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

Archive for the ‘yarn’ Category

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.

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.

The Waiting (for bobbins) Is the Hardest Part

Until you just can’t take it anymore.

So, I finished up the fiber I was spinning on the mS(miniSpinner) onto the two bobbins it came with.  My favorite default is a three-ply yarn, but this fiber was bouncy, bouncy, bouncy, and it just does better as a two-ply.  My mS came with one bobbin made by Hansencrafts and one from Akerworks, a 3D printing company.  Reading the Ravelry boards, I learned that some people had a preference for the Hansen bobbins, so I wanted to try both of them before ordering.  After confirming I like the Akerworks bobbins just fine, I ordered two more.

Since they are made to order (so many pretty colors and patterns to choose from – my two will be purple and lilac, of course), it’s currently less than a week wait from ordering until they ship.  Also, due to being just different enough in the center diameter, plying also was going to have to wait until the jumbo lazy kate arrived, which could beat the bobbins here.  But like I mentioned, I still have the wheel, so I could spin on other things and wait.

That lasted two days.  The possibility of having to wait a whole week was just too much.  Then it hit me.  I mentioned to Ramblin that I don’t have to wait.  I can ply off of the mS bobbins using my wheel. There’s no rules about crossing the streams; I could spin on one machine and ply on another. I could make a lazy kate out of a box, but lamented that it wouldn’t be tensioned. He, being MacGyver, said that I could put a string over them and tension it.  (he doesn’t spin, but understands the whole process like whoa)  I’m pretty sure the two of us could take over the world if we put our minds to it.

This is a good time to discuss Personal Spinning Preferences.  On the Rav boards, lots of people don’t believe in extra bobbins.  Instead, people should just buy a quill attachment and cardboard storage tubes and wind off every. single. bobbin. spun. only to have to turn around and ply them.  Okay, let’s discuss how much time that takes away from being able to spin fresh, new singles of yarn (gently side-stepping the whole time cost of making yarn from scratch in the first place).  Uh-huh, that’s never going to happen here.  Also, many people believe that tensioned lazy kates aren’t necessary.  And that’s great for them.  I used an untensioned lazy kate for the first ten years I spun, and then for my 10th spinning anniversary, I bought myself a tensioned lazy kate.  After using it, I was really impressed that I never threw the untensioned one through a window.  For those that don’t need one, rock on with your bad selves.  I will turn into the Hulk if I don’t have one.

So, armed with a Sweet-n-Low box, spare knitting needles, sewing machine bobbins for spacers, string, and a strip from a cottage cheese container, I made my tensioned lazy kate.

homemade tensioned lazy kate

That’s after I plied everything off, as the pictures before were dark from cloudiness outside.  Turning on a light beforehand just didn’t occur to me as I was a woman on a mission.

Mountain Colors targhee lilac

Mountain Colors Targhee in Lilac

You can tell by the picture that the fiber just wants to bounce.  Targhee could easily be called Tigger fiber.

Gee, there’s once again two empty bobbins.  Whatever shall I do with them?  :)

Update:  The lazy kate has shipped, but the bobbins aren’t scheduled to until July 28.  Argh.

New Toy

A few years ago, a friend brought her Hansencrafts miniSpinner to the yarn shop and let us try it out.  It was sweet, and I knew I would probably have to get one someday.  But that really went to the back burner with all of our travel plans, and besides, I had my excellent wheel, the Majacraft Rose.  I was fine.

Fast forward to this past April when another friend got a miniSpinner.  Well hello, all those feelings of coveting.  But, I resisted the pull and thought that I should get a plan in place to save up for one, like finally selling some handspun yarn that’s been piling up and use those funds toward a purchase.

Last Wednesday, I get a message from said friend.  She wants to know if I want to buy her Hansen spinner.  What?!  She just bought it!  (Turns out, she bought another one already. She has a slight wheel/spinner acquisition disorder.)  So, Thursday, this arrives at my house.

HansenCrafts miniSpinner

This one doesn’t have a Woolee Winder (yet), and it only came with two bobbins.  There are now two more bobbins on the way as well as a lazy kate because of course, neither of my two lazy kates will handle the huge honkin’ bobbins of the miniSpinner.

Now, have no fear – my wheel isn’t going anywhere.  In fact, I’ve been spinning on it this morning, just so it won’t get jealous.

Spinning on a Saturday

But I do wish the other bobbins would hurry up and get here.  I just ordered them last night.

Also, the Illiana Yarn Crawl kicked off yesterday, so if you’re in the Vincennes area, I know where you can get some handspun.

2016 Yarn Crawl 3

And if you miss that, don’t worry, there’s soon going to be more.  A whole lot more.  I kidded my friend about the Hansen spinning so fast it would create a vortex in her house and suck all the spinning fiber into it, thereby creating a vacuum that would suck in more spinning fiber from Etsy and the like.

Well, I suppose I’ll find out first hand.  It’s got its work cut out for it.


So, I made it back before summer.  Impressive!

What have I been up to?  Probably the biggest thing is that I have become a contributor to the Phat Fiber box.  It’s a monthly box people can snag full of yarn and fiber samples from independent dyers.  While it’s probably a bit premature, I do love dabbling in the dye, and this should be motivation for me to do that.

It’s weird that I should need motivation to do something I enjoy, but there you go.  As the list of hobbies grows, naturally some are going to get pushed to the side.  But also, regardless of how productive I can be, there’s still time that is simply wasted.  I don’t want to  be running 24/7, but I also don’t need to play Facebook games when there’s more fulfilling stuff to do.  So if there’s external pressure, I’m hoping I’ll be a little more focused on doing things that bring me joy.

And if I make a little money in the process, even better.  With my primary (“day job”) continuing to decrease adjunct financial opportunities, I realize the only person I want in control of my destiny is me.  Being at another’s whim is rife with uncertainty; I want to be in control of my destiny because I’m really the only one that cares about it.  Does my employer (not my boss – she’s awesome) care that cutting hours affects my life?  Nope.  It becomes more and more apparent that if I’m going to have to stitch together multiple jobs to make ends meet (the reality of many adjunct instructors in higher education), I want those jobs to be something I enjoy.  I don’t want to teach for half a dozen colleges with students who don’t want to learn.  I want to dye things, and spin things, and weave things.

So, each month I’ll send Crys some yarn to toss in a box, and we’ll see what happens.

Somewhere 1

Just because all this school stuff is getting boring

viola handspun

viola handspun closeup


This is some yarn I finally finished up last night.  How it came to be dyed is an interesting story.  I was dyeing a sock blank for the first time, and I had put waaaaaay too much dye on it.  It was going to turn into a mess if I tried to roll it up for steaming, so I grabbed this bundle of wool, plunked it in for a quick soak, and smooshed it onto the sock blank to mop up the excess dye.  Turned out beautiful.

The original sock blank had a zigzag of neon green going down the middle of the blank with red-purple and blue-purple in the alternating triangles.  The sock blank was a much deeper color that this fiber, but since I put the acid in with the dye, more of the pigment strikes on application, leaving fewer particles in the runoff, hence the lighter shades.

It’s a fingering weight three-ply yarn, about 700 yards.  No idea yet as to what it will become.