SitchesMidwest Haul 2014

2014 seems to have the sole goal of evaporating more quickly than any other year in my lifetime, and August in particular seems to propelled passed in  warp-like speed.

The week after my last blog post was spent preparing to host Mr. Joseph’s 30th birthday party: we shopped for decorations (it was Bollywood themed), made playlists to set the mood, transformed the back yard into a neon-splattered paradise, and I happily whipped up a menu our 40 or so guests loved, which included 100+ cupcakes made from scratch (take that, Martha Stewart).

The morning after the part proved to be especially challenging for Mr. Joseph (as it should be), but I woke up with all the enthusiasm of a five year old, completely lacking comprehension in the concept of time. Why? Well, every year Mr. Joseph’s birthday coincides with Stitches MidWest (the lucky Leo), and the Sunday following his birthday bash was the very last day of the event.

Like a champ, utilizing only his sheer will, he convinced his body to engage within the day, and even put on a smile as we made our way to Schaumburg for the event. We spent four hours, all of which without complaint from him as he contended with his hangover, shopping around for fabulous goodies.

We approached the marketplace with our traditional plan of attack: scope out all of the booths, completing a full loop while writing down all of the things we loved. Then, we circle back to pick up all of the goodies we can’t live without.

Here’s this year’s picture of the afternoon haul:

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When we had initially completed our loop and declaring it officially shopping time, Mr. Joseph darted around a corner with a blazing speed to pick up the stuffed alpacas he spotted, which he cradled under his arms for the rest of the afternoon as passersby either expressed their love for it or confused it for a small dog:

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The large one has been named PooPoo (I think maybe we were still a little drunk?), while the tiny one has been put away, waiting for Christmas time to be hung on our tree. I think we’ll name him then.

The large knitted blob you see is a shawl I’m making from a Draonfly Fibers gradient kit called ‘Winter Woods’. It was my only yarn purchase of the day, but I’m horribly in love with the brown-black hues and can’t wait to wear it as my inaugural Fall scarf (which is probably going to be in a few weeks, judging by the weather here in Chicago.

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The crumpled up edges inbetween the color changes are eyelets that should stretch nicely when the shawl is blocked. I only have two more rows to complete of the mid-grey colour, before switching over to the black, which will pretty much be utilized as a simple garter edge to complete the beast.

Since all six skeins in the kit are the same yardage, each stripe is slightly shorter than the last, which is a design element I’m embracing and loving.

The very last find of the day (the part of the photo above that looks like those stuffed alpacas have left a little treat on my desk) were these amazing skull stitch markers I picked up at the very end of the day (I stuck to budget, and I’ll be damned if I’m suddenly going to be under-budget for a fiber event).

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They’re my very first set of grown-up stitch markers, as usually I just use pieces of contrasting yarn. However, my battle with 16 repeats of the Pretty Thing Cowl pretty much ended any further subscription to this method, so I’m happy to welcome these stitch markers home as the first set of many I plan to purchase in the future.

The week after Stitches, Mr. Joseph took off to New Mexico for a work retreat, which left me to my own devices for four solid days. This is the main reason why I’ve been able to complete a solid 800 yards of knitting in less than 10 days. To be honest, I would have probably gotten more done, except I kept getting drunk off of leftover champagne and cupcakes from the party (I’m not kidding, I lived on cupcakes the entire time he was gone).

I hope all of you have had a fabulous August so far – the Fall is in the air, and I can’t wait for the cooler weather to take root. I might even finish a sweater this year.

About Hunter Liam

Hunter's grandmother had him making buttons and threading her sewing machine at the age of three. Ever since then, he's been obsessed with making things with his hands as a form of creative expression.Knitter, spinner, designer, writer, photographer, dancer . . . or just a creative soul with ADD.

Spunday

With a new sense of inner peace resulting from my epiphany, I spent most of the day yesterday breaking in all of the parts of my new spinning wheel; I played with all of the whorls, experimenting with the width of the yarn; I spun a little using both Scotch and double drive settings, which allowed me to establish a certain finesse impossible on a lesser machine; I even busted out my jumbo flyer kit, enjoying the cadence of my hands and feet as I plied my singles together.

The end result was an interesting thick-and-thin, multi(natural)colored yarn. It’s a combination of some oatmeal BFL and brown merino, and to say I’m intrigued by the unlimited possibilities of spinning would be the understatement of the century (it’d be like saying I ‘like’ carbs or ‘enjoy’ witch movies).

Here are some pictures I was able to snap before Mr. Joseph’s mom came over for an afternoon visit:

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After taking these photos, Mamma Sue arrived in her usual manner: boisterous and loving, with a flare for categorizing the mundane as extraordinary. She’s sort of a combination of Mary Poppins (there’s a spoonful of sugar in everything she does),  Martha Stewart (give her some glue, a paperclip, a pine cone, and some glitter and she’ll create a Christmas tree), and Santa Claus (she’s always bearing gifts, generally of a crafty persuasion).

She marveled at the beauty of the spinning wheel for about thirty minutes, inspecting every part of it and reveling in the craftsmanship; when I showed her the yarn I had made, she (to my surprise) had the same reaction, demanding an immediate showcase of how exactly wool roving had turned into a productive material.

A sat at my wheel, oiled her up (the spinning wheel, not the mother-in-law), and started going to town. She “ooohhheedd” and “aaahheedd” a little more than necessary – like those television shows with the recorded audience reactions that play on queue – effectively becoming a spinning cheerleader for fifteen solid minutes.

Once the demonstration was deemed complete (by me – what do I look like, Sleeping Beauty?), we sat down to some tea and homemade scones, catching up on the day-to-day happenings of our lives.

Post tea time, she took out her customary gift, which this time was a paper garland kit she thought we could put to use as decoration for Mr. Joseph’s thirtieth birthday party next weekend. It was actually the perfect find, and most of me was relieved it wasn’t another set of magnets for the refrigerator (in three years, I’ve received almost 30 magnates, mostly featuring cats, dance, or referencing being gay – on the plus side, my fridge acts like a billboard for any house guests who may not realize who their host is).

As the conversation continued to progress over her two hour visit, she kept coming back to the “beautiful yarn” I had spun. Finally, I took the hint and insist she have it (I’m sure she’ll do something fabulous with it, probably even more fabulous than I would). Rather than saving me from having to discuss the yarn again, her excitement about acquiring such a beautiful thing took over the conversation.

At the end of the visit, she carried it out of the house, supporting the skein as if it was a Fabergé egg. Initially, it seemed silly, but as I thought about it, isn’t that what we all want?

When I spin or knit, the end product should be treasured and adored, both for its beauty and out of respect for the hours of work not only put into its creation, but into cultivating the talent needed to actually make it.

Thank you, Mamma Sue, for being a wonderful example to the fiber-gift-receivers of the world. You’re now at the top of my Christmas knitting list.

You’re welcome.

About Hunter Liam

Hunter's grandmother had him making buttons and threading her sewing machine at the age of three. Ever since then, he's been obsessed with making things with his hands as a form of creative expression.Knitter, spinner, designer, writer, photographer, dancer . . . or just a creative soul with ADD.

Time Warp: Welcome to August

Looking back over July, I feel grateful for all of the opportunities the universe has cast in my direction, even though little time for knitting has been left as I’ve decided which changes to embrace and which to release back into the world.

The month was punctuated with various events, including the fabulous wedding of two close friends in Seattle; not only was the celebration fantastic and heartwarming, but the Seattle air allowed me a reprieve from my snot-inducing, coughing-fit-causing allergies which have been the bane of my existence since April. The Midwest doesn’t seem to be agreeing with me this year, and I’m still deciding on whether this itself is a sign from the higher powers or just some craptastic luck due to the polar vortex.

Four days in Seattle completely shoved me off of my well-rehearsed orbit; the fine dance I do daily responsible for balancing work, school, hobbies, and loved ones (I would include chores, but I can’t get THAT excited about vacuuming – it would turn me into my mother instantly, and I prefer the slow transformation I’m experiencing instead). When the plane landed back home I had seven intense days of schoolwork to complete; in the middle of an accounting final, I had an epiphany: this isn’t what I want, this isn’t me. It was time to redefine my direction.

Now, this epiphany may have also had something to do with some adjustments at work. I’ve always thought of myself as a business-savvy, proud corporate drone. This is why my trajectory has always been towards accomplishing an MBA, and my current coursework is designed to make me a more competitive candidate.

Well, a few events at work (nothing major – just some shuffling around of responsibilities, really) have completely knocked me out of my fool’s paradise. Working in a business-heavy environment during the last decade has not nurtured many of my innate talents or passions; rather, it’s been a lesson dedicated to practicality.

Between the reshuffling at work and my confusion over debits and credits and balance sheets, I asked myself an honest question: Why do I want to do this? What’s the end goal here?

I couldn’t come up with any answer not related to money or the voice of my parents echoing through a childhood memory. More importantly, I couldn’t come up with an answer responsible for inspiring a smile or generated from my heart. No passion. No happiness. It was time to rethink my path.

If I extrapolate the particular parts of my career responsible for turning me on – note: not making me feel like I’m working, but rather expelling an organic need to do some particular form of work – it’s always related back to teaching.

Being a source of knowledge others can tap into and inspiring change through personal growth has always been the catalyst to almost everything I do. No matter the position I’ve had, I’ve always been a leader; an authority; a teacher.

Well, friends, it was time to contact my academic adviser and make a change. I’m happy to report I’ll never have to take another accounting class again, now that I’m an English major. Yes, an English major – one who fully intends on becoming a high school teacher upon graduation. I haven’t been this excited about school, well, ever and it feels great to be genuine to myself for probably the fourth time in my life (the first was dancing, the second was coming out, the third was knitting – and look at how amazingly soul-nourishing all of those things have been!)

The other great news? For the next five-or-so weeks, my course load has dropped from six classes to one, opening up a lot more time to be here, spending time with you. The better news? My new major automatically encourages tons and tons of writing, which will primarily be located here . . . so, what I’m saying is I should never abandon you ever, ever, ever again.

I’m also thinking of hosting a fabulous knitting retreat in Michigan among the beautiful foliage this October. Before I start writing checks, I’m asking you to send me an email in order to gauge interest. This event would take place the week before VOGUEknitting LIVE!, upon which we could all travel to the opening day together. Check your calendars and see what you’re up to between October 20th-23rd and get back to me.

Thank you all for listening. Handspun to share with you tomorrow.

 

About Hunter Liam

Hunter's grandmother had him making buttons and threading her sewing machine at the age of three. Ever since then, he's been obsessed with making things with his hands as a form of creative expression.Knitter, spinner, designer, writer, photographer, dancer . . . or just a creative soul with ADD.