Thursday, June 24, 2010

Making My Own Writing Class

I was at the bookstore shopping for a gift, but because I can't help myself, I also visited the writing advice book section. I've been hesitant to sign up for a writing class because I don't really have the time to get to one (unless my kids could come with me - ha!) and I don't want to spend the money. I've looked at a few online classes, but about a year and a half ago I took an online writing class and, frankly, it was a waste of my time and money. I had books at home that gave me the same information. What I had hoped the class would give me that a book could not was feedback about my writing. At best I got "This is fine." or "Good work." Not what I'd needed.

So there I am looking at writing books, thinking that a few of these will probably tell me what I need to know to move to the next level in my writing. A good friend at A Fortnight of Mustard told me about an online critique group she likes. So there's some feedback for me. Lastly, I've redoubled my efforts to write every day. I've let my journaling slide a little in this effort, but I feel okay about that. If I've had the kind of day where I can only squeeze in 20 min of writing time, I'd rather work on an article or a story that I'm excited about than a journal entry.

That's my plan. Read books. Join a writing critique group. Write more.

I guess time will tell if my plan will work in helping me become a better (and more confident) writer. I'd love to hear how other writers handle their own continuing education, or if you think there's something I should add to my plan.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

What the Silkmoths and I are up to. . .

A few dozen of the silkmoths are still wandering around their box, done laying eggs, wondering what to do with the rest of their lives. I can sympathize a little. Most have passed on, and around 15 cocoons still haven't hatched yet. Is hatched the right word? It feels like the right word, but it's not quite the same as an egg. The cocoon has hatched: the silkmoth has emerged. That's the terminology that sounds good to me.

Anyhow, of the cocoons that haven't hatched yet, 4 of them look like bad cocoons to me, and I'm suspicious that they may not ever do anything. By 'bad' I mean, they don't look like the other cocoons: they're shaped strange, or feel soft instead of hard, and then there's that one that is see through as it was never completed.

I'm not really sure how long to wait on these last cocoons before deciding that the moths will never emerge from them, but I suppose there's no downside to waiting it out a little longer. After a nice long wait, if there are still several unhatched cocoons, I may try the silk reeling method used when the cocoons are stifled (that's the nice way of saying the larva is killed.) Once I'm sure no moth will ever come out, I'll give that method a try, but not just yet. So many of the caterpillars started spinning late, I feel better giving them a little more time.

In my research about silkmoth lifespan, I found two estimates: 3 to 5 days, and up to a week. From our little group, I'd agree more with the second. From the time our first silkmoths began emerging from their cocoons, to the first dead moth I found, it was a week at the very least. I sort of expected them to not last more then a day or so after egg laying, but they've all hung around quite awhile. I'm not real happy with the box I'm housing them in. They've kinda beaten themselves up flapping around and trying to hook up into pairs. Wormspit.com recommends separating them into pairs, then isolating the pairs and that's what I'm going to do next year. Hopefully they'll not bang themselves up so much that way, and the eggs should be easier to clean up.

That's what the silkmoths are up to, as for me, I've started a new short story. I felt a little guilty about it since I still haven't worked much on my novel, but I got an idea that I was excited about. I'm doing way more writing on it than I was on my novel, so it's hard to argue with progress. I'm toying with the idea of taking a writing class, probably online, but trying to decide what type of class I'd like the best (and when I'm going to fit it into my schedule).

My sewing machine is sitting covered, and hasn't seen the light in months, although I have almost as many projects I want to sew as I have story ideas. Last month I thought that when summer came, I'd have all this free time to do my writing and sewing. Why isn't that working out?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

I'm Learning To Handspin Silk

I really goofed up.

Here I was, with a bunch of hatched silk cocoons. I'd found good instructions for cleaning and de-gumming the cocoons, and was excited to try spinning the silk. I treated the silk like wool, and carded it in preparation for spinning.

Don't do that.

It was clear to me right away as I was carding the silk that something wasn't right. When I spun, the results were lumpy, irregular and just not pretty. So I consulted my good friend Google (as I probably should have done in the first place.)

Wormspit.com came to my rescue again, with the best instructions I've found for preparing hatched silk moth cocoons for hand-spinning. Another nice resource when it comes to actually spinning the silk is this article on Knitty.

You can see in my photo, the yarn on the right was my first attempt to spin the silk, and to the left was my second try, after my research. Probably still not the best silk spinning ever, but a huge improvement, if I do say so myself!