Saturday, January 31, 2015

Am I a hoarder?

Last night I finished reading Jo Maeder's "When I Married My Mother," a poignant memoir of a woman who changes her life to care for her aging mother who was a hoarder. The tale is of human frailty and extraordinary kindness. It was a warm and thought-provoking book.

Then today I walked into my workroom. It is still being organized, but I had reason to see progress since the beginning of the year. I have organized the stacks of fabric destined for a yarn-related project and consolidated my kumihimo supplies. Those balls of crochet cotton that I use to trim swaddling blankets for babies aren't put away yet, but they're in one place. 

Two stashes, however, are seriously out of control. One is roving. I have a plan to decrease the Coopworth, Tunis, Dorset, Romney, Alpaca, and Merino roving and combed tops by make spinning a priority and scheduling  regular spinning time. So far, I've been pretty compliant with the plan.

The yarn stash is another problem. And it's a huge one. I see beautiful yarn and although I swear I'm not buying any more until I use some of my stash up, I continue to fail. And fail miserably I do. I am a complete and total sucker for the stuff.
So it is no surprise that I have found a boat load of lovely yarn.

Some is really, really dated. I have yarn that I dyed with marigolds to make my daughter an Aran sweater when she was four. (She's now ten times that.) And I have Falkland Island Aran-weight yarn that I bought in in England in 1982 just after the British-Argentinian stand-off. As I think about it, I'm giving myself a point for not having any yarn from the first sweater I made my husband before we were married.

But it's a fact. I have way too much yarn. I know it and I know I must either attack or divest. I've been working to impose some order by cataloging my stash on Ravelry in the hopes that if I know what I have, I'll be better able to plan and carry out the project. (Of course, I can't remember what project I had in mind when I bought the yarn, but that's beside the point.)

I have made progress, but today while tidying I noticed a small wooden box made to hold 10 pounds of potatoes that my father made. And, yes, you guessed it. It was full of yarn. 

When I opened that slanting lid, it hit me hard: OMG! Am I a hoarder?

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Settling into new routines

It's been three full weeks of Saturdays. Three weeks of mostly driving M a little crazy as my comings and goings interfere with his regular routine.

I telecommuted for the last 18 years of my work life--first to a Minneapolis office, then to one in New York. Except when traveling for business, I was home. And that was most days. M was retired all of that time, so it might seem that there was a comfortable routine. There was, but working from a home office meant that I was pretty much tied to my desk upstairs most of the day. Except for lunchtime, the downstairs was his.

Now I'm in and out and up and down as I try to impose some sense of order to household items and to my 'stuff." And there is a lot is 'stuff' that was set aside for when I would have the time to pursue those interests. That time is now. Even on days a nap sounds delightful, I rarely am able to mirror his routine and fall asleep in the afternoon--downstairs, of course.

I admit to impatience and some frustration. I want spaces clear of clutter. Realistically, I know that is not possible in three weeks time, but that doesn't mean I don't long for it.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Inspiration plus

Last weekend was the fifth annual Vogue Knitting Live in Manhattan (VKL) and my daughter and I were there for our third time. Starting in October, I anticipate the show. One, I can spend time with my creative and interesting daughter away from the distractions that make up normal days in each of our households. Two, I can explore new techniques and learn new skills from world-class fiber artists. And three, I always come away inspired.

We take the train into Penn Station early Friday morning, stay one night in the hotel and return Saturday evening. It's a good formula for travel and maximizing time at the show.

Our first class on Friday was with Franklin Habit, a man of many talents who is also an excellent instructor. I love texture in knitting and twisted Bavarian stitches add one more way to achieve surface interest. Because the underlying structure is sturdy, I can envision a beautiful sweater jacket using the technique.

We carry our lunch so are able to take part in a lunchtime lecture and make it to an afternoon class without standing in line or running to a food truck. This year Arne and Carlos shared their experience building a fashion knit business by modernizing traditional Norwegian patterns and designs. Ironically, they report that Norwegian customers have been less inclined than others to purchase their wares.

We split up on Friday afternoon with K doing entrelac while I explored felting with Karin Skacel. What a fun afternoon playing with fiber! Felting using the ArtFelt product, which feels somewhat like Pellon but is soluble in hot water, offers a drastically simpler way of felting. A week later and the ideas are still bubbling through my brain.

All day Saturday was devoted to the fundamental math of sweater design. Unlike a prior year's course that claimed to provide insight (and failed), this one rocked. We knew there were standards, but have never found them all in one place. Patty Lyons pulled it all together. I think I finally get it. If you are ever offered this course and want to understand the underlying math and standards of sweater design, tI definitely recommend it!

The classes aren't the only sources of inspiration. The exhibits and the marketplace are two must-do's at VKL that continue to grow larger each year. An expanded marketplace is good for Vogue's bottom line, but it also means that suppliers are seeing the show as a place to be and be seen. Their numbers continue to grow. That's good insurance for a continuing show.

First, the marketplace. The fact that it was on two separate floors of the hotel didn't seem to deter visitors. Thankfully, we made the rounds on opening night (Friday) and although I didn't purchase much, K and L, my son's lovely partner, did enough to provide me with a satisfying and vicarious buying experience. I returned on Saturday between classes for another look-round, but bailed quickly as the crowd crush was excruciating.

A highlight of the show was the creative exhibits in the open spaces. These, too, have grown in number each year. This year's fiber exhibits were phenomenal ranging from Carol Milne's 'knit' glass structures to a kitchen, including a table and refrigerator stocked with all sorts of knitted food times (at top right), to Lion Brand Yarns' Seven Wonders of the World (at left and right). 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Not today

When I really evaluate my past three weeks since retirement began, I think I've made pretty good progress. But it's never enough for an optimist like me. I am sure that I am overly optimistic--overly optimistic about the size of the job and overly optimistic about my energy to finish it.

I made a master list of what I wanted to accomplish that first week and I must admit that I have definitely made progress. It's just not as much as I had hoped, but it is progress.

Twenty years of squirreling away 'stuff' and not taking time to declutter has created major must-do tasks throughout the house. And one job leads to another. Add to that my inaccurate estimates of time required to complete the jobs on my to-do list. Even with the addition of a 20 percent slop factor, I look back at the week and wonder why I didn't get more done.

My home office, which was command-central during all those years of telecommuting, is more open and less like a woman-cave. I've emptied the file cabinet, purged files, and reorganized the workflow. I've cleaned out two closets, one of which is the linen closet, and a bathroom cabinet. But have plenty more to do.

When I worked, my practice was to touch something once. That's hard to do with projects now under way. Every one of the completed tasks has had a link to another fairly substantial and unfinished task. In reorganizing my office, for example, I consolidated all my family research into one file--but all those papers need organized, too. and that's at least a full day's job.

I still have a lot to do, but if I don't prioritize, I'll only stew in frustration.

My challenge is to focus on the task at hand and leave the related tasks to another day. Maybe next week or the week after, but not today.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Channeling Rumplestiltskin

Spinning came early in my fiber days, but not really the beginning. That credit goes to my grandmother, who was highly proficient with a crochet hook and patiently taught me to crochet. But that is a topic for another day.

My personal interest in spinning dates to a trip to the Southwest in 1968, when  Navajo rugs sparked my interest in spinning, dyeing and weaving.

But please remember, this was the late '60's. There were no large yarn shows, no Internet, no plethora of books on spinning techniques, and I knew no spinners. I was on my own, but with an extremely supportive husband who continues to indulge my interests--crazy though they may seem to most people.

One of my husband's co-workers recalled his family's old spinning wheel that was stored in his barn--and was willing to sell it. It became mine. The flyer was broken but my husband, who is very handy, made a new one and in the process replaced the orifice, which was typical to the wheel and extremely small.

I learned to spin on that wheel using a small booklet. I surely over-simplified the skill set and probably thought that if I channeled Rumplestiltskin, I could quickly master the process of transforming wool into yarn. I didn't know what I was doing, and the old, slow wheel surely matched my abilities. I was sure of only one thing. I needed wool. 

The Ohio Woolgrowers Association, which was then near where we lived in Columbus, Ohio, sold the basics. I bought a pair of carders and wool in a bag. I now know that I had acquired an unskirted fleece--and a very dirty one, at that. What breed? I have not even the slightest clue.

Among other ignorances, I didn't know what to do with the big bag of wool, so after picking small amounts out of the bag to card and spin, I eventually emptied the fleece on to a big table, where it expanded...a lot. After discarding the dirtiest parts, I carded and learned to spin on the best parts of the fleece. It was still dirty and lots of internally processed vegetative matter, i.e., shit, ended up on the wall behind the wheel.

An early marriage Christmas gift from my dear husband was a traditional Ashford spinning wheel, which was much easier to use. I loved it and spun enough to make some items, but with small children underfoot, I surrendered the fleece to an Amish mill, where it was cleaned and made into batting for quilts. The quilts served us well, so the fleece wasn't a total loss.

Many years later, my grown daughter started a flock of sheep and wanted to learn to spin. I gave her my Ashford wheel and she learned on the vintage wheel before adding an Ashford Joy 2. Subsequently, I acquired an Ashford Traveller-Double Pedal, which is billed as an 'ideal travel companion.' The description is misleading: It is not easy to travel with. 

My husband was paying attention to the travails of transport and last week surprised me with an Ashford Joy 2 as a retirement gift. Now to tackle those bags of roving! 

Monday, January 12, 2015

The second Saturday-Monday

It’s Monday of week two. The first week of retirement went smoothly and I’m starting to relax. Today, as I assess my mindset and progress toward my goals, I’m  quite satisfied. 

Although last week’s clean-out didn’t go as quickly as hoped (Does it ever?), if I can keep the pace, I’ll have most of the unused and/or unnecessary out of here by summertime. 

Fiber-wise, I also made a solid start. It seems I was on a green kick, but that was purely happenstance.

For one, I finished a pair of socks that fit me perfectly. I had purchased the wool for a KAL and now am acutely aware that although handpainted yarn looks gorgeous in skeins, it only shines in plain stitches, which don't compete. Handpainted and variegated color yarns fight with almost any kind of pattern. Lace is the worst. This project was a lace shawl to socks.

I also knit up a pair of fingerless gloves that are purely utilitarian to warm my hands in this frigid weather. This yarn, was frogged from a sweater project that turned out too small for the intended recipient and was close at hand. (All the details for both projects are on my Ravelry (Filamenti) project page.)

I also did some on spinning on that Coopworth fleece I have. I got some good cracks in at the South Jersey Guild of Spinners and Handweavers (SJGSW) meeting on Saturday, that extended into a lovely Sunday afternoon at home in front of the fire. 

Now that my wheel is set up for production, my plan is to commit regular time to spin, ideally every--make that most days--until my roving stash is gone.

I have a huge stash of fleece—mostly roving—that I purchased when my desire to spin overrode my available time. With more than three bags full of Coopworth, Tunis, and a little Merino, I am decidedly overwhelmed. Consequently, I made a pact with myself that I would purchase no more fleece or roving until I had spun--or gifted away--what I have. 

So what do I get in SJGSW’s Roc Day gift exchange? Roving, of course. 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Mired down in stuff

How did I accumulate all this ‘stuff?’ I know I needed it at one time. I don’t just bring stuff home for the fun of it. The question now is, ‘do I really need it now?’

And ‘need’ is a very loose term. I ‘might’ need it, but really? I doubt it.

This past week my precious time has been bogged down clearing out 20 plus years of accumulated stuff. We did really well when we were moving every few years. We kept it pretty slim. Now the house is bloated and I can almost hear it burp periodically.

This clearing out is akin to my exercise plan. Slim down. 

But it’s not been easy adhering to the schedule of a closet a week—especially when more than closets need cleared. Take my office file cabinet. I thought I’d pretty well cleared it out a month ago, but there was still a boatload of stuff. And most was either important or essential.

The file cabinet is empty now and ready for a new home, but the floor of my office has a couple piles that must find new homes. Their home can’t be in the closet, as that needs one terrific clean-out. 

Next week, I plan to channel my son: If he doesn’t need it, it goes out. He’s a heavy user of craigslist and eBay as distribution channels. 

I keep saying I’ll follow his example, but that's one more thing to get organized. I'll put it on the list.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

One day at a time

Day two dawned cold. Too cold to work in the studio and too cold to take a long walk, even a fast one. It was hard to justify sitting in my upstairs office all day, so I resorted to a day of total and complete laziness that included binge-watching a BBC mystery series and knitting.

Did it feel special? No. As a realist, I know my time is limited and that imposes a special kind of urgency to spend those hours and days well.

Oh, I could think of projects that I could do (another closet, maybe?), but that would put me way ahead of my schedule to clean one per week. And, yes, I am fully aware that I don’t have to do anything.

Spending the time well does not include cleaning closets or garages, but those are must-do’s. We’ve lived in the same house without interruption for nearly 30 years and the time has come for me to declutter. 

Today is Day Three and probably the first order is to impose some order on my overactive mind, which is teeming with new ideas. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Six Saturdays: Day One

It's Day One of my new six Saturday week and I working on a new daily schedule. Many would consider that ridiculous, considering that I am now officially retired, but I'm serious. I don't consider these newly-free days a time of leisure. Rather, I consider this a time of transition. I've put a lot of things on hold over the past many years--things that I love to do, things I'm itching to do, and things I want to share into the next generation. 

Now is the time. And to temper my habit of drastically underestimating the time it will take for me to complete any given task, I plan to prioritize and schedule upcoming tasks. 

There are some long overdue tasks on the lists that, once completed, can drop to the maintenance list. Think closets and garage.

Completion of organizational projects such as digitizing family photos and household inventories  will gain a big check mark and drop from the list, too.

And then there are the tasks of passion, which I only call 'tasks' in order to assign them high priority. Chief among them is fiber. I want to immerse myself in it. I want to finish that rug that has been on my loom for nearly 20 years and I want to put on a new warp. I want to knit and I want publish my knitting patterns. I want to spin--just for fun.

The schedule must, of necessity, be a relatively relaxed one, but as a deadline-driven person, it will impose some structure on what could easily deteriorate into days of sitting reading or knitting. And given the many years of neglect, the schedule must be broken into manageable chunks

Now to tackle some of the clutter my studio so that I can move closer to those tasks of passion.