Like The Queen
Whatever happens to strike my fancy, but surely some sort of fiber content.


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Thursday, July 31, 2003  

Most of the heavy stuff at work is done - and a little more of the oppressing load I’ve felt on my neck has lifted. What a grand feeling it is. I don’t know why this summer has felt so tremendously heavy since it has been a pretty summer, and I haven’t had a single thing to do that I didn’t want to do - but the whole length and breadth of it has felt like rocks on my back. I was writing to a good friend, M, about it and suddenly I realized that part of the issue has been the cash-flow problem I’ve had for so long. First saving for England, then spending it all and more, then a bunch of major home appliances and auto bills - it is a lot easier to fulfill obligations when you can pay for them! But another issue is the vacation day evaporation. For years, come July 1, when I have to calculate how many days of leave everyone at the library has, I have several weeks left. That sense of ease and time and freedom I’d feel when I would realize “Hey - I can take next week off if I want!” would make me feel wealthy and full of possibilities. Of course, I sucked up most of those days last May and while I have a little time left in the pot - it doesn’t feel expansive and possible.

Who would have thought that I’d need a “vacation days” stash!!

We count our wealth in so many ways.

For those who read this earlier - I'm over my snit now.

posted by Bess | 7:37 AM


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Wednesday, July 30, 2003  

Last night was a very happy night for me at Weight Watchers since I reached the first hurdle - the "lose 10%" goal. I am feeling very proud of me.

On the knitting scene, I had to rip out the ribbing of my handpaint slipstitched vest for the third time - but 4th time was lucky. I do love knitting with Aurora8 even if it does split some. It's just so springy and alive in my hands.

And our beautiful 23 year old guest kept us laughing and talking and thinking till past midnight.

A beautiful evening altogether.

posted by Bess | 3:47 PM


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Tuesday, July 29, 2003  

I began the ribbing for my handpaint vest yesterday - and remembered, once begun, how darn hard it is to knit with a dark yarn indoors. I got to the last stitches in the second round and couldn’t tell if the next stitch was supposed to be a K or a P so I set the whole thing down and will wait for sunlight. Not far off now.

I’m pleased to be in some sort of knitting mode, though I’m supposed to be knitting Christmas gifts. I can’t figure out why I’m so stuck on Ben’s socks. They’re at the heel turning stage - half done and about to switch to just knit stitch in the round. I even like the color - just can’t seem to bring myself to finish them. Trouble is - they’re hogging the size 3 circs. On the trip to PA I showed mama the Winter in the City hat and she staked her claim. Since I love the pattern but not the color, and since it’s a color that would look okay on her, I offered it to her. It’s another felt project. This time I’ll take it to her house and felt it with her. She already got my BaaBaaJoe’s felt hat last year and I promptly knitted another which I’ve yet to felt! Idiot.

Another thing I bought last Saturday at GotYarn was Anny Blatt’s Fall 2003#191. I’d seen it when I drove up on Thursday (yes, I went twice last week!) and thought it was extremely inspiring - but priced at $16 it was expensive enough to make me pause. I find her instructions extremely difficult to follow, even though I am sure if I bothered to read them carefully I could figure them out. I also find them extremely interesting. When I stopped in again on Saturday I bought the book, knowing full well I probably wouldn’t make anything from it. I would be inspired by the projects, and what’s interesting in the designs is the combination of all sorts of different yarn textures, not the specific combinations. Some look like intarsia, some like stranded colorwork. The geometry of the Anny Blatt designs has always appealed to me, though I’m still knitting mostly tubes, a la EZ. I told myself, this much inspiration for $16 is a bargain and so far I’m still inspired.

Eh. That’s all the fiber news. My work week is challenging but do-able. And a precious young friend is coming for a visit today - dropping by the library in the afternoon, then heading up to my house to visit with BD, then spend the night.

Something in my brain keeps whispering to me that once the summer is over I won’t feel so stressed. I don’t even have a reason to feel uncomfortable - so I will blame it on Mars coming close to earth in the next few weeks. I hate it, though, when there is a vague feeling of dread niggling the back of my brain. Wonder what my subconscious thinks is going to happen before Labor Day? Weird!

posted by Bess | 6:24 AM


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Monday, July 28, 2003  

Here's the swatch I've worked up to get gauge. The two patterns came from Barbara Walker's first treasury of stitches. The top one is called Hexigon (I think) and the bottom one is called Fancy Bricks. I'll use the top stitch in my vest. Now it's a matter of doing the math, because the Aurora8 really wants to be knit at 5 st. to the inch and the handpaint wants to be knit at 6.

posted by Bess | 10:28 AM


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Sunday, July 27, 2003  

Back again from PA - and I’ve just finished up my second spinning class with my 2 4H girls. Now I’m ready for a nap.

The trip was a wonderful experience for mother and daughter. It was Mama’s nursing school reunion but it was a chance for both of us to spend good long hours talking, admiring scenery, thinking out loud. We’ve always been able to bounce ideas off each other’s brains but we haven’t had enough opportunities in the past few years. Her health has been indifferent at best and quite precarious at times.

The east coast is gloriously beautiful this summer. After several years of dusty humid dry weather, we’ve had perfect weather all summer. I hardly can remember a day that hit the high nineties and we have yet to have a 100 degree day. Rain at least once a week means the growth is luxuriant and there’s no dust on the trees, keeping them glossy green instead of dusty olive. I’ve never seen so many wildflowers in the fields as we did along our drive.

We took Rt. 522 - which pretty much goes from her house to PA - where we hopped onto 70, then 99, then 56 and that took us straight to the restaurant where the gathering was. The reunion was of all students from the former Windber Hospital nursing school - with graduates ranging from 63 to 91. Three of Mama’s classmates were there and she had the yearbook from their graduating year. I remember that book as being something extraordinarily special. I would sit and gaze at it for hours as a wee child, as a young girl, and as a teen. It’s as old a friend to me as it could be for any graduate. Of course, I thought my mama was the most beautiful of all the students - and she sure was mighty pretty - and she had done all the sketches and artwork for the book so I recognized, even as a child, that special style she had of making cartoons that were fun and kind.

With the exception of not being able to find a room in Winchester on the way home, everything was absolutely perfect and since we’re not supposed to have perfection in this world, we at least had earth-perfection.

No trip to Mama’s is complete without a stop at GotYarn where I was able to pick up 4 balls of Aurora8 in a deep purple, to knit the ribbing, arm & neck-bands and do the slip-stitching for a vest I’m planning out of my handpainted yarn from Stony Mt. Fibers fiber dyeing workshop. I had originally thought to use a deep forest green, but Mama suggested purple and she was so right. I tried Hershey’s chocolate brown and it was okay - nice, but punchless - but the purple - ooooo lala. I am a high contrast sort of person and this vest is for me, but if I were a pastel sort of woman, I would be able to tone down this bright yarn with a lavender purple. Interesting what you can do with color.

Tomorrow I’ll post the gauge swatch I’m working on.

I also hit the sale wall at GY and did not buy the baby cashmerino in dark brown only because I have enough goodies in my stash right now, but I did pick up some oddball ribbon yarns and something to make a quick crazy scarf for my god-daughter, Emma, whose birthday is Thursday.

Back home, LittleDarling was out on the river with BD and the talk was all boats, boats, boats through dinner on till this morning, when he and I took a lovely ramble out to Robert’s Landing and just talked about the future and the changes that we are all looking forward to. LD will be out of the navy in September and plans to move back to this area. Is there a happy mother somewhere in upper Tidewater Virginia?

The BoatBoys took off around 10 and I began swatching my handspun/purple combo while I waited for my students. At noon they showed up. They had full spindles! They also had big bags full of washed Dorset locks.

The first thing we did was to wind their singles into 2 center pull balls. I then had them tie the two balls together and we began plying. One had spun some quite thick singles and quickly filled her spindle. One had a thinner yarn, more like an aran weight. I had them examine their yarns, noting how they softened as they untwisted the singles into a balanced 2-ply yarn. They skeined them up, tied them in several places, dipped them in water, and snapped the yarn before hanging it on the clothesline to set the twist. I lent them ancient enormous straight needles to experiment with over the next few weeks.

Then we began combing out locks, pre-drafting them into lengths as long as we could make them and begin spinning them up. When the girls had gotten the hang of working with these locks, I had them each try spinning from the fold. Neither could get this technique and I didn’t push at all. I let them spin about a half hour and then taught them how to use my cards. I provided each student with a wide toothed dog comb and deliberately got them combing first, before letting them experiment with cards. Carded rolags don’t produce quite as uniform a yarn, but they can plow through a lot of wool pretty fast.

They made up large plastic bags full of woolen birdsnests just in time for their mothers to come get them. By the time they were ready to go, their yarn had mostly dried and it was a thrill for us all to see how those tight, hard singles had softened into such pretty yarn. We won’t meet again for 3 weeks. Their homework is to spin up as much yarn as they possibly can. The more they spin, the more they will have to dye, for that will be the class on August 17. I asked their favorite colors and they both like blue and purple. I hope I can get my hands on that blue punch koolaid....

It’s been a wonderful couple of days. I couldn’t keep on top of my weight watchers stuff while I was gone, but it’s easy to get back on it today. I hope the coming week is just as easy. Board meeting, committee meetings, climax of the summer reading club at work - hmmmm - When will things be just plain ordinary slow’neasy? and whose the nut who set up this schedule for me anyway?

posted by Bess | 4:52 PM


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Thursday, July 24, 2003  

What, I wonder, has happened to my comments? I don’t remember fooling around with the template. I don’t remeber, either, where I got the code for comments. I hate it that things can be so easily ruined on a web site. I am also not all that interested in learning blogger code. I just want an opportunity to mouth off every day and to enjoy any feedback that engenders. Rats. Crumbs.

I head off to PA today and shan’t be back till late Saturday. I expect I’ll be completely out of touch with any computers but I am taking along my Winter in the City hat kit for evening knitting. Mama will not be offended if I knit and talk at the same time the way certain, ahem, other hotel companions I’ve had do. There’s always a little tension driving off on my own. Though I have driven a car for .... well, since I was 16, I’m not particularly fond of driving. I prefer to ride and gaze out the window. BigDarling is my favorite driver because he will drive slowly down back roads and stop for anything that looks interesting - or, if I complain that I’m weary of cars, he’ll get on an interstate and drive fast. In fact, our first date was an 18-hour car trip through the rainy autumnal landscape of southern VA and NC. We never stopped talking and after that I didn’t bother to date anybody else. Some things, you just know are right.

I’ve spun up all the yarns on my bobbins. These are the handpainted rovings I’ve been dyeing up the past few weekends. I still have piles of lovely colorful merino to play with but I feel a little finishitis a-birthing in my fingers and think I’d like to have enough boucle to make my jacket. I put off finishing the boucle yarn because I didn’t have all the quilting thread or mylar ribbon I needed and didn’t have the $$ to buy it. Payday is Friday so I’ll order up the threads and start spinning more mohair singles. I can fill 2 bobbins with mohair and still have 2 empty ones for working up the boucle.

But what is interesting, though also a little lowering, is to see an old pattern reappear from my sewing days. Back when I used to sew all my own clothes, I frequently bought patterns, and even cloth, to make something and then never made it. There are 4 cubby closets in my house crammed full of those unmade clothes. Often, just owning the materials was enough ownership for me. The concept, the ideas, the mental rehearsals were all I ever accomplished. I fear that my knitting and spinning is developing similar patterns. I have the yarn for something like 7 sweaters and wool to spin into yarn for another 7. Am I ever going to make any of them? Lord, I hope so. Stash is one thing - a weird shopping obsession is something else.

Heh! Self analysis notwithstanding, I will stop by GotYarn on my way to Mama’s and pick up the #11 circulars the hat pattern calls for. I’ve never bothered to work with the larger needle in my other felt hats because I can always just knit loosely. But I’ll be working with two strands, one of them eyelash, and I think I’d like to knit a little tighter on this hat. A little worried I’ll split the two yarns otherwise. And though I know somewhere in this house there are several size 7 needles, I can’t find a one of them, so I’ll get another of those.

My my - I haven’t been in a yarn store since before Md. S&W!

My Interweave Knits came yesterday - a day after the library copy - so it has no surprises but I’ll take it with me on my trip too. And I’ll be back here Sunday morning or maybe Monday.

posted by Bess | 5:53 AM


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Wednesday, July 23, 2003  

Several days ago I posted my fright-inducing list of things I had to do - not things that I didn’t want to do, mind you, just things with deadlines that required planning and execution. That list is being whittled down at a good clip this week and it’s making me feel light and free.

And speaking of light - all the weight I lost the week before last, that showed up on the scales as a .2 lb. gain, took it’s shadow somewhere else. The drop was 4.4 lbs - but only half of that was the result of the past 7 days. What’s nice is that I earned another 5 lb. star - I’m 1.4 lbs away from losing 10% of body weight - and feeling very frisky.

I had a wonderful meeting with my novelist friend discussing his work. (this means I did read it and had a few suggestions to offer along with lots of encouragement) The book is aimed at middle schoolers. It’s quite good and very true. In fact, I had to ask him how much was autobiographical. He laughed and said plenty of incidents were from his childhood, a unique pocket - growing up working class Catholic in the deep south in the 50’s - but he’d had 30 years of teaching middle schoolers and he’d gathered lots of material from the classroom as well. It rings true. I hope he finishes it. It deserves to be out there on the shelves.

Tomorrow I leave to take Mama to PA so I have to get a lot done at work before I leave. There’s lots of stuff at work that has to be ready for a series of meetings next week and I’d like to finish spinning up the wrapping paper yarn. And I really must get the notebook for my young spinners put together. It’s all right if they just jump in and begin spinning, but I think they should have a how-to reference for when the class is over. That means taking all the stuff I know in my brain and in my fingers and putting it into language and sketches and then putting said language&sketches on paper. Hmmm. I think I’ll be working late tonight.

And BigDarling said LittleDarling called in the night, after I’d fallen asleep, and he might be home this weekend!!!! Now - there’s not much more a mother needs than to have her little darling come home for a weekend.

I haven’t been very good about knitting Christmas gifts though. Oh - I planned them all out, selected yarns from my stash - but I’ve not picked up a needle. Perhaps I shall have to devote August to actual construction. And I really must clear my bobbins of all those small colored yarns so I can get back to my boucle. I really want that spun and knit up this fall.

Ahh well. There it is. Two steps forward and one step back. I believe it’s called “Life”.

posted by Bess | 6:23 AM


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Tuesday, July 22, 2003  


Here are my spinning students! Aren't they great? They've been spinning about an hour.

And here are the rovings I dyed the week before last. These photos include the rovings I dyed to match the silk I bought in England.

And here are some photos of the studio. Al Fresco Studio

And if you were to visit me by water - here's how you'd get there.

posted by Bess | 4:37 PM


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I am going to have to do something about this Monday night sleeplessness. I know it is because Tuesday is WeightWatchers and I’m excited about going to the meeting - but sheesh! I am only getting about 4 hours of sleep on Monday nights. Not good. Not even good for weightwatching since I retain water when I don’t get enough sleep. But I always feel a little Christmas Eve-ish on Mondays and long about 3 or 4 in the morning, the eyes pop open and stuff begins to trek through my brain. Stupid stuff frequently, worrisome stuff now and then, to be compounded by the prime worry that if I don’t get back to sleep I’ll drag through the day - which means I never ever will get back to sleep. In fact, once that idiotic thought enters my consciousness, I just go ahead and get up.

I’m not one of those tidy souls who can’t go to bed when some task is left undone. I am a great believer in letting things rest - or cook - or alone. Particularly so if the task is onerous (like washing dishes) or giving me problems, like some needlework projects will do. I can go to sleep pretty much any time after 8:30 p.m. Usually it’s closer to 10, BigDarling’s complaints that I go to bed at 7 not withstanding. Hyperbole is one of his favorite tactics. In 32 years I’ve learned to translate. Besides, as long as I don't fall asleep right away, he’s happy to read to me till I drop off to sleep. Also, I’m a dawn prowler.

That being said, I usually get up and wash dishes (or load the dishwasher when it is working) or finish other undone tasks. Well, actually, I always have to do something in the kitchen before I can make coffee. Just not always do the dishes. I’ve gotten better over the decades - time was when I didn’t wash them at all, knowing that sooner or later someone else would become disgusted with the mess and wash them for me. But with the advent of machinery - life took on a more hygienic aspect. We all have our quirks. I’d rather do 4 bathrooms any day!

Yesterday was a fiberless day - no spinning, knitting or anything. I had shoe lust. I can’t explain it - since I already have enough shoes to cover a dozen feet - even a dozen pair of feet, for crying out loud! I have hard-to-fit feet, triangular shaped feet with normal width heels and wide balls - think here: “Donald Duck” - so most shoes look terrible on me. I had some time during lunch yesterday so I went to a little shop in town and tried on shoes and hats. I rarely have shoe lust - but there is no time ever when I don’t want a hat. I have several. I’ve been known to spend the last $$$ I have on a hat (it was a little gray rolled brim thing with a cascade of feathers down the back - I had to have it). I have a favorite dress. I think of it as a sarong dress, though really it’s a back-zippered fitted sheath with an extra wrap of cloth that ties over the left hip like a sarong. I have been too fat to wear it for a long time but it fits beautifully now. It’s the sort of great dress that cries out for a hat - but I’d never found one that worked with it till yesterday. I’m intrigued by these buckram hats that are so ubiquitous now. Buckram is an interesting fabric - looks like stiff looseweave burlap without the slubs in the yarn. It can be shaped pretty much anyway you like, when it is wet, but once it’s dry it becomes stiff. This one has a slightly high crown and a wide brim that turns down like a bell. Very 1950’s or early ‘60’s looking - very much like something Audrey Hepburn would have worn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s , (a movie I find incredibly stupid and boring, but it does have absolutely great clothes). It’s wheat colored, trimmed in black and I was sure it would be perfect with my sarong dress. It was also marked down 3 times till it was less than $10. The rest of the afternoon all I could think about was going home and trying it on with the dress. That, and thinking about shoes to go with the dress.

So - I’m a clothing sucker. I once read a quote by Geoffrey Beane to the effect that Virgo’s cared the most about clothes and I remember thinking he was so right. But the hat does go fantastically well with the dress and I already have shoes that work and now all I need is someplace to go. I wonder if someone I know is getting married.....

posted by Bess | 5:32 AM


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Monday, July 21, 2003  

Have you seen the new Family Circle Easy Knitting? This is not one of my favorite knitting publications anyway and I haven’t found much of interest in an issue in a long time. I think this fall issue is a cut above what they’ve been providing lately. As usual, the adds, especially the Tahki-Staci Charles add, have my favorite designs in them but this time I also liked the sweater on page 48 (#17) with the wide V in seed stitch, bordered by slanting cables and the coat in plus sizing with the folded lapels. I liked the pale blue sideways knit boatneck sweater on page 33, but I would never wear it because it wouldn’t be flattering on me. But it looked great on the model and I wish I could wear it. The ribbed sweaters are good looking, and there are quite a few of them, some with stripes - but they don’t tempt me. I am not particularly fond of ribbing - but I think the sweaters are classic and attractive. Just - I’d rather pay for machine ribbing. Just a thing with me. I liked the fashion treatment of the cowl necked, cable front sleeveless sweater - wearing it layered as if it were a vest. That is something I might try - I love cowl necks period - I always feel like I’m wearing a hug. I even have a big loose cowl neck shell done in Dune that I may try with a thin silk sweater underneath this winter. At least, I’ll experiment.

I didn’t like a single crochet sweater and particularly despised the coat with flowers scattered on it on page 65 #35. It looked like 70’s fashions which I thought were extremely dumpy even at the time. I like crochet. I don’t do it much because it seems to irritate my overworked, over-keyboarded, aging hands in a way knitting doesn’t. But I hate the unimaginative way crochet is used in designs. Those Irish lace flowers are really beautiful - but to just blob them on a floor length single crochet coat = it does nothing to display their loveliness. And I can promise you, once that coat has been worn a little, those flowers will curl into little balls and their design will be lost.

But if you want to see really gorgeous crochet sweaters, try to find a copy of either The Crochet Sweater Book, by Sylvia Cosh or Glorious Crochet Sweaters by Nola Thiess. These books give you crochet as it was ment to be - beautiful, showcasing the yarn, the colors, even the stitching possibilities, and absolutely un-datable. They are both out of print but I did find the following shops offering GCS for sale. Not going to promise you they actually have it - but they do offer it. And you might check with Alibris or Bookfinder dot com.

The Woolery
Needle Arts Bookshop

A further caveat - I prefer the Cosh book but only slightly. And I know I've seen another crochet sweater book in the big bookstores that I thought was also a high quality fine design book. So good stuff is being offered, you just have to look for it.

The articles in this fall's FCEZ are interesting and of the sort I look for in a knitting publication. I liked the hat in the News&Notes section from the Lion Manual of Worsted Work - looked to be about 1910 and wonder if I can copy it. Hmmm - what an interesting idea - well. hmmm.

A report on my young spinning students. I forget, when I don’t have kids as students, how bold and adventurous they are. I love teaching kids. They are sure that they’ll master things and are tolerant of their early errors because they are used to being in the learning mode and expect things to require work in the beginning. They are just so darn bold!! My girls brought Dorset fleece - one had been covered with a shirt and was extremely clean, and one had been played with so much by the 4 year old brother that it was half straw and half wool. It washed beautifully into fluffy white locks - short, but surprisingly soft.

They grasped spinning immediately and quickly began filling their spindles. I gave them some brown lambswool roving to work with because it had a nice grab to it. And yes yes, I did did show them my ugly babies so they would feel confident they could quickly learn to spin nice yarn. But, as I said, they were already sure they were going to spin nice yarn. We did lots of park-and-draft spinning over a padded card table on the back porch and they left with half full spindles. They mastered joining immediately - spinning the yarn tightly against their pinched fingers, carefully overlapping the fuzzy ends, then letting the pinch go and the twist zip into the joins. Wow! is about all I can say to these girls.

I had some locks of my corriedale already washed so I showed them how to comb a lock and then stretch it out into a length. I gave them locks to experiment with and they combed, drafted and spun them right up! Their homework is to wash up as much of their fleece as they want (“May we wash all of it?” “Sure!) and when it is dry they can begin combing the locks. And spinning them if they wish. Or they can wait till next Sunday when I plan to teach: making skeins, plying, setting twist and spinning from the fold, making both smooth and textured yarns along with winding center pull balls.

Mighty pleased with myself, I am. Just think what we can do with next year’s 4H class when these gals show off what they already know how to do!!

posted by Bess | 7:36 AM


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Sunday, July 20, 2003  

Saturday evening

Ahhhh. the long slow afternoon of a summer Saturday. I’ve just woken from my nap - much needed - and the house is empty - but the sink is not, so I know BigDarling has eaten, (I know, he is indulged, but it’s his mother’s fault.) I can fix myself a bowl of couscous with vegetables and Yack! Ick! It’s tuna!! Oh well. At least now there are no cans of tuna in the house. Okay - and it’s only 2 pts not 6 like the chicken. That means ice cream sandwich for later.

I used to feel so sorry for kids who’s moms packed them tuna fish sandwiches, because you could smell them in the little locker space we used to keep our lunches in - whew!

I digress, though, for I really wanted to post about the Happy Birthday Party. It was a perfectly heavenly success! It was also the hardest secret I have ever had to keep. Countless times over the past month I’ve had to bite my lips closed over the words I wanted to share - or whisper into god-daughter Emma’s ear or slip into the conversation. I never have parties or events that I don’t share and discuss, endlessly with my cousin H. She’s my soul sister. She carries my burdens when they’re too heavy for me, she points out truths I need to hear, and always in the nicest way for me to listen to.

Mama and my utterly adorable nephew got here first, since they were on their own schedule and staying the night. I haven’t seen my nephew since 1999, when he was a sort of little rascal looking mop-head with freckles and a snappy come-back for every comment. He’s now a high school football player - offensive and defensive lineman of the year for single A schools in Oregon - and absolutely oozes masculinity and strength. He’s still just as witty and funny but has developed the skill of application so that his jokes leave you laughing and wanting to hug him at the same time. Gotta give his mom 100% of the credit ‘cause she raised her boys completely alone and man-o-man - she did a good job.

The idea was for folk to come about 5 for swimming and 7 for dinner. That way, people who don’t do bathing suits wouldn’t miss out on the fun. Only we had a whopper of a thunderstorm, black clouds, angry lightening bolts and whistling winds, pouring in from the north west - so most people opted to come about 6:30, after H’s family had gotten here in bathing suits. She lives the farthest away and local weather systems wouldn’t be visible from her house. So she didn’t get the full impact of a crowd of people jumping out shouting Happy Birthday - but she got plenty of surprise as car after carload of people showed up, bearing gifts.

The storm cooled air lingered long after the storm clouds blew off, so we could still grill outside, little kids could still slam screen doors, with that slap of wood against wood, dogs could still slink in looking for fallen tidbits only to be hugged ‘round the neck by little arms till they gladly begged to be put out. It was a happy party that spanned every age group except the 20-somethings - from not quite 1 to 81. My favorite sort of party - with high energy, endless conversation, lots of grabbing and hugging of little kids and enough chairs for everyone.

Continued on Sunday Morning

But I’ve been running on empty for a good while and crashed hard that night - didn’t wake up till 7, with Mama already awake - so yesterday was a no-post day. Mama is the source of all art in our family - a superb artist herself, and an outstanding teacher as well. Though she doesn’t knit she was utterly enthralled with my color experiments. We spent a happy morning with dyed roving and swatches while BigDarling took nephew out in the NewBoat

The house was empty of all but us in the afternoon and after sleeping till the evening, BigDarling and I walked out to the landing in the corn-scented mist. Topsy doesn’t come on walks any more, but the two young dogs wouldn’t miss one for the world. Deer are thick in the fields these days. They like to nibble the young soy beans. And the dogs like to try to catch them. They never do, but they never tire of the attempt either.

The avenue of corn that transverses my praying place is as straight as a row of lombardy poplars, thick with gnats and dragonflies coming to terms with food chain activities. The walk goes south, along the woods, then west, straight down the corn stalks to the center of the large field, then south again to the edge of the property where a little stream forms the boundary, then west then north to the end of the property again and onto Robert’s - where the landing is - an old steamboat landing, long since silted up beyond use. No one is left to tell us, but I believe the steamboats would send lighters in with cargo and return with passengers, but this spot was never a regular stop on any of the passenger lines. For that you had to go upriver to Saunders Wharf. My mother-in-law took the steamboat to Fredericksburg when she was 4, and had recovered from a year in bed after being horribly burned as a 3-year old. Her parents decided they would have a family photograph taken in the big city: the year, 1911. The photo hangs on our wall today.

Today I have 2 little 4-H girls coming to learn about spinning fleece into yarn to knit with. This is a new class for me to teach so I’m suitably nervous about my ability to keep them interested. One girl I know well enough to feel confident she’ll be interested but the other girl I only know slightly and she always seems quite shy to me. Let us hope I can light a spark for each of them. I’ve got the spindles, dog combs, several types of netting for keeping locks tidy while being washed, and lots of roving for them to begin with. I also have my first sad attempts at spinning to show them so they won’t be discouraged. I don’t plan to let them spin on the wheel at this first class but later they’ll get the chance to fiddle around with one. I want them to see they can make a useable yarn with a spindle first.

The class has been shortened to 4 weeks.

· Week 1 Learn to handle spindle, grade, skirt and wash fleece- homework: spin all roving, wash more locks
· Week 2 Learn to spin own locks - homework - spin up lots of locks
· Week 3 Discuss colors they want to use and dye yarn w/koolaid - homework: spin more locks, dye more yarn
· Week 4 Design a garter stitch or single crochet rug using dyed yarn, cast on and begin

After they go I am thinking I may dye a little more roving myself, but now that I’ve had a chance to show all the roving to Jen, I may just spin up all the pieces I’ve dyed already. I shan’t have much time this week to play with anything since I have to stuff 5 days of work into 3.5. Thursday I take Mama to Pennsylvania and don’t expect to return till late Saturday; just in time for the 4H girls’ second class. Then there is a week of respite with no obligations and then the FamilyReunion - and after that I have only smooth sailing summer days. Sounds pretty good to me.

posted by Bess | 7:33 AM


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Friday, July 18, 2003  

I hate to put my spinning away. But I have to clear the dining room table so everything has to go back into the den. This wouldn’t be that bad except, the den doubles as the spare guest room and it will be in use tonight. I have to really put it all away, not just set it there. And since I’m going to have little girls around I’ll load an empty bobbin onto HeyBaby so they can “spin” some. She, I think, shall be allowed to join the party.

Along with HeyBaby, a Triplett harp lives in the living room/dining room and both of these objects offer endless fascination to little hands. The small ones who visit (and tonight’s wee guests are all familiar with the set-up here) are solemnly allowed to touch. Touch with great care and delicacy, but touch. How cruel it would be to have something as enticing as a harp right there in the open where you could touch it - and maybe she will sing, like the one in Jack and the Beanstalk - but to be told by evil giants “DO NOT TOUCH”. There are also 5 little carved wooden houses that may be taken off the dresser and played with - only, if the room is crowded, one is expected to take them upstairs and play with them in my room.

Then, of course, there is that magical place; William’s Room, of which I have written before. All this, plus ice cream cones and juice boxes, ought to take care of the under 8 set. The 10 and up have a combination of swimming and astronomy, or just lounging around poking fun of the grownups. Sadly, LittleDarling shan’t be here, for the mischief in his eye and his uncanny ability to make the most innocent walk into an adventure, always ensures a thrilling time. (Thinking here of the huge bed he made up next to the corn field, one year, so all the kids could lie out and watch the Perseid meteor shower and then, just drift off to sleep.) William himself is even more exciting than William’s Room.

Part of the fun of this evening will be the mixture of grown-up guests. They are all friends of the birthday girl, but several of them have never met before - and a couple, BigDarling has not yet met either. But I believe they will all be congenial and I have every confidence they will all be courteous. All that is left is to figure out which kind of beer to buy. I don’t care for beer and I have not been married long enough to BigDarling to remember what kind he likes. But there is no picnic in these parts that doesn’t offer beer.

There are 2 kinds of cake - since this is a birthday party - a strawberry angelfood cake with thin chocolate glaze for the WW guests and an almond pound cake for everybody else. Most guests will bring something, because party goers around these parts just feel more comfortable contributing to the fare. I’ll provide HD&H (hot dogs and hamburgers) C&D (chips and dip), fruit salad, the ubiquitous baked beans (another on my list of yucky picnic foods), sweet corn, tomatoes and drinks. Since there will be three of us WW folk, I’ve figured out the points of everything I know is going to be there, including the deviled eggs (1/2 egg = 2 pts). The idea is to see if I can offer a satisfying, party feeling, meal at 13 pts.

So, what’s left to do? Tidy up the things Sheryl won’t know what to do with. Take all my winter clothes to the attic (Yikes! I’ve just been piling them up on LittleDarling’s bed.) and get the foldup bed down from the attic. Make up the hamburgers. Make sure there are enough baskets and bowls. Glaze the cake. BigDarling will pick up ice and beer. Hmm. I guess that’s about it.

And not a word about fiber or knitting or anything, when I had such a grand afternoon with Jen and all her beautiful fibers. We poured over each other’s dyed rovings and spun up yarns, oooed and ahhhed over the samples of exotic fibers, experimented with some of the dyed fleece using handcards and spindle, and offered each other opinions and ideas and suggestions. The whole room crackled with energy and before you knew it 3 hours had flown! I even got a chance to introduce J to Jane, who developed our library web page - since she’s looking for help on designing the web pages for her family’s business.

All too soon it was after 5 and we had to part. Oh how I wish she lived closer. But we’ll be catching up with each other again soon and both of us are attending the Knitters Review Fall Retreat in November. And probably we’d never get anything else done in our lives if we lived close enough to visit every day. So best be glad for the status quo. And best be going to glaze that cake!

Good knitting to you all.

posted by Bess | 5:45 AM


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Thursday, July 17, 2003  

Still no fiber news. Went to bed last night at 8:30. But I’ve been following the most beautiful knitting on Jerry’s sight. He’s been knitting a gansey sweater and posting regular progress photos. I am utterly impressed by the beauty and skill of his knitting. I’ve toyed with the idea of knitting a gansey myself for several years and though I know it’s not yet the right time, his work has been an inspiration. I just love fine needlework.

Today Jen is joining me for lunch and some serious fiber consultation. This is a major effort on her part, for she’s doing all the driving and we live about 100 miles apart. Isn’t it interesting how far we fiberfiends are willing to go in pursuit of our art? So I’m going in to work way early to clear the decks for an afternoon off. Among other wonderful fun things is the opportunity to share our hand dyed fibers and rovings and our spinning efforts. I’m glad I can share them on-line but that tactile experience is missing in an on-line environment. I can share IRL with my knitting friends, but I have yet to really lure a buddy into the world of spinning. I understand the reluctance on the part of non-spinners. I resisted many many times when my sister tried to entice me. “What? spend all that time just making the darn thread?!? But it will be good to have someone around who doesn’t just understand me but matches my feelings.

Tomorrow’s birthday party is just about ready. About 20 adults and assorted teens&kids are coming. Thank goodness, C’s 15 year old daughter will be here when my 17 year old nephew shows up with Mama. And K’s daughter will be delighted to see C’s son - for they’ve always been friends, but now go to different schools. Not that I believe in pairing off people, but I do remember that when I was a teen and in a group of adults, I was glad to find someone my age around. And since it’s summer everybody can go swimming, where, if there is an overload of strangers in the crowd, you can always just dive underwater. This will be fun. The challenge will be to have a full party meal’s worth of food for all, including us WW gals. And I was lucky to get Sheryl to clean the house on Friday afternoon - just before she goes on vacation.

Ugh! cleaning house reminds me that I had better dismantle the Textile Factory in the dining room. Sheryl cleans, she doesn’t re-decorate. Best be off.

posted by Bess | 6:07 AM


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Wednesday, July 16, 2003  


Girl and diet gushy stuff

No fiber news. Hey, wait! Some fiber news. The merino/tencel came from Opalessence yesterday and I spun a few feet of the Monet. But nothing else worthy of mention. Still getting ready for the bdparty, the HUGE family reunion ( this is year 150!!) the 4H classes and the trip to PA next week. Tomorrow Jen is coming for lunch and an afternoon of looking at fibers, so Friday should be an interesting post.

Now, for the girlie stuff.

Tuesday nights have been becoming my girls-night-out for a good while now. Last winter I taught knitting classes on Tuesday nights and the WeightWatchers night is also Tuesdays so I get out of cooking that night. Odd how I have grown so tired of cooking since I still do a lot of it and really - I like cooking. What I am rather tired of is the burden of meal preparation - as my pulchritude proves, for when I was ResponsibleForTheDevelopmentOfHealthyChild it wasn’t an issue at all and I stayed slim, but now that it’s just a couple of old guys, why should I make the effort, right? Yeah. I know. wrong.

But this night out each week with girlfriends is becoming something of a routine. Funny how important that is to me. There was a winter, lo these many decades ago, when we had no money - we lived on $40 a month! BigDarling left one job for another, which fell through, and he couldn't find another one for several months. Our car broke down and I sat at the end of a mile long dirt road with only a baby and a BigDarling. We ate squirrel stew all winter and, had I not canned up 300 quarts of vegetables the previous summer, we probably would have developed scurvy. By springtime I was so depressed, nothing could make me happy. Someone put me on the guest list for a baby shower for a girl I didn’t even know and I went. I sat there in that room full of women and suddenly the whole world righted itself. And I realized that I wouldn’t survive without women friends and if I wanted any I had better be sure I made some.

“Duh, Bess” you say, but remember, I grew up in a house with built-in women friends. I had never even imagined living in a guy-house, and certainly never imagined talking to only two people, one of them under 2, for months at a time. Within a few weeks, a beloved guy friend brought this wonderful, adventurous, delightful woman over (I am sure he thought I needed a friend). She became one of the great gifts I have received in my life. That he later married her is, of course, moot. What is important is that I have never let myself get so isolated from women again. I have been very, very lucky in finding a cadre of lovely women to fulfill that aspect of my life.

And I swear I will not slide into this maudlin, weepy, sentimental dribble about girlfriends next Wednesday morning. (course, that may mean I won’t post at all next Wednesday.) I don’t think I would be as bad today, except last night, after I got home, BigDarling and I watched the movie Crush, with Andie McDowell, Anna Chancelor (Miss Bingley from the BBC Pride&Predjudice) and Imelda Staunton. It’s definitely a chick flick but with real meat and pretty good character development. So there, I’ve had this literary cloak thrown over the girlfriend issue and we all must be sacrificed for the sake of ART

Anyway, C, of last winter’s sweater class, joined H and me at WW last night, where, btw, I gained .2 lbs and would have been really depressed about it except I had, just that morning, tried on my favorite dress - the one I had to wear one of those hideous corset sort of things underneath in order to button it, back when I bought it!! and hadn’t been able to wear at all for 3 years and I could wear it sans torture bodycast thingy! And while I want to loose weight, that is only so I can wear smaller clothes again. I really don’t care if I weigh 1,000 lbs so long as I can wear a size 10 again. And what do you know, the topic was all about enjoying other successes besides the scale moving downwards! So I couldn’t really be that low about the small weight gain. And anyway, the body is doing weird things these days - things like waking up in the middle of the night and not going back to sleep and other more plumbing related stuff.

But having C along, encouraging her, talking with gusto and energy about dieting and bodies - a subject particularly boring to those not involved - really buoyed me up. There is this aspect of enlisting, or encouraging - teaching - who can find the one word that encompasses the whole ball of feelings and activities, when one person helps another on the Quest? - that is extremely fulfilling. Perhaps it is what drew me to librarianship - that desire to get people what they are looking for - to set them on that path that takes them where they want to go. It is such a high for me.

We went grocery shopping after the meeting. Conversation flowed, ideas percolated, tentative hopes were shared. Afterwards we had weight watchers influenced dinners while H and I offered tips and experiences we’d picked up over the past weeks and months. Teaching is what we were doing. That is the word that floats up to the top and as I view the three of us in my mind’s eye, I realize we all 3 are teachers. C is actively teaching now and H taught for several years and I am a librarian. We had H’s little girls with us and I could see them, with big eyes, listening and soaking up all this conversation - little acolytes, learning how to become women. I wonder how deeply the teacher role will seep into their psyches. It will be interesting to watch.

So - enough rambling about girls and diets. I know it’s a dull topic to anyone who is not dieting and it is also sort of ... heh - its a look at a part of me I don’t usually put on display. One hopes I can confine it to small progress reports and perhaps, a little less gush.

posted by Bess | 7:02 AM


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Tuesday, July 15, 2003  

I made it through the day yesterday and didn’t crash till about 7:30 while watching a National Geographic video about climbing Mt. Everest. It may have been a wonderful video -but the soporific voice of the narrator put me to sleep tootsweet. Woke up just long enough to brush teeth and climb into bed and, flush from having chewed my way through some of the dooty-to-do list yesterday, slept like a rock.

what a difference a day makes.

I did spin a tiny bit from this roving:

I like to call it Monet - because of its water color look. But knit up it is a little more pastel than Monet’s palette. (And scanned it's even paler.)

I’m experimenting with different thicknesses of my singles with these hand dyed. In part, I’m trying to improve my skills, and in part I’m trying to decide how I like these colors spun and knit up. Each yarn design effects the way the colors are presented. I love merino wool and I enjoy working with it, but I am also thinking I need to find another white wool that is not quite so soft and fine, to work with. I have owned plenty of merino sweaters in my life and they always pill up terribly. I like how the coriadale fleece spun and I like the feel of finn that Jen bought at MdS&W. Happily, I expect to get my fingers into several wools this Thursday and can come up with a decision on an alternative to merino.

Perhaps I should say an addition to merino - since, by no means, do I mean to stop using it. I just want another wool that is pretty darn near as soft, but not as likely to pill.

Now - let us see how much more of my pile of work I can eliminate. Things ought to look a lot better after the auditors cart all the paperwork away.

posted by Bess | 6:57 AM


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Monday, July 14, 2003  

I am having a bit of insomnia these days, which naturally worries me every night so I wake up earlier and earlier and I am wondering if I’m just not going to sleep at all one of these days. I am sure this bout is being aggravated by all the ThingsIPromisedToDoButHaven’t. My summer has suddenly filled up with promises and now I’m wondering how to fulfill them all. I think the obligation part will be over by mid-August. Gad. I hope I get a full night’s sleep before then.

I have promised to read the draft of a friend’s novel.
I have promised to mail out the invitations to the family reunion.
I have promised to have my nephew for the weekend.
I have promised to drive my mom to Pennsylvania.
I have promised to teach a class to the 4H sheep girls.
I have promised to have a birthday party for my cousin.
I have contracted to go to work every day.

What I have done is dye fibers and spin them up and knit little swatches out of the yarn. And I washed the 1/2 of a coriadale fleece. Hmmm. Something’s amiss here. No wonder I feel guilty and can’t sleep at night.

Well, before I go begin reading the novel (which I have about an hour for) let me tell you about how beautiful the fleece is - for that was an exciting project. The fleece started out fairly clean and I have washed little handfuls of it already. But we’re in the deep heat of summer, the lovely cool weekend notwithstanding. I was a tad worried the fleece would get rank and since it lives in the den where guests sleep when we have an overflow, I thought cleanliness ought at least be next to guestliness. So yesterday I hauled it up to the bathroom, where the washing machine lives, and spread it out on the floor.

I actually like the scent of this unwashed fleece and I love feeling the greasy locks. I am sure there are fleece that are hideous and stink, but this one just had a nice barn and animal scent. There was remarkably little vegetable matter in it and I plucked most of it out. One section seemed to have more than the rest, and I suspect that was the part nearest the neck for there were much shorter and crimpier fibers in this lot. I put the first big chunk of fleece in the bathtub with hot, hot, hot, just barely able to put my hands in it hot, water from the tap and left it to soak for 30 minutes. Big mistake. When it came time to drain the tub, I couldn’t manage the fibers, which wanted to drain off with the water and go down the pipes. I tried to block the fibers with my hands and with the screen I use to dry the stuff on, but I know a good bit of it escaped.

The next lot went in the dyeing pot - which is an enamel canning pot. This was better because I could still soak the fibers in big lots, but fibers still escaped my efforts and joined their brethren in the plumbing. After that, I cleaned the chunks of fleece in the sink. Smaller lots, but I could put my hands around the whole wad of fiber while the sink drained. The smell of the soapy wet lanolin is very nice, the color a dirty dark yellow. But the sink method was slow enough to make me antsy so I alternated between sink and pot and in the end, washed all of the fleece except a small and particularly dirty bit. I may not bother with that last bit, but I’m not quite yet ready to toss it.

My work could be easily divided into 3 piles which I dried on a window screen, spreading out the fleece and teasing the locks open. There was still a little VM but much of it was now softened and loosened and easy to pluck out. What’s left I think will fall from the fiber when I card it up. How beautiful it looked piled in all it’s gray glory, the colors rich and deep. I can’t believe I didn’t photograph it, but I didn’t, and now it’s dry and separated into pale gray and dark gray and stored in bags.

It’s a lot of work preparing fleece for spinning. I am not sure I will do a lot of this - but I really wanted the experience starting with the fleece. A good thing, too, since next Sunday I begin working with the 4H girls.

And now - off to do my dooty - or at least, to eliminate some of the things from my insomnia inducing to-do list.

posted by Bess | 6:13 AM


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Sunday, July 13, 2003  

The Tale of Two Rovings

Two products of this weekend’s dyeing experiments are these two rovings. They are composed of almost the same colors: a softened turquoise, an acid yellow/green, a slightly darker green, a rosy pink and medium pinkish orange. In the spotted roving there is also a purple. I’ve done several spinning experiments with these rovings and thought it would be fun to share them here.

The first little swatch is knit from a yarn made by stripping off a thin length of each roving, laying them side by side and drafting them together. It was difficult to spin these evenly and you can see that I didn’t. This is delightful thick ‘n thin yarn but, only, I don’t like that kind of yarn much. I don’t mind the thick parts, but I hate the thin ones. But this fiber has been handled a good bit. Even though separating thin strips fluffs it out again, little noils form, the fiber grabs, and when you are working with two rovings like this, it grabs a lot more than drafting from only one split roving. Lumps just would get caught in the twist.

But this makes the most interesting yarn to knit up. Each individual stitch offers the opportunity for 4 different colors to show up. It’s a 2-ply yarn and each of the plies will have two colors since the roving is actually two rovings. I’ve made another swatch from another double drafted yarn and it’s just as exciting and intricate looking. I really like how this yarn looks and if I can master the spinning of it, I will make many more.

This swatch is actually 3 swatches in one, knit from a 2-ply yarn made from both of the rovings, first the striped one plied with itself, then the striped and the spotted yarn plied together and then the spotted yarn plied with itself. the bottom roving, the striped plied with itself, is very autumnal with it’s oranges and greens. The turquoise seems to bet lost in the knitting.

The middle few rows are a 2 ply with both colors and it is almost, though not quite, as interesting as the double drafted swatch but much easier to make.

When I look at the rovings, the spotted one looks like something I’d use to knit for a baby. It gets a little more sophisticated when knit up - not so babyish. And the green is the color that disappears in this yarn while the turquoise seems to take center stage.

Looking at this swatch I can almost see a sweater knit with the heavier colors around the hem and gradually lightening towards the top. But what I plan to do is to knit a baby hat out of the sophisticated baby colors and just practice spinning with the striped one.

So - some interesting things you can do with colors and fibers. Or - how to fritter away a Sunday.

posted by Bess | 9:17 PM


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My strips of roving are lovely puffy wads of fiber now, colorful and soft. And while still bright, they are not screaming their colors at you. Fortunately, the spinning and knitting process blurs a lot of the noise these colors bombard you with. I used up the last of the gas in the propane tank beneath the grill and had to finish up the last steambath on the kitchen stove. I’m trying very hard to keep all dye stuff out of the kitchen, with some success. BigDarling tried to pilfer one of the measuring cups stored beneath the wooden bench but I swiftly changed his mind. Besides, we have 3 measuring cups in the kitchen, not counting all the plastic ones.

In the Twisted Sister Sock Workbook the author recommends mixing up your dye stock solution at 2 tsp. per quart of water, which I did. At my dye workshop in May, Barbara Gentry recommended mixing it up at 1 tsp. per quart. In the end, it probably doesn’t matter - one gets used to what one works with - but I find I’m a little too generous with my stock solution and end up with lots of color to throw away. I believe, the next time I mix up solutions I’ll follow BG’s advice and see if I can tone down the colors. Even the BOLD colors I used yesterday required formulas like 7 parts water, 1 part cool yellow and 1/8 part warm red. Sheesh! That’s a whole lot of water.

And the tiny bit of my virgo nature that catalogs and categorizes things has already begun to nag the rest of my laziness about making color charts. And exact formulas - and colorway cards.

Trouble with me is that I love the idea of tidy categories much more than I like the practice of making them. I need a secretary. Whenever I’m around people who put things away neatly and know where stuff is, my body seems to sigh into a relaxed state of admiration. But if you saw my house! Oh lord. I have this horrible habit of just putting stuff down. For years I could remember where I put things, because I am not much of a daydreamer. Mostly I live in the here-and-now present, so it’s easy to stay on top of my world. Unfortunately, as the brain has been packed with info-bits, like some decrepit and outmoded database, my ability to remember trivial details, (like where are my glasses?) has diminished greatly. Also, I used to have to do 100% of the housework around here. In Bess’ Theory of Cleaning it says somewhere that the person who cleans the house knows where everything is. But there’s a caveat to that - you have to own the house you are cleaning in order for the theory to hold true. If someone else is cleaning said house, she won’t know what is important and what is not. She won’t know that AnOther was complaining last Tuesday about not being able to find a measuring cup, so she won’t know to put it in the cabinet with the sugar canister, but instead, will put it with the mixing bowls. After all, she isn’t going to hear the complaints about not having any measuring cups and what sort of kitchen is it that doesn’t have measuring cups and why is there a glass measuring cup on the cement porch floor under the bench anyway?

Of course, the most important part of Bess’ Theory of Cleaning is the part about finding someone else - anyone else - to do it.

And of course I am exaggerating this like Erma Bombec did for literary purposes.

And when I stoop to pillorying someone merely for the purpose of art, it is time to shut up and go do something else - like washing that corriadale fleece.

Good knitting to you all today.

posted by Bess | 7:40 AM


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Saturday, July 12, 2003  

It’s been a beautiful day for playing with toys outside. A bit breezy but dry and cool. Out in the back yard, beneath shady trees, on the picnic table, I set up my dye workshop. I had a goal again - this time, to match some silk I bought while in London - an orangey peach with plum, green and red print on it. There are essentially 4 colors with darker versions of them used to shade the design. It’s actually a bit of a jacquard weave, a design within the weaving as well as printed upon the cloth.

It took a good hour to mix up colors that sort of looked like the colors in the cloth. They are close but not exact. But I did keep a record of the formulas I used so that I can make them again sometime. I dyed 2 lengths with the full strength colors - then diluted them by at least 1/2 for to lengths in paler versions. As I worked with the first of the paler colors I decided the “peach” which is really an orange, was still too dark and in the 4th length I diluted it by half again. I wish I had done them all like this now - but I will learn one day not to use such dark colors. The last one doesn’t have anything of the 60’s tie dyed look to it.

(Photos of them all will have to wait till later in the week)

I still had lots of colors left when I finished up with the 4 oz so I put another 4 oz. in to soak while I had lunch.

I had worked so hard to match colors with the first 4 I decided to have a little more fun and serendipity with the second 4. Also, with these 4 I tried working with dots of colors instead of stripes. There should be lots of white left in them. I think they have a childlike look to them and I may make little hats and booties out of the yarn I spin with them. They are cooking as I write - and will be rinsed, spun dry and hung out in about 30 minutes.

I think (but don’t hold me to it) that will be all the coloring I’ll do this weekend. I have some Xmas socks to work on and some spinning on the wheel that is not happy that I’ve left it for 3 days.

Sigh. Why can’t every day be like today?

posted by Bess | 2:23 PM


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I was wakened at 3 a.m. by someting rare and shocking - a strange glow filled the room, making it impossible to go back to sleep - it was the moon. After months of rainy weather, we had a cloudless sky last night and a nearly full moon.

No possiblity of going back to sleep right away, so I spun some more fine merino from the wrapping paper roving and read all the back issues of KnitU Digest and most of the posts about Knitty on Knitters Review. But now I'm sleepy again and the cool grey of dawn might just do the trick. Going to dye rovings this morning and will report back later in the day.

g'nite all

posted by Bess | 5:55 AM


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Friday, July 11, 2003  

Not any fiber news today. Working 12-8 always throws me off. I also had mountains of groceries to put away once I did get home. And the house was perfectly heavenly clean when I got there - thank you Sheryl - so I just spent a little time walking from room to room in bare feet. I did have a little time to go through the pile of boots by the staircase and throw out the leaky ones, pack up the uncomfortable ones to be given away, and find the missing ones.

I’m sure you have seen the pictures in house beautiful type magazines of the “Restored Hunting Box of Lord GotMoreMoneyThanYouEverWill” with the front hall lined with boots. Well, our house has the front hall lined with boots too - and maybe twice a year, it looks veddy veddy Brrrrrrrrritish but the rest of the time it looks like a heap of boots covered in a layer of dust. And do not ask me why my house has no closets. It makes my blood pressure rise. Besides, you can’t get the full effect if you can’t see my grimace and eye-rolling.

But the weekend is 11 hours away and the dyepot is whispering sweet nothings into my ear. I have no other obligations this weekend. What a sweet thought.

posted by Bess | 7:36 AM


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Thursday, July 10, 2003  

Not a lot of fiber news today. There was a meeting at 4 that ran a little late last night and a glorious thunderstorm when I got home. BigDarling was chopping up the fallen Oak tree out by the mailbox (mind, now, by the mailbox is 1/2 a mile from the house ‘cause we live on a farm) and I stopped to chat with him before driving on home. He showed up 20 minutes later, soaked from the storm and we had supper watching part of the new version of the Thomas Crown Affair.

I’m no fan of Brosnon -he’s okay but never was my “type”. But the movie was boring to me - so half way through we took a walk in the drawing evening sky, still pink with storm clouds, out to the mile point where our property ends and the next farm starts. There’s a stream at that point, actually on the other farm, that goes under the lane via a concrete culvert. In the monumental rains we’ve had this spring and summer, it became plugged with sticks and mud and let me explain about blocked culverts: When they get blocked, the pressure of the water behind the clog can wash away the road. And that’s what’s happened with the lane. There is another stream that borders our property on the south and the road there used to wash out all the time. But that’s the way I get off this farm and there were some days I couldn’t go to work because the road had washed away. We replaced the culvert there about 10 years ago, with a larger one so I get no more unplanned days off due to road damage. Pity, there. But fixing roads is no fun either.

I spun a little on my wrapping paper roving but for some reason my fingers wanted to spin fine yarn. But I’m not sure fine yarn is the thing to spin with handpainted roving. I spun up 2 little roving lengths and I think I shall ply it, and even cable it and see what it looks like - maybe even Navajo ply a bit of it just to see.

And I made what I hope will be my last purchase for a while. I got the VISA bill on Monday and it is a frightening thing. I can’t even blame it on England, either. It’s just this whopping boulder ready to topple over onto my paycheck. So - no more shopping for me - perhaps I ought to join the NoYarnForOneMonth club - only I believe I should have to call it the NothingButGroceriesTillVisaIsPaidOff club. But enough tragedy - there is triumph too - because I bought, from Opalesnce , 20 oz of merino/tencel in a blue/green color to make a sweater. This way I can take the lovely rosy beige stuff I bought from them at Md. S&W, about 6 oz. left, and experiment with it. I spun some medium and 2 plied it, then cabled it into an utterly magnificent shiny silky sensuous yarn and then spun some extremely loose to see what that looked like. I talked to Margery Erickson about how it worked up for her, and she said it is an extremely strong yarn that doesn't pill, so I think socks...with cables, for this rosy beige.

But I have to work the late shift tonight so I shan’t get to it till the weekend. How wonderful it is only 2 days away.

posted by Bess | 8:16 AM


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Wednesday, July 09, 2003  

Pictures at the end, sentiment at the start

Pardon me while I get weepy. I just love my girlfriends. Yesterday I had the joy of being with 2 of my favorite women and once again I am reminded of the enormous beauty in a girlfriend.

Sometimes I feel as if I am a solitary pod moving through space, time, and crowds of people. I feel as if I’m a sort of robot shell functioning with courtesy and ease, friendly, pleasant, useful, but bent on my own curiosities, desires and projects with an agenda known only to me that alone, gets all my genuine interest and attention. Then, I’ll get around my closest friends and this flower of love blossoms inside me - an opening up of self to the sensation of connectedness and life and rightful purpose.

This happens mostly with women friends and I believe that is because I grew up in a house of women. Poor Dad; every T-shirt he owned was commandeered and pinkified - I know part of the reason he stayed in the Army Reserves was so that he could be around guys at least once in a while, put on combat boots and get away from the Land of Barbie. Through good times and bad, I always felt this sense of sisterhood - of the world of women - the most perfect, sensible and practically functioning world there was. Introduce a man into that world and chaos would occur - or, if you wished to avoid chaos, you would need to practice extreme compromise. My gut feelings are still the same. I enjoy men most from the audience’s seat.

These are feelings, mind you, not knowledge based truths. But feelings do lie beneath so many of the choices we make. It is no surprise to me that I am a librarian, say, and not a chemical engineer. Nor is it any surprise that there are plenty of male librarians and female chemical engineers. It’s not really a comment on other people. It is a comment about me and in spite of all my prejudices, any individual, male or female, can smash through that shell and walk into my heart.

Last night I was with 2 women who have permanent homes in my heart. We share many things, but one of them is knitting. C and K and I cut the steeks on Sigvaldi. It was such fun to watch their shivers and horrors as I sewed down the center steek stitch. They were fascinated at how the sewn stitches were so much easier to see on the underside of the sewing. The were numb as I took scissors and made that first SNIP into my knitting. And they were both ready to go home and start cutting up sweaters and making them into cardigans! C had just bought a South American sweater at Goodwill for $4, knowing it was too hot to wear as a pullover but unable to resist the price. Alpaca yarn is easy to find these days - she has a sewing machine - what is she out if she screws up? $4?!? Who cares? K has an old aran she bought in high school (yes, she’s one of those women who still wears the same size she wore back then) that she never wears and plans to sew and snip away. I felt like the magician pulling rabbits out of empty hats or pouring milk down a newspaper cone. Oh it was fun.

Another loving thing we shared last night was the moment when C tried on her Lopi sweater - the one she was afraid to finish because it looked like it wasn’t going to fit - the one that was becoming a guilty reprimand oozing blame and shame from its basket in the corner of the livingroom. I have suffered that sensation every time I knit a sweater - and know that the only cure is to try it on. And well did K remember the day I urged her to try on her nearly finished sweater - the one she already hated, was afraid to try on; the one she dreaded because she was sure it wasn’t going to fit after it had sucked up all those dollars and hours of her time. It was so good to have both of us there for C. I had confidence, and K was glad to reinforce it. She corroborated all my encouraging. And oh what joy spread across C’s face when she saw that the sleeves were the exact perfect length and the body stopped where she preferred sweater bodies to stop, instead of where some style maven or production manager had decided it should. There was that moment of deep, utter relief when we led her to the mirror and she could see that she had knit the sweater of her dreams. Or at least - she had almost finished it and knew she had only one more decrease round to go.

Lord that was fun.

But that was not all the GirlfriendJoy I had yesterday, since Tuesday is WeightWatchers night for beloved H and me and we both took off 1.6 lbs - happy day. She is now at 20 lbs and I am down into the next level of points. And we were both wearing clothes from our attics, pre-pregnancy stuff for her, 3 year old dresses for me.

But my cup of joy still had room for more and there was a long newsy letter from J in my e-mail box last night when I got home.

Sometimes, life is just perfectly sweet.

And here are the promised photos of the dyed roving from Sunday. This first picture is all of the rovings - with the stormy blue one, the one I knit into a swatch, first and one of the warm ones that was spun into the sweet-gum-in-autumn colored yarn.

This one is a closeup of the blue, purple, red and yellows that I dyed to match the wrapping paper. I've clipped a piece of the paper between the two rovings. I am pleased as punch with this colorway but I plan to try again this weekend and go with lighter shades of all the same colors.

posted by Bess | 8:01 AM


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Tuesday, July 08, 2003  

Oh - this is way too cool.

Folks, allow me to introduce NJCousinIrene - who realio trulio is my NJ cousin! Irene and I and another cousin were all born within 6 months of each other and were always grouped at holiday functions. She and I would spend the night at our grandmother’s huge old house with mysterious clothes in the attic, where we slept, and the most glorious ancient toys in the basement. I always expected ghosts to seep out from beneath the closet doors in that old house. It had a sunporch across the back of the upstairs which allowed you to wander in a circle around the staircase - and play hide and seek type games. In one of the bedrooms there was a sort of police gazette type of magazine - a “true crimes” mag, that I would read when we visited, sure I was learning dark secrets of the adult world. It was creepy and gross, but utterly fascinating, like the weird tabloids that were only displayed on Sundays in the drugstores of Blue Law era Virginia. One day my dad caught me reading it and gave me &#&($%!*. (I, on the other hand, thought that if it were really a “nasty” thing, my grandmother ought not to have had it in the bedroom she told me to sleep in, but mine was not the sort of family where kids made such comments out loud.)

And speaking of cousins - I am one of 40 first cousins, counting both sides of the family. So when I watched “My Big Fat ....Wedding” I thought it was funny that “big” families were ones with 3 kids in them. How things change. When I was a kid I thought we were sort of a smallish, medium family, since there were only 4 girls in our family. And none of my aunts and uncles had more than 5 kids each. Real big families had 12 kids in them, and big families had maybe 8 kids. And people with only one kid - well, in my child’s mind I wondered if they were really families at all. I mean, who did you get to support you when you wanted to do something your parents said no to? Who would sympathize with you about the cruel inequities of the adult world as it crushed you into civility? Who could you shift the blame to - even if only in your mind - when things went wrong and some adult came roaring into the room growling “WHO DID THAT? ? I mean - if they are asking they might not already know, and maybe they’ll think one of your sisters did it and if you just lay low... And the toys! If only one kid lives in the house, there aren’t any cool toys that a big sister got, or favorite memories of toys your little sisters are getting now. You only get age apropriate stuff. What’s the fun in that? And who will be in your club?

Of course, kids just think everything adults do is because they want to do it, so they haven’t any idea about the heartbreak of three miscarriages or a sudden job loss or an illness. They just assume grownups always do what they want, so if they do something weird, it’s ‘cause they wanted to. Nor do they yet understand that every grouping can be a legitamate grouping - that love connects individuals in the most marvelous ways. They are still trying to figure out their own place in the world, unlike the insenstive adult who says “You’re not really a mother if you only have one child” as some clod said once to me.

At least, this is Bess’ Theory of Kids. Along with Bess’ Theory of Boats and Bess’ Theory of Brats and a whole buncha other opinions I have. BigDarling says that he always thought grownups were the miserable ones, always heading off to work, always having to stop playing - living the miserable existence without freedom. So. I guess he really is Peter Pan and I really couldn’t wait to move into my own castle and run things MY way. Well. Huh. The perfect match, I guess. Anyway, it has mostly worked happily for us and I still think it’s better to be a grownup than a kid.

But it’s nice for a kid from my past to get in touch - so Howdy Irene and glad you dropped by.

posted by Bess | 7:09 AM


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Monday, July 07, 2003  

I am back. I am better. And many, many thanks to you all for your kind wishes. There was no serious damage. My wrists are an interestingly bruised color and were a little swollen on Saturday so I didn’t feel like typing, but the ankle was only wrenched. I spent Saturday lying, lizard-like, on the couch in the den, watching The Vicar of Dibley videos and laughing so hard I kept having to run to the bathroom - a great therapeutic treatment. In the p.m. BigDarling insisted on a swim and he did all the canoeing (we have to canoe from our place to the good swimming hole) and my theory that water is the first medicine was once again proved (to my satisfaction, at least). There was a swift high tide coming in and the current rippling past those tender places loosened everything up. Another hour spent in high tide yesterday has worked wonders.

Sunday, the lure of the dye pot was irresistible, and since it’s mostly sit down work, I sat down. BigDarling carried all my paraphernalia out to the picnic table and I did the actual cooking on the grill. I’ve been studying the Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook all week - as well as the Deb Menz’s Color in Spinning, (unavailable now, and if you are interested in color you should badger Interweave Press to bring it out again) and was ready to do some hand painting. That is a little slower method than pour dye - at least, you put the color in slower, but with the pour method a. you have to keep the pot hot longer, and at a consistent temperature, and b. you have to stand more while doing it. Besides, I love painting fibers.

In this method, you do the following:
· stretch out a long piece of plastic wrap (and saran wrap works better than generic Walmart brand, btw)
· lay out your pre-wetted roving
· paint it with colors
· spray it with full strength white vinegar
· wrap the plastic around it
· fold it into packets
· steam it for 20 minutes

It really is that easy. You can do this with KoolAid too - though you are stuck with the few colors available. But it’s the sort of thing you could do in your kitchen with KoolAid and not worry about chemistry.

I found I really enjoyed putting the color on with plastic picnic spoons. I had a bag of them, so I could use one spoon for each color. It’s not a precisely measured amount - depending on how deep the jar and how much dye stock is left, your spoon will hold different amounts, but it was “close enough” and as a tool for actually applying the color, I think it is great. It was possible to apply a straight line across the roving, and to gently mash the dye along the length of the fibers to spread the color and it didn’t mat or felt the wool.

One thing I did notice was that I got a little heavy handed as I worked down the length of the roving. It didn’t seem to effect the finished product, but that end of the package was a little wet when I took it out of the steam bath.

I had ordered 1 lb. of merino roving from Stony Mountain Fibers when I ordered the dyes and I divided it into 1 oz pieces. I dyed 8 pieces. Two were inspired by the colors of the sweet gum tree in October, from memory, of course, but I’ve spent probably 50 hours over the past 10 years, studying that tree in the fall. That tree can have 6 different colored leaves on it, from purple so deep it’s almost black to lime green. That roving spun up quite rusty red/brown with a greenish cast and lots of bits of gold. I seem to like to spin at a grist that gets 1200 yards out of 1 lb. of fiber. The 2 oz gave me about 140 yards so I think, to make socks out of the yarn I’ll need 4 oz. But I suspect I might just squeeze a hat out of the 140 yards. Maybe with a bit of solid color for cuff like brim. A lime green seems to be the easiest color to make out of the yellow/blue mix. In fact, I had to work hard to not make lime green.

I had 3 other colorways in my mind’s eye when I sat down to dye. One was a stormy blue sky out over the ocean - dark blue, pale blue, medium blue and a sort of rose red. I didn’t keep a record of how I mixed this colorway, but I believe I used the following:

· turquoise with a bit of the warm red to make a dark blue
· add water to make the same blue only pale
· turquoise, unmixed, but diluted with water
· warm red with just a drop of turquoise to give it a warm rosy red color, also diluted with water.

It turned out very pretty. Only, I have only 1 oz of the stuff. I spun half of it up as singles and knit this little swatch:

The next set I did was inspired by a photograph I’ve kept in my mind since 1969 - a desert landscape with all sorts of tans and browns and oranges with a punch of turquoise blue. I didn’t quite succeed at recapturing a memory but I did make something I liked.

The last colorway was an attempt to copy a wrapping paper I have that I really love. It’s a mixture of blue, purple, orangey red, and soft buttery yellow. This one I mixed up all with cool colors. This was really successful, though when I do it again - for I really like this colorway - I’ll go with lighter versions of the colors. It was extremely fun trying to copy something like this - adding colors by the spoonful till I was happy, and in this one I did keep some sort of halfhearted records. For the blue I used 8 parts water, 8 parts blue stock solution and 1 part red stock solution The purple was 6 parts water, 6 parts blue and 1 part red.

I took pictures of these rovings but they are still on the camera - BigDarling will use up that roll of film today when he picks up the NewBoat, for which he has been waiting one year. So I should be able to post them later in the week. I’m really pleased with these experiments with color. I only wish I’d dyed 4 oz pieces instead of 2, because you can be assured of being able to make something out of 4 oz. I am thinking, also, of purchasing superwash merino and even hunting up an undyed sock yarn because I do like the idea of being able to knit socks out of small colorway samples.

But this weekend only reinforces the lurking suspicion that I’ve been trying to ignore - I need a studio!!

posted by Bess | 6:24 AM


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Saturday, July 05, 2003  

So - what stinks?

When you forget about toddlers and their itty bitty toys that lurk in doorways and step on one and go crashing to the cement porch floor as your ankle twists - and it’s such a long way down - and such a hard landing - you put out your hands to stop yourself and feel your wrist scream and there goes your spinning weekend.

I’ll be back when I am better.

posted by Bess | 8:18 AM


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Friday, July 04, 2003  

Happy spinning update. I plied up the boucle - the mohair is too loosely spun so I spun the rest of the yarn a second time (z) adding 4 treadles for every 2 feet of yarn. As for the boucle sample - it is wound on a toilet paper tube. I didn't try this till I had already wound the boucle on, but the tube fits right over the shaft of my ball winder. This is the blue and white plastic ball winder you find at most shops - the one in the Patternworks catalog - made in Japan, I believe. Happy day about that, since boucle must be wound on some sort of spindle or core. Especially with this metalized film thread added, there are just too many textures to try to knit it from center pull balls. The nice thing about the cardboard tubes is that they can be put on the lazy kate to knit from.

I'm washing up quart jars to hold the dye stock solutions. That is - the machine is washing them up. I am off to scrub the porch.

posted by Bess | 10:42 AM


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Happy Birthday USA

The Little Barn brown merino arrived yesterday too, so there is nothing more for this gal to desire except, perhaps, a north wind. Since that’s definitely not on the way no point in pining. I’ll just enjoy the next 3 days.

Cousins are coming over this afternoon for swimming and picnic and fireworks. This has wrung a promise from BigDarling to fix the screens in the porch door. (believe me, I’ll be satisfied with cardboard.) What’s left of Bill has been falling on us for 24 hours but I believe I will tackle the rest of the porch myself - with brush and bucket and cleaner. How wonderful to have that space again. In summer my preference is to shut all the windows on the south side of the house and leave all the doors and windows open onto the porch, which faces the north and looks out over the river. Due to the neglect by the both of us, we haven’t had that spacious feeling we get when we add that extra room to the house. Porch clean-up is usually done by mid-May but this year we just haven’t had the stimuli to prompt us - rain and rain and rain and a trip away and more rain and more rain and then, a little rain.

I haven’t made the second ply of the boucle on my wheel but I’ve just about decided to break it off, go ahead and make the test yarn, then give the rest of that mohair a second spinning. I have the address of the place who sold me the stuff at Md. Sheep & Wool and the spinning technique I’m using, spinning a few locks at a time in the different colors, would allow me to work with locks in different dyelots, so I am not too worried about making a large test run with what I have. My worry about this is that the loops will be so loosely twisted the jacket will get hairier than I want it to be. I want it plenty hairy, but I don’t want it to get ratty looking. Of course, if I am wrong, I’ll just keep on plying what I have - but instinct is warning me I’ll be sorry. Not just instinct, either, since I’ve carried around the swatch in my purse all week. It’s getting pretty fuzzy - not horribly so, and it’s true, I don’t plan to store my jacket in my purse!! - but my fingers seem to remember that I spun the bobbin full in question a little more loosely than the sample. I spun it while working with L last Sunday, on making spinnable single yarn - and it’s funny but I think I began to work in the same mode and ended up spinning my mohair looser than I want.

I’m fascinated with how the body does that; how it will adapt to it’s surroundings, how subconscious things that direct you in one part of your brain will spill over into some other part. Not always pleased, mind you, but fascinated. More examples of that un-chosen life. Unconcious thoughts have so much power over concious actions! Some poor slob is always told he is no good at one thing, so he ends up being nervous about trying not only that thing, but all sorts of other things as well! And who says the person who claimed he was no good at X was even right!!? So - not just the un-chosen life, but the un-tried.

I worked very hard at not telling LittleDarling “you can’t do that”. Most of the time, I tried to remember to say, “try it, and see”. Oh. Yes. I’m reminded of the radio controlled car. He came to me at 12 wanting one and when I heard it cost $125 I told him I wouldn’t buy a $125 toy - I still feel that way - but if he wanted one he could save his money for it. In my mind, though, I thought “good lord, where would he ever play with it? we live on a dirt road! What a stupid toy. I hope he forgets about it”. His allowance was $1 a week and from that moment on he began not only saving every penny but hunting up work he could do around town. Grandma and her friends were extremely supportive and he cleaned up a mighty lot of garages and porches. When BigDarling heard what he was up to (little did I know that RC Cars are really old guy toys anyway) he offered to match LD dollar for dollar. It took a couple of months - I seem to remember he started in the summer and he got his car before Thanksgiving - but at last they brought that baby home - in a box - in 2,500 pieces!! My lord! there were even 4 little shocks that had to be assembled from 4 plastic cylinders, 8 little caps, 4 springs and a bottle of oil! The dang thing was a nightmare. The two of them worked on that car for weeks and finally gave up, took it back to the shop, where the owner said “hey, fantastic. That model always has to be put together by professional RC car assemblers.” Sheesh! Who woulda thought? There was a whole world of RC Cars, complete with indoor racetracks where you’d go race your car with fellow impassioned racers. It was a cult, sort of like knitters - only, of course, we are more like upholders of the long fiber tradition.

But I have to say, that was the best $62.50 we ever spent because LittleDarling did play with it on our dirt lane, had to rip it apart to get the grit out of the engine, rebuilt the thing, modified it, broke it several times and fixed it each time. He still has it. It still sort of runs, 15 years later. What he got for his $62.50 was confidence, fine motor skills, mechanical skills, some understanding of both electrical systems and automobile construction plus goal setting and money management skills. He told me that was the last year he ever bought bubble gum cards. That was the year he realized that if he wanted something he better not waste his $. I am awfully glad I didn’t just say “No. You live in the country. You can’t have that kind of toy.”

Hope nobody has to get in cars today - and everybody has a wondeful 4th.

posted by Bess | 8:28 AM


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Thursday, July 03, 2003  

Been tracking down threads. I’ve found a source for the lovely quilting thread - and learned a little about thread weight designations. I can get the beautiful brown cotton quilting thread at Speed Stitch for about $3.65 a spool (whew, not $8.00 as I had fixed in my mind) and they sell a holographic shimmer thread made from thinly sliced film like the Glitter I already have, for about $3.00 but it has only 300 yards and the Glitter has 400. I can get Glitter at Superior Threads, again at something reasonable and affordable, so my jacket of mohair boucle will not cost $400.

I’ve also been tracking my brown merino from Little Barn on the Fedex page - I’ve never tracked a package before. Sadly, though, it doesn’t look like the package will come till Monday since it only left Harrisburg PA at 2:30 this morning and I am sure it has to go to some sorting station in Richmond or Fredericksburg and then get driven way out here in the boonies. But hey, maybe it’ll get here this afternoon. You never know. Happily, I don’t have to track my dye stuff from Barbara Gentry since that package arrived yesterday!! yippee! an extra pound of merino top, and all the dyes we used in the workshop: primaries in cool and warm shades, a navy and a black. So - we know what Bess will be doing on Saturday.

I inventoried my sock yarn box for the GuysAllStarChristmasSockKnitting tasks. My guys all want handknit socks. I belong to a sock of the month club - which I never seem to get around to knitting up, but it assures I get a surprise package every other month - a little “I love you, sugar” sort of thing I give myself - and also that I have a nice selection of sock yarns. There’s a lovely multicolored in blues just right for LittleDarling and some ToastyToes I can knit up for BigDarling on size 4 needles. It’s a little thick but he will like these for hiking.

I’ve decided a little triangle scarf of extreme novelty yarn for Mama. H was wearing one Tuesday and I just knew it would be perfect for Mom. She loves froufrou like I do .... well dang - Mom reads this blog and now she’ll know - okay I’ll make one for Barbara who doesn’t read it and surprise her and think up a surprise for Mom. Heh Heh evil me.

Mom - too bad.

Okay, well - hmmm. I know H thinks she’d like handspun yarn but I know she’s also too busy to knit up something for herself. All her knitting becomes gifts for others so she would just save it for “when she has more time” which is too far into the future for a Christmas gift. So she will get mittens with boucle cuffs. I can use that Wensleydale yarn that is too navy blue for me. Hmmmm it would spin up beautifuly into a smooth yarn for the hands too - yes yes... and there is enough for a matching scarf or hat. good - that means spinning falls into the JulyChristmasGiftMakingMarathon.

I have charted a schipperke which I shall knit in black on a red mitten for L.

That’s about all the gift-list stuff I’ve been able to plan so far but after all, it’s only July 3. And thank goodness for that. I am so glad to have a nice long weekend coming up. No big crowd for July 4th, but that’s partly because I want to invite all the same people over for a surprise birthday party in 2 weeks and one party a month is enough for this busy summer. Just H and her family for swimming, picnic and fireworks.

Oh - and I began the first ply of the beautiful mohair boucle last night - and I wonder if I’ve spun the mohair too softly now. That ply loosens up the twist a lot. I think I’ll break off a length and see how the 2nd ply looks. If it’s too fuzzy I’ll treadle it back onto an empty bobbin and give it a second-chance spin to tighten it up. Let us hope, though, that it is not too fuzzy.

posted by Bess | 7:08 AM


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Wednesday, July 02, 2003  

I am tracking my package from Little Barn in Huntsville AL. It’s already in Nashville and won’t it be fun if it gets here tomorrow - in time for a holiday weekend. If only I could hope the package from Stony Mt. could be here on Saturday - wooeee - dyeing time for me.

Mom and Dad brought down the metal porch furniture yesterday. It’s very filigree - I remember it now - but for the life of me I hadn’t been able to remember it till I saw it. It’s white but I am thinking of painting each piece a different pastel color. Only - it would look good scattered about the garden too. There is this image I have of the garden at perfection and a table and chairs set for elegant MarthaStewartish style dining. With just a little effort I can insert Bess clothed in sweeping frock with silk shawl elegantly draped over the back of the chair, her face tilted upwards in a sparkling smile, as her suave companion, in dinner jacket and tie, lifts his glass in a sophisticated toast.

Only flaw in this picture is when it is warm enough to dine outside, the mosquitoes are so bad you’d never go out there - that, and well - if BigDarling is the companion - you can be sure there will be no suave outfit and he’d sooner wear a dress in public, than a tie at home.

Oh well. Life is not a photo shoot anyway.

I finished the bobbin of mohair singles. I also noticed that the red dyed locks stained my hands. This yarn will need a thorough washing when I set the twist. There is a quilt shop in Mechanicsville, on old Rt. 360 where the windmill bank is, so I shall probably be able to pick up more core thread for the yarn. This looks like the BigProject that’s been lurking in my subconscious.

I haven’t picked up a pair of needles in so long, other than to swatch a little, I hope I don’t forget how to knit. Next week I’ll be cutting steeks at our Tuesday Night Knitters and I’ve decided not to knit the neckband on Sigvaldi in the round. I don’t want that extra fold of stitches right at the neckline. It’s only about 7 rows and not many stitches so I’ll knit it back and forth. This means I don’t have any knitting left to do on it. Poor sweater, though - it is so big and heavy and hot. I’ll have to stand under the A/C blower for an hour just to get up the nerve to try it on. It is a handsome sweater though.

Last night was Weight Watchers and the progress is 1.6 lbs. This is a happy step for me since the 11 lbs gone means I can go shopping in the attic for clothes. H is my WW companion - and inspiration, since it was her great strides, accomplished at a slow steady pace, that prompted me to join. She and I both have the structure/discipline problem, not the knowledge problem. Guess most folk there have it too. The meetings are very pep-rally-ish, but they are short and give us both an opportunity to verbalize and draw issues out into the open and stir them up to see if they really are issues or just memories. We are both E’s and if we don’t have a committee to help us solve our problems, we’ll drag strangers in off the street to form one. In lots of cases, we can be each other’s committee, but with the weight issue, we are too lenient with each other to provide the structure we need.

Last night’s topic was “are you moving towards something or away from something?” Interesting thing to ponder. Not only which direction, but what is that something? Image is so complicated and so intimate, so hidden, so visible, such a conundrum. What popped first into my mind, though, was that I have felt helpless for so long, both threatened and flung apart. As if I were on one of those centrifugal force amusement park rides that don’t let you drop, but only because it’s got you smashed up against the edge of something, unable to move or stop. So it wasn’t really a weight, or a size, or an image that I was seeking, but that sensation of being able, being capable, being free to move about without impulsively eating stuff I didn’t even want. It was the same way I felt that last year I smoked cigarettes (20 years ago!). Constantly doing something I didn’t like that made me feel bad, look bad, and was surely killing me, yet somehow unable to stop doing it.

So I guess I was moving away from something and that something was the thrown-away-life - the life that belonged to mindless, thoughtless, compulsive habits instead of my choice. I rather like thinking again, instead of reacting to inexplicable impulse. Feels pretty nice. Doesn’t look too bad either.

posted by Bess | 7:17 AM