Thanks for your nice comments. I would hope that most of us will find "courage and strength" to fight the many problems live can deal us. I have been blessed with early detection and very good medical care. I like to talk about cancer and let folks know that we don't always die from it and there is life after cancer. I can't do everything I want to do but I can do some things I like and I hope I can do more as time passes.
Working with Merino:
Starting with the Capilene and making a few things out of it for practice helped me get an idea of what the Merino might be like to sew.
My approach to sewing to to just do it. Practice first and then go for it. I even played with the scrap Merino before sewing my hood parts. My impression was that the Merino cut nice and sewed nice. I don't want to use the word easy but I had no problems with it. I was very impressed with the Patagonia Merino material.
My sewing machine is just a home machine and one of the bottom end Brothers. Not from Wal Mart however. My first Brothers was from Wal Mart and I still use it but the newer one is made better. I bought it from a local "Sewing Center" and got free sewing classes when I bought it. The classes helped a lot to understand all the different setting on the machine and the different types of thread and needles. They knew I was making my own backpacking gear and told me to bring in the type of material I sewed with and they would help me with my sewing machine setup for that type of material.
My sewing machine has 16 different stitches but I seldom use more then 3 of them. The straight stitch, zig zag, and and the button hole stitch as a poor mans Bar Tack.
My last thought is that if you can sew some of your own things you may be able to come up with nicer colors then the stuff that is being sold.