After a Decade of Blogging: Into the Future

After finishing my overview of the last decade of blogging, all kinds of questions came up.

On Blogging:
Why do I do it? How is it that I’m still blogging without losing enthusiasm for it after all this time?

At it’s most basic, it’s a record of what I’ve made that I can refer back to. If I don’t write about it, it’s easy to forget how much I’ve done, or the process I went through.

Would I still blog if it was private, so nobody but me could see it?

Probably. I keep a writing diary, too, and nobody sees that. But I like being able to show people what I’ve made when I’m out and about just by picking up my phone and searching for a post, and that someone might read something I posted about and be inspired to create.

Is it extra wear and tear on my hands and back that I ought to avoid?

Not really. I don’t write overly long posts – at least not very often. Mostly they’re a few paragraphs and a picture.

What have I learned from a decade of blogging?
Don’t be opinionated online – keep that for friends in person.

Any regrets?
That I didn’t try to get a couple of sock knitting designs published in a magazine.

On Craft and Art:

How does blogging change my attitude toward both?
It makes me accountable. If I write that I’m going to do something I’m more likely to do it – of if I fail, writing about it makes me consider what went wrong. Needing something to blog about can be the extra push I need to tackle or finish a project. I certainly need that when it comes to art!

What is more important to me: craft or art?
Art. Not that craft isn’t important, but I get a different kind of fulfilment from art that I think is more essential to my well being.

So why craft?
It’s stress-relief! And it gives me the satisfaction of finishing something when my art and writing projects take so long to complete.

Why tackle longer, more challenging craft projects then?
Because learning something new feels good and is good for my brain.

What have I learned from the last decade of craft and art?
Life’s too short for bad yarn!

Any regrets?
That I stopped regular weekly sketching.

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Other observations:
I was very interested to see that the signs of growing repetitive strain injuries were there early, but I didn’t recognise them. Now I know that breaks are essential, as is staying physically limber and strong, and varying the kinds of movements I do – which justifies being a creative fidget!

Something I’ve had to learn over the last ten years is to avoid spending more time looking at craft and art on the internet than actually doing it. And not letting the internet (ahem, Pinterest) tell me what and how to create. It’s better to go seek information when I want it than be passively fed a stream of what some company’s dodgy algorithm thinks I want to see.

Is there another ten years of blogging in me? At this moment, I can’t see why not. So long as I have craft and art in my life I’ll want to record and share it. Physical limitations brought on by age might slow me down, but I suspect I’ll have the urge to create for many years to come.

A Touch of G(rrr)lam Shawl

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Sheesh! Did this project kick my butt. What should have been straight-forward, enjoyable weaving wound up being tortuous for most of the project.

1) I didn’t have enough yarn. In fact, I fell so far short I had to combine two cones of Bendy 3ply for the warp and buy a 500 gram cone of black for the weft. I blame this on being too tired and distracted at the time to calculate my way through the project preparation.

2) Black wasn’t really what I wanted, but because Bendy don’t sell 200 gram cones any more and this was a stash-using project, I didn’t want to end up with more purple yarn left over than what I was trying to use up.

3) I ran out of heddles ridiculously early and had to attach about 100 string ones.

4) Because the string heddle eyes weren’t exactly the same level as each other and the texsolv ones, and I’m new to throwing the shuttle, the shuttle kept falling through the warp.

5) I fudged a race, using a piece of my warping board first then, when I needed to measure a warp for another project, swapped that for a long stick shuttle and a metal ruler. This worked, but because my beater swivels from above the race scrapes across the bottom of the fabric, meaning I can only weave 4-5 cm before I have to advance the warp.

6) The metallic thread was a b*tch to weave. It pulled the fabric in, no matter how much extra yarn I left at the sides or angled the weft. Using an extra long stick shuttle, because the yarn ends unravelled and I didn’t want to cut it any more than I had to, meant it kept getting tangled in the curtains on one side.

7) I discovered too late that I made a threading error at one side. Too late because I wasn’t going to unweave and reweave all the metallic thread after all the struggles with it.

8) Thanks to the dodgy string heddles, I have skipped threads at the other side.

9) I didn’t notice I had stepped on three pedals instead of two, not long after the first stripe of metallic, and sewing in a substitute pick didn’t really fix it.

10) Once off the loom I realised I had beat really hard at the start, making a far denser fabric at the start to the end.

Because of all these errors I’ve come to despise the shawl. However, it is lovely and soft, especially after washing, and proof that the yarn is a good one to weave. I kinda want to make another, to prove… something. That I can get it right, maybe?

And the up side to some of the frustrations is it has motivated me to get over my fear of floor looms. Throughout the project I came to long for a tie-up system. Lamms! I want lamms! And a beater that swivels from below, so I can have a race. And a removable front beam or folding back beam so I can thread the loom without hurting my back. I’d had the idea that floor looms were too big for the small bedroom size craft room I have now, but as I looked around I saw that some weren’t much bigger than my table loom and it’s stand combined.

Where that led me, however, is fodder for another post.

A Decade of Blogging: Adapting to Change

2012

Thanks to RSI in my hands, I gave up knitting.

Well, except for machine knitting on the Bond Ultimate Sweater Machine and the second hand Passap knitting machine I bought that year to make socks on. Weaving continued, and I tried straw, card and inkle weaving. At a convention I did my first weaving demo.

After revamping my jewellery storage, I started making and refashioning jewellery in a big way. I did more stamp-making and wrapping paper printing.

In 2011 I’d tried a method of crocheting around twine to make a basket. I noticed through the Stat Counter that the photos had been pinned on Pinterest. So I joined up and for a while there I was quite addicted to it.

Researching family history caught my attention for a while. Unfortunately I never went back to it.

At life drawing classes I started drawing heads in preparation to start portrait painting, but I abandoned Sketch Sunday.

It was a year of working out what I could and couldn’t do with my hands. I’m pleased to see it didn’t entirely limit my creativity, and led to exploring crafts I might not have tried otherwise. I’ve not used the Passap much after that year, unfortunately. My attention turned more toward weaving.

2013

The year started in a reflective mood, with me adjusting my wardrobe to allow for some weight I’d put on. (A few months later I started the Fast Diet.) I discovered I have a heart condition (very minor, as it turns out, but I didn’t know that then) and became officially menopausal, so it was a year for health discoveries.

In craft, there was a lots of culling of things – bags, books, clothes – and questioning what I spend my time and energy on. The Bond and I got to know each other again, leading to a handful of rapidly made garments, the making of weights, and buying another machine to make the double width Mega Bond.

After buying and padding out a dress form, I re-lined a jacket, made a dress out of a postal sack, and sewed up a Regency gown. A couple of quilts and a day bed cover also got sewn. I was officially over my dislike of sewing.

I painted two portraits – or three if you count the test piece. During camping in December I used the ponchard box for the first time.

The embroidery bug caught hold of me, and stuck around.

In a kind of personal challenge, I set aside several weekend days to tackle the craft to-do list, concentrating on sewing, printing, dyeing, jewellery-making and bookbinding.

We went to Japan for eight days around Christmas and walked so much that I got plantar faciitis. So much for walking more to prevent osteoporosis!

It was definitely a year for fidgeting creatively, switching from one craft to another. But also of stretching myself to try new things.

2014

Because of the plantar faciitis I couldn’t get about much for months. Maybe that’s why, in a moment of insanity, I decided to participate in the Handweavers & Spinners Guilds’ mystery box challenge. Far too many hours went into making a rather ugly fairy. Whenever I get a hair-brained idea now I ask myself ‘is this another ugly fairly project?’.

More refashioning, weaving, embroidery and jewellery-making happened through the year. I did three portraits and two ponchard box paintings.

Then we bought a house. And moved. Oh, so much moving house. And fixing up the old one. And renovating the new one. And clearing weeds. And expensive landscaping. By the end of the year I was utterly worn out.

2015
I took stock of my craft materials and ambitions, and did some culling and planning. Lots of tackling projects that had languished for ages came about from this. There was also weaving, refashioning, embroidery and jewellery-making.

After getting pedals onto the table loom I decided to tackle more challenging weaving projects with finer yarn, making tea towels for Mum. I tried pin loom weaving and made a tapestry hat – all do-able in front of the tv.

Pinterest changed in a way I didn’t like which led to a big rethink about where I get inspiration and ideas from. I decided I didn’t need it, and at the worst it was directing my creativity rather than being a source of inspiration. I closed my account and don’t miss it at all.

I sprained my ankle badly in February. Fortunately, it was better by the time the garage permit came through, so we could get stuck into preparations, landscaping and gardening. Which were exhausting. It meant not much crafting happened for a while. When I finally had energy I decided to make ’100 cards by Christmas’.

At the end of the year I bought an 8 shaft Katie loom, deciding it was time my weaving got beyond twill and the occasional huck lace project.

2016

I had my first weaving classes. Paul brought home an abandoned loom, and I fixed it and a friend’s loom up. But an old neck and back problem suddenly got much worse, and I’ve been struggling to get much craft or even work done since.

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What a decade! Going over the last ten years’ blog posts has been very thought-provoking. It has me contemplating why I craft and make art – and blog about it. RSI restricts the type of craft I can do, and now this sudden worsening of my back problem has me questioning what I’ll be capable of, for work and creative fulfilment, into the future.

Loom Delivery Weekend

Last weekend we headed to Lake Hume:

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I took Donna’s loom, my Knitter Loom and two inkle looms. Donna and her partner, Matthew, joined us in a lovely cottage with a fantastic view. The sunsets were gorgeous:

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In the late afternoons and evenings Donna and I wove. I taught her how to do leno lace on the rigid heddle on the first night, and she produced this beautiful bamboo scarf:

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While she warped and wove that, I started a clasped weft scarf so I could show her the method. I didn’t make a lot of progress because I’d underestimated how much yarn I needed:

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On the second day I taught Donna how to weave on the larger inkle loom. I was quite rusty, and stuffed up the warping on the small loom by winding it around the warping peg, but Donna’s warp was fine. She, as always, picked up everything really fast, and finished this ribbon by the end of our stay:

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We went for a drive around the southern half of the lake on the second day. The lake is really a dam, and it’s very low, so there were old dead trees everywhere. An eerie sight, but quite beautiful:

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By the weir the water was deepest:

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There are signs of a defunct railway line, and these relics from the past:

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It was a enjoyable, relaxing weekend with good friends, and I’d love to go back to the area one day.

A Decade of Blogging: Creative Fidgeting

2010

In the previous year I’d pondered whether I was a bit over knitting. Still, I did plenty, including the ‘Bernardathon’ (three knitting patterns by Wendy Bernard). There was weaving, too. And some natural dyeing.

At the start of the year I set myself a challenge called ‘Projects of 2010′ in which I tackled a photo album, floor rug, mirror frames from pegs and chopsticks, tea towel pillows, painting a wall with bubble wrap and turning half of a shop mannequin into a plant stand.

I got into recycling in a big way. I wove cassette tape! I fused plastic bags together by ironing. Toward the end of the year, after a short stint hand sewing and mending clothes, I discovered refashioning in a big way. With Paul’s help I made a duct tape dress form.

Lots of bookbinding & book art was explored in the beginning. Later I dove into printing, first by cutting up foam mats into stamps, then trying printing with a pasta machine.

I did a lot of soul searching over art, making a scrapbook and continued Sketch Sunday. I made a ponchard box, and mini paint tins.

The range of creative ideas I pursued that year amazes me now. It was a big year for exploration and invention.

2011

I started the year with ‘Projects for 2011′, but I only got half of them done. Successes included reducing my silk painting supplies and making a certificate portfolio.

Sketch Sunday continued. I started life drawing classes. Later I participated in the Sketchbook Project (but was very disappointed the next year when they cancelled bringing it to Australia). I made an effort to sell some paintings.

We travelled to Europe for my work, and I bought only a little bit of yarn, keeping my suitcase as light as possible.

Lots of knitting, weaving and refashioning was done. Bookbinding seems to have dwindled, though. I tried more printing at the start of the year, but decided oil-based ink was too messy. I stuck with stamp carving and acrylic paints/inks, and made wrapping paper.

The year ended with the onset of RSI. My hands were so badly affected I couldn’t hold a tea cup. It turned my creative life upside down.

Cheesecloth Top

This top began life like this:

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At the time I was hand sewing clothing, as I hadn’t got over the aversion to sewing I’d had since my mid 20s. I never wore the top. Earlier this year I made a few adjustments to make this:

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Better, but a little plain. I needed something simple to do while watching tv. Inspired by Rebecca Ringquist’s book and kantha embroidery, I stitched lines of running stitch, using up lots of leftover floss.

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Simple. Fun. Flattering. Only problem is, now I need another easy project to do while watching tv.

A Decade of Blogging: the Early Years

Today it’s ten years since I started this blog. Ten years! It wasn’t my first attempt at craft blogging. I’d been writing about knitting in my LiveJournal for a while, but I wanted a separate blog with the sort of functionality that Blogger offered. What prevented me was only having 1 hour of dial-up internet time a day, and at that speed uploading pics was impossible. When I moved in with Paul in 2005 I had access to broadband, which felt so luxurious.

I thought it might be interesting to do a review of the decade in the same way I do a review of the year each year. This has turned out to be epic, so I’ve broken it down into four posts.

2006
My new blog was called Knitting and Chocolate. I only intended to write about fibre crafts, keeping more personal anecdotes on my private LiveJournal, but mentions of the house extension from hell snuck in now and then. It only took until August for me to get blog angst. My friends weren’t reading the blog and I wasn’t getting many comments. I decided that I was doing it more for me and as a record of what I make, and I’ve pretty much stuck to that philosophy since.

It was lucky I did, actually. Later in the year someone started a petition to a US yarn maker to sell their yarn in Australia, which inspired me to write what I thought was a helpful post suggesting Aussie alternatives. It got up some people’s noses. I might have quit blogging at that point, but I kept on for my own enjoyment.

Thankfully, there are more nice people in the online fibre community than nasty. It was a year of blog-based international swaps and challenges. My first Secret Pal was the fabulous Michelle who knit me a pair of socks and sent me thoughtful gifts. I took part in Project Spectrum, in which participants made something in a different colour each month. My first Knit From Your Stash started, too. I’d only been knitting for a few years and I already felt I had too much yarn.

It was a year of trying new things. My second post included photos of yarn I bought to weave on the Ashford Knitters Loom, which arrived a few weeks later. I got a spinning wheel later and had spinning lessons at the Guild. I attempted to podcast. I was terrible at it and I’m glad I didn’t pursue it. The thought of there being awkward rambling and opinion about knitting by me in the world is horrifying!

I’m intrigued to see I suffered from hand pain that year. The first indication of the RSI problems that were to come.

I thought most of these events were spread out over a few years. 2006 was a busy year, especially since I started blogging in March so it was only 10 months long, really.

2007
I took part in Project Spectrum again, only this time I revisited a different craft for each month. This was significant because it inspired me to pursue some of them later, like bookbinding and printing. However, I decided later in the year that spinning really wasn’t for me.

It was also a year for lots of personal knitting challenges, like Knit From Your Books, Bust out of Your Box Sock Challenge (try interesting sock patterns), and Sockless Summer (making things other than socks from sock yarn).

One highlight of the year was that, while staying in Katoomba at a writers centre, I met the blogger David Reidy of Sticks & String.

And I joined Ravelry.

I got a lot of knitting done that year thanks to the house extension from hell – I needed a LOT of stress relief.

2008

A blogger noted that knitters were abandoning blogs for Ravelry. I’m not sure if Ravelry was the reason, in retrospect. I suspect there was a natural fading of enthusiasm for blogs as new distractions like social media came along. But blogging still exists – as does LJ. As Facebook and Twitter probably will long after most people move on to the next big thing.

I knit a voodoo doll of the builder after he tried (summons withdrawn) to sue us after we sacked him. Oddly enough, we never heard from him afterwards!

I’d started a vague challenge to crochet to a pattern, but eventually decided it wasn’t my thing.

I started going to a local stitch’n'bitch. It was fun, but after a few years they moved it from a convenient local site to people’s homes and I made it to fewer and fewer of the meets.

We travelled to New Zealand and I came home with a suitcase full of yarn.

I bought an Ashford 4 shaft Table Loom. A lot more weaving happened in general that year, as I not only tried out the new loom but explored clasped warp and weaver-manipulated structures on the knitters loom.

2009
I started the Personal Sock Club where I put yarn and a pattern in a bag and selected them at random, and the Socks for Others Club, where I knit socks for friends. I knit a lot of socks!

There was a lot of post-Black Saturday blogging. I made SES beanies, and wove a pile of scarves to donate.

Having passed on two old knitting machines that came my way over the previous couple of years, I decided to buy a Bond Ultimate Sweater Machine.

I joined Weavolution. Ravelry wasn’t allowing weaving projects to be added to the site. Weavolution was… well, it had a lot of catching up to do. Still has, unfortunately.

We travelled to Canada! I bought yet more yarn.

I tackled a bookbinding project – the photo album of the Canada trip – and played with paper craft. I started Sketch Sunday.

I turned 40.

At the end of the year I switched to WordPress and changed the blog title to Creative Fidget, deciding to blog about all my creative pursuits rather than just fibre craft.

Rep Runner

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What I’ve learned from this experiment in warp rep:

1) The Dyer & Philips loom does appear to be better at weaving with closely sett yarns, thanks to it’s method of raising and lowering shafts at the same time.

2) I really have been a mental clutz lately. I thought I’d taken the wpi for the cotton from my weaving class notes but I mistakenly used the one for the Bendigo Classic yarn.

3) So I re-threaded the reed. I had it in my head that the sett needed to be double what you use for tabby. No, it needs to be double the wpi – four times what you use for tabby. Which means I could only weave a four inch wide strip on the number of heddles I have…

4) … if I’d bothered un-weaving what I’d done and re-threading again. I didn’t, because when looking for information on rep I eventually found a q&a where the answer was that 8/2 cotton wasn’t a good choice for warp rep, as it’s fuzzy and will stick to itself when sett that closely. Mercerised cotton is better as it’s smoother – yet it shouldn’t be rope-like as it’s suppose to flatted out to cover the weft.

5) I didn’t bother using a thick and thin yarn, as I was only testing to see if the loom would cope. However, from watching videos I can see it would be very satisfying to see a pattern emerge.

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6) Rep takes ages to thread thanks to the insane number of warp ends, but weaves really fast. A really good tip I picked up was to use doubled warp ends – covers the weft well but is faster to thread and doesn’t use as many heddles.

7) It is still not quite worth buying a book on rep yet. I’m resisting, because there’s no point buying a book on a weave structure only to discover your loom isn’t suited to it. However, if I remember next time I’m at the Guild, I’ll see if I can borrow one.

8) I kinda want to buy a countermarch floor loom now. I won’t though. No room for it!

Weaving Lesson Class 2

The second weaving less was held last Sunday. I warped the Katie loom for the first time.

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I got it done just as the class ended, so I stayed a little longer to start weaving and make sure I understood how to weave overshot. My first attempt was wrong, thanks to a very silly misreading of the draft, but I had the gist of it and when I got home I unwove and started afresh. It now looks like it’s supposed to:

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Unfortunately, my back pain was a lot worse the next day. I started to worry that I couldn’t even weave now, until I reminded myself that normally I wouldn’t spend 5 1/2 hours at the loom, and certainly not while doing the more back-straining task of warping. The weaving shouldn’t be as problematic, especially if I keep to my usual habit of short bursts of work. The next class isn’t for several weeks, so I’ll easily finish this in time – and maybe start another overshot project.

Loominations

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There wasn’t much progress happening on this project for a while, thanks to my cranky back. And thanks to my back I’ve been examining the whole set up for good ergonomics. We’re going to make some changes.

First up, the support beam on the front of the table needs to move further back as it prevents me getting my legs close enough under the loom. Secondly, I’m not sure the height of the table is right, now that I use pedals.

Putting pedals on the table has opened my eyes to all the features a floor loom has that make weaving easier. I had no idea what lamms were until recently. Now I want some badly! It would mean I could weave on days where my mind wasn’t up to the challenge of keeping track of pedal combinations. Also, a loom with a beater that swivelled from below the reed, not above, would mean the race didn’t rub against the underside of the fabric, forcing me to advance the warp every few centimetres.

However, shopping for looms when you’re in Australia is no straight-forward task. If I want to try before I buy, the only place to look at looms is the Guild, so I have to hope they have a good range for comparison. Then either I buy from Europe or the US, with expensive shipping rates and a long wait for delivery, or I keep an eye out for second hand looms.

It’s easier to keep modifying the loom I have. I’ve come up with a way I could possibly tie up two or three heddles to one pedal without using lamms. It’ll also provide the bracing currently given by the support beam on the front that I want to remove. I’ve even been considering removing the beater and making a new one that swivels from below the warp.

All which means I won’t have the problem of a table loom to sell – probably for much less than I bought it for. Unless I kept it, of course. I have no idea where I’d put it, though!