More importantly, Good Bye to the dumpster fire that was 2020. But, then again, was it really? I mean, yeah, we all had plans. And those plans were incinerated. But, doesn’t that happen every year? No? Just me?
As an example….I had planned to complete Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Knitters Almanac. By the end of January, I knew that was a terrible plan. In January, before COVID and everything that came with, my plans were already destroyed. So, yeah, I can blame COVID, but really, it’s just life. Or, at least my life. But, see, I’m prepared for that. Since that is what I am used to, and what I prepare for, I’m OK.
I heard an interview with a couples counselor this last summer where she noticed that the person in the relationship who had been agreed to have the “problems” in the before times was now handling things well, but the person in the relationship who was “fine” in the before times is having problems coping. All I could think when listening to this interview was “Who’s coping mechanisms are unhealthy now, hunh?”
If any of you have loved ones in your life who deal with depression and/or anxiety, look back on this last year for yourself. How you have been feeling? Overwhelmed? Exhausted? Sick dread always? That weird feeling in your chest? That’s almost every single day of their lives. We are 9 months into this, and lots of people have gone beyond cracking. Imagine year in and year out. *That’s* a small sample of what they…we…deal with. This year has been what we’ve been constantly preparing for.
So, while all y ‘all were scrambling around trying to find fabric and elastic for masks at the beginning of all this, me and my fabric hoard stash were merrily sewing away. While everyone was panic buying supplies, I went through my house and gathered what I could, and we put the supplies on the shopping list so we could grab some of what was available every time we shopped. We didn’t empty shelves. There wasn’t a reason for that. But, by stocking up a bit, when the wildfires came through town, we were able to share what we had. The only down side to this is that Poopie has seen this as a sign that his choice all those years ago to put tissue packs in the piñata was a good one. He is still wrong about that. But, I will take that, since it means my “crazy” ideas of having buckets of staple supplies in the garage have been proven useful. Don’t get me wrong, I would have preferred not to have all the loss we’ve had this last year, but there is that tiniest (OK, not so tiny) part of me that is saying “See!?! Not crazy, visionary!”
Sorry if some of this is repeat, but it’s been a while since I’ve written, and I assume it’s been a while since you’ve read. I’m going to try to work myself into getting back to blogging. I imagine I’ll let you know what I’ve been up to over this time period while I’ve been away. While not necessarily exciting, you know me, I’m always busy.
Also, please note, they’ve changed the formatting for me. I can go back to the classic, but let’s see what this does for now.
Blerg! The bulk of this was written Monday/Tuesday. I’m still processing Wednesday…so, I won’t be talking about that here/now. I’ll be knitting/weaving/sewing, whatever….
Whatever your feelings on the matter, the economy is trying to reopen, and legal restrictions are loosening. This means my halcyonic quarantine is coming to an end. My volunteer gigs are starting to reopen. Which has meant I’m starting to have to have a schedule outside of work that does not include just going out and digging in my yard.
Wednesday, I had 2 work meetings. I only remembered one, and then I had to take a late lunch because of meeting 1. By some weird quirk of fate, I clocked back in just minutes before my second meeting (which was the one I forgot). Thank goodness for that, since it was a skip level meeting with my boss’ boss’ boss’ boss (yeah, 4 levels up). Thursday’s after work meeting went off without a hitch. Thankfully, no meetings for me to screw up Friday. However, Saturday, as I was going through my emails, I found not one, but two emails from someone trying to interview me about some board work. We’ll see if my response is too late. I haven’t missed feeling like a failure.
And no, putting these things on my phone calendar hasn’t been working, I’ve gotten out of the habit of having my phone with me all the time. Clearly, emails are not currently effective. I’m just going to have to go back to being used to being tethered to my phone and being pulled in a lot of directions. I foresee knitting making a comeback for me. It is a wonderful stress relief.
As I’m personally struggling with this dumbness, the world at large continues to struggle with larger issues, and I find myself expending more mental and emotional resources outside of my home. Gardening, as well as knitting helps with that. While I pull weeds, or move tons (probably not literally) of rock, woodchip, and dirt, I listen to podcasts and alternately learn and think Great Thoughts. As I have to start engaging more outside my home, that time will go away, and I will miss it. But enjoy photos of what I’ve done (mostly) by my lonesome. However, I still have my fiber arts, and they are often portable
One thing I’ve realized during my down time, and solidified in my conversation with Garland, is that knitting gives me the space to respond, rather than react. This was a concept I learned from my first Molly (yoga teacher). Yoga/meditation helps you build your proverbial moat so you have time to respond to stimulus, rather than react. Knitting does that for me. When smoking was a thing, cigarettes did that for the world at large. Think about the old movies/shows. Some groundbreaking thing was said or done, and the person took a drag off the cigarette, buying a few moments, before they responded. We don’t have that anymore. I think a lot of people don’t want that anyway–we are so in need of immediacy. Knitting gives me that, though. I can finish up this row before I respond. Or, I can be so involved I completely missed whatever asinine thing came out of your face.
I haven’t needed that for these last few months.
Please be patient with me as I re-acclimate to “reality”. And thank you, Dear Readers, for your words of encouragement. They really do mean a lot.
Have you ever lost touch with someone and not known how to reconnect? It happens to the best of us. And trust me, I’m not even in the top 50%. Last year sometime, I stopped blogging. I had reasons (excuses). Mostly surrounding time at the beginning. Trying to figure out a time when I could sit down and write. Prior, it had been really easy to just blog while Poopie was at practice, but his practices became more sporadic, and I wasn’t stringent on making sure I took time out myself. Later there was motivation, some stemming from health issues, and serious depression because of those issues, some just lack of practice. While not all resolved satisfactorily, the depression isn’t debilitating anymore since I’ve had time to process and come to terms with things. I have been my usual self of not saying no nearly enough. Plus, there were a whole slew of other aggravating things no one wants to deal with. Frankly, I just didn’t have the emotional bandwidth to try to be upbeat here as well as in real life.
To prove how contrary I am, the pandemic, which is throwing everyone else into a tailspin, has been like a breath of fresh air for me. Many who know me probably assume I’m getting so much knitting done. I am not. Knitting is how I cope with the stresses of everyday life. Without everyday life, I don’t have those stressors, so I don’t need to knit as much. Being pretty portable, I’m able to take knitting with me when I go to functions, board meetings, shows, etc… but now, I don’t need to worry about portability.
In addition, I am finally home to do all those projects which have been percolating in my brain. I got 1/3 of my apple tree chopped up, which is awesome considering how terrified I am of chainsaws. I made poor Poopie help me move 2 yards of wood chips, though I did the 1/2 yard of gravel by myself, since it needed to be done with individual buckets vs. a wheelbarrow. I’ve torn up half my front yard trying to de thatch it, but had to stop that project because the hippy lawn seed (which involves flowers and low water/maintenance plants) isn’t available right now because of said pandemic, and I blew through my stash.
I’ve also made bunches of masks for family who needed them, and then a bunch more to donate. I’ve been working through that stash as well, though I did have to order elastic online. And people thought I wouldn’t use my stash. My sewing has been accompanied by Perry. Poor Poopie has a negative visceral reaction when he hears the theme music now. Back in the day, the seasons were apparently over 30 episodes. I’m honestly not sure how many seasons there are. I think I’m in season 4. So…that math is really sad for Poopie.
I heard a phrase on one of my podcasts that really resonated with me–nostalgia bath. During this weird time, the podcasters were talking about how they are finding themselves steeping in nostalgia–shows, movies, music. Psychologically, this makes sense. For people who are having a rough time with the stay at home orders, this brings them back to a more settled time. For those of us who are having less of a rough time, it’s a familiar stay at home. Perry Mason was always my lunchtime show when I stayed home sick from school. Summers, I would wake up in time to see Perry Mason to start my day. He’s familiar. Also, I’m not weirded out about people touching each other in black and white. Watching the color shows, I find myself wondering why the actors are so close to each other. Once Perry is done, I’ll have to find something else to binge watch. Thankfully, we live in the future, so that isn’t too difficult. Poopie will be happy about that for maybe a week, and then be back to aggravated about my binge watching.
He’s having a rough time of it. He does not like being at home, he needs to be out. Since we are both members of the more vulnerable populations, even after restrictions are lifted, we’ll have to continue to be more vigilant. This just means I can’t fully enjoy my quarantine because it hurts me that he’s so miserable. And there is literally nothing I can do about it.
On to happier subjects. The title of this post refers to an incident that occurred shortly before everything shut down. DeAnna was bugging me about my lack of blogging, and faking that she couldn’t remember it, what was it called again? So I said F*ck you. Someone next to us said “You have a blog called F*ck You? I’d read that!” I clarified that it was F*ck DeAnna. I’m not a monster, I only curse at those who deserve it. So I’m fulfilling my promise to have a blog post named this. You are welcome, Miss D 🙂
I’m going to try to do better blogging. I even have built in conversations. In January, I started trying to follow Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Almanac. In a few years, we’ll talk about how hilarity ensued, but as I’m working through it, I have so many feelings about the grande dame of knitting. I’m planning on sharing!
The last several weeks have involved loss. Not my personal loss, but loss for those one or two degrees of separation from me. We all suffer loss throughout our lives. We all struggle with that loss. And those of us still here have figured ways to live with that loss.
Sometimes, not gracefully. But we keep moving forward. Because that is our only option. Until we master time travel, we can only move forward. However, grief doesn’t seem to need to follow the laws of physics. You can go on for days and days, months even, and out of the blue it will sucker punch you in the nads. That perfect color of blue the sky has that makes you think of your loved one will have been a welcome, happy memory the last 8600 times you saw it. This time, though, it just rips out your soul. Next time, it may be happy again. Who knows why?
So, why does a crafting blog talk about something so heavy? Well, it started with someone in my outer circle losing her partner. This made me think of when a friend lost her partner relatively recently. I kind of started putting together a post in my head that involved the blanket I gave back then. It was kind of vague, though, and felt a bit self-serving. But, my TEDtalk podcast had a talk on grief. And then my friend mentioned the anniversary of her loss had arrived. Whatever you do or don’t believe in, it felt as if something was…lets say encouraging me to put my thoughts out there.
Those who know me know that I am always crafting. ALWAYS. I will frequently get asked “what are you making?” Usually, I have an answer for that. The next logical question “who’s it for?” is tougher. Sometimes, I know. Often, I don’t. I have found that, much like Ray from Field of Dreams, if I make it, it will find a home. For as often as I make things, and as many 1/2 finished items I have hanging around, I have very few finished items that take up residence at my home.
Such was the way of the blanket in the featured image. It was, in all honesty, a scrap blanket. I love, love, love Lion Brand Homespun. Accordingly, I had a bunch of bits and bobs of it hanging out. I found a blanket pattern that was an interesting construction, and I thought it would look interesting with varied colors of differing amounts. So, I went about making it. I didn’t have anyone in mind while I was making it. I just made it.
I knew my friend’s partner was not doing well. Truth be told, my entire relationship with her, he wasn’t doing well. However, as I was nearing the end of the blanket, I found out that things were so poorly off, that he had set a date for his death. I knew then that the blanket was intended for her. There is not much more cuddly than a blanket made out of Homespun. This blanket is both soft and durable, it is both broken and whole. It just screamed at me that it was hers. We don’t really have a gift-giving relationship, but I gave it to her anyway. Later, she told me it was nice to have in her grief. This is one way we, as crafters, can help someone on their journey.
Now, to last month. How do I help this person on her journey? We aren’t close. D and I have really only been around each other a handful of times. For like 1/2 those times, she didn’t even like me, I drove her up a wall, and she only put up with me for the sake of our mutual friends. I’d never met her partner. I don’t know her well, so I honestly wouldn’t know if any of my attempts at comfort would be doing more harm than good. However, I could lessen the outside burdens on our mutual friends so they could more fully be there for her. This is like the showing up post I wrote so long ago. While it’s not a direct support to her, I hope that I indirectly helped her on her journey.
Our mutual friend G was supposed to demo at Sheep to Shawl, but it coincided with the memorial service for D’s partner. She was going to the memorial service no matter what, but she may have been distracted by the missed obligation. So, I hijacked someone else into demo-ing. I hope this helped make the day smoother for those involved. But even if it didn’t, it certainly didn’t hurt.
I am really quite socially awkward, I never seem to have the right words at the right time. In fact, I’m super good at shoving my foot into my mouth, and I generally don’t stop talking until I reach my hip. Envision Walter Matthau in anything he’s ever done trying to be earnest…that’s me. Foisting my awkwardness on someone isn’t really making them feel better…unless it’s by comparison. (IE “my life is falling apart, but at least I’m not her!”) But, I can do crafting and works of service. I can also sit and knit/spin/weave/crochet while you tell me all about how your heart was ripped out by the stupid sky for no apparent reason.
And if I say “that sucks” and thrust the pair of socks I just finished at you, just know that’s me trying to say all those encouraging and inspiring words that would make everything feel a little better for a little while…it’s just I don’t know what they are.
Sound familiar? If your mom never said this to you, then I don’t believe you are really human. This post is about following directions…-ish. In my knitting group, we are just as likely to call a pattern a recipe, as anything else. It may be that we are old and have problems with words. BUT, I’m going to tell you that it is because patterns are like recipes, and you should treat them the same way. So, you should read through the entire thing. You should gather your tools (remember all the blogs on yarn?). And then you can start. I do this every time (wink, wink).
Before Christmas, I have about three craft/cooking days. Things 1 and 2, as well as O all have many gifts to give. We started a while ago making gifts. Thing 2 has her process down pretty pat, and then will add something in to keep things interesting. Thing 1 and O do different things every year. One of the things I really try to stress is to read through the whole recipe (or pattern) to make sure you know what you need to be doing and when. This is intended to keep the comments of “oh, oops!” to a minimum. We are all fairly terrible at this step (or we forget in between times), so it’s heard pretty frequently. Except Thing 2’s day…Thing 2 and I swear like sailors when we screw up.
Aaah, screwing up! That’s what crafting is all about. Screwing up, and recovering from those screw ups. A couple weeks ago, I had to pull out 10 rows of the Waiting for Rain shawl because I *thought* I had remembered how to do one of the increases. I mean, sure, it had been several weeks since I’d worked on the shawl, and that time was working the lace insert, but I remembered. Except, I didn’t. So, the lesson one would be expected to learn from this is that when one puts down a project, one should re-read the pattern *again* to re-acquaint oneself with the pattern. I can pretty much guarantee that Future Tejedora will be having a similar moment later on. She keeps thinking she’s smarter than she is.
This would be like when Thing 2 and I were going to make a cheesecake for my brother. We read through the whole recipe like good little cooks–or, rather, skimmed. In the skimming, we missed that there are something like 15 different baking steps, for different times and temperatures. I might be exaggerating, but not by much. Oh, oops. Still tasted fine.
Occasionally, though, you do read the pattern/recipe, and you do follow the directions, but they still don’t make sense, or you still screw up. There can be many reasons for this. In the featured photo, see how there’s a section of nice and neat, and then 1/2 way along, stupid purl bumps? I followed the directions!!! I really did!!!
Well, except, I modified the pattern for two colors vs. one. But that doesn’t count, right? Well, um, yeah, it does in this case. So, I had made an adjustment, but I didn’t carry that adjustment throughout the project. It’s like doubling a batch of chocolate chip cookies, but not doubling the chocolate chips. It’s fine, I guess. In this case, I did not take into account how my alterations would necessitate altering directions later on. The way the lace happens in this pattern, you do short rows of stockinette lace, and then when you are done, you just knit off into the sunset. But, that means that only 1/2 of your lace insert is knitted on that row. When you come back, the rest of the lace insert is knitted, but now, it’s showing as purl. So, an adjustment must be made. I chose to leave this like it is on this first insert. It’s rustic looking anyway, it’ll be fine. But, in the next insert, on the way back, I switched from knit to purl on that last 1/2, so the insert is all smooth. This *does* mean that I have a section of not quite garter for one row, but that was more acceptable to me than the 1/2 in 1/2 out visual experience that dogmatically following the rules gave me. OK fine, you purists!!! *dogmatically following the rules after I threw them out the window in the first place. I suppose one should learn to follow a change through the whole process to make sure one understands how the change could affect things in the future. One should also live a little.
And then, Dear Reader, there are the times you follow the directions, and it just doesn’t turn out. You re-look at the directions, and re-do it so many times, and it still doesn’t turn out. This happened to me this last year with a sweater I made for Poopie. The cable pattern was not coming out right. It was Elizabeth Zimmerman, so I was sure that it was me. Clearly, I was doing something wrong. I finally looked up the pattern elsewhere, and found there really was a typo in the Zimmerman book. This one clearly taught me that even our heroes are just people. And everyone needs a good editor.
Except me. I’m going to keep telling you my typos and formatting issues are part of my charm 🙂
We will now get to which yarn I *did* choose for the shawl. Surprisingly, it didn’t come from my yarn wall. I don’t keep cones on the wall! That’s just crazy talk!! It came from a yarn bin.
These are vintage wool yarns in what would probably be a 2 on the ball band in today’s times. Because they are vintage, I have no idea anything about the provenance of them. If I run out (I won’t), I won’t be able to get more. I am not positive of the care and feeding of these particular yarns, so a shawl is good because most people should assume you must be very delicate in the cleaning of those. As opposed to say…a hat.
I especially like the rustic look of these yarns, and think they will add a little something to the pattern. I am a big fan of dichotomy. It’s one of the things that I appreciate about the pattern. It mixes the simpleness of garter with lace inserts.
I am finding with the vintage yarns there’s some old wearing and the green keeps having weak spots that I choose to break and rejoin rather than have a weak spot in my work. I have looked carefully, and I don’t believe those spots are because of insects. Honestly, they may be from critters chewing (I think the yarns were stored in a barn). There is also a possibility that something in the dye is weakening the yarn. It’s not quite a poison green…but who knows what those dyes did to the yarn??
A less…stubborn (?) person would have scrapped it all and went with some other yarn. I am telling you, it is a pain to have to keep breaking and reattaching yarn. As I get further along in this cone, it’s having to happen less and less. I’m quite pleased with where I’m at with it now.
Would i do it the same knowing what I know now, though? I honestly don’t know. I can tell you that I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone else. Knitting isn’t supposed to be this much work. In every project, there is some aspect that’s not my favorite. But I don’t want it to be work. And like Judith McKenzie kept saying in our spinning class at Madrona “Life’s too short”.
My plan for next post is to discuss a bit about following directions. Where will I land on that one?
P.S. did you notice last week’s featured picture was the yarn I chose?
You probably thought you were done having to hear about yarn structure from me. You are almost right. This will be the last of that for a bit…but I do have a little bit more to add. I’ll be referring back to information from previous posts on Waiting for Rain, so check those out again if I lose you here.
Even considering gauge, as well as fiber content, there’s still the actual structure of the yarn which needs to be considered. This is a bit of a potpourri of a topic. Lots can affect what I’m referring to as structure. Both gauge and fiber type have a role of course, but mostly it’s the construction style I’m talking about now. For typical yarn, that means spinning style. However, a chenille, or a ribbon yarn would also apply to this section.
One of my favorite, relatively inexpensive yarns is Lion Brand’s Homespun. It has such beautiful colors (yes, while I can be an ass about using color as the defining consideration, I do recognize it can be *a* consideration), it feels so soft. However, as you can see, it’s all bumply. What this means is that it doesn’t show stitch definition. The good of that: you can screw up a whole bunch and no one can see. The bad of that: you can work your ass off with a beautiful stitch pattern, and no one will be able to see it. This yarn makes wonderful garter stitch blankets. They look super cozy (and actually are), and they are super easy to make. If you are not one to like a concert hat, perhaps this would make a good concert knitting project for you. So, this probably won’t be my first choice for Waiting for Rain. Unless I only did the garter in this, and found something to go with it for the lace panels.
This is a singles spun yarn, which means that it is not plied like many other yarns. It is also a warm yarn, but it is smoother than the Homespun, so it would show definition. I made a wonderful cabled blanket out of it. With the leftovers, I’ve made several twined knitted hats for Poopie. Which he loves. However, because it is only spun in one direction (rather than spun, and then plied in the opposite direction), the twisting of the knitting, and twisting of the yarns for the twining technique means that it frequently untwists enough to fall apart, so I have to do a lot of splicing in the hats. This is why I try really, really hard not to tell people they can’t or shouldn’t do something. Conventional wisdom is that you “shouldn’t” use singles for twined knitting. However, these are truly Poopie’s favorite hats. They are a giant PITA to make, though. So while I won’t say you “shouldn’t” use singles for twined knitting, I will say you “should” make sure the project/recipient is worth the extra effort you are sure to need to put in. This yarn would be a perfectly reasonable choice for the shawl, the color repeats are long enough to not be super busy and detract from the lacework.
This yarn is an interesting yarn to discuss. If you look at the “core” of it, it is a laceweight. However, it has a wide halo around it. The ball band calls it a bulky. I think this is because you should probably use larger needles to give that halo enough freedom to “bloom”. While this is an acrylic yarn, this type of construction is similar to what you would see with rabbit (which, yes, I know, I didn’t talk about last yarn structure post). Yarns with this construction seem to me to most often be the super warm yarns. They look so delicate, but they are soooooo cozy. If you spin a more robust yarn with rabbit, you could go to the North Pole. For me, this construction of yarn works best with a simple lace design. I think you need the holes of the lace to let the halo really shine, but that halo will make it difficult to really see the lace. If I’m going to be working charts and tearing out rows, I want the casual observer to *know* I busted my ass to do that, and I want them to be totally jealous of my skills. Fuzzy yarn just doesn’t do that. However, it makes a super easy lace chart look like you *did* do all that hard work. Better than having everyone ooh and aah over a complicated pattern is to have everyone ooh and aah over something super easy. I’m a big proponent of making my yarn work harder than me. You may think that’s lazy. I choose to say it’s smart. Tomayto/Tomahto.
Another Madrona has been completed. Sadly, it is the last one. Happily, a new event will take it’s place. Same bat time, same bat channel. Different name, and different people running it.
This year I took a dye class, tablet weaving, spinning, and knitted lace. All three of my teachers are superstars in their field, so I left Madrona on a high note. The dye class I ended up in wasn’t a practicum class. I gave that one up for the greater good. So, I don’t have any pictures from dyeing. However, my tablet weaving was a huge success!!! I love my space invaders…and their creepy eyes. My favorite John story from that day was one of the ladies had warped her loom funky. I didn’t see/hear exactly what she did. But, that meant her piece wasn’t doing what she wanted it to do. John went over to her, and figured out it was the warp, and not her weaving. He said something to the effect of he didn’t want her to feel bad about her weaving, she was doing great. She did need to feel bad about her warping, though. Keep in mind, she comes to many of his classes, and he develops wonderful rapport with all of his students. So, in the moment, we all laughed (she included). The warp was fixed, and she carried on. Auntie Pam bought me a loom, and John signed it for me.
Spinning with Judith is always a joy. She had me putting random things in with my fiber, which is how I ended up with this lichen yarn. She’s just so matter of fact about spinning, I love her so much. There’s never anything that we shouldn’t try. She tells us what the potential pitfalls may be, but never says “don’t do that”. Granted, it’s spinning, not anything that’s going to blow up. The worst thing that will happen is the yarn will fall apart. Oh well. I did see these totally awesome spinning wheels that are in little pseudo briefcases…The Device. Seriously, that’s what it’s called. I really need one. Poopie’s eyes just got really big when I showed him what they look like. I’m working on justifying it. I just can’t quite yet.
And, finally, Franklin’s class. He had me too busy to take pictures. Auntie Pam took bunches. And, honestly, his classes are technique, so we were futzing on swatches. Not very photogenic. But the information from Franklin! The most important take away from his class was after a few inches, put the work down and conduct a “frank assessment” of the work to make sure it is what you want. If it’s not, take it out, and fix it. Friend L apparently had the same grandmother give her this advice, based on the number of times she restarts things. It is often hard for me to just pull out a bunch of work. I will do a lot of contortions to make something work that really shouldn’t.
The trip home was much less eventful than the trip up was…which was good. Remember how I said on Thursday that some times, I’m all about the destination? That was yesterday. Madrona always takes it out of me. I was tired, and just wanted to be home. Thankfully, the gods that oversee Madrona allowed for that to happen. Please enjoy this tablet woven police box. It is, unfortunately, not how I got home.
While I really enjoy my time at Madrona, and all the stimulation and all the wonderful people, I am always so eager to come home. Which is awesome–to have a home I’m grateful to come home to.
I’ve missed writing, and I’m working on trying to get scheduling worked out to where I can more consistently write. For now, though, I’m signing off.
It is that time of year again, where red abounds in the stores. Chocolate is ubiquitous. The weather of the PNW is…unpredictable…shall we say? More importantly, though, Madrona is here!!!! Sadly, this is the last year for Madrona. However, there will be another festival to take it’s place for next year. But, that is a concern for future me.
Let’s talk about current me. More accurately, recent past me (?). Yesterday was my travel day. I got a call from Barb saying that Amtrak called her, and there were issues with the train, so we could wait until we were supposed to be in Tacoma to get our originally scheduled train, or they could bus us up to PDX, and we could get a different train to Tacoma.
This was frustrating to me because I love the train–not because of going from point A to point B; rather for the experience of the train. If I wanted to ride the bus, I would have bought a bus ticket. Oh well, needs must. We made adjustments, and had a bus ride and a train ride, and a transfer. Those of you who follow my Facebook or Instagram (latejedoracrafts on either one) saw my post of knitting on the bus. Plan B.
Rather than talk about planning, though, lets talk about journey vs. destination. Sometimes (particularly at these events), you may be asked if you are a process knitter (crafter), or a product knitter (crafter). This is the crafter’s version of “are you an introvert or an extrovert”. While there are a lot of people who can answer A or B, I’m not one of them. I used to think I was B (to both questions). I have since learned that I am more nuanced than that. Dear Reader, please note how I spun being a pain in the tuchus into something snooty. Please also feel free to steal that phrasing.
There are definitely times I just want to get somewhere…usually it’s that I just want to be home. But just as frequently (I think more frequently now that I am older), the journey is a treat as well. I think Barb was more frustrated than I about the change in plans. Yesterday, it was probably helpful I knew where we were going, I was familiar with the process, and I knew we weren’t missing anything by the change in plans.
Similarly, with crafting, sometimes the process is just as enjoyable (or not) as the end product. But, I need to have the right environment to enjoy the specific process. Which is why I have so many projects in process at any given time. My concert hats are wonderful at concerts. Outside of those times, though? So boring, and I don’t have the patience for them, so I have other projects to fit that process. Similarly, more complicated projects would not have an enjoyable process at some of the venues.
Pam is with me again. Today, she is off for on Ikat weaving class. This class is a “shortcut” method. The traditional Ikat, as she explains it sounds terrible like you have to be *really* process oriented. It involves weaving, painting, unweaving, and then reweaving. This sounds like a lot of work for not enough payoff for me. So…I am clearly not completely process oriented. I’ll leave Ikat in her capable hands.
When people ask me what I’m weaving or spinning, though, I do get frustrated that my answers of cloth and yarn respectively are not sufficient. Many people seem to feel like I have to have a grand plan for what I’m doing. Again, people who know me outside of crafting can be more easily forgiven for assuming I do have a grand plan. However, these are strangers. Why is cloth or yarn not sufficient for them? Granted, I will eventually do something with the cloth or yarn, I just don’t know what yet. Usually, “something” is code for sending it on it’s way to someone else. But, if I never ended up with cloth or yarn, I wouldn’t likely engage in these activities. Weaving constantly with no payoff? I mean, it’s not a rock I have to push up a hill over and over, but it’s not far off.
So, we have 600 words to answer the question of destination or journey. The answer by the way is it depends–and I’m OK with that. I think the combination is also part of what made me OK with yesterday’s travel snafu’s. On the one hand, I got to my destination sooner (destination). On the other, I got to experience something different than the usual for the travel day (journey).
OK, I have to pick up the ladies now. In the meantime, please enjoy the picture of the finished project from the bus yesterday (it was started before, I’m not that good). Also note that the featured photo is the door art I was welcomed with. (Still loving Penny Lane)
Last week, I talked about the gauge of yarn for a pattern. This week, let’s talk about what the yarn is actually made of. There are lots of different factors in this. There are subsets to my subsets. I want to be super clear, Dear Reader, this is literally the barest of factors. My goal here is not to get you to the point where you think you know something. Rather, I want you to get to the point where you realize you know nothing, and likely never will. I know, I know, that sounds terrifying….but, it doesn’t have to be.
Yesterday was Halloween. We dress up as something else, we try to scare ourselves and others, all in good fun. Today is Dia de los Muertos. In Mexico, this is the day when we honor our antecedents. I think people try to put these two days together on the same continuum. However, I disagree with that practice. Halloween is about confronting our fears. It’s about making fun of what’s scary. Which is great! However, the Mexican culture doesn’t seem to find the same things scary. While a skeleton is typically terrifying for an Anglo person, it’s a canvas for a Mexican person.
My words don’t do this distinction justice. I encourage you to read some magical realism. Or, here…this is a Frida Kahlo self portrait. If you read a bit about her life, you’ll find it was horrible. This portrait shows the constant pain that she lived with. It also shows, however, the beauty she was able to make with that pain. I don’t think I could do that.
Shocking no one, I have digressed greatly. I intended to point out that not knowing doesn’t have to be scary. We have been taught that the unknown is scary. What if, instead, we had been taught that the unknown was an adventure? What if we took these experiences and learned from them, and moved forward, and put forth our lessons to learn new things?
Lets talk about fiber content really briefly with a spirit of learning and adventure. We’ll hopefully learn just enough to whet our appetite for more. Waiting For Rain calls for a cashmerino. So let’s start there…right after I rant about these dumb mash-up names…like labradoodle. These aren’t even portmanteaux! They sound ridiculous. I know, it’s a living language, and I’m just being old–but c’mon!!!
This particular blend has wool, cashmere, and manufactured fibers.
Wool: There are literally entire books written about the specifics of different wools. I have been told that The Field Guide to Fleece: 100 Sheep Breeds & How to Use Their Fibers is a good place to start. Let that sink in. 100 breeds. A place to start. So, you see why this will not be at all exhaustive? As a rule, wool tends to be springy, and have a good memory. This means that it will be easier on your hands while knitting. It will tend not to “sag” or “grow”. Wool is generally warmer, so not often good for warmer climes (either the knitting of, or the gifting to). Wool, unless it is treated, is not generally machine washable…so it will need special handling for cleaning. DO NOT think that wool is scratchy and gross. The reason those fulled wool blankets feel gross is because they have little ends sticking out all over the place, what you knit will not have that construction, so your hand knit item won’t be gross. Merino is actually one of the “softer” wools.
Cashmere: Cashmere actually comes from goats rather than sheep. Isn’t that cool? whatever you do, don’t think about their creepy eyes staring at you when you are cuddling that cashmere sweater. For reasons I’ll likely go into in a spinning conversation, cashmere is super soft and can be spun much thinner easier than “wool”. However, it is stupid expensive, so you will almost always find it mixed with something else.
Manufactured fibers: This is as helpful as “artificial colors and flavors” in the ingredients list of food. Manufactured fibers could have structural purpose, they could provide elasticity. They could provide washable-ness. They could just be filler. IDK.
Other fibers you might see commercially include, but are not limited to:
Silk: this is the cocoon of the silk moth. The fiber has a beautiful sheen. It can also be spun incredibly thin. These two factors make the yarn/fiber “slick” rather than fuzzy. It is incredibly breathable and rot resistant. For this reason, items made of silk do better in tropical climes. Silk is technically a protein fiber, however, it doesn’t always act the same way as other protein fibers. It is a thing all its own.
Alpaca: living in the PNW, alpaca farms are literally everywhere. LITERALLY. Alpaca is super soft, but doesn’t have good memory. So, a sweater made of pure alpaca will tend to get longer and longer the more you wear it. Because it doesn’t have the crimp or scales of wool, it doesn’t felt as easily as wool, but it still felts. This lack of crimp makes it less “springy” but more drapey. Llama is actually much like alpaca, but coarser/more durable. Likewise, baby alpaca is softer/more fragile.
Cellulose: There are a lot of cellulose fibers (plant-based) for the vegans out there. They don’t tend to be as springy as protein fibers. This lack of “give” can be more difficult to work with and tire your hands quicker. This also means that fewer things will come out in the blocking.
Cotton probably comes to mind. You’ll mostly want to consider if the cotton is mercerized or not. If it’s mercerized, it won’t soak up as much water…which makes it better for garments. If it’s not…it’s incredibly absorbent, which makes a good wash cloth. Bamboo is a fun baby fiber because it tends to be softer than cotton right off the bat (cotton tends to need several washes to soften up). The hidden bonus of bamboo is that it is not only machine washable, it is also naturally antimicrobial. Linen and hemp are also available, but both take *a lot* of washing to soften up.
There is often a hardiness/softness tradeoff in fibers. The trick is finding the correct balance for what your project is. For the protein fibers (with the exception of silk…which is all sorts of different on all sorts of levels), I look at what the animal looks like. I can see what some of the prevailing characteristics of the fiber are just by looking at it on the animal. See how the sheep is all big and warm, and kind of felted? but the merino is sleeker and softer looking? Think about which animal you’d rather use for your project. An outer sweater doesn’t necessarily need to be very soft, but it needs to be durable. Whereas a neck scarf may not need to be as durable as it needs to be soft. Again, shawls are the perfect project to play with yarn.
Before I sign off this extra long post, I wanted to talk a bit about the interplay between fiber and gauge. We talked about how wool tends to be warmer, so it may not be a good idea to make something intended for a summer item. But, what if we used a thinner wool? Alpaca is super drapey, but what if we wanted something a bit more sweater like? We could use a larger gauge wool, or smaller size needles to make a firmer fabric with the drapey fiber.
Do not message me about all the fibers I “forgot”. I probably didn’t forget. I was super clear at the beginning that this was not going to be comprehensive. On second thought…do message me. I’ll tell you what my experience with those fibers have been.
Oh, and here’s bamboo. Just because it breaks my brain that bamboo makes such soft yarn.