One of the “firsts” I accomplished this summer was entering a skein of handspun yarn into the Oregon State Fair.  Not exactly a personal stretching type of first. The people in the 1st Wednesday spinners encouraged me to enter the skein of cotton that I passed around at one of the meetings. It’s the first skein of cotton that I’ve spun with the walking wheel. The two singles weren’t spun one right after the other, then they languished in a drawer for several more months before I finally got around to plying them.

Having been told that singles over a year old lose their energy and won’t ply decently and knowing the first single was spun over a year ago with the second one months later the odds weren’t high that it’d have an adequate ply. Contrary to expectations the yarn came out quite nicely.

Having demonstrated spinning with the walking wheel at the Fair and admiring all the beautiful handspun yarns plus textiles I decided it’d be a good experience to enter and actually have my yarn formally judged for the sake of learning.

Once upon a time I bought 1 pound of EcoButterfly cotton with the intention of eventually weaving material from the yarn spun using the great wheel. This was the first finished skein.  Gracious! I’d better get serious about spinning the cotton with the walking wheel if I ever want to get though that pound!

The index card was dutifully filled out stating fiber material and method used, plus the planned end use for the yarn. I should have written a shawl or some such knitted item instead of a woven shirt.


The fair over I was able to pick up the skein, ribbon and score sheet on my way to the 1st Wednesday spinners. The skein with accompanying sheet was passed around to everyone for their comments. They were all as puzzled as I about the -2 for direction of twist. The only thing we could think of was they thought it unsuitable for weaving. If any of you have knowledge about judging yarn I’d love your input. Given that this was my first spinning of cotton with the walking wheel, the length of time between spinning the singles, and more time before plying I’m pleased with the score which earned a red ribbon. I know that there’s good room for improvement, especially with the thick and thin as well as the consistency of twist.

I’m already plotting what to enter next year.🙂 Perhaps even a woven cotton shirt – if I start putting in the paces with the wheel every day.

The Oregon Flock & Fiber Festival (OFFF) is coming up next weekend. I’m excited to again teach a 3 hour workshop on spinning cotton, flax & hemp with a spindle Friday morning. It’s fun to be able to expand our spinning repertoire and knowledge and teaching helps one to learn even more.

It’ll be an interesting week: Ed’s dad, JW, is moving to a place about 20 miles from us after having lived 3 hours away. When he was first putting in the bid for the house we made it clear that we would help him move any week but the week between the 18th and 25th. That one week was completely out for us since we had a major show that weekend.

JW called early last week with the news: he’s moving up on Tuesday, the 20th. sigh. Ed and our son-in-law arranged to drive down first thing that morning to drive the loaded moving van up here. Then he called Friday morning to tell us the guy he’s buying the house from won’t be out until Wednesday evening. Meanwhile, the people who bought JW’s house are moving into it first thing Wednesday morning. So, on top of moving JW up here the moving van will be parked at our place and he’ll stay with us until Thursday morning. If the house needs some serious cleaning…

I have faith that it will all work out in the long run. Between tying up all the last minute details for OFFF, and the workshop as well as helping with JW’s move, and hosting him (he’s not one to help with tasks) we aren’t likely to be very rested going into the festival weekend. And, the forecast is now predicting rain next weekend.  Our booth will be outside.

We’re trying to keep a good sense of humor, and attitude about how everything snowballed onto this week.

The summer was one of challenges and growth, questioning and purpose, shifting and  refocus. Events and work enlarging, deepening during this my sixtieth year of life as I look forward with an unexpected sense of fulfillment to a new calling.

During September I hope to post about some of the changes and events interspersed with fiber stuff.

One fearsome undertaking was being asked to play the fiddle for the 80th birthday barbecue for a beloved dad who loves fiddle music. I did not feel up to the task of playing solo for an hour for a crowd. I’ve always depended on a guitar or mandolin player to keep the rhythm, to cover my mistakes, to carry the performances.  We were at Black Sheep Gathering when Julie texted me for an answer at 5:30 the morning of the first day. She was heading out for a run before work, I was headed to the shower. I quickly texted back that I’d call: she’d never heard me play, I wasn’t comfortable committing without letting her hear a few tunes.

She’s one of the cooks for the Wednesday dinner that Ed helps prepare and serve so I arranged to take my fiddle and play for the work crew during their noon break. Feeling quite timid I sat down wanting to fade into the background.
Julie was thrilled with the four or five tunes I played and so I agreed to play, especially since not many people at the barbecue would know me. Anonymity can comforting.

The beginning of the Tour de Fleece coincided with the need to seriously practice every. single. day. Bowing drills and finger exercises, over and over. Playing the tunes, working on the rough patches, lining out a play list arranging some slow pieces among the American folk tunes, bluegrass, and celtic jigs which would comfortably take me through an hour of playing with some extras, just in case. All that practice combined with trying to spin at least 30 minutes every day for the TdF took a toll on my right wrist to the point that I had to stop spinning and cut back on the bowing exercises.

The week before the barbecue I attended the week-long NW Friends annual business sessions as a representative for our church. The days were filled with meetings, workshops and worship sessions plus connecting with people from other meetings throughout the Pacific Northwest. The violin, and its mute, traveled with me to be practiced whenever possible. The first time I took it outside the dorm, sat under a spreading maple tree and played my nerves almost got the best of me as people drifted across the university campus. Each time I played outside my confidence grew and I began to feel that I could do this.

I was helping to offload an air compressor shortly before I needed to get dressed for the gig when I stepped back onto the edge of a small hole. My ankle turned dropping into the hole and launching me backward hard against the edge square support post at the corner of our back porch. Agony! The post knocked the wind out of me, ribs and ankle throbbing. I bound my ankle with athletic tape, pulled on cowboy boots (a Western themed bbq for her country dad) then loaded mic, amp, small folding chair with a spindle – just in case – and violin into the car.
The back yard setting looking out over their horse pastures to fields of flowers was beautiful, the perfect setting for a fun evening of fiddle music!
Saying a silent prayer I launched into the first piece, and had a blast playing for an hour that whizzed past.

When it was over I stood up and was almost floored by the pain. My poor ribs: they are still a bit bruised, even now. Bigger than the pain was euphoria in conquering my fear of playing a solo paying gig while having fun and knowing they were enjoying it by their enthusiasm, big smiles, toe tapping and thanks.

More fields of flowers as I drove home elated in the late evening sunshine.

Once again an insane amount of time has passed since I last wrote. How does this happen? The water continues to flow under the bridge a couple of blocks away, fiber slips through my fingers, stitches and loops joining together, spindles handled and mailed. The minutes, days and months slip by.

In that time not one but two Mermaid Blankets were made. Seeing the first one made for 9 year old Feather, 4 year old Violet wanted one too. Not only are they cuddling in them during the evenings they take them to bed with them which made the making of them so worth the time.
#1 Mermaid Blanket crocheted for Feather. (I can’t find the picture that her mom posted on FB of her in it.)

#2 Mermaid Blanket finished just in time for Violet’s 4th birthday.DSC02344

So much so that I offered to make the grandson a shark blanket. Unfortunately I ran out of yarn coming into the second fin and am still waiting for more to arrive.
Since late last year our Grandson’s 2nd grade teacher has been giving students a poem every week which they have to read out loud so many times a day, to different people. As a result he calls at least twice a week to read us the poem of the week. Every time he calls now he asks if I’m working on his blanket. That yarn had better be in the mail tomorrow!

It certainly feels as though the year is leap-frogging and skipping over the weeks.

We’re looking into the face of March, the month with several birthdays, the annual Irish gig, crunch time for organizing tax paperwork, yard work and getting a start in the garden.

Priorities and scheduling, landing on routines that are doable.

The Mermaid blanket I mentioned my granddaughter wanting? It took a long time to figure out what yarn to use. When it came I dug into my crochet hook bag only to discover that I had NO size Q hooks, or any other bigger ones. How was this even possible? My husband spent well over a decade making crochet hooks. Thousands of them. I have none that size? So much for being generous with those I had. Somehow I thought I had more on hand. Allison of Ageary Woodworks came to my rescue and made me a Q / 15.75mm hook. An email letting her know what I needed, along with payment arrangements was sent to her. Within a couple of weeks a hook was in the mail. Allison is the young woman whom Ed taught to make the hooks and needles eventually taking over that business from us.

The fin is finished, the body about half-way along. The pattern suggests it would take “approximately 2.5 – 5 hours to make depending on size, skill and speed.” Apparently I’m lacking skill and speed. The fin was ripped back at 3 times before I finally figured out I was reading the instructions wrong. (Completely my fault). The body of the blanket is coming along nicely but it’s still be ridiculously time-consuming considering I thought the entire thing would be done within a week. Easily. Ummmm, no.
DSC02121It will be soft and cuddly, and machine washable.

We’ve had a very mild winter with lots of sunshine interspersed with copious rain. Daffodils are blooming. The plum tree next to our bedroom is beginning to bud. Daphnes have been fragrancing the kitchen.

Last Friday Violet and I visited some lambs during a lovely outing where we got to feed and pet the sheep. Some of their processed wool even came home with me.

They crowded into the barn when we first arrived hoping for some handouts.


Some of the ewes and their lambs in one pasture.
Jan likes to raise crossbreeds of CVM, Romeldale and Merino mixes to get sheep with various colorings, a fine wool with good crimp, and a nice hand.

Our ancient bathroom is getting a much needed makeover! Ed is doing all the work, other than painting which falls to me. Hooray for my small part.
First the rarely used doorway between the bathroom and our bedroom was removed and hole walled over.


Ed stripped off the old wallboard inside the bathroom.

The old sink was the impetus to the makeover: the original molded sink was about worn all the way through after almost 40 years of use.


Note the linen cabinet to the left: that to will be transformed. Ed started working on it yesterday.


New wallboard in place. Ed is cutting flashing to put around the floor openings for the sink plumbing. Much to his chagrin, plumbing in old mobile homes is far from standard.
Laying the new flooring. This coming summer we hope to remove that ugly old orange carpet that’s in the hallway.
Painting next to the redwood wall that Ed put in the tub/shower ten years ago. Slowly, slowly the improvements are being made.
Applying the second coat of off-white.
The red wall was the first to be painted. That cheerful color delights my heart to no end.DSC01849

Cabinets and new door installed.DSC01881Once Ed has made the new linen cabinet I’ll repaint all the walls one last time and rehang the curtain I wove last year. We’re thrilled with the clean new look and feel.

It’s been another month of not being able to settle down to a knitting, or weaving project. So far each thing I’ve undertaken has languished quickly after it was begun. Instead, lots of spinning has been happening. Mostly during the almost daily walks. I’m participating in the Jenkins Woodworking Ravelry group’s “Recipe Challenge” which has been fun. It’s helped that despite having over 7 inches of rain fall in January the temperatures have been in the 40s and 50s F with a couple days edging above 60F. We had only 3 days where the temps dipped into the 30sF. A few days of hard rain were followed by sunshine.
The yarn needed to crochet my granddaughter the mermaid blanket was finally ordered last week. I’m hoping that once it arrives I’ll have a blast making it.

After finishing the handspun socks in November I set out to knit up a quick hat with the leftover yarn.
The beginning of a knook/crochet hat for my granddaughter.DSC01142
A couple rounds after taking this picture enthusiasm evaporated. It was frogged. Stitches were cast on with knitting needles stitches starting with an earflap.

About then granddaughter, Feather, informed me that she’d love, love, love a crocheted mermaid blanket. Grandson, Wes, wanted a crocheted shark blanket. Patterns were found, bought and printed. Reading the type and amounts of yarn necessary for two such beasts, er, blankets my heart sank. Acrylic yarn held double-stranded.

All knitting/crocheting/weaving mojo disappeared. The busy Advent season was suddenly less busy and time appeared for other activities:

The first Christmas letter in years was written and mailed to far-flung family.
A gingerbread train was decorated with Violet,DSC01310
Christmas carols and tunes fiddled
to a church full of people singing upstairs,DSC01353

eating and visiting downstairs.

A tree was decorated,
Presents were wrapped.
Turtles of singles were plyed, soaked and hung to dry.

The clouds burned off Christmas morning giving us the first day of sunshine in 24 days, perfect for a cold Christmas day bicycle ride.
DSC01512All but a couple of the main paths were flooded by the 22 foot higher than normal Willamette River, the swift current racing across the path showing its power.
Puzzles piecedDSC01542

Brisk walks taken with my neighbor. We were so grateful for sunshine after 24 consecutive days of rain which dumped a record amount of almost 16 inches rainfall in the month of December.

Even with the seemingly endless days of rain December 2015 was a very good month.

Tomorrow I need to firmly settle back into the work saddle, pick up the reins and settle back into a good work routine.