Saturday, June 24, 2006

Oh no! A week has gone by!

Phew! So much news in a week.

I've been off in sunny Southern California for training on an awesome program that promotes Victim Rights and really gets "in your face" with the inmates. I am psyched because I honestly believe that this program (in conjunction with following treatment) might really make a difference. We are part of a pilot program that will measure scientifically the effect this treatment program has on both the inmate and the victim. It should be healing for the victim and for the inmates. I'm excited and will share more about it later.

I felt my first earthquake. Hopefully, my last. A tiny one by anyone's standards but I felt it never the less.

I have been spinning and knitting like a fiend and impressing the heck out of non-knitters who think that what I'm doing is just amazing. I also got to talk to folks about the therapeutic value of knitting and spinning and they actually LISTENED to me!

We heard from John at boot camp and now have an address! Ken, bless him, packed up all my letters in separate envelopes and mailed them off to PVT John. And apparently, John survived his first week of boot camp. He will graduate on or about August 18th.

I will be plying my second batch of yarn soon. I really think I spun this stuff fine enough to be lace yarn so I may have to make some lace!

Ken tells me that he used my Amazon wish list to order my birthday presents. We will be out of state on my birthday and he told me today not to be disappointed if he hasn't anything ON my birthday because everything he ordered is supposed to come on July 5th. How cool is that!

Dogs are at the kennel (except for Gloria who will stay home and guard the house). Friends are coming to house/chicken/garden sit and we are off to North Carolina beaches for a week tomorrow.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Dying roving with Kool-Aid

I know, I know; I'm supposed to be packing and baking gluten-free muffins or cleaning the bathroom right now, but I got distracted. In my head at least, I'm on vacation and I wanted to play!

So I pulled a long strip of my roving off and sunk it into a small pot of vinegar water and let it soak for about 5 minutes (I got impatient) . Then I mixed up some grape Kool-Aid that the kids weren't drinking in about 3 ounces of water (3 packs). I laid the soaked roving over my well cover and dribbled purple Kool-Aid over it and immediately made an ugly face.

It was sort of grey/blue/purple. Like a bruise. Hmmmm. I wanted a light lavender like purple.

Oh well, too late now and I poured the rest.

Then I took the roving off the well cover and realized it was pulling paint chips with it. Hmmmm.

But I put the whole thing carefully into a ziplock bag and leaving a small opening in the zipper, I nuked it in the microwave for 2 minutes. I turned it and again zapped it for two minutes.

Then I dumped it out into a ceramic pie pan and set it in the window to cool. Here is a picture. It looks like something out of my dryer vent or worse, a very large hairball from the cat!

Well, I let it cool and then rinsed it in the sink and plucked out the paint chips then draped it over a hanger in the back yard where my clothes line used to be (Oh Ken? could you put that back up for me now? It's only been a year since you took it off when they put the siding on the house.)

And low and behold, it does not appear to have felted after all. And the color is much closer to what I was aiming for. See!

Friday, June 16, 2006

Big Black Socks #1 are Finished!

They are done! They are done!

Now I can go to California with some peace in my mind and work on something for a little while that has no deadline or stress.

Here is Ken's leg modeling one of the completed socks. He put it on over the top of socks he had on because his feet are smaller than John's. These are a size 10.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Plying yarn

Well I found a new Yahoo group called Spindlers and they are the best folks! I had an total newbie question about how to do the plying and I was delighted with how patiently several members (five) took the time to explain it for me on the list and a sixth person who wrote me privately to go into great (and wonderful) detail. Thank you guys so much!

So here it is: My very first skein!

It's hanging on the trellis right next to the Mockingbird nest. Ken, who is taller than me, tells me there are eggs in it but so far no babies so Mama Bird hasn't started attacking people yet, but she sure is squawking.

Here are a couple more pictures of the first skein.

It might be all of 10 yards and irregular as hell and bumpy and lumpy but it was made from scratch (well, okay, I didn't shear the sheep or wash the fleece or comb it out...but you understand).

Oh, the purple bit is from the fellow at Gathering of the Tribes who showed us how to spin on CD spindles. He brought some bits of roving for us to try and the lavendar bits are what I did in his class. I just used it at the beginning of this one. The lavendar is Merino and the cream colored it the Corriedale I bought. Or rather a small portion of it.

I really like how the colors work together, however and when I start to spin for a scarf project I have in mind, I think I will use the pound of merino roving I bought, split it in half and dye half of it purple and then ply it with cream.

I do want to get the yarn a little finer in the future. But I'm delighted. Just delighted.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Can I just retire now?

I'm so very tired of feeling like I'm being jerked around at work. The inmates aren't bad to deal with. It's the staff and all the ridiculous rules inflicted on staff that really gets my goat.

I was selected (hand picked I'm told) to take a special Federally funded training class so I can teach a class that I'm already teaching (and have been teaching for years). I am going to California. Okay, this is all good.

I put in all my advance money paperwork months ago (and this required a series of 8, count them, 8 signatures including the Director of DOC himself.) Then, just when I'm ready to order my plane tickets 45 days in advance so I can get the best price, I'm told that they will not give me my advance funds until 10 days prior to the trip.

So ANOTHER department (Victim Services) had to buy our tickets (This is a joint venture between DOC and Victim Services). TODAY they tell me our hotel rooms exceed the per diem cost for hotel rooms allowed. Mind you, the original advance money paperwork has been approved with all these figures on it. Fortunately, I should be able to purchase most of my food at a grocery store and keep my food costs down and I may break even.

But I am NEVER going on another trip for DOC. I'm tired of this nonsense. I'm not a child. I'm a professional and I'm tired of how damned cheap and ridiculous this department has become.

I was also told at the Warden's Advisory meeting today that the Human Capitol project has produced a book of recommendations that every employee is encouraged to read. I was told that my department head had a copy to read. So I went to her and asked to see the book. She told me I couldn't see it. Apparently, there recommendations in there she doesn't want us to see. Somehow, I'm not surprised.

So I've decided I really just want to retire. Forget Social Security. I want to be done with these people. Can I just open a yarn shop now and knit, spin and sell yarn, fiber and cool knitting/spinning toys?

Monday, June 12, 2006

I did think about it

I thought about knitting today. I will probably, in fact, do a little before bed. But heavy rain this morning kept me from reading my morning email and blog readings and so I HAD to catch up tonight.

I took pictures of my knitting in progress this a.m. I will review them in the computer tonight and see what I can salvage and post them.

No letters from John.


Saturday, June 10, 2006

New soldier called

and I missed it. He called home on Friday afternoon. I was at work. Ken was home but asleep and Matthew, his little brother, answered the phone. John told him he had five minutes and the two chatted about nothing for about three minutes then hung up. Matthew did not wake Ken. He did not get John's address and so I still have no idea how he is, how he is adjusting or where I can send letters.

I should have given Matt explicit instructions just in case he was the recipient of the call (the last call John will get for a while); but I neglected to do that, so I really have no one to blame but myself.

At least I know he is alive.

Spinning while he is looking at me...

I started on the Corriedale Natural Wool roving today.

It has been a lovely day and I took a meter worth of it out on the front porch and used one of my new drop spindles. It's made of polymer clay but spins very nicely. I figured out that when I pull out "locks" of the wool (not sure what else to call them), the thinner a lock I pull, the thinner I can spin the single.

Needless to say at this point, my future yarn is going to be thin, thick, odd and irregular but I'm giving myself a break because it's a new thing and I'm sure I will improve.

Ken started out getting quite a chuckle out of watching me getting started and struggling for a few minutes. But he quieted down after a bit as the consistency of my yarn got better, my spinning become more consistent and faster and the pile of roving started disappearing from the back of the chair at my side.

I'm proud of myself for not giving up. In the end I wrapped my spinning efforts off the spindle and onto one of those monster knitting needles. I weighed the needle's partner then the needle with the spun wool and found I had spun an ounce.

I really like this wool. The fiber length is long and I'm finding it fairly easy to manage. I only had a couple of times when the spindle got away from me at the same time I lost my grip on my roving strip and got it all tangled together. I will continue to work on it. I have found it easier to draft with my right hand and spin with my left (and I'm probably spinning backwards, but at this point, I refuse to worry about it). I spun it clockwise.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Soldier update

No word from John yet. It's Thursday. We dropped him off at the hotel on Monday. I'm told that we may not hear from him for as long as 10 days as he is expected to remain in reception for about that long. Ken and I sat on the front porch last night watching the mockingbirds build their condo and talked about how he is probably nearly hairless, feeling pretty overwhelmed and trying to fake his way through.

Mocking Birds in the Trellis

Mockingbirds are busy building a nest in the clematis vine that grows on the trellis covering the pathway to my front porch.

I removed the beginnings of the nest three times in three days. But yesterday the couple got so far along I could not bear to tear it out again. Now I'm worried.

Clematis Vine

Mockingbirds are notorious for guarding thier territory -- especially when the eggs and babies appear. The dogs and cat are going to be for lots of dive bombing attacks and will eventually learn to only exit the house via the back door. We too will probably have to exit and enter through the laundry room door. On the plus side, they will probably keep away folks I really don't want to see.

Mockingbird Nest

But what if they attack the UPS guy? Will he quit delivering packages? This could be a disaster! What about all my yarn and roving orders? I may have to leave him a note warning him. Perhaps I can call his office and let them know that he should come to the back door and leave the packages on the well cover.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Farewells: one of many things I detest

Today is the day. We will drop John off at the hotel used by MEPS and wish him well on the next phase of his life. He will be in reception for a little while I think. He can run a mile in short order and do a whole bunch of pushups but the kid cannot do situps. Until he can meet the minimum requirement of 12, he will sit in reception.

The saddest part of this, is that he knew what his goal was months ago. He would go out running from time to time, but he didn't bother to get his counts up on anything else. Now, not only will he be held up in reception (probably), he will also be giving up a $200 a month raise. Had he been able to do 53 sit ups and 53 push ups and run the mile in under 8 minutes, he would have started at one rank higher. Oh well, this is his first real lesson in what procrastination will do.

The socks are nearly done. I have about an inch to go before reducing for the toes on one and about 3 inches to go before reducing on the second. This boy has BIG feet. I will hold onto the socks until he completes Basic and then present them (perhaps at his graduation).

Once I'm finished with them, I have to start on a second pair for the Socks for Soldiers group. Just to save my sanity, I've also started on a tarot bag from the leftover Peacock yarn from my first pair of socks. I'm going to use a swirling closure on the bottom to learn how it's done when making hats.

I want to make a really cool Peruvian type hat with earflaps for Philip and socks for both Maria and Alaina and I will probably make socks for Scott. I am determined to make mittens for myself before cold weather sets in as my hands hurt so badly when they get cold and gloves just don't cut it.

I have an order coming (might come today) of merino roving so I can start spinning on my new spindles. Might be cool to spin enough yarn to make socks or a hat or mittens.

Well, I'm off to work. Taking half day so we can take John down to the drop off point.

Friday, June 02, 2006

I bought some spindles

Actually, I made the first one.

While at Gathering of the Tribes over the Memorial Day Weekend, I attended a workshop on spinning with a spindle. I had rather expected it to me more magickally oriented but it turned out to be a very basic, first time fiber holding experience.

The chap who taught the class is a retired Navy submarine sailor and he used to spin and knit while underwater in one of those metal cigars that patrols the world's waterways. I guess he had to do something to remain reasonably sane. In any case, he's a nice fellow and now sells crystals and rocks for a living.

He brought along his spinning wheel to demonstrate the difference between spindle spinning and wheel spinning and I am thoroughly convinced I want a wheel. But I'm also delighted to report that I have started spinning by hand in the mean time.

Oh, my yarn sucks. It's lumpy, bumpy and over twisted and quite a mess, but it really has turned from fuzz into thread/string and I'm happy. I can see progress already.

I purchased from another vendor at GOTT two spindles. One is heavier and seems to like to spin a thicker bit. The small one seems to make spinning small gauge yarn easier. I also made a spindle at the workshop from a fairly large dowel and an old CD. Sort of weird but it does work. I like the purchased ones much better.

I also order a pound of merino top roving. It should be here in a few days. Indeed a pound of wool should make about a pound of yarn and at a far cheaper price than purchasing the yarn all spun up. I just have to get good at the spinning.

And find the time.

He's in the Army Now

He's in! He leaves for Fort Knox, Kentucky for his boot camp training on Tuesday, June 6th. Ken and I are taking him down to the MEPS hotel in Richmond on Monday afternoon.

His socks are not yet finished. But I'm going to trace his clod hoppers on a piece of paper so I'm sure to make the foot the correct length and I will ship them to him when he heads off for his 22 weeks of job training. Yes, indeed, 22 whole weeks!

You see, he got the job he wanted. He will be 25B (25 Bravo, in Army parlance). This means he will be in training to become a computer geek for the Army. This also means that they will be investing so much money and effort into this 17-year-old kid that they are requiring him to stay in the Army for 6 years and unless he screws up royally, will never see the front lines.

Am I happy? You betcha!

Here are pictures of the socks for him so far. He will probably get them for graduation from Basic.