Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Burning Man

It’s that time of year again. Our library is on Pyramid Lake Highway, the route to the Black Rock Desert and Burning Man. It’s not so easy to see who’s going to the Lake and who’s going to the Festival, but that will change this weekend when everyone leaves. An all-present element of Burning Man is the dust, on the people, on the art displays, on the host of bicycles, and on the backs of departing cars.

The day before yesterday, a bicycle rider came up to me at the desk and asked me how to get to Burning Man. By his build and gear, he was clearly an athlete, but still I found myself asking if he was equipped with sufficient water. It was warm outside and he had hours of riding to go. He dismissed me, saying that he had ridden here from New York. I wonder how he’s going to handle the mandatory five gallons of water per person requirement.

Last night with fifteen minutes to close, I looked up as an Asian woman rushed in through the entrance, disoriented and confused. She looked like she had just stepped off the set for an Anime production, crazy clothes and feathers in her hair. When she saw me, she hustled over, digging through her shoulder bag for a small baggie containing a floppy disk. I realized that she spoke little English when she pointed to the disk and said “copy?” Rather than try to explain how to use our public computers, we decided just to print what she needed. We were printing her Burning Man admission ticket information. She was so pleased and pulled out several $20 bills which she offered in payment. No, we said, it’s 45 cents. She dug through her bag further until she found a change purse and extended a handful of coins for us to choose from. In leaving she dropped a paper. I ran after her to return it and was stunned to realize that she had a cab waiting – taking a taxi to Burning Man just doesn’t seem quite right, does it.

I have two friends who have been planning for this year’s art projects for the whole year. Their groups are in a frenzy of preparation as the deadline looms. One of my friends will be attending with his wife and new baby. My youngest son celebrates his birthday this weekend and will also be there. I am a child of the 60s and the spirit of Burning Man strikes me as a second generation, with the creative energy manifested in art instead of music. Interesting, but do I want to go play in the dust? Nope.

Monday, August 28, 2006

There's a Sweater Under There

Amy sent me this picture tonight. I’m not sure what all the ribbons represent, but she did tell me that the sweater earned four ribbons and a check for me and a check for Mim as winners of the Grown in Nevada category - she as the fiber producer and me as the finisher. First of all, let me say that I had absolutely no competition. Where were the other entries?! On the other hand, I have to admit that the sweater turned out quite well. I had struggled with it over the past year and had wrestled with my concerns that it would please the intended wearer, having never thought about it pleasing a judge. But both are pleased and I am thrilled. The last day of the fair was a work day for me. It was like knowing about a great party but being unable to attend. Next year will be different. I felt like the Matchbook Girl - lots of fun but no party for me.

This sweater represents more than just the ribbons. No one in our guild had worked with Shetland fleeces. When I bought the first Shetland fleece from Mary Beth Bullington and brought it back from Black Sheep several years ago, it caught Mim's attention. She hadn't raised sheep since her son was in 4-H, but wanted to start again. She did a lot of research on breed lines and ultimately selected animals that I believe have and will continue to produce exceptional fleeces - and personalities. This sweater and these ribbons represent some impressive animal genetics and, did I mention that the Champ lives here?!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Big Day

Today was the second to last day of the Nevada State Fair and what a day! Stephanie Gausted was the fiber judge and Terry Mendenhall judged the fleece. I’m still trying to take in all that I learned from these two wonderful women, and I certainly hope for a teaching opportunity from either and/or both. Information shoots from them like static on laundry from the dyer.

What I do know that is that a buttery Huacay alpaca won the Champion fleece. I got to touch it – lovely. It’s from Jeanette Miller, my neighbor – hmmmm. I see her animals flock every morning on my drive to work - so very tempting. The Reserve Champion? Our very own Mickey Mouth! Doesn’t that make him the best sheep fleece? Tonight Ian and I sat on the deck and watched the sunset. Our guys all hustled over to make sure that we saw them, and of course, Mickey told us all about their day. Ian chatted back – called him Champ. And in the middle of the day we celebrated our granddaughter's second birthday. What a day of contrasts, from a wool fleece ribbon to a Tinkerbell princess in pink. I am rich.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Blowin' in the Wind

The first thing I felt after Gary cut off my hair and washed what was left was a fresh tingling sensation on my scalp. The second thing I felt was remorse for not cutting it years ago. I started the morning at the Nevada State Fair about 8:30, left for the haircut, and by the time I got back, it felt so normal that I was taken aback when people either didn’t recognize me – short hair and out of context – or reacted to the change. I am already so over it. But like Amy says, I am now “renting my hair” in that I have to pay to have it cut every month. Gary liked that and says he wants to make it into a bumper sticker.

I love the agricultural part of the fair; I love the animals and I especially love the kids with their animals. There seem to be a lot of Nubian goats this year. I got a kick out of the pack goats and chased this lady down for a picture. My parents raised Nubians for milk when I was growing up and I have a soft spot for their quirky personalities. Our guild tent is quite large and stragetically positioned between the goat arena and the sheep arena. I am pleased to see the 4-H and FFA kids so involved with sheep this year. I don’t even know where the fair has the cows and horses – don’t care. Did I mention that I raised sheep in 4-H? And then there’s the potbellied pigs and their families. That is a whole other sub-culture that I just don’t get and didn’t take pictures.

Karen brought a couple of her babies by while she was strolling them to help them socialize. The best part of the morning is the parade of animals practicing their people skills. We are fortunate to have a lot of fleeces from a large angora goat show, and the alpaca folks are well represented. We are going to have more fleeces at the sale on Sunday than buyers I’m afraid. Or maybe I’m jealous since I’ll be at work. I’m sorry to miss the awards for the new category, Grown in Nevada, a collaborative effort between a Nevada fiber producer and a fiber finisher.

The Fair has a new category for the 4-H sheep kids this year. It’s a costume show in which the kids and their sheep dress up. Do you get the idea that I love the kids and animals part of the fair? I think there were more adults running around with cameras then audience. In the end the winner was the boy who dressed himself as a hunter and his lamb as a deer, with the first runner up a girl who dressed as a cheerleader and her lamb as a football player. You had to be there.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

I took my camera to work today and asked one of my co-workers to take a picture of my hair from the back. I want a record of it. I came to work wearing my braid – when is it not braided - but the consensus was that the picture should be of it loose. Too loose, Lautrec – oh, boo.

I have worn my hair long for twenty five years. In Reno, only my two oldest children, one friend and an ex-husband remember me from when my hair was short. But the time has come to change that and that time is tomorrow at noon. I have an appointment with Gary Alexander at Revelations to cut it off. I also have the form to donate my braid to Locks of Love. I called my youngest son last night to tell him what to expect when he sees me on Saturday, since he has never seen me with short hair. He has worn his hair rather long for the past year or so, and it turns out that he beat me to the punch. He has cut his hair into a mohawk and dyed it purple. He philosophically said – Why not? My roommate already had the purple dye.

I asked Ian to take a picture too. He asked me if I’m sure I want to go through with this. It’s funny how ready I am. I can’t wait for the first time I sit on the deck with my spinning wheel in the morning and feel the breeze on my scalp. It’s been a long time since I’ve had that sensation, over twenty years. This is how people have seen me. I wonder if I will look much different tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Ready for the Fair

All my entries for the fair are completed and ready to turn in. The biggest surprise by far was the felted bag, or fulled, as Mim the Felter corrects me. I tried to understand Sara’s directions but it was too new an idea for me and ended up using the Booga Bag that I found online. The only disappointed is that it’s quite small - only needed two oatmeal boxes were needed to shape it. The Romney felted up the first time in the wash cycle. The variegated yarn was Coopworth/Salish from Anna Harvey and required an additional three cycles. I took Sara’s advice to keep the felt out of the washing machine pump by putting the bag in a zippered pillow case.

I can’t wait to try another but I’ll make it bigger and do something different for the handles. First I need to spin up some Romney, and I’ve got plenty of it. I like the way the variegated grey overdyes and will use lighter dyes next time so it shows up better.

Back to the subject of stash, be careful of what you wish for Birdsong. Stash will find you. I came home from work tonight with five cones of wool. My supervisor received them as a gift from her mother who knows she likes to knit and these are her favorite colors. Liz would have to use tiny needles and didn’t want to try multiple strands, and so my stash grows and grows and grows.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Am I Really a Weaver?

I got the idea for these scarves from a Handwoven issue last year. The boucle yarn is from Henry’s Attic. I dyed it in February when Mim and I were out in the garage, dyeing in from of heaters that Ian set up for us. It had seemed like such a good idea by email and we were happy with the results, but it got really cold by the time we were done.

I wasn’t sure about sett, so the scarf on the right is 8 epi and the one on the left is 10 epi. I have only brushed the one on the right so far and used a llama brush. I had to full it first, but it is fantastic how the mohair blooms. The scarf feels plush and thick. I’m wondering how it will feel though, so will wait for cold weather and a trial run before brushing the other one. The unbrushed scarf looks like rainbow dyed car upholstry from an old car.

I’m discovering that finding time – no – making time to weave has been problematic. I’ll admit that my job does get in the way, to say nothing of the commute, but other people find time for the important things. After talking to Sue and Jan at the Nevada County Fair, both whom have sold their looms because they determined that they weren’t weavers, I’ve been a little nervous. I wonder if I’m not being honest with myself. I seem to find time to spin and knit. On the other hand, if I don't weave, what am I going to do with all the yarn I spin?!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Now playing

Currently drying on my cookie jar is a hat knit from all four colors of our Shetlands. Four colors is a little busy, but I decided to do it this way for the Made in Nevada category at the Nevada State Fair this weekend. Since this is the first hat I have knit from all our boys, I’ve decided it will be going on my head. Besides, I’m going to need a smaller hat after Friday.

I’m pleased with the rich colors that come from these fleeces. Though it's not apparent, the center back wether is a chocolate moorit. Center front is Mr. Mouth, also known as Mickey - Mickey Mouth, the talkingest sheep ever. He's their front man, always the first to see what's going on, also, willing to be petted by grandkids. They all belong to Ian.

Saturday, August 19, 2006


This is the silk I recently bought from Mim. She did it on our last dye day. We both used the same color pathways, but silk just sucks up the color. I thought about it for a while and finally asked her to save it for me. I’ll spin this to use as accent color in scarves woven from our Shetlands – that’s the plan anyway. I’m just about finished knitting a Fair Isle hat for the Made in Nevada category at the Nevada State Fair next week. I’m looking forward to ending it with our farm name as the fiber producer. Ian is entering two fleeces too.

When I got home from work on Thursday, I had a nice surprise waiting for me. The silver Shetland that I had sent to Morro was back. If there is any logic in raising your own animals as hobby farmers, I don’t know what it is. You send off the fleece to be processed, paying shipping both ways, plus the processing fees and end up with 1.7 pounds of luscious scrumptious roving. I guess I’ll just have to think of it as an addiction. Then I can congratulation myself on not having a worse one.

I was getting ready to go into town to meet a friend for lunch today and heard the repetitive cheep of a ground squirrel sounding an alarm. I thought maybe one of the dogs had cornered a squirrel. One lives inside the llama pen fence and literally thumbs his nose at the helpless dogs. But they were in the house with me. It was really close to the back of the house, and when I looked out the breakfast nook window, I could see him standing right outside of the French doors, staring into the house. It’s like he was taunting the dogs. Go figure.

Friday, August 18, 2006

What a Relief


Buster, our Queensland Heeler, has had a rough time over the last couple of months. He experienced episodes of pain that became increasingly more frequent and finally began to waken us at night. He’s only three years old but he was acting like one of the old dogs we had lost a number of years ago. He would pant through his pain like he was in childbirth and labor. Out of our desperation Buster spent a number of days with our vet under observation, but when he came home, the pain followed shortly. Ultimately we put our heads together and the final result was that Buster underwent surgery for abdominal hernia. Dogs so do not have hernia that our vet wasn’t optimistic that we had a solution. He told us that in 25 years, he has only had two dogs that needed hernia surgery. I can’t wait to tell him that he is going to have to change that to three. To our great joy, our pup is back to his former pip self. I took him for a walk this morning down our dirt road. I really do love the high desert where we live, so have decided to stray from my topic of fiber, to where I do my fibering. Avoidance – don’t want to face my stash dilemma.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

State of My Fiber Stash Reduction Program

A couple of years ago we were chatting about a fiber market and I was horrified to hear Allison say, no thanks, I’m not buying any new fiber this year. I had never heard anyone say that before. But about a year and a half ago, I took stock of my out-of-control stash situation and decided to implement some serious reduction. I only bought a black Shetland fleece and some black alpaca, but that’s necessary. The hardest place to start was the odd balls that were off-gauge from anything else or just simply badly spun. This was my work, but I decided that I had provided storage for them long enough. Balls that had promise found their way into Guild white elephant sales, some I gave away, some I threw away. Does this give you the idea that I spin without a plan? I wouldn’t deny it. There are also the mouse-proof bins and boxes in the garage of my precious fleeces in various stages of preparation.

I have managed to assemble a basket of one-balls that are compatible in gauge, and many have been turned into hats. Hats are such instant gratification for experimentation, but I’ve begun to wonder how else I can use the yarn. The good news is that the storage cubicles in my workroom are once again usable. I can see what I have – very nice. For the last couple of months I have been congratulating myself on my discipline. Then I decided to buy a grey fleece after Mim sheared, since we don’t have grey sheep and I used all that I did have in the commissioned sweater. Neighbor Nancy gave me a black Cormo/Corrie that I can’t process on my Deb Delux, so I sent both of the fleeces off to Morro – out of sight, out of mind. Then Laura visited and I arranged to buy a CVM fleece from her. I felt it was significant to purchase a fleece from her new flock, since she deserted us for Oregon to fulfill her dream of being a shepherdess. Then the final straw. Mary called me one morning last week. She was loading up to drive to Wyoming and would be making a side trip to Brown Sheep – did I want anything? We have talked about a fantasy trip to Brown Sheep for a very long time so my pump was primed. I said sure, use you good judgement and whatever space you can spare in your car. She thought that she could accommodate a couple of pounds. I’ve just about run out of the Brown Sheep combed top that I use in our dye days so was thrilled to restock. She brought back a little over two pounds of top that had been cut from the mill. It looks funny with the blunt ends, but it will spin fine and I pretty sure it’s wool/mohair – very cool.

Then Mary called me yesterday to say that Brown Sheep had charged us top dollar for seconds and they would make up the difference in fiber – what did I want. I said a pound of silk and any undyed combed top to make up the balance would be fine. This morning I had an email from Mary saying that I had about five pounds of fiber due me, less shipping. Those storage bins that I was so proud of – this development could be a problem.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Nevada County Fair

I enjoy any opportunity to come to the Foothill area, but I especially enjoy the fairgrounds. I came to the fair for the first time with my brother and several family members. Because I was so taken by the place and experience, the rest is vague. A couple of years ago, I came back as a member of a sheep-to-shawl team for the Conference of Northern California Handweavers and then again to participate with the Foothill Fiber Guild in the fair last year. This year Amy went with me and we had a great time sharing our love of spinning and fiber and the ability to spend real time with people we have only been able to spend time with virtually.

Years ago when my two oldest children were toddlers, I lived in Applegate and commuted through Colfax to my job in Grass Valley. Though we were in that house for only a year, that time is a large figure in the fabric of my life experience. My then husband was still on active duty, so my mother and I lived in this house as caretakers until his discharge, and then we lived there together for several more months. After two years of duty station in the Philippines, we didn’t know where we wanted to come back to the States to live. My brother arranged this gig so we could see if we liked the area and at the same time, watch the house for friends of his.

I fell in love the Foothill area and it broke my heart when it was time to move on. I was absolutely certain that one day we would move back to live permanently, and on this condition, accepted the move away, believing it to be temporary. My then-husband had been accepted to the School of Mines in both Idaho and Nevada, but we only had enough money to move ourselves to Reno. This temporary move has stretched into 31 years and remarriages.

It is with great pleasure that I attend this fair. I get to spend the day in an area that I love, doing something I love to do, while at the same time making new friends. Amy brought her Art Wheel, we met our new blogging friend Birdsong, and learned about silkworms and saw them munch leaves and make their silk. Well, they weren't making silk, but their owner showed us how they do it and how we get silk - worth the trip.

It was a huge thrill to be able to share my love of spinning with two children who totally *got* it. Having watched her cousin, the little girl experimented with switching hands, then just started using the inchworm method to make real yarn. I was so excited that I only got the one picture. We visited with other guild member and got to see the finished Tweed Project the Foothill team completed. They have set the bar very high for the rest of us in the Carson Sierra Spinners and Weavers Guild.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Last Yellow of 2006

I couldn’t resist the look of Prickly Poppy. It’s such a prehistoric looking plant, with thorny stems and large flowers that look like fried eggs. I took the dogs with me in the truck to pick one pound of plant material. They ran all over while I delicately snipped pieces and parts into a five gallon bucket. Even with leather gloves, I got well acquainted with the origin of its name.

In one book I read on dying with native plants, the list included colors from cooking as well as decomposition. So after I cooked the plants for one hour, I left them in the garage for a week, thinking that I could deepen the color of my results, which according to Anne Bliss, would be chartreuse. I don’t know if the color changed as it decomposed, but it certainly did decompose. Laura took one look in the pot and suggested that I toss the contents

As you can see, I didn’t get chartreuse.

While Laura was here, she solved a mystery for me. A couple of years ago we bought a fleece from Anna Harvey and split it. When she moved to Oregon, she gave me her half of the fleece. Last year when I went to look for it, it seemed to have vanished. I pulled down two bins of washed white fleeces to show her how surprised I was that two Border Leicester fleeces from the same fiber producer were so different. Laura thoughtfully looked through them both, then picked up a handful of one and said, this is your lost Salish/Coopworth. While it was a nice laugh, it’s also nice to finally know what all of my fleeces are. This is an important step in my fiber reduction program. The set back is that I bought a CVM fleece from her, which at this writing, is in transit to me.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

It's Done - I'm Done

More than a year ago, probably closer to two, a friend asked me if I would be willing to make a sweater for her. We talked it over and I thought – why not? It’ll be fun. We talked about shapes and patterns. I was wetting my lips. I don’t wear the sweaters I knit for myself, so making one for someone else would be a challenge. Recently I heard Brenda Dayne on the Cast-On podcast make a reference to the one and only time she knit for money. She said she thought that she just didn’t have the temperament. I have discovered that apparently I don’t either.

Things that I would have let slide for me, I couldn’t let go for someone else. I’m pretty sure that by the time I tore out and re-knit problems, I had made the sweater twice. Now that’s done, on the other hand, the fabric is so lovely, it reminds me why I chose Shetland sheep for Ian to raise in the first place. I processed the wool myself so I wouldn’t lose the variegations of gray. The fleece comes my Mim’s ewe Nova, mother to my favorite wether, Mickey Mouth. I’ve been spinning his fleece this week, and I think it’s even nicer than his mother’s

Okay, this is Micky Mouth. If he looks dorky to you, he looks lovely to me. And back to the sweater – I was anxious about the pattern I chose. Shoot, I was anxious about everything. As work progressed, I was anxious that I would run out of wool for good reason. I used Mickey’s wool to overdye for the contrast. It was frighteningly close. While Mim had more of Nova’s fleece, it was from a different year. When Mary and I made plans for the sweater, I knew that Nova’s fleece would be perfect. I just didn’t stop to think about how much of her fleece I had already used for other things. When the sweater was finished, I had 2 ounces of yarn left. And even worse, the skein on the right is only yarn I could use, because the larger ball was from a part of the fleece that hadn’t gotten as blended into the rest and was visibly lighter. I discovered that the hard way when two inches of lighter stripe on the sleeve had to be ripped out.

I am so relieved that it’s done. I don’t thing I could ever do it again. Yet I’m thankful to Mary for the push because I grew as a knitter and designer. I’m also glad the sweater isn’t not for me, because while it’s gorgeous, it would go in the top of my closet with all the rest of my sweaters.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Reflections on the Day

This morning Ian called to me to see the little gardener’s helper in the front yard. Planting a yard here has been a process of exploration and letting go. The rabbits, packrats, and ground squirrels make up the rules. I have been angry at them, I have been frustrated, but in the end, they still eat what they want. I have decided that I don’t want to look at my plants through wire barriers and have planted want they don’t like.

And now tonight the house is quiet, dogs across the valley are barking, the coyotes are quiet and consequently so are our dogs, the breeze lyrically passes through the wind chimes and aspen trees. It’s that time of year again to prepare submissions for the fair. I’ve had to be firm with myself to to stop from trying to prepare things that are almost done, and maybe if I were to focus my efforts could be finished, and just submit what is actually done. There’s always next year~

Sunday, August 06, 2006

My Guru

Laura was at our house overnight on her way from Oregon to her niece’s wedding. She’s been my guru for years. On this visit I learned how to make a dummy warp, and I also learned how to spin Romney more appropriate to the fiber. I spin everything to one size so I can use it with something else if I want. That doesn’t work with Romney.

I had a varigated gray Romney fleece that Ian bought for me from the wool auction at the Black Sheep Gathering several years ago. A friend and I had picked out a fleece that we saw Mark Iedman judge. We wanted to split it but both had classes during the auction, so we sent Ian. He used all his S.E.A.L. skills and came away with, not one, but three fleeces. I was a bit stunned, as the one I wanted was $12/pound. I hadn’t counted on the extras. Ironically, the two “extras” have been the winners. I still haven’t washed the one I thought I wanted. The Romney was from the Iron Water Ranch and is silky and lustrous.

Last week when dyeing yet more yellow, I decided to add some of this gray to see if it would turn green. After an hour, I couldn’t see that the gray had any changes, so quickly dug through bottles of dye day remnants and found one of the Purple. I think all of my friends have a bottle of the leftover Purple from a dye day at Laura’s when she still lived here. Oh, what a dyepot it was - sigh. I poured the contents of my bottle into the nearly exhausted yellow, stirred it up and put the lid back on. More yellow was present than I realized, changing the purple to a dark mauve. The take-up was as sporatic as my stirring. When I first lifted the lid, I was stunned at how ugly it was, but then it dried and got prettier. One pass through the drum carder made lovely roving, and the results, now that I know how to make a lofty yarn instead of packing twine, are lovely and destined to be a felted handbag.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Predicting Results

The review of Dying to Knit by Elaine Eskesen in the Spring 2006 issue of SpinOff struck a real chord with me. “One of the disappointments of creative dyeing is that often the skeins are more attractive than the final product.” So true! Because I prefer to dye roving rather than yarn, I’m not sure reading this book would help me. Our library doesn’t own it, and I’m reluctant to blindly order it.

Recently I decided to try more subtle color changes to see if I would be happier with less barberpole striping. I haven’t decided if the outcome is too subtle or if it just pales in comparison with my previous results. I thought the light blue with violet spots would produce a yarn with subtle opal-like shades. The violet spots merely blended in during spinning. Too subtle I'm afraid.

I lack the skill to predict what my knitted fabric will look like from my hand dyed roving, and I’m sure more experience and good record keeping would go a long way toward rectifying that. Sometimes I like the results, sometimes I over-dye the results. I don’t have this experience when I purchase roving from commercial vendors like Chasing Rainbows so I know that if this really bothers me, then I do need to be more serious when I’m dyeing.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with experimenting, but I would be in big trouble if I ever want to repeat results. So the yarn is now a hat. The varigation is just about as subtle as the picture shows. I haven't decided if the results are worth the effort. The jury is still out.