I have been taking a little bit of a creative holiday in the past couple of days, trying to take advantage of the lull between two storms. (That’s probably why this has become the week of novel-length blog posts…I’m suddenly giving myself time to think.) You see, we’re moving again in June. I accepted a teaching position in Boston, and so we’re heading out there this summer so that I can start up my lab.

It started out simple; I don’t get paid until September, but I wanted to spend some time getting things arranged so that I didn’t have to juggle too much at once when classes start up in the fall. I’m also taking advantage of these months in between to brush up on my quantum mechanics, since I’ll be teaching that in the spring semester and I haven’t thought about it in a long time. I’ve been spending every morning for the past month or so exercising my brain by working my way through a quantum textbook (I’m almost 200 pages in!), and it is a real workout. In a way, this has been something of a saving grace. I’m not someone who can sit around without a lot of mental stimulation without going crazy. My “off” time is usually composed of designing increasingly complicated knitting, dyeing, and weaving projects, after all. I can be idle for a few weeks, but after that I need somewhere to focus that intensity. Having something to work on for a few hours every day that demands a lot of mental engagement has actually been helpful in keeping me sane.

Of course, I also have to start planning my research projects and writing grant proposals. I have an 8 inch stack of papers to read, and really could use another trip to the library. You see where this is going, yes? Suddenly I’m unemployed, but doing a large portion of the work of an assistant professor. Slippery slopes are slippery.

Then came the opportunity to have a couple of students over the summer. This is good for me, because it gets students into the lab and gets the research running early. Since research is one of the primary considerations for tenure, and because it is also the one that can stall out for a million unforseen reasons completely outside of my control, it is good to get started sooner rather than later.  Of course, having to supervise two students working 32 hours a week means that I just lost my last summer “off” in a long time. As I knew would happen, my 5 months of “free” time before September have become increasingly demanding over the past few weeks. I’m ok with that, but it has been a little overwhelming at times.

Up until the show, I had been saying that teaching and the move had to wait until after the show. Now that it’s after the show, I am working to exercise some boundaries so that it doesn’t swallow me whole just yet.

This has largely involved taking this week to do whatever I feel like. (Which to my surprise has included quantum at least 2 of the four days so far, though not for the same 4-6 hours/day.)

I’ve also been intentionally avoiding dyeing. I love it, I want to do more of it, and I also need some space from it. I was definitely noticing that dyeing was becoming more like work and less like play in the weeks leading up to the show. I loved every minute of it, but it was part of a job that had to be done rather than a creative escape from work. That’s one of the risks of making a hobby into a job: if you’re not careful, it becomes a job. I have a million ideas of things to try, and it’s really hard not to dive right back in, but I’m telling myself that all of those ideas will be just as exciting and ready to go next week as they are today, and that right now it’s time to focus on other things. (Overenthusiasm for projects really is a wonderful thing, as long as you know when to push it back and make it wait. I am not always good at this. The secret is knowing that it only gets better with time.)

In the meantime, I’ve been doing some weaving

This is just a small sampler for a much larger project that I’m planning later on.

I’ve also been working on some fiber prep and spinning, as I mentioned yesterday. Of course, this involves thinking about the sweaters I might make from the yarn I’m creating, and particularly I’ve been considering what knitwear to make that will fit into a professional wardrobe in a more stylish city.

I’ve also been doing a little bit of swatching.

Or, more accurately, I’ve been doing some petting of the swatch that I made just before the show. This is the first swatch for the fall colors sweater, which I have determined needs to be knit on size 0 needles. I’m not sure that this falls into my professional wardrobe criteria, but I’m excited to work on it anyway. I haven’t settled absolutely on colorwork yet, as my original design was much more adventurous. But I do like the look of the colorwork, so currently I’m trying a few things and letting those ideas ripen in the background.

So I’ve been doing lots of little things here and there, catching up on projects that never get worked on because I’m caught up in something else, and I’ve been thinking about tying up some loose ends.

And then this morning, I was working on quantum and I needed a piece of paper. It must be all the natural colors I’ve been thinking about lately, but on the way to my office, a couple of skeins from the stash jumped into my head.

That’s 8 oz of millspun Corriedale that I bought at the Door County Shepherd’s Market two years ago. It’s been calling to me from the stash with increasing urgency in the past few weeks, but it’s been hard to design with since I don’t have very much of it. It really wants to be a sweater, but it would need to be something knit from the top that would be ok as a cropped version if I ran out of yarn.

I got my paper, turned to leave the office, and a thought popped into my brain. I didn’t want to forget it, so a minute later I had this:

(That’s a brilliant design for a top-down sweater knit all in one piece, as I’m sure you immediately recognized from the artwork. Heh.) That quickly turned into this:

And that looked very familiar. A couple of minutes and a few pins later, I had this:

Do you see it yet? How about now?

You can see that the increases in the spiral shawl make just a tiny bit more than a half circle, which just cries out to be waist shaping.

Here’s a slightly neater, more to-scale version:

I’m not sure where this is going, but one thing I can say for sure. Give your brain some space, and you’ll have a million new things to work on. Isn’t inspiration a wonderful thing?