Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Alpaca Handspun Yarn and Baby Booties

There is a certain romance for me, in taking the fuzz straight off an animal's back, combing it, spinning it, and with two sticks turning it into art. 

But oh, if only it was just like that.

It was almost an epic fail.  (Just a side-note, my teenager has banned me from using the word epic, since apparently, I do not understand it's proper modern usage. In other words, I'm too old. But it's my blog - so watch me go ahead and try it.)

Some kind farmers up the road at Windy A Alpacas gave me some lovely alpaca fiber.  They have a wonderful farm, and we spent a sunny afternoon there with the kids, feeding and admiring the alpacas.

Fiber!!  Woo-hoo!  Everything I had spun up until that point had been spun from purchased roving.

I wanted to experience this entire process, dirt and all. 

The only catch was, of course, that I had no idea what I was doing.  The internet was a maze of ideas.  Everybody dealt with raw alpaca differently.  Some people spun the fiber dirty, some washed it first, some had tools that I didn't have, the possibilities were endless enough to give me a headache.

I chose to start with the bag of black alpaca.  I carded the fiber, but it wouldn't smooth out very well.  I spun it dirty, it turned my hand black.  Not exactly fit for evening spinning along to Downton Abbey. So I washed it, but my washing attempts ended up felting the fiber!  Some of my lovely fiber wasted..... I tried spinning some anyway.

It wasn't spinning very well.  I was getting a bit discouraged.

So I tried spinning from the bag of white fiber.

The white fiber had a very fine crimp to it.  It wasn't very dirty at all.  I used a technique (thank you wonderful lady at the Spring Fair) called Flick combing, with a cheap dog brush. 

Lock by lock, this stuff fluffed and cleaned out in seconds before my eyes into the loveliest fiber.

It spun up beautifully.

Even considering my fumbling and my rough skills.

I know, crazy, but so far I haven't actually knitted anything out of all this yarn I've been spinning. 

It is time consuming to produce just one skein of the stuff.  So I have lots of odd skeins of yarn right now.  After all my hours of spinning I had come to a point where I really needed this whole process to finally come full-circle.  I needed a sense of completion.

I decided on a quick and small knitting project, my favorite stay-on baby booties.

I had just knit a purple pair.  They are knit from lovely sock yarn.  They are perfect. The yarn is smooth and even.

Then of course, I knit the same exact booties from my luscious handspun.
My handspun yarn has thick and thin spots and spots that are a little too twisty.  It doesn't look the same as commercial yarn at all. But these booties are just as lovely with all the little imperfections in the fabric.

I don't know how to find the words to describe how I feel about these little baby shoes.  Obviously I knit in the first place because it is rewarding to me, because there is this excitement I feel in the creative process: in finishing, in the feeling of 'Hey, I made that'.  But this takes that feeling to a whole new level. 

There is so much joy in art!  Lest you think my life is full of days with my children happy and smiling while I curl up next to a cozy fire spinning and knitting - you are wrong!!  We have five kids, and two with special needs. We don't even know what a normal family life is like.  Every day is hard, and many days bring me to tears.  I have to fight for my art.  Even if that means sometimes fighting my own guilty feelings about leaving other things undone or putting myself first.  Some knitting projects are pulled apart by my little ones, other times I find myself scrambling for the time to knit a single stitch - but it is all worth it.  When my needles are clicking along I feel more balanced, and my kids see that motherhood and womanhood isn't all martyrdom and tiredness and frustration.  And when my children need balance in their own lives, I see them go and begin some creative process of their own. 

In the end, it is what reminds me that a life without art or creativity is not a life at all.  I may not paint or draw, but a creative mind always finds a way, EVEN, when it is hard.  Especially when it is hard.

So here you have my first hand-knit, hand-spun, hand-processed, locally grown, art-yarn project.

From start to finish.  No, I'm not up to spinning enough yarn for a sweater yet.

But it feels so satisfying to have gone through this whole process, from start to finish. 

For the first time in my life.

To have a sense of what it really took to produce clothing from fiber as people have done for so many thousands of years.  I admire the tenacity of those people so much. As I figure this stuff out, I feel connected to those who have gone before me, sewing and knitting and spinning and stitching.  It slows down the rhythms of my way-too-busy life even for just a few seconds so that I can make something that no one really needs, but brings me so much joy to create.  I am so grateful to be connected to this art. 

Sharing this week with:

Frontier Dream's Keep Calm Craft On Tuesday
Ginny's Small Things Wednesday
Natural Suburbia's Creative Friday
Wisdom Begins in Wonder's Fiber Arts Friday

Monday, September 2, 2013

August Loveliness


 "August rushes by like desert rainfall,
A flood of frenzied upheaval,
But still catching me unprepared.
Like a matchflame
Bursting on the scene,
Heat and haze of crimson sunsets.
Like a dream
Of moon and dark barely recalled,
A moment,
Shadows caught in a blink.
Like a quick kiss;
One wishes for more
But it suddenly turns to leave,
Dragging summer away."
-  Elizabeth Maua Taylor