Around, all the time

Golding Drop Spindle with Frabjous Fibers "Iris" BFL
Golding Drop Spindle with Frabjous Fibers “Iris” BFL

Spinning with a drop spindle has been a long-time goal, but the process eluded me for a while. Every time I picked up and tried to use drop spindle on my own, I was a little bit perplexed. It turns out that when I was thinking I was spinning in one direction, I’d inadvertently spin the opposite way, taking out all the twist. The actual spinning part was okay — but like a lot of things in my life lately, it took somebody watching me to tell me what I was doing wrong. And it was so simple — I was making yarn and then un-making it, and being consistently inconsistent.

The Craftsy course I took a few months ago helped me get started and it will be a great reference when I’m ready to figure out how to “finish” my yarn.

I like it though — and have the potential to LOVE it. It’s a different way to engage with fiber and drop spindles are portable. The fiber I used is Frabjous Fibers hand-dyed Blue Faced Leicester (BFL) and the spindle is a basic solid cherry Golding. The park and draft method is working the best for me right now. And the best advice I got was to NOT use merino roving as a beginner. Using the BFL made all the difference for me.

And most importantly — if you have the tools and some fiber — just try it!

Fretful : A Sock Story

Knitting, as a hobby rather than livelihood, makes no demands. Yarn doesn’t jockey for position or ask to be used, even though guilt (and shame?) sometimes suggests otherwise. It is just . . . there. When I started knitting it was to make something special for somebody, but it was also to engage in something with my hands in order to keep my attention on positive things. Stated in another way, I knit to stay out of trouble. And after almost ten years, I return to knitting over and over again for those same reasons.

Last week, I was feeling fretful and without much forethought, I began rummaging in my sock yarn bin. I have plenty of projects on the needles, but nothing I wanted to knit while I was fretful — gifts for others and baby blankets require (I think) a more positive mindset. I only wear socks a handful of times in any given year since it doesn’t get very cold here, so I don’t feel an urgency to knit them in order to keep my feet warm. I just knit socks because I love it.

And starting a sock turned out to be the right choice.

I’d made a deliberate decision to use the needles my daughter gifted me several years ago:

Sox Stix & Jansdotter Journal

The ebony 2.25 mm DPNs are probably my top choice for knitting socks — not too pointy, just the right length. But I avoid them because I’m afraid to break them (I’ve snapped expensive Lantern Moon DPNs before). I definitely wanted to knit with wood though, so I risked it. My intention was to pick up and knit the sock every time I felt anxious or worried. But I hardly put it down in the three days it took to finish it — I thought it would be on the needles for weeks (the second sock might).

A recent accomplishment . . .

The yarn is Phydeaux Designs fingering weight Soie – a silk and merino blend – in “Sugared Plum.” I took this photo indoors at sunset and you can really see the shiny silk:

Latest project . . . closer

Brenda’s yarns are beautiful. I also have the same yarn in the “Sansa” colorway.

I didn’t decide on a pattern until I knit two inches of plain K2, P2 ribbing. I’d used the cable twist in another project and thought the twisted bundles would be what I would focus on while I was knitting — as a mindfulness exercise. Following this urge even while I had many other projects on the needles was exactly what I needed — not just for relieving some of my worries, but also for daydreaming and planning — something that anxious feelings often keep me from doing.

One thing I decided NOT to fret about so much is how much yarn I have. I’ll release some of it and enjoy the rest and remember that there are worse things I could be doing to excess.

UPDATE: I’ve published the pattern and it’s available for purchase and download on Ravelry. Until March 23, 2013 the end of the day on March 19, 2013, the pattern is FREE.

Adiri Slouch Hat

Adiri Slouchy Hat
Adiri Slouchy Hat – Mind of Winter Designs
My project notes on Ravelry

The Adiri hat has been my post-season football-viewing companion and a great use of a basic stash yarn. I’m always excited when I come across a pattern that uses one skein of a basic worsted weight yarn (Cascade 220), because guess what I have a lot of in my stash?

Julia Trice, the designer behind all the Adiri design iterations, has been releasing these little treats (cowl and hat patterns) using the same stitch pattern featured in one of her sweater designs. I think it’s brilliant (Bonne Marie of Chic Knits occasionally does that too — Mondo Cable comes to mind) along with being an effective way to knit a useful, wearable “swatch” to see how yarn and pattern combinations behave.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a hat to finish and football news to catch up on.

2013 – Reach

Put your heart on the page

Reach

Along with my 2013 “theme” word, I’m sharing a quote from what has become an early favorite among my newest writing books, What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers, by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter. I had checked out the library book first in order to determine if I wanted to purchase it. It was highly recommended by my writing professor and at first read, I was slightly cynical, but it’s become my favorite.

This page was one that somebody dog-eared. It’s fascinating to me what readers choose to mark in a book and this one spoke right to me. When I got my own copy, I dog-eared it too. (Do you write in and mark up your books? I do!)

Putting my own heart on the page doesn’t necessarily mean that I do it in a way that invites public consumption. I think it’s a way of dealing with strong emotion by writing through it — pre-writing perhaps.

And this is where my theme word comes in. I’m facing a number of “heart” issues right now and to say it’s rendered me ineffective as a writer (blog, writing journal, short stories) is an understatement. So, I’m acknowledging it, writing through it and reaching. I have a feeling my theme for 2013 is going to manifest itself in many ways. It already has.

Next up: actual knitting content

Looking forward by looking back

Old writing . . . really old!

With the holidays and final exams behind me, I’m allowing myself to fully enjoy this lull and to celebrate all the good things that happened in 2012. And among those many good things: finding my fiction-writing “voice” again. I’ve always loved reading novels and short stories, but for me, publication and payment came from nonfiction writing assignments — so I’d read the one and write the other. And until I had this opportunity to take a speculative fiction class, I didn’t take fiction-writing urges too seriously.

I think I figured out why.

Fear.
Fear of doing something that might be emotionally revealing.
Fear that it would expose a part of me that would want more than it could have (instead I found abundance).
Fear that my writing would be dark (it sometimes is).
Fear.

But I wrote through all those fears for a rather shallow reason — my grades! I didn’t want to do badly in the class. I should stress that writing ability was not the criteria for our grade — doing the assigned work, turning it in on time, and participating in the class workshops were what formed the basis for our grades. Halfway through the semester I figured out why I disliked the writing exercises so much: they felt dangerous. And I rather liked the safety of my emotional boundaries. But I’d begin each one by telling myself to just work through each step:

Consider it, think about it.
Engage in it (always pen and paper to start – I can’t compose fiction at the computer).
Begin to write freely, without judgment, or editing.

The process would repeat itself twice a week. I never really learned to look forward to it, but I was always rewarded with something unexpected. And now I have a three-ring binder full of the unexpected.

So for 2013, I’ll have a “theme” — if you’ve been reading me a while, you know I don’t do resolutions. The theme is germinating — I just need to find the one word that encapsulates what I want out of 2013.

RBL : Aqua Lily

Before we dive in to my nail polish post, I have to warn you that Rescue Beauty Lounge Aqua Lily is sold out! Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way:

RBL: Aqua Lily

RBL: Aqua Lily

When I first starting painting my nails again, I was focused on finding the perfect red, the perfect nude, and later, the perfect green. Blues and purples never really entered my consciousness until very recently. But lately, blue polishes are all I think about! And this one is a winner. Aqua Lily is a wonderful, imaginative blue (think turquoise, marine blue) and looks great with nearly everything.

Aqua Lily is originally from Rescue Beauty Lounge’s inaugural Fan Collection. Aqua Lily debuted as part of a set of four polishes created in response to Ji’s 2011 call for submissions from her ReBeL fans. The four “winners” were then created based on the winning color stories of the finalists and they debuted in the first quarter of 2012. I wasn’t keeping up with the excitement back then (probably struggling to stay afloat in my Biology class), so I missed out on Aqua Lily before it sold out (quickly). Apparently, it was an oft-requested “bring it back” (BIB) color — it made the most recent BIB cut and as always, newsletter subscribers got in on the fun first and were given the opportunity to pre-order their favorite BIB shades. Score!

Confession: before I resurrected my love of nail color, I coveted a trip (someday) to Ji Baek’s posh Manhattan nail ‘spa’, Rescue. For years, I carried around a late 1990s or early 2000s Allure magazine clipping with a list a “must-go” spas in NYC. It was on my bucket list! Although Ji closed Rescue, it allowed her to shift her focus exclusively to her nail polish line.

I don’t jump on many bandwagons, but I’m a really big fan of RBL for Ji’s commitment to her formula — her nail polishes are cruelty-free, and contain no formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, DBP, or Toluene. But the thing I love most is that her collection of shades is so small. It seems counterintuitive at first, but I love her color stories and the fact that so much thought and love goes into each color. I’m okay with small color runs and limited edition shades (as long as I’m a newsletter subscriber, I’ll know about the shortages and popularity of a color and can decide what to do)! I’ll probably only order one RBL a year, but it’ll be because I love it.

I’ll close with saying that I hate to feature a nail color that you might not be able to get your hands (ha) on, but the next Fan Collection is right around the corner (early 2013) and you will want to get in on it early!

Adiri Cowl

Mind of Winter Designs - Adiri Cowl
Adiri in Cascade Venezia

For the past several years, my fellow co-workers and I have each created handmade ornaments for the annual holiday gift exchange. This year, the focus was slightly different — we drew names for our secret “cowl pals” and each of us worked on a cowl based on the intended recipient’s favorite colors, stitch patterns, and/or techniques. When Julia at Mind of Winter Designs posted a new pattern set (pullover and cowl), I thought the design was perfect for Debbie G. — she loves cables and Adiri has an understated feminine design — the cables aren’t bulky. I had several great colors of Cascade Venezia to choose from but ultimately took the advice of a friend who chose the deep purple.

I reacquainted myself with knitting with Denise Needles and I was thrilled with how the yarn and needle combo worked well together. The Venezia would have been a bit too slippery for my Addi Clicks and a little too draggy for my Clover bamboo circulars.

While I have admired Julia’s designs for years, this might be the first time I’ve knit one — but it won’t be my last because I’m eyeing the Adiri pullover for myself (and definitely the slouchy Adiri hat)

Mind of Winter Designs - Adiri Cowl
Adiri Cowl – Stitch Pattern

Persistence

Fortune

It’s only two classes, but they’re wedged in with everything else and TWO CLASSES seems to be the limit, the maximum, that can be wedged into my current existence. The things in the margins: housekeeping, cooking, fiber pursuits. (I keep up with the laundry, because it’s one of two chores I actually enjoy, and everybody needs clean towels and underwear). Although my blog is suffering from neglect because of all the writing I do for my creative writing class, I’ve been writing more than I have in years. And Texas History? An absolute gift. Although much of what I thought I knew about the Old West is now revealed to be a collection of myths, the upside is that with the true and sometimes ugly backstory, I now have rich context for re-reading one of my favorite novels — Lonesome Dove.

I saved the best for last.

Background: I have a very short list of classes I have to take in order to earn my Associate of Arts degree. While I could have transferred to a university as a junior (with my existing credits), there are two reasons I want my AA first: (1) as a milestone marker and (2) the ease of transferring to a university (over transferring with credits from two different colleges in Oklahoma). So with this short list, it seemed a little bit limiting until I allowed myself the luxury of digging a little deeper into matching the requirements with things in which I have an interest. When I learned that a Creative Writing class would fulfill the remaining Humanities credit I needed, I was all over it! Not only that, as some of you might remember, it’s part of a “themed” block of Futuristic classes — my professor was offering this class as a Speculative Fiction and Screenwriting class. And while writing within the theme was optional, I loved that some of the material and supplemental reading was specific to science fiction and fantasy.

I’ll skip to the good part now – screenwriting. Screenwriting really FITS with my writing style and it helps me focus on the parts of my writing I’d like to improve. There is enough structure to screenplay writing, along with formatting and style conventions, that it helps me to construct a story. Every encounter with it (I’m writing one now for an assignment) is rewarding — not easy, mind you, but rewarding. I don’t often feel that way when I’ve invested time in writing – but with screenwriting I do.

Now Write! Screenwriting

With this class, I now not only have more writing under my belt, but more FINISHED writing — a few short stories and nearly 20% of a screenplay. I also have a lot more ideas and inspiration. There are so many great resources, but here are some books we’ve used in class for our in-class writing exercises:

The Lie that Tells a Truth, by John Dufresne

Now Write! Fiction Writing Exercises from Today’s Best Writers and Teachers, by Sherry Ellis

Now Write! Screenwriting: Screenwriting Exercises from Today’s Best Writers and Teachers, by Sherry Ellis

What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers, by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter

Next time I hope to have a finished knitting project to share. I might even actually model it myself.

Quick Crochet : Bark Sedge Washcloth

I can still crochet! (I was a little bit worried I’d forgotten how).

Lion Brand Pattern : Bark Sedge Washcloth
Bark Sedge Washcloth
Free Lion Brand pattern

Ravelry Details: [ Bark Sedge Washcloth ]

I finally figured out a good project to work on during study breaks; I read and outline for 40-45 minutes and then crochet or knit for the remainder of the hour (rinse and repeat). Washcloths are perfect — and in this case, I got to practice my crochet skills.

It’s a pattern I’ve used before, but unfortunately, I misread the title of the pattern and incorrectly titled my blog post back then (July 2010). And, as I mentioned in my old blog post, there’s a Lion Brand app — and if you use the app, you won’t have to log in each time you search for a pattern or inspiration. You can also use the mobile site if you don’t have an iPhone or iPad.

When I mentioned the Wooly App, I’d forgotten about one of their recent updates — the ability to add photos to your projects and stash. As with similar apps, you can choose to take a photo or add an existing one from your phone’s gallery (I’ve done both successfully). Prior to that enhancement, I was using the Yarma app and it works the same way, though not as seamlessly. My point is — there are fewer barriers now to sharing photos of projects on Ravelry if you have a smartphone and one or both of these apps! I’ll admit to preferring photos shot with a camera (rather than my phone) because it’s ideal for getting photos with lots of detail, but any photo is usually preferable to none.

If you’ve tried one (or both) of these or have any ideas of your own, I’d love to hear them.

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