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.
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.
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…
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.
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…
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.
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.
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’twannas” 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.
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.
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.
It is COLD where I am today. I’m originally from southern California, and while I haven’t lived there in well over a decade, I believe my internal thermostat may be permanently adjusted to think 70 degrees and sunny is the default. It’s sunny here today, but that’s about all it has going for it! Temps are finally below freezing, as they should be in this area in mid-January. Nothing strange about that.
What’s strange is trying to thaw my fiber practice and previously-routine wool working habits and routines, especially when everything else is so quiet and still. Over the past few years, I’ve had to fight for my health, my sobriety, and then, when my husband abandoned my daughters and me (again), my sanity, as well. Wool and fiber art and all those little loves got put on freeze while I used what resources I had to keep everything else running. If you’ve done this sort of thing, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, I hope you never have to. All I can say is that I’ve experienced “tired to the bone” in a way I hope to never experience again.
Still, I am an artist. And while I can pause my art and redirect my energy elsewhere for a time, I need to work. I need to create. I need my hands in the scouring trays, picking the VM out of fresh locks, picking the fibers to blend and feeling the twist at my fingertips as I spin. These things aren’t options, they’re a vital part of my identity and I need to keep time for them. So, one week at a time, I’m gently nudging some other responsibilities aside to make space for my wool practice again. I’ve made time each day to spin, and set aside one day a week to wash wool. It’s not much; this isn’t anywhere near the amount of time and energy I’ll need to resurrect a business. But it’s a slow thaw. While everything around me is frozen solid, this little seedling is trying to wake up.
What can I say? Life happened, as it so often does. My last post was literally years ago, and while I’d love to tell you that I’ve been on a grand adventure between then and now, well… Okay, it was an adventure! I can say that much.
Welcome back to my little corner of the 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: