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Back in the Saddle October 18, 2012

Posted by J. in Sticks and String.
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This morning I was sitting here and my dusty spinning wheel caught my eye. It sits here in the kitchen beside my desk, and I was trying to remember the last time I used it. There was a brown bit of roving on it that I actually had to look up in my records to see what the fiber is.

In case you were wondering, turns out it’s an alpaca combed top. It’s the softest thing I’ve ever had in my hands. Just dreamy to spin, as I recall.

I was looking at it and admiring how even I was getting my singles when I decided to take it off the wheel and leave it be. I bought that roving in May of 2011 and I know it’s been a year since I’ve touched it. I don’t trust myself to be able to get that kind of consistency at this point. Luckily, the other three spindles are empty! After I dusted the wheel and polished it up, I loaded up and got to work.

I got a box of roving in a destash from a Regretsy friend, and while the two colored braids of roving are too felted to spin, the loose roving in the box is great. I’ve been using bits of it here and there as stuffing in some of my projects because it’s firmer and shifts less than polyester fiberfill. There’s a ton of it and it’ll be good for practice. I figured I’d spin for an hour, watch the monks of Shrewsbury and their shenanigans on Netflix, and see what’s what. I worked on spinning the single a bit thicker, and I am overspinning like a madwoman. Got some serious energy going on in this bad boy.

 

I made myself stop after one episode of Cadfael and rest my foot. I tend to overdo it and then my ankle and foot kill me for a few days. I gave myself tendonitis when I was first learning and don’t wish to repeat that. Besides, I have the cutest hat on the needles today that I’m hoping to finish. It’s going to be a Halloween costume for a very sweet little boy.

Picture the scales doing down the back of the stegosaurus hat. So freaking cute! RAWR

I also need to put the spinning away and do some work because I checked my stats on my other blog this morning. Oof.

That, my friends, is what happens when you take two days off for a well-earned break. I have been trying hard to ramp up my self-promotion efforts. You may have noticed. And all the blogging and tweeting and tumblr-ing and all that other stuff has had some payoff, at least in the Fiber Arts Empire side of my world. I’m bellybutton deep in special orders, thought I’m overtaking the end of the list, so if you’d like something for the upcoming holiday season, now is a great time to get in the queue for something lovely and handmade for all your gift-giving needs. This advertisement has been brought to you by the Poops Lacey Fiber Arts Empire.

The writing side? Well, not so much. Disappointingly so. Frustratingly so. It’s a lot of work to write stories, blog posts, create tumblr posts, think of pithy things to tweet during the day and so far it’s not translating to sales at all. I don’t know why or what I’m doing wrong, and I decided that it was burning me out. So I took a couple days off and watched my stats plummet.

How fickle are people? It was two days. Two of the slowest days. But come Monday, they didn’t come back. Now I’m back to trying to get readers back and figure out what’s next.

The two days I took off were fantastic, though. I actually got to get back in touch with my real life again, the one that is away from this desk and this house. On Friday night, we had Lori True and David Haas come to our church for a concert. For the un-Catholic, Lori and David are liturgical composers and musicians. In fact, if you open up a Catholic hymnal, you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting something written by David. They both write beautiful songs and to see them perform is something special, in part, because it doesn’t feel like a performance. It’s an intimate evening and the audience is part of the event. We are encouraged to sing and we do. Because the music they write is suitable for liturgy, it’s all prayers, and when they invite us to join in, we do. Even the most hesitant person in the pews is singing along by the end.

Lori and David came back on Saturday to lead workshops, and I’ve been looking forward to it since last year when Jeanne got the idea to bring them here. The last time they came was six years ago and I took Lori’s cantor workshop the weekend before I cantored for the first time. I still think of all the things she said that day every time I get up there to pray the psalm and every time I open my mouth to sing. I remember her instruction specifically that if you don’t know the words that you are singing, if it’s just another piece of music for you, or if you are up there performing, you need to rethink your whole mindset of being a music minister. She taught me that I’m a minister first and a musician second.

Saturday’s workshops brought that to a head again, reminding me of the special role I have as a liturgical minister. Church has changed for me this last year since Fr. Albert left. It’s been a struggle, and being part of the music ministry is the only thing that’s kept me going to Mass some days. But listening to Lori and David talk about our role was encouraging, but it was more than that. Lori and David, in addition to being talented musicians and composers, are both theologians and liturgists, and they said over and over again that Jesus is in each one of us. If you don’t see Jesus in the face of every person around you, you’ve missed the point. It’s not enough to pray. It’s not enough to sing. It’s not enough to say you love Jesus. You have to see him in the face of the person you despise and reach out anyway. It’s a challenge I’ve not heard in that building since Fr. Albert left and I’ve missed it so much. I know the message is the same and the challenge has never left, but to hear it issued again with such passion and conviction was moving and inspiring and I think I got that reminder when I most needed it. Strange how the Holy Spirit works sometimes.

So Saturday was spent in holy reflection, and after Mass Sunday morning where I cantored with new energy and vitality and conviction, I went shopping and to lunch with my mother and sister. We usually do that on Mother’s Day, but this year my grandmother had just recently passed and Ma didn’t think she’d be up to it. We made it up on Sunday and hit the Christmas Tree Shop, had a great Italian lunch, then a little Trader Joe’s before heading home. I brought my knitting and finished most of a Cthulhu cocksock in the car. I can’t read while I ride, but I can knit, which is awesome news.

He is a handsome bastard, make no mistake. And the pattern (click the link) has been pretty popular so far.

But, come Monday when I’d neither blogged nor tweeted all weekend, I found my stats had gone down and weren’t coming back up. And here I am, on Thursday, with low numbers on both blogs and trying to decide if Twitter is worth it or not.

*sigh*

The idea of never getting a couple of days off again without having to work twice as hard to play catch-up is unnerving, though.

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King of the Doodles September 14, 2012

Posted by J. in Genius.
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Morgan Carmichael is a genius and I want the world to know it. His wife Erin makes some truly badass signs that I covet pretty hard, and not for nothing but she’s a pretty hot little trick in her own right. But I confess: I’m in love with Morgan’s doodles. In LOVE. LURRRRRVE.

First though, a little backstory. I thought for sure I’d blogged about this, but apparently I did not. Bad Poops. No biscuit.

So back in the Spring, during the Easter season, my Emmy Bo celebrated her First Eucharist. It was kind of a big deal.

Emma was chosen to bring up the gifts.

One of the things our First Communicants do is they make a personalized pew banner to hang on the end of the family pew. It’s made of felt and hangs by a ribbon. They put their last name on it and some imagery of their choosing that has to do with the Eucharist. the way we do banners in my house is that the kids will sit with me by the computer and I’ll work up a draft of what they want in my print shop. They pick the images and where they want them to go, and then I print it and use the paper as a pattern. We go to Joanns and pick out the felt, trim, and assorted bling and then we sit at the table with scissors and felt and glue and put it together.

Well, as you know, Fr. Albert left our Parish late last October. We all took it kind of hard. Okay, really hard. Emma kind of freaked us out a bit. She didn’t have much of a reaction. For awhile, she didn’t seem fazed that he was gone. It was making us concerned. Of all my kids, she really spent a lot of time in his back pocket. She was his young padawan. He was her biggest fan.  But there were no tears. No concerns. No, “I’m going to miss him” before he left, and after he was gone…just nothing. I was getting worried that she was going to act out on it in an inappropriate way, and so was he. Every time we spoke on the phone, he’d ask if there’d been any reaction and there wasn’t.

Until one day she was sitting here at my computer and all of a sudden I heard crying. I asked what was wrong, what happened, and she started sobbing, “I miss Fr. Albert so much!”

Oh, thank GOD.

But then as she began preparing for First Communion, it occurred to her that he wasn’t going to be here to give it to her. “I want Fr. Albert to give me my First Eucharist,” she’d say. I explained why he couldn’t. And she insisted that she wasn’t going to do it, then. I played the white dress and big party gambit. Nothing. I played the “But you’re Fr. Paul’s first Communion class–it means so much to him!” card.

“I don’t care.”

Hmm.

Finally, we hit on a plan. She would make First Eucharist here with her Parish family and friends, and then the following weekend we’d travel down to his new Parish and she’d receive her second Eucharist from Fr. Albert and we’d go out to dinner with him to celebrate. Or as she called it, “Her REAL First Eucharist.” I didn’t argue.

Sweet. It flew. We had a plan. And we needed to make a pew banner. Fr. Albert was full of suggestions.

“I think Emma needs to have Jesus riding a dinosaur on her pew banner. How’s this one? Can you work with it?”

I made the “mistake” of joking with Emma that Fr. Albert thinks she should have a dinosaur on her pew banner. Ha ha. He’s funny. So we sit down to design hers and pick a great picture of a lamb laying down in front of a cross. Jokingly, I say “We can make the T-Rex looking out from behind the cross! Ha ha! I’m funny!”

So we’re in the car on the way to Joanns and we’re making a list of colors of felt we need. “What color is the dinosaur going to be?”

“Sweetie, I was just kidding about the dinosaur.”

She got very quiet. I looked in the rear-view mirror and she’s puddling up with tears. “But I want a dinosaur on my pew banner,” she said in a very little, very sad voice. “That way it will be like a little bit of Fr. Albert is still here with me.”

Well, how do you say “no” to that? You don’t. You put a goddamn dinosaur on her pew banner is what you do. “Emma….googly eyes?”

“Yeah!”

Fuck yeah!

And that, my friends, is how your daughter winds up with a dinosaur on her First Communion pew banner.

But that’s not the end of the story.

See, when Mary made her pew banner, she and I sat up at Tanta’s house and made her banner all together. When it was done, I had a bunch of big pieces of felt left over. We were sitting there chatting and we asked what we would have put on our banners if we’d have had to make them back in the day.

Now, one of the things we always joked about with Fr. Albert is what the state of religious education was when we were all growing up. “Jesus and Balloons” he calls it. A lot of nothing. Content with not context. Hot air, as it were. So we said we’d put Jesus and balloons on our banners.

Then the muse struck. “We should make one for Fr. Albert. As a joke!”

She found me a picture of South Park Jesus and I started cutting and pasting felt, gave him a bunch of balloons and put his name on it. He said, and I quote, that he loved it so much he was going to have it stitched into a vestment. It hung in the sacristy for ages until he moved it to his office. He placed it carefully and it still has a place of honor in his new digs.

So when we were planning Emma’s banner, I got the idea that he needs another banner in honor of the occasion. But I had to ramp up my game. I could top South Park Jesus and Balloons.

It’s no secret that the man is a Family Guy fan. He can and does quote it often and freely. And I was stuck with inspiration, but I cannot draw to save my life. So I contacted my favorite doodler.

“Can you make me a rendering of the Last Supper, but with the cast of the Family Guy?”

Morgan can, and he did. It was the best ten bucks I’ve ever spent.

Click here to order a custom doodle of your own. Seriously. HOW AWESOME IS THAT?

I got out my felt and started cutting and almost immediately, I knew it was going to be magical. And needless to say, he loves it. It also hangs in his office and he said he couldn’t wait for Monday to show it to everyone.

Yeah. Fiber ARTIST. That’s right. ARTIST.

I’m crazy proud of how it came out, but there’s no way in hell I could have pulled it off without Morgan’s mad talents. He took what was in my head and doodled it. I was impressed when I got it and I still am.

Support your local artists, friends. Like their Facebook pages. Tell your friends. Spread the love. Thanks!

(This PSA was brought to you by The Jennifer “Poops” Lacey Fiber Arts Empire.)

I Never Share Needles September 6, 2012

Posted by J. in Genius, Other People's Genius, Sticks and String.
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1 comment so far

I don’t have to. I have my own!

For months, I’ve been BEGGING my lovely Knittah/herbalist/shaman/holy woman/healer/librarian friend Loraine to teach me needle felting. She felts many wee, cute things.

OH EM GEE! Loraine made PUNKINS!

A couple (maybe three? I dunno…) of weeks ago, she finally brought her needle-felting equipment in to Knit Club to show me how to do it. Actually, she slammed it down on the table and said, “Here. This should shut you up.”

Heh.

She created a monster. I MUST FELT ALL THE THINGS.

I promptly ran to Center Harbor up to Patternworks and used my birthday gift certificate from Sistah to get myself some needle felting supplies. Twenty or so bucks later I had kit with a foam pad and four needles and a handful of wool roving. Really, that’s all you need.

Holy crap, is this fun.

So I thought I’d show you how Poops makes things. In this case, I wanted to show you my new toy, so I grabbed a plain sweater out of my Etsy bin and decided to throw a felted embellishment on it.

*sings* The best time to wear a blue sweater, is all the tiiiiime…

Here’s my tools.

Needles and foam. I put them on a piece of white felt so you can see.

First, there’s a thick, gray piece of foam and three needles. The red one is for deep felting and rough work, the green one is medium and is an all-purpose needle, and the blue one is finest and meant for finish work. I find it also works best on finer rovings.

They are dangerous. You don’t want to be needle felting while watching TV. It’s like cutting things with a sharp knife or running a saw: stop what you’re doing and THEN look up.

Plus, BARBS.

The sharp, barbed tips cause the fibers in the wool to cling together. They tangle, if you will and lock on to each other. But you need the fibers. You can felt any kind of wool. I have felted actual sheets of felt, knit wool, crocheted wool, but by far the most versatile thing is wool roving, or unspun yarn, if you will.

Because what I need is more craft supplies, she says sarcastically.

I decided to make a mushroom on the little blue sweater and chose some colors I thought would look good together.

Mmm…’shroomy.

I started with the green mushroom cap and began shaping it right on the sweater. All you do, I swear to God, is take your needle and jab at the wool. After a few jabs, it begins to stick. You can add layer and make shapes this way just by turning and shaping and poking. If you don’t believe me, look on YouTube. Search for “needle felting” and watch these sharp little needles in action. It’s amazing.

I decided to add a fourth color for the underside of the cap, a slightly darker yellow/gold/orangy-sunflower shade.  For depth. It was an artistic choice.

If you look closely, you can see where I built up the green cap with layers of roving, while leaving the underside of the cap in a flat, single layer of felt. I used the needle to shape the bottom of the cap so it has a bit of a lip. It gives it depth. Nice touch, Poops. Thanks.

I used the lighter yellow to start building up the stem. I did several layers to give it a rounded look. Like a stem. You know how stems do.

I used the point of the needle to “turn the corner” at the bottom of the stem. Sort of a folding action of sorts.

Another flash of brilliant inspiration. A wee bit of the darker gold at the bottom of the stem to add to the illusion of depth.  Cool, huh?

Using wee bits of red to make spots on the cap. I find twisting the roving slightly makes it easier to handle when I’m using such small bits. Then it’s more pokepokepokepokepokejabjabjabjabjab…

…until it looks like a mushroom!

Then I go upstairs and find Sugar Bear to model the sweater for me, put her in the light box and take all new pictures of the sweetly embellished blue sweater and list it on Etsy.

Click the link to see the listing for a new teddy bear sweater, available right now on Etsy.

Ta da! Thank you, thank you very much. I’ll be here all week.  *bows*

Also, just a reminder that you have until Monday to enter my contest and help me find stuff to write about.  Don’t wait until the last minute! Or wait, it really doesn’t matter. But I have a bunch of really awesome–let’s call it “stuff”, shall we?–to give out as Major Awards.

Seriously. If you don’t give me a topic, I”m going to have to keep blogging about crafts.

You’ve been warned.

The Only Good Pony Is A Dead Pony August 29, 2012

Posted by J. in Genius, Sticks and String.
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2 comments

I like to think of myself as a tolerant person. Live and let live, I always say. I have friends of many races and nationalities. I name as my friends confessors of every creed and keepers of every covenant you can imagine. But never, in my wildest imagination, did I think I’d live to see the day when I found my tolerance tested by a Brony.

For the uninitiated, a Brony is a grown man who likes My Little Pony. No…scratch that. He doesn’t like My Little Pony. He LOOOOOOOOOVES My Little Pony. His female counterpart is the Pegasister, and you’ll know if you have stumbled across one by their use of the words “cutie mark” in casual conversation. They may offer you a “brohoof”.

Whatever you do, don’t accept it.

They want to make you one of them.

We simply must resist. The ponies, you see, are evil and must die.

One day, I was cutie-marked a step too far. I’d see one too many pastel ponies come across my computer monitor and I admit it: I snapped under the torture. I had been forced to endure all the profile pictures and embedded videos, and I finally decided enough was enough. I would not give into my captors. I might have to see their insipid, smiling pony faces, but I don’t have to take it.

THERE ARE FOUR LIGHTS.

I have a crochet hook and a twisted sense of humor, and I set to work decimating the ponies one by one. The first to die was Pink Pony. She lost her head.

And with a decapitated pink pony, the Etsy shop Four Lights was born.

I have to admit, killing her felt good. Real good. Like leave-your-hands-shaking good. But not as good as seeing her sell almost as soon as I had her listed. I was not alone! Others like me needed to see ponies meet their doom! So I killed another one.

Click the picture to join the resistance and take the dopey disemboweled pony home with you.

God, it felt so good. Seeing the crocheted entrails spilling out on the ground. Sweet mother of Picard, it was good.  Too good, almost.

A friend took me aside. “Poops,” he said. “There are four lights.”

“I know, man. Always.”

“You know what I’d like to see?”

“What’s that?”

“I’d like to see one get her face eaten off by a cat.”

“Which one?” He smiled at me.

“The rainbow one,” we said in unison.

Click the picture to make her your own.

The resistance caught on. More requests. More ponies destined to die. The blood lust was going to my head and I hooked faster and faster, honing my skills as more ponies fell before me.

The picture takes you to her final resting place. Click it. You know you want to.

“Oh, my God. She’s just a baby.” The Bronies and Pegasisters were horrified. But I don’t see age. I don’t see color. I don’t see cutie marks. I see pure evil and I crush it like you would a nest of baby rats.

But not that horrified. I asked my small cadre, my band of resistance fighters how the next pony should die, and from the crowd, I heard, “Dismembered with a chainsaw.”

It was a Pegasister. I had to oblige.

The latest pony to join my shop. Click the picture to make all his parts your own.

I admit that the killing spree has gone to my head. I’ve ordered more yarn and roving. My favorite Brony friend wants to see a purple pony die in a pool of vomit from alcohol poisoning, and another member of the resistance force has come up with a pony whose death is so diabolical I can’t even begin to describe it.

Keep coming back. Keep fighting the good fight. Because the only good pony is a dead pony.