Shearing Day

I love shearing day at Joanie and Dave Ellison’s sheep farm. There was a time when I dreamed about owning sheep, but I really just want to look at the sheep and let someone else do the work. Getting up every morning to feed the sheep in all weather conditions does not appeal to me. My ideal morning is getting up at 8:00 am, and then catching up on email, news and Facebook on my laptop for an hour in my pajamas, while drinking a hot mocha. Holding a newborn lamb is amazing, but I don’t know about checking on the ewes every few hours all night during lambing time. On a nice day I could sit for hours outside in a chair with my knitting watching the sheep. However, if the weather is nasty I would rather be inside watching out the window.

Participating in shearing day gives me a chance to be part of the process on a limited basis. It is exhilarating to be in the barn with the sounds and smells and movement. Two years ago I was all prepared to go, but there was a blizzard that day and it was not safe to drive to the Ellison’s farm 10 miles from us. Last year was still in the middle of the pandemic and I did not even inquire about helping. This year we got home from Arizona just in time. My sister and a friend with her young adult daughter came from Minneapolis to attend with me.

Some of the photos below were taken this April, others were taken a different year. They all show what it is like in the yard and barn during the shearing event.

Shearing is most commonly done in the spring before lambing. The Ellisons have usually done shearing near the end of January, which is determined by their ideal schedule for lambing. When the sheep are sheared in January or February, it is cold but the sheep are comfortable and will stay close to the barn, having their lambs there rather than out in the field. This year shearing was at the beginning of April, after the new lambs had already been born. The reason was related to covid rather than lambing. They wanted to hold off until it felt safe to invite a group of people over, and when they could have the doors to the barn open.

The only heat in the barn comes from the animals and a heat lamp over the shearing space. There is enough activity going on so that the temperature feels comfortable. One year it was minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit on the morning of shearing. This year it was around freezing at 8:00 am, but by midmorning there was a muddy mess outside the barn. I was grateful for my rubber boots which can be easily cleaned off.

Sheep with their coats on waiting to be sheared

On shearing day all 35 sheep are in the barn which is divided into areas by movable fencing sections. This year forty or more lambs were there too which added to the cuteness and noise level. The sheep waiting to be sheared are in one area. There is another section set up where the shearing takes place. The rest of the barn is open for helpers performing related support tasks. The process starts with making an opening in the fence so that four or five sheep from the waiting area can be moved into the shearing area. This can be chaotic with sheep getting spooked, running in circles and trying to get away or jump over the fence. Next Dave Ellison grabs a sheep inside the shearing area by the leg and flips it over on to its back, or this might take several people. The sheep’s coat is removed. Yes, the sheep wear coats to keep their fleece clean. Once on its back the sheep will normally be somewhat docile and allow helpers to trim its hooves and give it vaccinations with a needle. Another helper notes the ID for the sheep from a plastic ear tag. The ID gets written with sharpie marker on a large garbage bag which is used to store its fleece.

Oh no! A tiny lamb with a broken leg
Another young lamb

When the trimming and vaccinating is done, the shearer uses special electric clippers to quickly shave off all the fleece which falls in a big mound. At this point the “bagging” helper scoops up the fleece, trying to roll it up in a bundle, and stuffs it into the garbage bag with the correct ID for that sheep. The weight of the fleece is determined by hanging the bag on the hook of a scale suspended from the ceiling. The weight is written with sharpie marker on the bag next to the ID. Fleeces can vary in weight from around 2 to 6 pounds before any processing.

Shearing and nail clipping in progress
Documenting that I was there

When one group of sheep have been sheared, they are very happy to be let out of the barn. The next group are not pleased to be herded into the shearing area.

Shearing one sheep takes only a few minutes, so the bags of fleece start to pile up while another group of helpers work on “skirting” the fleeces which takes longer. Skirting is removing the dirty or undesirable parts of the fleece that are not suitable for processing or using in a fiber project. The fleece to be skirted is dumped out of the bag on to a surface that looks like a giant cooling rack hanging from the ceiling. When skirting is complete the fleece gets rolled up, put back in the garbage bag and tossed into another area.

Joanie with a huge fleece on the skirting rack
Helpers skirting a fleece

Shearing starts first thing in the morning. The time goes fast and by about 10:30 am it is time for a break of cookies and coffee while standing around in the barn. People who where bundled up upon arriving have shed layers and some are in shirtsleeves depending on the temperature outside. Trips to the house to warm up or to use the bathroom are allowed. After the mid morning break, work resumes in assembly line fashion until early afternoon when all the sheep have been sheared and fleeces skirted.

Other tasks for helpers include sweeping and picking up bits and sections of fleece from the shearing area and from under the skirting rack. All the reject pieces of fleece get saved and used for mulch. Another helper task is using a plastic sled to drag bags of fleece from the “complete” pile to a shed for storage until they are needed.

Bags of fleece on their way to the storage shed
Shed where the fleeces are stored
Many fleeces in the shed are waiting for processing
Dave Ellison in the yard

Lunch and social time follows in the house. Later, Joanie will check over the fleeces and do more skirting. Most of them are sent to a mill for processing into roving or yarn. Like fiber day, it is a fun time interacting with an eclectic and interesting group of people. Helpers are offered some fleece or roving in exchange for their labor. I have more than I can use already stuffed in my stash closet, so I did not take anything this time. Participating in shearing day is a wonderful experience. I think many city people would pay them to be a part of it!

Naked sheep running in the muddy yard

Weaving on the Potholder Loom

After finally completing a pair of socks I worked on for most of our two months in Arizona, it was time to dig into the supplies I had in the RV and decide what to work on next. To mix things up a bit, I decided to experiment with weaving on my potholder loom. The next photo shows some of the cotton loops that came with the potholder loom, next to some 100% cotton yarn I had brought that is like a stretchy tube.

The stretchy loops that came with the loom next to some stretchy cotton yarn

I found some YouTube videos with instructions for diagonal continuous weaving on a pin loom or potholder loom. A pin loom is a basic small loom with nails or posts on all sides for wrapping the yarn around. The potholder loom does not have posts in the corners which is necessary for diagonal weaving, so I had to improvise with office clips which can be seen in the photo below. It is hard to communicate the process with words and photos. I had to watch several different videos, but once I figured out how diagonal weaving works it was easy. Starting in the upper corner, you alternate between weaving the yarn across over and under the vertical rows, and then wrapping the yarn vertically around the next set of pegs on each side.

Beginning of diagonal weaving on the potholder loom

As you get closer to the middle, it is hard to get the metal hook through the open space, so I started using a crochet hook. That was easier, but the hook part was not really deep enough to hold on to the yarn. For the very last row I used a darning needle to pull the yarn through.

Using a crochet hook instead of the metal hook
Using a darning needle for the last row

The weaving looks very uneven, but once removed from the loom it naturally evens itself out.

Done with weaving

The next photo shows the weaving off the potholder loom. It is not thick enough for a potholder, but would make a very nice washcloth. It could be used with the sides left as is, after weaving in the ends.

Removed from loom

Later I crocheted around the sides to give it a firmer border, but in the meantime I had another idea. I had read about making tee shirt yarn, which would be similar to the stretchy cotton yarn in the project above and suitable for weaving on the potholder loom. When I told my husband I wanted to go to the thrift store to buy a tee shirt to make yarn, he could not wrap his head around it and made a comment about how that did not make any sense. Soon after that I did make a trip to Goodwill and bought a plain purple tee shirt for $2.29. I had to browse through quite a few racks to find a plain tee shirt that was appropriate with no side seams. I wanted a solid color, although you could end up with an interesting effect with some graphics on the fabric.

One of the fun outings we had in Arizona was getting together with two couples we know from Minnesota who were also snowbirding there. Deb is a former coworker from the Twin Cities who is a knitter. Deb’s husband and Lauri’s husband were coworkers. Lauri is a knitter and lives with her husband in Ottertail County 30 miles from our home. Deb connected me with Lauri after we moved to the lake. Even though we all live in Minnesota, it seemed easier to get together in Arizona. The three couples met at the house Lauri and her husband were renting in Sun City, on the western side of the Phoenix metro.

Sun City is the original adults only retirement community. At the time it was a brand new concept. When the first model homes were available for viewing and purchase in 1960, the developers where not sure what to expect but it was an immediate success. It must have been out in the middle of nowhere back then, but now it blends in with the other suburbs of Phoenix.

One of the original Sun City model homes is now a museum and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The guys played golf while the ladies visited and worked on fiber projects, while sitting outside under an overhang in the shade. The temperature was warm but very comfortable and there were NO BUGS. That is an amazing thing to Minnesotans where the mosquito is sometimes said to be the state bird. It was so pleasant sitting there relaxing, socializing, comparing notes on snowbirding and working on projects. I had not decided for sure what to work on, so I brought my entire stash of supplies that I had in Arizona on this outing. It seemed like a good time to try making the tee shirt yarn.

I had watched some YouTube videos with instructions. As with the diagonal weaving, it is hard to describe with words and still photos. The first step was to cut the shirt body and sleeves off from the bodice, and then cut off the seams. It is possible to use almost all of the fabric for yarn, but the biggest bang for the buck is the body section.

Cutting up a thrift store tee shirt to make yarn

The next photo shows the main body of the shirt turned sideways with the bottom folded up almost all of the way, and then strips cut leaving the very top fold uncut. The instructions suggested cutting the strips about 3/4″ wide, but I did not measure. I just started cutting freeform, so my strips were not even or all exactly the same width.

The body section of the tee shirt folded over with strips cut, leaving the top folded edge connected

It is hard to see what is going on with these photos, but I then unfolded the fabric and repositioned it so the uncut part that had been folded at top was now flat and in the middle. Next I started cutting across diagonally from one strip over to the next strip. When that was done all the way across, the result was one long narrow strip of fabric.

Unfolded and starting to cut across the strips
One continuous strip of fabric

The last step is tugging and stretching out the strip of fabric which makes it curl on itself and turn into yarn. The one long strip all stretched out was about 30 yards of “yarn”.

Stretching out the strip of fabric so it is narrower and curls on itself

Later after we were back at our RV I found another video with instructions for horizontal weaving on a potholder loom. This time the clips in the corners were not needed.

First I wound the yarn up and down vertically around each post. The yarn looks too blue in the next three photos.

Wrapping the yarn up and down around the pegs

Using the hook to pull the yarn across horizontally over and under each vertical yarn was similar to pulling one of the stretchy loops across and hooking it on a post.

Pulling the yarn through over and under going across

When I got to the last two rows the vertical loops started to pop off the posts. I had a struggle getting both the vertical and horizontal rows back in place and staying in the right place.

Weaving with tee shirt yarn complete

The last photo shows three items made with the potholder loom. First on the left is the washcloth with the stretchy cotton yarn after a crochet border was added. In the middle is the tee shirt yarn potholder. The rows at the top of the tee shirt yarn project where I had a fight to get everything in the right place look different than the other rows. It is very thick and good for a potholder. For comparison on the right is a potholder I had made earlier using the loops that came with the potholder loom.

Cotton yarn washcloth, tee shirt yarn potholder, cotton loop potholder

Potholder loom projects are small, portable, and do not take much time to complete. Weaving washcloths on the Rigid Heddle loom compared to the potholder loom takes a lot more set up time, and it is most efficient to make several at once. It would be possible to make a potholder on the Rigid Heddle loom with thick yarn, but it makes more sense to use the tool and supplies that are designed for it. I haven’t used the Rigid Heddle Loom for awhile since I did not bring it to Arizona, so I am ready to make something with that next.

Life in the RV

We have been home now for a few weeks after our snowbirding trip to Arizona in our RV. We did not know what to expect, but after living in the fifth wheel trailer for two months I have some thoughts on how it worked out and what we might do differently in the future.

I have looked at many tiny and small house plans, and fun shed ideas online. I am always interested in reading about people who sold their houses and moved into a tiny home on wheels, are full time RVers, or are living with a smaller carbon footprint. I was never thinking about living in one for my main residence, but they are just so cute and would make a nice guest house or she-shed if one has unlimited funds. My husband says he would be happy living in a very small home permanently. I like the concept, but the problem is where would I put all my yarn and fiber stash and craft supplies? In addition to needing more space for my stuff, I spend more time inside than he does and there is something to be said for having some private space. For us, the RV is a way to live smaller on a part time basis.

In preparation for our winter trip to Arizona I had to think carefully about what clothes would fit in the RV. I packed a basic mix and match wardrobe including a limited number of long and short sleeve tee shirts that could be worn alone, or layered under a hoodie sweatshirt or polar fleece pullover, with navy blue shorts and pants in various lengths for warmer or cooler weather. There were also a couple more pairs of shorts, hiking pants, a quick dry wrap-around skirt, and two swim suits. I brought a few more clothing items and accessories for variety and in case we needed to get “dressed up”. I never wore the tee shirt dress, although the weather was starting to get warmer and I might have if we had stayed longer. I might as well have skipped the linen collared shirt, the cashmere sweater, and the cotton fashion scarves. We never went anywhere that required anything other than the most casual clothing. And it was cool enough in the evening that I needed layers which would have covered up a nicer outfit anyway.

You have to be vigilant about putting things away in the RV. It is easy to slack off and end up with clothes, jackets, and shoes laying around, dirty dishes piling up, and paperwork scattered around. I had places to keep all my clothes, but sometimes Wayne tossed clothes and shoes in the corner behind his recliner chair, which was not a good system. I am not sure if he was being lazy and not putting things away, or whether he did not have any other place to put them.

It hardly takes any time to clean in the RV. We brought a small stick style vacuum cleaner that comes apart into a hand vacuum. Making the bed turned out to be a bit more of a chore than I was expecting. There is space on each side of the queen size mattress, and even my six foot tall husband can stand up at the end of the bed. However the head of the bed is over the truck bed and one cannot stand there, so you have to lean way over in an awkward way to get the corners of the sheets on or to adjust the blanket and bedspread. In addition, there are night stands and cupboards butting up against each side of the mattress which are very useful, but also make it harder to make the bed.

Making the bed is not as easy as I expected

Some bigger RV’s and motor homes have a washing machine and dryer. We used the laundry room at the community building. Sometimes on laundry day I looked like Santa Clause walking a few blocks over to the building carrying a big bag over my shoulder. A few times if there was an especially big load I used the car.

I brought a travel size iron but I only used it once. A couple of times I wore something wrinkly rather than bother with the iron. There are ironing boards and irons at the community building laundry area, so that is an option if I decide not to bring the iron here in the future. However it does not take up much room so I might as well have it available.

When we were looking at RV models and floorplans, one of the features I liked was a fireplace. They are fake electric fireplaces, but still provide ambiance, and throw out some heat. When we found the slightly used RV that met our criteria, it did not have a fireplace. In the spot where the fireplace would have been was a cupboard. I was disappointed, but we found out that you could install one later. Wayne thought a fireplace was unnecessary, but I knew that I would use it and enjoy it. I conceded that we should wait and see how badly we needed that cupboard space before deciding to replace it with a fireplace. While we were preparing for our first time using the RV, Wayne watched many YouTube videos with tips for setting up and using the trailer. One of the suggestions was to have an electric space heater in the RV, since we would be hooked up to electricity at the RV Park, and then we would not use up the propane as quickly for powering the furnace. Both electricity and propane cost money, but when the propane tank is empty it is more of a chore to get it refilled. In this light, the electric fireplace became a practical useful feature rather than a frivolous luxury. We did bring two space heaters that we used regularly. We also used the cupboard space where the fireplace would be if we had one. Maybe Wayne needs that cupboard for some of his clothes.

In the next photo you can see the cupboard under the TV where the fireplace would go if we had one.

There are large and rapid temperature swings in Arizona inside and outside the RV. It can get down in the 30’s and 40’s at night. We turn on the space heaters in the morning to warm the place up and take the chill off (or if we had a fireplace I would turn that on!). Then only a short time later the temperature outside is warming up, and sun shining in the windows starts to heat up the inside of the RV so that we have to open the windows. By mid afternoon on a warm day it is starting to bake inside the RV, especially in the bedroom. After only a few hours of slightly too warm air inside the RV, it starts to cool off rapidly outside and we are closing the windows for the night. There is an air conditioner but we only used it a couple of times near the end of March when the daytime high was 90 degrees.

Wet bath towels, beach towels, swim suits, and dish towels dry very fast in the desert climate, in contrast to more humid summer weather at home when your beach or bath towel is often still damp the next time you want to use it.

When I was outfitting the RV kitchen, I had to imagine what items were most important and useful given the limited cupboard space. We had some obvious things already on hand from our old house such as a toaster, coffeemaker, and kitchen utensils. Other things I was not sure about. I brought my old hand mixer, because what if you want to make a cake? I never used it. I brought two flexible silicone baking pans from my old kitchen. Only one can fit in the oven at a time, and they are kind of too floppy for some things. I may swap one of them out for an aluminum 9×9 pan that could be used for a small cake or bars. I also wished I had a lid for the frying pan, so I will look for one before the next trip.

At home we have two refrigerators, one in the kitchen and one in the basement. The basement fridge has backups of products I don’t want to run out of such as milk, butter, and orange juice, bulky produce that I am not going to use right away, whole wheat flour that is supposed to be refrigerated, and Wayne’s stash of soda and beer. The RV fridge is eight cubic feet which is a decent size but small compared to the cold storage space we have at home. I cannot stock up on anything in the RV. Also, there is not enough room in the refrigerator and cupboards for all the condiments and seasonings I keep on hand at home. The counter space is limited, so it is best to keep the cooking simple. Fortunately there is a nice full service grocery store only one mile away.

At home we usually leave the butter dish out on the counter. On a warm Arizona day in the RV you cannot leave the butter dish on the counter unless you want melted butter for a recipe.

Counter space for cooking in the RV

There are orange, lemon and grapefruit trees in the RV park. Sometimes people will pick some fruit off a tree at their site and put them in a box on the side of the road for the taking.

Fresh Arizona grapefruit

The first time we came to Gold Canyon Golf and RV Resort two years ago we drank the water from the tap with no problems. The second year we noticed that everyone was filling plastic gallon milk jugs with purified water from a machine for a quarter, so we started doing that too. It was kind of a hassle to have to keep going over to the main building almost every day and lugging the gallon jugs back to our unit. This year I bought a Brita water filter pitcher which worked great. We filled that from the tap in the RV and always had filtered cold water on hand. I am not sure if there is really a problem with the water directly from the tap, but it makes sense to have the pitcher for future camping trips when we won’t know the status of the water.

Our Canadian neighbors in the RV park had a smaller size Coleman grill that runs on a one pound propane tank, and collapses for storage. They showed it to us while cooking some shrimp which looked delicious. After setting the smoke alarm off in the RV twice, we decided getting a grill was a priority. We bought the same one as the neighbor at Camping World. After Wayne had assembled it, it was clear something was wrong as it was leaning over to one side. It seemed like maybe one of the parts was wrong, which resulted in another trip to Camping World. It turned out to be user error after all. I neglected to get a photo of the grill in use after Wayne got it assembled correctly.

While in the RV it feels OK to spend more time relaxing. I have some regular activities I do on my computer whether at home or in the RV, such as blogging, updating Quickbooks accounts for my yarn sales and the extended family cabin, as well as other duties for the cabin. I also have my knitting and craft projects. At home there are endless other chores and tasks to do inside and outside that I could or should do. It is easier in the RV to not do anything for a few minutes, or just enjoy some time knitting without feeling like I should be doing something else. I brought a deck of cards and a travel size cribbage board. I am not surprised that we never used those either. My husband does not like playing cards, but we had extras at home so I figured they might come in handy for future guests. Wayne enjoyed his morning coffee while sitting outside the RV almost every day.

Wayne relaxing outside the RV

One of the main reasons for going to Arizona in the winter is to be active outside, or just go outside without fear of slipping and falling on the snow and ice. We used our bikes and hiking boots on a regular basis, and on warmer days swam in the pool, and relaxed in the hot tub. Wayne played a lot of golf. I went to a morning water exercise class once at the very end of our stay when it was finally warm enough for me. I liked it and would go again, except that most of the time we were there it was too cold for me at 9:00 or 10:00 am when the classes were held.

One of many hikes in the Phoenix area
Biking in a residential neighborhood near the RV Park
Pool time

We were lucky to have a visit from our daughter, and later from our son and his wife.

A visit from our daughter
A visit from our son and his wife

I had to plan ahead what knitting and other projects I might want to work on so I would not run out of projects (that would be terrible), and so I would have some variety and choice. For each potential project I also had to bring any necessary supplies or tools. I did not bring my rigid heddle loom which turned out to be a good decision. I brought yarn and patterns for socks and baby sweaters, as well as the potholder loom and stretchy loops. I spent most of the time we were away from home working on one pair of socks I started in the car on the way. I brought more supplies than I needed, but I knew that I would want options.

I worked on this one pair of socks for most of the time we were gone
Yarn and supplies I brought to Arizona

After we were in Arizona for one month two years ago, we encouraged Wayne’s sister Marlene and her husband to come to Gold Canyon too. Based on our recommendation they came last year for one month. This year they came for six weeks, but only overlapping with us for two weeks of our two month stay. We have both put in our reservation requests for three months for next winter. That is because we do like this experience a lot, because winter in Minnesota was especially severe this year, and because it is hard to get a reservation. If you request three months, you are more likely to get a spot.

So different than at home

The RV refrigerator can run on the battery which charges when you are towing it behind the truck. I had envisioned that we would be able to leave food in the fridge, and also use the RV instead of hotels, on the way to and from Arizona. It turns out there are a couple of problems with that during colder months. For one thing when the two living area slides are retracted, you cannot access the refrigerator. More importantly, the RV water system needs to be winterized when you are not using it if the temperature might go below freezing. Our fifth wheel was winterized when it was sitting at home in the winter before we left for Arizona, during the journey through cold states to get to Arizona, and again before we left Arizona to head for home. Also, campgrounds are only open in the summer in the northern states. At another time of the year we could stop at campgrounds or truck stops while en route to a destination, open the slides and use the water. However some of the camp grounds are almost as expensive as a no frills hotel.

The next morning after we got home Wayne had to drive to Minneapolis to catch a flight for a four day trip. He was planning on dropping the RV off at the dealer on the way, as they had told us we could leave it there for six weeks until a scheduled maintenance appointment. This was a good plan since the spot where we would normally park the RV at the side of our driveway was buried in a big drift of snow. Unfortunately the next morning it was very icy on the road near our house, so instead Wayne left with our other car, leaving me with no transportation. The RV was still attached to the truck in the middle of the driveway. Wayne left me a note on the counter “do not move the truck since the RV stabilizer feet are down”. Um, no way would I try to move or drive the truck with the RV attached. As it turned out, I did not really want to go anywhere since we ended up having three days of mixed precipitation with 30 mph winds. It is nice to be home again, but the weather reminds me why we went to Arizona in the first place.

I can remember recent winters when I hardly ever wore my boots or warmest jacket, but this year was brutal. Last April when we got home there was not any snow left and the lake was open. We helped with the family maple syrup harvest in shirtsleeves. This year the lake is still frozen and the weather is wintery. That can be beautiful too.

The truck and RV blocking the driveway back at home
Winter is pretty too
The lake is still frozen

More Boot Socks

In the fall of 2020 I made several pairs of thick socks for myself and for Christmas gifts. This fall I bought more skeins of the same Briggs and Little Tuffy worsted weight 80% wool / 20% nylon yarn when it was on sale. It is good for practicing sock techniques with fewer stitches than normal sock weight yarn.

The thick socks I made in 2020 had a heel with a flap pattern beginning at the cuff. For the next round I used the Fish Lips Kiss Heel pattern by Sox Therapist, starting at the toe instead of the cuff, using double pointed needles knitting one sock at a time. I saw an article about knitting two at a time on double pointed needles, but it looked like a nightmare. I used my Denise brand needles with short tips and short connecters that are an alternative to traditional double pointed needles. The Denise needles are flexible and the stitches are less likely to fall off. However that does not stop me from accidentally pulling a needle out of the stitches by mistake.

The following photo shows the two different types of heel on the thick yarn. The blue sock has a fish lips kiss heel, the green sock has a heel flap.

Fish Lips Kiss Heel on the left, heel with flap on the right

The Fish Lips Kiss Heel pattern includes the instructions for the heel, and also step by step directions for the entire sock including a template of your foot on heavy paper, with measurements noted for toe and heel placement. By using the template and starting at the toe, you are supposed to be able to get the sock to fit exactly. The next photo shows materials assembled for a blue pair of thick socks for myself.

Supplies ready to begin a pair of socks

I used Judy’s Magic Cast On for the toe stitches, which gives you a smooth toe and you do not have to graft any stitches together later. Turkish Cast On is similar and I think it is easier, but they are both good. The pattern has you start increasing for the toe, and then stop increasing when you get to the right number of stitches based on your individual foot template. You then knit evenly for the foot until you get to the heel line on your template.

When you start at the cuff you have to decide at the beginning how many stitches to cast on. The pairs I knit for myself before with this yarn had 36 stitches. They are a little loose but they work. For this pair starting at the toe and using the template, I ended up with only 32 stitches around.

Knitting thick socks starting at the toe

The following photo shows the first sock almost completed.

Compared to the socks I knit last winter with the same yarn, this pair has fewer stitches around but they are a little longer, based on the method with the foot template. There is negative ease which means that you make them a bit smaller than your actual measurement because they are going to stretch. The hand made socks always look bigger than store bought socks because they do not have as much elasticity.

After I finished the blue pair of socks for me, I cast on a gray pair for my daughter, starting at the toe again. We both wear size nine shoes, so sometimes she borrows my shoes or takes my castoffs. After drawing a template of her foot, I realized that her foot is wider. Her sock has 36 stitches around instead of 32. I decided to be more creative and use leftover blue yarn from my sock for the heel on her gray pair.

Gray socks with blue heel for my daughter
Working on the heel of the second gray sock

The thick gray yarn reminds me of a sock monkey. Following are photos of both pairs completed in the middle of December hanging on the clothesline, when we had only a bit of snow.

Photo taken in mid December, 2021

The next photo is my son and his wife modeling socks I knit in this same yarn in 2020. My son said his socks were a little loose. Since then I have made a template for his foot, and it turns out he has narrow feet like me.

Socks I knit lain 2020 for my son and his (now) wife

Just for the record, the following photo was taken just after Christmas following a big snow storm. The clothesline where the socks photo above was taken a few weeks earlier is barely visible behind the fence.

Photo taken in late December, 2021

My daughter was pleased with her thick gray and blue socks.

My daughter modeling her thick socks

I dislike weaving in ends and often select patterns and designs with that in mind. If there are multiple yarns or colors, that means more weaving in of ends. However I recently found a brilliant method of weaving in the ends as you go by HeyBrownBerry that is a game changer for me. I knit another pair of Christmas gift socks for my niece with the same yarn, but not until after Christmas. Following is the finished result.

Thick socks for my niece
My niece modeling her socks

I ordered more skeins of various types of sock yarn in December with Black Friday sale prices. It seemed like Black Friday lasted all of December, and even into January. Maybe if plan better, I will be able to get my knitted gifts ready in time for NEXT Christmas.

Sewing RV Linens

Back in 1988 my mother and I split the cost of a serger sewing machine. It uses four spools of thread, is complicated to thread, and makes special stitches a regular sewing machine cannot do that are stretchy for knit fabric. We both used it for many years, until neither my mom nor I were doing much sewing any more. For years the serger, also known as an overlock machine, sat in the box. It moved with me to our home at the lake, but continued to stay in the box. Over the last couple of years I tried to use it a few times for mending and upcycling projects, but I would always spend hours trying to get it threaded and could never get it to work right. The machine is shown in the next photo on the dining room table.

My Elna serger from 1988

Last winter I met a woman in Arizona who uses a self threading serger. It sounded so nice I went and looked at one at a fabric store in the Phoenix area while we were there. This year when I saw that the Vacuum and Sewing Machine shop in Fergus Falls was having a liquidation sale, I considered trading in my serger for a newer machine that would presumably have new technology and features, work better, and be easier to thread. I am sad to see that this storefront is closing, but I can’t say that I have ever been in there more than once. I am glad that the proprietor is going to maintain a new version of the business out of his home.

In preparation for bringing my serger in to the shop, I took it out of the box to have a look it. It was very dusty and grimy, and had a lot of lint all over the inside workings. It looked good once I got it all wiped down and the lint removed with the little brush that came with it. I decided to attempt threading it one more time, after reviewing the instructions in the manual. The first thing it said was to oil the machine if you had not used it for awhile. I am sure I did not do that the last time. This time I put oil in all the places indicated, and then carefully, step by step, threaded each of the four threads through all the hooks and slots in the correct order. The photo below shows the front panel lowered for threading.

Looking at the hooks and levers for threading with the front opened up

I put a scrap of fabric under the presser foot and slowly pressed the foot pedal. VOILA…it made a perfect stitch!!

I went ahead and brought the machine in to the sewing machine shop to discuss with the owner what features would be different or better on the new sergers, and how much he would give me for a trade in. There was a moderately priced machine that was not much different than what I already had, and another one with the fancy self threading that would have been $900, after the $100 he was offering for my trade in. OK, never mind. I could not justify spending that much when the one I already have works fine after all.

During the fall I had bought yardage of a product called “laminated cotton fabric” from an online vendor (creatively called Laminated Cotton Fabric) to make an RV tablecloth and placemats. I like that you can wipe it down easily because spills happen. People also use this fabric for bibs, diaper covers, lunch bags, and other things you want to be water resistant or easily clean off. Following is a photo of the fabric I bought.

Laminated cotton fabric I bought online

One length of the fabric was just the right size for a tablecloth for the RV kitchen table. All I had to do was hem all the way around the four sides. You can see the serger in the next photo making the overlock stitch and cutting off the edge of the fabric.

Doing the overlock stitch on all four sides of the tablecloth fabric

After serging all the way around, I folded the edge under and top stitched it down with my regular machine.

Corner of completed laminated cotton tablecloth

I also made four placemats that will work on the RV table. They are reversible with more of the same laminated cotton on one side, and some indoor/outdoor cotton on the other side. Photos of the completed product are found later in the post.

Cutting fabric for placemats
Sewing the two sides of a placemat together

The RV bathroom has a towel bar sized for only one towel. We thought of installing a hook for another bath towel, so I sewed tabs on all the bath towels and hand towels we are using in the RV. I found some grosgrain ribbon in a drawer filled with various ribbons and seam binding purchased and saved by my mom over the last 50 years. Notice this package of 54 inches of grosgrain ribbon for 35 cents, just the right length for a sweater! I actually have a cardigan sweater my mom knit in the 1960’s with grosgrain ribbon for the button band down the front.

Sweater length of grosgrain ribbon from the 1960’s

I used the vintage grosgrain ribbon to sew tabs on all the bath and hand towels, using my regular sewing machine.

After we got to Arizona and had the RV set up, we realized there was not a good way to install a hook anywhere in the small bathroom. We did not want to drill holes or use stick on products. It is working to hang the second bath towel over the shower stall. It is so dry there that towels dry very quickly.

Following are photos of the placemats with the laminated fabric side up, the other side up, and the tablecloth on the RV table. We have been leaving the tablecloth on the table most of the time. Last year my sister-in-law, Marlene, painted the Superstition Mountains desert scene in the frame on the table. We can see the top of the mountains from our RV.

Placemats using laminated cotton fabric
Indoor outdoor fabric on the back side of the placemats
Tablecloth using the laminated cotton fabric

The next photo is the towel bar behind the RV kitchen sink. For staging purposes I moved my basket with hot pads over from the stove area to be in the photo with the towels.

RV kitchen linens

I did not make either of the towels in the photo, but I love all these colors together and how they look in the RV. The Fika towel was designed and is sold by my friend Cindy Lindgren. You can find her products here.

I meant to bring one of my hand woven towels but somehow it never got in the right place at the right time when I was packing. In the basket is a hot pad I made on my potholder loom. I brought the potholder loom with me to Arizona as it is small and portable. Once I finally finish the socks I am knitting (that are taking forever) I will play with the potholder loom.

Thick Textured Dishcloths

My last weaving project before our snowbird trip with the RV was making some dishcloths on my Rigid Heddle Loom. I have mixed feelings about leaving the loom behind at home. There is probably enough room in the pass-through storage area under the RV to transport and store the loom plus needed accessories and yarn, but I decided I would be able to keep busy instead with knitting and potholder loom projects.

I would have started the dishcloth project earlier, but I got side tracked with other tasks that needed to be completed before the trip. I had been preparing for months with several long checklists of items we would need to have in the RV. Many things were already assembled and staged in the basement, but of course some preparation has to be more last minute, things always come up that you did not think of.

Six days before our departure date I warped the loom with some worsted weight off white Peaches & Creme 100% cotton yarn, the length of the dining room table with two leaves. I was winging it and did not know how many dishcloths that would make. Almost a week sounds like plenty of time, but I knew it would fly by and my time would be sucked up with things I did not have on my radar.

I used a pattern called Thick Textured Dishcloths by Cherie Wheeler that is available for purchase on ETSY. It is similar to the waffle weave and windowpane patterns I have used for towels using a pickup stick, but there are only four rows in one repeat. It was about nine inches wide on the loom, and each dishcloth was about nine or 10 inches long, so they wove up very quickly.

Dishcloth on the loom

The pattern includes instructions for weaving an inch at the beginning and end of each cloth using crochet cotton thread for the weft yarn, which makes it thinner for folded over hems. I did not have any crochet cotton thread on hand and did not have the time nor desire to buy any. I might have been able to find something else similar in the house, but instead I finished the ends with hem stitch and fringe. Being that I was short on time, that was the quickest method.

I wanted to use a couple of the dishcloths for a wedding shower gift. Unfortunately, I was in Arizona at the time of the shower, but I got to say Hi to the people in attendance and watch some of the gift opening via zoom. That is one good thing that has come out of the pandemic. The following photos show the end of a yellow dishcloth, and the beginning of the next green dishcloth, with some plain weave between that will end up as the fringe.

Hem stitching at the end of one dishcloth and the beginning of the second one
Weaving the second dishcloth in green

I was able to weave seven dishcloths with the dining room table length of warp yarn. Three of them are shown below after I removed the weaving from the loom, next to one of my mom’s ceramic fish platters.

Three dishcloths after removing from the loom

After completing the project, I even had a few days to spare before leaving on the trip, which was needed for final packing and a trip to town for last minute errands and mailing the shower gift. The bride’s gift registry included some linens in similar colors, so I gave her a green, yellow and blue dishcloth, along with a butter dish I ordered online from Anthropologie.

Shower gift butter dish from Anthropologie
Three dishcloths for the shower gift, after weaving in ends and washing

Last time I was at IKEA I bought some waffle weave dish cloths that are a bit bigger with thinner yarn, but have a similar weave to the ones I made. At one time I worked in the office at the Twin Cities IKEA store for a couple of years. I hardly ever go there any more due, especially since we moved three hours away. But occasionally when it is works out it is fun to walk around the store. If you have been to an IKEA store, you know that you pretty much HAVE to walk through the entire store in order to get out, which I know some people find annoying. I always buy a couple of jars of Lingonberry jam that I like on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and I usually find some other linens or kitchen accessories that are a good deal. Following is a photo of the IKEA dishcloth next to one of mine.

A dishcloth I bought at Ikea next to one I just made

The next photo of the yellow dishcloth shows the pattern up close.

Closeup of the yellow dishcloth

I am pleased with how quick these were to make and how nice they turned out. I expect to make more for myself and for gifts.

Snowbirding in the RV

Our newish fifth wheel RV trailer sat in the driveway for several months waiting for its maiden voyage. We had hoped to go on a camping trip in the fall before towing it from Minnesota to Arizona at the end of January, but that did not work out. Two years ago we rented a small 400 sq. ft. park model unit in Gold Canyon, Arizona, for one month. Last year we rented for two months. This year for our third winter of snowbirding, we rented an RV site for two months at the same RV and Golf resort.

We had planned on getting everything loaded and attaching the truck to the RV the night before leaving on the journey. However that night the low temperature was minus 17, so it seemed better to leave the trailer battery and truck in the garage. That meant hooking up the fifth wheel to the truck in the morning. Being the first time we had done this, it took almost an hour standing outside with a temperature of zero degrees. We also had to drain the water in the house and put anti-freeze in the toilets as a precaution against burst pipes. Once we finally got on the road, the conditions were good for driving, unlike last year when the beginning of the journey involved fog and blowing snow. You can see in the next photo the view from the passenger side mirror as we left Otter Tail County, Minnesota.

View out my side mirror as we left Otter Tail County, Minnesota

On this trip there were no spontaneous stops at interesting sights on side roads. We stuck to the interstate highway as much as possible. I brought sandwiches and fruit for the first two lunches, as we would not be going through any fast food drive throughs. We also had to find hotels that had big parking areas for the truck and trailer, that also were pet friendly, and where there was a place to eat dinner within walking distance. We lucked out all three nights on the road, with some very delicious meals at local one of a kind restaurants.

Everything went well, but we did learn that just because a gas station has “truck stop” in the name does not mean it is set up for a big rig. We stopped for gas at one place that had barely enough room to get in and out, and then the bathrooms were under construction so we had to use porta potties in the back. Ugg. Later in the trip there was another gas stop that involved some swearing when there was not enough room to turn into the lane with the gas pumps, and a car was in the way so we could not back out. The car finally moved and we were able to get out. After that we noticed that there was another area for RV’s and big trucks, but we were not in the right position to get there. We had to exit on to the street, drive down a block, turn around, drive back and enter the gas station at a different place.

On the second day we stopped for ice cream in Oklahoma where it was 69 degrees. That is 86 degrees warmer than the night before we left home.

Wayne enjoying an ice cream cone in Oklahoma

Usually I do some of the driving on long road trips, but this time towing the fifth wheel Wayne did all the driving. Maybe I will try it on the way home. Our dog sat on my lap for the entire trip. I got some knitting done.

Knitting a pair of socks with Lyla on my lap

We had allowed extra time for the trip in case of bad weather for driving. As it turned out the conditions were excellent and we arrived after 3.5 days on the road at Gold Canyon RV and Golf Resort around 1:00 pm on January 31, one day early.

The following photo was taken from the driveway near the main office and community building at the resort. That little hill with the trees on it is one of the golf course holes. You can see the Superstition Mountains in the background.

Gold Canyon Golf and RV Resort

Our site was empty, so we were allowed to check in. The employees there helped us get backed in to our spot which was very helpful. That is standard at this place, not just because we are newbies. I guess they want to make sure no one hits a tree or knocks out the utility connections. Being the first time we had actually used the RV, it took all afternoon to get the trailer leveled, connected to the utilities, water hoses flushed out, put the slide outs out, etc. Our brother-in-law (who does not have an RV) came by to “help”, and two more experienced RVer neighbors came over with advice. I had a very detailed checklist for setting up, but we found a few things to add to it as we went through the process.

Our neighbors include a single man with a big camper van on one side (it looks very nice, although I did not think that type of RV was allowed in this park), and behind us a nice couple from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, with a large class A motorhome, eh? They leave their RV in storage in Arizona when they go back to Canada. They had driven home to Canada in March of 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic before the borders closed, and were not able to come back until this snowbird season. We have not met the people on the other side. They have a fifth wheel bigger than ours, with only one window on our side which is nice for them and for us. The next photos show our site with the RV set up, and a close up of our bikes.

Our fifth wheel trailer set up at the RV Park
Bikes ready for a ride

There are many lemon, orange and grapefruit trees in the park. One day when I was out walking there was a box of grapefruits with a sign saying to help yourself. I did and it was delicious. The following photo shows Wayne relaxing next to the RV where we have a patio area with a table and chairs, and a lemon tree right in the back!

Wayne relaxing on our patio area

There were a couple of potentially bad glitches involving water when we were first setting up, but in both cases they were resolved without a disaster. Another unfortunate thing happened at home, but that also got taken care of. We have a thermostat for the furnace in the house that can be controlled remotely, and allows us to monitor the temperature in the house. One night the temperature in the house was dropping fast, and got almost all the way down to freezing, so clearly the furnace was not working. Good thing we had drained the water. My uncle who lives nearby went over and scoped out the situation. There was a problem with the furnace, so we were able to contact the repair people and get it fixed.

Our first couple of days were spent getting everything set up and put away inside the RV. Right after that was a busy stretch with company. Wayne’s sister and her husband were already here renting a park model. Their young adult daughter arrived for a visit a few days after we arrived. Soon Wayne’s other sister and husband arrived for a five day visit, along with their young adult daughter, lodging at a nearby hotel. Our daughter came too. She stayed in the RV with us, sleeping on the love seat sized sofa bed. One of Wayne’s cousins and her husband also came for a few days, overlapping with the other visitors and staying at the same hotel. There were activities every day including hiking, biking, golf, pickle ball, swimming, hot tubbing, happy hours, and scenic drives. One thing I did not do much of was knitting. It was fun but after they all left I was ready for some down time.

One day we locked ourselves out of our trailer. Neither of us had locked the RV door, but when we returned from a day trip, the door was locked and both of our keys were inside. We are not sure what happened, but I may have bumped something on the lock mechanism as I was leaving. After googling and considering options, we noticed that the screen on the “emergency” window exit in the bedroom had clips for easy removal. Luckily it was a warm day and the window was open with access to the screen. That window is high off the ground, so we borrowed a ladder from the well equipped Canadian neighbor and were able to pop the screen off. I was nominated to climb up the ladder and crawl in through the window on to the bed. No, there is not a photo. Add a ladder and hida key to our supply list.

Our daughter and her two cousins are all athletic and gave my brother-in-law a workout during a pickle ball match.

The cousins playing pickleball with their uncle

There is a common area in the RV park with nice firepits for enjoying happy hour.

There are some neighborhoods with nice houses and beautiful landscaping across the highway. So far I have been on several bike rides over there, plus another bike ride on a trail south and west in Queen Creek, and also several hikes.

Bike ride in a nearby neighborhood
Hiking in the Superstition Mountains

There have been more than the average number of brutally cold and windy days at home in Minnesota, with temperatures in the twenties below zero and with 30 to 50 mile per hour winds. I saw on the news the other day that the interstate highway near our home was closed for a few hours due to whiteout conditions causing accidents. I have avoided sharing photos and news of how nice it is here. When we first arrived it was on the cooler side and even got down in the 30’s at night. The last few days have been up to 80 degrees in the afternoon. However even on the warmest days, it cools off a lot starting in the late afternoon.

Wayne’s sister and husband who have been renting here are leaving tomorrow. We will have some time alone until the beginning of March when our son and his wife are coming for a long weekend. Being that our son is 6′ 4 1/2 ” tall, they will NOT fit on the RV love seat sofa bed. They have reserved an airbnb instead. With a quieter stretch ahead, I look forward to catching up on my knitting.

Self Striping Yarn Socks

I am always worried about whether people will like the Christmas gifts I give them. In recent years we have reduced gift giving to only a few people, and we are only supposed to give one gift per person. It is hard to find one thing I know is going to be a hit, so often I end up with a couple of smaller items, or one main gift and another smaller bonus gift.

I could not figure out what to get our adult son James this year. I had ordered a “Life is Good” tee shirt in two sizes, but after they came in the mail it did not seem like enough, and also I was not sure either of the sizes would fit. I ordered another size, and then kind of late in the game decided to knit him a pair of self striping socks. When we saw James at Thanksgiving I had drawn a diagram of his foot on heavy paper, so I had a good chance of ending up with the right size. In the past he has been known for wearing fun socks, but at his recent wedding he wore low socks that were not visible with his expensive custom shoes. I verified that he does sometimes wear dress socks with work shoes, and then got organized to knit a pair. The photo below was taken at the wedding.

The expensive custom made wedding shoes with socks you cannot see

I used Regia 4-ply sock yarn I had ordered in early December with Black Friday sale pricing. In the photo below the yarn is staged next to a tile my mom’s sister painted many years ago of our family cabin.

Yarn for socks next to a tile hand painted by my aunt

I used my ball winder to divide the original skein of yarn into two center pull balls, one for each sock. They were supposed to be the same size, but one turned out bigger in volume. The two balls of yarn looked very different but were actually the same amount by weight. To get the self striping pattern on each sock to match, I started at the beginning of a white section from each ball.

I have been reading about various methods for knitting socks. I saw another way to cast on toe up socks called the “Turkish Cast On” so I decided to try that. There are quite a few good youtube videos if you want to check that out, including this one from The Chilly Dog. Following are photos of the turkish cast on with two socks at a time using the magic loop method.

Turkish Cast On two at a time
Close up of tip of toe for both socks, ready to begin toe increases

I also saw a method for the toe increases creating a rounded toe, rather than the pointier style used in most sock patterns. You can find that pattern here on Ravelry. The Seam Free Rounded toe has increases more often to make rounded toe, as seen in the photo below. There are increases in two out of every three rows, rather than every other row in the more common type of toe pattern.

Looking like sock toes, with rounded shape

The original center pull ball was starting to fall apart, so I rewound it into an old fashioned ball by hand. They looked even more different from each other, but were still the same weight. It was fun to see the pattern come alive as I knit the foot of the sock.

Sock feet in progress

I used the Fish Lips Kiss Heel pattern for the heel, which you can see in the next photo.

Done with the heel, ready to start the foot

The stripes on the two socks matched up almost perfectly for the entire foot section. When I got a couple of inches into the cuff, there was a knot in one of the balls of yarn. I hate that. I undid the knot and overlapped the two ends, knitting with both ends together for an inch or so. That caused an irregular section in the sock and for the stripes to not match up after that. I don’t think my son will care, but it is annoying when I was excited about making matching striped socks. You can see the place where the yarn is joined in the sock on the right in the photo below. And also that I rewound the other ball of yarn into a regular ball by hand. There are five inches of cuff at this point, so it was time to start the ribbing.

The stripes did not match after the knot in one ball of yarn

I was not sure if there would be enough yarn for three inches of ribbing, in addition to the five inches of plain cuff. I like the look of ribbing for the entire cuff, but that takes longer and maybe does not look best with the self striping yarn. One advantage of starting at the toe is that you can knit the cuff as tall you want, or until you run out of yarn. As it turned out, I was able to knit eight inches of cuff with a small bit of yarn leftover. I switched to double pointed needles for binding off the cuffs one sock at a time.

Following is a photo from the label of the yarn, showing what they are supposed to look like.

What the sock is supposed to look like with this yarn

I was happy with how the socks turned out, except for the way the break in the yarn caused a jog in the pattern.

Completed socks

I mailed the socks and tee shirt to my son in January, well after Christmas. Upon my request for photos of the socks on his feet, he sent the following. Um, this reminds me of the Wizard of Oz. LOL.

The Wicked Witch of the West

The next two photos are better, with shoes off, and then while wearing the infamous custom made wedding shoes.

Self striping socks with the wedding shoes

Meanwhile I learned another way to join yarn ends in the middle of a row from HeyBrownBerry. It looks better than having double yarn for a couple of inches, but would still result in the stripes of the two socks no longer matching. All in all I think this project was a success.

Scarf for my Nephew

My college age nephew, Daniel, likes to look fashionable with thrifted clothes. He sees the social media posts of things I have knitted and woven, and had told my sister that he would wear “anything” I made. It is hard to know what gifts to get the young people, but I figured he would like a pair of hand knit socks or a hand woven scarf for Christmas. I gave him a card to open with an IOU for a hand made item. I had a box of yarn options ready so he could pick out the yarns and colors he liked.

Daniel picked the scarf option with three different wool yarns. He started out with some navy and turquoise, but there was not enough of the turquoise, so he picked some tan also.

Yarn for a scarf

I warped the loom with the navy yarn, and then started playing around with how to use the tan and turquoise for the weft yarn. First I tried every other row, but the tan completely took over and you could barely see the turquoise. I undid that and tried switching colors every two rows, but I did not like that either. Finally I tried every four rows. That was not doing it for me either.

Trying out the tan and turquoise weft yarn with navy warp yarn

Sometimes you don’t know how something is going to look until you try it. The three skeins of yarn looked nice sitting next to each other on the table, but somehow they were not right together on the loom. It might have worked if I had included one of the other colors in the warp yarn with the navy, and then it could have been more of a plaid pattern with alternating weft colors. However by this time it was too late for that. I texted Daniel to share some options for what I could do. He did not know what to say, so I went with an executive decision to ditch the turquoise and have only the navy warp yarn with the tan weft yarn. Following is the beginning with about four inches of weaving.

Beginning of weaving with only tan weft yarn

I think it looks very nice. The colors are somewhat neutral, so it will work with many different looks. The blue and tan yarns are different colors of Berroco Ultra Wool. They are soft and can be machine washed using the delicate cycle, and dried in the dryer on low. The turquoise yarn is nice too, but not quite as soft and not machine washable. If I had included the turquoise yarn in the scarf it would have meant the final product would not be washable.

As usual, I did the hem stitch at the beginning and end of the scarf while it was still on the loom. I completed all the weaving in a couple of days. It was New Years Eve and New Years Day, so I gave myself permission to not do my usual chores. It was also a good time to stay inside due to temperatures as low as minus 20.

When I started to remove the project from the loom I realized that there were two problems at the very beginning. I had done the hem stitch backwards, and the first row of weaving after the hem stitch was the opposite pattern from what it should have been. Oops. I was able to easily undo the hem stitch and re-do it, and then add another row with a scrap of yarn on a needle in between the two identical rows at the beginning. Problems solved.

During the weaving I had to join a new length of weft yarn in two places, by doubling back the loose end in the same row as the new yarn. Sometimes that is not noticeable but in this case it really stood out. I decided to undo those ends and weave up the side instead. You can see the extra thick doubled rows in the photo below, before I fixed them.

Weaving removed from the loom with woven in ends very obvious

The following photo shows the completed scarf after all the ends were woven in correctly, the fringe was twisted, and it had been gently washed.

Scarf washed and complete!

Lastly are photos of my nephew looking dapper modeling the scarf.

Daniel is taking some acting classes at college. Some day in the future if he becomes a famous actor, these photos might be worth something!

Loom Stand

I bought a stand for my Schacht Cricket rigid heddle loom. I had been using it on the dining room table or the kitchen island. However if I am sitting at the dining room table the loom is too high, and if I am standing there it is too low, requiring me to bend over. Standing at the kitchen island works better but not if I want to sit down. The loom stand is the right height for weaving while sitting, but I also have the option of taking the loom off the stand for working on the table or island.

The loom stand came unassembled. I was a bit intimidated about putting it together after hearing that there was a lot of swearing while my uncle assembled the same stand for my aunt. I did not have any trouble at all, so maybe my uncle did not look at the instructions.

I started my first weaving project right away after putting the stand together and attaching the loom. The warping peg was 11 feet away on the dining room table. When I got about 2/3 of the way through with putting the warp threads through the heddle slots and wrapping them around the warping peg, I realized the threads at the beginning were sagging too much. I don’t know if the loom stand moved while I was working, or if I had not pulled the yarns evenly or what. I tried to fix the sagging threads which was challenging because the warp yarn is all one long string. Part of the way through I gave up on that, and decided it was not worth it. There would be a time later in the process to even out the warp yarn lengths.

My loom on a new stand with a mess of warp yarn

The next step in the project was winding the 11 feet of warp yarn on to the back beam, with paper between the rounds to keep the tension even. My paper was not quite wide enough. Then I realized that I had missed threading one of the slots in the middle. It was time for a break.

Later I noticed our dog Lyla near the loom, batting at the long warp yarns hanging on the floor. It turns out she had put a nugget of her food under the loom stand. And on a related note, she also kept dragging the Christmas tree skirt across the floor and trying to bury her food under it. I gave up and put tree skirt back in the basement.

Lyla trying to bury her foot under the Christmas tree skirt

This is the first time I have had so many problems trying to warp the loom for a weaving project. I reminded myself that making mistakes is normal, and always a learning process whether you are knitting, spinning, weaving, sewing, or doing any other craft, whether you are just learning or more experienced. At that point it was late in the evening, so I abandoned the project for the day.

I was mentally ready and had a chunk of time to work on the weaving again on a cold, snowy, windy Sunday afternoon while my husband watched football on TV. I decided to have a positive attitude as I took the loom off the stand and moved it back to the dining room table to fix the warping problems. The next photo shows the loom back on the table with the tangled warp yarns stretched out and ready to be tamed.

A mess of warp yarns

Untangling the warp threads was a very slow process. I used masking tape to hold them in place as I went along two threads at a time.

Untangling the warp yarns

With some time and patience, I was able to get the warp yarns separated and evened out, wound on to the back beam, and ready for weaving with the loom back on the new stand.

The first of three towels was blue waffle weave to replace the first one I had made earlier and given away.

Weaving using the new loom stand

For the second towel, I decided to try weaving a row of trees using a pickup stick, from a pattern I found online. Click here if you want to see the video, which also has a link with written instructions. The written pattern was helpful, but also confusing as it was using a different number of warp yarns for the tree pattern, and some other things did not seem to jive with what the video was saying. I figured it out which is good for keeping my brain active, but it took awhile and I was trying to finish this project before leaving for Minneapolis in a few days. After I completed one pattern repeat of the trees, I continued with periodic dotted lines, like the row before and after the trees, in order to get the towel done faster.

Tree pattern using the pick up stick

By the time I got to the third towel I was running out of time. I had found another pattern called “Windowpane” which is similar to waffle weave, but with eight rows in the pattern instead of six. I ended up doing a sampler towel with a section of yellow plain weave using a textured linen and cotton blend yarn, a section of blue windowpane, and a section of green waffle weave, with plain off white in between. There was some warp yarn left, so I make a narrower washcloth using the yellow textured yarn with waffle weave. The following photo shows the blue waffle weave towel after removing the weaving from the loom. Can you spot the mistake?

Blue waffle weave towel with an obvious mistake

After careful examination, I realized I had woven one row with plain weave instead of a pick up stick row. I was able to fix it by weaving in a piece of yarn with the correct pattern using a needle, and then pulling the incorrect row out. It was only the one row that was incorrect within the six row pattern. It could have been a lot worse if I had woven a few rows of the pattern, and then started over with another repeat, in which case I would not have been able to fix it at all.

The next photos show all three towels, after fixing the mistake in the blue towel and then weaving in ends and washing, followed by a close up photo of the row of trees on the second towel. I can tell where I fixed the mistake in the blue towel, due to the difference in the spacing. I hope it will gradually become less obvious over time as towel is used and washed. I am keeping this one, so probably no one will ever know.

Three towels after weaving in ends and washing
Close up of tree pattern using pickup stick

The washcloth using up the end of the warp yarn turned out well. I had to remove some of the warp yarns to make it narrower for a square shape. Following are photos of the washcloth next to the blue waffle weave towel to show the scale, and then closer up.

Yellow waffle weave washcloth, next to blue towel for scale
Closeup of yellow waffle weave washcloth

I look forward to weaving more towels and washcloths, while experimenting with patterns and yarns. However time is running out before we leave on our snowbird trip to Arizona with the new fifth wheel trailer. Due to limited space in the RV, I don’t think I will be bringing the loom. 😦