Sunday, June 29, 2008

End of the First Summer Month

Northern California is on fire. They exper-
ienced over 4,000 lightening strikes last weekend when a storm blew through and in the aftermath, firefighters are struggling with something like 800 fires. The smoke is drifting through to us, but each day is better than the day before.
I did not doctor this photo in any way. Those rays are exactly as they appeared while I was driving and that's why I just had to pull off the road and grab this shot. It's the particulate matter in the air from the fires that makes those rays visible.

At the same time, we're having a cicada infestation. It's one of those every 8-15 year cycle things and they last for a month. Unlike the Mormon crickets, they don't eat anything -they just make tons of racket until they're done breeding. We can't sit out on the deck at night without experiencing hearing loss, but I'm happy they're not murderers and munchers like the crickets.

Jimmy Beans has the *best* buttons. Every color in my sweater is in this one button.

I finally have a FO~

Friday, June 27, 2008

Retreat and Winding Down

There was spinning and fiber, two pounds of Polwarth sorted into colors in this case. I think Lindsey has plenty to keep her busy for more than the week. She asked Sara if she would show us how to spin silk. It turned out that Lindsey and I were *us* so I dragged my stuff over for some spinning instruction. Sara spins silk for hours so has developed a long-draw technique that doesn't have any of the pinching or long-draw pull that I do. She draws the fiber from side-to-side. She lets the wheel draw the fiber out and uses her open palm to direct the twist. I know I can't describe it and I neglected to catch a picture of her doing it.

I wasn't able to manage with my palm but did finally get something to work, using my vertical fingers to bend the fiber in a right angle and parallel to the wheel. I'm still practicing but I'm much better than when I started. Amy brought me 2 ounces of Chasing Rainbows silk back from Black Sheep Gathering last year. I spun it up, with the second ball turning out better than the first. Go figure.
And there was weaving. Gayle cut off this silk and cotton cloth, 5 1/2 yards of it, which she will send to her tailor in Mexico. I wish I had a tailor. I wish I wove cloth!

Here's a little better detail. It doesn't look like much from a distance but it is gorgeous.

Marilyn Greaves, a tapestry weaver and instructor from Sacramento, was able to join us for the last day. She informed us that she's retiring next year so will finally be able to travel out of the Sacramento area to teach classes. I hope we'll be able to get her here in Reno.

Isn't this great color?? It's Sara's, but of course. These are the yarns that she's using in her samples for the book. I'm almost done with Virginia City, I promise. Gayle invited a Turkish rug trader to show us his rugs on Sunday morning, and I think some of the pictures are really worth sharing, but later.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Retreat and Cut-pile Weaving

The beauty of the retreat is the freedom to work on whatever you want to, whenever you want to. Those so inclined, gather in the morning with cups of coffee and knitting, and those so inclined, do that until inclined to do otherwise. In the midst of said activity, I was bitten by the lace bug - more on that later. Pajamas, breakfast and showers are on your own timetable - no class deadlines. There's no race to do anything, except be on time for the gourmet dinner that our sponsors prepare themselves. We are inclined to go early, but not invited until the dinner bell rings.

My picture makes my point. Allison is knitting on a commission, and to save her image, I'll spare the details. Dee is swatching some handspun and in the far back, Sara is evaluating her samples. In front of her are Eileen and Sue, both who are weaving cut pile pieces on Ashford table looms following Sara's instructions. At the same time they are also proofing the text for Sara's book on cut pile weaving to be published next year. I can't wait!

This is Eileen's piece. She has chosen a geometric Indian image, has charted it and these are the colors she has selected for her design.
On the other hand, Sue chose to chart Polish flower and is working from the top of the design so that the image will always be upside down while she's weaving. The technique is very simple, but you have to keep your picks square. Dee was working on a piece but the image was skewed and she is going to have to start over. She and I both learned from that.
Herme decided to make a pillow cover for her cut pile weaving and is working in her own handspun, hand-dyed Wensleydale. I was wrong when I thought I couldn't use my luster long wools that I been dyeing with natural dye. It's what you must use. Good news for me.
Allison took a class from Sara a couple of years ago so is ahead of the rest of us. She has several samples under her belt, and is finishing up what will soon be a bag. She's finished the cut-pile part and is weaving sumac for the flap.

Several of us took a walk at dusk one evening, and when I saw this rock, it made me think of Allison's bag.

A Virginia City canyon at dusk. Please click for big.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Addendum to Indigo

I didn't rinse my skeins until I got home so here they are while they dry. The haze in the background on Sunday is smoke from the hundreds of California wildfires. Today we can no longer see the mountains across the valley. My heart goes out to those who are in closer proximity to the fires. The smoke is no fun.

I was totally intimidated by the process of dyeing with indigo, but I have wanted to do it for literally years, and I have to tell you that I got my panties in a twist for nothing. I bought a half pound of freeze-dried indigo several years ago - Sara says it's a life-time supply. It's simple, straight forward and needs no mordant. Judith MacKenzie has instructions that you can find here. I printed them out, as insurance, but Sara's laid back instructions worked just fine.

I put water in the roaster with about a half of a mounded kitchen teaspoon of the indigo and let it cook, 100-120 degrees, until the metallic skin appeared on the surface - maybe a half hour. Sara said that I needed to be able to look into and through the bath and see yellow. I couldn't, so we sprinkled Rit Dye Remover, the reducing agent, over the top of the bath and let it sit for 10 or 15 minutes. When I went back out (I wasn't going to stand there and watch it and maybe miss something interesting!) I could look into the bath and see the yellow. I knew what it was the second I saw it. I laid the skeins in gently and when I lifted them out, I let the skeins drip outside the bath to avoid introducing oxygen. If you do get the bath oxygenated, sprinkle more dye remover, let it sit a bit, then pick up where you left off. I had to do it a couple of times. It was the easiest, most forgiving dyeing that I have done.

Monday, June 23, 2008


This was my indigo work-
station. It stinks so I had to do it outdoors. I volun-
teered Sara to guide me in this venture, which she undertook gamely, and in questioning the caretaker about a suitable space, she discovered this one outdoor outlet - table included. That's my $15 Goodwill roaster, money well spent.

The various shades are based on the number of dips into the dye bath and the natural color of wool that I was dipping. I had a couple of skeins that were previously dyed yellow with lupine. Sara said that indigo dyers she knew never tainted their pots with previously dyed skeins - always the other way around. Skeins are first dyed with indigo, then dyed with lupine. Point taken.

Indigo isn't like other dyes - time in the bath doesn't mean a deeper shade. It's times dipped into the bath that determines the depth of shade. It was a great learning experience. The darker blue on the left was on grey wool. I'll hang onto several of these skeins and when rabbit brush blooms, see if I can't come up with a green. Also, Sara said that indigo that crocks, i.e., has too heavy of a load of dye and it flakes off, can be neutralized by a vinegar bath, should you ever need to know this.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Virginia City Fiber Arts Retreat

I have had such a wonderful week at the Fiber Arts Retreat in Virginia City. I don't want to bore you to tears, but I probably will. First of all, the facility is in the old hospital from the 1870s silver boom.

It's such a lovely place, but like all non-
profits, they struggle for funding. The building is very old and it desperately needs a rich uncle. The caretaker lives in the 600 square-foot pest house out back, and we left her infected, oh yes we did, with the fiber-arts bug. She has scouted out a fleece and drop spindle. Clearly, this a visceral venue for a fiber arts retreat.
As a hospital, these are the main stairs and we assume that somehow the wounded were carried up them to the ward where the current studio is now, since the surgery was at the lower level. There are secondary stairs, not used anymore, that the sisters used in their daily patient care. After running up and down the stairs for my dye pot, indigo, reducer, towels and wool, I have decided I know why they are called Sisters of Mercy. They get to the end of one of those runs of the stairs, and they declare - "Mercy!" Remember that this is at 6,000 feet. The first year I attended, I brought my 24" Gilmore, which Ian and another husband had to carry up the stairs, like a patient. Afterwards, Ian said, "Please don't do that again."
Oddly, we seemed to be a clutch of Lundrum Hens, all except the two anomalies, not shown. Though my wheel isn't pictured, I was finally able to get my super-fast flier to work - big $$igh. Lindsey asked Sara to teach us to spin silk - ooh my. I tried, I did, I did, and I'm going to need to practice at home because I'm such a silk klutz. Speaking of practice at home, Sue V brought her accordian and practiced her lessons in her room. I guess she thought we couldn't hear her, but it added a new and delightfully fun element to the retreat experience.
We work our tails off all day, except we think we're having fun, and we laugh an awful lot - a sinful lot, but that's because we're kinda that way. The word "work" doesn't enter into our vocabulary. We finish the day like this.
And this. More boredom to come~

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Multimedia message

Virginia City at dusk.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Fixing to Get Ready

Painful as it was, I cut the linen warp from my 22" Mirrix loom when Allison and I got together for our last Tapestry Club. I want to learn cut-pile weaving and I had to take this tapestry exercise off to make room for a new wool warp. I decided to string up my cast-off project onto a heddle and hang it in my studio. I can't relegate it to trash, at least not yet. The yarns were from natural dyes.

These are the skeins that I'm planning on dyeing with indigo. I have five colors and hope to have a nice range of blues when I'm done.
I have these colors from other natural dye baths so hope I'll be able to apply them, along with my new blues to a tapestry or cut-pile weaving. The wools are all various luster long-wools, which I gather aren't ideal for the cut pile, something else I don't know about yet, but I started this collection before my interest in cut-pile.
I'm planning on using these skeins for weft on my yet-to-be-
mined weaving project. Did I mention that I'll start that project tomorrow which is when the retreat starts, and that I'm not packed, I do not have a clear idea about what I'll work on, knit, spin or eat. I can't believe that I left food for last. But - I do have five bottles of red wine. Allison says only five bottles - what *are* you thinking?!

The tradition is that after we have completed our day of fiber challenge and discovery and eaten our evening meal, we remove ourselves to the huge front porch of the magnificent old St. Mary's Hospital in Virginia City, now arts center, to visit, talk about books - it's true - sip red wine and watch the sun set. I've learned why it's called Sun Mountain. I will be doing that tomorrow evening and wish you all an equally lovely evening and rest of the week.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Nevada in June

Because we had such a wet spring, we are still having wild-
flowers in June. This is Prickly Poppy. I tried to use it as a dye plant one year but it's so prickly that you have to use leather gloves and knippers. In the end the color was an insipid yellow - not worth the work. At least I don't have to wonder.

The lupine hasn't been blooming long. I also tried this as a dye plant and also got an insipid yellow though not has bad or as painful as Prickly Poppy. It's another wildflower that I'd just as soon admire.

I think this is Sulfer Flower, a member of the buckwheat family, but I wouldn't swear to it. I haven't seen it in many places, but it does like the north face of the canyon notch leaving the top of our valley.
You have to look closely to see the yellow in the bank, but it's there and it sticks out to me when I'm driving though there. Yes, I am standing in the middle of the road.
There's as much color in the lichen but it's a nice subtle palette. I couldn't resist these pictures on my way to work yesterday.
Nor could I resist taking pictures of the horses on my way to church this morning. I want to dispel the notion that Las Vegas is synonymous with Nevada.

And I conclude with a gratuitous cat picture. Charlie lives in a house in Nevada. He doesn't get to experience Nevada - it would not be kind to him.

Friday, June 13, 2008

June 10th

This is a date of reflection for Chrissie and me. She gave birth to my first grandson on this date. She had just turned 16. She had told that me she was going to spend the night with the neighbor girl, but the two snuck out the window. Chrissie ended up at a party and was introduced to White Russians. She loved them and had several - they tasted so good - but they were loaded and ended up knocking her out. And while passed out, someone knocked her up. It took months - three exactly - for her to realize it. Her friends counseled her to get an abortion, but when she confided in me, she said - Mom, my baby has fingernails. He had become a person to her and abortion wasn't an option.

I contacted a friend who did counseling for situations like this. She was our angel. In the course of things, my friend told me that she knew a couple on the East Coast who were approved for adoption, had in fact, arranged to adopt a baby but the mother walked out after her baby was born. I told Chrissie, but she wanted to keep her baby until-- until the day she came from the program our county has for unwed high school mothers when her friend sobbed because she only had enough money to pay for Robert's prescriptions *or* his diapers. She said, I can't put my baby in Robert's position. He never asked to be born.

She asked our friend to help her place her baby with those friends she had told me about. It was a remarkable journey. The adoptive couple were wonderful. When they learned that Chrissie wanted to name the baby for my father for the three days he roomed in with her at the hospital- they were receptive. My father's name coincidently was both the names of the adoptive father, only in reverse order. It is the name they gave him. They wrote her for five years and sent her pictures. At the end of five years, they agreed that the contact would stop. His father has a web presence. We have always know where he is and been able to observe that he has a wonderful home and a rich live. Given the circumstances, who could wish for more.

As always, June 10th is a poignant date. Chrissie phished on MySpace. I have an account that she set up for me so I can be in contact with her little brother. It seems all kids are on MySpace, and it seems that as they age, they migrate to Facebook. Anyway, this year in her meanderings, she found his MySpace account and sent me the link. I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to know how well he is doing. I doubt that he will ever know that we peek in on him. We are both aware of what an emotional earthquake that would be, but, you know - it's nice to know.

So this is a picture - yeah, he's got the goofiest of smiles - but he's got the prettiest of dates. It's my youngest son who was five when my first grandson was born.

And this is the picture of his nephew, if we're not mistaken. It takes my breath away.

Friday, June 06, 2008

A Day at Home

When I got back from my walk this morning, the free range cattle had moseyed up to almost our fence and Zephie was keeping a close eye on this on this odd group of square creatures.

Huh? What are they and what happened to their necks??!!!

Three years ago I bought three Rocky Mountain Penstemon plants from High County Gardens out of New Mexico. It's rated browse resistant to rabbits - yippee. I'm glad something is. I do believe it is a *wee* bit invasive, not that I mind all that much since anything pretty that wants to grow is fine with me. Once it the blooming is over though, I'm cutting the stalks off to the ground. Until then, the hummingbirds seem to like it.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Bighorn Sheep

Bighorn sheep sighting - this is Nevada's state animal so I am very excited to see one for myself. Wait - is this poor animal jaundiced or merely mirroring the nearby mule ears. I think closer inspection is required.

And upon closer inspection, I can see that it is one of the Artown sheep, come to live in the wild. As you can see for yourselves, he has horns, coming and going. Reno artists were challenged to decorate sheep for the annual arts month a couple of years ago. I don't remember this one, but that's because he escaped to the wild.
Yesterday was one of those days when even I was impressed by the big sky. I must have taken a half dozen pictures on the drive to work. I need a bumper sticker to the effect, Caution - I brake for the sky. Someone at work asked me what I do with all my pictures. I said, upload them to Flckr? I don't know the answer. That little smidgen of yellow out there is the clustering of mule ear.
That long mountain in the back-
ground is Dogskin Mountain and it is the only 7.5" USGS quad-
rangle in this state that isn't printed as a single map. It's printed on the same paper as a 1:100 map and that mountain is my back yard. Huh? I don't know what that means either.
Rit dye remover for my indigo dye bath in a couple of weeks is why I went to the store on my way to work. I was waiting for the signal to turn and just had to grab my camera. The sign advertises a Starbucks drive through and a WalGreens drug store drive though, and the sign is flanked by Kentucky Fried Chicken, US Bank and Jack in the Box, all with drive through windows. Don't we ever get out of our cars?!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

A Couple 'a Books

I loved this book. I had only thought of Reeve Lindbergh as a children's author, and though I was aware she was a daughter of Charles Lindbergh, I didn't hold against her. I was surprised to find a fellow sojourner and long-time sheep raiser when I read her essays. She is a wise soul with a wicked sense of humor.

Wisdom: "I have also learned to know the ambiguity inherent in the keeping and caring for animals and children. However much I may care for them, any "keeping" of these living creatures is temporary, moving between tight embrace and full surrender, whether we like it or not."

Humor: Promises, Promises...or, What I Did On My Sixtieth Birthday

When I turned sixty
I found in the store
A world of temptations
For girls of three score.

With our Anti-Wrinkling Serum
We who have Fine Lines won't fearum
No, we'll be Regenerating:
Moistly, Actively Hydrating!
With these products we'll be using.
We won't age. We'll be Diffusing.
We'll be dancing, we'll be prancing
While De-Crinkling and Enhancing
No ones footsteps could be dragging
While her face cream's Anti-Sagging).

I left the store happy, though.
Isn't that funny?
I'm learning, at sixty,
how NOT to spend money.

I don't want to ruin the poem for those of you decide you need to read this book and I also don't want to wade into copyright violation.

I came across this book when I was looking in Overbooked for book club candidates. It received a starred review in both Booklist and Library Journal - that means they liked it a lot. I am not a fan of mysteries, but for those of you who are, it's touted as an "original and clever mystery, with a flock of endearingly woolly detectives." - a witty philosophical murder mystery with a charming twist, the crack detectives are sheep, determine to discover who killed their shepherd."