Achievement unlocked :: Spinning Mojo

All of a sudden, I am spinning. And spinning. And SPINNING.

All it took was getting my creative confidence back (in three easy steps). The final of those three steps was to “get back to basics,” which I did by going back to my “beginner” wheel, a Schacht Ladybug. I had intended to switch right back to my Matchless, but I’m having so much fun on the Ladybug that I’ve been sticking with her for now. I’m pretty pleased with the outcomes.

In the last month since I posted about trying to get my spinning mojo back, I’ve made the following:

"Artifact"

“Artifact”

This is 3 ounces FLUFF Silky Cashmerino in “Artifact,” which I spun up into 294 yards DK 2-ply, and I lurve it:

so silky

so silky

Next, I decided to completely switch gears from a lightweight silky yarn to a bulky, wooly 2-ply. I pulled out my favorite wool, Shetland:

Widdershins

Hello Yarn Shetland in “Widdershins”

You can’t tell from this picture, but this yarn is huge. Maybe you can tell from this picture:

Raggedy Ann?

Raggedy Ann?

That’s some pretty plump yarn, y’all! It came out to 169 yards (4 ounces) bulky 2-ply and I am so in love with it. I had planned to knit it up into more Mukluks, but what happened next might have changed my plans.

I decided to go for another bulky 2-ply. Usually, if I’m spinning bulky, I’m going with thick-and-thin singles, which I really enjoy. So the 2-ply has been an interesting switch for me. I put some Hello Yarn Polwarth on the wheel:

those colors!

those colors!

And in a flash, I’d made this:

Hello Yarn Polwarth in "Tiny Flicker"

Hello Yarn Polwarth in “Tiny Flicker”

This one slays me. It’s like a perfect autumn yarn. I totally adore it.

fat fall yarn

fat fall yarn

It’s 4 ounces, 196 yards bulky 2-ply goodness.

I made this yarn just because I wanted to make it. I had no particularly knitting plans in mind for it. But then I did this:

fat yarns

fat yarns together

I put these two yarns side-by-side and all of a sudden they seemed to want to play together. I’m suddenly envisioning a super-fast fall vest or some such, with these two yarns striped. Wouldn’t that be yummy? Or maybe I’ll try to get my hands on more of the “Tiny Flicker” to make a vest just from that and then stick with the “Widdershins” for the Mukluks as planned. Who knows? It’s been fun plotting.

a month of spinning

a month of spinning

So one month into spinning on the Ladybug and I’ve already made as much yarn as I had made in the entire 8 months leading up. I doubt I’ll continue at this pace, but I’m pretty happy with all this spinning for now. And with the inevitable knitting with handspun that will result!

 

Fashion Friday :: Stitch Fix Review #10

My tenth Stitch Fix* box arrived at the end of August, but it’s taken me awhile to tell you about it. How is it October already?!

If you’d like to read previous reviews, you can check them out here:

Stitch Fix Review #1

Stitch Fix Review #2

Stitch Fix Review #3

Stitch Fix Review #4

Stitch Fix Review #5

Stitch Fix Review #6

Stitch Fix Review #7

Stitch Fix Review #8

Stitch Fix Review #9

If you’ve read any of my last few reviews, you know I’ve been wanting some skinny jeans for awhile. So far, I’ve received three pairs in Fixes over the last several months, and they never work out – either the fit, the price, or the style hasn’t been suitable. So I wasn’t really optimistic when I opened the box this time and found another pair of skinny jeans.

 

skinny jeans

skinny jeans

 

This is a terrible picture, but trust me – the jeans are fantastic. They are actually called “pull-on pants” because they have an elastic waist (i.e., no button and zipper), which is not something I would ever pull off the rack, because I have strong feelings about elastic waist pants and they are not positive. And yet these jeans are perfect! I LOVE THEM. The fit is spot-on, the length is perfect, the price was fantastic, and they have the perfect amount of skinniness and stretch. They look great with my favorite boots. I’ve been wearing them a lotVerdict: Keep.

black-and-blue striped top

black-and-blue striped top

Another terrible picture of another item I love – a 3/4-length sleeve striped knit top. I love the fit of this and, though you can’t tell in this shot, it’s a flattering top. I’ve worn it a few times already, and My Old Man always compliments it when I do. I love it with jeans but it also looks good under a jacket for work. I’ve paired it in this picture with the skinny jeans from the Fix, along with the aforementioned favorite boots. Total winner. Verdict: Keep.

embroidery detail tab-sleeve blouse

embroidery detail tab-sleeve blouse

You guys, I love this top. It’s another one of those items that I recognized immediately as very much my style without actually being like anything else in my closet. It’s too deep into fall to wear it now (at least, it’s not something I think I’ll wear now that it’s October), but it was a perfect transitional piece for late August and September.

I love the detailing:

tab sleeve

tab sleeve

The embroidery on the sleeve tabs matches the embroidery down the front of the top.

embroidery

embroidery

I just love it! Verdict: Keep.

crochet trim silk blouse

crochet trim silk blouse

Next up was this burgundy silk blouse. I love the trim, which strikes me as feminine without being twee. It looks great on its own or paired with a blazer, and I think it works equally well with jeans, with pants, or with a skirt. The color isn’t one I own any of, because burgundy isn’t a color I typically think of as being particularly flattering on me. But I’ve decided it looks fine:

burgundy top

burgundy top

This is another piece I’ve already worn two or three times since I received my Fix. Verdict: Keep.

Mini Pave Triangle Necklace

Mini Pave Triangle Necklace

The last piece is the little triangle necklace. It’s cute and I’ll probably get some good wear out of it, but it’s not something I really needed. As I’ve noted before, I am fairly picky about my jewelry and tend to err on the side of owning fewer pieces but loving everything I own. But with Stitch Fix, if you decide to keep the whole box, you get 25% off the price of everything, and as it turned out, it would cost me more to keep the four clothing items and send back the necklace than it would cost to keep everything. So … Verdict: Keep.

That’s the first time in over a year of doing Stitch Fix that I’ve kept every single piece! The prices on the items in this box were already right in my comfort zone, and that 25% discount made it all the better. I’ve already gotten lots of wear out of the four pieces of clothing (and have even worn the necklace once).

This fall, I’m working now to pare down my wardrobe to those items I absolutely love. So I’ll be taking a break from Stitch Fix, and from buying clothes in general, while I focus instead on refining my fashion sense and editing my wardrobe. Stitch Fix has been a lot of fun, though, and I’m pleased to go out on a high note!

Stitch Fix #10, all keepers

Stitch Fix #10, all keepers

 

*Stitch Fix is a personal shopping/styling service – you fill out a style questionnaire on their site so that they get a sense of your “style profile.” Then you pay a $20 “styling fee” and they hand-pick five items for you, based on your preferences. They ship the box to you, you try everything on, and then you select what, if anything, you want to keep; the $20 styling fee goes toward the cost of anything you choose. If you don’t want to keep anything, you ship everything back in the package provided (they keep the $20 styling fee). If you decide to keep everything, you get a 25% discount (minus the $20 you already paid them). I do not receive any compensation from them for reviewing my experience with them.

But I *do* get a credit towards my next Fix if you schedule a Fix for yourself via my referral link: here. If you have questions about how it works, you can see their FAQ here – and I am more than happy to answer any questions based on my experience, too.

Crackerjack :: all done but the weaving, the wearing, … and the winning

After getting three months behind in my Crackerjack, I managed to finish up this week, just two days after the baseball season ended. I could not be more pleased with how it has turned out!

2014 Detroit Tigers Crackerjack

2014 Detroit Tigers Crackerjack

What I do regret, however, is that I didn’t make myself weave in the ends as I went along. Oy! There are so many ends y’all! I wish I had gotten a picture to show you of the scarf guts. I started weaving them in last night, but I think I still have about a hundred to go. Guess I know what I’ll be doing during Game 1 of the ALDS tonight!

I’m super-excited that my team has made it to the postseason! I briefly considered continuing to knit my Crackerjack through the playoffs, but it is right now the perfect length, so I’m calling it done. After I finish weaving in the ends, I’ll unzip the provisional cast-on, join the ends of the tube, and maybe do a very light spritz blocking (I’m hesitant to do a full washed block for fear the orange might bleed onto the white). I hope to have full finished shots to show you soon!

Let’s go Tigers!!!

Septober Knitting :: Crackerjack

It’s Septober, y’all, and the race between the Tigers and the Royals is on. I’ve been watching lots of baseball, dreaming October dreams, and…

Crackerjack, with cat for scale

Tigers Crackerjack, with tiger cat for scale

… knitting on my Crackerjack!

After a 3-month hiatus, I finally cranked into gear, and I’ve now made it through August 11. I’m getting ready to leave the country for a few days, but there will still be a few days left of baseball season when I return, and I’m feeling a little more confident that I’m going to finish this project right when the regular season finishes up. And I’m feeling sooooo hopeful about the Tigers/Royals match-up this weekend. Let’s go, kitties!

 

How to Get Your (Crafting) Mojo Back in 3 Simple Steps

Or at least, this is how I got mine back.

All summer long, I’d been wanting to spin but never seemed to manage it. My summer travels disrupted any sense of momentum, but that seemed more an excuse to me than a real reason not to get any spinning done. I just couldn’t seem to make myself do it – and it’s always a shame to feel like you have to “make” yourself do something you love. By the time I finally sat down to the wheel in late August, I think I had not spun anything since April I think. So here’s how I got back to the wheel.

1. Do the hard thing.

Ask yourself: What is really standing in the way of my creating? What is blocking me, scaring me, or paralyzing me? What hard thing am I avoiding?

Usually when my mojo fizzles out, it’s because something is daunting me. Something feels hard or overwhelming, and it’s standing in the way of moving forward. When I consider crafting or creating, I can get paralyzed because of this hard thing, whatever it is. I’ve realized that if I can just make myself deal with the hard thing, I can get unblocked and start moving forward again.

In the case of my spinning, I was being held up by the fact that the yarn I had on the wheel was one that I’d lost my enthusiasm for spinning – it’s a yarn that I want to finish making eventually, like maybe next spring, but I’m not feeling any desire or need to get it done now. But there it sat, on my wheel in April, and in May, and in June, July, and August. I knew that I needed to either spin it or get it off the wheel. If I had lots of extra bobbins around, I suppose it wouldn’t have been an issue at all. But I have precisely four bobbins, and they all actually have something on them. Yes, apparently I have played this game before – running out of steam before I finish up a bobbin.

I realized that what I really needed to do if I wanted to get back to spinning was to clear that dang bobbin, one way or another. So I did.

toilet paper roll yarn

toilet paper roll yarn

It was so tedious, y’all. This may look small, but it took forever. It was very slow going, as this was thin, slippery yarn (four ounces worth). But I wound it by hand and got every inch off the bobbin and on to the toilet paper roll. It was a sweet relief to finally see a clear bobbin after five months. With a clean slate, I could finally move forward to the next step.

2. Do the easy thing.

Ask yourself: What would be the most fun thing I could do right now?

After facing the thing that was holding me up, it was time for a little cake. Not actual cake, just the reward of spinning something really fun. My go-to yarn for when I want to make something quick and easy is a nice, fat, thick-n-thin singles yarn.

Hello Yarn BFL

Hello Yarn BFL

This is the July 2014 fiber from the Hello Yarn Fiber Club, “Head Banger” on BFL, 194 yards bulky thick-n-thin, lightly fulled. Good grief, I love spinning fat singles. And there’s nothing like doing the fun, easy thing, after having done the hard thing, to really get the creative momentum going. Whenever I need a boost to my spinning, this is my default yarn. I just find it such a delightful thing to make – it always makes me realize again why I love spinning.

After I finished up something fast and fun, it was time to do one more thing to help me keep moving forward.

3. Do the basic thing.

Ask yourself: How can I lock in this momentum on a basic level? What could I do to keep things from getting too hard again? What basic practice, tool, resource, or technique do I need to revisit in order to recapture my proficiency? 

This was the final piece for me, for getting my mojo back. I realized that part of what was keeping me a bit stuck was my wheel. Last year, I got a new wheel, and I’m totally in love with it, but even after a year of spinning on it, there are some ways I still haven’t adjusted to it. In fact, I think I might need to take it apart and put it back together, as I’ve had a couple of issues with treadling, and I want to get a better sense of the wheel and of my relationship to it.

But for now, I’ve decided to get back to basics. So I pulled out my first wheel, my sweet Ladybug. I haven’t spun on her at all in over a year, ever since I got the Matchless, and it was high time to show her some love. I’ve been rewarded with some of the most delightful spinning I’ve done in awhile. It’s surprising what a difference there is between the two wheels, and even more surprising that it’s the Ladybug (an entry-level wheel) that is giving me a thrill these days.

Ladybug

Ladybug

I probably will get even further back to basics and take a break from the Woolee Winder, just to see what effect that has on my spinning. I already know that will be a harder shift, as I am so in love with it. But it will be good to really go all the way back to the beginning, and actually move yarn from hook to hook as part of my spinning process. I think this will help me get more adjusted to my Matchless as well.

At any rate, spinning on my sweet, basic wheel is really giving me the confidence I need to get back in a good rhythm of daily spinning. The yarn I showed you last week was spun on the Ladybug, and the yarn I’m halfway done with now (pictured above) is also on that wheel. It’s been really nice to get back to my spinning roots, so to speak, and get in touch again with my beginner enthusiasm, but from a more proficient level.

And so, I have found myself back in a great groove of regular spinning, which is just such a wonderful, meditative way of starting my day. Not to mention the delight of producing handmade yarn.

How about you? What do you do to recapture your mojo, your momentum, or your enthusiasm for your crafty or creative pursuits? I’d love to hear your tips and stories.

I’m also going to apply these three steps to another craft I’ve been struggling with. Hint: it’s not knitting. Stay tuned….

 

 

 

 

 

At last, I made yarn

As I mentioned earlier this week, I basically didn’t spin at all this summer. I was gone about as much as I was home, and when I was home, I was either preparing for my next trip or recovering from my previous one, and I just couldn’t find the momentum to spin.

But I got back on the wheel in the latter part of August, and I banged out a fun thick-and-thin just to get back in the groove (pics soon). Then I moved on to spinning up the prize for my giveaway from June.

This is deep stash, FLUFF MCN (Merino Cashmere Nylon) in “Murky.” I chose it as the giveaway because it reminds me of the color of the ocean in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, part of the Emerald Coast.

20140603-165530.jpg

It was a joy to spin.

20140911-065350.jpg
302 yards 2-ply light worsted

I loved working with this fiber – so smooth and silky, and the colors are so amazing. It definitely put me in a beachy frame of mine, and I think it will knit up beautifully. Susan, I hope you love it!

I’ve already got my next fiber on the wheel:

20140911-065628.jpg
More FLUFF! More beachy colors! More total YUM! Welcome back, spinning. I’ve missed you!

Things I did and didn’t do this summer

Before we get any further into September, I feel I must give at least a quick look back at what I’ve been up to these last three months of (mostly) radio silence.

1. I went to Nicaragua. It was amazing. As I mentioned, I led a team from my church on a service trip there – we helped install water filters in people’s homes, we did children’s health and hygiene education, and we worked with a youth empowerment project. The trip was everything I’d hoped it would be, and more.

AMOS profile pic

this is part of the water filter set-up

We worked with a nonprofit there called AMOS Health and Hope – if you’re ever looking for an incredible organization to support, either through financial donations or volunteer work, I would highly recommend them. They work to address issues of poverty, disease, and preventable death by working alongside local communities in health, education, and development. I love their model of partnership and empowerment.

2. While there, I knit for a minute. Seriously, watch:

Like I said – about a minute. I just rarely had the right conditions or energy for my handiwork. Here’s what I accomplished:

a yellow garter square

a yellow garter square

Impressive, right?

I obviously should have wasted very little time and energy worrying about what yarn to bring and what pattern(s!) I might want to work on while traveling.

3. I planted a square foot vegetable garden. 

square foot garden

square foot garden

It’s looking pretty shaggy right now, but I was pretty proud of it. It’s been years since I’ve had a real vegetable and herb garden (I’ve grown tomatoes and sometimes peppers in pots for the last several years). Despite my efforts at putting up barriers around the raised beds to keep the critters out, I’ve had to do regular battle with squirrels over my produce, but at least they’ve left the herbs and flowers alone.

4. I went to my happy place (i.e., Santa Rosa Beach, Florida).

we love it here

we love it here

 

5. I had lots of time with family, including my little nugget of a grand-niece. 

20140908-222720.jpg

we love her!

6. I didn’t spin. (But I’ve started rectifying that situation).

7. I didn’t sew. (But that wasn’t just limited to summer – how long has it been now? At least a year. I hope to rectify this soon.)

8. I didn’t blog (and I took some breaks from Facebook, too). The Nicaragua trip forced an electronic break that actually set a nice tone for the rest of the summer. Now I’m working on setting up some healthy parameters for my digital life (step number one – no checking my phone as soon as I wake up), which has been a good experience so far. But! I’m back to blogging for real now.

And that about sums it up, I guess.

How was your summer?

 

 

 

 

Headed to Comerica Park, crackin’ on my Crackerjack

It turns out I haven’t knit a stripe on my Crackerjack in exactly three months. Three months, y’all. It’s been a busy summer!

But! I am on my way to the baseball park right now, to see the Tigers play the Yankees, and I am doing what I can to catch up on my scarf while we’re stuck in traffic.

20140827-174649.jpg

It’s been two months since I last blogged – so I’m doing what I can to catch up on that, too.

Advise me :: knitting for travels in a developing country

People! I’m sorry for my radio silence! This month has been a flurry of activity – traveling, getting ready for traveling, holding down the fort while my husband has been traveling – wash, rinse, repeat. It has been intense. And very little knitting has been done (but oh do I have something fun to show and an amazing story to tell related to it).

In 24 hours – 24 HOURS! – I am leaving for 10 days in Nicaragua, where I will be leading a team of 11 teenagers and 8 other adults on a mission trip, installing water filters in a rural village, working with a youth empowerment project, and helping with children’s health and hygiene education. It is going to be AMAZING, and I am so excited. We have been planning and preparing for this trip for more than a year, and it’s hard to believe it’s finally time to go!

This is my team! (all but one) I love them!

This is my team! (all but one) I love them!

I am basically all packed (a minor miracle!) except for two major details: what reading to bring, and what knitting to bring. I don’t expect to do my usual daily knitting (getting up early to spend a quiet hour with the needles and unwinding at night with a little TV and fiber). But I will have plenty of travel time for knitting. Several hours of flying and hanging out in airports tomorrow and on our return, as well as a good number of hours on buses and trucks once we’re there.

Here are the parameters:

  1. I want to bring only one project (or one type of project – i.e., not multiple needles sizes or multiple balls of yarn).
  2. It needs to be something I can knit without having much of a pattern in front of me (like, if I can write down the directions on an index card or in my notebook, that would be fine; even better is if I don’t need to refer to a pattern at all).
  3. It needs to be something that’s not too precious, in case I lose it or it gets dirty or otherwise ruined.
  4. It needs to be relatively small (i.e., packable and not too bulky).

So, if it were you, what would you bring? I know socks is probably a no-brainer, but I’m not feeling that. I’m sort of thinking shawl (unsurprising, I’m sure), but it would need to be something that would take minimal concentration (i.e., not much of a lace pattern). I’ve also thought maybe baby hats that I could leave in the country (if I do that, what’s your favorite simple, easy-to-memorize, baby hat pattern?).

Thoughts?

(And if anyone wants to suggest what kind of reading I might want to bring on the trip, that would be great, too! I’m leaving my iPad and Kindle at home, so it needs to be an actual book. I’m still working my way through A Dance with Dragons but thinking a 1000-page hardcover book isn’t ideal for my travels….)

How the week went (and a winner)

I had so many things big plans last week – things to finish knitting, things to start knitting, things to share with you – and then the week started off this way:

Portico, in progress

Portico, in progress

That, my friends, is me running out of yarn with about 6 inches of bind-off left on a shawl I had finally almost finished after letting hibernate for two years.

This was the Through the Loops Mystery Shawl of 2012, and I set it aside in July of that year when I got involved knitting other things (which were almost all Through the Loops designs, so I was monogamous, in a way). I wanted to knit this year’s Mystery Shawl, but decided to make myself finish that one first. It was going great!

love that blue

love that blue

This is such a great knit, and such a dreamy yarn (Jade Sapphire Silk/Cashmere 2-ply). LOVE it. When I picked the shawl up, I was, of course, surprised to see that there wasn’t really that much left to do. But as I knit, I realized one of the reasons I set it aside in the first place – I was almost certainly not going to have enough yarn. No idea why I ordered one skein of 400 yard yarn, when the pattern calls for 450 yards. And I can’t find more of this color (Curacao) anyway – I think I got it on closeout. At any rate, I stopped the final part of the pattern a few rows ahead of where it was supposed to end, even tinking back an entire row of lace to make sure I had enough yarn to finish up.

Last Sunday night, during Game of Thrones, I did the bind-off, until there was no more yarn.

20140616-141656.jpg

 

Right now, the idea of undoing the bind-off and ripping back a bit is more than I can stomach. I’m going to weave in what few ends there are (I think there are three) and see if I can splice together enough yarn from what’s left after that to complete the bind-off. Otherwise, I have no idea what I’ll do.

It was disappointing enough that I actually went two whole days before doing any more knitting, which is kind of unheard of for me. Well, it wasn’t only disappointment and discouragement, my week also became blindingly busy and there was just no time or energy for any knitting (and certainly not for any spinning).

The remedy, of course is a new project:

Through the Loops Mystery Shawl Knitalong 2014

Through the Loops Mystery Shawl Knitalong 2014

More about that later.

Ah! But the giveaway! Thank you all SO MUCH for your wonderful comments on my last post, and thank you for taking the time to pass on this important information to people. Between the comments on the post and the people who shared and let me know on Facebook, there were 67 entries into the giveaway (I made sure not to double count people who commented both on my blog and on Facebook). I plugged the number into the Random Number Generator and got:

Screenshot 2014-06-16 14.23.59

#17 – Susan Michaud, who wrote: “I pinned it to my Kids board on Pinterest. As a grandmother of 8, this is good to know!” Thanks, Susan! I’ll be in touch!

Thank you again, to all of you, for your kind comments – and for your warm wishes for my kiddos for their birthday!