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.

Snowbirding

Wayne and I drove from San Diego back home to Minnesota last fall. On the way we scoped out some 55+ RV Parks in Arizona, where many retired Midwestern folks go to get away from winter. Wayne’s parents used to spend a couple of months in one of these parks in Brownsville, Texas. They loved it. My parents never had any desire to leave in the winter, other than a few short trips to visit family and friends in warm places. I was not sure how I felt about the whole idea, but was willing to check it out.

Driving through Phoenix there seemed to be hundreds of retirement communities and RV Parks. We saw many that seemed like big parking lots with RV’s lined up. Thumbs down. Heading east, we happened upon one in Gold Canyon on the very eastern fringe of the metro area. This place had a small golf course, beautiful desert landscaping and green spaces, a nice pool, bistro, gym, large activities building, and views of the Superstition Mountains in the background. The landscaping and green space with mountain view made all the difference. Thumbs up, I could see myself there. At the time we had a lot on our plate so we continued on to Minnesota and got busy with what we needed to do at home.

In January after things started to settle down, we decided to call Gold Canyon RV and Golf Resort to get our name on the waiting list for a “park model” rental for the month of February. The lady on the phone confirmed that it was a long shot, but she would take our name. We were surprised when she called us back shortly after that, and now here we are in Arizona!

We left Minnesota on a cold day near the end of January with fog, icy roads, and frost coating the trees. It was beautiful, but made for scary driving. When we got to the RV & Golf Resort two days later it was 77 degrees. That only lasted a couple of days and then it was much cooler with freeze warnings, but at least there was no chance of snow. Average high temperatures for the first half of February are in the low 70’s, but it cools off rapidly as soon as the sun starts to go down.

Leaving Otter Tail County
A winter wonderland in western Minnesota

The RV resort has “streets” with small “lots” to rent for your recreational vehicle, mixed in with park model homes to rent or purchase. In the middle is a common area with a big building that has a billiard room, library, ballroom, craft rooms for sewing, woodworking and jewelry making, a laundromat, meeting rooms, a coffee shop/bistro and golf shop. Outside the building are tennis and pickle ball courts, a pool, and a patio where you can hang out and listen to musicians around a fire pit. And of course there are some obligatory shuffleboard courts. Following are photos of the main building, Wayne standing in front of our rental unit with the mountains in the background and me standing inside our “house”.

The community building
Wayne standing in front of our rental, with the Superstition mountains in the background
The kitchen and part of the living room before we got it all cluttered up

Park model homes are sort of a cross between an RV and a “tiny house”, but bigger and not meant to be towed around. The one we are renting is 400 square feet with a bedroom, full bathroom, compact but complete kitchen and a living area. It is all very cozy and nice. There is a large overhang on the side with space to park your car, and room for an outside table and chairs and grill. Some of the park model homes are bigger with extra rooms or decks on the side.

A 55+ RV and Golf Resort is a community, as opposed to just lodging. People are very friendly. Many residents are active and social with tennis, pickle ball, golf, bingo, and a plethora of other activities. There is a giant board posted with all the clubs and activities going on. Another board has a list of upcoming events such as musicians coming on site to perform, pot luck dinners, bus trips for various outings and trips, etc.

This is half of the activities board. If you can’t find something to do, that is your problem.

I am doing most of the same things I do at home, but it is warm out instead of cold and snowy. I brought some knitting projects, and my table loom with a supply of yarn. We are walking and hiking. There are yoga classes. I can work on the blog. I can do the family cabin bookkeeping from here. I can read books. I can take naps. There are many interesting outings such as the Museum of the West, with large collections of cowboy art and artifacts.

I have been trying to get rid of stuff and live smaller, so I was looking forward to seeing what it was like living in the 400 square foot space. So far I like it. There is less time spent on cleaning and maintaining. More time for things I want to do.

There are endless opportunities for hiking around here
So many different kinds of cactus

Wayne was looking at old photos on his phone the other day. What do you know but he found some that he took six years ago when driving through this area, and he happened to make a random stop at one RV Resort – THIS VERY ONE! That was long before we were ever in a position to partake of the experience. We are now thinking about buying an RV. Maybe next winter we will be back here with that. Stay tuned.

Ice Fishing

My husband, Wayne, has been an avid fisherman ever since his dad started taking him fishing as a child. Jewett Lake, where we live now, is a beautiful, clean, spring fed lake known for good fishing. Wayne likes the solitude of sitting out in the boat alone, as well as sharing the experience with a friend, or teaching a child during the annual family reunion. One of my favorite meals in the summer is fresh caught fish with baked potatoes, green beans and tomatoes from my uncle’s garden.

For those of you who do not live in a cold climate like Minnesota, it may seem unbelievable that people fish all winter by drilling a hole in the ice. After a sufficient amount of time with temperatures near zero, the ice is 15″ to 18″ thick. Four inches is safe for walking. With 15″ of ice you can drive a truck on the lake.

The ice fishing experience ranges from sitting on a bucket out in the elements with your pole, to lounging inside a specially designed recreational vehicle equipped with heat, beds, sofas, a complete kitchen, and a TV. Between those extremes are tent style shelters and a range of huts on wheels in various sizes and designs.

There are many ice fishing houses of all types out on Jewett Lake. This winter someone plowed a 2 lane “road” from the public access out to an area in front of our house, making it easier for others to tow their ice house to the same area. Some of the fancy ice houses appear to be occupied most of the time with lights on at all hours, making one wonder how much fishing is actually happening. I believe that the amount of time spent in a “man cave” ice house is not necessarily related to how many fish are being caught.

Lyla enjoys a late afternoon walk on the lake with Wayne
A few traditional ice shacks

Wayne had done a bit of ice fishing years ago with his uncle on Lake Minnetonka, west of Minneapolis, so he had an idea what was involved. Now that we are living at the lake and needing a winter activity, he decided to try it again. $600 of new equipment and a trip to the bait shop later he was ready to head out on the ice. Wayne’s very old ice auger is not working, so on a couple of mild days he tried his luck with no shelter and using a hole someone else drilled. One fish was caught, but broke the line and got away, so we have not had any fish dinners this winter.

Minnows are used for ice fishing bait
Multiple holes were left by a previous fisherman
A village on the lake
A generator is necessary for powering the TV in this deluxe rig
Last year someone shoveled a spot for ice skating

Every year there are a few people who try to go out too early or too late in the season. Ice fishing houses must be removed from the lake by the beginning to middle of March, depending on the location, or risk a fine from the DNR. Or worse, they might get stuck in snow that has melted and refrozen.

We’ll see if Wayne actually catches anything this year. I will be watching from the living room window.

My First Weaving Project

Learning to weave has been one of the skills on my bucket list. I pictured one of those ginormous looms the size of a small room.

There are many different types of looms that can make everything from a simple narrow strap to a wide fabric with a complicated pattern. After seeing Torri Hanna use a floor loom at Tangles to Treasures, I realized that was a bit ambitious for a beginner. Instead I bought a “Rigid Heddle” loom that sits on a table or stand, and can make a project as wide as 15″.

The loom I bought came with the parts in a box, like a piece of IKEA furniture.

The table loom before assembling

There is a whole new vocabulary to learn in order to put the loom together and set it up for a project. The next photo shows the assembled loom with the “warp” yarn measured out for a scarf.

The “Warp” yarn is measured out

After the warp yarn is measured out it is attached to “apron bars” (like dowels) at both ends and wound up around the back “warp beam” (a thicker dowel). The project is rolled from the back “warp beam” to the front “cloth beam” as weaving progresses until all of the warp yarn is used up, or until your project is the right length. Following is a photo of my loom all ready to begin the actual weaving.

“Warped” and ready to begin weaving

I forgot to take a photo showing my weaving in progress. Instead I have a picture of a scarf Torri was making on a rigid heddle table loom, the same thing as what I bought, so you can see what it looks like. The yarn that is woven back and forth is called the “weft”.

Torri’s project in process

My first completed scarf is about 7 or 8 inches wide. Most of the yarn I used was already in my stash, leftover from previous projects. I alternated the different yarns in a random way. The final result has a few problems, for one thing you can see where the weft yarns are too loose at the sides in some places. I learned a new technique for making fringe. Overall it turned out OK for my first try.

Yarn from my stash used for the weaving project
My first completed woven scarf
My scarf up close

There are so many options for using yarn and fiber in creative ways, and always more projects in my head. I look forward to making another scarf soon, improving on the skills I learned with the first one.

The Woodpiles of Otter Tail County

I don’t think there are any covered bridges in Otter Tail County, but there are plenty of woodpiles. My sister Betsy and I had taken photos of the massive woodpile created during a family work weekend that included splitting and stacking wood needed for the maple syrup evaporator. Later, after we found some creative woodpiles when driving around in the area, Betsy posted photos of a couple of them on Facebook. Recently, I came across more woodpiles and thought it would be a fun blog post. Betsy gets credit for the title. Enjoy The Woodpiles of Otter Tail County.

Waiting to be split for firewood
Betsy and a cousin operating the log splitter
Split wood stacked in the syrup shed

A few random wood piles seen out and about in Otter Tail County.

Celtic Music Jam

There is a group of musicians in Otter Tail County who get together every month to play Celtic music. The venue they had been using closed, so the last 2 jam sessions were held at Tangles to Treasures in Fergus Falls. I helped Torri move furniture around to prepare for the January event. Due to bad weather and member travel plans, there were only a few people at the recent session, but it was a wonderful evening of music, fellowship and spinning.

The musicians take turns picking out something to play. The others may be figuring it out on the fly. There is casual conversation, and there are breaks for snacks and beverages.

Torri is spinning more yarn for a weaving project she is in the middle of, shown in the next photo. And noting that is not her biggest loom.

Wayne took video of the music and spinning.
Jam at Torri’s Tangles to Treasures

Following is a colorful photo of yarn for sale in the background at Tangles to Treasures http://www.tanglestotreasures.com/. The Racing Rabbit yarn is hand dyed by a woman living in the area. The baskets at the bottom of the photo have yarn that I spun. It is mostly wool, but some of the skeins include other types of fiber such as alpaca or bamboo. I dyed some of the fiber myself but most of it was already dyed before I blended it together for spinning.

Winter Art

Winter is beautiful. Back when we were still contemplating the idea of living up here full time I had nightmares about winter driving, especially in the dark. That still terrifies me, but the good thing about not having a regular job is that you can stay home if conditions are bad. Looks like I will be getting some knitting and chores done over the next few days with snow in the forecast and a low of -18 degrees tonight. More snow on Friday and Saturday with winds gusting to 40 mph. Following are photos of some artistic looking winter scenes taken when it was “nice” outside.