Divine Bird

I believe in a high-fiber diet…like wool, alpaca, cashmere…

October 22, 2014
by Jenny Bannock

Cleaning House: The Basement, Part II

A few days have gone by since I started on the basement, and progress is definitely happening down there. I’m in the “oh my gosh this is so dull I hate this” phase, which is the part where I go through all the boxes of papers to make sure nothing valuable is being thrown away. It’s worth the trouble–so far, I’ve found three checks that I never cashed and $50 in cash in an unmarked envelope.  All were mixed in with random papers. Every so often, as I do this mind-numbing chore, I ask, “WTF, ME?”  This is a reminder to stay current on my paperwork and to get rid of stuff I don’t need. I moved with some of these boxes at least three times; boxes of papers are heavy and take up space.  Why did I do this to myself?  One entire box was nothing but old mail and grocery lists and the like, none of which were dated past 2004. Ugh.

On the plus side, I have found a few bins of supremely entertaining stuff, like the full bin of nothing but pristine-condition stuffed animals. These will be distributed among my friends with kids (and a few who, like me, never completely grew up).  Another bin held dice, cards, hair things, old poetry, and about a dozen pairs of earrings that I thought I’d lost forever. Some were earrings I adored and actually missed over the years, believing them lost. I also found two gorgeous strings of pearls and, in a small, hinged, ceramic box with a tiny latch, my missing engagement ring.

This is the incredible find of the year for me. Of the decade, really.  I thought this ring had been lost about a year after we got married and I no longer wore it. (Perspective: our 13th anniversary was Oct 13.) My wedding ring was too wide for me to double up, so the engagement ring went into a box (apparently) and then I promptly lost track of it. I was always very sad about this, because we spent a long time looking for the perfect engagement ring, while we picked out our actual wedding rings almost on the fly. I liked my wedding ring, but never felt that same connection. The wedding rings we bought were cheapo $20 things from a Renaissance faire, two weeks before the wedding. They were always intended to be temporary.  Then, a little over a year ago, my ring began to react with my skin. I took it off and went without ever since. Now I have my engagement ring back, and it’s on my finger, where it will stay.

The pile of boxes is getting smaller every day. I got through two trunk-sized bins and three sizeable boxes of papers today, of which I kept one reusable shopping bag and one half-size bin of stuff. The rest was trash and donation–mostly the former.  Tomorrow’s job will be to finish off the last three boxes of papers, then start on the movie & game collection. The guys are coming Thursday to do the pickup, so I have to push a little. I’d rather not have to call them back on another pickup day!


October 20, 2014
by Jenny Bannock

Cleaning House: The Basement, Part I

I did not take pics of the basement before we started.

I used to pretend that the mess didn’t exist. I went in there to do laundry, and that was enough for me. I had a path to the washer & dryer, and one to the furnace & water heater, and that was it. I wouldn’t look at the boxes because each time I thought of going through them, I would feel real despair.

During the first cleaning session earlier this year, the basement was on the list but got bumped off when life got in the way. I figured I’d go back to it eventually, but it wasn’t until I started making the plan for this session that I realized I couldn’t put it off any longer. An empty, organized basement was actually the key to the whole undertaking.

Because I’m losing my studio room (for a good cause), I needed a new place for some of my equipment. My basement is dry and surprisingly non-dusty, so the loom and carder are going down there. To use them, I needed wall space. All of the walls were lined with bins and boxes, some of which I hadn’t opened in 10 years. If I was to make space for my fiber equipment, I had to face the task for real.

With the help of our friend Aaron, Matt, Angie, and I started the process around 11am. First, we tackled the stuff that could be done quickly: bagging up donation clothes, dusting off the washer & dryer, breaking down boxes and throwing away trash. We were a whirlwind! I tried to go through boxes quickly, and if I couldn’t, I put them aside in favor of ones I could do. We culled our TEN boxes of books down to six. Angie and I set up some shelves I’ve had for years and never put together, and now all our camping gear is in one place.  My canning supplies now have a home there, too–and I’m not worried about the jars falling over any more! Oh, and we even rediscovered a cabinet full of the paint from all the different rooms of the house, as well as a whole bunch of ceramic tiles; I think the previous owner was about to do a backsplash of some kind in the kitchen, but never completed it. I’m going to see if those tiles can be used somewhere and if not, I’ll sell them.

We carried up the donation items and made a pile next to the door.  AMVETS is coming later this week to pick it all up, so if I can stay on task, we’ll have even more ready for them by then. I have four bins of random sewing things to go through, and several boxes of papers, but the difference in that room is huge. We have a ton of space down there–enough to work in, exercise in, and properly store our out-of-season items.

It’s not done yet, but it’s a whole lot better than it was this morning. There’s a plan in place for the rest of it, too. And once the sorting is finished, we’ll move Dashing’s office around and set up the new gaming area in the Man Cave, which will open up the space for my new studio, which will let us rearrange the living room…see? It’s all connected. It’s all dependent on the basement, which got off to a cracking start today.


October 19, 2014
by Jenny Bannock

Cleaning House: Fall Edition

Sometimes, like many people, I look back and wonder, “where did the summer go?” or “did x weeks just fly by when I blinked?”  This summer has been especially bad for that, though. Since June, Dashing has been in and out of the hospital with a malady that the doctors can’t seem to diagnose; we know what is happening, but not why, and not how to treat it.  Each week has been a blur of ER visits, hospital stays, doctor’s appointments, phone calls to Disability, phone calls to doctors, relaying the latest updates to family…it’s just been a river of stress for both of us.

A few good and cool things have come out of all this; I’ve channeled a lot of that stress into spinning and knitting, which won me a whole whack of ribbons and prizes, so that was fun. I’ve also learned that Dashing actually enjoys British murder mysteries, which is something I never realized before. I know, married to the guy for 13 years (that anniversary just happened on the 13th) and there’s still stuff to discover! We’ve now worked our way through Miss Fisher, Rosemary & Thyme, Poirot, and most of Midsomer Murders.

On the bad side, my cleaning went to a total standstill. I was so proud of my progress in January, February, and March, but I took a break in April and May to plan some parties and deal with tax stuff. I figured I’d get back to it in June and July, when my work slowed down for the summer. But then Dashing got sick, and it’s been the top priority since then. I did keep up the living room closet, the TV stand, and avoided a return of the Floordrobe, which are all accomplishments.  Still, the rest of the house has suffered from a lack of attention and some half-finished tasks that have piled up.  No more!

I could say that the catalyst for cleaning now is that we’ve finally established a kind of holding pattern, where I feel like I can make plans a week out or more. But the real reason I want to finish the job is that our dear friend Angie is moving in with us at the end of November!  We’ve known for a long time that we wanted to move in with her when we eventually emigrate to Maine, but circumstances have caused us to make space for her here in the condo now. Her parents are moving south and selling their home, and we can use the financial help, so it all works out pretty nicely. That means another total reorganization of furniture, and the cleaning can no longer be put off.

This round probably won’t be as blog-heavy as the last, but I do plan to document the progress regularly. A lot of things we established earlier this year have been re-thought, such as how we use the dining room table and where I’m going to put my crafting space now that my studio is turning back into a bedroom. I’m pretty excited about some of the changes, a little overwhelmed by a lot of the work, and above all, I’m seriously looking forward to getting our new housemate. The rest of October and November are going to be all about motion…hope you come along for the ride!

September 28, 2014
by Jenny Bannock

Ribbons at the Big E 2014!

This year’s Big E was a pretty good competition in both Creative Arts and Fiber Nook!  I managed to put in several days of demonstrating in both departments, and all of my entries won ribbons of some kind. My handspun shawls didn’t succeed as well as I hoped, but once I got to hear about the judging and what they looked for, I completely understand why I placed the way I did. There were things I didn’t even think about; I will definitely think about that next year when I enter again.

But even if the highest honors were just out of my reach this time around, I can’t complain too much about how I placed overall! I ended up with three Firsts, four Seconds, two Thirds, two Fifths, and a Sixth.  I also won First place in two categories of the Spinning Bee (a timed spinning contest) for Finest and Most Consistent yarn, plus a Sixth overall. I was the only spindle spinner in a group of 11, so I’m actually pretty happy with that placement. If we get another spindler next year, I can be judged in a separate class from the wheel spinners, so that’s something else to work toward.

So here are the pics from this year’s Big E!  I can’t wait to get them all back so I can finally wear them!

August 21, 2014
by Jenny Bannock


A couple of weeks ago, my sister and I descended upon our mom’s house to make pickles!!

When I was much younger, Mom used to do lots of canning. We had tomatoes, pickled zucchini, corn and cuke relish, and sometimes peaches, jam, or jelly.  But the thing that we loved the most were her “Sweet Spears”. This time, the daughters got to learn the recipe.

pickles 2014 ready to go 2

The setup, all ready to go!

After setting up a batch of my Babci’s Polish dill pickles with my dad, N and I went out to the garage to make the syrup for the sweet pickles.

pickles 2014 syrup

The syrup smells great, but only from a distance

The recipe isn’t hard at all; it’s a lot less imposing than I thought it was. You boil the syrup ingredients – it is a POTENT brew – and then pour it over the jar of cukes, get the air bubbles out, seal the jar, and put the jar into a pot of boiling water.  After five minutes, the jar comes out, the lid vacuum seals as it cools, and you have a delicious snack all ready to eat.

pickles 2014 nettie

My sister makes her own batch

I would totally do this again. Last year, we did tomatoes, and I might be able to talk my parents into doing another batch this year.

pickles 2014 grandma

Grandma Y helps us put the cukes into jars before we make the syrup

Not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon!

While we waited for the pickles to seal up, my sister and I went through a few huge boxes of toys my parents had found whilst cleaning out their attic. That was a trip down memory lane…I’ll have a few pics of that when things settle down here. Dashing has finally (I hope) had his last hospital stay, and I think we’re getting back to normal.  I’ve also been blocking a ton of handknits and crocheted things, so I can’t wait to show them off when they’re dry.

Do you do any preserving or canning in the summertime?  Tell me about it!

July 17, 2014
by Jenny Bannock
1 Comment

Tour de Fleece…Out Due to Injury :(

So apparently I have injured myself while spinning. The stress of dealing with Dashing’s health issues caused me to find solace and relaxation in spinning the silk.  However, I managed to overdo it so that I pulled a tendon in one of my feet. Even with three days of rest, it still hurts, so I think I’m going to bow out of the race.

Here’s what I achieved, though:

Green silk from eXtreme spinning

That doesn’t mean I have stopped doing yarny things while the Tour is on, though. In place of the spinning, I’ve worked on my sock knitting and have nearly finished a pretty lace shawl.  Since I made some errors in the knitting, I will be re-making the same pattern in a handspun yarn.  Pics of that to come!

July 14, 2014
by Jenny Bannock

Tour de Fleece Stage 10

Last day before the rest day!! I will need it. Tomorrow’s going to be a bear.

The green silk is still coming along, albeit slowly. I spent most of Sunday knitting instead of spinning because I just didn’t have the coordination to spin for very long. I also seem to have done something to my knee at my sister’s party on Saturday, so spinning is a little painful at the moment. Tomorrow I will probably just knit on this shawl I started and let my legs chill for a day.


July 13, 2014
by Jenny Bannock

Tour de Fleece Stage 9

Still rolling along with the green silk! I am making a lot of progress, even though it still looks like I’ve barely touched the fiber.

I love to spin fine yarns; my friend Marcy (an insanely skilled spinner who never has fewer than five spindles on her person at all times) teases me by asking me when I’m going to learn to spin fine for once.  :D  It feels like pushing the envelope for me, finding that edge of skill and going beyond it. But I also have very little patience for long projects. I like things that are done NOW or done IN ONE DAY. I don’t want to spend weeks spinning one skein of yarn!

This is born out of a desire to achieve a production level of spinning. The more I produce, the more stock I have to sell, the more I can grow my business. But I haven’t really focused on my spinning business in a while, so I needed to rediscover the joy of spinning, period.

When I attended the Gathering — a weekend spinning retreat put on by the Northeast Handspinners Association — in 2008, I met someone who wore the most beautiful shawl. I marveled at the yarn she’d used, impossibly fine, creating a gossamer lace that seemed almost machine-made. I wanted to achieve THAT yarn. I wanted to spin enough of it to make a shawl of my own.

I’ve spun shawl yarns before; I have several in my stash that are just waiting for the perfect project. But none of them are THAT yarn. I want this silk to be THAT yarn.


July 12, 2014
by Jenny Bannock

Tour de Fleece Stage 8

Work continues on the green silk. No pics today, because I spent all day Friday at the ER with Dashing. He’s okay, but wow, are we getting to know Hartford Hospital REALLY well.

That doesn’t mean I can’t talk about the spinning — this may be the finest yarn I’ve ever spun.  Actually, it IS the finest yarn I’ve ever spun, at least in this quantity.  Tussah silk can be incredibly wonderful to spin fine. The filament is already fine and straight, and the fibers are very long. I’ve set my wheel to a light takeup on my fast flyer in order to spin this without snapping or fighting with the yarn. The result is a fine, yet solid, singles.

In every online spinning group I belong to, I see the same beginners’ question come up time and time again: How DO you spin fine yarn on purpose??  The easy answer is to practice, but there’s a lot more to “practice” than just spinning for many hours. You have to be observant of many things at one time, things that you won’t always notice at first but will once you spend a lot of time at the wheel.

There are a few things that help with any kind of intentional spinning. My list is simply a set of observations and preferences, so please, do not take this as SPINNING LAW or something. Every spinner has their own set of rules and guidelines, and far be it from me to insist that my way is the only way! :)

1. Understand your fiber.  Knowing your fiber will help you determine what kind of yarn you’ll get out of it.  Superfine yarns work best with organized preparations like combed top or even very well-organized roving.  Fibers like silk and longwools are excellent choices for fine spinning because the longer staple means you need to twist fewer fibers together at any point along the yarn. Shorter or more elastic (read: crimpy) fibers automatically add bulk.

2. Understand tension.  The precise amount of tension on your wheel determines how strong its pull on your yarn will be. A superfine yarn shouldn’t have too much tension, as that causes you to clamp your fingers on it to maintain control and makes it more likely that your yarn will snap.

3. If you find your hands ache after spinning, you’re gripping your fiber far too tightly. This goes for any spinning, any thickness. Fix this by…

4. …Adjusting your takeup in tiny increments. On my Lendrum, there’s a distinct difference in tension even if I turn the knob almost imperceptibly. Adjust as needed until you find that sweet spot — and be prepared to adjust throughout the project. Tension changes depending on how thick the bobbin is at the point where the yarn wraps on, so there will be a noticeable difference between the uncovered shaft and a section with yarn built up on it.

5. Hold your hands apart. When drafting, you want to grasp only a few fibers at a time in a smooth, even motion. If your hands are too close together, you’ll end up with too many fibers and may even get an unwanted clump. Generally, keep your hands apart the length of the staple. There are exceptions to this, but that’s where I’d start if you find you’re having trouble.

Again, this isn’t the be-all, end-all of spinning, but I hope it helps you find a place to start. Spinners, feel free to comment about any other suggestions you have. I know I have a few newbie spinners who read this blog, so advice is always a big help.

Ever onward on the Tour de Fleece!


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