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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.

Thawing in a freeze

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.

Good thing wool is warm!

Welcome Back!

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:

I made a 2019 Intention to finally spin my hoarded stash of Zebisis fibers. Maiysha was my dear friend, losing her was tragic, and holding on to her work has been a small comfort. It’s time to use these now, and I hope to honor her memory in the process.

Where I’ve Been

Breed Yarns Sampler

Hello, neglected little blog! I had started the year with such high hopes of blogging regularly.

Sigh…

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.

Fleece Friday!

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.

Gammelnorsk Sau
Icelandic
That’s today’s project, a particularly grungy BFL.  I love how, even when it’s filthy, it has the most gorgeous curly purly bits!  The part in the lower right corner of that pic almost looks like boucle to me.  And then, once it’s all washed and dried, hopefully I’ll end up with something like this:
How can you say no to that?!  Freshly washed fleece is one of those fiber arts joys you just have to experience.
While I have quite a few sources for fleece now (most of which I guard fiercely; there’s only so much wool a sheep can grow between shearings!), I’ve recently enjoyed purchasing smaller quantities of new-to-me breeds from The Spinning Loft.  The Norsk Pelssau, Gammelnorsk Sau, and Icelandic pictured above all came from there, along with this lovely Scottish Blackface:
No affiliation, I’m just happy to recommend The Spinning Loft because everything I got was wonderful quality.  They have a great selection of breeds to choose from, and the smaller quantities might be less intimidating for some than the idea of a full fleece.  Go!  Try!

Maryland Sheep and Wool 2014

 early morning welcome

 

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.

Breakfast time!
Day Two was more of a leisurely affair.  More time to stroll and see, and far fewer people, especially in the early hours.  Crowds are hard for me.  The girls, however, help a great deal to neutralize that.  They’re happy to start up a conversation and give free hugs to pretty much everyone.  Makes for a much happier experience, even for their extremely-introverted (okay, antisocial) mother.
Sheep can be friends, too
We had more time on Sunday to take pics, watch judging, and see the talented sheepdogs do their work.
Now we have a year’s worth of goodies to enjoy, and so many good memories!  It’s hard to pick from all the wonderfully talented vendors at the event.  I already have a fair bit of stash, but I couldn’t help but pick up more gorgeous fiber to spin, some new spindles, and a yarn bowl that is, IMO, the perfect way to commemorate the event.
Also, fleeces.  Oh, the fleeces.  So very, very many fleeces…  Here’s my favorite pic of the fleeces my oldest helped me pick this year:
She’s a wonderful helper, and often sees things I wouldn’t necessarily think to look for, like that glorious Gotland cross.  She also helped me find a new-to-me breed, Montadale:
Crimp is love.
We picked out two Montadale fleeces, and we’re test prepping a batch right now.  If all goes according to plan (because I’m told that actually happens sometimes, right?), they’ll be used for a group event on Ravelry.  I’ll post more when I have progress pics to share.
For now, it’s time to find homes for all the new loveliness.  Thank goodness for the glorious studio space at our new home!  No more bins of fleece all over the bedroom.  😉

The Unblocking Season

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 

Sneak Peek – The New Studio

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:

Welcome to my old “studio”
Yep!  Everything for my original shop had to be tucked into the hall closet when not in use.  Thankfully, my family members are patient people and they were willing to put up with the fiber overspill that took over the kitchen table, living room, bedroom, etc. more often than I’d like to admit. It’s tricky to know what you have, and get to it, when everything is stashed in such a small space!

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).

The mat at the bottom of the stairs
Going up!
There’s so much space, and such amazing LIGHT!  It’s wonderful!  I love that I can have dedicated space for my carder and cardables, room to hand paint top or felt scarves, plenty of storage for both my fiber & fabric, and my ready-to-sell inventory and shipping supplies all easy to access.  It’s such an incredible blessing, and after years of feeling cramped it’s GLORIOUS to be able to spread my wings!
We’ve only lived in our new home for 2 months, and obviously setting up the family space took priority.  The new space still needs some unpacking, reorganizing and a bit of decorating, but it’s functional now.  Which is to say that, for the first time in my career as a fiber artist, I have a functional fixed space in which to work!  MAGIC!!!
So work I will!  There’s a nice stash of locks to wash and dye, 9 bags of roving fresh from the mill, and an amazing amount of new inventory on its way from my tried-and-true suppliers and a few new accounts! Plus, May is coming, which means Maryland Sheep and Wool (aka Fleece Fest)
And there will be yarn.  Oh, yes!  SO much yarn!  I can’t wait to show you the projects I’ve been working on as a part of my Fibery Goodness Journey to the Golden Fleece. So much magic has been happening in my fiber world!
I wanted to share a glimpse of The Yarnicorn’s home to help tide you over until the new shop is formally launched.  This is part of what I mean when I say there are all kinds of exciting things happening here, and I can’t wait to share more!

At the Beginning…

I’ve been a long time in this magical forest, digging deep into the as-yet-unknown realm of The Yarnicorn.  It was a spark in my heart early last year, little more than a placeholder page with a very plain Blogger site for months as I began to learn how to make websites do what I want them to do (note: this process is obviously ongoing).  All the while, I was still working at BabesterArts, doing shows, shipping hundreds of feet of carding cloth, and raising those two precocious little darlings I’m blessed to share this life with.  I can credit at least one of them with inspiring the name of this new venture, and both of them with providing me daily reassurance that magic and mirth are, indeed, worthy pursuits.

Still, there has been a great deal of work and not much to say about it yet.  That’s about to change, and I can’t wait to show you all the awesomeness I’ve been creating!  I’m so excited, I’m ready to shout from the rooftops!!!  Soon, my yarnies.  So very soon…  I can’t wait to show you the new studio, the new products, and the other magical delights I’ve been carefully cultivating.

Watch this space for updates.  You might want to add your email to that little box on the right sidebar so you don’t miss new posts as things go live.  Please also join the The Yarnicorn on Facebook, as I will be hosting giveaways and other fun celebrations as the new venture takes flight.

So excited to have you with me on this wonderful adventure!

Ode to my Socks

Maru Mori brought me
a pair
of socks
knitted with her own
shepherd’s hands,
two socks soft
as rabbits.
I slipped
my feet into them
as if
into
jewel cases
woven
with threads of
dusk
and sheep’s wool
Audacious socks,
my feet became
two woolen
fish,
two long sharks
of lapis blue
shot
with a golden thread,
two mammoth blackbirds,
two cannons,
thus honored
were
my feet
by
these
celestial
socks.
They were
so beautiful
that for the first time
my feet seemed
unacceptable to me,
two tired old
fire fighters
not worthy
of the woven
fire
of those luminous
socks.
Nonetheless,
I resisted
the strong temptation
to save them
the way schoolboys
bottle
fireflies,
the way scholars
hoard
sacred documents.
I resisted
the wild impulse
to place them in a cage
of gold
and daily feed them
birdseed
and rosy melon flesh.
Like explorers who in the forest
surrender a rare
and tender deer
to the spit
and eat it
with remorse,
I stuck out my feet
and pulled on
the
handsome
socks,
and then my shoes.
So this is
the moral of my odes:
twice beautiful
is beauty
and what is good is doubly
good
when it is a case of two
woolen socks
in wintertime.
-Pablo Neruda