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Here At the End

As hard as it is for me to believe, 2019 is nearly over. It’s the end of the year, the end of a decade… feels like the end of a lot of things, so I feel like tying up loose ends.

While I didn’t make much of any progress on my declared intention this year, I did get a few neat fiber-related things accomplished. I facilitated a group tapestry project, taught a class in my neighborhood, and traveled to Peru! I tried a bit of natural dyework, washed a whole bunch of wool, and completed my second 100DaysofBatts project. I sold a wheel, cleaned out some stash to make room for new plans, and tried to refine my plans for The Yarnicorn as a business. I made some new fiber friends, and had some neat adventures, and got better at managing the balance between making art, parenting alone, and basic “me management” requirements. All told, it was a pretty good year.

So here I sit, at the edge of a new year full of goals and hopes, at the threshold of another decade, hopeful and curious about what comes next. I’m looking forward to making some new work. I’m excited about a few of the projects I’ve already got on the calendar for 2020. And I’m cautiously optimistic about how my ideas and goals will manifest in my life as I continue moving forward as an artist, a business owner, a single parent, and an average, decent human being in general.

One thing I’m NOT going to do to myself in 2020 is try to force any sort of social media presence. I’ll be here, mostly working, but I feel like this is a quiet, underground time in my process. My sincere hope is that we can all find a way to use our fiber pursuits to help each other, ourselves, and our planet in a sustainable, hopefully happy way. May 2020 bring all of that and more for you, and I hope you’re well, wherever you are in your artistic journey. Be warm, be well, be merry if you can. The light will be back soon enough.

The Turning of the Wheel

I woke up this morning and it’s October already! How?!

I had a magnificent adventure to Peru in July, and a few other adventures closer to home to round out the summer. September happened, as it so often does, in a frenzied scramble of new routines and back-to-school events. It requires a sort of hibernation on my part while I recalibrate and adjust to the new schedules. And now, it’s fall. Already. Where did the year go?

I have been using my “spare time”, such as it ever is, to sort the thousands of pictures from our trip and try to distill a narrative I can blog about here. I think I may have come to the conclusion that it’s an impossible task, but I’m still going to try because Peru is magical and deserves my best effort to share its wonder with you. Go, if you can. Truly. My bank account is still grumbling at me, but I regret NOTHING about choosing that adventure. What a glorious gift for me and my girls!

At the start of the year, I pledged to write weekly. That obviously hasn’t happened in a bit, and I’m not going to pressure myself to write catch-up filler. But I’m still here, happily dancing along, trying to figure out what’s next in this single motherhood/sole proprietor adventure and how to make the most of it.

I’ll write more soon, if only to share trip pics. The rest of the journey may go dormant for a while. The leaves are starting to fall and the world around me is turning inward. I may choose the same.

100 Days Done

It is finished! My second #100daysofbatts project is complete. I had to double up on a few days to make sure I was finished in time for my upcoming trip to Peru with the girls, and I got them all done!

It’s neat to do a daily project like this. Left to my own devices, I often work on a more casual schedule. I like the routine of “wool wash Wednesdays” and I try to spin 15 minutes every day, just for the meditative routine of it, but dye days, carding days, listing days (ahem!), etc. are less scheduled here. Having a repeating assignment every day means I have to show up, every day, no matter what else might be at hand, and I like that challenge. When I had to go to court to deal with my ex? I had to make a batt. When the awkwardness of visitation started? I used my time to make a batt. When I learned I might be able to travel with my kids? Made a batt. Made each kid a batt on her birthday, too. It becomes a sort of journal, a story, encoded in fibers. Some of them were obvious, and named to be, like the “365 – Silver Linings” batt I made on the anniversary of my ex abandoning us.

Silver and holographic sparkle, and a reminder to myself that all storms have magic.

Some were just playful, or repeats of previous colorways as I tinkered and dialed in the blends. Some were technique practice or experiments in how certain fibers would play with each other (or not; some were “duds” in my opinion). It’s not particularly taxing or time consuming to make a single batt in a day. The challenge is showing up, every day, consistently and not getting burned out or letting boredom or overwhelm derail the whole project.

Not sure if I’ll do 100 Days of Batts again next year, but I definitely hope to participate in the project again. You can learn an awful lot in 100 days.

Tolerance is for Tuna Sandwiches

Ravelry’s recent policy change is making headlines

Yesterday, one of the yarn and fiber world’s biggest names took a strong stance against white supremacy. Ravelry, a well-known pattern resource, info hub, and social forum for us fiber folx, declared a new policy banning support of Donald Trump on their website. The full declaration, which you can read here, goes into the reasons and gives specific details about what this policy change will mean for those who choose to use their site.

It’s pretty standard, really. A private organization makes a policy change, makes the rules clear, and moves on. As is also sadly standard, there is much backlash and brouhaha today. The fiber arts community has a particular brand of drama, and Ravelry’s recent decision about how to do things on their own website seems to poke right into the squishiest parts of it.

I could say things about that, but XKCD said it better a long time ago:

No, what I want to say here is specific to the calls for “tolerance” that I’m seeing posted in response to this policy. There seems to be a cry for “tolerance” of Trump, Trump’s policies, and Trump’s allies and supporters. Now, just writing that last sentence, I saw the problem, but maybe it’s not as obvious as it seems to me. So let’s spell it out: what you tolerate, you condone. What you don’t openly oppose, you tacitly endorse.

Which brings me to the title of this post. Tolerance is for tuna sandwiches, specifically for those who eat them in enclosed, shared spaces like offices or airplanes. Tolerance is for people who put/don’t put pineapple on their pizza. Tolerance is for those who put the TP over/under on the holder. Tolerance is for typos. Tolerance is for people driving slow in the passing lane. Tolerance is for socks with sandals. Tolerance is for honest mistakes accompanied by a good faith effort to apologize and do better, complete with action. Tolerance is for people who like and do things you don’t, and it only extends to a point: Tolerance is extended up to the point where it causes harm to another.

Someone’s preference for bamboo knitting needles over metal, or the inverse, is highly unlikely to ever cause someone actual harm (though this, too, has been the topic of many a Ravelry kerfuffle). A policy that actively separates children from their families and detains them unlawfully in inhumane conditions is a whole separate level of problem that cannot, MUST not be overlooked or tolerated. Someone whose policies actively denigrate, diminish, and threaten to destroy whole communities and groups of people is NOT someone to be tolerated. The policies of the Trump administration, and Trump himself, should be actively opposed by anyone with a conscience who believes in human dignity and basic decency.

That this is even a conversation we need to have is an embarrassment.

To tolerate policies that clearly violate human rights is to actively endorse those policies. Making space for those who actively endorse those policies to have equal airtime for their position is the same as saying “we are okay with this, and we welcome it here”. With their recent policy update, Ravelry has made it very clear that they don’t endorse, support, or tolerate Trump’s abusive madness.

In case it wasn’t well-known already: neither do I.

Shot of the floor at Newseum’s Berlin Wall exhibit

There’s a separate post to be made about the calls to separate the art/craft from the politics, and who that stance would harm/benefit, but it’s going to have to wait for another day because I’m out of spoons. As a placeholder, I’ll leave this image from the Newseum’s Berlin Wall exhibit, which was haunting.

Lucky and Well-Loved

We’re going to Peru! Let the research begin!

If I was ever on a plane before I turned 17, I was too young to remember it. The first time I flew, at least that I can remember, I flew from LAX to Gatwick with a handful of “new friends” on a school-sponsored trip to England, Ireland, and Wales. I’ve flown domestically a few times since, but that was my one “big trip” adventure to date. I love traveling, and I’d hoped to see more of the world than I have so far, but time and circumstance and all of that.

When I found myself a newly-single mom (almost a year ago now), I figured that was it. What little I could make would keep me local. We could go camping, which I also love, and have done a bit of already. But flights were cost-prohibitive and international travel seemed a far-off dream, at best. “Maybe I could chaperone my daughter’s school trip some day” was the big hope.

On a particularly rough day of parenting, I vented to my dearest friends that I’d had enough and needed a break. I whined about wanting a vacation, the way people who drink say they want a glass of wine or such on a bad day. I didn’t expect anything to come of it; I was just blowing off steam. But these are my friends, and they heard what I wasn’t quite willing to claim for myself: I desperately needed a change of scenery and a reminder that the world was so much bigger than what I was going through. One thing lead to another and soon, we had an idea: if The Powers That Be were amenable, maybe we, collectively, could pool enough resources and pull enough strings to get a trip off the ground.

And then I had ALL the feelings about this idea, because AnxietyBrain.

And OOOOH, did I have to sit with my feelings. It was rough. All sorts of issues about whether or not I “deserved” to go, or could ever repay the kindness of all of the people offering me help and funds to pull this off. I got poked right in the worth! But I kept chipping away at parts of it. Baby steps. “Well, I’ll just apply for passports” was the first part. So we did.

These little cheesers
Okay, that step is set. Now what?

When we’d finished submitting our passport applications, we looked into the logistics. Where we would stay was already taken care of, because my friends are mighty. They also came through with a good chunk of what it would cost to get us there, so the next step became finding a flight. Of course, this isn’t as simple as it sounds when you’re traveling with kids. My oldest flew as a baby, but has no memory of it. Youngest hasn’t ever been on a plane at all. Both are pretty open to adventures, and neither is particularly fussy about much, so I have that on my side, but there were still a lot of variables to consider. I decided we’d take red eyes there and back, and try to sleep on the plane. Found a couple of reasonably well-timed flights, held my breath and bought the tickets.

They’re totally posing in this pic. The attitudes!

Every step I took was more than matched by friends or chosen family, waiting in the wings to offer support, guidance, or a gift of some kind. A well-traveled mom friend let me know that kids under 12 traveling with a parent who has TSA Precheck can also bypass the security screening lines, and gave me the application fee as a gift because she knows what my brain will do with all these to-dos. When you’re bold about sharing your anxieties, people who love you can help you clear obstacles and try to smooth your path.

The red-eye doesn’t scare me, because I know my kids can sleep like this!

My kids are pretty pro sleepers at this point. I’m not, but I like coffee. I’m a mom, which means I have plenty of experience with low-sleep days and long nights. Still, I wanted to at least try to set myself up for in-flight sleep success so I asked for advice. A few days later, these showed up on our doorstep:

Headphones, eye mask, and a Trtl Junior pillow so their necks don’t bend at those odd angles while they snooze in their seats

There was a kit for each of us. Two days later, we each got a travel blanket (with a caution to avoid using the blankets on the plane, especially at the end of the day). I didn’t even know to ask for these things!

What I *do* know how to do is sell wool to make ends meet. I have to admit: I’d been stalling, partly because of fear and partly because of self-pity. This travel opportunity is the push I needed to fully commit to my business and get moving toward my goals here. The first step I had on that list was the streamlining I posted about a couple weeks ago. The second was reaching out to my local community, which starts with teaching weaving later this month. The third step will happen once I’m back from my trip, but the planning and preparation phases are already underway.

And the most joyous thing of all is this: I have hope. For the past year, I have tried to find any sparkle of hope I could hold onto. Every crumb, however small, helped to keep me from collapsing under the weight of the rubble of a failed marriage and the stresses of parenting alone through the festering suck of a messy separation and impending divorce. On the darker days, I held onto the hope of hope, the hope that, someday, I might genuinely feel what I was trying to intellectually create. Maybe it’s not “smart” to travel right now, but the hope and joy I’ve found just thinking about it are worth an awful lot to me. I can’t imagine I’d ever regret taking my kids on an adventure like this. When else will I ever have such an incredible chance again?!

So: We’re going to Peru! I’m looking forward to sharing the details here. A thousand thank-yous to all the incredible people who have come together to help make this possible for me and my daughters. I may never be able to pay you back. I hope that, someday, I will be able to pay it forward. We are so incredibly lucky to be so well-loved!

Weaving New Stories

A quick little rainbow weaving sample for a class I’m teaching this month at Rhizome DC

Sometimes, we need to tell ourselves a new story. After a significant life event, like a job change or a breakup, we have an opportunity to take stock of the stories we tell ourselves about the world and our place in it. Obviously, the end of my marriage and my new adventure as a single parent has meant doing some deep inventory about who I am and where I am in my life and where I want to go with these things.

One story I have told myself is probably familiar to a lot of folks: a story about how I’m not enough. Not good enough, not pretty enough, and maybe even not smart enough. I soak in a culture that profits from making me insecure about pretty much every aspect of human life, so this isn’t surprising. It is, however, something I can address. Therapy helps. Having a neutral outsider’s perspective on my life makes it easier to see the habits and patterns that keep me stuck. Major life shifts, like a separation/divorce, can crack patterns wide open and reveal all sorts of wonderfully painful truths about what I’ve tolerated and why I’ve made the choices I’ve made.

And then, the real fun begins! What to do with all that information? Information alone is not change. It’s just a doorway. Change requires being brave enough to cross that threshold and move into something new. As an artist, that’s part of my work. As a mother, that’s part of my work. As a human, that’s basically my whole job. So one of the things I’ve tried to do over the past year is set myself up for shift and change, with the idea being that this would happen whether I wanted it to or not so it was best not to fight.

One of the changes I’ve tried to make over the past year has been making better connections. I started by reaching out to my friends and chosen family when the excrement hit the air conditioning. Since then, I’ve worked toward building a bigger network, both socially and professionally. One of those connections led to an opportunity to teach a class in my neighborhood! I’ll be teaching an Introduction to Weaving workshop at Rhizome DC at the end of June. I’m excited to share what I love with local folks.

I have another exciting adventure story coming up, but I’m making sure my affairs are in order before I announce that. I am enjoying the experience of pushing myself beyond what’s comfortable and familiar, and I’m excited to see where these opportunities take me. Forward I go!

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!


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.


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.


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!

Growing Things

This little radish wasn’t quite ready yet, but someone had tried to tug it up anyway.

Growing things is hard! Good conditions make for good results, though there are always surprise variables along the way. In my life, as in my garden, I continue to try to make good growing spaces, with good conditions and good boundaries. In my life, as in my garden, there continue to be little surprises and variables outside my control. It’s hard to trust that things will usually come up as they should. They don’t always, and I know that, and I find myself losing faith sometimes. Then there’s the aspect of scheduling, and who determines when things are ripe and ready. I bet that little radish would’ve liked more time in the warm, rich earth of its planter, but that’s not what it got. It got pulled up early. And yet, it may be the most celebrated thing we take from our garden this season. It has the honor of being the first, and that means something. It being off-schedule and out of control and early was a source of great delight in my garden.

I can relate to that little radish. There’s a lot going on in my life that’s making me want to dig myself in, fight for the status quo, and scream “I’M NOT READY!!!” but I’m already halfway to whatever comes next. There really isn’t a way to dig myself back down into what I know, regardless of how comfortable and comforting I might find that idea to be. The reality is depleted soil and zero growth potential, and I know I don’t want that. I don’t know what’s to come, and that’s intimidating. Maybe I’m about to be served up as a snack! Maybe this is simply the next step on a much longer adventure. Where does this go? I don’t get to know, and so much of what is happening seems largely outside my control.

A happy little Spring Rainbow batt, complete with sparkle!

I’m grateful for my #100daysofbatts project. I’m 1/4 through it today, and the pile of accumulating product is pleasing to see. Slowly, steadily, it all starts to make sense. I’m trying to stay rooted in that practice, in that daily effort, and hoping to use it as a way to steady myself as the things I can’t control shift around me. This will resolve, and the next thing will come. Just like Spring came. Just like that little radish. I’ll try to stay present for the simple joys and the beauty in each little moment. I’ll keep showing up for whatever comes next.