if my spinning wheel could talk

spinning wheelput away for the summer? put away for the summer!? Seriously??? why? Just when I want to party, and dance! When there all kinds of summer festivals for fiber, when the colors of the outdoors are vivid and lush…when I could be inspired by the colors of the flowers and trees– stuck in a dusty corner of the dining room…life is so unfair.

In the winter, then I am suitable company, I guess. When her creativity runs low…when she looks out at the snow and knits. The colors of winter are soft greys and undyed wool…instead there are skeins of indigo blues, rich purples and deep greens, miles of yarn traveling through my flyer, winding on my bobbins. I see her out there in the kitchen, up to her elbows in wool, and dye…wrapping multi colored bundles of wool in Saran Wrap and boiling them, like a witch at her cauldron….the steam making me wish we could open the windows. Yellows that look like freshly ground mustard seed, greens the color of a dark forest path, the trees canopied overhead closing out the sky…

We travel through time and continents in the dark of winter, the rhythm of the treadle and unspoken stories between us…

Owning the energy…

Having worked my way thru countless art fairs, craft fairs, harvest festivals, farmers markets, gallery openings and gift shops, I have watched varied reactions to the price of fine art, and hand crafted items.  Too many times i have seen someone pick up one of my favorite pieces from a recent firing, one that shouted to me from the back of the kiln with its fire touched glaze, saying “look at me!! I’m here! I survived!”— and watched them glance at the price and quickly put it down, even saying to a shopping partner, “ooof, toooo expensive!”

A spinner friend of mine, Sarah, recently put a beeee-autiful piece on etsy.  Its a cowl (pictured to the left) that she knit from wool that she not only spun, but dyed previously to that.   She has taken workshops and worked for years on her own to perfect some gorgeous spinning technique.  When I asked her how she had made this piece- what kind of knit stitch and dying/spinning questions, she replied:

“This was the second half of the 8 oz roving I dyed in fiber form. I spun a singles in thick and thin, then coil plied it with three different colors of cotton/poly thread held together. It’s knit into a moebius – three rows of knit, three rows of purl – alternated.”

Wow…she did everything short of go out to the pasture and shear the sheep!  Sarah probably wouldn’t view any of what she did as a ‘big deal’… but not everyone can do that… and that is why hand crafted things cost more. They are not made by some machine in a foreign country, from a machine made polyester fiber that was made from recycled water bottles.

Items like this are made by real people, with lives and kids…pets and spouses…people that are trying to figure out how to fit in some ‘art time’, some spinning time, some potting time, in between their jobs, their obligations, their kids’ soccer games.  Real people that had a vision for the piece before it was birthed…a vision that they mulled in their mind how to make tangible, a vision that they wrestled thru with the fiber, the dye, the paint, the clay, the wire, the beads, the glass, the paper…real people that then created and breathed thru that process…and offered it to the public…

When you pick up a piece of art, a hand crafted item, you are picking up the experience of the making, you are picking up the energy of the artist, the process and birth of the piece.  You are being given the opportunity to own the evolution of the piece from birth…the story…

how do you put a price on that?

never satisfied…

“I have a masters degree, certainly i can figure this out!” If you have been around my house in the past month or so, you have heard me muttering this, or something similar…its usually low and under my breath, as I wrestle with knitting needles. Yes, you heard me right, knitting needles.  It started with the spinning.  I do love to spin, but the yarn is piling up.  I put some of it on my etsy site, but no one wants to buy yarn from a potter, i think.

i mastered the “Knifty Knitter” a few years ago, which is this funky loom that you can make hats and scarves on.  I really love the Knifty Knitter…its easy and fun and i can make something in an evening…and for just $9.98, you too can be a Knifty Knitter- oops, never mind, felt like a commercial for a second.  The Knifty Knitter has its place, but really? How many hats and scarves can you use, or give away?  I really wanted to make socks- and reasoned that they would be similar to making hats, just with a toe and heel.  So I searched high and low for a “sock loom”- found a couple and finally ordered one.

The sock loom was no good. I was so excited, bought some special sock yarn- thought i should start with some yarn FOR socks first… a bit let down…its kinda hard to do- the pegs are small, and the yarn is fine, and well, it was going to take me forever to make a pair of socks…i had visions of socks just flying out of this little loom…i would be giving socks away, there would be so many…not the story at all…those “get socks quick” schemes never work…i should have known.

So i was back to – “i have ALL this yarn!! what am i going to do with it?” except now, we had added “and I really want to knit my own socks”.  The unspoken words in this sentence are, “and I want it to be fun, quick and easy, and i want to use all my handspun yarn.”

And then I met Judy…

“i knew you would want this…”

I spun for 2 hours yesterday…no music on, no TV, no distraction…just the whirring of the wheel…it was a precious time- felt like it was one of those fluffy dandelions that is captured in the glass paperweight… safe, soundless and insulated.

last fall when i returned to school for the year, my dear friend Karen came to me with a garbage bag in her arms.  She presented it to me and said, “I knew you would want this.”  Turns out she had sheared her llama, Bella, and apparently at some point in time, I had told her that if she ever did clip Bella that I would love the fleece.  I had no recollection of this, but that’s not unusual…i say things like that.  So here i was… with several pounds of unwashed unpicked llama fleece.  I ventured a look in the bag when I got home.  Yep.  That’s what it was.  I stashed it in the waterheater room.  Every so often I would glance at that trash bag and wonder about what i was going to do with it…and then would be distracted by something more urgent.  I had absolutely no idea what i was going to do with this fleece- I didn’t spin, i didn’t knit, i didn’t crochet…in fact, i didn’t know really anything about fleece, except for one failed attempt to make a drop spindle from a Mother Earth News article years ago…and so it sat…and i ignored it.

…until someone mentioned a spinning class in Hot Springs in March…and the rest is history 🙂

life has changed in the past year…my empty nest is full for a time…

so thankful for this quiet tactile colorful art, that allows me to be creative during this time in my life…and so thankful for a friend who “knew you would want this”, even if i didn’t.

Spinning with grace

 

“is this the way? is this how you hold it, Aunt Pat? Do I pinch like this?” I was sweating.  In my mind, teaching my 5 year old niece, Grace, to spin had been such a lyrical task.  I would show her the wool, the colors, and the textures, and I would explain how the wool came to be sheared, and dyed and carded.  And together we would learn the parts of the spinning wheel, and I would show her how the flyer spun the wool and wound it onto the bobbin.

It wasn’t going that way at all- she was miles ahead of me and treadling the wheel at warp speed.  I was trying to catch up with her thought processes, still wondering in some small corner of my mind, why she wasn’t enamored into stillness by the colors and the textures of the wool.  Determined to recover, I entreated her to treadle more slowly, giving the wool a chance to spin before it was consumed by the flyer orifice and bobbin.  She slowed a bit.

Taking this small window of opportunity- this itty bitty breather- I asked her to stop.  I peeled a narrow rope of wool from the roving.  Handing one end to her, we drafted from both ends, like a spaghetti noodle between two.  At that point, we pulled it apart in the middle.  With her focused on drafting, i was able to demonstrate how much stronger the wool was when it is twisted, rather than the fibers laying side by side.  This made the critical impression.  She showed everyone else in the house, even her next door friend, what ‘strong wool’ we were making.

Teaching can be challenging. But so often what you teach isn’t the craft itself, but the qualities associated with it- patience, diligence, craftsmanship, and appreciation for other’s work. Grace will never look at machine made yarn in the same way.  And I found that the only way to teach effectively was to abandon my lofty ideas of how it was going to go, and roll up my sleeves, catch up and get to the objective of the whole thing- making strong wool.

tomorrow we are dying with Kool-Aid, and carding…

color junkie

Inspiration is a message in a bottle from the distant shore, a window into the other world, a tap of the muse’s finger, the grace of the gods.  It comes when you least expect it.  ~ Phil Cousineau

Update: my etsy shop has a creation called “message in a bottle“- check it out 🙂

so there is a woman on Etsy.com, her profile name is ‘girlwithasword’ and she is from Iowa, and her yarns are … words escape me, they are mouth wateringly gorgeous…and its the colors, some are earthy and some are soft and warm, and some are what you would see at sunset in the Grand Canyon… and they inspired me!

(Imagine ‘superman music’) Dant-tuh- DA! I want to BE Girl with a Sword! I want a houseful of beautiful yarn like that! I want overflowing baskets of it hither and yon in my house!  I can do that, right!?

So I bought Kool-Aid, and Rit dye and got out my wool and kettles and set to dying!

I found out that Kool-Aid does a stunningly silent job of dying.  You wouldn’t expect that, but it does!  Kool-Aid is underrated!  And here is the miraculous part, you add the Kool-aid to the hot water, dissolve it, add the wool, let it sit til cool, and when you go back to take out the wool, the water is clear (whisper ‘its like magic’)…and your wool is brilliantly colored.  I made Orange Orange, and Blue Raspberry and several others.

Rit dye does OK, but it doesn’t do the clear water trick, and its harder on the wool- feels more like your hair when you bleach it or dye it too much…sort of damaged.

And so i have all of these awesome colors of wool! While they were drying, i visited them, held them next to one another, matched them up and fawned over them.

And you know what? I don’t want to be Girl With A Sword anymore… I like my stuff better, and my colors are more me…that is inspiration from another, when you are moved to get up off of your butt and create something…even if you want (dant-duh-DA) to be someone else for a moment…in the end, if you are you again, its OK 🙂

PS…how’d you like that message in a bottle quote? Did you see how i did that? 🙂

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