Aug 23

Because of my interests and disinterests, I have always been the odd-man out where ever I’ve worked. Even with my own family, there is little in common between me and the rest of the group.

For starters, I’m not a television watcher, I like math, science, mysteries, creating things with my hands, reading, writing stories, reading, writing in my journal, reading, teaching others what I know how to do, and, did I mention, reading? I love biographies, diaries and journals written by people, be they historically famous or just normal, everyday people; I love mystery novels; I love stories set in the past (pre-1950); I love how-to books on subjects I’m passionate about; I love books about normal people doing normal things.

The fact that I also love spinning my own yarn, dyeing it with natural dyes, weaving and knitting it into something both beautiful and functional and designing my own patterns has lots of people looking askance at me. I was a novelty to be humored, but nothing more. Somewhat interesting, but definitely odd.

Since I don’t watch television, read romance novels, see “chick flicks”, follow sports, or have children, there has been very little for me to talk about when I’m with most groups of people. I either stayed quiet and become bored, or I piped up with something, got that deer-in-the-headlights look from people, who ignored what I just said and continued on their way.

Two years ago, I joined SWIFT (SWIFT stands for Spinners and Weavers of Indiana – Fiber and Textiles), and, lo and behold, there was a group of people, mostly ladies but a few men belong, too, who were like me. I participated in a spinning retreat a year ago last February and found myself surrounded by Mathematics professions, physicists, organic farmers, nurses, and the like, but all of us were passionate about the same things. Keeping fiber related knowledge alive, creating beautiful but functional items, the environment, caring less about television shows than our libraries, and sharing with one another. For the first time in my life, I totally fit in with those around me. It was the neatest experience I have ever had. These people were as nerdy as I am and not ashamed of their nerdiness. In fact, they embraced it and made it really cool!

Until then, I never knew how important it was to find people like yourself to associate with. I’ve never been know for lacking in the self-esteem department, but most of that was a reaction against those around me rather than being accepted. I finally have a group of friends and peers whom I actually look forward to spending time with, rather than begrudging the time as wasted when I could have been doing something interesting.

So, my advice to those out there who don’t feel like you fit in with the people you are surrounded by? Go outside this group to someplace you have interests in and search out those who are like you. If you are afraid of looking nerdy or uncool, remember, it is only with the ones who are different from yourself that you look like a nerd. Join the groups who are like you and suddenly you are no longer viewed as a nerd by your peers. You’ll be just as cool as they are.

Aug 16

I am a very creative person, which goes with my being a Leo very well. I have quite a bit of supplies to spin, weave, knit, naturally dye yarn, fiber and fabric and to do silk dyeing for scarves and fabric. What I lack is the time to do so.

Because I hold down a full-time job, co-write, editor and letter the comic book, Johnny Saturn, am active in the Indianapolis Knitting Guild as Co-Vice-President, and in SWIFT (Spinners and Weavers of Indiana – Fiber and Textiles) as the newsletter editor (more like a small, ash-can sized magazine since it is usually over 40 pages in length), try to fight a loosing battle with my housework and laundry chores, and be a loving wife, there is very little time left over to do what I love doing most. Getting to spin while I was at the comic book convention last weekend was nice, but it wasn’t enough. At this rate, it’ll be another 3 years before I can wear that jacket for which I am spinning this particular fiber.

I’ve tried making up a schedule in order to get everything done and leave Sundays free to play, but something always comes up that messes it up almost as soon as I print it off. I don’t watch television, have cut WAY back on my reading (usually about 15 minutes before falling to sleep at night is all I get anymore), and don’t have children to take up my time.

Life, though, has a way of butting in to what I consider to my play time. Since life is so short, and there are so many things I want to accomplish in my lifetime, how can I manage my time, and life’s little surprises, so that I can be creative? I already pay someone to mow my yard and I can’t afford to pay anyone to do the rest of my chores.

My problem is that I’m so tired when I get home from work, that I have a problem getting motivated to do housework and such, and it all waits for the weekend. Then things come up on the weekend and I can either clean the house, have clean clothes to wear and food to eat, or play. Most of the time playing loses out, and the cycle repeats itself the next week. Heck, I can barely find time to work out, and have to get up half an hour early in order to get that into my schedule.

So, how can I get all the things that need to be done AND find time to play? Any suggestions? How does one keep to a schedule when the world around one is pulling in 40 different directions all at the same time?

Aug 14
The Clash of Two Worlds
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This has been an interesting weekend. For starters, it was the weekend for the Wizard World Comic Book Convention at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont (Chicago), Illinois. By an odd coincidence, it was also the weekend for the Stitches Midwest 2007 Knitter’s Convention at the same convention center, just one floor above the comic book convention.

As a person who has her feet firmly planted in both worlds, I had the unique opportunity to see how each world reacted to the other.

The first thing I hear from my fellow comic book producers is, “There’s a convention for knitters?” Then I go up to the Stitches Marketplace to do a little shopping. When they see my name tag showing I’m from downstairs, I am asked, “What is ‘Wizard World’?” When I tell them it is a comic book convention, I hear, “There is a convention for comic books?” I must admit I found this very amusing. Folks, there is a convention for just about anything of which you can think—any subject, any hobby, and any profession.

Now you have approximately 3,000-4,000 knitters trying to intermingle with about 50,000 comic book fans, and you have an odd cocktail of raised eyebrows (on both sides, mind you), the industry uniforms (comic book characters on T-shirts and women wearing hand-knitted wool items in August), and very different jargon from each group.

On top of that, at the Embassy Suites, where Scott and I were staying, there was an interior decorators’ convention going on with very well-dressed women all in their own plane of existence. One of my comic book friends who was also staying at the Embassy Suites said he thought it was fun trying to figure out which group different people belonged to – “Knitter, decorator, geek, geek, knitter, decorator…” How funny!

Then you add the fact that there is a HUGE segment of comic book fans in costume. There are Star Wars’ storm troopers, scantily clad slave-girl Princess Leia, Spiderman, Batman, Superman, Thor (complete with fake muscles), Captain Jack Sparrow, crew members from Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek, Darth Vader, several Jedi Warriors, Catwoman, Supergirl, various members of the X-men, etc. And these were just the adults!

Saturday night, upon entering the hotel lobby, I was hailed by several of my fiber friends, one of which gave me a big hug, then held me at arm’s length and said, “There are some weird people here!” I had to laugh. After being at this particular convention every year for the past 12 years, I’m used to them. And if she thought this crowd was weird, she should have been there a few years ago with the Goth crowd all dressed in black and sporting multiple body piercings and funky colored and styled hair. The crowd this year was very tame compared to some I’ve seen.

For all their differences between these two groups of people, there were quite a few similarities, as well. The main thing they had in common was their creativity, their imagination and the passion in which they practice their art. Knitters can talk all they want about the aspects of different fibers, different knitting styles, different patterns, needles, tools and styles. Comic book creators and fans talk about the different paper, pens, pencils, computer programs they use, which is better Marvel, DC, Image or independent comic companies, and the different styles and techniques of drawing, writing and coloring. Same thing, just different subject matter.

Of course, I sat at our booth with my spinning wheel and managed to spin a bobbin and a half of a very nice, fine merino wool. From the comic book fans, I was asked if I had been upstairs, yet (I assured them I had). I met people (men and women alike) who either knitted or spun (mostly on drop spindles). Also, I ran into some comic book fans at the Stitches marketplace. So there was a bit of overlap between these two worlds, but it was a thin overlap. One man told me the only way he could get his wife to come with him that day was to drop her off at the Stitches marketplace while he attended Wizard World.

Needless to say, I enjoyed this weekend tremendously. Not only did our comic book sell very well (a record-breaking weekend), but I bought some beautiful 50% alpaca-50% wool yarn for my knitting pleasure this winter. And we attended the huge dinosaur exhibit at the Field Museum on the way home, which was well worth the time and money.

Aug 8
Ready, Set, SPIN!
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Well, tomorrow begins the 2007 Wizard World Chicago Comicon and I have my spinning wheel (a Lendrum folding wheel) all packed and ready to go. I have three empty bobbins and one about half full. I will be spinning some Ashland Bay merino called Sandlewood, but, at least what I’ve spun so far, it looks like sandstone. The colors have blended beautifully. I have 1 pound of an earlier dye lot and another pound of a more recent dye lot. I plan to spin them separately, then ply them together to make the 2-ply weaving yarn consistant in color. By the way, I’m spinning this as a very smooth, fine worsted yarn.
When we were in Novi, Michigan, in May for the Motor City Comic Book Convention, I thought it would be neat if someone famous would stop by and comment on the spinning wheel. Well, it proves that some thoughts can become reality, because Sergio Aragones of Mad Magazine fame stopped by and went nuts over the fiber I was spinning. He touched it, played with the bobbin full of yarn, even smelled it. It turns out that he’s a knitter and is learning how to knit socks, which is one of my favorite things to knit. He and I agree that it’s not the turning of the heel that is hard, but the picking up along the heel flap for the gusset that can be tricky. He told me that he has knitted for his wife a lace shawl and that he sits with his friends every morning for coffee and not once has any of them commented on his knitting. We talked fiber for about an hour. Not one word about comics were mentioned, while Scott sitting beside me nearly had a fan boy hissy fit with one of his heroes sitting there not paying any attention to him.
So, I wonder if I’ll get to meet anyone in Chicago because of my spinning wheel. Just someone discovering something new and getting a break from the world of comic books, TV and movies for a while… I’m happy to give them something different to think about for a while.
By the way, if any of you are in Chicago this weekend, stop by! I’d love to meet you.
Benita

Aug 4
A New Beginning for Benita
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Well, today I finally entered the 21st Century and joined Myspace. I have had a website of sorts for about a year, now, but it is tied in with the Johnny Saturn stuff and Scott’s art, so I thought it was time to branch out on my own.

One of the reasons I am here is to meet other fiber enthusiasts, including spinners, weavers, knitters, textile designers, natural dyers, and natural fiber fans. I not only love doing these activities, I love studying them and teaching. I’ve taught natural dyeing for a few years now, and I love to watch students’ faces when they pull their yarn out of the pot for the first time.

Another thing I love to do is to take my spinning wheel to places where people don’t expect to see a spinning wheel. For instance, a comic book convention. I enjoy sitting behind the table and seeing the double takes from people when they see what I am doing. Because of this, many people have been exposed to something they otherwise would never get to see in real life. This is good, and it expands their horizons. And I’ve met other fiber people there and made new friends.

Each year, I host a dye day event. This is free to the public and last year I had over 18 dye pots – all natural colors. It was so much fun watching people hanging their dyed yarns from the branches of trees and seeing all the color.

Color. That’s my main focus. I love it, but especially the colors you can get from nature. I love the magic of indigo, the richness of cochineal and the earthiness of the weeds and flowers found in the fields and woods around my house. I love studying color wheels (the Ives color wheel is my favorite), color theory and how colors mix to create other colors. It’s not like mixing paint colors like Scott does, but more of a layering effect that can bring depth to the color like nothing else can. I also enjoy playing with pH values and seeing the shifts of colors from one end of the spectrum to the other. I may even love the experimentation aspect of natural dyeing more than doing anything with what I’ve dyed.

That being said, I love working with the yarns I have dyed. Mostly I have knitted with them, but want to weave with them as well, and am currently spinning some gorgeous white Targhee wool to dye and weave into cloth for a jacket with matching vest. Obviously, I have no problem cutting into my woven fabrics, and rarely weave scarves or things to be left whole. I began as a clothing maker, so my weaving is usually aimed toward that end.

I think this gives you some idea of where I am coming from and where I’d like to go. I’d love to hear from others about their experiments in the fiber world. I want to share with others what I am doing and how I am doing it. More than anything, I want to learn more about the subjects that interest me.

Benita