An Inventory

This year, we spent Christmas with my in-laws.  My mother-in-law is in poor health.  She has cancer and then got pneumonia.  She was in the hospital for 2.5 weeks, moving to rehab on the Tuesday after Christmas.  For a while, we thought she wasn’t going to make it to Christmas, but she did.  For the moment she’s stable, but the cancer is advanced and at this point we count each day as a gift.  During the time I visited with her, we talked a lot about her life and what has been important to her and what is important to her now.  “None of that stuff matters to me anymore,” she said, referring to her physical possessions.  What matters to her is speaking with and spending time with her people — her children, grandchildren, siblings, nieces, nephews, friends.

In November, my husband was laid off from his job.  This was something we’ve expected for some time, so we’ve saved money and he got a severance payment, so we are not in an immediate financial crisis.  He spent most of the last six weeks with his mother and is now starting to look for a job.  We don’t know how long it will take for him to find a job, so we need to manage carefully so that the money we have lasts for as long as possible.  As a result, buying yarn and fiber are definitely off the list!  I must craft from stash.

These two factors have me thinking a lot about what really matters and about how I want to spend my time.  I am feeling the need to let go of some things and consolidate others.  I want to spend more time on my fiber pursuits.  Over the last few years, I’ve acquired an astonishing variety of fiber books, tools, and supplies.  I’ve acquired things at a much quicker clip than I’ve crafted them.  Once upon a time, I kept Ravelry up-to-date, but I fell out of the habit.  I feel as though I don’t really know what I have anymore and to make plans, I need to know what I have.  It’s time for an inventory.

Fortunately, inventorying is in my blood.  For most of my growing up years, my father worked in stock rooms.  When I was very small, he worked in the warehouse of a local clothing store.  When I was 11, we moved to a different state where he had a new job as the manager of a hospital stock room.  My sister and I went to a private school in the same town as the hospital, which was a 30-minute drive from where we lived.  We commuted with my father.  Since we got out of school a couple of hours before he got out of work, we spent those hours at the hospital.  We usually stayed in the cafeteria, working on our homework.  Sometimes, especially on days when they were short-staffed, we hung out in the stock room, working on homework and occasionally answering the phone to take orders from the floors while the employees pulled and delivered the needed items. Twice a year, on a Sunday, the stock room closed for inventory.  All the stock room employees came in, along with people in other administrative departments, and my sister and I.  We counted every single item on every single shelf, balancing the inventory against the computer.

I started my personal inventory process before Christmas.  I started by consolidating — putting away all the random yarn and projects scattered around the house.  It’s a lot easier to do inventory when everything is where it belongs.  It’s a little scary to flash my stash, but here’s the pix so you can see where I am now.

These bins are the main stash collection.  Each of these is a 40 quart bin.  One of the bins holds finished projects waiting to be gifted, but the rest are full of yarn and fiber.  I sorted the fiber by type (wool, plant fiber, blends, batts, etc).  There’s so much wool that it takes up 8 bins and I’ve alphabetized the wool by breed.  I separated the yarn by weaving yarn and knitting / crocheting yarn.  Then I sorted each of those categories  size of the yarn.

 

These shelves hold the yarns made from plant fibers.  It’s mostly cotton, but there’s some linen and bamboo in there also.

 

These batts have been living in this suitcase since I bought them last April because I can’t fit them anywhere else.

 

This pile consists mostly of raw fleece, waiting for me to wash and process it.  There’s also a couple of bags of yarn that I haven’t put away.  That’s my four-harness, 28″ weaving width LeClerc Fanny counterbalance loom under all that fleece.

 

This bin holds raw fleece in smaller quantities.  There’s a variety of breeds in this bin, but no more than a pound from any one fleece.

 

These boxes hold fleeces that I bought and had processed by mills.  I believe there’s three fleeces total in here.  They are sitting on top of my four harness, 22″ weaving width Dorset direct tie-up loom.

These bins and the hamper on top of them hold WIPs.  A couple of years ago, I conquered all my WIPs, but now I have a new pile.

 

These are smaller bins, about twice the size of a shoebox.  They hold a couple of WIPs, including two or three that only need blocking, but mostly they are projects waiting for me to cast on.  I matched yarn to patterns and sometimes the needles are with them also.

 

Finally, this is my fabric collection.  Last spring and summer, I took sewing lessons.  I’ve mostly sewed pillowcases, which we send to the pediatric oncology ward where my cousin works, for nurses to distribute to the kids.  I actually have a lot more fabric than this, but everything I bought for pillowcases is stored at my mother’s house.  This is everything I have at my house.

 

I have complicated feelings about all this stash.  I’ll be writing more about it as I continue the inventory process.  My goal for the next week is to get Ravelry back up-to-date.  I’ve downloaded the spreadsheet of my Ravelry stash as a starting point.  I’ll write an update next week, to share my progress and next goal.

Braaains

Today’s Yarn Love Challenge prompt is “Currently Making.”  If you haven’t read my previous posts, this is the third in the series.  If you’d like to start from the beginning, here’s the link to day 1.  At the end of each post there’s a link to the next post in the series.  If you’ve read the earlier posts, but missed yesterday’s, click here to catch up!

I’ve mostly been making brains.  Perhaps you’ve heard about the March for Science scheduled for April 22?  The date was set in early February, not long after the Women’s March.  Crafters excited about the impact of the pussy hats immediately started discussing options for hats for the March for Science.  Many scientists and science lovers expressed an interest in Brain Hats.

Photo by pattern designer Alana Noritake

As even a non-knitter can probably tell, this hat is far more complicated than the brain hats.  In the March for Science Ravelry group and Brain Hats Facebook group, there’s much discussion regarding better ways to make these hats, so sufficient numbers can be made before the march.  The project breaks down into three primary tasks: (1) Creation of the skull cap, which is a straight forward and fast knit; (2) Creation of the i-cord, which isn’t difficult but is tedious and time-consuming; (3) Attaching the i-cord to the skull cap.  Since I’m lucky to have a number of local fiber friends, I e-mailed them all and asked if anyone was interested in working on this project together.

My friend Katie has knit caps.  As of last week, she’d finished 13 of them.  I’m sure she’s finished a few more since last week!  I am working on the i-cord for the brains.  To make this process easier, I procured an Embellish Knit i-cord maker (Amazon Affiliate Link).  It’s tough to find them now, even through Amazon, because they either have been or are being discontinued by the manufacturer.  I managed to scoop up three of them on clearance at my local Jo-anns.  I wind the yarn I’m working with onto a ball winder and leave it there while I crank the i-cord.

Keeping the working yarn cake on the ball winder helps in two ways.  First, the ball of yarn doesn’t hop around all over the floor while I’m working.  Second, the working yarn feeding into the Embellish Knit doesn’t get tangled with the finished i-cord coming out of the bottom of the machine.  The i-cord doesn’t just move straight down as you crank.  It tends to whip around in a circle and quickly become tangled with the working yarn unless you keep the two ends far apart.

The yarn in the picture above is Vanna’s Choice.  The Embellish Knit instructions say that you cannot use anything thicker than fingering weight in the machine.  However, after much experimentation, I found that I could use worsted weight yarns as long as they are smooth, slippery yarns.  I have to pay attention when setting up the machine and I have to move the weight up to the base of the machine after I’ve cranked about six inches of i-cord.  I also can’t crank as quickly as I would if I was using a thinner yarn.  However, it is quick enough.  Using this set up of Embellish Knit plus ball winder, I am able to crank through an entire skein of Vanna’s Choice in 45 – 60 minutes.  Each skein is probably enough brains for one hat.

A bowl of brains. The pink yarn is the practice yarn that came with the machine. The turquoise and the yellowish-green are Vanna’s Choice. The darker green is Cascade 220. The pink / gray variegated under the Cascade 220 is Debbie Bliss Sock yarn. The blue-gray variegated and the blue-variegated towards the back are a worsted weight felted singles yarn, no longer labeled with a brand name. It’s some of the first yarn I purchased back in 2006 when I started knitting again. I ordered it from Uruguay, from a place that appears to no longer be in business.

Sometime soon, we have to start attaching brains to hats.  In order to make that process easier, I purchased a styrofoam head meant for displaying wigs.


Since attaching the brains will take both hands and since it is better for the hat to be slightly stretched, I needed a way to holding the hat still and stretched while I am working.  In the previously mentioned Ravelry and Facebook groups, people have mentioned several options for stretching the hats, but many of the other methods (e.g. a balloon) still required you to hold the stretcher while simultaneously applying the brains.  Even some using the styrofoam heads found it challenging to keep the head still while working.  They make clamps designed specifically for holding these heads firmly on a surface, so I purchased one of those a the same time I bought the head.

Close Up

It’s Yarn Love Challenge Day 2!  If you missed day 1, explaining what exactly Yarn Love Challenge is, please see yesterday’s post.  Today’s prompt is “close up.”  Over the last few years, I’ve tried to improve my ability to take close up pictures.  Close ups help us focus on details, providing a better understanding of and appreciation for finished projects.  Rather than just sharing fiber arts pictures in this post, I’ve chosen close-up pictures that represent different aspects of my life.  Collectively, these small details provide a better understanding of the ongoing project that is my life.

Fiber

Since this is primarily a fiber blog, I am starting with the fiber pictures!

First, one of my favorite projects and pictures: a close up of the lace border on the Raindrops on Roses Shawl.

Next, one of the first close-up pictures I ever took of a fiber project.  It’s a humble garter-stitch dishcloth and I hoped to take a picture that made it look like more fun than that!  I tried to make it look like ocean waves and added the octopi charms both because of the ocean theme and because I love octopi so much.

This is the lace edging on the first project I ever knit from my own homespun yarn.  I was (and am) so proud to be able to knit from yarn spun by my own hands!

I have been obsessed with cables ever since I knit a cabled baby blanket as my second-ever knitting project.  (The baby I knit that blanket for just got married this week and is expecting his first child).  When I knit the Sand Tracks scarf, I became obsessed with the combination of cables and seed stitch.

Rainbows make me happy, and this Redfish Dyeworks 20/2 Spun Silk gradient is no exception.  I love this picture because it captures all the skeins in the gradient and because there’s something perfect about the way the circle draws my eye around and around and around the rainbow.

The Gotland / Teeswater fleece pictured here is one of the first fleeces I purchased (at SAFF 2016) to process by hand.  This picture is of the raw fleece and I love all the different colors in the fleece.  I took this picture just before I washed it.  I have yet to comb or spin it.

 

Tiger

I take a ridiculous number of pictures of our cat, Tiger.  He’s so photogenic.  He’s also ridiculously cuddly.  Sometimes he’s so cute and happy with cuddles that I don’t want to disturb him, but I’m also bored.  I almost always have my phone with me, so I whip it out and take pictures of him.  Of course, I take many close ups of his face.

But I am also rather obsessed with taking pictures of his paws.

 

And the way his tail wraps around his body and curls up beside his hip is one of the most precious things in the world.

Life

My husband grew up in Toms River, NJ.  Toms River is right about in the middle of the New Jersey coastline, separated by the intracoastal from Seaside Heights and Seaside Park, NJ.  He grew up going to the Seaside beach constantly.  His grandmother and an aunt each lived a couple blocks from the beach where the boardwalk was.  Superstorm Sandy destroyed much of the boardwalk.  If you watched any of the coverage of that storm, you might remember a picture of a roller coaster in the ocean.  That was the Seaside boardwalk where my husband grew up.  After Sandy, the boardwalk was rebuilt in record time, and the businesses lining it reopened for the following summer season.  That fall, one year after Sandy, an electrical short started a fire that burned six blocks of the newly-rebuilt boardwalk (this article says 3 blocks, but it was really 3 blocks in Seaside Heights plus 3 blocks in Seaside Park for a total of six blocks).  Fire trucks came from all over the state to fight that fire.  In the end, they were only able to put it out by bulldozing out part of the new boardwalk to create a fire break.

Three months after the fire, we were in New Jersey for Christmas, so we went down to the boardwalk to view the devastation.  The picture before is a charred piece of wood, about 4 inches long, embedded in the sand near where the fire started.

Birds

My father is a birdwatcher; I’ve been birdwatching with him since I was 6 months old, in a backpack on his back.  Last year, we attended the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival.  One of the tours we took was a bird banding tour.  The guide was a licensed bird bander.  We accompanied him to the location where he bands and helped him to capture three birds for banding.  He applied a band to each bird, weighed them, measured their wings, beaks, and leg bones, then released them.  This is a Bachman’s Sparrow, an uncommon species which is in decline due to habitat loss.

 

In the vendor area of the festival, was a booth operated by a bird rescue.  They brought several of their education birds — birds that will never be able to released back to the wild due the extent of injury — and you could have a picture taken with the bird of your choice.  I picked the Golden Eagle because I am a Ravenclaw and the Eagle is the emblem of our House.  Note that I am not holding this bird.  Only licensed handlers are able to do that.  The eagle is sitting on the gloved hand of the handler and I am standing beside her.  The picture is taken from a clever angle, making it seem that I’m closer than I actually am!

In the Yard

Several years ago, I got lenses for my iPhone camera.  I didn’t know such a thing was possible until I was traveling on business and a colleague had them for her phone.  I was so excited, I bought myself a set.  I especially loved the macro lens.

Leaf and tendril from the grape vines.  We’ve since pulled them out because they were growing up against the house, destroying the paint and the window screens.  Plus the neighborhood birds ate all the baby grapes while they were still green so we never got any ourselves.

A cherry tomato, still on the vine.

Lichen on the trunk of a crepe myrtle.

A crab spider on its web.

 

Click here to read Yarn Love Challenge, Day 3: Currently Making.

 

 

(Re)Introductions

For the month of February, Ravelry developers Mary Heather and Christina introduced an Instagram challenge called the Love Yarn Challenge.  I’m not on Instagram, so didn’t learn about the challenge until halfway through the month.  When I found out about it, I thought I’d play along on my blog, but right around that time, my blog got hacked and it took a little time to fix that problem.  On the theory of better late than never, I decided to do the challenge in March.  If you haven’t seen the challenge yet, here’s the themes for each day:


Obviously, February has only 28 days while March has 31, so there’s no challenge prompts for the last 3 days of March.  This month, I’m attending the Florida Tropical Weavers Guild and then going to London with my husband to celebrate our anniversary.  I’ll post about those adventures on the last 3 days of March, so you’ll get a blog post every day this month!

Most of the people who read this blog know me irl or have been reading for a while.  For you, the ‘introduction’ in this post is to the idea of the yarn love challenge!  If you’re new to the blog, please check out the About Us section and the first ever post on this blog to start learning more about me.

Where Do We Go From Here?

When I started this blog back in 2014, I was numb.  The preceding 3 years were emotionally and physically exhausting.  I felt drained and untethered.  I identified with Season 6 Buffy:

I started writing this blog because I needed something positive and productive to do.  The blog was the first step in recovering and reconnecting with myself.  This is an ongoing journey, but I have traveled well along the path over the last 3 years.  It has been a time of growth and rejuvenation.  Many of you reading this blog have been part of that and I am so grateful to you.

I do not usually have a word of the year, but for 2017, a word floated up for me in December: Finish.  This word continues to sit with me.  I’m working with it in the sense of completion.  The craziness of 2011-13 and the numbness that followed meant that many routine things didn’t get done in my life and now there’s a pile of things, many little but a few big ones too, waiting for my attention.  I’ve been working slowly through the pile.  Since that’s been taking my time and attention, I’ve done less fiber work and less blogging.  However, I miss both the fiber and the blog.  I am taking on this Yarn Love Challenge because I hope that it will jumpstart my love for both and help me focus more attention on them.

Click here to read Yarn Love Challenge Day 2: Close-Ups.

My Top Twenty Podcasts

I listen to a lot of podcasts.  I’m current on 242 podcasts, am listening to the back catalog of another 70 and have a waiting list of more than 100 to listen to whenever I get to them.  I listen my way through 100 — 120 hours worth of podcasts most weeks.  I am able to listen to this much content because a great deal of my time is spent on tasks that don’t require my focused attention.  I listen to podcasts while cooking, cleaning, driving, shopping, and while knitting, crocheting, spinning, or weaving.  In addition, I listen to most podcasts on at least 2x speed.  I listen on 1x speed if sound matters for the content, as it does for audio dramas, a podcast about bird sounds, or podcasts about music.  Everything else is set at 2.1x speed and the “silence skip” feature of the pod catcher I use (RSS Radio) means that I get an effective speed of 2.2x – 3x on most podcasts.

About Podcasts

The shorthand description of podcasts is that they are radio programs for the internet age.  This is only semi-accurate.  Technically, a podcast is audio or video content released on the internet using Real Simple Syndication (RSS).  Sometimes, content is only released on the web, but often content created for other modalities, like the radio, are repackaged as podcasts.  To make things even more confusing, some content that people refer to as a podcast isn’t actually a podcast because they don’t distribute the content via RSS.  One common example of this is YouTube videos.  YouTube does not interface with RSS.  While you can subscribe to a YouTube channel, you can only do so through YouTube and YouTube channels do not have the option of providing an RSS feed for subscriptions.

In order to find and subscribe to podcasts, you use a type of app called a pod catcher.  You can get these apps through the app store on your phone.  There’s a lot of options for apps and the best one for you will depend on what phone you have, how you like to organize things, and  the number of podcasts to which you subscribe.  In the two years I’ve been listening to podcasts, I’ve used four different apps.  I love the one I use now, but I think it may only be available for iPhones.  I’m not going to go into detail on the different apps and their options as that would take up an entire post and there’s many reviews out there, from people with more experience than I have.

You might have noticed that while I defined podcasts as either audio or video content, the first paragraph of this post refers only to listening to podcasts, not listening or watching.  I only subscribe to audio podcasts.  I started listening to podcasts as a way to occupy and stimulate my mind while I engaged in the many necessary activities that don’t do so.  When I have the opportunity to sit in front of a screen, I have too much competition for that time — TV, movies, computer work, etc.  There’s so much audio content available on every subject I’m interested in that I don’t have any compelling reason to add video podcasts to competition for my screen time.  Since I don’t watch any video podcasts, every podcast recommended here is, of course, an audio podcast.

Podcasts are available in just about every content area you can imagine.  I have 31 categories for content and 6 for listening and subscription status (New Stuff, Catching Up, In the Wings, Limited Release, Podfaded, and Abandoned).   As you might expect, I listen to many podcasts about fiber arts.  But I also listen to news, true crime, environmental, audio drama, law, reading, and science podcasts, among many others.  For the purposes of this Top Twenty list, I decided to include few fiber arts podcasts.  I listen to enough of those that they probably need their own list!  I mostly chose podcasts that are currently in production, releasing episodes on some sort of regular basis, and that put a smile on my face when I see a new episode in my feed.

The List

This list is in alphabetical order.  I decided not to number these from 1 – 20 because I love them all so much; at any given moment the number 1 would probably be the one I listened to most recently.  Originally, this post was going to be a Top Ten list, but I just couldn’t narrow it down that much!  Hopefully you’ll find something new that will capture your attention.  I’m always looking for new podcasts and look forward to your comments sharing your favorite podcasts.

2 Guys on Your Head

1 episode a week, under 10 minutes per episode

This is an NPR show, released as a podcast.  If you’re an NPR fan, you should know that they release most of their shows as podcasts.  If you can’t listen live, you can always subscribe to a show for later.  Plus, you can subscribe to podcasts of shows that only play in a local market, like this one from Austin’s NPR station.  The hosts, both PhDs on relevant matters, discuss everything about the brain — psychology, learning, science, memory, whatever.  If it has to do with how your brain works, you’ll hear about it on this podcast.

 

Beautiful / Anonymous

1 episode a week, 60 – 90 minutes per episode

The long name of this show is Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People, but most call it just Beautiful Anonymous.  Hosted by Chris Gethard, the premise of this show is “1 phone call. 1 hour. No names. No holds barred.”  When he’s in the studio, ready to record an episode, Gethard tweets out his phone number and people call him.  He takes a call and spends an hour chatting with the person, unless the person hangs up early, which has only happened once in the 49 episodes aired to date.  Callers do not give their names.  A few times, people have slipped and said their names, but these are beeped out so as a listener, you don’t know even the first name of the caller.  Sometimes people call in with a specific story to share.  Sometimes, it’s an hour of shooting the breeze, but in a far more personal way than you’d expect of a conversation between strangers.  And it’s this that makes the show so compelling.  Gethard has a knack for asking the kinds of questions you really want to ask, digging into what it’s really like to have lived the experiences of this person.  I love each and every episode of this show (except that one episode that’s just a series of fart jokes.  I fast-forwarded that one).

Bird Note

1 episode a day, 3 – 4 minutes per episode

This podcast started as a project of the Seattle Audubon, but has since been spun off as a separate organization.  Each episode is a little tidbit about birds.  Most episodes are about a specific species and share a few facts about the bird.  Some episodes deal with a particular environment or a broader environmental view, but these episodes are always tied in some way to birds.  My father is a birdwatcher and I’ve been birdwatching with him since I was an infant in a backpack on his back.  This daily nugget of bird lore connects me to that legacy and brings a smile to my face every time.

Clockwise

1 episode a week, 30 minutes per episode

Four people (two regular co-hosts and two guests) cover four technology topics (and often a non-tech bonus topic) in 30 minutes.  I like the tight structure of the show, always 30 minutes, because while I’m interested in tech, I’m not interested enough to listen to a long and unstructured ramble about tech.  Just the highlights, please, and that’s what this show provides.  The co-hosts are Apple users as are a high percentage of their guests, so discussion tends to focus on Apple products and services .  They don’t just cover the Apple universe, however.  Note that this is NOT a news show; it’s four people sharing their opinions on pre-selected topics that are often, but not necessarily, related to current news.

Friendshipping

1 episode a week, 10 – 25 minutes per episode

Hosts Jen and Trinn are real-life friends and co-workers at Cards Against Humanity.  In this podcast, they discuss all kinds off friendship issues.  Now that the show has been on for more than a year, most of the episodes are answering questions submitted by listeners, so the show is basically a modern version of Dear Abby.  I love Jen and Trinn and I want to be their friend.  They are so good at seeing different sides of questions and hashing out issues from different angles.  They are always compassionate with the listener questions, but they aren’t afraid to lay down some truth when warranted.

How to Be Amazing

1 episode a week, 45 – 60 minutes per episode

Host Michael Ian Black interviews famous folks about how they came to be who they are today.  From childhood to the present, guests talk about the hurdles they’ve overcome, what they expected out of life and the extent to which where they are now does or does not meet their expectations.  What I love about this show is that it is so conversational and deep.  This is not a shallow, red carpet interview.  These folks might be famous, but this show seems to break through the persona to reveal the real person.

 

KnitSonik

released sporadically, 30 – 120 minutes per episode

This one is a bit of cheat, based on the criteria I enumerated at the top of this list.  There’s only 11 episodes of this podcast, episodes aren’t released on any kind of regular schedule, and I have no idea if she’ll be releasing more of them.  However, each episode is a treasure and I am truly excited when a new episode drops.  Host Felicity Ford is a knitter and a sound artist.  As a sound artist, she gets hired to do things like record the sounds of church bells in English towns so these sounds can be preserved in a museum.  As a knitter, she teaches workshops at fiber festivals all over the United Kingdom.  In the KnitSonik podcast, she combines these two skills into one of the most unique podcasts I have heard, by capturing and narrating sounds related to fiber arts.  Some of this might be the first thing you think of when you think of fiber, like the sound of sheep bleating.  But there’s much here you might not consider, like the sound of silk worms eating mulberry leaves and the sound of different fires in the background while she knits.  This is one of the rare podcasts I listen to on 1x speed.

Life of the Law

bi-weekly, 30 – 60 minutes per episode

This podcast is about how the law interacts with everyday people.  Some episodes are investigative journalism, some are coverage of hot topics in law, and some are “Live Law” events where people share their stories of interacting with the law.  You don’t need to have any kind of background in the law to appreciate this podcast.  On the other hand, if you do have a background in the law, you won’t find yourself rolling your eyes, thinking they don’t know what they are talking about.  The podcast is intended to get you thinking about what the law means for every day people and therefore takes a personal rather than a technical approach.

The Mash-Up Americans

weekly, 15 – 30 minutes per episode

The Mash-Up Americans celebrates and describes the experiences of people who embody multiple ethnicities and cultures.  On the podcast website, Host Amy Choi describes herself as: “a Korean-American married to a Colombian-Mexican-American, she is mom to a feisty Korombexican-American: in other words, The Future of America.” Host Rebecca Lehrer describes herself as “a Salvadoran-Jewish-American married to an American-American.”  Each week, they interview other mash-up Americans about their lives and experiences.  Even if you aren’t the kind of person who usually listens through the entire back catalog of podcasts, I highly recommend going back to episode # 2, The Mashed-Up Life of Donald Trump, which originally dropped in November 2015, when he was still one candidate in a crowd of Republican contenders.

The Memory Palace

weekly when in season, 5 – 15 minutes per episode

On his website, creator, host, and current Metropolitan Museum of Art artist in residence Nate DiMeo calls this “a storytelling podcast about the past.”  That’s accurate but doesn’t fully capture the beauty of this podcast.  Each episode tells a little nugget of a story, often a small episode that’s long been forgotten.  DiMeo has a wonderful way of telling these stories, of sharing their highs and lows in a way that is absolutely magical.  I am usually left with a sense of wistfulness, of something wonderful that I’m sorry to have lost.  It feels like looking at old family photos, where you don’t remember or never knew the names of everyone in the pictures, and the people who did know those names and could tell you the stories that go with those pictures have passed away.

Nerdette

1 episode a week, 25 – 60 minutes per episode

Another NPR podcast.  The two hosts of Nerdette interview people about their obsessions.  This can be things you might traditionally think of as nerdy, like sci fi, but the show does not limit itself to the traditionally nerdy.  If someone is obsessed about a topic, whatever the topic, then that person is a nerd for that topic.  I love listening to people nerd out about stuff; there’s so much to learn and no one person will ever be able to learn it all.  These episodes are like Cliff Notes to the many amazing things I might not otherwise hear.  Also, they have a regular feature where they profile great lady nerds of history.

The Orbiting Human Circus (of the Air)

biweekly when in season, 20 – 30 minutes per episode

The Orbiting Human Circus (of the Air) is an audio drama, brought to us by Nightvale Presents, the production company that grew out of the Welcome to Nightvale podcast.  The Orbiting Human Circus (of the Air) follows a lonely janitor who works at the titular Circus, which takes place atop the Eiffel Tower.  Like all the Nightvale Presents podcasts, there’s an element of the surreal here, but in this case played in a nostalgic comedic, and sometimes even slapstick, fashion.  The janitor bumbles and fumbles, but he’s our hero and somehow he always manages to find his way back from the brink of true disaster!  This is another of the podcasts I listen to on 1x speed.

Oyez

3-5 episodes per week when SCOTUS is in session, about 60 minutes per episode

Every SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) session starts with the Supreme Court Marshall calling, “Oyez, Oyez, Oyez,” which is the source of this podcast’s name.  While no cameras of any kind are allowed inside the court to visually record the proceedings, every oral argument since 1955 has been audio-recorded.  The Oyez Podcast is a project of the IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law.  They obtain the audio recording of every SCOTUS oral argument and release these recordings as a podcast.  The episodes all drop on Fridays, for cases heard in the prior week.  There’s no commentary or introduction.  This is just the raw audio, as recorded by the court.  Since this is the raw audio, those without a background in law many sometimes have difficulty following the cases.  There’s no introduction of the various people speaking, there’s no background blurb about the case, and the issues before the Court are often narrow and technical legal issues.  If you’d like more background on cases, check out SCOTUSblog, which lists all the cases to be heard by the court and the questions presented by each case.  Even if you find it difficult to follow the cases at times, I believe it is worthwhile to listen to these arguments.  It is an amazing aspect of our democracy that we have free and easy access to these oral arguments.  You get to listen to a primary source and draw your own conclusions, providing you with a basis for critical evaluation of news reports on these cases.

Presidential

45 episodes, 45 -60 minutes per episode

So I’m cheating a little on this one because it’s no longer in production.  This was a limited release show, which is the term I use for a podcast that is designed to cover a specific topic over a certain number of episodes.  In this case, that’s one episode per U.S. President, plus an intro episode and a post-election episode on Donald Trump.  The first episode dropped at the beginning of January 2016.  Subsequent episodes came out weekly through the week before the election, when the Obama episode dropped.  Each episode examines a specific President, their personality, a little about their history, and the ways each impacted the role of the President.  It’s a fantastic podcast, and I continue to subscribe to it on the off chance that they’ll come up with a new approach and release a second season.

Random Article

biweekly when in season, 30 – 45 minutes per episode

The philosophy of this show is, “Only boring people ever get bored.”  Amen, sister!  On Wikipedia, there’s a Random Article button.  Click it, and you never know what you’re going to get.  On this show, the host clicks that button, then researches to learn more about that topic, and shares her research with us.  It’s awesome.  The show just launched in August of 2016 and the first season was only 5 episodes.  There’s supposed to be new episodes coming soon, though I don’t know when.  .

 

Reveal

weekly, 60 minutes per episode

Hosted by Al Letson, Reveal is co-produced by the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX.  Each episode is an investigative report on a current issue.  Recent topics have included air pollution in schools, the conditions in federal prisons, and the secrets kept by leaders of the Jehovah Witnesses.  Most episodes involve long-term research and investigation into the topic.  For example, one of the reporters in the episode on federal prisons went undercover as a guard in a prison.  He worked as a guard for about 6 weeks.  Once in a while, there will be an episode on a current topic that takes a different approach.  For example, a recent episode on reactions to Donald Trump’s first weeks in office consisted of interviews of residents of Jacksonville, Florida (which is where Al Letson is based).  Either way, Reveal is the kind of journalism that we seem to have lost over the last decade or so and I very much appreciate the work they do.

Roboism

monthlyish, 15 – 30 minutes per episode

This is a podcast about “robots and feminism, but mostly robots.”  Podcasts have been around since 2004, but the vast majority of hosts, particularly of popular shows, have been white men.  (Here’s a 2013 article discussing this and here’s one from June 2016).  This tends to be even more true in categories that some define as culturally male, like tech and business.  Enter Roboism, a podcast hosted by two women geeking out about all things robot.  In addition to the kind of robot love you expect, they also bring a feminist eye to the topic.  One of the conversations that I personally found eye-opening was a discussion of the gender of R2D2 and BB8.  Although I hadn’t personally considered the gender of these robots before, listening to their discussion I realized I was subconsciously gendering both R2D2 and BB8 as male.  Apparently BB8 is a girl and many argue that R2D2 is too.

Terrible, Thanks for Asking

weekly when in season, 30 – 60 minutes per episode

Pretty much every day, someone asks you, “How are you doing?”  Of course you answer, “Fine,” even when that’s not true.  The name of this podcast is the answer host Nora McInerny and her guests could have given but didn’t.  Everyone on this show shares stories of the worst tragedies of their lives.  Some are currently going through their trauma; some have gotten through it and healed a bit and are sharing their journey.  This sounds like a terribly depressing premise for a podcast, but I don’t find it to be depressing.  Instead, I find myself admiring the strength and courage of each individual as s/he keeps moving forward, one minute at a time if necessary.  These are people who appreciate the journey, even when that journey is hard.

 

Twice Removed

monthlyish, 60 minutes per episode

In this podcast, there’s a host and two guests.  The identity of one guest is a mystery, only revealed at the end of the show, though you do hear comments from that guest at times throughout the show.  The host (and presumably his production team) have done research on the primary guest’s family tree.  The mystery guest is a distant relative of  the primary guest.  The host shares with the primary guest the research they’ve done.  This isn’t just this person begat this person begat this person begat your mother kind of sharing.  Instead, the host cherry-picks relatives who share a common characteristic with the primary guest and shares that part of the life story with the primary guest.  For example, when Ted Allen was the primary guest, all the stories of distant relatives were about people who cooked professionally or were well known for a particular dish they made.  At the end of the episode, the mystery guest and primary guest are introduced to each other.  In most cases so far, the two already know each other.  (For an idea of what the show mechanics look like, see this graphic from the most recent episode on Jean Grae).  As I read the description I just typed, I realize it accurately describes the mechanics of the show but fails to capture its true magic.  The magic is in the storytelling from the past, hearing about the lives of these long-gone relatives and how at least some small aspect of their lives resonates in the present.  I recognize that there’s manipulation here; these are far-flung relatives, chosen specifically because their story resonates with the person in the present.  I’m okay with that, though.  The stories are well told and I’m happy to go along for the ride.

 

What Should I Read Next

weekly, 45 to 60 minutes per episode

Host Ann Bogel asks guests to share three books they love, one book they hate, what they are currently reading, and what (if anything) they would like to be different in their reading lives.  Based on this information, she gives them three book recommendations.  It’s a simple structure for the podcast, but it is never boring because each guest’s preferences are so individual.  The guests don’t just give a list of the books they love, hate, and are reading.  They talk about why they picked those books, about how reading fits into their lives, about how their love of reading was kindled.  Ann Bogel is excellent at spotting connections between books and getting to the bottom of what a particular person cares about in their reading.  Her recommendations always feel personal, and aren’t just the latest bestseller.  The podcast is an ode to the love of books and consists of exactly the kind of conversation that happens whenever two book lovers get together.  And my TBR (To Be Read) pile… Well, thanks in part to this podcast, you better watch out or it might just topple on you!

 

Crafting CPH

“Why would you spend $25 on yarn to knit a pair of socks when you can buy a dozen pairs at Walmart for maybe $10?”  Every crafter I know has been asked some variant of this question.  Usually the crafter stumbles through a response, defending the reasons she or he chooses to work with fiber.  Afterwards, the crafter might rant on Facebook or Ravelry about the latest inquiry they’ve gotten along this line and  how non-crafters just don’t get it.

There are many wonderful reasons to craft with fiber; Franklin Habit’s recent blog post on Lion Brand Yarns site provides a far more eloquent explanation than I’m able to write and the comments on that post share many personal perspectives on the question.  I believe it is valuable to share our reasons for crafting with fiber.  Maybe you’ll inspire someone to pick up needles or hooks and yarn!

But perhaps you don’t want to share your personal perspective with the latest random stranger to comment on your work.  Or perhaps you have a relative or co-worker who has commented multiple times and discounts the reasons you have given.  For these circumstances, I propose the kind of practical, emotion-free response the Inquisitor seems to require: the Crafting Cost Per Hour (CCPH).

The Inspiration

I read Your Money or Your Life (Amazon affiliate link, Summary on author’s website) a couple of decades ago, when I was in my early 20s.  The book offers a 9-step method for transforming our relationship to money.  The book starts with the idea that we exchange our time for money.  One step is to calculate exactly how much you are paid per hour.  This amount isn’t the hourly figure your employer uses to calculate your pay.  You add into your weekly hours the time you spent on work-related tasks like commuting and you deduct from your weekly gross salary the costs related to your job, then calculate your actual hourly rate based on these new figures.

For example, let’s say you work 40 hours per week and are paid $10 per hour for a weekly gross salary of $400.  Perhaps your commute is 1/2 hour each way on public transit and you pay $80 per month = $20 per week for a monthly transit pass, which you use only to get to and from work.  These commuting expenses and time mean that your weekly gross salary is reduced to $380 and your work hours increased to 45 hours per week.  Your actual hourly wage is $380 / 45 hours = $8.44.  The summary link above has a list of other work-related time and expenses that you can contemplate if you wish to calculate your own hourly wage.

In the Your Money or Your Life method, once you calculate your hourly wage, you then divide every expense you have by that hourly wage to determine how many hours of your life you traded for that item.  Then you evaluate that item by asking yourself if the number of hours you traded for that item are as valuable as the item itself.

While I have not consistently followed the steps of Your Money or Your Life, some of the ideas have stayed in the back of my mind and, when I saw yet another post about a Cost of Sock Inquisitor, I was inspired to calculate what each hour of craft costs.

Basic Crafting Cost Per Hour

If you’ve purchased finished yarn and then knit, crocheted, or woven it into finished object, calculating the cost per hour is straightforward.  Simply divide the cost of the yarn by the number of hours it took (or will take) you to finish the project(s) you will knit with that yarn.

$25 for sock yarn / 20 hours to knit socks = CCPH of $1.25 / hour

Some people try to convince you that spinning is even more expensive than knitting or crocheting.  However, when looked at from the perspective of CCPH, that isn’t necessarily the case.  If you purchased a 4 ounce braid of spinning fiber for $30, spun and plied it, then knit it into a pair of socks, your CCPH is lower than knitting socks with purchased yarn.

$30 for fiber / (8 hours to spin + 2 hours to ply + 20 hours to knit) = $30 / 30 hours = CCPH of $1.00 / hour

If you mostly just want to respond to Inquisitors, you can use the basic formula and create a rule of thumb for the projects you most commonly knit in public.  Maybe your carry around project is always socks and you know about how long it takes you to knit a pair.  Calculate your CCPH once for each type of project and you’re done.

Beyond the Basics

I know that many of you profess to not like math and for you, the basic crafting cost per hour will be sufficient to respond to the Inquisitor.  Feel free to skip this section.  But I happen to love math, and there are many knitters who love math also.  Perhaps you might decide to calculate the CCPH for every project you do, just for fun.

We all know that our fiber crafting projects cost more than just the yarn or fiber for that project.  We have costs for tools, classes, storage.  We also know that the benefits are more than just the finished project.  We spend time with friends while we craft.  We watch less TV, or TV time is productive because we are crafting, not just sitting.  These costs and benefits are variable, personal, and more difficult in the accounting.  However, these types of variable and personal costs are considered in the Your Money or Your Life method, and I believe we can consider them in our context also.  I’m only going to explore two factors — tools and time — in depth, but use this as inspiration to think carefully and creatively about the costs and benefits associated with your fiber crafting!

Tools

If we choose good quality tools, fit to the task, they will last for a long time.  So how do we account for them in calculating CCPH.  I have two thoughts on this, depending on if they are small tools (needles, hooks, etc) or large tools (looms, spinning wheels, etc).  For small tools, I’m inclined to include them in the cost of the first project I make with them.  If I buy a second US 1 needle so I can knit my socks on two circulars, the cost of that needle can be added to the cost of that sock project.  From then on, the use of that tool is free.

Large tools need to be depreciated in some way.  Pick the time period over which to depreciate the tool — a year, two, three, four, five — whatever you prefer.  Divide the cost of the tool by the number of years to determine your cost per year.  Whenever you use the tool, keep track of how long you use it.  Keep a running total of the number of hours you use it as well as the number of hours used on a specific project.  At the end of the year, divide the cost per year by the number of hours you used the tool that year to determine your hourly cost for use of the tool.  For each project using that tool, multiply the number hours of use by the calculated hourly cost of the tool.  Once you come to the end of your depreciation period, use of the tool is free.

I made a quick little Google spreadsheet to illustrate the depreciation of my spinning wheel, a Kromski Fantasia.  I bought the wheel in 2013 and I’m not going back to look at all the projects I’ve done on it.  I’m just using two projects as an illustration here.  My first thought was to depreciate the wheel over 5 years.  Here’s what that spreadsheet looks like:

 

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Even with the use of a relatively expensive tool, and a modest amount of use of the tool (less than 1.5 hours / week), each project’s cost per hour of crafting is modest.  What happens if we decide to depreciate the spinning wheel over just one year, still with the same modest use of the wheel?

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While the cost per project and CCPH at least triple, the CCPH is still incredibly low.  On a per hour basis, depreciating the spinning wheel over one year with less than 1.5 hours use in a week, costs about the same as going to a movie in the theater. Once I’ve finished depreciating the wheel and the use of it no longer counts in my cost per project, the CCPH of my spinning projects will be pennies.

Obviously, this calculation will vary wildly depending on the price of the tool, the time period you choose for depreciation, and your actual use of the tool after you purchase it.  But that’s to be expected.  I’m just offering a way to capture this cost on a per project basis.  And perhaps a useful analysis to justify the purchase of your next loom or spinning wheel!

Time

I think the total time for a project can and should be increased to account for the other benefits we receive from pursuing our fiber crafts.  This might sound like cheating, because you will be double-counting time, but let me see if I can convince you otherwise.  I can knit or crochet or spin or weave in a variety of circumstances.  I might be at home alone, doing nothing but knitting.  I might be home with my husband, watching TV in the evening.  I might be in public, doing a demo where I am specifically looking to interact with people and explain what I’m doing.  I might be in public, waiting for an appointment to start or flying on a plane.  I might be hanging out with friends, at knit night, at a retreat, or in a cabana by the river (like I was yesterday).

Each of these scenarios offers me benefits that aren’t specifically related to my fiber crafting.  Time that might otherwise be wasted feels productive.  Friendships grow, providing a sense of emotional well-being.  I get some down time and to be outside.  I don’t have to be fiber crafting to get these benefits — I could hang out in a cabana by the river with friends and just chat all day without doing fiber crafts at the same time.  Fiber-crafting while also accruing these other benefits is multi-tasking.  Therefore, the time should count more than once — the first time it counts as time accrued for the finished product and the next time it counts as time accrued for process.

In addition, double (or perhaps triple or quadruple) counting time builds into our equation, and our response to the Inquisitor, all the very personal reasons why we knit.  We can give what sounds like a practical, emotion-free, by-the-numbers response while simultaneously honoring rather than denying the real soul of our work.  We don’t have to share all those details with the Inquisitor — that would defeat an important purpose of the CCPH calculation — but we know we’ve included, rather than denied, what is truly important to us.

The amount of time to count for these extra benefits is up to you.  If I’m waiting for an appointment or knitting while watching TV, I’m unlikely to double-count all that time.  In these instances, I’m turning otherwise unproductive time into productive time by knitting.  This time is tied very closely to the product rather than the process.  It’ll take 20 hours to knit these socks, regardless of circumstances, and I’ve just captured a particular piece of those 20 hours.  In the case of knitting while watching TV, did I turn the TV on as background for my knitting?  Or would I watch TV anyway?  Either way, I’m not getting a huge amount of value out of the TV watching.  Maybe I’ll double-count 25% or 50% of the time.

On the other hand, when I spend a day fiber-crafting in a cabana by the river, I am receiving multiple benefits above and beyond the fiber work.  I’m outside, which is a huge benefit in and of itself.  I’m with friends.  Maybe I should triple-count all the time I’m crafting at the river.  And even when I’m not actively fiber crafting, because I’m grilling burgers or eating, I still count that time towards my project because I wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for the fiber.

The important thing here is to honestly account for the benefits you are receiving from the fiber crafting.  You don’t have to justify yourself to anyone else.  You just need to be honest with yourself.

A New Response

Now you’re ready for the next time someone asks, “Why would you spend $25 on yarn to knit a pair of socks when you can buy a dozen pairs at Walmart for maybe $10?”

Rather than rolling your eyes and explaining all your personal reasons for knitting, try this: “You’re looking at it through the wrong lens.  It’s true that I don’t have to knit.  I do it as a hobby that brings me great joy.  And when viewed that way, it is incredibly inexpensive, especially when compared to other entertainment.  This yarn might cost $25, but it’s going to take me 20 hours to knit these socks, which means I’m paying only $1.25 per hour of entertainment.  What other entertainment is so inexpensive?”

 

The Yarn Spinner

Last year, I wrote a post about how much I love A Craftsman’s Legacy.  Season 3 of the show started last week and I have loved the first two episodes.  Episode 2 of Season 3 features Maple Smith (Ravelry) of North Star Alpacas (Etsy) in Ithaca, Michigan.  Maple gave host Eric Gorges dyeing, spinning, and knitting lessons!

I very much enjoy every episode of this show but this episode is my favorite so far, not just because it features crafts I do, but also because Maple is so incredibly charming.  In addition, host Eric Gorges is always out of his element in the fibery episodes (The Weaver with Juanita Hofstrom in Episode 6 of Season 2 and The Quilter with Theadra Fleming in Episode 10 of Season 2).  In most episodes, he may not be familiar with the particular craft, but he is familiar with many of the tools.  This is not the case when he works with fiber, and we see him struggle to learn as a raw beginner.  Watching Eric learn is always one of my favorite parts of the show because it’s rare to watch someone take their first wobbling steps in a new skill.  His uncertainty, curiosity, and unwillingness to be deterred by his mistakes really make the show; it makes me feel like I might be able to do that craft too.  In this case, where I have some mastery of the skills, I was reminded of how far I’ve come in the last few years and my determination to continue learning new skills was renewed.

My only criticism of this particular episode is that it seemed like a little too much to cram into one episode.  These episodes are only about 22 minutes long.  While we see Maple instruct Eric on dyeing and spinning, the part where she instructs him on knitting was cut.  We see him for only a couple minutes at the end of the episode, on the second or third row of a swatch, looking at the stitches and not actually knitting.

The ending of the episode is part of what makes it my favorite so far.  In every episode, the featured craftsman gives Eric a gift.  Often, it’s the project that they’ve worked on in the episode.  Almost always, the gift includes the show’s logo.  However, that is not the case in this episode.  Maple knit Eric a hat.  A very particular hat, instantly recognizable by all fans of space westerns everywhere, because she heard he is a huge fan of that particular TV show.  He looks as excited as a kid on Christmas morning!

On the Road

When last I wrote, Tiger was about to start radiation therapy. I expected the weeks of radiation to be difficult for all involved, and for things to get easier after. While the radiation was challenging, Tiger came through with flying colors and I thought the hard part was behind us. I was wrong.

Tiger caught a cold. Then our other cat, Puck, started having health issues. Within a week, I thought we would lose both cats. Over the last month, I’ve spent many nights sleeping on the couch so I could provide medicine and food at all hours of the night, without disturbing Chris’s sleep. Tiger recovered and is doing fabulously. Puck passed over the rainbow bridge sometime last night. I will write a more detailed post about all of this, along with a slideshow tribute to Puck, in a couple weeks.

Driving and More Driving
Months before the cats got sick, I had planned an epic trip. I embarked on that trip this past Tuesday. The first leg of the trip was a 14.5 hour drive from Orlando to Greencastle, Indiana to visit my friend Stacy and attend The Fiber Event. My plan was to leave at 6:00 am, so that I could drive through Atlanta in the middle of the day when traffic is more likely to be light, and to drive as long as I remained alert. I expected to stop and stay in a hotel at some point.

I did leave my house at 6:05 am and arrived in Atlanta around 1 pm. I had no traffic slow downs in Atlanta — the first time I’ve had that happen when driving through the area. By 2:30 pm, I was in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and starting to feel too sleepy to drive. It seemed too early to stop for the day, so I pulled into a McDonalds parking lot and took a nap for 1/2 hour. I felt much refreshed, so I got back on the road.

I arrived in Nashville around 5:00 pm. I expected to be caught in rush hour traffic, but only slowed to a crawl once, when the road I was on split into two major roads. Once I was past the split, we were back up to the speed limit. At this point, I called Stacy to find out when she usually goes to bed. I started thinking I might drive all the way through.

I did end up driving all the way through, arriving at Stacy’s house at 10:15 pm. I had ideal driving conditions — a little rain in Georgia, but it wasn’t a deluge; the weather was beautiful for the rest of the trip; no slow downs in the construction zones, no accidents; no rush hour traffic. I couldn’t have asked for more!

Coming Attractions
Stacy and I have been doing some weaving on our rigid heddle looms. Tomorrow and Saturday, we will be at The Fiber Event. Monday, I’m driving to Kansas City, Missouri. I’ll be site seeing and visiting family for a couple days, then attending PLYAway, the first spinning conference put on by PLY Magazine. After PLYAway, I’m driving to Memphis to visit a friend, then driving home to Orlando. I plan to visit The Yarn Barn of Kansas, two Laura Ingalls Wilder sites (The Little House on the Prairie and the home Laura and Almanzo lived in for most of their lives), Graceland, and who knows what else.

I’ll be blogging as often as possible during the trip! I only brought my iPad with me, and I’ve discovered that the WordPress installation does some funky things when I’m using Safari on the iPad. As a result, the formatting of my posts might look a little different than usual. Hopefully, it isn’t too distracting!

Another Day, Another Waiting Room

One of my favorite things about fiber work is how you can always find something to work on that fits your current circumstances.  Have lots of time and mental space?  You can learn a new craft or take on a complicated project like colorwork or complex lace.  Just need something mindless?  You can crank out some stockinette or granny stitch or plain weave scarves.  On the go?  You can bring along a small project that can easily be put down if needed, like socks or dishcloths.

My current purse project is crochet dishcloths.  I like how easy it is to put crochet down.  You don’t have to worry about dropping stitches, so you don’t need to carefully secure anything.  If I’m on the monorail from the parking lot to the Magic Kingdom, waiting for food at a restaurant, waiting in a doctor’s office, I can work a few stitches and when we arrive at our destination, the food comes to the table, or the doctor enters the room, I can toss the project back into my pocket or purse with no fuss.

Since the beginning of this year, I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time in the waiting room of veterinarians’ offices.  It all started back in December 2014, when my sister, in Florida for Christmas, first noticed that Tiger’s lip was red and slightly swollen on one side.  I brought him to the vet in January 2015.  They didn’t think it was anything terrible.  “Change him from a plastic bowl to aluminum,” they said. “Sometimes cats react to plastic.”

We changed the bowls.  The swelling seemed worse.  In July, we brought him for his regular semi-annual appointment and pointed it out to the vet again.  “He’s probably allergic to something,” they said.  We went through a course of steroids, one pill a day.  It didn’t seem to help.  We tried two pills a day and he got very aggressive, so I stopped the pills and brought him to the vet.  We tried every other day.  No change.

So we did allergy testing.  It turned out he’s allergic to corn, an ingredient in almost all cat foods.  We found food that doesn’t contain corn and switched to that.  The swelling was still there.

 

Tiger likes food...
Tiger likes food…

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Yes, Chris did order Tiger a take out burger.

We tried another course of steroids, thinking that perhaps the problem was one of his other allergies (a variety of environmental things like molds and pollen).  No change.  By now it was December 2015.  It had been a year of trying things.  “Is there anything else we can do?” I asked.  The vet recommended a biopsy, which would tell us what was causing his allergic reaction.  So in January, a few days after getting back from Stacy’s wedding in Indiana, we brought him to our vet for the biopsy.

A week later, the results came in: Peripheral Nerve Sheath Tumor.  Cancer.  The vet was surprised; he’s practiced for many years and never seen this type of tumor present in this fashion.  We’re lucky it is a low grade tumor and hasn’t grown much over the last year.  Our regular vet referred us to the oncology department at the regional specialty vet, which fortunately is not far from our home.

Two years before the tumor appeared.
Two years before the tumor appeared.

We met with the oncologist.  We weren’t sure if surgery would be an option, given the location of the tumor right on the front of his face, but one of the surgeons thought that the tumor was small enough that we did have a surgical option.

Tiger, the first day home after the surgery.
Tiger, the first day home after the surgery.

The oncologist and the surgeon both told us that after the surgery, Tiger would probably have to have radiation therapy.  Radiation therapy would kill any microscopic cancer cells remaining after the surgery.  When they do surgery, they take healthy tissue around the tumor, because the surgeon can’t see microscopic cancer cells.  The theory is that taking tissues that appear to be healthy will make sure all the cancer is gone.  The surgeon likes to get a least 1 cm of healthy tissue around the tumor.  However, because of the location of this particular tumor, taking that much healthy tissue would mean Tiger would be disfigured.  His gum would be exposed, which could cause it to dry out and that would be a problem.  It was unlikely that the surgeon would be able to get a sufficient margin, and she might not be able to get all of the tumor.

A week after surgery, the pathology report came back.  The surgeon got a minimum 5 mm margin, much better than she expected.  With that much margin, waiting to see what would happen — if the tumor would grow back — was an option.  So was radiation therapy.  “If I’d gotten 3 more mm, I would tell you that Tiger does not need radiation therapy,” the surgeon said.  “As it is, waiting is an option and so is radiation.  None of us has a crystal ball; we don’t know what will happen.  The cancer could be gone forever.  It could come back in a month.  Or in 5 years.  It’s up to you what you want to do.”

We met with the oncologist again, so we could learn about the course of treatment.  It’s 18-20 treatments, every weekday for 4 weeks.  He must be under anesthesia for each treatment, but it’s a twilight level, not all the way under.  He’ll lose the hair in the area of the radiation, but not over his whole body.  His face will be shaved in the area of the treatment, even before the hair falls out.  When the hair grows back in, it will grow back white.  We’ll have to be careful every time he has his teeth cleaned for the rest of his life.  He might lose his appetite, and might have to have appetite stimulants or even a feeding tube.  He’ll probably require pain meds.  He will develop the equivalent of a very bad sunburn in the area of the treatment.

We went home and agonized for several hours.  It’s hard to imagine putting the cat through the treatment.  But it’s also hard to swallow doing less than everything we could for him.  You see, we love all of our cats and would do the best for them that we possibly could.  But there’s no question that Tiger is our favorite.  This is a cat just oozing in personality:

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He’s the cuddliest cat I’ve ever met.  If you aren’t paying attention to him, he’ll be sure to let you know when he needs some love.

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He’s such a photogenic cat.  Partially because he’s so pretty:

Once upon a time, he was a tiny kitten!

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But also because he is so patient.  This is why he often models my finished objects!

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But most importantly, Tiger and Chris are bosom buddies.  Tiger picked Chris as his person.  Every day, when Chris comes home from work, Tiger runs to the door to greet him.  Tiger follows Chris everywhere, even when Chris is pacing while talking on the phone.  Chris might complain when the cat wants to cuddle all the time and is constantly underfoot, but there’s no doubt that he loves the cat.  They are inseparable.

 

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We decided to go ahead with Radiation Therapy.  Tiger is 13 now, and in excellent health other than this tumor.  If the tumor did come back at some point in the future, he might not be so healthy and able to endure surgery and radiation.  And so this morning I found myself back in the veterinarian’s waiting room, dropping off Tiger for his first treatment.

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In his carrier, this morning, waiting.

I pulled out my current dishcloth and crocheted a few rows, finding solace in the familiar rhythm.

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P.S.  Just as I finished typing this post, the vet’s office called.  He did very well with his first treatment and he’ll be ready to come home in about an hour!

 

 

 

 

Ponce Inlet 2016

Over the Martin Luther King, Junior weekend, five friends and I stayed in a condo right on the beach in Ponce Inlet, Florida.  Another friend joined us just for the day on Saturday.  It was glorious.  We knit, we crocheted, we spun, we wove, we blocked, we discussed dyeing, we watched Marvel movies, we talked, we laughed.  It was everything a knitting retreat with friends should be.  Rather than give a long-winded description of this perfection, I offer you pictures.  With captions, of course.

The view from our balcony.
The view from our balcony.

 

The building we stayed in. If you look closely at the left hand side of the building, you might be able to pick out the red lounge chairs on our deck.
The building we stayed in. If you look closely at the left hand side of the building, you might be able to pick out the red lounge chairs on our deck.

 

Lunch on Sunday. l to r: Lorelle, Fredi, Dawn, Nancy, Shellee, me.
Lunch on Sunday. l to r: Lorelle, Fredi, Dawn, Nancy, Shellee, me.

 

Every fiber event should have a ball winding station!
Every fiber event should have a ball winding station!

 

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Shellee was the only one of us who didn’t already know how to spin. Nancy gave Shellee her first spinning lesson!

 

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Fredi set up her drum carder on the balcony, so any extra bits of fluff would blow away on the breeze.

 

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Lorelle learned how to use the drum carder, and turned compacted roving into beautiful batts.

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Nancy finished knitting this shawl 3 years ago, but wasn’t sure how to block the curved edges. Eight months ago, she gave it to me to block. I hadn’t done it yet, so I brought it to the retreat and we got it blocked!

 

I promise I actually did weave -- the loom wasn't just a handy fiber holder.
I promise I actually did weave — the loom wasn’t just a handy fiber holder.

 

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The speck in the water behind the third gull from the left is Lorelle. She was the only one of us brave enough to actually get in the water!

 

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Lorelle’s in this picture also, pretty much smack dab in the middle of the shot.

 

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Fredi, Nancy, and Shellee watching Lorelle swim.

We had a fantastic time, and none of us were quite ready to leave.  But our lives called, so Monday we all packed up and headed home.  But we’ve decided that this will be an annual event.  MLK weekend = local fiber retreat every year!!

This happened when I got home. Apparently my cats missed me.
This happened when I got home. Apparently my cats missed me.