Spinners love to share their tools

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My little Akerworks spindle is my favorite travel spindle. It fits into my purse easily. And because it’s made out of carbon fiber and plastic, it’s pretty hard to destroy. I’ve been carrying it around for over a year and the only damage it has sustained is a little bit of bending of the hook (the one part of the spindle made with a softer metal). Believe me, I’ve dropped this sucker dozens of times. This little guy can take a serious beating.

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Adan, don’t worry. This is an old photo. I now know that the little black thing in this photo is upside down. 

Last weekend, my husband and I attended the Great River Folk Festival in La Crosse. It’s an outdoor folk music fest that frequently brings in the likes of Claudia Schmidt and Susan Werner. I always bring a fiber project to work on, since I know I’ll be spending all day and most of the evening listening to music. Spinning is the perfect activity for this sort of event. Easy to pick up and put down.

I was surprised and delighted to find out that, this year, I was not the only spinner present. And that other spinner was also spinning on an Akerworks spindle. I quizzed her about it and, it turns out, she had seen me spinning on mine the year before and been inspired to find the company online and order one of her own.

So, naturally we spent some time yacking about our favorite spinning tools. And I came away with a new appreciation of how fiber crafting draws people together. We love to talk about our art and our favorite tools, our preferred sources of wool and the most delectable fiber blends (I’m a big fan of Polwarth and silk).

I also came away from the experience thinking, “I really liked her large spindle. And the marigold whorl. Maybe I need another one…”

We spinners enable each other too.

Lots and lots of spinning and knitting, plus wine

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I’m surprised how much spinning and knitting I managed to accomplish on my trip to California. In between hiking, wine tasting, sight-seeing, eating, and more wine tasting I managed to squeeze in plenty of quality fiber time.

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I nearly completed this mitten. I’m testing out some ideas for a mitten design.Have discovered I am going to have to tweak the flower motif at the top in order to get it to look right.

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A goodly portion of spinning accomplished on my trusty Akerworks spindle. Nearly ran out of fiber. Never thought I would make it through a whole ounce on this trip. I was almost wrong.

I completely neglected to take photos of myself spinning and knitting. My time was too taken up photographing all the fun places we visited and the merry times we spent together.

Can’t really blame me. We had a glorious time and tried some amazing wines.

For those who are interested, we visited the following wineries/tasting rooms: Benziger (Partners Tour totally worth it), Gundlach Bundschu, Frog’s Leap, Jessup Cellars, MacPhail, Lynmar Estate, Imagery, Regusci, and Darioush. There was no particular method to our selections. We picked places we had heard were good, places recommended by acquaintances, and places recommended by guide books and podcasts.

I would dearly love to go back and do it all again. Just give me a few months to finish up all this wine I bought. The UPS man asked me, after delivering the fourth box, “Is it all booze?”

Several Months of Projects

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Today I finally got around to photographing a pile of projects that had been waiting for attention since midsummer. Many of them have been worn, particularly the lightweight, warm weather garments. So, while they’re not in pristine condition, I can vouch for their wearability.

  1. Second Story Tee by Debbie O’Neill: I knitted it in Elsebeth Lavold Hempathy. I am really enjoying the drape of the fabric. The original pattern was knitted in wool, which also looks great, judging by all the project photos I’ve seen. Hempathy is fast becoming one of my favorite yarns. It’s very versatile and is extremely comfortable to wear, particularly after a few washings.

2. Sweet Dreams by Boo Knits: A total “wow” of a shawl that’s surprisingly easy to knit. I enjoyed the heck out of knitting it. I was going to bring it with me on my trip to France, but at the last minute decided I didn’t want to risk having something terrible happen to it. So I left it at home. It was just as well. There were very few days on our trip when I wanted more clothes to wear. Temperatures in the 90s on many days. I knitted it in Wollmeise Lace-Garn, a yarn that was de-stashed by a friend. It has a good home at my house. I just adore green.

3. Ginny’s Cardigan by Mari Chiba: Yeah, like I said before, I like green. I’ve had this cardigan on the needles for almost a year. I’m not a big fan of the yarn, I’m sorry to say. Wool and nettles just aren’t my thing. I’m talking about the experience of knitting with it, not wearing it. I dare say, it’s no more prickly than a hearty Shetland wool sweater.

The sweater turned out too small for me. But that’s ok. I’ll hold onto it until find the right person to give it to. Someone who will appreciate all the trouble I went to to pick out just the right iridescent buttons for the front.

4. Cedar Leaf Shawletter by Alana Dakos: Yep, more green. The center stockinette portion is knitted from some handspun polwarth. The leaves are knitted using some leftover Sun Valley Fiber Arts MCN. Normally this shawlette is knitted using a DK. My handspun was a light fingering/heavy lace and the MCN was fingering, so I added a few more leaf repeats in the cast on edge. I didn’t end up with  much more width, but lots of length, which suits me fine.

5. A Hitchhiker from Handspun. The pattern is the ultrapopular, ultrasimple shawl by Martina Behm. I wanted to use up some handspun leftover from another shawl project. Unfortunately I ran out of yarn before I hit 42 teeth. So this Hitchhiker reached the end of its trail a little early. That’s ok. It makes a very pretty scarf.

6. Boxy by Joji Locatelli: I think of this as my Groupthink Boxy. The sweater that happened because everyone else in the knitting group was knitting one too. I actually like it much better than I thought I would. It’s very comfortable and easy to wear. And the fingering weight makes for a lovely drape. Normally I’m not a pink girl, either. But I just adore this Frabjous Fibers Cheshire Cat in the Plum Cake colorway.

7. Twig and Leaf by Anne Hanson: You remember the Sweet Dreams shawl I mentioned earlier? The lace shawl I knitted for my France trip but left behind at the last minute? Well…I actually knitted two different shawls for the trip. Because I couldn’t make up my mind which one to knit. So I knitted both. This one didn’t get to go on the trip either. Sorry little shawl. I really led you on.

8. Linum Tee by Bristol Ivy: I’m officially a Bristol Ivy fan girl. Her aesthetic and mine are likethis. She just knows what I like. And she keeps pumping out designs I want to knit. This Linum tee is a perfect example. Fairly simple, but with a killer asymmetrical design element at the neckline. It just slays me. This top is also very comfortable to wear. Hats off to Quince and Company. They’ve managed to make a 100% linen yarn that is comfortable and doesn’t shed (I’m talking to you, Louet Euroflax Sport).

Four Little Yarn Turtles

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Four little yarn turtles

All in a row

Two big ones

A small one

And baby without a proper shell

  
Cat crashes the photo

Great furry body 

Dwarfing the frightened turtles

It’s an irresistible compulsion 

To follow the turtles

Wherever they go 

Frustrated Fiber Artist

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My husband observed something about me recently that I would never have thought of myself. He called me a frustrated artist. He may have something there.

This comment came as part of a general discussion about figuring out your purpose and passion in life. If you’re lucky enough to discover it (not everybody does), what do you do about it? Do you have a cosmic obligation to make that thing the focus of all your energies? Or is that selfish and unreasonable? I know there are people out there in the world who turn their passion into their vocation. But not many.

There are lots of “good works” out there that are necessary for society to function properly, but that would probably never be anybody’s passion. Like garbage collecting. Or publishing a church newsletter. Or dusting (I despise dusting). All important in their own way.

And yet, I see so much wasted potential in myself and in the people around me that it wrings my heart. We focus our energies on “good works” that pay the mortgage and put food on the table. But think of how many Picassos and Elizabeth Zimmermans we’re missing on our planet because people are squandering their time and potential on lesser (if perhaps more lucrative) pursuits.  I can’t help thinking that there would probably be less anger, frustration, depression, stress and violence in our world if we valued and enabled the exercise of people’s passions as “a good day’s work.”

Yeah, I know this is impractical. But it’s frustrating to reach out for fulfillment and have your hand swatted away. And to realize that you’re doing the swatting yourself.

My husband calls me a frustrated artist. And I feel both confused and…recognized. I’ve never thought of myself as an artist at all. And yet, I think I’ve been looking for quiet ways to express myself through the material world my whole life. Knitting, spinning, dancing, blogging –I’ve literally never been without some little artistic safety valve. I simply never recognized it for what it was.

What would my life be like if I could remove the word “frustrated” from this description of myself?

Improper Spinning Chairs

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Yesterday’s post on the Ply Magazine blog about proper spinning chairs reminded me how remiss I’ve been in choosing a good spinning chair. A good chair should put your body in an optimal, ergonomically appropriate position in which to treadle and draft. A lot of people seem to prefer upright, wooden chairs, although Beth Smith says she prefers a rocking recliner.

Most of the time, I spin while sitting on the couch. It has nothing to do with ergonomic choices. It has everything to do with the position of the TV. In theory, there are other places I could sit in our living room that might be better suited for spinning. But none have such a good view of The West Wing, Bones, and Dollhouse.

So I remain on the couch, spinning away, with an occasional twinge in my back, shoulder or knee. Maybe one day I’ll wise up and choose something better to sit in. In the mean time, I treat my aches and pains (not all spinning related) with yoga and the occasional ibuprofen. And I justify my decision thusly: if I sat somewhere else, I’d just injure my neck straining to see the TV.

Knitting Baby Stuff is Seriously Addictive

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I’ve been knitting baby stuff lately, and here’s today’s important knitting PSA: Knitting Baby Stuff is Seriously Addictive.

  • There’s a tremendous satisfaction in casting on a sweater and finishing it in just a couple of days.
  • Suddenly there’s a proper use for all those single skeins in your stash. You don’t have to make endless hats and mitts with them. Just one robust skein can make a whole munchkin-sized garment.
  • Related to my last point, baby stuff is an excellent way to use up small amounts of handspun yarn. You just have to make sure it’s washable.  I can’t tell you how many 200-400 yard hanks of handspun I have in my stash. Mostly the result of spinning up a 4-oz bump of fiber and then chain-plying it.
  • The knit-worthiness of a child depends primarily on the primary laundry doers in their household. If the parents are knit-worthy, it’s probably safe to give stuff to their kids.
  • If the parents are knit-worthy, then they’re usually really appreciative of knitted gifts. This makes you feel all fuzzy inside and creates a beneficial knitwear feedback loop, which the family will continue to benefit from in the future.
  • The garments are so cute. They’re like big eyes on kittens. They stimulate all your cuddly, protective instincts.

Here are two of the baby things I’ve knitted in the last few weeks. I want to knit more. The solution is to either knit more things for the babies I know, or to acquire more babies somehow.