A Writer’s Winter

I haven’t posted a word in over a month, not here anyway. What little extra energy I’ve had has gone into my fibers and writing about them. There are new posts over at Variations on a String if you care to read them, but you may not. That’s okay.  Aside from the uninspired prose describing my adventures with fiber, I haven’t written much since the beginning of December. Not here, not on the book I’m supposed to be finishing, and definitely not on the book I need to finish revising so I can send it out to potential agents.

Sometimes I feel like I spend a vast amount of time apologizing for not writing more regularly. I apologize on here, as if saying “I’m sorry for not being more consistent” is going to improve my SEO, or as if it’s going to make a difference to the very few people who actually visit this blog for my little essays on life. I apologize to myself for not working on my book. “Tomorrow,” I promise. “Tomorrow I’ll write an extra thousand words, honestly.” Sometimes I keep my promises, but not all that often.

I’ve always had a romanticized idea of the life of a writer involving waking up early and padding barefoot to the computer to write an inspired several thousand words before breakfast. I have this idea, because that has more or less been my process.  What I am discovering, however, is that the several thousand words that come so easily you can churn them out before your stomach insists on “At least a piece of toast, come on woman, feed me!” are not the words you want anyone else to read. They require intense editing, at best, and more realistically, complete restructuring.

Writers are architects and demolitionists. We’re like two-year-olds, endlessly setting up a block tower only to knock it down. We’re masochistic two-year-olds, though, because the knocking down doesn’t bring a whole lot of glee. I find it to be difficult mental work and taxing on my confidence in my ability to succeed.

Knitting and spinning and carding and sewing are the winter of my brain’s garden. While my hands work, my mind can lay fallow for a while, giving the soil a chance to rest and the bulbs of my creativity a chance to prepare to spring and bloom. I do not believe in the ever-dreaded writer’s block: only winter. Winter can last too long and kill the crop with cold, I’ll grant you, but that doesn’t mean it has no function. If I don’t write, it’s not laziness, really. It’s winter.

And if you’re just not buying that, well, be merciful because life is life. Between the holidays, the relentless colds associated with childcare, and planning for a major life change in the nearer-than-expected future, I don’t know when I’ll have the energy and focus to spend on blogging regularly again. In the meantime, please accept this humble offering of proof that I have not only been sitting on my rump eating chocolate and watching Deep Space Nine.


The fleece I washed on the hammock John helped me make.
A case I made for my interchangeable knitting needles.
A necklace tree I made so I could toss all the little boxes.
Yarn I spun and plied on a spindle, on a niddy-noddy John helped me make.

Sew What?

Sometimes I need to read the instructions. Better yet, sometimes I need to read ALL of the instructions before I start a project. Then again, if I did, I would probably find myself shying away from learning new things that I am absolutely capable. I am not a person who handles change with anything resembling mental ease, and this includes change in my own abilities unless I am thrust unwitting into a situation where my need to make something complete is pitted against my fear of the unknown.

Yesterday, in the course of switching the containers my office supplies and sewing notions were in (in order to actually be able to use all of said items effectively), I realized that I no longer owned a pincushion. Somewhere along the way, I guess I decided it would be a more efficient use of space to toss all the pins in the bottom of a plastic container with a bunch of other stuff. That worked very well for who knows how long–right up, in fact, to the moment when I actually had a project that required me to hand-sew a seam that required pinning. More and more I find myself willing to take on projects that include a bit of sewing, and as such, a pincushion seemed like a prudent investment.

I hate the tomatoes, not because they’re bad pincushions, but because they’re just so, so…ubiquitous. Also, buying a cheap-o, factory-wrought pincushion would have required me to get off my duff and leave the house. I had yarn scraps, fiber fill, and an internet full of clever knitting comrades within my reach, so I decided instead to put my hand to knitting up my own little cushion.

I’m glad I did. There’s a whole world of fiber arts centered around making pincushions and I found a plethora of lovely and/or hilarious options. The problem is that many of these patterns involve either crocheting or felting or sewing or a mix of these skills, none of which I especially love to do. When I found a pattern that looked, from the front, to be nothing but knitting, I cast on without a thought and started happily working the chart as I watched my newly discovered retro-crack (i.e., Stargate SG-1). Two episodes later, I realized that the pattern I was working was more like a square than a sphere, so I took a moment to look more closely at the pattern and discovered that what I was knitting was merely a counterpane to be sewn atop a biscornu insert.

Seasoned crafters, go ahead and laugh yourselves silly while I explain what this is to everyone else. A biscornu is basically a freak of crafting geometry nature. It’s an eight-sided little cushion made of two four-sided pieces of fabric. The way you make one of these happen is by sewing the sides so that the corners of each square end up in the midpoint of the sides of the other square. Sewing requires this complex shaped to be flattened into two dimensions, which requires spatial reasoning skills that I simply do not possess.

Oh, did I mention that I didn’t have any fabric in the house and so had to get off the couch and drive to the store anyway? That’s a classic example of irony right there, folks.

And let’s not forget that as I am both lazy and incapable of sewing a non-hem seam in a straight line by hand, I decided that I should finally figure out how to work my aunt’s sewing machine, which has taken up residence in my home because she uses a smaller and newer model. I was absolutely delighted to inherit the older Singer, but it is from the generation when machines were made of  ecru-colored plastic and steel, which means that it threads a bit differently than the machines I learned to thread almost ten years ago in my high school quilting class. Add to that the fact that it’s built into a cabinet and is designed to fold up and down using a very clever but not-immediately-obvious-to-a-person-with-poor-spatial-reasoning-skills mechanism and the result is a crafter who was in over her head.

To make a long story short, I did succeed. It took half an hour on the internet, a conversation with my mother, and a fair amount of trial and error, but I did succeed. Miraculously enough, I didn’t even end up having to rip any seams out. By following the instructions on blind faith and pulling the fabric together the same way I play Prince of Persia (that is to say, by following the only possible path even when it made no sense), I managed to produce a reasonably tidy biscornu that, miracle of miracles, actually fit very nicely under the knit counterpane. Along the way, I managed to conquer a veritable Everest pile of skills I didn’t have yesterday morning.

Here you have it, picture proof that I really can do anything.