Lively Fibers, Deadly Dyepots

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Slouching Towards Berwyn

"It's easier to die than to move ... at least for the Other Side you don't need trunks." - Wallace Stegner, Angle of Repose

Well crap.  It's time to move again.  

The apartment (and cheaper rent) we've been waiting for has, somewhat suddenly, become available, so I find myself thrust back into the always stomach-churning state of Moving.  New place is in Berwyn, which is about a 30 minute drive from Chicago.  It's sort of a blue collar pseudo-burb.  It's also place that used to be home to the (now decommissioned) towering spindle of used cars, as featured in the cinematic classic Wayne's World.  We have one month to get this mass of art supplies and animals over to the new place so I can put some color on the walls and set up house.  I'll miss many things about Roscoe Village, but in truth I've just about had it with living in this close proximity to this many people, and their babies, and their cranky nannies, and their ubiquitously small white snarling yappy dogs.

My street is Stepford in Chicago.  I don't really fit in here.  The average female inhabitant of this neighborhood seems very much into fertility treatments and Italian double strollers, with already thin yoga-panted moms power walking fiercely night and day, so many sets of twins brandished in front of them of them all like spikes on the front of a demolition derby wreck.  These shots are of Justin and Odile, but I'm always out there too, in pyjamas/sweats with blatantly unpresentable bedhead, not power walking, decidedly non-designer dog in tow on leash, sticking to the shade.  Not terribly employed looking, for all my noodlings, and most of the time the mutt tows me.  At least the rust and metal junk I find in the alleys here is amazing.  I hope they have rusty junk in Berwyn.  I'll bet they do.

Roscoe Village alley, Chicago

My Etsy shop and most of the internet I continue to neglect at the moment as this next great shakeup commences, and of course the second you write off your Etsy shop you start making sales again, right?  I sold next to plum diddly over the holidays and then started ignoring my shop and just focused on making things, so now of course people are buying from me again.  Not that I'm complaining, mind you.  It's just funny. 

"I vant to be alone."
Have I mentioned that people allergic to cats probably shouldn't buy anything from me?  I try hard to keep my nip-addled miscreants away from the goods but every so often I'll be carding batts and reach into a bin for more fiber and find something like this.  The lovely yet ferocious Eve does have a fine silvery pelt but I fear she wouldn't blend well in the drum carder. 

My "to be listed" bins continue to fill with yarn and knitted things, and though I'm loath to list things on Etsy in a timely manner I have been working on some prototypes for possible new products like long knitted sleeves and shrugs.  A person can only pack up house for so long each day, and when I'm done packing I sit and spin or knit.  

Currently this happens while watching, or listening mostly, as knitters listen more than they watch, every episode of Sherlock over and over again, or catching up on the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes series from the 80's.  What can I say?  Victorian-type sociopathic men are my anti-drug (so long as they're strictly fictitious).  Needless to say the poster of Johnny Depp in From Hell drinking laudanum-laced absinthe in the bath will be hung solemnly in the next kitchen as well.  Because apparently I think I'm still in college and that's it's still okay to put posters of cute actors up even though I'm married and in my 40's. 

Here are these sleevey armwarmerey things (armwarmery??) I've started turning out that were actually inspired by an episode of Cadfael. 

One of the medieval peasant extras was working in the background of a scene wearing what appeared to be cutoff sweater arms, scrunched way down around her wrists with tons of volume like those huge socks I've seen pictures of Japanese schoolgirls wearing.  My version is evolving as an elongated V-shaped tube with some yarnover holes around the top to thread some type of decorative tie through, being at this stage a few long ribbons of nice shreddy sari silk.

All those millions of balls of spindle yarn I've mentioned previously are coming in handy for making these things.  What I'm after is a sort of convertible arm warmer that can be worn fat and rumpled or pulled up and tied more snugly above the elbow.
Here's Justin's manly arm modeling one of them for us.  Those whimsical silken streamers dangling down would go over great at his IT job, wouldn't they.  

It hasn't been so long since turning out my most recent batch of the thick crazy wheel-spun art yarns, but as always when confronted with my empty drying rack, I feel guilt and self-reproach.  My rack should always overfloweth, thusly.
I am going to miss my cobalt saturated bathroom with morphine blue x-mas lights and the opulence of my Light-Up Lenticular Lord to watch over my wooly endeavors as they dry after a nice dye or wash.  His Omnipotent Effulgence will hang in the next bathroom, though, and adorn whichever obnoxious shade we decide to paint this time.  Do Lively Fibers glow in black light?  Indeed they do.  

This shot pretty much sums up where my head is at, creatively.  Yarn, lots of yarn, and oh, some beads creeping into frame.   
Beads?  What beads?  I've been spinning damnit.
So these are just some paper clay beads I fiddled with one night when I was too lazy to bake anything as sophisticated as polymer clay.
Rustic?  check  
I don't know what I'm doing to finish them yet but I'm positive my influences will be apparent to at least some readers, should I still have readers after so long spent waffling and whining and not blogging.
Came across my first batches of polymer clay beads from a few years ago and dumped some out for reevaluation.  Another perk of the new place is an enclosed back porch where I can bake and burn and solder all manner of poisonous materials with plenty of adequate ventilation and a door to keep my kamikaze cats from rushing the work table and trying to kill themselves, as is their wont.  Anything to rack up the vet bills, so the cats say, is good.
Baby's first hammered wire in the faux-primitive bead faux-repairs here.
The imitation amber was made using the most excellent Victoria Hughes book Polymer-The Chameleon Clay, and the faux bone was made from an old Luann Udell article in one of those fat craft magazines I never buy anymore.
Here's a shot of vintage inspiration in the form of fifty cent necklaces scored recently on a trip to Value Village.  I got 'em all hung up by my little ink shelves and now I just have to pull everything the hell down and pack it up.  Who knows when I'll see any of it again, the way I pack.  The one in front of the carved stamp has mercury glass beads, oooh.  Or at least that's what I think those are.  No expert am I.
Bad photo, but this one kills me with its old, old leather neck strap hand stitched together from many short sections.  It has to be from the sixties or seventies.  I'm picturing a very stoned person doggedly trying to convert a longer necklace into a groovy choker to wear to the Mott the Hoople concert that night.  If only one could channel acid flashbacks from cast off jewelry.  Love the brass chain. 
Odile would like me to remind everyone that she is indeed neglected, mistreated and forlorn.  Only half of the couch does she get, and innumerable massages per day.  It's not enough, is it?  Let us weep for this poor tortured and overburdened dog.  She is clearly dogxausted from this long post. 

Eve, meanwhile, is in a bin of soft things and is. not. moving.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A wee confession, with picture post to follow sometime soon.

I'm just going to come out and mention that I'm dealing with a little bit of phobia when it comes to blogging publicly.  This isn't going to be a super-personal blog but I'd like to get this out there so none of the new people I've been following or who might eventually want to follow me will understand that I'm not ignoring their comments or posts when I'm slow to get back about anything.

Boils down to a surprisingly ugly and character-assassinating turn one interaction took with a friend some years back, pretty much just a total misunderstanding between two "strong personalities" as another friend termed us at the time (I think that might have been polite for opinionated loudmouth assholes, and yeah I'd have to cop to that in application to myself in general).  At any rate, it was stupid and brief and I don't even blame the other person for any of it, but it was bad enough to precipitate my almost complete withdrawal from online chatter everywhere.  I mean, I went and deleted all my friggin' Amazon reviews lest some minor un-ill-intentioned thing I said set someone else off and I'd get yelled at again.  That's just how shitty and bad I felt at the time, and how much of a wuss I've been about posting anything anywhere since.  I think it's what bigger, meaner, tougher bitches than I like to call "butthurt" on various net forums.  "Aww, she took her wuddle butthurt and made all her amazon reviews go 'way, aww..."  That sort of thing.

And this was a few years ago!  Ample time to forget about it.  I'd been in stupid fandom flamewars online long before that one incident, with strangers, and thought I was thicker skinned than to let something get to me this way, but when it's someone you're actually friendly with that you like and suddenly a dragon appears from out of nowhere and it turns out that you'd conjured it yourself with some little reply to something that you didn't think could cause such fiery offense...  I pretty much just wanted to hide everything I had online so it wouldn't happen again with someone else.

Maybe I'm pathetic in this regard (and others no doubt) but it's taken me a long time to work up the nerve to go public with anything again.  I've had to do it all in tiny little increments spaced far apart.  The etsy shop, the flickr, all that and this blog is me trying to get over my stupid shit and stop being a wuss about posting, and even harder, to stop being such a wuss about facing comments and replies and such.  I swear I'm really not such a sensitive shy buttwhipped little thing in RL, but apparently I do play one on teh internets.  It was news to me at the time, unwelcome news, but it was a long damn time ago.  The amplified hermit behavior got stuck in there but good.

I mention this because if I'm horrifically slow to reply to comments left here and to check back on other blogs to see replies to comments I've left for anyone else, and if I don't update for ages and seem dead, well, I'm still being a near-total social net phobe but trying to get better about it.  Some days it feels like I just can't face interacting with people but I want to be a big girl, I do.  Unfortunately an acrid taint of cringing whining coward still wafts in my room and clings to all my things.  The net is chock full of bad interaction and misunderstanding, and you can think you've become immune to it but sometimes something hits a raw nerve and before you know it, you're slimed.  It can be very hard to become un-slimed again.  I know I've accidentally slimed other people too in heated debates (over important things like Vulcan reproductive anatomy no less), back in the day, and witnessed their retreat from this forum or that one.  Not all landmines are set deliberately, but they still suck enough to deal the dreaded net slime.

So here's to growing a pair at long last and getting over it.

(My pair, incidentally, will be Vulcanoid in character and accordingly tinted light green.  In no way will my pair resemble tropical fruit or swell to gigantic proportions every seven years, despite what anyone back on alt.startrek.creative.erotica or wherever might say to the contrary.)

So there's enough of that.  It's tiresome and I won't be bringing it up again.  I'll shut up now.

Actually no, I won't shut up about other stuff.  There, see, it's working already.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

From a fortress of dangerous winds...

Winter sends news of impending residency in Chicago via frigid body-slamming winds today. On the evening news I'm watching weather battered shoppers on Rush Street reduced to clinging to lamp posts and parking meters, and I can hear the hard rushing of gales outside my pitiful drafty apartment windows in Roscoe Village. I love it, though, because this is the most productive time of year for me. I live for cold dark weather.

(Actually a shot from the blizzard we enjoyed this past February.)

Here's what I've been doing instead of blogging these past weeks.

I finished my spreads in an art journal swap I'd had going on with friends for around six (!) years.

People complain about round-robin type swaps taking too long but I actually enjoyed having the book I sent out into the world be gone for so long. Made it seem strange and new and the few pages I'd done in so long ago unfamiliar and fresh.

(These shots of my work in the last friend's book I'd hosted at the end of the swap.)

I also washed many pounds of various lovely farm wool in my kitchen sink, prior to kettle dyeing.

I knit up some scarves so I could turn my long-suffering yet incorrigibly hammy husband into a potential Sad Etsy Boyfriend. Once I get these up for sale in my shop, his transformation into scarf model will be complete.

I've also wasted many hours walking this strange creature.

I've spent much time lately on the health issues of a certain bizarre furry demon inhabiting my home, requiring several trips to the demon vet to resolve. She's okay now, so I figure the other one who hangs around here must be coming due to further line the demon vet's deep ungrateful pockets.

She's a distraction when she's sickly and a menace when she's well. This is how she helps me weave on my sorely underused rigid heddle loom. I've had it for nearly a year and I love it but in between life and Etsy I've only had time to weave a couple of biggish projects, and on those I have yet to complete the post-loom finishing tasks. It's on my list.

In weaving, thus far I've used only spindle-spun yarns. At this point I seem to have developed a habit of reserving finer spinning for spindles and bulky art yarn spinning for my wheel. For some reason I feel guilty when I sit hand carding my silky little rolags, as though the finer yarns I spin but don't yet offer for sale on Etsy are somehow a waste of time, which I know is wrong.

It's important to remember that every single thing I make doesn't have to be something for the shop. Spindling is an important part of being for me. I get out of bed, turn on the coffee machine, walk the dog, and then I come back in and spin on a spindle. I'm not awake until I've spindle-spun. I am addicted. Too bad it doesn't burn any significant amount of calories, as would, say, jogging. Or earn as much income as would, say, a "real" job.

My wheel has been regrettably idle lately, though I know that won't last long now that the nights are long and cold and deliciously dark and filled with gloom.

These fat wooly suckers will start showing up on my drying rack soon. My wheel will require oil, and dusting, and tender adjustments. Then the whole apartment will go to hell with drum carding and wheel spinning and all the chaos and riotous preponderance of all-invasive fluff.

Many months later, after much pained procrastination, I'll finally plop the fat yarns on a sunny window sill or in my sad makeshift lightbox, take their little pictures, and at long last get them up for sale on Etsy. But it takes me a long time. What can I say, I'm working on my speed in this capacity, and busily trying to limit distractions and excuses for not doing all that retail drudge work in a more timely fashion.

Recently a relative commissioned some coptic journals to give as X-mas presents, so this excuse for not spinning the big yarns and getting them up and doing marketing crap, this bookbinding excuse, at least, has been legit.

Naturally I have more binding to do, more journals in progress, some from years ago. I'll get them done, eventually. I'm slow but I get there in the end.

Now, needing to do one thing, to bind books or whatever it might be, all any kind of self-imposed deadline does is immediately make me want to go work on some other thing, like spinning, or knitting more Sad Etsy Husband scarves for the shop, and here is where I come full circle. I love too many crafts, and they are all of them cruel mistresses.

The important thing is the doing, the non-languishing, non-avoiding, non-time-wasting, the work, in the particular way I enjoy doing it, and maybe someday with a lot less moaning and bitching on my part. This, too, is on my list. I'm working on it, damnit, I'm working.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Spinning the subconscious

Tonight I had a dream that I was a train conductor.

Instead of that ticket-punching thingie I carried a drop spindle and a just-started ball of yarn. When the train moved, I spun, and when it stopped, I stopped. Then I'd wait and wind from my spindle to the ball of yarn. (From a practical standpoint ball-winding before finishing the cop on the spindle doesn't make much sense, but maybe on train journeys the spindle would get too heavy and full if I didn't wind off onto a ball every chance I'd get. Maybe it was some goofy company policy for yarn-spinning train conductors.)

Then I had one of those dream-flashes of suddenly knowing that in every great book I'd ever read, the main characters had all been spinning, and I could think back over all the instances I'd forgotten about where Jane Eyre or whichever character was spinning away and I'd just forgotten about it after finishing the book. Jane probably would spin, but only grey, and only from the plainest and least presumptive of wools, quietly.

At some point, not long before waking, I dreamed I was visiting friends who had small children and one of them begged me to teach him to spin. I asked him what kind of spindle I should show him on and he handed over a huge stuffed cat. We spent some time experimenting, just for the hell of it, and if nothing else I did manage to demonstrate to him that it's very hard indeed to spin yarn with a heavy plush animal that spun too slowly and with not the best balance. The yarn snapped, the cat fell, I woke up.

Not much else to report, unless I'm to rant about the fiber I'm dyeing and my ongoing search for the perfect toned-down light acid green. I'm afraid the recession-depression threw something of a distinctly phallic shaped wrench into my works for while there. Though I kept flailing, ever flailing, at my fibers and tools I have suffered an entirely unblogworthy malaise, from which I only now must attempt to be roused. Or whatever. I was bummed but I'm over it now, and hey, there's always yarn.

Friday, November 13, 2009

On the terrifying ecstacy of multiple options.

There are just too many things I want to do. I fear I've become a professional fiber dilettante.

How do other spinners find time to knit? I don't mean swatching and making the occasional scarf, but hardcore Elizabeth Zimmerman type fascinating science and art type of knitting? I look at my vase of knitting needles with longing but right beside it are my spindles, my Bosworths, my Greensleeves, smug in their baskets on my no-room-for-coffee table, confident and secure that I will choose them. They're usually right. I have drawers and bags and bins full of spindle balls of yarn confronting me daily with their un-knit existential angst.

Then there's the issue of color. Color! My drug of choice. Do I spindle skein after skein of matching yarn that I can knit into a garment? No. I can't stop myself from trying every single combination of every single length of fiber in my possession. No two spindle balls alike. I wear black! I would never wear the acid trip of boggle-hued handspun I hoard so jealously. I'd love to learn to knit socks, but when can I do that when all I do is dye fiber and spin and dye more fiber and spin and read more spinning books and spin some more?

Now I get to say something pretentious and snotty; I trained as a painter. My beloved indulgent father blew his hard-earned life savings on a very expensive degree for me from a very expensive art school and now I'm sitting here not on piles of cash earned from my illustrious career in art, but on piles and piles of wool and silk and alpaca. That don't match. That I only knit scarves and hats and swatches from because all I want to do is freaking spin.

Yarn is just more paint to me. Paint that I can "squeeze" out in endlessly long stripes of color as though from so many tubes of sexy greasy oil paint, the crazy expensive paint colors, the $40.00 tube of super special magic cadmium yellow or cobalt blue. The sensation of spinning and watching the stitches interact in a knitted swatch is exactly the same as painting. There are no giant heavy stretcher frames or any smell to annoy the neighbors, no harmful solvents, just easily contained and cleaned acid dyes and poofs of fiber all over the place competing with the continually copious shedding of dog and cat hair.

Maybe yarn lacks the potential profundity of a painting, but then as far I'm concerned most paintings suffer that lack as well. That's not a bad thing, either. Color for color's sake is one of the best, most honest things. When I come across something good I feel it with my eyes. It's a tangible physical sensation that I can only describe as exhaling through my pupils, silly as that sounds. I pass a cool painting in some gallery window downtown near Columbia college or a Japanese maple tree slaying the world with that rage of intense red that's blindingly bright and dark as sin all at once, and I swear I can feel my eyes go oooooooh as though a breath rushes out of them. It's an eyegasm. (As Wash would say in Firefly, hey, some people juggle geese.)

Purple prose about the color red. Ha.

Wheel spinning is different, though that troubles me. I can make enough yarn for an actual garment on my Baynes, but then I get so caught up in that process as well that I never knit that sweater or skirt I start out thinking I'll knit. Don't even get me started on my drum carder, or my handcards, or dyeing fiber, or how much I love flicking straw and burrs out of the wonderfully spongy, lanolin-rich wool I buy from Homestead. I love the random colors of someone else's dyeing, like eating someone else's version of my own favorite recipes and finding them just as good, if different. My husband drives me out to The Fold in Marengo and I come away with locks, silks, undyed top, different kinds of dye other than my old standby Jaquard. I ogle the double drive wheels and looms and examine all the yarns that I want to learn to make, every kind of yarn, every single kind.

You can probably tell I'm still in my first five years of spinning. I love every kind and preparation of fiber and feeling lanolin on my fingers turns me on. Does that ever go away? And how is this attraction to sheep's oil any different from my attraction to linseed oil in paint? It's brushstrokes I roll into balls or skeins. Maybe this is my abstract period in yarn, when I'm just in love with the process and smell and being covered in delightful little poofs of unusual color that kind old ladies pick off of me in line at the grocery store.

I used to think it was kind of strange to make yarn for its own sake, or felt for its own sake. I'm over that now, but I still hope to sit down and learn to knit constructions beyond my current fixation on scarves and throws that always end up way too long because I can't stop trying out all my nutty yarns.

Because I know there's a divide in the spinning community between traditional and "art" spinners, I'll state for the record that it was the art yarns that attracted me and the super technical traditional yarns that sucked me in and cemented my commitment to the craft. I love both. I want to make both. I'm not really a group player who joins guilds or groups, so I operate mostly in isolation (solitude would be a better word because I happen to enjoy working in isolation or with the company of one or two treasured and much more talented friends). I scour used book stores and libraries for spinning books, knitting books, especially old ones, and I watch videos on YouTube.

I started spinning right after evacuating from Katrina, so I've been doing it for a while, and I have confidence that my yarn doesn't suck, so I'd like to start selling it. I pride myself on being as thorough and meticulous in my craftsmanship as I can possibly be, but I haven't had "formal" training. I am aware of the issues experienced spinners have with less seasoned spinners undercutting in what they charge for their yarns, and I will be conscientious when I start offering things for sale soon. Just getting this out of the way because I want to be clear that I'm open to criticism, both of my product and my business practices. I want to learn more. I want to hear from the nice supportive softies and the jaded old farts and everyone in between. Got a beef with my yarn? Please bring it to my attention, if you have the time.

Enough with the disclaimers and too-earnest presenting of my butt for flamethrowing. I'm probably more fun than this. I've resisted all this social networking stuff forever, but I will post my little pictures and show you what's on the spindles and the wheel and the needles and in the dyepot. Also, cats. There will be cats. The hubby is a crafty critter as well, so he'll make appearances, and just for comic effect I'll probably post stuff from my art journals and my efforts at jewelry making and eventually weaving.

OK, gotta swatch. I've recently been turned onto this Falkland wool that makes me want get naked and whirl like a dervish in my living room with the curtains open as the soft fluffy roving winds around my corpulent limbs until the neighbors call the cops and I end up on YouTube, humiliated forever, disowned by family, shunned by friends, yet absolute in my knowledge that it was worth it. The fiber is that good. Hedonism in the extreme. Scandalous. Scandalous.