Category Archives: Maura

Spinning – Deconstructed Sunset

This is a new page with photos I have put on my personal blog, but it seems that it needs to be posted here, with the Bus friends.


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Crafting for Christmas or Is my MIL Knit-Worthy?

I have been roped into knitting for my mother-in-law for Christmas.  Normally, I consider her not knit-worthy.  She is not high on my list of favorite people in the world and is actually fairly high on my list of least-favorite people in the world.  But…

The in-laws were visiting for the birthday of the youngest child and stayed at our house (very full house! My mother is still staying with us).  We went to dinner and I was wearing my newly completed Clapotis which I am inordinately proud of.  During dinner she commented “Oh, don’t the stores have such nice scarves this year?”  My own mother nearly swallowed her tongue and started choking and coughing at this as I had spent 3 solid days finishing, soaking and blocking the Clapotis.  I replied, “Oh, I made this!”  Then I told her and my father-in-law that I would offer to make her one, but as the pattern is a monumental pain in the ass, I am not planning on ever making it again.

Newly finished Clapotis

After dinner, the husband’s sister called while we were all sitting around talking, and I was knitting because that’s what I do. I had made a Color Affection for her and sent it to her as an early Christmas gift.  Now, this SIL is my favorite of the husband’s family and she is the one who I blamed previously for starting me down the knitting path.  She was so excited and so appreciative of the gift.  The MIL gave me a look when I explained that I had made the SIL a gift.  You know.  A look.  Then she asked me what I was working on.  Oh, I said.  I am working on another Color Affection requested by my own mother who was sitting innocently in the rocking chair.  This garnered me another look.  Sigh.  Then she said with far more tact than I have ever given her credit for having or using that she would love to have anything that I made.  Weird.  She is usually much more underhanded and manipulative than that.  Hmmm…

After they left to go home, I did go to the store and bought some worsted weight acrylic.  I am modifying the Color Affection pattern to use worsted weight rather than lace or fingering weight.  This way, I will not spend too much time and energy on something that I am not sure that she will ever use, but she will have something that I made.  And it will be washable.  This is really self preservation.  This way, she can never tell me that I only made things for my own mother, that we don’t love her as much, blah, blah, blah…

Does This Test Require a #2 Pencil?

On Ravelry, there is a group called Free Pattern Testers.  The description tied to Free Pattern Testers is “This group is for helping budding designers and willing testers to come together and help each other in an open barter system.  Testers get the benefit of getting free patterns and designers get the benefit of free testing. ”  Isn’t that nice?  Shall we all join hands now and sing a few rounds of Kumbayah?

Leaf Peeper Cowl

Maura’s most recent test knit

The reality is that this group is run by very, very strict rules.  These rules govern the designers and the testers and heaven help you if you don’t follow these rules.  There is a system of strikes and if you get 3 strikes, you get banned from the group.  The demi-gods of FPT patrol all of the many current tests and verify that each detail is following the stated protocol.  I can imagine that this is stressful for the designers as much as it is for the testers.

Kelly Says:

Generally, I quite enjoy being a pattern tester, assuming it is something I would knit anyway.

  • I don’t (generally) have an excess of WIPS so I can usually focus on the test knit and come in ahead of the deadline.
  • I write training documentation for a living, so I can catch words/phrases/formatting which isn’t as usable as one might hope.
  • I usually take “okay” photos so the designer will have a FO (finished object) attached to their pattern which looks relatively nice, out of quality yarn at launch.  This is big in the world of Ravelry; people don’t knit patterns that haven’t been knit.

However, I fled FPT and I will not be lured back.  There is a vast difference between “running a tight ship” and “a ship run by control freak whackjobs”.  Okay, I (wildly) exaggerate.  But seriously… I once used bullet points and got a nastygram.  I once emailed back-and-forth with a designer about a pattern outside of the forum which resulted in a nastygram.  I forgot to link to a tester’s Ravelry profile (say it with me folks!) and I got a nastygram.

Quite frankly, too much nasty – not enough nice.

I will likely lose out on the opportunity to test some really swank designs, but let’s face it – my queue is huge already.  I don’t really need more to choose from.  And, I already have a full complement of control freak whack jobs in my life, I don’t really need more.

Maura Says:

I have not had any problems in the FPT group.  However, I am fairly careful about what I test.  I have done 2 tests for the same person because I like how she writes patterns and what the objects are.  I usually test only small objects, like hats or cowls.  Because I always have at least 5 projects on the needles (ouch!), one more doesn’t concern me.  Now, if I were to take on testing of a large project, I would probably fail miserably.  I can’t work on any one thing monogamously for any length of time.  I would definitely be kicked out of the group!

I am not a frequent tester, nor do I want to be.  I have run into some really poorly written patterns which makes me really cranky.  I like my patterns to be very clear, without spelling or punctuation errors.  I think that is fairly uncommon, though.  I will keep testing, but I will probably not do any large projects.  I know myself too well.  And I don’t deal with nastygrams well.

There you have it, two perspectives on ‘Free Pattern Testing’ within Ravelry.  Have you survived this group?  Do you bear scars and have tales to tell?  If so, we want to hear.  If not, we want to hear that too!

Repost: Virtual Friends

Here is a post from my personal blog about the ladies on the Back of the Bus. I could have said so much more…


It is a brave new world out there.  As with most of my posts, I am going to go back to my childhood to recall what it was like then.  I am not old but things really were so different then.  Every year or two, we would take a vacation that did not involve going to Arizona to visit my grandparents.  A lot of these vacations involved camping in nearby states.  Camping was loading up the tent, coolers full of food, a wash basin, a couple of 20 gallon jugs of water.  We would go deep into the mountains and camp in ‘rough’ sites.  Rough sites are those that have a port-a-potty set up.  And that’s it.  You may have a fire ring left by the previous campers, but that is all.  Sometimes, we would be camping near other families and campers are a friendly lot.  We would share dinner…

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Process or product

Reading Maura’s last lovely post about the joys of yarn potential got me thinking about product knitting vs process knitting. Is the joy in knitting having a beautiful finished object, that’s just as you envisaged it, and that you (or the recipient) will treasure ? Or is it in the act of creating; the meditative nature of knitting; the thrill of learning? Or is both?

So which are we? Product knitters? Or Process knitters? And which are YOU?

I’m a process knitter. I love learning new things and I love the physical act of knitting. It’s not that I don’t love having finished objects, but they’re not the sole motivation.  Here’s an example. I finished a lace shawl a couple of years ago. It was the most complicated thing I’d ever knitted, and I was ridiculously, crazily, unrepentantly proud of it.  Here it is:

Well, not that long after I’d finished it, my daughter, then aged about 5, was playing with it in the dining room.  She laid it out on the floor, and then she put a chair with thin metal legs on top of it.  And then she sat on the chair, and tried to pull the shawl up over her knees…  You can guess the rest!
I surprised myself by how NOT upset I was: I’d enjoyed knitting it, I’d learnt a lot, and I could live without the shawl.   So now I don’t fret too much about how many WIPs I have; I don’t despair if I have to frog something; and I don’t cry when the kids lose or destroy the things I make. I still love me a pretty FO but it’s not the be all and end all!


I’m still so new to knitting that I haven’t quite made up my mind about this, but I probably lean more towards the Product Knitter side. I feel like whether you’re a Process or Product knitter can better be described as which shade of grey are you? Where do you fit on the Process vs Product scale because to some extent we have to be a little bit of both right? (even 5% Product and 95% Process) if you’re as obsessed with knitting as we are, it would seem like that might be the only way you would stick with it for so long. Originally I was a 99% Product knitter. I took up knitting specifically to make myself a pair of gloves (seems innocent enough) but I have slowly transitioned to being about 60% Product and 40% Process. I really enjoy the process of knitting, obviously, and it has gotten a lot more fun as I have become more proficient at it. However, that being said, I LOVE finishing things. I never cast off an item and let it sit around for days  (let alone weeks or months) without the ends woven, and I HAVE to get it blocking as soon as the weather permits. Making things out of balls and strings and actually having them be loved and be useful is what it’s about for me. Being able to say I made that, Me! really makes it special.


I have to stick with the fact that I am pretty much in the process knitter group.  I remember being in college and my professor of Art, who was married to my professor of Drawing (a whole different story…), spoke frequently at great length about process versus product.  Are you creating Art for art’s sake or for Art for the audience?  Are you being true to the art and to yourself by making art to sell to someone who asks you to make something specific?  As you can imagine, I come to knitting (or quilting or home decor) as an art form.  I do it for myself – I am extremely selfish.  I only do that which brings me joy, that which feeds my soul.  Most of my finished objects are sent out to someone else and I usually don’t know who it will be until the item is finished.  Many times, I make something just as an experiment – to see how the pattern works, how a stitch works, how easily I can do it.  Then in the middle, the pattern and the yarn start telling me who needs to receive this object.  If the object has no home, it stays with me and I look at it with a sense of nostalgia – Wasn’t that fun to make?


Well, I guess my little evil, greedy comes out again.  I am so far down the product scale it is scary.

I. Want. The. Thing.

I choose patterns because I think they are pretty/comfy/fun/cute/wearable/useful/gorgeous/popular.  I can’t think of even once where I have chosen a pattern to learn a skill…  Oh, that is sad.  This should have been immediately apparent to anyone who knows me, and how hard it is to give FOs (finished objects) away.  Only the truly knitworthy…


I adore the process of knitting but I think ultimately I’m a product girl.  Sometimes it’s only knowing what is awaiting me at the end of all the hard work that really keeps me going when I’d rather just stash the item somewhere and forget its very existence.  Like Kelly, I don’t think I’ve ever chosen a pattern simply to learn a new skill, learning new skills is simply a result of having to have that particular item. Now.

What can I say, I’m a little bit of a material girl! (see what I did there? Ahem)


Today, I am supposed to be putting together photos of my stash and my WIP’s that I took yesterday.  I should be declaring my devotion to finishing the projects on the needles and to not purchasing any new yarn until such a time as I have a) finished some of the ongoing projects and b) gotten some of this yarn out of my living room.  Well, that is just not happening.

A portion of the stash

Instead, I have chosen to go a little to the right… or left… or whatever… in true Back of the Bus style.  (I never could turn any homework in on time in high school either.)  What happened is this.  I was taking lunch in my living room away from my office in my kitchen and knitting the band of a hat.  I have several episodes of the podcast Cast-On in my iTunes library.  I am a recent convert to listening to Cast-On and have been doling them out like lemon drops – one over the course of a couple of days.  I am now caught up to 2006.  Today’s lunch listening was Episode 41 with a hilarious conversation between Brenda and her sister Pam.  But then there was the guest essay about when did knitting become an obsession.  I found myself nodding along with the essayist and thinking about my own fall into fiber obsession.

I like to blame Sue, my sister-in-law, as she is the person who taught me to knit.  However, my knitting bug has far surpassed hers.  What is different between her and me?  Why is knitting to her a hobby and to me a full out passion to Knit. All. Things?  I have a theory on that.  It is that knitting was waiting for me.  Stalking me.  Standing back patiently until the time was right.  I can remember being exposed to fiber craft as a child.  My mother made many, if not all, of my clothes when I was small and continued until I got married – making all of the bridesmaids’ dresses.  She did macrame when it was popular in the ’70’s and I knew a little bit.  I started young, sewing and embroidering, playing with string, yarn, beads.  In college, I drew and painted, getting my degree in Art.  In my 20’s, I taught myself to quilt.  It came to me as if I had been doing it my entire life.  In quilting, art and fabric combine in a very logical and mathematic way.  But I stopped when I had children.  Quilting with 3 small kids is not practical or easy.  So I stopped.  And I did nothing artistic for several years.

Kyle's Quilt

Kyle’s Quilt

Then along came Sue, with yarn and pointy sticks.  This knitting – it was fun, it was portable.  I could make gifts for people, hats, scarves, mitts.  And one project may take less than seven years!  Once I got on Ravelry, though, the game was changed.  I found people like me, smart, creative, funny people who had the same hobby.  Ravelry gave me friends with things in common from around the world.  People who knit things I had never thought of knitting.  They made me think … could I do that?  People who weave, who spin, who crochet.

I find myself looking at my stash laid out on my living room floor, posing for photos.  I do want to knit it all.  I want it all to be finished objects, but first I want the fun of choosing what it will be when it grows up.  Because before it can be a finished object, it has to pass through me.  And that, my friends, is where the fun is.  It is the middle part – not the yarn on my floor and not the gift given, but the part where it is on the needles, where I get to see it as it is something in between.  More than mere potential and yet less than useful.  It is, if anything, a dream – so real you can touch it, feel it.  But it is not yet reality.  And so, I find that my obsession is with that middle part.  And I give myself the freedom to have works in progress, to savor that middle part.  And obsess about what will go into that limbo next.  I am unrepentent.

Crest of the Wave Baktus

In the middle – more than potential, less than useful

Spinning a Purple Yarn (Part 4)

When we last met, our intrepid hero had spun a small section of fluff into something that loosely resembled yarn.  Upon measurements, the section of fluff was about 3 yards long and weighed 3 grams.  It will never knit up into anything that looks like anything.  Back to try again…

Attempt #2 looked a lot like the first attempt, very loose, lots of fluffy parts with no spin to it surrounded by over spun and almost breaking parts.  It was 6 1/2 yards long.  Again, not a lot of yarn – but it looked more yarn like.  Here are photos of the first two attempts:

The first of the purple yarn

Over the next few days, I keep working at it.  Among the lessons that I learned are:

  1. Pre-drafting the yarn is a good idea when you are learning
  2. When the yarn breaks, it is easy to fix
  3. At the start, it is easier to do the spinning and the drafting as separate motions
  4. This spinning thing is addictive

At the end of the week, I had 6 teeny-tiny little bits of no-longer fluff, but stuff!  Here is the proof:

Lined up all in a row, 1 through 6

This past weekend, I have been spinning like a fool.  I measured out my fluff (40 grams) and divided it into two equal halves.  I spun the first half, being very careful with the amount of fiber I was spinning to keep a fairly even product.  I wound the first 20 grams onto a spare knitting needle.  Then on to the second half of the fluff.  I repeated the process.  As I was spinning I realized that I am getting better at spinning and drafting at the same time, falling into a rhythm that escaped me a week ago.  This morning I wound the second 20 grams onto another knitting needle and began plying the two strands together.  I discovered that I had about 3 yards more out of the second spinning than the first, so I broke it and plied it at the end – no knotting – and have a nice little skein of yarn.  I am unbelievably proud of myself.  Here is Attempt #7, the final product for this blog series.

Purple Yarn!

It will not be the last fiber that I spin, but it is a starting point.  Which brings me back to the beginning.  Now I know that I want a spinning wheel in my living room.  A functional one.