Book release day: Inventive Weaving

For previous book releases, I’ve made a pilgrimage to the local bookseller to take a celebratory picture standing next to the book on the shelves.

With my time almost completely taken up with working at Google and spending time with my family, I’m not sure when I’ll have time to get to a local yarn or book store. So if you see a copy out in the wild, give it a pat for me, will you?

Cover for Inventive Weaving

This book is the culmination of four years of work, research, weaving that went well, weaving that didn’t, fear, day jobs, procrastination, more work, and heroic efforts on the part of my editor.

I hope you like it.

P.S. Got my 30 minutes of novel writing in yesterday and today. By the skin of my teeth today, but done!

Columbia Gorge Fiber Festival

My new book, Inventive Weaving, is scheduled to be published tomorrow, though I know that some folks who attended Rhinebeck or pre-ordered the book on Amazon have already gotten their hands on copies.

This upcoming weekend I’ll be promoting the book at the Columbia Gorge Fiber Festival, in The Dalles, Oregon. It’s one I’ve never been to and I’m interested to explore it. There are some great teachers there. Friday afternoon, I’m taking the Knit Smart class taught by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

Friday, from 4pm-7pm, I’ll be participating in a book signing with all the luminaries teaching at the festival.

Saturday, I’ll demo weaving overshot on a rigid heddle loom from 11:00-11:45, near the registration desk.

Linda Gettman, one of my former students, is teaching rigid-heddle classes at the festival . I’m so proud of her! If I teach someone to weave, and they go on to teach others, does that make me a weaving grandma?

And yes, today’s 30 minutes of novel writing are done!

NaNoWriMo

November is National Novel Writing Month. It’s an annual event where writers pledge to write a novel (40K or more words) in a month. There are websites where you can register and find other enthusiasts, and cheer each other on.

I have never participated in NaNoWriMo, but I’ve always been intrigued. I like the idea of committing to something, and being part of a community of writers. But the idea of writing for speed, at the probable expense of quality, doesn’t work for me.

But this year, I think I’ve found a way to participate. Instead of pledging a word count, I’m pledging 30 minutes a day.

Each day in November, I’m going to carve out 30 minutes and sit my butt in the chair and write. Perhaps it’ll only be two sentences, perhaps a whole chapter. I won’t end up the month with a novel, but I’m hoping to end up with a sustainable habit that can eventually lead to one.

I call it NaWriDaMo, National Write Daily Month.

And yes, I’ve already done 30 minutes today, on something that might, one day, be a novel.

Reviewing Page Proofs for Inventive Weaving

This summer, I spent time in Seattle coffee houses and libraries going through the page proofs of my forthcoming book: Inventive Weaving.

Editing page proofs

This is the step in the publishing process where all of the photos and text are laid out as they will be in the finished book, and the author gets to go through and catch any little errors that have crept into the manuscript.

It’s an exciting time, the first time you see your book in print. I held by breath as I first opened the big envelope from the publisher. The team at Storey did a wonderful job with the layout, coming out with some innovations I’d never seen before, like running swatches of the fabrics along the outside edges of the pages to make the book easier to scan.

Page proofs for Inventive Weaving

The photos of the projects and stacks of fabrics were gorgeous. Seeing the page proofs is the first time you think to yourself: “This book is really going to happen.”

It’s also a lot of work. As the author, you have to go through the book word-by-word and image-by-image, scanning for errors, no matter how small. This is the last chance you’ll have to fix them.

After many long hours of review, I mailed a PDF of my changes to Gwen, my editor. After Storey incorporated my fixes, I took another look. I’ve published books before, I know that no matter how careful you are, no matter how many times you review the copy, some errors will slip through.

But right now, I don’t see them.

What’s up with the WeaveZine website?

WeaveZine LogoIt’s not dead, just pining for the fjords…. WeaveZine was down for about a week recently and I’ve been asked questions about that.

I was moving WeaveZine to a new host, and making some improvements to the site at the same time. There was a snafu with the DNS switch-over and the site was offline for 6-ish days, instead of the planned 48 hours.

Sorry about that. The good news is that the site is back up and stable. It’s easier than ever to navigate, and is more protected from spammers.

I think I even managed all the changes without breaking any links. If that’s not true, tell me which link is broken and I’ll set up a redirect to fix it.

This move makes WeaveZine cheaper to keep online and easy to maintain as an archive site. I made the change so I could keep this content online for the foreseeable future.

I’m proud of what WeaveZine was and of all the work the authors put into the content. Re-reading the articles as part of this update got me inspired to weave all over again.

Happy to keep the archives online for both you and me.

And I’m glad to learn that people are still finding the content useful. That’s really cool to hear four years after the magazine ended publication.

Happy Weaving!

Syne

An artisan keyboard

It started when Eric sent me a link in email. The subject line was “another keyboard”. I’ve been looking for a new keyboard ever since my beloved Touchstream LP began dying. It’s 12 years old, so I can’t complain.

Having suffered with RSI in my late 20s, I’ve become a big fan of ergonomics. It’s why I switched to typing Dvorak instead of Qwerty.

At work I’ve been using the Kineses Advantage LF (with the cherry key stem). It’s a lot like the Touchstream in terms of light pressure to activate the keys and putting your hands in a neutral position. I even got a pedal that I can use to press the Shift key. It’s a whify thing, I was thinking about buying one for home, until I saw this…

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This is the Keyboardio.

It’s beautiful. It’s ergonomic. It was designed by an indie husband and wife team. You can program the light show that plays across the keys (or turn it off). It’s based on Arduino.

It’s open source. They give you the source code and a screwdriver when you purchase one. Which means that instead of going obsolete over time, this keyboard can actually improve. And if you like to tinker with software and hardware, you can improve it yourself.

One of the things I love about handweaving is the beautiful tools, lovingly created by craftsmen or small companies. Beautiful woods, things that feel as lovely to touch as the things you make using them.

Thanks to a couple of peer bonuses from work, it’s mine. Or at least, it will be when they ship in April 2016.

Noogler

In February of this year, I joined Google as a technical writer for Google Cloud Platform. People who work at Google refer to themselves as Googlers. Newbies are called Nooglers.

And yes, they issue every single one of us our own beanie cap.

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When you join Google they send you to orientation. It’s a week long, which is daunting. But what they’re doing there is orienting you to your new job, but also Google culture, which is a bit different than any other company I’ve worked for. 

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One thing I enjoy about Google is the sense of whimsy. On the Mountain View campus you can find fun touches, like this giant Android statue, everywhere.

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After my interview, I’d dyed my hair in red, yellow, blue, and free (Google colors) for good luck. When I told my friend David this, his grinned at me and then said affectionately, “Dork.” Yep. Guilty.

When I got to the orientation, I worried about being a fish out of water. Tech companies aren’t known for hiring middle-aged women. I imagined myself the oldest person in a sea of twenty-something guys—with odd hair besides.

So I bonded quickly with Laura, who also showed up with rainbow-colored hair. We later had adventures that involved a photo booth, and gleefully sneaking around Google offices looking for a mythical slide you can ride between floors.

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See my face? That’s what I look like after I’ve stayed up late the night before, packing, and have only had two hours of sleep. An since we took our employee photos about 30 minutes before this, it’s pretty much what my badge photo looks like: ouch.

Oh, and more good news about orientation. Google hires for diversity. And that includes age diversity in addition to gender and race. They have the perspective that many varied viewpoints make for better decisions. They even have an internal affinity group, Greyglers, for folks of a certain age.

One of the exciting things I saw when I was down in Mountain View was one of Google’s self-driving cars. It’s there, at the front of the stop-light line, with the funny cone on top.

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By happy coincidence, my friend Cicilie, that I’d worked with at Amazon, was also attending orientation that same week. In this photo, we’re riding in the top of a double-decker bus to lunch. 

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I also found time to ride one of the famous Google bikes. To cut down on shuttles, and because the Mountain View campus is sprawling, Google provides bikes outside the buildings. When you need a bike, you hop on one and pedal it to the next building and leave it out front. There’s no reservation or check-out, just everyone sharing. Very Googley.

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As I said, there are many whimsical touches around the campus, and many places to lounge and enjoy a moment. I think the idea is that you work hard and take brain breaks so you stay fresh and happy. Pretty smart if you ask me.

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At the orientation, there was a wall-mounted board and boxes of legos that you could play with between classes and during the lunch break. On the last day, I added my contribution.

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The last night I went out to teppanyaki with Soma, another Noogler, and her husband, Mike, who is tall and of european descent. An awkward moment ensued when we walked in. Soma is about four feet tall, with an adorable face. They asked if we would need a kid’s menu. Soma said, “What am I supposed to be, your adopted daughter?” Apparently this has happened to them before.

Don’t let the sweet face fool you, folks. That is one lethally smart, 30-something, corporate lawyer sitting beside me. The teppanyaki place is lucky she took it easy on them.

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In closing, I’ll leave with this photo, taken in an ice cream shop that specializes in unique and unusual flavors.

I call this: geek’s dilemma.

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Derby Skates Makeover

I’ve been with my current derby team for over a year, but my skates still reflect the colors of my previous team. It was time for a change. So I went to MacPherson Leather Company, down in Seattle, and after consulting with the guy behind the counter, purchased some leather paint.

I was initially worried the paint would flake off, but the salesman assured me that the paint was super flexible after drying and took me over to a belt sample that he proceeded to wring like a towel you’re trying to clear of water. The paint held. Time will tell if the paint can stand up to the rigors of derby.

I bought the following:

  • Lincoln No. 10 Black suede dye and dressing. You need special dye to handle suede without clumping.
  • Angelus acrylic leather paint, in Light Green. This is the super flexible paint that won’t flake.
  • Angelus No. 600 Acrylic finisher. This is to protect the leather after painting it. The number determines the gloss of the finish. No. 600 is a satin finish.

This is the before picture of my skates. A nice pair of Antiks in my old team’s colors: blue and orange.

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My new team’s colors are green and black. The first step was to color the blue suede with the black suede dressing.

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I decided to leave the orange accents because: they are pretty; will pop against the green; and to honor the Sockit Wenches. They took a chance on me, and though it didn’t work out long-term, they still have a special place in my heart.

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Next I used acetone (aka. fingernail polish remover) to remove the gloss finish from the smooth leather parts of the boot that I wanted to paint green. This step is necessary to make sure the paint adheres well to the leather. This gave the leather a bit of a chalky haze.

Then I used a brush to paint a thin layer of the leather paint. The green over black came out darker than I wanted, so I waited for the boot to dry and then painted another thin layer, this time brushing in the opposite direction than I’d used the first time. I switched direction in an attempt to obscure the brush strokes.

After the third layer of paint, the color was the bright green I wanted, so I let the skates dry overnight (waiting was hard!) and then brushed on a layer of the acrylic finisher to protect the paint.

Ta-daa! The finished skates, now in Tacokicker green and black.

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Doing the painting in many thin layers gave a nice even look to the color, and I’d recommend that to anyone trying a similar project. Crossing the brush strokes with each layer helped, but if you get about a foot away from the boot, you can still see some brush strokes. (Though if we’re playing derby and your head is a foot or less away from my skate, brush strokes are probably the last thing on your mind…)

If anyone knows a way to paint acrylic paint onto leather without brush strokes, please drop me a comment and let me know how. I’d like to do more leather painting, preferably without brush strokes.

After this initial experiment, I’m of a mind to get some leather shoes from the thrift shop and steampunk-i-fy them with bronze and copper paint, rivets, and gears.

Unemployed

Two weeks ago I gave notice. Today was my last day working at Amazon. It was also my third year anniversary of when I joined the company. It was time. It’s a hit financially, but a necessary one; I need a break from the long hours and the stress that goes along with any IT job. My health and my psyche was beginning to suffer. And I think my family will benefit from having me at home, to help Kai with school, to make healthy meals and do all the business of taking care of the house and the people who live in it. It’s a luxury to be able to quit, and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to try it and see how things go. In six months, we’ll reassess and see if this is working, or whether I need to find another job. But that’s six months to get my health back in line, to feed my family tasty home-cooked meals, and to spend summer vacation with Kai.

Today I drove into Seattle and dropped off my computer and my card key. It was an odd feeling walking out of the building, of knowing I no longer belong there. Lighter, but a bit scary, too.

I’m not sure what comes next. I have some plans about getting the house in order, and taking better care of my body. I’m trying to be okay with ambiguity, and not fall into my usual trap of filling up every spare moment trying to be productive. I’ve forgotten how to relax. It’s time to relearn how to face a weekend with nothing at all planned.

In the meantime, I’ve been spinning. This is 4 ounces of Blue Faced Leicester (BFL) wool that was dyed by Frabjous Fibers in the color #121 Hespera.

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Like me, I have no idea what it’s going to be, but I feel it has potential.

Pocket Wheel

I had to work through the weekend, but made time to swing down to the Madrona Winter Retreat to pick up my pocket wheel. My birthday present this year.

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Made on Whidbey Island, by a lovely husband and wife team, this little wheel is a marvel of engineering. It’s small and light, and the spinning ratios are analog, not digital. You change ratios by sliding a connector in and out along a rod instead of changing out gears. The bearings are sealed, so there’s no oiling and it spins smoothly with very little noise.

I had to get on a year-long waiting list, but it was worth the time it took. I got to travel to Jon’s woodworking shop and pick out the woods and veneers that spoke to me, so I ended up with a custom wheel that was exactly tailored to my likes. I ended up picking koa wood and an anodized copper veneer that reminds me of an ocean map. It’s my island-themed wheel.

When I picked it up this weekend, it was luuurve at first sight. It’s so rare to be able to get something custom made in this day and age, and so delightful to do business with friendly people like Jon and Carla.

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I could barely wait to spin on it. I went out to the rotunda and hung out for a brief while with friends old and new. I’d made arrangements to visit with my friends Selah and Laura, and we had a grand time chatting until my parking ran out and I had to run away back home to work.

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Since I’ve brought this little treasure home, I’ve been spinning every day. If you’re a spinner, you know how peaceful and meditative this can be.

My love of spinning is reawakening in me, and I welcome it back.