Derby Skates Makeover

I’ve been with my current derby team for over a year, but my skates still reflect the colors of my previous team. It was time for a change. So I went to MacPherson Leather Company, down in Seattle, and after consulting with the guy behind the counter, purchased some leather paint.

I was initially worried the paint would flake off, but the salesman assured me that the paint was super flexible after drying and took me over to a belt sample that he proceeded to wring like a towel you’re trying to clear of water. The paint held. Time will tell if the paint can stand up to the rigors of derby.

I bought the following:

  • Lincoln No. 10 Black suede dye and dressing. You need special dye to handle suede without clumping.
  • Angelus acrylic leather paint, in Light Green. This is the super flexible paint that won’t flake.
  • Angelus No. 600 Acrylic finisher. This is to protect the leather after painting it. The number determines the gloss of the finish. No. 600 is a satin finish.

This is the before picture of my skates. A nice pair of Antiks in my old team’s colors: blue and orange.


My new team’s colors are green and black. The first step was to color the blue suede with the black suede dressing.


I decided to leave the orange accents because: they are pretty; will pop against the green; and to honor the Sockit Wenches. They took a chance on me, and though it didn’t work out long-term, they still have a special place in my heart.


Next I used acetone (aka. fingernail polish remover) to remove the gloss finish from the smooth leather parts of the boot that I wanted to paint green. This step is necessary to make sure the paint adheres well to the leather. This gave the leather a bit of a chalky haze.

Then I used a brush to paint a thin layer of the leather paint. The green over black came out darker than I wanted, so I waited for the boot to dry and then painted another thin layer, this time brushing in the opposite direction than I’d used the first time. I switched direction in an attempt to obscure the brush strokes.

After the third layer of paint, the color was the bright green I wanted, so I let the skates dry overnight (waiting was hard!) and then brushed on a layer of the acrylic finisher to protect the paint.

Ta-daa! The finished skates, now in Tacokicker green and black.


Doing the painting in many thin layers gave a nice even look to the color, and I’d recommend that to anyone trying a similar project. Crossing the brush strokes with each layer helped, but if you get about a foot away from the boot, you can still see some brush strokes. (Though if we’re playing derby and your head is a foot or less away from my skate, brush strokes are probably the last thing on your mind…)

If anyone knows a way to paint acrylic paint onto leather without brush strokes, please drop me a comment and let me know how. I’d like to do more leather painting, preferably without brush strokes.

After this initial experiment, I’m of a mind to get some leather shoes from the thrift shop and steampunk-i-fy them with bronze and copper paint, rivets, and gears.


Two weeks ago I gave notice. Today was my last day working at Amazon. It was also my third year anniversary of when I joined the company. It was time. It’s a hit financially, but a necessary one; I need a break from the long hours and the stress that goes along with any IT job. My health and my psyche was beginning to suffer. And I think my family will benefit from having me at home, to help Kai with school, to make healthy meals and do all the business of taking care of the house and the people who live in it. It’s a luxury to be able to quit, and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to try it and see how things go. In six months, we’ll reassess and see if this is working, or whether I need to find another job. But that’s six months to get my health back in line, to feed my family tasty home-cooked meals, and to spend summer vacation with Kai.

Today I drove into Seattle and dropped off my computer and my card key. It was an odd feeling walking out of the building, of knowing I no longer belong there. Lighter, but a bit scary, too.

I’m not sure what comes next. I have some plans about getting the house in order, and taking better care of my body. I’m trying to be okay with ambiguity, and not fall into my usual trap of filling up every spare moment trying to be productive. I’ve forgotten how to relax. It’s time to relearn how to face a weekend with nothing at all planned.

In the meantime, I’ve been spinning. This is 4 ounces of Blue Faced Leicester (BFL) wool that was dyed by Frabjous Fibers in the color #121 Hespera.


Like me, I have no idea what it’s going to be, but I feel it has potential.

Pocket Wheel

I had to work through the weekend, but made time to swing down to the Madrona Winter Retreat to pick up my pocket wheel. My birthday present this year.


Made on Whidbey Island, by a lovely husband and wife team, this little wheel is a marvel of engineering. It’s small and light, and the spinning ratios are analog, not digital. You change ratios by sliding a connector in and out along a rod instead of changing out gears. The bearings are sealed, so there’s no oiling and it spins smoothly with very little noise.

I had to get on a year-long waiting list, but it was worth the time it took. I got to travel to Jon’s woodworking shop and pick out the woods and veneers that spoke to me, so I ended up with a custom wheel that was exactly tailored to my likes. I ended up picking koa wood and an anodized copper veneer that reminds me of an ocean map. It’s my island-themed wheel.

When I picked it up this weekend, it was luuurve at first sight. It’s so rare to be able to get something custom made in this day and age, and so delightful to do business with friendly people like Jon and Carla.


I could barely wait to spin on it. I went out to the rotunda and hung out for a brief while with friends old and new. I’d made arrangements to visit with my friends Selah and Laura, and we had a grand time chatting until my parking ran out and I had to run away back home to work.


Since I’ve brought this little treasure home, I’ve been spinning every day. If you’re a spinner, you know how peaceful and meditative this can be.

My love of spinning is reawakening in me, and I welcome it back.

CNCH 2012 Goodness

Needle ThreaderThis past weekend I traveled down to Oakland to teach at the Conference of Northern California Handweavers. It was a fun time. I hadn’t been immersed in the fiber world in a while and it was good to be back.

I was there to teach two classes, “Beginning Rigid Heddle Weaving” and “e-Textiles”.

It’s always a blast teaching beginning weaving, because there’s this “ah-ha!” moment that happens when people get how weaving works, and as one student put it, “I can’t believe I finished an entire scarf in a whole day!”  (I’m guessing she was a knitter.) There were a few hiccups during the class, like the moment I realized we didn’t have warping pegs for everyone–we got creative and threw chairs on top of tables–I wish I’d taken a picture of that. There were a few cantankerous looms, but we got them sorted.

I skipped what I heard was a great Saturday night presentation to finish prepping for the eTextile class the next day.  Work and life had been extra busy leading up to the conference, so there were things I needed to get done.  Darn my work ethic!  I would have like to see Peggy Osterkamp talk, she’s one of my fiber gurus; I’ve learned a tremendous amount from her books and had the honor of meeting her person, too.

The eTextile class the next day was a guilty pleasure for me.  It’s hard to get 12 people together in a room who like blinky-glowy things as much as I do, so it always tickles me when I teach an eTextile class and get to spend a whole day with such folks. Class went well, the extra prep time I put in meant more Arduino Lilypad samples and demos than I’d had in previous classes.  The students whipped through the sampler, got into programming in a big way, and we had extra time at the end to go into a tour of some of the great eTextile projects and websites.

I had so much fun, that I’m currently putting together a September weekend workshop in which students will learn eTextiles basics and then go on to modify a garment to create a work of wearable electronic art.  If you’re interested in this or future eTextile workshops, you can sign up to receive eTextile workshop information.

Another highlight of the conference was getting to spend time with the other instructors. My roommate was the lovely and effervescent Jacey Boggs. As you know if you’ve taken a class from her or watched her video, she’s fun and lively.  She’s also very, very smart.  I see her working as force for good in the fiber world for a long time to come. I wish I hadn’t had to be so heads-down prepping for the eTextiles class, there were so many interesting things we could have talked about.

I was good in the vendor hall. Falling down only a couple of times in front of the Just Our Yarn booth (Hand-painted 140/2 silk!) and Lunatic Fringe (Silk tram!  On vintage bakelite bobbins!). I steeled myself against the many charms of the Gilmore booth’s  Mini Wave loom. It’s so cute!  And I actually do have a legitimate need to weave shoelaces that are 110 inches or longer now. But it wouldn’t have fit in my suitcase (I took a card, one may yet follow me home.)

Meals with other instructors is one of the great things about teaching at conferences.  There’s so much to share, and other teachers are so inspiring. This conference I got to meet Sara Lamb and Stephanie Gaustad for the first time, and chat a bit with Judith MacKenzie and John Mullarkey.  On the way back from the conference I flew out with basketry teacher Judy Zugish, who was a delightful companion as we waited in the airport.

My only regret about CNCH is that I wish I’d taken more pictures.  I tend to get so focused on making sure the classes run well and students have a good time, that I forget to take pictures.  The only took two: a clever hand-made needle threader a student brought to the eTextile class (I am so going to make myself some of these for class) and Jacey Boggs’ spinning wheel after I signed it (there’s a longer story that’s hers to tell, but the gist is she’s having students sign her wheel and as a past student I qualified–I’m in green, about 7 o’clock.)

Signing Jacey's Wheel

Surprise Birthday Flash Mob

This Sunday, an unusual thing happened. My friend Marilyn stopped by with a parcel. That wasn’t too unexpected, so I invited her in for a cup of tea. I was giving her a tour of my house (aka: the house I went back to work to afford), when I noticed my friend Astrid outside, holding another parcel. I started to get suspicious. And then Selah and baby Morgan showed up. Then Laura and Joe, and Judith.  Yep.  That’s right.  It was a surprise birthday flash mob.

Surprise Party Flash Mob


Selah, the ring leader, in cahoots with my husband, had set the whole thing up. I was completely snookered.  In retrospect, there were clues, and it was delicious fun to think back and see the scaffolding of the plan going up.  I always, always, had wanted a surprise birthday party.  So it was fun and thrilling.

And then they attacked me with henna.  Yep, you haven’t lived until you’ve had Astrid come at you with a syringe full of dye and a gleam in her eye.

Astrid's Gleam

People drew designs on me both fun and meaningful. Selah, who’s birth I’d attended as a labor partner/doula, drew a caduceus. Judith drew lightning bolts to help me skate faster. Kai drew a Mayan calendar. Marilyn drew plants to help my garden thrive. Astrid filled in my skating number and drew a sine wave. Laura drew a spider for my spinning. And Eric filled in the back of my neck with a set of beautiful spirals.

Eric's Spirals


The hardest part was having to sit still for hours while the henna dried. I’m not a sit-still kinda gal.

Painted Lady


But it fit in nicely with my New Year’s resolution: be happy doing less. For the past two decades, I’ve cranked my main spring tighter and tighter each year to get more work out of me, both professionally and on personal projects. This year I’m working on building in emptiness and down time into my schedule. To be a human being, instead of a human doing.

What did the people at work say about my arms being covered in henna tattoos? Absolutely nothing. I think after spending a year with me, nothing I do surprises them anymore. That or Amazon is just an incredibly cool place to work for.


Madrona 2012: A Very Fine Birthday

Last year, my birthday sucked. I was saying a final goodbye to my dreams of making a living in the fiber arts. It was poignant, because I spent the whole weekend teaching at Madrona, a wonderful fiber conference, surrounded by everything I was giving up. The day after Madrona, I would start full-time work again. A daunting prospect after being self-employed for ten years. My husband was sick and couldn’t be with me. I felt like an utter failure and spent the evening sobbing in my hotel room.

This year was the antidote to last year. I taught at Madrona again, with a room full of lovely women who shared my passion for things that glow and blink. It was a mellow and peaceful class. They gave me permission to blog about derby and non-weaving things. I don’t have to words to explain why that was important (or rather, I do, but it would take about 10,000 of them) but it was huge to me. I’m an eclectic, shy, multi-faceted person, and it’s hard for folks like me to feel 100% accepted, and in that moment, I did.

I had lunch with a friend and mentor, and that was a wonderful treat.

Class continued. We wove. Things lit up. We turned off the lights and there were moments of illuminated beauty. I had a great time, and I hope they did as well.

Eric and Kai came down that evening and injected some family pack bonding into the evening. We ate Mexican food, tussled on the bed, made bad jokes, and I fell exhausted into bed and slept well.

The next day, my actual birthday, I spent taking a class with my favorite tapestry weaver in the whole wide world: Sarah Swett. (I can say this only because I consider Mary Zicafoose a rug weaver.) Sarah combines both being a hoot-and-a-holler as a person with amazing technical skill that takes my breath away. She doesn’t teach often and I consider myself lucky to have gotten into her class.

We wove tapestry bags. Tapestry is something that makes my brain hurt. I’d taken a class with James Koehler, and was blown away by his mastery and technique. But his brain worked very differently than mine, and as soon as I stepped away from his class, his teaching fell right out of my head. Sarah’s teaching settled into my brain like a faithful dog and curled right around my cerebellum. I came away from the class with an enthusiasm for tapestry and a belief that I might actually be able to weave a tapestry I was happy with one day.


Oh, and Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (aka: the yarn harlot) is considering taking up an affair with a bad-boy loom. A loom with its brake smack in the center of the warp. With a tricky warp tensioning system that is just waiting to unspool her warp all over the floor. A handsome fellow, dark and mellowed with age, something rare and fine, but temperamental… I worry for her weaving adventures on it. Though I suspect a swat team of Canadian weavers is likely to descend on her if things get out of hand.

Several people asked questions about my unfinished projects, some asked kindly, some more pointedly. Here are the answers, in case you’re wondering, too.

What about WeaveCast? Will there be more?
I don’t know. I hope so. Between more-than-full-time work, family, and doing the things that keep me happy and sane, I haven’t found the time to edit audio. I’ve got several episodes recorded that I’d like to produce, but I don’t know when I’ll get to them. There’s another fibery concern that’s considering doing a weaving podcast–a group that’ll likely do a much better job than I ever did–so even if I don’t get around to it, you still have hope.

What’s the status of the birthday blanket?
The first 13-yard warp is woven. The second 13-yard warp is lying on the floor of my studio on lease sticks, ready to go through the raddle. I really, really, wanted to get it done in time for Madrona 2012, but two other time-critical projects got in the way. One was my producing Linda Ligon’s memoir This is How I Go When I Go Like This as an audiobook, the other is still under wraps. I feel mortified that the birthday blanket isn’t done yet, and I promise that it will be done before I am. My other worry is, now that I have a smaller presence in the fiber world, how will I get the word out when it’s done?

I came away from Madrona 2012 feeling like the fiber arts world was welcoming me back. It won’t be what it was, it’s scaled back from when I was trying to make a living publishing weaving content. But you know, the things that drew me into the fiber arts are still there: the love of making beautiful fabrics, the friendly people, the meditative work.

A lot has happened in the past year: I’ve gotten a new career. I watched my friend Selah birth her son. I took up roller derby and played in a game in front of 300+ spectators. A long-time chronic health issue that has plagued me my whole life was diagnosed and addressed. I’ve let go of a lot of expectations.

For the first time in my life, I don’t know what I’m working towards. I don’t have a master plan. It’s strange to be like this, but also peaceful.

Linux Class

Linux ClassroomI signed up for a Linux Administration certification program, because I thought it would be fun, and because Amazon Web Services is a Linux house, which is geek for “we use a lot of Linux around the place.”

So I walk into the classroom and I was the only girl…by a lot.  That’s really the only way I can explain it.  Not only were the other 25 people in the room male, but they were all the same kind of male. Geek alpha male, Linux flavored. Continue reading

Gone Batts

Multicolored BattsOne of the things I love about going to a gathering of fiber enthusiasts is the sharing and inspiration that goes on. For example, I recently went to an Eastside Spinners meeting (held at Starbucks, because this is the Pacific Northwest) where a woman pulled out a gorgeous multcolored batt, filled with sparkly bits, recently hand carded so it was as light and fluffy as a cotton candy cloud.

I was instantly hit with an overwhelming wave of jealousy, because I’d been looking for months for exactly that kind of batt, with no joy on Etsy, online retailers, or my local yarn shop.  “Where,” I breathed, “Did you get that?” Continue reading