Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Blankets For Kids

There is a bit of a story behind how this whole blanket thing came to be. Last Summer I was casting about for ways to insulate the two yurts I was putting up. One of the yurts had a vinyl cover and the other had potentially no cover at all. I knew that I would need a lot of insulation when a great deal came along: hundreds of yards of polar fleece from the failed product line of a local apparel company.

Here it is - many, many yards of polar fleece, at least twice as much as I could use, but it was an all-or-nothing deal, and too good to pass up even if I only used half of it.

I did some tests, layering a few pieces of it on the roof and walls of the vinyl yurt to see how much insulation it would require. When the fires came, these "scraps" of fleece found their way into my blanket trunk and came out to pile on top of the bed during a few exceptionally cold nights. This stuff is super high quality and COZY!

As time went on, I had a little bug in my ear, reminding me to look for a good way to put the excess fleece to good use, especially the bright colors that I don't want in my home.

Then one day I was as the General Store and heard Karen, the cashier, talking about how Santa was coming to bring presents to the kids of Wolf Creek. Many of these kids come from situations where they don't have much to look forward to in this season. A group of locals asks the kids to write letters to Santa and ask for what they'd like. Then they do their best to raise money and give these kids a good Christmas.

I made it halfway across the street to my studio before I realized that I might be able to help. I went back and asked Karen how many kids they were talking about.

"Around 130," was her answer. I did a little math and then told her that I could give her 140 polar fleece blankets for Santa to give the kids along with whatever they were asking for. I had no idea that her face could light up so bright! She was absolutely ecstatic at the idea.

I had no concept of how to cut 140 blankets from those rolls of fleece, so I planned to spend an entire day with scissors, cutting and folding, cutting and folding.

When I showed up, Dan, the production specialist at Select Designs, ran me through what we were about to do. He said that we could cut 70 blankets at a time. What!? I've got to see how this is done.

First, Dan and I unrolled layer after layer, two blankets long, onto the massive cutting table. It's easy when you have all the right tools and two people to get the cloth unrolled perfectly flat! You'll notice that the edge is not exactly even. Just watch!

Once we had 35 layers down, aided by a hand clicker that Dan used to keep track, we marked out the cut lines. Then Dan got out the big boy tool, a power knife that can cut through six inches of cloth at once. Cool! Terrifying!

70 blankets down, 70 to go. Yeah, there's a little waste, but the time savings more than makes up for it.

In a little over an hour they were all cut and it was time to fold them for delivery. This took way longer than the cutting.

Halfway done...

et voilá! 140 blankets, ready for Santa to give out to the kids of Wolf Creek.

And here's what's left - a few scraps of color that I'll be donating to a local animal shelter and a few rolls of neutrals that I'll be using on Cloud Nine for insulation, drapes, and more.

Wow, I actually spent so long writing this post that Santa Claus has already come and given out the blankets to all the kids of town. I was having so much fun hanging out with my friends that day that I almost forgot to take a picture of the event. (There are a lot more kids in this room and running around outside than it looks like.) On the right-hand side, you'll notice the lady with long grey hair. That's Karen, who helps this whole event to become a reality every year. Thanks, Karen!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Wild Weekend

I know it's been a while since I wrote. What can I say? Wintertime.

This past weekend was so weird, though, that I wanted to make sure that I told the story. I had a local show in Roseburg. At these local shows I don't expect to make much money, but the expenses are way less, too, so it all balances out.

I learned that it's easy to make a respectable indoor booth by leaving the top off. Here's my indoor setup, mostly completed.

I was quite nervous going into the show because the weather report called for the first real snow of the season during the first day of the show. What's the big deal, you ask? Well, my new yurt has a very flat roof and I've never seen how it responds to snow load. I really didn't like the idea of having it come down and sit there all weekend before I got home to deal with it.

And then I learned that the local police had gone on the television and advised people to stay home unless travel was absolutely necessary. I cleared it with the show organizer and then left at 1:00 PM, after talking to less than a dozen shoppers in three hours.

I went to the local tire company and put new tires on the front of the van and then drove home. The highway was terrifying, but my local road was worse.

You see, our county is all-but-broke. There is no money for fripperies like plowing or sanding country roads. If you live out here, you'd better have snow tires, chains, four wheel drive, and a stocked pantry in case they don't work.

But I made it and the sight that met my eyes was a gorgeous one. The yurt had a few inches of pretty heavy snow on it, but was not sagging even a tiny amount. Instead, it looked like some kind of giant frosted cupcake.

And then there's the view. Wow! It was much more gorgeous than a camera can capture.

Since we didn't know how much more snow was coming, Jo Jo and I decided to shovel off both yurts and the entire deck. Why not? It would be a few hours before the house was warm enough to hang out anyhow.

And here's the evidence of another miscalculation in setting up the homestead. I somehow completely forgot that we get snow here. When the tall yurt sheds snow, it will get trapped between the two. So, yeah, I made myself a continuous chore getting the snow out of there whenever it falls, but that doesn't really happen very often.

Ta-dah! All shoveled, warmed up, and ready to relax in.

The parts that we couldn't reach with the broom will be cleared by the woodstove.

In the morning there were icicles and frost, but all they did was make the scene even prettier.

It's nice to look at the snow in the trees from the warm interior of the yurt.

Woohoo! Forty degrees above the outside temperature. Thanks, wood stove!

And how did the show end up? Well, I went back on Saturday and Sunday, but the customers never did come out. I did what it is that vendors do in this situation: met the other vendors and did some great trades. This is the score of the weekend - a Bowie knife, handmade by a man named Ken Phipps. Actually, it was a posthumous collaboration between him and a man named Bear who designed it and cut the original blank. It was really quite a nice consolation prize and one that I'll treasure for years.

And, yes, I know that it's too big for skinning. But it's just the right size for gutting, quartering, and much of the butchering. And I live in Oregon, where there is no restriction on the size of blade that can be carried as long as it isn't concealed. Uh, no worry there!

Monday, December 2, 2013

More Winter Preparation

This time of year, exercise is extremely important to me. Even with a few hours spent from an already short day, I am way more energetic and productive if I start it with a hike.

Last week I posted pics of the new, higher curb. We had enough dry weather that I was able to seal the bottom edge with a generous application of exterior-rated silicone caulk, let that cure, and then treat the wood with oil. This should force the water out and away from the yurt and prevent it from leaking underneath.

Next, I lifted the entire outer cover to reveal the house wrap layer. I went around and ensured that the overlap would push water from the roof to the outside of the wall. I taped it into place to ensure that it could not shift.

Then, following the advice of several friends, I was generous with the drainage that I added to the platform. If the water has somewhere else to go it won't build up the pressure that would force it under the curb, right? Next year I can worry about the water catchment setup. This year, I just need my home to stay dry.

Meanwhile, I continued processing the indigo. I dedicated a quarter of the yurt to getting it dried.

On sunny days I'd bring the stuff on the cloth outside for a few hours. See how low the shadows are? It's not much sun, but it's more than I have in the yurt.

I was then able to turn my attention to the 16' yurt that I'm using for storage this winter. Before I could approach anything else I had to deal with an engineering problem. Notice how the wall is being stretched at the bottom? This yurt was designed with only one tension band at the top. This would be fine except that the walls were tailored to be perfectly vertical. My answer is to add a second tension band around the very bottom to pull in that flare.

It's pretty simple, really. I added a couple of screw eyes to the door frame and used the handy-dandy trucker's knot to cinch it in. It took a few rounds of tightening and running around the yurt to lift and nudge sections that were caught on the deck, but eventually the whole thing stood more-or-less upright so the wall falls straight again.

Since this yurt has an impermeable vinyl cover, condensation would be a real issue if I tried to insulate it. As a result, it basically cannot be waterproofed so I need to seal and protect the wooden parts. I started with the ring, but will soon treat the door, lattice and rafters as well. While I was up there, I really enjoyed this unique view of the other yurt.

And, while I'm doing all of this winterizing, I still have to maintain my weaving production. Here's a view of the space set up for weaving.

And here's how I do my sewing these days. Since I don't have space set up for a dedicated sewing area I just use a little shelf to transform the loom into a sewing table. Maybe when the indigo is dry I can use some of that space for the treadle machine so I don't use up my little bit of solar power on sewing. This old machine is not "Energy Star" rated. I think every hour of sewing consumes about four hours of solar collection.

Today is the test. It has begun raining HARD. So far so good! There are two tiny moist spots on the floor near the wall where there are seams in the deck, but even they are not letting in enough water to run across the floor or let the lattice get wet.

As I watch how the waterproofing performs, I feel like some sort of border guard. Everything is pulled away from the walls so I can crawl around down there with a flashlight and search for a breach.

Oh, yeah, and we're expecting snow this week. It's another whole test scenario and one that I feel hopeful about.