Okay, maybe not EVERYBODY. I suppose there are those discerning folk out there who would always rather go the long route if it meant perfecting something beyond measure. And, don’t get me wrong, I am most often drawn to the lure of perfection but, you know, sometimes you just need gratification NOW!
We are talking about knitting, right? LOL.
I’m knee deep in sweater projects, knit skirt projects, blah blah blah. I love sweaters, I really do. And I love sinking my teeth into a project that I have a creative paw on from start to finish. Now, what may come as a surprise to ya’ll is that I talk to people. A lot. I also talk a lot, but that’s neither here nor there. Lately, in talking to people, I’m getting those nervous remarks about stashes of fiber and yarn and not having enough time to make the things we want to make and “I need a new pair of mittens, I lost mine and my hands are so cold” sort of comments. Me thinks it’s time to bring some balance back into my spinning/knitting projects.
I need to make something. I need to have something at the end of a reasonable time period that I’ve finished. It gets me over the humps I’ll stumble upon on the big projects. It makes me excited and able to dream up new projects. And, you know what? It’s even practical! I love it when practical sneaks into my plans because you who know me know I don’t really invite it into my daily life often;P
This quickie project is so simple it almost hurts. I started on Friday night with my wheel in front of me, a cuppa chai, and some Dean Winchester to watch and get me spinning faster (insert goofy heart throbbing sound here). I spun up half of my Happy Hooves Batt Club and half of my Happy Hooves Top Club. I usually let the colors fly on the wheel however they go but this time, I separated the batts and tops to keep the colors rather distinct and then mixed and matched them as I added them to the bobbin. This way, you get to see what ‘Rusty Bridges’ really looks like. It was a tricksy thing to do to my club members, sending them a layered batt and having them think I’d lost my marbles and sent only a silver batt for club. But, when you pull the layers back, you see the rusty bridge colors inside. This colorway was inspired by the same thing most EKF colorways are inspired by – memories. The kids and I took a walk on a back road in our town and found this bridge glimmering in the sunset. It was so lonely and beautiful and somber I couldn’t help standing there gazing at it for too long. The kids got bored and left me in my color dreaming stupor. I snapped out of it when my fingers started to freeze.
Where was I? (talks a lot, you were warned!) Oh, yeah, Friday. Spinning, Dean Winchester, warm cuppa. So, I spun the fibers fine and Navajo Plied them for distinctive color separations. I know you won’t believe this but I did it this way because I actually had a plan and stuck to it (taps foot waiting for those who are giggling to stop and those who scrolled ahead and looked at the pics before reading and, therefore, know this to be true to be able to get up off the floor and regain composure after such a shock). I knew I wanted to spin this and knit it into a Baktus for a few reasons. First and foremost, I’m at the point in my life where- you know, a quickie is not a thing I’d just flippantly turn down. Wait a minute, we’re sticking to the knitting (slaps self) sorry, I forgot! I NEED to make something. And I need to finish it. I need to run over the finish line waving it in the air screaming ‘ yes, yes, yes,’ until I piss off the dog and she starts barking at me and the kids remind me that I am a weirdo. I need this.
Second, and I love sneaky ole practicality – I need a scarf. I have a few treasured shawls, mostly that friends have made and gifted to me because I have a habit of sending my shawls off to live with others with the ends barely woven in. I don’t know what it is about shawl knitting but it just starts at CO and by the time the thing is finished, I’m well aware it is not for me and know who it is going to live with with utter clarity. But, lately I’ve started giving away everything I knit. Seriously. I knit gloves, gave them away. Knit a sweater, sent it on. Knit 2 shawls and we all knew they were doomed from the start, 3 cowls and 2 pairs of socks….gone! I need a scarf and I need to keep something I knit. I’m starting to feel like the knitting Gollum. It’s minnnnne….don’t touches itz!
Thirdly, I may have a Baktus problem. I mean, seriously, it’s not a terribly exciting knit. But, with handspun, hand-dyed yarn???? It sort of becomes fabulous. You can knit it while you’re doing almost anything. All you need do is weigh your ball at the beginning of knitting and divide by half, or, if you are so inclined, split your ball in half at the get go so no future weighing is required. I prefer to get the pain over quick and weigh out 2 balls so there’s no question of when to stop increasing and start decreasing. Then, you knit – simple as that. You knit, increasing on one side until you run out of yarn and knit the second ball decreasing until you’re out of yarn. Easy Peasy. Click on the pattern name to go to the source for better instructions – I’m just explaining to give you a vague idea of how utterly easy this is. The colors, the texture of the handspun, they do all the work for you. You just get to have a few hours of knitting ( I knit this baktus in 5 hrs of really slow and casual knitting – worsted wgt yarn 230 yds) and then that glorious moment of crossing the finish line, quickie in hand, knowing you’ll only feel so drunk on this moment that you’ll likely grab a sketch pad and start designing the most complicated ankle length colorwork sweater ever made but, hey, at least your neck will be warm and you’ll feel like a winner. You might need this:)
And, see, those rusty bridges were hiding in the layers of that batt – there they are! I loved this project!But then you knew I would because I think this is my 7th or 8th baktus. See, I told you I have a problem. I was even starting to creep myself out so I made this a slightly different version – the lacy baktus. A few holes makes is not making the same darned scarf over and over again, right? C’mon, say it’s so.
So, here’s the quick and dirty on the quickie:
Spinning time – 3.5 hrs – 1 skein of 230 yds worsted wgt, Nplied yarn. Navajo plying saves lots of time and really makes your colors pop in a simple knit – try it!
Knitting time – 4-5 hrs – depending on if you account for times I sat my knitting in my lap to really stop and LOOKIE at Dean Winchester. He really needs to be mine, I’d make him loads of sweaters;) I freely admit that I don’t even follow the story lines – I just watch with the kid and pretend I do so they won’t see that I’m all about the eye candy.
See how easy that was? Let’s keep doing it! Let’s say, at least 2 quickies a month? Oh, if only – ahem, strictly limiting it to the fiber arts, I mean. Of course. Some quickies might be sewing, others might be spinning only, felting, I’ll .try to keep it fiber related and mostly clean, mostly. Thing 1 insisted I start taking more pics of my knits actually on someone and then promptly disappeared. She’s a sneaky little thing – she later admitted she meant she wants me to take more pictures of me. Grr. Cameras make me look stoooopid! Yes, I’m blaming the cameras for that – I have no shame;)
What’s your favorite quickie knitting project?
I mean it! They really do. I need only hear the first line of “Baby it’s cold outside…” and I feel like ripping someone’s netherbits off and throwing them in the street. I know, I know, by now some of you are horrified, disgusted, or just wishing I’d give up and start taking meds (LOL) but, seriously, this year I’m just.not.feeling.it. It all makes sense, really, but that doesn’t help much. 2011 wasn’t a ‘bad’ year per se – but it has been a year of some major changes in my life, my family…everything, really. So, it would suffice to say that the holiday love songs filling me with rage is kind of par for the course right now. I’m sure I’ll come out on the other side feeling all smooshy and love happy some day but, for right now? I think I’d rather sit on the sidelines a while and celebrate the happiness and what only appears to me as ignorant bliss because I’m bitter right now (ha!) of my friends and family. That I can do and do genuinely because I love seeing the people I love be happy. Aha! I found the solution to this particular holiday theme of lovey, warm snuggly songs – if I just picture in my mind someone I adore who is blissfully happy in love – it calms the rage and I stop strangling a stuffed bear whilst standing in yet another eternity line in my vain attempt to finish the present shopping. It also doesn’t hurt to back that image up with the image of the gift I’m giving myself this year – an hr. long massage and hair appt. On a particularly rough day, there may need to also be a glass of pinot noir and some dark chocolate. Somehow, I will muddle through the holiday love songs and no one will be harmed.
It helps to knit. Fortunately, this coincides with yet another maniacal attempt to knit everyone a gift. So far, I’m a shawl and hat down with two pairs of socks to go in, oh, 4 days. This is where humor comes in really handy. But, even the funny holiday songs just don’t seem to get in the old noggin and make laughs happen. I’m thoroughly disgusted with the overplay of ‘Grandma got run over by a reindeer” and, with my Grandma having passed this summer, it just doesn’t feel funny at all. I can’t even work up the patience to listen to the drummer boy song. By the 2nd ‘barump ba bump bummm’, I’m sinking my claws into the steering wheel and hissing like a rabid cat. That’s when I know it’s tie to pull over, pull out an emergency knitting bag, and make a few stitches, pet a few sparkles, and remember why it’s good to be sane (mostly I remind myself that they will probably take my wheel and my needles – especially my stilleto signatures – if I am found otherwise). That’s how I made this shawl from the April Happy Hooves ‘through the looking glass’ colorway. It’s a surprise for someone so I’m zipping my lips (makes dorky loud zipping noise) and saying NOTHING.
I’d finally resigned myself to being a grump this season. I’d totally given up hope. But, you know, I just never realized how hard it is for me to swim in the same direction as the other fish. I started to really pay attention to those commercials where the mom gets Santa back for all the years he gets to be the star of the holidays. And those ones where adult men are picking on each other like 6 year olds. I mean, don’t get me wrong, they’re funny, but the underlying theme is that everyone is feeling kinda grumpy this year. It was okay with me when I thought it was only me but as soon as I came to this realization, I felt it my duty to at least try to get in the spirit. I know, it’s highly likely that this attempt will be used as evidence against me when and if my sanity is ever called into question, but, here’s my plan so far:
First, you need the release. You know what I’m talking about;) Everyone has their own ‘toolbox’ for releasing their pent up rage. I won’t share all but I will tell you that making a batch of divinity and pralines and watching this video while letting all the parts of me that are mean and evil laugh loudly at it was in there somewhere:
Then, I set to making a special dinner for the kids – one of our favorites – Cali Rolls. We absolutely are addicted to wasabi paste and pickled ginger so we literally slather them with that. These rolls are way easier to make than they look.
Start with a few basic ingredients (sushi nori, wasabi paste, sesame seeds, pickled ginger):
Cook some rice in your rice cooker with a bit more water added than usual to make it kind of soft and mushy. A sushi rice is best but a botan will suffice. Then, slice some green onions in half lenthwise, blanched snow peas in half the same, some blanched zucchini as well and slice some imitation crab in long lengths as well as some cream cheese. These two look very nice together with a green onion in between them in the final sushi roll.
Don’t forget, a happy cook is a better cook:) A nice chilled glass of pinot griggio is perfect with this meal. Have a tiny bit before you serve to ‘test for quality’.
All that’s left to do is assemble. You need one of these bamboo mats. I found these as placemats at the dollar store and bought a whole load of them. They do wear out over time and washing and need to be replaced. Lay your sushi nori on the mat – then put a dollop of rice on it and quickly spread it, pushing down a little bit, in a thin sheet over the nori. Now, at the end closest to you, you’re going to layer your goodies on the rice bed. This is where you can get very artistic in making your rolls – provided you are not being circled by the children buzzards and are starting to sweat with panic that they are about to pounce on you.
Then, gently roll the front edge over where the goodies end once. Unroll the mat and pull the nori roll back to the edge and roll again, pushing down just enough to make the insides pack together but not enough to squish all the art out of them. Roll completely and give them a few rolls back and forth for good measure. Then, stack on a plate and refrigerate for an hour.
Slice and serve! We had ours with squash frittata, lightly sauteed shitakes in sesame oil, and some kimchee. Yum!
Now, we’re going to decorate the tree with only 4 days to spare, have some more candy, and probably just hang out and try to feel, you know, jolly:)
I just love that song. To me, it perfectly blends the complexity of loving. There’s the joy, the freakishly light feeling of being, and the twinge of inevitable sorrow that will follow something that doesn’t/can’t live up to the expectations that level of elation seems to breed. I’ve been needing a little reminding to take a day for just what it is and to enjoy it wholly for all that it holds lately. Patti Griffin seems to be able to pull me out of that funk every time. And, when she can’t do it alone, there’s always some golden silky sparkle love to do the trick.
It’s always amazing to me, as an artist, how simplicity often does just the trick. You know, when you think of art on a scale, there is no end and no beginning – just endless possibilities to go farther than you’ve ever gone before – to make a color that is so complex and rich it literally confuses the eyes into submission upon first glance. Those tricks make an artist feel good. You want to believe that you’re creating something totally original and deep. But, there’s a beauty that is just what I call ‘soul food’ in making the simple elegant and beautiful. It’s like a really good cookie for the spirit – lifting you up and reminding you that, even if the road you’re walking on seems so very hard, life doesn’t really NEED to be so complex. Sometimes, it just needs to feel good. That awakening, that feeling good, spreads through you and before you know it, it’s permeated your thoughts, you ideas, your wishes, your heart……etc. That good makes everything else feel better. Does that make sense?
It really doesn’t get any simpler than the Heavenly Day batts. I started making these batts last year and, as I often think when I do something simple (aka too easy to call ‘art’), I was timid about how they’d be received. Most people tell me they love my work for my colors so, to start with a white canvas and keep it nearly that way seemed a bit weird to me. But, it’s not ALWAYS about color. Sometimes, it’s about nuance. And substance. A touch of elegance never hurt anyone, either. So, you start with super silky softness, you add merino that is so soft you want to marry it, and plenty of gold silk, bamboo and sparkle. The end result?
Thing 1 and I listened to this song really loud while she donned some pretty clothes and we went out in the backyard on the day before hurricane Irene blew into town. The clouds were barreling across the sky and the wind was whipping hard but the air smelled of ocean breezes and clear, clean awesomeness. We got a little playful with the pics. We call this one the Jane Austen pic.
Then, she insisted we let the porch swing pose with it. This is, by the way, the Mermaid Wings Shawl pattern I published years ago. It is a crocheted shawl that takes about 700-1000 yds if fingering sock yarn – depending on how long you want it. It’s a simple 2 stitch shawl that wraps all around you like, well, wings:) In this case, we decided this is more like angel wings than mermaid wings, with the feathery gold and white Heavenly Day colors. It was my first ever pattern and, well, you can surely tell. It is riddled with errors. I’m working up a pdf with updates and will have that up in the sidebar in a few days for those of you who want some mermaid wings of your own.
I tried to capture the sparkle and shimmer of the silk but the clouds wouldn’t have it. So, being a proud mama, I forced my child to put on the shawl and look happy once more. She’s so stubborn – where does she get that from????? She insisted on being calm and resolute instead. Doesn’t matter, I think she rocks the model gig either way.
Time management is something I’m trying to get better at. I often have more to do than time to do it and, while I’ve proved to be quite creative at times in still managing to at least appear to get it all done – the truth shines through sometime. I suspect I’m not alone in that struggle;)
The other day, I was talking to the kids about the coming school year. We were hashing out how many activities and after-school things they could do and what days I could drive them to said activities and that, inevitably, swirled us around to talking about my job. I love my job….and I feel blessed, every day, to do what I do. But, being in business myself is a wide scope to look through any ole day and, at the end of every day – one person is responsible for keeping it all going and seeing everything gets done. Sadly, in the last few years, I’ve let go of some parts of myself that I knew I’d missed to have more time to get work done and meet my ‘mom’ job requirements. I didn’t realize they’d missed her, too.
The conversation steered onto the things they missed. Like that, before, they never had to wonder if I could drive them somewhere. Or, that they knew I’d be able to help them finish a project, bake for an event etc/etc on last minute notice without a problem. Lately, in effort to manage my time so I can be there for everyone and still be functioning in my career – I’ve had to develop a spine and say ‘no, can’t do that on such short notice, let me know a few days in advance next time’ and horrible/mean mama stuff like that – LOL. I felt pretty okay with all of the complaints until the Tiny Tim of the family (aka Thing 3) chimed in, “I sure miss your dinner specials”. OUch! Me too.
Dinner specials were something I created years and years ago when the kids were tots. It was born from this idea I had (and still do – it’s a pride I cling to because I may have, in fact, been right about it and being right as a parent is like a rare fountain of youth elixir…it just never happens often enough) that kids should eat with their parents and like their parents. I believed that if kids ate with their families, and were encouraged to try as many flavors/textures as possible, they’d choose healthier food options all on their own. While we were homeschooling, I incorporated it into our curriculum and we made foods that either pertained to a project or were an exploration into cultures, flavors, and traditions of places and people we were studying. At least once, if not a few times, a week I’d make a super special dinner that knocked their socks off. We called them ‘specials’ because they felt like they were dining at a restaurant and also being doted on by mom….they said it made them feel special. In turn, I’ve enjoyed traveling and eating out with my kids since they were babies. They will try ANYTHING and they love lots of flavors that you might think only adults can savor and enjoy. They’ll happily sop up some brie on rye bread before dinner – or enjoy a super spicy vindaloo at our favorite restaurant. They eat seaweed, kimchee, moldy cheese, all kinds of grains and beans/etc. They love exploring food and I feel pretty proud of that.
For the last little while, cooking just didn’t hold the same cathartic process, the same tests of my flexibility, the same ‘zing’ that it had for so long. Perhaps it’s because of the many changes that were going on. Maybe I was just too tired to do it. Or, perhaps, I just lost the spirit for it. Cooking is a spiritual exercise. It challenges your notions of the ‘right’ way to do something. There are cooks who cannot stand in a kitchen without following a recipe to the letter. I’m not that kind of cook. Recipes, like pirate codes, are ‘guidelines’. You start with an idea or recipe – and you add or take from that what is at your practical disposal, and you try to make the best of what you end up with. This is the trick to the cheating woman’s gourmet cooking.
You didn’t think I meant the other kind of cheating, did ya? (wink) Nope, this kind of cheating is harmless, and really has no impact on anyone, save the kitchen purist who will, undoubtedly, want to strangle my attempts at kitchen wizardry.
Back to cooking and the spirit. To cook with joy, you have to let yourself go with ‘it’. It can sometimes mean a cake that fell so you chop it up, toast in in little squares, and add some eggs, milk and sugar to it and bake it again into a raisin, cinnamon topped bread pudding that makes everyone smile. You learn to dance with your failures and make them your partners. You have to accept your limitations (be they seasonal availability, financial means, whether you want to drive 20 miles into town to go to the market or just make something spectacular out of the things in the fridge:) and you have to maintain the freedom to dream past them so you can create something yummy for mind and body. Sometimes, you have to also cheat.
Being a former kitchen purist, I blush to admit that I used store bought ravioli because I haven’t the time to make my own. And, while I was on a cheating binge, I bought some spicy dill salad dressing, some kalamata olives and pickled garlic at the deli, and a pre-cut organic lettuce blend for ease and speed. With that, I bought a meat that was on sale (budget woes) which happened to be pork cutlets. I have 3 children. They all eat differently. Thing 1 doesn’t care for meat. Thing 2 hates mushrooms, and Thing 3 will eat anything. So, I added some baby bellas to the mix but kept them whole. Fortunately, neither Thing has this preference out of some moral obligation so they are okay if their mushroom sits in a pan with meat or their meat gets friendly with a mushroom. The budget was gone so it was time to head home and see what I had in the fridge to help this mix along.
I found: 4 ozs. gorgonzola cheese, 2 red onions, and a bag of snow peas I’d bought a couple of days ago for adding to stir fry, 12 cherries left in the fruit bowl, eggs, and 1/2 a block of feta cheese. To this, I added 4 cloves of garlic, minced and chicken stock that I try to always keep in the freezer. So, in 30 minutes, here’s what happened:
1st 15 minutes: boil ravioli while, at the same time, caramelizing 1 onion. Strained ravioli, added onion plus 1/2 the garlic plus gorgonzola plus a splash of chicken stock to ravioli – leave to simmer and:
2nd 15 minutes: cut port into strips, saute pork, 2nd onion and mushrooms plus 1/2 the garlic to the pan. As soon as the port was cooked through (about 8 mins on med high heat), I added the snow peas to the top and put the lid on, turning it down to simmer and steam the peas. To make the salad, I strained the rinsed lettuce, pitted and chopped the cherries, added the feta cut in cubes, the olive and pickled garlic, and the dressing plus slices of boiled egg on top.
In exactly 32 minutes after starting, I’d plated a ‘specials’ dinner for everyone and they were thrilled.
Why did I ever let that tradition go? sighs at self. I think I’d forgotten just how easy it is to take a few simple ingredients and couple them with a few special ingredients and create a flavor sensation and an atmosphere of ‘special’ significance for the people I love. It felt good to be back behind the apron:) I would have dressed the presentation up a bit more but, in my house, when you have the aroma of cheese, onions, mushrooms and tasty inventions wafting through the kitchen for longer than 20 minutes, you just need to get the stuff on a plate before they gang up on you and start stealing from the pot -LOL. I was lucky to score a plate for myself.
You know how, after a long rumbling of thunder, the rain finally comes and, well, it sort of feels like a pale thing following the robust banging and crashing of whatever thunder really is? To date, my favorite idea of that is still what we adopted as truth in the 2nd grade – when we believed thunder was the nuns in heaven roller skating – LOL. For so many reasons, that image still throws me into fits of laughter like a 7 year old.
After the thunder, I woke up this morning – and I’d turned 40. Lots of my friends showed concern in the weeks leading up to this number, so I wondered if I should be ready for something. Does it hit you full on? Does it sneak up on you like a bandit and mock you when you are surprised by it? Does it just make you weak in the knees and then leave you to suffer? Turns out, it doesn’t, really. At least not for me. So, you know, I’m a curious one and I started asking around. Should I be ready? Turns out, I already am. I just didn’t know it because, you know, the thunder before this change was pretty crazy loud and I wasn’t ripe, yet, for the understanding that this change is really already done – and life has begun to go on. So, how do I feel about 40? I kinda like her. She’s a little road weary, for sure. She’s had the cruel war with gravity, crows feet, and a few of the big scares but, she’s ever ready for a challenge and full of thunderous laughter to keep things from getting too dark and broody. She’s been kicked enough by her own stubbornness to learn to let go of the challenges that aren’t worthy of her energy and she’s still feisty enough to fight like hell when one that is worthy comes along. I’m keeping her, warts and all. Still, I feel bad. I should have remembered at, at the very least, made her a cake or something. Turns out, she doesn’t mind an impromptu stop at the bakery and a bottle of beer….have I mentioned that I love how easy she is to please these days? No rules, just guidelines…it’s how we roll.
Hi. I know. Only lame bloggers start out their posts by apologizing for leaving their blogs to tend to their lives and forgetting they exist. Well, not really forgetting but more like pushing the blog to the far corners of their minds so they can cope with the inevitable mess that results from the chaos fairies feeding turds into the fan. Then, they (or in thise case, WE) come back, sloth along on the ground like pathetic turtles, and beg for forgiveness while you know all along the likelihood of it happening all over again is, well, likely. Hi. (stupid blinking grin hoping you will not stamp ‘lame’ on her forehead)
Forget sorry. I’m not, really. The proper way to describe what I am is as follows: excited beyond measure, thoroughly exhausted, proud and optimistic, about to beat my head in the wall every afternoon and also sometimes reduced to crying in the shower because people are driving me CRAZY, busy, happy, lost, bewildered (yes, also redundant) and grateful. Oh, also manic;)
So, walk with me a while and I’ll share my crazy I mean happy with you. Under the ‘proud’, ‘optimistic’, ‘thoroughly exhausted’, ‘excited beyond measure’, ‘busy’ and ‘grateful’ categories – we have the house. I embrace all of these descriptions when I say that I still drive in the driveway sometimes and marvel at the fact that I’m home. Leaving the homestead was a horrible experience. To have worked so many years building something and have to walk away from it with, well, nothing was devastating. I’m not really the ‘renting’ type either so leasing the farm was not a win-win. I like to plant perennials, build a life, make a home. So, temporary and with people who are not my people about in my house all the time was, well, weird after living off the grid for nearly a decade. So, to finally be home? It’s a priceless feeling. I’m planting raspberries again, putting in a garden, thinking about some perennial flower beds out front….it’s like a closed part of me that’s been sealed off for a while just opened up again and the ideas, excitement and joy are freely flowing. I can’t wait to see what happens!
So, now you’re all like, “well, I only see good – no crazy, here” and then pointing and laughing because the crazy is me, right? Not, erm, wait a minute… not really. Sure, moving a home, a business, putting my shepherding days behind me, finding homes for my sheepies, etc etc. is a big job and, admittedly, that ate up much of the early part of May and I’m still not unpacked yet but – that’s not justification for my lame bloggerness. Unless! Unless there were other bits of crazy packed in there like, oh, say Thing 3 broke his leg at karate a week after we moved….hmmm, that would be opening a barrel of monkeys crazy, hm? Count it…because it really happened. We still don’t know how…or why, but super karate dude so totally broke his leg that we have had to pretty much keep him in bed for a few weeks. He just got the seriously debilitating cast off last week and now has the ‘normal’ cast from the knee down that enables him, at the very least, to move around on crutches. We have such deeply imprinted memories of the first cast that we named him and put him in a closet upstairs. Meet, “Leg”. Leg has lots of stories to tell and that is precisely why we’ve locked him in the upstairs closet. That snide little leg is not going to blurt out all the tales of how we sometimes wanted to beat our heads into the walls trying to nurse a fussy and in pain kiddo whilst every shift of his body made him squeal in pain. No. Leg will be silenced. He will not talk about how busy we were running back and forth and hither and yon to make sure he was comfortable, all the while starting to go stark raving mad. Shut up, Leg. You will not talk about the day when Thing 3 tried to get around on his crutches, fell, and I had to pick him up and carry all 160 lbs of him that is already 3 inches taller than me at age 11 and I was so freaked out after the whole afternoon was over and he was resting comfortably in his medicated cloud and I sat in the shower FREAKING OUT. Screw you, Leg. You have all the stories and none of the blame. This is why I hate you and lock you in the closet. Enter, maybe – manic???? Nah, just kiddin (creepy, unconvincing smile).
So, there you have it. Nothing too severe. Nothing different than what everyone else is doing – just life going on the way it does and me, for the last few weeks, being caught up in the whirlwind and forgetting to stop the crazy train and walk around the station collecting sanity for a while – LOL. Tomorrow, blogging in earnest commences with yarn, fiber, farm stuffs. Yes, I only have an acre but I’m still going to grow things SO THERE, LEG – I just know you’re out to get me.
Whilst all of this was going on, I did do some spinning. Meet – Hot Mama ‘Silky’ batts. I stole her from the shop because I had to have some thrills and chills and my spinning hours were too brief during all of this to spin anything other than a dazzling load of happeh! This is a sport wgt Navajo ply (280 yds – enough for a pair of socks) and guess who’s keeping it for her? No, not you leg (makes hissing noise to chase leg away and locks the closet door AGAIN).
Most of you know, by now, what a fartist is. It’s a playful term the kiddos and I came up with years ago to describe what we are/were/etc. We decided, then, that it was a perfect marriage of what happens when a farmer falls in love with an art form and grows the herd/product that brings that art form from start to finish – she sheep to shawl in true form. It’s a good thing.
And, it’s been a great thing. Every step of the journey a lesson, every trial a triumph in and of itself, every moment of it something I will treasure forever. But, over the last two years, lots of changes have been happening in our lives – most of them good but a few of them, well, pretty drastic. It’s had me thinking – and lots more thinking of late, about the herd, the shepherding, the life. It takes only a milli-second to answer the questions like: Do I still love wool? Am I still passionate about my art form? Do I want to continue being a fiber artist for life? All of those are an enthusiastic YESSSS!
While I love the barn, the sheep, the life of living with the creatures that bring your art to life, though, I’ve been realizing lately that the shepherding time of my life may be drawing to a close. It started a couple of years ago when we realized we were leaving the homestead. I had hoped, but knew better in my heart, I think, that we were not going to stay ‘the same’ after the move. That has proved to be sadly true. It turns out, I’m really the only one interested in the shepherding life anymore. The kids are becoming teens and wanting to take more night classes, etc. and the husbeast decided farm life just wasn’t an interest any more. So, I kept at it, trying to do it all on my own. But, then some health challenges came my way and I began to realize the end of this part of the journey was nearer than I was ready to admit. Finally, after being out of the hospital only a few days after that horrible winter bout with the flu – I was down in the barn trying to tend a new lamb and, I don’t know, I guess I had an epiphany….it’s okay, I decided, to let this go. I’ve done it passionately for 14 years. I’ve farmed in the wilds of Maine, milked cows by hand and made all manner of things from their magical milk, raised sheep, lived off the grid. I guess I realized I’ve done enough – it’s okay to change it a little. So, I’ve decided to lay my shepherd’s hook down, and send the last of the herd on to live with another farmer. I have no intention of ceasing my life and work as a fiber artist – the change is simply that I’ll support other Maine farmers by purchasing their fleeces and, thereby, supporting their farm endeavors whilst continuing the part of my business that I cherish greatly – processing that wool into a yummy product.
I’ll miss the sheep greatly – but I look forward to a time in our lives when I can focus on enjoying the last few years before the kids are all grown by doing things we’ve not been able to do for many years – like camping, traveling, and enjoying some freedom from home and herd. Since most of my income is a product of things I make with professionally prepared fibers and tops, this change will have little effect on my shop and products. As I said, I will still carry farm raised batts and yarns as well – only they will be the product of another Maine farmer – I like being part of that circle so this works for me as well.
The problem with change is that, when you let even a little of it seep in the edges of the room – it spreads like spilled milk across the floor. You just never know where it’s going to go. That’s sort of been the last couple of years of my life but, all of a sudden, I’m finding the changes to be more of a comfort than a torment – and that is a very good feeling. With the kids getting older and involved in many more activities after school and such, our very remote lifestyle became constricting out on our homestead. We moved back to civilization to strike a balance for them but soon found that they needed more balance, even, than that. Recently, I chanced upon an opportunity for such a balance, and found us a house very close to the places they take classes but still in a quiet neighborhood with a large lot plenty big enough for a garden and some hens and our handful of pets. After 2 years of being a ‘renter’, I am so looking forward to having our own home, again. We move in later this week. It’s all very exciting. We’ll move in and have a couple of weeks to get the garden in before the chicks arrive, the dog’s fence needs to be finished, and wool fair season takes full flow. Changes are in the wind, and change can be a very good thing. I’m excited about this new direction and cannot wait to get settled, dye up the bundles sitting the studio – and hang them out in the sun to dry….
So, am I still a fartist? I think so, so I’m keeping the title. Just as I’m keeping our original farm name (Enchanted Knoll) though there be not one single lonely knoll to be found on the land behind our new-to-us house – LOL. It will stay the same because it was inspired by the days out on our little off-grid knoll, playing around with wool and dye pots outside the yurt in the summer while the kids played in the woods and enacted scenes from the LOTR series. Sometimes you keep good memories alive by holding them close to you – even when all that surrounds you has long stopped resembling their birthplace. I will still be a fartist, farming chickens and veggies and dyeing wool and yarns on my flat little Enchanted Knoll;)
18 years ago, today, I embarked on a journey that I couldn’t possibly have fully understood. I knew I wanted it and I knew I wanted to do it with all the love I had in me and that, I believe, is not my experience, alone. And, if we’re going to get really technical here I didn’t embark on it 18 years ago – TODAY. It took nearly a year of practicing something my Catholic school nuns had told me could happen on a whim or whilst swimming with boys and 8.5 months of severely uncomfortable incubation but I digress because all that seemed, 18 years ago today, to be water under the bridge and still does because the moment I BECAME a mother, well, that moment changed everything. What happened in all those moments, trials, celebrations, and hours of sleeplessness since changed and continues to change me – mostly for the better, I like to think. We’re not here to talk about my experiences, though…
We’re here to celebrate the phenomenal woman. This one, to be precise. Happy birthday, Emma – and may you step into the wonders of your journey with warm arms wrapped around you and know that I love you dearly, admire you greatly, and cherish that you are one of the three best things I could ever have done with my life.
If you ever really want to start a brawl in a room full of spinners, start a debate about woolen/worsted spinning and what each of these titles mean. Seriously, I speak from experience. So, I tread lightly when I say I’ve done a little experiment with both techniques for the sake of testing some little things I’ve noticed about my woolen and worsted spun yarns over the years. In the debate of tomato/tomahto – some say that worsted spinning is really only worsted spinning IF it’s done with commercially prepared top and all other spinning (such as batts and roving) is actually woolen spinning. Others focus on the spinning style over the prep methods for said yarn making.
Me? You know me. I’m lucky to leave the house wearing matching shoes every day…I tend to not get too technical when I’m at the wheel. Still, I’ve been noticing something….and it started me thinking….ouch…which led to my experiment. I need to note here that, for the purposes of my experiment – I am focusing on the methods of worsted/woolen spinning. Truth be told, both yarns are made from the same prep – my batts. So, while in the land of tomato they may only be considered woolen or hybrid woolen spinning – I am being so bold as to claim I made tomato sauce with one and tomahto sauce with the other.
Rudy Aman has an excellent feature in the Fall 2008 issue of Spin-Off. Being wise and spinnerly, he covers all bases for the tomato and the tomahto. He gives us worsted yarn – spun and prepared in the worsted way (inchworm or short pinchy drafting with commercially prepared top), semi-worsted yarn (spun worsted style but using fibers like batts or roving) as well as woolen yarn (spun allowing twist to enter draft range – commonly adapted to long-draw with fibers prepared in a random arrangement like roving or batts) and semi-woolen yarn (basically, you’re spinning long draw with top – sorry to be blunt but all this terminology is making my brain turn in circles – squirrel!)
So, going with this rulebook, I have two different yarns spun from the same batts – one spun semi-worsted, meaning I used the ‘wrong’ fiber prep for a real worsted but spun/span (how is it we are supposed to say that?) it using the short feeding inchworm method. Only, my own adapted version of this is sort of in between a short draw and a long draw. I’ve been spinning fine fibers like superwash merino for so long – I’ve kind of gotten to the place where I can draft much faster and not necessarily pinch in short stints. Personally, I prefer the ‘look’ of worsted or semi-worsted yarns – and that is only increased in preference when spinning something like an Enchanted Knoll batt – chock full of sari silk and/or sparkles. I find that the worsted method helps the ‘spices’ to lay down a bit and the finished yarn looks texturally ‘alive’ but still has some uniformity and control – meaning there are not strands of sparkle and sari silk hanging out everywhere – they are laying down neatly. I also tend to like the look and feel of yarns spun this way more in my knitting life as well. Again, with the ‘spices’, it lends itself toward an exciting knit but not so much of a ‘things going every which way’ knit. Naturally, there are exceptions to this rule but, generally speaking, I prefer this method. My rotator cuff is very pleased with that as long draw usually leaves me sore after spinning a skein in a day. Time permitting, I can spin 2-3 skeins a day the worsted method and not be sore at all. This is not usually a big consideration in the debate as, barring a show or two a year wherein I spin yarn to sell or the occasional madness for a sweater load of yarn, I rarely spin that much in one sitting anyway….if only I could:)
Long draw does appeal to me for a few reasons, though. Oops, I’m supposed to say, here, that we’re now talking about the tomahto – the woolen spinning method. It baffles me that worsted is supposed to be spun from top to be a true worsted because, you know, I love spinning batts worsted..I think I’ve already said that:) That said, spinning a batt long draw is the only long draw I spin. I don’t like spinning roving long draw and I just won’t mess with spinning anything other than a really fine superwash wool top in the woolen method. Long draw’s assets, IMHO, are that you can spin pretty fast with this technique. Though, again, after years of spinning, I find my worsted technique to be ALMOST as fast. And, long draw leave you with a floofy, soft, bouncy yarn. This is great for a lightweight yarn so I love it when I’m spinning a bulky yarn for a big (think sweaterish) project – one where the weight of the finished item is a concern. I mean, who wants to carry around a 10 lbs sweater???? Now, here’s where I go out on a limb and really slam long draw (just kiddin’, but, you know, if you’re a long draw only person you might think I’m totally bonkers for saying this) and say that I do not like this method for hand-dyed fibers. Part of the magic of hand-dyed fiber or, say, a yummy, scrummy batt with lots of colors blended in it – is the way the colors play out in little doses in your yarn. I, personally, find that the floofiness of this yarn sort of dulls the subtle color shifts. It’s fine with progressions dyed fibers or with long stretches of color but, for a color rich and busy-dyed batch of fibers, I think it detracts from the dyer’s creative color dancing more than I like. I would use this spinning method, again, for a navajo plied yarn of progressions, for a yarn wherein the resulting weight is a big consideration, or for a luxury fiber that I want to have rubbing right up against my neck and will be very careful with, because I also find these yarns do not wash as well and wear without pilling like a worsted yarn does.
These skeins were from the Happy Hooves Batt club March 2011 installment. They are a yummy polwarth in ‘malachite’ with lots of sari silk and some sparkle as well. They are my favorite color so, naturally, they are being cast on into something for me – a little shawlette that I’ll bring back to show you soon:) So, now I’m curious, which is your favorite spinning method?
I started 2011 with some karmic testing idiocy like, “this year is going to be all cakes and wine and roses and no bad stuff because I say so,” and, naturally, I thought it would be so. Heh! We’ve had the plague circling through the family for months and it ended in the first part of February – going out with a bang and landing me in the hospital and all 3 Things sick as little helpless puppies. It was awful, let’s just say that. Partly, because to clearly describe it involves much talk about things we don’t want to really talk about and, also, a great deal of profanity – such was the nature of that beast. Let’s just say, it stank really bad and it would be nice if it were all gone, now. I think it is (looks around for signs of trickery) but, you just never know.
I guess I’m finally going to learn to just accept what comes and stop trying to power through or push it away with my mere will to have the cakes, the wine, the roses. Grrr….my world is a better idea, that’s all I’m saying. But, since chaos and depravity seem to be lurking always at the ready to seize upon the hopeful and oblivious, I’m attempting to give up on the oblivion. I stubbornly cling to hope with my bony long fingers, scratching and biting at those who mock it, just sayin’.
Oddly enough, this learning to just ‘roll with it’ stuff hasn’t been so bad. Except, the funny part is, I find myself trying to ‘take control’ in the silliest places. I’ve spun sock yarn for so long it comes as second nature to me. I do it while watching movies with the kids and hardly ever even look down at my yarn to check my gauge/draft/etc. – I just feel it and know it’s right. I tried to spin some stripey socks a while back but the whole organization effort required became a real downer to my spinning/sanity building time so I ditched the effort. But, all of a sudden, I’m getting all neurotic with my spinning and sock knitting and trying to control the colors – LOL – I guess it has to come out somewhere:)
It’s pretty easy to do with progressions or long repeats dyed in top – but this time I used some batts I’d carded just for this purpose – with varying widths of different colors for longer stripes and shorter stripes. I didn’t want it to ‘look’ like I was controlling it too much – just to have some fun stripes here and there. To spin a batt, I usually ‘strip’ the batt lengthwise into long noodles. Sometimes, I spin straight from the noodle or, if I’m spinning long draw, I split the noodle into three shorter sections and spin from the fold. If I’m spinning lace, I draw the noodle through a diz to super prep it for a fine, even spin.
But, for striping, I tear the batt across in four sections. Two sections per sock and then strip it just as I did before – separating the colors and spinning them in the same order each time. Then, Navajo Ply and – voila! You have your stripes on and you’re ready for whatever chaos awaits you. Theoretically, at least. I’m not sure you can ever be prepared for the chaos BUT, I am sure you can wear your stripes proudly whilst it is playing out and keep your chin up until its past you. For this sort of occasion, you’ll find bold happy and sparkly stripes really fit the bill.
I can see I will get no help from my critters or people in the abating chaos department. I was sure I had a bit of a batt left on the wheel when I went to bed the night I was spinning this. But, when I woke up – the bit of batt was gone. I was sick and exhausted, I just assumed I had stayed up to finish the last bit. But, when I got to the toe of my sock, there was no yarn. Again, being a sock spinner, I generally know just about how much I need to finish a sock. I weighed it – and, sure enough, I’m missing about 8 grams of fiber. Or, I was. I found it on the kitty’s sunning in the window spot, torn to shreds and covered in cat spit. Yeah, this is the way it keeps on going but, I’ve got my stripes on – I’m ready for it….I think.
Of course, as I write this – the weather has turned from a calm sort of gray day to a sideways blowing heavy wind snowstorm and the kids are arguing over something I can only assume is VERY IMPORTANT. Double check. Yep, still have my stripes on…coffee is brewing. I can handle this. IN the event I can’t, me and the bag of chocolate truffles can be found under the blankets in my room;)