Wednesday, July 2, 2008

ALS needs your help

Often referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive, fatal neuromuscular disease that slowly robs the body of it's ability to walk, speak, swallow and breathe.

ALS became very personal and real to our family when our good friend, Gary Herbein, was diagnosed with ALS two years ago. Now confined to a wheelchair, Gary and his wife, Jeanie, maintain an incredibly positive outlook on life and are an inspiration to all who know them. As a former Marine himself, Gary's biggest desire is to be able to attend his grandson's graduation from Marine Corps basic training this coming September.

Our oldest son, Josh, is running on the ALS Team in the 2008 Marine Corps Marathon this October. You can help fund research into this devastating disease by making a contribution here.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Baby Surprise Jackets . . . Again!

OK, it is summer in Florida . . . . really, really, really humid and hot. So that means knitting little things that don't have to lay in your lap. Which is why I've become addicted to experimenting with Elizabeth Zimmerman's BSJ pattern. You'd think this would get boring, but no . . . it seems like there are endless options for color, pattern, and size.

It is interesting that 200 yards of any kind of yarn (sock, DK, worsted) will make the jacket on almost any size needles (4, 6, 8 and 10). If you add longer cuffs and a collar, it takes a little more.

These two are probably newborn to 3 to 6 month size (notice the nice tomatoes in my raised bed garden!) The yellow/green one is knit with Plymouth Yarn's Dream Baby (DK on size 6 needles). Boy, is that soft yarn! The multicolored sweater is knit with sock yarn on size 4 needles.

This one fits a one year old. It was knit with Plymouth Encore worsted yarn on size 8 needles.

The pink one was knit with the same yarn on size 10 needles and I think it will fit 18 months to 2 years, but I haven't found any stray toddlers to model it, so I can't confirm that size. It is a little bit bigger than the one above though.

One of the really fun things about these sweaters is that the buttons you choose can really make the sweater so cute.

I've made notes to supplement the BSJ pattern and am happy to share them with anyone. You'll still have to buy the pattern from Schoolhouse Press for the complete instructions. Anyway, if you haven't knit one of these fun baby/toddler sweaters, I guarantee that you will fall in love with the pattern once you try it. Just send me an email if you'd like my notes. There is additional information on helpful links for this pattern here.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Hypoteneuse Scarf

My new favorite yarn: handspun alpaca that I got at the fiber festival in North Carolina last fall. Here's what I made with it. The pattern is Anne Hanson's "Hypoteneuse" scarf (it can also be a shawl). This yarn is so soft and warm that I want this scarf to last forever! Honestly, everyone should have something that feels this good to wrap around their neck.

It was so much fun to knit that I made another one for my husband . . . in a manly brown alpaca/wool mix.

You can order the pattern from Anne's website "Knitspot."

On knitting and orphans

Last year I heard about the "Red Scarf Project" to send hand knitted scarves in care packages to former foster children who were now in college. These young adults are supported by the Orphan Foundation of America. So I sent a couple of scarves and at Christmas I received a thank you card from OFA. I stuck the card in the Christmas card basket and forgot about it until I cleaned the basket out last week.

I was curious about OFA, so I went to their website where I learned that every year 25,000 children age out of the foster care system at age 18. These young people suddenly find themselves out in the world without any family or other means of support. Only half finish high school and only 2% complete college. Without an education, family or financial support, this is a pretty bleak beginning to their adult lives.
Founded in 1981, the Orphan Foundation of America (OFA) is the only national organization focusing solely on education, mentoring and workforce development for teens aging out of the foster care system.

I hope you'll take a minute to read about OFA's good works . . . and to see how you can help. There are several volunteering opportunities, but as little as $20.00 will send a care package to one of the students.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Soon we'll be home

This gate leads from a little old cemetery into a pasture that is located on the edge of our home RV park just south of Gainesville, Florida.

I love this place for all of the nature: hiking and biking, spring-fed rivers for kayaking, and lots of birds -- water birds, little song birds, hawks, ospreys, and even a pair of eagles that nest across the road. They spend their days perched in the top of a big dead tree on the edge of Orange Lake looking for fish and unlucky critters. One day I was running and one of the eagles flew so low, just above my head! In his claws was a big old black snake. He was taking it to the nest to share with the baby eagles. Every day is an opportunity to see something exciting in nature.

Bye Bye Summer


SAFF is the South-
eastern Animal Fiber Fair which is an annual festival of all things fiber related. It has fiber in all of its forms . . . from on the hoof to beautiful hanks of yarn and even gorgeous finished garments. As well as . . . spinning wheels and spinning tools, dyes and dyeing stuff, lots of felting materials, books, and classes galore!

The festival is held at the WNC Ag Center in Fletcher, NC for three days at the end of October. This was the 14th year for the wildly popular event. There are two floors in the main building filled with vendors. I heard that in order for a vendor to get a space in the main arena (pictured above), you have to go on a waiting list for years and years. There are so many vendors now that they are putting them out in the stables, right along with the llamas and alpacas! The sheep and goats get their own barn.

I took four classes, which left me just enough time to shop on Friday, Saturday and even Sunday right up until closing time. I'm sure I walked a few miles going around and around both the upper and lower levels of the Ag Center, as well as checking out the vendors and animals in the out buildings.

In my first class, Beginning Spinning, I learned how to spin a gnarly rope on a spinning wheel. The class was really too big for one instructor and an assistant, but it gave me a hands on taste of what spinning is all about. Next I had fun learning how to dye yarn with Kool Aid with Nancy Hamilton. Who knew you could have such fun with water, vinegar, Kool Aid, yarn and a microwave oven? I missed her class on dyeing with things you find in nature (leaves, acorns, etc.), so I hope to take that next year.

My favorite class was learning how to spin on a spindle with Leslie Bebensee, whose love for spinning was contagious. This was fascinating to me because spindles have been used since very early civilization. I recently listened to a wonderful audio book, THE RED TENT, which told the story of Dinah, the daughter of Jacob in biblical times, and she talked about how important spindling skills were to their survival. So, I now have a collection of spindles and some wool roving. I also learned a lot about different fibers from this class and a book, SPINDLE SPINNING by Connie Delaney (available at Leslie's website, I think) that I bought at the festival.

The last class was Point Spinning with a wonderful instructor, Eileen Hallman. We learned about the charka and attempted to spin cotton on Ghandi's little spinning wheel in a "book."

Here's a peek at the beautiful hand spun and dyed yarn I bought. I've already knitted a beautiful scarf with the white alpaca. This yarn is soooo soft. I still need to block it, so I don't have pictures yet.