30 January 2014

Well, DERP

So, I find a correction is in order for my previous post.  This doesn't bode well.  So, I got gifted three bags of fiber from a friend, and in the bustle of our weekly meeting, I forgot to nail down the information on the two animal fibers (the third was a bag of cotton).  On the bag of the fiber I chose to spin first was written, "Gray Suffolk," which I find now is NOT referring to breed of provenance, but rather to an arbitrary color grading system.  The gray fiber I have is Gray Suffolk, but the fiber is Herdwick.

Herdwick sheep are very tough and durable, and as I noticed while spinning the 8 oz. I was given, this quality extends to their wool.  The Wikipedia entry for this breed is quite an interesting cross-section of their history and the history of the British Lake District.

Next month's entry in the 2014 Fiber Challenge will be Polworth, purchased from a farm right here in North Carolina, Three Waters Farm, and the month after that I suspect will be the other bag of animal fiber that I was gifted which I have asked, confirmed, and double checked as Navajo Churro.  Let's hope this goes better in the future...

25 January 2014

2014 Fiber Challenge: January/Suffolk (HERDWICK)

One of my craft related resolutions at the beginning of this month was to experiment with a wider variety of fibers and to keep notes on what I thought of them.  At the moment I have four small quantities of fibers I haven't ever spun or even handled in their raw state before.  This includes cotton, which I've been playing around with a little since I got it.  Not promising.  Lots of swearing.  But more on that later.

My first entry will be Suffolk.  Now, Suffolk is primarily a meat breed, and so the fiber is very coarse.  Generally, I'm told, it's used for outdoor blankets or rugs, and I can see why.  It's scratchy and sturdy, and reminds me a little of butcher's twine.  It's also pretty easy to spin up; properly pre-drafted, it doesn't break off (at least in the section I spun last night, which is about a third of the amount I have. 

Now, as I said, normally Suffolk is not used for fine garments such as shawls, but I have a special all handspun shawl that I'm working on, and I'll be using at least a portion of the Suffolk in it, even if it's just a stripe.  Here are some pictures of the wool, both spun and unspun.

Maybe I'll try to do one new fiber per month or something along those lines; I suspect it will take me the whole month to complete the cotton, if I can do it while holding on to my sanity...

20 January 2014

Human Gestures

...And by that I don't mean acts of kindness or generosity; I mean gestures by which writers can characterize and illuminate their otherwise uninteresting or unbelievable characters. 

I remember in a creative writing class I took a few semesters ago that the professor (a truly terrifying person) was particularly taken with a passage from one of the texts he'd assigned us.  He said it was perfect.  And he meant it literally and seriously.  There was no hyperbole.  The book was Denis Johnson's Vietnam era Tree of Smoke, and the passage dealt with a conversation between a mother and son, the son being one of many protagonists in the book.  Over a meager supper, the mother says of her youngest son:
He'll be around. He's always hungry. I lost weight while I carried him to term.  I started out one-nineteen, and in my ninth month I was down to one-eleven.  He fed on me from the inside.
After a meal of peanut butter and canned soup, over which the son brings up his desire to enlist, the mother asks where the youngest is, to which her other son replies, "He'll come when he's hungry."
"He's always hungry," she said, and began to say all over again the same things she'd just told him, because she was unable not to say them.
The way the professor read and interpreted this passage, the way he described it, reminded me of the way I felt when a read a certain passage in Charles Dickens' Great Expectations.  Dickens, of course was always adept at unique characterizations - dare we say, caricatures.  But this passage between Joe and Pip I thought was, in the same way, perfect:
"You might, old chap," said Joe.  "And she might credit it.  Similarly she mightn't."  Joe felt, as I did, that he had made a point there, and he pulled hard at his pipe to keep himself from weakening it by repetition.
Did you catch that?  Weakening it by repetition.  Because, when you're having a fairly intent discussion, as Pip and Joe are here, and you say something that sounds good - you know it, right?  And you want to say it again, because it just sounded so good the first time. 

And yet... It never sounds as good the second time around, does it?

What's even more interesting to me, is that I feel as if the observation doesn't actually come from Pip, but from Dickens himself, unable to avoid a slightly too keen attention to the motivations of others even though he should be speaking through Pip's voice and from his perspective only.

What are some human gestures you've discovered in literature?

Oh, but of course.  You're just imaginary.

12 January 2014

A Return to Sketching

Well, my dear imaginary readers,

It's a new year, I'm graduated, unemployed, and disillusioned (but in the best, slightly supercilious and snarky way). 

Now that I am done with school for the immediate future, I've been returning to drawing, as well as knitting, spinning, writing, and other things I do - this week I've been cleaning up/damage controlling in the garden.

One of my Christmas presents this holiday season was a hand-me-down Lenovo Yoga, which features a touch screen, so somewhere in the back of my mind was the idea of computer graphics.  One sketch in particular is destined for this experiment, but once I started, I found myself just enjoying the act of sketching itself.  I'd missed it. 

So here are the innings:

The elf king is the one I think could do with some computer attention, and the sketch page below with the accompanying thumbnails are exploration for a possible creative writing project dealing with North Carolina wildlife - children's stories with a certain edge.