July 26, 2009

Green Means Go - Handspun SW Merino yarn

It's taken a little while but I've finished the yarn I was working on spinning from my own hand-dyed roving. I'm really pleased with the way this turned out!

"Green Means Go" is 179 yards of sport/fingering weight SW Merino 2-ply. So soft and squishy! I've just added it to Black Mustard Colorworks, since it's made from fiber I dyed myself. I'm really liking this color combination!

Next I'm going to try another single-ply yarn. I may start this evening after it cools down a little. Wish me luck!

July 25, 2009

My first single-ply yarn!

That's right, I finished my first singles yarn and I'm pretty proud of it! Ta-da!

I've been wanting to try making a single-ply yarn but I've put it off because I found it pretty intimidating. I know that to make a decent singles yarn you need to treadle slowly, and I tend to spin at quite a brisk pace. So I didn't know if I'd be able to achieve a nice low-twist yarn. But lately I've been working on being okay with making mistakes. Coaxing myself to try new things even if I can't be sure I'll do them well. I had just received some gorgeous BFL dyed by Kristin at All Spun Up on Etsy, and I couldn't wait to spin it. The colors are quite dark and they're over-dyed on ecru and natural brown mixed BFL so I thought it would be a good fit for a single-ply yarn. I had a feeling that using this for a 2-ply might muddy the colors a bit. Here's a picture of the roving (borrowed from the Etsy listing).

The stars aligned and I managed to produce a yarn that I'm really happy with, especially for my first try. Don't get me wrong - I still love a good squishy, sproingy 2 ply. But I can't believe how soft and fuzzy this yarn is! And it symbolizes a personal triumph for me - I conquered my inner perfectionist who normally would've chickened out. And especially with such gorgeous fiber - I admit I was a little reluctant to risk ruining it. But I pushed on anyway and I'm so glad I did!

Considering it's my first single-ply and the colors are completely "my" colors, I think I'm going to keep this one. This is the first yarn I've spun that I really can't quite bear to part with. It's hard to imagine it with the heat we've been having but I think I'll make a pair of mittens for winter. I want to make something that makes use of the fluffiness of the yarn. And it only gets cold enough for full on mittens a few times a year where I live, so I'm thinking they'll last me forever! I'll be sure to post pictures of them once they're done (probably in the Fall).

I can't wait to try another singles yarn! I'm pretty excited about this so you may see a few singles skeins in my shop soon (although I also just finished the 2-ply SW Merino I've been working on, which will be hitting Black Mustard Colorworks tomorrow). I think I'll make a few more that are pretty uniform in thickness like this one until I get comfortable with the speed, and then I'd like to try to spin a nice even slubby thick-and-thin singles yarn. Wish me luck!

July 11, 2009

Relaxing At Home

Today was a gorgeous day and I spent the majority of it outside in my backyard, relaxing and enjoying the sunshine with my animals. I did a fair bit of writing and gained some understanding about the source of the anxiety and stress that have been weighing on me lately. It was one of those moments where you realize the underlying issue at play and see why changing the external circumstances doesn't create any lasting shift in your situation. For me it has to do with remembering to appreciate the moment and not focus on the uncertainty of the future. I don't mean to sound cryptic - I will go into it in more depth in another post because I think it's something that may resonate with some people. For now I'll just say that I made a point of enjoying the day for its own sake today. My pets seemed to appreciate it - they chilled out with me all day and set a great example. I mean, does this guy look like he's worried about things to come?

I also did some spinning today, although not as much as I'd planned. It got really hot in the afternoon and the wool was not working for me, even in the shade. I was working on spinning one of my first dyed rovings, which I thought I had half-finished before. Turns out I wasn't quite done the first bobbin, but I finished that today. I'm really liking these colors - they're turning out very soft and creamy, and I think the final yarn is going to be really pretty. Here's the first bobbin full!

Throughout the day I feasted on the raspberries growing in the front yard. I didn't realize that my mother-in-law (aka my landlady) planted them there last year and I just discovered them recently. I absolutely love eating sun-warmed berries right off the bush in my own yard! There's something so satisfying and wholesome about having food available for free in your own garden. I'd really like to start a veggie garden as well - grow some peas and tomatoes and corn. Yum!

I couldn't resist snapping this picture. Gotta love summer...

July 8, 2009

Recharging... with Art!

Lately I've been finding myself in need of some serious recharging and renewal. Without really doing it on purpose, I ended up withdrawing from all the things I normally love doing (knitting, spinning, blogging, etc). And I think it's because I'd managed to turn my hobbies into "work" in the sense that I was starting to feel guilty and stressed out if I wasn't doing them almost all the time. I was putting so much pressure on myself, by turning ideas and goals into obligations and deadlines, until I just had to take a break for a little while. For the last few weeks I haven't done a whole lot in the way of crafts for my Etsy shop - instead I've just been letting myself do whatever interests me. And now I can see things from a different perspective and I think this is exactly what I needed to help breathe new life into my shop and my craft. So, here are some of the things I've been up to...

I've been watching tons of videos on YouTube about art and keeping an art journal. There are lots of great videos and channels dedicated to art but the one that caught my attention first and served as my gateway into the world of art-themed videos was Suziblutube. I especially love her Art Journal Playshop videos, which offer prompts, ideas and inspiration for journal pages. Her enthusiasm for art is so infectious that I had to go out and get a journal for myself. Another really great one is Willowing. Her videos weave together art and spirituality and present the idea of an art journal as therapy, which is exactly what it's been in my experience.

I've been keeping my journal for about 2 weeks now and I am surprised at how much I love it! I've never really considered myself an artist in terms of visual art - I never even had much of an interest in making art. But I have been enjoying it on so many levels. Because of the fact that I didn't know anything about drawing and painting when I started this, I had no expectations of myself at all. It has been so wonderful to allow myself to be a beginner again and to be okay with making mistakes! It's shown me that I need to show myself patience and kindness and compassion, which is something I think I've needed for a long time. I've heard it time and time again - if you're not willing to make mistakes you can never make anything original. There have been moments while I'm painting in my journal that I've gotten so absorbed in the process that I don't even worry about the outcome, and that is something I have not felt in a long time. I'm hoping to bring this same attitude to my knitting, sewing, spinning, etc. because I really do love it and I miss being excited about filling up my shop coming up with new ideas. I think that's going to be the key to getting my enthusiasm back. Trying new things, and being willing to make mistakes. I've got some yarn I don't mind wrecking - it's time to get bold with my knitting!

Anyway, here's a little slide show of my art journal so far. There's only a few pages but I thought I'd show you what I've been doing...

Another thing that really appeals to me about these women on YouTube is that they seem so honest and they share so much of themselves. This is something I've struggled with - finding a balance between being professional in my Etsy shop and sharing personal content on my blog and elsewhere. And with the art I've been making I find I'm able to be more candid because I'm not trying to make a business out of it. And the interactions I've had with some of the other folks on YouTube have been so very authentic and satisfying that I plan to bring some of that transparency into my shop and my blog as well. Right now I'm all about integrating the various facets of myself into a whole representation of who I am and what I'm passionate about. Because afterall, isn't that what drew me to Etsy and the idea of sharing my work online in the first place?

So, I'm going to focus on trusting the process, relaxing into it and being patient with myself. I have lots of great ideas and if I don't get around to them all this season, I'll just have to save them for next year... and trust that the time will be right then. When we exert too much control over the direction we take we can end up missing out on some great twists and turns. Basically I'm beginning to realize that if I stop thinking of my life as being compartmentalized into work and play, productive or non-productive use of time, etc. I can look at everything I do as having value and helping me get to where I want to be.

Now I'm itching to get back to "work" on my Etsy stuff with a new sense of perspective. I'm going to start with spinning because it is in itself a very meditative process and I think it will be a great way to gently get back on track and get myself motivated to do more. I'm about half way done spinning some SW Merino that I dyed myself - one of my very first attempts (the green one) and then I'm going to dive into this amazing roving I got the other day from All Spun Up on Etsy. Isn't it gorgeous?

I can't wait to get back into the swing of things. I'm so glad I gave myself this time to reflect and recharge.