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!

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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.

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.