Sunday, December 07, 2008

Oh Christmas Tree...

The holidays are upon us.

Yesterday I climbed into the garage loft and brought down the decorations. The lovely little tree was cut for me by Ian and Sharon. You can read about their annual family tree cutting day on Sharon's blog. As I decorated the tree I thought about all the friends, family and good times each of the ornaments represent. I especially thought about my Mom, who loved everything about Christmas. The red star from my parents' 50th Anniversary party is, as always, right at the top of the tree.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

For Birdsong

As those who have asked before know, I usually do not respond to MeMes or email chains. This does not mean I treasure these friends any less, it is just not, well, me. However, Birdsong has asked me to post the 6th image in my 6th image folder and tell you about it. It turns out to be a pretty nice one, so here it is. (I did not cheat - it really is the 6th of the 6th!)

Unfortunately the resolution is less than optimal, since it was taken with my first digital camera. It is a picture of my favorite dogwood tree on the campus of the University of Nevada, Reno. According to the image properties, I took it May 14th, 2003 at 11:29am (assuming my camera's date and time were set right).

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Boxcar Willie Socks

Knitted toe up, Boxcar Willie stitch pattern, short-row toe and heel, Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock yarn in "Amy's Vintage Office" colorway. I added a beaded cast-off, just because I could.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Coat Tree

First I must tell you that taking a picture of a coat tree is roughly like taking a picture of a giant Sequoia - If you get far enough back to capture the whole thing, it ends up looking like a stick in the distance. Too tall and skinny, so click on the images for a closer view.

Another thing I have learned about coat trees is that they are an endangered species. Forbidden from hanging hooks in the walls of my new office, I set about looking to buy a coat tree. The only ones I could find anywhere were some cheesy-looking specimens I could order through the internet.

My luck changed when I found a dusty-dirty beat-up vintage one in an "antique" shop. Since it's post was flat, instead of fancily turned, it was perfect for embellishment. Wood-burning and painting embellishment, that is. The new office is all modern modular furniture in a "neutral palette" of "bamboo" and "espresso", so you can see why I needed to add COLOR (in capital letters!). I took the coat tree home, disassembled it, and sanded off as much of the old finish as possible using my new (the old one died) Mouse palm sander. My old standby pattern of vines and snakes was particularly suited to the tall skinny post. Still, it needed something more. A bird perching on the top. (I considered a fish as they are much easier to carve, but it would look too much like a weather vane.) After a few aborted attempts, I carved a chunky little folk-art bird out of balsa wood. I was concerned about burning on the balsa wood, but it worked fine so long as I worked quickly. The most arduous part of the project was polishing up the tarnished brass hooks. OK, they are still, um, aged looking - I call it added character. The whole project took only 2 Home Depot runs (one to replace the palm sander and a fresh can of varnish, and one to find replacement brass screws and brass polish), a week of evenings, and a small hole in the couch (whittling is not my strong suit). It should liven up my office considerably (not a hint of bamboo or espresso on it).

Friday, November 14, 2008

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Artful Weekend

This last weekend was almost completely devoted to creative pursuits. Since I leveraged Veteran's Day by taking Monday off from work, I had 4 full days to fill. OK, a certain amount of laundry and grocery shopping was required, but beyond that I was able to spend 4 happy days basket-making, knitting, whittling and woodburning.

Sunday was a workshop on making lids for pine-needle baskets, so I spent Friday night and much of Saturday making a basket for which I could make a lid. Audrey Frank taught the workshop, and I learned a lot, including making an inside lip for a snug fit and another way to start a basket that leaves a small hole in the center for inserting a tiny pine cone as a handle.

Saturday was the Carson Sierra Spinners and Weavers November guild meeting. I took my in-process basket to work on. Lots of folks were working on holiday-related gifts or decorative stuff. I was good about not buying more of Mim's glorious hand-painted BFL roving, and fate rewarded me by making me the raffle winner - lovely balls of white wool that I can hand-paint.

On my way home from the guild meeting I stopped at the "Wild Women" art exhibit and sale that was going on at the Wilbur May Museum in Rancho San Raphael Park. Gretchen Ericson was exhibiting her beautiful, refined pine-needle baskets, which fired me up to with all kinds of ideas for future baskets.

Although I spent much of Monday afternoon at the DMV, I was pleased to also do a little craft supply shopping. A trip to Michael's netted me a crochet hook tiny enough to fit through seed beads, and a selection of beads to try some beaded knitting. I also purchased a selection of balsa wood and a wood-carving Xacto set.

The rest of Monday and Tuesday was devoted to a project I will detail as soon as it is complete. Here's a sneak preview.

Here's a quail on the back porch, too.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

A plug for your local community college

I have just signed up for a class in basic home repair skills, including light repairs on plumbing, electrical, drywall, and carpentry. It meets for 6 two-hour evening sessions in February and March. It is offered through my local community college.

If you haven't checked out what your local community college has to offer, you are missing out. They typically offer a range of "continuing education" courses from one-day to full-semester, including everything from cooking to auto repair to personal finance. Ours even has courses in channeling spiritual energy, stand-up comedy, and installing solar panels. All at extremely reasonable prices. Over the years I have taken weekend and evening courses on High Desert Gardening, Backyard Ponds and Water Gardens, and Digital Photography.

Other sources of interesting and affordable classes and workshops include the public library system, school district, and museums. The local school district teaches an assortment of adult education classes. I took a Broken-Tile Mosaic class from them that was both excellent and a lot of fun. From the Nevada Museum of Art I have taken Japanese Print Making and Pine Needle Basketry. Next Sunday I am signed up for a follow-up workshop on making lids for pine-needle baskets. And, although I have not taken classes from the public library here, I have in the past taken a class on Cooking with Chilies from the Tucson Public Library.

Here's the description of a popular Truckee Meadows Community College course that I may just have to sign up for some spring:

"Wine Country Safari
Explore Napa and Sonoma like you never have before. Each morning take birding and natural history tours of the region's woodlands, lakes and forests where you'll see an enormous variety of birds and wildlife. Then refresh yourself during afternoon wine tastings."

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Is it stew or is it chili?

Sometimes a really good weekend can be a fairly forgettable one. No - I don't mean party-so-hard-you-forget. I mean the kind of weekend that finishes with clean laundry, a finished pair of knitted socks, a fresh haircut, long phone conversations with friends and family, a big pot of stew neatly apportioned into lunches for the coming week, dishes complete, a finished library book to return, and a comfy cup of chamomile tea to unwind with. Throw in some extended cat-on-lap time and herds of goldfinches at the thistle feeders, and really, it could be the perfect weekend all around.

Speaking of stew, what defines stew vs. chili? I make mine with chunks of beef or lamb, lots of onions, black beans, kidney beans, green chili peppers, and chopped tomatoes. Since its greatest bulk is in the preponderance of kidney and black beans, does that make it chili? Or is it defined as stew due to the size of meat chunks? Either way, I call it yummy.

Here are the new socks (top-down Hourglass Eyelet pattern with heel flap, short-row toe, and zigzag bind-off construction using Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock yarn in South Shore colorway on US2 needles, in case you wondered).

Yes, my feet are very wide.

I didn't get around to doing yard work, but the weather is expected to hold and next weekend is a 3-day-er (Friday is Nevada Day and a holiday for state employees).

I hope your weekend was equally nice!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Batch of the Blues

On the fiber front I have been immersed in blue.

I finished knitting a long, long scarf from the last of the handspun yarn leftover from the log-cabin afghan. The resulting 128" long scarf was just a little too plain blue for my taste, so I did a little experimental dye job on it. I soaked it in water (with a touch of dish soap as a wetting agent) for about 20 minutes, then squeezed it out lightly and folded it in half 3 times. I put red dye in a glass jar and set the jar inside my dye-only crock pot within a couple of inches of yellow dye. I immersed one end of the wet, folded scarf in the red and the other end in the yellow. I simmered the scarf for about 40 minutes, then took it out and rinsed it. I am very pleased with the subtle graded color I achieved, grading from purple to blue to blue-green and back. The initial variations in the original blue dye job add to the overall depth. Some may consider 128" a bit long for a scarf, but giving it about 3 loose wraps around the neck shows off the color gradation nicely.

Another blue project is the "Montana" bath set I am knitting from blue kitchen cotton. I made the initial washcloth to test out the very simple 2-row stitch pattern used in the Montana Scarf from LoopKnits. It turned out to be the best washcloth pattern I have ever tried, since it is both supple and scrubby, and its openwork (when knit on US9 needles) allows the heavy cotton to dry quickly. It is also completely reversible and naturally lays flat. Best of all, it is complete idiot knitting, making it almost perfect for knitting while walking. I say ALMOST perfect, since I am knitting off a cone that is too big to fit in my purse. Here are the 2 rows (working on a multiple of 6 ss): Row 1 - *K3, P3* repeat to end of row. Row 2 - *K1, P1* repeat to end of row. That's it. Give it a try. I am now working on a handtowel to go with my washcloth.

One more partly-blue project in progress: My Hourglass Eyelet socks from Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock yarn are past the heels and headed down the insteps. Hopefully to be finished soon.
Maybe I'll tackle something other than blue next...

Friday, October 10, 2008

Winter arrives in Nevada

A blast of cold air has poured down from the arctic and we woke up to snow. I never got around to harvesting the lavender, so it is pretty much too late.

In preparation for the predicted cold spell, Wednesday evening I brought the worm farm back into the house, this time protected by an ant-resistant moat.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Yosemite - still working on the pictures,,,,,

Still too busy for a proper post. Here's some more images from Yosemite:

Or if you prefer the classic black and white look:

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Many thanks to those who expressed concern about my absence from cyberspace. I am not ailing. Instead I have been hiding from all-things-computer by spending a fabulous few days in Yosemite National Park. I took over 1300 photos, and will be posting the best of them soon. Meanwhile, there is back-dated email to read and many phone messages to return. Here is a picture to tide you over:

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Warm toes for winter

Much as I love making and wearing handspun wool socks, there is something to be said for socks that can go in the regular wash. The best superwash sock yarn I have ever knit with is Shepherd Sock from Lorna's Laces. It washes up super soft, yet wears like iron. (But it will shrink if put through the dryer.) In preparation for the winter I have purchased enough for 4 pairs in "South Shore", "Gone Fishin'", "Ravenswood", and "Purple Club" colorways. And I will probably have enough left from each to match them up to make a really wild extra pair! Now I just need to find the time to knit.... I am starting with "South Shore" in a pattern called "Hourglass Eyelet Socks".

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

2008 CSSW Retreat

The weather was perfect, the company was fine, and the food was yummy. It was the eighth annual retreat of the Carson Sierra Spinners and Weavers. I took my little trailer and camped under the pine trees at Davis Creek County Park in beautiful Washoe Valley, NV. Saturday we had a guild meeting, potluck, swap'n'sale, and general get together. We ate yummy Tunis lamb chops donated by Becky (who sadly couldn't be there). I bought hand painted BFL roving and even (imagine that) silk roving from Mim, Dyer Extraordinaire. Then on Sunday I towed the little trailer home and stowed it in the driveway. There it will probably sit until next spring. Here are some pictures from the weekend.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

The Gathering at Sage Creek Farm and a couple of finished objects

Last weekend was The Gathering at Sage Creek Farm. Sharon and Ian hold a yearly gathering of their large circle of family and friends. Some folks come for a day while others camp out in tents or trailers.

I took my little 1953 travel trailer up on Friday and stayed until Monday. I only checked my email a couple of times. OK, once per day.

The weekend started hot, then shifted to windy and cool as a cold front swept in. There was lots of visiting, knitting, eating, and just general hanging out.

I took about 550 photos with my new camera and zoom lens. If you are incredibly dedicated you can look at 368 of them here.

Getting away for the holiday weekend gave me the chance to make some knitting progress. I finished my current carry-along project - a scarf made from a skein Raven Frog superwash wool that Eileen brought me from Alaska. The colorway is listed as "Kelp Bed". By a little experimentation I came up with a simple reversible lace pattern that is as follows: (over a multiple of 5ss plus 1) K3, YO, bring yarn to front between needles, P2TOG, repeat. That's it. It makes a lovely stretchy fabric that naturally accordion pleats around the neck. I worked on this for a few months while walking between buildings to meetings and finished it off at the Gathering. Note about Raven Frog Wool: It is superwash, so I washed it, and it went a bit limp. It is very soft, but no longer springs back into accordion pleats. I suggest handwashing if you want to keep the stitch definition and springyness.

Knowing the end was near on the Kelp Bed scarf, I resurrected a stalled project that I found stuffed between shelves in my living room. The project had been sitting stagnant since 2006, when I spun and dyed rather hairy suri alpaca and cast on for fingerless mitts. I had made it as far as the cuffs before burying the project. Making up the pattern as I knitted, I put chunky purl rings around the palms. The finished mitts are a bit funky looking, but they are comfy and warm and the Michelin-Man-like purl rings give great padding for carrying around my new heavier camera.
Now I can start another carry-along project. Maybe a scarf could be knit from the leftover log cabin afghan yarn. It is mostly blue yarn left, but I could over-dye. Blue plus red makes purple....

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Another Fair gone by

The 2008 Nevada State Fair is over. Mim and Becky have reported on it already. The Spinners and Weavers tent and demonstrations was a great success, thanks to all the many folks who donated their time and effort. Here are a few photos taken around the fairgrounds. (Click on them for bigger images.)