• introspection,  knitting,  spinning,  weaving,  writing

    Flutter Brain

    Chaos Fire by Walex Khmurets

    My life has been so chaotic over the past few weeks that I found myself looking forward to today as a much needed respite — a time in which I could get All of the Things done that I haven’t had time to do as I’ve been moving through my day-to-day over the last month.  Now that I finally had a few hours of time to myself, I would have time to work on finishing plotting out my masters’ thesis novella, finish spinning that bag of fiber from SOAR 2011*, work on my nursing shawl knitting project and finally weave off that monk’s belt weaving sample that I started — according to my Bullet Journal — sometime in January.

    Oh my word.  Naturally, I would also get all my Christmas cards completed and the family gifts purchased, as well as doing at least one thoughtful thing for each of the five significant birthdays that I celebrate in December…because those are all the things that I want to have done by the end of the day.  That’s how this works, right?

    Instead, I found myself sitting down at my desk, which looked very much like what you might imagine the desk of someone who has been completely overwhelmed for months to look like.  I have more relevant loose papers to file than I likely have in my file cabinet.  The pitted cherry surface of my desk had been littered with various boxes of medication, lotions, plastic caps, small electronic parts and, inexplicably, half a small tube of toothpaste.  A broken necklace that I love has waiting for repair.  There’s an intricately folded dollar bill that came from who-knows-where and a pile of hair accessories for someone with long hair, which has not been me for at least a year.  I have been paying the price of my disorganization — I still have a crushed car sitting in my driveway because I cannot seem to get the title and the lien release for this car in my hands at the same time, despite several attempts.  No matter how many times I go through all the various piles of paper in my house right now, I can never reduce them to some meaningful amount that produces the paper that I need right now and that I know that I saw somewhere.  Even my computer was filled with too many programs open, a mishmash of ideas for work and school and the various aspects of my life, with no focus anywhere.  My inboxes are overflowing with unread messages and my brain feels just about the same way.

    People keep saying that I have pregnancy brain, but I actually hate this phrase.  I think instead that I have life brain. Pregnancy has definitely contributed, as I’ve been spending a lot of my time on a fast-tracked learning curve about both pregnancy and what the heck you’re meant to do with a newborn to keep her alive.  Having to radically change my diet because of some issues with the pregnancy has also been a time-suck, as I’ve had to try to figure out new recipes and ingredients that I never used to cook with never ate before.  Normally, feeding myself is a fairly automatic process, but it’s been moved up to the front burner of my consciousness as something I actually need to pay attention to, rather than letting habit determine my behavior. That’s a lot of time that I used to spend on keeping my life in order and my desk has shown the end result.  I am not my normally organized self, which means I spend so much more time looking for what I need rather than accomplishing the simple things. Pregnancy brain indeed.

    Stressed by it all, I reached a breaking point today that my family is quite familiar with — the  moment where the house is too thrown apart for me to even think.  I can’t be happy in chaos.  I’ve done none of the things that I planned to do today, other than cook some food to buy me time later this week, but I have thrown my desk and basement back into enough of a semblance of order that I can think again.  I can write again.  I can relax again….as long as I don’t go upstairs.

    Ahhhh.   Can someone send all my food down here? I don’t think I ever want to leave.




    * Yes, this is as embarrassing as it seems.

  • knitting,  spinning,  travel,  weaving

    October – Rhinebeck 2013

    As it usually does, October flew by in a mad rush.  I always want to do more for Halloween and, every single year, I find myself speculating at how everyone else manages to find the time.  I’ve no idea how my time gets so filled up, but there’s something about the changing of the seasons that puts me into a flurry of writing and fiber arts and music that makes it difficult to keep up. Before I know it, Halloween is over and I haven’t done a thing but admire everyone else’s costumes.

    One of the biggest events for me was my first time going to the Dutchess County Sheep & Wool Festival, more commonly known as Rhinebeck to the knitting community.  It is a county fair that has been taken over by the fiber arts world and is largely considered the biggest fiber arts event in the country.  My knitting circle went together. They convinced me to walk out on a very tall bridge:


    I love these ladies.

    I had mixed feelings about Rhinebeck as an event. This is because I’ve been to SOAR, which is a spinning retreat put on by Spin-Off magazine, which ran for the very last time this year. I am very sorry to have missed it, now that I know that it was the last one, because it was an event I deeply wanted to do again. SOAR is all about fiber arts mentorship and learning. There’s a market, but it doesn’t open until four days into the event, and it’s small enough that you can go through it a few times. Rhinebeck is the inverse of this; the focus is on the market, with a handful of offered classes. The market is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in the fiber world; barn upon barn upon barn upon building of fiber vendors. It is so overwhelming that people develop strategies on how to cover all of the vendors. It is very crowded, particularly among the more popular booths. And while I would like to say that it was crowded with my kind of people, that just wasn’t universally true.

    I like to talk to people when I’m at fiber events, because it’s an occasion to gain knowledge on subjects that just aren’t all that common among the general population. I did a lot of that at Rhinebeck and I learned some interesting tips, particularly regarding weaving. If knitters are becoming more common, it’s very hard to meet a weaver, so I asked questions of everyone I could find that was behind a loom. That was really great. I also went with the goal of buying myself a nice spindle, which I did within the first few hours of being there. I picked a Forrester, largely because it was beautiful, and I thought having a beautiful tool would make me more interested in spindle spinning, which has the advantage of being much more portable than a wheel.


    This has worked well. I also picked up a copy of Respect the Spindle, which has demystified some of the aspects of spindle spinning. That little ball of alpaca single there is my first real spindle spinning.  I can’t wait to finish spinning all that alpaca behind it so that I can try my hand at plying.

    It was also at the moment of this excellent purchase that I had my first meeting with The Other Kind of fiber artist. I had been chatting with her about spinning while waiting in line to purchase my spindle. She cheerfully declared that she had just spent her entire Rhinebeck budget in one place – pointing out that it was $300, repeatedly. Then she asked me, with some disdain, if that really was the size of the bag that I had brought *to Rhinebeck*, since it was just my purse and clearly not big enough for everything that I would want to take home.  She also asked if New York had *any* good yarn stores, as she’d only ever seen one and it was in Ohio, but…she’d spent $500 there the first time she saw it! I suggested that Manhattan does, indeed, have several that are quite good, as it is the home of the fashion industry, and then I fled, feeling weirdly ashamed and disgusted at the same time.

    There is a subset of people in the fiber arts community that are collectors. To some extent, we all are — we love the beauty of fiber. But there’s a certain set that seem to feel that the extent of one’s fiber and yarn stash is somehow corollary to how dedicated one is to the fiber arts. The point seems to be not the creation of art from beautiful materials but a sort of competitive commercialism. My stash is better than your stash.  I have such an aversion to shopping and commercialism generally that I never quite know how to handle these people.  It wasn’t the quality of what she had purchased – it was the dollar amount that she seemed to feel was important.  For me, this is the opposite of what the fiber arts are about.  Knitting or crochet or spinning or weaving connects us to a time when these were mandatory survival skills.  I feel at peace when I’m doing these things.  I feel connected to a slower time and the people that led to my existence.  I feel a pride as my hands turn string into clothing and cloth and fleece into yarn.  Having the modern “buy buy buy!” of mass consumerism shoved in my face throws me for a loop every time, even though I’ve been to enough shows to have expected to meet her.  It’s just not what the fiber arts are about for me.  It’s not what I think they should be about.

    2.2 lbs of first year goat locks
    2.2 lbs of first year goat locks

    Perhaps it is actually a comment on the fiber arts community that I only met one of her.  I spent the rest of the weekend walking around, feeling inspired and meeting people whose work I admire.  I had my books signed by Ann Budd and Gertie Hirsch.  I had sightings of  Ann Weaver and The Tsock Tsarina.  I went to my first fleece sale and got to look at fleeces in person before buying them. (I brought home those pretty goat locks on the left there.) I learned from weavers and spinners and knitters alike.  I spent the weekend with some excellent friends and drank way too much grappa and Domaine de Canton.  I discovered that milk stout is delicious.  If the crowds were overwhelming and occasionally peppered with people who were loudly missing the point, I think the benefits far outweighed the downsides.  I left feeling inspired…and with plenty of fiber in my far-too-small bag.  Now just to use it all up — maybe I’ll catch up by next October.

  • spinning

    Commercial Fiber Preparation

    I found this really interesting, as will my fellow fiber nerds, I am sure. It’s a photojournalism survey put together by the folks at the EnglishRussia blog of how a wool polyester blend is made at a factory somewhere in the Russian speaking world. Spinners will, of course, recognize the first few steps of fiber prep, though the machines are a little larger than our spindles and spinning wheels.

  • geek,  knitting,  spinning

    A handspun bag

    My obsession with my Gtab continues; so I used the opportunity of needing a case for it to use up some of my early handspun yarns. Lately I seem to be too impatient to bother with finding other people’s patterns,so I just sort of made it up as I went along.  I knew that I wanted to use stranded knitting to make the bag thick and I happen to really enjoy alternating yarns over 1 stitch (i.e. *K1 MC, K1 CC, rep from *), so that’s what I did.  One of the yarns that I chose was the last thing I spun before going to SOAR – it is overtwisted and overplied, which makes for yarn with the basic consistency of bundles of straw.  Not very pleasant.  The second yarn I used was yarn that I spun in Maggie Casey’s class at SOAR from a fleece that we handcarded ourselves.  In comparison, it is the softest and fluffiest yarn that you could imagine.  Even standing alone, it’s a yarn that I can actually knit with, which differentiates it quite a bit from all of the yarn that I made before taking her class.

    My bag is scratchy and scruffy and rough, but it absolutely does the job.  And how many Gtabs get to be carried around in a hand carded, hand spun, hand knitted bag?  At the end of the day, that’s what all of this fiber madness is about.  My bag might be a little rough and unfinished looking, but every single scrap of it is the reward of the labor of my hands.  I go to bed satisfied that I have brought something into this very mass-produced, commercialized world that is totally unique and mine.  And I had a lot of fun doing it, though knitting with my pre-SOAR yarn did contribute to a carpal tunnel flare.  I’m really looking forward to knitting with some of the other yarns that I’ve made since, since I can tell by their feel that they’re nice and soft.

  • family,  friends,  knitting,  relationships,  spinning,  wedding

    2011 Holidays

    Christmas was a quiet affair filled with good friends and family, which is what it’s all about. I made out with some very thoughtful loot and ate slightly more than my body weight in cookies.

    But I have prevailed; the cookies are all dead. In my belly.

    I enjoy the week between Christmas and New Years an awful lot because it is so quiet. After all the hustle and bustle of lights, tree, cooking, family, etc., it becomes almost necessary downtime. The trains are quiet, nearly everyone is gone from the office, and I have no excuses for not getting a great deal done. As a productivity nut and worker bee, this makes me very happy. As a person with an exciting life to write about, well, not so much. But it’s been a nice quiet. I’ve been able to conquer the world in Civilization get some writing projects done, master some Bach and finish some big projects that have been hanging over my head at work. It’s a nice feeling.

    I see other bloggers out there doing lists of what they’d like to do next year. It’s made me think about some of the highlights of this year. This year, I:

    – got engaged to the love of my life (this is a celebration, not an accomplishment)
    – actually managed to get good enough at the piano to be able to sight read stuff where the left hand does more than play chords. Slowly, mind.
    – learned how to fox trot, to rhumba, to merengue
    – learned that if fox trotting, rhumbaing or merenguing with a 6’3″ man, heels are a good idea. Otherwise, neck injury occurs.
    – (self)published a knitting pattern
    – had the realization that not being my skinniest weight ever does not, in fact, make me a bad person
    – watched my ward pull in grades higher than he thought possible on his report card, despite having skipped most of two years of school a few years back.
    – adopted a house hippy. Everyone should have one.
    – learned to rip up carpet and stained all the wood for a new staircase in a weekend
    – went to a spinning convention and actually learned how to spin yarn that looks like yarn
    – fell in love with the mountains of eastern Oregon and took some awesome pictures
    – bought a cowboy hat
    – knit multiple sweaters, learned to not hate knitting socks and designed a few more things on my own
    – have actually done a little bit of wedding planning, despite hating it like you wouldn’t believe
    – actually genuinely enjoyed the holidays for a third year running

    It has, all in all, been a good year. We are all safe and happy and the family grew again this year (see the house hippy aspect). I am filled with gratitude and can only marvel at my good luck. Life is good; my only goal for next year is to keep it good.

    Happy New Year everyone. Let’s make 2012 even more filled with light than 2011.

  • knitting,  nature,  spinning

    December String

    I’ve been very distracted lately, because I’ve discovered Librivox, which is a collection of public domain audiobook recordings. For free. This means that I can knit and have someone read Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy and Charlotte Bronte to me. If you don’t know about it, go now and download the books you always wished that you’d read, but never made time for. You can multitask! It’s a dream.

    We went down to Virginia for Thanksgiving and had a very quiet visit, which was actually really what the doctor ordered. I took my new spinning wheel, the Majacraft Rose, because, well, it has a carrying bag. And carrying bags ought to be used. I managed to spin up about 2 ounces of alpaca, which I really ought to finish working on, as I have another 2 ounces left. My spinning has gotten so much better since SOAR, so now I must show a picture of the last skein I finished:

    I’m not a master by any means, but I have improved an awful lot, which feeds into spinning as a new obsession. I’ve picked up a few tomes on spinning techniques now, as well as having subscribed to SpinOff, which mostly seems to be an excuse to look at pictures of weird looking sheep. Like merinos.

    I have been doing a fair amount of knitting as well, including picking up a cardigan that I never quite liked the fit of and making the shawl collar twice as wide. It’s the first sweater I ever made and nearly took me two years to complete, as I naturally picked the most difficult cable pattern in the universe to learn how to cable on.

    I feel like this picture should really be called Self-Portrait. Plants, books, games and knitting. If only it paid better.

    Somehow it became December without me looking, but I’m procrastinating finishing up my holiday shopping. (I can say that, as I have purchased exactly two presents already). Tomorrow I’m going to find someplace in the house to put the tree and potentially procure one. I never used to be much of a fan of Christmas trees until I realized that having something gigantic and organic (unlike, say the giant fern in the picture above) is kind of awesome. We may even get ambitious and climb ladders and put up lights – coming home to a nicely lit house makes the dark of December so much more bearable.

    As does sock yarn.


  • art,  spinning

    SOAR 2011

    I’ve been at SOAR the last week, which is Spin Off magazine’s big conference each year. It’s been an incredible experience and I haven’t quite finished processing everything that’s happened. Tonight is the last night, so there’s still a big spin-in, but my classes are all over and my shopping done and we’re starting to pack, so it’s beginning to feel like goodbye.

    I took a three day workshop with Maggie Casey that focused on the basics of spinning. I’ve been hand carding and combing wool and learning tons about fiber prep. I’ve finally figured out the difference between spinning woolen and worsted and got a lot of practice with the various spinning methods. I learned to make an Andean bracelet and chain ply. She’s an excellent teacher and it was a real honor to learn from her.

    I also took a class with Michelle Boyd on how to even out spinning (super helpful) and one with Robin Russo on camelied fibers, where I got to try and spin lots and lots of three toed animal furs. I’m still very much a baby spinner, but I’ve advanced a whole lot in the past week. Just watching master spinners and being around lots of people who are doing really excellent things with the craft is so utterly neat. I am feeling very inspired. And tired. I may have been talked into spending my rest day spinning for a vendor here, as he offered to pay me in alpaca. Lovely, lovely alpaca.

    I may have also bought another wheel. Second hand, with lots and lots of perks and kits included, for hundreds less than it would have cost me new. It’s a fabulous deal and one I’m happy to take advantage of.

    And one I’ll be even happier to take pictures of, once it gets here. It’ll be a few weeks left.

    I haven’t given up on my Thumbelina, who I will be keeping, as the wheel is forty years old and deserves some respect. But the Rose will give me a lot more flexibility and is an easier wheel to work on, so I’m excited about the possibilities. And the double treadle. Oh god, the double treadle.

    This is the first vacation I’ve ever taken where I get to focus on art for an entire week. I think it may be the first week of my life in which there are no distractions from my artistic side. I often feel really pressured to produce art and make a living at the same time. The latter is necessary and I know I’m blessed to have a career that is fun, lucrative and challenging. But it just doesn’t answer my need to have an artistic outlet, so it’s been awesome and inspirational. I can’t wait to put everything I’ve learned into practice.

  • friends,  knitting,  nature,  spinning


    Spring has officially sprung. If it weren’t raining, I’d be running out taking pictures to show you my daffodil that finally put forth a nice yellow bloom. Our Asian pear tree #1 has also sprouted flowers this year, which is a new development. It is now two years old, which means that this is the year we should see fruit, providing that Asian pear tree #2, which is a bit runtier and slower on the uptake, manages to pollinate it properly.

    I wonder if it would be weird if I dig up the pear trees and take them with me when we move. Or, y’know, pollinate them manually. Is that legal?

    We’re also on year two for strawberries and raspberries, but year one for blueberries, so we should alternate a bit. I think this means that I need to plant some more two year fruiting plants this year, but I’m told that the remaining part of the garden is going to tomatoes. OR ELSE.

    Hey, I know which side my bread is buttered on.

    It’s been the loveliest weekend ever. My birthday is tomorrow, which means that I’ve given myself full permission to not be productive, which I generally fail at. (Note: took up knitting in order to be able to sit in a room with others while they watch TV.) This morning I took a big long bath in our big long bathtub, while reading The Intentional Spinner, which is clearly some kind of sickness. I was on the chapter about how people harvest gossamer, which is a word all of the readers in the audience will have heard of. What they might not realize is that this means *spiders*, which is not really what I wanted to be thinking about while in the tub located in the basement. But I did learn that spiders make no fewer than five different types of thread, one of which turns into gossamer. McCuin gives helpful suggestions on which bit of the web to collect. I am not squeamish about bugs (unless discovered without a proper introduction, but I believe no one will look down on screaming in *that* situation), but I think it’s going to be a very long time before I go out with a used toilet paper roll and start collecting.

    But as it’s filament, not fiber, all you need to do is ply it, rather than spin singles and then ply. But it did come out of a spider.

    I spent part of the afternoon sewing an eye pillow. I finally got my sewing machine back up and running, after some disasters with breaking the needle on it and trying to find the correct replacement. I went through a period where I made eye pillows and sold them, as they’re pretty fabulously easy sewing. There wasn’t much profit in it, so I gave it up, but I had a request. I was reminded about how much I hate sewing, which is probably because I just don’t know how to do it very well or easily. I took a class when I was about eleven, but I’d be interested in taking another one to try and learn a bit more. Of course, I need another hobby like a hole in the head, but I keep accumulating a basket of masculine clothing with holes that I’m apparently expected to fix and it’s starting to take over my desk. I’d also really like to sew some dresses for myself. Dresses that fit and cover all relevant parts (which includes knees, in my book) and are sold commercially are basically nonexistent.

    We finished off the night with a giant and delicious Easter dinner the house of friends, which was delightful. I’ve been working on a Shipwreck Shawl on and off for the last year and have finally gotten down to the netty bit, which I somehow failed to realize meant fifty rows of YO, K2tog. Yawn. But it’s great knitting for sitting around a living room while digesting your carrot cake and Fragelica coffee.

  • cats,  knitting,  spinning

    Unabashed knitting and spinning post. And a cat.

    Now that I’ve started spinning, it’s a lot harder to have a generic “this is what’s on the needles” post, since I now also have to include what’s on the bobbin. I am still very much a beginning spinner, so my spinning tends to sound a like like:

    “Spin, squeak of wheel, spin, spin, spin, SQUEEEEAAAAK, whoosh!, @#$@@”

    For those of you that are not spinners, let me translate. What is happening is that I’ll get into a spinning zen and the spinning will be going along. However, I only know how to spin one thickness, which is Very Thin Indeed, so inevitably I’ll reach a point in the fiber I’m spinning where I’ve spread it out too thin and the yarn I’m spinning will actually break. At this point, the flying maiden, which is the part of the wheel that feeds the yarn to the bobbin will make a joyous leap for freedom, snatching my yarn straight out of my fingers. And then the spinning stops while I fix this. Repeat.

    Currently, I consider success the slow extension of the duration of time between these moments of high spinning drama, which are getting longer. Here’s a picture of my latest attempts, which may not actually just be cut off and discarded, like the last attempt.

    It’s really just an excuse to accumulate baskets of sheep fleece, which I’ve managed to keep limited to one basket so far, a significantly smaller basket than my knitting basket, which I think I could actually sit in if it were ever empty. Which it is not.

    I’m working on two things in knitting at the moment, as my wrist permits. I’ve been very interested in learning to design my own patterns. I took a class back in January, even. Since then, I picked up the Vogue Sock book, which my brother had bought for me shortly after my mom died. (Sometimes my brother is very cool.) Not being much of a sock knitter, I never did too much with it, but I figured that socks, being small, would be a good place to start. And so I did:

    Unfortunately for our heroine, I used the sock knitting chart calculator in the Vogue book for the wrong yarn weight to my yarn. This is a really basic mistake, but when you’re on the train and you’re *pretty* sure that you’ve got DK weight yarn in your bag, but it turns out that it’s actually fingering weight, well…oops. Thus far I have the nicest beginning of a sock for a cat. Back to the pattern board, which is just as well, since the stitch design I put on there is probably too complicated for such a colorful yarn.

    Speaking of cats, someone’s been partying hard. Or, well, found all the crap that I pulled out from underneath my brother’s desk yesterday and decided it was the snooze spot until someone obnoxious with a camera came around and ruined things.

  • spinning


    Meet Matilda. She’s my new toy.

    Matilda was born in the early 1970s, in New Zealand. She’s a Thumbelina spinning wheel and is a little on the antique side. Which is to say that some minor carpentry and engineering skills were required to get her up and running, but running she is. She’s a double drive spinning wheel, which means that the drive band goes around both the whorl and the bobbin. She’s a brilliant little machine and I love her, even if I’m not very good at her yet. (Note unevenness of the spinning in the picture). I haven’t quite figured out where to get a third bobbin, but I now own excitingly named items like a lazy kate and a niddy noddy and a mother-of-all. (Okay, the last is a cheat – that’s on Matilda.)

    I picked up Spin, Dye, Stitch by Jennifer Claydon, which I recommend. It’s a good starter manual for people who have no idea what they’re doing (hint: me), but it may lead to a desire to learn how to dye. The pictures in the back are very inspiring.

    Also, proof that all things yarn lead to cats, even taking pictures of yarn making things.