Round and round and round it goes
Thursday July 27th 2017, 9:07 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Spinning

If you ever want your inbox to go weirdly silent for an entire day, offer a lot of very nice people something you only have one of. Niddy-noddy? Anybody? Drill a hole and reposition an arm? Use as is? Take one arm out, thread a string through the hole to suspend it by and hang cat toys from the bottom arm? Help me out here.

Meantime, I was discussing something with a friend the other day and she tried to describe her favorite shade of purple. She finally pulled out her phone, went to her alma mater’s site, and there it was in full and official color.

(Actually, I had something like that kicking around…) So today, it didn’t matter what I’d planned on, it leaped onto the needles.

Funny how that happens.

White elephant
Wednesday July 26th 2017, 10:38 pm
Filed under: Spinning

I’ve long debated saying anything because I just have the one to offer–but who would I ask? It has stumped me.

This is a niddy-noddy that I bought about twenty years ago via a tiny ad in a spinner’s magazine–I think, if memory serves, from the artist who made it but I have no idea now what their name was. I had a cheap unfinished Ashford one, which is fine, but I found myself wanting something pretty as well as functional.

Overall, it is 20″ long, with 18″ (a half yard, which makes sense) from arm to arm.

But for me it’s all wrong. The arms are at right angles to each other rather than perpendicular and to my arms that makes wrapping the yarn awkward. My Ashford eventually fell apart and I bought a Kromski  in mahogany finish and I love it. It’s a well-thought-out piece of equipment, designed to keep the yarn from slipping off the ends when you’re doing major fluffballs.

I only used this one all of once. It just doesn’t do the job well for me. Maybe it needs a taller person? (I’m 5’5″.) Or maybe just someone who didn’t start out using the perpendicular variety. Or–someone who isn’t such a klutz. Ding ding ding!

If you know someone whom you think should have this one, tell me why and I’ll mail it off to them. Rocking chair not included.

Straight off the needles
Friday July 07th 2017, 11:08 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift,Spinning

Bedtime. That satisfying snap as the last of the ball is broken away at last. Lights, action, camera!

I’m just really glad right now that I made two more skeins of this yarn, because it exactly matches a sweater I love. I’ll have plenty of time to knit another before it gets cold.


Thursday July 06th 2017, 10:44 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Knitting a Gift,Life,Spinning,Wildlife

Dropped my glasses off the top of my head when I stood up to answer the phone and then I stepped on them.

It was bad. There was just no putting those back on. All I could do was wait for Richard to get home from work to drive me over to For Eyes.

A dozen feet away was close enough not to be too fuzzy when a Cooper’s hawk skidded to a stop on the concrete just on the other side of the glass door. It considered me a split second as a finch on its back flailed away wildly trying to right itself (its hard thwack on that window had snatched my attention) and he grabbed it and was off.

The younger employee went, “Wow, you really stepped on them,” and given their age (I’d reused the same lightweight metal frames through several prescription changes–I bought an extra pair eight years ago so I could) she was afraid she would break them; the more experienced middle-aged guy, the one I took a tumble in front of last week, was sure he could do it and she was sure he could if anybody could and handed them over.

At this point I’ve been in there enough times that they were not surprised to see me pull out the knitting project I started today (after I did indeed add a repeat to yesterday’s.)

He was glad to see me back and looking none the worse for that fall and made a point of getting those exactly right. He totally rescued me, and was very pleased to be able to make such a difference. I can see again. I can do things again. I have my life back.

They both adored the picture of Mathias in shades and even asked to see more pictures of the baby, and I thought, I really like you guys…!

(Yarn: two strands of a dusty purple-plum cashmere laceweight, a gift from Sherry in Idaho, and two strands of a brick red merino with a touch of sparkle to it, plied together on my spinning wheel.)

Coming along
Tuesday October 11th 2016, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift,Spinning,Wildlife

I didn’t quite fill three bobbins before the white ran out.

Four-ply was surprisingly thick, so, two by two it was: 234 and 224 yards’ worth, with a bit left over on one bobbin that I then plied it with an end-of-bobbin of brown cashmere, making 78 yards. (Hmm. Baby hat?)

The yarns I was working from were very close in thickness and yet I used up 98 g of the merino/silk and only 67 g of the butter merino.

Now to go scour the mill oils out. The strands should bloom, fluffing out a bit with the wools felting together slightly. A little preshrinking is a good thing.

Meantime, yet another Cooper’s hawk sighting today–there have been several of late. Again it was one with its juvenile markings, which are starting to fade now; its chest kind of looked like that last hank. I think I’ve seen both a male and a female juvie in the past week.

Two=one, then three=one or two=a bigger one. Decisions.
Monday October 10th 2016, 11:18 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life,Spinning

Or rather the second two=one is bigger than the first two=one.

Ten years that white cobweb merino/silk had been waiting for me to wind it up. It had arrived in a hank (never again, not that fine, not that many yards) and I always knew it would take a lot of time to wind it up by hand. It did, snagging on itself much of the way. But it looked better with Diana’s soft-butter-yellow than anything else I put next to it and that got me to finally go do it.

So I wound those two strands together on my wheel. That sets in twist going one way and I need to make more to put them together, the wheel spinning the other way so as to restore balance so the fabric to come from it doesn’t torque. Like twisting your swing on the swingset and then letting go and watching it twirl till it comes out straight again. Only in this case you’re making the thing thicker with each stage.

Now the question becomes, do I three-ply the two-plies I’m making or settle for just two bobbins per for a four-ply?

I’m drastically revising my earlier assessment of her cone’s being a month’s worth of work: there’s nothing that says I have to use up every bit of it right this minute, just that I make something good and pretty and that honors her while she can still get to see that happen.

All I had to do was start working with that yarn and it started telling me how I was going to do that. Now I’m just working out the details.

This is something I can do
Saturday October 08th 2016, 11:19 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life,Spinning

Bins and bins: Diana was giving away her yarn to all of us.

She had one big cone specifically squirreled away for me, though, since I’m a spinner, and she went in the back room (with me taking the measure of every step as she went, having a good idea of what it took out of her to do that and wishing I could rush over and get it for her) and she brought it back out: 602 grams of a cobweb weight that she knew was natural fibers, and it clearly was, but she wasn’t sure if it had a little silk mixed in or not. The label had fallen off the inside of the cone and she said it had always been quite faded. She still had it–she’d tried various electronic tricks to try to copy it to come out darker but no go.

It was, at the least, a very fine merino wool if not cashmere. Very soft, and certainly not a synthetic. Not baby alpaca. I would guess probably yes on the bit of silk mixed in but I’ll be able to tell a little better once it’s actually running between my fingers; lots of experience there.

I told her I had cones of cobweb cashmere in a natural light brown that I could ply it with and that the two would compliment each other very nicely. But I’ve also thought since then that it would go well with white, too, of course, so I have to figure out what it wants to be when it grows up–and get to it, and quickly.

I’d like her to be able to see something made out of it. That much yardage could easily become a month’s worth of work, I know, and it’s nearing Christmastime knitting-wise. It’s nice stuff, though, and she would so love that.

“I wonder what color it’s going to be when you’re done,” said Richard.

Well yeah, I could dye the coming hanks, yes…

If I do that, he said it first.


Edited to add, I told her I’d gone to Andy Mariani’s farm to buy the figs and she just beamed: “Don’t you just *love* that little store?” She was so delighted that they’d come from there. I was a little blown away that she knew, and loved that she loved the place, too.

Because that’s all there was left
Thursday October 06th 2016, 10:02 pm
Filed under: Spinning

Cashmere and silk: 196 yards. Not a lot but enough to have fun with.

Mel and Kris time
Saturday September 03rd 2016, 10:58 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life,Lupus,Spinning

I was thinking that after this weekend I could tell the rest of the story.

Only, it turns out there was a lot more to it than I had anticipated.

Back at Stitches West in February, my potter friend Kris told me that not only did they have sheep at the farm they’d bought, but her son had learned to spin and he had a wheel now.

He was there helping her and they surprised me with the great gift of a skein of his very own handspun yarn. From their sheep! So cool.

This is Kings Mountain Art Fair weekend, where I’ve seen Mel and Kris every year since long before they started going to Stitches.

But that new head injury. It’s certainly not bad, but not pushing it is a good thing. Richard wasn’t up to doing that much walking yet–parking is all car-by-parallel-parked-car along the narrow mountain road there with many many many people coming. Michelle couldn’t make it and it would just be me. Which normally I wouldn’t mind.

So I did the only thing I could do: I said a prayer and asked, if I shouldn’t go, please help me feel bad or hesitant about it and I won’t. If I should, please help me feel reassured, because I honestly don’t know what the most-right thing to do here is.

I very much felt reassured. It was a bit of a surprise. I had thought that waiting till the last day of the fair made the most sense, for that matter, but felt like, no, today. Don’t miss out. Go.

Huh. Okay, then. I really wanted to see my friends and feeling that it was okay to helped a lot. (That’s also why I had to be careful in that prayer, so that I was actually listening to the guidance I was asking for, not just hearing what I wanted the answer to be.)

I had wanted to surprise them back with something made from their wool, meantime, because nobody could treasure it like the ones taking care of the sheep it had come from. One large skein of aran weight: a cowl seemed the sensible thing to do for potters and farmers. It could keep one of them warm while leaving them free from having it blowing around in their way.

The yarn refused. It wanted to be a hat.

I started to cast on for a cowl.

I cast on a hat.
I made that hat. I put it in my purse last night to make sure I wouldn’t forget it.

I came around a curve in the hillsides of 280 and found myself driving into a dense fog as I approached the mountain pass and marveled, This is summer. That’s winter looking. It’s way too early for that. (It was bright and clear not too many miles away at home.) It softened the light, which rested my brain from the sharp reflections that otherwise would have irritated it. It was beautiful and it was perfect. As I drove upwards and turned left towards the fair at the spine of the mountain, there were splashes of raindrops from both trees and sky.

Rain here is the distilled essence of ocean: warm summer showers are not even a concept, locally, and I can remember trying to convince my then-young children that such a thing existed. If it’s raining in northern California it’s chilly, and for the first time that I can remember, it was cold at the fair. That forecast of 67 up there was way off–my thick turtleneck and sun jacket and wool knee socks were not enough at 52 degrees but not so bad as to get me to walk the quarter mile (I got a really good spot!) back to my car for the spare fleece jacket that’s always in there. (There’s a chartered shuttle bus for the really-way-out-theres.)

Mel had one on himself but he was still cold. Kris was comfortable in her jacket, but he was in sandals and his socks and warmer clothes were simply out of reach while they were working their booth.

So much for waiting till they’d rung up my purchase before surprising them–he needed that hat now, and I pulled it out. I told them, referencing their son, You guys are all going to have to work out whose this is.

They laughed. They loved it. Mel not only wore it, he doubled over the cuff for extra warmth and I was glad I’d knitted it to a good length so he could, and I could because they’d given me a generous amount.

If I’d waited till Monday like I’d half-planned, then…

If their son hadn’t felt like sharing what he’d made, and when he did…

And yet all that had happened and it had come out exactly right. Mel kept marveling at the chill, exclaiming, In California! On Labor Day weekend!

The show ended for the day and as Kris pulled the covers over their booth, Mel walked my purchases all the way to my car for me. I in turn drove him to where fair vendors are required to keep their vehicles, well away–and to where his socks were. He was then to drive back to Kris to pick her up, but just before he got out of my car, I told him this:

I get to wake up every morning to beautiful art, to Kris’s and your talent, your skills, your colorwork, and your love in my home and it makes every day of mine better and I just wanted to thank you. It makes such a difference.

Come to think of it, I need to go tell my sister that, too. (Edited to add: done!)

Grandma got slobbered by a reindeer
Tuesday June 14th 2016, 10:57 pm
Filed under: Life,Spinning

Yes. Yes that happened Monday. Fingerless gloves are a good and useful thing as an extra layer of sun and cold block but for feeding reindeer alfalfa pellets, maybe not so much. But we just stepped in the door and I’m only still up because one load of laundry must be done before the morning–I’ll handwash those later.

This is the one I got to feed.

I asked the guy, Don’t they have a thick undercoat to keep them warm in the winter? Is it soft? What do you do with it?

Oh they’ve lost all that right now. It is soft. We don’t do anything with it. It’s hollow so you can’t, like, do anything with the stuff so we don’t.

(The fiber artist’s mind. It boggles.)

I tried to explain that qiviut is hollow too and highly desirable stuff. (Thinking of the musk ox farm up the road we’d just gone to on Saturday–more on that later.)

He thought he was having to explain to someone who wasn’t getting it.

I told him I’m a handspinner with a spinning wheel and I assured him I could put next year’s undercoat to very good use.

You could see the realization dawning in his eyes…

Yeah. Yeah I’m getting back to those guys. When I mail them back, by way of re-introduction, the two little alfalfa pellets their little guy tossed into my sagging sweater pocket while slobbering eagerly all over my fingers. My sweater smells a bit like reindeer too.

I kinda like it.

Head over heels and heels
Monday May 23rd 2016, 9:06 pm
Filed under: Spinning,Wildlife

I was watching baby squirrel antics for a few moments again this morning when suddenly one fell in a long, long, long twirling head-over-tail-over-head from the tall tree just across the fence. I gasped for what that must have felt like to it, the trunk bent gently away from the little one’s trajectory just just too far away no matter how hard it tried to grab for it. I waited for some sight of it dashing back up into sight and towards safety–the tree, the fence, anywhere.

And then I hoped it was instant rather than at the beak-point of a murder of crows or ravens hours later.

The average lifespan of a squirrel is one single year.

And on that cheerful note, it seemed like a good day to do some of the good intentions that had been waiting on me to finally get around to getting them done. Some coned dk-weight Christmas cashmere that had needed to be hanked up and washed: 660 grams’ worth that would be so, so wonderful, all it needed was the prep time.

Lots of prep time.

I wound eleven hundred yards into one monster hank before my arms had to stop holding up that niddy-noddy. It wasn’t all of it but it was most and definitely enough for the project in mind.

It is drying now. Overdyeing will hopefully be tomorrow. I didn’t want to lift a heavy dyepot after all that. I may well just knit the last of it straight up from the cone, silicone coating from the mill and all.

(Typing the thought out loud settles it…) Naaaah. I’ll hank and wash the rest, too. If I’m going to spend the hours knitting cashmere it’s going to feel like cashmere while I do, not dried hair mousse.

I needed to sit, and spinning is sitting.

Again to the rescue, the 20g mini-cones of cashmere/silk cobweb weight from Colourmart. (Link goes to cobweb silk, not a blend, but hey, for $8 ppd.) I had some Malabrigo Silkpaca in Solis that I loved but wished were thicker and had long thought these two should be put together. I had actually knit them doubled together once already (Hi, Freddy!) but it still made for a very thin yarn. I wanted to try something new with it.

That baby alpaca/silk running through my fingers with that little bit of cashmere/silk added in, first one bobbin’s worth, then the second bobbin, then those two melting together as I plied them–wow. I want the yarns I knit with to always feel like that. If only. I remember all over again why I bought that Silkpaca. Wow.

Scrub jay shades of blue
Tuesday May 10th 2016, 10:59 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Spinning

I’ve loved these three shades of blue together ever since that surprise box arrived from Melinda at Tess Designer Yarns. Her Merino Lace is exceptionally soft. I had been waiting for them to tell me what they wanted to be, and today suddenly there was no other yarn that would do.

I opened the hanks and put them on the back of the chair one at a time and wound up those long-awaited three balls.

They were single ply and very fine and maybe too fragile for carrying around and pulling the project in and out of my purse with that many strands tangling.

The wheel.

Dark blue with the middle blue. The middle blue with the light blue. Ply those together, all the spinning done loosely so as not to interfere with the hand of that fabulous merino–we would have four strands not three, but also one single sturdier ball to carry around and it would definitely knit up fast. Speed is good right now.

And then I worked at felting the resulting yarn a bit to melt the strands together. Loved loved loved how it came out.

But I wanted to knit it NOW and it was wet.

Well hey…there was enough middle blue left for one bobbin. So. Middle with light till middle runs out, dark with light till the light runs out, then together. Wind into a ball straight from the wheel do not pass go do not collect water–I can do that part later.

Just a bit of the dark blue left–one bobbin’s worth, put with–well, yeah, that would be cool if I…

Just let me finish this project I started out of that second go-round.

Straw into golden
Monday May 09th 2016, 10:51 pm
Filed under: Knit,Spinning

Finished this one up, done in my old Rabbit Tracks pattern, and thought I’d be diving right into the next.

Instead I found myself back at the wheel mixing shades of cashmere. That light brown cobweb weight has been in my stash for years and I’ve used a whole lot of it, and yet, loaves and fishes, there always seems to be more.

(At $10/lb I bought the vendor out, at least twenty pounds. She’d gotten a shipment with a moth fluttering out and it was cheaper to hand it to me at her cost than to ship it back to China. Hey, for cashmere? I can kill moths. Turns out I’ve never seen any sign of a single one.)

So yeah. I plied it with some ecru 70/30 cashmere/merino from, again, Colourmart. My drive band started stretching out midway so that it wasn’t quite propelling the wheel the same and adjustments were needed; makes the yarn artsy, right?

Gloriously soft, and that’s the part that matters.

A little tire-d
Friday May 06th 2016, 11:28 pm
Filed under: Family,Life,Spinning

My grandparents built their dream home long ago and Uncle Bob spent his teenagerhood in it.

But then Grampa got elected to the Senate and they sold that house and rented a basement apartment for their Utah address–two apartments, the other in DC where there was a postwar boom and housing shortage, were enough to have to pay for.

And so another couple lived out their lives in my grandparents’ lovely place with the stone front and the floor-to-ceiling windows across the long living room at the back, very Californian and with a beautiful view across the valley.

And then that house came on the market again at long last. Uncle Bob snatched it up. But he too had to have a DC spot when he won his father’s old Senate seat, and so my aunt and uncle split their time between the two homes. After the next-door neighbor dropped a large tree on their Salt Lake City roof…the Basement Troll tradition began.

Our youngest was one of several nieces and nephews over the years whom they took in to help them keep tabs on the place. But mostly it was to look out for the kids more than the house–it’s hard to get started without a little help.

So many stories. So much generosity. So much more than I could ever describe. My cousin with $61,000 in medical bills (and that was with insurance) after her baby girl died while waiting on the heart transplant list, leaving her healthy twin a singleton. Uncle Bob could do something about the money part of it so he quietly did.

Here, meantime, the day was basically this (after a quick trip to Purlescence to replace my broken wheel band, thank you Sherry, this is the last of your purple cashmere) and this. I think I got very gently rear-ended in the rain, too, but when I pulled over the person drove off and on that ten-year-0ld bumper, well, what’s one more scratch, right?

I think the screw in the tire came later.

A little normal life. It’s a good thing, really. We thanked the AAA guy and he seemed less stress when he left then when he’d arrived, and that felt good.


Net working
Tuesday May 03rd 2016, 11:11 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knit,Spinning,Wildlife

An Indian Free peach, the one peach tree I’ve got covered in birdnetting. Never used the stuff before other than in pre-netted cages and tents. The new branches, of course, start tiny and grow right through the stuff or curve around in a balled-up wad of leaves while trying to, making for a weird shaping to come–and harvest isn’t till September. Any voices of experience, feel free to chime in here because I’m only pretending I’m knowing what I’m doing.

The Fuji is far too big to cover. I just do my plastic-clamshell thing to fruit as high up as I can reach and call it good.

There was a small squirrel sitting on the fence today eating one of those very unripe apples. He flicked aside the first of the peel, but other than that he ate and ate till that entire small fruit was gone. Then he took an Olympian leap to nearly the top of the tree for another.

This is a far cry from that apple tree’s early days where the squirrels would pick one take one bite ick no toss pick bite repeat till they’d stripped the entire thing in a day. I guess the long drought has impressed on them that food is not something you ruin. This is the first year of plenty in their lifetimes.

Meantime, I hanked up eight cones of yarn today. Scoured two but reluctantly decided to wait on the others till I had more space for them to dry in, but I got the chore part done. I wound up three that had already been scoured.

That, and I knitted.

Because last night I was at the wheel and the drive band broke. Really broke. Well that one’s done. I asked Richard, “Do we have any string in this house…?”

Unscoured tightly twisted merino? You bet I considered it, but no. No spinning today. And so I put my Kromski niddy-noddy (nope, not seeing it on their site but trust me, it’s a gorgeous piece of wood and well engineered) to good use and felt a great sense of accomplishment.