In our own backyard…

…when we lived in Portland!

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Why didn’t I know about Wildcraft Studio School when we still lived in Portland?! It features so many of the kinds of classes I want to take: dyeing with natural dyes and working with your garden to achieve it.  In addition, they offer classes on the medicinal possibilities of plants as well as screen printing and other art classes. These classes sound amazing, and I can’t wait to take classes when we return to Oregon.

Fiber Stalker

I’ve become a stalker.

Ever since I discovered indie dyers such as Hello Yarn and Southern Cross Fibre, I’ve been lamenting the fact that I came upon spinning too late when these dyers’ fiber clubs are already maxed out and their waiting lists impossible to even get on. The only way to sample their amazing fibers and colors has been to hope for a destash posted on ravelry.

Then, I discovered that Hello Yarn, Southern Cross Fibre and Spunky Eclectic were joining forces for a special event. They were going to draw from the same inspiration photo and then dye their version of it. These bumps will then go on sale at staggered times on their respective sites.

Here is the inspiration photo followed by the different interpretations:

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SCF_medium  Southern Cross, “Sirens”

HY_medium  Hello Yarn, “Oxygen Deprived”

SE  Spunky Eclectic, “Mermaids Wear Lipstick Too!”

Southern Cross went on sale yesterday afternoon and Hello Yarn went on sale this morning. Spunky Eclectic is coming up, but I don’t think my nervous system can take it!

I have been on pins and needles the past two days, agitated and anxious. I played out various strategies and scenarios in my head as to what to do when the sale began.  I paced and watched the clock counting down. I put Little A in front of the TV so she wouldn’t disturb me. Then I waited at my computer and practiced my “refreshing” technique and refreshed and refreshed and refreshed and refreshed right up until the “Add to Cart” button popped up and the sale officially began. I managed to get 8 oz of Southern Cross but only 4 oz of Hello Yarn.

Did I say only 4oz of Hello Yarn? I should be grateful that I even got one. Everything went in less than a minute, and I’ve become an official fiber stalking freak. I am disappointed that I wasn’t able to get more, and I am still jittery from all that adrenaline.

There are many who wear their fiber obsession with pride. And I wish I could do the same and not feel this guilt and ickiness. I am definitely obsessed as V and even Little A will attest. But, since one of the reasons I wanted to start knitting and spinning was that I wanted to have some distance from consumerism and materialism and to focus on the process of making as opposed to buying, all this stalking and stashing is making me feel uneasy. I’m just redirecting my materialism and dressing it up as “homemade.”

Of course, there are infinitely more pluses to buying from independent artists and supporting them as opposed to buying from chain stores and multinational corporations. And I respect the work that these artists do. But, I’m not liking my own feelings of “needing” more and more fiber, especially fiber from specific dyers that are hard to come by. And I don’t like the fiber frenzy and fetishization that I am both participating in and also perpetuating.

There has got to be a saner and more moderate way.

Ready to Experiment

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Guess what just arrived in the mail?

After doing some research on line, it seems like Barbara Walker’s second volume in this series is the one to start with. Over 700 stitch patterns!

I am in awe of the wealth of knowledge and history contained in this book. As Walker notes elsewhere, this is a compendium of patterns that she has collected over time–most of them are not her own. This is a collaborative effort, a collection of patterns passed down through a community, a tradition, or a singular family. Of course, without the clear and meticulous notations by Walker, so much of this information would be lost. This is such a gem, and I can’t wait to purchase the others. I think I’m going to buy the third treasury next as it focuses on charted patterns that are originals invented by Walker herself.

Handspun Elizabeth

I’ve been wanting to knit this sweater for Little A for a really long time. But, Georgie Hallam’s tikki knits patterns intimidated me. They’re freaking long!! This one is 15 pages. But, the Elizabeth pattern is incredibly clear and there is a lot of white space so that it is visually easier to understand the different stitch counts for the different sizes.

Still. I get scared easily.

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But in the afterglow of completing my cardigan, I thought, what the heck.

Here it is, with some 3-ply yarn that I spun a while back.

Big Alice Delight

One of the first bumps of roving I purchased when I first learned to spin was this beautiful roving by Big Alice Dyes, a local Portland dyer. I had saved it because I didn’t want my awkward hands to spin lumpy yarn that would eventually be used to knit up a coaster or a dish towel. I wanted it for ME. And so, it sat in my closet for a very long time.

It’s not because I’m now such an awesome spinner that I finally decided to break it out. It was just that I couldn’t resist seeing how the colors would come together when spun up. One thing that I’m starting to realize is how the color intensifies when it is compressed into a twist. It’s not just the energy created by the twist but also the layering of color that makes handspun yarn seem so alive and electric.

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How beautiful is this yarn? It’s brown bluefaced leicester. It’s not visible here, but I love the blue that is over-dyed and how these little blue filaments find themselves wrapped up together with the wine, burgundy, mossy greens and yellows.  I am planning on spinning a 3-ply yarn.

The sad thing now is that Big Alice has moved to San Francisco and no longer dyes fiber.

Please, Big Alice, if you get this message, please consider dyeing fiber for spinning again.

Sweater in July

Since moving to San Antonio, I’ve been knitting like a fiend. I’m taking this time to really try and learn the craft of knitting, and there is just so much to learn.

I finally completed a sweater for myself. Just in time for the 100+ degree  weather we will be getting in August. I don’t care. I love it. And I have worn it out a few times already. IMG_2654

This is Hannah Fettig‘s Trail Jacket. I love the elegant, simple spare lines of her designs, and I already have a ton of her patterns queued up on ravelry.

It’s meant to be a jacket (obviously duh-noted!), worn loose and boxy. I decided to knit it with some negative ease so that I could wear it more like a regular cardigan.

This is a quick knit and a real confidence booster. I learned a lot from knitting this simply designed sweater. I am liking the raglan sleeve knitting from the top down. I don’t know how to seam yet, but I like that I can try the sweater on as I knit and then gauge how I want to modify it. I’m filing this project away for possible future modifications.

Less is More

This is what I see as I sit at the dining table knitting:

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And I am overwhelmed with joy and gratitude that this is my life.

Ever since we moved from our three-bedroom house in Portland to our one-bedroom apartment in San Antonio, we have been marveling at how relaxed we feel. Free of the clutter of knick-knacks and house maintenance, we have time and space for playing, exploring and creating.

There are still a lot of things we can get rid of if we want to continue to simplify our lives, and that is something that I will be working on this year. But this forced down-sizing has given us the chance to experience first-hand what so many have already said–that de-cluttering is liberating and that we don’t need all the space we think we do. The richness of our daily lives prove thats that bigger is definitely not better. We can clean the apartment in about an hour, which leaves us time for moments like this.

I won’t lie and say that I don’t miss some of the things that we had before, namely our garden and home-grown vegetables and a basement where V can make music with his friends. But, these are not insurmountable things. If we were staying here longer than a year, I would be looking for a community garden and V could probably play in someone else’s basement. And, frankly, that could be a plus.