Thursday, January 22, 2015

Happy Yarn Friends

This week has been pretty mild weather for a January and most of the handknits were shed around noon and put back on when the sun went down. Today, Wednesday the 21st, I'm wearing Durhamknits' Multnomah in a hipster scarf kind of way and it's been keeping the chill off my neck all day. I love the squashiness, the drape, everything about this shawl. I especially love that she was knitting it for me and sent it to me in a giant pile of woolly love from several of my far friends. It's just amazing to find such a pocket of kindness. Hooray for yarn friends!

The warm weather has also been great for getting some work done in the garage. My loom has lived there since we moved in and I've been itching to get her put back together and to have that space as a usable studio, of sorts. The lawnmower still has to live there, but the yard tools and I pretty much live in harmony. The big part is sorting through all the stuff that never quite got moved into the house, getting rid of what can be got rid of and putting away the rest of the things into their right places. I put up shelves and did some organization and it's so very close to being cleared out enough for my loom.

I made the shelves just high enough for me to reach and put things up and take them down again by myself. I need to replace the boards, but those are good enough for now. There's a ways yet to go and it won't be done until spring, but I did manage to find all of my fabric.

Some spinning got done, too, and I finished my very first gradient yarn as part of Project Make. I'd considered making the two skeins fraternal, but dear Bekah convinced me to spin them up the same. That's what friends are for, right?

I love this picture so much. It's the happiest thing and the colors are perfect for a winter-weary Jess. This is about 200yds of Z-spun, S-plied WTF?IDK batt with so much sparkle, that there is a German Sparkle Party somewhere that wants its yarn back. It's about 11wpi, or about a DK weight, though the yellowest parts may slide into fingering weight. It's Navajo plied, which isn't a new technique to me, but one that I haven't used very much. I like it for this kind of color gradation, but the WTF?IDK batt wasn't as evenly spun as other fiber preps, so sometimes the yarn got weird on me where the switchback was on the chain. I'm pretty sure nobody calls it a switchback, but I couldn't think what else to call the part of the chain that goes through the loop and back again. It's like a switchback road, Y? N?

Well, not much knitting has been done this week, though I did get past the heel in the Fork in the Garbage Disposal socks. I like the heel! Ding-ding-ding-a-dinga-ding-ding! But I may try to find a way to avoid the provisional cast-on in the middle. It did get a little fiddly. What I have been working on is the Ripple Afghan. I'm totally in love with it and I can't think of anything else right now. Though I'm cuddled up in its much older brother right now, Mr. Rippley has been my morning coffee friend, as has a far friend up Nort' who is a retired teacher and a delightful woman. We're stay-at-home bros.
So that's really about all that's been going on, though it's all been very intense. I did get my new glasses and I'm starting on a small sewing project, which I'll probably talk about next week. Until then, I'm going to peruse ideas for small projects to make with fabric scraps because some destashing has to happen there, too.

This week's technique:

  • A provisional cast-on a la Lucy Neatby. I needed this one for the Fork in the Road socks and just picked a provisional cast on out of the proverbial hat. This one served just fine, but was a little fiddly. It could be user error because it wasn't a technique I'm terribly used to and I wasn't accustomed to stopping in the middle of a sock to cast on and re-join. 

I've been working on:

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Yarn for Mama

This week started out colder than... a very cold thing and I was glad to have my Man Sweater and Nymphalidae to cuddle up in, among other things. I think I've worn the Honeycomb mitts that Bekah made for me more than I've worn anything else this week. Most of it is kind of a woolly blur, though. That, and the ripple afghan, which seems to be plugging along. I'm about halfway through the yarn I have for it, which should make it a goodly couch-sized blanket.

"This is a tag. It says, 'Yarn for Mama.'"
I'm already plotting other afghans (all the afghans) because the weather has just been that way. That and knee warmers and/or leg warmers, but there's some waffling about how I'd wear them: under the jeans or over the jeans? Both?

Color Affection has also been wafting in and out of my yarny fantasies. I already have the yarn and Bekah and Koren and I are going to do a little along using the same colors in several different yarns. I don't remember how that happened, exactly, because I bought the yarn some time ago before Color Affection was on my radar. It could be Fate or serendipity or... the Universe's odd sense of humor. IDK, man, I just work here. Anyway, I'm at the point where I want to finish some stuff up before I go casting on a bunch of things.

Movin' right along.
The EZ sweater is also plugging along, but unless you're interested in miles of stockinette, there's really not much to report there. I do love the color, though, and I don't mind having some knitting I don't have to think about.

It's also been rainy, which is pretty great for any dyeing shenanigans I may be getting up to. Rain water, while the slight acidity might affect the color, won't affect the color quite so much as our hard water. Certain minerals will sadden, or darken, the dye and I don't particularly want that. It's going to be an adventure since I only kind of know what I'm doing.

Between the many several books on dyeing with natural dyes and the internet, I think I can handle it. I am a scientist, after all, and we're trained for this sort of thing.

In Project Make news, I'm spinning the most fabulous of singles out of the most fabulous of happy warm colors (see above re: weather). I'd been saving it for when I needed a break from browns, blacks, and greys and the middle of a rainy January seemed like the exact right time to pull it out. I'd meant to do some fractal spinning, but I had a derp about how much fiber actually goes on my bobbins and ended up filling the whole bobbin entirely up. I don't have bigger ones, so I'll probably Navajo ply it to preserve the color gradation. I could do the second half of the fiber the same way or I could try something else with it. I'll likely end up doing it the same way so they can be yarn friends.

This Week's Technique:

  • Invisible braided join: I've been looking for joins for yarns that don't felt and came across this little gem. As far as I can tell, it really is invisible and I'm very pleased with how easy it is to do, requiring no spit at all, and it's very very strong. 

I've been working on:

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Including the Kitchen Sink

The New Year's cast-on a-thon went very well and I'm even a little ways into the socks now. The baby sweater had to be ripped and re-knit after having overlooked some of the increases and the sweater is going to make good tv/morning coffee knitting if I get bored with the crochet blanket I'm working on now. My dear Bekah has finished her blanket already, so I feel the urge to catch up. Of course, I'm ahead of her on the BFF cowl, so...

I had a rough day this week. Little Miss Bu is no more than two and, as two year olds go, she's about the chillest that you will find anywhere.

But she's still two. The confluence of a difficult potty day for her and a case of the crankies for me meant that there weren't nobody happy (to put it in the manner of my people).

While I was still having the crankies, I did manage to retreat to the bedroom where the drum carder is and did up one of the Sheep of Unknown Provenance (SoUP) batts. They are now all carded and ready for the next stage of their woolly adventure. Husband kept Miss Bu out of my hair and I worked on not being quite so grouchy. The scritch-scritch of the carder is kind of soothing, actually. The moral of this story is that Husband is awesome and fiber arts are necessary for mental health. Miss Bu has been pretty excellent the rest of the week and even went with me to see my former professor, whom we shall name "Mr. Andy." She loved the science building and was fascinated by his library of science books.

Unrelatedly, there was plumbing this week. It wasn't strictly necessary plumbing, but two parts of my kitchen sink have been annoying me since we moved in, so I replaced them. It's not the most attractive of design choices, but I'll take improved functionality over aesthetics when it comes to plumbing. Not that aesthetics don't matter, but this fix was under $20 and I hate my sink much less now. There's a certain sense of accomplishment when you successfully do plumbing things on your own. As you can see, I've also started painting spots with a sample of the color I want the kitchen to be. I think I'm in love.

The reclaimed silk also got washed and ironed. It has a lovely sheen to it and I can't wait to start on it. The first thing up for the blue silk will be practicing hand-rolled hems.

But before I do that, I'm getting my eyes checked. No lie, mere hours before I listened to the Knitmore Girls' Episode 314: Dessert First, I had decided to make an eye appointment. They both strongly urged us to get our eyes checked in the Mother Knows Best segment and I could not help but think, "How timely!" We go on Sunday.

This week, I've finished:
I've been working on: 

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Project Make Begins!

I've been really excited about this and I've kind of kept a lid on it, but now it's time to let the cat out of the bag, to release the canary from the cage, to free Willy, to--
Calm yourself, Jess. Deep breath. Tell the people what Project Make is. 
Right, okay! Here we go!

Project Make is a personal commitment to excellence in the textile and visual arts. Over the course of 2015, participants will choose projects that are challenging and produce works that are of the highest quality.  Projects can't have been started prior to January 1st, 2015, and must result in a tangible object. If you would like to play along, tag your project with #projectmake on Instagram, G+, or in Ravelry, or you can drop a comment here at the blog about something you are producing that is challenging to you in some way or that demonstrates the best of what you can do.

By the end of 2015, this commitment to excellence will not only help us to produce better works, but will help us be better ourselves. Maybe we're not going to the moon or winning an Olympic medal, but we're gaining confidence and fighting stagnation. Maybe I'll make three things this year, maybe I'll make thirty, but by the end of 2015, I'll know I've done my best work. I was going to quote something profound from some great author or philosopher about facing challenges and doing your best, but really, the words that really expresses what I'm trying to say come from my junior year high school English teacher:

"Don't go out with your curlers in."

In other words, don't save your best for a special occasion. Shine your light every day. Wear your fabulous hairdo to the grocery store. Make your best stuff and if it doesn't turn out as awesome as it could be, learn from it and do better next time.
There are going to be days when you just don't want to get out of your pajamas and that's okay. The idea is not to kill yourself to produce masterpieces or to beat yourself up about mistakes, but rather just to do the best you can do this year.

As an extra added bonus, my Project Make items are going to go up for sale on Etsy at the end of the year and you'll have an opportunity to own a piece of the action.

Follow me on Instagram @delphinianjess
on Ravelry as Delphinian
and on G+ I'm +Jessica Matz

Saturday, December 27, 2014

It's been a while

I've had quite a hiatus from this blog and I've been wanting some space that's my own to talk about things like the upcoming Project Make. I'm hoping to make a habit of writing again, but mostly I want to show you pretty pictures of pretty things. It's been a helluva year and one which has shaped me in profound ways. Rather than being glad to see the tail end of 2014, I want to offer my gratitude to this year's difficulties. Thank you, 2014, for teaching me so much and for allowing me the opportunity to grow stronger.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Clear sight and green rage monsters

So, it turns out I have gestational diabetes. This comes as no surprise at all, given not only my family history, but that offspring #1 was whatchacall a big baby. It's been a very frustrating several weeks because my relationship to food has had to change drastically and far more quickly than I'm really comfortable with. I don't have enough time to slowly develop good habits over months, not that I don't already have good habits, but rather that I don't have optimal habits for a diabetic. Even so, I'm making a concerted effort for good health and that means wrestling with dieticians and counting carbs and testing when I should.

I love food so much. There's so much sensory information in a meal and, if you're doing it right, the experience can be one of the most pleasurable things in life. But counting carbs is frustrating and leaves me feeling deprived. Giving up my morning marshmallow cereal wasn't that big of a deal and we're already getting past ice cream season, but my big hangups are fruit and pasta. That's my kryptonite.

Gratuitous shot of a butterfly from our garden
that has nothing to do with this post. It's just pretty.

My two best friends had a conversation with each other about which of us would be what Avenger and they both decided in my absence that I'd be Dr. Bruce Banner. Of course there's the science thing, but really it's because I have the tendency to turn into a giant green rage monster (figuratively speaking) and even though I really try as hard as I can not to, I don't always have a handle on it. They didn't put it that way or even think about it in quite that way, but the correlation is not inaccurate.

Getting your spiritual act together is all about awareness and that's one of the biggest lessons I had to learn as I became a priestess. But it's not the kind of lesson you can learn just the once and get on with your new, enlightened life. It's work to keep developing the skill of self-awareness and applying the knowledge you've gained from it. One of the blessings of Apollo is that of clear sight: the ability to see things as they actually are without your preconceived ideas and emotions clouding everything. The emotions and ideas are still there, you can just see them for what they are and how, exactly, they obscure what's actually going on.

I made the mistake of letting my frustration get in the way of working toward better health. I hulked out without realizing what I was doing until after it was over and good, calm, logical, mild-mannered Bruce came back, feeling a little ashamed at letting the other guy get the better of him. It wasn't like I leveled a city block or literally smashed anything; I just got a little frustrated and let it get in the way of seeing what was really going on. All you can do at that point, even if you have leveled a city block or something, is take a deep, cleansing breath, try to figure out what happened, learn from it, and move on. So that's what I've decided to do: learn and move on, do better next time. I hope for the blessings of Apollo, not only for good health, but also so that I can see clearly what I can do to get there. 

At this point, I've got things more or less under control and it was my reasoned self that was able to do that rather than my emotional, reactive self. Reactivity is hardly ever helpful or useful and I have something to say about that in regards to how one responds to something that's offensive to one's religious beliefs, but perhaps for another post, eh?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Next on, "As the Seasons Turn..."

Last Sunday was one of those lovely September days and I spent part of it planting some recently-acquired berry bushes out by the back fence. I'm tickled pink that I can plant things in the ground in a space that's my own. I have plans of acquiring my Mamaw's irises and some irises and day-lilies from my BFF. One of these days, I'll get some native cane to plant by the road, but Sunday was for berry bushes and weeding the front garden. I've added some mums and cleared out around the existing mums that came with the house. I'm also inordinately thrilled that I have roses and my zinnia have just exploded after having planted them in the middle of a drought. I wasn't sure they were going to survive and now they're busting out in gorgeous oranges and yellows and white. I'd love to get some hyacinth, too, and maybe some tulips. I have some catnip in pots and some marigolds that, much to my surprise, survived the move.

There will definitely be an herb/vegetable garden out back and I've already got a rosemary bush just starting out. Next year, there will be basil, parsley, and thyme if I'm feeling adventurous. I've not had great luck with thyme, but I'm willing to keep trying until I find the right spot for it. There will also be tomatoes and probably odd little squashes or melons volunteering from the compost pile. I've got plenty of pots for mints and might also plant some in places John can't reach with the mower so that it'll crowd out the grass.


Here are some mums that came with the house, but were so covered up by the holly bush, the juniper, weeds, and the ground cover plant to the right (phlox, I think) that it only put up a few feeble leaves. Now it looks like it's going to bloom!

I can't not plant things in the ground. This is probably as much a part of my religion as prayer or belief in the Theoi. I find that when I spend time outside in the sun watching, listening, and working in nature that my stress levels go so far down as to approach nil. It's this that led me both to a career in Biology and to Paganism. I'm happiest in the garden or running around in the woods or chasing butterflies on the side of a mountain.

My dear Hellenic friend, Sean, discusses the intersection between Hellenic Polytheism and both the natural cycles of his Floridian climate and the festivals of the Great American Polis on his blog. And he's got the right idea, if you ask me. Imposing an Athenian festival schedule on a Tennessean climate is artificial and doesn't work. The gods are a part of nature and in order to really get the full experience of them, it's important to understand what's going on outside your window.