Saturday, November 17, 2007

Well . . .

Not much to say. I've been persistently ill lately and the doc and I are trying to get to the bottom of it. Tests, ER visits, yuck, blah, blah, blah.

Got some knitting done whilst lying on the couch but it's mostly holiday gifts, so no pix.

Still here, still slogging, back with a more peppy, cheery blog as soon as possible.

You're my favorite sister, even if Mom does like you best!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Too Long

Okay, I can tell it's been too long since I blogged when I go to download pictures from the camera and see that there are still things on there from three weeks ago.

I have been busy!

I went to a Natalie McMaster concert -- fifth row! Brilliant!

I finished spinning my gray mohair. I have stealth plans for this yarn.

I survived Open House at school.

I went to the Feast of the Hunter's Moon in Lafayette.

I am recovering from the sudden attack of a two-day cold (no pictures).

I'm trying not to envy everyone at Rhinebeck.

Today I ventured into the kitchen for more dyeing.

"Before" picture of the gray mohair. I don't really like the gray color.

"Before" picture of the too-bright yellow. I bought it for a project with primary colors that got frogged to turn into something else.

Enter the Kool-Aid.

"After" pictures -- cooling. The red and green look so Christmas-y.

We'll see how they do rinsed, dried and skeined. Stay posted.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

What I Learned on Summer Vacation

Okay, here are the musings on my experience that I promised. Since I'm limited on time, it is in the form of my interim report to the Lilly Endowment. The report is due Sept. 30; nothing like procrastination. The report requires introspection, so if you're not that into discovering aspects of my personal growth feel free to skip it! :-)

The stated purpose of my proposal was to purchase a spinning wheel and fibers necessary to create handspun yarn, as well as participate in spinning workshops in Nova Scotia. I planned to create handspun yarn for a one-of a kind knitted sweater. Upon return to Indiana, I hoped to use my spinning skills to demonstrate for students the process of turning natural resources into finished goods.

Using funds from the grant I purchased a Majacraft Rose spinning wheel. This is a high-quality wheel made in New Zealand and one that is versatile enough to meet a spinner’s needs for a lifetime. I planned and carried out my visit to Nova Scotia. This trip included two weeks of workshops at the Spinner’s Loft. While in Nova Scotia I also explored the province’s fiber community with visits to historical sites, sheep farms, and an alpaca farm and fiber mill.

I have yet to set up a demonstration for students. The beginning of the school year is so hectic for all concerned and teachers have not yet reached the point in the social studies curriculum which my demonstration would address. I plan to work with the teachers over the course of the school year to showcase this production process when appropriate. In addition, although I have begun spinning for my planned sweater, producing enough yarn for the project is quite time-consuming. I expect this to be an on-going task which will take most of the school year.

Although I have done most of what I planned with the project, so much of it has been unexpected. Above all, this experience offered me more than I expected. I learned so much more than just how to spin, I was offered more opportunities than I anticipated, and I was changed more than I foresaw.

Learning to spin was a challenge, in no small part because I had to step outside of my usual learning styles. I am very much a visual learner. I process things best by reading (no surprise in a librarian). I even learned to knit by teaching myself from a book. I prepared extensively for my trip by researching the area I was to visit. It became a joke among Leslie (the teacher) and Paula (my fellow student) during the workshops that any place they mentioned I had read about.

During the spinning workshops, however, I was immersed in tactile experiences. Both Leslie and Paula assimilated knowledge by doing, rather than reading or seeing. I was forced to do the same. Although Leslie demonstrated and explained all the steps involved, I could not simply follow directions in order to spin. There was too much information I could not understand until I experienced the work. It required lots of practice, literally feeling my way through the fiber. It was only as I practiced later the next week that I began to see clearly the various parts of the process that had been explained earlier. I began to have a better understanding of students who learn by this method.

The grant also opened doors and created opportunities otherwise unavailable to me. Although the financial support made this experience possible, the credibility factor was important as well. Instead of showing up off the street and asking to see behind the scenes at a historic site or to visit valuable farm animals, explaining that I was on a grant to study the fiber community gave my requests a certain legitimacy. If the Lilly Endowment gave me their money, surely I was trustworthy. In addition, people went out of their way to suggest other contacts I should pursue while in the area. I will add, however, that there was a certain amount of incredulity outside of the fiber community when I explained what I was doing. Generally people found it hard to believe that teachers would be given money “just” to explore areas of interest to themselves. It was yet another example of why this fellowship program is so rare and valued.

Finally, I was surprised at the amount of personal growth I experienced as part of this program. I fully expected to learn the skill of spinning. I did not foresee the amazing jump in self confidence that traveling on my own coupled with learning a new skill would produce. The logistics of being away from home for five weeks required a lot of planning. In addition to fitting all expenses into my budget, travel produced unexpected situations to be met. Whether dealing with the discovery that I had planned a drive of too many hours for one day or that there was no air conditioning in the dormitory during a week of 90 degree temperatures, I was left to my own devices to find solutions. Doing so more or less successfully showed me I can face everyday challenges at work with aplomb as well.

Simply leaving behind the day to day experience of my life, which had fallen into a rut, gave me new perspective on things as well. Every day did not have to fall into a routine. Change was exciting. On the other hand, the return home was comforting too. Although I settled back into my work routine within days, the memory of my experience reminds me that the four walls of my library truly are not the limits of my world.

Based on my new skills, my new confidence, and my new perspective, I hope to share my skills with students, complete the spinning of yarn for a sweater, and perhaps even begin a small Internet-based yarn business in the future. I would also highly recommend the Lilly Endowment Teacher Creativity program to fellow educators.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Stealth Knitting

Lots of stealth knitting going on now as we come into the pre-holiday knitting season. I'm still spinning but for some reason I'm really motivated to knit right now so I'm taking advantage of that feeling to get a jump on Christmas gifts.

I absolutely love the colors in this mystery object:

A unstealthy (is that a word?) finished object:

Scarf from my handspun Ashford wool top. Modeled by Bear. Bear normally lives in my memories cedar chest, but I thought she would be the perfect model. She's been around since I was in the single digits age-wise (my mom - a very talented seamstress - made her).

I believe the official name for this colorway is "Thunderstorm," but I'm going to call this the "Nova Scotia Summer" scarf. The colors remind me of my trip -- green for the foliage, orange for the sunrise, red for the dirt roads, and of course blue. Blue for the sky and the sea. Since it's all wool and very bulky yarn, it should keep me toasty warm during outdoor duties at school in the Indiana winter.

I have three other finished objects, but they are stealth projects, so no pix.

Lady Jane is not impressed.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Two Weeks?!?!

It's hard to believe it's been two weeks since I posted.

How to spend two weeks and hardly realize it:

1. Grocery/laundry/post office/clean/vacuum/bank/oil change/bills/work [life].

2. Put together two bookshelves.

3. Grade papers.

4. Spin some more alpaca single.

5. Knit (while reading if possible). Most of my knitting recently has been stealth projects for the upcoming holidays.

6. Begin spinning some merino.

7. Remember to blog!

Monday, September 3, 2007

I'm Still Here

Yes, I'm still here, in spite of a long silence due to my mom being in the hospital with complications from surgery and a couple of crazy weeks at work.

But the spinning and knitting go on (keeping me sane).

The first thing I've knitted from yarn I spun -- a small scarf from kid mohair. I love the colors blended with the brown.

More of the alpaca, although the bag of fiber left to spin still looks full. I've got about 330 yards of yarn now, so I'm hoping by the time I'm finished to have enough for a sweater. We'll see . . .

A sort of head scarf / wrap thingie a friend of mine found in a Spin-Off magazine and wasn't sure she could knit herself.

I think I look vaguely like a Russian grandmother in it, but Meghan is so elegantly stylish in a Victorian sort of way that I'm sure she can pull it off.

I've also snuck in some reading and audio books. I finished listening to The Island at the Center of the World by Russell Shorto, a rather lengthy but fascinating account of New York City's days as the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam. Recently read in print were Murder in Chinatown by Victoria Thompson (turn of the century NYC mystery), The Squire's Tale by Margaret Frazer (medieval mystery), and Three Bags Full by Leoni Swann, which defies categorization but is sort of mystery solved by sheep.

Labor Day weekend and labor is calling -- house to clean, errands to run, spinning to do! :-)

Monday, August 20, 2007

Quick Stuff

Not much time today, but a few things I wanted to post.

Shortly after returning from my trip, I completed my socks. Technically this is not my first pair of socks, as I had previously completed a set of toddler's socks in worsted weight. However, this is my first pair made to fit a specific set of feet (mine) and made with sock yarn. They're finished, fit, and look like socks, so wahoo!

I have been somewhat buried in piles of stuff to put away, laundry to do, house to clean, and starting school, but I have managed to get in some spinning and knitting. I have worked on the alpaca and have finished two skeins plus one bobbin of a single. The bag seems never ending, but since it was free and I hope to make a sweater, I am not complaining.

Spent time at the hospital today as my mother was having surgery, and made some progress on the shawl I have been working on for over a year. I'm down to about 30 rows left (it's one of those triangles where each repeat has two more stitches than the last), so I hope to post a FO picture soon.

Must return to the laundry. I should finish seating charts as well, but doing ten today was enough.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

First Day of School

Whew, I made it through the first day.

We only lost two kids getting them home, although I had to walk one down the street to the babysitter.

A second grader showed me his new shoes with fancy air input so his feet don't get stinky.

Another second grader told me he was acting grown up now because he takes pills.

I face the first graders tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Back Home Again in Indiana

I made it back!

5418 miles later

Sunday afternoon (July 29) after church I drove along the Marine Drive to Jeddore. It was foggy, but still beautiful and interesting.

Did I say interesting? Looming through the fog . . . the moose statue in Cow Bay.

Sunday night through Thursday (August 2), I stayed at the Jonah By the Sea B&B and spent the day with Leslie spinning. The B&B is run by Dora and Bill Jonah and I had a quiet, welcoming, and pretty room at the front of the house, with a view of Jeddore Rock. Dora’s breakfasts were amazing, and Dora and Bill were very friendly. Bill even knew of the Indiana Hoosiers basketball team!

One day I walked the mile or so to Leslie’s from the B&B so I could take some pictures of my “commute” along West Jeddore Road.

There's not much you can add about scenery this gorgeous.

This is from the walk back. Past the boat you can see Jeddore Rock at the mouth of Jeddore Harbor.

I’ve gotten everything hauled in from the car, and mostly in piles if not put away. The car needs another oil change and inside-and-out car wash! It’s got Cape Breton mud inside, and miles and miles of interstate bugs and dust on the outside.

The cat followed me around meowing the first afternoon. I guess she missed me! I met friends for lunch yesterday and I'm back to work today (now, that was poor planning on my part, since all I want to do is sleep and spin for a while).

I need to type up a narrative report for the grant foundation, and as I mentioned earlier, I want to muse a little on the whole experience. That will have to wait until at least the weekend though!

Many, many thanks to all who left comments – even if I didn’t get back to you I really appreciated them. I plan to keep the blog going, even if I won’t be having quite as exciting adventures in the days ahead. I also hope to post more of my pictures soon in albums on flickr for those who are gluttons for vacation photos.

Better Late Than Never

The following was what I intended to post to the blog on Sunday, July 29. Obviously, it didn’t get posted then, so here it is now.

This will probably be one of my last blog entries for a while – maybe until I get home? Tonight I’m headed out to East Jeddore again for four more days of spinning workshops. Then, the plan is to head home starting Friday morning. I have a bunch of thoughts and impressions of what I’ve gained from this trip, but I will post those when I have the chance to sit down and write with some coherence.

Yesterday (Saturday), as I left the dorm parking lot I saw this . . .

. . . followed immediately by this. I had to laugh.

I spent much of the morning at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic on the Halifax waterfront.

There’s a Titanic exhibit (Halifax was where the survivors and dead were brought) and a temporary pirates exhibit, but the most impressive was the exhibit on the Halifax Explosion of 1917.

There was also this incredibly annoying parrot that you could hear screeching all over the museum.

As much as I love FRED, I hate these. They are full of mindless tourists being herded (baaa, baaa) around town and into the harbor (literally). And they’re loud.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Another Promise

I'm home! I have some retro blogging I promise to do soon, but my computer's still on the fritz. I go back to work tomorrow, so hopefully I can update there and get Jim or Tim the techie men to fix my laptop.

Lots of pictures next update!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Home Soon

Leslie is letting me use her computer, so I just wanted to let everyone know I'm doing well and will probably not post again until I'm home. I will be spinning today, Wednesday, and Thursday, then leaving Friday with the aim to be home August 6.

Looking forward to seeing my friends and family!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Did I Say Cooler? I Did Say Alpacas!

Well, yesterday (Friday) was supposed to be cooler. Instead, it was the hottest day yet. 32 C. 90F. Of course I’m relying on the posted forecast here at Howe Hall.

Took my usual stroll downtown.

Down Sackville Street to the harbor. Yes, it really is that steep.

Posted the blog, then took the ferry across the harbor to Dartmouth for the view and the breeze. Dartmouth is Halifax’s working class neighbor and the hometown of Sydney Crosby. If you don’t know who that is, you’re a) not Canadian b) so not into hockey.

Whacking big ship coming into the harbor. Everyone here keeps saying that Halifax harbor is the second best / deepest harbor in the world. They don’t tell you what the first is. New York? Hong Kong? My inner geography nerd must find out.

Halifax skyline from Dartmouth.

World Peace Pavilion on the Dartmouth waterfront.

The World Peace Pavilion is closed. Insert ironic comment here.

McDonald Bridge with ferry from Dartmouth. Wouldn't that be a cool commute -- a ten minute boat ride to work?

Atlantic Seaside Farms

After going to and fro on the ferry, I got in the car for a drive out to Rose Bay, near Lunenburg. I was going to Atlantic Seaside Farms, where they raise Suri Alpacas.

The most direct route to the south shore or anywhere around the Northwest Arm from Dalhousie goes through the hateful Armdale Rotary, which is under major construction.

Oona and Christopher at the farm were extremely generous with their time and fiber. They took time out of a very busy day to show me around and explain alpacas. Although I knew I liked alpaca yarn, that was about it. Christopher gave me so much information that my head was spinning by the time I left. Therefore any mistakes here are mine. There are two kinds of alpaca: Huacaya and Suri.

The brown alpaca here is Huacaya. This is the “wooly” looking, curly-haired type of alpaca most people are used to seeing. Note: Alpacas do not produce wool. Their fiber is actually hair.

These two are Suri. Their hair falls in much straighter locks and is known for its luster. The guy in front has been sheared, but the other one still has his full coat.

Suri alpaca are relatively rare – they make up a very small percentage of the alpaca population. Oona and Christopher have up to 90 alpaca at a time, mostly Suri. They shear the animals, then process the wool at their own facility, The Rumour Mill. When I arrived they were in the process of moving the mill as the old building had too much static electricity. Christopher showed me some fiber at the old mill and explained how he blends Suri and Huacaya hair, along with other fibers. Alpaca also dyes extremely well, although the natural colors are beautiful, ranging from pure white through cream, tan, brown, to jet black. A high quality animal can have its fleece reserved for years; one of the alpaca at the farm has its fleece spoken for through the next eight shearings.

As you can imagine, with all that hair alpacas don’t do well in such extreme heat. I about had heat stroke just looking at them. Oona said they had managed to shear about half of the herd by now, but she was hosing down a group of the others to help them cool off.

It is shearing and breeding season (did I mention they were busy?). Here is a cria (baby) that was born the day before I arrived. Aaaaw. His mama was doing the keep-away-from-my-baby thing. Oona says that alpaca don’t spit as much as llamas, but I wasn’t getting any closer to check.

Christopher showed me some finished alpaca garments. There were sweaters, baby sweaters, and incredible blankets. Alpaca is warm, but it breathes more than wool. It is incredibly soft, which is one reason I want to knit with it. Christopher told me that Marrie Berkelaar at Double Whale Designs in Lunenburg weaves for them and suggested that I stop in and talk to her. So it was off to Lunenburg.

Marrie was very nice and showed me around her shop. She has two looms and she explained how they work. She also showed me her book of patterns; all the varied patterns can be done with combinations of just four harnesses on the loom (the parts that raise and lower the heddles, which hold the warp threads). Marrie has some beautiful work. Even on such a hot day I was tempted by her shawls and coats.

Lighthouse Route

Since my dorm was hot and I wasn’t in a hurry to go anywhere, I took the Lighthouse Route back to Halifax. This is a series of smaller roads that hug the coastline. I had been avoiding it because it is supposed to be packed with tourists at this time of year. I don’t know if it was the heat or what, but it was not that busy. It certainly was breathtaking. I had been avoiding the village of Peggy’s Cove as a tourist trap, but I was really hungry so I stopped there for supper. It really is beautiful, with rocky outcroppings going down to the sea, which shone in that evening light that is so hard to capture.

I ate at the Sou’Wester, which was a standard tourist restaurant, but really wasn’t that crowded. The food was so so, but the atmosphere, view, and service was great. My waiter was this guy with a surfer dude voice who I think found it amusing that I was not the usual stressed tourist family but was happy alone with my book. He said at one point “You look really relaxed!” I said “I really am!” It wasn’t busy, as I said, so he told me to stay and finish my book if I wanted, no one was going to need my table. That guy knows how to get a big tip.

Must spin and head out for the day.