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.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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…

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?

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.

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. 

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.