Archive for February, 2009

February 20, 2009

pet peeves.

Open pipette tip boxes.
When the revolving door to the dark room is left part way open.
Deliberately misspelled words (like thanx or kewl).
When my name is misspelled (the ‘h’ is important).
Part-way opened (or closed, I suppose) drawers.
When my last name is mispronounced (it’s not hard – two syllables, Am-End)
When assumptions and impressions cloud sound reasoning.
An empty glove box (why doesn’t the person to take the last glove just replace it?).
Tubing that isn’t the correct size for the biosafety cabinet vacuum.
Running out of bleach.
Not being able to find the scissors.
Rolly chairs that don’t actually roll.
Having frost on the inside of my windshield.
Having to use the last aliquot of Taq.

February 19, 2009

The fabric between fiddling and football

I went to McKay’s Public House this evening to have dinner and listen to a co-worker (and friend)’s daughter fiddling. She was incredible. She has only been playing for five or six years and is way better than I could ever be. She’s been in multiple bands and in at least one orchestra. Practices at least three hours a day. AND seems to be like a normal 13 year old. Her notes were so pure and strong, her double stops right on, her fingering pristine.

I’ve always wanted to be really good at something, to have a talent for something. You know, like the college football star who is fabulous and loves to go to practice, to hold a football.

I’ve never been just good at something. I’ve never had that burning passion for something. I’ve never had talent and the drive to become better. I thought I had it for dance when I was a dancer. But I was never really great at dance, I never went to the next level. And even if I had that drive, I wasn’t meant for a ballet dancer, couldn’t hack it as a modern dancer.

I thought for sure I had it for riding. I have a talent there. I can stay on a rearing horse, I have the patience to teach ground manners, I can go into autopilot whenever I’m in trouble, and I really good at preping for a horse show. I ahve But without a horse, I’ve stopped advancing. I can ride anything, but I can’t do it really well. I’m an ok rider. I’d be placed in most advanced classes, riding advanced riders at most riding schools, but I’m not an advanced rider. I can’t go over fences. I can’t rope a cow. I can sit on the back of a pleasure horse.

On the other hand, I love horses, I am inspired by them, I am empowered by them. Maybe that’s what talent is, maybe that’s what makes greatness.

I’m also good at inspiring others to do big things…but is it enough to be the guy the guy depends on? I don’t know.

I want to be great.

February 18, 2009

Fibers of friendship.

“You’re young and I’m old, but our souls are about the same age, I reckon. We boh belong to the race that knows Joseph, as Cornelia Bryant would say.”

“The race that knows Joseph?” puzzled Anne.

“Yes. Cornelia divides all the folks in the world into two kinds–the race that knows Joseph and the race that don’t. If a person sorter sees eye to eye with you, and pretty much the same ideas about things, and the same taste in jokes–why, then he belongs to the race that knows Joseph.”

“Oh, I understand,” exclaimed Anne, light breaking in upon her. “It’s what I used to call–and still call in quotation marks–‘kindred spirits.'”

“Jest so–jest so,” agreed Captain Jim. “We’re it, whatever it is. When you come in to-night, Mistress Blythe, I says to myself, says I, ‘Yes, she’s of the race that knows Joseph.’ And mighty glad I was, for if it wasn’t so we couldn’t have had any real satisfaction in each other’s company. The race that knows Joseph is the salt of the airth, I reckon.”

L. M. Montgomery, Anne’s House of Dreams

February 17, 2009

Fibers of challenge.

“We’ll eat when we’re hungry, sleep when we’re tired.”
– Bengt, team leader of The Western Family

I think a lot of the time, we all (and by we, of course I’m talking about me) forget about what we think is important, why we do what we do. On the Caldwell Wilderness Trip, summer 2008 in Zion National Park, I became centered. I realized that all I really needed to life was a lot of food (high energy), even more water (with or without iodine for flavor), people to share the experience with, and time to appreciate the grandeur of everything. Time is just a way to parcel experience. “Time separates stuff during a day.” Ultimately, time doesn’t really mean much, it’s what you and experience during that space that matters. Don’t get caught up in the “should”s we associate with time.

The importance of the details is only found when it’s taken as part of a big picture. A rock, a tree, a stream, none of them are spectacular in and of themselves. But a rock to scramble over to reach the summit? A tree blackened by a forest fire with new growth? A stream of water after hiking through a sandy desert? They are more.

Other lessons learned? No pain, no gain. Challenge hurts, physically, emotionally, and mentally. Challenge feeds the soul, though, turns the focus outside of yourself and, in turn, you are most fully “you,” giving you time to remember and identify what is important.

But still, we’re left with the question of why we face challenges at all. Why not take the easy way out? Walk around the mountain instead of over it?

“You cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen.”
– Rene Daumal

So take yourself outside of time. Turn the focus outward. Remember what is important.

And see.

February 14, 2009

What’s on the spindles…

It seems that my high-whorl drop spindle efforts have been better, more consistent than that of my wheel. Go figure.

I use a Schacht Hi-Lo Spindle with a 3 inch whorl that ways just over 2 oz. I’m a fan of the high whorl and this works great, but it only has a single notch that I’d like to deepen. I’d also like to add another one or two, though. I generally spin in a Z-twist and ply S-twist. I’m trying to get better at supported spinning (using my leg), but usually fall back to suspended spinning. We’ll see.

My wheel is a well-loved model of mysterious origin. I picked her up at the NCSU Craft Center surplus sale before the Thompson renovation. She works great, but is a little bit finicky about the weight of the bobbin and tension. No over-filling the bobbin, unfortunately, or at least I haven’t learned that part yet. I’ve tried out a few more modern wheels, but, for me, a spinning wheel is a piece of usable art as well as a tool. I also don’t like a double treadle – I like to have one foot for support of the fiber, etc. The wheel-treadle control isn’t great, but as we get to know eachother better, we’re doing better. The other downfall? No extra bobbins, so it’s more of a pain to ply – I have to unwind the yarn onto a plying stick (an old lonely knitting needle). My mum’s got a nostepinne that I’ve been angling for, but no luck yet.

As you can see from the pictures, I’m getting to be more consistent, but not great yet – not big slub, just have a hard time keeping even tension. I’m hoping some of it will lessen a bit when I ply it.

Next project for spinning equipment? Coke bottles or milk carton to make a pseudo – lazy kate. I might cave and buy a niddy-noddy, though, it’s a pain to not know how MUCH yarn I actually have.

Really looking at my yarn today has made me feel more inspired to make something with the yarn I spin. Krisy suggested the Calorimtry from knitty, but I might make a hat. We’ll see.

Looking for spinning references? I love my book Spinning in the Old Way by Priscilla A. Gibson-Roberts, all about high-whorl handspindles. If you like lots of different types of fibers and have to buy fiber off line, but aren’t very good at just recalling what different wool is like, try In Sheep’s Clothing by Nola Fournier and Jane Fournier. It tells you everything you need to know, from the fleece to the personality of the sheep. Pretty fabulous.

Happy spinning!

February 14, 2009

Curl up and dye!

I’ve dyed fiber with kool aid before, but it was in my dorm room and with nearly white and quite dark greasy. So this time, I tried it both in the microwave (which I much prefer) and on the stove-top with some of my standard 56′ Heather Gray Wool roving. (On a side note, it’s quite nice to spin, medium-range staple length mid-range crimp, and a nice, warm gray.)

Kool aid dying is nice – you have everything you need right there in your kitchen (or kitchen-y area), it’s non-toxic, it’s fun colors, the kids can help, the dogs can help, and the fruity smells combine with that of wet wool to create a simply lovely, delicate aroma. Just remember that kool aid dyes natural things…that includes your clothes and fingers. Especially important if you leave the next day for a grad school interview…hmmm….I use my hands for things a lot (ask the people I’ve made record bowls with) and have only a slight green smidge on my left index finger, so don’t fret.

1. Go buy sugar-free kool aid. Check out a color chart to give you an idea of what color’s you’d like. Keep in mind that the amount of kool aid and fiber (and type of fiber) will change the color. And you can combine different colors of dye for more fun.

2. Plop your wool in a microwave-safe bowl (or pot for the stove), enough water to cover the fiber and your kool aid. Some places say to soak the wool first, others to dissolve the kool aid before adding the wool, some say vinegar and some say not. I’ve tried it all, and think that it’s all about the same. Leave out the vinegar (who wants vinegar, fruity, and wet wool smells all at once?) and do whatever’s easiest for you.

3.a. For the stove version, put your pot on the stove, covered, and keep the water hot, not boiling, until you see the water lose its color or your wool is the color you want. Remember the dried wool will be much lighter than the wet wool, so grab a spoon and pull it out to get a more accurate idea. Smush around the wool from time to time to make sure all of it is fully saturated.

3.b. For the microwave version, put a cover on your bowl (a big plate works great) and microwave for 10 minutes, take out and smush, microwave another 10 minutes…you get the picture. The water will become colorless and the wool nice and colored. For mine, it took between 20 and 30 minutes.

4. Spoon out the wet wool into a colander and rinse briefly, just to make sure the extra dyed water doesn’t go all over the place. Be careful here. Sometimes if you switch the water temp too quickly (hot to cold for instance) it’ll felt the wool.

5. PAT (not wring, not fluff, not anything that’ll agitate it or you’ll get felt) the fiber to get the excess water out, pull apart the fibers a bit, and put on a towel to dry.

6. Congratulations, you have lovely, colorful wool to spin! Try carding it together, card it with natural stuff, ply two colors together, enjoy some singles, take bits of it together to make some varigated yarn, you get the idea. Just make sure it’s completely dry before you try to spin it – sticky yucky fiber? no thank you!

If you DO end up making felt, no worries, it can be a lot of fun. Think felt balls for your kitty or little creatures or a hat or whatever else you think would be fun. 🙂

The pictures here don’t show how bright these colors are and how rich they are. I’ve still got some nice gray in there, but it’s a good blend, so I’ll card it a bit, and I’ll be set.

February 14, 2009

my yarns

Keeping a record of the fibers of life – from my stories of experiences to the stories of spinning and knitting.