Tip Jars are Hard

February 17, 2015 - 2:00 pm

Tip Jars are hard in two senses.

The first difficulty is more existential; the notion of asking people to give me money to do what I want to do seems, well, awkward. And yet I fully believe what I’m doing is good and valuable, and I certainly need to make a living somehow, so it’s sensible and reasonable to ask folks who feel the same way to pitch in. I’ve never begrudged tossing money in the hats of buskers who brightened my days walking through cities. I know I feel good about it. Why should it be different online? 

So I’m trying to take advice from Amanda Palmer and Maria Popova and dozens of other internet phenoms I think are spiffy and ask. Donations are appreciated and will allow me to keep doing what I do without having to get a Real Job(tm). Today was the day I had resolved to add a tip jar to the blog.

I am planning to try something unusual in the knitting world, and instead of having Secret Knitting that I speak of vaguely and work on off stage, I’m going to blog everything about my newest pattern “Fire Thief.” I blogged a swatch last week and posted some charts yesterday on twitter and flickr. I’m hoping other folks will like watching the process and that it will make the pattern more popular (and remunerative!) instead of less. I know I enjoy getting insights into other artists’ processes, so why should anyone feel differently about me? 

So I set out this morning expecting I could hook up a paypal tip jar in fifteen minutes or so, blog about Fire Thief and mention it, and then go on about my day. I have a skirt I want to make. But, alas, that will all happen tomorrow. 

Instead, I found the other way in which tip jars are hard. I had sort of started to find this in researching business accounting practices with respect to gifts. The internet based “pay what you want” concept has not been embraced by the tax folks yet. I still don’t know how that will all work out, I’m just charging ahead on faith. Other people are doing it, so it must be possible. 

First I went looking for a free clip-art graphic for a tip jar that was licensed for commercial use. Should be dozens, wouldn’t you think? Turns out not so much. So I sat down withmy iPad mini, Paper, and Pencil from Fiftythree, and here for use by any and all is a free tip jar clipart with an attribution license:


Next I needed to plumb it up to Paypal, which should be straightforward, right? Turns out, again, not so much. Paypal has a donate button, but has this to say about using it: 

Note: This button is intended for fundraising. If you are not raising money for a cause, please choose another option. Nonprofits must verify their status to withdraw donations they receive. Users that are not verified nonprofits must demonstrate how their donations will be used, once they raise more than $10,000.

So I went casting about the Internet looking at who had done what. I asked several bloggers, but I’m not the patient sort, so I kept looking. Eventually I found this tutorial by AoxoA Creative that did a beautiful job of walking me through the process. 

So now there’s a tip jar over there on the left, if you’re inclined to express your appreciation thusly. If not that’s completely fine, but I need to at least break even this year. Every dollar gets me a little closer to “making it.” 

Tomorrow I’ll tell you all about the Fire Thief. 🙂

The Art of Asking

November 19, 2014 - 5:16 pm

Last night David and I went to Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking book tour/show. There was singing and silliness and good-hearted buffoonery and it was a wonderful, memorable experience for us and, I would venture to say, much of the audience. Firstly, if you aren’t familiar with the TED talk she gave on this subject, go watch it now:

To say the talk changed my life would be a bit of an overstatement, but I would say that her talk, Brene Brown’s talk, and conversations with friends and mentors are what gave me the courage to decide to pursue Hack Your Clothes instead of another traditional job. Jury’s still out on whether that will prove financially sustainable, but I remain cautiously optimistic. 

I’ve just barely peeked into the book, but what I’ve seen and what was read last night at the show was an extension and elaboration on the talk. I’m looking forward to reading it. You should too.

Link to Hatchett page on the book

Autumn Hills BFL Farm Visit

September 18, 2013 - 10:46 am

Yesterday I went down to Curtis, Washington to visit Autumn Hills BFL Farm.


They sell fiber, ram lambs for breeding stock, and locker lambs. Their flock is fed grass exclusively; they hay their field in the spring when it’s outgrowing the sheep to have hay in the winter.


The ewes that aren’t up to muster as high quality breeding stock are bred to a bfl/suffolk ram to make bigger, tastier lambs. Penny is on that list because, even though she’s the friendliest in the flock, her fleece is sadly not very nice:


Patricia keeps both white and colored sheep in her flock and sells fleece for hand spinners. She has fading black and “black patterned” ewes. Black patterned appears to be the same marking pattern as badger-face in various breeds such as the CVM or katmoget in Shetlands. Their bodies are cream or grey, and their points are black, with distinctive white face markings. I love their roman noses!


She also has a border leicester ewe, and a couple old merino/bfl cross ewes from when she was deciding what breed to raise.


The fine fleeced BFL sheep are lovely. I wish I had gotten pictures of their fleeces up close, but this is a good example:


She shears in March- I’ll be going back to get some of that fiber, for certain! I came home with a nice BFL/Merino cross fleece. 

2013-09-18 11.40.20

Look at that crimp!

2013-09-18 11.40.39


The Art of Making a Dog

September 11, 2013 - 7:53 am

Let’s start with the fun stuff. Her name is Caprica, (Well, really it’s CNC’s Platinum Caprica Six) and she’s an eleven week old standard poodle.


She’s teeth and springs covered in marshmallow fluff and about as busy and needy as an 18 month old toddler on a tear. She needs to eat, poop, play, and be loved, within firm and non-negotiable boundaries. Most of our pictures of her are when she’s sleeping, because when she’s awake at least one hand is required to interact with her. 

Konked Out Caprica

Also, her naps are contagious.

Puppy naps are contagious

She’s smart. Crazy smart. She came having not walked on a leash. She learned in about 15 minutes to give to pressure, and by the end of the evening we had done a couple puppy sized figure-8’s in a textbook heel. Along the way she offered a sit and I started shaping that as well, so in one evening of about three sessions while outside doing business she had the foundation of “sit” and “heel” down. To the point where she now becomes indignant if she sits and there isn’t a treat and praise. Which there usually isn’t, of course. The behavior bar is going to get raised higher and higher. 

The decision to bring Caprica home was in some ways sudden; we have been talking for years about getting a “next dog.” Part of David would die if he were dog-less and Rosa is 12. She’s still healthy and happy and active, but she has more years behind her than in front. Poodle has been the only breed we kept coming back to as a possibility. We discussed more or less all of the herding breeds and some hounds, but none of them met our criteria.

So a week ago we decided we wanted to get serious about looking for a puppy, decided Standard Poodle was a good breed for us, found an excellent breeder with a perfect puppy about 15 minutes later, did some more research to confirm the breed and breeder were really the right one for us, went and met her, and brought her home Sunday. 

Because Rosa and David are tightly bonded, and because I both have experience raising puppies and am able to be home all day, I’m her primary handler. I told David last night I’m making him a dog, which is pretty close to the truth. I love animals and dogs are no exception, but all things being equal I am moving towards simplifying my life and probably wouldn’t get another one. David, though, needs a dog, and I’m his partner, so we’re going to have a dog. I’m making sure she’s the best dog she can be.

The next few weeks are intensive puppy training time, while we settle into housebreaking and she learns what the limits of her environment are. I’m probably going to be raising a puppy and not much else. In the way of a mother of a young child, I only get to tend to necessities while the puppy is sleeping, which means I have a half hour to ninety minutes in 3-4 snatches a day for things like taking a shower, eating, shopping, and cleaning. And she wakes me up 2-3 times a night to go out.

Of course I could in theory leave her crated or in a playpen more so I could work more, but right now I think it’s important to establish that floors and crates are not for peeing, and to work out signals with her so she can let me know when she needs to go out and I can let her know what’s ok and what’s not. I very much believe in positive conditioning and establishing good attachment and trust in young people and animals. I believe that’s the foundation of a stable, healthy, happy temperament. so that’s what I’m doing. It’s a tremendous amount of work right now, but will pay off dividends for the rest of her life. I want a happy, secure, trainable dog. Trust and communication are the foundation of that.

All that stuff last post about having a productive schedule? Yeah.  That’s out the window until at least October. Anything I accomplish above the bare minimum necessary to keep the family clean and fed will be a miracle. I’m busy right now, making a dog. 


To Do, To Don’t, To Done

September 6, 2013 - 8:48 am

Wow, summer really just whizzed by. Wasn’t it May yesterday? No wait- that was just last blog post. 

It was a good summer. An amazing summer. I spent a lot of time with my son just exercising our creativity in various ways. We traveled, we made stuff, we talked. I taught classes, and became much more confident in my ability to create and execute a class outline. My students made some amazing things. 

On the other hand, the public face of Hack Your Clothes languished, to the point that it has become a mill stone. It’s time for me to shift focus back to it. To that end I’m planning to start a weekly rhythm of adding content to the site. One of my goals for today is to determine what a good rhythm will be, and lay out that plan. I want to work on the lexicon, start reviewing tutorials, and document some of my patterns.

I also started a machine knitting book that I’m kind of excited about finishing and getting out into the world. So I will work on that as well. It’s based in part on the tutorials I’ve taught on using the machines, but also goes into more depth on the mechanicals to help someone new to knitting machines who wants to rehab an old machine. Basically it will be the guide I wish I had when I was starting.

I’ve also spent a lot of rumination time on process and planning and how that works in my life. I found some new tools, and sort of bounced back and forth between logging my accomplishments in DayOne and building and living by a todo list in ActionMethod. I noticed that when I was logging accomplishments I felt better and was more creative, but not surprisingly things got dropped. When I was using a todo list I was better at tracking and finishing the things I wrote down, but my creativity level diminished. I pretty clearly need both, but they are somewhat mutually exclusive. Dilemma.

The todo list becomes stultifying when cruft builds up in it that is nebulous and large, such as a task I just deleted from ActionMethod: “Revise Machine Knitting Book.” huh? one todo list item? fer srsly? What was I thinking? I have about 45 pages and on the order of 150 graphics already laid in, and I’m on the second of 10 or so chapters. It’s a major project, not a todo list item. The “scan and archive paperwork” item is still on the list, though, and the pile is still on my desk waiting patiently for me to apply a roundtuit. I need a todo list to keep me honest about those things.

The journal log is uplifting. I can read about all the things I accomplished in a day, and writing about what I’m doing when it’s fresh and I’m in the middle of it is clarifying and accelerates my creative process. I want to keep that going. But I seem to have an either/or mode; I can’t do both in the same day. I don’t think I can shift modes even on alternate days.

So here’s my plan. I’m going to shift around how I manage my time on a monthly basis, by alternating weeks between to do and to done. And I’m going to use two to do list tools to discourage cruft accumulating. Here’s what I’m thinking:

Week 1: The first week of the month starting with a Sunday. Creative/journal tracking week using DayOne. Begin the week by reviewing previous Journal week’s activities. Think about three creative goals for the week, and write about them. 

Week 2: To Do List driven using Any.DO. Begin the week by reviewing last month’s old entries and deleting most of them. Review ActionMethod for any actions that should be carried forward to this week’s list. Review next two weeks’ schedule and add actions as necessary. Anything more than a week away goes on the calendar or on the *ActionMethod* “someday” list. Be realistic about what is being planned, and get it done. Do these things this week, no excuses. 

Week 3: Creative/journal tracking week using DayOne. Begin the week by reviewing previous Journal week’s activities. Think about three creative goals for the week, and write about them. 

Week 4: To Do List driven using ActionMethod. Begin the week by reviewing last month’s old entries and deleting most of them. Review Any.DO for any actions that should be carried forward to this week’s list. Review next two weeks’ schedule and add actions as necessary. Anything more than a week away goes on the calendar or on the *Any.DO* “someday” list. Be realistic about what is being planned, and get it done. Do these things this week, no excuses. 

Bonus Days: Most months will have some time at the month’s transition. Spend the month coming up with a big project to focus on intensively in this time. Do it.

This will be crosscut by my weekly objectives. *every* week will see predictable content updates. I am ruminating on exactly what things to lay out on exactly which days, but I want a weekly rhythm of output. This monthly creative/productive rhythm is a bigger cycle.

I’m also going to review my daily rhythm. I need to re-commit to the morning routine; having Zachary in the house of course affected how my mornings ran. I also want to schedule more physical activity into my days; I slide into afternoon doldrums without it. And I’d like to get back to cooking meals for dinner most days rather than eating out or grazing. It’s a habit we’ve fallen out of, and I want it back.

This may be an overly ambitious set of changes, and certainly it will have to flex and bend around travel and events. But I think the rhythm is good. I have always responded well to having a rhythm in my doings. This feels right. 🙂

Lunch Break

May 28, 2013 - 12:25 pm

Lunch break

I had aspirations of working on the porch after lunch, but alas the laptop screen is just not up to even a moderately overcast day. Lunch was delicious, though, and it was lovely to be outside. I had a wrap with bacon, smoked turkey, pepper cress, mizuna, and Arugula Ladysmith cheese that all came from the farmer’s market yesterday, along with organic carrots and cherries from the market. Yum.

Today has been about gently meeting the whiny “I dun wanna” inner voice with a resolute “but I’m gonna.” This is a theme for me. The gently part is new and the hardest. I grew up pushing through whatever internal obstacles I found with no regard for where they came from, and I bullied myself into bad situations, illness, and other unpleasantness by not honoring my internal voices.

Accepting that sometimes I need rest, or need to back up and find a new approach to solving a problem is *hard* for me. I am terrified it will slide into the sloth and topor of deep depression, and I fear that like few things. I lost years of my life to depression. I am one of the fortunate few who easily found just the right medicine to counteract it; a low dose of Wellbutrin gives me the space I need to see colors through the dim haze when it starts to cloud my perceptions. But that fear of stillness remains a part of me.

Tuesdays after staying up late for the Hack Your Clothes evenings have proven impossible for me. I have lost every one to exhaustion. Today I’m doing a little better than the past few, and I’ve talked to Matt about leaving earlier. I can stay til 10:30 or 11, but sticking around past midnight doesn’t work for me. As long as the flier and announcements are changes to reflect the times he’s fine with that. Good news.

So first thing this (late) morning I reworked the flyer for Hack Your clothes night. I also worked through a gentle yoga practice, folded and put away laundry, cleaned the kitchen, did some other editing, and made a healthy delicious lunch instead of grazing. I’m tired and headachy and generally feeling less than 100%, but I’m proud both of the efforts I’m making to keep moving forward and the respect I’m paying to my physical needs. Finding a balance.

As soon as my food settles there will be napping, and then I’m not sure what’s next. I’ll see how I feel when I wake up. I may go back to Metrix or I may stay here and work on writing things. The important thing is to find my pace and keep moving forward.

Morning Routine Reflection

May 22, 2013 - 7:54 am

It’s been the better part of a month since I started the morning routine, and I’ve been pretty good about it. I would say 5 days out of seven I do all the things I outlined. They were:

  1. Up at 6am
  2. Start the tea and putter
  3. Meditate for 5 minutes
  4. Exercise
  5. Breakfast

A couple weeks ago I realized that meditating after exercise was a better routine. Sometimes I wake up with stuff I want to write in my head, so the writing happens before the exercise and meditation. Some of the writing is private journalling, so I’m not sharing it. But by and large this is all happening most of the time, and it’s goodness. Except.

Meditation really isn’t doing anything for me. I sit quietly. I focus down to my breathing and still my mind. I stay there for 5 minutes. I found a lovely ap called “Samsara” for iPad and iPhone that starts and ends the meditation with a pretty bell and displays a circle on the screen. Simple and perfect for the task; I shared it with David as an example of great ap design. But I’m just not feeling it.

I know all the science I believe in meditation it’s something I’ve always wanted to add to my life in a structured way. I’ve meditated occasionally for most of my life; I started a daily yoga practice at the age of 12 and the folks I met in yoga circles made it pretty hard to avoid drinking the meditation kool-aid. but, eh. I don’t look forward to it, I don’t dread it, I don’t feel anything about it. I’m not arriving at profound insights or feeling uncomfortable. There just doesn’t seem to be anything there for me. The benefits meditation are supposed to convey are things I find while knitting and while exercising. Just sitting is, well, just sitting.

At least for me, at least for now, it’s not the thing. I’ll give it till the end of the month to feel differently about it, but I’m past the 21 days of habit forming and I think this is one habit I don’t need to form. 

The other thing I started, outside the morning routine, was the Monday night hack your clothes events. They are awesome. But staying at Metrix until after midnight is not awesome. It pretty much plows me under all of Tuesday, because I stay up til almost 2 after clean-up and the drive home and some settle-in time, then wake up reflexively at 6, and 4 hrs sleep is insufficient for me to be effective at anything. I stumble through the day with a headache and a dull mind. Naps help a little, but insufficiently. I need to adjust the timing so I can be unconscious by midnight, latest.

Change and Stasis

May 14, 2013 - 11:49 am

David and I have been talking lately about how it feels to act vs. standing still, and how standing still itself is an action. I’ve been thinking about this also with the work I’m doing on hackyourclothes.com and my new habits of meditation and exercise. I listened to a podcast this morning while folding laundry by Jonathan Fields and Majka Burhardt about risk and action and creating a life out of passions, and it blended all of these thoughts. 

The difference seems to me to be in the choosing. It feels *like* it will be more comfortable to remain still than to act when I’m in a time of choosing, and yet stillness is uncomfortable when I’m in it while action is the path to joy. It feels *like* action is risky and scary, and yet the greatest risk and scariest outcome is doing nothing. I feel worst on the days I have given in to the urge to stasis, and best on the days I’ve taken the most action. 

Something I heard the other day somewhere caught my attention. It was something about not trying to think about what I’m doing while I’m doing it, that analysis and action are different activities and mutually exclusive. I feel this. The fastest way to knock myself out of a groove is to start thinking about what it means that I’m doing what I’m doing.

To that end I’ve been ruminating a lot about creating a life. My cynical voice tells me I’ve been doing that more than I’ve been living it. So I’m going to focus on acting more and ruminating less. I can garden or write poetry or work on the website or take a walk or a nap- whatever feels right in the moment. Thinking less about my life and plans and goals, and more about short term active and creative outbursts. 

I have lots to share and lots to give. These things have value. I need most to not worry about the hows and why’s in the short term, and more about the do’s. More creativity and less analysis.

I’ve sort of been shifting in this direction over the past couple weeks. I’m not looking at a todo list during the day, rather I’m journalling things I have done in an ap called “Day One.” Accomplishments and difficulties, successes and failures, whatever happens. I’m making a catalog of my actions, and it’s far more inspiring to read back over that than over any todo list I’ve ever made.

There are times and places when I need to strictly focus and channel my efforts to meet some goal. This is not one of those times. Right now is about setting myself free to run in a million directions at once and try as many things as I can to find what resonates with me and with other people. So I’m off to do. Something. A nap first, I think; being out past midnight saps me. Then perhaps gardening. Beyond that will take care of itself.

Good Morning Seattle

May 10, 2013 - 9:28 am


I had decided to take this morning to relax and have downtime.  I’ve been pushing myself so hard to the point of having anxiety issues, I have PMS and so feel a bit off, I’m looking forward to a fun but exhausting weekend with Zack, I could go on. I woke up and resting felt like the right thing, and I decided to honor that.

I wasn’t planning to blog, just spend the morning reading a book for the pleasure of its story- Robin Hobb’s Fool’s Fate. I’m at the part of the story when all the pieces she’s built up through six long and complicated books are crashing together into a conclusion that is huge and grinding and inevitable and beautiful and terrible as life can be.

It’s my second time through the series and I like it even more this time than last. I’ve been pushing so hard, though, I have turned only a few virtual pages on my Kindle Ap for iPhone in the past month, and you can imagine how small those are.


But then I looked out across the Bay, and saw the fog that had come in to obscure the skyline in spite of the bright blue sky. And there was the lilac and the birds at the feeder and life called me out. I need to share, I need to move, I need to bask in the sun for a while after sharing this and then walk to the beach, not because I need the break but because I want it. I want to feel the damp sand grinding and squeaking under my feet. I want to fill my lungs with the salted sea air spiced with the noisome life of the ocean floor exposed by the pull of the moon.


I don’t need a quiet day. I need a full day, not gently spent but stuffed full of nourishing beauty and glorious sensations washing me clean of fears and worries. Life will be. I am in it, and it is good.

Oh, and I have a Wacom Create cover! finished it last night:


Too Much Too Soon?

May 8, 2013 - 8:58 am

Hack tools 130408

In the past week and near future, Hack Your Clothes is getting tons of publicity.


My feelings about this are swinging between extremes from “Wow, I really seem to be tapping into something awesome and big” to “ZOMG, NOT READY!!  Waaaaaaiiiit!!” But waiting is the wrong thing. It’s time for me to carpe that diem and be ready, now.

Today I will get through enough of the Textile Lexicon to make it a Thing. That should give me the vocabulary I need to write a good tee-shirt construction tutorial, and to write up general instructions for the traveling tech gear wrapper I am making for my Create tablet. 

I’ve decided I’m not going to offer tutorials for free. At all. I want to establish right from the start that these have value. Knitting authors do themselves a disservice by giving away patterns as the default. I’d like to change that ethic, at least for professionally tech edited clothes hacking tutorials.

To that end, if anyone out there wants to help me with tech editing these tutorials, let me know. I’ll be looking for an editor for the first couple in a few weeks, and want to get the custom corset course out by the end of the year, if possible.

I envision it as a book-length piece with a dozen or so tutorials, starting with measuring, then creating a sloper, drafting a pattern, determining what materials are needed, sourcing them, sewing up (which will probably be several tutorials), finishing, and wearing.

The looks on the faces of both men and women when I mention this project are inspiring; folks seem to feel so vulnerable about not knowing how to sew. Some are brusque and defensive to the point of being almost derisive at first, but with some encouragement their resistance melts into avid interest. Others approach me at Metrix when I’m knitting on the machines or sewing with wide eyes and open enthusiasm.

It is at once thrilling and terrifying to be the focus of their attention. I want to do well by them, and reward their interest with the tools they need to be successful at whatever their clothes hacking goals are. I don’t feel ready for this, but it’s time for me to be ready anyway. Never has “Ready or not, here I come!” felt so apropos. 

Yesterday’s goals were never voiced, but they sort of devolved into me watching the hit counter spin out of control after Amy sent the announcement to the Knitty list.

Today I will beef up the lexicon. I have a list of about 30 terms I want to define. I know I will add more as I write those. I want to bang out a couple thousand words, and then reward myself by going to Metrix and making the cover for the Create.

Today’s goals:

  • At least 2000 words of textile lexicon. Preferably much more, but writing definitions is surprisingly taxing.
  • Sew the Bamboo Create Cover
  • Plant succulents and thymes
Already accomplished:
  • Accepted the booth at Maker Fair
  • Accepted the request to be featured on MadeWithPaper
  • Exercised, meditated, breakfasted, etc. Morning routine is working well.
  • Started a Time Machine back-up of my laptop

Big News!

May 7, 2013 - 9:17 am

On May 20th, Amy Singer from Knitty and Tom Bihn from Tom Bihn Bags will be joining me for the weekly Hack Your Clothes night at Metrix!

Knitty10th TombihnMetrixRobotLogo orange

Evite here! The space can only hold a limited number of people, so sign up soon if you would like to join us.

Squee! I’ve been working on the details for this for the past month or so. Possibly longer. It’s awesome to be able to publicize it, finally.

Road Trip Weekend!

May 6, 2013 - 10:01 am


Over the weekend David and I drove down to Eugene to visit our friends Tom and Tracy at McTavish Farms. I have a lot of photos to process, but above is a teaser. I also picked out the wood for my wheel, which will be built early in 2014, if the stars align. Walnut and Dogwood. I can’t wait!!

I got advice from Tom on how to pack a wheel for shipment, so I should finally be able to get this wheel that’s been gracing my living room since Madrona off to its owner.  Yay!

We drove home with a detour down the Columbia, then up through the Dalles and Yakima. David hadn’t known there was an area so similar to Texas so close to home. He was happy to see the desert and scrub.  I think he’s a bit nuts, but hey. We fit well together. 🙂

I’ve added Pilates to my daily workouts. 20 mins of PT, 20 mins of Pilates, 5 mins meditation. 45 minutes a day to better physical and emotional health.  Woot!

Tonight is the first Hack Your Clothes Night at Metrix. Gweep!

We also have tickets to Cloud Cult, one of my favorite bands. At the same time as the Hack Your Clothes Night. Dammit. David and I both missed the conflict until it was too late to delay the HYC night, so I’m planning to leave Metrix about 9 and catch the end of the show. I can’t miss it, nor can I bail on my new event, so I have to figure out doing some of both.

Today’s goals:

  • Plant the front bed with succulents- maybe. This could wait a day.
  • Read the rest of $100 Startup
  • Write up the notes on the ap David’s building
  • Illustrator class!
  • Shut down mini. It will come up one more time when we’re doing the Glacier backups, then be decomm’d.
  • Hack Your Clothes night!
  • Cloud Cult concert!


The Good Kind of Crazy

May 2, 2013 - 1:18 pm

Yesterday, again, did not go to plan. Morning was ticking along when I got an email about something I’m not going to talk about yet except to say that during the conversation the awesome thing got even more awesome, and ended with an impromptu in-person meeting.

The afternoon was spent at Metrix, where there was a lot of conversation about the up and coming Awesome Thing, and awesome things in general.

The evening was spent starting to decommission my old desktop, which is sad and tired. I’m pushing my photos and music up into the cloud. I moved my files to Dropbox a year or so ago. Over the next couple days I will get to a point where my computers are effectively terminals with applications and scratch drives, and all my data is cloud based. 

Today I’m determined to create content for Hack Your Clothes.  I’m going to start with a page on common tools and why one may want them. I need to get something concrete done. There has been lots of effort and progress, but it’s all been pretty intangible since I got back from vacation, at least in the direction of eventually having an income stream. The Zentangles, house cleaning, and gardening are helping me stay sane, but I need to see progress on the new site today to feel good.

Yesterday’s Goals: 


  • Blog post
  • Zentangle
  • Finish planters
  • Boot up the mini and start clearing it off
  • Go to Metrix to retrieve power brick and talk to Matt
  • Begin outline for Machine Knitting class
  • Begin tee shirt tutorial
Yesterday’s extra accomplishments:
  • Seeekrit Thing!!!
  • Got flyer approved by Matt to post
Today’s Goals:
  • Chauffeur David
  • Zentangle
  • Create a “Tools” glossary, with index
  • Create an outline for the Machine Knitting class
  • 3D printer night
Today’s other accomplishments so far:
  • Went to Lowes for a mirror and for irrigation supplies
  • Made oatmeal for the next two weeks


Planter Rennovation

May 1, 2013 - 8:01 am

Yesterday was a busy but reasonably productive day.  The most interesting thing I accomplished was renovating the planter pots on my deck, and I thought I would share that process.


Plants are not designed to live in pots, and they resent it. The develop root systems that press up against the edges of their containers like prisoners against the bars of their cages. If there are multiple plants in the same pot they will wage war for space. All of this root growth in the end keeps the plants from thriving, because the roots rapidly fill the spaces that could hold air and water. To have nice looking pots it’s important to empty and replant them every year, even if they are going to stay the same.

My goal for my deck planters this year is to increase the number of hummingbird and butterfly attracting plants we have. There were a few last year and we enjoyed them, but we want more. To that end I’ve bought a wide variety of sages and other plants that will flower prolifically and attract critters. 

I started by lifting the existing plants out of the two biggest pots, and then dumping the remaining dirt onto a tarp. The picture up there was after the first pot was emptied. There were some overgrown sedums other small succulents, dahlia tubers that survived the winter,  black mondo grass, and crocosmia bulbs in the second planter that missed their close-up. The plants I wanted to keep were divided- at least half of their growth from last season will be moved to the garden beds because otherwise they would over grow the pots- and the remainder were potted up with the sages and other plants. 

I use mats of small succulents as a living mulch in pots, because they are very thrifty with water. Exposed soil will rapidly dry out, but covering it with these little plants helps keep everything in the pot healthier. Their root systems are superficial and so don’t compete much with the deeper rooting plants. I’m happy with how these pots came out.

First pot:


Second pot is to the right below. The one pot I didn’t renovate is on the left- it gets done today!


The dirt in the planters is just fine, the overgrown roots have to be removed. The third pot I renovated shows why repotting is so important:


There was a Russian sage and a curly sedge in the pot. They were waging an underground war that had completely clogged the pot. I trimmed off the bottom 6″ of roots from the pot immediately, and then thinned the roots down to more moderate sizes and repotted them. I had planned to add canna bulbs and dahlias to this pot and the 4th (which was planted identically) but I like the sage and sedge and they certainly seemed to thrive, so I decided to just re-pot them, again with succulent mats: 


I bought some additional planters which will receive the cannas and other extra plants today. I have a fair amount of extra plant material which will be moved out to garden beds. That which I wasn’t ready to plant yesterday got covered with some potting soil, watered, and then covered with the tarp to keep it healthy. Here’s a picture of post watering pre-tarping:


Note if the tarp had been black this would have been a bad idea, because it could have cooked the plants. The silver side of this tarp was ideal for this job. If I hadn’t had the tarp I would have just dumped more potting soil over them, or tucked them into an empty garden bed if they were to rest for more than a day or so. 

I’m looking forward to having these pots all summer. They were a delight last year, and I hope this year they will be even better!

Yesterday’s goals:

  • Illustrator class for at least an hour
  • Complete flyer for Hack Your Clothes night and get it posted
  • Begin outline for Machine Knitting class
  • Begin tee shirt tutorial
  • Show up at Metrix for the proto- textile class night
Yesterday’s other accomplishments:
  • Submitted a pattern proposal for a new sweater pattern
  • Posted FO pics for a sweater from last weekend’s photo shoot
  • Renovated three of four deck planters
  • Extra meditation
  • Drew a sketch for the hack Your Clothes flyer
Today’s goals:
  • Blog post
  • Zentangle
  • Finish planters
  • Boot up the mini and start clearing it off
  • Go to Metrix to retrieve power brick and talk to Matt
  • Begin outline for Machine Knitting class
  • Begin tee shirt tutorial





Topsy turvy morning

April 30, 2013 - 8:47 am

Sunny morning

It’s been one of those mornings that just wouldn’t go according to plan. Started well albeit a bit sleepily, but I enjoyed waking up into a home that’s free of clutter. Puttering amounted to putting yesterday’s folded laundry away, emptying the dishwasher and refilling it with a few items from last night, and enjoying the bright sunny day.

It was too bright to work at the table, so after my little meditation break I moved to my desk, which shifted me into Getting Things Done mode rather than morning routine mode, so it’s 9:30 and I’m starving but just getting to the blog post and still need exercise before brekkies. This will be brief. 🙂

Yesterday’s goals were:

  • Laundry
  • Weave in ends in projects
  • Illustrator class- at least 1 hour, preferably more
  • First draft of tee shirt tutorial
  • Daily zentangle
  • Metrix textile night

Yesterday’s extra accomplishments were:

  • Researched cloud back-ups since my network server has crashed AGAIN. Found Google’s “Glacier” and a new service called “My Shoebox” for photo storage. I’m going to move things there as soon as I get around to it.
  • Researched a journalling ap to track my “done” list.  Found “Day One” which has mac and iOS versions that sync beautifully through Dropbox or iCloud. I’m well pleased with this solution, and will be setting up hourly alarms today to get me to log my progress at regular intervals during my “work” day.
  • Took a first pass at organizing the basement. Games are properly stored, and everything is off the floor and surfaces that was taken downstairs last weekend. Most of it is in the general vicinity of where it should live, and just needs a bit more organization.
  • Created a flyer for “Hack your clothes night” at Metrix, which will be every Monday. It’s in draft now; Matt and Plamena have ideas for how to make it better. I made it in InDesign. I thought it would be quick and simple for me to toss it off and start on the tee shirt tutorial- not so much. Learning new tools is a bitch. 🙂

Today’s goals:

  • Illustrator class for at least an hour
  • Complete flyer for Hack Your Clothes night and get it posted
  • Begin outline for Machine Knitting class
  • Begin tee shirt tutorial
  • Show up at Metrix for the proto- textile class night

Today’s accomplishment so far:

  • Submitted a pattern proposal for a new sweater pattern
  • Posted FO pics for a sweater from last weekend’s photo shoot:


Rainy April Monday

April 29, 2013 - 7:37 am

Rainy morning

It’s dreary out there right now, but supposed to get nicer as the day goes on. I’m looking forward to a quiet and productive day, and a busy evening at Metrix.

I have these two pieces on which to weave in ends:

Knitting to finish

The scarf I showed blocking yesterday and a sweater I made on the knitting machine. I’m absurdly proud of the sweater. I made it without a pattern, just a knowledge of standard sweater ratios, my measurements, the gauge of the fabric, and some guesses. I love how it fits! Some of that is silk being drapey and forgiving, but truly it’s a good fit. I’m pleased that I’m getting enough of a feel for sweater construction that I can just make one up spontaneously.  

This is made with Urban Silk from Little Knits; it’s 80% off on clearance, and as of this writing they still have it in stock in several colors. I bought ~1000 yds of Aran weight silk for $33, which was more than enough for this long, loose sweater. $33. Silk. Sweater. Run, don’t walk. 🙂

Does anyone out there in blog land know about italic handwriting? I’m realizing I would like to have a better hand so I could annotate illustrations more legibly without having to go back and type stuff in. It would shorten the cycle from sketch to release. Once upon a time I had a lovely calligraphic hand, but that was before I broke my wrist and more or less stopped using a pen for 20 years. I’d like to get it back, and I expect it would help my drawing as well.

Yesterday’s goals were:

  • Illustrator Class
  • Write up backlog of textile work
  • Organize upstairs with David

Yesterday’s extra accomplishments were:

Organizing was the must happen, so I’m fairly well pleased that was done. I had forgotten the poor sad plants waiting for me in pots, and was appalled by the state of the beds in the backyard, so those were good tasks as well. By the time I sat down to do the planned desk work I wasn’t braining well enough to be effective, so I had a quiet evening of pleasure reading instead. I hadn’t put the zentangle in my planned activities, but that’s a daily goal.

Today’s goals:

  • Laundry
  • Weave in ends in projects
  • Illustrator class- at least 1 hour, preferably more
  • First draft of tee shirt tutorial
  • Daily zentangle
  • Metrix textile night

Morning stretches

April 28, 2013 - 6:51 am

New lace scarf giving its all

It’s 7:30am. Showered, puttered, tea made, meditated, and now writing.  Check!

The puttering this morning took rather a long time, because I was blocking the ends of a scarf I’ve been knitting on the machine. I blocked the body before vacation, but decided it wasn’t finished enough, so created a border chart. I knit the first end, which is on the right in the picture below, by hand. The second end last night by machine. I definitely could have knit the second end faster by hand than by manipulating the stitches on the machine, but I learned a lot, so perhaps it was worth it. I certainly now have more motivation to figure out how to use the lace carriage!

New lace scarf giving its all

When blocking lace I believe a harsh blocking is best, no matter how the lace screams, particularly when blocking silk.  This is Handmaiden Sea Silk in colorway Boreal. The iPad camera doesn’t do it justice; photos later when it’s off the rack. Note the hand weights to help keep the mat flat- it’s not really blocking if I don’t need at least 10 lbs. This one used 18, but I probably could have gotten away with a little less. 😉

Also, pro tip: when pinning on the dining table, be VERY CAREFUL that the pins don’t go through the mat. Perhaps avoid this all together in the future, and pin on the floor, then check for pins sticking through before moving the lace to the table for photos.

There are some errors in the pattern on the machine knit side, but I declare it Good Enough.

Yesterday was spent continuing to get acquainted with my wacom tablet, working on the Illustrator course on lynda.com, and napping, glorious napping. I feel more well rested today. David and I also took photos of some FO’s I need to post, including the sweater I finished at the Visionaries retreat and a skirt I made on the knitting machine.

Today there will be more illustrator class, and writing. I’ve cleared all the nagging UFO’s out of my backlog in the past week or so, but am not starting anything new until the documentation is complete.

We are also having an extreme low tide again, so may take a little jaunt down to the beach with our cameras for that.

Finally, I’ll be taking advantage of David being home to complete the sorting and rearranging of Stuff on the main floor of the house.  The remainder of what needs to be sorted is joint property, and I want to be certain the putting away of Stuff is satisfactory to all. I’m determined the dining table will be empty of clutter 100% of the time. I like sitting here looking out over the bay, and I like having a nice table for eating, rather than plopping down on the couch as has become our habit.

Next up: exercise! Yesterday I had to abort the morning routine after an upper body twisting stretch triggered some sort of stomach spasm that had me heaving for half an hour or so. I’m working on strengthening and mobilizing my scalenes. The stretches I’ve found to help are uncommon yoga poses that I don’t know the names for. If anyone has suggestions, please share.

And there’s a goldfinch on the bird feeder.  It really is spring.


April 27, 2013 - 9:13 am

Morning view

Mornings, for me at least, breed routines. And in the spirit of “begin as I mean to go on,” I’ve been contemplating mine, and thinking what I wish to keep, discard, and add to it.

Life has changed, drastically. I got quiet here, thinking it out in private writing, with friends, and just giving time where time was needed. 

For the second year in a row I was laid off in March, shortly after the whirlwind of the Visionaries retreat and Madrona. I have been wanting to set off on a self-employed path for years, making a living from my fiber arts skills, but not trusting that there was enough of a living there to be made, given my obligations. I remain unsure, but have become more aware that there isn’t a sure path in tech for me, either. The market for PM’s is drying up, becoming commoditized into consulting houses, and generally going away. I have a career shift in front of me no matter what path I choose.

Fortunately I’ve been quite miserly since I moved to Seattle, so I have the savings to sustain me through a change. I had intended to have them as a launching pad for my “downshift” career into fiber, and hadn’t planned to start that until Z was on his own. But life is not proceeding to plan, so I adapt.

I am choosing to make a start on a fiber career, but not in knitting pattern design or teaching at knitting events, at least not primarily. I have two tribes now, my knitters and spinners who are closest to my heart, and my makers who are closer to my spirit. I am a fiberista and a maker. There are enough knitwear designers. I will do some of that because it’s what I am, but I see a greater need for my creativity in bringing an awareness of textiles to the makers. 

I’m still watching job boards and if something amazing comes up I’ll take a “regular” job again, but I’m going to try damned hard not to “Settle.” I’m also letting folks know I’m available to individuals and small businesses as a freelance project manager. If you think you could benefit from a couple hours of talking to someone who is good at understanding a goal and helping people organize their efforts to accomplish it, please reach out. I promise my rates will be very reasonable, especially right now when I’m living on savings. Selling you an afternoon of project management for a week’s groceries sounds like a great deal to me just at the moment!

I have started a new website under the title Hack Your Clothes. Hit the link if you would like to read the FAQ. There’s a blog entry there as well, but I’m going to pull that down and move it over to the Jennigma archives; I want the content at Hack Your Clothes to be spare and focused, not blogish.

Essentially, textiles are one of the earliest technologies our species developed, starting back there with fire and language. And yet, all my smart inquisitive hacker friends who disparage people who don’t know how the electronic and mechanical objects in their environment operate take their clothes completely for granted. They perhaps spout the occasional marketing message about some fiber in their technical clothes or clumsily add blinkenlites to a ready-made garment, but have no idea how to modify clothes to fit them better, fix a ripped up backpack, or replicate a beloved and much battered shirt or pair of pants. I would like to change that.

I’m beginning a crusade to bring knowledge of textile technologies to the hacker community. So far the reception locally has been overwhelmingly positive. I have a tutorial on replicating a tee shirt on deck to be released, pending developing the InDesign skills I need to do a decent job at laying it out. The next tutorial will be on making a sloper from measurements, and then a series of comparisons to explain ease based on the differences between the two resulting patterns. I am brimming with ideas and possibilities for what comes next after that. I am envisioning selling tutorials on the model of knitwear designs, for 5 – 10$ each, with “books” that are collections of related tutorials, and doing some touring to support and promote the tutorials. I know there’s a decent living in this.

At the same time, I’ve started exploring the limits of my knitting machine. I’ve gotten connected with the local arts community, and am making sculptural pieces from machine knitted magnet wire.  I’m turning out knitted garments at an almost alarming pace. I can easily make a sweater in an afternoon, or a pair of socks in an hour. This will speed up my knitwear designing tremendously. I’ve started sketching zentangles every day at http://jenntangles.tumblr.com/

I’m enjoying the explosive release of my creativity, and feeding it actively, as art for art’s sake, and because it nourishes my spirit. This is NOT what I intend to market as a commodity, but what I will create because I love it.  

In support of both Hack Your Clothes and my more free-form creative efforts I’ve bought into the Adobe Cloud, purchased a midrange Wacom tablet, and replaced my old monitor. The last was an unplanned purchase; I turned it on yesterday having not really used it for the better part of a year to find the image was distorted and flickering. It wasn’t just the cable, and it looked the same when connected to two different computers, so it had to go. I bought an ASUS PA248Q IPS monitor on closeout at Fry’s last night after much frantic research, and wow. This may be the electronic gizmo that makes the most difference in my ability to express myself creatively in pixels and print. The color. The sharpness. The nifty pop-up grid helping with alignment and measurement on screen in any application. Wow, just wow. Good tools are so necessary.

I have lots of beginnings in my life right now, but like Shabbat, which is both the most sacred and most frequent Jewish holiday, I think mornings are the most important beginnings precisely because they are a new chance every day to begin. I am focusing first on starting my days well, so that I can be creative and productive. 

Up at 6am.

This is just who I am. It’s actually inconvenient, in a way, because my hackerspace where my tools are doesn’t open til noon, and really starts hopping about 9pm when I should be heading home to get to bed if I want 8hrs of sleep. I will be toddling off to bed like a child worried I will miss the good things. I will need to responsibly parent myself in this- and there will be afternoon naps, I’m certain. But 6am has been my normal wake-up hour for my entire adult life. I can lay in bed later, I can get up earlier, but 6 is what I always return to. If I’m reasonably well rested that’s when I awake naturally every day. So.

Start the tea pot and putter a bit.

I’m actively banishing clutter and organizing our tiny space to be more supportive of both creativity and rest. I’m going through everything on the first floor of the house and determining if it’s useful or beautiful. If not, it leaves the house. If so, it needs to fit comfortably in a place. Things that won’t fit on the first floor are going into semi-storage in the basement. There’s a big pile developing down there for me to organize.  The basement is as large as the first floor. It is well lit and comfortable. Half is utility space- laundry, heater, tools, workbench, and storage.  The other half is a rec room with couch, tv, exercise equipment, and workout mirror, and a third space by the door that opens to the outdoors I’ve reimagined as a library, with comfy chairs and bookshelves. 


Just 5 minutes. Sit and be still in body and mind. Let my tea cool.


This is going to be blogging, generally, going forward, with a side of daily task list making. I want to share my journey, even though that’s a bit uncomfortable for me. I far prefer living like the wizard Oz, hiding the work behind a curtain and only sharing the finished products and cleaned up flashy bits, but I think it will be good for me and for others if I bring the mechanics of ordering my days out into the light. So. I’ll drink my tea and clatter away here at the dining room table, looking out over Elliot Bay and the city.


This isn’t a big long workout, just the strengthening and stretching I need at minimum to keep my body moving comfortably. I’ve found an ap, PT Timer, which I’ve programmed with the things I want to do every day. It starts with some favorite limbering up yoga poses, then some neck and shoulder stretches for ongoing management of my old neck injury, some strengthening exercises to manage my more recent knee injury, and some core exercises, ending with wall sits.  Ow.  It’s about a 20 minute routine. It may start with some extra free form yoga or expand from the 20 minutes, but those exercises are necessary.


Hot and healthy, every day. Generally oatmeal and pre-cooked turkey sausage. For years I have made a vat of oatmeal with vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, a bit of salt and some brown sugar every other week or so and put it up in single serving containers. I pull out the container, nuke it, sometimes add some fruit, nuts, or milk for variety. Some days I cook a one-off meal like french toast with bacon and fresh fruit, chocolate chip pumpkin bread, pancakes, waffles, etc. Generally that only happens on weekends, as relief from the monotony of oatmeal and sausages. Most of these exceptional breakfasts have been shared in recipes in the past here on the blog.


This is the one thing that doesn’t have a firmly fixed place in the routine. Sometimes I shower at night and skip it in the morning. Sometimes I wake up sweaty and want a shower Right Now. Sometimes it’s after exercise. Generally it’s after breakfast. 

That’s it. After breakfast it’s no longer “morning,” and I’m not setting a fixed daily routine for the rest of the day. I need to let my days flex around the tasks I have to accomplish. I’ll be sharing goals here and progress against them. Most of what I described above has been my routine for years, but it hasn’t always been ordered and formalized. Bits drift in and out.

The job at Archer had more going out than coming in, because I had to be online at 6 – 6:30 talking to my Polish developers, and then at the office by 9. In the two weeks since that ended I’ve bounced back to the rut of my older habits, which is generally a good thing. I want to take active steps to establish what I need to be well, body, mind, and spirit. So. 

I’m not setting durations for these activities. I’m usually done by 7, and virtually always done by 8. Today the puttering was 45 minutes and the writing has been almost an hour, so it’s 9:30 and I still haven’t made it to exercise. That’s ok. I have a routine that can be completed in an hour, or can flex to allow what is needed. The important bit is the sequence and the flow from one to the next. Wake-up. Start tea. Putter. Meditate. Write and drink tea. Exercise. Eat. Perform ablutions somewhere in there. This is the best order of operations for me. 

My goal is to move from one thing to another without sinking into the couch and getting sucked into knitting in front of the tv, or some other sort of puttering. Those activities are fine as a break in the afternoon or in the evenings when I need some unfocused time to rest; I have in the past fallen into the trap of driving myself every moment of every day and I know well that’s not a healthy way to be. But mornings are best for me when they are focused and active.

And so I begin. Again. Every day. And now I’ll be sharing my daily beginnings with you, gentle readers. 

My Seattle

April 1, 2013 - 8:49 am

One of the things David and I most enjoy about Seattle is the beaches at extreme low tide. Having the beaches readily accessible is always a pleasure, but at low tide it’s like we get a glimpse into a whole other world.


There are strange creatures,


beautiful, ordinary forms,


and interesting juxtapositions under rippling water,



or above it.


I love the reflections of the cityscape on the sandy flats,



and the casual grandeur of the mountains.




Sea birds wander around and poke at stuff,


and so do we.


Mostly I love having a family to share it with.


The only thing missing from yesterday afternoon was Zachary. Next weekend he’ll be with us, and hopefully the weather will be kind to us. This weekend was beautiful, with a clear blue sky and a comfortable warmth. If not, the following weekend we’re heading to Florida for spring break which should be delightful.

The Good Life

March 31, 2013 - 11:12 am

This was my afternoon yesterday after I finished my taxes. Lazy sunshine with my cat and Sivia Harding‘s Harmonia’s Rings.

And this was my morning today, sketching, fresh baked chocolate chip pumpkin bread, and tea.

This afternoon we’re going to the farmer’s market, and then to shoot pictures during an extreme low tide, and the evening will be spent at Metrix playing with robots.

Life is good.

Weekend Fiber Chores

March 4, 2013 - 8:05 am

Between Madrona and the Visionaries retreat and it being February and therefore generally kind of a low energy time, many chores were left undone. This past weekend was a time for catching up. In addition to the mundane kitchen cleaning and floor vacuuming and laundry mountain, I sorted and washed a second fleece for Deb, and David & I tossed our stash.

The stash toss involves a sunny spring day that’s not too breezy, and dumping all the yarn out on a sheet on the porch, sorting it into categories, inspecting for pests, and then putting it back away.

From this:

Stash toss 2013

To this:

stash toss 2013

And then all back into boxes with new labels. This year we divided it by weight, by fiber type, and by whether we loved it or merely saw it as useful. A special category was made for “souvenir yarn” which is yarn we don’t expect to knit but reminds us of places and times, or is the scraps and remnants from memorable projects. We also sorted out a bunch both in the “love it” and the “useful” categories that would be good machine fodder.

More than half of the yarn is in the “useful” category. I believe that’s going to be moving to Metrix and be sold by the ounce to folks who want to start fiber projects there. Where I’m going to start teaching regular classes and hosting a regular fiber craft night shortly. But more on that later.

The fleece sorting was cut short by a breeze picking up and clouds rolling in. Not much to detail differently from the last operation, except that there was only minimal sorting this time. There was a bit of wool in the bag from the britch, which ordinarily I would have skirted but Deb asked for it to be kept:


The fleece is white. No really. even though it looked like this fresh out of the bag:


It has the same pattern of not having guard hair on the center back as the other fleece I processed for her. I sorted the neck wool into two bags and the back wool into two bags and the britch into its own; don’t remember the tie colors offhand but I’ll note them later. The rest all went into unmarked bags.

ETA: The blue tags are the neck wool, with wool that had more guard hair in one bag and wool that had less in the other. The yellow tags are the back wool.  The red is the britch.

Here’s a picture of it drying in the sun:

Fleece drying

See? white!!

And an obligatory cat in the sunshine picture:

Fleece drying

For those who asked about drying racks, I’m going to be making a second one probably later this week, and will blog it. If you’d like to follow along at home you will need:

  • A wire mesh shelf you don’t mind destroying:
  • 4 48″ shelf bracket strips:
  • A bunch of zip ties that will fit through the slots on the shelf
  • wire cutters or scissors to trim the ties

See you then!

Danger, Will Robinson

February 28, 2013 - 1:05 pm

Looking at the site in the new digs I realized it was slow. After a bit of poking about I realized the old theme was complex and the source of much of the slowness.  I went looking for a light, quick theme and found one in “Cleanr.” It’s fast and attractive, but it’s just a little too clean. Needs some life, and spice.

I have ideas for making a site that fits in with the fiber career I envision for myself, so I’m poking about in theme editing menus trying to wrap my rusty brain around unfamiliar code to do things like see an image *AND* the blog title in the header. And these red dates have to go; clearly they should be purple. I’m trying to limit the time I spend doing this instead of, you know, making stuff. We’ll see how that goes. But on the good news side of things, Myrtle’s back.

BizCardSheep 300pix

Rejoining My Tribe

February 16, 2013 - 7:38 am

For the past week and a half I have been by turns deeply engaged in conversations with knitting designers, working flat out at my job, and collapsing unconscious. I’m full to overflowing with inspiration and ideas, and the intention to carry this forward into action.

First was the Visionary retreat on San Juan Island with Cat Bordhi and twenty-odd knitters who were drawn together by her for the better part of a week. We discussed our individual ideas as well as plans for collaboration in the upcoming year. It was intoxicating; I may hav OD’d on creative inspiration.

The time was made even more amazing by the Lakedale Lodge location, and the cooking of Deb Nolan. The only way I can thank these people for my time in that place is to follow through on the work they have enabled and inspired.

Anyone who wants to make or take a retreat in the Pacific Northwest should consider Lakedale. It’s sumptuous, with a delicious breakfast and a variety of accommodations ranging from hotel-like with fireplaces and jacuzzi tubs to detached cottages with full kitchens, fireplaces, and a shared hot tub to (I understand, though I haven’t seen them) tent cabins and camping spots.

It’s just disconnected enough to make access to the outside world inconvenient. Email gets through in the lodge house, but web surfing is extremely slow. It’s possible to take care of essentials in this connected world, and access needed online resources, but in the inviting surroundings and amazing company the lure of the Internet dims to a minor annoyance. Perfect for a retreat.

There is a lake, with swans and diving ducks. There are the beautiful towering trees of the Pacific Northwest sheltering the enchanting mosses and plants of the understory. Walking, or just being outside is a sensory delight. I gush. I drool. I dribble. Would that I could spend a week a month there.

Deb’s cooking. If you ever have the chance to experience it, say yes. She delights in cooking food that is not just delicious but also healthy and nurturing for the people in her care. She is mindful of dietary limitations, and makes sure there are delicious options for all; in fact most of the meals she prepared were gluten free and largely vegetarian to support those of us with limits, but she fed us in a way that didn’t feel limited. Beautiful and delicious food that drew raves from everyone. Again with the gushing and the drooling. I wish I had thought to take photos of some of her meals.

Cat is inestimable. Many knitters have had the pleasure of taking classes form her; probably most of the knitterly folks who will see this post. She is a dynamo of inspiration; she spins through the world throwing off sparks that set fire to imaginations. I have been feeling a bit dull and drab for months now, without ideas or even desire to find ideas. I stopped writing in my journal, stopped spinning, all but stopped knitting. I felt empty.

Now I am awake and alive and in touch with my creativity again. The only words that come close to expressing how that feels are: “Thank you.” Dearest Cat, You have returned me to the core of my self, lit and nurtured my creative spark, and turned me out into the world inspired to share the light you’ve awakened in me. I didn’t know how much I needed that this year. Thank you, thank you.

And let me not forget to thank the generous and inspirational yarn donations from Claudia’s Handpaints, Blue Moon Fibers, and Vain. I will need to blog about them later, but I’ll add one teaser pic. I have a new mitt pattern completed and mostly written up from Claudia’s yarn, two more in development, and one from Blue Moon. Did I mention overflowing with inspiration?


But the Visionary retreat was only the beginning. After a few days being distracted by that work I do for money, it was time to come to Madrona.

I’m writing this on Saturday morning from my hotel room, with two more days of wonderful awaiting me. I will be taking spinning classes from Sarah Anderson and Amelia Garriopoli; sadly I will not be taking my scheduled classes from Jacey Boggs due to a death in her family. I’m looking forward to learning wonderful stuff, and having my spinning inspired as well as my knitting.

Right now though, the classes feel like a distraction from the community I’ve been savoring since Thursday night. Being with my tribe is something hard to explain. I suspect those of you who have communities that come together for gatherings a couple times a year understand. every moment is precious. Sleep is an annoying distraction. There is not enough time, there is never enough time. Things are left unshared, connections missed, plans fall through and time is so short. I have two days left and it doesn’t feel like enough; I’m already thinking forward to Black Sheep, and maybe Rhinebeck this year.

But it is enough, and more than enough. I’m full to overflowing with plans and ideas. I have found my heart and center again, and am determined to follow through. I’ve set some goals and they feel attainable.

Last year I was gifted with a Surprise! sabbatical immediately after this time, and the opportunity to do whatever I wished for a while drew me away from my plans to create in fiber. I learned about 3D printing and met a local community who have become my friends and had glorious adventures, but I lost this. I am back now. There will be more. Fiber is where my heart lives, and this community is my tribe.

Home Making

April 4, 2012 - 6:32 am

Making a home is about telling a series of stories.  Creating little vignettes like, “The travel mugs should go on this shelf here next to the sink, where you can easily grab one and go” and “I want that painting hung here, where I can see it when I’m working, and that other one over by the treadmill, so I can be inspired by it when I’m working out.”

The longer I’m at this moving and reintegrating my life game, the more of this family mythos I build up.  One of my earlier bits is the “sharp things drawer.” All of the kitchen objects which are not knives but have sharp edges or points go in the same drawer.  The family knows when they want skewers or a pizza cutter or a potato peeler to look in the sharp things drawer.

When we move into a new space it’s not a question of figuring out where the potato peeler goes, we determine where the whole drawer fits.  In this house it’s above the tea drawer, which in turn is above the bags and wraps, which is above the glass baking dishes.  In the last house those drawers were mostly the same, except the bottom drawer held the tea towels and pot holders. In this house that drawer makes more sense in the stack of drawers with the flatware, junk drawer, and kitchen gadget drawer, because of the positions of the oven and sink.

This house is smaller than the previous one having two bedrooms instead of three and generally a smaller footprint, and far smaller than the rambling old 5 bed 4 story affair I owned in Philadelphia. That house had far more space than we had stories, and entire rooms went weeks without a person crossing their threshold. But this house is enough space, and has such a glorious view.


It’s lovely all day long, and at night is breathtaking. It still catches me by surprise every time I notice it, and I always find something new when I look, in the way the current is moving in Elliott Bay, or the configuration of the clouds and sky and mountains. I hope that never stops; if I ever start taking this for granted I’ll know its time to move again. I find that hard to imagine however, since after two and a half years I could still find new things to notice out the office window overlooking my garden. Right now there’s a tug slowly pulling a barge. The clouds are low and ominous, obscuring the top of the sky scrapers. Dawn was a non-event this morning; no paintbox colors, just a slow transition from dark to dim.

The big new story I’m telling in this house, though, is this one: “I’m a fiber artist.” When I made the last home I was a knitter, and set up the space for that, but I wasn’t yet at the point of creating with the art. Now I’m planning a book and have written patterns and am looking forward to a time when I can support myself with this pursuit. I’m introducing myself to my neighbors as a fiber artist. I’ve set up my primary workspace with the fiber tools integrated into it, instead of relegated to the basement. I’ve always favored an L-shaped desk, and the return here is my sewing table. To my right is my primary spinning wheel. My drum carders are on the shelf above the desk, and the tech books are on the bookcase across the room.

I’m using the space to tell a new story about who I am. This morning, surveying my space and watching the water taxi carrying David to work, I am very much enjoying this new story and looking forward to what comes next.

Weighty matters

September 6, 2011 - 3:37 pm

First, hat tip to Ragen at “Dances with Fat” for reminding me to separate shame and judgement from my body’s current shape and size. She advocates the Health at Every Size philosophy.  I tripped over her blog a couple months ago, and have been reading and enjoying it since.  Something I read this morning in my pre-caffeinated state started me cogitating on not being at my desired level of fitness at the moment.

I don’t know if it’s weight that does me in specifically, although that can’t help. Particularly given the arthritic spinal injuries I have to manage, losing weight would empirically reduce the force gravity can apply to my damaged joints, and I expect that would help.

However, I KNOW exercising is critically important to feeling well, at least inside this skin I’m inhabiting. I’ve felt awful at my thinnest adult weight and fantastic while carrying around more than I have going on right now. Fitness level seems to be a better predictor of wellness for me than weight, and every time I’ve had a substantial weight loss it’s been preceded by an increase in my fitness level.

Dieting, if I’m not already aerobically fit, is a recipe for feeling awful.  When I’m in good enough shape that I can tackle a 5-10 mile hike over moderate terrain and expect to feel energized at the end rather than terrible, it only takes a little nudge to my diet to get me losing weight.

I know I need to exercise.  I’m not getting the exercise I need.  I’ve lost the fitness level I had built up when I moved here from Philly.  I don’t like huffing when I have to carry a 20 lb bag up a hill.  I don’t like the aches in my feet and legs that I know will go away if I use them more regularly.  I’ve been feeling bad about my inability to exercise, and getting angry at myself, but it hasn’t been helping.  I’ve just gotten into a downward shame spiral with no bottom.

So, thanks to Ragen, I was doing some soul searching this morning.  Somehow I let go of the usual “I’m not exercising because I’m a lazy lard bucket and I need to fix that NAO” language, and took a moment to think about why I haven’t been exercising.  I realized the issue is competing priorities, and the priorities exercise is competing with are legitimate. They include keeping my job and sleeping.

The times of day I do best exercising, historically speaking, are times when I need to be at work. I’ve always been a morning person and exercise has best fit in my schedule first thing after getting up. The other time that works well is lunch time. Neither of those are viable since I work east coast hours from the west coast.  Exercising before work would mean getting up and going by 4:30 am, and that’s never going to happen.  Exercising at lunch time would mean missing the 3-4pm hour out east, which is the cherry meeting time.  That schedule block has been filled on my calendar every day for 7 years.  I need my job.  Generally, I like my job.  Having this job means I have to find a different time to exercise than I’ve ever been successful with in the past.

The time I’ve been trying to make work is after work, in the early afternoon. This has always been an energy low point in my day, and since I started working early mornings I’ve taken to frequently napping in that time slot. In the long run exercising instead will increase my energy level, but on any given day I may be experiencing a legitimate sleep deprivation, and I will always be feeling tired.  Particularly if there’s something I would like to do in the evening I may have a legitimate need to nap, since I don’t want to konk out on friends at 8pm just when we’re meeting up to do something after dinner.

I have more understanding of my difficulties exercising after looking at my decision making process objectively. I need exercise, but I need sleep and a job too. Making priority calls between them is tough. It’s not surprising I’m having a hard time getting regular exercise to happen, given this priority conflict.

So I don’t know how to solve it. But at least now I have more insight into the problem I’m trying to solve, which helps tremendously.  Somehow approaching myself gently with understanding feels so novel.

Today I was in no mood to hop on the treadmill after work.  But I did feel like garden puttering, so that’s what I did.  Instead of getting frustrated with myself for not wanting to get on the treadmill, I went out and watered and weeded.  Light aerobic work, but more than I would have gotten had I napped.  After the gardening I felt like continuing to move, so did some yoga and pilates.  Nothing rigorous enough to break a heavy sweat, but enough to get my heart rate and respiration up.

It’s a step.  I am content with that.  Tomorrow I’ll take another one.

%d bloggers like this: