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Spinning For Socks: Why?

Socks are a great way to use your handspun yarn, and a great way to push your boundaries in spinning and acquire new skills. A pair of socks isn’t a huge and unwieldy project, and the commitment to knit them isn’t tremendous — but they’re varied and versatile. There is no one canonical way to make socks happen, no single set of attributes that make for the ideal pair. As a wearer of socks, you probably have several types — and if you’re a knitter of socks, “several types” may be an understatement. Those things said, though, we can make a few generalizations about socks.

1. Socks must stretch sufficiently to allow them to be pulled on over wider parts, and then once in place, settle down and fit snugly without leaving excess fabric to bunch up and get uncomfortable.

2. Socks are a structured, fitted garment; they need to retain that structure in order to work well as socks.

3. Socks are ideally not itchy and scratchy. Nobody likes to have irritated feet.

4. Socks need to be able to breathe; hosiery which doesn’t allow for air movement can compound, or even cause, all sorts of discomforts and woes.

5. Socks are commonly worn with shoes. In fact, it could be said that socks function as an important buffer between foot and shoe, protecting both from interacting in such a way as to potentially damage each other (say, by keeping shoes from chafing or blistering your feet, and keeping skin oils and so on from piling up in your shoes). As such, socks are subject to wear and tear often not encountered by other fitted garments.

So, then, we need sock fabric to be stretchy, but still bounce back; stable enough to hold its structure; not itch or irritate, and allow air and moisture to pass through; and we need the fabric to be able to take a beating from friction.

To address the first elements — stretchy and bounces back — we choose a knitted fabric, or sometimes a crocheted fabric, over a woven one. Knits are, by and large, the stretchiest fabrics. Knitting or crochet allows us to address structure by using numerous different sock designs, shaping that fabric as we create it, incorporating the structural elements into it from the ground up, rather than by cutting and seaming as we might with other fitted garments. Doing this creates a finished product which doesn’t have the same weaknesses as a garment whose structure and fit come from cutting fabric and seaming it up, and this helps with our final point about taking a beating.

In between those things, we have a lot of room to play with materials in order to address points 3 and 4 — not being scratchy, and being breathable and comfy. If we’re looking at commercial sock materials from the mill, we now have an incredible range of options, sock yarns of every imaginable variety, yarns that aren’t billed as being for socks but make great socks anyway, luxury fibers, rugged fibers, blends, you name it. The modern day is a sock yarn buyer’s paradise. So why, then, would we want to bother spinning our own sock yarn? Especially, some might say, when we know that these are going to be garments that will be subject to lots of wear and tear. Why not just buy sock yarn and be done with it? Why invest the time?

Well, here’s the thing. When it comes to producing yarn, absolutely nothing is faster than the mill. But that doesn’t mean what the mill produces is actually better — it’s just faster to produce, viable to sell in large quantity, and thus readily available and easy to replace, and as a final result, cheaper. It definitely saves you time to simply buy sock yarn.

Of course… it would save you even more time to simply buy socks. And you know, that might be good enough — in the same way it might be good enough to buy a ready-made birthday cake already decorated, or a shirt that fits great except for the sleeves being too long (but you just roll ’em up so it’s not a big deal). Truly, it is good enough, which is why most people do, in fact, wear machine-knit, mass-produced socks.

This is where my mother would point out that her father never did; he would only wear the socks my grandmother knit for him. Mere storebought socks, he insisted, were a clearly inferior product. Mass-produced socks wouldn’t fit just right, wouldn’t wear well, suffered premature structural failure due to cost-cutting measures like seaming up toes instead of grafting, and weren’t even really worth repairing given the quality of materials, the likelihood of repeated failure, and the frequency with which repairs would be required.

You have to understand that my grandfather, a Cold War era nuclear physicist, was the kind of guy who took a methodical and scientific approach to everything in his life — I have no doubt that he performed extensive and rigorous testing in order to reach these conclusions, likely even documenting his process and presenting his evidence to my grandmother when determining he’d only wear handknit socks. This was a man who explained his beliefs about table manners to me with a discourse on the economy of motion as applied to eating. If you knew Clark, you knew that if he made an assertion, you could take it to the bank.

But I digress! I’ll take it as a given that those of us reading (or writing) this piece will accept handknit socks as high-quality and worth making and wearing. By extension, then, it is reasonable to propose that handknit socks should be made with the absolute finest of materials — at which point we must question whether mass-produced yarn is, in fact, the very best thing available for socks. My grandfather would tell me that I need to draft, then conduct, an experiment using good scientific method, then make my findings available for peer review, in order to determine this for sure, but I’m going to make simple assertions based on my own body of anecdotal evidence instead.

I said earlier that you can’t beat the mill for speed and volume. And that’s true; you can’t. However, you can beat it for quality, and here are a few reasons why.

Durability isn’t a mass-producer’s first priority. Hey, everybody knows this. If you’re in the business of selling something you manufacture, you want to be sure you’ll be able to keep selling it. If you were producing something which never wears out, then once everyone has bought it, your sales dry up; you need people to keep buying it, which means it needs to wear out.

Unparalleled excellence isn’t a mass-producers most essential goal either. A mass producer does need to have a product of sufficient quality to make you want to buy it, and it needs to cost less to buy it than it would cost you to make it. But that’s as good as the product needs to be. It is prohibitively costly to routinely exceed your needed quality guidelines as a mass producer.

Given sufficient market saturation, mass-produced goods own the market entirely and hand-produced goods don’t compete. Mass-produced goods are faster, cheaper, easier to come by, and good enough. Since you can get replacements easily and cheaply, you don’t care if it doesn’t last forever. In a very practical sense, it really doesn’t matter.

Large scale production finds savings in economies of scale. But what does this mean for yarn? Well, for example, getting more yardage from less weight of fiber means you make more money from the same raw materials. However, getting more yardage from less weight of fiber doesn’t necessarily mean a superior yarn for all purposes. Using less twist means the equipment spends less time producing the yarn (and lower-twist yarns tend to contain less fiber as well, actually) — again, this doesn’t necessarily mean a superior yarn.

Actually, for sock applications, it pretty uniformly means an inferior yarn. Less fiber in the yarn, and less twist, both mean a yarn that is more prone to wear, by pilling or shedding fiber and becoming threadbare. Such yarns will often tend to be less resilient as well, and prone to losing any elastic qualities more quickly. For lots of purposes, this really doesn’t matter, but I maintain that for socks, it does. If I’m going to handknit socks, I want them to last longer than storebought socks, and be worth repairing, and for it to be possible to repair them.

Now, mind you, there are mill-produced sock yarns out there which posess superior wear properties; but unfortunately many don’t. As a sock knitter, you may have experienced this, where some socks lasted really well and others were thrashed the first time you washed them. When you’re buying yarn, you’re at the mercy of the market choosing your materials; but when you spin your own, you are in complete control of these quality elements. What’s more, learning to spin your own sock yarn, and becoming familiar with how it feels and behaves, enables you to very quickly assess mass-produced offerings and predict how they’ll wear — a benefit to you even if you don’t always spin your own sock yarn.

Speaking of being at the mercy of the market, how many mass-produced sock yarns can you name that are made from blends of merino, silk, and angora? What if you wanted some? Supposing you found it, do you like the colours, and is it the right gauge for the socks you want to make? No? Well… why settle? As a handspinner, you could have exactly the yarn you want, produced on a one-off basis for just this exact pair of socks you have in mind — and you can rest assured it’s produced to the specifications you want. And you can have it in the quantity that you want.

Coming from the flip side of things, what if you have just a few ounces of a fiber you really like, but you aren’t sure what to do with it? Well, socks are a great and flexible project that doesn’t use a ton of yarn (and therefore doesn’t use a ton of fiber either). Consider spinning sock yarn. Even if, in the final analysis, you decide you don’t want socks from that fiber, then there are a number of other things you might do with sock yarn — and people who’d probably love to swap you something else for it (the yarn world isn’t exactly devoid of sock knitters, after all).

So now we’ve covered “why spin sock yarn!” Tune back in soon for more in our series about spinning sock yarn. Next up: colour!

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Art Yarn, Novelty Yarn, Spinning With No Purpose In Mind, and Emotional Yarn

From time to time, people ask me this:

Is it true that you hate art yarn, and process spinning?

Categorically not.

What I’ve said is that I don’t personally use a lot of novelty yarn, and consequently do not produce it. One of the things I’m trying to get at with a lot of discussion of this subject is that by and large, I think most spinners tend to produce yarn that is what they are interested in using. In this day and age, one thing that tends to draw people to spinning is the ability to produce something that you can’t simply buy. What that product is, specifically, will vary, as will the reasons you can’t just buy it. Often, once folks have tried their hand at spinning, they find it’s just as addictive as whatever yarn use initially caused them to give it a whirl.

Not all my spinning, by any means, is spinning for a purpose; but I do often answer questions about how to do it. I spin plenty of yarn just to spin it, with no greater sense of direction than “This fiber would make a delightful laceweight yarn,” or “This would be a really fun single with flashes of silk, for a felted project of some kind maybe,” or “I think I’ll try this way of using colour that isn’t what I usually do.”

Let me liken this to music. I enjoy music tremendously, both listening to it and playing it, and sometimes talking about it as well. I harbor no illusions whatsoever that I’m a brilliant musician, that I’m worthy of gigging or recording or winning a Grammy or anything like that; but I absolutely do like to go sit on the front porch with my guitar (well, not in this weather) and play and sing, and I enjoy when that can be shared with other people as well, listening, singing, playing, however. And in order to be able to do that, I have to have at least minimal competence. I need to be able to tune my guitar; I need to physically be able to execute the hand movements that result in playing a song; I need to know how the song goes, at least to some extent. Learning the changes of a 12-bar blues progression didn’t make me unable to have fun or jam or play the guitar — it freed me up to be able to do things with it that provided a huge range of new challenges that are substantially more enjoyable, not just for me but for anybody in earshot.

Yes, sometimes I sit down just to aimlessly play my guitar. Sometimes I’m actively practicing or learning a new song; sometimes I’m playing a requested tune for my son; it varies. But across the board, the acquisition of skill and knowledge enhances each of those experiences for me. So that being the case, I think it’s hard for me to relate to people who do not enjoy learning new things or who seem not to want to progress in their abilities. For me, something like playing music, or spinning yarn, is not really a passive activity. It’s not like watching a movie, or listening to the radio — it’s something in which I’m an active participant at the very least.

So, do I ever sit down to just spin the fiber however it tells me to? Absolutely, and I do pay attention to the fiber. Sometimes, I’ll think “This is going to be a thick yarn, and fuzzy” and it turns out when I get started that, no, it’s just not working right that way, and I have to rethink it and spin it finer. Or maybe it’s the other way around. It really depends. I don’t always sit down to spin, with a specific project in mind; but I do tend to document that stuff more, for reasons which seem totally obvious to me: I don’t need to track the more impromptu stuff, really, and I tend to find there’s more value in documenting the stuff that I want to be able to repeat, or tell someone how to do. But the vast majority of my yarn wasn’t spun with specific projects in mind.

I spin a lot of yarn, though — really, a lot. And I make a lot of things with it. My home — and at this point, arguably the homes of my extended family and close friends — are filled with fiber stuff I’ve made. I spin so much yarn that there’s really no way for me to simply treat a skein of it here or there as a decorative element; the truth is that in the entire house, the only rooms without my handspun yarn in them right this second are 2 of the bathrooms. I think. There are at least 5 skeins of yarn on the kitchen counter, 8 on the dining room table, my skeiner’s in the living room and the loveseat’s covered in yarn, there’s a spindle with yarn in progress tucked in a bookcase, a huge box of fiber in a corner, another spindle with plying in progress tucked in next to the TV, more yarn on the bookcases in the dining room, a skein drying in the main bathroom, the electric spinner on a living room bookcase, my ball winder set up on the coffee table… and that’s just one floor of the house, and it’s the least yarn-covered.

In other words, if there’s a free surface in my life, odds are very good that it will be, in short order, taken over by a fiber-related project. And when those projects are done, they move into utilitarian functions in the house more often than not. So I guess you could say that I do, in fact, decorate my house with yarn… just not as directly as I think is proposed by folks suggesting the use of yarn as a decorative, sculptural element, as a piece of artwork to be considered finished as it is. I love yarn, and I love it in yarn form, but one of the things I love about it is its potential. For me personally, it has to have that potential to really speak to me. I have a harder time forging an emotional connection to a yarn whose use potential isn’t readily, viscerally apparent to me.

Often while I’m spinning, my mind will wander, in all sorts of ways, but commonly, to thoughts of what this yarn might become. As the fiber flows through my fingers, as the greedy twist devours it under my careful guidance, I ponder the socks it might be… or is it a sweater? Perhaps a hat. Maybe it’s just going to be yarn.

Over the past few months, in odd moments here and there on the phone, I indulged myself in spindle-spinning some Peace of Yarn “hyperfine merino,” on my Kauri wood Bosworth top whorl spindle. I spun it fine, and smooth, and slow, just to savor the spinning of that fiber with that tool. I did the same carefully winding it off into tiny little balls, and then winding those together into a two-stranded ball, and then again, when I plied it (slowly, again on the Kauri wood spindle). And then I skeined it, washed it, measured it. It’s 254 yards from 8 grams; that’s about 14,400 yards per pound.

I love the little skein. But let’s be honest: what the heck do I think I’m going to do with it? I don’t know now, any better than I knew while I was spinning it. The entire exercise is pure indulgence. The odds of me functionally, realistically doing anything with it any time soon are… slim. If I’m smart, I’ll give it to someone who does do things with yarn like that. But you know, I probably won’t; I’ll probably let it sit here on top of my computer monitor where I can stare at it and fondle it and pet it and think meandering, silly thoughts about it, possibly for years. Like I say — pure, aimless indulgence.

By contrast, if a master spinner of novelty or art yarn were to sit down with a goal in mind, with a particular objective, and sample and test and swatch and experiment and develop specific techniques to achieve his or her end, the yarn thus produced is far from purely indulgent. It’s a labor of skill and artistry and technique. It is then the purpose-spun yarn while my little lace yarn is the shallow indulgence.

What I’m getting at here is that you can’t judge a yarn by its most salient surface characteristics alone, you can’t judge a spinner by an individual yarn, and in any case, you can’t easily categorize all this stuff. Sure, you can measure and describe and take pictures and talk about technical data but that’s still only a fraction of the whole picture, and it doesn’t cover the emotional attachment you may — or may not — have to the yarn you spun.

A little while ago, I gave away some yarn to which I’d been very attached. I spun it for a purpose, years ago. I think it was 2004. It was a blend, of very fine merino dyed with cochineal, with tussah and bombyx silk, tussah silk noil, and camel. It was in my favourite colour red. Tweedy, lofty, soft, it looked like a brick wall. I think there were about 1200 yards, and I had spun it to be a lacy cardigan for me. That yarn survived many things with me, lived with me in three different homes, moved across the country with me, changed careers with me. The bugs I dyed the fiber with were from my father’s secret stash of cochineal, from a bag my mother let me pillage after his death. The camel was from just about the first camel fiber I ever had. It was just about my most favourite and most emotional yarn that I’d ever spun. And that cardigan I dreamed of, that I spun it for, would have been my favourite sweater, I was sure of it.

The thing is… I kept not making the sweater. I don’t know why. I really, really don’t. And then there I was, looking at my personal stash and trying to pick a thank-you gift to send a fellow yarn lover (who has a far better track record for knitting project completion than I do), when my eye fell on the brick yarn. Right then, in my heart of hearts, I knew what I had to do. I had to part with that yarn. I had become too attached to it. I had reached a point where I couldn’t seem to use it; and having reached that point, it was like I had killed the yarn. No, really! If I’d never use it, then I was robbing the yarn of its potential. I was sentencing it to a fate of nothingness. Everything that it could be, it would never be, if it only sat there in my personal stash doing nothing, being nothing. If I truly loved that yarn, I realized, I’d let it go and send it to a home where its odds of being something were greater than they clearly were in my home.

This experience opened my eyes to something I hadn’t fully registered was true about myself. Even though I’m a stasher, even though I’m a pack rat, even though I keep some things forever… it seems I believe it’s morally and ethically wrong to have yarn I know I’m not going to use. I still haven’t entirely sorted this through, but I think it has to be related to why I don’t spin much novelty yarn or art yarn, even though I’ve enjoyed learning various techniques for doing so and even like many such yarns when other people spin them. I think perhaps I can’t make myself spin them, or can’t make myself want to, because viscerally I believe I won’t find a use for them and that’s cruelty to yarn.

Do I think anybody else ought to feel that way? Nah… I’m not the arbiter of anybody else’s yarn ethos. But — and this is the funny part — I want everyone to have a yarn ethos. I want everyone to have strong feelings about the subject, and I abhor yarn apathy and yarn nihilism. I want people to feel things about their yarn (and their textiles at large), and to recognize that they do. I want there to be favourite t-shirts, and best interview suits ,and threadbare comforters you can’t let go, jeans you’ll patch forever because you’ll never find another pair like that, wedding dresses saved forever and baby socks that bring a tear to your eye just to see how small they were, scarves you made when you were 12 that you still wear at 30, uniforms you wouldn’t be caught dead in if they didn’t pay you, the way the smell of wet canvas makes you remember that one summer… strong feelings about your textiles. That’s what I believe in. And the only people to whom I really don’t relate about it all are the ones who just feel no such connections or emotions, to the yarn and fabric in their lives. That’s never going to be handspinners, whatever they most like to spin. So I don’t hate any of it, at all. I’m just passionate about my yarn ethos and, apparently, incapable of comprehending people who aren’t similarly obsessed.

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You know, I think I will.

Ellen is always offering me some of her northern Illinois snow. She knows full well that, after part of my childhood in rural New Hampshire, and my early adult life in Chicago, this is a brilliant wisecrack and an offer which I’ll never take.

Except… maybe I will. Our weather lately has been so strange; huge thunderstorms, tornado warning, tornadoes the next county over, floods, mudslides, and so on that I’ve found myself thinking, you know, a foot or two of snow might be preferable.

Yesterday, I couldn’t see the back fence (some 30 yards away) most of the day through the downpour. All the drainage areas around the yarn were running like little rivers full of muddy rainwater; the pond across the road, typically a foot or more below its banks, looked like it might overflow at any moment; our storm drain, near the mailbox, was totally overwhelmed and water was higher than the culverts on the ditches near all the driveways. In my office, at the northwest corner of the second story of the house, high winds would hit, slamming straight into that corner, the corner right in front of my face while I’m at my desk. The house would creak and moan, and my breath would catch involuntarily at the thought that I was a whole two feet from that bluster and pounding rain. The noise of it drowned out all my usual background noises. The manchild ran up from where the bus dropped him off at the end of the driveway — 100 or so yards — and came in the door quite sodden; Wednesday, early release day, I always forget that.

There I am, beating my inbox with a stick, eyeing the corner in front of me and checking out the window to see the rain mercifully slowing a bit, while my better half is in his office on a work conference call, and our oh-so-grownup son plays video games in the living room — and POP! Silence.

“Blackout,” the boy hollered. But this was starting to get old hat now; it’s the third one in the past 10 days or so. We’ve got it down to a science now; everyone’s got flashlights in arm’s reach everywhere, and besides, it’s about 4 in the afternoon this time, so it’s really not dark. Although this did mean it wasn’t easy to see how far off the ights were out, which as luck would have it, would now otherwise be possible since the rain had slowed enough to restore moderate visibility.

I pulled out my cell phone, found the slip of paper in my wallet on which I had — one of the last times — written the electric company emergency number and related info, and called it in to the automated line. I contemplated putting it on autodial or something, but with it being a phone tree, there’d be a lot of pausing. Besides, surely this was the last time I’ll be calling for a while. I kicked myself for thinking that thought. I know better.

Unlike the past times, there had been no reports of outages in the area of the service address. I’d have panicked for a second except for two things: I’ve pathologically checked the balances every time I’ve called about the past few outages, and chances are I’m the only weirdo to put all the relevant info on a slip of paper just in case after the last couple of times. Clearly, I was just the first one to call in.

I went to go tell Chad the score… whose conference call had moved to his cell phone. Good lord. I went to grab my knitting. What knitting? Well, the project I started in the first blackout, when I realized that colourwork by flashlight was really not fun.

My eyes are definitely too old for that. If you curious what that’s all supposed to be, I did use the flash.

Who knows when I’ll finish that hat now; as noted, I had to start a new project because of that; one that would be easier to work on in poor light. Which for some reason I figured was alpaca/silk lace on size 2 US needles. Hey, it isn’t colourwork, right? But sitting by the back door in what light was coming in, it dawned on me that my eyes may be getting old for that too.

Just my eyes, you understand.

One of the things I’ve always sort of enjoyed about power outages is the silence. This time, though, there wasn’t a lot of that; there was more throwing of paper airplanes, and bored ten-year-old. Which is where it first occurred to me that snow might be better. Snow comes with “Wouldn’t you like to build a snowman?” while a drenching downpour and 45-mile-an-hour winds comes with “Let’s get you out of those wet things, and good thing we have a propane stove in a power outage.”

“Just crazy weather,” I said.

“Yeah,” the boy said. “Or maaaaybe… you didn’t pay the power bill!”

“Hah,” I said. “Parents are deep conditioned to do that, first of all, and second, think that and check on it the first second there is a power outage. Which is why you know to say that.”

“Maybe it’s the zombie apocalypse,” he suggested. He’s recently become interested in surviving that.

“Not a chance,” his father replied, free at last from conference call, work day forcibly over. “We can tell because we’re listening to NPR and it’s the same as always.” If it were truly the apocalypse, we explained, the radios would go silent and the lights wouldn’t be coming back on. Edward pondered the implications. “No more video games, then,” he said glumly, imagining it.

“More importantly,” said his mother, “No washing machine.”

“Why is that so bad?” he asked. Hah. Clearly, I’ve ruined this boy. I bit back a rant about when I was a kid and we lived in rural Peru and you didn’t even have running water in the house, while Chad pointed out the flushing toilet would also stop working.

“Yeah,” I said, “But having lived without both, I’d miss the washing machine more.” We all talked about that sort of thing a while, while Chad cooked pasta for dinner in the failing light.

Lifestyle is a funny thing. I’ve lived, entirely content, without electricity and running water. But I don’t want to do it in my modern American home. I don’t want to do it in a family of only three people, far far from others. I don’t want to do it considering the lifestyle I’ve built for myself now, which is totally dependent on electricity. I don’t want to do it without really fabulous oil lamps to light up my handwork, dammit! Reading and sewing and so forth by candlelight is a massive drag. And I hate washing laundry by hand and outhouses are a total drag in bad weather and geeze would I hate to be nagging the kid about the chamber pot.

Remind me to call my mother up and tell her she’s a saint, I was an ungrateful wretch, and she’s right, someday I’ll thank her, and that day is today.

The cell phone came out again, and I checked back with the electric company. “Estimated time by which power will be restored is 8:40 PM,” I reported. Mmmm, yay.

It’s amazing how much technology there is in a house nowadays. When the power comes back on, the servers all have to be brought back online, for cryin’ out loud. The phones have to come back up, and the satellite stuff, and the desktop computers, and a half-dozen clocks reset, and make sure the garage door works, and… geeze. I love it, and I hate it, and it’s part and parcel of the modern lifestyle I lead.

If you’ve tried to reach me and haven’t heard back, drop me a line again. It seems to be drying out a bit today, so I’m hitting the post office, restocking on candles and batteries, and doing laundry in a panic so if, in fact, it is the apocalypse soon, at least I’ll have clean pants.

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So, what does a decade do?

Well, here’s a photo from ten years ago, right about now:

That small, red-faced fellow was, well, small and red-faced, and a few hours old. And his dad could finally hold him too.

There were these massive thunderstorms promised and flood warnings and all kinds of things, and my mother made it in a few hours later, right before lots and lots of flights were cancelled. The boy was born at home in the middle of the night, after less than 3 hours of actual labor; ever the all-or-nothing kid.

The manchild’s grandpa Ed came too, briefly, a little later, and sat with us doing what he always did…

(he’s spinning silk)

There were massive thunderstorms, and floods, like I said… and in the back patio, the calla lilies bloomed. Calla lilies always make me think of the boy being born, now.

Soooo tiny. Even tiny feet.

Now, his feet are the same size as mine, which means I’m permanently out of socks, because he steals mine and then wears them outside with no shoes and ruins them. His shoes — which can generally be found with ease by tripping over them on the stairs — are the same size I’ve always had to buy my Chuck Taylors in.

He stands to my shoulder. He is 2.82 times taller than he was 10 years ago today, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but when it’s the difference between “20.5 inches” and “4 feet 10 inches,” it’s a lot.

He is like his mother, and his father. He reads all the time, is stubborn beyond belief, obsessive about his interests, and cannot imagine why other people don’t share his passions; perhaps if they were just told more about them? He’s outgoing to a fault like his mother, but at times, like his dad, he’s his own best company. He’s too smart for his own good, and he has no clue when to shut up. I’m no help there at all.

Happy birthday, kiddo. I’m super proud of you.

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Make My Day, eh?

This has been kind of one of those mornings. The manchild didn’t want to get out of bed, which means I got to start right out nagging, before I even had the coffee started, and the whole morning process was behind schedule and time felt pinched and everything. I felt like I was wading through Jell-O getting him a quick breakfast made and my coffee brewing and continuing the delightful motherly nagging at which I’ve grown so skilled: Find your jacket! Are your shoes on? Do you have your backpack ready? You have to go down to wait for the bus in 2 minutes. Okay, now you have 1 minute. And so on.

That’s when the thunderous crash from upstairs happened. I’m hustling the kid out the door, knowing if he doesn’t walk out the door in 45 seconds he’ll miss the bus and I will then be forced to drive him, which sucks, because all I really wanted was to take a shower and there won’t be time, and what DID crash upstairs? Oh geeze, I hope the cats just knocked a thing of laundry soap off the washing machine. And the manchild can’t find his gameboy. “It’s charging in the truck,” his father reminds him from the top of the stairs, “because you forgot the charger at your grandparents’ house,” while I’m saying “I can’t find it right now, you need to leave without it so I can see what the giant crash was,” while my better half says “I already took care of it,” and the boy says “No, that’s my DS, what about the gameboy?” which amazingly, Chad knows is in the kitchen with the Mad magazine, and he hands it to him, and the kid heads out the door with me hollering HAVE A GREAT DAY AT SCHOOL HONEY! and thinking about my now-cooling cup of coffee back in the kitchen.

The crash was the humidifier, filled with water, being knocked over by the cats, and broken. This is a catastrophe on many levels and it’s entirely possible that eventually today I’m going in search of a new one. Along with going to a bookstore if the books I ordered for the manchild’s 10th birthday don’t arrive today. Plus work. But not till after coffee, a shower, and more coffee.

This moment, of course, is when I realize that I, master of my laundry destiny, She Who Controls The Flow Of All Textile Objects In Our Life And Orchestrates The Schedule Of All Of It So That There Are Always Clean Socks, have somehow allowed a situation to arise in which all of the pants which presently fit my enlarged butt are dirty. There is no one to blame for this but myself — for the state of my laundry and the state of my butt and the state of my wardrobe since I refuse to buy myself more fat pants than I already have. Yes, my routine was thrown slightly off course due to the incident in which the light bulb exploded in my hands and rained broken glass and who knows what else into the basket of clean Mom clothes, but that was at least a week ago. I knew full well I had an untenable laundry situation and I did not remedy it.

More coffee then, and work, while the laundry launders and I dream of clean hair, remind myself I’ve lived far rougher than this, and start deleting about a thousand stray pieces of spam that showed up overnight in my inbox. Mmmmm. I take a moment to mentally rant about how back in the day, those of us who cared about anti-spam stuff said that, oh never mind. What’s the use? That battle was lost more than a decade ago and the computer professional Abby has recovered. More coffee, and a dozen actual emails answered. My horoscope says “Dress sharp, keep your eyes open and don’t hesitate to make the first move as the week begins.” Gee thanks! Maybe I could be said to “dress sharp” by donning jeans which might have broken glass in them (and that don’t fit right now anyway).

**** brief intermission ****

Right, and so there I was, writing that last paragraph, listening to my fat pants in the dryer, when I was informed someone would be stopping by the house in about a half an hour. Now you find me clean, but in too-small jeans (I think I’ll skip lunch. I wouldn’t be able to breathe if I ate it anyway, not in these jeans. I don’t know what I’ll do about leaving the house; it’s not gonna happen in these jeans either). Perhaps “dress sharp” means “dress such that you feel a sharp pain in the waistband.”

In any case, there I was feeling quite Mondayed, when I learned that both Janel and Julia have listed me as a blogger who makes their day! Er… their days? Is it the same day in question, or a different day for each of them? Argh! Each of them says I make her day (take that, inner grammar cop! I’ll show you!) I’m stunned, and touched, and I wonder, today of all days, what were you guys thinking? I mean, Janel, you’ve got no end of incredible projects you take well in hand and just make happen; you amaze me. And as for you, Julia, you’re another one of those people who leaves me awestruck, being someone who can host fashion photo shoots and 6-year-old birthday parties with equal grace and style, and actually FINISH things, and look great in your handknits… wow. Janel and Julia, if I make your day, I can only surmise it’s because, especially on a Monday like this, you’re looking at me, laughing, and thinking “There, but for the grace of God, go I — I could be an unshowered, behind-schedule harried mom yarn nerd with no clean jeans.”

So I’ve been thinking all morning about who I’ll name as bloggers who make my day. Quite honestly, and though I’m sure everyone is saying it, you all do; every member of the blogging community, which is much more of a community than I’d have thought it was, functionally speaking, when I first entered into it. There’s no way for me to pick just 10 people; none. So here’s a few, and if it’s more than 10, well, tough! I’m going to try to name a few folks who I haven’t seen named yet, and who consistently help me through those mornings like this one was.

Amy, Boogie, The Spunky Eclectic has been making my day since before either of us were really doing this blogging thing, and she has been a valued member of my online world for quite a few years now.

Sara Lamb is an instigator, a pusher, an enabler, and the owner of a fabulous dry wit. She simply Does Things.

Ellen is another friend of several years in the online world, someone who is always quick to remind me that I absolutely can do what I set my mind to, and who could perhaps be accused of kicking the odd soapbox out right in front of me so I’ll accidentally step up on it and start ranting.

Deb Robson is one of those people who just… makes things happen. I suspect she might argue with me about this, but she’s one single individual without whose efforts vast amounts of fiber lore would have been lost entirely over the past few decades. She’d probably say “Oh, someone else would have done it,” but I don’t think that’s true; and in most cases, if they had, they wouldn’t have done it as thoroughly and as well and with as much love and dedication, as Deb has. And does.

Elizabeth I would never have met if it weren’t for blogland. She’s down-to-earth, and real, and I know she totally understands why it is I have to crank up the loud AC/DC in my car, and then turn it up again, and again, and if she were sitting next to me and I had to peel out from a stoplight just this once, she’d understand. I know she would.

Amelia and I are evil twins. Seriously, we’re both the evil one. But in a good way.

Carol blows my mind; she’s real, she’s tough, she lives with her whole heart and soul and puts her money where her mouth is.

Ted sent me a wonderful gift recently, which gets its own blog post momentarily. Of it, he said, “For a minute I worried about sending you a handspun handknit gift, but then I thought, maybe a lot of people think that and so you don’t get many and you might like one.”

Jenny makes my day often, and she especially made my day with her Ode to a Low Whorl recently.

Cassie knocks my socks off; again, a doer and achiever and wonderful human being who I’d never have gotten to know if it weren’t for blogland.

I heart mamacate, and keep taking too long to respond to her emails and so on. Like, really too long. Like a year too long. And she has the absolute most fabulous “about” slugline ever: “A blog to serve the needs of the infertile lesbian fiber arts breastfeeding parents of twins community, particularly those who are left-leaning democrats employed in research and education. Don’t all comment at once, we don’t want to crash the server.” Sing it!

Lastly, I feel I should close with a confession of sorts about blogland. Are you ready? Okay, here it is.

When my online friends started reading blogs and whatnot — and I was a little late to reading blogs, since I was doing 800,000 other online things — they all started reading this one by some Canadian knitting chick. And all 100-zillion of my online friends would keep emailing me, catching me on IRC, finding my livejournal, sending me AIM messages, or talking to me in person to say “You should read her blog! Omigod! You’d love it!” By the time the first half-trillion people had said so, I had a mental image built up in my mind of some phenomenon like that dancing baby thingy, or the chain letter joke list that got forwarded to me 800 times by every person who’d just gotten email the first time, or the alleged macarena craze. So I totally blew off looking at that blog. Because, I mean, whatever. Whoever this chick was that had this huge mass of fans, just… whatever. I totally didn’t care. Big deal. Dancing baby! Macarena! Shut up shut up!

Time went by, and people got more and more into her blog. I mean, it was just nuts — people were crazy about it, and they’d start quoting this chick, and doing what she said, and I just kept thinking, “Oh, whatever.” And then this one day, somebody, somewhere, told me that said blogger did not advocate the darning of socks.

“What?” I said, aghast. I mean, handknit socks — save them! Learning to darn is also useful, and it’s not like it’s hard, and there’s a skillset there, and… what?

“Yeah,” whoever it was said, “She just says to throw the socks away, because darning is stupid and pointless and a total waste of time.”

Well, that was it. That was the absolute last straw for me. I wasn’t having it. “Well that’s it,” I said, “I’m going to go right over there and I’m gonna give this wool floozy a piece of my mind! Does she not realize that, as a person who apparently has the attention of scads of people becoming interested in the fiber arts, she has a moral obligation to, well, to not tell people to throw away their easily repaired handknits, at least? That’s it! I’m going to go kick her butt!”

So I did; I stormed right over there (well, you know. I was really vehement and vigorous cutting and pasting a URL into my web browser, muttering under my breath and thinking just what I was going to say) and read the post someone had told me about where this fiber trollop said to just throw out your socks — and as I read it, well, I was shocked. And horrified. I mean, I was utterly aghast. The more I read, the more appalled I was.

You see, the article didn’t say anything of the kind.

Nope, it was light-hearted, and this chick was poking fun at herself over her sock mishap. Nothing, NOTHING AT ALL suggested that simply throwing out a handknit was the way to go, or that darning was stupid and pointless.

So, there I was with a great head of bluster and steam built up, based solely on third-hand hearsay. The horror that crept over me could best be described as me thinking, “Oh my god! That poor woman! I even believed this totally false thing that pissed me off about her, and I’m a seasoned ‘net skeptic!” I didn’t know what to say. I did know I felt stupid and guilty. Surreptitiously, I started reading her blog, as if in some way that counted as an apology. Bit by bit, I realized that here was a woman committed to her obsession — one she and I had in common, which is to say, “stuff that has to do with yarn.” And beyond that, she was clearly and visibly committed to the notion that yarn dorks are a community, and yarn dorks online in particular are a powerful community. To my shock, I realized that I actually… I actually… I might LIKE this woman.

Eventually, I met her in person, and you know what? In fact, I do like her. We could totally hang. And — and this is the point of where I’m going with all of this — it’s true that I’d likely never have met her if it weren’t for blogland, but even more importantly, if I hadn’t taken the time to actually go read her stuff, if I’d only listened to the buzz, if I’d just read the occasional thing in a magazine, or her books, I would have had all kinds of misconceptions about her and never gotten to know the actual person. And that’s what makes blogland really cool: it’s not all edited and streamlined and produced cleverly and structured neatly and whatnot. Instead, it’s people. You really can just hang, and that, most of all, is what makes my day.

Thank you all for hanging with me, even on Mondays like this.