Wednesday, March 31, 2010

On Happiness

My friend Kate (I totally went back on my word from a previous post and changed her name) and I were on our way to the Recycled Lamb in Lakewood last Friday night to attend a relatively local-ish Stitch 'n Bitch. The drive was gorgeous, since we took the back way...hilly snow-covered plains, horses, even a couple of hawks hunting for their dinners.

The drive took about half an hour, and Kate and I started talking about how happy fiber makes us. Because fiber is basically a giant happiness generator, amiright? :) But then talk turned to life in general, and what "being happy" really means to both of us. Kate and I are about the same age, but she is in a different place in her life...she has two kiddos, she and her husband own their home, that kind of thing. She talked for awhile about how she and her family used to live in another neighborhood, one that she had always considered ideal and Norman Rockwell-esque. But after they bought a house there and moved in, she realized that the place was the quite the opposite. Neighbors didn't greet each other, children didn't play outside. It was all about how much money you had in relation to those around you. Sounds miserable to me, and it apparently was to Kate. She couldn't take it, and before long, had moved her family outta there and into a neighborhood that was much more positive and welcoming. She said from time to time, though, she still fell into the trap of envying other people's possessions. But how do you escape comparing yourself to someone else? How do you manage to NOT want someone else's position/money/power?

Then I talked about how I did relatively well in school and was on the track to grad school after college, but I made the "mistake" of working in the physical anthro lab. The work was interesting and enjoyable, but the grad students were something else. They were, as a whole, utterly jaded. Angry that their own work was regularly published under the professor's name...bitter that they put in long hours as TAs while being compensated peanuts. This would be my life if I continued on in academia, at least in my mind. So I turned down a project manager-ship that I'd been offered and got the heck out of Dodge, escaping to Germany for three months. I did a lot of traveling over the next few years, saving my pennies from my low-responsibility jobs. It made for an exciting life, and I met really wonderful people from all over the world, but every once in awhile I berate myself for falling far short of my (and my parents') expectations, as far as careers go. Sometimes I avoid calling my parents even now, because I didn't become a doctor. Not that this was specifically expected of me, but something incredible was, and I haven't really lived up. Anyway.

Josh and I are both fantastically underemployed in relation to our brain cells, don't make a great deal of money (though we have a LOT in comparison with most of the world)(though when I think about it, why am I okay with comparing myself to those who have less, but not those who have more?), and have lived in a teeny apartment for the past 6 years. But are we "happy"? I'd say yes. We love our neighbors, don't take our jobs home with us, have time for our hobbies, and have everything we need. The only thing I really wish for is to be geographically closer to my family. And I think if our neighbors put more stock in money and possessions, we might have a harder time, as Kate pointed out.

Mostly I feel incredibly lucky and grateful. I had the incredible good fortune to have been born in an amazing country, which -- despite its problems -- is chock full of opportunity and beauty. I have a loving partner who enjoys learning as much as I do. And I really couldn't ask for better friends. Yep, I'd say I'm a happy chickadee.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

So you've heard of spinning silk caps...

...what about TUSSAH silk caps?

Maggie pulled out an example of a tussah silk cap at my Sensuous Silk Spinning class last week, and omg. This thing is crazy. Copy of National Geographic next to it for scale.

Um, yeah. Why would you even need to spin this? You could just wear it around like a shawl! It's folded in this pic, can separate the layers for a true bell shape. According to Maggie, tussah silk caps used to be available to handspinners, but she hasn't seen one for sale for about 20 years now.

For all of you non-handspinners, a bombyx silk cap or hankie is much smaller than this...usually about the size of that National Geographic there. Bombyx silk caps/hankies are still obtainable, and can be a lot of fun to spin. Just don't expect a smooth yarn from them...the resulting yarn will have some bumps and noily bits. That's just the nature of the beast.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

So Much Fiber, So Little Time

I'm a slacky slackster! I ignore the blog on a regular basis!

I think part of the problem is that I feel every post probably needs an illustration. Which is, you know, not necessarily true.

Anyway, I've been loving the fiber world lately. My "More on Four in Two" weaving class with Judy Steinkoenig was really wonderful. Two full days (9-4:30) of learning new weave structures for 4-harness looms...yes, please! Judy has a dry sense of humor (she called us her "more-ons") and is a very technical weaver, so it's easy to learn the specifics from her and then garnish your well-prepped weaving with artful creativity. At least in theory. :) Each person in the class warped his/her loom with a specific weave structure before class (I was assigned "crackle"), then after lecture we moved around the room round-robin style to get a chance to practice each. We all were required to hemstitch our samples, and so I'm a hemstitching expert at this point, lemmetellya. Finished samples included Ms & Os, supplementary warp, summer & winter, log cabin, crackle, shadow weave, and huck lace. I actually didn't get a chance to do shadow weave (ran out of time!), but will be posting an entry on each one. With a picture, of course!

Also in fiber news, I'm continuing to love living in a mecca of fellow fiber-lovers. My weeks are filled with fiber social groups, which is totally bizarro, especially considering I can be a shy little violet. First Monday of the month is the Spin-in at Shuttles. We've got about 25 people (!) who regularly attend at this point. Amazing. Second Tuesday of the month is the evening meeting of the Handweavers Guild of Boulder, which always involves an interesting show-and-tell from members, plus a great speaker of some sort. Last month's speaker was Anne Bossert, who combines fiber art with handmade furniture. Third Monday of the month I get together with my friends Stephanie and Connie for a sort of yarn study group. We usually focus on a combo of different fibers (i.e. yak + cotton, or flax + silk) and study ratios of "ingredients" and properties of the resulting yarns. We also drink beer and watch spinning DVDs, so, you know, it's not that serious. :) And then I also joined a group that meets on the fourth Saturday of the month for a spin-in/knit-in, though I haven't been able to attend for the past three months because of conflicts. With luck, I'll be able to make it this month!

Here's wishing everyone a great, fibery late winter/early spring, and I'm encouraging you to get out there and meet other spinners and/or other fiber artists! There's just nothing like learning and socializing with your fiber peeps. :)