Why Do You Always Do Things the Hard Way?

Last night I was looking over my workshop thinking about all my fiber and what I might like to get done this coming week. And in that sweet blissful moment, I heard my mother's voice ringing in my head, "Why do you always have to do things the hard way?". I indulged the imaginary conversation and replied, "I sort of love doing things the hard way". I love using my hands. I love connecting with the natural world around me. I love expressing my human quality, human ability to create! Besides that I get huge satisfaction about knowing the whole story of a finished product. I love knowing the whole story. I love being in the story.I know my mother (or my imaginary perception of my mother) is not alone. When I mention to people that I'm into processing and spinning wool, I'm often met with a look of confusion. You what? How? How do you do that? Isn't that tedious? It's as if the knowledge is expected to be long gone. Why would anyone do that anymore? Why do we even need to know? And yet. . .behind the bewilderment is definitely intrigue. It is deeply humanly satisfying to know how to use your hands.

So, I say to all those voices in my life and in my mind, I do it because I love it. It leaves me feeling satisfied, fulfilled, rejuvenated, human, connected. Its more than just the yarn.

Fiber and Painting

When I was in school, art class was my reprieve from the day. Some days I lived for that hour of freedom to breath and create. I remember with love and appreciation my teachers over the years who introduced me to crayons, ink, pastels, clay, and paint. Oh, paint. I have loved painting as long as I can remember. And I loved those classes for the opportunity they gave me to play. Many years since then have passed with me feeling like there was no time for painting. Work, chores, duties, bleah. Now when I pick up a brush, I feel like I'm picking up where I left off. I feel like a child. 

I have found the same love, sanctuary, and play in fiber. Too bad they never had a loom set up in my high school art department. I have loved every skein, every quirky piece, every random creation that I have made. This is a good medium for me right now. I love the process and I love the outcome. LOVE it. 

The Chosen One

Cedar: The Chosen One

I recently visited Wild Rose Farm on shearing day. I was so excited for this day I actually had butterflies leading up to the event! The owners kindly introduced me to all the 'wool-in-waiting' and to be honest, I had no idea what I was looking for. They all looked amazing to me, probably because they were all amazing fleece. How can you go wrong with Wensleydale, Teeswater, English Leicester Longwool, and Border Leicester Longwool? So I perused the sheep and decided on an 87% Wensleydale in white, and this little beauty in black. This one is a cross between Wensleydale and Border Leicester Longwool. Below is Cedar on the skirting table. I can hardly wait to get to work on this wool.

Skirting Cedar

Follow Your Art

I didn't know there was a wrong way to roll a ball of yarn until someone I admire rolled her eyes at my style of yarn balling.I didn't know that my style of crocheting was wrong until someone older and more experienced than I said to me, "I don't know what stitch you're doing , but that is not crocheting."

I didn't know I could be proud of my art until my fifth grade art teacher told me she thought my work was beautiful, and I believed her.

Reminds me of a poem by Shel Silverstein

Listen to the Mustn'ts

Listen to the Mustn'ts child, listen to the Don'ts Listen to the Shouldn'ts, the Impossibles, the Won'ts. Listen to the Never Haves, then listen close to me, Anything can happen child. Anything can be.

There is no wrong way to create your piece. It's only your way. If it looks good to you, if it feels good to you, if it satisfies you, then it is good.

Follow the skein, follow the hook, follow the needles. Follow your art.

Dyeing By Natural Causes

One year ago I was on fire about natural dyes. I've had a great time playing with them this year. Here's what I've tried:

Cochineal + Alum Onion Skins Mysterious Mushrooms (from my yard) Strawberries + Alum Blackberries + Alum Hydrangea Blossoms + Alum

Color is an amazing gift from Mother Earth and I'm very excited about another round of dyes come spring. But, there are some definite drawbacks in vibrance, and color fastness is sort of unknown - bummer. And I must confess, the lure of immediate satisfaction with acid dyes calls to me. Being able to add a pinch of powder and yield a fire engine red or brilliant orange would be really fun! Natural dyes aren't so predictable or speedy. But, they are my first love when it comes to dyes, and will always have a special place in my heart.

Spinning Strawberries

I just plied two bobbins of super soft wool which I hand dyed last summer with strawberries my son and I picked from Bell's Berry Farm down Libby Rd. in Coupeville. Holding that yarn takes me right back to the warm days in July when we packed the car full of kids and made our annual pilgrimage to the berry farm. The whole experience is medicine for me. Shuffling down the rows of berries under a hot sun, working my fingers through the plants for the best berries, filling a box with the abundance of Mother Earth also fills my heart to overflowing with the idea that every good thing is available in abundance to us. Watching my boys experience the same feeling of peace and satisfaction, sweet red juice running down their faces and a mixture of mud and berry plastered around their mouths and fingers is bliss! Go ahead, get messy, get completely, abundantly covered in the gifts of the sun and earth!We are never rushed at the berry farm. We move slowly through the patch savoring the moment that only comes for us once a year. And when our boxes are bulging, we head back to the car with full bellies, happy hearts, and hopes high for smoothies, jam, and of course, sweet soft pink yarn.

Church of Loom

Two nights ago, I found a rare moment when the children were asleep, the house was clean, and all my chores were done for the day. My normal mental distractions were all tucked away, and I sat down in front of this Navajo loom. I haven't learned how to warp. This loom/warp was a community effort which I have inherited for a spell. I barely know what I'm doing or even what it's called. In spite of my ignorance, when I sat down on the floor in front of this loom, I felt at home. It was as if I was sitting down with an old friend I hadn't seen in years. I felt God smiling.

Maybe devotion to God is filling our time with the passions and talents he's given us. Maybe it pleases him to see us living the dream. Maybe worshiping him can be simply playing with the gifts he's given. Maybe church can be a quiet night alone in my workshop sitting on the floor with a loom and some yarn.

The Acorn Necklace

I think acorns are cute.They are simple and complicated depending on how you look at them. They are food, they are seed, they are abundant.Many years ago I discovered that you can string acorns fairly easily with a needle and thread. Such was the birth of the acorn necklace.It's free, and it only takes a minute or two to make. Think of them as a gift from Mother Nature. Happy Fall!

Here's how to do it First, set the ambiance for this sweet project with Little Acorns by the White Stripes. 1. Find cute acorns with sturdy caps. 2. Pick a length of string, thread, hemp, or whatever from your stash. 3. Thread your needle, and work it through the acorn in the desired location. I like to thread it through the nut just barely below the cap. This prevents your pendant from hanging upside down when you wear it. 4. Voila! Knot it, clasp it, tie it in a bow, or however you like, and wear a gift from Mother wherever you go.

Note: These don't last forever, but they do last a very, very long time.

What Art Means to Me by C. Valentine Kirby

Marguerite Porter Davidson

I came across the following quote printed in the front of A Handweavers Pattern Book by Marguerite Porter Davison. It resonates with me. WHAT ART MEANS TO ME

I feel within an impulse, perhaps that divine impulse which has moved all races, in all ages and in all climes, to record in enduring form the emotions that stir within.

I may model these emotions in clay, carve them in wood, hew them in stone, or forge them in steel. I may weave them in textiles, paint them on canvas, or voice them in song: but whichever I do I must harken always to the song of the lark and the melody of the forest and stream and respond to the color of the rose and the structure of the lily, so that my creation may be in accord with God's laws and the universal laws of order, perfect fitness, and harmony.

Moreover, I must make my creation good and honest and true, so that it may be a credit to me and live after I am dead, revealing to others something of the pleasure which I found in its making.

Then will my creation be Art. Whether I be poet or painter, blacksmith or cobbler, for I shall have labored honestly and lovingly in the realization of an ideal.

C.Valentine Kirby

What Art Means to Me by C. Valentine Kirby

I came across the following quote printed in the front of A Handweavers Pattern Book by Marguerite Porter Davison. It resonates with me. WHAT ART MEANS TO ME

I feel within an impulse, perhaps that divine impulse which has moved all races, in all ages and in all climes, to record in enduring form the emotions that stir within.

I may model these emotions in clay, carve them in wood, hew them in stone, or forge them in steel. I may weave them in textiles, paint them on canvas, or voice them in song: but whichever I do I must harken always to the song of the lark and the melody of the forest and stream and respond to the color of the rose and the structure of the lily, so that my creation may be in accord with God's laws and the universal laws of order, perfect fitness, and harmony.

Moreover, I must make my creation good and honest and true, so that it may be a credit to me and live after I am dead, revealing to others something of the pleasure which I found in its making.

Then will my creation be Art. Whether I be poet or painter, blacksmith or cobbler, for I shall have labored honestly and lovingly in the realization of an ideal.

C.Valentine Kirby

Grandmother Love

I can't explain to you why a drum carder has this effect on me, but I felt silly giddy when my Louet Classic Drum Carder arrived in the mail from The Woolery.  Something was stirring in my universe. For some reason, having this peice of equipment was the final stepping stone in place for me to set foot on the promised land.

Cracking the tape on that box was magic. I unlocked the portal and was instantly surrounded by women of ages past who, like me, can get lost for hours in the art of crafting wool. Their thoughts, wishes, and heartaches poured out in meditation while turning the cards and spinning the wheel. Their hearts felt instantly connected to my own. Like the locks of wool themselves, grabbing on to each other, becoming one. I felt myslef stepping into the chain of all the women who have ever put ther heart into the craft.

It is more than just a craft. It is healing, it is meditation, it is creation at our fingertips; beauty unfolding from raw unknown. It is a chain of women over the centuries holding something in common. Standing beside one another with thoughts and wishes of love and supoprt for one another. An unspoken friendship, sisterhood, and grandmother love made alive by simply sharing the process of putting our hands and hearts to the fiber. We are one, Grandmother.

If you are like me, and you hear fiber calling to you, maybe it's really grandmother calling. Maybe the hours we spend with fiber are really hours spent together in ancient company. Do you hear it? Is it calling? We are one grandmother.

Fiber and I

Fiber and I go back about a decade or so. I met fiber on a hot and dusty day at This is the Place Heritage Park in Salt Lake City, UT. I shuffled into one of those little cabins and there was fiber! A mock pioneer was demonstrating how to use some hand cards and I was immediately entranced. I could have spent all day in that dingy cabin. I wanted to know how to get my hands on some wool, and once I did, what to do with it. I wanted to know everything! I only had a few short moments with fiber that day, but I've had a huge crush on wool ever since (no offense, Alpaca).

So, it's been a decade at least. It's taken me that long to get to the point in my life where I can actually play with fiber. In that ten years I have moved from the desert metropolis of L.A. to a rural island in WA. I met and married my true love, and I have given birth to two chubby-cheeked boys. I've spent the past three years giving them my all. I am exhausted. Amid this life, fiber still calls to me. I dream about it, and I wake up anxious for any free time I might be able to spend in my workshop.

My workshop is a room in my house where I wash, pick, card, spin, and dye my fleece. I do it all by hand because, well, for me, that's the whole point. It feels good to turn something raw and unloveable into something beautiful with my own two hands. I love putting myself into the whole process, start to finish. I love holding one of nature's abundant gifts between my fingers, and saying,"Thank you!" by making it into something useful.

Fiber and I have many years ahead of us to learn about each other. Its just nice to finally be living together.