A View from Sierra County

Small town life and politics, lots of knitting, and travels with and without my five burros

My Photo
Location: In the Sierra Nevadas, United States

I blog about rural living and social issues, and the creativity that comes from knitting, as well as post random pictures of the Sierras and my burros. "In order to be an artist, one must be deeply rooted in the society" - Simone de Beauvoir


Monday, January 31, 2005

February is Healthy Heart Month

Did you know that currently, heart disease is the largest killer of women? Yes, it outflanks cancer, diabetes and stroke, and is also the target program for the American Heart Association this month, during Healthy Heart Month. You can learn more about the Go Red For Women campaign and sign up to get a free Red Dress Pin from the American Heart Association on their website. Support their Wear Red Day this coming Friday, February 4th - as the old saying goes "The life you save may be your own".

Finished my Shrug

I was attempting to knit on the shrug during our S&B meeting, but mostly talking and helping others. I did notice that I was about halfway through the second sleeve and it looked like it was going to be close on having enough yarn, so I plunged in last night, while watching a great Discovery Channel program called Pompeii: The Last Day, and was able to finish the knitting! I did just barely have enough of the teal.. in fact just enough of the ball on the one side of the color blocks to knit in the end tail as I finished up the last color block and returned to using one ball for the final rows in solid color! Talk about close... usually taking risks such as this are reserved for the sports in my life (climbing, snowboarding) and NOT my knitting... that is where I am supposed to be de-stressing.

Now, this evening's project will be sewing up the sleeves and weaving in ends... with pictures to follow.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

We held our first Stitch n Bitch group at Casey's Place in Alleghany today, with five people attending, and two more coming along asking to join us next time. Claudia is at the far left, embroidering a fantastical design, Cheryl (in red) is beading and sewing valentine hearts, and Amy and Jade are knitting on the couch. The bar/restaurant is owned by Cari, shown behind the bar.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Earflaps for Shredders

Happy boys in their new beanies and ready to cause trouble...

My daughter Nikki and I headed up to Lake Tahoe this morning so we could deliver my oldest son Cody some birthday presents (26 last week) and have brunch together.. it is about 1 1/2 hours from us and we try to get together a couple times a month.

This photo shows him on the right and his boss, Keith, on the left wearing their new beanies - I had posted a photo of Keith's a few days ago, but then Cody was teaching him how to blog and showed him mine as an example, and there went the surprise; hey, it's all good, after all, look how happy and ready to get rowdy in the snow they both look. They work at Tahoe Sands Resort in Tahoe Vista, part of which is in the background.... lots of snow right now, but they have one of the finest sandy beaches at the lake in summer (shameless plug for them).

Cody's hat is made from Red Heart's Light and Lofty, which I find a little stiff, but he really loved the non-itchy feeling and how dense the hat is... the winds can be pretty tough up on the mountain and he wanted a hat that blocked more of it than the white Sirdar earflap hat he got at Christmas (have to save that for spring riding).

Nikki and I came home through Nevada City, where we stopped at my LYS, Meadowfarm Yarn Studio, and ran into my co-worker, Jade, and her mother, both excited at the prospect of getting together for tomorrow's first Stitch n' Bitch... Jade was purchasing yarn to begin her very first sweater! I am looking forward to being able to help and encourage her through.

Nikki does not knit (she looked a little sheepish, no pun intended, when the clerk asked, but admitted that I had taught all three of my children when they were wee, using home-made wood dowel needles and chunky wools... she even made herself a pair of mittens which we felted), so she got the GOOD DAUGHTER rating for browsing around with me. Her high marks as daughter earned her the promise of a scarf when she found a ball of Sirdar Snuggly Confetti in her favorite shade of pink (the red scarves and shrug come first, I promise). She also put in a request for gloves, since she wears a hat only in extreme necessity, even after all these years of mountain winters, preferring hoods on her coats. We fondled Debbie Bliss' Cashmerino, but she is allergic to wool, so I decided to locate the pattern first and then the yarn (how could I be having such a sensible moment in a yarn store?!)

Friday, January 28, 2005

Even knitters have troubles...

I have had a very hard time coming to terms with the fact that my beloved Jack Russell terrier, Duncan (a.k.a., Duncan Disorderly, Duncan Public, etc.) ran off two weeks ago and hasn't returned. The chances are very high, considering where I live and the time of year, that some fatal accident has befallen him and that is the hardest part: to accept that I will never again be greeted by his happy loyalty, or have him jump and turn flips off my leg, or watch him jump after light motes in sheer joy. I have borrowed this story from my e-pal Andi's website:

Rainbow Bridge

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge . . .

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here,
that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all
of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty
of food and water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All of the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and
vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again,
just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.

The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing: they miss
someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops
and looks into the distance. The bright eyes are intent; the eager body quivers.
Suddenly, one begins to break away from the group, flying over the green grass,
legs running faster and faster. YOU have been spotted, and when you and your
special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted
again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved
head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from
your life but never absent from your heart.


Thursday, January 27, 2005

Surprise Hat

I whipped this earflap hat up in a couple of hours the past few evenings, feeling guilty that I had promised to make it for my son's co-worker, Keith, and hadn't gotten around to it yet.. we are planning to go over to Lake Tahoe tomorrow, so thought I better get to it!

The shrug is still on the WIP list, but only needs about 2/3 of the second sleeve, then blocking and finishing. -- just sent me a tip about Clover blocking pins (I thought they were diaper pins in her blog photo!) so I am going looking for them this weekend in anticipation of being ready for that stage early next week. I will probably finish up a second earflap hat, this one for Cody, today and work on Red Scarfs while I am gone, but then hustle to finish the shrug before my package of yarn from JoAnns arrives.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Charity Knitting and Free Shipping

Today is the last day to take advantage of JoAnn's latest free shipping offer... I placed an order yesterday so that I can get started on a shawl as a part of the Prayer Shawl Ministry. The way this charity knitting project works is that you make a shawl for a person you know or a stranger that is ill or in crisis, putting in healing intentions and prayers as you knit(depending upon your spiritual view of the world). There are church groups working together and also individuals making items on their own and sending them to other organized craft charities.

The shawl ministry website lists some possible recipients for your work and the best charity crafting website I have found, Bev's Country Cottage, also has a comprehensive directory of charity knitting groups. Many shawls for the ministry program are made with Lion Brand's Homespun, as it is very soft, hypo-allergenic, has a wide range of hues, and is washable. Their website is currently offering a "prayer shawl kit" with yarn and
the book Knitting Into the Mystery, by Susan S. Izard and Susan S. Jorgensen, but this kit does not directly benefit the group, so I would recommend going to the source so that their project benefits from your money.

I ordered enough in their Antique color scheme to make a shawl for a friend recovering from a serious illness. I also have a pocket shawl ready to send off, and will write up the pattern I created for it and post it here soon. I like the idea of pockets to keep a hanky, candy, whatever stashed away while you read in your chair, and came up with this pattern after seeing a polarfleece version in the Vermont Country Store catalog two years ago.

The other charity project I added to my WIP list today is the Red Scarf Project, started by LisaMiller of Charlotte, NC to raise money for Chinese orphans. She has asked knitters to make a scarf, predominantly red, to be sold as part of her fund-raising and humanitarian efforts to help Chinese orphans... she and her husband will be adopting a Chinese orphan child later this year, but in June she will be going to China to pitch in first-hand, helping with preschool learning activities. I was very moved by her story, and hope you will be too, and quickly knit up a red scarf. As a start, check out this lovely Opera Scarf at Blue Sky Alpacas!

Monday, January 24, 2005

Red Stole Finished

Close up of red stole pinned together as a cape

I took the red stole off the needles last night, and was shocked to find that it was about eight feet long (well, something close, as I could drape it around my neck and each end almost touched the ground - I am 5'3"). Where did I go wrong here? I realized that even though I had cast on and knitted based on my original swatch, the weave of the fabric was very loose and stretchy - almost as if the stole "grew" once off the needles. One of my eyelash/fur scarves has done this steadily as I have worn it over the winter.... it is possible to stretch the width back to what it should be and take up the length.

I noticed that when I folded the stole in half, doubling it, the length was just about what I wanted... so I went to bed and waited till this evening to make the finishing touches. I used the boucle to single crochet the long edges together into a finished top edge, with the other side of the piece open...

detail of crocheted top edge

I may put fringes on here or on the two narrow ends brought together when I folded the piece in half. For now, I plan to wear the stole tomorrow as a capelet, pinning it together in front with a rhinestone pin that Nikki gave me for Christmas, over a black turtleneck dress.

I think I am done with superlarge needles for the time being!

Stitch n Bitch coming to Alleghany

We will be having our first SnB meeting on Sunday, 30 January at Casey's Place in the afternoon from 1 to 3 PM... the ONLY business besides the post office in the far western portion of Sierra County... there may only be about five of us, but we'll be able to sit around the woodstove and swap stories while we knit. Pictures WILL be forthcoming.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Sunny weekend and a new truck

I haven't gotten much knitting done this weekend; there were too many other things to attend to... we got in with our burros and enjoyed the sun yesterday, brushing them and staking the three trained ones out to munch on the thin winter grass.

I also attended the wedding of my friend Vilina's daughter, Ingrid, to Jeremy. It was a formal evening wedding with a sit-down dinner and was very lovely. The vows reflected the equality I expect in a marriage, and I will have to get them from Vilina in case I am called upon to officiate at a wedding again (I did marry a couple in their wedding at the Forest City Dance Hall about six years ago, when their minister couldn't make the date they had set). It was quite unexpected to see that the favorite red she had chosen for her bridesmaids was the deep red of roses and the same color that dominates my Red Shawl. I was a little sorry that it wasn't finished to wear, but I had worn a blouse of the same shade so I fit right in with the decor!

I also picked up the needed skein of Relax, and knitted some on the shawl when I got home. I also started on the drop stitch scarf made with Eros, while having a coffee and waiting between the time the yarn store closed and the wedding commenced... the ribbon yarn is a bit slippery, and once again I find myself knitting English instead of Continental to help keep the stitches on the needle. I took two size 10 double-points and put tip protectors on them to make a pair of short scarf needles, but am so accustomed to using circulars for everything that I still find it a little awkward. I knitted on that scarf a bit while we were waiting and negotiating at the car dealer's this morning, and can see that it will go very quickly, even if it is only the project waiting in the car for those away-from-home knitting opportunities.

We spent the entire day gone, dealing with the car-switch we had been working towards. Here is a photo of our new car which we picked

up in Chico today... getting rid of the Honda Civic and being able to pull the burro trailer and haul hay! Jesse went along with us and drove the Jeep back home, and is excited that he now gets to purchase the Honda from us, and start driving it... though a little sad to need to give up his old, less-reliable Honda.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Did you know your family could have its own Aran design?

This was a surprise to me... but I stumbled upon a site where you can find Aran designs that are family-linked the same way a plaid tartan is in Scotland... course you have to have Irish ancestors for this to work, but check it out. There are examples of many fabulous combinations of Aran stitches, but no patterns.

And what about those Works In Progress?

My two main WIPs are coming along briskly, except that I came to a stopping point on the Red Stole when I ran out of GGH Relax. This is the coral-red fluffy stuff that is providing some distinction in the rows (they call it "raspberry", which are running width-wise instead of the usual narrow rows. I emailed Meadowfarm to see if they have any left, and they are holding a skein for me... can't go get it today because it is Ani Ann's birthday party (Eliane Bolle Campbell, daughter of my friend Robin, who runs the Good Years' Childrens and Families Center along with my daughter Nikki). So, I guess I won't be wearing it to the wedding I am attending tomorrow evening. Sigh...

The other fast-moving project is the teal shrug I am working up in Horstia Mogador... I have only 4 inches on the back left and then the second sleeve will follow rapidly as it is a steady process of decreases. I like this all-in-one-piece project!

Thursday, January 20, 2005

What ABOUT Fun Fur?

I was surfing through some knitting blogs yesterday and came upon Beth's posts about Fun Fur and starting up "Knitters Against Fun Fur"; go to her posts and decide which button design you want to wear.

But what about Fun Fur? Yes, it is yet another silly fashion trend, along with a return of leg warmers (I thought those would never resurface) and the steady lowering of pant waistlines to the point where girls will have to go back to skipping underwear entirely, as there won't be any room for a thong! I also agree that some of these scarfs look best on 8 year olds, and wonder why people don't just use alpaca if they want something soft around their necks.

That said, I have to admit that I have made (and worn) two novelty yarn scarfs for myself, along with a chenille scarf for a friend of my daughter's, a mohair one for one of my sons' girlfriends, and a Chincilla neck warmer for my mother-in-law, all in the past few months. They were quick and easy and everyone loves and wears theirs. I returned to the high school where I teach after the Christmas holidays to find several people wearing variations of the fun fur scarf... one of our former staffers, who is an awesome crafty granny/mentor to many of us, decided to make several in favorite colors for the fashionistas on our staff. She must have poured a lot of love into this project, since everyone had their favorite color on. Another staffer had learned to knit over the vacation, and while snowed in, managed to complete her own first version, combining wool knitting worsted with a novelty fur. She was so proud of her efforts, and couldn't wait to start on another project, having me teach her both the purl stitch and how to make yarn over stitches last week.

These little stories point out two validations for the existence of such novelty yarns. First, when someone loves you enough to make a gift they know you will be delighted with (even if it is a fashion trend like fun fur), you are really blessed... and we all need all the blessings that come our way. Second, this is the largest wave of new knitters in decades (you don't have to take my word for it; read No Idle Hands: The Social History of Knitting in America to get a great picture of how knitting has affected our lives over the past several generations.

These new knitters are getting a lot of encouragement and developing a passionate interest in our favorite art form, and I feel an obligation to support and nurture them. That means showing that there are other options than fun fur, and endless opportunities to move beyond simple garter stitch scarfs, but I have had three new knitters (in my tiny county of just over 3,000 people) get excited because they saw someone elses' scarf and wanted to learn to make one for themself.

Yes, it's only a trend.
Yes, the thrift stores are going to be flooded with these scarves in a few years when they aren't the latest hot fashion item.
And, yes, I'm still knitting the beautiful, creative garments that I have loved for so long (below is a photo of my merino wool scarf, made a few years back from yarn from Nordic Fiber Arts, in a diamond lace stitch).

Merino wool scarf

But, opinionated knitters everywhere, keep in mind that there is LOVE in those hand-made scarves, and we were all clueless beginners once (I was five when I first learned to knit and would have DIED for a fur boa). This too shall pass....

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Scrounging for Yarn

I am lucky to be better off financially than just about ever in my entire adult life, but I had to really scrounge for yarn for a few decades and so I decided to include a few tips about picking up yarn at thrift stores and yard sales... yes, you can sucessfully do this, but the best quality is often going to be leftovers from someone elses' finished project. This leads you to lots of striped or colorwork garments, as well as smaller items such as socks, hats and mittens. I also made a few yoked sweaters that were striped, based on four sections that keep increasing and turn into front, back and sleeves... I will have to see if this design is available online; originally got it from an old issue of Threads.

Pink striped sweater made from collection of thrift store yarns

Blue and purple sweater; blue yarn was a thrift store find, while lilac lace inset was left over from another project. I didn't test the color fastness of the blue yarn and it bled slightly into the lilac, so learn from my mistake and test your treasures before using

You also need to become a label reader - just like food shopping. Unfortunately, the yarn industry has been late in coming around to complete labelling (another similarity to the food industry). If you are lucky, you will have the complete fiber content, as well as the weight of the skein, and will be able to tell from how tightly the label band fits if there is a significant amount of the yarn already used up. Now, if you are better than lucky, the label will also have yardage and gauge information, but if not, you can consult the interchangeable yarn table at Vintage Knits to figure out approximately how much treasure you've got. Today's patterns mostly feature accurate information about how much yarn you will need, so you can concoct a design to suit your finds.

The most valuable tip I have about "found" yarns from thrift stores is to pop them into ziplock bags and throw them into the freezer for at least two weeks before using them... this will kill any moth eggs. Wool moths are the bane of knitters everywhere, and I have had to abandon using a skein of what appeared to be perfectly good wool on the surface, but turned out to be chewed through somewhere, producing short, stubby lengths of yarn.

While you are at the thrift stores, keep an eye out for sweaters to purchase for cheap and unravel for their yarn. Mohair is particularly a good one to keep an eye out for... often it will be hand-knit in a large format and will give you a very generous amount of yarn to work with. Check out Ashley's directions and photos on how to unravel a sweater; don't buy those commercial ones with cut and sewn seams, as you will not get a continuous length of yarn.

The toughest find for me to deal with was picking up someone else's knitting bag at a flea market, complete with almost-finished sweater... now do I try to finish it, even though it's not to my taste, do I keep all the other goodies and try to pass the unfinished project along, do I unravel and reuse? That white rayon-looking sweater is still sitting in a bag in my stash room...

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Progress on Red Stole

I have managed to get about eight inches on the red stole done since last night... the yarns turned out to be a little thinner than the original pattern, so I am using size 19 needles and the going is slower than usual to keep 150 slippery stitches on the large needles. I am needing to knit English instead of Continental, but still am close to halfway, so I might get to wear the finished stole to Ingrid's wedding on Saturday after all!

Monday, January 17, 2005

A great day snowboarding at Diamond Peak yesterday - photo by Cody Posted by Hello

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Beautiful Mountain Colors

One of the tasks I did get to this afternoon was winding up my seven ounce skein of Mountain Colors wool/alpaca. The color is called Rosehip, and the texture is very smooth and soft. I had felt a bit too extravagent when I decided to buy this hand-painted yarn, as it is at least a third more expensive to get a hand-painted yarn than a manufacture-dyed one. However, as the thread slipped through my hands while I was winding what turned out to be a ball too large for most cats, I kept admiring the variations of color and the deep, peaceful beauty they conveyed. I realized that I would feel that admiration and peace all through working up the shawl, and long after, every time I wore it. It will be the earthy foundation to which the glitzy, brighter yarns will be added, and serve as an anchor to the entire piece.

I was very grateful to the two women who created Mountain Colors, for their dedication to producing beauty for fiber artists to work with... why make something if it isn't beautiful? If you haven't seen their yarns, check out their site and find a source near you. And thank them!

Lost package from Patternworks arrives

Patternworks saves the day! After my call and their tracing my lost package, I had a replacement in two days... and they paid the postage this time - why they are one of my favorite online knitting resources.

Learn to Knit CD and Eros yarn for yet another scarf Posted by Hello

Friday, January 14, 2005

Generosity in the face of disaster

I have been working on a blogging unit with some of my high school students, and we spent a lot of time going through sites on MSNBC's Resources on Asia's deadly tsunami. There was some very powerful stuff there, and it overwhelmed all of us to see the photos of the destruction. We were also impressed by how much of the information was from personal blogs, rather than media networks. To me, that is a reflection on the generosity of the human spirit... I can't weigh in on the criticism over whether President Bush was a slacker in getting out aid from America, and I haven't been able to keep up with what types of fund-raising and benefits are going on in other countries, but I can certainly see a huge desire to provide grass-roots help here in America.

Both of my two schools have less than 100 students, and yet each student body mounted their own fund-raisers... I am sure that is going on in schools throughout the country. Our local coffee shop owner (North Fork Coffee Company in Downieville) picked a day to donate all her sales, and so did one of the shops in Nevada City (Asylum Down, actually, she committed to three days' worth of sales, over $7000). I live in a pretty narrow world, but am seeing that it is a reflection of the greater culture, where lots of big-scale fund-raisers are taking place.

I found another knitter who developed and was selling a sock pattern through her blog, and donated $421 so far to the Red Cross, and also located Bloggers Without Borders, a forum for bloggers to get involved and collect funds. To me, this is a reflection of the fact that most people want to do good, and will if presented with ways they can be of help. I am sure there are tons more similar stories out there... share yours with me.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

A Visit to the Yarn Shop

I got a call yesterday from Eileen at my LYS, Meadowfarm Yarn Studio, to let me know that my Trio order had arrived. This was much sooner than either she or I expected, but I still had to run down there and get it after work this afternoon. I also scoped out the place to see if I could come up with a good combination to make the Red Isis Stole in Knitting Goddess... I couldn't resist the hand-dyed Mountain Colors alpaca blend in deep reds as my base thread, and found an eyelash called Dazzlelash in bright red, as well as two different ribbon yarns in sparkly reds. I was a little stumped on the last of the threads... the pattern originally called for a DK weight choice, and there just wasn't something to match, but I decided to take a chance on a coral-colored boucle that had a very soft hand and worked well with the alpaca... for a piece such as this, I don't think the slight size difference will make a problem. This stole will be somewhat loose-woven, made up on size 15 needles, with double stranding to include the various yarns alongside the main color. I can't wait!

Yarn store purchases Posted by Hello

A whole package of Trio waiting to be knitted into a bolero Posted by Hello

Teaching Knitting

Cheryl snapped a photo of me showing Jade how to work a drop stitch pattern, and was so excited that the kids at recess got to see us making something with our hands. I did have to tell her and one of my high school students that it was ironic that there weren't enough students at the high school to have a regular class to teach that period, but here I was teaching knitting!

Jade started a scarf shown in Stitch and Bitch Nation, using Trendsetter Aquarius in pinks and purples. The drop stitch will show off the ribbon yarn very well. After trying it out and beginning to learn the stitch, she decided to use a fuchia boucle for the two plain knitted rows in the four-row pattern to set off the ribbon yarn and give a little more substance to the scarf. I will get a picture of her finished product.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

The Magic Poncho Generator and other useful links

I found a really cool Poncho Generator at Bev's Country Cottage... also worth browsing for tons of other cold-weather items to make, both knit and crochet.

Decision to close Pliocene

My friends and family have been following the fight that students, staff, families and community of Pliocene Ridge have been mounting to keep the school open. There have been lots of meetings, and the last SPJUSD School Board meeting, in Downieville in December saw a big percentage of Ridge supporters in attendance and arguing against closure. We were able to get the School Board to postpone the decision till January and allow the Reconfiguration Committee to meet once more.

That meeting was held on Monday evening, and after two hours of discussion, some pretty heated, the committee agreed to recommend keeping the K-5 program open. This would allow the school to grow again, once there is a bigger population. I was grateful to hear District Superintendent Mike Fillipini acknowledge that information I and others had provided about the differences in home sales, commutable distance to Nevada City, etc. had influenced him to consider it important to keep a school open, even in a reduced configuration.

The School Board met last night in Loyalton, after some of the worst winter weather in recent years. Some of us were able to participate at Pliocene Ridge by teleconference. That was a rather stressful way to participate, straining to hear, trying to get the Chairman's attention if you wanted to speak, being unable to see what was going on at the other end, but it was far better than driving 70 miles on treacherous mountain roads.

In the end, the Board members who were not on the Reconfiguration Committee agreed to accept the concensus of the Committee to vote for the K-5 program next year. I was relieved to see people be able to listen and compromise, but it does mean that now I know for certain that I will have to look for another job. I would still be able to work at Downieville High part-time, but would no longer be eligible to get health benefits, which is really the deeper cut to our daily lives. Time to get creative and figure out what the next thing is.....

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Animated Knitting Help

I ordered a learn to knit CD from Patternworks for Scarlet as part of her Christmas gift, along with the yarn and needles we picked up locally, and even though I ordered it on December 20th, it hadn't arrived yet. I called customer service today, and learned that my package was languishing in San Francisco... how can they find these things out and yet the post office there can't manage to send it on? Well, one of my fellow list-mates on Knitting for Cheap sent this link, to animated knitting instructions, making me wonder if I should have just cancelled the order outright! (Actually, there's also a little, special ball of yarn in there for me!) These animations are little cartoons that go through the motions of particular stitches; very cool!

Interchangeable Yarns and Amounts Needed

Yesterday, I was coaching Jade on her knitting (she is the second person in a week that I have taught to purl). She asked how to know how much yarn to buy, and it got me thinking about some resources for her and other people with this dilemma. Seems like most people are making scarves for their first several projects, and actually, that has been a recommended first project in just about forever, but now the yarns are prettier and have more textures to choose from. It is pretty easy to find a chunky-weight yarn that you like, and equally easy to find a starting pattern. The Lion Yarn website has a cool chart that shows their yarns and several types of projects - scarf and hat, socks, baby blanket, vest, sweater - with approximate skeins to buy in each of their yarns. That is a pretty good indicator, but what if the yarn you want isn't a Lion yarn, and is different than the yarn listed?

If you already can tell the difference in yarn weights (they range from extra-chunky through chunky, bulky, worsted, DK, sport and fingering), then you can use the yardage listed on the wrapper for the yarn given in the pattern, figure out the total yards needed, then get the same yardage in a yarn of the same weight group. It is really handy that more and more manufacturers are giving the yardage on the product label, as well as suggested needle size, which helps you figure out which category. This is also the case with magazines such as Knitters, Vogue Knitting and Interweave Knits. Keep in mind that the weight category refers to the yarn knitting up to approximately the same gauge, but it might not give you the same look and feel as the original choice. That's where asking an expert comes in handy, whether a fellow knitter or a pro at your LYS (local yarn shop).

Get yourself on the Patternworks catalog list, and start reading it, as they do the best job I have seen of sorting out yarns by weight group, and they provide the yardage information for each item in their catalog
. Paper is still better than virtual sometimes, because you can flip back and forth and compare and look at the larger color pictures, but sometimes the best thing is to go in to your LYS and ask for help in coming up with a substitution. Most dealers keep interchangeable yarn charts on hand to show what would make a good substitution. They will also have seen some of the yarns to let you know if the "hand" (feel and drape) is going to be the same. I haven't been able to locate an interchangeable chart on the web yet, but will keep looking and post it. I relied heavily on such charts when I was younger, as I couldn't afford the high-priced fancy stuff.

For the past twenty years, I have lived too remotely for LYS help, and have done a lot of mail order, so I needed to know at least what general category and make substitutions based on what is available. Patterns written with very specific yarns in mind often become outdated, in that the yarns listed, especially if they are "fancy" or seasonal introductions, often go out of stock. There are others like them on the market, if you know what the original yarn was like. New yarn is being introduced all the time, and you will want to be able to include something you happen upon into your work successfully.

Learn as much as you can about fiber content and how the different fibers feel and work up, so that you can match the yarn you select with the item you plan to make... socks need to be made out of a hardier yarn than a shawl, for example. That is why it is so great to see a resurgence of LYS's in towns throughout the country; they are there to provide you with tactile stimulation and experience! Go to the public events so that you can see what other people are making, and so you can touch the yarns. This is one of the best parts of being a knitter.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

New Knitting Project

Now that my Christmas gifts are finished, I decided to start making the Arachne shrug in The Knitting Goddess (by Deborah Bergman and published about four years ago, just as knitting was taking off as the "in" thing to do with your spare time. I didn't find this book to be a very easy reference for a new knitter, but I really love to re-read the sections on mythology associated with the crafts of thread, and this is the second design I have used out of the book, so it was a worthwhile purchase for me.

I had purchased the Horstia yarn, in a light teal, three years ago on Ebay, and thought maybe I would try to find it in black instead last month, but after a lot of online searching, had to concede that, since it isn't being made any longer, I probably won't find the four skeins I need. Then, I tried to take the light teal and make a lacy capelet featured in Stitch and Bitch Nation, but it just wasn't the right yarn for the design, which I wasn't enjoying making, anyway (I didn't like the wrap-thingie that was part of the lace sequence). I will be keeping an eye out for a capelet pattern and a pale aquamarine yarn to make a capelet to go with one of my re-enactment costumes, but frogged what I had done yesterday, and pulled out the shrug pattern and got started. What better way to spend a snowy/rainy afternoon?

Here is the first sleeve of the shrug... variegated cuff, twisted stockinette teal body, with 6x6 square of variegated with a grey bobble in the middle. Posted by Hello

Here is my revised WIP List:

Denim Jacket Cardigan for Glenn.. partly done and stored in the cedar chest.

Teapot Sweater.. light moss green cotton with intarsia design of a teapot on the back, but I can't locate it. This design is from Vogue Knitting. I started this about ten years ago and the sleeves are done as well as part of the front. I hope it turns up in one storage location.

Knit Patchwork Vest .. this was a design from Knitters' Magazine that I started about eight years ago. Made the plain back and one of the fronts. I will probably finish this one eventually, but kind of dread the thought of doing the embroidery embellishments.

Rainbow baby jacket... from one of Elizabeth Zimmerman's patterns, published in Vogue Knitting awhile back. I just saw the baby I was originally making this for about a month ago... he is now going on five and has two younger siblings. If/when I ever get it done, am hoping there will be a grandchild coming into our lives to receive it.

Chenille Pillow.. started three years ago, but my decorating scheme for our bedroom changed this summer when we finally finished it. I am looking around for a nice tank/shell pattern to channel my effort into something I can wear, because it is one of my favorite colors, a garnet-red.

Silver Mohair Jacket .. this is a sad case; all I need to do is complete the button band and finish seaming up. I just hate finishing. I plan to get back to this after Christmas.

Brown sport-weight socks ... these I started a few years ago, when I couldn't figure out what else to use a batch of Unger Britiania that I found at a thrift store.. enough yarn for part of a shetland-style sweater, but I didn't like it enough. I have the heel turned on the first sock.

Denim wool clogs... I just got the yarn for these this fall, and have to felt my gauge swatch, and then can get cranking on these, which will go quickly.

I rounded up two separate gold mixes to make a narrow scarf using triangular motifs from Module Magic, written by Ginger Luters. I bought her book at my LYS back in late October, when she was there for a book-signing (lives in Nevada City), and it is way cool! I just need to sit down for a whole day and absorb through doing the process of making and interconnecting modules.. I have a feeling that once I do that I will be able to just fly with this technique and try to go several directions at once. I will write a review of this book as soon as I have made my first project. In the meantime, you can learn more about it here: http://www.stitchesmarket.com/xcart/customer/product.php?productid=6804&cat=%20&page=1 The photos alone are worth it and great eye candy for knitters.

I would also like to make a bolero from Crystal Palaces' new "Trio" yarn and had my LYS, MeadowFarm Yarn Studio order the yarn for me. I am hoping to be done with the shrug and ready to start on the bolero when the yarn arrives.

I also found a very cute short-sleeved top pattern in the latest Berroco e-newsletter (http://www.berroco.com/234/234_sylvia_pv.html, made from Glace, that I just might add to the list, if I can get over the high cost of buying their pattern book, or just plain get around to drafting it out myself.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Update on Happy the Donkey

I was pleased to have an email waiting for me when I returned home from vacation from Crystal Ward, who has been following Happy the Donkey's plight (see my post of 12/17/04). She forwarded this story from the Sacramento Bee, announcing that the judge had ruled that Happy's owners were not liable for his braying! http://www.sacbee.com/content/news/story/11889677p-12776552c.html Yeaahhh!!

Accepted to Teenwork

Best news of the week was that our application to present a workshop on the Wilderness Challenge program at Teenwork in Los Angeles in March was accepted! I will be taking Kayla Wharton, a senior at Downieville High, and Morgan McKinney and Nick Roberts, a freshman and sophomore at Loyalton High with me, and they will have to do the actual talking, but we will all be working together over the next few months to build a multi-media presentation about this unique outdoor program, which I believe gives a very strong youth leadership training to those who stick with us for several summers, as these three have. I will be posting some photos of past outings, but we have done so many different things. We hike on average two to three days a week all summer in the Gold Lakes Basin area, as well as backpacking trips to Wades' Lake, Caribou Wilderness (east of Mount Lassen National Park), rock climbing, and, one of the best-ever outings for me, kayaking on Lake Tahoe last summer (this outing included an overnight camp at the boat-in-only campground located on Emerald Bay). We have snowshoed in winter, and I have led lots of snowboarding outings in the past four years, but the multi-day summer events and the ropes courses with our colleague, Mike Selby of Project Discovery, have been the strongest leadership trainings.

I am excited that we get to bring this information to people all over the state.

This photo of Kayla (top) and I (bottom) was taken at our evening campsite during our Lake Tahoe kayak trip; note how sunburnt Kayla's legs got! Posted by Hello

Monday, January 03, 2005

Tribute to the burro

The burro just doesn't get much respect in our culture, so I was pleased to find a nice little exhibit at the county museum in Tonopah, Nevada, honoring the burro's contributions to the mining boom era. This poem accompanied a painting by Paul Gregg, Post staff artist, dated 1947

Lest We Forget
by Gene Lindberg of the Denver Post Staff

Have we forgotten what he did?
He didn’t need a road.
On any trail a man could climb,
The jack could pack a load
Drill steel and dynamite and beans
Came up, and then his chore
Was plodding back downtrail again
With sacks of precious ore.
And his reward? Sometimes the cook,
If he hung ‘round the shack,
Would deal him out cold pancakes from
The bottom of the stack.
Have we forgotten what he did
To start this mining game?
He ought to be in clover or
At least the hall of fame!

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Our epic trip to Death Valley

We left for our vacation on December 25th,a few hours after everyone else in the family had departed their various ways, and spent the first night in Yerington, Nevada. I had hoped to find the fellow with lots of donkeys at a trailer park, who sponsors the Weed Heights Donkey Days and Donkey Baseball Tournament each year, but didn't suceed and we wanted to be on our way as our goal was to be in Beatty by nightfall and enter Death Valley National Park the next morning.

On the way out of Yerington, we had to stop for a few photo ops...

Glenn just loved this old plane, parked at the Yerington airport. Posted by Hello

This is an old highway tunnel, paralleling Nevada Highway 95, just south of Yerington Posted by Hello

We made good time but the weather grew increasingly cloudy. We got to Beatty by 4:00 PM, in time to visit the Park Interpretive Center, buy our week-long pass, and a terrific guidebook to pore over (The Explorer's Guide to Death Valley National Park, by T. Scott Bryan and Bettey Tucker-Bryan).

We ate at the Exchange Club , one of the oldest buildings still standing in Beatty, and had the good fortune to stop at their bar for a beer first. There, we met the bartender, Jim, who had moved to Beatty in his retirement because he just loved the history of the place. Of course, after we ate, we had to return and pick his brain. He told us of a few more obscure ghost towns and how to get there, as well as where to go to view wild burros, which he said were also making their way into town regularly, now that the weather was so cold and other areas closed off to them by snow.

The next morning, I walked around the town for about an hour, hoping to see some wild burros close up, but without any luck. We headed out to an area south of town, near the airstrip, and did see two wild ones.

Then, we headed five miles north and visited the site of Pioneer, an early mining boom town long gone.

We found this garbage pile of green glass at Pioneer. Posted by Hello

On our way into the park, we stopped at Rhyolite, one of the more famous Western ghost towns, perhaps because its railroad station is still standing and is such a distinctive building. It is also famous for a great example of a bottle house (walls are bottles stacked on their sides with adobe chinked in between). http://www.beattynevada.org/beattycentennial/rhyolite.html

We crossed over the summit and could finally see Death Valley stretching out before us, and were simply awestruck by the vastness of the place. It is desolate and empty, and of course, teeming with life... but we didn't see much in the way of plant life. The storms that hit the next day will produce a showy bloom of wildflowers in the coming week, but we will miss it. We drove through the small resort communities of Furnace Creek and Stovepipe Wells, and decided that camping in either place would be too civilized. We did stop at the main Interpretive Center in Furnace Creek, where we learned a lot about the geology and history of the region, as well as viewed startling photos of damage done by flash flooding on August 16, 2004. Those photos would serve us well later, when the rains started.

We spent quite a bit of time in the late afternoon winding our way up Emigrant Canyon, which had magnificant, colorful formations. We looked for a few old ghost towns on the map, but mainly ruled out camping in that area, as the campsites that were far enough above the washes were also at about 5,000 feet elevation, too cold for this time of year. We headed back to Stovepipe Wells and ten miles across the Valley floor, then up Cottonwood Canyon, where we camped at dark. It was so silent there that Glenn could hear the bubbles popping in an opened bottle of beer, and I could hear the blood whooshing in my ears. We weren't that easy about the spot though, as the clouds thickened, and moved about midnight to a high point overlooking the Valley floor, where we could see the lights of Stovepipe Wells, ten miles away, but knew we would be safe if the rains got heavy. Smart move in the end, as it sprinkled through the night, and then a real downpour started about 7 A.M. We were warm and cozy in our little tent, but decided that we could forego cooking a breakfast, foraging on the various snack items we had while we packed up our gear, then headed back to Stovepipe Wells, and up to Scotty's Castle for the day, figuring a tour in a dry building would be a bright idea, considering the weather, which we (at that point) assumed would be short-lived. Turns out, it stormed the rest of the week!

Glenn waves from the Jeep as we work our way towards Scotty's Castle over partially flooded roads Posted by Hello

Flooding on Death Valley floor; 28 December 2004 Posted by Hello

Scotty's Castle in the snow; 28 December 2004 Posted by Hello

More views of Scotty's Castle in the snow...

Snow on the palm trees Posted by Hello

Courtyard Posted by Hello

Picnic area Posted by Hello For more information about Scotty's Castle, visit the National Park Service website

After being forced out of Death Valley by the flooding, we spent the night on Tuesday 12/28 in Beatty once again, then headed north on Nevada Highway 95. We stopped in Goldfield to get some photos. We were surprised to see it had snowed eight inches since we had been there just three days before.

Goldfield Courthouse, now abandoned Posted by Hello

Goldfield Hotel side view Posted by Hello
The Goldfield Hotel has been abandoned for many years, but was purchased at a tax sale in August 2003, and moderate renovation is underway in attempts to reopen this once-sumptuous building. This article from the Wall Street Journal last month details the plans: http://www.realestatejournal.com/regionalnews/west/20041215-anders.html

We continued to Tonopah, where we stopped to visit the county museum. The weather was gray and it had snowed about eight inches overnight - we were probably the museum's only visitors that day. That is where I found the only burro museum exhibit we have ever come across (and we are dedicated hole-in-the-wall museum visitors), and you can view "Tribute to a Burro" in a separate post.

We decided to head north over Highway 6 to Ely, which is about the emptiest road we traveled during the entire trip. We stopped at Warm Springs, about half-way between Tonopah and Ely, where we spotted this awesome stone corral. My chewing burros would be stymied! Posted by Hello

The sun was out but the wind was cold. The Warm Springs resort looked abandoned for several years but the swimming pool fence had been neatly cut open and folded back and obviously continued to host bathers. There is about a quarter-mile trench winding downhill from the spring's source itself to the small swimming pool. We hiked up to the source, but it was too hot to enter. Posted by Hello

We arrived in Ely after dark (which isn't really saying much this time of year, when sunset is around 4:30 P.M.!) and decided to stay at the Hotel Nevada, a six-story antique structure right downtown, which has been lovingly restored over the past ten years and still had the cheapest rooms we found on our whole trip ($29.99 for a room with double bed, antiques and a view of the snowy hillside). The casino down below was hopping, but not so noisy that we could hear it up there on the top floor.

Our main stop in Ely the next day was a lengthy tour of the Nevada Northern Railway and adjacent Museum. The folks there were very helpful and generous in sharing their time with us, even though it was off-season, and holiday week.

Locomotive being serviced at the Northern Nevada Railroad Museum in Ely Posted by Hello

The other fascinating thing about Ely was all of the large murals decorating the downtown area, and depicting aspects of Ely's history and culture. There must have been at least a dozen, the work of the Ely Renaissance Society. My favorite was of a Basque sheedherder and flock. While driving around the side streets, we stumbled upon a very old (as in 1900 era) motor court of cabins that is being rehabilitated into an arts education center by the Society.

The weather was getting colder and windier by the moment, and we were somewhat concerned about the incoming storms predicted and how long it might take to cross the state, so on Thursday afternoon, we headed to Eureka, arriving at our now-traditional hour of dusk. Eureka looks like a pretty interesting place, with lots of cool historic buildings, a year-round indoor swimming facility and a few hotel-casinos, but it was so cold that we didn't even want to DRIVE our way around the walking tour. We ate at the Owl Bar and Restaurant across from our motel, and also had a beer at the local Clamper bar (which was a real dive, unfortunately), and then headed for the warmth of our room. We watched periodically as snow swirled around outside our window and it appeared that the street lamp would blow over, but there was not a signifant accumulation of snow when we arose Friday morning. The conditions looked bad though, and we knew that we wouldn't be making it to a party in Downieville that night.

We headed off to Austin in a snowstorm, taking about twice as long as normal to get there. We sure didn't envy the one little 2-wheel drive car we passed, as we drove consistently over roads covered with at least an inch of snow, and blowing winds of snow severely reducing visibility. We were happy to stop in Austin for a late breakfast, where we were met with about two feet of snow. We also stopped off at the rock shop we had visited last spring, looking for garnets and joking with the owner about how there was just too much snow to pick up any garnets at the area noted for them outside of Ely. I found a few garnet geodes to take home and also bought a bracelet with seven different types of stone set in it. It was a respite from the storm, but we had to get going again, so headed for Fallon.... 110 miles away. We were happy to see the weather steadily improve.

Between Fallon and Fernley, we happened upon Gateway Antiques, where we purchased an antique burro pack saddle to display in the Forest City Museum, and a copy of Loafing Along Death Valley Trails, by William Caruthers, published in 1951. This used book is a real gem, and I did locate a copy through Amazon's used book service, if anyone is interested.

One thing that I would like to go back and try is sandboarding...