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.

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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!

Dreaming of verbs.

I am wary of nouns of identity—the ones preceded by forms of to be.

I am a teacher. I am a writer. I am knitter. I am a dyer. I am a spinner. I am a blogger. I am a designer. I am a photographer. I am a creator.

Those feel like lies. Like they require membership cards that I am too uncertain to carry.

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The Rainbow Rhombus Wrap continues to grow slowly, here while I wait for an oil change.

I much prefer verbs and this sentence structure:

I teach. I write. I knit. I dye. I spin. I blog. I design. I photograph. I create.

The actions are undeniable. The verb doesn’t have to be followed by an kind of adverb like well or professionally. They are just facts, objective.

But the nouns? Entirely subjective. I mean, have I passed the certification exam for those titles?

Do I care to?

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Some of the tiny wild strawberries that dot our yard like miniature Easter eggs that reveal themselves only once you start looking for them, and then, their cheerfulness can be seen everywhere underfoot.

Being is another thing I do.

My being isn’t determined by my writing—just like my writing isn’t determined by my knitting.

So I’m weird about labels. I recently started adding #indiedyer to some of my Instagram posts, but every time, I feel a little uneasy about it.

I know some would say that this is an insecurity, like I think I’m not good enough to own certain titles.

Maybe.

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Delicious rolls of yarn, ready for dyeing.

But I think it’s more of a rejection of the idea that I should be “secure” in those titles at all.

Titles, labels, categories, genres. They limit. They point to a set of expectations and parameters.

I am not anti-boundaries, but I think that’s something different.

If I call myself a writer but don’t write for a while, would that change who I am? Would it  mean I’m not doing what I should? Should I, then, feel like a failure because I am take a short—or long—break from doing what that label implies I should do?

I think the answer to all of those is no.

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My most recent dyeing experiment, the results of which are simply this: LOL.

So these days, I’m not doing much writing, though I am doing more now that this blog is moving and shaking a little.

No, these days, I do a lot of other things, and one of them is dream.

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!

Wholeheartedly.

On a dreary, rainy Sunday afternoon last weekend, I trudged back and forth across our wet back yard in the rain to fill and carry two five-gallon buckets with the water I needed for dyeing in the garage.

As I slipped and sloshed—hood up and hands full—I thought, I am willingly enduring long hours and physical labor, and I’m loving every minute.

That’s not something I’ve said or thought about other occupations or creative endeavors. Regular “work” and even writing fill me with dread and garner lots of avoidance.

 Not this. I am wholeheartedly in it.

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!

Just two hanks of burnin’ love.

My latest spinning project is done!

Well, if you don’t count the top I started spinning immediately afterward, or the tiny bit of blue silk and merino chilling on a Lendrum bobbin, or the brown-and-white BFL still hanging out on the Matchless. Or the rolags I’m collecting and dreaming of spinning. Or this idea I have about core-spinning…

Let’s just say I finished one of my many spinning projects.

This is exactly eight ounces of two-ply colonial (the darker, solid orange) and merino/tencel (the shiny, color-shifty yellow-orange-red). I had never plied two different fibers together, so this was a lovely experiment, if nothing else.

I am not sure how I feel about it yet. The hand is interesting. It’s slick, but not particularly soft. It feels distinctly cool, which is an odd attribute for wool; I image its the tencel. The shininess makes up for a whole lot of tactile weirdness. It is pretty, as its varying depth of shade is striking. It’s hard to tell in the skein, but it will be subtly striping.

It doesn’t know what it wants to be yet—or at least it hasn’t told me. There’s half a pound of this fingering weight yarn, so it could make a decent-sized shawl. Maybe something lacy.

For now, it can go live in the stash with all the other skeins of orange yarn. There’s a lot of orange yarn. It will find warmth and fellowship, for sure.

Meanwhile, here’s a photo retrospective of this yarn’s path to existence.

Shoutout to Kimber Baldwin and Fiber Optic for some delicious spinning fiber!

The Smoky Mountain Spinnery is a required stop every time we’re in Gatlinburg!

This week, I popped into a local trader’s mall / fleamarket / whatever you wanna call it and found a few pieces of colorful antique glassware that I just couldn’t live without. I thought they might look nice in photos alongside some fibery goodness, and these skeins of yarn got the honor of each dish’s maiden voyage.

Yes, I love the way that penultimate one has exactly the perfect dimensions for cradling a skein of yarn.