Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Counting down

If you've made it this far in the month of December, you either have no children or grandchildren in your house, you use your TV for watching movies only, or you live in a hole in the ground somewhere south of Yellowknife. Not that those who live in Yellowknife don't celebrate Christmas. They just haven't been inundated with American-style Christmas. If it isn't the gifts that need to be purchased, made, or otherwise acquired, it's the preparations for visiting friends and family. The corridors of the office are abuzz with holiday stress releasings. Yet the carols talk of joy and peace and tranquility. Christmas is supposed to be fun isn't it?

You can count me in as one of the few who is not undergoing major stress right now in the face of the holidays. The cats don't expect presents or a feast on Christmas Day. My house is looking more like the intersection of Chaos and Mayhem to fit even a table for setting food on. I plan on spending the day with the local classical station playing in the background while I sip tea and work on a jigsaw puzzle. I'll prepare something nice for dinner and call my siblings. All is calm, all is bright. I hope your Christmas day ends up being pleasant for you after all the preparations and the stress.

Secret Santas

If you work in an office with a fair number of people in it you probably have a Secret Santa exchange or something similar. For those of you unfamiliar with this interesting game it's a gift exchange. Participants fill out a form of favorite things (beverages, food, hobbies) enter their names in a hat, then draw names. The name you have drawn is the recipient of your bounty. During a designated week, usually a week before Christmas, you leave one gift on that person's desk. That person doesn't know it's you who's leaving the gift, providing the mystery and fun. Well, for the most part it's fun. If you get someone who has no clue what you're like you can end up with some pretty crappy stuff. Often there's a money limit, like $20, so you can end up with cheap goods. But if you get someone who is resourceful you can wind up with some really fun stuff.

I'm fortunate to be working in an office full of the latter. We have quite a number of creative people who go all out for the exchange. One year I received my name done up as a beaded panel. Another year I received a handpainted coffee cup. I'm one of the people that participants want as a Secret Santa as I try to find things that are not the usual gifts you can find. If I can, I try to make something special for the recipient. This year my recipient received beaded earrings and handknit and beaded wristwarmers.

I do have to say that the exchange is done with fun in mind, so I don't take quite as seriously as I have in the past. My Secret Santa did pretty well for the most part. The thing that made me chuckle though was a fleece throw in bright green with red, green, and white holiday sentiments like "Ho Ho Ho!" and "Happy Holidays". It was soft and cozy but it's Grinch green. I knew the furries would take to it and sure enough Miss Mazola seized it as hers. All I could think was how many Grinches died to make these throws. It came from WalMart -- oh the horror!

Strap on your helmet!

The Winter Olympics are coming! Skiing! Skating! Bobsledding! Hockey! Luge! I look forward to it every time it comes around. I don't know what it is about it. Maybe because it's a celebration of everything cold and it isn't a USA propaganda fest. But I have to wait two whole months. I didn't think I could wait so long. Then while I was channel surfing I ran across on an obscure sports channel world cup competitions in various winter sports. The last couple of nights I've been watching ski jumping in Austria and Germany. The crowds have been incredibly loud with horns and flags. Hot air balloons with advertising logos have been stationed around the stadiums. The jumps have been magnificent and frightening at the same time. I couldn't imagine sliding down a hill and jumping off but the sight of the jumpers flying with their skis splayed out to give them air is so thrilling. Other nights I've been watching luge and slalom skiing. The excitement these have been giving me has helped me crank out my latest project. It's been a great prelude to the Games.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A surprise Christmas gift

I received some good news at the office. Thanks to the hard work of all the staff at the company I work for at not only keeping costs down but helping the company thrive during the economic downturn all the employees received a bonus. I work at a very large company that in the past has given out only gift cards for turkeys during the holidays so this is a very big thing. I could spend it to clear up the last of the bills but I'm thinking that it can be an investment into a tool I can use to make some money on the side.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A very productive weekend

There is something so satisfying in completing more than one project. This weekend was the one I had available to complete projects for this week and prepare for Christmas. It's Secret Santa week so I had to fetch gifts for my recipient. Of course she'll have handmade gifts as well.

Some beaded wristwarmers.

And beaded earrings.

One of my knitsibs has been recently diagnosed with a rare type of cancer. Instead of a blanket from those of us in the group, she's asked for hats to wear while she's going through treatment. She lives in Minnesota so a warm hat was definitely in order. I found some Cascade 128 in my stash and whipped this up today.

Last year I volunteered to do a test knit for one of my friends. The pattern called for Handmaiden Camelspin, which is a sport weight yarn of camel and silk. It has beautful drape but no bounce so it's not very forgiving to knit up. I didn't finish the test knit because I fought the yarn. I tried another pattern with this yarn and was fighting it there as well. This time around, though, I was successful in producing a nice little neckscarf.

The Winter Olympics are next February and the talk on Ravelry is about teams and preparing projects for the two plus weeks of crafting time. The new line up my cable company has for my package includes Universal Sports which has been showing some of the World Cup competitions of various winter sports. I've always enjoyed watching the Winter Olympics even though the US has not been a strong contender in many of the events. My loyalties will be leaning toward Canada's team in those events where the US isn't a contender for medals. In the meantime, I'm trying to decide what I will do for those weeks. One possibility is another Dale sweater, this time in black and white with red trim. I have some patterns from previous Olympic games that I can consider.

In the meantime, I have one UFO I should return to, namely the sweater I started last year out of Kauni yarn. I'm on the body with the second sleeve left to go so any progress I make on it will be good. If I complete it by the end of January I will be very pleased.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Shades of the Rarebit Fiend

I had thought about writing a post about the blue funk I was in earlier this week but ditched it. It was good to write about it but you don't need to read a tale of woe. (I'm doing much better, thank you.) Instead I welcome you to another voyage into the realm of my warped little brain.

For the most part when I sleep I'm aware of my dreams. They're usually the surreal sort of stuff where I'm floating or flying around or watching things happening. Occasionally I'm active in the dream, either being chased by someone with evil intentions or interacting with other people real and imagined. My dreams are always in color. Even ones that happen at night have color to them. I'll remember smidgens of them most of the time, but occasionally I'll have one that's stuck in my memory bank long enough for me to recall it.

Last night I dreamed I was on a ship returning from Hawaii with a number of tourists. The ship was a lot like a ferry in the inside (I've never been on a cruise ship so I guess my brain took memories of ferries I've been on crossing Puget Sound). The tourists were mostly senior citizens and a good number of them seemed to be from New York City. We were all in a windowed room that looked out onto the deck where a number of other people were standing around either talking to each other or watching the water as we sailed for our home port. It was evening, the sky darkening, with clear weather and calm seas. A pretty pleasant trip for the most part.

I'm looking out the window and see this clean-shaven fairly young man with dark, well-cut short hair (think Matthew Broderick) ease up to stand next to a young woman who is at the rail. She glances at him but says nothing. He glances at her then says something brief. She says nothing so he continues with his brief comments. Next thing I see is that he's turned into the Pink Panther, complete with cigarette holder, and his tail is gently waving back and forth as he's chatting up with this woman. She smiles a little. At another bon mot she giggles. She suddenly becomes a female version of the Pink Panther.

All of a sudden, there's commotion from another part of the deck. The Pink Panther suddenly changes back to the man and runs off with three uniformed boatmen after him. The woman regains her shape as a woman and looks befuddled.

For the rest of the dream it's this man going up to women, chatting up with them, becoming the Pink Panther when he has their attention, then changing the women to female versions only to be chased off by officials. This continues for some time until we arrive at our port and in the commotion of disembarkation the man is lost.

I have to say the Pink Panther was my favorite cartoon character when I was a kid: suave, resourceful, and unruffled by circumstances. How he ended up being this man who seduces women on a ship I don't know. Did I want to be the man? Or did I want to be the woman? I don't know. There is one thing though and that is I had macaroni and cheese last night. Not the stuff from the box -- the real McCoy of grated Tillamook medium over elbow mac. So it's entirely possible that my dream stemmed from an overindulgence of cheese a la the Rarebit Fiend.

Ba dm ba dmmmmm. Ba dm ba dmmmmmm.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

OK Barbie let's go party!

The outfits are done and ready to go to their recipients. Hats, scarves, sweaters, and cunning slacks courtesy of my friend Kathy. The girls are going to be so thrilled! As I got everything together for wrapping, I had company.

Buster was supervising the whole project.

Maisie found a box. If there's one thing she's good at, it's finding a box to sit in.

Sammy preferred a snug place to snooze.

With the current chill in the air, I think Sammy has the best idea.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

I'm a Barbie girl

When I was a kid, I didn't like baby dolls that much. To me they were just things. But my Barbies did stuff. They had adventures, epic battles, and soap operatic stories. They went through kidnappings, imprisonment, slavery, and war. I had my sister's Barbies, which were from the late 50's, often cast as the bad guys. Ken had a particular handicap in that some how his neck got broken so his head stayed on via a yellow Tinkertoy. Old Barbie often was the one in charge with her assistant Midge. My good guys were my Malibu Barbie and Ken along with Skipper. Often Skipper was the victim and Barbie was off to rescue her from evil Barbie.

One of the things that made my Barbies so fun to play with was the extensive wardrobe they had. Ken's wardrobe was pretty puny compared to Barbie's. I think he had just a shirt, a denim jacket, jeans, and swimming shorts. But Barbie had a number of dresses, tops, pants, coats, and shoes. Mom had made clothes for my sister's Barbies so I had a pretty good sized wardrobe when I got them. It expanded when one of my babysitters gave me clothes she had made. My Barbies were fancy dressers.

This year at the office we received the Christmas list for a family that included a couple of girls who wanted Barbies. I snagged one of the tags immediately. I don't have the Barbies anymore so I can't pass on the clothes, but I could make a few things that would be unique to that Barbie's wardrobe. Yesterday I picked up the Barbie and a couple of outfits, then set to knitting up a sweater for her. Her sweater's made of designer yarn (Kaffe Fassett Landscape sock yarn). So that her sister doesn't get jealous because she got a handmade sweater, I'll be making another out of a different yarn for her Barbie. There are also scarves and hats to knit up.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Time management

In the past seven years I've been involved with Confluence so my holiday season usually centered around the Christmas concert with a mad dash for the remainder of time before Christmas. This year felt like a luxury of time was given to me to pursue my fiber hobbies so I've been spending the weekends in indolence when not involved in some sort of fiber event. This weekend it dawned on me that Christmas was a month away and I had not made any plans whatsoever on how I was going to manage it. Gifts would be handmade, but what? When do I fit in the holiday letter? What holiday events do I want to attend and can I fit them in the budget? I tend to do things by the seat of my pants more and more though I know better. You'd think I'd have learned by now.


This last weekend was devoted to the Portland Spinnerati one year anniversary meeting and a road trip to Woodland Woolworks with Mary, a fellow fiberholic I met at my Saturday breakfast hangout, the Hollywood Burger Bar. Mary is a re-enactor for Fort Vancouver, participating in all sorts of activities from the trading period of the early to mid-nineteenth century, so it's difficult to fit in other fiber activities. So when I found out she was a WW virgin, I of course had to lead her unto temptation and propose a road trip. She's an absolute delight and the two of us gabbed nonstop all the way there and all the way back. Inside WW she found the materials she could use for her re-enactments and put a healthy dent on her credit card. My purchases were much more modest -- a couple of skeins of Jaggerspun Zephyr, some sock yarn from the clearance room, and a WPI tool -- but it was fun going through to see what I could find.

At the Portland Spinnerati meeting, the celebration was modest. I taught a workshop based on the class I took at SOAR on how to make the most out of your wheel. It was an abbreviated version of the class and I could have done better in providing information on the whys and how-tos, but my students enjoyed the workshop and appreciated getting the info. I spent the rest of the session working on plying up the mohair single with the Zephyr for making up the yarn for Karen. It came out very pretty and should make for a lovely scarf or wrap.

Ever notice . . .

I have Netflix and am able to stream the instant play on my computer, so over the weekend when there was nothing on the idiot box I played a couple of movies. One was "Helvetica", a documentary on the font Helvetica and its influence on modern typography. It brings up one of those things that is ubiquitous to our environment but never notice because of its ubiquitousness. Since watching the movie, I now notice where Helvetica is used as the font. It's everywhere.... Then check out Frank Habit's posting of his London alphabet.

Universe expansion

The past couple of weeks have seen the arrival of my SpinOff and Knits magazine and a few books. Schoolhouse Press brought back into print Susanna Lewis' book Knitting Lace which according to my more experienced knitting friends is a must have if you're serious about lace. As I went through it I can see why. Lewis has in this book everything for the beginning to advanced knitter on the wheres, whys, and how-tos of lace knitting. Another book (actually series of books bound into one) Schoolhouse Press brought back is Maria Erlbacher's Uberlieferte Strickmuster, now titled Twisted-Stitch Knitting. This has many stitch patterns and the technique of Austrian twisted stitch knitting, including how to read the charts, which are different from your standard charts you see in magazines and books. Lastly, my copy of Respect the Spindle by Abby Franquemont arrived. Few books go through with such detail the history and purpose of the different kinds of handspindles along with techniques the handspindler can use for making all kinds of yarn. When the holiday brouhaha finally settles down, I'll have some lovely books to peruse and use. Sweater anyone?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Comfortably seated in fall

At last the hot weather has passed and the cool rainy days of fall have arrived. My current office location requires that I use an outdoor parking lot instead of a covered lot, so I'm out in the weather. While there is some danger from crossing a busy street to get to and from the lot, there is the pleasure of walking in the rain with my body bundled in lovely woollens. This weekend I found a pair of boots in the boys shoe section that work wonderfully for the wet weather. All I need now is reflective safety tape all over them to mark me out to cars.

Monday I had jury duty with the county courts. It had been a while since my last jury duty service and this time I didn't want to get out of doing it. I'm a firm believer that even though the duty can be boring and at times really tedious it's important that everyone serves. If I was the person in the defendant's seat, I want people that understand the importance of a fair judgment by their peers. I prepared for a day of sitting in the jury assembly room waiting for my name to be called: crosswords; paper for writing my NaNo; a novel; some singles to ply on my Turkish Delight handspindle. Next thing I know I've been called for a grand jury pool so off I trundle.

For the good part of the day I'm in the pool going through the jury selection process for a case of worker's compensation that is expected to last up to Thanksgiving. As the case progresses I am feeling more and more that I want to be on this case. It was interesting and with my background I would understand much of what was being discussed. But I ended up not getting chosen.

This Saturday there was a gathering and sale by the PDX Knit Co-Op at the Aloha Grange. I went with my array of orifice hooks in hopes of selling a few to get some pocket money for expenses. Fellow spinners from the Portland Spinnerat, PDX Knitbloggers,i and the Northwest Regional Spinners Association came with fleeces, prepared fiber, yarn, and assorted goodies. I came home with 20 oz of California Red wool to play with and washed up this morning.

While there I worked on the mixed mohair locks Karen had purchased, finishing them up this morning. Next weekend I'll be getting the wool/silk single I'll need for plying it up to make a pretty yarn for a scarf or hat. It was a bit of a challenge to spin up the mohair as not all the locks were clean of gum. I'll give the yarn a good washing so that it can get degummed. Any tips on what I should use besides Eucalan or Dawn? I have washing soda; will that help?

My Thanksgiving is going to be a quiet one. No traveling to relatives this year. Instead I'll be spending it with Ruth and John, my good neighbors. With no chorus this year I may even be able to get my holiday letter out before Christmas. That is if I don't space it out. Nudge me before the first of December, hokay?

Monday, November 09, 2009

From my mailbox

Today in my work email box I got one of those lists that usually you just smile, read, and move on. This one has some fun observations I'd thought I'd share.

1. I think part of a best friend's job should be to immediately clear your computer history if you die.

2. Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you're wrong.

3. I totally take back all those times I didn't want to nap when I was younger.

4. There is great need for a sarcasm font.

5. How the hell are you supposed to fold a fitted sheet?

6. Was learning cursive really necessary?

7.. Map Quest really needs to start their directions on #5. I'm pretty sure I now how to get out of my neighborhood.

8. Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how the person died.

9. I can't remember the last time I wasn't at least kind of tired.

10. Bad decisions make good stories.

11. You never know when it will strike, but there comes a moment at work when you know that you just aren't going to do anything productive for the rest of the day.

12. Can we all just agree to ignore whatever comes after Blue Ray? I don't want to have to restart my collection...again.

13. I'm always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save any changes to my ten-page research paper that I swear I did not make any changes to.

14. "Do not machine wash or tumble dry" means I will never wash this. Ever..

15. I hate when I just miss a call by the last ring (Hello? Hello? D@mn it!), but when I immediately call back, it rings nine times and goes to voicemail. What'd you do after I didn't answer? Drop the phone and run away?

16. I hate leaving my house confident and looking good and then not seeing anyone of importance the entire day. What a waste.

17. I keep some people's phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to answer when they call.

18. I think the freezer deserves a light as well.

19. I disagree with Kay Jewelers. I would bet on any given Friday or Saturday night, more kisses begin with Miller Lite than Kay.

20. Wouldn't it make your life a whole lot more fulfilling knowing you worked to live and not lived to work!

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Slow recovery

The week has been one of trying to recover from SOAR. Between the altitude and a chest cold I was pretty much out of it. Facebook and Twitter folks saw a fair amount of my presence but I had no real brains for doing anything beyond those and watching the idiot box. I'm behind on my NaNoWriMo, I haven't done any complex knitting, and my spinning wheel has been pretty much sitting idle. I did do up some of the mohair locks Karen purchased at OFFF to spin up but I need to find a good yarn for plying it with so that the color doesn't get lost. I did finish a UFO pair of socks that had been languishing since last year so I'm pleased with that progress. I'm doing better energywise but I have laryngitis. No hollering for me for a while.

Tomorrow I have jury duty so I spent this evening going through my girlie bag and pulling out anything potentially comfiscatible at the courthouse. That meant no knitting or tool bags. I have other things I can take for entertaining myself during the dreary wait. It's been a long time since I last went to jury duty so this will be interesting.

I finally had a decent lighted day for taking pics of my SOAR swag. From Blue Moon some Blue Faced Leicester in Fall "On Top".

From Polwarth Co, some lovely silver polwarth roving that will make beautiful fingering weight yarn for a scarf.

From Sweet Grass Wool Targhee top in Moki Canyon. I found enough to make a vest.

SOAR Roomie Deb had a dyeing class and came away with a silk hankie. She just wanted one layer for a sample from the class so Barb and I split the rest. This will be fun to throw into a mystery batt for practicing my drum carding skills.

Barb did a swap with me. In exchange for one of my orifice hooks. Barb did a number of her Barbara's Buns in lovely polwarth and silk. So pretty!

The Monday following my return from SOAR I had an errand and lunch. The errand went quickly and gave me some time to rest before lunch. When I opened my door there was a package waiting for me from Black Bunny Fibers: Border Leicester wool/mohair/silk in colorway Hailstorm. The picture makes it a little lighter than it is. It's a pretty combination of blue and gray that will be nummy to spin. Thanks Carol!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Things I Learned At SOAR

I came home with a souvenir of SOAR that a number of other SOAR-goers came home with: the crud. But there were many things I got out of SOAR.

Plying yarn is a great way to get a student used to the hand motions when working with a wheel.

Hand combs are pointy and will draw blood.

Fellow spinners will come to you when you look like you’re going to fall over from lack of oxygen even though it’s just because you’re breathless from walking to class from a meal.

If you need fiber to spin, you will get it from someone, no questions asked.

I would sell my soul for a Lendrum Saxony. Woodland Woolworks has payment plans.

The mentors will answer your questions even though by Saturday they are zombies.

A charkha is not on my wishlist.

Judith McCuin is so mesmerizing I forgot to take pictures of the plying class.

Internet notables are delighted to sign spinning wheels.

A travel steamer is excellent for setting twist in yarn and the Christmas sales are the time to buy one.

To do a quick twist setting and you don’t have a travel steamer but have access to a microwave, take a hand towel and soak it in water, wringing out the excess. Fold it so it will fit in the microwave and place the skein inside the folds. Zap it for one minute.

You never know what you'll see.

You walk in with just a few tools and leave with many friends.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

At last

My computer woes have finally been resolved. The modem arrived yesterday and everything's working well. So now I can provide pictures for you of what I've been up to.

I head for SOAR tomorrow. There hasn't been much chatter on it this week but I do know one thing: it's been cold! Snow flurries have been falling in the night and the daytime temps have been in the 40's. Sunriver is on the high desert plateau which is around 5000 feet so it's a great place to wear one's woollens. I was able to finish the Ruba'iyat mittens for the walk from my room to the classes building.

One of the things I needed to do was clear off all my bobbins for the wheel I was taking to SOAR. In the past few weeks on and off I've been working on this fiber and plying it with a lovely heathered pink merino silk. The resulting fingering yarn came out nicely.

Autumn Sunset. 710 yards, 16 wpi, 2 ply. Medium wool plied with merino silk.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

In living color!

One mitten down. One to go. The new modem's on its way. Keep your fingers crossed. In the meantime, here are a few pictures from events in the past few weeks.

Franklin Habit made it to Portland during OFFF weekend. He made a call out to his Dolores Devotees for help in arranging it and I was able to hook him up with Knit/Purl. He was quite delightful and very happy for my assistance in getting him to the City of Roses. It was my pleasure, Frank.

Judy "JMCO" Becker has adamantly said she would not learn how to spin. While my fellow spinsters are still trying to convince her to take up the craft, I've opted to take a different tack and lure her to my handspun. I spun up some Dicentra Designs merino silk into fingering weight yarn and gave her the yarn to play with. She came up with a stunning wrap that has garnered many compliments. You can read her full story of the wrap on her blog. Fabulous job Judy!

There was also Spin In Public Day in Hillsboro where we encountered rain but no one shied away from it. Not even the small fry. Baby Hazel and Mama Rachel were there with their February sweaters.

Then there was OFFF. The Spinnerati and Knitbloggers had tents on the main lawn but shade was a premium. By the end of the day we were huddled against one side of the two tents to keep from getting cooked. We had visitors from regulars like Tina Newton of Blue Moon Fiber Arts and Morgaine of Carolina Homespun to newcomers Frank Habit,

Rabbitch, and Oregon newcomers Condom Amulet Naomi with her "spinster" husband Ron and Sivia Harding (welcome!).

Another notable was this lovely lady who spun while she walked over 300 miles. This is the sweater she knitted from the yarn she spun.

Karen wore her lovely stashbuster shawl and fell in love with some mohair locks, but being the nonspinner she needed someone to spin them. I offered my services. [BEG]

Soon to come: SOAR! I looked over the requirements list for the classes I'm taking and figure I might as well pack the suitcase acquired earlier this summer with everything but the kitchen sink. In the meantime I'm preparing my arsenal because you don't know whether you may come across this.