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!

Return of the dyer.

Spring break draws to a close tonight. Yes, I am sad it’s over, but I am oh-so-happy that I spent this week getting back in touch with my fiber mojo.

In the past few months, I’ve been knitting, crocheting, and spinning-—yarning, in general—more lately, but this week, I reconnected more fully with the fluff that I love by…

  • reclaiming my office space. Spending time in here makes me feel more like me.
  • organizing the stash. I like having a sense of what I have, embarrassing as the volume may be.
  • spinning up the last hunk of Hunk a Burning Love.

  • starting to spin something with which to ply Hunk. It’s colonial dyed in a solid sienna. I think it will strengthen the merino/tencel blend of Hunk, and the merino/tencel will soften up the colonial.

  • mixing up some fibers together on the blending board to make rolags, which I spun and knitted.
  • cleaning up my dyeing station in the garage.

(This is where this list breaks off and becomes a post of its own.)

    About four years ago, I became a dyer. I had previously quit teaching because it was making me crazy, and in my new job role, I was able to use my time off work freely and not obsess about work. I allowed myself to dream and to play, and what I came up with was a little line of hand-painted gradient spinning fiber inspired by the plants and animals that live Kentucky fencerows. It was a short-lived venture, but when I was working on it, I finally felt alive.

    It’s hard to explain how I walked away from it, but it mainly had to do with my going back to teaching. Returning to the classroom not only meant taking on all the responsibilities of being a teacher, but also getting back into graduate studies, as a master’s degree—earned in a certain dwindling amount of time—was necessary to maintain my teaching certification.

    So that was, like, three years ago.

    And when I say I walked away from the dyeing thing, I mean it literally. I left all my stuff—jugs of dye, bags of fiber, gutters (yes, gutters)—strung out in the garage and never looked back. I am thankful for Dale, who never demanded that I get out there and buckle that business up. To do so would have been to let go of a dream, to fling it into the abyss. Metaphorically speaking. Even though it was a mess, leaving it all set up helped me hold onto the hope that I might dye again.

    And this week, I did.

    The plan was to do it the day after I cleaned up my office, but that day was so chilly and blustery. Staying inside to play with the blending board and spinning wheel just felt preferable. There was a little thought niggling in the back of my mind, saying, See, you’re not going to get back out there. Your dyeing days are done.

    That voice has many names, one of which is the Inner Critic. In case you didn’t know, the IC is a lying SOB.

    I think it was three days ago that I stomped out to the garage and lassoed my dyeing tools back to me. It’s hard to remember how long ago it was because I seem to have lost track of time since then.

    First, I moved three years of accumulated things out of the way. I swept away dirt and sawdust. Then, I disassembled the remnants of my last dyeing session, which had anticipated a next dyeing session—a dyeing session that never came. The pinned out plastic wrap was covered in dust. The waste-water pan was rusted.

    And then, I found what I needed to try again.

    To my surprise, the dye stock was still good, except for one color, which I had foolishly stored in a milk jug. (For the record, dye will eat right through the bottom of a milk jug, given enough time.) I dusted off a bag of merino, tied it up, and dunked it in a fresh bucket of citric acid solution. I rolled out new plastic wrap and pinned it to the gutters.

    With each step, I rediscovered the purpose of the tools I had laid out years ago. Oh, this is why I have this pan! That’s what these fingernail clippers are for! No wonder I used turkey basters!

    It was seriously like coming out of amnesia.

    A pair of twenty-foot gutters for dyeing looong colorways.

    A dozen jars for mixing dyes.

    A sock blank—a years-old gift from my dear friend Kim—newly dyed and steaming.

    The sock blank and two lengths of merino top—all dyed in experimental colorways.

    The sock yarn all wound up into two mirror-image balls. Teal to kelly green to lime to lemon.

    The top braided.

    A third colorway drying in today’s breezy shade.

    Today’s braid.

    Pinky-purple and minty-green color studies, left to dry overnight.


    Can you tell I’m having fun?

    While I loved my former fencerow concept, which guided all my color experiments years ago, I am just letting myself play now. I am still (obviously) drawn to gradient colorways, but I’m letting myself be open to new ideas. I’m not trying to force my color play into strict rules of inspiration.

    And I am loving it.

    The deeper I let myself go down this fibery rabbit hole, the more I feel like throwing a power-fist into the air and shouting, “I’m back, y’all!”

    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.

    Downtown girl.

    Progress on Firebolt is slow. I think I’ve only added one pattern repeat since my last post. It just takes so long to get to the end of a row as I’m coming up on four-hundred stitches across.

    I am feeling super-hipsterish, drinking my chai latte at the local coffee shop and tap-tapping away on my pseudo-laptop.


    Last week, I ordered this iPad case with a Bluetooth keyboard, with which I am typing this post and have typed most posts on this blog. I’m almost used to it.

    On Tuesday afternoons, I bolt away from the school as soon as possible. (Today, I had my bags packed and was waiting at my classroom door, trying to have enough decency to wait for the final bell to ring before I left. Trying.) Tuesday night is knit-night with my friends at Black Dog Fiber Studio. (Hi, Kim! Hi, Kate! Hi, Maria—the studio’s owner!) We meet at 4:00, so between work and studio, I stop here at Big City for a hot drink, delicious peanut butter cookie (not pictured because, duh, I ate it already), and some typing time.

    In a few minutes, I will make the convenient block-and-a-half walk to Maria’s studio. I’m hoping she has a scale I can use (mine is kaput) so I can weigh what’s left of the Firebolt yarn. If I have less than an ounce left, it’s time to start thinking about the next phase of this shawl(ette)—ruffles! 


    A not-so-quick note on my quick flight from school:

    As I was driving along in the after-school traffic this afternoon, I was thinking about how a few years ago—hell, maybe a few months ago—I wouldn’t have thought my leaving this early in the day—daylight!—possible. This is my ninth year in the classroom, and I’ve only now begun to feel like I can get away without staying at least an hour after school. Getting away this early is something that I have to make myself do. It’s so easy to sit down at my desk and get stuck there for hours. These days, if there is no after-hours obligation, I can manage to get away within half an hour. This is immensely helped by the fact that I teach the same course all day long. And! And this year, I have last-hour planning. By the time that last class walks out my door, I want nothing more than to rest for a while at my desk, but I’ve trained myself to get all my shtuff ready for the next day first—date and goals on the board, PowerPoint updated, work graded (ahem, sometimes), “lesson plan” ready, everything. That way, on Tuesdays, I can make a bee-line for my car and enjoy my afternoon. Most other days of the week? Nope. Bus duty, meetings, and extended school services keep there at least an hour later. Tomorrow? Parent-teacher conferences for two hours. Heaven, help me.