Saturday, October 28, 2006

I did six (SIX!!) rounds of the urchin shawl yesterday. How this happened, I don't know, because that means that I knit for approximately five hours and I have no idea where that time came from. But appparently the time was there, because my chart now shows I'm on round 241.

Instead of showing the lace blob yet again (just picture it looking slightly blobbier), I'll leave you with this...

This is taken from the flank of Mt. Harris, looking south over the Grande Ronde River valley along the edge of the Wallowa Mountains. I live in that valley, out of the picture to the right, and I can see that steep face of the Wallowas from my kitchen window.

If you drive on the Forest Service road up to the ridgeline of those hills and look east, you see this:

This is looking out over the Minam River valley and the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, to the next three layers of mountains in the Wallowa Range. They're sort of like a series of folds running northwest/southeast, with each successive fold getting higher. The highest peaks approach 10,000 feet.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

So far, I'm pleased with Blogger beta.......EXCEPT that for some reason, I'm not getting all the comments emailed to me anymore! Waaa! Those of us who don't get hundreds of comments per post consider the ones we do get to be precious! So those of you who have commented on the past few posts, sorry I didn't see them right away, and thanks for commenting! Not sure why this is happening- I have the settings on the blog correct to get comments emailed, and I've written to Blogger, but of course haven't heard back yet. It also seems to be sending all the comments from, so I can't even write back to the ones that do get through (though I did find an email address on the person's blog in a couple cases).

Anyway. Fiber content. I did another round on the urchin shawl this morning in between loads of laundry. Tidied up the loom room a bit. Browsed through some weaving books.

To all the weavers out there- Does anyone have recommendations for good books for four to eight harness patterns? Several came with my loom: I have "Foot Treadle Loom Weaving" by Edward Worst (1976), "200 Patterns for Multiple Harness Looms" by Russell Groff (1979), and "A Handweaver's Pattern Book- Revised Edition" by Marguerite Davison (1944). I know the Davison book is one of the standards, but what else is good?
After a much too long break, I've picked up the urchin shawl again. I haven't really worked on this project much since the beginning of August, what with selling the house and the packing and moving and colds and the Fair, and then the vacation in which I planned to knit but never did. And, of course, the new loom.

I've done nine rounds in the past three days, and today I passed a very significant milestone. I've completed through Round 230 (of 291), and have now tipped over the 50% mark!!!! (This, according to my masochistic spreadsheet that I really should just delete off my computer.) I'm actually 62.4% done with the body of the shawl, but when you add in the edging, it's only 50.3% done.

I have 1140 stitches on the needle right now. Each round takes approximately 45 minutes to knit. This is definitely a project that's about enjoying the process and being patient.

From what I can tell, it has about a 28-29" radius right now, meaning that the finished diameter of the body will end up around 70", which is exactly what I was planning.

I have a ring marker separating each section around the shawl. Nine of them are green. One is red. Green means "Keep going, you're not at the end of the round yet, but you can do it! Go Sue Go!"

I adore the red ring.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

I finished the two denim rugs last night. The larger one is the same size as the first one I did, 25" x 35", and the smaller is 25" x 23". I wanted to make them both the same size, but I ran out of denim and don't have any more jeans to cut up at the moment. As it turns out, though, the rugs fit perfectly in our oddly shaped master bath.

These rugs were fun, quick projects. A day to cut the denim, a day to sew the strips and warp the loom, a day to weave off. I wonder what will be next up on the loom? I think the urchin shawl needs to be the next full-time project, though, if I want to finish it by the end of the year.

I also spun a lot last night. I had an insomniac night, and while watching "The Notebook," "National Treasure," and an episode of Stargate SG-1, I managed to cover the bobbin with the froghair silk singles. This is 8 hours worth of spinning so far.

I do love spinning fine. I rummaged through my supply of assorted strings and found The Perfect Brake Band. It's #50 6-ply crochet cotton, from the thrift store. Now I can adjust the take up tension to be as gentle as I want, and the spinning last night was effortless.

Friday, October 20, 2006

I've been doing a bit of spinning (now that I can actually see what I have in my closet!), and here's the product of about three hours' work last Wednesday.

Not a very impressively-filled bobbin, is it? But check this out-

This is 120 wraps-per-inch 100% tussah silk! I'd completely forgotten that I had this ball of silk roving in my fiber stash. I'm having a bit of trouble getting the take-up on my wheel to be gentle enough to spin this fine, but I think if I get a thinner brake band it might be better. I did switch over to the stretchy polycord drive band I had on my Ashford, and that helped some. I have a full pound of this roving, and this three hours' worth of spinning took a piece five inches long off the end, less than a tenth of an ounce.

I also warped the loom again yesterday, for another denim rug.

I have two and a half pounds of denim strips left from the first rug, which only took a pound and a half, so I made a four yard warp this time instead of a two yard one. I haven't decided yet if this warp will become two smaller rugs like I planned or one longer one. I used up all the blue rug warp in the first one, so this is green and white. I kind of like the way the green is interacting with the denim, and I wish there had been more on the spool so the green part could have been wider.

I did two things differently with this warp. First, I threaded it back-to-front, which I'd never done before. It went OK, but felt a little awkward still. I'll do another couple warps this way before I decide if I like it. It was nice, though, to have the cross secured on the lease sticks rather than in my hand, so I could walk away if I had to. Another thing I did differently on this rug was to double up the last two warp ends on each side, in both the heddles and the reed. I think this will give a stronger, more stable selvedge.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Getting even more high-tech! I just switched over to the new Blogger beta format, so if anyone encounters glitches with my blog, let me know. I'm able to see the new version just fine, but you never know what's going to happen when you start fiddling around with things that "ain't broke"!

I liked the option that the beta version offers to label posts with categories, so I decided to switch over. I may go back and add labels to some old posts, so if you use Bloglines, I apologize in advance for the re-posting of old material!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

I made a decision today. I can no longer live with my fiber closet looking like this:

It's not just like this because of moving. My fiber closet in the last two places I lived looked virtually the same, though even more crowded becasue the closets were smaller. After five years, I decided to do something about it.

A trip to the Empire of Evil (aka Wal-Mart) and $15 gave me this:

It's amazing what just getting rid of the boxes does to make it look better. Now I can actually see what I have, and am able to access it without unstacking all the boxes and rummaging through each one when I'm trying to find something. I even labelled all the different pillowcases of wool, so I will know what's in each without opening it. How very organized of me.....

The spinning wheel will not be perched there on top permanently, as I'm going to try and sell it (love my Schacht!), and the same with the rigid heddle loom that is tucked in the corner behind the shelves. I'm not a multiple wheel/loom kind of person.

I had fun going through all the boxes and seeing what's in the stash. I did discover, though, that I have way too much wool. I know- is that possible? But, yes. I don't really like having a big stash. I have four whole fleeces (two wool, two alpaca), and a bunch of bits and pieces, each around a pound of fiber or less, and all very nice things I will enjoy working with. I need to card up some of these so I can spin them, rather than just have them sitting in the closet. The two wool fleeces need another wash before they can be carded, though. I didn't get all the grease out the first time and they still feel a bit sticky. I also have a whole pile of handspun that's waiting to be made into several somethings. Most of the yarn I have is handspun, which actually surprised me (I don't know why, though, since I've been doing so much spinning the last two years!)

I'll leave you with a cutie-pie picture. Remember the hand spun handknit sweater I made last year? Well, I found it in the box of entries from the Fair, and Emma had to try it on right away. It's still a bit big, but with the sleeves rolled up once, it's not too bad. I'd forgotten how yummy the yarn feels. Love that Ashland Bay top!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Monday I warped the loom again for a project I've been plotting for a while. I had four pairs of Shaun's old jeans that had unmendable holes, and I just could couldn't bring myself to throw them away. There was so much denim that was still perfectly good!

So I cut the jeans into 1/2" strips, sewed the strips end to end, and made this:

A virtually indestructable rag rug, made entirely of recycled denim and the tail ends of three spools of cotton rug warp that came with my loom. The warp is set at 8 ends per inch, the weft is beaten (hard) to 4 picks per inch, and I wove 3" with the rug warp at the beginning and end, folded it over twice and machine stitched it down for hems. It's 25" x 35", and fits perfectly in the space I designed it for (Emma's bathroom).

I have enough denim strips left for at least one more rug, maybe two.The inspiration for this project, aside from a way to reincarnate old jeans, is the most beautiful pair of blue eyes I've ever seen, which just happen to belong to Emma.

I love how the slightly different colors of denim from the four pairs of jeans blend together in the rug to mimic the rays in her iris. I jumbled the cut strips together in a big bag and reached in randomly when I was sewing the strips together.

Truly a family project- inspiration from Emma, materials from Shaun, woven by me.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Because Charleen was kind enough to ask, here's the draft for the placemats I showed last time. Like I said, I'm sure it's not a new pattern, but I did come up with it myself.

I like how it has diamonds of plainweave surrounded by the lattice of longer floats. (The warp threads run horizontally in this picture.)

I've also been spinning a bit. This is some Romney/Border Leicester wool that I got at the spin-in at the Fair in August. It was grown on San Juan Island, on the farm of one of my Textile Guild friends.

There's just something so honest about gray wool. Not sure what this is going to become, yet. It's a three-ply sportweight, so it will be knit, and with 740 yards, there's plenty for a shawl or hat and mittens. It's pretty soft, considering it's a Romney cross.

Nothing will happen with this yarn right away though; it's going into the stash to marinate for a while. I have to finish the urchin shawl (remember that?!) before I start any new knitting projects. My new goal is to have that done before the end of the year. Which means I should probably get going on it!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Well, now that the travel posts are done, I can get back to blogging events that are actually current! We're moved in to our rental house, mostly unpacked, and fairly settled. There are a few boxes still in the garage, but for the most part, it feels like we're home.

One of the first things I did the first week we were here was (of course) to set up my new-to-me loom. It was sheer torture to have bought this two days after we moved out of our house in Friday Harbor, and right away have to put it in storage for two months. I used the loom as incentive to keep unpacking- I had to unpack X number of boxes, then I could play with the loom. It worked well.

It came with a warp already threaded on it, but only partially wound on. So the first thing I did was to finish beaming that warp. I figured that I could use it for practice, just do a bunch of samples and get the feel of the loom. I wasn't really sure what I could make with that yarn (a thick 4/4 cotton), so I was just going to sample. I also had to figure out what the threading was, and what the tie-up was, because obviously the former owner had done those parts, and I had no idea what pattern she was planning to use. It was a good educational step, recreating a draft based on what I saw actually on the loom.

Once I had the threading and tie-up noted in my record book, I could sit down and weave! I tried a couple different treadlings, and a couple types of yarn (first I used the same yarn as the warp, but it was too hard to see the developing pattern, so I switched to a contrasting color). I also changed the tie-up a couple times (which was not nearly as big a deal as I thought it was going to be), just to see what that threading could do in different configuations. The second and third tie-ups and treadlings I invented myself on graph paper. I'm sure they are by no means original, as they are very simple, but I didn't copy them out of a book. Basically, I just played around.

From one threading and three tie-ups, I came up with 9 different patterns, and I have a feeling this is just the tip of a BIG iceberg. But when I got to the last pattern, the red and white one on the far right of the above picture, I liked it so much that I sampled it again in the warp yarn. I still liked it a lot, so I did this:

Four placemats-

4/4 cotton warp and weft
16 epi warp
10 ppi weft, using a firm double beat on the closed then next open shed
13.5" x 18" on the loom
12.5" x 16.5" after washing

I love before and after pictures of wet finishing weaving. It's like an act of faith to throw your finished piece of fabric, that has taken a not insignificant chunk of time to make, into the washing machine. I mean, I liked the way it looked before I washed it; what if something horrible happened and it shrank up to nothing or came unravelled, or the yarn disintegrated or something??!! You have to trust your yarn and craftsmanship. (And, obviously, not do something stupid like put a piece of wool fabric in the washer for the complete cycle and expect it not to felt. Know your yarn.) But this was cotton, and my logical mind knew that it would be OK.

I'm very happy with the finished placemats, and Shaun has said several times how nice they are. They are thick and protective, and will be our everyday mats. It makes me feel very proud and satisfied to see them on our table.

In other news, Emma and I had a momentous event about a week ago. We both got haircuts! Here's the before:

And here's the after:

I cut Emma's hair, and Shaun cut mine. Love having a simple, straight-across haircut! I lost 16", and Emma lost 8". This was a huge deal for Emma (well, more for Shaun and me- Emma doesn't really care), because this is the first time she's had her back hair cut. It was time, though, because the ends were getting really fragile and splitty. Not to mention all the peanut butter and yogurt she kept getting in her hair. Emma's ponytail will be going in her keepsake box, mine will be going off to Locks of Love. Since 2001, I've donated 44 inches of hair to them (in three batches).

Friday, October 06, 2006

Cross-Country Camping Trip, Part 9

On Thursday (9/14/06), we left Rocky Mountain National Park and headed across Colorado. We stopped for a late lunch somewhere between Maybell and Elkspring, Colorado, just off to the side of the road. It was really windy and dry, so dry that by the time you had eaten half your sandwich, the bread was already dried out and crunchy like light toast! I have never in my life been in a place that dry.

It was actually a really interesting place, considering it was just a roadside stop. There were some really pretty asters,

and some other plants that were extremely prickly. One species had beautiful rose-colored papery, prickly bracts on the tiny flowers:

and another species had wicked-looking maroon sandspur-like seeds.

There were several other species present, and out of the six plant species I counted in the immediate roadside area, five were covered with spines. Not a fun place to walk barefoot! There was also a colony of small chipmunk-like rodents there, though I couldn't get a good look at them, and at least one thirteen-lined ground squirrel. The ground squirrel was noticably larger than the other critters, and very cool looking. Their backs are both striped and spotted!

Later that afternoon, we passed by Dinosaur National Monument, a very interesting looking place. The colors in the rock strata were amazing. This picture shows the distinct gray and red layers. (you may have to click to enlarge.)

The cliffs and rock formations as we got into Utah were similarly incredible. This would be a fun place to explore.

We drove through rain for most of Utah, so not too many pictures from that part of the journey. This was another long driving day, as we wanted to get into Idaho before we stopped for the night. Finally, about midnight, we got to Three Island Crossing State Park, in Glenn's Ferry, Idaho, and put up the camper. This is a very nice campground, with wonderful hot showers.

In the morning (9/15/06), we went for a little walk on the campground path to the Snake River. It was quite nice, and it felt good to stretch our legs after the long day yesterday.

The town of Glenn's Ferry was an important crossing stop on the Oregon Trail, to get across the Snake River. We didn't have to worry about that, but did see lots of ducks, coots, gulls, and a couple pelicans on the river.

It was a very pretty walk along the shady, cool riverbank. The current in the river was very fast, and the coots kept drifting down with the current, the flying back upstream and drifting down again. Not a bad way to spend a morning!

After packing up again, we headed on through the rest of Idaho and into Oregon. The eastern Oregon hills are dry, and starkly beautiful. I think I still prefer a more temperate or coastal climate, but this rolling prairie/steppe/high desert/whatever-it's-called is quite beautiful.

It only took us about four hours of driving to get from the campground (a hour south of Boise) to La Grande. A short day, and the trip is over.

We spent the rest of the day checking in at the University, getting the keys to our house, getting some dinner, and trying to shift out of travel mode. It has been a wonderful experience, and I'm glad we did it.


Thus endeth the monumental cross country trip. Thanks for sharing it with me! Now, back to your regularly scheduled blog........

Cross-Country Camping Trip, Part 8

Warning! Very long post, lots of pictures!


On Tuesday (9/12/06), after leaving the campground in Nebraska, we kept heading west. We stopped at a truckstop diner in Odessa, NE for breakfast (yum!), and Emma was quite impressed at the pancakes they served.

Pancakes have been her breakfast of choice on this trip, but she's never seen one like that!

The scenery continues to be beautiful. This is just such an unbelievably diverse country. Sunflowers, Helianthus annuus, have been on the roadsides everywhere here in the Midwest. They're so pretty and cheerful.

Just before lunchtime, we saw the last license plate that we needed to get the "full set." Keeping lists of states seen on plates has been a game I've played since the first long family car trip I can remember. We've gotten all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and seven Canadian Provinces so far on this trip!

We crossed into Colorado at about11:30, and it was not what I was expecting. I thought it was going to be mountainous, but for a long, long time, it was still just flat, flat, flat.

I don't know why this surprised me so much, except that all the touristy things you hear about Colorado are in the mountains. Much like the perception that it "rains all the time in Washington State," when what people mean is that Seattle and some other parts of western Washington get a lot of rain. Washington is a big state, and much of it is high desert and sagebrush. Colorado is a big state, and much of it is flat.

We stopped at Pawnee National Grassland around midafternoon, and finally saw prairie dogs! We actually drove off on a side road for a while, and got out and walked around a bit to watch them. They're very funny, the way they pop up and look around, then squeak and scurry away. We also saw harriers hunting low over the burrows, and horned larks, western meadowlarks, assorted sparrows, pronghorn, and a coyote on our way back to the highway. A lovely rest stop.

When we got to the center of the state, we were finally getting to the mountains. We went through Estes Park, stopping to get some groceries, and continued on to Rocky Mountain National Park.

What do we see almost as soon as we pull through the entrance booth? (Using our Parks Pass again, so it's like we're getting in free!)

Elk! Really, really, big deer. They are to "deer" what bison are to "cattle." (Except deer aren't domesticated like cattle, I know, stop it. I'm talking size and attitude, here.) Very impressive.

We stayed at the Moraine Campground within the park itself, another beautiful campground. It got cold at night-when I got up in the morning, the mud puddles in the road were frozen!

The next day (9/13/06) was so relaxing. We didn't have to drive anywhere far away because we planned to stay two nights in the park, so we could just kick around and be tourists. We decided to drive up over the Old Fall River Road, which goes up to the Visitor's Center at the top of the pass. It leaves from a very pretty valley.

The road goes across the flank of the mountain in the right foreground, and winds its picturesque way to the big ones behind. The road itself is unpaved, one way, and closed in the winter. It is also very close to the edge. Yikes!

Along the way, we saw lots of pretty streams, waterfalls, woods, and breathtaking views.

I got out of the car at a couple points and poked around some of the streams (Emma was asleep, so Shaun stayed in the car) and managed to snap a picture of a new butterfly:

Hoary Comma, Polygonia gracilis. These beautiful critters were everywhere, especially as we went farther up the mountain.

The aspen trees were starting to change color, and where there were large stands of them, it was stunning. (I'm starting to run out of adjectives. You can just assume that everything from here on out is breathtaking.)

As we went up the road, the rock got more obvious and the trees shorter, until finally, we were above treeline. We saw golden-mantled ground squirrels, least chipmunks, lots of birds, and yellow-bellied marmots (above treeline on the alpine tundra). The view from the top of the pass, elevation 11,796 feet, was amazing.

Unfortunately, the elevation did not agree with Emma. She was asleep when we got to the top, and when she woke up and went walking around, she started feeling dizzy and sick. I could feel the altitude in my sinuses and the lack of oxygen in my muscles, but at least I knew what was going on. Poor Emma just felt miserable. She was white as a sheet, and we had her "safety towel" near at hand as we went driving back down. Her tummy doesn't like twisty winding roads under the best of circumstances, and adding 11,000 feet didn't help. Because of Emma and the altitude, we didn't go on the trail across the alpine tundra, but maybe next time. I still need to see a pika!

Back at the campground, Emma and Shaun had "naps" in the camper (though I don't think there was actually any napping) while I went off on my own for a walk. I went down the hill from the campground to the river valley, up the road, and back into the campground. All told, it was just over an hour, and I saw some birds, including mountain bluebirds (new to me), a very pretty river,

lots of elk grazing in the floodplain

and some gorgeous wildflowers:

Emma perked up once we got down off the mountain, and she really perked up when we had dinner and a birthday party that night. Emma's 3rd was celebrated with cupcakes, a present, beautiful stars in the cold air, and the sound of elk bugling across the valley.

The next day (9/14/06), we packed up and headed out of the park. We went up over the top on Rt. 34 again, but luckily nobody felt too icky this time since we didn't stop at the high part.

On the west side of the mountain, in the marshy ground of the Beaver Creek area, we saw another BIG mammal- a moose! Despite all the time I've spent in Maine, I've never seen one bofore this.

Actually, I may have seen one before. I have a vague memory from a family camping trip to interior Maine, of seeing a moose standing in a pond eating vegetation, but I was really little and it may have just been something that I saw on TV that got mixed up with other memories. This is the first time I'm sure I saw one.

Anyway, we're back on the road, and on our way to our last night camping, somewhere in Idaho...