Friday, September 20, 2013

Making and Letting Go

First Clip Teeswater, unwashed

I wonder if the Teeswater sheep who grow such long, lovely locks feel a sense of relief when they're sheared for the first time.  I can only imagine those foot-long locks are a bit of a burden, despite their beauty.  I wonder if the sheep bounce a little higher, play a little more, and run a little faster when they're free of all that gorgeous fleece they've carefully cultivated.  Are they glad to be rid of their wool?  I hope so.  I know I sure appreciate having it to play with!!!

Like most things fibery, this particular batch of raw locks has given me a lot to think about.  Making something, loving it dearly, and letting it go can be a very deep meditation. It's a lesson in generosity, a lesson in cycles and seasons, a lesson in impermanence, an lesson of abundance...  

And now, deep thoughts.  With BabesterArts.  ;-)

As I begin to wash and sort these locks, I'm using my time as an opportunity to sort and clean my fiber practice on an emotional and intellectual level, as well.  This year's theme has definitely been one of refining, editing and reorganizing!  I'm still working to distill my work down to an essential "kateness," and part of that process is giving away the things that don't suit or serve me anymore. Letting go of the things that, while lovely, are weighing me down a bit.

I predict more shift before the year's end...

Saturday, August 31, 2013


“You will never have a greater or lesser dominion than that over yourself…the height of a man’s success is gauged by his self-mastery; the depth of his failure by his self-abandonment.” 

– Leonardo da Vinci
I want to open my new shop now.  I want to spin more.  I want to buy all the things.  I want to have all the things.  I want them all right now.  I want to buy more yarn.  Have more fiber.  Talk to all the people about what they're doing and what's popular and what's trending and what's on the horizon.  I want to know how you do it, how they do it, how it is to be done.  I want everyone to think my work is awesome.  And I'm awesome.  And everything is right and perfect and...


Younger Self has this "gimme gimme!" mentality that is wholly opposed to anything resembling good, sane business practices.  Now for now's sake is NOT a good business strategy!  And it has been SO hard to not open the new shop just to have a shop again.  Just to be selling, a seller, a shopowner, a maker, an artist...  To tie my identity to the having of this visible, tangible thing that is supposed to represent me and reflect my worth.

Weighty things going on over here, folks!!!  And, if you'll excuse my terrible pun, they're all "waity" things.  Shop 2.0 requires breaking the mold shaped by BabesterArts.  It means building on what was good, gutting what wasn't, and evolving.  That is a practice, not a "POOF!" and it is HARD!!!  It's hard to tell Younger Self to slow the eff down and think about next year, and 5 years, and 10 years.  It's hard to corral that bouncy, bubbling creative energy and channel it toward legalese and structure and planning.  And it's really hard to set aside the cloak of "businesswoman" and just be Kate.

That last bit is about me, but it's probably not at all unique to me.  There's a part of my existence that is validated by being my own boss, and successful at what I do.  I get a great amount of fulfillment from running my own business, having an income, and sharing things I've created with others.  It helps me define "Kate" in a way I'm proud of.  I'm somebody, somewhere.  I have a job, and a purpose.  And it is SCARY to set that aside and think of myself without the labels.  It is work, and I have been quiet of late because I've been busy doing that work.  Like anything worth doing, good things have come of it.  My art is evolving, my business sense is becoming more refined, and my boundaries are shifting in ways I feel are very healthy.  Being open to change like that is not something that I find easy; it is not a natural state for me, but a conscious choice and commitment to myself.

This year, I really opened myself up to The Community.  Many people only know me because of that decision, and yet it feels like a mask.  In a lot of ways, I stepped beyond the boundaries of who I thought I was, and into a caricature of who I thought I was supposed to be.  Neither of those states represent the entirety of who I am.  And I found, in the mirrors held up by my peers (and some unexpected adversaries), new facets of my self I'd not yet met.  I expected paperwork, bookkeeping and taxes.  I expected inventories, purchase orders and continuing education.  I did not expect the sort of emotional tumult and soul-searching I've been invited to explore this year.  Nothing like a tumbling tower to shake away the delusions and reveal the realities! 

And the reality is this: I run my business, and my life, by my heart.  And that is some scary, downright dangerous business!  It leaves me vulnerable to criticism and self-doubt, and can result in my plans becoming derailed by my emotions.  The "easy" alternative, the quick fix, would be to sanitize the heart out of my business and run it by the books.  Not exactly sure whose books those would be...  Doesn't really matter.  Doing that, running my business in accordance with someone else's ideals and standards, equals running their business (whoever "they" are).   I'm not interested in that.

If I am going to have MY business, it will have to be mine.  Not just Yet Another Shop Selling Some Stuff, but something that is uniquely personal to me, and reflects both my aesthetics and my ethics.  That is surprisingly difficult to balance with a desire to understand the community framework that will, hopefully, support my business.  I've found it essentially impossible to participate in the community without having that participation influence my art.  That's not a bad thing, per se, but when I allow the opinions of others to dictate what is "right" and "good" and "the way things should be", I lose my ability to connect with the part of my art that is mine.  And then I'm no longer making art, I'm just making stuff.

Confused?  Me too!!! Unfortunately, I have to find my own peace with this situation.  That is taking time.  Time that will prove a sound investment in my business, and my self, but time it is often hard to make time for. 

Cultivating patience,


Friday, June 28, 2013

Tour de Fleece 2013 - TEAM NEVERMORE

Despite having eleventy other projects going on right now (one shop revamp, one shop in the making, hand card group discount event on the forum, bitty babester's first birthday, a life...kinda...), I have decided that I'm going to join the awesomeness that is le Tour de Fleece.  It's a spinning event timed with the Tour de France.  A handful of guidelines, no rules, and hopefully a whole lotta yarn (read: stashbusting)!  I've watched it on Ravelry for a couple years now, but haven't played along because reasons.

This year, the awesomeness has been taken to a whole 'nother level.  My friend Chris from ThreeRavens is hosting Tour de Fleece: Team Nevermore.  Pretty much anything Chris does is amazing, and she has a great group of spinners gathered for this year's TdF.  How could I not join in?!  I've got a small box of "gotta have its" that I'm hoping to spin into fun, funky, whimsical yarns.  After all, I do have a new shop to stock. ;-)

You should spin along with us!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Where I've Been

A fuzzy troll?  Nope.  Just a custom batt.  

Once again, I've succumbed to blog lag.  Bitty babester has gotten a LOT more mobile, which makes taking time to sit and write, or do anything else, a luxury I can only rarely afford.  Hi!  How are you?  I've been BUSY lately!  I thought that putting my shop on hiatus would free up some time.  Not so.  Between the Round Four carding cloth co-op, general business management workings, and a "working vacation" to The Mannings for their 45th Annual Spinning Seminar, I have been crazy busy.  I've even had a couple custom orders come in.  It's good, and I'm certainly not complaining!  Just explaining.

I've got some news to report: BabesterArts will no longer be my yarn and fiber shop.  Effective... sometime, all my spinning pursuits will transfer to a new shop.  BabesterArts will go dark for a bit, and then re-open on a date TBD with a new, kid-centric line of fibery fun!  That's right, I'll have TWO shops to juggle!  And I thought I was busy...

I love my little shop, but it's just not clicking the way I want it to. I'd hoped that this year's rebranding/revamp would put it right, but it wasn't sitting well with me.  It wants to be something else, so I'm going to go with that.  The new shop is so. awesome.  Seriously, you guys.  Srsly.  I can't wait to debut this new creature I've created.  I'm really proud of it, and I think it will be a great home for my work.  BabesterArts, and all the fibery fun you've come to associate with it, will stay around, but the new line isn't yarn/spinning-centric.  It's equally awesome, but I'll probably wait to reveal more about it until the new fiber shop is up and running.  

Such a tease, right?  

Friday, May 24, 2013

You Only Know What You Know

"What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals." ~Goethe
One of the long-term projects I'm putting on my plate is the Certificate of Excellence in Handspinning offered by the Handweavers Guild of America. Why?  That is an excellent question! Let's start at the beginning.

Backstory (includes a whole herd of teal deer): 

There was this Ravelry thread, and it was soulsucking and awful and angrymaking.  It made me want to throw things at multiple people, gave me fits, and left me desperately wondering what sort of people raised those people. Because, seriously, who does that?!  It took a big, steaming dump on the idea of "community" that I love and hold dear and, for a while, made me want to drop out of the fiber arts entirely.  

But.  But but but.   

There's this thing I've learned to do when I find myself getting all fitty.  I've learned that things that get me riled up are usually poking at things I don't like about myself.  Because it's all about me.  Always.  So I've been sitting with this ugly, mean-spirited mess of a thread (which has, in fairness, evolved into something useful toward the latter few pages), and really looking at why it's upsetting to me.  I found a few things.

While I disagree with the snark and the smugness and the stomping of hopes and dreams, I agree with some of the points made in that thread.  And I didn't like that about me, mostly because it didn't feel "nice".  I try, I really try, to be inclusive and accepting and open to other perspectives.  I have a "your beliefs are just as believable as my beliefs" mentality and tend to be respectful of different ideas, often to my own detriment.  I am a self-titled Professional Noob, and I want all the noobs to feel welcome to join in and participate.  Then I do this thing where I think "Yeah, but this is business..." and that's when the signal goes to static and I start feeling really confuzzled.  The online fiber marketplace is essentially a free-for-all.  There are no clearly-defined quality standards to be met before one can sell hand-dyed/handspun yarn or fiber or...  There is no universal regulatory/governing body responsible for overseeing the fiber arts.  There are no community-wide Certificates of Awesomeness.  There are no real boundaries. So the marketplace is the community is the marketplace, and that's something pretty unique.  And awkward.  And somewhat problematic.  Can business and community coexist?  What are the ethics of this sort of business? 

One of the recurring themes in the Thread of Suck was a shrill harping about how noobs had no right to sell noobcraft (offered with a side of "get off my lawn!").  The time-honored "this is why we can't have nice things" argument was raised, and a heap of blame for poor market performance was placed on the noobs (theory being the market saturation created by the mass influx of noobspun destroyed the ease with which "experts" could sell their wares).  A few posts acknowledged that the market would sort the mess itself (eventually).  There was a lot of "you cannot has" thrown down, and without any sort of real authority to enforce that kind of exclusive access to, and control over, the market. 

This implication that only Ferraris belong on the road is some nonsense.  No one would believe for a second that the vast number of available Civics somehow diminishes the worth of a Bentley (most would probably claim the opposite is true).  A Prius is not a Porsche.  Duh.  This is easy to put into car terms because those values are pretty well known and at least accepted (if not truly understood).  Fiber art is a bit different because the knowledge of what separates high-quality from not is not nearly so universal.  The element of prestige is pretty much non-existent which affects variables like "luxury" and "taste" that might otherwise be used to justify prices and assign value. 

At the same time, we have "lemon laws" that protect buyers from wasting money on crappy cars.  There is no such protection in the fiber marketplace (says someone who has received quite a bit of frustrating fluff from "noobs" and "experts" alike).  There is no rule or law in Fiberville that says "thou shalt not sell crap".  And so, people do.  Some maliciously, but my guess/hope is that most do so in ignorance.  Ignorance that begins to seem somewhat willful, when you consider examples like "Dyers" who don't spin, and "Spinners" who don't know how to use their own yarn.

Back and forth and back again, to what end?  Ultimately, I have zero control over The Market and what the "experts" think and do.  All I can do is look at myself, and my shop, and my space in the community.  So that's what I've been doing.  I've been going over that sucktacular thread again and again, trying to filter out the ego-fueled ranting and distill the points that deserve consideration.  Then I've done the icky work of running my own products/process past those points.  Not so much as a pass/fail.  I still believe that everyone deserves a place.  More as a way to determine what needs improvement because anyone who's not an asshat can always find something that does.  Self-monitoring/evaluation seems to be the sort of thing that not-douches do.  

And so, the booklet in the picture at the top of this rambling post.  I decided to go to the dark side and really explore technical precision in spinning, which is not to say that I will ever attain a certifiable standard of same. ;-)  I'd like to do this as a tangible thing and not just an intellectual exercise.  I'm motivated to learn more about my craft because I'm a nerd like that, and because quality is important to me.  I only know what I know, but I know there's more to learn.  I also want to know how it is that one gets from "noob" to "expert".  If there is a set path for this, I have not yet stumbled upon it.   I want my art to be a willful exercise in deviating from a standard, not merely "art" as a matter of convenient labeling for something that won't fit neatly elsewhere.  I am aware that there are some "experts" out there who'd be happy to tell me where it fits.  I'm not doing this for them.  I want to find/refine my style, my "voice". 

I can be better, and there's no shame in saying that.  I look at the tremendous amount of progress I've made in my very limited time in Fiberland and I am very proud of my achievements.  I see no need to be embarrassed by my shop or my decision to sell fiber and yarn without a Decree of Worthiness from those who'd put themselves above me.  There is a great deal about business that can only be learned by doing business.  The value of the lessons I've learned from having my shop have far outweighed the miniscule possibility that my mere presence in the marketplace was somehow damaging to the market itself.  I'm sure the market will get over whatever insult I may have inadvertently caused.  I hope the "experts" will, too.

There's a lot more to say about this Evil Thread of Evil-turned-useful and the brainwrangling it has inspired/required.  The good news is that I (might) have more time to talk it out.  I've decided to put my shop on vacation for the foreseeable future so that I can devote myself to further study of my art, along with some serious community building.  We really do need a lot of the latter, and I'm hoping the former will give me the energy to be a part of it.  This is all part of that shift I've felt coming.

Excuse my dust. Renovation in progress.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Not Now. Maybe Later.

Like most, I don't like "no".  I want to do all the things. I only have so much time.

Mix those three and what results is an incredible feeling of pressure and stress to doallthethingsrightnow lest I somehow miss out or be left behind.  Problem is, that's not a very sustainable business strategy.  The result would most likely be a mess of half-done projects, or projects completed at half my ability.  Not good for business; half-done and half-quality both equal waste, IMO.

In order to help myself slow down, prioritize, and actually complete my projects, I employ a strategy I learned from parenting.  Not now. Maybe later.  "Not now" is a lot easier to receive and accept than "no."  Maybe later keeps it in the realm of possibility, rather than slamming the door shut.  The overall effect is an acknowledgement of both the super awesome new idea and the other ideas already on my plate.

I keep a ridiculously long list of Maybe Later Projects.  Seriously- it's nearly 200 entries long right now.  If I feel some spare energy bubbling around (hah!), I pick a new project from that list.  When I do my quarterly business evaluation, I cull the list and purge projects that no longer seem like such amazingly fabulous ideas.  I pick 2-3 that really jump out at me and put those on the official plan for that quarter.  The plan gets refined during weekly and monthly reviews, so there's not a whole lot of room for stagnation. 

How do you sort your ideas?  How do you decide what to follow and what to keep as fantasy?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

TIMT: Kindergarten Capelet

Been a while since I posted for Thing I Made Thursday.  Here's a special edition to make up for it.  :-)

This is a pic of my very first "all by myself" pattern. Yes, really.  I just made it up. It's fresh off the needles; you can see a bit of yarn at the collar that needs weaving in, and it's in desperate need of blocking, but... I made that!  With mah brainz!!!  And it actually fits!  I took it straight off the needles and asked her to try it on.  We're both very pleased with how it turned out.

It had been a reeeeeaaaalllly long time since I'd picked up my pointy sticks.  I'd forgotten how therapeutic it is to get lost in the rhythm of a good knit.  This was done in the round, which I love.  I was surprised by how well my hands remembered the stitches, even if my brain was having trouble recalling the details.  From start to finish, this project was very intuitive.  It's not particularly complicated, which I'm sure helped.  ;-)

It's appropriate to have a project I made for bigger babester featured today, as it is her 5th birthday.  I guess you could say there are two things I made in that picture.  She is her own, wild little creation, though.  She'll be starting Kindergarten in the fall (where does the time go?!!).  She's addicted to books (buncha bibliophiles in this house).  She is one of the kindest people I've met, and would gladly share pretty much anything she has.  She's also coming into her own power, and developing a sense of boundaries and her own code.  She's patient with her baby sister, which is no easy feat sometimes.  I know I'm biased, but she's a really neat little person.  I'm excited to see what this next year will bring for her.

One thing I know I can help her cultivate is her love of the fiber arts.  She was a great fleece shopping buddy at MDSW this year.  She's great at helping pick out colorways for batts.  She has had fun coming up with start-to-finish projects with a bit of assistance. So I think it's time for her to be properly initiated into the ways of the fiber junkies.

The spindle may look familiar to those of you who know me (or have been following my little slice of weird for a while).  I thought it was fitting to have her learn on the same spindle I learned on.  There's a bit of "leader" from a previous spin wrapped on there already, too.  Of course, I expect she'll want several of her own spindles; those extra chore funds aren't going to spend themselves!  For her first fiber, I went straight for the good stuff.  I picked out that pink poof of awesome from Loop at MDSW.  Steph herself put it into that little baggie.  She has no idea who I am, and probably thought it was odd that I only bought an ounce of fluff, but there's a bit of story on my side to support my madness.  Steph's from our town originally, and her fiber is the stuff my babester would always covet (whenever I was fortunate enough to get my hands on it).  Her spontaneous spinning clouds are what I took with me to spin while on vacation because they're heavenly.  Soft, fluffy, gorgeous color, and the type of prep that encourages spinners to feel the fiber and really experience it rather than overthinking it.  So when I saw the giant bag of spontaneous spinning cloud in this perfect pink colorway, I knew exactly what babester's first spinning fiber would be.

There are more fun things in the works here at BabesterArts, but it will probably be June before I have more to say about them.  I've got a write up of this pattern to finish, another pattern in the making, a fourth carding cloth co-op to finish, some really BIG projects to reveal...

All in due time.  :-)

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Trusting Fool

Osho Zen Tarot "The Fool"

"A fool is one who goes on trusting; a fool is one who goes on trusting against all his experience.  You deceive him, and he trusts you; and you deceive him again, and he trusts you; and you deceive him again, and he trusts you.  Then you will say that he is a fool, he does not learn.  His trust is tremendous; his trust is so pure that nobody can corrupt it.

Be a fool in the Taoist sense, in the Zen sense.  Don't try to create a wall of knowledge around you.  Whatsoever experience comes to you, let it happen, and then go on dropping it.  Go on cleaning your mind continuously; go on dying to the past so you remain in the present, here-now, as if just born, just a babe.

In the beginning it is going to be very difficult.  The world will start taking advantage of you -- let them.  They are poor fellows.  Even if you are cheated and deceived and robbed, let it happen, because that which is really yours cannot be robbed from you, that which is really yours nobody can steal from you.  And each time you don't allow situations to corrupt you, that opportunity will become an integration inside." - Osho

I've been a fool lately.  It was foolish to jump headlong into a moderating project for a hot-button topic when I had zero moderating experience.  It was foolish to take on co-ops and projects while juggling family life and my own business.  It was foolish to take a relative stranger into my home.  It was foolish to think that my kindness would be returned equally, or even received with appreciation.  It was foolish to trust that others would have my best interests at heart, and foolish to think my good intentions would keep me from being exploited.  I have been a fool, but is that really such a bad thing?

I've noticed an element of shame in my thinking lately.  I'm really good at beating myself up; have been for my whole life.  We can be polite and call it "self-discipline" but the truth is that I'm mean to me.  Regularly.  I don't need other people to be mean to me; I'm cruel enough to myself.  And when I make mistakes, which, being human, I do often, I am the first person in line to take a swing at me for having made them.  I say things to myself like "how could you?!" and "what were you thinking?!" and "don't you know better?!!!!"  I blame myself first when things go wrong. If only I'd done more, or better, or differently. If only I'd been more/less guarded/assertive.  If only I'd been more patient/acted more quickly. If only I'd said that one thing that would make everything right...  Which, reduced, boils down to "If only I were perfect."

I'm not.  I never will be.

So what?

I have made "So what?" a bit of a mantra this year.  People being jerks on Ravelry.  So what?  Someone on the internet doesn't like me.  So what?  I did something innocently stupid.  So what?  Did someone die?  No.  Is death even a legitimate possibility?  Not likely, no.  Fuck it, then.  Wipe the slate and start over.  Recalibrate.  Reinvent.  Reimagine.

The trick is to scrub off all the mess and really start fresh.  I am very good at tucking memories and grudges into a Poppins-style Bag O' Crap and carrying that shit around with me, and a Fool's Journey can't handle that kind of a burden.  It's hard to say to myself: "Well, Self, you fucked that one up.  Let's move on." and then leave that mess behind and truly move on.  It's much easier to rehash what happened and analyze and look for that one, critical "a ha" factoid that will magically correct whatever suckfest I've experienced.  It's habit to use blame to distance myself from whatever crap I went through.  That Person did That Thing and that's why I am where I am.

This is also a "So what?" scenario.

I've learned to give myself a set timeframe for rubble-sifting.  I've learned that what I'm looking for isn't who's to blame or what sort of magical band-aid the situation might need.  There are lessons in all experiences; all knowledge is worth having.  But what I find in the leftovers of whatever problematic mess I've been in is rarely an Epic Boulder of Wisdom.  More often, it's a pebble, or a rock, if I'm really lucky.  Some little crumb of insight into my self that starts me back on my Fool's Path. 

So, here I am.  Again.  Shaking off the dust of another crumbled Tower, floating in that liminal place between where I began and where I'll end up.  Here at the threshold, calling myself back to the lighthearted steps of The Fool. 


Cormo.  Good for what ails ya!

When I started my business, I was really naive.  I was in love.  I was leaping, expecting the net to appear.  The net appeared in various forms.  My business paid for itself and then some.  My love of all things fiber expanded exponentially.  I met some really great people.  I learned.  A lot. I took a break.  I came back.  I kept learning.  I am still learning.

In a paragraph summary like the one above, my fiber experience has been blissful.  Honestly, that's not too far from the truth.  The good has far outweighed the bad, and my love for the art/craft has only deepened.  But I'm noticing a lot more "static" in my fiberverse these days.  When I started, all I felt was positivity, support, joy and acceptance.  See above re: really fucking naive.   I don't know if I've just expanded the number of wavelengths I receive now, or if the overall vibe of the fiber community has shifted, but now is definitely not then!  Etsy handspun makes "experts" depressed.  There is One True Way and anything that is not that is wrong.  Everything is for sale.  It's a cutthroat competition.  Screw or be screwed.

This is not what I signed on for.

I've decided to take a few giant steps back from the fiber community.  I feel like my little song is getting lost.  It's one thing to sing out and be drowned out by other voices, but I feel like I can't even hear it myself anymore and that's a problem.  I need to go back to what brings me joy: tinkering and experimenting and learning.  I need to find more ways to help and enable and support and give.  I need to tune out the frequencies that are all about making a buck and not giving a fuck.  

The only way I know how to do all of that is to retreat.  That's kinda hard to do with a forum to moderate and co-ops to run and artists to enable.  So instead of retreating completely, I'm calling this "recalibrating."  I'm starting (again) by cleaning out my stash and my space. Clearing clutter is a good way to shift energy, IMO. I'm clearing out the energies that seem to suck me down, too.  I've left a lot of forums I've been watching because the drama level outweighed the useful, beneficial information.  I'm going to spend the next couple months revisiting what brings me joy in the fiber world, namely soft floofy things and learning.  Always learning. 

I make no guarantees about posting here, but I keep this blog as my own archive/journal so hopefully I'll come up with some things to say.  All I know at this point is I'm not having fun anymore.  Fiber should be fun.  There's got to be a way to get from here to there.

More to follow...

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Give Signal

I always forget that I have this thing.  And then I feel guilty for not blogging.  And the guilt keeps me from blogging.  Hi!  How've you been?

I've been an interesting mix of awesome and abused.  This has been very difficult to grapple.  I've wanted to write (because that's how I like to express myself), but I haven't because it wouldn't be "professional".  After all, fiber is srs bsns and I r profeshunull yarnie.  Or something.  Except not.  I'm a person.  And an empathic, sensitive, intuitive, downright delicate one.  This is what makes me an artist and what inspires me to create, and yet this is what has caused me the most grief of late.  So I feel like stifling it for the sake of "professionalism" on my own little blog is pretty ridiculous.

Let's talk.  Like friends.  Actual friends, not those fake smile, "what can you do for me?" not-friends.

I am here.

I've been pretty great lately.  I've scored some amazing fleeces, learned some new techniques, hooked a bunch of artists up with new fiber and tools, acquired some crazy awesome new tools myself, and have even sold a few things. My family is wonderful, my inner circle is rock solid, and my health is good.  Life here has been lovely, with a few notable exceptions.  And I don't quite know what to make of them.

You are...?

I like the idea of community.  The idea that you are out there, somewhere, loving fiber and enjoying fluff and making art. The idea that we're all in this together and it's about the fiber and we're all in love with the same thing, which gives this wildly diverse bunch of individuals commonality. So when I see or experience stabbity things that poke the very heart of community, it hurts me.  Personally.  Viscerally.  When I see petty territorial pissings about who owns what ideas, it hurts me.  When I see scammers take advantage of people, and essentially get away with it, that hurts me.  When I see bully mobs snark on fellow fiber artists, it hurts me.  Even when they're not talking about me (double when they are).  When I see people use others to get ahead or save a buck or even just because they're thoughtless and self-absorbed, it hurts me.  When I'm the one getting taken advantage of, it hurts me twice.

Not double/twice/more just because it's personal, although I don't know many people who like being the target of someone else's suck.  I get hurt twice because I get the direct/personal suckfest, and then I get the more damaging effect: having my faith and belief in the concept of community shaken to the core. Yes, some jerks did some jerky things to me, and that was unfun.  But those jerks are the people in my neighborhood.  They're walking through the same fiber festivals I am.  They're selling in the same venues.  They're the people that you meet each day.  They are us, if you will.  They're my community and yours, and sometimes it's hard for me to know what to make of that. 

I'm a big girl in a lot of ways, and I have a substantial stash of big girl undies.  When I get hurt personally, I may cry a bit (or a lot, depending), but I go on.  Scarred, perhaps, but usually wiser for it.  In time, I open back up and I go back to being Kate.  In short, I get over it.  What is harder for me to get over is the idea that this ideal of community, the sense of camaraderie, was so thoroughly stomped.  That there are people in my community who don't care about community, or even see it.  In some ways, I am hurt more by the times when someone hurts another member of my community.  Mistreat me and I'll deal with you directly.  But there's only so much I can do to help the victims of someone else's misbehavior.  The feeling of powerlessness is disabling.

And that's where I've been more often than not this year (so far).  In January, I started a project: a Ravelry group I'd created to be a fun, happy, communal space.  In its brief lifespan to date, it has been dumped on by vendors, exploited by scammers, abused by and abandoned by those who've come into the space in the guise of helpers, and it now sits somewhat idly, waiting for its members and its leader to steer it somewhere useful.

I don't know where this little adventure is going to go, but I'm starting to realize that it has taken me away from where I want to be.  I don't know how much control I actually have over its direction, but I am going to try, again, to sail this ship to a happier port.  I don't know exactly how I'm going to do that, but I do know how I'm NOT.  I am not going to close this thing down, though the thought did cross my mind.  Yes, there have been scammers, and douchecanoes, and gossip trollops.  Yes, there have been users and abusers and losers.  But there have also been the givers, the helpers, the collaborators.  And there are the artists, known and unknown, professional and hobbyist.  And it is that part of the community I want to nurture, if I can*.

I don't advertise in my group.  I have a shop I could link to.  I was recently made a carding cloth distributor, which would be a perfectly relevant thing to post.  But that's not why I made that space.  There are plenty of places online and in meatspace where I can pimp my wares.  The forum is where I give.  It has always been where I give.  I give my time.  I give my organizing abilities to make the co-ops run smoothly.  I give my creations and stash as an incentive to inspire others to make and share and create.  I don't ask people to buy my things or stroke my ego or make me feel important.  I give because that's how community grows: giving. 

Can we do more of that, please?

If you've found this post, it's either because you already know me (in which case, you already know this), or you've clicked through from somewhere else and found my little corner of weird.  If you've read this far, I'd like to ask a favor of you: give something.  Not to me; I'm off limits and this is not a solicitation.  Give something, your time/a thing you made/a compliment/anything, and then post a comment or a note to the forum or a message to me to let me know.  I need to know that the givers are out there.  I need to know that community isn't just some crazy idea.  I need to know that we're all in this together, and that while we're not perfect, we're still willing to try.

I know you're out there, community!  This is a beacon.  Find me here.

* - If I can't, well, I tried.  I can be at peace with that.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Things Someone Else Made Thursday: OMGWTFOHY Knitting Needles

Big.  Huge.  Ginormous.  Gargantuan.  OMG.  WTF.  Oh Heck Yes!!!  Those incredible sticks in that picture?  The ones that totally dwarf babester (even though she's "almost 5 and a big helper girl, not a baby")?  Those are my new, ludicrously large, custom made knitting needles from Christiane Knight and Rob Lescalleet of Threeravens Fiber Studio.  They're 48" long, 2" diameter, handmade pillars of AWESOME!  And they're for ME!!!  SQUEEEEEE!!!!!!

Okay, calming down enough for backstory.  I met Christiane (xiane if you know where to find the good stuff on Etsy) via internet yarnie spaces.  In addition to being an amazing fiber artist, I really like her approach to ideas near and dear to my heart, like community, vulnerability...  Finding Chris was like finding kin, and I'm super happy she's a part of my tribe.

Photo Credit:
In the course of our "getting to know yous", I came across the signature Threeravens BA Knitting Needles.  I was smitten.  I thought about all those funky chunky, bulky art yarns I love to spin and all the extra-large projects I'd seen/pinned/bookmarked, and I almost bought a pair on the spot.  I even had one of the Size OMG Crochet Hooks in my cart, though crochet is not my strength.  They're just THAT awesome.  But, me being me, I had to take it further.  I've had some pipe dream projects floating in my brain since I learned to spin, but hadn't found anyone with the tools to make them possible.  So, hoping for luck, I sent Chris a message to ask how deep this giant knitting rabbit hole might go.

Photo Credit:
Turns out Rob and Chris were able to make exactly what I needed for my super-sekrit mystery project(s)!  I believe these are called size 150, but "big ass needles" will suffice!  It was only a blink and a half between asking about possibilities and seeing realities.  Not only that, but since Threeravens is local, I lucked into personal delivery service, as well.  Tell me, am I not the luckiest?!  Not pictured: the cats and kiddos who tried their best to keep Rob and Chris at BabesterArts on a permanent basis.  We eventually let them go, but only because their incredible talent needs to be shared with the rest of the fiber arts community.

Today, we took the needles out to the trees to be properly welcomed into our space.  We were all impressed by both how light they were, and how well they held up to some exuberant play.   While they were designed to be tools, we couldn't help but have a bit of fun with them.  That's how we do things here.

Bitty missed the swordfighting playtime, but she'll get her chance to play with them soon enough.  Then it will be time to start the mind-bogglingly huge projects I have in store for these gorgeous new toys, which are art in their own right, IMO.  Can't tell you what's in store, but you already know one thing: it's gonna be...


Friday, April 5, 2013

The Scarlet N (A Rant)

Or maybe not.  I had a lengthy rant typed up, but I've decided against posting it.  The events that provoked it were ugly enough, and have been too spoon-stealing already, so I'm just going to have to try to put that nonsense behind me and walk on.  But I would like to say something(s) to/for anyone else who needs a reminder that they have, and deserve, a seat at the table.

Noobishness is a feature, not a defect.  It is not a sin.  It is not a violation of The Rules.  It is not a curse.  It is not a state deserving of snark and mockery.  It is an essential step on the path to anywhere worth going.  It was the stomping ground for all who are now "the elite", and will be the same for all who have yet to take their first steps.  It is what it is, and it's awesome, so relax and enjoy it.  No, one shouldn't misrepresent noob-level goods as being expertly made, or use noobishness as an excuse for known defects.  But neither should one feel that simply being new requires self-flagellation, heaps of guilt and self-doubt, and public outing of one's status lest "the experts" start a snarkfest (again).  You are not required to note that this is your first, fifteenth, fiftieth, or five-hundredth yarn/batt/product.  It is not essential information.  If the product has a known issue, that should be disclosed.  "Made By Noob" is NOT an issue that requires a warning label.  In fact, it may be exactly what someone is looking for.

To those who seem to enjoy snarking other artists, criticizing the work of strangers, posting "PSAs" that serve no one but themselves, "stomping hopes and dreams" and otherwise peeing in the community pool:
"Remember: It costs nothing to encourage an artist, and the potential benefits are staggering. A pat on the back to an artist now could one day result in your favorite film, or the cartoon you love to get stoned watching, or the song that saves your life.
Discourage an artist, you get absolutely nothing in return, ever." -Kevin Smith
If you want to be seen as a true professional, act like one.  You will have the community you support.


Passionate Amateur, Professional Noob, and extraordinarily bummed out

Monday, March 25, 2013


Me and the babesters at our very first live show/sale!

Oh man, you guys!  Homespun was AWESOME!!!  It was all kinds of delicious madness, and we had an absolute blast!  I'm still trying to come down from the craze of it all, but here is a bit of a photo essay for those who couldn't make it.  

finding our space

the great room during setup

happy babester is happy

Once things were mostly in place, we had a quick pre-show lunch

Hooray for picnics!

filling and facing mostly complete (cooler bag was moved, obvi)

Mostly set up booth (the stuff in the windowsill was moved, obvi)

My little table.  Yes, I totally made a QR code for my email list signup sheet.  Because I am that nerd.

A closeup of my Easter Grass Yarn basket.  I spun that yarn a few years ago and had NO idea what it wanted to be until I found that little basket in the dollar bin.  A bit of weaving and ta da! A perfect home for some candy.

The show begins!  Blurry pic is blurry, but it matches my memories.  
Things got crazy intense for the 5 hours the show was on.

A very special visitor!  This is Connie, my former neighbor and the woman who taught me to spin (and whose Louet S10 I still have on indefinite loan - "thank you" doesn't even come close)  It was beyond awesome to be able to see her at my first show. 

Dramatic babester is dramatic!  She looks grumpy in this pic, but she was just posing.  She had some special new treats to keep her busy, and enjoyed her new princess notebook/pens/stickers.  She also had plenty of tech time (which is usually pretty limited in our house).

Bitty babester sacked out for a bit.  I'm lucky to have such easygoing kiddos!

Waking up happy!

Tech girl.  While she enjoyed talking to people and passing out candy, she had a good bit of fun in her tent.  All those camping trips have really paid off!
Also, while I would never have bought one of these, I'm kinda glad her grandma did.  That thing is sweet.

At the end of the show...  We brought enough to refill the display as things sold, but we sold about half of what we brought!  Things looked a bit sparse at the end, but that's a good thing, I think.  And, of course, all these lovelies are now headed to the Etsy shop!

Time to break it all down and head home.  It was a lovely, if somewhat hectic, show.  I couldn't have asked for a better first event!

I will write up a more reflective post in the next few days, but I hope this gives a decent idea of what things were like. I learned a LOT about what live sales take and what I've got and how those things fit together.  I am incredibly grateful to have had such a fun show to learn at.  The organizers and volunteers of Homespun Yarn Party are phenomenal people who put on a great event.  I can't say enough about how well we were treated and how smoothly things went.  That's no small feat, and definitely no accident!  There was a lot of work put into making the 2013 Party as great as it was, and I really appreciate it!

More to follow, just as soon as I get everything unpacked, sorted, listed in the shop and put back in its place!  And maybe I'll get pictures of said place, too...  Eventually.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

TIMT: Shop In A Box

That's about half full, but you get the idea.

Two more days 'til Homespun Yarn Party! TWO!!! I am both ridiculously excited and kinda freaking out.  Thankfully, I feel pretty well-prepared.  In as much as one can be prepared for a first, that is.  After carefully measuring my six by six foot space, I tried to come up with a way to fit the goods and the good folk of my fam into what space we're allowed.  Oh- and we have to fit all of it, plus all of us, in a Honda Fit.  And then I have to find a space to store it all in the teeny tiny workspace I still haven't written about yet.*

What I came up with was about $60 worth of stuff from IKEA, plus a few things from home.  It's little more than a rack with hanging organizers and some foldable cardboard & fabric boxes, but it's light, compact, inexpensive and it brings things up to eye-level.  I actually bought 2 of them, but there's not enough space for both with Bitty Babester needing seating, too.  Since this is my very first show, I'm not stressing about bringing 1000 things.  We're going to share the fluff, and we're going for the experience.  If we get there and get home, it will be a complete success.  :-)

Stuff, Smallsauce, Husby... Who's missing?


I was a bit worried about Babester, but she found her space right away.  Roll-up camping table + sheet from my lightbox = perfect preschooler tent!  Of course, we're not chained to our space.  And with two adults, there are enough hands to wrangle kiddos for bathroom trips, munchie runs and wiggle breaks.

Sadly, I'm afraid my lovely banner will have to wait for another show.  Unless I can convince them to hold it like this for five hours:

Probably not, but I had t-shirts made for all of us, and the new product labels are pretty great, so I think people will have an easy time knowing who we are.  I'll bring the sign just in case I can find some creative way to put it up.

Seeing the official Vendor Map made me crazy excited!  We'll be on the right side, space #19!!!  If you're localish, please stop by and say hello.  Savage Mill is beautiful, and there's an amazing amount of talent and fiber awesomeness to be found at this event!

I'll do my best to get great pics from the show.  Here we go!!! WHEE!!!!!!!!!!!

* - I'll get there.  I promise.  Just let me get everything tucked back into its place first.  ;-)

Thursday, March 14, 2013

TIMT: Umm... Stuff?

Umm, yeah.  I've made all sorts of stuff lately, but I don't have a neat, tidy story about any of it at the moment.  I have been in go mode getting ready for Homespun Yarn Party, and I feel like I'm all out of spoons at this point.  So here, have a tasty little brain treat! 

Actual content to follow... eventually!

Monday, March 11, 2013

In The Grease

Lanolin.  Great for soft hands!

As has been the case with all of the forms of fiber arts I've tried so far, I am now totally hooked on prepping raw fleece.  I got started buying fleece by the pound earlier this year.  Now it's barely March and I've acquired not one, not two, but 3 full fleeces!  One is a lovely Huacaya alpaca and I'll post more about it separately (alpaca is a whole 'nother deal, I've learned).  The other two are Rambouillet crosses from Kami at Ranching Tradition.  They are amazing!  I've tried to put together a bit of a photo essay so you can enjoy them, too.

First, you take the bags out of the box.  And they poof up to twice their size.  Then you take the bags outside and dump the fleece onto the sheet, where it proceeds to floof up even more.  

"What on Earth have I gotten myself into this time?!"

Thankfully, it was a lovely spring-ish morning and my cheerleaders were standing by.

I tried to spread it out in sheep shape, but didn't have much success.  So I ended up just grabbing handfuls of similar sections of fleece and shaking the VM out as best I could before bagging them.  

 This one is from "Dottie", a Rambouillet/Targhee cross ewe.  Both of the fleeces I bought were graded.  Dottie's is 19.5 micron, 70s spin count, with an average staple length of 3.5 inches.  It weighed over 9 pounds!

I think the handfuls of fleece pre-shake look kinda like fuzzy jellyfish.  

All sorted(ish), second cuts and icky bits removed (not that there were many to remove at all).  I ended up with 15 overstuffed gallon-size bags.  

Babester found some 'paca bits from the skirting, sorting and shaking I'd done the day before.

She set the 'paca poofs in a seashell for her birds and their squirrel friends.

Round Two!  This one came from "Mrs. Potts", a Rambouillet/Targhee/Polypay cross ewe.  Her fleece was "only" about 6.5 pounds and was graded at 22.6 microns, 62s spin count, with an average staple length of 3.25 inches.  I found most of the fleece to be well above that, though.

Shake, shake, shake!

I love the crimp!  It's not even just crimp.  It's like little, adorable crimples!  Totally addictive! (click for bigger pics)

Lanolin, like dirt, is also good for children.

All bagged up!  There was a bit more loss with this one, mostly because I knew how much fleece I had already and I got a bit pickier.  Still, I ended up with 11 gallon-size bags! 

Huge thanks to my always-supportive family for cheering me on!  
I would be lost without these lovely humans.

I've got some of both fleeces drying right now and they're both cleaning up pure white and gorgeous.  They're next-to-skin soft, too!  I see a lot of smooshy batts and squooshy yarns heading to the shop soon...

That is, once I get all this fleece washed!