Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Light Effects

My daily "commute" to work in the winter is a mile and a half walk, first through a dense cedar forest until I break through the trees at the top of Fort Hill where I can pause and enjoy the view of the harbor and lighthouses.

But back to the cedars - some days there's total silence, perhaps broken by the calling of chickadees or crows. Other days, the trees are talking amongst themselves, the wind shaking the tree tops, not able to reach me far below.

The best days are when the sun is before me, back lighting the trees and only emphasized by the snow:

It's almost as if I'm somehow inside a kaleidoscope, as each step I take changes the image slightly, the play of light and shadows ever changing.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Gift

It's becoming a tradition for us to create a card to share with friends this time of year; the last couple have featured turtles.

Here's a rough draft of this years design:

And here's the block carved by my husband:

We decided to print on water-colored backgrounds, those were my task to create. I made a total of 21 different backgrounds, here's a few of my favorites:

Obviously, I wasn't terribly concerned about taking a traditional holiday approach!
We were able to make three imprints on each background sheet, which then had to be cut and trimmed. I'm still trying to come up with an idea for using those scraps - I just can't bear to throw them away!

And here's one of the finished cards:

Light gives of itself freely, filling all available space.
It does not seek anything in return; it asks not whether you are friend or foe.
It gives of itself and is not thereby diminished. Michael Strassfeld
During this time of celebration, may you both give and receive light in the coming year.

Waiting for a Run

The first boat arrives just as the sun is rising these days, putting a rosy glow in the sky and on the water. These big guys are waiting for their first run of the day, delivering the freight soon to arrive.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Dancing Snowflakes

Like a large area of the country, we received lots of snow this week. Unlike a large area of the country, this is cause for celebration on the Island - our school didn't close for snow days, the snow makes it easier to get around here, out come the snowmobiles, skis and snowshoes.

In honor of all the snowflakes that joined us this week, here are some snowflakes from some artists at Etsy.

Here's a fun accessory from Ayca, snowflakes to adorn your neck.

These little watercolor snowflakes from cynthiacallan are each unique - just like the real thing!

This incredible"Snowflake Forest" is an original watercolor from UssherArt.

Porcelain snowflakes with a cobalt background, from obrienobjects, perfect for your tree.

Here's a "snowflake" to remind us of those bikes we won't be riding for several months, from 1byliz, made from a recycled bicycle sprocket.

And we end with a snowflake that could be displayed all year round, from ShadyGroveStudios, a sparkling beveled glass flake.

I hope you enjoyed this brief snow shower, I hope there's many more to come before Spring !

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ferry Decorating

Not the kind with wings!

There is just something magical about watching the ferry approach the dock, the snow falling and a Christmas tree complete with lights on the prow.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Just a Little Sole - Part Six -A Knitted Sole

I recently purchased an 1867 bound edition of Peterson's Magazine. It has many interesting projects including another example of insoles, instructions for a double layered knit pair.
I am becoming firmly convinced that insoles were commonly worn in the mid-19th century.
They were used to provide warmth, protection from damp and just plain comfort in leather soled shoes or boots.
I have found reference to both commercially produced examples, as well as instructions for home construction.
Here's the original image and instructions:



MATERIALS FOR A PAIR.-Quarter of an ounce of white fleecy wool; quarter of an ounce of white, and a little red Berlin wool.
This sole consists of two plain knitted parts, the upper of fleecy wool, the under of Berlin wool.

Knit in rows, working crosswise forward and backward, the under part upon coarse, the upper part upon fine wooden knitting-needles.

Cut a paper pattern the required size, which must be all round, about a quarter of an inch smaller than the shoe in which it is to be placed.

Begin at the back. Take care that the proper increase or decrease is made equally at both the outer sides in the edge stitches. The edges must be ornamented with two crochet rows in red wool.

1st row: *one double crochet through the edge stitches of both knitted parts, one chain. Repeat from *.

2nd row: One double crochet in the first stitch of the proceeding row; one scallop of three chain, one double in the first of three; with the scallop pass over two stitches of the proceeding row. Repeat from *.
I am not knitter, nor do I crochet, so I'm not able to evaluate the feasibility of the instructions.
If anyone attempts them, please do let me know the results.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Busy Little Elves

The evidence is obvious: the elves have been busily preparing the Island for Christmas!

Here's the community tree, in the middle of Main Street - somebody has been stringing lights.

And wreathes and roping are also appearing on each lamppost and banister.

The last special, perfect touch - SNOW!

Guess it's time to put the bikes away...

All just in time for the tree lighting this evening...the Christmas season here on Mackinac has begun once again.

Monday, November 30, 2009

One UFO Down

Anyone who is involved with handwork knows about UFO's....also known as "UnFinished Objects!

Well, I managed to finish one, a small quilted wall hanging:

This piece was part of a "Round Robin" project, from many years ago - the top completed, but not the quilting. I used to do a lot of quilting, but not so much anymore, and my fingertips can definitely tell, the quilting calluses are long gone.

This will be a donation for a fundraising event here on the Island this coming weekend, hopefully, people will bid high and often!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Look Familiar?

It sure did to me, when I was scanning through a recently unpacked 1885 edition of Peterson's magazine.

Here's the description:

"No. 4 - is an infant's cape and hood. It is made of cashmere or opera-flannel, lined with silk, and edged with lace or a crocheted border of split-zephyr or knitting silk. It is made of a square of the material, with one corner rounded off for the hood. A casing around the face and at the back fits it to suit the baby's head. our model has a simple pattern embroidered above the border; but this is optional. Plain is perhaps more elegant."

Compare this to directions for "The Red Riding Hood" (for adults), circa 1862 Peterson's Magazine:

"This hood is the novelty of the season, and while it is both pretty and becoming, it is very simple and easily made. Take three-quarters of a yard of scarlet sack flannel, the finest and most brilliant color that can be procured. Cut off one side to make it perfectly square; round one corner, as seen in the diagram; then have it pinked all round in small scallops, which you will find, will produce a very beautiful effect.

From B to B at about two inches from the edge, sew a casing of narrow ribbon on the underside, also one diagonally from A to a. Run a narrow ribbon in the casings, drawing the one from B to B to fit the face. Fasten it. The one from A to A is to be drawn to suit the head. "
Now, I'm very accustomed to the habit period magazines had of "borrowing" articles from each other, but this is the first time I've encountered an example of a magazine reworking a piece from their own magazine twenty some years later.
It makes you wonder just how often did it occur?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

There's not much more dismal than a rainy day in November - grey, damp, and depressing.

But if you look a bit closer, there's bits of loveliness out there...

Enjoy the small things!

Monday, November 23, 2009

We had fog the other night, thick, enveloping like a down comforter.
Sound travels a little strangely here, bouncing off the bluffs and the water, but fog changes it more yet, we could here the warning call of the fog horn clear as a bell and at intervals throughout the night, the deeper, lower call of the freighter horns, a moving warning.
It never cleared completely the following day, but this freighter makes it's way through the Straits, no longer needing to issue warning of it's gigantic presence.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I Want One!

The next time I need to carry water as a civilian, this is what I want:

Per the seller, it dates to approximately 1830's. It's a lovely transferware pattern, with birds and florals. The side view shows the construction very clearly - two bowl forms joined to form the vessel.

This form has existed for centuries, here's an early example:

This blue-glazed pilgrim flask dates to the 1st-3rd century A.D. It was made from two wheel-thrown halves that were then joined together. Beautiful marks from the potter's wheel remain in the center of the body.

The transferware example lacks handles and was most likely formed of two molded half forms, not wheel thrown, but the similarity of shape is quite clear.

A gourd is much lighter weight to carry, but transferware is just so, so pretty!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Gourd Water Bottles

As I've discussed previously, we participated in a "Refugee March" back in October; one of the organizer's requirements was that we carry our own water in an appropriate container.

Well, as civilians, a military canteen was certainly not appropriate, a glass bottle would be acceptable, but would be both heavy and fragile. We decided to create water bottles from gourds, they would be light weight, inexpensive, and an interesting experiment.

Here's a few period references:

"The fruit of Lagenaria vulgaris, in consequence of having a hard outer covering, is used as a vessel for containing fluid, after the pulp and seeds are removed. It is hence called Bottle Gourd."

Manual of Botany, Volume 13 of Encycl. Metrop., 2nd ed, John Hutton Balfour , 1851

"The dust rose in clouds, from my feet to my face ; and I was very thirsty, and casting about for the first brook—when I saw a traveller approaching me from the town that lay beyond the sombre olive groves. He was a poor, neat man, of stately bearing, and with a painful eye, and mien. A gourd was slung at his back.
"' You are thirsty, brother,' he said, not waiting to hear me. He unstrung the gourd, and held it prone to my lips. And he smiled, as the cold stream gurgled in my throat, and he caught my grateful eye fixed upon him. "

The Gentleman's Magazine, Volume 229 , 1870

"GOURD (Lagenaria vntgarit, calabash). The gourd family flourish well in the United States in the open air, and the several varieties make up a large amount of the produce of the gardens and farms. The large bottle gourds are extremely useful among the country people, by whom they are used as dippers. Some of them are so large as to hold nearly a gallon. They are light, and with good usage may last for months and even for several years. If, after a few gourds have set, the ends are pinched off the vines, the gourds will grow larger and better. It is believed, says Dr. Darlington, that there are no native species of gourd in the United States, though the plant is said to have been cultivated by the aborigines, from time immemorial. "

The Farmer's and Planter's Encyclopedia of Rural Affairs: Embracing all the Most Recent Discoveries in Agricultural Chemistry, Suited to the Comprehension of Unscientific Readers ,
Cuthbert William Johnson, Gouverneur Emerson , 1869

"Wednesday, September 30th. This was a fine cool morning. We were on the march at an early hour. Captain Porter, being sick, rode in one of the wagons. None of our lieutenants being present, and the orderly sergeant sick, the company marched to-day under the command of the second sergeant. The country passed over was fertile, as before but continually becoming more level, and consequently having but little variety in scenery.—The sun became hot, and water being scarce on the route, our Mexican gourds came in good use. These gourds were much preferable to canteens, for carrying water on the march; for water, in these would remain cool through the day of the hottest sun ; while in the tin canteen, it became warm and unpleasant to the taste. This coolness of the gourd, is owing to the continual evaporation going on through the shell. They are convenient in shape and size, being mostly in the shape of the figure 8, and holding from one to two quarts. Round the small part of the gourd the strap is fastened, for suspending it to the side or the pommel of the saddle. Every traveler in this portion of Texas, that we met, had one. Most of our men had thrown away their canteens, and obtained one of these gourds. (Some of the regiments in the service were furnished with India rubber bags, or canteens, to carry water; but they are liable to the same objections as the tin ones, the water in them becoming warm.)"

The Twelve Months Volunteer: or, Journal of a Private, in the Tennessee Regiment of Cavalry, in the Campaign, in Mexico, 1846-7; Comprising Four General Subjects; I. A Soldier's Life in Camp; Amusements; Duties; Hardships; II. A description of Texas and Mexico, as Seen on the March: III. Manners ..., George C. Furber , 1857

So how did we do it?

Our season is far to short to grow gourds, so we purchased them online.

The gourds were perfectly dry, but covered with dirt and mold. This is a normal by product of the drying process.

First, we soaked the gourds in a dilute bleach solution for 10 minutes and scrubbed them clean.

We then allowed them to dry again and then removed the tops, well above the neck constriction.

Another option would be to remove a small circular area around the stem, however it is then more difficult to remove the "innards" and also it is more difficult to drink directly from the gourd bottle without a lip.

Cleaning out the innards is a case of using whatever works!

And wearing a mask is definitely recommended.

We did discover that once the worst of it had been removed, the interior was easily further cleaned by adding sharp gravel and rotating it repeatedly.

Those large chips are actually the seeds, each gourd contained hundreds.

We then needed to seal the interior, we chose to use food grade paraffin. Other options would be bees wax or pine pitch - I suspect that using pine pitch would provide a great deal of "flavoring".

For the first coating, we heated the gourd in the oven at 200 degrees for about 20 minutes. This allowed the paraffin to penetrate the interior more completely as well as extending the time available before the paraffin hardened. Obviously, this only works for the first coating. We did a total of three layers.

The finishing steps included a closure, we ordered corks from a laboratory science company. We drilled a small hole through the cork and added a pull string and a washer on the bottom of the cork for durability. A sling for carrying completed the bottles.

I would consider this a successful experiment. The gourds themselves are very light weight, they were easily carried, we could drink directly from the water bottle and the water had no off flavor. They were inexpensive and would be more so if you live in an area where the season is long enough to grow your own gourds.

As with any material culture item, you will need to evaluate who/where you are before deciding is this would be an appropriate item for your impression.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Closing Event

Grand Hotel held a special closing event this year, giving a small bit of insight of what it takes to put the hotel to rest for the winter. It's an old wooden building, one of the last of it's kind and it's closed up for six months of the year, but yet still exposed to the cold and winds off the lake. The off season is a time for renewal, a time to repair the stresses of time and use and weather.
Staying at Grand is not just a place to spend the night, it's an entire experience, a chance to break away from the daily routine, to be transported to a different time and attitude toward life.

During the summer, the porch is lined with white rockers, a perfect place to relax and enjoy the view of the lake and passing ships.

Those rockers all have to go elsewhere for the winter, thus the "Running of the Rockers"...

where they spend a peaceful winter in the Terrace Room - do they hear echos of the orchestra that plays each summer evening?

In years past, a bell was rung up and down all the halls of the Hotel, to let the staff know that all the guests had left the house. This year the last guests of the season were allowed to share that experience before it was time for us to leave.

Then it was time to finish closing up, make lists of items to be repaired or replaced, cover the furniture...

The flower boxes are emptied, the awnings come down...

It's always sad the first evening I bike past and all the lights are dark, but the tulips have been planted for next spring and I know that many people are already hard at work, planning to make next year an even better experience for all the varied visitors to this true "Grand Dame".