Hand Spun

Hand Spun
Campfire Hat

Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Knitting

Christmas is over, New Years is almost upon us and it's been a very busy season. I'm not complaining at all. It's been very good for me to stay so busy I think. I decided the weekend before Christmas, that I needed to knit a scarf for a good friend for Christmas. Mind you, I had never completed a single knitting project up until this point but I was determined. I called my friend Carol for advice on patterns and she suggested a moss stitch variation. I bought wool yarn and set to work with number 10 knitting needles. Here's how it turned out.
Directly after this scarf, I decided Jeff needed one for Christmas too. I took him with me to the yarn shop and he picked out a wool yarn he liked and I finished his scarf at 11:59pm on Christmas. He got it before Christmas was over. Here it is.
So now, the girl who claimed she hated making scarves, had knitted two and they actually turned out really nice. So nice in fact, that I'm making one for me now out of an alpaca blend. Here's my scarf-to-be.

Mine is a basket weave pattern as you can see. My knitting has improved with each scarf so I'm going to continue experimenting with textures and yarns while I make more of them and give them away. After all, there are only so many scarves a girl needs, right? :)
Because I am enjoying the alpaca yarn so much, I also found some alpaca roving and I've started spinning my own yarn. It's a rose/white blend of alpaca and I think it's just lovely. Here's my yarn.
Sorry this post is so picture heavy. I've been busy. :) Craft group is scheduled for January 12th and I'm looking forward to seeing the girls again. Also, Carol and I will be getting together for a craft day before too long also. Our will probably involve cookies, naps and bird fun too.
So my new year, although it hasn't officially started yet, is already shaping up nicely. I have high hopes for 2011. More on that later. For now, this is my knitting progress and I'm very pleased with it.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Saved-From-The-Trash Sweater 2004- 2011

Here's a picture of sweater number 3 that my mom saved from the trash repeatedly. The story goes like this. In 2004, before I was married, when I still lived at home with the parental units, I began this sweater because I loved the color of yarn and wanted a fast, longer, tunic style sweater to wear over my clothes. I got it all crocheted in record time and had it sewn together only to realize that I'd sewn the left front panel on inside-out. I grabbed a pair of scissors and snipped the thread I thought I had used to sew the seam together. Instead of the seam coming apart, the back of the sweater began to unravel - in the middle. I reacted badly. I had worked so hard on it and now it was sewn together wrong and the back was unraveling in the middle. I picked it up and threw it away and went to my room. My mom pulled it out of the trash (thankfully Dad had just put in a fresh liner so there was nothing in the garbage but the sweater) and put it on the couch gently. She never said a word. When I came out later and saw it on the couch, I picked it up and put it back in the trash. Mom removed it again. This went on for a few days. She'd rescue it and I'd trash it. Finally I realized she wasn't giving up So I kept it in a basket with the rest of the yarn it was made from and it sat. Mom used to refer to it from time to time and laughingly call it her "rescued sweater" or something to that effect. I always meant to finish it and give it to her but never got around to it what with one thing and another. I moved 3 times and got married and moved again, and still it sat untouched in its basket of yarn. Finally this summer I tackled it. I re-crocheted the back, corrected my sewing and seams, put on the edgings and the silver celtic style buttons and submitted it to the state fair for review. With everything that sweater had been through and considering the fact that, once again, it was made from acrylic yarn, I HOPED for a ribbon but wasn't sure it would even place. The day the fair opened and drove down to see how it did and was happy to see  a 3rd place ribbon on it. I just know Mom would have laughed happily and then made me hand over the sweater AND the ribbon. lol!  Here's a picture of it at the fair.
It wasn't hung very flatteringly but I can't complain. The would-be-sweater I trashed that would have been rotting in some landfill somewhere if I'd had my way with it, was now hung on the wall at the Western Idaho State Fair, and had won a ribbon. It took me 7 years to finish this thing but it's my reminder that with a little perseverance, even a lost cause can become something lovely and when someone believes in you, it's best to listen. :)
I haven't worn the sweater yet. It's in my cedar chest waiting for the right day this winter. But I am going to wear it with pride and I just know I'll be smiling a secret smile all day and thinking of my mom.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Crochet vs. Knit

I've been crocheting in one form or another for the majority of my life. I started crocheting LONG chains when I was in 3rd grade. In 5th grade, a school friend taught me to single crochet and I made blankets for my little stuffed animals. My mom was a left handed crocheter so although she was great at crochet, she couldn't teach me, her right handed daughter, how to crochet. Years after I mastered the single crochet, my mom's friend in Utah named Sally, taught me how to make granny squares. Once I learned the double crochet and had something to do with it, I began to crochet in earnest. I can't tell you how many afghans I crocheted and gave away. Each year when we visited Sally's family in Utah, Sally would teach me a new stitch and I'd begin a new wave of afghans. It wasn't until years later again, that I found myself not wanting to wait another year before I learned something new. So I taught myself to read patterns. That was something Mom could help me do. I knew the stitches so with her help, I learned to decipher patterns, and a whole new world opened up for me. After I got tired of doing nothing but afghans and dishcloths, I decided to take a risk and crochet a sweater. I found a pattern I liked and started. The pattern was a crochet stitch that LOOKED like a cable knit. Here are pictures of my sweaters in that pattern. They both won blue ribbons at state fair the years I entered them. I was pretty proud. 
The first sweater I did was in a color called Aran fleck. It's acrylic yarn and not very soft. At that time I knew nothing about yarns at all. It turned out really small so I gave it away to a little lady at church and it fit her perfectly. Notice the moose buttons! :)
This is the second sweater. My mom liked the first sweater so much that she asked me to make her one in burgundy and a size larger. She looked great in burgundy! I had everything but the buttons on when she died. She got to wear it twice before she died even though it wasn't finished. Two years after she died I completed it and entered it in the state fair as I had done with the first one and it won a blue ribbon too. :) This sweater would have fit me if I'd kept it but I gave it to my grandma (Mom's mom) so she'd have something of Mom's to wear and keep her warm if she felt like it. I don't know if Gram wears it or not but it felt good to share it with her.
I completed my third crocheted sweater this past summer and entered it in this year's state fair. It was a much simpler pattern and again, it was made from acrylic yarn, and it only won a 3rd place ribbon. But I still placed! :) I'm very proud of that sweater. It has a long and involved story of me trying to throw it away and Mom saving it from the trash can. It took me 6 years to finish it but it's done and now that the weather is cool, I'm going to be able to wear "our" sweater. Mom used to tell me that the sweater belonged to her even if I kept it because she'd saved it from the trash can so many times. :) I miss my mom! Sharing these stories of her helps though.
Here's my problem. I'm lousy at knitting. I KNOW I just started it and I'm probably expecting too much too soon, but I look at what I can crochet, and then I look at my pathetic attempts at knitting and I get all discouraged that I'll never master it before I die. My goal is to someday knit a sweater made entirely of my own handspun and hand dyed yarn and then I'll enter it in the fair. I have a LONG way to go before I'm there. My spinning will have to improve as will my knitting, but that's my goal. I'm slowly but surely steering my skills toward that end but it gets discouraging sometimes to think how far I have yet to go before I'll have any real skill at knitting. My lazy side asks if I'm really going to ever be able to produce a quality garment knitting or if I'm deluding myself. The ambitious side of me asks the lazy side (politely of course) to shut up and sit down. I can learn anything I put my mind to and then it's just a matter of practice to master the skill. But is that really true?
Right now work is providing some serious challenges (some of them to my mental health!!!) and I have found very little time to sit and knit. If I knit in a group or while trying to talk, it's a sure way of guaranteeing that I'm going to make a BIG mistake that I'm unable to correct. So I have to knit when I'm at peace and undisturbed and not distracted. I can crochet while eating dinner, watching TV and playing with the birds all at the same time practically. *sigh* Will knitting ever be that easy for me??? I certainly hope so. In the mean time, I'm going to make it a practice to try and make at least a half hour a day available for knitting. I'll let you know how that works out. :) Speaking of knitting, now that I'm finished blogging it might be just the time to put a row or two on my scarf....

Monday, December 6, 2010

Bad Day at Black Rock

I knew this day was going to be a challenge when by 9:30, physically choking someone until they turned blue started to seem like a really good idea. Fortunately for me, I know better than to act on some fantasies. Meanwhile, the day rolled on. We have 6 hours of mandatory overtime at work this week and I worked 4 last week. Don't get me wrong - I KNOW I'm blessed to have my job and I feel very grateful for it. However... there is something to be said for "Eight and skate". I miss working 8 hour days. I actually started to feel guilty for leaving at my normal time last week. Now I leave home in the dark and get home in the dark. I don't think I've actually seen my chickens in a week. I've seen their little black outlines but that's about it.
It feels great to finally be home. Well, it did until I got on Facebook. Apparently because I changed my avatar picture to a cartoon character, I'm now a chump. I mean honestly! Did I really think changing my avatar to a cartoon would raise awareness of child abuse? No. It worked for breast cancer when everyone put their bra colors on their statuses, but apparently the rules are different for child abuse or something. I don't know. And frankly, it didn't matter if there was a REASON to do it. I changed my avatar because it was FUN! Fun is now over and I'm tired of taking shots over my bow because I did it. That'll teach me to have a good time on a social networking site. Sheesh! Sorry to any of my Facebook friends who were adamantly against the cartoon avatars. OK This might be a good time to mention that I might be emotionally over reactive today due to stress. (Ya think?) I cried over a Christmas song, wanted to choke someone until they were blue and got all riled up over stupid Facebook of all things. Maybe I need an intervention. THEN on the drive home I started thinking about blogging. How much is too much when it comes to sharing life on here? If I only post about crafts and birds and weather, what's the point? On the other hand, I know there is such a thing as TOO MUCH information shared. So how do I find the balance? That question occupied my feverish brain for at least 15 miles of my drive home. Any advice is welcome on this question by the way. There are times when I share a personal part of my life and then I instantly regret it and feel exposed and vulnerable. I get that way when I talk to people and share my views on things as well. My choices are: say nothing or write nothing and never grow or share with my friends or say or write what I think or feel and have immediate reservations that somehow I've shared too much. I'm constantly learning new things which change the shape of my world. Feelings and conclusions are subject to change without notice in my life. My faith is a constant but even that grows and changes and morphs over time.
By now, Dear Reader, you have had a glimpse into what my day has been like. I am not sure what's driving this bus but I'm ready to get off at the next stop. :)
I think I need to go eat some dinner and then knit for a while. On a safer subject, I stopped working on my scarf and started a new one. The first scarf was rolling up on itself from the sides. I didn't know that stocking knit would do that. So I've started a new scarf with a knit/purl pattern in each row rather than knit a row purl a row. This knitting thing really is more complicated than it looked at first. I'm restraining myself from crochet right now because it would be easy to fall back on that and stop knitting altogether. But I WANT to learn to knit well. So I'm going to stick with it. I think I'm going to have some macaroni and cheese and play with the Quaker parrots for a while. Hope you all had a better day and I hope for better things tomorrow. After all, Scarlett O'Hara wasn't stupid about EVERYTHING. Tomorrow IS another day. :)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

White White Everywhere I look

We've gotten enough snow and rain recently to cover, melt and then re-cover everything in a thick, icy layer of white snow.  Our dogs (two husky/lab mixes and one akita/shepherd mix) are loving the snow. The chickens would complain about it if they were able to however. That's chickens for you though. My inside flock here at the Wren's Nest is happily chatting and singing seemingly unaffected by winter. That's probably because with our wood burning stove running we stay somewhere near 80 deg. F indoors. Some nights I just "melt" into bed. But it's a small house and the stove is smack dab in the middle of it so there ya have it.
Here's something you should never do. Never go to a beautiful Christmas concert in the afternoon and then watch shows about zombies at night. Bad combo there. I woke up feeling depressed I think. lol! It'll pass but the zombies have gotta go. There isn't a single cheerful or uplifting thing about zombies. Not one. Think about that. :)
December is generally a rough time for my whole family since Mom died in the car accident in 2005 at Christmas. But because Christmas was her favorite holiday second only to Thanksgiving, I try and keep it alive in my heart. Mom was such an adventurous person! Everything she and I did together always had the feel of an adventure. I miss that a lot. Sometimes I catch myself daydreaming about what she and I would be up to if she were still alive. It doesn't take long to realize that thinking along those lines is less than helpful. It tends to make me less satisfied with how my life is right now and I just get sad missing her and wishing she were still here. I'll go through these ups and downs for the next few weeks and then things will level out again after the new year starts. Spring is actually harder on me than Christmas when it comes to grieving for her. Somehow, though, with all this snow, I think she'd have us at "Rigormortis Ridge" sledding with a huge group of people. We'd tailgate party with hot soups, rolls, ciders and hot cocoa while the kids and adults trudged up the very tall and steep hill only to come screaming back down in on tubes or sleds. That hill makes for one wild ride! She and I gave it it's name after she and I, Dad and Will discovered and sledded it at dusk one evening only to return the next day and see it in full daylight. At that point, we realized it was only by some miracle that one of us hadn't broken our necks coming down it the night before! But ah the possibilities for speed were too much to resist. We took groups of people there twice and had so much fun that I don't think anyone in either group will ever forget it. I've considered rounding up a troop to head back up there each winter but somehow I just can't bring myself to follow through with it. In theory it sounds wonderful. In practice, it would be much harder emotionally I think than I care to handle.
I'm skipping Christmas decorations this year. Some years  are just like that. I have a little clock that plays a Christmas Carol on the hour every hour and I think that's going to be my only decoration. Just think about how easy it will be to "undecorate" that. :)
Well now that I've completely depressed everyone else reading this, I'll go. It's chore day today and I have a lot to get done before the new work week begins. Enjoy your weather whatever you have. :) Stay warm, dry and happy!

Friday, November 26, 2010

And the world moves on...

After a wonderful week of vacation I'm looking at the weekend before I go back to work. And WOW did I relax this week. There was a bit of work mixed in as well since the cold weather hit and we had to get the outside animals all set up for bitter cold temps and biting winds. But for the most part, I sat at home and did as I pleased. I got to stay up late and sleep in, spin on my new wheel, crochet two hats for a lady at work, play with the birds and have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Jeff and I got to enjoy our week off and I actually feel ready to move on with the world when Monday rolls around again. That's how you know your vacation was a success I suppose. I have mandatory OT for the next two weeks  at work and somehow I don't really mind. I have Christmas and things to look forward to so it makes it easier. Also, the things that didn't sell at the craft bazaar are going to make great gifts for my friends. I find it more satisfying to give homemade gifts to people who can appreciate the effort I put into making the items than I get from giving those types of gifts to people who really couldn't care less. Strange isn't it?
Here's what my lavender soap looks like. Carol sent the picture to me when it came out of the mold. I really had a wonderful time making it and I think it's a valuable skill to pick up if I can just get myself set up with the initial equipment and material. That's going to take a bit of time but the more I think about it the more I really want to do it. I cut the smaller batch of "Alice" scented soap and it's so citrusy (made that word up I think) and wonderful! Even Jeff likes the smell of it. When I trimmed the edges of the soap at the two ends I kept the pieces and used them in my bathroom even though they aren't really cured yet. They lather up so nicely! Carol said that's from the coconut oil we used. She also let me add some lanolin to my soaps. Yummy!! Since working with sheep fleeces I've come to appreciate the effects of lanolin a great deal. Which brings me to my wheel update. I've spun A LOT of single so far this week and I'm going to ply next week. I am NOT a big fan of the merino wool/kid mohair roving I've been using. It's so neppy!  I believe I need to try working with a slightly coarser wool. I have a huge bag of ribbon winning merino wool here that I'm not sure I want to work with right now. *sigh* I always manage to make things more difficult than they really have to be I guess. I am looking forward to spinning alpaca and angora but I want to wait to do those until I have a better understanding of my tension on the Rose and more control over my speeds and drafting. The wheel is the same mechanically but that's like saying Mexico and Greece are both basically land masses.  The differences are tremendous between my older model Ashford and this Majacraft.  But between now and Christmas I hope to get a better handle on my spinning and on knitting as well. I was supposed to be practicing my knitting over vacation but I procrastinated. It takes so much concentration to knit for me right now as a beginner. It's not the knit... it's the purl. Also, Carol is having me hold it Continental instead of English so I'm getting used to manipulating the needles all over again. It's a good thing she's having me learn but it's taking a lot of work to re-learn my basic skills all over again. I really want to knit a garment from alpaca eventually. I was in a shop in the mall this week and saw some hand woven and hand knit garments made from alpaca from Ecuador. AMAZING stuff!
So those are my thoughts as the weekend begins and I get back into the groove of real life again. I feel sort of out of the loop a bit since while I was lazy everyone else I know was going along without a break. :) Hopefully as I get back up to speed I'll have some fun pictures to show of my knitting progress and my new yarn I'm spinning up. Once I finish up this awful roving I have now I'm moving on directly to alpaca I think. Can't wait for that!! Well, I'm off for now. We might get snow tomorrow. :D

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Well it's very cold here! 9 degrees F. this morning when I got up. The chickens spent the night under a heat lamp in the coop and the bunny has been moved into the garage where she and the cats seem to be much more comfortable than if they were outside. The dogs even got set up with comfy beds and sleeping spots. Meanwhile, I can't wait until it warms up to above freezing finally.
It's been a great vacation so far. I have spun and crocheted and sewn and played with the birds and Jeff and I went to the mall yesterday. I haven't been to the mall for almost 3 years before yesterday! lol! Today is Thanksgiving and we have sunshine outside and a warm fire inside. Daisy woke up singing "You Are My Sunshine" and Qwynn has been happy and chatting all morning as well. I love it when the birds wake up on the right side of the perch.
We're getting  a smoked turkey for sandwiches this afternoon  but we aren't telling the birds. :) I'm going to steam some butternut squash and vegetables, make some stuffing or mashed potatoes and they can have some of that when we eat. They love butternut squash almost as much as I do. It's a low-key holiday since neither Jeff or I have family to spend the holiday with but we're both OK with that. I'm downloading some audio books off Audible.com, watching re-runs of favorite TV shows and I'm going to spin more single today and then attempt plying on the Rose for the first time. I'm a little nervous about that. Yesterday at the mall I visited a shop that sold hand woven jackets from Ecuador and they were obviously made from handspun wool. Beautiful designs! It made me wish I had the time and patience to learn to weave as well as spin, knit, and crochet. I'm supposed to be practicing my knitting as well this week. The only problem is that it takes so much concentration to knit that I feel like I've been wrung out by the time I take a break. It isn't very relaxing for me yet. I'm definitely looking forward to spinning more today though.
Last night I thought about all the things I have to be thankful for and the list became so long that I fell asleep. The friends I have, the home, the family and critters, our jobs that provide the income to support our little hobby farm here are all on the list.  When the weather starts to turn cold and nasty I'm always conscious of the blessing of warmth. The split lodgepole wood we got is hard and burns hot and long so it's been absolutely wonderful to burn.
With Thanksgiving here I can now openly listen to Christmas music without people looking at me funny. :) I'm feeling pretty lazy today so I'm going to sign off for now. I've gotten so used to  sleeping in and staying up late that I hope I can go back to my normal work schedule next week. :) Happy Thanksgiving!!!!!!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Finally vacation has arrived!

I am officially on vacation all next week. With Thanksgiving on the horizon and cooler temps here to stay for a while, we've begun using the wood burning stove and I'm playing Christmas music already. I LOVE this holiday season. If they had Thanksgiving music I'd play that instead, but as it is, Christmas music sets the tone nicely.  Neither Jeff or I have family who celebrates holidays so we are having a holiday at home season again which is OK with us. We aren't traveling or worrying about travelers coming to us. The last two weeks have been so busy that I am ready for vacation! First there was the craft bazaar to get through. Which I did. It was my first time participating and I had fun, for the most part, and enjoyed seeing which of my things sold and hearing what people had to say about them. We were given numbers as vendors so nobody knew what vendor name  belonged to what craft. That was interesting. Some folks put their cards out with their things which was smart for returning customers. But after it was all said and done, I was relieved to have it over. I'm not sure if I'll do it again next year. It's hard putting the things you made with love out for people to paw through and comment on. It feels like standing naked on a corner lot while pedestrians walk by. Lol! NOT that I've ever done that either but I think it must be just as disconcerting. Now for the best part....

Jeff e-mailed me at work yesterday to say my spinning wheel was ready to pick up! With a little creative financial geniusing he managed to get enough money to pay my wheel off and I brought the Majacraft Rose spinning wheel home last night.
Majacraft Rose
Here she is. :) As for looks, I think the Traditional wheel is prettier. But for sheer mechanics and and as a production wheel, the Rose has it where it counts. And the wood used to make it is really lovely as well. I got my jammies on, snapped a couple of pics and started spinning with some prepared roving. The roving was a kid mohair/merino wool mix and a bit neppy. But I spun a nice fine single using the standard whorl and I'm very happy with my wheel! I can't wait to get back to it again tonight. For now, I figured it was time to catch up with my blog, let the parrots play around while I typed and enjoyed the scenery outside this morning. This is what my yard looked like when I got up today.

It was snowing. It stuck but it won't stay.

It's our first snow of the year in the valley and almost everyone is glad to see it. Those who aren't are lamenting the weather change but when God says it should snow, who's gonna argue? Not me. Meanwhile, I sit comfy and warm in my home with Jeff, the birds and our hedgehog while the dogs play in the snow, the cats avoid it at all costs and the chickens peck at it suspiciously. It's the chickens' first snow since they were hatched and when I let them out of the coop this morning they were afraid of the snow. I don't know if they thought I had manufactured it to throw them off or if it was a dangerous creature in a hitherto unseen form but they hid under their coop for a while before deciding it was safe to venture out. I spread a little of the parrot's leftover seed on the ground and that seemed to encourage the chickens to peck at the snow and make sure they were going to be OK. Chickens indeed!
Fog is rolling in now so we have some low lying clouds coming in to sit on the hill top we live on. It's going to be a gloomy day I fear. Tonight is the Canyon County Christmas show at the Idaho Center and Jeff is going to take me tonight to look around. I just love craft shows. My friend Carol is at one today selling her wares at a booth. I hope she does really well. Her hand spun yarns and hand knit hats and cowls and gloves and socks are the best ever! Tomorrow she is going to teach me to make soap. At our holiday bazaar at work someone brought in goats' milk soap to sell. It smelled alright at first but it had an "after smell" that was unpleasant and it seemed like it would be one of those soaps that smelled great the first 2 times you used it and after that the nice scent would be gone and the nasty smell would be all that was left until the soap was a sliver. Carol's soap stays lathery and smells good up until the very last particle has been used. THAT is the kind of soap I would be proud to make. And she is going to be generous enough to teach me!! And now that the holiday bazaar is over, I have to buckle down and learn to knit for real and true. No more crochet deadlines are hanging over my head so it's time to get serious about knitting. I am also going to start spinning straight angora rabbit fur now that I have my new wheel. I'm using the roving that came with it to learn the ins and outs and settings of the wheel and whorl and then I'm going to focus on angora. It's almost time to shear Licorice, my black angora rabbit. She's so fluffy right now!! The little tufts at the tips of her ears have grown out and she looks like a cross between a gnome and a rabbit. She's adorable and of course, soooooooo soft! That black fur is going to spin into something beautiful! This coming spring I hope to acquire another angora rabbit. I have a huge merino fleece to start working with too. My friend let me borrow her book by Margaret Stover on preparing and spinning merino wool. It's not for the faint hearted that's for sure. I'm wondering if I shouldn't get one more fleece to play around with that's not quite as fine as merino. I'll have to think on that for a bit though. I have more than enough to focus on for now.
Well, off to play with the birds and eat some snacks. No church for us today because of the weather (and I woke up too late) so it's a home day. Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Crazy antics!

Life at my house has been just nuts since Sunday. There I was, calmly watching TV at 7pm in my living room when a tiny little field mouse goes skittering behind Daisy's cage and under the TV. I, of course, yell for Jeff and start wondering where the little monster came from and how I'm going to deal with the invasion. It took me 3.2 seconds to decide we were being overrun. (rolls eyes) So I moved furniture, vacuumed the house - again - and tried to remove any possible food source. Of course, the whole time I'm doing this, I realize that while I'm at work on Monday the birds will be throwing food to the mice all day long. Probably in exchange for whatever tricks the mice know. I had the whole mouse/bird conspiracy worked out in my head before I had finished cleaning that night. Nevertheless, I had to do something so since we had no traps in the house, I cleaned. Monday night we bought traps and brought them home. Jeff began setting them out and I decided to wash the bedding. I lifted a blanket of the bed and a mouse jumped out of the now aloft blanket, bounced off me and landed back on the bed. I screamed because I was so startled and he then had the audacity to race across MY PILLOW in order to escape the screaming human female who rousted him out of his soft, warm bed. So now I'm washing everything  - again. Jeff caught the mouse last night but I have no idea how long he's been in here. I vacuum or sweep every night so no mouse poop would have accumulated to tell me we had an interloper of the rodent variety. I had 3 baskets of freshly washed laundry sitting in the bedroom. All of that will now be washed again as well. My unexplained asthma is now perfectly understandable as well. I'm VERY allergic to mice. Almost as allergic as I am to cats. Lucky me huh?
Tonight I got home from work with Subway for Jeff and I. We got the chickens set up with a heat lamp and I cleaned the rabbit hutch. We're supposed to get a bit of snow tonight so I wanted the critters all as comfortable as possible before the first storm. After chores I let the inside birds out to play on their cage tops and sat down to eat. Daisy, my Blue Fronted Amazon, decided my sandwich looked really good and that she wanted some. Now keep in mind that Daisy never learned to fly. When I got her she had been clipped by the breeder and was almost a year old. Since I got her, I let her fledge and have been helping her experiment with flight. It's good for parrots to at least learn to fly even if you have to clip them for safety reasons later. Anyway, Daisy decided to come get a piece of my sandwich all on her own and LAUNCHED herself straight up in the air and flew onto our ceiling fan, landing on a blade. We always keep the ceiling fan off when the birds are out and I was never more glad about that than I was today. lol! Here's Daisy....

She looked so confused about how she got up there and she didn't have a clue how to get down. I had to snap these pics before I stood on the back of the couch to rescue her. Right after this, my African Grey who is fully flighted flew into the dining area (which she knows is off limits) to land on my head.  Putting down my half eaten sandwich, I admitted defeat and made the birds some hand feeding formula to give them. It's a special treat that I mix with red palm oil to help their feathers and skin stay healthy. They LOVE it. Qwynn, the African Grey gets it from a syringe like she did when she was a baby and Daisy prefers to eat it out of a cup. After I gave it to them, Qwynn sat and talked to her toys while she played with them (which was really cute by the way) and Daisy played with her plastic measuring cups and sang a little bit of a song from time to time. It was like I'd flipped the magic switch and everyone was happy. I actually got to finish my food afterward too which made me happy as well.
Thursday is Veteran's Day and my company is giving it to us as a paid holiday. I have an appointment with Cleo at The Sheep Shed to go look at new spinning wheels. She's going to let me spin on a few and pick out the one I want so I can put money down on it and start paying it off. I hope to be able to bring it home by Christmas! Woohooo!! I'm very excited. Already I think I want a Schacht with a high speed whorl. I haven't actually spun on it yet so I'm waiting to make my final decision once I've spun on the wheels. I feel like a kid in a candy shop though. Jeff got his new video game tonight and I've been encouraging him to go play with it. He did for a while then came and slept on the couch while I crocheted yet another hat for the holiday bazaar and watched TV. Then he volunteered to go get me some orange juice because I mentioned it sounded good (he's so awesome!) and when he came home, we battened down the hatches and the rain started. The roads are going to be slick in the morning so I'm going to hit the sack now and get up early to make the drive in safe and as slowly as I need to. Hope everyone reading this is safe, warm, loved and happy tonight. :)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Bird Brain

OK. I have this thing about birds. I love 'em! Big ones, little ones, ones that sing, ones that talk, and even birds that bite. God had me in mind when he made birds. I have NO idea why it took me 33 years to figure it out though. I am allergic to virtually every animal on the planet - except birds. I have asthma but do you think that stops me from giving my African Grey kisses on her tummy and breathing in all her dusty goodness? It most certainly does not. And my asthma is not exacerbated by it in the least. My mom was very allergic to birds so we never had them in the house when I was growing up. But she loved them too. She raised geese outside. Those geese followed my mother everywhere! She would be outside weeding the flowers and she 'd have one goose on her left and one on her right and all 3 of them would have their heads poking into the same plant or sbrub. So I'm in excellent company when I admit that I love birds. I have a house full of them. In fact. Here's the count:
3 Quaker parrots
4 cockatiels
4 finches
1 canary
1 Maroon bellied conure
1 Blue Front Amazon parrot
1 Congo African Grey
1 Lovebird
No partridges in the pear tree yet but I do have 5 chickens outside in a coop as well. So since this blog is going to be about the things I love, I had to give the birds some space of their own.

Craft Night with the girls

Wednesday night this week a few good friends and I got together for craft night at my place.  The birds were all on their best behavior (except the Amazon of course) and we had nachos with Carrie's homemade salsa, cookies and finger food. Good stuff! After the eating we all compared projects and I took pictures which I am going to post. Carrie is crocheting dresses for her grand daughters, Rachel is working on her first granny square afghan, Suzie did this amazing amigurumi dragon and is working on a penguin now. Her daughter made her a panda and I have a picture of that too. I'm doing more fingerless gloves to sell at the craft bazaar.  So we all sat around and chatted and told stories. Carrie got a new tattoo of her African Grey parrot so we got to see that too. All in all, it was a very good time and we scheduled the night for next month to do it again! There's nothing like having a gaggle of girls to hang out with and craft and share with. We talked about how God brings us together as friends at the right times with the right people and how happy we were for that gift. There's just nothing like a good friend! Can't wait for next month!
In the meanwhile, I've been working OT at work (sigh) and trying to have a life at the same time. Virtually impossible if I want to get 7 or 8 hours of sleep at night as well as spin or crochet or watch a movie or something. So I'm short on sleep tonight and already feeling like I should be in bed. Our wood for winter was delivered today and I'm super relieved to have that all taken care of. The fence guy finally called us back and he's going to start a chicken coop run expansion for us next week. Hooray!! I still have a cough and I'm supposed to sing at church tomorrow. I can't get through the song I picked out so my cousin Rachel is going to sing with me and that will be wonderful! My voice is just too weak after 17 days of coughing, clearing my throat and trying to function.
I sat down at the spinning wheel tonight for a few minutes until my back started to ache from hunching over. I need a better spinning chair. Anyway, I grabbed what I thought was alpaca and started to spin it. The hand of the roving felt all wrong and I couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong. Then I realized I'd picked up the wrong bag and was spinning coarse wool not soft alpaca! Duh! That's when I realized I was too tired to spin anything worth using and I should set it aside until later. When a spinner can't tell the difference between coarse wool and alpaca, it's time to call it a night. :(  I want to make time to spin this weekend though. I still have lap quilts to finish but I NEED to spin. I physically crave it at this point. Does that make me an addict? (laughing)
My friend Carol is going to be at the Eagle holiday craft bazaar this weekend and I'm going to go visit her booth and check out all the crafty stuff on Sunday. This time of year is so much fun! Thanksgiving is just around the corner and I have that whole week off to spin and knit and crochet and spin and spin some more. Did I mention I plan on spinning that week? :)  Then Christmas comes next with all the good food, the caroling, the cold weather and snow and warm fires. Yeah!!!
OK, well enough about that I guess. I'm going to post some pictures of crafts from craft night and my most recent yarn. I got some variegated top from a friend and it's the first top I've ever spun. It became a nice bit of yarn. Check out those colors!!
Carrie's tattoo is of her African Grey named Allison.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Random blogginess

Being new to blogging I'm not sure if there are generally accepted ideas about how often one should blog to be consider a " decent " blogger. Not that I'm the poster child for decency, but I do like to put forth my best effort. Everyone is voting today. Well, I haven't voted yet because I am at work making money to pay taxes so that the people I vote for can use my hard earned cash well. Right. Having said that, I have mandatory overtime at work so if I can get to the polls I will. If not, I will never admit it. Heeheehee.
I think I am finally turning the corner toward getting away from this cold bug. Meanwhile I have Craft Group at my house tomorrow night and I can hardly wait. Tonight I mop floors, hassle Jeff about cleaning his bathroom, make sure I have chairs and snack ideas all worked out and get ready to have company. Most of us are crocheting right now with a knitter mixed in occasionally. I might spin since I'll be at home and won't have to lug the wheel around anywhere to use it. I haven't gotten to spin or sew for two weeks so it's time to blow the dust off and get cracking again. I'm at T minus 2 weeks and one day before the holiday bazaar at work so I need to have my crafts completed and priced before then. My crocheted items are done but my lap quilts still need bindings and I have two more to start from scratch if I have time. But my heart is longing to spin my alpaca! I need to tell my heart to just hold it's horses and settle down because my other crafts are what will pay for my new spinning wheel. I need to go out to The Sheep Shed and look at wheels with Cleo and put some money down on one though. Now that I know what to look for in a wheel this buying experience will be much different than it was with my first wheel.
Having blogged, I now feel better. Not like so much of a slacker anymore. I'm going back to work to earn my daily crust of bread. :)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Story Yarn

As any good Story Yarn should, mine has a story behind it. I attended my very first fiber fest at Trailing of the Sheep in Hailey, ID earlier this month. My friend Carol  had a booth at the folk life fair and sold her homemade items from her own handspun wool and angora yarn. She invited me, a fairly new spinner, to bring my wheel and spin with her at her booth. It was a chilly morning so close to the Sawtooth Mountains in early October, but I was game and very excited! I got there early enough to help Carol set up her booth and get her angora rabbit settled in. MacBeth (the rabbit's name) was the highlight of her booth and he enjoyed every minute of the attention he got all day long.  Carol and I got comfy in our chairs in front of our wheels and started to spin. Now when she invited me and I read the agenda, it seemed like there would be spinners galore as well as demonstrations and kids' classes so I was prepared to be ignored and get some singles spun and plied while I visited with Carol and enjoyed people watching and all the new sights, smells and sounds. There were people from several different cultures wandering from booth to booth speaking multiple languages and some wearing their native garb. Some booths had homespun yarn for sale, some had fleece roving for sale and some had garments and other goodies to offer so there was a lot to look at. Early on, however, I found a large number of people were fascinated with our wheels and our spinning. Surprisingly, from what I gleaned throughout the day, we were two of only a very few spinners who were actually spinning at the folk life fair. We got asked questions ranging from the mechanics of the wheel to the kind of fiber we were spinning and where it came from. Carol was actually spinning some of MacBeth's angora fur she had harvested at his last shearing so everyone loved to see that. I had some simple alpaca/merino wool mix roving I'd planned on finishing off. It wasn't anything fancy and it hadn't been expensive. My wheel, as you can see, is an older Ashford Traditional single treadle and it had been used and well loved before I got it from a lady in Arizona off e-bay. Noticing the energy and fascination folks were exhibiting as they watched us spin, I found myself asking people if they wanted to try and spin from my wheel. A surprising number of men wanted to try and quite a few kids. One pre-teen boy I remember particularly well. He was very polite, very excited and thrilled to death when he spun a length of his very first yarn. I broke it off, let it double against itself as a ply and gave it to him to take home. Most of the kids got sections of their own yarn but the adults just wanted to work the treadle and attempt to draft the roving simultaneously. So you can imagine what some of the sections of my single looked like. :) I had nice even sections where I had been able to spin without interruption and then large sections that were thick and overspun and uneven. As the lumpy uneven masses of single spun began to fill my bobbins, I decided that any yarn I'd ply from it would be virtually unusable. I considered it no big loss though because the looks on the faces of people who got to spin at a wheel for the first time... well, the experience for me was priceless. Carol said I was earning stars for my crown that day. What I really was doing was letting those people remind me of why I started spinning in the first place. The excitement in their eyes and the disjointed body movements that occasionally became smoother as they found a rhythm all brought back why I love to spin.  After going through two big sections of roving on two separate bobbins, I decided to ply the yarn and keep it rather than tossing the singles and calling it a waste of roving. I realized what a treasure I had in my hands. I had a record of the first hands-on experience people were getting with a real spinning wheel and unspun fiber. In the kinetic energy stored in the singles they helped me spin, I plied together a multi-cultural exchange of ideas, experience and awe. The picture of my story yarn will serve as a reminder for me of several things. First, just because something doesn't go according to my original plan, I need to stick with it because there may be something better and more enriching in store for me. Second, I will NEVER again worry about the "waste" of material or fiber again when I demonstrate spinning and let someone else try their hand at it. Who knows what events were set in motion because those kids (and the adults too) were able to try something they otherwise might never see or get to try again? And finally, I learned that fiber fests are wonderful, amazing events and I want to attend every one I have the chance to.
I'm not sure what I'll eventually do with my Story Yarn. I might make something from it or I might keep it in my cedar chest just the way it is and treasure it for the memories I'll associate with it. I can say this with certainty though. I hope to make a lot of story yarn over my life time from here on out.

Autumn is really here now!

The leaves on all of our trees are gold and red. My burning bushes are all red and showy too. I went outside this morning to check on the rabbit and while she's nice and warm in her fluffy angora coat (7 times warmer than wool by the way!) the wind had my fingers practically frozen by the time I got back inside. That's what I get for going outside in my jammies in October, right? So autumn has arrived. Unfortunately it finds me with neither an expanded chicken coop or a winter's supply of wood stocked up. So I need to get on the ball and make some calls tomorrow about getting some wood laid in. Meanwhile, Jeff has been in contact with our fence guy and we've gotten nowhere with him so we'll have to find someone else to expand the chicken coop run. Apparently they don't have enough room because the Barred Plymouth Rock pullet is pecking the feathers off the other black Sex Linked pullets and I'm not very happy about that. I'm also sitting on about 5 dozen eggs right now. I've been sick so I haven't been able to off load the eggs like I usually can. My brother will be taking 4 dozen home to his 7 kids and wife today though so there's one less thing to fuss over.
This morning now finds me on the couch blogging. Qwynn, my Congo African Grey parrot is sitting on her playstand right next to me preening her feathers and being a good girl. Daisy and Sammi, my Amazon and Maroon bellied conure respectively are also close at hand and performing their morning ablutions while I type away with Pandora streaming in the background. The other birds are all playing and being good and Cricket, my canary, is singing his little heart out! He's got a great voice and a lovely song. It's very nearly a perfect Sabbath morning. We missed church this morning because I'm just getting over this nasty cold and Jeff might be coming down with it. I'm supposed to sing for church next week so here's hoping my voice recovers in time otherwise it'll be more of a sing-along than a solo. *gulp* Solo. I haven't done one since before Mom died and I'm more than a little nervous about doing one now. But Jeff assures me it's time to move past that so I'm going to try. 
I've been trying to figure out this whole blogging thing this morning too. So far I apparently have a lot in common with a slew of stay at home moms and practicing witches. I can't explain that one but when I hit "next blog" while reading through other blogs to see if I want to follow any, those are what I eventually stumble into. I don't have kids and work 40+ hours a week and couldn't be further from a practicing witch so I have more to figure out on here I suppose. Hey, it's not like there's a manual or anything.
But I did find some really great blogs from fiber crafters and other spinners so I'm following those as well as my friend Kerri's new blog and my friend Nicole's blog. It's a great day to sit by the wood stove and be all cozy. But Jeff needs to clean the chimney so I'll have to turn up the furnace today I guess.  I have some nice alpaca to spin if I get the wheel out. My cousin might be coming over tonight for a scary movie fest (if she wants to brave a house full of cold virus). This cold virus came at a really inconvenient time for us here. Wouldn't it be nice if you could actually schedule illness? Oh well.
I've heard Canada geese flying overhead this morning. OK - I didn't actually hear them flying, but I heard them calling to each other as they flew over the house. That is such a "fall" sound! My favorite time of year is just around the corner. Once Halloween is over, the real holiday season kicks off and I have Thanksgiving and Christmas to look forward to and I am really looking forward to it this year. Carol is still going to teach me to make soap and I have spinning and knitting and crochet and Jeff and the birds and my crafting friends to fill my time with. Here's hoping for an amazing holiday season this year! Now I think I'll sign off and go get some warm fuzzy socks on my feet. Might turn the furnace up a smidge too. 

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Nest

The birds are finally all in their cages and covered up for the night. The floors are swept and cleaned, the rest of the critters are in bed and Jeff is in the man cave doing something technologically advanced. Me? Well I've decided to try blogging. I'm actually trying it from my iPad. I can't say I appreciate the miracle of touch screen keyboards like I should. *sigh* This was my first week at the new job. I'm with the same company I've worked at for the last 3+ years just in a new position. I have to admit that I'm loving it. I remember 15 years ago thinking how much I'd love to do what I'm doing now. And here I am actually doing it. What a crazy bumpy road though! There have been some good things over the last few years but as a whole I'd have to say that I'd never want to have to relive the last 6 years over again...ever. Only now do I feel like I'm somewhat recovering from the sheer awfulness of it all. So it's time for a new start here at the nest.
The holidays are coming up and we have a holiday craft bazaar at work just before Thanksgiving. I've been crafting like a maniac for two months solid trying to get enough items to sell and buy a new spinning wheel. I have a used, very much loved Ashford Traditional single drive spinning wheel right now and I would LOVE to upgrade to a Schacht double drive wheel with ball bearings. My spinning has really improved and I bought a greased merino wool fleece two weeks ago. It won grand champion at the state fair and it's just lovely. Once I wash and dry it and run it through my drum carder I'll be able to spin and dye it. I can hardly wait to get started.
Unfortunately I came down with the cold that won't die last week and although I've started to feel better I have a ways to go just yet. But I need to finish the lap quilts I'm working on too. I want to get some cards made up for The Wren's Nest but haven't had the time. Maybe I should enlist Jeff's help on that one.
So enough blogging for tonight. I'm going to hit the Nyquil and then hit the sack. I'll be interested to see if I keep up with this blogging thing. TTFN