Things are getting better... I just came home after finishing the third week at my new job, tired but having had a good day. A day where I seemed to know what I was doing, waded through the necessary forms (and believe me, there is a form for EVERYTHING with this agency), kept the peace with parents, staff and children who were more difficult than usual. I even got to appreciate spring, with its cold, crisp, dark mornings and warm, sunny, blooming days.
My niece is recuperating well, DH has put most things in good order around the old Camp and is gearing up for another work year with the Forest Service, we have enough money in the bank to pay our taxes (even though we resent how they are being/not being spent), and we get to go on vacation in a week.... life is pretty durn good!
There are still issues to get solved, more parts of the job puzzle to get trained in, but I am greatly relieved by how much things have improved. My life is lightening up right along with those early mornings. The one thing that has felt really out of sort though is my connection to my knitblog friends. I don't sit at a desk any longer. My two night classes now have a handful of students each time. My time at home doesn't seem any greater yet. I have to get out the door earlier in the mornings, and don't even get to check my email daily until the late afternoon or evening... I have managed to post two or three times a week, but am not keeping up when it comes to reading about all of you!
I guess someone out there was sensing my feeling of disconnect, because when I stopped at the post office, my routine on the way home since it is only one-quarter mile away, on our road, there was a nice big box waiting for me from Becca. I hadn't been expecting anything, and it's not my birthday for another half-year or more, so I was completely surprised and delighted to open it and find all kinds of lovely, spring gifties...
She squeezed in three bars of chocolate, a collection of scented candles in cute little tins (perfect for traveling or putting on the bedside table), a creative collection of knitting patterns, and some fabulous spring YARN!
As you can see from this photo, there is some pinky kid merino, which might need to be a lacy sort of something, and two skeins of Knit Picks sock yarn in spring-to-summer colors, and a terrific, heathery pale green skein of Cascade 220 begging to turn into something felted, maybe. There is also a book I haven't seen anywhere else, that I will be relaxing and delving into tonight, while I munch on gourmet chocolate. Becca not only showered me with kindness, she picked yarns in just the colors I would have been attracted to right now! What a special friend to decide now was the moment I needed a little boost.... I am humbled.
Being a member of the Foothill Fibers Guild has enriched my life a lot, even though I can seldom make it to the programs or Spinning Saturday. There is a great newsletter and an active Yahoo list for members, and a wonderful library that we share. The members are a collective wealth of knowledge, as well as being good cooks. The best, though, is getting together to play.
This photo shows one of the many lovely "garden rooms" in her yard, just now coming into spring bloom.
Sue kept the stoves burning and the coffee going while Sara kept answering our questions.
Here, Sara is consulting her formula book, the heart of the many workshops she has instructed for SOAR and CNCH and other workshops throughout the country... we are lucky to share the same "backyard".
This restaurant steamer was kept busy all day, and can hold a dozen or so packets of dyed yarns and fibers for each timed sequence... the desired outcome is to steam the packets for 20 minutes at 185 degrees, then let them cool down thoroughly before rinsing. The yarns were all pre-soaked in a water/vinegar fixative solution before dyeing (well, except for mine; I missed the meeting where Sara explained the prep stages, so I came home to mix and pour vinegar and re-steam mine in a small canner now dedicated to dyeing).
The real fun is in all the different ways to paint as well as determining what proportions of different dyes to use to get the colors you are hoping for.... Sara and Sue had pre-mixed six different base colors to work with: magenta, scarlet, yellow, gold, blue and navy.
I came home with formulas to try many other colors based on these six... the adventure is just beginning.
We each have different styles of exploring dye and color.
Here, Stephanie plays mad chemist.
Jan has a logical plan to knit a top with cotton yarns incorporating a range of shades from dark to light, with a cowl neck trimmed in the same dark... she hopes this very detailed placement of color will result in a portion of the fabric knitted with alternating light and dark stitches.
Allison (the Reno one) will unravel this machine-knit piece and re-knit it into something (an article in one of the 2006 issues of Spin-off discusses this technique, if you are curious).
This Allison, owner of our LYS, Fibers, in Grass Valley, was busy mastering handying soysilk, which we learned should be treated like an animal fiber, even though it is a plant one! Every color she used had to factor in the fact that she was overdyeing a rather yellowish beige yarn... she plans to make a sweater for herself from this lavender-mauvey colorway.
Sharon experimented with dotting color onto roving so that the resultant spun yarn would have subtle color additions to a light ground.... we marveled about how we met through our blogs last summer, then discovered we were both guild members and met in person working at the county fair. Sharon lives north of Reno, but we "talk" almost every day... we were very glad to get to hang out together in real time today. I just noticed that she beat me in getting a post about our dye day up, so be sure and take a look at her photos as well.
I don't have any photos of my work yet; I re-steamed the four packets I did (three of yarn skeins, and a fourth of some Lincoln roving I had with me, white, that Sharon wanted to know why I would even want to spin... I bought the roving at the SLC wool festival last fall, because I thought the couple from southern Utah who had raised the sheep were such nice people; guess I still have oodles to learn about spinning and fiber). The darkest skein is currently soaking in a sudsy bucket, and I am going to go and treat the rest the same way... then, they will soak overnight in rinse water and hopefully not lose any of their color and I will be able to rinse them and hang to dry tomorrow, though the temperature is dropping precipitiously and a spring storm, possibly with snow, will probably interfere with quick drying and photographing.
Look for photos of my results later this week.
then, frustrated as my other errands didn't go nearly so well.
Once home again in early afternoon, I needed a nap, overwhelmed by spring allergies and the tiredness at the end of the second week of my new job. I am now the Site Supervisor for the nearest Early Head Start program, which serves infants and toddlers. We share our building with the state preschool/Headstart program for the 3-5 year olds, and I am loving the work, but it is a federally-funded program with lots of paperwork, details and a steep learning curve. I also find that the four days I work give me little access to a computer, or time to read and catch up on all of you... I miss you grrls!! (and a few guys:)
I spend three of my four mornings doing direct care and the fourth day on administrative tasks. Some afternoons are spent on chores (we moved the furniture around last week and set up partitions in preparation for taking on babies, as our oldest toddlers prepare to depart the program); others on home visits to our families. I spent Thursday afternoon making felt with one of my toddlers and eaching his older brother, who had been in my knitting classes at the charter school I just left, how to spin with a spindle. Their mother is interested in getting some donkey manure from me for her garden, and a friend came by our house the same afternoon to pick some up as well... they do more than bray!
Living a holistic life, with the various aspects of it touching and overlapping each other is an essential value to me, and one that will serve me well as I serve the families in this nearby community. I am thrilled that my co-workers have all been so welcoming, that our cook thinks to buy organic food, and serves a wonderful lunch the three days we have children, which we eat family-style, with the toddlers learning to serve themselves and clear away their plates. One of my first changes has been the introduction of cloth napkins to enhance our dining experience. I loaded two garbage sacks in the car this afternoon to take to our free box, and shared decluttering ideas with another mother.
I am benefitting as well, in having the shortest commute I have had in 21 years of living in these mountains. The earlier afternoons have allowed me to sit on the back porch and admire DH's handiwork:
He has been busy all week building new raised beds, tilling a large area which will be a potato field this year and moving manure onto it... he also cleared out 150 years' worth of dirt which has been sifting into our earth-floored basement to build up these beds.
The view of the flowering cherry tree isn't too bad either!
We are planning what to plant, though most of it can't go in for another month because of the danger of late frosts...
Tomorrow is Dye Day for some of us from Foothill Fiber Guild, with our most famous member, Sara, directing our endeavors... I have three skeins of wool soaking and ready for a fun adventure, and will have something to post this week - Life is Good!
I have one half of a new FO to share.... my Mock Croc sock number one got to the finish line yesterday, as we were waiting in the Jeep to meet someone... I sewed up the toe then cast on for sock number two, and that is where the title comes in.
My hands have issued an ultimatum. They don't want better wages. They say they get enough chocolate. They say it isn't the recent activity with spindles either. My hands insist that making socks with tiny needles must stop temporarily to allow them to recuperate. I am not a particularly fast knitter, but in taking a look at the list of FOs I am keeping this year, I realized that it has been plain, unadulterated socks around here, except for one small break to make a quickie scarf, and another to finish up the purse last week, for the past month and a half.... I guess that's too long.
I have had to pace myself with my hands for years... I started using computers regularly in my jobs back in 1982 (I know, that's before some of you were even born, and yes, it does make me feel old just to think of it; excuse me a moment while I go sob in the corner). OK, I'm back and willing to admit that I have had a home computer since 1989 (I had a geek friend who picked one up used for me at the San Jose electronic flea market, back in the day).
I went through a phase of prolonged recovery when I began teaching high school ten years ago and returned to college to finish my BA and get my MA. I was no longer chained to a keyboard eight hours a day and couldn't knit much either, as I had so much reading to do for my coursework. I steadily worked with my chiropracter and with yoga. I eat better these days and get "enough" exercise, but am always trying to incorporate more for my hands... however am just finishing a stint of several months of heavy computer work with compulsive sock-knitting thrown in.
I decided there were several things I could do right away...
Start knitting something different with bigger needles; last night I started a simple mohair triangle shawl which will be in the shop as one of my "featured artist" items in May. It felt very comforting to slowly knit along, in Continental (one of my sock-knitting issues is that I have to knit them using the throw method, which I find harder on my hands), while watching an awesome National Geographic special on the Galapagos islands..... it felt soft and reassuring to know that I didn't have to abandon knitting entirely.
The other thing I could do was take a day off... luckily I already knew I had Monday off to make up for working this coming Friday. We decided to take the dogs up to our other house in Forest City (it's only 23 miles each way)
It is very early spring up at 4500 feet, with a storm gradually coming in this afternoon. There is still snow in the shady places, but only a few inches... the runoff has filled the old community swimming pool, abandoned for over 50 years.
The water is a beautiful blue-green, but the grass isn't green there yet... I made a yummy cooked lunch for us and read in the sun on the porch... no knitting or spinning allowed this afternoon. Rest is the order of the day.
Elwood was enchanted that he could walk right up and take a drink from the pool.
I am fortunate that my new job does not require the intensive computer usage that my old one did... I have also cut back on my blog posting, and will probably try to limit it to a few times a week until my hands are a bit better... I want to be able to read and respond to people as much or more than I post, and need to figure out where that balance point is. I have a call in to the chiropracter for an appointment as well.... anybody know if paraffin hand treatments work?
Now, usually I hate it when things get all mushy... the effects of living with DH's stoic Scandinavian family for over a decade make it all a little too hard to take. That, and I can't help but want to rouse everyone around to smiles again. So, it took something extra and out of the ordinary to get me to chime in along with Vicki, Cara and Margene in writing a post about how much blogging has affected me.
Now, Margene's post I can understand... after all, it was her birthday this week and Carole and Teyani organized a super smashing birthday inundation/surprise, totally wringing out all of her emotions and leaving her feeling deliciously loved. Vicki is celebrating another anniversary (actually two - her blogiversary and the celebration of being smoke-free), so she is feeling especially reflective, as well as having a contest. And Cara, well she was inspired by these expressions of love and her compassion is right at the surface, so she was just being more of Cara.
Me, it was Sarah HB that pushed me over the edge into serious gratitude mode.... she wrote last week asking for my address and saying she wanted to send a little something to cheer me up, knowing what a hard time I had been going through as we waited to hear the fate of DN's surgery. I thought maybe a bright and cheery card or some chocolate, but not Sarah... she thought she would make sure I knew I was loved and my concerns were real to other people as well. Last night, well after dark, I arrived at my local PO to find a package locker key (always an encouraging sign), which led to a box, which when opened contained a gift bag:
She had packed great aromatherapy goodies in it to help DN with her healing... and that certainly would have been more than enough.
But that wasn't all.... Sarah wanted to make sure that she gave me something to ease my stress as well. She sent along this lovely spindle bag and four ounces of sky-colored handdyed Romney to keep me happy in between the bouts of stress. These colors remind me so much of the glimpses of Sarah I have gotten over the months that we have been reading each others' blogs and KALing together.
I have been blogging for two and a half years and have grown to expect that knitbloggers will rise to the occasion for tsunami victims or hurricane victims. They will support a fellow knitter who is running, walking, biking (probably even crawling) to raise money for a good cause. They will spread the word when someone needs consoling, and I certainly got a ton of email a few weeks ago, keeping tabs of DN's progress and successful surgery. That was above and beyond, so this package just knocked my socks off (you could check if you were here... I really am not wearing any).
I realize that learning to be on the receiving end, instead of the giving one, is a task in front of me for midlife; that said, I just had never internalized that the bloglove thing was happening to me, too. I have been through a lot of upheaval in the past two years, paralleling this phenomenon of blogging; how would I have ever guessed back when I first used blogs as a classroom assignment for a group of high schoolers how very different my life would be in March of 2007, and how much of that difference I would owe to blogging about knitting. Things have been slowly pulling around to the positive (it must be a lot the same to try and turn an ocean liner in midcourse during a storm), but it has been all of you that kept me sane while I waited. So many blessings to all of you. The latest on DN is that she is recovering well over at her aunt's house, and considering coming to spend some time with us later this spring... Sarah's goodies to her go out by the morning's mail.
I first saw this purse early last fall in the Lion Brand catalog... I know, some of you are rolling your eyes and saying "Lion... I thought better of you, Birdsong", but they really do have some decent yarns and good designs. I think the problem is that the stores that carry their stock simply won't offer the better selections... Berrocco has gone through much the same image problem in recent years.
I had to order the kit direct, the colors weren't available locally. I started and mostly finished the knitting at a conference back in September, and then didn't like the idea of the finish work and let LOTS of other knitting come first.
Well, ya know what? I was right.. the finishing was a b**ch! I crocheted the purse's live stitches at the top to the two handles and that probably wouldn't have been too bad, but then I also had to crochet AROUND the plastic handles to cover with matching yarn....I spent more time passing my ball of yarn back through the handle to untangle it than actually crocheting the stitches to cover the handle, though that took a ridiculous amount of time too. Which is why I saved this particular UFO for March, when I could chat with my quilt guild buddies while I worked.... a distraction that helped keep me from dwelling on how mind-numbingly tedious the process was.
I would highly recommend doing this to you purse-makers out there... it will keep the inside of your creation tidier, keep lint off the lens of that camera you bloggers are always carrying, and since I went for a light green, my lining will make it easier to see inside!
I was tickled to get a compliment on my new bag as I toured the central office for our Headstart program today... I lost track of all the people I met, but will have to go back and see if that Executive Assistant is a knitter.
I hope that many of you are getting to enjoy the taste of spring we are having in the West this week... oh, and be sure and go by and wish Margene a very Happy Birthday today!
Have you read Alterknits yet (photo courtesy of Amazon)? One of the creativity exercises in the book is to journal about your fantasy "dream knitting day". Being the busy procrastinator that I am, I skipped the journaling step and just lived it on Saturday.
Some of you know that I also quilt, though not so much recently. A few even know that I am still an active member of the Mountain Harvest Quilt Guild of Downieville. I am not sure if anyone currently reading remembers this post about last year's Mystery Quilt Weekend, but it is a longstanding annual tradition, hosted at the St. Charles' Inn in Goodyears Bar, right alongside the North Yuba. Last year, I pieced together a set of quilt squares I had won in one of the guild's raffles, but this year I decided to make it my own personal "March UFO Resurrection and Spinning Retreat".
After all, I didn't want to miss out on the grrl time (these women are some of my oldest and dearest friends) or the food (everyone makes dishes they wouldn't normally eat at home and promises each other that the calories don't count if someone else cooked it - Carole's Artichokes French was a big hit!). And I didn't want to miss out on the chance to spend a night and a day next to the river... one of my favorite places. I had been having some mild anxiety all week, realizing that I had worked in Downieville regularly since 1989, beside the beautiful Yuba, and life was changing such that I would probably only see the river one day a week, at best. My new job starts tomorrow, and my three old ones ended this past week, so rest and reassurance were definitely in order. I felt like an aquifer needing replenishment.
Friday afternoon was spent tackling my March UFO. It warrants its own post, so suffice to say that while some progress was made, I set it aside in order to spin up the remainder of the blue denim mohair that has been patiently waiting since last fall. I stopped for feasting at dinner time, but otherwise spindled away until I was almost dropping in my tracks... I had only a few small, pre-drafted slices of mohair left, but had to admit that sleep was calling and my spinning deteriorating significantly.
The rooms at the Inn are spacious and lovely, and decorated with antiques. However, my friend Lynn and I were especially delighted that Tami had put us in her daughter Krista's room... Krista was one of our former students (Lynn still teaches English and Drama at the high school where I taught yearbook and computer classes for eight years). Krista moved into this particular room last year, while a major remodel had the Inn closed for several months, and will soon have to move out and let guests use it, but is currently in Japan, keeping her sIL company while her brother serves in Iraq. Her additions to the room include her collection of angels, the beautiful pencil sketches and watercolors she does, as well as dioramas and picture frames incorporating found objects and broken bits of china... we both had restful sleeps with creative dreams.
I woke much earlier than planned, did some yoga for the first time in several weeks since there were no little dogs clamoring for a walk, and then finished up the blue mohair before breakfast was ready.
This photo makes it seem like there is more yarn... actually these three skeins are pretty "cute and little"... I wasn't paying attention as I wound each one off with my niddy noddy or I would be able to tell you approximately how many yards I have. I still need to wash them and measure the WPI, but I just might be able to make the Laceup Fingerless Gloves in Alterknits. I love the sparkle of the mohair in this photo, taken at our communal lunch, eaten outdoors in the bright spring sunlight. The light really picks up the halo from the mohair.
With a feeling of accomplishment, I returned to my UFO, and successfully finished it... as you will see, it was worth the effort and I like it much better as a FO!
Trying to decide what to do next (when do you ever have enough time for spinning or knitting for such a choice?!), it was just too hard to resist the "bunny crack" as Margene calls it, so I dove right in and got to spinning Anne's blend of Rambouillet wool and her bunny, Hank's angora. I was happy to be able to get a finer thread from this mix, as I had been nervous about attempting angora, but Anne had reassured me that blended together it would spin up easily. I began envisioning a small scarf....
We had a great feast of a lunch that included excellent smoked local trout, carmelized onion cheddar cheese (this was new to me and totally awesome), several desserts and salads... in other words "way too much". Lynn and I took a walk along the river to stretch out from sitting and work off some of the good food, and I also got a chair massage from Laurel, who arrived in mid-adfternoon to help us relieve the stiffness of long hours of spinning or sewing. My guild members made lots of progress on their mystery quilts and much laughter abounded. We even thought we might try solving some of the problems of the world.. or at least commiserating on them.
Even the Mock Croc sock got some attention, and is only a few inches from completion; I expect to be able to start sock #2 later this week. One of my quilting friends was in awe of the colors in this yarn, and so am I... others were amazed to learn that there are different types of sheep and that this affects the qualities of the wool and what you might want to use the yarn for. I was a regular knitting and spinning ambassador!
All in all, I had a dream day of knitting and spinning, even though I bypassed the dreaming and journaling stages. I highly recommend that you sit down right now, and leave me a comment describing your dream knitting day. That will be the springboard to get you going and planning a spring day as wonderful as mine was.
My dogs didn't make it into the contest over at JenLa's - they simply wouldn't sit still long enough for me to get any photos of De Feet! I did go and vote for Knitnana's Meezer, my all-time favorite cat!
Here's the best shot I could get, period! This is Jake... just the cutest little bug, isn't he?
Yes, I know that I am blatantly using filler instead of posting anything meaningful or fiber-related on my blog.... I am in the throes of finishing up my three old jobs so that I can move right into my new one on Monday and I am SWAMPED, both physically and emotionally. Yesterday was my last day with my little knitters... hard to say good-bye to so many sweet little faces and one girl, the child of a friend, hugged me and wouldn't let go at recess, bringing tears to my eyes. The good news is that the replacement teacher is another school employee, who has volunteered almost every second grade class session as a parent, and loves to knit and is thrilled with the challenge of taking on my two grades and seeing their handwork progress through to the end of the year. In fact, she is uniquely positioned to eventually become the one, full-time handwork teacher there, so I am thrilled for her! Better answers are there when we look for them...
I DO get the respite of a weekend with my quilt guild... where I will be finishing up my March UFO Resurrection and doing some spinning while I visit and eat with old and dear friends. That surely should lead to some fiber posts for next week!