A Priest Crafts: Episode 1 – Intros and Corespinning

So after all my wailing and gnashing of teeth last week, I’ve decided to go ahead and do it. I used some of my birthday money to register Wondershare Filmora, and recorded my first video on my birthday. After I finished re-recording the last bit, I was immediately bulldozed by a headcold that has left me trapped on the couch. I hope this isn’t a sign. Anyway, this couch time gave me time to edit, but means that I am now missing the Palm Sunday service.

I hope you like the title I came up with at 6 am today. It’s nicely tongue-in-cheek, as “priestcraft” is generally a negative term according to google. Our beloved Mother Martha always used it to just describe what priests do. For me it captures an important reality that I am a priest first, a maker second. I make in the context of my priestly calling, not the other way around.

So, check it out! It was super fun to make, though also quite humbling. I apologize that the audio is kind of quiet. I think I know what went wrong, and hopefully I can fix it next month.

Here’s some links to what I talked about:

frostyarn’s etsy shop (Please note her shop is locked because she is prepping for a show in June, but if you don’t mind a little PG-13 rated language, follow her on Instagram. Her work is the bomb.)

Esther Rodger’s corespinning videos (1 of 5) And here is Esther’s website. I actually just remembered that I got to meet Esther once when we were both selling in the Cloverhill booth at Maryland Sheep & Wool, back in 2009 or something. She was wearing a giant circular sleeveless sweater just like the one I’m making, made entirely of artyarn, so I guess I was subconsciously copying her!

Here’s the ravelry page for this spin. You will find all the Nerd Numbers there, including grist for each skein.

Candy Clouds #1 and #2. 

What I didn’t mention in the video because of all my excitement were the aspects that didn’t work. I was happy for this yarn to be thick and thin, which is a good thing, because I’m not very practiced at drafting merino, so there was no way it was going to be even. The downside of this is that my wheel is not really built to handle this kind of artyarn spinning. The yarn liked to get stuck in the oriface at every thick point, and the bumps sometimes got stretched out in the squeeze through, or they caught on the guide hooks. If I try corespinning again on this wheel, I’ll do it with a fiber I feel more comfortable drafting evenly, and/or with a less fluffy, out of control core. I’m already pondering the possibility of someday investing in a portable wheel with large oriface and bobbins for easier artyarn spinning. I could suffer through these difficulties for one spin, but I would hate doing this all the time. Ya need the right tools for the job.

Stay tuned for the last stages of knitting the sweater; I have high hopes of wearing it for Easter morning and being able to write about it. Now I’m off to make some tea, read the Bible, and kick this cold, because I need to be on my feet by Tuesday for the last night of my Big Work Thing. God’s provided for every stage of the Thing so far, so I’m not even worried about it.

Have an amazing Holy Week, and may you see all your dreams surrendered to die with Christ rise again with him someday.

Struggle

I think it was Anne Kennedy who said, in a podcast or something, that “struggle is the Christian world for failure.” I don’t know if she meant that in a negative sense, like it’s the Christianese word, but I’ve found this thought comforting in these past few weeks. I think, “I’m failing at this,” then remember that thought and think, “no, I’m just struggling.” Conversely, it’s also nice to use the word “struggling” and imagine that my hearers don’t just hear some platitude about a bad day, but an honest confession of something balder: nope, I’m really failing at this. 

I’ve been struggling with my Lenten disciplines. 

One of the limits I put on myself was to blog only once a week during Lent. My hope was that this would encourage me to reach out and make more one-to-one contact. It has occasionally, but it’s still deeply instinctive for me to reach for my phone and scroll through Instagram rather than open my contacts. I tried limiting my phone too, but that’s been another total “struggle.”

Last night, I cheated. Just a bit. I’ve been having thoughts about making the occasional video blog, since I have been enjoying spinning videos a great deal lately. Last night I gave it a go. I told myself it was just my Sunday blog done a night early. 

It was surprisingly fun. Well, really it felt incredibly self-indulgent to ramble at a camera about yarn for half an hour. Then it felt even more self-indulgent to watch myself, despite all my ums, my bad hair and the atrocious lighting. It was a very literal form of self-love, and imagining that I could throw these images of myself on YouTube and others would also look and know and love me? Well, it’s the intrinsic delight of “sharing”, but amplified exponentially. 

(If you are reading this and you do a video blog, please don’t imagine I’m accusing you of this mindset. I do presume myself to be the worst of sinners. What’s problematic for me may not be for you. Or maybe it is. That’s between you and Jesus.)

Imagine my frustration, then, when I’ve accidentally spent most of an evening in this pursuit, and I’m about to export my video (including a musical intro and everything), when it doesn’t work. The software I’ve downloaded is – surprise! – a trial version of some kind, and if you try to export without paying a chunk of money, your video has a giant watermark in the middle of your face. A bit of a blockade between me and all my potential adoring watchers. 

You missed out on ten solid minutes of me rambling about this one skein of yarn. Aren’t you heartbroken?


I was frustrated with myself. I could have spent that time spinning! I didn’t want to write all that up into a blog post now; it wouldn’t be the same. I mean, video-making was fun, I learned a lot, and it was good practice for any potential future video projects. I’m sure I’ve wasted evenings doing dumber things. But in the moment, I was pretty bummed. My time is pretty precious these days. 

As I wrote about last week, these unexpected deprivations and “struggles” have been more “Lenten” than even the intentional sacrifices. This is making me stop and ask, why? Why do I want this? Where is this even coming from?

We sang “abide with me” in church this morning, which was a little awkward since it’s an evening hymn, but it touched me right where it counts. “When comforts fail,” said the second verse, “abide with me.” Then we sang “fairest lord Jesus,” in which we enumerate some of my favorite landscapes of home, the meadows and woodlands and the twinkling starry host, then sing “Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer.” And the conviction of having missed this basic truth was overwhelming. The most obvious solution to our bentness is somehow the easiest to forget, because our bentness is so persistent. 

My latest fiber prep last night. It’s gorgeous, but how could I forget Jesus is fairer than this? It’s not a flattering measure of my spiritual intelligence.


The lie is that the temptation will bring life and peace, excitement and freedom; that self indulgence is the same as self care, that following my flesh is the escape from dull duty. The truth is that surrender to flesh is a dead wasteland, where bones go to dry out, where the Spirit is just an offensive, noisy wind. And the duty, if surrendered to, surprises me as a jungle teeming with life and growth and potential. This is what Jesus has been very patiently and repeatedly revealing to me these past weeks. I share it with you in the expectation that you will be quicker to pick up the lesson than I am. 

I definitely got more out of failing to vlog than I would have out of succeeding.

How about you? What are you “struggling” with?

Lenten

I have this habit of using the adjectival form of the season of Lent: “Lenten.” In Rebecca’s private language (my Inuit friends might call it uliipikatitut), “Lenten” means this: anything difficult or a with a sense of privation, with the result of causing reflection.

During Lent, suddenly anything even slightly less than awesome is “Lenten.” It’s not just lame, or underwhelming, or disappointing, or painful. It’s “Lenten.” Having oatmeal for breakfast every day is “Lenten.” Giving up chocolate is “Lenten.” There’s really no deprivation too small or petty for me to apply this adjective to it, nor any reflection too momentary. And believe me, Lent makes me pretty petty and slight.

There’s a converse adjective, too: “not very Lenten.” In uliipikatitut, “not very Lenten” means that it brings enjoyment or satisfaction, with the niggling sense that you shouldn’t be having this good of a time. You saw that in last week’s post: I attempted to do something “Lenten” by switching to vegetarian dinners, but then the dinners were awesome, so they were “not very Lenten.”

This all stems from a childhood steeped in Roman Catholic culture, where we all did our best to give up something small for Lent, then reflected on how our small deprivations were really nothing in comparison to Christ’s sacrifice. I do not mean to criticize this practice; obviously I still practice it. But I think we all had that sense of embarrassment, that we were giving up chocolate to try to be more like Jesus, who died and gruesome and horrible death for our sakes. If the priest played his homily right, it made us squirm just a little bit in the consumeristic religiosity of our materialistic lifestyles.

The point, I think, of my subconscious shift to the use of this adjective, is to try to reframe my complaints. The very ridiculousness of the adjective is self-referential: it points to how petty my wants are, to how small my sacrifices are, to how incredibly focused I get on my own comfort. It’s a way to laugh at myself.

But, tongue-in-cheek though it is, this silly little adjective can come full circle.

My Lenten KAL project is a case in point. I thought it would be “not very Lenten.” After all, it’s a project I’ve been looking forward to for years, with a beautiful pattern from a favorite designer, in a perfectly delicious yarn. (Araucania Huasco, if you want to know – 100% superfine merino, in a plump 3-ply fingering weight. Just perfect for all the texture in this shawl. The pattern is “Galadriel’s Mirror” by Susan Pandorf, and it’s part of her Lord of the Rings “Fellowship of the Rings” series that I am knitting through at a pace that makes a snail look like Speed Racer.)

On the one hand, no, it’s not a very “Lenten” project, objectively. But it’s become Lenten, because I really don’t want to work on it. I actually dread picking it up.

However, once I do pick it up, it’s really enjoyable. I’m into a nice rhythm, the chart is clear, and it’s got lots of nice benchmarks to feel like I’m progressing. The yarn is simply perfect for the pattern, and I’m working it at a good gauge for the needles. I really have no reason to complain.

I just don’t want to pick it up. There’s nothing compelling about it. It takes all my attention, and robs me of time I’d rather be spinning, or at least knitting something more insta-gratifying.

Halfway through Lent and I think I’m halfway through … the first ball of yarn. I’ve already accepted that this is going to be my vacation knitting.


That actually sounds a lot like my relationship with God.

Do you spend time with God every day? I try to. There’s even a Christian-ese (christusimiutitut?) word for this daily practice: growing up, we called it “quiet time.”

I have been reading the Bible all my life, but I still find a strong inner resistance to quiet time. Not when I’m doing it – when I actually connect with God through Bible reading, prayer, meditation, and reflection, it is life and peace and restoration. It is absolutely the fuel that powers me for the rest of my life. But when I’m not doing it, I don’t want to do it. And if I skip a day or two, the resistance becomes harder and harder to overcome. I resist it because there are other things, me-centered things, that I’d rather be doing. I resist it because it demands all of myself; it demands I come out of myself; it demands I be totally real and vulnerable with God. That’s hard. Sometimes I’d rather not face those deep parts of myself, even if it’s to take them to God for help.

So my Lenten KAL shawl is the embodiment of this inner struggle, a physical reminder of how something objectively good and beautiful can be repulsive to me just because it is demanding.

That is what something “Lenten” really is: it makes us face ourselves. It isn’t something that makes us feel good because we have successfully accomplished some feat of asceticism, of self-denial. It’s something that brings us face to face with our own failures, so we have no choice but to accept grace. We can set ourselves up for such encounters by denying ourselves of some comforts, because that tends to bring our failures to the surface. But it isn’t the denial that makes it Lenten: it’s the way God gracefully uses our slightest sufferings to point us to his greatest suffering on our behalf, which provided, once for all, all the grace we’ll ever need.

How about you? Have you had some nice failures with your Lenten disciplines yet? Share your stories in the comments!

Penitence and the Green Dragon

The first two weeks after Ash Wednesday didn’t really feel like Lent.

I tried to be penitential, but my efforts to induce reflective suffering were repeatedly thwarted. The things we gave up – too much phone, TV for the kids – were a relief to be rid of. Putting them down didn’t feel much like a burden, and that space was filled with joy. I even tried to be more penitential with our food, switching breakfast and lunch to something more boring, and sticking to simple, vegetarian, bean-based meals for dinner. But that intentionality accidentally reactivated my cooking mojo, so we were just eating tasty, fun, filling simple dinners.

All that changed a couple of weeks ago, in the buildup to the Big Work Thing’s Biggest Thing. That’s a sort of retreat called the Alpha weekend, part of the Alpha course.

Bobbins filled last weekend.

A big part of being a priest, functionally, is event planning. If I had known that, I probably would have eschewed ministry life entirely, because me and event planning don’t go together well. I felt inspired and called to lead this Alpha, and that’s been widely encouraged, confirmed, affirmed, and supported, but I knew it would be hard for me. I have a ton of prayer support, and awesome leaders and teams to work with, but sometimes it is hard. Especially in the last week and a half. It came out in my Lenten disciplines – rather, at my total failure to keep them.

Two skeins, 6.3 oz. total, and a baby .6 oz. skein of leftover Polwarth.

One of the hardest things about it, although it was also the best, was that God kept sticking his hand into it. Every single week of Alpha, something major has looked like it was not going to work out. But, at the last minute, it kept working out. Either someone would step in and surprise me, or someone I thought would surely say no would say yes, or someone would decide to be more generous than I had any right to expect. I sent a lot of long emails to my prayer team (and am still sending them, because we have a few weeks left).

God keeps coming through, and in ways that make it clear he is invested in this project. What this is teaching me is that I need to honor him and give him the glory for it. That’s what I asked him to do, after all: make it happen if he wants to use it to glorify himself. Why am I surprised that that’s what he did? I think that’s the main reason he keeps waiting for the last-minute save – I don’t think it’s coincidence, and I don’t think he’s doing it just to mess with my head. I think he’s doing it because it says, in a way we can’t ignore, yo, I’m here! This is my kingdom you’re working on, and I’m gonna build it!

Color mixing. This is going to make amazing tiny subtle stripes.

A key moment for me actually came in association with this yarn I’m showing you. I’ve been using spinning as a way to get my mind off the pressures, to relax and even pray when my brain won’t shut down. I’ve been passionate enough about the spinning that it’s been an effective escape. This yarn in particular was a joy to sample and test and decide exactly what to shoot for. I really enjoyed spinning the singles, as the sampling had helped me refine not only my target yarn, but how to relax into the process of making it.

1 skein is consistently 11 WPI; the other is consistently 12 WPI. Total yardage is 356 yd. in 6.3 oz. Avg. grist between them is 907 YPP.

I was really looking forward to plying this yarn. I love plying; it’s that moment when everything comes together for the first time. It’s the final yarn being born, really, and it’s not a terribly long labor.

When the time came to ply, though, there were only a few days left before the Alpha Weekend. Things were getting sorted, but it took until the day before it started for me to even have confidence that all the pieces would be in place at all. Then there’s always the question of how it will go, and if anyone will show up. I was determined to be present, not to run away from the anxiety, but that meant that spinning was not an effective escape. I enjoyed the plying, but it didn’t delight me. I was distracted. The creation of yarn, though a gift of beauty from a creator God and a good thing, was not going to rescue me. The power of the Holy Spirit and the prayers of my friends carried me through, not my coping mechanisms. This might surprise you, but that actually lets me feel much more free to enjoy my coping mechanisms, because it was finally proven to my subconscious that yarn can’t really compete with the power of real relationships. That’s a bit of obviousness I’ve been struggling to internalize, so I’m glad it happened.

The weekend itself went very well. I won’t go into details, but a great number of prayers were answered, and the guidance myself and others had been receiving from God were confirmed. When the event actually started, I was able to be present and calm.

And best of all, the way God had been making his investment in the project felt – by his annoyingly last-minute semi-miraculous contributions – meant that I was completely confident that he would do exactly what he wanted to do in it. The success of an event like this isn’t in the number of people who show up, but in what the Holy Spirit does inside each person, and that can’t be measured, certainly not by me.

I like dragons. I know they’re usually bad guys, both in the Bible and in Tolkein, but I can’t help it. I used to have a little necklace with a dragon on it, and a necklace with a “dragon tear” glass pendant, and I especially liked to wear it during Lent. They gave me two reminders. First, that the great dragon will, along with all evil in the end, put into submission to the God who is good (see Revelation 12, esp. verse 8). Second, that God is in the business of releasing us from our dragonish-ness, like Eustace in Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and that’s pretty much what Lent is for.

Closeup on the polwarth leftovers. Gorgeous, warm, and much more even than the combo ply, but I’m happy with my choices.

I called the samples “dragon eggs” just for their color, and for how cute the mini-skeins looked curled up into fat little twists. I’m calling the final yarn “Green Dragon,” for that color, for all the Lenten dragon-y reasons above, and for the location of the same name in the Shire, a place of much ordinary enjoyment and frivolity.

It can’t be very comfortable being wool that’s in the process of being made into yarn. It’s shorn off its sheepy home, then scalded, brushed, pulled through small holes, and finally stretched out and twisted under tight tension – usually more than once. But then, a warm soapy bath, and ah! The release! And something new and beautiful is born. That is Lent, and this yarn, and this week.

Thank you for reading. And thank you God.

Four Baby Dragon Eggs

Last week you read about how I fell in love with a yarn sample I made, combining a Polwarth top from Pigeonroof Studios with a crazy art batt from Tempting Ewe Yarns, but how it was super-annoying to combo draft them. I went on the hunt for a way to get those same wonderful results, but without the pain in the neck of having to combo draft. I combo plied, but felt kinda meh about it.

My next thought was, maybe I should try prepping the fibers with handcards. Not necessarily fully carding them, just using the cards to make the fibers play a little nicer together, by stretching out some of those blobs of silk noil, and making sure I had an equal amount of Polwarth in the mix.

I floated this suggestion on the Wool N Spinning ravelry group, and Rachel pointed out that this plan could work well, as long as I was okay with the colors blending a lot. I cheerfully contradicted her, saying I suspected the pops from the silk noil would stick around. She, very politely, said nothing, and let experience by my teacher.

While I waited for the cards to come, I had been doing my research, and I had a couple different techniques to draw from. These are the main tutorials I looked at, if you’re interested:

  • This blog post by Karen Kahle talks about just using hand cards to blend, not card, almost like a mini blending board.
  • This knitty article by Lorraine Smith talks specifically about using hand cards to card blended, heathered colors
  • I also read the portion on handcarding in The Spinners Book of Fleece by Beth Smith, which arrived in the mail the day before the handcards.

I had a couple of variables to work out:

(a) rolags, or just an attentuated mini-batt?
(b) two blending passes on the cards, one pass, or just put the fibres on the cards then take them off (no blending)?

So I tried them all.

Above: attenuated mini-batts, taken right off the cards then stretched out diagonally. From right to left: No blending, one blending pass, two passes.

Below: Rolags. From right to left: no blending, one blending pass, two passes.

In the prep stage, I found the actual carding really fun. Putting the fiber on was quick, and I could easily keep track of how much I had left to make sure I was putting on similar amounts of each fiber. Rolags were easier to make than the attenuated mini-batts, and made more sense of what I was doing.

To spin, I arranged them mirror-wise based on how much I was blending: no blending first and last, most blended in the middle – so that, when I plied from a center-pull ball, the most-blended and least-blended portions would match up. I’d have to knit the yarn up to see if there was a difference, of course.

The difference in preparations would really only be evident in the spinning itself. The rolags were more natural to spin, but not necessarily easier. (I’m just spinning everything short-forward-draw right now; I didn’t want to add a less-familiar drafting technique into the mix, even though short-forward is not really what rolags are for.)

I tried to spin the singles evenly, but did not try to control the silk noil very much. I let them pop out and do their thing. The blending on handcards definitely made dealing with them a little easier – a big plus.

I bracelet plied the singles, which is sorta my new favorite thing…

So much so, that I bracelet plied with waaaaay too much singles.

Yes, my middle finger is turning blue.

Here is the new little dragon-egg that resulted.

In the picture above, the third sample is in the middle. In the two pictures below, it’s on the right.

I stared and stared and stared at this trio of samples. I enjoyed carding and spinning the third sample a LOT, but I couldn’t help feeling something was lost in the blending. The noil stood out, but all the other pops of color were gone. I especially missed the pops of blue. This is what Rachel was trying to give me a heads up about.

Frustrated, I went back to the wheel with one more sample idea. Something about the combo ply was bothering me, but maybe I could give it just a little more nuance by doing a combo draft with two strips of the polwarth in one ply and just the art batt in the other.

This time I just spun all the combo-drafted polwarth and immediately followed it with the art batt, as you can see on the bobbin below. Then when I bracelet plied, they plied together. I can only credit luck with the fact that I had maybe four inches of just polwarth plied on itself at the end.

I tried it and, surprise surprise, I really liked the results (far right, below). Not, I think, because of the combo drafted polwarth, but because in the interim – by spinning the punis, mostly – I’d gotten generally better at short forward draft.



Above and below, you can see the four samples clockwise:

  • Top left, sample 1, combo drafted
  • Top right, sample 2, combo plied
  • Bottom right, sample 3, carded
  • Bottom left, sample 4, combo plied, with two strips of polwarth combo drafted in the polwarth single.


Here they are blocked. (They are actually a good bit brighter than this, but got a little washed out by natural light and phone camera.) Again, I stared and stared at them until I didn’t even know what I was looking at anymore. But having gained a little distance on it, here are my conclusions:

  1. The first sample, while attractively uneven in the skein, made a fatty, messy fabric that threatened to pill immediately. Some yarns are just gorgeous to look at and are not really meant to be knit with. There is a place for yarns like this, but not in my life right now. This skein inspired me to look for what I wanted, but ultimately, it did not give me what I wanted when it was knit up.
  2. The second sample was crisp, even, and kept all the idiosyncrasies of color intact. There was a little striping as is inevitable with a combo ply, but that doesn’t bother me. The two ply was tightly plied enough to not be too jagged. This was an important lesson: barber poling looks really stark in the skein, but in the fabric, it turns into wonderful little dots. In this case, those dots stood out just as much as I wanted them to.
  3. The third sample, while gorgeous, looks relatively lifeless next to the others. I enjoyed blending on the hand cards very much, but I can’t live with the loss of all the character the art batt brings to this blend. It’d be perfect for a sweater yarn, which I would want on the calmer side, but not for what I have in mind – a large chunk of stand-out stockinette, either on a large, plain accessory or a large block of a colorblock sweater.
  4. The fourth sample does have more nuance than #2, but more nuance really ends up meaning more grey. I’m going to have more grey anyway because I’m better now at drafting the many parts of the art batt together than I was when I made #2; I don’t really need to add more grey by combo drafting the polwarth.

I learned a lot more from knitting these little samples. Like, for example: this 9 WPI yarn knit up at 4 stitches to the inch (blocked) on US 8s. That’s a bigger gauge than I thought. I will err on the finger side to make it match the gauge of an average commercial worsted weight yarn.

More importantly, I noticed this: the yarns I fought with a little bit were the ones I loved the most. The carded sample was easiest to spin, but the ones where I was struggling against even drafting? Those had the pops of color that I loved. I realized, to get the yarn I love, I need to surrender to the unevenness and unpredictability of this spinning process. I don’t want an art yarn, but I do want a yarn with a little texture. So I should relax, and spin to a sample, but also let the yarn be what it wants to be. The imperfections are what will make me love it. There will be a time for a perfectly even yarn, but that time is not now.

Well, that was quite a drive-by of a post! If you’ve made it this far, thanks so much for spending your time with me. I find this sampling process incredibly informative and motivating. I even had my fifteen minutes of fame when Rachel used my questions about this spin in her latest Wool N’ Spinning radio podcast. That podcast is exclusive to her supporters on Patreon, but if you support her at even 1$/month, you can hear the episodes. Check out her Patreon page; you can hear her reading my goofy post on episode 3.

If you can’t tell, I ended up choosing to spin the combo ply (sample 2 above). And, in the interim between these posts, I’ve spun about three quarters of it. I’m very much hoping it’s finished by next week (though the Big Work Thing has its biggest push this week, so no promises). I can’t wait to ply it up and see how this story ends!

I hope your Lent is off to a good start. By which I mean you’ve already failed miserably and thrown yourself on the mercy of Christ. I know that’s where we’re at in this house. Blessings!

Two Baby Dragon Eggs

Now that my precious punis are DONE DONE DONE! I’m ready to move onto the next project, one that I’ve been meditating on for nearly a month now. I have Lenten meditations, But they’re as yet too personal and informed to really write about well. Can I share these wooly meditations with you instead?

As I was nearing the tail end of the Blendlings, I started to wonder, what should I spin next? I knew I wanted to stay on the two-ply worsted thing, and I’m limited to the fibre stash I brought with me when I first moved up here. A couple of those things I set aside as things I wanted to spin when I got a little more practice, or wanted to blend with something I don’t have with me. That left these two:

SONY DSC

That’s a 100% polwarth braid from Pigeonroof Studios, and an art batt from Tempting Ewe yarns. (both purchased at Maryland Sheep and Wool festival in 2013.) As I stared at them, I realized, you know, they kind of go together. Kind of a lot.

SONY DSC

I pulled them out of their bags and stared at them some more.

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I opened them up and stared at them still more.

You can't see it in this picture, but the underside of the batt is a thick middle layer of kinda mermaid-colored faux cashmere and a bottom layer of a lot of hairy grey wool.

You can’t see it in this picture, but the underside of the batt is a thick middle layer of kinda mermaid-colored faux cashmere and a bottom layer of a lot of hairy grey wool.

I posted pictures of them on the Wool N Spinning group – and then it was all over. All it took was some friendly strangers saying “Those would look totally amazing together!” and I had to do it.

The obvious thing to do was to start sampling.

I’d been doing combo drafting for the Blendlings, so I figured that was the place to start. I pulled off a small piece of batt and pre-drafted it, and I stripped down some top, and I tried drafting them together into one singles, then plying the singles together.

This was an enormous pain. I felt like I was fighting with the fiber the whole time. Spinning an art batt worsted is a ticklish business at the best of times, but doing so while trying to make sure the Polwarth was getting in there felt impossible. “Welp,” I thought to myself, “I’m not doing that.”

I only had one problem. I loved the sample.

Like, I loved it. Doesn’t it look like a fantastical little dragon egg? The unevenness, the pops of color, the round poofiness, the way everything nutty about the art batt is calmed down by the polwarth being drafted into the same ply but not hidden by it… I had to have this yarn. But I knew if I tried to spin it that way, all eight ounces of it, I was just going to hate it. I did not want to do that to myself. I want to stick with spinning this time, and that’s only going to happen if I am having fun.

So the next question was, could I get similar results while spinning in a way that doesn’t make me want to light the fiber on fire? This is a job for… more sampling!

This time I did one ply of Polwarth, and one of art batt, and plied them together. This is called combo plying.

Combo draft (original) on left, combo plied (new) on the right.

You can definitely see the difference. The one on the right preserves all those wonderful colors, but looks much more barber-poley. I have no problem with barber poling, really, but I loved what that little bit of marling the combo ply was doing to the colors.

Ugh! This would not do. What other options do I have?

That’s when I called my mom and asked her to send up my handcards. They got here quite fast, but the two-week wait seemed like forever. Tune in next week to find out what I did when they arrived.

Stepping Back

It’s Ash Wednesday today, but I’m writing this on Shrove Tuesday, for reasons you will soon see.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve become very curved in on myself this winter. I’ve become very focused on myself and my personal pursuits, often to the detriment of attention that my family or others need or deserve. January and February have been my excuse, as well as the Big Work Thing and illness. To be fair, those a pretty good excuses. But I’m better now, work is into a good pattern, and it’s now March. And Lent is a good time for facing down our excuses.

So I’m praying about letting go of a few things for this season of Lent. Do you mind if I share them with you, for accountability purposes? Not because I’m awesome for giving up a lot of things – quite the opposite. These are my struggles, and it’s a season for being real about our struggles.

Probably the biggest will be to cut down on blogging. If you had told me in December that I would write a blog post for every day in January and February, I wouldn’t have believed you. I got into a groove, and it was really fun. However, it takes up a lot of time, and it can be an excuse for me to spend too much time and creative energy on crafting. I won’t stop crafting, but I’ll cut back to one post a week (on Sunday – Sundays aren’t part of Lent, you know). I’m still on Instagram, Facebook, and Ravelry, but we plan to cut back severely on phone usage during Lent as well, so it will be less.

I’ve even become literally inward: I haven’t gotten outside much at all this winter, even though it’s been a much milder winter than last year. I’ve become a little removed from the reality of my geography. So I want to commit to spending at least 15 minutes outside every day during Lent.

You live in the Arctic, Rebecca. Get a grip.


After all this conviction about being curved in on myself, this one is pretty silly, but the timing coincides, and it’s knitterly. I’ll be participating in willfulmina’s chill Lenten KAL on Instagram. The timing was good: since I’ve recently finished several projects, it’s a good time to start a bigger project. I’ve been wanting to knit “Galadriel’s Mirror” by Susan Pandorf for a very long time, and I have some Araucania Huasco I’ve planned for years now to use on it. This is hardly a discipline, and I don’t know that I’ll finish it by Easter, but you may want to participate too, so I thought I’d mention it. Besides, Lent isn’t just a time for giving up bad things, but also for doing positive things, like being outside.

Huasco is a sprongy 3-ply superfine merino, perfect for all those twisted stitches. VERY penitential, I know.


There are other things our family will do to set aside some distractions and renew our commitment to each other. But the above are just practices for me. Jared reminded me yesterday that the point of giving anything up for Lent is to better love God and your neighbor. I hope these will help me make more room to do that.

That said, I’ll miss these daily shares! Thank you so much for reading. That is a very pale expression of the deep appreciation I feel for the time you spend here in my online living room, reading and commenting. 
How about you? How is God calling you out of yourself and deeper into life this Lent?