Thursday, June 28, 2007

Dyeing for yarn, part deux

Wet yarn is freaking heavy. And Claudia had 10 14-gallon pots going at once today.

We dyed 23 pots of assorted yarns (kid mohair, merino fingering, silk fingering, merino worsted) today. I can't remember how many hanks that came out to. A lot. I'm really excited that she's "letting" me help dye the yarn even though I'm brand new there.

The pots are very heavy, too. After all the hot (as in almost boiling hot) yarn is fished out and lugged across the room and hung up to drip on the floor till it cools, we have to dump the leftover water out (onto the floor; there's a wall-to-wall drain across the room), wash the pots with bleach, rinse them and painfully (at least for me) lift them back onto the burners, which are huge and thankfully only about 18" off the floor. Refill with water, dye, acid, and dish detergent, add yarn (the only slow part of the process, except for waiting two hours till the yarn is done), relight the burners, and go on to the next one.

This is heavy physical labor, something I'm not at all accustomed to. Either I'll end up in really good shape or in traction. I hurt all over.

I figured that, with my "employee's discount", I can make enough money to buy enough yarn for 5 pairs of socks a day. That same yarn in a yarn shop is $24 per pair. Or maybe I can finally buy linen or silk to make a nice top or sweater. I might actually be able to afford it now.

We're dyeing more yarn tomorrow. But only about 5 pots. She usually only dyes two days a week, but demand has gotten so high that she's having to go to three days a week, with maybe 15-20 pots a day. That's good for her, but my back is protesting. Until two weeks ago she was the only one who did the dyeing; then one of her very young employees started working in the dyeing room. This girl was in one of my study halls two years ago. Now she's tell me what to do.

I've got to go to bed. I don't know when I've been this tired, but it sure is a good tired.

P.S. Claudia said today that she hired me because I brought in the socks I was knitting with her yarn. Finally knitting has paid off!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A fleeting moment of fame

Dyeing for yarn

Okay, I'm a leeeeetle bit excited here.

This morning I got up early (for me). Summer vacation has finally arrived; I've been working at school since the school year ended, finishing up some projects and moving everything out of our office, then back in after the floors were cleaned. We've been in that school for only two years, and this is the third time we've had to pack everything up and move it across the hall into the conference room. It's getting old, and so am I.

So anyway, yesterday was my last day at work for a while. Mary (my immediate boss) and I still have a project to finish, but since it involves contacting students who "left" school in 2006, most of what remains will have to be done in the evenings and on weekends. This week I'm dog/cat/bird/fish-sitting for my sister's menagerie while she's basking on the beach.

I could have slept really late this morning, but Kipper, my sister's very emotionally-needy English setter (I think) didn't agree. I got up at 6 to feed him, medicate him, and let him and the others go outside. After they came in I went back to bed, but Kipper wasn't happy with that arrangement. After a couple of hours of "Woof. Woof. Woof." I gave in and got up.

We don't get the local paper at home, and I never read the help wanted ads because I have a job I like and can retire from in about 5-8 years. This morning I did read the ads, and this is one that I found to be most interesting:

In my last post I mentioned that I'd bought some ClaudiaCo ( handpainted yarn and was knitting a pair of socks. I've read about Claudia's yarn on knitting blogs from all over the place, and I had to have some for my own. I bought it at one of the two wonderful yarn shops in town, Rocktown Yarns (

I started a sock that turned out stripey, not bad-stripey, but not my favorite, so when I got to the point of turning the heel, I started a second sock using Cookie A.'s Monkey pattern from the Winter '06 edition of the online knitting magazine, Knitty ( (tons of great patterns and articles there, and they're all free!)

So I called Claudia and she asked me to come over (every bit of about two blocks from where my sister lives, and not too far from the high school where I work) and see if I was interested in the job. Interested? I'd almost pay her to let me work there. One of her employees showed me around the place. Oh, the yarn, the colors, the yarn. Then she asked me if I wanted to fill out an application. Um, yes. I filled it out, then I went to Claudia's office to talk to her.

Either she's desperate for help or she likes me and my qualifications (I brought my socks that I'm knitting with her yarn), because she hired me on the spot. To work ten-hour days in the summer in a room with about 10 burners holding huge pots of steaming yarn, to fish the wet, heavy yarn out and hang it to drip, then move it down the hall to the drying room (which has a dehumidifier, which should be nice after a few hours in a steamy room). That's where I start tomorrow. Dyeing yarn, something I've always wanted to learn. (Okay, I've wanted to learn it for the last five years, since I started buying yarn for knitting and discovering the addictive, expensive world of handpainted yarn.)

I'll learn to mix the dyes, wind them into hanks (she has machines that will wind 10 hanks at once, automatically), then twist them (another machine) into those neat little uh, twists of yarn.

I'll get to fondle yarn and not be considered weird.

No, I'm not quitting my day job. This one just won't pay enough to buy groceries, much less retirement. I'll work full-time in the summer and after school the rest of the year. The pay is very low, but above (current) minimum wage, but get this: I can buy her yarn at her cost. I. Can buy yarn. Gorgeous, soft, handpainted yarn that is too expensive for me to normally touch, much less buy. This is especially welcome after the budget that Tom bamboozled me into drew up with me last night, a budget that doesn't allow for the purchase of much yarn at all if we want to keep traveling. It's like the answer to a prayer. I get to work with yarn! Famous yarn, at that. She's recently contracted to sell it in a shop in Australia, in addition to Canada and England.

And maybe this is the answer to what I'll do after I retire from the school system. I've been trying to figure out what I can do that I'll love doing, that's creative, that's fun, that allows me to buy nice yarn. I'm not going into it thinking that this is going to be an easy job; I suspect that it's going to be hard physical labor, but it's doing something that I want to learn how to do. How many people actually get paid for doing something they'd do anyway?

It's a good thing that my hair likes humidity.

P.S. Claudia said that it was genius (well, not exactly genius, maybe) to make two socks of different patterns from the same yarn. I've considered wearing them like that, but one is made on a size 1 needle and the other on a 1.5. I don't know yet how that's going to work out, but I'm all for not having to rip out and knit another sock.

Monday, June 18, 2007

You know what bothered me the most

about the damage to the Camry?

The loss of my Dave Barry for President (your political beliefs here) bumper sticker.

I just ordered a new one. You can, too. I think I'll get this for Zippy.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Automobile ramblings

Hi, I'm Marie, and I'm a car snob.

On Wednesday our Camry went in to be repaired (approximately $3500, I think) and we were given a rental car. I figured we'd end up with a GM or Ford product, and I'm not crazy about those. I like Toyotas, especially Camrys. I rented a Buick last summer that was a nice enough car, even luxurious, but it was a Buick. I just don't like Buicks. UPDATE: It was a Dodge. A nice Dodge, but I really hate Dodges. It all goes back to my ex-husband.

I'd planned to rent a car when I went to Orlando for A's birthday in January, but all they had left (I'm so sure) was a PT Cruiser, and I hate those things. For some reason they're just plain offensive to me. It's like a personal afront or something. I don't understand it, but it's there. So I refused the car and called J to come and get me at the airport. I simply would not pay to drive that thing.

Anyway, back to our current rental. It's a dark gray Toyota Prius Hybrid, and I'm totally smitten. It's not really pretty, but the seats are very comfortable and it feels like a big car in a small car's body. Not as much leg room as we'd like, but more than most small cars I've been in, and it has a full back seat.

It's an odd car. I can't really put it in words so I'll show you pictures.

This is the "key".

It's like no key I've ever seen. It's like a key fob for newer cars with keyless entry, but there's no KEY on it. It fits into a slot on the dashboard.

And you don't turn it to start the car. There's a big button above the slot, and you touch that to start it. You don't push it, you touch it.

The gear shift (well, it's an automatic, but I don't know what else to call it) is totally alien.

I still haven't figured out what "B" means. R, reverse, and D, drive. You just put your foot on the break, move the lever to the direction you want, and it goes into gear. Without any noise or effort. It just does it. UPDATE: It's for "brake", like when you're going down the mountain. In other vehicles we downshift to D2, but not in this one.

Park? Not on the lever. Again, foot on brake, then

touch P. That's it. Totally alien.

What I'm not crazy about is the display screen, but it can be turned off. If there's a screen anywhere in sight, I'm staring at it. I'm a product of the first generation of kids to have television. I've always thought that it's a good idea for airplanes to have videos that show how to use the seatbelts, etc. because if a tv is turned on, I'm looking at it. It's a curse, I tell you.

This isn't a clear shot; I didn't take the time to do a decent job since I was on my way into work. It shows the radio display; instead of buttons to push, it has a touch screen. There's also a sound screen for adjusting sound properties; I didn't get into that this morning. It was hard enough to drive a new, alien car and take photos while pushing buttons.

Okay, I was in the parking lot while I did all this. The car was not moving.

This screen shows the climate control system. So far we haven't quite figured out how to turn on and off the a/c, but we can adjust the temperature. Wednesday afternoon it was hot outside, so the air coming into the car was cool (see that top row of the display? It shows both the outside and inside temperature. That may not be new for you people, but for me it's really exciting.), and this morning, when it was chilly outside, the inside air was nice and warm.

I haven't explored this screen. I'm guessing it has a tripometer and stuff like that. As for language, well, wouldn't it be a wonderful idea to have it display say, Spanish or French, and really forget to watch the road?

Thank goodness it can be turned off.

I think I'm going to do some research and see just how much a car like this costs.

UPDATE: The only thing that I don't like about the car? It doesn't have XM radio. I've gotten very spoiled by XM. It can be gotten on a new car, though, and mine will have XM.

But it does have a cd player, so I can make do.

Monday, June 11, 2007


I'm up to round 4 of Citrus. It's not looking any narrower, but them I'm not getting any narrower, either.

I also started another pair of socks this weekend. Citrus takes too much concentration, so if I can't pay total attention to what I'm doing, I can't work on it. Too much ripping out.

Claudia Handpaint with Regia cotton heels and toes

For me.

I'm going to knit a pair of thick, warm house socks with suede soles for Tom to wear in the winter, once I get the measurements and make sure I have enough yarn.

Sisters' Weekend!

Marie, Betty, Joan

Sometimes you just have to get away. This past weekend was one of those times.

My sisters and I try to get together away from home several times a year. It started out as once a year, then twice, then whenever we go to a concert, now we just go when we need to.

After debating the merits of different locations (Natural Bridge is a favorite; it's beautiful, peaceful, and there's nothing to do but enjoy the scenery), we ended up on a mountain top in a motel ("hotel" is really pushing the definition) in a room that was barely adequate, but clean enough and the place has a nice pool and a mostly-decent restaurant.

After thinking about it, we asked to be moved to another room because there was a group of big bushes across the sidewalk from our room, which was on the ground floor next to the pool. Evidentally "poolside" is ground floor and "pool view" is upper floor. There were only a few rooms available "poolside" (many were either empty of furniture or piled high with stuff from other rooms), but we were able to move to one a few doors down.

Joan came in about that time (Betty and I had gotten there a couple of hours earlier; Nancy had work to do and didn't come with us), so we went to dinner. The dining room has a wonderful view from two walls of floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the valley to the east. An incredible lightening storm with purple clouds came tearing through, and it was exhilarating to watch. Then the sunset was reflected from the clouds. We also saw a bobcat walking through the back yard of the property; he stopped and posed for a while and Joan took photos.

We didn't go back to the room till about 9:30, and we went to bed soon afterwards. By that time Betty and I were having respiratory difficulties; we both have allergies and I've been getting over bronchitis (after being put on prednisone for a few days, I was just starting to feel better and able to breathe more easily), but there was so much mold, mildew, dust, and bugs in that room that we choked up. But since it was late (by that time, it was about 10:30) and dark, we decided not to request yet another room change that night.

Filthy bathroom floor, room 2

Mold and filth in the bathroom

Stuff in the a/c unit of room 2

Mess under the headboard (the lamps weren't plugged in because the headboard was in the way)

The next morning we were pretty miserable, so when we went to the restaurant for breakfast, I requested another room change, this time on an upper floor. We moved again, this time into a much nicer (relatively speaking), cleaner room that didn't smell bad. What a pain that was, moving twice after settling in.

We spent the afternoon by the pool; the water was chilly, but Betty and Joan got in while I watched. I don't do cold water.

We had a wonderful time.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

I didn't do it, and the bear is okay.

So this is how our week (June 3 - 9) was.

1) I was sick all weekend, really sick. I missed work Friday and Monday, thereby using up all the sick leave I'm allowed for the year. (We can bank days, but I used them all up anyway.) Bronchitis, sinus infection, fluid behind the eardrums.

2) Tom went to Richmond for the press conference announcing a reward for information leading to etc. in his brother's murder case. They got a lot of tv coverage, even in our area, and are hopeful that it's enough money to make someone think about turning in his "buddy".

3) I took Zippy outside that afternoon off-leash. He does very well when he's with Tom, but he tends to ignore me. I walked around and looked at flowers and he disappeared. About 15 minutes later he came tearing back. I didn't even notice that he'd rolled in something, but it must have been pretty good, because he was coated with some incredibly stinky goo.

4) Tom came in. I still hadn't noticed Zip's new hairdo (nice and spiky) and immediately noted the fragrance. Evidentally it was pretty rank. I stuck the dog in the tub (still running a 100+ fever, feeling really rotten) and it took about 10 minutes to get all the "stuff" off him. The water ran brown the entire time. I scrubbed him as best I could, still not smelling a thing, so I guess it was good that I'm the one who washed him.

5) Tom can still smell the stink. I'm just starting to be able to get a tiny notion of what it was, but his nose is working. Seems that Zippy had rolled on the carpet after his roll outside, so the stink is permanently with us. Febreze has not touched it. UPDATE: Tom gave Zippy a bath this past weekend and reports that Zip is much more pleasant to be around now.

6) I have cell phone service with NTELOS, which is evidentally a Virginia-pretty-much-only company. They don't put much value on customer service. I've been with them for at least six years. I've been fighting them since I changed my plan at the end of March; they never credited me with that month's payment, instead they charged me for the plan I'd had for four years and changed on March 26 to a less-expensive plan. Half the price. I paid the bill in full when I bought my new phone that day.

For the past two months, I've received bills that still didn't reflect the change in rate. I went into the store, disputed the incorrect amount, and waited a week or two. My next bill still didn't show any change, so I called "customer service". The guy there was very helpful and agreed that I didn't owe the extra amount and put in another dispute. The first one was never recorded on my account, so nothing had happened. He said that after March 26, someone had gone into my account and changed it back to the higher plan; he had no explanation for that. He said to wait a couple of weeks and things should be fine. I paid the $50 that I owed and disputed the rest.

Got the bill for this month. It showed a past-due balance of $40. So back to the NTELOS store and another "customer service" rep. They never have the same people in there twice. I don't know if there's a big turnover or just schedules are different, but there's always someone new. I brought my contract, the last bill, and my impressions of it. After an hour of waiting while the cs rep went over my last three months' bills with some guy, I don't know if he was the manager or what, but he never spoke to me. They agreed that I owed the money, that they'd refunded it.

It just didn't sound right to me. I'm really really bad with numbers, but I knew those bills were wrong and they owed me $40 and an apology. However, that didn't happen. We left and I mentioned to Tom that I pay for this service in advance, not after the fact, and somewhere in those bills it should show where that money was refunded. Okay, now he realized what was going on; he thought that it was like a regular phone bill, paid for what I'd used in the last month. So we turned around, he went back in and spent half an hour going over the bills with Mr. Whoeverhewas, and pointed out the mistake. Slowly and painfully. He came out with the printout with Mr. W's signature that the money had been taken off my bill. It took over 2.5 hours to get that straightened out.

Whew. All that for $40. But it gets better.

7) So we were late going home. It was a beautiful evening, first really clear day in ages. We live on the far side of civilization and take a two-lane road 30 miles across the mountain into West Virginia. A few miles from the mountain we rounded a curve and lo and behold, there was a big old black bear running down the center of our lane right toward us. You don't fight a bear with a car and come out in good shape, and we didn't want to hit it, so Tom stood on the brakes. Thank God for ABS. We stopped in time to leave the bear in good health, he scampered on up the cliff by the road, and WHAM. A pickup truck crashed into the back of the car. To his credit, he skidded trying to avoid us, but it pretty much did in the left back end of our car, which we'd just gotten (used) in August to replace the Camry that died in a driveway while we were in Europe.

I jumped out of the car with my camera and started documenting the drama. I've always got my camera with me, and this is twice I've used this one to document an accident.

We waited for the state police to make his way that far off the interstate (fortunately, no one was badly hurt; we both have sore necks; I was twisted around in my seat watching the bear), he interviewed both Tom and the poor boy driving the truck, exchanged insurance info and off we went. The car is driveable, but the alignment is definitely a leetle bit off.

So, who knows. It's a 1999 Camry (and I can't say enough good things about Camrys; this is the third I've had and has over 154,000 miles on it; the last two were comparable), only cost $6000 last August and is possibly totalled. It'll cost thousands to repair, so it might be totalled.

*Sigh* I hate car-shopping.

UPDATE: The car goes in on Wednesday to be appraised or whatever it is they do to wrecked cars. We went to the ER the day after the wreck just to check things out; no damage from the wreck (although Tom's trapezius was in spasm from the crash), but I have arthritis in my neck. Great. And I'm finally feeling much better after the bout with bronchitis, but poor Tom has the crud now.