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Monthly Archives: January 2014

Fourteen was my favorite number until today. Fifteen will be for the next 12 months.

Today is Finn’s birthday. The dog-who-no-longer-shall-be-named-HotFudgeSundae (I know I know. I laugh every single time I type it) has turned 14 years old.

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The last year has been an eventful one for the guy — amplification of the gradual changes that began about 24 months ago. I am 99% sure that he cannot hear anything in the human voice range (there is still 1% of me that think it’s still selective hearing). His vision isn’t great in the dark. His peripheral vision is definitely impaired. He sleeps a very deep old dog sleep, and I often pat him awake for the last walk of the day. This is a dog whose ears prickled every time I uttered a word that started with the letter “W”, and made me think that border collies slept with their eyes open.

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With these signs of age has come an incredible change. Finn has relaxed. He thinks humans are….pretty awesome. And I think he is truly in a happy place.

My routine has evolved with the new version of Finn. Summer hikes are earlier to make sure we avoid heat, and I pick trails for water features and shade….instead of thinking about my caloric output to complete the hike. We take many rests, and we take in the surroundings. We are now meandering, smelling the flowers with Lucy, taking more photos, looking at rock formations. There are some places on our favorite hikes where I need to give him a bit of a boost, just a little to get to the top of the boulder. At the end of the hike, he is always beside me, still smiling — but as soon as I pick him up and put him in his crate — because he can no longer jump up into the back of my SUV — he takes a long drink of water and then he is out cold. And he snores like an old man, while Lucy looks on.

The cold is tough on him. I have amended my saying to “Real Dogs don’t wear clothes” to “Real Dogs don’t wear clothes….unless they are old and cold”. I am grateful for the fancypants coat that I had gotten for him a while ago (and he used to hate) because it keeps him a bit warmer and his limbs a little less achier as we roam the NYC streets in the winter.

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He is still a beautiful dog. Hair is shiny and silky…but his body underneath is lumpy and bumpy that get checked on a regular basis. He hasn’t greyed very much yet….but the white and the tan areas on his tri-colored body are…getting bigger somehow 🙂

Too many of his training contemporaries have passed on…the dogs that connected me to their humans. I can fill half a page with their names. I know too well that I should be cherishing every moment I have with Finn.

Finn is my best buddy. As I write this, he is laying across my feet, his favorite place when he senses that I may not be feeling too well. I reach down and pat him once in a while, and he glances up at me and I swear he is giving me a wink.

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Good, dog, Finn. And happy, happy birthday.

Happy New Year!!!!

What did you put on your needles on January 1? I cast on a few things, but I started one very special project. It’s very meaningful to me because it uses two skeins of my handspun, one that shows how the fiber won, and one that shows that I learned a lesson from the first mistake. Appropriate for the New Year, right?

IMG_9797When I first started spinning, this is what I envisioned: Pick out beautiful fiber from a top producer, spin it better than any machine could, and knit it into a garment that I would either wear forever or gift, beribboned and opened to lots of Oooos and Aaaahs.

THEY say that to be an expert at something, you need to put in 10,000 hours. (Malcolm Gladwell? Although it seems the 10k hours concept has been around a long time).

Having started spinning in earnest (OK, in a panic since I had signed up for a seminar with Maggie Casey at Maryland Sheep and Wool and didn’t want to appear like I knew nothing) in April, I am very far away from expert.

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Imagine, as a beginner spinner, encountering cormo combed top for the first time. It’s like ice cream, vanilla and chocolate. Combed to perfection, there it sat in beautiful coiled loops at the Roclans Farm booth at Maryland Sheep and Wool. I had just taken my first spinning seminar.

It really looks like it would be easy to spin. I mean, it’s practically spun! This was the state of my brain as I purchased my fluff from Kate.

I had big plans. So, when I started spinning the brown beauty, I wasn’t really held back by the fact that the singles would sort of pull apart relatively easily (first warning sign). I chalked it up to being a beginner, and mindful of the “one big mistake beginner spinners make is over twisting” lesson that I was taught, I spun lots of it. Over 3,000 yards of singles, to be precise. I plied it, the yarn looked OK. Maybe a bit uneven, but charmingly so. I was optimistic.

Then, it went though a soak. And the fibers went…..BOOOOOINNNNNG!!!!! I now had 1500 yards of loosely spun, loosely plied yarn. This was a total rookie mistake. Cormo has a tight crimp and once soaking took some of the spinning twist out of the yarn and “livened up” the crimp in the fiber, it became very obvious that I should have spun this fiber with a lot more twist.

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It wasn’t many weeks after this incident that I learned that cormo isn’t exactly a beginner’s fiber. I think one should try as many things as possible, and don’t let things intimidate. Perhaps not 1.500 yards worth though!

The imperfect spinning on my yarn did nothing to prevent me from knitting this yarn up, and I modified the original pattern to make sure that the delicate lace was framed in solid garter — I did not want too many areas on this shawl where the integrity of the shawl was dependent on too many single stranded sections on this garment. The resulting shawl is soft, bouncy, yummy, and warm. The shawl is a modified version of Gudrun Johnston’s Flukra.

IMG_9086I was a little wiser by the time I recovered from my less than perfect first cormo spin. I decided to make a 3-ply sport weight yarn, worsted spun of course from the white top. By this time, I had purchased a flyer for my wheel with higher ratios — so it was easier to make sure I was introducing more twist into the singles. I let it rest a few days, and made sure that when I was tying off the skein to leave plenty of room for the fiber to expand.

This end product definitely looks better, and I’m happy with this yarn:

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I knew right away that I wanted to use the white and the brown together in a project, and as I saw many beautiful versions roll off my knitting group members’ needles, I knew that I wanted to make a Brooklet by Cecily Glowik MacDonald. I wanted the solid portion to be nice and cushy, while I wanted the lace layer to be properly blocked.

It’s a long cowl, which I can wear as a single, double or a triple loop. I’m sure I will get a lot of wear out of it!

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