A Rough Start

This week start has not been a smooth one. For some time, we have observed the “newer” of our two vehicles, it is only 13 years old compared to the almost 16 year old one, has been not running well and leaking oil. We wouldn’t drive it farther than town and kept our fingers crossed that if it broke down, that daughter would be available to get us home or to a rental car location. Because it is the larger vehicle, we loaded the trash and recycling in it yesterday morning to take down to the “Convenience Center.” Don’t you love that as a name for the fenced in area with the dumpsters and recycle trailer boxes in it? As soon as hubby put the beast in reverse, I could smell the clutch and suggested we take both cars and leave the Xterra at our local shop for diagnosis and state inspection. The decision was made to take it the next time we had to go out and not yesterday. The garbage was dispatched, the package I had that needed to be dropped off at the USPS was dropped off, we drove into town to get lunch and a birthday card for a grandson, but didn’t make it home. As we started up the first hill, the smell got stronger, the car got slower, and before we got to the top, there were no gears that the car would go in. A call to daughter, but she was an hour away headed home. A call to the local mechanic and he sent a masked driver in their “Shuttle” van and another driver in the tow truck to haul it in. Once we get an estimate, we have to decide if a 13 year old car, leaking oil, with 246,000+ miles on it is worth the repair, leaving us at least for the moment with the 16 year old car with 240,000 miles on it as our sole transportation.

Last night as I prepared to address the birthday card, I realized that one of my favorite pens was missing. I can’t find it anywhere. Usually it is clipped to the small leather notebook cover that I carry in my bag, but it isn’t there. Isn’t in the bag. Isn’t stuck down the cracks of my chair. It has at least temporarily gone missing. I’m sure it will turn up at some point, in a car, a pocket, or some place I normally wouldn’t set it down.

Also yesterday as I continued to knit on my fingerless mitts, I realized that somehow, I had crossed yarn balls and both mitts were knit from one ball, linking them together with a piece of yarn too short to just cut and weave in, so I had to begin tinking (knitting backwards) for a row on one mitt and another row on both. After doing that, I decided I didn’t like the thumb gusset on the fingers down pattern as I tried one on for fit, so I pulled the needle and frogged (ripped out stitches) for many rows to get back to where the thumb stitches were picked up. Then tediously and carefully picked up the stitches again in an order that would still allow me to knit two at a time, knit a couple of rows to make sure there were no missed stitched and all the stitches were turned the right way and decided to work the wrist up vanilla pattern I always use with a classic thumb gusset that will allow me to knit a real thumb. I am probably back about to the total length I was before yesterday’s error.

During this reknit project, the television was on to the news and talking heads that analyze everything going on and I was appalled at how a congresswoman who had been in the Capitol during last week’s siege would throw a toddler tantrum over not being allowed to carry a gun into the chambers, and how dozens of the rioters from last week and people interviewed at Trump’s bazaar charade of a visit to the Alamo and his incendiary speech there yesterday, exactly parrot his language to the exact phraseology. And they call those who don’t agree with them sheep. They call themselves patriots and true Americans, yet they attack our halls of government and threaten our lawmakers.

Next disaster, a relatively minor one today. Lunch was prepared, just grilled cheese sandwiches still sitting on the griddle pan on the stove, the plates with pickles served out beside them and I called hubby down to eat. In reaching up to get a glass for my water, he knocked another to the Silestone counter below the cabinet and it exploded sending glass shooting across the stove top, the adjacent counter where the plates were waiting, and all over the floor. After glass was cleaned up, lunch tossed in the garbage, counter tops and griddle and dishes washed, I started over.

On the positive side, the hydroponic herb garden that Son 2 and family gave me for Christmas has sprouted all 6 herbs. I check each day to see how much growth has occurred. The dill, thyme, and parsley are putting out secondary leaves, The mint and basils are above the rims of their planting baskets. That was such a great gift for a gardener suffering the off season doldrums that houseplants just don’t satisfy.

Back to chores, knitting, and spinning. Hmmm, I wonder where the pen is?

Happy New Year

The year ended with business paperwork showing an abysmal year for the shop. A putting away of last year and a clean house to start the new year. The last of the Christmas roast that had been frozen was thawed and warmed for supper last night with Huevos Rancheros on the schedule for the morning. We stayed up to watch the ball drop over the empty Times Square.

I started my double challenge spinning while watching another 30 minutes of new year festivities after midnight.

Yesterday, I knit the first square for the blanket as a test, using wool spun in November and December, and though it will be part of the finished blanket, it doesn’t count in the challenge. The wool I am starting with is BFL, 2 ounces each of the two colors above, Parrot Head and Kingfisher. One will start a new square after enough is spun and that will be my official one for the challenge, the other will be added to the square under them to provide the finishing corner of the blanket when all the quadrants of 4 breeds each are sewn together. The two spindles are “new” (within the past 5 weeks) and the fiber new at Christmas, so that satisfies the second challenge.

The morning brought an awakening thought that I had no eggs, so no Huevos for the Rancheros. He got cheese enchiladas and sausage instead. Our weekly curbside groceries were ready shortly after and again, the substitution or lack there of was a problem. It is frustrating that simple common sense can’t be used in offering substitutions. But it did get me the collards and black eyed peas that I will enjoy tonight as hubby has ham, au gratin potatoes, and something green. I enjoy corn bread with it, but have gotten frustrated that I make an 8″ skillet of it and half ends up going to the chickens before it all gets eaten. Maybe I should look for a tiny cast iron skillet and divide the recipe so that there are only 4 slices instead of 8.

The new year started rainy and cold but the rest of the week looks lovely. Tomorrow there is no official Farmer’s Market, but a few vendors have offered pre orders with a short window pick up. We will drive in to get eggs and some veggies. Next week, the winter markets begin.

Let’s hope that the vaccines get distributed fairly and quickly and that there are no more incidents of deliberate waste of them. Let’s also hope that the “adults” that hold positions in our House and Senate, act like adults and move the election result to completion. This year has to be better than last. A new grandson last January, socially distanced meet ups with our children and their families a few times, and my spindle spinning and knitting have gotten me through the past year.

The January Challenges

Being home all the time reinforced the old school skills that I already practiced, such as growing vegetable and flower gardens, cooking at home (though I do miss eating out in a restaurant occasionally), baking bread, making soap and other body and household products, spinning, and knitting or weaving. However, the bread baking, soap making, and spinning needed to be moderated. The freezer filled with breads, soap wasn’t selling online and there were no craft shows, and spinning on my wheel produces more yarn than I can knit up and again, there were few sales in my shop and no craft shows.

Slowing down some of the skills was easy, but slowing down the spinning required some thought. I began spinning with spindles, top whorl drop spindles. Over time I discovered Turkish spindles, bottom whorl spindles, supported spindles, Dealgans, and Mayan spinners. I never got the hang of supported spindles, the Dealgan, Mayan spinner, and my two whorl spindles are only used when I am doing a demonstration at a camp or school (not this past year unfortunately), but the Turkish spindles I fell in love with them. I have had several from different makers, and artists. Trust me, some are as rough in quality as tinker toys, some beautiful but heavy for their size and still somewhat blocky in appearance, then I discovered Jenkins spindles. The quality if far above any of the others, the arms are sleek, the shafts smooth, slender, and well turned. I have tried most of the sizes he makes, some have come and gone from the ones I own and some replaced with the same style and size but in different wood or different weight. His three mid sized spindles are my favorite and I have one of each. Hubby managed to get me the middle of my mid sized ones for my birthday and it is by far my favorite.

To slow down my spinning, I returned to my spindles. They are portable, one is always with me if we go out to pick up groceries or on the two occasions we got to do socially distanced meet ups with Son 1 and family. My spinning is even and consistent. My mind settles into a calm rhythm, stress melts away.

When I discovered the Jenkins spindles, I also discovered a social media group for those spindles and I have made dozens of new friends worldwide that share the same passion and the group had an ongoing challenge for 2020 to spin at least 25 grams (less than an ounce) a month. Sidebars to that challenge were to spin a rare or threatened breed and do knit, crochet, weave, felt, rug hook, or otherwise create a finished object using at least 25 grams of yarn you had spun on the Jenkins spindle. I didn’t discover the group or the challenges until too late in March to participate, but joined in for the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th quarters of the year. Some months, I spun an entire 4 ounce braid, some months, spinning at least 15 minutes a day, less was done. In May and June, I spun and plied a braid of more than 4 ounces of gradient dyed wool with the intent of using it as the yoke of a sweater, then decided not to knit the sweater. The skein of over 500 yards of yarn went into my shop and didn’t sell, so a couple weeks ago, it was wound into balls and knitted to complete my second finished object of the month.

This group has filled a hole left by not being able to go to the local spinning group each week. As the year is winding to a close and we can slam the door on 2020, but knowing that we are still social distancing, the group challenge for the year is called the Breed Blanket Project 2021. The object is to spin on Jenkins spindles, monthly, enough of a pure breed to knit, crochet, or weave 1/12th per month of a blanket to finish at least baby blanket sized by the end of the year.

I decided I wanted to learn to ply on the fly (spin and ply in one pass of the fiber). I practiced it for a few days and though I can do it, I don’t like the yarn I was producing, so I will return to spinning singles and plying them for the yarn. My spindle spinning produces a yarn that depending on whose standards you are using is light fingering or heavy lace weight yarn. I had 115.5 yards of a pure breed, Jacob, spun, plyed, and washed and decided to use it to get gauge and see how much yarn it is going to take to produce the squares I will use. The blanket I am going to make will be 56″ x 56″ at the end of the year, but I will probably knit a border on it when it is assembled to make it closer to 60″. The sample I am doing can’t be counted toward the blanket as I can’t begin spinning that yarn until January 1, but I will continue knitting, using up mini skeins and make a throw pillow out of it. I have lined up the 12 breeds I will spin. Each 28″ square will take 4 months and will have 3 natural colored breeds and 1 dyed fiber of another breed. Here are some of the dyed fiber I will spin.

With them and another dyed fiber in route to me, I will use natural grays, whites, and browns. It should be a fun challenge.

When I wheel spun yarn for the Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em challenge, I had considered using them for a breed blanket, but knit the half hap shawl instead.

Along the way, there will be pop up challenges, the first is something new. My new will be new fiber, the teal and multi color in the left side of the photo, the fiber hubby gave me for Christmas on a new spindle (one acquired in November or December so my birthday spindle. A side part of this challenge is to use an Aegean spindle, so I will also use the one on the right in the top photo, the one with the dandelion painted on it. This fiber is a pure breed, so it will satisfy both challenges at once.

So socially distanced, hoping for a vaccine soon enough to make at least some going out safer, I will relax and spin the challenges, chatting with the friends I have made worldwide in this group. Spindles have been my sanity for the past 10 months.