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
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
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
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
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
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
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:
Hello, neglected little blog! I had started the year with such high hopes of blogging regularly.
All is not lost, however. While I have been very quiet on the internet, I have been quite busy in the world! I feel like I owe you stories of the fantastic classes I’ve taken this year. I’ve met some of my fiber heroes (Judith MacKenzie, Deb Robson…), and taken all kinds of fun classes that have dramatically expanded my fiberverse.
At this point, I feel like there is simply too much to summarize. I’m hoping to blog more frequently so this sort of data backlog doesn’t happen again, but I make no promises. More than anything, I am reconnecting with my fiber mojo this year. That’s worth a bit of radio silence, I think.
I’m sure as I go forward, there will be a time and place to remember these stories.
We can talk later.
Isn’t it floofy?! Pardon my squee, but I love washing fleece. There’s something magical about watching all the grunge disappear and seeing the reveal of gorgeous, squooshable wool. The lock above is a Cormo/Merino cross yearling fleece. It was the first fleece I washed this year.
It doesn’t look as nice when you start. Kinda dirty, and greasy, and it smells like, well, sheep. I’ve come to love that smell, as it means new fluff is on the way!
Washing from raw gives me a chance to get to know my wool. Sometimes, I pre-sort the locks. This one is Norsk Pelssau, which I had never played with before.
Here you can see two rows each of 3 different samples from the same breed (and some Cormo/Merino drying in the back). Handwashing is a great way to get to know the characteristics of a new breed.
We go early. Really early. The girls fall back to sleep in the car. We eat breakfast there, sometimes in the car, sometimes egg sandwiches from the Lions Club. We head for the same spot, first thing: Fleeces.
We queue up and wait, as patiently as we can, for 9 o’clock. Then we try to read and feel and listen and pick quickly, without getting mowed down or buried in bags of fleece. It would be a decent way to go, but not today. We have so many other things to see!
And so begins our annual trek to Maryland Sheep and Wool, one of the fibery things I look forward to all year. The first day is for fleeces, exploring and finding friends. Some years, stalking a few special purchases and getting tasty snacks is all we do. It’s a huge festival, and by the time we’ve walked all the barns and seen all the sights, we’re all pretty tired. This year, the girls had such a fun time on Saturday, they wanted to go back on Sunday. Since we’re only about half an hour away, that was a pretty easy decision.
One reason that people have artist’s block is that they do not respect the law of dormancy in nature. Trees don’t produce fruit all year long, constantly. They have a point where they go dormant. And when you are in a dormant period creatively, if you can arrange your life to do the technical tasks that don’t take creativity, you are essentially preparing for the spring when it will all blossom again.~Marshall Vandruff
Another teaser post about the new business! This time, it’s a peek inside the realm of Yarnia, aka the new studio!
For those who’ve been with me since the start of BabesterArts, the significance of a dedicated shop space is obvious. For those who may have just found The Yarnicorn, let me share a bit of my history:
I’m a pretty meticulous person by nature, and I was able to make it work, but it was far from ideal. When we moved at the end of last year, finding a new home with space for the new shop was very important. And find it we did! The entire second floor of my home is dedicated to The Yarnicorn (though the “couch” is actually a daybed that folds out to a king bed, so fiber friends can visit).