressure and rubbing. MJ (those are her hands in the above photo.) is laying out her first layer of wool in the size and shape that she wants. She has hand problems and he hands were hurting that night.
When you think that the layers are stuck together in the middle, one at a time, then you pull the layers through and start hand rubbing the whole flower. This is kind of a simple explanation of what happens but these are the results below... drying in the desert sun.
All very different and very beautiful.
Then we added beads and buttons to the middle of the flowers...
which adds a lovely center.

 Our hats went from floppy knitting, to felted and beautiful.
And even more beautiful with their felted flowers on them.

Even on an straw hat.
This was just too much fun.

Some of the ladies made felted balls to fill real acorns and felted leaves that could be used for any embellishment.
I didn't make any leaves, but I did make some of the felted balls.
 This would make a great project for FALL.

Later, being a very democratic group, we voted to eat dinner in. We drove to a thrift shop in Dayton, picked up some dinner at the local super market ( the only one for miles, I understand.) and went home.
 Before dinner we walked down the street, to a neighbor's home to see her quilting work center and all the amazing quilts that she has made. I was stunned at the workmanship in these quilts. After struggling with knitting, I decided that quilting will have to wait for my next life. This neighbor had joined us for our felting project, during the day. She has lived in Dayton for a few years and isn't it amazing how you find out that a perfectly nice, normal woman had this extraordinary talent. Who knew that she was the quilting queen of Dayton.
Well you are, my dear. If you read this blog post..., and I hope you do, I'm raving about your perfect and beautiful quilts.Thank you for giving us a tour of your home with all the lovely quilted wall hangings and quilts that you've made. That was a real treat.
So, we had a big salad and two very good DeGorno Pizzas... and apple cake, brownies and banana bread... and ice cream for dessert... and some tea. Yes, we're all at that age when we would like to eat dessert first, but we behaved ourselves and waited until after dinner for all the goodies.
Then, we watched a video of the beautiful and crazy girl who designed our felted slipper/boot pattern... the Moonkooka. She is the fairy godmother (with a white cat) of  Little Owl Knits. This is a very entertaining video, if you didn't watch it the first time I mentioned it. It's about 36 minutes of spacey, cat loving, 'Can't believe she said that." fun that will make you wonder about her mental health, but, by the end, know that she knows very well what makes a successful business. She's as smart as a fox and very funny.
Well, time to go fixed dinner. I won't tell you how beautiful the weather has been here in California. I hope Spring comes soon to all of you in the north and east US.
I may not get to posting the last day of the retreat for a few days. My delta river friend, "C" is coming to help us celebrate St. Patrick's Day and I won't be sitting at my computer much. When I do get to the next post about my trip, it will be about wild mustangs and the Moonlight Bunny Ranch... which is not about raising bunny rabbits. Ha! Nevada... you've got to love their attitude.


  1. Your slippers turned out great. I love the hats and the flowers are really nice. I wish you could have showed some of the ladies quilts. The desert is a wonderful, beautiful place. Have a nice visit with you friend. Have a blessed day. Madeline

  2. You got some great desert pictures at dawn. I, too, love the way sunlight enhances desert plants and landscapes. Those pictures look an awful lot like our sagebrush deserts here in Wyoming.

    Well, your slipper made an incredible transformation. Isn't it amazing? And they fit?? That's what I would be worried about. Ha. Anyway, they look great, and I'm glad the fringe didn't become nest lining!

    Making the flowers looks like so much fun!! Yes, it is labor intensive. It seems that the process goes a little faster if the water is really hot. But it still takes a lot of rubbing. I'm intrigued by the layers connected in the center. Slick! Thanks for the pictures...what a wonderful way to spend some retreat time! I'm with you in spirit, gals!

  3. Wow! Where do I start? Well the sunrise of course is stunning...the desert is such a different environment to here and I love all of the vast openness.
    Now those slippers...wow again! I had a look at the Tiny Owl website and her stuff is so cool. You're almost motivating me to try knitting again just so I can have a pair of those wild things. The hats are stunning too! Fun fun fun!

  4. RABBIT POOP---great photo subject!! LOL
    WOW! Your slippers turned out fabulous!! You have every right to be busting with pride!
    All of those “felties” are amazingly gawgess! And my, oh my, what a LOT of work! I think my favorite embellishments must be the oak leaves and the balls in the acorns --I LOVE ‘em! I sort of have a passion for all things acorn.
    But I do have a little bone to pick. “. . . finch is building a nest . . . slippers outside drying . . . (finch) picking fringe . . . had to bring them in.”
    Well, you big meanie! I hope, at least, that you swapped some nice dog fur for the slippers! Happy St Pat’s ~Dawn

  5. I felt wool and make penny rugs, but have yet to make this product. Do you use lambs wool? We lived in northern Nevada, but moved to Texas for employment. What town are you close to?


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