Monday, June 29, 2009


It's finally gotten a little cooler here...our streak of very hot temperatures seems to have passed. That has been a relief!

In the box count sweepstakes, we're now up to 233 boxes, so I expect those of you with the higher numbers might be more in the ball park. Things are looking remarkably, well, boxy around here...packing's going well. I'll keep you updated on the box guessing sweepstakes, although by the time someone has "won", I'll have nothing left to send off as a reward!

Although I had a really busy weekend, I got a chance to email or comment on nearly everyone's blog. That was fun! I appreciated some of the exchanges we had. I learned a few things...Nancy and I have often exchanged blog comments, but for some reason I wasn't able to post there...I'm sorry, Nancy! I'm sure it's some sort of cyberspace blip. Another realization...Cathy, thanks so much for clarifying that there are two Cathys out there commenting! I was confused until you pointed out that my friend Cathy, who designed those marvelous crocheted socks in Fiber Gathering is that other Cathy! :)

Things are indeed gathering momentum now that the move to Winnipeg is upon us...less than 2 weeks until moving day. We had guests over for dinner both Friday and Saturday nights. I visited my friend, the farmer on Saturday afternoon. He is now home from the hospital and recuperating. Another friend came over to spin with me on Sunday. It was a busy time, but I've really enjoyed these social intermissions from the packing. I will miss these local friends.

One last, comment related realization...according to Alison, it turns out I have quite a high percentage of blog readers who comment! Thank you for all those positive things you bring to my corner of the world. I see my blog a lot like my cyber living's a familiar concept in blogland--certainly not unique to mine.

For instance, for the first 6 months I lived in Kentucky, I hosted a spinning and knitting group once a month in my real living room. I loved having folks introduce themselves to each other and I welcomed them in. I liked hearing all the conversations buzzing together at once! After a bit, it became difficult to manage hosting this, as we also hosted the professor's lab parties and other events...but my temptation is always to try to welcome folks into my home and my life. As a result, for a long while, I left the "anonymous" option open on my blog comments, and it resulted in some wonderful contributions for quite a while.

In thinking about it, I've realized that I'd like my blog/cyber living room to be as kind and honestly compassionate a place as my real living room is--so I've switched off that anonymous comment possibility. I still welcome all your comments with an open heart so I can respond to you...and I hope this switch won't inhibit your comments. I like listening to what folks have to say! However, for me, reading blogs (and writing them) is about expressing oneself in a thoughtful and caring way--about making friends and sharing ideas and connections. People can be very different in their beliefs or ideas but still treat each other with respect and acceptance. Anything you might want to comment on here should be something you can say with your name attached to it, just as if you were visiting me in my real living room. Anonymity shouldn't necessary here! I want to continue to foster that openness to others and that respect, that positive tone while I move across the prairie spaces to my new home.

Oh, and Kristy, I can't wait to meet you and spin with you in Manitoba! Soyun, thanks for dropping by--you do beautiful work...I hope my other blog readers will check it out!
Now, back to those boxes...

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Friday, June 26, 2009


We're trying to keep things, umm, as normal as possible around here. So, despite that, things are changing fast in the packing world and I'm having a hard time keeping up. That means I haven't managed to get back to most of the commenters...I'm sorry! After all, the moving truck comes in 14 days. 2 weeks. No wonder, right?

Here are some understatements for your entertainment.
We've packed some boxes.
(they are everywhere!!)
Over 200, at last count. The professor has revised his estimate of final boxes packed upwards to 250 or so. I hedged somewhere in the middle, between 200-250, but he might be right.

I gave a small book talk at the local public library.
Yes, very small. While I was packing, I forgot to try to convince all my friends in town to come. It was, after all, over 95F that day, a rough day for fiber arts...but air conditioned at the library... OK, only 2 people came. Lovely, kind ladies who wanted to hear me talk about Fiber Gathering, of course, but only 2. I talked my heart out to them, they both bought books, and I was very grateful.
Hint: If you want to support authors so they can afford to keep writing about knitting, buy those books! I hear that Knit Picks is having a big sale on books this week, or wander over to the right sidebar and click on those Amazon links. I am, as always, grateful for your support, and a little embarrassed to have to mention this stuff. Harry and Sally, the dogs, appreciate every effort towards affording their fancy duck and potato kibble. :)

We are now just tenants here in Bowling Green.

Yes, we are very lucky people. We've sold our house. Hurray! We're very pleased about that one, because carrying two mortgages is more than your average professor and writer can usually manage.

I hear that Knit Green is getting some good attention.

Right now, Knit Green is just a few packed boxes (seen here) of knitted projects and book proofs in my house. However, I hear from my editor that there is definite interest in this new book! It's coming out in late September--and you can actually already pre-order it...just click on that little book title to the right.

Packing requires some exercise.

I have no need for extra aerobic activity these days. I am getting muscles like Popeye. For instance, stuffing and containing 2 flannel duvet (comforter) covers in an overnight bag took such effort that I had to sit down, rest a bit, and write this post. Starting with that stomach virus I got in early May, I've been losing weight at a healthy pace... for me. I might even be fit when I am done unpacking all this. In any event, I'm stinky, sticky and sweaty. (It's hot here.)

I appear to have quite a bit of yarn.

You may note that I do not account for my stash on Ravelry. I don't show it all off to visitors. How much yarn is in my stash? That's MY business. (after all, excess is not an understatement...) So, here's a very revealing photo. There are 9 of these tupperware containers here. Full of yarn..both commercial and handspun. Oh, and that's not all my yarn. I cannot wait to start digging into it seriously in Winnipeg. More warm stuff! Immediately! For everyone!

The best part about this storage technique is that I just put tape on them, number them, add them to the inventory and move on. Already boxed! A brilliant thing. I'm saving that for a day when I'm feeling like I can't pack one more box...

In terms of final numbers, how many boxes do you predict? Is your stash bigger or smaller than this portion of mine? Anything else you'd like to add?

(I see that roughly 40 folks read the blog every day. Yet only 9 usually comment. Wonder why.....Is it because I don't manage to write back to every comment?) On second thought, I think it's because I smell bad after packing all day. Yup, that must be it!

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

math for budget conscious spinners

Remember the sheep shearing I went to on May 26th?

I bring it up because today, my lovely fleeces came back from the fiber mill. I sent them to Stonehedge Fiber Mill to be washed and carded. I don't do this with all my fleeces, but gosh, I figured I ought to concentrate on packing and not washing 40 some lbs of fleece. Yes, it was a lot of fleece.

I'm frequently asked if spinning is an expensive hobby. I say no! The other spinners around me at the spinning guild will say "Yes!" Why the discrepancy? Well, let's crunch some numbers.

Let's say I already have basic equipment like a spindle or hand cards, and a spinning wheel. Let's not talk equipment, although you can be spinning in no time with a $5 handmade spindle or a $5000 custom built spinning wheel. Let's just talk spinning fiber. Let's talk wool.

I often go to a sheep shearing or a fleece show or auction to get my wool. What does handspinning wool cost? Anything from free to $33 a pound. Free doesn't always mean "bad wool." It may mean the shepherd or shearer doesn't want to deal with the wool for one reason or another, or that the industrial wool pool pays so little that year as to be useless.

$33 a pound is the exorbitant price paid for a grand champion fleece at New York State Sheep & Wool Festival (Rhinebeck) a couple of years ago. This is way too much dough for wool, in my opinion!

For the complete newbie, a perfectly spinnable fleece can be purchased for $5 to $10 a pound. Many fleeces are less expensive, some are more. The price doesn't correlate to any kind of rating or quality. You need to learn to judge a fleece on its merits on your own. For your first or second fleece, bring a friend along. If you're really on your own, ask the shepherd. If they're honest and they know something, they'll tell you what they think of the fleece, too!

So, the fleece comes home and I decide to send it all off to be processed.
Note: Check out Fiber Gathering for information in how to skirt a fleece...

40 lbs of fleece are packed up and shipped via USPS parcel post to the mill. $33 in postage later, I come home. I wait. When the fleece comes back, I've got approximately 23 lbs of gorgeous washed and carded roving. Some of the wool is even blended with mohair, as per my request. Light, airy, and just popping out of the box to be spun. (use your imagination here, I haven't managed a photo!) Cost? $221.
Note: This would be less if I'd washed and carded it all at home, but water/energy also cost money. Likely no where near $221, but worth remembering at this juncture.

OK, so let's round that to $250 for 23 lbs of fiber. If you got this Romney wool for free, as I did, (the farmer's partial to me and he doesn't sell his wool) that's about $10.87 a pound. I always bring the farmer a present in exchange, but let's not budget that in. Instead, let's pretend the wool cost $5 a pound for the raw wool, which would be: $5 X 40 lbs=200 dollars.
Note: $5 a pound, while not a fortune, would enable that farmer to do far better than if he sold the wool at the industrial wool pool. He might even break even or earn a small amount.

That would bring the cost of the wool up to: $250+200=450 dollars
450 dollars/23 lbs=$19.57 a pound

Your average adult sweater weighs around 2 lbs in finished weight. That is equivalent to just under 40 dollars. Not expensive...because I'm not counting all the processing time (knitting/spinning) as being work. If I counted the hours this took to process, it would be a very pricey sweater. Maybe $1000 or more at minimum wage.
Note: This is why it's not generally cost effective to have someone commission a spinner to make a sweater.

As a hobby with a sweater end product, this isn't expensive when you consider the many hours of enjoyment I'll get spinning and knitting this sweater.

Can spinning be expensive? Oh, absolutely. If one buys only hand-dyed roving, imagine paying roughly $20 to $40 for 4 oz of wool. That's lovely colorful stuff. If you buy enough for the same 2 lb sweater and it costs $30 for 4 oz... multiply up and that is $240 for an equivalent amount of fiber.

$40 versus $240. Wow. That's a big spread.

Budget conscious spinners are now wondering about dyeing, and how much those packets of dye cost. Well, it varies in price, but it certainly doesn't cost anything like $200. Time to buy some dyes, you're thinking?
Note: Check out the dyeing tutorial in Fiber Gathering!

Now, even if you only buy processed fiber, it's still an affordable, if not budget-conscious, hobby with practical results at the end. When compared to, say, yachting, or golf vacations, or a ski chalet in the Alps? Spinning and knitting sound downright affordable. However, if you're worried about saving money in a recession?

Buy Fleece. Buy lots of fleece.
(If you don't get to spin it all, it makes great packing material and even better insulation.)

Was this helpful? Please let me know in the comments and feel free to pass along to any spinning friends who might be interested. I'd love more blog readers! Now, back to packing...moving day is in 2.5 weeks. Winnipeg ho!

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

learning with my dad

In the midst of packing, (148 boxes, as of yesterday--including several boxes of framed photos/art wrapped in paper and cushioned by the ever versatile wool roving) I found I'd forgotten about Father's Day...but I never really forget my dad! (I'm a daddy's girl!) Lately I've been speaking to him often on the phone to update my parents on the moving details and to check in on my grandmother, who isn't well.

Yesterday, I had a chance to make my father proud. The new carding cloth arrived in the mail from Howard Brush Company. It's very hot out, so the professor and I took time out from packing and decided to have a fix-it project together. We took the old carding cloth off two sets of antique handcards and put on new cloth. First, we had to pry out the upholstery tacks that held the old cloth on. (look at the last post to see the rusted tines of the old hand cards.) Then, we fit the new cloth to the wooden card "backs" and tacked on the new carding cloth.

This sounds easy, but as I pried out ancient tacks and rotten carding cloth with two kinds of screw drivers, plyers, and sheer force of will, I spent a lot of time thinking about my dad. (Imagine lots of dust, rusted sharp metal, and a good chance of tetanus if we weren't careful!) My dad had me out in the garage, building and fixing things, when I was in preschool. Both my parents believe in "making things"--many of my school clothes were sewn by my mom, and my toys were made or fixed by my parents. This wasn't because we couldn't afford new--it was because we could both make whatever it was "better" and enjoy the process more at home. It also gave us lots of time to experiment and learn new (or old?) skills.

I reflected on that this week while I set yarn twist by washing a lot of handspun. I tend to let center pull balls of single yarns pile up and then do my plying all at once. A few days ago, I washed 600-700 yards of chocolate brown Shetland two ply. (approximately 14 wpi, a lofty sportweight or heavy fingering weight yarn, I think) I also washed one skein of heavy worsted two ply Fleece Artist hand-dyed yarn, and some Polwarth and silk yarn. My dad enabled much of this fiber art stuff. He helped me learn to spin when I was twelve by driving me 45 minutes each way to a 3 hour class, once a week, for 12 weeks. My dad also took sewing and weaving lessons with me. My mom taught me to knit (Dad learned at the beach as a kid with his mom, although he doesn't knit now) and both parents taught me to think that if I wanted to learn to do anything with my hands, I just had to apply myself. Experiment, take a class, and practice--and then I'd know enough to decide if I wanted to keep doing whatever it was!

You'll note from the hand card photo that the professor and I aren't experts in restoring cards yet. (that is, we may not want to keep doing it!) One of the cards wasn't overly sturdy. The wooden back was held together by glue and the rotten carding cloth. When we took that cloth off, we had to reglue the back. The thickness of the wood wasn't consistent--some of the new staples came through the card back. This is now fixed with glue the professor puts it... "one of the five forces of the universe." That is: gravity, electromagnetism, the weak force, the strong force...and, our hero: DUCK TAPE. The cards work fine again, and I can't wait to show them off to my dad! We fixed it! They work again!

Last, my dad helped me learn--especially to teach myself via experimentation and self discipline. I'm usually not a trendy or "competitive" spinner, although I've won ribbons at a couple of state fairs for my handiwork. Lately, 3 ply sock yarn has become the rage of the spinning world. The challenge: Is a spinner skilled enough to produce so fine a yarn that, when made into a 3 ply, it is good for socks?

I mostly make 2 ply, or Navajo 3 ply yarns. I don't knit with laceweight yarns all that often. I don't enjoy spinning extremely thin, fine wools all that much. I sometimes find plying very fine yarns unenjoyable. I wear the heck out of my socks, so most of my handknit socks are coarser wool fibers, blended with nylon or mohair, and machine washable. That said, I couldn't sleep the other night. (heat/moving stress/concern over my grandmother...)

At midnight, I spun very fine Finn wool yarn on my Little Gem spinning wheel. I think it was roughly 36 wpi, but I find wraps per inch can be somewhat inexact as a measurement when things are this fine. I then used my favorite Icelandic drop spindle (got it on our honeymoon) and spun it into a navajo 3 ply right off the spinning wheel bobbin. I knit the resulting chained 3 ply on #0(2.25mm) double pointed needles. It made a finger sized sock at 8 stitches to the inch. The resulting "finger sock" has a halo to it, and I can feel the twist of the yarn and firmness of the stitches on my finger tip. It hasn't sold me, for all time, on the necessity of this 3 ply yarn, but it was a learning meditation that calmed 1:30 AM, I fell asleep.

It also helps me celebrate the learning through experimentation that my dad taught me. It's what keeps me up at night, thinking and trying new things until I learn what I need to know. My dad also gives me a stubborn trial and error determination, a learning through intuition, (gut instinct!) and the willingness to make mistakes until I get it right.

Thanks, Dad, for doing all that driving, warping the loom, lugging the sewing machine and helping put together my first Ashford kit spinning wheel.
Happy Father's Day.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

the spinning news

Well, as of today, we've packed 117 boxes. Out of curiosity, I checked our running list (we're documenting every box) and a little more than half are books. Willow and I have a lot in any case, a professor and a teacher turned writer are bound to be readers, right? The funny part is how many books we've already given away to the local library for their used book sale!

Despite a busy social schedule--the professor and I have had 4 social engagements between Tuesday and Thursday, an all time record... I've been doing some spinning related things.

First, my spindle returned for my Lyle Wheeler Great Wheel. This spindle wasn't quite perfect for me and Lyle kindly worked on it again...I love this about handmade things, we can tweak it until it's right! I've gotten it on the wheel, and I've spun a tiny bit. However, I couldn't find the spinning oil (this despite buying 2 more bottles!) to oil everything, so more time with that wheel will have to wait. Also, we were in the midst of severe thunderstorms, so Sally the dog was trying to squeeze herself into a space between boxes and the wheel that was genuinely unsafe. She is afraid of storms as they are so violent here, and often cause tornadoes. I am perhaps more afraid of finding a squished dog in between the moving boxes...

For my "Back to Basics" spinning workshops in May, I'd purchased exquisite raw Finn wool from Misty Mountain Farm. I try to offer students a lot of different wool breed samples in my classes. This raw fiber was delicious. Even so, I can't say I recommend ever moving raw wool in a moving truck in the summer time. STINKY! So, I washed it. Due to our summer storms and high humidity (last I checked, it was 77% humidity AFTER a storm came through, so gosh knows what it was before...), this wool is drying in the guest bathroom. It's mostly dry after three days. I am dying to sit down and spin it straight from the lock...but first, I'd like to finish plying all the "anxiety" Shetland I spun while I was waiting to hear if we were moving. Bear in mind that I have about 30 minutes a day, at most, to consider spinning. It's a pipe dream!

I also discovered while teaching that many students want to learn good hand carding technique but don't have hand cards. Sometimes their hand cards aren't right for the materials at hand...they are too fine for wool or too coarse. (this has to do with the carding cloth, which varies a great deal in tpi--teeth per inch.) I've been gifted with some old hand cards, both flat and curved back, over the years, and it occurred to me that with new carding cloth, these carders would again serve their purpose! More students could practice at once.

Before I closed the "hand cards" box I contacted Howard Brush Company--new carding cloth at 72 and 90 tpi is on its way! This is a relief, because my very favorite hand cards, made by Clemes & Clemes, developed a wobble in one of the handles. No surprise, really, as they are 24 years old and have seen much hard use. I like carding, and I love those cards! Luckily, the professor fixed the wobbles with some glue and I'm back in business. (I too use glue, but dribble it everywhere. He's neater than I am.)

I am now off to sit on the couch, watch a Due South dvd and knit wool socks. I'm preparing for Canada. So far, it's my favorite Canadian show.

This actor might be why, but a close second is his sidekick, a wolf. (Sally likes the wolf.) I welcome other Canadian program ideas--please feel free to suggest them in the comments!

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

across the way

First, Nancy definitely gets the most seriously funny/embarrassing award for the last set of comments. Wow, getting stuck in your cupboard with your Great Pyrenees beats my story any day of the week! However did you get out of that cupboard? (Oh wait, are you still partially stuck in there?!-- I worried I was never getting out of that dress, believe me.)

Now, packing continues over here, and the most interesting part are the professor's packing activities and observations. This is our 4th move in 11 years of marriage. It's different because we've lived in this house for a longer period than any other house (hence, more stuff accumulated) and because we're moving to another country this time. You can't believe the amount of bureaucracy involved in crossing a border. EVERYTHING has paperwork attached to it.

Every box in the household must have its contents listed, valued, and numbered as we pack so it's declared part of our household and no duty is incurred as we cross the border and go through customs. Both dogs need to have their rabies certification paperwork. (no problem there.) Both cars have to have a special letter from the car company (GM and Ford) indicating there are no outstanding recalls on this automobile. Everything is like this. The "things to do" list goes on...and on. (I'll try not to bore you with that.)

Each night I worry I haven't packed enough boxes that day. I'm averaging 5-10 boxes right now...and it's 27 days until we move. (I'm probably ok, right?!) The professor reassures me that, if anything, I'm more efficient about this now than we used to be. He thinks we have something like 200 or more boxes worth. I get rid of a lot...and the professor packs all his earthly possessions...yesterday, I think he packed 30 long sleeve shirts. (30!) --Stuff reassures him, so he has a lot of it. I have more fiber and yarn than I care to admit.... to anyone.

Anyway, as I pack, I've been watching the neighborhood. It's a quiet time of year. Most of the students are away. However, there was interesting activity across the street. You may remember, if you're a longtime blog reader, my stories in 2006 about the crack house? Well, that house was bought by a concerned neighbor in late 2004 or 2005. He's been renovating it, off and on, ever since. It looks great now, it's been rebuilt from the foundation up, and aside from occasional construction noise, it's been wonderful to live across from this house! It's still empty, but looking very good now. Maybe soon a family will move in.

So, I look out the window last week as I'm packing boxes. I hear noise and see they are tearing off the old gutters. The next day, the gutter repair folks come.

If you live near an Amish or Old Order Mennonite community, you recognize immediately from these people's clothes that it's either an Amish or Mennonite run business. I suspect it's Amish, since the countryside near us has several Amish communities. In fact, one of our Friday night dinner guests wondered if it was "Mr. Shrock's company" as he knows that family does gutter repair! (small city, right?!) Although these religious communities stick to old traditions, they use trucks and other modern things in their business lives.

I was careful not to take any focused photos of their faces--that's considered very bad manners in their religious tradition--to shoot photos of someone's face. However, you can just about see here that one of young men is talking on a cell phone. He's either doing business or he's in that period of an Amish teenager's life called Rumspringa. (literally, "running around")

Anyhow, it's amazing what you can see from one's second story window! After they left, I realized how much I've observed without leaving home here. It's certainly run the gamut from crack house to Amish gutter repair!

Any weird observations from your windows to report? How many boxes did you pack for your last move? Weigh in! Let me know...and Andrea, yes, I too have done drunk packing. It's not generally a good plan for me. Don't drink and pack! For this move, I'm sticking to pie!

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

packing up the office

Since I last posted, I have made inroads in packing. In fact, most all of my clothes that hung in the closet are completely packed. This involved many hours of emotional honesty. I tried on all sorts of clothes and reminded myself...This does not fit. It probably won't fit again. It needs to be given away.

I reached an all time low this morning while dealing with the closet. I tried on a black flowered dress I have had for (ahem-this number blanked out)-- years. I'd sewn up the front button placket so it did not gap while I was teaching in it. (note: I last taught full time in Buffalo, in 2003. This dress dated from teaching high school--right after college...and before I married the professor. A while back.)

The dress, though flattering, has the tendency to gap in unfortunate places. This morning, I put on the dress and while tight, it appeared to fit. Then, I could not get it off again. It's hot here. I was totally stuck. I considered ripping the dress, calling the professor at the lab to come home and get me out of it--and the hotter and more frustrated I got, the tighter the dang thing fit. (laugh here, it's ok. I was sort of laughing.) Finally, I found my sewing scissors. I cut those carefully hidden stitches on the button placket. I unbuttoned the damn dress. It came off, not overly damaged--and went right into the "give to charity" pile. The pile is large now. I will miss that dress, but obviously, the 10+ lbs I've gained in the last 10 years mean it is no longer "my" dress!

So, actually, packing up the closet hasn't been as rough as packing up any part of my office. I feel absolutely panicked by the idea that I won't have something--anything-I might need in the spinning and knitting department. I've been slowly gathering up projects for this moving trip. (note Lady of the Lake sweater photo--a Canadian design, I might add-- for my voyage northward.) Symbolism. I got knitting symbolism.

The projects have to be totally ready to go, balls wound, proper needles inserted. They have to be simple, even mindless projects, so I don't make silly mistakes and feel bad while moving my household. The last rules are: These have to be for me. I'm not designing them for sale. I'm taking July and August off. That's it. Only fun knitting. (this, because a lady asked at my last book talk--do you ever get to knit recreationally?!) Uh yeah. Right now, in fact. While I'm moving to another country and brain dead...

I'm also packing up some of my needles and spindles. The professor felt you needed to see what a box of "extra" needles look like...just the ones that I can probably do without for the next couple of months... I bought the bright fabric needle holders at Great Yarns, the yarn shop right near Quail Ridge Book Shop. These holders organized a few things--and maybe I need that now.

I'm averaging several boxes packed a day...and we have a month to go. Still loads of time, so each time I close a box, I've made sure to get rid of things we don't need. From experience, I know that won't last long. The closer I get to moving day? The faster I throw everything into boxes. For now, though, I leave you with that image of me, stuck in that black flowered dress in my 85F (or 90F) degree bedroom. Please. Go ahead and giggle. :)

To spare me more embarrassment, please share your funny clothes and packing stories below. Otherwise, it'll just be me here, stuck in that dang dress!

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Sunday, June 07, 2009


I forgot three things on this trip to North Carolina.

1) a razor
Now, I’ve never forgotten this on any trip before, so I can assume it was because I took out all the liquids from my toiletries, and this was along with the shampoo bottle, and oops, it happened. I’m lucky that I don’t do risqué things on my book talks. I sincerely hope no one noticed that I forgot the razor.

2) the GPS
My parents gave us this GPS and while it’s occasionally useful, I forgot it. Maybe because I felt I didn’t need it (see #3) but also because, well, this week has been a little crazy. I did mapquest the directions I absolutely needed and I brought a map of the area. So, because of #3, I didn’t really need #2.

3) how much Durham felt like home
It took some mental effort for me to remember how to get from the airport in an enormous downpour to downtown Durham. Things had changed a little bit, new buildings and such, since I moved away 7 years ago. I’ve visited once or twice since then, but not for a long time. Even so—when I got to Durham, everything went on automatic pilot. I knew where I needed to go and why. I drove by our old house and our old neighborhood. (Improving, but still the nicer end of a working class neighborhood)

The photos here of the yellow house are the house that Mary--a knitwear designer who reads my blog-- and I both lived in. (She lived there before we did, we bought it from her and we didn't know her then.) It had a great front porch for spinning on. I used to sit outside with my dog Lucy--may she rest in peace-- and watch the world go by.

I got ice cream, bought a book and CD from what used to be my independent bookstore (The Regulator) and visited the small Durham yarn shop I used to frequent. It is conveniently located in a bigger shop that has brands like Dansko, Eileen Fisher, and other things that I wish I could afford…but can’t!

Anyhow, I’m missing the point here. Durham felt like finding an old pair of jeans in the very back of your drawer. You know, the pair you’d forgotten about? When you put them on, they fit perfectly. Comfortably broken in, worn, but not worn out. The pair of jeans that you maybe stashed for some quirky issue (a hole in the pocket, a zipper problem) but when you tried them on again, the quirky issue had passed and you’d remembered, “Ahhh. I love these.”

I still feel that way about Durham. This bittersweet love makes me a little homesick. A little sad—because I struggled mightily when I lived there. I was in a graduate program in turmoil. As a result of that dissension, my (somewhat off-kilter) advisor retired. I managed to get a master’s degree (I’d signed up for a PhD) and lost a lot of my self esteem during that time. I felt bad about myself, and yet there was no way for me to succeed…I had to fight to get just an M.A. Sometimes there’s a problem with the lure, and like a fisherman, this department cut bait. (my part of the program was the bait.)

As I was driving along to my old haunts, I realized that I feel very proud and happy right now about my professor’s achievements lately, and my own. That the last time I felt that proud was probably just before we got married and when I first moved to Durham. In between, there was probably a (no kidding) 10 year period where one or the other of us was struggling. That’s a long struggle.

Sometimes you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone. What really helped make my time in “the Triangle” special were my friends in what is now called the Twisted Threads Fiber Guild. We met once a month in each other's living rooms. Many of them recall visiting the bright yellow house on James Street in Durham. Seeing those friends on Saturday was a delicious treat. I got to give my talk to about 40 people at Quail Ridge Books, hug lots of old friends, and even go out to eat with a crowd of about 6 of them. The chance to reconnect, hear what they're spinning and knitting, about their families and work was so fabulous. Even better, it was great to see all over again how smart, funny, and warm they were.

Now, packing starts in earnest for the big move to Winnipeg. I’m glad to be home…but I think I’ll always miss Durham.

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Thursday, June 04, 2009

rest and relief

Thanks for all your kind congratulations regarding the cover for Knit Green! It seems weirdly appropriate to mention here that the basket featured on the cover of the book is knit out of my grandmother's old duvet (comforter) cover...see more information about my grandmother, below.. When I ripped it up to create the "yarn"-- (instructions for that to follow in the book, I promise!)--I saw her neat mending stitches in more than one place. It was soft with age and wear. A great sheet to recycle into something new...and still a really comforting, Laura Ashley like print with blue flowers. Very sweet. This basket is currently in my guest room, holding (you guessed it) wool roving for my great wheel.

Yesterday I sent off the proofs for this book to the editor, and I'm very relieved. I'm also relieved to say that this horse is feeling better and his human, my friend, the man in the red suspenders, is on the mend. My friend will apparently be leaving the hospital soon, now that he's had surgery (on his brain!) and is heading to rehabilitation. They think he will recover just fine. Whew.

I'm also relieved because both my baby nephew and my grandmother are home (in Virginia) from stays in the hospital. Healing is Good news. I've been pretty worried over here.

In other sources of relief, it looks like the purchase of our new Winnipeg house is going forward. We've learned in the last week that:
1) International money transfers can be wired, but they don't happen instantly. They happen in 2-3 days. (but no one warned us of that)
2) During that time, it looks like you have completely lost your savings, as the money doesn't appear in the old bank anymore, and isn't in the new one yet either.
3) It all turned out ok. We were on tenterhooks.

I can't speak for anyone else, but this amount of relief makes me feel plain old tired. Sally the dog also apparently feels this way. (note photo.) However, I'm off tomorrow to North Carolina, and I'm really looking forward to it!
In the meanwhile, I'm spending some time today packing. Each day, I try to pack at least a box or two. This "getting ahead" is enormously useful at the end, right before a move, when packing is an all day and night affair. Today, I started my box packing in style. I packed all the paperwork from writing Fiber Gathering, and I padded the box with washed fleece. Wool padding. I'm moving in spinner style. Totally cool spinster here, don'tcha think!? (snort!)

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Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Check this out!

Have you seen this?!!
(I've got a cover now and everything. Now I've just got to finish this proofreading...)

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