Thursday, October 29, 2015

Jury duty and more...

I didn't post on Tuesday this week as I was called out to jury duty. I have been on call the whole month and was diligent in checking to see if I needed to go in. Of course, I forgot to check on Monday night so discovered on Tuesday am that I needed to go. It is about 60 miles away - US Federal Court. So Tuesday was a hugely chaotic day. Fortunately I had packed my lunch already so just threw everything in the car, including reading material, and took off. Sigh. Traffic was bad and I got lost looking for the parking garage and then trying to find the courthouse from the parking garage. I got there 90 mins late.

As a result, I was not selected to go to the courtroom as one of the first 75. I was in the 16 people left behind to be in the next group. This was both good and bad. Good because I could read. Bad because I had to listen to the handful of women who talked constantly. One of them asked the officer in charge of us about every 30 mins what was happening. They were very nice women. Just didn't have any entertainment and therefore talked. And complained and whined. Sigh

I got through 2.5 PLY magazines on Tuesday. At 5 pm, we were told we were going to have to stay late to finish up the jury selection. This was so that we didn't have to come in on Wednesday. At 5:10 pm, the courtroom called to say that court was recessed and we'd have to come in the next day. Darn! The women immediately wanted to know why things had changed, why the people in the courtroom were told to come at 9:15 am while we were asked to come at 8:30 am, and so on. Sigh

The way the process works is this: the first 75 people were questioned one by one to see if they could be allowed to serve on the jury. Once they were eliminated by the questioning, they could go home. So some of them were able to leave earlier in the day on Tuesday. The ones left at the end of the day (35 or so) had to come back in with us on Wed. We were the backup crowd. If the jury could not be selected from the 35, then they would call us in.

On Wed, I was more prepared and got up on time and got there almost on time. This time it was traffic and rain that delayed me. I was there about 10 mins late. We were put in a little room this time with hard wooden chairs. Not the nicer room with comfy chairs we were in on Tuesday. Darn! I got through another 1.5 PlY magazines before we were dismissed around 11:30 am. The jury had been selected.

We weren't allowed to bring electronics in. I thought about bringing knitting or a spindle but decided that catching up on PLY was a good thing. I am way behind on reading them. I should have taken a set of Post-It flags to mark articles that I wanted to refer back to. Oh well.

On to travel - this is a short post. Back in July, I went to Montpellier France for a business trip. I didn't have a lot of time to explore because I wanted to get back in time for my wedding anniversary. However, I did arrive early, on the morning flight from Paris. So I had a few hours on the day I arrived to wander around. Montpellier is a big university town but it also has a lot of lovely old architecture.
 Morning sunrise from my hotel room. There is a big roundabout outside which you can barely see. We were in the more modern part of town.
 This is the plaza in the old part of town. It is a pedestrian plaza. All those tents are owned by cafes. You sit outside and order coffee or lunch or a beer or even dinner and people-watch. It is a lovely place to hang out and people do hang out.
 Montpellier has a trolley system. We could have taken the trolley to the town center or walked - about 15 mins. We chose to walk. In the past, when I've been there and had to walk back in the heat of the afternoon, I've taken the trolley. But in this case, my work took me in the other direction and so we just walked here the first day and then for dinner on the other days. So walking was fine. Montpellier gets really hot in the summer.
 There is also a cute little tourist train. I haven't ridden this. People also bike all over town.

There is a carousel in the plaza also. Also a fountain which I did not photograph in its entirety. However, you can see it on the right here in front of the carousel.

A movie theater is also on the plaza. From the plaza, there are numerous narrow winding streets that wander off in different directions. These lead to smaller plazas where there are parks or cafes or both. There are also shops on the streets.
 We walked by this shop selling ballet shoes. Quite the window display!
 Looking into the shop you can see the boxes of ballet shoes in the back.
 This shop sold hats. I was tempted to buy one as I forgot mine. But I thought better of it as I have a couple of hats at home and I would have to carry this back.
 In the old part of town, cafes and restaurants are everywhere. Some are tucked into the buildings and don't look like much from the outside. These are the more expensive ones. There are many that flow onto the street also. You can see a bit of one of these here. They have some internal space but also have tables and umbrellas on the sidewalk or on a plaza. This photo is taken from a plaza looking into a street.
 Here's looking into another street. I think we ate dinner at the restaurant on the left on one evening.

Finally, we had a local colleague (relatively local - he is from Nice) who drove us to work and back every day. We stopped at a good bakery for a cheap coffee and pastry for breakfast. In the past, I used to stop at a bar/cafe for a coffee and a pastry but he said that now many French people go to these bakeries. The coffee and the pain au chocolat were excellent. He comes from a bread making family and told me that a bread baker will use less butter in a pain au chocolat and a pastry chef will use more. Pain au chocolat is the only breakfast I eat in France!
Well, the one morning, a dragonfly came and sat on my saucer. He/she was very persistent and didn't move so I took his/her picture. Not something I've encountered anywhere else!

That is all for today. Over and out!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

More from Rhinebeck

 I handed out dozens of these pins on Thursday and Friday as I checked in people. We like people to wear their pins so we know that they belong in the workshop area. 
 Remember the squirrelly singles from the singles class I showed you last week? I finished the skein and now you can see the after.
 Pretty straight and not squirrelly at all! The key is to semi-felt them. I soaked them in a wool wash like Soak or Eucalan and hot water. Then I went around the skein rubbing a section between my hands. After I did that twice, I started to see the yarn sticking to itself, so I shocked it a couple of times in cold water (hot to cold to hot to cold) and then squeezed out the water. Snapped it between my hands to straighten out the skein and hung it up to dry.
 I have too much twist in some places but it is straightening out. I do have to go around the skein and separate the strands as they are sticky. But they pull apart easily. A little more and I'd have a lovely felted necklace. The Shetland was the worst. The natural is the Shetland.
 Here you can see some over-twisted (for singles) thinner parts.
 Not too bad for a few hours worth of work. I'm hooked on how easy singles yarns are! I think I could get a cowl out of this. I have to see how many yards it is but loosely knit, it should work. And since it is semi-felted I can knit it loosely without worrying about it falling apart. 

The key to getting this is to add enough twist so that the singles does a lazy curl when you let it go slack. For a good twisted yarn, you want a nice ply-back that is even and hanging straight. For this, you want a bit of a curl, maybe a few twists and that is it. Of course it needs to hold together. The thick and thin was easy as I used the technique that Jacey taught us last year in the Thick and Thin coils class. I really need to play with this some more too. They are fun yarns to make. I think this winter I will focus on sock yarn and textured yarns.

We also spun a DK weight singles and a lace-weight singles in class but I haven't finished spinning them yet.
 This is the DK-ish weight. The fiber is Falkland. They are all Spunky Eclectic dyed colorways.
And the laceweight. This was the hardest to accept. You have to have faith that the fiber will hold together. The red is Wensleydale - no problem there. Long staple length. The purple is merino. That is a challenge. I think I will get light fingering and not laceweight out of this. All of them get finished the same way as above. 

 I live in a beautiful area. The other morning, I was walking downstairs and the colors and the light caught my eye. It was like a painting to see the fall colors in the early morning light. That is why there was a Hudson River school of painting. The light is amazing!

 Looking out over the Catskills above.
 This is angled a bit the other way because there were clouds catching the reflection of the early morning sun tinging them with pink. Remember the pictures of Uluru at sunrise and sunset. We looked at the reflection of the light in the rock. This is exactly the same thing. Isn't it beautiful!
 I was working in the garden today cleaning up the dead annuals and perennials like the peonies which are done. I'm usually pretty lazy about this but I've been working hard in the garden all year and I'd like to put it to bed properly. It gave me the chance to get some fall shots of the yard. I tend to focus on the spring and summer. That's a burning bush with a weigela in the back and an Eastern redbud that is going to make a giant mess in a day or two.
 The grass - which I will cut down in the spring so the feathery plumes remain all winter - against the dwarf weeping maple. That one will turn a lovely dark crimson in a few days. I'll try and catch it when it does.
The smoke tree, which turns a beautiful burgundy. One of my favorite trees as it is beautiful in the spring, summer and fall. 

 Now on to the Rhinebeck purchases...
 Wood Beams for my spindles and my kitchen cabinet handles which need a spruce-up.
 A 1 lb Cormo fleece from Foxfire farm. The color is just gorgeous. And look at the crimp and the length of the locks!
 The Gotland - 2nd place winner. I have a little more than 1 lb. I don't know if you can see the silvery gray in the picture. It gleams. I think I might make a singles  yarn with this. Don't know yet. It has lovely long staples and is soft. I love the curls.
 A braid of 75% organic Polwarth and 25% silk for socks from Gale's Art. I thought the extra 5% compared to the usual blend might help with durability.
 I got two spindles. A Forrester - apparently from his private collection. That red bit is leather. He is selling off his spindles and has had a stroke so no more masterpieces from him. And I lucked out on a Jenkins Egret. It is larger than the Swan but roughly the same weight - 35 gms. Maybe I can do some low-twist singles on it? I have been wanting to try that on the Swan too.

 I don't think I showed you this spindle. I bought it a while ago on a destash and haven't spun with it yet. It is a Bosworth Moosie. 
 And, I happened to be at my computer the other evening at 9 pm, which is an uncommon thing. There was a Jenkins Finch update and I snagged this little beauty. It is only 14 gms and will fit right in with my Kuchulu and Delight. I just realized that I have one of each of the Jenkins spindles except for the Lark. I need to do a major project on a couple of them. The Kuchulu, Delight and Swan have been used a lot. The Aegean not so much as I got it right before I went to China and I spun mostly on Trindles there.
 I think it is time to give the credit card a rest and focus on doing something with these babies. 

 I am setting myself a Tuesday blogging schedule so that I can catch up on all the travel. I may go backwards from now or just write about the things that occur to me. I don't know. But doing it regularly will help.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Rhinebeck! with a side of Tokyo

Extremely long and photo-heavy post!

I am feeling very tired and depressed today. I spent the last 4 days getting up at 6 am and leaving the house between 7 and 7:30 am to get to the NY State Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck. The early days were for volunteering and helping out because I had to be there ahead of the crowds. The later days were when I took classes.

The energy level is so high at the fairgrounds that it is both energizing and draining. Regardless of where I am, and what I'm doing, I feel the need to smile and be cheerful. It is such a wonderful feeling to be around people I like, absorbing the happiness of the people around me, soaking up the wool fumes, and enjoying the fact that so many people are having a great time. But the need to be energetic and interactive is draining. I already miss it and can't wait for next year. It is a very strange feeling of opposites.

On Thursday I volunteered to help out at the workshops. I checked in people and gave them instructions and helped them located their classrooms. It starts with a trickle but then there is a flood and we want to get people checked in and in their classrooms on time. So there is a mad rush when the lines build up. I left after checking in the afternoon classes and came home and took a nap. I had a lot of packing to do for my class on Friday. It was 'The Yarn you Want' by Amy King of Spunky Eclectic. She wanted us to bring some yarns we wanted to copy and fiber to make those yarns. Oh dear!

I wanted to make sock yarn and elastic yarn and lightweight, warm yarn like Shetland jumperweight. So I took a bunch of different fibers, preparations, and blends. I weighed out 2 oz of each of the larger quantities. I also needed to pack my Hansen, its accessories, and other tools.

It was amazing. I made 4 ply sock yarn that was elastic!
 The yarn on the left is commercial Opal sock yarn. That is what I wanted to copy. I analyzed it and it is a 4-ply yarn. I knew the composition but we burned some samples of yarn to analyze the types of fibers in them. My first sample is on the left. I used a Corriedale roving I bought in New Zealand. I spun it woolen with a long draw, thinking that would give me the most elasticity. I got the grist, but not the elasticity. Also, it was a bit more lumpy than I liked for socks. Amy suggested I try spinning the same fiber worsted with a short forward draw. I did that and go the second gray sample on the left. It was a bit more elastic and much more even.

Then she asked if I had any other fibers. I had some Polwarth in color so I could see the twist. I was having a difficult time seeing the twist on the gray. Polwarth has more crimp and is a softer fiber than Corriedale which has a crisp feel to it. It isn't harsh, but has a mind of its own. She also suggested I under-spin the single and over-ply it.

What this means is that if I think a good plied yarn is 12 twists per inch, I should aim to spin a yarn that is 8-10 twists per inch. Then ply it to the 12 twists per inch, not the 8-10 that would result in a balanced yarn.

So that is what I did with the Polwarth and I am sold on this technique. The yarn is quite elastic - much more so than the Corriedale where I didn't do this. I am a bit gobsmacked that worsted spinning results in a more elastic yarn than woolen spinning. Who knew! Amy says that it isn't always so and one really should try both to see which works best.
 This is my finished sock yarn sample. It is a 4-ply just like the Opal.
 The grist is not too far off!
 And here are the 3 little skeins all in a row. I had only a 3 bobbin lazy kate with me. So I spun 2 singles on 2 bobbins and then double the amount on the third. I wound that off onto an Andean plying bracelet and plied from the bracelet and the 2 bobbins for the 4-ply. Not the best set up as I was not able to keep a consistent tension on all 4 singles. So there are some pigtails and other not-so-nice plying in there. I'll do better with 4 bobbins.
I finished this up last night. It is from my Sunday class. I took "All the Singles...Yarns' - also from Amy. We did a regular singles, a lace-weight singles and a thick-and-thin singles. I haven't completed spinning the other two. I put them on different bobbins so I could keep the yarns separate. This is the thick-and-thin singles before it is finished. I was able to practice the slub technique that I learned from Jacey Boggs-Faulkner last year. The wine is merino, the blue is BFL and the natural is two colors of Shetland.

After the Friday class - which was all day, I dashed off to scribe for the fleece judging. This was another of my volunteer duties. I found the judge had already done most of the primitives and had a scribe so I just stayed and watched, We usually have a couple of scribes per judge so we can switch off and take breaks. The other scribe had to leave after the primitives but she mentioned that she wanted to buy one of the Gotland fleeces but didn't want all that quantity. So I offered to share it with her. We picked out one of the two that she liked - the smaller one - and then the judge had to select the first, second and third fleeces for the category. The two we picked got first and second place. The one we were leaning towards, the smaller one, was first. The other scribe left and my judge went on to the colored fine fleece category. We worked through them and then we had to wait for all the other judges to be done so they could pick the first, second and third for the colored fleeces from all the categories and then the Champion and Reserve for the entire fleece competition.

At this point, the judge's sister, who was a vendor, came over and asked how long it would be. She was tired from setting up and wanted to go home. I offered to give the judge a ride back to her hotel as it was on my way home. It took a lot longer than we anticipated and the poor judge kept apologizing to me. But that was OK because I got to see them do their thing. They went through all the first place fleeces and picked out their top 3 favorites and then had a discussion about which one should be Champion and which one should be Reserve. However, there was a slight problem which was discovered after their decision was made. The ribbons were marked 'Best Colored Fleece' and 'Best White Fleece' - not 'Best Fleece". So they awarded two best of show fleeces. And guess which one ended up being the Champion in the colored category? Our little Gotland fleece. At that point I was pretty sure we wouldn't get it.

The other scribe was free on Saturday am so she was going to get in line early to snap up our fleece. But it wasn't going to be on the back table with the primitives! It was going to be up front with a big multi-colored ribbon on it! What were the odds that no one would buy it? She ended up being second in line and the person ahead of her bought that fleece! So we didn't get it. She bought the second place one - which is a lovely fleece - and had it divided and weighed out by the time I met up with her at lunch time. I'm pretty happy. I'll post pics of it later with my other purchases.

On Saturday, I usually hang out at Jennie the Potter's booth and help out. She always gets a huge crowd bright and early on Saturday and can use all the hands she can get to help out. It is fun and I love hanging out with her and her other helpers. I helped put merchandise out before the festival opened, I helped pack, re-stock, etc. Whatever was needed till about 12:30 pm. Then I was free to wander. I went and hung out in the workshop area where I was supposed to meet the other scribe. After that, I went and met my favorite vendors. I showed Sheila Ernst the necklace. I tried to get into the Hansen booth but failed. It was too busy. I wandered around some of the barns and bought 2 spindles and some fiber. I stayed away from the crowded areas as I just couldn't take it. I usually wait for a bit after the festival closes to leave so that I am not stuck in the traffic. I didn't wait long enough. There was a long traffic jam at two points on the way home.

I already described Sunday morning. I was in class with Amy. On Sunday afternoon, I wandered the festival again. I bought another fleece. Pics to come. But here are some photos around the festival from Sunday afternoon.

 While we were in class, someone delivered a Norm Hall Great Wheel that Beth Smith had bought. One of my classmates tried her hand at spinning on it.

 It snowed a bit on Sunday afternoon. Just snow showers but it was cold and windy. The leaves were gorgeous though!
 The outside of the Fiber Optic booth.
 Looking down the aisle in one of the letter buildings.
 Hansens lined up, all in a row
 The Miss Babs booth was packed even on Sunday afternoon.
 Into the Whirled was quieter although I heard it was mobbed earlier and some of the lower rows were quite empty on the racks.
Aren't these leaves on the ground beautiful?

And now across the world to Tokyo! We were there for work and I wanted to spend an extra day to
see the Imperial Gardens and the National Museum, which were closed when we were there last. But first, in our hotel lobby, overnight, a Halloween diorama appeared.

One of the interesting things in Japan is that restaurants put plastic models of their food out so patrons can look over the food before going into the restaurant. It is like having the menu outside to browse, There is a whole industry that makes these food look-alikes. We ate at an Indian restaurant one night because it was close by and I was tickled by seeing plastic Indian food!

We were staying outside Tokyo so my colleague and I took the regional train into Tokyo Station. This is our train coming in. They are all punctual and very easy to navigate.

Tokyo Station is near the palace so we walked there. But it is a long walk. I am just going to give you some snippets of the photos I took in and around the gardens which are open. Parts of the palace are not open to the public.

This is a music hall. I loved the architecture.

 Looking out through the gate. There is an inner and an outer gate.

We then took the subway to Ueno Park. This is the subway train arriving.

In Tokyo Station, we had to navigate a long hallway to the subway. In the middle there is a large cavernous hall which has little booths during the day. This sculpture - which is of actual locomotive wheels - is also there.

Ueno Park was packed because it was a Saturday in the summer. There was a little market there - selling household goods. We saw lovely porcelain dishes. I bought a small wooden bowl to use as a support spinning bowl.

We also sat and watched these dancers both on our way in and our way out. They were dancing all day.

 The National Museum building. We went into one of the side buildings to see a special exhibit on the Queens of Egypt.
 One of the other buildings reflected in the pool. I think this one is the art gallery but I could be wrong.
 Inside the museum, there is a door leading out onto a patio which looks out over this tranquil scene. I did not take pictures of the artifacts even where it was allowed because they never come out well.

On the way back, our station was packed with people leaving. I think there was a comicon show in the convention center near-by. We were going in the opposite direction so felt like salmon swimming upstream in the am and the pm. You can see the crowd through the train window.

 Our flights left on Sunday evening so we also went into Tokyo on Sunday morning. We went to the Senso-Ji temple. I had been there earlier in December when there was hardly anyone there. This time was different.
The gate has this big lantern.

 The bottom of the lantern.
 There is a market outside the temple. I wanted my colleague to see this. It is tourist-y but Japanese people buy things there too. See the crowd?
 The temple itself.
 Looking back from the temple level. The smoke is from incense.
 Inside the temple.
 Lovely paintings on the ceiling. I didn't take pictures of the actual inside of the temple as it is a place of worship. These are in the area at the top of the stairs before you enter the temple.
 In contrast to the crowds in the front of and inside the temple, there is a small set of shrines on one side that are peaceful. This Buddha is there.
 A view of those shrines.

Another building in the temple courtyard. What a lovely structure!

And that is it. We caught the train back and took a bus to the airport and flew out. I got 20,000 steps the first day (Saturday) and 14,000 the second day (Sunday)!

I hope you are still with me after this long, long post. But there is so much to tell and so little time to write about it all.