Monthly Archives: June 2013

Slowly simmering….

I’m slowly and only very occasionally working on my latest Lacy Batkus.  I still love the pattern as always, but I’m not falling in love with this version yet.  My handspun is a bit stiff and though I embrace all yarns thick and thin, it appears that the skein is getting increasingly thicker overall and thus the needle size may end up a bit small.

Lacy Baktus progress

But my old favorite pattern may start to feel the pressure of a new pattern in town…

Mimsy Hitchhiker

I’ve started a Hitchhiker by Martina Behm out of my handspun Pigeonroof Studios BFL “Mimsy.”

Mimsy progress

I wasn’t crazy about garter stitch and handspun before, but this single yarn is perfect for it.

Mimsy detailAnd damn near downright ethereal with incredible lightness and drape.

I’ve had problems in the past determining what to do with fuzzy yarn and this pattern is perfect in its simplicity – it was also perfect for some recent airport knitting time.  I do fear that I may run out of yarn before I make it the perfect size, but I should have just enough for an acceptable length, and I’m sure I’ll be able to block out a little more.

Other projects still in the works?  The cotton blanket is currently taking its last laps and I still need to decide how to do the border. I’ve started a quilt with applique letters that is kicking my ass at the moment.  And my spinning queue is bigger than ever.  My goals for the Tour de Fleece are spinning my recent PRS purchases:

PRS Tour de Fleece

It’s all superwash merino in colorways from left: Jadeite, Storm, and Lettuce.  Rather subdued and monochromatic for PRS, but I love them, and I love them combined.  I have plans for a shawl and I was initially thinking it might be something feather and fan-ish, but I’m on a garter binge now so it might be one of the trendy stripey patterns, or one of my own if I get my act together.  You may have noticed how “perfect” I’m feeling with my new handspun and Hitchhiker above, so now I wish I could make fulled/felted singles out of this, but it will have to be two-ply.  I have another braid of SW merino in a brownish colorway, but I don’t want to commit to finishing it in the near future and I’m determined to perfect my chain-plying skills on it, so it will be for another time.

And I need to finish spinning the zucchini blossom I put aside earlier.  I still want to turn it into socks, but I’m still on the fence about making a two or three-ply.  I found some complimentary commercial sock and other superwash yarn in my stash that could be used for stronger toes and heels, and possibly soles.  I thought these would be lighter summery socks, but if I make a three-ply they will be thicker… either way I’m happy I can eek out some more yardage with the commercial stuff.

PRS-squashblossomHmm, I will need to decide soon.

Decisions aren’t easy for me these days.

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Stick a fork in it…

I pre-wrote this post to publish while I was away on yet another brief jaunt to sum up a few things I recently finished.  Yet the thoughts in my last whining rambling post have continued to fester and raise many more conflicting/contrasting brain furies.  I still don’t have anything even remotely answered or concluded, but in a way I do have a decision.  I am going to move forward on creating pieces for a portfolio and if they are done by the autumn (crazy insane deadline now) I will apply to school.   If I don’t get in or I do get in but without funding, then I at least have a body of work to throw around out there (outside of the craft scene).  And I don’t want to blog about it much apart from keeping track of new techniques I might learn or continued thoughts on craft vs. art, artist vs. art museum, academic artist vs. independent artist, lone-wolf artist vs. social media butterfly.

So on to finished sh*t that has nothing to do with the above.

Several members of my family are encountering hernia surgery these days so I made a Happy Hernia mini-quilt.*

Happy Hernia

And I have become very paranoid conscious about the way I lift things and contort myself these days…

I finished my Pigeonroof Studios BFL “Mimsy” May/June SAL roving as a felted/fulled single.  I spun it with a heavy hand and dunked and steamed and iced and thwacked and whacked and unspun it and made it my fibery bitch.  And for a much-abused yarn, it became surprisingly sturdy and bloomed beautifully.  It’s a bit shy of 450 yards of a fingering-ish weight.  I love fuzzy yarn but I rarely actually knit with it – just ask the balls of neglected mohair in my stash.  But I did start something with it right away which I’ll show next time.

Mimsy spun

Since I was infected with group think during this spin-along, I joined team PRS in the Tour de Fleece (you spin during the Tour de France).**  I don’t have any crazy goals for it apart from spinning my recent purchases (of which I have to confess that there was another, and then another).***

Finally, my brother and sister-in-law are the hiking sort too, so I sent a set of butt warmers their way.

Buttwarmer

With the oilcloth, I think these are a little more practical than my original ones (which have gotten a bit shredded) but can also brightly and gaudily serve as a distress flag to wave about.  I’m concerned that they’ll be a bit slippery until they’re scuffed up a bit and unfortunately this sweater was thinner so it provides less ass comfort.  Also my stashed oilcloth has some creases I can’t seem to get out – can’t iron the stuff, so what to do…?

Everything else is still half-baked.  And I also recently realized that I needed to get much busier in order to become more productive, so I’ve taken on a load of new projects (and may also get to up my part-time work hours soon) but I’ve got also got a newly festering anxiety that I may have bitten off a little too much…something might have to give.

*Sh*tty picture intentional since I’m paranoid about image theft and f*ckery these days, and get used to seeing that annoying tag on everything too.

**I like bicycles, and I ride mine (awesome story behind it too) several times a week, but I don’t think I’ll be watching the Tour much… as Italophiles, we do often have calcio (soccer) on the tube though…

***I talk about this way too much!  I don’t know the person/people behind the company in real life nor do I get kickbacks – just love the stuff, and the last acquisition was someone’s bargain de-stash so my spending is ending for the time being.

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Unwelcome anniversaries and considering the future…

It’s been about a year since we sold our house, leaving my old studio and city behind, and we still haven’t found a new place to live.

And it’s been over a year since being becoming vastly underemployed, partially unemployed, and a beaten-down depressed chronic job seeker with no prospect in site and more rejections (or just silence) than a sane person can handle.

unemployment

For the first six months I was generally stunned, then I started this blog to force myself to organize my projects and to start writing again – an act that grad school pretty much killed well over a dozen years ago.  My graduate degree is a practical/professional one and though it has led to wonderfully interesting jobs dealing with other people’s art and historic things, I’ve long been thinking of going for a MFA.  I have a BFA in studio arts, and I’m a little hesitant to tell you that it’s in photography, specifically darkroom photography.  And I’m reluctant to say so because I still can’t get the hang of or love for this digital thing and I’m struggling with an aging cheap-ass point and shoot that goes to absolute shite in less than bright light, and chooses its own color schemes for life… I think that is the whole white balance thing… so don’t judge me based on my blog pics (and I’m talking to you DSLR fairy).  But back to the school question – last fall I visited some grad school open houses and felt a bit stunned again.  I thought I wanted to keep pursuing photography (and that’s where my portfolio is strongest) but the “studios” were windowless offices with computers.  Sure, they had a few darkrooms but they didn’t seem to be used, and the professors’ work didn’t appear to be wet… I felt very old and sad.  On a whim, I checked out the fiber arts studios and whoopie!  I felt so much better but I don’t have much of a portfolio of fiber “art.”  And herein lies the rub and the shreds and threads of my thoughts:

I like photography partly because of the extra semi-nonthinking processes involved – you could always print when you hit a slump just like with fiber you can always spin/cut up something/trim/baste/back/dye/card, etc.

My original beloved medium of wet/darkroom photography has nearly gone the way of the Dodo, and yet I’m still attracted to aging/ancient practices that have no footing in “technology.”  (Maybe I need to start a group for Paleo artists!)

A MFA won’t necessarily aid in securing employment but would compliment my other degree and open up teaching opportunities (yeah, like those aren’t scarce too… yeah, yeah).

And oh, by the way the only way I could afford it is if I got some sort of fellowship/scholarship/TA position, so I should just stop thinking about this now.

And art schools specifically don’t want unemployed people in them who are choosing this time to go back since they can’t get hired.

But the only themes I keep circling around for developing a portfolio deal with unemployment, so I need to either portray myself as making a statement about others, or embrace it and own it and make it big and mine.

But fiber art is still not considered an art (but a craft) by some (which is also a bit of a problem with photography as well).

Fiber art is still largely considered a feminine practice and that carries various implications, many financial.

Art school has a huge population of those stinking to high hell of bullsh*t.

I would have to be earnest and appear to struggle with some existential/feminist/socialist/inter-planetary/scientific/somethingistic ennui that is reflected in my work lest I be considered just a bored housewife dabbling with a hobby.

And if I don’t get the legitimacy of a terminal degree behind me and just stick with my own thing, won’t I always be stuck in the darkening hole of selling more affordable, practical, crafty things at shows and online?

Craft is now all over the place and exciting and annoying and everything in between, but turning more and more annoying, really annoying – commercial and saccharine and too much group think and fan clubby.

So many “crafters” are making amazing art and some “artists” are making crappy craft, where is the line?

And fiber crafters have a large conservative population who can get their panties in a bunch over a quilt that says “fuck.”  Really?  Good god, there are some many horrid things in this world that your politicians and corporations are doing and you deem a quilt offensive?

And Etsy etc. has really f*cked up the independent crafter/artist.

Technology has been a mixed f*ckery as well – I hate social media yet it is required these days and can really get you out there, yet an “artist” can’t look too approachable lest she seem more of a “crafter?”

And don’t get me started about the f*ckery of images being stolen from artists on the web – I’ve been following this blog about an artist who got massively f*cked by online image theft, or of clothing companies blatantly stealing indie designer’s work.

So these days artists have even more opportunity to get f*cked (unless they can already afford to be one through independent means and then are you an artist or just a rich kid with a paintbrush?).

And then art museums are full of fat-cat f*ckers and funded and run by people I generally despise.

And ultimately I just got majorly f*cked by the museum world so why would I want to skate so close to it again?

Yeah, everything is just a little bit f*cked up right now.

fiddlyfuck*

(But it could be worse, much, much worse so I can’t complain toooo much….)

*Title courtesy of N’s late salty old grandfather who used the term in noun form when the grandchildren weren’t doing anything productive as in, “Quit playing fiddlyf*ck.” 

And I keep using the * in “bad” words in an effort to deflect censorship/filters, etc. – does that even work and/or is it even necessary…?

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New England travels – increasing my fiber…

While in the White Mountains, we decided to use up a rainy day in Portland, Maine.  I recently bought some Quince & Co. Osprey yarn and was anxious to hit a yarn store near its hometown to buy fondle some more.  We underestimated the drive down to the coast on slow and winding country roads so by the time we got there, we were too hungry to do anything else.  So we got some tasty-as-all-get-out lobster rolls at Fisherman’s Grill (and you can spot my old cardigan in action, or at least knotted around my waist and waiting for action, along with a tiny peek of my old sh*t “rain”coat, aka the sucky soaker).

New England-lobsta roll

And ate them (along with some badass insanely delicious onion rings) in the car!?!?!  This is a strange and rare thing* for us and it felt very very wrong, but the food tasted very very good.  And after our onion and roach of the sea feast, we were sleepy so we decided to drive all the way back to nap away the rainy afternoon in the cabin and skip the rest of Portland.  (Sorry Portland, see you more next time).

But back to the Maine-based Quince & Co. yarn.  I loved the stuff.  At first I was a little unenthused about it since they offer few tweeds or heathers and their advertising is beautifully photographed with feminine and ethereal and often pastel colors, and I feel a little too mannish for the stuff.  If I see another baby chick yellow or sea rose pink drapey cardigan paired with a demure sundress I may sprout a chin hair.

New England-Quince & Co.So I chose some of the murkiest colors they had to offer, but I must say I love murky and they did a great job with a green that sometimes looks brown (Marsh) and a grey that sometimes looks blue (Storm).  And the yarn base feels soft but durable and has a wonderful spongy sproing factor.  It reminds me a lot of the wool I bought in Abruzzo last year about which I have yet to write and made a huge impact on the products I buy.

New England-Osprey

The yarn also has a great stitch definition and does that thing where the stitches appear in column-like rows on one side, but I can’t remember the term for it…  But regardless, I’m in love with the stuff and will buy more at a later date.  I’ve pretty much taken a blood vow to only buy domestic/North American products when I can, especially wool, and especially buy wool from places and people I visit.  I’m making an exception for a couple of American indie dyers who source globally but have an incomparable and awesome product, but for the most part it’s all red white and blue (and just white and red for Canada) sheep for me (and of course the colors of another country’s flag when I’m visiting said country…. you get the drift).

So of course I wanted to make a short detour on our way back through Vermont to Green Mountain Spinnery.  Sadly I wasn’t there at a time they gave tours, but I happily inhaled the lovely sheepy perfumes and peeked at some of the equipment.   I was also exceptionally restrained in my purchases since I knew I could always buy online from them, so I just picked up a few skeins of their Yarn Over yarn.  I love the stuff – it’s made from leftovers spun together in unrepeatable muted colors and is sheepy and rustic and feels like a good strong wooly yarn (my camera liked it too and got excitedly saturated, but it’s a bit more faded in life).  I’m sure I’ll regret not buying a sweater’s worth, but I really don’t have the dough or a lack of sweaters to justify it now.

New England-GMS

And I really couldn’t justify spending much at the great local gear store Farm Way but you bet I nearly spun around in the-hills-are-alive fashion in the Ibex section.  Yep, wool, mostly American-made (except it’s Australian Merino), Vermont-based, comfortable, practical, and sadly, pricey even when on sale, and what I do have of it fits a bit strangely since the really on sale stuff isn’t usually in my size.  So instead I bought a pair of Vermont made Darn Tough wool socks and N became my Sugar Daddy for a new rain jacket.

New England-socks

It’s a little weird to buy wool socks since I knit them, but I’ll never want to knit (or be able to) really fine-gauge ones or cushy-soled hiking ones.

And my old and continued favorite of domestic wool yarn is Brown Sheep’s Lamb’s Pride – I can’t neglect to mention them and I have a huge aging stash of the stuff…you can find it on crazy sale sometimes.

DSCF6391 - Copy

Now I’m putting some pressure on myself to come up with some White Mountain inspired patterns, but for now I must finish other things.

* We/I eschew and abhor many aspects of American culture, especially in regards to its foodways and habits of eating fast “food” shite in cars.  Yes, we are snobs but love our tasty tasty Euro-centric, farm-to-table, fresh out of the garden, local, locavore, low on the food chain, sustainably raised, only when in season, not from a factory or feedlot, organic, chemical and preservative-free, not-out-of-a-box-or-bag, Mediterranean-inspired, stuff that has been eaten for thousands of years and should be for thousands more, grub.  Although I have to admit I cringed violently when a server at my favorite restaurant mentioned that the veal they were serving that night was hand-fed by children… I call that 4-H, or child-labor, or just plain f*cking ridiculous, or Portlandia come to life (only it wasn’t in Stumptown)…  And those onion rings above?  Yeah, I watched the guy take an onion and slice it up, dredge it by hand, and dunk into the fryer – they didn’t come pre-breaded and frozen, yee hah!

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New England travels – much hiking, some fiber time…

We spent a much extended holiday weekend (turned week and a half) in the White Mountains last week.  N is hiking all of the “4,000 Footers” and I am choosing a few as well, but preferring to collect mountain ponds and the smaller lesser-trod peaks and loops.  On the few days when he’s up at an ungodly hour to hit the trail solo, I’m groggily but happily thinking about my chunk of knitting time free of any electronic, human, or stuff distractions.  We usually rent cabins when we go to the woods and hunker in among the trees, only going out to hike or get ice cream and this time was no different, though we encountered extreme plan-changing weather and were greatly distracted by plagues of bloodthirsty mosquitoes.

The only times when I’m truly and massively productive is when I have the ability to only work on a handful of things and I’m in a quiet place, save for bird yells and other nature song.  So spinning wheels, sewing machines, computers, phones (I don’t even have a “smart” one to begin with) and boxes of neat sh*t stay at home and I just bring along some balls and needles.  Good times.  I’ve been sweating over a shawl that I’ve been trying to design (more in a future post) and have been trumped several times over by reversing the pattern and some simple math for increasing and decreasing.  I just can’t get my brain to have an ‘aha’ on this one, but I finally worked out the left and right main portions and just need to figure out the ends and center now, but I might need yet another week in a sylvan sequester to finally conquer it.

New England-new pattern shadow on wall

Here is a shadow tease of some sample bits in worsted.  It isn’t earth shatteringly different or unique, but I haven’t found anything quite like it yet out there, so I’d like to offer the pattern for sale at some point, or at least get the whole damn thing worked out so I can knit it in the special yarn for which I’m itching to work.

New England-new pattern shadow

Part of the time we were there was downright frigid so I took my favorite old cardigan.  I patched the elbow hole with a mini-skein of Pigeonroof Studios handspun.  I love the colorway but don’t know what it is.  The patch is a little heavy for the thin sweater and looks a little bit like an eyeball, but it is a comfy cup for my elbow.

New England-elbow

I also finished a test knit that I love from a designer who makes fabulously fun patterns but it will not be released until next year.  I used Quince & Co. yarn for the first time which I’ll go into further in next the post.  N and I had a fun photo shoot with it utilizing the river and the the cellar’s stone wall.  In addition, I brought part of the cotton blanket and my latest Lacy Baktus along, but didn’t work much on either one.  The power went out on our last night there, so I was able to do a couple of feet of a blanket strip in the dimness since it was white.  While making the test knit, I learned to do applied/attached icord, so now it is a consideration for trimming the blanket – it will depend if I end up wanting a couple more inches of border or not.

New England-Mt Hale

But most of the time was spent on the trail.  We had to cancel our hut reservations for the first two days due to total white-out of freezing fog and snow.  When we finally got out, it was a slippery sloshy wet cold mess and made for some hiking misery on my soggy-ass part since I lacked good/newer waterproof gear (N thankfully hooked me up with a new jacket later on).  The first hike was up Mt. Hale and luckily the sun had returned, but you don’t see the bitter winds (or my bad attitude from having clumps of wet snow eggs plomping down from the trees and onto my head, down my neck, and penetrating my duds – I was wearing wool of course, so hypothermia was kept at bay despite the soaking).

New England-Mt HedgehogBut in just a day or so the weather turned gorgeous and we had a lovely time on Hedgehog Mountain, but then the next day the weather became stranglingly humid and sweltering in the 90s, and hiking became soggy again – this time from the inside out.  After that, I preferred to put the needles down and just sit in the cold river right outside our door.

New England-river

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Meet (some of) my sewing machines…

I learned to sew (or rather I learned how to use a sewing machine) on my mother’s 1960s era Singer.  I made some shapeless elastic waist skirts, “Jams” style shorts, and a few odds and ends in my youth.  During college, I borrowed the machine to make hats to sell at raves.  You heard me, raves – and the real kind back in the day, illegal and last minute and fun as a bucket of monkeys.  I loved her machine – it was metal and solid and felt like well, a machine in the masculine sense.  A few years later I acquired my first vintage machine at my favorite thrift store for something like $6.99.

machines1I’ve had it for nearly 20 years and it is the machine I use most often, however I just had to put it on a time-out due to a tension issue that springs up after an unpredictable amount of time (sometimes after 3 days of use, sometimes after year or so) and it seems to always fix itself as long as I don’t use it for a month or so.

machines1-det

A partial repair tag still clings to the handle – perhaps this tension issue gave the previous owner troubles as well…  After finding this machine, I was on the lookout for more.  Why?  I think I figured it would be nice to have the same one to use for parts if need be, I wanted one with zigzag and other stitch functions, and I just really fell in love with solid things made of metal that could last lifetimes – yes, the plural form.  I hate everything about the objects of our disposable society these days, but then again, obsolete, near-obsolete, and old timey things weigh a ton and are a pain in the ass to move.  But after a few years, I had amassed a collection of around 15 sewing machines, not to mention several typewriters and boxes of cameras and film equipment.  I didn’t move much then and used much of the equipment as furniture in my cramped apartment, but eventually most of it had to go.  Since I used the sewing machines on a fairly regular basis, I kept a half dozen of them or so.

machines4This is the back-up machine for when the pink Atlas is being temperamental.  It too came from a thrift store and I gasped when I opened the box – I’d never seen one that looked so like an automobile of the same era and I loved the deep green.  It sews strongly and steadily but the needle needs to be coaxed into the fabric in just the right way each time that I tend to get a little impatient with it.  Its best use is for sewing long seams or quilting.

machines2

This is the prettiest and the oldest of my current machines and it works just fine.  The bobbin is a little fiddly to work with so I don’t like to change it as often.  When I had more space (and when I will hopefully have more space again) I’d leave it set up with thread in the opposite color of what I was using in the other machine if I needed to hop on it for something else.  I believe this was originally a treadle machine and motorized later, so I have intentions of trying to turn this back into a manual machine, but I’d rather find a treadle machine for a reasonable price (and I could fit in my car or have delivered) instead.  It is also in a re-purposed Morse case that is annoyingly without a lid, so at the very least, I need a new lid/container for it.

machines3

machines3-det

My brother found this lovely Singer for me, but it’s probably been a decade ago…  I have it nearby because I intend to try to find a couple of missing parts for it, but haven’t done much searching around for them yet.  Ironically, it also came with the manual and a few extra tools, so someone was meticulous about keeping it all together only up to a certain point.  This one is also a more compact “portable” model, so it would be convenient to get it up and running as soon as possible.  I’m also slightly afraid to plug in anything old, so the first time I like to be prepared in case of an inferno.

And then I have perhaps two more?  I’m a little nervous that I can’t find them at the moment, but I believe that they could be in storage along with the other third of our stuff.  Hopefully I didn’t get rid of them in the frustration of the move.  One of them is another Atlas similar to my old stand-by that I found left in the trash on the curb in my old neighborhood.  Its cord was cut, perhaps indicating that the motor was blown or that it needs to be re-wired so I can use it for parts, or get it up and running again.  I believe the other machine is another Singer with a bad motor?

The machines I had but sold years ago included a couple of really old ones that had been motorized but weren’t very functional, I believe yet another Atlas, a less attractive 70s machine, and a blue White that I still can’t understand to this day why I got rid of it – it had a zigzag stitch, WTF?  But I think I thought I’d find another…

Some days I’m a little envious of others with the fancy-schmancy machines that will practically stitch up a cup of coffee or an offspring  but mostly I love my hunky metal beasts and will continue to do so…

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