This year's Christmas holiday has seen us celebrating with almost all of our family, though very little has been in our own home. I snapped this photo of DD's tree in the afternoon on Christmas Eve, while she and I cooked the family dinner - at her house (where she and my two sons share a sprawling 1970s-Nevada County-style ranch home).
We traveled over to the coast on Christmas Day and had a second family feast on the 26th with DH's extended family... what fun to see so many faces at the table!
While California may look long and skinny on maps, it actually takes more than six hours to cross from our home in the northern Sierra foothills to Fort Bragg on the coastal edge, where Glenn's parents, SIL and niece and nephew all live, since terrain on both sides of the central valley is mountainous and roads narrow and winding. I love almost every bit of it, especially this time of the year, when rice fields are flooded and millions of migratory birds fill the Sacramento Valley.
We managed to make our way back home late Saturday evening and then spend Sunday catching up with ourselves... laundry, cleaning up, making turkey soup from the frozen carcass of Christmas Eve dinner, and a little bit of knitting.
Travel opens new vistas for us, but allows for only simple knitting.... I will be unfolding the most interesting bits of my trip across the state from the Sierras over to the Pacific coast later this week, but did want to share with you a bit of knitting progress....
I worked my way through four small squares (4 inch) while chatting or watching movies with the relatives... much easier to accomplish than something that required attention, and much more sociable too! Unfortunately, until I can get cranking out some pairs of socks on the sock knitting machine, I am now pretty much out of leftover sock yarn to work with, and am accepting any offers for superwash sock yarn... as you can see, turning these smaller squares into four or nine-patch designs will allow for lots of creative exploration and eventually a charity blanket!
I also managed to get most of the way through my first Safed leaf for the Tikkun Tree Project before losing the instructions.... lucky for me I save these downloads on the computer and could quickly print another copy and finish off the last six rows when I got home. Who knows where the plastic sleeve containing the original copy ended up, but hopefully it will get into the hands of someone on the Mendocino coast willing to knit one themselves!
My grey handspun is perhaps best put to use in making a few of these leaves; the ball in the photo contains my first attempts at Navajo plying, which haven't really improved with washing and beating, as they are pretty over-plied in my attempt to master this technique. The yarn does make a nice, firm sculptural leaf and there will be more to follow this one!
The ceramic medallion next to my leaf is the "Do Not Disturb" sign in our room at the Point Cabrillo lighthouse... actually, what has been renovated is the main Lightkeeper's Cottage, which was built in 1909, and has been completely restored into a delightful Bed and Breakfast. Our stay there warrants a post all of its own, but the pretty lamp casting a glow on my knitting, and the fact that the sign is ceramic and not paper both hint at the ambiance we were so lucky to experience on Friday night and Saturday morning.
Another benefit of traveling is learning about new fiber opportunities.... I want to let all of you know (just in case someone can attend) about the 13th International Fungi and Fiber Symposium, to be held next week in Mendocino. Some of you who have worked with natural dyes may be familiar with Miriam Rice's groundbreaking work in using mushrooms to dye fiber; I picked up a copy of her original book, Let's Try Mushrooms for Color, back in the mid 1970s, when I was experimenting with using natural dyes to color my funky handspuns. I tried a few mushrooms scrounged from the Oregon woods where I was living back then, and got a great pumpkin color from a large Boletus but did not continue my experiments in the hot, dry climates where I have lived in California... however, the fall and winter do hold the promise of occasional surprising bumper mushroom crops, and there is a dedicated fungi fan club in my area, so I may well pursue new experiments in 2008, as dyeing and overdyeing are high on my upcoming project list.
The north Pacific coast turned out to be an ideal place to discover that mushrooms of various kinds produced a wide array of colors, as the climate is mostly wet! Miriam Rice was teaching at the community college in the town where DD's family lives when she began this work and has continued to promote and study mushrooms for 35 years! She teamed up with illustrator Dorothy Beebee and they published an expanded book, Mushrooms for Color, in 1980, as well as joined together with Dr. Erik and Carla Sundstrom, mycologists from Sweden (and no relation to DH's family that we are aware of) to study and expand the field of what mushrooms have to offer artists, including developing a process of using the cooked mushrooms left over from the dye process to make specialty papers, detailed in Mushrooms for Paper... a new work is just coming into print, Mushrooms for Dyes, Paper, Pigments and Myco-Stix this month in time for the conference.
This symposium has been held every other year all over the world since 1980, so I am a bit disappointed that I will be returning to work next week, rather than returning to Mendocino to learn more about using mushrooms for natural dyeing, and to celebrate Miriam Rice's 90th birthday, but perhaps one of you will be able to attend! Let me know if you do, and also let me know if my photos are as blurry when you view them as the thumbnails seem to be today while I write this post! Happy New Year's Eve to all.....