Monthly Archives: January 2012

Have You Seen My Writing Mojo?

Where did my Mojo Go?


Have you seen it? I’ve been looking all over for it.

For whatever reason, I seem have lost all my motivation to write. I put it down before the holidays because I was so busy with other things and now I can’t remember where I left it.

It was a modest little Mojo–more the warm, cozy, satisfying kind than one of those bright, jangly ones that you have to mind all the time. It didn’t squeal, “Look at me” every time I tried to turn my attention to something else. It just snuggled up and made me feel good inside when I played with it.

So far as I know, there aren’t any lost-and-found shelters for forlorn Writing Mojos. I suppose it’s possible that it went looking for some other writer to feed it and love it and spend time with it. Maybe the 2-year old next door has suddenly blossomed into a prolific scribbler to the delight and wonder of her parents. That would be lovely for her, and all, but I confess that I want it back.

I blame myself. I neglected the poor thing. I admit it. I let circumstances get in the way of my daily writing. My knitting blog broke (I have yet to figure out how to fix it), so my first outlet of writing suddenly wasn’t available. My freelance assignments dried up so I felt funny posting here, because it felt somehow hypocritical to write about writing when I wasn’t actually writing. My day job, which already blocks all sorts of file-sharing websites, suddenly made it impossible for me to plug in a thumb-drive so I couldn’t carry my novel back and forth to work on in spare moments. (Because oddly enough, spare moments at my day job have always been some of my most productive fiction-writing time.)

So this is all my own fault.

I let myself be gagged. I allowed my favorite writing outlets to be shut down or made difficult to access because I didn’t fight hard enough to keep them or to find alternatives. I thought about restarting a regular journal, like I kept years ago, but there are some serious penmanship deficiencies to deal with there, and trying to write with a pen sounds even more difficult than it used to.

The less that I wrote in the outlets still available, the less I FELT like writing.

It’s true what they say. You really do have to WRITE. It’s like any other muscle–if you don’t use it, you lose it. I’ve been struggling to get mine back. I think about writing all the time. I think about freelancing jobs I could be chasing. I think about my unpublished novel and think about sending it out again to agents (or about trying the self-publishing route). I think a lot about my poor, broken personal blog that I truly miss but have no idea how to fix.

But when it comes down to it, thinking is not the same as writing. In fact, it’s often the antithesis of writing because, the more you over-think things, the more you block the route between your head and a piece of paper.

Which brings me to the sad realization that the only way I’m going to get my writing mojo back is to COAX it back. I need to make it feel welcome. I need to make it feel safe and loved–and the only way to do that is to let it know that I’ll use it.

The only way to get it back is to act like I’ve already got it.

But, really, if one of you has seen it and can point it home, I’d appreciate it.

Block of the Month: January

Catch-Up Photos Galore!

Joseph's hat actually on Joseph:
The original hat and my replacement, side by side (the yellow one used to be a similar blue as the one I made...):
Flourish, on me:

My between-projects-post-Midnight-to-8am-shifts necklace:

The fingerless gloves to go with my tie-shawl and flourish:

And extremely overdue, my Traditional Danish Tie Shawl:

Joseph's hat, the necklace and flourish were all made in December. Dan's hat and the fingerless gloves were made in January and the shawl was made way back in September, but I haven't had the time to properly photograph it until now, which allowed me to get some photos with the whole set together. Details and the rest of the photos are up on Ravelry (where I've also updated my stash photos a bit more as well - today was a photoriphic kind of day).

I've also started my first sweater (ahh!), a Transitions Yoke Cardigan. I just recently had to rip some rows, but it was better to do it there than try to fix it after the fact. The yarn is very sticky with lanolin, so it was quite easy to rip to one row before I needed and put my needle back in, ripping the last row as I went. Here's where I am as of today:

Just under the defined yoke (though the next set of increases follow in the yoke style). I'm definitely knitting a lot in these cold months. It's also nice to use this yarn for the sweater, my co-worker who gave it to me has seen this far in (and helped figure out some mathy-guidelines that the pattern leaves out for sleeve size, etc.) so she knows it's going to good use.


After Make We Joy I didn't dance ALL December, though we did make it to a Christmas Waterfirer, so it was lovely to finally make it to a dance last Friday, though I worked all weekend so we did not stay too late.

This weekend I was also asked by a contra dance friend to help with a small film project. We spent Sunday morning in tunnels and a muddy field while, while the two main characters did all of the hard work (falling down a hill, jumping across camera, as well as setting up all the shots, etc.). I hope my footage is good enough for the project! I must admit I have no idea how what I did will fit in yet! I was asked because I am a contradancer, so I know at least I can do that.


I joined RILA when I moved to Rhode Island because a librarian I know asked if I would be interested in joining the Conference Committee, which she co-chairs. I am working to bring a comics educator, Marek Bennett, and representatives from The People's Library to the annual conference. I will also be helping field questions from vendors in March when the person who is usually in charge of that will be away for a bit. I have enjoyed meeting other librarians in the state and learning about what is going on here.


My birthday is in January! I planned on having a few friends that I'd met in Providence over, but as luck would have it the weekend before my birthday it finally decided to be winter and we were hit with a snow storm. Two friends, one who had visited the weekend before, arrived on Friday night before the storm so we spent the day together staying as cozy as possible after hiking to the store for a few last minute replies.


Lastly, I have joined up in a college friend's art exchange. Every month you make something for someone new and get something from someone else. You don't have to know my friend directly to join up and each month you will be asked if you want to join in for that month, you can skip particularly busy times if you need to. I'm pretty excited! Exchanges can be food, or art, or virtual. Whatever you make - you send.

Grotto Hike

Looking at February (Madrona 15-20 Feb, vet job 21-23 Feb, Stitches West 24-27 Feb, vet job 28-29 Feb) I realized there wasn’t going to be much opportunity for a hike.  I’ll do something in the Palos Verdes area, even if it’s just the Terranea hike/run, but it’s not like we’ll be able to really count on doing a day hike in the Santa Monica Mountains or the San Gabriel Mountains.

So…Sunday we did the Malibu Grotto hike.  We did this last year, and it was a lot of fun.  You hike downhill to the Grotto, scramble around on rocks, then hike back uphill.  Lots of fun plants to look at as well.  There weren’t many people at all on the trail, which was a nice change from the previous hike in Eaton Canyon.

I enjoy the scrambling in an adrenaline-pumping sort of way.  I’m not a big fan of heights — specifically of the chance of falling, really, which is a quite rational fear given that I occasionally fall off curbs — and though the potential drops are only about 20-25 feet, the landing would be on solid rock.

I do like the fact that I get an upper body workout from this bit of the hike, enough to be a little sore the next day.

We stopped at Leo Carillo beach on the way back.  I waded (COLD! but good to my tired feet) and checked out some anemones.  The tide pools are better at Abalone Cove, but the water here is so lovely and clear that anytime we can stop along here I like to do so!

Because it’s a state beach, you can’t collect rocks or shells, but it’s fun to see all the different colored rocks.  People do surf here, despite all the rocks;  we saw a couple long boarders catching the (very small) waves.

Learn more about Leo Carillo state beach here and here.

Learn more about the Grotto hike:

Beatnik & Updates!

thinking about wool

i’ve been thinking a lot about wool recently. i’m a knitter and a spinner and it’s winter in new york, so that’s not terribly surprising, i suppose. it’s really that i’ve been thinking a lot about wool in some different ways than i’ve thought before. before when, you ask? well, here’s how my thinking has evolved.

before i was a knitter, wool was just something that winter clothes were made of. you wear sweaters in the winter, sometimes they’re made of wool, sometimes they’re made of something else, some wool sweaters are itchy, some are nice but expensive, sometimes you find a wool sweater that’s so perfect you basically live in it from october to may. but mostly, i didn’t really think that much about the fiber content of my clothes. if it fit well, looked nice, was washable and dry-able (which tended to rule out a lot of wool clothes, actually), and if it was something i could afford or was willing to spend money on, i bought it and wore it, giving more thought to how my clothes looked or felt and not so much about where they came from and what they were made of.

after i became a knitter, i started paying more attention to clothing fibers. after all, i was making things for myself and others to wear and i started to learn about the properties of different fibers and fiber blends in yarn. what makes this yarn feel so softy and squishy to knit with or this yarn produce a good firm fabric but be so tough on my hands? what causes this yarn to show off cabled stitches in a sweater so nicely but this yarn to have such a lovely drape and sheen in a lacy shawl?

when i learned to spin, i started paying even more attention to fibers. how is spinning wool different from spinning alpaca or silk or angora? how is spinning the wool from a fine wool sheep breed different from spinning wool from long wool breed or a down breed?  spinning got me more interested in sheep and other fiber animals and in the people who raise them.

i became a shareholder in juniper moon farm’s yarn and fiber CSA, visit the farm on a regular basis, and have became good friends with JMF’s owner and shepherd susan gibbs. i learned to shear sheep, acquired the only fiber animal i can legally keep on my tiny brooklyn lot, and keep my eyes out for any and all ways i can get my shepherding ya-yas until i’m ready to overthrow my yuppie life for a sheep and fiber farm of my very own.

all this has had a significant impact on the way i look at the clothes i wear. and this evolution of my thought process, which was already unfolding on its own, was reaffirmed with kate davies’ and felicity ford’s wovember project.

i know, it’s almost february and wovember happened in november. and i admit that i didn’t actually wear that much 100% wool in november. november was an unseasonably warm month here in new york and i hadn’t unpacked all my heavy woolens yet. but i spent a lot of november thinking about wool and as winter turned into actual winter weather, i started reassessing my wardrobe.

i have some good wool sweaters, a few pairs of wool pants for work, a nice wool-blend dress but also a lot of clothes from H&M and old navy and the like that are poly-something/rayon/etc blends and the best that can be said of them is that they’re cheap enough to buy a lot of and easy to replace. i actually tend to wear the same smallish handful of pieces over and over, so i’ve come to realize that what i do own should be the best i can find.

i started shopping for more 100% wool clothing after wovember. one of my favorite brands is icebreaker, which not only produces some great 100% merino wool clothing that’s machine-washable, but tries to do it in an ethical and sustainable way. i like that you can trace each garment to the sheep farm where its wool was grown. since i’m friends with an actual shepherd who makes her living from the sheep she raises, i particularly appreciate that even larger corporations recognize that for there to be wool clothing to sell, there have to be sheep farmers who can make a buck producing it. other companies that make 100% merino washable wool clothing that i like include ibex, luna, minus33, and of course, smartwool.

yes, these clothes aren’t cheap. but they’re hands down the clothes i put on more than all the rest of my clothes combined. i wear wool skirts and pants to work, with wool tights or wool knee socks underneath. i wear wool long johns under my wool skirts on extra cold days when i’m walking to the subway. i wear wool shirts with jeans and wool sweaters with everything. wool keeps me warm when it’s cold, is breathable and cooler when the heat gets turned up a little too high, and keeps me comfortable all day. wool is perfect for running and farm chores and other times when i’m working hard and sweating up a storm. i even wear wool as pjs. i won’t say that i wear 100% wool 100% of the time, but i’m definitely committed to spending more of my money on high quality wool clothes and less on cheap lower-quality synthetics.

and every time i put on something made of wool, i think about all the work it takes to raise the sheep that make the wool and all the effort it takes to turn raw wool into finished garments. and i think that all the money i’ve spent is a total bargain.

Review: Deep South Knitting

Post image for Review: Deep South Knitting


First, the facts:

Title: Deep South Knitting

Author: Beth Moriarty

Published by: Planet Purl Press, 2011

Pages: 154

Type: Patterns


1. West Virginia
2. Kentucky
3. Virginia
4. Tennessee
5. Arkansas
6. Louisiana
7. Mississippi
8. Alabama
9. North Carolina
10. South Carolina
11. Florida
12. Georgia

KS: Deep South Knitting

The In-Depth Look:

I admit, when I think “knitting,” the first geographic area that comes to mind is not the Deep South. I mean, it gets hot down there, right? I think iced tea and mint juleps. Ice cream socials. And, you know, LIGHT clothing. I don’t usually think about what they’d need to knit.

Which just goes to show what a short-sighted Yankee I am, because obviously Southern knitters are just as talented and motivated as their northern counterparts. Even more so, perhaps, since they need more creativity in finding things to knit they can use without sweltering, while those of us who get snow (usually) for several months of the year have no trouble thinking of needed handknits.

The author says, “This collection features 16 of my own designs, inspired by the history, native plants, architecture and flowers (lots of flowers) that define ‘Southern’ for me. We are fortunate to have contributions from 9 other Deep South designers who have created projects inspired by their hometowns. … If you can’t make it down to our neck of the woods for a visit, doing a little Southern cooking of your own might just be the next best thing. I’ve included a dozen of my favorite regional recipes to give you a true ‘taste’ of the South. So put on the kettle, get comfy and plan to stay for a while.’

As to the patterns, there’s a nice variety–sweaters, scarves, fingerless gloves, pillows, skirts. An assortment of things, even a tea cozy. (And the point about needing handknits to counteract extreme air conditioning is an excellent point.)

All of them are beautifully photographed–because the pictures are beautiful. You not only get to see the knits, you get atmosphere. Truly lovely to look at.

The recipes are charming, too. There’s the almost requisite mint julep, along with sweet tea, red velvet cake, peach cobbler, cornbread, plantains, and more.

All in all, this is a lovely book. It’s pretty to look at and filled with nice things to knit and yummy things to eat. What more could you ask for, really? You should check it out!

Want to see bigger pictures? Click here.

This review copy was kindly donated by the author. Thank you!

My Gush: Like a long, cold drink.

cakes and fractals

This is what my weekend’s been about, cakes and fractals.


Yesterday I took all the yarn I dyed with mushrooms and made “cakes”!
cakes 013

It’s easier to see how the colors might play together this way, rather than when the yarn was all in skeins.
more dyeing 2

This is for a DH birthday sweater… his birthday was over a week ago, though. But this sweater has taken a LOT more work… finding the mushrooms, drying them, getting the wool (at Rhinebeck! over a year ago!), dyeing the wool, and getting it ready to knit. Now to figure out how to make the sweater… It’ll be a basic pullover, he wants stripes.

I played around with a swatch, more for gauge than color (two of these are too close to be together throughout the sweater, but I used the crummy little hanks)… I’m thinking some combination of stockinette, garter, and linen stitches.


Yesterday I also headed out to Pogo’s aka Friends Folly Farm to pick up some yarn to ship off to Scotland. I’m sending her yarn. She’s sending me a couple of bras.

pogos (2) pogos (1)

I went with a few friends, one wearing a hexagon sweater she just winged using remnants from Pogo’s bargain bin (she’s in the background). The sweater in the foreground was also just winged. I have talented friends…

Anyhow, there was little excitement to be had in the bargain bin this weekend (which I wanted for me). The friend in Scotland is getting some of the friendz blendz.

But look at the icy beauty that was still about when we walked out of the yurt!
pogos (5)
Crazy pretty tinkling sound as it fell from the trees and hit the hard icy snow. Except for reminding people of the Ice Storm of 1998, it was beautiful.


Lazy Katy! This is a shawl that has some fractal pattern…
lazykate (1)

I had a lot of issues with the lace. I’ve made much more complicated lace (see that maplewing shawl), but for some reason, this one kicked my butt. I decided to just go with it. It’s going to be scrumpled and scrunched around my neck anyhow. Also, I was going with the notion that if you repeatedly did something, even if it was an “error”, you can just consider it a design feature. This shawl has a lot of design features in the lace….

Here it is before blocking it out,

And the color is probably best here,
lazykate (5)

It’s from some gorgeous yarn, madeline tosh sock (lichen color), that I got in Brunswick ages ago, at Purl Diva. (ooooh, Ellen’s got a new website, it looks great!)

Way more details over on my Ravelry Project Page for this.

A Fine, Fine Day for Fiber

Does it get any better than this?  Sunshine, brisk breeze, and a dozen sweet friends crafting together with fiber of all sorts - roving, yarn, delicate thread...

Anna brought new baby Ike by for his first visit to the barn.  The last time he'd been here, he was still a bump.  Now he's a doll--a gorgeous boy.

That's tough for big brother Brian to compete with, unless you blow bubbles in your water.  That makes everybody smile.

Peggy showed Leslie some spinning tips.  Leslie's going to be spinning soon.  She's already rocking the knitting thing.

Anela told her all about knitting with those mysterious double-point needles.  Nothing to be scared of...

Karen got to be with us again today, and this time, she brought her amazing Drudik wheel.  She got this wheel from the Oregonian wheel maker back when they didn't cost as much as a used car, like they do now.  It's a beautiful wheel that spins like buttah.

Her daughter, Lisa, brought her bobbin lace project with all its pretty bobbins and beads and pins, on the velvet pillow...  It's intricate and amazing, and I was fascinated watching her.

The lace formed steadily under her fingers, following the printed pattern, twist by twist and knot by knot.  Watching her helped me understand the experience of an uninitiated person watching a lace knitter or a talented drop spindler.  It's all magic, until you get the knack.

Rita took a break from knitting her wedding veil to work on knitting her lace garter.  How amazing will that be?

We enjoyed finally getting to visit with Karen and Gail, who hadn't been able to come to the LRB in a while.  Barbara came again this week, and invited her friend Linda.

Linda found herself adopted by Smokey, who draped herself across Linda's lap and didn't move for ages.

Virginia got to drop by, too, and she worked on a pretty kettle dyed wool purse.  Maybe she'll felt it, or maybe she won't.  Such are the quandaries of a fiber artist.

Leslie had really come to the farm to work, so we spent some time skirting and tumbling Solomon's black alpaca fleece.  She caught on quickly, and now has achieved the elite rank of Certified Fiber Tumbler here at Jacob's Reward Farm.  Solomon's pretty fleece is medium fine and open, so we had to spend some extra time opening the locks and blowing the dirt and grass away.  But that shiny black fiber is so, so worth it.  Great job, Leslie -- thanks!

You are always welcome at the Little Red Barn to share these days of friendship and fiber arts.  Learn something, share something, experience something beautiful in this sweet little community.  You make a difference...  At the bottom of this page is our Google Calendar.  That's where you'll find all of the goings on here at the farm.  We'd love to have you join us!

Rainy Day Dog

Vanni and I seem to have the same emotional response to all the rain we got.  We keep a stiff upper lip--after all, we really need the lakes to fill up, but it does make our daily lives a little more complicated. 

I was reminded of all the low spots on the property that need to be dealt with somehow - filled in with some kind of material that's easier to traverse than clay-turned-quicksand.  This summer was so dry for so long, I was able to put off thinking about this task.  But one good rain event, and it all comes back... oh yes, the bog.  What to do about the bogs?