Back at the Needle

Casa Osborn (Osbornkut?) started school this week! One big girl started Kindergarten, and that same little girl has always wanted fur on her coat hood.

Jared had found a suitable piece of fur at a rummage sale in the spring. Already cut to shape and backed with tough commander fabric, it saved me a lot of steps. I wonder if it came off someone else’s coat.

This being September, I knew it was time to hop to it. I could not have chosen an easier reentry into sewing. I learned from examining our handmade parkas from Nunavik that the fur only has to be tacked on very loosely – we’re talking centimetre-long stitches.

Fur is so important up here. Fox fur has an amazing power to cut the wind around your face. The furs are very valuable and long-lasting, and because it’s so gently attached, even when a parka wears out, the fur can be removed and attached to a new coat.

The fur trade goes back a long way up here. I don’t know much about the current state of the fur industry, though I would like to find out. Still, it’s nice when investing in an animal skin to get a quality piece that I know I will be able to reuse. This piece is adult-hood-length, but I just tacked the ends together so I didn’t have to cut it.

Now I’ve got the bug. I have several sewing projects that have been backing up in a queue that’s become quite intimidating. But sewing, though it has so many steps, goes fast. This came together during two episodes of Daniel Tiger, and gave me the immense satisfaction of keeping my child warm. What shall I attack next?

We got our first good bit of blowing, accumulating snow today, so the urge clearly came none too soon!

Bad Mornings, Good Days

A few days ago, a friend linked to an article called “You’re never going to get your $h!t together (and that’s ok).” (It is a bit sweary, if that bothers you.) It’s a good article, but I’ve been ruminating on just the title for days. She is talking about stuff-togetherness in the big picture of life; I’m more thinking about feeling on top of things in the day-to-day.

I can summarize my thoughts with one observation: my days tend to start well and end badly, or start badly and end well.

Let me explain. I love getting things done. A small sense of accomplishment feeds my soul delightfully, whether it’s doing the laundry, having a clean house, working out, or cooking a nice meal. I can be pretty driven and focused, even though the stuff is small and inglorious in a worldly sense.

Case in point: I-cord button bands.

That sense of accomplishment is good. I’ve started reading a little bit about choice theory, and it made me realize that a basic need for a sense of power in one’s life is legitimate. And how wonderful to be gaining the focus to do a small, unnoticed thing well. But I’ve noticed that when my days start with those successes, it’s not enough. I want more. When things are going well, that I have my stuff together, it becomes more difficult for me to let it go so that I can then turn my heart towards people. It becomes harder to really listen to my children, to lay my productive priorities aside to be with them, to make time and space to reach out beyond my home to others. This inevitably leads to my spinning my wheels, trying to find more space for my own productivity, while my kids spiral out of control, and we all get very frustrated with each other.

By contrast, when my days start with frustration – the kids are grouchy first thing, or I can’t get a thing done before noon, or meal planning falls apart, or I just have a bad mood day – those days get me on my knees. I remember that I have to let things go. I remember that my brokenness is what I have to offer, not my togetherness.

I actually need to NOT have my $h!t together in order to do the most important work of my life: loving the people around me.

When I am weak, I see that Jesus is strong, and he is there for me.

When I remember that I am lost, I allow myself to be found.

It’s good to work hard. Loving my family includes taking care of our physical need for good food and our psychological need for a beautiful space. But I trip myself up the moment I forget that the purpose of all those practical accomplishments is loving my family, and helping our family love our community, and that they need my heart even more than my hands.

I’d rather that I learn better how to submit to God first, and so have my priorities align themselves properly. But I’m not there yet, and maybe never will be. Another way in which my stuff might not be together for a long time.

But I’m learning to take a deep breath on the bad mornings, and quietly look for grace. It’ll probably be a good day.

“Count it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. … Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights, in whom is no variation or change.” James 1:2-3,17.

Y’all Ready for This

Please feel free to have the Space Jam theme playing in your head as I steek. I know I did. You’re welcome.

Husband took the two bigs to the pool this morning, so while baby napped I pulled out my sewing machine. I’d planned on using the crochet method, but fell back on my original plan to try the EZ method of sewing a few lines by machine. I want to try her methods generally, and really, this was loads faster.

A line of basting, with two lines of sewn reinforcement…

The inside (yes, the thread is a different color), after neatening up the ends (which I could not be bothered to sew in; I didn’t see the point when my steek is so wide anyway).

Deep breath and… snip!

I have cut several streaks thus far in my knitting career, and they don’t intimidate me, but I still do it with my heart in my throat. It’s just so un-knitty. Knitting is so handy because you can always mindlessly chug along in the knowledge that any mistakes can be ripped out and fixed later. STEEKING IS FOREVER. (Excuse me while I breathe into a bag for a moment.)

Ok I’m over it. Cutting went perfectly; everything seems stable. Now time for the point of steeking it in this unfinished state: trying it on.

The neck is pretty wide, and the whole yoke is pretty big. It’ll only get bigger when I block it properly. My swatch may have lied horribly when it said I should use the same size needles for the fair isle as the plain. I wanted a slouchy fit, but I don’t want it falling off. I’m going to be optimistic and say it’s not too big, but I’ll be careful in the blocking not to stretch.

It’s sort of difficult to get a flattering picture of ones own backside, but the fitting looks like it might be doing what it’s supposed to. It widens for my hips, but the way I did the ribbing draws it in so it’s not a boat.

Seeing this helps me decide what to do with the collar. I think that nicely pulling-in hem should be matched with a collar that’s not too low. So to combat the risk of it being falling-off big, I’ll make a nice tall, tight ribbed collar next. I should reinforce the neck hem with some ribbon as well. Better dig some up.

Then to figure out how to treat that steek… I’m interested in Kate Davies’ steek sandwich.

One little step at a time. I’ve picked up the collar; it’ll feel good to be doing some ordinary ribbing again. No Space Jam theme for this bit. Which is just fine with me. A little quiet boring knitting suits me down to the ground.

Club Mom: August unboxing

I thought I’d share the reveal from my own little “fiber club,” membership me, that was assembled for me by my mom for my birthday. I asked for different fiber experiences (as in, literally different fibers), and she shopped at the Maryland Sheep and Wool festival. I don’t know if there’s any one place in the world where you could have a larger selection of spinning fibers in one place.

May was first; June and July were wisely skipped since I was traveling. Before August is out, though, I get to open this.

Ready?

What is it?

Oooo.

A cursory browse of Blue Mountain Yarns’ website told me that this is a mill run by a homeschooling family, and it grew out of their kids interests developed in 4-H. The site includes bios from the mom and three kids, and they just make me go squee with their family entrepreneur-ness. (Entrepreneurity? Enterprise?) They’re located the next county over from my brother and sister in law, near Harrisburg PA. They’re far away now, but this is seriously local to my roots.

I see from their site that they grow Angoras, and they offer a full service mill from washing through spinning. I don’t know whether they raised the Suri alpacas whose hair is in my roving; they may have bought it in. But otherwise this what I think is called “vertical processing”: the fiber doesn’t travel for each of the steps in between Fleece and spinning fiber.

This roving is intriguing from a technical aspect as well. Suri fibers are very soft and smooth, but the ends of alpaca fibers can be kind of pokey. Since this is processed as roving, all the fibers are jumbled up, and I don’t know whether the ends or fibers will dominate the feel, and decide if it’s smooth or scratchy.

Finally, the alpaca has lots of bits of Sari silk in it. Hence the “funfetti” look. This fascinates because of an issue I’ve been privately mulling. Speckle-dyeing is quite “in” right now in the yarn world. But speckle-dyeing fiber just turns into blended colors. Very nice, but not speckled. I theorize that the only way to get speckles into handspun is by adding small amounts of a foreign substance to the main wool, which would normally create texture (eg. silk noil). But these bits of silk might get the speckle in without the texture. Intriguing, no?

I’ll have to decide how to take advantage of this in how I spin it, and I’m not going to decide that now. I’ll wait till I am about to spin it, and who knows when that will be. My wee crafting attention is pretty focused on getting Zimmerzog through its critical steeking and fitting stages.

Thank you for the new little treasure, Mom! It’ll be waiting for the perfect moment.

Thoughts from a Tuesday

Thanks to everyone who watched the video from a couple weeks ago, and who commented publicly or privately. I wanted very much to discuss that closing topic, but I found myself struggling so hard not to say something false that I may have said nothing at all. I’m going to have to work this out privately I think… the topic of judgment is just too huge to work out publicly without resorting to simplifications and cliches. I am continuing to think about it, and we’ll see if anything comes of it.

We’ve been back home in Iqaluit for four days now, and we’re very happy to be back in our own space doing our own thing. We’re excited to spend time with friends, and excited that we’re getting some nice weather in this last week before school.

N directing “experiments” with M and the neighbor kids.

School starts next week, and Kindergarten starts a week after. We’re excited and a bit terrified in chez Osborn, but mostly excited.

Leveling up in the parenting/housekeeping department means most of my found and free time is spent cooking, picking up, or playing with littles. But most days I get a half hour to myself here or there. I’ve been spending mine adding duplicate stitch to the fair isle yoke of the Zimmerzog.

I finished said yoke at the end of vacation. I’m happy with the result, but I have a lot of insecurity about the fit. I’m combining three different patterns in a very careful but crazy complicated way, without a lot of experience to back me up. I’ve steeked before, but this is my first round yoke sweater.

(Well that’s not true. I knit one out of acrylic like nine years ago, and it was awesome but too small. I just followed a pattern, and I remember very little about it. This is two patterns that are more philosophies than patterns, with a fair isle motif from a third pattern.)

So I’ve just finished the duplicate stitch, then I’ll reinforce and cut the steek (with a technique from a fourth pattern), then try it on. Bottom up steeked fair isle means no fittings, so I’m skipping ahead to that step. Then if I have issues, as long as they’re minor, I can adjust before adding collar, button bands, and sleeves.

Welp, so much for my hobbies, it’s back to my job!

A Priest Crafts Episode 7: Car Spinning and Comparison

Hey, I’m back! The Vlog is back from hiatus. We’re down south on vacation, and I couldn’t resist making use of the fast internet.

Jared also got me a new camera body for my DSLR, which is super exciting because it does HD video. However, I have to apologize for the poor audio; the camera’s microphone is really not up to snuff, and it picks up the sound of the lens autofocusing as static. I didn’t realize this until after I’d started editing. I will have to figure out what to do about that before next time. That said, enjoy!

Here are some links to a few things I talked about this time (these folks have not asked me to link to them; I just think they’re awesome if you want to learn more):

  • TurtleMade 3D-printed Turkish spindles can be found at the TurtleMade Etsy Shop.
  • My video is NOT a tutorial on how to spin with a Turkish spindle, but THE Abby Franquemont did an awesome video for Interweave that you can watch for free here: Turkish Spindle Tips with Abby Franquemont. This video got me started.
  • The fibre that was specially dyed and carded for the current Wool n’ Spinning breed and color study is no longer available, BUT you can participate with your own 100% Targhee (not superwash). Katrina has some at her shop, CraftyJAKS Boutique. Follow the discussion and see what other Targhee yarns folks are making in the ravelry thread. The study continues until October.

A few more words on the reflection piece: I hope what I said makes sense, and that you can understand why I shared it. I feel like this issue of judgement and comparing ourselves is really huge, and I’ve only touched on it in the briefest way in this video. I shared it because it’s what’s on my heart; I’m really wrestling with it myself right now – how to make my intentions for kindness and acceptance into a concrete reality in my relationships.

You might just think “well, just do it! Don’t judge people!” And it’s so obvious that it didn’t even occur to me that I was doing anything else. But there are layers to what goes on in the human heart. And sometimes you do things and don’t even realize it. Recently I’ve found out that there are more things getting in the way of me being accepting and kind, and in the way of communicating the kindness I do feel.

And you might just think “Go easier on yourself!” But… well… that’s just never going to work for me. I am trying to work harder to do what I think is right, because it is important to me to do what I do well, and I know I have so far to go. And you know that leadership of any kind requires constant judgment calls. Fact: I need to accept more deeply the unconditional love of God. That’s the only thing that’s going to cut it. To start from a place of grace that allows me to push myself harder without my worthiness of love being under threat.

I share these things because I know I’m not the only one. And talking it out helps me figure it out.

So what’s working for you? Those of you with lifestyles that demand a lot of love and presence – whether you’re taking care of a sick family member, or raising any number of kids, or trying to be a good leader… please don’t mind if I peep over your shoulder. I’m cheering for you, and trying to find my way too.

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Wheels Up in Five

What you see below is, roughly and as explained to a three year old, our road itinerary for our trip. Lord willing, our plane takes off at 1:30 tomorrow.

Stops will include Ottawa, central Maryland, Columbia SC, Tallahassee and Jacksonville FL, and Rhode Island. If we haven’t already made plans to see you, will we be passing your way?

What you see above is all the crafting I am bringing on this trip. In the two failed vacuum seal bags is about 9 oz of wool. My plan is to spin it all on two spindles.

This is the Turtlemade spindle Rachel sent me; it’s a 3D printed Turkish spindle, and weighs 35 grams. I’ve been practicing with it and found it perfect for getting back in the groove of spindling after 7 or so years of not touching a drop spindle. It takes forever to wind pretty turtles, but it’s so adorable, how can you not wind pretty turtles?!

The other new spindle is buried in a suitcase right now, and I’ll talk more about it later, but suffice it to say it’s a very long, heavy top whorl spindle at 65 grams. I’m guessing I’ll be using it for plying.

In the vacuum bags pictured on the suitcase, the top one is an amalgam project I’ll have to introduce later. I’ve long been planning it as my Tour de Fleece spin. The centre bag is what you see directly above: the latest Wool N Spinning / Crafty Jaks breed and color study. It’s a wild riot of color on targhee, and I love it. I caved and decided to bring it when I realized the plan I’d settled on was something I could do on spindles.

It seems a little crazy to think I can spin all that in one trip. But then it is nine weeks away. I can probably do an ounce a week. Even if I do get derailed by the stash in Mums basement, which I have plans about as well.

My goal for Tour de Fleece is simple: spin at all every day. I have no time goals, not even fifteen minutes; I just want to be spinning every day, even if it’s only a few yards. This will be challenge enough, since not only will we be traveling, by TdF encompassed the two-week four-stop tour of the southeast that we have planned for mid-July. I’m not holding my breath, but just having goals makes me feel hopeful.

Back to the suitcase picture. The red bag, out of which you see two yarn cakes peeking, is the one knitting project I’m bringing along. It’s a fingering weight yoke sweater that I cast on right after baby was born.

It’s an amalgam of Elizabeth Zimmerman’s original fair isle yoke sweater, documented in The Opinionated Knitter and other volumes, and I will cardiganize it and decorate the yoke with patterning from Susan Pandorf’s “Rohan” cape. It had been growing steadily when discussions of sweater fit started cropping up in the Wool N Spinning community, leading me to buy one of Amy Herzogs books.

I tried her whole experiment of taking pictures of myself and drawing lines on it, and it was fascinating. You may think that this was not, perhaps, the best idea to do this immediately postpartum. But it was a good opportunity to get to know my body again, and with my little girls helping me take pictures, to practice unflinching, no-exceptions body positivity. If I make a sweater that’s a bit big on me in a year, all the better.

It is no mean feat to reconcile the systems of two designers who have each, in different ways, mastered the art of sweater knitting. Especially when one doesn’t have gobs of experience with either. EZs designs are of a particular time and style, and Herzog focuses on contemporary fitted designs (in this book, all pieced bottom up sweaters with set in sleeves). But when you come down to it, it’s all math, and in the end all I’m really doing is adding some waist shaping to the basic cardigan. I put more shaping in the back than front, based on the pictures; we’ll see if it works out or looks ridiculous.

It’s been the perfect mindless knitting for when I’m too tired to do anything else (read: most of the time). We’ve also been watching a bit of Star Trek: Discovery with a friend, and the blue spinning demands too much concentration to enjoy it. As a result, I find myself a good nine inches into the thing.

It’s be fun if I could start working on the yoke while I’m at Mums house. If I have to, I may provisionally cast on sleeve stitches, knit the yoke first, then knit the sleeves down later. I don’t see why I shouldn’t when there’s no patterning.

Well, that’s all for now. I don’t know how many of you read this blog for the fiber content anymore, but whether you are a wool-associated person or not, I hope your summer is off to a lovely start. And I hope I get to see lots of you on our travels.