Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

Went to bed in an absolutely foul mood last night and now I'm awake waaay too early. I think the mood was an indicator that it's time to go back to work. I do best with structure and almost 2 weeks of very little structure is wearing me out. I've drifted from reading, to knitting, to spinning, to watching movies, to eating...it's a little exhausting.

So today, we'll journey up to my parents' house to ring in the new year and watch football on TV. I'll be back in my own house by Monday morning reading to tackle the new year.

Have a safe and enjoyable time everyone! See you on the flipside.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Book Review: "Spin Art:


Spin Art: Mastering the Craft of Spinning Textured Yarn, Jacey Boggs
originally published: November 2011
finished reading: 30 December 2011


I must admit, the first time I saw Jacey Boggs' yarns I wasn't impressed. As a knitter and a spinner, what use did I have for yarn with felted eyeballs in it? I figured she was a fad and that she'd blow over and disappear, leaving the field for serious spinners. I can't tell you how wrong I was and how happy I am to have been so wrong. 


This last summer I took a 3-day class with Jacey at the prodding of a fiber friend. My mind was blown. Apparently, when she takes on a challenge, Jacey jumps in head first and completely immerses herself in the task. When she started spinning, she spent 4-6 hours a day making yarn. That's pretty incredible for a new spinner. I've been spinning for almost 20 years (off and on) and she said things that made me re-evaluate what I was doing and actually do it better.


What does that have to do with this book? Let me tell you. Boggs spent so much time spinning in order to figure out what the fiber will do so that she could then make it do what SHE wanted (know the rules so you know which ones you can break). If you understand the structure of fiber and the effects of the work you're doing, you'll understand the resulting yarn and be able to incorporate it into your own work very precisely.


Spin Art is essentially a multi-day workshop with Jacey sitting next to you and showing you what to do. She starts you off with easily do-able yarns. Even if you've never tried "art yarn", you can make these first few. Once you conquer those, you will be able to work your way through the book trying everything. The pictures are wonderful and while her descriptions may seem strange, do exactly what she says the first time through. It will all become clear, I promise.


One of my fiber challenges for 2012 is to work my way through this book. I expect to be hung up on a few once I actually get started, but I plan on spending as much time as I need to get a good, usable yarn before moving on to the next one. I have plenty of stash for this project and I plan on turning it into some incredible yarn. 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Book Review: "My Friend Dahmer"

My Friend Dahmer, Derf Backderf
originally published: March 2012
finished reading: 29 December 2011 (review copy)




Extremely disturbing. I have this fascination with serial killers and I'm not sure where it comes from. I love watching the shows where they take you into a prison to talk to the prisoners and look into why they committed their crimes. My husband frequently says, "Why do you watch that stuff?" I can't answer.


My book rep friend had this on his shelf of things I could pick through and of course I snapped it up. As graphic novels go, it's dark and the drawings are kind of chunky, but I think that adds to the alienation of the subject matter. Backderf actually knew Jeffrey Dahmer in high school and brings a unique perspective to his life.


Dahmer was a complex guy and Backderf shows his high school career through a teenager's eyes. All of the friends knew something was wrong with Dahmer, but they incorporated his weirdness into their own lives - up to a point. Backderf illustrates how each of his close friends interacted with Dahmer until they had enough, an encounter that felt so wrong they stopped seeing him as a harmless goof and saw a glimmer of the monster he really was.


Interesting book, but deeply, profoundly disturbing. Backderf brings up a point throughout the story - how did all the adults in Dahmer's life miss what was really going on? Saying that it was the culture of the 70s only goes so far. How does an alcoholic teenage boy who has a thing for taking apart road kill just keep flying under the radar? I have no answers, but what I keep coming back to is, how many more of them are there? It's been keeping me up at night.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Book Review: "Poisoner's Handbook"


The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York, Deborah Blum
originally published: January 2011
finished reading: 28 December 2011


I almost gave up reading this book halfway through the first chapter. I'm intrigued by any book using science to figure out how people died, but the first chapter was full of the politics of how the medical examiner's office came into being. I kept thinking it would get better (and I was right) but I almost missed it.


I think what I wanted more of were stories. I watch shows like Law and Order, because they pull the science and the work behind the scenes into every day life. I want to see how the science fits into figuring out what happened. Blum takes us through the labs in New York City, but how many times do I need to be told about grinding organs into paste and distilling them down into their components? Let's face it, it's more interesting to actually be doing that work than it is to be reading about it (over and over).


I learned a lot and was mostly interested throughout the book. It's a good read for those of us curious about the science that goes on in the background. If you're looking for in depth stories about the victims, look elsewhere.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Book Review: "Ladies First"

Ladies First: Revelations of a Strong Woman, Queen Latifah
originally published: 2000
Finished reading: 17 December 2011


I love music, always have. My tastes are all over the board, hard rock, country, even rap. However, have a couple of rules when I listen to music: 

  1. I have to be able to understand what they're saying 
  2. There's a no repeat rule (repeat something too many times and they're gone) 
  3. No misogyny 

Queen Latifah has always followed my rules and she's frequently in my playlist. I love that she's a strong woman, doing what she loves, and doing it well. Ladies First is an explanation of how she got to be so strong and the amazing support system she's built that keeps her that way. 

I want to give this book to all the young women I know. Actually, all the women I know, young and old. Everyone could benefit from Latifah's wisdom and the way she's dealt with the tragedies, triumphs, and even the bad decisions she's made.



I admire her so much for her art. What I'm taking away from this book is her ability to re-evaluate her choices, to learn from her mistakes, and to keep moving forward. A good lesson for everyone at any age.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I have fallen down

and I'm having a hard time getting back up. I was doing so well with the blogging thing - then work blew up. I had a week of meetings for which I had to prepare (not just show up and look engaged). Then I was in the process of cleaning off my desk for my 2-week holiday (hooray). This just doesn't leave much time for blogging and thinking about creativity.


However, I was creative and engaged in daily art. Here's what I've been working on:

  1. finished Hens' Christmas stocking
  2. finished Little Big Man's hat
  3. finished Sassy's hat
  4. down to the toe on my sister's second sock
  5. actually wore a sweater I knit to a holiday party (first outing!)
I'll try and post pictures of everything in the coming days. It's a busy time, but now that I'm not getting up and going to work every day, I seem to have a little more free time. At least until the first of the year...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Day 13: Knitty

Do you read the Knitty blog? Do you know what Knitty is? Let's start there. It's the longest running ezine for knitters. Free patterns, wonderful columns, and a great review of all things fiber. My friend Amy is the founding editor and my friend Jillian is the editor of KnittySpin (Knitty's sister publication) and the glue that keeps it all together.

There's also a Knitty blog where Amy, Jillian, and Kate (editorial assistant) take turns posting about their fiber adventures and today, Jillian wrote about me. Go read the post here. It's true, every word. 

Frequently I get a text or a phone call that starts with "Do you want to...". I've said for years that there are 2 people I would willingly go anywhere they asked and pretty much do anything they asked me to do - Jillian is one of them. So it's no surprise that I would have the missing pieces of her stash. 

When I got the text from her, I knew exactly where the bag of fiber was - I could picture it on my shelf in the fiber room. It was pretty gratifying to walk into that room on Saturday, see the bag, and actually lay my hands on it within a minute of walking into the room. Also, there's the superhero aspect of it...

One more story about how we are fiber symbiosis at its best. We were at The Spinning Loft on Saturday and were piling up bunches of fiber for consideration. She threw a gorgeous hank at me, but I decided it didn't work with what I had going and set it aside. She picked it up and put it in her own pile. Anyone want to take bets that at some future point I will be looking for "something" to finish off a project I have going and she's going to say, "Wait a minute..." and come up with that hank?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Book Review: "We Wish to Inform You..."

We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories from Rwanda, Philip Gourevitch
originally published: September 1999
finished 12 December 2011

I have always felt an obligation to read books like this - books written about the terrible things human beings do to one another. In 1994, I was safe in my little house taking care of my 3-year-old son. Not worrying that we would be hacked to death by our machete-wielding neighbors. People we'd lived next to for years without incident.

I read these books to try and understand why. I know that it's unlikely I'll ever be satisfied with the answer, but I continue to try. Gourevitch does an admirable job interviewing people who lived through the genocide in Rwanda - either as victims or perpetrators. He provides a history of the region that includes how the Hutus and Tutsis came to this crossroads, how the colonization of Africa contributed to the divisions, and how the western world was aware, but did nothing to stop the bloodshed. I was ashamed at the time that we did nothing. I'm still ashamed.

Maybe I read books to convince myself that if I had been there, I would have acted differently. I like to think I would have been a righteous gentile during World War II. I like to think I would have been someone who stood up to the interahamwe when they came to kill. I don't know, I will continue to be grateful that I've never been in the position to find out.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Day 10: Future Creativity

I was Jillian's second today, Uhura to her Kirk. We tripped over to the west side of the state to pick up a loom she had loaned to a friend and drop it off to another friend. As expected, we had lots to talk about. 


Earlier this week I received the e-mail that let me know I'm officially accepted as a vendor at Fiber Expo 2012. There's lots to do between now and then. Jillian told me I needed a plan...here's the beginnings of it:




This week, I will be

  1. ordering a sign with my logo on it
  2. placing an order for fiber and yarn (including any new base fibers needed)



By the end of 2011, I will have

  1. finished my financial statements for my accountant
  2. a spreadsheet that tells me what I sold at each of the fiber shows I did in 2011
  3. a list of colors that will always appear in my shop/at shoes
  4. an idea of limited edition and one-of-a-kind colors



By the end of January 2012, I will have

  1. all the fiber and yarn up on Etsy
  2. a booth plan
  3. table coverings
  4. display materials
  5. pattern support for the yarn (hat, mittens, shawl)



We also laughed a lot and I got some knitting done. It was an absolutely gorgeous day to be driving around gray, wintery Michigan. I finished my holiday shopping (stocking stuffers) and even managed to pick up a couple of things for myself. 


Jillian always knows when I need a kick in the pants and she never kicks me when she knows I can't take it. She tells me things that I sometimes don't want to hear, but really need to. I've said it before and I'll say it again, this is the very best kind of friend to have. 

Friday, December 09, 2011

Day 9: Friday Roundup

Gratuitous fiber shot
Hmmm, it doesn't seem like I've done much creatively this week. I am slowly getting pictures of fiber up into Etsy. Not very creative, but the photos are fabulous and it makes me feel better about having all this stuff around the house.

I am plugging along on the stocking. I will be turning the heel this weekend and that means I'm in the home stretch. Not much sense posting a picture - it's a striped stocking, there isn't much to see.

Tomorrow, I'll be making a trip to the other side of the state to pick up a friend's loom. What I'm looking forward to is the road trip. She's driving, so I'll be able to knit and we'll talk about everything under the sun. I'm hoping to get some insight about my work for pay life from her. She's a great life coach.

I think I need to clean off the table (covered with fiber) in order to be more productive (read: creative) next week. Sounds like a weekend project to me.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Day 8: Superwash Wool

As a spinner, it's important to try new fibers. In the beginning, a lot of us want to "wait until I'm good" before trying exotic (read: expensive) things. We don't want to ruin our good stuff because our yarn is lumpy or drifts apart or just doesn't look the way we want it to. There were lots of expensive things I avoided, but other things too - like superwash.

Sarah on merino superwash
Superwash is a treatment that sort of glues down the scales of wool so it won't shrink. You can put superwash treated wool into the washing machine and dryer and it will look just as good when you pull it out as when you put it in. The fiber tends to be a little flyaway, slicker than untreated wool, and has a hand to it that while you know it's wool, it feels different. I avoided anything with superwash on the label as a new spinner. I didn't like how it felt and didn't like the resulting yarn.

It wasn't until I started dyeing it for sale that I actually tried it myself. Surprisingly, I like it now. I think the slickness of it put me off in the beginning. I couldn't control it very well and blamed it on the fiber instead of my inexperienced fingers.

Henriette on merino superwash
And here's the thing...superwash soaks up dye like nobody's business. You splash dye on superwash and you can almost hear a slurping sound. When I'm cold-pouring, I try to get the same amount of dye on each bundle of fiber. With untreated wool, you can push the color around a little and have it soak in. With superwash, you better be sure of where you're putting the color - because it isn't going to move!

The colors are intense and my superwash fibers usually have bits of white in the top/roving. I used to just keep putting more dye on to get all the white gone, but now I actually like the bits. It's soothing to see them coming up when I'm at the wheel and they're a nice contrast to the intensity of the colors.

Superwash is also very kind to beginning dyers. You can cook it a little longer than you should or let it boil in a pot and it's not going to be a total waste. I try to be very careful when a dyepot is on the stove or my little propane kitchen is working away on the deck. But you know, life sometimes happens - the phone rings or the dog gets sprayed by a skunk and you have to deal with it before you can get back to the pots. Superwash is forgiving and it's saved me on a couple of occasions.

One last thing, it's cheap. Seriously, you can get some great colors on fabulous fibers out there and they won't break the bank.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Book Review: "It Ain't All About the Cookin' "


Paula Deen: It Ain't All About the Cookin', Paul Deen and Sherry Suib Cohen
originally published: 2007
finished reading: 4 December 2011

I love biographies, always have. I'm in the middle of reading another non-fiction book that's really bringing me down and needed something to pick me up. Paula Deen fit that bill. I loved that the book sounded the way she sounds on her show (and I've been dropping the "g" off all my words for the last several days). She pulled no punches when talking about her life - the times when she was mean to her boys, her failings in her first marriage, approaching her step-children - it's all there. Instead of making me judge her, these revelations made me like her even more.

I found Deen's book inspirational in a way that a lot of self-help books are not. This woman struggled a lot with the deaths of her parents, being married very young, having little to no money, and yet she came out on top. This is the American dream. A woman with very few options took the bull by the horns, gritted her teeth, and built herself up step-by-step. She pulled her family up with her and they're all still going strong. I'm looking forward to seeing Paula Deen cookin' with butter for a very long time.

How is this related to creativity? Here's the thing, Paul Deen picked herself up and was her own best advocate. When she finally found the thing she loved to do best, that's what she threw herself into. That she's become an author, TV host, product spokeswoman, multi-millionaire is all the result of finding her bliss. If that's not creative thinking, I don't know what is.


Edited to add:
I actually wrote this post yesterday. Then discovered that the batteries in the trackpad had died. Would you believe we were completely out of AA batteries? Why did I throw away all the corded mice? I couldn't post until I got new batteries and re-connected the dang wireless trackpad. It still counts, right?

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Day 6: Creativity

Today, I got nothin'. I've been trying to take pictures of everything to get them into my Etsy shop. It's a huge job and exhausting (but it will be worth it when I'm done).

I can't even show you some of the pictures. My daughter informed me when we were pulling into the driveway that the batteries in the mouse had died. She couldn't have let me know before we drove past at least 3 places that sell batteries? So the camera is full, the mouse is empty, and I'm tired.

Tomorrow I play hookey and will knit with my friends while watching some version of a Jane Austen story. I'll be back with creative stories galore.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Day 5: Immersion Dyeing

Orange luxury pack
In August of this year my friend Lynne Vogel was teaching a color/spin/dye workshop at Harrisville Designs in New Hampshire. If you're a knitter, you should have heard of Harrisville. They do the yummy yarns in the Vivian Hoxbro kits and they do a bunch of other amazing yarns for knitting and weaving (tweeds - mmmm!!).

Harrisville has a giant classroom space as well as room for dyeing. So a couple of years ago Lynne started teaching there and let me tell you, the students are a little rabid. She's had some of the same people coming for more than 5 years to her workshops. I'm sure it has something to do with her style of teaching and what she teaches, but that's pretty amazing no matter who you are.

Yellow BFL & Merino pack
This year the class only had about 10 people. We had a chance to split the group into 2 groups and in addition to the color pour technique that I first learned from Lynne, we got to try immersion dyeing. I like to think of it as stone soup dyeing. Essentially, you throw a color in a cold pot and heat it up. You can add the fiber while the pot is cold or wait till it's warmed up a little and then throw it in. Different colors will strike at different temperatures and superwash soaks up dye like nobody's business. So you get some amazing results with this combination.

We started with superwash (no chance of felting if we got lazy about watching the pot). Once the dye stock gets to almost boiling, you take it off and let it sit, covered, for about 20 minutes. This gives the dye time to exhaust and also cool off a little. When I'm at home, I let them sit until they cool off enough so I can stick my hands in. I have some of those giant heat proof gloves, but in my haste, I've messed up a lot of fiber by being too quick to get my hands in there and the fiber out. If you can wait, do, the fiber will thank you.

Usually, the dye exhausts into the fibers. Sometimes you get left overs. This is where it's fun. At first, I was trying to completely exhaust so I could start again with a new color. After a while, I figured it was more fun to just throw a little more dye in and see what came about. Then I started experimenting with other fibers.

Red luxury pack
When I came home, the Hub helped me set up a little propane dye kitchen and I went a little wild. It occurred to me that I could do sample packs of fibers. A lot of times new spinners are hesitant to buy something they've never spun before (they don't want to "ruin" it). I put together packets of luxury fibers so that people could try little bits to see if they liked it enough to buy more. It's been a lot of fun. You never know what's going to come out.

The luxury packs have 1 ounce each of merino superwash, merino (50)/bamboo (50), merino (70)/seacell (30), and merino (50)/tencel (50). The BFL/Merino pack has 1 ounce each of bluefaced leicester (BFL), BFL superwash, merino, and merino superwash. There's also a 50 yard skein of wool, the light colors are merino from Australia and the dark colors are Michigan grown and processed wool.

Four ounces of something is enough to play. I've spun all the fibers as singles and then plied different singles together. My plan is to take one of the packs and spin and ply every combination to see what I come out with. Then I have to work on some sort of pattern so people know what to do with the yarns they've spun. Again, 4 oz is enough to make a cute pair of fingerless mitts, cuffs for a special sweater, or even a simple shawlette. My problem is deciding which pack to experiment with - I love all of them.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Day 4: Glass Marble Magnets

The purple paper stash
I cannot take the credit for this idea. As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I have become addicted to Pinterest. I kept seeing people repin this blog post and figured it would be fun for the girls to have a go at it. We went to Michael's yesterday and picked up the flat bottom marbles, glue, and magnets. After homework was done tonight, they sat down and started. I still have a ton of paper from my scrapbooking days, so they've raided the paper stash and are having fun comparing what they've done.

I was pleased with the flat bottomed marbles. I expected to get the small ones (even though I think they're too small). Then I found these. They're about 1.75 inches across and not perfectly round. I think they have a little character to them more than the smaller ones. Apparently, glass is sold by the pound. There were giant bags of small marbles for $6.99. These bags were something like $2.59 and there are approximately 18-20 in each little bag.






Here are Sassy's first few pieces (purple):



And these are Hens' (green):


They're branching out now and trying colors that aren't their favorites. I asked what who they're going to give these to and they both looked stricken. "We have to give them away??!!!?"

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Day 3: Etsy Shop

I have an Etsy shop. I opened it a couple of years ago because I was dyeing so much fiber and I couldn't spin it as fast as I could knit it. Then I decided to start dyeing sock yarn. That was a lot of fun too, but again, how much sock yarn can you stash? (Okay, a lot, I know, but it was getting ridiculous).

I spent some time today taking pictures of some of my yarn to upload. It's kind of a challenge to come up with creative ways to take pictures of yarn, but I try. Here are some of my results. Thoughts? Do they show the yarn to its full advantage? What else would you like to see in a yarn photo?

Kat:


Lula:


 Sarah:


Sassy:

Sharon:



Friday, December 02, 2011

Day 2: Friday Roundup

Friday is going to be the roundup day for creativity. I'll revisit anything I've done during the week and provide any updates as well as look forward to what I'll be doing next week. I managed to snag the work camera and wow! I had forgotten what a great camera can do. The ease of taking these fabulous pictures made my head swim. I think my search for a new camera is at an end - I want one of these! (Nikon D5000)


Re-pourposed stocking
As it turns out, I could not rip out the beginnings of the stocking. I looked at it and looked at it and couldn't bring myself to pull out the needles and waste all of that effort. I channeled my knit friend Erica and said - "Hey, it's big enough for a hat!" So I bound off, wove in the ends, and pulled it on. It's a bit snug for me, but I'm a pumpkin head. I think I'll throw a couple of tassels on the points and shop it around. If it fits and someone likes it, it's theirs.




Stocking 2.0
I cast on again (with about 30 fewer stitches) and came up with this. It's a lovely start and I'm sure I'll be able to finish this in plenty of time for Christmas. I thought the stripes were a little small for the scale of the piece, so I increased those as well. In the hat, the stripes are 5 of the dark green, and 3 of the other 2 colors. In the new version, I went with 7 of the dark green and 5 of the others. There isn't much to see here, yet, but I already like them better.






Lynne Vogel Ltd top (2 different colorways)
I also wanted to share a skein of yarn that I blogged about a couple of weeks ago. It's really gorgeous and while it doesn't technically fit into creativity this week, I'm still in love with it. If you're a spinner and don't know who Lynne Vogel is - go find out! Her etsy shop (here) is lovely and filled with wonderful patterns. She doesn't dye much anymore, but when you can catch whatever she's dyed, consider yourself lucky! She also consults with Three Waters Farms to work on colors and occasionally, you can find some of her colors there. (Again, no affiliation with either of these shops, except that Lynne is my friend and there's that fabulous indie artist thing that I live by.)


Anyway, this picture is a better representation of the colors of this wonderful skein of yarn. I love it!




Up next week: ATC 

I'm not sure what I'm going to do with these fish cards, but they will be used next week in conjunction with the artist trading cards I have. There will be mod podge, watercolor crayons and pencils, and funky paper. Stay tuned.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Day 1: Knitting a Stocking

We have an exchange student from Germany living with us this year. She has really integrated into our family and is a joy to have here with us. Many years ago I knit my own babies Christmas stockings and 2 years ago, knit some for my sister's kids. It would be weird for everyone to have a hand knitted stocking except for Hens. During my Thanksgiving break, I started.

She loves greens. When she got here, she and Sassy painted Little Big Man's room for her and it's a lovely green between Kiwi and pear - bright and airy. Every sweater she owns is green and she's bought 2 scarves since she's been here (both green). When I was dyeing in September I did a special colorway just for her and she's since learned to spin and is currently knitting another scarf of her very own handspun. It's lovely. (I'll post pictures when I can get the needles out of her hands.)

H stocking, version the first
It wasn't a stretch choosing a color. The problem was which greens to choose (green is one of my favorites as well). I got the yarn out, balled it up, and started knitting. One of my continual issues is the denial of how big knitted goods get away from the needle. I look at my cast on stitches and think, "Oh that needs to be a couple of inches bigger." It almost never does and I end up with this  -->.

Perhaps the ruler is obscured there, but the thing is ginormous - 9.5 inches (almost 24 cm). It's the scale that's the problem. If I keep knitting on this many stitches the stocking would be large enough for Jack's giant. Perhaps I should add sleeves and call it a toddler sweater! I know I must rip it out and start again, but I do hate losing all the work already done. {sad trombone}

Giving props to Kristen Nicholas here. The stocking is based on her No 3 - Yikes Stripes Stocking from her ebook Kristin's Creative Christmas Stockings. It's a fabulous collection of 6 stocking patterns that you can knit as is. But she's Kristen Nicholas, so there are tons of variations for you to experiment with. She has extra fair isle charts, a tutorial on duplicate stitch, embroidery stitches, and gorgeous full color pictures of the stockings - all for $10. You don't even need to leave your home - buy the ebook and it will download right to your computer or tablet. (I'm not affiliated with Kristen in any way except to say that she's a fabulous indie designer and I believe in supporting fabulous indie designers every chance I get.)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Book Review: "Imagine: How Creativity Works"

Imagine: How Creativity Works, Jonah Lehrer
originally published: 13 March 2012
finished: 30 November 2011 (galley copy)


I have a friend whose husband is a book rep - she passes me the books that she thinks I'll find most interesting, so I lucked into a galley copy of this book. I consider myself a creative type and have often wondered why sometimes the ideas flow easily and other times it feels like trying to squeeze a hammer through a tube of toothpaste. Lehrer gives a good, scientific basis for why the brain works the way it does. Interesting, but I can't really do anything about how my brain works, can I? 

The genius of this book is the way he explains how other people are creative. How Bob Dylan dropped out and experienced some of the most creative times of his life. Why cities are such hotbeds for new ideas. How the Pixar team created a space where people have chances everyday to "run into" their co-workers and discuss the work. Why Elizabethan England gave us so many great playwrights. Is 3M one of the most creative companies because they give their employees the time and space to "make connections"? By looking at how others are creative, Lehrer provides a kind of road map on how you could make more creative space in your own life. 

Imagine gave me hope that I don't have to wait for a muse to hit me over the head. I can take steps that will open the tap of creativity in my head and keep it flowing. That it's not just a matter of talent but a mixture of planning, work, and perseverance that will allow me to create the life I want to live - both professionally and personally. 

This is another of those books that you can't speed read through. I read it a chapter at a time and let it sink in. I almost handed the book to my boss, he needs to read the chapter on the "Q" factor (the idea that you have to bring in new people every now and again to juice up everyone on the team). I can think of several other people who will get something out of Imagine - they'll be getting copies as well. Well worth reading.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Prompt of the Day

Okay, it's almost the end of November and I'm just now looking at the BlogHer site. Apparently there's a prompt for every day! Who knew?

Today's prompt is what is the last thing you do before bed?

What a lovely room!*
Since I have insomnia, I try to go to bed at around the same time every night (between 9 and 10 - hey I get up at 4:30, so that's reasonable). The thing is, I always have to read before I fall asleep - no matter how late it is. So no matter what, the last thing I do is read a couple of pages in my current book.

If I'm in bed and have finished my reading, but then remember that I have to take my pills or brush my teeth...I go do the whatever and come back to bed. Then I have to pick up the book again to get a couple more pages in. I don't feel right if I don't read right before falling asleep.

On rare occasions, my daughter has come into my room, removed my glasses, and turned off the light for me. Yes, she's a good girl.


(*image cribbed from here:  http://houseandgardenningaddicts.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/feng-shui-bedroom-saidaonline.jpg )

Monday, November 28, 2011

Next Month

I am crazy. I signed up for the December blog every day thingie on BlogHer. I've signed up as a crafty blogger, so I'm thinking about things I can do on a daily basis and post them on my blog.

  1. I haven't gone back to my Artist Trading Cards since that Sunday that I worked with Lisa. I think I may have enough cards to be able to do one/day or at least a couple of weeks worth.
  2. I have a couple of spinning projects that I'm tackling right now. Those might be good interspersed with the ATC days.
  3. I have a billion knitting projects that are stalled in one phase or another. Some of them need to be ripped (at least 2 lace shawls that I've made mistakes in and it would be better just to start over), some of them just need a couple of things to call them finished (a sweater that only needs one cuff to be done, buttons put on another sweater, second sock, trim on a hat for Little Big Man), some need major work (Christmas stocking, socks for my mother).

I think I just made myself of list of things that need to be done, are crafty, and can be blog posts. Yay me!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Pinterest

How is it that I've just discovered Pinterest? How long has it actually been around? All I know is, I can waste spend a lot of time looking at cool stuff and being excited about DIY, but NOT ACTUALLY DOING ANYTHING!

That is wrong and I've had to tear myself away from the computer for the last 2 days to actually knit or spin. Craziness.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Long? Weekend

Really, I had 5 days in a row off? Tomorrow, the Hub and Little Big Man will leave again.

The Hub is heading for Florida. He has a flying student who wants to start on Monday. Actually, his head was still in Florida this whole trip. Understandably it was a short one, but I expected him to be fully here and he just wasn't. When I pointed it out, he was at least aware he was doing it. His explanation was that he has to go back and be "on". I get it, it was just a little hard to take.

Little Big Man is going back to school. He appears to be doing well there and we'll know for sure when grades come out in a couple of weeks. Every time I asked him to do something this weekend, he was there and ready. It was a joy to have him here - he was friendly and engaging and only spent 1 night with friends. I will miss him.

It will be nice to have a houseful of just women again, though. Fewer coffee cups, fewer people sharing the bathroom, more places to go when the insomnia hits. But it will be quiet.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Design Website

I found a great design website while cruising the web this morning (and eating pumpkin pie). It's written by Kara Paslay who's had careers as a basketball player, designer for Anthropologie, and has now set out to create with her husband - they're working on having their own TV show. It's called Kara Paslay Designs and is chock full of great ideas that you can do yourself.


Bubble mobile
She does a lot of rooms, shows you the room, and then does posts that show individual pieces of the room - with tutorials. Take a look at this. It's a glass bubble mobile that's simple to make and looks fabulous! Here's the tutorial on how to make it. There are tons of pictures and step-by-step instructions. I have no idea where I'd put it in my house, but it's gorgeous and I want one!




Sunburst mirror frame
She uses a lot of circles and sun/star burst patterns that I really love. Here's the sunburst mirror/picture frame that she made. Again, not a very complicated project (you can either insert a photo or a small mirror in the opening), but one that could really finish off a space. I don't think it would take a lot of time to make one, but how cool would it look?


As I'm reading further and further back into her archives, I kept saying to the Hub "Look at this one! Wow, take a look at THIS one!" Finally he looked up at me (he was reading) and said, "Why don't you save a bunch of these and show them to me all at once?"


"Book" shelf
Here's my absolute favorite idea. How many giant, coffee table books do I have sitting on the book shelf that no one ever even cracks open? (Hint: a LOT) This is a great idea to use a couple of them. Isn't that a cool way to display something small? She used a textbook from her undergraduate years, but I can imagine putting a book in there that somehow ties into the decorating scheme of a room.


I can't tell you how inspired I am by this woman's site. I spent a good chunk of time this morning going further and further back and I'm so excited to give some of her fabulous ideas a try. I love stumbling across tons of blogs to find a gem and I think I'll be back to this one over and over.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!


This is not my turkey, you understand. We never put the whole bird on the table. We carve in the kitchen and carry platters to the table.

Everyone is on their way to my house, the turkey is in the oven, cranberry relish is in the fridge, pies are on the sideboard, and the stuffing is in the crock pot (I know, it's a new technique this year - I'll let you know how it turns out).

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in the US. Enjoy your families and your meal (and your post meal nap)!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Can you believe it?

A couple of years ago I bought a Western Digital 100 GB portable drive to back up my music. After the investment I've made in music I'd hate to see it disappear in a puff of smoke. The drive cost somewhere around $125. Now, I have too much media to put on it. So I had to go get another one.


This drive is 1 terabyte - that's 1,000 GB! I think it might take a while to fill with media (music, TV shows, movies, etc.). Here's the thing, it cost $150 - including shipping. How crazy is that? Plus - it's smaller than my original drive. 


Is technology great or what?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pre-Thanksgiving

My whole family will be in the same house tomorrow. I'll be picking Little Big Man up from university at noon. His one class on Wednesday has been cancelled. I would have picked him up tonight, but he had to work. He hasn't been home since we took him up there and moved him in. On one hand, I'm proud of him for finally finding his place (after 2 years). On the other hand, I've missed him this fall. We've seen him a couple of times, but it's not the same as having him actually in the house.


Hub left Florida today to meet his brother in North Carolina. They are driving up and will also arrive sometime tomorrow afternoon. We'll all be in the same place!


Then the rest of the family will descend on Thursday. We'll eat too much, drink too much, and laugh a lot.  It's going to be a good day!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Cool Project

I just came back from a meeting with 2 really cool women who have a great idea for a project. I can't tell you much, but it involves fiber and the great outdoors. I'm incredibly excited to be working with these women and I'm hopeful that we can pick up some interest from the other great women I know.

I will be documenting my process - just in case anyone is interested after the fact. I always find it fascinating to see other artists' process. How they come up with ideas, how they work to make them happen, as well as the finished product.

I'm so excited!


Edited to add:
I was awake at 3:00 this morning thinking about embellishments to add to my project. I had to get out of bed to make a drawing and jot down everything I was thinking!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Movie Review: "Breaking Dawn, Part 1"


My daughter convinced me to read the Twilight books a couple of years ago. She loves them so much; it seemed like the thing to do. I raced through them in a weekend and felt a little sick afterwards, but my Sassy was happy. If you've been living under a rock for the last several months, the latest movie based on the books came out this weekend.

Sassy has seen every movie with a group of friends, but they couldn't get their acts together this time, so it wasn't going to happen. She was very sad, so I offered to take her and our exchange student to see a matinee today. They both jumped at the chance (and sang all the way to the theater to my utter annoyance).

As I expected, it was AWFUL. Seriously, the acting was wooden, the dialogue insipid, and the pacing agonizingly slow. I was gratified to find that every time I rolled my eyes, I could hear Sassy giggling. At least we were on the same page about that. The scenery, however, was amazing - what can you do to screw up the Pacific Northwest? Also, the shirtless boys - pretty gorgeous.

One last thing, the dress. SPOILER ALERT - the vamp and the human get married in this movie. You'd think they could have gotten at least a gorgeous dress for this occasion. They did not. Panels, seams, buttons, lace...all the pieces were there, but the final product looked like what my 5-year-old used to do with tissues and tape - puckered and painful. Not what I expected at all.

Two hearty thumbs down for this movie. Wait for Netflix if you really feel the need.

(I've edited to add the picture of the dress. While it may not be apparent in the still picture, the panel in the front is unfortunately places. Just odd.)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Coco Delilah


Have you seen a Lexie Barnes bag up close? They're magnificent. She makes the most gorgeous, most functional bags ever. Well, she did. She recently stopped making bags. I had always anticipated buying a Coco (the bag she made for holding circular knitting needles). A few weeks ago a friend told me that she's no longer making them and I panicked. I went online and managed to find one that someone was getting rid of. I shipped her the $$ that day and waited.


It's been 3 weeks and I was getting a little nervous. I figured I wait to see what came in the mail today and hoped my bag was there. 


In anticipation of Thanksgiving, my girls and I started the fall house keeping today. In the entry way, there's a bench that becomes the collection point of everything that we carry into the house. Shoes, boots, gloves, backpacks, coats, etc. - it all gets dropped here. That was where we started our attack. I picked up the top layer and came upon what looked like a Coco bag. I picked it up and said, "What's this?"


My daughter said, "I don't know."


Henriette said, "I've never seen it before."


I whirled on both of them and said, "Neither of you put this here?" They shook their heads.


I walked out the door, across the yard, and over to my mother-in-law's house. She has a labrador retriever who's known to chew things up (most recently the top of a styrofoam cooler belonging to my dad). I slapped the bag on her counter and said, "This was something I ordered 3 weeks ago that I just found in my house."


"Well, it clearly looks like a dog chewed it up, but I don't think I've ever seen it before," she said.


I told her the girls hadn't ever seen it before, but it was on the bench IN MY HOUSE.


She had the temerity to say, "When might this have been? I may have put it there, but I really don't remember."


I came back home and cried. Then I called my husband (in Florida) and yelled at him for a few minutes.


It's not the end of the world. But here's the thing, I don't have a whole lot of money to be throwing around and I was so lucky to find this case and so happy to have a treat for myself.


People wonder why I don't like dogs. This is it.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Holiday Shopping

We have an exchange student staying with us this year. She's a lovely girl and has settled into our family nicely. Here's my dilemma, what do I get the kid for Christmas? I want to give her something similar to what I would give my own kids, but honestly I haven't known her for that long.

Sassy's getting an iPod - will it cause hurt feelings if I get the same thing for our student? Little Big Man doesn't want an iPod (he usually wants $$$). I think gift cards are fine for filling in or as stocking stuffers, but they're a little impersonal. When I ask her what she'd like, she says, "Oh, it's enough that you choosed me to stay with you. I don't need any gifts." Not helpful.

Has anyone else had a student they've had to buy for? Any suggestions?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Book Review - "The Hypnotist"

The Hypnotist, Lars Kepler (audio)
originally published: 2009
translated from Swedish: June 2011
finished: 16 November 2011



I loved the Stieg Larsson books. Enjoyed reading them, enjoyed the movies - all of it. When a friend of mine suggested that I read this one (listen really) I jumped at the chance. I was hoping to get another great Swedish mystery that would keep me hanging to the very last page. What I'm left with is the same sort of feeling I get when I eat too many cookies. Slightly sick to my stomach and disbelief that I finished all of them.


I hated most of the characters in this book. The main one, Joona Linna, who is the police officer at the center of it, was at least palatable. No so for everyone else. Each member of the family featured is self-centered and whiney beyond redemption. The wife is ridiculously shrill, the husband is a pill-popping narcissist, and the teenage son is overly dramatic and spoiled. By the end I was hoping the bad guys would get them all.


Why did I finish? The bones of the story were good, although I did figure out "who done it" long before the big reveal. I was also trapped in the "maybe it will get better" vortex. I kept thinking, "everyone likes it so much, it must get good". Wrong.


Don't waste your time. I listened to it on my commute into work, so I don't feel too bad. If I had actually bought the book and spent time reading it, I would have felt very cheated. I don't even like Joona enough to want to listen to the next one. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Erica/Jillian Yarn

My friend Erica makes the best yarn. She has a great color sense and blends colors on the fly. She puts things together that I never would, and they look fabulous. My friend Jillian set out to do what Erica does. She watched Erica spin and watched how she put colors together and figured out a way to explain it to me so I could do it too.

I have a stash of fiber that's so special to me that I can't bring myself to spin it. It's called the Box of Love (tm). I knew that to try this technique, I had to spin something I really, really loved - so into the BoL I went. My friend Lynne Vogel doesn't dye too much anymore, so her braids are almost sacred. They make gorgeous yarn, but they're so precious that I've had a hard time parting with them. I had 3 oz each of Blue Jean Baby and an unnamed green colorway in 75% BFL and 25% tussah silk - dreamy. I knew these were the ones.

Lynne Vogel Ltd - Blue Jean Baby

Lynne Vogel Ltd - unnamed greens

You pick 2 colorways that have at least one color in common. It's kind of hard to see (because my camera is dying) but there's an ice blue that is common to both of these. Then the trick is to strip the top down and hold a piece of each colorway while spinning. I spun a pretty thin single, knowing that I would ply it. The picture of the single below is blurry, but you get a good idea of the way the colors blend together almost giving a barber pole effect in a single.

Blurry single still on the bobbin

When you ply the 2 singles together the colors blend and swirl like an Impressionist painting (gorgeous even though I say it myself).
2-ply in the skein after washing

end weight: 5.9 oz
wpi: 12
fiber: 75% blue faced leicester/25% tussah silk

Monday, November 14, 2011

Fiber Festivals 2012

Here's the list of festivals I want to do next year:

January 28
Winter Wine & Wool, Jackson, Michigan

May 19
Michigan Fiber Fiesta, Greenville, Michigan

July 28-29
Castle Farms Fiber Festival, Charlevoix, Michigan

August 17-19
Michigan Fiber Festival, Allegan, Michigan

September 29-30
Northern Michigan Lamb & Wool, West Branch, Michigan

October 27-28
Fiber Expo, Ann Arbor, Michigan

I've applied and been accepted to Winter Wine & Wool and Northern Michigan. I will be applying before the end of the year to every place else. Castle Farms is already wait listing vendors so I'll be hoping someone has to back out of their commitment for that one.

It's an ambitious list. I'm hopeful that if I commit early, I'll gain momentum. Next up, signage.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Book Review: "The House at Sea's End"


The House at Sea's End (Ruth Galloway #3), Elly Griffiths
originally published: 10 January 2012 (I read a review copy)
finished: 11 November 2011


The third in Ruth Galloway book is a wonderful addition to the series. There are several things I love about these books: the setting (bleak English coast), Ruth's job (forensic anthropology), and the characters. They are regular human beings - no one is a super hero - they could be the people you see on the bus every morning, just going about their lives.


In this installment, Ruth is back from maternity leave and is juggling her feelings about new motherhood with going back to teaching and catching a new case. Griffiths neatly ties what's going on to a previous point in Ruth's past - giving us a little insight into Ruth's present. I found the story line that ties back to World War II very interesting. Clearly the war is still on the minds of many Brits - much more than for Americans. There are some twists and turns, and I can never figure out who the criminal is, but it was a good ride.


Griffiths is getting better and better at telling her stories. While I object to the way she constantly lets us know that Ruth is fat and feels badly about it, it's clear that she does care about her main character. The other characters are developing as well. I hope Cathbad continues to show up, he's great comic relief in his flowing cape. Well worth the time spent reading and I'm looking forward to Ruth's next adventure.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Art in the Park

I've done this show since its beginning. My friend Kate Kehoe organizes it and the table fee is basically a fund raiser for the senior center where the show is held. She does one in the fall and one in the spring. Every show I wait and wait to see if I want to spend the table fee to get myself in. Every time I miss the deadline and Kate drops me an e-mail, "Are you interested? You've got a table if you want one!" So I send in my table fee. My proceeds from the spring show barely covered the table fee and gas to get over there (it's about 40 minutes from my house). 


With a sense of impending doom this morning, I got the girls up, we packed the car, and drove over there. We were an hour early - for some reason I thought it started at 10! We drank some bad hot chocolate and ate some bad donuts and muffins to kill a little time before we could set up. I was annoyed and irritated at every little thing and I think it was because we had done all this work and I wasn't expecting anything from the show. I always say, "even if it's a bad show, I get to spin for a whole day, uninterrupted and that's good enough". But if I'm honest with myself, it's not enough. The time spent to dye and package all my wares, hauling it all over and setting up a booth in addition to smiling and being pleasant for an entire day is kind of a lot of work. Pleasant isn't really my nature and I'm quite solitary so making small talk (with other vendors as well as customers) is hard for me. 


Turns out, it was worth it. I took Erica's advice and made sure to greet everyone and actually talk to them. I looked for something to compliment (great sweaters, cool boots, interesting necklace), asked if they were knitters and/or spinners, told them they couldn't just look - they had to touch, etc. It was fun - if I can make a sort of game out of it I enjoy it a lot more. Now, while my fellow vendors were my best customers, I did manage to sell a couple of skeins of handspun and that ALWAYS makes me happy. I managed to make back the booth fee, buy a tank of gas, and have $$ left over!


I do like doing this show. It's in a very supportive neighborhood, my sister always brings me a latte, and the other vendors are amazing. However, this is one of the shows that I have to think about really hard for 2012. Is it really worth my time and effort if I'm aiming to do larger shows? I love supporting Kate and the seniors, but how valuable is it for me?