Thursday, December 27, 2007

Winter wonderland

It snowed on Christmas morning! All was peaceful, beautiful. We had a good holiday. Hannah was a delight as always. She's been busy with her toys--feeding her dolls, changing their diapers, putting them to bed. I've been knitting on my Dad's sweater--made very enjoyable by a Christmas gift--Knitwits interchangeable needles! It's amazing the progress I've made with these new needles. I guess I just needed a little bit of color to look at while I was knitting--didn't need to be in the yarn, in the needles will do!
I've also done a little bit of spinning on my Loop batts and plied the yarn this morning. I think I'll make some fingerless gloves for cold morning typing--but I'm not going to cast on until I've finished my Dad's sweater.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Happy Birthday, Grandma Helen!

We celebrated Grandma Helen’s 95th yesterday with a big meal at our house. I went through her old cook books and found recipes to make a meal—(and with a nod to my good friend Liz) this was the menu:

Beef Stroganoff from the Cowbelles cookbook (c. 1957)

Butter Layer Rolls (Grandma Helen’s recipe)

Wild Rice (given to us by Uncle Andy last Christmas)

Carrots Supreme (my great aunt Lucille Clarke’s recipe)

Green Beans (weight watchers recipe, c. 2007)


Julia made rum balls, tried to make Grandma's almond sugar cookies, but I sent her the wrong recipe (I found the right one later), and brought a gi-normous coconut cake.

It was all very good. We had 20 guests—so it maxed out all of our pots, pans, dishes, etc and was a great and chaotic time with several spilled glasses of water (one of wine), one bloody nose (16-month-old William who slipped and fell and hit his face square on the floor, but was up running around again soon), lots of laughter, and some tears.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Lessons learned

My daughter Hannah has skills; skills that I like to encourage and support.
Like her Mommy and Daddy, she likes to make things and work on projects. She's been decorating book marks for everyone in our family. And she's great with scissors.

Maybe a little too great.

Here's a silk scarf I've been adding a picot edging to for a Christmas present.

I made the mistake of leaving my scissors and this project within her reach. We're both really lucky that she didn't get hurt. And it didn't take me too long to realize that.

Maybe I'll make it into a teeny scarf for Hannah to have when she's a little older. And when she has kids of her own, I'll tell her about the day that both mommy and baby cried when mommy learned the hard way to keep her beading projects out of the way.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Drawing Little Star

Michelle Mach of Beading Daily asked me to write up instructions for this ornament, Little Star, for beading daily. She'll be posting it soon to the blog and as a free project.
In the project, I give permission to copy and use the pattern, but I thought some people might like to draw their own and might want to know how I did it.

The concept is very similar to drawing a heart that I posted about earlier this year.

Paper and pencils
I use archival quality paper because I have a lot on hand, and I like the way it stands up to all the abuse of poking it with needles, folding, stuffing it in my bead case, etc., when I bead, but any printer paper will work. I like to draw with high quality colored pencils like Prismacolor because they have more pigment and less wax than other brands, making it easier to draw--but that's just my preference--use what you have on hand.

Here are the colors I choose for the star, a drawing pencil, and an eraser on top of the paper.

I start by drawing an oval roughly the size of the ornament, then sketching out a star. I wanted my star to be a bit alive--like it has arms and legs and a head, and it is jumping around for joy.

I erased some lines and went over them again until I had a general shape that pleased me.

Then I darkened the lines with the pencil to create a nice outline.

With yellow, I started filling in the star using consistent hash lines and varying the strength of the mark (lighter near the center, darker near the outline).

I changed to a darker yellow and started working on the colors outside of the star.

I started layering orange and red.

Each time I changed colors, I overlap them--that creates layers of colors, adding depth and mixing the colors so that there are many more colors in the piece than the colors I originally chose for the ornament.

I worked on the center a little more--leaving an area in the center that is white.

By concentrating the intensity of value on the outline, I'm creating a sense of depth and form that will be important in the beaded piece. In addition to creating a contrast between light and dark, I'm also gradating from yellow to red using all the analogous colors (colors that are in the same hue family) in between.

Now my cartoon is ready to cut out and stitch to cloth for beading.

When you use colored pencils to draw the image, the color will transfer to your thread as you bead. It hasn't caused me any problems even when using transparent beads.

I'd love to see your stars--send me a jpeg at amyclarkemoore AT frii DOT com and let me know if it is okay to post it on my blog.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Beading in West Palm Beach Florida

I started this post right after returning from Florida--but it sat on blogger unfinished for a while--so now the snow is melted (mostly--welcome to Colorado!) and weeks have passed since we were in Florida enjoying sunshine, ocean breezes, and beading at a really fantastic shop--Beads Gone Wild and the Crystal Creations Bead Institute!
If you're ever in West Palm Beach, Florida, you need to find this bead shop--they have everything, plus a great classroom space. Glenda, the owner, works really hard to bring in bead instructors from all over to teach at her institute. What a great group of students, too! We had fun sitting around a big oak table and beading and talking and sharing cake. It was so wonderful to have a few days devoted to beading and teaching.

In the evenings, Kelly, Hannah and I would do a bit of exploring. We found the beach right away. Hannah hasn't stopped talking about the waves. She didn't want to get in them--but she sure liked watching them. We made sand castles and watched the sea birds and crabs. It was a bit chilly for sea bathing, but we got our feet wet.

Here's a video of Hannah trying to catch a lizard.

And here's Hannah the day after we got home--bundled up for winter and helping me cut boughs from our trees for our Christmas decorations.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


When Knitting Daily editor Sandi Wiseheart asked me to make a guest appearance on her blog on November 12th, I cheerfully agreed. Little did I know what I was getting myself into . . . I mean really, I participate in online chat groups, recently joined (I'm sixswansflying), and I write an editor's letter in Spin-Off magazine four times a year. And many readers respond—okay, in reality, it is a very small fraction of the Spin-Off readership who respond to my editor’s page letters, but after each issue goes out I can expect a smattering of emails and snail mail letters—some with constructive criticism, some with stories to share sparked by something I said, some with ideas for future articles. I love it all.

So, back to the Knitting Daily post. It came out on November 12th, the week we were going to press. I wrote about a cardigan I’ve been knitting for my Dad since 1996 out of a lovely brown millspun yarn that he selected (but quite frankly, puts me to sleep). That’s more than a decade ago—I started it six months before I started working at Interweave Press—a lot has happened in the intervening years. I got quite a bit done that first holiday season that I started working on it, but soon lost momentum; that momentum would gather again each holiday season until his birthday in February. Pretty soon, a pattern emerged—I’d pull it out as the temperatures dropped, and tuck it away again once the crocuses appeared. Each year I made a little progress, each year I was determined that this would be the year I finished it. After a while, it occurred to me that had I spun the yarn for the sweater, I would have finished knitting it years ago. I even confessed my spinning snobbery to the massive group of knitters who read Knitting Daily daily. I was a little bit afraid to confess this. But this confession went over pretty smoothly.

What I didn’t expect was the instantaneous responses—comments came pouring in (Oh—Sandi did warn me, but did I believe her? Her posts might generate hundreds of responses, but she’s lovely, adorable Sandi--but I certainly didn’t think mine would.) So far I’ve received hundreds of notes from knitters (and spinners) with stories of their own about UFOs and WIPs, their spinning, their sheep, and punctuated through out—encouraging, urging letters (some gently and some not so gently) to finish my sweater for my Dad.

Before. He. Dies.

Having just lost my very dear Grandmother rather suddenly and unexpectedly, these admonitions from people I don’t know are hitting a very raw, tender spot. I forwarded the post to my Dad with the promise that this year is the year that I will finish the sweater. His response? Totally in line with the wonderful man who is my father—how could I have been guilt-ridden? He knows me. He understands me. He confessed, that as a word-man (he’s a professor of language, literacy, and culture), the story I wrote about the sweater probably means more to him than the sweater itself. Well, of course I believe him—but also, I think he’s being very generous with me. I think he’s demonstrating one of his most admirable qualities (and he has so many), he loves his children for who they are. As one of the knitters said—that sweater is a promise to my Dad—and by not finishing it, I’m not keeping it the promise. Well, that made me sit up straight and listen. But I think it was more the encouraging stories of projects that took years, but were eventually finished that really helped me see that finishing the sweater will be a wonderful and good thing.

But all this thought about process reiterated what I’ve known for a long time . . . that I am not a linear thinker. Sure, I knew I was creative (I was an art major, afterall), but this experience helped me see my creative process in a new light. I work on things a little at a time. I work in a continuously growing spiral. If all my projects were lined up in a room, I would work a few minutes on each one until they were all completed. And I do complete things. To the more linear thinkers (my wonderful husband for instance)—this way of working may not make sense—but it works for me. Some projects have deadlines and require more attention than others, but basically, this is the way I handle my life. I get up in the morning, on my way downstairs, I take a load of laundry to landing, while in the kitchen, I clean up the dishes while I wait for my morning tea to heat up, I add the dishtowels to the laundry on the landing, I need some thing from the pantry in the basement, so I take the laundry downstairs, start a load of laundry, pick up the item from the pantry, take it up stairs along with the clean load of laundry that was in the dryer. Back in the bedroom, I start folding the laundry. I do a little bit at a time and it all gets done. Part of this is because of my attention span—sometimes I walk into a room and I’ve forgotten why I’m there (I’ve always been like this—I can’t blame it on age)—but I start working on something else. Eventually, I make it around to the thing that I forgot about. This organic way of working is reiterated in my creative life and in my work life.

My creative life is dominated by spinning and beads—both resonate with the spiral. I bead photographs with a spiral that starts in the center and works out, I spin yarn—the ultimate spiral. It is a spiral that is connected to the most basic elements of life, the spiraling pattern of DNA, the gentle growth pattern of a fern, the curve of a snail’s shell. This spiral begins in the center, and grows slowly out and around, reaching out and touching things on all sides as it moves in a pattern that grows outward, and yet repeats itself, each time in a different iteration, each time the same and yet different. And then it is complete and a new spiral begins. And sometimes these spiraling lines overlap, connect and grow. The twist, the spiral is always in the yarn, sometimes asleep, but always ready for life.

Monday, October 29, 2007

A bit of weaving

I did a bit of weaving this weekend--color samples for Liz's book. They'll end up being coasters after all is said and done.
I love the rigid heddle loom. I think this was Liz's plan in asking me to help out. She's such a rigid-heddle-loom pusher! I wove off the end of one warp with a bit of my handspun and made a little doll blanket for Hannah to use.
Hannah and I wove together a bit, too. I guess that's part of my plan!

So--I have completed 1 of the 26 warps I need to weave...and my deadline was November....I'll need to find out if that is the beginning of November or the end.
And there is the class that I'm teaching in Florida the weekend before Thanksgiving--that means bead kits to make. And the beading daily project I promised Michelle. And the portrait of Lady Godiva that I'm beading. And then the magazine goes to press November 14th. Hmmm. No wonder I'm having crazy dreams at night about moving to Nova Scotia and walking sheep for a living (yep on leashes!).

I did a bit of spinning to relax after I figured out how many things I promised to complete in November. That helped a lot.

And I received a batt in the mail from a friend! I'm going to admire it for a little bit before I spin it up.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Missing Grandma Helen

Helen Katherine Bomer Clarke
Born December 15, 1912
Died October 6, 2007

Nearly 95 years old--what a good long life--I was lucky to have spent so much of my life in hers and yet it is hard to give her up.

This is the last photo I took of her--at the end of September.

My sister keeps saying, "Everyone will think we're crazy, but this was a real shock for us."

And it is true--Grandma had such a tenacity for life. Though she'd often say things like, "I sure hope I don't see another birthday!" when we'd say something about the party we were planning or "I think he forgot me, too" when a 95-year-old friend stated that God had forgotten her, her actions spoke louder than her words. She pulled through traumas that literally would have killed people half her age. And we noticed that she stopped talking about her desire to move on after her great-grandchildren arrived--boy, did she love them. She loved us all--but she really lit up when her great-grandchildren came to visit her.

We have weekly dinners on Monday nights--Monday night dinners (we're going to continue the tradition). When I lived up in Fort Collins and then Loveland, I used to come down on the weekends and stay with her. We'd go on morning walks around City Park. She had to cut back on her walking as she got older (when she got into her 90s)--she'd walk around the block, or go to the church and walk around the sanctuary so she could sit on the pews when she needed a rest.

She was fiercely independent and really never thought of herself as a little old lady, though she was the littlest and the oldest any of us knew. Once, walking up to church with my dad a few years ago, she saw that the sidewalk was crumbling in a spot and remarked to my dad, "Someone should fix that before some little old lady trips over it."

I only ever remember her with gray hair and hands knarled by time. She was 34 when she had my dad--two years after her husband Jack returned from WWII--and 36 when she had my Uncle Andy. She aged dramatically after Jack died when he was 49 in 1963. You can see it in the photos. My dad was 16, Andy was 14.

She wanted to do things on her terms, and she did. Even though some would have considered her a pioneer in women's rights in many ways, she would have loathed the association. She was scorned for wearing pants in the southern United States when she went to visit her husband when he was on leave from the war and was thrown out of a hotel for bringing him a bottle of scotch.

She graduated from Western State College in Gunnison with a degree in physical education in the 1930s.

She earned a scholarship that covered her tuition, and got a job that covered her room and board by working at the
Mary Lawrence Boarding
House (now a bed and breakfast in Gunnison, Colorado). She wrote in her memories that, "What more could she need than that . . . NAIVE!" Her sister Thelly went to Western State at the same time, but only had a job that covered meals during the week, so on the weekends she didn't have meals--and Grandma would sneak into the kitchen at the Boarding House and make sandwiches to give to Thelly so she wouldn't starve on the weekends. Grandma also used to sneak out to meet with Jack.

This photo is taken in Pueblo, Colorado when Grandma was a little girl (on the left), with her Grandma Layton (who everyone says was rather harsh), and her sister Thelly. Grandma really liked the dog. This is on Grandma Layton's homestead where the family lived after they moved to Colorado from Missouri when Grandma was 5 years old. Her father, John Bomer, worked in the steel mills.

Grandma graduated from high school in 1929, when she was 17.

Helen and Jack were married in 1936 in Grand Junction.
Her house was always full of people--family and friends--and later when my dad and his brother were older, their friends. In fact, their friends often found refuge at Grandma's house--she was very welcoming.

Grandma and her friend Janie Seraphine are reflected in a mirror Jack and Marsh are carrying.

This photo was taken in 1943 before Jack went off to war.

Here she is in Mexico in 1945. The story is that Jack returned from playing Craps with $1,700, so they took the month off from running the Clarke Agency and went off to Mexico and traveled around until they ran out of money.

Here's Grandma with Uncle Andy--all the photos from 1949 have a smudge on them--I think there was something on the lens.

Jack, Mark, Helen and Andy in 1962.

This is my dad and grandma and their wiener dog--I think this photo was taken after Jack died.

I'm in this photo--it is of my mom (and me) and my dad at his college graduation from CU Boulder, 1969.

Grandma visited us in Egypt when my parents moved there to study at the American University in Cairo.

Grandma and Andy visiting us in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1975.

Grandma and me in 1989 at her 50th high school reunion.

Grandma Helen and Hannah in March 2007 in her kitchen, Monday Night Dinner.

I miss kissing her on the cheek and forehead. I miss the way she would gesture with her hands--throwing them up in the air and grinning when something delighted her, shaking a bony finger in your face if she disagreed or wanted to make a point. I miss her expressions--"Hot Dog!" (said to me and Kelly when we got engaged), "Gad about" (said to my sister who has lots of friends), "Are you going back to the dump?" (said to my brother after she saw his studio apartment for the first time)--he still laughs about it.
I miss how when I'd leave, she say, "Be a good girl" and how she'd laugh when I said, "You, too!".