A View from Sierra County

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

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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


Saturday, April 30, 2005

Saga of a Hat that Fits

When I posted yesterday, I was so excited about this hat. I was making up some Lorna's Laces Shepherd worsted weight yarn in a hand-dyed version of camoflauge. How could I go wrong? The yarn was sublime, the pattern was from Stitch and Bitch Nation, and was going smoothly and quickly. How was I to know?

Here's a close up of the cable detail on the camo hat. Posted by Hello

Cody models the camo hat, close to the decrease stage, according to the original pattern. Posted by Hello

With his input, I decided at this point to add another repeat of the cable in order to add length. I felt so confident at this stage, thinking how quickly the decreasing goes; I knew I would have it finished last night. We kept trying it on him as I worked, and came to the conclusion that it was going to turn out too short to cover his ears!

I was frustrated because over the years, this has often been the case. I can't figure out if my family just has big heads, or if those patterns are knitted up for "show" hats (as in to look cute, but not to keep you warm in a
blizzard). We have lived in the Sierras for 19 years, and the winter weather is pretty chilly. We also like to snowboard and snowshoe and you really need a hat that covers your ears. I tinked back to the original decrease and added a few rows. It STILL was too short. It was also 11:00 PM and I knew I was not at my best for more reworking. It was obvious that I would have to tink back to the first decrease row, and add another cable repeat to get the extra inch and a half I wanted.

I spent the morning undoing my work. It sure took a lot longer than I thought it would. I finally had the additional cable repeat in and started on the decreases once again. This time, when I had Cody try it on, it was much more likely to work the way my family likes their hats.

I took a break and ran over to North San Juan to get some veggies at our local, organically-oriented markets, Mother Truckers' and Master's Market at Ananda. I also stopped in at the Ananda Thrift Store, which the school children there run, and I found a partial ball of Anne Blatt Salsa, a viscose, linen and cotton blend in the Coquillage colorway. It will make great trim for some scarf.

I came back home determined to wrestle this hat to completion. I had had enough with this tinking around. It was going to get finished! Within the hour!

I was pretty pleased with the results. Cody was ecstatic.

Here's Cody, modeling his finished hat. And it does cover his ears! Posted by Hello

Cody wanted me to include this picture that shows the cables well. Posted by Hello

Friday, April 29, 2005

Nifty Do It Yourself Sock Blockers

I wanted to post a picture of the progress I have made on Cody's camoflauge beanie (hat to the rest of us), and he even posed with it on, but then we discovered that my DH Glenn had taken my camera with him overnight, and the USB cable lives in the camera case (so I won't lose it - OF COURSE!). Our photos will just have to wait and be turned into the continuing saga of how the hat got finished tonight, as I am starting on the decreasing and will probably power through to the finish line on this one.

So, instead, I am going to console my meager following with this really cool idea, making your own sock blockers out of those inexpensive, plastic-coated hangers you have lying around. The photos on this site are very clear, and any one of us could muscle around a plastic hanger to get the right shape. It even comes with a handy-dandy hook to hang your newly-finished sock and get a photo for that blog. This site was forwarded to me by one of the members of the sock machine list, so I can't even take any credit for that part. TGIF.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Change v. Stagnance

Two small items have come into my life from the great outside world in the past 12 hours, causing me to ponder the role of change in my knitting and in the rest of my life.

The first was a segment of Stephanie "Yarn Harlot" Pearl-McPhee's bookbookbook about meeting a woman who was 65 and had knitted for almost her entire life, but only knew one cast on, one style of increase, etc... in other words, having lived all that time and made all those knitted objects the SAME way, missing out of the rich adventure of knitting.

The other item was two brief stories I heard on Morning Edition (NPR-KXJZ, Sacramento), one about about the ongoing crisis in the Episcopal Church and the other discussing how some Egyptians are growing tired of President Mubarek and yearning for a change. Now, I am not a Episcopalian (I'm not even sure I can spell it right), but I have been following the stories coming out in the past few years about various churches voting to leave their Episcopal diocese because they felt that the church body was straying too far from the biblical teachings. My interpretation in following these stories is that there is getting to be a deep division between conservative and liberal (or, from my point of view, humanitarian) Christians, which is now leading to these churches reconfiguring themselves.

The Egyptians are also at a crossroads, with Mubarak asking the Parliament back in February to pass laws allowing open election. Open elections under his definition are probably different from what we are used to here, but would allow him to continue in power for over 30 years, or may even pave the way for a change.

These stories reminded me that people can make one of two choices when faced with change, either to dig in and hold on to the world that they have got and what they like (and even what they dislike, but feel is familiar), or they can embrace change and gain new insights from it.

I have usually fallen into the latter category. I have seldom been afraid to try a new food or listen to someone else's favorite musical artist. I love to see what is happening with fashion, and have been a technology pioneer over the past twenty years. How have these traits helped me? In my knitting, I have learned a diverse range of styles, can use both English and Continental fluidly, changing back and forth with the needs of the project, or the feel in my hands. I have also been willing to see that there is something I can learn or improve. Sallee has talked me into signing up for a lace class, even though I have been making up lace items for years. The truth is, I am poor at deciphering graphic charts (the ones with symbols, not the colorwork ones) and need some tips and encouragement to get over this hurdle. I am not content to just keep working from written directions, as that would limit the patterns available.

In my work life, I have undergone four major career changes over the years... first I became a nurse, then, after having children and doing some health education on the side, I became a school librarian at my childrens' school. When that job was lost to funding cuts, I became a paralegal, building on college classes I had been taking. Finally, eight years ago, the opportunity came up to become a teacher. I have probably loved that best, but now my teaching position is being cut in half and there just don't seem to be any openings that wouldn't involve a major move (as in selling the house, trying to find a place where we could keep the burros, and parting from the daily support of all our friends, not to mention the prospect of ending up too far away from our adult children). I have had to face that I can either change or become stagnant.

There are advantages to stagnancy. Egypt has remained more stable than much of the rest of the Middle East. Other countries know what to expect if they continue to deal with the same leader. We get used to our work mates and miss them if they leave. We like to know what is going to happen next. I can knit and chat at the same time if I do the same sock over and over.

However, we are missing new life lessons if we don't make room for change. Sometimes, it seems that "surprises" of the unpleasant kind will then come along, forcing us to change, so that we can learn the next new thing we need in our lives. Many times during my current transition period, when people have asked me what I was going to do, I have quoted an old saying I once cross-stitched in a sampler for my aunt "God never closes a door without opening a window". I really do believe that, even if I haven't found the window yet. People have opened a few from the outside, peered in and offered me a hand out over the sill. One such window slammed shut last week, before I could get through. I was heartbroken, but keep reminding myself that I am resilient enough to recover and move on. The other led to what appeared to be quicksand in my world view. I was thankful to opt out.

I am still going up to each new window that appears, and looking out to try to determine if it is the one I should climb through. I have truly loved the job I do as a teacher and it is really hard to let go of that as an identity. I have to remind myself periodically that I am so much more.

Sunday, April 24, 2005


Yesterday, my husband and the black powder parade unit he belongs to marched in the annual Gold Nugget Days Parade in Paradise. Of course, the weather refused to cooperate again this year, with the hardest rain falling right when they were scheduled to march.

While we waited, my friend Ilene and I walked through some of the local shops and the crafts fair that is part of the annual festivities. I discovered this great shop, Knit Wits, which was celebrating its First Anniversary in business with a store-wide sale. Can you say "yarn" and "sale" in the same breath without getting heart palpitations? I know I can't! It was great fun going through the store, partly because they had the widest selection of new yarns for spring I had had a chance to actually touch (remember, the nearest LYS is 25 miles away, and I do a lot of my shopping online). It was also a lot of fun to watch Ilene, a non-knitter, in rapture at all of the delightful colors and textures now available in yarns.

The owners, Terry and Devvy Huggins, bought the yarn and leftover inventory from a man last year, and have brought in many new items. They also had huge plastic bins out front, where they were getting rid of the yarns that came with the shop, some of them no longer identified with labels. Well, I love a challenge, and know my fibers pretty well, so I managed to get some killer deals... enough cherry red mohair blend to make a small triangular scarf/stole for $4.00, a nubby variegated coral cotton for a slim scarf for $1.00, some balls of bright blue perle cotton (actually its probably rayon, and a DK weight) for $3.00, and four possibly partial skeins of a light heather blue wool blend, unlabeled, for $1.00.

My loot from Knit Wits Posted by Hello

Devvy actually got out the long-tipped lighter so that we could test a piece of the blue to see what we thought it was... it flamed up, but went right out, so the two of us agreed that there must be a good deal of wool in it. I liked her right off, as not every shop owner would be brave enough to light a piece of yarn in their crowded store, over a $1.00 sale! I was holding my breath, and hoping I hadn't guessed wrong and was about to be the cause of a great calamity.

Devvy at the register and Terry in the background, keeping Knit Wits going on the anniversary of their first year in business. Posted by Hello

Of course, I couldn't stop entirely with just the mystery yarns, not with everything in the store being 15-20% off for the anniversary. I found some Trendsetter Eyelash in a great turquoise to match the wool that arrived earlier this week from Elann for a purse order I have to start this week, as well as some Lana Gatto Amsterdam, a fluffy polymide yarn that will make a great scarf in combo with the bright blue rayon - for a surprise for Ilene. She was so delighted by the sight and feel of so many yarns, that I had to capture her on film.

Ilene just loved the feel of this scarf. She doesn't know I snatched up some lush yarn to make her one of her own! Posted by Hello

The last item in this photo is a leaflet to make dog sweaters... I just couldn't resist, since I was in the mind frame to be thinking of items to make for our Mountain Harvest crafts coop. My first day tending shop will be at the end of May, on Memorial Day, but I already have a few items in there.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Happy Earth Day!

Today has been designated as Earth Day for the past 35 years. Now, this being a primarily knitting blog, you may wonder what the big deal is, but I decided I would do my part this year by providing some information about how we all can be more Earth-friendly knitters. Some of you may be bailing already, thinking, "I don't WANT anybody telling me to reduce my consumption of yarn!", but hang in here with me for a bit.

The four R's of living in an Earth-friendly manner are "Reduce, Reuse, Restore, and Recycle", and I am going to tell you ways that knitters can do just that.

1. Reduce: I am not asking knitters to reduce their production of knitted goods, but to reduce their push for increased exploitation of resources. Those of you who only use natural fibers are probably glowing right now, thinking, "MY knitting supports family-friendly sheep farms". I hope that is true. Each knitter can and should explore where and how the yarns they are purchasing are made. One the big environmental problems with cotton, for example, is that traditional cotton agriculture employs HUGE amounts of pesticides (bad, bad, bad, in case you didn't know). The trend towards organic cotton has really picked up momentum in the past several years and there are now some great natural-color cotton yarns available. It is also possible to buy direct from many woolen mills, thereby reducing packaging and shipping costs.

Try to track down manufacturers that are close to you, support the handspinners in your area, and re-examine your habits around purchasing the latest goodies and gadgets or patterns and magazines. I know that I personally have about five lifetimes' worth of patterns stored up already, and still fall to the temptation of buying new ones. I have also turned to the Internet for pattern resources, and found some really great stuff, but have to consciously resist the urge to buy yet more yarn/needles/etc. in order to be part of the latest knitalong. I can also cut down on my paper consumption by saving those patterns to the computer hard drive and thinking awhile before printing them off and adding them to already-bulging files of other patterns I printed from the Internet because they were free, but haven't gotten around to making yet. We can all also cut down on our paper usage by taking a really cool felted or market bag to the store to haul those yarn purchases home!

And, for those that are interested, there is still an on-going debate about whether computer technology is more or less resource draining/environmentally friendly, but I will leave that to others to argue.

2. Reuse: Here is where I give out gold stars to those of you who went to the thrift stores and yard sales to pick up your collection of knitting needles, and checked the used book stores for fresh pattern inspiration. I have found some of my favorite knitting books in used book stores over the years. Ebay has also greatly increased the resale market for things like yarn, that someone else purchased but didn't ever get around to using. If you have yarn stashed away that you know you don't like or won't use, think about getting it back into the resource stream... someone else will love it, and they will be reusing a valuable resource. If you don't want to bother selling it on Ebay, take it to your guild or Stitch N' Bitch meeting, or look into donating it to charity knitters in your area.

I am also giving out silver stars today to those who rely on their interchangeable needle sets over and over rather than going out and buying "new, pretty" ones. Guilds who are sharing equipment such as yarn swifts and ball winders also get silver starts. Once our yarn is made up, it is a pretty permanent situation, but if you don't like something, don't be afraid to rip it out and reuse the yarn to make something you will use and love.

3. Restore: I have to admit that this area has given me some trouble as I thought and wrote my way through this post. How do we as knitters go about "restoring"? Well, the obvious one is to rip out and make something new. But, another, and perhaps much more valuable way is that knitting is helping to restore some of the holes in our culture. Whenever people work with their hands, and share hand-made items, they are consuming far less resources than gas-powered machines that could do the same thing, but without the heart that is involved. Knitting is also bringing diverse groups together to share the fun and the wisdom of the craft, and getting at least a segment of our population connecting with each other instead of continuing the isolation that often has plagued our modern, transient way of life. Knitters build community. Good on all of us!

4. Recycle: I hope that every one of us is implementing ways to recycle in all of the areas of our lives, including knitting. We can pass on our left-over yarns, but the power we really have as knitting consumers is to build the demand for yarns made from recycled fibers. Some of the most beautiful and intriguing yarn out on the market today is made from recycled sari silk, either alone or in combination with wool. It is also possible to buy cotton yarn made from industrial cotton pre-consumer waste. Check out Yarn Rescue, a small business built around reclaiming speciality fibers... I have found an increasing number of reclaimed yarns available on Ebay in recent months. If you want to try this yourself, there is a great tutorial on recycling yarn at Neauveau.

If we as knitters don't purchase and use these recycled fibers and other recycled goods, the market to buy materials to create new recycled goods will never grow. When you are about to make a needed purchase, start pondering whether there is a recycled product on the market that will meet the same need.

Now that my sermon is over, go out and celebrate the Earth by enjoying this beautiful, warm, spring day.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Update on Works in Progress

Things have been pretty chaotic, but Cody is recovering nicely and I have kept on working on small projects... here's a list of my WIPs:

Purple Purse: This is an order from my dear fellow Libra/best friend Suzi. I finished the actual purse last night, but Cody was sleeping in our guest room/office/studio and I couldn't get to a second set of needles to do the double bind-off. I am making the handle and then we throw it in the washer!

Denim Felt Clogs: this is the pair for me; one and a half feet done. By that I mean I have one shoe finished and the other one half-done. I would like to finish it tonight as well, so that I can wash it at the same time as the purse.

Irish Hiking Scarf: This was my solace while waiting through Cody's surgery. I am loving this pattern, as it goes along very quickly and keeps me interested. I am also loving this crunchy/soft wool-rayon boucle. I will have to do some net surfing to see what is being made these days that compares to this vintage 1950s yarn. It has a very nice sheen to it and great drape for a scarf. I will post a picture as soon as I figure out where I misplaced the camera while getting the room ready for Cody.

Deep Red Prayer Shawl: This is the one that is languishing, as it is too large to carry around, and I haven't found the time to cut the fringe off the last remaining skein. This is my Knit Red KAL, and I sure don't have much to report to my fellow KAL participants.

Waiting in the wings are a tank top for my daughter, a tank for me (different patterns), a hat for Cody and a pair of felt clogs for my DH, Glenn. On order are yarns for two purses ordered by another friend, and red yarn for Red Hat Society felted purses to sell at Mountain Harvest (we have a little table just to help these lovely ladies spread some of their money around Downieville). I am thinking about building a website for our crafts coop once things settle down to a roar around here.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Always Take Knitting

Nikki and I were getting ready to leave yesterday morning to meet Cody and watch the all-women Nikita Slopestyle Snowboarding competition at Northstar. We had decided not to ride ourselves the night before, because Nikki had tweaked her shoulder somehow during the week, and felt that her balance would be off. I figured we might be doing some sitting around, so I grabbed my traveling knitting bag, and threw it in the car along with snow boots and sunscreens... just another one of the essentials, right?

We got there in late morning, and had been trying to reach Cody by phone without success (those of you with good, continuous cell phone coverage in your area just wouldn't understand, but we live in an area where taking 10 steps during a successful call can cause it to cut out; gotta love those mountains anyway). We went up to mid-mountain in the gondola and kept watching for him. We also got to watch some of the competitors doing practice runs. We couldn't figure why we hadn't seen him yet, but then, he probably wouldn't know we had arrived till he got to the top and got service... no biggie.

We started to get hungry, and went over to the lodge and got tacos to share, but kept watching. I pulled out my Hiking Scarf and did a few inches. We weren't really worried yet, but then realized that it was getting close to 1:00 PM, when the competition was scheduled to start, and he still hadn't turned up. Nikki tried calling again, but just got voice mail. Then, her phone rang, and I could tell right away she was talking to someone she didn't know and something was wrong. A friend of Cody's told her he had broken his hip and was down at the bottom of the mountain, where Tahoe Forest Hospital maintains a fully-rigged urgent care clinic at the Northstar base lodge. We rushed over to the gondola, holding onto each other, and waited out the agonizingly slow ride down the hill, hoping we could get to see him before he was transported by ambulance to the main hospital in Truckee.

We were too late... the ambulance had just left. So off we hike to find our car in the boonie parking, and rush to the hospital. We knew that surgery lay ahead for him, and just wanted him to be able to see us and know we would be there waiting before he went in. When we got to the front desk at emergency, it turned out one of his riding buddies, Monica, was there, helping the clerk complete his admission paperwork.

Then, I got to go into the patient ward and it was emotional for both of us. Cody kept apologizing, and I had to say "Yeah, right, like you went out today and deliberately said 'I'm going to get all busted up'". That made him laugh but he was obviously in pain, even with the morphine they had given him before the ride over. The ER doc, Dr. Dodd, came in and at least I am pretty much able to stay calm and focused in these situations and ask the right questions. Dr. Dodd showed me the x-ray, with the explanation that Cody had broken his femur, not his hip, and in four places. This didn't look like the largest bone in your body at all, more like kids' blocks scattered around inside his leg! It took a lot to keep it together at that point. The doc sent Cody out for another x-ray of his lower leg. I stayed and asked some questions. He was explaining how they would insert a rod into the leg, and screws to hold the bone in proper alignment while it healed, and that since Cody was young and totally fit and in good health, he had a good chance of full recovery. I was thankful I had just watched an extreme sports video called "Motorheads" with my youngest son, Jesse, where someone had had to have the same operation, and I could visualize what the doctor was describing and feel somewhat optimistic.

Nikki and I each got to see Cody again on his way to surgery. She was pretty overwhelmed to see him suffering and only stayed with him a few minutes and then called me back in. I wanted to make sure he was positive about the upcoming surgery. I was a nurse long years ago, and my biggest fear is that it is somewhat SCIENTIFICALLY unpredictable when something goes wrong with a young, healthy person during surgery, and I have felt for years that attitude and motivation have everything to do with likelihood of success. He was convinced that the doctors at Tahoe Forest are expert with ortho issues, since they get so many of them each year. He is a very positive person overall, and was only a little worried, making comments from the subconscious about money and slow recovery. We agreed that we would all help him get through it and he would be ok at the other end. We got to tell him that we loved him and would be there when he came out of recovery. I have to brag about this son of mine a little; he was maintaining a cheerful attitude, and making a point to look at each hospital personnel's name tag and address them by name and thank them through this entire ordeal! He even joked with the nurse pushing his gurney to surgery, when another doctor wished him good luck, saying "Well, I guess he can't say 'Break a leg, can he!'".

Then, we got to wait. Nikki was pretty stressed out, so we went to the shopping center a quarter mile away to get magazines to read while we waited. She definitely needed some other pictures in her mind than the one of her big brother laid out on the stretcher in pain and facing surgery. We also stopped at Payless Shoe Source to get her a pair of cheap tennies, since all she had was either heavy snow boots or flimsy sandals.

Sitting in the surgery waiting room is one of the hardest things a person who likes to be in control can ever do. If I hadn't had knitting to pull out, I sure would have been more anxious. I wasn't able to stay focused enough to read much, and probably added another several inches to my scarf. It was good that this pattern doesn't require too much concentration.

We were very relieved when Dr. Dodd came into the waiting room to tell us that the surgery was very successful and that Cody was doing well in recovery. We would still have to wait another hour or so before he would be in his room and we could see him. I kept knitting. Just before 6:00 PM, a nurse came to tell us we could go up to visit him. It was a great relief to see him looking alert and doing his breathing exercises when we walked in. He was still able to say he was "fantastic" when the nurses asked. I was able to get a smile out of Sampson (Cody's roommate, who, with his girlfriend, Heidi, had brought flowers), by saying that we wanted to hear him singing, then we would all really believe he was all right.

The hospital is planning to discharge him late today, and we will be bringing him home with us, where he will be doing some knitting of bones. He can expect to be on crutches for the next two months, although his doctor assured me that he will probably be ready to return to his sedentary job in about two weeks. He is facing lots of therapy, too, and some psychological issues about what limitations he might have down the line, but we agreed that we would all be riding together again next November. Being motivated is probably 90% of recovery. Updates to follow....

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Just a little something....

I decided late last night that I needed a new carry-around project, especially since I have a three-hour class tonight. So, I dug out some of this beautiful vintage wool/rayon yarn that Lois gave me a few years back, and began an Irish Hiking Scarf. Some of you may recognize this yarn from the two scarves I made awhile back for the Red Scarf Project. That is because Lois gave me BOXES of this yarn in several colors, left over from the days when she used to knit two-piece dresses using size one or two needles.... she is one of my knitting heros. Lois is also a master quilter and one of the founding mothers of Mountain Star Quilters, our Downieville quilt club. Posted by Hello

New Toy

Hey , lookie what I found! This is a tabletop swift, hand made of wild cherry wood by Dragonfly Turnings Fiber Arts ToolsPosted by Hello.

I located them on Ebay, and was pretty thrilled to be able to get a prettier swift at about $20 less than the going rate for the umbrella swifts that clamp to the table. I have put this off for years, but will be able to list it as a business expense this year, and be able to get yarn wound a whole lot faster. And, according to Stephanie, this could save my marriage, reducing the stress induced when you are always asking your mate to hold yarn for you to wind (another pithy tip from her fab bookbookbook).

Here is another beautiful tabletop model that I saw at Three Dog Knits. It's still more expensive, though.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

I'm a Hot Item

I am still in shock! I attended a meeting today, where one of my friends ordered two purses from me (count them, two, not one, but TWO!). I already have the materials to make one for another co-worker and dear friend, so I will be hard at work today. My two quilt club buddies and co-workers also told me yesterday that they had the votes to get me into their crafts cooperative, and how soon could I start taking a shift? (I think they want my body more than they are wowed by my stuff, as some of the members have been ill, etc., and less able to help staff the shop). So, here's my list of stuff to make to sell:

Purple felted purse
Deep red felted purse
Turquoise felted purse
2 pairs of red fur-trimmed purple flip-flops
2 red and purple felted purses

Whew, I better get cracking here!

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Shawl Ready to Gift

Here is my finished prayer shawl in Homespun yarn to give to a friend and member of our quilt guild. I think I will modify this pattern in the future to make the shawl narrower, although it is a very lush and comforting wraparound. Posted by Hello

Gifting is the hardest part of this whole project. I keep thinking about how private this person is, and how little her friends and acquaintances have seen of her or her husband while he has been undergoing chemo. I know that they are trying to conserve their energies for the battle. I also sense that up until now, she has been a person who loves to give, but doesn't necessarily find it easy to receive. I want to be able to find a simple way to hand over her gift with the thought that her friends are thinking of her often and wishing and hoping and praying for a positive outcome for them. I keep waiting for magic words to come to me, but they don't. I have a little card ready, and a few simple lines to write, and want her to have the benefit of the smile that comes with an unexpected gift as soon as possible. I am hoping that what I decide is the right moment will be one that meets her needs as well.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Peer Pressure

Yesterday, I enlisted two of my ACs (adult children) to help me find the yarn shops located in the Lake Tahoe area. They groaned, but Cody, who lives in Kings Beach, got out the phonebook. We headed for Tahoe City, where we checked out Three Dog Knits, located at 475 Tahoe Blvd. (the main highway). Cody is big on hats, and always trying to get to the head of the queue with me (I mean,really, I already made him TWO hats this winter, and there ARE other things I'm trying to get done). He is somewhat allergic to wool, but can pretty successfully tolerate it on his head, particularly if there is a band of polar-type fleece sewn in at the forehead. He went right for the most expensive choices possible: pure cashmere, baby alpaca in bulky weight, and a Lorna's Lace Shepherd Worsted in camoflauge (color number 708), which I decided to get to make him a cabled beanie (sometime before next winter, I promise).

Nikki has good taste too, and decided a similar hat in Anny Blatt's Super Angora in baby pink would be just perfect. I gulped at the cost. While she was browsing around the store, she came upon an Anny Blatt pattern book with a very cute summer top, and decided the hat could wait if she could talk me into making the top. It is a cap-sleeved, close-fitting top with eyelet detail and ribbon threaded through at empire waist level. Of course, the chosen yarn wasn't available! We decided to try Lana Grossa Point, a pretty light pink yarn in cotton/spandex, although I think it is the next weight up... sigh, I can already envision massive pattern-altering. Why do I let myself get talked into these things! I can see that this yarn will be more comfortable to wear, as it has a lot of give to it, and I am excited to get started with the design, which will go fairly quickly even with size 3 or 4 needles, depending on how it swatches up.

It was great fun listening to my kids talk yarn with the shop owner. She was admiring Cody's taste in fibers and remarked that they really knew their stuff. Cody answered that I had been knitting since he was very tiny; I had to interject that I had been knitting since I was five (funny how they can't comprehend fully that you had a life before they came along). Nikki also mentioned how they had all learned to knit as kids, and I described using the Waldorf methods to teach them knitting. The owner asked what they had made and Cody could recall a teddy bear, while Nikki claimed credit for mittens, which we later felted together (these are tucked safely away in her mama's cedar chest). It is a really great perk of middle age to have such wonderful ACs to hang out with.

We didn't make it to Jimmy Beans Wools, but they have a huge online shopping site. Their main shop is located in Truckee, at 10065 Donner Pass Road. There was a third shop listed in the phone book, Knitting Basket, with a Tahoe City phone number but no address and we didn't have any luck finding it either. Will have to save that for another visit.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Lessons I Have Learned from my Son

I got to go snowboarding today with my oldest son, Cody and my daughter, Nikki. It was the quintessential spring day in the mountains, and on top of it had just stopped snowing early yesterday morning.

Cody lives in Kings Beach, at Lake Tahoe, and has been diligently riding five or more days a week for the past few months, even if just a few hours in the morning before reporting to work at 1:00 P.M. He has made terrific progress in his riding, mastering lots of acrobatic moves he had been working on the past few years. He demonstrated a few for us, taking some runs through "the boxes", where he outclassed all the other riders we saw today, with more complex stunts. I was in awe, not only of his accomplishments, but also of his dedication towards improvement... he must be putting in about 15-20 hours a week right now. Several times in my life, I have wanted to just drop everything and get really fit and really good at something physical, either hiking, yoga, or snowboarding. Life has always managed to get in the way, and even though there were periods where I was putting in five hours a week at yoga, or ten hours a week hiking, I have never been able to set aside enough time to pursue excellence in the physical realm. I realize that there is still a chance to make massive improvement, and he is one of my current role models.

Cody also has a lot of joy in his life, even though he doesn't find his job intellectually challenging, and is often short of cash. He was so happy to be out on the slopes on a beautiful spring day, that he was frequently bursting into song, filling our day with tidbits from old musicals and jazz musicians, just for the fun of it. I have always been the kind of person to be embarassed if I attracted undue attention, and I admire his lack of self-consciousness in being able to so easily express the joy he is feeling. I would like to learn more of that.

He has been our riding coach since we started five years ago, and has helped us make a lot of progress, and face our hurdles. Today, while he was working with Nikki to master a turn, he said "What's the worst that's going to happen? You'll slide down to your knees". Too often, we over-exaggerate what the worst to happen will be, and cripple ourselves with our fears of what is the very worst. His advice to step back and really assess what really would happen in a given situation is a good lesson; it usually isn't as bad as we think.

I am very thankful to have raised a son who could keep me thinking and learning. Maybe I did a pretty good job after all!

Friday, April 08, 2005

Vintage stole pattern

Here is a close up of the vintage stole pattern I have been testing. I like this pattern quite a bit, but would pick a smooth merino or alpaca to make it up, so that the texture and laciness could really show through. You will notice that I have pulled the needles out; while knitting away in class last night, following my original intention to make this up as a narrow scarf, I noticed that there was a foam core and not much yarn left on it, rather than the deceptively plump ball of yarn I had started with! I have seen this "trick" once or twice before, and wish there was a way to know in advance if that were the case. I would not buy a yarn that employed such a device intentionally, partly because the foam doesn't biodegrade, and partly because I find it misleading. Well, I ripped out the work and will make a narrow scarf or save the yarn to put with something else. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Making fringe

I am almost done with my rose-colored prayer shawl, and am working on the fringe. I decided to space it a few stitches apart and make it more like tassels, since Homespun fluffs out so much. This photo shows that I am tying knots at the ends of each thread. Posted by Hello

Here is a close up of the K3, P3 seed stitch pattern. Posted by Hello

My, what big feet you have!

The first clog is almost completed... I just have the cuff to do and closing up the bottom, then on to the second one! Posted by Hello

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Vintage Stole pattern

Terri from the Knit Red KAL asked me for a copy of one of the vintage (as in "in the public domain") patterns I found while visiting my mother-in-law, so I decided to post it here as well. This is a very pretty design, and works up to look like a wider faggoting effect. I decided to trial it by making a scarf in Gelato, a little ball of yarn I found on sale several years ago... once I have a little more made up, I'll add a photo.

Stole Pattern:
Yarn: Brunswick Pompadour (this is a sport weight that came in 2 oz skeins at the rate of 260 yards per skein, according to www.vintageknits.com) - 6 skeins
1 pair size 9 needles
Steel crochet hook size 4 (although a 1 or 0 is probably just lying around the house, and would do just as well)
Gauge: 5 sts = 1 ince; 8 rows = 1"
Pattern: (multiple of 9 plus 5)
Row 1: K 5, * k2tog, yo, k2tog, k5*, repeat from * to *
Row 2: K2, p1, * K3, yo, K4, p1*, repeat from * to *

Cast on 104 stitches. Knit one row. Work in pattern to desired length, generally between 68 and 74 inches for a stole. After completing row 1 of pattern, knit one row, then bind off.

Finishing: Sc 1 row around all edges of stole, begin sure to work 3 sc at corners to avoid curling; fasten off. Fringe both ends of stole as desired. (The prayer shawl site has some great directions on making fringe - be sure to allow about 1/2 skein of yarn for fringe, or cut your fringe before starting your last skein of yarn, so that you have enough). This vintage stole used a dense fringe of twenty strands of yarn, each 10 inches long, and more widely spaced to create a tassel-like effect.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Rose Prayer shawl and a list of WIPs

Whoo, hoo! I finished the knitting on the rose prayer shawl I have been making for my friend Peggy yesterday and just need to add fringe to each end. This one is made from Lion Brand Homespun, which will make for ravelly fringe, so I am planning to tie the fringes in groups that can gradually form tassels. It is very soft and lovely.

I also started on the felt clogs for my husband, only to learn while looking at the label that the oxford grey color for the soles actually was a different blend than the speckled grey and white for the body. Now, how did three people looking at yarn with felting in mind, reading the labels to calculate yardage, miss this?! I sent an inquiry off to the woolen mill about getting the proper yarn, and moved on to start my own pair, which are in Lamb's Pride blue denim. They progress rapidly.

I have decided that April will be the month to tackle several small felting projects and get some items into the Downieville Crafts coop for sale.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Taking Your Husband Yarn Shopping

We have spent the past four days traveling through the North Coast, and started out about midday Tuesday, getting in great visits with our friends Ben and Kelly at Butte Creek Outfitters, where we got enthused about the upcoming backcountry trail season, and with Ginny at Hole In the Head Gang rescue, checking out the remaining Sheldon Wildlife Refuge wild burros that she has to place: three males and two females.

It took pretty much all day Wednesday to travel down state highway 39 from Red Bluff to Eureka and Arcata (actually, the highway meets US 101 in Fortuna, but we decided not to stop there). I couldn't wait to cruise around Arcata, looking for a yarn shop. My husband, of course, groaned at the mere mention. We had a good conversation with the owner of Rookery Books, one of the local book stores, where we picked up the latest Northern California road atlas (for back road explorers, these are awesome, because they not only show all the back roads and byways, but also are TOPO!).

He directed us to Fabric Temptations, where my husband got so engrossed in conversation with the clerk, discussing why there weren't any public bathrooms, which led to why there is so much homelessness in the area, which led them to discover that the clerk had a Bachelors in Zoology, and then to his giving some background on working for the Forest Service, that he didn't even notice that I had already had the other clerk ring up my purchases! I got some fabric for my quilt club secret pal and some buttons in one of my favorite shades of pink, but didn't find the book I have been searching for throughout this trip, Last Minute Knitted Gifts (it has a pattern for a felted yoga mat bag that I want to make), nor did I find any yarns I couldn't resist.

We spent the evening walking through Old Town Eureka, where we stayed overnight. It took awhile to come up with a local phone book, so that I could locate the address for Boll Weaver, recommended to me by the Arcata clerks. We walked down along the boardwalk in the morning and also stopped in at the local St. Vincent De Paul, where I found a partial cone of dark brown Crystal Palace cotton chenille, and two beige skeins of Nature Spun, and then we checked out of our motel, and headed towards Boll Weaver. I was encouraged to pull into the parking lot, because it was shared with a local True Value hardware store, and I figured I could send my husband over to peruse the hardware while I browsed through the yarns.

Unfortunately, Boll Weaver (2748 E Street; 707-443-8145/FAX 707-442-0755) wasn't set to open for two more hours, and we had over 100 miles to travel that day, through Avenue of the Giants to see the redwoods, and arrive at my in-laws by dinner.... luckily, the same time I was copying down their address, I had noted that there was a yarn shop in Ferndale, where my husband had already expressed a desire to stop and show me the large Victorian district.

We arrived there in the late morning, and browsed up and down the street; the victorian storefronts are just awesome, and it was an uncrowded Thursday morning in spring, so we really enjoyed ourselves. Unfortunately, the Foggy Bottoms Yarns & Antiques (563 Main St., Ferndale, CA; 707-786-9188) wasn't open yet, prompting an ascerbic comment from my DH about how yarn shop owners must like to sleep in, considering the hours they post.

We stopped in at The Arts and Cultural Center, looking for a public restroom, and discovered The Weaver's Shop (580 Main St. 707-786-9421), where we spent the next hour. How did I get my husband to do that, you wonder? Well, turns out there were multiple attractions: he actually took an interest in the wide assortment of felted knit clogs available to purchase, and when I casually mentioned that I already had the pattern at home, and would he like me to make him a pair, both he and the co-op member staffing the store that day, took an interest in helping me search out the right yarn. We selected some yarns from the Briggs & Little Woolen Mills of New Brunswick, Canada, and asked the clerk to wind the skeins into center-pull balls (I may be the last knitter on earth to ever get around to buying a swift and ball winder for myself; at the current total cost of about $100, I'll keep asking at the shops or using the wind-it-yourself method). We chatted while she wound, and again my husband found a like soul, discussing the history of the region and anthropology in general.

She also showed us the coolest invention I never knew about, a circular sock knitting machine from the 1890s, that the owner uses to produced socks for sale in the shop. It is a cast iron version of a large peg knitter that you can clamp to a base (in this case to an old treadle sewing machine). There is a mechanism to feed the yarn, add weights for tension, etc. and my DH was even more impressed than I was, I think, envisioning a return to the days when I made all of his boot socks by hand. I am seriously going to search for one of these machines! I have posted a link to Angora Valley Farms, where there is oodles of information about sock knitting machines; this is the closest to the model we got to see in action.

The Kinetic Sculpture Museum is also located in the Arts and Cultural Center, and features past entries from their world famous race, held every year on Memorial Day weekend since 1969... a tribute to human innovation worth checking out if you are ever in the area.

Across the street, I noticed that Foggy Bottoms had opened its doors, while we had been having such a great time at The Weaver's Shop, so naturally, we had to at least peek in. I didn't purchase anything, but commiserated with the owner about how difficult Echo yarn is to knit up, and she showed me a few others that were constructed to avoid the pitfall of getting your needles hung up in between the "rails" of the yarn.

One last great find.... we decided to roam around Mendocino, checking out the Victoria architecture this afternoon with Glenn's parents. Of course, the guys didn't want us lagging in any shops, which have filled up most of the downtown section for the past twenty years. I did have to make a stop at the local bookseller's Gallery Books and Bookwinkles (their childrens' book store which shares the same space). I totally lucked out, and found a copy of Stephanie Pearl-Mcfee's (aka Yarn Harlot) new book "At Knit's End: Meditations for Women Who Knit Too Much).

 Posted by Hello

If I had had the foresight to have a camera with me, I would have forced one of the family to take a picture of me holding my copy outside the store. I am always happiest being able to buy a book I am looking for from an independent bookseller (end of editorial).