Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A Cold Walk with Me Wednesday

I'm fortunate to be able to walk. Yesterday morning I dashed outside to chop some kindling to start a fire. The block of fir had a small branch through it but in my haste to get out of the freezing cold I didn't use caution. The ax bounded in my hands and sliced down to my ankle before I could react. A piece of red sock was partially cut away from my ankle. My ankle smarted and is a bit bruised. Stunned at the close impact I couldn't help but be very, very grateful the ax hadn't done any real damage. I think that the tough support stockings I need to wear--with great begrudgement-- helped to deflect the ax just as they helped to prevent severe bleeding when the dog attacked last summer.I love these cold sunny January days that we've been having for more than a week. The temperatures at our place drop into the low twenties at night with the days dawning clear. Though the thermometer shows the day temps warming into the fifties the air is freezing and whatever is hidden from the sun stays frozen. Yesterday I jumped on my bike for a quick, invigorating ride, my ears frozen red. Today I walked to better absorb this weather that so reminds me of the winters of my youth in N Arizona. There the temps would hover around zero, Often dipping as low as -20F for days. The kind of dry cold where moisture from your breath coats your nose with a rim of ice. Never seen it? Take a peek at this great picture posted on Lene's blog yesterday.

Walking west up the road that hugs the side of a ridge I passed this farmer's pond where only the far side gets to bask in the sun during the winter while the water and the tall grasses on the south end stay frozen.
A bit further up the road the joyful sounds of kids at play drew my attention. Down on the playing fields of the school, three girls skipped briskly out of view. They moved so quickly I barely had time to snap the picture. All three appeared to be Old Believer Russian girls with their long hair and skirts. There's a large settlement of Old Believers in this area. They still practice an old form of Russian Orthodoxy from the early nineteen hundreds when their ancestors fled the persecutions. Ed is often mistaken for one with his long beard. :-)

Further on I turned onto a side road that winds up over the ridge. Looking down into a wooded pasture this tree reminded me of the sea lions that hang out on the piers in Newport. (ha, Aurora just now glanced at this picture and said it looks like a sea lion.) They laze in the sun, lifting their heads high in the air to roar and snap when another sea lion intrudes on their space.
Next was the Hugging Tree: when one tree fell, a part of it embraced the standing one.

Do you see the mountain? That's Mt Saint Helens in the far distance.

I've been reading about the benefits of felting soap: the soap lasts longer; is better than using a washcloth; prettier than a regular soap bar, etc. So today I torn off some wool roving, wrapped it around a bar then held it under hot running water while I rubbed the wool. Once the first layer felted I put a few strips of blue wool on, put it in a zipped bag with more hot water and massaged it. Last, a thin layer of white wool was wrapped on then rubbed some more. It's not too bad for the first attempt. Next time I'll put on a thinner first layer.

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Transforming a Town

When you're finished reading this post, please take a look at Wendy's blog for excellent, first hand knowledge on how to lovingly care for handmade garments.

Just a reminder to tune in tonight (Sunday) to CBS Hallmark Hall of Fame Valley of Light to get a glimpse of the streets I wander. Course, it's been made over into the 1946 era but the scenery is the same. This "store" which is just around the block from us, was the town store until the fifties, then a hippy hotel in the sixties, now a family lives upstairs. We walked through the downstairs the last day the set workers were putting on the final touches to the store. I wish it was still a store of that time.

The view of the main intersection.The day before the filming starts. The roads have been covered with gravel and dirt.
It was fascinating watching the town transforming under the expertise of quick hardworking people. Sadly the set people had had a hard time finding places to film some of the scenes --ones not in town, such as the river and lake-- by the time they'd settled on places, worked to transform the town, and brought in the actors, sound people, camera crews, and the host of behind the scene workers, they were a couple weeks behind schedule. You don't mess around wasting October days in Oregon. October lures people into a complaceny, especially those from other states who think the wonderful sunny days of autumn will last several more weeks. The second day of filming, heavy grey clouds, rain, and a cold wind moved in. It was fascinating to watch how they were able to manage with the driving rains. (We'll see tonight how well they were able to make it look like summer's end.) As soon as one take was complete, set hands bristled forward armed with copious umbrellas to stand guard over the actors.

Hair dressers from S. CA lumbered around in mucklucks against the rain and chill. In spite of the long cold, miserable hours people were making the best of it, keeping their tempers and rolling with the occasional thunder bursts. Frankly I was impressed with the overall attitude of cheerfulness dealing with extra lighting sets, camera, gear and people needed for the weather. They were always polite and friendly as I'd make my way through the mobs to the PO with packages in my arms. But then maybe they felt a bit guilty for blocking access to our road which became home to the camera and lighting, and food trucks for a week.

That's my red car parked in our driveway on the first day. More trucks moved in with the rain the next day. Yep, that's an RV taking up residence in part of the road.

I'm not big into actors, but I was impressed watching how Chris Klein interacted with the young Zach Mills between takes and off the set. He seemed to be a warm and caring person throughout the filming in freezing rain and blustery weather. Most of the movie was shot at other nearby locations, still,I'm looking forward to seeing our town tonight.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Charollais Wool

Thanks to all who left kind sympathies on my last posting. They are treasured.

A Key was waiting in the P.O. box on Monday. A key = a package too big to fit in the regular box. It was a box filled with 300g of Charollais (also Charolais) roving neatly coiled and tucked in a plastic bag all the way from The SpindlingScot who happens to live in France. Charollais sheep were bred in Southern Burgundy in the 1800s.

Just look at this Charolais wool with nubs of silk processed throughout the wool. Judy had it wonderfully processed professionally.

I had to stop everything , grab a spindle and see what it felt like to spin. Unlike anything I've spun (not that I've spun many varieties of fiber: Corriedale, BFL, Romboulette, Merino/Tencel and silk is all I've played with so far) this wool/silk blend has a dry feel to it, not bad mind you, but different -- almost papery. The silk noils tended to create draw-blocks of yarn which slowed me down until I got a feel for drafting and drawing while controlling how much wool was globbed onto the silk. Then my speed picked up a bit. I only spun then plyed and set the twist on 6 yards. As I made the small twist of yarn Ed stopped to look at it and declared that it'd make a nice lightweight sweater. I agree. Maybe the next sweater I knit will be for him. :-) Can't decide whether to leave it natural or dye it a manly color. Traditionally Charollais was used for knitting almost all the socks in the 19th century. It does feel as though it'd withstand alot of abuse.

This was spun on a 2.6oz Turkish Spindle at 16wpi plyed.

Can you believe I actually walked today! The first thing when I woke up this morning was pull on my walking clothes and grab a spindle and BFL wool. Even before coffee. I knew if I poured that first cup walking would be put on the back burner for the day. We're having our third day of sunny weather though the road up Grandview was icey and slick under foot. I dropped the spindle once and decided it wasn't the right day for a spinning walk.

This is the view after Grandview immerges from the trees and levels out for a bit:
The camera didn't capture the peach colored horizon as the sun was fighting a thin layer of clouds to climb above the Cascades. You can barely make out the sunglow at the top right hand side.

And now I need to dash seven packages to the post office.

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

A work in progress, and Finished

During one of the rare frozen blue days we had over a week ago I took Faith out for a walk around the block. Snuggling a baby blanket around her shoulders and head I remembered crocheting a hooded cape for Aurora years ago. That evening I dug through my stash and came up with several skeins of blue&white Lion Brand Homespun yarn. Perfect for a baby who tends to spit up. Next I selected a size O (11mm) Tunisian hook so it'd be a fast project. I've been meaning to make something using the Tunisian technique, and this seemed a perfect match. After a quick reveiw of Stitch Diva's tutorial a hooded cape was begun. A long business meeting saw it grow about 6 inches but some shoulder space needed to be built into the design. The frogging took place immediately after getting home and the new shape started. I was on a mission. Piece of cake. Uh, not really. Three times it was frogged but a good shape finally developed.
(In the picture, one side is slightly folded over the other.)

Since this picture a few more rows of regular crochet was added onto the hood, I still need to add ties and a few embellishments before giving it to Faith. It's my understanding that Tunisian crochet, also known as afghan, or cro-knit, uses less yarn than traditional crochet. It really did work up fast, in spite of my redoing it several times. Tunisian crochet is definitely worth exploring if you've never done any. If you're interested in a hook please visit our website Jenkins Woodworking, Ed makes hooks from size N on up to V. V?! Who ever heard of a size V hook? That's 28mm in diameter! Yep, he's making them now after a request from a yarn shop in Missouri who wanted that size for designing patterns using chunky yarns.

A couple pictures of Faith snapped at meeting this morning.

I didn't get out for a proper Walk With Me Wednesday last week. Walking seems to get shoved to the bottom of my priority list and before I know it another day is gone and I have done nothing more than walk to the P.O. We had a beautiful snowfall most of the morning last Tuesday. I walked up a few blocks up Grandview, the street where soapbox races take place during Summerfest. See the snowflakes dancing around the apples?

Our town was used for the town scenes of the upcoming Hallmark Movie, Valley of Light which will air this coming Sunday evening, January 28th on CBS. Tune in and see our town made up to look the way it may have looked in 1946. There may be glimpse of a plum heather runner I wove several years ago. Our Meetinghouse was used in the movie and I'm hoping the runner was left on the piano during the filming. :-)

Last week I wrote briefly that I'd taken a trip to see my brother.
These mountains seemed symbolic of his life as I flew over them on my way home.
My oldest brother's life has not been easy from the moment of birth when the attending nurse panicked because he was coming before the doctor had arrived. She didn't allow him to be born which caused problems the rest of his life. Then at the age of two he had a terrible case of pnuemonia which he barely survived. For various reasons his life has been filled with hardship and trials. Around November '06 he was diagnosed with inoperable tumors that had spread throughout his body. The visit two weeks ago was to say goodbye to this brother. Though weak and wasted away in body, his spirit and mind were very strong.

Do you see the lake framed by the mountains?

As the plane continued to fly north along the Sierras another lake appeared. I was astonished to see not only the water but a thread of a road which drew a line to a town. A town with people living in what had appeared from 30,000 feet to be wrenching desolution. It's the little dark spot in the center left. Life!

He remained optimist, cheerful, friendly, literally giving his only jacket off his back to someone needing it more than he.

His life was hard but he held strongly onto the thread of this one hope and assurance - God loved him dearly and someday all would be well.

This past Friday at 8 pm he finished his hard run race on this earth and went Home.

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Monday, January 08, 2007

Carding and Spinning Cashmere

It's good to be home from a deeply exhausting trip.

I've been wanting to write about my first carding experience and spinning cashmere.

Last spring a friend gave me some cashmere from her goats. Between us we'd removed the guard hairs but the remaining cashmere was a small gobs and batches. Talking with various vendors at Black Sheep Gathering in June lead me to buy Strauch Hand Cards (255 teeth). I didn't make time to try them, or do anything with the cashmere until a couple weeks ago when Ed made some bamboo spindles.

They each weigh only .9 oz, perfect, I thought, for trying my hand at the cashmere. Excitedly I dug up the hand carders from their dark resting place, laid some cashmere on one card and began brushing, pulling out previously unseen guard hairs.
Many years ago I'd watched Navajo women card wool and thought I remembered how they did it. But I didn't look to learn only to watch, and so I really didn't know how to card. The cashmere wouldn't card into smooth segments so I flipped the carders around and tried again, this time brushing deeper. Please don't chuckle and scoff at my ignorance. Rolling the cashmere off the handcarders, I again laid it on the teeth and carded once more then realized I'd best stop as little balls were appearing. Twisting a length between my hands I attached it to the shaft and starting spinning.

The lightness of the spindle was different than any I'd handled before. I had to stay ahead of the twist or the spindle would quickly reverse and backspin. So far the bamboo spindle is not a long spinner, I'm getting spins averaging 30 seconds. The cashmere was cobweb whispy and I couldn't help but spin a lacey yarn - with lots of bumps of the balled up bits.

Getting the feel for a fast spin while drafting more quickly to stay ahead of the spin, the yarn became a bit more uniform. Here's a portion of the singles on printed paper to give you a sense of the thinness. The singles is twisted back on itself in several places.

Dismay crowded on the heels of disbelief as I wound the yarn around the spindle arms. See how grey the cashmere yarn looks! With each cycle my fingers, and the shaft, turned a shade greyer. How could this be? It had to be coming from the cards. Nothing to do now except finish spinning the small carded bit then ferrett out the cause of the problem. (The small white pad was used to remove the grey from the spindle. We use these all the time in the final finishing process of our products.)

Soaking the plyed yarn in warm soapy water, followed by a warm rinse soak helped a bit. The yarn measured 5 yards when loosely wrapped around warping board pegs to dry. When dried I had a 22wpi grey cashmere yarn.
In the meantime I'd sent Mr Strauch an email asking him about the grey residue. The very next day he called! What a pleasant, most helpful person Otto Strauch is. He patiently explained that hand cards need to float across the fiber, never digging in or meshing the teeth, a huge no-no. (I'd definitely been gnashing teeth.) He then directed me to a previously overlooked link on his website that explains the handling and care of hand cards. He and his wife raise cashmere goats so was able to inform me that cashmere doesn't like to be handled very much - it needs very gently and only the bare minimum carding. I am so grateful for his contact and help!

After a day of being a total zombie and a day of trying to catch up with housework, computer bugs, emails and orders, I'm hoping to start catching up on everyone's blogs tomorrow! I haven't forgotten any of you, I just haven't made the rounds, yet.

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Dashing to Fly

Thanks to all of you who've commented. I haven't figured out how to reply directly but I love going to all your blogs and reading them.

I'm heading out the door in a couple minutes to catch a plane for a visit with my brothers. One is meeting me at the place where the other is living. It's a quick trip provided by my kids. I'll be back on Saturday when I'll properly update this blog. In the meantime my spindle and knitting socks will help get me through the plane rides. I do not like being up in the air with no control!

Pictures on Saturday of my first attempts at carding and spinning cashmere on the bamboo spindles, plus spinning ingeo on another new spindle.