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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.

Untangling The Skein

Pulled this little lovely out of its storage bag. Now I need to reclaim it.

It’s a lovely wheel. It really is. I remember when I bought it. At the urging of my incredibly-talented late friend, Maiysha, I acquired a second wheel. My first was the CS2 I sold last week. It was a good wheel, and perfect for the art-yarn styles of spinning I was interested in, but I wanted something I could do more with, and the CS2 isn’t a good wheel for thin spinning. So… this creature. It’s a Majacraft Aura. It’s lovely, truly. It’s just… Well, it has baggage.

The wheel was kinda sort of a gift from my almost-ex. I say “almost” because we’re not technically divorced yet. It’s complicated, just like my relationship to this wheel. It wasn’t really a gift. Not in the traditional sense. It was timed to arrive around our “wool anniversary”. I told a pretty story about how he’d gotten it for me, and how darling that was. But that’s what it was: a story. The reality was that the wheel was acquired, like so many things, in an attempt to soothe a hurt, and patch a wound, and fill a hole that was only getting deeper by the year. By year seven, our marriage was basically dead in the water. But I continued to prop it, and him, up, and puppet the dead stories around as if there were life in them still. And to prop myself up, to fortify myself against the crushing weight of the sadness and loneliness and deadness in my own being, I bought things. Like the things could make me happy somehow…

Now he’s gone (again). And so are a lot of the things, habits, people and patches for old holes I now have to actually mend. I want to be able to just freely enjoy the dang thing, but I never have. It’s why I fought with the CS2 to spin thinner than it was designed for. The CS2 was something I bought for myself without pretense or a story or a need to convince myself I had an actual happy life and decent partner… a role he possibly never wanted to play anyway. The CS2 didn’t have feelings. This thing definitely does, if not in and of itself, then certainly by virtue of all I’ve projected onto it. And so, like so much of the unraveling and reclaiming I’ve had to do since my husband abandoned the children and I again, I have to confront the reality of this object, as it actually is, and decide what I’m going to do about it.

When my not-yet-ex abandoned us the first time, I found ChumpLady and her brilliant post Untangling the Skein of Fuckedupedness, and I felt seen. I have spent well over a decade of my life trying to decode and unravel and understand the manipulative, abusive, neglectful, hurtful, damaging behaviors that existed in my marriage. I wanted to solve the problem. I think that’s fair, and my intentions were good. I wanted to create the life I wanted for myself and my children and my “happy family”. I wanted it so badly I was willing to lie to myself about what it actually was, and go to great lengths to spin fantastic tales about how things could appear to be, but actually weren’t. The end result, of course, was that I was chronically exhausted in ways I didn’t even realize until he left again and I finally decided to STOP.

So, what to do with that now? Where does the story go from here, and how will it end? And that’s where this tired Yarnie finds herself today: what new yarn to spin from this mess? The only thing I know is that I’ve finally given up hope of untangling that messy skein. It’s not my work to do, and I’d never succeed, no matter how much effort I sank into that work. The owner of that skein of fuckedupedness may like it just the way it is. It’s not for me, and so I move forward, ready to spin my own yarn. Hopefully in a healthier, less codependent way this time.

In less metaphorical news, here’s some actual yarn.

Little Fluffy Clouds

This week’s washed wool: A lamb Cotswold

I sold a wheel this week. Life circumstances are such that I needed the funds more than I needed the wheel. It was an Ashford Country Spinner 2, the first wheel I’d purchased for myself after learning to spin. I learned on a Louet S10, graciously loaned to me by a kind neighbor who taught me how to use it. The CS2 was easier for the art-type yarns I’d fallen in love with making, but has the same tension system as the S10. It was a good wheel, and I enjoyed using it right up to the day I sold it. Its new owner seems to have already fallen in love with it, and named it after me, which was really sweet.

Things here have been tricky lately. There’s a lot going on in my personal life that I don’t blog about, and it tends to muck with my plans in many unfortunate ways. I try to remain hopeful that this, too, shall pass, and that there will be a better normal at some point in the not-to-distant future. For my part, I’m grateful that I’ve established routines and habits that nurture and support me and my family. As a single mom, it’s always a challenge to meet everyone’s needs. For so many years, my needs got pushed aside, or put on “as resources are available” status. No more. Prioritizing my health, in all facets, is critical to the health and well-being of my entire family.

Still haven’t quite figured out how The Yarnicorn is going to fit into that picture. I love what I do, but I worry it may not be enough. For now, I wash the wool, I spin the yarn, I keep up with the industry news… With so much in flux, I really do have to just wait and see. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes. I’m excited to see what it may become.

Fluff and stuff

Stripped batts, ready to spin

This has been a demanding week, and I’m glad it’s Friday. There’s a lot of turmoil in my life right now, and sometimes it’s hard to see the light at the end of what feels like an endless slog through a dark tunnel that *might* be full of spiders. One of the things that helps to keep me grounded is a daily commitment to spin yarn for 15 minutes. Sometimes, I spin for a lot longer, but on rough days, I set a timer for 15 minutes and then I’m out. The process of spinning yarn is grounding to me, and the softness of good wool is soothing. Playing with bright colors can brighten my mood, and mixing them up shows me of how beauty can be created by contrast.

There’s also a reminder in this practice: little things add up. Keeping each of my “spinning appointments” means I’ll eventually see finished yarn. 15 minutes isn’t much, but over time, it makes many skeins. That’s an important reminder for my brain, which likes to have everything figured out in advance and gets super frustrated when that’s simply not possible. All I have to do is keep showing up and putting in good work, and there will most often be something neat to show for it at the end.

Tension

New singles yarn on the niddy-noddy always looks so perfect! Everything is in order, in straight rows under even tension, and it all looks organized.
But as soon as I let go of that tension knob on the niddy noddy, all of the stored energy in the yarn wakes up and coils and it gets all kinds of chaotic. This is usually when I start to panic that I’ve overspun my yarn and everything is ruined.
Instead of freaking out, I put the new yarn into a warm bath. I have learned that this approach is useful for both yarn freakouts, and human freakouts, too.
And nearly every time, unless something has truly gone wonky, a bath and a bit of adjusting will render even the silliest of singles into a more organized skein. There’s a bit of twist to it still; it’s got no ply to move against, so that twist energy will always give it a bit of direction. But it’s a perfectly serviceable singles skein.
This is one of the things I like best about making yarn. The process is soothing, and a call to be patient, and a lesson in how things are created over time. But there are all these little hidden secrets in it, too. I started for the yarn, but have stayed for the deeper meaning.
Every skein tells a story.

Going Slow

One, leetle BFL/Wens lock at a time…

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 sell, because I love it that much). I wash about 12 ounces at a time, because I like to watch how things are going, and I only wash about two trays a day, because my back will complain if I try to carry more. This makes it a fairly slow process.

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.

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!