Rolag-o-rama

I’ve rediscovered my drum carder and learned a new trick: making rolags. It all started when a friend was thinning out the fiber stash she inherited from her mother in law, who passed away a few years ago. She’s been steadily going through everything, including Christmas ornaments & decorations her father in law couldn’t bear to part with and drove cross country to deliver. I gratefully took all of the fiber that she and another friend weren’t interested in, which more than doubled my fiber stash.

What to do with it all? It’s a bit more than what I can conceive of spinning myself. I do have an etsy shop though, so could sell it but can’t quite square making money of fiber I got for free because of someone’s death. But I am involved with a group raising money for a local charity, so why not donate proceeds to them?

This has been the perfect solution. I’ve raised a little over $17 for Stillbrave, a local non-profit led by Tattoo Tom (yes, he is a character and yes, he is quite dedicated) that provides non-medical support to children with cancer and their families. I first heard about and got involved with Stillbrave while playing roller derby and the good friend I do tae kwon do with is still involved with them.

So, the rolag making! I watched a few youtube videos and grabbed some dowels and got started. The optical color blending of colors has been interesting and actually surprising in one case.

That’s pretty neat, isn’t it?

This and two other colors are available in The Yarn Office, my etsy shop and (as I’ve come to think of it) vanity project that I’ve sunk more money into than I’ve made. But it’s there, and what else would I do with some of this stuff, which I created not because I had a specific use in mind but because I could. I think all of that may be a blog post for another day. In the mean time, if you spin, please have a look at the rolags & one batt listed in the shop – you can help put a smile on a sick child’s face or help ease the burden for parents and siblings of the sick child.

Time Flies!

February went by in the blink of an eye and it feels like the Ides of March & St. Patrick’s Day 2018 will quickly be a thing of the past while I carry on privately writing, knitting, and doing other crafty things. I suppose I’m starting to come out of some kind of hibernation now that the days are getting longer again; I’ve started doing things that I’ve been putting off for a long time, like:

  • Submitting poems and a short story to Narrative magazine, which of course I’m anxious about, thinking “I submitted it ___ ago! Why haven’t they gotten back to me yet?” which started the day after I sent the email, of course. Also, I haven’t been writing the last few weeks, but I have a plan to start again.
  • I cleaned out my yarn stash for the first time ever and am handing off bits and bobs to a local knitter in another knitting group. The oldest yarn in there I bought in NYC in 2000 or 2002 – if I haven’t knit that Dale of Norway Baby Ull by now, I don’t think I’m going to, so it’s best to send it on its way to fulfill its destiny.
  • Updating my Ravelry stash pages. The yarn clean-out was spurred by two of my knitting friends giving me yarn, spinning fiber, and a stack of fair isle books they inherited, so there was a lot of updating I needed to do.
  • Finishing off embroidery pieces and listing them in The Yarn Office, my etsy shop: The View from Mt. Peg and Firecracker).
  • Adding handspun yarn to The Yarn Office: a set of handspun naturally dyed cormo that I’m incredibly proud of, some sunset-colored yarn that was fun to spin but so not my color, and some natural brown wool that I’m not quite sure what to do with. In looking at my handspun, I also realized that I really prefer making 3 ply yarns for some reason.
Cormo Set
Handspun, naturally dyed cormo yarn set

My knitting has been focused on using yarn that I got from my friend Lisa, who received almost the whole stash of a friend she met on Ravelry. Unfortunately for this friend, she can no longer knit (I hope that day never comes for me) and knew that Lisa would appreciate her colorwork-focused stash and library. Lisa was overwhelmed and so I happily stepped in to help take some of the yarn off her hands, starting with enough Sandness Garn Peer Gynt to make 2 sweaters. I’ve long admired Knit.Love.Wool on Instagram, and found that she (Jennifer Steinglass) not only has patterns that I got gauge for with Peer Gynt, but that for all of 2018 she’s having a buy 2 patterns get 1 free sale on Ravelry (info on her designer page). I just finished Starfall and started on Seachange.

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My Starfall Sweater with some slightly tweaked colorwork

I need to catch up with a lot of the blogs I follow (sorry friends!) – I’ve been reading The Internet and books instead of blogs lately. I’m currently reading the second book in a really fascinating trilogy by N. K. Jemison, The Broken Earth series. Before this, I read Octavia E. Butler’s Lilith’s Brood, which is also a trilogy that I really enjoyed. I find myself longing for female heroes and the female perspective and although both of these are sci-fi/fantasy, they deliver and they deliver on being diverse (another thing I’ve been craving) since both authors are African American. I’m also working my way through The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women Across the Ancient World. Yes! Those Amazons! They were real! This book is a bit more scholarly and so not the most compelling read, but it’s still really fascinating.

Oh! I almost forgot! I started another Instagram account, LittleGoldenNotebook, for inspirational quotes. I know, that sounds cheesy and probably like tons of other “inspirational quotes” quote account all over the interwebs. But these were all selected by me (and all have authors, which was important to me) to help me get through tough times right after I was diagnosed with type 2 bipolar disorder. I collected them and printed them on 3×5 cards to help a dear friend going through a rough patch, shared them with another friend, and then decided I should just share them with Everyone In The World. Here’s the quote for today, International Women’s Day:

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Note that this is probably the most feminist quote I’ve posted to the account, though I sort of modify this in my head to apply to humans in general, you know? How can I really be free when anyone is enslaved or doesn’t have full human rights? I’m guessing Audre Lorde would agree with that, but women – especially minority women – have been long neglected and that’s more what she was driving at (though I’m not Audre Lorde or intersectional feminism scholar by any means). Anyway. I’m doing that too and would love to have more company!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

The Week October 23-29

Last week:

  • Walk instead of going back to bed after I finish my morning coffee. Done for today – I took Lil for a walk on the W&OD trail (a rail trail) that runs through my neighborhood and all the way into DC.
    Done. Lil and I have walked every day since last Monday. Somedays have just been around the block, and twice so long that I broke her and had to carry her part of the way back; I won’t do that this week, I’ve promised her.
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Lil, broken (resting) on the W&OD
  • Go to TKD twice.
    I went thrice!
  • Carry on knitting  (S)urge, the new shawl and read The Essex Serpent while doing it.
    Done. I finished The Essex Serpent (5 stars, would read again) and started Brazzaville Beach.
  • Start a new embroidery or new spinning project.
    Started, made progress, and ruined. But I have a similar, better idea for the next one.
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Almost done! But that netting …
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Ruined! I should have made my peace with the netting. 
  • Write a post about Spinzilla.
    Nope. But I did change the poem on my refrigerator to e. e. cummings [hist whist].

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And, unexpectedly, I found the perfect kitten while browsing Petfinder, which replaced my Twitter feed for a while. I convinced my husband, with some wise words from my 13 year old who said “Dad, just give in; you can’t win an argument with Mom!” and I filled out the adoption application for this guy, who’s current name is Spider.

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Double paws, black fluffy coat, and a blep? I’m in love!

This week:

  • Carry on with walking every day, but not so much that I break Lil and have to carry her.
  • Go to TKD twice.
  • Carry on knitting  (S)urge, the new shawl and read Brazzaville Beach while doing it.
  • Start another new embroidery project using lessons learned from the scissor catastrophe.
  • Spinzilla. I’m going to write about it as soon as I post this.
  • Spider-kitten: wait patiently. My contact at the rescue is out of town until Wednesday.
  • Saturday we’re going to Morgantown for my oldest’s birthday. I think there will be hiking and cake. And lots of car knitting.

The Week October 16-22

So last week I flaked out on everything and spent a good part of the week in bed, either reading (I finished a bad steampunk novel and started The Essex Serpent) or sleeping. Spinzilla was fun but, as usual, I went all-in and by Saturday was ready for it to be over. My hip flexors hurt from sitting and spinning so much and I fought with the last braid I spun late Saturday and Sunday. I’ll definitely do it again, but with better and strategic planning, now that I know what to expect.

I also happen to be in between creative projects; I’m knitting a shawl, but I’m not over the moon excited about it, and I’m not embroidering anything right now. I also have started to doubt my validity and long term plan, which I’ve managed to do in record time. Am I really an artist? Is that something I can really spend the rest of my time doing? Or am I just another person with needles and knitting patterns? I just need to do some more soul searching and long term planning, or, you know, actually execute my long term plan.

I saw my therapist on Friday and she noticed that my affect is pretty flat, so seasonal changes in the light might already be affecting me. I may need a medication adjustment, which annoys me because I didn’t need one last year, so why should I need one this year? I’m even taking vitamins this year to help keep things under control. I wish there was a blood test or something similar that I could take – just like my husband testing his blood sugar level – to determine exactly what I need instead of this touchy feely stabbing in the dark stuff.

On to planning!

The week before last week:

  • SPINZILLA!
    It was fun, despite me having no sense of pace or self-control. I’ll definitely do it again and recommend it!

This week:

  • Walk instead of going back to bed after I finish my morning coffee. Done for today – I took Lil for a walk on the W&OD trail (a rail trail) that runs through my neighborhood and all the way into DC.
  • Go to TKD twice.
  • Carry on knitting  (S)urge, the new shawl and read The Essex Serpent while doing it.
  • Start a new embroidery or new spinning project.
  • Write a post about Spinzilla.