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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.