Saturday, July 25, 2009

Something New, Something FINISHED

Look at the lovely new handspun! I won this by sponsoring Laura Coffey on her MS Ride. She is from Pennsylvania. Thanks, Laura, I can hardly wait to use this in a project.

And I finally finished a project--the second blanket for Victory Junction. This is, of course, a Mason-Dixon Log Cabin. I added a couple of strips on each end and an I-cord border to meet the size requirements. I'll be sending this and the previous blanket to the Victory Junction Gang group on Ravelry. They will be delivered in one big bunch. The yarn is Red Heart Super Saver. The blankets have to be very durable and washable for this project. I would like to find an acrylic that is easier on my hands, but those don't seem to come in the bright race car colors that are needed for this project. The Red Heart washes up very nicely and makes a soft durable blanket--and the colors are bright and cheerful.

Remember that I am posting book reviews on my Shelfari shelf in the sidebar of my blog. HOWEVER, my reviews of Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion seem to have disappeared from Shelfari and have been replaced by the Barnes and Noble reviews that go with the edition of the book I have pictured. Ironically, those were the two books that I actually reviewed on my blog, so you can click on the titles above to read the review.
Also, for all you sheepy people, someone just sent me this link to a rather entertaining video:

Monday, July 20, 2009

The "High Plains"

The summer is over halfway over, and I've not kept my promise to write regularly about my part of the United States. One of the things that we have difficulty explaining to people who think they know what Texas is like is that we live at altitude. I remember a few years ago trying to explain to a Swiss tour guide that our party was not going to get altitude sickness at 4000 feet. She never believed that we were used to it. She just kept repeating, "But you are from Texas."

We live on a great geologic formation called the Llano Estacado. The Wikipedia article will tell you probably more than you will ever need to know about the real thing. The altitude of my home is 4019 feet--an irritating height because high altitude baking mix directions vary so much. When we went on vacation a couple of weeks ago, I snapped this picture out the car window as we were going down off the western edge of the escarpment. In the distance you can see across the valley through which the Canadian River flows. This particular spot is between two dams, the ones forming Conchas Lake and Ute Lake.

Now, for how to talk like a native--Don't ever say, "The other day as I was driving down the escarpment," or "down the edge of the Llano Estacado." No native actually says that, even though we know what it means. We even use the phrase Llano Estacado in business and advertising. However, the local term is "Caprock," as in "He's running some cattle over by Forrest just on the edge of the Caprock." Some oldtimers even shorten it to "Cap." They may also apply the word "breaks" to where the land transitions back to lower altitude although "breaks" is also a word applied to any rough land with vegetation. When I was a child, the edge of the Caprock worried me. I regarded being on top of it as the norm, and whenever we drove off of it, on the way to Dallas, for example, I was always looking for the spot where you went back up on the other side, as you do when you cross a valley. I was in school before I got it straight in my head.

Yes, I'm knitting daily. I'm trying to finish my Victory Junction Blanket because it's reached the point of being bulky to have around.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Different Fiber Experience

Because of a demonstration I saw a couple of years ago, I have become interested in the idea of a triloom. I didn't want to make a significant investment, either of the time to build one or the money to buy one, without trying out the technique. This is a 30" triloom made from a kit from Hideaway Homestead's Etsy store. It is plywood rather than hardwood, and I supplied and hammered in my own nails. The yarn is some Paton's Classic Merino that I had on hand. Because it is a variagated yarn, it made a pseudoplaid pattern when woven. The loom has a 1/2" sett, which means that I probably should have used a double yarn, but I was just trying things out.

This is the completed scarf on the loom, with fringe, which I put on wrong but still seems to look ok.

This is the scarf off the loom. I think it "shrunk" about 3 inches. I don't know if that means that I was weaving too tightly. I didn't think so.

The next step is fulling. I have agitated the wool twice in hot water, once with Eucalan and once without. Although it has bloomed some, I can't tell the weave has tightened much. I'll make another picture and post when it dries. Perhaps I should have fulled more energetically, but I am a little concerned about felting since this yarn is sort of the felter's friend.
Did I enjoy doing this project? Yes. It is faster than knitting and uses less yarn and the effect of the weaving pattern on the yarn is astounding. However, I think I would enjoy one of the bigger looms that rests on an easel more. This one is almost too big for a lap loom--very awkward for me to maneuver without knocking something over. Also, I don't have much use for little scarves like this.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Jane Austen #3--Sense and Sensibility

Sense and Sensibility is one of Austen's early works. The two eldest Dashwood sisters are memorable characters. The book is brilliant, particularly for a first-published novel. Probably because this is an early novel, Austen is quick to tell us about characters when they are introduced rather than showing us the characters in action and letting the reader make judgements about the quality of the individual. One notable exception is the memorable little scene in which we and Elinor first see Robert Ferrars as an unknown and most pettily pretentious gentleman ordering a toothpick case. Only later does Elinor realize exactly who he is, but our, and her, opinions of the man are already formed.

This book was the first of Austen's novels to be published; the novel later titled Pride and Prejudice was turned down. Perhaps this book is less disturbing to the status quo. Willoughby, rather than being an unredeemable villain, is excused from some of his wickedness, even though a modern reader really wants to bring him to the attention of Child Protective Services. Elinor and Marianne each remain basically unchanged and still have satisfactory outcomes. Col. Brandon appreciates Marianne's "drama queen" qualities; Elinor's common sense and steadfastness turn out to be just right for life in the parsonage. There is almost no troubling change in the female characters, even though Marianne does become aware that Elinor would have handled the Willoughby situation far differently if their places had been exchanged.

UPDATE: Courtesy of my DD.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A Knitter's Addition to the Previous Post

In addition to literary analysis of Persuasion, it should be noted that Austen delves a little bit into the therapeutic nature of knitting as it concerns the recovery of her old school friend Mrs. Smith. Since that topic is often discussed on Knitter's Review, I thought it was worth pointing out that it is not just a modern idea.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Jane Austen #2--Persuasion

Persuasion has all the elements of the usual Jane Austen novel--an independent-minded heroine; the reserved man you just know will end up with her; his rival who is too good to be true, at least temporarily; and an assortment of misunderstandings, inheritance issues, and other plot complications. This novel, however, strikes me as being more mature than her earlier works, which is, I suppose, logical. Anne is older. Her family is less amusing and more hurtful. Emma's father loves her; the mother in Sense and Sensibility is admirable in the face of difficulties; even Mrs. Bennet is doing what she thinks is right for her daughters; however, Anne's father does not care for her; the oldest sister is downright mean; the youngest sister is Lydia allowed to hang around and make life painful for everyone in the vicinity. I also have the feeling that Austen must have admired her brother the sea captain very much.

I read this novel by listening to the audio version recorded on Librivox by Elizabeth Klett (Gloriana). Her readings are excellent--and free.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

A Couple of Fibery Visits

One of the great pleasures of our short trip was getting to go somewhere that had something to do with my fiber interests. I had allotted
a day to get there and to locate them. The actual locations turned out to be on the same road about a mile or so apart, so we spent much less time wandering around than I had anticipated.
The first place was Victory Alpaca Ranch in Mora, NM. I think they show up at some of the big fiber events. I know their web site is quite nice. The only alpacas I had ever seen were in little pens. These animals look much happier:
There were mothers with crias:

The shop with their products and many other gift and fiber choices was lovely. There was a gorgeous shawl that I have a good mental picture of. For sale, they had their own handspun, but it was out of my price range. They also had some roving, but what I saw was either dyed or in very small packs. Then I saw these bundles. Even though they are just carded, and the lady gave me instructions as if I were going to felt, I handspun a little bit of the fiber, and it worked beautifully. I will probably blend with wool anyway, so it will go through the carder again. (If this is the wrong thing to do, will someone please let me know.)

The next stop was on the corner of the turn to Victory Alpaca. The name of the business is Tapetes de Lana. It is a weaving center with several looms, only one of which was weaving at the time, and a new spinning facility out back. They produce yarns mostly for weaving, including very interesting Churro yarn that has lots of personality. The lady did show me some yarn blended from Cotswold and Rambouillet that she intended for knitters. They hope to produce more of that kind of yarn since they have expanded the mill. I bought three skeins of yarn that I plan to use on a triangle loom if I ever get one made. I actually have a small one already. I was also interested in the dye used.

Left to right, these are dyed with madder, indigo, and osage orange. For those of us who know that last one as bois d'arc or "bodark," a very tough wood used in fence posts, the idea of using it as a dye is rather interesting. The wool is Cotswold, spun to a rather firm worsted twist.
This business is a workshop designed to train workers and preserve crafts. They have sort of a fiber club that will be sending out samples of various yarns as they develop their products. They also have some looms and rugs on display at a coffeshop on the Plaza in Las Vegas. We looked at them as well.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

There's More than One Las Vegas!

We took a 3-day, 2-night vacation to Las Vegas. This one:

Las Vegas, New Mexico, a rather unique community located not too far from where we live as the miles go, but more of a distance culturally. We've been through this town several times, but never actually stayed there. Originally one of the Spanish Land Grant towns of New Mexico, Las Vegas became a center for the cattle industry in the late 1800s. Several movies have been filmed there, including one of the hot films of my college days, Easy Rider.

After an easy morning's drive, complicated only by lack of a good map, we arrived in town, only to discover that the good highway map was printed on the back of the "scenic" drive version that we had been using. We had simply neglected to turn it over. Actually, we could have gotten there just fine without a map, I think, but it's always nice to be sure. I had directions to the hotel, but we had a little trouble finding it at first. That turned out to be highly ironic, because in our journeys around town during our stay, we kept looping back to the Plaza without intending to.

Our reservations were at the Plaza Hotel, built in 1882, on one side of the oval Spanish Colonial Plaza in Old Town. The hotel lobby still obviously had the original hardwood floor showing between some nice carpets. When we checked in, we were, of course, given our keys. No electronic-coded, credit-card type keys here--brass keys and a brass key ring, with the identifying hotel insignia almost worn off:

Our room was topnotch, other than the mess we made of it. The furnishings were antique, except for the flat screen tv and the mattress, thank heavens. The ceiling was 12 ft., and the second floor window overlooked the plaza out front. The bed was comfortable, with great pillows and double sheets over and under the blanket. I thought the bedcoverings were somewhat unusual: the bed skirt appeared to be a pleated silk, but the coverlet was a white cotton quilt.

We had dinner one evening and morning breakfast in the Landmark Grill downstairs. Notice the beautiful stencilled border around the top of the room. You can't see it in this crowded picture, but the wainscoting around the room is a Chinese red. The colors worked beautifully together. We had Cobb Salads for dinner, and they were excellent, served with all the elegant touches. The breakfast came with the hotel room, but it was cooked to order.

This crowd was interesting. There were two tables of teachers who were in town for an AP Institute at the nearby New Mexico Highlands University a few blocks up the street--the few blocks between the Spanish plaza and the 21st century science and technology building with the astronomical observatory on the top covering a big leap in time. And just on the other side of the University a block or two is an original Carnegie Library, patterned after Monticello, and still in use. The rest of the room was filled with a group of people who drive Buicks. Big Buicks. They had been at a meeting in Colorado Springs and were taking a week to travel as far as St. Louis together before splitting up. The cars were in great shape, but were not the polished just-for-show classics. We did, however, hear a couple of irate men complaining because the station where they had gotten gas had a canopy that dripped some dew onto the windshields of their cars. One of the cars was, I think, a Roadmaster from probably the 1960s. The trunk was HUGE! Anyway, they were an interesting group to observe.

We did a little bit of antiquing in a shop or two around Old Town and New Town--which is not really new, just newer. My dear husband also took me to some fibery places, which I'll write about in a separate post. Otherwise, we just took it easy for a couple of days, drove around looking at the hundreds of buildings in this town that are on the National Register of Historic Places, and ate Mexican food at a couple of spots recommended by locals. Mexican food is abundant where we live, but we knew from experience that there is a regional difference in food as well.

I could not pass by this shop:

I love a good pun. The store was well-organized, with a large children's section in the back, a used book section, gifts, and current books, as befits a community with two vastly different kinds of colleges and a community college.

I was pleased to find used copies of an Elizabeth Peters that I have not read and two of the Dorothy Sayers books I've been trying to chase down to read again.:

What was my overall impression of Las Vegas as a vacation spot? For our purposes, it was just what we needed. We were not looking for a crowd or for a lot of activities; in fact, we wanted a little bit of peace and quiet for a couple of days. I also think that the Plaza Hotel would be a good place to stay if you were on vacation and had been "doing" Santa Fe or Taos and were looking for a refuge from some of the crowds that plague those places in the summertime. The facilities at the hotel were excellent; the service was good, but it is definitely small town service, not the snap-your-fingers-bellman-to-the-front service of a big city hotel. This is a hotel with a bed and breakfast flavor, which is fine with me.

Happy Independence Day

I'm sorry this is a little bit late!

Sunday, July 05, 2009


  • A good way to spend the 4th of July--In between loads of laundry and some cooking, I watched ALL of the miniseries The Revolution on the History Channel, followed by the Firecracker 400 from Daytona.
  • The extra tv time let me FINALLY get my February Lady Sweater back to the point before the first frogging. Then I stopped. I'm having to do math, and I wasn't in the mood for all that counting. For race time knitting, I worked on one of the blankets I'm knitting for the Victory Junction Gang Camp--a log cabin in red, orange, yellow, green, blue acrylic to meet the camp specifications.
  • Today I'm packing for a vacation. This is our first in 3 years or so. I need to decide on sock yarn and get my sock bag packed. I'm also going to stick in my spindle and the batts I'm spinning. I'm taking my laptop as well, and if things work out, I will blog from the road with pictures. "If things work out" means that I've never used my laptop with WiFi before, so I hope I can get things to work. The first two days of our trip, we are going somewhere I found out about last winter--lovely old hotel, I hope, fiber-related sites, and some interesting shopping. With reservations--hotel reservations! From there, we will go on to my DH's kind of vacation--totally unplanned, no reservations, no set agenda, which means we may do something fun or come back home and spend a couple of quiet days. For me, relaxing means that I know that when I get to the destination, which I have had lots of fun planning for, there will be a room and amenities waiting for me. For him, that is a schedule and a "have-to" and spoils the spontaniety of being off work. After 30 something years of marriage, we still haven't worked out a change in attitude on either of our parts, so this is a compromise.
  • Edited to add: Travel sock project will be Blackrose socks in Mountain Colors Bearfoot colorway Gray Wolf.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Jane Austen Challenge #1

Being off work and able to watch a movie early in the morning is fun!

I kicked off the Jane Austen Challenge by watching The Jane Austen Book Club. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I was disappointed. The premise of women helping each other by using Austen's works, first as a pretext, and then later because they found that the different works spoke to their needs, was an interesting one.

I was upset, however, by one of the storylines. Perhaps because I am a teacher myself, I was horrified by the behavior of the teacher who was becoming romantically involved with the student. All our sympathy was supposed to be with her problems, and we were supposed to feel that she stopped in time--no harm, no foul. Well, I'm sorry, folks. She was already way across the line. I'm just glad she didn't go farther. Not to mention that the little make out scene in the school parking lot (faculty parking lot?) which made them both late for class was ridiculous.

I also noticed that this movie errs, I believe, in the same way other modern readings of Austen sometimes do. She may have commented directly on the ironies of the social system of her day, but she would not qualify as a radical feminist.