Little Fluffy Clouds

This week’s washed wool: A lamb Cotswold

I sold a wheel this week. Life circumstances are such that I needed the funds more than I needed the wheel. It was an Ashford Country Spinner 2, the first wheel I’d purchased for myself after learning to spin. I learned on a Louet S10, graciously loaned to me by a kind neighbor who taught me how to use it. The CS2 was easier for the art-type yarns I’d fallen in love with making, but has the same tension system as the S10. It was a good wheel, and I enjoyed using it right up to the day I sold it. Its new owner seems to have already fallen in love with it, and named it after me, which was really sweet.

Things here have been tricky lately. There’s a lot going on in my personal life that I don’t blog about, and it tends to muck with my plans in many unfortunate ways. I try to remain hopeful that this, too, shall pass, and that there will be a better normal at some point in the not-to-distant future. For my part, I’m grateful that I’ve established routines and habits that nurture and support me and my family. As a single mom, it’s always a challenge to meet everyone’s needs. For so many years, my needs got pushed aside, or put on “as resources are available” status. No more. Prioritizing my health, in all facets, is critical to the health and well-being of my entire family.

Still haven’t quite figured out how The Yarnicorn is going to fit into that picture. I love what I do, but I worry it may not be enough. For now, I wash the wool, I spin the yarn, I keep up with the industry news… With so much in flux, I really do have to just wait and see. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes. I’m excited to see what it may become.

Fluff and stuff

Stripped batts, ready to spin

This has been a demanding week, and I’m glad it’s Friday. There’s a lot of turmoil in my life right now, and sometimes it’s hard to see the light at the end of what feels like an endless slog through a dark tunnel that *might* be full of spiders. One of the things that helps to keep me grounded is a daily commitment to spin yarn for 15 minutes. Sometimes, I spin for a lot longer, but on rough days, I set a timer for 15 minutes and then I’m out. The process of spinning yarn is grounding to me, and the softness of good wool is soothing. Playing with bright colors can brighten my mood, and mixing them up shows me of how beauty can be created by contrast.

There’s also a reminder in this practice: little things add up. Keeping each of my “spinning appointments” means I’ll eventually see finished yarn. 15 minutes isn’t much, but over time, it makes many skeins. That’s an important reminder for my brain, which likes to have everything figured out in advance and gets super frustrated when that’s simply not possible. All I have to do is keep showing up and putting in good work, and there will most often be something neat to show for it at the end.

Tension

New singles yarn on the niddy-noddy always looks so perfect! Everything is in order, in straight rows under even tension, and it all looks organized.
But as soon as I let go of that tension knob on the niddy noddy, all of the stored energy in the yarn wakes up and coils and it gets all kinds of chaotic. This is usually when I start to panic that I’ve overspun my yarn and everything is ruined.
Instead of freaking out, I put the new yarn into a warm bath. I have learned that this approach is useful for both yarn freakouts, and human freakouts, too.
And nearly every time, unless something has truly gone wonky, a bath and a bit of adjusting will render even the silliest of singles into a more organized skein. There’s a bit of twist to it still; it’s got no ply to move against, so that twist energy will always give it a bit of direction. But it’s a perfectly serviceable singles skein.
This is one of the things I like best about making yarn. The process is soothing, and a call to be patient, and a lesson in how things are created over time. But there are all these little hidden secrets in it, too. I started for the yarn, but have stayed for the deeper meaning.
Every skein tells a story.

Going Slow

One, leetle BFL/Wens lock at a time…

I wash my fleeces in small batches. My methods are similar to those documented in detail by Deb Robson on her blog. Maybe someday I’ll make my own post, but she’s so thorough in her description that I don’t feel a need to. I use sifting trays, and Unicorn Power Scour (which I sell, because I love it that much). I wash about 12 ounces at a time, because I like to watch how things are going, and I only wash about two trays a day, because my back will complain if I try to carry more. This makes it a fairly slow process.

I am not naturally a fan of slow, which makes a lot of fiber processing an excellent opportunity to practice patience. Rushing a fleece can leave it unclean, if you’re lucky, or felted, if you’re not. It’s the starting point of what will be a time-consuming labor of love. Every time I start a new batch of wool, I have to remind myself to give it the time it needs, from start to finish, so I don’t make waste of it.

I am not from a culture that values slowness. I am American, and our worth is too often measured by our productivity. It’s an ugly trait I’m working hard to unlearn, and I’m grateful that so much of my work naturally lends itself to that unlearning. One of the things I love most about fiber arts is that invitation to move slowly, be fully present, and enjoy each step of the creative process. While I’m still not a patient person, I feel richly rewarded for my practice toward that goal.

Out in the cold

It is finally acting like “actual winter” where I am! This past weekend, we got a good helping of snow to fit with the freezing temps. I love the snow when I’m inside and warm and cozy. Maybe a little less when I need to go out in it, but even then, the early snows each season still seem magical to me. After I get my girls to school, and before I settle in to work each day, I take 15 minutes to myself for a short walk. For the past week, this has been my view: a peaceful stream, frosted trees and a pathway hidden by snow and ice. Makes for slightly slippery going, and I enjoy the added reminder to be mindful.

I don’t mind the cold. I have a puffy, full-length coat, warm, sturdy boots, and enough wool to keep most of my block warm, if needed. I leave a warm, safe place, explore for a bit, and return to my warm, safe place. It’s tranquil. Even though I understand that being out in the cold, exposed or without somewhere warm to retreat to, could be dangerous, it isn’t dangerous for me. I am aware of this, and it keeps my spirits high. I also notice myself keeping watch for those who might not have it so simple, even when all I find in need of my assistance are inanimate objects. I try to do what I can to stay present and pay attention, and it carries over from my walk to my work.

This past week, I watched as the fiber arts community took a good look at itself and how issues of race and privilege manifest in our spaces. If you aren’t aware of what happened, there’s a discussion thread on Ravelry that serves as a good starting place. And that’s what I think a lot of us are hoping this moment turns out to be: a good starting place. A good opportunity for those of us who have the privilege of feeling warm and welcome in fiber arts spaces to open our eyes to the experiences of those who don’t feel the same, or may not even have access to those spaces at all. We heard part of our community saying, unambiguously, that they’ve been left out in the cold. How do we hold space for that, as a community? How do we correct course so that all are invited and welcomed into our spaces?

I am still young in my anti-racism journey, and I become more aware each year how much learning, and unlearning, I have to do. In the past, I have felt like I didn’t have anything particularly eloquent or insightful to say, and so I haven’t said much of anything publicly. I recognize now that this, too, is part of the problem. By refusing to say, however clumsily, that I am paying attention and engaging with this work, I have left room for interpretations of my space(s) as uninformed, at best, or perhaps even unfriendly. The lack of a clear welcome can leave people feeling excluded, whether or not that is the intended message.

I don’t claim to have answers, or any sort of specific wisdom or insight to share. I don’t claim to be “one of the good ones” or an “ally” or any other sort of label-wearer. I am listening. I am learning. I am unlearning, and rewiring, and doing what I can to broaden my perspective beyond what is easy, and common, and comfortable. Not everyone has that comfy coat of privilege to insulate them from the harsh realities of discrimination, and the fiber arts community, however friendly, is not immune to the diseases of racism and prejudice that plague white culture, and the world at large. I understand that this isn’t the kind of problem one person can solve overnight (or at all), but this is my welcome mat. Here, in my little corner of the fiberverse, this is my porch light turned on. Whoever you are, however you came to find this place, you are welcome here, and I invite you to share your stories. Come in, and be warm.

Also? There’s wool! Freshly-washed wool.