Jess Mahler Work in Progress Updates

It’s been a while since I talked about what I’ve got going, so I figure it’s time for an update.

I’ve finally really accepted that when it coming to actual writing, I’m not going to be able to pick a project and stick with it. Once I hit editing stage, I can generally plow through, but until then I’m gonna keep bouncing from project to project. My brain seems to reach a point where it needs some downtime to let ideas stew every once in a while. And when it does, I’ll jump to a different project until I hit overload on that one.

So here’s where I’m at:

Safer Sex for the Non-Monogamous is in late editing stage with a tentative publication in late January. I’m really pleased with how it’s coming. It’s getting most of my attention right now.

Planting Life in the City of Death (formerly Building Family) is is nearly at 50,000 words, so about a bit less than half of the way done. (Hoping for a final word count of around 100,000, but gotta leave room for cuts during edits.) Just found a spot where I need to make some major changes to the ending, so we’ll see what happens there. When I have time for fiction, this is the one pull out right now.

Space Werewolves is at 17,000 words and currently on hold while I let things stew and occasionally take a stab at figuring out orbital mechanics. I don’t I’ve mentioned Space Werewolves on here before, since I just started it over the summer. Let’s see. I usually don’t do those analogy things to describe my work, but I think this might work: werewolves + human & transgender ship multi-body cyborg + the Underground Railroad in space.

Polyamory and Kink is in early drafting stage. I’m not actually sure how many words I have, but I’ve got a rough outline/table of contents and about a dozen sections either written or roughed in. Currently on hold.


On Nalbinding, Net Making, and Novels

Back in January, I shared some stuff on Mastodon about yarn crafting and my Building Family wip.

The short version is that for REASONS, I needed to figure out if nalbinding (a precursor to knitting, for my non-crafty friends) could have been invented off of net making.

Since research failed me, I decided to do an experiment.

First, Net Making

I pulled up some net making videos on YouTube, and tried following them. BUT I didn’t use a spacer. In net making, a spacer is used to determine how wide the holes in the net are. Without a spacer, the knots would be right next to each other.

This is the first video I looked at:

But when I ended up trying my experiment last week, I used this video:

I went with the crab making video because it used fingers for the spacer initially (I really like his net making gizmo he pulls out halfway through though!) and because it is worked in the round. Those two similarities to nalbinding just made it easier for my brain to grok.

Then, Experimenting

I initially tried to copy it using just my thumb for a spacer, instead of multiple fingers (as shown in the video). Instead of the metal ring, I started with a magic-ring type yarn loop from crochet as the center of my work.

There were definitely parts that felt very similar to nalbinding, places I needed to pinch the yarn to keep it in place or run the needle until a loop that was around my thumb. But the result was essentially a very tiny net, not fabric.

(I wish I thought to take a picture of it.)

Now, I’m pretty sure, if I had the spoons/matches, a good knot dictionary, and time, I could put the net making video (which essentially uses repeated half-hitches) next to a good nalbinding tutorial (the oslo stitch starts with paired half hitches), and figure out a way one could have evolved into the other.

I didn’t have the matches, and for my purposes I didn’t specifically need to make nalbinding. I just needed to use net making to create fabric.

Finally, Results

So I took the simple solution and just stopped using any spacer at all. This is the result:

nalbinding netmaking

The holes where initially the result of my keeping the stitches loose so I could recognize where I needed to put the needle. As I got more comfortable the holes got smaller, as you may be able to see. Unfortunately, the needle I have (as you can see in that picture) is very wide at the eye, and there are several places where the eye forced those holes wider than they would otherwise have been.

In any case, the end result looks a lot like a miniature granny square from crochet.


At this point, I have what I need. I can see how someone could do the same thing I did and not have holes or gaps. So someone starting with net making could end up with a fabric that would have different properties, and therefore different appeal, from weaving.

I am curious how far I could take this. Could I really figure out how to get to nalbinding from net making? Could I develop a new and different type of yarncraft? Where could this go?

Unfortunately, I don’t have matches or time for that kind of experimentation. I’ll go back to working on my crochet and learning new-to-me nalbinding stitches that other people already figured out how to do. And the characters in my next novel will invent a new kind of yarncrafting for their world.

But if any of my yarncrafting friends decides to pick this up where I left off… let me know what happens, ‘kay?

Learn more about my original world (and other projects) by joining Jess’ Pack.

Planning for Yarnuary: Crochet and Nalbinding

One of my Mastodon peeps started Yarnuary as way for yarn-crafting folks to connect and shit. There are some optional challenges each week to learn something new. So for the first week, the challenge is to learn a new technique using colors, second week is a texture-based technique, etc.

Anyone can jump in on this and have some fun connecting with other stitch-witches. Follow the discussion on #Yarnuary.

After thinking about it for a bit, I decided not to follow the challenges, but instead have two goals for Yarnuary

My Yarnuary Unfinished Projects

I’ve got four projects I’m going to try to finish during Yarnuary

yarnuary snood
I’ve been working on this snood on and off since last spring. I’ve got about 2/3rds of the last row left, so this should be an easy finish.

yarnuary cowl
The cowl is one of my newer projects. Also the biggest project I’ve tried in a while. It could work as a scarf now, but I want a proper, headcovering cowl, so at least three times it’s current size. Finishing this in the month would be easy if I didn’t have anything else I was working on.

yarnuary amigurumi
This amigurumi is actually supposed to be a belated holiday present for a friend. Which means it’s the most urgent project to finish. Luckily it’s a small plushie, and I should finish it this month pretty easily, as long as the instructions don’t contain any problems.

yarnuary parrot
This is actually the project I’ve been working on the “longest”, in teh sense that I started it over a year ago. Obviously, I didn’t spend much actually time working on it. This is meant to be a life-sized parrot and I started making it as a thank you gift to one of the biggest supporters of my old blog. This is the one I’ll be the most surprised if I actually finish this month. The cowl is mindless, I work on it anytime. The surprise is small. This is both large and requires me to actually pay attention to what I’m doing. But I’m going to try.

My Yarnuary Learning

I’m (slowly) working on learning nalbinding. Last month I made a practice piece that ended up being a neat little bracelet.

nalbinding practice

I originally gave it to kidling, but she didn’t want to wear it and it stretches just enough to it me pretty well.

My partner asked me to make one for them. So I’m going to try to do that as well this month. It’ll be a small project, but a good way to slip in a bit of nalbinding practice.

Weird Connections

I actually started learning nalbinding as research for a book. Characters in my WIP “Building Family” will be inventing nalbinding on their world. I figured if I was going to write it being invented, I should probably know how to do it. And I’m probably going to keep doing it because it’s a yarn craft that is good for making clothing (unlike crochet) which doesn’t leave my fingers in knots (like knitting).

Find more world building and WIP excerpts on Jess’ Pack