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I am Sandra - faithful steward. listener. shepherd. dream believer. hard worker. collects brass bells, boots. Jesus follower. contented. star gazer. homemaker. farmer. prayer warrior. country woman. reader. traveler. writer. homebody. living life large.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Komi Kids

The Komi Kids Yarn Project started from a 2004 trip to Russia taken by Dave and I when I was hired to travel to three Russian regions as a Rural Tourism Consultant. While we were in the Komi Republic, Siberia, in the city of Syktyvkar, we visited The Children's House. This is home for a few dozen special needs children, who will stay until age twenty-five and then leave to make their way in the world. All children are taught basic home making skills; the girls sewing, knitting and crochet and the boys woodworking and gardening. Some children also learn computer and other skills that will help them earn a living in the outside world.

Dave and I came home determined to help...somehow, someway. I'm the resident farmer and shepherd at Thistle Cove Farm and use the fiber from both American Curly horses to spin, knit and weave. I'm also on several fiber lists and decided to ask folks if they would like to join me in sending the girls yarn. So, in 2004, the first of several boxes of yarn were sent to Syktyvkar, The Children's House. In 2005, we sent more boxes of yarn and in April 2006, Woman's Day magazine published a "Reader's Snapshot" of the KKYP and a photo of me bottle feeding lambs.

People all over the USA have responded out of their love of fiber and the knowledge they could do some warm good in this, sometimes, frosty world. The Komi Kids Yarn Project isn't a not for profit organization; it's simply two people who saw a need, told others about that need and dozens have responded. Because we're simply two people, we, probably quite often, don't move fast enough for some. We live on "farm time" and it's a slower pace than "city time". The needs of farming, shepherding and the animals take up the greater portion of my time. Dave's soon to be 93 year old mother lives with us and she requires a great deal of care as well.

All that to say, we still ship boxes of yarn to Russia and we meet with Russian visitors and give them knitting supplies to hand carry home. We care deeply about the people whom we will never meet who also care about children in Russia whom they will never meet. It gives a nice circularity to life that's quite appropriate to farm life.

I've spoken with the most amazing people, heard the most heart rendering tales and been blessed well beyond my deserving. All, save one woman, have been gracious, kind, generous and have given out of an overflowing heart. They have given knowing they receive nothing in return except the knowledge some girls in Russia, in frigid cold Siberia, will be warmed twice...the first time by the loving gifts of yarn sent from America and the second in wearing the garments they knit and crochet.

Suzy, in CA, has become a friend and not only a friend but a shining example of how God is in the details. The Pelican Knitters, in FL, chose this as a project and rounded up skein after skein of delightful yarn to warm the children's hearts and fingers. The Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic School in Elma, NY kindergarten class in NY chose this as their Lenten project. The stories become more beloved in the telling and warm the hearts many times over.

Thank YOU for reading and hearing about the Komi Kids; for responding out of the generosity of your hearts. My prayer is for God to give you, the giver, ten times over, the love, spirit of sharing and generosity you have shown to girls you and I will never know. I ask God to bless you, abundantly and overflowing with His goodness, grace and mercy, that your lives will be so full of His blessings you'll continue to respond to the needs when He pricks your hearts. And, when people misunderstand you and seek to cause harm against you, I pray their efforts will be to no avail.

The Bible tells us to cast our bread upon the waters and it will return to us. Scripture, in holy wisdom, doesn't say whether good bread or moldy bread but it promises to return that to us which we have broadcast. Some call it karma, some say what goes around, comes around but this I know from life's experiences...we reap what we sow.

Following are names of people who have given; by the way...this list is in no particular order...just as the boxes tumbled. I've only given first names, last initials and city/state when available. Sometimes a box arrived with no name, just a city/state; sometimes with no first name. In all cases, God knows who you are. May His blessings upon you, yours and the work of your hands.

Howard, Greenville, SC
George & Mickey B., Cedar Rapids, IO
Dianne N., Indianapolis, IN
Carol K., Bensalem, PA
Jean L., Waynesboro, PA
Amy B., Champaign, IL
Bronx, NY
Gloria H., Wellington, FL
Gail S., NY, NY
Carine N., Oakton, VA
Iris S., Coral Springs, FL
Melinda H., Silver Spring, MD
Festa, Springboro, OH
Thompson,Centerburg, OH
Charlene S., Moore Haven, FL
Becky O., Bellevue, NE
Pelican Knitters c/o Cynthia G., Sanibel, FL
Marie W., Isanti, MN
Lorraine T., Indian Trail, NC
Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic School, Elma, NY
Leslie S., Meadows of Dan, VA
NEFF, Skillman, NJ
Bott, Edgewood, MD
U. Burr, Denver, CO
J. Silverman, Cincinnati, OH
Janice C., Coldwater, MI
Katherine T., Hoboken, NJ
Frieda B., Elk River, MN
B. Promiser, Leominster, MN
Bond, Barrington, IL
L. E. Bruce, Evanston, IL
Kellie N., Jessup, MD
Terri Y., Philadelphia, PA
Jim & Marilyn M., Miamisburg, OH
Mrs. Niespodzinski, Elma, NY
Mrs. Doyle, Elma, NY
Mrs. Gary, Elma, NY
Mrs. Anstett, Elma, NY
Audrey, Elma, NY
Emily, Elma, NY
Angelina, Elma, NY
Joshua, Elma, NY
Chelsea, Elma, NY
Chris, Elma, NY
Hale, Elma, NY
Charlie, Elma, NY
Skyler, Elma, NY
Mark, Elma, NY
Amber, Elma, NY
Tia, Elma, NY
Alexia, Elma, NY
Chanel, Elma, NY
Patrick, Elma, NY
Libby, Elma, NY
Frank, Elma, NY boxes arrive they are re-packaged and addressed both in English and in Russian to be sent to The Children's House.

Monday, May 15, 2006

10 Fiber Pleasures

1. Planning a project
2. A new skein of yarn either bought or hand spun
3. A new fiber related book or pattern
4. Designing and/or writing a pattern
5. Getting started - fleece prep, spinning, knitting, crocheting
6. Knitting in the pasture with my sheep, dogs, cats and horses as companions.
7. Visiting a yarn shop or fiber festival
8. Taking a class - dyeing, knitting, felting...anything fiber
9. Sheep Shearing Day and skirting fleeces
10. Finishing a project

Sunday, May 14, 2006


From Angi, the 7x7 list -

Seven Things To Do Before I Die:

1. visit every continent, especially Great Britain (home of my kith & kin)
2. finish house & farm restoration
3. learn to saddle my horse and ride by myself
4. knit a difficult lace shawl
5. knit something for each family member
6. help put T. through college
7. finish & publish the two books I've begun

Seven Things I Cannot Do:

1. change anyone other than myself
2. convince anyone else to forgive others
3. carry a grudge for very long
4. carry a tune yet sing unethusiastically
5. shear a sheep
6. be deliberately cruel
7. pretend to like someone when I don't

Seven Things That Attract Me To My Husband:

1. his excellent character
2. he's kind
3. he's thoughtful
4. he takes care of his women
5. he's very smart
6. he's supportive
7. he's a man of his word

Seven Books That I Love:

1. The Bible
2. The Mitford Series
3. Smokehouse Ham, Spoon Bread, & Scuppernong Wine by Joe Dabney
4. Almost any fiber related book - knitting, spinning, dyeing, etc.
5. everything by Karen Valentine
6. everything by Jeanine McMullen
7. the next good book

Seven Things I say:

1. I love you
2. Please
3. Thank you
4. God bless you
5. You can do it
6. Why not?
7. Be safe

Seven Movies I Have Loved:

1. Chronicals of Narnia - BBC version
2. Whales of August
3. Harold & Maude
4. Fried Green Tomatoes
5. Trip to Bountiful
6. Calendar Girls
7. Woman of the Year

Ladies To Tag: Leslie, Linda,

Monday, May 08, 2006

Ten Simple Pleasures

1. A cup of hot milky, sweet tea or flavored, milky coffee on a cool morning
2. Iced chai tea on a hot afternoon
3. Calm in the household
4. A new knitting magazine or book, a project begun and/or finished
5. Fiber festivals and yarn stores
6. A hug from Dave
7. Stolen afternoon naps on the bed with all the humans, dogs and cats
8. A telephone chat with one of my family or friends
9. Anticipation
10. Any day, any time at Thistle Cove Farm

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Knitting Simply

Paulette Lane, Knitting Pattern a Day Calendar 2006 graciously accepted a couple of my knitting designs for both the 2006 and the 2007 calendar. I suppose reading the wonderful new knitting books and magazines gave me the push I needed to try my hand at design work. A few years ago, I taught myself to knit and it's been hit or miss, pretty much, ever since. I once told somone I had taught myself to knit and she replied, "we're all self-taught". I concede she has a point but I don't think she's correct. There's something totally different about sitting down with a book or magazine, needles and yarn in hand than sitting at a table with other students and a teacher. When any of us knit alone, we miss the energy that group knitting brings to each of us. We miss the dynamics of the social activity.

My designs are quite simple and suited to beginners or knitters needing some quiet time from a more complex pattern. Simple suits my knitting style and my life style. It's hard to find knitting time when I'm also a farmer/shepherd and I enjoy knitting simply for the sake of knitting. There's a calmness and quiet to the act of knitting that brings renewal to my spirit. There's hardly every been a time, since I began knitting, it didn't bring me pleasure. Even the act of ripping out stitches is, mostly, gratifying because I know I don't have to rip out stitches. I can just leave the mistake in the knitting. And, at times, have done just that.

At any rate, one of my favorite things to knit is jewelry and I've played around with different knitted bracelets. My favorite stone to use is Unakite, a green and peachy pink stone found in Scotland and Appalachia and other places in the world. It gives me a feeling of continuity knowing Unakite is found both in where my roots lie and where I now live.

This bracelet is knitted with two strands of 24 gauge gold wire and glass beads. 24 gauge wire is easy on the hands but tends to be very stretchy and will, with heavy use, lose its shape and stretch out. When that happens I either put a few extra twists and kinks in it or I'll rip it out and re-knit.

The KPAD Calendar costs around $14 USD but is well worth the price. There is almost one pattern per day, an amazing number of patterns for a small sum of money.

If you're interested in free patterns a quick Google search shows the Free Knitting Pattern Ring and more patterns than I'll ever have time, or skill, to knit on this lifetime.

One last bit of really good news...Mission Falls is back in action...HURRAH! Their primary designer (maybe their only designer???) Mags Kandis has the most fabulous patterns. As if that's not, wait...there's MORE! Their 1824 Cotton and 1824 Wool are interchangable in their designs! WHOA Nelly! Simply sublime.

While you're knitting simply, be sure to knit happy as well.

Friday, May 05, 2006

O Happy Day....

when a knitting or spinning print publication arrives in the mailbox! Interweave Knits came today and I've spent some pleasurable moments looking at all the things I'll probably never make . Generally, I use magazines and books to give me design ideas, to read the ads, to find out what other Fiber Folk are doing. Interweave always has cutting edge patterns, good color photography, useful ads and a great ending on the inside back cover. This most recent issue, Summer 06, Amy M. Swenson writes of her Trans-Siberian Stash Enhancement experience in Kazan, Russia. She did find some yarn to buy (read the article) but wasn't sure of the fiber content.

Her article brought back some nice memories. When I was in Russia in 2004, I found a wool mohair blend as well as some wooden knitting needles. The yarn was mill spun in Italy and imported into Russia to be sold in a department store corner. While I was standing at the counter, several women were making selections but there was none of the sensual tactile experience such as we have in the USA. No cute yarn stores with cushy, cozy overstuffed arm chairs. No tables and folding chairs to group knit. No nothing. All yarn and materials were kept behind a huge glass counter and when I wanted to fondle the yarn (Do WHUTTTTT?!!!) I had to ask.

Needless to say, fondling was kept to a minimum.

On Wednesday's Dye Day @ Leslie's, I took the following two books and we had a blast going through both of them.

Have you seen the Wendy Knits blog? It's a fun site with loads of information, free patterns and photos of Lucy, resident cat. She has between 3 and 4 million (depending on who is telling the story) blog readers a MONTH! Go visit her blog - NOW - and you'll sell why. The woman is a knitting dynamo and shows no signs of stopping, much less slowing down.

Wendy D. Johnson's new book, Wendy Knits: My Never-Ending Adventures in Yarn, has just been released and it's a hoot. Yes, she's a great knitter but it's her delivery style that makes this book so much fun. She's not above telling of her foibles, her mistakes or "knitting partners" (not to be confused with partners in knitting) and in such a way you can just see the event unfolding on the subway. While the photos are in black and white they are on *real* (gasp!) people...what a novel idea.

Her style of writing is such you can almost imagine her as a old friend who agreed to meet you at Knit Happens
where she's been known to hang out and fondle yarn. While her style is cozy, her wit is rapier with a bit of edgy cynicism thrown in at opportune moments. Her patterns are well written, easily understood and she encourages the reader to pick up those needles and design, then knit, something. To build a foundation, she starts with simpler patterns, and then progress to more difficult patterns that uses the learned skill sets. This is one for the personal knitting library; my only complaint is her book tour isn't anywhere near me. I'd sure like her to autograph my copy of Wendy Knits.

Mason Dixon Knitting
is another great book, in color and came about as a result of a blog partnership. Kay Gardiner, NY, and and Ann Shayne, Nashville, met on a Rowen knitting board and now have their own "close-knit" community of more than ten thousand. These gals have a really wicked sense of humor and I can well imagine the increased sale of Depends when they hit town! (Cool button hole felted bag pattern on their site too.)

Linda and Leslie threatened to steal this book and Leslie crochets! MDK has FUN patterns, COLORFUL patterns and a cheeky tone that makes you want to read some sections out loud. In public, even. You simply won't care because this book is That Good.

From Chapter Two: Knitting Around the House - "My house isn't picky: it doesn't care if that afghan is a little too big or the wrong color. It is the most forgiving recipient of stuff I knit, and it will wear it until I get tired of looking at it."

You GO Girl!

Hmmm.... why did I think of all those people to whom I've given the gift of the work of my hands and they said, "how nice." How nice???? No, ejiit! NOT how nice. How Wonderful! I take my time, my energy, my knowledge, my money and I spent it on a cretin!? Quote the sheepies, "Nevermore!"

Reading through MDK makes me want to get the huge knitting needles out and just start making something. To cast on and see where purl takes me and then take pictures and post them on my blog.

So...what I actually did was print off a copy of the Buttonhole Bag from the MDK blog site. As it happens, I've got some Lamb's Pride Bulky yarn - at least I think I do and if I don't, I'll improvise.

Ain't knitting simply GRAND!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Dye Day @ Leslie's

Great blessings were heaped upon my undeserving, but welcoming, head yesterday.

Leslie Shelor hosted a dye day at Greenberry House and Linda and I were the happy dyers. I've used natural dyes but never Jacquard dyes and it was great fun as well as a learning experience.

Linda had her first two skeins of handspun (one being Coopworth and I can't remember the other) and I had one skein of farmspun (blend of 50/50 wool mohair) and one of millspun Suffolk, a down breed. The wool mohair blend is 240+ yards and the Suffolk is 200 yards. The first will be used for a hat and fingerless mittens and the Suffolk will, probably, be overdyed and sold for socks. Suffolk makes a fabulous yarn where great warmth is needed as the high loft traps warm air and holds it close to the body. Linda and I make the decision to spot dye one of our skeins and to immerse dye the other skein. Leslie has a hand spun, hand knitted scarf she'll immerse dye and she graciously allows Linda and I to choose the dye colors of the day.

The three of us have a lot in common and one commonality is we all three love purple/violet. After all, it's the color of royalty and we three are Daughters of the King so purple/violet it is. Turquois and a pale yellow round out the selection.

Leslie uses Jacquard dyes which allows one to control the concentration of the formula. She uses about one tablespoon of dye powder in one cup of hot water and then mixes this in a sports water bottle with a nipple. We're hoping the nipple will make for more directed spot dyeing as we all forget to bring those little plastic ketchup bottles with a narrow top.

The skeins pre-so
ak in hot water and a drop of dishwashing detergent which acts as a surfacant. Doing this allows the yarn to more evenly soak up more of the dye. It's important to immerse the skeins into the hot water because if the hot water is allowed to flow over the skeins, the skeins may very well felt. Of course, the Suffolk isn't going to felt if you beat it with a stick and walk on it but the Romney Shetland wool mohair blend will felt if you look at it crossly.

After thoroughly wetting the skeins they are laid, somewhat evenly, on the countertop and we begin squirting dye onto the skeins. After the yarn is dyed to our liking, it's rolled up in a clear plastic wrap. First, it's rolled length wise and then rolled into
a ball and placed into a kettle with hot water in the bottom. We're using a canning kettle with a jar holder so the wrapped yarn can be laid atop the wire and steamed. The yarn is steamed about thirty minutes which sets the color and then removed, unwrapped and placed into another kettle of hot water into which one cup of vinegar has been added. The vinegar acts as a mordant, setting the color so it won't bleed in subsequent wearings and washings.

Our other skeins and Leslie's scarf are immersed in a kettle of hot water and dye, purple of course! It's allowed to simmer, not boil, for approximately thirty minutes and then lifted out and placed into another kettle of hot water and vinegar. Again, the vinegar acts as a mordant, setting the d

Linda, left, and Leslie, right, are holding the first spot dyed yarn. My two skeins are hanging on my fence with my sheep in the background.

I learned quite a few things and remembered other things as the day lengthened. Basic color wheel knowledge is important...both to know and to remember . I had forgotten when yellow is introduced to any kind of blue/purple, the resulting color My first skein came out quite greenish due to the yellow being used with the violet and turquoise. It's pretty but not as vibrant as I wanted. The second skein has a very vivid purple/amethyst color and is beautiful. I'm thinking a hat and pair of fingerless mittens from this skein and probably some left over. The first skein I might overdye and will be ordering some Jacquard dyes later today.

A most excellent day in the company of talented and gracious friends. Who among us isn't rich when we can count good friends among life's blessings?

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