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.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Twenty Two Miles

Each morning as I drive by Ross Creek Ranch, I think, I really want a picture of these gorgeous cottonwood trees, so this morning I put my camera in the car. I drive twenty-two miles before I get to the freeway and there are a lot of pretty things to see in that stretch. I’m afraid I got carried away with the camera.

I took the first picture was as I left Sierra Ranchos valley, then I drove several hundred yards.

I stopped to take a picture at the ranch of what our grandson Kiernan used to call the giant wobot (robot) twees - I don't get the robot part. A couple more turns, and I stopped again.

I saw ducks swimming in the pond and couldn't resist the cattail reeds. Those are actually docks though I have never understood what they're supposed to dock.

And then I drove a couple more turns for a picture of the tree that was the target of my "hunt," and hurried back to the car. Better get a move on. Don't want to be late. But wait - are those horses down there?

I'm getting carried away. How many times have I pulled over already and I haven't even gone two miles. Last picture. After all, I was only going to take one.

This picture doesn't count because I only stopped the car, rolled down the window and took a picture of the open-range cattle. It's kind of late in the season for them. They're usually gone by now, probably in somebody's locker.

I couldn't resist this picture, since I had the camera in the car. It was one of those, "While you're at it..." That's Dogskin Mountain in the background. It's a unique USGS map in that they printed it on a 7.5 minute map scale but for some reason they didn't print it as two maps, so it's on the same large paper as their 1:100 maps. If that sounds confusing, it is. Try to find it in a library map case. In the almost hidden middle is Bedell Flat. We call this spot Bedellview. It's a 6,000' pass on our way home and very dicey winter driving. This is a perfect example of Big Sky Country.

This is White Lake and my last picture before the freeway. An astounding number of birds have made the lake their motel as they migrate this year. Most are already moved on, but if you make this picture big, you will see that the line left of center is actually birds gathered on a spit. And now you see why I don't mind my commute.

Monday, November 06, 2006

A Whole Weekend at Home

For the first time in a very long time, I got to stay home both days this weekend, and other than making some soap, nothing had to be done. I wanted to dye yarn but I had no real plans, other than create some fun hat yarn for two little girls. I backed both the cars out of the garage, rolled up my sleeves and got to work. Once all my soapmaking materials were ready to go, I measured the water, poured it into the glass jar that I have used for years, then poured in the lye. I do this on the floor of the garage so I can walk away from the fumes. Within seconds the steam began to rise, and I heard the distinctive pop of fatigued glass, followed by the trickle of lye water worming away from the jar. What a frightening mess. Long story short, I neutralized everything with vinegar, but after all the clean up, I still hadn’t started making soap. With nothing to mix the lye in, I went back to my Susan Cavitch book to find a substitute. It’s probably been eight years since I’ve looked at the instructions - very helpful and long overdue. I adjusted the temperature and stir time, and I came up with a much better batch.

Thinking that it couldn’t hurt to look at the instructions on dying wool, I pulled out the Twisted Sisters book. The yarn I wanted to dye was off-white and probably wouldn’t produce the Easter egg colors I wanted, so I decided I’d dye roving for the girls instead. I used the hot pour method that Lynn favors for the yarn to produce the subtle blending between the four colors I poured.

The yarn and roving are all from Brown Sheep mill ends of wool and mohair that a friend picked up for me when she visited their operation in Nebraska.

For the roving I chose the cold pour method that Sandy favors to produce distinctive separation of colors. I didn’t use this for the yarn because I didn’t want striping in my knitting. I recently reread an older SpinOff article about Navajo plying. The two ideas clicked for me - I just hope I can translate the ideas into yarn with color distinction.

This is the locks I dyed with my leftover cups of dye. I find it interesting that the yellow and red disappear in the blending.