January 2008


The Universe, as is its wont, has been trying to punish me for procrastination. Because I took so freakin’ long on the embroidery, and so was pushing for a last-minute finish, this week the Universe (which has right on its side, I do admit) has attempted to thwart me with:

  • A limping and still pregnant sheep who has so far failed to respond to all attempts to make her stop limping. It is genuinely possible that she has sprained her ankle.
  • A seasonal but deeply unpleasant cold snap that is causing my fingers to feel like wooden sausages. Yes, that is what I meant to say.
  • Winds gusting to 80km per hour, which blew the roof off our house. No, alas, I am not exaggerating. Big ol’ chunks of our lovely steel roof are lying on the ground. We are unamused.
  • A broken washing machine.

Despite all that, and despite the fact that I snapped yesterday and decided that even if it meant not finishing, I couldn’t stand to not do the embroidery on the back:

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The TIF challenge is finished. Actually I’m lying to you, it still needs eyelets. Which I might even manage to do tonight, pending further disaster, but I wanted to get it posted hurry-up-quick, because it’s already tomorrow for some people in this challenge! But not for me – I’m in Canada and I’ve still got almost eight hours, darn it!

I got one-maybe-two things out of this project.  Number one, those corded channels are cool and I want to do more with that.  I’ve done wadding for a gambeson, but that’s just padding – these cords are not only providing structure they are also shaping the garment, which I think is super-nifty.  Number maybe-two thing is:  About that embroidery.  That was just ridiculous, and I am faced with a decision.  Do I (again) try to accept the fact that I just don’t like doing it much, and avoid it until the next time I stupidly decide something requires it, or do I force myself to embroider more regularly until I get over it?  Frankly, I’m leaning towards option two.  I hate letting myself get away with avoiding stuff like that, because it does come up.  I can happily accept that I am never going to be An Embroiderer, but I’m not sure I should allow myself to dodge it completely, either.  I’ve been dodging crochet for years (no, no idea why – you would think I’d like it) and you know, if I let the hands get away with too much of that sort of thing, they’ll be spoiled and willful.  More so.

Ok, gotta go post on Flickr, or it won’t count!  Oh!  But!  Also gotta say a great big thank you to Emily for tagging me for the “make my day” thing.  I shall post my own such list right as soon as my brain stops running around shouting “wa wa wa” and I get my links in order!

Hmm… this could slow down the eyelet-making:

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I am kicking my own arse with this TIF thing… which in this case is an obscure way of saying “Ohmyladyit’sthe23ofJanuary” and panicking. Ok, not really panicking. Just kind of being tensely aware.

I did come to an arrangement with the bird. It’s not full resolution, but we’re going to be “grown up” about the whole thing, agree to disagree and move on from there. And in excellent news, it turns out that I can make French Knots! I’m very happy about this. You will laugh at me (and rightly so!) but see, when I was (four? five?) really young, someone gave me an embroidery kit for christmas. The kind with a picture of a flower or something stamped in thick black ink on a tiny square of cotton, and every detail you are “supposed” to embroider is included, even the dots where french knots should go. But it was real fabric, a real (if plastic) embroidery hoop and a real needle, and craft offerings to that point had been pretty much in the Flexible-Bodkin-and-cardboard-with-holes-punched category, so I was pretty happy about the whole thing.

I used to work on the embroidery while my mom was reading to me in the evening, which was nice and cozy (and allowed for some supervision while the clumsy five-year-old wielded a sharp needle). I don’t have the scraps I embroidered any more, so I couldn’t tell you what they looked like when I was done with them, but I know that for one of the flowers, in order to cover up the stupid dots of ink that they had in the middle, it was necessary to learn the french knot. So I did. And that was fine.

I’m sorry, did you think this story was actually going anywhere? No, not really. All that happened was that I was relatively competent at french knots when I was five, but then forgot how and have never done it right since. And no, I’ve never bothered to look it up because I’ve never cared that much, I just kept wishing my five-year-old brain would spit out the correct information and let me get on with it. Well, it turns out that all this time all I’ve been doing is twisting the needle the wrong way. I mean c’mon, you’d think at some point I would have done it right just by accident! Probably my five-year-old brain has been trying to explain this to me, and I just haven’t been listening. I told you that you would laugh at me. Go ahead. Point and snicker as well, if you like. “Look, there goes the chick who for more than thirty years was too stubborn to just bloody well ask someone how to make a French knot!!!”

All of this is just to say that there was at no point any danger of my knocking y’all off your feet with my spectacular embroidery skills. Fair warning. That was, fortunately, never the actual point of the project I selected, more like an unavoidable side effect. Oh, I could have dodged the issue. Heaven knows, there are lots and lots of not-embroidered ways to put images on fabric. But I didn’t feel they would be true to the point and nature of the piece, so embroidery it is. I believe I had some charming notion of sitting cosily by the fire in the evenings and stitching. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Except that doing so would involve: a) lighting a fire; b) sitting; and c) having the brainpower left, should either of the above come together, to do anything other than read a novel. Then that little fight with the bird happened, and now I find myself heading toward the month’s end and thinking “grr… must embroider… grr…”

However. I stand by my choices, and I’m not throwing in the towel yet! Especially since I’ve got past the bird thing.

There are actually two birds. Here is the one I like better:

birda.jpg

And here is the other one. It’s finished, but… well. You see.

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The purple swooshy, which I hope will read when all is said and done as a strand of yarn or thread which the bird is building a nest from, is a bit much, I think. Designwise, it’s probably better without. But I wanted it there, ‘cos frankly if I’m doing the Embroidery-because-it’s-the-right thing on this, I’m going to put a little code in it, and the yarn has to be there (in my mind) for it to say what it does.

Here’s one of the bottom gores, still awaiting french knots:

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So I’m getting closer to assembly!

In other news:

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I finished the socks Sunday morning, which means I spun, dyed and knit them in two weeks. I think that’s pretty cool, since two weeks is my normal generate-a-pair-of-socks time anyway, and that’s just knitting. Mind you, I didn’t get much else done! We just won’t talk about the state of my kitchen right now, ‘k?

Blackie is getting close to pushing out a lamb – we had no idea HOW pregnant they were when they came to us, and we’ve never done this before, so we don’t really have a “due date” on either of them. Blackie had some calcium problems in mid December, (she’s fine, we’re giving her beets every day, which she thinks is a super-great treat) and that gave us a “well, it’s about five more weeks” sort of clue, but we don’t know exactly, so we’re on LambWatch – which is like when the weather station goes on StormWatch, except more fun and also there will actually be lambs. Right now she is very fat and her udder sways and bounces alarmingly when she gets excited and runs over for hugs or treats.

And finally, there will very soon be an update on the Tree Bog, for those who care – the worst thing that could happen did, and it was No Big Deal. I love my toilet. Is that weird?

If someone – and let’s just for the sake of argument call that someone “me” – used “Magic Switchin’ Secret” Kool-Aid to dye some wool this past summer, and it turned out that they didn’t dye quite enough for the project, and then all grocery stores within the closest three cities stopped selling that flavor of Kool-Aid, (whatever flavor it is, I can’t imagine actually drinking the stuff) either because it is winter or because they hate me, I’m not sure, then in desperation the colour can be matched pretty well with food coloring in the following proportions:

5 drops green
5 drops yellow
1 drop red

And don’t forget your vinegar.  More information on food dye colouring in this Knitty Article.

Every time I’ve tried to blog about this thing for the past week, something has distracted me enough to completely forget whatever I was going to say, and I’ve not done it. Really, it shouldn’t be this hard.

I know what I’m doing. Right now I’m having a little fight with an embroidered bird on the thing I’m making, and we’ve had to take a “time out” in our separate corners and think about what we’ve done, but we’ll work it out. The fault is entirely mine, being as (as I believe I have mentioned) I don’t actually like doing embroidery much. I like the idea of it, I love the look of it… I just never seem to have much fun making it happen. When I mentioned this to Carrie, she brought up that seahorse incident, and fairly enough. But that really was something of an anomaly.

Anyway, point is my in-prog pics look pretty much just like they did last time, except now there is also an incredibly ugly and soon to be torched bird, as well. Actually it looks like a kind of weird lumpy-spiky flower, and no, I’m not taking a picture of it! But that’s OK, because now would be a really good time to share my idea/inspiration with the rest of the class, so to speak. Actually, about a week and a half ago would have been a great time, but see opening paragraph.

I said right back at day one that I’d been thinking already about a couple of people I admire, and so while there may be other persons out there who are more inspiring in some way, or who have a closer connection to me or a greater impact on the world, I think it is completely right that I use as my subject inspiration the person who first came to my mind – who was already in my mind – when the project was announced. So I did. And I’m not going to tell you who it is at all, but I will now tell you some stuff about them:

This person makes beautiful things. They are lucky enough and clever enough and talented enough to be able to contribute to the support of their loved ones by making beautiful things. Which is pretty cool.

This person’s values, and indeed mode of living are – “traditional” just doesn’t quite cut it – “dated” sounds weird and is inaccurate – “primitive” is totally wrong – “almost completely out of whack with the modern world” is closer, but still not right. An outsider’s take might be that they are “living the simple life”, although having found myself on that path and knowing how bloody complex the “simple life” can be, said outsider would deserve a clout on the ear. But complexity aside, this person reveals a connectedness and a joy in simple pleasures, at least, that is often overlooked in the let’s-be-trite-and-say-”hustle-and-bustle” of many people’s lifestyles. This person has not got a “lifestyle”. They have a life.

Now at least half of you are thinking “ok, I see why they get along, but what’s this got to do with the project?” And a third of you – at least – may be thinking “hey, that sounds like ME!” Well, maybe it is. I ain’t telling. But on to the admiration. What I was thinking about, back on the first, was that this person, who has strong beliefs and values about which they can be quite firm – not stupid-stubborn, not unyielding in the face of all challengers, just firm – is so amazingly unfazed by the myriad of stupid things that people say and believe and try to contradict with. (Sorry, that last was grammatically unforgivable. I’m tired, and trying not to betray gender. I give up; my inspiring person is a girl. There. It’s narrowed down to slightly more than half the human race.)

Anyway. I share a lot of beliefs and experiences with this person, but where I differ, greatly, is that when someone comes up to me and makes a dumbass judgment about things they haven’t thought through, don’t know squat about, and/or have a perfectly valid but inappropriate to my situation opinion that they are trying to impose on me anyway, I get very upset. I brood, and rant, and funk, and can if I try generally ruin a perfectly good week by being annoyed that some other person said something rude.

I am trying to get over this.

And that is what I was thinking on the first. That this other person, comments like that just slide right off. She doesn’t make a big issue of it, or take it to heart, because she knows that it doesn’t really matter. It cannot affect her. That impresses the heck out of me, because although I know it’s right and healthy and smart, I still seem to have a couple fewer layers of skin than I should or something. And I would like to be more like that. So when Sharon posted the challenge this month, that’s why my little mind moved right away to making a garment. I’m going to make a garment that represents this person to me, so that I could if I wanted symbolically put on their good qualities like armour. Add a layer to my skin as it were, and have a tangible reminder that these irritations (whatever they might be at the time, seems like there’s always something, if you look for it – and I do, that’s part of the problem) don’t matter.

So what I will be making, if I get this little dispute with the embroidered bird resolved, is a corset from around 1810. It’s an odd period for corsetry, they weren’t anything like what you might think of as a corset, really. They’re very transitional from the half-boned tubular stays of the 18th c to the gored and whaleboned Victorian curves. They’re not boned, but rather stuffed with cording for light figure molding. (Medievalists – picture a gambeson; everybody else think of a teeny tiny moving blanket.) Like the MUCH later girdles of the 1960s, they are really more about keeping the figure smooth so that those high-waisted dresses could drape prettily and not be impeded by anything so vulgar as an actual human body. Because they aren’t all boned and rigid, they can be prettily embroidered. And they have an optional wooden busk, also often carved or painted to look nice.

i.e. a beautiful thing, designed to make someone feel/move beautifully, firm but flexible, oddly placed in time, whose purpose is not to constrict or impede but to allow other, less structured garments to flow over it without conflict, and with indeed improvement to the look and feel of the whole. Natch.

In other news, I’m working on the second striped sock:

stripey.jpg

Which, as you can see, is in fact striping. Yay! I made it work! This is way more exciting than it ought to be. I’ve divided they yarn and am working toe up, which I haven’t done before. Started with a short-row toe, but decided to forgo the short-row heel in favor of my usual flap heel, because I’m just never satisfied with the fit on the short rows. I’ll try it again someday, I know there has to be a way to make it work on my foot, I just haven’t found it yet, and I’m enjoying these socks so much I didn’t want to ruin that by having a heel I regretted on them.

The short-row that I use, which is the same whether for heel or toe, is from Simple Socks by Pricilla Gibson-Roberts, and it’s great. I don’t always think it’s great when I’m actually knitting it, in fact I often think a number of things it would be inappropriate to say in this blog when I’m knitting it. The instruction P3tbl, which occurs a lot, is enough to make me break out in a cold sweat, especially on 2mm birchwood dpns. But it’s worth it.

shortrow.jpg

That, my friends, is lovely. And it’s all because of the instructions; I assure you it has nothing to do with my slapdash knitting skills.

A few days ago I saw someone griping about some “harsh” Shetland they were either spinning or knitting – don’t remember which; doesn’t matter – and I thought, “Oh come on…” But I know that there are parts of a Shetland fleece which if you bought them, thinking that they were the soft fine shoulder bits, might disappoint.

Indeed, anyone rushing to the defense of the Shetland breed with stories of ring shawls should be reminded that the Normans could pass a whole bleedin’ gored dress – with big bell sleeves! – through a ring. Passing random garments through gold rings was like a national pastime for a couple o‘ hundred years, there. It was something to do on cold nights, I guess. Or at least, spinning the fine thread for the purpose was! The fact is, if you’ve got the patience to spin, (or the access to purchase) fine enough material, making something that’ll go through a wedding band just ain’t that hard. I’ve done it with the dress, and I suppose I’ll try with the shawl some day, just to say I can.

But it got me thinking, and looking stuff up. And what I found was that during the (really rather long) period when wool was England’s major export, the wool in question was almost all, long or short, what is now considered at best “medium grade”. The raw wool was shipped to Flanders, spun and woven, and then sold for A Lot Of Money, everywhere. Flemish wool was really, really desirable.

Now, an embarrassing percentage of the people I’ve met in my lifetime would conclude from this that the medievals had lower standards than we do, that it’s a real shame they never had any of the fine wool breeds that have been developed since the mid 17-and-1800s, and they didn’t know what they were missing. A few sager types would acknowledge that most twelve-year-old girls who knew how to spin (and we’re still on drop spindles for a lot of the time we’re talking about here, wheels didn’t hit Flanders until 1300 or so) were habitually spinning finer and stronger thread than most of us hobby-types can on our best day, and would also correctly observe that wool cloth (except worsted) was routinely fulled as part of the production process.
But raise your hand if you’re one of the cool kids that thought of pee?

The wool that all the fancy-types who had a Lot Of Money to pay for Good Flemish Wool was also and always dyed. Yes always, you want to go around looking like a peasant? Bleached and/or dyed. (Whereas, just as an aside, the utterly stereotypical “rough homespun” was, obviously, not. But the poor dyed their clothes too, when they had time. Just not professionally.)

Dyeworks stink. Well, stank. I don’t know about now. But one major reason that everybody in the entire world wanted to be upwind of the dyeworks was: Pee. The cloth was treated with urine. Boiled urine. Which is, I am sure but have (thank goodness) no personal experience of, really, really REALLY smelly.

Now! Just to make reading fun, I’m going to change tracks here briefly, leaving you wondering what the heck you’re supposed to conclude from all that disgusting talk, and I’m going to tell you a story about sock yarn. There is, (although it was a close call for a bit there) no pee at all in this story. And it will eventually circle round to the point of all that went before, as long as I can keep it straight in my own head. And there are pictures. Here we go:

A confession: I have never knit myself wool socks. The only wool socks I own were handed down to me after Stalkermom shrank them in an inadvertent (or indifferent) washing machine incident. So the other night, in my usual “hey, let’s see how many things we want to try can we combine into one project with lots of opportunity for disaster” sort of way, I decided to make sock yarn for me. Stripey sock yarn. With natural dye. So I carded up somewhere in the vicinity of four ounces of Suffolk, and began to spin.

I took a very long time with this, because I figured if I was going to go through all the silly steps I’d come up with to make this yarn, I might as well do them right. I turned the whole lot into three bobbins worth of pretty good singles, if I do say so myself. Which I do. Then I put the singles on my warping board.

warped.jpg

Then (and this is Scary Part Number One) I took the singles off the warping board. I had them tied all over the blinking place, as carefully as I could, but we’re still talking about the equivalent of a six-metre skein here – in singles. Three of ‘em. I was not sure at this point if I would ever see them intact and untangled again, and I wouldn’t know for at least 24 hours. Scary.

Nothing I could do about it now, though, so I soaked them in water, added mordant (chrome) and turned on the heat. By the way? This book Jodi lent me, a Dyer’s Garden, is really good, but it says at one point that although many dye books say that Chrome is sensitive to light, it isn’t really so don’t worry about it. Well, it bloody well IS! No, nothing went wrong at this point, and really I don’t see why it should unless you mordant wool ahead. But the whole reason I have chrome in the first place is that it’s photosensitive, that’s what I use for sun printing. Just saying.

Now, I haven’t got a lot of natural dye material around right now, being as my someday dye-garden is still a big snow-covered hole in the ground at this point, but I decided to play “what happens if you boil this?”, figuring if the answer turned out to be “nothing much” I could always break out the kool-aid. So I boiled up the ubiquitous onion skins in one pot, some sumac in another, and some peach pits I was keeping for I forget what reason in a third. All the water turned red in a way that obviously wasn’t going to be red when I put wool in it. Then I put the (rinsed) singles in, all together but at different times so they would have slightly different degrees of dye absorption.

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I cooked it for an hour, and then left it soaking overnight (having again no idea what the absorption time on Sumac and Peach pits, if any, might be).

Now here’s the bit where we rejoin the first story, also known as Scary Part Number Two. I put the singles into a pot of water and ammonia. This was in case the change in Ph changed the color (which it didn’t) as it does do with some dyes. Vinegar works too. But ammonia breaks down protein fibres, (vinegar has the same effect on plant fibres) so although it’s perfectly OK to use on wool, you want to be careful and not do it for too long, especially if you’re some nut who only has dyed singles, rather than a (stronger) plied yarn or (stronger still) woven cloth. I only left it in for maybe four minutes, possibly not even that long. Pulled it out, rinsed it again (and again and again and again) and then (Scary Part Number Three) put it in the spin cycle.

And at last, resolution! I’m happy to say that I managed to re-warp, ball, and ply the dyed singles into a stripy yarn without mishap. Onion skins still give golds with chrome mordant, sumac leaves and branches give a green-toned brown, and peach pits give an oddly satisfying greyish green, none of which show especially well in this picture, alas.

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But the interesting part is that MY YARN IS SOFT NOW!!! It still isn’t as soft as the highgate wool (NOTHING is as soft as the Highgate wool; I really want to know what those sheep were) but the difference between this stuff and that grass stain, for example, is crazy! I would wear this right next to my skin (which is good, ‘cause it’s for socks) but I mean, as a shirt or something. It’s wild! And that was a really short soak, because I was so afraid of breaking my singles. Imagine if it had been longer? Imagine if it had been finely spun cloth boiled in pee?

Toldja I’d bring it together.

Here’s what’s happened to that fibre from Emily – I plyed it with some of the black suffolk.

allsorts.jpg

I think I’m going to make leg warmers. Which is kind of funny, because these are my other leg warmers:

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I didn’t make them, they were bought for me by my mom, back in 1983. (And they’ve held up pretty damn well, I must say!) I wore them with a navy sweatshirt she made, and my jeans that were shot with pink and also stitched with pink so the denim had a kind of purple halo-y look. And if I still had jeans like that, I would do it again. Sorry to have to say that, but it’s the truth.
Anyway, my point is that apparently this “bluey-purple pink thing” has been going on longer than I’d realized!

Now, about the stash: Stalkermom has been sort of gently nudging me towards joining one of the “stashdown 2008” type things. She seems to feel my stash is maybe a little out of control, just because I have two rooms full of fabric, two chests full of yarn, and half my laundry room is piled with bags of wool. I don’t see this as “out of control”. I see it, like a squirrel, as security. And also maybe extra insulation.

I know that I started it by posting that wool as my ‘yarn stash’. But I mean really, if bags and baskets of raw wool count as stash reductianda, then so do sheep. Which is silly. One has to draw the line somewhere.

I know I’ve got things on the go that I have labeled “stash reduction projects” – but that right there tells you something – a lot of those projects wind up as UFOs, because working on something for the sake of using something else up is just a really garbage motivation, at least for me. It doesn’t work. Besides, I have just recently realized/decided (like, about twenty minutes ago) that I need to get away from the whole end-driven mindset. Spinning so I can knit. Knitting so I can not freeze my lily-white arse off. Sewing so I can – what? Have a bunch of impractical and phenomenally outtdated (like, centuries) clothes that will be worn once and then only for the sake of it? Or practical, reasonable functional modern clothes that I will resent every stitch of because I’d rather be making a farthingale? I do sew the things I enjoy making, rather to the detriment of my functional wardrobe, because what I love best is the cutting, the figuring out of shapes, the making it work. I honestly think that the reason I tend to have sewing UFOs is that once I figure it out, the actual assembly is irrelevant. If I want the item then sure, I’ll make it – but if all I wanted to do was to know that I could make it, then once the pieces are cut, the rest is just grunt work. So yeah, I could unclutter my life by finishing up a pile of UFOs – but then what? All it would really do is move the clutter to another room.

Same is proving to be true with spinning and knitting. I do want to turn all that wool into yarn. That’s what I have it for. But I want to enjoy the process, I want to make yarn that is pretty, and fun to spin, I want to dye it and play with shading and make boucle, and fat singles, I want to ply purple and green together and run around forcing people to admit that they DO SO ‘work’ in combination.

But I don’t want to wear any of that stuff! I wear black, and grey. I wear ugly plaid because I find it amusing, and also because people keep giving me ugly plaids, knowing that I find them amusing. I will make occasional forays into drab greens, pinks (especially if they’re in those plaids) and purples, but basically what I like is black, and if you see me in anything else it’s because I haven’t got any bloody clothes because I never bother to make any, and I’m wearing some hand-me-down that I really do intend to replace with something I actually like, one of these days.

Now, I know that I can learn to be braver about wearing colour. I know that I can learn to dye colours I like, and like colours I dye. But the fact is that the (far) end product is not in my mind when I’m spinning, I’m just enjoying the whole “Look, I made yarn be!” thing.

And then there’s the knitting. I like knitting. We all know why, we all either understand the attractions, or we don’t knit. But here again, the things I want to knit are not necessarily the things I want to have after they’ve been knitted. I just want to knit them. Likewise, the yarns that I enjoy knitting with are not necessarily the yarns that I had such fun spinning. I don’t really want to knit with boucle, or sari – it isn’t stretchy, it isn’t any use for pretty cables, which is what I’m having the most fun with right now, and when you really go to town and put beads or feathers or some crud you found in the bottom of your “shiny objects” drawer into it, then it isn’t good for much except trim (I don’t like contrast collars and cuffs) or bags (I really don’t like bags) or hats (how many hats does one person who ties yarn to their head every winter need?)

Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not “dis’ing” fancy yarns. I love them. I just love them for what they are, rather than for what I could do with them. I’ve said before, I like yarn better than things that are made out of it anyway. I like to look at it, and maybe pat or kind of stroke it occasionally. And sometimes stack it and re-arrange the colours, and see if any of them seem happier beside each other. You know what I’m talking about, I know you do. I won’t tell.

So I have set myself some goals for this year, but they aren’t anything to do with stash reduction. I will of course be working from my stash, because that’s all I do most of the time anyway, I don’t actually buy things often, and when I do it’s usually in the rawest form possible, in relation to whatever it eventually turns out to become. But working from stash is not ‘the point’. Working is. I’m going to try to spin 1000 m. a month. I have no idea if that is reasonable, but it’s less than half of Farm-Witch’s goal. I figure that I really love to spin, and want to spend time on it, but since the spinning is way more central for her than for me it seems clear that I would be a complete idiot to try and match the stated goal of a professional! I guess I’ll find out soon if I’ve overshot. Oh, and singles don’t count, it has to be finished yarn. (Unless it is supposed to be a single, duh. But I don’t do that much.)

I’m going to make one corset a month, above and beyond whatever sewing I may be doing for the business or for myself. I think this is about what I average anyway, but I am hereby formalizing it into a goal. The corsets may be for me or they may be for sale, but they have to be fun – new designs, or fancy embellishments or whatever, but not just “fine, there, I have made yet another black PVC cincher, just what the world needs, let’s throw it on Ebay.” Boring ones won’t count.

I am going to do one thing in the house that will make me happy every month. Finish a wall, cover a chair, whatever. I’ve made a list of twelve “things that would make me happy if I did them”, but the list isn’t static, there are things I know already that would have been on there if I’d thought of them first, and as long as I get twelve, I’ll be pleased. That goal is kind of weather-conditional too, so it may wind up being two things a month through spring and summer rather than an actual one-per.

I am not setting knitting goals, because I don’t care. I know that I will knit, and I know that I will enjoy it because I do. No goals needed.

And of course there’s the TIF challenge, which I have been working on and will post pictures soon. Ok, you can have a peek now, but it isn’t going to help much:

pattern.jpg

gore.jpg

Told you. I’ll explain what’s going on there shortly.

Anyway, the last goal is that I am not going to berate myself if I don’t manage to achieve these things, I am not going to let this turn into stress pressure when it’s based of things I like and want. But I am going to do a month-end summary and keep track of what I’ve managed to achieve in any given month, both on and off the list.

Happy New Calendar Day to everyone!

I’ve been taking myself a “christmas holiday” from – well, anything I didn’t feel like doing these past couple of weeks. Giving myself some formal recovery time from the fall. Hopefully this will enable me to end said recovery time formally, and get on with it!

I hadn’t really meant to take time off from blogging as well, but frankly I’ve just been in such a crappy, cranky mood for the last while that anything I wrote was going to be a whine or a rant, and neither was interesting. So: silence. Also, a lot of what I’ve been doing in this “time off” is cleaning up after animals. Sheep and chickens are not great respecters of vacations, neither do their respective shelters, even when freshly cleaned, make great blog pics. So again: silence.

I was thinking last night about my mood, and why/how I have been so easily irritated lately, and I was thinking in that context about a couple of people that I’ve “met” in the past year through this blog that I really like and admire. That got me thinking about admiration itself, because especially given the limited perspectives that you get on people you only know through this medium, it might surprise and confuse these people, not only to know that I admire them, but that I admire them for qualities they may not possess, or feel that they possess. So I was thinking about admiration itself, and how much anonymity and projection is central to it.

I don’t know where all that was going, quite, because as I sat down to muse about it, my little RSS feed went “blink blink”, and lo! Sharon had posted the first of this year’s TIF challenges – and what do you think it was?

“The key concept for January is a feeling we have all had, the feeling of admiration for another. Ask yourself who do you look up to and admire? Why? What is it you admire about them? This is a the first Take it Further challenge in 2008. Take the idea, develop it into a resolved design during that month and apply it to fiber or paper.

Pretty neat, huh?

I’m not 100% sure where I’m going with that idea, but I definitely have some thoughts. When I joined this challenge I had wondered whether it might mean moving away from the “wearable art” (so to speak) that I always gravitate towards, but in this case at least, it doesn’t seem so. I already have a garment in mind that in its function encapsulates those qualities I have been admiring in these people. More on that as the idea develops.

Did other people get piles of snow dumped on them last night? I woke up this morning fully prepared to dig my way out to the barns, and as I slugged back my first bracing cup of coffee and peered reluctantly out the window at the drifts, I saw…. this:

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A puddle. A not-even-frozen puddle. It’s plus two out there (that’s around 34, for those of you speaking in farenheit) and only the stubbornest snowbanks on the shady sides of hills have even a scrap of the white-and-fluffy left.

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Not that I’m particularly complaining – the animals are happy, ’cause they can still play outside. Mud is a mess, but at least I don’t have to shovel it — and we’re saving a ton of wood! We’ve still hardly had the stove lit at all. A few days in early december, an evening when Emily and Dru were here, and that’s it! I’m not saying it’s not cold – it’s about plus 5 in here – but it’s not shiver-by-the-fire cold by any means. It’s more like keep-busy-to-stay-warm weather. I’ve discovered, for example, that if you grab some fibre that likes to go fast – like, say, this merino/tencel that Emily gave me:

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spinning keeps you surprisingly warmed up. Aren’t those colours pretty? Em said “I thought you were still having a bluey-purple-pink thing”. I am. I really, really am.

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Look at that, I spun it right away instead of “saving” it. I’m pretty sure I even know what will happen to it next!