Monday, October 18, 2010

To My Faithful Followers...

...and delightful lurkers one and all...

The blog is moving. Now that the shop is up and running, I'm trying to keep the split personality thing to a minimum. I won't be posting here anymore. Please click on over to...

and stalk, er, I mean follow me there. It won't be all shop talk-there'll be more Gems From the Music Room, I promise! I'm sure I can come up with more random blather, too.

See you over there!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Gems from the music room, part seven.

Before I tell you this one, you need a visual: I have dark, almost black hair, except for a prominent grey streak in the very front.

Student, who is new to me and has unpredictable social filters: You look like a movie star!
Me: Oh really? Who?
Me, to myself: Oh for pete's sake, why did you say that? Here it comes...
Student: In that movie, "Ella Enchanted!" The girl who plays the know, Anne Hathaway!
Me: no response, as I have fainted dead away from being compared to a princess and not Cruella DeVille

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Check One Off the Life List

After much hemming and hawing, and wondering if I was crossing all my i's and dotting all my t's, I finally give to you...

Spencer Hill Spinning and Dyeing.

It's up, and it even has a few things for sale. I have more items to post, but I need to retake a few pictures. That should be more successful when the sun is out. Of course, around here, that could mean next May, so if it doesn't happen in a day or two, I'll go ahead and use the ones I have. (They're fine, but I just would like to do it a leetle beet differently. See that? I've been in business all of 24 hours, and I'm already changing things.)

I don't regret taking as long as I have, really. But escape velocity has been achieved! I hope you'll come take a look...any feedback would be greatly appreciated. Typos, grammatical errors, suggestions for future products, anything. I've already had a request for a fiber club, which I think is a great idea...once I can reliably dye unspun fiber without turning it into a felty lump. I want to get some handspun up there too. I haven't sat at the wheel in a while. Actually, there's a question for you: when it comes to Etsy purchases, are you happy buying the usual four-ounce lots you see of handspun/hand-dyed yarn, or would you like to see larger quantities? Like, a sweater's worth? Handspinning a sweater's worth of yarn is no small feat, but I'm talking about hand-dyed millspun yarn, too (especially since I'm not going into the "handpainted" category; I suppose what I do is closer to kettle dyeing). Let me know whatcha think.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ever-so closer

I'm not quite ready to fling open the doors, but I do have a bank account and therefore a PayPal account (I had one before, but now it's been upgraded to a business account) for the business. AND I got a new ink cartridge for my printer, so now I can get to tags and labels and such.

Still working on the photos. I know things don't have to be perfect the first time I put them out there, but I don't want to look like a total n00b, either. Since we'll be back to school soon, I think I'm going to check with my art teacher friend and see if I can either a) bribe...I mean, barter with her for some shots, or b) check with the high school art teachers and see if there's a high school kid who wants some photography experience with more than the yearbook. (My art teacher friend is very, very pregnant, so I'm not sure how much whatsie for photography she has left right now.)

The box from Earth Guild came today, so I have more alum and can get some more yarn and fiber dyed before the silly season begins. It's coming together, finally. Hard to believe, but pretty damn cool at the same time.

Funny: when I went to the county clerk to register my DBA, the clerk looked at the name (Spencer Hill Spinning and Dyeing), and then hesitantly asked if I was sure about the spelling. I assured him that d-y-e-i-n-g was indeed correct, because I intended to do the d-y-i-n-g kind only once, and that wouldn't make for much of a business now, would it?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


If one can fire by two-thirds, that's what I did today.

I went to the county clerk and registered my business name.

I got online and applied for my sales tax collection authority number.

That gives me about 30 days to find someone with better photography skills than me, let PayPal catch up to the fact that my name changed when I got divorced, get some packing and shipping materials, and get an Etsy site together, because...

something has to be done with all this yarn, and Spencer Hill Spinning & Dyeing is closer than ever to doing it. Stay tuned...

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Purfuit of Happineff

Happy Independence Day, everyone. I've been independent of school for just about a week now, which leaves me much more time for the purfuit of happineff*. Lately, that's involved small-scale gardening, cold-water fleece processing, a lot of spinning, some furniture purchases (and the re-arranging that accompanies them), and more spinning. I know I said this in my last post, but there's more details to come. Right now, I must go purfue some more.

*In case you don't twig the reference, go here, and scroll down into the "Capitol Records" section. Then go get your hands on the recording, because every good American should be familiar with this piece.

Friday, May 28, 2010

O hai!

OK, so it's been a month. It seems like I should have piles and piles of goodies to photograph and share, but alas. I have more than nuthin', at least. (No photos yet, though. Hopefully tomorrow.)

It's been a roller coaster at work. Like everywhere else, money is a major problem for schools in NY. Just before spring break, it became clear that my district faced a budget shortfall of $8 million. Very often, the state rides in at the last minute with refigured aid formulas, but not this year. Massive cuts ensued; half of the music department, half of the art department, most of the social workers, anything that looked like an elective, elementary classroom teachers, office and custodial staff, administration (gasp!), closing two buildings and combining sports teams (more on that in a minute). But thanks to an extremely generous grant from the Corning Foundation, a lot of that was restored. But not all, and it's only a one-year solution. Things aren't expected to be better next year. I have seniority in my department, so I'm not worried about losing my job; what it actually will be in the next few years remains to be seen.

The two elementary buildings are still closing, which has needed to be done for quite some time. One is nearly on the PA border, and has one class (occasionally two) at each grade level. It's a delightful little school, but...if you're trying to save money, a tiny little building out in the boonies isn't the way to do it. The other one is in town, but the areas that it serves are decreasing in enrollment. There's been reassignment of kids, staff, materials, equipment, everything. Nothing has physically moved yet, but the emotional turmoil and upheaval began as soon as the school board directed the closures.

Combining sports teams: we have two high schools (which also should be combined, and I believe will be eventually), and since I've worked here, have had combined certain sports teams but not others. Swimming, wrestling, track, cross country, and probably a few others I can't think of: district teams, not separate high school teams. Lacrosse, football, basketball, baseball, softball, and again others I can't think of: high school teams. Makes perfect sense, right? Yeah, that's what I think too. So through another board action, about $280 000 was saved by combining ALL teams into district teams.

By and large, this has been supported by the community, both kids and adults. The kids are pragmatic; they're friends on and off the fields, play with each other on summer and travel teams, and look forward to being on the same teams as each other. Frankly, I think the Corning Hawks men's lacrosse team will be practically unbeatable in years to come, with the talent available between the two schools. Most adults understand the cost savings.

Then there are the adults who still have unresolved high school sports issues. These are the ones who were on the West High lacrosse teams that never beat the East high lacrosse teams and still want a chance to do it. A trio of them, who not coincidentally also ran for three seats on the school board, concocted a "foundation" that they claimed had raised $300 000 to "restore" Corning sports. Really? Which sports? The ones that have been combined for twenty years? Well, um, no. There's not enough money to restore them, too. Lacrosse? Well, DUH. Of course, that's what our sons play. Luckily, voters saw through this scheme and turned them away. Not only did it feel like they were trying to buy votes, people wanted to know what would happen next year. And if they could come up with all this lovely money, why wouldn't they use it to restore elementary classrooms instead? Is the lacrosse team more important than a kindergarten class? Feh. Go away. The board also rejected this "gift," which was essentially a line of credit with nothing backing it. (Never mind that it didn't have actual 501(c)(3) standing yet either, which takes months and months to obtain, and therefore rendered it legally useless. Oops. Damn technicalities.)

Around Herself, dirt has been delivered, so planting has begun (here's where the pictures will help soon). Not much spinning has happened, as I was afraid to put down the lace wrap lest I not pick it up again. It is finished, and there are pictures. I currently feel the same way about a baby sweater, but it's close to completion. I went to Maryland Sheep and Wool at the last minute, so I should tell you that story as well (I lost my Ikea virginity on the same was amazing). And there's Mitzie's upcoming dental work. The fun just never ends around here, let me tell you.

I *did* finally renew my passport with my correct name, so at least I can run away to foreign lands if need be...

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Spring "Break"???

So I've spent my spring break doing a bunch of things around the house. Never fear, there was also a fair amount of AIS* time, and a quantity of good wine drunk with a dear friend. Here's an abbreviated rundown:

1. Tidied up the stone steps/slope that lead to the back door. My attempts last fall at something like a terrace didn't survive the winter very well, so I had to turn to Plan B. This involved moving pretty much all the stones, except the ones from the original steps that aren't going anywhere without a pry-bar and someone with more leverage than me. That's where I decided the steps would stay, and bagged the terrace idea. Instead, I built a roundish "wall" to create a flower bed. Hasn't slid off the hill yet. I also uncovered a stone path leading from the base of the stone steps to the steps into the mudroom. Between the ravages of time/being abandoned/the seller's love affair with gravel, it was covered with two to three inches of soil and gravel. That definitely looks better now, and I think will be easier to walk across when it rains, as compared to the slop-hole it has been.

2. Picked up some stuff at Lowe's for future projects, including new lights for the porch. I'm going to try wiring them in myself. Also, a plastic 4-shelf thing for the basement, so I could tidy up a little down there. This also involved hauling more (what else?) gravel up, bucket by bucket. It's the leftovers from when the basement was trenched for drainage. I'll leave some there for the last spot that needs trenching (because why would you finish the job when you can leave it 3/4 finished?). Hauling gravel in buckets is Not. Fun.

3. Straightened out a closet, consolidating stuff into clear bins and tossing some of it. This leaves me FOUR empty bins, so I think I'm going to put the dyepots in them, and they can live in the basement. Believe it or not, that's a little more accessible than in the back of the closet where they are now.

4. Finished the middle section of the lace wrap, then promptly FAILED on the first edging. Reminder: unless you've knit nothing but lace for the last 50 years, and perhaps even then, a lifeline is a very good idea and not a sign of weakness. I think I'm finally at the point where I can knit without counting every last stitch, because in the process of ripping out a few rows, and then picking up the stitches (whimper), I seem to have picked up a few too many. Maybe. I figured out from the picture where the new pattern needed to line up with the old pattern, and then made adjustments with strategically-placed K2TOG's. One spot still looks wonky, but I don't think I have the guts to fix it. We'll see. It does seem to be moving quicker than the middle.

5. Ahhh, spinning. I figured I wasn't going to do any of this fantastic handspinning I have in mind if I don't clear out the six bobbins from my Ravelympic knitting. I want a 3-ply when all is said and done, and the plying is going to take a while. I had put a new drive-band on not long after I finished the singles, and left it.

So I sat down today and attempted to start, and had absolutely no take-up. After glaring at it for a bit, and finding a picture online (I don't replace the band very often), I realized that I'd left the "double" part out of "double-drive" and hadn't put the band around the bobbin AND the flyer whorl. The band was too short to make the adjustment. Cut that band off. Cut a new exactly the same size. Cut that band off. Cut a new one with plenty of extra. Mumbled expletives under my breath. Started again (again).

Since I spun counterclockwise, I'll ply clockwise. Except I seemed to have forgotten which way is which and completely screwed up the first chunk. Oh well, a sacrifice to the spinning gods. Start again (again, again). The leader broke. Tied on a new leader. Started (to the power of four).

It's been longer than I thought since I changed the drive band, because I have also forgotten how stiff a new one is when it comes to treadling. It's more like pedaling a bike uphill right now. But well-begun is half-done, I've heard; or in the case of my basement, half-begun is well-done.

*AIS = Ass In Seat

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Back to that other thought...

Ready for a little more armchair psychology?

After this post, I impulsively picked up a couple of books about starting up a small crafts-based business. (Answers can always be found in a book, right?) Both began by asking the reader to evaluate why she wanted to sell the fruits of her labors. There was no judgement of motives. If it's to make a zillion dollars, that's OK. If it's so you can find your dining room table through the pompoms on a regular basis again, that's OK too. You just need to be honest with yourself.

Alright, I thought, I'll play along. Since sneaking up on a solution seems to be my modus operandi, I thought about teaching. When I decided to be a teacher, it was because I loved music and I thought it was important enough that kids needed to learn it too. I also saw myself as a high-school band director of a NYSSMA gold-level rated ensemble, one that was invited to play at the annual state conference. I would be a woman achieving at this level (which is still relatively unusual, especially as compared to vocal directors). Well, we all know how that vision turned out. When one graduates, one takes the job that is available. And here I am, 18 years later. I don't regret not "moving up" into the high school level; I don't feel like I've shortchanged myself at all. Along the way, I've found that what I love (along with music and kids) is the process of teaching. I understand now that I could teach at pretty much any level and be happy with it, because I love the process. (But please don't ask me to direct the marching band. Please.)

And this relates to In that last post, I grouched a fair bit about how I've looked around at festivals and on-line and thought, "I can do better than that." And then I whined about how the once-newhipandwow indie people had become their own little Kool Kids Klub...but how I also kinda wanted to be a little part of it. Reading that, it sounds like the only way that I can be sure I'm doing better than "that" is to achieve some kind of public recognition. Something like a rare-female-gold-level-NYSSMA-rating-earning band director.

But I don't teach for that anymore. I teach for the love of teaching. Maybe my face will be in some journal article some day, and maybe not. It doesn't matter any more. I know I'm doing right by my students, and by my self, and that beats publication any day.

So why not apply this to my fibery ideas? I began to think about what I *wouldn't* choose to produce. I hate sewing, so that was easy, as was anything involving googly eyes, little plastic baby bottles, or a blowtorch. I don't have an eye for sweater design, and I'm convinced the world doesn't need more "patterns" for scarves that are basically long lengths of something pulled from Barbara Walker. (I feel that way about socks too, BTW. A sock pattern has to pretty much slap me upside the head with its beauty for me to buy it...and then I usually still don't.) Custom knitting and/or finishing? When you finish laughing at the thought of that, you can finish reading, OK?

Handspinning? Hmmm, now we're getting warmer. I love spinning, and can spin faster than I can knit any day. Actually, that's a problem. My spinning output, if I put my mind to it, will rapidly outpace my knitting output. Also, while I enjoy spinning many of the brightly-colored fibers that are so popular lately, I don't love knitting with them. It would be easy to part with them, and I also have a nearby and agreeable source for as much as I might need. Same goes for breed-specific yarns, and that same source tends to have some pretty neat ones.

Dyeing? Again, I can dye in greater quantity than I could knit up. I could dye small amounts, I know...but I don't enjoy stranded knitting, and eternal pairs of mittens or socks, and endless hats don't charge my battery either. And I've previously spoken about how much I love the mysteries of natural dyeing.

What it comes down to, again, is a love of the process. I love spinning for being spinning. I love dyeing for being dyeing. Yet in teaching, the fruits of my process are ephemeral, shared with my kids and then gone. In dyeing and spinning, however, the fruits of my process already have their own room and if I go after them with my usual focus and energy, will take over the second floor of my house. Therefore, I want to have a business so that I may continue to dance through the process.

I don't need to have this to pay the electric bill, and at the same time, I don't have the option of quitting my day job to follow my heart, as the saying goes. (There's following one's heart, and then there's defaulting on one's mortgage.) Luckily, my day job is not a soul-sucking morass I'm desperate to escape. I have to remind myself that I don't need to build up the inventory of the average LYS to get this started, and that I don't have to spin AND dye everything. One, the other, and occasionally both will be fine.

“To find your own way is to follow your bliss. This involves analysis,
watching yourself and seeing where real, deep bliss is;
not the quick little excitement, but the real, deep, life-filling bliss.”
Joseph Campbell, 1904-1987

For me, the quick little excitement is public recognition. But it's too brief, and too unreliable. My bliss is in process, and no one can take that away from me.

Friday, April 16, 2010


That is all.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Random Saturday

We all know this could turn into a less-than-random post, but at the moment, my face is in danger of sliding off my skull from the weight of the snot contained in my sinuses. I believe some brain juice is leaking out, too, in order to make room for pollen, so I'm not sure where this will end up.

Random the first: and an excellent one it is. My very, very very, sick friend went home today. HOME. This is the friend the doctors were saying might be out of ICU by June or so. She is home. There's still plenty of physical and emotional healing to be done, but I consider this to be a miraculous situation. And I don't toss the word "miracle" around lightly.

Random the second: little dude of the elephant hat continues to wear it daily. He likes to raise the trunk and make elephant noises, too.

Random the third: I've become a rather monogamous knitter, which is strange. I am both soothed and bored by my current project (the Estonian Garden Wrap by Evelyn Clark), and I think I'm afraid if I put it down for something else, I'll never pick it up again. I'm just over halfway through the main center section; it's 41 repeats of a six-row eyelet pattern, and I just finished #22. I am fantasizing about making it j-u-u-u-s-t a little shorter. I haven't forgotten about your responses to my musings regarding being one of the Kool Kids of the fiber world either. I'm getting there.

Random the fourth: I have a student teacher working with me right now, and she's a good one. No experience with general music , as she was in the instrumental track in college (never mind that our certification is Music K-12, period...colleges do not seem to have grokked that YET, but that's a rant for another day), but she's got some really good teaching skills going for her. This frees us up to focus on the how-to's of constructing general music lessons, which are very similar and very different at the same time when compared to band rehearsals. She's caught on fast, especially in the, "do it the way Barb is doing it" department. This is particularly helpful in classroom management. I'm quite sure many of my student teachers have started out thinking that I'm too harsh, and that they won't have to be so mean to get the same results. This usually lasts for about a week until I sit back and don't intervene on minor-to-moderate issues. Suddenly, being "mean" isn't so "mean" after all.

Anyway, we sing a lot in general music, and while she isn't shy about it, it's still a little intimidating at first. Having some kind of instrument between you and the kids is helpful, plus it helps you stay on pitch for the whole song. Well, she doesn't play guitar (which is what I mostly use), and neither of us wanted to drag out the piano. I thought about re-tuning a guitar to an open chord, or teaching her two chords on the guitar, and those options didn't sound good either. So I threw a mountain dulcimer at her, showed her two chords (much simpler than guitar chords), and sent her home.

Oh, did I mention her college supervisor was coming the next day, and she would be singing this new two-chord song with the kindergarteners for the first time ever?

Well, she went home And. Did. It. Took an instrument she'd never played, worked out the song (which inserts the kids' names into it, no less), and was ready to go the next day. No bitching, no hesitation, no resistance to trying because she was being observed the next day and didn't want to screw up. And the cherry on top is that when she taught the lesson with the dulcimer on her lap, she sang more confidently and was obviously having FUN. Bingo.

It's not about the dulcimer (though it's super-cool and she's asked if she can borrow it for a while...well, DUH, that's another part of my plan for world domination). It's that she wasn't thrown for a minute, or if she was, she didn't show it. She simply stepped up to the plate and swung. She's going to be fine. If she gets a job in general music, she's going to need some curriculum support, but really? She's going to be fine.

Random the fifth: this has inspired my dulcimer-playing again as well, which is also super-cool. I have two mountain dulcimers, lent one to my student teacher, and started playing the other again myself. Set up the hammered beast, too, and the tunes are coming together fairly easily. That's a good sign that there's room in my brain, pollen notwithstanding. Clicking on the link above takes you to the website of the luthier who made the dulcimer I'm using right now. Mine doesn't look exactly like the one on the page, but it sure is pretty.

Random the sixth: regarding the college supervisor. I am 5' 1 1/2" on a good day when I stand up very straight and the humidity is high. Dr. Supervisor is 6' 8". (Take a moment and get the visual on that.) I may have to be a smartass for his last visit and borrow a chair from the kindergarten, instead of having my adjustable desk chair in place for him. If he's going to work with me in the future with other student teachers (this is the first time we've worked together), he might as well know what he's getting himself into.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Gems from the music room, part six.

Remember my little guy who kissed my arm after saying good morning? This one's from him.

My 4th/5th grade chorus just staged our annual musical theatre production, a staggering work of the American theatrical cannon called, "It's A Jungle Out There!" I won't trouble you with the plot. Just imagine several types of incongruous animals, only a couple of which actually (perhaps we should make that "possibly") live in a jungle. One of these groups is the elephants, and the main part of their costume is a grey velour beanie-type headpiece that has a trunk and ears attached to it.

We perform the show for the school as our dress rehearsal, and little guy was there with his class. According to his classroom teacher, he was enthralled with the elephants. Pretty impressed with the monkeys, too, but the elephants really charged his battery. He sat (!) fascinated for the entire twenty-minute performance. Little guy usually has something in his hands, too, something to fidget with. Yesterday it was a piece of tinfoil, probably from lunch.

After the show, our little guy took his tinfoil, flattened it out and put it on top of his the elephants. He wouldn't take it off.

This morning, I stopped in to say hello, and the teacher related the story to me. I offered to share one of the hats, and she thought it was a great idea too. A little later, one of the teaching assistants brought him to my room, and I presented him with the hat, reminding him that he needed to be a good listener and a hard worker to be able to keep it. He immediately put it on (and wore it all day).

Before they left, the TA reminded him, "What do you say?" to encourage a thank-you. Instead, he said "wuv oo."

If you really need a translation, let me know.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Do me a favor?

But first: I've received some very thoughtful comments that have set me to thinking too (big surprise!), and once I can get the opening number of my 4th/5th grade chorus' musical out of my head, I plan to muse on them here some more.

And the favor: if you ever read a post here that makes a piss-poor attempt at clever, ironical humor by taking jabs at other groups of people and then sashaying away in the smug aura of my own brilliant sense of humor, I ask you to do the following (and I'm not kidding, people):

1. Bombard me with comments reminding me to get my head out of my ass.
2. Many of you are on Facebook with me. Smack me down over there, too.
3. If you live nearby, drive over and dope-slap me a couple of times.

I've come across a couple of blogs recently (and I'm sure there's more, but I don't get out much) that I *think* are trying for self-deprecating humor, but are actually insulting the group to which they compare themselves. Case in point: someone wasn't happy with something, then mentioned that it was the sort of thing you didn't need a high school diploma to produce. Wha-a-a-at? Are you trying to say it was a simple task and you can't believe how bad you screwed it up? THEN SAY SO. Or at least have the sense to turn it around and insult YOURSELF: make it the sort of thing that you didn't need an advanced degree in nuclear physics to produce.

Then there's the others that feel it's OK to point and laugh at someone via the blog-o-sphere, because the object of the pointing probably won't be reading it anyway. And besides, if it gets you hits, so much the better!!! I think that's worse than what I described above. It's malicious, sneaky, and cowardly. It's the internet version of whispering and giggling behind your hand, and I had enough of that in junior high, thank you very much. Time to grow up.

Which, I think, is at the heart of both of these matters: growing up. Maturity. A sense of self that's strong enough to look at the situation for what it is, and not need to drag comparison into it. Not needing anyone else's shoulders to stand upon in order to feel tall. Understanding that the cheap laugh is exactly that. Know that compassion is always the better choice over cleverness.

I know I've been in the place that indulges in such behavior before, and I probably will again. I'm just asking that if I'm so bold (or thoughtless or downright stupid) as to do it in front of you, call me on it. I don't want it to spread.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


So I'm starting to think about my little side businesses again...wouldn't it be fun, and certainly different, to just try and get a little Etsy shop going this summer? To get a permit for our little Thursday farmers' market and set up a little booth of naturally dyed stuff, and from the stuff a friend dyes? I want to dip my toes into something that isn't teaching. I want to do some writing (other than my splendid blog and highly unreadable journals). I want something published. And I admit it...I want to be a small part of that ineffable "club" within the fiber world. The one where normal, regular, everyday people have come to have a name within our community by the power of their own hands.

I don't begrudge the folks who have "made it" for a moment. These things don't happen by accident. A good musician knows that while a certain amount of inherent talent sure helps, the willingness to sit one's ass in the chair with instrument in hand, and PLAY IT (and not just the flashy solos) is what makes or breaks a performer, in the end. I believe that's applicable to any situation. I'm ready to work, if I can just figure out where to start. And I will.

Here's the unreasonable part begins, and as I write this post, I think I know what it's all about. (More on that in a minute.) Before the whole Knitting Revolution took place, let's see...way back in the mid- to late '90s, I'd say...there were Names in knitting. And they showed up in all of the very few publications available, which isn't surprising, seeing as there were very few outlets. I'm talking the pre-internet Dark Ages. Then, kerplooey! Knitting got BIG. Self-pubishing! Downloadable PDFs! Shopping cart software! Blogs! Those few publications became many more, and while the original Names haven't faded away, soon there were many more ways to get your face and your product out there than to be published in IK or Knitters or Vogue. I think this is a wonderful thing.

So the list of Names grew. The newer Names have been heralded as shaking up the industry and rightly so. Fresh faces, fresh ideas, working outside the traditional system. Good stuff. But...and I really hesitate to say this, because it sounds so whiny...and it is...but...stay with me...

I feel like we're back where we started, only with different Names. Maybe I just need to get out more often, but I feel like where I used to see an original bunch of Names everywhere, now I see what used to be the newhipandwow indie Names...well, everywhere. What used to be the vanguard has become the old guard, and here we go again. The more things change, the more things stay the same. "They" (who? I don't know) have found a new group of cool kids to chase, and as we all learned in junior high, the cool kids get everything.

Now: I think what's really happening is that in my pointy little head, the voice of fear is saying, "Don't bother. There's no room for you. It's all been done before and no one really cares what you have to say. You lost your chance; actually, you never had one. Stick with what you know. It's good enough." Listening to that voice makes it easy not to take the risk. It certainly is the safer path.

But it's in direct conflict with what I stated I want. I can't be published if I don't ever send Spin-Off or knitty an article. I won't sell any handspun on Etsy if I never put it UP on Etsy. The fiber world can't knock on my door if they don't have my address. It would appear I want the end results, and even though I'm not afraid to do the work it would take...I want it to be done already. I guess. My rational side knows that nothing the new Names did happened by magic. It's a result of sitting one's ass in the metaphorical chair and doing what needs to be done. My unreasonable side sits in the corner and pouts and wonders why some people have all the luck.

My final question (for this post, at least) is, why do I insist on istening so keenly to the unreasonable voice?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

And those pictures I mentioned-

These aren't in order compared to the last post because I'm too lazy to bother with cutting and pasting all that code, but I've thoughtfully added captions 'cause I'm nice like that.

The new dining room walls...

Six bobbins of merino wool singles, plus birthday tulips...

Snowshoes on my own personal feet (before you ask: yes, my feet are that small)...

It's really a snowdrift, but it was still a righteous amount of snow to move by hand...

What two pounds of fleece looks like, pre-spinning...

The bronze medal-winning lace...

Finished socks (the Broadripple pattern from Knitty; see above, "small feet")...

Monday, March 15, 2010

Just a minute-

The rundown:

1. I turned 40.

2. There was a snowstorm shortly thereafter.

3. I got to use my showshoes for the first time, after buying them for myself for last year's birthday.

4. The snow has melted, meaning I used my snowshoes once this year. That's still a 100% increase over last year.

5. As I was turning 40, there were some games going on in Vancouver, BC.

6. I and several thousand other fibery people over at Ravelry participated in the Ravelympics. I earned one gold and one bronze in WIPS Dancing, and a gold in Flying Camel Spinning.

7. That spinning? A two-pound ball of Ashland Bay merino top that was the first spinning fiber I bought three years ago. I spun it into six bobbins of fine singles, to be 3-plied when I can stand to look at it again. For reference, a two-pound ball of top is bigger than your head.

8. The WIPS (which means Works In Progress, and specifically, ones that were languishing) were a pair of socks and a lace wrap. The socks earned the gold, the wrap took the bronze.

9. I painted my dining room.

10. Daylight Savings Time will take some getting used to.

Save this post somewhere...the next post will be pictures to go with.

P.S. It's public TV pledge-drive time. That usually means some existential crisis in my life will occur. I have been spared this time. Not so for a dear friend, who is in the midst of a frightening septic abdominal infection. Medically-induced-coma frightening. *shakes tiny fist at pledge drive* She appears to be on the mend but isn't out of the woods. Please keep her and her family...including her newborn your thoughts, if you would be so kind.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Watch This Space

There's a new post coming soon. Pictures and everything. I had Olympic spinning to finish, I'm sure you understand.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Getting there

It's been just about a year since the saga of my home purchase began. I put the purchase offer in, and it was accepted with just a little back-and-forth, on February 22, 2009. At first, things went incredibly smoothly. Then, as regular readers know, everything went to hell and continued that downward descent for several months. It was a great relief to finally move into Herself on July 16...until I immediately began having issues with the upstairs bathroom. And so hell continued for two more months.

It's been five months since the bathroom was finished, and many people have asked if I'm settling in. Frankly, the honest answer has been no. My stuff is on the walls, my furniture is in place, the kitchen cabinets are organized to my taste. I'm paying the mortgage, the taxes, the outrageous gas bills, and have shoveled my own sidewalk a couple of times. But it hasn't really felt like home.

This is a little disconcerting.

Having just saddled myself with a good thirty years (hopefully less) of large-scale debt, not feeling comfortable in between the walls and therefore finding a new place is not exactly an option. Not like finding a new apartment, at least. So it seems rather important to get to the bottom of this general discomfort. Part of it has been feeling like I'm tiptoeing around, waiting for the next Big Repair to jump out of a corner and bite me in the ass. This is unlikely to happen, given that there are many new things in the house (i.e., roof, windows, furnace), and heaven knows the plumbing is in GREAT shape now. Part of it has been the financial aspect, but it's really OK when I take a deep breath and look at it. So why still, doesn't this feel like home?

Notice the color, please. Or lack thereof. That's my bedroom window over the summer, right after I finished those curtains. The WHOLE HOUSE is the "color" of those walls. Well, except the kitchen, because I painted in there as fast as I could, before the stove and stuff came. But the entire house is contractor vanilla, both trim and walls, and the carpet is beige. (And cheap, I might add. Cheap crap. Big surprise.)

My last apartment was white. White walls, white trim, white curtains, whitewhitewhite. But it was an apartment, meant to be a way-station, so I didn't mind. I had my stuff up all over the place, and it was fine.

Well, this isn't a way-station. This is HOME. But it just looks like a larger apartment. "My stuff" isn't enough to overpower the apartment-like blandness of the walls. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

The picture with my bed in it is the truest to the color, "Polaris Blue." I wish I could get a good shot of the curtains against the wall. I'll try later. Those are prayer flags on the top dresser drawer, with Lung-ta, the Windhorse, on them. (When it feels like the ground is disappearing beneath you, ask for the strength of the Windhorse to support you and keep you steady.) The quilt is Amish/Mennonite.

"My place" is MY PLACE when it is colorful. I think I'm getting there.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Gems from the music room, part five.

Second grader: You look like a kiss!!!
Me: ?????????
Second grader: Your hair. (brings hands up to my face, and gestures at how my hair falls) Your hair makes you look like a Hershey kiss.

This is a good thing, right? I'd much rather be a kiss than say, a rutabaga. Although, if he hadn't gestured at the shape of my haircut, I would have wondered if he was referring to the brown-wrapped-in-silver effect of the color.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Updated Update

1. Knitting on the Road is still available, too.


I fully realize that some of you are less than enthusiastic about additional snow. We haven't had nearly enough, so please pardon my excitement. I would like to know, however, why it is that I rarely can get back to sleep on snow-day mornings? It's 6:19 and I'm as awake as I ever am. Moreso, even. At least I don't have to fling myself into the shower anytime soon.

Hmmmm, there's four ounces of Black Bunny Fibers Shetland waiting to be spun, and a Peaks Island Hood waiting for more inches, and I keep mentioning the haul from the customer appreciation sale...I think it's going to be a good day.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Yard Sale Update and A Request

The yarn is still available, and the only books that remain are Meg Swansen's Knitting and Debbie Bliss' Quick Baby Knits. I've covered about 2/3 of the customer appreciation sale purchases, which I think is pretty cool. Two items are being swapped for spinning fiber instead, which is great because I haven't had a bite on the Epstein book in three attempts to sell it. And like I said before, these are books that have seen almost no use since I acquired them. That's just silly.

Now, the request: wear your pajamas inside out, sleep with a spoon under your pillow, flush ice cubes down the loo. Please do whatever it takes to get me a snow day tomorrow. The weather forecast has toyed with us all day. It's a storm watch! No, it's a warning! No, it's a winter weather advisory! It'll be messy in the morning! The worst is coming in the afternoon! All I know is that the kids have been absolute noodges for the last two days and it's only going to get worse as Valentine's Day approaches. A day to gird our loins before the red and white onslaught would be a blessing. Besides, then I can take pictures and post about the sale.

Parents, you are excused from this exercise if your kids have already been home on snow days any time in the last two weeks.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Indoor Yard Sale!

Unloading these will help make up for yesterday's 40% off customer appreciation sale at Finger Lakes Fibers. I rarely get up early for a retail experience, but there's something about rolling out of bed at 5:30 to drive to Watkins Glen in order to be at the shop at 6:00, because the 40% off is only good until 7:00. I arrived at 6:05 and was by far NOT the first one there. For a lovely hour, I was among my people. Kind of like mini-Rhinebeck without the lamb pot pie. More about the actual purchases in another post. Until then...I've posted the books to Ravelry too, but not the yarn (yet...I might still, but I really hate taking pictures). I'll keep things updated if/as they sell.

Knitting Beyond the Edge by Nicky Epstein. $15.00

Meg Swansen's Knitting by Meg Swansen. $65.00*

Norah Gaughan Vol. 3 by Norah Gaughan. $10.00

Quick Baby Knits by Debbie Bliss. $10.00

Designing Knitwear by Deborah Newton. $15.00

Knitting on the Road by Nancy Bush. $12.00

Sublime Stitching Craft Pad by Jenny Hart. (embroidery transers...wha???) $6.00

They're all in very good shape except the baby book. That one has some pencil marks and the cover looks like it's been opened and closed. It's really the only one that's had much use. I used Knitting on the Road once, and I like the look at. Nothing wrong with them. I don't want to cable when I'm already using five DPNs. I made what I wanted from Norah's book. I'm not getting into fashion sweater designing. I don't do stranded colorwork. Books are meant to be used, not left on a shelf to be admired.

I also have a copy of the winter 2010 Burda Verena Knitting magazine ("Europe's top knit magazine"). I picked it up on a whim, and it's interesting. More comparable to Vogue than IK, with designs that I think are more wearable than Vogue's. This issue has some stuff for kids too. I'll toss it in the mail for freefreefree to the first commenter who wants it.

*It's out of print. I also have Gossamer Webs, Ethnic Socks and Stockings, and Alice Starmore's Aran Knitting if you're into OOP. I've heard that Dover is reprinting Aran Knitting sometime this year. If that's true...well, so much for my retirement plan.

Two intact 50-gram skeins, plus two separate balls that equal 60 grams (according to my digital kitchen scale) of Berroco Inca Gold. Color 6423, lot 135, which is a deep plummy purple. WEBS calls it "Granite.". The two separate balls are because I like to work both sleeves at the same time, which means busting into two separate skeins. WEBS wants $8.00 apiece; I'll let it go for $20 for the lot.

Four intact 100-gram skeins, plus two separate balls that equal 106 grams of Cascade Pastaza. Color 075, lot 6793. It is indeed a closeout, and this particular color looks like it's sold out. I'd call it a dark shade of dusky rose, but heathery with a very subtle bit of dark green running through it. I got it for $4.79 each; how about $15 for this lot?

PayPal is easiest. but if you don't do it, drop me a line and we'll work out an alternative. I'll pay to ship the books media mail and the yarn whatever's cheapest. (Sorry. Although, it's so light, first-class is probably as cheap as anything else.)

Friday, February 5, 2010

The answer is...

...St. Blaise is the patron saint of both wool-combers and throats because of his specialty in miracles, and how he was martyred:

The miracles St. Blaise is credited with performing all have to do with the healing of afflictions of the throat (choking on fish bones in particular). Why he chose the healing of afflictions of the throat as his category of healing, I don't know. I suppose in the days before the Heimlich maneuver it was a very useful thing indeed, as well pre-antibiotic strep throat issues. Everyone's got their talent, and St. Blaise's was throats.

As for wool-combers...St. Blaise was martyred by being hacked to death with iron combs in 316, a favorite instrument of torture of the time. He was also beheaded for good measure. Apparently those combs resemble traditional wool combs, and thus St. Blaise was adopted by professional wool combers as their patron saint, and eventually he became a symbol of the wool trade in general. Although I was raised thinking St. Blaise's Day was February 2, some sources say it's February 3.

If you've ever used "modern" wool combs, I think you would agree that things haven't changed much. As a tool of self-defense, as long as I could keep my grip on my double-row combs, I could inflict serious damage on someone with minimal effort if need be. Raking your arm with carders is no fun; puncturing yourself with wool combs is a tetanus shot at the very least and considerable blood loss if you hit your thigh (which is a possibility, given the swinging motion used during combing). And there are combs with several more rows of teeth. Armed with those and a blending hackle, who would mess with you? (Assuming anyone would get close enough to the weirdo swinging pointy metal objects with a gleam in her eye....)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

St. Brigid's Day

At the risk of being a copycat of myself, I shall post the poem I posted last year. Why not? It's my favorite.

the lesson of the moth
by Don Marquis, in "archy and mehitabel," 1927

i was talking to a moth
the other evening
he was trying to break into
an electric light bulb
and fry himself on the wires

why do you fellows
pull this stunt i asked him
because it is the conventional
thing for moths or why
if that had been an uncovered
candle instead of an electric
light bulb you would
now be a small unsightly cinder
have you no sense

plenty of it he answered
but at times we get tired
of using it
we get bored with the routine
and crave beauty
and excitement
fire is beautiful
and we know that if we get
too close it will kill us
but what does that matter
it is better to be happy
for a moment
and be burned up with beauty
than to live a long time
and be bored all the while
so we wad all our life up
into one little roll
and then we shoot the roll
that is what life is for
it is better to be a part of beauty
for one instant and then cease to
exist than to exist forever
and never be a part of beauty
our attitude toward life
is come easy go easy
we are like human beings
used to be before they became
too civilized to enjoy themselves

and before i could argue him
out of his philosophy
he went and immolated himself
on a patent cigar lighter
i do not agree with him
myself i would rather have
half the happiness and twice
the longevity

but at the same time i wish
there was something i wanted
as badly as he wanted to fry himself


P.S. It's also St. Blaise's Day. He's the patron saint of wool-combers and throats (and probably more...those Catholic saints were such over-achievers!). The question is: do you know why he is the patron saint of two apparently unrelated things? Answer tomorrow...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Maybe I Should Unwillingly Fast More Often

Maybe a steady diet of saltines and store-brand sports drink for three days was the tipping point.

Maybe it was two days of sitting and lying down, not needing to do anything else, or thinking there was anything else to do (which was good, because I couldn't do it anyway).

Maybe it's a combination of good medications.

Maybe the moon is in its seventh hour.

Faithful readers will remember that I've had my ups and downs with chronic anxiety and its cousin, depression. I've probably been dealing with them for the better part of my life, but only recently with a full onslaught of better living through chemistry. And while things have improved, the nagging sensation remained that this is as good as it's going to get. The best I could hope for was an absence of outright pain, with a few enjoyable (albeit temporary) moments thrown in randomly. I didn't seem to see evidence of it getting better than that. What has been happening was all that was going to happen. Not because I didn't deserve it, or was unworthy, but...that was it. No feelings of impending doom, although the thought of another possibly 40 years of bleh didn't exactly charge my battery either.

If you've met me in real life prior to the last two years, this would probably surprise you. I've always been relentlessly optimistic. Perhaps foolishly so, and in several situations, naively so, but somehow I always knew that things were going to be OK...and probably a damn sight better than OK as well. And if they weren't, I just knew it was a temporary situation. Everything would come out in the wash. Even when I got divorced: it was painful, it was confusing, it was round one of major depression, it was self-isolating while I tried to figure which way was the hell up. But through it all, I knew this wasn't "me" forever. My friends circled around me, never leaving, but giving me room. They were there when I came up for air, and still there when the sun rose again. I knew things would get better.

This time, I couldn't see it. The situation so thoroughly shook my foundation that I wondered if I even had one anymore-or ever did to begin with. My friends were still here, but I couldn't come up for air like I did before. I managed to drag myself out of the deepest pits, and knew I was done being there. But that's where I felt I stopped. I wasn't in free-fall, but I wasn't moving forward. I began to feel like this was "me" forever. The wash had already come out, and someone ran black jeans in with the white towels. Both are still perfectly functional, but neither will ever be quite the right color again.

Then Wednesday happened. Yesterday. Around 4:00, literally. I realized that my body felt different. I sat for a moment, wondering if this was a new wave of nausea, but it wasn't. I sat a little more, and found that the space above my heart felt different. As in, space between my heart and my breastbone. Breathing room. As if a weight, like a ten-pound bag of flour had been lifted from there. Something came in that hadn't been there for a while, and that's why it took me a little to recognize it.

I'm not sure what exactly it is that was taken, but I feel no need to find it and pick it up again. I don't need its suffocating closeness, or its false sense of security. Whatever it is, it's gone. And what keeps going through my mind is, "That wasn't me forever."

I don't know what the future holds. I'm pretty sure that all my problems will not instantly be solved (obviously, or they'd be gone already, seeing as this happened yesterday). I'll still have to go to work, and teach lessons, and find a way to make time to do the things that make my heart sing in between. But my heart has room to sing again. A sense of possibility has returned, and while I don't know exactly where the road is going, I am able to see a road in front of me once more. if I squint a little, it looks like it's heading into a meadow of flowers.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Time for a new look over here at Herself. What do you think? I like it. The old harbor background had nothing to do with anything, other than not being a plain blank page. I'm also home today with the latest version of a stomach bug that's going around school. I think I started coming down with it Sunday; as soon as I started feeling wonky, I stopped eating (except for Saltines and Vitamin Water). I believe this has kept me from kneeling before the porcelain god, but the constant waves of queasiness are not conducive to productive teaching. Yesterday I survived because my afternoon is all small-group lessons, and I could stay sitting down. Not so today. Sitting still seems to be helpful, and when updating with Blogger, you know there's plenty of that.

The picture in the header is yarn that I dyed with indigo, cochineal, walnut hulls, and such. I plopped it in a basket and trotted it down to my LYS to see what happened. With pretty much no effort, over the course of a year, I sold almost all of it (which is fine, because I didn't need to pay the electric bill with it). I was mainly interested in recouping the cost of the yarn plus a little, since it was all experimental. I promptly spent the profits at the very same LYS.

Like many kitchen dyers, I'll admit I harbor fantasies of a little naturally-dyed yarn empire springing forth from my efforts. However, I fully realize that this is a fantasy, at least during the school year. Whether you use acid or plant dyes, dyeing rather chains you to the stove/microwave/crockpot when you do it. I just don't have that kind of time until about July.

I do love the process of natural dyeing. I love not quite knowing what's going to come out. (Have I talked about this before? I should read my own archives.) Just because the dyestuff is one color doesn't mean that's what you'll get. Red onion skins don't give you that purple-y color that they are when you peel them. You can make an educated guess, and then you can even temper your results by adding mordants. I haven't played around with those much yet. I've been too happy with what I've gotten, doing what I'm doing. I need to experience the joys of test skeins. Remember the "Perfect is the enemy of the good" post? Right there. Test skeins are not wasted materials.

I probably have more stockpots in my collection than the average bear, and I need to get a couple of smaller ones for testing. Luckily, I live just up the hill from the Corning-Revere-Corelle Factory Store, where things like that turn up all the time, for not much money. I need to bug a glass artist to set me up with some glass rods (though Pyrex would be even better...hmmm...I know they aren't at the factory store, but I know people who work in the labs at Corning Inc.) for stirring. Spoons + wet yarn = nightmare. Even spoon handles. Even plastic spoon handles. (ESPECIALLY wooden spoon handles.)

Some days, the planning is as good as the doing. Well, almost...but particularly on days where you know the doing would probably make you barf. Off for more Gatorade...

Monday, January 25, 2010

I Have Arrived.

That last post? It earned me my first spam reply. I'm so proud. wipes tear from eye

Saturday, January 23, 2010


It's a tremendously beautiful day here. Mid-30's, blue sky, no wind, and plentiful SUN. I just got back from a walk up at the nature center, where I haven't been in a while. Probably should wear my hiking boots instead of my ducks next time for a little extra grip, but no bones were broken.

I've also bought paint for my bedroom. "Polaris Blue," a darker smoky blue. I'm trying to decide if I want to start tomorrow afternoon and get one wall done (knowing I won't be able to do any more until next weekend at the earliest) because I can't wait to see how it looks; or wait until I know I can spend a whole Saturday getting one coat on the entire room. This is assuming I could then spend the Sunday immediately following getting the second coat up. A third coat will probably be necessary, too. We'll see.

The Trickey Dickey was finished last night, and it's just right. I'm just about onto the eight inches of ribbing for the hat (it folds in half for two 4" layers). No spinning yet, but there's time.

Now, onto the post title. I wanted to be sure I started with the not-philosophical stuff.

I'm kind of lonely. Not lonely for People. I spend every day except my weekends up to my neck in People. Well, some of them only come up to my waist, but you know what I mean. I even spend extra time after my regular job with more People. I like these people, and I'm grateful to have them in my life. I know many of you spend 24 hours a day with such People, and perhaps are thinking, "Well, at least you have time to yourself. I'd kill for that." Yes and no. I'll explain.

I'm lonely for a Person. And I don't know how to meet one. Or any, apparently...not ones who aren't already married, or looking for someone to raise their three children from two marriages, or in their 40's looking for a 25-to-35 year-old Greek goddess, at least.

The only advice I seem to get is, "You have to get Out There and look!" My first question is, where the hell is Out There? The bar scene? Right. Online dating? Sure. Three months on eHarmony seeing all of those "matches" either never contact me, or never respond when I contacted them...that did my self-esteem wonders, and I had the privilege of paying for it. Art openings and wine tastings and such? Well, here the problem is two-fold:

1) I have yet to go to one of those things where there's someone else looking for company. Generally speaking, you go to them WITH a date or a mate. I'm acutely aware of being The Single One in these groups. Others probably aren't, but I am.

2) And there's the other side of the People problem. By the time I get done with a week of work, I am Peopled out. I've put so much into work, both through the kids and the adults, that I don't have much left. I'm on the introverted side of the scale. Once I've hit my People limit, I start to withdraw, and it's extremely difficult (and rarely successful anyway) for me to fake being social. I know it, and it makes me even more uncomfortable, and the circle continues. I'm not likely to be putting my best foot forward when I'm that strung out, such as it is. I'm not physically tired for the most part, but I'm mentally toasted.

Quitting my day job isn't an option, of course, and financially, I need to keep teaching privately for a while still. This may be faulty logic, but that leads me to believe I won't be meeting anyone anytime soon, given my personality quirks, and I don't like that. I'm tired of going to bed and waking up alone every day for the last three years. I'm not talking just about sex. I'm talking about going to social events alone, and coming home alone, and cooking supper for one. I have friends and family over; like I said, I'm grateful for their presence in my life. But they go home, too. Even I reach my limit of No People, Please. I'm not a hermit or agoraphobic. I take my hikes, and do my shopping, and stop at the LYS and chat. It would be nice to have a lap to rest my head in now and then, too. A Person. For me.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Ahh, Friday.

This is the first one in about three weeks that doesn't feel like I need an entire additional Friday to feel caught up. While not absolutely everything is done, what wasn't finished can be filed under "manageable" instead of "hide under my desk and suck my thumb." I believe starting the first week after the holiday break by receiving some truly fabulous new technology (a SMARTBoard, for those interested) put me behind the eight-ball right away. Because once the board was delivered, it was discovered that my computer didn't have enough whatsie to run the necessary software (to which I said to myself, NO KIDDING). We also discovered that day that my phone, while not ringing in my room, was making the night doorbell by the main office ring. (It would have been OK with me if they didn't fix it, but I was outvoted.)

Finding a place for the board meant removing a bulletin board and moving a whiteboard into its place. That meant patching the holes and removing another smaller bulletin board, only to discover the previous wall color was "used Band-Aid pink." Which, of course, meant painting the wall.

Hanging the board where I did meant placing the cart with the projector on it in just the right place (eventually it'll be mounted from the ceiling). That meant moving my instrumentarium so that the kids could sit and see the board. Which meant moving my desk.

The only place to put my desk then became the front corner of my room, which was great, except for the piano that usually sits there. Once I discovered that the piano actually fits quite tidily into a closet I have (I don't use it much for classes...I hate playing standing up and I can't hear the kids sing over it anyway. I use my guitar), all was solved. Regular classes and lessons happened all around this, of course, and the dust and filth that was stirred up didn't help any. I just couldn't get settled in to do what really needed to be done until this week. I feel a lot better, much less antsy.

So, this weekend I plan to finish up a Trickey Dickey from EZ's Knitting Around; I finished it once, but I cast on too many stitches and the neck was heee-YOOGE. I'm using some handspun Peruvian Highland wool and I lurve it. (No, not "love." LURRRRRRRVE it. Two-ply bulky soft deliciousness. Natural grey. Pictures when it's done.) I have that hat from the winter Vogue that's on its fourth incarnation; I should have gone down one needle size the last time, when I went down two. I went from having a snood to having a kippah, neither of which were acceptable in this application. I really want to spin more, too. Might just happen.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I prefer...

Gleefully stolen from "Life in A-Town" over thar in the blog list...

Wool to anything else.

Tea to coffee.

Whisky to wine.

Double-treadle to single, worsted to woolen, combed to carded, double-drive to Scotch tension.

Bamboo to nickel-plated.

Clogs to heels.

Bare feet to clogs.

Baths to showers.

Crunchy to smooth.

Chocolate to vanilla.

(Is there really a choice on that last one?)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Why I Don't Watch Network Television Much

It's Sunday, about 9:20 here at Herself. I'm watching the one network program a week that I choose to watch: "CBS Sunday Morning." Not surprisingly, so far this week's program is about the disaster in Haiti. I won't go into the details; only if you're living under a rock do you not know what's going on there.

After the first segment, a commercial break (also not surprising). The definition of "bliss" according to this garbage? Smooth, sexy LIPS.


Without Blistex, bliss is out of my reach.

The juxtaposition of the description and images of Haitians injured, without shelter, food or water, or even a place to bury their dead, and a lineup of super-slim, ultra-hip, perfectly groomed models is beyond the pale.

I'm not the first person to question what on earth Madison Avenue is peddling. I'm not the first to be ashamed of what I worry about, when in reality, I have more than I need and just about everything I want. I'm not the first to wonder what the world might be like if we consistently put our attention towards the well-being of our fellow human beings as often as we did the condition of our lips. I know it's more complicated than that. We can't control the events that have shaped what Haiti has become now, and couldn't then.

But the one thing I know is this: nothing will change as long as we have that damn box telling us day after day, that smooth lips, and wrinkle-free faces, and toned abs, and new furniture, and expensive cars with red ribbons on them in the driveway for Christmas are the true keys to happiness. That being sassy, smart-mouthed, clever, and addicted instead of compassionate, thoughtful, patient and gentle is the model for real people, the ones who get ahead and make "things" happen.

They can have it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Throwing Up the Knit-Signal

I'm afraid I'm stealing bandwith somehow with the graphic, or stepping on toes, so if I am, someone PLEASE tell me and I'll take it down. Immediately.

If you read the Yarn Harlot, then this post won't surprise you (unless you're reading me first). I want to make sure that Bookish Girl gets credit too, since that's where the graphic comes from (hence, my fear about stealing the bandwidth...I'm not very savvy about exactly how it's done, but I'm sensitive to it being a no-no).

If you haven't visited the Harlot today, the Knit-Signal is up because of the unbelievable situation in Haiti. Akin to the Bat-Signal, when Gotham was in dire need of Batman's aid, the Knit-Signal is a call-to-arms for the knitters of the world.

I see requests all over Facebook for "prayers for Haiti." Certainly prayers are appropriate, if you are of that persuasion...but on a more practical level, so is food, shelter, and medical supplies and equipment. More than "appropriate," I would say the latter are more a matter of life and death.

If you are in a position to do so (forgive me a moment's proselytizing: we are, because pretty much anything we have is more than what most Haitians have right about now, and will have for a long time to come), please make a donation to your favorite charity. Stephanie's support of Medecins Sans Frontieres is well-known. I choose to support them as well, along with others, and I made an additional donation today.

This is a time when knitting, although it is wonderful and warm and full of love, is not what is needed most. Cash dollars are. Help if you can.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

How about some pictures?

My sister's completed Hemlock Ring Doily Throw

Spinning for an eventual Vine Yoke cardigan

Flowers at the Pike Place Market in Seattle, from a trip three years ago. The weather has been vile here, so I thought a little brightness wouldn't hurt. Actually, the sun is out today. I almost forgot what it looks like.

OK, I have to have a brief whinge here. I *know* I live in the Northeast, and I *know* we're better prepared to deal with snow and cold. I *know* we're more experienced in driving in more than a dusting of snow. But please bear in mind that doesn't mean the roads are scraped clean before we have to leave for work. Nor does it mean that we ENJOY driving in three inches of slushy snow that's also freezing over. Things don't close down (including school) unless it's a whole lot worse, which makes for very unpleasant travel more often than not.

Thank you. That is all.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Gems from the music room, part four.

Student: "I'm getting married tomorrow in North Carolina!"
Me: "Do you have a plane ticket?"
Student: "Well, no."
Me: "Student, then you can't get married in North Carolina tomorrow. You won't get there in time."
Student considers this, then replies,
"Maybe she'll move to Pennsylvania."

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Thank you, Voltaire.

"The perfect is the enemy of the good."

This has been knocking around in my head for a few days, mostly because of that list of things I mentioned in the last post. Not so much the refinishing of the trim; that's going to be a learning experience no matter how I slice it. (I've enlisted a high-school friend who now lives in Seattle and knows her way around a piece of wood for help. Facebook has its uses!) Not the hat. There's a difference between fussing because a hat isn't PERFECT and fussing because a hat isn't WEARABLE. The hat is not meant to be a work of art or a statement on society's subjugation of the's meant to keep my head warm, and so changes had to be made. I mean the things that didn't make it onto the list.

I spend a lot of time tap-dancing around things instead of DOING them, because the time isn't right, or the day isn't right, or the house isn't in order, or the moon is in the wrong phase (not really, but you get my drift). I don't ever want to start something unless I know I can finish it, and finish it well. REALLY well. And there's a lot of creative things out there that don't lend themselves to being "finished." They're about process, not product. Creativity is about doing ... muddling ... fiddling ... messing...leaving...returning. But there is a product at the end, and if the final product is less than satisfying, it engenders the next exploration.

I find that I can sit down and MAKE something quite easily. Give me the yarn and needles and directions and I'm off. I can modify as needed and finish and be pleased with the product. But I have the urge to CREATE as well, and that makes me nervous at the same. I know it'll be messy. I know I'm likely to make mistakes and possibly gasp waste materials. Because, you know, the world may run out of wool and onion skins and walnut hulls if I'm not careful. It may not be right the first time I try, and then what will I do with the pile of crap that results? Throwing it away would be wasteful and keeping it is a reminder of my screw-up. It'll take time, and time is precious, and using that time on screwing up is a poor use of time. You need to have something to show for your effort, and why bother showing crap?

And so I have to have The Perfect Environment in which to work. The house needs to be tidy first, which it never is. I realized the other day that I spend more time organizing my stash than I do using it. (OK, it was for the GOOD of the stash, it needs PROTECTION from MOTHS, alright?!?) Since when is washing the dishes Sooper Important? When it's used to postpone something that makes me uncomfortable, of course; even if that is something I desperately want to rediscover in myself. I have to be perfectly rested in order to begin. Yeah. Well. (You can all stop laughing now. I know.) I've thought that the need to have the house tidy was a way to control some of my anxiety, and I'm sure that's part of it. But it's also a defense mechanism, a stalling technique against myself.

So back to Voltaire, whose quote graced the beginning of the post. What my heart wants is to create freely, to welcome back the girl who wrote plays and puppet shows and figured out how to sew a 12:1 scale-sized mattress for a dollhouse bed (with the side panels and everything) without a pattern. I remember that, and I remember throwing a few of them away. It didn't matter; it was only for me, to see if I could do it (and also, if I didn't figure it out, I wouldn't have one). The Perfect, the need to have it just right for someone else's approval (who else's? I don't know), stands firmly in the way. It eats up my time and my energy. It doesn't mean that I shouldn't aim for quality in my work. But it's time to realize it's a multi-step process; that I have all the time I need to take as many steps as I need; that no one is standing behind me with a stopwatch. I am the only thing in my own way. Experience is a teacher, not a slave-driver.

Now, given this that last stash organization I mentioned, do I get credit for throwing away three skeins of obviously-felted KnitPicks laceweight from two summer's ago dyeing experiments? Huh? Do I?

Friday, January 1, 2010

First of Many

There's a good 364 of them left, too. (Is it a leap year? Can't be, 2010 isn't divisible by 4. Someone straighten me out if I'm wrong; I'd hate to leave out one poor lonely day.)

GIven that last year feels like it stalled around April 6 or so, when my first mortgage went down the crapper (feel free to check the archives if you're new or want to relive the hysteria), and didn't regain much momentum Thanksgiving, I am relieved to begin a new one. I know it's just another day on the calendar in reality. Twenty-four hours doesn't make that much of a difference...unless we choose to make it so. I honestly have just recently begun to feel like this house is MY house. Despite the curtains I made, and the very little painting I've done, and the pretty new bathroom, my start here was so distressing that it really put a pall on the new-homeowner experience. It's finally, finally starting to feel different. I think putting up my first Christmas tree in three years went a long way in putting my stamp here, even though it too was a temporary marker.

I had some pretty grand plans for this past week, between Christmas and going back to work on Monday. Firstly, I had to finish my sister's blanket, which I did last night. (Pictures to come. I discovered that the blanket is essentially the same color as my carpet, so once it's dry, I'll drape it on the dark blue love seat.) I have cast on for Dad's sweater. The swatch was a success in both tension and washability, and I think he's going to like it a lot. He won't be wearing it until next winter (52"chest), but he won't be able to shrink this one. I also decided I wanted to...

*sand and possibly seal the stripped trim around the door
*paint another room
*make the curtains for my office (just one window, luckily)
*finish a hat for myself (one that nearly derailed any hope of finishing any Christmas knitting)
*really start spinning the fiber I want to use to make the Vine Yoke cardigan for this year's Ravelympics

With a whole week off, and no ankle-biters at my house, this should have been a SNAP.

Oh, the hubris.

Well, not hubris. Not really. I didn't overestimate my abilities; I am quite capable of pushing myself to some pretty crazy extremes to finish things once I get my teeth in them. What I didn't count on was the depth of my tiredness. I didn't need naps (except for the first couple of days). I needed sitting. I needed to not be in constant motion. It finally occurred to me that I essentially work almost six days a week, when you add in the time I spend teaching private lessons. I had decided a while ago not to teach this week. That's one of the smartest decisions I've made in a while.

There were other factors involved, too. The trim, being made of either oak or chestnut and also being from about 1927, is as hard as a rock, and a light sanding is not going to do the trick. I may have to resort to a gentle power sander (do they still make the Mouse?) for the flat areas to save my wrists. But now I know. I'm in color-lock for painting, so I'll whack out the last little bit of trim in the bathroom instead. I didn't have lining fabric for the curtains. Mom rescued me on that with a hunk of muslin she bought for another project, but doesn't need after all. They'll be an afternoon's work. (Two big rectangles, my kind of sewing. It's more work getting the damn machine out than doing the actual sewing.)

Finishing the hat? Probably not, as I started over. I had begun with silk, which looked wonderful, but I realized would grow and grow and grow. Take Two is with a "Rare Gems" skein of Socks That Rock. All hype aside, I love that yarn. It's a pleasure to work with, and it will make a much better hat.

And today, since I decided I wanted to do things today that I wanted to be sure I did more often this year, I began by having a decent breakfast, working on my hat, moisturizing thoroughly (that is a regular habit...I've always had dry, dry skin), and then took a walk. I made a quick trip out to the dreaded mall to reload the moisturizer supply (yes, I use one of those fancy department-store brands...I also have very sensitive skin). Came home and worked on Dad's sweater a little. (It starts with 236 stitches and increases after the ribbing.)

After that, I managed to accomplish one of the things on my list: I sat down at my wheel, and began spinning. I had no illusions about finishing anything here, as we're talking about two pounds of fiber (more details next post...I even have pictures). But I haven't spun in I don't remember how long, and today I went for a good hour and a half before my back complained. How do I know it was 90 minutes? I had "The Holy Grail" in the DVD player while I spun.

I plan to laugh more this year, too, and that was a great way to kick off what I hope will be the easiest resolution to keep.