project ten: take seven

October 29, 2011

it’s been a while since i’ve interviewed someone for the blog;
the momentum just seemed to stall beneath me.
so i’m more than thrilled to have an interview for you all,
and i think this person is the perfect choice
to breathe new life into project ten.

i still firmly believe i am a newbie in the knitterverse,
having only been in it now for three years.
but from day one, certain names begin to enter your consciousness,
names spilling from the lips of knitters in yarn stores and coffee shops.

spunky eclectic was one of those names for me.
i’d heard it before several time, not knowing who or what she really was.

until one fateful day,
when a certain clockwork arrived on her doorstep.
from then on, spunky eclectic was on my knitting internet radar.
and she’s been added to my list of inspirations.
she’s here with us today,
mistress of several fiber arts,
ms. spunky eclectic herself.
welcome, amy.
can i call you amy?

Heh. Absolutely. I answer to many names and all work just as well.

thanks so much for being here.
are you ready to get started?

Let’s go!

alrighty then.

come on bitches!

here’s ten questions for spunky eclectic.

1. thus far, i’ve only interviewed knitwear designers, but it’s the fact that you are a fiber dyer that drew me to interview you. nonetheless, i’ve begun every interview this way (and you are a knitter), so i guess i can’t stop now: english or continental?

I am a knitwear designer as well though I don’t do it as much these days. Continental all the way baby. Though I learned English and can do both.

2. what i love about your (now former) blog is that you refuse to limit yourself to any one passion. “cook. crochet. craft. knit. sew. spin. weave.” that’s a lot of territory to cover, and certainly seems to fit with the name spunky eclectic. can you talk a little about the beginnings of spunky eclectic? and what it’s relationship is to boogie knits?

That is the million dollar question. How much do you want to hear me blather on? Which is why I named the new blog Blather…. Boogie is just a nickname and that’s what I did for my knitting blog. I always tried to keep the business and personal separate but I don’t know if that’s really possible anymore.

Spunky Eclectic began many years ago about the time when my pottery business was taking a turn and I decided to let it take that turn without me. I was a knitter since I was a tot and that eventually led into all the fiber pursuits including spinning. Once upon a time there were very few hand dyers out there. And almost no one painted on fiber. I spun and I wanted funky fibers so I made my own. Eventually as people asked me to dye for them….well, it’s all history now.

3. i feel like every knitter dabbles with the idea of making the fiber arts their life, but few of us have the courage and talent to make that happen. what made you decide to take the plunge and begin working in the fiber arts? and what was it specifically that drew you to dying fiber?

Art was always my life and my job. From the pottery business it wasn’t a smooth transition into fiber artist by any means but it was the right decision.

As for the dyeing, I seem to have a natural aversion to white. When I did pottery, they were colorful and painted very brightly. I dyed clothing and cloth to make clothes. Which moved into yarns when I couldn’t find what I wanted commercially and into the fibers. If I can dye it, I will.

4. i’m not the most artistic person; i feel like if i wanted to paint something, i wouldn’t know where to begin. it took me weeks to decide what color to paint my bathroom, and i settled on a gray so light, it’s almost white. so people who effectively work with color fascinate me. how does the dying process begin for you? by which i mean, how do you begin to think about what colors you want, and how to put them together?

In college I remember taking a Color Theory class. I hated every minute of it. As a cocky 19 year old, of course I knew it all. Still, I felt I knew what colors go together. I didn’t want to have to paint 4 pages with ¼ inch squares in varying gradients of…. This could go on, I won’t bore you with all the details of that class. Very analytical and I am sure it helped some greatly and in some way it’s still stuck in my brain. By and large, though, for me I it’s mostly just a feeling.

5. do you think about how your fiber will look spun up? does that affect how you dye? or is it all about the color and fiber in the moment?

How a fiber looks spun up is all due to the spinner. I do a class that works with handpaints. We make several types of yarns from cables, to plied yarns and singles yarns to novelties and with all different methods of predrafting. How a spinner chooses to predraft a fiber (or not) and ultimately decides to ply (or not) and finish it will determine how it looks. From the same handpainted top, you can get heathers to self striping yarn and a whole host in between.

That’s the great thing about fibers like this. Everyone has the freedom to decide for themselves how they want it to looks. I’m not in charge once the color is on the fiber, the spinner is.

6. (how) does the fiber content affect how you think about dying a given batch?

It changes it greatly. It changes the methods I may use, the color concentrations, the temperatures I start out with. I believe some colorways are better on certain types of fibers than others. Everything needs to be adjusted if you want to get the same or similar color if you’re changing fiber content.

7. how and when did you get your brick and mortar location? what was that like, going from a solely online presence to a physical one?

I was working out of my basement. So cramped. I had no room for inventory and was always running out and working out of boxes. When the opportunity came up to rent a space from my parents who were altering their business that was in that space, I jumped at it. Sure I pay rent now but I have more room. Essentially we’re still mostly an online store as we are located in the sticks, but it’s so much easier to have stock and figure out how to fill orders. Plus we’re able to have more equipment. I love equipment.

8. what have you found to be the most difficult aspect of working in the fiber arts industry?

This is a tough question. The sense of community is awesome. The people are great. There is always the same issues as an retailer has. The same issues as any manufacturer has….I don’t think the fiber arts industry holds anything special as a downfall. We have some clear positives and strength.

I don’t want you to think I’m shirking the question so the only problem I have with the industry is that many don’t seem to value their work enough. When I say that a hand knit sweater is worth upwards from $200 (not including any work that goes into yarn creation, that’s a separate thing) people think I’m nuts. Everyone that knits/spins/crochets/etc is doing something of VALUE. It is a trade that since industrialization and machines have taken over commercial spinning and knitting that is now seriously under valued.

i feel exactly the same! and some of the rates knitting teachers charge . . . if you did the math it’s almost slave labor! reinstilling a sense of value beyond the aesthetic is something all fiber artists should invest in. but i digress.

9. since i’m a crazy twitter stalker, it’s obvious you are very close with adrian aka helloyarn, and david of southern cross fibres. how does your relationship with these (and perhaps other) fellow fiber dyers affect your own work?

It’s good to have colleagues. We don’t have a water cooler to chat around but we do have Twitter and chat. It’s nice to have someone to tell you that what you’re doing is way cool or definitely wrong. I value my friendships in the industry and in particular with Adrian and David. They will honestly set me straight or give me ataboys as necessary. As for affecting the work, we do sometimes share ideas and bounce things off of one another. It’s good to have other experienced folks to talk to.

10. i end each interview with what i think is the most important question: if you could interview anyone for project ten, who would it be, and what would you ask them?

Hmmm. Anyone? Dead people? I’m not talking zombies but really if Elizabeth Zimmerman came back as a zombie, I’d let her eat my brain. I’m not sure I could ask her just one question. I find her infinitely inspiring and her knitting astounds me. I love it when people look at something and challenge conventional construction.

If you want a strictly live person, lets go with Mercedes Tarasovich Clark (man, I hope I spelled that correctly). She’s a designer and the lady behind Kitchen Sink Dyeworks. I love the idea of the Badass woman’s club. What is the inspiration and tell us more!

awesome interview.
look for me near that water cooler, biatch!

Thanks for the warning. I think the water cooler just got naughtier!

*born in a little inland town in maine, now fondly referred to as “the dirty lew”, boogie lives in the small town next to the lew with a similar reputation. she grew up on a working farm where arts and crafts were always important. her ‘gram’ taught her to sew, knit, and crochet when she was wee, mostly to keep idle hands busy and butts in seats. it worked for her.

“I never really stopped knitting but would take long hiatuses. Then I found myself back in Maine after moving around a bit and settling down. Knitting kept me sane when I moved back to the country. Spinning soon followed. And then my children. And the business. It’s all history after that.”

you should read blog, buy her things, stalk her on ravelry, and visit her at her shop!

nothing to do with knitting

October 26, 2011

i’m trying to finish editing this paper.
(it’s a breech birth as my new friend sandra would say)
rather than listen to the tedious coffee house music,
i put my itunes on shuffle, and this song came on.

that choreography . .
. . . i have no words.
they don’t make ’em like they used to!

the rest of rhinebeck

October 25, 2011

because this week’s workload is so intense
that i find myself in moments of catatonia
i’ve decided to evade responsibilities through
excessive knitting and, now,
a blog post.

why read the rest of the hundred and fifty odd pages i need to finish in the next three hours when i could spend the next 30 with you all?

let’s take a trip back in time
to a mere ten days ago,
a time of sheep
and wool.

rhinebeck 2011.

rather than try to give you a sense of what rhinebeck “is”
a task to great for this humble writer.
instead i give you random moments,
the idiosyncrasies of
my rhinebeck.

outside the melee that is the the briar rose tenti ran into david of southern cross fibre with his fiber soul twin, helloyarna few things need to be said about this encounter.

1. david is one of my spinning inspirations, so i felt a little geeky (though apparently others are worse, thankfully)
2. helloyarn was one of my main knitting inspirations when i first began knitting, and remains one of my top 5 “people who’s lives seem so cool on the internet that i wish mine was like theirs”. i’ve moved past the nerdy “she knows my name” phase and felt glad just running into her.
3. though! when i first met her last year, i was not very composed and perhaps too excited. i’m using that as my excuse (that and the campfire lighting) for why i’d forgotten that david and i had been introduced (by adrian i assume) at last year’s rhinebeck ravelry party
4. david reminded me of this fact after my “it’s great to finally meet you!” >minor humiliation<
5. he spun and knit that sweater in record time. i hate him.
6. he’s very handsome in person.

i also ran into amy aka boogie aka spunky eclectic (bitch has a lotta aliases. gotta wonder why) outside the jennie the potter booth free-for-all (adjacent to the briar rose melee). it was odd because i didn’t see her at first, but rather saw beth smith‘s name on a piece of paper in a clear plastic bag she was holding. when i took a second look, i glanced up and there she was. i have no photo, but i got a hug. she’s shorter than i imagined.

the line for the sanguine gryphon was ricockulous. i have to say, knitters are pretty honest. that’s the line to pay. i’m sure people could have just walked off with yarn, but instead waited forever to give them their money. my friend misa was in line for about 2 hours. granted she was getting a sweater-lot of yarn on sale but jesus!

frankly, though, she deserves it.
the rhinebeck sweater she knit and designed was too good. it deserved punishment. (if you want more reasons to hate her, look here and here)

i spotted a certain bookfor which i hold strong opinions.
(faithful readers should be able to identify it)

i found out later that it’s author was here to sign copies of it! i had this great fantasy of buying them all, making the author sign them all, then promptly taking them out to a bin and lighting them all on fire.

i resisted.

i satisfied myself by making a catty comment about said author’s attire. i mean really, if you’re going to meet the public, you could put a little effort into your outfit. and for god sakes this is rhinebeck and you wrote a book about knitting. you couldn’t find one handknit to wear?! tacky as your book.

i did however wait in a long line to get stephanie’s new book, and have her sign it. the best part was the hug she demanded of me before i said a word. it’s really nice when a person you genuinely respect doesn’t think you’re a crazy internet stalker because you show up to a lot of the same places and ask her to sign things, but rather, thinks it makes you a nice person. obviously, the yarn harlot is the most famous knitter in the world and has therefore affected a lot of us. but i remember when i first got into knitting, reading her blog made it seem really cool and interesting. it made me want to get better at it. i don’t have a grandma who taught me, or some great knitting tradition in my family. i owe getting into knitting to her (or at least her persona), and i’m glad every time i see her.

but enough with the sappy shit.

at the ravelry meetup, i gave tammy my hatbecause she asked for it.
i’m a firm believer in asking for what you want.

then there is this.
this has got to be the scariest mannequin head everi found it to be extremely off-putting.
what could be so hilarious?

the gem of the rhinebeck (in terms of vendors) had to be into the whirled. everyone i know bought something from here, and with good reason.while i cannot remember her name, and my photo does no justice to her or her wares, i encourage you to go buy all of her things, now. because believe you me, soon, you won’t be able to get you hands on her stuff!

on saturday, i tried the wild coyote sauces spiciest concotion, “buried alive.” it’s made with the “ghost chili”, supposedly the world’s hottest. being a foodie, i couldn’t pass up the chance to try it. plus the owner challenged my masculinity which, in any other case, wouldn’t have mattered. somehow, it mattered this time.

needless to say, it was spicy. a yoghurt smoothie saved my life and luckily, it was only a sample, not enough to give me, what andrea calls, “burny butt”.

the next day, my fiber festival partner in crime, decided she too had to meet the “ghost chili”. i documented it. andrea made the festival for me.
there is no better fiber festival buddy than she.

the last thing i need to tell you about is the ravioli.
the lamb ravioli with wilted garlic spinach.
i ate so much i almost got sick.
totally worth it.

as expected it was totally worth being completely behind in all of my work, a behindness that continues as i write this. catching up may never be attainable, but i wouldn’t change rhinebeck for a 4.0 on my next paper. hopefully i won’t have to!

see you next year, bitches!

nips with steven

October 21, 2011

nips with steven: a rhinebeck photo essay

rhinebeck pregame

October 14, 2011

andrea, one of the world’s best yarn reps,
and i, your humble blogger,
have arrived at our motel
in newburgh, new york.
(i’m in love with this incandescent motel lighting!)

there’s a little time left
before we’ll start foraging for food.
so i thought i’d just do a little rhinebeck pre-game.

1. i’ve made significant progress on my rhinebeck vest,but i realize, now, finishing it by tomorrow is impossible. i’m not even sure i spun enough yarn for it. in any case, it’s still my rhinebeck vest, and i’ll be working on it as much as possible this weekend. anyone who wants to knit a courtesy row or two for me tomorrow need only ask. (i don’t have a cable needle, though)

2. like last year, i’m a square for rhinebeck bingo,
and as part of the fun, i thought i’d give away my dustland hat.the first person who a) has me on their bingo card b) stops me to check me off of their bingo card and c) asks for the hat will get it.

3. i have a couple photo projects i’d like to undertake. the first will be “the beards of rhinebeck” since it was so much fun in maryland. the second is “nips with steven”. that project will be photos of my friends and readers who take a nip from my whisky bottle that i plan to smuggle in. are you brave enough to take nip at rhinebeck?

4. is anyone else going to stand in line to get a signed copy of the yarn harlot’s new book? is it worth the hassle of dealing with a frenzy of crazy-ass knitters? i’m on the fence.

5. i plan to go to saturday’s ravelry meetup. is everyone else going? is it too dorky? and if so, do we care?

i think that’s all. coming to rhinebeck is a kind of pilgrimage for me, and, even though this is going to put me way behind for my next week of school work and grading and i might find myself crying by wednesday, it’s totally worth it.


i wove something

October 9, 2011

it’s just a sampler, and it’s pretty wonky.
but it’ll make a nice mini-runner for my writing desk.

i have to say that weaving is pretty intriguing.
it’s not as intuitive as knitting is for me
but it still accesses that . . . thing
that creative part of me that needs to get out.
weaving feels like a lot more work than knitting ever has,
but the finished product was definitely worth the effort.

maybe i’ll get a loom, since,
you know,
i have all this time on my hands.

a new direction

October 8, 2011

when i decided to go fro my phd,
i understood my knitting time would be severely reduced.
however, i don’t think i realized what “reduced” really meant.
i’ve considered that it might be prudent to give up the blog,
since the frequency of my f.o.’s will be greatly reduced.
but that kinda feels like quitting.
i wasn’t sure.

just when i thought this was the end of bitchesgetstitches,
i received a comment on my baltic blossoms shawl:

“This project was the reason I decided on this pattern for my boyfriend’s sister’s wedding present – Thank you!

(She doesn’t know that, but I think she might thank you too if she did)”

and what a beautiful shawl she made!

this was exactly what i needed.
i write this blog because people read it,
because, for some reason, my knitting speaks to other knitters.
and while, in the scheme of things, that might not be a big deal,
it makes me happy.

i want the blog to continue.
and if i want it to remain relevant and interesting,
i’m gonna need to get creative.

for now, i want to thank alyssa
for reminding me of my priorities!