Sunday, March 31, 2013

Bringing in the Pollen

Today was a lovely warm sunny day. It was a great day for working in the yard, not only for me, but also for the industrious creatures out in the back of the yard. The bees were out collecting pollen to feed their young. I hope this means the queen is laying well and they're gearing up for all the apple blossoms that will be out in a few weeks. One week ago I saw white pollen coming in from the maple tree, but now the pollen is dark yellow to orange and looks very much like the pollen in all the crocus blossoms in the yard.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

A Kindle Kind of Day

Today is one of those days where it's best to just stay inside and read. It's cold, it's dull and the snow just keeps coming down and down. It's time to dig out the kindle and read one of the books I downloaded a while back.
A year ago I got a Kindle Touch for Christmas. It's great - there are lots of free or really cheap books on Amazon and I can check out ebooks from the library in a matter of minutes without leaving home. While I still think the printed page is easier to read, the Kindle is definitely easier on the eyes than my spouse's tablet.

I did miss the feel of a book in my hands and I wanted to protect my kindle, so I designed and made a leather cover for it. It wasn't hard, but it was time consuming. If you're interested in making a similar cover for your e-reader or tablet, here's how I made mine:

First I drew around my kindle on two pieces of stiff cardboard and cut them out. I then laid the cardboard pieces on top of some nice black leather and cut out two pieces of leather, adding a 1/4 inches around each piece. These pieces are the inner cover.
Then I stacked the kindle, the cardboard and the inner cover pieces to see how how thick  they would be. This thickness is the width of the spine of the kindle cover. I laid the inner cover pieces of leather out on the rest of my leather, with the gap for the spine between them. Then I drew around them and cut that out for my outer cover.
I used a three prong leather punch to punch sewing holes all around the outside edges of the outer cover and the inner cover pieces.
Next, I cut out three leather tabs and one piece of black elastic to hold the kindle in the cover. Holes were punched in the ends of the tabs so they could be sewn onto the inner cover.  I also cut out a tab to close the cover. I punched holes into it and into the back of the outer cover. I then sewed a button on the front of the outer cover. I hand sewed a button hole on the end of the tab.
I used a sewing awl and strong black leather thread to sew the entire thing together - sewing the tabs and elastic on the same time as the inner cover to the outer cover. The cardboard was then slipped in between the covers. This gives the kindle cover the same rigidity as the cover of a book.
All in all, I'm pleased with the result. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Bees are Out and About!

Today was a glorious warm sunny day - one of the best we've had so far this year. The sun was out, the temperature was warm and the wind was fairly calm. The sun shown on the fronts of the bee hives, warming them up and letting light into the tiny little front doors. The bees, who have been clustered inside keeping warm most of the time this winter, came out for some flying time and to relieve themselves. There are now lots of little brown spots all over the area near the hives. There was also the chore of carrying out the dead. Bess don't live very long and some die in the hive during the winter and these corpses need to be carried out of the hive and dumped. Normally the dead bee is carried off a distance from the hive, but when it's quite chilly out, the body will get dumped just off the hive landing.
The bees were also flying about looking for anything tasty, so I put out some broken up honey comb I had stored. After finding the sticky sweet wax, some bees went back to the hive to report their find by doing the happy waggle bee dance on the front of the hive. The excited bee would dance around in a figure eight while waggling its butt. Through out the day, the bees worked hard to clean the honey off the wax. Once they've gotten all the honey out of this wax that they can, I'll use it for making beeswax candles.

Today I also saw my very first flower of the year - iris reticulata.

I'm surprised a bee wasn't on it. It's the only flower I saw anywhere today. Yet some bees found enough pollen from somewhere to fill their little pollen baskets and bring it back to the hive. Look at the bulges on the hind leg of one of the bees entering the hive in this picture.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Big Birdie

As I type this, there's a large bird sitting way up high in my neighbor's cottonwood. Every evening it goes there to rest. I can't quite get enough detail to tell for certain, but I think it's a Red Tailed hawk.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Winter Solstice Sunset

As I post this, the sky is black out and it is only 5 o'clock on the shortest day of the year. It was a beautiful day. The temperature reached a comfortable 50 F. The last day of the Mayan calendar ended with a beautiful sunset - in the east. Here in Colorado our entire sky can fill with intense colors of the sunset. Today, the color was just in the east since that was where the clouds were. The west was clear.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Tiny Handmade Mermaid Dolls

Almost every year I make hand dyed ornaments for sale at the Boulder Handweavers Guild sale. These ornaments are actually tiny little cloth dolls. Each one is cut out of a tightly woven cotton cloth, sewn on my 1948 Singer 15-91 and then stuffed with polyfil. Then each one is hand dyed, painted and beaded. Depending on what the ornament is, other embellishments such as hair or wings are added. While these are quite small, each one takes quite a bit of time to make. The other day I noticed that it took 4 hours just to sew and stuff two mermaid ornaments. I don't know how long it then takes to dye, paint, bead and hair them yet, but I know it's quite a while. Here are 4 new mermaids I just finished:
Mermaid 1

Mermaid 2

Mermaid 3

Mermaid 4

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Lucet Tutorial - Square Cord

In my last Lucet post, I posted an image of the simple instructions  included with the Lucets I sell.  I thought it might be a good idea to do a  more elaborate tutorial that includes some tips on what I've found helpful.

The lucets I use are ones I make. I've left off the handle found on some lucets since it just seems to get in the way. Also, I made them bigger than some, with a round bottom that fits comfortably in the palm of my left hand.


1. Hold the lucet in your hand, cradling it comfortably in your palm. If you are right handed, hold it in your left hand, otherwise hold it in your right hand. Hold the ball of yarn, cotton string or whatever you will be making cord with in your other hand.
Cradle the lucet comfortably in your left hand

2. Pass the tail of the yarn through the hole in the lucet. Hold this tail with your thumb so the yarn won't slip while you wrap the ball end of the thread around the horns of the lucet. First, wind it around the front of the right horn, then over and in front of the left horn. The yarn should make a figure eight.
The yarn should make a figure eight around the horns

3. Bring the yarn back across the front the of the right horn and hold it there. You can hold it in place by grabbing it between two fingers of the left hand behind the lucet while you do the next step.

4. Pinch the lower loop on the right horn between your thumb and finger of the right hand and pull it up and over the horn.
Pull the lower loop up over the horn.

5. Rotate the lucet right over to left. Then pull on the yarn to tighten the cord.
The lucet is rotated, cord tightened and the yarn is brought across the right horn again.

6. Bring the yarn across the right horn again and grab the loop as before to bring it up and over the horn.
Grab the loop as before and bring it up and over the horn
Loop is now over the horn

7. Rotate the lucet right over left again and tighten the cord. You want to snug up the knot, but don't make it too tight or you won't be able to pull enough cord through this knot to continue.
Rotate the lucet and tighten the cord

8. Repeat this step until the cord is long enough. The cord should have four sides.

Closeup of the cord

9. To end the cord, cut the yarn a few inches from the loops. Thread it through the loop on the right horn. Slip this loop off the horn and pull on the yarn until this loop is closed. Then thread the end of the yarn through the loop on the left horn, slip this loop off and pull until this loop is closed.

10. Thread the end of the yarn through a large needle and hide the end of the yarn by taking a few stitches in the end of the cord and then cutting off the excess. Do this to the extra yarn at the other end of the cord as well.

Some more hints:
Starting a cord is the hardest part. You need to have a good grip on the end of the cord with your thumb while pulling the yarn tight. Once a few knots are made and the cord starts to take shape, it's much easier to continue. Try to keep even tension when pull the cord tight and the cord will be more consistent.

Some yarns are easier than others. Wool is nice and springy and makes a stretchier cord. Cotton can have a lot of friction when pulling the cord which can make it more difficult to pull a loop up, especially if the knot was pulled very tight. Rayon is more slippery and makes a very nice cord.

Some people might find it easier to start off giving the lucet one more turn and then pulling the yarn up over the left horn instead. I find it easier to do cotton this way. The yarn is then pulled tight before doing the next rotation.

1. First, I turn the lucet one more time to wrap the yarn around the left horn and then I grab the lower loop from the inside of the left horn. 

2. Lift the loop up over the horn.

3. Pull the yarn to close the loop and snug up the knot. 

4. All snugged up. Time to rotate the lucet again and repeat.