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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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WIP Wednesday: Cthulhu Rises Again October 10, 2012

Posted by J. in Genius.
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I have a confession to make.

It’s WIP Wednesday, and technically, at the moment, I have nothing on the needles. But that’s only because I finished a pair of mittens last night and had just enough time to ball the yarn for the next project before calling it day and turning in.

All hail the mighty Cthulhu…hat! Eventually, that is. Countdown to cast on!

It’s going to be a Cthulhu hat. Inspired by the Cthulhu Cocksock pattern, a hat was requested, probably because the intended recipient doesn’t have the correct anatomy to pull of a willy warmer. Like so many of my “interesting” hats, I’ve got a basic idea of what it will look like in my head, and I’m winging the rest from there. Stay tuned on this one.

And last night I finished these pretty Norwegian mittens as a special order. They still need their moment in the lightbox to get proper pictures of them, but here’s their informal shot. A candid, as it were, just hanging out on the desk waiting to be photographed, listed, tagged, and packaged.

My own pattern, Cascade Pastaza (50% wool, 50% llama) in “charcoal” and Valley Yarns Berkshire (85% wool, 15% alpaca) in “cream”.

It’s a never-ending list of things to do here in the Empire.

All Hail the Mighty Cthulhu! October 5, 2012

Posted by J. in Genius, Sticks and String.
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It looks like I’m back in the design business!

Last weekend, I was showing the Hexapussy Hat progress to a group of my online friends. I was saying how I wasn’t sure what it was going to be. An octopus? A squid? Admiral Akbar? And a voice from the crowd piped up, “Cthulhu.”

I’m not a Lovecraft fan, or really into much sci-fi at all, and I lack serious nerd credentials, so I really didn’t think much of it at the time. But then not long after, another guy chimes in and says he’d love a “Cthulhu penis coozie.” Now, where I’m from, a coozie is a thing you slip around a beverage can to keep it from sweating on anything you don’t want to get wet. So my first thought was, “I could make that.” But my second thought was, “What the hell does a Cthulhu penis look like?”

I just saved you from having to Google “Cthulhu penis”. You’re welcome.

During the ten or fifteen minutes I spend looking at some truly disturbing tentacle porn, it was clarified in the thread that he meant a willy warmer. A peter heater. A man mitt. A cock sock.

THAT I can do.

So I spent my day with my needles, yarn, and a notebook and I designed a Cthulhu Cocksock, and I wrote up the pattern. And before the day was through, it was a thing.

For your thing.

Because I can, people. Just because I can.

The pattern for the Cthulhu Cocksock is available here in my Etsy shop and here on Ravelry. It’s only three bucks and it’s a quick, fun little knit. I think it would make a great stocking stuffer. There’s also a joke in there about stuffing socks, but I’ll have to get back to you with it.

And before you ask, I don’t as yet have any made up for non-knitters to buy, but I plan to make some for the shop in the future. Right now they’re a special order item only–contact me if you want one and we can hash out the deets.

It also has me jonesing to get back to working on my knitting book. I call it Clit One, Purl Two: Designs for Naughty Knitters. It features some lovely accessories such as The Man in the Boat Mitts, The Conception Cowl, The Placenta Hat, The Asshat, and the Ribbed for Her Pleasure Mittens.

I wasn’t joking.

Okay, back to my special orders list. I finished the second Dead Pony hat yesterday and today’s project is a Christmas present, so shhh…

WIP Wednesday: The Never-Ending Sweater September 12, 2012

Posted by J. in Genius, Sticks and String.
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One of the drawbacks to being a Woman of Size is that when you knit a sweater for yourself, you realize it takes three times as much yarn as it would to knit something in, say, a size 8.

You realize once you start the task of casting on those stitches that are at the largest side of the pattern instructions that this might not work up as quickly as you thought it would.

As you burn through skein after skein of good yarn and you haven’t even reached the armpits, you begin to wonder if your summer sweater will actually be worn any time before Christmas.

WIP #1: my cotton, short-sleeved summer sweater that should be ready to wear around mid-February at this rate.

I started knitting this sweater back in…hell, I don’t even know. Me and mah Knittahs took a road trip to Webs back in May so I’m guessing it was sometime towards the end of May. I snagged a bag of this lovely Classic Elite Premiere Yarn. It’s 50% pima cotton and 50% Tencel. It is soft and has a beautiful sheen to it. I knit Buggy a sweater out of this years ago and loved it, even though it’s cotton, which is not my favorite fiber in the world.

Oh, my God. She was so LITTLE. And I had SUCH an issue with rowing out!

I wanted to make the Petal Sweater from Knitty.  I thought it would be a great summer sweater, and I hardly ever knit anything for myself. So I printed it out and began shopping for yarn. And I did the math.

Even knit at its biggest size, that’s not going all the way around my ass . So I had to add inches and stitches. And I cast on. For the life of me, I could not get the lace pattern to fall into line.  I tried. God help me, I tried. I pulled it all out–hundreds of stitches–checked my math, and cast on again. Same thing. I knit swatches. I tried starting it at the regular size, not adding any stitches.

It would NOT work. I frogged it four separate times.

I’ll admit I got pissed. I don’t knit from a pattern very often. My problem is that I usually like one element or another but not the whole thing, so I start making changes, and by the time I’m done adapting it, it seldom looks like the original. I was thinking that I liked the overall lace, but that it might be too much in my size and that I’d look like I was wearing an afghan. I wasn’t crazy about the collar because it’s kind of twee.

And then I said, well, hell. Why not just knit the sweater you want? So I did.

I started with your basic top down raglan sweater and modified it to a v-neck. I divided for the armholes and added enough stitches to make it go around my hips and generously portioned backside and picked a cable lace pattern that I really like. And there you go. I got a good way into the lace before life took over and things got too busy to knit.

A close-up of the cable lace pattern. I’m also planning on putting a cable band all around the neck and front where the button band would go. Stay tuned. I should be ready for that by New Year’s.

Well. That’s not true. I put my needles down and picked up a hook and started making all kinds of weird things with my crochet skills. The sweater has been a WIP all summer long, poor thing. But special orders come first!

First, while not a WIP, and I am talking about special orders, check this thing out.

A special order hat combining dead ponies, soft sculpture, and it’s wearable. It’s my three worlds colliding, and I think this is the best thing I’ve ever made.

This was a special order hat for my friend Mary. She loves hats and my dead ponies and when she asked if I could make her a dead pony hat, I said yes. Honestly, it was hard to send it. I knew when I was needle-felting the bullet holes that I had nailed it.

This hat makes me feel not like a knitter, or a crocheter, but a true fiber artist. Also, that blue yarn is some of my own home-spun yarn. I am ridiculously proud of this here bad boy.

But special orders have begun picking up. It’s getting colder and people are thinking about keeping warm and looking ahead to Christmas. Smart folks getting their orders in early. *hint hint wink wink nudge nudge*

WIP #2: working the thumb of a pair of fingerless mittens.

This is a pair of wool fingerless mittens that will eventually be paired with a matching slouch hat. As I work on them, I wonder why I’ve never made myself a pair of fingerless mittens. Mostly because I’m sitting here with cold hands this morning.

A basic plait or braid cable, also called a “trinity” cable in some pattern books.

Fall has arrived in NH and it’s knitting weather!