Projects: Layered Yarn

I got my hands on some mohair, so I had to try my hand at making a boucle yarn. I combed the mohair locks to use for the loops, combed lamb's wool for the core, and a merino/tencel stripe for the anchor. 

Crepe is a layered yarn where the base is a regular 2 or 3-ply yarn, wrapped with another single ply. I made a 3-ply yarn with a braid of green BFL and wrapped it with teal lamb's wool.

The challenge of engineering the twist in all the different layers makes multi-layered yarn fun to make, and I am proud to say that both yarns are balanced.


Projects! Lace and Hemp

Spinning lace weight yarn is so satisfying. Challenging at first, immensely satisfying when you count up the yardage and realize you have 400 yards of yarn out of one ounce of fiber. And then discouraging when you realize that all the lace projects you have in mind require 1500+ yards, and there is only an ounce of thread left to ply....

The bright white of the yarn comes from Cormo wool and the glitter from mulberry silk.

I have an experiment this week as well. I obtained some hemp fiber on a whim, and then got it in my hands and thought "Hmmm....How do I spin this without ending up with rope..." Some research led me to buying recycled sari silk to add to the hemp. And then I saw some yarn at my local yarn store that was a linen/silk/acrylic blend and had a very nice feel, which made me contemplate adding some sort of man made fiber into the mix. Enter another curiosity I had in my stash because I couldn't resist: corn silk, also known as ingeo. After I got the stuff (of course, after) I did some looking around and saw that many spinners hated the stuff. Which I can understand, I did some fondling of the fiber when I got it, and immediately put it away for "later." Just in the fiber, it seems to have the drawbacks of silk- flyaway, slippery- without any of the fantastic things that make silk worth the trouble. Despite this, I had hopes it would work well in a blend. So last night I carded equal parts of hemp, sari silk, and corn silk into a rolag and went for it. And I liked it. Setting the twist was a little nerve wracking, as hemp is supposed to be boiled to set the twist and corn silk supposedly melts at that temperature. A thirty second boil was all I dared to do.

The yarn and the fabric is fairly soft with a crispness. Only time, and my laundry machine, will tell if the fabric softens more with washing, as is supposed to be the case with hemp.



find here

Self-image is a tricky thing. I have very specific ideas about what type of person I am, often connected to minor details of my appearance or personality. I'm a book reader. I'm a long hair person. I'm a bit loud. I'm usually the youngest person in a group.

Not big, earthshaking revelations, but still important facets of myself. Things you don't mess with. It creates cognitive dissonance. I find that concept fascinating- cognitive dissonance. It's that feeling you get when reality clashes with your beliefs. Sometimes, you don't even recognize it's happening, you just change your beliefs so that you don't feel uncomfortable anymore. You rationalize.

All through grade school I was almost a year younger than my classmates. I assumed that as soon as I made it to college, everyone would be my age again. In college, my friends were usually 2-3 years older than me. When I moved and started staying home with my kid, my friends were still 2-3 years older than me, sometimes 6-7 years older. I am so used to this pattern in my life that I am genuinely shocked when I discover people in my life who are younger than me. I feel that I have to comment on how unusual it is that someone is younger than me. Now, I always have to think about what my actual age is, because once I realized I was too old to be precocious, I didn't want to think my age mattered anymore, and I refused to keep the information at the front of my mind. I didn't want it to have any part of my identity. Rationalization.

There can be relief in letting go of labels that no longer fit. I have had very long hair for most of my life. And for most of my life, long hair was less work than short hair. It was another label, a self image, an identity. I decided to quit cutting my hair to mid-length and grow my hair to Rapunzel length. And I hated it. At no point in my life have I ever complained about my hair so much. So I cut it all off. And it feels really good. There is no reason to hold on to the long hair girl. She's different now, and that's just fine.



I spent so much time on this collage that I don't have time to explain myself! Short story- handpainted fiber, different spinning techniques, eventual sweater to sort out the results.

Also, it's Pi(e) Day! We will be celebrating with pasties (the edible kind, nothing to do with strippers, get your mind right) and apple pie, with a salad thrown in for a "balanced" diet.


Progress Report

Nothing like attempting something for yourself to gain a newfound appreciation of someone else's abilities.

In this case, I'm referring to both blogging and dyeing fiber.

I have got a fantastic concept, which is not quite turning out how I thought it would in practice. Which is pretty much how everything in my life goes.

Concept: use the same colorway (colors/sequence of colors) to test out how different spinning techniques affect color pooling in a knitted project.

In practice, this meant that I added one too many variables by not using the exact same fiber for the entire thing. I had 200 g of commercial top, and hand combed another 200 g of PolypayX lamb's wool to have enough fiber for my project. Commercial top is pretty dense. Hand combed top is pretty fluffy. As is the handspun yarn. This one variable means I don't have the exact same colorway all the way through my project, but it's not a loss because- I learned something!

Commercial Top:

Hand Combed:

Hand Painted Skein:
Dyed on the left, reskeined on the right

Long Repeat Dyed Skein:
Dyed on the left, reskeined on the right
That's 100 g spun, 300 to go!



from thisisnthappiness.com

Yesterday, I turned on NPR just in time to catch "On Being with Krista Tippett," a show I don't usually find that interesting, but her interview with Father Greg Boyle was interesting, inspiring, and funny, and I highly recommend listening to it. Fr. Boyle discusses his ministry in gang intervention programs in Los Angeles, and gives much food for thought.

Midway through the interview, Fr. Boyle says "anything worth doing is worth failing at." I almost couldn't concentrate on the rest of the interview, because that comment affected me so much. I am slowly learning how to fail. The phrasing is off, I suppose. "Learning to fail" is a facile phrase that doesn't communicate everything I mean. I am learning that I shouldn't let the fear of failure or even the certainty of failure prevent me from trying. Courage is persevering despite your fears. I am learning that some failures don't have to be permanent. There is wisdom in realizing that some failures are due completely to timing. I am learning to forgive myself for my failures. It is prideful to expect more of yourself than you would of others, and pride is a deadly sin.

At one point in my life I successfully trained myself out of worrying. Perhaps too successfully, but that is a story for another day. I had a permanent case of what I call "hamster brain." You know the feeling- you stay awake at night because you are continually running through a to-do list, rehearsing a difficult conversation, anticipating disaster. I trained myself to put those things out of my mind. If something that caused me anxiety popped into my head, I would ask "Can I do something about this right now?" If I could, even if "something" was just writing down a plan, I would do it- right then. If I couldn't, I would force it out of my mind in a sort of meditative exercise. It would come back later, and I could do the same evaluation. It was a great mental exercise, and it did add a peaceful quality to my life. I am now realizing that the anxiety is back, but it has changed form. Rather than worrying about things I need to do, I worry about things I should have done. Except "should have done" is an arbitrary rubric that only I have control over, and this is where the forgiveness comes in. When my anxiety manifests, my new conversation should be "Can I do something about this right now? No? Then I forgive myself. I will try again later." With a Hail Mary because it never hurts to ask for help.

Notice "should be." I will also be working on forgiving myself if I struggle with this.



I decided when I started blogging again that I would make things a little more manageable. Three days of posting rather than my initially overenthusiastic five days. A set schedule of content so I never had to sit down listlessly at the computer and stare hopelessly into the void of the internet waiting for The Best! Post! Ever! I even had a backlog list of post ideas waiting for me from my initial foray into blogging. That list is (ahem) eighteen months old. And it is weird.

I am not someone who can keep a journal. The thought of reading old posts makes me cringe. When I found my junior high/high school journal I burned it. That isn't as melodramatic as it sounds- I threw it in the woodburning stove with some other paper trash when I was cleaning out my closet in my parent's house. I don't like looking back and seeing who I was. Rather, I don't like looking back and seeing who I really was. I like reminiscing and comparing my current accomplishments to my prior self. I don't like reminders of what a different person I was. I don't like reading a journal and feeling contempt at the navel gazing combined with the discomfort of realizing that the stranger's diary I am reading is mine.

The list is a diary of sorts. A collection of articles and pictures and quotes without any context. It makes it easier to deal with than a journal, but that is because it contains none of my own thoughts. I've stumbled across this artifact of my own recent history, and it means nothing. Half of the content is on topics I no longer care about, and the other half makes me wonder what I cared about when I saved them. I don't know who the person was that saved those scraps. And yet- I've also written three posts inspired by that list on topics that still move me.

Should this unease motivate me to journal, or dissuade me? Is it better to forget your past foibles, or should you continually remind yourself of your mental history?


Collection: Dancing

Ballet kills me. It looks like they are prancing around, but the amount of motor control is insane.


Not ballet, but fantastic. I don't understand why rhythmic gymnastics gets ridiculed.


Working Wednesday

I need a less obnoxious post title for my Wednesday work in progress updates. Suggestions? What's Up Wednesday! was too chipper, and Working Wednesday is too dour. I need Goldilocks.

I broke out of the sunset palette for this week's dyeing extravaganza- and what an extravaganza! I felt so accomplished getting six skeins of commercial yarn (for a quick sweater for myself), two skeins of white handspun dyed in long color repeats, and a braid of fiber done in one evening. Results:

I also have been experimenting with making laceweight yarn. I'm pretty excited about this small sample, I have big plans for a shawl.



"It is a wise father who knows his own child."
       -William Shakespeare (from The Merchant of Venice, Act II, sc 2)

Parenting a child is such an ordinary and surreal experience. You realize you are your parents, whether that is a good thing or a bad thing. You realize how incredibly smart and capable your parents were/are. You realize that your parents must have also had moments of doubt, wondering if they really knew what the hell they were doing trying to raise a child into a responsible adult. And then you realize that being a parent is such an ordinary thing. An ordinary thing that never feels anything less than extraordinary.

Once you get past the baby stage, you realize that this tiny human is actually another person. Someone with dreams and desires and fears and passions. It's disconcerting, they've been so predictable until now. Crawling, eating, walking, talking. Oh the talking. The joy and bane of my existence is the talking. The point is, once they start talking, they can tell you their internal monologue, and you realize how much you have missed. You assumed that they thought the same things you did, because they are your mirror, your reflection, with a doubly familiar face and your words and actions. Until one day, they say something new. Something you never thought or said or did. And you realize you will only ever know them as well as you can know another person.


Collections: Unsettling

This week I have been running into unsettling videos. Where are the rainbows and puppies?

It started with this one, which had me super tense and gripping my lap blankie.

VOICE OVER (English subtitles) from Kamel Films on Vimeo.

And then I almost had nightmares after the "Blink" Doctor Who episode. (SPOILER)

And then I read this in the morning, and although it is pretty cool, the idea freaks me out a little bit. And weren't Cyborgs the bad guys?

CYBORG FOUNDATION | Rafel Duran Torrent from Focus Forward Films on Vimeo.


What's Up Wednesday!

I haven't been up to spinning much this week, but there was a blizzard of activity with the dye pot. It's the only kind of blizzard you are likely to see here in Las Vegas. I dyed up two weeks of sunsets (and now I need to knit them....) I also came up with some intense colors that will definitely be repeated.

The teal will just not photograph true. The camera wants it to be blue, and even with fiddling with the camera and then fiddling with the photo, I can't get an accurate representation of the color. Which is a shame, because it is my favorite of the lot.

I've also been working on a sock. I have a goal of being the crazy sock lady, but I had trouble liking socks. Part of the problem was the patterns I was choosing, and part of the problem was the yarn I had. So I picked a pattern that, while pretty tedious and complicated, was nowhere near as difficult to follow as my first attempt. I also found some yarn that makes me happy to work with. My husband said it looked like "a parrot on a Rastafarian island." Now that's some happy yarn.


Collections: Slightly Nerdy

Only slightly. I'll start with the nerdiest.

I have plans to make this Tardis cowl.

Some fun photoshopped Calvin and Hobbes pictures.

Via laughingsquid

GIFs are awesome. GIFs of animals are even more awesome.

via headlikeanorange

I love weird animals, so I really like WTF, Evolution?

via wtfevolution


What's Up....Thursday!

I have this problem. If I think intensely about something, I put it in the "Done" folder of my brain. Which means that I think I've done things like call my friends, replied to text messages, or post on my blog, simply because I thought really hard about doing it.

Which is all to say- this should have been here yesterday, but I like to excuse myself with the adage "Better late than never."

I spent some time last week finally setting up an Etsy shop. So if you like what you see here, go check it out.

I've also been making some fun things. The first is this yarn, which I made in response to a local guild's Winter Fiber Challenge. For last year. S'okay, I got a really fun experiment out of it. The challenge was to create a skein of yarn inspired by a picture of nature. 

from ecologiesofknowing.com

I've also started on this laceweight- I'm using up some grab-bag fiber I purchased on sale, and I'm stretching it by making lace. Only 1700 yds to go...

I was feeling overwhelmed this morning, so I needed a project that I could finish today. So I'm spinning up singles from the last batts I have in this color. I'm calling it "Under the Bridge." The colors came together as an experiment to combat a tragic dye accident that had left me with neon virulent green. As my brother remarked "troll hair green." It turned out well, so I may try to do this again on purpose.



“Our whole theory of education is based on the absurd notion that we must learn to swim on land before tackling the water.” — Henry Miller

If you are attempting to learn something, you should spend a lot of time doing the actual thing. I spent a lot of time in college finding ways to jump in the water, and I was always annoyed at how many of my classmates were content to go through the motions on land. My personal manifesto is that the goal of anyone's trip through formal education- whether that education stops at high school or with a Ph.D- should be to learn how to learn. The second part to that manifesto is that you should never stop learning.

How do you teach yourself to learn? You can start by trying. Try anything. Do it wrong. Find out why you did it wrong. Try it again. Let yourself be curious. When a small curious thought runs through your head, follow it up. Follow your curiosity wherever it leads you.

See a complicated recipe online? Go for it! Use your Google Fu to find out how to make a macaron! Want to rock climb? Find a climbing group- actually, find any group you want to start a new hobby. Passionate people will never be annoyed at a beginner, they will be overjoyed to find someone who wants to share their passion. Try anything you like, and just know that if you didn't like the results, you only have to learn a little more and try again. Or not. If you hated something, you never have to do that again. I think that should be on my family's crest: "Well, we never have to do that again." It sounds like a negative, closed-minded sentiment, but it is the opposite. It means that we tried. And we learned something.


Collections: Music Videos

For your Friday afternoon viewing pleasure, three "music videos" that make me laugh:


As an aside, one of the blogs I read has a knack for picking up off-beat music that becomes huge radio hits. I first heard "Somebody That I Used To Know" on yes and yes, and that soon became overplayed on the radio. I heard "Thrift Shop" on her blog about a month ago, and today it was played on the radio no less than three times during my errand run.


What's Up Wednesday: Suri Alpaca

This is Ariadne. I'm not usually one for naming things- nonliving things, that is- but I've also never had a relationship with an object before. When you spend as much time with something as tactile, useful, and awesome as a spinning wheel, it begs for a name. It's like naming a car, but I've never felt the urge to name a car. 

I know that I had Arachne in mind when Ariadne popped in, but Ariadne sounds prettier. Arachne is the girl who challenged Athena to a weaving contest and got turned into a spider for her hubris, and the obvious fiber art connection is there. But Ariadne is the girl who gave Theseus a ball of yarn so he could find his way out of the Labyrinth, so there is still a connection to fiber. Besides, I don't weave. Yet.

I have been playing around with a sample of Suri alpaca fiber (wool?). These guys have an interesting appearance:
from alpacatrading.com
This stuff is really cool. I'm sure my enthusiasm is in part because it is the first fiber I have experienced other than sheep's wool.



"Wow, I wish I had that life." That was a thought I caught floating through my brain sometime last year after watching an episode of Mad Men. ( I have not seen the latest season, shut up, I only have Netflix.)

What an odd thought, considering how miserable those characters are. When I actually examined the thought, I realized that what I wanted was the outward perfection of their lives. Part of the popularity of the series is, I think, the crisp perfection in the appearances of the workplace, the homes, the clothing. I think I want that type of perfection in my life. "I would be so happy if my house, my makeup, my clothes were that perfect," I think to myself, despite previous experience not validating that claim.

A facade over a dilapidated foundation is not perfection. Life is a little messy. Actually, life is really messy if you spend 90% of your time with a 2-year-old boy. Perhaps, rather than striving for an artificial perfection, we only need to refocus our attention on an organic, messy beauty. Or, at the very least, look past the mess to focus on the beauty. Remind me of that next time the sticky little kid leaves a slime trail on his way to take a bath.


Collection: Stop Motion Animation

I love that Vimeo is the hipster sibling of YouTube. The kid (my kid) likes to scroll through the animation videos with me. Here are three videos that I have watched over and over, and will watch again as soon as I have posted this:

(Guess which one the kid likes best...)

Bottle from Kirsten Lepore on Vimeo.

The Alphabet 2 from n9ve on Vimeo.

Gulp. The world's largest stop-motion animation shot on a Nokia N8. from Nokia HD on Vimeo.


What's up Wednesday!

I'll admit to some trepidation in writing this post. My first attempt at blogging failed. I wanted to say it failed spectacularly because I love a little melodrama, but really, the blog just crawled in the corner and curled up without a whimper, waiting for inspiration and motivation to return. Which is also pretty melodramatic. This time around, my goals are much less lofty than when I began. 

Part of the reason for my first failure was a lack of passion. I had my new passion foisted upon me mid-July of last year. It is a simple story that I love to tell the long way around because of my love of drama, but the basic facts are: my parents have sheep; my aunt gave me a spinning wheel. 

In the months since July, I have learned how to wash, card, comb, dye and spin wool. And knit. I already knew how to crochet, and felt like knitters were a strange club of obsessive snobby yarn weirdos, and wanted nothing to do with knitting. Unfortunately, the first yarn I was able to spin was not suitable for crocheting. So I learned to knit. I was right about knitters - they are weird obsessive crafty people, and I love them for it. 

My favorite current project will take me all year to finish. I read about a really great daily knitting project called the Sky Scarf. The idea is to collect some yarn in different blues, greys, whites, and beiges, and use these colors to knit one row of a scarf every day in the color of the sky that day. I took it one- well, several- obsessive steps further. My project is to knit every sunset of the year. To do this, I prepare a small amount of wool, dye it according to my daily photo, spin the yarn, and then knit it into the scarf. 

I'm a bit behind at the moment, but here is January 1-7: