Fiber Festivals

Let’s talk about Fiber Festivals.

I thought we needed a bit of a lighter subject after the last topic (nothing like criticizing the homophobia of blood banks to make people wary of what the next post might be!). Fortunately, I went to a Fiber Festival this weekend, and thought it’d be a great focus for a blog post!

For those unfamiliar with Fiber Festivals, let me tell you a little bit about the magic.

You put a few dozen fiber arts vendors in a given area (this could be a barn/series of barns, a convention center, or even a field), then let loose the fiber fanatics. The whole thing is full of people that love yarn and other fiber. They’re all people who are passionate about their craft, whether it’s knitting, dyeing, crocheting, felting, or anything else you can do with yarn!

The community that surrounds the fiber arts is something really incredible, and fiber festivals are one of the best places to see that community in action.

I’ve been going to Fiber Festivals for several years now, but my very first was the Ann Arbor Fiber Expo. At the time I was still mostly using the craft store variety of yarn (which I will not touch with a 10-foot pole these days), and the Fiber Expo was an absolute revelation to me. I was astounded by the colors, the textures, the variety of yarn, the friendliness of the vendors.

I was also experiencing sticker shock at the prices.

For those who don’t know, $20-30 for a skein of good yarn (e.g. merino wool) is pretty average, but it is a bit of a shock when you’re accustomed to no more than $10 skeins at the big craft stores.

The sheer amount of choice at most fiber festivals is also intimidating. What the difference between Merino and Corriedale wool? (Basically it’s the length and curliness [called crimp] of the fiber, which greatly affects a number of factors when used for crafting. I’ll probably write another blog post on this someday, because it’s fascinating!) Is the alpaca worth the price? (Absolutely, but you have to be careful what project you use it in.) What will Yak wool feel like when you knit it up? (I have no idea, but I intend to find out one day!)

Because I was so intimidated, I only occasionally bought from independent sellers after my first foray into fiber festivals until my best friend, Taylor, decided to start her own yarn business.

Taylor is an indie dyer. I won’t get too much into the process of dyeing (maybe in another post?), but I have learned so much from her since she started doing it. Not only about dyeing, but about yarn and knitting in general. I’ve also found that my own interest has increased, resulting in my doing more research and broadening my horizons with my knitting projects.

But, I digress.

The festival this weekend was so much fun. It was the Wine and Wool Festival, at Sandhill Crane Vineyards in Michigan. Everyone there was enjoying not just the wool, but the wine and the amazing food offered by the vineyard.

I sat with Taylor at her vendor station for the whole thing. Meeting all the knitters who come up to take a look at her yarn is such a joy. Everyone is in their unique knitwear, and all you have to do is compliment the pattern or the color to see their eyes light up with delight and pride. Some people simply respond with a shy thank you, and others will tell you the whole story of the piece, from the fiber content to the quirks of the pattern.

I have to admit, despite my absolute and total adoration of yarn festivals, when it came time to pack away all the gorgeous yarns and tear down the displays, I was a little relieved. Knitters are wonderful, fun people, but put that many of us together and the noise and commotion of it all can be rather draining, especially for us introverts. But after the festival is one of the best parts, because you get to cuddle up at home with a couple skeins of brand new yarn!

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Giving Blood

Yesterday, I gave blood for the very first time.

Even though I did very little besides lie back on a table and play on my phone while the nurse did all the work, I was rather proud of myself. Giving blood is such an easy thing, but there’s nothing quite like literally giving up some of your lifeblood to make you feel like you’ve done something incredible. Not to mention, I got some free Cheez-its and fruit snacks out of the deal.

I’m lucky enough that, because the place I work was hosting the blood drive, I was able to spend an hour and a half of my work day giving blood. Anything that gets me away from my cubicle and keeps me from having to stare at a computer screen is a blessing in it’s own right, so really, I should be thanking the Red Cross for allowing me to give my blood.

If you’ve never given blood, here’s how it works.

After checking in with a worker, you first sit and wait for a while to see a nurse. They have a long packet for you to read with guidelines about giving blood, including restrictions on who isn’t allowed to give (more on this later).

Once a nurse is available, he or she takes you behind a barrier to ask you some personal questions and prick your finger to make sure that your iron levels are high enough. Next you answer a long questionnaire with even more personal questions, including travel history and who you’ve had sex with. (Yes, you read that right, they need to know your sex history)

If you finally get cleared to give blood, they take you into another room, lay you back on a table, and start hooking you up. First they find where your vein is and mark it with some marker (don’t be surprised if this doesn’t rub off for several days, and remember, it’s not a bruise!). Next is the iodine, then the needle prick.

The hardest part of all of this, for me, was the flexing. They give you a ball to squeeze to keep the blood flowing – squeeze for a count of four, release for a count of four. This is problematic for me for two reasons. First, I’m terrible with counting rhythmically. I can guarantee that not a single set of four-counts was the same. Second, I’m absolutely useless with my left hand. By the time I’d squeezed that damn ball four or five times, my hand was tired and I only very grudgingly continued to flex my muscles. Ambidextrous I am not.

The one thing that I found unsettling about giving blood, though, was something that didn’t affect me in the least.

When donating blood in the US, you are not allowed to give if you are a gay man.

Now, I need you to read that last sentence once more. Read it again five more times. Read it until the absolute absurdity of it sinks in. Read it until you are utterly outraged.

There are SO MANY things wrong with this law, this requirement that prevents any man who has had sex with another man (or a woman who has had sex with a man who has had sex with another man) in the last twelve months from giving blood, but here are what I think are the top two:

You cannot on one hand constantly be saying that there is a critical need for blood, while denying an entire portion of the population the right to give their blood. Gay and bisexual men make up at least 5-10% of the population. That is 5-10% fewer “critical” blood donations that you are receiving.

Furthermore, by not allowing gay men to donate, you are implying that there is something wrong with their blood. You suggest that their blood is unclean, dirty, unfit for use. And that implication extends to the people themselves. You cannot say, “We don’t want your blood because you’re gay,” and not also be saying “We don’t want you to be gay.” And that’s not ok.

New Year

Happy New Year!

What? It’s the 16th, you say, the New Year started ages ago?

Well, I started off the New Year with the flu. When January 1st rolled around, I was bleary eyed and exhausted, with a box of tissues in one hand and a bag of cough drops in the other. So I decided that I would wait until I got better, THEN I would start my New Year properly.

And by starting my New Year properly, I mean starting it off with a bang. This weekend, I finally moved in with my boyfriend, making official an arrangement that we’d been practically living with already. Besides a stop at my home once or twice a week to do laundry and have a proper bath (I shudder to call the bathtub in my new situation by the name, it barely qualifies), I was pretty much living with my beau already. Now all my clothes simply live with me.

Another big event this weekend – we adopted a cat! Molly was a stray that a friend of my boyfriend’s found a couple weeks ago. She couldn’t keep poor Molly, and Michael (that’s my boyfriend. It’ll be so much easier if I can just call him by name. Hope you remember!) and I had planned to start looking for a cat to adopt once we moved in together. It seemed too precipitous that we’d hear about a cat that needed adopting right when we planned on doing so, so we drove two hours to pick her up on Saturday and brought her home.

Molly1

Miss Molly is one of the sweetest cats I have ever met. She’s affectionate and cuddly, and very, very chatty. She will talk to you constantly when you walk in her room, but she has the most pathetic little meow, which sometimes comes out as no sound at all! She has a vet appointment on Friday, and after that we’ll start slowly introducing her to our dog, Fen (short for Fenchurch. If you don’t know the reference, you need to read the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series).

So all this talk of starting the New Year late, and updating you on my life, what does it all mean? Well it means that I’m going to try this blogging thing again. In November, I joined in with thousands of other people writing 50,000 words in a month for NaNoWriMo, and I remembered again why I loved writing when I was a kid. While I fully intend to keep writing my novel(s?) as well, I think that the important part for me right now is to simply get words to paper. Or keystrokes to blog, in this case.

What I’m trying to say is, you can definitely expect more from me in the coming weeks.

Happy New Year!