Damselfly’s Delights

Being the continuing story of my creations and curiosities.

Monday, October 20, 2014

From Deep In The Studio

If you happened to get Part 8 of the Odyssey in your feed reader again, sorry about that. I suddenly realised that the rats gave me the wrong photo and I uploaded the correct one instead. Ah, Blogger. How I love/hate thee.

Meanwhile I’ve been sewing. Yes! Truly. Madly. Deeply. (Oh, I loved that movie. But I digress.) I have a Finished Object for you, the Indigo Batik Vest or Top, depending on whether you layer or not. The pattern is Butterick 5891 and Katherine Tilton herself considers it a vest and that’s probably the way I’ll wear it most often.

IndigoBatikVest front

IndigoBatikVest back

Look! Real photos of me! (Poor Debbie Double is sulking in the corner.) Yes, Thom and I had a bit of an argument discussion about our photo shoot. Oddly enough, he can’t see in my head what I want and I can’t see what he sees in the viewer. Plus I have a hard time posing naturally without thinking how fake/dorky/stupid I look. We’re working on it.

Ahem. The fabric is an Indonesian batik quilting fabric from Dressew. Who knows what dyes they actually used but probably not real indigo. But real hand-dyed anyway. Ask me how I can tell. This was left over from the lining to my original Minoru jacket of a couple of years ago. The inner collar and peplum/flounce thingy are part of an ancient tablecloth that was gifted to me by Thom’s very elderly Auntie (still kicking at the moment). She used to sew herself and also manage a garment-making facility in Los Angeles back in the day. Who knows were she got this piece from originally? A restaurant probably.

I cut this out way back in August and although I can’t remember exactly, I’m sure I did a little Fitting Magic because it’s pretty much perfect. The cotton batik is quite stiff and the tablecloth fabric is thicker but more drapey. I didn’t do the little tuck things on the peplum because they just didn’t look right on this piece. I doubled the inner collar but didn’t quite sew it in the most sensible way. It’s quite wearable though I would have liked the navy fabric to show instead of the front facings. I bought the pattern in digital form and it had some issues. I have no idea if the print version is the same or not or if there was an updated version at some point. There were several mistakes/omissions in the instructions (kind of par for the course actually and not usually a problem for me) and the front facings were drafted an inch longer than they needed to be:

IndigoBatikVest det

I just trimmed the excess off before hand-stitching the ends down. It would have been difficult to finish the inside nicely without a serger even though nothing was said about it in the pattern instructions. I consider my Pfaff Coverstyle an indispensible piece of equipment in my studio, not just for knits but for nearly everything I sew.

This garment was an asymmetrical PITA to sew with nearly every piece being a one-off. You can’t see it in the photos but there’s a pocket on the left side which pleases me because I love pockets. It would have been too big for its placement on the vest and would have stuck out if I hadn’t serged the edges off and tacked it down so it didn’t shift around. I know there were a few who complained about that in the reviews. The collar pleases me too though it’s a little bit high when the top button is done up. I’m glad I doubled the undercollar which gives it enough body to stand up nicely even if that’s probably why it’s a bit high under the chin. Or maybe my neck isn’t long enough. Heh. I’m quite happy with my vest/top though it’s a bit tricky to style because it’s quite short in the front as well as closely-fitting on the top but quickly widening to quite loose-fitting at the hem.

It really makes me cranky when I find expensive commercial patterns from a long-established company like McCalls/Vogue/Butterick et al with so many errors in them. They are not proof-reading and double-checking carefully enough. Yeah, I know they only have so much space to be clear in but…come on. The left/right buttonhole/button thing is just unforgiveable – if easily enough overlooked by the experienced sewer. I can’t lay much of the blame at Katherine’s door because she has only just so much control after she submits the pattern. You know what you meant to say so it’s difficult to impossible to edit your own work. Or an editor misinterprets and adds the error themselves. I’ve had it happen to me (don’t ask). Mostly it’s not a problem unless you have a total newbie who is following word-for-word or it’s a very complex sewing sequence, as this one is. I’m definitely not a newbie and, although I did read through before beginning, I still followed pretty much step-by-step. As I went I made notes where I differed from the instructions or where it could have been done better in a different order. I’ll be ready for next time anyhow. If there is one.

GreyTRight on the heels of this make I jumped into a refashion. I think it was last summer (?) that I made this grey ponte knit T-shirt from Maria Denmark’s Kirsten Kimono Tee pattern (the one you can get free if you subscribe to her newsletter). I’ve made several versions of this t-shirt, all of which I wear often except this one. It’s a little too stiff or something is just off. Anyway, I decided to refashion it into a tunic/dress thing using scraps from other projects. But so far it’s nothing like my I originally imagined! It just kind of took off on me. I’m not sure if I like it or it’s just to weird/twee/something. I’m not at all finished yet but I mocked it up on Debbie:

Assemblage Tunic

The pieces are just pinned together so far. Any opinions one way or the other? Give it up or go for it? Looking at the photo, I’m leaning towards finishing it up and then seeing whether I actually get any wear out of it when I’m done.

No chance of running out of things to do in the studio. I still have at least 3 more garments that were cut out quite awhile back to sew. And I’ve started on another refashion – or perhaps repair would be a better word for it. The top I blogged in this post isn’t getting worn because the hem pulls in unattractively. I’m going to add another piece to the bottom band to try to loosen it up. It should be a little gathered like the inspiration piece rather than pegged. I only have a few tiny remnants of that charcoal cotton/lycra knit left though so hopefully I can scrounge enough to piece it together. Oh, and there’s still that warp on the loom. It’ll either work out or become a wadder. But I won’t know until I finish it, will I?

More soonest!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Past And Current Projects

I’ve been up in the studio sewing but there’s nothing much to show you yet. I’m working on Katherine Tilton’s B5891 View A which is either a top or a vest depending on how you wear it. It has 90 million (OK, only 15) pattern pieces most of which are asymmetrical and cut out singly. I had cut this out back in August and I wisely put a little snip of masking tape with the piece number on the back of each one. Otherwise I would have been in a right muddle! Even with helpful hints from those who have made it before me, this is definitely not an easy thing to sew. As well as the many asymmetrical pieces, there were discrepancies in the instructions and the two front facings were about an inch too long. Sheesh, Butterick! It’s taking me 4 sessions to finish because I can only work on it just so long before my patience runs out or my brain goes squirrely. Remember, I’m not exactly a newbie seamstress so heaven help anyone with less experience! More on this one soon. Nearly there.

Anyway, dragging you back to the knitting that I finished while we were driving in the deserts of the Southwest. For some reason the colours will not come out correctly in the photos. It’s either my point-and-shoot giving up the ghost or the light this time of year. Or operator error. Who knows? Anyway, the Gracie’s Frolic Scarf is a fairly dark green/brown combo. I’m not sure what it looks like on your screen but on mine it’s lighter and more contrasty than in real life.

GracesFrolic scarf

The yarn is Ancient Arts Fibre Crafts sock yarn (75% superwash wool/25% nylon) in the hand-dyed Frolic colourway. The pattern is Cinnamon Grace by Katie Harris Knitworks, a free download on Ravelry. I used the recommended 3.25mm needles but I think mine turned out slightly smaller and I had a bit of the yarn leftover, enough for Thom’s Glasses Sock plus extra after that. I like the curly shape a lot. It was knit end to end and then the edge stitches picked up for the outer border and finished with a picot bind-off. If I recall I think I did a couple of extra repeats of the 2-row edging to make it a smidgen wider. I washed and laid it flat to dry but didn’t pin each picot out or anything. Just straightened everything as best I could and put a pin in the end points.

Next up is the Remix Bridger Cowl.

Bridger Cowl

If you remember that far back, I had used leftover Berocco Remix (aran-weight nylon/cotton/acrylic/silk) to knit a large cowl/turtleneck collar kind of thing (Ambitus) back in March 2011 that was very nice but it didn’t work with my wardrobe somehow. If I haven’t worn it more than once in 3-1/2 years, what can I say? So I frogged it and used the free Bridger Cowl pattern by Kris Basta to make a smaller and more wearable (for me anyway) cowl. This was kind of a fun knit. You start with just a few stitches for the lacy bottom edge, increase to the centre front, decrease back down again and then join in the round and pick up the selvedge stitches for the rest of the tube. I used 5.5 mm needles for a slim fit but I think the recommended 6mm would give a lacier effect. It’s a very quick project. 

I have quite a lot of the Remix yarn left but not enough for a second cowl. Too bad because I was hoping to get a Bandana Cowl as well, perhaps for a gift, but I’ll have to think of something else to use for that project. I think I like the shape of the Bandana (why do I always want to type Banana instead?) Cowl better than the Bridger Cowl now that I’ve made both. But I also like the wee hint of lace on the Bridger.

What else haven’t I shown you? I think I’ve already mentioned the Travelling Shawl that I finished while we were in Valley of Fire, Nevada.

LalasSimpleShawl

This is a slightly better photo with more accurate colour. The pattern is Lala’s Simple Shawl, another free Ravelry download. I seem to be taking advantage of those, don’t I? It’s not because I’m too cheap to pay if I really like a pattern but hey, if it’s a nice pattern why not? It was easy to knit on while we were on the road too.

Anyway, this pattern works with a variety of yarn grists and I was able to use up 4 partial odd balls of sock yarn that all coordinated pretty nicely. I used 3.75mm needles and added a picot bind-off at the end. There were only a few yards left when I was done. (Then I used some of the navy for Thom’s Glasses Sock.) This one is pretty big and will be nice and warm. The colours of reds/browns/purples/navy with go with a lot of clothes in my wardrobe too.

So anything else? We might want to revisit the Sassy Sweater.

StripesSassySweater

The colours are again not particularly accurate – the Rainbow Dark leftover handspun is quite a lot darker and more green than it appears and the Midnight Shetland is of course actually black. They are actually closer in value than the photo shows. The pattern is Sassymetrical by Gay Schiff, yet another free Rav download and my second version of it. I used 4mm needles for the garter edging and 4.5mm for the body. I made the neckline higher and tighter than in the original and went with the short slightly puffy sleeves this time. I had limited yarn to work with and the stripes were kind of added a bit randomly rather than being planned. I did a slightly longer body than the cropped pattern version but there were only a few yards left at the end so I cut it rather close. I’ve been wearing this one frequently ever since I finished it so I think it’s a hit!

Okey-doke. I think we’re all caught up now. I’m down to the heel flaps on the Antelope Canyon Socks. It’s been dark and raining off and on for days so no gardening got done. All I want to do is read and sew, alternately. Must be the weather.

More soonest!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Birds & The Beastie

Thanks so much for all the lovely welcome back comments! It’s a nice feeling to be missed. It tells me that you care. All together now…awwww

And speaking of sweet things, we had a lovely Thanksgiving at bro-in-law’s with most of the family all together. The little cousins enjoyed playing down in the den while the adults yakked and ate their faces off upstairs. Such yummy turkey and So Many Deserts! Whew. And then we got to borrow the Littlest Grandbeastie overnight while her parents painted her new Big Girl room all day yesterday. Pink of course. She picked it out herself. You get to do things like that when you’re almost 4, right? One of the privileges of growing up.

While we had her yesterday we took her out to the Reifel Bird Sanctuary and met up with several other family members for a duck and chickadee feeding frenzy and then a picnic lunch in the warming hut. Dummy me forgot my camera! Bad blogger. You’ll have to imagine a little pink blur running back and forth grabbing seeds from our buckets and chucking them madly at all the birds. It was hilarious! The chickadees were eating out of our hands but she wouldn’t quite hold still so they were too wary to land. The bravest bird tried it but she flinched at the tickly claws and so lost her opportunity. Instead she put her oil sunflower seeds on top of a stump and they were happier to land there to get their lunch. Of course right after insisting that she didn’t need a nap, she fell asleep in the car on the way home. After turkey-partying until midnight the night before, we were all ready for a nap by then.

Oh and on the way in and out of Reifel we also saw the snow geese flying in and covering the fields on Westham Island. It was a really impressive sight to see them stop there on their migration. The fields really looked like they were covered in snow! Very cool. It had started to rain just as we were finishing our picnic so our timing was excellent all around. I’m still not used to the rain and cooler temperatures yet. We even – gasp! – had to wear coats for the first time in ages. And turn the heat up in the house. Now I know it’s really autumn.

Alrighty then. Back to the catch-up stuff. How about a tour of the fabrics I bought while I was away?

FabricCollection

Not sure how much you can get from the photo but you can sure tell that I had a colour theme going on, can’t you? These have all been washed, even the wool, but not ironed therefore there are a few wrinkles in evidence. So, from the top of the heap:

  • From Dharma, natural fine wool/silk twill, perhaps for scarves. I loved the airy feel of this and got a couple of yards to play with.
  • Also from Dharma, natural linen/cotton blend, for a top or two and Thom also wants a shirt.

And no, those top two fabrics are not going to stay white. You know I’m incapable of leaving anything pristine white without an irresistible temptation to throw it in a dyebath! The rest are all from the Mill End Store in Portland. Left pile:

  • Natural/black herringbone twill linen/rayon, for a shirt for Thom.
  • Black/dark grey novelty poly knit, for a warm top or two.
  • Taupe grey tweedy ponte, for a t-shirt top.
  • Dark charcoal ponte, has a wonky but very interesting selvedge, for a top. Hopefully I’ll be able to incorporate the selvedge somewhere.
  • Brick red Japanese brushed-back sweatshirt knit, for a warm top or two.

Right pile:

  • Rust/orange/gold/blue-grey Kaufman Indonesian batik with a pattern of pine cones, lining for another Minoru Jacket and something else as well. There was a seam toward one end so I got the rest of the bolt so I have lots!
  • Black/dark grey plaid wool blend flannel, for my Minoru – a very warm version.
  • Orange-red ponte designer novelty, with square cut-outs on the borders, for a top or maybe two.
  • Grey tweedy ponte, which was going to be for a sweater for Thom but I think it’s too lightweight. So possibly pants or something for me.

You can see I have a definite wish to sew more for Thom (even though we’re going to be hunting for another fabric for his Finlayson Sweater). Right now his wardrobe is very short of long-sleeved shirts so I need to develop a good pattern for him which will have variation possibilities.

And here is the pretty Czech glass button that I bought at Diva Yarn & Trim in Port Townsend:

CzechDragonflyButton

There’s a really interesting post here about the process used to make these buttons. Now I’ll have to make something to put it on, won’t I? Of course nothing is going to happen unless I get my rump up to my studio, is it?

More soon!

Friday, October 10, 2014

No, Not Back On Vacation

I KNOW! A whole week without a word. I’m having re-entry problems I think. So much catching up to do and no idea what needs doing first. So I dither around and don’t really get anything much done. Sheesh. I think my brain is still on vacation!

So lets just dive in, shall we? I have a whole whack of projects that haven’t been blogged. Starting with the most recent where I dug a really elderly ball of sock yarn out of the Sock Yarn Tower and dove in to a new pair. Hate not having socks on the needles at all times! The yarn is Lang Yarns Super Soxx Cotton in an interesting mix of 49% wool/35% cotton/16% nylon and the shop I bought it from no longer exists – which might be a hint how long I’ve had it in the stash! Don’t remember doing it but I had sometime in the past already wound it into two balls, found the matching beginning spot on both balls and yet never started anything. It has fairly wide stripes of dusky purple, sand, dark gray, orange-yellow and pinky-red and I wanted to break those up a little so hunted in the book “Knitting Socks with Handpainted Yarn” by Carol Sulcoski for some ideas. The pattern Staccato Socks by Veronik Avery had a Wave Pattern that was only 2 rows long by 16 sts repeat so fit perfectly into my usual Damselfly’s Basic Sock Pattern. Easy to memorise and knit while watching TV. It nicely bends the stripes into a more interesting shape which immediately reminded me of Antelope Canyon in north-eastern Arizona. Here’s one sock so far:

AntelopeCanyonSocks prog

And here’s one shot of the canyon looking up:

AntelopeCanyonView

See what I mean? Amazingly serendipitous, no? I couldn’t have dyed a better match myself. Now I’ll remember Antelope Canyon every time I wear them. But then who could ever forget such an awesome place?

The knitting photo also shows my new favourite sock needles that I bought at Dharma Trading in San Rafael, CA, when we were there. They only seemed to have a few sets left but luckily still had 2 sets of 5 of the 5” size 2mm (US 0). These are Knitter’s Pride Nova Cubics, which are made in India from square brass tubing and then nickel-plated. The link shows the newer Platina version with slightly sharper points and chrome plating which is more durable instead of nickel. I think mine are the older ones but the points, while not as sharp as I prefer, are adequate and the price was definitely right. They were quite a bit cheaper even than the Clover Bamboo dpns and I’m sure they will last a lot longer. It took a wee bit of getting used to the square shape but they now feel normal to my hands. Not too slippery and easy to hold and manipulate. You can put them down and they have no tendency to roll away! Until I can find out how to sharpen my carbon fibre Blackthorns up again, these are now my go-to sock needles. Love.

What’s next? I finally got my Ravelry project pages just about up-to-date now. I included the entire pattern for Thom’s new replacement Glasses Sock. He uses it in his breast pocket (or wherever) to protect his reading glasses from scratches. Here it is if you need one of these for yourself or a gift for someone who puts their reading glasses down all the time. You could even make a strap or thread it on a chain to wear it around your neck. Thom doesn’t like it that way though.

Glasses Sock

Damselfly’s Glasses Sock Pattern

Uses 2 small balls of leftover contrasting sock yarns and a set of 5 - 2mm (or 2.25mm if you're a tight knitter) dpns. Fits the common drug store reading glasses.

With Main Yarn , CO 32, join in round and arrange stitches evenly on 4 needles.
K2, P2 ribbing for 3/4”. Switch to slip-stitch pattern beginning with Contrast Yarn.

Slip-Stitch Pattern:
R1 & R2: With contrast yarn, knit.
R3 & R4: With main yarn, k3, sl1, rep to end.
R5 & R6: With contrast yarn, rep R1 & R2.
R7 & R8: With main yarn, k1, sl1, k2 rep to end.

Repeat Rows 1-8 until sock measures 5-3/4” from beginning.

Begin toe:
Knit to 3 sts before the end of needle 1, k2tog, k1.
On needle 2, k1, ssk, knit to 3 sts before the end of needle 3, k2tog, k1. On needle 4, k1, ssk, knit to end of round.
Next round, knit.
Repeat the last 2 rounds until 5 sts are left on each of the 4 needles. (20 sts total)
Graft the toe, sew in loose ends and block.

I kind of made the slip-stitch pattern up on the fly but you could just knit plain stockinette like the first glasses sock I made. I must have made it over 7 years ago because it’s not in my Ravelry projects. It disintegrated so Thom chucked it after he got his new one.

So while we’re going backwards in my knitting projects, there’s one scarf I finally finished on our holiday:

AutumnEchoFlower scarf

I started the Autumn Echo Flower Shawlette (actually a scarf) a whole year ago and somehow wandered away from it before it was done. I rarely do that and it’s not like it was a boring knit or anything. It did take concentration though so not a TV or travelling project but one to work on while sitting quietly. The yarn is Baruffa Cashwool 100% merino cobweb weight that I dyed in cutch and I only used 23g (approx. 336 yds) so there’s nearly half of my 40g ball left over. I used 3mm Addi Lace circulars and the free Echo Flower pattern by Jenny Johnson Johnen which uses some of my favourite Estonian stitches. I’m calling it a scarf because it blocked out quite tiny, just going around my neck like a kerchief, but I like it. It’s a good size when I just need a bit of a neck warmer. The cutch dye’s warm golden brown goes with lots of things in my wardrobe.

Now, let’s save the rest of the projects for later, shall we? I’ve done a little cleanup in the garden and got the garlic planted. Last year’s kale is still going strong so we’ll see if it can make it through another winter with this year’s as backup. Picking the new shoots keeps it branching instead of just picking off the bottom leaves like they tell you to do. I like the young leaves better anyway! Picked the last of the winter squash, green tomatoes and cabbages too. The tomatoes will mostly ripen on the counter. The cabbages weren’t nearly as large this year and were somewhat more chewed upon but I have half a dozen in the fridge. I got a total of 5 butternut squashes and 5 little spaghetti squashes which isn’t a lot either but we have a pretty small garden. I wouldn’t have had even that many though if I hadn’t hand-pollinated them with a paintbrush! Buzzzz….

The weather has been delightfully warm and mostly sunny since we got home – at least until this afternoon. Now it’s sprinkling a little which is nice because the newly-planted garlic could use some watering in. It actually feels more like early September than nearly mid-October. We’ll be celebrating our Canadian Thanksgiving on Sunday at Thom’s brother’s with nearly all of the immediate family present. And yes, I’m truly thankful for so much! All I have to do is go on one of those camping odysseys to realise that I don’t need anything more than what we already have right here.

(No. We won’t discuss the microwave that finally crashed the minute we got home. And all the “fun” it took to replace it with a reasonable substitute. Do not get me started on the state of Big Box Retail today. For that I am not thankful.)

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Desert To Ocean Trip – Part 12

The Wayback Machine finally grinds to a halt.

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One last camping day, Day 35, and we continued up to lovely little Port Townsend where we did our usual little walkabout in the old town area before taking the ferry over to Whidbey Island. I only bought 2 items: a dragonfly button at Diva and ball of sock yarn for Thom at a new little yarn shop called Bazaar Girls. The latter is quite a large and bright shop in one of the heritage buildings in the old section of Port Townsend down by the water. They had spinning fibre as well as a large selection of yummy yarns and even some embroidery yarns and kits available. It looked like a fun place to hang out with a big work table and a friendly ambiance.

Yeah, no photos. Sorry.

Of course I also checked out several of the clothing shops as well. They have my style of funky garments and I had great fun trying to absorb some of the details without being able to photograph anything! Interesting to compare the different attitudes in each shop: one ignored me completely, one was very friendly and welcoming and the last was professional but not really interested unless I was going to buy something. Three guesses which one I liked best? OK, they also had the nicest stuff too. Heh. No, I didn’t have time to try anything on but I can guarantee nothing fits the way I like it to anyway. And I could make 4 or 5 garments or more for the price of just one piece…

Anyway, we caught the ferry…as in, pay and drive right on – totally unusual!…and went into cute little Coupeville for lunch. We both had oysters. Yum! And then drove up to Fort Ebey State Park for the last night out. We still had time for a walk along the bluff trail:

WhidbeyIsland

You can tell these cliffs get some serious weather, can’t you? We fell asleep on our last night out with the sound of waves and the bell buoy bonging softly. I kind of miss that sound.

Day 36 meant the last road home. We actually zipped across the border in jig time and got home at half-past-lunchtime. The house was still there when we got back. My sister D had stayed for a week while we were gone and took fabulous care of the homestead, garden included. (Love you, Sissy! Smooch!) Milady Daughter did a little checking up (and stealing tomatoes) too but was relieved to have her auntie take over. There’s still so much still to do before winter sets in. It’s kind of a shock coming back after 5 weeks of wandering. Though I do love my own bathroom. And laundry. A fridge that doesn’t need constant refilling with ice. And an oven! Joy. Never underestimate the small things in life, I say. That’s what our meanderings teach me every year. The rest is merely Stuffage. Or that’s what we call it. Extras. Baggage. Things. Nice to have but not really necessary. And this from the person who loves her things passionately too.

The only thing left was to unpack. Which somehow takes a shorter time but seems much harder than packing. 4 large loads of laundry and we still have very little food in the house. Apart from cheese! So we went out for sushi dinner. Man, how I missed it! Total ambrosia. OK, total wasabi! Our favourite local sushi joint can sure deliver the yummies. Now I know I’m home for sure.

Today was our Spectrum Study Group (which is why you had to wait longer for this post) and the only thing I had for our potluck lunch was…you guessed it. Cheese! Medium cheddar, smoked sharp cheddar and garlic white cheddar. Good thing we went crazy in Tillamook, huh? Plus some almond rice crackers. Close call. Saved by the cheese. Wallace would be pleased, no? (Even if it isn’t Wensleydale.) What did our group do this time? We shared Show-and-Tell from the Maiwa Symposium which I totally missed. And one member’s trip to Japan and some fabulous shibori classes. Now we’re planning to study more shibori for the next while. Perhaps a plan for some of my hankies from Dharma? And maybe some of the silk/wool twill too? And indigo. We need to make a nice strong vat. Haven’t had one of those for a long time.

So. What now that I’m home? I need to show you what fabrics I got and what I finished knitting. Coming soon! So many exciting plans, all of which were on hold for the last month-and-some.

Meanwhile I’m just happy to have an Internet that works! Yeah, small things…

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Desert To Ocean Trip – Part 11

My Wayback Machine is finally grinding to a halt. 

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OK, now we’re getting down to the wire. Day 30 found us on good old Oregon Highway 101 heading north. We passed by some good camping possibilities, including Humbug Mountain (it was rainy), Cape Blanco (not a favourite), Bullard’s Beach (too far to the ocean) until we got to Carl Washburn, one of our favourite state park campgrounds on the Oregon Coast. It’s intimate and cosy, tucked into the moss-covered trees:

MossyTrees

Yes, there’s even a forest trail called the Hobbit. Truth! The beach isn’t as long as some but it offers a good walk. I love the way it changes every time we see it. And the sun came out.

The weather was still a little iffy, alternating clouds, sunshine and threatening but not delivering rain. On Day 31 we were back on the road continuing north to another favourite campground, Cape Lookout. It did rain this time, as we sat in camp and wondered whether to go for a walk or not. Whenever we stirred a little it clouded over and rained. Otherwise it was sunny! So annoying. To offset the disappointment we decided to stay another day, Day 32, although we couldn’t get the same campsite with electricity which was kind of a bummer. It was actually cold at night here. We could see our breaths in the morning and the dew (and interior condensation) was very heavy. The total opposite of the desert – everything is very damp, even my map.

It turned out to be a very nice day anyway so we were glad we stayed. We were very proud of ourselves and took the longest walk of the whole holiday, and probably also the longest walk in years. We finally made it out to the end of the spit! It looks like this from above:

CLookout to Netarts

You can’t even quite see the point were it ends from here. That’s Netarts Bay on the right, Pacific Ocean on the left and Netarts itself in the far distance. To prove we made it, here it is from the opposite end:

EndOfTheSpit

Looking at the ocean side since I couldn’t get the whole vista in the photo. That was a 10.5 mile (16.5 k) hike return! Admittedly along a relatively flat beach on slightly resilient but hard sand. However we were both pretty darn tired at the end of it. And my hip was still complaining the next day. And the day after that too.

Sadly on Day 33 we had to continue north on the last few legs toward home. We stopped in Tillamook at the cheese factory where the Flat Rats nearly deserted us again. So. Much. Cheese!

FlatRats and Cheese

In order to convince them to stay we had to buy lots and lots of cheese to bring home. OK, we love it too. And chocolate/hazelnut fudge as well. But not for the rats. <snicker!>

Our final day in Oregon was spent at Fort Stevens at the mouth of the Columbia River, just west of Astoria. We rode our bikes on the slightly bumpy but pretty excellent paved trails and on the road out to the river and also stopped at the South Jetty on the way back:

SouthJetty

You might just be able to see Mount St Helens in the far distance. (Wasn’t that where we started this odyssey?) It was a really long bike ride for us at 21 k, coming right on the heels of the long walk of the day before! I was very glad for my electric assist on the bike so I could cruise back to camp at the end. I am no athlete (nor do I play one on TV).

Day 34 it was on to Washington State (either #11 or #1 for the second time, depending on how one counts). We did our usual long haul across the Astoria Bridge and up through WA to just before Olympia where we turned north along the west side of the Hood Canal to Dosewallips State Park. It’s quite a nice place on a small river where the salmon run. And there are currently some spawning salmon in the river along with a lot of dead bodies. Poor things. We didn’t pick a campsite beside the river – a little whiffy over there!

We walked out past the estuary:

DosewallipsEstuary

And then to the beach on the Hood Canal. We frightened a flock of Canada geese and, as they were flying away, we noticed that one of these things is not like the others:

StrayGoose

That’s an escaped (or feral) farm goose who thinks it’s a wild one! It’s definitely part of the flock now. Silly goose.

Last part of this saga coming soon.

Desert To Ocean Trip – Part 10

Are you still in My Wayback Machine? 

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Day 26 was a rather long one. We left the barely adequate private campground and headed west on a wonderfully twisty up-and-down Highway 120, past the sadly singed ponderosa pine forests, down onto the flat agricultural valley area just north of Modesto, and heading toward San Francisco Bay. The orchards were intensely planted right up to the 2-lane highway and we couldn’t identify the crops as we zipped by. I know they grow lots of almonds plus peaches, apricots, avocadoes, strawberries and a bunch of other things there. I always wish the farmers would have signs for us gringos! Enquiring minds want to know.

Eventually we left the orchards behind and slid into the spaghetti of multi-lane freeways that snake into the Bay Area. It was all I could do to keep us on the right track towards San Rafael, which is in Marin County north of San Francisco. We had to go over a double-decker toll bridge ($5!) and I accidentally took us off the freeway an exit or two early on the other side. But after a moment of panic we found where we were going ok. There was plenty of time since to get lost in since it turned out that Dharma Trading opens at noon on Sunday and we were 2 hours early. So we found a little cafe for lunch and some wifi. Oh no! Bluet wouldn’t work! The connection was good but something was wrong according to my netbook. No posting happened (sniff!) but I managed to read my email with my iTouch instead. At least it wasn’t a TOTAL bust. The lamb shawarma I had was good too even if it didn’t quite taste like the ones back home. Different spices or something.

I finally got into Dharma and (ahem) went only just a little nuts! I bought 3 packs of a dozen handkerchiefs each because we can never have too many of them. We both love those big cotton hankies! I also got 4 yards of a nice medium weight of linen/cotton fabric. Plus 2 yards of some dreamy silk/wool twill that practically floats away on gossamer wings. And although I insisted that I didn’t need any dye I still bought some Procion MX fibre reactive dyes in Better Black and a neutral taupe-brown called Havana Brown. Not available at home. That’s my excuse and I’m stickin’ to it! I have lots of yardage to be dyed anyhow. It’ll be fun.

Lastly I got 2 sets of Knitter’s Pride 2mm dpns to try out for my ever-present sock knitting. They’re square! And coated brass! And short and not too pointy or blunt. I tested them on a small sample and they’re a little odd-feeling but quite nice, I think. I’m always looking for sock needles because although I love Clover Takumi Velvets the best, they wear out too quickly or I break them. My super-expensive Blackthorn carbon fibre ones which are supposed to be so tough are even wearing down too blunt for my taste. (Have to find out the best way to sharpen them up.) Mostly I don’t particularly like metal ones but these feel not too slippery. Maybe because they’re square. In the end I think I forgot a few things that I was going to look at that were on my Dharma list. But nevermind. Dharma does mail-order.

OK, the truth here. It’s actually a miracle I bought anything at all because I had a swooning fan-girl moment when I recognised Ricё, of the Voodoo Cafe whose blog and podcasts I’ve been reading and listening to for years, in the shop. Also her charming husband, the Ever-Gorgeous-Earl, and both of them wearing their fun brightly-coloured clothes. Ricё was very gracious when I introduced myself and Earl took our photo (which I hope I can get a copy). They were there for an art retreat nearby and of course Ricё was checking out the delicious collection of goodies that Dharma has to offer. She has written about ordering things from them on her blog since she does a lot of dyeing in her altered clothing work. Hopefully more on this later when I get home and get a chance to contact her.

So after Dharma, we continued west out of San Rafael on the delightfully-named Sir Francis Drake Boulevard to Samuel P. Taylor State Park, deep in the redwood forest. Although the sign said they were full, they weren’t and we got a campsite and decided to stay for 2 nights. It was sweet to relax in the cool shade which was a lovely respite after all the desert stuff. We were nearly to the coast! But not damp enough yet, you’ll see.

On Day 27 my scalded leg was feeling better enough to leave off the bandages and ride our bikes along the Cross-Marin Trail, a lovely paved multi-use trail that goes for many miles. We rode nearly to Olema and Highway 1 but turned around at this funky old concrete bridge over the Lagunitas (Papermill) Creek:

ConcreteBridge

It felt good to get some real exercise after sitting around for several days feeling sorry for myself. We saw quite a few trees that we couldn’t identify, including one that we’re pretty sure is a eucalyptus tree of some sort (imported from Australia originally, one presumes) and this one with almost no leaves left and hard pear-shaped fruits. What is it? I think it’s a California buckeye, if my current info is correct.

MysteryTree

Nature sure is a fascinating place, isn’t it?

On Day 28 we were quite rested and popped up early to head directly to the Pacific coast and north on Highway 1, the old coast road, which is full of curves and switchbacks which Thom loves to drive on. We have to make sure everything in the van is stowed well! Although there was some construction too, which he doesn’t love so much. We got stopped several times on the way by construction flaggers, once extra-long while waiting for an older couple on a tandem bicycle to make it up a long and steep switchback. We felt for them. Ugh. (There’s a reason why there’s a battery and an accelerator on my bike. Just sayin’.) Once we arrived at MacKerricher State Park, just north of Fort Bragg, California, we picked a nice campsite with a view of the sea:

MacKerricherView

Yes, it’s there. Well, we could see it better in real life!

After lunch and a rest we went for a walk down on the shore and for a mile or so south along the Haul Road, the level trail that historically used to have a small engine that hauled wood to the lumber mill. Now it’s a popular cycling, horse-riding and walking trail. We went down to the beach to tide-pool. It’s lovely being back by the sea!

Seals and cormorants

Can you see all the harbour seals on the rocks in the background? They look like light-coloured lumps! In the foreground there’s cormorants and I just missed catching the oyster catchers with their bright red bills in the shot.

We were doing really well with the weather but on Day 29 we woke up to a sprinkling rain that got worse as the day progressed. After packing up we continued north on Highway 1 but we couldn’t see much more than big misty waves crashing on the shore and foggy mountains. Highway 1 eventually turns east into the forest and takes you up and down and around until it meets the larger highway 101. By this time it was raining in earnest and we proceeded north toward Oregon, bypassing all the other nice northern California state parks. The scenery was somewhat obscured and drippy. We did see 2 quite large herds of elk on the way though so it wasn’t a total loss. No photos though. Thom wasn’t stopping anywhere! It was a rather long drive, what can I say?

Oregon was our 2nd state already this trip so it doesn’t count as a new one but Brookings is at the opposite end from Portland. The rain stopped when we passed the state line too though the locals were all very happy to have some moisture after a very dry summer. I guess we can’t complain much either since our weather has mostly been pretty great all month. We went shopping at Fred Meyer for some groceries and a new French press (used only for tea) since our old one cracked. (Must have been those wild rollercoaster roads, huh?) Can’t go on without good tea, doncha know! Camping this time is at Harris Beach State Park. The beach here is so picturesque! The waves were still big and the mist still obscuring and mysterious:

Harris Beach

Harris Beach not only has a pretty face but it has nice free showers in a clean and warm building. I love Oregon SP campgrounds! My ouchie leg didn’t even hurt in the hot water. Small miracles. Milagros. Whatever. I’m really clean for the first time in ages. Yay, hot water and soap. Also an electric plug-in, where we recharged the bicycle batteries for the first time this month. We can charge the computers and iTouch/iPhone with the inverter through the cigarette lighter but the BionX batteries take a lot more power. So do not underestimate the electric plug, my dears. Try to live without it for awhile, I dare ya! Ever since I found myself hanging out in a campground washroom a couple of years ago trying to recharge my computer, I’ve added that item to my list of needs: electricity, gas/propane, hot/cold water, heat/ice, hot tea, food, washrooms, clean underwear, clear maps, knitting, and the most elusive beast of all, GOOD wifi. Life reduced nearly to the basics! Beyond which I will not go. You can’t make me. Oh all right. I can live – sort-of – without wifi. But I’m not a happy damselfly about it.

We have 4 more days in Oregon so we’ll work our way up the coast to a selection of our favourite places, one day at a time.

Desert To Ocean Trip – Part 9

Hang on. My Wayback Machine isn’t done yet.

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Day 25 found us waking up early again – partly habit and partly because we were freezing! Kind of a shock to be where you can see your breath in the morning after Valley of Fire and Death Valley. We obviously didn’t pull out enough warm blankets because it wasn’t all that cold when we went to bed.

After breakfast we were tootling along the Tioga Pass Road and winding up-up-up into Yosemite National Park. It’s a steep and spectacular view but we didn’t stop to take photos. It was enough just to get up there! The pass itself is nearly 10,000 feet high. Continuing on through the East Gate we passed many subalpine meadows and granite outcroppings. We stopped for the view at Olmstead Point and we could see the famous Half Dome in the distance:

OlmsteadPoint

But the valleys were really smoky and our views were somewhat obscured from here on down. We continued on down into Yosemite Valley through the 3 tunnels and stopped on the loop road for a view of the massive El Capitan, the largest chunk of granite around. Isn’t it handsome?

ElCapitan

Then there’s the view up from the front of the Visitors Center:

YosemiteValley1

You can see how smoky it is! (Don’t count that stupid piece of sand or whatever in my lens.) Apparently the closest fire, the Meadow Fire north of the valley has finally been contained but it was pretty major. And there’s another fire, the June Fire to the southeast. When we left the village and climbed up again to the Tioga Road heading west, this was what we could see of the valley behind us:

YosemiteValley2

We didn’t go that far from the West Gate out of the park. The choice for the evening however was not a good one, a private RV campground called Yosemite Lakes. They are really pricey (like 2-4 times what we’re used to paying) and not even as nice as some of the state or national parks. Bleh. Now I know why I usually stick to those. The promised wifi is frankly useless crap. Not recommended by Damselfly, that’s for sure! But any place in a storm, as they say. Half an hour of thunder, lightning and rain count as a storm, don’t they? I thought so. At least we have power and the showers here are complementary and hot. (You have NO IDEA how important that can be out in the bush.) Although I can’t really get my bandages wet so I had kind of a hair wash/washcloth affair that didn’t get me right into the shower stall. We do what we can under the circumstances, right? Right.

Next it’s on to nearly the coast, straight across from Yosemite toward San Francisco, up through Berkeley and over the toll bridge into San Rafael. Shopping at Dharma Trading. (I have a list! And am open to serendipity too.) Some much-needed groceries. And then Samuel P. Taylor State Park. Hope they have a place for us because we can’t get reservations.

Desert To Ocean Trip – Part 8

Wayback Machine still in operation!

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On to the seriously hot stuff! Day 21 found us heading from Grand Canyon, Arizona, to the Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada. As we left early just as the sun was rising we encountered many deer and a small herd of elk near the road. Apparently the male elk were heard bugling in the park but we didn’t manage to hear it ourselves while we were there. But at least we saw some of them.

That day’s trip was a long one because there is no direct route to where we wanted to go. We had to go south and then east and then north again and around Lake Mead, which is a vast reservoir in the very arid desert near Las Vegas. We stopped at the Hoover Dam, which is the plug in the lake. Amusingly the van was searched by security before we could drive to the parking lot near the bridge that overlooks the dam! I guess someone thinks it would make a nice bombing target but the search was really kind of silly. Somebody must feel better about it with all the guards and all though, huh? The dam is quite narrow but very tall.

HooverDam

This is the view from the very windy bridge which, by the way, eats hats! We saw clumps of them stuck on the rocks off the edge. My hat luckily has a chin strap but the Flat Rats stayed in my bag so they couldn’t go visiting the hat collections no matter how tempting a thought that might be.

We were getting very hot and tired by this point. At the Lake Mead National Park gate (where we happily used our America the Beautiful pass yet again) the ranger said it was 102F. I sort of want a thermometer for the van, but I really think it’s just as well that we didn’t have one! No air conditioning. Stupid hot. Past “Easy-Bake Oven” and into “wood-fired pizza oven” territory. Guess we found out why the state park next to the Lake Mead NP is called Valley of Fire.

Well, actually the name is because of all the beautiful orange-red rocks! Different shapes than Capitol Reef or Arches, with lots of holes and texture. You could imagine all kinds of animals and weird aliens. Or maybe Flat Rats?

FlatRatRocks

They felt they hadn’t been featured enough lately. Heh. There’s even an elephant rock but unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of it. The campground was nestled in between the funky rock formations:

VOF campground

Not a lot of shade anywhere although the picnic table came with its own ramada for which we were very grateful. Also free showers! I’m sure hot water isn’t a problem there – even the water coming out of our campsite water tap was hot enough to bathe or wash dishes in. We spent the rest of the afternoon trying to stay cool and hydrated until a storm came up just after dark. It still was pretty darn hot but the wind was strong and we could see lightning off in the distance. No rain where we were though. Our sleep that night was on top of the covers!

But that was not nearly as bad as the next night, Day 22, even though the daytime temperature was slightly cooler at 98F, which we found out from the Visitor’s Center where we spent a blissfully cool hour or so checking out the exhibits. Before that we spent the early morning driving to the end of the Scenic View road and hiking a relatively short but interesting trail among the rocks:

VOF trail

On the way back we took another trail to the petroglyphs:

VOF petroglyphs

I love these people holding the Shaman’s hand. There were lots of petroglyphs along a couple of sections of rock walls on the single trail. Some of the designs were familiar (bighorn sheep!) and some were quite different. And at the end of the trail, Mouse’s Tank, a natural water collecting spot in the rocks named after a notorious Paiute who hid out there in the late 1800’s:

MousesTank

Don’t think I’d drink that water without boiling it for about an hour though! Yuck. But it’s the only source nearby if one was holed up out there.

We also went to see the Petrified Logs:

PetrifiedLog

This one had particularly pretty colours. Each one was surrounded by a chain link fence to prevent damage which kind of ruins the ambiance. Too bad some people won’t behave themselves, huh?

Quick digression. One thing I haven’t mentioned in these posts so far is the ridiculous number of times cups of tea have been spilled on this trip. Mostly when it was really hot or we were really tired and therefore even more clumsy than usual. I managed to spill at least 3 times, including once all over my little netbook computer, Bluet. Luckily it was very warm and dry and we were able to dry the computer out really well with no damage. Whew! However, the last time it wasn’t me who spilled but it was me who got scalded quite badly on my leg near my knee. The accident happened on our second day at Valley of Fire and it put something of a damper on my camping enthusiasm for the next few days. Not to mention having to shop for bandage supplies twice. Damn. Stuff happens, eh? It doesn’t hurt really (unless it’s touched) but there’s blistering and 5 patches of broken blisters that look rather gross. And they need covering if I wear long pants or go to bed. It’s taken me a couple of days to get the right bandage system that doesn’t stick to the ouchies or alternatively fall off. OK, this is probably TMI, isn’t it? Guess I was just feeling a little sorry for myself there. Digression over.

Anyway, back to the road. Day 23 found us heading through the middle of Las Vegas on the freeway at 8:00am. That place is so bizarre! We saw lots of the big hotels and casinos as we whizzed by, including the big black glass pyramid. And the big fancy police building seen in the CSI TV show. No idea what the LV draw is for people. I’d rather spend my money on fibres and yarns and fabrics. But that’s just me.

Instead we were on the way to the hottest day and the hottest place of our trip, Death Valley. Yes, we just might be certifiably nuts! When we got there the temp was already 107F. The main campground at Furnace Creek was closed so we had to go to the smaller Texas Springs one that they’d opened instead. There was nobody there – big surprise – and one shady campsite in the whole place. We took it and blessed the lovely big sprawling tree of a species completely unknown to us:

DeathValleyTree

Life-saving tree! I promise I’ll look it up later. It has scaly needles instead of leaves but it’s not a conifer because of the little spiky stems with small white seeds arranged in a spiral around them. (We still have some of those in the van that I missed sweeping out!) Also lovely textured reddish bark. Definitely a desert tree. We spent the afternoon under our precious tree trying to stay cool without much success. It was way past stupid-hot and into 9th level of hell-hot! Approximately 114F or over 45C according to the ranger’s prediction at the Visitors Center. He actually laughed at us for camping there in our old van. Didn’t try to discourage us though. Well, I can’t say it was particularly comfortable but we survived. Secret weapons? Drinking lots and lots and LOTS of water plus a wet washcloth each for neck and head and arms and anywhere else that needed slight cooling. Luckily we were armed with lots of ice in the cooler.

Needless to say, we didn’t stay another day torturing ourselves. Instead, on Day 24 we got up before the crack of dawn (5am) and headed for the heights where it was bound to be cooler. We were a little sad that we missed some of the sights in Death Valley. We did manage to see Zabriskie Point on the way in:

ZabriskiePoint

That’s looking down into the lowest area in North America, several hundred feet below sea level.

But then we’d really be idiots to kill ourselves over a few sights, wouldn’t we? I did learn a lot about what happens in extreme heat though. Everything is HOT even if it’s not in the sun. Every surface: cloth, plastic, metal, anything, even the insides of the cupboards. Drinking water is nearly hot enough to make tea. And it doesn’t get all that much cooler when the sun goes down. Even stark naked you can sweat yourself into a puddle all night long. It’s so far outside the realm of our usual experience living on the coast. Kind of glad we’re finally heading back to our Wet Coast now.

So after Death Valley we ended up in a forestry campground on the road toward Tioga Pass which is the eastern gateway to Yosemite National Park, California, our 9th state this trip. We drove up and down and through a long and rather smoky valley to get there, thanks to a number of ongoing forest fires in the region. It was actually cool enough to need long pants and a sweater! Yay! Next it’s into Yosemite and out the western end.

Also before I forget, I finished a couple more knitting projects. This one is already washed and blocked. It dried in about an hour in the hot dry air in Valley of Fire.

LalaShawl

Lala’s Simple Shawl in 4 different leftover sock yarns. I added a picot hem which I quite like. Even though I used thinner yarn and smaller needles it’s quite large and will be a warm addition to my rather large and still-growing stash of winter woolies. I love that it used up a lot of leftovers too, none of which were enough for a pair of socks on their own.

I also finished another cowl but haven’t had a chance to block and photograph it yet. Fourth finish and another two started. More soon! Oh wifi – how I miss you…

Desert To Ocean Trip – Part 7

Still seated in my Wayback Machine?

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Now I understand why Grand Canyon is one of the natural wonders of the world! You can’t take it all in, it’s just too vast. This was our first view on Day 19:

GrandCanyon1

We’re up nearly 7,000 feet and that’s about a mile straight down to the river. Oh my. I’ve been watching braver folks than I am stand right at the edges, like this tongue of rock:

GrandCanyon2

I’m in awe of their guts and their balance and simultaneously hoping a gust of wind doesn’t come up. Glad I’m not their mom. Just sayin’.

So out of a gazillion photos I can only choose a couple to show you. Apart from nature’s beauty I was really interested in Mary Colter, the architect and designer of several important heritage buildings in the park. I even bought the book about her:

MaryColterBook

In a time when women weren’t commonly doing this type of work, Mary did her careful research and came up with the most amazing places that not only fit with the land and the early Native People but somehow avoid being totally kitschy. The cover of the book shows one example, the Watchtower, located at Desert View on the south-eastern edge of the canyon:

WatchtowerView

From the other side:

Watchtower

The design evokes the Ancestral Puebloan people’s towers (though this one is round instead of square) and an attached kiva, which contains a gift shop. The tower itself has several floors with Native American designs going back in time as you climb higher:

Watchtower inside

Watchtower inside2

The workmanship is very detailed. Anyhow, I love it so much that I personally want the park to move their stuff out so I can move in! Oh alright, guess that’s not going to happen. We settled for a campsite in Grand Canyon Village instead. And boy, were we glad we had secured reservations when we had (actually functional) wifi in Mesa Verde. They were full up.

On Day 20 we rode our bikes (for the first time this trip!) along some of the paved trails and a few miles along the rim where you were allowed to cycle. Everything is much more spread out here than we had realised and a lot of the area is inaccessible to cars. Luckily they have 3 shuttle bus routes (free) so after our bike ride we took the bus westward along the rim as far as you can go to Hermit’s Rest, another of Mary Colter’s inventions:

HermitsRest

I love the huge fireplace inside:

HermitsRest fireplace

Not particularly needed when it’s about 80F however! The Hermit in the name was apparently a French-Canadian, Louis Boucher, who was an early white resident in the area. The main area is yet another gift shop and there’s also a concession with snacks and drinks.

Sadly wifi has been elusive for us. There is some apparently somewhere in Grand Canyon but not where we were. Not even cellphone coverage in the campground so they have pay phones available. How old-fashioned.

Next it’s on to our 8th state, Nevada.