Cold Sheep Revisited

At the end of the last year I realized that my yarn stash was eating my life. (More accurately, it was eating the corner of my bedroom where it lives.) The logical solution to this problem, other than to de-stash, was to only knit from the stash this year and to go until at least my birthday without buying yarn. No caveats.

I did both of these things. (Although, I did ask for yarn for my birthday and was gifted some gorgeous limited edition yarn from Expression Fiber Arts.) The only yarn I bought all year I bought at the end of July at Madtosh Crafts in Fort Worth, Texas. (You can’t spend almost two months in Texas less than an hour away from the home of Madeline Tosh yarn and not go check their store!) I bought yarn for a specific project, Celestarium by the Twist Collective but instead of casting on right away I decided I should clear out my knitting queue.

Now that the year is almost over I have three things left in my queue and no desire to knit on any of them. Even worse, I don’t feel my stash has reduced at all. This is possibly because it hasn’t. I have kept up spinning and I’ve added to my roving stash, which means I’ve been making yarn even if I haven’t been buying it. Additionally, I have received a few gifts from traveling friends who have been awesome places with knitting traditions. (Icelandic and Swedish and Estonian yarn, oh my!) What’s more, I’ve realized that yarn isn’t the only thing I horde. I could use a serious de-stashing of, and it breaks my heart to say this, skincare products and makeup, books (particularly ones I know I will never read (again)), and clothes (I own so much clothing and some of it isn’t even my style anymore! Why do I hang onto it?) I feel like many areas of my life could benefit from some Cold Sheep* love.

When it comes to next year’s New Year’s Resolutions, it looks like it might be the case that they look a lot like this year’s. Even though I was successful keeping them.

With one month of 2014 left to go, How has your year fit with your plans for the year?

*Yes, I do realize the expression in English is “cold turkey”.

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Roving Database

Last Fall, or perhaps that Fall before, I took Felicia Lo’s class on Craftsy on spinning. It was delightful and I learned a lot about technique and spinning with color. Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to make intensely colored yarns. I love color. And, I want it to always be super saturated. Go hard, or go home, Color! With an eye to that, I’ve spent the last year cultivating a stash of intense colors and making plans of how to spin them (together, of course).

I was just sitting down to update the database after this year’s Fall festivals. Looking through the database I noticed that I have not been following my plans. Things that were earmarked to be spun with something else were spun from the fold and navajo-plied. This is obviously okay as it means that I was creative in the moment. Sometimes, the way something looks in a braid isn’t how it looks when it is passing through your fingers and onto a bobbin. This was the case with a braid I bought last year from Winderwood farms.

Winderwood Farms

I thought this was a variegated braid in the bag. It was three long strips of color. While that was unexpected, it gave me an opportunity to try spinning from the fold. What I thought was going to be stripes of color ended up being more like swirls and stripes of color. I had planned on plying it with something else, but it seemed best to just keep it to itself! It was so lovely.

And, now I find myself looking at the database and wondering if my plans are the best plans. We shall see if I stick to them as I pick what I spin next.


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Live Connection

The lyric, “Somehow a vital connection is made” has been stuck in my head for about a week now.  This is possibly because a lot of things about recording and data management have fallen into place for me in the last week.  The lyric is from Connection by Elastica, whom I have loved from the first minute I first heard a song of theirs, and I leave you now with this link to a live performance from 1995.


Live Connection

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Health Care and Language

Being able to speak to your doctor and understand what they are telling you is an important part of getting good health care.  However, it isn’t always the possible to find a doctor that speaks the language you are most comfortable in.  Can you imagine not being able to explain what is wrong with your doctor?  Or, the not understand what is wrong and have an idea of why you should be taking certain medicines?  Below are two links to programs that are attempting to remedy this situation by offering patients access to medical care in their native language.  The first is a link to a story about a hospital in California that is offering access to interpreters trained in Indigenous languages of Mexico and Central America and the second is a link to an NGO working in Guatemala that is training doctors in Mayan languages and offering Midwifery workshops in Mayan languages.

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What does the World Call its Game?

A friend of mine showed me this image today and with FIFA World Cup fever in full swing, I thought I would pass it onto you.  What do people call that game that you play with a black and white ball, two goals, 90 minutes and 22 players?


Soccer Map

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Review: Within a Budding Grove by Marcel Proust.

In Search of Lost Time is still my favorite novel. And, I have to say, while Within A Budding Grove is certainly a suggestive and metaphorical and lovely title, I feel that the more recent translation’s title is more keeping with the letter and the spirit of the original: In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower. While it would be an oversimplification to say that this section is all about looking for a little play, that wouldn’t be entirely wrong. This book follows the teenage years of our narrator. He falls in love for the first time. And, he’s a total creeper about girls. I mean, seriously. He’s creepy and then he tries to recruit his friend (who is totally devoted to his own mistress, possibly because he’s trying to not be gay, I don’t know, I don’t want to put anything on a character, especially a character that could charm the pants off of me but, I’m just saying, his devotion to his woman is either a little touching or a little too much) to help him with the ladies…well, I’m getting away with myself.

In this section of the novel, our narrator moves to Paris and spends a lot of time with the young Gilberte Swann and then later, after some distance has grown between himself and Gilberte with Gilberte’s mother, Mme. Swann (formerly Odette de Crecy, whom I hated for all of Swann’s Way.) I like Mme. Swann, I have to say. She grew on me. He spends the rest of the novel at Balbec, in the town by the sea where he meets Robert, marquis de Saint-Loup-en-Bray (not going to lie, this is the possibly gay one with the mistress that I just find so charming.) Saint-Loup is a Guermantes and he is visiting his mother at the seaside before going off to do his military duty in another town on the coast. He’s lovely. His mother is lovely. We’re introduced to more of the Guermantes extended family and we’re also introduced to painters, ambassadors and long and beautiful sentences about the countryside, art, women, life, everything.

I listened to this book while driving two and from Iowa over winter break and I have to tell you that ISOLT is not a car book. The observations made by Proust through the narrator may really get at the heart of things but they require concentration (which you don’t have to spare in the car) and can also be quite tedious (if you’re stuck sitting in the car for many hours.) While I did enjoy the audio book presentation (Neville Jason is a fine reader) I just can’t get behind listening to this in the car.

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Gratuitous Wool Photos

To start off we have these lovely singles (a single thread or ply, if you will.)  They’ve both been in my wool stash for way too long (and the purple and green one has been on the bobbin since last Autumn!)  I plied them together.  2014-04-07 00.47.12And this lovely two-ply is what I got! The purples and greens were from a roving braid that I believe was from the The Critter Ranch. This is a farm South of Buffalo, NY that has a store front on its property and will let you drive down and visit the llamas! I’ve been buying from them for a few years now and they’re colors and wools never disappoint!

2014-04-12 12.59.11

I can’t remember where the green and brown is from, except that I’m sure I bought it at the Finger Lakes Fiber Festival.  (I remember it very clearly because it static-clung to my leg and I couldn’t get rid of it.  It just kept attaching to me.  It was a good price, so I added it to my stash.)  I has some extra leftover after I made the two-ply, so I chain-plied the rest.

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This next one I fractal spun from a braid from The Llady Llama Fiber Co. It is merino top. It colorway is called verdigris. Fractal spinning is a technique where you divide the wool in half and with half of it you do nice, long color changes and then with the other half you divide it into many smaller pieces so you can little color changes pairing up with big color changes in the final product.  Repeats within repeats, if you will.  I can’t wait to knit this up and see how it pools with the fractal changes!

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The last bits of wool that I magically made into yarn came from two different places.  The top one in the photo below was another braid from the Critter Ranch (I believe this one was called “Rose Pedals”!  Ha! Get it?  Because the treadle on the wheel is like pedaling?!  I know! Hilarious!)  and the brighter one on the bottom came from Winderwood Farm. I like visiting their tent at fiber festivals because they have some fun colored braids of roving (like this one) and they also have a very wide selection of fibers, some of them quite exotic. Last year I bought baby camel (which is very soft!) and buffalo from them (which is also very soft!)

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I wasn’t sure that I was going to go with my plan and ply these two together because the wool from Winderwood is just so bright.  But, I went with the plan and I’m glad I did.  The rose hues temper the brightness somewhat and the colors in the two plies play off each other in fun ways.  I also look forward to seeing how this yarn knits up!2014-04-20 14.40.36There is currently some Shetland-cross undyed in its natural color on the wheel right now.  I got that from Whispering Pines Farm. The first wool I ever bought to spin was from Whispering Pines and I do love the wool they produce. I will be plying some of what I’m spinning now with another braid from Llady Llama Fiber Co. but since it is not done yet, that will have to wait for another post.

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Accidental Hiatus…and why I craft

I haven’t knit a stitch in more than a month. Now, this is pretty unusual for me. Knitting is very relaxing and centering for me (and for many people. It used to help rehabilitate prisoners and many people have written about its health benefits. But, I’ve not been feeling it recently. I started a KAL with ravelry group but I’m still on the first clue. I’ve read through all of the pattern now and I look forward to finishing the cowl (I’m making a cowl!) at some point this year but I didn’t finish it in April and I won’t finish it May.

Instead, although this was an unintentional instead, I’ve been spinning. For the last couple of weeks I’ve managed to spin between 15-40 minutes every day. Spinning, like knitting, has a lot to offer. With spinning, you have to manage the project. 15-40 minutes a day can get you pretty far if you have a plan. You are in control of how thick the yarn is (and this affects how much yardage you can get out the roving braid or batt or whatever you’re spinning from.) You have control over what colors you mix (or don’t) and how you mix them. You choose which technique you’re going to use. Do you want self striping yarn? Maybe you’ll chain-ply (this is sometimes called Navajo-plying. I keep meaning to look into why that is. When I know, you’ll know) and you’ll get a 3-ply finished product that will stripe. Or, maybe you want a barber poll. And, then you can intentionally over- or under-ply your threads and that will change the look of the finished product. And, I haven’t even gotten into materials! You can spin animal fiber: sheep’s wool (there are so many types of sheep!) or llama wool or alpaca wool or goat wool or rabbit wool! Who knows what else! And, you can spin plants: cotton and linen, for example. You can even spin Science: I have some roving made out of milk protein! MILK PROTEIN! How cool is that?

Being able to sit down and think through a project and then see that project go from a pile of wool to an eventually knitted product is enormously gratifying. The rhythm of the wheel is relaxing. I can spin while doing other things (like catching up on my favorite TV shows or listening to the next section of In Search of Lost Time or facetiming with friends.) And, I don’t even have to spend a lot of time on it to make progress. I love crafting because of all of these things but that last one sometimes acts as a reminder that small time investments can get you where you’re going. This is especially useful when you’re staring in the face of a big project. Life is little steps. (And, in my house, sometimes those steps are on a spinning wheel treadle.

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Review: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

I’ve thought for awhile now about what I should say about this book. I loved it. I just loved it. And, I binged on it over a weekend when I really should have been doing so many other things. I needed to know how it ended. And, I really enjoyed every minute of it, even the parts (and there were many) that made me cry.

This is a memoir of Cheryl Strayed’s hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. I really do enjoy memoirs of hikes (Bryson’s a Walk in the Woods is a classic for me) and this book (like Bryson’s) made me want to get out in the world and walk. Although, her descriptions of her under-preparedness and what the trail did to her body makes me think that preparation is absolutely the key to a good hike. And, the kid of preparation that involves multiple dry runs. It was clear she had done some preparation, especially the kind that I would be prone to do: she definitely read up on what she would need, she was woefully unready for some of the things she encountered.

The people on the trail that Strayed met seemed pretty good and how the narrative went back and forth between the hike and what brought her to the hike was really well done. Her relationship with her mother was touching and her descriptions of how she took her mother’s loss was absolutely heartbreaking.

This was an amazing book and I’m very happy to have read it. I find it very touching and very moving. But, beware, you will need a lot of kleenex.

I got this book from the Erie County Public Library.

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Review: Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Why do I keep putting myself on the waiting list for these books? The Beautiful Creatures are books about the “caster world” in which there is a magical world that exists right along side the human world. In the first book we were introduced to the two main characters Lena and Ethan. We watched them fall in love and we found out their love was doomed. Pretty standard teen stuff. Well, their love is still doomed and now there are additional complications. Like, What is Lena’s crazy, evil mother up to? And, what is going on with John the potentially not-evil incubus and Ridley the potentially not-evil cousin? And, what’s the world going to be like once Link sorts out his new powers?

What really makes these books, and what keeps me requesting them from the library, are the supporting characters. Amma, Liv, Marian, Link, and Macon are all totally awesome. Ridley and John even seem interesting. Lena and Ethan, however, are total wet blankets and since the story is from Ethan’s perspective and he’s Roman-and-Juliette-style-in-love with Lena (and he can hear her thoughts) we get crazy-sized portions of their crazy-in-love nonsense. These books are only okay. I only recommend picking them up if drama and occasionally drippy romance is your thing.

I got this book from the Erie County Public Library.

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