In Memory

1 Feb

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There are some projects that leave me feeling downright giddy. Often these are the tiny things I have made for my nieces and nephews- a knitted piece of pie, a set of spiked dinosaur mittens, coloring books for a summer roadtrip with the wee ones. This week’s project, however, is not one of those sorts of projects.

Last week, a plane wreck in the Queen Alexandra mountain range, halfway between South Pole Station and McMurdo Station, took the lives of three men. I didn’t know the crew personally, but of course many did. Somehow, their deaths feel like the loss of some distant cousins- I didn’t really know them, but they are family nonetheless. In the grand scheme of things, It’s a pretty small group of us who live and work here in Antarctica.

I am always amazed that south of the Antarctic circle, when there is a plane crash or a missing helicopter or a fishing boat engulfed in flames, the first conversation is how to help and not who will pay, or who is responsible. Oh certainly that conversation happens, but rescue efforts are in motion well beforehand. This time, weather stymied rescue efforts for a few days, during which time we all hoped for the best and expected the worse. Word finally came that the crash had been both sudden and fatal, and the best thing I can say about that is that even if rescue teams had been able to get up there any quicker, the outcome would not have been any different. Somehow there is some tiny solace in knowing that the pilot, co-pilot, and engineer aboard, spent their last minutes flying over the Transantarctic mountains, and not suffering from hypothermia on top of massive injuries while awaiting rescue.

Eight days later, all of the members of the SAR teams have returned, debriefings have been held, and now plans are being made for memorial services. I was asked to make a book for the community to sign in memory of the three who died. It is not exactly the sort of project that leaves me giddy, but I am pleased with the result, and hope that it will offer a suitable way for people to honor these three members of our Antarctic family.

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You can find more information on the crash here. 

Kenn Borek Air has posted a memorial site for the crew.


Dying Yarn

6 Aug

I thought dying yarn for my sister with her 3 year old daughter would be a good idea- a great project for my niece, and a lovely surprise for her sleep deprived mother. Unfortunately, my sister, an avid knitter, is allergic to wool. I think this is surely one of the great tragedies of the world. My sister doesn’t actually mind a bit, perfectly content with bamboo and cotton, and the much improved modern acrylics. There’s only one of us lamenting her allergy when we go yarn shopping and it certainly isn’t her. 

So with instructions for kid-friendly yarn dying in hand, I picked out a natural cotton yarn. What I failed to do, however, is actually read those instructions. The first line of which reads “This will only work with animal based fibers……” 

So while we started with this: 



We ended up with this: 



But then when I wound the yarn into a ball, my hands turned pink. So a few more rinses and a couple rounds in the microwave later, what my sister got was some very pink yarn, since apparently that’s the only color that will stick to anything! 

Ah, well. Live and learn (to read the instructions first.)

My Latest Project

13 Jul



This is what I’ve been working on recently. I, along with about 100 other fantastic folks, put together this 1400 sq ft straw bale home on the Northern Cheyenne reservation in southeastern Montana over the course of 6 weeks. 

For most of those six weeks, I worked continuously, moving from one task to the next at the direction of an amazing staff, seldom stepping back to appreciate the magic of putting up a house. And then, on one of my last days, I laid down on the concrete floor in the living room, because after another long day I couldn’t possibly stand up anymore. And finally I had the chance to really look around. I thought back to the day we raked concrete, having waited so long for the rain to subside. I looked around at all the elements that made up this cozy little house, and realized that I had a hand in most of them. I considered all the people who I worked alongside along the way, and the patient instruction of the staff, and the frustrations of unfamiliarity. I cursed like a sailor trying to learn to stucco, but a few trowels in, fell in love with the process. I stayed up well into the darkness hanging drywall with a couple of hardworking women, and one very tall guy who could reach all the places we couldn’t without moving the scaffolding. I wasn’t yet ready to appreciate the crown boards having just finished that 3 day project (it felt like a year). 

I really can’t begin to explain what a feeling it is to sit in a house that I have been a part of, to see the magic of it all coming together, and to imagine the life that will be lived here.


27 May


Nebraska is well worth the trip, if only as the home to my favorite yarn made by Brown Sheep in Mitchell, NE. The shop adjacent to the mill sells seconds, which in my experience has merely meant a few knots in the skeins. I walked away with arms full. 

I’ve already started a baby hat with one skein of variegated blues and purples.

Fabric Shopping

24 May


While in Glenwood Springs, CO, last week, I stopped into the quilt shop. I remembered the shop from last summer when I was working in nearby Carbondale, and made sure to leave time for a stop during this year’s much shorter visit. The shop is tiny, but jam-packed with fabric and supplies. They have an astounding selection of batiks, an increasing number of organic cottons, and some really unique sewing patterns. I’m a fan of these really bold prints. The vaguest of project ideas motivated the purchase of the pictured fabrics. I think the green one on the right may become a skirt for my niece. The pattern would be a little too bold, I think, on a grown-up sized garment, but on a three-year-old sized skirt, I think it will be just right. 



On the Road

11 May

I have hit the road once again- I am headed west for the duration of the summer. I’ve loaded all the basic necessities for a season into the back of my truck. A heap of camping gear, a bag of clothes, a small basket of snacks and basic food staples, a cooler with fruit and vegetables for snacking. A pretty standard packing list for a road trip. But then there’s this: a plastic box, wide enough to hold my art paper (18″ x24″), and deep enough to act as a table if I sit on the floor in front of it. This will be my portable studio for the next three to four months. A drawer insert intended for silverware holds all of my tools, various jars of glues line one side. Before leaving, I sorted through my stash of fabric, and the suitcases of paper and other supplies to select some favorites, pull out the most likely candidates to be needed in the coming months. It is not quite the studio I daydream of having one day, the one with all of my materials contained in one spot, with a table to work on, shelves to contain the tools and glues and buttons and thread. But it will do.

Remnants of Childhood

8 May

With each season, my mother sorts through the children’s clothes she saved over the years, pulling out old dresses that might be appropriate for my young niece. 30 years later, however, much of the clothing is now terribly dated, and although I am certain that the smocked dresses and corduroy bellbottoms my sister and I sported in our early years would make for some excellent photos on my niece, my sister has chosen to spare her daughter the torture. Most of the dresses all run together in my mind- I have more vague memories of the shopping trips downtown than the actual dresses. 

Somewhere from the depths emerged this hot little number: 

That is a jumper made of the loveliest polyester. I can’t believe I don’t remember sweating it out in this outfit. I can’t imagine it ranked up there with my favorites for comfort. Aside from the style and material issues in handing this down to my niece, the elastic is completely shot (you’ll notice the girth of the upper part of the jumper. No, I was NOT, in fact, a square 3-year-old). 

But there’s something endearing about the dress anyway, thanks in part to that terrible polyester that is so reminiscent of an era that predates that miracles that have since been worked on synthetics. And the applique is charming too. I saved the dress from eternal damnation initially with the thought that I might use the pocket for a project of some nature. An apron, perhaps? And then it occurred to me that I just bet NOTHING will stick to that blue plastic-y fabric, which makes it the perfect apron fabric. A slit up the back of the skirt and two hems later, I have an apron as old as I am.