Obstacles

Until very recently, I hated the word “craft”. The word had a connotation of popsicle sticks and glitter and construction paper with the smell of tempura paint and white glue thrown in for good measure. Definitely not dignified or adult. Call it creating, making, designing, arting…. anything other than crafting

Then I ended up with a lot of time on my hands to contemplate. More on that shortly.

The definition of the action verb “craft” involves “exercise skill in making (something)”. The simple word has origins in old English, Germanic, and Dutch, but my favourite is from Swedish “kraft”, meaning “strength”. No matter what our individual craft is, crafters nurture and practice personal strengths. Some have an almost instinctive natural strength (talent) at something, while others work so hard to strengthen their proficiency. Keep in mind that the same principles apply for everything from wordsmithing to blacksmithing. Today, “smith” (referring to somebody who uses skill to create something) happens to be my favourite suffix. Yes, I have a favourite suffix. It changes from day to day. It’s how I roll.

I’m going somewhere with this, I promise.

I wouldn’t normally call myself a yarnsmith, but as a spinner I use a set of skills to create yarn. I use another set of skills to create things with my yarn. Usually knitting.

Life Lessons

A few months ago, I overused my knitting skillset and damaged my CMC joint. That’s the spot that joins the thumb to the wrist, in case you’re interested. As humans, we use it a LOT. We use it to turn doorknobs and open jars and wash our hair and button up our pants. When it’s damaged, we notice how much we take it for granted. 3 months without a usable thumb has left me feeling subhuman. Otters could do more with their paws than I could accomplish. It’s been humbling.

Really, this isn’t a self-pity trip. I’m getting somewhere with this. Please don’t leave.

Nearly 3 months of not knitting or spinning took its toll on my sanity. Fibre arts in some form have been a big part of my life for more than 40 years. The thought of having my craft taken from me was sobering. Scary, even. It is a large part of how I identify myself, and I have no interest in redefining who I am. Not to that extent, anyway. But not using my hands to create is frustrating. Knee-deep in guano crazy-making frustrating.

So. Fast forward (it really didn’t feel fast) 3 months to the now, and my thumb is still only partly usable. It’s improving a little each day, but knitting as I did when I injured myself is out of the question.

Then I got to thinking about when I learned to knit as a child. Hours, days, weeks, months of learning a new skill. Trying to convince my little fingers that they could make those strange movements, that they were capable of holding both yarn and needles simultaneously while moving them in seemingly opposite directions. Having my mom figure out how I had made such a terrible mess so that she could untangle it for me. The method she taught me was slow, but it was the only way I knew. It worked though, and since I didn’t know better, I thought that was normal and it’s what I used for a couple decades. Needle in. Grab the yarn. Wrap it around the needle. Let go of the yarn. Move the needle to make the loop. Grab the yarn and tighten the loop. Let go of the yarn. Move the next stitch into position. Repeat a million times, and months later I’d have a sweater. Then I discovered continental knitting.

If you haven’t given up on me yet, thank you. My point is coming soon.

Continental knitting was exponentially faster, once I earned that skill. Hours and days and weeks of cursing the yarn and the needles passed. I kept thinking to myself that if little old ladies could do this, there was absolutely no excuse that I couldn’t do it. Eventually, it became my go-to method of knitting. Over the next couple of decades, I learned to spin yarn in multiple ways, knit backwards, knit Portuguese style, identify fibre types by burning them, wrap a centre-pull ball both by hand and with a nostepinne, and a multitude of other things.

Then I pushed myself to finish a project, and pushed too far. I’m still kicking myself for that. Part of the reason I learned to knit backward and Portuguese style was to help avoid injury, yet in a matter of days I managed to break myself. Not my proudest moment.

By the time the joint finally healed to the point that I could move the rest of my fingers without shooting pains in my thumb, I had decided that not doing any fibre arts at all simply wasn’t going to be an option. I reflected on all the knitting skills I had learned over the years. I’ve never been the fastest knitter in the world by any means. I’m probably even slower than average, but that’s because I thoroughly enjoy knitting to the point that I don’t generally need to rush. The feel of the yarn slipping between my fingers, the rhythm of the needles, the bumps of the stitches on the needles as they progress from left to right back to left… I don’t need to knit fast for it to be deeply satisfying. One thing I knew was that I dreadfully missed knitting, and needed to get back at it. After all, it is my craft, no matter now I feel about the word.

It took hours and days, but I’ve worked out a way to knit without using my left thumb. It’s a combination of Portuguese and throwing with a little bit of Shetland knitting for support. For the sake of brevity I’ll skip the whole process and get to my point.

Crafters craft. We use strength in a set of skills to create. Poetry, socks, houses, or glitter-covered construction paper, we make things. The single skill we all have in common is learning. We learn in order to strengthen our talent so that we can improve our craft in some way. Whether it’s to gain speed, stay in practice, or to work around a self-inflicted handicap, we are driven to strengthen that set of skills. It’s what we do.

My point? Don’t let things hold you back. Sometimes it takes creativity to make creating possible

Oh yeah – and if it hurts, stop and rest. Your body and ego will thank you.

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Sometimes you’ve gotta grab it by the… ears

And if it doesn’t have ears, give it a pair.

Insert F-bomb here

For the past 3 days, I’ve been struggling to get a new spindle design to print. It seemed that every problem I’d fix would create two more problems. It got to the point that I ditched the design in favour of a simpler shape. The first print was nearly perfect. The shaft needed one tiny alteration. I still haven’t seen if the alteration worked. 8 failed prints, a broken printer part, and many hours of frustration later, I have a bag full of spindlegetti and a big snit.

Apparently the almost success was a fluke. No matter what I tried, the damned things wouldn’t stick to the printer long enough to get printed. The part that needs to stick is just too small to be sturdy. So I gave it ears. Thin flimsy semicircles that are going to be cut off, but they are big enough to lay flat against the bed while the spindle prints.

I had intended to have several spindles printed over the weekend so I could mail them today. Part of me feels like I wasted the entire weekend. Then again, I learned so much by coincidence that I can’t complain about it. I know LOTS of things that don’t work, so I might just be saving oodles of time in the future.

That’s the story I’m sticking with, anyway.

Plastic ramen! Yay!

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So many changes!

I have a habit of saying I’ll do something “soon” and then getting right on it never doing it. I’ve had every intention of putting up new posts and pictures – hundreds of times. Nope. Didn’t happen. I apologize. I’ve decided that I don’t do that any more. No really, that’s what I decided. It’s embarrassing.

So first and foremost, prototype #3 of a very frustrating spindle design in on the printer. Prototype #1 printed so-so and only spun so-so. Prototype #2 printed badly and broke before I could test it. Prototype #3 isn’t as cute as the first two, but I think I’ve resolved the yucky parts. It’s no work of art, but it should spin like a dream.

I’m really eager to get it perfected because The Naked Sheep Yarn & Fibre Emporium invited me to commission some spindles. I’m honoured and excited and every time something doesn’t come off the printer just the way I want it to, I feel crazy.

After the Saskatchewan Weavers and Spinners retreat last spring, I couldn’t concentrate because Spinny Girl was getting married and I couldn’t think of much else. The wedding was as beautiful as anybody who knows her would expect it to be. I adore Spinny Son-in-law. He’s a great guy.

So off to Cranbrook we went to see our daughter joined in actual matrimony. And we fell in love with it. It’s far enough away from the mountains that it doesn’t feel cold and dark, but has wonderful huge hills that beg to be climbed and sat upon. It’s small enough to walk across town, but big enough to have decent shopping resources. It’s not Regina. So we did what sane adults would never do.

We sold our house, packed up the stuff we couldn’t possibly leave behind into a moving truck, and headed west. No regrets, just possibilities.

To put it plainly, now Mr. Spinny is employed and I’m not. Not having the schedule is driving me crazy. So beginning last Thursday, I’m dedicating myself to my art as a full-time job.

There will be progress. And spindles. And more things that I’m not ready to talk about yet.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Happy Mothers Day!

I married and had children young. By today’s standards, extremely young. I was neither an unwed nor teen mother, but only barely. But this isn’t about that story, it’s about the now.

Since I married and had kids so young, I think I kind of skipped over my “matron” stage. I was the eldest of several kids, so I was obligated to be a “mature” example and help care for them. While learning to be mature. It was confusing. I don’t resent nor regret a minute of it, but it did cause me to marry young. I won’t go into all the circumstances that caused me to be pregnant just before I turned twenty, but it wasn’t youthful carelessness. I also narrowly escaped the “teen mom” stigma, even if it was only by a short time. Throughout my teen years and early 20s, I was living a much more mature life than I was physically or emotionally prepared for. I was a motherly maiden. I was wiping chins and bums while hoping somebody was staring at my bum. If you’ll allow me a moment of vanity, it was a stare-worthy bum. Just sayin.

At the tender age of 40, I had already kissed my children goodbye. 7 years later, I’m still dreading becoming a granny. The Spinny Kids both say they don’t want children. I’m ok with that, if it’s what they want. If I was half as educated at 19 as I thought I was, the Spinny Kids wouldn’t exist, either. But that’s not what I’m getting at today either.

While the Spinny Kids were still “growing up”, I was still young. Attractive, even, if the attentions I received from strangers is an indication. I’m not bragging. I really dont’ care either way. Mr. Spinny somehow still finds me attractive, and for now, that’s enough for me.

I don’t feel my age, though. Time and genetics haven’t been kind to me physically, under my skin. I have pains and creaks and groans and snapping noises, and gravity provides me with a daily battle that I don’t enjoy at all. Emotionally, I feel even older. I’ve already seen the Spinny Kids and all their friends grow up. I’ve seen two new generations come into existence, before some of my high school friends have even “settled down”. I’ve seen loves and passions come and go, technologies change several times over, wars come and go and come again, countries rise and fall, and a larger number of friends pass on than I ever dreamed I would have friends.

Somehow, I’ve gone from Clotho – spinning the thread – to Atropos – cutting threads and saying goodbye to friends and family much younger than I. From Vailisa the Beautiful to Baba Yaga. And I’m ok with that, I think. I think Baba got a bad rap. Of all the Baba Yaga stories I’ve heard, the only ones to give her a come-uppance were some amazing young ladies who passed some pretty fantastic tests. I don’t think old Baba had that big of an issue being put in her place by a young woman who was clearly strong and wise. If anything, it gave her the hope to continue on and weed out the simple-minded weaklings.

I’m sure there are those who get to be old by fluke, but those who get old and wise and vain have probably earned it, and are around to take the young’uns down a couple pegs so they can be old and scary and loud, too.

At this point, I’ve actually forgotten where I was going with any of this, aside from that I’m OK with getting old. I’ve earned my grey hairs and wrinkles, and I’ll happily take my hits from young women who are smarter and stronger than I am, because it means that at least some women are getting stronger and smarter.

Whether you are a child with children of your own, old and have outlived your children, just barely manage to take care of that cactus on the window sill, desperately want children you cannot have, or have the good sense to admit that you should not be a mother for whatever your reasons are, happy Mothers day to all the humans out there who have nurtured the world in any way.

Keep setting the bar higher for the next generations!Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

And I’m BACK!

I spent the weekend surrounded by amazing artists and wonderful old and new friends. Sales were good, but the energy of the group was… I don’t even know an English word that can express it! Of course such an overdose of people and energy left me with a giant social hangover all day yesterday, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I feel so reinspired and refreshed and renewed, and all the other “re” words! Of course that’s rather fitting because the theme of the whole retreat was “renewal”.

As soon as my day job is done for today, I’ll be getting my Etsy shop out of vacation mode, and will hopefully get some updates here happening over the next couple of days to tell you all about my fantastic 5 day weekend!Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

How to save a life

A year ago I went from hating life to honestly wanting to end it. My life isn’t (and wasn’t) bad. Sure, there’s plenty of room for improvement, but I have enough to eat, clean water, a safe home, and gentle and loving family and friends. For many people, that’s a hopeless daydream.

But it wasn’t enough to make me feel OK.

Somewhere along the line, I “lost a few cards from my deck”. I felt tired and bored all the time. I felt sadness and fear for no apparent reason. I stopped taking my thyroid meds. That exacerbated things. Over the course of a few years, the boredom and fear and sadness went from annoying to crushing. Then it because a self-feeding monster and in a few short months it snowballed.

The bigger problem? I kept silent and put on an act of confidence and contentedness that should have won multiple awards. Why? I didn’t want to bother anybody. I was tired of being told to “cheer up” and “lighten up” and all those other phrases that end with “up” and are totally unhelpful to somebody who can’t remember which way is “up”. I felt like nobody “got it”. Seriously, did people really think I was so stupid that the thought of “cheering up” hadn’t occurred to me? “Oh, cheer up and get over it? Thank you, you just saved me, because I’d have never thought of that by myself! “Worse yet, I had gotten to the point that I really didn’t care. It was hopeless wishing I could feel better, so I did what everybody seems to tell depressed people – I put on my big girl panties and got on with life.

When I got to the point where I felt like life was a nightmare full of invisible monsters, I developed a plan. I don’t recall consciously thinking about it, but suddenly I had a fully thought-out foolproof plan to end my pain in a way that wouldn’t hurt for long or leave a mess for anybody who would have to clean it up. I still didn’t tell anybody. And I’ll let you in on a secret. You know those posters and ads and all kind of other lessons that tell you the signs that somebody who is planning suicide? Seriously suicidal people know those signs too. And we do everything we can to not give signs. It would have looked awfully suspicious if I started liquidating my fibre stash, wouldn’t it?

Anyway, on a very warm day last May, I calmly left the building where I work. Mr Spinny was waiting to give me a lift home. I got into the car and told him I needed to see a Doctor. I had him drive to the hospital, where I approached the triage desk, told the kind person that I was afraid I was going to hurt myself, and broke into tears. They asked me if I had a plan. I told them what it was. They found a quiet room for me to sit in where they could watch me (they didn’t say so, but it was pretty obvious). Pretty much all I remember for the next several days is alternating between tears and anxiety attacks. The ER psychiatrist felt that my self-admission was a good indication that I wasn’t an immediate danger to myself, so Mr Spinny got to take me home. I was prescribed strong antidepressants and thyroid medication.

After a lot of work, I have come a very very long way. I still feel like I somehow betrayed myself. How did it get so bad? When was the point of no return? How did I manage to rationalise my way out of the guilt of hurting my family so badly? How dare I blind-side the man who stands beside me through everything with such a terrible thing?

I have been fortunate enough that my antidepressant worked without needing to experiment with several types. They had (and still have) some unpleasant side effects from time to time, but I am alive. I feel joy again. I still feel anger and sadness, but they go away when I’m done feeling them. I melt when I see puppy lips and cat’s toes. I hear people when they speak to me. I feel love.

Please, if you feel like you might hurt yourself, seek professional help. They are equipped to assist you. Family and friends can give you love and support, but unless they’re trained, they can’t fix what’s broken. It can feel like there’s another mind in your head making the decisions. You can’t let it take the wheel.
On the other side of the coin, if you fear that somebody is headed down a path they won’t come back from, say something! Telling them to cheer up won’t fix it, especially if they don’t seem to have a “good” reason to feel bad. Depression and anxiety do not revolve around a single mishap or loss or event. Spend some time. Listen to them. Ask them if they’re thinking of hurting themselves. Encourage them to see a doctor. If somebody had mentioned a counsellor to me, I’d have brushed it off, because a counsellor can’t make the bad go away, and in that frame of mind, everything seems unfixable. Share your concerns with other people who also care. Knowing how much other people care is motivating. Trust me, I know.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Deep breaths…deep breaths…

Beneath this frazzled exterior lies a cool, calm interior. No wait, that’s backwards. Nope, on second thought, it’s right. I just happen to have the cool and calm interior bound and gagged while I panic a little.

Today is my last day of “relaxing” before a week of work, workshops, and the Saskatchewan Weavers and Spinners guild retreat, hosted and organized by my home guild, Regina Weavers and Spinners Guild. Translation: I’m positive that I’m forgetting something important.

I’ve been printing almost nonstop for two weeks. I have a few new items that will be added to the shop once the stress week is over. It’s all things I enjoy, but that many things in a week is way more than I ever let myself take on. Now it feels like every time I get something finished, I remember two more things that I have to do. I’m starting to feel strangled.

Anyway, about my exciting week–I’ll leave out the part about work on Monday and Tuesday.

On Wednesday and Thursday I am taking a Saori Workshop with Terry Bibby of Saori Saltspring! She’s coming all the way out here to give a workshop at the retreat and is giving another two-day workshop and I get to take it. WOOT!!! It’s going to be a challenge for me. Really, no rules?!? I don’t understand that concept at all.

On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday I’ll be participating as a vendor at the retreat. This year I’m not terribly attached to any of the workshops so I’m happy enough to be a vendor and just soak up the positive energy. I’m also a sponsor, which is super exciting for me as well.

By Monday I will definitely be ready for some work drudgery. For now, I’m off to measure a warp!Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Empty nest, full nest, and feather brain

The boy moved far far away to the land of poutine and maple syrup. He’s been gone just a little over 3 weeks and I miss him so much. So now the girl is a thousand km from me one way, the boy is three thousand km the other way, and I miss them both so much. No amount of phone calls, text messages, Skype, and anything else can make up for a hug.

But I’m OK, because that’s what we do. We be OK.

To fill my control freak motherly instincts, Mr. Spinny and I discussed getting a critter. We don’t generally agree on most pet-related topics, except that our dearly departed Amie was the best dog ever, cockatiels and gerbils are evil, we do not want another cat (for entirely different reasons) and we do not want anything that will likely outlive either of us. That leaves a lot of room for disagreement. Several discussions later, enter our newest additions: baby quails! So. Darned. Cute. They’re fairly quiet, not stinky, cheap to feed and care for, don’t want a lot of space, and don’t need a ton of attention. And did I mention cute? Because they’re cute. Even now at a much larger size and almost adulthood, they are cute.

Then there’s the fibre shindig on the first weekend of May. Less than two weeks away, and I feel terrified. This is my first time as a vendor at a big-ish event and I’m so nervous. I know I’ll have adequate stock and such, but it feels like the date is careening toward me and I have no airbag. Obsessing about it is driving me to distraction. It’s not keeping me awake at night – yet – but I randomly feel like letting off a nice loud scream to release some pressure. And what if they hate my stuff? So far I really have no reason to worry because nobody has said they don’t like anything I’ve made, but worrying is one of my big talents. I just need to keep breathing and slow my thinking. Is that really supposed to be so hard?Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Hellos and Goodbyes

I know we just met, but I’m going to get a little personal for a bit. Spinny boy (who is on the downhill slide to 30 so isn’t exactly a boy anymore) is moving. Far away. Very very far away. All the way from the middle of the Saskatchewan prairie to Montreal. Yes, that tiny 6 pound baby is packing his giant cat and sweet girlfriend onto a plane at the end of the month and moving thousands of kilometers from the only woman who knows how to tell him to live properly.
Yesterday Mr. Spinny and I helped them pack most of their stuff to go into the shipping container. Today we’re helping them load it into the shipping container. It’s getting so real so quickly that I’m freaking out a little bit inside. I haven’t started mommy crying yet, but it’s getting closer.

But….BUT!!!! I spent the last hour or so of the evening playing with a prototype of a fun new addition to my shop, and I just love it! My trusted idea bouncer-off-ers (I don’t know the word for that right now) loved the idea. The first prototype/draft needed a little tweaking, but it functioned great. I’m watching my printer spit out a bright green test run as I type, and I have a lovely good feeling about it. Want a sneak preview? Sure!

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Sneak preview of the newest shop addition

A post shared by Vikki Thomas (@spinnyandloopy) on

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What a rush!

With a little hesitation, I officially launched my Etsy shop on the weekend. I was prepared for some interest from friends. I was not prepared for several hundred views, dozens of favourites, and a sale within 24 hours!

It’s so encouraging to know how many people are interested in my spindles! It really motivates me to continue. So I’m sending a giant THANK YOU to everybody who has shown interest!

 

VikkiFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail