I have spent so much time in the last four months just working on house. Climbing ladders, trimming trees, scraping, painting, climbing chairs, neck craned to paint ceilings, on my hands and knees scrubbing floors, baseboards, putting in tile, rolling out carpets, I found it quite difficult to squeeze in exercise or art. The exercise part was covered by 12 hour days and exhausted falling into bed, waking only to begin again. And when all of that was done, packing what was left after my daughter left, and then unpacking in my new single room abode. How simple this room is. I look around and it is like the inside of me, in a very materialistic way, my favorite drawings, only my favorite books, my favorite elephants, my favorite photos done by my childhood neighbor, the counted cross stitch tigers. Hanging here on the doorknob is the Navajo sheep wool, a rough textured cream and soft oily grey, that I spun and plied after my trip to Arizona three years ago. It is greasy with lanolin as I wrap it over my feet, holding my legs out when my feet start to hurt from resting them on the edge of the tall bed with storage drawers underneath. Next the first roving I ever bought with my Mom, a mixture of bamboo, silk and lambs wool, green like spring trees mixed with wool I bought from a lovely woman I met at a craft show, the wool of the Finnsheep, so soft and so lovely. I prepare myself for tangles, it sat too long on the niddy noddy and then too long on the back of a chair, then too long on a towel hook in the bathroom after I washed it. But my method for winding wool alone works beautifully and with care and attention it is soon wound into a fat ball. I contemplate some hippy poncho, or a throw blanket with squares of my hand spun wools. When I am done I spin a fiber bought at a flintknapping festival this summer, where I met a woman with Firefly Farm, the wool is a lovely pygora and cornedale mix. A similar green, but a totally different feel. And when I have wound that last of it onto the spool, I dig out the fine black alpaca I bought last winter from a woman I work with.
I play it off like I haven’t been creative at all, but I have been. I have been knitting like crazy for the last two months. I almost made a whole sweater before I tore it all out and am going to start again. I have made socks, mittens, and a hat. Today my knitting pal and I went to visit my co-worker’s alpaca farm. It was delightful to see the animals, which are stunningly gorgeous with their giant liquid eyes, long eyelashes and thick soft wool. We loved the Peruvian made articles of clothing that she had for sale in her shop. She told us that the business they have done with them has greatly improved the cost of living for the whole village, that just rocks! But in the end it was the yarn for both of us and the roving for me that drew me in. She chose a marbled dark and light grey yarn, and I chose a gorgeous, luxuriously soft black yarn for new mittens for me. Both of my mittens are worn enough to have big holes in them, and I realized today that my green mittens are probably 5 years old! The purple ones less so, but they are not my favorites, they have never fit quite right. I also bought a small bag of black roving also so soft it is indescribable. It was a good day for the long drive and we both came away happy with our little purchases.
I am thinking of changing the title of this blog to art mania. This morning I went to the Regional Market and happened upon a woman selling meat, from Sweet Grass Farms, meadow raised meats. She was also selling lambs wool. So I purchased about a 1/3 of a pound of natural colored wool to ply with my bright green wool. Later I went to the Zen Center of Syracuse and helped my friend and fellow Zen-ie, hang the tags and clipboards and general assistance with the Silent Art Auction. While I was there I watched the Tibetan monks working on an intricate and beautiful mandala made from sand. There was also a dedication ceremony in collaboration with the Haudenosaunee people, a local stone sculptor has made a beautiful sculpture for the garden. What a delightful blending of Zen, Tibet, and Original People. I bought a prayer flag to hang outside on my porch, and I also bought a beautiful wall hanging that says basically that even in the smallest of families it is loving kindness, deep respect, and a good heart which is most important. Love it. I knit 7 inches on a baby sweater today too. A good day for art.
I discovered a new store yesterday, Holiday Yarns. I was at a quilt store here in town and the woman gave me a card for a new store in one of the disintegrating malls. I went in yesterday and have discovered a new treasure, she sells hand dyed yarns, socks, bats, looms, spinning wheels and sheep oriented buttons, pins etc.. I bought a small ball of alpaca rovings just to try it out. I also purchased four oz. of what she calls “Build a Bat”. For 6$ an ounce you pick out fibers of your choice with wool as the main fiber, and while you are shopping she cards it on a drum carder and gives you your bat of mixed fibers. I picked some gorgeous undyed soy silk and some banana fibers to mix in. I now have two gorgeous soft luxiourious bats of moss green rovings. I spun off all of my hot pink rovings just so I could try out my green, oh it is so lovely to work with.
I love the smell of my rovings, that particular sheep smell. When I spin with it and later as I knit with it. I breathe in through my nose and the smell is like fresh baked bread in that it is almost intoxicating. I try knitting a sweater for a stuffed animal with my first attempt at drop spindle, then the thinner more springy second attempt. I look at my first attempt on the spinning wheel, Bad Acid, and am doubtful anyone would buy anything made of such ugly yarn. I am spinning the Raspberry Sherbert, its twist more regular and less springy, the weight more regular. I can go for quite some time now without having to rethread it. There is a deep satisfaction in making my own yarn.
I am feeling very amatuerish after reading a book about spinning, spinning woolens spinning worsted, who knew. I always thought woolen described the type of fiber ie from wool. And worsted described the size of the yarn. HA! I have no idea what I am spinning, I fan the roving spreading it out in a triangle from the spin, sometimes long lines of fiber gets twisted in. It is thick it is thin it is bumpy and long long lines of smooth even twist. Oh dear I have no idea what I am doing. Michelle asks what are you going to do with all that hot pink yarn. Make a baby sweater I say – at least my mistakes will only be worn for a short period and then put into goodwill. I will not label it with our business labels. I will not lay claim to my early morning foibles and frustrations. I have a confession this Finn sheep yarn seems to spin itself. It is so soft I want to bury my fingers in the rovings. I touch the yarn on the spool. Oh it is so glorious and gorgeous. I stop to pick out bits of hay and start again, steady even feet. Pedal, pedal fan and twist. I spin for a long time, better hot pink than 70’s turquoise, orange and brown – ick. I will call it Raspberry Sherbert and the other Bad Acid.
Several years ago I had asked an older family member of a family friend to teach me how to tat. Apparently tatting with a shuttle is quite difficult and few people can do it any more much less teach it. Today I had the opportunity to learn how to needle tat with the Crazy Quilting maven Ms. Connie Ostness. I found it relatively easy because it is quite similar to a knitting cast on stitch I just learned from the great grandmother of one of my elementary students. I am really thrilled that I am learning how to do this. Now if only I had the time to enjoy all of the wonderful things I now know how to do. Including spinning some of the fabulous Finn Sheep yarn I bought from Elizabeth at StillMeadow Farms, a gorgeous rose and a lovely “blue jeans” indigo color.
I want to mention this excellent book by Barbara Foster called Learn Needle Tatting Step by Step. It is a great book with excellent photo directions. It is very clear and easy to use. I think I prefered to have a human teacher to show me the first steps but I know that if you are trying to learn needle tatting on your own, this book is the one to go to. You can see my first loop, loop chain and flower with loops and chains. I think I did really well.