Swimming Upstream

otter1That’s what it feels like, like I’m trying to swim upstream. I’ve made the big decision, to quit my volunteer jobs, to follow my bliss, to create for myself. I had the wonderful elation (for like 10 minutes) of contacting these people and letting them know I’m no longer going to be actively involved in the planning and day to day work at their organization. Now I’m getting hit with the resistance, the uncertainty, fear and sometimes down right anger about the change. Mind you, no one is actually saying it out loud, that they’re angry, but I’m so sensitive to energy, I know it, and I feel it.

dr3eSo to get through this time of change and transition I’m working really hard on keeping my focus on myself and what I’m creating. Finding support from friends that understand what I’m going through. Focusing on what I can control and what I can do now to advance my struggling business. And maybe, just maybe, be a little amused about how I don’t do things half assed. How when I decide to make a change, it’s not small or unnoticed. That I can hang onto an idea and run with it. That if I continue to swim upstream, through this river of resistance to change, I’ll get to the spawning ground of my creativity. (Yeah, I know, bad metaphor.)

derSometimes I wonder if this isn’t just a big test by the universe. We’ll throw all this resistance and uncertainty and fear at her, and see if she’ll keep going forward, or just run away with her tail between her legs like a frightened puppy otter. This way we’ll know for sure that’s she’s really serious about making art, not just saying she’s going to make art. This way, it’s really do or die, shit or get off the pot.

So it’s time to put my big girl panties on. Ignore the nay sayers and critics (especially the one that lives inside my head) and just keep going forward. In the end, when they see I haven’t given up, they’ll know I’m serious about my changes and desire to create a new life. That life that’s full of creativity, exploration, fun and otters. Lots of otters. Otter photos courtesy of the web, and Daily Otter.com

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Ch-ch-changes

Tencel in teal & turquoiseIt’s been a long time coming.

I’ve had this feeling that things needed to be different, the nagging feeling that I couldn’t quite put my finger on, that something’s got to give.

I’ve been mulling over all the changes I’d like to make in my creative space. Yes, I have been able to make some things, but it’s been so hit and miss, and sometimes far and few between. I really needed to take a closer look at what’s going on with me. So I sat my ass down, had that heart to heart, and applied a dose of tough love. “You have to make some changes girlfriend, and you need to do it now.”

The lightbulb finally went on!

Bottom line, I’m still putting everyone else’s needs first, and this excessive volunteering has got to stop. By doing for everyone else, I’m not taking the time to work on my needs, my projects and start creating those pieces that I’ve been wanting to make. I also don’t have to worry about failure. Failure to produce and failing to have accolades from other people. It’s time to do this for me.

Glam Face

You’d think it would’ve been obvious. When you’re spending all your Saturdays, and every Tuesday evening for a staff meeting at one volunteer job, then two Thursdays a month and another day doing web updates at another volunteer job that maybe, just maybe, you’ve extended yourself a little too much outward and not enough inward. It creeps up on you, and sometimes you don’t see it until you actually sit down, and slow down for long enough to even look at it. I was more than a little shocked when I put down in writing how many hours a month I was giving away. No wonder I wasn’t accomplishing anything. If I spent that time on my projects and my business well, I might start progressing forward, instead of just spinning my wheels.

So what I’ve done is give notice to those two volunteering jobs. I’ve enjoyed being part of both of those organizations, and I’m still going to be involved as a participant but no longer as a chronic volunteer. The Saturday job goes away at the end of March, and the Thursday job in June. I’m still volunteering my time for the La Honda Fair, so I haven’t completely reformed, but it’s a start and it’ll also be done in June. The way I see it, July is going to be really awesome.

Dress Form Collages

I’m really looking forward to reclaiming my time for myself.  I’ve already started getting ready for the incredible surge of creativity that is on the horizon, by cleaning out my studio space. Putting things away that have been sitting there for six months (or longer) and decluttering old boxes of stuff from my previous life. I’ve already found the umbrella I’ve been looking for!

I can’t wait to see where this creative energy is going to take me, now that I’ll have time to focus on it. I do know one thing, I’m ready to drag out the loom, warp that puppy up with the tencel I dyed last fall, and see what kinds of cool scarves come out.

Stay tuned, it’s going to be a wild ride.

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Review, Renew and Go Forth Boldly into 2014

Tencel in purples & turquoiseI have to admit it, I never have been very good at looking at the past, analyzing what went wrong, and what did go right over the past year. I know a number of people who do this every year, heck, I know people who do it on a quarterly basis, but that’s not really me. I guess I resist it now because for so many years I was pretty depressed and self trashing was a way of life. So a “review” for me, is a really easy way to go back down that road again and beat myself up all over again for what I didn’t do and what I should have done.

Instead, I’m going to validate what I did do, what I did create because that is a lot more positive than looking at the negative. When I did start to look at my creative journey over the past year, I must say, I’m kind of impressed. Thank goodness for this blog, because my memory isn’t what it used to be.

Here’s the list:

P1000134I sewed a vest, two tote bags, and a purse.

I wove 5 scarves of different fibers.

I spun many yards of fiber.

I learned how to dye yarn, dyeing 3 warps and 3 weft yarns.

I learned how to make mini books, many of which have turned into excellent little ornaments.

I knitted 2 hats, one was an original design, came up with another original design of an infinity scarf and knit two of them. I also knit a gorgeous cabled headband that will be a Christmas gift. I also started a lace shawl and a sweater, both of which I’ll get back to soon.

I crocheted two Queen Anne’s Lace scarves.

I also knit 5 ornaments for the tree.

Spinning in progressSo when I numerate my creative year, it’s much easier to see I was no slouch. But it isn’t just about all the “things” I’ve created, it’s also about overcoming creative inertia. The self doubt and self trashing that has me comparing and competing with what so and so did, and how much I love their work and wish mine was just. like. theirs. So then, I would be successful, and have that imagined life of a “successful artist.” The more I delve into what constitutes the “successful artist” the more I know, you get there by a lot of hard work, not giving up and keep putting one foot in front of the other, while you create that piece that makes your soul sing.

Red scarfThis reflection gives me direction as to what I might like to explore further this coming year, like diving more into weaving and spinning. And spinning yarn for weaving! I’ve also sparked a desire to explore doll making. I feel there are some strong female images that are fighting to get out and take form. At some point over this next year I’ll also be able to figure out where a business fits in with all this creativity, but I’m not quite sure where that is yet. For now, I do know just being able to say to myself, “you did fine, you did what you could” is the most important thing on my path, because the alternative is not conducive to allowing that creative spirit to thrive. And I know that this coming year will have it’s own challenges that all I can say is “Bring it On!” because I’m ready for the next steps.

I’d love to hear your perspective on your year both past and future. Where have you been on your creative journey, and where are you going? Let me know in the comments.

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Color Riot

Tencel in reds & orangesA color riot is the best way to describe what the dye workshop was like last weekend. Sponsored by Black Sheep Handweavers Guild, thirteen women and our fearless leader explored what dye can do to tencel yarn.

Teresa Ruch, well known indie dyer that specializes in tencel and bamboo, showed us the basics of how to “paint” warps for weaving. I put paint in quotes because what we were really doing is pouring dye onto the warp and smooching it into the yarn and then taking a different color and blending it into the other color. This is my kind of dyeing! Not many rules, lots of fun and plenty of creativity thrown in with a healthy dose of experimentation. I found I absolutely love the intensity of color on the tencel.

Tencel in teal & turquoiseThe first day was giving us the basics of the properties of tencel and the fiber reactive dyes we would be using. Of course, safety tips were thrown in (don’t breathe those dry dyes!) and then we were let loose to find those colors that resonate with us. Our techniques included lots of use of plastic wrap, cooking the yarn in a microwave to set the dyes, and lots of water to rinse the excess dye out. Day two was spent designing more warps with accent colors and weft yarns to compliment or contrast the warps we’ve painted.

Tencel in purples & turquoiseWhat I really took away from this workshop is a whole new appreciation for all the indie dyers out there. I now know first hand the amount of work involved to create these amazing yarns that I like to knit and weave with. I also know dyeing isn’t going to become one of my new obsessions, partially because of the water limits where I live. But I sure do know where I can find these fabulous yarns!

You can find Teresa Ruch’s yarns at  http://teresaruchdesigns.com. If you’re interested in Teresa teaching a workshop, you can contact her through her website.

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The Dreaded Learning Curve

So we’ve all been there. You take up a new craft or project, and you know just enough about how to do it to fake it. Sometimes you get lucky and you’re successful, and it turns out great. But then sometimes…. you’re just plain deluding yourself. You’re in denial about how the project is going. You’d like to believe it really is quite wonderful like it is in your head, and then boom, that denial is blown to pieces. In this case, it’s me and my weaving.

Green scarfPrime example, is this lovely scarf, still on the loom. It’s a pretty green, has an interesting weave pattern and this lovely boucle yarn to give it a different texture. What’s not to love? As I took it off the loom, it was like a lead brick in my hands. It’s heavy, wide as the Grand Canyon, has no drape, is thicker than the blanket on your bed, and who in their right mind would ever wear this travesty of fashion.

Well, there’s two things I can do. Repurpose it or rip it out and start over. Now I consider myself to be quite adept at repurposing, but for the life of me, I can’t come up with what else to make this thing into. A wall hanging? Cut it up into a bag? Dog toy? I’ve pretty much decided to rip it out, mostly because the yarn was quite expensive when first bought, and even though it’s been in my stash for forever, it’s still a very nice yarn.

Rewoven scarfNow with scarf example number two I managed to catch it before I got too far with it. This scarf used the second half of the same warp. I started using the same weave, but got only about 6″ into it and found that the weft yarn was getting eaten up quicker than a ravenous teen age boy attacks a burger. Having just had a major blow to my weaver’s ego, I felt the fabric and discovered that it too, was going to be a repeat of scarf #1, only in a slightly different color. I promptly unwove it, which is no small feat, and rewove the majority of it in a plain weave. It has much more drape and is certainly lighter that the first scarf.

This is the first time in ages that I’ve taken up a new craft, where I’m not completely successful right from the beginning! I can’t tell you have many knit projects were ripped out and reknit when I was first learning. Same thing with sewing and crochet. Oh how quickly we forget.

But I guess since it’s another fiber craft, I figured I should be a master right from the start. (Gotta love that magical thinking.) And what I didn’t realize, is that weaving is a whole different animal from knitting. This whole thing about “weave structure” well, has a lot less flexibility than knitting does, at least the structure I picked. And what I need to get through my head, is what I’m making here is fabric. Yeah, just like the stuff our clothes are made from. It has it’s own set of rules, and maybe with a little bit more practice and playing with it, I’ll learn some of them.

For now, I’m going to be nice to myself and laugh at the scarf from an alternate universe. The one that loves thick, stiff scarves and go pick up my knitting. At some point, when I’m feeling particularly patient and energetic, that thing will get picked apart, and rewoven into something that could actually be worn by a real human being in this universe.

Knit HeadbandSee I really can make pretty things.

Please leave me a comment, I’d love to hear about any of your learning curve experiences, so I don’t feel so alone in this journey.

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Cables, Lace and Getting My Weave On

The dam has broken and startitis is in full force. The long dry spell of what to create next is dispelled, and now I want to make all the things. Knit all the beautiful new designs, and weave all the winter scarves and shawls. So to reign in this creative energy, I’m doing my best to direct it, instead of allowing it to run rampant like it really would prefer.

City StoplightsI recently finished this lovely shawl. It’s a mashup of City Stoplights and my desire to have a flirty shoulderette type shawl. I knit to the point where I just couldn’t do one more row of garter stitch, and increased the number of stitches to make a ruffle. And so the ruffle wasn’t too boring, I found a simple lace pattern and went at it. I like how it turned out, and it’ll meet my needs when I’m sitting in a chilly office in the middle of winter.

woolgathering1_02But once I finished it, I went through the “I’ve finished everything, now what” phase and luckily, around that time, the new issue of Twist Collective came out. I was smitten with probably 6 pieces, but I had really been wanting to do a big project, and a sweater was on the agenda. Rafters was just what I had been looking for. All that cabley goodness and something that I felt I would even look good in. Something challenging but not so mind numbing that I couldn’t think at the end of a knitting session. After a few fits and starts, it has been smooth sailing for a week of so. I’m loving my Ultra Alpaca in heather green, that I had in my stash for another sweater.

city5_02But in that issue of Twist Collective was also this gorgeous shawl called Periphery. Oh how I love the patterning going up the back and who doesn’t love purple. So I cast on for it too. Mind you, I now have two knitting projects that require me to pay attention to what I’m doing, so I’ve been alternating between the two. Currently the sweater is winning in the race of how much time is spent on the project, but that can change in the drop of a hat.

Woven Scarf

Actually, now the weaving project has become the simple, soothing fiber project. The one where I have to do some counting, but it’s not requiring me to have constant intense attention. I’m loving it’s fall colors, and I think it’ll be very popular at the Holiday Festival in December.

So the one thing that comes to mind is, how many projects are too many? Geeze, I’m even thinking about a pair of socks, just as something small to take with me to knitting group, and for once, I’m a little hesitant. Mind you, this is coming from someone who once had 8 projects going, I feel I’ve really grown up.

How about you? Are you loyal to one project at a time or are you more like me, the more the merrier? Let me know in the comments.

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Oh Hello Spinning Wheel

La Honda Elementary studentsThis last month has been incredibly busy, with La Honda Fair prep, the Fair happening and then of course the ever so popular, Fair clean up. All that’s left is the afterglow. This annual event is a fund raiser for the Art and Music programs at La Honda Elementary school and is very near and dear to my heart. I started this particular version of the Fair with Nancy Hewitt, my then business partner as a way to highlight not only the need for continued art and music in the school, but to promote local businesses.

It’s grown over the last 21 years to being a very successful event. Some locals have moved away, some have passed away, but many still live in La Honda and come out and support the event. It was fun, I was able to see many people that I only see once a year, including many extremely creative vendors.

Spinning in progressSo now that the Fair is over, and I have my life back, I’m looking at my projects and stashes. (Yes I have more than one.) One thing I’ve always been interested in, is to be completely self sufficient in when it comes to being able to clothe myself. I think that is where my love of first gardening, to grow the plant, to then spin it into fiber and weave or knit it into a garment. At one point, I even considered growing flax to make into linen. The only thing that stopped me, was when I got to the part about how to process the flax. I’m pretty hardcore when it comes to self sufficiency, but finding or making a flax brake, to beat down the stalks, that’s where I draw the line. I have processed my share of wool, alpaca, mohair and angora, so it’s not completely foreign to me to get my hands dirty when it comes to making fiber spinable.

But with the advent to so many lovely already processed and dyed fibers and colors, I sometimes feel like I’m cheating by buying them. But hey, sometimes cheating is a good way to jump start and just get into spinning. So here I am, happily spinning away some lovely dark plum merino wool, that has little streaks of red and blue in it. I’ll probably ply it on itself and use it in a scarf.

Rognvaldson Spinning WheelThis little wheel is going to be coming with me on my vacation to Lake Tahoe. My cousin gave it to me since she was no longer using it. I can’t wait to make many miles of yarn on it, because it is a sweet little Canadian wheel made by C. R. Rognvaldson, dated Jan. 1981. It has many years of life left in it and I can’t wait to become a better spinner because I have some cashmere in my fiber stash. Plus, the Tour de Fleece is starting up pretty soon. The annual spinning competition during the Tour de France gets pretty heated sometimes, and if nothing else, I do become a better, more even spinner during that time.

This is the next fiber in the queue, is a merino/tencel blend in a colorway of Watery Depths by Susan’s Kitchen. Only appropriate since I’ll be spinning it at Tahoe. I haven’t spun tencel before, so it’ll be a learning experience too. It has a bit of sparkle to it and a very nice feel.

Wool/Tencel rovingWhat are your summer crafting projects? I love that there are so many more light hours to dive into, and take outside our crafting. I’d love to hear what you’re up to this summer too.

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Back on the Fiber Train Again

One thing I’ve realized about myself is, I have lots of cycles in my creative life. Last fall, it was sewing. I sewed tote bags, toys for my grandkids for Christmas, clothing for myself, curtains for my son’s bedroom. The sewing bug had bitten me hard and my machine and I were joined at the hip. Right up until the sewing burnout with the creativity killing curtains. I’m actually ok with being over sewing for now, because I know I’ll be back sewing at some point.

Silk ShawlNow, it’s all about weaving and my looms. Well, at some point, it might be about my spinning wheel, and maybe some knitting too, but for now it’s weaving. I warped up my little rigid heddle loom with some silk to make a narrow shawl, using a pick up stick to give it some texture. This will donated to our local La Honda Fair and Music Festival in June, as a raffle prize. It’s been fun getting back into weaving, having my hands in yarn again, getting that rhythm going. It’s been probably a year since I’ve wove anything and I didn’t realize how much I’ve missed it.

Next I’ll warp up my Baby Wolf and start to figure out what patterns I might want to do on it. I have a couple of books that will help me along, and I figure this summer will be spent exploring all the different things I can do with my 4 shaft loom. It’s going to be fun seeing what kind of stash busting I can do with it. After all, like with everything in life, you only get good at a craft with practice, and I plan on practicing weaving a lot this summer.

City Stoplights ShawlFor those times when my back has become tired, I also have a knitting project going. It’s a very simple shawl, completely from my luxury yarn stash. The pattern is called City Stoplights by Sherri Matteo and is a free pattern on Ravelry. It’s simple and makes for a great social knitting project. I’m using lace weight yarn instead of sock yarn, partially because I wanted a lighter shawl and these colors are what I have in the stash. I’m liking how it’s coming out and who wouldn’t love a cashmere, buffalo, alpaca, wool and silk shawl?

Like I seem to do with all the rest of my creative life, I’m just going to go with this for a while. If nothing else, I’ll have some product made for the local Holiday Fair and I’m bent on using up my yarn stash.

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The Creativity Killing Curtains

Every once in awhile you find yourself taking on a project that you just know is going to be: a) boring and b) a little more than you expect. Well, that is exactly what happened when I decided to make these curtains for my son’s bedroom.

CurtainsMind you my intentions were good. He needed curtains. His bedroom has a huge window that looks right on to the road. Mind you, it’s not that busy of a road, but he has had people look right into his room, with him half clothed, so yeah, privacy was wanted. Also, by sewing them myself, I could save an awful lot of money. After all, how hard is it to sew straight seams?

Once I got hip to the fact that this upholstery fabric is incredibly heavy, and slick too, I found this is one of those instances that fusible web is your friend. I used it to tack down the seam before sewing it down. I also learned that fabric this thick doesn’t really like to push aside. So I had to adjust the type of curtain for the smaller windows and make a more labor intense Roman shade. I’ve also discovered I’m pretty good with a drill and power screwdriver, and I absolutely love my staple gun. I also learned that the screws supplied with the hardware for hanging curtains are pretty crappy.

Roman shadeI learned a lot making them, and I think they turned out pretty well. My son is very happy with them. They give him privacy, block out the 6:00 am sun, and they’re a huge step up from the Tree of Life bedspread and Bob Marley blanket he had been using as curtains.

But I tell you one thing, I don’t care if I see my sewing machine for awhile. I’m glad I did them, because the emotional payoff is high, but thankfully, I don’t need to be making any more curtains for a long, long time. When I do decide to see my sewing machine again, it’s going to be for something like a blouse, or dress, or jacket or anything that has something besides just straight seams.

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Bingeing On DIY

 

I’m a “do it yourself-er.” As long as I can remember I’ve been making things. As a kid I sewed my doll’s clothes, and as I got older, I sewed clothes for myself. I’ve been knitting for over 25 years, and have made more knitwear I can ever wear. I’ve been crocheting for longer than knitting and have explored every type of crochet you can think of. I was even doing Tunisian crochet, when it was still called Afghan crochet. I learned how to spin yarn because, well, I never wanted to be dependent on yarn companies to feed my knitting habit. I also learned how to weave because, well, I had too much yarn.

New ShelvesSo when I contemplated making shelves for the studio, I jumped right in head first. After all, how hard is it to make a shelf? Actually, it’s not that hard, if you’ll listen to other people. I admit, I have a small problem with that, and after having to return the other shelf hangers, and then getting the ones first recommended, I was finally on track for shelves. First I had to sand the boards, because I’m also reusing wood from the old house and it was very rough. I am now an old hat at using a orbital sander. I even know how to change the sandpaper in it! I even sealed the boards, which was easy, because it’s just like painting. The big thing for me was to take the project all the way through to completion. I now have shelves with sewing stuff on them! Now I just need more wall space for more shelves.

CurtainsFor my next big DIY project (I hate that term, but it works), I’m going to make curtains for my son’s bedroom. Thank goodness I already know how to sew, because it will make this project a lot easier. His room faces the street and has plenty of windows to give you the kind of views and light that anyone would love. Except for the fact that everyone who walks by, can also see what is going on inside the bedroom. Like everything… Especially the things you’d rather not share with the world. Even though there is a fence between the room and the road, it is still on the same level as the road. That said, before he comes back from college, I would like to help him out and have some nice curtains.

I have this nice heavy fabric that I picked up for a song, and so now it’s just a matter of measuring and sewing. I haven’t made curtains in quite awhile, so I’ll be dragging out my resource books to brush up on how to make them. Even though I got this fabric for next to nothing, I don’t want to waste it. Figuring out how much extra to allow, where to mount the curtain rods and all that. I’ll be a fun project and very satisfying to help him out. They’ll be the more brown side of the fabric on the bottom, instead of the green.

Now I just wish the rest of my DIY projects, aka garage cleaning, would just finish itself. It is coming along, but never quite fast enough for my liking.

Do you have any DIY projects that you do outside of your regular art and craft realm? I’d love to hear about them.

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