Odds and sods

It feels like a great many of my posts could be titled this at the moment, although I’m grateful to be feeling a bit more like my creative self again. Apparently the whack a mole I’ve been trying to play with the brain weasels is working, for the moment. I was pretty sure I’d been doing nothing at all, because I haven’t done anything especially exciting, but it adds up. I tell others, all the time, that everything counts (sorry for the Depeche Mode earworm), and apparently I don’t listen to myself very well.

So what HAVE I been doing while trying to get myself back on some sort of new normal ish? Let’s wander through the projects littering my house. (As a note, apparently having people over is what keeps the projects from Taking Over.. the spouse is lucky I haven’t taken over his spot on the couch yet, but it’s a near thing.)

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The scrappy side, full of ends.

There’s been some plain knitting, as best as I can manage on the plague shawl. It started out using up what looked like a failed warp in an inherited stash, and now has been just using up bits and pieces of whatever else is in the stash in about the right colours. I can’t work on it much, my arms hate every second of it, and it’s going to be CRAZY warm (I started it when my house was FREEZING to sit in all day), just in time for the weather to warm up. It is literally a triangle made by knit 1, yarn over, knit to the end of the row. Continue until you run out of yarn, or patience. Wait, no.. keep going when you run out of patience, you’ll run out of that early, cause damn it’s boring and those rows get super long by the end.

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There’s been some modern textile collage, which was something I did long ago with an embroidery mentor. Basically if Sharron was teaching at our modern needlecraft guild, I took her classes. She is an amazing artist, and I wish I had a 1/10th her skills with a sewing machine. (Not enough to practice.. I happily stick to hand stitching). A modern embroidery page is doing mini challenges every week, and one of them was a collage, and I couldn’t resist the nostalgia. I’m trying not to overthink it, it’s not a stunning masterpiece, but I appreciated the distraction working on it. I’ve only done week 2’s challenge, even if they are starting week 6, but I appreciate watching everyone else’s work.

I have been baking and cooking.. basically every day. Nothing overly exciting, mostly dinner every night, and lunch every day. Granola and yogurt and candied peel and bread, so much bread, another sourdough starter, more bread, cake and curries and pottage and muffins and and.. cooking and baking has been my standby for creative work when I didn’t have brain for string. I’d say I can bake in my sleep, but I over yeasted my bread this morning when putting the dough together before coffee, but somehow it all has survived and it is perfectly tasty bread.

The mending box is.. damn near empty. Apparently global pandemics make me want to darn socks and patch holes in skirts. The clothes that need major alterations, well they might sit for quite some time to come, but that’s besides the point.

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A wee tiny bit of knitted lace, to potentially end up on another textile collage that I can see in my head, which is generally a death knell to it actually looking anything like that, and destined to be disappointing, but we’ll see. It might end up just being another random bit of lace hanging out in stash.

I’m sure there’s been more, but those are the highlights that I can remember right now. What have you been up to?

How’re you doing?

escalator

Well. Goodness. I think all the memes about ‘well that escalated quickly’ basically sum up the world right now, with the pandemic changing the world around us by the minute it feels like. The vast majority of us are now at home full time, some with work to keep us busy, some chasing children who are bored out of their minds, some with unending amounts of free time stretching out to infinity and beyond.

There’s no one right way to handle this, by the by. Some folks are diving into big creative projects they’ve always wanted to try. Attending classes every couple of hours, driving from the firehose of online information and fresh productivity that comes from having copious free time all of a sudden. Some folks are retreating back a bit, not quite as delighted by a whole slew of MORE new things and finding solace in familiar crafts and media while everything else is in chaos of new. Both of these, and somewhere in the middle, are totally reasonable. I’m in the second camp. I am a creature of routine, and lists and expectations and suddenly things are changing ALL THE TIME. I will find my new normal and find some concentration and creativity again, but for the moment, I’m settled in on the familiar. A bit of (terrible) weaving. Some mending. My journal has come back out of hibernation as an invaluable spot to settle all those many thoughts into a non judgemental location. I’ve started a new utterly basic dishcloth shawl out of scrappy yarn, my plague shawl. Garter stitch and cozy wool. I can literally knit this in my sleep, and it provides a familiar motion for my hands while my brain is overly full. My social schedule seems to be just as full of zoom / FB live / etc etc meetings with friends to chatter and craft together. It’s not quite the same, but it’s a welcome sense of connection.

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It’s okay if you don’t write the next great novel, or King Lear (the quip being that Shakespeare wrote it while in quarantine), or produce a pentathlon worth of perfectly researched A&S projects. (It’s awesome if you do, I wanna see the cool things!). Bake some cookies, watch a familiar movie and knit on your plague shawl. We will find equilibrium, and we will come together to hug each other close when we’re on the other side of this.

Madder abuse (pt 1)

So.. plot twist! Instead of calmly gathering threads out of stash, I’m digging out the dye pot. Get comfy, this is a longwinded chatter about my dye process, as I’ve had a lot of questions recently.

Y’know, when I started this hare brained scheme of doing a sample of embroidery per month, I figured it would be a quickie couple week tiny project, badaboom, badabing, and done, move on. Instead? A full month for each so far, generally involving doing dye work, or elaborate tiny stitches and a whole lot of trying to ruin my eyesight. Clearly the answer for March was to dye a spectrum of shades in natural dye on elderly wool. (I swear, one of these months, I am going to pull everything out of stash, and I won’t have dyed or spun or woven any of it and I will feel /so guilty/ for the whole month. I am ridiculous. When this happens, please remind me that I am being silly, and I do not have to mine my own gold.)

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This is probably Kool Aid.

Anyhow! Back to the dyepots. I should mention a couple of points here. I have been doing dyework for a really long time, and I am the absolute WORST for throwing things at the pot, accepting and acknowledging that I am going to get whatever, and not being too stressed about that. It makes me a moderately terrible resource when people ask me for a precise recipe to follow because my notes read like most historical recipes. ‘Season to taste, cook until done’. I can’t always articulate the why of doing something at the time, but I know that it’ll get me what I have vaguely imagined in my head. (And then I talk to a dear friend who does not work in a spaghetti at the wall sort of fashion, and she points out in an organized analytical fashion why everything I did got me what I got and I go ‘oh yeah, that makes sense’) I also work in tiny quantities. I dye skeins of embroidery thread. Even my skeins of knitting or weaving yarn are quite small, because a couple thousand yards of threads lasts me approximately forever at the scale I work at. I am not certain I have ever dyed finished fabric. I know the theory, but I don’t work at that scale. Heck, I dye primarily in a small crockpot. (Which is never, EVER used for food. If you looked at the inside of this, you would know why you NEVER EVER dye in food pots. EVER.) (exceptions made for kool aid and icing dye, but I don’t use that all that much anymore, although it is /so much fun/.)

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Madder experiments in 2016

I have dyed extensively with madder before. It is one of my favourite dyestuffs, and its often the one I turn to first. I love the colours, I love that it is really quite fast, I love that it is not a terribly expensive dye, I love that even when I do all the stupid to it, I still love the colours. It is, however, a fussy dye. It is not indigo / woad levels of high maintenance, but there are a LOT of variables that will change the colour of madder. It’s sensitive to temperature, pH and water composition, and can vary from deep brick red-brown to eye searing orange, depending on what you do to it. It also had the advantage of being in my dye stuff stash, which is getting well picked through and elderly at this point. (More on that later, but I really do need to do a good solid stock up soon.) I was on a timeline, and it was handy. Done and done.

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Skeining off silk.

First up is getting the yarn skeined off. Tossing a ball of yarn into a dyepot is a fast train to the outside being a great colour and the inside being undyed. I have totally done this on purpose at various points to get a neat gradiation effect, but it’s not the medieval aesthetic, so I rarely aspire to it these days. So! Skein it out, and then I use about 8 figure 8 ties to keep everyone together. That means, at 8 spots in that skein, I have split the skein in half, and popped a little tie around both halves, VERY LOOSELY. You want to be able to have a couple fingers worth of space in that tie, and you will make the weavers whimper. (Weavers, when tieing off yarn, want it to not go ANYWHERE. Dyers, when tieing off skeins, want it gently herded to not get too far. The transition between the two mindsets takes a moment.) Some folks live on the edge and only do 4 ties, but I’m a weaver too, and I can’t quite be that zen, so I err on the side of paranoia and keep it a little more constrained. You want the ties to be loose such that the fibre can move freely around in the water, tie them tightly and you get 8 (or however many ties) regularly spaced undyed sections. (A feature for some! I’ve also done it on purpose, to great effect.)

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Onwards to mordanting! (As with most things in the A&S world, there is a lot of prep before you get to the thing. You can either rail against it, or just embrace it as part of the process. I am not always very good at that second bit, I’m a work in progress.) Mordanting is a pre-step in natural dye work, to basically lay a chemical foundation for the dye reaction. Not all dyes require it, but most do. I teach a whole class in the chemical processes involved in mordanting, but the crux of it is that most fibres need a little chemical bridge between fibre and dye molecule. The most common of these is alum. (Yes, the same stuff you use in pickles.. okay that reference might not be helpful to most.) Dye work is done by weight. This is the reality of life, and the sooner one picks up a scale the happier it is. Weigh the dry fibre. (dry is important here), for alum, we generally want about 10% of that weight in alum. (This starts to become personal dye attitudes. Some folks aim for 5 – 8%, some add 1 or 2% of cream of tartar into the mix. I am boring, and mordant with straight up alum at 10%. Done.) The amount of water.. fairly irrelevant beyond ‘enough to ensure the yarn isn’t crowded’. We are specifically aiming to put enough aluminum compound molecules in there to react with the locations on the fibre. (dye molecules.. much the same.. the amount of water is irrelevant, beyond ‘enough’). As a friend once put it: it’s like marbles in a bathtub, adding more water doesn’t make more marbles appear. The yarn should be wet going into the mordant bath, and wool takes forever to get properly wet. It has a hydrophobic (hydro: water phobic: dislike) layer on fibre, and it needs some time to get past that. Best practices say soak it for an hour or so. I don’t always, sometimes I soak it for much longer. Toss the wet yarn in, and get the whole thing hot. The reaction WILL happen at room temperature, eventually, but most chemical reactions are much more zippy when they are warm, so hot it all up! I had silk in the mordant bath as well (if I’m getting the stuff out, I might as well dye more than I need, future me will thank me), and silk doesn’t like to boil. It starts to lose its sheen above about 80C. So I got to ‘thinking about simmering’, and then shut it off and went to work.

Okay, that’s more than enough rambling about dye work for one day.. part two coming soon!

 

 

 

Tools of the Trade

With getting back into embroidery and tiny knitting and other handwork this year, I’ve been doing some shopping to make my life easier. I figured I’d show some of the new toys I’ve gotten recently and some old favourites.

A couple caveats here in how my workspace is set up. I work at the dining room table. Yes, this does mean I have to clean up what I’m working on if we want to pretend that we’re civilized people and eat at the table, and I have to clean it all up every week when we have people over for dinner and D&D. (Why yes, I do let my nerd flag fly proudly.) This means by nature, my set up is very portable and transitory, I do not have a ‘set up all the time’ work area. I also prefer to work at a table, rather than curled up in the couch with my embroidery, sewing, knitting etc. I appreciate being able to have my charts, coffee, notes, notions etc sprawled out in reach rather than falling into the couch cushions, or having a cat laying on them. It’s perhaps not as comfortable, but it works for me.

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The first and most beloved of all is my Ott light. Acquired on killer sale at Jo Anns a few years ago, I have a small gooseneck LED lamp that just sits on the table. It is light weight, it travels well, it is brilliantly bright and it makes everything I do possible. I adore natural light most of all, but the mix of Canadian winters, full time jobs and being the short house between two taller houses ensures that I do not have much natural light in my home when I have time to do handwork. Take (nearly) everything else away, but pry my Ott light out of my cold dead hands.

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A very new addition to the workspace is my magnifier. Until very recently, the reality of my extremely nearsightedness meant that tiny was fine, I just held it closer with good light. (See the Ott light above. So much <3)  Now with progressive lenses, and that whole ‘aging’ thing that none of us really signed up for, that’s not working out as well for me as it once did. It clamps to the table edge and it’s a 3x magnifier, which I’m finding just about perfect for my embroidery work. It has a built in light, but I find it far too dim to be functional for me. I am spoiled by my Ott light. (I swear it’s not sponsored.) Even though my house is not noted for its direct sunlight, I am trying to keep good habits of leaving its cozy on when not in use.

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The next new toy is my snazzy light table. Acquired for a pittance off Amazon (bad me, support your local retailers etc etc), it’s a smidge larger than a standard piece of paper, plugs in via USB (helllooo battery pack at events / Pennsic), and has 3 brightness levels. It’s about the thickness and weight of a cutting mat, and indeed, I store it with my cutting mats, because it’s that damn convenient. While it will not be amazing to trace a whole jacket’s worth of blackwork pattern onto, it is brilliant for smaller pieces, and honestly, big pieces are just a whole lot of small pieces put together. I expect it will be fine. Also, I feel as if I should mention that I do own other mugs, but that IS a favourite one, painted for me by Dagmar, I’m not surprised that it shows up often in photos.

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The next piece of super important kit is a bit more seasonal, but I swear I seem to find myself working with silk most winters, and winter = dry hands. Silk loves dry hands. It loves to catch on the dry spots, and pull apart, and stick and generally make your life absolutely miserable, so hand cream is vital. This is a very personal preference, so my favourites might be another person’s worst misery, but I tend towards hand cream that is not suitable for putting on right before embroidery. Or much else really. The super goopy, super greasy, wait for it to soak in for a while sort. I’ve a couple of homemade hand creams (one by me, one given to me by a friend), one that’s commercially available sort of homemade (shown above) and they all work well. I cover my hands before bed, and while I’m drinking my first coffee, when I’m not about to be doing much for a little while anyhow and it seems to keep the worst at bay.

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The next bit are even more personal than hand cream choices. Needle choice. And here I could mean knitting needles, could mean sewing needles. I really could say tool choice, because I’m certain that it’s the same for paint brushes and chisels and whatever else people use. Get the good ones. You don’t have to get the best ones, I personally don’t buy tulip needles, cause while they are amazing, I lose embroidery needles far too quickly to justify spending the extra, but get up to good. Crappy points, burrs in the eyes, nasty finish.. it all makes for a miserable work experience. Yes, it does mean I spend 20 bucks (or more) on a set of dpns. (This is a lot for a set of double pointed knitting needles, not crazy, just a lot to casual knitters.) It means that my good embroidery needles are about a dollar each (goodness, phrased like that, I really need to stop losing the damnned things!), but with how much time you spend using them, and how much nicer it makes the experience, spend the money. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not even that much money. Ditto with thread. Please throw out the 3 / 99 cent threads. Please. They aren’t worth it. The environment will forgive you.

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What the 3/99 cents thread deserved and got.

Alright, I think that’s enough rambling for the moment about my new (and old toys), I promise I’m also using them and toddling my way through February’s blackwork, I should have an update on that for you soon!

Blue Dragon thoughts

Good morning sunshines! I am a terrible blogger and totally spaced on taking pictures at the event that I’m about to discuss, so there may be some imagination work. It’s good for us, a little bit of theatre of the mind, a la old fashioned radio.

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Picture yoinked from Emelote. Picturesque when you don’t need to go anywhere!

Blue Dragon was a lovely event. An A&S sleep away weekend, hosted at a scout camp. Meals included and enjoyed communally, dorms, classes, good space for social. It was, for those who grok the reference, FF&F (or a multidiscipline St Claire’s) but in my own backyard. Almost literally my own backyard, we live 20 minutes from site. (And to illustrate how close we live to the edge of our barony.. site is not in our barony.) It’s the first year it has run, and the baby event hiccoughs were few enough. (Mostly in the form of not quite enough communication before hand, or on Friday night, but that’s a really minor complaint. Also, while I’m musing.. I know FB is evil incarnate, but I really do miss FB events for events. There’s been a few events of late without FB events to match, and I do appreciate being able to chatter with other folks going and have one location to go look for things, rather than fight with FB showing me posts on the kingdom feed. Websites are all fine and good, and I like them in addition, but you can’t hype each other up on a website, they aren’t interactive. Anyhow, that’s a personal side muse, and likely just me.)

We did get a healthy dump of snow while we were there (a good 30 cm or so), and there is something terribly lovely about sitting and sewing in a cozy lodge, watching snow blow outside, chatting with good friends and know you have no where to be except dinner.  Winter garb was relevant! I was comfortable in all my wool, and it was lovely to have it be useful. Even my usually far too warm first pent stockings got to be appreciated! The storm was done by the time we were heading home, and while digging cars out was an adventure, the drive home was sunny and lovely. (all 23 mins of it! Our drive home was 10% longer due to weather.. our neighbourhood is never terribly well plowed.)

I heard that all of the classes went well, the ones that happened in the room we were hanging out in certainly sounded pretty good. In this Year of Doing Less, I didn’t teach any (and having now seen what my holidays looked like in terms of illness, I am grateful. Prep time would have been nonexistant.). I also didn’t take any classes, and that usually gives people a certain moment of pause. I mean, when you attend an A&S weekend full of excellent classes, why wouldn’t you take any of them!? It has nothing to do with the quality of the teachers, or the classes being offered. Some were darn tempting, I have to admit. I am just not looking for something new right now. I am comfortable with the breadth of my interests (sometimes a little overwhelmed with the breadth of my interests!), and wanting to spend time exploring the depth of my skills and insight. To put it another way, I need another hobby like I need a hole in the head, and I’m firmly in that journeyman stage of putting in my 10 000 hours, or throwing my 50 lbs of clay pots, or whatever your preferred metaphor for the reality of doing more stuff is the only way you get better.

{Picture here a large room full of tables and chairs, with the scriptorium set up in one corner, and a big dragon across from it, guarding raffle prizes that are all going to Sciath anyhow, and various small groups settled in at tables up the length of the room to chat and work on projects. Our table is covered with a red tablecloth and about 9 projects collectively over 3 people.}

A few of us, who are all sitting in that journeyman range of skills, got to talking about this, about the value of working socially and how that value is immensely underrated in today’s world. (Not just SCA world, but that’s the world we’re looking at primarily here.) We were, by and large, doing our own things. Knitting, embroidery, spinning, planning. (Sometimes all of the above, because I have the attention span of a chipmunk on speed), but all together, and knots (literal and figurative) or musing or puzzles got mentioned, and brainstormed absently. Sometimes it was nothing more than sympathetic agreement that you are cutting that bit out, sometimes with reassurances that it’s fine. Sometimes an offer to hold things that simply will not clamp onto those plastic tables. (Swift and ballwinder should make winding a skein into a centre pull ball into a mindless single person activity. Instead, 3 people, all holding different bits, and even in THAT, there was absent minded commentary about flax, and the fibre and choices made.) Just being with others doing The Thing (even if that thing is only sort of related to your thing), provides insight, inspiration and fresh perspective. It’s a side of A&S learning that was very organic in a world that lived more communally, both with extended family, and with others in the village and that we have to actively aim to achieve. I watch the scribes get that with the scriptorium, a place to be with other scribes and absorb the ambient scribal mojo going on, and it was lovely to have another tiny taste of it in the fibre world.

 

Confident threads

Alright, I am wholly a media child of the 80s, because typing that word makes me hum a deodorant jingle.. but I digress.  It has been a long time, a very long time really, since I enveloped myself in the modern needlework world. Easily more than a decade since I was part of a mundane needlework guild (who are sadly closing this year! Hard to believe! But I digress again), and I’ve spent the last five or so years pretty solidly amongst historical embroiderers. (Amongst many other bits of handwork, but this example is embroidery atm).

I am going to also preface this by acknowledging that in any group, the folks who are happily going along, doing their thing are not the ones posting the most. They get their pattern, they stitch it up, they admire the progress, they move on with their life. There are thousands (literally!) of stitchers doing exactly that in this stitch along.

The amount of hand wringing, stress and uncertainty is heart wrenching. For context, this is a modern designer (Shout out to Peppermint Purple, who was utterly not expecting this to go viral) doing a blackwork sampler, with a small square of counted blackwork fill released every week for the year. 52 weeks, 52 fills. I will say that they are very accessible for beginner stitchers, literally you look at the chart, and you make your thread lines on the even weave fabric look like that. This is 52 weeks of backstitch. The designer gives suggested colours for each block (different one every week!), but many people are personalizing the piece by selecting their own colours. (so much rainbow variegated. So. Much.) Based on the posts, choosing those colours, and the colour of one’s base fabric, is an act of life and death. Choosing what brand of embroidery thread, or other kinds of thread, how many threads, what count of cloth.. all are decisions that cannot be made without much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Phew. It’s exhausting just watching people fret.

For the record here’s my thoughts on thread. Your work does not care what the label said. Crochet thread, tatting thread, embroidery thread, sewing thread, knitting thread.. the piece does not care if you embroider with tatting thread. (Or knit with sewing thread, or sew with crochet thread.. you get the picture.) The handwork police are not going to bang on your door and take away your birthday.

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Crochet cotton, sewing thread, knitting yarn

Your work cares very deeply for the properties of that thread, and often (but not always), the name on the label gives clues about those properties. Tatting thread is, usually, very smooth and tightly twisted and quite thin, often quite similar to sewing and quilting thread. (really, all of those are same style, the names are mostly about the size, because goodness forbid this not all be hideously confusing.) Embroidery thread, at least the gloriously common DMC 6 strand embroidery floss, those strands are more loosely spun than tatting cotton, and squish a bit more, so they take up more space and cover better, and are often ever so faintly fuzzier. Perl cotton? Thicker, squishier, more loosely spun again, great coverage. Knitting yarns take that to an extreme. They are comparatively very loosely spun, and super squishy, because that makes a glorious cozy sweater. Can you embroider with them? Sure can! Just know that they are not going to hold up well to getting pulled through fabric over and over again, and you are going to have to be gentle with the twist. It will LOOK different if you embroider with knitting yarn, or weaving yarn, or DMC floss, or tatting cotton. None of them are BAD, but they are all DIFFERENT. Pick what look you want, and run with it. It’s your piece. You need to be happy with it, not the internet.

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2 squares of floss, 1 square of sewing thread.

Historical embroiderers have, largely, figured that out. We have no convenient package from the designer saying ‘use this count of evenweave cotton, and these colours of DMC floss, and here’s the pattern’. We generally have a moderately terrible photograph, sometimes a really amazing photograph and some guesses, and a lot of ‘well, I tried this, and hey look, it was a miserable failure compared to the picture, but next time…’ We stress about ‘how did they DO that!?’ rather than what colours to choose. (I have no illusions that we don’t stress, just different things.) I hope for the modern stitchers, those who are so worried about a few stitches find their zen. It’s a cute little sampler so far, and now you’ve been properly spoilered up to week 3.

P.S. Dear Modern Stitchers.. a few points. 1) messy backs are have a long and glorious historical tradition, stop telling people that the Elizabethans started the neat back obsession, we can stick that blame on the Victorians where it solidly belongs. 2) Blackwork was not ‘historically done always on sheer cloth’, and it was not ‘historically done in black because that was the most colourfast’. (Warn the natural dye folks before you say such things so we don’t have a mouthful of coffee at the time. Cause yeah.. no. Just no.) and was not ‘always reversible’. You can think it all you want, but the archaeological record disagrees. 3) When you take a strand of thread and you fold it in half and then use those TWO strands to make a stitch with, you are using 2 strands of thread. When you complain that it looks so messy, and we say ‘your thread looks thick, are you using two strands?’ You answer ‘yes’. The words ‘no, just one strand but doubled’ translates to ‘yes, I am using two strands’. Thank you.

Look back and look ahead

Phew. We made it to a new calendar! Go us! I’ve also been sick for the entirety of the holiday break around here, so that carefully collected list of things I wanted to do while I was off work? Yeah, not so much. Video games and naps punctuated by social obligations, which required more naps. (Civ VI is my video game crack of choice, thanks for asking. Thank you Steam Winter Sale for providing the most recent expansion at 40% off.)

 

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2019 was a year of expanding horizons. Unwillingly at first, as I had to find something I could do with a rampaging and frustrating bout of tendonitis. (Mostly gone, not wholly gone. I overdo it regularly and then have to wait to heal again.) That’s how beer and soap came into my world, and I do enjoy both. I have had successes at both, and failures at both, but I admit that neither are my One True Love ™. Enjoyable past times, but not my one and only. I do both because I like having soap and beer, so they’ll turn up again. I have wood ash to make my own lye again, but that’s a task better suited to outdoors, so look for that once the weather warms up.

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Pumpkin ale in progress

There was a lot of spinning in 2019, although that was also the year that I learned that I can no longer treadle a spinning wheel. The damage in my legs and the motion of treadling do not play nice, not even a little. Fortunately, I started as a spindle spinner, and it’s always been my preferred spinning love, it’s just not terribly quick. I added in a wee tiny electric spinner, but honestly? I am just as fast on my spindles, so my little nano doesn’t see a whole lot of use. Practice would probably fix that, but I adore the portability of spindles. Look for a whole lot more spinning out of 2020, because it is zen and <3.

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Nano electric spinner

I honestly thought I’d done more weaving than I have, perhaps just the looming of the looms makes it feel eternal. I got some black wool woven up on the floor loom for an exchange gift, and then a single electric blue warp off the warp weighted loom. There’s another warp on the loom currently, but I kinda hate it and am uncertain what I want to do with it, or where to go next, so it sits while I muse on that. I have so many things I want to weave, and I admit, I’m being held back by ‘what if they go wrong!?’, which is frankly ridiculous. What if they go right? (Well and the 4 shaft floor  loom is currently utterly buried behind the 3D printer, that’s a whole different challenge.)

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Loom weights just hanging out

There was some hand sewn garb, and some machine sewn mundane wear, and honestly, I really do want to make more of both. I need to figure out how to arrange a sewing space, as I don’t find it particularly portable and I don’t have a space at the house that doesn’t need to be put away at least once a week, which I am finding utterly tedious. More solutions to be had in 2020, but I don’t yet know what they look like. I find making clothing terribly intimidating (yes, even still) and there’s exactly one way to solve that issue. Make more terrible clothes, and each will, ideally, be less terrible than the last. A solution easier typed out than implemented, but we’ll try.

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Assembling the cursed underdress

2019 saw other bits and pieces tucked into it. I tried painting on silk (hated every second), and painting on a wooden box (that was rather fun!). I did do some knitting, stupid and otherwise. (Okay, a lot of stupid knitting), and the year ended with enough stupid knitting to have a sore arm, so there’s a pause on the knitting for a few days. Some yarn and fleece got dyed, and no doubt more will get dyed in 2020. That’s an enjoyable afternoon making colours, and I don’t foresee that ending anytime soon.

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What the 3/99 cents thread deserved and got.

What 2019 didn’t have in it was much in the way of lace (other than knitted), or embroidery, and I missed both terribly. Stay tuned for glorious plans about that coming up in 2020. I’ll tell you all about it on Monday.

 

Jack of all trades

I joke often that focus is something that happens to other people, and it’s not wholly wrong. I mean, I do focus to some degree. I’m not much for things outside string. Except for brewing, and baking and soap. And dyework, which is at least basically brewing with string, so we’re back in the same neighbourhood at least.

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Heddle string needing untangling

It’s a pretty big neighbourhood, however. Spinning and knitting and lace and weaving and embroidering.. any one of those could be a lifetime’s worth of research and projects. I lament periodically that I don’t pick one of those and devote myself to that lifetime of research and projects. If I did.. if I had, I’d be more of an expert in a single field these days. I’d probably have some toe dipped into the wider community of my choice and not just admire the potential in Convergence, and IOLI and various local textile initiatives doing more indepth research.

But I didn’t, and more importantly, I’m not that person. I don’t focus well. I leap off to whatever has caught my wandering eye right now. (Currently tiny lace knitting that has no basis in SCA period, but is making my heart sing even while I swear at it.) I’ll get back to weaving when the whim swings back that way, and well, spinning is eternal. The basis of everything, spinning never ends. Just like I’ll never be someone who runs marathons, I’m more of a 5K kinda gal. (Okay, right now I’m more of a ‘shuffle to the coffee maker’ kinda gal, but still.), it’s not who I am, that that’s.. that’s okay.

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Current tiny project in progress

As I feel it needs to be stated outright, this has nothing to do with SCA award structure and everything to do with watching friends who /do/ focus their efforts have it richly rewarded (and rightfully so) with speaking engagements and wider research potential. I’m delighted for them, and a little wistful too. They are that person, and I am not. And both are alright. I live the ‘jack of all trades’ mantra. If you need me, I’ll be over here with my spinning. Or knitting. Possibly embroidery.

Whirlwind

Phew. November was a month of many plates being kept spinning in the air, and valiantly attempting not to let any (or all) of them land on my head. But we made it! It’s December, and while that’s rarely the time that anyone pauses and thinks ‘oh good, this will be relaxing!’, it’s better.

Part of the whirlwind was mundane RL needing copious attention for some big transitions in my extended world, but much of the whirlwind was also capping off RL excitement with a whole lot of travel and teaching.

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Stuffies waiting for me to come to bed at String Thing.

First up in the travel with String Thing, a weekend long focused event held at Upper Canada Village. Awesome location, if just a smidge tight quarters for some of us who struggle with such. Still, it was a hella good time of like minded string geekery squished into a weekend. I taught beginner bobbin lace there (handout available here), and it went well! I’ve taught this class a few times, and this time got a re-work of the handout (*cough* totally not because I lost the old one.. okay I lost the old one. Found it again when the new one was 90% written. Of course.), and it felt like class flowed better than the last time I taught it. Possibly we were just all high on nice weather and good company, but I was pleased. As is an eternal theme with me, I didn’t get any pictures of class itself, my life doesn’t just need theme music, it needs to come with photographic staff, but I digress.

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Rug hooking at the NS Welcome Centre!

Next up was the big exciting adventure when we headed out East for East Kingdom University and Baronial Investiture! We broke the rule so bad! (The Rule ™ is that one should never spend more time in travel than you spend at the event. We break this rule routinely, but I’m going to say that 4 days in a car for a 1 day event is a pretty epic breaking of it.) Granted, we did not go out there /only/ for an event. We went out to spend time with friends, and see a bit of the city, and enjoy the road trip with friends. Mission accomplished on all fronts! The event was a lovely bonus on a fabulous trip.

And it was a lovely event, it’s always absolutely fascinating to go to other Kingdoms and watch how their A&S fits together, and meet teachers and students utterly new to you. It generally ends with a bazillion new ideas and plans and the to do list exploding in a haze, but it’s utterly worth it.

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String class involves a lot of wood.

I taught beginner drop spindling there, to my one whole student! (And an Emelote who knows how to spin just fine, but a spindle refresher didn’t go amiss for her either.) We got string! The true exciting part of learning to spin is when you get string for the first time, it makes it all seem possible. After that, it’s just practice, practice, practice. Spinning is muscle memory more than any other handwork I do, and you do not gain muscle memory by trying really hard. You gain it by doing, preferably a little bit over a long period of time. Practice, practice, practice, practice. The mantra for most things, as irritating as that reality is. It was a delightful day of chatting with friends, making new friends and trying not to be toooo disruptive to other classes or the Athena’s Thimble panel. (Seriously, I noted on FB that it’s a good thing I can’t get to many panels, or I’d throw the to-do list in the fire and just embroider forever on the fumes of enthusiasm in that room. Clearly I need to go huff with weaving fumes a while.)

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Head table stuffies at Wassail

The epic whirlwind ended with Wassail, an event close to home. It always feels like the start of the holiday season, and an event full of laughter and smiles and good cheer. I hosted the inaugural A&S show and tell! We got about 8 people’s worth of stuff (some folks couldn’t stay, but sent stuff to show! Which was great!) It was a lovely way to sit and spend some time admiring what we’d either only admired on social media, or projects that haven’t hit the internet yet! It was great fun, and I hope to do more of them at other events in the future. I love seeing what other artisans are working on, that’s the crux of how I find my inspiration, so thank you all for ensuring that my to-do list won’t be empty anytime soon.

There we go, mostly caught up I think! Now I have a whole swack of projects to organize!

Burn the candle

I wasn’t sure if I’d blogged about this before, but a quick glance through old posts says no. Get a cuppa (go find the cup you started if you’re anything like me) and settle in for some random musings.

My crafting time, of late, has been sparse because of a whole lot of RL. A healthy chunk of that RL is due to people around me moving from a larger space to a smaller space. Sometimes willingly and long planned, and sometimes abruptly and with little warning. The former is not so bad, you at least get the time and opportunity to go through and give away, or donate things in a thoughtful manner. The later? Well sometimes it’s not even you who might be going through your things to downsize. It’s hard, it’s emotional, even when you get to take the time to go through things, and it sucks. There wouldn’t be entire TV series about decluttering if this was easy.

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Dalla’s opinion of winter

In the helping to pare down (and in my own decluttering, which has no reason or timetable, save we own too darn much stuff), I’ve noticed a lot of things that were tucked aside as just for show. Or too nice to use. Or kept for a special occasion. Still in their packaging, and clearly many years old. Now, as we downsize, sent off to the thrift store (or my house).

And so I sit sipping my morning coffee, with a lovely little crystal candle holder, and a candle that was ‘kept for good’ for so long that it’s lost both its scent and it’s colour due to age. It’s not ruined, it still burns, but would have been so much nicer in its prime. The same with now expired treats from the back of the pantry. The never opened pretty napkins. The yarn ‘too good’ to dare use.

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Special yarn becomes special mitten.

That last one is a big one, and could be any craft. I read about people finding ‘hacks’ to use lesser quality materials while they are learning, because they are ‘scared’ of the good stuff. Except that the ‘good stuff’ is actually pretty average stuff, and their great hack to use the cheap stuff might well turn them off the craft entirely. There’s a line here, certainly. I don’t advocate a beginner scribe going for the fancy real gold on their first scroll. Beginner knitters might want to explore cotton a few times before heading to silk. First garb out of cotton rather than linen? Makes total sense. But there’s a limit. Shredding up acrylic yarn to learn to spin when you have wool roving available is not helpful, IMO. Use the basic wool roving, there’s more sheep. There’s more roving, it’s fine. Knit with wool after you have the basics down, give silk a try. You’ve got thumbs, you got this. Weave with the nice stuff, get the feel for it.

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Fortune cookie wisdom from my desk.

Life is short, and it’s unpredictable, and you’re worth it. Yes, even you who feels totally not worthy, are worth it. Burn the candle, use the pretty napkins and knit with the special yarn.