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.

Lover’s leap
Friday April 29th 2016, 10:21 pm
Filed under: Spinning,Wildlife

Spun another skein like yesterday’s. One more of that and I think the red sparkly will be all used up and then I’ll put the last of the plum with the last of the purple.

Saw an overly hormonal squirrel doing flips and backflips and loop-the-loop leaps, jumping around again and again in this one spot of grass-free fine dirt that he flung high in the air as he did his little acrobatic shtick for the ladies. Another spray of dirt and another. I own the air! I own the ground! I make them one!

While I sat watching out the window thinking, well, I guess that answers my question whether I put enough water there for the squash to sprout.

Pretty pleased with cherries on top
Thursday April 28th 2016, 10:17 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden,Life,Spinning


1. So then I tried spinning just the plum and the red sparkly today and got these 272 four-plied yards.

2. The tart cherries are trying to catch up to that color as fast as they can. You can tell which side the sun hits them on.

3. This video of Glenn Stewart rock-climbing city hall and banding baby peregrines.

4. It was the last Thursday night knit night at Purlescence: attendance has been low of late (all those political debates on Thursdays, I’d say) and they really did need the extra space for classes. So of course it was quite the turnout tonight. I’m so glad I got to go (thank you, Richard) especially given that I’m not driving yet.

5. Meantime, we got the very happiest of messages: Crystal, our seven-weeks-premature new grand-niece, after a month in the NICU was pronounced healthy and allowed to go home today. Her parents are ecstatic. We are, too.

Threesome becomes foursome
Wednesday April 27th 2016, 10:16 pm
Filed under: Friends,Spinning

And then there was Sherry’s other part cone (thank you!) of Colourmart cashmere in purple.

I had some plum extra fine merino and some red cashmere/merino/sparkle, from same, all of them very fine and soft yarns.

I plied about a yard of all three together but stopped the wheel, thinking, when that becomes six? No. Too thick. Pulled that off and started over. Sherry’s with the red, one bobbin, the plum with the red, second bobbin, then ply those two together.

Yeah, I like that. I like that a lot. And yes, you don’t have to have a wheel, you can just knit from any number of cones straight up–but a single ball of yarn at a time is simply a lot more portable than three cones of delicate snaggableness.

Thursday April 21st 2016, 9:55 pm
Filed under: Family,Life,Spinning

The concussion: I was feeling pretty good yesterday, did a lot of plying, turned on the stereo and even sang along to Alison Kraus a bit as the wheel whirred. Not entirely resting but not pushing it, right? We went out to dinner to celebrate a birthday and on the way home I was saying, hey, a few more days like this and I’ll feel confidant enough to start driving again. (With him in the car the first few times as a backup.)

Uh, Houston, we have a negative on that trajectory.

The doctor on the phone today decided I didn’t seem to need imaging for a brain bleed but if things were in any way worse in the morning speak up (it was, and that’s exactly what I did today) and we’ll move that neurology appointment forward.

When she said rest for once it was easy to do. Stabs said my head really didn’t want me to turn it to the left. They did let up a lot as the day went on.

And so off and on across the afternoon I did manage to get one bobbin plied. One really pretty bobbin that just makes me happy to look at, some Zegna Baruffa Cashwool that I stumbled across while looking for something else and went, oh, that’s what that peachy-pink has been waiting for all along!

More of Sherry’s cashmere. Add spinning wheel and there you go.

I found this in a description of the production of that superfine wool: the pasture must be perfect and only calm sheepdogs need apply. There must be no stress on the Cashwool-worthy merinos.

Sounds good enough to me to pair with Sherry’s gift.

To be continued.

Wednesday April 20th 2016, 11:16 pm
Filed under: Friends,Spinning

Colourmart was selling 10g mini cones of cobweb cashmere/silk for $5 a year or two ago, ppd as always, enough to put a pop of color in the right place and I always knew they could really turn into something–if I only knew what.

Now I know what the what is.

Sherry’s blue cashmere danced with a matching light blue, and then the second cobweb mini-cone in turquoise that it totally clashed with before I held up their two strands and twisted an inch or two together and thought, wait, I do like that–okay, go!

Two more and two more to go
Friday April 15th 2016, 11:05 pm
Filed under: Spinning,Wildlife

Let’s see, that’s 278, 226, 222, 224: the yardage on the four hanks aside from the finished cowl. Out of the 200g of the closeout dark brown merino/silk cobweb, I have 76g left (cone excluded). It’s the smallest amount among the three colors, so, 124g of that=950 yards finished yarn=I have roughly 575 yards left I can ply in this combination for a total of 1525 yards that knits up nicely on 4.5 or 5mm needles and then that’s all of that there can ever be.

(Yeah, the cowl probably took some out of the equation except that Colourmart nearly always sends more than the amount stated. I didn’t weigh this time before starting though so I don’t know.)

I have no idea why it’s so important to have that yarn all ready to knit up but it is and so I’m spinning it. That sense of anticipation of discovery is keeping me going on the brown yarns against the brown spinning wheel against the brown rug with the brown piano in the background. I don’t want to stop till that one cone is empty and I can declare this stage done.

Let me distract you from all that with a photo of a hawk trajectory.