Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Since I won't be blogging tomorrow, today I'm posting the picture that represents this month. White Lake is frozen white against the background of blue sky, produced by the high pressure ridge that kept temperatures at freezing all month.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Fixing to Get Ready

I had two things that I wanted to get done yesterday. One project was to dye up a pound of handspun yarn that I found in a bin upstairs. I woke up thinking about it – that’s scary. I had six skeins and ended up dyeing five colors. The purple and lilac were Gaywool dyes in Hibiscus and Mulberry and the rest were hybrids that I couldn’t possibly reproduce. The gold is simply school bus yellow dye stock that Amy left here with a glug of black to sadden it. I’m still undecided on whether to purchase more Gaywool dyes or Landscape dyes. They’re both products of Australia. I like the Gaywool because it’s measured at one capful to 4 ounces. That fits well with my math skills.

These are ready to be knitted into hats. I was out of hat yarn so am glad to replenish my supply.

After my foot surgery on Wednesday, I’m not going to be mobile for a while. Anticipating that, I decided to get knitting projects together and evaluated my stash and patterns until I had three projects. One project will be from the Blue Sky Organic Cotton which I bought from Amy. It didn’t work for the baby sweater for which I had bought it, but after seeing the Jimmy Beans buttons and putting one together with one of Diane Soucy’s vest patterns, I had one project down. The second one was harder. The yarn is a worsted weight, rag wool from Bartlett Yarns that I bought when Diane was still running the wool room at the Truckee Variety Store – oh, about 15 years ago. It’s dingy and not all that interesting, but it takes up a ton of space in the studio. I made a pattern from Sweater Wizard and melded it with one from Vogue. Two down. Should it need a third, I made a side-to-side pattern from Sweater Wizard to knit from superwash Merino, in my stash that I bought from Diane’s stash – oh, 15 years ago. That’s three. And of course, there’s that box of one-balls of Shetland jumper weight that I bought from Allison's stash in a moment of temporary insanity. I found a pattern for it today while I was at work. So no spinning, just lots and lots of knitting – and books.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

More Bags

I stopped by Jimmy Beans to get a button for my squatty fat bag. I made some i-cord for a closure and needed a button to finish it off. I found the abolutely perfect button for the bag, and fell completely in love with their button selections. It’s of fused glass with all the colors of the bag, like I had made it my self. When Amy gave me the dichroic glass button and said, design something around this, I was not prepared for the energy that one button can generate.

I finished up a couple more bags. The green one is spoken for. Chrissie came for our campus KIP lunch – she gets to come because she brings my beautiful Allie – and she saw me knitting on it. She reminded me that her birthday is coming but I worried back that I thought I had a buyer, to which she replied – I wish I could type it like she said it – Motheeeeer, I’ll pay you money for it. So the green one is a birthday present.

I love the way different wools felt. The blue bag on the left in the first picture and the green bag - Chrissie's bag - are from Coopworth. The felt is almost a fabric. The top part of the bag on the right is from luster long wool – Romney or Border Leicester – can’t remember but I love the way it looks, kind of bubbly and hairy. I'm trying to get some spun into yarn before the enforced spinning diet.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Dyeing to Dye

I finished the socks from the yarn that Amy dyed and spun but didn’t like and gave to me. The socks only took 2.8 ounces and the leftover yarn weighed 4.4 ounces. I took it back to her when we had a YIP lunch on Friday. She didn’t like it as yarn but liked the way it worked up into socks. I think she has enough for a pair and a hat.

Speaking of dye – I am at a huge standstill. This basket of locks is the last of things that I dyed earlier this year - I guess I mean later last year.

I think it looks great on the bobbins but there's too much flash - sorry. The colors in the basket are more true. I don't know how I do it - brag - but I'm very often able to eyeball my bobbins and come close to dividing my fiber equally. In this case, my leftover single was a mere 12" long.

The fiber is Border Leicester and I love the way it felts in the Booga Bags - or doesn't felt. It more or less forms lumpy bubbles and looks great. I am liking the bags from luster long wools more than with the wools that are considered feltable. I started spinning Romney this morning. I found a whole box of silver Romney in roving in the garage. I can't make a cool bag with silver Romney. It needs to be dyed and that brings me back to being at a dye standstill.

I am completely out of anything from the different dye days earlier this year. I have a few colors of Gaywool dyes, and since it has been cold and I’ve been limited to dying in the kitchen, these dyes are all that I feel safe using. This means that everything comes out in the same color hues. I am absolutely in love with the colors on the cover of the December issue of American Style. https://www.americanstyle.com/ME2/dirmod.asp?sid=DFD66508141B4DE5A40522CCAACD718E&nm=&type=Publishing&mod=Publications%3A%3AArticle&mid=8F3A7027421841978F18BE895F87F791&tier=2&did=ECA7561935B444AD8F4D6848B257318D&dtxt=December+2006

So I started to hunt online for the colors in that issue. Initially, I limited myself to Gaywool and Landscape Dyes, both products of Australia. This morning I got out my copy of Deb Menz’s Color in Spinning as well as the SpinOff issue with the article that she and Sara co-authored. The more I read, the more I decided I didn’t know. Tonight I know less than I did this morning. Where, oh where did I leave that crystal ball.....

Monday, January 22, 2007

Trial and Error and Error

Also known as live and learn. So I put my skeins into the dyepot of vinegar water and poured the mulberry solution across the middle. I peered into the pot, thought it looked pretty cool and poured the cornflower solution over the right part of the wool, followed quickly by the hibiscus on left, and then left it to cook for about a half hour. Did I follow the directions that said, it takes four minutes for the dye to strike so wait that long before adding the next color? I already said that I didn't. The lesson learned? Cornflower, hibiscus and mulberry make periwinkle. Nice, but I already have many skeins of that color from the recovered afghan project. It's slightly varigated so I've decided to use a purple contrast and see what kind of bag I get. I watched a Tivoed episode of Knitty Gritty last night on knitted bikinis, not because I want to make one or would wear one, but I was interested in the use of shaping. I've decided to finish the top of the bag with i-cord bind off and bottom in the same color - we'll see.

More live and learn - I tried dipping the natural-colored square on the left into the three colors I was using, but the solutions were too dilute to produce colors of conviction. The already periwinkle square on the right looks like something got spilled on it. Disappointing, but at this point, I have enough recovered yarn to make bags and that's more than enough to make up for the let down of the dismal dye results. I have more skeins to dye and this time will follow the rules.

Amy tells me that today is the most depressing day of the year, according to NPR. They claim to have factored in weather, holiday bills coming due, and a number of other factors. It's dark when I leave the house for work and dark when I get home. Tonight when I closed the gate my car thermometer read 25, which is ten degrees more than it was a week ago though the air is still achingly dry.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

January Blues

I was actually a couple of minutes early on my way to church this morning so stopped to snap this. It was 12 degrees according to the car thermometer when I pulled into the parking lot, 11 degrees when I left. And we still have February! Ian is so glad we bought the Rubbermaid water tub with heating element for the sheep and llamas - no more breaking up the ice on their water in the morning.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Afghan Project

Years ago Allison developed a program to develop our knitting skills, modeled on one the Foothill Fiber Guild did. We would use the book, Learn-to-Knit by Barbara G. Walker, to teach us stitches we would never try otherwise. In the end the sampler of squares would be assembled into an afghan. I found the schedule in my book today. The first squares were due on June 2000 and the last on September 2001. It’s a good thing this project was in a box because the yarn would have been as dusty as the box lid.

I completed 30 of the squares with a growing uneasiness at the accumulating weight of the project. I stopped when my squares filled a Xerox box and I wasn’t done. Part of the problem is that I selected Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride Worsted. It’s a great yarn, but not for an afghan. I spent the better part of today frogging 14 squares, starting with the ugliest and then ending with squares with purple. I realized that I hadn’t purchased the colors evenly and I have a definite shortage of purple. These are my worms, which I soaked and hung up stairs to dry.

I decided to try dyeing some of the knitted squares as well as some skeins of the natural color. I used Gaywool Dyes in cornflower, hibiscus and mulberry. I applied dye to the two squares and steamed them, though so far I can't see that the dye affected the periwinkle square at all. I dipped the natural square into the three colors and it’s pretty, but a little pastel. I hot-poured the rest of the dye on the skeins, and the pot is sitting in the garage overnight with the dyebath. Tomorrow~

These are two of the ugliest squares left, if that gives you any idea how ugly the ones were that I have already undone. Granted, it wasn't the best color selection. I called Kate Painter who owned Paradise Fibers at the time and we did it over the phone. I was limited because I was buying whatever she had as seconds.

On the other hand, these are two squares that I think are really pretty. As for their application to wearable garments, I'm thinking, not so much.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Icy When Wet

This is the sign our county roads department has posted at the beginning of the windy little canyon that goes into our valley. Every year people drive too fast for road conditions and pay for it, some more dearly than others. When I'm driving home after work in dicey condition, I'm always alarmed by the tire tracks in snow showing where vehicles have left the road. I don't want that to be me.

Can you see the ice on the stream? This is what the guardrail is guarding against. And if the road were wet, it would look just like this. I guess I'm just dreaming of wet roads as it has been dry to date in January and December wasn't much better. I start to fret about this time when the jet stream pushes storms past us. I am reminded of Edmund in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe when he complains that it's always winter but never Christmas. I feel like it always winter and never wet.

Entering the canyon from the other direction is this personal warning, delivered up by a resident sculptor/artist. He means it.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Read Anything Good Lately?

And I have - also some that I didn't care for so much. Here are a couple that I enjoyed as part of my book group. I discovered this one from the website of Nancy Perl, the NPR famed librarian from Seattle Public Library. She is a prodigious reader and it would be a huge challenge to read a fraction of what she reads and recommens. Mountain City by Gregory Martin caught my attention because it’s a biography of a Nevada town. To date this is the only book that everyone in the group loved.

Mountain city, a small boom-and-bust mining town in northern Nevada, a ghostly speck on the map, is the quickened heart of the universe of Gregory Martin. The center of the story, and of the town, is Tremewan’s, the general store run by Martin’s extended family, which serves the 30-odd residents of Mountain City and others from the outlying areas. A keen and witty observer, Martin captures the local characters with humor and nuance, never averting his eyes from the small flaws that make this community real. People bicker, the town widows form a tight-knit clique and his Basque uncle Mel, hits the Black Velvet one hour before close every night, which sometimes turns him downright mean. Throughout, Martin shows how frailty is woven into the fabric of relations; he maintains an immediacy that highlights the humanity of his subjects and frames the steady press of time that is forcing an era of the American West deep into memory.

The group was split in half on The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters by Elizabeth Robinson: Olivia Hunt is unemployed, living alone, and working on the fourth draft of her suicide note when she gets a phone call that lets her know what real trouble is. Madeleine Hunt is her younger sister, the annoyingly happy one who married the hometown guy while Olivia set out to conquer Hollywood, ha, ha. And Maddie is in trouble. Pulled home for the first time in years, Olivia gets a painful dose of real life as she tries to help her sister, keep her parents from running off the rails, and reconnect with the boyfriend who left without a word but might still be the love of her life. And, of course, the movie she’s been trying to put in front of cameras for years heats up just as leaves town. Racing between Hollywood, hospital rooms, and film sets in Spain, Olivia has to do the impossible at work and at home—and learns that love will let her do no less. By turns charming, heartrending, and hilarious, this is a novel for anyone who has ever loved a sister (or a great story).

The story is told through letters that Olivia has written to different people in her personal and professional life. I wasn’t sure I liked that style of story telling, and those who didn’t like the book said that was the reason they couldn’t stick with it. I didn’t have that option. I facilitate the book group – its part of my job. The question is, would have I continued reading if I didn’t have to, and the answer is I don’t know the answer to that question, because I did. The further I got in the book, the more engrossed I became. I found myself actually liking Olivia. I thought it was a stroke of author genius that the movie Olivia was producing was Don Quixote, a story seemingly paralleled in her own life—her quest, the impossible dream. I laughed, I cried, I loved it.

Monday, January 15, 2007

What a Difference a Day Makes

This is one jealous cat. Right outside are two dogs, and since he thinks he is one, he doesn't understand. The hillock in the background is where we often see coyotes working a wedge to snare a meal. This is Saturday. When I woke up it was zero degrees on the house thermometer and -5 on the porch.

And today, two days later, the snow is gone and the sheep and llamas are venturing out. I took the dogs for walk this afternoon. It was above freezing this afternoon, bundle-up time for me, but these guys have to coats for it.

What to do indoors - I dunno. Knit? This is the reincarnation of "the" hat. I lost the acorn tip. Sometimes I like it, today I didn't. I have some purple and more the multi-colored yarn so think I'll give the hat another go, substituting purple for black. Then I won't want to see this yarn for a while.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Cat and the Hat

This is Charlie. We adopted him from the SPCA over a year ago. He had some funky name like Rochester so we waited a little before renaming him. He had such an air of entitlement that we named him Sir Charles, and had we realized how much entitlement he actually felt, we should have named him King Charles. He mopes all evening until Ian sits down to provide lap. I put my feet up when I sit on the sofa and that doesn't make the lap that Charlie wants. Ian crosses his legs - that's Charlie's lap.

He has a unique talent, besides being king of the house and bossing the dogs. He knows which pile of laundry is the dark load and climbs into that basket. I hide my black things on the bottom of the load, and even though my black pants are underneath Ian's shirts, I know that when they come out of the drier, they will have orange cat hair on them.

And this is the hat, or what was the hat. I couldn't see any alternative to frogging and reknitting. I thought about Sara's suggestion to toss it the washer and drier, but the black is Shetland and the multicolor is Brown Sheep wool/mohair blend. They would felt at different rates and the hat would be warm enough for Arctic wear. I really really love the colors in the yarn and want to love the hat as well. Years ago I knitted a sweater with a huge neck and was looking for a quick fix. I decided to crochet around the inside to snug it up. Diane Soucy asked me if I really thought I'd be happy with that after a couple of wearings. I thought, oh probably, but she was right. I still have the sweater and it's been years since I've worn it. I'm going to felt it and cut it up for a bag or slippers - maybe mittens. I knew I would never be happy with the hat either. Not all shortcuts are shortcuts.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Baby, It's Cold Outside!

Fourteen degrees by the house thermometer, ten degrees on the porch. None of this seems to bother the llamas too much - they're kushed at the bottom of the picture. Ian leaves for work before me and called to say that traffic was at a standstill and Chrissie said she drove ten miles before being able to shift into second. I called work and said I would be coming in an hour later and took this picture while I waited. It was a good call as everything had sorted itself out by the time I went in, heater blasting on full. No bumper cars for this chickie.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Sad Tale of Woe

I love this hat - I think it turned out great, but when I tried it on, it was much much too large. I remeasured the gauge and it was still 5 stitches to the inch, but when I measured the hat it was 24 inches! Both my boys have huge heads,so at Christmas I asked Matt to try it on. I think I saw a whole new definition to head cover. It covered his head, right down to his nose. So reasoning out what the gauge must be, not what I measured, I knit another hat and got this.

I really like this hat too, and best part is that it fits me. I have to tear out the first one because it's just not functional. I just haven't been able to make me do it.

You can see the problem for yourselves. If the hat right the right fits, then the much prettier hat but huge hat on the left must be redone - sob.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

After the Storm

Yesterday afternoon I looked out our bedroom window to watch all the birds at the feeders. Then I noticed some activity at the base of the one of them. There's a rabbit behind those twigs. They hide so easily. They're like the coyotes - unless they move, I don't see them. I'll bet the rabbits wish the coyotes didn't see them. Those are ground-feeding Junkos in the back on the left.

The rabbits have eaten the perennials down to sticks. The two little pines are inside rabbit guard to protect them, so I think it’s ironic to see this little guy is munching the fallen bird seed, next the rabbit guard. I guess that shows it works. It's also ironic that he's behind what's left of a lavendar plant that the rabbits have pruned for me. And they fertilize while they work.

I tapped the window to see if he'd move so I could get a better shot and he obliged me.

This morning he was back at the base of another feeder, this time sharing the seed with doves. This is all the snow left, after a storm to remember, just the day before yesterday.

The newspaper today said there were 95 reported accidents, one fatal, from the frigid temperatures that followed pouring rain. Both Ian and my daughter called me to report the road conditions from where they were, and even with their help, it still took two hours to get home from work. I passed a single car rollover at a curve on our two-lane road just as the ambulance was leaving. Several times I was the only car able to negotiate through the mass of stalled vehicles. Even at 20 MPH, my car would slide when I applied my brakes, so I quit using them. I liked my Subaru Forrester before, but now I love it. It needs a name.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Grey Gardens

Not long ago I was checking in materials at the library and ran across a documentary called Grey Gardens. The cover wasn’t particularly catchy but the subject of Jackie Kennedy’s eccentric cousin living in the Hamptons caught my attention. The DVD was on reserve for someone else so I added my name to the reserve list, and when one of my co-workers brought it to me last week, she wanted to tell me how unique and arresting she had found it. I watched it Friday night when Ian went to play cards – there’s a poker game in this valley. I made him watch it with me again on Saturday and would have watched it a third time but it was already on reserve for someone else.

Hilton Als, a reviewer for the New Yorker writes, “What draws the viewer in are the stories around what we cannot see: Miss Beale lamenting the loss of a scarf. The suitors turned away. Mrs. Beale's infatuation with a man whose minor musical talent is better remembered than heard. Money spent. The dream of New York on summer nights filled with jackhammers and the moon. Regrets and recriminations: the language of lovers, the fabric of family life."

Not only did I watch it, I watched all the supplementary material and found myself completely captivated by Little Edie, mentally unstable but absolutely charming. And her clothes! Two of the men interviewed were designers who had created lines of clothes influenced by the way she put clothes – make that costumes – and colors together. And then there's the headcoverings and accompanying jewelry.

The Maylses brothers made the documentary in 1975, so it has the grainy quality of film and you can hear the clicking of the projector in the background. I Googled Gray Gardens and found that it has it’s own webside www.greygardens.com – a fan site and homage.

It was written into a musical which opened Off-Broadway in October and On Broadway at the Walter Kerr Theatre in November. It is scheduled to be filmed later this year, starring Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange. Finally, I looked up the film in Wikipedia and learned enough factoids that I have decided to order the double disk set from Amazon. It will go in my small movie collection, next to my other fan movies like Young Frankenstein and So I Married an Axe Murderer. I find myself already repeating some of the lines – I’m a fan! I look forward to seeing both the play and the movie, because after all, I am a fan, but as a fan, I will remain loyal to the orig.