Friday, December 29, 2006

It's Back to Socks

Christmas is over, the decorations are coming down today and I'm back to socks. I think it's because Eddie ate my sock that I'm fixed on making socks from all wool - they just feel better. I got caught up in the craze of knitting computer dyed, self-striping socks, but they abrade the soles of my feet when I walk. I dug through my stash of handspun and decided that these two yarns would make nice socks together since I didn't have enough of either to make anything else. The green was some Polworth that I had spun white, so I squeezed green on to the yarn then just dotted it with The Purple and steamed it. The Purple was from a dye day years ago when too much purple was added to a pot and we all had bottles of it for a very long time. I also had a number of white skeins that I had done when I was just learning - this Polworth was the last of those. The lavender I bought at Lambtown. Amy was buying beautiful batts from some ladies and I desperately wanted to buy something too, but didn't really like anything. I bought one Cormo/silk batt and this was it. The results are great - almost looks like I planned it! Years ago when she still worked at the Truckee Variety Store, Diane Soucy had given me a sock pattern which I have since memorized. She also told me that eight inches was usually a good size for a sock, so I calculate my gauge to that and knit all my socks from the pattern in my head.

At lunch with Amy last Friday, the subject came up of the yarn that she had given me a couple of years ago. I told her that I had looked for it and couldn't find it. She remembered that she had given it to me because she didn't like it but couldn't remember why. She dyed it with KoolAid and didn't like the pastel results. Amy doesn't like pastel and she especially doesn't like pink. This yarn was a little of both. I found it yesterday while looking for something else. I'm really happy with what I see so far.

Socks aside, have you noticed how young people say "no problem" when you thank them? At least I think it's a generational thing. When someone thanks me, I say "you're welcome" because I'm glad to have been able to help. I thank a young person for assistance and I get "no problem." That suggests to me that I had been a problem but they're assuring me that they're letting it go. I'm not liking this new version very much. Am I turning into an old crank??

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Christmas Eve

On Christmas Eve our Reno family gathers at our house, and then on Christmas Day everyone goes different directions. But for this one evening, one loud and crazy evening, we love and celebrate Christmas and us - our family. I think this gathering is my favorite Christmas present.

~The Little Cousins~

~The Big Cousins~

My daughter-in-law is getting ready to read the traditional Christmas Story. Kiernan is absent as he's upstairs with his uncles' Legos - they refuse to take them home with them so we have tubs and tubs of Legos. Kiernan only came downstairs to eat and unwrap presents. I like Legos - they don't require batteries.

Allie is in her pretty Jasmine costume parts. The actual costume was a Christmas Day present yet to come from her parents - all packed in our luggage from Disneyland. Her slippers have genie-like pointy toes and she carefully shuffled around in them all evening. I love the look on her face - she is Jasmine. Chris, her mother, is a bellydancer so the costume has special significance. We also brought back from Disneyland the dreadlocks of Captain Jack Sparrow and a giant three-point pirate hat for Kiernan, Allie's brother. Aaargh~

I read in other blogs of all the wonderful and thoughtful Christmas presents being lovingly and slightly frantically knitted. I didn't knit a thing this year - I didn't want all that pressure. I've been taking fused glass classes over the past year and Ian suggested that I give some of the ornaments that I had made as gifts. I really enjoyed the fun of making different Christmas trees and that's what I gave.

I don't understand why I love the glass so much. It's like antithetical to wool. I just hope I don't keep loving it because kilns can cost as much as looms. And there's the thing about time. From one junkie to another - you understand, right?

And please note that the pumpkin in the picture on the right is the same as Amy posted to her blog. I think that means I gave her one and me one too. Is that so wrong?

And long story short, this Christmas I got to meet my youngest son's girlfriend for the first time. I thought that was pretty cool

Probably the most unexpected present ever was that my children in Reno had arranged to have a professional photographer take pictures of themselves and their families on the main UNR campus, all of them dressed in white. Just months ago, Ian's children had presented us with an astounding picture of them taken last summer on the beach by the Seal Beach pier by a professional photographer, all of them wearing white. The locations of the pictures are significant, and while our children know each other, they did not consult each other. It couldn't have been a cooler Christmas.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Almost Christmas

I went into town this morning to finish up a couple of last minute things and met Amy and my daughter Chris on campus for lunch. It’s so much easier to park on campus when school isn’t in session. My granddaughter Allie is in on-campus daycare so Chrissie brought her to lunch too - it's a condition of having lunch together. I took Allie's sweater that I had crocheted four rows around the whole thing twice. I was nervous that the neck was too big but I just couldn’t bring myself to redo the crocheted edge yet again. I just don’t love to crochet, even though I can. We all decided that the sweater will do.

I’m done with the cute sweater idea. I like Birdsong’s little animals and I realize they have much more kid appeal than a frustrating sweater. In the future I’ll stick to the Knitting Pure and Simple patterns of Diane Soucy. They’ve done well for me in the past and the sweaters fit for a long time. I do think I’ll order some superwash roving since the real fun for me is in the spinning.

We ate at the Overlook, a student restaurant that is in the top level of the old student union and overlooks Manzanita Lake. “Ana see the ducks,” said Allie. So we went to see the ducks. The “ducks” are actually Canadian Geese and a some swans, but it doesn’t matter to Allie. She loves to watch the ducks. It’s so cold, they’re mostly “on” the lake.

And speaking of cold, we got some snow last night. Driving home was so difficult that I had to follow the tire tracks of the previous vehicle for about seven miles because I couldn’t define the edge of the road and because the swirling snow was so disorienting. Today it’s hard to believe I’m not making that up. We just have a dusting on the mountains, like powdered sugar.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Testing, Testing

This is the first picture on my blog from my Nikon Coolpix. The color seems nice but I'm not sure about the detail. I'll try it for a while but if I'm not happy, will go back to Ian's DSLR. It's just too big to haul around Disneyland.
I took this picture last night with Ian's camera of Buster with his toy in front of the fire. He thinks he's a tough guy, but he plays with dolls. This is not the dog who ate my sock.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Back from Disneyland

We’re back from Disneyland, broke, exhausted and happy. We went with son, DIL, DIL’s mother and two grandsons. Christmas, Disneyland and grandsons doth a merry medicine make. Also broke, or so we thought, was the camera. I set it down too sharply and it responded by refusing to take any more pictures, as if it decided 264 was enough. I felt terrible – it’s Ian’s baby – and so I decided to spend soap money on a new point-and-shoot camera for me when we got home.

This is my new baby and the good news is that the delightful folks at Gordon’s put Ian’s camera back into working order in minutes, at no charge. This is our second Nikon Coolpix, the first we purchased about four years ago and have since moved it on to live with son-in-law-equivalent, Michael. He likes it and I don’t feel guilty about not using it.

That camera was nearly as large as Ian’s Nikon DSLR, so I took a second shot of my new camera with my cell phone for scale. It’s tiny and still has 8.1 megapixels. I think it also has video – not sure.

Since we were flying I took two knitting projects, just in case I ran out of knitting. I was thrilled to finish the socks from my Navajo-plied yarn (earlier blog called Navajo Plying) and was even more thrilled how much alike they came out. I have found that socks from 100% wool are comfortable where the nylon/wool blends tend to be abrasive.

This is my second pair of all wool socks, or so I thought – until I found one of the socks from my first pair on Eddie’s dog bed. I got the message – he loves to go to the kennel but he really missed me.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Cutting the Soap

The soap is ready to be cut into bars after it has been in the mold for at least 24 hours. I had my mold custom made by The Soap Saloon in Sacramento. The end is hinged and opens to allow me to slide out the bottom tray. My cuttings tools, which I purchsed on the Internet, are on the counter to the right of the mold.

One tool slices slices the slab into five bricks.

You can see how the piano wire cuts through the brick.

The second tool slices the brick into individual bars. The bars will need to cure for three weeks before they are ready to be cleaned and wrapped with the Campbell label. I also purchased a tool to finish off the sharp edges, but I’ve found that a potato peeler works faster and better. So my edge finishing tool is an aluminum potato peeler that I received as a wedding present in 1968. That and my “goofy” knife, as Ian calls it, are my favorite wedding presents. He, the retired butcher, has teased me about my goofy knife for ten years, then admitted the other day that he uses it. Hmmmmm.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Morning Visitor

This is the visitor in our back yard this morning. We put up this partial barn loom as a place to hang bird feeders, but we've never attracted anything but songbirds and quail - until today. I don't know what he is, but he's big. He didn’t stay long, but that’s okay. I had to leave for work. I’m just glad he came at all.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Navajo Plying

I treated myself to this bump of dyed roving when we were at Oregon Flock and Fiber this year. I was attracted to the colors of Dicentra Designs, who can be found at because they reminded me of the rovings of Sandy Sitzman. I wanted to buy something that I probably wouldn’t dye up for myself and I wanted Blue Face Leicester for durable socks. I told myself that I would Navajo ply it but knew that I probably wouldn’t. I was so pleased with the results of Navajo plying in my hats for Wayne that I decided to go ahead and do the whole five ounces. Besides, I need some practice in spinning thin. I’m still getting a lot of practice, but I have started the socks, based on my swatch.

However, I’m not working on the socks. I’m working on a sweater from commercial yarn that I started several months ago for my granddaughter. It’s superwash and I hate it, I hate the pattern that came in the book for this yarn. The yarn splits and the pattern has had mistakes. The sweater is so cute in the picture that I crocheted three rounds for the four required to finish it. It just looked wrong, so I referred to the picture and found that they had meant single crochet, not double crochet. When I got home tonight, I frogged it and am now on the first round. I am compelled to finished as I can hear my granddaughter growing as I slog my way through this project. It has certainly soured me on commercial yarn. So if it’s a success in the end, I’ll add it to a blog. If not, you’ll never hear about it again. But I can tell you, either way, I won’t be buying commercial yarn any time soon. I have learned never to say never when I said that I’d never knit socks when you could buy perfectly good ones for a fraction of the cost. So I won’t say I’ll never buy yarn, but…..

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Yule Tree 2006

There are four trees in the back of our pickup. I didn’t know it would hold that many. Ian and I, along with my oldest son’s family, have established the tradition of going up to Forest Service land above Frenchman’s Lake, California and cutting our Christmas trees the day after Thanksgiving. The group with us changes from year to year, but we always seem to have three vehicles, snow on the ground, mud on the road, and breakfast in Chilcoot afterwards.

This year Ian’s oldest daughter and her family joined us from Redding. We turned the camera over to our 15-year-old step-granddaughter this year with surprising and pleasing results.

Cousins who don't get to see each other very often had the time of their lives and made lasting memories, without MasterCard, thank you very much.

These are the bear tracks by our wheel tracks. I’ve never seen bear tracks and they’re just as big as I’ve heard they are. I’m glad we only saw tracks!

Ian and I were happy with the tree that we had selected until we felled it and all the branchs on the one side snapped off. We simply couldn’t use it. That's never happened before - a diseased tree perhaps? Always the first to have a tree in the past, the pressure was on to find another tree, cut and tag it, get it on the truck and go eat. Long story short, we put a lot of energy into bringing home the most Charlie Brown tree we’ve ever had. But it’s the memories that count, of cutting the tree, the banter on the walkie-talkies en route to tree cutting, the shared meal, and all the meaning behind each ornament. It’s an ugly tree, but in a good way - no side shots please.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Special Hats

My friend Wayne emailed me a couple of months ago, asking if I would make hats for his nieces and nephews for Christmas. After a couple of email exchanges, I began forming plans and dying wool. The girls are two and three, the boys five and fourteen. I used Charlene Schurch’s sizing in Hats, Hats Hats as a guide and fretted a lot. But once I got to work, the hats just fell onto my needles and I couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome. Wayne said the two year-old is a tomboy, so I chose blues and greens, and the three-year-old is a girlie girl and for her I chose purples and pinks. I love the boys’ hats though. The yarn is spun from wool of Wayne’s own sheep!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Booga Bags

Booga Bags are a free pattern available on the Internet. These are the two bags I've just finished. The one on the left is from overdyed grey Romney and the one on the right is overdyed Coopworth on the bottom and Border Leiscester as blue on the top. I'm still not sure about combining different wools because of different felting properties. The Coopworth definitely felts better than the Border Leiscester, but on the other hand, the BL has a wonderful halo. The problem is that since it felts less, the bag is wider on the top.

I now have four finished bags. A couple of people I work with have expressed interest in buying a bag so I'll take them in for them to see. The purples/blues in the left foreground bag are from Lambs Pride and the green in handspun. The gold in the right foreground bag is handspun yarn from Merino commercial top but the blue is something I dyed. It's cool because the blue didn't felt as well and is a raised welt in the bag. What's my favorite bag?

This is the first bag I ever made and I carry it every day. The blue and purple are Romney and the top is Salish/Coopworth. In my quest for successul fibers to combine, I still like my first attempt. I think it's funny that the sheep breeds that are the worst for sweaters are the best for purses. Either way, I have plenty of wool to spin up and four sheep growing more as I type.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Five-hundred Year Storm at Grey's River

This is where my brother lives. He and my sister-in-law Georg live on the Greys River, a tidal river on the north side of the Columbia River. Their dream for a bed and breakfast was sidetracked by a flood that required that they raise their house and the “bunkhouse” an additional sixteen inches. In addition to the B&B, they have a gift shop in the farm’s original barn. This is truly a farm - the sheep/goat barn is on the right side of the bridge, out of the picture, and on higher ground than the house. The Pacific Northwest B&B publications give them high marks, but the recent storms gave them high water marks.

This is the house as it faces the river, with the original bunkhouse, now guest rooms behind it. Georg tells me that the storm they just experienced is being called a 500-year storm. They normally receive 100 inches of rain in a year. I live in the Sierra Nevada rainshadow, and it’s hard to image the water that must have fallen from the sky. Bob is a Cal Poly Ag Man and has filled with grounds with mini-gardens and habitats, which are now under water. We were just there a couple of months ago and I’m very sad for the loss.

There are so many small gardens, hammocks, lawn chairs, and bird feeders that are underwater. This is the gift barn - the original dairy barn, now gift shop. Georg had two inchs of water in the shop.

Last year Bob was written up in the local newspaper, wearing fishing waders, moving through thigh-deep water to check on the lifestock. This year they had guests when the storm hit and hit and hit. Bob had already moved their cars across the road and parked them by the livestock barn. The access to their cars was underwater so Bob borrowed a row boat and ferried the guests to their cars. But not until the water had subsided enough for them to leave. Because the road on the north side of the bridge was under water.

Bob has segregated the livestock from house and grounds with movable electric fences. He has a number of very old apple trees that are on the "other" side of the fence but his boer goat buck has managed to eat the apples anyway. It's a little uncanny. I know that this isn't the first or last flood. "Life goes on" seems like a trivial sentiment, but I guess it does. This isn't the first flood for those trees.

This car belongs to Jered, their grandson who lives west of them in Long Beach. That road is still under water, as is Jered's car. Bob and Georg have a long love of Mexico, and even though they no longer have a house in San Miguel de Allende, they still have friends there. My nieces gave them a trip to Mexico and the arrangements are for them to fly out of Portland on November 15th, which is tomorrow. When I talked them this weekend, that is I talked to Georg, and she held the phone up to the window so I could talk to Bob who was in his muddy waders outside the window, they couldn’t wait to leave. Here’s the irony – our four-day trip to Disneyland in a couple of weeks will cost as much as their four week trip to Mexico

Sunday, November 12, 2006

What's Cooking

My friend Wayne contacted me several weeks ago to see if I’d make hats for his nieces and nephews as Christmas presents. He’d like his nephews hats to be from the wool of his own sheep, which I already have as yarn, and I think he wanted his natural colored wools for his nieces as well. I wanted to do colors for the girls, and he agreed. So far, I have Navajo-plied the contrast color, finished the purples/pinks and am spinning the greens/blues. I have vague plans for the girls hats, and after phishing on the web, have definite plans for the boys.

I have two more booga bags finished, fulled in the washer and now drying on forms, i.e., oatmeals boxes and a trash can. I experiemented with mixing types of wools so don’t know how satisfied I’ll be with the outcome of one. I’m trying to see this as an opportunity for design. I can see that Border Leicester doesn’t full at the same rate as the Coopworth, which leaves the bag wider at the top than at the bottorm. I haven’t decided how to make this look like I meant it, but it’ll take the bags a couple of days to dry so that’s a couple of days to fret.

Saturday, November 11, 2006


This is PR (Pack Rat). He is a labrador/Black Newfoundland mix, big and hairy but shaved in this picture. My brother Bob his wife Georg asked us if we would watch him when they went down to San Miguel de Allende to get their house ready for sale. PR was about fourteen years old at the time and they were worried that the trip to Mexico from their American home on the Columbia River Gorge would be too hard on him. He came to us in September and did well until the colder months, when it was clear his joints were stiff. Ian put him on glucosamine/chondroitin to see if he could ease a little of PR’s discomfot. It was gradual, but over months, it was clearly a success. When Bob collected PR in the spring, he was amazed at the change. We’re not sure how old he is now, but he’s old, that’s for sure. Maybe eighteen?

This is Nahlo. Bob was so impressed with the change in PR, that he started taking the dog’s pills himself. And over time, he broadened the regime to other animals on his farm and to Nahlo, his angora buck, who was clearly having a hard time with the Columbia River gorge dampness. Bob is an Aggie from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. I think it says something that he would decide to feed an herbal remedy to his goat. And not only that he would think that Nahlo should take the pills, but that Nahlo would come to want them.