Is Being Geeky Good for Your Health?

The following is a guest article written by Maria Cannon from Hobby Jr.

 

Photo Courtesy of Unsplash by James Pond

 

Star Wars versus Star Trek. Marvel versus DC Comics. David Tennant versus Tom Baker (for the Doctor Who fans in the house). The realm of geek culture is seemingly full of endless debates, and fans can become just as polarized as they are passionate. Luckily, there’s one thing that experts believe we can all agree on: our hobbies are actually good for our mental health.

“Being geeky is just like being a gourmet food lover, or a car nut, or cricket fan,” says The Nerd Manual’s Brian Collier. “It’s healthy to be interested in making friends, and there’s nothing wrong with having a small number of very close friends who connect well with you.”

To Collier’s point, geeky hobbies aren’t really all that different from any other type of hobby. And like other hobbies, they can have a variety of mental health and emotional health benefits. When it comes to mental health and mental fitness, hobbying can help us to reduce stress and anxiety, offering feelings of accomplishment while taking our mind off of life’s worries. It also helps boost our mood, helping us fight off depression.

We all should be concerned with keeping a healthy, active brain as we age – and there’s more good news here. Hobbies like playing cards, board games or video games actually help to challenge your brain. In addition to building new skills, social games and events – such as Live Action Role Playing (LARPing), attending comic book conventions, or participating in epic card game tournaments – all help to provide opportunities for socializing… and sometimes even allow you the opportunity to meet your favorite celebrities face-to-face.

Recent science shows that hobbies can be useful to those individuals who are recovering addicts or looking to avoid addiction issues which may run in their families. Hobbies are good for preventing and recovering from addiction because they provide us with a social circle, which acts like a support system.

For addicts in particular, hobbies such as gaming or attending social events can offer the mind a distraction from addiction cravings while also easing the mind. Getting out of your head so that you to focus on positive thoughts and experiences is extremely important during addiction recovery.

The only word of advice to addicts is to avoid games which involve gambling, events where there might be drugs or alcohol, or video games which might be used as a form of escapism. As long as you have balance and you don’t feel tempted to return to drug or alcohol abuse, your hobby is probably healthy.

We all enjoy distractions from life’s problems from time to time. However, if you suspect that your hobby is turning into a means of avoidance or escapism, here are some tips to bring it back into a healthy balance.

So go ahead. Dress up in costumes, collect comic books, attend comic cons, and wave your geek flag with pride. Not only is it fun for you and your friends; it might actually be good for you, too.

 

Author: Maria Cannon

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New Year – New Dress

A new dress for a new year.  I put a lot of stock in beliefs such as “like attracts like” and the “Law of Attraction”.  So, I contemplated some of the simpler things I would like to do this next year such as go to new places, do new things, and improve my appearance.  Consequently, I need a way to show my intent with both a limited time frame and a “vintage” skill set.   What says, I want to go places, do things, and look good? – A new dress.  So, I spent New Year’s Eve making a new dress.  While this dress was a quick and uncomplicated project, there are many factors and steps to take an idea and making something to wear from it – something that fits.

New Year’s Eve calls for some namesake wine, courtesy of my sister. Thanks, Jennifer.

To begin with, I found myself in Gainesville with extra time.  What better place to waste a bunch of time than Joann’s Fabric?  They had none of what I was looking for, of course.  However, I decided to breeze through the pattern books while trying to hold my breath around people hacking and coughing without covering their mouths.  McCall’s patterns were on sale for $1.99, so I should buy three, right?  I seldom find patterns I like at any price, but this day I found three.  Additionally, I almost never find the fabric I like at a price I’m willing to pay.  However, this day I found two bolts of fabric I liked, one was on sale and I had a coupon for the other.  I bought a couple yards of each fabric, a zipper, and matching thread.  I pulled out the instructions to read them in the store – I’m guilty of doing this, all the time.  Many times, I’ve neatly refolded the instructions and put the pattern back.  While I’ve been sewing for nearly 30 years, if I think there are too many pattern pieces or the instructions seem too finicky, then I lose interest.

McCall’s #M7531. Easy.

It’s important to know your measurements, not your size.  I know my measurements, and when the lady at the cutting counter told me there was no way I could possibly take that size pattern, I second-guessed myself.  Unfortunately, she was wrong, and this demonstrates why we must go by measurement.  Also, she told me I had the perfect figure for the dress I’m making, so she instantly became my favorite person.  One of the fabrics I bought was a stretchy knit.  I think I tried to make something from a knit 15 years ago, and it was a disaster.  So of course, this is the dress I decide to make on New Year’s Eve.  Fortunately, this pattern is marked “Easy” and it lived up to its advertisement.  I decided I want to keep this pattern, so I was determined to preserve it.  I’m using McCall’s pattern #M7531.  It’s suitable only for 75% 4-way stretch knits.

Launder fabric as the garment will be laundered. Per fabric care instructions.

Cut reinforced pattern pieces out close to the line.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We all have visions of pulling out a pattern and some fabric then making a mad dash to the sewing machine.  However, that’s not how it works, at least not with successful results.  The fabric must be laundered the same way the finished garment will be laundered.  Additionally, the pattern must be dealt with.  For example, I cut out pattern pieces leaving a margin of tissue.  Then I iron the pattern flat on high.  Since I want my pattern to last for many uses or forever, I preserve them.  To preserve my pattern, I apply a light or super-light fusible interfacing to the wrong side of the pattern.  I buy yards of this when it’s on sale.  When the pattern is reinforced, I can fold under larger sizes and cut away the larger sizes from fiddly sections.  Consequently, if I want to make a larger version, I can unfold or reattach as needed.  Preserving the pattern takes extra time and while they only cost $1.99, patterns suddenly become unavailable.  For example, one of my favorite skirt patterns is no longer available. 🙁

Lay out fabric and pin pattern. Pay special attention to grain-line, waistline, and hemline.

Laying out and cutting is a skill.  It sounds simple, lay out your fabric, pin or weight your pattern, and cut.  However, if you’re going to go through the trouble of constructing your own garments, you want them to hang right on you.  Therefore, lining up the waistline marks from pattern pieces, measuring grainline marks with the fold, and careful cutting without stretching or lifting the fabric are paramount.  I even go through the silly ritual of transferring the marks from pattern to fabric, even though I know I’ll only barely see them when I need them.  Even the machine needs a bit of attention, from replacing the needle and threading, to checking the stitch on fabric scraps from the cutout.  I tested several stretch stitches on my machine to get them right and decide what I liked the best.  In the end, I chose my overlock-serger for most of the garment’s construction.  However, I reverted to my regular machine for setting in the sleeves, turning down the neckline, and hemming the sleeves and bottom.

Transfer pattern markings.

Most of the construction was nearly effortless.  The most problem I had was with the slinky nature of this knit.  It was hard to get from cutting table to serger while keeping my seamline matched up.  I found the need to pin – a lot.  Typically, I avoid pins as much as possible around my serger.  Also, the instructions for several areas include a double basting line.  While basting the second line, I found the hem allowance would pucker, ripple, move, and stretch.  I applied Wonder Tape to the allowance, but I don’t care for this product and it’s not the easiest stuff to remove – even though it dissolves.  In the future, I may use a spray starch to stiffen and subdue the slinky and stretchy nature of this type of fabric. However, hand-basting the second line would have worked had I thought of it at the time.

The best stitch for basic construction is my serger. While hems, set-in sleeves, and neckline require my regular machine.

As wine-o’clock was fast approaching, I tried the dress on before I set in the sleeves.  Yea!  It fits.  I decided the best thing to do was set the sleeves in the morning.  After the sleeves were finished only the bottom hem remained.  I’ve learned the hard way to allow the garment to hang for a day before hemming.  Late that night, I hemmed the bottom, then washed it.  I allowed it to tumble in the dryer with no heat (per fabric care instructions) then I hung it when it was nearly dry.  In the morning, I gave it a final press, trimmed the hem allowance a tad more, and gave it a home in my closet.

Close up. Ignore the mess in the background. Still needs a hem.

So, I’ll face this new year with a lot of excitement.  I have so much to be thankful for, and I intend to live my life to the fullest this year.  Garment making is a multi-stepped process, but it’s all good in the end.  Now, I need new heels.

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Scissor Pouch

Finished and stuffed

Finished and stuffed

After working with scissors as my main tool for 30 years, I’ve developed quite a selection.  There are scissors everywhere, in the kitchen, living room, and especially the craft room.  They’re almost always laying around, stuck in a tool organizer, or a drawer.  However, I always have a pair near me when I work.  Most often, I have an ornate pair of 1928 scissors in a beautifully enameled holder.  They always wind up on the bottom, underneath everything – hiding.  I love to look at them and use them.  They’re beautiful and hold significant positive memories from when my mother gave them to me.  We found them in Savanna Georgia, in a little shop on the river-front.  I decided it was time to make a little organizer pouch, where they can be kept safe, handy, and visible.  I found several cute pouch patterns (online, of course); some require seamstress skills, and one was almost too simple.  I made the super-simple one first.  I really like it.  And it makes great use of fat-quarters 🙂  Finally, I have a project in mind the next time I drool over the display of fat-quarters.

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You can make a pattern real easy; just take a piece of regular typing paper and fold.  Lay the paper so it’s oriented the way it would be to read from it.  Fold the lower edge to the left edge and crease.  Open the paper back up, then lower the left edge to the crease, and make a new crease.  Leave the left side folded and creased, now lift the lower edge back along its crease.  Take the part of that lower edge and fold it back to meet the first crease.  You can make your scissor pouch just like this, but I find the long point useless and unattractive.  I fold the bottom tip to about 1/2 to 3/4 inch from the edge of the shortest “pocket”, make a crease, then cut at that crease.  I didn’t actually use a pattern, but it was good practice and you will have a cut out piece for a pattern if you chose this option.

Pin well, leave an opening

Pin well, leave an opening

I found some fat-quarters that I liked, they go together but are still different.  First, I ironed both of my fabrics flat, then applied a fusible interfacing/stabilizer to my printed fabric.  Rather than use a pattern, I measured and cut with my rotary blade and mat to 8.5″ X 11″.  I cut both fabrics (fashion and background) at the same time.  The fat-quarters (18″ x 22″ normally) are big enough for four pouches 😉 Who doesn’t have three friends in need?  I laid one piece of printed and stabilized fabric with one piece of background fabric, wrong sides together.  I pinned them together all the way around and planned for a 2″ to 3″ section to leave open to turn them right sides out.  The best placement for your opening is on the side that will be turned to the inside.  I used the template/pattern from the paper to cut a corner away for a square bottom.  I like to turn the pin sideways in the spot I plan to leave open.  This is a reminder, not to sew this section.  I’ve been known to sew my opening closed, or forget to open a zipper on a pouch, or…  Insert list of mishaps.

1/2" seam allowance, sew wrong sides together

1/2″ seam allowance, sew wrong sides together

At my sewing machine, I threaded my machine matching the background cloth, it blended well with the printed fabric as well (consider this when choosing materials.)  I chose a tighter straight stitch (2) for my seams and used a 1/2″ seam allowance – backing over my stitches at the beginning and end of the seam.  Of course, when I reach my perpendicular pin, I stop sewing for the opening.  I pressed my piece flat, setting the stitches into the fabric.  I then clipped the corners 1/8″ from the stitches and clipped notches out of the cut out area.  I pressed the seams open, and paid extra attention to the opening so it would lay right when it is all turned out.  Next is the “magic hat trick”, or at least that’s what it reminds me of, when you turn your project right side out.  I used the point of a pair of scissors to shape the points in the seam.  I gave it a good press to flatten it.  The next part of the project is to make the same folds as noted with the paper, creasing with your iron, of course.  You may have to fiddle and finagle a tad to get it just the way you like.  Once you have it, then press it good and place a pin in the center to hold it.  Note: you can fold it the opposite way to have different fabrics facing.

Fold #2, crease with iron

Fold #2, crease with iron

The last part is top stitching.  You could go crazy with decorative stitches if you want, but the area is small, and it’s on the thick side with layers and folds.  I chose a nice, classic, straight top-stitch.  I changed my all purpose/zigzag presser foot to a zipper foot, lengthened my stitches to (3), and used a 1/8″ seam allowance.  I stitched from the very top of one side down the bottom, pivoting with my needle down, sewing across the bottom, then all the way to the top on the other side.  I don’t reinforce my stitches when top-stitching by backing over them – it makes for messy top stitching (mine are messy enough already.)  Rather, I leave a nice long tail at the beginning and end.  Then when I’m done, I use a needle to pull the thread to the back, tie a knot, then bury the thread in the seam – never to be seen again.  I think I read about this in Threads Magazine, years ago.  You could also start with a very tight-short stitch for 1/4″, then lengthen it, but I found this works well.  The beginning and end of my top-stitching always look nice, now I just have to loose the waviness.  Press your pouch one more time to set the top-stitching into the fabric – it really does make a noticeable difference.  This pouch has three pockets for your scissors and a few other do-dads as well.  I choose to not launder my fabric prior to working with it, for two reasons.  First, I think the stiffness of the unwashed fabric lends itself well to the function of the pouch.  Secondly, I don’t plan to wash my pouch, so I shouldn’t have to worry about shrinkage or biasing.  I hope you give this little project a go, it’s real simple and produces something cute and useful.  

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On Your Marks – Get Sett – Weave

My two samples with their labels. I'll put them away with the yarn for reference

My two samples with their labels. I’ll put them away with the yarn for reference

Late last year I made the decision to buy the designer pack of EPiC yarn.  It’s 100% wool and it’s useful for a lot of applications, including: tapestry weaving and band-weaving.  I’ve been looking for a yarn in a price range so I could afford some of every color.  This satisfies my need (ok, desire – don’t judge me) to have a pallet to both weave from and build upon.  I plan to buy larger skeins of yarn as I use the smaller ball.  I won’t limit myself to buying only EPiC; I plan to buy from EPiC , Norsk Fjord Fibers, and perhaps a few others.  Now, I’ve finally wound all my skeins into center-pull balls and I’m itching for a project to use some of this wonderful yarn.   I’ve woven mostly with a warp sett of 8 epi (ends per inch), but I want to weave in a tighter sett at times for more detail.  Before I begin a project, I want to try some of this yarn to get a feel for it, and figure out how many strands I should fit into each weft bundle.

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In any weft-faced weaving, or a weaving where only the weft is visible, there’s a relationship between the thickness of the warp, the space between the warps (sett), and the thickness of the weft.  If the weft is too thin, you can weave and weave and weave with very little progress.  On the other hand, if the weft is too thick, you lose detail, and have difficulty covering your warp completely.  The weft doesn’t have to be the perfect thickness, you can bundle multiple strands to get the correct thickness.  Using weft bundles allows color combinations and blending not possible with single weft strands.  The only way to know how many strands is enough, is to sample – so sample I did.

12/6 cotton Seine at 8 epi, 4" of warp to sample EPiC yarn.

12/6 cotton Seine at 8 epi, 4″ of warp to sample EPiC yarn.

I have two small looms I built from needlework/stretcher frames, one for a sett of 8 epi, and the other for 5/10 epi.  I warped both of these looms with 12/6 cotton seine twine.  I quickly realized, if I want to work with a sett tighter than 10 epi, I would need a warp finer than 12/6.  Typically, you can start guessing how many strands by holding them up to the warp and comparing them to the space between the warps – since this is the space they’ll occupy.  When I first considered purchasing EPiC yarn, I contacted Rebecca Mezoff, a tapestry weaver who wrote a blog that included her use of this yarn.  I contacted her about weft bundles, and in her warm and helpful response, she mentioned 5 strand bundles for 8 epi.  Thanks to Rebecca, I had a good place to start.  When I hold up the 5 strands of yarn twisted together, it looks like a good fit to me.  I decided not to get carried away mixing colors in bundles; I really want to see how this yarn beats down and covers the warp.  I did however do some hatching – I couldn’t help myself.  Initially, I was going to try 4, 5, and 6 strand bundles, but I tried the 5 bundle first.  There was no need for me to try anything else, 5 strands is perfect.  I got perfect coverage and the hatching looks good.  The yarn beat down exactly the way I wanted, and it didn’t get too lofty or spring back up.

First sample done. 5-strand bundles for 8 epi.

First sample done. 5-strand bundles for 8 epi.

Next, I went to work on the loom I warped at 10 epi – my target sett.  I thought, 4 or maybe 3, but probably not 2 per bundle.  When I twisted 3 wefts together, they looked pretty good in the warp space.  I wove a band of black and one of dark blue.  It covered the warp great, but I thought I would be remiss if I didn’t at least try a bundle or two of 4.  I wove a band of light blue and green with 4 strands to a bundle.  I got warp coverage, but it took an effort.  I had to give the 4-strand bundle a firmer beat, and it was more difficult to maintain the weaving width.  The selvages wanted to bulge out and the weft would spring up after beating.  I could see that I would likely lose some detail in a 4-strand bundle.  When I look at my samples off loom, I can see the warp peeking though in a couple of places on my 4-strand bundles.  I think, if I weave at this sett (10 epi) with a warp thinner than the 12/6 I used for these samples, the 4-strand may work better.  The space between the warps would increase and would possibly accommodate an additional strand.  The only way to know for sure is to sample again with a finer warp.  At this sett and with this warp (12/6 cotton seine), the 3-strand bundle worked perfect.

Black & dk blue - 3 strand bundle. Lt blue & green - 4 strand bundle

Black & dk blue – 3 strand bundle. Lt blue & green – 4 strand bundle

Now that I’ve used this yarn, albeit small samples, I like it.  I also think it will pair well with the yarn from Norsk Fjord Fibers.  The yarns are different thicknesses, but I think they can be combined well, and substituted for each other as long as the bundles maintain the correct thickness.  I have seen this yarn used for tablet weaving.  I would like to explore that use some time.  If I decide to try it in a warp faced weave structure, I will certainly over-spin it on my wheel to increase its twist, strength, and reduce its tooth or stickiness.  That’s what I think it will take to stand up to the rigors of tablet weaving and not stick to its neighbor so much.  It’s nice to have the entire pallet to choose from, and if it’s not enough, I can order a larger quantity of what I need.  If I only need a tiny bit, then it’s all there.  What a difference from choosing from a tiny square picture from paper or the distorted colors of a computer monitor.  Even swatches leave a little to be desired.  I think I may make a swatch book from the skeins, It would be nice to have at hand.  It would be interesting to see how it pairs with a wool warp.  Hmm, I see more samples in my future.  I did get to try out my fringe twister.  Surprisingly, this tool takes a bit of practice.  I’m glad the practice is on a sample and not on something that needs to go to someone.  Thank you, Marsha Capinera for the wonderful idea of re-purposing my algebra book.  I’m getting much more enjoyment out of this book using it this way.

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A Sketchy Start

From poorly constructed stick figures to almost drawing

From poorly constructed stick figures to almost drawing

Frequently, I hear wonderful phrases like: you’re so creative, you’re so artistic, and you’re so good with this artsy craftsy stuff.  I weave, spin yarn, knit, crochet, sew, and a host of vintage needle crafts, but many would be surprised to find out I cannot draw.  To say, I have the drawing skills of a five-year-old would be generous.  This fundamental skill completely eludes me, and it’s an important part of the tapestry weaving process.  In the past, I’ve used some cut and paste techniques, then laid down a grid to transfer and enlarge the image for a cartoon from which to weave.  It’s been a huge stumbling block for me.  After confiding this shame to my weaving friends, there was a unanimous recommendation of the book, “Drawing On the Right Side of The Brain” by Betty Edwards.  Amazon to the rescue, this book was reasonably priced and shipped fast.  I’m only part of the way through the book, but I want to share my opinions about this book and my progress.

Second upside-down drawing. I should be fine as long as I can stand on my head

Second upside-down drawing. I should be fine as long as I can stand on my head

This book was written 40 years ago!  It’s a wonder I haven’t heard of it sooner.  The theories of this book are based on the work and research of neuropsychologist, neurobiologist, and Nobel laureate, Dr Roger W. Sperry (1913-1994), and the observations of the author, Betty Edwards, a retired professor in art.  The theory behind the book is the left side of our brains, the hemisphere which controls analyzing, numbers, and language, dominates when we’re trying to draw – when it really needs to take a seat and let the right side take over for a while.  This is something that happens quite naturally for many people.  However, for many of us who think we can’t draw; this shift doesn’t naturally occur.  Mrs. Edwards has tried and true techniques to help us make that shift and see things the way we need in order to sketch something realistic.  This book can be a tad difficult to read at times.  Mrs. Edwards goes into great detail of how our brains work, and she gives us an example, then she tells us what needs to happen, then we get an anecdote, then how the exercise will help.  A lot of this information isn’t necessary beyond the first time (imho) – so it becomes a bit wordy the second, third, and forth time you read it (much like my posts 🙂 .)  I did find it very interesting and it helped me make sense of my “deficiency.”  

Trace image w/ 1 eye closed.

Trace image w/ 1 eye closed.

While she can be quite wordy in why we have difficulty, the exercises she provides to help us overcome our disadvantage have a lot of merit.  She starts off with some pre-instruction drawing, which will stay hidden in a vault until the end of time.  She uses something called “upside-down drawing”.  Thankfully, we remain upright through the exercise, however the image we’re sketching is upside down.  I was surprised by the results.  While I can find and point out many places I wish I had done a better job, It’s the best drawing I’ve ever done.  In fact, if I could have drawn like this my whole life, I wouldn’t have thought to turn to art self-help.  I did two of the upside down drawings, and I’m impressed with both – it was a real confidence boost.  Another exercise uses a picture pane with cross-hairs drawn onto it.  I balanced my hand in a curled position and then traced my hand.  This is teaching me how to take something 3 dimensional and turn it into something 2 dimensional.  Then I made a sketch from the tracing.  The next exercise is with the picture pane and includes holding something in your hand.  I decided to hold one of my weaving combs, then I traced it (with one eye closed, no less).  The sketch I made from that tracing also shows that I have a long way to go, but it’s so much better than I ever thought possible of myself. 

Table easel hold trace, while I sketch it

Table easel hold trace, while I sketch it

Next on the list of exercises, is drawing negative spaces.  Negative space is something a weaver deals with all the time.  When you draw the bottom line of a plate sitting on a table, you’re drawing the bottom of the plate, but also the table.  That outline is shared by the plate and the table.  Sometimes drawing the negative space around the subject is easier than drawing the chair or person itself.  Mrs. Edwards feels that the left side of the brain becomes engaged when we see familiar items the brain wants to label.  It’s this left brain shift that makes it difficult to be creative and see what we need in order to draw well.  Regardless of the reason, it does seem easier to draw the simple rectangles between the legs of a chair than to draw the legs themselves.  We’ll see how this goes, I hope I have at least as much luck as I’ve had so far.  This gives me the courage to take a workshop or class and hone these skills.  I have no plans or goals on focusing my art in this area, but this skill is so useful in the art that I currently engage myself.  Meanwhile, I think I have all the art supplies I’ll ever need for this foray into drawing and sketching.  Although, those beautiful colored pencils look awfully tempting.  

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Epic Yarn – 114 Flavors

There are a few things that have hindered my progress in tapestry weaving: my lack of sketching skills, and a variety of suitable weaving yarn.  I’ve always felt I need a decent sized color palate, but perhaps it’s just me.  Last year I found an option I could afford – a yarn suitable for tapestry weaving.  Timeless Textiles offers, Epic in one of each color in reasonable “put ups.”  Late last year I ordered the Designers Pack of 20/2 – Epic Yarn, 114 colors, 150 yards 1/2 ounce put ups.  I started school in January, so I’ve had little time to weave or organize all this yarn.

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I’d like to store this yarn in something that keeps them out of sunlight and dust, but allows me to view larger groups easily.  I’ve found stack-able component storage drawers by Sterilite at the local Evilmart.  I can buy as many as I need, and in different configurations.   I have a nook in the studio room where they’re a perfect fit.  I think I’ll get a couple more in this size to accommodate the larger skeins I’ll eventually replace as they’re used, and some smaller ones for my warp and small sundry supplies.  I’ll also need room for yarn I want from Norsk Fjord Fibers, and some silks.  I really love the array of colors I have, but it won’t be long before they get lonely.  😉 

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I’ve decided it’s best to wind the skeins of yarn into center-pull-balls now, as this is something I’m likely to put off when I’m ready to weave.  I hope my ball winder is up to the task, so far it’s faring well.  It’ll take me some time to wind all 114 skeins into balls, especially since I’m only doing a few at a time in the evening.  Luckily there’s been a couple of pretty days to do it outside when I have breaks from school-work.  I’ve decided to organize the yarn by color family and color number.  I first separated the color families by sight, then organized by number, and divided the yarn by the four drawers I have.  As I acquire more yarn, I’ll rearrange the yarn in an attempt to keep color families together without crowding.  I want to open a drawer and see the colors easily without digging, so these shallow drawers seem perfect for the task. 

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I’m left with improving my sketching skills and working on more projects to improve my tapestry weaving techniques – and weaving to create and enjoy.  I would like to have a tapestry project to work on this Summer.  I bought a book that claims, sketching is a skill that can be learned, as opposed to a talent one must be born with (Drawing on the Right Side of The Brain, Betty Edwards).  I have limited time to read and work through it, but it’s a priority on my free time.  I’ve also found myself the recipient of the workbook that accompanies this book, and a companion book, thank you, Dear Friend.  When I take an inventory of the people in my life, I realize what a blessed life I live.  Now, if I could find a place that has Time for sale, I’ll be all set.  

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Spring Break!

Loretta, Mom and Me at Fisherman's Village in Punta Gorda

Loretta, Mom and Me at Fisherman’s Village in Punta Gorda

Spring break was here and gone before I knew it.  I can’t believe how fast it has flown by.  My Spring Break was March 12 through March 20.  Now I’m back to the grindstone, crunching numbers and writing papers (and blogs).  My break was a busy one, but I was supposed to have one of leisure.  There were so many facets to that single short week, it’s hard to believe I fit it all in.  I was supposed to be free from assignments, and for the most part that was true.  However, when the next week starts up, there’s a lot I need to have accomplished.  I think instructors feel comfortable issuing assignments and tests right after a break, because they know there’s no class.  However, if all your instructors think like this, then your break is no different from any other week.  All I have are two short workshops to present, and study for my tests.  I did have one of my favorite cousins coming from Ohio for a visit – no problem, plenty of time…

Cables Galore socks - fun & easy pattern

Cables Galore socks – fun & easy pattern

My cousin came in on Sunday,  and we were able to spend a day recuperating around town.  We visited Manatee Springs State Park, which was beautiful, if not devoid of manatees, but the vultures gave us quite a display.  A trip to an antique store and dinner in a nearby town rounded it all off well.  We decided to accompany her to Southern Florida for part of her vacation.  The trip itself took over 5 hours, it was a bit tiring, but it gave me a chance to work on this neat sock pattern I’ve started, but have little time to work on.  We visited a park and Fisherman’s Village in Punta Gorda.  We got a couple of pictures, souvenirs, and a great lunch.  Seafood is always a destination of its own when you’re on vacation in Florida.

A completed warp, chained & tied for portability to the workshop

A completed warp, chained & tied for portability to the workshop

I was comforted by the fact that the workshops I obligated myself to present would fall during Spring Break.  I should have plenty of time to get my stuff together, and take a day off from studying (so I told myself).  There was a lot to get done for those workshops, and I didn’t want to wait until the end.  You never know when or where you’ll catch a snag.  I needed to:  revise my handouts, re-work one of the patterns, 10 warps to prepare, 10 wefts to prepare, have my handouts printed, warp my demonstration model, gather my supplies, make a warping rack, the list goes on.  Normally it’s only a matter of making a list with generous deadlines, then working down the list.  But I was kept so busy with school work, that I had to cram it in where I could.  Thankfully, I had it all in one area,  and only had to gather it together and load it in the car.

Our Guild's display table at the conference

Our Guild’s display table at the conference

We got home late the day before my workshops, so time was limited to gather my stuff, double-check everything, grab a bite to eat, shower, relax, and get to bed at a decent time.  I had to get up a lot earlier than I realized to be on time for my workshops, but I was able to catch a solid 3 hours of sleep.  I felt like I was only giving half of myself to everything: my cousin, workshops, and studies.  I had two important tests on Tuesday, it looks like it will be Thursday before I learn anything about them.  I would have liked to spend more time with my cousin, but her time was limited.  I think I was likely preoccupied during her visit, it would have been nice to give her all my attention since we seldom see each other.  I’ll have to wait for feedback on my workshops, I know I was over-tired during them, I had a hard time keeping my eyes open for the trip home.  I’d like to refine my presentation of these techniques if I continue, that’s on my plate for the future.   Time will tell, but for now, I think I’ll take it easy, and take a break from my break.

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Braided Cowl

Braids tacked together, cowl completed.

Braids tacked together, cowl completed.

Not so long ago, I was tagged in a post on Facebook by a friend.  It was a blog post that she shared of a crocheted and braided cowl.  I assume this was intended as a hint.  I’m in need of a project, and I haven’t crocheted in quite a while, a perfect excuse to break out those nicely crafted wood hooks.  The post was constructed well.  It contained a pattern and a video one of her subscribers posted on YouTube.  The pattern calls for Vanna’s Choice acrylic yarn, but I thought I would find something a little nicer for her – I want it to last her a lifetime.  I chose Plymouth Yarn Company Inc’s Encore yarn.  It’s made from 75% Acrylic-25% Wool.  It’s a little softer, and warmer.

The way the stitches are worked creates a lot of texture

The way the stitches are worked creates a lot of texture

The pattern is easy to follow, especially with the video.  It’s mostly constructed with Half-Double-Crochets, with a few singles and slip stitches thrown in for good measure.  What makes it so different is where she instructs you to make the stitches.  After your first row of HDC, you work subsequent rows, not into the tops of the previous row’s stitches but into their vertical bars.  This pushes the tops of the stitches towards the front of the fabric and gives it a unique look and wonderful texture.  Each braid is worked by making four connected legs, then braiding them.  The braid is worked in a way that reminds me of bobbin lace.  Tabs are created on both sides of the braid.  A second, longer braid is created, just like the first.  The braids are connected and a band crocheted with a buttonhole on one side and button tab on the other.

Stone button and buttonhole

Stone button and buttonhole

I had a hard time finding a button that I liked, and would fit the buttonhole properly.  Crochet tends to be a tad stretchy, especially under its own weight.  I knew the buttonhole will stretch over time, so I modified the button-hole a little.  The buttonhole is 3 stitches wide, but I made the top only one stitch wide, so it will fit the button, but will remain tight on top.  I found a button that is longer than it is wide – perfect!  It is the proper size in width, so it slides through the buttonhole easily, but it’s long enough that you need to purposely unbutton it to remove it.  Best of all, I think it’s long enough that it can be buttoned and lifted over the head, no need to fiddle with the button.  The button fits in well with the design of the cowl, it’s grey, and made from stone with some nice characteristics.  It has a nice organic look.

Both braids are complete and joined.

Both braids are complete and joined.

I found some things about this project that I didn’t care for.  There’s a need to tack down the braids after you’ve braided them to keep the braid tidy and straight.  However, the two separate braids are too separate.  They lay against you independently from one another.  It defeats the purpose of wearing it if it opens up and separates where you want it to keep you warm.  This may be from using a yarn that contains wool, as it may have a “firmer” or stiffer drape.  What I did to counter this was to lay them evenly and tack them together much the way the braids themselves were tacked.  It has a much nicer look now.  All that’s needed now is to sew in the label and slip it in the post.  The downside is now I wish it were mine.  It was a fun project, maybe I’ll make another.  The other downside is that we’re nearly in Summer here in Florida, it won’t get much if any use this year, but she’ll have something to remember me by.

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Warp Rack

Navajo loom & bowls, test the fit for a warp rack

Navajo loom & bowls, test the fit for a warp rack

I have a Tablet Weaving workshop coming up, and I need to make a warp for each of the participants.  It would be great if we could all make our own, but 4 balls of yarn, times 10 participants – plus me is 44 balls of yarn rolling around the floor, and I can only assist one participant at a time.  So we’ll all make one warp together to get a feel for it, then everyone will have a warp prepared to learn the weaving technique.  Normally when I create a warp, I place four bowls on the floor and drop a ball of yarn in each – this sort of works.  I know it would be easier with a warp rack, so the yarn would feed smoothly from the source, and it would be leading from around the same height of my hands.  With so many warps to prepare I decided to make myself a makeshift warp rack.  I don’t have the room for a lot of equipment with only one purpose, so I’m modifying one of my smaller Navajo looms that I made into a dual purpose tool.

Screwing in cup hooks for the yarn to feed.

Screwing in cup hooks for the yarn to feed.

I made this small Navajo loom about four years ago when I learned Navajo style weaving.  I placed nails in the back to also use it for a warping frame, so adding the function of warping rack will give it a third function.  I have some bowls that I never use for eating, but they have a super smooth glaze, and I love the way they look.  I’ve decided to dedicate their use to weaving.  I place the bowls next to the top support of the loom and measure out four good places, evenly spaced to place some cup hooks.  I would use “eye” hooks, but all I have are cup hooks in a variety of sizes.  I’m fairly certain I can turn them in a way that keeps the yarn from jumping off – if not I can buy some “eye”hooks the next time I’m at the hardware.  I used a Sharpie to mark the placement of my hooks, and a drill to make a very small pilot hole to prevent splitting.  I think it looks good; it doesn’t look like the small cup hooks will interfere with the looms weaving function.  Now I just have to try it out, and I have 10 warps to prepare, so I’ll certainly get my use out of it.

Lots of yarn is needed.

Lots of yarn is needed.

The first thing I noticed is the yarn jumping out of the cup hooks.  It was really annoying, but I would turn the hooks and give it another go.  They would still jump out.  My fix for this was a needle nose pliers.  I gently squeezed the hooks nearly closed, and this completely solved the problem.  After a few warps, I also placed the bowls on the bottom support of the loom; this didn’t do anything for the warping, but it looked a lot nicer and kept the bowls off the floor of the deck.  The deck is the best place for me to make warps for tablet weaving, but it was a very windy day and it put the warping rack to the test, but it passed.  I use “C” clamps to wind my warp, and wish I had a table that I could attach the clamps to.  Those plastic tables just don’t work with “C” clamps.  To further modify this loom into a warp rack, I could easily drill some holes through both side supports of the loom and run a dowel.  The dowel could pass through cones of yarn so the yarn would feed off from the side, which would avoid adding or removing twist from the yarn.  I really wish I had thought of this sooner, it was such a help.  I plan to take it with me to the workshop.  Since we’re preparing a warp together it will be a lot easier for the participants when the yarn is feeding free and closer the height of our hands.

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Breaking In the Plyer Flyer

Plied yarn, penny for scale

Plied yarn, penny for scale

My new Schacht wheel has a nifty accessory available.  It’s called a bulky/plyer flyer.  It has a larger orifice to accommodate thicker yarns, and a larger bobbin that holds a considerable amount of yarn.  I don’t have a lot of interest in bulky or art yarns at the time, but I do like the larger capacity bobbin for plying yarns.  If I have three bobbins full of singles, and want to ply them together into  one-three ply yarn, it’s not all going to fit on one bobbin.  I also like to make my end and selvage cords for Navajo weaving – this should be easier with a larger orifice and bobbin.  To use the flyer, I have to remove the old one, and that’s no problem, I have to do that whenever I change the whorl or bobbin.  I also have to remove the front maiden .  This means removing or nearly removing the tensioning screw that holds it in place.  It gives me a chance to get some wax on wood that is otherwise hidden, and some oil in harder to reach places.  The instructions clearly state that it works better with scotch tension.  I learned to spin with a scotch tension, but once I started using double drive, I never looked back.  I initially decided to stick with double drive, since it will work with it, but quickly realized that I need a longer drive band because the larger flyer won’t turn – it’s too low.  So I turn the bobbin around for Scotch tension, double the drive band and place it on one whorl groove, and set up the scotch tension cord.

Changing regular flyer & maiden to Bulky/Plyer flyer & maiden

Changing regular flyer & maiden to Bulky/Plyer flyer & maiden

Oh yes!!!  Now I remember why I never went back to scotch tension, adjust-adjust-adjust.  When the bobbin gets some weight, adjust some more.  Just tiny increments, but you need them.  The manufacturer recommends doubling the drive band for scotch tension, but my drive band (now doubled) would turn at a different rate.  One strand would travel faster than the other.  One would lag enough that it would droop, and at times jump track onto the other whorl groove.  I’m certain this isn’t supposed to happen.  I plan to contact the manufacturer and ask about the best way to use it in double drive, and if I should just have a separate drive band for the plying flyer regardless of the tension.  I have read on the Facebook spinning group, several people mention they just keep the bulky/Plyer flyer and bobbin on for spinning regular yarn and plying.  This way they have the larger capacity bobbin and spin more yarn before changing bobbins.  I find the flyer has a little too much take up for me to do that.  Perhaps I tend to spin a finer/thinner yarn than them.  I’m certain if I used it to spin my normal singles, it would undoubtedly pull the fiber from my hands.  I tend to use very little take up.

Camera hand usually pinches yarn to control twist.

Camera hand usually pinches yarn to control twist.

Plying my yarn went well.  I have a fair amount of singles yarn left over on two of my bobbins.  I usually fill my bobbins more evenly, but I think I’ll just make a two-ply yarn with what little is left.  The singles are finer than I usually spin.  It was more difficult to spin my singles evenly, but the yarn looks pretty good.  More like my earlier yarn, but still nice and very usable.  I really like to keep a control card when I spin.  I used to just pull off a ply-back sample strand, but it would eventually get lost, and I might compare it from time to time.  Making this card keeps everything together.  I can see what the single looks like, two-py, three-ply, count the twist per inch and write it down.  Periodically, while I’m plying, I can stop to count my twist per inch to see if I’m on target.  I removed the yarn from the bobbin onto a skeiner, through a meter.  When I pulled it off the skeiner, there was only the slightest clockwise twist.  I gave it a good hot soak with a small squirt of no rinse conditioner in the water.  It was like summer yesterday, so I laid it on the table on the deck to let it dry.  It has a nice hand, if feels soft, and I like the grist.  The skein weighs 57.5 grams/2.03 oz, it has 292.6… yards/267.62 meters.  I think that’s enough for a project.  I may give this yarn some color, I’ve got enough white yarn around the house as it is.  This was made from the Cheviot wool I received when I purchased my wheel.  I may make some mittens with it.  Of course, mitten weather will be over by the time I’m finished, but I’ll have them for next year 🙂 .

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