It is easy to take things, like one's own computer, for granted. I've been using this desktop model made for me by my son Joel for three or four years. It has my files and my Adobe programs and my habits firmly entrenched. Lately it has been acting up...like not turning on when I ask it to, and turning itself on in the night ???? Mike took it apart and installed a new motherboard and now it is back. Yay. My camera takes pictures in the RAW format so I have been waiting for access to Photoshop and now, finally I have it. Here is my planned post about my Thanksgiving table. I know you have all been waiting breathlessly.
I don't have a lot of experience serving Thanksgiving dinner myself because we usually share it with my parents (and all of my siblings) at their house. This year Dad was not feeling up to it so we were on our own.
Seven people were expected. I decided not to re-invent the wheel and got out the green tablecloth and wool scarf I used the last time I did Thanksgiving.
I added Mike's mother's Denby and her everyday simple stainless. The glassware is vintage Morgantown from the seventies. They are a wonderful green that is subtle without being dull. In fact, now that I think of it, all of these dishes, glasses and stainless are from the sixties and seventies. They always remind us of Mike's mother, so her presence was with us for our meal.
So far everything was the same as before, but the centerpiece is always different. I bought the three candles new and set them up with the pressed leaves I found in the giant bank ledgers Mike's cousin gave me years ago. Their colors were perfect.
Tiny vases filled with red chrysanthemums and hypericum berries also had the right colors, but the glassy collection of vases and candle holders that held them needed to be disguised by greenery. Madrona leaves echoed the shapes of the pressed leaves underneath.
Last detail: little wooden bird and leaf shapes sewed onto buff colored ribbon. They add so much life to each setting.
I had better luck with the turkey this time although it still wasn't perfect. (Last time it was dry and tough, this time the white meat cooked well but the dark meat was underdone...sigh)
Still, it was a good dinner and a good time. I hope everyone thinking back to their Thanksgiving celebrations this year has happy memories of delicious food and loving faces at their tables, like I do.
It has been quite a while (years) since my cousin asked me to dye a couple of pieces for her....a white flannel nightgown and a cotton gauze robe/overshirt. I of course said I would, put them away and forgot about them. When I cleaned my studio this summer I found them again and, stung by my dilatory ways, got to work. The two pieces were in good shape, but showed a little wear and had some places where the fabric had yellowed. They were very different in weight. I assumed that they were meant to be worn together and tried to think of ways to coordinate them more clearly.
It took a while for a plan to roll up into my conscious mind. First I scoured the garments thoroughly in hopes of ridding them of any oils or finishes and mordanted them in aluminum acetate. I decided to mark each piece with measured pencil dots, poke a needle up from behind each dot to gather a little tuft of fabric and tie it off with crochet thread. This is, of course, an ancient technique taken to the enth degree of refinement in the traditions of China, India, Japan and Indonesia. My efforts were crude, as befits an amateur, but at length I incorporated a series of knots around the bottom of the robe and the nightgown. I also added knots at the shoulders of each piece.
The next step was to choose a color. My cousin had requested warm colors and I thought of all the possibilities in my palette of natural dyes. I settled on madder because I thought I could get two colors that were different, but related. I dyed the heavier nightgown in a bath of madder extract using 10% dye on the weight of the goods and added Tums for calcium in hopes of encouraging the red end of the madder spectrum. Madder has the most complicated chemical make up of all the natural dyes, including alizurin and purpurin. It goes brown if the bath gets too hot. I carefully brought the dye pot up to 160 degrees F and kept it there for two hours, then let the nightgown cool in the pot overnight. When I took it out it was almost black. The flannel fabric really sucked up the color. When I got it washed out it turned brick red. I was pretty happy until I saw the purple marks scattered right down the front of the gown. Bad words here. Untying the knots revealed rows of irregular little circles like bubbles. I thought there would be more marks from the folds between the knots, but that did not happen. Okay.
The robe was next, dyed in the same extract as the gown, but only at 3% on the weight of the goods, also with Tums added. It immediately turned the most beautiful coral. I kept the timing the same and the next morning it was much darker and more orange than it had been before. After wash-out some of the coral tones returned but it was still orangier than it had been. However, the color did go well with the gown, as I had hoped.
Embroidery was the only way I could think of to hide the unsightly marks on the nightgown, so I used the circle motif as a flower center (or a sun) and did lazy daisy stitches all around. Scattering these down the front and at random places in the phalanxes of circles made for a cohesive overall effect. I used coral thread for the gown and did the same with brick red for the robe.
The final change was new buttons on the robe. One of the original buttons broke in the dye process so I had no choice but to change them out. Fortunately I was able to find some the right color at my local fabric store and so...finally...the project was complete. I think my patient cousin was pleased and the pieces looked really nice on her.
Growing up in my family as the oldest of seven children, I suspected that there were niceties at the table that we were not being taught. We always ate well, and good manners were required (woe to the ones who talked with their mouth full), but the table settings were utilitarian at best...the bare minimum dish and utensil count to keep after dinner clean-up quick. We never ate out because no one would invite so many children to any but the most informal picnic-style meal and my parents could not afford to feed us in restaurants. When I went away to camp and made the horrendous error of passing a dish of food across the table, I was treated to one of those Mabel-Mabel-strong-and-able-keep-your-elbows-off-the-table kind of rhymes sung by all of my tablemates to remind me never to do that again. Of course I didn't, but until then I had no idea that there was any such rule. Books and pamphlets about proper behavior and etiquette occasionally came my way, usually written in decades past about the arcane uses of pickle forks and when it was acceptable to use placemats (informal ladies' luncheons) instead of a full cloth (10" drop minimum, please, white or ivory only). This showed me a different standard of living and pointed out intricate areas of knowledge of which I was ignorant. I've always felt that ignorance is dangerous, and so tried to absorb what I could about things that were not in my experience. One of the sweeping pronouncements I took to heart was that colored glassware on the table was vulgar. Suspecting in my heart that I was vulgar, I could not abide colored glasses. Even in the sixties when casual entertaining began to supplant the old formality and tableware became much more varied I would turn away from colored glasses with a sniff.
Fortunately even such rigid shibboleths as this can be worn down by time and eaten by the growth of self confidence. Some years ago, when table setting became more and more interesting to me, I began to collect such tinted glassware as looked well on my tables, going so far as to acquire some of the old pieces that I had secretly admired but could not countenance from years before. My pink wine glasses and green Morgantown tumblers were some I remembered from the seventies and I love them both. I have received lovely colored glasses as gifts and they have made my tables much more engaging. Every time I get them out though I hear that hoity toity voice proclaim them to be vulgar and I have to laugh at the smug assurance that would say such a thing and the insecurity that would believe it.
This weekend colored glass ran riot on the table as we gathered to celebrate my son's birthday. It was a happy occasion and no one gave a thought to vulgarity, except in terms of the election.
Usually I am fully engaged with my own projects and don't spend much time playing around but Jude's experiments with pomegranate and walnut lit my fire. I liked her results so much I reached for my stash of scraps and copied what she did as closely as I could. I found an old Sanka can and wrapped a length of mordanted (alum acetate) linen/silk around it, incorporating circles cut out of madrona leaves and tied it with string. I used madrona leaves because they are very sturdy and I thought they would hold up well. Also, the madrona tree is between the house and the studio, so they were handy. I also rolled other fabric pieces around some rusty wire and re-bar and put everything into a bath of pomegranate and walnut extracts. It simmered for a couple of hours and cooled overnight. The madrona leaf circles were a happy surprise. I was just hoping for a resist effect but I got a clear true yellow that penetrated more than one thickness for an interesting double effect. So, moons and moon shadows...
It has been weeks since I posted last and this is all the further I have come on Becky's Spring. First of all, choosing the pattern of colored strips was very time consuming. As I worked my way down the ladder, the wider strips got more and more bunched up and wrinkled so when I approached the end I took it all apart (keeping the chosen order intact) and made those strips a little more narrow. Weaving again, I measured the width and found that I lost an inch (an inch!!) from middle to end. I took it apart again. Now the strips were getting well handled and the turned edges unturned. I had to re-press each strip as I wove it. This time I measured across every time I added a strip and measured lengthwise to be sure the strips were at right angles to the long sides. Sometimes after I had pinned the strip I found on the next measurement that something had moved and the width again was shrinking. Now the width is uniformly 15 3/4 inches, although looking down the length shows little wobbles in the lengthwise strips. That is too bad. Basting this down is the next step. Hopefully I will be able to get it sewed together without too much distortion.
This is only half of the runner. I still have to repeat the process on the other end. Weaving such a long piece has turned out to be much harder than the 10" square I did for Dee's Hearts for Charleston (duh). It has allowed me to integrate the colors I want into a single entity, but whew...I hope it will be worth the effort.
Finally I have made enough strips to start Becky's Spring. I know I still don't have enough, but I wanted to try out my colors to see what works best before I go to the trouble of making more. I cut (and pieced) a backing cloth from handkerchief linen, and stay stitched the edges to keep it from distorting too much. (We'll see about that.) Then I arranged the lengthwise strips, trying to maintain balance but not strict symmetry. The variations in widths seem interesting, but I am so glad I didn't try curves. I am afraid that my medium weight linen will end up being too heavy, but will have to deal with it if it is....I don't have a choice.
Adding the strips in is a very slow process. I have never been a weaver and I didn't have a clear idea of how the various widths and colors would work together when they were woven in. What I am getting surprises me. The darker greens look much deader than I expected so I will have to use lots of the light yellow-green. Fortunately I have plenty of scraps of that. Keeping everything straight is pretty hard.
I'm not sure if I like it or not.
When I asked to be included on Jude's Sun Moon Stars list it occurred to me that I should actually make something even though I wasn't sure just what to do. To get into the spirit of the whole thing I did a couple of pages of doodles, hoping they would show me a way. As I thought of suns, moons and stars I began to list their attributes and the ways they are usually portrayed. This is an exercise in the obvious...a festival of stereotypes....but as a graphic designer I know how important symbols are to communication and once I have identified the obvious, subversion of those accepted forms is the natural next step. So, this is my starting point.
Suns, moons and stars are all spherical, or in two dimensions, circular. Differentiating between them or making them more than circles depends on context and proportion. Usually the sun is the largest, then the moon, then stars. These celestial orbs are interwoven into the experience of all humans, living or dead. They and their cycles are one of the few things we have all had in common.
The sun is radiant. It gives off light and heat and showing that energetic generosity is part of telegraphing "sun". but usually the spherical center is included too, because we can see it clearly. So the sun is most simply shown as a circle with rays coming out all around. It is warm, literally, so yellow is the classic color, or white, as in "white hot". The space around the sun can be blue, but whatever color is chosen it should be light. If you put the sun into a dark sky it immediately implies the blackness of space and the sun moves from being our sun and life source to being an anonymous star. As long as it has rays, the sun can have a face and can also have arms...implying both the giving of light and life, and the encircling, holding power of gravity. The sun holds us in its embrace. It can be male or female but usually is neutral. When the sun is present it dominates the sky and illuminates the earth, hiding the moon and stars from our consciousness.
The moon almost never has rays because it only reflects light. Unlike the sun, the moon can change shape from circular to crescent. The phases of the moon are a great way to indicate the passage of time. Because it is mostly visible at night it is usually shown white against a dark background. It is cool and its thin light is mysterious. Since we can look at it directly, we often give it a face. It is sometimes considered female, but also can be male as in "the man in the moon". It can be comfortingly familiar or distant and impersonal, but it is always beautiful.
They radiate (they too are suns), they are very far away and there are uncountable numbers of them. They can be shown as circles, but only small ones irregularly spaced, and there needs to be more than one. If only one star is used it usually takes on a pointed form showing the rays without the inner sphere. The classic five pointed star is immediately identifiable, but any number of points can be added, as long as the center circle isn't emphasized. Star shapes can have faces, but they are usually anonymous. Collections of stars...constellations...offer patterns that we can project our stories upon, but mostly stars speak of the vast universe hidden from us by the brilliance of the sun. They draw us out of our daily preoccupations and show us that we are part of something larger.
Another small dinner....just four of us. I think six or eight people are the best number for a dinner party, but lately for me it has been four or twelve. Oh well. Each occasion has its own combinations and rhythms. This one brought to us friends that live close by, but have been drawn up into their own lives for the past few months and have been therefore little seen. It was good to reconnect. The food turned out particularly well this time...flank steak tournados (spinners), roasted red potatoes, fresh green beans with bacon, and green salad...yum.
Since it was the first day of October I wanted the table to reflect the onset of autumn. I thought I might use the spider web runner, but then a flock of geese flew over, heading south, and I switched to the square tablecloth with the circling swans. The last farmers' market of the year yielded a beautiful bouquet of dahlias, zinnias and hypericum berries in fall colors, with a zing of hot pink and chartreuse to enliven the combination. They fit into my little iron cauldron very well. The square yellow Vietri plates that I rarely get to use looked best, and the green glasses that I used on my last summer table. Just-starting-to-turn finely articulated leaves from our Japanese maple tree paired with hypericum berries linked the plates with the dark kettle and the brown flowers in the bouquet. I felt like this setting expressed the moment in the wheeling season as well as it could and was satisfied with that.
The weather forecast said summer was over, but we went to the beach anyway because it was low tide. My parent's property on Hood Canal includes oyster and clam rights on a private beach. There is a saying around here that when the tide is low the table is set and that was true for us this weekend. The rain ceased just as the tide dropped and we sallied forth with buckets and rakes to gather our limits of bivalves. The oysters just sit on the sand waiting to be picked up but the clams need digging, or at least scratching. The mud is a little daunting on a minus tide and Mike almost had to leave his boots in it, but Brendan came to the rescue. We filled our buckets in short order and retired to the campfire to enjoy the bounty. Michele and Becca are fans of shellfish and led the dining charge. We ate a couple oysters raw (my favorite) and steamed many more over the fire. Melted butter, garlic and wine make a fine sauce. Summer lingered long enough for us to have a great family weekend.