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.






Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Let the fun begin... The Dayton Felting Retreat

A group of us left Thursday morning for Nevada. I drove one of two cars. We followed the remnants of a storm over the Carson Pass. As we drove up into the mountains, we passed the snow removers heading down the highway and hoped that this meant we didn't have to stop to chain up (which I didn't have) or drive in snow (which I'm not very good at.) with my snow tires (which I just had installed.).
We reached Carson Pass at 8,574ft. It was clear and so beautiful it almost took your breath away.
The icy roads were melting and the road was clear. We had driven through the Carson Spur and now I could relax. The "Spur" is an avalanche area on the highway that always makes me nervous when I drive through it. The rest of the drive was much easier and in no time we drove down into Nevada and stopped for an early lunch in Minden.
After lunch, we headed for Reno. We had plans. First we drove to the Jimmy Beans Wool store and business...
...where we went a little crazy looking at all the beautiful wool yarn, fleece, fabric, gifts and books. We were treated to a behind the scenes tour of the online part of the business and the warehouse.  Fun stuff! If you are interested in a quality online store for yarn and all the extras, go to...http://www.jimmybeanswool.com/ Jimmy is a lady and it's a nickname. All the folks there were very friendly.
I bought a book by the lady who created the pattern for the Moonkoosa slippers/boots that we made for this retreat. Watch the video on this website. It's hysterical. I just found out that she is also a singer in a group called Snowbird ( her songs have been featured on the soundtracks of Dawson's Creek, NUMB3RS and Party of Five.) and "she lives in the mountains with her unicorn, puffy cat & a hefty yarn stash riddled with gnomes."
This is her first knitting book.

Then we drove across town to the Nevada Museum of Art.
The wind practically blew us out of the parking lot, but I did get this photo of my windblown  "crew" posing with a strange rock man?...woman?, in front of the museum.
We went in , paid our dues, looked at some books and the gift shop, then proceeded upstairs to see the Phyllis Shafer "I only went out for a walk..." exhibit. She is a  plein air painter that lives in Tahoe and found inspiration in these wonderful Sierra Nevada Mountains. Her painting are stunning. I couldn't take any pictures in this exhibit. They didn't allow any cameras, but you can see some of her paintings here...http://www.phyllisshafer.com/oilpaintings/
These photos of her paintings do not give justice to her wonderful oils. They are so beautiful. Her skies in each painting are so unique.. so stylized. Each had its own design and flow. She truly paints what John Muir felt when he said, " I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” I understand this quote. It's one of my favorites.
We also enjoyed the Maurice Sendak: 50 Years, 50 Works, a  memorial exhibition of 50 select artworks by the late author, artist and illustrator Maurice Sendak
 ...celebrating the 50th anniversary of the publication Where the Wild Things Are, Sendak’s wonderful and revered children’s book. We've all read Where the Wild Things Are to our children or grandchildren. My personal favorites are the Little Bear series that Sendak illustrated. I must have read Little Bear's Visit to both of my sons, thousands of times in their childhoods. They loved this story (actually four little stories) and the illustrations.
There was a "wild rumpus" room which, I suspect, was a place for reading to groups of school children.
There were many of his original paintings, like this one.
With all the information about why he painted "Moishe" and when... what year and what kind of medium.
 There were some that I had never seen before.
Like an opera poster from 1984 in watercolor, pen and ink on paper.

The walls were covered with his drawings.

If you happen to be in Reno, NV on the 18th. of April you can bring your pajamas and join others in the
  • Where the Wild Things Are: Pajama Party and Film Screening Friday April 18, 2014 / 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
    Parents and children are invited for a festive pajama party at the Museum. Participants will enjoy a hands-on art project, after-hours access to the exhibition, Maurice Sendak: 50 Years, 50 Works, 50 Reasons, evening snacks and a special screening of the 2009 Spike Jonze film Where the Wild Things Are. This event is designed for families with children ages 7 - 12. This film rating is PG. Come in your coziest PJs!
    $20 / $16 Museum members | Buy Tickets

    How fun is this??  I'm sure you can find a 7 to 12 year old around somewhere. They might even let you in by yourself.

    We saw some other exhibits that were noteworthy in this three story museum.
    Some very interesting and some downright weird. It's all ART. It's all a view of the artist's concept and his vision... but one art installation, that filled a whole room, was like walking inside the artist's mind. It was crazy weird. You had to walk on all these old magazine photos from the 40' to the 80's that were masking taped to the floor. The walls were covered too and strips of paper were hanging everywhere. It was very strange. Uncomfortable really. 
  • Then there was the room filled with Crochet. A couple of the ladies in our group got into a little trouble here... well, not really. One of the docents, a very nice, old man, had a talk with them. (You know who you are, ladies.) He understood that my friends were just being one with the art. I looked into the room. It was like a huge, red spiderweb and you know how I feel about spiders.
We left the museum and drove down S. Virginia St. to Junkee's. This is a thrift store extraordinaire.
A fun filled extravagance with room after room of thrifts and antiques.
 and creative inspiration.
You cannot go into this store and not buy something. Clothes on the left and everything else on the right. It's a "not to be missed" place to go...  and you WILL find something you can't live without.
We left Junkee and drove south to Carson City and east to Dayton. We stopped at the store and picked up a few things for dinner and finally reached our destination.
We had a lovely dinner, prepared by our hostess, with banana splits for dessert... the beginning of a food filled weekend. We talked for a while and then each of us said goodnight, as we ended our first day in the little town at the western end of the Twenty-Six Mile Desert, on a bend of the Carson River.
Tomorrow we would start our felting fest...