A Few Things for Friday

1 – I made some yarn.

Hello Yarn Extra Fine Merino, “Damp Earth”

I like it! It’s not for me, though. It’s Jessica’s prize from the giveaway I held in … July. (Sorry for my delay, Jessica!)


She said she likes earthy, autumnal colors and I think this “Damp Earth,” with its ochre, tan, chocolate, vanilla, and bits of mossy green, fits the bill. It’s 180 yards of aran weight fluff that feels like kittens.

2 – I changed course on the hat I was making.

It wasn’t quite turning out the way I wanted, so I frogged and started over from the top (literally), revisiting one of my all-time favorite patterns (details when I’m done).

3 – I picked out my next spin:

Hello Yarn Falkland, “Mignardises”

I’m pretty excited about it.

How about you? What’s on your finery docket this Friday?

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Loop through Loop upon Loops :: Learning a Little About Grief from My Knitting

Thank you so much for your very kind, very tender words on my last post. Losing my mom (and so unexpectedly) has been the most painful, most disorienting experience I’ve ever gone through, but the kind words and support of friends, acquaintances, and even strangers has truly made a difference for me. Some of you shared in the comments on my last post your own experiences with grief or depression, and I feel very honored that you would do that. It makes me feel less alone.

One of the weird things for me has been that, professionally, I deal with grief quite a lot. From a professional/academic standpoint, I feel like I know a fair amount about what’s “normal” and what’s “expected.” But none of my knowledge or experience makes any difference for my own grief. No matter how “normal” this is – how I feel does not feel normal. No matter how much I expect grief not to move in linear stages, it is still always a surprise to me to find myself back in the middle of feeling shocked. I can go for two or three days of feeling like the absence of my mom is the new reality, and I’m adjusting to it; and then, I’ll suddenly have a day where it will feel like a total surprise (of the worst kind), and something that cannot possibly be real. Knowing this is how grief works hasn’t made it any more comprehensible, or reasonable, or manageable.

I realized several days ago that the addiction recovery movement has something to teach me about grief recovery: one day at a time. You know this. I thought I knew this. But I’m knowing it in a new way now. When I think too far ahead – how can we celebrate Christmas without my mom? – I’m sunk. But if I can just think – today, I’m not going to have a chance to talk to my mom, and that can be okay, because there have been plenty of days like that in my life, and those days were okay – if I can just think like that, and approach each day as a single day, and just get through that one day without her, then I do all right, and I think that maybe I can keep being all right.

In other words: grief has a lot in common with knitting.

As you and I both know, the only way to knit a sweater is one stitch at a time. Not even a single round or row at a time – a single, tiny stitch. If you just keep doing that, you will have a sweater in your hands eventually. It may take longer than you’d hoped, it may involve ripping back and redoing some portions, it may involve tears, anger, frustration, and discouragement, you may have to set it totally aside from time-to-time. But in the end, the only way to move forward is to knit the next stitch.

Of course this analogy is imperfect because I don’t expect I’ll ever be “done” with my grief the way I expect to eventually be done with a knitting project. Still, for now, it’s helpful to keep in mind that all I have to do is the next tiny thing.

For me lately, that has finally meant picking the knitting needles back up. It’s not with the same zest and energy I typically have, and it hasn’t been every day. But I am making the time to make some stitches, and it feels good.

handspun Laurie pullover

handspun Laurie pullover

Wooly stitches offer a kind of familiar solace that I’m cherishing now (handspan wooly stitches even more so!). This is supposed to be my Rhinebeck sweater, and with a cuff and a sleeve left, I’m still not sure I’ll get it finished in time. I have ten days to get ‘er done, so we’ll see.

I’m also, at last, back at the wheel e-spinner, and that, too, feels so good. If the grief process is like a spiral, then I suppose it has something in common not only with knitting but also with spinning.

Over the last few days, I took this:

Southern Cross Fibre Organic Merino,

Southern Cross Fibre Organic Merino, “Laurel Crown”

And did this:

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and this:

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And I ended up with this:

230 yds light worsted 2-ply

230 yds light worsted 2-ply

And I love it very much.

Squoosh!

Squoosh!

And I guess this is one more thing I’m trying to learn from my knitting and spinning. If I just keep going – stitch-by-stitch, loop-by-loop, turn-by-turn – eventually, something beautiful might be created. I do believe this – I do believe that out of great sorrow, something new and beautiful and good can come. Pain can be a good teacher, if we let it be, and loss can shape us in ways that make us stronger and truer than we were before. I have seen the tiniest flashes of how this might become true for me – ways my mother’s legacy suddenly burns brighter in my life – and I trust that a new strength will grow and deepen in me if I can open my heart to my own grief.

In the meantime, I knit on.

All the Spinning, All the Enthusiasm

Thank you, thank you, for your kind comments and your willingness to spread the word about how to prevent sand hole collapses. I’ll leave the comments on that post open until next Wednesday and then will use the Random Number Generator to see who will receive the handspun yarn (or something knit from it).

Now that I’ve started blogging again, I might as well continue, right? And while I do have some knitting to show you, I thought I’d instead show you what I’ve been obsessed with lately.

HansenCraft miniSpinner

HansenCraft miniSpinner

I got this beauty for my birthday last month. It’s a HansenCraft miniSpinner, in cherry wood, with a Woolee Winder. Oh mercy, y’all, I love this thing. I’d been kind of wanting one for awhile, and after doing some investigating and talking with some spinners who have them, I decided it would be the perfect addition to my spinning tool collection. I just didn’t realize how perfect.

For those of you who aren’t familiar, the miniSpinner is an electric spinner – meaning it requires no foot power (treadling), leaving you free to focus entirely on drafting. It’s powered with a foot pedal and is plugged in to an outlet or car charger (it can also be plugged into a battery pack, which is my next hoped-for acquisition). The portability is unparalleled. In years past, I have frequently loaded one of my spinning wheels into our car for long trips. But this time, I was actually able to spin while en route!

spinning in the car

spinning in the car

I love treadling, so I wasn’t sure if I would really love spinning without treadling, but I do. It’s fantastic to be able to focus more completely on the drafting, and I feel like my spinning has already improved as a result. And my production has increased exponentially.

In the last month since I got the miniSpinner, I’ve spun the following:

Southern Cross Fibre,

Southern Cross Fibre, “Breeze” on Finn

Spunky Eclectic Wensleydale,

Spunky Eclectic  “Octarine” on Wensleydale

Southern Cross Fibre

Southern Cross Fibre “Nobby” South African Superfine

Hello Yarn

Hello Yarn “Gobbler” on Cheviot, skein 1

Hello Yarn

Hello Yarn “Gobbler” on Cheviot

I’m working on a sweater spin of the Hello Yarn “Gobbler” for this year’s Tour de Fleece. I think it will make a perfect fall sweater! And in the first six days of the tour I’ve already finished two skeins and gotten nearly halfway done with the third.

Hello Yarn

Hello Yarn “Gobbler” on Cheviot

Like I said, the increase in my productivity with this thing is pretty amazing. In all of last year, I spun up 40 oz. of yarn. In the month since I got my miniSpinner, I’ve already spun up 20 oz (and more than 1/3 of that month included zero spinning because of more intensive traveling) . I know I won’t keep that pace year-round, but it’s exciting nonetheless.

Now if only I could figure out a way to make my knitting needles move as fast as my new spinner, I’d be set!

Hey, I made more yarn

No matter how much I do it, it always feels magical to me. Fiber+twist=yarn. It’s a straightforward equation with a thousand variations yielding endless fascination, satisfaction, and delight. Not a bad way to start a day. Or end one, for that matter.

I’ve still been spinning like crazy, but my production has slowed down because I went from doing some fat, fast, bulky yarns to spinning thin. So I’ve had a single fiber on the wheel for the past three weeks or so. But that’s okay, because the fiber was a dream.

Hello Yarn Polwarth/Silk in "Slumber," September 2014 Fiber Club

Hello Yarn Polwarth/Silk in “Slumber,” September 2014 Fiber Club

Soft and silky, with deep luscious colors, this has been nothing but happiness to spin.

halfway-ish done

halfway-ish done

I continue to spin on my Ladybug for maximum joy and ease. I spun this in scotch tension (my standard) using the fast whorl at a 10.5:1 ratio. I was trying to do a pretty explicit contrast to the bulky yarns I made earlier this fall. And I think I managed to do that:

"Slumber" on Polwarth/Silk

“Slumber” on Polwarth/Silk

I ended up with 768 yards (out of 4 ounces), light fingering towards laceweight. YES! Sadly, the pictures don’t remotely do the glowing colors of this yarn justice. I am dealing with technical difficulties on every device I use, so I haven’t managed actual camera shots of this yarn yet. These iPhone pictures are a poor representation, but they do give an idea.

silky and soft

silky and soft

Sometimes I spin a yarn with a particular project in mind. Other times, I spin more on impulse, and let the yarn tell me later what it wants to be. This spin was the latter. I spun it as thin singles because that’s what felt right for this fiber – I just kept imagining it that way. Only when I pulled it off the wheel did I realize what I wanted to make with it.

slinky

slinky

I’m very excited about knitting with this yarn, which is kind of a bummer, since I’m basically never going to be finished with the sweater I have on the needles. But I guess that’s okay, because the cats seem to have claimed this yarn as their own.

the guarding of the wool

the guarding of the wool

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!

 

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.

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It was a joy to spin.

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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:

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

A thing I do a little of every now and then

Several days ago, I showed you a work-in-progress, a handspun mitered cross square.

I always forget how utterly gratifying it is to make one of these squares. The handspun is some of my favorite I’ve made – Hello Yarn “Parritch” for the background and my first-ever combo spin, Hello Yarn “Pallid” plus FLUFF “Ripe Eggplant.” I have a deep, deep fondness for these handspun yarns – I was still a relatively new spinner when I made them, and for some reason that makes them all the more precious to me.

I started this project in the spring of 2011, but I’ve been in no great hurry to finish it. I realized recently that this may be because once I’m done, I won’t get to work with this sweet yarn again. By taking long breaks between each square, I can savor this project.

Handspun Mitered Cross Blanket-in-Progress

Handspun Mitered Cross Blanket-in-Progress

This is not the layout of the blanket, but it makes me happy just to put them on the floor in any random order and stare at them.

Only three more mitered cross squares to go, and then some half blocks of just the background, plus the i-cord border. But I’m in no hurry.

Some spinning > no spinning

My spinning goal for the year has been 14 pounds. So far this year, I have spun … 12 ounces. Oh well, some spinning is better than no spinning, right?

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This is 4 ounces Hello Yarn Limited Edition American Wool Blend in “Ships and Whales and Icebergs,” (March 2013 Fiber Club) spun as a standard 2-ply, yielding 385 yards DKish- weight.

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I split the fiber once vertically down the middle, spun the first half straight as it came onto one bobbin, and then tore the second half into smaller chunks horizontally (four of them, I think), and spun from different ends of those smaller chunks all onto a second bobbin, then plied the two bobbins together. The effect was some barber-poling and some color-matching.

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Love that shot of blue!

I have no particular intentions for this yarn. I just wanted to spin it up. So I did.

Plotting for a handspun handknit shawl

I say “plotting” but I really mean “obsessing.”

I am finishing up my current spin (I’m about halfway done with the plying, which I think I’ll finish tonight), but after that, this is going on the wheel:

FLUFF

FLUFF

That is 4 ounces of Merino/Silk in the colorway “Lost,” from FLUFF (which, sadly, no longer exists – but, happily for me, I still have quite a bit in my stash). I have hung onto this fiber for almost four years now, not sure exactly what it would grow up to be. Sometimes I spin fiber just because I love it, and I decide later how I will use it. Other times, I wait until I have a sense of what I want to knit the fiber into, so that I know how I want to spin it. That is the case with this.

Earlier this week, Kirsten Kapur released a new shawl design, Saranac. I am totally obsessed with this pattern, y’all! Crescent-shaped is currently my favorite shawl shape, and the design of this one is so fun. I love the border and the inventive way it’s designed. I immediately imagined knitting it in some sort of blue or blue-green handspun, something with silk in it, to wear on vacation this summer. I went stash-diving and was thrilled to find this fiber.

yum

yum

I think it’s going to be perfect! The pattern calls for 550yds of fingering weight, which will be a challenge for me to get out of 4 ounces. I could do it if I just spin the fiber as singles, but I was really wanting to do this spin as a 2-ply. We’ll see how it goes.

Would anyone be interested in spinning along with me for this project? I’ve started a thread on Ravelry in the Through the Loops group, for anyone who might want to spin for this. I’m super-excited about both the spin and the knit.

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Of course I can’t cast on for anything until I finish Little Buddha’s sweater. He is policing my every crafting effort at this point, so I’m sure I’ll finish soon, right?