Choas Isn’t Always Negative

So I was on a roll there for a bit with the posting in January. I had everything balanced – my assignments, pattern testing, the occasional order (with the understanding I can’t give a completion date), the blog posting… In addition to the everyday awesomeness of being a single mom. 

Well, something awesome happened that shook things up. I’m not going to go into detail at the moment, but I will share when the time is right. I will say though that it left me with a LOT to do in a short period of time. All of this with spinning assignments due. 

In addition to that, some family things have come up that see me having to be even more flexible. I don’t mind one bit. I always find a way. However, it’s added responsibility and requires more balancing on my part. Meh. Nothing I haven’t done before.

Sadly though, this means that my assignments have had to take a back seat lately. I am NOT going to let that stop me from finishing them though. It kills me that things just keep getting hurled in my direction that prevent me from getting them out on time (like yesterday I was finishing some up and the batteries died in my freaking label maker – C’MON!!!!), but it’s all out of my hands. I have been/will be in touch with my instructors to keep them updated. 

At this point, I have no intention of quitting. Yes, it adds some stress to my life. However, this stress is different. I have consciously chosen this stress. This stress gives me some reprieve from some of the shit flung upon me resulting from my past mistakes. This is my reward for keeping my head high and having to keep flushing the toilet on the past. Eventually, the pipes will get cleared. There are plumbers on the job.There will always be some toilet-flushing because that is life. I get it. I continue to keep the faith that that which is clogging the pipes now will also move forward. Someday. 

No, I have shifted my perpective towards this course. I think I said that before. I will keep saying it too. I’m not here to get the highest marks. I not here to compete with anyone. I’m here to become the best spinner I can be. I’m here for the feedback and knowledge of the instructors we have. If it means I have to lose marks because I can’t get my assignments in on time, so be it. I’ve stopped beating myself up about it because I’m only one person. I can look myself in the mirror and know that I am doing EVERYTHING in my power to make this work.

I don’t broadcast a typical day in the life of me. It’s nobody’s business. If I did though, I think a lot of people would be shocked. I think many think I sit around on my ass all day with a hook and yarn in my hand when I’m not on Facebook. Oh, how shocked those people would be…

Right now though, I am taking a break. I’m pet sitting a cat and a dog. The cat wanted out on the enclosed deck. It’s a beautiful day, something that has been rare lately. So I decided to join her (figured it was a good opportunity to sneak in an update too).I just melted in a chair, basking in the sun. I’ve been going non-stop this week, so I’ve made the excutive decision to take five. I earned it. After the sun is no longer direct, I will get back to work (it gets cold in here!). For right now though… Butt planted in chair. It’s so blissful out here. It’s like I’ve plugged my soul in and it’s recharging. I need that. It’s not that I’m not happy. Quite the contrary. In spite of the toilet-flushing, I can say that I don’t think there has ever been a time in my life where I’ve been more at peace. This place just nurtures that. 

Bliss - keepmeinstitchez.wordoress.com

Bliss (complete with kitty photo bomb)

I’m hoping this next week will be a little more “normal.” I will be feverishly working away on assignments though. I may not get to post until after the fact, but I plan on taking pics along the way. We’re getting into some interesting stuff – twist and grist. I’m enjoying it!

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One With the Sloth

One of the many awesome things about my bestie and her honey (who shall henceforth be known as “manbestie” because his awesomeness is of the same caliber which is why they’re together!) is that they love to watch Animal Planet. When I get to hang out with them, that’s one of the things we do. As a result, I now know what a sloth is.

We’ve watched Meet the Sloths a few time. They just crack me up! They go along at their own pace, many with goofy little smiles on their faces. I get the impression that when people talk about sloths, they think they’re lazy because of how slowly they move. After watching this show, I’d say they’re anything but. When they want something, they will dang well put their all into getting it. There was one little guy that had lost an arm if I recall correctly. Did that stop him from trying to climb trees? Nope. Did falling out of said trees and hurting himself stop him from climbing trees? Nope. Did he seem worried about it? Nope.

Well, I’ve decided that this is how I’m going to approach the spinning course for the remainder of this level and the future levels. I am going to be one with the sloths. I am going to keep on keeping on. Sure, I have fallen out of trees because I missed a detail, didn’t fully comprehend the assignment, can’t read minds on how to mount assignments (there is a suggested template, but it does not work for every assignment – that’s a whole other rant that will be saved for after the fact)… However, I am NOT going to let this stop me. Ten years from now, I won’t give a rat’s ass that I didn’t mount my assignment “correctly”. I won’t care that I lost marks for under plying. I won’t lose any sleep because I wasn’t able to achieve the expected angle of twist.

I had decided last year after I had the proverbial wool pulled from underneath me that my sole purpose for doing this course is to make me a better spinner. No matter what my marks are, that is what is going to come out of this. I will be a better spinner. I will have tried fibres I never knew existed. I will have the opportunity to find what I like, what I don’t like. It will likely open even more doors for fun and experimentation with techniques and fibres. The most valuable piece of it all though is going to be the feedback. I have found that on the rare occasion, it can come off as snarky and maybe a little condescending. Whether or not that is the intention, I’ll never know. I’m not paying these people to be my friends and sugar coat stuff though. What I need most from them is to know what I’m doing right and what I can do to improve. They have all delivered. Look at Gordon Ramsey – absolute asshole in the kitchen, but he knows his shit. If people can filter out the condescending asshole piece and use his feedback, there is no doubt their skills become stronger. Fortunately for us spinners, it’s not THAT bad!

When I went into this course, I did it for some right reasons and some reasons that are starting to change. The main reason was my love of spinning. That will never change. Another was to help me with the loss of Mom. That has helped me IMMENSELY. To show my little hunny bunny that you’re never too old to go back to school or follow your dreams. I LOVE that I have removed that excuse for him. I will continue to do so! hehehe

Another was to be an instructor. There is no doubt that spinning has changed my life. I want to share that with other people in the worst way. HOWEVER… This objective has caused me a lot of stress and heartache. I had it in my mind that I have to have perfect marks in order to achieve this. A year ago last fall when I got a horrible mark, it killed me. I had missed a HUGE part of the assignment. If I knew that was to be included, I’m sure I would have ended up with high 80’s or even more. It was in an area I’m somewhat strong in. But for some reason, I missed that part that had to be included. I was crushed. Absolutely crushed. I saw my dreams of becoming an instructor fading very quickly. I’ve noticed other things since the beginning of the course that has me questioning things as well. I feel that assumptions are being made without confirmation and I fear that this is impacting my future in instructing too. Or at least I did. Assume away. You probably have no clue. Again, if I don’t end up instructing because of crossed wires and assumptions, that will save me a whole world of pain.

After processing all of that, it had me re-evaluating WHY I’m taking this course in the first place. Enter the sloth.

THAT is when I woke up and realized that marks aren’t everything. It’s one person’s opinion. Yes, there are guidelines to be followed, but if you gave the same assignment to another instructor to mark, there may be a different outcome. As I pondered it further, I asked myself if all this stress was worth it? I have enough stress going on in my life without this. So I had two options. Either I recognized that I’m navigating uncharted territory, pat myself on the back for doing my best and take the feedback and run. Or freak out over the fact that I’m not perfect so nobody will want me to teach for them because all instructors are born perfect. Uh, no. I’m at a place in my life now where I believe that if you’re going to judge my CURRENT skills based on marks I obtained at a time that I was just LEARNING those skills without seeing my work NOW… You’re wasting MY time. It would be the same thing as assuming your reading level today hasn’t changed since your first evaluation in kindergarten. I want to be an instructor with my whole heart. But I also refuse to sell my soul or jump through excessive hoops to achieve this. I was put on this earth to teach. However, I have a lot of other skills to share in my bag of tricks. If teaching spinning doesn’t pan out, there’s not much I can do about that. I am confident I will find my place regardless. If it’s meant to be, it will happen.

If you’ve read this far, you may be asking what prompted this post. Well, for the most part, it’s seeing my poor classmates freaking out over the twist and grist assignment we have due at the end of February. Some of the most experienced spinners in our group are losing sleep over this. I’m not saying don’t put your all in and don’t try to wrap your head around it. However, it’s not worth losing sleep over though! If you get it wrong, guess what? The sun is still going to come up tomorrow. Your wheel will still be there. You won’t be any less of a spinner because it’s not perfect. If you don’t end up understanding it, the instructors will explain it to you and help you grasp it. I could be wrong, but freaking out about it is likely causing you to shut down. So any information you find at this time may not stick because of where your head is. This is NOT your fault. You’re LEARNING. Mistakes and not understanding things are a part of learning. If you don’t get perfect, be gentle with yourself BECAUSE YOU ARE LEARNING!!!!!!

I’m just going to be over here, being my sloth-y self. I feel I do understand the assignment, but for all I know, I could have it all wrong. Only one way to find out, right? So yes, I’m going to dive it and get ‘er done. This is the approach I had to take with one of the bigger assignments due in October. I just got to my breaking point. I stressed about and then I conceded. Whatever. I screwed up, but by the time I realized it, it was too late. What could I do about it? Nothing. I’m expecting lousy marks and I don’t really care. I did my best with how I understood things. I know where I went wrong. Knowing your mistakes are far more valuable than a mark that probably won’t have that much bearing in your life.

I don’t know what has changed within me. I was starting to think that my give-a-damn was busted, but it’s not. I still care. I do think that I’m getting worn thin from the other garbage going on in my life, so I’ve had to just scale everything back so I don’t let it overpower me. I think that smack of reality upside the head with that one assignment had a part to play. I think that practicing martial arts has made a huge impact too. But those sloths… I am going to be more sloth-like from here on out. I’m going to start early, do my best, go at my own pace and not stress about the outcome. Detach from the outcome. Once you hand that assignment in you have no control over it. The stress isn’t worth it.

Those sloths have their shit together.

Mohair – Orthogenous 2-ply Skein

The name of this assignment cracks me up because my spell checker doesn’t acknowledge orthogenous. What is an orthogenous 2-ply skein? In this case, it’s one ply spun from mohair and the other ply spun from wool.

Mohair Singles - keepmeinstitchez.wordpress.com

Mohair Singles

The was the first time I had ever spun straight mohair, other than playing around in the summertime. I didn’t have much left from the materials we had to purchase (that may warrant a rant of its own, but for the moment, I’m treading carefully). So I was terrified. I was nervous. I put it off as long as I possibly could. And guess what?

It wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be.

I knew that it would need extra twist to hold together. So again, I busted out the fast flyer. This time I spun it at 15:1. No issues at all. No breakage. It was wonderful. One thing I have learned is to not expect the same experience as other have shared because most of the time, I have experienced something different.

The second ply was good old Corriedale. I’ve spun this a million times. I wasn’t quite sure what ratio to spin it at. So I spun it at 12:1.

Wool Singles - keepmeinstitchez.wordpress.com

Wool Singles

I took a guess with the plying ratio at 10:1. I think it ended up being underplied so I will go at it again. I checked my notes and I didn’t see any suggestions/discussion/tips about spinning an orthogenous yarn with mohair. So I went with what I do know. I guess I’ll find out if I’m right or wrong.

Orthogenous Yarn - keepmeinstitchez.wordpress.com

Orthogenous Yarn

Mohair Assignment – Spinning for end use

During the mohair unit, we discussed end use. One of the assignments is spinning a yarn geared towards a certain project. We had to draw our projects out of a hat. The one I got was “weft for a blanket.”

I’m a VERY green weaver. I’ve taken a couple of lessons and I’m confident that I could warp a loom alone and do a very basic project. However, I’m far from knowing all of the in’s and out’s. So this assignment required a bit of research and diving into my knowledge base about what I do know.

One thing I love about weaving is the logic found in the art. When I was analyzing this imaginary blanket, I would ask myself some questions, look up answers and I would often find myself correct in my thinking!

One of the things about this assignment is that it doesn’t give you any variables. You have to justify why you’re spinning the yarn you’re spinning, why it’s a 2- or 3-ply, why you chose the percentage of wool to blend with mohair. There was no information provided regarding what the warp would be on this blanket. So the yarn I’ve spun is based on a warp that is spun from wool. I know people have done 100% mohair. The issue with that though is that mohair protrudes (that fluffy halo) and when you’re weaving, the weft yarn would stick to the warp like velcro. So if I was to actually make this blanket, I would use a wool warp until I got more experienced.

So for the weft yarn itself, I have chosen a 60% mohair/40% wool blend. I chose this for a couple of reasons. I looked online to see what blends other blankets were made of. A lot of them were 70/30 mohair/wool. I would have liked to do that blend, however, we were not supplied with a very big sample of mohair. There’s just enough to completed the assignments (I hope!). I wanted to use a higher percentage of mohair because I wanted to highlight the fibre. It’s so soft and it would be perfect for a blanket.

Mohair/Wool in progress - keepmeinstitchez.wordpress.com

Mohair/Wool in progress

Again, I took to the internet to find out information regarding how many plies I should do. I realize that ultimately the decision is up to me. However, I know that spinners and weavers are a logical bunch. For the most part, there is a method to their madness. My initial thought was to go for a 2-ply because it stretches the material to the maximum (and it’s one less singles to spin! hehehe). I was open to a 3-ply though. Then I questioned if the third ply was necessary in this case since a woven blanket is flat. Would the third ply just get lost? After surfing around, the answer seemed to be 2-ply. One of these days I want to discuss this with somebody who has weaving experience (and I hope she’s reading this!) to see if I’m correct in my thinking. I’d also like to see if my thinking about 2-ply and weaving is correct. At this point I’m a lump of clay. Mold me!

Something else I decided to do with this assignment is use my fast flyer. I didn’t see anything anywhere stating we aren’t allowed to use it. It will certainly be noted in the assignment. As we were warned, mohair really does need a lot of twist to hold up. I’ve been using my regular flyer and I’ve had to treadle like a mad woman to get enough twist so that the singles won’t fall apart. Again, considering my lack of mohair experience, I am pleased that I made it this far with my regular flyer. I spun up a 70/30 mohair/wool blend with practice fibre. I only had 2 spots where the singles broke when I was plying. I’m going to consider that a victory.

Later that day…

Mohair/Wool blend spun for end use - blanket weft - keepmeinstitchez.wordpress.com

Mohair/Wool blend spun for end use – blanket weft

I am finished spinning and plying this yarn. My fast flyer made such a difference. The ratio I used was only one higher (12:1 vs 10:1), but it still helped immensely.

On thing that had me initially concerned was that even though I weighed out the amounts of wool and mohair, the wool seemed to take over the skein. Then I recalled hearing (and recording somewhere) that mohair fibre weighs more than wool. In other words, if you had a gram of mohair and a gram of wool, there would be less mohair fibres than there is wool fibres. So when I do up my notes, I’m going to make sure to mention this: percentages listed are based on weight. It has me curious how one could change the percentages up using volume and what the results would look like there.

One more thing I want to mention is just how much mohair blooms! Now that I’ve seen this for myself, one of my future observations is going to be WPI counts before and after setting the twist. I can see this being quite fascinating. I’m not sure if time is going to allow for this at this point. It’s something I’d like to investigate down the road for sure.

So up next… A 2-ply orthogenous yarn – one ply mohair, the other ply wool. I already have the mohair ply spun up. My thoughts on that will be in the next post.

Mohair Assignment – Blend using kid

I’ve been prepping mohair all week and while I’m not ahead of the game, I’m not crashing and burning either. There have been a couple of kinks thrown in like two snow days in a row. That hasn’t been too bad though. I get to spend extra time with my hunny bunny, but he’s also at at the age now where he doesn’t need my constant attention. It’s actually quite pleasant. I love having him around, even if he’s doing his own thing and I’m doing mine. He’s happy. I’m happy.

So… What am I learning with this whole mohair process? Lots. The first time I ever touched a lock of mohair was in August. So there is lots for me to learn. One lesson I learned in this whole course is to make sure to go back and reread the notes MORE THAN ONCE (yeah, I learned that one the hard way in a previous assignment). Don’t assume you know what you’re supposed to be doing because you probably don’t! Thank goodness I learned this lesson when I did because it has saved me a whole world of pain with these assignments. It’s made a difference in how I’m approaching them too.

Mohair and BFL before blending

Mohair and BFL before blending

One of the things I read was that if I’m going to use a drum carder, make sure I separate the locks, lightly mist them and put them in a baggie overnight. Once I’m ready to card, make sure to put a light layer of wool on the drum carder first. These steps will help make the mohair distribution more even. Well, I did all of those steps. Since my mohair experience is nil, I’m not sure if I was successful at blending. I’m going to note this in my assignment (that was another biggy I learned – if it’s not perfect, acknowledge it!). I am content with the blending, but I don’t know if it’s up to standards. I know there will be feedback provided. And that’s the whole point of the course! I would have liked to run it through the drum carder a third time, but I didn’t want to risk damaging the fibres.

Open locks, mohair, BFL - keepmeinstitchez.wordpress.com

Open locks, mohair, BFL

The actual assignment gave us a choice of using a homogenous or orthogenous blend. I decided to go with the homogenous at a 50/50 blend with Blue Faced Leicester (BFL). We’re supposed to justify why we made this choice. My real reason? I knew I wouldn’t have an issue spinning a blend. I haven’t spun straight mohair (that’s today) and I hear it’s challenging. The frugal mama in me didn’t want to waste the kid mohair since it’s far more valuable. Now for the blend amount, I went with a 50/50 because I want the yarn to keep the shape of the end use project. Since the higher the mohair amount, the less shape retention, I figured this would be a good ratio. The mohair is still very obvious, but not overpowering. I went with BFL because of its staple length and softness. Since I’m choosing a shawl as my end use, it will be soft next to the neck and if the recipient were to wear short sleeves.

Kid mohair/BFL - keepmeinstitchez.wordpress.com

Kid mohair/BFL

I’m also seeing a huge difference in the hand between this sample and the yarn I spun the other day with mohair and Corriedale. BFL is softer than Corriedale to begin with. Add in the softness of the kid mohair versus mohair and…. Yowza! What a difference. This sample is so soft!
So I can see this blend being something I will enjoy spinning in the future. That’s what I’m loving about this course. It’s like a big buffet, allowing you to sample next to everything. I’m finding what I like and what doesn’t work for me. All this fibre, zero calories!

I’ve also learned that there is a difference between shooting for perfection and doing your best. Doing your best is just that – you put your all in, but you also remember your experience level. Acknowledge it within yourself and note it to the instructors. Use the feedback to get better and don’t take it personally. Because it’s NOT personal. In this case, I know my mohair experience is minimum. Am I going to spin it perfectly? Not a chance. I know this. Perfection is forgetting about the experience you have and stressing out/beating yourself up about it not being perfect. It where you let your marks define you and your spinning skills. Make or break. Do or die. I started off the course in this frame of mind. It was taking the enjoyment out of it very quickly. I had set the bar far too high for myself. Now… Ten years down the road if I’m still spinning at the same level, THAT is when I’ll be concerned about it. I already know that’s not going to happen though. I’m growing every time I touch that wheel. So no, I’m not going to strive for perfect. I’m just going to do my best. If I get a bad mark, I’m not going to let that stop me. I’m going to apply the feedback to the best of my ability and do it again. And again. And again if I need to. Those of us in the course have a golden opportunity with a small window. Now is the time to ask for the feedback and clarify if needed.

Mom always told me “All you can do is do your best.” I get it now.

Mohair Assignment Warm-up and Self Pep Talk

I’m sure I’ve mentioned a condition I have called Perfection Paralysis. Symptoms include negative self-talk, procrastination and anxiety about the task you have at hand never being good enough no matter how hard you try. It’s irrational. It’s rediculous. But it is very real.

I have some friends who believe I’m a procrastinator. I can’t argue with that. While yes, I have MANY plates spinning, the work I have to do for the assignments is not overwhelming if you break it down. It really is manageable.

No, my procrastination comes from a serious lack of self-confidence. For some reason, I have it in my head that if I wait until the last minute, I won’t screw it up as badly. As write this though, I think a big reason is that if I complete it too early before the deadline, I will have time to go back and second guess myself. It makes sense.

So this is where I need to learn to let go. Just let ‘er rip and get that bad boy in the mail before the reality of finishing my assignment sets in. If it’s in the mail, I can’t pick it apart. It’s not going to get any better than it is. I put my best into all I do. Mom always said “All you can do is do your best.” And I do.

So rather than freak myself out with my minimal mohair spinning experience, I grabbed that goat by the horns and did a practice run. This is a 5o/5o mohair/wool blend. I added some sparkle in there because the world needs more sparkle.

wp-image-934544905jpg.jpg

Mohair/wool/Angelina blend

So now I’m as ready as I will ever be. Time to let ‘rip!

I Assure You We’re Open

I didn’t realize I had been away from my blog for so long. I knew it was awhile, but over a year? Oh my goodness! So what has happened that can be summed up in one post? A LOT. So I’m going to do my best to catch up over the next while. I hope. Things have just gotten a little more crazy for me this month, but I’m going to hold that under my hat for now. What I will say is that it was already intense because I have a spinning assignment due at the end of the month. And I have a HUGE spinning assignment due at the end of February.

So yes, I’m still plugging away at the OHS Spinning Certificate program. I am in Level III. I had questioned last summer as to whether or not I could pull it off. There is still some ongoing personal crap that just won’t seem to die (seriously anticipating the day I can let that rip – it would blow your mind and you would question whether or not my blog turned into a somebody’s horrible nightmare). I didn’t want that to be the reason I didn’t carry on. I will NOT give ANYONE the satisfaction of stopping me from achieving my dreams. I also got a fortune cookie that told me “Never Quit” on the day I contemplated it. The cookie doesn’t lead one astray. So I’m continuing to put my all into it. I will do my best to chronicle what is going on with that. I still don’t want to forget. Someday when I’m kicking back in the hot springs under the northern lights after spending a day with my sheep in Iceland, I want to remind myself just how determined I am.

My work life has taken a serious unexpected turn. I’m sure at one point or another, I may have mentioned my love of animals. I may have mentioned I did an internship with a service dog organization. I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned I am a pet sitter. That was something that just sort of fell into my lap. I sat for a breeder. That breeder gave out my name to another breeder. And then word got out to other people. Then I was down to just one breeder. Then one day somebody asked a friend with a kennel if they knew anyone who looked after pets in their home. She gave them my name and BOOM! I’m pet sitting again. You know, timing is a funny thing. The pet sitting was quiet when Mom was so sick. There was no way I could have done it and helped her out at the same time. About six months after she was gone, that’s when things exploded. I don’t advertise. All of my clients are word of mouth. And that’s the way I love it. We have regular people that call us. It’s so wonderful. My Sweet Pea just loves this job. He’s got such a big heart and the animals know this. This is the perfect compliment to our lives. It allows me to carry on with my fibre work and I’m still available for my Sweet Pea. So yeah. That’s been keeping me busy.

I did a LOT of pattern testing for Crochet by Jennifer‘s new book, Crochet Style: Over 30 Trendy, Classic and Sporty Accessories for All Ages. It was released in November. I didn’t post any photos because we needed to keep quiet until it was released. Oh my goodness, that was one of the hardest things ever! She had us start testing in December of 2015. So now that it’s been released, I would like to post some of the finished product photos. I just need to get past my perfection paralysis when it comes to taking photos!

Speaking of perfection paralysis and the quest for the perfect photo, I finally launched an Etsy shop. Before you get too excited, I have to update it. I have a LOT of items I need to list, but I have to get the perfect photos. Or as close to perfect as I can.

Before I close this post out, I have one more thing to share. I got to cross something off of my bucket list last spring. I went to see Meat Loaf in concert. IT WAS AMAZING! The man didn’t stop! When I found out he was going to be playing in Kingston, ON, I jumped on the chance to go. It was the ONLY weekend I wasn’t booked for pet sitting. I did have a job come up, but I had to decline. I don’t know how much longer Meat Loaf is going to be touring (he actually collapsed during the show after the one I saw), so I wasn’t going to take any chances. I put it out to my friends on Facebook to see if anyone wanted to go with me. Nope, no (local) takers. So I said screw it, I’m going by myself! It took me over 4 hours to drive down there. Dad paid for a hotel room for me. I navigated Kingston transit alone on a Saturday night. And I had the time of my life. When I was 17, I made myself a promise that I would see him perform Paradise by the Dashboard Light live. So now I can say been there, done that. And yes, I did get the t-shirt! (It says Paradise by the Dashboard Light 2016!)

So that’s the last year+ in a nutshell. If you’ve made it this far, I thank you. I promise my next posts won’t be this long! I think I may start posting more photo posts. Because eye candy can be inspiring. And that the real reason I’m here in the first place.

And yes, that IS a quote from Clerks.