Chitchat and the occasional in-depth analysis about fiber, knitting, spinning, crochet, cooking, feminism, self-image, and a modicum of personal blathering.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Gee, our old LaSalle ran great

Family is good food.

Yesterday was, of course, Thanksgiving in the US. It's a day when we all get together, rehash old family drama, create new family drama, eat a lot of really good food, and fall asleep watching inconsequential football games in the living room. My family is no exception.

They're mostly a good sort but there are lingering issues.

One of my aunts never fails to stir up drama on holidays. She was only nine when I was born. She viewed my arrival as supplanting her place as favored baby of the family, even though that wasn't strictly true. She's not had an easy life and has full subscriptions where most other people only have issues, so I don't precisely blame her, but it gets hard to deal with sometimes. A couple of years ago, my elder daughter and I were laughingly arguing back and forth at the sink in my mother's house and the aforementioned aunt, my Mom's sister, grabbed me painfully by the upper arm and yanked me away from my daughter. I turned around, told her to remove her hands from me immediately, and to never, ever grab me like that again. It shocked her. But she was pretty nice to me for the rest of the day. She's a bit of a bully and it seems whenever anyone stands up to her, it makes her back down in a hurry. Pushes her boundaries as it were.

Anyway. Yesterday we were playing a game of Bananagrams after dinner. At some point, my aunt had stopped playing and was walking around the table looking at what other people were doing and I think I was bemoaning my poor letters, and she said "Sucks to be you, bitch!"

When she says and does things like this, (a frequent occurence, by the way) she plays it off like it was a joke. I think, though, deep down inside, she's not joking at all, and she really has that much hatred and anger inside her, but she's been conditioned to bury her emotions. She's witty, funny, very intelligent, and manages to pull off the "sarcastic mean but goodhearted" schtick pretty well most of the time. I think in truth, it hides what's really going on, which is that some people, she really does hate that much, and I'm one of them. It can't be easy being her, is all I can say about it.

I didn't precisely laugh the comment off, acted surprised and a bit offended in a joking way (gods, our family dynamics are complicated) and nothing more was said about it. I wanted to let her know that she really did hurt me without making a scene about it. Unfortunately it doesn't matter, because if what I believe is true, she wants to hurt me and my best tactic would be to probably ignore it.

What bothers me is my mother is put in the middle of it. She told me last night (after my aunt and uncle had left with a bit more drama stirred in for fun) that she feels her sister, my aunt, tries to get her to "choose" between her and me. My mother said there's obviously no choice, my daughter comes first, but it's wrong to do that, because you should not have to choose between family because they're all your family.

I'm very proud of my mother because she's come a long way. She had a hard time too, growing up in the same family, having a baby at a very young age, having to work hard and make a home for us and deal with me as a kid when she was only a kid herself. She did good and she continues to grow as a person which I think is awesome. I know this hurts her more than she lets on, but I don't think that my aunt is capable of changing her behavior without much therapy and she'd never, ever go into therapy.

It was mostly a good day though. Even though one of my daughters was missing (she's still in Tennessee) and the other one came late and didn't stay long. I managed to deal with the wooden floors, low furniture, and upstairs bathroom without getting stuck or hurt anywhere and my leg was feeling pretty okay until we left, which was when the foot cramps started again.

In crafty news, I'm really hoping to get some pictures up soon. I have had a massive crafting tragedy in that the DNA socks are not going to have enough yarn to finish. If you've been reading along, those are made from handspun cheviot. So, that means that in order to finish the socks I will need to spin more three ply fingering weight cheviot. In addition to starting my mother's socks, finishing my mother in law's socks, making facecloths for my aunts (one of which is the one I talk about above, BTW)and my mother, and scarves for my cousins. And I might have to spin more cotton to get three facecloths. OH JOY. Even when I set the bar low in terms of holiday crafting, it manages to raise itself to dizzying heights.

This too shall pass. In a month, it'll all be over. In the meantime, I'm off to do some spinning.

Monday, November 24, 2008

On the nature of craft

Today, I ripped out one of my first knitting projects, a Clapotis. I have no idea why I started worrying at the edges of it like I did, but I kept eyeing the yarn and thinking there had to be something better I could make from it. I had a large amount of the yarn left over (and I still have it somewhere in the stash) so whatever I do make will involve more yarn and hopefully incorporate the attributes of the yarn better than the clapotis did. I don’t know what it’s made out of; it feels like wool, or maybe a wool/rayon blend. But it’s a slightly boucle’d three ply sportish weight yarn that was a royal pain in the ass to do the drop stitch rows. Perhaps I’ve resented it ever since. I don’t know.

It got me thinking though, on the potentially transitory nature of fiber craft. It wasn’t that I didn’t value the piece, I just thought I could do something better with it. I saw yarn, pretty yarn, that was not being utilized to the fullest potential so I reclaimed it. Recycling my own craft.

People comb thrift stores for sweaters and so on to unravel for the yarn. I’ve done it. I have three sweaters waiting to be ripped out into the yarn they’re made of. Many times I’ve gotten a long way in a project, only to frog it. My pinwheel sweater only needed half of one arm but I ripped it out. Half a top-down raglan tee in Interlacements Kansas got ripped out. And the Lovlund sweater was about ¾ done when I ripped it out to make the luna moth shawl.

Long story short, I’m not afraid to frog, especially where projects for myself are concerned. A totally finished object with nothing in particular glaringly wrong with it that I’ve been wearing around for over two years, though? That’s a new one. It made me think. I took the materials. I made them into something that at the time was a big deal. This was my craft, my creation. I took the time, and the tools, and created the object and now I’ve uncreated it so I can create something new with it.

Perhaps it goes back to my time as a writer. Words are easily reclaimed, but you can’t make them totally disappear. And once they’re out there in the world, forget it. You have to own them. When I self-published my book of poetry and essays back in the dark ages of my life, I was totally happy and pleased that I’d done it. Now, many of those words make me cringe. I can’t unmake Drumming through Woodsmoke, and I have to reconcile myself to the fact that it’s out there, good or bad, (or good and bad, which is probably closer to the truth.) This scarf had snags, mis-stitches, mistakes, wasn’t quite long enough, was made out of questionable materials. I was able to unmake it. Does this make me more or less accountable for the content of my art or craft? I’m not ashamed of the work, I just know that I can do better now. And I have pictures to remind me.

I heard somewhere that in Japan, they knit yarn into sweaters and when it’s time to wash the sweater, they unravel it, wash the yarn, and reknit it into a new sweater. Now that is reinventing your craft. I have no idea if it’s true or not and I can’t even remember where I heard it, but it made me ponder the transitory nature of yarn crafts. If I make a sweater for my husband or a shawl for my mother or a blanket for some baby, once it passes out of my hands, it could become anything or stay the same. It could be felted into a mess and thrown out. It could be unraveled and knit into something else. It could line the bottom of a dog crate or be sewn into a pillow for a couch.

Maybe part of this is why I am so ambivalent about selling my handspun yarns. Part of me feels like they’re not really good enough yet. Part of me feels like I couldn’t price them high enough for their value to me. And part of me wants control of their destinies.

Enough philosophy.

Brief crafty update-I’m more than ¾ done with the red socks. The DNA socks are approaching the ¾ point, and I started a pair of thick socks for my mother-in-law that are going so fast, they’re almost ¾ done as well. I also took a spinning break over the weekend and did up a three-ply sportweight out of some batts I got in a destash. The batts were gorgeous, candy colors. Pink and light green and shiny white. Unfortunately, those things may not go so well together in a yarn. I’m reserving judgment because often, I’m not sure about a yarn until I see it knit up. But I have great anxiety about this one. We shall see.

Pictures soon, I just don’t have time to take them-short work week followed by a long weekend so there should be ample photos then.

Monday, November 17, 2008

It's the good old sentimental season

We got our first snow of the season over the weekend. Not much, just a dusting, but enough to make me worry about what's going to happen when we have accumulation and I have to walk through it with my crutch and my bad leg and my general unsteady state of existence. Scary stuff. Maybe we'll have a dry winter this year.

We got the major part of our holiday shopping done for this year yesterday. I have to say we spent more money than I was comfortable with, but what the heck. It'll be okay. I hope. I'm not going to get more specific than that because I'm sure my kids can find my blog if they want to and some stuff REALLY needs to be a surprise.

Crafting goes on. I'm making real progress. The DNA socks are moving along, despite the pattern being full of errors, which aggravates me to no end. I agonize over my free patterns being error-free, I think if someone is selling a not-cheap book, they could at least make sure the charts are right before it goes to print. But apparently, there is errata out there, even though I searched and searched on the web and didn't find any. It must have been added very recently.
This bothers me too much. I need to let it go. Here's recent photos of the socks.


The cable should pop more once it's washed and blocked. It's more apparent in real life than it is in photos, if that makes any sense. I also need to go in and do the "gene pairs" that were clustered over two stitches, because those looked like ass when I was knitting them so I left them out, planning to go back and stitch them in once the socks are done.


The gene pairings that cluster over three stitches are fine, but the two-stitch ones just didn't look right.


One of the red beaded rib socks is done and the other is moving along.

Both winecozies are finished. I went with i-cord for the tie on the second one, with tassels.




I think they look pretty awesome. I still need to block them, hopefully that will take care of that slight unevenness in the two-color one.

Did my first sweater recycling this weekend, too. I had bought four sweaters at a thrift shop with the intention of taking them apart, one in cotton specifically because it wouldn't break my heart to mess up the cotton one. I got a big affirmation of Alden Amos' assertion that "twist costs money" because the 12 ply cotton yarn that made up the sweater was almost completely not twisted together. I ended up running it all back through my Babe spinning wheel to get some twist in it, then washed and hung it to dry. I have four skeins, two are quite hefty, two are smaller, probably about 6-700 yards of bulky weight white cotton yarn. It's soft, too, not like discloth cotton. No idea what I'm going to use it for, but it was a good trial run on deconstructing a sweater and I learned a lot. I have one pink wool, one black merino that is very fine gauge, and a grey silk, also very fine gauge, to take apart. No rush on them at all, though. I have plenty of time and that white cotton one made a MESS in the living room so I'd rather wait until I have time and space to work on the others. I might do the pink one pretty soon though, because it's small and a large yarn so it should be a snap.

Most of the holiday knitting is ongoing. I still need to start the socks for my mom. I'm going to do her a pair of Noro Entrelac socks, because they're fast, and awesome, and I think she'll appreciate getting something I designed as well as knit. I also need to start facecloths for my aunts and something (maybe a scarf?) for my mother in law. I really wanted to make her another pair of socks but I am not going to have time. Unless I make her some chunky weight bedsocks... hmmm... there's a thought. But I refuse to stress myself out over it.

The flowers Bob got me last week for our moveinaversary keep getting more awesome. I don't understand it, but I'm not complaining.




Until next time...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I'll share them all for a cup of coffee

It's been an exciting and eventful week in a lot of ways, nationally, but here at Chez Buttercup, things remain calm and comforting for the most part.

This past weekend was Handmade Arcade here in Pittsburgh. I went with a new friend, Shirley, who is engaged to Dave, who was our best man at our wedding. She's awesome and I'm happy to see them together. Last year, it was at a much smaller venue, but this year it had moved. More space, but not all of it utilized as well as it could have been, but definitely an improvement.


See all that lovely empty space? Could have been used to expand the tables and keep the aisles from being so crowded.

Hunt Armory is definitely a very cool space, though. I learned that Led Zeppelin played there in 1969. Must have been quite a show.



So here's some random photos from the event.


The whole thing was a blur, har har har.

Here's Cosy and her assistant Rachel. (Thanks Alisa!) Her table was super-busy as it should have been, and I finally bought one of her books.

Here's Cosy getting mobbed by the crowd, apparently.

I got some soap from Kim at Sunstone Soap. So nice-smelling and good ingredients. And what a smile on her!

Hey, look, a spinning wheel! I believe this is the young lady from City Spun but I didn't get close enough to find out for sure.

Interesting shirt...

I loved these-so cute.


I loved these windchimes so much a set came home with me.


They're so well made with so many cool little details.


And of course, they sound fantastic. I got them from Whimsical Wonders. They were so nice, too.


There was a lot more interesting plush things.



Got another CD from DJ Pandemic, just as good as last year's. Very interesting mix of music.

19 Moons had awesome jewelry, and I may or may not have done some holiday shopping there.

It was a good time. Crowded, but a good time. Next time I'm going to do the pre-sale thing.

In crafting news, the wine cozies are done. I'm trying to decide between i-cord and ribbon for the tie on the second one.

(that one is actually done but I don't have a final pic because I haven't decided on the tie thing yet. No, I don't overthink things. Not at all.)

Finished the Koi socks. FINALLY. They are great.



Started "Biological clock socks" from the same book as Koi, the Eclectic Sole.
Not much to see yet as the pattern starts on the ankle but they ARE my first toe-up socks so I'm pretty proud of that.

That's handspun three-ply cheviot yarn. I think the cable pattern on the sides will look great.

Yesterday was our six-year "moveinaversary". Six years ago, Bob moved in with me. Over the past six years, my life has changed in a lot of ways, but I can say with confidence that the best change of all has been Bob.
He brought these flowers home yesterday.
He never misses an important date. What a guy.

Finally, every year, we get one last rose. Here is the last rose, this year. Definitely a sign of hope for the future.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

We'll walk hand in hand

I keep thinking of bridges, and links, and passages today.

I was born in 1961. Six months later, Barack Obama was born. This is the first time I am older than the President. I'm not sure how that makes me feel, as I have so many, many other feelings to process first.

Some of the most vivid memories of my childhood are tied up with the Civil Rights movement, seeing the news reports from the deep and not so deep south. My mother, who was very young herself, was dedicated to making sure I did not grow up with the prejudices of my grandparents. She worked diligently to make sure I understood that people were people, that there was wrong and oppression in the world and that I must keep that in my mind and work against it whenever I could.

When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, 40 years ago, I was old enough to know what it meant, how much it hurt, and how evil the act itself was. I was old enough to remember Jesse Jackson walking arm in arm with Dr. King and other civil rights leaders. I was old enough to remember the deaths and the injustices and the terrors. Through my youth and into adulthood that act of murderous cowardice influenced me, as Dr. King's courage and determination inspired me.

In 1984, Rev. Jesse Jackson ran for President for the first time. I admired the work he did with the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition and other social justice efforts, so I voted for him. Not only did I vote for him, I voted for him in a public caucus in a small, dry county in West Texas, a place where the name of Lyndon Johnson was anathema because he had worked for and enacted civil rights laws. I voted for him defiantly, probably the only person in the county to do so. I voted for him with my newborn child in my arms and I whispered to her that someday it wouldn't matter what color the President's skin was. I wanted so much to believe that. I wasn't sure it would be true in a time that I could see it.

I cannot imagine what Rev. Jackson was feeling as he stood in Grant Park with a couple hundred thousand other people and the news came in that Barack Obama had been elected President. The camera returned to him a few times. He looked gray and shaken. Then the tears started. He wept openly, his hand over his mouth, tears falling down his cheeks in streams. Was he remembering Dr. King's words? Was he remembering walking arm in arm with him, remembering the hope, remembering the fear, remembering all the hard work they all did back in the '60s, that he continued working towards into the '70s, the '80s, up to today? Was he realizing that a great dream had begun to come true? I cried, at home, hugging my husband, talking to my daughter on the phone, and my emotions were overpowering. How does someone who lived that history firsthand experience the emotion of it without exploding with joy? How his heart must have swelled with pride and relief and happiness, knowing he'd been a part of what made all this possible. He has much to be proud of.

This is a tremendous time for America, and for the world. As I listened to President-Elect Obama's wonderful speech last night, I could not help but realize I was living history, in a moment that fulfilled the dream that was articulated 45 years ago.

We are not yet free, but the possibility of that freedom rings, indeed, from the voting booths and the rallies and the jubilant faces of the people all over the world last night. There is much work to do, not just in repairing the country, but in continuing the fight for true equality. One election does not, after all, propel us into a post-racist world. But it does shine a light on what is possible.

There is a mother and child who ride my bus in the mornings. He is probably about four years old. I looked at that child today and realized he will never remember a time when a black man could not become president in this country. I remembered whispering to my infant daughter all those years ago as I cast a futile vote and I looked at that child's happy, beautiful face and rejoiced, all over again.

Saturday, November 01, 2008


Found these on another blog...

Thanks, Lisabee!