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!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Glacier National Park of Canada

Tour Canada: British Columbia


We did a loop through southern Alberta and British Columbia, beginning with Banff National Park. I will confess, I didn't much enjoy the tourist trap aspect of Banff and we moved on pretty quickly. It was a relief to come to Glacier National Park (not to be confused with Montana's Glacier NP), which had both beautiful scenery and less crowds.

The scenery includes dramatic waterfalls flowing down mountain-sides.

One of the rangers described Glacier as the "forgotten" national park. Parks such as Banff began drawing crowds with development by the railroads and the construction of famous hotels such as Chateau Lake Louise and Banff Springs Hotel to receive the tourists coming by train. These hotels and other tourist services are still thriving for current visitors to enjoy.

Glacier began in much the same way, but in contrast to the continual development of other parks, Glacier had lost its rail service and grand hotel by the mid-1920s. The park is located at Rogers Pass, the original route the Canadian Pacific Railway Company used to cross the Columbia Mountains. Near the summit the railroad built Glacier House, a place for passengers to stop for a hot meal, warm bed, and to stretch their legs with a guided hike towards Illecillewaet Glacier. However, the pass was an ongoing struggle against avalanches that buried the tracks. Finally, in March of 1910, a tragedy occurred: 58 men who were clearing the tracks of an avalanche were struck by a second slide. There was only one survivor.

Image courtesy Rolly Martin Country

Canadian Pacific finally made up it's mind to abandon the surface route over Roger's Pass and instead dug a tunnel under the mountains. With this by-pass, Glacier House faded and in 1925 closed its doors forever.

A few trestles still stand from the railroad.

The park was pretty quiet until the 1960s, when the Trans-Canada Highway was completed over Roger's Pass. People began visiting the park again to find the ruins of Glacier House reclaimed by nature. Today there is a short interpretive loop to explore a few remaining basements and foundations. However, the tourist industry never returned to the park and as a result, visitors today have many opportunities to enjoy the peaceful natural beauty of the area.

All that remains of the Glacier House.

We decided to explore a few of the park's trails. We particularly enjoyed the Asulkan Valley. The hike is rated as "moderate" but it would be more accurate to say the trail starts off with an easy walk along a stream and ends with a strenuous climb up glacial moraine. The distance one-way is just under 7km (4.3 miles) with an 869m (2,851 ft) elevation gain.

A pleasant stroll along the stream.

The stream meanders through forests and alpine meadows dotted by wildflowers and busy butterflies. Rugged peaks provide a dramatic backdrop.

As you start to climb you can look back for a view of the valley towards Roger's Pass. After about 4km the trail steepens significantly and you ascend towards the snowy peaks.

View towards Roger's Pass.

At the end of the trail you find yourself facing the Asulkan Glacier. There is also a cabin here that can be reserved.

Asulkan Glacier.

The vegetation is sparse on top, but a few determined wildflowers hold on in the steady wind.

Wildflowers peek out between the rocks.

The next day we stopped at the Roger's Pass Visitor Center and tried to spot where we climbed. We could just make it out in the distance!

Right about there...



Location: East of Revelstoke, BC
Entrance Fee: You must purchase a National Parks Pass from the Roger's Pass Visitor Center or one of the Ranger Huts found in the park.
Season: Day use areas and trails open from snow-melt (June/July) to first snow (Oct). Ski season November-April; some areas are restricted during winter and require a special permit due to avalanche control.
Accommodations: Camping is available in the park, as well as a few back-country cabins. Hotels are located in Revelstoke, about an hour west of the visitor center.

Monday, July 27, 2015

1930s Cape in Silver and Turquoise

I've knitted another 1930s bed-jacket. This one is a simple, light weight cape with an arrowhead shaped lace pattern and basket-weave-y trim. It's made with cotton yarn and is finished with a vintage ribbon from the same period. I'm debating whether to extend the ribbon around the neck to give it some structure and a more snug fit, or to leave it as it is for a light and flowing feel.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Indulge in a Little Fantasy

I've been finding some great fantasy themed ACEO artwork on Etsy and wanted to share the recent additions to my collection. The first one is titled "Golden Shadow" and comes from Switzerland! It is beautifully done in watercolor. I really like the perspective, as if we are silently and powerlessly watching the scene unfold from a not-so-distant mountain. The artist is Natalia Demakova of Elf'sArt.

Next is a very unique encaustic wax landscape titled "Rainbow Valley 15." The artist is Carole Boyer, from England. I love how her landscapes inspire the imagination--what sort of world is this and who lives in it? Take a look at her shop at CaroleBoyerArt.

Finally, this pair of serpents come from the United States. Jessi Bencloski uses scratchboard to create her fantastic creatures. I wouldn't want to be on the wrong end of that amphiptere's fangs! The other guy doesn't look so mean though, he looks old and wise and I feel like he'd at least offer a cup of tea before he eats me. The photo doesn't do justice for the depth she achieves through her use of light, dark, and color. You can find more of her scratchboard work, as well as the other mediums she is skilled with, on her website Benwhoski.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The 1930s in Lilac

I think it's time to bring back bedjackets. They not only keep your shoulders warm when you are hanging out on the couch watching TV in your PJs or sitting in bed reading, they make you feel elegant while doing it! I've been collecting vintage bedjacket patterns, and I just finished my first one. This design is from the 1930s and features great '30s style with lace trimed in (synthetic) fur. I knitted this in cotton with the furry trim created with crochet. The ribbon is vintage from the 1940s.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Spring Flowers

This is the last month of spring! Spring is a great time to see the Netherlands and experience everything in bloom. Here are some photos from spring, starting from the first crocuses at the end of winter...

...and then the daffodils and narcissus.

From there it's a progressions of bulbs, shrubs, and trees in bright colors and sweet aromas.

 Don't forget to look up!

Finally, the roses make their appearance.

I seem to have forgotten something...

Can't leave out tulips!