How I Got My Spinning Mojo Back

I hadn’t spun in a while. It’s not that I didn’t have beautiful fiber. Instead, I had lost my spinning mojo.

Stitches West this year changed that for me. I only took one class, but it was a perfectly timed one for me – Spinning for Socks with Janel Laidman. Janel is a talented sock pattern designer as well as a master spinner. She seems like a wonderful human being. She has a blog, and indeed the blog will connect you to her whole website.

Going in, I did have some trepidations. Even though the description included spindlers, I worried that I wasn’t really ready. I might not have all the right equipment (me with four spindles, a lot of toilet paper tubes, and a simple box to hold singles. Seriously, I have done a lot with a little equipment). I calmed myself down, got my stuff together and headed out the night before the class. I didn’t want to drive down and back in the same day taking a 6-hour class. At the market, I told my spinning teacher that I was taking this class, and he got a funny look on his face that made start to worry again.

So, the next morning I head into class. Everyone has wheels, well, everyone except for me. I’m holding my breath, praying that the wheels-not-spindles clique had not decided to take this class. Would I be able to fully participate in the class? Would I be accepted by the wheel crowd?

Yes and yes. It was a delightful class. Many in the room were newer spinners like myself, and it turned out that the class was pretty perfect for me. I knew everything that I needed to do with my spindles, I had enough equipment to do what was needed for our samples.

And, I got my spinning mojo back!

Two moments, among others, stick in my mind.  Partway through the class, Janel was teaching the long-draw on the wheel.  As she is demonstrating, she casually mentions, “And Renee can show us how to do the long draw on the spindle.”  Gulp. With a nervous laugh I say,
“Now the pressure’s on.”  I’m not really a teacher or demo-er in spinning.  So, with a circle of spinners, I try, and the spindle drops.  Try again, it drops again.  After the third drop, I stop and tell the class to watch me as we all get started, and things go better then, and a couple of folks come over to watch.  Hey, mom, look, I’m converting the wheel people (ok, not so much).

The second moment came at the end of the class.  We were doing a three-ply, and I really wanted Janel to look at what I’d done, so I took it over, and she said, “Hmm. I’d pay to get this yarn.” Then in a voice to the class, she said something to the effect of, “Class, here’s something to pay attention to – while the spindle might be a bit slower – you actually get a lot of control over the fiber and yarn that you make. Renee’s got some good sock yarn here.”

And that’s how I got my spinning mojo back.

I’m spinning a yak-silk sample from A Verb for Keeping Warm – so soft, so shiny!


And still no snow:


Snowpocalypse Watch

Our SF Bay Area has gone into overdrive with the predictions of snow. The San Francisco Chronicle dug out all the photos they could find in the archive about snow in the past. TV crews are already in the inner valleys showing us interesting and odd things like snow plows and piles of sand. My aquatics class today was trading info on how to protect citrus trees and other plants. We are on snowpocalypse watch!

Me, I’m working on the knitting – here’s a cute preemie hat with spring blooming outside the window:

Brioche Baby Hat2a

and I’m finishing up a baby sweater:

Buttons Baby Sweater 4a

It’s the Buttons sweater and one of my favorite baby sweaters, especially in the very cute washable tweed yarn that was originally suggested for the pattern, Naturally Magic Garden Buttons.
A lovely package also came today, some amazing yarn came in the club shipment for Scout’s Swag, appropriately named Citronella, so springlike! I’m in love! Maybe one of Rosemary Hill’s shawl patterns in it?

Citronella yarn

and about that snow forecast:


Yes, it’s cold, the wind is whipping up pretty good, but snow? Not so much today.


Enabling, the Stitches West Edition

“My name is Renee, and I may have bought some fiber.”

That’s what I said (or pretty close) after lunch on Saturday at Stitches West as I returned to my Spinning for Socks class with the lovely Janel Laidman.  It was that I bought all that much – two 4 oz. of top, and a couple of skeins of sale sock yarn doesn’t nearly qualify.  But I had helped my friend Liz quite a bit — I do have to admit that I probably enabled her more than she would have done on her own.

I might have even helped a friend not at Stitches buy yarn if I’d been more organized.  I was going to take photos of yarn she might want and send them to her for approval.  But I only managed to remember to take my camera out at Miss Babs with the Yowza skeins:


and then was too tired to send them until Saturday morning.  Sigh.  I shouldn’t have promised.

To be honest, I haven’t bought all that much at Stitches for a while.  A few years ago, I kinda went hog wild, and it took about three years for everything to disappear from my stash, and I even used some of the last of this during the last year.  That was a lesson that I learned – if I’m not going to use it soon (as in, the next couple of months) I probably should wait.

So, here’s the smallish haul from Stitches – I got a very cute Chica bag because I was filling up all the small project bags that I had, and a lovely mug from the Head to Toe preemie hat project organized by The Knitmore Girls.

Stitches West 2011 haul

And here’s a photo of the preemie hats, which come out to be very cute in sock yarn!

preemie hats 2

Edited to addPatterns used for these hats (ravelry links): Brioche Baby Hat, Elise Zigzag Baby Hat, and a simple 2-by-2 rib hat – I think I used Bev’s Baby Ribs Hat.


From the Heart

Valentine’s Day is one of those holidays that can make you go mad, or just fall in love with the world.  This year, I chose the latter.

Now that my Mom is local, I decided to decorate her door at her room with all the hand-made Valentines that I had made her over the years, and that she had saved (!).  I haven’t taken photos, ooops! We went to dinner together, sanely on Saturday rather`than Monday.  We sent Valentines to family and friends.

I was lucky that our church had a lunch meeting this past Sunday, and I got a small bunch of tulips that were decorating the tables:


Then I even got to baking.  I’ve usually made heart cut-out cookies, but since they are full of butter and eggs, and other things that aren’t so good in larger quantities, I made this lighter recipe from Prevention Magazine for Valentine’s Cup Cakes.  They came out well, and you wouldn’t know that they are healthier for you!

Valentine's Cupcakes

My other contribution this week is to knit a couple of preemie hats for the Knitmore Girls meet-up on Saturday at Stitches West.  I’m using some lovely leftover sock yarn.  The completed hat is the Elise Zigzag Baby Hat.  I like the stitch pattern, but the crown directions are not so good, so if you’ve done hats in the past, you can make it work better.  I’m beginning a Brioche Baby Hat out of the same yarn because I was reading Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Knitting Without Tears and got intrigued by brioche stitch.  I think it will be adorable!

Premie Hats

Hopefully I’ll get a photo of me in the Kingscot sweater this weekend at Stitches.


FO: Kingscot – I like it a lot!

Final feline review and inspection is done:


It’s done, and I like it a lot:


This is a lovely sweater, and a nice pattern. The yarn is totally my color. The fit is good – a slightly slouchy knit, and I don’t have any of those very comfy sweaters that you just toss on and go with. I got the yarn on a good sale, so it was a steal to knit. But…

sigh. It is not the Twist cardigan that I knit for my cousin. I like my sweater, and will probably use it a lot, but it is not THE cardigan that I have been dreaming of. I think it’s time to bite the bullet, order the Madelinetosh that I have been lusting for the past several months, and knit myself a Twist.

To review my modifications:

  1. I added two inches to the body of the sweater to the armhole.
  2. Knit in one piece to the armholes (no side seams).
  3. Did a V-neck in pattern on the front.
  4. Added back neck shaping.
  5. Used I-cord edging along the fronts and neck instead of the ribbing called for.

Full project notes here:  revknits’ Kingscot

One nit-picky thing about this pattern that irritated me was the lack of back-neck shaping.  Seriously?  This is a knitterly pattern for which I’m paying $7.00, and they don’t even bother?  Several of the Ravelry project notes state that this is a problem, and yes, it is.  So I did it myself, but I know how to do that, and researched that I should do it.

I’m not sure that I’ll do a closure, I enjoy using small pins on the my sweaters so that they get used.


To the Finishing Line

The sweater knitting is mostly done, and the blocking has made a big difference:


To review my major modifications: I did a v-neck instead of a crew neck, and I added some much needed back-neck shaping on the back (frankly, for a $7.00 pattern, it should include this in the pattern, and not assume that the knitter would know to do this).

The sleeves are also blocked, but it was a bit hard to get to them yesterday – Brandy was in her feline approval mode:


As you can see, this is a stressful assignment for the kitty!

I’ve decided to do an i-cord edging along the fronts and neck – it turns out that a 5-stitch i-cord works beautifully, tightens where it needs to tighten, and firms where it needs to firm. The sweater is a tiny bit looser than I’d like, although I haven’t attached the sleeves yet, so that might change things a bit.


Blog Post Drive-by

I’ve been coping with illness for more than a week – finally figured out that it is probably a sinus infection.  Some knitting has happened, although surprisingly not as much as I would think – guess I really am sick.

The Kingscot sweater is looking good – here’s the body (unblocked):


It always amazes me how sad a knit can look before blocking and assembling. I made it longer than the pattern – for most bodies, including even my short one, 13 inches is not necessarily a flattering length. The back and fronts were knit in one piece, because this is a sport/DK weight yarn, so I’m not really worried that it needs side-seams to hold its shape.  I’m doing the sleeves now, in the round, two-at-a-time with magic loop.

The Tradisi scarf is started:


although because I sick (I’m sticking to that as the reason) I had to tink a few rows and re-knit because I wasn’t getting the right pattern.  I’m on the second repeat now, and things are going much better!


My Dear John Letter to Jamie Diamond and Chase Bank

Dear Jamie:

I know that you are not feeling appreciated at the moment. But it’s time we had a talk.

We got together on the rebound.  I was actually in a steady relationship already, and had been for years.  I liked him a lot, but he was a risk-taker, and back in September of 2008, his riskiness outweighed his size.  He wasn’t as big as you, which turned out to be critical.

Almost without a peep, over one weekend in that September, my old steady was gone, and you had cut into his place.  I hardly knew how to react.  You didn’t ever ask me on a date, and here we were in a committed relationship.  It felt odd.  I wasn’t sure that I was appreciated you.

Then I googled you.  Yes, it is the thing to do today.  Your reputation is scattered, and mixed, to say the least.  I wasn’t really sure I wanted this relationship.  Yet I kept on.

Then came the day that you blew the relationship forever. Your ill-trained, unmotivated employees, probably only working at your institution because the economy is so terrible (and let’s face it, you had something to do with that), managed to irk me, but that was the absolute final straw.

In short, I found someone else (Redwood Credit Union).  He’s not so flashy, but he knows my name, and I don’t worry that he is plotting to risk the entire US economy to make profits at my expense.  In short, I don’t get taken for granted, either as a customer or a taxpayer. So about a year ago, I let you down easily.  I closed one account, but left the relationship open with another, just to make sure that I wasn’t going to have 2nd thoughts.

Then a few months ago, I found out where I really stood with you – you didn’t really care at all.  You decided that because I don’t make you boatloads of money you wanted to kick me out by charging a really high rate to keep my options open.

Then I read the latest Simon Johnson article about your continued bad habits.  And it hit me then — I know exactly how to quit you, Jamie.  In fact, I’m embarrassed that I didn’t do this a long, long time ago.

Today, I closed the other account so that you do not get any fees from me.  The sales assistant was probably the best trained one that I’ve run into ever at your bank.  (We laughed about you, to be honest.) I even shook his hand at the end of transaction – he made it so easy.




What passes for winter

HomeFeb2011JPG, originally uploaded by skatfantoo.

This is what passes for winter today in Marin County.

Don’t hate me.