Not just a hobby, it's a way of Life

Hey, it’s still January!

I’m back again! Yay!

Really, you have no idea how much of a big thing this is for me. Motivation is still pretty scarce around here, but I’m trying.

Still in chemo cap mode. I delivered nine hats (fingering weight knits, so lots and lots o’ knitting) this week, and I’ve knit another three since then, thanks in part to a very generous donation of yarn. (thank you, Chris!) Not to worry, the yarn coffers around here are in no danger of depleting. I’ve got lots of soft acrylic yarns in the stash due to me always having been a bit princess-and-the-pea about my yarn softness, even before I discovered a world beyond acrylic.

I did squeeze in another baby blanket for my dear friend’s grandchild. I knit this for her originally.

Rosebuddie by Anne Hanson in Juliespins Glimmer yarn “Sweet Pea”

Baby Girl loved it. It’s her comfort squishy, and she pokes her fingers through the lace and squeezes. Now, New Dad is totally smitten with Baby Girl and wanted to commission another afghan for her. “It’s my baby girl, I don’t care about the cost!” My friend explained to him that’s not how it works; Needlefingers does this out of love, and it takes a long time to make a blanket, etc.

Well friends, when faced with a Baby Girl who needs a back-up blankie, of course Needlefingers delivered.

Back-up Blankie Rippling Waves Baby Blanket in Red Heart Soft Baby Angel Print

Back-up Blankie is not as involved as the original one, and I whipped it up in a couple of days. New Dad was completely surprised and thrilled with it. And reports are Baby Girl likes it, too. ;)

In local news, our sun has gone missing. There were almost sightings of it a few times, but those turned out to be false reports. And if the pattern hold true, February is nothing but gray. Love Valentine’s Day or hate it, I think it was cooked up because Great Yelping Gouda (phrase stolen from a online group), did they need some color, stat. I was holding off taking picture for the website until we got a sunny day, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. Forget the yarn, I’m the one who needs a light box.

Two posts in the same month is not necessarily a trend, but let’s hope it is!

Hey, Blog!


I’m back.

So what have I been up to? Lots. Not enough. I don’t know.

We took a cruise of New England and Canada. I went to Rhinebeck.

I’ve been very tired. Very, very tired.

Right now, I’m knitting chemo caps. Our local cancer charity was looking for someone to donate, and you know, I’ve got a ton of suitable yarn for it. Now, I’m probably not knitting them fast enough to be truly useful, but it’s better than nothing, right? The current batch is from yarn I bought waaaay back when on the first yarn crawl I went on for this area. One of the shops didn’t have much that really sang to me, but I wanted to support each shop. I found a neat self-striping acrylic yarn, Plymouth Diversity, and bought four skeins on a lark. Then it sat in my stash until now. I can get two hats out of one skein, and they are quite fetching.

Ah, phooey. I was hoping the new WordPress would make inserting images easier. All of my stuff is on Google Photos. Maybe I can add them from the app.

In other news, one of these days is going to be a thing. I mean, it’s a thing right now, it’s just an empty thing.

Let’s go back to spring of 2018. I was at my spinning/knitting/do whatever craft makes you happy retreat, and I was doing some grading for my online classes. I thought, hey, I ought to see if I have students enrolled for summer. I logged into the faculty system, and there were no classes listed for me. I checked to see if maybe I had been let go without being told (it could happen), but no, the course I taught had been removed from the college catalog. This did in fact happen without me being told, but that’s not out of character for that institution.

I still had two classes listed for fall, but after monitoring them up until two weeks before classes were going to start, I only had two students. That institution paid per student, so it really wasn’t feasible to keep teaching there. I did pick up two classes for fall at another institution, then nothing for spring 2019, then three classes for fall 2019, and now for spring, I’ve had three sections cancel due to low enrollment, with one more section starting in March. It currently has four students.

All of this is to say, employment hasn’t been a terribly stable thing. I’ve been supplementing with craft shows selling soap and yarn. Craft shows really can’t be considered stable income either, but it’s something. And, I really like making soap and dyeing yarn. I would do that even if I couldn’t sell them (but obviously would need to, or else the house would fill up with yarn and soap). I cannot say that I would grade essays if I wasn’t getting paid for it. However, I cannot turn off the spellcheck in my brain, which makes Facebook all the more horrifying.

So, back to I’ve known for a while I need to get my stuff listed, and there’s another well-known platform that I have used in the past. But recently, there’s been more and more complaints about that platform, pushing sellers to offer free shipping and just roll the expense into the price. And then it’s reported the CEO doesn’t like the term ‘handmade’. Well, that really doesn’t sit well, so I think I’m going to avoid that altogether.

When will I actually get to doing that? Eh, I don’t know. I tend toward, um, overthinking things, and right now all I can think is, “Omigosh, what if I don’t get the color just right and despite warnings about different monitors could make it appear differently, they blame me for ruining their very lives and hate me forever?” Yeah, I know that’s off-kilter thinking. But, I do want to do the very best job I can in accurately portraying my wares. Maybe I’ll finally learn how to use Gimp, and that might set my mind at ease.

There’s just so much uncertainty right now, in my life and the world at large.

Maybe I need another cup of coffee.

The year so far

I have a plan. (Don’t I always?)  Or maybe a goal.  Anyway, what I would like to do is record stuff that happens in life so that I have a back-up memory when we’re trying to figure out when the last time was that we saw Ramblin’s parents or dear family/friends Ragged and Cynical.  So, since I’m behind this year, I’m afraid you’ll have to settle in for a bit of a catch-up.

The first weekend of the year found us heading south to see Ramblin’s parents.  He took off Friday so that we could leisurely drive down and arrive in the daylight.  If we leave after he gets off work at this time of year, we would arrive well after dark.  We had a good visit and found a few treasures at the ‘junk stores’, as Ramblin’s momma calls the second-hand resale shops.  My big score was a Teavana infuser pitcher for $2.  I’ve discovered/became obsessed with loose leaf tea and cold brewing said tea.  This pitcher is perfect for making iced tea.

The next week, we were supposed to get all kinds of wintry mess, so it was good that we traveled the week before to see his parents.  I decided that the warmth right before the impending storm would be a great time to dye yarn!  Now, you’ve heard of micro-brewers of beer, yes?  Well, indie dyers are like the micro-brewers of yarn.  I consider myself a nano-dyer.  I’m not at the capacity of amazing people like Knitting Notions, but I can make little batches of stuff that I tend to squeal and eee over.

yarn drying

Yarn pile

That’s really just a tiny, tiny bit.  However while dyeing 100+ skeins before the storm hit seemed like a good idea, I kind of forgot the whole rinsing and accommodating the drying of said skeins in the house.  I was not going to brave the ice and snow and cold to get to the yarn room.  But it worked.

The next weekend, Jan 20-21 was ice-free, so we traveled down to the family farm to check in on my uncles.  The family farm house is the gathering spot for Sundays.  They all live at their own homes, but they are very close to the homestead.  We travel the farthest, at a little under an hour.  Our family has owned the land for five generations, and there is five generations’ worth of junk there.  You could argue some of it is treasure, but much of it is junk.  What astounded me is last fall, after years of talking about it (long consideration before taking action is a family trait), my uncle was contacted by someone who scraps to clean up the place.  Car bodies, farm combine bodies (that had sizable trees grown up around them), and scrap metal of all sorts was finally hauled off.  Two outbuildings that had been collapsed for a good 15-20 years and the treasures/junk inside them are being cleaned up.  I would have taken before and after pictures, but I never imagined there would be an after.  I really thought it would fall to me and Ramblin’ to take care of it.  But it is looking great.

On Jan. 25, Ramblin’ and I celebrated 21 years together.  He reserved a cabin in southern Illinois, and we traveled down on Thursday to enjoy some time away from it all.  The main draw of the cabin was the hot tub.  With my connective tissue disorder, aching is a reality of daily life.  The buoyancy of the water plus the heated jets is so restorative.  If I win the lottery, a hot tub is the first purchase.  I do not play the lottery, so I’m not sure how that’s going to happen.  We spent the extended weekend soaking and eating oreos.  So. Many. Oreos. I regret nothing.

The first weekend in February, there were chances for ice/snow, so we decided to stay in.  Of course, the weather promised never showed, but it was nice to have a weekend of down time.

The next weekend, there were chances again, but we didn’t believe them.  Besides, I needed to get my tax papers to my uncle as we have all of our taxes done together because of the farm. We woke up to a glazing of ice.  The roads didn’t seem too bad, but the further south we went, the worse they got.  Bridges were particularly treacherous.  As there is a fairly long bridge between us and the farm, we opted to turn around.  At this point, I would like to mention that the weather had been consistently cold this year.  Lots of single digit highs.

However, the next weekend was going to be warmer and no ice, so we took that opportunity to visit Ragged and Cynical.  We finally determined that the last time we saw them was June of last year.  Too long, but busy lives get in the way sometimes.  It was great to see them and catch up.  I also discovered a Starbucks drink I don’t mind at all – the Blonde Espresso Latte.  It doesn’t have any of the bitterness I’ve come to expect from there.

We subjected them to a movie made locally to us.  (Sorry about that, guys.)  It wasn’t very good (okay, it was awful – mostly the f-word, which is fine when used for a purpose, and questionable filming technique), but you do have to give the creators credit for taking the leap and putting it out there.  If we wait for perfection, we might wait our whole lives.  “Done is better than good” and “Perfect is the enemy of good” are common phrases that essentially push us off our rumps to do something.  That is the root of my procrastination, but what do I miss out on waiting for things to be just so?

So this past weekend, we finally made it down to the farm – and I forgot my tax papers.  Argh!  So, I’ll have to get those down at some point so we can get the process started.  All of the uncles were well. (There’s been a couple of hospitalizations they’ve neglected to inform me of in the past.  I swear it’s like herding cats.)  More of the buildings were cleaned up.  We did pass some fairly high water on the way down, and the backwaters are coming up in our field.  The house is probably about three miles from a smallish river, so not in danger, but the woods and part of the farm ground do flood pretty regularly.  We didn’t get nearly the rain threatened.  The farm wound up with about 5″ for the week.

And lest I forget – the Olympics!  I love the Winter Games.  We’ve been binge-watching pretty much anything NBC wanted to show us.  We even got Sling TV for a month just to have another option.  Yesterday was our first post-Olympic evening, and it felt a little sad.  But now we can catch up on all the other shows that we put off.

I’ve been knitting up a storm.  So much so that I have not done any spinning or weaving.  I have so many plans.  But today I should finish off yet another big shawl wrappy thing, so maybe that will push me to get a warp on the loom.  One thing that is slowing me down is on Saturday I developed back spasms while grocery shopping.  It’s left me pretty much unable to do much of anything, but today it finally feels more like sore muscles from a hard workout than an injury, so some gentle strengthening exercises are in order.  The irony is I just started slowly getting back into exercising a couple of days last week (I don’t think the two are related), and that put a temporary halt to that.

In other news, I got Ramblin’ a ‘pro-sumer’ coffee roaster.  We had been roasting coffee beans with an air-popper, which did a surprisingly decent job, but it was obviously limited.  I didn’t know what else to get him for xmas, and I wanted it to be something good.  This has adjustable roast profiles and can roast up to a pound of beans at a time (in comparison, the air-popper did about 3 oz).  I believe he was pleased and simultaneously peeved that I spent what I did, so he retaliated by getting me a bath bomb press.

So let’s talk plans for this year.  One goal is to add craft shows to my lineup. My ‘day job’ has taken a serious turn, and it appears it will no longer be sustaining.  So, other avenues will have to be found.  For right now, I can’t make a living off of my creativity, so I will need to find another ‘day job’, but I might as well stick a bit more than a toe in and see what happens with the other creative pursuits.  I’ve always approached it as I like making things, and selling things means I get to make more things.  Otherwise the house just fills up.

Yay!  You’ve made it through my year so far!  I can’t promise how often I will post, but I know I need to record things for my own benefit, and maybe some of you will be entertained as well along the way.

Shawl City

Well, the big ol’ mystery shawl is complete!

WTF Side A

Below is technically the reverse side, but I really like it almost more than the right side.


So then, it’s on to a new big ol’ shawl! This one was a mystery when I joined, but I didn’t get to start it until now. This is Joji Locatelli’s Starting Point.

Starting Point beginning

There’s two other mystery KALs I’ve joined, but I’m focusing on my current knit. The good news is both of them look to be things I will want to make. Another mystery I was watching but had not joined moved into the ‘nah’ territory, so yay for not buying that one. ;)

Fall weather may have finally arrived in our area, knock wood, so if it’s fall in your area, get out there and enjoy the gorgeous weather!


It’s Socktoberfest!

And I have a pair of socks started, sort of.

See, I’m in Big Damn Shawl (like Big Damn Heroes of Firefly, but different) mode.  I was discussing it with a friend, and I think she got to the heart of the matter when she said, “Adult security blankies!”  And if there ever was a time to need a security blanket, this would be it.

First, I finally finished the Stephen West mystery KAL from, um, March.

Then I started the Andrea Mowry mystery KAL.

And once this is done, I’m going back to the Joji Locatelli. I might have a mystery KAL problem. After that, I have yarn to make the Wonder Woman shawl.

So socks?  Yeah, not really on the radar this year.

Back again!

Wooo, look at me posting again! (still don’t have the app downloaded though)

As you can probably deduce from the lack of posts and sheer volume of yammering when I do post, it’s been a bit busy ’round here.  In fact, even though there are still things percolating, last Thursday was really a point where I could take a breath and go, “Whew!”  What does a knitter do at that point?  She (in this particular case) casts on socks.

And then, once she finishes that pair in three days, she casts on a shawl out of the skein of yarn she simply could not bear to part with for the yarn crawl.

(Yes, I know you can see these in the widget on the side bar, but isn’t this more personal like we’re actually talking about them?)

I know I have more things looming (ha – weaving joke!  Yes, there’s also a bunch of stuff I need to weave), but for right now, I’m enjoying the relative freedom to do whatever I want for the next couple of weeks.  Just so long as what I want to do is make about 60 pounds of soap and dye skeins and skeins of yarn.  Fortunately, that’s exactly what I want to do.  :)

I’m back – again

Well, let’s see what I said last time and what needs updates.  I feel like I have been on a constant run since, um, April?  March?

The new spring craft show I tried was a bust. They have a very well attended fall show, but this was the first spring show. I heard varying reports of other things going on in the town, so that may have contributed to the low turnout. Then we didn’t have a great location, with many people not realizing there were booths at our end of the hallway. So, I’ll stick with smaller shows in smaller towns and the ever-popular Etsy.

I actually had a small show at a new location and did really well there.  I had found out about it late, and they were already full, but took my contact information.  Five days before the show, they called to say they had a cancellation, and I was in if I wanted.  I had prepped for a show at Ramblin’s work a couple of weeks after that, so I jumped on it. Did really well.  Got a call from the local health food store needing a restock on things. Then we had our annual spinning/knitting/sock-cranking/weaving/do-whatever-makes-you-happy retreat in May, and I sold yarn and soapy things there.  The next week was the show at Ramblin’s work, and it went phenomenally well.  All the while, I worked late into the evenings to make more lotions, scrubs, and bath bombs for the next event.  Soap has to cure for 4-6 weeks, so I just hoped I didn’t run out.  It was close.

The rest of May was spent winding up my new-to-me Literature class.  So much relief to post the grades.  Then, the first weekend in June, we did something fun!  Ragged and Cynical had invited us to go along with them to the Walker Stalker Con in Nashville.  We’re casual fans of the show.  This means none of us spent $100 for photos or $50 for autographs and selfies.  It was cool to see the stars of the show, albeit from varying distances.

In vacationing news, we went on a bus tour to New Orleans in mid-June and brought Ramblin’s parents along. I had been to New Orleans before and really enjoyed it more than I thought I would, so I was eager for them to see what an interesting city it was. I’m not sure if it was just the bus-tour aspect, but it wasn’t as fantastic as the first time I went. I think we would have enjoyed it more on our own schedule, and Ramblin is game to go back one day.

The local yarn crawl just wrapped up, and I was very pleased with the result. My LYS (local yarn shop for the non-yarny folks reading) had my yarns and soap+soap-related products during the crawl, and I only brought home a tiny bitof yarn, and a little over half of the soap products.  Considering I took a lot of stuff, that’s pretty good.

Yarn and soap at the 2017 Illiana Yarn Crawl at Atkinson Farm Yarns

Guessing what colors will be popular is really like playing a game of whack-a-mole.  Things I thought would sell – didn’t; things I thought might not go – did.  My LYS owner said she has quit trying to guess and just gets a wide selection of colors.  A fun thing I did both last year and this year was make a soap to match the special yarn crawl yarn.

Yarn Crawl shawl designed by Jane Campbell and matching soap made by yours truly

I hit my reading challenge for the year.  It was a modest 24 books, since I hadn’t read anything close to that in years.  Last year I read nine (sheesh!) and in 2015 I read 13, 14 in 2014 (appropriate!), 13 in 2013 (appropriate again!), and 23 in 2012.  In 2012, I was finishing my master’s degree and starting the graduate certificate, so I’m sure none of those were fun.  But, thanks to the Goodreads stats (oh how I do love numbers!), I know that the best year for pages read had been 2014 with 10133 pages (thanks, A Song of Ice and Fire series) compared to only one less book in 2013 for a total of 5,486 pages.  This year, I’m at 10,333 pages read so far.  I’m currently actively reading two books (you can keep up with that in the right hand column, should you so desire – yeah, I know it says four, but one was just opened on the Kindle and the other may never get finished)  and would love to hit 50 books by year’s end.  I mostly read on devices, but I do have the analog Dark Tower series.  Maybe after I finish with Odd Thomas.

I have a new smartphone, thanks to Amazon Prime Phones, Prime Day, and Tracfone BYOP.  Yes, I love technology, but I’m cheap.  The phone I had before was smart-ish, but had so little memory it couldn’t do – well, anything.  So now, I should be able to accomplish all kinds of things.  Or so I tell myself.

It’s been a slow summer, student-wise.  I had eight, but that’s dropped to five, and really only three are dedicated.  That should change this fall when I’m theoretically going to be teaching Comp I online to 75 high school students.  So, I’m enjoying the downtime right now.  I have big dyeing plans for the LYS as the owner and I have cooked up some really fun things.  Things like a shop colorway – you heard it hear first.

And that’s been my spring/summer so far.  Maybe I’ll download the WP app and make updating more convenient to do.

Eh, so it’s only been a month, but I decided to come back.  I really need to keep up on the blog because it’s a great memory tool.  “When did we do that thing?  Oh yeah, here it is on the blog.”

Well, let’s have a little check in on how my goals are doing.  No macarons or tie-dyes yet, but I can swear in Croatian.  And reading!  I’m reading!  I should, for goodness sake, with all the devices.  A small wrinkle popped up when I discovered my library had switched from Overdrive to 3M Cloud Library (or CL, as they call themselves).  The problem with that is CL does not work on e-ink devices.  It’s an app, so your device needs to be app-compatible.  The nifty Paperwhite Ramblin’ got for me?  Nope.  So, to read ebooks from my library, I have to use the eye-searing tablet.  I don’t mind surfing the internet, but I hate reading large amounts on backlit screens.  But CL doesn’t appear to be particularly interested in that.  And no easy way to contact them from the website.

So, about three weeks ago, we had a beautiful weekend weatherwise and took that opportunity to visit Ramblin’s parents.  You never know what you’re going to get in winter, so we saw the chance and went for it.  Ramblin’s mom had found a yarn shop for us to visit, right across the street from a quilt shop.  We went to the yarn shop first, and I did a little damage, then we went over to to the quilt shop.  Ramblin’s mom hand-pieces the most beautiful quilts.  She found a good scrap pattern to help clean up her stash, and we left just in time so that I didn’t wind up buying a kit.  It was purple (of course), and my resolve was fading fast.  Then we traveled to Clarksville for lunch at the Cracker Barrel.

In possibly the quickest stash-to-finished-object ever, I worked up two of the skeins I bought within a week and a half of purchase.

Fan Shawl

The cat was very interested in the picture-taking process.




Because of course everything a cat sees is his domain.

There has also been spinning with the lovely WooLee Winder-equipped Hansen.




The first two pictures are after a bath, so the third picture doesn’t quite reflect the poof afterward.  This was a 4.2 ounce braid of Merino/Bamboo/Nylon from Fat Cat Knits in the colorway Lotus.  ETA: about 600 yards of 2-ply, so heavy lace/light fingering weight. Very nice and springy, which is just what we need right now.  The temp hasn’t been awful, but oh my, the gray days are getting to me.

In soapy news, I’ve applied to be a vendor at a new show.  They have a well-established two-day show in the fall, and now the organizers are adding a one-day show in the spring.  I thought I would try things out for the spring show and maybe come back for the fall one.  As you read in the previous post, I won’t be attending the new show I tried in December.  ;)  I had a decent amount left from my soaping frenzy this fall, so I thought I might not have to make much for the early spring shows.  However, I’m delivering 20 bars tomorrow to various customers, so I may need to make just a tiny bit more.  Selling the equivalent of an entire batch in one day is a nice feeling.

Oh, and since we last chatted, I’ve become a literature teacher.  It happened in the space of an hour and a half.  The high school I was supposed to teach composition for changed their minds and wanted literature instead.  My boss asked if I could be credentialed in literature, and I asked if we could find out.  (college instructors need to have a minimum of a master’s degree and 18 graduate credits in that area – I have 32 hours in a mix of English and literature, then several more in miscellaneous subjects like liberal studies and instructional technology) An hour and a half later, BOOM, I’m a literature teacher.

And I’m going to be teaching my fifth dyeing class at the yarn shop.  This time we’re doing sprinkle dyes.  Should be a blast.

Whoops, almost didn’t get to tell you it’s snowing on the blog.  I practically needed a snowblower to get in here, with the complete and utter lack of traffic on my part.

Okay, so let’s sum up.  Tape your ankles.

In August, I decided that I needed to get a nifty attachment for the Hansen miniSpinner.  They make a quill that you can spin on, but get this – you can also wind weaving bobbins!  And who has a neglected loom?  This gal!  So naturally, buying something else for something not getting used made great sense.  And since I was ordering stuff and they were going to have to ship it anyway – I threw a WooLee Winder in the cart.

September – We went on the second vacation of the year with Ramblin’s parents to Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg in the second week of September.  It was just a short getaway, but we had a great time.  On Monday, we made a trek all the way to South Carolina (mostly just to add another state to our visited list) with the goal of a little ice cream/coffee shop only to find out they were closed on Mondays.  PSA: Don’t visit South Carolina on Mondays. On Tuesday, we traversed the Artists’ Loop in Gatlinburg, and I got to talk with a weaver.  That evening, Ramblin got to experience the Dixie Stampede for the first time.   Wednesday we went back to Gatlinburg to walk along the strip and do some of the more touristy things: Sky Lift, Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum (reliving part of Ramblin’s childhood memories), Ripley’s Haunted Adventure, and a nice little side trip to the yarn shop.  You knew we would fit that in, right?  Then we wandered farther afield to Wears Valley and on the way back, Ramblin and I rode Goats on the Roof roller coaster.  Here’s a video of Ramblin’s experience.

It was on Wednesday that I noticed my throat/sinuses felt a little weird.  I thought maybe it was just hotel respiratory syndrome, but there was a lot of smoking down there, and with my sensitivities to it, I was afraid of what was coming.

So, I spent the rest of September sick.  Unfortunately, I also had a dyeing class to teach and a craft show to vend at.  I threw all sorts of remedies at the crud to get myself well enough for the dye class on the 19th, and promptly lost my voice afterwards.  I got enough of it back for the craft show on the 24th and was worthless the rest of the week.

Ramblin’s parents came up on the 30th to see their grandson, Ramblin’s nephew, conduct the high school band in his senior year homecoming parade.  They had been calling for rain for that evening, but we pressed on.  About half an hour before the  parade start, thunder began to rumble.  About 10 minutes before the parade start, the rain came.  However, the show must go on, so armed with umbrellas, we watched those poor kids march in the rain.  That’s dedication.

I wondered if being out in the rain was the most sensible thing a recovering sick person could do, but at 8:30 that night, I felt the last dregs of the crud let go.  Hooray for feeling normal!

And that was great timing, because for October, we had booked a cabin in southern Illinois.  This trip was planned before Ramblin’s parents asked about Gatlinburg, but we decided to keep it on the schedule.  So glad we did.  The next day after the parade, we headed south to an Irish festival being held a short distance from our cabin.  It was another rainy day, but we didn’t let the rain dampen our enthusiasm.  There were two stages with several bands throughout the day, highland games, and food and craft booths.  We’re in a very small populated area, and the talent they were able to book was extraordinary.  The headlining group was Dallahan, a group from Ireland/Scotland/Hungary.  I got to meet a fellow soapmaker and chat about the business with her.

We traveled on to our cabin with a quick stop for Chinese food to refill our bellies.  The cabin was very remote in an incredibly peaceful setting.  We had a hot tub and pool table and made good use of both.  We ventured out to Lambert’s on Sunday, and then traveled on to Arkansas (you guessed it, another state for the list) to a pumpkin patch, which was open, and the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum, which was not but would have been open on Monday.  Irony, thy name is tourist attraction schedules.

After we got back from Vacation Part 3, I went into soap-making mode.  Being worthless for most of September, plus great sales at the shows in July and September, had put me way behind schedule.  From the second week of October until the first week of November, I made 96 pounds of soap.  Why all the soap?  Well, in addition to the little local shop I do each year, I was going to have soap at the yarn shop (along with hand-dyed yarns, more on that later) for Small Business Saturday, plus a soap show at Ramblin’s work as part of their employee committee fundraiser, and the biggest opportunity, a very well regarded craft show at a local school.  The school craft show was in the state next door (we’re only 20 miles from it, so not ambitious travel).  I had no idea how much sales might be, so I wanted to be well-prepared.

Lest you think I spent the whole October chained to the soap pots, we did take a break and visit with Ragged and Cynical.  We got to meet their newest addition, Miss Margot the beautiful gray kitty cat.  We also ventured out to a fiber fest I’ve never had the chance to attend.  It used to be in Corydon, IN, but now has moved to New Albany.  It was a nice little show, and two braids of food for the miniSpinner aka spinning fiber from Lunabud Knits followed me home.  I was also fortunate enough to win a door prize!  There were five options left to choose from, and I selected a notebook of knitter’s graph paper.  Maybe that will jumpstart some of these designs bouncing around in my brain.

We kept hearing the vendors talking about a great sushi/taco place, and while I was perfectly game to go despite not being a particular fan of either sushi or Mexican food, Ragged insisted we find another place.  And find one, she did.  The Exchange Pub.  Oh. My. Word.  Actually, a few words: goat cheese fritters with bacon date aioli and The Exchange Burger – local beef with argula, caramelized onions, gorgonzola on a pretzel roll.  On our way back, we stopped at the Corydon Extravaganza, and Ragged hit the jackpot on vintage finds.

November!  Once the soap was done, it was time to launch into yarn dyeing, as the local yarn shop would be featuring my yarns beginning on Small Business Saturday and throughout the month of December.  November also brings deer seasons and Thanksgiving, which means traveling to the farm for two extended weekends and this year traveling to Ramblin’s parents post-Thanksgiving weekend.  And lest we forget, I play at being an online instructor for college courses.  Deer seasons this year were tough, with Ramblin only getting a doe on the very last day of the second season.  Since Wayne County lost its late season/CWD weekends, this meant one tag would go unfilled.  For Thanksgiving, I didn’t think about getting a Turkey until the week of.  You know what’s left four days before Thanksgiving?  8 pound turkeys and 22 pound turkeys.  Well, I didn’t buy an 8 pound turkey, as it was almost expensive as the 22 pound turkey.  That was a lot of turkey, but not a shred of it went to waste.

And just like that, it was December.  The second deer season coincides with the local craft show, so we head down to the farm on Wednesday, stayed Thursday and Friday with Ramblin hunting with my uncles, then on Saturday, I wake up when he does, drive the truck back to our house 40 min away, get in the car, drive three or so miles to the show, set up, sell from 9-3, tear down, drive back home, get in the truck, drive back to the farm.  Whew.  This year, sales were down from previous years, a pattern that would continue.  Then we head back home on Sunday.  It’s a bit hectic, but we get to enjoy all the things we do.

The following week, I was prepping some extra products for two shows.  Friday would be the day I set up at Ramblin’s work and the very next day was the reportedly huge craft show.  I make a solid lotion product I call Meringue, and it’s great for frequently washed hands.  Who frequently washes their hands?  Hospital employees.  I had set up in the spring previously, right before Mother’s Day.  I didn’t know how sales would go, so I only took 16 Meringues with me.  Well, those sold in the first hour, and I took orders after.  This time around, I was going to be ready.  I made 96 Meringues for the two shows and sold 38 at the hospital, with Ramblin getting hit up for more the next week.  I also made some bath bombs which are not my favorite product to make yet, but people enjoy them.  They are very finicky to get just right, and I’m sure with more practice I’ll develop that feel.

So, the hospital show was a great success, but it was a long day.  I was scheduled to be there from 7:15 – 3:30, so that was close enough to Ramblin’s hours that I just planned to ride in with him.  Then he had to go in early since his boss was off, so I got there at 6:20am.  We packed up at the end of the day and headed home to rest up for the next day.

While living right next to another state can be handy, one thing about it that is not is that it is on Eastern time while we are on Central time.  You see where this is heading.  We had to be up an hour earlier to make up for the time change.  As we had never been there before, we wanted to allow plenty of time.  So, up at 5:40am, on the road at 6:00, arrived around 6:30 – 7:30 local, found our booth location near the back of the school, parked in the back parking lot, hauled stuff in, set up, had breakfast, and were ready to go at 8:30. An announcement came that vendors should move their vehicles from the front of the building and away from the entrances.  Since our booth was at the back of the building, we didn’t have to worry.  Then at 8:45, another announcement came that vendors needed to move their vehicles away from the front of the building, and if they didn’t want to mover their vehicles, they could come to the front office and their application would be voided.  This information was provided to us well in advance, so no one had any excuse for not complying.  Of course, we’ve planned events before and know that things don’t always go like they should.

The show opened at 9:00, and sales started off well.  Vendors were set up throughout the hallways and in the gymnasium, and there was constant traffic by the booth.  As is typical, things started to slow down around 1:00. Around 2:00, Ramblin was getting hit by the sleepies and walked around for a bit.  When he got back, I went for a wander myself.  There were two other soap vendors at the show, and I felt like that was definitely a factor in the day’s sales.  A few people had walked by our booth and said, “Oh, I wish I would have waited!”  I spoke to a couple of the other vendors, one a husband and wife selling woven rugs (fellow weavers!), and another that I had been set up next to at the fall show in Olney.  Both reported low sales.  One said that while last year had been a really good year, she had only sold half of that this year.

I went back to our booth and did a quick count.  It was not as good as I had done the day before at the hospital.  There was an option to apply for next year now with a $10 deposit to hold your place for next year, but I was unsure.  This year has been an odd year, so I don’t know that much can be told from one time, but I just couldn’t commit.  Around 3:30, another announcement came across the loudspeaker that vendors were reminded not to remove anything from their booths until the show ended at 4:00, and if vendors didn’t want to do that, they could come to the front office and void their application.  Once again, this was policy stated well in advance, and it’s very standard craft show protocol.  Maybe I’m weird for following rules to the letter, but considering they can kick you out for not following them, I don’t want to run afoul of the organizers.  I even bought special to-the-floor table covers because the rules said to. (spoiler alert: most people didn’t have that).  I was a bit surprised that at no point in the day did any official come and check out the booth.  Or they might have, but they certainly didn’t identify themselves.  At some shows, the organizers will even come by and thank you for participating.  This would turn out to be one of those shows that would never happen, as you will see.

So, 4:00 rolls around, confirmed by both of our cell phones and the clock in the hallway.  Ramblin and I begin the initial packing up, as several around us had started doing a few minutes earlier.  Then there came another announcement, “Hello vendors, this is Krissy Kringle!  It’s now 4:00, so please feel free to pack up your sh– and go home!”  It went deadly silent.  Then came the, “What did she say?!” “She said sh–!”  “I bet a lot of people will come to the front office to void their applications now!”  At this point, I would like to mention that the very first rule on the craft show agreement was  “Vendors are to conduct themselves in a professional manner at all times.  No profanity.”  They even went through the trouble to bold it.  There was another announcement by someone else wishing us all a happy holidays, but that ship had sailed.  We were done.  My earlier hesitation to apply for the next year was well founded.  We packed up our FINE QUALITY MERCHANDISE, THANK YOU VERY MUCH, and went home.

After that, I felt like I deserved a reward.  Three Akerworks bobbins for the WooLee Winder, to be exact.  Merry Christmas to me.  Maybe I’ll get to spin on it again one of these days.

The following week was the last week of classes.  Over the years, I’ve worked to make this a very simple week for both myself and my students.  Classes ended at noon on Friday; grades were submitted later that evening.  Done!

The next day (Does my life seem busy to you? It seems pretty busy to me.), Ramblin’s parents came up for Christmas at Ramblin’s brother’s house.  Of course, the weather couldn’t possibly cooperate, and they were calling for freezing rain and other muck that evening.  We had lunch, then there was the opening of gifts.  All too soon, to avoid the weather, Ramblin’s parents headed back, and we returned to cozy in for the evening.

Remembering the lesson from Thanksgiving, I bought a more reasonable 13 pound turkey for Christmas.  Comparatively, it cooked lightning fast.  We headed down to the farm for lunch and gift-giving.  My uncles are not great shoppers, so typically we get scratch-off lottery tickets.  It’s a bit of fun and dreaming, even if it doesn’t come to bear.  Except this year.  One of the batches of tickets Ramblin scratched had a $1000 winner.  Holy cow!

We spent a quiet evening in for New Year’s Eve.  The next day we traveled to the farm for a lunch meal of Kentuckian Legend ham, black-eyed peas, and steamed veggies with cabbage, with dessert of my favorite strawberry jello, sour cream, pineapple, banana, and pecans.  I think the real recipe calls for Sprite, but I prefer mine uncarbonated.  I love it, but I only think to make it once a year.

And that’s where we are, friends.  Thanks for slogging through all of that.  I didn’t mention scattered through there were knitting projects for the yarn shop and knitting projects for lots of gifts.  You know, as if that wasn’t enough.

So, what’s up for this next year?  Well, certain events didn’t go the way I had hoped, and it feels like optimism is going have to be worked for.  I’m going to try to be very intentional in finding positivity because it feels like hopelessness is waiting around every corner.  I think it is going to be very much on each of us to create the reality we desire because it is certainly not going to be created for us.  That’s true at any time, but I feel like it is more obvious now.

But what about fun, Needlefingers?  Oh yes, there’s fun planned, too.  I’m not doing resolutions anymore, but I do have plans.

  • Learn to make macarons
  • tie-dye all the things
  • Learn Croatian (or bits of it, anyway)

I want to make macarons, because my goodness, is there anything prettier?

Multi-coloured macarons, September 2010

Despite years of dyeing yarns and fibers, I have never tie-dyed a single thing.  How does that happen?!  I don’t know, but it needs to stop.  I have the cotton dyes.  I’ve bought the shirts.  It’s go time.

My great-grandfather was from Croatia, and learning a language should be good for your brain, so why not Croatian?  I’ve already found a YouTube video on how to swear in Croatian, and you never know when that might come in handy.  ;)

Also, my goal is to read more.  I spend too much time faffing around on the internet, and that’s time that could be spent in all sorts of different worlds.  And since my sweetie got me a Kindle Paperwhite for Christmas, joining the Kindle Touch and Nexus tablet, I really have no excuse not to read.  There’s a device at my fingertips at every moment.

Okay, so I’ll see you in another three months or so, yeah?

So, as I was going to be waiting a while for my new equipment, a rainy Monday morning seemed like a great time to get a clearer picture of the fiber stash.  Mostly it was an attempt spread out the spinning so that I would have my lazy kate by the time I was ready to ply again.  The Sweet-n-Low box served me well, but I really didn’t want to have to use it again.

Ravelry has been slowly but steadily improving the spinning portion of the database.  When people first started stashing fiber, it was mostly just a text entry and a picture.  Currently, there are all sorts of specific fields for information including fiber composition and percentage, fiber prep options, colorway, company name, date purchased, price, etc.  I hauled out box after box of my spinning fibers and made sure they were all listed and that the details were filled in.  I had been pretty good about listing the fiber stash, but at the end of the day, I was up 20 entries.  Most of those were 4 oz. braids, but their were some larger lots.  As it stands right now, I have 92 fiber stash entries on Ravelry, and that’s probably 95% of my overall fiber stash.  Of course, the yet unlisted is a lot of fleece, so maybe more like 50% by weight.

Then, once I had my clearer picture, I needed to choose the next thing to spin.  Since the bobbins wouldn’t be coming any time soon, I needed to keep it to fibers I knew I wanted to spin 2-ply or chain-ply.  Have I mentioned I have 92 options?  Granted, not all of those fit the plying criteria, but I just didn’t know where to begin.  Enter the Random Number Generator!  I plugged in my numbers, and it returned 60.  I counted down to the 60th entry on my Rav stash page – nah.  I mean, it was a really great fiber, but it was mostly white and blue, and I was hoping for a bit more color.  So, undermining the whole concept of randomly generating a number, I clicked it again and got 89.  This time I went with it.  It was a lovely blend from Winterhaven Farms of 60% merino and 40% bamboo in a colorway of greens and orangey-yellows named Mallard.  It was a well-marinated stash purchase at Greencastle, so its time had more than come.

Spinning 7-19-16

I finished up the first bobbin in about three hours.  I’m trying to time my spinning to see just how many hours I have in a skein.

That was Tuesday.  Wednesday I was out visiting my friend and dropping by my LYS for the area yarn crawl.  Since I bought this beauty, I’m not doing any stash enhancements this year, but I do have several of my dyed yarns at the shop, and I’ll do a blog post about that later this week (spoiler alert: it went really well).  Wednesday was also the day my lazy kate arrived! So Thursday was spent finishing up the second bobbin.  I divided the fiber in half vertically, then I split each half into thinner strips horizontally.  I’m hoping for a really good color distribution.

New jumbo lazy kate

I haven’t yet plied them, as I spent yesterday at a local town’s 175th anniversary, or dodransbicentennial.  (Dodrans is the latin contraction of de-quadrans meaning ‘a whole unit less a quarter’. Thanks Wikipedia!)  I had my soaps there and was supposed to demonstrate weaving on a rigid heddle loom, but maybe wove 2″ or so.  And yes, we’re in the middle of the heatwave from Hades.  It was miserable, but there were still diehard souls that came out, and several of them went home with brand new wonderful soap for their evening showers.  I know that’s exactly what I did after unloading the car.  I was set up next to my friend who demonstrated spinning, and her sweetie brought us a huge shop fan.  Without that, we would have melted.  Speaking of melting, I took fresh made soap still in loaf form to show part of the homemade process, and that was fine until the sun shifted.  Once the fresh soap was in the sun, it liquified like a candle.  It held shape okay, but touching it revealed just the outer shell was holding it together.  That got carefully transported back home.

So, the bobbins are scheduled to be created and shipped by July 28.  I may be calling on the Random Number Generator again.