Sunday, December 27, 2009

Computer Disaster!

I used to pride myself of having taken very good care of my laptop computer. It has lasted about 6 years, which for a laptop is quite long, given the potential for abuse that can happen to a portable computer. My fortune came to an end on Christmas eve, when I was suddening interrupted while working on my laptop, to put it down on the floor, and attend to my ill husband who was nearby in the recliner. While giving him his medication I attempted to set down a bottle of water, which slipped from my hand and water spilled across a tray table onto the floor. Unfortunately my laptop keyboard was in the path of the dripping water. I quickly tried to rescue it by drying it with a blow dryer but realized my luck ran out when I started having trouble getting some keys to work, including the left click key.

So as I attempt to take the laptop to the Computer ER to see what can be done to fix it, entries will have to be made somewhat delayed by the fortune of borrowing other computers.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Anticipation

As Christmas gets closer this person must reflect on the life situation and think that this Christmas is very different! Of course, there’s my husband’s weakened condition. He used to be able to put up our outside Christmas lights. Now, we have to figure it out ourselves. We’re still looking for the outlets to plug the manger display into. Only two more days to go……Perhaps the neighbors won’t notice the unlit lights and admire the manger scene during the day. The beautiful angel that hung above the manger last year with her trumpet will have to shine during the day hours.

Christmas shopping is not very fun or thoughtful this year. Gift cards seem to be the easy thing to do. Thank goodness for the variety of gift cards available at the one-stop grocery store. I cannot imagine having the time to go from place to place to get gift cards. My time has been spent shuffling my husband from Dr to Dr and treatment to treatment, caring for him at home, and working to make up some missed time off, etc. His energy level is non-existent and this is not a cheery time for him.

We decided it would be too difficult for him to travel to other people’s houses for Christmas, so this year we are having a small breakfast with just the single sons’ and sister-in-law, and a few family over for Christmas dinner. My sister-in-law and son’s have been helping me clean house and get ready.

As a double whammy, my two youngest single sons’ are starting to pack up their stuff to move into their own home. That is, once escrow closes. We are crossing our fingers for Dec. 24. I am starting to have that tug of heart as my youngest son leaves the nest. We will truly be “empty nesters” when that happens. I know it is an important right of passage that all parents raise their children to become…..independent, self-supporting, responsible human beings making a life for themselves. I feel somewhat mollified that I will be able to see my youngest son every day, as we work together.

As this grieving process is initiated, I find myself barely able to think about a whole spare bedroom to put my fiber/yarn collection into. Suddenly my house is become too big for us. I'm sure I am the envy of every fiberholic out there.

Nevertheless, God has been good. He has brought us through another year. I have a lot to be thankful for. I feel blessed each day. God gives me a ray of sunshine to reflect of the goodness he brings to me and my family. It is the little things that are the best… husband pain-free, my son’s wisdom at work, my grandchild’s smile, a kind word of encouragement from friends and family. I am blessed.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Shetland Spinning

I have been making some big plans lately. I’ve decided that my house is too cluttered. In my attempt to simplify my house, I started going through my fiber stash. This year I committed to use a lot of my stash but I haven’t done much with the fiber I have collected over the years.

I discovered a pillowcase filled with a beautiful grey soft looking fiber. I was almost heartbroken that some of it appeared to be felted. This fiber had been in my stash washed over several years and I had not done much with it, except to toss it around from bin to bin as I sorted and resorted this fiber over the years. Yet, I could not give up on this fiber. I wanted to salvage this beautiful alpaca-looking fiber. I was picking through the fiber and trying to loosen the locks. I finally ended up using a Louet single row comb or hackle to untangle what I could. These midevil looking devices that look like torture tools, help to align the fiber, making it somewhat separated and able to be drum carded into batts which followed. From the batts I was able to start spinning. Its a lot of work for just a pound of fiber.

As I worked with this fiber, I realized this was not alpaca at all but possibly Shetland. How I knew this? It has a long staple with guard hairs. This is a double layer coat where the long tips are darker and courser than the downy undercoat, which is soft. I had heard that Shetland fiber makes nice gloves and socks, so I planned to spin it thin but had some trouble getting a consistent thread. I changed my mind and started over, spinning it to a slightly thicker using an easy forward draw technique. I changedthe ration to the lowest on my Ashford Joy which is a ratio of 6 spins/ per treddle. It seemed to make a better single this way. I experimented with several techniques….the long draw, the back draw. The only way I could get any control of the feeding of the thread was to feed 2 in at a time after 2 treddles. The yarns is coming out very soft.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Cancer coping

This week has been a very hard week emotionally for my husband and I. The skin pain and itching from his cutaneous lymphoma seem to be increasing intensity. We have been trying to figure out what pain medication will give him the most relief without making him a zombie or worse than this, not able to get up at all. One medication will pretty much knock him out and results in uncomfortable side effects. Another seems to relieve the pain to a manageable level so he can still get around, but doesn’t last long enough and taking too much in one day can cause liver damage. Beyond all of this, it’s the itching that is the most unbearable. This has him so depressed and desperate, even scratching until his tender skin bleeds doesn’t give him relief. We saw a pain management doctor today. We are hopeful that she will be able to coordinate his pain and coping meds to give him some quality of life.

It is not easy to see the love of your life, strong and tall, reduced to a frightened, weepy, pain filled creature, depressed and withdrawn. I want to take away everything that is uncomfortable for him, but am helpless to do so. All I can do is be there and hold his hand or rub his back. I try to be strong and do the things that need to be done that he cannot do. I release my tears of grief and sorrow in quiet when I am alone. I guess I have always been the strong one of my family. My family counts on me to be there and functioning. Even I am realizing my limitations.

I have spoken with my boss to ask permission to reduce my hours to be at home more with W. I also need to conserve my mental and physical energy to work out all the disability paperwork, doctors appointments, medications and daily care for my husband. I am grateful my boss is graciously understanding in allowing me the flexibility to work as I can and take care of W. I didn’t think this talk would happen so soon. We were told, perhaps optimistically, that people with this kind of lymphoma could live a normal lifespan with treatment, but there is no cure. Perhaps it sounded to good to be true. No one said the quality of life would be so compromised. I should have taken the cue from the dermatologist, who first suspected the condition, that this lymphoma was not so pleasant. However, even with this realization, what is one to do to prepare for such a life ahead? No, perhaps it’s better to undergo some denial in the beginning and learn to cope gradually.

I am grateful and appreciate so much the little kindnesses people in our lives have done for us. Being a recipient of such kindness and compassion reminds me not to be so self-centered in my own problems. I count my blessings and know that there are others still worse off that us. God has truly answered my prayers and taken care of our financial needs to keep us going. It has allowed me to return some of his generosity to others as well. What is it called? Paying it forward? Thank you all for loving us.

That reminds me, I have to finish knitting Scott’s socks tonight!

Matthew 25:40 Jesus said “ I tell you the truth, whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Big Socks

I recently blogged about how I was following a blog, “A Couple of Sojourners” about a friend’s son and his wife, Scott and Ashlee Burt’s adventures as US Peace Corps Volunteers in Mongolia.

Lo and behold, and very surprisingly I received a comment on the blog from Scott himself. Now, I didn’t even know he knew about me or even knew that his parents and I were old friends that very seldom see each other. I had no idea how he would be lead to find my blog. Another miracle was that he actually read my blog and about my plans to send he and Ashlee some knit goods along with knitting needles and yarn to learn how to knit. He shared he was just talking to Ashlee about learning to knit. Is this a miracle or God working in mysterious ways? What a coincidence!

A few days ago Scott added to their Wish list for a pair of wool socks (the thickest you can find) for Size 13 feet. What an interesting challenge I thought! I imagined this to be a hard to find size in Mongolia. I don’t believe there are many 6 foot tall Mongolians around with big feet. With the –50 below weather they are enduring, this seemed like a priority.

This reminds me of a time in my younger days when W and I went backpacking with another couple over a Thanksgiving weekend on Mt San Gorgorneo in the San Bernardino Mountains in California. Little did we know it would start to snow. I remember trying to walk in 3 ft of fresh snow for 3 miles back to our car carrying 25- 30 lbs backpacks. It was a miracle we found and stayed on the trail as it was nothing but untrampled white snow. I remember the cold feet we experienced and it is a memory that is very clear today. I can certainly understand the need for thick wool boot socks. No one wants to chance frostbite and the pain it can cause as your feet thaw.

I looked through my stash and found 3 balls of bulky weight wool. This is very thick wool. As I knit them with Size 8 needles to make a dense fabric, I see they are going to be very thick. I just hope they can fit in his boots. If not, he can wear them as slippers in his house on cold winter nights. No chance will he get cold feet with these. The bulky weight yarn made the project go very fast and it looks like I will be finishing in just 2-3 days. The socks certainly are big, almost the size of Christmas Stockings. Well, there’s a back up plan for them if they don’t work well as socks for feet!. Just decorate them and hang them for Santa Claus to pack some goodies in them.

Thanks, Scott and Ashlee, for allowing me to be of some small service to you in Mongolia by knitting some socks. You inspire me with your courage and your adventures. It gives us hope that there are still young people willing to put themselves forward in uncomfortable circumstances and climates to serve and be beacons of light to the world.

Season Greetings! Time to Deck the Halls!!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Alpacafest, Thanksgiving and A Day with Grandaughter

Alpacafest West

I had a chance to stop by Alpacafest West a few weeks ago. Over 100 beautiful alpacas were being shown. I could not resist taking a few pictures. There were a few more interesting vendors to visit this year. I bought 4 oz of chocolate colored alpaca fiber. At $4 an ounce, which I thought a little pricey, I had to get some to spin. I also could not resist 4 oz of handdyed bluefaed Leicester roving and skein of Bambino (supewash merino, bamboo and nylon) from Chamelion Color Works. I can’t wait to try the pink and yellow dyed silk “ bells” to spin. These are made from silk cocoons and stretched into a bell shaped layer.

Thanksgiving Holidays.

I have a lot to be thankful. One of them are my family. We met at by brother’s house this year to celebrate Thanksgiving, my Dad’s 83rd birthday and my parent’s “60th wedding anniversary. My husband managed to come with us, but needed to be heavily medicated for his comfort. It was a nice time. My son sang a song, my brother and sister-in-law sang a duet. Unfortunately, my camera stopped and ran out of memory before the first song ended. We shared cake and took a family picture. All of my family were there, except W, who was too sleepy to participate.

A Special Day with Granddaughter.

I love being a grandmother. I had a chance to spend a special day with my granddaughter just before Thanksgiving. We went shopping and bought some toys. We played an Elefun game catching butterflies. For a 3 yr old, she has great eye hand coordination. We went to McDonalds for a happymeal, and played on the playland. Then we went to the park with my youngest son, S, and had a great time. To my personal list on 100 beautiful Things about this world, I added #40 Grandchildren: They are so full of curiosity and joy. I wish I can bottle it up in a jar and keep it forever. I really needed this emotionally. Thank you, God, for such a gift.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Mongolian Knitting

I’ve been knitting like a mad woman. Why? I’ve been following a blog of one of my former high school friend’s, son and daughter-in-law, “A Couple of Sojourners”. They are Peace Corps Volunteers assigned to Mongolia. Their cold winter get as low as –50 below. They have been assigned a very modest house and warm it with coal, but surviving the cold is quite an ordeal. Can you imagine young people from sunny California, having to experience this? Talk about culture shock! Therefore, what better use of my yarn, but to knit them up “ wooley warmy” things for their survival. If they can’t use the items, I’m sure they can find someone there in Mongolia who can. It’s my own little “Dulaan Project”.

I have no idea how long their winter is, but I feel the pressure of getting it done soon, before it gets too cold to deliver mail. Can that happen? I have been imagining that perhaps its like Antartica, where if you don’t get your supplies shipped early, you won’t be able to get them through. The blog indicated that some mail has been affected by the H1N1 situation, possibly limited contact with a lot of people and shutting down services. However, I am encouraged that they are still receiving some care packages from their families.

I have been knitting some Helmet warmers. I finished one from the handspun yarn I made from the Cormo-Romney fleece I purchased at Black Sheep Gathering this summer. It came out nice but a little big. I am making another one with some handspun grey Merino/Alpaca.

I’m also knitting up a rug, using my Red Heart acrylic yarn. What a great stash buster! I am knitting it with Size 35 needles. These are gigantic needles. Brenda Dane from “Cast On” podcast inspired me from her Knitting in Trafalgar Square with the same kind of needles. It is really using up the yarn fast, but handling these needles make my hands hurt after and hour so I switch to other knitting to give a break and go back when I can.

I am also planning on packing some knitting wool and needles with a How to Knit Book included. Perhaps when our Mongolian volunteers are confined to the inside, they might have some time to learn to knit. One never knows how experiencing the hardship of “cold”, may motivate a person to be resourceful and make something that is warm: perhaps a scarf or hat?

Thinking about someone else’s situation is very therapeutic for me. It keeps me from being depressed about my own situation with W’s cancer. His emotional reserves are practically non-existent and I believe it is starting to affect me, as well. Work is also my salvation as it provides some respite in terms of distraction from home. Work never seems to slow down. I just don’t have much time to think until I get home. Thinking too far ahead is too overwhelming right now. The holidays are coming, and I am trying to sort out how to enjoy them this year. It’s getting harder to find that “joy” one needs in a life.

Saturday, October 31, 2009


Finish-itis, (Please excuse the hypen. It looks better this way)

I haven’t blogged in awhile. I just haven’t had much time to collect my thoughts. Stress has overwhelmed me the last two months. The job: breaking in and adjusting to a new boss, trying to meet the demands of starting school, preparing for a pandemic and disaster planning, training new office staff has been stressful. All this in addition to trying to cope with W. not responding to his latest treatment, unable to function more than moving from the recliner where he sleeps all day to the bed, where he sleeps more, having to do all the housework, his and mine is exhausting. The only thing that keeps me sane is my knitting.

I have finished a saddle sweater for my 22 yr old son, a knit skirt for me and miscellaneous items. The knitting is complete. It just the finishing….the weaving of seams, the blocking, etc. that needs to be done.

I don’t know why this is so difficult for me….to finish or not to finish. That is the question! This seems like such a easy task but I struggle to get motivated to do it!

I am on a sweater knitting jag right now. Having finished the Elizabeth Zimmerman Yoke sweater and the Elizabeth Zimmerman Saddle sweater, I am now making a Elizabeth Zimmerman Cardigan in the round with steeks. I plan to steek the opening and knit a border when I am done. This is slow-going but the color (red) keeps me knitting on. I love red. I’m tired of knitting with drab greys. I need some color in my dreary life.

Life has been a little lonely lately. W. has not felt good enough with his lymphoma to do much, other than an occasional outing to dinner or fast food. I am feeling the struggle of deciding to either find a part-time job that is less demanding or quit or retire, so I can take care of my husband and manage all the paperwork associated with his cancer treatment.

I’m not sure we can afford my loss of income just yet. Slowly but surely, we are reducing our debts and I will feel better about a change when that happens. It is very hard to think about changing a job I’ve been at for 20 years, two blocks from my home. However, I am feeling that he needs me more at home and my desire for my job is waning. I have been told I am good at what I do, but my focus is just too distracted by his needs. Rather than be a nurse for the 250 children in my care, I will be a nurse for one. It’s not really changing jobs. It’s only relocating. I am only one year away from early retirement but I got a late start of saving for retirement, so the income won’t be much. Yet, I have never been a high maintenance woman. We just need enough to live a modest life and take care of the bills.

So why am I afraid of finishitis? What is it that keeps me hanging on?
UPDATED 11/11/09

My finishitis is cured! I finished the Saddle Sweater and Bell Curve Skirt. See pictures below .

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Zimmerman Yoke Sweater

My Elizabeth Zimmerman Yoke Sweater is done! The Fair Isle Pattern came out great! After completing both the big and small patterns after doing the 2nd decrease, I tried it on. The 2nd small motif made it too long in the neck. I decided to rip it back and just do a three row motif before the final decrease. All I have to do is the neck short rows and ribbing and sew up the armholes. It is so satisfying to finish a sweater.

The next sweater I do for myself will be one in dk or sport yarn. This sweater fits great but it will be too warm to wear in California, except on the coldest days, which do not have a very long season.

I’ve been thinking of the next sweater I want to do. I haven’t done a saddle sweater yet. I’ve been looking over Elizabeth Zimmerman’s way and Barbara Walker’s way of doing the Saddle Sweater. Elizabeth in from bottom up and Barbara’s from top down. Both seem a little complicated. I wish there were more pictures describing the process.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Skills and Steadiness

As I sit here at midnight, pondering the end of what little of summer vacation I had, I think about how life has been the last eight months for me . I seem to confront life experiences with calm, quiet expectations and try to see the big picture around me. God never promised us a life of luxury. For many, the years living in prosperity, with throw away income, life has become quite a shocking change to their lifestyle. For others, who have lived modestly, it is a time to recover their resourcefulness and prioritize what is important.

Having parents who grew up in poverty in the Depression years, has given me a sense of being able to live without many things. It has also given me an appreciation of getting the most out of things and not wasting anything. I truly appreciate how hard my parents worked to save for the future. Their lessons come in very handy now as the economy seems to be heading in the same direction of Depression the 1930’s community experienced.

I think about how my grandmothers taught me a basic skill of crocheting that lead to learning how to knit, spin, sew and do other needlecrafts. I know they used this skill to make garments for their children, as they had no extra income to buy clothes in the Depression. As sharecroppers, they frequently owed money to their landowners and through their resourceful skills of crocheting and sewing could sell or repair garments for others for a few cents to feed their children. My, how different life is now!. Yet, I wonder if we will be in the same situation and have to do the same.

I feel so fortunate and blessed to have some skills. I bless my grandmothers’ for sharing their skills with me. My needlecraft skills and skills in homemaking have given me much pleasure and reassurance that I do not have to be helpless. It has given me an appreciation of the natural beauty this world contains and a satisfaction that I can create some beauty from the raw materials and animals of our God-created world. It makes me happy and gives me joy. I imagine God smiling on his daughter with pride thinking how much he likes watching me create beautiful things from what he created.

Like a loving Father, he oversees his children. Like a faithful child, I have learned to trust and obey Him. He always provides what I need. He keeps me from being overwhelmed beyond what I can handle. I am feeling this now with my husband’s cancer. I’m sure the road will have its ups and downs but I can count of God to be there, carrying me in His arms when I am unable to handle anymore. Many have said how much they admire my calm steadiness as I go through this situation. I don’t think I would be of any usefulness if I panicked. I just give it in God’s hands. He carries it for me.
God is Good.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Spinning Hope & Coming Home

My husband is coming home today from Hospitalization #5 this year. He started a new treatment called photopheresis, which I can only described as a sort of dialysis with UV light. It is aimed to kill the cancer cells in the blood and return it back to his body. He is feeling better in general but he is looking forward to coming home. A week and a half in the hospital is a little too much.

With much time on my hands watching him recuperate, I have been able to work on my Elizabeth Zimmerman Yoke sweater. I am now putting together the sleeves and body and working toward the yoke where I will be doing a Fair Isle pattern close to the neck. I am planning to use some of my Handspun yarn for the color. I really need to find ways to use this yarn, as it seems to be accumulating quite fast.

When I tire and get bored with the sweater, I have been making some toe up socks with a rainbow colored Trekking XX sock yarn. I am using a pattern in the new August issue of Cast On, a Knitting Magazine. This issue is amazing, with lots of instruction and wonderful patterns. I was so impressed by this issue, I drafted a comment for the editor…..

Dear Editor of Cast On,

I don’t often send comments about knitting magazines, as many only seem to be fashion shows of designs made for the fashion model types.. However, your new August-October issue of Cast-On is something to behold from cover to cover.

I love everything about this issue. The sock lessons and designs, and the variety of techniques described in easy to understand detail, are so great. I want to knit all of the sock patterns listed. I’m usually not a sock knitter, but this issue has definitely motivated me to pick up the Size 2’s again and find a beautiful yarn to create the wonderful sock patterns in Cast-On. I love how you included additional patterns to extend the learning techniques of the socks. I absolutely love the Christmas stocking and the left-over mitten patterns, reminding us it is never too early to get a head start on Christmas knitting.

I like very much the focus on “instruction” in this issue. After all, TKGA, is an organization that promotes the education of knitting. I think you have hit a winning strategy in this issue, with something to teach everyone. It is likely to become a favorite knitting resource, one that knitters come back to time again.. Congratulations on a well designed issue. Keep them coming.

Happy Knitting!

Diana Hilton
Duarte, CA

In spinning I have been working on the Corriedale fleece I purchased at Black Sheep Gathering in July. The fleece is beautifully clean and fluffy. I has a little lanolin ( a greasy feel) to it, so I washed it with one soak with Dawn dishwashing liquid and rinsed it once. I pulled off locks and lined them up side by side in laudry bags. I also tried to use tulle netting closed with safety pin and this worked well too. Normally, I have to soak it 2-3 times to get all the dirt out. However, with so little dirt, once was enough. I soaked the locks and used a ShamWOW or towel to absorb the water, and laid them out to air dry.

When dried, they looked like this……

Once spun into a single ply yarn it looked this on the bobbin. See how white and clean it looked.

It was so easy to spin.
It made a lovely two-ply yarn…
I still haven’t dyed my newly spun Corriedale. I keep thinking I should accumulate enough yarn for a sweater, but I’m not sure I have enough. A four-ounce bobbin only gets me about 70-80 yard skeins per bobbin. One adult sweater takes from 1000 to 1500 yds. I have perhaps enough for a child’s sweater, but I fear making a wool sweater and giving it to someone who will not take the time to wash it properly, will resulting in a felted shrunken mess when naively washing in warm water with agitation. The thought is just horrifying to the long hard work I will put in it. It is better to make it for someone who know how to care for wool.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Spinning for Comfort

July 26, 2006

I was hoping to include a picture with this but days are passing by and this entry is getting old so I am just going to post it without.....

It has been very interesting listening to podcasts talking about the Tour de Fleece projects. Tour de Fleece is a July campaign where spinners challenge themselves in spinning something, just as the “Tour de France” bikers challenge themselves in a grueling bike ride. Although I have not officially joined, I have been attempting to finish spinning the White alpaca fleece I bought 1 ½ years ago. It about time I do something with it, although I have yet to decide what. It has been lovely spinning this very soft beautiful fiber into singles. I know it will have to be transformed into something next to skin so that the wearer can feel the soft warmness of the garment. I would like to dye it as well to set off its loveliness in a beautiful color, perhaps a pink or light blue or lavender.

Spinning is such a comfort to me. I haven’t had much time to myself lately as I am working when I can, and taking care of my husband, who has cancer. He has his good days and bad days. Two courses of chemotherapy have just held the disease at bay but have not relieved the annoying symptoms. We will be exploring the possibility of a Bone Marrow Transplant at the City of Hope. It has been an intellectual, emotional, and physical challenge trying to maintain a household by myself and navigate through the health care system, communicating with multiple specialists, lab tests, and exams. It can be very exhausting. Having to experience it first hand has enlightened me to the fact that Healthcare System is definitely in need of an overhaul. Thank you President Obama, for trying. A decade or two ago, it was never so complicated. One doctor would help you navigate through the system. This is no longer the case. A person is on their own to figure it out: the insurance, the rules, the rising co-pays, the communication between doctors and specialists,…..the patient. I cannot imagine how the regular lay person can do it without educating themselves. I feel blessed that my nursing background has given me an edge in figuring all this out. I can easily see how someone would get so overwhelmed and give up. At the end of the day, spinning helps me sort out my thoughts and gives me a sense of accomplishment that I made something out of practically nothing.

The alpaca fleece is so fine (thin), I have flick carded it before spinning. This is such a great technique where you use a dog flicker to comb a washed lock of fleece. I always put a paper towel on my lap when I do this to catch the remaining dirt and debris. This fluffs the lock beautifully so that it spins easily and smoothly with the minimum of lumps. I flick a plastic box full of fiber ready to spin and this helps to break up the monotony of spinning.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Eugene Saturday Market Fair Drummers

Saturday Market Fair Drummers
Originally uploaded by DianaH1
These are just some of the performers that entertained us while at the Eugene Market Fair.

For more info about Eugene and The Black Sheep Gathering, See below.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Black Sheep Gathering 2009

My husband and I took our first trip to Eugene, Oregon, to attend the Black Sheep Gathering. W. has been working hard toward getting strong enough go the trip. He has needed a trip to lift his spirits from dealing with his Cutaneous T-cell Lymphoma. The 15-hour drive from So. California was a long one but a beautiful one. The scenery was wonderful, especially as we hit Mt. Shasta in all its glory. The greenery didn’t stop as we headed to Eugene.

We stayed in the Broadway Inn, which was located blocks away from Downtown, the University of Oregon, and a short 5-minute drive to the Fairgrounds where Black Sheep Gathering, the Yearly Wool/Sheep Festival was held.

Eugene: Since this was our first time in Oregon, we studied the unique blend of people and atmosphere. We found this city very similar to Santa Barbara in California. It seemed like an informal College town made up of artisans and Hippies strolling about enjoying life as it comes to them. This is a bicycle town and the city has accommodated bicyclists with special lanes for them. Everyone seems to wear sandals, even in the cool weather, which I understand is the fashion trend in Eugene. Streets are narrow in places, lined with trees, which gives it a New England feel. One needs to take care driving in downtown as many are one-way streets and getting around can be confusing. We were glad to have a street map to guide us.

The Sheep at BSG: I was very impressed with the variety of sheep and goats….Shetlands, Romney, Corredales, Merino, Blue Faced Leicester, Jacob, Wesleydales, Teeswater Romadale, CVM, Baby Dolls, Angora Goats and many more. Did you guess there were so many breeds? I have never seen such an assortment in one place before. There were three barns full of animals. I was disappointed there were no Alpacas this year.

The Trade Show: There were so many vendors. Three barns were not enough and some vendors had a spot outside. It was a joy perusing the delectible yarns, fibers and other wonderful items. The colors were amazing but I refrained from purchasing color because I plan to do some dyeing of my own when I return home. I purchased the following:
-Two 8 oz bundles of Mystery Roving in Natural Shades of Browns & blacks from ---Fantasy Fibers. I could not pass up this bargain at $6 a bundle for 8 oz of roving.
-8 oz of White Merino Roving -A Cotton Spinning Kit with assorted cotton roving/raw fibers to experiment with from Woodland Woolworks. This also came with a Takhli supported spindle.
I really wanted to save my money for a fleece or two at the wool show.
But who can leave the BSG without a souvenir T-shirt. Mine was blue.

Events: Sheep to Shawl: There were four groups. Each group had their choice of the fibers and colors to make a shawl. From the wool fiber they carded, spun yarn and weaved it into a shawl in a few hours. Some groups were friendlier than others. It is unfortunate, they were cornered in an area where people had difficulty going to see them. I guess I am spoiled by the Lambstown Festival’s Sheep to Shawl where the guilds participating are interested in educating people on what they are doing. At Lambstown, people are allowed to ask questions without a barrier between them and the participants. The winning shawl by the Silverado Spinners was very lovely and this experienced group seems to have it most together and focused in their efforts.

The Fiber Arts show: The winning item Best in Show was a beautiful knitted lace shawl, well deserved. There was a felted vest with an underwater scene that was also very interesting.

Workshops: I didn’t attend any workshops but there were a few demonstrations at one end of the Trade show.

The Spinning Circle: On Saturday, many came to knit or spin. It grew in number as the day went on. I would have liked to join but I was afraid I would be late to the Wool fleece sale.

Wool Sale: Although Saturday was the official day of the sale of fleeces that were in competition, there were some very nice fleeces that were for sale and not in competition. I purchased a very nice black Romney/Cormo. A half hour before the Official wool sale on Saturday, they let people in to see the fleeces. There were over 100 fleeces to view. I jotted down a few that I wanted, just in case my first choice was snatched before I got there. They cleared the hall and everyone queued up with a warning of “No fighting, no running” or you will have to go to the end of the line. Actually, it was very civilized, but I wasted no time and headed straight for my first choice, grabbed it and headed for the finish line (the cash register). My prize was a beautifully clean white Corridale fleece with a 5” staple, which is big enough to make about three sweaters worth of yarn.

Food Opportunities: There was only one food vendor on site, which was disappointing but fortunately, we were able to come and go to nearby places. Some of notable mention was The Mission, a Mexican restaurant on Broadway St., and Cornucopia, which was a few blocks from the Fairgrounds. Both had excellent food. There was another place called Dickie Joe’s Diner, on 13th Street. It served Dogs and Burgers and Shakes to die for.

Farmer’s Market: This is a must see in Eugene on Saturday, the Farmer’s Market at 8th and Oak. This is a colorful arts and craft fair at the four corners of the street. There are a variety of musicians playing bluegrass, drumming and meditation music made horns and instruments one would think were homemade.The main theme seemed to be rainbow tie-dyed crafts and hippy style vendors in sandals. I was taken back to the 60s, where flower children roamed the streets, living off their crafts and talents going from place to place wearing backpacks, pushing peace signs in your face.

Husband: I’m glad I had this opportunity to visit Black Sheep Gathering with my husband. For the most part, he did well despite his condition. We consider this time a gift from God and from those who love us, who gifted us generously and prayed for us to enable this trip to happen. We are so humbled and grateful for the painfree moments W. had. Only on the last day of our trip did he feel so uncomfortable, he needed some medication for relief. Although, he seemed to relapse somewhat, it was nice and a blessing to capture an additional memory with him.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Fighting Depression

Although knitting has been my salvation as my husband and I go through the ups and down of his illness, his emotional reserves are beginning to wear thin. With three hospitalizations since February and the interruptions these events have caused in postponing some of his chemo treatments, there hasn’t been the expected remission. Doctors are considering a different kind of chemo. W’s battles fatigue daily and he is starting to have pain in his legs when standing, which leads him to be even more sedentary and weak.

The other day I mentioned that there is a wool festival in Oregon called Black Sheep Gathering in June and asked if he wanted to go. He said yes! That very night he wanted to go for a walk to build up his strength to attend the festival. We have one full month to work on planning it. My boss has approved some time off for me so we can attend. We are both excited to be going. Of course, I am hoping his new chemo won’t interfere with this weekend trip. We are praying we can work around it and have plans in place so we can go.

On the knitting sphere, I finished the baby sweater to go with the socks I made with Bernat “Sox” yarn. It was a simple dropped sleeve stockinette cardigan with a shawl collar. I am blocking it so I can put it together. I love the color. I am hoping it can be worn by a boy or girl.

Having made this sweater, I am getting an itch to start another sweater. I have always admired Elizabeth Zimmerman’s patterns. I would like to try the Yoke Sweater from the Knitting Workshop. It looks simple enough. The problem is finding the perfect yarn that will not break the bank. I bought some Caron pound yarn to explore using it for a sweater, but I think this yarn is more appropriate for a blanket than a sweater. I am also considering using the skeins of Cascade Ecological Wool I have. I have some time to explore options of colors for the yoke as the body and sleeves are knitted up first. By the time I finish with these parts, I will have picked a pattern or chart for the yoke and either found some colored yarn in my stash or dyed it to the colors I want.

Warmer weather also leads to thoughts of spinning and cleaning fiber. I started to sort though my fiber stash today and have carded some batts of Coopworth for spinning. After all, if we go to Black Sheep Gathering, I would like to purchase a fleece if I find a good one at a reasonable price. I am going to try to spin a worsted weight yarn. I am trying to choose a color to dye it. Perhaps I will spin it with a ply of alpaca so it would be softer. I also received my order of Mill end rovings from Sheep Shed. I've been spinning up a lovely blue roving into a dk to worsted wt yarn. It is really lovely. So many choices and there is so little time.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Reflections on Life

My Spring Break is over, although it wasn’t much of a break since my husband was in the hospital. I spent six hour days every day attending to him. Being a nurse has its benefits. I haven’t done hospital nursing in awhile but the skills came back quickly. I feel blessed that I had this time with my husband. It helped to draw us closer than ever. He was a very good patient.

I’m glad I had this time to also reflect on our financial situation. I trust God implicitly and know he will provide. He always has. It has been a bit of a challenge navigating through the paperwork of applying for disability and budgeting so that all the bills can be covered. Nevertheless, I feel God will provide me with a measure of wisdom to do this. If nothing else, this certainly is a opportunity for setting priorities and maintaining what we have.

On the fiber front, I have tried to return to spinning. I continue to spin with Alpaca although the weather is turning warm with 100 degree heat today, so I am considering exploring dyeing this weekend instead. I’m afraid I fell off the fiber wagon and ordered some superwash roving from Sheep Shed studios. This will be great for dyeing too. If things get tough financially, perhaps I can sell some fiber/knit/crochet creations. Although, I hate selling in general. Salespeople have a special gift and this is not one I’ve been given. I would rather give things away than sell them.

This weekend, we has some very old friends from my high school days come to visit us. They were amazed at my spinning wheel. Although some were allergic to wool, they touched and petted the alpaca I was spinning. It is hypo allergenic. I have read that there is some debate whether a wool allergy is a true allergy. When I asked my allergist about wool allergy, he said that there isn’t a true wool allergy. I’ve heard this echoed from other medical professionals. Yet, when you ask those with the allergies, they describe symptoms that one would only surmise to guess are symptoms of an allergic reaction. There needs to be more research about wool allergies. I have not been able to find any recent studies on this topic.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Warming the Heart

Written 4/12/09

I finished knitting Walter’s sweater. I’ve been blocking the pieces so I can sew it up and put on neckband.It came out quite nice and with using Bulky weight Bernat Alpaka yarn it finished up fast.
My husband has been in the hospital lately, with a heart condition, and this has caused me to be in a knitting frenzy as the moment. With his particular kind of cancer, he is very sensitive to cold, being that his outer skin layer wants to dry out and flake off……..constantly. We don’t really appreciate what our skin does for us until we loose it. It provides our bodies with an insulating layer. When it is thin and exposed, air causes our skin to dry, feeling the cold weather or air more. This triggers a “shivering” response from the brain which sends the message to the body to get moving the muscles to warm it up. Well you get the idea. The heart also gets going faster, sometimes so fast, that it was quite worrisome to some of the nurses, in my husband’s case. So I have been knitting up leg warmers and arm warmers. I have a few skeins of a Valley Yarns Berkshire Bulky. It’s just a K2 P2 in the round pattern but I am hoping to just slip these on W whenever he starts to shiver.

As a temporary measure, until I can get these knitted up. I’ve finshed my Woodland Shawl. It is a lovely green in a leaf pattern made with Lisa Souza Alpaka/Wool lace weight yarn. It is so soft and warm, I just wrap it around any cold part and it warms up nicely. A little too feminine perhaps but when you’re cold and uncomfortable, you will do anything to get warm.

Another quick project I started to break up the monotony is the Ball Band Washcloth from Mason Dixon Knitting. I have always wanted to try this pattern. This is an amazing pattern. It reminds me of a brick wall. It is inspiring me to make other things with this pattern, i.e. flower pots, tissue paper covers, baskets, etc. I have alot of acrylic to use up.