Off Topic

My final semester of school starts tomorrow. I am simultaneously excited and filled with dread. To put it simply, last semester was NOT GOOD. I was not sleeping enough or eating well. I was at work or doing homework all the time and falling asleep while I meant to be playing with Athrun. Halfway through the semester, my back started hurting so badly that I was alternating icing and heating daily, which only seemed to make the pain tolerable instead of better. I joined a gym at the end of November, and was only able to attend intermittently until the end of the semester, but every time I was able to go, I could tell it helped the pain slightly.  At the beginning of December, I took five days off from work (a really terrible month to have to take time off, let me tell you.) just so I could catch up with all of the paper writing I had to get done before the end of the semester. For five days, all I did was read, write, research, and go to class. When I went back to work in mid-December, I did the same thing with the added bonus of working full time. My final project for my creative non-fiction class was due at 11:59 on Friday, December 17th, and I was working hard until 11:15 pm. I do not want a repeat of this semester.

Granted, I am taking 6 hours, where last semester I was taking 13, but for some reason, I am not sure this is going to make much difference. I see myself working on my classes, particularly my advanced creative non-fiction class, just as much as I did last semester. I hope that perhaps more time into each class will perhaps help balance out the sorry grade-point average. (I passed my Astronomy lab with a healthy C-, which is kind of a miracle. I was convinced I was going to fail.)

And even though last semester was not good, it was a great improvement on the semester before last. I spent the summer learning how to relax, learning how to be ok with myself while I was working hard, learning how not to be angry. This break, I have been trying to turn around my eating habits. I used to be pretty strict with myself, eating a good mix of vegetables and whole grains and fruits with only occasional junk food thrown in. I lost almost sixty pounds this way after Athrun was born. Full-time classes have not been good for my weight at all, as I have steadily been gaining back the pregnancy weight, without the excuse of a baby this time. Last semester, if it could be delivered to my door, I ate it. A lot of it. Mercifully, I was walking so much at school, this did not affect my waistline during the semester. However, the first couple of weeks after finals, coupled with holiday frivolities saw my weight jump up ten pounds. I am, however, saying that 5 lbs of this is added muscle mass from going to the gym more often, because I swear, my legs have gotten skinnier.

I do not handle stress well, and it is mirrored directly in my weight loss or weight gain–usually neither one being a good sign. And then, I have a lot of internal conflict about dieting, because it feels like I am eating and living by someone else’s ideal, not my own. I know that I am not at my ideal weight: it slows me down, it makes the desks at school even more uncomfortable. And, it would be dishonest of me to say that I don’t feel slightly judged for being overweight in a society that values thinness before all else. What I am really hoping is that I can eat healthfully and heartily this semester, while establishing a routine at the gym. The downside is I would work out instead of napping, which might actually be a winning strategy with time. The upside is that I will get a chance to watch a lot more bad TV.

We don’t have TV. I mean, we have a TV, but the only signal is the DVD player or the computer hard drive. So, anything I watch, I must seek out. It really cuts down on the mindless TV watching of shows about nothing. However, when I go to the gym, all of the cardio equipment has it’s own little television and headphone jacks. I watch a lot of bad TV at the gym. Usually it is TLC, because out of all the really pointless TV channels out there, I find that TLC generally has the worst of it. And it is glorious. I watched a show about a woman who had carried a calcified baby in her stomach for forty years the other day. Or then there was the History Channel show about the treasure hunters looking for Confederate silver. Makes my day. Tonight, I am thinking about going in and doing my usual routine, then hopping on a recumbent bike with my sock-knitting and just watching TV while I cycle and work out a bunch of stress right before school starts to pile it all back on again.

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Developments

The fingers on my left hand are teal. One of my kitchen gloves must have a whole in it somewhere. Last night, I dyed the very last of the un-dyed yarn in my apartment. Three bare skeins of bulky wool became three skeins of turquoise and teal colored wool. I don’t have any pictures, because it is all still wet, but they match the Mosasaur skein from the previous post…in theory at least.

I am planning on making a winter set for myself out of these guys. I seem to have lost all my hand-knit mittens, and that just makes me sad, and I have been wanting something colorful to go along with my charcoal grey wool coat since I bought it in November. I haven’t picked all the patterns yet, but I will probably start on the mittens soon. My hands are cold. Of course, I am also working on a sweater for myself (cannibalizing the February Lady for the Idlewood, pictures to come.) I am half way through the first of The Ugly Socks, and I have promised to make the boyfriend a sweater, which I am going to try to start this weekend (fingers crossed). And I am taking a sweater class at the Yarn Barn this spring to make this cardigan… and school starts on Tuesday. So, if my winter set is completed before warm weather hits, it will be a miracle.

I have officially dyed myself through everything I purchased last fall. While that was about four pounds of yarn, most of it went into an afghan, and a good portion of the rest has seen itself become socks or mittens or at least been set aside with the intention of becoming socks or mittens. It was probably enough yarn to last me through this semester if I so chose, but it still left me with nothing to dye. I placed my very first wholesale order a few days ago. Granted the “wholesale” part means that this yarn is not for me, but it does mean that I will have 10 whole pounds of yarn to dye in a few more days. Did you get that? 10 pounds. That’s 5 kilo. 2 pounds of five different yarn bases.

In fingering/sock weight, I have a 80/20 superwash Merino/Bamboo, a 100% superwash Blue Faced Leicester, a 100% superwash Merino, and a 75/25 superwash merino/nylon. To be honest, I love just plain wool socks and mittens. I know a lot of people prefer nylon added to make it stronger, and the bamboo is the same principle. I am interested to see which of the three sells better. I also have some 100% merino worsted weight wool coming in. Not sure how well that will sell, but I am interested to find out.

A picture, for posterity:

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What A Tease

My goal to not feel exhausted in this year was put to the test immediately. I came down with a cold, on my birthday, after breaking my glasses. I always have contacts as back-up, but it should be illegal to have to wear contacts while you have a cold. Just saying. Despite the sickness trying to weigh me down, I did get a teeny bit of dyeing done:

Mosasaurus Swimmer

Mosasaurus

A Mosasaur is a terrifying, prehistoric, aquatic monster. It is not technically a dinosaur, but then again, neither is a pteranodon, but they are both included in every dinosaur book my son owns. Also, there is a Mosasaur at the University of Kansas Natural History Museum. It is huge and impressive, and I am glad it is dead. (The idea of swimming with dolphins freaks me out, so you can imagine where this creature lands on my fear scale.) However, the attending underwater hues and blue scaly skin in which the Mosasaur is always illustrated does look rather fetching when transferred to a spare bit of Merino, don’t you think?

I have been doing some knitting as well. On Thanksgiving, my aunt asked me to make her some gloves with thumb flaps so she could use her iPhone without taking her gloves off. Since she lives in Michigan, where it is colder than it is here in Kansas (though it was 0 F this morning, which is quite cold enough for me), and I never venture out without my gloves between November and March, I thought this would be wise. I found the Podster Gloves and started in on them. Two months later they are 98.9% done.

I am hoping to finish them as soon as I post this, wash them, and put them in the post tomorrow. I would have had them done a week ago, but for two reasons. The first was the aforementioned cold. For days I could neither smell, hear, taste, see nor think. My head was pretty much useless. There were a few times, whilst in the act of blowing my nose, that I just wished I had the flu. Then at least I could stay in bed. Yes. It was that bad. Needless to say, not a lot of knitting was happening then. When I did feel up to continuing work on the second glove, it decided to be difficult. I knit half as many rounds between increases on the thumb gusset as I should have the first time. That thumb would have fist someone with short, squatty hands . . .which is no one in my family. We all have long, piano-playin’ hands. (No, I don’t play. My aunt does though.) I ripped out the whole hand and knit it to match the other glove. I made it through all the fingers just fine, but when I came back to knit the body of the thumb, I managed to create some sort of knitting sculpture. It fit the contours of my right thumb snuggly and and exactly. It was actually kind of amazing. It was, however, very tight, probably too tight, and you know, meant for someone else, who though might have a similar right thumb, does not in fact have my right thumb. I ripped again.Yesterday I reknit the thumb very slowly, and it seems more generally sized. I am sure that all of these mysterious errors have everything to do with the wool getting a mind of its own and nothing to do with the intelligence conquering cold–nothing at all.

Some time during the tea-fueled stupor of the last few days, I cast on for a sock that is intended for myself.

So far so good.

The yarn is something I did myself (no surprise there). It is a skein a just dipped in left-over dye bath from a self-striping skein I did for a dyer’s swap. It was not meant to be self-striping, as you can see, just an experiment with dipping a skein exaclty down the middle in two different colors. I had named these socks The Ugly Socks before I started on them. I think the name is going to stick, even though I have to say, I kind of like the way they are pooling.  I am anxious to see what sort of disaster befalls these socks before the end, aren’t you?

Just a wee bit of real work went on today. I am officially legal to do business in the state of Kansas and the US at large. Which means whenever I decide to open shop, I can. The idea of opening earlier than I had planned is becoming ever more appealing, I have to admit. I still have a few things I would like to get in order before I really get into this for real, but I am getting closer.

I know. I am such a tease.

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New Year’s Eve

…And just when you’ve have as much New Year musing as you can take, I blithely step up to beat a dead horse.

Today is my New Year’s Eve. Yes, I did celebrate on the 31st, and yes I am aware that today is 4th of January and we are already into the New Year, but you see, tomorrow is my birthday.  It is the literal start of my new year, and while most people take the week after Christmas to begin evaluating how much they have screwed up in the past year, I usually don’t start until I am toasting in the New Year.

So tomorrow I turn 26, and all I want from year 2011/26 is to relax. 2010/25 was a year of hard work. I had too hard semesters coupled with working full time and attempting to be a good mom. I was exhausted to whole time. I don’t want to feel exhausted anymore. This semester will not only be my final semester, but it worked out that I only have to go to school part-time to graduate. While I can’t cut back any at work, having to devote less time to school should add more time for things like exercising, fiber arts, and making play-doh monsters. I received a book about Urban Homesteading for Christmas, which I hope to make use of to save some money and some energy. My overall goal this year is to slow down, become more self-sufficient, more economical, to love my body and my home. Because while finally attaining my degree is important to me, I do not want it to rule my life any longer.

One major step away from being a student and learning to be more self-sufficient is to start my business. I won’t be able to work from home exclusively for some time yet, but my hope is, that between the fiber arts and the writing, I can carve out some sort of Work-At-Home niche for myself in the next five years.

This is the year I start. So tonight, at midnight, when I raise a glass and toast another year, this year, I will be laughing and having fun. Because there are so many wonderful possibilities.

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Look, No Felting!

Just a glimpse of what I have been up to since school’s been out:

I dyed my very first pound of roving (prepared fiber for spinning), and I did not felt a single bit of it! In the interest of sincerity, I should say that I have been hanging onto this particular bit of roving since September. I bought it with the intention of dyeing it, but without the courage to proceed. I was certain I was going to felt it all to bits. Turns out, I am just as good at all this as I hoped I would be, if not better! (Now, if I can hang on to this belief, I just might be able to get my shop up and running sometime in the next decade.)

I did a little bit of spinning as well.

I call it, Singles, With Dust Particles. Copyright me.

I have plied this already, mixing the colors in a cool barber pole effect, but I have not yet taken pictures of it because the plying process nearly gave me a stroke.  I am not very good at spinning yet, and this was only my second 4 oz since I bought my wheel. (School kind of got in the way of everything I wanted to do these last few months.) I keep telling myself I will get better at it, but I only half believe it.

For Christmas I received a couple of books about starting your own business, most notably Meg Mateo Ilasco’s Craft Inc., which I am pretty excited to read. I kind of cling to books when I am doing something that terrifies me–even if it is a fairly risk free enterprise I am taking on–starting a business like this means I have to be kind of social and perhaps confidant. I am not particularly adept at either of these two things. The more books I can read to tell me what to do and that anyone can do this, the better. Now, if I can just find a book that helps me translate all this new-found know-how into practical execution as directly related to me, I might be getting somewhere. I wonder if that book exists?

My goal for winter break is to get all of the legit making a business stuff done (that is what they call it on the IRS website, no joke), so if by some miracle I am ready to open up shop in February, I can. I am still shooting for a July 1st launch date, and I still need all sorts of important things, like a logo, so if you know anyone who enjoys doodling dinosaurs, have them give me a ring (seriously). Otherwise, I am right on schedule to officially launch Tiny Dino Studios this summer. (Hooray!)

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The Sock Curse

I have a problem. A horrible, terrible, dastardly no good problem. It’s a very strange problem for a knitter to have, particularly for someone who enjoys knitting socks so very much. You see, in the eight months since I began knitting socks, I have knit six pairs of socks. That’s twelve socks that have come off my tiny double-pointed needles, and yet, I have no hand-knit socks to wear. Now, I am not a selfish knitter, one pair of socks was for my sister, Audrey, who spent last semester in Russia where wool socks are essential. I have even made two pairs for my boyfriend, because he is demonstrably appreciative of having warm feet, and there is something greatly satisfying about watching something you have made shuffling about being useful. I like to knit for other people, but I also like to knit for myself. In fact, the other three pairs of socks I have knit were meant to be worn by my very own feet. Yet I have none. The Culprit: The Sock Curse.

The first pair I knit for myself were in KnitPicks Felici in the Time Traveler colorway. The colors were very similar to the The Doctor Who Scarf. This summer I happily knit them up, all excited for the opportunity to where a Dr. Who tribute on my feet. When they were finished, like a good knitter, I washed them before I wore them. I pulled the socks out of their soak in my bathroom sink, and I felt them grow in my hands. I did not worry. They were superwash. I could probably just throw them in the dryer and shrink them back up. So I did. They did not. Thus, the first pair of socks were no longer mine. They grew to gigantic proportions. My feet are big, but not gigantic. My boyfriend, however, does have gigantic feet, so he now owns the Dr. Who socks.

The second pair of socks I knit for myself were some 100% Merino which I dyed myself. They were hand-wash only socks  in a beautiful mock cable pattern with my variegated green and pink dye job. The fit perfectly in the heel and the toe, and they were snug, but not too tight in the cuff. They were warm, but since I knit them when it was 100 degrees outside, they sat in my drawer waiting for a drop in temperature. But these socks were not content to simply sit in a drawer. They were beautiful, and they knew it. They had to be seen. The pink mock-cable socks allowed their vanity to best them and jumped out of the drawer and onto the floor where they could be briefly admired before being scooped up with the rest of the laundry and tossed in the washer. By the time I found them, it was too late. They were still beautiful, but now they were delicately felted pink mock-cable socks that might fit a six year old. Since I know no six year-olds, and maybe because I was really upset that my perfectly perfect pink socks (I really like pink, and I am not afraid to admit it) were no longer fit to be worn, I threw them away. Hours and hours of work in the garbage. Throwing away knitted goods, even if ruined, might be considered a knitting felony in some circles, in which case I claim temporary insanity–which actually might not be too far from the truth, as I am still too scarred to knit another pair.

The third pair were this semester’s sanity socks, because school came dangerously close to actually driving me crazy this semester. It worked out, quite nicely might I add, that I often-times arrived in Lawrence for school just around the time the yarn shop downtown opened up. Since the yarn shop is just a hop, skip, and a jump from campus, I might have gone in a couple of times instead of being on time for class. One time, I might have skipped my astronomy class altogether and bought two balls of Mini Mochi and a set of needles and cast on for a pair of socks right then and there. The yarn was so beautiful:  a superwash single-ply in blue, violet, and green with long color repeats. I was in love, and knit them up in my free time over about a month or so. I finished them on laundry day, and since they were superwash, I tossed the pair in with the regular washing. I thought I was being so smart, saving time and (my) energy, and I would have a brand new pair of wool socks to wear the very next day. It turns out that mini mochi is only mostly superwash. At least, this pair decided they would felt just a little bit. They probably were trying to teach me a lesson about skipping class to knit, because when the socks came out of the wash, they were a teeny bit sturdier, but also a teeny bit smaller. I tried them on and tried to match up the heel of the sock with my own heel, but my giant size 10 feet weren’t having it. The sock heel kept slipping down to my arch. These socks, originally tailored to fit my long feet were now shrunken down to fit the feet of someone who wears an average size 7 in shoes. Yesterday, after washing them again and making sure they would not shrink any further, I offered them up to the other women in my family, all of whom have much smaller feet than I do. They went home with my sister, Caroline, and I hope they serve her well.

I still don’t have any socks. It is a curse.

I was dyeing sock yarn regularly from July through October (what I have been doing since October is its own post), so I have a lot of sock yarn laying around. I have made a couple pairs of mittens with some of it and a couple pairs of socks with some more of it, and it hasn’t even made a dent in the sock yarn stash. I currently have plans to start on two different pairs of socks for myself. One, just a regular old, plain pair of stockinette socks out of some of my hand-dyed yarn. (Pictures to come once I actually cast on). The second pair I am going to use one of Wendy Johnson’s lacy toe-up knee sock patterns out of some 100% merino I dyed hot pink. I have never done toe-up socks before, but I figure if I am going to go for it, I might as well really go for it. They should be stunning.

Of course, I am going to do all of this while finishing up school (I passed my astronomy lab! I will graduate in May!), working full-time, learning to spin, knitting a few sweaters, dyeing yarn and roving, starting an online shop, and being a mom. ETA on finally owning a pair of my own hand-knit socks?

3.25 years.

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How I Got My Name: A Photo Essay

Not so long ago, I wrote that I chose the name of my business because I am constantly confronted with tiny toy dinosaurs sprinkled throughout my apartment. On Friday, I came across a particularly good example, and I thought I would share.

It was stepping on these two beauties that inspired me to get out my camera. For reference, they are on the floor between the sofa and the coffee table, a favorite place to play

This Spinosaurus is almost adorably supine. (The name of this dinosaur is pronounced “Spine-o-saurus”, but every time I read it, I say “spin-o-saurus”. You don’t know, he could be break-dancing.)

This little guy is in danger of being consumed by the infinite darkness of “lost under the sofa.”

This poor Parasauralophus has not only been in a tangle with the ruthless yarn-scrap-snake, but also seems to have had his skull crushed by the ever precarious throw pillow.

And of course, as soon as Athrun noticed me playing with his toys, he benevolently decided they were once again worthy of his attention. The question this photograph brings to mind is this: Is he hypnotizing the Triceratops, or is the Triceratops hypnotizing him?

So we played with them some more. I think the pteranodon is attempting to make off with a whole Iguanodon to take home and feed to her nest of hungry pteranodon chicks, but I cannot say for sure. I didn’t get a picture, but I let the pair of Diplodicus munch on the leaves embroidered into the sofa. Then I took a cat nap while Athrun made a cave out of my legs.

Bonus Photo:

The socks I mentioned in the previous post, after a full day of wear. Comfy. Cozy. Pretty.

 

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Projects

In an attempt to shake off this creeping, odious feeling that the University of Kansas is going to swallow me whole before May, I thought I might share some of what’s keeping me going.

First off, I am wearing really awesome socks right now. You can’t see them, because they are hidden by my wonderful rancher Rocket Dog boots. The socks knit out of the Mini Mochi I bought on a whim from the LYS a few weeks ago. I am still deciding if its a curse or a blessing, arriving in Lawrence just in time for the Yarn Barn to open up. The advantage being, however, that I can knit socks during my astronomy lecture and stay awake quite easily. (For the record, this yarn says it is superwash, but it kind of shrunk in the washing cycle, so beware knitters.) They were lovely to knit with, however, and the yarn is a very soft singles with some nylon spun in, so I am not too concerned about how they will wear.

I have been working on a lot of little projects. I know, I know, you are all asking the computer screen right now, “Why did you buy three sweaters worth of yarn in September if all you are going to knit are socks and mittens?” Because, my friends, I am what you might call overly optimistic. I think, sure, I can take three really challenging literature courses and try to learn astronomy even though I am not spatial in the slightest and have no scientific vocabulary whatsoever, (what can I say, including words like “mass”, “velocity” and “the conservation of angular momentum” just do not drop themselves naturally into my sentences, it’s a flaw) and still have the brain power to work on a lace cardigan with button holes and men’s sweater with lots of cables. Turns out I am only suited for simple, repetitive knitting where I do the same stitch 10,000 stitches in a row.

I am working on the cutest set for my son. Athrun wants one yellow mitten, one blue mitten, a red hat with a giant pom, and a green scarf. He started asking for a new winter set in August, when it was regularly 105 degrees outside. Now that it is nearly November and I had frost on my window this morning, I figure it might be about time to get started. I have the mittens done. I am knitting everything out of bare wool and then Athrun and I are dyeing them together. He gets to stir the dyebath, and is not very good at waiting.

I also started knitting up a pair of fingerless mitts for the boyfriend out of the Blue-faced Leicester yarn I have been dyeing. It is beautiful. It’s very light, and drinks in the dye like it’s been lost in the desert for years. The mitts are dyed a chestnut brown, and the way the yarn is knitting up it has an almost tweedy look to it.

I am also knitting my first project out of the Merino yarn I have been dyeing as well. Brock is getting socks and mitts this months, since he vocally appreciates being warm in the winter. The color is denimy blue, but the dye was called Gun Metal and it still bugs me that it doesn’t look very metally to me.

I picked up a leaf off the sidewalk at school the other day. It was a mottled maple leaf with hues of yellow, red, orange, and just a little chartreuse left in the middle. I wish I had a photograph, but the poor thing got crushed in my purse. The colors, however, are going to be my first foray into dyeing roving. I have one pound of plain white wool top, and I might as well give dyeing it a try since it doesn’t look like I am going to get around to spinning it anytime soon.

Pictures to follow, hopefully later today, but I make no promises.

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Autumnal Ennui

It is officially fall, even though in Kansas the temperatures are still nearing the 90’s during the day.

And believe it or not, I have been working!

But probably not as much as I should have.

I finished the wedding afghan, did a lot of reading, got over a cold (mostly) and just generally have felt rather low in energy. I used “ennui” in the title, but I did not really mean it. It sounded better than, “I have been really freakin’ worn out, and I am attempting to preserve my bandwidth, and I don’t want to stretch myself too thin right now.” I think working all the time might be apart of being a small business in the long run, and honestly, I prefer being busy. I like having a to-do list that is two miles long. I like checking everything off that list by the end of the day. But then I have to be practical about what I can get done in one day, considering that I basically have 2 full-time jobs already, on top of a family. I have finally realized that I can give myself a break. I an sit down and listen to Craflit (I started with Persuasion, my favorite Jane Austen), and work on plain-jane socks and it’s OK if that’s all the energy I have.

So, I have been spending a lot of time listening to Jane Austen and knitting socks out of mini mochi. They have beautiful color transitions, and it makes me want to knit and knit and knit to get to the next one. I might be going on to a sock knitting kick right now. I want to be knitting about six pairs of socks at a time. It doesn’t hurt that it’s getting to be sock-wearing season around here, or that I now have so much hand-dyed sock yarn, that I really could be working on six pairs of socks at once–though I might need to get some more needles.

My hand-dyed stash has become so large that it now has its very own bin. For the record, the hand-dyed stuff far outnumbers the commercially dyed stuff.( And the three sweaters worth of yarn I have doesn’t count, because those are all more-or-less works in progress.) Spinning adds to the hand-made stash as well. If you look at the above photo and notice the little pink ball of yarn, you will recognize my very own hand-spun. That’s right, my very first knittable hand-spun yarn. I made a cowl out of the rest, which I have yet to photograph, but it is awesome, believe me.

And just to prove that I have been doing a little dyeing at least:

Chestnut BFL with some Gunmetal Merino trying to muscle its way into the photo.

And a light, half turquoise, half chestnut in Merino, that I think will be beautifully obnoxious knit up into a pair of socks, and I can’t wait to get started on it. Most likely the next pair of plain-jane socks for myself. The pushy gunmetal will probably be socks for the boyfriend. Or the Chestnut BFL.

Someday, I might get some of these guys up for sale. Am I inspiring you to pick up the needles yet?

I think I am going to go work on making some yarn a nice pumpkinny orange.

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