Friday, January 25, 2008

A Textile Field Trip and a Birthday Gift

Today (yesterday, by the time I finish this post) was a vacation day (end of semester) for my kids. My daughter and her friend were gracious enough to let me drag them off on a field trip I've been wanting to go on for a long time: a tour of the Pendleton Woolen Mill. (OK, yeah, three links might be a bit much -- the middle one is the most interesting.) The mill tours are only offered Monday through Friday, and somehow, there's always something else that needs doing on a free week day. But it occurred to me that the Outlet store at the mill might be a great place to spend some birthday money I had. And to spend some of my husband's birthday money as well (he hadn't spent it yet after all, and we were both interested in this purchase).

Several years ago, we went to see this exhibit of Chihuly's Pendletons at the Tamastsklit Cultural Institute, just outside of Pendleton. There's a great video at this website that will give you a flavor of it. Growing up on an Indian reservation, I was familiar with trade blankets. But seeing this exhibit while I was knitting an Alice Starmore fair isle was sort of a knitting epiphany. Sorry for the fuzzy picture of Grant Avenue - Virtual Yarns is "sold out" of this design and I can't link to a better picture.
Grant Avenue Vest
There are all kinds of parallels between the trade blankets and fair isle knitting. This picture of a swatch might be a better way to look at the knitting.
Similarities exist between the common geometric and repetitive patterns. Also, just as most fair isle patterns are multicolor but any one row only has two colors, the tribal blankets are usually a jacquard weave, with two colors at any one "row" of weaving. The two colors are reversed on the reverse side of the blanket. But mostly, both are feasts of color and pattern.

Anyway, I had some money, and I drove to Pendleton. We took the tour, which is short, and fascinating for any history or fiber buff. At the Pendleton Mill, the blankets start as dyed fleece. The wool is carded and combed (or is it combed and carded?), made into roving, and spun. All by machine, but old machines, which have their own shop just to make the parts to repair them. Then the yarns are woven into blankets. The blankets are cut, napped, and finished at the Pendleton Woolen Mill in Washougal, WA.

Some of the blankets make it back to the Pendleton store at the mill. They sell first quality blankets (and other stuff) at full retail. And then there's the outlet. The outlet sells mostly seconds, and some overstock and discontinued stuff. It's rather a treasure hunt. There's a whole room full, mostly of blankets, but they have what they have. Some of the flaws are not trivial. second codes
After the tour, we were given this sheet that translates the codes for the various flaws, which are taped onto the blankets. Some of my favorite Pendletons are the Nez Perce blanket, or maybe the Rock Art one. I didn't find either of these, but I did find this one, which I think I'm going to be quite happy with.
It's called Spirit Quest. The figures are some of the same ones from the Rock Art blanket, which come from some 10,000 year old petroglyphs found in the Columbia River Gorge. It's flaw is CS, which stands for crease. There are what may be permanent creases in the nap of the fabric on the right side (up by the head of the large figure). Given that I plan to fold this on the end of my sofa when it's not in use for couch-cuddling, I don't think that will bother me much. Other blankets had holes, no nap (which is a matter of taste, partly) and thin spots that were REALLY thin.

Here it is on my sofa in the family room.
New blanket
And here's the little owl figure that my daughter's friend particularly liked:New blanket
And here's the reverse -- VERY bright:blanket
These blankets (first quality ones) are available from Pendleton USA, but if you're interested, you also might try Kraffs, which is where the folks I grew up around bought blankets and blanket coats, and where my dad used to buy his suits for church.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Happy Birthday baby!

One of my sisters and I have birthdays a week apart. In fact, last week we were the same age (if you're only counting by years, that is). I've been waiting for our mutual celebration to show you this: Amy Butler Frenchie Bag
It's a "Frenchy" bag designed by Amy Butler. I made it for my sister for her birthday. Quite honestly, this was one of those presents that is a little selfish -- I REALLY want one of these myself, and my sister's birthday seemed a good excuse to make one. I used Amy Butler fabrics, which I found locally at Village Quiltworks. I did use a Joel Dewberry fabric for the lining, see: Amy Butler Frenchie Bag
That's a magnetic clasp, and there are three sections (two pocket dividers) in the bottom of the bag.
Amy Butler BagHere's a picture with the button I added. It's just for looks. The colors are more correct in the earlier pictures.

Next up, one for me!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

We'll miss you Potter

Thursday was an unexpectedly sad day. Our dog, Potter, died suddenly at our vet's office. I was with him.

Potter was born on May 21, 2000. He came to live at our house in August of that year. Here is the first picture we saw of him, when he was just one of the puppies we could choose:Potter
We've always felt that Potter was meant to be part of our family. Our daughter had been asking (really, begging) for a dog. She wanted one for her seventh birthday. We felt that a dog was a family pet. And I didn't want to be crabby about taking on the inevitable responsibility for my daughter's dog. But a family dog, that was a possibility.

While we were musing over breeds, and sizes, we took a trip to Montana. At a rest stop at St. Regis, Montana, we happened to chat with a lady who had the cutest little puppy. When we were all in the car, we talked about how THAT was a lot like the kind of dog we hoped to find. After a few minutes, we decided that one of us should find out more about that little dog. This woman very kindly told us, perfect strangers, about her new little puppy, and even gave us the internet address of her breeder.

So, we were introduced to the Lowchen breed. It seemed like a dream come true -- they were small, non-shedding (I'm allergic to dogs), and loved people. We contacted the breeder, who still had some litter-mates of the little dog we'd met. One was a little male who officially was called Volare Kings Kokanee, and unofficially, Monkey. He was smart, and had an expressed recessive gene for "short" hair. We decided we would call him "Potter", which seemed better to yell out the back door than "Gryffindor", which otherwise would have been perfect for a little lion dog. Even though Potter was hairy, he didn't have the right coat for a show Lowchen. However, he was perfect for a pet. And on August 30, 2000, Potter came to stay at our house.

Potter was funny, smart, and he liked being with us. These are good characteristics for any friend, human or canine. He loved chasing squirrels and cats in our yard, sneaking peanut butter off knives in the dishwasher (I had to be very firm about a down-stay here), our annual huckleberry picking jaunt (he ate berries off the bushes), and us.

I never knit for Potter, because he had far too much dignity and too much hair to wear doggy clothes. However, he put up with quite a lot of silliness from our daughter with resigned good grace. He loved to sit next to me when I knit, and to squeeze in between if one of the kids or my husband had the spot beside me.
He was the best dog we could have hoped for, and we miss him very much.