Freedom

I spent six hours yesterday with a Civil Rights leader and Freedom Rider, Rip Patton. He was delightful. We talked about everything from drums to how to foster hope in people.

How is this life?

He sang. He quoted scripture in ways that moved me to tears. He listened so intently to the students he was supposed to be speaking to. He asked them such interested questions.

He spoke only obliquely about trauma, but I think I’ll be thinking the most about that, about the things he couldn’t remember and his decision to not try to remember them, assuming his mind was trying to do him a favor.

He was charming and funny. It was great.

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Merino, Revisited

So, as you recall, I wasn’t in love with merino when I first tried to spin it–and it’s everywhere. Every cool fiber prep in all the neat colors–it’s all merino. And I’m just like “ugh, why do people like this? The staple is short. Sure it’s soft, but it’s not light and airy.”

But, y’all, in mixing the merino with this mystery crappy fiber, I am beginning to appreciate the wonders of merino. It sticks to everything. It’s like the cobwebs of wool. And it helps make everything it sticks to smooth and soft.

With my woolfriend, BFL, when you grab the end and pull the fibers apart, the fibers kind of poof out, like you’ve done the magic trick where you get a bouquet of flowers out of your magic wand. It’s like a fountain of long, soft fibers.

Which is great for spinning! It’s just one clump of long fiber after another. But they’re not particularly grabby. If you get a fat spot, you can kind of tug on it until the fibers slide apart and thin out.

Whereas when you grab the end of the merino and start pulling, if you pull slowly, fiber keeps coming. The individual staple length is short, but it holds onto its buddies.

So, mixing the BFL with the crappy fiber worked okay, but it was, in essence, just twisting the BFL and the crappy fiber together. You could still feel the scratchiness of the crappy fiber (though much lessened).

But the merino sticks to the crappy fiber. Pulls it along into the drafting zone. You’re don’t have to make sure that you’re also grabbing the crappy fiber. It’s right there.

I still love the shit out of spinning the BFL by itself. But I’m starting to come around on merino. And I can see why it was so valuable in the past. It’s not just that it, by itself, has the softness or whatever. It’s that it makes your other wool better.

Weekend

I finished a draft of the bombing presentation. I have a few images and a powerpoint to show them with. I’m nervous.

Saw this booger on Saturday. I think he’s starting to realize that’s him on the screen.

Then I took his sister on a spoooooooky adventure. We went to Hail, Dark Aesthetics, which is a shop where you can buy tarot cards and fetal pigs and coffins and t-shirts. I feel like I was watching her become goth before my very eyes as she wandered around the shop looking at everything.

She was, of course, attracted to all the witchcraft and Satanism stuff. I tried to give her Baby’s First Lecture on Alistair Crowley where I told her that he had a really fun, bad reputation and had written a lot of books people are afraid of, but he was actually an annoying douche who used magic mostly to get to have sex with people.

“That sounds great,” she said.

So, I guess I’ll visit her in England when she buys Boleskin House and shacks up with a demon and runs a sex cult. Oops. Sorry, The Butcher. Turned your step-daughter into a Crowleyite by trying to warn her away from Crowley.

Then we went and wandered around the grounds of the old Masonic children’s home. Which doesn’t have a reputation for being haunted, but totally should.

Then we went and had hot chocolate.

Then I took her to the cemetery to learn to dowse. Y’all she sucked at finding dead people. I felt so bad for her. I would walk across a grave and the rods would cross. She’d walk across a grave and nothing.

Finally, she got a little movement in the rods and I said, “Well, let’s just walk where they’re pointing. And we walked and walked and circled way back to the far end of the cemetery and they crossed really hard.She looked up at me confused. I looked around at the obviously graveless thicket we were standing in front of.

And then I saw it: the fire hydrant.

I was like, “Ha, guess you’re a water witch.”

Which probably didn’t slow her decent into becoming Crowley’s avatar and spectral bride, or whatever happens to you when your aunt takes you for a spooky day.

Then I carded the shit out of the crappy fiber and mixed it with some merino and made this yarn:

But this is how much crappy fiber I still have, so there’s a lot of fixing left to do:

The First Real Doctored Fiber

This is some of the bad purple and the bad yellow mixed with yellow and purple BFL and a little silk. It kind of looks like antique Mardi Gras, so I’m happy with the color.

But it spins like a bear. You have to do a really short draw to get all those tiny fibers (otherwise, you’d just be pulling out all the silk. And when you come to one of the second cuttings, it just makes a blob in the yarn that you can’t really pull thin.

But next up is some straight up BFL so that should be nice. It’s a broken purple I hand-dyed earlier this month.

Sorry

Sorry I haven’t been around much lately. I’m using my time in the mornings to get my bombing talk together.

I’m excited but super nervous.

And tonight I’m going to be reading from JESUS CRAWDAD DEATH at the Vandy Barnes & Noble, if you want to come on by.

And Now There’s a Drum Carder

I went to the fiber expert yesterday. She analyzed my fiber and said that the problem was that the staple was just way too short–maybe only an inch. She also showed me all the places the fiber was full of second cuttings, really short fibers caused by the shearer taking a second pass over the sheep in that spot.

She said that it could be spun, but it needed to be carded. Even still, it was going to be very fuzzy because of how short the staple is.

The easiest fix, she said, was to blend it with longer fibers.

Then she sold me a bunch of merino off her personal sheep and lent me her drum carder. Go forth and mix my crappy fiber with her merino.

Literally, all I want to do is stand around carding fiber all day. It’s so much fun.

And look at this yarn I got just from blending the crappy fiber with some longer fiber I’d already dyed.

I’m still not the greatest at spinning on the wheel yet, but I’m going to have a shit ton of fiber to practice with.

Moving Up

I bought something off Craig’s List for the first time in my life. I don’t even know what to say about it. There was a moment, last night, when I really started getting it, getting into the groove of it, and I felt something in my brain relax in a way I don’t think I have every relaxed before in my life.

This may be the best money I ever spent on myself.

I hung out with the nephew, too, and he somehow made my phone play Muddy Waters and my heart filled so full watching his delight. He wiggled. He kicked his feet. He clapped. He sang along with the harmonica.

There’s so much cool about watching a baby experience music to remind you about what is awesome about it. Del doesn’t have any preconceptions about what’s the most important part of a song. He just enjoys all the components of it. And it just reminds me that music is awesome.

Today I’m going to get help fixing the fiber that vexes me.

I should probably also do some dishes.

Mapping the Klan

It’s a little like trying to make sense of the innards of a lava lamp. But basically, I think there are two philosophical questions driving Klansmen at this point: 1. Are you willing to do violence that might get people killed? 2. Are you only pro-segregation and anti-black (in which case Catholics and Jews could be Klan members) or are you pro-white protestant (in which case, they can’t)? Groups break up and reconfigure based on the answers to those questions at any given moment.

As a side note, the Jewish Klansman appears to have been the Bigfoot of the Klan. You see people claiming they knew someone who had seen one and maybe you can’t rule out all the claims, but no one has conclusive proof. Plus, and not kidding here, this Jewish Klansman was said to have been either in south Georgia or south Alabama, down in the swamps.

That a skunk ape and the elusive Jewish Klansman have the same home is hilarious to me.

The Plan

I found a sheep farmer west of town. On Sunday I’m going to bring all this shit to her and she’s going to look at it. Hopefully, it just needs to be run through a drum carder, but she’s going to help me end up with something I like and want to spin.

Two pounds of wool I hate. It makes me sick to think of it.

Manx Loaghtan

So, like I said, as it came out of the package, it was a very uniform, but cool-tone brown. I wanted it to be a little warmer and not so solid in coloring, so I gave it some red, yellow, and orange highlights.

And then I still had the problem of the relatively short staple length. But Rivikah made me feel brave, so I stuck some silk to it. You can see the results of my silk-sticking experiments here. Some places have a lot more silk (it’s the blue, shiny stuff) and some places have a lot less, but there it is.

Silk is really weird to spin and I wouldn’t say that I’m very good at drafting it with the wool, but I’m practicing.

As for the other fiber, there was so much dirt–literally dirt–at the bottom of my bucket after washing the first batch. I can’t even tell you. But the other thing is that it’s just a huge amount of fiber. Like, whoa, I didn’t pay enough attention to the description. I’ll probably overdye some of it. So, that’s nice to find I have fiber to dye. I’ll probably do like I did with the Manx Loaghtan here and dye it different shades of the colors it already is. So, instead of one yellow, I’ll give myself four or five different yellows.

So, there’s a plan. An extension of yesterday’s “What the fuck, fiber?!” plan.

This is My Displeased Face

So, I got this fiber on sale for $5 a piece. I thought, “What a great deal!” It’s normally three times that and it’ll be fun to play around with.” And it’s my yarn boyfriend, BFL.

I… I don’t know what I expected. But when I opened it up yesterday to do said actually playing around with it, it was full of dander and plant stuff. Plant stuff doesn’t really bother me. It’s a sheep. But the dander seemed weird considering this has been dyed. I mean, sure, a little bit can make its way a long way in the process, but this is a ton. If you soaked the fiber to get it wet to dye, you’d think most of it would have floated away.

Also, it’s really coarse, at least compared to the other BFL I have, and the fibers aren’t very parallel. If I had a drum carder, I’d just run it through and not worry about it, but I’m trying not to invest hundreds of dollars in a hobby I’ve had for four weeks.

I’m pissed. Basically I’m pissed because I don’t know if I have the skills to make this usable to me. My plan–and please holler if you have a better one–is to wash everything in a long, soaking, soapy bath, like just give each length of roving a huge amount of room to float around and let loose any dirt and crap.

Oh, yeah, because this is what the water looked like as I started my trial of this plan:

Again, how could you have dyed this fiber and it still be this dirty? It makes no sense to me. You have to get the fiber wet to dye it. You have to rinse the fiber when you’re done dying it. In most dying methods, it sits in really hot water for at least ten minutes. How could this possibly be the fourth time this fiber has touched water? I’m not even accusing anyone of wrong doing.

The fiber is dyed and the dye job is uniform and nice, so it clearly must have happened. This is more like a physics issue.

Okay, anyway, back to my plan. Everything gets a long, long bath and then a good drying. Then I’m going to pull everything through a house key, like some rudimentary dizz, to encourage more of the fibers to lay parallel. They’re fairly parallel now, but I would like to encourage more.

And then I’m never going to buy this again, no matter how good the sale.

Opposition

Okay, well, I started out intending to write this post, but I wrote about wool instead. I also intended to do more research for the book this weekend, but I mostly spun wool instead.

Here’s what I’m avoiding thinking about: there is an organized, long-standing, ongoing, highly-influential, white separatist opposition movement in this country.

Racism isn’t just some bad habit of white people we can educate ourselves out of. It’s not just an accidental structural remnant left over from worse times. It’s not even just your embarrassing family member’s terrible beliefs. I wouldn’t even call it a conspiracy, because it’s not a secret, not hidden. We can’t just sit around and wait for it to die off, because it’s not a superstition. It’s an organized, self-replicating movement.

That most of us do not see, at least, not the full scope of it. We see parts of it, some people see a lot of it, but you can’t say the truth–that we, as a nation, are in an ongoing civil war that started in 1776 and continues to this day that regularly flares into violence and once flared into a military war–without sounding like a conspiracy theorist nut job.

It’s a stark question: do you believe that everyone here, in this country, is your equal and deserves the same consideration as you or do you believe that equality is for those fit for it? Because the people who believe the former are in a vicious fight where people get hurt and die with the latter.

But also, and a part that I find the biggest mindfuck about it, is that the carrot dangled in front of white people in order to get us to ignore that the civil war is ongoing is the privilege of forgetting. White people are allowed to have myths instead of history or to have nothing, no past at all, to be born afresh every day with no stain of history, no dirt from yesterday.

But it’s the same thing–some people have to have their pasts and the actions of their fellow community members and what happened three states over fifty years ago scrutinized and constantly judged and others start every moment an innocent lamb. And a lot of us are scrambling for innocent lamb designation.

And part of that innocence is playing The Fool. Even when people get caught being active agents of this white separatist movement, even if you can show their long history of it, their ties to other white separatists, etc., they just act like they misspoke or, worse, they don’t defend themselves at all, but other folks rush forward to explain it away as a misstatement or them just being ignorant.

I don’t know how to explain it, because I don’t know of an analogy from another country that loses the nuance of what was going on in that other country.

But it’s making me feel sick to my stomach, over and over, to see this evil in plain sight and to watch how easily it gets people to pretend it’s not as large or central to things as it is.

Wool Review

Merino–not in love with it. Which, apparently, puts me at odds with 90% of the internet. I feel like I’ve finally gotten a feel for how to spin it, but I feel like, when you fuck up, it isn’t very forgiving. Like, if you don’t get enough twist in a length of fiber, the whole thing disintegrates into infinite pieces and I end up crying.

BFL–my fiber boyfriend. It’s got a nice, long staple. It’s soft enough for me. It spins pretty easily and, when you fuck up, it’s like “Fine, just stick me back together and make sure you get a decent twist in there this time.” I want to try dying it before I know if this is a long-term commitment, but so far, so good.

Peduncle silk–I got this in my Paradise Fibers monthly box. I mixed it and the other two fibers together and spun up a sample. It’s nice. It’s not wool, obviously, but I’m not changing the name of this post. Silk doesn’t have the same boing as wool, so it’s a little weird to spin it. What came in the box was a kind of silvery-gray. I overdyed mine with blue. It’s drying in the bathroom.

Manx Loaghtan–I guess you’re supposed to keep this naturally brown? But it’s kind of a cold-tone brown and I wanted something a little warmer, so I added some reds and oranges. It’s got a medium short fiber and, though that’s what I hate about Merino, for some reason, I guess because the Manx Loaghtan lacks pretension, I don’t mind it. Though we’ll see how I feel when I spin more of it. In dying it, though, it kind of reminded me of a friendly dog. It did just fine in the pot. I don’t see any felting issues. And it’s hanging in my bathroom urging me to do something nice and weird with it.

Kent Romney–They claim that this has a staple length, on average, of 3.15 inches. They also claim the Manx Loaghtan has a staple length of 3 inches. The Romney staple length is easily half again as long as the Loaghtan in real life. I’d believe something much more like 2.5 for the Loaghtan and 4 for the Romney, though I’m not getting up to measure anyone. I hippie dyed the Romney.

and I’ve spun up some of it.

It dyed up really beautifully, though I have to learn to keep my yellow under control, better. I feel like I had a mildly hard time spinning it, because it… I’m not sure how to explain it. On the one hand it’s not very grabby. It doesn’t just pull in loose fibers as it spins. You have to go grab them for it which lead me to some overly thin spots, which I’m worried are going to come apart on me when plying. But, on the other hand, when you put that yarn someplace, it sticks. Another weird thing about it is just how much fiber it wants for a single. Like, what I’m used to being able to draft out quite a bit with the BFL, that amount the Romney just wanted for a little bit.

I’m curious to see, after it rests and is plied, how much it’s going to expand, because there’s a lot of fiber.

Gaze in Wonder

I have changed my plans today from whatever I was going to do to “gaze in wonder at this yarn.”

I love everything about it. I love how purple it is. I love how curly it is. I’m really proud of how the strands are almost a uniform width.

I’m going to make myself an afghan. It’s going to take a long while, but I want to do it. I have a few afghans I’ve made, but they’re in closets. Nothing on display. I want to make something beautiful for myself.

I also just kind of want to wear this yarn around like a necklace.

Am I Messing Up?

I missed so much in the Hattie Cotton file when I first read through it, because I just didn’t have the context to make sense of it. And now I’m a little stressed about whether I should read through the other FBI files I have (and thought I was done with) to see what pops out there.

Writing a book is hard.

Well, writing this book is hard.

BFL

I bought myself a bunch of BFL (blue-faced Leicester), which is supposedly and apparently an easier yarn to learn to spin because the fibers are really long. I am enjoying the shit out of spinning it. These last two evenings, I didn’t even work on my afghan, because I’d just rather spend a couple of hours doing this.

A thing, though, that still irritates the piss out of me is that everything having to do with spinning is so expensive. How can this thing that used to be so ubiquitous–that multiple people in every household would have known how to do–cost so much to do it?

It’s like there’s a level of the craft missing. There are all these things that clearly are solutions for the time/labor intensive but cheap as fuck way to do things, but it’s not clear what those cheap things are/were. Like, I got a really, really great deal on some solid color fiber and I’d like to blend the four solid colors I got together in some ways, to give me more variety of yarn. A blending board costs $150.

Which… I mean, Jesus Christ. It’s a prickly cutting board. But, hell, it’s not like I know how to make a prickly cutting board, so more power to you, blending board makers of the universe.

But there’s something before this, clearly. Some thing spinners did or do that would make them exasperatedly say, fine, fuck it. I’ll shell out the $150.

But what is that?

I’ve watched a couple of tutorials on making “fauxlags,” which I think might suit my purposes. I wanted to test it out last night, but I don’t have a free flat workspace, because I have so much other shit started.

More Yarn

I bought myself a bunch of BFL, on the advice of spinners who said it’s easier to spin when you’re just starting out. But I wasn’t going to start it until I finished the merino. This weekend, I finished the merino.

It’s not great yarn, but it’s good yarn. And I love it.

Forward

I know I said this, but it remains true. I love how the Turkish spindle just spins forward forever. It really seems like, once you have a spindle that spins so long, the invention of the wheel is inevitable. Once you know how nice it is to have something you’ve set to spinning just continue to spin, you start to daydream about how nice it would be if you didn’t have to stop and put it all on the spindle.

I went to the grocery store yesterday, so today my to-do list is dishes, ply this merino, walk the dog, water the plants, and crochet some.

I feel pretty decadent.

Jail

A family member, who shall remain unidentified, is back in jail. I have an overwhelming urge to write him a letter in which I call him a dumbass.

I keep thinking that one of the problems I’m having with fiction is that we live in a fictional society. People just make shit up and then fight with each other into accepting the made up thing. “Me sticking my dick into this child doesn’t hurt her. She was asking for it.” “The government is on strike.” etc. And fucking Lamar all “we have to go along with what the President says.”

I believe fiction is powerful and I believe in the transformative power of stories. Imagine a new reality and you can strive for that new reality.

And, I guess, I feel like we’re in a period where this thing that’s so beloved to me–storytelling–is openly and mostly being used to harm people.

For my part, I know, I know, the well is always a little dirty. That everything we do has some slight stain of bullshit. That longing for some past, purer time is just longing for a time when you were more ignorant of the problems of the world.

But I still feel just fundamentally offended to find the stench all over this thing I love right here near me.

And yet, what a bullshit position–to be happy being oblivious to the taint.

But what does a fantasy story even look like in this era? “A girl has a dress with a pocket. In that pocket is a rock. Whenever she looks in her pocket, the rock is there, right where she put it. It doesn’t disappear. It doesn’t become anything different. It’s the only stable thing in the world.”

Or “A boy hums a tune for the joy of it. It doesn’t mean anything beyond joy, because he doesn’t know the meanings of most things yet. Someone complains that he is too loud and the boy is quieted by his mother.” That’s a sad one.

But I feel like the fantasy is that something can be real and meaningful and harmless. And I feel like that is a terrible indictment of us as a species.

Yarn

I made some yarn I like!

It’s not perfect, but the width is a lot more even and I’m getting a feel for how to spin the merino. Even plying with the Turkish spindle is so much easier that I’m just like, gah, why didn’t I start here?

And the tree afghan is coming along. I’m hoping to make some good progress on it this morning as I wait for my washing machine to arrive.

Turkish Spindle, The Affair Continues

On the advice of others, I’ve ordered some BFL to spin. Until it gets here, I’m just fucking around with the Merino I bought because everyone dyes Merino such pretty colors. I figure, it can’t hurt to practice. And I still like the Turkish spindle so damn much. It just spins down there forever, letting me work on my drafting skills.

I think my goal for this year is to start and finish some stories. The idea that I’m having such lovely success with JESUS CRAWDAD DEATH at a moment when I simply cannot bring myself to write fiction is… well, the humor of it isn’t lost on me.

Another goal is to learn how to ply without hating my life. I wonder if I should be setting the twist in the single before I ply it?

And my third goal, which is probably longer-term than just a year, is to get good enough at spinning that I can make myself an afghan. I signed up for a fiber of the month club, so I will get to try all kinds of new fibers and the afghan goal will give me something to do with those fibers in the end.

But I need to get back to fiction.

Oh, and here’s how the afghan of trees is coming!

I didn’t keep good track of what was what, but I believe what we’re looking at, from the bottom up is acorn (the triangle), red Kool-aid and food coloring (the bottom two trapazoids), second or third exhaust walnut in the first square, osage orange and walnut in the second set of trapazoids, and walnut in the top square.

I’m not a big fan of browns, but there’s something really nice about these colors. I am glad I threw in the red, though.

I’m Not Even Going to Bother to Pretend Otherwise

Today I go back to work and everyone goes home and thank god. Jesus Christ, I don’t know what I’m doing or why I’m tolerating this bullshit.

They have their own issues, of course, but mine are why I can’t assert myself when I’m with them and that I just fall into old self-destructive thought patterns.

And the worst part about having such a long-running blog is that I can see this is just the same old bullshit. I haven’t progressed in any way. I haven’t found ways of dealing with them that make my life any easier.

I just batten the hatches and try to make it through the storm.

There has got to be a better way.