Behold, my little book of magic.

I’m lost in the black hole of organization.

Here’s the latest accomplishment: untangling the rat’s nest of circular needle cables in my life.

This 2″ Avery mini binder & some page protectors did the trick.

My super-precise interchangeable cable length system: really short, short, long, & really long.

Also, I have a veritable bevy of US size 8 fixed circulars—and a mysterious lack of size 6s. As in zero.

Anyway, I’m not a very organized person usually, but lately, everything has been simultaneously wadded up & strewn everywhere.

I feel like I’ve got to get a handle on this sitch in order to be productive. Like, my right eye is twitching.

No, literally, it’s twitching right now.

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Introducing Fencerow Fibers.

Approximately twenty-four hours ago, I opened up my Etsy shop. Fencerow Fibers: hand-dyed yarn & spinning fiber inspired by the flora & fauna of Kentucky’s fencerows.

Yesterday morning and early afternoon, I hung out with Kim at the local lawn & garden fair, while she sold her handmade soaps and homegrown gourds.

It wasn’t really the market for fibery wares, but I had fun spinning and talking to interested folks about the wheel and yarn-making process.

And then I came home—with my half-body sunburn from sitting too near the tent’s edge—and stocked up the Etsy shop I’ve been dreaming about for four years.

I wrote a long-winded About page and dug up my old Flickr account, where I had stashed photographs of my homeplace’s fencerows.

Before midnight, I received my first order from my fellow fiber enthusiast and friend from way-back, Heather. (Check out her Etsy shop, Skittish Coyote Studio! She crochets some killer goods with a real eye for style.) I happily prepared this first shipment earlier tonight.

I put together a Facebook page for Fencerow Fibers, and now I’m mulling over my options with Instagram and Twitter. I’m not sure if I should create new profiles for this entrepreneurial project or if I should just change my personal handle from @raisininthespun to @fencerowfibers or what. I don’t want to spread my social media “presence” too thin, but I also don’t want to bombard my non-fiber friends with marketing-type posts. Also, I don’t want to lose the identity of this blog with the name change. I suppose there is the option of changing the name of the blog to Fencerow Fibers…

I’m just not sure what to do.

Well, except go to bed. It’s been an eventful weekend, I’m tired, and it’s late. Good night, friends!

The fast lane.

I am not a speedy doer of things—except for eating, drinking, and talking.

An abridged list of things I do more slowly than most other people who do them:

  • Write. I agonize over every single word. (Yes, even these.)
  • Read. I read, reread, and research the things I’m reading about. One page can turn into an hour-long rabbit chase.
  • Knit. I throw, not pick. My skill set doesn’t include continental- or Portuguese-style knitting, even though I’ve tried.
  • Crochet. It astounds me how much faster crochet is than knitting, but still, I don’t zoom along.
  • Spin. Even though I spin fairly lightweight yarn, I keep my wheel set on the slowest ratio. And I might as well just forget the fast flyer that I got when I thought I would get faster over time. Who was I kidding?
  • Dye. The technique that I use to dye top and yarn for gradient effects is time- and space-consuming. There are faster ways of getting color on fiber, but I am not wiling to sacrifice my envisioned design in the name of speed.

I like doing these things, but I just don’t do them quickly.

So when I bought an Addi Express knitting machine to make tubes of knitted yarn for dyeing, you would think the speed at which I could simply turn a handle and crank out row after row would be satisfyingly fast. Maybe even too fast for me, the slow poke.

Nope.

My goal was to produce 100-gram yarn blanks—kind of like sock blanks, but tubular and waaay longer—and after I found myself cranking for over twenty minutes with only about fifty grams knittted, I knew my problem wasn’t solved. Yes, I was “knitting” a million times faster than I ever could by hand, but it wasn’t efficient enough, even for me. The point was to have a quick and relatively easy way to prepare the yarn for dyeing, and at that rate, it was going to take far more time to prepare the yarn for dyeing than actually dyeing it.

With less than an hour of having the Addi out of the box, I ordered a sewing machine motor off eBay after watching this video. A few days later, the motor arrived, and it was time to give the Addi Express the Binford 5000 treatment.

It took lots of finagling. I went through several rubber bands. I enlisted the help of a gigantic wood clamp. I trashed many yards of yarn while test knitting. I cursed and even walked away at one point. But eventually, I figured out how to adjust everything just right, and finally, I got what I was after.

And boy, is it fast. It still takes some time and patience, but the effort it takes to produce a dyeable yarn blank is well worth it.

On Easter Sunday, I took two machine-knitted blanks out to the garage to dye, and this is what I got.

I decided to go with a rainbow scheme. It was my first time dyeing pastel colors!

I dyed both “skeins” in the same colorway-—except for the part where I momentarily got my jars of yellow and orange dye swapped around.

Yes, there is some rainbow top hiding in there, too.

I love the way the tube of yarn looks coiled up like this.

I wound one up immediately, straight from the blank. I simply loosened the yarn on the end, looped it on the ballwinder, and frogged it into a cake.

Here they are side by side. They are the same amount of yarn in the same colorway—one wound, one not. Of course, the order of color on the wound one is reversed from the coiled one, as I frogged from the pink end. If I were planning to sell this yarn, I think the coiled presentation is much more eye-catching, don’t you?

As soon as I had this finished yarn in my hands, I started having ideas about knitting it. I tried out a few ideas before I settled on a garter striped wrap in a rhombus-like shape.

I’m designing it myself, though it is a super-simple concept.

I get giddy when a new color in the gradient starts to peek out in the knitting.

I am enjoying the process of making this. It is simple, but engaging. I like seeing the stripes add up, the slanted angles grow, and of course, the colors evolve. The blue finally started to emerge yesterday. I don’t know what it is about seeing it appear, but that color change just never gets old.

If this wrap turns out to be of practical dimensions, I might be putting the pattern on here for you—aaand maybe even a link to an Etsy shop where you can purchase the yarn to knit it.

Plot twist!

The rainbow connection.

I know it sounds crazy, but I think I might look back on 2017 as the year that yarn saved me.

(I already feel this way about 2012.)

The last couple months of 2016 and the first few months of this year simply pulled me down into a darkness that I was beginning to think I wouldn’t be able to clamber and climb out of. The general mood of each ensuing day was growing resentment and persistent sadness.

I am not going to pretend that the presidential election didn’t have anything (everything) to do with it. The significance of November 8, 2016 and its devastating effects are undeniable, but I was unprepared for it to affect me so personally. I have been forced to question: Is Trump why I’m depressed?

To be honest, I’m not sure about the answer.

But I do know that the subsequent drive to do something brought with it more questions of what to do, and those questions opened up unexpected vulnerabilities. It became easier to see the hidden discontent that had welled up darkly in the corners of my current occupations. The recipients of my time and money no longer seemed worthy, but I wasn’t sure where to direct those resources now.

I was stuck.

The stuckness hasn’t completely dissipated and I definitely haven’t completely solved the question of what to do with myself, but I can say this: Allowing myself to gravitate toward color and playfulness has lessened the pull of that engulfing darkness.

When I started putting my energy—which had been dwindling down to nothing at an unfathomable rate—toward making things in colors that made me happy, discontent and dread began to be replaced with hopes and dreams.

(It’s so incredibly cheesy, I know.)

But when I say hopes and dreams, I mean it literally. Instead of wallowing in total despair, I started to imagine a future again. Instead of feeling indifferent toward everything, I began to look at tools and materials and see possibilities.

This Frog Prince yarn that I finished spinning the weekend before the election? I had previously lost total interest in it.

I was, for some reason I can’t totally articulate now, disappointed with it—so much so that, for months on end, I never washed and dried to set the twist. It just stayed buried and forgotten in a tote bag.

And then, once I reconnected with yarn, color, and making things, I decided to give Frog Prince a second chance.

And once I cast on, it was like coming out of a trance: I had loved this yarn all along.

The colors that I thought had been muddled in the spinning process suddenly were forming subtle stripes that put me in mind of a graceful rainbow.

As it grew so did my tentative joy.

Its pull became stronger than the darkness, and I began carrying it with me everywhere, like a talisman.

Stitches knit here and there were little acts of hope and, yes, comfort.

I even snuck a few stitches at work. (Shhh.)

Light shone brighter and brighter.

Until finally, yarn was beginning to run out and it was time to cast off all those stitches.

It wasn’t until then that I realized for whom I was knitting this shawl.

I mean, yes, the process of spinning the yarn and knitting the stitches was an act of self-care. Unwittingly, I made this thing for my own healing, but I also made it for someone else.

The making was for me, but the made was for my niece, Victoria.

This gorgeous young woman is a maker, too—an artist.

She is a dreamer about to take flight on her own hopeful adventures. 

So for her belated birthday, for this sunny Easter, for her fast-approaching college graduation, and for her beautifully unfolding future, I handed over the shawl that helped me find the Rainbow Connection.

Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection—the lovers, the dreamers, and me.

Ragtag rolags.

I made rolags today!

Actually, I made rolags and then made other stuff from the rolags, but let me back up.

Another item I came across yesterday in The Great Office Reorganization of 2017 was the blending board that Dale made for me a few years ago.

Back in 2013, my friend Kim and I went to the Midwest Fiber and Folk Festival near Chicago. We were sharing a booth. She sold her handmade soap, and I sold my handdyed spinning fiber. It was a wonderful time, and occasionally, one of us would wander around from booth to colorful booth checking things out while the other manned our station. On one of my jaunts, I saw something I had never seen before: a blending board. A woman was doing a demonstration of one, showing how you can make these long, skinny batts of spinning fiber using something other than a drum carder.

I was sold. Well, except that I wasn’t because those suckers cost, like, $300. I mean, I own two spinning wheels; I’m not above dropping a big chunk of change on a fiber tool. That price tag just didn’t seem to match what I was seeing. So I came home and told the husband about it. We found a decent DIY how-to online (I would link to it, but I don’t remember which one it was), and he agreed to do it.

He’s a keeper. I know.

Yep, that’s a cutting board with a carding cloth tacked to it. Also pictured here are the knitting needles I used instead of dowel rods—and a dog brush that I tried to use as a burnishing brush, but nope, that didn’t work.

I tried to use this board once a few years ago, and I don’t know what I did wrong, but it didn’t work. And that was during a rough time, which has only recently subsided, when I felt like I was so busy I couldn’t do anything other than be a teacher and work on graduate school.

Well, today, I mended things between me and the ol’ blending board.

I got into my newly organized closet and the newly organized spinning fiber tub, and out came these.

That’s undyed merino, brightly dyed mohair locks, and a mystery bag that I think might contain a silk hanky. I also mixed in a handful of the merino/tencel from Fiber Optic.

What I didn’t take a picture of was the blending.

I was spraddle-legged in the floor with the blending board, and fiber was flying every which way. I was having so much fun that I didn’t think to snap any pictures. However, you can watch this video to see more or less what I did. It’s what I, myself, watched this morning to brush up on blending technique.

Here’s what the blending yielded!

For that first photo up top, I coiled them into neat little buns, but this is what they looked like when I pulled them off the needles rods.

I immediately started spinning.

As I spun, I listened to Brené Brown’s talk “The Power of Vulnerability.” Over the course of the last year, I have been listening to snippets of it here and there. Part of what I heard today was about creativity and play.

She says that creativity is making something that never existed before.

 And that sharing it requires us to be vulnerable.

And willingness to be vulnerable is the defining characteristic of people who live whole-heartedly.

She also referenced a quote about play, which is also so important for whole-hearted living. It said that play isn’t the opposite of work; it is the opposite of depression.

Brené Brown also mentioned Stuart Brown (no relation) and what he calls the properties of play. He says that play is time spent without purpose,

something that you don’t want to end,

and something during which you lose self-consciousness and all sense of time.

Today, I played.

Today, I was creative.