Writing Challenge Week 2: Dreams

This week’s writing challenge theme is dreams; not necessarily dreams you have while sleeping, but that’s what I wrote about today. I hate reading about other people’s dreams, so if you do too, I understand; carry on with your day. I will say though, that for about a year now I’ve been having very vivid dreams thanks to going back on Cymbalta. They run the gamut from nightmares to good dreams I don’t want to wake up from. Some of them have great narrative structures that I don’t want to wake up from because I want to find out how they end. This one from last night falls into that last category.

*

I work in one of the top floors of the US Steel building in Pittsburgh. It’s lunch time, so two of my workmates and I take a series of elevators to the basement, where there is a restaurant. One of the workmates, Debb, wants to look at an art exhibition that’s displayed on the right hand side of the grand stair case that leads from the bank of elevators to the cafeteria, it’s by an artist she knows and she’s used some of the art in one of her work projects.

We go closer for a look and while Debb and the other workmate are crowing over the details in the piece, I get bored. I discover that the mitts I’m wearing, which have an inflexible board on the palm side, will actually help me float up in the air if I pump my wrists the right way and hard enough. I go higher and higher. I glide. No one thinks anything of this, which I also don’t find unusual. While I’m occupied with flying and my workmates are occupied with art, a small group of terrorists come out of the elevator bank and down the stairs toward us. We notice them threatening us and quickly go through a door at the bottom right of the staircase.

The room on the other side is a mirror of the room we have just left; kind of a grand foyer, but instead of a staircase, there is a series of desks arranged on platforms, like NASA control centers in the movies, except that this is the control center of a government intelligence agency. The people in this room know that we have just narrowly escaped terrorists and do their best to hold them off, but in the end, they break open a window at the foot of the desks and my workmates and I are thrown down onto an air conditioning block overlooking the street. We carefully jump down – I glide down with my mitts that let me fly – and go into the street, where lunchtime traffic is snarled and people are starting to gather to look at the spectacle unfolding from the building we just came out of, which is now swarming with soldiers in army green, some of whom have belayed down on climbing ropes from higher up in the building.

Debb and I cross the street to a large bronze memorial fountain. There are kids playing but also kids and parents starting to panic at what’s going on in the building we came from. I decide to glide down into the fountain and skim the water so the bronze design of the fountain/statue is between me and the building. Debb follows me somehow, and then I am helping her fly and glide. We fly further away and go higher, avoiding electrical lines coming off of huge transmission towers. Some movement of the terrorists down below make it essential for me to go from downtown to my ex-boyfriend’s in Oakland, where he is living in a house after moving out of ours and has recently broken up with a girlfriend. I fly over The Hill district and skirt the edge of a ravine, making my way into Oakland. I pass the Tower of Learning – almost at the ex boyfriend’s house – and then I wake up.

*

Note that I actually did work in the downtown Pittsburgh in the US Steel Building and the ex-boyfriend in the dream (the one that got away) still works in Oakland for our alma mater, Carnegie Mellon. He also owns a house, though it’s not in Oakland. I played roller derby with Debb, though she’s a co-worker in the dream, and she is very interested in art.

Writing Challenge: Nature Part 2

Part 1 and an explanation are here.

*

Our driveway was dirt, with the attendant divots. When it rained, the divots turned into puddles and if one of the cars had gone out or come back, there would be tracks in the mud to make dams and rivers from. When the puddles froze overnight, air bubbles would get frozen into them so when I stomped on them while waiting for the bus, the iced puddle would crack and a hole would open. Sometimes, there were layers of air trapped, and so there were layers of ice to stomp through. It was more satisfying than popping bubble wrap and a great way to anticipate the frustrations of the school day.

Note: I found out after writing this, by chance and serendipity thanks to twitter, that this kind of ice is called cat-ice.

*

One morning I was running late. The bus had already turned the corner at the top of the hill before my house when I checked out the window, as I always did. I flew through the living room into the kitchen, grabbing my coat and my school bag, and ran out the door. I ran down the steps and the path to the driveway and realized too late that I was running on ice with a thin layer of water on it. I slipped and went down on my right side, the cold water soaking through my clothes, right in front of an entire bus full of other kids, most of them older. I did get up though, and because I didn’t want to bother my mom to drive me 20 minutes in to school, I slowly and carefully walked across the rest of the driveway, onto the road, crossed to the other side, and boarded the bus, where I curtsied and took the remaining free seat.

*

The year of the big ice storm, we lost one of the two maple trees in our front yard. The weight of the ice on one substantial branch brought it down, grazing the corner of our porch. It was the branch I always wanted to climb to and sit on, but was never tall enough to reach – not even my father could reach it. It was night when it happened, and there was a very loud crash. We were all in different parts of the house – my mother and brother and I all in our bedrooms, my father in the living room – and all gathered to make sure everyone was okay. We went on the porch and saw how lucky we were, the ice could have easily brought a whole maple down on the house, and also how unlucky we were, losing one of those maples. In the spring, my father cut the rest of it down and the house was never the same again.

Writing Challenge: Nature, Part 1

One of my goals for January and the new year is to write creatively more often. Nadia of Cottage Notebook is hosting a month-long writing challenge, with themes and increasing word counts through the month. I’m using it to get back into the habit of writing without having to decide on a theme or a subject. So far, I am writing creatively but only about things I’ve experienced, mainly my childhood and growing up in Vermont – the theme this week is nature, and so it’s an obvious fit for me to write about that. Anyway, here are my first four 100ish word pieces that are sort of connected.

*

The air has been so cold and dry the last few days, the snow squeaks underfoot. It’s a familiar sound to me – I grew up in the mountains of Vermont. My brother and I spent hour playing in the snow, building sledding tracks, sledding, and building forts in the snow banks. We went out in all kinds of weather, not like it is here in Virginia. The only thing that would keep us inside is a frostbite warning (-19 degrees and below), so there were plenty of times we went out into snow that squeaked as we walked through it.

*

The best snow, however, was snowman snow. It came down in big fluffy flakes and stuck together so well that we could roll the base of a snowman across the front yard. When the plow came to clear our driveway, it packed banks of dense snow for us to burrow in and make into forts. They always took shape from the random peaks and round bottoms the plow made. The best I ever made was one large enough for two people, with two entrances. I took a mug of hot chocolate and a book out and spent a quiet hour insulated from the wind reading.

*

In the summer, newts would gather on the damp stones that formed the steps of our walk-out root cellar. The floor of the cellar was packed dirt, the foundation – like those stairs and the walls around the well – was stone probably dug from the Vermont property the house was built on. We used to catch the newts and play with them. You could count on them being in the cool dampness of the stone walkup, even on bright sunny days at certain times of the year. It was until I was an adult that I knew the newts were juvenile salamanders, the algae colored salamanders that inhabited the pond.

*

One year, my brother and I were out sledding in the woods above the pond. We built a twisting sled path downhill through the trees, with a banked turn up against a big maple. We tamped down the snow as tight as we could for a smooth, fast track. When he took the first run down the path, his sled jumped the banked turn and he hit the old maple, knocking the wind out of his lungs. That was the first time I realized we’re all at nature’s mercy and how a distance can change in an instant, from being not far enough away from home for adventure to being not close enough to home for safety. After that, we made out sled tracks on the hill behind the house, where we could see my mother in the window, at her sewing machine.

*

Out of curiosity, do they make you want to read more? They make me want to write more, to explain more, and also embellish a little bit to smooth the rough edges over. I could combine the three winter pieces into a larger story, I suppose. Anyway, I’d love your feedback if you have any!


Edited to add the link to Part 2 for easy reading.

Happy New Year! 2018 Goals

Happy New Year! don’t know exactly what’s coming down the pike in 2018 – it’ll be a surprise for us all – but I hope it’s good or that, at least, we can find the good in it.

I tend to not set annual goals; instead I set small goals as needed through the year. However, thanks to a windfall, I want to knit more fair isle and stranded color work in 2018.

The windfall came about through my good friend Lisa (rabbitsmile on Ravelry), who has a friend facing not being able to knit anymore. Initially the friend carefully went through her stash, sending Lisa only the things she knew she could use,  but I think as this friend-of-a-friend went through her stash (and her tools and her library) she got overwhelmed. She mailed Lisa a box of books (think of the expense!) that included books that Lisa already had, so she offered them to me. Meg Swanson, Alice Starmore, two books from Jamiesons on Fair Isle, and more – the beginnings of a solid Fair Isle library. This friend also boxed up her remaining stash – 5 or 6 big boxes – and sent it to Lisa, including bits and bobs and unfinished projects that Lisa now feels compelled to finish. So Lisa has offered, encouraged, and begged me to come shop this stash because she’s overwhelmed by it all. So in doing more Fair Isle, I’ll have fun (I love stranded knitting – knitting it is addictive) but also help out a friend and honor a knitter who can’t knit anymore.

First up, I hope, is this sweater, the Turka Ocean designed by Natela Astakhova/Natela Datura (her business name? maiden name? I’m not sure). I wish I could figure out how to get an image from Instagram to display properly, but I’ve never gotten it to work, even with my own account, so you’ll just have to click through to see how gorgeous it is. Anyway, Natela is in Moscow and her site is primarily in Russian. She only has 2 designs available for purchase on Ravelry; the rest of her designs – she designed some really gorgeous colorwork sweaters – are available in Russian from her site. I just realized the email from her with the download link went into my Spam folder but that I have it – Happy New Year to me! I know what I’ll be reading as soon as I finish this post!

I do have other goals, but they are short-term goals for the month of January, not annual goals. I’m starting #spin15aday today, which is (I think?) an annual thing, but I’m starting out with the hope/expectation that I can spin for 15 minutes every day in the month of January. I still have lots of fiber that I bought leading up to Spinzilla that I really want to spin, and I dyed some of my own hand-prepared fleece during my end of year quiet time that I’m excited to use to make rolags.

I’m also starting the #wespinyarn challenge run by Three Waters Farm and @knittingsarah on Instagram. It’s a series of prompts, one for each day in January. I hope to become more aware of the spinning community on Instagram and meet some new people.

Last, for January, is a writing challenge run by Nadia of Cottage Notebook, who I also met on Instagram. I haven’t decided yet how much of my writing from this I’ll be sharing here, but I realized during my silent end of the year period that I do need to write, that if I don’t write I’m wasting one of my talents, and that I don’t necessarily have to have some end game goal in mind (like this blog or a contest or being published) for it to be meaningful: it means something to me and that has to be enough.

I really do hope 2018 is a good year for you all. Thank you for all your comments and encouragement in 2017; I hope you’ll stick around and that we can find out way through the next year on some fibery adventures (and maybe some more personal stuff too) together. ❤

 

2017: The Year in Review

Hi friends! It’s been a while. After Spinzilla my will to blog – or do anything with any regularity – kind of disappeared. After some reflection, I don’t think my posts are working as well for me as they once were, though I may change my mind about that and go back to the schedule I set last February, which I was pretty consistent with until October/November.

Looking over my posts from last year, I entirely forgot that I did National Poetry Writing Month in April. Though I started a few days late, I made those days up in May so I’m patting myself on the back for that accomplishment. I was going to submit some of them to a contest run by Narrative Magazine, but then never actually got around to it. Maybe in 2018 I’ll do something with them.

As far as knitting projects go, I finished:

  • 3 hats, including a pussy hat
  • 2 sweaters (A Bohus sweater kit & a cabled sweater – I’ve been wearing one or the other daily now that the weather is cold)
  • A sleeveless summer top (which I wore all summer long)
  • 3 pairs of mitts or mittens (2 pairs for a friend’s baby, 1 for Lola the kitten)
  • 1 scarf for Lola (every kitten needs a scarf, right?)
  • 4 shawls, one of which was a commission
  • 1 blanket square for knittingthestash’s Knit Together Project
  • 1 blanket for the Welcome Blanket Project
  • 6 hearts for Hearts for Cville
  • 1 Calcifer

As for spinning:

  • I participated in Tour de Fleece, which was interrupted by getting the commission for a Wonder Woman shawl.
  • I participated in Spinzilla for the first time.
  • I had 12 spinning projects. I could calculate length spun, but that’s a bit too much effort.
  • I spun some of the fleece from Shenandoah 2011.
  • I have 2 FOs from one spinning project (a hat and Lola’s scarf).
  • I used singles from another project to embroider an explosion or fireworks (which is an explosion, but I’m getting nit picky, I suppose).

And embroidery:

  • I finished 2 pieces.
  • I saved leftover spun singles for more project.
  • I have a potential future commission based on one project, The View From Mt. Peg.

Miscellaneous Accomplishments:

  • I published one new pattern, available for free on Ravelry, This Is My Heart.
  • I consistently went to my Wednesday knitting meet-up and went several times to a new-to-me meet-up at Finch Knitting + Sewing Studio.
  • I blogged relatively consistently from February – October.
  • I continued to keep my toe in the tech writing waters by editing presentations, project plans, business communications, and other miscellaneous project documents on demand.

In personal news:

I feel like I had my best year mood-wise in a long time. I took all my meds, saw my therapist about once every 2 months or so, psychiatrist quarterly. I also made an appointment for & went to a checkup with my GP. (However, I should have made an appointment later in the year because my BP started creeping up despite meds. Next year.)

I kept my family alive, again. So far my record for this is A+, 100%.

  • Ethan graduated from high school and started college at JMU. The transition was difficult because of some drama that exploded in August, but he has adjusted and is doing well.
  • Brandon started his sophomore year at WVU and, since really breaking up with his girlfriend who goes to VA Tech, is finally settling in and making more friends and doing what college kids do (party, but not too much). He barely passed Calculous 2, but is now done with Calc forever.
  • Henry finished 7th grade, went with Ethan on a big trip to S. Korea on their own for 2 weeks, and when he came home, his voice dropped – his hormones have come in. He’s grown at least 3″ and his feet are now bigger than mine. He’s in 8th grade, made Honor Roll, and is on the leadership team at tae kwon do, which means he’s helping to teach classes and has cleanup duties.
  • My husband is a contractor; he was commuting to Denver during the week, flying home every weekend. That particular contract ended at the end of June and he’s been looking for a new one since then. He’s an IT Consultant with a lot of experience in telecommunications and the healthcare industry – here he is on Linked In if you’re curious/interested. He has a lot of irons in the fire, but none of them have led to his next gig. Hopefully next month something will turn up!
  • We lost Moose, our retriever mix that was a rescue that we rescued from Florida. And we gained Lola, a black polydactyl kitten born in early September. She has an extra toe on all 4 feet and has brought a lot of positive energy to the house.
  • We rearranged our family room, which involved some construction, but it has opened the room up and given us more floor space. Sitting on the couch gives you a view out the windows now instead of walls, which I love.
  • Edited on 1/1/18 to add that I started tae kwon do in February and just earned my light blue belt, which is halfway through the belts to get to black belt.

If all goes as planned, I’ll post tomorrow with some goals and plans for 2018.

 

 

 

 

Spinzilla 2017 (with a roller derby ending & complete with footnotes)

Spinzilla was ages ago, or so it seems now, especially since a good chunk of the people in my yarn and fiber network went to Rhinebeck1 this past weekend, and like Spinzilla, I hope to one day experience Rhinebeck. Since this was my first Spinzilla, I set really attainable goals for myself: I just wanted to spin every day. Upon hearing about the Monster Mile Club, I also quietly decided that I wanted to spin a mile (1760 yards).

Tallying your yards spun is a bit different for Spinzilla. You count the length of all your plies in addition to the length of the yarn, so you count the spinning of the singles and the plying of the yarn, so you calculate total yards spun as (length of yarn x plies in yarn) + length of yarn. For example, let’s say you have 10 yards of a finished 3 ply yarn. For Spinzilla, you count 30 yards (10 yards for each ply) plus the 10 yards for making the final yarn, for a total of 40 yards spun. I know that calculation can be confusing, and I probably haven’t helped much to allay that – suffice to say that  I spun a total of 5,040 yards, blowing my goal to spin 1760 yards out of the water! Here’s a family portrait of my 2.89 miles spun. I’ll get to the individual spins in a moment.

Spinzilla2017
All the yarn I spun during Spinzilla 2017

To prepare for Spinzilla, I spun nearly every day and loaded up my stash with far too many braids of fiber; I think I somehow thought my pace would increase magically but I also used it as a convenient excuse to indulge. On day one I started out with this lovely braid, my favorite out of everything I got at Shenandoah Fiber Festival. I saved it just for Spinzilla, too.

SVFF Goodies

I decided to spin this 4 oz bump2 as a fractal 3 ply, so I divided the braid into 3 lengths. The first length, I spun. The second length, I divided into 3 strips and spun. The third length I divided into as many strips as I could manage, about 9, and spun. Then on day two I ignored my new copy of Archangel and plied them together and got this: 202 yards of 3 ply yarn, 174 yards of 2 ply yarns, and about 12 yards of singles.

Spinzilla2017

On day 2 I also started spinning 4 ounces of top (40% merino, 40% bamboo, 20% tussah silk) I got from the Fiberists at Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival.

SVFF Goodies

I practiced my long draw on the singles (I usually use short forward draw), with predictably uneven results, which was a bit frustrating even though I got better the more I did it. By the end of the bobbin, it was pretty even, but I used up a lot of my patience on drafting technique. On day three I chain plied the singles, so I’d use them all up, but I did it quite badly; I started losing my patience, went too fast, and ended up with a yarn that has small, loose beehives through it a bit unevenly.

Spinzilla2017

After the frustration of chain plying gone wrong, I took a nice long break and decided I’d spin this 8 ounce bag of merino & bamboo. Once again, I wanted to try a fractal spin, so I divided the fiber into three equal parts. I spun the first part as it was in the roving, without having to divide the roving lengthwise. I divided the next part of the roving into 3 lengths, and the final part of the roving into as many small strips as possible.

SVFF Goodies

As I spun, I discovered why the seller may have given me 8 ounces for the price of 4; parts of both braids were stuck together as though glued or felted or possibly melted (does bamboo fiber melt?). I powered through it on days three, four, and five, finishing on day five (Saturday) by plying. I ended up with 2 skeins of 3 ply yarn, one at 180 yards and the other at 256 yards, 56 yards of 2 ply yarn, and 10 yards of singles.

Spinzilla2017

By this point on Saturday afternoon, I was really sick of spinning. My hip flexors and lower back hurt from sitting too much – I should have thrown some spindle spinning in – and I had listened to all the podcasts and NPR I could handle. I was also really tired of looking at orange and pink and red. For my final spin, I chose the soothing colors of this superfine merino roving from Three Waters Farm and tuned in to Indie 88 out of Toronto, which was doing a countdown of listener favorite songs.

fiber stash

I decided to fractal spin this bump as well, dividing it lengthwise into 3 parts and then further dividing it similarly to the other fractal spins I did. I ended up with 138 yards of 3 ply, 44 yards of 2 ply, and 56 yards of singles at about 9pm on the last day.

Spinzilla2017

Throughout Spinzilla, I checked in with my team every day on Ravelry, Team Spin Off, sponsored (I think) by Interweave Press and Spin Off magazine, to which I should subscribe. It was a great group, very encouraging, and one of my favorite parts of the whole thing was seeing what other people were spinning.

I also follow Abby Franquemont on social media and followed along with her astounding progress – she spun more in her first day than I did for the entirety of Spinzilla! But I had to remind myself that I haven’t been spinning since I was 5, that I don’t have the same skill set, that it is my first time participating in this event, and I also didn’t have the same strategies. Imagine my surprise to see Abby post the day after Spinzilla ended lamenting how little she spun (IIRC, she spun upwards of 11 or 12,000 yards), how she could’ve done so much more in her youth, how it sucks to be so old. We are all our own worst critics and I need to break that cycle with myself, too, not just point it out in others. To that end …

I blew my goals out of the water. Not only did I spin every day, but that’s what I spent most of my days doing. I also spun close to 3 miles, more than double my goal. I tried two things I hadn’t done (much) before: fractal spinning and long draw, and I got better at both. It’s been a while since I lost my patience with myself and something I was doing like I did the Saturday of Spinzilla; I haven’t felt like that since just before deciding to back off on roller derby. I’m not going to back off on spinning (or fiber art in general) the way I did with derby; I just need some time to collect myself, which is okay and a normal part of how I expend time and energy on things.

Adjusting my thoughts on Spinzilla has also led me to reconsider roller derby; I may look into going to a practice to see how it feels. The league and my former home team have changed so much since I stopped playing in 2015, Going back could also mean going back at 50% effort instead of my usual 250% effort. We’ll see.

 


1. New York Sheep & Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, NY.
2. An unspecified mix of BFL, llama, and seacell.