Tuesday, November 24, 2015


When I worked at Fort Union, I learned how to fingerweave so that I could give demonstrations for visitors. Even after my season was over, I enjoyed making fingerwoven sashes and scarves and have recently listed a couple on Etsy.

Simple chevron pattern scarf. Etsy

So what is fingerweaving? It is basically a technique for weaving without a loom. The strands of yarn are anchored at one end, and then each strand is cycled through the pattern as both warp (lengthwise threads) and weft (horizontal thread that is inserted over and under the warp). You can see a video demonstration here.

Beaded arrowhead belt.

This technique is associated with the Métis of the Northern Plains. Métis are the descendants of early European fur trappers and native women. Their culture is a blend of traditions and skills from both aspects of their heritage.

Flame sash.

Their fingerwoven sashes (also known by the French voyageurs as ceinture fléchée) had many practical uses. A wide sash wrapped around the waist functioned as a weight belt. Fold that sash in half lengthwise, and you had a pocket to carry things you needed easy access to, or hang a pouch on it to hold your pipe. The wool fibers kept the cold from creeping up under your shirt. Different colors and patterns could represent your company or group.

Diamond with vertical border purse.

My own examples are quite simple in comparison to the intricate work historically made by native artisans. It can take me from a week to a month to complete a project; some of the most intricate and beautiful Métis sashes represent several years of work.

Double lightning with glass beads.

Further Reading:

Virtual Museum of Métis History and Culture

Moon River Métis Council

Fingerweaving Untangled (Carol James)

Monday, November 2, 2015

Goulish Things Afoot

While Halloween isn't widely celebrated in the Netherlands, the local downtown organized a festival on Friday night where people could show off their costumes. The big event was a parade to showcase the local creativity and talent. Several big names were there, such as Cinderella.

A group of Vikings flew in on their bellowing dragons.

I was a little worried to see the Brandweer (fire brigade) seemed to have been taken over by giant spiders, spooky skeletons, and other spectres. Luckily, the Ecto-1 had gone by earlier, so you know who ya gonna call!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Get Your Kicks

Back when I worked in the Texas panhandle, I enjoyed exploring Route 66. I took a trip to Tucumcari, NM to see it's famous Route 66 neon and stayed at the Blue Swallow Motel. I recently came across some of my old New Mexico photos and decided to take a break from my bigger projects to make this fun little ACEO.

See this ACEO on Etsy.

The Blue Swallow opened in the early 1940s. It is arranged in a cozy L-shaped court with 14 rooms complete with garages. In the 1950s, it was bought by Lillian Redman, who modernized the rooms with TV and 'refrigerated air' and added the large neon sign. Redman and her husband became known for their hospitality and generosity. By the end of the 1960s, the new I-40 diverted traffic away from the old highway and many of the businesses that had catered to the motorists disappeared. The Blue Swallow held on though, and Redman operated it for nearly 40 years. In her words, "When Route 66 was closed to the majority of traffic and the other highway came in, I felt just like I had lost an old friend. But some of us stuck it out and are still here on Route 66." True to Ms. Redman's spirit, the Blue Swallow is still open for business today.

The drawing shows the Blue Swallow's amazing neon sign, done in colored pencil and acrylic on black paper. The Route US 66 shield is on the pavement out front. It is mounted on cardstock cut with an old photo trimmer. I had fun making this one, and now I really need another visit to New Mexico!

Friday, October 9, 2015

3 October Festival

Leiden, Netherlands

Last weekend the city of Leiden was filled with people (and bicycles, as suitable for a Dutch festival) to celebrate the 3rd of October. The 3rd marks the anniversary of the end of the Siege of Leiden by the Spanish in 1573 and 74, during the Eighty Years' War. For months the citizens starved as their supplies were cut off. The leader of the Dutch rebellion against Spain, Prince William of Orange, encouraged the city to hold out and formed a plan involving breaching the dikes and flooding the areas around Leiden. This would allow him to move his ships against the besiegers. However, this took much longer than he had hoped, and, though successful in pushing back the Spanish, many people within the city had already perished. For the survivors, Prince William's men brought herring and white bread.

Every year the festival commemorates Leiden's sacrifices and bravery during this siege. Herring and white bread is served for free, and many celebrations are planned around the city. We rode into the city to check things out, but we found our way blocked by people and bicycles.

The sound of approaching bagpipes drew our interest, and we realized there were marching bands and decorated floats passing through the crowd. We had stumbled upon one of the parades!

A young DJ shares some beats.

The parade featured different themes, such as countries, music and dancing, and literature. Local groups and clubs also contributed floats. During the course of the parade we spotted dancing Australians, a herd of acrobat wheels, the emperor with his "new clothes," and some sort of swimming group who didn't let the lack of water stop them from showing off their synchronized performance skills.

All dressed up with somewhere to go!

After the parade we took a walk around the city to see what else was going on. Most of the business were closed because everyone was out and about taking part in the celebration. There was a fair with rides, a market, and at the end of the day a fireworks show.

City hall.

Many houses proudly displayed their city flags, showing the red and white keys that represent Leiden.

And every street we walked down was lined with bikes!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Green Bedjacket

...and another one done! Again, cotton yarn with sythetic fringe. However, there is a little added something special--beautiful Czech glass buttons!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Sleeve-y Bedjacket

This 1930s jacket has some serious sleeves. There's as much yarn in the sleeves as it took for the entire rest of the jacket.

I decided if I was going to spend so much time making sleeves, I might as well have some extra fun and add contrasting lining and a bit of embroidery that was not part of the original pattern.

It's made with vintage linen boucle yarn and finished with a 1930s/40s ribbon.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Burgers' Zoo

Arnhem, Netherlands

My Dutchman took me to visit Burgers' Zoo for my birthday. The zoo is surrounded by the Hoge Veluwe National Park so it's a great area to explore when you need a break from the city. The zoo itself is pretty big and you can spend an entire day walking through. Besides receiving a million and a half visitors each year, Burgers prides itself on its conservation work. It participates in breeding programs for endangered and threatened species under the "European Endangered Species Program," for which it coordinates the programs for Blue Duikers and the King Vulture.

Blue Duiker

The zoo is arranged by habitat and themes. The first section is the original "Dierenpark" which has many of the classic zoo animals, such as the feisty penguins who dominate the entrance with their honking.

Visitors can also observe a variety of primates going about their everyday business, which is better than reality TV. This little guy found himself a peaceful nook where he could properly contemplate lunch...

...while the chimps in the next exhibit watched a heated argument between two of their members. The chimpanzees have a bit of attitude as you can see in this video from last spring when the zoo attempted to film them with a drone.

"Rimba" portrays a Southeast Asian rainforest, where we found some sun bears hanging out.

Not so much a fan of the sun, the water monitor preferred to chill by his pool.

"Desert" is where I found some familiar faces from my time in the southwest US. This habitat features plants and species from the Sonoran Desert. The bighorn sheep looked to have several new members in their herd.

The peccary like to eat prickly pear fruit, but, unlike some of the unsuspecting tourists I met when I worked in Texas, they know to strip the skin first.

For a completely different experience from the desert, follow the path to Burgers' rainforest in their "Bush" exhibit. Here you will find yourself surrounded by lush tropical plants with colorful flowers.

Next is the "Ocean," arranged from tidepools to deep water. Visitors can admire a beautiful coral reef with colorful tropical fish. Also stop to watch the sharks circling a shipwreck.

The "Safari" is a raised boardwalk where you can take a stroll past many African animals.

The grass is always greener...

A cozy little mangrove swamp is tucked in the northern section of the zoo. If you have sharp eyes, you can spot many varieties of birds nestled in the trees.

On our way out, we passed the meerkats. According to the exhibit, meerkats divide up tasks and everyone has a job to do. It seemed to be this guy's job to keep an eye on the tourists. Who was watching who?

Learn more on their website!