A Dragon and Other Things

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March 6, 2009: Six months have passed since I last updated this Log. Lifestyle changes have contributed to that neglect of my web site. What I do now is not of as much interest, apparently as when I was painting. We no longer make day trips, so I don't get the opportunity to go on camera shoots to various places of interest; we no longer travel, so no scenic pictures. I gave away most of my painting supplies and reorganized my studio for making dolls and for painting silk scarves. The latter activity I have wanted to attempt for the last two years and still have not begun, although I have most of the necessary supplies. I think the intimidation factor is at work in relation to the silk scarves. I have to learn some new processes, and although I have excellent DVD instructions, I have not yet overcome the intimidation or downright fear factor and begun to learn new painting skills such as screen printing, using gutta and dyes to paint the scarves. I imagine I will eventually get there.

I have not been lazing around doing nothing. I have spun all the wool shown in the previous entry. The more I use my spinning wheel, the more I love the process. It is rhythmical, repetitive and conducive to a relaxed meditative state. At the same time one is perfecting various skills, learning use different methods of drafting the fiber, improving one's consistency and learning to make different kinds of yarn. Dyeing fiber and yarn become more important as I now seldom find the yarn colors I would like to have.

Our daughter Camilla informed me that she was born in the year of the dragon and she thinks she should have a dragon. That was a not too subtle hint for me to make her one. I surprised her with one at Christmas. Here is the cloth dragon I made:

cloth dragon
This cloth sculpture is made from Melinda Small Paterson's Kells Wyvern pattern.
It is by far the most challenging project I have made since learning to make
cloth dolls two years ago.

Here is another view:
cloth dragon
I like this photo because the cats on the pillow lower left seem to
be keeping a wary eye on the dragon.

The directions called for a scaly or watery design and I had the lovely watery looking batik fabric. The face of the dragon is a mask that is constructed  separately and fitted on the previously made dragon head. The wings and legs can be posed in various positions. The pattern called for painted eyes, but I beaded the eyes, including the eyes on the end of the tail. This dragon was larger than I expected, some four feet or so if the tail were extended. The entire body and tail are wired so it can be posed, and there are many trapunto areas--the ribs and the design on the wings all were little tubes that had to be stuffed. The pink and gold trim on the edge of the mask is painted with acrylic paints and gold paint is on the claws. The dragon can be suspended as if flying by the addition of a loop of fishing line. Camilla had said she wanted a fire breathing dragon and the pattern did not include that feature. After some thought I added bits of red, orange and yellow fiber  in order to simulate a puff of fiery breath coming out of its mouth. I am sorry I did not get a close-up of the tongue because its tip is shaped like an arrow head...the tongue is also wired. This is the most enjoyable object I have made to date.

I sent it to Camilla as a surprise Christmas present. She loves it. She kept referring to it as a "he" and I remarked I thought of it as a "she." Camilla's response was that dragons can be either male or female at any moment of time as they choose. Who am I to argue with that? A week or so later I received a delightful email from the dragon informing me that she had chosen the name "Flambeau" which she thought appropriate to Camilla's history of living in New Orleans for so many years and marching in the Mardi Gras parades that are accompanied by flambeau torches. Flambeau wanted me to know he/she made the trip without mishap although it did get uncomfortably warm in the box at times due to the dragon's fiery breath. It was written in old English and described its new home and people from a dragon's point of view. It concerned me a bit that Flambeau mentioned a four footed furry creature that came around the dragon's perch (this would be Bodhi, the cat) and that he/she was thinking of teasing it a bit with its fiery breath. I felt obligated to warn Camilla about that.

I have knitted socks, worked on my everlasting "Let it Snow" afghan, and made a kerchief and scarf set for Camilla. The picture is blurry but here is the kerchief set:

knitterd objects
They are made of a cotton and silk blend that was a delight to use.
I also have made some knitted moccasin slippers, but  mostly I have been spinning the fleeces and other fibers I have on hand, preparing for a freeform crochet/knitted object I plan to make
in the future.

My latest project has been learning to spin dog hair. In one of my DVD's Judith Mackenzie McCuin shows how to spin exotic fibers such as Angora rabbit, llama, alpaca, cashmere, quiviut from the Musk Ox, and dog hair. Mitch and Tresa have been collecting the fur from their Husky dog Tasha and I spun some to make Tresa two neck warmers and am currently working on a knitted tie for Mitch. For the neck warmers I combined the dog hair with merino wool before spinning the yarn. For Mitch's tie I had developed enough skill to spin pure Tasha yarn and I spun some tussah silk yarn and plied them together. The dog hair creates a halo around the object just as cashmere and Angora rabbit fur do.  Judith McCuin spun dog hair from the Samoyed dog in the demo, but had examples from Golden Retrievers, English sheep dogs, Keeshonds, and she remarked that Samoyeds and Huskies provide several pounds of hair per year compared to cashmere goats and Musk Ox which provide mere ounces per year.
knitted tie
This is the Tasha tie in progress. The color variations are due to the natural color variations in Tasha's fur. You
can see the soft halo around the tie, typical of dog hair, rabbit fur and cashmere. A special finishing process
slightly felts the wool to minimize shedding and stretching.

The dog hair projects are  a labor of love because sweet Tasha is getting old and is becoming somewhat fragile.

When I first got interested in spinning I tried hand spindles and I had such trouble trying to learn to spin on them; I found it quite frustrating because I love to use hand spindles. I therefore decided one of my goals this year is to improve not only my wheel spinning skills, but my hand spindle skills as well. I ordered some new hand spindles from Jonathan and Sheila Bosworth and as I tried my new spindles I learned that some of the trouble I had had formerly were due to some of the spindles. The Bosworth spindles are fantastic spinners, giving me time to get my hand up to draft out the fibers before having to spin the spindle again. Sheila Bosworth tests each spindle before shipping to make sure they spin well and she left the tufts of lovely wool with her beautifully spun bit of yarn on the spindles when they shipped. Their spindles can be seen here . Click on the list on the left of that site to see pictures of various weight spindles. I can highly recommend these hand spindles because they spin a long time once launched. Here are my new babies:
hand spindles
The one on the right is made of Zebra wood. The one in the
middle is made of Birdseye maple, and the the small one on the left is
made of Canary wood .

In order to keep the fiber from drifting into the spinning yarn, it is helpful ot have a wrist distaff to hold the unspun fiber out of the way. I made one recently and here it is:

I have spread the yarn out to show some of the beads, but ordinarily
it hangs straight down. I loop the end of the fiber roving in the area
under my wrist and wrap the long tail around the hanging yarn; it
works very well to keep the unspun fiber from drifting into the spinning yarn.

If  you want to see some beautiful wood work and spectacular hand spindles, go to the Golding Fiber tool site here . Be sure to look at their  looms as well to see the gorgeous designs.  This site has a helpful page on what weight hand spindle to use to create various sizes of  yarn and suggests the appropriate wool breeds for each as well. Again, explore the site by clicking on the buttons on the list at the left of the page. If I meet my goal of learning to spin beautiful  yarn to my specification of weight and consistency with hand spindles, I am gong to reward myself with one Golding spindle at the end of the year.

Until next time........

Last revised May21, 2009

Copyright 2001-2010 Rheba Kramer Mitchell. All rights reserved.