Saturday, May 28, 2011

Climbing Mt. Agung

My whole trip to Bali was pretty damned awesome, but the highlight was the hike that myself and 3 of the others on the trip decided to make up Mt. Agung. Mt. Agung is a 10,000 ft. high volcano, and is the highest peak in Bali. It's not currently active - it last erupted in the 1960s - and there are a few standard hikes that people make to climb it, the main one starts at Besakih, which is the largest temple complex in Bali, and climbs up almost 7000 feet to the very, very peak. In case this wasn't difficult enough, the standard "thing" that people do is make the climb such that they can watch the sunrise from the very peak - which is to say, that one has to start the climb at around 2 am.

So. On 5/14 at midnight, the four of us set off for our climb! We had two drivers, and upon our arrival at around two we met up with our two guides, put on our head lamps, and started up the climb! We were promptly greeted by a priest, who warned us that it was a festival day and that we would be visited by divine retribution if we continued (literally. no exaggeration. It was kinda awesome.). We all agreed that if we had known it was a festival day, we'd not have gone, but having gotten there, we weren't going to stop (I later found out that there are festival days roughly once a week, so I didn't feel that bad).

Anyway, on the hike up there wasn't much to photograph even though it was truly spectacular. The sky was so, so clear, and we could see the webs of light all over the island south of us. I made some attempts at taking very long exposures of the night sky, and they were somewhat successful...

We could see the whole Milky Way. :) I also made a stab at getting a shot at the lights of the island.

Pretty blury, I know; the red light in the foreground was two members of our exploratory party. :) We were nearly to the very top when one of our numbers' phobia of heights prompted us to stop about 200 m shy of the tip top. In all, it took us about four hours to get to that point. So, we settled down to eat a little breakfast and watch the promised sunrise. It was still very dark, but we could finally make out the silhouette of the very peak.

We were well above the tree line by this point, hence why the phobia was triggered - but in truth, there was no disappointment, we were pretty satisfied with how awesome we were. :) As it got more light, we began to make out some of the details of what surrounded us. It was pretty mind blowing. And so we all took lots and lots of pictures of the volcanic landscape, the sunrise, the view, and...ourselves. :)

(terrible picture, I know, but it's what I've got...)

(this is about all that lived that high up)

(we could make out peaks that were on the island of least, that's what our guide told us they were...)

(I noticed this strange line across the sky and could not for the life of me figure out what it was, when one of the others said - a few minutes later - "look, it's the shadow of the volcano!")

(fairly typical view of what we were hiking through as we went back down)

For me, the hike down was considerably more difficult than the hike up had been. For the boys, it was the opposite. I theorize that this is the difference between mostly training cardio (me) and mostly doing muscle building (them) - the part that required more leg strength (down) was much easier for them. I feel a few times, twisted my knee, skinned my hand, and gave myself some very impressive bruises on my leg that I didn't see until later that day - but I was over all fine, just physically beat (it took me three days to recover!). But finally, finally, we were back to Besakih. It was about a 7 hour hike when all was said and done.

This was the point that we turned around, and saw where we had been.

Oh, and there were monkeys!!

I wish we could have actually gone in to the temple. But - festival.

All in all, it was pretty awesome. That little point sticking up right near the middle? Yeah, that's where we were.

One of the highlights of my life, the hardest physical thing I've ever done, and totally worth it in every way.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Finished Object Friday, 5/27/2011

Well, I can't quite fulfill my promise from Wednesday, in that despite putting in a fair amount of time on the third of my spinning projects, I haven't quite finished. My main goal with that spinning was to really try to get and maintain a thin yarn, and I succeeded fairly well, but I didn't reckon on just how long doing that would take! So I've got only about a third of it plied, and expect I'll have it done sometime tonight - but didn't want to wait to get this post up!

As it is, I have two skeins of homespun to share! :) Both are from fiber I bought at Maryland Sheep and Wool.

Blue Merino Blend
I got 8 ounces of this fiber cheap from the Yarn Barn. I tackled it first, and am pretty happy with how it turned out considering I'd never plied anything before.

It's a little uneven, but all in all while working on it I really felt I got the hang of spinning. I ended up with about 200 yards total, something approximating worsted weight.

Cathedral Handspun
I was still in the mood to do more, though, so I immediately launched in to my one major indulgence - the only fiber I got that was what I would consider expensive - the "Cathedral" colorway by Frabjous Fibers. This is Polwarth wool top, and it spun really nicely. I considered plying it with a different color, but couldn't figure out what, so I just went ahead and did two strands of it.

I've got about 100 yards of it, also about worsted weight, and somewhat more even than the other. I'm thinking about using it to make a hat. (I've got no idea what to use the other for.)

All in all, I'm loving spinning, and have been super in the mood for it. :) But this weekend, I'm going to try to get done my two major outstanding WIP, cause both are mostly finished, in preparation for the new Nerd Wars tournament starting on 6/1. :)

See everyone's fabulous work this Friday by visiting FO Friday on Tamis Ami and Crochet Blog and Fiber Arts Friday hosted by Wonder Why Gal!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Textiles in Bali

One of the things that Bali is famous for is their textiles. I'd say that before I went there, when I thought of Bali, I thought of fabrics and cloth, particularly batik. I was really looking forward to getting to see some these textiles, and thus it was with a great deal of pleasure that I acceded to my taxi drivers suggestion on my very first day there that we go to a shop that specialized in Batik. What I didn't expect was that there would be a chance for me to see some other aspects of threadcraft - specifically, weaving!

It started with this woman, who was in the process of making a spool out of some thread.

For the weaving, this is the main thread that they use:

This is a good idea of what the weaving looks like when it's done:

It was rather baffled - how did they get the pattern? I don't really know anything about weaving, but as far as I could tell they were only using one shuttle. My only current theory is that the thread is self striping in some way. Anyone know more about weaving have a few minutes to explain this mystery to me?

One of the other really neat things about these looms was that the shuttles bobbed back and forth automatically when the treadle was worked. At least, I thought it was neat... (I know so little about weaving that for all I can say this might be standard and normal! :) )

This didn't end up being my only opportunity to learn about weaving! Later in the trip, a group of us visited the Bali Museum in Denpasar. This museum had an entire room (out of only about four rooms) dedicated to weaving. It featured a traditional loom:

...and a traditional spinning wheel.

Then there was this doohicky. I have no idea what it did (though I think it might have been some form of gin, as in, a device for separating the seeds from cotton).

The results were really beautiful.

There's a lot of interesting things about these textiles. For example, the patterns are unique to local villages, so someone who is very knowledgeable about these things can figure out where any textile made on the island is from! While these lovely textiles are not every day wear anymore, I got to see a great deal of it because the guests at my friends wedding wore lots of awesome examples. Like, here's the bride and groom:

And the maid of honor and mother of the bride:

I really had to resist taking pictures of all the people at the wedding, just so I could ogle all of their lovely, lovely woven sarongs.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Work In Progress Wednesday: 5/25/2011

Long time, no WIP! I'm back from my vacation now, and back to crafting, but all I've been doing since I got back is spinning! I'm not going to bother sharing my specific current WIP, because I think it'll be done by Friday, when I'll have no less than three finished skeins to share, if all goes as planned!

How did this come about? Well, partially it's a failure of willpower - I've got crochet projects I really should be working on, but I just haven't quite mustered the...whatever. Indeed, they are sitting on a pile on my coffee table:

It's a clear idea of the state of things to say that not much has changed since I took this picture two weeks ago (though the blue fiber has been moved, and the gray has been removed from my knitty noddy.

The blue fiber, in fact, was what I was working on. Right after returning from Maryland Sheep and Wool, I borrowed one of Jenny's spinning wheels. She had recently bought herself two brand new ones, which put her up to four, and she had one she was thinking about selling. It's now the one that I'm thinking about buying.

I've been really, really enjoying using it. On my first attempt at using it, I really stunk. Badly enough that I seem to avoided taking any actual pictures of it. But on only my second try, with the blue fiber, it suddenly clicked, and I really got the hang of it quick.

So now I'm working on practicing getting my fiber nice and thin so that I can aim for a sport weight when I ply it. I'll have the finished blue, plus another skein for sure and a third skein hopefully to share on Friday! And after that, I've set aside time over the weekend to catch up on the rest. :)

Take a peak at all the other WIP over on Tami's Amis and Other Crochet Blog.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

100 Posts of Curiously Crafted Creations

I'm back from my trip! I had a wonderful time, though my plan of posting about it while I was there fell through because, well...every trip, you forget something. It's generally not anything imperative, and if it were, you can generally replace it. I usually forget my pajamas. Not this trip. This trip, I forgot a two-to-three prong adapter - an essential item for me to be able to re-charge my laptop. Thus, computer usage was limited to one full battery for the whole trip, not counting my time on the airplane (which had chargers at each seat - how cool is that??)

More about the trip in future posts. That's not today. Today, I celebrate a major milestone. This is the 100th post in this blog! I've debated a lot about what to write here, and I find I still don't have a damn clue what I really want to say in this post. But that's never stopped me from opening my mouth before...

I technically started this blog in early September over on the Hive, but within a couple of days, I decided to port it over to a blogger blog instead. At the time, I'd previously made two attempts at keeping topical blogs - one in 2007, about the Wheel of Time series of books, and the second earlier in 2010, about the New York Mets. Both had died quick, quiet deaths. My other blog, a personal blog on LJ, had seen periods of heavy and light use, but for the past couple years I'd been lucky to manage one post a month. As such, I felt that my potential for sustaining a blog long term were pretty damn poor. I even started the very first blog post of this brand new blog with a semi-defensive apology about my chances of succeeding at this task.

My thinking has changed so much since then that it's rather fascinating. Then, I was not looking at the craft business with much optimism. I enjoyed it, and I had a few patterns out there and a few friends who bought my photography cards occasionally, but anything termed "success" seemed like a pipe-dream, and I had only vague ideas how to build a following for a FB page, a blog, or my work. I had joined Ravelry only a week before, and had just joined the Hive, too, and it was starting to look like increasing my social networking potential might be a good way to proceed if I was serious about this. But I can't say I had much idea what I had in mind, only that this seemed like another way to really try to grow my tiny craft business.

Since then, my idea of what I want and what I'm doing has really solidified. I want to make this in to a profitable business. That is far from saying that I want to make this in to a business that is my livelihood. Instead, I just want to make a steady, consistent amount more than what I spend on it. I want to keep building a web presence. I want to be one of the small fish in the amigurumi ocean, someone who people might even think of, and have some idea what my work looks like, even if they have never considered buying from me. I want to keep making new online (and, I hope eventually, real life) friends, and continue to build this feeling that I am a part of a community of awesome, interesting, talented people that I can aspire to be like.

This blog has turned out to be a major part of these efforts. I'd say, before I tried to do this, that I thought that running a craft business was mostly about crafts. I thought that if I could make a nice enough product fast enough for little enough money, success would follow. I knew there was more to it than that, but I had only a vague idea what that more was. Now I understand that balancing this online interaction is almost as important, and I find that I really enjoy keeping this blog. I think about what I can do future posts about, not just about what I'm currently working on or have finished, but about other things that I think will be useful. I actually keep a private, unposted post with ideas for future posts (hence, google is telling me that this post is actually my 101). It's changed my thinking in other regards, too - while I was on my recent trip to Bali, I encountered a few unusual and interesting craft-related things, that perhaps 6 months ago would have been only of passing curiosity to me, but now, knowing that I keep this blog, I spent more time with these things because I knew that a post about these things would be interesting (and it will be my very next post, in fact!)

It's more than that, though. Keeping a blog helps me craft more and craft better. I so look forward to sharing my work with others, and receiving feedback (negative or positive!) I love taking inspiration from the work that these friends have done, too. Sure, it takes time away from doing the actual work, but I feel that the support that I receive makes up for that.

As to the future for this blog, well, it's more of the same. Continuing to discuss the crafts and photography that I'm doing. Continuing to try to get up the occasional educational posts (they take a lot more time and energy, so when I get busy I stop doing them, but they're in the works...). Continuing to share progress and set-backs and newly released patterns. Continuing, in a general sense, to consider how I can use a blog to help support my business. And I'm looking forward to it!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Maryland Sheep and Wool!

Over the weekend, I went to Maryland Sheep and Wool on Saturday and Sunday with two friends (but I left having made some new ones!). All in all, it was pretty awesome! I mostly went with a purpose in mind, to buy myself a spindle, a knitty noddy, and a bunch of fiber. Mission accomplished! And while doing that, we shopped a whole bunch, talked a lot about fiber and spinning and knitting and crocheting and weaving, met new friends, ate some delicious food, and looked at a whooooole lot of sheep (and a goat, and a couple alpaca).

Maryland Sheep and Wool was held at the Howard County Fairgrounds, and as such it looked a lot like you'd expect a county fairgrounds to look. I was rather shocked by just how many vendors of different sorts were there! But in the end, the cutest thing to photograph was the sheep. :)

The friends was there with also appreciated the sheep.

Most of the sheep didn't really want the visitors to touch them, but this one was quite happy to have me stand there and pet his chin like I would a cat or a dog.

Of course, there were other animals, too. Like alpaca, goats, and dogs...

A lot of the sheep were getting sheared...most didn't seem to like it much...

There were tons, and tons of people there, especially on Saturday.

So what did I get? A lot of spinning stuff! My main goal was to leave with my own spindle and a knitty noddy. I was able to get both! The knitty noddy was the cheapest I could find of the size I wanted. For the other, I tried a bunch of different spindles before settling on one made by Kate of Kate's Cauldron.

I chose this one for a variety of reasons, mostly because of it's weight and because of it's neat spiral design, which has meant that I haven't dropped it once in all that alpaca I've been spinning that's on there now. :)

I chose one that has a Z spiral on one end and an S spiral on the other, so I can use it to spin in whichever direction I want! I'm really happy with it, and so pleased that after looking at so many gorgeous spindles, so many of which were really expensive, I was able to find the one I liked best and it didn't need fancy embellishments or expensive wood, and therefore was very reasonably priced ($30!)

The rest of my budget (which, amazingly, I didn't exceed or even end up meeting!) was spent on FIBER! This is most of it:

Most of these are pretty plain; I'm planning to mix the blue and the green in to something. The braid of roving in the middle was my "big" indulgence, it was full price and high-quality and I love the colors.

In addition, I also went hunting high and low for a colorway that reminded me of Supernatural, so that I can spin it and make something out of it for Nerd Wars.

I'm actually considering having it be a "Dissertation" - a three-month project instead of a 1 month project - because I'm going to have to card in the glitz and then spin it and then make something out of it.

I'm already looking forward to it!

All in all, I had a great time! I'm so glad that I decided to go, and now I have spindle to bring with me when I leave tomorrow. I bet I can get a TON of spinning done on the plane and on the beach (as long as I don't get sand in my yarn!).

In completely unrelated news, my team ended up winning Nerd Wars! I was shocked and very excited! To top it off, one of my submissions (the Arctic Fox I made in April) to one of the challenges ended up winning the challenge, and is now in the running to win the category as a whole (it's complicated, and not worth explaining just now, but if you're interested, I'll explain in a comment. ;) ) I'm pretty damn happy about it, and getting pretty excited for the next round, too!