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Archive for the ‘Spinning’ Category

Blue Moon

On February 3, an amazing package landed in my mailbox. I knew it was coming. I had ordered it. I had stalked it. I had counted the days until it’s pretties would come to me. Then, I arrived home, from The Kid’s music class. I drove up the driveway, and in my mailbox, peaking out over the top of the box, I could see white. A white. Plastic. Shipping bag. I nearly left the kid in the car in my haste. However, no need to call children and family services, I did retrieve The Kid before skipping up the stairs to get to the mailbox.

In the mail were my Gorgeously Gothic Spinalong batts.Gorgeous they are. Mine is a beautiful teal, black, gray mohair with angelina mixed in. There’s a hint of sparkle and a lot of color. They’re just beautiful. And soft. Boy are they soft. In fact, they were so soft that not only did I want to cuddle them, someone else did:

Unfortunately, they were not speaking to me. I’ve always wondered how writers can say that the characters talk to them. I know these days. To me, fiber has a personality. It wants to be made into something. However, it doesn’t just want to be made into anything. It has a specific desire.

Fiber has a personality. When I start to spin something, it needs to have a purpose. I do not want it to be “just another project.” It has to represent something to me. I’ve tried album covers, art, and tattoos. This fiber, gorgeous though it is, has a personality that has been begging me to do something with it. I just couldn’t determine what that something was.

I listened to music. I revisited a favorite old band, October Project. For some reason, the song “Deep as You Go” seemed to call to me. There’s something dark and gothic about October Project to me. There always has been. Something about it reminds me of Poe, of Pamela, of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre.  In my mind, I searched for the inspiration. Nothing came to me.

Finally, I remembered a night a few weeks ago. Mr. A and I were up late. As we took the dogs outside, the moon cast a blue hue over the yard. With the remnants of snow on the ground, the shadows seemed dark, mysterious, and romantic. Our yard has a large tree in it. We have no idea the age of this tree. All we know is that the yard becomes fully covered in leaves every fall, multiple times over. We estimate this tree to be close to 100 years old given it’s girth and height. Through the moonlight that night, on the stark white snowy ground, the tree’s branches were outlined clearly in black. The dark black against the light blue hued ground seemed magical. I said to Mr. A, “Part of me wants to take the camera out and take a picture. The other part of me wants this moment to just live in my memory.” At that point, we decided to just go to bed, the memory of this moment lingering in my mind while I quietly hummed the song “Blue Moon”.

Putting the music together with this image, the fiber finally spoke to me. I wanted something artistic. I wanted to be able to weave the beads and the silver thread and the sparkly butterflies and the teal ribbon into an art yarn that represented something to me.  However, the next problem was that I did not have a core around which to spin a corespun yarn. After much internet research, I found a tutorial by Jazzturtle on youtube on how to do coreless corespinning. This gave me the final inspiration that I needed. Last night, I began the spinning process.

I’m not spinning alone. I’ve got a a dream in my heart. And a yarn of my own.

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Spin Me Right ‘Round

The other night while seeking inspiration for DawningDreams‘ Gorgeously Gothic Spinalong, I came across PluckyFluff’s Handspun Revolution to be exhibited in Lillehammer, Norway. I found the idea intriguing for several reasons. First, fiber art is something that should be supported, especially given my feelings on the concept of art and handicrafts. Second, I realized after reading that I had the perfect fiber for the project. This particular fiber had me thinking more about the importance of fiber arts in my life.

Why was it this particular fiber? A few weeks ago, I joined a friend at her church for a fundraiser for Heifer International. The children had raised money for Heifer International and were purchasing an alpaca for a family. The children had learned all about alpacas and the fundraiser included a lesson about alpacas, meeting alpacas, watching me spin up fiber, and my friend knitting alpaca yarn. What fascinated me was that my spinning wheel became almost as fascinating as the themselves. Several of the children were so fascinated by the wheel, that they almost forgot the alpacas were in the room.

This particular fiber was the fiber I brought with me. It is a beautiful shade of dark teal. It’s soft. It’s fuzzy. The children were thrilled to pass it around and feel it. They were petting the fiber. Fascinatingly enough, the breakdown was oddly gender based. The girls wanted to touch the fiber and play with it. The boys wanted to spin the wheel faster and faster and fasterfasterfaster. They took hold of the front of the pedals and three at a time were pushing the pedals to make them go. They watched as I drafted and drafter faster and faster and fasterfasterfaster. Yes, the fiber became overspun. Yes, the thought meandered through my mind, “wow, what am I going to do with this? It’s not going to be fit to be finished yarn.” It became lumpy and bumpy in places where they unspun it. It became overly spun in places where I couldn’t draft fast enough.

Last night, in preparation for this post, I navajo plied the single I’d made. Some of it is even. Some is lumpy bumpy. Some is overspun.

I could fib. It’s possible that this could be qualified an “art yarn.” Its imperfections could be argued to be “design” elements, and in some ways, they are. The perfection of this yarn, the reason it will be making its way to Lillehammer, is that it is the prime example of what makes spinning such a wonderful experience.

Spinning is a type of magic. Something raw is processed into something final. It is an experience to touch the fiber. It is an experience to view the fiber. It is, in some instances, an experience to smell the fiber. Fiber has a quality of opportunity. It is a chance for the individual working with it to create from scratch. It is, in many ways, similar to cooking. Basic materials become so much more.

In this case, this yarn, this moment in time, the yarn being sent out is one that also served to educate and inspire youth. One young boy, so enamored of the fiber, “stole” little pieces of it to make a ninja headband/halo/nest for his bird finger puppet. In that moment, the spinning became less than the inspiration of the child’s creativity. Without the moments of wonder that these children showed, the spinning would have been nothing more than another example of an adult performing like a trained seal.

Speaking of adults, several were as fascinated as the children by the spinning process. They stopped by. They stared. They couldn’t get over how interesting/amazing/cool it was. Some of the older adult shared with me stories of grandparents or other family members who had spinning wheels or who used to spin yarn themselves. These adults were just as wondrous as the children. In those moments, the adults were able to, without realizing it, have moments of childhood wonder and innocence. For me, that is what makes spinning amazing.

Spinning is not about the final project, for me. Spinning is about the process. Spinning is about the creation. Spinning is about having the fiber tell me what it wants. Spinning is about making right in a world where so much is wrong. To me, that is what makes spinning so revolutionary. Spinning may not change the world, but it can change the individuals in it, even if for a moment. And in that moment, it can spin you around from someone living in a banal world to someone living in a world of wonder. That is the magic of spinning.

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Sigh. Usually, my year in summary forward thinkingness and nostalgia are posted the first day of the year. It is now, officially, day 2 of 2010. First, I have to say, 2010 is the END of the decade, not the beginning. I am solid on this. I refuse to admit otherwise. Nothing can change this in me. When I review a decade, it will be on the year starting with 1. End of story.

Over the last few months, technological manners of communication such as Twitter and Facebook have allowed me to update friends and family on the day to day goings on. I have pondered, at great length, self-identity and the internet. Does referring to myself in the third person remove me from my own life? Do tweets and status updates somehow make life into a miniature caricature of the truth? A few days ago, I used the Facebook collage of status updates as a year in review for myself. Horrified, I realized how much of my life revolves around another person and how little of myself I truly share with friends. Depth of self has become nothing more than an internal monologue. True, my philosophy of “amuse, inform, or entertain” for updates likely adds to the shallow quality of this collage. However, has my life truly become this vapid?

This particular year probably falls into the top five most life changing years. 2009 brought a new person into my life. A little tiny person who I did not realize it was possible to love as deeply, passionately, and selflessly as I do. However, just as much as my life has revolved around him, it has brought a greater sense of self-awareness than I ever thought possible.

Life is not about finding yourself. It is about discovering yourself. It is about finding true passion – in people, work, and hobbies. Little Man is, obviously, the greatest discovery of self I have had. I have learned that it is possible to have a different self underneath your sense of self. Lurking within me has been this human that I never thought possible. I have become someone who is willing to choose being with someone else over being alone. I have become someone who treasures each day – both its trials and its wonders – in an attempt to grab hold of the moment, hang on, and go for the ride without thinking. Many days are redundant, obviously. However, it is just this redundancy that reminds me, every night around 7:30 when Little Man hits his mattress, that another precious day of his life has slipped into memory. It is at that moment that, every day, I re-vow to live in the moment. I never realized that those times alone that seemed so precious would seem so pointless when faced with the potential for having so many of them in the future and so little moments to share with a small person growing so rapidly.

This year also brought the greatest professional fulfillment. I enjoyed the classes I taught this past year more than I have enjoyed any other classes (at least, as a whole) before. I enjoyed watching my students in the Spring wish my newborn a fond welcome and be excited to meet him. I enjoyed teaching a class of predominantly young men about nerdism. I enjoyed the raucousness of my classes this semester. I enjoyed finally being willing to let loose and be myself in a way I didn’t realize I had been holding back. I found myself giving more to my students than ever before. True, it might be unhealthy, but for the first time, I realized that when I call them, “my kids”, I truly do mean it. I reached out to students in a way I had previously condemned within myself. I found that the part of me that nurtures my son, husband, and dogs is an important part of finding fulfillment within my work. I found that within my work I find a sense of self. It is this sense of self that allows me to be a better educator, to give to my students more than just information, but knowledge. It allows me to dig into the material to create a place where open discussion of ideas can, potentially, make a difference. For this realization, I am grateful.

In the course of making sure that a certain little someone has benefits that I did not have, I have stepped outside of myself. I have become that which I previously mocked, at least in some respects I have. I am, at times, the definition of a “soccer mom.” However, through the course of providing social surroundings for my son, I have stepped out of my normal introverted self and created new friendships. These new friends (and if you read this you’ll know who you are, I hope!) have touched my life in ways I did not believe possible. Only a few short months ago, I did not know some of these people. Only perhaps, one or two or three. However, these new friends have helped me adjust to my new sense of self. These new friends are thoughtful, generous, wonderful, and caring. For these friends, I find myself grateful. I am grateful that they have helped me to discover this other side of myself – the me that wants to be with others and forge new friendships. This me that is willing to step outside of my normal boundaries and discover ways to be a friend that are new, different, and wonderful.

Fulfillment of self, however, came in various other places as well. Knitting and spinning have become, as never before, an outlet for expressing who I am. Finding inspiration in surroundings is obvious. After all, isn’t that what most people do? They look to their life and then use life to create? However, for the first time, I think I understand how something from within can become something from without. Finishing the first handspun was an accomplishment. After finishing it, the yarn was set aside waiting for the right pattern. However, no such pattern emerged. Thinking of the yarn itself, I began to think up a pattern. This pattern gestated for a while in my mind. Sitting down one night, I had to begin the creation. True, it did not work correctly the first few rows. In fact, since i have figured out what I wanted to do with it and made it work, I have thought of ripping it out and starting over. However, knitting is an expression, sometimes, of learning. This pattern is me. It is the visual, textile expression of my journey in the last year. It is all mine – start to finish. When it ends, I will have a tactile representation of my journey of self. For this, I am grateful.

2009 has gone. It is over. Tears, for the first time ever, were cried for seeing the end of a year that has brought such wonder to my life. 2010 looks to be an amazing year. However, 2009 will always hold a special place in my heart as a year in which I discovered my inner self. The self that I have been looking for my whole life. This is the end of the year as I knew it, and, y’know what? I feel fine.

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It’s Creation

“The opposite of war isn’t peace. It’s creation.” Jonathan Larson

Creation inspires. However, people traditionally think of the creation of art in terms of galleries and theaters. Art can be found in even the most mundane of activities. Art is life. Life is art. All of this is true.

However, recently, I mentioned my participation in the Tour de Fleece to a friend. The response I got was, “yarn people are funny.” Yup, we’re funny folks. We joke. We laugh. Some of us have tattoos. Some of us wear nothing but fair isle sweaters. Some of us are exactly what you think of when you think of “yarnies.” Some of us are not. Most people think of knitting and spinning in terms of a hobby. It’s a “craft.” What a cute word. It just brings to mind all those little macaroni projects and ashtrays you made out of clay when you were a kid, right? It makes you think of gaudy tie dye. It makes you think back to those days of shrinkie dinks. Nothing sets off the good old childhood memories like doing a “craft.”

However, “crafts” are just as often about creative expression and art as are musical compositions and paintings. In thinking about creating a yarn, for example, you want to think about weight, texture, color. You want to take into account how it will work up, depending on how you plan to use it. There’s a compositional factor to it that most people do not think about.

In any art, the artist first starts with the essentials. In music, it’s notes. In painting, it’s, well, paint. In writing, it’s words. All of these are the basic essentials of the art. In spinning, the spinner begins with fiber. Fiber is no different an essential tool than are paints or music notes or words. All of these are the foundations of an art.

The artist, regardless of medium, takes a material, a foundational essential, and crafts it. She looks at her words, if she’s a writer, or her paints, if she’s a visual artist, or the keyboard of a piano, if she’s a musician. A fiber artist looks at fiber. She looks at texture. She looks at color. She looks at the material. Is it wool? Alpaca? Mohair? Milk fiber? Bamboo? These are the fiber artist’s foundational essentials. They are the paints on her canvas. They are the words on her page. She carefully decides what type of fiber and how colors will mix together. She takes her inspiration from her life, from the world around her, from other arts.

During this year’s Tour de Fleece (for those who don’t know during the Tour de France, spinners created challenges and spun every day that the cyclists cycled), the challenge for me was to spin a representation of an album cover. Of the albums available, one spoke to me loud and clear.

Not only do I love The Clash, but Little Man loves them, too. When I think back to the last few months, I think about how my whole world changed in a milisecond. Then I think about the day where, after crying for about five hours straight, I sat little man in his bouncy chair, turned up The Clash and watched him wiggle around to the music. It is a moment that I will never forget. When the challenge to interpret this album cover as yarn was presented, I couldn’t help it. Inspired by my life and by art, I sat down to work through how I would do this.

First, I had to find fiber. Fiber, as the basis of the art, would be most necessary. The fiber had to be “just right.” The color had to be “just right.” After scouring Etsy for several hours, I found these two batts:

They don’t look like much, do they? Big, poofy, bundles of fiber. Organic wool, for what it’s worth. Ok, so the pink was actually titled “Purple,”  but there seemed to be enough of the color I had in my head to make what I envisioned. Plus? Well, they were on sale, and cash was tight.

Next, I had to decide how I wanted to work with these. Was I going to single ply? Double ply? Triple ply? How would I incorporate the whites and grays and blacks in the album cover? At first, I thought a ply of green, a ply of pink and a ply of white. Then, after more thought and some discussion, that did not seem to create the interpretation in my head. If I did that, the pink and green would smoosh together, and the yarn would turn into some scary mush version of, well, blech. While rummaging through the bookstore, I came across Intertwined: The Art of Handspun Yarns, Modern Patterns and Creative Spinning. In it, I found the inspiration for which I was searching.

I decided that an art yarn was the goal. No, not a painted yarn. Not a yarn glued to paper. A yarn that was, in itself, an art. I conceived a yarn that would look like a boucle. A yarn that had stripes of green and pink, with silver running through it and black beads spun into it. I set to the task.

I found that there was a greater amount of purple than I originally thought. I also noticed, as I spun my single ply, that pink and green? They do not mix together very well. Who’d have thunk? With all those prepsters out there mixing the colors, you’d have thought they’d look perfect spun together. Mmmm…not so much. It was then that I conceived my goal. The pink and green would be joined by purple “bridges”, much like the chorus of a song joins the verses.I picked through the dense batt of fiber. I painstakingly pulled out the purple from the midst of the pink. I set aside the different colors.

The single ply looked like this on my wheel:

Still, the process was far from over. I needed beads and a silver thread. I found a bead stringing thread, but there was not enough available for what I thought I needed.  I thought about embroidery thread, but that did not seem right. It was too thick. It was too little in a skein of it, making it expensive. It just wasn’t…right. I looked through the store.  I found a sparkly crochet thread – white with silver plied into it. Perfect. I looked for beads. The first ones would not fit on the crochet thread.  I found the perfect beads, but again, they were not going to fit on the thread. I settle for glass beads which, in the end, plied into the yarn well, probably better than my more asymmetrical “perfect” beads.

I set to the task of stringing the beads onto the crochet thread. I put enough beads for there to be approximately one bead per yard. I wanted the beads to be obvious but not overwhelming to the yarn itself.

I set up a homemade lazy kate:

I wanted to ply a boucle. I wanted the plied fiber to puff out to mimic the curves and lack of focus in the album cover. I wanted the colors to be prominent with enough beading to hint at the grays and blacks in picture. I wanted to intepret not just the colors, but I wanted to try to mimic the lines of the photograph and energy presented in the image.

I started to ply:

Finally, I finished the plying. I set the twist in warm water. I left it to dry. I woke up to find it looking like this:

Exactly as I had envisioned it. The yarn is not evenly plied. Then again, the image isn’t evenly focused. The yarn’s colors move from one to the next. They create a sense of motion within boundaries. They give a sense of the music, as well as the cover. The white and silver running through the second ply create a structure to the yarn, similar to the boundaries of the cover and the structure of the lettering, while also mimicking the black and white in the album cover. The black beads give pause here and there throughout the yarn at irregular intervals, creating a sense of the gray by using the black intermittently. The yarn’s texture is as I originally imagined it in my head. The colors, in the end, worked well within the construct of the interpretation, although they are not as I originally conceived the idea.

This is not painted macaroni. This is hours of work and thought. This is more than a hobby. To create one must love the creation. To imagine, one must have the imagination. The is the opposite of war. This is true creation from the bare esentials, from the basic fiber to the finished product. This is art. It begins with a thought, with an inspiration. It brings together different textures, colors, and materials. It uses these different materials to craft, not as a “craft”. It is creation.

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