Archive / May, 2019

Spring Streamlining

Super fluffy, SUPER soft Optim Merino. Want it?

I’ve been doing this for a while now. I love fiber art, and I’ve gone fairly far down the rabbit hole from where I started. I learned to knit when my oldest was born. I wanted to make her little knit “longies” to cover her cloth diapers because I thought they were super cute and I couldn’t afford to pay someone else a fair wage to make them for me. Then, I found spinning. From spinning, I got into carding/blending my own fibers. Shortly thereafter, I started learning to do my own dyework. And then, when I realized I wanted to get as close to the source as I could, I learned to process raw wool. That’s about as far as one can go without owning sheep (someday…)! I picked up a bit of crochet along the way (though I admit it’s my weakest wool skill), became enamored with wet felting, and somehow ended up with 4 looms!

My oldest turned 11 this month, which means I’ve been doing this fiber stuff for over a decade now. It started as a bit of yarn and some knitting needles in a bag, and quickly grew to “just a couple boxes” in whatever corner I could stash them (I’m sure you know how that goes). From there, it morphed into a little etsy shop that paid for extras and covered my family’s needs during government shutdowns when my former spouse’s checks were delayed. I ran my “side hustle” out of a hall closet, which meant taking everything out when I needed to work and tetrising it back in when I was done. When we moved again, I made sure I would have dedicated working space, and my hobby bloomed into a proper, licensed business that continues to provide support for me and my children to this day.

Along a path like that, one gathers all sorts of random odds and ends. There are fiber arts I’ve tried but never really clicked with, and tools and supplies I haven’t used in many years. It’s time now to refine what I do here at The Yarnicorn, and maximize the time I have available. Turns out, that means downsizing a bit. We’ll call it “streamlining” because that sounds less sad to me; if I had the time, I’d have more than enough in the fiber arts world to keep me occupied for several lifetimes. I have to focus because I only have so much energy in a day.

So I began today by pulling out some “hidden treasures” and listing them for sale. Someone out there is looking for these, and will have the fun I wanted to have with them. There’s plenty of room in this rabbit hole for all of us! If you’re looking, or just curious, the streamlining albums will mostly be posted to my Facebook group. I decided to do it that way to keep my website for my work. The first album, full of undyed top, can be found here. I’ll try to remember to cross-post links to the blog, as well.

Things change. They have to. My children are growing up, my circumstances aren’t at all what they were when I started this journey, and I have to make space so I can move forward, however that may end up looking. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to tinker and collect and play. Now it’s time to refine and work with greater precision. Onward!

Disappointing

Oh… Oh, dear…

It looked so pretty at a glance. A nice US Wensleydale lamb fleece, pretty purling, and good length. But… no. Once the dirt was removed in the pre-soak, the problem was revealed.

But… it looked so pretty!

There were clues. I knew it wasn’t coated, and parts of it probably would’ve been better off skirted to begin with. There were hay and straw bits I could see before starting the scour.

It’s EVERYWHERE!

I was drawn in by the lock structure, but this veg matter “glitter” chaff throughout makes this fleece nearly unworkable for my purposes. To remove it, I’d need to comb it, which would destroy the locks I’d wanted. Less ethical dyers might just throw it in a dark dye and hope for the best, but that’s a horrible thing to discover and I have been heartbroken by people selling that trash to me. I refuse.

*cries*

This one is mulch. Mercifully, I didn’t pay a premium for it. I’d bought it long enough ago that this particular sheep has probably been shorn twice or more since, so there’s no real point in trying to get my money back. It’s just so disappointing.

So let’s make a metaphor of it, and look at how so many things, like relationships, seem so great at the beginning. It’s a bargain! Until you realize reality once it’s too late and you’re stuck with it and it’s literally full of “mess” that renders the whole thing dysfunctional.

Let it go. Throw it away. Move on. There are better fleeces out there.

Rites of Spring

A bonfire! The perfect way to burn off the last bits of sleepy winter and welcome spring!

I missed a week, and I have a good excuse: I was out in the woods, completely removed from cell service and wifi, hanging out with some of my favorite folx at Fertile Ground Gathering. I went to my first FGG in 2010, the same year I started spinning. I’ve missed a few between then and now, but have returned several times and each time feels like coming home. It is one of my favorite places to rest, recharge, and recalibrate.

This year, I had the privilege of facilitating a collaborative tapestry project. This is a big shift from my usual, highly-solitary work in my studio alone! Over the course of the long weekend, I got to speak to so many people, new friends and old, who each brought stories and pieces of their lives to add to the tapestry. It is an honor to be able to hold that kind of space and to facilitate a community art working like that, and I hope to do more of it.

The finished piece!

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, and as someone who really likes plans and structure, that was a challenge for me. The weft in this tapestry is WILD!!! There’s horsehair, bark twine, paracord, handspun yarns, feathers, a saz string, paper, a bootlace, ceremonial ribbons, plastic bag yarn (“plarn”), and even a glowstick! Some took a turn at weaving in their own additions, others asked me to place their pieces for them. Each addition made new shapes and pushed me to figure out how to keep it cohesive while making room for everything to fit. The end result fit the loom face perfectly, and it’s all held securely in place, so I’d say it’s a success. There are weirdnesses in it (skipped warps, weird sheds, gaps and slubs), but that seems fitting. Life in community isn’t always neat and orderly; chaos abounds and we are usually enriched by it.

Little looms for little hands

I also had the opportunity to teach beginning weaving. I think my favorite part of that was the chance to bond with my daughters. I don’t push them to like what I like. They know what I do, and they often hang out with me in the studio, but they’re not asked to be any more involved in the goings on of The Yarnicorn than they may want to be at any point. Youngest has always liked squishing the wool and playing with scraps, and has gotten more interested in making her own wet-felted pieces. She’s asking to learn to knit now, though I think I’ll make her roll a dexterity check before we try much of that. I don’t want to frustrate her.

New weavings, new weavers!

Oldest likes it when I make things for her, and enjoys picking out bits for batts sometimes, but didn’t really seem interested in doing much fibercrafting for herself until she tried weaving. She proudly announced to anyone who’d listen that this was now Her Thing. I’m happy she has found a fiberwork practice that pleases her.

The view from our porch.

It was wonderful to have time to decompress. I didn’t fully understand just how much stress and tension I was carrying until I was given the opportunity to put it down, disconnect from the daily grind, and just sit quietly in nature with my children and BREATHE for a bit! Being held up by my community, being seen and celebrated for my art, and being given an opportunity to simply be, without pretense, was so healing. Taking a few days to unplug from technology is something I often try to do, but frequently fail at actually doing because it’s so easy to sneak a look or “just quickly check my email”. Having access to the internet completely removed from the equation was just what I needed. Nothing back home was an urgent matter. All the planning and doing and figuring out a way forward was right there waiting for me when I got back.

Peas and a bunch of brassicas, which need to be culled back a bit now.

My garden was waiting for me, too. It seemed to be really happy about all the rain we got over the weekend. For the first time since I’ve lived here, I’ve managed to successfully grow peas! I’ve tried for 5 years, and finally got the right combination of soil, sunlight and start date. The tall varieties are nearing the top of the trellises now, and all of them are flowering.

My tiny “Tom Thumb” peas have almost-edible peas on them now!

The tiny “Tom Thumb” variety of peas I tucked in the corner of each planter have actual peas on them now! My herb bin has gone nuts with mint and chickweed, which youngest says we need to keep because she likes snacking on it. The radishes are fully grown, and it’s about time to pluck them all up so we can replant in their spaces.

And now, the nightshades!

We started the next round of seedlings before we left for the woods, and they’re wasting no time. In a week or so, they’ll be ready to play outside, and hopefully they’ll be happy. I’ve had pretty good luck with tomatoes and peppers here; I hope that continues, as we all love to eat them.

I have mundane things to deal with this week. The laundry is all done. The camping supplies have been cleaned and restocked (we have a few other trips coming up, because it’s scout camping season). I’m still sorting through the rubble of my failed marriage and trying to figure out what needs to be done to finalize the divorce. The children are slowly being reintroduced to their father, which is… a post for another day. I’m trying to keep my eyes on the horizon. Another exciting travel possibility has opened up for us, and I’m working hard to get that to go. No spoilers, because I don’t want to jinx it, but I will say that it requires passports. If nothing else, the dream of it is calling me forward. I know that I carry with me the love and support of a vibrant community, and I’m so thankful for having had the chance to play in the woods for a bit and recenter amidst all the changes. Now, back to work!

#100DaysOfBatts2019 is still going strong!