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.
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.
It is COLD where I am today. I’m originally from southern California, and while I haven’t lived there in well over a decade, I believe my internal thermostat may be permanently adjusted to think 70 degrees and sunny is the default. It’s sunny here today, but that’s about all it has going for it! Temps are finally below freezing, as they should be in this area in mid-January. Nothing strange about that.
What’s strange is trying to thaw my fiber practice and previously-routine wool working habits and routines, especially when everything else is so quiet and still. Over the past few years, I’ve had to fight for my health, my sobriety, and then, when my husband abandoned my daughters and me (again), my sanity, as well. Wool and fiber art and all those little loves got put on freeze while I used what resources I had to keep everything else running. If you’ve done this sort of thing, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, I hope you never have to. All I can say is that I’ve experienced “tired to the bone” in a way I hope to never experience again.
Still, I am an artist. And while I can pause my art and redirect my energy elsewhere for a time, I need to work. I need to create. I need my hands in the scouring trays, picking the VM out of fresh locks, picking the fibers to blend and feeling the twist at my fingertips as I spin. These things aren’t options, they’re a vital part of my identity and I need to keep time for them. So, one week at a time, I’m gently nudging some other responsibilities aside to make space for my wool practice again. I’ve made time each day to spin, and set aside one day a week to wash wool. It’s not much; this isn’t anywhere near the amount of time and energy I’ll need to resurrect a business. But it’s a slow thaw. While everything around me is frozen solid, this little seedling is trying to wake up.
What can I say? Life happened, as it so often does. My last post was literally years ago, and while I’d love to tell you that I’ve been on a grand adventure between then and now, well… Okay, it was an adventure! I can say that much.
Welcome back to my little corner of the yarniverse. I haven’t been saying much, but I’ve been here, creating, watching, and working on projects as my time has allowed. I’ve also been adjusting to life as a single parent, and trying to figure out how to do right by my children without completely losing myself (and my sanity) in the process. It hasn’t been easy, but it has made me aware of how important wool and wool work is to me.
I feel like we’re in a weird time with wool. Social media makes anti-wool campaigns go viral, so I’m seeing and hearing a lot of really messed-up messages about wool and its uses. But I’m also dialed in to the frequency used by wool lovers and growers and their supporters, so I know that the toxic advertising messages *are* being argued. The end result remains to be seen, but I want to do my part to keep wool. Wool saves lives. Not just in an environmentally sustainable, fire retardant, breathable textile sense, but also in a “keeps this fiber artist from going all-the-way mad most days” way that is critically important to me and mine.
So here I am. I’m not promising lofty content or fabulous, curated images. I’m not promising anything, really. I have a big year ahead of me, a divorce to finalize, and a small business that still needs a good launch (someday). What I’ve also got is a calendar reminder to say something every Friday, and I’m going to try to make good on that commitment this year. What you might see are some cute pics and maybe a tutorial or two, along with a ramble and maybe the occasional rant. What I hope I will eventually be able to communicate is the myriad ways wool keeps my heart from freezing over during these trying times. When I figure out how to share that on the internet, I will. For now, here is a picture to sum up my week in wool: