Tour de Fleece – Day One

Let’s start off by saying that so far, my first day is going better than Tour de France.

I’m planning three different spins this time. First off, finish plying my lace-weight BFL wool, naturally dyed by A Verb for Keeping Warm:
Tour de Fleece
Tour de Fleece

On the opposite extreme, I am spinning the batt I bought at the fiber festival:

Tour de Fleece

Ooohh, pretty!

and then I joined a team to make a friendship ball of yarn. I was thinking of using this:

Tour de Fleece

And I have finished my linen tank of my own devising – stay tuned!

but then I heard from our team leader we might be going for white plain wool.

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A Trip to Big Sky Country, Part 3

in which we inconviently skip over the day at Yellowstone, but that is because I dropped and broke my camera, and the photos from that day are on my host’s camera. I’ll get them soon, and will blog a bit when they arrive.

The view from the deck was still gorgeous:


After a long day at Yellowstone, we took it easier the next day.  We went to the Montana store so I could buy a couple of goodies for family back home, I got to visit the Pioneer Museum, which is lovely and very well maintained. Since it is the site of the old jail, there are plenty of tales about it, and we got to see the exact spot of the one inmate who was hanged there. I don’t think I needed that.

Probably the juiciest part of Bozeman’s history surrounds its eponymous founder, John Bozeman. Bozeman left (abandoned?) his family in Georgia, and came west. He managed to find a faster way to Bozeman, but it was faster only because it illegally cut across hunting areas reserved for native tribes. Whatta guy. He died mysteriously – the board that reviewed his death said it was probably murder, and the speculation is that he was having an affair with a married woman (women being in short supply during this time period).

For days, we’d driven past a small historic schoolhouse, and finally I badgered Carol to get the code for the key to the schoolhouse, and she did! It’s  a tiny one-room schoolhouse:


that is on the National Register for Historic Sites:


And still has a lot of period items in it, including desks, maps and books:
Yes, that map really says Belgian Congo, French West Africa and Union of South Africa! Sanitation was pretty basic – two outhouses and this to wash up with:


On my last day, Carol drove me out to Three Forks, which I had passed both coming and going across the state, but didn’t stop.  This is one of the “big” event places where Lewis & Clark stopped. Lewis & Clark are to Montana what George Washington is to the mid-Atlantic states. Locals will tell you what they did in this particular spot, and there are markers everywhere.

But Three Forks is significant because it signals the accomplishment of one of the goals of the Lewis & Clark expedition – to find the source of the Missouri River, which traverses over a significant part of the continental United States. Three Forks is the place where the Missouri begins. The mission statement of the trip that President Jefferson is immortalized in a sign:
which points out a small geographic problem – the Missouri does not connect to the Pacific Ocean. Oh well!


Now a state park (officially Missouri Headwaters State Park), it is a lovely and peaceful place.


With romantic notions of the discovery of the source in my head, it was time to leave Montana. I wore my sheep socks through security (does anybody else get “ewww!” when they see barefoot folks walking through?)


and one last few of the mountains before my flight took off.

Today I picked up Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose from the library – a way to continue my “travels” while staying close to home!

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A Trip to Big Sky Country, Part 2: Fibermania!

We last left me in Bozeman on the cusp of leaving for a road trip. Friday morning opened with light snow falling – in June! I thought my friend Carol might want to cry, having finally put her garden in the week before, because if she didn’t, there wouldn’t be anything to pick in August. But fortunately it wasn’t cold enough for anything to stick.

At this point I think I should mention that in preparation for the trip I had a “what was I thinking?” kind of moment. All along, I had planned to go to the Big Sky Fiber Festival, where an online friend, Suzanne, with whom I’ve been with on an email list (and now a private group on F$%#book), helps to run it.  It is the city of Hamilton, about 45 minutes by car south of Missoula.

Well, a few days before I was to leave for Montana, I got in my head that I was actually supposed to go to Billings. Now, Billings is a lovely city, and it happens to be closer to Bozeman, but in the opposite direction. See?

And I even cancelled my reservation at the place I had near Hamilton and made one for Billings. Can you see the problem here? About a day later I realized my (idiotic) mistake, and rushed to leave a message with the place I had cancelled saying I wanted the room after all. Neither time did they respond to me.  When I got to Montana, and realized that my hard-charging Bay Area ways were not needed here, I figured that they probably thought I was a crazy person, and would have a room for me. Such was my faith in Montana ways!

So, with the weather looking like this:


I got on the road. Interstate 90 is a lovely road, and has the added benefit of not very much traffic on it. my rental – a Subaru something or other (looks like a Honda CRV) that handled well, and cruise control was my friend along the highway.  Rivers amble alongside the road for much of the way, and every valley is simply spectacular in terms of vistas. Anything you are worried or concerned about just gets put in perspective.

It turns out that the Bitterroot Valley is just as wonderful as the Bozeman Area:

and my room outside of Hamilton – a delightful if quirky cabin in the middle of the woods.  By the middle of the woods I mean a couple of miles down an unpaved road! And I was the only one staying there – so much for my worries about them “saving a room”!

The Big Sky Fiber Festival is quite lovely – its a small festival, but in all the essentials, it is great. There are proper signs:


and the added benefit of another event at the county fairgrounds at the same time:

Yes, Montana Mule Days! and it was really interesting to see the two groups check each other out. I went  in the arena one afternoon to find this:


Yes, men in drag playing a kind of polo on donkeys with a huge green ball. Totally hilarious! I’m sure they thought we were as weird as they were!

The marketplace is in a lovely new building:

and I finally got to meet Suzanne, who was manning her own booth!

She has the loveliest Targhee wool in several natural shades.  Targhee is a springy, very bouncy wool, so we cooked up a scheme for her to put together about six shades of it into a kit so I can spin it gradient style.  I can’t wait to see what it will look like!

I might have bought some fiber:Untitled

Spun some fiber in my spinning classes with Judy Overbeek (she was knowledgable and delightful!):


Played with dyeing fiber with Joan W Contraman:

This dyeing above is inspired by this photo below – a great way to explore color!Untitled

who also sells her batts to yarn and spinning stores – her company is called Crosspatch Creations and I got one of her lovely  batts that I think will be the next thing I spin (ok, I’m supposed to be on a team for Tour de Fleece as well, so simultaneous spinning may occur):

and I got  a new spindle from Spinnolutions, which has weights that can change the weight of the spindle form 2.5 to 4.5 ounces, which will be quite handy if I decide to spin more bulky yarns! It looks cool when it spins:

And I got my share of beef and pork. Seriously, if you like to eat meat, I daresay that Montana is quite the paradise. Lot’s of it, organic, locally grown, grass fed. I might have eaten more meat in a week there than I usually do in one month. One place worth notings is Naps, which advertises the best burgers in the country:

They are quite good! And with my tummy stuffed with a pulled pork sandwich on Sunday, I traveled back the way that I came for the final installment of my Montana adventures!

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A Trip to Big Sky Country, Part 1

I have a couple of friends, Carol and Shell, who moved to Montana a few years ago, and they have been after me to visit them – and so the calendar opened up, I had a credit on an airfare to use, and they welcomed me to this:


Yeah- quite a view from their house. This is a small valley outside Bozeman, called Bridger Canyon, named after a guy Bridger who helped to create the city (but sadly died in Missouri, where he moved after he developed some sight problems).

It was my first time flying Alaska Airlines, and that was more fun than the usual masses in a tight space experience. They don’t give you more space, but they make it a teeny-bit more enjoyable by offering complmentary wine or ale/beer on the flights. Sadly, I learned about this after my first set of flights, but since they were in the morning, probably that was best.

As we landed in Bozeman, it became clear that we had some visitors from another country, a number of young Asian women, who turned out to be Chinese, and they said that they were coming to Bozeman to work for the Residence Inn on an “internship.” They were charming, had a bit of English, but I worried that their internship might just be a way for the hotel to have cheap labor for the summer. I kept my worries to myself, of course, and helped them find baggage claim.

The first couple of days Carol showed me around the city – I got to go to the Museum of the Rockies (just go, they have an amazing collection on dinosaurs!). The museum shop has lovely items that are from local craft folk and some are made by the volunteers. I also really enjoyed the Living History House next door – they have a ton of volunteers who make it a real life living history place.

For some reason, I took a lot of photographs of the garden. Here are a couple:
and the inside was nicely decorated:
Upstairs there was a whole room devoted to fiber-related items – some things I didn’t know about, but there were floor and table looms and combs and fiber and knitting. Someone had knitted a lovely baby sweater out of handspun from a vintage pattern:
Carol and I also went downtown for lunch and shopping one day, and had a lovely lunch at the Cateye Cafe. So yummy, and had the added benefit of making my cat decorations in my apartment seem meager in comparison.

Friday began the big adventure of driving across the state to a Big Sky event – the Big Sky Fiber Festival – stay tuned for Part 2 of my adventures!

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If you didn’t catch it, Stephen Colbert gave

If you didn’t catch it, Stephen Colbert gave a touching tribute to his mom. I totally agree with his assessment about someone dying after a long life. Check it out:

I’m back from Montana, and the Big Sky Fiber Festival. Stay tuned for a full report!

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I’ve been doing a fair amount of secret knitting, which means that for blogging, there is far less to report in the short run. It does mean that I’m excited about these projects, and really hoping to show you the results sooner rather than later.

In the meantime, I’m doing summer knitting, and this summer, in addition to lace, and socks and the like, it also means summer fibers – and linen. To the woolly oriented knitter, linen can be a shock to knit. A standard knit yarn has no bounce to it at all. It feels like string, and often like twine (ouch!). But linen’s properties are so wonderful once thrown into the washing machine and put through the dryer (can you believe it?), that the knitter, perhaps like women who manage to forget the pain of childbearing, are willing to forget the agonies that got them something like this:


Now, some clever yarn manufacturers, in this case, ShiBui, have figured out how to minimize discomfort in linen knitting. They have created a tube of linen, and this tube is

  1. much easier on the hands
  2. has a bit of stretch because of the i-cord like tube

It’s been a few years since I knit with linen, but even I was happily surprised about my experience with this ShiBui Linen yarn. And the drape, oh my!

IMG_0713 IMG_0710

Simple, lovely, linen!

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Patient is resting comfortably.

In the last post, we left a lovely all but in the middle sweater awaiting surgery:

Stranded yolk EPS Sweater

This knittng surgeon is happy to repor that the patient is resting comfortably. Here’s how it went.

    1. With a circular needle, thread the circular into each stitch on the row below the stripe.  This went uneventfully (sorry, no photo).
    2. Do the same for the row immediately above the stripe. Here I deviated from the orginal plan. I decided to just keep the big stripe on the top of the sweater – the stripe acts as waste yarn and holds the stitches that I want to graft in place
    3. Carefully pull out all the stitches of the first and last row of the stripe (save yarn for something else!).  I only pulled out the bottom row of the stripe. This is how the sweater looks in its two parts:

Sweater surgery
Sweater surgery
Vaguely unsettling to see the sweater like this – almost like an amputation.

      1. With the bottom of the sweater, knit the same number of rows as the stripe.

But queasiness aside, I moved on to knitting the fill-in inches of the body on the bottom part of the sweater.

  1. Options here:
    1. Take a couple of long pieces of yarn and graft the two rows together
    2. Do a three-needle bind off with the two pieces.

I started with the grafting method – and it worked beautifully. Partly it is that this is a nice wool (this part of the sweater is in the reliable Cascade 200 Heathers) that has bounce and give, and partly it happens to be a dark color that will be forgiving of all the wonkiness. I grafted together the two parts of the sweater with about 3 shorter lengths of yarn like this:

Sweater surgery

Then I unraveled the old stripe with a “rip it” method.
Sweater surgery

There were a few places on the last round where the plies had been caught by the darning needle, they were snipped and I moved on. This is a little pile that will go into another project:
Sweater surgery

And the sweater? Pre-blocking it looks pretty good already. Patient is awaiting the weaving of ends and blocking.

Sweater surgery

Summary: This was not as bad as I feared – and the outcome totally worth it!

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