Quarantine 1950s Style

My mother-in-law spent over a year in a sanatorium for Tuberculosis after my husband was born in the 1950s. It seems timely to share an essay he wrote about this experience.

Wayne’s Essay about his Mother’s TB Experience

On my birthday in late March, as the Coronavirus pandemic was being declared, I thought about the year I was born. I suspect that as Mom was recovering from childbirth in the hospital (mothers may have been allowed a week or more hospital stay in those days), she was probably infected with the tuberculosis (TB)  bacteria when someone in the hospital sneezed. 

Wayne’s parents
Wayne at the hospital after being born


TB, which primarily attacked the lungs, reached epidemic proportions in the early half of the 20th century. Communities across America built isolation sanatoriums where TB patients could be isolated and treated. Antibiotics were introduced in the late 40s and 50s that proved effective in most/many cases to treat the disease. Mom had TB and soon after I was born she had to go into the Glen Lake TB sanatorium in Minnetonka, not far from our future home. My Dad took me to my grandparents house in Hatton, North Dakota, where Grandma and my Dad’s younger sisters took care of me. He continued to work in Minneapolis, away from his newborn son and away from his wife. This went on for more than a year. 

The Glen Lake TB Sanatorium operated from 1916 to 1976

It is not hard to imagine what a mental and physical hardship this must have posed for my parents. My Dad had also been in World War II, pulled from his family at a young age to face the stress and uncertainties of war. And he and Mom had been born into the Great Depression. They had to face and endure some of the hardest times in our history. 

Wayne and his Mom reunited after she spent more than a year in the TB sanatorium

Yet Mom recovered, and went on to have three more children and enjoyed remarkably good health until she passed away at age 93. My parents were able to enjoy many years of raising the family and watching their grandchildren grow. 


Thinking about this helps me put some perspective on our current crisis. It will be hard and stressful. For some, it will be far worse than that. But I am confident we will get through it. Our parents and grandparents have showed the way. 

Loom Knitting

While having more time at home I learned about loom knitting, which is a different way to knit using a row or circle of pegs, and with a hook and your fingers rather than needles. I had seen knitting looms before but never used one myself. My niece had given me a set in various sizes, after deciding she wasn’t going to use them.

A set of round knitting looms in different sizes
Instructions with hook used to knit with the loom

Knitting looms come in different sizes and shapes including a straight line with one row of pegs, a rectangle with two rows of pegs, or a circle, and with different numbers of pegs for smaller or larger projects. You can make tubular things like hats and sleeves using a round or rectangle shaped loom. You can do flat knitting with any of shape of loom. I have seen at least one rectangular loom where you can move the “end” back and forth to adjust the size and total number of pegs for a project.

Knitting looms seem limiting to me since the pegs are a fixed distance apart and there are a limited number of pegs. With knitting needles you have a wide range of possible length and width of needles appropriate for any thickness of yarn, and you can cast on however many stitches are needed. However, if you have the right yarn and project, the knitting loom can result in exactly the same result as traditional knitting, and provides an option for people who have problems using regular knitting needles.

The information in the pamphlet that came with the set was enough to get started, but youtube videos with instructions for different methods of casting on and doing stitches were more helpful. There are very simplistic cast on and “knit” stitches that would be good for a person who has no experience with knitting and wants to get the hang of it and actually make something pretty easily, but it will look a bit different than traditional knitting. After reading information I found on the internet and watching some videos I realized that there was a way to get the exact same result as the regular knit stitch produced with knitting needles. I cast on and started knitting and ripped it out several times before I was satisfied that I knew what was going on.

I started out thinking I was making a chunky cowl using two years together, from a loom knitting pattern I found online. I did not try to figure out the gauge (bad idea) since the yarns combined and the number of stitches seemed about right. That was a mistake because after several rows I realized it was going to be a baby hat. OK fine.

Casting stitches on to the loom by wrapping the yarn around the pegs

To make a “true” knit stitch (so it produces the same result as with knitting needles), you lay the working yarn across the next peg above the loop that is on that peg, poke the hook under the loop on that peg, and then scoop up the working yarn and pull it through the loop. Then you use your fingers to lift the old loop off the peg and place the new loop you just made on the loop. There is a simpler way to make a stitch by picking up the loop currently on the peg with the hook and lifting it up and over the working yarn and over the peg. This results in a slightly different stitch.

The first step of a knit stitch is to pick up the loop with the hook
Then use the hook to pull the working yarn through the loop on the peg
Lift the previous stitch off the peg and put the new stitch on
In progress..too many rows it turned out
Removing the stitches from the loom while pulling the tail through each loop

In addition to having a much smaller circumference than I was expecting, I knit too many rows for the width of the hat. It could have been a very tall clown baby hat, but I decided to rip some of the rows back before cinching up the final row of stitches by threading the working yarn through each loop. Finally I added a braid at the top.

Completed baby hat using a knitting loom

Sewing Face Masks

I sewed two face masks using bandanas for the fabric and two different patterns I found on the internet. I used to do a lot of sewing, including making many of my clothes, but in recent years I have only used my sewing machine for mending.

The face mask I sewed using an old girl scout bandana

Fabric stores used to have large selections of beautiful wool and other good quality cloth for making garments. Today most of the fabric for sale is polar fleece, and cotton for quilting. The clothing industry has changed so that buying clothes is relatively cheap, which is related to “fast fashion”, a topic for another blog post. One reason I do not sew much any more is that it is hard to see that tiny hole in the needle.

My mom was an excellent seamstress and I started learning from her at a young age. When my junior high home economics class was hemming dish towels and making aprons, I had already made simple garments at home.

When I was about 11 or 12 years old, my mom and grandma bought some of the inventory from a sewing store that went out of business. After that we had entire display cases of thread and drawers full of zippers and seam binding in the basement. Any time I needed thread for a project, I went downstairs to pick out the right color. I still have some of the thread and zippers leftover from those days.

Zippers from 1970

For my high school graduation present my parents gave me an Elna Lotus compact size sewing machine. The Elna Lotus machine did not have any fancy attachments or stitches, but it was well built and reliable, and has served my purposes to this day. I even used it to make my own wedding dress.

Back to the face mask project, I realized it may be necessary to have one when out and about in the coming months. I think part of the purpose for the mask is to reduce fear in other people you might have to interact with at a store. I found a couple of bandanas and some cotton fabric in my stash that would be suitable. There was plenty of elastic and thread in the house.

Plenty of thread in the house

I researched ideas and patterns for masks online. There are many variations with a center seam or side pleats for shaping, with or without a pocket for inserting a filter, and different methods for attaching the elastic or ties. For the first one, I settled on a pattern that had a bit of shape to it and was designed for health care workers with a slot for a filter. I made a simplified version without the slot, using only one of the pattern pieces provided. Here is the link for the pattern: https://northmemorial.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/north-memorial-health-homemade-healthcare-masks.pdf

Cutting out the pattern pieces
Sewing the center seam
Sewing together the two layers
Adding a casing on the side for elastic
Not my most attractive look

I decided to try a different pattern for the second face mask, using another bandana for the fabric. This one was basically a rectangle with pleats to give it some shape, and with the elastic sewed into the corners instead of threaded through a casing.

Second face mask

Sewing the elastic on makes the face mask more or less one size fits all, so for the next one I will try ties on the side instead. I hope face masks won’t be needed for much longer. I think we are all ready for our lives to go back to something like normal.

Self Quarantine

We are almost done with our two week self imposed quarantine, after leaving California and traveling across the country back to Minnesota. In the meantime a shelter in place order has started, so after the quarantine period is over we will continue to spend most of our time at home.

I don’t know where the time goes, even when I am home all the time. It would help if I got going earlier in the morning, or was productive later into the evening. People ask if I am a “morning person” or a “night owl”. What is the term if you are neither? I have trouble waking up in the morning, but I also start to get tired and unproductive by about 9:00 pm.

It took almost a week to get through mail and related paperwork, unpack everything we had brought on the snowbirding trip, and do all the laundry. The house was grungy and needed cleaning. I am still working on knitting the same pair of socks I started in California. We have been watching Outlander on Netflix. Every episode I notice the beautiful 18th century knitted shawls, capelets, wraps, wrist warmers and other accessories worn by the ladies.

Sock in progress

We have been going on walks every day. Since we are in a rural area, we usually do not see anyone else out at the same time. The other day we drove to a dam on the Otter Tail River a couple of miles away and walked around a bit, just to get out of the house. There were no people anywhere.

Walk near the Otter Tail River with no other people anywhere near

Like many others, we have experimented with new forms of socializing remotely. We had not seen my dad in the nursing home since January, and now we are not allowed in. We were able to arrange a Facetime visit. It was good to see him and know he is OK. We participated in an online game using our phones and Zoom, with our son and his girlfriend and members of her family. We were in four different locations but enjoyed time together laughing and connecting. There have been a couple more sessions using Zoom with different groups of family members and friends.

I am careful about not wasting food since we have a limited supply of fresh produce during the quarantine period. I kicked myself one evening when I got distracted and incinerated some broccoli I was baking in the oven. There was not much left in the refrigerator and I would not be able to run out to the store and get more. It made me appreciate the fact that in past times (and in some places today) every bite of food on hand might be needed for survival.

We had one loaf of fresh bread. It was a seedy multi grain bread that was one of the few options available when we stopped at the store in South Dakota. There were a couple of partial loaves of multi grain bread in the freezer from before we left for Arizona. I hauled out our bread maker that was still in the garage from when we moved here last summer. The only flour in the house is white flour, so I made a loaf of french bread that turned out well. I used to have some very old whole wheat flour but I am now regretting tossing it out before we left on the snowbirding trip. I look forward to trying other more healthy recipes once I can get to the store and buy some different types of grains and flour.

I don’t know how I functioned when working full time and also raising a family and doing other things. I know that I was stressed out much of the time. I usually did not get enough sleep, and only the most important tasks got done. The closets were a disaster. There was always a backlog of paperwork. There were years when the only television I watched was the news while working in the kitchen. I missed several entire TV series, because (before streaming) I could not remember when they were on or be available every week at the same time.

I have the most amount of time on my hands that I have ever had or ever will have. I am plugging away at necessary tasks, having time to knit, watching TV in the evenings and reading for a half hour before bed. Being retired at home under self quarantine is the opposite of working full time at home, with children at home trying to do school remotely or needing care. I don’t know how those families are making it work. My prayers go out to the many people having their lives disrupted, fighting for their life in the hospital, having to work more hours than before while at risk of being exposed to the virus, or in some cases not even having a place to shelter at home.

In the time since we have been back in Minnesota most of the snow has melted, except for some drifts and shaded areas. The lake is still frozen. Everything is brown and drab, except the sunsets. A winter storm is in the weather forecast for tomorrow night, including wind, rain, freezing rain, and up to three inches of snow. We are already having a “snow day” at home, so we’ll keep hunkering down as usual.

Spring sunset

Journey Home

We got back home to Minnesota late Friday evening after driving for three days with our small dog and a loaded down car. When we left California on Wednesday morning we did not know what to expect as far as food and lodging, or anything else, on the long journey home as the coronovirus crisis escalated.

The most direct route goes through northern Arizona and Colorado, but there were snow storm and even blizzard warnings for those areas. Last fall when we drove from California to Minnesota the GPS routed us on a series of smaller “highways” with many turns and small towns along the way. That was an adventure we did not need this time. Instead, in order to avoid the bad weather, we took a very southerly route through Tucson, and then on through New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota. We stayed on interstate highways where we expected there would be more services.

The short version is that yes, we were able to find gas, food and lodging the whole way home, but it was a very different experience than normal.

At the first gas stop in a rural area I cleaned my hands down with a wipe before entering the building to use the rest room. I used the facilities by hip checking the stall door open, then washed my hands thoroughly when done. I used a paper towel to get out of the room without touching the door. We needed something for lunch, so I selected a pre-made sandwich from a refrigerator case to go with fruit we had in the car. As the attendant processed the transaction, I asked her if they had any hand sanitizer. She said “no” but she had wipes, and offered for me to take one from a cannister while volunteering that she did not think the virus situation was “real”, but that it was something conjured up by “the government.” My mouth dropped open while I thought of how to respond. Finally I said “no, it is real”, and she responded with “you think so?” OMG.

The first day of driving through the deserts of California and Arizona featured heavy rain. The second day we passed through more rain with high winds, saw a rainbow, encountered sleet and snow, and later watched dust storms in the distance. Finally the last day was smooth sailing. One bonus was that gas was cheaper than we have seen for years, as low as $1.85 per gallon at one station. A strong tailwind also had us getting 43 miles per gallon.

Cheap gas

There were many truckers on the roads and gas stations were open. It was clear customers were all trying hard to not touch anything, using hips and shoulders and elbows to push through doors. One mother of two small children was having a hard time helping them wash their hands after using the rest room. She was having them sing the happy birthday song, and repeatedly telling them not to turn the water on again, not to touch the garbage can, etc. We only stopped at one gas station with a make shift take out window that was not allowing customers inside the building, not even to use the rest room.

Amazing rainbow

Fast food restaurants were open for either take out or drive through. This was not the most healthy journey. Larger truck stop gas stations were busy and had decent options for take out food. I was tempted to ask the fortune teller at one stop to let us know how long it will be before things start to get back to normal. I suspect life will never be the same.

Fortune Teller in a truck stop

Of course I had a knitting project along on the trip. I am working on a pair of socks which is good for the car since it does not take up much space, and especially while I have the dog on my lap, which is most of the time. You would think I would get more knitting done given the number of hours we were in the car. However, much of the time I was doing other things such as taking shifts driving, helping with navigation, watching beautiful scenery, reading, eating, or napping. I will write more about the sock project when it is finished.

Knitting a sock while on the trip home

Navigation using the GPS feature of a smart phone is one of the things that has changed my life for the better. I seem to have a sort of directional dyslexia so that I automatically turn the wrong direction when coming out of a restaurant bathroom or trying to reverse written directions when coming home from somewhere. Also I am hopelessly lost in any kind of amusement or nature park with intersecting paths, or inside the downtown Minneapolis skyway system. After a few minutes of walking around I have no idea where I am. I do like looking at a paper road map because you can see a bigger picture, but sometimes it does not help if you do not know where you are. I remember the days of the AAA TripTik where they made you a packet with paper directions for the entire route of a long trip, with suggestions for hotels and restaurants. My parents used to get a TripTik before heading out on a road trip. It is just short of a miracle now that I can turn on the GPS app to see exactly where I am and how to get where I want to go. Another feature that is amazing to me is being able to find hotels or restaurants or other services that are nearby or near a specific location you are headed to. We used a phone hotel app to find pet friendly lodging with no problem.

As we approached Minnesota we had to figure out where to get some provisions since we had been gone for an extended period and would be self quarantining once we got there, having returned from virus zone California. Since we would be getting home late in the evening, the best option seemed to be stocking up in South Dakota. Around dinner time we pulled into a grocery store parking lot. Wayne took the dog for a walk and then waited in the car while I went in to get food and other necessary items. I cleaned my hands with a wipe before entering the store, washed my hands again thoroughly after using the rest room, and then wiped my hands and the cart down with sanitized wipes near the carts. I could not remember what food we had left in the house, but for sure there was no fresh produce or dairy. I filled up the cart with fruit and vegetables, dairy products, eggs, and other food that seemed like it would work for meals over the next weeks. Most areas of the store were fully stocked, but interestingly the bread aisle was close to empty. We have a bread maker so had the idea of using that, but the flour was pretty cleaned out too. The bread maker uses “bread flour” but they did not have any of that, or any whole wheat flour either. I was able to buy a big bag of all purpose flour. I could not find any yeast in the regular location, but there were a few packets in the “organic” food section. I snagged a 12 pack of toilet paper. Yay! A full cart and $300 later I wheeled the provisions out to our already packed car. We moved some things around and then had to take items out of bags and shove them into any nook or cranny where there was some space. The things that needed to stay cold went in the trunk, an option when in a cold climate. When we were ready to go we looked like the Beverly Hillbillies.

Finally late in the evening on Friday we arrived home to 17 degrees and snow on the ground. We plan to self quarantine for at least two weeks. It is sooo good to be home despite it still being wintery here and having to cut short our snowbirding trip.

Still wintery at home in Minnesota

Snowbirding Part Two in California

Knowing we had been through challenges in 2019, some family in the Los Angeles area invited us to house sit for three weeks in March while they went on a trip overseas. After considering for about one minute, we said YES. That was arranged before we knew about the RV/Golf Resort reservation in Arizona for February, and way before the Coronavirus was a concern. Our host family is returning earlier than planned due to the current world health crisis, and our time here will also be shorter than planned. We will have been gone for almost two months by the time we get back home to Minnesota. The most severe months of winter will be over, although there can still be nasty weather through April. Any snow that happens after we get home will melt quickly.

The weather in Los Angeles in March has been similar to the weather in Phoenix in February, maybe even cooler, with highs in the 60’s and cooling down at night. We went from dessert landscapes in Arizona to ocean views in California. The house we are staying in is large and open, which is quite a contrast from the 400 square foot rental in Arizona.

We drove through some amazing scenery to get from Arizona to southern California, including mountains with canyons and crazy switchback roads, red rocks, boulders, forests and deserts. We had planned on doing some hiking in Joshua Tree National Park on the way through, but it was snowing there! We drove around in the park instead of hiking.

Snow in Joshua Tree National Park in California

In southern California while on a cliff walk, we saw whales spouting, sometimes two together indicating a mother and baby, on their spring migration from Baja to Alaska. We also saw small crabs, anemones and other signs of sea life in a tide pool area. There are beautiful flowers, and lush green trees and bushes everywhere.

So many pretty flowers everywhere
Beach scene at low tide
Rocky tide pool area

Last week we took a one hour ferry boat ride over to Catalina Island. We brought our ten pound Yorkie-poo dog along because it was allowed and we could not leave her alone all day. Rules for bringing her on the ferry included either wearing a muzzle or having an airline approved pet carrying bag. We bought a muzzle that she hated and looked ridiculous on her, but we also had the idea of carrying her in my backpack. That worked great and she tolerated it for the most part. Catalina Island was charming and scenic. There are two small towns, but most of the island is undeveloped. Residents and visitors get around mostly with golf carts or bicycles. We rented a golf cart for one hour, allowing us to cover more territory than on foot.

Lyla was not pleased about wearing a muzzle on the ferry
Catalina Island
Snoozing in my backpack on the way back from Catalina Island

Another day, before everything started to close down due to the Coronavirus crisis, we went to Universal Studios. This time our dog stayed at a pet day care / spa. She did not seem too traumatized when we came back to pick her up after 10 hours. I have mixed feelings about going to these touristy places with their exorbitant entrance fees and overpriced food, but the attractions are pretty amazing. You can be sitting in a seat that is wiggling around a bit or going along on a track, but with the virtual reality technology it seems like you are careening around in the air or being attacked by giant creatures. Maybe it is worth it.

Bike riding along the “The Strand” beach path and stopping at a Farmer’s Market were other fun activities we partook of before self imposed sheltering at home.

A bike ride on “The Strand”
Hermosa Beach Farmers Market

Throughout the entire trip we have been able to find a balance of doing things and taking it easy. A planned day trip down to San Diego to see relatives and friends was cancelled due to social distancing recommendations currently in place. Very disappointing but we expect to be back next year.

Southern California sunset with a rainstorm in the middle

We have loved our time in both Arizona and California. I am able to adapt and find positive aspects about many different kinds of places and situations. I am lucky to have traveled to many states and cities, rural and urban areas, State and National Parks, east and west, north and south. There are so many cool and beautiful places in our country, no way can anyone say that one place is the best.

The last part of our trip has been weird and disconcerting with the Coronavirus concerns and restrictions. Suddenly we are not able to be out and about partaking of attractions and sights, so we have been chilling at the house, which has beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean. We also have been able to take daily cliff side walks along the ocean, just a few minutes from the house.

The couple we are house sitting for are returning in a few days, and soon we head for home. Who knows what challenges and delays we might encounter on the three day journey. I am ready to be at my own house.

Weaving in Arizona

My new table loom was small enough to bring on our snowbirding trip to Arizona. It was especially nice to work on this weaving project in a relaxing fashion without many other duties calling. Following are some photos showing the first step of the process, measuring out and threading the warp yarns through the slots and holes in the heddle.

Close up of warping the loom

There are four different yarns in the warp. It looks like three in the photos, but there are two different purple yarns because I ran out of the one and then finished up with another.

As in my first weaving project, I used a selection of leftover yarn from my stash. Anyone with a hobby that uses materials has a stash that keeps getting bigger no matter how many projects you complete. Buying more stash has nothing to do with what is already in your stash. I saw a joke on facebook recently that buying stash and using stash are two different hobbies. So true! I like to buy something at the local yarn shop when I travel. When I use it later, or even just look at it, I think about where I was when I bought it.

Using the entire rental house living area for warping the loom

The two purple yarns and the brownish warp yarn are commercially made. The yellow warp yarn is something I had hand spun with my spinning wheel long ago. It was always a small amount and I don’t think I ever used it for anything else. The three balls of yarn on the table are what I used for the weft (back and forth).

Warp yarns on the loom, Weft yarns on the table

For the weft I used more of the second purple yarn, plus some purplish/goldish multi color hand spun yarn, and some gold single ply commercial yarn.

Two of the yarns in this scarf have a story. I spun the purplish/goldish bulky yarn myself using a variety of different fibers that came from different sources. I don’t remember all the fibers used except that the yellow is corn fiber I bought at a fiber festival. You would think corn fiber comes from the long silky threads that you peel away when husking corn, but actually it is made from starch that is extracted from the plant fibers, broken down into sugars, fermented and separated into polymers. The polymers are then made into delicate strands. I don’t understand any of that but you can read about it at the following web site http://knittyprofessors.blogspot.com/2009/12/fiber-facts-yarn-made-from-corn.html. The thing I remember is that the corn fiber was hard to use and I eventually gave most of it away.

I used the purple/goldish yarn that included corn fiber for the cuff on some felted slippers I made a few years ago. The boot part of the slipper was knitted using some commercial yarn (not anything used in the current project), and then felted. The cuff was knitted separately and sewn on afterwards, using my hand spun yarn that is also part of the current woven scarf.

Knitted and felted slippers I made, with cuff knitted from my hand spun yarn

I bought a skein of the gold single ply yarn, shown on the table in the photos above, when I was on a girls trip to New Orleans with high school friends about five years ago. I used it to knit a shawl, but ran out before finishing the project, so I ordered more online. What I am using in this scarf is from the second skein. It is bittersweet because one of my closest friends who was on that trip passed away suddenly last summer, days after we returned from another girls trip. Now when I see the shawl or this woven scarf with the gold yarn in it, I will think about my friend as well as the trip to New Orleans.

Following are photos of the weaving in progress.

Weaving in progress

The warp yarns are threaded alternately through the slots and holes of the heddle. When you move the heddle to up or down positions, it causes one whole group of alternating yarns to go up and the other to go down, leaving a space for the weft yarn to go across between them. The result is the weft yarn woven over and under alternating warp yarns. After passing the weft yarn across, you move the heddle to the opposite position, making the weft yarn go over and under the opposite warp yarns.

The shuttle is passing between alternating warp yarns

My second weaving project was an improvement over the first, but not perfect. The sections with thicker weft yarn are wider, but I do not know how one end of the scarf ended up at an angle. There is still much to learn.

One end is crooked
Finished scarf
Another view of the final product

For my third project I would like to make something with fewer different yarns but a more complicated pattern with the weaving itself. At the moment I have no idea how that happens, but I will figure it out with help from youtube, and Torri Hanna, my mentor in Fergus Falls.

Shawl

I finished knitting a shawl. It is not as interesting as the purple and gold scarf, and there is not much of a story behind this project other than I needed some things to work on while away from home on the snowbirding trip. Knitters usually bring materials for several projects on a trip because heaven forbid if you were sitting in the car or on a plane for hours without a project.

One thing I like about knitting and weaving and spinning is that there are infinitely many fibers and yarns and colors and patterns so that there is always something new and different to make. Sometimes that makes it overwhelming to decide what to do next or which yarn or fiber to use.

The main criteria for picking out the yarn in this case was to not buy anything. Many of you know that in October of 2018 I bought the entire inventory of a small yarn shop that was going out of business. At the time I did not have a plan for what to do with it, but I figured that once in your life you get to do something crazy. I will write more about the yarn shop purchase in a separate post.

Sirdar Aura yarn for the shawl

My yarn shop inventory is for sale at Tangles to Treasures in Fergus Falls, and also available for me to use. Even though I own thousands of dollars worth of yarn, sometimes I still cannot find the right thing for a particular project. In this case it was not hard.

Torri had knit a beautiful shawl with a pattern I liked called “Among the Shadows Shawl”, so I purchased the pattern on Ravelry. The nice thing about a Shawl is you can make it work with many different types of yarn, and I had no trouble picking something out from my yarn shop inventory. It was thicker than what the pattern called for, so that if I followed the pattern exactly the Shawl would come out larger. Instead I did some math to figure out the number of stitches and rows and pattern adjustments that would result in about the same size as the original. But it doesn’t matter exactly what size it comes out to be. Which is good because often my knitting projects do not come out the way I am expecting.

Getting started on the shawl

Another thing about fiber art that keeps me interested is that there is always something new to learn. This shawl pattern had a different kind of bind off that I had never seen before. I liked it and will probably use it again.

My next knitting project is a pair of socks with thin yarn, instead of the bulky yarn used for the shawl. Socks are nice for a trip because the project does not take up much room and is very portable.

More Arizona

We are enjoying our time in Arizona and grateful we have been able to partake of this opportunity to get a break from winter. It is hard to visualize snow and cold while walking around outside without a jacket or boots, and without worrying about slipping and falling. At home I have trouble giving myself permission, or knowing how much time is OK, to spend on things that are not necessary or productive. For many years when working full time while raising kids there was zero extra time. I am still getting used to the idea that being retired, and here in this place, there is time to relax, work on knitting and weaving, participate in events at the RV Park, hike, go on interesting outings, take naps. When we get back to “normal” life in Minnesota, there will be more things requiring my time.

The RV park has live musicians scheduled to perform every Wednesday and Thursday during happy hour. Recently we listened to two Jimmy Buffet style guitar playing brothers while enjoying an amazing desert sunset on the patio area around the pool.

Sunset at the RV Park pool

We also spent some time in the Billiards room at the RV Park on a rare rainy day. I used to be good at pool back in the day, but clearly I need a lot of practice now.

Having a really bad game of pool

The Museum of the West in Scottsdale is super interesting with art and artifacts from the old west. https://scottsdalemuseumwest.org/   There is some cool street art in Old Town Scottsdale including a sculpture, “The Doors” by Donald Lipski, that looks like a kaleidoscope when you step inside.

A display of chaps at the Museum of the West
“The Doors” by Donald Lipski
Inside “The Doors”

The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix was worthwhile https://dbg.org/, but we have seen some beautiful sights while hiking too.

At the Desert Botanical Garden
Out hiking

There was a cowboy theme party at the RV Park where residents came wearing fun western costumes. Another night we went to dinner at a burger joint in Apache Junction, just to the west of Gold Canyon. There was a live band playing, with locals dancing while wearing jeans, cowboy hats and cowboy boots. They were not costumes.

We met some friends from Minneapolis for brunch in Old Town Scottsdale. It is ironic that we hardly see these friends at home, but went out of our way to get together with them here. We also spent an evening with some of Wayne’s cousins. One lives in the Phoenix area, the others were visiting from North Dakota and Minnesota. Everyone we talk to at home knows someone who is here.

While staying in our rental unit we have collected cans, bottles, plastic and cardboard for recycling like we do at home, assuming there must be pickup or collection here. When I inquired at the information desk, they said that there used to be recycling collection but the service that came to pick it up “dropped” them.  WHAT? Instead I was given a list of several locations in the Mesa area where you could drop off your recycling. When we were on an outing in that direction we loaded the bags of recycling into the car to drop off while we were out. When we got to the first address, it was a community services building, but we could not see any dumpsters or containers. I went inside to ask, and was informed that they “no longer do recycling” anywhere in Mesa.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME? We tried several other options on the list we got at the RV park, but did not have any success.  

After the brunch in Scottsdale we tried another recycling drop off that Wayne found by searching on the internet, that was on the way back to Gold Canyon. When we got there it was another bust. Not ready to give up, Wayne decided to google recycling in Scottsdale. There seemed to be an option there, so we drove back 10 miles to within blocks of where we had brunch, and BINGO there were drop off dumpsters. In the end, I think we caused a larger carbon footprint by driving all over looking for a drop off place than was saved by recycling of our items.

Goldfield Ghost Town in Apache Junction was a little touristy for me, but I liked their Cowboy Commandments.

Our time in Arizona is wrapping up. Now that we have experienced this snowbirding thing, I can see why people do it. You can bet we will be back here next winter, one way or another.

Qivuit Cowl

My adventure girl daughter bought me a skein of qivuit yarn from a shop in Skagway, Alaska, when she was working there for three months in the summer of 2019. Qivuit is the fine underfur from a musk ox, which is eight times warmer than wool and softer than cashmere.

Qivuit yarn is expensive due to being very desirable but labor intensive to produce. You can’t exactly shear a musk ox like a sheep. The qivuit wool underlayer is shed each spring during molting. Fiber is collected during the molt, picked off pelts after a hunt, or gathered from objects the musk ox has brushed against.

The shop in Skagway provided a web site with a few patterns that could be made with a one ounce skein of qivuit yarn. I selected a cowl with a simple stitch pattern that could be knit without constantly looking at the directions. Cast on 141 stitches on circular needles, knit 10, purl 10. Experienced knitters will know that makes a pattern of diagonal bands of knit and purl stitches. I tend to use a lot of stitch markers to keep track of things, making it more obvious when to do something different and easier to notice of you drop a stitch.

Getting started with the qiviut cowl

It was slow going due to tiny stitches with fuzzy yarn, and I had to undo and re-knit a few sections to fix mistakes. I have had more time to knit than usual while traveling and in our rental unit in Gold Canyon, so I finally finished the cowl after starting it last fall.

The completed project

When it is bunched up on my neck, the diagonal pattern does not show very well. However I like that it results in a reversible cowl, the same inside or outside.

I would be wearing this cowl if I was back in Minnesota, but it is not needed here in Arizona. It will have to wait in my closet until next winter.