When knifting goes right

imageThose who craft may believe that they do it purely as an expression of love for their intended recipient.

Privately, it’s not ususual to grouse to one’s craft circle about gifting gone bad. In these instances, the gift wasn’t appreciated or went unused or, worse, was donated to a thrift shop.

In truth, we ought to be able to recognize that our handmade gifts aren’t for everyone, and if they end up in the bottom of the dog crate or at the Salvation Army, at least they are being used.

But, we don’t always rise to that level of understanding. We want to be thanked, praised, lauded, and generally recognized for our hours spent producing these wondrous handmade items. Sadly, what I perceived as uniquely beautiful, you, my beloved, may have found hideous.

But sometimes we get that validation we secretly wish for and more.

Today was one of those good days, when something I knit and then gifted (we’ll call it knifted, ok?) was:

  1. selected from my granddaughter’s closet by her to be her attire for the day;
  2. worn all day while the two of us were out and about;
  3. the object of four compliments as we wandered a museum and then did a little shopping together.

I have to admit it, it made me feel like a million bucks and you can be sure that I will be knifting for this girl for the rest of her life!

Lasting tributes to our Prescott 19

Here’s an idea for an immediate visual tribute to our Prescott 19: Change our town “P” on Badger/P Mountain to “19” for a year.

What looks like this now

P Mountain in Prescott AZ

P Mountain in Prescott AZ


Could look something like this in next to no time

19 seen at Brownlow Park

19 seen at Brownlow Park

Those small white stones at Brownlow Park probably only took minutes to arrange.

Decidedly a project for the young, repainting the “P” has traditionally been tackled by boy scouts or the senior class at Prescott High School as their gift to the city. It is hard, backbreaking work that a bunch of youth could accomplish in a day or less.

Other more poignant and artistic expressions of tribute will surely appear in the weeks and months ahead, and we can look forward to a more permanent home for the makeshift memorial which rose up at the Hotshots station house, but we could do this NOW.

Spinning out of Control?

Skunkbush sumac dyed yarn

Skunkbush sumac dyed yarn

Not exactly the same as spinning up “three bags full,” but here are the results of my spinning and dyeing adventures discussed in this previous post.

The fibers’ original colors ranged from the white you see on the Navajo Churro sheep fleece they are lying on, to a natural, craft paper shade.

All four skeins were placed in a large ziplock bag with the dye liquor  (orange skunkbush sumac berries gathered locally) and left out in the hot Arizona sun for 6 hours. None of the fibers were mordanted.

I was expecting something orange or brown, and you can see a bit of that on #4 before it turned to a yellow-gold color.

What I dyed & how it turned out (above, right):

Miss Babs BFL "Babette"

Miss Babs BFL “Babette”

#1: Henry’s Attic Inca Cotton

#2: Some mohair I spun on a drop spindle.

#3: Unknown wool, spun by me.

#4: A cotton (or maybe linen) cone acquired at a yard sale, and then plied by me.

After two weeks of daily spinning and plying the fiber my friend gave me to practice on, I found I was hooked.

Feeling worthy, I bought a gorgeous 4- oz. braid of Blue Faced Leicester from Miss Babs. Miss Babs has a great inventory and excellent responsiveness. And the packaging is beautiful and includes a few little extras. Here’s the result of spinning that Miss Babs beauty; about 200 yards of squishiness (above, right). I’m hooked. I want more. I can’t stop.

I don’t have a firm goal to attain a particular gauge when spinning. Yet. I just want to enjoy the process and be able to take it along when I am away from home. So far, I’ve spun next to a lake while camping and at one of my favorite local coffee houses at a meetup with knitting friends. If I hadn’t spun everything in sight already, I’d bring it to World Wide Knit in Public this weekend at the Farmers Market. Sigh.

Yollama Love Lip Stuff

Yollama Love Lip Stuff

So now it’s time to get back to the actual purpose of spinning, knitting it up into pretty little things. I have a stash-ful of irresistible commercial yarns and all this handspun, so it’s time to cast on. Definitely out of control.

It’s been hot and dry here, the kind of scorchiness that dries out skin, lips and hair. To keep me from getting too crispy while sitting on the deck working on my next project, I concocted a batch of lip stuff from Arizona mesquite honey, local beeswax, organic coconut oil, and some delicious blood orange olive oil from the Queen Creek Olive Mill. It even works as a balm for palms and fingers dried out from too much spinning!




Spinning leads to dyeing

I SWORE I wouldn’t get into dyeing fiber again. I promised myself to concentrate on my knitting alone. Then I got distracted, again.

Skunkbush Sumac berries collected in May.

Skunkbush Sumac berries collected in May.

When not looking at birds and snakes while hiking over the past week, I noticed all the Skunkbush Sumac covered with berries.  I love this shrubby plant and and enjoy watching it through all the seasons on my daily hikes around Prescott. On today’s hike, I collected about a cup and a half of them, leaving plenty for the birds and mice.

Our wild rosebushes (you know, the ones that our hybrids reverted to when we didn’t know enough about how to coddle the pricey ones) are producing blooms in abundance right now, so just for good measure, I grabbed a bunch of petals and threw them into the pot with the sumac berries.

After simmering the lot for a few hours, I’ll let it steep, and then refrigerate, or even freeze the dye, after straining it through a coffee filter. I’ll try solar dyeing some of the hand spun I made recently during “World Wide Knit in Public Days” at the  Prescott Farmers Market.

By the way, if you’re in or near Prescott, come out to the Market on June 8 and 15, 2013 and knit, crochet or spin with us. More details available on the Prescott Knitters forum on Ravelry, on the Prescott Knitters Facebook page or in this post in AboutPrescottArizona.com.

Wild rose petals added to the pot with the sumac.

Wild rose petals added to the pot with the sumac.

Various sources say that no mordanting is necessary with sumac, so I’ll just wet my fiber skeins (some cotton and wool) and toss them into a zip lock bag and let them sit in the sunshine.

A note on the color: the dye was a pretty orange color for about an hour. Upon closer inspection, it is very brown now. I’m thinking of adding some turmeric to the pot.

More after the Farmers Market when I’ll share results.

By the way, the Montana Natural History Center has a good series of pictures and descriptions of Rhus trilobata here.

What Allee turned me into

Clownish yellow and pink two-ply.

Clownish yellow and pink two-ply.

Spinning my own yarn for large projects has always seemed implausible. Laughable, even. I did have a spinning wheel many years ago. Back then I also had two little boys who saw the wheel as a fun mechanical toy. Between their use of it and my inability to get the hang of it, that interest went by the wayside. It was just the wrong time.

Until recently, luxurious commercial yarns were how I grew my stash. Then I started looking at the unique skeins created by independent American spinners and dyers.

Handspun sampler

Handspun sampler

A few months ago, I personally introduced myself to some of these produced by Spincycle Yarns, Miss Babs, and A Verb for Keeping Warm. I’m hoping to develop a long and mutually rewarding relationship with these newfound yarns. Meanwhile, in examining their underlying structure and rich colors, I began wondering if I could create something similar myself.

Private musing became public chit chat and Allee overhead me say I might like to try spinning again.

Allee, my friend, fellow knitter and camping buddy, brought me a bagful of odd bits of fiber. For two weeks, I’ve been spinning and plying them on the handmade drop spindle I purchased locally from Deb at A Good Yarn/Fiber Creek.

From fleece to spindle to skein to ball

From fleece to spindle to skein to ball

Obsession? Addiction? New area of interest? I’m not sure what to call it, but I’ve only knit one or two rows since the fiber came home with me, other than the little swatches, i-cording and knitted leaves I’ve made from the yarn to see how it likes being on my needles.

It’s not all beautiful. Some is hideous. But really, isn’t it just slightly possible I could purchase a beautiful fleece and spin it up into worsted for my next favorite cardigan?

What no one told me about retirement

Zonda's Cezanne by Jordana Paige

Zonda’s Cezanne by Jordana Paige

I am officially retired. No more clients or projects. Every day is whatever I want it to be. To that end:

  • I’m signing on for some new volunteer projects and causes.
  • Since the nest is empty, I’m rounding up all the stuff we really don’t need anymore (gradually) and finding new homes for all of it.
  • I’m envisioning what a downsized home would look like and how it would work for the two of us.

What I’m not doing is adopting a philosophy of frugality which we all know is supposed to be a part of this time of life. Everytime I turn around I see something new that I think I need.

  • A bathing suit (?!? I never wear them, why do I think I need one now?);
  • A new knitting project bag (I have several already but just crave the new one my friend Zonda just bought);
  • A lovely new weekend travel bag (I DO visit my kids often and that would be nice to have);
  • A new bike helmet (I love my bike but I never use it… what am I thinking here?);
  • A new garden hose wand that doesn’t leak and get me all wet when I use it.

And on and on. You see the problem.

When I broke my coffee addiction and established good exercise and eating habits (most of the time), I felt I was on the way for healthy and fun retirement years. I’m getting my books from the library, have no car or home loans, no second vacation home or yacht here.

Perplexingly, though I have drastically reduced my income, I still want to buy stuff.

A certain time a tad earlier in my life often referred to as “the change” was just like this. All kinds of weird things happened about which I had no advance warning.

Note: The Cezanne bag pictured above is available through the Jordana Paige website. If you get one, drop me a line and let me know how you like it.

Aside to Zonda: would it be so wrong if I copied you and got one just like yours for myself?