Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election 2008

An historic, amazing, inspiring day.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

More Cute Puppy

Can you say "Awwwwwww"?

Monday, October 27, 2008

A New Family Member!

Thanks to our very much beloved and generous Aunt Merridee and cousin Kelsey, we now have a new member of our family, a delayed birthday gift to Murphy. Isn't he beautiful?

His name is Flash Thunder, Flash for short. He's eleven weeks old, a jet black standard poodle. Already seems huge! He's playful and sweet and affectionate, despite a rather trying three hour ride home.

We're all so happy to have him. I have a feeling our life will not be the same again!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

When Fall Comes to New England

So, we've been here in California for four plus years. I love it here, I really do. But this year, for the first time, I'm really missing the New England autumn. The crisp, cold air that smells like nothing else; the brilliant yellows and reds of the leaves, the light in the evenings and the turning of the stars. I don't know why this year I miss it so.

In my wallowing, I've been listening to one of my favorite albums. It's a compilation of folk songs put together by Christine Lavin, entitled "When October Goes." Here's the track that brings tears. It's by Cheryl Wheeler, and called "When Fall Comes to New England."

Click here to play Streaming Audio

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Fall Update

It's been a busy summer and early fall. I've had a few complaints that I'm not updating as often as I should. Who, me? You mean one post a quarter isn't often enough? I guess not....

So what have we been up to? Well after Father's Day, our next major adventure was a visit from Barbara and Roger. I must say, they are the best house guests ever. We had a lovely time together. We ate... A LOT!!! Tried out some of the fancier restaurants in Ojai that I never get to. Took them for a trip down memory lane to Emma K. Woods Beach, where they stayed (memorably) on their honeymoon. Toured Ojai and saw Lake Casitas, which is always beautiful. Pictures, you ask? Well - I managed to mess up the cellphone camera, so it wouldn't save pictures (which was heartbreaking, because I got the BEST picture ever at Lake Casitas. No, really!) But somehow, I did get a few (proving once again my need for a class in photography.)

Brothers, on the ride home from Emma Wood. I think they like each other! And I think they're the cutest, smartest, most awesome boys ever, but maybe that's just me. =]

Barbara and Roger, who joined us in our weekly bowling event. They are watching Murphy bowl. Who said bowling wasn't exciting?

Eric, at Emma K. Wood State Beach. It was actually COLD. Murph and Dad went to put their tootsies in the surf; somehow Murphy got wet all the way to the neck. How'd that happen?

Anyway, Barbara and Roger's vacation was a very cool vacation for us too. They're so easy to be around (and are good at fending for themselves) so it's not stressful having them. I got to take a day or two off work. They inspired us to do stuff we should do more often, and I got daily hugs. What's not to love? And they made it home in one piece, which is always a good thing. We can't wait to have them back; they are always missed.

August was sock knitting and soccer camp; Murphy attended two sessions and had a blast. It's an international camp. They have coaches from the UK come over to teach the kids about soccer and about their country. Pretty cool. Murphy had a great time, and won a certificate or three.

Then school started. Murph is back in Montessori, with a new teacher he seems to like. Eric is taking a class at Ventura Community again; screen writing, which should be very helpful to him. He also (TA DA!!!!!!) got a job. WHOO HOOOO! He is working at our most favorite seafood restaurant, right here in Ojai. Sea Fresh. It's a must go to whenever we have company. You should smell the garlic... well, you probably can, right from where you are! We're really proud of him and right this minute I'm thinking we need to go there tonight....

Then came the day. September 7. A day of infamy. A very special somebody's birthday. MURPHY turned 8! We had a bowling party at the bowling alley. There was a cake, made with love and shaped like a bowling ball, and it was both chocolate AND vanilla!. There were friends, and pizza, and bowling, and presents. Balloons, even. Awesome, if I do say so myself. I actually got to enjoy it. A very nice time.

I can't believe my baby is eight. Sigh.

So what else? Peru is trying to record a demo CD of his music. I love his "Tribute to Freddie King." Trying to find some people to play with around. I'm still working. Still playing with fiber and knitting socks like crazy. Murphy's back in soccer, league play this time. His team is the "Golden Trout" and today he kicked his first in game goal . WHOO HOO!!

That's all I can think of for now. I probably missed a ton of good stuff, which is why I should blog more often so I can remember it! I'll try to do better - we all miss our friends and family who are away.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Monday, June 16, 2008

A VERY Happy Father's Day!

Dad, and the whole rest of the family, got a great Father's Day present this weekend; a visit from his oldest son, Bill. Can you tell which one is Bill? I'll give you a hint.... he looks just like his Dad.

It was a bit of a rough start, as his truck broke down on the way, but Peru picked him up and made it home by the time I got home from work. It only took an hour or two to unpack all the neat stuff he brought us. Wow. Peru's been grinning for a week since rumors of his impending arrival wandered through the ethernet. He's just a little bit proud of his son. Just a little.

So this pic is called "My Three Sons." Pretty awesome, no? Each and every one a gem, too. Man what good genes we both must have to get kids this smart and loving and wonderful. Billy, the electronics wonderboy, fixed, well, everything... but most wonderfully the Aussie Barbecue Grill from two or three Father's Days ago, which worked for about a month, then wouldn't anymore. Since we're Olympic level packrats, we didn't get rid of it. Bill took it apart, cleaned it, and ta-da! Barbecue fillet mignon for Father's Day dinner. Amazing.

The long and short of it is that we'd like to kidnap him as a permanent resident. He's a very good influence on all of us, and fun to have around as well. I guess we'll have to settle for more frequent visits though, as his mother seems to want him back. Doesn't mean we won't try to lure him with homemade strawberry shortbread or stacks of sourdough pancakes...

Saturday, May 17, 2008

A Baseball Star!

Today was closing day ceremonies for Murphy's Tball league. It's been a blast and I'm going to miss it, though I admit that not having to sit in 101 degree sunshine is a relief. Murphy is already champing at the bit for soccer, but he'll have to wait for camp in July.

There was a Home Run Derby, in which each player was pitched 8 balls, and each hit was worth 2 points, and then if the ball went a long distance, more points were added. Murphy scored a 12 in the first round, which qualified him for the final round! The top six players hit 5 balls each in the second round, and Murphy scored 8 which won him THIRD PLACE!! We were all very proud and very happy!

Here's a close up of his trophy (he wants you to see his name, so you know it's really his!) and a close up of the 3rd place medal for the Derby. It's really cool!

We had a wonderful visit this week from two of our favorite people. Mammama and Merridee came to visit and got to see Murphy and Dad sing and play in the school's Spring Sing. Then Mammama bought Murphy his first ever Banana Split. He never knew such delights existed! It was so wonderful to see them, and we hope they come more often.

In other news, the critter in the attic seems to have been scared away by the man setting the traps, so the holes were repaired and there's no more critter noises to drive Mom crazy. Thank goodness! Eric has finished this year's college and is looking for a job (anyone have one to give? Anyone?) I'm spinning color and trying to finish the socks I'm knitting, for which I Love love love the finished product but am not so thrilled with the actual knitting; it's mostly purls, and somewhat tedious. One sock is complete, and I just started the heel flap on the second, so now it should pick up a bit. Then I"m trying to knit from stash. Reduce reduce reduce is the mantra. No more yarn purchases till my stash is reduced at least by half!

Off to knit that heel flap!

Monday, April 28, 2008

What's Going On?

It's been a crazy couple of weeks. First there's the critters in the attic. Loud. Large. Busy. Critters. In the attic. Neighbor thought she saw squirrels going in to the house, but the Pest Control Specialist we finally called in (when the noises brought Mom to the brink of insanity) thinks it is a rat. A FOOT long rat. Sigh. So the traps are set, and he comes back to see if they've tripped this week. So far, the noises indicate they haven't found the traps yet. I'm so very happy. Not.

Then there's the overwhelming chaos in my house. I just have too much crap. Too much fiber. Couldn't use it all in a lifetime. So I'm packing it up. Giving it away, donating to the Mission, sending some to a needy person, throwing some out. Mind you, this is just the acrylic stuff, and I still have boxes. I'm keeping the natural fibers stuff (and putting it where, you ask? Good question.) And I've made a vow to do the stash busting thing this year. No new purchases of yarn or fiber till I've greatly reduced the current stash. However......

Prior to this vow, I'd been working on spinning this:

A full pound of lovely moorit brown merino, which I hope to make into socks. I spun half of it a bit ago, only to find that my "fingering weight" somehow bloomed to worsted weight when plied and washed. Not what I wanted for socks. So I'm doing the other half, and aiming at a much smaller grist.

Then there's this:

Four lovely ounces of beige silk spun cobweb fine. It's beautiful, soft, and I love spinning silk. So? What's the problem, you ask?


I want color.

Bright beautiful bold gorgeous color.

Everything I've spun recently has been a neutral. Moorit, beige, lots of white. Some black.

It's spring, and I want color.

So before the vow (phew, under the wire!) I bought this:

A pound each of superwash merino (again, hopefully for socks!) in the brightest colors I could find. The pictures really don't do them justice. The blue is electric. The yellows so vivid it's like looking into the sun. Thanks to Christina at dyepot.com for brightening my day.

In mind of the stash busting idea, I knit two hats this weekend, using up balls of commercial but still lovely 100% alpaca. Used up two skeins that otherwise would be languishing in the stash, and learned some fair isle. Pretty cool! I'll try to get pics of those later.

Then the family. Here's our slugger, at his latest game:

A big HIT! The Catcher

It's funny; he's pretty good at baseball, but soccer is still his thing. We're already saving the pennies for soccer camp this summer. An athlete. My son. Whoda Thunkit?

The rest of us are fine, hanging in. Hot weekend, up in the triple digits. Today should be 90's. Then the 60's by Wednesday. Bizarre.

Stay cool. Oh, and the contest is still open... Can't even give my stash away, apparently.

Monday, April 14, 2008


For the first three people that reply to this post, and who re-post this challenge: you win!!!

For your prize, I will send you a gift. ImageChef.com - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more

It might be something I’ve made, or something cool from my hidden stash of fabulousity. It might be a mix CD, or a rubber duck, or a book I think you might enjoy. A love letter, a useful object, or something else that is awesome or maybe just taking up room in my house.

Whatever it is, I promise I will get it to you in 365 days of your posted comment or less, and I will need your snail mail.

The only thing you need to do to receive your gift is PARTICIPATE.

Be one of the first three journalers to reply to this, (make sure I can contact you via e-mail) and post this very same thing in your journal, and YOU are the lucky giftee.

Just ‘cuz.

Because you get what you need when you ask, and because it’s fun to give people stuff.

I accepted the challenge from LizzieK8. If you accept the challenge, you need to link to me showing you accepted the challenge from this blog.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Time for the Monthly Update

Someone from an email group I belong to asked about Tofutsies yarn. I've been meaning to post about this for a while, so this is as good a time as any.

I have made two (and a half) pairs of socks with this yarn. It was pretty fun; the colors are very bright and interesting, and it's novel to be knitting with crab shells. I did find it splitty, but tolerable for someone with low standards, such as myself.

But there was a very big problem, once the socks were completed.

I mean, serious fade.

These socks were knit last summer and fall; so they're less than a year old. And I admit, I am not a handwash sort of girl; they get thrown in the washer and dryer with everything else. The nice thing is they didn't shrink. Take a look at what did happen.

The original colorway is black, magenta and gold. Each color was plied with a white strand.

The left is the socks as they currently are. Gold? What gold? Magenta faded to pink, gold is gone completely. White is almost all you can see though the black has held up fairly well.

The second item in the picture is a headband I made to match the socks. It's obviously been washed much less, and therefore isn't too bad off, unless you hold it right up to the remainder of the skein. Not sure you can see in the picture, but there is obvious fading between them.

This is the second pair I made. Green, blue, yellow. No white. Very bright and vibrant colors. I really loved this colorway, which is strange, as green is not really my thing. See how they've held up?

There is literally NO blue left. The green and yellow have faded to pastel. Sad.

I also am not sure how durable they are. The black and gold ones have worn a hole at the base of the little toe on the instep. Strange place for a hole!

Now, I do wear both of these pair at least once a week, and as I said, they get washed in the regular clothes wash. But my Trekking socks have not faded one bit with the same treatment. Regia has not faded (can't remember which one; the line that has elastic in it.) My bamboo ones have faded noticeably, but still not to this extent, and they were the first ones I made.

Now I know that cotton tends to hold dye less well; it may be a function of that. But I probably won't buy this yarn again. If you buy for color, and then the color fades, what's the point? And truly; they aren't quite as comfortable as my wool socks.

Ok, so what have the family been up to? Well, we took a vacation day and went to Knott's Berry Farm. Fun! I was worried about how Murphy would do, as he gets notoriously carsick. Instead, Eric and I got carsick on the way down, and then Eric did the "Sidewinder" coaster, and that pretty much did him in for the day. Murphy? Well, he went on the "Wipeout" which is a spinning ride that also goes up and down. Dad took him on and I was so afraid I'd hear him screaming. Well, I did. Screaming "Let's do it again, Dad!" Well Dad looked a little pale, so Murph went on alone. And then a third time. And then a fourth.

And by then, Dad was feeling better, so they went on the "Boomerang." TWICE. This ride goes fast forwards with a loop de loop twice; then goes back to the beginning backwards. LOOP de LOOP BACKWARDS! Oy. Needless to say, Mom stayed with her feet planted firmly on the ground and took pictures. This is actually THEM in the third car.

Murphy can't wait to go back. Actually, neither can I. It was a pretty awesome day.

Then there's the baseball. Murphy is on the Cardinals, and is probably the best thrower and hitter on the team. He is the oldest (it's really T-ball) and by far the most huge on the team. Here's the team picture; can you guess which one is Murph? Oh man, there is nothing as cute as six and seven year olds trying to play ball. Not even kittens.

Here is a big hit:

Here he is sliding into home for a run:

Then we had a lovely visit from Eric's grandmother, Estelle, and her husband Abe. We only get to see them once or twice a year, and it's always a treat. We had a lovely talk, a tour of Lake Casitas, and then a dinner trip to Carrow's. They're always welcome!

I think that's about it for now; we're all well and happy and going strong. I do hope to get back to some spinning and dyeing soon!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Best. Comment. Ever.

"Conservatives really are perpetual teenagers, raiding the refrigerator, using up all the gas in the car, taking money from your wallet, and constantly whining about how overworked and mistreated they are."

Susan of Texas said, (at Sadly!No blog)
March 17, 2008 at 15:34

Friday, March 14, 2008

Political Stuff

Due to the increasing idiocy of our government and the persisting outrages against our liberty and life, and due to the fact that most of my blog readers are family or fiber people, who may want to pass on the crazy making political rants I indulge in now and again, I've decided to revive my first blog, Thus Spake Zac for that particular purpose. I will leave a link on the sidebar for those who might be interested in my political views.

Today's rant is on obscenity. Check it out, if you're so inclined.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Opening Day

Opening Day game 2008; the Cardinals vs. The Tigers.

Murphy at bat in his first T-ball game. He likes it well enough, but he's still going to be a soccer player when he grows up...

with apologies for the cinematography; new camera and bad angles don't mix!

Open Mouth, Insert Foot - Politics Rant

Ok, I need to get this off my chest.

Geraldine Ferraro was right.

I can't believe the furor her comments have generated. She was right, and the freak out about her comments proves it.

She never said Barak Obama wasn't qualified. She never said he wouldn't be a good president. She simply pointed out, that just like herself, he is being held up for office simply because of his race, or in her case, gender. The only reason she was a VP candidate was because of her gender. Did that mean she wasn't qualified? No. The timing was right and the mood of the country was rife to choose a non traditional candidate. The same thing here. If he had run eight, or even four years ago, would there have been the same support? If he ran this time, and Hillary hadn't, would he have had a chance?

The huge movement behind Barak Obama seems to me to be fueled on reverse racism. See how progressive we are? Aren't we proud, pat ourselves on the back, we can support a BaaaLack Man for President! Whoo hoo, ain't we terrific? And heaven forbid anyone criticize Saint Obama; they must be racist!

Don't get me wrong; I feel the same about Hillary. If she wasn't a woman, I'm not sure she'd be all that right now either. I think the country is so anti-politician right now that we're looking for the direct opposite of George W, and we just can't decide if that's a white woman, or a black man.

Either Barak or Hillary have the potential to be good presidents. They're both smart, thoughtful, reasonably liberal people. We were blessed this cycle to have MANY excellent candidates from all walks of life to choose from, though the media forced out my own personal first choices. I have yet to make up my mind, since Edwards and Kucinich were trashed. Personally, I loathe the fact that Hillary has decided to take the low road in campaigning. It's completely turning me off and making me lean towards Obama. But for heaven's sake people; are we really so relieved that there's a candidate that can put two words together in a facsimile of a gramatical sentence that all else is forgotten? Does the fact that he's black mean that nothing he says or does can be questioned? Both of them still have a lot to prove to me.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Birthday Socks Picture

Birthday Socks completed. This picture was taken after their first wash. I don't know if you can see that they've fulled a little. The leg was originally an inch or two longer, and the ankle was a little roomier than I like. Fulled, they fit perfectly! They aren't as stretchy however, but they are warmer and less open. All in all, I love the socks but I'll be very cautious about purchasing this yarn again. And these babies will have to be handwashed (gasp) in the future.

I've also been doing some dyeing. My darling beloved has been saving onion skins for me for ages, and last weekend I steeped them for several hours, and then dyed a test skein. I was always told that onion skin would give a rich yellow/gold color. Not mine. Mine came out the most lovely rich brown. Now, I will admit that there was only two tiny test skeins, one mordanted with alum, one unmordanted, with a highly concentrated dye solution, so I thought maybe my first attempt was a fluke. So I tried again, overdyeing a skein that had been dyed with kool-aid, I believe; it was a horrible grayish pink. So I threw it in to the dyepot and let it cook for, well overnight. It's not as dark as the test skein, but it's still definitely a brown. So I thought, well maybe it's the overdyeing that left it brown, some dye in the pink that helped lean it towards brown. So I threw a smallish skein of handspun merino, white, into the exhaust. Let it cook all day. Again; it's lighter, but definitely brown. I'd planned to put pictures here, but my phone camera apparently had other ideas; the picture came out blank. So I'll try again later.

I know our water is very hard. It's so hard that stalactites grow in our shower, and I can't leave water in the teapot over night, or it leaves a solid layer of calcium in the bottom of the pot. So I'm wondering if that's why my colors aren't what I'm told to expect. I guess my next experiment will have to be with distilled water vs. tap water to see if there's any difference.

The other thing I wonder about is mordant. In all my tests I've used the same time, the same baths, everything the same, but I've used one alum mordanted skein and one unmordanted skein. I can't see any difference whatsoever between them. I need to try with some other mordants and see if there's any change with those. It is fun to experiment!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Due to the amount of spam crap I'm getting for comments, I'm changing to a word verification system. If you want to leave a comment, you have to copy the word you see on the comment pop up box. I hate to do this, as I get so few already, and don't want to discourage anyone, but the spam is getting out of control.

I apologize for the inconvenience.

Charlie Chaplin Speaks - The Dictator

Friday, February 22, 2008

Yarn Review

I'm going to try to do a regular feature in this blog of reviewing my experiences with yarn, perhaps some knitting and spinning tools as well. I'm starting today with yarn, because I fell in love with this one.

(click for bigger and brighter)

Here's their mission statement:
Rio de la Plata Yarns supports an old Uruguayan tradition of hand spinning of wool by wives of Gauchos (traditional horsemen). Gauchos used and still use hand made wool “Ponchos” for protection of the cold and dirt when guarding sheep. They play an important roll in Uruguay’s major source of income which is wool. This noble and harmless industry supplies a major part of the wool in the world. Uruguay has not changed much of its traditions producing it. Rio de la Plata Yarns is in the heart of this tradition, creating beautiful fibers and bucket dying them.

We are their link to the world in the sense that any knitter can create garments out of this beautiful hand dyed yarn that otherwise would be unknown to the world. When you buy our yarn you are supporting Uruguayan women who work at home and are able to spend time with their children and sometimes even pay for their own college education.
The Specs:
Yardage: 437 yards per hank
Weight: 3.5 oz per hank
Superwash Merino
Three ply

It's a tightly spun, smooth worsted preparation. It's not the softest yarn I've ever used, though it softens with washing, as does most yarns. It's very smooth to knit with and doesn't split easily. The grist is slightly variable, at times thinner than usual, very occasionally thicker, but it's not enough to affect the gauge of the knitted piece. It's three ply, using a non-repeating constantly changing color technique. It is superwash, so it's easy to care for. There's enough yarn in one skein to make a pair of socks.

The colorways are varied throughout the line and have charming names; this particular colorway has Vibrant Orange, Lime Green, Ethereal Blue, Evergreen, Pointsettia, and Yellow Corn. It does not stripe, so there's no concern about matching pattern repeats. There are several lines of the sock yarn; the above is from the "multicolor" line; there is also a solid and an "Artisian" line, as well as a "multisolid" line. Artisian seems to be more along the lines of a handpainted yarn. I believe that the difference between the Multicolor and the Multisolid lines is that in the multisolid, you have three distinct colors plied together, whereas in the multicolor line, each of the three plies will be multicolored. Solids are pretty self evident, but I will comment that the colors are incredible, and range from brilliant to muted (in the Autumn line).

I can't tell you how much fun this yarn was to knit with. It's got an almost cotton-y feel to it. The color changes are interesting to watch and keep long stockinette sections from being tedious. They list six colors as above, but because of the way the plies blend, there's pinks and corals and aquas and every color you can imagine. Because it's not splitty, I was able to knit a lacy type pattern with psso's and not constantly have to unsplit the stitches. Being a newish knitter, that's a common problem for me. I've completed one sock, and just finished the gusset decreases on the other, so I'll get pics up as soon as possible (probably several weeks....) As the socks are not yet complete, I don't have a review as to their wear, but I can extrapolate a few things. I'm pretty hard on my knitting. I tend to shove a project into a felted bag, pull it out every so often and do a few rows. I also happen to keep my wrist splint in that bag, and it has velcro straps. The two have met on occasion, to my horror. It seems to have survived fairly well. Toting them around, I have noticed that newly knit areas are smooth and clean, where older areas are a tad fuzzier, have more "bloom." I expect that is what will happen with wear and washing.

One caution; if you are hard on your socks, keep in mind that this yarn is 100% wool; there is no nylon added for strength. You might want to add some wooly nylon to the heels and toes for durability.

A few more cautions; the second half of this skein had THREE knots. Not a good thing. Also, I still have about an inch on to start the toe on the second sock, and I'm starting to fear I may not have enough yarn to finish. These socks are HUGE however; for a man's size 12, with a 8 inch leg. For a normal woman's size, it shouldn't be a problem.

Later Edit: The second half of the skein had SIX knots total. The socks looked lovely when finished; but even though this yarn is advertised as superwash, it felted slightly in the first wash. Luckily for me, they were too large, and felted to just the right size! But it is disturbing that the felting occurred in a yarn labeled superwash.

This yarn was a gift from my most favorite elder child, so I'm not sure of the cost of a skein; but reliable sources tell me you can expect to pay about $18-$20 per skein online, $20-$22 in your LYS. Pricey, yes. Worth it? Perhaps. If you keep the cautions in mind.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Friday, February 15, 2008


Man, I have had a blast trying to figure out how to make this blog not look so canned. I think I missed the boat; I'd love to do this all day.

Drop me a comment and tell me what you think of the new digs!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

More CVM

Well, I bagged up that first fleece. It's going away. It's just too brittle to use, especially after dyeing. I may try to felt it into a dog bed or something, just to not feel like I completely threw the money away.

The good news is that I found a second bag from the same shepherd, and it seems much better. It's another CVM, more even color (gray) and while it's every bit as dirty as the other, it does seem more sound, and therefore worth the time and effort it will take to clean it. I've given it one wash and the tips, while still caked, do open up more easily and don't seem to have the canary stain. They also seem stronger. So I'm going to attempt it. I'll post pictures when I'm able.

But when I test dyed the locks on the first CVM, I also dyed the yarn I spun on Dagmar. I had some old dye solution tucked in the back of my closet, and it seemed fine, so I painted it on the yarn and nuked it. I really love the way it came out.

Not the greatest picture but I hope you can see the colors. They're very vibrant. I'll take another one of it skeined tonight. It's blue, purple and red, and I really love it. I need to find something to knit with it! I'm thinking wristwarmers, maybe with the thumb and cuff in another color.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Fleece is a wash

After much experimentation, and much thinking and much advice from so many people (thank you all!) I think I'm going to give up on this fleece. The tips are so brittle they just break off with only a fairly strong tug. I tried to dye the locks that I'd cleaned yesterday, and the result was a lovely color, but the texture completely changed; it became coarse and unable to draft. So I think it's going to be compost, or maybe I'll felt it into a dog bed.

There was, however a business card at the bottom of the bag. I think I'll be dropping them a line. What that line will sound like will depend on the condition of the second, larger bag. I'm washing a sinkful to see how clean it will come, and if there's the same yellow staining. I'm hoping this bag (from a different sheep) will be better.

Watch for the sequelae...

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Washing day

Ok, so I have this fleece. CVM (California Variegated Mutant). I even know the sheep's name; Lavender. Cool, huh? But it's filthy. Now, I don't have much (any?) experience with raw fleece. I know it's supposed to be dirty. But I've never heard of it being THIS dirty. So if anyone out there reads this and can tell me either what I'm doing wrong, or what is wrong with this fleece, please; fill me in!

To start, here's the raw fleece. There's about a pound; I didn't bother weighing it. I expect it's on the short side of a pound. Here's what the Oklahoma State University database says about CVM:

"Fleece C.V.M. color patterns vary widely, especially in the darkness of body wool. Unlike many sheep, the C.V.M. will not fade with age, but rather darkens from birth to their first year. With the wide variety of color patterns, including dark gray, black, brown, moorit, and spotted, not excluding the barred face badger pattern typical to the original C.V.M.'s, a breed description has been difficult.

Fleece should be bright, uniform and dense, of high yielding, long staple, fine wool. Sheep will average about 8 pounds of wool yearly with spinning counts from 60's to 62's quality. 12 month staple length averages 4 - 6 inches. Wool should have a well defined crimp from base to tip, be pliable to the touch and free from kemp or objectionable fibers.

High quality variegated fine spinning fleeces are in demand, as there are not many of them on the market. Spinners have a tendency to shy away from the fine count, but once they have handled and spun the wool, they enjoy the quality, softness and ease of spinning. The C.V.M. fleece is ideal for soft yarn that will not be scratchy to the skin."

I don't know if you can see in the picture what I'm talking about. Yes, there's VM, and lanolin, and dirt all through the fleece; that's what I'd expect. But the tips of the locks are caked together completely, and the white wool seems stained.

So here's what I did. I placed the fleece into two mesh sweater bags.

I filled my top load washing machine with the hottest water and added about a cup of Dawn dishwashing liquid. I measured the temperature of the water at 140 degrees F. I placed the bags inside, gently, and let them soak for about half an hour or so.

I pulled the bags out of the water gently, drained the machine, and set the cycle to spin only.

After it had spun the water out, I checked the wool. Parts had become beautifully white, and man did it smell better! But those tips still were totally caked together, and the white wool tips were yellowy brown.

I put them back in the machine to rinse, and then put them out flat to dry. Still, the tips of the fleece are caked, totally stuck together.

I took two locks, one gray, one white, and pulled the caked parts apart. Strand by strand. I soaked them again in the sink, in hot water and a lot of wool wash. Here's the result.


Can you see the crimp? Lovely. And it's wonderfully soft. But the gray is almost bleached brown, and the white is still yellowy ick. Is this permanent?

I'd really love to spin this wool. But is it realistic to pull strand by strand apart and still have it be discolored? I'd love to hear from more experienced people. Should I cut the tips? Should I compost the whole thing? Am I just feebling? Is this normal?

Friday, February 08, 2008


Well, it's been a while. When I wasn't blogging, I also wasn't reading blogs, or checking out Ravelry, or doing anything much computer-wise. So today I strolled in, updated a few things, cruised around, etc.

I'm still not big on the forums. I have two email groups that are already high volume, and I can barely keep up with those, along with logging my food and posting on SparkPeople every day. So I don't expect I'll spend much time there.

The pattern finder utility is wonderful; and I love how you can search by yarn weight and/or several other keywords. But I have about a BILLION patterns downloaded now that need to be sorted and organized and purged.

The things I think I'll use Ravelry most for are posting my projects, as a journal, and keeping track of my stash. That last will take some time to categorize and enter, but I really would like to do so. And catalogue my handspun; I have so much just spun and tossed in a bag. I really need to weigh, measure, calculate wpi and yardage and keep track of where it's been stashed. This will take some major time.

I'm off to work on the Ventura County Handweaver's and Spinner's Guild newsletter... why don't you check out the blog and website while I'm gone? (links on the side)

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Gotta get that color right.

The pictures I've taken of my birthday socks are bad; the colors look muddy and dull. While it's not a bright colorway, it is more lively than it has looked in these pics. So here's the next try...

Hmmm. Better.

I can't wait to get these finished!

Next up is the merino. Washed and dried, it's better balanced than I expected, barely a twist to the hank. Here's the picture. The coin is a dime, for scale.

2 ply, 32 WPI, 1.6 oz.

Nope, not enough to do anything with. The challenge now will be to try and make more in the same weight and twist.... yeah, right!

The Frog Pond

My birthday socks.

I decided to frog them. Not all the way; just back into the heel flap. I'm so glad I did! It was a horror to pull out several inches of labored knitting, but they fit and look so much better. I can't tell you how much I love this yarn. I know it's on the pricey side, but it was definitely worth it; it's just fun to knit! And I love the texture. Can't wait to finish them, and get them on my feet.

Notice anything missing? The tags. Oh man, those tags were driving me nuts. It had gotten to the point that while I love the socks, love the yarn, love love love knitting with it, I kept procrastinating. The tags made it so not fun to knit. So I took them out. I think I'll start another project and do the tags differently so they aren't annoying. I like the idea of the project, but honestly, if it becomes "unfun" I just won't do it at all.

And when I do... here's the new way to show them off. Are you ready for this?

Clear Clogs.

And miracle of miracles; in my ginormous size.

And even better? They're comfortable. I'm quite impressed. I really thought they wouldn't fit and they'd be stiff and hard to walk in, but they aren't; and they don't hurt my knee. Wow.

So now I need more handmade socks....

I finished spinning the merino I was spinning on Dagmar (the repaired Norwegian wheel, named after my husband's grandmother, to whom it belonged.) It's quite lovely. A bit overspun as I'm still tweaking how to spin on a double drive wheel. I have a hard time adjusting the take up at first, but it comes along eventually. I want to dye it shades of blue, I think. There's a shock! It's very soft and it's laceweight. I hope I have enough of it to do something with! That's my biggest problem in spinning; I don't ever spin enough of the same fiber the same way to actually knit anything. I'm working on that, I hope.

I've got some CVM that I got raw and have scoured (and scoured and scoured and scoured.... it was the filthiest wool I've ever seen!) The fiber itself under all the dirt is lovely heather gray and very crimpy and soft. I'm going to try to spin it from the lock. There's a full pound, perhaps even two, so I should be able to spin enough to have a project. I've only scoured about an ounce though. It took FIVE washings and after the fourth I finally had to sit down and break apart the clumps at the end of the locks one by one. It's still not as clean as I'd like. I'd almost give up on it, except that this is my very first "sheep to something" fleece, and I really want to complete it. And as I said, the fiber itself is soft and gorgeous, so it will be worth the work. I'm going to take a bit of a different tack with it though; skirt and de-clump first, then scour in the machine a few ounces at a time, with LOTS of Dawn. I've read blogs where people would use literally cups of Dawn, which always seemed a bit excessive to me; however do you rinse out that much detergent? So I usually just give a good squirt or two. I think this fleece may justify a lot more than I'm used to. Listen to me saying "I'm used to" like I do this all the time... sheesh. I've scoured about four ounces total. Go ahead, laugh. I'm laughing too.

Monday, February 04, 2008


There is no joy in Mudville.

The Pats lost.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Project Pics

See? All I needed to blog more often was a new phone! With an easy peasy camera that actually WILL email the pic right from my phone. COOL!!!!

So here are my current projects.

These are the Birthday Socks. The yarn is Rio de la Plata, and I love it. I wasn't so sure about the colors; coral and green and yellow; not really my shades, but they've grown on my considerably. And the yarn itself? Wonderful. Tightly spun superwash; feels almost cottony. I checked the label twice because I thought it HAD to be a blend. But nope. 100% Pure New Wool from Uruguay. It's a lacy pattern on the top, but I fudged the heel flap and made it far too long. I really do think I'm going to frog, though I've never frogged that much of one sock before! But I love them so much I think it's worth it.

Here's the second project: Baby Mistake Rib socks. I think I got the pattern free somewhere on line. I like it a lot; and they'll be reversible! I love this yarn as well; it's Ostermann, with the Aloe. It feels nice, and I know it'll soften up even more after washing. I'm a little concerned about matching the second sock; the color hasn't repeated yet that I can tell. I don't care particularly if they match, but I don't want them to look like they were supposed to match but didn't, you know? I think both socks are being knit on Size 0 needles.

Ok, so who wants to know about the tags on the Birthday socks? Anyone? Bueller? I'm participating in a Thesis. Believe it or not, someone is doing a thesis on knitters. We have to tag our project each time we knit, or even more often, and journal what we're doing, how we feel, what's going on in our lives. We'll send them to her sometime next month, and she will be displaying them in a Museum. Very cool! I must say though, it's kind of a pain to knit with all the tags hanging. I think for the second sock I'll mark the places with the pins, but not put the tags on the pins til the sock is done.

And my Gwen Sweater? Also known as my reward sweater? Well... I got about 5 rows done. Then started Christmas knitting. Then got tendonitis. Then got Spinneritis. So it's been languishing in my project bag. I do plan to get back to it at some point. After I finish these two pairs of socks, maybe. I also need to knit a "small thing" for a swap; I want to use homespun but I can't ever seem to have the right weight for the project. Strange....

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Long Time No Blog!

Well, the holidays did me in.

Birthdays, Christmas, New Years, more Birthdays. Not to mention 10 days of Jury duty. So blogging kind of fell by the wayside. But things are settling down, and settling very nicely.

Eric started back to college. He's taking a full slate of courses, English, Biology, Speech, and American Government. Mom, who's become a full blown political geek, is thrilled about that last, and plans on stealing his text at some point. He's doing well in all his classes, and seems to like them.

He also took an acting class, which ended last weekend with a public performance. He did really well; I was so proud! All the plays were interesting, and most of the actors were enjoyable enough to watch. He may continue the class, so we'll see if he gets to play yet another oddball character. (Why do they always choose him for the most bizarre roles?)

Murphy is growing like a weed, and doing well. Very sweet. Very smart. Very verbal. He's particularly good at math, which he MUST have gotten from his father. Soccer season is over, much to his disappointment, but t-ball shall soon step in to the rescue. He and Dad are preparing by playing lots of catch. Remember when he used to hit balls all over the living room at the age of 2? Ah, the good old days....

Peru and I are both well. Coming up on our 8th Anniversary, which is mind blowing. Feels like hardly any time at all has passed since our wedding. Amazing.

I'm still doing the SparkPeople thing. I've lost 55 pounds so far, in a little more than four months. It's getting easier; a lot of things have become habit, so I don't have to think about it so much. It's very gratifying to see my clothes starting to get loose. And even when my boss laughs at my lunch box full of fruit and veggies, I know he's pleased that I"m doing well.

I also got Dorothy's spinning wheel fixed. It's GORGEOUS! and I can spin on it, which is even better. It's a single treadle, so I can spin even when my knee is sore. Took me a while to figure it out; I'd never spun on that kind of a wheel before. Also took me a while to realize it was a double drive, and then a bit more to figure out how to use a double drive. But now I love it. It spins very fine yarns and is very relaxing to spin on. Thank you Dick and Elisa for doing such a great job on it!

My other new toy is a Blackberry. I had a Palm Treo, which I loved. It really helped me organize my life and remember things my ADD brain would normally forget. But I wanted to give it to Eric so it could organize HIS life and help HIM remember things his ADD brain would normally forget. So I bought a new Blackberry Pearl. Oh man, what fun! This phone does things you can't even believe. Including taking the pictures above. Much better than my Treo's camera, which I never bothered to use because the pictures were so grainy. I'm still learning things it can do. And it's TINY. Man. Technology.

I'm still knitting, mostly socks, when my tendonitis lets me. I presently am making socks out of the coolest yarn that Eric gave me for my birthday. Unfortunately, I making them sans pattern, and just tried them on, a few inches past turning the heel. I made the heel pocket a little large. So now I'm torn; frog back? Or keep going? My laziness and my want to wear the socks TOMORROW (I have a small problem with instant gratification, as some of you may have noticed) say keep going; but I love the yarn a LOT, and it's very special because Eric gave it to me, and I know I'll be much happier with them if they fit properly. So I'm leaning toward frogging; but don't yet have the guts to do it. I'll try to get pics soon, now that I can get good ones so easily!

So that's it for the update now; I'll try to do a bit better about blogging. You could encourage that end by leaving a comment to let me know that someone out there actually reads this thing!