A List

1. It’s been six weeks since my miscarriage. I am 100% healthy and feeling pretty good in general. Thank you everyone for your sympathies. Even if I wasn’t in the headspace to talk too much, it really meant a lot to hear from you.

2. This summer has been nothing but change. On top of the above, my husband and I are both working outside the home. The only other time this has happened in our entire relationship was while I was pregnant Felix, who is now in daycare. It’s a huge transition that we’re all still wrapping our heads around.

3. Because of all this change and upheaval, my attention span has been short. The only thing that I have spent any significant time on has been my novel.

4. I started my fourth big revision to my original Nanowrimo story last week. I’ve come to the conclusion that my method for writing novels is the most arduous and slow that there is–you know, besides not writing at all.

5. Once I gave myself permission to write and rewrite and let anything happen in my universe that I wanted to, I might have got carried away doing just that. I explored every nook and cranny, and it got me up to almost 140,000 words. That’s way too long!

6. Cutting 50,000 to 60,000 words sounds like a big job. That’s a whole Nanowrimo! But so far, I am having a blast revising it down, keeping on subject, keeping just to what’s important. That was the valuable part of all that exploration over the last few months.

7. I miss blogging.

8. My knitting and fiber arts have been all over the place. I have only finished one project since April: a toy giraffe for Athrun for his birthday.

9. I’ve been posting knitting photos to instagram and twitter. I’m tinydinostudios on both.

10. Have you seen what they’re doing on etsy right now? They are running a crowd-sourcing pilot program, and it’s awesome. I was wanting this exact thing the entire time my shop was open to allow me to buy a whole clip of wool and send it to the mill. Ah well. I’ll pass the love along.

11. I was lucky enough to stumble upon the campaign for Sarah Welch Pottery before it was over and will have a new ceramic travel mug headed my way in a couple of months. It’s worth the wait, I’ll drink my coffee iced out of glass until then.

12. Yes, I am enough of a coffee snob that I don’t like plastic or stainless coffee mugs. One retains old rancid coffee flavor. One makes the coffee taste like metal. No, I am not delusional. It’s really there.

13. I just finished a honking long book–about 1000 pages–and I don’t know what to read next. Any suggestions?

Heavy

A week ago, I was told I was going to have a miscarriage.

(I hadn’t told you I was pregnant yet. I wasn’t hiding it, just wasn’t quite ready to share yet. I had just decided to when the spotting started.)

I knew this already. In the time it took to run all the blood tests from when I first started spotting to when I got the results, the miscarriage had already started. I was bleeding, not a lot, just the right amount. It was exactly like the midwife told me it would be.

It wasn’t bad, but I stayed home from work. It was more comfortable to be home with my boys. I pitted cherries from the farm and watched Death Comes to Pemberley on Netflix. I made a pie and did some light gardening. I swept the floors and read, all the while, trying not to mind that I was flushing away a pregnancy bit by bit.

By Friday, I was feeling pretty good. I thought the worst was behind me, that it could only go uphill from there. I was going go back to work on Monday. I spent the morning bouncing back and forth between light housework and writing a new chapter in my book, filling a hole in characterization. I felt I was on the mend.

I showered. The bleeding had picked up again, but I wasn’t concerned. A little bit of heavy bleeding was to be expected with this sort of thing. Still, it was time to pick Athrun up, and I made Brock drive, just in case. When I got out of the car to fetch Athrun from his grandparents’ house, I knew something was wrong. I had never felt bleeding that heavy as it was when that moment when I stood up.

Not wanting to alarm my husband too much, I just told him we needed to go home instead of the grocery store, like we had been planning. We hadn’t been out of the house more than 20 minutes, but I was overflowing the large pad I was wearing. It was scary, so I locked myself in the bathroom and called the midwife. She told me to get to the emergency room.

The bleeding didn’t slow down. We waited for more than 3 hours to be seen, with me limping, doubled over with labor-like cramps, to the bathroom every 30 minutes (or less) to change my pad, sickened at the alarming amount of red I was leaving in the toilet.

By the time I was seen, my lips were the same shade as the rest of my face and my blood pressure was dangerously low. I nearly passed out when they led me to my room. They put me on fluids. They examined me. They waited. The bleeding slowed, but not enough.

I ended up having a D&C in the middle of the night. The hospital was dark and quiet. So different from when we arrived and the ER was full of paramedics rushing patients in from ambulances, and police officers standing guard outside various rooms.

The operation was like a vacation. I got to sleep (anesthesia induced, but still, it was sleep). I got more fluids. When I was awake, they finally gave me some food and something to drink, and it was like heaven.

It was only about an hour til dawn when we got home, and I have spent most of the last three days sleeping. I am still pale as a ghost. Until last night, I was still dizzy if I was on my feet for longer than a minute. I can’t pick up my baby and I can’t drive, but slowly, I am recovering from the blood loss.

My husband has been doing everything. He is a superhero.

My miscarriage has been far more traumatic than labor ever was. And I’m still frightened that it isn’t over yet. I’m frightened of bleeding, even though it is such an essential part of being a woman. I don’t know where to go from here, but talking about this feels important.

Kicking off the 2015 Garden: Indoor Planting

Garden planting time might be my favorite time of year. The weather is finally turning warm, it’s pleasant to be outside again, and the whole world feels full of potential. This March has been warm and sunny so far, and in a fit of vitamin-d influenced optimism, last weekend, I started our 2015 garden.

spinach_seedling
Our first seedling of the year was this little spinach sprout. I planted three pots worth of spinach, which are living in our dining room window. I have three more pots to plant next week, to hopefully keep greens in rotation most of the spring. We didn’t have much luck planting greens in the ground last year. A combination of too much clay and ants made the leafy parts slow to grow, but the plants quick to bolt, so I’m sticking with pots this year.

tomato_seedlings
I am attempting grow all of our summer vegetables from seed this year. We spent a ton on seedlings last year, and this year I’m hoping to grow more plants. We currently have about two dozen little tomato seedlings, and I’m hoping to put them all in the ground.

basil_seedlings
Last year was a disaster four our herbs. We got a late start on them and the soil in our yard was so poor, the only thing that took was the mint. I missed fresh basil so much, that this year I’m hedging my bets and have a whole pallet of basil seeds sprouting.

Basil seedlings are so cute and determined looking, I find myself peering into the tray multiple times a day, just admiring their fortitude.

root_vegetable_seeds
If our Earth boxes are thawed enough, because last week they were still big blocks of frozen dirt, I’m going to bring them inside and start our first rounds of root vegetables. We also had trouble with these in the ground last year, they grew, but they were slow to take off and by the time they were sizable, they were also bitter. The ones we ate small, however, were delicious.

I’m hoping that planting the spring vegetables inside this year will give us more opportunity to get the yard ready for summer veggies and herbs and flowers. Our soil is so full of clay, I could take up ceramics and never need to buy it. We’re planning on working the compost we’ve been making since we moved in a year and a half ago into the soil and building up a few inches above the ground–we did this last year, but we decided we needed to go a few inches higher than that.

What are you planting this year?

Some Links for Tuesday

It’s been kind of a rough week for us, so I’m sharing some of the things I’ve been enjoying lately and taking a rest. Have fun, and feel free to share some of the stuff making you happy this week.

1. I received a wholesale catalog from The Unemployed Philosopher’s Guild at the day job today. I can’t sell anything out of it in my stores, but there was something on every page I could see selling spectacularly in some other type of shop. See especially, planet plates, disappearing liberties mug, and Freudian slippers. What’s not to love? (There was also a Miyamoto Musashi plush doll that doesn’t appear to be available on their website yet, but how cool is it that there’s a Musashi plush? It doesn’t look like Toshiro Mifune–who played Musashi–which is a little disappointing, but I might have to buy it anyway someday.)

2.I don’t think I can eat cheese anymore. It’s sad, because I love cheese, but lately, it makes me feel sick and twisty on the inside. Enjoy your cheese while you’ve got it, people. (Yeah, there’s no link here. Please visit your local dairy instead.)

3. Right now I’m knitting Buckhorn Cowl with the current PFA KAL. It’s a fun, quick knit. I should cast it off tonight or tomorrow.

4. When I finish with the cowl, I’m going to swatch for the Mesmeric Cardigan. It might be the most complicated sweater I will ever knit.

5. Did you know my husband also has a blog? He’s building a video game called Dig, Robot, Dig!

6. Since my husband gets me, he sometimes sends me stills from Toshiro Mifune movies while I’m at work. Here are two of his latest, from Scandal

scandal1

scandal2

(Have I ever mentioned that I studied Japanese in high school and college?)

7. This led him to starting another tumblr of Mifune gifs. They are magnificent.

Scary Stories

Thank you so much everyone for the great show of support over my last post. It took me two months to figure out how to write those words, and now that they are out there, I feel liberated.

I also feel this horrible pressure to produce a stellar follow up. I look at my word processor with a little bit of fear now, thinking about how I am going to top the last post? Or, screw top it, just match it? How am I going to do that consistently, two or three times a week, every week, forever?

The obvious answer is, of course, to put my butt in a chair, my fingers on a keyboard, and start typing. For a long time though, even that was too hard for me to do. I would sit down and the ants-in-the-pants feeling that prompted me to learn how to knit just so I would have something to do with my hands–that can’t keep still, have to fiddle with something anxiety that settles in my jaw and hardens my shoulders–would paralyze me with tension. If I let it go too long, it turned my stomach and knots up my neck until I can’t see for the pain radiating through my head.

I used to open up a word processor and fear my potential. I would sit numb in front of my computer, the ability to think having fled in the face of this big, scary thing I said I wanted to do. Not wanting to take the time to search out the right words was easy to blame on being busy with work, being tired from the kids, being burned out by school. Closing the lid on my laptop was so simple and authoritative an action. No writing today.

November 1st, I sat down at my computer and told myself to write 2000 words. No pressure. “They don’t have to be good words,” I said to me. In fact, let them be shitty words. Let them be boring words, just write them. You can always change them later.

That’s how I got through the whole first draft of my novel.

Nanowrimo taught me how to write everyday. But I was still afraid to do simple things in my story–honest things–like have two characters who are fighting get really pissed off at one another. My climax was the most amiable, life-changing altercation you’ve ever seen. The problem was, in my head, this pivotal confrontation was monumental, but the conflict on the page read as trivial at best.

The final third of the novel hangs in the balance, and I’m afraid to let the main characters say too many mean things to each other in case the reader stops liking them?

How stupid is that?

Not only does that not give you, as the reader, enough credit, but it completely undermines the whole point of the story. No conflict = no story. If my characters were sensible people, he and she wouldn’t be in the predicament they’re in in the first place, and you probably wouldn’t ever read it, because it would be boring as hell.

(You’re enjoying all this vague talk about my novel, aren’t you? What’s not to like?)

Fear of readers not liking my characters kept me from committing to a crucial scene, and fear of boring you now made this a really difficult post to write. Scariest of all is what I’m planning to do next–which is to pursue writing as my (eventual) main source of income.

Isn’t that the freakiest shit you ever heard of?

Scares the pants off me.

Not only does seriously pursuing a freelance writing career involve sitting down at my computer every day and facing the fear that my words are fucking lame, but it also means that I have to drum up the courage to make for myself the profession, but have always feared I’d fail at.

What’s even more horrifying though, is not trying at all.

It’s Time for Something Different

Some of you may or may not have noticed that I closed down my etsy shop a couple of weeks ago. I tweeted about it last week, but otherwise, I closed it down fairly quietly. It was not a bittersweet moment for me.

dinning room before

The glamour of selling hand dyed yarn and fiber lost it’s appeal about two years ago. If you’ve been reading my blog since May 2013, when we had to leave our cozy little apartment and I didn’t have a place to dye for awhile, it probably doesn’t come as a surprise. I’ve bounced around with what I’ve shared with you since then, a little sewing, a little printing, a little gardening, even a free knitting pattern or two. Each and every one of those things was so much fun in the moment that I wanted to share them with you, hoping you’d be diverted as well.

But as I go back and read over some of my posts, I have to admit, that I am less than impressed.

calbedpulloverstorage

I can tell I was just dashing off posts as quick as can be–and lets face it, they were pretty shallow.

minerva

One of the reasons I closed down my etsy shop was that I just didn’t feel like I fit in there anymore. I love the DIY lifestyle. I love making my own chicken stock and yogurt, I love processing my own yarn from a big greasy fleece. I love composting and gardening and making my own soap–but you know what’s left after you do all of those things?

A mess.

messydesk

A big fat one.

But etsy is selling a curated, tastefully simple, DIY lifestyle these day, and kind of leaving the DIY out of it. Don’t get me wrong, there are still a million, brilliant artists still selling on etsy, but most of the time those artists are buried in a sea of not-so-handmade listings.

airbenderstripes

When it comes to the fiber arts though, my competition remained largely other indie dyers and small farmers, and I was completely cool with that. What I was not cool with was the ever increasing price it cost just to get product views.

When I was really having fun with dyeing yarn and doing my yarn club, I could make a couple hundred dollars or more a month off my web sales, after etsy and paypal fees. Not enough to live off, but a couple extra trips to the grocery store if need be or a part for the car, that sort of thing. A couple of years ago, etsy introduced search ads, which allowed you to put your product at the top of the page when someone searched for the keywords you used on your listings. You could cap how much money you wanted to spend on search ads each week, and I thought it was effective. I put my reasonable cap on and saw an increase in sales and in page views when I used them.

tiny_dino_knit_before_it_was_cool_notecard

A few months ago, they switched the search adds to a bidding system which was not cost effective for a small shop like mine. The minimum cap was about $1/day. I gave it a try one month–while admittedly not doing a whole lot of other promotion–and paid about twice in fees as what I made in sales. I turned it off the next month and received hardly any page views and no sales. I don’t think I’d ever had a month with no sales since I opened my shop, but in December and January it was zilch, zippo, nothing.

I’m not blaming etsy’s new systems entirely. I have already said my heart wasn’t in it anymore, but the recent changes were the nail in the coffin of my little etsy shop. It feels like, as etsy has switched from a website where you go to find handmade originals, to where you go to find what’s on trend, that etsy is more preoccupied with selling the idea of a lifestyle rather than the goods that make that lifestyle possible. I thought etsy was supposed to be a stepping stone for launching a handmade business, but it feels to me now like it’s more concerned with nickel and diming the indie artist out of their studio space.

It certainly wasn’t the right place for me anymore.

clementines and cherry blossoms

And I feel like, while I was trying to fit into that etsy aesthetic, so was my blog. My identity as a blogger was confused. My writing was mediocre at best.

I wrote in November about sticking with Nanowrimo for the first time ever, even though I have goddamn degree in creative writing. I haven’t stopped writing since I started back in November. I’m putting the finishing touches on a draft of a novel, and hope to start searching for an agent sometime later this year. It’s taught me a lot about myself–one of them being that I tend toward caution when I really want to kick and to curse and to generally stir up a fuss.

uterus

Writing my novel has shown me that while I don’t believe in censorship, I certainly was practicing it on myself a lot, telling myself this was too controversial to write about, or that was too political. That I would write “fuck” too many times and offend someone.

carrotjuicemarla

And now I kind of don’t give a damn.

What’s this mean moving forward? I’ll still write about my knitting and my gardening, but I might also write about books or my writing. I might piss you off. I might insult you. Mostly, I hope to make you laugh, or to motivate you to live your dream. Because I have always wanted to be writer, but I never had the courage to let myself be one before.

imadeit

Free Pattern: Chunky Baby Mittens with No Thumb

My gift to you on this, the day after Thanksgiving, the first Day of the Christmas season, a new free pattern!
chunkythumblessinfantmittens

It’s that time of year when I start frantically making sure my family has warm things to cover their heads, hands, and feet, because the weather has decided it’s pretty much winter. Since I have a wee little one this year, I got to make the simplest, quickest pair of mittens there is. Chunky mittens with no thumbs! Just a cuff, and a hand! And on size 10 needles, these little suckers are done in no time. If you have a baby in your circle, these are a super quick, fun little gifts to help keep teeny tiny fingers warm this winter.

mittensforscale With lego rocker chic for scale. Is the axe part of her show? Who knows?

In the pattern, I say to use DPNs, but please use whichever method you are fond of. Obviously, you can see I knit my mittens using magic loop, which has been my default lately, mostly because finding one circular needles is usually easier than four DPNs in the same size.

Materials
50g Chunky Weight Yarn (Shown in some old Brachiosaurus Bulky, but Wool of the Andes Bulky would substitute perfectly.)
Gauge
4 stitches per inch in Stockinette
Needles
1 set US Size 8/5mm double pointed needles
1 set US size 10/6mm double pointed needles
Tools
Darning needle

Pattern Key
BO– bind off
CO– cast on
K– knit
P-Purl
K2tog– knit 2 stitches together (a decrease)
st(s)—stitch(es)
St st— Stockinette stitch

Pattern
CO 18 stitches onto smaller needels
Spread evenly over three DPNs. Join to work in the round
Cuff:
K1 P1 for two inches or until cuff reaches desired length
Hand:
Switch to larger needles.
At the beginning of the next round, switch to ST stitch, adding two sts in the first round for a total of 20 sts.

Knit every round for 3 inches.

Decreases:
Row 1:K3, K2tog repeat around
Row 2: K around
Row 3: K2, k2tog repeat around
Row 4: K1, K2tog repeat around
Row 5: K2tog, repeat around
Pull yarn through sts, and weave in securely.
Weave in all ends.
Knit Two.
Block

chunkybabymittenswithnothumb

It’s 5am on a Saturday, and I Have Been Awake for Ages

Good morning all. How are you this lovely, cold Saturday morning. I am sitting in bed, in the dark, because I have very successfully woken myself. The last time the baby woke up to eat, about an hour and a half ago, he woke me up out of the middle of a sleep cycle. To avoid falling asleep while I was feeding him, I started thinking about work–well, apparently nothing gets my blood boiling in the pre-dawn hours than thinking about things I can’t do anything about until Monday.(He, of course, ate and went back to sleep immediately.) Next time, I am going to try to think about something more fun, like flowers or yarn.

It’s November 15th, and for the first time ever, I am keeping up with Nanowrimo. Usually by now I have completely given up on the whole endeavor. My first weekend in November is notoriously busy, and so I always start out the month a few days behind on my word count, and then I never catch up, and by the beginning of the second week I am too daunted by the sheer volume of words I am missing, and instead of writing for writing’s sake for the rest of the month, I just give up on the whole enterprise completely and for the rest of the year the only thing I write are blog posts and grocery lists.

Considering I have a degree in creative writing, this is pretty embarrassing.

This year, I decided I was really going to finish. I didn’t have a story idea until the last minute, and I have done absolutely zero planning. I’ve always been a fly by the seat of my pants sort of writer anyway, so this whole making stuff up as I go along and having no plan is fun. Not sure how much substance my story has, but that’s not the point right now. The point is to write everyday, and that’s what I’m doing.

Only took 2 1/2 years after graduating to get my writing mojo back.

Now that I am writing everyday though, my other work is slowing down a little bit. After finally finishing Brock and Felix’s Flax sweaters last week, I had a small bout of startitis and cast on Wheaton which I think is too gorgeous for words. I am knitting the worsted weight scarf version, because while I think this pattern is stunning, I am also aware that I have a very short attention span for knitting anything that turns out to be a rectangle. But I think a blanket, or even a stole in this pattern would be the epitome of luxury.

I am also working on a pair of mittens for Brock. I am using Skinny Fit Mitts as a template because I like the cable pattern on them a lot, but the pattern was written for someone with tiny hands, so not only am I changing it up by making them flip-tops, I am also having to lengthen and widen the thumb gusset, lengthen the hand and figure my own decreases for top.

And since it is supposed to snow today, I really need to make Felix a pair of mittens. I am just going to use my chunk wool and knit him a pair of thumbless mittens. That should be quick, and I hope to do it this afternoon after I finish my word count.

What are you working on?

Some Woolly Things

It’s November 1st. We had our first freeze last night. The air is crisp, and we’ve started breaking out the woollens.

Socks Hanging to Dry in the Bathroom

Socks Hanging to Dry in the Bathroom

Just in time, I finished Brock’s sweater last night (don’t I know how to party on Halloween), and it’s upstairs taking a bath right now. I only have one sleeve left to knit on Felix’s sweater, and then I am taking a break from sweaters. Especially this sweater. I have been knitting Flax, almost exclusively, since August. I am going to knit socks and scarves and mittens and hats until the weather warms up again, I think.

…or maybe not.

Things around our house have changed quit a bit in the last couple of months. Felix has aged out of my work’s program that allows babies to tag along with mama’s (can you believe he is 6 months old already?), so my husband and I are working alternate schedules so we don’t have to send (or pay for) Felix to daycare. While I think this is the best move for our family, it is taking some getting used to. It doesn’t help that I have been throwing myself into my day job hardcore and coming home exhausted physically and mentally exhausted, and then with nighttime baby wake ups, I tend to stare at netflix or pinterest a lot these days rather than produce anything. There have been weeks lately when 3 or 4 nights out when I have been too tired to knit–and that is tired indeed.

I am not folding, by any means, but I stepping back from fiber production a little bit for awhile. It’s just all too much right now–as evidenced by the complete lack of posts around here.

The good news is, I’m not actually going anywhere, just giving myself permission to slow down. Right down my ideas, get to them when I have time, and just enjoy my knitting and spinning for pleasure instead of for production right now.

I’ll still blog about what I’m doing. For instance, at the show I was at in October, I demonstrated how to solar dye in mason jars.

wool rainbow
I have two sets of these little half ounce pieces that I’ve dyed. I’m planning to spin them up in rainbow order and chain ply them. The only thing left to decide if I want to do one skein or two skeins.

It’s also November, which means Nanowrimo! I started my novel this morning and met my word count. So far so good.

How’s your November looking?

Oh, Heeeey There

There’s nothing like a missing cat to make you take a month-long break from blogging, but that’s what happened. No worries, she’s home safe, but what was supposed to be a long, relaxing Labor Day weekend turned into a stressful fret-fest when the cat disappeared on the first day and didn’t return for six days. When she was in the yard one morning when we were leaving for work, she mewed and scowled at us very loudly. How dare we take so long to find her. Where had we been?

Anyway, that lovely time, on top of preparing for knitting classes, fiber festivals and general life are my excuses, and I dare you to challenge them.

First things first: the fiber festivals! This year I am only planning two shows: the Holton Fall Festival on October 11th. I will be part of the Sheep to Shawl demonstration, talking about solar dyeing in mason jars, and of course selling my wares.

In November I will be at Twisted!, which is so much fun to do. Twisted is Nov. 7th and 8th, and we will be on the first Friday art walk.

Now, here’s what I’ve been up to this last month in instagrams.

All-in-all, it was a pretty good month. What have you all been up to without me?