The Waiting Game

Here are two facts about me: 1) I hate rejection. 2) I am not a patient person.

Rejection

Does anyone like it? Of course not!

Most of us have developed a lovely set of defense and coping mechanisms specifically for dealing with it. Or rather, avoiding it. Some people, including myself, have become so skilled in this area that we begin to circumvent situations where there’s even a possibility of rejection. Pre-emptive rejection rejection! Perfect! This pre-emptive rejection rejection, which I fondly refer to as PRR, is great reason for to choose a career other than telemarketing. But advanced skills in PRR, as I have found, are sucky for becoming a published writer.

If I’m honest with myself, I’m not sure how I expected to get published if I wasn’t putting my work out there. Writers don’t just “get discovered.” (But wouldn’t it be nice if we did? Like the stories of old where models and starlets were plucked from obscurity while sipping a malted at the drug-store counter, or while shopping for the perfect tankini at Abercrombie & Fitch?) Perhaps I had a pipe dream somewhere in my mind that this little unpublicized blog would somehow come to the attention of an editor, who would then see brilliant potential in my ramblings on fiber, and offer me a book deal. Yes! Sweet!

Unfortunately, that’s not the way it works. What a rude awakening!

So I started making a few formal queries by submitting a very few article and story ideas. But so far? No takers.

To be fair, this is all quite recent. Most of what I’ve sent out into the world is still waiting for a reply. But now that I’m in the middle of it, I wonder if that isn’t worse than a straight-out rejection: the dread grows in step with the length of the silence. Enter the Need for Patience.

Patience

It may be a virtue but it’s not one of mine. When the going gets tough, I find something else to do. I Perhaps you’ve seen evidence of this in some of these blog posts…  15-month Angelberry? Two-year tweed? Each Day’s Beauty?

But patience is something I must develop on the path to getting published. And more than just patience, the ability to shrug off doubt and to keep moving forward, working and trying. And out-PRRing PRR.

After all, what great writer hasn’t curated a lovely collection of notes saying “No Thank You” or “Not for Us”?

Recently relevant examples include Louisa May Alcott and Stephen King. LMA’s struggle with what to write and how to get published is an integral theme of Little Women. King tells funny yet poignant stories in On Writing about his own stack of rejection slips, which he kept skewered on a spike (how appropriate) above his bed so he would be inspired to persevere. And of course there is the ubiquitous recent example of J.K. Rowling, who was rejected by 12 major publishing houses before she found one willing to give Harry a shot.

As I was looking up the statistic for Harry Potter (since I thought it had been rejected “only” 8 times, that in itself was a little glimmer of encouragement), I found this article: 50 Iconic Writers Who Were Repeatedly Rejected. The list is stunning: Kenneth Grahame, Dr. Seuss, Meg Cabot, Shannon Hale, Jasper Fforde… these are incredible writers.

I guess I should be embarrassed at my own audacity: Who am I to feel inadequate when I experience the same challenges as these Lions of the Pen, when I don’t have half their talent? But I do feel inadequate as I wait, and that’s a fact. I guess that should be Fact #3 in the list above.

But here’s the thing: As I’m going through this process, through these experiences, I’m learning about what’s truly important. I’m learning to care less about the rejections (and the anticipation of them), and to care more about honing my skills and trying by submitting my work. I’ve let fear of rejection stifle my forward progress for too long. Now it’s time to practice patience while believing in myself and my talents, and to surge forward with relentless enthusiasm toward getting published.

This is one Waiting Game where I plan to emerge the winner.

Colorplay

The Beekeeper’s Quilt continues to enchant me. (I’m at 40 puffs as of today, about 2 months in.)

One of the excellent elements of this project is that I can pick a different yarn for each puff. I can knit several in a row that are exactly the same, I can make widely different puffs, or – as I have been doing lately – I can explore the subtle color variations that result from combining different yarns.

It started with this puff, a double strand of some brand of kid seta; while very soft and fluffy, the colors were only OK. Not at all as subtle as they appeared in the skein.

Next I knit a puff with two strands of kid silk from Habu. Mmmmm. I couldn’t stop thinking about hot cocoa the entire time I was knitting.

I wondered what those two colors might look like together. So I knit one.

I liked this so much better than the original!

The next colorplay was with this yarn, Shibui staccato colorway ‘Summer Camp’, part of the same line as my Kitchen Monkeys.

I liked it quite a bit, but that kid seta was sitting on the back of the couch while I was knitting it and I couldn’t stop wondering what they would look like together.

Turns out, they look AWESOME together:

This reminds me of snorkeling in the turquoise waters of Grand Cayman, over the white sands and waving fields of sea grass.

And most recently, I knit a puff using another color of Shibui’s staccato, called ‘Spring Garden’. Just lovely.

But I had a ball of solid pear-green kid seta hanging around and I was dying to find out what that combination would look like.

This has turned out to be my favorite so far.

I have so much more lace and kid/silk in my stash, I believe you will see many more of these experiments as the BKQ progresses!

What new and creative things have been surprising you lately? I’d love to hear about them.

Treasured Tools of the Trade

As I mentioned in Possibilities, a recent joy of mine has been collecting tools and oddments associated with needlework.

It is so much fun to come across these tools, used mostly if not exclusively by women, which were integral to their Making. I love the real materials they are made of – the heft of the metal, the solidness of their construction. And in so many there is a real beauty of design. I treasure them and have been using them with my own work; there is something special about using these tools that have been part of hand crafting for a nearly a hundred years or more.

A Susan Bates stitch and needle gauges for knitting and crochet, the ubiquitous standard. Same for the plastic stitch/row counter. I have had these for several years and they have served me very well:

But the gauge is made of very bendable, thin aluminum. And the plastic row counter always feels cheap to me when I have it next to my hand knits – so much work and such beautiful yarn seems to deserve better accompaniment.

Now look at some examples from years past:

A modern pine darner, unfinished:

It looks washed out and without character to me! Contrast with these two beautiful oak darners from my great-grandmother’s workbox:

A little rust and signs of wear that she actually used them to darn socks. I love that they are part of my collection and use.

One more:  a Jahncke’s Mitrailleuse knitting needle case:

This is likely from the 1880s; I am charmed by the brass end caps, beautiful enamelling, and the stylized printing on the case.

And there are even a few of the original “knitting pins” still within!

Beautiful!

Do you have treasured tools for your crafts and making – be they old or new? I’d love to hear about them.

Koi

Well, I think I’ve found my favorite spinning fiber so far: merino/seacell blend! I’d knit with tencel before and loved it, but not seacell. And I hadn’t spun it until a few weeks ago when I started on a roving from Dragonfibers (no longer around), which I bought from Village Yarn and Tea (sadly, also no longer around).

Dragonfiber’s pencil roving in a colorway called Koi.

This fiber is luxurious: slick and slightly heavy, it is shiny and drapey.

I wasn’t quite sure how I wanted to use it. As I opened up the skein I saw that what had looked like an already thin roving was actually two strands dyed together.

I split them, and spun each onto its own bobbin.

Then plied.

I had 188 yards of aran/bulky weight yarn.  This yarn is wonderfully soft and so I wanted something right next to my skin. I decided to knit a cowl. I modified this pattern to include some of the texture, but then simplified it to show off the yarn more than the original pattern allowed.

At first I wasn’t sure whether plying was the right thing to do because it mixed the beautiful colors so much. But as I knit I decided that the plied yarn was better than singles because the singles would probably have turned out too stripey and made the cowl look more Haloween-y than Koi-y.

Planning worked out just right – that little bundle of yarn in the top picture is all I had left over after casting off. Wouldn’t have made it another round. Perfect!

Now, since spring has just arrived, I won’t be silly enough to say that I want fall to come soon so I can wear this snuggly soft cowl. But if I *did* say such a thing, you’d understand why, right?

Sea & Sky

A couple of weeks ago I decided to try something different on the spinning wheel. I have a few things to knit for baby boys who are about to make their grand appearance, so I thought I’d try spinning up the blue cormo I got from Crown Mountain Farms last summer.

This blue-on-blue colorway is called ‘Clapping with One Hand’ in cormo, but ‘Sailing’ in merino. That name, Sailing, was a big influence on why I bought it last year: I got it just when Tom left for his trip to Hawaii.

I’ve never spun cormo before, and this was also the first fiber I’ve spun from Crown Mountain that hasn’t been corriedale pencil roving. But cormo is a cross of corriedale and merino, both of which I love spinning.

The colors were just right for what I wanted for baby knits, though, so I got to spinning. My plan was a 2-ply worsted weight, so I split the original bump into two equal (by weight) nests.

It was during this first step that some questions about this fiber began to form in my head. As lofty and soft as it looked in the bump, I was amazed (and more than a little disappointed) to find it incredibly dry-feeling, slubby, and not very smoothly prepared as roving.

The fiber was so dry – I can’t imagine that there was any lanolin left in it at all – that it was almost sticky. That’s not the right word… clingy or catchy, maybe. This made it quite hard to spin at first, until I decided to quit trying to spin what I wanted (smooth and regular worsted) and start trying to spin it how it wanted (irregular and aranish weight).

You can see how lumpy and uneven the roving was:

I didn’t split the lengths of roving before spinning for two reasons. First, the prepared roving was already split, totally unevenly, in a bunch of places. Second, I wanted to retain as much fiber alignment as possible for a worsted-spin method – so having a bunch of pulled fibers going every which way would not have been helpful. But I did pre-draft each section as I unwrapped it to loosen the fibers and make it possible to draft them somewhat evenly while spinning.

But… even with all of that going on, it was not nearly enough to stop me from spinning! It’s all learning opportunity, right?

The two bobbins of singles were lovely.

Plied and on the niddy noddy:

The final yarn ended up too bulky for the projects that I wanted, but it is very pretty nonetheless. The colors range from the robin’s egg blue of the sky, to bits of white recalling wispy clouds floating above, to a steely teal that so resembles the waters of Puget Sound. 

Sea and sky:

Sea & Sky:

I love the experience of trying new fibers and spinning methods. What new things have you been trying lately – especially anything that seemed like it might not turn out too well but provided some type of upside? I’d love to hear.

Sheep Sweat

Yeah, you read that right. Sheep Sweat. This week’s #1 search term for Contemporary Insanity!

What did we do?!

Here are some pretty pictures to distract you:

Mountain Fire

Blue Moon STR in SweetPea

Sunshine and frost.

Clean Jacob locks ready to card and spin.

First true flowers of the year

Puffs and puff yarn - 22

Featured!

Although I haven’t mentioned it here yet, a few months ago I started offering some of my handspun and a few possibilities in a little shop on Etsy: MinkRoadMonkeys.

I haven’t done any promoting, just let the thing float. And along the way a thing or two has gone to a new forever home with much joy from me.

Well what do you know, but the wonderful CharmTopia selected this yarn, which I am now calling “Blue Berries”, to be featured in a Treasury List she created “Blueberry Surprise.”

How fun! Please check it out as a way to say ‘thanks’, and also because I’m sure you’ll want to see the pretty blueberry-ish things on her list up close, as well as the really beautiful jewelry in her shop.