Saturday, June 2, 2012


Dear friends,

I've been thinking a lot lately about blogging...why I blog and how that has changed over the years. In fact, I wasn't sure I even wanted to continue blogging.  I have enjoyed aspects of the blog world but at the same time, have been pretty frustrated with other aspects.  In particular, I've begun to feel like I'm blogging for other people rather than for myself and I'm not happy with that realization.  In addition, some folks have found my space that I'm not comfortable with, and I don't feel like this is home any it is a 'safe' place to share. J and I are/will be making big changes over the next 5 -7 years and I want to share these things with those that are closest to me...but this space is not the place. 

I have finally realized that if I am to continue to have an online space, something needed to change.  So in the end, I've decided to close down this space and move to another.  I won't be doing a password protected site as I initially thought, but I will, at least for now, limit who I share the web address with.  This week, many of you will get an email directing you to where my online home now is... If you don't get one and would like to keep reading, please email me for the address (rachieraeATgmailDOTcom) (I may have inadvertently missed you from the list...and there are some of you I hope will follow me on this journey but I don't have an email address for you).  Or if following along with my knitting is your only interest, I will continue to post finished objects on Ravelry...and you can find me there (elkbiologist).

Sometime in the course of the next few months, I'll delete this blog in its entirety. 

Thanks to everyone who has visited this space over the years...


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

There Still is Fiber (FO: Haslam)

Though I haven't knit more than a handful of stitches in a few weeks (due to too much work, exhaustion, and the need to clear my head on a bike outside instead), I still have a couple things to share in that regard.  

First, while very little spinning is actually occurring, when my friends went to a Fiber Festival in Hood River a few weeks ago, I felt the urge to try and experience the fun of a festival 'in spirit'.  So I handed over a few bucks and some color preferences and said 'buy me stuff'.  They were more than happy to spend my money and they picked well...

Let's take a closer look shall we?
From top left clockwise:  Woolgatherings 4 oz Polwarth Wool Top, Sporform 4 oz shetland/corridale in Dark Purple, Dicentra Designs 4 oz BLF in Kung Pao, and Crabtree Farm 4 oz black Merino/Alpaca in natural (so so soft!)
And not bought at the festival but some more to share...some of Sue's beautiful dyed roving
I can't wait to have time to spin up some of this amazing fiber...on my brand new spindle!  I've been borrowing Anne's all this time and since a spindle is something I can actually take to the field (unlike a wheel of course), I figured I needed to buck up and buy my own.  The ladies in my knitting group are sort of Jenkin spindle junkies and since he was going to be at the festival, they had no problem picking out a good starting spindle for me.  Eventually I may get another smaller one but for now, I think the Turkish Lark is a good size.  Isn't is beautiful?  And yes, I realize it has no fiber on it...I will remedy that soon for sure!

Also, to add to the fiber fumes, I actually finished something.

I had grand plans to get a few projects that are so close to being done finished before heading out to the field.  But that got derailed by an enabler... See, during April, Kelly organized a KAL/contest of sorts for knitting one of the designs of the very talented Lily.  And then, Lily just happened to release a pattern called Haslam at the start of that KAL that I fell in love with.  Which is funny since it is another wrap and I still don't know if I will wear them!  But Kelly's beautiful version tipped the scales and in mid-April, one week before I was heading to Alaska, I found myself rooting in the 'stash' for a perfect skein.  I found one I had forgotten I was a new base that my friend Sue was trying to decide if she wanted to buy so gave Anne and I each a skein to try.  Anne did so immediately (as was the intent) but it took me 2 years (or more maybe!) to try it out (which is why I am so not the person to ask to test knit a pattern or a skein a yarn...but thank you for thinking of me Sue!).  It's a merino/silk fingering blend (50/50) and likely wouldn't wear well for socks...but for a wrap, I thought the silk would be perfect.  And it is.  The wrap is super soft, and drapes well in my opinion (the color is more accurate in the pictures below). 

I was stressed that week preparing for the Alaskan trip and apparently garter combined with stitches dropped with intention was just the key.  I finished it in a week and I'm in love with the finished object.  There will be more of Lily's patterns knit in the future I am sure (in particular, Wray and Helvellyn are calling my name)!

Now back to work and preparation...the countdown begins...I have 12 more full days to sleep in my comfy bed, eat good meals, and use an actual bathroom before I head out to sleep in my truck, eat egg sandwiches and pasta every day, and use a shovel instead of a bathroom for the rest of the summer/early fall! 

ps -- so far this year, I've collected 3 FULL large trash bags of shed from the girls and will likely get another 2 at least.  When I get out of the field this year I need to set aside 15 minutes a day to pick guard-hairs I think!!  I'll be curious how much fiber I can get from each bag...I'm hoping maybe 20 - 25% of the weight of the bag, but that is likely wishful thinking!
_ _ _ _ _ 

Now playing:  Moonshine by Martin Simpson


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

It Is That Time Again...

Um, yeah...Hi.

Wow...what the heck happened to the past month?  The internet break was not at all intentional but I guess as much as I'm trying to ignore it, it's just that time again.  That time when I'm scrambling to get ready for a huge field project along with trying to deal with 6 or 7 (or 10 or 12!) smaller on-going projects that need some varying degree of attention before I drop off out of communication for the summer.  I find it interesting how everybody has this date in their head of when I'm unavailable...and so about 4-6 weeks prior to that date, I start getting 'Can you do this before you head out for the field' requests....ignoring that I've been available and more able to work on this stuff for most of the winter.  Because you know, getting ready for an intense field season with a brand new project doesn't take any prep time at all.  Are you feeling the sarcasm?  Okay, with that little rant done, let's move on, shall we?

While most of the break from this space and yours was related to work, I've also felt the pull of spring so have been spending 'free' time outside rather than on a computer.  And I've been trying to spend as much time with J as possible since we'll be about 1000 miles apart most of this summer and fall...working on separate projects in different countries.   We are hoping to get in a short backpacking trip into lower elevations before I head out.  Wish us luck that we can make that happen!  Otherwise, let's see...what have I been up to? 

1.  I was in Alaska for 2 weeks working on a project I've been dreading for months now.  The work itself was not fact, of all the things I do in my job, it's the thing I hate the most.  But with that said, I got to work with 2 really incredible guys that I've known in a professional capacity for years but rarely get to hang out with.  And I got to work with a pilot that I haven't seen in awhile...also a great guy.  And as you can see, I got to see some pretty amazing country both from the air and from the ground.  We spent a couple days working outside of Denali and a couple days working very close to Yukon Charley.  It was still winter up there and a shock to the system to go back to days in the 20's!  I was working on caribou and saw a ton of them, also quite a few moose, some ptarmigan, and came close to a brown bear sighting.  We found his den but not him.   I'll return for 2 weeks in October to finish up this project and will hopefully take more pictures (we were having to go such long distances in the helicopter that we were trying to take as little weight as next time I'll make sure I grab my light 'point and shoot' for the trip). 

2.  While in Alaska, I got to have a quick visit with the caribou 'kids' that I raised.  They are almost ready to have their first grown up!  I thought it would be fun to show a then and now picture.  This is Daphne as a 3 year old and then as a calf.  Just a note...the yellow thing around her neck is a 'key' for an individual feeder.  It's a pretty cool set-up for individual feeding which gives us a ton of information about intake and allows for a regression approach for feeding rather than a treatment approach.   For some questions, this is a much better design. 

3.  I've been biking.  Last spring, as a gift to myself for finishing up my dissertation, I bought a road bike.  I'd been wanting one for a decade but never wanted to spend the money.  I finally gave myself that treat.  And there it sat because I was in the field and then when I got back, it was already pretty cold and I can be a wuss when I want to be.  This spring, with the support and motivation of a friend, I've been remembering how much I love being on a bike...and learning how much fun a road bike is.  Now. I won't ever give up trails on my mountain bike but long rides on a road much fun!  I've logged in over 100 miles this past month which is pretty good considering I was gone for more than 2 weeks of that time.  This past weekend I went for a 25 mile fairly strenuous ride in an effort to add on mileage for an event I may or may not do.  In 3 weeks, there is a ride to raise money and awareness for domestic violence...70 miles.  It's crazy even considering doing it given my schedule (I'm gone one of those weeks and leave for the field a week later) but I'm seriously considering giving it a go.  That would be the longest distance I've ever biked and I'm sort of itching for the challenge.  Add in a good cause and it is hard to resist.  We'll see!

4.  I have been knitting and spinning in spurts but honestly choosing fresh air and exercise over fiber most days.  But I do have one finished object to share later in the week (hopefully...if I make time to get pictures).

5.  I also spent some time in Pullman working through logistics for the soon-to-be-here field season with the graduate student.  And so I got to see the black-tailed deer 'kids' as well.  I have to say again that they are such great kids...super friendly and sweet!  While I'm still nervous of taking them to the woods, it'll be fun to spend time with them this summer.  And seriously, how cute are they (aside from the fact they are in shed-mode so can be a bit rough looking around the edges!)? 

I think that about wraps it up for now.  I'll try to squeeze in a few more posts before I head to the field on June 10.     

How have you been?  I'm so behind that I'll likely only make it around to the most recent of your let me know if I'll miss something important in doing that.  

_ _ _ _ _ 

Now playing:  Ritual by Adam Hurst


Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Right. So I may have a little bit of an addiction to dishcloths and dyeing at the moment. Regarding the dishcloths, I'm not sure if the addiction is to dishcloths themselves or to mindless, quick projects requiring little skill or attention...which may be something I need as I prepare for the field start-up of 2 quite large projects...both of which I'm sort of seriously stressing about.

Regardless, I'm okay with these new addictions.

Both of these cloths were knit for friends...and neither have been received (and as is typical fashion for me, one actually hasn't even been mailed yet!) so I won't share who they are for yet. I'll update the Ravelry project pages later if anyone is interested.

First up...when I found the ballerina cloth a couple months ago, I ran into another design by the same person that I thought would be perfect for a friend...
Mary and her garden. And who wouldn't love a little matching fish scrubbie to accompany it?

For this next one, those of you who know me will wonder if I'm feeling alright. I mean, me knitting a cheerleader cloth with pompoms and high ponytails at that?! There was a reason. My friend is working on a doctorate and has had some major changes that she is struggling to deal with. So I needed to put together a 'ch
eer' package for her. Definition: a package of many individually wrapped gifts, some silly and cheap, some 'real', with instructions to open one gift each day she feels down/sad. Hoping that each will bring a smile to her face either with the silliness or with pleasure at the gift itself. Scrolling through cloth patterns, I ran into these cheerleader ones a couple months ago and just sort of laughed at them. But then it dawned on me...what better thing to put in a 'cheer' box than a cheerleader cloth? This should make her laugh on so many levels...that I actually knit it...that I actually knit it for her (she is as far away from cheerleader as I am)...the fact that it actually has pom-poms on it. I know it will bring a laugh and a smile so it was more than worth the time to knit.

Also included in that same package...this same friend just started to knit as a stress-reliever and so far has been doing scarves. So I decided to dye her up some worsted yarn in her favorite colors so she'd have enough knitting to get her through this final sem
ester of her first year. Cobalt and 'sunrise' were the requests. Below is what I came up with. Cobalt was straight-forward and though I had wanted something a bit darker, this is close to what I was hoping for. It is slightly variegated which would look great in a scarf pattern. The other isn't what I had in my head but I think it does look like a sunrise...again slightly variegated but this one has some mixed colors. So hopefully she'll like them. In fact, I'm thinking that together, they'd make a great striped-scarf!

Next up in the dyeing department, a few laceweight skeins. The light green was an attempt to reproduce what I had done before...the result ended up being pretty darn close. The blue skein is a shade I had in my head for a certain, special person...and I'm pleased that I was able to match the idea with the real thing. Both of these skeins will be going to live (and hopefully be used) with friends.

After I dyed up the blue skein though, I was sort of having trouble parting with telling myself I just wanted to explore the repeatability of that colorway as well, I tried for another. This one for myself. And since I had one lone skein of laceweight left that probably would feel lonely and unwanted if left in the bare state, I worked on trying to get an orange that had been rolling around in my mind for a few weeks...for a specific project. It's not quite as dark as I wanted but the more I look at this skein, the more I love it. This one likely isn't repeatable...I kept adding and changing until I got the shade I wanted...and didn't write down what I was doing. But that's okay...sometimes it's fun to just play and be surprised by the unique results.

We are finally having some amazing weather here. So taking advantage of it and about to head out the door for a long, brain-clearing bike ride with friends...already the second ride of the week. I love spring.

_ _ _ _ _

Now playing: Chicken in a Biscuit by Black Happy


Friday, April 6, 2012

Friday: A Week in Review

Making me happy this week:

in between April snow showers and 25 degree (F) nights, we have some signs of spring finally...a much anticipated visit by a good friend that I haven't seen in almost a year (since she decided to move to CA for graduate school darn her)...lots of talking, laughing, eating, and wine...what else is there? ... getting back into the habit of riding a unexpected work proposal (whether we choose to accept it remains to be seen but the fact that it was offered is pretty amazing)...

more dishcloths for friends...dyed more yarn...picked White Russian back up (!!) and trying for about an inch a day...started spinning on the wheel...

In the Kitchen:

  • remember me saying last review that this was going on the menu. Well, it happened and Heidi didn't let me down as usual. Excellent. Especially topped with avocado. I think I could just eat the broccoli pesto by the spoonful. but I didn't. okay, maybe just one spoonful.
  • I had to make this again for my was as good as I remembered it.
  • a spinach/kale/orange juice smoothie a day. recommended by Julie and it is much better than it sounds!
  • tried this recipe...didn't add as much cumin (maybe only 1/4 tsp...didn't seem to fit with the rest of the spices)...was better than I expected and pretty quick/simple to make.
  • watched Hunger Games and thought it was decent. Book is better (of course) but my biggest complaint about the movie was the lack of character development for anybody other than Katniss and Peeta. So fell a bit flat to me. Anybody else have opinions?
  • Finally watched the Hollywood version of The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo and sorry, but the Swedish versions continue to have my heart. Rooney Mara did an incredible acting job but to me she wasn't Lizbeth. Naomi Rapace, as soon as I saw her, thought 'this is Lizbeth'. Otherwise, some actors better in the US version, some better in the Swedish version...same with other aspects of the 2 movies. Glad I watched it but won't watch that version again.
  • Finished this book and got drawn in. No real plot...more a character-driven book...and it took about a quarter of the book to get involved in the characters but then couldn't put it down. denise, I'm thinking maybe you would enjoy...
  • From melissa, enjoying a new to me artist...Chastity Brown.
  • via kristi...ben howard
Ungulate of the Week:

I was going through my field photos from last summer for a presentation and came upon a series I had forgotten I had taken. This is right at dusk up at Wildhorse Lookout near Gold Beach, the background, beyond the hills, is the ocean.

Around the web:
  • spring non-manifesto about 'marching' by denise
  • from Linda, an inspiring video
  • have been enjoying these food and beauty series...considering my 'beauty' regime consists of soap, shampoo/conditioner, toothpaste, sometimes lotion when I think about it, sometimes blistex when I need it (I'm pretty simple), I'm not sure if I'll try any...but bookmarking this post and this post just in case.
  • before my rhubarb starts growing again, I need to use up what i have frozen...maybe this over the weekend? or this? or this which I've made before and was delicious? or this? what's your vote?
  • I want to reproduce this meal exactly.
  • with leftover ricotta from the bread pudding, I'm thinking of trying this bread over the weekend (still snowing and temps in the 20s so bread baking is still quite welcome!)
  • a surprise wedding gift from Rue and I for Jacey...such a joy to knit!
So...what was your week like?

_ _ _ _ _

Now playing: Nothing Else Matters by Metallica


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

I Need a New Hobby Like...Part 2

Here is the second hole to the head...and this one 'requires' an even longer explanation...but one I think some of you will find interesting.

But first -- thank you all for taking the time to share your opinion on the last post...I'll try to respond individually, but I feel better knowing many of you believed I was justified in my frustration. As to whether I'll take that next step or not, I haven't yet decided. We'll see.

Alternative title: The Generosity of Friends Part IV

Some of you have noticed and commented on the lit
tle teasers I've included in my Friday review posts showing that I started to learn to spin. I resisted this urge for a long time despite watching and admiring the spinning talents of my near and far friends. I resisted because I like to knit and felt like while I loved the idea of would eat into my already very sparse knitting and art time. And then something changed.

Like so many animals, elk shed their winter coats in spring. It is quite animal dependent what they shed interestingly enough. Some seem to only shed guard
hairs, others a fluffy 'wool' undercoat with guard hairs, while others seem to only have that 'wool' shed which is very quick to mat into a thick mess that gets pulled off in one long piece of almost 'felt'. Once I started knitting, I wondered if that woolly part could be spun into yarn. I mean, they spin cat and dog hair so surely this would work? But I didn't pursue it. I think because I'm so busy and because, unlike now, the mortality of these special animals wasn't something I dwelt on. I obviously knew they wouldn't be around forever, but I had 'plenty of time' to see if I could save a piece of them.

I don't normally take pictures of them at that time of year cuz the shedding process is not particularly at
tractive, but this is one I dug up from my 2006 field season (that's J hard at work!). You can see in the photo below that the animal on the left is about halfway through her shed (front of her body has shed, back hasn't yet) while the animal on the right is just at the start of it.

Last spring, I took my friend Anne up to visit with the girls and they were near the end of the shed. I told Anne that I had wondered if you could d
o something with this and being the fearless one that she is, she instructed me to bring her a bag. Which I did. Shortly after that, I left for the field season and when I got back, she showed me that she had cleaned a bit up (which is a tedious process with all the guard hairs) and that Sue has spun a little. Not only is it amazingly soft and warm (Sue compares it to qiviut), it seems like it spins quite well too.

When the idea first came to mind of using this fiber, I had the thought that I'd love to get enough to make a sweater for J and a sweater for we'd always have the girls with us. While that is still a consideration, I have a different idea now for a variety of reasons I'll explain in a different post. But I figure what better way to be 'wrapped' in our girls than a blanket? A post on that will come soon when I ask for your suggestions on a pattern (I have my own ideas since it couldn't be 100% elk...but you may help with ideas of something better!). So below you can see what I am dealing with. On the left is what comes off the right are the guard-hairs removed, bottom right is the remaining fiber. It took me about 15 minutes to clean that amount...after I realized that a pair of tweezers helps immensely. Though now that I understand the process a bit better, this year I'll likely be more selective with collection and that should help.

Back to spinning...After getting it cleaned up, I was perfectly fine to let the amazing Sue spin the fiber for me no matter the cost. And then one day at knit night, as I was basically mesmerized
by watching 3 people spin (who try to enable me constantly!), I started to pay more attention. And Anne, who can pick out subtle interest like a freakin' hawk, put a wheel in front of me and said 'treadle'. I did and a feeling of calm came over me. I left that evening with a drop spindle and ball of roving in hand...and emails waiting for me at home showing videos of how to start. Which I did (picture on left). A few weeks later, I was allowed to progress to a much nicer spindle (a Jenkins spindle), also lent to me by Anne (picture on right). Oh, what a difference... A few minutes on that spindle and I knew that I had to clean, spin, and knit the elk fiber completely by myself. It'll take decades probably but that's okay. I'm all about the process (remind me I said that in a few years when I'm only a tenth of the way through cleaning the first bag!).

Now -- I know that I could do this faster on a wheel, and I resisted the temptation to even look despite the enabling of my friends (Sue found a screaming deal for one for her daughter, bought one for herself, and Meg broke down and got one as well...all within the space of a few months!). But then a deal fell into my lap I couldn't refuse. Rue had seen that I started to learn to spin and one day an email showed up asking me if I'd like to take her Ashford Tradition (double treadle) off her hands for the price of shipping. She's graduated to a new wheel and this one was taking up space.

Um, yeah!!!

This showed up
a couple weeks ago...

Not only a wheel that looks almost brand new, but a wooly winder (I don't know the significance of this piece of equipment yet!), and a bag of beautiful roving to play with. Again, I'm just completely blown away by the generosity of this community. I doubt I could have gotten this good of a deal scouring Craig's List but even if I could, I love that I'm using a wheel that a friend learned to spin on. There is something incredibly special about that.

I haven't used it yet...I'm trying to find time to have Sue come and check over the wheel and to hold my hand through the beginning...but I hope that happens soon. We've decided on a swap...she'll help me learn the wheel and I'll repay her with some french onion soup. Seems like a good deal!

If you haven't been able to tell, the procession of events to get to this point is very special to me. I have a bag of fiber that contains hair from some of my favorite animals (including 3 very special girls that we lost last year). It gives me a bit of comfort to know that I have something small that is tangible from them that eventually will be turned into something warm. And I have the support and generosity of friends near and far that pushed this from a remote idea into a reality and I'm overwhelmed by that.

And the timing is's spring and the girls are shedding again. For as many years as I can, I'll be collecting as much as I can. Because 5-10 years from now when they will likely all be gone and I can't physically take comfort from them as I do so often now, a blanket will always be a physical reminder.

How perfect would it be to end this post with a skein of my first hand-spun yarn? Alas, I don't work that way...I practice and learn and change things until I feel like my first skein will be 'great'. I'm not there yet...not quite that fearless. But maybe soon?

_ _ _ _ _

Now playing: The Lumineers by The Lumineers (just released...what a perfect surprise today...thanks Mel!!)


Friday, March 30, 2012

Sharing A Learning Experience

I'm sort of thinking that every other week is a good, manageable schedule for my Friday Review today something a little different.

I'd like to share a 'buying' experience I recently had that was quite disappointing and frustrating to me. And I wonder if I could ask you to take the time to share your opinions. Settle in cuz as usual, I'm wordy!

Many years ago I ran across a piece of mass-produced metal art that I thought would be perfect to hang outside. We were completely revamping our backyard and this fit our style well. It was a purchase from BiMart and cost me $20 (we put a wood backing on it so it's just the metal part that I bought). After hanging it up, J loved it and really wanted at least 2 more similar pieces to fill in more space (what you are seeing is our concrete block garage that we covered with a lattice that has been stained...we now have evergreen hydrangeas that grow fast and vine-like entangling with the lattice to cover a lot of the space).

And a very blurry picture (sorry, it's all I could find) so you can see what it looked like last year and to see the full extent to show why we wanted two more pieces to fill in more space.

So I periodically started doing online searches to find something similar (the product wasn't available via BiMart anymore). And I never could find anything like it. This past year, I was struggling to come up with a great Xmas present for J and so started seriously trying to figure out if I could have something similar made locally. Starting with a recommendation from a friend I made tons of calls both locally and with businesses I found online that did metal work. And finally found that a couple local high schools had laser machines and that this would be pretty simple to do. The teacher I ended up talking to was enthusiastic and said no problem, he even had a student in mind that knew more than he did about this type of work (the teacher is new and I think wanted to initiate things like this with the community so was very helpful). He didn't think it could be done by the holiday season (which was not an issue for me...J knew I was doing this and so essentially I had already given the gift) but was positive they could get it done a couple weeks into the spring semester.

I wanted 2 pieces and so drew the designs I wanted to have cut, and then we met with the teacher and student...taking in the original so that th
ey would know what we wanted (size etc). Both were enthusiastic and told me how easy and inexpensive this would be, only taking a couple hours of the student's time and not very much in materials (and showed us the cutting machine which is pretty amazing by the way). We didn't finalize a cost, but they estimated it would cost about $25-$40 per piece and that would cover the student's time, the materials, and a 'rental' fee of sorts with the school. I was very satisfied with this but did say that we wanted to be fair to the student.

Throughout January I kept getting emails that told me the student had taken on more projects and wasn't working on ours very much, sorry for the delay. Which was fine. I really had no timeline for this...I was just happy I was finally getting them. But then, issues starting arising. First was that they were having difficulties with the designs and it was taking them a bit longer to get them set up into the computer. I asked if I could help...change them to make them work better...and if not, could I see what was being cut before they proceeded to know if I'd like what changes had been made. My request was ignored. Irritation number one.

Then mid-way through January I received an email from the teacher telling me that he had been to an art market (maybe in Portland but I'm not sure) and after seeing what artists were charging for metal-work, they had reconsidered what this would cost. And made it appear they were being generous since the pieces at this market were so much more expensive (ridiculously expensive in his words). And asked me to pay at least $100/piece (which was half to the student, half to the school). I was pretty astounded and in all honesty, pretty angry at both him and me (me for not setting up a formal price from the beginning...I was too trusting).

Now, don't get me wrong...I'm not cheap and want to pay fair for someone's time. But the thing I was angry about was the comparison of this project (which was someone else's original idea in terms of shape, size etc but with 'my' designs to be cut...quoted because they were pulled heavily from stencils I had...which is okay in my mind because I'm not selling anything with those designs) to a project that was original artwork where the artist not only designed and made every aspect of the art, they also have to pay for travel and booths (among other things) etc to show at these markets in order to make a living (and a hard one at that). And to me, this is like comparing apples and oranges. If, I had asked the student to come up with an original design, the comparison gets a little closer.

I responded as such to the teacher, trying very hard to be diplomatic and generous and told him that without knowing the cost of materials and how many hours the student put into this project, I was having a hard time figuring out a fair price for these pieces. The teacher responded that he understood and that $75/piece was fair. I actually didn't think this was unfair, but it was twice the estimate I was given at the beginning with no indication of actual costs and time put into it. I agreed because I wanted to be done with it.

A couple weeks later, I got word that one piece was done and could I come look at it to make sure it was what I wanted. Scheduling became a problem that week and so he sent a picture of it. I wasn't actually happy with it since they had taken liberty with the designs and not let me approve those changes but frankly just wanted this ordeal done. So I told him I was completely satisfied and asked him to let me know when the other was ready. About a week later, the teacher told me that he hadn't been satisfied with the framing and they decided to do something different. So, by the way, you'll need to pay $20 more in materials. I wasn't given a choice. Which felt manipulative to me. I had already approved the piece and again, things were changing at an added expense to me.

Finally, months after starting this process, I was told that the pieces were done and I could pick them up. Again I requested some indication of the time the student spent working on this project so I could be fair with payment. And again, I was not given this information...just a request that maybe I would want to pay him a bit more than we agreed on.

The pieces are okay...and some of you may look at them and think they look fabulous and what is my problem (that's sort of what J said!)? They will be fine...they just aren't what the teacher/student and I agreed on nor do I think are 'worth' what I finally ended up paying for them (when I picked them up and after I had paid, I asked again how long it had taken, and finally was told 5 hours...and when I picked it up, the teacher told the student I was there to pick up 'his art'...the lesson hadn't been learned yet). (they are different colors BTW, because the student accidentally sprayed an anti-rust solution on one...considering we want it to rust...)

Understand that though some people in my life may choke on their drink if they heard me say this, I am not a confrontational person and I avoid it as much as I can. That said, if I had dealt with these issues from a professional metal-worker, I probably wouldn't have stood for it and made sure that in the end, I was getting exactly what I agreed to pay for. But a teacher and student situation really complicates this for me. I paid more than twice what was originally agreed upon for something I wasn't happy with. I let them manipulate me essentially because I didn't feel like I had the right to expect so much from a student.

If you have stayed with me for this long, please share you thoughts on:
  1. How would you have handled this situation? Is there a difference because it was a student rather than a professional? If so, should there be?
  2. Do you agree with my position that this was more a contract situation rather than purchasing a piece of original artwork and thus the costs should reflect that?
  3. Now that it is over, and knowing that the teacher wants to do more projects like this in the future, do I let it go? Or do I send an email which very diplomatically lays out what I think went wrong with our interaction? It won't change anything for me, but I feel like the teacher and student need to know that how they approach such collaborations in the future should be changed. And maybe say a bit about what is original artwork...considering when I was leaving they showed me pieces of yard art that they had copied exactly from someone else's pieces...and they wanted to sell it as their own.
Thanks in advance...and please, don't hesitate to tell me I was being naive or I wasn't justified in being frustrated. I really would like to learn from this for the future.
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Now playing:
The Cobbler's Daughter by Kate Rusby


Monday, March 26, 2012

I Need a New Hobby Like...

You'll see that statement again soon...apparently I need a couple holes in the head.

Alternative title for this blog post is: The Generosity of Friends Part III

This one should have been posted ages ago bu
t I'm of the firm mind that it's better late than never. Over the past couple years I've been interested in learning to dye yarn. Not as a business venture (I have no time or desire for that!), but just to explore another way of working with fiber. When I started to think more seriously about it, I decided to ask for some tips/pointers from an independent dyer (and good friend)...Jessi of Alabama Fiber Dreams. I had bought several skeins of her yarn in the past and loved how she manipulated the color. When I emailed her, she was not only very generous with giving me some information, but she also went a step further. She had recently decided to stop dyeing yarn and had a box of supplies taking up space. And then asked if I would be interested in taking the box off her hands?

Um, yes please!!

I don't have a picture of the box but Jessi wasn't completely forthcoming about what she was sending...I was just expecting a couple skeins of bare yarn and a few jars of dye. Not only was there a 2-gallon bag full of dyes in every color imaginable, but there were 3 bags of bare yarn...1 each of fingering, lace, and DK weight. AND a book, some measuring spoons and cups, some storage containers, and a few other dyeing supplies. Outside of the pot and thermometer, everything I would need and then some to get started. I was overwhelmed by her generosity. And still am.

However, there the box sat because it came just before I headed out to the field last spring. When I got back this past fall, I started thinking about it but was a little afraid to try. And now comes the generosity of my La Grande friends. I've always been in awe of Sue's yarns (she sells at the Farmers Market and online at her etsy shop) and decided to see if she could help me or give me pointers. This request culminated in a dye party about a month ago. Sue shared her secrets with myself, Anne, and Meg so that we could all give it a go. Both Anne and Meg had done some dyeing before so were ready to just jump right in. Me? I took notes and just tried to absorb all the information laid before me. A couple weeks later I went out and bought a pot and a thermometer. And then proceeded to be paralyzed to take that first step. Luckily I have the inspiration and support (and push!) of Anne who is fearless in all fiber endeavors (well, really anything in life) and as she showed us skein after beautiful skein that she had dyed, I finally decided to get over myself and just try.

I wanted something very simple to start so chose one color (no mixing) and tried for a slightly variegated look. And with this skein, I learned a lot. I had it tied too tight so dye didn't get under the ties (which didn't actually matter due to the variegation) and I didn't have quite enough dye in the pot so the 'light' side is lighter than I intended. But I love it. And decided that to make the process complete, I had to immediately knit it up to see just how the variegation would work. It'll be awhile before this is done but I'm pleased with it.

After that, I started to get a bit more bold. I wanted to dye a skein for Rue as a thank you (reasons why coming next week) and knew, of course, that it should be green. So again, with a suggestion from Sue, I mixed some colors (eek!) and ended up with this slightly variegated laceweight (the dark green). Which I totally adore. This time, I had the opposite problem of my first dye attempt and had more dye than necessary in the pot. And so did some experimenting to use up all the dye and came up with the lighter shade...which was almost exactly what I had in my mind. I have plans for this skein as soon as I have time to cast on! I'll share that later.

Being the scientist that I am, I'm taking detailed notes as I go along. Both to see if I can repeat colorways and just to learn what to do next. I'll continue to learn the techniques, I'll continue to play with color, and I really want to experiment with natural dyes. Don't be surprised if some of you end up with a skein in your mailbox...this is too much fun not to share. I've got a lot to learn but I'm overjoyed with what I've done so far and can't wait to dye more yarn!

As for Jessi...I knew that one way to thank her would be to send her a few skeins that I had dyed. So I asked for color suggestions. Instead, Jessi has to be difficult (er...challenging) replying she would rather I dyed a few skeins that had been inspired from my photography. So she'll get those...but it'll be a while longer while I continue the learning process!

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Now playing: Muleskinner Blues by Rhonda Vincent & The Rage (some mighty fine pickin' happening here)


Friday, March 23, 2012

Friday: A Week in Review

Making me happy this week:

a visit with my family in Seattle (Julian gets cuter every day I think)...getting part II of a custom dye order (oh, the possibilities..and finally I have in my possession the perfect red laceweight)...3(!) pain-free nights of rest (I tore a pelvic ligament somehow months ago...the only time I feel pain is when lying down but it is excruciating...the sweet luxury of even 1 pain-free night is enough to improve my mood) first issue of Taproot arrived and I have been loving reading bits and pieces here and there.


Worked on a new cowl to test my hand-dyed skein...dyed some more yarn (a more detailed post on all this coming in a few days)...started a dishcloth for a friend...after a bit of a lull, enjoyed the comfort of having my camera in my hands more and more frequently...

In the Kitchen:
After I've been traveling a lot and eating horribly for days, I tend to approach food and cooking differently the first week or two after being back home. I crave simple, familiar, healthy. I don't want to try complicated recipes. I want to have meals that only consist of a few ingredients that I've made time and time

  • baked salmon with roasted broccoli and Heidi's white beans and cabbage
  • baked pork chops topped with caramelized onions, paired with roasted brussel sprouts and sweet potatoes tossed in olive oil and salt
  • a simple, yet satisfying alfredo with chicken, spinach, and mushrooms
  • and of course...huckleberry pie
  • we've been working through MI-5 for years now, enjoying every minute of it. The series was canceled last fall after 10 seasons. We have 7 more episodes before we are finished and so we took a break to spread them out longer. This weekend we continued on and couldn't help ourselves...we watched 2 episodes and I had to be strong to not watch a third. That show is addicting...
  • a new to me group shared via kristy....started with this song and then fell down a rabbit hole exploring others
  • a movie recommended by a was entertaining and I liked the tidbits of information about birds spread throughout
Ungulate of the Week:

This week, I decided to introduce one of our girls. This is a sad introduction because we lost her right at the start of the new year. But she was a special animal (as they all are) and I felt like sharing her beautiful face in memory...Meet Curly. She was one of our biggest animals...quite nervous with everybody but me. I slowly gained her trust many years ago, and was able to use her in our research. She died at age 18.5 of bladder cancer.

Around the web:

Flickr Faves (highlighting inspiring photography from others):

1. letter wirting, 2. Orange leaf, 3. fern moss?, 4. Cassius Clay, 5. Bubbles, 6. *, 7. 櫻朦朧 Cherry Blossoms Blur, Taichung, 8. Some trees in the mist

So...what was your week like?

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Now playing: Tusk by Fleetwood Mac