Dec 20

Last night was the annual Christmas party at The Trading Post for Fiber Arts with my BASK group (Beautiful & Aspiring Knitters and Spinners).  It was lovely.  Great food, wonderful company, and I got to start a new knitter on the path toward her first sock.  Ain’t nuthin’ makes me happier than teachin’ sumpthin.

We are supposed to get real snow here, today.  We’ve had flurries before, but this time it will be more than a light frosting on the grass.  This time we are supposed to get 2″ by morning, and, while this does not sound like a lot, it’s enough for me.

I’ll talk with you again after Christmas.  For all of you who are traveling, please be safe.  I’ll just be here, listening to my Christmas music (David Ackerman, Charlie Brown Christmas, and Trans-Siberian Orchestra) and playing in the snow.

Happy Birthday, Jesus!!

P.S.  Scott drew the wreath.

Oct 3

Last night, I spoke to the Greenwood chapter of the American Sewing Guild.  Since they already know what to do with fabric, my talk and demonstration was about how fabric was made.  And there was a great turn-out, too.  I’m guessing that there were at least 20 ladies there and the room was pretty full.

I decided to cover three areas of fabric construction, the raw fiber and spinning into yarn, weaving it into cloth and making the cloth more colorful with dyeing either the fiber, the yarn or the cloth.  I showed them two different types of wool, a mixed breed wool that would be good for sweaters, mittens and other outerwear, and a merino so soft that baby clothes could be made from it.  I also talked about the fire resistant qualities of wool and it’s water wicking.  If it sounds like I am a big fan of wool, you’d be right.

I had several skeins of yarn, both two and three ply (the three plies showing the differences between Navajo plying and using three bobbins and plying the separate yarns together), I had two full bobbins of spun singles, one of merino and one of alpaca, and I had several items that I had knitted from my handspun, including a pair of mittens and a skein of the nearly newby yarn I had spun to make them.  I explained that one of the main advantages of spinning your own yarn was the wide variety of fibers available and that you can choose the best, not what the commercial yarn makers can make the most money from.  I passed around my Fiber Binder Club binder to show them different wools and fiber types as well as my spun, knitted and woven samples.

With the weaving, I had several pieces of cloth, a vest I had made from cloth I had woven, dishtowels, and other items.  Some of the pieces of fabric I had dyed the yarns for and I showed them that by weaving your own fabric, you could chose the pattern, the colors and can mix and match to your heart content.  There was huck toweling, a piece of fabric that I had painted the warp for and many others.  Also, I showed some of the items that had been made from the handwoven fabric, including the wonderful reversible purse that Kathie made from my handwoven fabric a few years ago.

Then, I spoke about the colors.  A couple of the handwoven items made from cotton had been dyed using fiber reactive dyes, but when I got to the wool, I got to talk about natural dyes.  I showed them the two vests I had knitted from naturally dyed Shetland as well as the madder gradation shawl and my ultimate favorite of the fabric that I spun the yarn for, naturally dyed the singles before plying, then wove the fabric.  I really am hoping that I can find the time to make that fabric into the vest I want to wear.

Once the talk was over and all of their questions had been answered, I invited the ladies to come up and give the spinning wheel and drop spindle a try.  One lady sat at the wheel and I showed her drafting and controlling the amount of fiber going into the twist while I treadled it with my hands.  Another lady was interested in the drop spindle, and before you know it, she was getting the hang of how yarn is made.  I talked about Dye Day and I do hope lots of them show up on Monday.  I do know that all my business cards disappeared so that is a good sign.

It was lots of fun and I look forward to the next opportunity to show people how to make fabric – from scratch.


Sep 7

Mom died at about 3:30 this morning in Weslaco, Texas.

Mom was the second and last child in her family, her brother being 7 years older.  In fact, her mom and dad didn’t think they would be able to have any more children after their first, but they did.  Mom was a huge baby and it put her mom in bed with blood clots for several months after the birth.  Both her and her brother were born at home as were their parents and grandparents before them.

She grew up in the 1950’s and loved being a child of the 50’s.  She loved Gene Autry, Dale Evans and Chubby Checker.  She was a tomboy, and her dad’s shadow.  Wherever her dad went, there was little Helen.

While growing up, the family had very little money, but that didn’t stop them from enjoying life.  They raised most of their own food, and the 22-acre farm they finally settled on had woods, a spring and plenty of space to play and explore.  Mom enjoyed being outdoors and would swing from wild grape vines, climb trees, ride horses and play with the family dog.

Like most of the rest of the family, Mom was a reader.  She, her brother and their mom would read almost any book that came their way.  Mom also loved music and loved to go to the high school dances whenever she could.  Her and her two best friends, Marilyn and Juanita, would pool their money together for gas and would borrow a car and go driving around.

Juanita was my Dad’s sister and Marilyn was Dad’s cousin.  Through them Mom met Dad.  At first she thought of Dad as Juanita’s pesky older brother, but they eventually fell in love and two months after Mom graduated high school, Mom and Dad were married in Mom’s family home.  Mom’s dad told my dad that if he ever got tired of Mom, he knew where to take her.  It was hard on my grandfather losing his shadow and companion.

Dad got a job as an upholsterer at the Paoli Chair Factory (now Paoli, Inc.) and Mom took up housekeeping in a tiny house just a few blocks from the factory.  There I was born.  Three weeks before my brother’s birth a couple of years later, Mom and Dad moved a few miles outside of Paoli to a two-story house with about an acre of land.  They lived there until 1972 when they bought a 7-acre farm just outside Livonia for $16,000.  That farm was paradise to my brother and me.

Dad bought half of the dairy farm that he had grown up on.  A brother bought the other half.  This and working at the factory full time comprised a good deal of their time along with camping every other weekend and a two-week vacation each summer.  That was how Dad and his brother split the chores of the dairy farm.  His brother would milk each morning, Dad, with our help, would milk at night, and each brother got every other weekend as a break from the farm as well as a vacation each summer.  Still, it was very hard work, and it wasn’t too many years before Dad sold his half to another brother.

Mom ended up having to go to work in order to help pay for the farm and pay the bills.  First she worked at a factory in Orleans, and then moved to Bata Shoe Factory in Salem.  Rumors of Bata closing that factory had Mom looking for a new job, and she began working at Paoli Chair Factory as a tufter.  By this time, Dad had been promoted to foreman over the upholstery department and Mom and Dad had the joy of being able to drive to and from work together and have their lunches together.

Mom and Dad’s marriage has been very loving and they were very close as a couple.  They were best friends and partners as well as man and wife.

Once my brother and I were out of college and married, Mom and Dad sold the little farm and bought a KOA Kampground in Tennessee.  They owned it for four years, putting in lots of work and improvements.  When they sold it, they made enough money to be able to live their dream – traveling all over the US.  They worked at Escapee campgrounds all over, a few months here and there in different places while they explored the area.  Dad’s love for bluegrass music blossomed and between the keyboards and the 5-string banjo, he helped form music jams in Florida, Tennessee, Arizona and finally in Texas.

While in her mid-50’s, Mom was diagnosed with uterine cancer.  Months of chemo beat it and she was in remission for 9 years.  During those 9 years, Mom and Dad stopped working for campgrounds and became “full-timers.”  They traveled all over, Dad playing music wherever he could and Mom enjoying life with him.  They eventually settled near Harlingen, Texas, for what would be the rest of Mom’s life.  She loved it there.

Mom’s life was surrounded by friends and family.  Her four grandchildren were very important to her and she loved visiting them in Tennessee and having them spend the night with her and Dad.  She and Dad attended basketball games and band contests to see their grandchildren at their best, and they encouraged each child to be individuals.

This picture was taken right after Scott and I built our house 18 years ago.  See that smile on Mom’s face?  That was how she looked most of the time.  That wee girly on her shoulders is my niece, Kayla, who is a sophomore in college now, and the wee girly on my shoulders is Kim, who is out of college and is working.  The twins, Kurtis and Kristina weren’t even in the works, yet, at this point.  You can tell Mom and Dad are laughing.  There was always laughter in the family.

Last year, after the death of her own mother, Mom found out that the cancer had come back.  This time, there were tumors on her larynx and aorta.  The one on her aorta was so large that it pushed her wind-pipe 2” to the side making it difficult for her to breathe, eat and drink.  The first rounds of chemo shrunk the tumors, but she became allergic to a component of that chemo so the doctors had to find something else that would work.  Nothing else did.  Mom became weaker and weaker until she was hospitalized in July of this year.  She had a short reprieve and enjoyed visits with friends and family for a few weeks, but it was not to last.  A different chemo drug was tried, but it soon took its toll and she was put into the hospital again the first of this month.  Soon, she was not responding and was moved to hospice to be made as comfortable as possible until the end.

For over 20 years, Mom and Dad have been able to live out their dream.  They have a tight family who loved one another very much.  Not too many people are as blessed as this and Mom never took it for granted.  She made friends wherever she went and we used to joke with her that the only time her wrinkles didn’t show was when she was sad.  The wrinkles on her face were all smile wrinkles and she could always be found laughing and smiling and helping people.  Many hundreds of people are mourning her all over the US along with her family.  She will be sorely missed.

New Picture – and what an awesome one:

This is a recent one of Mom and my oldest niece Kim.  I stole it from Kim’s Facebook page, but I don’t think she will mind.  See Mom’s smile wrinkles?  Weren’t they beautiful?

Jun 28

Mom had a round of tests and scans last Thursday and, at the doctor’s appointment yesterday, they found out the results.  Long story short, these last several weeks of chemo treatments every Wednesday and of being very ill from it the rest of the week haven’t done anything!  The tumors are exactly the same size as the last scans showed.  No bigger, but no smaller.

But Mom is smaller.  She is down to about 100 pounds now and is so weak that she needs a wheel chair to get about if she needs to go more than a dozen or so steps.  Her voice is weaker, too, when I talk to her on the phone.

She gets a three-week break from chemo treatments, then they are going to try something else since the current drug isn’t working.

The cards that you have been sending her have been greatly appreciated.  She reads them over and over and she says she can feel the good will and prayers directed toward her.

Mom is only 66 years old.  And I am scared for her.  Please keep the prayers going her way and for Dad, too, because he is very worried and disappointed in the test results.

Apr 3
Sad trend
icon1 basicallybenita | icon2 Taking it Personally | icon4 04 3rd, 2012| icon33 Comments »

The US Census Bureau just released the 1940 census records and one area concerns me very much.

In 1940, agriculture made up 18.5% of the workforce and in 2010, it didn’t even rank on the chart.  Having grown up on a small family farm and dairy operation, this makes me very sad indeed.  I am truly thankful that I had the luck to be raised on a farm.  It taught me so much about life, where our food comes from and how to work.  I wish this trend could be reversed.  This is why I buy most of my meat from a local, family-run farm and why I shop at farmer’s markets in the summer.

Mar 22

This is such a cool article!

I made most of my clothes as a teenager, too, as well as my mom’s work shirts.  In fact, when I went to college, 90% of the clothes I took with me I had made with the exception of my winter coat, my underwear and my jeans.  I had several favorite patterns that I would mix and match parts (sleeves off of one, collar off of another, etc) to create my own styles and looks, and the skirt and pants patterns were adjusted and marked over to get the perfect fit for me.  My mom’s sewing machine lived in my bedroom for many years and she’d have to come and get it when she wanted to use it.

This article makes me soooo happy!

Mar 21

Remember the picture of the hawthorn and redbud trees just getting ready to bloom?

Well, they bloomed!!!  Everywhere you look here in central Indiana hawthorn, redbud, crabapple, pear and magnolia trees are glowing with color and there is forsythia making yellow spots in yards and along the edge of roads, and pools of daffodils here and there just makes the bright, sunny and warm days even more so.  I was ready for spring mentally, and it is giving me back some of my energy.

Sandy and I worked Saturday on a series of shirts and accessories to support breast cancer research.  Both Sandy and I have mammograms that showed irregularities, and I have had a partial masectomy on my right breast, plus I have a aunt who is a breast cancer survivor, so finding a cure for breast cancer is high on our wish list.  In order to do our parts, we decided to create and sell certain items and give 10% of the retail price to breast cancer research. 

So, here is the first example of what we are producing.  They won’t be going up into the Dyed in the Wool store until after Kentucky Sheep and Wool festival in May, but if you are interested in a T-shirt, a tote bag, a draw-string bag, socks or a scrunchie, let us know.  We aren’t charging any extra for the breast cancer items, either.  And Scott drew the ribbon for us, which gives him the chance to show his support for breast cancer research.

Mar 19

Spring has definitely sprung here in central Indiana and the groundhog was wrong this year – thank heavens!  Saturday morning, I decided to take a walk before Sandy arrived for a day of tie-dyeing and I took my camera with me to see if I could capture what spring looks like here.

To start, the grass is greening up nicely and the dew was quite heavy on it.  By the looks of things, I need to get my tractor ready for mowing becuase it’s going to start a month sooner than most years.

Speaking of tractors, several fields around us had activity in them as well.  This is our neighbor working in his field, and later in the day, our own field had a tractor going back and forth in it.  The guys who rent our land are hard workers and were taking advantage of the lovely day.

My daffodils are usually late, but this year they are blooming when everyone else’s are blooming.  When I was a kid, we called these Easter lilies because they seemed to bloom about Easter time, but this year, they beat Easter by nearly a month.

The hawthorn tree is about to burst into bloom and the redbud trees won’t be far behind. 

Even the peonies are beginning to poke up through the soil.  Everything is about a month ahead of season this year and, for once, we are enjoying a real springy-spring.  Usually we go from snow to mow in about a week.  This year, spring has been slowly showing her hand and most of us who expected to be surprised by another round of the white stuff are beginning to believe that spring is here to stay and that Old Man Winter has been thoroughly trounced by Ma Nature.

And it wouldn’t be St. Patrick’s Day if we didn’t have some clover to show.  In another week, I’ll be taking some of this in to work for a co-worker’s bunny to munch on.

When Sandy got there, we spread some cut up bits of thrums and yarns left over from projects as well as some not-good-enough to use wool for the birds to use in their nest building.  Sandy had put some wool out at her house a couple of weeks ago, and she said she has seen birds taking off with bits of it to line their nests.

Sandy and I then spent most of the day dyeing pink shirts to help support breast cancer research.  10% of the sales from these shirts will be donated for research, which is something near and dear to both of our hearts. 

And my final picture for the day is Pete.  See how much he has grown?  He took to Sandy immediately, although shyer Dylan took some convincing that Sandy was not frightening.  Both are such joys to us.

I hope your St. Patrick’s Day was fun!

Jan 16
Making a Hug
icon1 basicallybenita | icon2 Taking it Personally | icon4 01 16th, 2012| icon35 Comments »

Right now my mom is going through a very rough time of things.  She had cancer several years ago, and she has cancer again.  She lives in Texas and I live in Indiana.  We do talk on the phone, but visits are few and far between.  Dad is a bluegrass banjo (5-string) player and right now he’s playing 5 shows a week, so that keeps them tied to their area.

Since there is so much distance between us, I thought I’d send my mom a hug from me.  Mom loves turquoise and southwestern jewelry, so I thought I’d design and make a bracelet for her to wear that was reminscent of the style she loves.

This way, when she wears it, she will know that I am sending her all of the best thoughts and prayers and to think of me hugging her.  From the time I made it, until I got it out in the mail, I wore it.  This way, it will be from my wrist to hers, quite literally.  And a part of me will be with her to support her during this time.

I wasn’t going to mention it on here, but I decided that was being selfish.  She needs all the prayers and good thoughts being sent her way as possible, and if you could think of her and pray for her, I know she’d really appreciate it.  Her name is Helen.

Nov 9

Faribault blanket mill revival restores US jobs.

The above link was posted by Marg Coe on WeaveTech.

Yeah!!!  We need more factories and business like this reopened here in America.  If that equipment had been shipped overseas, it would have been lost to us forever.  Let’s make our comodities here in America, bring back the jobs from overseas, and become more dependent on ourselves for what we need.  Okay, so we might have to pay more for the things we need – wouldn’t you rather pay more for home grown and home made quality?  I would!  Buying cheap stuff that doesn’t last is a waste of our money and resources.  Besides, maybe people would treasure what they have more, and take better care of it if they had to pay a bit more for it. 

One factory down, thousands to go.  Let’s put America back to work making things for Americans.  I know this sounds so political, but why are we allowing our country to fail when we can make our own goods and succeed?

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