Friday, February 25, 2011

Fiber Arts Friday: Designated Hitter

With my fiber funk over the last couple of weeks, I have not finished spinning the second skein of Aspen, so I had to leave my quasi-commissioned piece waiting patiently at home and bring my designated hitter to Minneapolis with me this week.

This piece is very small and easy to travel with.  I'm making it for myself which means it has no deadline.  So I only pick it up when I'm unable to work on other projects.  Which means it's been a while since I've mentioned it.  I am making this nightcap with yarn taken from an old favorite sweater.

I have just started the decreases.  They are every third round so this hat will have a very long "peak" that should flop over and reach near the shoulder when finished.

Also, now that I'm beyond the lacey portion, I am using up the smaller balls of yarn.  There will be a lot of ends to weave in, but this way I reserve the larger balls for an eventual pair of socks.

I am ready for spring.  It has been very spring-like at home in Colorado (even if it doesn't look like it this morning).  It is still very much winter in Minnesota.  So I am resorting to baseball metaphores to get me through.  ;-)

Please be certain  to head over to Wisdom Begins in Wonder and give all of the Fiber Artists there some comment luv.  Happy Fiber Arts Friday and Think Spring!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Fiber Arts Friday: Just a Little

Since I finished the Plumber Sweater and had the yarn shortage on my other project, I haven't been feeling very fiber-y.

I don't think it's a bad thing.  It's just part of the natural ebb and flow of creativity.  We can't always be on or working.  Our bodies and brains need a break sometimes.  So I only have a small bit of spinning to share this week.

I bet everyone else has a lot more to share since it's Fiber Arts Friday over at Wisdom Begins in Wonder.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


The first pair of jeans I ever bought for myself... actually, the very first piece of clothing I ever bought for myself with my own, hard-earned money was a pair of Levi's 501 shrink-to-fit jeans.  They were the thing at the time and Levi's jeans have been my thing ever since.

Levi's jeans were originally created out of a need for gold miners to have durable, comfortable clothing.  While I've never been a gold miner, I have always found the 501 jeans to be durable and comfortable.  I was a loyal customer.

Then they lost their way.

In an effort to stay relevant to the younger crowd, Levi's introduced many different cuts and materials, over the last 15 years or so.  I was still able to find my 501's but it became more and more difficult because the shelves were filled with styles that seemed to all have the elastic/stretchy crap blended in.

You can't wear stretchy jeans for several days before washing because they lose their shape and then don't fit right. They are not durable. They fall apart and rip way too easily.  They are not the kind of jeans I want to have.

Then Sunday morning, I was wearing my very last pair of 501's.  They are well worn and barely holding together.  They fit like a glove and wearing these jeans is like being at home.

I was feeling down on Levi's.  Here I was wearing my very last pair.  A product I had been supporting for 30 years.  A product that was very much a part of who I am and I was mad at them for turning their back on where they came from. 

Then I was at a farm and ranch store nearby picking up supplies and decided to check out their clothing section.  I was thinking I might try out a pair of Wranglers (blasphemy for a Levi's wearer) or Carharts when I noticed they had a small section of Levi's jeans... and wait... 501's and wait one more time... Women's cut 501's in my size!  Cue the choir of angels, I was in Heaven.

I bought two pairs and told the clerk how excited I was to find them there.

I can't say I'm too optimistic that Levi's has suddenly re-discovered their self, but I am very happy to see they are still making the 501's.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Going for a Walk

Hubba and I decided to take The Alpaca Dog and Yoda the Alpaca for a walk in the neighborhood.

It was Yoda's first time off the property.  There were lots of surface changes a few dogs barking, a couple of cars passing by and several neighbors came out to say hi.

We brought a bowl of feed to reward him for doing the scary things.  He did very well and we had a great time.

Too bad we didn't get a photo of the four of us walking down the street.  I imagine it being quite a sight. ;-)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Elk in Estes Park

You are almost guaranteed to see elk when you visit Estes Park, Colorado.  Yesterday was no exception.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Livestock Guardian Dog

Hubba and I have been talking about Livestock Guardian Dogs (LGD) for a couple of years.  With the biggest part of the conversation being educating our family and friends about the difference between guardian and herding dogs.

I was surprised by how many people suggested a Blue Heeler as a good solution to the statement, "We're looking for a guardian dog."

Since our herd and property are both relatively small, we do not need to drive our alpacas from one pasture to another and therefore do not need a herding dog.

Our need is for protection from predators such as neighborhood dogs, coyote and the occasional mountain lion or bear.

We hear coyotes nearby but haven't seen them... yet. We have friends who live closer to the mountains that had a mountain lion in their alpaca yard a couple of years ago and another had a bear destroy the hot tub on their porch last summer.  We also hear of elk and moose coming into town occasionally and know two breeders who have lost alpacas to neighborhood dogs.

I have no doubt that The Alpaca Dog would do anything to protect me or Hubba given imminent danger, but when it comes to strange dogs in our pasture, he is excited to make new friends.

So the conversation has continued.

We've talked about different breeds, whether an older dog with experience would be better than a puppy and whether males or females would be a better choice.  We've met and talked with a few breeders and have finally made a decision.

This precious Tibetan Mastiff will be coming home with us in a few weeks.

It will be a while before she's on full-time duty.  We first need ensure she and the alpacas are comfortable with each other and that she knows her territory.

While she's a very big puppy, she's too small and young to be left alone with the alpacas for now.  We also need to make sure she knows that she can be rambunctious with The Alpaca Dog, but not with the alpacas.

We will be puppy-proofing a few things before she comes home as well as settling on her name.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Fiber Arts Friday: Need More Yarn

I had been working on my quasi-commission project for a few weeks when I ran out of yarn at about 75% complete.  :-(

I used the hand-spun Aspen I wrote about a few weeks ago.

When I wound it on my niddy-noddy, the yardage came out shorter than I expected, but I told myself that I had mis-counted.  Of course, that wasn't true.  My counting skills are just fine.

I spun the yarn a little thicker than I had intended and I suppose the alpaca/silk blend weighs more than the merino/bamboo blend I used on an earlier version of this project.

Does anyone know of a table that compares fibers and weights?  I think that could be helpful when planning future projects.

Anyway, I knew for sure that I would run out a couple of weeks ago.  So I called my supplier and asked for just 4 more ounces.

My supplier had just placed an order with her supplier.  So it would be a couple of weeks before she has the roving. Then she had to dye it.  It just arrived yesterday, so now I have to spin it.  It's a long and complicated supply chain.  Ok, it isn't that long nor that complicated, but this is a dramatic story.  ;-)

The new roving is of the same colorway, but a different lot, which means the color may not match exactly.  I'm hopeful that I will be able to overcome that issue when the time comes.

So here's a little teaser... the alpaca/silk known as Aspen knit up.

Make your Friday great by visiting Wisdom Begins in Wonder and the rest of the Fiber Arts Friday Folks.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Automated Bathroom

I dislike automated bathroom fixtures... with a passion.

Why must they always in a state of disrepair?

There's the soap dispenser that won't dispense.  The water faucet that won't turn on or will turn on but then not off.  The toilet that flushes while you're still sitting on it.  The hand dryers that won't turn on or turns off as soon as you move your hand from the sensor to the air flow.  And how about those paper towel dispensers that give you two inches or nothing?

Then when the power goes out you can't flush or wash.

Why do these things have to be electric?  What was wrong with the old-fashioned mechanical devices?

Don't tell me a paper-less bathroom is cleaner, because I've been in my share of paper-less swamps.

And while I'm on my soap-box, why are the towels/dryers so far away from the sinks in airport bathrooms? 

Dear Architect - you know we can't leave our bags unattended.  Your design makes me get my baggage handles wet which I also dislike.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Giving Handmade

Last weekend, I had the privilege of giving my hand-knit plumber sweater to our neighbor.

I had worked on it for what seemed like an eternity and was both thrilled and stunned to be finished.  Then I felt a little sad to think about giving it away.  However, as I became comfortable with the idea that the sweater was finished, I became excited to give it away.

I have given away most of my hand-knits, so I was a little surprised by the range of my feelings.  I think it's because handmade items have a piece of us in them.  It is scary to give away something you have poured yourself into.  There is always the question of whether they will like it or whether they will appreciate it.  That's a big place for fear to settle in and grow.

Hubba was super excited about the sweater being complete and ready to give to our neighbor so I let him call to see about a good time to stop over.  Our neighbor offered to stop by our place on his way out so Hubba told him "Great!  We have something for you to look at anyway."

As he came in the door, I assured him we did not have any plumbing for him to look at.  I told him how he's been a great neighbor and I wanted to say Thank You.  He was touched and the sweater fits perfectly.

My heart is full of joy.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


As the hay stack gets smaller, I find myself counting bales more often.  Continually re-figuring out how long until we need to buy more and considering whether we bought appropriately last time.

I don't really worry about the feed and minerals too much.  We use Ranch-Way which is made in Fort Collins just a few miles away.  So we have very easy access to the feed.  But the hay and alfalfa, I think about.  A lot.

Today we have 39 bales of hay and 10 bales of alfalfa. At a half-bale of hay per day and one bale of alfalfa per week, it should keep everyone well fed until mid-April-ish.

That means the hay we bought is lasting about as planned.  However, now that I'm thinking about the idea of buying hay in April, I suspect I should buy enough to bridge us to August-ish then buy for a year at a time.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Fiber Arts Friday: The Plumber Sweater is Complete!

I really can't believe it.  I even had a different post planned for today, but after 15 months and 10.25 skeins of alpaca yarn, the Plumber Sweater is complete!  [Cue Audience Applause]

Once I got past the first few decreases, the rounds started going quite fast and I became obsessed with finishing.  Finally having to put it down with less than 3 rounds to go because I couldn't keep my eyes open.

Now, a couple of days later the rounds are completed, the bind off is completed, the Kitchener stitched armpits are completed, all of the ends are woven in and I can't really believe it.  I just want to sit here and stare at it.

My very first knitted sweater is complete!  Isn't it pretty?  ;-)

If you're interested in the sweater's progress here are links to part 6, part 5, part 4, part 3, part 2 and finally the reason why it was started.

I'm very happy to have this sweater completed and excited to give it to our neighbor, I sure hope it fits.

Happy Fiber Arts Friday!  Please head over to The Wonder Why Gal's blog and see what the others have been up to.