Spinning Yarn. Badly. And Loving It.

Spinning yarn for Spinzilla 2015

So, Spinzilla started Monday, and I’ve been spinning yarn every day since. Not as much as I’d thought I would, and not as well. I’ve yet to produce any handspun I want to knit or crochet with, but I’m enjoying myself a lot.

And, as it happens, I’ve got a not-yet-assembled frame loom sitting on my kitchen counter, and I think I’m going to weave with some of this yarn. Oh yes.

As of yesterday in the early evening, I’ve spun just over 800 yards of Spinzilla creditable yarn (plying counts toward your total yardage!).

I’m sure I’ll make it to 1,200 yards by the end, which is an arbitrary yardage and far more than I’ve ever spun – in total – up to this point. I’m not sure my yarn will be any more even than what you see here, but I don’t care one bit.

Spinning yarn for Spinzilla 2015

Spinning yarn for Spinzilla 2015

Handspun yarn for Spinzilla 2015

Ok, so this final ply from last night is getting closer to what I’m after (and not so hair-pull-outy).


Knitting Socks

Rainbow socks in progress.

I was about a half-inch from turning the heel when I took this pic.

A couple weeks ago, there was a countrywide Etsy Made in Canada craft-show event, and the one in Vancouver was held in the centre of downtown. The weather was gorgeous, so the kid and I took the slowest bus in all the land and looked forward to buying presents for people we love.

Maybe it was the weather, maybe it was less than stellar layout planning, but the place was so packed we almost turned right around without going in.

But go in we did, and we managed to make it to a handful of tables before we made a hasty escape for the slowest return trip in all the land.

One of the tables we made it to had a frame loom on it along with a bunch of small woven tapestries. Owen was intrigued, but was a little too grabby. Anyway, more about frame looms another time. (Hint.)

Another table was that of Ocean Park Yarns, and we both loved what we saw. She makes some stunning speckled yarns, you guys. And she also makes a colourway called Unapologetic Rainbow, which Owen lost his mind over.

Which is why I’m now, finally, knitting a pair of socks. His tiny feet are good motivation to actually make two socks.

I’m using this pattern, which is very straightforward so far. I’m working a 2×2 rib rather than a 3×1 rib, because my kid has extraordinarily skinny legs and feet. Also, I’m using slightly smaller needles than called for, for much the same reason (also for durability).

knitted socks, just cast on

I’m comfortable knitting with DPNs (double-pointed needles, for the uninitiated), but I’m still not used to using them at such a small gauge. I’ll get the hang of it eventually. Or, I suppose, I just won’t end up an avid sock knitter. Either way, whatever.

What’s your favourite sock pattern to knit or crochet?


Spinzilla is almost here. Let’s make a mess of it!

Of course, I don’t mean let’s make a mess of the event; I mean let’s just make a mess.

Lemme take a step back for those of you who aren’t plugged deeply into the yarn world.

Spinzilla is an annual week-long yarn-spinning competition, and it starts on Monday, October 5th. Really, it’s more a celebration-slash-geek-out than a cut-throat competition, but there are teams, and each team tries collectively to spin more yarn than all the other teams. There are also rogue spinners, who prefer to to fly solo rather than as part of a team.

I’ve dabbled in spinning yarn, but I’m not very good at it. So when one of the organizers of the event invited me to participate in the Spinzilla blog tour, specifically to write about messiness and why we should embrace it, I took that as a good reason to join a team and dedicate some serious time to upping my spinning game. Though surely many participants will be experienced spinners, I’m here to encourage even total n00bs to join in. A special kind of magic can happen when we set ourselves to task for a week, and while the seasoned pros spin their miles of yarn, we beginners can embrace the mess of not knowing much about spinning so we can finish the week knowing a hell of a lot more than we did at the start.

Here’s the deal about a mess: There’s no sense trying to learn how to do something new, or trying to get better at doing something you already know how to do, if you’re simultaneously trying to nail it on the first go. On paper that’s a no-brainer, but in practice it can be a hard walk to walk. Spinzilla is a gift of dedicated time. It’s just one week, so it’s not a stressful gift. But it’s long enough that daily practice can make a serious impression.

So I’m here to champion the mess. I’ll go so far as to encourage you to make as big a mess as you can. Like the fifty pounds of clay people, let’s go for the learning and productivity that come with a focus on quantity over perfection.

Behold: The beginning of the mess I plan to make:

I'll be spinning all this up for Spinzilla 2015. Oh yeah.

Pictured above is the collection of fibre I’ve amassed over the years. I’ve had some of it, like most of the undyed stuff at the top and the lovely pink/green/cream/grey braid at the top-right, for many, many years. I picked some of it up much more recently, on our road trip last spring, in anticipation of participating in Spinzilla. The boldly labeled Vortex is, as you can see, made by a hand-dyer in Taos, NM. The two braids to the right of the Vortex are also dyed by a New Mexican, under the Widdershin Woolworks label (I suffered choosing colours of hers, man, such was the gorgeousness). I picked up some of the braids and knots at a yarn swap, I think. Oh, and there are a couple of small baggies in there, too: one of bison wool and one of wolf fur, both of which I purchased at an open-air market in Santa Fe. (I left a piece of my heart in New Mexico if you can’t tell, and I’m feeling very grateful to myself for knowing back in May that I would enjoy revisiting our travels this fall, through fibre.)

Here’s the thing about all that gorgeous stuff up there: I’m going to mangle most of it. Sure, I anticipate that by the end of a week of spinning, I’ll have a pretty even tension going. But I won’t have an even tension going at the beginning. No. At the beginning, I’m going to achieve some seriously dramatic thick-and-thin yarn action. My yarn won’t produce a solidly usable gauge. I may or may not end up wanting to even use the resulting yarn to make anything at all.

And I will keep in mind at every turn that all of that is normal. I will keep in mind at every turn that if I didn’t allow myself to mangle many ounces of fibre as I learn that I would not learn. Those mangled knots of wool will not have been wasted, because even if they aren’t useable as yarn, they were useable as learning.

Sure, I’ll probably save the New Mexican wools till the end, since I’d really love to have them turn into yarn that I’ll use to make something truly wonderful.

But all the messes I’ll make? All the thick-and-thins, all the broken strands? All the cursing over figuring out how to oil my machine? All the wondering out loud why the way I spin is considered to be left-handed even though I’m right-handed and I’ve heard it’s actually quite common for people to spin opposite their usual handedness? All the yarns I’ll make through the mess will be wonderful yarns, because they will be true results of my spinning effort.

I will spin slowly, most likely. My poor team will not consider me to be, shall we say, an asset. But I won’t apologize and I won’t feel bad. Because I’m going to get to know local spinners I’ve never met before. And I’m going to accept their advice. And I’m going to allow them to remind me that my fibre – no matter how gorgeous it might be combed and braided, no matter how much it cost to buy – is not precious, and it must be spun.

If you’re a beginner spinner looking for an excuse to up your game, please join me next week! And if you’re an ace spinner waiting to be nudged to join in, consider this your nudge! If you’re a #yearofmaking person, won’t it be cool to spend one of your 52 weeks doing this? Yes, I think so, too. Spinzilla registration is open until 5PM Eastern on Friday, October 2nd.


On Being an Expert in Doing Things I Have No Idea How to Do

image of collage in progress

Several weeks ago, I got an email from the manager of an art-supply store here in Vancouver, asking if I’d like to teach a collage workshop in the store – specifically about how/where to start when you haven’t a clue. One of the things I love about Opus is that they have a very liberal view of whom they consider to be an artist.

Of course, I don’t really do collage. Like, ever.

But I want to. And I’ve wanted to for a long time.

So I considered the where-to-start thing to be totally in line with my goal of experimenting with collage, and I said yes. An enthusiastic yes to teaching this workshop.

Because though I know very little about collage, I am an expert in doing things I have no idea how to do. In fact, I have spent my whole life honing my not-knowing-where-to-start skills.

And very specifically, I’ve become truly ace at not knowing where to start and starting anyway.


So the way I see it, and the store manager seemed to agree, I’m totally qualified to teach this workshop. And teach it I will.

The first thing I had to do to start preparing for the workshop is to start starting. So I laid out my ideas for how to start a collage when you don’t know how or where to start, and then I started executing those ideas.

It’s tremendous fun. You should give it a shot!

Stay tuned for more workshop details. I’ll post about it on Instagram and Twitter (and also here on the blog, obviously) when registration opens!

Note: the very brief bits I wrote about collage in Make It Mighty Ugly were bits I really struggled to write, because I knew I was writing good advice, but I also knew it’s advice I’ve had a very hard time following. I think this workshop will finally be the death of those particular creative demons. Hallelujah!


Back to School Sale on Craftsy Classes

image for sale on Craftsy classes

Craftsy’s having a big sale on classes and supplies this long weekend (till Wednesday the 9th, in fact)! I already have a queue of crochet projects I want to make this fall, and a virtual stack of classes I want to take on a wide variety of other topics. You can read more about my crochet classes on Craftsy right here.

What are you wanting to learn (more) about as the weather cools down and school gets back into session?