Wool, wine, & washi tape.

Tomorrow was to be the first day back to school after the winter break, but instead we’re having a non-instructional school day (i.e. a “snow day” that we don’t have to make up) because it is dangerously cold outside.

I still have to report to my classroom, but I am thankful for the workday to prepare for my returning students, something I admittedly have not yet done. I guess I was going to wing it tomorrow… Instead, I get a soft start to the year professionally.

Personally, my year began with wool, wine, and washi tape.

IMG_3557I crocheted this hat as a Christmas present for my dear friend Kim. The yarn is Tosh DK in the colorway Tart, and the design is sort of a copy-cat pattern I inferred and modified from the awesome fur-pom slouch hat I bought from Heather at Skittish Coyote.IMG_3538The magnetic bookmarks are also for Kim. They are one of the first real Pinterest-inspired DIY projects I’ve made. Look, I made a floral set!fullsizeoutput_186aOf course, I made myself some, too!IMG_3543fullsizeoutput_191f.jpeg(Featuring Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None and my bullet journal!)

I think I have fallen madly in love with washi tape.fullsizeoutput_186c(There might be more coming in the mail.)fullsizeoutput_186d(There is.)

As for the wine, I decided to try Barefoot wine for the first time as my New Year’s “toast.”

I tried the little mini bottles of Sweet Red Blend and Red Moscato. They’re both okay. I’m no wine connoisseur, so I don’t have much commentary there, other than this: The Sweet Red tasted better (read: sweeter) than it smelled, and the moscato threw me for a loop on the first sip before finally growing on me. I’ll probably stick with my Oliver Soft Red, though.

Cheers!

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New, again.

IMG_3370The gap between Christmas and the new year is always an interesting time. It is the lull after all the frantic holiday preparations—despite attempts at serenity—and before things return to “normal” with a whole new calendar.IMG_3299I like it…IMG_3442…mainly because school is still out, but the stress of the holidays is subsiding. But also, as I imagine most people do, I find it a time of both reflection and looking forward.IMG_3320Looking back on 2017, it is hard for me to put a finger on any one thing, any one feeling or event that defined it. I started out bitter and angry, and from that, this blog was born. Then in the spring, I found renewal and energy. I reacquainted myself with dyeing fiber and opened the Etsy shop. I introduced myself to embroidery. I worked almost maniacally churning out fiber goods, and then, the school year started.IMG_3360Being a teacher this year has been a whirlwind. During the first half of this calendar year—the second half of last school year—I became detached from the workday, which had become an existential drain on my psyche. That was a positive move. But when the new school year came around, I allowed it to require so much more of me. Yes, it was by choice. I began the year not detached, but invested. I went all in. And once you go all in with anything, backing off isn’t easy. And once you go all in with teaching, there is very little time for anything else.fullsizeoutput_183bSo the creativity and making—that which defined my springtime recovery—all but ceased.IMG_3361I did read a few books. These three very different ones come to mind: Stephen King’s IT, John Green’s Turtles All the Way Down, and Lindy West’s Shrill.IMG_3279Also, I did a little making in the form of these hats and mittens to donate.

(I know the hats are mostly not identifiable as such. I barely took progress pictures, much less ones of the final product.)IMG_3252IMG_3276IMG_2554fullsizeoutput_1839IMG_3388And then, when Christmas break snuck up on me, I threw myself into handmade Christmas presents.IMG_3414Felted coasters for my sister.fullsizeoutput_181bfullsizeoutput_181cHandwarmers for several.fullsizeoutput_1823fullsizeoutput_1818Woven scarf for my littlest niece.fullsizeoutput_1825fullsizeoutput_1824fullsizeoutput_181aCrocheted hats for my dad and brother-in-law.fullsizeoutput_180eCoffee cozies for my mom.fullsizeoutput_1802fullsizeoutput_1808fullsizeoutput_180cJumbo knitted blanket for my husband.fullsizeoutput_1863.jpegThen I found a new fun thing to do: LEGOS!fullsizeoutput_1812IMG_3519fullsizeoutput_180bAnd lastly, I’m going to try keeping a bullet journal in the new year. I’ve enjoyed setting it up over the past few days.fullsizeoutput_1811fullsizeoutput_180fIMG_3525See you in the new year!

A-tisket, a-tasket.

More than once, I’ve had the idea that I would crochet a basket using yarn and rope. (Thanks, Pinterest.)

It looked like a perfect job for the cone of cotton yarn in variegated blue, green, and natural.

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Isn’t my Peter Rabbit necklace just the most perfect thing?

First, I started with some jute that I had in the closet, but the weight of the yarn and the diameter of the jute weren’t a good match. The yarn was swallowing the jute. I needed something heavier.

By my own volition, I went into Lowe’s. (I know.) And I came out with this.

fullsizeoutput_6c9Top left: sisal rope. Middle: that jute I already had. Top right: coconut husk rope. Bottom: manila rope (as you can read).

For some reason, I really wanted that coconut husk rope to work out. It might yet, but for now, it reminds me too much of my ready-for-summer, adolescent students: It’s prickly and grabby and has a mind of its own, which has zero interest in conforming to any plans I have.

It’s in timeout.

I moved on to the sisal rope, and we got along much better.

IMG_1747I love that orange crochet hook. It’s a cheap one that came in a set, but it’s the perfect size for this yarn. Plus, I am a sucker for anything amber or anything that remotely looks like amber.

So I was totally bummed this morning when it snapped like a twig.

IMG_1753I wasn’t the least bit surprised because I could feel the pressure put on it by the cotton and rope, which have no give to them at all, but I was still sad and probably (definitely) muttered a few curses.

Things went completely off the rails from there for a minute.

In my flurry to find a replacement hook, I dumped the dishes from brunch into the floor.

IMG_1755Suddenly, the headache that’s been poking at my brain for the past few days decided to make itself noticed.

I took several deep breaths, cleaned up the mess, and found a slightly larger—and considerably stronger—hook.

Soon, it was time to cut the rope, and I was a little worried about how that operation could go wrong considering the preceding events.

IMG_1758It went fine, though the cool little clippers you see there in the photo literally and figuratively couldn’t cut it. (They are perfect for yarn, though. Thanks, Maria!)

I finished my first rope basket!

IMG_1760It might be hard to tell here because I was super-conscious of the camera angle, but it is really wonky.

I apparently didn’t keep even tension on the rope, so it buckles in irreparably on one side and bows out on the other.

IMG_1761I also didn’t know what I was doing when I made the handles (or any part of the basket, really), so I made the mistake of not doing the first one at the beginning of the row, leading to some seriously lopsided row-ending. (Not pictured because I would like to maintain some shred of dignity.)

IMG_1762All in all, though, I think it’s a pretty decent little piece of work considering it was my first foray into the world of basketry that actually involved rope.

And then, I went out to the garage and did something I feel a smidge more confidence in: dyeing.

This is the colorway from the Rainbow Connection Collection that I have been calling Pink, Orange, and Yellow, though I am thinking of simplifying the names to be only the middle color, since it figures most prominently in the scheme. That would make this one just Orange.

fullsizeoutput_6c8If I was going to give each individual colorway in this collection a “creative” name, which I’m not, this one’s would totally be Tequila Sunrise.

Keeping afloat.

Things have been a little quiet around here lately.

Perhaps it was a bit capricious of me to open my online shop during the last few weeks of the school year. Not only is teacher-work moving at a breakneck pace toward finals and posting grades, but there are so many springitme events. This past weekend, I was happily out of town for my niece’s college—college!—graduation. (Congrats, Victoria!) Next weekend is Mother’s Day. Then it’ll be the last week of school, though I do have to work a baseball game the following Saturday.

May is simply slipping through my fingers.

I have been playing with fiber some between traveling hither and thither and filling some Fencerow Fibers orders—yay!

When I was done dyeing Callie‘s merino top in purple, pink, and orange, I discovered that I had some excess dye, so I decided to goof off a bit.

I had pre-soaked one of those tubular yarn blanks without a plan, so suddenly, a plan was hatched! I used my expert professional dyeing tool, a turkey baster, and squirted color through the roll of yarn. I sucked up that extra dye in the dish with the spinning fiber and injected it into this totally one-of-a-kind skein.

And I love it!

I don’t have a picture of the finished yarn on me, but I will update with it later this week, hopefully. It is wonderfully variegated, and I think it would knit or crochet up beautifully.

So I have this idea. While I have a few years of experience dyeing fiber, I still occasionally end up with excess dye, especially when I am playing around to create a new colorway. Of course, throwing out leftover dye is terrible for the environment, so I’m thinking of getting some extra jars and storing these remaining bits of custom mixed color than I can’t return to the stock. And then, when I have several colors, I can dye a totally unique and non-repeatable skein of yarn or braid of top. Aside from the fun colors, the beauty of it will be its individuality and its preservation of my play. These braids and skeins would be colorful hybrids. And they would use up the excess dye.

I know it’s not a novel idea, but it’s one I’m excited about!

Before I leave the coffee shop and head out to knit night, I have to show you something awesome.

My friend Heather, who made the first purchase from the Fencerow Fibers Etsy shop, used her new yarn to crochet an unbelievably fun hat. Check it out!


Isn’t that great? It gives me the flutters to see the yarn I dyed growing up and becoming real-life things out there in the world!

An archaeological dig.

Today, I (mostly) tackled my office at home. It turned out that ninety percent of that process was winding leftover yarn into balls.

Why do I have so much Peaches and Creme?! I mean, I really should be asking myself why I have so much yarn, but come on now.

The disaster that has been my uninhabitable office for the last year was a result of a few events. One, the shelving unit in the closet broke. Boy, was that a fun discovery when I opened the closet door that day. And shortly after, we had to emergency-replace the flooring in the living room, and this room (yes, I’m typing here now!) became the holding dock for things that needed moving around. Of course, some things never moved back out. And then over the course of the year, things just got tossed in here, and the next thing i knew…

Yeah. I’m embarrassed.

So this has been an all-day affair. Periodically, during the torture that was excavating this crap, I found some fun things. I knew I had the following things (except one), but several time, I shouted to Dale in the other room, “Oh, here’s this!”

Like…

My first-ever handspun yarn! It’s the natural-colored situation on the left. And also my first-ever attempt at knitting my handspun, which is that red-orangey situation on the right. I somewhat regret to inform you that I frogged that thing that I think was supposed to be a scarf. The knitting was fine, but that yarn, though? Talk about coarse and scratchy. Ain’t no way anyone would ever wear that.

Also, my first-ever hand-dyed fiber, which I even spun! I dyed this with black Wilton’s cake icing coloring. The color “breaks” and you get these cool blues and purples.

The tag for Frog Prince! It’s merino!

This pretty three-quarters spun yarn from Fiber Optic! I don’t know why I just stopped spinning this. I have a feeling it has to do with a combination of my ADHD with the finicky slipperiness of the fiber. But I plan to finish this spinning project soon, if for no other reason than to free up those bobbins!

Speaking of bobbins…

I have a jumbo bobbin and a bulky flyer for the Matchless! I feel like an idiot, but I swear, I didn’t even know I had this. Now that I think about it, I can remember saying when I bought the wheel, “Well, I might as well go ahead and get the ply-head while I’m at it.” Smart move, Cassidy-of-the-past! This solves so many of the problems I was forseeing with plying the brow-and-white BFL. Now if I can just successfully install this equipment… I don’t know what it is, but something about that wheel just makes me nervous. We’re warming up to each other, though!

And there’s this. This is 9.5 pounds of merino top. It’s been waiting three years to be dyed. Another story for another day. Also for another day coming soon? Actually dyeing this fiber!

One last “treasure” before I show you how the Great Office Reorganization of 2017 turned out…

This isn’t fiber related (except in one tiny way), but I want to share.

So over five years ago, I taught an AP Spanish class. It was definitely one of the best experiences I’ve ever had as a teacher. One of the first assignments I did with the small class of eight extraordinary students was this profile poem. We stood in front of my old-school overhead projector and traced each other’s profiles, and then we filled in the blanks of a poem template to make it about ourselves. Here’s a translation of what mine says:

Cassidy

Understanding, indecisive, short, and clumsy

Pat’s daughter

Who loves

the color green, the smell of books, and words

Who feels

frustrated by slow traffic and happy because of simple things

Who needs

chocolate, confidence in herself, and her mama

Who offers

two knit socks and funny stories 

Who fears

bad decisions and unexpected snakes

Who would like to have

a big garden, children, and gray hair

Who would like to see

the Greek isles and more of her best friend

Who lives

in western Kentucky

Norvell

It’s no work of literature, but reading it today reminded me of myself in a way that felt significant.

Okay, so Sterilite can thank me for buying their stock of containers because it took eight of them (in three different sizes) to rein in my yarn stash. (I know, right?)

The green lids are the new ones. On the left…

From top to bottom: A crate of yarn cones that you can’t see, handspun, 100% wool, cotton. wool-and-acrylic blends, and acrylic.

On the right…

From top to bottom: Sock yarn, finished objects, spinning fiber, and bags. That last one isn’t really fiber stash, obviously, but something had to be done to get those bags under control. Reusable shopping bags, tote bags, purses—oh, my!

There is still work to be done, but at least work can be done in this room now.

Yes, there are lots of books and notebooks to be sorted through and organized blah blah blah, but there is a floor in here now. There are bags of trash to be hauled off—and a stack of items to donate.

I feel lighter, like a bit of myself has been unearthed.

Catching on.

After my last project spinning the unsatisfying two-ply yarn, I began this braid of Polwarth from Sheepish Creations with a plan.


Well, sort of.

I knew it was going to be chain-plied.

I knew I wanted a smooth, round yarn, and three-ply is just that. The combination of three strands together tends to balance out my thick-and-thin single into something relatively consistent.

I also knew that I wanted to preserve the colorway, not mix and muddle it. And chain ply does that, too.

So in November, I began spinning.

I spun through the election.

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I spun through the inauguration.

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(Yes, I have an obsession with a certain color combination.)

And earlier this month, I plied.

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A lovely and imperfect chain ply.

(And of course, I immediately started spinning something new…

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…but this isn’t about you, gorgeous blue silk and Merino!)

While I love to spin and knit (and crochet), I haven’t done much in the way of knitting (or crocheting) my handspun. But something about this newly finished yarn made me want to make it into something more.

Maybe because it reminded me so much of a full-color edition of The Wind in the Willows I’d read once around this time of year.

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(I don’t have the one with color illustrations in my personal collection. In college, I borrowed a creaky hardback copy from the children’s section of the public library and carried it to the city park to read. It was a gloriously delicious afternoon well spent.)

With Spring coming on, I too am thinking about getting out and paddling along a stony river in my kayak.

And I started thinking about turning this yarn into a thing more than string. A springy thing.

I searched Ravelry high and low for a pattern to knit. And it even occurred to me that I could crochet something. The only time I ever finished a handspun project, it was knitting. Plus, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I don’t see that many people crocheting with natural fibers.

And it was in that way I decided I would definitely crochet this yarn.

The Ravelry search continued. I kept coming back to the Virus shawl. I’d seen a very pretty one made from Caron Cakes, but the name of this thing. Virus?! How atrocious. If I’d had to pay money for the pattern, I don’t think I would have done it. Who wants to pay for a virus?

At first, the chart intimidated me. I can barely follow written crochet instructions, but a chart?! Yikes. But for real, though: Isn’t this diagram pretty all on its own?

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Then I watched this video.

Once the lightbulbs started popping on, away I went, a-virusin’.
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I loved the shape it was taking, and I felt so smart executing the pattern!

The work-in-progress was the perfect size for one of my favorite project bags, so I stuffed the shawl and yarn inside—which I then stuffed in my bigger bag (yes, I like collecting things Russian-nesting-doll style [like this sentence])—and it went with me everywhere.

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(Bag purchased here. Mine is the small size.)

I crocheted at home watching Love with the Husband or listening to Fresh Air. I crocheted in the truck, riding shotgun. I crocheted during Tuesday “knit night” with my friends while enjoying a butterscotch latte (whip cream, please) at Big City.

And then, on Friday night, as I was crocheting and listening to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (narrated stunningly by Claire Danes), I ran out of yarn.

I finished off. I wove in the two ends. I soaked it. I blocked it.

And like that, I finished a thing.

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My first crocheted handspun!

Instead of “virus,” I’ll call it “catching on” or something. It’s similar in meaning, but far less menacing. It implies getting back in the groove, which I did.

This yarn helped me catch onto making something with my handspun.

I caught on to crochet a little bit more.

Carrying my project with me and happily yarning whenever and wherever caught on.

And I’m here writing. I have ideas. That’s something worth catching onto.