Dec 31, 2009

In the final hours of 2009, Silver stands alone

Ah, December 31. Day of blog posts that sum up the year or anticipate the coming year; day of writing and sharing and tweeting and talking about the past and future, what was and what's to be.

You won't find any of that here this year. I'm blogging — briefly — about the present.

New Year's Eve is an extremely personal holiday for me. For me, as for many others, it's a time for introspection and reflection — two things I've always held dear, as part of my core self and as among the most useful tools in my personal bag of tricks. That self-identification with quiet inward thought is why I have nothing to share here about what I'll be doing next year, and nothing to share on how I felt about 2009. Tomorrow, perhaps, I will have something to say to those outside my head about what was and what and where I'd like to be. Or maybe it will take a few weeks. Maybe it won't be until my birthday in January that I post here what others are posting now; or heck! Maybe I'll wait until the Chinese new year (I am half Chinese, after all).

New Year's Eve is a time of meditation, peace, and self-acceptance for me, in which I begin the process of digesting and understanding where and how to lead myself in the coming year. It's a little like hibernation — but even more like the chrysalis stage of a caterpillar-turning-butterfly's life cycle. It looks like I'm doing nothing, but invisibly, on the inside, things are moving, reshaping themselves, transforming. When I emerge on the other side of the year-change, there will be change inside me, too; but unlike with the butterfly, my transformation will remain invisible. And I'll have the rest of a fresh new year to bring those changes into the light, where others can see them.

And I'm not much different from anyone else in the basics of the holiday; we're all thinking about change, progress, making things greater and better and more wonderful.

So happy transforming, dear butterflies. Let there be peace on Earth and in everyone's hearts, for as long as it takes to gather the strength for the future. See you on the other side.


Dec 28, 2009

Business success with the Blonde Chicken

Tara at Blonde Chicken Boutique did a teleconference today for crafty small-business owners, in which she talks about how she quit her day job, how she organizes her business and finances, where she got her experience, the rise of Blonde Chicken Boutique, branding her business, designing a product line, books and software that help her run things smoothly, friendly marketing ... and tons of other stuff. Seriously valuable information for people who own their own crafty business or who are considering starting one, straight from someone who's grown her own successful crafty business from scratch.

You can still go download the recording for free ... Why not? It's full of sensible advice and, you know. It's free. ;)

S&C gets a little greener with the 350 Challenge

treelookingupCheck out that freshly-placed button over there in the right column — you know, the one that reads "My Blog Fights Climate Change." That means this little captain's blog here is responsible for offsetting 350 pounds of carbon, in cooperation with the kindly Brighter Planet and campaigns. According to Brighter Planet, "that's like flicking off 100 light bulbs for a day, or going two full weeks without your car."

If you're not sure what a carbon offset is, the technical definition is clogged with legalese, but at the root, it means someone out there is running a project meant to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and if you've purchased or otherwise spawned a carbon offset, you've decreased the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the Earth's atmosphere.

Whether you believe global warming is a problem isn't the issue, either. We humans are fallible, with limitations to our understanding of how we impact the world and the people around us. The world is a complicated place. But it's a reasonable, logical, testable idea that if we change something, it will bring about change elsewhere. And the global increase in carbon emissions as cultures across the world adopt new technologies is definitely a change.

So until we do understand exactly how our carbon emissions are affecting the world we live in, it makes sense to minimize them.

If you want to help, you can visit the 350 Challenge and get your own badge, and your own carbon offsets. All you need is a blog and a little willingness to contribute to positive forward motion and thoughtfulness.

Dec 22, 2009

Emergency creative unsticking (4 ways to escape a rut)

This morning appears to be full of what Debby (of Starbaby Readings and Gems) would call serendipity. Maybe the world is sending me a message, or maybe my internal whinging has finally activated my info-magnetic powers. The theme this morning: Unstick yourself, so you can go out and do great things.

First I came across Fabeku Fatunmise's free sacred sound download, which he entertainingly calls "From ack! to awesome in less than 10 minutes." The mere act of listening to his free-but-not-skimpy sound clips is supposed to make events MOVE again, and they're free, and I could use a little forward motion, so what the hey — I'll give it a go, and I'll post here with my results. (It's actually a little scary imagining that listening to drumming would loosen the giant mess of stuck that I currently live in. If it really were that easy, that would be mind-boggling.) That's Unsticking Method #1: Listen to good music.

Not half an hour later, I found the Destuckification Station through Victoria Brouhard's latest blog post, on how it's not good to do things just because they're "good for you" (with which I completely agree, on principle and also because I know better but maddeningly keep doing things for the wrong reasons anyway).

Normally, I'm turned off by the "big long Web page of why you should buy this more than $50 product" marketing tactic that Destuckification uses ... but! Ms. Brouhard credits them with preventing "major freakouts"; their pitch isn't 10 pages long; the sales copy is written sensibly and is well-edited; the Web design is pleasant-looking; and there's a buy-back guarantee. No, I haven't bought the package, but I'm seriously considering buying it as a gift for someone who could use rescuing from some serious freaking out. ;) (I assume that "If you don't love it, I'll buy it back" would apply in the case of "He loves it so little he isn't using it at all.") That's Unsticking Method #2: Spend time in good, unstuck company.

The above two links popped up while my boyfriend and first-mate-in-business was writing his "morning pages" — three pages of stream-of-consciousness to get the crap out of his head and into a place where he can start to sort things out that don't normally want to come to light. It's part of the creativity-growing process outlined in Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way — a book about unsticking yourself if ever there was one, although it's about powerful results rather than instantaneous ones. The "morning pages" technique, by itself, seems like it would go a long way toward bringing a stuck person closer to becoming a sane person, and it takes maybe an hour a day, which is a small investment for a big payoff, if it works for you. So that's Unsticking Method #3: Write your heart out, and don't worry about getting it "right," being appropriate, or being coherent.

And while I was writing this post, my Twitter stream kindly tossed me a 90-second clarity exercise from Gaiam, meant to help us become more comfortable with our uncomfortable feelings by accepting them as real, valid parts of our lives — part of the experience of being human. So that's Unsticking Method #4: Accept yourself and your situation, so you can have room to breathe.

So okay. I wanted to get a lot done this morning. Instead, I just might be building my toolkit for getting a lot done in the next weeks, months, year — years?

If things continue like this, I may even start an Unstick-Along. You know, like a knitalong, but in the end, instead of having a nice, fuzzy, handknit object, you have a nice, fuzzy, warm feeling of empowerment and creativity. ;D

Dec 21, 2009

Help us win a grant, and you could win $250!

(Possible) money for everybody this holiday season! ;)

Here's the deal: Help us win a $5,000 small business grant, and you could win a $250 Visa gift card. Is that cool, or what?

The rules for the "Love a Local Business Holiday Challenge" are so:

1. Nominate a small business for the grant. (Okay, you don't have to nominate us — you can nominate any business you like! We'd like it if you help us out, but we won't be mad if you don't. ;))
2. E-mail the business with a link to the Love a Local Business contest page and let them know you nominated them — and don't forget to CC Intuit on the e-mail.
3. You'll get a confirmation message from Intuit letting you know you're entered.

Pretty easy! So head on over to Intuit and make your nomination! If you do help us out, search for Star and Crossbones in Palm Harbor, FL. We won't show up on the Google map since we don't have a physical store (...yet?), but we're in there!

The Holiday Challenge ends on December 31, so you might as well go over right now while you're thinking about it, right? ;)

Hollywood creativity needs an upgrade (part one)

Today, some commentary on the interesting brand of creativity that Hollywood and the big-budget entertainment producers send out into the world. This is part one; I have another link to blather about, but it didn't seem to fit here, so I'm saving it for another post.

First, there's a thoughtful review of Avatar on io9 that says the movie’s plot is basically the old “enlightened white people selflessly sacrifice popularity in their own culture to save the natives whose culture they’re destroying and become popular in the other culture” cliché — with the novel addition of “in SPACE!” ;) You may want to avoid the review if you're a spoiler Nazi who hasn’t seen the movie yet, though most of the "spoilers" are pretty darn general plot descriptions that should come as no shock to people familiar with American speculative fiction and adventure movies. Anyway, it's worth checking out.

Although I haven’t seen the movie yet, the review points up the fact that even as Hollywood tries to push the known boundaries of technology, methodology, and special effects, they tend to get into plot and idea ruts.

The article is interesting to me on several counts: I studied anthropology in college, I have an interest in diversity, and I’m half of non-Western descent. I’m also interested in creativity, whether it’s the creativity of famous directors, yet-unknown indie business owners, or amateur artists who never intend on showing their work outside their home.

If the review is as correct as I think it is, it makes some pretty important points. For fans of diversity and fans of creativity, both, it’s worth noting that Hollywood could use a fresh infusion of cultural awareness … and since the super-visible mainstream has been taking a lot of cues from the indie world lately, there’s a niche to be filled here, people! Go forth and be culturally diverse, create a multiplicity of perspectives, and market them well, so when the big-budget companies catch on, you can proudly point to your work and say, “I did it first!” ;)

Also, this is probably a good time to bring up Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea novels, in which Le Guin has outright said racial diversity is a crucial element. The Slate article linked in the previous sentence talks about the bizarre white-ifying of her main character in the Sci-Fi Channel Earthsea miniseries, but more importantly, it talks about successes and lost battles in trying to get the entertainment industry (in which I'm including books) to stop being afraid of non-white characters. Her experiences support the idea that there is a real tendency in American filmmakers and entertainment marketers to try to cater to an audience that supposedly won't understand the world unless it's framed by a white person's perspective.

Not that white people's perspective is valueless — but it's pretty ludicrous to let one perspective dominate our entertainment choices in what’s supposed to be a “melting pot” country.

And come on, entertainment industry. There's no lack of money available to big Hollywood producers and directors, and there's a lot of complete drivel out there to show that you're willing to throw money away. Why not go ahead and invest in something that really deserves buzz words and phrases like "bold," "daring" and "like nothing you've ever seen before"?

There are probably some good movies, books, TV shows, etc., out there already that show a genuinely non-white perspective, too, with non-white main characters moving through a plot that isn’t based on “one culture destroys another” (or the ever-popular “look how different we are but we’re really the same” theme). Recommendations, anyone?

Part two of "Hollywood creativity needs an upgrade" coming soon in another blog post. In that one, I'll write about the strange, creative vision Hollywood has of the human body.

ARTpool art/craft/vintage show + yarn + a preview

Here's what the sky looked like as we drove to the ARTpool art/craft/vintage show on Saturday morning:

On the way to the show

The day was forecast to be rather cool for this area, but it turned out as wishy-washy as the weather in St. Pete usually is: It alternated cloudy/cool and sunny/warm. The turnout for the show was pretty good, compared to the other shows we've done this year, and we made lots of contacts and new friends, including Jennifer Wunderlich of iWunder on Etsy. Alas, your dear captain was too enchanted by the pottery booth across the way, the discontinued fabric sample books, and the other sparklies and pretties at the show to remember to take any pictures. Doh. Suffice to say it was a really fun show, and we hope to do a bunch more shows with ARTpool in the future, if they'll have us!

I did spin most of the singles that turned into this yarn while I was at the show, too:

Handspun yarn: Sunset

And while we're talking about fluffies, here's a preview of the fiber that will turn into the yarn that will turn into the magical wristwarmers pattern I posted about here a couple weeks ago:

Another sparklywool photo

Tune in again soon for more babbling on creativity. I've got a few future posts bubbling in the back of my head (and in still-in-progress Word documents).

Dec 14, 2009

To save the world, create

The latest installment of Holly Lisle's TalysMana, a novel draft that she's writing "live" and sending out to subscribers, made me laugh because it mentions fandom, although not by that name. I've wanted to do that in a piece of non-fanfiction since shortly after I learned what fanfiction is, so ... good on Holly for doing yet another thing I've been wanting to do. ;) Aside from writing and publishing books, TalysMana itself is a bit like an idea I've had knocking around in my head for a while — but, you know, it exists. I just had some vague notion of combining writing and jewelrymaking, but she and her daughter are actually doing it. (And soon I'll be launching my knitting+fiction project, which has a similar bent, but that's for another post. While I'm on a tangent, though, go visit TalysMana and subscribe. It's just getting juicy and you have six chapters to enjoy while waiting for the next.)

The main reason I'm writing this post is that in the latest chapter of TalysMana, the talented Ms. Lisle also touches on an idea I once supported (or at least considered reasonable) — but until tonight I'd forgotten why I ever thought the idea made sense. The idea: The universe is locked in a forever battle between entropy and creation, and generally speaking, as creatures of life, for us, entropy = bad.

I know why I forgot how to believe in that idea; I forgot to believe in it because I started thinking of entropy as a purely scientific concept, or more specifically, a thermodynamic concept. Entropy is involved in the melting of ice, to use Wikipedia's example, and ice melting isn't exactly a villainous act. So I forgot why entropy had ever = bad, and the concept started to seem completely melodramatic.

But tonight, Holly Lisle's novel-in-progress reminded me that what we create is part of reality — quite literally. What you think in your head, what you write in your journal ... Those things may be private, but they still exist, and if you think about all the negativity that people nurture in themselves, in others, even in private ... It does start to seem like there must be an enormous amount of negativity out there. Now, if you believe that every act of imagination is contributing to the current reality, then self-help starts to seem like a bigger deal — "Your focus determines your reality" turns into "Your focus helps determine everyone's reality," and goshdarnit if creativity doesn't start to seem like a power to wield with responsibility.

The idea of collective mood isn't that far-fetched, either — MoodViews tracks Livejournal moods and creates a collective mood report, and I seem to recall a collective mood widget for the Mac OS Dashboard, that took the form of a strangely mesmerizing, color-changing glowing dot...

Anyway. Tonight I re-realized that entropy = bad is really the flip side of creativity = good. Creativity, if you mean it in a certain sense, contributes to collective positivity. It adds something good to reality. It makes the world a brighter place. Even if no one sees what you do, your creativity still exists, and if you believe in a higher power of any kind, or if you believe in the Whole in a sort of Zen way, your creativity matters because it's visible from a distance as a building block in the Grand Scheme of Things. If enough people choose to create, then the universe is a more creative place. If enough people choose to destroy, the universe becomes a more destructive place. Heck, don't stop at the universe — all of Existence is built of these wee molecular structures, and to a large extent, you can choose what your addition to the Whole looks like.

So there's a good reason to go ahead and create, even if someone else has been there before you; even if you don't think anyone will care; even if you know no one will ever see it.

Create because it is good. Create because you are giving life to something positive. Create because you choose to give the gift of something beautiful, or meaningful, or fun, to the whole of reality. Create because you live, and your life needs to be spent in some fashion, and when it comes down to it, would you rather have spent it negatively? Or would you rather be able to look back and say, "I brought something good to this place, in my own way, as best I could"?

That's what it means when people say "Only you, of all the people in creation, can do what you do."

You can create, or you can destroy. We all do a little of each, but when you have a chance to shape your little part of the Whole, which one will you choose to do?

Dec 13, 2009

By the power of blogging...

...I am He-Man?

Okay, I'm not, but I am joining Connie Ragen Green's 30-Day Power-Blogging Challenge. The challenge: to write at least 30 blog posts between December 7 and January 7.

This will hopefully assuage my grumbling ego, which is annoyed that I wrote a measly one day during this year's NaNoWriMo. (Seriously. Sailing through NaNoWriMo the first year has been really bad for my subsequent NaNoWriMo productivity.)

One of the requirements for the blogging challenge is that only posts of 100+ words count toward the goal of 30. This is having an odd effect on me, as I don't want to cheat, so I'm actually editing words out of my sentences to avoid feeling like I'm padding them.

Similarly, I'm pretty sure completely fluffy posts fall outside the intended scope of the challenge, so I may be less inclined now to post completely random, spastic content. You're welcome?

By the way, today is the last day to vote in the poll over there on the top right. Feel free to go click a couple of times and give me some valuable insight into you, my very important visitor. You matter, because the collective "you" now pay my paycheck. Vote!

Dec 12, 2009

Looking for gamers to get free stuff!

Are you a gamer? Would you like some free stuff? We need one intrepid player of D&D, or any other game that involves rolling dice to get character stats, to volunteer their character information ... and in exchange, you'll get a completely one-of-a-kind knit object or accessory. Still not sure? You get to help us decide what kind of knitthing you get.

Come on. You know you want it. You know you're curious. You KNOW YOU WANT IT!

Okay, maybe not. But if you want even a smidge of a chance at a nifty free thingie designed just for you, hop on over to the Star and Crossbones Facebook fan page and leave us a comment or a wall post. Or, if you absolutely must use the e-mail, then drop us a line at crystal (at thingie here)

Come to the knit side ... We have warm fuzzies...

The importance of limitlessness

I came across an article on SparkPeople today that points out something that's been a personal peeve of mine for years — since before it even applied to me, even. I've seen adults doing it since before I officially counted as one, and it bothered me as much then as now: We encourage kids' seemingly limitless potential but neglect to recognize our own. It's as if we believe that as we get closer to dying, we become narrower people. (That's a funny thing to believe simultaneously to "The older I get, the wiser I am than those kids are" alongside "Kids have innate wisdom," but humans are nothing if not contradictory ... Anyway, I digress.)

Dickinson writes in her article that one possible reason behind this self-limiting attitude is our corner-of-the-eye awareness that we have responsibilities and duties — which kids don't have yet, so they're free to dream of anything while we're shackled to reality. Sound familiar? It should, because I hear it all the time, from virtually everyone, mid-life crisis sufferers excepted: You gotta do what you gotta do. If I didn't have a wife and kids, I'd be out there following my dreams. Today the money has to go to bills; maybe tomorrow there will be some for living.

It's the creed of the modern adult, although some people manage to escape it.

And that's what ties this all in to creativity and small business. I started Star and Crossbones, I even named it for pirates and an age-old symbol of dreams-as-in-goals, as a way to remind myself that I am in control of my own destiny, that I have the potential to do anything I choose to do, that I shouldn't let myself be shackled by the weight of responsibility and duty and social or moral expectation. No, I never meant "Screw ethics and morals, I'll do what I want." A pirate can follow his own moral code; but he writes it for himself, and be damned to anyone who doesn't understand it or see it. No one else has to see it for it to be real.

That's what I've been missing for the past two years — or few years; I may even have been missing it from the moment I chose to go to the college my father wanted me to go to, the moment I chose to stay close to home rather than leap into the risky unknown (unknown except that even my father knew the far-away place was perfect for me. I wonder, if I had gotten into Yale, would he have said that, too, was too expensive?). Maybe I was even missing it before then, too; but I remember having it at some point — the feeling that I have potential and it's not just my right but my primary duty to chase that potential down. For the past few years, but especially in the two that I let myself be chained to a soul-eatingly irrational office job, I've been missing that feeling, that I can do things greater than what I'm doing now, and that in those things lies the ultimate pursuit of happiness.

I've even been missing it in the past few months, since I quit the aforementioned ill-fated office job. I left that place with the intention of seeking out and finding all the spirit I'd lost, and life has done its darnedest to throw negativity and obstacles in my way — emotional ones rather than monetary ones so far, but the dreams I'm really chasing in this return-to-self/return-to-creativity business are emotional, not financial or physical. And I've let those obstacles drag me back down into the feeling that I have to deal with my responsibilities first, even if it means once more delaying my happiness and fire-hearted dream-chasing.

What a shame and a waste! writes Dickinson.

Yes. It is a shame and waste.

And I am not, of all things, built to be either shamed or wasteful.

If we were limited to the gifts and talents we developed as children, many of us would never discover the wonderful things in store for us, Dickinson continues. During the next few weeks I challenge you to break that pattern of self-destruction.

I can't, as she suggests, use my children as inspiration; I don't have any. But I want to take her up on her challenge — I need to meet it. I need to break my own self-imposed limits. I need to explore the world again, and feel like my exploration matters for the sheer positivity that exploration embodies. And I need to start as soon as I can — no waiting for the mythical "right moment," no waiting for just a little more inspiration to hit.

So. If I go crazy, if I throw out erratic, creative, artistic, non-businesslike ideas and run around like a chicken with a paintbrush, if I disappear for weeks on end and then re-emerge with a fully-grown, certifiably gargantuan project in my hands, and ignore all my carefully-laid business plans for the sake of being me again and learning to dream again, recognize that for what it is, and maybe take a little of the crazy home to roost with you.

Because even if it's unbusinesslike, my personal creed and the force that drove me to start this business in the first place both demand that I take the time to be a little nuts — or a lot nuts. An elephant-sized mound of nuts. Because when it comes down to it, if in the end I fail — at making a living, at having a successful business, at becoming rich and famous, at being financially solvent and having a big house with a room for every craft — I'd rather fail because I was busy following my heart than fail because I was too miserably busy to listen to it.

Get this ship ready to sail; we're going a-pirating.

Dec 10, 2009

Vote on our next big project!

For those of you who are on Facebook, there's a new poll up on our fan page that will help me decide what structure to give the fiction + knitting project idea that's knocking around in my head right now. If all goes as planned, it should be released in January — and your vote will tell me what I need to do with the project to make you guys happy! Check out the poll on the fan page's wall.

For those of you who aren't on Facebook or who just don't feel like heading over there, there's a version of the poll at the top of the right sidebar, over here ---->.

Now goooo ... Vooooote ... ;) ::swings yarn ball back and forth hypnotically::

Dec 8, 2009

The Moody Crafter Gets Out Her Problem-Solving Brain

Artists and other creative types are notorious for being moody. (Okay, so humans in general can be moody, but creative people seem to get the stereotype, for some reason … Probably because they honestly express their feelings in their art or craft. Don’t you love it when honesty kinda backfires? ;)) A couple of people on a mailing list mentioned how crafting can be both their source of positivity — when they do it — and their source of frustration and a reason to get depressed, when they don’t create.

One person said the only way she can escape the cycle is to just work on something, after which her enthusiasm returns and she wants to work on everything!

Me, I tend to get down on myself when I stop creating for a few days, but it doesn’t really start nagging at me until I see other business owners creating and selling their awesome stuff successfully. Then I start to question the value of my own contribution. Why am I even trying to sell my crafts when I can’t even make myself do them consistently? There are plenty of other people out there to fill the public appetite for fun, creative and beautiful things. (Good thing I don’t think this all the time — I would never have bothered even trying to sell my stuff.)

Like my fellow mailing list member, I can only get out of this unproductive cycle by getting off my butt and forcing myself to work on things — although sometimes I don’t start to feel better until I’ve worked my way through several projects. That to-do list doesn’t get any smaller while I’m whinging to myself, after all. ;)

And breaking the cycle is more complicated now that business is involved. Crafting isn’t purely for personal satisfaction any more; it’s also part of my livelihood. (I think this way even though crafting isn’t currently supporting me financially, because I need to take it seriously enough to have it support me someday.)

When I was just crafting for myself, the moodiness could be cured like this:

Negative feelings: Why aren’t you crafting, you slacker?
Me: Look — I am crafting! ::waves knitting needles with partial sweater attached:: I vanquish you, so shut up already!
NF: Noooooooo! ::poof::

But now that I have a business to run, it goes more like this:

Negative feelings: Why aren’t you crafting, you slacker?
Me: Look, I am! Shut up already!
NF: That’s not for selling. That’s someone else’s pattern!
Me: Yeah, but it’s practice!
NF: Why don’t you practice knitting your own patterns?
Me: I will! Once I finish writing one.
NF: See? You can’t even finish that!
Me: DUDE, that takes time. I only have a certain amount of time, and right now I’m trying to be productive by practicing. Okay? Leave me alone!
NF: Excuses, excuses. Excuses won’t get you through THAT! ::points to long to-do list::
Me: Ugh. Now I feel like I should be doing something else. I don’t even want to finish this sweater, now. It’ll take so long, and I have SO MUCH TO DO!!!

Which probably makes me sound like a neurotic freak, but, uh … ::points to artist stereotype:: I’m supposed to be! ;P

Anyway, theoretically, owning my own craft business is supposed to free me from being weighed down by other people’s negativity, not give me an excuse to feel negative about myself. ;) Since the endless to-do list is a reality that can’t be instantly vanquished, though, I have to add another weapon to my arsenal to make the negative vibes shut up.

Solution: Write down the crap I can’t deal with right away, along with suggested ways to handle said crap once I get to it on the list.


Whiny problem: I’m not producing enough every day to stay visible on Etsy/with customers.
Quickly brainstormed ideas that might help:
  • Reward myself for making items and listing them
  • Set up a regular schedule of brainstorming and production
  • Use a theme or themes for regular inspiration
  • Spend more time making crazy items that I love, but that I don’t necessarily know if anyone else will love (this will at least make me produce! And people will probably like it more than I feel they will)

Then I might take the brainstorms and expand them into a series of steps to follow, to keep myself in line — or really, to keep myself from starting to work on something and then going, “Wait, I lost my train of thought/inspiration. What do I do next?” and wandering off. ;)

Potential solution #1 (The Disciplined Solution):
  1. Get a notebook and designate it the production notebook.
  2. In the notebook, list items that can be made in under an hour; put stars beside the ones that sound like the most fun to make.
  3. Gather the materials for these items where I can easily find them, but where they won’t be in the way; place production notebook in the same place.
  4. Every day, make one item off the list, in addition to anything else I might be working on for the business. This can happen at any point if I’m inspired, or if I’m not inspired by a designated time in the day, then at that time, I will sit down and make something off the list.
  5. Write down the materials, colors, and at least two other descriptive words (.e.g, “bright,” “elegant”) that describe each item in my production notebook right away.
  6. Reward myself by letting myself read for 15 minutes for each small item I’ve created that day.
  7. Every two days, gather what I’ve made so far, and photograph it — if I can’t get outside to photograph, I can still photograph against my mini-white-backdrop.
  8. List anything made so far. Use the notes in the production notebook to write item descriptions; spend no more than 15 minutes writing each description (to keep from getting stuck writing and rewriting so much I get tired of it).

If I start to feel twitchy about the first solution I come up with, well, I can come up with another!

Potential solution #2 (The Crazy Artist Solution):
  • Designate a production notebook, as above.
  • Every day, as soon as I wake up, write down the most fun thing I can think of that I can make in under an hour with the materials immediately on hand. (If there are a lot of things immediately on hand and confusion starts to set in, grab four random items and use those.)
  • Write down the items being used in the production notebook.
  • Set a timer for one hour and make something before the timer goes off.
  • Immediately write down three descriptive words inspired by the item.
  • Immediately after this, photograph the item and write a blog post about it, even if the post is one paragraph long with one photo.
  • If one is available, look at the item I produced this way yesterday. Decide if I want to put it into the Etsy shop. If so, list it. If not, no worries; the blog post about it will help keep me visible at least in my customers’ eyes (and will also prove to me that I’m producing and brainstorming).

Then I can use either one of those strategies, or another one I think of later, to try to keep myself producing and visible — and even before I start using the solutions, that problem can stop bothering me and making me feel negative, because now I feel equipped to defeat the evil problem.

I can also use the brainstorm-and-expand technique to set up a plan for dealing with anything: a disorganized craft room, not knowing what products to focus on making, etc. Every problem will need a different solution, but that’s good, in a way — doing the planning forces me to think and be creative.

Which is usually a reinforcing cycle of its own, but in a positive way. ;D

Sooooo … For you intrepid souls who are still with me, what do YOU do to beat down the negative feelings? Not everybody is like me, and I’m sure there are tons of other ways to deal with feeling depressed and uncreative. Go on, share already!

Dec 7, 2009

Wristwarmer waffling: opinions needed!

Edited 8:12 p.m. Eastern on December 7: Now with new pictures! (You know, it's hard to photograph my own wrist at a non-funky angle when the camera needs to be on a tripod for stability...) Also, since they seem to show up brown on some people's screens, these are actually gray.

Here's a sneak peek at some wristwarmers I'm designing. (This will be one of my first publicly published knit patterns ... If I can convince myself to finish it! Writing fiction was never this waffle-inducing.)

Wristwarmers, worn

Wristwarmers, worn

Wristwarmer in progress

Wristwarmer in progress

What I want to know: What's your gut reaction to their appearance? Do you look at them and go "Eh" or do you go "Hmm, that looks pretty decent"? Or do you go "DUDE I WANT THOSE"? I doubt that last one, but hey! Anything is possible.

Also let me know what your normal style of knitting is, so I have some context. I don't really expect people who love the look of smooth stockinette knit in silk yarn to like these, but that doesn't mean I don't want your opinion. I just, you know, should understand where you're coming from.

I wanted to make these a relatively quick knit, but I didn't want them to be overly simple — a little contradictory, but not as much as it might seem ;) — so they're done in worsted-weight yarn but they have a kind of stupid amount of texture. I should have knitted the test in a lighter color to show the texture better, but I used what I had on hand, and now I'm wondering if I should reknit this exact design in a lighter color, or if I should tweak the design first and then reknit in a lighter color.

That's why I need your opinions. If the design isn't appealing enough as-is, then I'll rework it before I reknit it. What do you think?

Nov 10, 2009

The holidays are coming! (plus, shopping for shoppers)

Star and Crossbones has booked two more craft shows in St. Petersburg (the captain's hometown and birthplace, doncha know): Art Attack on November 21, right before Thanksgiving, and the ARTPool art/craft/vintage show on December 19 — right before Christmas. That sounds like it should be exciting...

We may also be attending another Daytona Beach event on December 5, if we can get the logistics right (i.e., if Brian's family in the area have finished remodeling their bathrooms so we have a free place to stay).

The event we did over the weekend, at the antique flea market, was a bit silly for us, really ... which I thought it probably would be, from the way things were the last time. But it rained on and off all day during the last one, so I thought I'd give it a second try. But it looks like my feelings were right: The people who shop antique flea markets (or at least, the people who shop at that antique flea market) don't seem to be the same people who look for quality handmade items, which points up the importance of finding craft shows and events that fit your products — it's like the need to advertise to the correct audience. Meaning it doesn't matter how great your stuff is if you're marketing to the wrong people. (People who only read literary poetry aren't going to buy Harry Potter, no matter how many times they see the gimongous display at the bookstore.)

And if you don't find your market, you could make the mistake of thinking your products aren't marketable or good enough. From reading along on mailing lists as people try to find good shows, I gather it takes trial and error and word of mouth — or luck, lacking those two things — to find your audience, so for those of you out there trying to find your niche, keep trying. I certainly don't intend on giving up until I've given it a good run.

And hey, I got a nice bamboo barrette-thing out of it, from the other artist who had a table at the event:

Hand-painted bamboo hair thingie

I also got a lopsided tan, from sitting in one direction all day ... but them's the breaks when you dare to sit outside in Florida.

Nov 6, 2009

Halloween doings: a craft show and some piratical sewing

We spent Halloween in Daytona Beach this year, doing our first "real" show as Star and Crossbones. A few months ago we had a table at an antique shop's "flea market," because a friend of mine who works there asked us a couple of days before it to fill a spot — but we didn't have a banner or business cards or a Web site or ... yeah. We had us, some homemade displays, and whatever we happened to have in stock at the time.

The Daytona Beach Hallowgreen event was the first event at which we set up a tent, had a banner, and passed out business cards. We even had a receipt book ... OooOOoooo. Here I am sitting in our booth (and knitting):

Star & Crossbones at Hallowgreen

And for good measure, here's a photo with Brian and a close-up of our table — I took this one early in the morning, as soon as there was enough light, so I couldn't forget to take a picture:

Star & Crossbones at Hallowgreen

It was a fun show. The organizer has told us we'll be welcome back next year if we're interested, we met fellow Etsy FEST member Cory from Aquarian Bath, whose lead we followed in order to get into the show, we got to visit Brian's family in the area, and we gave out all but I think three of our business cards — so even though we only sold a couple of things, I think it was a pretty successful show. (I do wish I had gotten the fabric labels done in time to sew them into the scarves, though. Oh, well. Next time.)

And actually, we're doing the antique shop's "flea market" again this Sunday. We still won't have our normal business cards, since the new batch hasn't arrived yet from the printer (alas...), but I'll just have to whip some up and print them out myself, because we can't just have nothing. ;) And this time, we'll have a table. And chairs. And more of a clue about what we're doing. And the all-important receipt book. Wahaha. (Come see us at Memory Lane Antique Mall in St. Petersburg, if you're in the area.)

Oh, and the other thing I had to do for Halloween was sew a pirate shirt for a guy Brian works with. In the last entry, I was going to try cleaning my sewing machine with Citra-Solv, so that, you know, it would actually work so I could sew the shirt. I should have documented the battle, but sitting on a tile floor for four hours unscrewing tiny screws and using two billion paper towels and a pair of tweezers to remove 10 years' worth of gunk from a bunch of metal gears didn't inspire me to take photos. Suffice to say, the machine now runs. Not perfectly, mind you, but I didn't kill it, and it didn't kill me. I declare this: A WIN!

And look, I was a good girl and sewed the placket facing on the commissioned pirate shirt before I sewed the front piece of the shirt to the back piece:

Placket facing: before and after

Wins all around. Except for the fact that I've been suffering from post-craft-show out-of-it-ness — or maybe I'm catching a wee bit of something. But I can't let that stop me, as Star and Crossbones must sail on...

Oct 26, 2009

Adventures in sewing: cleaning the machine

I've had my sewing machine for almost ten years, now, and it was probably that old or older when I permanently borrowed it from my mother. (She was afraid of sewing her hand to the fabric, anyway.) It's a Dressmaker FA 590 — or maybe just a Dressmaker 590; the manual I have says both — and it's all lovely metal inside, so it's heavy, but super-sturdy. This is the machine I used to sew all my Jedi costumes except the first. (The first was all hand-sewn. In a week. Erk! With the gracious help of my mother, who is not afraid of sewing her fingers to the fabric if she gets to hold the needle.) This machine has sewn a great portion of the Ren Faire costumes I've made in more than ten years. This machine did my One Power concept costume in the first year of the Wheel of Time track at Dragon*Con. It's a lovely machine and I feel no urge whatsoever to replace it (though I would consider adding another machine to the collection...).

For the past couple of years, though, the machine has been acting up. And it occurs to me that, you know ... I should probably clean it after all these years. ;)

New Mexico State University, for some reason I haven't tried to figure out because I have 2,000 other things to do before Friday, has directions on how to clean your sewing machine. They look ... rather intimidating. But if uncaking all the accumulated machine oil, dust and thread fuzz will make my machine run like new again, then that's the way the starship flies.

The bulk of the grime-fighting tools came from Jo-Ann. Check! (Why do I need a bottle of sewing machine lubricant and a bottle of sewing machine oil? Oh, well. Bought it anyway. It'll get used someday.) But this solvent stuff eluded me. I checked Jo-Ann, Home Depot, the automotive parts store ... None of them gave me an obvious choice on what sort of solvent to use against sewing machine oil and years of thread fuzz, so I didn't pick anything up. Plus, I have an instinctive aversion to putting turpentine or mineral spirits or acetone into my sewing machine. It's probably silly — but I also didn't want any of that stuff sitting around the house, unused, afterward. What am I going to do with 3/4 of a bottle of turpentine? The boyfriend and I wondered if citrus oil would work.

And lo! A little research online turned up Citra Solv ... which looked familiar; it's one of those things I've seen at the health food store but ignored as something I don't have a use for. Well, now I do. I'm going to try it on my sewing machine.

The final members of the grime-fighting team*:

Cleaning the sewing machine: prep

The challenger:

Cleaning the sewing machine: prep

Find out what happens, find out who wins, on the next episode of Star and Crossbones Iron Sewing Machine Cleaners!

Cleaning the sewing machine: prep

*In the grime-fighters photo, from left to right, top to bottom: bottle of Citra Solv (to dissolve crud), sewing machine oil, dust/lint brush, sewing machine lubricant, tweezers (to pick out crud), screwdrivers (to help me disassemble, if and when I need to), and, in the bottom row, new sewing machine needles to use after the machine is clean. Because friends don't let friends use old, blunt sewing machine needles.

Proto Web site is live!

Finally, over a year after my domain name was snatched away from me by unscrupulous Webthieves out to make a buck, Star and Crossbones again has a home on the Web!

No internal pages, no fancy schmancy features ... just a little old index page with a couple of graphics and links. But it links here, and it links to my Etsy shop, and it will let you sign up for the mailing list (Is the light shining down from above for you?), so it will serve until I do a more serious redesign of the entire site.

Go forth and visit, if you please, and do, definitely do tell me if the site looks wonked up on your computer or if you find something about it unusable, appalling, or a complete turn-off in any fashion. You are my testing group, and your experiences are valued.


Oct 24, 2009

Crafting the craft show

Every craft booth needs a banner. We're hoping to do a few shows this holiday season, and there's one coming up that's got a "green" theme, in the eco-friendly/sustainable sense. The application form suggested that crafters make their banner or shop sign out of recycled materials to show off their creativity, so since we don't have a banner yet, I thought I'd take their suggestion. A photo from today's bannercrafting:

Star & Crossbones banner in progress

The letters are cut out of an old towel that we dyed purple in the washer. There's also a big yellow towel-fabric ampersand that will go on the final banner, and all the towel cutouts will be stuck to a background cut out of a linen tablecloth we got from the thrift store. Our actual tablecloth came from the thrift store, too, and if the tablecloth turns out not to cover the tables completely, we have some white thrifted bed-sheet on standby. Recycley enough?

Time management is important

There's a nice blog post on Avlor's Imprints that talks about how people with small businesses can use and track their time better. One of the most important ideas I think some budding small-business owners don't always remember is that their time is valuable. And since a small-business owner's hourly rate is literally set by the amount of work they do in an hour, efficiency is extremely relevant.

That's one of the ideas that drove me to quit my office job. Because at an office job? HA! Efficiency just means you work harder than the people around you, care more, and burn out faster. You don't get paid more to work harder. At least, that's my experience; I'm sure there are office jobs out there that aren't like that. If only I had had one of them. ;)

I wasn't the only one who had trouble using my time efficiently at that company, either. Some people just work fast. Those people officially still had to work exactly 40 hours a week. When there's a limited range of things you're allowed to do, that just means that you either break the rules and do things you aren't tasked to do, or you learn to work more slowly.

If I meant that in a Zen, "slow down the mad rush, learn to relax, and find a natural pace" sort of way, working more slowly would actually be good. But when it's more "read grammar blogs for three hours straight every day and call it job research, then when you run out of blogs, train your brain to work more slowly and don't dare come up with better uses of your time, at risk of getting impatient and fiddly and sneaking non-work activities that could get you in trouble" — that's the opposite of good. That's slowing down your natural pace to force yourself into someone else's schedule.

And that's not a good use of my life. Hey, even if I were to get reincarnated, I still have a limited amount of time in this life, and that means every minute has immediate personal value.

Thankfully, as a small-business owner, efficiency is a positive skill. It's useful to finish faster than expected, then come up with something else that needs to be done in the "bonus" time. Being ahead of schedule means I can actually stay ahead — no getting ahead, then waiting for co-workers to catch up so the project can proceed. No getting ahead and then feeling pressured to take on other people's jobs to get the entire project ahead of schedule. As a small-business owner, all the jobs are already mine, and I'm happy to do them.

That is, if I can get my brain working at full speed again, so I can fit a comfortably crazy amount of work into a short period of time. ;) Send good vibes for my brainpower, 'kay?

Oct 21, 2009

In a buying mood

So this may not be the best time to buy, as I just left my office job and could very well be living off savings in a few weeks, but as fate will have it, people keep posting used stuff on Ravelry that just happens to be exactly what I've wanted for years. One way to interpret this would be that something is trying to tempt me to spend all my money so that I fall on my face and have to get another "normal" job to pay the bills.

Another way to take this is that the universe is conveniently providing me with a way to equip my fiber arts studio while I actually have the money.

Equip it, then, I shall.

On the way to me this week is the loom I suspected I'd want when I heard about it, wanted more when I saw it, and have continued to want as I researched it: The Kromski Harp. The gigantic one. 32" weaving width, I dream of thee ... and just imagine the ridiculousness of double-weaving a 64" width! I could weave a ball gown on this thing. If it's compatible with my little half-Asian 5'maybe1" body.

Then there are the used spool rack and blending hackle up for sale. The first is mine unless something goes wrong — cackle; as far as the second, I haven't decided yet. There's a woodworker on Etsy who makes lovely blending hackles that come with clamps and everything, and I do feel the need to encourage people who make lovely things to keep making them. Hmm.

Oops — as I type about buying stuff, my Phat Fiber box has arrived. (What? Me? In a buying mood?) This is my first Phat Fiber box, so I got a mixed box of spinning fiber and yarn:

Phat Fiber box - mixed - October

There are even more yarn and fiber on the way from Blonde Chicken Boutique — and more to come after that as I stock up on recycled yarn for upcoming holiday craft shows.

And now I'm up against one of those things you hear small business owners talk about. It would be extremely satisfying to sit here and continue to abstractly ponder fiber and to browse the endless acquirable fiber stash of the Internets while planning product lines, but I have two dozen other things to do. I need to buy a vendor tent for the aforementioned craft shows. I need to order more business cards, and maybe some postcards or stickers. I need to create more product, and (oy!) do Web site design homework for my online class, which will lead to my building the new A ton of things to do, and I just want to play with fluffies and take photos.

The alternate temptation is to absolutely refuse to let myself even consider playing with fluffies and taking photos, which would be multiply counterproductive; I need to be creative and happy at the same time as I get all my work done. Even the crap I don't want to do right now, that needs to be done right now.

Remember, me: This is still better than sitting in a box and unwillingly trying very hard to think like someone other than yourself for eight hours. (Willingly trying for hours to think like someone other than yourself is called "writing," which I will also be doing sometime soon. But that's a tangent for another day. ;))

Sep 27, 2009

Crafters rising: chain mail and handwoven scarves

Brian and I have been busy and not-busy, in a way. Brian has been developing new chain mail products without actually making many new pieces to actually sell. We do have these new glow-in-the-dark chain mail bracelets in the Etsy shop, which would make great Halloween jewelry and are pretty even when the glow stick stops glowing:

Glow in the dark chain mail bracelets

Glow-in-the-dark chain mail bracelets

But he's also been working on other chain mail accessories, like this cool wrapped bottle (which someone at Dragon*Con called a "poison bottle"):

Wrapped chain mail bottle

We don't have any of those in the shop yet, but soon ... soon.

For my part, I've been weaving stash scarves (meaning, I've been trying to use up the random bits and pieces of stuff in my yarn stash). I finished this scarf at the Florida Fiber-In:

Handwoven: Caribbean Blue Scarf

Handwoven: Caribbean Blue Scarf

Handwoven: Caribbean Blue Scarf

The warp is Bernat Handicrafter Cotton Stripes, and the weft is the same plus some Lion Brand Homespun.

Then I started this scarf at the Fiber-In, and finished it today:

Handwoven: Electric green skinny scarf

Handwoven: Electric green skinny scarf

The warp is Lion Brand Microspun, and the weft is some worsted-weight cotton/rayon blend that was separated from its ball band, plus shots of two types of eyelash yarns and some more Microspun.

Both scarves were made on my Cricket loom. Weaving is awesome because it's fast and easy to make attractive fabric, but it's actually kinda inefficient for destashing: I still have leftovers of every single one of those yarns. Oh, well. I'll just have to weave some more scarves. ;)

I also have a Cunning Plan in the works. If all goes according to it, I should be crafting a lot more in the coming months, and doing a few craft shows. I'm finally tired of waiting. It's for-real crafter time.

Aug 18, 2009

Scarves and Yarn

Just some photos of things I've been doing. More later.

Low-twist singles spun from custom Flying Ewe batts
FantaSea Skein 1

Better photo of the first scarf I wove on the Cricket loom
First Cricket handwoven scarf

Second scarf woven on my Cricket loom
Second handwoven scarf

Aug 11, 2009

Real-World Crafting

A lesson for today: Living, crafting and creating do not occur in a vacuum.

Intellectually, I've always known that — but there have been times when not having a clean enough work space has kept me from feeling inspired, and I know I'm not the only one who has that problem. But something must be different right now.

Today, I noticed the craft room smelled a little odd. Thinking about it, I realized it had the day before, too, but I had chalked it up to the changing smells that naturally invade rooms right by a kitchen, and by a bathroom that serves both humans and kitties. Some rather unappealing smells occasionally seep into the room, but even the strongest usually go away after a day or two, and they don't stick to my crafting things, so I don't worry about it too much. So I left the door open to air out the room.

Later, I noticed a little damp spot on the knee of my pants. I'd climbed on the kitchen counter earlier to get a bowl from a top shelf ... but the counter wasn't wet. I'd also knelt on the floor of the craft room earlier to take a photo of some new spinning batts. And yes, indeed. The craft room carpet was damp. Had the cats gotten in? No; the room smelled odd, but it would have been more obvious if the kitties had left me a note.

Then I remembered that the bath tub has a leak. Two days ago, the boyfriend had thought it was only leaking into the area between the tub and the wall, but I'd noticed it leaking out the side of the tub.

And the bath tub is on the other side of the craft room closet.

...And yes, indeed. The craft room carpet was damp all the way from the closet to the front of the sewing table.

Now, this isn't the newest condo. It's had problems before. We're currently borrowing someone's backup air conditioning floor unit because our central air stopped cooling anything in October, and while it was repairable as of then, supposedly it won't be for much longer because the parts are getting hard to find. Since we don't have several thousand dollars to replace both the inside and the outside unit, we were air-conditioning-less until B's father rescued us with his borrowed floor unit. (For reference, this is all happening in the amazingly humid and hot land of Florida, home of happy mold spores and ants that ignore traps.)

Another example: Last year, the closet shelves tried to fall on me one morning before work because the upstairs condo had a leaky bath tub. Their leak meant our drywall had gotten not so dry, and when that happens, drywall screws don't like to continue supporting heavy shelving. So we ripped out and replaced the drywall in the closet AND the bathroom and, in fact, we still need to re-tile that shower.

So. This condo has had its share of quirks. Another one isn't unexpected. But at times, fixing this sort of quirk has absorbed all my creative energy, leaving me wholly focused on cleaning up at the expense of creating.

This time, though, I checked to make sure nothing was visibly falling down, cracked the closet door to make sure the humidity could escape, made a mental note not to take any more baths until we fix the leak, and continued thinking about spinning yarn. I even took a photograph of some batts I've had stashed for a while, that I was considering resurrecting:

FantaSea batts

And even though there were five (@#$*!) ants in the kitchen today, after several (extremely welcome) weeks without any, I didn't get discouraged. I just moved one of the magical liquid ant baits that we discovered the ants don't ignore, and went back to putting together the EtsyFEST catalog index.

This seems to part of my brain to verge perilously on apathy about running a shoddy ship, but on reflection, it's a relief not to feel like I need a sterile environment in order to create. Because really, there's no such thing as an utterly sterile living environment. (Some people's houses come off as sterile, but that's a different monster.) There will always be crumbs. There will always be bugs. There will always be dust. I can live in denial about it, and freak out when I get proved wrong ... or I can remember that I'm part of a larger ecosystem, and that nothing I buy, no matter how tightly sealed its plastic wrapping, was created, inspected and delivered by spotless, germ-free robots directly to the point where I encountered and acquired it.

Things are dirty. Things are germy. Things will get dirty. Things will need cleaning.

And the aim isn't to fixate on completely avoiding the dirt. The aim is to minimize the negative impact of life-generated dirt on creating beautiful things — including memories — and to be able to efficiently clean up a mess when it inevitably happens, without letting it keep me from doing things that make me happy.

In celebration of living with and through the mess, I present this lovely photodump of things I have created, and things I have bought from other creative people, since my last blog post here. Ta-da!

Cotton Candy batt from Spazzy Yarns
Spazzy Batt: Cotton Candy

Blue alpaca/wool yarn spun from Holly Birch Fibers
Blue alpaca/wool yarn

Organic yarn spun from a SpinSpanSpun on Etsy batt
Organic yarn

Purple Schmurple handspun bought from Spazzy Yarns
Purchased yarn: Purple Schmurple

Beaches handspun bought from Simply Twisted on Etsy
Purchased yarn: Beaches

Sea and Sand handspun bought from Spazzy Yarns
Purchased yarn: Sea and Sand

Mishmash yarn, from a SpinSpanSpun organic batt
Mishmash yarn

Proud Peacock yarn, spun from Gale's Art Fiber
Proud Peacock BFL yarn

More organic yarn spun from a SpinSpanSpun batt
Organic yarn


Jul 25, 2009

Tour de Fleece, Day (Mumble)

Tomorrow's the end of the Tour de Fleece, and while I didn't do as much spinning as I wanted to, it still helped me get some of my spinning-brain in order. I also used up some stash ... even if I acquired new stash along the way. (And hey, I still have one more day.)

This is the latest finished product for my Tour de Fleece:

Moorit Corriedale

That's the moorit Corriedale I've been working on forever. It came out to 448 yards of two-ply fingering weight yarn. I'd say that's worth spending a few hours on, although I'm not sure my total is really respectable (Looking at my Knit Wars totals, I spent a total of 13 hours on that yarn, including plying). It's enough yarn to knit a pair of socks or the lovely Endpaper Mitts, but it's not really a profitable amount of time to spend on one skein of yarn, is it? ;)

Next up, I'm working on finishing the second half of the Proud Peacock BFL I picked up from Gale's Art at Convergence here in Tampa (was that this year or last year?). If I'm very very good, I should finish that by the end of the Tour de Fleece.

Three skeins ain't bad, I guess...

Jul 14, 2009

Tour de Fleece, Day 11?

This past weekend in the Tour de Fleece I fell out of the Peloton and into the Lantern Rouge, the team for people who can't spin every day. I thought it might happen — it was even likely — but I hoped I'd be able to overcome that through sheer momentum. I spun some more of the Colonial on the drop spindle on Friday, but Saturday I got waylaid by chores, errands, a birthday celebration, and most of all, a melodramatic boyfriend who not only ate Saturday night, but also sucked up most of Sunday and my energy for that day, too. Alas. The power of angsty significant others is greater than the power of the spinning wheel ... at least in the short run.

Today, though, I got back on the wheel and spun some more of the moorit Corriedale. No photos; it looks like yet more brown yarn on a bobbin at the moment.

The first Cricket loom scarf did get worked on over the weekend — finished, in fact. I completed the weaving part and took it off the loom on Sunday to start twisting the fringe, then finished the fringe yesterday and washed the scarf. Today, it's dry, so it's officially done. Cheers.

And my organic batts from SpinSpanSpun arrived last week. Motivators for the remaining portion of the Tour de Fleece?

Organic batts from SpinSpanSpun

Jul 9, 2009

Tour de Fleece, Day 6; and my new Cricket loom!

My Cricket is finally HERE!

Warping it was way, way easier than warping the cheap but bigger rigid heddle I bought a while ago. Meridith of SweetKnits even sent me some nicely-matching yarn to replace the handspun she was going to send along originally (it was an angora blend, so I had to turn it down), and it's on the loom right now. I thought it would take me at least an hour to warp this thing, since it took an appallingly long time (four or more hours?) to warp the monster rigid heddle even with Brian's help ... but I think this took me way less than an hour. Yay, Schacht, for sending good warping directions!

I am, alas, too lazy to take a good photo of the loom itself right now, but here's what's on it at the moment:

Weaving close-up

And — all right — if I must share my crappy first photo of the Cricket, here it is:

New Cricket loom!

The Cricket and I were bonding, and I didn't want to leave it to spin for Tour de Fleece, but Le Tour is Le Tour. Somehow, using my drop spindle seemed like it would be less intensive than sitting at the wheel, so my poor, abandoned possibly-Greensleeves spins again:

Tour de Fleece, Day 6

If I remember correctly, that's some Colonial wool I got from Uncommon Threads.

And in case anyone was wondering, last night's test knitting was cursed. First, I couldn't find the pattern, even though I thought I had specifically put it into the bag with the knitting so I wouldn't lose it — it turned out that I had put a different piece of paper in there, that I just thought was the pattern. Sigh. Then when I tried to print a new copy of the pattern, the printer jammed about four times. There must be a tiny piece of paper stuck in there that I won't be able to get out without taking the thing apart. Sigh, I say, again. Then I had to go to bed, since there's still that pesky office job thing going on. The test knitting was just not fated for success yesterday.

Still, that and today's unhinged day at work set me up to receive the Cricket loom tonight, and my first Super-Awesome Bag of Crap swap from the Ravelry Spin or Dye Swapping group:

Bag of Crap from maiziemama

Those little balls of pencil roving are so very soft, and the chocolates are so very good (and I'm pretty picky about chocolate) ... This is a most awesome bag of crap. It was almost worth having a crappy day to get that and the loom and my new Harmony needles and blocking boards from Knit Picks all on the same day.

Oh. And. I gave in and bought some books from Interweave's Hurt Book Sale. I should really stop buying random things ... but ... but...

But they're useful...?

Jul 8, 2009

Tour de Fleece, Day 5

Not much visible progress in today's Tour de Fleece spinning: I got to the other end of the bobbin! Yay! But I only spun for half an hour, as I want to play with the Weave-It and work on the Phoenix Bess test some more.

Tour de Fleece, Day 5

But I did make a sparkly green square on the Weave-It last night. It took me about half an hour to do this one, but it was my first time using a small loom in a while.

Sparkly Weave-It square

My second square, made of white bamboo yarn, took a little more than 20 minutes. If practice makes faster, maybe someday I'll be able to do four in an hour. Ha!

Jul 7, 2009

Tour de Fleece, Day 4

Spent way too much time taking photographs today and far less time spinning — but spin, I did! Inspired by another TdFer's yarn, I dug out some moorit Corriedale I got from a swap:

Moorit Corriedale

Moorit Corriedale

(Does anyone know what "Wiljamie Victoria" might mean? It sounds mysterious — or like a romance novel character — but that's what it says on the label right below "Moorit Corriedale.")

There's only a little on the bobbin after today's spinning session, but going back to this fiber tomorrow should be a treat more than torture; that is, it'll be the opposite of what I expect the red Rambouillet to be when I get back to it ... This stuff isn't as sproingy as the Crazy Corriedale, since it's commercially processed (or it looks and feels like it), but it's amazingly, blissfully nepp-free. It was even happily cooperative when I tried the long draw technique on it.

Lame photo of some moorit Corriedale singles

Some of those photos I spent too much time taking were of the now-dry Crazy Corriedale yarn I plied yesterday.

Crazy Corriedale

The others were of some hand-dyed wool roving in "Glen Eden" from Neauveau, since I thought I might convince myself to spin it today.

Glen Eden wool from Neauveau

Instead, I'm trying to decide what form of semi-artistic-style yarn might best show off the roving's serene colors. Maybe I'll add some extra bits to the yarn to accent the colors without changing the texture of the yarn itself. But what to add? That's a question for another day...
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