The vexation of yarn gifts

Let me start this off by stating that I love yarn and all it’s possibilities. Which is where my problem is. Since I love popping into a yarn shop and browsing through the piles of potential projects, I tend to purchase yarn without having a project in mind simply because the color or texture was interesting. My one rule is that every bit of my yarn stash must fit into one “yarn chest,” a dedicated plastic tub for all my yarn goodness. (Guess how many years it’s been since I broke THAT particular rule. So many years. So many.) I’m attempting to knit down my stash, and am no longer purchases yarn without a pattern in mind. After I finish a few projects, I go back into my yarn chest and fill a few gallon ziplock bags with yarn and a pattern from my collection, so that I’ll always have something on hand. To set the scene, here I am slowly getting my stash in order. I had a shawl on the needles and three projects of various complexities and lengths ready to go.

And then my friend A Suitcase of Books recently went to Prince Edward Island.  She brought back fun stories about visiting the home of Anne of Green Gables, and also fancy hand spun yarn for me. This yarn is so beautiful. It’s a slightly slubbly wool dyed bright magenta with spots of dark gray wrapped in pink silk. So pretty. I’ve been petting it for longer than I will actually admit to the general public. I’ve had it on my bedside table for a few weeks while I try to figure out what to do with it. What follows is in no way a criticism of the gift I have been given.

Here is my issue.  Yarn I buy for myself I don’t feel guilty about shoving into the stash chest until I can figure out what the perfect project will be. Gift yarn? My brain says I need to use it now, else I will show my ingratitude to the gift-giver. Which I am fully aware is not actually true, but sometimes you can’t fight the brain. So the minute the previous shawl was finished I rolled this one up into a ball and started the gears grinding.

While this yarn is very pretty and I love the colors, the homespun nature doesn’t lend itself to the patterns I normally go knit. I like heavily cabled sweaters and lace slouchy hats. Generally speaking, most of my projects are heavy on the details. This is obviously not going to work on any of those projects, as it’s slubby nature will hide any and all pattern details. Thus began the altogether un-epic trials of finding a pattern for this yarn.

I knew I wanted either a hat or fingerless gloves. In trying to decide, I sent many a picture to Liz in order to estimate what the finished product would look like. A note: balancing a ball of yarn on your head is not an indicator of what a hat will look like. But it does make for some amusing photos that I would have posted here, except I’m still learning the functions of my phone and somehow the photos I sent weren’t actually saved to my camera roll.

Issue the second: There’s no yardage on the ball. It does list the grams, which in any other type of yarn I could weigh out ten yards and calculate it out from there. But with the thick/thin texture I don’t think that measure would be accurate. So, a pattern that won’t look weird if I have to swap out a few yards at the end. That leaves out mittens for now. Also, my ears are cold.  So hat.

I couldn’t find any hat patterns on Ravelry that sang to me in the style of this thick and thin yarn. Which lead me to doing something I rarely every do. Liz take note! Your yarn has forced me to SWATCH. For the non-knitters out there, this is when you knit a basic square with your chosen yarn and needles in order to test out that they’re going to agree with one another. It’s generally assumed to be a terrific thing to do that many people don’t bother to do. It’s the flossing of knitting.

So I’ve tried out a few pattern variations in hopes it would look different on the needles than my brain predicted it would. This is one of those moments when I acknowledge that I’ve been knitting long enough that I was pretty sure what the outcome would be here.

I started out with a basic stockinette stitch. The tumor looking things above the first inch are a seed stitch and and a double moss stitch. Which is exactly what the eyes in my brain told me would happen based on the texture of the yarn, but I needed to see with the eyes in my head. It’s so very pretty of a yarn that I want to do something beautiful and complex with it, but anything more complicated than a basic stockinette hat will destroy the swoops of slubb that make up this yarn. Boo. So I’m casting on from the crown and am going to attempt to use up every bit of this wonderful vexing gift.




On rejection

Do you know those moments when you’re feeling unguarded while talking with friends, and you accidentally speak something unexpected but true? This occurs more often than I’m entirely comfortable with, which could say interesting things about my self-knowledge or we could ignore all that introspection and say I’m a verbal thinker.

Let’s go with the latter opinion.

At lunch we were talking about our different styles of work habits. One friend is the type to throw down as much information as possible first, then to later edit down and organize themselves once they have every bit in front of them. They do the same process whether it’s an essay or a group project, writing or canning fish. Let’s see everything we have to deal with, then figure it out. The other friend prefers to organize themselves first, then fill in what’s needed so as to not waste effort. To have the template in place and add in the content as needed. Both styles have their pros and cons. One will take a very long and confusing time to pull together, the other can ignore spur of the moment ideas and interesting rabbit-trails.

When it came time for me to talk about my own process, a glorious mix of planning out the basic structure and generally tossing everything possible at the wall to see what sticks best, something slipped out that’s still bothering me.

I said that the processes I use for organizing my writing and projects for work weren’t the same as my writing at home. With my fiction writing I tend to get stalled when there’s too much information on the page, and the notes to myself that help my work processes cause me to get overwhelmed and switch to another project. So I’ll write these extensive brain storming notes to myself, which I need to grow the story, but just seeing those notes later on will cause me to glaze over. Sometimes I can delete notes as I work. Sometimes I move them all to another document and work from a bare bones outline or the blank page.

But after all of that, my exact words were, “and if it never passes it’s final draft, it can’t get rejections because it isn’t good enough.”

Two stories of mine have been published. There are a total of eight pieces I consider “finished.” A quick count of my writing folder shows 52 unfinished short stories and 14 incomplete book length projects. 66 unfinished pieces of fiction! That’s not even counting the little bits of random plot and dialogue in notebooks around the house, or the untyped prompt stories in other notebooks.

This is me pre-rejecting myself so that I don’t have to deal with an editor doing it. Not trying doesn’t make rejection hurt less. It still hurts when you’re doing the rejection for them. That’s their job, and you’re job is to build up your calluses and deal with it.

It’s time to stop screening myself out.  It’s also time to start finishing stories.

In which I finally bother to ask for advice

After too long of being unsatisfied with how these masks were turning out, I finally remembered that I have a friend that loves collage. Craft party ensued.

Here are the pics I took! The things I was doing wrong were:
1. Cutting the paper instead of tearing it. Tearing leaves a much softer edge that smooths down nicely.
2. Trying to stick the paper straight onto the masks. Soaking the torn strips in water for a minute softened the edges of the paper and loosened the paper fibers. The edges of the paper didn’t curl up so much this way, and it was easier to get the paper to mold around the curves of the masks.
3. Paste too thick. Louise, my crafter friend, showed how a watered down paste was easier to manipulate. We added enough water so that the Modgepodge was similar to a light syrup. After the strips were done soaking they were dunked in the glue for a second. It was gloppy, but much easier to adjust the strips on the mask with my fingers and the glue dried much smoother.

I did not know this was a craft

Quilling.  My friend Louise brought some quilling to work on during lunch one day, and that was the first time I had ever seen the craft.  You take little strips of paper, roll them up, and somehow twist and curl them into decorative designs.  Quilling is now on the list of things to do with my letters.  I think this will turn out looking very pretty.

Once I manage to learn how to quill that is.  Apparently it is a skill.

Like collage.

Newsflash: I’m horrible at collage

See title.  Whee.

I’m accruing more rejection letters.  One of my projects, the tragedy/comedy masks, is proving more difficult than I thought.  I have pre-made masks and am pasting torn off sections of the rejection slips onto either mask.  Happy/neutral parts go onto the comedy mask and sad bits go onto the tragedy mask.  After each layer I add some watercolor.

This is my first time trying something like this, and while I didn’t assume it would look amazing I also wasn’t expecting…this.  It’s going to need a lot of glitter and shiny bits added to it.  Hopefully the glitter will distract the viewer’s eyes from the hot mess the masks are rapidly becoming.

Or rather, not so rapidly, considering that my last post was a few months ago…

Pics to come.

Once I become brave enough to record this horror for posterity.


New goal!

Four submissions sent out for a sum total of…four stories submitted. The sum total of my finished works. Two thoughts came to me after I finished sending everything out.

1. Sending 10,000 words into the space between acceptance and rejection is a really nice feeling.

2. If, hope beyond hope, they all get accepted, I would make enough to cover my monthly car payment.

Now, it does need to be said that I’m not really in this for the money. There are far easier ways to make an extra buck than to open a vein over the keyboard. However, my subconscious is a tricky little beast and it is absolutely enamored by the act of attaching my writing goals to more concrete goals.

So the goal is to treat my writing like a side job. Which means every month submitting around 10k words worth of story, or enough to pay a big bill once you figure out the cents per word of the market.

The side effect is that hopefully I get more stories finished, instead of letting the languish while I polish them to a highly edited sheen.

Fly my pretties

Confession time. I haven’t gotten any new rejections lately. During NaNoWriMo I didn’t send any submissions out, and before that I had already received all of my submissions back in the form of rejection notices. So that means I don’t have anything in the queue right now, even though NaNo was back in November. Bad writer.

I have however three new pieces on the editing block. One drabble that needs cutting down, a short story that isn’t quite working yet, and a novelette that was almost done, but then I decided to change the main character. Because that is how I roll.

I’ll be seeding the new crop once they’re ready, although at the moment I’m not sure if I prefer to think of the submission process as farming or if I like the image of the wicked witch of the West sending out her flying monkeys better.

Fly my pretties! Fly!

Ok, now what?

The next project for my tiny-yet-growing pile of rejection letters are origami cranes.  Specifically 1,000 origami cranes, which will give me both a wish and a lot of origami experience.  Probably also many paper cuts.  Thankfully I won’t be doing them all at once.  I don’t think I’ll make copies of previous rejection letters for this project, or for any of them really.  The point is to find nice ways to use them up so that I’ll look forward to receiving them.  Or at least, not dread opening my mail.  Or feel depressed at the piles of “no thank you” letters.  …and to get me more motivated to actually finishing stories and sending them out…

Things that go tap in the night

National Novel Writing Month is coming up in November and preparations are underway.  Using a rigorous scientific method I’ve come to determine that I cannot use a computer for this NaNoWriMo this year, as each computer use year I’ve produced historic lows for wordcount.  Historic lows meaning that I barely passed the 6,000 word mark.  So sad.  I am a very distractible writer bunny.

Handwriting years far much better, got to 25,000, but afterwards it took over a month to retype it.  Mostly because of bad handwriting on my part.  I’ll be partially handwriting my novel this year.  I’ve got a notebook that will be my on-the-go writing buddy and I’ve already resupplied my fountain pen cartridges.  For some strange reason my handwriting is best when I use fountain pens.  There’s something about them that makes me slow down a bit and attempt to actually write nicely, instead of just scrawling my teeny-tiny chicken scratch over the page.

What’s that you say?  If I’m not using a computer and I’m only partially handwriting, how is the rest being created?

I’m now the proud owner of a pair of manual typewriters.  Totally going old school.  Gonna be awesome.  Hopefully I won’t break anything.

Now I just need to figure out what I’m actually going to be writing about.  Too many ideas!