Wednesday, January 01, 2014

2014

poke, poke

Does this thing still work?

Huh.  Maybe it does.  Look at that.

I have no idea why, but I am motivated to blog again, and since this is Day One of 2014, I'm going to indulge myself and prattle on about goals.

I have a lot of goals for 2014.  There are three big ones:
  1. Start working on the requirements for the Apprentice rating from the Weavers Guild of Boston.
  2. I have declared 2014 to be The Year of Silk, for no particularly good reason except I want to.  (Well, and Sara Lamb's silk book is coming out mid-year.)  I intend to do all manner of silk work this year.
  3. Give in to the temptations of fiber (as if I weren't already).
I quit blogging three and a half years ago because it felt like all I was doing was whining.  I'm not so whiny any more, so maybe I can stand this blogging thing again.

 Anyhow, here are the goals for 2014 I wrote up a week or so ago (look, I've already completed some!):

Knitting:
  • Finish the Minimalist Cardigan. DONE
  • Finish the Habitat hat from Alice Field’s scrumptious gray Cormo yarn. DONE
  • Inventory my knitting WIPs . DONE
  • Knit another sweater, a handspun one.
  • Don’t buy any more sweater lots of yarn until I have 4 sweaters knit (including the two above; the next two of the four are the purple Custom Fit pullover and the Kathryn Alexander pattern out of Spirit Trail yarn).
  • Knit a lace shawl from silk (preferably handspun silk) (see 2014: The Year of Silk).
  • Knit on my February Blanket (but only in February!).
Spinning: (this is probably where I’ll spend the least effort)
  • Wash the few dribs and drabs that haven’t been washed
  • Spin silk, lots of silk, of all kinds (see 2014: The Year of Silk).
  • Don’t acquire any more fleeces till Rhinebeck (and maybe not even then).
  • Spin some cotton.
Weaving: (this is the biggie for the year)
  • Work on the Apprentice requirements from the Weavers Guild of Boston, for submission in March of 2015. This involves a minimum of nine warps
  • Weave off one knotted pile warp on the Mirrix loom.
  • Weave at least three silk items (see 2014: The Year of Silk).
  • There are three red or red-and-white warps already wound (towels, two runners); weave them off. Warp #1 DONE
  • Learn, learn, and break my brain learning still more. Take a week of More Swedish Classics at the Vavstuga. Take several days of classes at Convergence. Take John Mullarkey's tablet-weaving class at The Gathering. Attend lots of guild meetings. Almost certainly pit my name on the waiting list for the Hill Institute weaving courses. Read lots of books. Look at lots of textiles.
Sewing: (yes, sewing)
  • Sew three articles of clothing, at least two from handwoven cloth.
  • Work on the stripy quilt in my mind.
Dyeing/Painting/Surface Design:
  • Dye a silk warp (see 2014: The Year of Silk).
  • Paint at least two warps, of any fiber.
  • Experiment with fabric surface design, such as stamping, painting, shibori, and so on.
  • Make an indigo dye pot and dye something (or, even better, a bunch of somethings!).
Be with My People:
  • Go to SPA, Connecticut Sheep & Wool, New Hampshire Sheep & Wool, Massachusetts Sheep & Wool, Convergence, Vavstuga, Rhinebeck, and The Gathering.
  • Organize at least three trips to museums with the Boston FOAY crowd.
Overall Goal:
Realize how important fiber work is to me and yield to its temptation.

...................................

I've finished a bunch of projects lately, too, but I'll write about those another day.  Happy New Year, my friends!

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Dimity

Well. We're almost at the end of the Pics to Picks Challenge, and I've hardly accomplished anything. I could beat myself up, but first, let's look at what I did finish.

So, if you'll remember, I had been inspired by Bety's Floridian images to weave something with those glorious blues and greens. I fiddled around with various rearrangements of blues and greens and off-white stripes with my cones of 8/2 cotton, but I just couldn't come up with anything.
Lesson #1: Apparently, I can't think if I'm sick with a sinus infection/allergies/toothache that various medical professionals hadn't quite treated successfully. The sinus infection is mostly gone (that's what really made it impossible to think), the allergies are about as under control as they ever are, and the toothache - well, it comes and goes, as it has for the past decade, without enough specificity of location for the dentist to do anything about it. Lesson #1A: Keep going back if the doctors haven't quite gotten something licked. I tend to Just Endure, but I need to pester in my own defense. The last office visit resulted in a quadrupling of nasal spray #1, with a certain schedule of application, and a lengthening and increased complexity of antibiotic - and I think it's done the trick.

In the midst of infected mindlessness, all I could do was wind a warp of good ordinary blue, with accent dimity stripes of pale, silvery green. That was it. No complex, shifting, evocative combinations of blues/greens with a smudge of violet, sparked by raised dimity stripes in color counterpoint, all suggesting a sun-drenched, humid Florida summer day about to be cooled off by a rocking thunderstorm. Um, no. Not with a brain sat upon by an overweening sinus or twelve.

Blue. I could cope with blue. Luckily, the cone of pale, silvery green was on top of the blue cone, so I could be smacked in my mindlessness with how great the pale green was with the deep blue.

3.5 yards long, by 9 or so inches wide. I figured I could sew myself a lunch bag out of it. I got the warp on the loom with no mistakes, by some miracle, and started weaving. I used 16/2 cotton, because the dimity article guiding me, from the November/December 2008 issue of
Handwoven, specified that the weft should be half the heft of the warp. And here it was...

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It was working. By this point, the super-duper antibiotics and nasal sprays were beginning to do their job, because I started to get a little bored. And I started to notice something.

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Does that look a little sleazy to you? Let me hold up a sheet of paper behind the cloth...

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That's a lot of white showing there. I was worried this wouldn't work, that it wouldn't be sturdy enough for a simple lunch bag, and I couldn't figure out why. I rechecked the
Handwoven article, the recommended sett for 8/2 cotton, the size reed I was using - everything I could think of. I could not figure out what I was doing wrong.

Lesson #2: Do not beat yourself up when you can't think straight when you are sick. It is not helpful.

Eventually, it dawned on me that the instructions in the
Handwoven article were for dimity scarves. You know, those drapy, flowing pieces of cloth that aren't all that suitable for sturdy lunch bags? Sigh .... By that time, I had woven one bobbin's worth of the 16/2 cotton, and I switched to a turquoise 8/2 cotton for the next bobbin.

Now we were cooking! Here's the point of change. You can see the breast beam through the 16/2 weft, but not through the 8/2 weft.

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A couple of bobbins' worth of 8/2 - maybe a yard or so - and I got bored again. I started throwing a shot of heavy, textured cotton in every 4th pick, and I liked the simple balance between the silvery warp stripes and the dark, slubby weft stripes. I finished up the warp with this combination.

A quick wash, dry, and iron, and this is the result.

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From left to right, the same 8/2 warp with a 16/2 weft, an 8/2 weft, and the same 8/2 weft with shots of slubby cotton, along with one of Bety's images. The two heavier fabrics are indeed just fine for sewing into a lunch bag (or two), but interestingly, the lighter fabric is not sleazy at all. It's really a lovely, drapy fabric, just right for a cotton summer scarf or shawl.

In fact, I'm planning just such a shawl, in that same lovely blue and silvery pale green. I'd like to figure out how I can convey the rounded cloud shapes in some sort of lace along with the dimity stripes - maybe hand-manipulated Danish medallions, I'm not sure. Since I'll be away this coming weekend, I won't be weaving the shawl before the end of this challenge.

Lesson #3: Try something, and then variations on that something. Just keep trying.

I suppose I didn't accomplish that much with this challenge, certainly not compared to others, but I did what I could.
Lesson #4: Learn to live with being imperfect.

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Cummington, Part Two

I know, I know, this is shocking: two posts in two days. Well, Fran loaded her photos of the festival into Flickr and kindly allowed me to use them here, so ....

(Psst: Here's yesterday's post. Read it first, if you haven't already.)

So, when last we left off at the MA Sheep & Woolcraft Fair, Fran and I had bought the Grand Champion fleece, a lovely white Romney from Mary Pratt's farm.

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Mary was thrilled her fleece won! Fran and I were thrilled to buy it!

And after the fleece sale came the Short-Draw Spinning Smackdown between Jesh and me, with our antique wheels.

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Five minutes of practice with some Texel x Friesian roving (the first fleece I ever bought, btw, at Rhinebeck in 2006), then ten minutes of furious, foot-stomping, wheel-whirring, all-out spinning our hearts out!

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Finally, we wound off the two singles together on a niddy-noddy. This involved some serious yarn-wrangling skills.

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And lo! One single ran out - whose was left? (The crowd was breathless....) Why, it was mine! I won!!!! I won by 21 meters!!!!

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On the left, the two singles wound together. On the right, the yardage I spun beyond what Jesh spun. Impressive, eh?

Next year, it'll be a long-draw contest. Be there!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Life is Good

I complain a lot. I whine, I rant, I look like a little lost lamb. I'm annoying, I know. Please accept my apologies.

And the next time I whine here (which will be tomorrow), remind me of this post, OK?

I just spent two days at the Massachusetts Sheep and Woolcraft Fair in Cummington. I was so sad to see it end, you'd have thought I'd been on a month-long vacation in Tahiti. For once, I took lots of photos and I'm just going to put them up here for you all to love.

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Cummington is about the sheep.

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Sometimes the sheep love a good back massage (my friend Pat giving her Shetland ram Wilber the works. He twirls his tail like a lamb when she hits the right spot.)

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Don't you want to spin that fleece? You can't; it's a Dorper, it doesn't produce ANY fleece worth mentioning.

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How can you not love Jacob sheep?

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It takes a lot of work to prep a sheep for a sheep show. These are two Shetland ewes and a Romney getting cleaned up, whether they like it or not.

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A young boy with an Icelandic ewe. Apparently, he's been showing sheep for several years now.

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Olivia and her Shetland ewe, the one you saw getting cleaned up. Olivia made her dress (which has lovely silk needle-felting on the front), her purse, her scarf, her headband, and the sheep's necklace. Olivia will be twelve tomorrow. (I feel inadequate all of a sudden.)

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Olivia also made this bag.

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And her older sister Isabelle - the one who turned 16 Sunday, the one whose photo turned out all blurry, that Isabelle? She made this bowl. Note the Best of Show plate. Isabelle won that. Did I mention she just turned 16?

And there were lots of my other friends there, too.

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The Adorable Georg, being adorable.

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Jesh and Lisa (and Dan in the background).

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The incomparable Sandi (and Dan in the background; I swear I thought I was aimed at Sandi).

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I realized I was taking too many photos of Dan's butt, so I made him face me (that's Cris in the background).

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Spinners doing what spinners do (drink, not spin, that is).

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Cris and Sandi. Charmers, both of them.

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Lisa GAVE me this yarn. Nice yarn, you say? She spun it. Three ply, BFL, 600+ yards. It is wonderful yarn.


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I like these people.

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Even if Jesh does snarl at me all the time! Of course, I did
WHUP HER ASS BY 21 METERS at short-draw spinning on our antique wheels - but, hey, she challenged me, what was I supposed to do? (It'll be long draw next year; I have to practice.)

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Speaking of favorite people, none of whom stand still long enough to take many photos of, here are the legendary Manise, Laurie, and Judy.

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Laurie may or may not have cleaned out Judy's stock.

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Manise has the most interesting wedding ring(s).


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Marcy's nieces were there. The gene runs strong in that family - here's Lydia spinning cotton on a giant African porcupine quill.

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Just fiber people doing what fiber people do best.

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And yes, I bought a fleece. Half a fleece, actually; I split with Fran the gorgeous, gorgeous white Romney Grand Champion fleece, raised by Mary Pratt at Elihu Farm.

And then I went home - along the beautiful Westfield River, over the hills to the Deerfield River valley and down to the Connecticut, across the French King Bridge, and up along the Millers River to home. Life is so good.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

No, Not Really

It's been more than a month since I posted last. I'm sure you're thinking that I've been working in the garden (well, yes, a little) or out chasing dragonflies (well, yes, a little) or eating ice cream (well, yes, a little) or any of those other non-fiber things one does when suddenly it's spring.

What I've really been doing is knitting like a madwoman (well, yes, I am, a little - so?). As I said in my last post, I finished Citron - it's still too small for me. And against my better judgment, but since Sara encouraged me, I finished Gail - and I love it! I wore it to the Connecticut Sheep and Wool Festival last weekend and got plenty of compliments on it.

I also started and finished Traveling Woman, in Ella Rae Merino Lace. I had my doubts as I was finishing it up - was it too small? Were my additional zigzag rows too much? Was the yarn really OK? (It seemed a little too plastic-y in the hand, not like wool at all. Plus, the yarn is a 3-ply and very round.) But yay! It's not too small, the extra rows look fine, and the yarn feels like real yarn now that it's washed and blocked.

So, I kept going. I was pretty sick of blues by then, even sick of rosy purples and dusky reds - here's a shot of my shawl rack to give you an idea of my usual choice in colors (these aren't all from my hand; that felted scarf in the middle with the white locks? that's my Christmas present from Pat) -

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So, I found this in my stash and cast on for Multnomah:

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This is Valley Yarns Franklin sock yarn, in the Frog in a Party Dress colorway hand-dyed by the Kangaroo Dyer. I love this colorway, completely unexpectedly, but I'm not so sure about how this shawl is working up. I've just finished the garter stitch portion and started on the feather and fan/old shale lace stitch part, and I'm having doubts. For one thing, I think I need to knit more garter stitch before starting the lace border, and for another - well, it's very bright pink and green. What do you all think?

In the meantime, more traditional yarns have been cast on for yet more shawls. Here's J. Knits alpaca in the Massachusetts colorway, just barely cast on for Anne Hanson's Nightingale Wing stole.

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And some lovely, lovely lambswool with a smidge of nylon - a mill end from Pasa Yarns - dyed with many, many packets of Kool-Aid in some forgotten flavor (Blue Ice, maybe?) to a beautiful shade of jade, cast on for Cat Bordhi's Streaming Leaves shawl. The yarn feels wonderful and it even has a wonderful smell - something like the smell of cherry blossoms. I'm not doing the fancy two-circs-provisional-cast-on hem that Cat specifies, because I'm lazy and didn't feel like wrestling with three circulars in this heat.

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So, I should be feeling productive, yes? I am casting on, plugging along, and by God actually finishing projects. Rather unusual for me, I must say.

Well, here's my secret: I'm procrastinating on my Pics to Picks weaving. It's not that I was uninspired by what Bety sent me - not at all! It's more just, well, um, I don't know - more just a feeling of yikes, what have I gotten myself into?

This weekend, I girded my shuttles and beaters, and waded into the weaving stash in search of the colors in my head. I have in mind to use the Floridian blues and greens Bety sent me to weave myself a striped cotton tablecloth using the dimity weave structure Sally Orgren used for her richly colored Tencel scarves in the November/December 2008 issue of Handwoven. Here are my first choices for the warp stripes...

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Those reds peeking out are the warp for another rag rug; I'd say ignore them, except they echo the red flowers in Bety's images.

These are all 16/2 cotton, so I went poking about looking for a thinner cotton to use for the weft. Hmm ... I don't have one, unfortunately. I've got a nice pale green 20/2 cotton, but I'm not sure that would be fine enough. According to the Handwoven article, the weft should be half the weight of the warp yarn. So, I scaled up the warp yarns - here are some 8/2 cottons in the right colors:

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And obviously, I have plenty of choices in 16/2 cotton for the weft. I decided I'd weave myself a generous sample, since I've never tried a dimity weave before, and sew it into a humdrum lunch bag for myself, since the bag I use now is literally in shreds.

I'm playing with stripe proportions and color choices now; if I can just resist the lure of the lace shawls, I may even have a dimity sample to show you the next time I post!

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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Not So Much

I finished Citron. Woo.

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Stonesthrow Farm (they're in Vermont) 60% Cormo/40% young mohair, in a nice medium blue, exactly the blue I look good in and would wear a lot. I was knitting this at Jenny's and she commented that it was camouflaged against the Wisteria I was wearing. That blue.

So why am I not excited? Well, it's blue. Nice, medium, boring blue. I think I need to break out of the blue mold. Also, despite my Citron turning out a little larger than the pattern predicts, it's still not really big enough to go around and stay around my neck without being pinned. Hmm. Oh, well.

Having finished this, I said to myself:
Not Blue. A quick rummage in the first stash bin came up with this.

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Four balls of Woolbearers Kona Superwash Merino, in the colorway Chocolate-covered Cherries. Definitely
Not Blue.

A quick rummage among my Rav favorites yielded a few prospects for 560 yards of yarn; I chose the lace shawl Gail (aka Nightsongs). A really nice shawl. I had no problems with the pattern, probably because I had the benefit of all the people who have dissected its quirks.

Three-and-some repeats in, I'm here.

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And I've decided:
Not.

Unfortunately, this yarn is too heavy for this pattern; I really need a thinner yarn. I also think the strong raspberry and brown variegation is too much for this lace. When I work up the courage, this will be frogged. I've just wound a ball of Schaefer Anne in dark blue/green/purple to try instead.

I wish I could say I was getting better at pairing yarn with pattern.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Three Gifts

Gift #1: Yesterday at work, I realized that since I'm now an Official State Employee, I get St. Patrick's, er, Evacuation Day off. I don't really think we ought to get it off, but since today is a simply beautiful, warm, early spring day, I thought I might be able to handle a day off. So I took it.

A long walk at Quabbin Reservoir this morning yielded nothing much to photograph for you, although I did hear brown creepers singing their sparkling spring song, and there was a newt and a caddisfly larvae in a vernal pool, and black ducks and mergansers cavorted and called on the far side of a pond, and I'm pretty sure I saw moose tracks. I did, however, get fairly close to this guy...

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Who was guarding quite the harem of 15 or so hen turkeys. They slunk away before I got very close, but you can (maybe) see two of them beyond Mr. Tom the Virile.

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By the time I got home, all the snow crocuses were blooming; that means it's really spring!

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Gift #2: I can't quite believe that somebody cared enough to knit me socks - somebody I've never even met! - but Lisa was so very nice to knit me these. (I could show you the chocolate she sent along as well, but, well, you know...it's gone already.)

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Paraphenalia, in Regia Stretch. I take back whatever I said about blue being boring. These are perfect, absolutely perfect. George thought so, too, and I had a hard time taking a decent photo without him in it (that's his shadow above).

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And once more, for good measure, and so you can admire my sturdily wide feet. Thank you, Lisa!

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Gift #3: Meg Nakagawa is quite the organizer. So far, she's been focusing her talents on weavers worldwide, but we can all hope she'll get the rest of the world straightened out soon, too. She's pulled together a couple of virtual scarf exhibitions; this year, she's organized a creative challenge called Pics to Picks for weavers. Fifteen of us volunteered to join in (OK, I admit it; I squeaked in at the last moment). Here are the rules, such as they are:

1) Collect three (or more if you like, but no more than, say, six) photographs/clipping/drawing to inspire a weaver. (May I suggest three different types of photos, for example one abstract, one emotional, and one something else, in case the recipient has very different taste/sensibilities from yours?)

2) Put all three in an envelope, and a personal message if you like. Send it to your weaver recipient. Keep an eye on your mail box for a similar envelope coming your way.

3) Plan a project based on one of the images.

4) Photograph it, sketch it, write about it, or blog about it. And weave it. Prepare to publish your project on the first weekend of June 2010. Include in the post:
  • All original images you received; all of them in one snapshot is good;
  • Whatever thoughts and images from your creative process you like. "Didn't Work" pics work, too.
5) How far you take the project depends on you. You could weave and have a finished piece, or go as far as determining the yarn, the set and the draft, or come up with a bunch of drawings and alternative project ideas.

Yesterday, I got my package of images from my challenge partner, Bety from Deep End of the Loom. And oh, my, what a great package! Look!

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I fear that the images I sent Bety aren't nearly as exciting but even that realization is helpful to me. Maybe I haven't been looking, really looking, at the world enough to find and see the inspiration there. I think that's the first lesson - the first gift! - for me from this challenge.

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