My New Vision

I’m sorry things have been a bit quiet around here, but with Ravelry and Face Book there isn’t much computer time left for my blog.

Thought I would let all you in blog land know about my “New Eye.”  As with many of us baby boomers as time passes genetics and sunlight  take their toll.  I have the sun damage to my skin (thanks to working in the environmental field) and a newer event, cataracts.  The doc said “early onset” so I don’t feel totally ancient but cataracts none the less.

As a small child I watched my grandfather and great uncles go through the traditional surgery – days in the hospital with the head propped up in a specific position and no bending over for quite some time.  Not any more – the Interocular Lens they use require the tiniest incision on the eye, a laser to demolish the old lens then replaced that with a tiny scrolled-up corrective lens.  Day surgery and you go home with drops and instructions.  Mine was on Wed morning.  At least not at the break of dawn.

The idea is most people won’t need glasses for general vision.  Except for me. The dratted astigmatism ruined the no glasses plan as I will still need correction.  Return to regular activities as long as comfortable, except for swimming and high velocity racquet sports.   Not A Problem.  Haven’t played racketball or tennis for over 20 years.  And my knees would whine if I even picked up a racquet.

Everything went well and I was assured that I wouldn’t be aware of the procedure.  They were right but I did drift towards awareness at one time and advised them, “I believe I am a little more aware than I choose to be” and then went right out again.  When I mentioned it to the doc the next day he tried to hide his grin…

So I call my improved eye my “new” or “bionic” eye.  The difference in vision is amazing.  The ads on TV showing vision with cataracts is like looking at a fogged bathroom mirror are correct.  My research prepared me for the return of clarity to my vision but not the degree that colors simply GLOW.  Wowza.  I can SEE in the shower (been nearsighted with glasses since 8 years old and seeing ANYTHING without glasses or contacts is …amazing…). Colored soap was my first choice so I would be able to find it a bit easier when dropped against the white tub.  No more searching by feel!

The rest of the story – My Niece (DN1 for Dear Niece #1 – there is a niece-in-law and she is DN2, truly a dear and a niece) was married in a lovely garden ceremony in north Fla over Labor Day weekend.  More about that another day.  We had returned on Monday and I walked into the House of Dustbunnys on Tues to find the bedroom carpet going squish.  Ick.  Never a good thing.  Plumbers out on Wed, not the plumbing.  AC problem!  AC people out on Thurs  and the portable unit I was using instead of the central decided over the weekend to malfunction and pee all over the floor.  The nerve.  The cat has more manners.

New central AC unit going in on Monday.  There is still coolness because I had purchased a tiny window unit but hated the thought of drilling holes in the window and the portable WAS working.

SO…House of Dustbunnys is on the upward spiral now.


Adventures: Fleece

Well, I did it.  Bought a whole fleece.   I found a farmer with a spinning flock selling an uncoated registered romney ewe fleece for $3 a lb.  She was kind enough to ship it to me parcel post and I have been messing around with it for the last week.

A coated or jacketed sheep wears a coat to protect the wool from dirt, hay, poop, and sun damage. The resulting fleece is much easier to process by either the craft person or the mill and brings higher prices.

Grannie is the name of “my” sheep, and she is about 6 yrs old and one of the first sheep acquired when the farmer started raising sheep again.  The clean wool I’ve achieved so far is mostly white,  shiny, and soft for a romney with a nice wavy crimp.

When the box arrived I cut the tape and excitedly pulled out a handful of greasy, dirty fleece.  A definite “sheep” aroma drifted from the plastic bag and was bundled into outside storage.  Only my sample came into the house.

Scouring or washing raw wool is an art form.  I wanted something simple and straightforward I could do NOW.  Burrito method!  Placing individual locks on a square of fabric and then folding over on itself to encase the wool in a fabric bundle about the size of the plastic tub for washing.  Hot tap water, a bit of gentle soap (Johnson’s baby wash) and the fun began!  At this stage most of the work is preparing the burrito  and changing the wash water.

My wash water wasn’t as dirty as some of the pictures I’d seen, but I drained the water and added fresh before it cooled.  Before heading to bed I unwrapped the cloth to check on the progress.  The butt end where the locks were sheared from the sheep was a pretty white darkening to an icky sticky yellow towards the tip.  My assumption was lanolin, so the next day I heated water in the microwave for soaking.  Another spinner was emphatic that shampoo was the preferred soap, so I used some Johnson’s Baby Shampoo.  The water turned a bit yellow and the wool grew lighter and lighter.

Encouraged I went back to the fleece, spread it out and took a few pictures

The whole fleece

before ripping off from the upper right and place in net lingerie bags for washing in the washing machine.  A washer full of HOT water and Palmolive (another goof – got the one with Oxyclean, a no-no) soak, spin, and repeat twice more ending in two rinses.  A few bits were cleaner, others still nasty.  Sigh

I started going through the bags to check the progress.  The dirty parts were clumped together.  Maybe THAT was why so much dirt remained.

My solution was to pull the clumps apart at the locks and tease open the tips, hoping it would come cleaner in the next experiment.  Success!  Some did come clean enough to spindle spin a sample. That was fun and I quickly spun up a couple yards of singles to ply back on itself. The yarn size looks about like a dk to sport weight, and I’ll know more after it is finished.

Since only SOME came clean I thought I needed another approach.  A sample of the separated locks was brought inside for the next experiment.  A friend mentioned some of the processing tutorials she saw recommended soaking in cold water.  OK – good idea!  Just soaking in cold tap water it turns as dingy as it did in the hot water and soap. Interesting.    When dried, they look better but still not good enough.

I bought some Kookaburra wool wash and added that to the cold water and let the bag of locks soak. The water looked a little more dingy than it had before but the dirt was thick on the end of the locks so I began to get impatient and gently rubbed the dirty tips while submerged in the wool wash/cold water mix. The dirt just whooshed out. Visible Progress!  Still dirty looking wool, though.

Even though the tips were pulled apart and then rubbed in the wash water, each clumped strand was dirty.  Pet comb!  After drying I combed out the tips of each lock.  The cloth protecting my lap was filthy and the dirt fell out along with most of the VM (vegetable matter).  Progress.  I set aside the cleaner locks for spinning trials and went back to cleaning.

Clumped and dirty lock before combing

Same Lock after combing

At this point I appear to have two problems.  Physical dirt and yellow.  I am assuming the yellow is lanolin (Oil of Olay, anyone?).  The research identifies the lanolin as a WAX that can be removed by hot water.  OK.  I can do that.

So dirt.  since the wool tips clump when wet, maybe the dirt isn’t falling out.  I can’t believe I did this – I stood at the sink and swished the tips of EACH combed lock around in a basin of cool water.  MUD fell out of the locks and collected on the bottom of the container.  Wow.  That much dirt!

By this time I have emptied several more of the machine washed lingerie bags.  Physically combing out the dirt-caked tips, swishing in a basin to remove the loose dirt and then replacing in a net bag for soaks I HOPE will result in some spinable wool.

Two more lingerie bags of the first batch needed to be combed and it was a beautiful evening.  It took about 3 hours to separate into locks, comb, grade, and place into baskets for washing.  Here is the result – the waste is in the cardboard box to the right.  Some locks are 6 inches, some 4, and some even shorter.   The shortcuts are sad.  Here is a clean, white, gorgeous bit of wool and it is only an inch long.  Sniff.  Toss in the waste box!

Please ignore the dirty carport, and spring is when live oak trees shed their leaves.

And a close up…I am so proud of this basket of fluffy wool!

I’m toying with the idea of taking the combing waste to see if it can be carded.

I think I am going to carefully place back in the bags and soak in cold water to get out the loose dirt.  Ummm…how clean is clean enough?  Should I stop now or continue?

Next batch?  Shake the fleece so the second cuts and whatever loose dirt fall out.  Then beat the darn thing with an broom (I think this is going to be satisfying) to break up the encrusted dirt (and it is dirt, not sheep poop.  For the most part) and shake again.  Place into lingerie bags, lower into buckets and add cold water.  Let sit there a day…two…or more.  (If I can stand the smell).  Allow to drain and plop in the washer filled with hot hot water (will have to turn up the water heater) and Original Blue Dawn dish soap.  Soak for 20 mins, spin, repeat.  Rinse.  Check for mud.

And HOPE HOPE HOPE that works!

Still Spinning – more drop spindles

I love spinning with my drop spindle!  I have the ones I made when I first started, one specially made for me by my brother the wood-turner, and a new one I purchased at spinning camp.

The new purchase is a cherry/red cedar beauty by Steve Kundert weighing in at a whopping 1.2 oz.  Here it is with some wool/alpaca I blended on a friend’s drum carder.  forest green Corriedale, white CVM (the tweedy bits), fawn alpaca and a bit of teal colored wool.

The spindle is a little heavier than I am accustomed to using, but it really flies and I do love the resulting yarn.   This yarn was finished the same day of the picture and I moved on to spinning the remainder of the blue merino  shown in a previous post.  That yarn will be a 2-ply and will look lovely with the shades of blue blending into each other.

The Kundert has a new cousin, a gift from a fellow spinner/knitter.  A genuine Bolivian spindle that is used while sitting on the ground.  Uh…I don’t sit on the ground but since I am not tall I can use it while sitting in a chair, like a shorter Navajo spindle.  When I received the spindle I pulled out some of the blue merino and immediately started spinning.  A bit of a different experience and lots of fun.

TECO Manatee Viewing Center

We are not the only ones that want to get to warmer places – the manatees do too and take refuge from the chilly water in the power plant cooling water canals.   TECO has developed the south shore of their cooling water discharge canal into a very nice viewing center, museum with interactive exhibits and of course a snack bar and gift shop.  It is a popular  spot for both people and manatees when the Florida winter weather turns a bit more chilly than we would like.

The dark blobs in the water are the manatees.  LOTS of manatees!  None came closer to the viewing area than what you see here but it was fascinating to watch one effortlessly float to the surface of the water and stick up a bit of snout to catch a leisurely breath and sink again.  Now and then you spot a bit of the paddle-shaped tail as one dove a bit deeper or the scarred sides as one rolled in the water.  If you were observant, the leaping rays or tarpon wouldn’t catch you by surprise.  If you were looking in the wrong direction the only signs visible were ripples in the water and other onlookers pointing where you were NOT looking.

Tarpon are fascinating to watch jump.  Not only do they leap into the air, but they spin like a thrown football at the same time.  I did hear some gasps of “shark” one time after a tarpon exhibition…

The spotted rays were gliding about near the viewing areas and I enjoyed watching them seemingly “fly” through the water.

Don’t see it?  About the middle of the image, just about where the color has turned to blue you see a dark smudge.  Look closer and you can almost see the spots on it’s back.  Almost.  I promise, it is there.

OK – NOW do you see it???  Even I had to go back and resize a part of the image to remember where the ray was swimming.

wow…look at all the manatees – I think I did use a bit of the telephoto setting to get a bit “closer.”

There is also a nature walk and self-guided tour of the estuary to show more about the animals and plants that inhabit the area.  I do love going here, and based on the FULL parking area, so do a few other people!

Gamble Plantation – Florida State Park

Ahhh.  This is the weather I remember from growing up in Florida.  I am enjoying every moment of it!

The weather in Florida is glorious.  Saturday a few of my knitting group went to the Gamble Plantation, a Florida State Park in easy driving distance. It is believed to be the only surviving antebellum mansion existing in south Florida.  The mansion itself is glowing white and reminds me of a mini-Tara (from Gone With the Wind if you need a bit of a reminder of the reference).  Do check out the link to the state park page. (they have a better picture)  I am not a student of architecture but there is just something appealing about the appearance of the building.

The grounds are right on the “main road” and when you see the white picket fence you know you have arrived. The house makes a great impression and  you know you have arrived at a special place.  I can just imagine riding up on horseback in the sticky heat and seeing the cool white mansion as a place of rest, recovery, and refinement.  A bit of astonishment too of what was built on the frontier.  Over to the right is a tidy gray and white frame house, where some of the family lived once the “big house” became too expensive and impractical for upkeep.  It had been moved from another part of the property to the current location.

There was just enough time before the tour began for us to view the exhibits in the small but informative museum for a perspective of the property, people, and the events through the years.

We were in the first tour group and had a very interesting and knowledgeable docent to show us the house and relay the history of the house and it’s people.  I’ve toured some of the big Louisiana plantations and kind of expected to see somewhat of the same design here.  Entering the house, there is a beautiful (but rather ordinary) wood staircase to your immediate left and a hallway to your right.  No elegant foyer to take your breath away.    The home was built when this part of Florida was the frontier and danger lurked from every direction; not only from lightning, fire, and storms but also from unfriendly folks.  Mr. Gamble designed the structure so there was always an alternate exit or two from any room.

One of the stops on the tour was a workroom that we could not enter as there was damage to the roof above and the ceiling of the room wasn’t stable.  But the docent opened the door and allowed us to look into the deep, dark interior.  And what did we see? A spinning wheel and a skein winder!  I had my camera out and snapped a couple of quick shots before we had to move along.  It was torture to be that close and not be able to inspect more carefully.

The warming kitchen, where the vegetables and side dishes were cooked and plates prepared for serving was fascinating.  It had the odor of wood fires as there had been recent demonstrations and dinner prepared by a famous chef specializing in recreating the techniques and menus of the time.  What a sense of reality that created.  As if a couple of logs added to the coals are all that would be needed to start the meal preparations.  The odd shaped globe in the image below is a coffee roaster!  You really can’t see, but it has a long handle that the cook could turn for even roasting.

The house is decorated with antiques, but not all of them are from the 1850’s era.  Some might find fault with that, but I find it charming – as if each generation left behind their cherished bits and pieces for us to enjoy.  The stories of the acquisition and restoration of some of the pieces is nearly as interesting as the information about the house!

The Cistern was fascinating.  The water collected in there provided safe and clean(er) drinking water than was otherwise available.

You really have to admire what they were able to accomplish with local building materials and the skill to construct a building that has lasted through the years.  Not without quite a bit of work as the building was in serious disrepair (especially after being used as a fertilizer storage barn) and in danger of demolition in the early 1900’s.  Fortunately it was rescued by some women who took the preservation of the site and it’s history as a mission.  The result of their hard work and vision is the bit of irreplaceable history we can take a few moments of our time to tour and visit today.

I do encourage you to make a point of stopping here on a visit to Southwest Florida.

Spinning in Florida

Last week I attended a spinning retreat/camp/gathering in Florida and had the most marvelous time learning new techniques and meeting so many other spinners.  I spin on a spindle and most of the people there were wheel spinners but we are all making fiber twisty to get yarn.  A lot of the techniques are the same and a spindle is “better” in one sense because it is portable.  And lighter!

The vendors had tables and displays full of soft, colorful wools and yarns that begged to be taken home.  You could clearly see the different displays empty as the days went by.  I bit.  I had Christmas money burning a hole in my pocket and just had to buy a few things.

Brother and his family were very generous to me at Christmas and gifted me with about 2.5 lbs of different wools for spinning.  All of it soft, well processed and in deep, rich colors.  I wanted to experiment with the dark navy solid and purchased some dyed merino in a blend of blues.  After spinning each one separately I combined the two together into a two ply yarn with a “Barber pole”  look.  The yarn is 102 yards of soft and squishy.

I have Stuff To Do so better get this out so you all can see something new.  More later!

Snowdrop Lace

One of the KAL (Knit A Longs) in a Ravelry group I belong to is the Snowdrop Lace Facecloth.  It was pretty and I started with a yarn I had close by – a variegated purple, green, and white (seen previously in my Turn Up the Heat Mitts).  After some struggles with the pattern I finally had a repeat I was happy with…but was not happy with how it looked.  Knitted another repeat.  Still not happy with how it looked. Variegated worsted is not the best yarn for a lace pattern, the pattern of the colors  interferes with the texture of the knit pattern.

You would think I’d know by now.  Continuing with a project while unhappy with how it looks does not always make you happy with how it looks.  Each time I saw the pretty white lacy appearance of the photo on the pattern the more unhappy I became.

Rippit…frogged.  Next I used some 2 ply cotton yarn I received in a Pisgah (home of Peaches and Creme yarn) grab bag.  I think it was a ball of their Article 925C, a 2 ply sport/baby weight that normally comes on 1 lb cones.  Love those grab bags!  And I love how it is looking, but what to make with it?

snowdrop lace cloth in progress

I can continue and make a pretty, lacy scarf (I think I have another ball of yarn in my stash) or continue to the end of the ball I’m on now.  Or maybe a little longer  and I think it would make a nice hand towel in the bathroom.  Or end it now and make a face cloth out of it.

The bit of purple towards the top is the lifeline.  In case I make ANOTHER mistake I know I can quickly rip back to this point and save unknitting each  stitch one at a time (called tinking).

Need to switch back to the R2D2 hat, as it MUST be finished by Sunday!

Sigh.  Had to rip back to the lifeline and decided this is now a facecloth.  Period.  Move on.

Binding off with Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off as shown by Cat Bordhi on You Tube