Monday, March 31, 2014

Time, I have it: Boredom

Things with my semi-retirement status are going fabulously. You know those moments when you think, "I can't spend too much time doing X because I won't have enough time for Y and it'll throw my setup for tomorrow morning off schedule?" Well, no more. I have plenty of time to enjoy whatever X is still have enough time to get Y done, and still sleep in on a Saturday morning. I've always pushed myself to do many things, mainly because I don't believe in 'boredom.' Well, I should clarify. Boredom is good to have occasionally, but disasterous and digressive if frequently and in quantity.
During these last couple of weeks, I've been bored--like, laying on my back, making funny, nonsensical sentences, and giggling uncontrolably to myself. That kind of bored. Don't get me wrong, I've also been extremely productive with my paper, answered questions and emails, sent out orders, and even filmed two videos--but it's worth having mental stability to be bored from time to time. When was the last time you did...nothing...for an hour? I mean, stared-at-a-wall type nothing?

Remember when your parents would notice you being 'bored' or hear you complain about 'there's nothing to do,' what did they say? Go clean your room. Why don't you help me wash the dishes? When was the last time you played with Z toy? Manual labor always made me find creative ways to prevent being identified as 'bored'--who wants to dishes as a kid, especially when I'll have 50 years of dish washing ahead of me anyway?

Boredom has a negative stigma. Maybe it was our clever parents who inserted the idea of it being negative and thus we are the creative people we are today. Or maybe it's just the brain arguing with itself about whether or not 'doing nothing' is really productive...and it turns out the latter. Whatever the scientific reason is, being bored gives the brain the downtime it needs to reset, often in the middle of the day. And it's different than napping. Because we're conscious, ideas flow freely and we can be aware of them. In my most recent 'bored' session, I thought of an interesting way to make textured yarn without much work. I hope to have more of these productive 'bored' sessions in the future.

I think that once I get my new schedule settled, I'll be able to capitalize on these 'bored' sessions a bit more: new techniques, more time for practice and refinement, etc. These next few weeks will be devoted to finishing my rough draft and editing it. For now, the schedule is a bit bumpy and I can't say exactly when I'll get new content out to ya'll. When the paper is submitted, I hope to continue posting to the blog every few days and get a video out about once a week, as well as posting things often to FB, Twitter, and Instagram. Thank you to everyone who has supported this decision as it does encourage me to keep going, just at a sustainable pace. No more sad faces..I'm still here to hang out and learn and teach and make yarn!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The New Ply Magazines Have Arrived!

Spin-Off magazine has be the foremost magazine available to spinners who want to be part of a community and learn more about their craft through the experiences of others. As a commercial magazine, available at many craft stores around the world, it has become a popular choice for spinners to read as each issue becomes available. There are other, slightly more academic, peer-reviewed journals which discuss various aspects of spinning, about it's history, but those aren't typically available on the commercial market--to access those, you must pay for a subscription. Occasionally, there is a brief mention about spinning in knitting and crocheting magazines. Herein lies the perfect balance between the content you'd get from a Spin-Off issue, and that of paid subscription to a peer-reviewed journal: Ply magazine. It has a structured overview with well-written, fluff-free articles which teach the reader in a very reproducible, scientific way. I'll explain all what I mean in a later blog post, but I wanted to talk about my first impressions of the magazine.

First, the magazine itself is printed on sturdy paper, with a completely different feel than magazine paper. This attention to detail, whether intended as such or not, makes me feel like the content I'm about to read will be flipped through many times, so heavier paper is needed for durability. The coverart decidedly makes me feel less like I'm reading a magazine. The sleek, unobtrusive cover allows me to see the art for what it is and easily know the contents of the issue (Color, Woven, etc.). After a quick flip and skimming the contents, it becomes apparent that great attention was paid to unifying all of the diverse content together with theme other than white pages.

The advertisements in Ply are well integrated into the pages, and I rarely feel like I need to skip over them. There's a rare page or two of nothing but advertisements, but on the whole, it seems like they are either fewer in number than Spin-Off or placed such that I don't notice that I'm being sold to. I really like having advertisements nearby an article, yet unobtrusive. I realize the importance and necessity of having advertisements in a magazine, however it can make me feel like I'm watching regular cable television--I'm way more likely to skip past pages of advertisements rather than read them.

Overall, it seems like the content is updated. Though it focuses on a specific theme, in this case, Color, I think it reflects many of the questions I get asked about color blending and how to spin batts/roving to achieve various color effects. I find this to be a bit of a surprise, given the fact that this is a printed resource--often, printed sources tend to be behind the times. The salient questions about color are addressed, and since the advertisements are played down, I feel like I'm both getting plenty of content and the pictures they use show me exactly what they're talking about. In some ways, it looks like a teaching manual.

Last, the price. I must admit, I wasn't too sure about the steep price. I bought mine from a store in Japan, Kakara Woolworks, since Yuka was the closest store to me who had copies (and thus the cheapest shipping price). For me it was USD $16 an issue, but a subscription for US addresses is $9 an issue (and probably around $10 an issue if you buy it at a store). That is certainly more for 4 issues than Spin-Off, which is about $6.50 per issue. My cursory look has given me confidence that I paid an appropriate amount for the extras offered to me in each issue, so if you might be on the fence about purchasing a copy (or getting a subscription), I'd say it's worth examining personally.

I'll be working through each page, each article, so I can write up a review which takes a closer look at the actual content. I do this for every Spin-Off magazine too, and with the new issue for Spring arriving soon, I'll soon be able to compare the content of each magazine. And as a side note, I don't dislike Spin-Off. It's a typical magazine in terms of its layout, and I learn many things in every issue I have, which starts in Spring 2010. I've even read the older issues from the late 80s/early 90s that my guild library had. I just think Ply is heading in a new direction and really speaks to me as an avid learner, plus it seems like a strong contender for the market. It's nice to have choices, and I think Ply offers a healthy amount of competition. In all likelihood, I'll subscribe to both, especially since I know that many of you come to me with questions and I like helping out in any way I can. Anyway, stay tuned for more about Ply magazine! <3

Monday, March 17, 2014

Semi-Retirement: A Harsh Reality

I am putting Expertly Dyed into semi-retirement very soon. I'll explain what 'semi' retirement means, but first, let me explain why I've come to this decision. For most of you, I think this will come as quite a surprise.

Last August, I was faced with a seriously unexpected turn of events, and I was being forced to shut down the Etsy shop for Expertly Dyed. I was heading back to Korea, and with no one to ship goods on my behalf in the States anymore, I didn't see how I could possibly keep that running. My in-laws stepped in to help, but it was a temporary setup. I set things up with my mom so I could dye wool imported from Japan, but here are the problems: Time. Stress. Ability. Coordination. It may seem like a sweet deal to have people do the leg work for me, but all four of those problems hit me every day.

It's nearly impossible to operate a sole proprietorship remotely. It takes lots of my time and coordination to make it work as smoothly as it does. And when there's a hiccup in the process, not only am I completely unable to do anything to help, I have to ask other people to fix the problem for me. I lose the ability to run my business independently, and it creates negative stress. Given that Mr. IT Guy will be working on building his curriculum vitae in Korea for a little while longer, perhaps another year or two, I can't continue burdening those around me who are generous to offer so much help, nor can I handle the stress of trying to do things I can't do.

The extra work devoted to working a split shift every day has been wearing on me. I tend to put in about 6 hours of work for ED every morning, and sometimes a few hours each weekend, and another 1-2 hours each night. Eight hours a day doesn't sound so bad, and is in fact considered normal. But Facebook, and other places I post content for ya'll, won't let me schedule posts properly. When you see content go live, it's because I'm up at midnight (or later) posting that content. In business, timing is everything. In addition, I spend between 6-12 hours extra each week coming up with future content, and that constitutes much of my 'me' time.

When I set out to reestablish Expertly Dyed while in Korea, I meant to contribute to the knowledge base of the internet: videos, blogs, tips, tutorials, patterns. These goals are very important to me, because I think much of what I know should be given freely to those eager to learn something new. To do this, innumerable hours are spent thinking, devising, filming, writing, editing, and testing the content prior to release. I built a rather daunting schedule of content and release dates, and on top of working a 40+ week and operating ED remotely, I leave myself very little time to do anything else.

I know that some of you are thinking that running your own business means a little extra work. But as some of you know, I'm not just working on Expertly Dyed. I have been accepted to graduate school and will begin being a student again. To improve my own cv, I've been working on researching and writing a paper to be published in an academic journal since November 2013. I've been working on getting my rough draft started, and though I intended to get started mid-February, I only actually had time to sit down and work on it three days ago. This writing experience has proved to me that I can't do both, ED and grad school. Once my program starts, I'll be a grad student for two years, and if things go smoothly, I will transition into the school's Ph.D. program, which will be another 3-5 years.

Instead of working at my break-neck pace to provide new content every 12 hours, I need to slow things down. And this is what I mean by semi-retirement. I have put plenty of effort into Expertly Dyed over the last few years. I learned countless things about running a business. I have fallen in love with all of you. But I can't just stop. The scientist in me just won't let me just stop. I can't cold turkey Expertly Dyed, nor do I really want to. So, here's what you can expect from ED from now on:
  1. I won't be able to put new items in the Etsy shop. However, I do plan to offer bulk deals for those wishing to get discounts on batts and dyed braids, and I can work with you on a custom order. Since everything will be shipping from Korea, the higher shipping rate will be best for these larger orders. I'll create purchasing guidelines soon. :)
  2. New tutorial videos will become available, based on topic requests ya'll have given me and my own ideas too. I can't guarantee a new video a week, but I will make them when I can. 
  3. I will definitely keep posting things to the blog. I won't be able to come out with a new free pattern once a month like I planned, but I will try to keep the content interesting and engaging.
  4. Facebook is my biggest weakness, and my biggest time taker. I love how everyone comes to FB to ask me questions, post pictures of their projects, and comment on my work and the work of others. It feels like a real community there, and it helps to fill a void for me--there aren't many fibery people I can meet up with in Seoul. Expect me to post something once a day, or maybe every other day. I'll post fun things I'm doing in my spare time on weekends, like finally doing something with the huge stash of handspun yarn I have accumulated!
  5. Emails and FB messages. I get a lot of these every day, and this is partially why I spend so much time on FB. I will need to limit my replies to just once a week, so if it takes a little while for me to respond, it's not because I'm ignoring you...and you certainly aren't bugging me! I love answering your questions, but I have to realize that I spend a lot of time thinking about the answers and replying to them.
I will still be around to post new projects/pictures/blogs/tutorials/videos, I'll still answer questions and offer advice, and I still want to keep the sense of community we've developed over the years. I hope you all understand why I have to retire Expertly Dyed, and I do so only after deep consideration. I realize that I have had an impact on many of you, so if you need to talk to me about things, send me an email: The street goes both ways, so I hope you all know how much I care about each comment you make, each project you share, each question you ask, each smile you have while crafting.

For those interested in the topic of my current paper, I'll give you a little nugget. I'm taking a closer look at how textile production can influence how a group of people chooses a specific landscape, how the landscape itself is changed through textile production, and where we can look outside of extant textile remains to create a list of reasons for choosing specific kinds of landscapes. Outside of the basics of food, water, shelter, and protection, why else do people choose a specific location for settlement? A very interesting question, indeed. All of my research has focused on Iron Age peoples (the same group I am looking at to understand warp-weighted loom use), and I want to see if it's possible to track textile movement over the landscape by looking at archaeological sites with the lens of the textile producer.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Kromski Harp Rigid Heddle Loom: First Love, Twice Bought

Once upon a time, in a distant suburb in the middle of a developing neighborhood, I had a dream. And that dream was to one day own a real loom, not one I made out of cardboard and twine. I searched and searched for a loom, but the world of weaving was new and scary and full of terms I didn't know. But then, some Facebook fans sat me down and explained some of the terminology to me.

Armed with this new knowledge, I vowed to find the perfect loom for my needs. I set out to look on the World Wide Web--a vast, expansive place, full of memes, videos of kittens, and highly addictive flash games--and went to the One Who Answers All: In the far away land where I lived part of the year, my dear Kromski Minstrel lay waiting, patiently, for its' Persephone's return. noticed the longing in my eyes to return to my wheel, and promptly returned results about Kromski looms.

"There it is!" I cried. The light shone and a beautiful harp lay before me, bedecked with yarn and heddles. It's size was just right. I could ask for nothing more. Alas, the Mouse Messenger read from his scroll that this loom was adequately priced at $350. My heart sank, as I knew that would cost more gold than I was worth. I sent Mouse Messenger around the Interwebs to find a more affordable price, but he came to me utterly defeated.

I wept on my return journey to the Far East. Hours passed like months, until I eventually arrived in our new palace. It was old, slightly decayed from disuse, but sturdy. I poured myself into my work on the palace, producing beautiful fibers, and spinning with Minstrel. I worked furiously to forget my desire to have a harp, and even sobbed to poor old Babe about it.

But every fairytale has a happy ending. A wonderful woman in Japan offered a list of second-hand looms, and one of the happened to be a harp I had been wanting. Without hesitation I paid up my gold and sent the harp over choppy ocean waves to arrive at my door. She has not presented her name to me yet, but her weavings are gorgeous in their simplicity.

It did not take long to begin work on my harp, for I needed to learn the ins and outs of its capabilities.

And here is the result of my first attempt at weaving. I have more to learn, and I plan to use my own spun yarns some day.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Free Knitting Pattern: Nobunaga's Tea Kettle Cozy

There are many tea kettle cozies available on the internet, but almost none which will fit a tetsubin, a Japanese tea kettle. Mr. IT Guy and I have both been obsessed with Japanese culture since high school, and even had a shinto inspired wedding, so it was a matter of time before we bought a cast iron tea kettle (technically, we bought it before we got married). Though cast iron pots can keep the heat quite well, I'm a slow drinker. A sipper, really. I pour myself a small cup of tea at a time, into a thick, crock tea cup made by a Korean artisan. As the tea goes into my body, there is less in the pot to keep the pot warm.

It was time to make a tea cozy. The shape/style of kettle used in the 16th century became flatter, and not as plump looking as they used to be. They were designed for traveling around in a pack, so their compact size would make repacking easier. Now, why Nobunaga? Oda Nobunaga was the primary initiator of the unification of Japan in the 16th century, and given that the tetsubin shape developed at this time, I'd like to fantasize that Nobunaga carried one around in his pack while unifying Japan.

This pattern will fit a smaller, 16 ounce (.5L) kettle. That said, you can make some size adjustments to make it go around a larger tetsubin, or even an ornate, English-style kettle. I used several sample yarns to make the cozy, but you can choose whichever style you want: solid, striped, or any combination of colors. For the pattern, you'll need US 9 needles and any heavy worsted weight yarn (8-9 WPI).

A quick tip for those interested in using scraps, but also wanting balanced stripes which are mirrored over the origin (A B C D C B A <--that kind of pattern). Hold your yarn end to end, find the middle, then make a loose knot to mark the middle. As you're knitting your stripes, keep track of the knot so you end up making equal stripes for each side. Another tip is to add in a new color on the right side (RS) of the pattern to prevent a zigzag of color where you joined in the new color on the wrong side (WS).

Find the download link for the pattern here: Nobunaga's Tea Kettle Cozy Pattern

Enjoy the pattern, and as always, feel free to share via email or on the FB Expertly Dyed fanpage!