15 @ 40 // day two
It’s a spiral sometimes, this crafty business. For my fortieth birthday late last year, my family treated me to a long coveted addition to the gadget shelf – a spinning wheel. While I haven’t yet quite gotten to the “maybe we should get a couple of sheep” part of proceedings, I am rapidly amassing a nice collection of fibres for blending and dyeing.
I recently added a blending board to my fibre gadget collection, and despite my enthusiasm at the beginning, I’m struggling to fall in love with it. With bundles of fibres sitting there waiting for me though, I am committed to working through my stash before I make a decision on whether I continue to push through, or sell the blending board. A month ago, I was firmly in the sell camp. Now, I’m on the fence.
There’s just something so satisfying about winding back the process and being involved in each step. The selection of fibres. The blending. Carding & drafting into rolags, the first hint of what is to come. Spinning the rolls into yarn, that will one day become something I knit, and can take pride in knowing exactly how much of the process is solely the result of my own choices and actions and creations.
Seeing each stage laid out ready to photograph, I started to see why I felt drawn to extending my newest hobby from “just” spinning, to include blending the fibres. Just like extending “knitting” to “spinning” gave me an opportunity to add more “me made” to the process, blending the fibres I spin to ultimately knit with gives me even more control over the eventual outcome. The colours and the way they play together in the yarn – that’s 100% me and my choices. Knitting generally involves a pattern to create a known outcome. Spinning is reasonably predictable and methodical – if I draft like this, with fibres like that, I will get yarn that comes out a bit like…
But the blending, the play of colours and fibres and sparkles, that is all about the way I choose to lay down the fibres. It feels more playful, more experimental. It feels like painting, with fibres, in a way, like laying down the first layer of a mixed media piece. Carding it is like the layers laid over the top, stencils and stamps to get the overall colour story coming together. Drafting it into rolags is like the top layers, seeing it come together. And then finally, spinning it, stepping back from the page and seeing the vision come to life.
I come from a long line of sheep farmers. I loved spending school holidays helping my nan bake scones and slices and biscuits, and take up to the shearing shed for smoko. As I got older, I got to play roustabout, sweeping up the tailings and tidying the shed. Even now, I love to watch the shearing at the local show. I even occasionally talk about getting sheep for our property, instead of cattle, and then I remember exactly how much work sheep are, and I am very much not down for that.
And as I think about that history, I feel like if I could sit down with my great great grandmother, and explain I was carding my fibres myself, blending them, drafting them, spinning them into my own yarn, she would look at me like “so commercially produced yarns aren’t easily available then?” and I would have to explain that they actually are, and I could buy them and get them delivered without ever leaving my couch with coffee and cake in hand. But where’s the fun in that, I would say, it’s much more exciting to do it myself. Do it yourself, I imagine her saying, for FUN? Can you not afford these new fangled commercial yarns? Is that the problem? Are the prohibitively expensive?
No, I would say, they are cheaper to buy premade. I choose to do this, in my spare time, because it’s interesting, it’s fun, I enjoy it.
At that point, I’m sure she would be wondering if I’d be better off in the mad house. I’m not quite sure how, exactly, I would explain that a process that was once a chore, is in fact what keeps me OUT of the madhouse. It comes down to, I think, the power of choice. I don’t HAVE to do this to keep my children clothed. If I don’t feel like spinning on a particular day, they aren’t going to go cold. Instead, I get to enjoy the process – the creativity of choosing and blending colours, the soothing rhythm of watching those fibres become yarn. It doesn’t feel like a chore, because for me it isn’t a chore. At the same time, it connects me with those who came before me, for whom it was a chore and a critical part of caring for their family.
FIBRES: Angelina sparkle fibre in Watermelon, Merino in unknown peach colour, bamboo fibre in Marigold, bamboo fibre in Forrest, Rose fibre raw, Merino fibre raw. Blended on an Ashford blending board, spun on an Ashford eSpinner3.
Today’s post is part of my “FIFTEEN AT FORTY” project, a fifteen day, fifteen project, celebration of creative exploration, to mark my fortieth year and my blog fifteenth. The journey so far has been amazing. The creation of the pieces I plan to share with you over the next fifteen days has been a revelation. I am brimming with inspiration and motivation for what is still to come.