Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Un(Wrapped)

How was your Christmas everyone? I had a great holiday filled with 3 days of cookies, pies and cakes. I didn't hold back on the savory pastries or the breakfast casseroles. The lasagna was still frozen last night otherwise I would have eaten that, too. I think a few no-carb days are in order, right after I finish this pizza left over from last night...



Ram statue at Missouri Botanical Garden


Most of our gift giving was handmade and we received several handmade gifts, too. I asked for handmade and artisan soaps from everyone and got it. I have enough soap to last until next Christmas, which is perfect. Handmade soaps melt faster and cost more but they are so much better for your skin than detergent bars you can get at the store.

My favorite handmade gift I received this year was a Christmas tree skirt from my mom. The picture does not do this skirt justice. It is heavy, sturdy and BIG. It is also not around a tree. Next year? A tree!
We gave several people gifts of crocus and paperwhite bulbs in glass vases filled with rocks and water. We saved one vase for ourselves to force 3 crocus bulbs. I'll post pictures once they start blooming. Other gifts were either knitted by me or woven by Scott. Not pictured--one ice scraper mitt and a scarf

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Hrm...

I haven't updated in ages and I had so much to update, too! I know I'm going to forget something, but let me see if I can remember it all.

  • A local artist did an interview about me and the business and posted it in her blog here.
  • Husband-person has had his hours cut right before Christmas once again, possibly through April this time or maybe not at all. Hard to say. They cut his hours, give it back, cut his hours, give it back, cut his hours, give it back. The only thing that is clear to me is that he will never have December house with this job, not ever. I'm not going to get excited about it anymore. A friend's mom told me that I need to think of it as if he were doing construction work and prepare accordingly. Sounds good.
  •  My second trademark has gone through for the business. I assume if you're one of the 4 people reading this that you know what that business is. I'm not linking directly to my site just because Google still wants to rank my personal blog above my business website, shop and blog. I don't want to give them anymore incentive.
  •  I went to a card-making class at the LYS a few weeks ago and made these great cards and tags. Thanks for setting it up the class, lovely Deborah! 
 
  • St. Nick actually remembered to visit my shoes on December 6. He brought me Sharpies and gelt. No kidding.
  • Husband-person just emailed me while I was writing this to say he's back on full time for January. See what I mean about how I need to not get excited anymore? 
  • Amazon Santa visited early and brought me HP & the Sorcerers Stone special edition and the first season of Dharma & Greg. The HP special edition has scenes added back in that actually makes the movie make more sense. It's fun to watch, but not sure its enough extra unseen content to be worth the full $40 price. Amazon has it for $26 right now, which is better. Maybe wait until it is $22.

Monday, November 29, 2010

To bed, to bed

I took half an hour this morning and put the garden to bed for the winter. It isn't hard to do this year. I had done a lot of it last month. What is left gets ripped up, thrown away or abandoned to the squirrels for the winter. We're refining our plan next year. Again.
For starters, no more indeterminate tomato plants. I mean it. The above picture was taken in July. We had another month of startling growth. The tomato yield was great, but trying to water this container plant through it's 1" diameter watering hole was hard to do 2x a day. I was secretly thrilled when the wicking well collapsed and the plant stopped drinking. I gleefully chopped that mother down.

When we do the garden next year we are going to remember how crowded and overwhelming it was in August and how hard it was to keep everything watered.

We will remember how stressful it is to try and keep water from dripping between the slats on to the neighbors balcony when we are watering our plants. We didn't do too bad with this. We got sturdier trays to catch water, but the neighbors were very vocal about a single drop of water falling on their heads. I'm working on a plan involving marine carpeting if only I can work out the rain problem. I don't want a soggy wet carpet after a rain because that could lead to...

Mosquitoes. We will remember the mosquito problem and find a way to deal with those sturdier trays full of water. I actually don't know how to solve this problem. If we lift the tray to empty them then they dump on to the neighbors balcony, which we don't want to do.

We don't eat the jalapenos.

Sweet peppers and bell peppers are not the same thing. Even if they were, we've never successfully grown either.

Fairytale eggplants are awesome and we will plant lots.

The heirloom variety marigolds really worked well to keep the insect population down in the containers nearest them.We'll plant at least 1 in every veggie container.

Never underestimate the squirrels.

More flowers than veggies until we move someplace with dirt.

More drought resistant varieties.

Get sand for the base of the tomato tower.

Cherry tomatoes only in the tomato tower.

Swiss chard is yummy.

The long boxes don't drain well.

Snapdragons can survive anything but me.

Head lettuce tastes better than leaf lettuce.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Flash Mobs

Someone on Facebook asked me what a flash mob was. I then lost the whole morning reading about flash mobs and crafting this response.
==============
From Wikipedia A flash mob (or flashmob) is a large group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and pointless act for a brief time, then quickly disperse. The term flash mob is generally applied only to gatherings organized via telecommunications, social media, or viral emails.

Say I wanted to organize a pillow fight in Forest Park for this afternoon. I'd put the word out on Twitter and Facebook and hope it gets passed around. Then we'd hit each other with pillows for 5 minutes and then disperse. The singing and dancing ones are more organized, obviously.

Examples are:

Antwerp Station, which I think might have been the beginning of the flash mobs

Oprah's 25th season kick-off. The Black Eyed Peas taught 800 people to do the dance. Those 800 people taught the remaining 20,000 people in the crowd how to the dance while they were waiting for the kickoff:


It's not always dancing:


Philadelphia doesn't get it. They think this is a flash mob. They're wrong:

This guy wants everyone to know that flash mobs are not the same as riots.

And in conclusion,

Friday, November 26, 2010

Hallelujah!

Do you stand during the Hallelujah Chorus? I asked this question to my knit group and they had never heard of the tradition. Do you stand?

I do. My family does. Our faith tradition, Lutherans, stand during doxological stanzas. And because I had to look this up, too, doxological means an expression of praise to God, especially a short hymn sung as part of a Christian worship service. What is the Hallelujah Chorus but an expression of praise to God?

Wikipedia says the tradition of standing during the Hallelujah Chorus started with King George. He may have been so moved by the music that he stood or perhaps his gout was bothering him and he stood to relieve the pain. The rule at the time is that when a royal stands, everyone stands.

It would be appalling to think that we stand during the H.C. because King George had gout, so I'm sticking with doxology as a perfectly fine reason to stand during the HC. We stand because we are moved to and why shouldn't we? HC is perhaps the most majestic piece of music ever written.

And now for your consideration, an Hallelujah Chorus flash mob. You're welcome.

Friday, November 12, 2010

TARDIS

Once upon a time I got stuck in a time loop. When I had escaped the time loop I discovered I had knit an enormous pair of extremely comfy TARDIS socks in the Doctor Who Blue colorway of the best sock yarn in the entire world, D*yeabolical Strong Arm Sock Yarn. Not that I'm biased or anything.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Reasons to shop at an LYS

I'm cleaning off my virtual desktop and found the following half-written post:

Reasons to not shop at an LYS:
-the staff talks about you like you aren't there
-the staff actively ignores and plays soduku while you wander around aimlessly
-the staff doesn't know what worsted weight yarn is
-the staff has never heard of Noro
-any member of the staff thinks nylon is a perfectly acceptable substitute for cashmere
-the owner tells you you're fat
-the staff treats men knitters suspiciously
-the staff treats men knitters like they are geniuses for knitting garter stitch

Not a reason to stop shopping at an LYS:
-a single clerk enthusiastically wants to help you
when you enter a store and the backs off when you say 'just looking'
 I have no idea which even inspired me to write this. Probably a Ravelry forum thread. Probably a Ravelry forum thread directed at my LYS.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Flylady

I'm giving this FlyLady thing another chance. I'm on day 3. The apartment looks  better and I've realized that it isn't as bad as I thought it was, but I'm seriously spending like 2 hours on my morning routine completing her easy 2-15 minute exercises. That's not even accounting for the seasonal list of things that she says need doing. It's effective, but kind of hard to do. By the time I'm done I'm out of the mood to dye yarn. This is what today's list looks like, along with commentary:

*dust living room (okay, but let me take some zyrtec first)
*declutter car (I'm putting a time limit of 15 minutes on this)
*declutter purse (Um, I'd better put a time limit on this, too)
*15 minutes picking up and taking out trash (who needs 15 minutes for this?)
*drink water (done!)
*5 minute room rescue (surprisingly effective in my office)
*plan dinner (pizza--done!)
*relax for 15 minutes (that's called sleep, right?)
*work out (my morning decluttering and cleaning routine wears me out so much that I don't do this until right before bed. I've also been having a flare-up of every damn thing that's wrong with me so I have to be careful not to overdo it. Stupid. I used to lift weights and bike miles a day, dammit.)
*shine sink (I reluctantly admit that my work day is easier if the day starts with a clean sink.)
*2 minutes in "hot spot" twice a day (my hotspot is my kitchen table. I always need more than 2 minutes to clean it off. I'm confused why stuff keeps ending up  there.)
*15 minute declutter (I've been focusing on my dye shelf. That shelf is awash in disorganization and frustration. 3 15-minute sessions later and I've only got 2 shelves decluttered and 0 shelves organized)
*make bed (I have never done this regularly. I reluctantly admit to liking a made bed at night.)
*swish and shine (Shine means wiping down the bathroom sink. Swish means cleaning the toilet. I hates this, I do. I'm not ready to admit that the bathroom looks awesome.)
*a load of laundry a day (I don't make that much laundry. Maybe a load every 3 days?)
*empty dishwasher every morning (I don't make that many dishes, so I have yet to need to empty it. Go me.)
*work 8 hours a day (this is not a Fly Lady directive, but it sort of needs doing what with it being essential to paying the electric bill. Sadly, although I have finished everything FlyLady told me to the last 3 days, I have failed to work a full 8 hours any of the last 3 days)

Conclusion: I've already priced out how much a professional organizer and a cleaning service would cost. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Completely and Utterly Random


I don't want this blog to turn in to a place I come only to vent, so I'll intersperse pictures of our sweet new cuttings and cactus garden with the completely and utterly random bitching.

Can you tell I'm enchanted by our tiny little garden? With the exception of a few straggling snapdragons and marigolds, and some uh-maz-ing mums, the outdoor garden is about kaput. Good. It was fun for the first few months of the season, but it turned in to stress, stress, stress trying to keep the water off the neighbor's heads.
Speaking of water on the neighbors heads, I accidentally spilled some on the head of the neighbor. That encounter ended in a visit to the office, a call to the social worker and a heartfelt (I hope) letter of apology from the neighbor. I don't care how puppy-dog a person is or what their issues are, a 6-foot something angry cursing man storming at you is a 6-foot angry cursing man storming at you. I've put up with a lot of nonsense with these kids, but that's where I draw the line. I won't have it at my own front door.
The neighbor, who really is a puppy dog when he isn't extremely angry, has made friends with the local losers. One of those loser people kept fishing for questions about when we're home, when we're at work, how long we're gone. Luckily, he was only untrustworthy and not scary. I refuse to be concerned about someone who barely scrapes 5'4" and isn't old enough to buy beer. Still, if our TV ends up missing, then it was probably the squirrely kid of about 20 with buzzed hair who I think is the kid that Jill says used to walk Judy's dog. The other loser(s) happens to work here. It boggles my mind why any of the staff members are hanging out with the 20 year-old A-#1 nuisance of the complex or why they would take him out to bars, get him drunk and dump him back here for us to deal with. Maybe they think they're being nice, but it is just weird. P.S. If my TV ends up missing then the staff member(s) probably know where the squirrelly kid lives.
I want you all to know that I have been officially cured of any desire to be neighborly ever again. It isn't because of the squirrelly kid who is going to steal my TV or the weird staff members. It is because of the Angry Puppy who immediately forgot he was angry and asked what I thought of his shoes and if I liked his shirt and then he blew smoke in my face but said he was sorry but then did it again. Hoodlums and happy puppies I can handle. The slingshot mood swings are too much.
It is probably really insulting to keep referring to the neighbor as a puppy. I need a segue and this is what I came up with--my sister used to have a fish named Puppy. This picture is not Puppy; this is Sid. Sid Fishious. Sid's been a jerk all morning pretending to be dead. It has been pointed out to me that fish can't be jerks, but I think making your friend  and feeder believe you are dead when you're just taking a nap it is a jerky thing to do. His water gets changed tomorrow and I'll give him an extra dose of medicine in case he's actually sick and not a fishjerk. [I don't really think fish are jerks. Except piranhas.]
This is a flowering "air" plant. Air plants are part of the bromeliad family. Like their name suggests, these plants thrive in open air although they can be "planted" in moss or hopefully rocks and still thrive. We got this tiny little plant at Missouri Botanical Garden. Missouri Botanical Garden was given to the people of St. Louis as a gift for all time from Henry Shaw. Shaw's home was open when we visited the garden on Saturday. We were excited because the last 4 times we went to the garden it had been closed. It is a lovely home befitting a lovely garden....
...except when you get to the basement there is a display where we discover that Shaw owned slaves. Not only did he own slaves, but 3 of his slaves ran away and he sent hunters after them. I did a little more research and not only did he send hunters after them, but he sold his slave Ester in to hard labor in the South as punishment. He did NOT sell her children along with her. Asshole. My whole life I thought Henry Shaw was some kind of hero for leaving the garden for all of us to use regardless of race or wealth and now he's some guy who separated a mother from her children and sold that human being in to a life of terrible hardship as punishment for wanting freedom for herself and her children. I can't lie, knowing that he owned slaves kind of ruined the garden for me....maybe not ruined. Scott said that knowing this didn't ruin the garden for him, but it did change it. He thought he was looking at one thing but it turned out he was looking at something else. I feel that way, too. I need to think about Shaw's contributions versus his actions--the person he was versus the legacy he left. Does one outweigh the other? The display in Shaw's house suggests that he may have had a change of heart later in his life. I don't think so. Does that matter to me? Should it? 
I'm knitting TARDIS socks this month. That has nothing to do with puppies or Henry Shaw, other than I knit on the socks while sitting in Shaw's boxwood garden with Scott and discussing whether or not we could talk Scott's mom in to buying a donkey. Not that a donkey is a puppy. Anyway, Scott says he doesn't want these socks, but he totally does. Who wouldn't?



Sunday, September 19, 2010

Overworked and a bonus rant

I love love love my job until I do it 12-18 hours a day 13 days in a row in a month where I've only made 5 sales because it's early in the month. I hate to blame everything on the economy, but I BLAME THE ECONOMY. People just don't have extra $ that first paycheck of the month.

I decided to take today off. I woke up, cleaned up, filled the sink with hot water and wool, made coffee, opened my blog reader, picked up some carded wool and started filling the bobbin of my wheel right next to my desk in my office. Do you see what I did there? Work. I can't help myself. It brings me happiness and contentment on this rainy Sunday morning, but if I'm still dyeing/spinning/carding in 11 hours from now, I'm gonna get cranky with myself, especially since none of this needs to be done. The only thing that needs to be done is rehanking sock yarn and putting ribbons around some batts which is what Deborah, Ann, Scott and I will be working on later this week, along with spinning, knitting, noshing and drinking way too much coffee and Pepsi One.
 
Below is the real rant of the post. You might want to just skip it.

I read a lot of so-called "mommy" blogs. By far my favorite are blogs of real people just talking about their lives, their families, their views on the news of the day, their struggles, their hobbies and themselves. You know, blogging. Some of those blogs do make money through advertising or through organizations like BlogHer. Sometimes they do give aways. Sometimes they do reviews. They are transparent in terms of who is paying them to talk about what and they talk about their lives and passions when they aren't getting paid to blog. Funny, witty, thought-provoking posts with a chance to win a washer/dryer combo? I'm there!  

There is a new brand of blogger, though, and my least favorite kind. My least favorite blogs are those of people who used to talk about their real lives--whatever those lives might have been --but who have now monetized their blogs and sold out their readership by blogging for ad revenue instead of for fun. It seems that this brand of blogger can only talk about their spacious new mcmansion (furnishings subsidized by Major Furniture Company), their $5000 DSLR camera and professional grade video camera (subsidized by their PR firm), and their 4 backyard swimming pools (one each for the kids, the dogs, parties and laps) in their "modest" suburban home edged with Grecian urns and waterfalls. But don't worry, y'all! They're still totally the down home poor lil' country kid they've always been! Tee hee! BTW, I'm going to reach through the internet and throttle the next grown up who says "tee hee" without irony.

I would love to blog for money and giveaways. I really would. I don't begrudge anyone that. It's fun! I just don't want to have to wonder if they were paid to talk about cereal and vacuums. Or worse, posts written in false modesty about a bloggers pseduo-poverty when every other post is a picture of what can only be described as an oppulent display of wealth.

Don't get me wrong. I like seeing pictures of stuff, but there is a huge difference between

"Hey! I just redid my backyard! Look at my 4 interconnected pools and awesome Grecian urns (or spinning wheel or new camera)! I'm so excited!"
 and
 "I am just like you and I can relate to your experience. If I don't make a post today then I'm not going to keep up my readership and my advertising firm will drop me. I'd better have grecian urns installed so I have something to blog about. I am just like you. That will give me 4 different blog posts. One about picking out urns, one about having them installed, one about a humorous incident involving the urn delivery service and one photo-essay about my urns. I can relate to my readers' experience. Since I blogged about the urns in my ad-driven blog then I can write those urns off on my taxes and then it will be like I didn't pay for them at all. I am just like you. I wonder if I can get sponsorship from Urns-R-Us? Don't worry, readership! I'm still totally one of you."

Friday, September 10, 2010

Crossposted from the biz blog

Spinner? Want to learn? You can enter to win a spindle and 3 braids of roving from me in the Pancreatic Craftacular. 



Kim Werker, editor/author/crocheter/awesome, started her Pancreatic Craftacular fundraiser earlier this summer with the hopes of raising $3000 for The Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research.

Several crafty mavens are donating a portion of their sales to Kim's fundraising goal. In addition Kim is hosting a raffle on her blog. The first prize is $300 worth of yarn from another donor. The second prize is from me--3 braids of roving and a Sleeping Beauty spindle from Simple Market Farms.

To enter, simply make a donation to the Lustgarten Foundation and then leave Kim a comment. You can find more details by clicking here.

The contest closes on Monday, September 13th, 2010, at noon Pacific time.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Bullets

I started off doing a bulleted update, but then one of the bullets turned into a blog post in its own right, but turned out too personal, so I went back to bullet points. None of these bullet points are related to each other, although I can see how you might think they were. They are just things that have been on my mind. 
  • The people most proud of shucking social convention and "being themselves" are the people who will put the most pressure on others to conform to what they think ought to be normal.
  • Empathy is not a disease. Don't try to push your religion on me as a balm.
  • It is absolutely ok to, upon losing a job/breaking up/getting sick/lose a friend, to take some time to wallow around in it, just so long as you don't get lost in it. Take a day, or a week, a month, a year to cry with your friends, to imagine the worst and prepare for it. 
  • It is absolutely not ok to make people feel like shit because they don't handle emotions in the same order, the same intensity or on the same time table as you do.
Moving on. 
  • I'm still sporadically writing on Balcony Homestead. It turns out I don't have time or inclination to maintain a separate, article-based blog about gardening. Most of the posts are just state of the garden updates. I don't need a separate blog for that. Next season I'll probably move the gardening stuff back here and keep Balcony Homestead just in case those articles ever write themselves.
  • My cat smells like a rancid turkey and leaves his rancid turkey smell where ever he goes. I gave him a bath in wool scour. It seemed to work pretty well until he let loose a series of SBDs. Turns out it isn't his fur that is smelly. I'd like to trade this cat in,  please. 
  • I'm knitting the worst, most poorly-written sock pattern I've ever knit. God help any new knitter who tries to knit this thing. It is amazing to me how many errors I find in every single pattern I try to knit from *mumbletymumblety* press. Every single pattern has had an error and this is the second one I've knit from that press were the errata also contained massive errors. I should have ripped this thing out a week ago, but I'm almost to the toe of the first sock. What to do, what to do.
  • It took a lot of that "taking it easy" stuff, and I gained 20 pounds by doing so, but I think I successfully avoided the big major huge enormous awful painful flare up that my doctor and I expected when I tweaked my back and fell down the stairs. It was frustrating to have to re-do the way I work and my business goals, but it wasn't demoralizing and derailing in the same way a big flare-up can be. 
  • The degenerative disk thing seems okay for now. Obviously, I am still dyeing yarn. Obviously my career is not over like I thought it was going to be, but it is very different. Having that nurse call me and tell me that I'll never feel better than I did at that moment, well....that was rough.. Also, not true. I feel loads better now than I did then. But then again, I quit slinging 30 pound pots of boiling water 10 times a day and spending 2 hours in the evening hunched over a sink twice a week and the rest of the time pretending I'm not in pain and overdoing it.   
I had to rethink how I did my work, how much I produced and and what my goals are. I still do wholesale (and have an opening for a new shop if you know anyone), but I am not going to be in a studio this year, I am not going to be able to hire anyone, I will not be at TNNA this year and I am not going to be the next Lorna's Laces. I have, however, found ways to still produce and produce well.
 My dye process is more gentle and done in smaller chunks. If I can't dye yarn then I spin. If I can't spin then I knit samples or items for sale. If I can't do that then I work on learning more about design. If I can't focus on that then I'm online absorbing what I can about the industry.

It's been an adjustment, for sure. I really liked spending a day or two dyeing as much yarn as possible, another day prepping it and then taking the rest of the week essentially off. I can't do that anymore. I have regular hours now. I have a schedule. It is starting to feel like work (the horror), but it means that I can keep doing this job.  
  • I've been writing this post for 2 hours. This is why I had to work 18 hour days as a freelance writer. I    write    very     slowly. Time to get to work.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Lightbox Day


I pulled out the lightbox today to take pictures of new inventory. While it was out I took pictures of some FOs and WIPs.


Deborah and I are doing a 6-month Yarn Harlot-esque sock stash "club". We are choosing 6 yarns and 6 patterns to do for the last 6 months of the year. These are socks for Scott that I made for July out of Opal's Coral Snake color.

July socks made from my own Strong Arm. Technically this wasn't a stash yarn. I took it from inventory. The pattern is the Chevron pattern from Knitting Socks with Handpainted Yarns. The pattern is clever, but holy god, the errata. I recommend checking Interweave Knits website and Ravelry for errata before casting on any of the socks.

I started the Coquille shawl from the current Knitty using some of my 5/2 Cotton Warp yarn.  


I'm crocheting flowers from 100 Flowers to Knit & Crochet
I started working on Inverness from Knitty a few years back. THIS is going to be my Harry Potter sweater. It doesn't scream "wizard geek", it looks like something Hermione would wear, and I have the gray yarn for it. It is perfect if, aside from the fact that my gauge doesn't match, it doesn't come in my size and the neck and shoulders are all wrong.
I don't just take pictures of my FOs. I took a picture of this Hand-Charmer that Deborah knitted from Dyeabolical Sporty! in the Superheroes colorway. Pretty!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

I'm trying to write my bio for The Fiber Cooperative online fiber market. My space starts running tomorrow, so I really need to get it written. So far this is all I've got:
I dye yarn. Why is this cat tapping me with his paw? Forgot cat food. Damn. Bored. Bored. Bored. I dye yarn. I knit. I drink coffee. I"m awesome. I'm awesome except 2 people mistook me for a dude today. Sam's sample pusher offered me men's deoderant and got all confused when I reached for the ladies. I hate being called a lady. Prolly why she called me a dude. DUDE. Doooood. Too old to say dude. I should blog this. Stupid cat. Bored still.

 So...yeah, great big waste of my time trying to do this.

[Update: About 10 minutes after I posted this blog post I managed to pound out an okay bio. Apparently I just need to blog first. Yay blog!]

Monday, July 26, 2010

Back to Normal

Le sigh, le moan, le creaky groan. The Tour de France/Fleece is over finally and it is time to step away from the treadles. I was so ready to give up on the last bit of plying. I love the capacity of the bulky flyer on Mr. Matchless, but treadling on the bulky flyer like my own personal mountain stage. It takes a lot of effort to make that 8oz bobbin go around, but I kept at it and finished plying with just 1 kilometer left in the Tour de France. I watched Contrador cross the line looking so happy, as opposed to his normal serious looking self.

These are the last 2 bobbins I plied. I will take an official Tour picture later today of all the yarns I spun. Oh great, now I have "To all the yarns I've spun before...." running through my head. That won't be out of my head all day. Thanks, Willie Nelson.

 I'm looking forward to moving on from the Tour project. My laptop has been hooked up to the TV for most of the last 3 weeks. It's annoying to unhook it and move it to the office to get work done, so I've been doing most of my work from in front of my TV. The larger screen is nice, but it is 5 feet away, which is less nice. I predict a 20% increase in the amount of twittering blog reading work I get done in August over July. Oh jeez, August? It's almost August?

I'm looking forward to getting back to doing that knitting thing I used to love so much. I managed to knit the Purlieu scarf from this issue of Knitty and a single sock. I am doing an informal Yarn Harlot-esque sock club with Deborah, 6 pairs in 6 months. I need to get knitting if I'm going to make my first months goal.

I have another longer term goal of having a sweater finished by the time the new Harry Potter movie comes out. It took me 2 years to talk myself out of this sweater, which looks great on this little boy:

and in to this sweater, which is more appropriate and attractive for an extended plus-size grown-up woman to wear:
Except...I am 4 whole rows in to this sweater and I hate it already. The pattern is clever and well-written, so that isn't the problem. The problem is the first 2.5"is almost 500 stitches of 1x1 ribbing, followed by 20" of 250-stitch boring stockinette that isn't even done in the round and that's not including the sleeves or hood.

I am very fond of the plain mindless knitting, but only within reason. I was so enthusiastic for this pattern before I read it, which just goes to show you that it doesn't always pay to read your patterns in advance. I am pretty sure I am going to rip and knit a plain old v-neck cardigan with a reasonable number of stitches per round and no clever, but mind-numbing, detailing. I'm pretty sure I used too many commas in that last sentence.

I am happy that Scott is back to work this week. He took a week of lazy and lovely vacation followed by 2 more weeks where he only worked 2-3 days because some of his jobs canceled. Thank God for extra vacation time. He's back to a full schedule for at least the next 5 weeks and, hopefully, longer than that. I will miss him during the week, but I am eager to get back to my established work routines in the kitchen. It's hard to get any dyeing done when someone wants to use the kitchen to, you know, make food. What crazy notions that boy sometimes has.

Finally, I am happy that the Tour is over because that means I get my mornings back. I love the Tour, you know I do, but it does suck up a lot of time. That's 5 hours every morning, or evening if I miss the AM broadcast, that I'm spinning, watching the Tour and not blogging, not leisurely drinking coffee, not blog reading and not even pretending to get ready for my day until mid-afternoon. I love spinning and I love the Tour, but it's no knitting. Oh, and knitting? I miss you. Time to cast on for that second sock.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

TdF: Days 16-19

Day 16-- I make a concerted effort to spin a few hours. 

Day 17-- I'm pretty sure this bobbin will never get full. I have 2 bags of alpaca, 10oz total, and the first bag is still half full. I decide to weigh it. I have only spun 1.5 oz. I will never ever ever ever ever ever ever finish spinning this alpaca. Goodbye dreams of returning to something colorful and fun before the Tour is over. I return to spinning the giant bag of grey alpaca which, under bright light, turns out to be more brown than grey and not more grey than silver at all, which means I've accidentally spun Scott's grey/brown alpaca roving and not my silver/grey alpaca. To my credit, it does look grey with silver, right? Please don't tell him. Spin. Spin. Spin.
Day 18-- Time to catch up on the real Tour. I'm 3 days behind not including today. I do my real work until I remember that it is July and my long-standing rule is that I don't work when the Tour rides. This self-employment/self-preservation thing is a good habit the rest of the year, but it is getting in the way of my leisure time. I try to delude myself that watching the Tour de France is work if I sell the yarn I spin while watching it.

I give up on the first bobbin and decide to do a 3-ply, instead of a 2-ply. I load the 2nd bobbin and spin it in a stage and a half, about 5 hours. Wait, what? Yeah. I spun the second bobbin super fast. I even took lots of breaks to eat junk food and stare at cyclist butt in that 5 hours.  I have no idea what I did differently. I start the 3rd bobbin and spin for another 3 hours. It is a hard 3 hours where I discover I have forgotten how to spin. There is a big pile of alpaca left to go. That second bobbin must have been an anomaly. I think I hate alpaca.
Day 19: I sit down to watch yesterday's stage. Before they even get up the 2nd climb I'm through bobbin 3 and on to plying. I'm plying so fast I break a sweat, although that might have something to do with cuddly cats and a heat advisory. Still, I was plying fast. It made the floor squeak. Good.

Everything clicks and bam! Yarn. I am not even finished watching the stage and there are 5 skeins of lofty, fluffy, woolen, super-soft, super awesome, rustic, slightly fulled, alpaca 3-ply handspun straight off my wheel and in to the sink.

I can't believe I'm done with that alpaca. I'm not sure why that first bobbin took so long. Bobbin black hole? It was like spinning on the Traditional again before I upgraded the flyer to a faster ratio. My experience with my new wheel is that it takes me about 5 hours to spin 4 ounces of singles and the old Traditional was more like 12 hours for 4 ounces. Weird. That's over now. Look at my pretty yarn!

5 skeins, 108 yards per skein, 3-ply rustic alapca, pre-washing. See how under a bright light that it is brown and not at all grey? Oops.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

TdF Days 9-15

Day 9:
....

Day 10:
....ummmm

Day 11:
Progress! I spun for 7 hours today!

Day 12:
More spinning! Lots more spinning! After I'm all done spinning for the day my bobbin still looks like
It seems that a little bit of alpaca goes a long damn way when you draft long draw.

Day 13:
Coyotes whistle and the wind howls. Or something like that. I managed to ride a mile on my under-desk bike while checking my email and ....woohooo! I got in to the Strange Folk Festival again this year!

Day 14:
Hot day. I spun until my hand got sweaty. The bobbin still looks like this:
If this were the real Tour de France I would have been kicked out by now. Instead of spinning more than 2 yards, I ordered the Strange Folk roving (a few pounds each of polwarth, falkland, wensleydale, mixed bfl, sw merino/tencle and a bfl/silk blend) and a few cones of one of a kind, limited edition yarns for the table (merino/silk lace, alpaca/silk/wool blend and brushed kid mohair). It was "only" 27 pounds. Paltry to the average hand dyer who has her own studio, but somewhat overwhelming since I still have 20 pounds of yarn on my shelf and I'm limited to dyeing only 2 pounds a day until....well, until my body decides I'm not limited anymore.

Day 15:
I finally accept that I can either work or I can knit/spin. Not both.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

TdF Day 6, 7, 8

Day 6:
I spent the afternoon pouring over samples and crunching numbers. I am just waiting on one final price and I will be ready to place an opening order with a new supplier. I will be reanimating Alpacalips 100% alpaca yarn and rebranding it as a limited edition run of Zombie Alpacalypse which will be an alpaca, merino and silk blend. I am wavering between a softly spun silk single or a tussah silk/merino blend yarn. I am bringing in small 20-bump runs of Falkland wool, polwarth and either silk or tencel. All that thinking about what others want to spin counts as spinning myself, I think.

I started a bobbin of merino wool in Chocolate Covered Cherries. It fought me for half an ounce before I gave up.

Day 7:
I finished the first bobbin of CCC. It fought me the whole way. My enthusiasm for this project is waning. When is the rest day? Soon, I hope. Half an ounce from the end I realized, dumbass, you didn't draft enough. I drafted the remaining fiber and it spun effortlessly. Half a braid to go.


Day 8:
Today I spun a great big pile of nothing. I was going to finish up the singles of the 4oz braid I was working on. I was contemplating pulling the other 3 braids out of the shop and spinning up yarn for a sweater, but then they sold. All 3. Just like that! It was meant to be! Hey, I am not complaining in the least about that, but it did curb my enthusiasm for finishing the current braid. Tomorrow is a rest day. I rediscovered some alpaca fiber I forgot I had in the freezer (what, you don't keep your fiber in the freezer?) that I think I will spin tomorrow evening even if it is a rest day.

Hours too late

This started off as a nice blog updated and then got long and ranty. That's sort of a simile for my entire week. It was nice with long and ranty parts.

I woke up hours too late this morning to watch today's mountain stage in the Tour de France. I will wait until they are done riding in a few hours and watch it from the beginning this afternoon. In the meantime, I'm enjoying having my computer at a distance reasonable for getting some work done. My laptop has been hooked up to the TV so we can watch the Tour feed from the computer on the television. It's great for watching internet shows, but rotten for checking email. I've been balancing my keyboard on my lap and squinting for a week trying to read my email on my TV 8 feet away. I finally gave up even trying.

The feed from Versus has been awful. I paid $30 to, according to Versus ad, "not miss a minute of the Tour" or something like that. I paid $30 to, according to Versus advertising, get the full uninterrupted feed in HD streamed from the Tour directly to my computer. Then on the very first stage the race started and the feed still hadn't. Later, when trying to watch the feed on demand, the technology on Versus didn't work. The next day, same thing. The day after? Ditto.

Versus finally sent an email apologizing (but not offering any kind of refund) for the failure of service. Fans were riotous in the 2.5 days it took Versus to send that email. This is their biggest sporting event of the year. Versus had advertised what to expect. Furthermore, they advertised the same thing LAST year and failed to produce. The fans were upset last year, but nothing like they were this year having been duped for their money twice.

Versus had chat rooms, facebook and twitter feeds devoted to the Tour and talking about the Tour. Fans went to the various forums asking why those of us who paid $30 couldn't get the feed, so Versus did know there was a problem.

At any point Versus could have put up a twitter or a quick message saying they were working on the problem and that would have bought them a few hours. Instead they waited to act until fans started filing dispute claims with their credit card companies to get the $30 they paid back. Versus may have well been working on the technology issues for the full 2.5 days it took them to email us, but they didn't let their fans know that and the fans, rightfully, filed disputes getting their money back.

Ahem.

Scott's been on vacation this week. That's reason number 2 why I have 1000 unread emails in my inbox. Did I say 1000? I meant 7174, but only the last 1000 are from this week. Sadly, that's not including the spam folder, although it does include an email a day from QVC, Land's End, Ancestry.com, One Stop Plus, Amazon, JCPenny, Writers Digest, FansEdge, Walgreens, Old Navy,  and Groupon and at least 2 emails a day from Interweave Press, Facebook and nearly defunct social media sites that desperately wish I would validate their existence by logging in and connecting with people I don't know. How the heck do I unsubscribe from some of these emails because clicking 'unsubscribe' sure isn't doing it.

This is going to seem like an abrupt topic shift. I bet you're not used to those in this blog. Ahem.

I can't speak for other artists or crafters, but I like knowing what shows I have coming up months in advance so I can prepare for them. It makes me itchy to have someone approach me with a show that's in 2 weeks. Sometimes it makes sense, like if the shows is short on vendors or someone canceled, but sometimes it means the show is so unorganized that they forgot to get vendors.

There have been several shows pop up lately that I have either been interested in or been asked to be a part of that are coming up really soon and the vendor application paperwork still has not been finalized. I have a big gaping hole in my summer shows, so I am interested in finding a good fit, but I am rapidly losing interest in doing poorly organized shows no matter how cool they sound. How do you tell which are the organized shows running short on vendors and which are the disorganized shows who treat their vendors badly? You don't. You just gotta go with your instinct.

I will occasionally see people, especially people on Ravelry, say that we the vendors ought to be more patient and understanding because the people running the events are volunteers. Absolutely! I agree with that 100% however, while organizers are volunteering their time, we vendors are paying to be there. There has to be a little give and a little understanding on both sides, I think.

This is going to seem like another abrupt topic shift, but in my mind it is related.

I took two classes this summer. Both were online. One was supposed to last 8 weeks and the other approximately 1 month. Both cost about the same amount per hour of instruction. The two classes produced completely different experiences.

The 8 week class came with a class description, a syllabus and an statement of what the student can expect from the teacher, what the teacher expects from the student and the consequences of either student or teacher failing to followt he syllabus. I completed the 8 week class and feel like I got my money's worth.

The 1 month class came with a class description, sort of, from a teacher that is well-respected and well-known in the industry and, furthermore, one of my favorites in the industry.  There was no syllabus, no topic list, not expectations of the class or the teacher. There was just a statement that we were going to cover the principles of the topic and that's okay because we all trust the teacher to give us our money's worth.

The class started right away with the first topic. It was way over my head at first, so I decided only to observe and read rather than participate. I know I wasn't the only student who had decided that. The second lesson came out a week or two later. It was still over my head. The third lesson was delayed even longer so, since I had extra time, I put my head down and plowed through the first two lessons until I understood it. The third lesson was posted on June 13. Nothing has been posted since then.

I have read in places other than the classroom that the instructors are having personal issues that are delaying the class. In the classroom itself we were told that the primary instructor was a victim of a crime, no one hurt, and that it was taking time for the instructor to get back on track because she had to spend so much time on filing paper work. Completely understandable, but don't make us guess what's going on. We were given a schedule, finally, for the rest of the class and that schedule has long since blown past us with nothing new being posted. In the meantime, the instructors have started a new class on the SAME TOPIC while we are still waiting for our to resume Uh, WHUT?

I have been trying not to rock the boat too much, because I still kind of idolize the teacher. Like, so much so I just bought her newest book in two different formats. I notice that none of my other 34 classmates have said a word, either. I wonder if this is because it is verboten to speak a critical word in the knitting community? Or I wonder if it is because we are new designers and the two instructors are, right now, our only gateway in to the mystical word of tech editing? I finally said something. I cannot be the only one wondering If that was $60 I just threw down the drain.

Here's where I'm putting the parts of this post back together. We may be a friendly community. We may value our volunteers. The arts, crafts and cycling community, may be a kinder, gentler community, but those of us who have paid money to participate in it are entitled to receive what we have paid for. If that cannot be provided or if there is going to be a delay in providing services, then JUST SAY SO and keep us in the loop as you figure things out. Don't make us guess.

In my final unrelated blog news, we went to Meramec Caverns on Friday. I had never been before. I loved it. It was all of the stunning natural cave formations with none of the mud, snakes or arduous walking conditions, with a whole lot of kitchy cornballishness (is that a word?). It was just my kind of thing.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

TdF Day 5?

I finished spinning the singles and plying the masham wool. I ended up with 224 yards of a worsted weight. The yarn has a gorgeous lofty hand, but it is hairy and hairy usually equals prickly. This is not, as Annie would call it, yarn good for underpants.

I did not wake up early enough this morning to mentally prepare for working/spinning before today's Tour stage started. The stage is half over and I'm still slumped on the couch eating leftover chicken for breakfast and blogging with you. My TdF contributions for today may be limited to finally committing to an opening order with a new fiber supplier (maybe) and starting a scribble lace scarf with some handspun I did a few weeks ago.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Dust on Christ's Head and Tour de Fleece: Day 4

I practiced supported long draw using the masham wool that Annie brought me and that I dyed. My preferred method of spinning is a worsted short forward draw.

I love the heavy dense yarns it makes, but it sucks up the fiber. I wanted to get better yardage from this masham wool and give it a softer hand, which means spinning woolen. I watched Abby Franquemont's Drafting video from Interweave and picked up some good tips on just how to do that.

I'm not sure I'm getting enough twist in it yet, but just under an ounce of lace-to-fingering singles in an hour ain't bad. Scott and I watched the Tour de France from the overpriced, undersupported Versus streaming feed (don't get me started) and spun for about 4 hours. I have about another half ounce to spin tomorrow and then I'll ply. I'm hoping to get 200+ yards of a sport weight with a decent halo.
I went to a funeral this morning at Christ Church Cathedral of a family friend. I would rather not have had a reason to be at the Cathedral in the first place, but since I was I spent a few minutes admiring the beautiful hand work.

There were needlepointed kneeling cushions in the chapel that depicted various saints. Some people used them as seat cushions, which was amusing. The chairs were not comfortable, so I can't say I blame them. If I hadn't known what they were in advance I may have done the same thing. There was a hand embroidered vestment hanging from the ceiling between the sanctuary and the administrative part of the building. The stained glass was beautiful. By far the showpiece of the place was the carved altar. 


 
 I wasn't thinking about the carved altar when, during the luncheon, a member of the church asked me if I wanted to see the dust on Christ's head. Intriguing. How could I refuse? He took me to the back of the kitchen, shoved a few boxes out of the way, pointed towards a narrow utility closet door and gestured me through. WOW, if only all utility closets had this view. [Click the image to make it larger]