Today’s prompt is to write about my crafting time and space. I realized that every time I attend a special fiber-related event, I write an entire post on this blog. Sometimes I mention going to my regular spinning or knitting group, but I’ve never written posts about the various groups I attend or my day-to-day crafting experience!
Crafting at Home
When I craft at home, it is almost always in my living room, while watching tv. If I’m knitting or crocheting, I sit on the couch, and there’s almost always a cat in my lap.
If I am spinning or weaving, I can’t sit on the couch because it is too low and I can’t sit all the way back. Instead, I grab a “kitchen” chair and sit in that while I spin or weave. “Kitchen” is in quotes because these chairs are part of a table & chairs set that I bought for maybe $60 many years ago (at least 20), but they are no longer used in the kitchen. The table is an extension of my desk and the chairs are totally beat up because of the cats. The chairs float around the house, pressed into service as cat beds, cat stair steps (so poor arthritic Pepper can get to her favorite sleep spots), step stools for me, etc.
Since I’ve traveled so much the last few years, travel knitting is a regular part of my crafting time. If I’m on a plane, I am almost always knitting. If I’m a passenger in a car, and we are traveling a distance, I’m knitting.
I regularly attend 3 groups that meet monthly as well as one weekly group. I’m thinking of adding a fourth monthly group; they used to meet on Wednesdays, conflicting with my regular weekly group, but they moved their meetings to the second Saturday of the month. I haven’t been home on the second Saturday since they changed the meeting. I’m planning to attend that group in June and see if I can make it a regular part of my schedule.
Wednesday Knit Nights
The weekly group meets from whenever people arrive until 8 pm at my local yarn store (LYS), Knit!, located 3 miles from my house. I’ve lived close to Knit! for 12 years, and ever since I picked up my knitting in 2006 after a hiatus of several years, it’s been my LYS. Marney’s had knitting nights before, usually during the fall and winter, but I’ve never attended because of my schedule. Last fall, she started up knit nights again and I plan to go every week, though of course I don’t always make it. Most Wednesdays, there’s at least 6 or 8 people there. On busy evenings, there’s been as many as 20 and no room to walk in the shop. On the occasional slow night, there’s 3 people there. I am excited that Marney decided to continue the knit nights through the summer this year!
Drunken Monkey Spinners
Drunken Monkey is a coffee shop in Orlando. The spinning group meets on the first Saturday of the month from 8 am to 11ish am. Most months, we have at least 8 people in attendance. The most we’ve had is about 12, counting the 5-year old son of the group’s finder and the non-fiber-crafting husband of one member. I joined this group in June last year, a few weeks after I got my spinning wheel. I always bring my wheel because I can’t spindle spin! Other members bring wheels or spindles or knitting or crocheting and we spend a lovely morning chatting over fiber. Other coffee-house guests often stop and ask what we are doing, and we explain to them a little about how spinning works. If you are ever in Orlando on the first Saturday of the month, you are welcome to join us!
Weavers of Orlando
The Weavers of Orlando guild meets on the 3rd Saturday of the month in Winter Park, Florida from 10 am until noonish. Sometimes there’s also presentations in the early afternoon. The Weavers of Orlando has about 100 members and most meetings have 40 to 50 people in attendance. Visitors are always welcome at these meetings, if you find yourself in the Orlando area on the 3rd Saturday of the month.
The area I live in is called Wekiva, after the nearby river. One of the librarians at the local branch organizes Wekiva Knitters; the group meets at that branch on the 3rd Saturday of the month, 1 pm to 3 pm. Since the library is a polling station, including for early voting, during elections the group is cancelled or rescheduled. The attendance varies dramatically from one month to the next. Sometimes there’s only one or two people there. The largest group I’ve ever personally seen is about 10. My own attendance at this group is erratic. I first went in August of 2012, then didn’t make it there again until June 2013 due to travel and other obligations. I really enjoy this group, though, and try to get there as often as I can. It’s only a mile from my house (shorter, as the crow flies), so if I’m home there’s no excuse for missing it!
On this blog, I write about knitting, crocheting, spinning, weaving, and dyeing. It’s obvious just from the count of posts in each category that I spend more time on knitting than I do on the others, even though I know how to do them all. I want to learn to sew, tat, and make bobbin lace. But what about you? Which fiber crafts do you already know and what do you want to learn? I’d love to know — it’ll help me write blog posts that meet your interests!
NOTE: The poll is an embedded Survey Monkey poll. I discovered when I was previewing the post that the poll did not show up when the page loaded, but it did when I refreshed the page. Also, if you are reading on a mobile device, the poll may not display. The poll consists of 3 questions. You may need to scroll down in the embedded box to see the third question and the submit button! If you prefer, you can follow this link to Survey Monkey and take the poll there.
Today’s prompt is to share the contents of our knitting bag, crafting caddy, or other tool organization system with you. I don’t usually use a knitting bag and I don’t have a bag dedicated to that purpose. I keep each WIP in its own gallon-sized Ziploc bag which contains the yarn, needles, pattern, embellishments (like beads) or unusual tools needed for the project. When I will be crafting out of the house, I might just grab one of the WIP Ziplocs and toss it in my purse. If I will be working on multiple projects or the project is large, I’ll put everything into an appropriately sized bag to make it easier to carry. While I have a pretty impressive stash of yarn and fiber, I don’t have an extensive tool collection. I like my tools streamlined and multifunctional. It’s fun to dig through my stash, looking for just the right fiber. Once I find it, I want to get to work with as little fuss as possible!
I’m writing this post a few days after the St. Johns River Festival of the Arts (see my blog post about that), when I spent two entire days in the Weavers of Orlando booth, doing demos. On Saturday, I mostly spun and on Sunday I mostly wove. I also brought a knitting project with me. This is the most stuff I ever carry at a time, so I figured I would take pictures of everything in the bag. It’ll give you a good sense of the scope of my tools.
My Knit Kit
I love my Knit Kit. It’s the one thing I carry with me wherever I’m crafting. It fits in my purse and it’s got all the everyday tools I might need in a pinch. I had a Knit Kit, but left it at my sister’s when I was helping her move, so I just bought a new one at Distaff Day in January.
It’s got a row counter, double-ended crochet hook, tape measure, and blade built into it. The cover on the bag is a needle / hook sizer. The interior compartment holds a pair of folding scissors, stitch markers, and tip protectors. I never use tip protectors and don’t like the rubber stitch markers, so I removed them and stocked the back with my own preferred tools:
I use the jump rings as stitch markers. I use the lobster claw clasps and the gourd safety pins (available on Amazon (affiliate link)) as row markers.
Of course, I had the Cormo that I’m currently spinning.
I had extra bobbins, just in case I filled the one on the wheel.
I had the two metal posts for my built-in lazy Kate, the ball of yarn I’m using for leaders, and spinning wheel oil. I take the metal posts of the lazy Kate out of the wheel when I’m transporting it so that they don’t damage my car.
I had a pile of warping sticks. I brought some with me to place around the knots as I wound the beginning part of the weaving on the cloth beam. The rest of these came out of the weaving. They’re dirty because they fell out of the weaving on to the pavement or floor as I wove and because the llama yarn that is my current warp is pretty hairy and shedding a lot. Fortunately, they are easy to clean since they are vinyl.
Bobbins with the yarns for the current project and empty ones that I already used.
The balls of yarns for the current project, for when I need to wind more yarn on the bobbins.
The card telling me how many inches of each color to weave, and a pen to cross off when I’ve finished that section. (If you want to weave a Dr. Who scarf, don’t bother trying to copy this down from here. Next week, I’ll have a blog post with a link to the Google spreadsheet that has all the information you need).
Miscellaneous Bag Contents
The Super Secret Shawl in its project bag, in case I wanted to knit rather than spin or weave. I ended up not knitting at all during the weekend.
A finished Summit shawl, knit by a friend. She asked me to block it for her and gave it to me while we were at the Festival.
The apron I was wearing while doing demos on Sunday.
Not in the Bag
I have a few tools that I really like, but didn’t need to carry over this weekend.
My fiber scale. I have a kitchen scale that I use only for cooking, and this scale which I use only for fiber-related purposes. I weigh dye on it. I weigh leftover skeins of yarn to calculate the yardage in a finished object. I weigh loom waste to calculate how much yardage I lost in the waste. I weigh bags of fiber to see how much I have left to spin. I love this scale. It weighs in either grams (down to 0.1 gram) or ounces. It has a tare function so I can put a bowl on top, reset the weight to zero and put larger items in the bowl for easier weighing. It weighs up to 2000 g (about 5 pounds), which is sufficient for my fibery purposes.
My mini scissors. When I travel, I take the foldable scissors out of the Knit Kit and put them in my checked luggage. Technically, I should be able to take them in carry on because they are less than 4″ long, but I hate to take the chance. If I don’t have checked luggage, I leave the foldable scissors at home and toss these mini ones into my carry on. Unfortunately, they are a little too fat to fit in the Knit Kit scissors section, but I love them anyway.
My needle notebook. My entire collection of knitting needles and crochet hooks lives in one zip up binder notebook. The entire collection. If I wanted to, I could carry all my needles with me all the time. I rarely take the notebook with me, though. I just don’t need to have all my needles with me. I probably will bring the binder with me to the TKGA Conference in July, and think it’s awesome that it is so easy for me to do so. I purchased this binder from KnitPicks, back when I first bought my interchangeable needle set in 2005 or 2006. A few of the interior zipper pockets came with the binder, and I bought more pages separately. Unfortunately, KnitPicks discontinued the binder several years ago. I think it’s the best item they’ve ever sold for needle storage and don’t know why they discontinued it!
Today’s prompt is to share something about me that isn’t related to yarn and fiber. I first wrote the essay below more than 15 years ago. I didn’t write it as part of an assignment or for publication. It just came to my head and I wrote it down. I lost the document for a while, but 10 years ago, I stumbled across it and updated it with my experiences with libraries here in Florida. I’ve edited it again for publication here.
My parents always thought reading was important. They started reading books to us when we were infants. Throughout my childhood, we had a bedtime ritual of a parent reading a chapter aloud to us. Sometimes, when my father was working late, he would come rushing in the door, hoping he hadn’t missed this opportunity for us to all gather together as a family with a book. I suppose most of the books were library books, because we couldn’t afford to buy many books.
Some of my earliest memories are about the library. We lived in a townhouse for about 18 months, moving in when I was 2 and out a couple months after I turned four. The town we lived in had a Bookmobile — an RV whose interior had been turned into a library. Floor to ceiling bookshelves lined the walls and it visited our townhouse community weekly. I have a very clear memory of the inside of that Bookmobile. One day, I somehow snuck in there by myself. The driver / librarian didn’t know I was in there, and my mother didn’t know where I’d gone. I remember hearing her outside, calling my name repeatedly. I was tucked way into the back, lying on the floor, basking in the presence of the books. I felt completely relaxed and at home, and I didn’t want to leave. Eventually my mother and the driver found me. I remember the stunned look of the driver. He truly had no idea I was there, and was about to drive off to his next stop. I have no recollection of my mother’s reaction.
In the brick and mortar library in that same town, the rule was that to get a library card, you had to be able to write your name on the card. I clearly remember the day I got my first library card. I was so small (pre-kindergarten), that I had to stand on tiptoes and stretch up to reach the desk, even though it was a regular height desk, shorter than a dining room table. I remember the librarians, although their names have faded from my memory. I remember the children’s room clearly. An abundance of natural light streamed in through the high windows; colorful milk crates served as bookshelves; librarians performed puppet shows during children’s programs. Behind the curtain of the puppet stage, there were toys freely available for any child to play with during their library visit. I remember the exact location of the shelves holding my favorite books (the Little Miss and Mr. books). This week, my trip includes staying for a couple of days in that same town. I plan to pay a visit to the library and see how much it has changed in the 30 years since I last lived there.
When I was about 9 years old, we went on a camping vacation with family friends to upstate New York. One drizzly afternoon, we wandered into the public library and curled up with books for a while. The library was a small, brownstone building and was rather dark inside. I bought a book from their sale table that day, which is still on my shelves. I always forget which book it is, until I open it and the smell of the pages instantly transports me to that day.
When we moved to the Boston area from Connecticut, I was in 6th grade. My mother started working full-time, as our expenses tripled with the move. But we were walking distance to the school. The library was only about a mile away, with good sidewalks the entire way, so we could walk there as well, although we could not walk home with our full bags of books! In that library, I discovered the 800 section of the Dewey Decimal system, home of the Classics. I decided to read my way through them and on my own initiative read Romeo and Juliet and The Sun Also Rises, which I did not even begin to understand and which I never finished.
The next year, we moved about 25 miles north, out of an apartment and into a house. The library at the new place was downtown, and not really in a nice place, although the library itself was large and modern. Due to its location, we never used that library. Instead, we traveled one town over. This library building was an old brick building with columns by the front door. It was older and smaller than the library in our town, but prettier and safer. A few years later, the town totally renovated and expanded the building. Since the original building was in the middle of downtown and on a steep hill, there was not much room for expansion so the extension was built into the hill behind the original structure. When coming in from the parking lot, you faced a 4 story staircase. The elevators were hidden behind the staircase. The desk for returning and checking out books was at the peak of the staircase.
My sister and I never wanted to take the elevator, but we always had a lot of books. During the summer, we went to the library once a week. Usually we checked out about 20 books each (and we actually did finish nearly every book we checked out individually and sometimes read books the other had chosen as well). We had this big ski bag that we would stuff full of books. It would be so heavy we could not carry it, unless we each took a handle and carried it together. We would travel up and down the staircase with the bag swinging between us and we each usually had another bag on our side. This created a traffic jam for anyone else attempting to traverse the staircase.
Of course, the librarians knew us. We were there every week and checking out a LOT of books. Once, a new librarian told us we could not check out so many books at one time, but one of the other librarians came to our rescue and told her it was okay, we did this all the time and were rarely delinquent returning books and yes, we really did read them all.
This library had a reference desk you could call and ask any question. Perhaps all libraries offer this service, but I have never used it anywhere else. I still remember the answer to the question I asked them – how many cups are there in a 5 pound bag of sugar and a 5 pound bag of flour?
When I moved out of my parents’ home as an adult, I did not have a car, but fortunately had very good public transportation access to the library. At first, I went to the library in my town, but as I worked in downtown Boston, I often went to the Boston Public Library. If I was quick, I had enough time on my one hour lunch break to hop on the T, run over to the library, return some books and get a few more, hop back on the T to make it back to work on time. On other occasions, when I wanted a more leisurely experience, I would go after work. I frequently went to the Boston Public Library in the evening to hear authors read from their work.
During this time, I was also a student at Harvard University and had access to their world-class library system. Harvard has more than 90 libraries in their system, but I only used 6 of them. Accessing the Harvard libraries is a religious experience for a book and library lover. The main library, the Widener, looks to me like a Greek or Roman Temple, with its many shallow stairs leading up to the entrance and all the pillars at the front of the building. Inside, it is decidedly more mundane. The linoleum floor tiles in many parts of the library are cracked or missing. Since it is so large, and many parts are not necessarily needed by patrons at this precise moment, large sections of the library are dark and you flip the light switches on yourself as you enter the area.
From the Widener Library, you can walk through underground tunnels into two of the other near-by libraries. The first library you reach through the tunnel is a library which is entirely underground. To get to it, you walk through a utility tunnel with all these exposed pipes running along the wall. The first time I walked this tunnel, I thought I would get lost or be locked out on the other end or perhaps I was somewhere I was not supposed to be. But I arrived at the attached library without incident.
The Widener Library has shelves which are pushed up right against each other. In order to use an aisle, you pushed a button and all the shelves moved on tracks to create an aisle where you needed one. You then had to press a button to lock the opening. I was always paranoid that I would forget to lock the opening and another student would open an aisle far down the line, not knowing I was there, and my aisle would close on me. I always checked several times to be sure I had locked my row open and scanned the aisle for empty sections of shelves down low, so I could squeeze myself in somewhere in case the aisle closed on me.
I loved the libraries for the Divinity School and the Medical School. In my mind, it seems to always be fall as I approach the Divinity School Library, although I used it for an entire year. The orange and yellow leaves litter the path as I walk up to the door. The Countway Medical Library is not on the main Harvard Campus in Cambridge, but a couple of miles away, across the Charles River in the Hospital District of Boston. This library is walking distance to Fenway Park, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and the Museum of Fine Arts. All of the Harvard Libraries require that you show a Student ID and they search your bags as you enter and leave the buildings. But the Countway Library did not seem as cursory in their security inspection. I had to actually leave an ID with them to pick up on my way out of the library, and I had to tell them how long I planned to be there and what resources I was planning to access and what class I was taking before I was allowed into the stacks. (NOTE: I was a student at Harvard in the late 1990s, before the September 11 bombings of the World Trade Center Buildings. I’m sure security procedures have changed in the intervening years).
After graduating, I again started to use the public library in my town. There were two branches. The main branch was nearly a mile away, but the other was right around the corner. Every day, as I got off the bus on my way home from work, I faced the library. This branch was not open in the evening, so I would go on Saturday afternoon. It was an old building, not air-conditioned and everything was still done by hand. It still had an actual card catalog, not computers, and in the back of each book was a card that the librarian marked the card number of the patron and the date the book was checked out. A separate card was kept at the desk with each patron’s name and a list of the books currently checked out to their card. Sometimes, I would select a book from the shelf for the sole purpose of seeing how often it had been checked out by someone. I always entered this library by the back door, as it was the first door I came to when walking there. This door was kept locked, and I would have to knock on the door to gain admittance.
My husband and I moved to the Orlando, Florida area in 2002. We drove from Massachusetts, with a CRV full of clothes, fragile items, and two cats. After 27 hours of straight driving, we arrived late on a Saturday afternoon, got our key for the new apartment and collapsed on the floor to sleep. On Sunday afternoon, I got my library card. Our furniture did not arrive until Thursday, but at least I had access to books!
The library I use now is small, but it is part of a decent county-wide system. These days, I spend little time perusing the aisles. Instead, I go to the library’s website, use the online database to see if they have the books I want, and place a hold. The librarians pull the books, send the book to my local branch and e-mail me when they are ready for me to pick up. If the county library system does not have the book, I can also fill out an online form to request the book through interlibrary loan. When the book arrives from interlibrary loan, I get an e-mail. I never used interlibrary loan much before I could make the request so easily, but now I do rather often. I have received one book from a library in New Mexico! (I wrote this paragraph 10 years ago, 3 years after moving to Florida. The County has since discontinued the interlibrary loan program because of the cost of running it.) These days, the library is more of an errand than a place to lounge. All I have to do is stop at the desk, drop off the returns and hand over my library card to procure the waiting volumes. Our house is only a mile from the library, so it is easy to stop there on my way home from errands.
Every library I have used has enriched my life. No matter what my circumstances have been, the library was always there with its resources freely available for my use and pleasure. Libraries still imbue me with a sense of awe; all the knowledge of the world, printed on pieces of paper, and available for free. This is impossibly generous and I am so grateful to have access to such amazing riches.
Today’s prompt is to write about what yarn you would be if you were yarn. I was mentally writing a detailed blog post about this, with the premise that I am yarn in all its glorious diversity , when I received the following e-mail, forwarded from the Weavers of Orlando Guild to all members (names edited out for privacy):
Hi, I am R, S’s husband.
Before she died, S told me to get in contact with WoO and offer up her substantial yarn stash to the WoO members. Since this is mostly knitting yarn I contacted one of S’s friend and knitter ( Also a WoO member).
There is a lot of high quality yarn, plus many knitting projects in various stages of completion. Each in its own container with pattern and check off sheet showing the progress of the project. Also many knitting books. I have everything organized and available to be looked at transported.
I would like to get this valuable material the right person(s), and am asking for advice and help from you. S, although not a weaver, did so enjoy your organization, and wanted to share her yarn with the group.
I did not personally know S; I only joined the Weavers guild last fall, and there’s many members I have yet to meet. Nevertheless, this e-mail hit me right in the heart. When you make something with your hands, you use not just materials and tools but also the most precious resources any of us have — our time and energy. Inevitably, something of ourselves is left in our work. A stash is personal because it reflects our plans and dreams and wishes and hopes and possibilities, an investment of our future time and energy. S’s yarns and books and half-finished projects aren’t just objects; they are a part of and reflection of her.
S was a talented and organized knitter. Her projects were mostly sweaters: pieced together, knit in the round, colorwork, cardigans. She wasn’t stuck in any kind of color rut. Her projects spanned every hue of the rainbow. Most of her yarns were high-end, but she wasn’t afraid of novelty yarns. She had a wonderful sense for combining colors and textures into her work. Like many of us, she didn’t like finishing work.
I came home with 10 WIPs; Nancy took home many more than that. Since I’ve never made a sweater before, I came home with the projects that only needed blocking or minimal seaming. Nancy took home projects that still need collars and cuffs or that were knitted in pieces. In addition to the WIPs, we left with a medium-sized packing box of kits. These were projects that had pattern, needles, and yarn packaged together but S had not yet started knitting. We had another, slightly smaller box, of WIPs that need substantial knitting. We also left with three large boxes of yarn and a milk crate of books and magazines.
One of the WIPs I brought home is a particularly special project. It is a shawl which E, S’s best friend, was knitting for S & R’s daughter. E passed away two years ago, and the half-finished project came to S. S finished the knitting, but hadn’t blocked it yet. I will block it and return it to R so he can give it to his daughter.
Over the next several months, Nancy and I (and anyone else we can press into service) will be finishing the rest of the WIPs. In January, we will bring them to Distaff Day and donate them to Project Warmies, a local charity that distributes warm items to several local shelters. R gave us bookmarks, leftover from the funeral service, with a picture of S and a short obituary. Project Warmies likes to have a little information about each donated item they receive, so we will include those bookmarks with each project.
The Guild will use the less expensive, big box yarns to make Kumihimo disks or other giveaway demos. The Guild does many demos throughout the year, often at schools. We estimate that we will go through 1,000 homemade Kumihimo disks this year! The kits, WIPs that need substantial knitting, remaining yarn, and books will all go into the Weavers of Orlando auction held in August.
R seemed happy with the plans for the yarn and projects. S wanted everything to benefit the Weavers of Orlando or to go to a good home, where the items would be appreciated. We will do our best to honor those wishes.
As I read the e-mail then sorted through S’s yarn, I realized this: there is no “if.” We are all yarn. Every time we buy a skein for our stash, or spend time knitting, crocheting, spinning, weaving, dyeing or otherwise crafting with fiber, we incorporate the yarn into ourselves. We eschew other possibilities and become a yarn crafter, a yarny, a fiberista, a maker. Time drips through our fingers in the form of stitches, warp and weft, roving smoothed into yarns. As often as we talk about SABLE (Stash Acquired Beyond Life Expectancy), we know, somewhere deep down, that someday when we are gone (hopefully many years from now) our loved ones will be crafting an e-mail like the one above. Someone who never knew us will be looking through our stash and our half-finished projects. What will she learn about us?