The Next Chapter

It’s been almost a month since I said “to be continued” on part one of my vacation story. There’s good reason and I will get to that here today, but let me start today by finishing that story of our South Dakota vacation.

I left you with a severely dinged windshield that had also cracked and was spreading and Mr. Knitting Sarah promising to just “kick the window out like a Cowboy” if it decided to shatter or get much worse. Instead of this option, we decided to do something crazy: we called our insurance agent and set up an appointment to get the windshield replaced. Thankfully we were headed out of Wall & the Badlands to base out of Rapid City for the remainder of our week and we could get in before the long drive home to get the work done. We set the date for Friday morning.

With the plan in place, we packed up our Adventuremobile, the 2 kids, and the dogs and headed for Rapid City Wednesday morning. It was snowing again or still snowing (it’s hard to know which) and as we left early and wouldn’t be able to check in to our hotel room until 3pm, we grabbed snacks from a gas station with the intention of driving the Wildlife Loop in Custer State Park, enjoy a hodge-podge picnic at Sylvan Lake, and head back to our hotel later that afternoon or evening.

It seems weird to see it now, but this was the drive in to Custer State Park on May 1st.

We stopped at the visitor center in the park where they seemed to think the roads would be passable for Wisconsin natives used to winter driving so we carried on with our plan and struck out on the Wildlife Loop.

We saw LOTS of brand new bison. None seemed very phased by the weather. We spotted some antelope and birds as well, but all in all the weather was formidable enough that we didn’t see a ton.

It was a beautiful drive up to Sylvan Lake though.

The picnic options, however, when we arrived were sub-optimal…

Unless you happened to be wearing snow pants (which we weren’t). We opted instead to hold on eating and go for a hike instead first since we had the lake to ourselves and the dogs really deserved a good romp. They both love snow so much and it would have been cruel not to.

Moose was contemplative because this:

Until Bear instigated some serious games of chase…

He had a lot of energy to burn off and got a lot of joy from the bonus snowy day and play with his big brother.

Knee-deep snow can’t stop us from a great time!

When we got back to the car, Bear really wanted to take the snow with him…

This is part of the reason we now bring extra towels with us whenever we take him somewhere. He is always trying to bring the outdoors inside with him one way or another.

We stopped for some delicious pizza at a little place in Hill City and by that point we could get into the hotel so we headed back toward Rapid City. As we descended out of the Black Hills, we were singing P!nk’s “Just Give Me a Reason” in true Carpool Karaoke style and just as Mr. KS hit his big note we heard this mysterious *crunch* from the back of the car. And then we hear our daughter, who was in the third row, say, “Uhhhh…. guys. Uhhh….”

The entire back windshield had shattered.

Now we joke that it was Mr. KS’ singing, but it was likely from previous rattling on dirt roads or pressure changes during the trip — who knows all we know is that it just went. Thanks to safety glass, it stayed in one piece for about a mile before chunks started falling off.

And just like that I was on the phone with our insurance agent again and then with the auto glass repair shop making a second appointment. Suddenly our last day of vacation on Friday was pretty booked.

We were not to be deterred though. Mr. KS got us all into the hotel and then struck out to the nearest store that sold heavy plastic and duct tape. Knowing we would be driving it around for a day before we could get it fixed, he got it as air and water tight as possible. Since we were losing Friday to auto glass repairs, he was not about to let Thursday escape without adventure.

It was loud and not exactly a relaxing drive, but we made it to our final big destination the next day…

It was a first time for the kiddos and it couldn’t have been a more beautiful day for it. The stress of the previous month, the car issues, and what was coming when we got home finally broke me a bit and I will admit there was some sloppy crying on my part at the empty Devil’s Tower Campground. It was cathartic though and I was thankful that Mr. KS was there to talk through it and just give me a hug. I was able to finally let the stress go and enjoy the afternoon and rest of the trip.

We took a brief detour to the Spearfish Canyon on the way back…

A place we’ll definitely be returning to to explore further.

The following morning, Mr. KS kindly offered to go in and handle the glass repairs while I sat with the kids and dogs in the hotel room.

Moose was ok with that.

So was Bear.

The repairs took most of Friday and by the time they were done, we went for a brief walk through a couple parks, grabbed some ice cream as a treat because now it was very warm and sunny (as opposed to freezing and snowy) and then just headed back for an early evening knowing we’d be hitting the road for home early the next day.

I’m happy to report that the drive home was largely uneventful. And we arrived home to this.

Spring on the Marsh.

It’s hard to be sad about vacation ending when this is a short jaunt from your front door.

It was another one of those trips that teaches you to not give up, to just keep going and deal with whatever comes your way with the best attitude possible. Our family does seem to thrive in the best/worst vacation category. Sure, we spent a small fortune in auto glass and had to radically alter plans for weather and to spend the day getting our windshields fixed, but we made a lot of memories and we spent so much quality time together. In retrospect, I wouldn’t change a thing. These trips are special and I hold them close to my heart even when everything goes wrong and maybe I had a little stressed out sloppy cry in the middle. It’s all part of the journey and even if imperfect a lot of the time, it comes with a breathtaking view.

The Monday after our return home I officially returned to the workforce. For the first time in nearly a decade of being a stay at home mom, I took a part time job. It wasn’t something I was necessarily looking for or even expecting to do, but the schedule and type of work suited the family, my physical limitations, and my abilities so I went for it. The past month I’ve been working a lot of hours as I get my training in which is why getting back to blog here has been so difficult. I’ve been adjusting to a different schedule, trying to get the kids through the end of their school year, and learn my own job, so it’s been a lot.

On top of the job status change, my parents are making a move to our town! We’ve been asking since our son was born almost 14years ago and we are very excited to welcome them to their new home. In just over a month, they will be moving in just a couple streets over from us . I can’t say much more than I simply cannot wait. I think it’s going to be a wonderful change for all of us.

Which brings me to a bittersweet end here, in this post and in this space. I think we’ve all felt it coming for a while, but today I am going to put it in so many words: It is time for me to take a step back from my little corner of the blogosphere. The truth is that life for me is changing in big ways. I need to adapt how I am spending my time to fit my new normal and sadly that means letting some things go. As much as I love to write and share our stories and my craft here, it’s become hard for me to keep up. I have never wanted to be someone who starts every post with “It’s been a long time” or some variation on that, but that’s exactly what has been happening. It is time.

My subscription on my platform runs through November, so my plan is to leave this live until then. If by chance things settle down and I have more time or I find that I truly miss writing here, I will simply come back and pick it back up. If, however, November rolls around and I haven’t touched it and am happy with the new normal I’ve created, then I will simply let it go.

For those who would like to stay in touch, I will continue to pop in when I can on Ravelry and (hopefully) update my projects there. For the time being, I also plan to keep my Instagram account live and update it when I have time and it feels right with knitting or spinning or our nature walks or puppy updates. I am  @knittingsarah on Instagram and TheKnittingSarah on Ravelry, so please feel free to stay in touch.

It is hard to imagine. It is hard to let go. And I don’t know how it’ll all feel as I officially disengage from this space, but it is time for new adventures and new challenges. And I have to be open to all the promise and opportunities in front of me and make the most of them and do what is right for my family. For now, though, I’m going to take some time to contemplate and process the change from a very special spot with some very special people and two very special pups. And probably a cup of coffee, too.

I wish all the best in whatever is next on the horizon for you and I hope that, where ever you are reading from, that you can find a peaceful spot, enjoy a cup of coffee, and look forward to your own next chapter with hope and joy and peace.

We Make Yarn.

I’ll catch y’all up on my holiday soon, but today I’m over the moon to be able to share a new project on which I’ve been working with Mary Ann from Three Waters Farm. It’s called #wemakeyarn, an Instagram-based month-long photo challenge for the month of January designed to inspire and connect the community of handspinners. We’ve worked hard to develop prompts that would help us all share and discuss about, as well as reflect and celebrate this beautiful craft.

For those who may be interested, this is the image and prompts that’ll be the cornerstone of the event…

#wemakeyarn

You can find the image on Instagram on my account, @knittingsarah, as well as the official Three Waters Farm account, @threewatersfarm, and also the brand new @wemakeyarn account where we’ll be curating beautiful and inspiring spinning photos throughout the event to share.

For those who were considering participating in the #spin15aday challenge for 2018, this is a fantastic way to get started with it. I’ll be using the month to really spring-board myself into a year-long habit of daily spinning. I hope those of you who are spinners will consider joining and sharing with all your spinning friends!

IMG_4271

Beginning Spinning: On a Shoestring and Beyond

Last week I got a great question here on the blog in the comments section from Erin P. and I thought it was worth sharing with you. It went:

Hey Knitting Sarah-

I’ve played with the idea of slowly getting into spinning but it seems like an activity that has a high entry cost just to try. You know with knitting all you need is like $10 for that first set of cheap needles and acrylic yarn.

But even a used wheel is like $300…. or a set of classes could start getting close to that price, but then you don’t even have a wheel to use afterwards…

Would you recommend getting into using a drop spindle first? or is that a totally different thing?

Could you make or recommend a post on how to get into spinning?

I think the reason I like this question so much is that I had the exact same questions before I started spinning. On a whole, “How do I get into spinning?” is kind of difficult to answer because there are a lot of variables. From your access to resources to your free time to your budget, Erin’s absolutely right — spinning is different than grabbing a skein of cheap yarn and some knitting needles and learning to knit & purl. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be super expensive, but as with anything there are trade-offs.

Let’s start with the most basic question:

What’s the difference between a wheel and a drop spindle?

A wheel and a drop spindle do the same thing. At the most basic level, both are devices that help you to pull fiber apart, put twist into it, and create yarn. It really is that simple. To explain the difference in a very simplified way, think about walking versus riding a bicycle. Say that you need to go to the store to by groceries. Walking will get you to store, but riding a bicycle will get you there faster and it’ll be easier on your body. Machines in general are created to make the tasks we have to accomplish easier and more efficient and a spinning wheel is no different.  I can spin 4oz of merino on my drop spindle or I can spin the same 4oz of merino on my wheel and create the same yarn, but the wheel will get me there with less effort and smaller time investment.

Where should I start?

Well, that really depends on a number of things. As I said before, the resources you have access to, the type of student you are, how serious you are about learning to spin, and your budget will be the major players there. There really isn’t a right or wrong answer that applies to everyone. With this in mind, I thought I’d break this blog post into two parts: a guide to getting into spinning on a shoestring and a guide to getting into spinning with a larger budget. You could certainly follow one or the other or any combination of the two. I thought I’d just highlight two distinct avenues as a starting point for you.

Beginning Spinning on a Shoestring

spindles

Spindles can cost a lot of money, but a lot of very good spindles are pretty darn economical. My first spindle was a made in a friend’s basement at a craft night and it was much like this one. I won’t say I’d recommend it because especially in the beginning having a spindle that’s well balanced can make things a lot easier and the one I got was heavy, so I would argue spending around $20-$25 for a nice basic spindle is a worthwhile investment.

I picked up this 1.1oz Schacht Hi-Lo spindle at a fiber festival and I would recommend it to any new spinner. If you want to go the Turkish Spindle route, I’ve been very happy with my spindles from Snyder Spindles. With spindles, you’re always looking at how much they weigh because that affects the types of yarn you’ll be spinning on them. As a beginner, I was told anything in the 1.1-1.3oz range would best and now that I’ve had a little experience I’d have to agree.

As for fiber, you definitely don’t need anything fancy. You want something with a staple length that isn’t too long, but isn’t too short– so like a Corriedale or Romney Top or roving would be a great choice. If you aren’t sure if the fiber you want to buy is good for a beginner, just ask the shop or farm you’re purchasing from, they’ll know.

I’d steer clear of merino and silk  — they’re pretty and awesome to work with, but they can be awfully slippery and hard to control in the beginning. Pretty colors help with inspiration (and you can check some suggestions for where to get these in the section below), but to be honest there’s a decent chance you won’t be knitting with your first handspun unless you’re a big fan of art yarn. Yes, let’s have realistic expectations — your first handspun probably won’t resemble commercial yarn at all right away. Personally, I started with a grocery bag of inexpensive natural (white) Romney that cost me $10 or $15 just because I got a lot.

So at this point, you’ve spent about $30-$40 to get started. Not bad. Now you have to learn though. Let’s assume you don’t have a friend who can teach you (that would be too easy!). I would recommend starting with some of Abby Franquemont’s YouTube tutorials. This one in particular is what actually got me spindle spinning — the video quality isn’t great, but it was my AHA moment. She is also the author of Respect the Spindle which is an excellent book. I haven’t checked out the video, but I assume it’s great, too. Most libraries have a great number of spindle spinning titles you can take for a test drive. If you prefer a more structured approach and you don’t mind spending a little extra, you can always try Craftsy’s Spindling: From Fluff to Stuff. Of course checking local shops for inexpensive starter classes is a great option to if they are available in your area.

Following these simple guidelines for basic tools and using online & library resources, you can easily start spinning for under $50. This is the route I took when I first started to dabble in spinning and it was a great way to really get a taste for the craft. I would whole-heartedly recommend this path for anyone who is even a little unsure about their commitment to spinning or anyone who has a limited budget. It is a great, solid way to get your foot in the door.

That said, the only downside is that… well… to be honest, I really struggled with the spindle. I would classify it as a little more difficult than the wheel, but mostly I think it was just the combination of the way I learn and the resources I had access to at the time that led to my problems. I could not wrap my head around what was happening with this fiber and spindle and I could not get the process to click in my head. I spent a lot of time dropping my drop spindle and very little time making yarn and I got discouraged quickly. The upside, of course, is that I only invested about $40 and even though I couldn’t get the hang of the spindle, it was enough to solidify in my mind that I wanted to continue with spinning and that I indeed wanted a wheel.

With a couple years of wheel spinning under my belt, I went back to properly learn how to use a spindle this summer and I picked it up without any problem. I’m pretty convinced it was a lack of patience in the learning process that led to my initial failure which is why even though it didn’t work for me, I still recommend starting with a spindle. The low entry cost alone just makes it such a great starting point. That said, what if you want to go beyond the shoestring approach?

Beginning Spinning Beyond the Shoestring

Let’s say that you want to dive right in — you want a wheel and you want to spin like the wind right from the get-go. Well, the very first thing I would do is check out local shops. A lot of shops that sell spinning wheels teach classes on spinning and sometimes those classes or part of them can be used as credit toward a wheel. Maybe they don’t offer credit, but they provide rentals for those who take their spinning classes – you just never know. At the very least, it’s always worth asking.

20140521-061611-22571404.jpgAs for what wheel to get, I would encourage you to check out this blog post I wrote a while back on how I selected my wheel. In it I go through all the variables I recommend that you consider and the questions you should ask yourself when you are choosing a wheel. I’ve had a number of people tell me it’s helpful and I think it’s pretty thorough, so I won’t rehash it today, just click the link and check it out. Suffice to say, a wheel will set you back — usually at least $350 for a basic package. The upside is that if you buy the ‘right’ wheel for you, you can use that one wheel for the rest of your life if you take good care of it. I think the price doesn’t sting quite so badly if you think of that big picture.

In any case, you’ll be looking for the same type of basic fiber for a wheel as you would a spindle — a Corriedale or Romney would be great, merino and silk not so great. Maybe Cheviot or Targhee if you want to get a little softer first yarn, but just like the spindle remember that your first handspun will be more art yarn than commercial yarn. Pretty colors — again — are fun and inspiring and maybe since you’re springing for a wheel you feel like splurging on some pretty colors. Spun Right Round & Dyeabolical & Three Waters Farm are just a couple shops that I’d highly recommend for their good quality bases and super pretty colors. Do keep in mind the recommended breeds (Romney, Corriedale, etc) that you’re looking for because believe it or not that is more important than the actual color in the beginning. Speaking from experience, it can be all too easy to start looking at color and forget totally about breed.

As for resources, it’s definitely easiest to learn to spin with your wheel from someone who is pretty fluent in spinning. Classes, of course, are ideal and can range greatly in what aspects of fiber and spinning they cover, so check around. Since I wasn’t able to get away for a class, I started with Maggie Casey’s Start Spinning book and DVD. I would also recommend Foundations of Spinning on Craftsy and I found Felicia Lo’s Spinning Dyed Fibers on Craftsy a really great introduction for any spinner with basic skills to really start to investigate how you can play with color.

Whether you decide to start on a shoestring or with a heftier investment, I can tell you from the bottom of my heart that learning to spin was probably the best gift I’ve ever given myself. It’s not quite as portable as knitting and I can’t multitask with it, but that is exactly why I love and appreciate spinning. Sure, I can still watch tv or listen to music while I spin, but it’s different. It’s a whole body exercise that really quiets my mind and gives me those zen moments that I so need in my busy life. Oh, and I love the pretty yarns I get to create, too!

Do you still have questions?

Pop over to Periscope (a free app!) this Saturday morning at 9am CST and find me @KnittingSarah — I’ll be there live to share some of my spinning tools, pretty fiber, and be available to chat about spinning and answer your questions! Hope to see you there!

A Terrific Lady Day

Terrific Lady Day (n)

A special day that a man gives to his significant other (girlfriend, fiance, wife) in which he does whatever she wants, whenever she wants. Most of the time, this is done to fix a screw-up, or obtain good graces in preparation for a future screw-up.

As seen on the FX series “The League”

                                                   — from Urban Dictionary

Long before we saw this terminology on television, my husband has treated to to special days every now and then. Sometimes it’s shopping or just a day trip that includes a favorite stop & a special lunch. This has changed somewhat since the kids came along, of course. Now at my house, a Terrific Lady Day is less about past or future screw-ups — because for the most part both my husband & I take those in stride — and more about sanity maintenance and kid-free time for me.

As a stay-at-home mom homeschooling our two kids while my husband works long hours that often change last-minute, it can be hard to take time for myself and nearly impossible to actually coordinate spending time with my grown-up friends in a kid-free block of time. I won’t lie, I’m thankful for the time with my family & I’m actually very protective of it and I routinely pass on possible free time to not miss a moment with my hubby & kids. It’s important to find balance though and sometimes the difficulty in finding time to spend with friends wears on me and really gets me down. With my last kid-free day being back in March, the last few weeks were especially hard as I kept trying to carve out time that just wasn’t possible.

And then a couple weeks ago a good friend — who is even busier than me — forwarded an email to me for a trunk show happening at Cream City Yarn this past Sunday that just said, “Maybe we can have a coffee date and visit the trunk show?”

I jumped into action.

I knew my husband would be setting his schedule for that week and I hoped that if I caught him in time he’d be up for watching the kids so I could sneak a kid-free day. The stars aligned, my hubby’s schedule held, and my friend & I used a pen, not pencil to hold the date.

After one heck of a week (I explained on Periscope Sunday morning — check it out for a good laugh, I’m @KnittingSarah), Sunday morning arrived and my hubby rolled the kids out of the rack at o’dark-hundred for a full day trip to the Chicago Field Museum while I had my Terrific Lady Day. I awoke at 5ish to help get everyone out the door and then I spun until it was time to head out…

IMG_0839I’ve been plying away at this beautiful fiber from Dyeabolical for a good long while — 5minutes here, 15minutes there — and the couple hours I had before it was time to leave was just what I needed to take a good strong chunk out of this project.

Then I got in the car exactly on time and promptly got lost. I know, right?! Some sort of vortex opened up or I got stuck in a fold in the space-time continuum that somehow made it impossible to find the correct road. I eventually turned on my phone’s GPS and got on the right road (so maybe the cosmos weren’t conspiring against the Terrific Lady Day…) and was only about 30minutes late.

We got coffee and spent a nice long time browsing through my friend’s fave local bookstore. I fought the urge to not 1) ask if I could live there and 2) buy one of everything. Yes, I managed to control myself and just get a book on Spanish verbs that I have been wanting to help me help the kids with their Spanish lessons. Lots of mental notes were made, however, and I’m very much looking forward to the day I can bring my bookworm of a daughter to see this wonderful shop.

We made our way over to Cream City Yarn and upon arrival, I was instantly overwhelmed by the friendliness of staff, the loads of inspiration & shop samples, and also just being there with the knowledge that I didn’t have 3 tired and hungry people in the car waiting for me to hurry up. It was just me and my terrific ladyfriend. Being there with a fellow knitting friend was pretty amazing, too — so many grand plans were hatched.

After much debate, I finally settled on these beauties.

IMG_0873A skein of Sheepish Yarn Co’s Midwest Merino in Black Bear which is destined to be a fab hat or cowl. I haven’t quite decided yet, but I think hat since it would be very versatile. And despite having my list of sweater yarns that I really wanted, on a complete whim I was totally inspired by a shop sample of Nordic Wind in Quince & Co’s Owl. I picked all blues in Quince & Co’s Owl & Owl Tweet and when I asked my friend. She looked, thoughtfully and said, “What about switching one blue out for a brown?” It was absolute genius. I am in serious love. And despite having like 5 projects that need to happen in the next few weeks you can bet I’ll be winding this yarn asap.

Having spent our budgets and taken loads of notes for future projects (seriously, that really happened), we stopped for a quick bite to eat before I headed home. I did manage to avoid the evil space-time fold on the return trip and had a couple hours to finish up my morning’s plying project. I even had time to start another…

IMG_0875I’ll tell you more about this in an FO post in the near future, but suffice to say it’s from Spun Right Round and it’s amazing.

Rested and relaxed and refreshed, when the kiddos and hubby got home full of stories, I was ready. It’s amazing what a Terrific Lady Day can do, especially with such a terrific ladyfriend!

This Week in My Dreams

I think because I’ve committed to knitting sweaters for both kids before the snow flies — or, let’s be realistic, before the snow stops flying this winter — I’ve been obsessing nonstop about knitting shawls and wraps. Of course I am. I may have even cast one on, but I’m still kind of in denial about that fact.

But I digress.

One shawlette that has been on my mind for a good long while has been Mel Ski’s Menehune.

                                               Copyright MSkiKnits — Please click photo for link!

Like so many, I’ve been touring Periscope this week. For those who don’t know, it’s kind of like YouTube, but you broadcast live and your recordings don’t stay available as long. I’m @KnittingSarah if you want to make a friend there & possibly see me babble on a bit. In any case, I’ve really loved & been inspired by Mel’s scopes as she’s such a driving force of kindness or positive thinking. You can find her on Periscope at  @MSkiKnits and I really recommend checking her out. Obviously, I also love her designs and have been dreaming of creating my own Menehune in this handspun…

IMG_0819It’s a 2ply I spun out of Cloudlover BFL/Silk in the ‘Blue Hawaii’ colorway.

IMG_0823And I think it would make an exceptionally pretty little shawlette.

What are you dreaming of knitting this week?