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So I just did this thing

…this crazy thing, where I got up in the morning and got in my car, drove less than an hour, ate breakfast at a nice breakfast place, and then went and worked all day, with a break at lunch. Then, at the end of the day, I came home to my house, where my family and I ate dinner, and now it’s a regular evening and tomorrow I get up and do it again.

Now, I realize that a lot of people do this all the time. In fact, I once did something like that all the time. But in my current job, I think it’s a first. Usually, when my work day is done, I’m someplace that isn’t home and will eat at a restaurant and end up at a hotel. Or else I’m at home and doing regular in the studio type work. So this was very different. I’m liking it.

Anyway, so what I was doing is teaching Andean backstrap weaving for a group of folks gathered together by Karren Brito of Entwinements, at the Weaver’s Guild of Miami Valley. It’s a great group of folks and everyone really hung in there today. Can’t wait for tomorrow. Also, it’s neat to be at home and able to do things like say “Ooooh yeah, I’ll bring that to show you tomorrow.”

Perhaps I will even remember to take a picture.

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It’s Friday. Let Me Ask You A Question.

So a while ago, my better half read me a story from some web site, involving some survey that was taken regarding what modern conveniences without which people could not live.

Household discussion ensued, much of it centering on the question of “couldn’t” vs. “wouldn’t want to.” For example, I really wouldn’t want to live without electric light in this day and age. However, the absence of electric light doesn’t mean I would flounder and perish. Refrigeration makes an enormous difference in my quality of life, but I’ve also lived without it and while every Ohio summer would likely make me want to live elsewhere if there were no cooling technology and refrigeration for food, it’s not like it would be impossible. And yet, things like “air to breathe” and “the sun” are kinda… well… no-brainers. So they don’t really need to be on the list.

At a minimum, I believe in always having a blade and a means to make a fire. Some hardcore survival type folks also say “cordage,” but as to that, I’m generally unconcerned — because I have the ability to produce cordage from practically anything and because the odds of me being somewhere without yarn or yarn-related stuff are pretty much zero — although it’s a very, very good idea if, you know, you’re not a human textile mill. Anyway, those three things make just about everything else possible, so that’s why I’m never without a blade and fire. Unless, of course, I’m on an airplane, which really bums me out, because the scenario I always believed in being ready to handle was surviving a plane crash in the middle of nowhere.

But I digress. All of that is survival; but what about quality of life? What 5 trappings of the modern (not necessarily totally industrial) world would I really rather not have to eliminate from my day to day existence? Is it the Internet? Telephony? Global shipping? Air travel? Fast food? Nah. Here’s my list of five things, and I’d love to hear yours.

#1. Sanitation. This is not purely an industrial thing, but 20th century sanitation, man, I’m telling you — I have lived without it, and I have missed it. This is a really serious quality of life issue all over the world.

#2. Antibiotics. Dear Antibiotics: I owe you my life, many times over. Thank you.

#3. Dentistry. I mean, I guess it might not matter without the first two, considering life expectancy would also be short, but as much as I hate going to the dentist and all, I have all my teeth save one, and that one’s got a fancy implant you can’t even tell isn’t a real tooth. Teeth are awesome. Modern dentistry keeps them. Win.

#4. Refrigeration. Dude, you do wonders for food, and also make cold beer possible year-round.

#5. The washing machine. This probably changes if I don’t have a child, but the amount of time the washing machine saves me is… it’s… it’s just staggering. I’ve lived without this technology (and without access to laundromats, for instance) and handwashing all your clothes and bedding and household textiles is a lot of work.

So what are yours? Let’s hear it!

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So, I was torn. On the horns of a dilemma. But then it solved itself and I’m almost disappointed.

A mass email to parents went out from my son’s school, asking for volunteer speakers for career day. For the first four years we were in this district, I always volunteered and would take some hands-on activities, and they were always well-received by the students and the teachers. But then last year — the manchild’s first year in junior high — I volunteered within a couple of hours of that email going out, and quickly heard back from the guidance counselor: “Thanks, but we have enough volunteers!”

And then for weeks after, there were further emails from the principal saying “We don’t have enough volunteers!”

So, I mean, to me that said the guidance counselor looked at my description of my job, and thought, “Ew, yarn, boooooring.” And at first I was disappointed and maybe even a little indignant. And then I was self-critical (but constructively). I spent a bunch of time thinking about… lots of stuff. Like how to describe what I do so that people are less disbelieving that it’s a career, or how to sound at least as interesting to a junior high guidance counselor as “I’m a hairstylist” and “I’m an insurance agent.” And for the past year, I’ve gone back and forth in my mind about those questions, and whether or not I’d volunteer again this year, or just blow it off.

So here I was this morning, looking at the email requesting volunteers, trying to decide… when I actually looked at the date for career day, and realized I’ll be out of town. Working. At my career. Which on the one hand, is terrific validation for the fact that this IS a career, but on the other hand, means I definitely don’t get to do battle with apparently-entrenched guidance-counselor disrespect for whatever it is he thinks I do. So, dang. Like I say, totally mixed feelings.

But still, I think there’s a lot that’s relevant to career day discussion — because I’m self-employed, and have to hustle, and I created my own job, you know? So maybe I’ll ponder it all again next year, with the boy in high school. Or maybe not. So I guess I’m still torn.

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Class List, Fall 2011

I’ve updated my class list for Fall 2011 and beyond (to get to the most current class list for all eternity, click on “Contact” and choose “Class List”). There are a few new offerings so I thought I’d tell you about them, and where they come from.

First, the new or revised half-day classes (3 full hours of class time).

Many spinners enjoy using their spindles to produce singles, but find themselves turning to their wheels when they want to ply. Learn techniques and tricks to make plying easier, faster and more portable with your spindles, and how to achieve several plying structures (as well as why you would want to). A basic low whorl spindle and fiber will be supplied, but students are encouraged to bring spindles they love and spindles they hate. Not suited for absolute beginners; you must be reasonably comfortable with spinning singles.

WHY: Because there’s never enough time on this in half-day or whole-day spindle classes. I always wish there were more time. And not everybody taking a general spindle class wants to learn about plying yet. Usually, we get to this part of the class, and there are 3 or 4 students who really want to learn to ply with their spindles… and everyone else kinda skeptical. But for those who do learn functional spindle plying methods, it’s a huge change for them in their spinning. So it deserves its own class.

What’s wool, what’s silk, what’s cotton, and why does it matter? What’s a protein fiber? How about a bast fiber? Is alpaca really hard to spin? Or was that cotton? What fibers are advanced and what’s good for a beginner? What fibers are environmentally friendly? What’s a natural fiber and what’s a synthetic? Where do these things come from? What are they good for? Get an overview of the properties of a various types of fibers, how to work with them – and hands-on instruction in working with each one.

WHY: Well, this is your garden-variety “try lots of fibers” class. It’s a great fit for festivals and for shops, and a fun class for any spinner who’s interested in branching out a bit. It’s a shortcut to being knowledgeable about lots of kinds of fibers, without a lot of trial and error.

What’s the difference between top and roving? What the heck is sliver? Is cotton sliver different from silk sliver? Are there regional differences or debates about what things are called? What’s a rolag? What’s a puni? What does it mean if roving is pin-drafted? How can I tell if something was drum carded? What’s a batt and how should I spin it? What’s the difference between carded and combed? Do I have to do something to this fiber so I can spin it? Are there some fibers you can only prepare one way? Does it matter if it’s machine prep or prep by hand? How can I tell if this fiber is good? Do I need to have hand cards and combs? In this class, you’ll spin multiple kinds of roving, sliver, top, batts, rolags, punis, locks, and more, and you’ll learn why preparation matters to both your process and your product.

The partner class to Fiber Basics; these two are aimed at giving an advanced beginner what he or she needs to branch out into lots of kinds of fiber.

What’s a cabled yarn, and why would I use one? We’ll spin and ply 4 different cabled yarns and answer questions you didn’t even know you had about this versatile and powerful structure. Not for the brand-new spinner; must be comfortable with spinning and basic plying.

WHY: Because a piece of feedback I get regularly in the 3-day intensives is “I wish there had been more time on cabled yarn.” So here’s a half-day class on just cabled yarn.

Many spinners, even seasoned spinners, hate doing joins. Some will do anything to avoid them, and that itself can create problems you don’t realize are there. Not a class goes by but what I hear people asking for help with joins, so here’s a whole class about them. Woolen joins, worsted joins, joins when plying, joins from the fold, joins with wool, silk, cotton, synthetics, joins at the wheel, joins at the spindle, slow joins, fast joins, strong joins, weak joins, troubleshooting your joins, joins joins joins. So much amazing joining action you’ll be left saying “I’m not even sure that’s a real word anymore… join? It just looks funny, I’ve been thinking about it so much.” And you’ll know why that matters.

WHY: Because I’m mean and want to walk around a class full of students, breaking their yarn over and over again to see how long it takes till someone gets mad. Just seeing if you’re paying attention.

These are the ones that can be either; there’s more covered in the full-day version.

Do you have a project for which you’d love to spin, but you don’t even know where to start? How do you figure it out? Then once you think you know where to start, how do you make sure you actually hit the mark? How do you get it all done and stay on track? How much fiber do you need? How can you be sure you’ll end up with enough yarn? What if you don’t? If you’re looking for answers to these questions, or just that kick in the right direction to take on a planned project, this is the class for you.

WHY: To teach a basic framework for starting to spin for projects, in a day or less. Meaty class, fast-paced, not for the faint of heart, this one is pulled out of the material covered in a three-day spinning for a purpose intensive.

Are you stuck in a comfort zone you can’t escape? No matter what you do, do you just keep ending up spinning the same yarn over and over again? Is it you, or the equipment, or the fiber that makes that happen? What else is out there? Is it overload when you even try to think about what to try next? Are you stuck with stash you don’t dare spin because you’re afraid you’ll ruin it because you’ll just do what you’ve always done? Did you hit a wall working towards a specific goal? Do you just want someone to make you try something new, that you never would have thought of, that you can’t make yourself try, that might push you to a new level you didn’t expect? Well, bring it to this class, and we’ll take that on in an exciting and diverse hands-on seminar.

WHY: I’ve been proposing this half-jokingly to students in my classes… but it turns out I’m not kidding! This topic comes up over and over again, and it really is past time for a class dealing with the subject.


These are 3 hours in the morning, a break for lunch, and 3 hours in the afternoon.

And a few other arguably juvenile party games – except with spinning. Do you have a secret spinning shame, and you want to admit it and find a way past that? Or maybe a pet peeve that nobody understands, and you want to work through it? Are you afraid to try spinning something totally unlike your personality? What spinning thing wouldn’t you even try unless someone double-dog-dared you? I have a few ideas up my sleeve. This class grew out of informal things that happen before and after classes at retreats and festivals, combined with in-class exercises that people find themselves coming back to for years to come. For years, people have said “I wish there were a full-day class in doing this variety of stuff,” and so now, there is.

WHY: Because, dude. Because. If you have to ask…

You can’t spin much yarn on a spindle; wheels are faster. You can’t spin fine on a bobbin-led wheel. You can’t spin thick with a spindle. You can’t use handspun yarn for warp, especially not if it’s singles. You have to spin the opposite direction to crochet instead of knit. Chain-plied yarns are inherently weaker than standard 3-ply yarns. You can’t blend short and long staple fibers. Have you heard any of these? Do you have others? Well, I tell you what: let’s put these to the test.

Same thing. If you have to ask… then you probably also don’t want to know that with these two classes, if ordered in advance, you’ll be able to get a wiseass t-shirt. You know, something like “I played party games with Abby and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.”

So that’s it for the new classes, I think. It’s only a fraction of what’s on my class list, and I haven’t even touched on any of the 3-day intensives (though I don’t think there are any new ones this year).

I do have a lot of requests for “technique classes,” and I’m currently evaluating what most people seem to think that means… including what *I* think it means, because in some ways I’m not a big believer in rigid technique. And sometimes I feel like single-technique classes aren’t enough bang for the buck. But I may not be the best judge of that. So if you have a specific technique you’d like to see me do a class in, now’s your chance to tell me what it is. Between mid-December and mid-January, I expect to be doing a little more development in my holiday down time, so expect a few more new classes added to the lineup sometime around February.

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So while I was at Rhinebeck my menfolks had to take my cat to the vet. She came home with mega antibiotics and a date with the kitty dentist to deal with an abscessed molar. Ugh. The poor girl. She’s now had that molar out and is winding up her time with the antibiotics in another day or two.

I don’t think any of us are going to miss “drug the cat” from our to-do lists.

I was by the Golden Lamb last night. We just happened to talk about dates for Stringtopia 2012. We may even have settled on some. Shelly and I may even be talking with instructors about their availability.

Registration starts today for the DFW Fiber Fest. You can find me there in March 2012.