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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!

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.

The Greening

Spring’s warm greens are a welcome reward for having survived a dreary winter.

It has come! The leaves are budding out, the birds are flitting and chirping, the garden is waking up, and the GREEN! Finally! Spring is in full force. I’ve washed and retired the heavy winter coats and completed the bi-annual “swapping of the wardrobes” for all three of us. It’s cherry blossom season here, and they’re glorious. The air smells fresh, and it was even warm enough this past week to walk barefoot in the yard.

Spring always brings me a sense of relief. We survived the long winter. The tulips are up, and the peas, too. The radishes are awake, and the carrots and beets are coming along. Got some onions going, and a few early brassicas and salad greens. Promises of easier times. I’m sure that’s an ancestral memory; I live 4 blocks from a grocery store, have dozens of meal delivery options at any time, and don’t need to hunt or preserve food to survive. Yet despite the modernity of my little life, that visceral reaction to warming weather holds true. Spring always seems to say “things are going to be easier now.” May it be so for all of us.

Court last week was an interesting experience. The system is SO broken. The judge didn’t even really seem to understand why we were there, and scheduled us for all sorts of things we weren’t even requesting. I’d tried to warn ex this could happen, but… Thankfully, my county has a business interest in keeping things from going to litigation, and the judge sent us to a “facilitator” to see if we could work things out on our own. That was easy. Ex had very little to say, so I did most of the heavy lifting. It’s tradition at this point, and I am willing to do it in the service of my kids (though he can decide to be collaborative and helpful at any point). We now have a visitation schedule that will hopefully allow my daughters an easy(ish) reintegration period and a chance at having a functional(ish) relationship with their dad. Dude better not screw it up (again). My kids deserve better.

I want someone to make me a t-shirt that says “I survived a court hearing that should’ve been an email.” Size XL, if you please. And that’s exactly what it feels like: I survived. Physically, I am quite well. Emotionally, I feel like I’m just getting over some wicked strain of feelings flu. I feel depleted, and vulnerable to whatever other emo cooties might be going around. Of course, now there’s the process of the actual visits to manage. I really hope ex is actually interested in doing this, and doing it well, for the childrens‘ sakes. I suspect that wasn’t even the heart of this recent filing, and it concerns me. Not much I can do about it other than try to make good boundaries to protect the kids, hope for the best and then see what happens.

I’m a bit grudgey because I had to miss Wool Wash Wednesday to go deal with this (unnecessarily messy) mess. I have routines for a reason. They insure all that needs doing gets done, which is a full-time job in and of itself as a single mom and business owner, but they also help to keep me grounded. As I wrote last week, the wool will keep. I’m excited to start processing a new fleece and get back into project making mode.

For now, I am allowing myself a bit of down time and space for extra self-care. I need to recuperate from the battle I just won, because I know there will be more to come. It’s a perpetual threat. It will continue to be until/unless he actively decides to rebuild trust (and he’s going the opposite direction currently, so I’ve little faith that he’s even interested in doing that work). I have no control over that mess as it’s not mine to control. So I return to my own work. To the daily carding for #the100DayProject. To prepwork for the classes I’ll be teaching soon. To the weekly woolwashing, and the slow but steady progress toward the realization of my business endeavors and creative dreams. And along the way, the daily life of mothering.

You know, my real job (because parenting is WORK).

100 Days

The results of last year’s 100DaysOfBatts 100 Day Project

Last year, I joined other artists and creatives in doing #The100DayProject. It’s a self-led challenge to complete some kind of art project or creative activity every day for one hundred consecutive days. I picked “card a batt” for my project, and carded at least one 2+ ounce batt every day for 100 days.

A cool thing happens when you take on a day-by-day project like this: you get a new means of measuring time. It was 80 “batt days” into last year’s project when my not-yet-ex abandoned the children and I (for the second, and final, time). Having 80 completed batts on hand made it easier to trudge my way through the last 20, even though I barely remember making them. An 80-day streak is hard to let go of; it’s habit by that point.

I love the reliable aspect of consistent work like this. It simply becomes “the thing you do” and not doing it starts to feel weird. There was a distinct let-down phase when the project was complete. Coupled with all the other things I have had to juggle as a newly-single parent, carding batts fell by the wayside and I honestly haven’t carded anything since.

A new round, a new beginning, a new dream

And so, I begin again this year. 100 more batts to make (well, 97 as of today, as the project started 4/2 and I’m on track so far). It’s a good reminder of how much I enjoy my work, and how much pleasure I get from playing with color and soft fibers and sparkly things. What I do is cool. I’m looking forward to seeing what this years battpile will look like, and how my carding will evolve over this slice of time.

The last of the “treat” BFL fleece, all washed up and ready to work with

I washed the last bit of that “treat” BFL this week, too. I am sad to be done with it; it was such a lovely fleece to process. I’m hoping to get some time to play with the clean wool, amidst the other projects and to-dos and daily life goings on. A nice thing about wool, especially once it’s clean, is that it will keep.

I have a few other projects in the wings, but I’m keeping them close for now. I have a court date with my almost-ex next week. How (un)romantic! He’s filing for visitation he didn’t so much as directly ask us about, after having not really engaged his kids at all for 9+ months. We’ll see how that plays out. Hoping to keep his destabilizing behavior to a minimum, for all our sakes. We are in a good routine right now, doing our dailies and living our lives. Anyone who wants into that ought to ask respectfully. I don’t see how people who walk out of one’s life are entitled to make demands of the time of those they’ve abandoned. I’d love for him to be the kind of dad my daughters deserve one day, but… This is not that, and I hope the court will see through the nonsense and do what’s best for my kids.

For my part, I am trying to keep things steady. As usual. As always. Routine, schedules, predictability and stability are good things for kids (and their grown-ups, too). And we have some exciting plans for extras and adventures, on top of the mundane/basics. We are okay, and I’m going to continue doing all I can to maintain that stability for them. One day at a time.

We’ll see what the next 100 days will bring.

Signs of Life

Things are starting to bloom here, even if it’s gloomy and grey today.

The caption above pretty much sums up my week. Things are growing, however slowly. Things are starting to bloom, even if against a grey and stormy backdrop. I want sunlight and brilliant blue skies, but I’m going to have to content myself with pops of petals and gradually warming temps.

This is a metaphor. I want resolution and the tidying of myriad loose ends. What I get is incremental progress, and a chance to practice patience. I’m learning, however slowly. I try to remember that the grey skies and storm clouds water my garden, just like the trials and frustrations help me to grow stronger and more capable of weathering my own storms. Everything has a season…

Peeking through to say hello

It helps to see the little bulbs and bits we planted last fall coming through. Every year I’ve lived here, I’ve planted bulbs in the fall. There are some in the backyard from our first fall here. The next, we planted a row along the front sidewalk. Then another, the third year, along the other side. The fourth year, we filled in some of the gaps in the front two rows. And then, last year, the girls and I moved the planters and put a row of bulbs along the front of the yard by where we usually park our car.

I always have a bit of doubt they’ll come up. It gets so cold and the ground is so hard. In the case of the ones in the back, they’re five years old now. Unless I mark them early, they tend to get trampled right as they’re poking through. We rarely water them, or provide them any kind of care. And yet, every year, they faithfully return to brighten our space and remind me that winter ends. Snowdrops and daffodils and crocuses and tulips, even the occasional hyacinth peeks through to announce that things are thawing out and warming up.

My lichen collection is growing! I should probably start that dye…

In the course of looking for color in nature, I’ve found a few more lichens for my collection. Not sure I have the mental energy for that project yet, but I really ought to do something about the stick pile that’s taking over my porch. We’ll see…

More BFL clouds. I’m absolutely enamored with this fleece!

Beyond that, it has been a reasonably quiet week. I washed more of that beautiful BFL I started last week, and my love for it has only grown. I will be sad to finish it next week. It has given me something to look forward to, and I worry that in its absence, I’ll start dreaming of buying new fleeces (I neither need nor have time/space for much more raw wool at this point!). That said, MDSW is fast approaching… The annual trip! I’d better get my butt back to the studio and get through my current projects if I want to responsibly acquire more. I should put the last bits of “hermit season” to good use.

Puffy Fluff

A happy little BFL cloud from a fleece I started processing this week.

I needed softness this week. Not sure if it was the time change, the full moon, the retrograde, or simply the realities of being a single mother going through a contentious divorce from someone who, well, let’s just say the divorce is merited. Times like these push the worst of my perfectionist buttons. Not only am I struggling in general, I’m facing deliberate headgames and nonsense from an ex who knows just where to cut at me, and, what’s worse, I’m beating myself up for not being perfect through all the chaos.

I can’t help the struggles. Struggles come and go, and that’s how I become stronger. As tempting as the idea can seem sometimes, I can’t really imagine a life without challenges. The older I get, the less I shy away from facing things that scare me, stress me, or push me to level up in some way. This is a tall order as a person with anxiety, but it’s usually worth the risk. The headgames, well, we’re getting a divorce. He’ll keep doing his stuff, and I’ll keep using it to validate all the reasons why a divorce is so very necessary, and has been for a very long time, though I didn’t want to see it. I didn’t want a divorce, but I’m starting to understand that it’s the best possible option for me and my children. Living in known toxicity was so draining for all of us; we understand this in terms of chemicals and lead in the water, but leaden emotional connections are just as damaging. We’re so much happier already. I will that would continue, and that we’d keep moving away from unnecessary mess and drama toward a fulfilling, meaningful life. Maybe someday he’ll choose to join us there, but that’s none of my business anymore and I’m done giving him eleventy chances to be decent.

The part of this I can control is that internal monologue that adds a bonus “…and it’s because you suck.” to everything. Side effect of several relationships where I allowed others to blameshift sole responsibility for shared suck onto me. I’m not a perfect person, not by a long stretch, but I’m a decent human. I learn, I change, I put in good work, and I’m committed to evolving and improving until I die (and hopefully that’s some time off still). Part of that has got to be growing a stronger sense of self-worth so I don’t join Team KateHate when people around me try to project their mess onto me. This has been a recurring theme for years now, and I’m still working on it. It’s hard to be soft. It’s hard to be gentle with myself when I fuck up, especially when my mistake(s) get twisted into a narrative that says I’m the only cause of a problem (I am responsible only for my piece). I’m fairly good at seeing my own mistakes and taking responsibility for them, and I need to learn how to do that without shaming and guilting myself for being a human and making mistakes.

And so, this week, I tried to practice softness. To ask for what I needed in a way that respected what I was going through. I had to push back a couple projects, call off a social event, and spend extra time wrangling my tangled brain, and I tried not to give myself guilt and grief for taking the time I needed. I give to EVERYONE, even people who never reciprocate, and it’s time I showed myself the same generosity. I deserve to take gentle, loving care of me, too.

For this week’s wool washing, I picked a “treat fleece” I’d been hoarding. It’s a squishy little BFL, and beautiful, and I’ve been saving it because it’s special. I needed something special just for me, so I decided to open it up and start processing it. It did not disappoint! I have a project in mind for this one, and it’s all for me. Not for work, not for others, not for sale, just for me. I so rarely give that to myself, and I deserve the same care I show others. While I work through this fleece, I’m going to look at all the weird obstacles to self-care that my brain likes to throw in my way, and see what I can do about softening them. There’s a related story about how sobriety has made this so much easier, but I’ll get to that another day. For now, have some fleece progress pics.

Pre-soaking the dirty “fleece noodles”
Scoured and still soggy
Pretty purls to play with

Where Is Spring?

My little lichen pile is growing

Can it be spring now? The last couple of days have been sunny and warm, and I am ready to put the cold and slush and grey behind me! I think we’re due another round of it, unfortunately. March is like that here. But… soon.

Not much to report this week, and I’m grateful for that. I love it when things are steady and quiet. Not “easy”, but reasonably peaceful and that’s always a nice thing. I put a couple of teaching gigs on my calendar; I’m looking forward to doing more of that this year. I’m testing some new project ideas, but they’re not quite ready to share. And then, of course, the usual work of spinning, washing wool, organizing inventory…

Good luck, little dudes!

My seedlings were busting out of their sprouting trays, so I took them outside. I may have sentenced them to a cold end, but I’m hoping they’ll toughen up and survive. We’ll start some direct-seeded neighbors for them this weekend. Maybe something will come of it. In any case, I needed to clear the trays to make room for the tomato and pepper seedlings, which need to be started soon.

I’m not much of a gardener, but I love the idea of it. The girls and I built a pretty good garden for this year. Hopefully the plants will like it as much as we do. If nothing else, we’l learn from what doesn’t work. That seems to be a theme this year…

A Brief Pause

Lovely lichens, moss and mushrooms on a tree near my home

This week, I tried to be kind to myself, practice excellent self-care, and gently expand my world beyond my comfort zone a bit. I applied for a job I probably won’t get, but the practice of applying is good for me, regardless of the outcome. I met a new friend and pushed myself to be social. This isn’t easy for me even during good times, and is particularly challenging when I feel like my life is on fire. But I’m a decent human and a good friend, so I showed up with all my vulnerability on full display. It worked surprisingly well.

Beyond that, I tried to just take it easy. I made getting enough sleep a priority. I took extra walks. I did extra meditations. I simplified the menus this week so that I wouldn’t have to cook and clean as much. I tried to just slow everything down a click. I think it was helpful. I don’t get “breaks” the way that I would if I worked a 9-5, so it’s important to find a sustainable pace and some room to breathe, however that ends up working.

I’ve noticed a lot of lichens lately. I found a particularly lovely one right on the sidewalk a couple weeks back. Ever since, I’ve noticed them on downed branches and the trunks of trees along the trails I walk each day. I took the piece of bark that was on the sidewalk home, but I haven’t taken any more yet. Right now, I’m just noticing them, paying attention to where they like to be, and trying to look them up and figure out which might be suitable for dyework. I don’t exactly need any additional projects right now, but I like the thought of them. If nothing else, they’re beautiful, and they remind me to walk slowly and be fully aware and present so I can find them. Enjoy the calm.

Bit By Bit

And so I begin. Again.

I am late to my Friday post. Apologies. It has been a long week. Dusted off the Aura (literally and otherwise) and decided to begin. Again. I’ve done this before. My hands remember.

Went to court this week to file a response to a proceeding that should never have been filed in the first place. The “don’t wannas” are strong, but I am stronger. I remember this. Grateful for a past life as a paralegal and the functional knowledge of legalese still stored in a dusty corner of my brain. Guess I’d better dust that off, too.

Got up too early this morning to go to the vet with my pup, and then home for a half-day with the kids, and then back to get puppers (she’s fine, but my wallet might die). Alternated between feeling frantic and frazzled, and feeling a sense of calm and gratitude. These are hard things that seem simple; nothing is easy when you’re doing major life-shifting work. I am doing all of these things.

I am tired.

As always, I return to the wheel and the wool. Bit by bit, it all comes together. Bit by bit, the next steps are revealed. Bit by bit, it starts to make sense as a whole.