Tag Archives: ravelry

Spinning My Wheels

Spinning My Wheels

It feels like I don’t have any free time anymore.  But I do.  What I have is things I’m doing that are taking up all my free time and keeping me from doing other things that would take up my free time.  For example, for three weeks in July, I did the Tour de France.

Well, no, I did the Tour de Fleece.  But it’s totally the same thing.


For those of you who are new around here, the Tour de Fleece is a spinning challenge that happens on Ravelry and off where spinners set goals based around the Tour de France.  The usual goal is to spin every day the Tour rides, but each person sets their own goals as well.  My goals were simple:  Spin a pound and a half of lovely Gotland wool I got at Rhinebeck last year, and then anything else that met my fancy, and to get comfortable with my new wheel.

I went a little crazy.


The spinning went with me everywhere.  It went to DC.


It went to a taping of Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me!


And every night, I did at least two ounces of the endless gray Gotland.


All that in addition to being the head honcho of the Tour on Ravelry.  Free time?  Yeah, what’s that?

In then end, though, I finished a lot of yarn.


A LOT of yarn.

Now that it’s over, I find myself desperate to knit.  ALL THE THINGS.  I have started and finished a hat, started a headband and a shawl, and am set up to start a shrug, all out of handspun.  And if I haven’t had enough, I’m starting another spinning project.

Oh, and we’re starting to plan for next year’s summer Ravellenics Games.  Which start the week after next year’s Tour.

Who, me, crazy?

Nerd Wars (Finally!)

Nerd Wars (Finally!)

As you read this, be aware that I am currently lounging on a small beach or reclining in a hammock, hopefully lost in the adventures of Harry Dresden and Phryne Fisher.  Not together.  Although that would be incredibly epic.  Hrm…

But anyway.

I promised you tales of Nerd Wars.  So let me tell you about Nerd Wars.

Actually, I thought I must have talked somewhere about Nerd Wars.  It’s been a major part of my crafting life for two years now.  But when I went to find my posts on it to c&p (okay, so I’m lazy), I’ve got nothin’.  So to any of you who have heard all about this, I’m sorry to be redundant.  But who knows, maybe you’ll learn something!

As I said in a previous post, after the 2012 Rav Games, I felt at loose ends.  The Games had been incredibly focused and productive and fun.  The wait until the 2014 Games felt interminable (little did I know what they would bring…)  I wanted something else to do in the meantime.  I’d seen icons around Ravelry with the Nerd Wars caption, but didn’t know what it was.  Then the captain of the 221b team came into the 221b forum (they weren’t affiliated at the time) and asked if anyone wanted to join.  So I checked it out.  And haven’t left.

Nerd Wars is a game, inspired by all things nerdy and geeky.  Players join teams based around their favorite nerderies, whether it’s a TV show, movie, books, art, science, genre, you name it.  Each tournament runs for three months, and the teams reform each tournament, so there might not be the same teams every time, although the major teams do tend to reform every time.  Then each tournament is divided into three rounds, with the round starting on the first of the month and ending on the 28th (which makes February a hard one, as there’s no rest days before the next round starts).  In each round, there are five challenges.  The challenge categories are:

Discovery:  All things math and science
Encyclopedia: Arts and humanities
Nerdology: Geek culture (just like it says on the tin)
Giving Geeks: charity
Flexible Schedule: Works in progress and destashing

Every round, the mods set a specific challenge in each category.  For example, this time around, the Discovery challenge is based on substitutes for silk and the science of polymers, the Encyclopedia challenge is the social construction and marking of time, the Nerdology challenge is squee (something geeky that fills you with joy) and the Giving Geeks challenge is support for besieged populations, like abuse victims, transgendered people or bullied students.  For every category you complete, you earn points for your team.  The Flex projects don’t have a specific theme, but they are worth fewer points.

You can also do a dissertation, which is a project that will take the whole three months to complete.  These are worth a LOT more points.  You still have to tie them in to one of the categories, and the dissertation proposals can be rather artful in their own right.  For example, here is the proposal for a star chart shawl I made for my mother in Tournament 8 and for the spinning dissertation I did in Tourney 7 (and the completed turn-in, just because I’m pretty proud of it).

The new round started yesterday, so all this camping is getting a bit in my way.  But the Tour de Fleece starts on Saturday (oh look, something else to explain!  But I’ll save that for next week), so I’m planning to spin all my challenges this round.  I’ve started the Discovery challenge by spinning a merino/bamboo blend which feels lovely in the bag, but is fighting me like a sumbitch on the wheel.  the rest we’ll see as the month goes on!


My People

My People

Humans are social creatures.  We need other people, whether we want to or not.  And as much as I joke about heading to my wifi-enabled hermit’s cave, I’m just like anyone else.  I need a community.  I would be completely lost without Nikki and Deb to keep my head on straight.  They know this (or at least I hope they do now!)  I need to be able to call my mom with all those questions of things I should have learned from her when I was younger and didn’t.  but I also need a broader community of like-minded people as a touchstone, a reality check, a support network, a release.

I have been so fortunate to find that in the 221b group on Ravelry.

221b logo

I joined 221b (goes and checks) in September of 2010, about a month after the first series of Sherlock aired.  And it was fun.  Lots of pictures of all the cast, behind the scenes information, other things the actors had and were doing, just fun.  They were a diverse group of people with a variety of interests but with a similar outlook on the world.  Intellect, compassion, irreverence.  Rather Holmesian, actually.  I had had fandom communities before, and these felt very much like that.  Kindred spirits, but not necessarily friends.

Then 2012 happened.

2012 started out good.  I decided to give something back to the group.  I’m not a big chatter, and I didn’t have access to all the pictures people were posting, but what I was was an organizer.  I had taken part in the 2010 Ravelympic Games (now renamed the Ravellenic Games due to ridiculous trademark issues), but 221b hadn’t had a team, so I’d played for Team TARDIS.  But I didn’t really know them, and hadn’t felt like part of that community, so I thought this time I would lead a team for my group.  Which was EXCELLENT.  Come on, the summer Games in London of all places!  What could be better for a Sherlockian than that!  we ended up with about 150 people on the team, and since the RG mods had created a British Cricket event for all things British, we started a side challenge with Team TARDIS for who could create the most British themed items during the course of the Games, averaged to account for the hugely different team sizes (TARDIS had about 400 players).  We decimated them, with over 100% average.  Even in the raw numbers, we were huge.  I think we were only 7 projects fewer than them, which considering how many more people they had, was epic.  We all realized what competitive natures we had and bonded through the insanity.  It was wonderful.

What wasn’t so wonderful was my breast cancer diagnosis.  That came through in April of 2012, and I started chemo at the beginning of June.  It sucked.  I was grateful to have the Games to distract me, and my friends there to hold my hand.  What I didn’t realize was that my digital friends were doing the same.  When I told the group about my diagnosis, they all got together and knit me hats.  Hats galore!  Hats from Sweden and New Zealand and Canada and New Jersey.  Cloches and berets and chemo caps.  It was wonderful, and every time I picked one to wear, I thought about my digital family. And behind my back, they all got together and made me a comfort blanket out of squares donated by the group.  I still have this on my bed as a reminder of the kindness of these not-quite-friends-but-not-strangers.  And they fundraised to help pay some of my bills.  I hadn’t expected any of it (well, maybe the hats).  I felt like I was important to someone.  I’d missed that.

Once the Rav Games ended, there was a bit of a hole in my activities, so I joined Nerd Wars.  (Yes, I still owe you the NW post).  Within a week of joining the 221b team, I was co-captain.  We were a small team, only 12 people or so, but it was a fun group, and I got to put my organizational skills to good use.  At the end of that round, I stepped up into the captaincy, and we put in place the rotating captain policy that is still in use by the team.  No one person gets stuck with all the responsibility nor has to suffer burnout.  That was round 5.  By the end of my tenure, we’d generated enough interest to easily make a full team for round 7.  By round 10, we were one of the biggest teams in NW.  and all of the team members developed a closeness and comradeship that you don’t usually see in a group like this.  We were a safe space to talk about ANYTHING, religion, politics, sexuality, mental health issues, money, education, ANYTHING.  And that carried back to the 221b group itself (and from the group back into the NW team).  this was what community building was all about.

And then the 2014 Ravellenic Games happened.

It started small.  I started the thread for the 2014 Winter Games team back in September.  The last Games had been so much fun, I couldn’t wait to get started.  But the word was getting out about the anti-gay laws being passed in Russia, and many of us had concerns about supporting a Games that wasn’t safe in a place that didn’t think many of us had a right to exist.  So I went to the RG leadership and suggested that they do a rainbow-themed event to show solidarity with those being persecuted in Russia.  The answer I got back was that the Games were a politics-free zone and nothing like that would be done.  This was not a good enough answer for any of us.  So, like we had with the British Cricket challenge in 2012, we decided to do our own rainbow challenge.

Word got around.

We started getting people from other teams coming to us wanting to make rainbows.  People started talking about the Rainbowllenics challenge in the official forums and asking why the mods weren’t doing something similar.  And people started calling those same mods on their decision and the use of the word “politics” in what was really a social justice issue.  Meanwhile in our group, we were educating ourselves and others on the multiplicity of sexuality, from the differences between bi- and pansexual, the diversity of expression for asexuals, issues for trans people, all of it.  And more and more people were coming by to join in the conversation.  In the end we had over three thousand people reading our discussions.  This in our little hole-in-the-wall knitting and fandom community.  We gave more and more people confidence to speak up in the Rav Games group, decrying the mods policy.  In defending themselves, the mods began to say indefensible things, which they were called on.

And then, suddenly, the Games were cancelled.

We were all shocked.  Tired of what they felt was the abuse they were getting from the community, the mods decided to take their toys and go home.  They cancelled the Games and locked the forum.

What they didn’t realize was that the issue and the Games had grown beyond them.

Casey, one of the owners and administrators of Ravelry, unlocked the forum and gave the group permission to reform under new leadership if there was interest.  The community decided to elect new moderators to run the Games.  Feeling like I had had a hand in bringing this about, I felt obligated to help fix it, so I stood for election and was one of the five chosen to run the Games.  (Hoo-boy)  But I knew all the 221bers were behind me as emotional support.  We’d made this happen, and we would make it run right.  The Rainbowllenics challenge became an exhibition event as it should have been all along, and the Games ran, not without problems, but successfully.  Considering we’d had 5 weeks to pull it all together and the previous mods didn’t give us any of their tools or lists or anything, we felt pretty chuffed.

When the Rav team flew the Pride flag over the site this week, all of us in 221b felt a bit of another kind of pride, that we had helped make that happen.  People didn’t have to keep quiet about those issues any more, and we were recognized as part of the community.

Which is not to say it’s not still an ongoing process.  The new Nerd Wars challenges went up yesterday, and the Giving Geeks one is…problematic.  But right away, my 221b teammates started talking about the fact that it was problematic, why it was problematic and how to work to make it better.  Maybe these discussions are being had in other groups as well.  But I am so proud and honored to be in a group that thinks like this.  It’s not always comfortable, but it’s always safe.

And of course, yesterday was the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision.  Reading about it filled me with rage and frustration, and I needed to vent about it.  So I went where I do for those things, intending to dump my brain in a vomit of bile and tears.  Only to find that my family was already there.  I wasn’t alone.  They were already there, in the politics discussion thread, the safe zone, sharing their own outrage.  Someone, we don’t know who, was going through and clicking the disagree button on a lot of the posts.  This coward was called out by the group, not for disagreeing, but for not having the guts to talk about their opinions and feelings on the matter and instead hiding behind the disagree button.  I suspect that person, whoever they are, may not be long for the group.  221b respects the diversity of opinion and belief in the world, but they don’t tolerate cowardice and stupidity.

They are my people.  And I know, somewhere out in the multiverse, Sherlock Holmes is proud of them.

Enable is a four letter word.

Enable is a four letter word.

Fiber arts aren’t just a hobby.  They’re a way of life.  I learned this a long time ago.  My parents were both fiber artists.  My mother earned extra money sewing some of the most amazing soft sculptures (I still have one of her angels on my wall, and there’s a calico lion somewhere in the house), while my dad traded elaborate crocheted afghans for dental work and I learned how to do counted cross-stitch by stealing his projects.  I learned the basics of knitting, crocheting, quilting and sewing from them when I was a kid, but I was never very good at it and let it drop in favor of other interests.

Then a few years ago (holy crap, it was over 5 years ago now!) Deb brought a knitting project with her to our annual writers weekend.  Writers weekend for us is kind of like deer camp is for some guys: a chance to get away from our families and responsibilities for a few days under the guise of doing something productive.  And usually we are productive.  But that year, the writing just wasn’t happening for any of us.  Deb kept getting out her cute little sock project, and finally Nikki said, “I want to learn how to knit.  Teach me how to knit socks.”  Deb and I looked at each other.  I could do garter stitch and that was about it, but even I knew that you didn’t start with socks. But Nikki was insistent, and there happened to be a yarn store in town that was one of the few shops still open on the Jersey Shore in January, so we went.

Yarn stores are evil.  They tempt you with color and texture and convince you that you can do anything.  The lady sitting there working on a pair of ribbed socks pointing out how Scottish children learned how to knit socks when they were 6 didn’t help.  Nikki wasn’t the only one to come home with yarn and needles that day.  $50 later, I was on my way to an obsession.

She washed out of the socks before the end of the weekend.  But I was determined.  It took me about three weeks, but in the end, I had a pair of socks.

first sock

They weren’t a good pair, but they were socks.  I still have them, and still wear them.

By the end of the year, I had done 10 pairs of socks and was hooked.  Well, not hooked hooked.  The crochet wouldn’t come into the picture for a couple of years yet, until I decided to make a pair of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson dolls for the 2012 Ravellenic Games for Team SHERlocked:

johnsherlock dolls

Yeah, still not a big crocheter, although there have been more projects.  You can check them out on my Ravelry page if you’re interested.

But fiber artists are enablers.  It’s what we do.  I started going to a local stitching group.  I learned how to knit socks two at a time on two circulars.  I was introduced to the joy and wonder of Sheep and Wool festivals.  And there were spinners in my group.  OMG spinning.  I’d wanted to learn how to spin for a long time, and had even been shown myself with a spindle as one of my magical tools.  So when the opportunity came along to learn, I grabbed it.  I bought myself a pretty little top whorl spindle, and I started learning.

I was crap.

Yeah, I know, skills take time, but holy shmoly, I was BAD.  I just couldn’t get the fiber to draft properly.  It constantly fought me so that I ended up with clumps and breaks and half the fiber went in the trash and I hated it.  My teacher was very supportive, but I just didn’t feel like I was getting it, so I put it aside.

Fiber artists are enablers.  Never, EVER forget that.

I’m active in the 221b group on Ravelry.  It’s a great group with every type of fiberista imaginable.  And they are all fucking enablers.  I watched people creating beautiful yarns from bits of fluff.  I ran the team for the 2010 Ravellenics Games and watched more yarns being magically created.  I was introduced to the Tour de Fleece and watched longingly.

And then my mother gave me $200 for my birthday/Christmas money.  Thanks, mom.

With doubt and insanity, I went on Etsy to see what my $200 could get me.

And discovered Bluebonnet Spinning Wheels.

These wheels are handmade by a great guy down in Texas, and the stripped down version, the Bumblebee, was $199.  Happy birthday to me!  So I ordered it.  When it came, I put it together and tried it out.

I still sucked.  Fuck.

So much for all my fantasies about being an intuitive spinner.  I’d just wasted all that money on something that was going to sit in the corner taking up space and collecting dust.

Fiber artists are enablers.  They are also willing teachers.

I hadn’t seen my spindle teacher in years outside of Rhinebeck.  I’d had to start working a regular job that kept me from going to the afternoon stitch and bitches, and because of the distances, she’d stopped coming to the evening ones.  We stayed aware of each other, but didn’t really talk.  But when I sent out the call on Twitter, she called me right back, and we set up a lesson that week.

This time, I got it.

It took about half an hour of playing and asking questions.  She wasn’t familiar with Scotch tensioning, so that made things a little harder in figuring out pick-up.  One of our other friends was there as well, so I watched her spin fine singles, watched her hands, followed the motions, and by the end of the hour I was getting them.  My teacher kept warning me not to go so thin, but I’ve always done things small, and the singles were thin but even(ish), so I stayed where I was comfortable.  And it was good.  I left there with some practice fibers and motivation.  She had warned me that it would take a pound of fiber to master the muscle memory, so I committed to doing exactly that.  I was a regular player in the Nerd Wars games on Ravelry, so I set myself the dissertation challenge of spinning a pound.  I had a four ounce skein of Merino left over from my first spindling attempts, and I ordered a 4 oz. skein of black and white that I would create a Sherlock-themed yarn from.  And then I bought 12 oz. of… I still don’t know what it is.  I know the sheep it came from was named Rocco Bama, which guaranteed I had to have it, so that’s good enough for me.  That was my starting point.  By the time I finished with Rocco, I had gone from a DK weight to a light fingering.  I was a spinner.

T7 dissertation

Oh, and remember how I couldn’t spin on a drop spindle?  Learning how to draft for the wheel solved almost all those problems.  I’m still not great with a drop, but I’m better.  Better enough that I’m wanting to get some more.

But did I mention the enabler thing?  Yeah.  Done with knitting and spinning, one of my fellow 221bers moved on to enabling weaving.  I was weak by this point.  Resistance had proven futile so far, and I was starting to wonder why I even bothered trying.  So I grabbed Hero’s lap loom, warped it up and tried weaving a bag on it.  HATED it.  Not just the process, which was so inefficient, but the fabric as well.  But I’d seen the beautiful, colorful, silky product other people could make.

And Mom gave me another $200 last year.

fluorite scarf

So I now have a loom in my living room.  it takes up quite a bit of space, but I’ve already made one scarf on it that I’m in love with and have a second one warped right now.  I’m not great at it, but I’m not bad, and I can learn to get better.  I have this plan to weave 2′ x 4′ sections and send them to Mom for her to cut up and sew into vests or a swirly coat for me.  Not until after I’ve lost all my weight, of course, but it’s something I could work on while the weight is coming off.

The Rav group has moved on to dyeing.  I didn’t even hesitate to order the food dyes this time.  Why bother?