Sunday, March 28, 2010

tools of the trade.


Old spindle (top), new spindle (bottom).

starter fluff

Starter fluff (left), souvenir fluff my sister brought me from Spain (right).

expensive fluff

Beautiful alpaca fluff that I got for Christmas the year I got the old spindle, that I am afraid to touch because my current efforts at spinning (not pictured) aren't so good. Srsly.

So I got that first bottom whorl spindle a few Christmases ago, and tried to use it without much success. This weekend my LYS is having their spring sale, and they had these pretty pretty top-whorl spindles. I had to buy one and find out if I'd have better luck this time around. I used this video tutorial to get an idea of the motions, and I managed to get one little 6-inch piece of roving to turn into something resembling yarn...but of course the twist came right out as soon as I set it down. I think I used too much roving, as the resultant yarn was pretty thick.

I so want to get the hang of this and spin my super lovely alpaca roving! I know a lot of it is going to come down to simply practicing. A lot. Any tips, spinners? Do you have a preference between drop spindle spinning vs. wheel spinning? Are the yarns the two methods produce really different, or are they two paths to the same end? Is one easier to learn? Halp!

Saturday, March 6, 2010


I am boring this week. Here are some things that other people made.

- A post on how to wash woolens at Exercise Before Knitting. Useful!
- Pretty pink flowers at We Heart Yarn.
- Scientific cookie roundup!!! at Craftzine.
- Comfiest looking socks ever at leafgreen knits.
- Companion cube crafting! Any other Portal fans out there? I've been wanting to make my own companion cube for a while...
- From Craftzine, Ira Glass (from This American Life, which is available on Netflix instant play, by the way, and also on iTunes as a podcast and which I love to pieces) talks about improving your craft. So applicable, and relevant to my life right now. Transcript below, because I really, really loved this and am probably going to play it every morning for myself as a meditation, or something.

"And I really wish somebody had told this to me, is that, um, if you're watching this video, you're somebody who wants to make videos, right? And all of us who do creative work, like, you know, we get into it, and we get into it because we have good taste. You know what I mean? Like, you wanna make TV because you love TV, you know what I mean, because there's stuff that you just love. Okay?

So you've got really good taste and you get into this thing that I don't even know how to describe but it's like there's a gap. That for the first couple years that you're making stuff, what you're making isn't so good, okay? It's not that great. It's, it's really not that great. It's trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it's not quite that good. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, your taste is still killer. And your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you're making is kind of a disappointment to you, you know what I mean? Like you can tell that it's still sort of crappy?

A lot of people never get past that phase. A lot of people, at that point, they quit. And the thing I would just, like, say to you with all my heart, is that most everybody I know who does interesting creative work, they went through a phase of years where they had really good taste and they could tell what they were making wasn't as good as they wanted it to be, they knew that it fell short. And some of us could admit that to ourselves and some of us are less able to admit that to ourselves. But we knew, like, it didn't have this special thing that we wanted it to have.

And the thing I would say to you is that everybody goes through that. And for you to go through that, if you're going through it right now, if you're just getting out of that phase, if you're just starting off and you're entering into that phase, you gotta know that's totally normal.

And the most important possible thing you can do is do a lot of work. Do a huge volume of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week or every month you know you're gonna finish one story. You know what i mean, whatever it's gonna be, like, you create the deadline. It's best if you have somebody who's waiting for work from you, somebody who's expecting work from you. Even if it's not somebody who pays you, but that you're in a situation where you have to turn out the work. Because it's only by actually going through a volume of work that you're actually going to catch up and close that gap, and the work you're making will be as good as your ambitions.

In my case, like, I do a national radio show, right, like, I make my living at this, I've made my living at this for a long time, and, um, and, you know, won the Peabody award, and won all sorts of prizes, like, 1.7 million people listen to our show, and, um, and they listen almost to the entire show. People love our show, right, the show that I make with my coworkers. So I'm in a place where I'm done, right, I've mastered this thing.

But I gotta tell you, like, I took longer to figure out how to do this than anybody I've ever met. I'm gonna play you a clip of tape from my eighth year. Like, I started in public radio when I was 19, at NPR's network headquarters in Washington, so big news organization, had a really, like, peachy set of jobs, and I was always a good tape cutter, but I was a horrible reporter,. I was horrible at the thing that you're setting out to do with these video pods. So this is a tape from year 8.

[plays clip, rips on self]

So this is, like, year eight, I'm 27 years old and this is happening. Like, I'm not a beginner, I'm deep into it. And I guess I'm saying: it takes a while, it's gonna take you a while, it's normal to take a while. And you just have to fight your way through that. Okay? You will be fierce, you will be a warrior, you will make things that aren't as good as you know in your heart you want them to be. And you will just make one after another."

True story, no? Heading off now to improve my craft.