State of the Fiber-Arts Union

I’ve been through my first two weeks at my new job.  Starting a new job is always an adjustment.  There’ve been fun moments—my coworkers are a smart and lively bunch, and the technologies I’m working on are cutting edge—and challenging moments—there’s so much to learn, it’s like drinking from a firehose—and sad moments—I have less time with my husband and son, which really kills.  But helping support the family is important work, and if I have to have a job, I can’t imagine one I’d be better suited for (well, unless Handwoven was hiring.)

One thing that’s taken a hit the past two weeks has been time to work on fibery pursuits.  I was feeling somewhat bummed about that and decided to take a tour of works in progress.

My going-to-bed project for the past two weeks has been practicing lever knitting by working on an alternating-color scarf.  (The pattern is simple and has been all over the internet.  Essentially you alternate between two balls of color-changing yarn, knitting 2 rows of 1×1 rib with one ball before switching to the other.)  Lever knitting was something I learned at Madrona this year from Stephanie Pearl-McPhee.  I decided to practice it right before bed because I knew doing so would let my brain chew over the new skill at night and help lock it into place.

lever knitting

If this doesn’t look like much scarf to have after two weeks, know this: the first night I think I did two rows.  It was glacial progress, retraining my fingers to new positions and ways of moving.  Many stitches were dropped and picked up.  The next night, another painfully slow two rows.  Then after a few nights, I was maybe getting four rows.  So it went for two weeks, steady but slow progress.  Then, yesterday, I whipped through about six inches while lounging in bed drinking tea.  (Then Kai woke up and started jumping on me.  I’ve not yet mastered the art of combat knitting, so I put the needles aside and cuddled and tickled instead.)  This morning another three inches of scarf jumped off the needles.  It’s kind of scary how fast the knitting is going right now.  I actually caught myself thinking: “On no!  This scarf is going to be over too soon!”  Which really threw me.  Is this project also making me a process knitter?

Right now, lever knitting is starting to feel so comfortable and fast that I’m actually scheming of knitting a sweater, one knit flat, with seaming….on straight aluminum needles!

To truly understand the weird irony of that statement you have to know that two weeks ago:

  • I hated straight needles, thought they were absolutely stupid and awkward.
  • Thought knitting was too slow to take seriously as anything more than useful finger twiddling.
  • Hated sweaters knit flat, because I couldn’t see why you wouldn’t just knit everything in the round, as nature intended.
  • Was scared stupid of knitting sweaters because every single one of the 2-1/2 I’ve knitting so far has been a failure.
  • Hated aluminum needles because the scraping sound of them rubbing together makes my teeth hurt.

That last was fixed by my splurging on a pair of US 8 needles from Signature Needle Arts.  I’d resisted them for years because of the hating of aluminum and the whole “straight needles are stupid” thing.  They are also dead expensive.  But, in the spirit of exploration and discovery, I ordered a pair.  They are, truly as lovely and well balanced as all the bloggers say they are.  I got the stiletto point and am enjoying the accuracy of a sharp pointy needle.  (Plus I love the name “stiletto” which invokes high heels and concealable daggers and reeks of mystery and intrigue.  Yeah, these are my dangerous and sexy, “stiletto” knitting needles: watch out, world!)

Enough rhapsodizing about straight-needle knitting, let’s see what else I’ve been working on lately…

This has been my bus-commute project.  A crocheted mobius scarf/neck warmer designed by my friend Selah.  I’d wanted to work on a mobius project ever since reading  Cat Bordhi’s Second Treasury of Magical Knitting, but it’s never arisen to the top of my work queue.  Selah figured out how to convert the mobius design to crochet, and generously shared the essential trick to make it work with me, and I’ve been using this as my carry-project.  Because it’s fascinating to watch the cloth grow from both sides, and because 14-inch straight needles would pose a hazard to other bus passengers on a crowded morning commute.

Crochet mobius scarf

These socks were my previous carry project before the mobius kicked them out of my to-go project bag.  They’re a fun twinkly yarn, and I’m considering embellishing them with LED sequins and a Sparkle to make glow-y fun socks.

Sparkly green socks

I wanted to get the 40th Blanket project done before Madrona, but with teaching two brand new classes, there was a lot of prepping and sampling to get done.  So threading this had to step aside to make sure that the students got their money’s worth.  (Teaching new classes is always a bit nerve-wracking, will there be enough material?  Too much?  I work hard to try to provide a balance for students at all skill levels.  I hope the students had a good time.)  So the birthday blanket project is still in progress, and I’m hoping to get it all done in time for the fall fund-raising season.  Because, at its heart, it’s a charity project.

40th blanket project ready for threading

I’ve also been working on a project on my rigid-heddle loom.  This is a fabric that I’m hoping will work for a garment that ties into a new passion of mine: roller derby.  That’s been a whole nother life-changer for me.  A couple of months ago I asked myself the question: “What could I do for exercise that would be excruciatingly fun?”  Because I know that if exercise isn’t fun, I just won’t do it.  The universe, as it often does when you ask the right question, came up with an answer for me.  More about this in a future blog post.

rigid heddle fabric

Oh, and last but not least.  I’ve been spinning.  This is Lorna’s Laces “Green with Envy” 100% superwash merino.

spinning singles on the bobbin

It’s appropriate that I end this post with spinning, as it was the fiber art that drew me in to so many other crafts.  When I was first employed in high-tech, working for Microsoft, spinning was my way to relax and ground myself after a stressful day.  So it’s no surprise that I’ve turned myself back to it right now, when I’m working hard each day to figure out bus schedules, and new technologies, and set up a build machine, and work through all the new names and teams.

Looking at the things I have on the go right now, I notice a couple of things:

  1. I’m getting a lot more fiber arts done in cracks and crannies of time than I’d imagined.  That’s a comfort.  I can have a job and a family…and my art, too.
  2. Most of the projects I’m working on right now are dead simple.  They’re projects to sooth the soul, not challenge the brain.  I’m happy with that.  It’s nice to know that no matter what’s going on in your life, there’s a way to fit fiber arts into it.  When things settle down at work (if they ever do) there’ll be challenging lace patterns and weave structures to spark my brain.  In the meantime, I’m happy with my comfort-food knitting, weaving, crochet, and spinning.

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