A Reason to Celebrate

Can you ever really have too many reasons to celebrate?  We all have our favorite holidays.  Personally, I like Thanksgiving more than Christmas although I enjoy Christmas very much.  Some folks prefer winter holidays like these, others look forward to the fun and energy of July 4th or Labor Day.

Almost everyone loves a good holiday.  Scrooge didn’t, but he had a change of heart.  The Grinch didn’t, but he had an epiphany that changed him as well.  There are those (pre-change) that just don’t enjoy such things but most of us are ready for a good reason to have some fun together.

A few years ago I started recognizing that there were certain things that I loved so much and certain days that were so meaningful to me that I felt they deserved a holiday of their own.  I looked forward to them every year. I decided that just because they weren’t cultural or religious events to the degree that they had become National holidays didn’t mean that couldn’t celebrate them in whatever form seemed good.

So I started a still growing list of things I wanted to celebrate.  Here are a few:

I love the changing of the seasons.  I always have.  I have lived in places that didn’t really have 4 seasons and I missed the turning of Winter into Spring into Summer into Autumn.  So somewhere during the week of the first day of those seasons I will do something to celebrate it.  I don’t throw a lot of parties but there will be a meal with seasonally appropriate foods.  One year I bought a wind chime for my back porch with metal sculpture of the sun for the first day of Summer. And yes, I do indeed have a Pumpkin Spice Latte when Autumn arrives.

Pete Seeger on stage 1960I thought of the birthdays we celebrate.  George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr.  This gave me an idea.  I decided that Pete Seeger’s birthday should be celebrated.  He is a personal hero of mine.  I admire his courage and his tenacity and the longevity of his convictions.  He was in Civil Rights Marches in his younger days and in his 90’s made an appearance at the Occupy Wall Street Marches.  He seemed gentle, kind and inclusive and  he had a lot of chutzpah.  On his birthday I add another song either written or performed by him to my playlist. I might buy an appropriate poster to add to my very hippy-esque studio.   In case you’re curious, his birthday is May 3.

One of my very favorite personal holidays is Banned Books Week.  In the US it’s usually celebrated in late September.  This year it is September 24-30th.  I don’t only love to read Freadom(something I very decidedly do love) but I love the library itself.  I love its mission of not only making literature available to people no matter what their socio-economic status, but their core value of intellectual freedom.   So for this week, I gift myself with a new copy of some book that has been previously banned or challenged.  Those books get a shelf of honor in one of my bookcases.

Today I got to celebrate an event that I look forward to all year.  If the phrase Christmas in July weren’t so overdone, that’s probably what I would call this.  Today, was the first day of the annual Library Book Sale.  Now, I always love a good used bookstore.  But this event is massive.  We have a very large library system here, for which I am deeply grateful.  I once tried to get a job at the library, but I think I may have come on too strong with my love of books during the interview and I didn’t get hired.  I suspect they were concerned I might frighten the patrons with my exuberance.  Oh well.

The sale is held at a local mall and there are tables from one end of the mall to the other heavily laden with books, DVDs, and audiobooks.  Everything is in decent to excellent condition and cheap.  This was about the 4th time I’ve gone.  Appointments and events get rescheduled to make way for this day.  I have a system.  I go early, I wear good solid running shoes and, no kidding, I take a large rolling duffle bag style suitcase.  For around $30 I can fill that thing up.

I’m a bit of a prepper.  My pantry and freezer are usually reasonably well stocked.  I have a garden and I preserve the produce and I buy what I don’t grow and preserve that.  As far as my knitting is concerned the phrase “Winter is Coming, Knit Faster” is more than just a meme.  This book sale is kind of my way of stocking up for the year.  I love the mental image of a winter storm outside and me with loads of books to choose from inside.  It is a cozy thought.  cozy

As a knitter, I always scope out the Arts and Craft book table.  At a previous sale I got 6 FiberGatheringreally nice knitting books with lots of information and patterns. This time I only came away with one. Fiber Gathering by Joanne Seiff.  It is a books inspired by the Fiber Festivals held around the US and boasts 25 projects related to knitting, crocheting, spinning and dyeing.  Score!

It was a good and satisfying day.  An enjoyable ritual that accompanies this particular holiday is deciding where the new books will be put.  I have a system understood by no one but me, but I enjoy stepping back and feeling wealthy seeing the abundance of books before me.

Do you have special traditions or off-the-beaten-path things you celebrate?  I’d love to hear about them. Or if  you don’t yet, if you were to start that, what would it be?  Please comment and tell me about them.  This could be interesting and fun.

One of the best things about these small personal holidays is that it can be as big or small as I want it to be.  There isn’t the pressure of having to host Christmas, for example and all the stress that can accompany that.  If no one else knows it’s Pete Seeger’s birthday, no biggie.  If I have everyone over for campfire on the first day of Autumn, it’s up to me.  The less pressure, the more fun.

As I have mentioned  in previous posts I have begun dyeing yarn and trying a number of experiments #playinginthedyepots.  Next week I’lll be talking about what I’m learning and include a photo timeline to show how the process is evolving.

Here’s a teaser photo till then:

dyedyarn

 

Go celebrate something!

Jamye

P.S. I’m thinking of adding some sort of free floating holiday so I can do it whenever I want.  Like “I successfully completed all the tasks on my to-do list! Day”.  That won’t come around too often, but at least it will be random 😀

celebrate

A Moment in the Sun

I had an interesting experience just over a week ago.

But first, a little backstory.  I started this blog in February.  There were many reasons for doing this.  I love knitting.  I. Really. Love. Knitting.  And anyone who has known me for 5 minutes knows that if there is something I love or feel strongly about you will hear me talk about it.

My love of books.  An issue of injustice.  Raising backyard chickens.  Knitting. China. Dyeing yarn. Gardening. Ad infinitum.  To most people it would seem like I get carried away by a lot of things (true) and that I feel compelled to go on and on about them (also true).talk

Starting a blog was a good way of getting to verbalize my passion abut fiber and knitting without exhausting the patience of family, friends, or even random strangers.(True story)  Not infrequently I looked up mid conversation and realized that the eyes of today’s victim had already glazed over.  I was becoming the proud grandparent that whipped out the family photo album before you had a chance to escape.

Something had to change.

The nice thing about writing a blog is that it gives me a chance to express my delights without inflicting them on the unwilling. The people who land on this site and read my exuberant ramblings at least do so by choice, not by coercion.  The one exception being my faithful editor (Hi, Jen.  Thank you once again for your sacrifice 🙂 ).

So, although I would love to attract a nice, faithful audience.  You know, people who just hang on my every word and wait impatiently for my next post to come out.  Writing a blog is more about getting it out of my system than about the numbers.  Also, I knew as a new blogger it would be a while before I attracted an audience of any size.

So the other night, just over a week ago, I was winding down for the night.  Part of my routine before turning off my laptop for the night is check all the things one last time.  Facebook. Email. Instagram. I clicked over to my stats page just to see how many people had come by for a visit.

I looked. I paused.  I looked again.  Those numbers can’t be right.  Refresh the page.  I’m looking at high double digits here.  What happened?!

I was thrilled, delighted…confused.  surprise

Finally, after looking over things carefully, I understood what had happened.  I recently posted an interview with Maggie Menzel (Maggie Menzel: Knitwear Designer) who had her sock pattern Vinculum featured in the most recent issue of Knitty.   Almost as an afterthought I wrote a short email to Knitty giving them a link to the interview.  They in turn put a link to that post in their blog and BOOM! Traffic!

Each day I would check in more eagerly.  I would watch the numbers climb.  I would look at the wide array of countries represented in the visitors to my page.  Dance break!

To be sure, in the back of my mind, I knew that this was short-lived.  I do hope to have this on a more regular basis and that at least some of these visitors will return, but I also knew that not everyone who stopped by to read this post was going to instantly fall in love with my style or turn of phrase.  But I decided to shush the voices of reason and logic for a little while and just bask in the joy and the glow.   It has been a lovely and gratifying feeling.  I can almost swear I could hear “Ode to Joy” playing in the background.

elvis

I experienced a similar, albeit smaller bump when I wrote about the newly formed Tri-State Fiber Arts Guild in last week’s post In Real Life, when the link was posted on their Facebook page.

The happiness is less about cold numbers and more about the warm feeling of connectedness with the larger Fiber Community whether online or in real life.  It was less than a year ago that I discovered the knitting podcasts on YouTube (a bit late to the party) and dove in.  I subscribed, watched and listened, and enjoyed the personalities, the projects and just how very much I felt I had in common with so many of them.  Once I discovered it I had to join in somehow.  This blog is one of the ways I decided to do just that.  I never even bothered with Instagram until I discovered all the Yarn Porn available there.

My yarn stash has grown, my bank account has diminished.  I regret nothing. yarn

For many years the things I wanted to do were pushed further and further back to make space for all the many “ought-to’s” in my life.  Some of them legitimate, but a good many external pressures that really weren’t necessary.

This is what blogging, knitting, dyeing, and raising chickens has done for me.  These things have taught me to go ahead and make room for what I love and to let some of the pressures and expectations go.  If I only do the “have-to’s” I find myself reduced to a bread and water kind of existence.  A good question to ask is:  Do I really have to?  Or have I just been conditioned to think so?  Maybe the answer to that question is yes.  But it never hurts to ask, and I’m quite sure there are a few, even more than a few, to which you could say no.  Let that go, put down the water, and try a sip of wine instead. wine

Pardon me while the dishes wait and I go dance in the rain,

Jamye

P.S. I’m currently negotiating for an angora rabbit to start raising my own fiber.

There’s that song again 🙂

 

 

In Real Life

I love the lively, interesting and wide-variety of people I can find in the online Knitting Community.  Like many of you, I have my favorite YouTube podcasters, as well as some audio podcasters that I watch or listen to regularly.  I enjoy browsing through Ravelry or Pinterest to see what’s new or what some of my favorite designers have been creating.  There are also the bloggers who share the same love of knitting and writing that I do and show me something new every time I read their posts.

I genuinely love the Internet for it’s ability to give us such a large resource pool for the things we love and wish to learn more about.  It takes our ability to connect with people who share our interests to a literally global scale.  Pretty awesome, right?

KatieHowever, I cannot go for a walk with Katie and Rollie of Inside Number 23.

 

 

 

I cannot go to Knit Night with Shannon of Soxcetera in spite of the fact that we have a lot of things in common

.  Shannon

 

I won’t even get to spend time trying a new natural dyeing technique with Sara of Yarns at Yin Hoo even though she lives closer and lives in a Chinese Tea House!!  I lived in China for almost 10 years so I find that especially cool.

yinhoo

I just want to hang out with all the knitters. Everywhere.

 

So, a really great thing happened this week.  No, I did not get to hang out with the aforementioned podcasters.  I did get to meet one that I had only previously seen on YouTube, but more on that later.

The great thing that happened was a first time meeting of a newly formed group called Tristatethe Tri-State Fiber Arts Guild.  I had received an email more than a month ago about the meeting that was to be held at a local library.  This definitely sounded like my jam, so I made sure that night was cleared of ANYthing so I could go.

It’s not that I don’t have friends locally with whom I love to knit, but I’m always excited when I get to meet someone who shares a passion of mine.  Also, I recently learned that KnitWitts, the LYS that I normally go to for Knit Night each Wednesday, is closing its doors at the end of July.  This was unexpected and I am very sorry to see this happen.  But the forming of this guild at this time almost seemed like a “one door closing, another door opening” kind of moment.  So, silver lining.

I was the first to arrive, being the rather eager person that I am, but I was joined within minutes by one of the organizers.   By the time the meeting was in full swing there were around 25 + people and all quite as passionate about their craft as I am.  The thing that delighted me the most, I think, was the wide variety of fiber arts that were represented.  Most, of course, were knitters or crocheters.  But there were also weavers, spinners, dyers, tatters and rug hookers.  There was also a wide range of age and experience among those present.

The lone gentleman present, Mark, works on historical projects and with a local historical site on Abraham Lincoln.  He has been spinning since 1984.  Another woman uses a spinning wheel that has been used by 6 generations of her family.  I also met the host of Strong Girl Knits.  These are just a few of the people that were there.  I hope eventually to do some profiles on this page about some of my fascinating fellow crafters. stronggirl

The Fiber community being what it is, the knitting and crocheting projects came out before the meeting had even started and at least half present were working away on something for the duration of our time together.  This made me feel right at home.  For most people there are 3 items that are always present whenever leaving home.  Keys. Wallet (or Purse). Phone.  For those of us seriously addicted to fibers, the project bag is most likely to come too.

As followers of this blog already know,  I am learning how to hand dye yarn.  (See Living and Dyeing and Yarn, Colors, and Friends) I’m really enjoying learning about this, the small experiments I have done so far and the larger ones that I will be doing very soon.  So I am very happy indeed to connect with others who have already had experience with different methods of dyeing.  I can’t wait to learn about their experiences as I gain some of my own.  As I said before, I love the Internet for the community AND for the information.  However, sometimes I have such a random, even obscure question it sometimes takes me a while to track down that information.  I love to meet people with whom I can just put a straightforward question to and hopefully get a much quicker response or at least a direction, than the time sometimes spent wandering endlessly on the Web searching for an answer.  I can get lost in there, the chances for distraction are infinite.

We will be meeting monthly.  People are encouraged to come early and bring projects that need a fresh set of eyes to sort out a problem.  There was discussion of organizing a Fiber Festival (Oh, happy day!), day trips, and demonstrations of various crafts and techniques.

Next month, the spinners in the group are going to bring in some of their materials and equipment to demonstrate.  I believe we will have a chance to learn to spin on drop spindle and on a wheel.  I’m very much looking forward to that.  Spinning my own fiber has been on my list of things to learn for a while now.  I have been holding myself back because I genuinely want to learn how to make all the things!! and currently I’m trying to not add yet one more craft to my growing pile of projects just yet.  So this will allow me to dip my toe in the water but hopefully not get swept away.  That is a very real risk.  Fortunately both my husband and my bank account help me practice restraint.  Most of the time.

So, while I will continue to delight in the Knitting Community that I am linked to through technology, I am so happy to learn, share and connect to my fellow fiberistas in the real world.

 

Peace,

Jamye

 

Living and Dyeing

I love getting packages in the mail.  Who doesn’t?  When I was in elementary school there was a song we learned in music class called the “Wells Fargo Wagon”.  The first line was:  Oh, the Wells Fargo Wagon is a’comin’ down the street.  Oh, please let it be for meeeee….”.

It was the UPS or FedEx of its day.  Whenever I see the trucks for either of these companies, that song pops into my head.  True story.

It’s been a good week for me. Because packages.  I have decided to start exploring the wilds of dyeing my own yarns.  I’ve spent enough time drooling over the yarn porn of the various Indie yarn dyers and decided it is time for me to join the fun.

This past week I ordered a variety of supplies to get me started.  I had already ordered a copy of Hand Dyeing Yarn and Fleece by Gail Callahan and begun reading it. I’ve been scavenging my cupboards and garage and thrift stores for tools that can be dedicated to dyeingbookthis process.  THIS week I finally started ordering the fun stuff.  In the mail I received 3 undyed skeins of wool of various type and weight, a sampler pack of 6 dyes, citric acid, a  yarn swift, and ok, so I threw in a new set of really pretty straight knitting needles.

Don’t judge.

Naturally these things all arrived the day before Father’s Day weekend.  This is a big event at our house and almost all of Saturday was spent cooking, with occasional spurts of cleaning.  We definitely had a great time with our family get together, but this also kept me from getting on with the fun!!!! 

I am not a patient person.

After I had ordered the supplies (but before they could arrive) I decided to do a bit of experimenting while I waited.  I happened to have on hand the remnants of a skein of undyed Tibetan Yak wool that had been given to me as a gift.  I had knit up a really nice cowl in the natural color but I still had a small ball left.

I’ve also been spending a lot of time on YouTube watching knitting and dyeing podcasts.  As a result I had seen various ways of dyeing with food coloring.  I had undyed wool.  I had food coloring.  I had materials on the way.  I did not have patience.  Time to start.

I wasn’t really worried about perfection this time,  I just wanted to begin learning the process.  So after watching some tutorials,  I just jumped right in.

Without really measuring I pulled out several yards of the yak wool, pulled the white vinegar and food coloring from my pantry and got rolling.

For my first attempt I wanted a good purple that was more on the red side rather than blue.  So after my yarn had soaked and the water and been brought up to heat I started adding in the red and the blue.  I stirred the colors together and dipped a white piece of paper towel in to get a sense of the shade I had created until I was ready to try.  When I was done I had a very respectable reddish purple that I dubbed “Untrod Grape”.

untrod

This picture is not the greatest, it definitely shows as more brown, but in real life this is a nice shade of red-purple.  Take my word for it.

I’m working on my lighting.  I promise.

This, of course, only spurred me on.

 

Time for another tutorial on a different technique.  So:

I wound off another few yards of yak wool and went for phase 2.  From what I’ve read and heard I know you have to be careful when using multiple colors or you are just going to wind up with muddy water.  Which sounds like a funky colorway name, but not really what I was aiming for.

I only had the basic four set food color pack and I was curious to see how the colors would interact together.  After the prerequisite soaking in vinegar water, I carefully arranged my wool in the warm water.  I did careful drips of alternating color repeating each color twice.  I let this simmer together just long enough to start to have some blend but still retain each color.

I was a little surprised at the end product:

I think if the simmer time would have been slightly shorter the original colors would have been more obvious. Still, I’m not displeased with the result.  Since it has very Autumnal colors and tones to it, I decided it should be called October Hike.  I think this would look very nice as a cowl with a denim jacket.

I find it rather amazing the wide range of colors and tones you can create with just 4 very basic colors.  With my new stock of colors waiting for me and far more to choose from when I’m ready, it makes me feel like the possibilities are endless.  I like that feeling.

In both attempts I was just going by instinct and playing in my choosing, mixing,  and blending.  But when I truly get started I plan to keep careful notes and compile all the techniques and color recipes I like best into a notebook.

When fiber enthusiasts shop for yarns and wools,  some shop for just the right materials for an already planned project.  Others find inspiration as they browse and select yarns and colors for an as yet to be determined item.  I do a little of both.  Some skeins I just cannot walk away from even if I don’t yet know what I’m going to do with it.

I suspect my experiments with dyeing will be much the same.  I’ve now taken one yarn dyeing class and done these two attempts at home.  Each time I really liked what I wound up with but each time it was a little different than the picture I had started with in my head.  I think that is true of almost any creative pursuit though.   I am certain, with time and practice, I will be able to produce and repeat the colors that I want.  I also think that the creative Muse is a whimsical mistress and always has a glint of mischief in her eye when you think you’ve got it all figured out.

To the discoveries ahead,

Jamye