Statement Hat

This year, I made a hat. Not just any hat, but a hand-sewn hat made from sealskin and coyote skin. It was made with a ton of help at every step from the Monday night Anglican women’s group, which I attended faithfully this year. One friend basically adopted me, gave me patterns, let me use her tools, gave me supplies when I’d picked the wrong ones. I made slow progress, since my spinning obsession meant I only worked on it Monday nights, but I did make progress. All the ladies followed my progress with encouragement, and not a little amusement. By the time we were out skidooing regularly in April, it was nearly done. It just needed a liner. 

I wore it once. And then it disappeared. 

We’re not sure it happened. The day I lost it, I’m pretty sure it made it inside the house, but I can’t be certain. We weren’t always the best about locking the door (we’re better now) and things like this do go missing. I put out a plea on Facebook, asked everyone who was at places I had been, checked around, but it’s just gone. 

I could not accept this. This was not just a hat. This was my year. This was the time I spent with people who have become very important to me. This is cultural learning that came through actual relationships.

I knew that even though the hat was gone, the relationships and learning were all still there, but still, I couldn’t just accept this. I had two weeks before vacation. I had enough supplies. I decided to make another one. 

I have documented it here in a rudimentary way for your interest. This is not a tutorial because it is not my cultural knowledge to share. But I thought you might like a hint of the process, primarily in pictures. 

Step 1: cut pieces. (Tracing them incorrectly and then retracing them with help in a different color is an optional sub-step.)

 

Step 2: sew up the slices of hat top. 

 

Step. 3: sew halves together

 

Step 4: attach outer ear flaps

 

Step 5: attach “outer” front flap

 

Step 6: attach earlap lining

 

Step 7: attach snaps for front flap  (allowing a four year old to attempt to hammer the snaps in while you hold the thingie on your hand with your fingers that you value very much… is again an optional addition of flavour)

Step 8: attach front flap lining (doing this at 2 am is not recommended)

Step 9: make lining (same as step 1-3 but on some kind of fleece lining – at lest I still had the liner from the first hat and didn’t have to make it again)

Step 10: attach lining, praying that your guess on how to turn it inside out and attach it was right, because it’s 2:30 in the morning and you’re leaving town for 7 weeks the next day

Right up until yesterday; I didn’t know if I was going to finish this hat before I left. I had accepted that I might not. Staying up so late last night to finish was certainly not the best advised step I’ve ever taken. 

But I’m so glad I did. This year has been hard in a lot of ways, and I’ve been ready for a break for longer than I care to admit. The last few months have included some real struggle. Making this second hat was an act of defiance against all that. It’s me shouting at the universe, at myself: this year has been hard, but it’s also been amazing. It’s been beautiful, and it’s won things for me personally that could not have come any other way. I’m sure God has done things in my ministry over past year that I don’t even get to know about, but which are exactly why I do what I do. It’s me saying, there are parts of this year that have been precious and irreplaceable, and I’m putting them first. It’s me saying, I need a rest, but I AM COMING BACK. 

It was something I needed to say. And I guess I needed to say it with a hat. 

A Priest Crafts: Episode 2 – Striped Top Study

Hello friends! Episode 2 of my new blog is ready for your viewing pleasure. This month I play with a new-to-me preparation. I did something a little different with this video: make a plan and show you the process from idea to singles to finished yarn.

Links:

Nebula Medallion Vest:

Rachel Smith’s tutorials on:

If I find anything more about the top, where it came from or what it’s called, I’ll add it here.

Ravelry page for this spinning project

I ended up with ten mini skeins, all of the same wpi, but using different drafting techniques to get the singles, and plying them together differently to get subtle variations in how the colors mixed. The next step will be take the yarn all the way to finished product, where I can get really down in the weeds with what the colors are doing with each variable. (It’ll be in a blog post, in case you want to skim!)

I’d like to commit to six months with these videos. Probably posted early in the month. I’m not sure where this medium is going for me, so I’ll play around with some different styles. After September I’ll evaluate.

Please leave your thoughts and corrections and ideas; they are deeply appreciated! Thanks for watching.

Delicious Indecision

I am in between spins at the moment- I just finished something you’ll hear about soon, but right now  my bobbins are clear. It was an opportune moment to pull out a big braid I’ve had for a while and do some sampling. 


This is 8 oz. (actually 7.3) of 50/50 Merino/Yak, from Blue Moon Fiber Arts, in the colorway Supercolorfragilistic. 

I bought it from the late great Natural Stitches in the East Liberty neighbourhood of downtown Pittsburgh. It was the last fiber stash acquisition before my spinning hiatus, which ended this past January. As such, it’s always been on the top of the pile, but I’ve been too intimidated to spin it. I always felt it deserved to be something fine, and I knew I didn’t have that spin in me. 

I’m still not quite there, but I’m getting closer. Close enough that I spent part of the weekend sampling. 

I was encouraged by another member of the Wool n’ Spinning ravelry group, mjm, who had recently completed a light fingering weight 2-ply from her yak/merino. That’s what I wanted too. Above you see my three preps for sampling: from right to left, stripped 6x, laid on a handcard and rolled into a rolag (not actually carded; this is what mjm did), and staple lengths for over the fold. 

My experience with this fiber was rather different from what I’ve heard from others because of how compacted the fiber was from sitting in my stash for over two and a half years. I’ve heard others say they found it too slippery for standard short forward, but this spin into a fine single with short forward as if that was what it was made for. The compacting helped with that. 

By contrast, spinning woollen style off a rolag was pretty difficult. It wanted to be thicker than I was willing to go, the uneven density made it temperamental, and there was no way to deal with all the neps and things. The final yarn is almost too light. Yak already has a lot of fuzz; spinning this way almost made it too light. One wants a shawl to have SOME drape. 

A happy middle ground was spinning over the fold. It was challenging enough to demand my attention, but I got a consistent enough yarn to make me happy. Still, I don’t know if it can compete with how effortless it was to spin short forward off the stripped fiber. 

As you see, all three tiny skeins barely tipped our postal scale. But through slightly illicit means, I got a much more accurate measurement. 


I was able to determine that either over the fold or stripped and spun worsted would give me the wpi and yardage I want. The decision will come down to what sort of spinning experience I want, the behaviour of each skein in a swatch, and how I want to work the color. 

That’s the other big question about this spin: what should I do with this wild rumpus of colors?

I’m new to color management in spinning, especially with these painted tops. I find when I’m new at something, the choices can be overwhelming. I don’t know what I want well enough to rule anything out. 

I’ll tell you now that  I’m spinning for Emyn Muil by Susan Pandorf. Hence the 2 ply fingering. 
The choices are many. Gradients are always interesting, but what kind? End-to-end as above, or out-and-back for a mirrored effect? Lined up as much as possible, or intentionally misaligned a little for some extra blending in the transitions? In rainbowish order as dyed, or differently- I’m toying with the idea of grading by value instead of shade (look across the middle of the picture below and squint). 

Honestly, I’m not sure I like the reality of gradients as much as the idea of them, either in the making or the wearing. Being inspired by the grey and brown rocks of Emyn Muil, I’m quite tempted to just pull it apart and scramble it randomly to mix as much as possible. Would that make a yarn so busy that the patterning would be pointless? Or would that be mitigated by all the brown that brings the values fairly close together?

Puzzle, puzzle, puzzle! It’s funny, because in all other areas of my life, I like to make decisions as quickly as possible. Unless I’m ignoring it entirely. If I have to face a question, I want it solved. But with these spinning conundrums, I just love sitting with the questions. I like collecting them and tasting each possibility, and I very much like hearing what everyone else thinks. (Hint hint! Comment with your opinions!) Maybe that’s because making a yarn in my mind is much easier than making it in long hours with my hands! I get to sort of date around with lots of different yarns before settling down to a committed spin, which can easily lose its romance. But I feel no guilt for savouring this initial excitement, enjoying all the unknowns. I’ll try to remember this feeling next time I find myself stuck in some transitional phase of life. 

Realistically, I don’t have to decide anytime soon; we will be traveling for seven weeks starting on May 15. I am hesitant to start a big spin right before we leave, and I have some other projects I want to finish in the meantime. As much as it pains me, it looks like I won’t be spinning for the next few weeks. But I will enjoy my sewing and knitting, and spin every variation of yak and merino in my head!

Totoro and Tinies

This has been the year of Totoro in our house. 


I knew I liked Miyazaki and that Ny Neighbor Totoro was kid friendly, having watched it in the dim past. But nothing prepared me for the experience of watching it with two little girls of my own. We received a copy as a Christmas gift, and I cried the first five times we watched it. 

It’s hard to put all my thoughts about this film in a paragraph. There are so many moments that capture, with insightful care, exactly what a moment of real life is like, if you give it your full attention. It shows you the magic of the ordinary, until you fall in love with it, then it shows you ordinary magic. 

This is my girls’ favourite movie. It’s actually the main reason we gave up TV for lent, because we were watching it every day. 


Ever since I bought my mystery punis years ago, I had imagined them as little fingerless mitts, somehow working a contrast color into dots on the back. Since we have been so besotted with Totoro, the dots became Totoro spots. 


They are super soft. I didn’t know anything could feel so buttery on my dry hands. And hopefully, thanks to the tight three-ply, they’ll be durable too. 


I showed them to N, who took them, tried them on, and announced, “you can make some for me in the opposite colors.”


I had less leftovers than I thought, so they ended up more as palm warmers than anything. But she won’t even take them off long enough to let me put the dots on right, so I guess she’s happy!

These little associations and integrations of the stories we love with everyday life always make me happy, but especially this story, which is such a celebration of everyday life and childhood. 

What are the stories your whole family has enjoyed lately?

Stashdown 2017

I have a problem with my stash. I don’t like having one. I don’t judge anyone who has one, I just dislike having one myself. 

It’s so much fun to buy things, and the world of making is full of opportunities to buy things. It’s so easy to confuse the joy of making with the thrill of acquisition, for inspiration to become lust. My stash, as much as I do like the things in it, is a reminder of that confusion. I have no problem buying things; but now, I just want my buying to be directly and intentionally related to my making. Right now, my making is instead shaped around the aftermath of a long-forgotten spending spree. That can be fun too, and limits are really just opportunities for creativity. But I’m getting to the point where I want to do more than that. 

I’ve gotten pretty good about buying yarn. Somehow years of working in yarn shops convinced me that there is nothing new under the sun, that there will always be good yarn ready to buy when I’m ready to knit it, and there’s not much reason to buy yarn unless I’m about to use it. For the last 4 years at least, I have bought yarn only when I’m going to use it in the next 6 months. I still have a good bit of languishing yarn, though, even after all that time.

Fiber, though… fiber is a big issue. Every day on Instagram I see dozens of indie creations, and once they’re gone, they might not come back. There are more fiber clubs than I can count. To say nothing of all the possibilities in prepping one’s own fiber. It’s no wonder that many spinners have a stash that makes mine look like a sneeze.

I have about eight pounds of prepared fiber, and half a dirty cormo x fleece. It doesn’t sound so scary when I put it that way. But all of it is between three and eight years old. And that fiber that weighs about as much as my newborn babies takes up two large boxes in my mom’s basement. Even at my currrent rate of spinning, it would take a good two or three years to spin all that up. And it would be very easy to buy that much again every year.

I know I can’t make myself buy nothing. That’s a wagon I know I can’t stay on. So instead, I made myself a two-for-one deal. It worked with my WIP-down, and even though it took a year and a half to get down to one project, by the end of that time, my habits were different.

So here’s my program of fiber stash control: I’m allowed to buy fiber when I have spun twice the amount I want to buy. That sounds confusing. What I mean is, if I want to buy some 4-oz braid of fiber, I have to spin 8 oz before I can order it. I’ll show you the chart I made in my journal to keep track.


It’s pretty basic. The column on the left is purchases; on the right is what I’ve spun. The dashes along the middle line are my unit of measure. In the right column, one ounce is worth one dash. In the left, one ounce is worth two dashes. So when I spin, it goes into the right column, making room for more on the left. (True confessions: already sometimes it’s the right column trying to catch up with the left.)

The age of what I spin doesn’t matter; even if I spin what I’ve just bought, it still goes into the right column to earn more. In fact, I prefer that; I’d like to get in the habit of spinning what I buy fairly quickly. And since this system means I have to consider every purchase I make very carefully, I tend to want to spin those purchases right away; I’ve been looking forward to them, and they take so long to get here!

I’ve come up with a similar program for yarn. Like I said, I’m pretty good about buying commercial yarn with immediate intention, but I’m still buying, and there’s plenty of stash not getting used. Plus I am now generating all this handspun I want to use as well. Here’s the chart for that.


There’s one rule for this chart. For every project I start that has any new yarn in it, meaning yarn I’ve purchased in the last year, I have to finish two projects out of older yarn.

“Older yarn” can be anything: yarn I’ve had for a while, gifts (even recent), any handspun (for now, even newly spun yarn from newly bought fiber). Basically any yarn that was acquired without a particular intention, that will not get used unless I make a use for it.

There are no rules for how big a project has to be; I can totally cheat and crank out a couple of baby hats from old yarn to start a sweater with new yarn. The catch is, to go in the right column, the project has to be ALL old yarn. If I have to buy more yarn in order to use the old yarn how I want to (like with many of my ideas for using my handspun) it has to wait for a spot in the left column.

A hitch, you may notice, is that there’s no limit to how many projects I can start with old yarn, nor do have to ever finish any projects with new yarn. If I’m not careful, I could end up with my WIPs out of control again. I’m relying on my own sense of being easily overwhelmed to keep this under control, and the hope that my WIP-down formed habits that will stick. I’m pretty reliably down to two projects now, an easy travel one and a complex stationary one, with the occasional quickie on the side, though I do have another big one hibernating right now. I’m committed to finishing that this summer. 

A look at my ravelry account tells me that, if I stick to this plan, I’ll have to spin about 15 lbs to get down to less than 1. Yarn is harder to estimate, but assuming one project per type of yarn, and that I’ll be adding to nominal “old yarn” with more spinning… I’m looking at a good 75 projects before I’m done with old yarn.

Wow. For both yarn and fiber, that’s at least a four-year program! I don’t know if that’s realistic. It’s also a strong argument against stashing, because even if I love something now, am I still going to be interested in it four years later?! And much of my stash is already much older than that. 

I’d like to stick with it for a year and see if I seem to be making any progress. In an effort to find a wagon I can stay on, I may have picked one that’s never going to reach its destination.

My goal is to not be creatively limited by my stash. But really, it’s not my stash that’s limiting me; it’s how legalistic I feel about my stash. It does not really matter, in the light of eternity, how much yarn or fiber I own. If it were taking over my house or making me broke that would be one thing, but that’s not the case. What I’m trying to say is, I could also free myself creatively from my stash by… freeing myself mentally from my stash. Letting it go. Not worrying about it.

 In describing the program above, I can sense the old perfectionism rearing its head again. This is only going to work if I remember that this is a guideline to help me do what I want to do, not a law I have to feel guilty about breaking.

My fantasy is to own only the yarn and fiber I’ll need for the next year, and that it will all fit in this chest!


I do want to make this effort and see how it goes. Of course, the real question is, how am I going to control myself on vacation, when my list of fiber-related visits keeps growing??

How about you? What sort of animal is your stash? How much does it bother you, or do you not worry about it?

Nebula Medallion Vest Pattern

I’ve spent my free moments this week typing numbers into spreadsheets, formatting documents, copyediting, and all those other tedious things you don’t think about when you’re knitting. All for you, because I’m excited to share that the Nebula Medallion Vest pattern is finished!

Ravelry pattern page here.

I’m offering this as a free pattern, mostly because it has not been test knit beyond what you see here. However, it is an extremely simple concept. Basically, you start knitting a top-down hat, but don’t stop increasing. The only fiddly bits are the armholes, and making sure you have enough yarn.

I’ve included yardage estimates for many different gauges, down to worsted weight (18 stitches in 4″/10 cm). I definitely erred in the direction of more yarn; I hate running out of yarn!

Pardon my squinty face. It was really really bright outside!

This is new territory for me. It’s my first time designing specifically for handspun, my first time including this much customization, and my first time including metric. Not to mention that this is my first pattern to make it to daylight in over two years. So I’m a little nervous. But I’m also excited. This pattern and sweater were definitely a gift, so I’m happy to share them as a gift to you.

If you try it, would you let me know? And let me know how much yarn you used! Happy spinning and knitting.

Creation Creating

Sometimes a project just takes hold of you. It consumes your imagination and doesn’t let go of you until you’ve discovered what it is, what it wants to be. It takes up brain space and heart space, and you have to remind yourself to do things like cook food and go to work.

That happened with this sweater. From the very first predrafting of fiber, through sampling, spinning, and knitting, to final bind-off, was 15 days. With a pretty major head cold and Work Stuff in there.

Several times I had to remind myself: Rebecca, it’s just a piece of clothing. It’s not going to survive the apocalypse unto eternity. But this only seemed to free me more. Ultimately, what do I have to lose? Might as well experiment, dream big, and go crazy!

Inspiration image sent to me by Nicole. Not sure which nebula this is?

Detail on the irregularities I added. I didn’t want a straight stripe of purple to blue to green; I wanted a little bit of green gas cloud interfering between. Where the greens came together on two rounds, I purled for a bit of extra cloudy texture.

At some point, I realized there was a good chance I could have this finished for Easter. Which was perfect, because Easter might be the only occasion that I could actually wear this in public, my life being what it is. It’s still a bit of a stretch for my modest, clerical taste. But I decided: forget that. This is the highest holiday of the year. I am going to put on my best for Jesus, and at the same time, submit my avocation to my vocation. Another expression of my continuing desire to use what I love to glorify whom I serve.

Here’s my extremely profound and completely obvious devotional thought from this project: if I can feel this much affection and investment in my creation, which is ultimately just a thing – how much more does my creator feel affection for and investment in me? I felt something analogous when I had children, but not all of us have children. Not all of us get to learn about God’s love that way. But we can all make things. We’re created in God’s image, and that stamp of his likeness included the ability to create in our turn. The temptation is to worship the work of our hands, but if we can get over that, the love of the work of our hands hints to us of the love of the one worthy of worship.

My plan is to generate this into a pattern suitable for handspun, and it’s almost finished. Well, the pattern writing is finished, but next comes grading for size, and charting out suggestions for adaptation, because this will be easy to adapt to any gauge, and to combine any amount of handspun with a commercial border, with a little extra instruction. It’ll be a free pattern since it’s my first pattern for handspun, and since it won’t be possible to thoroughly test it (though if you’re interested in testing, give me a shout.)

It’s been a crazy Lent, and I’m glad it’s over. This break from blogging has been a great chance to refine my vision of what I’m going for in my writing and nascent efforts at video-making. I don’t know where this journey will take us, but I’m always so grateful you’re along for the ride.

Happy Easter everyone!

Project page on Ravelry

Handspun page on Ravelry

Video about making this yarn

Nicmarie’s etsy page (note she is closed until mid-June)