Monday, July 4, 2016

A new normal

Bergamot in the backyard.
It has been quiet around here without our dog. Getting home from work isn't quite as much fun and the backdoor doesn't get opened as often. But summer moves forward with thousands of consolations, including this beautiful bergamot growing in our back yard. The bumble bees and hummingbirds love it!

The Tour de Fleece is on!
And July has its own distractions--my favorite being the Tour de Fleece, which started off on Saturday and follows the same timeline as the Tour de France. I have two wheels out being used to help keep up with all the spinning I plan to do.  On the Matchless, I've spun some brown rug yarn and the Lendrum has a merino angora blend which I hope will someday make a very fuzzy hat. This is one of my favorite Ravelry events. At the lower left are balls of charcoal gray Shetland roving I've been spinning since June, but finally was able to ply into some nice fingering weight yarn:

450 yards of gray Shetland.
Best of all, I received a call from the Round Barn Fiber Mill and the Corriedale I'd sent them to be carded is finished. So we had a nice drive out to Durand, IL to pick it up this weekend. It's nice driving through the cornfields. And the corn was high too, much higher than my knees for the Fourth of July, but not quite to the Elephant's eye stage. I'm thinking waist high.

Two big boxes of roving
So DH and I picked up these two big boxes of roving, about 14 pounds worth. I waited patiently until I got home to have a look, which is a good thing since the roving just "poofed" right up out of the box. Below is a picture of Brownie's fleece turned into something absolutely scrumptious and ready to spin!

Brownie as roving after 11 years!
I purchased this fleece in the Spring of 2005, so I'm glad to see it in spin-able form. I don't thing I'd ever have carded all that by myself. There was five pounds of it and all gorgeous. Now it is extra gorgeous in this form. Thank you Round Barn Fiber Mill! You will be seeing more of my stash very soon. In fact, I've been wading through it trying to decide what to have carded next!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Saying goodbye

Pet lovers know just how hard it is to lose their furfriend, and saying goodbye to my buddy of 13 plus years was not easy. We adopted him from Northern Illinois Samoyed Assistance  when he was a one year old crazy boy. He'd had a tough first year of life haven been born in a puppy mill and then chained outside by people who should never have had a high energy dog. Baxter had little in the way of manners. We were initially his foster parents because, having no kids, other pets and experience with quirky rescues, we were the perfect place for him.
Baxter LOVED to play.
Yes, he was a crazy dog! And DH and I aren't exactly disciplined dog trainers--we are both kind of easy going and live and let live. Somehow, we managed to help a high-energy silly boy calm down and be a better canine citizen. His own loving nature and natural desire to be a good boy and family member went a long way as we helped get him more properly socialized. And that is key!  Dogs want to be loved and love!

Oddly, one of the important things was to change his name. The moment we called him by his new name he perked up. He loved his new name. Maybe for him it meant he was accepted into the pack. His former name was a verb and if we accidently used the word in a sentence, he'd get visibly upset. (Notice that even now, I can't use that verb!) This was true of our former rescue when we stumbled upon what was likely her very unimaginative name--she was NOT happy. She had been clearly abused--to the end of her days she would flinch ever so slightly when we reached to pet her.  Our "training" regime was telling her what a good girl she was because if we said "bad" she'd start trembling. What is with that? People are (expletive deleted).

Anyhow, the name thing would make an interesting study for dog cognition.  Just saying, if you ever adopt a dog, and you want to change his name, go ahead and do it. Both our rescues thanked us for it.

Waiting for us on a cool day in Colorado.
That aside, Baxter was a great dog. He kept an eye on us at all times, such as in this picture where we had run up to check out a rock.  Don't worry! It was cold out and we were just gone for a minute! Somewhere, I have a picture of him driving the car. Unfortunately, lots of our older pictures are on CD's.

Samoyed's usually shouldn't be off leash, but this was a special situation
He loved going for walks. He even pulled a sled for a bit when he was a young man. And he LOVED to run around the back yard and the dog park. He was a fast guy. And as he got older, he slowed down a bit but still loved being out and about. Every Sunday, he'd go over to DH and remind him it was time for a trip to the dog park and off they'd go! I went sometimes, but usually the buddies went together.

Baxter camping in comfort.

And he loved camping and hiking. Here he is in our pop up trailer. He kept us plenty warm during some of those cold mountain nights. He was funny because he insisted in going back into the camper at sundown. No hanging out in the wilds at night for him! Yes, he was that smart.  Also, we like to say we purchased the pop-up because our first rescue absolutely HATED the tent. When we camped, she would insist we let her sleep in the car. She was quite happy when we bought the pop-up!

Baxter loved his treats.
And Baxter loved his treats and toys. Frosty Paws were a favorite (that's doggy ice cream cups), and even at the end, when he could barely lift his head, he enjoyed this treat.  Yes, we spoiled him! He has a big box full of toys which will be going to animal shelters! He especially loved those plush toys in the shape of animals. He'd run around the house squeaking and slobbering on them. When I'd exercise he'd share a special slobbery toy when I was trying to do crunches. It usually landed just under my chin. He also like weaving around me during squats. It was always an adventure with that guy!  He loved helping with yard work, especially when it came to pulling the tarp full of leaves during fall clean up. The only problem was Baxter usually wanted to pull the tarp in the opposite direction DH did!  They'd get it sorted out eventually.

My little helper
And, of course, he LOVED helping me with my crafting. He lie down as close to my spinning wheel as he could without getting in the way (mostly) and would regularly pay a visit to me at my loom and wind his way through it. On the big Leclerc, he could come right into the loom and curl up next to the treadles. The smaller looms he tried his best to get at least part way in.  The one thing about Baxter, is he always had an enthusiastic and positive attitude, even as he aged and things got much more difficult. He was a great, loving companion.

Thank you all for reading these stories (and some opinions) about my dog. One of the most important ways to deal with loss is talk about all the good memories of the lost friend or family member.

He had a very peaceful passing at the age of 14+. Thank you so much mobile veterinarian for coming to our house! They are  They were wonderful and Baxter had a peaceful and dignified end in his very own home. (If I could be so lucky when my time comes!) They are a full service mobile vet, because they can bring all the doggy wellness care right to people's homes! This has to be a godsend to the elderly with pets or the middle aged with  big dogs they can't boost into their SUV any longer!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Birds and bees

I love bumble bees. I'm always glad to see them each spring, those improbable roly poly bundles moving from flower to flower. Bumble bees are our native bees and I like to see them thrive. I am proud that some are able to overwinter near my house. No you won't see fuddly green chem crud truck in front of my house. You will see dandelions.

The yard in late April. Things are starting to grow and things planted.
Gardening has been a bit of an obsession and this year we made an extra effort toward our goal of a bird and bee friendly suburban plot. Sun and more native plants were added to the front yard. We had removed some kind of an inedible pear tree that came with our house and this spring planted some bee balm where it once stood. Along the walk to our house we have bergamot, purple and yellow coneflower, butterfly milkweed, Joe Pie Weed and a couple of native plants whose names I forget.

Today you can see more things growing.
We also added a Redbud to the front lawn in a spot where it shouldn't grow to shade all the prairie plants and give lovely flowers for bumble bees to forage from in early spring. Knowing how things will shade requires knowing where the sun strikes around the house. I think I have it figured out. We shall see as I hope to show the progress of this garden throughout the summer.

The walkway: Roses and blue false indigo on one side, allium on the other.
You may recall all the bulbs I planted last fall. They are growing! You can see a variety of allium to the left. I planted these to add color in June and because the bunnies won't eat them. Sadly, the bunnies have snacked on some of my yellow and purple coneflower which are slowly growing next to them on the walk.

 I took this photo kind of late so it isn't very clear.  I will take better photos as the summer progresses so you can see how pretty a critter friendly suburban yard can be.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Beautiful Spring!

This past weekend was spent working out in the garden. We are building a butterfly and bee garden in the back and then we have a shade garden we call the grotto under a linden tree in the back. It has been a ton of work! I did so much digging that I am super sore.

The spinach after transplanting. 
As you know, I did a little garden experiment trying to grow spinach in a cold frame. Nothing happened really until spring when it started to grow like crazy. So I decided to move it outside into the  real garden. Above, it is doing really well having survived a snow and cold and more--this was from the beginning of April about a week or two after I planted it.  It's looking yummy! Below, was this past weekend:
What happened to the spinach?
So where did all that spinach go? It filled two raised squares, and was growing to the point of being ready to eat.
Can gorgeous tulips be a clue to disappearing spinach?
Between the spinach being healthy and disappearing, these tulips bloomed gorgeous without interference from bunny rabbits.  Could it be that my spinach distracted these cute furry rodents long enough to let the tulips bloom?. I really did appreciate the gorgeous display--my tulips have yet to survive the furry onslaught. At first, I thought it was the coyotes who frequent my suburban neighborhood in the predawn hours--you know the cycle of life and all that--protecting my flowers. But then I visited the garden in hopes of a spinach omelet and realized someone small and furry and beaten me to it.

Alpaca two-ply spun 382 yards out of 8 oz

Yes I have a fence, but it has worn down over the years and needs a bit of help. So I think the bunnies have grown fat on the largess of spinach. I suppose next weekend will be another busy time in the garden. I have ordered nine more pots of perennials to plant so I know I'll have the shovel in hand again. Plus, I think it is time to go to the garden center for tomatoes and peppers, so we can get a start on our planting.

Falling leaves scarves from handspun.
So being as pooped as I am from gardening, more knitting is getting done than weaving or spinning. Yes, I am trending towards projects that allow me to put my feet up! It's always nice to be pooped AND productive!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Beauty of crackle

Crackle woven as summer and winter. This photo is sideways, the warp is white.
Crackle has come to fascinate me. Since the workshop, I've been reading up on the structure, and now have both Wilson's and Snyder's book along with Lucy Brusic's Crackle Weave Companion. The whole subject fascinates me and I think the red and white sample detail explains it the best. The warp in this case is white (the sample is on its side). You will notice in some spots how the warp appears to form diamonds. The warp is doing all kinds of interesting things. Mary Meigs Atwater, the grandmother of modern American weaving, termed this weave Crackle, for this very reason---it reminded her of the crackle effect on old pottery. The weave does have an unpronounceable name in Swedish,  but we American weaver's took Atwater's advice and call it "Crackle."

Crackle woven as lace
The one above is woven in a lace treadling. I love all the shapes it makes! I'm thinking I'd like to try some curtains in this weave. We will have to see what happens.

Polychrome treadling
Polychrome is one of my favorites and I am itching to put a warp of scarves on so I can try a few things with my supply of Tencel. But I do have a warp already wound for overshot placemats. I could easily change the plan to Crackle placemats and I'm already looking at a few ideas. Regardless of what it will be, there is definitely Crackle in my future!

With the warming days, my spinach is growing, but also receiving visitors! If you look in the upper right you can see where someone was excavating and leaving nesting materials. I took the lid off the cold frame to discourage any thoughts that my spinach patch is "cozy" and "homey"

This weekend, DH and I--well mostly DH---set out three more raised bed garden squares and filled them with dirt. We now have 20 square feet of garden space! I plan to transplant the spinach out there later this week, before the rabbits find the cold-frame and make salad!

Happy Spring everyone! Hope you all have a great week!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Snap. crackle, pop

Polychrome crackle at the top, lace below

 A three day workshop on crackle weave left me both inspired and a little tired. I've already changed my mind about one project I was going to do in favor of crackle, and that's not all. I can see long warps of scarves in my future.

The workshop was taught by Beth Duncan and sponsored by my guild Illinois Prairie Weavers. I warped up the old structo artcraft and rolled it into the workshop on a luggage cart. I haven't used this loom much as weaving on a table loom is much more time consuming than the floor looms I use, among other drawbacks. But I enjoyed weaving on it and getting to know my way around the loom.

Vintage walnut workshop loom.
Crackle is a really versatile structure, and we learned how to incorporate different kinds of treadling sequences and color combinations to make interesting effects. This turned out to be fascinating. Because I'm a slow weaver, when I got home, I wove a ton more samples, such as the one above! That is a three tone polychrome weave in gold, green and dark brown.  I am almost done with the warp.

Done as overshot
Weaving crackle like overshot is the most common way, but there are other interesting effects created using color combinations. I tried the overshot method in two colors, and tried different tabby colors too.

Spinach is getting big

I can see spinach in my future! It is growing! So are the flowers outside. I should have some daffodils soon. We are having a very early spring this year. I won't complain about it. It's hard to believe I used to be one of those people who liked snow. But when it does snow, there's never time to enjoy it. With work, snow is all about shoveling and traffic being slow. Once free time rolls around, the snow is melted, or turned to ice. Sad. There isn't much time to like it anymore.

Sunday, February 28, 2016


I love this hat
Nothing quite beats a lovely hand knit hat to spark inspiration. It's nice to have something pretty on my head keeping all the thoughts warm. I was delighted when Janet offered me the hat she knit (shown above) at Wednesday's sit and stitch. I love this hat. Janet is a talented spinner, knitter and weaver who love mixing texture and color.

 The hat is so pretty, I could wear it to a poetry slam.

Wisps of thought
melding with clouds
blue sky

Something like that, but done dramatically. With a cool hat, colorful handknit tunic sweater and yoga pants, I'd be outfitted to express myself. I'd have to improve my poetry, I suppose.  Probably write a lot more of it than i do.  Clothes do not make the verse.
This is the cool slouchy back
Well, no slams just yet. I'm busy enough with everything else I'm doing around the Craftstead. There is so much yarn, so little time.  And spring is in the air with these unseasonable temperatures. We are enjoying the second 50 degree weekend in a row!
I still have spinach
 The spinach still know it is February and continues to grow slowly.  I think they need thinning, but I will wait until we put the new garden squares out in March. I think I can transplant some and have a nice crop. 
Socks for DH
We went out for a drive Saturday and I was able to finish up these socks I started back in January. I'm participating in the 6 or 16 in 2016 challenge on Ravelry, and this brings me up to 8 projects completed so far this year, including finishing three works in progress (WIPS). I am also making headway on the charity scarf knitting and I just finished this:
Purple charity scarf
It is an infinity scarf done in moss diamonds. It developed this wavyness, so I left it in, blocking it very lightly.
The other scarf is a lace infinity, using a free Ravelry pattern, Easy Lace Cowl. I used sparkly yarn for this one:
Easy Lace Cowl for charity
So, yes, there's been a lot of knitting going on around here.  But weaving and spinning have happened too. Today, I've been beaming a warp on the big loom. I had to take a break so I decided to do some blogging. That's about all right now. Hope everyone has a great week.