Thursday, July 31, 2008

Dye Day

Mim has been saying for the past month that we need to do some dyeing. We finally set a date for July 30th, yesterday. The day before I got an email from our friend Linda who had sniffed color in the wind, asking if she could tag along. Who knew she was on vacation?! Actually, Allison mentioned it to her because she was going to come but ended up teaching at Jimmy Beans. It was great. They both have a wonderful eye for color. I don't think I dyed anything for the first hour - just visited, watched and enjoyed my friends. But then that darned silk bug struck and I just had to dye these. The top one is the hot-pour method from the Twisted Sisters book, but the bottom one is done with the mix color, squish on, wrap in plastic and steam. My crisis - I ran out of vinegar. I used to have two gallons of white vinegar in the garage - not no mo'. The silk is from Brown Sheep.
This is a different kind of silk - don't know what it is. I bought it at Judith Mac Kenzie's workshop in Virginia City. I also did the hot-pour method on this. I'm really liking it more as time goes on. The squish and steam method, while fun in a group, is really a lot of work. I admit that you have more control and can do short color repeats, but I'm a lazy person and that's a lot of work - I think I mentioned that already.

I dyed two ounces of my hoggit Ram-
bouillet Alpaca blend. It's so fine I haven't known what to do with it. Linda brought some show-and-tell angora yarn that she's going to knit up as lace. I think I'd like to take this over to Mim's. She has a mini-mill Patrick Green carder and this would be spectacular blended with some angora for lace, but I'm a project ahead of myself. I need to finish spinning the Tunis for the state fair before I can even think about spinning this silk. Tunis, a primitive breed, is the state fair breed for 2008. When you're a spinner, there's no such thing as boredom but I don't need to tell you that.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


The clouds this morning were so specta-
cular that I finally had to stop and snap this picture. We've been through many days of smoke from the Yosemite fire, yet another fire, so I was beside myself to finally see genuine Nevada Sky. We do sky very well here. Two hours after I took this picture according to the news, the valley was hit with a lightening storm.
A coworker came to find me in the library stacks this afternoon to say that Ian needed to speak to me right away. A neighbor had called him to say that we had a wildfire. I lasted another two hours at work, but following news online, decided I needed to go home or have a nervous breakdown. The wind has given us a present, but our relief is someone else's grief. I think the sign in the foreground is ironic against the backdrop of smoke.

Friday, July 25, 2008

New Loom

I just bought this loom, like I weave so I much I need yet another one. About three weeks ago I received an email from a man named Ken, asking me to put an ad in our guild newsletter. His wife had recently passed away and he wanted to locate a buyer for her weaving things and would offer them for a best-offer price. I told him to look on the Internet and assess a value so he wasn't stuck negotiating an untenable price. He came back with $600 and I decided that, in fact, I was his buyer. I now have a 36" LeClerc Artisat loom that folds up and can go to workshops.
We arranged to have my son Josh pick everything up since Ken lives in Minden and Josh and family were going to be camping there for a company picnic. He said I would be getting a loom, bench, warping board and books, so I was surprised to see that I now also have an inkle loom - will be looking to Amy for help with that, and I don't know what the other thing is. Josh says it's a torture rack for leprechans.
This is my wall of shame - fleeces yet to be spun. Ken has requested that I weave something on his wife's loom for him as a form of closure. He explained in a phone conversation that they had sold their home in Santa Clara, California, and purchased a new one in Minden, Nevada, positioning themselves to retire. It was time. They had lived in their new home just three months when she was t-boned in an intersection and never regained consciousness.

The story breaks my heart and speaks volumes of plans and failed expectations. He told me how they had acquired the loom from a small studio in upstate New Year, from a woman who had the studio in her home. As an engineer, he'd involved himself in planning her weave structures but found the actual weaving tedious. They had raised dogs together in the more than 20 years that spanned their relationship, and were to be cheated of the plum. So what will I weave for him? We agreed that there's no hurry - the furniture she ordered for their home just arrived last week. The one thing I have decided is that I would like it to include some handspun yarn from my "wall of shame."

Monday, July 21, 2008

I'm Out of Silk

It's so nice to finally have our skies back again. I took this from the porch yesterday morning. I was reading my daily readings but couldn't resist the temptation to run back into the house for my camera. I know the fires west of us are only 58% contained, but we're finally getting relief from the smoke.

The silk from my brick is spun and ready to be entered in the fair. I weighed it at 2 ounces. I can't wait to knit it, but wait I must. I'm spinning more Shetland for some commissioned hats, then need to do a skein of merino for a hat before I get to decide what I want to spin for me. After reading the Spin Off article on Kaye Collins Alpaca lace shawl, I think I want to spin alpaca. I took a class from her on spinning alpaca about four years ago at the Conference of Northern California Handweavers at Asilomar, California. It was an absolute treat, but I've never wanted to knit with alpaca, until I read that article. Of course, I never wanted to knit lace either.
I shot this from the mailbox tonight.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Fountain

Look what I bought at Costco yesterday. We have been talking about a fountain and I told Ian about the one I had seen last week. I ran down on my lunch hour to buy a bag of onions to split with a co-worker and discovered that in one week, they had sold almost all the fountains. I texted Ian that I would be late and went back after work to snag one for us. There were even fewer by then. I was sure that I could wrestle the 60 pound box but found eager volunteers to help all the way - not store employees - just nice people. I drove away with a warm heart. It turns out that the box was only one inch shorter than the rear of my car. Phew~ Ian is sitting on the porch. See him?
I drove to work this morning in more choking smoke from the California wildfires, but was delighted to see our beautiful Nevada sky this evening. Note how well our palm tree is growing - it's the scarecrow for the tomatoes.

Ian was telling me that the instruc-
tions suggested putting decorative rock in the top and bottom basins. Instead I put in is some glass that I had tumbled. It's from the trail that I used to run my dogs on when we lived in town. We ran under the road through a culvert and then up onto Peavine Mountain, along the path of a dry creek. They were both German Shorthaired Pointers and my running partners for years. After they died, I scattered their ashes under the willow trees that grew along the dry creek. One day I took a bag on my run and filled it with the broken glass littered along the trail. I thought I would make a wind chime but have instead been looking at them in a clear glass bottle. The trail has since been constructed over and the trees are gone. I love seeing my memories right here in the fountain, along with hearing the lovely sound.
This is the dog that owns me, I mean that I own now.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Finished, at Last

Ian and I had an unex-
pected day off together today. Initially we had planned to drive out for breakfast, but decided to use the morning to work on laying more of the flagstone pavers instead. We had purchased them several years ago and while unloading them from the truck, Ian damaged his back seriously and our project stopped. Today we used the best of both of our backs to get this done - he shoveled the path and spread out the stones and I laid them. I was so happy with the results that I had to sit on the front porch in the rocking chair and knit. I can think of no greater reward.
Sonnet is done. It was easy to knit because Knitty provided instruc-
tions that only required you to plug in your own gauges. I enjoyed knitting it and look forward to knitting it again. I did add several rows of single crochet around the neck to stabilize it, decreasing stitches on the last two rows.

I asked Ian to take a picture of the back, in the hopes you can see the stitch detail. Clearly, this is not sweater weather. This sweater is full of memories for me, where I got the fiber and the vacation when I spun it. . I know I'm going to enjoy wearing this sweater.
My silk brick, thank you Beryl, is spun and plied. I can't imagine spinning silk without a superfast flier. How ever could you get enough twist in it?! When I plied, the flier was spinning so fast and so loud that it sounded like an aircraft.
Shameful boast - I guessed at my division of the brick so closely that this is all the waste that I had. Oh dear, I've wrenched my shoulder, patting my back.
Also finished is my lace scarf. Oh my, what I have learned through this project. It was two ounces of silk, and I belive the scarf is short because I spun it too thickly. After I spun this silk, I spun another two ounce ball that I bought from Mim. I did better and think the scarf will be longer, but the silk I have just finished spinning should give me a *real* scarf length - to be seen.

Not finished.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Still Spinning Silk

I am just past the half-way point of my schedule purgatory, i.e., no weekends off with people, friends, family, husband, and am trying to make the most my "weekend" days. To that end I decided that I would enjoy as much of these past two July days as possible, given temperatures in the upper 90s and continuing smoke from the California fires - those poor folks. If this is the blow over, what must their eyes and throats feel like?! I hung in there until 94 degrees - I was a wimp. There are no mountains - just smoke.

I am currently spinning this silk. I'm not sure what to call this sheet, but I bought it from Judith MacKenzie when she taught our spinning class at the St Mary's Arts Center in 2005. I loved the colors but this whole page/sheet/blanket of silk intimidated me into doing nothing with it. I am silk emboldened since the retreat.
Fully half of the fluff is spun up, and the remaining fluff is in this basket. Its even prettier in the daylight. Judith had more and I didn't buy it. Buyers remorse, only the other way.
One half of the silk sheet spins up into this bobbin, and it's the small bobbin of a Lendrum super-fast flier. I've managed to maintain a pretty stable and thin fiber, but I won't really know how successful I am until I ply it. I'm thinking it's going to be a scarf, a very short but very pretty scarf. I have decided that the lace bug bite is doubled when silk is part of the bite.
What was the lyracist thinking when he wrote, "Smoke gets in your eyes?" It was lovely for Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, but not so lovely really.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Bitten by the Lace Bug

Here's where we gathered in the mornings with our knitting and coffee. I got up earlier than I do on workdays because I didn't want to miss a single minute of it. Roommate Hermi and I agreed that we would never get up that early at home - doesn't sound at all retreat-like, does it.
So far my lace knitting has been on socks, I had a hard time finding a pattern for this yarn because it has no give. After swatching about three patterns, Gayle offered me this five stitch repeat.
Row 1: K2 tog, yo, K1, P 2
Row 2: Knit
Row 3: K1, yo, K2 tog, P 2
Row 4: Knit
It's a wonderful little sock pattern and she ended up writing it out for several of us.

Everyone around me those mornings was knitting real lace and chatting at the same time. The lace bug bite was subtle. I couldn't help but admire the three different results that were coming from the same pattern and different yarns. Sara says it will be the target of an Spin Off article next year. Dee was making her lace into a log cabin afghan from all crazy colors she dyed up, Sara was knitting undyed silk that she will paint later and Sue F. was knitting a shawl from wool she spun from her flock. Aren't you intrigued? I can't wait for the article. Before I knew it I was accepting Sue's offer to chart out the pattern on graph paper. That was a big step for me because I have been confident that I would never knit lace, but then I said that about socks about ten years ago too.

I focused on spinning silk at the Retreat thanks to Sara's generous tutoring. This is what I spun from the 2 ounces of Chasing Rainbows silk that Amy brought me back from Black Sheep a year ago. The roving was gorgeous and the gift was completely unexpected. I love how the color in the silk mimics the color in the bricks. I think I may have bitten by the silk bug as well.
This is where I am on the lace scarf at one ball. It's the same lace that Sue charted for me. In the beginning it seemed that I was ripping out just as much as I was knitting. It's only a 10 stitch repeat over 16 rows and I'm now finding it pretty easy to know where I am. Just the same, I still keep the chart right beside me. I'm afraid that once bitten by the lace bug, there is no cure. If you haven't already been bitten, resist will all your will power or you'll find yourself afflicted with the phrase, "just wait until I finish this row."

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Rug Omission

I was driving home from work tonight and realized that I had forgotten to include this marvelous rug in my final retreat post, so this is a postscript. When Ahmed showed this to us, I marveled at how one could make something woven on a square loom appear to be round. Owning a round rug has no appeal for me, but understanding how those women make one really piqued my interest.
Look at what those clever women did. The rug is woven square; the shape is created by the knots. I cannot begin to imagine how they figured it out, but I marvel at their ingenuity and know they're not getting paid what they are worth. Okay, now I'm done with the retreat.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Turkish Rugs

Gayle arranged to have a Turkish rug trader visit us the morning we were scheduled to leave. He was returning from a show in Las Vegas and she promised him ladies interested in weaving. I don't think we disappointed him. He certainly didn't disappoint us!

Take a look at the inventory in the back of his truck and consider that few of the rugs he showed us were valued under $1,000. They were gorgeous and I was glad that the temptation was limited since I had to leave early to pick Ian up at the airport.
This piece that Lindsey is holding is hand-
knotted silk in tiny stitches and is priced at $15,000.

This one is machine woven from natural dyed wools. What a difference those natural dyes make.

And a closer look. I love the variations in shades. The green is pistachio, the blue is indigo, and the red is pomegranate.


And back.

And still the rugs kept coming. He recognized who the potential buyers were and quickly began to pull rugs out that he thought might meet with their approval. It was a great show but nothing can last forever. I reluctantly got into my packed car and drove down the mountain, back to Reno and the airport.

Back to the real world - my real world, that is. (Click for big)

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Yep - more Virginia City

Eileen is pulling off a panel from her blanket. I know she is very dis-
appointed but you can't it tell by her smile. That last panel was woven more tightly than her first two panels. I think this blanket is a success, even though she's going to have to weave another panel. This is her first weavin!!. She used the Ashford knitter's loom to weave three panels and learned the hard way about beating square. But oh my goodness, what she accomplished on a rigid heddle loom is impressive. I hope she is the wave of new weavers that old weavers have worried and dreamed about. Think about what she did and her initiative.

Behind her is the area where we gathered to knit and drink our morning cuppas. It's where I sat amongst lace knitters and was stung by the lace bug. Sue V was knitting a scarf from an old Piecework magazine mitten pattern. She liked the repeat, which I wrote down. Sue F, Dee and Sara were knitting a Falling Leaf pattern that they are working on for a SpinOff article next year. They have the same pattern, all cast on 92 stitches , and that's where the similarity stops. I can see why it's going to be an interesting article. Sue F wrote out the chart for me on graph paper. Since I had spun two ounces of silk there, I thought what the heck. I didn't have much fiber, so I only cast on 52 stitches - 52 stitches that want me to knit them when I really need to be doing something else, like sleep. What a siren. If you read this and haven't already received this warning - lace knitting is seductive, additive. Flee - run away.

This picture tickles my funny bone. It's an idle moment, only knitters don't have idle moments. Herme, on the right, is visiting with Lexie, who is finishing a baby blanket that she will be delivering to a shower the next day. Hermie has perched her glass of wine right next to Jen's Ashford electric spinner because, she is now officially relaxing - done for the day.

I find it hard to keep Virginia City separate from the fiber retreat. Nevada is interesting in its own way. Herme was excited - this is a rare form of buckwheat that only grows in andesite soils so is called Ansesite Buckwheat and it grows on the tailings in Virginia City - this plant is in a soil lab. I hope you can see the size of the leaves.

This is the kind of buckwheat that grows by my house. Herme is a biologist from Southern Nevada so these are different and we have to understand her enthusiasm. At least I do - she's my roommate.
I would love to take a nature hike with her in Southern Nevada - a bajillion miles south of here.

I am so sorry for the quality of this photo - we were returning from our evening walk and I just want to show where the old hospital ward was and where the current arts studio is. Can you tell by the fuzzy lights??