This Must Be Thursday

On felting

Taking a vacation to warmer climes is an almost universal goal during winter.  Until you are on said vacation, and your body rebels.  20180326_074959.jpgHere we are in 85+ degree weather, and my brother caught something awful and has been making equally awful noises all vacation.  I have caught something similar, which I’m unfairly blaming on him, and making similar, yet distinctly different sounds.  Not only did we go from 45 ish degree weather to 85 ish degrees.  We went to about 200 feet in elevation to about 3000 feet.  To top all that off, it is *still* cane burning season where we are at, so ash is falling like rain.  OK, the ash isn’t *that* bad, but it’s not that good, either.  We also went to the coast, back to normal elevation, but still super hot.  All this means is that our bodies are shocked, and feeling abused.  I’m willing to take the trade off, though for the time and experience.

Last week, I talked about stretching our work (or ourselves, for those of you who like analogies).  I’d like to continue on that theme a bit by talking about shrinking.  Or, better said, felting!  Actually, fulling (yes, please, hear that in the most supercilious voice you can muster).  Felting and Fulling are both the same process.  Felting is with fiber, while fulling is with fabric.  It’s a small difference, but could be important…I’m sure…I just don’t know off the top of my head when.  I’m just going to call the process felting for ease of understanding, as the message is the same, regardless.

When one shocks fibers, they curl up into a fetal position, and grab on to all the friends they can.  This process is enhanced if you agitate and beat the fiber.  When done unintentionally, or without a plan, this creates a mess.  But, when done with intention, beautiful things result.  Even better (worse), they aren’t always predictable.  This, I believe, is the inspiration for all hazing-type organizations.

We have probably all had the experience of the sweater that shrunk in the wash, and been devastated.  The fibers have been subjected to hot temperatures with agitation, and shrunk up, they have also clumped together with the other fibers in the piece and joined together into something completely different from the original work. You, Dear Reader, are probably trying to figure out why on God’s green earth anyone would *want* to do that on purpose.  Especially with my less than elegant explanation of the process. It sounds violent, doesn’t it?

In the right hands, intentional felting can create beautiful art. In fact, needle felting has come back in the fiber world.  Go to any fiber show, and there will likely be a booth displaying this type of art.  In fact, a high school friend of mine needle felts zombies.  She also does more mainstream stuff. In case there was any doubt…mine are not the right hands.  I have every confidence that I would create an unholy mess.

Felted (fulled) fabric is thicker, which makes it more air and water tight than un-felted fabric.  20180328_155810.jpgIt does lose elasticity in this process; as well as stitch definition.  But, because of this, we can have felt hats (think Stetsons).  Once again, whether or not something is desirable depends on your purpose.  I know I drive people crazy when they ask me what the “best” yarn is.  I don’t know, what do you want to do with it?  So, a blanket which has felted may be something awesome–if you lived in the Arctic.  Or something  awful, if you lived here, in El Grullo.  That being said…the warmest blankets *EVER* come from here.  Ask Things 1 and 2, if you don’t believe me.

When Poopie forgets, and throws actual wool articles into the laundry, and they felt up, he no longer is able to use those items as he wanted.  But, they don’t have to be lost causes.  The hat that no longer fits him is now a smaller, warmer hat for someone else.  Even his socks that he somehow manages to felt (even though literally no one else in the world can get those brands of yarn to felt) get a second life.  If nothing else, I cut them up into squares to keep my needles on in my tool kits.

While there are patterns out there for fitted things which need to be felted in the process, I haven’t generally used them.  Felting is not a science, so much as an art.  While science is involved, there are so very many variables, that I don’t know that someone can actually, honestly make exactly what they set out to make. I know for sure I cannot.  So, I keep my felting for things where it doesn’t matter so much–like bags.

For those who don’t know, I love second hand shopping.  Even with my yarn.  Yes, you should take precautions for moths, but the trade off is usually worth it to me.  Anyhoo, many, many years ago, I purchased a particular bag of yarn.  In the bag were several partial skeins.  The problem with partial skeins is that they do not always come with ball bands, so you never know what they are actually made of.  I made a classic blunder.  No, not getting into a land war in Asia, but close.

There was a group of yarns that was just different colors of the same yarn…and one of the partial balls still had the ball band.  It looked like it should be a good felting yarn, so I went about making a simple bag.  I would do the body of the bag in the blue, which there was the most of, until it was done, and keep using the partials up in stripes.  I would make horizontal slits by casting on/off to make the handles.  Finally, I would felt up the whole thing to make a sturdy handbag.  The felting would have the added benefit of “hiding” the jogs in the colors

I brought my bag with me to my knitting group for however long the actual knitting took up.  Each time, DeAnna would sigh over it.  She all but pee’d on the thing to claim it.  I can’t say for certain she didn’t.  Once the knitting portion was done, I threw it in the wash.  I pulled it out, and saw what my carelessness had wrought.  The top part of the bag turned out exactly as I had hoped.  The bottom….not so much.  Apparently, while many of the colors were the same yarn, the blue was not.  I had not tested it to see if it was wool.  It felt and looked the same as the other yarns, but it was not.  Well, DeAnna wanted it so badly, she could have it.

DeAnna LOVES the bag in the featured image.  The felted portion is sturdy, and the unfelted portion grows, so she can carry a little, or a lot in the bag.  I’m not going to lie, when I pulled the bag out of the wash, I was super disappointed.  However, DeAnna was not. This bag is felted where it counts, and elastic where *that* counts.

There are pro’s and con’s to everything.  It’s what you do with the characteristics that matter.  There are also trade offs for everything. 20180325_151235.jpgThis ash that is aggravating my sinuses is the same ash that clears the fields for more cane which sweetens the coffee I’m drinking right now.  The elasticity of knitting gives way to the sturdiness of felting.  Try not to be too afraid of a little hot water and agitation.  While there’s security in knowing exactly what you’ve got, you may find there’s a different security in the hardiness of having made it through the hot water and agitation.  Like so many things in life, it’s about finding the right balance for you.  Maybe the balance is more felt, maybe it’s no felt, only you can decide.  I can’t say what the “best” balance is for you.  I don’t know…what do you want to do with it?

This Must Be Thursday

Madrona Day 1

Greetings from Madrona!

Often, when going on a trip, I prefer to take an ease in day and an ease out day from work. These days are my transition days, which are necessary for my health, which means it’s necessary for others around me.

Yesterday was my transition day…ish. It was also my travel day. Poopie didn’t bring me coffee yesterday like he usually does. He was letting me sleep in. This meant I didn’t make an appointment he was unaware of. The next opportunity was going to be mid-day, which meant that I would be cutting my pick up time kind of close. Not close enough to be terribly concerning, so I rolled with it. I packed up before the appointment rather than after.

Since I’m taking five classes, I had a few items I needed to bring for supplies and homework. While all that fit in my carry on size suitcase, I wouldn’t be able to bring clothing. I have no idea what the nudity laws are like in Washington, but regardless, I chose to be clothed for this event. Which meant I had to take the giant suitcase. I told Poopie that I would be made fun of, and that I was sure that L would have all her stuff in a backpack. I was right on both counts (though it was a small duffle rather than a backpack). While Barb made fun of me, she had NO room to talk.

Thankfully, for my schedule, our train was late, and Amtrak was kind enough to let us know before hand. Or, past me was smart enough to sign up for text alerts…Tomayto, Tomahto. We bundled ourselves onto the train and had an enjoyable trip up.20180214_174118.jpg I’m not sure our compartment-mates found us as entertaining as we found ourselves and each other, but no one shushed us, so I consider that a win. L is knitting the green, while I’m knitting the stuff that’s reading as pink.20180214_174126.jpg

Pam was to pick us up, and then we had the typical comedy of errors of there apparently being two train stations within blocks of each other. Of course, we couldn’t both end up at the same train station. I have no idea how we did these things before cell phones, because it took us a while to figure things out, and we were texting and calling like the crazy ladies we are. 20180215_200950.jpgEventually, we found each other, and our respective Airbnbs (we’ll assume that’s the proper plural). Penny Lane was as charming as I remembered. I got a new welcome sign on the door.  Pam is my “& guest”.

We bundled back into the car to go to the hotel to check in to the festival. This is a wonderfully well run event, so that took no time at all. That is, once Pam was able to find the Giant Blue Light on top of the hotel. Have you heard of too many cooks in the kitchen? There may have been too many navigators in that car. How Pam managed not to smack us, I don’t know.

Then off to find food. YAY! Except the place we went to closed just before we got there. So we decided to pack our toys and go home…to the Airbnb. See, mine and Pam’s is above a bar. Barb and L’s is literally around the corner above a Pho place. We went to the bar, since the Pho place closed as well. I knew from last year that I liked the bar. The kicker for me last year was when I ordered an amaretto sour. They asked me if I wanted a small, or large glass. I’ve never been asked that before. I know this will shock you, Dear Reader, but I chose a large glass. Out came a pint glass. I knew then I had found my people. This year, however, there was no amaretto. Sad face.

After a yummy dinner, we went back to our rooms. Pam and I stayed up way too late talking. This morning, while drinking coffee she so generously made for me, Pam told me of her battle with a spider in the middle of the night that I slept through. She had also managed to get at least half a day’s work done before I even thought of waking up.

Unfortunately, Barb woke up ill. We are hoping it’s a 24 hour thing, but even if it goes 48 hours, I don’t believe she had any classes set for tomorrow. The remaining three of us headed off to learn at the feet of the great Franklin Habit. But before we get to that, we see that I broke my bag.  More on that later. 20180215_155327.jpg

Regular classes with Franklin are always full of history. Imagine how a class called Antique Vintage Knitting Patterns went? It was fascinating, as expected. The handout was very useful, and will be useful back at home. Not only did we learn how to read vintage patterns, he gave us some basic skills and practicum at reverse engineering extant items. Then he had us work from a vintage pattern, in a mini mystery KAL.  L and I have dared each other to make his Lady’s Traveling Cap.  Look forward to duelling blogs!

This is L’s first festival, and this was her first class. When I first saw this class description, I immediately thought of her. She has assured me that Franklin, the class, and the event has lived up to my hype so far. Thank goodness! I fear over-hyping things.

While I am writing this, Pam is in her afternoon class. Neither L, nor I have a class this afternoon, so L got to experience her first marketplace. I just *had* to replace my dollar store bag.  The featured image was the replacement.  Always trade up, Dear Reader.

Confession time, I may be an enabler. L is still holding firm right now. But I’ve already moved her from “no way will I learn to spin” to “well, how do you…?” All it took was showing her The Homestead Hobbyist’s booth. With colorways such as “Toxic Waste” and “Crime Scene”, how can she continue to resist?

I love this stage of a crafter. This is the stage of possibility. The stage of transition. Where a person goes from “not” to “beginning”. It’s exciting! Making room for the new, seeing how the new can mesh with the existing. She’s waffling right now. And who knows which way she’ll go? Even if she chooses not to take up spinning, seeing just for a moment how spinners look at fiber I think will benefit her in how she approaches fiber projects in the future.

Well, this is all for now. I don’t have classes tomorrow, but there’s still tons to do. Even if it’s just sitting in the corner listening to the chatter of fellow crafters while I while away the day with whatever project I bring, it’s great being here.

This Must Be Thursday

Snowday

In telling you about the life of the hat, I briefly mentioned our snow day, which turned into weekend. This is a thing I had started when my nieces and nephews were young.  I don’t know why I decided to do it, but it was probably some hippy anti-consumerism idea I had.  Instead of buying them junk, I would get them a disposable camera each, and we would go to the mountains and sled on some random by-road.

A couple of things I really appreciated about this is that I got to spend time with all these people, and create memories… and we have a lot of those. It also made the whole Christmas timing thing a lot easier.  With how families have grown, there is often a lot of stress about getting to all the Christmas functions without hurting feelings.  Snow day has to be in winter because…snow.  But otherwise, it can be whenever (unlike Christmas).  We’ve added to it, of course. Mo started coming when he came back from the Marines.  When my mom and Jane moved to central Oregon, it became a time we could meet up.  When Poopie and I got together, he and Things 1 and 2 came as well.

As everyone gets older, traditions are more difficult to maintain. Since Things 1 and 2 are adults and, therefore, no longer required to join me, they opt out.  My nieces and nephews have jobs, and significant others, and lives of their own.  This year had started out much larger, but one by one, people bowed out.  So, this year’s snow day was just me, Poopie, Mo, and O.  I think the snow day tradition may be dead, but that is how life goes.  You need to let go of things that no longer work for you, and it may be that snow day doesn’t work for them anymore.

We had fun anyway, though, and extended snow day to a whole weekend with a cabin! We were able to get to the snow Saturday morning about the time we are usually leaving the valley. Had Mo and Poopie not decided to hike around the lake, we probably would have gone out again.  I took several projects to work on.  The knit hat being one.  We also played board games.  O introduced me to a new tablet game, which I’ve already finished (as well as the three sequels).

You would be so proud of me, Dear Reader, I took pictures….many of which, my camera ate…but I salvaged a few. I’m not going to re-post the hat, but below is the montage of crafting.  20180120_084945-1.jpgYou can see the several pairs of socks I had packed for keeping toasty.  Those socks were done on my CSM.  I’ll blog about the joys of CSM knitting at a later date.   There are also some gloves my dear friend Life After Work made for me last year (I don’t’ recall if it was birthday, or Christmas, she’ll remind me, I’m sure).20180120_163701.jpg

Here we have another project I am working on. I can’t show much yet, because it is a gift long in the making.  While I’m pretty certain the recipient doesn’t read this, I don’t wish to let the cat out of the bag. As you can see, I don’t limit myself to yarn work.  While it IS my main medium, it’s not my only medium.  I believe this project will be the first blog of what will become WIP Wednesday.  I’ll be adding more days to the blog.  More on that later.

Back to the hat and changes. You can’t tell on this hat, because of Fun Fur, but that cast on is called a tubular cast on.  When I first started knitting hats, I did the long tail cast on, because that was what I knew.  Then I learned the German twisted cast on, which gave much more stretch, so I used that.  I then learned how to do a twisted cast on in knit and purl, so I was able to maintain purls all the way down.  In fact, the hat Poopie is wearing in the featured photo has that cast on.  And now, I do the tubular cast on.  Which is my favorite so far, it has the same tension as the rest of the knitting, and is most like a cohesive fabric to me.  So, we change and grow in crafting as well as in life.

Speaking of growing, I’m working on expanding my empire! Buahahahahahaha   I think I mentioned initially I have no idea what I’m doing.  So, I’m following a writing mantra/belief/saying? One of those words is the right word.  As I understand it, the saying goes “better published than perfect”.  So, I started blogging without having all the support pieces necessarily in place.  I am taking you on my journey of discovery.  You can be total hipsters about this blog when I become disgustingly famous.  You can keep me humble by reminding me of all the missteps I’ve made.

To that end, I’m going to still only promise one post a week, but I will have different focuses (foci?) for different days. Thursday will be my gallimaufry day.  I’m working on a PodPledge Project Page.  (I think Chaz made that a tongue twister on purpose).  It is also up, but also in process.  I’ll be putting the knitted traveling hat up for sale on the merch page, and adding new stuff as I go along.  I’ve got a Facebook page as well that I have yet to do anything with.  I will also be taking a social media class at Madrona next month.  So, yeah, I am expanding, and working.  On top of normal every day crap.  I have no idea why I do this to myself.  Sooo many changes coming up.  This is exciting right?

This Must Be Thursday

I never could get the hang of Thursdays

I love alliteration.  Notice Monday Musings? My “plan” (stop laughing, Dear Reader, you probably don’t know me well enough yet to know what a joke that is) is to post once a week.  But, I must strike while the iron is hot!  And my iron is apparently hot. So…Thursday…what goes with Thursday? I was thinking Thoughtful Thursday (to go with “Musings”)…but, then I remembered my friend wrote a comic in high school called “Thoughtful Man”…I’m already copying one friend (lifeafterwork.site) by doing a blog, I’m not stealing another friend’s thing.  Before I go on, let me back up and repeat myself…

HE. WROTE. A. COMIC. IN. HIGH. SCHOOL.

Remember how I said I surround myself with creative people?  I wasn’t exaggerating.  Also, don’t play Pictionary with him.  A: his drawing skillz will make you want to smack him, and B: he gets unreasonably irate when you can guess cemetery from a nine year old’s scribbles, but his highly detailed masterpiece gets him a blank stare.

Thoughtful Thursday isn’t really working for me. Then, I thought maybe Thankful Thursday. Life has kicked me in the proverbial balls lately. Who am I kidding? that’s kind of how my life goes on the regular. But even so, there are lots of things I have to be grateful for, even if I can’t see them in the moment.

I probably won’t stick with Thankful Thursday,  but I will tell a story that fits into that theme. And likely any other theme I decide to go with for Thursday.

Last post, I shared how I learned to crochet. People who know me now may be surprised my crafting journey started with crochet.  I am, after all, more well known for my knitting.  So, this post, I’ll share the start of my knitting journey.

It starts with Concha. She tried not once, but twice, to teach me how to knit. It was awful. First, there was the language barrier. She barely spoke English, and my Spanish was….painful at best. Then, there was the fact that regardless of the love we had for each other, we do NOT work well together. I was also like 13, so…pure spite incarnate. I was probably 15 when we tried again. Communication was easier, and I had probably graduated from being Chaotic Evil to Lawful Evil…but teenagers really are the worst. I remember being so frustrated because the yarn kept slipping off.  I was also quite sure there was some trick she just wasn’t telling me.

For those keeping score…yes, we were still working with Red Heart. It was blue, and I believe it was going to be a sweater for Chiqui.

Fast forward to my early twenties. I’m working in a call center. A friend’s wife just started working there. Maria is Spanish, from Spain (how cool is that???). I was crocheting a green and pink Afghan which I remember clearly, but have forgotten who I gave it to… She was knitting, but I don’t remember what because I had only graduated to Chaotic Neutral at that point,  and was very centrally focused–on me. We were talking about our relative crafts, and I mentioned my previous attempts at learning (being taught) knitting.  It just wasn’t for me.

Oh no!  Maria was sure she could teach me.  We worked in a call center, so we had spare time between calls.  She started me off with a baby blanket.  So I got some needles and baby yarn…care to guess what brand????  This time I learned to knit.  Still in Spanish.  My first blanket had a ribbed edge, and eyelets on the diagonal.  Nope, still no pictures.  And I don’t remember who that went to.  While Concha was knitting Continental (throwing), Maria was knitting English (throwing).  I can do both now, but the throwing worked better for me to learn.

The above is not the original blanket.  My knitting journey has been a loooooooooooong one.  When you had to pay for film and processing, you didn’t take random pictures of random things.  At least I didn’t.  This is, however, the same brand and colorway of yarn.  So, it’s something, right?

Shortly after, my Aunt Beth was having a baby, and wanted a layette. I know how to knit, so she asked me to knit one.  I mean, by that time, I had knit like three or four baby blankets–I was practically an expert.  So, I went to the craft store, found a booklet, some more baby yarn, and set about starting to knit a baby sweater. !@#$%^&* (cue needle scratch on record)

Have you ever read a pattern???? They are full of nonsense!  I mean, what the heck is a knit stitch? and a purl stitch?  Remember how I said I learned to knit in Spanish? She never said “this is a knit stitch” she said “do this”. And even if she named the stitches, it’s not like that would have been the same in English as in Spanish.  She might as well have named them Laverne and Shirley.

Keep in mind, this was the late 90’s.  The internet was barely a thing.  I didn’t have access to it. And there certainly weren’t any YouTubes yet.  What I had available to learn by were weird drawings (not done by my above-mentioned friend) in the booklet.  So, there I sat, with the booklet in my lap, stabbing at yarn (swearing), and then going “wait! I know how to do this!” and then doing it again with the next stitch.  Finally, I made my first thing. As far as I know, that sweater was never worn.  But, my aunt was thrilled with it.  I never let her see what the thing was supposed to look like.  That’s a secret to my success.  Liberal use of design features.  Some may say “never let them see you sweat”.  I don’t. I want them to know I worked hard!  I say “never let them see the pattern”.  That way, they’ll have no choice to believe that the left sleeve was intended to be longer than the right sleeve.  It’s a design feature!

So, I’m thankful Concha tried to teach me to knit (twice).  And I shared with her before she died that I still knit, and am grateful for all that she did.

I’m thankful that Maria didn’t believe me when I told her it wasn’t my thing.  I have since shared with Maria how much that has meant to me as well as let her know that her knitting has been passed on to multiple people.  I use her “technique”, but in English, to teach.  I’ll tell you about my first pupil at a later date.

I am also thankful that my Aunt Beth didn’t have any doubt I could do the impossible. She usually doesn’t, even now.

I’m sure there is a lesson here, probably something about perseverance.  There might also be something in there about striving for more than you think you can achieve.  What do I know, I’ve only gotten to be as good as Lawful Neutral, and that only on good days, I’m probably still mostly Chaotic Neutral.

Interestingly enough, I am wearing that shirt as we speak…and I didn’t plan it.