Wednesday, July 24, 2013

My Own Personal (R)evolution

Daughter's Kool-Aid Chianti Shawl
I've been a Crafter as long as I remember.  And from the first, my interests lay in a decided direction... fiber. I remember sitting on the floor of my grandmother's farm house in Marquette, KS with one of her crochet hooks and some yarn (probably Red Heart).  She had just inducted me into that wonderful society of fiber artists by showing me my first move, the chain stitch. That's pretty much it, but I was delighted and diverted, and contentedly sat there chaining away to my heart's content. I had no idea how to turn that wonderful chain into anything meaningful, but it didn't matter. I was creating!

Fast forward a couple of years. As a young Girl Scout, I found I loved to earn badges. One of those badges was knitting. When I learned of a lady in our community who was willing to teach this mysterious method of turning yarn and pointy sticks into sweaters, scarves, and mittens, I became ecstatic. Grandma, slowly slipping into the abyss of Alzheimer's, was no longer able to mentor me, so here was another door opening up for me. Dutifully, for four weeks I showed up, along with two other Girl Scouts, to this lady's apartment where she attempted to teach me knitting. I'm thinking I was around nine years old at the time. Unfortunately, although my brain understood what I was meant to do with my hands, my hands had alternative plans of their own and steadfastly refused to cooperate. I never finished that scarf.

I turned my attention to other fiberly directions. Mom was a wonderful seamstress, and in Junior High, she, along with my Home Ec teacher collaborated to teach me how to sew.  Either because I had matured, or I was just naturally better at it, the sewing thing caught on. For the next fifteen years, sewing because my standard fibery pursuit. I sewed clothing, accessories, and home items. I still love and use some curtains from this particular period in my life. Sewing was fun, and I still love it, but it took up space and required time, neither of which I had as a young married woman working a full time job, so once I began my professional life, the sewing dried up to a trickle. And when Child Number One was born, the stream dried up entirely.

I stopped working when my baby was born.  My world was suddenly filled with diapers, feedings, burpings, and lullabies. I stayed away from sewing the entire time with the exception of the tiny infant layette I sewed in anticipation of his birth. Two and a half years later his baby brother joined him, and I was busier than ever. But I had learned something else. I needed a little tiny corner of creativity just for me, or I shriveled up inside. I dabbled with jewelry-making, even purchasing a torch to make lampwork beads, but while I enjoyed that craft immensely, it just didn't satisfy me in the way that fiber did. During that time, I visited my husband's Nana in Alabama, and she and my mother-in-law visited one night. Somehow, fiber entered our conversation, and she pulled out her yarn and crochet hook. That very night, those sweet ladies reintroduced me to crochet, this time showing me how to turn that chain into something else. Something useful. Something beautiful. A baby blanket.

I spent the next couple of years delving deep into crochet. As a left-handed crocheter, I found patterns to be confusing, so I did my own free form crochet. I checked out a book from our library named Left-Handed Crochet and happily worked my way through several blankets and quite a few granny squares. I even spent a great deal of time putting tiny lace edgings on handkerchiefs! Yep, I was smitten again, but it was just going to get better, as it wasn't long after that, my mother-in-law introduced me to knitting again.

This time, I took off. It's as if my brain had never ceased working out how to make my hands obey, and this time they got it right. I jumped right into knitting blankets and scarves, and leaped right on over to hats and sweaters. A couple of years after that, I dove headlong into lace, and it's been love ever since. I can't even count the number of shawls I have knit, along with mitts, blankets, or lace washclothes. Eventually,  I
Sakaki shawl, given away to a dear friend.
jumped into designing shawls and knitwear for myself and to sell, but I digress somewhat, because my next adventure was spinning.

For me, the means of introduction to the spinning world was a top whorl spindle that I purchased on-line from Simple Market Farms.  Now out of business, the small company made quality "beginner" spindles that didn't cost a fortune.  By this time, Baby Number Three had joined the ranks, and I had a certified toddler/preschooler who loved to help me learn by spinning the spindle for me, so I could concentrate on my hand movement.  Like my earliest forays into knitting, my mind knew what it wanted to accomplish, but my clumsy hands wouldn't obey. It took weeks of patient practice for me to finally work out how to spin, but by then my skills were well on their way!
Here is Simple Market Farm's littlest spindle, the Briar Rose, nesting in a soft pile of Pachuko cotton.
I spun and spun and spun on my spindles, for about five years before I ever got a wheel, so once I did, the wheel spinning was easy peasy. To this day, I'm undecided about which experience I enjoy more, my wheels (Majacraft Rose and Little Gem) or my spindles. Each one is special, and as I spin on them, I feel my stress slip away with each rotation. It's better than therapy, and cheaper to boot!

My most recent venture in the fiber arts world that has stuck (I tried weaving, but it just didn't call to me like the rest) is dyeing. At this point, I have chosen to dye with food grade dyes, like Kool-Aid, Paas Easter Egg Dyes, and Wilton cake dyes, because frequently, my daughter, now a fiber artist in her own right, likes to join me.

Kool-Aid Dyed Yarn

Close Up of the Yarn
I have so enjoyed introducing her into my fiber arts love. She now sews, knits, crochets, and dyes like a professional! This blue yarn was special, in that it was destined for her shoulders as a sweet shawl, the Chianti Shawl.
So we come back around. The ever-revolving fascination continues, for myself, and now for my daughter. It is a true delight, and a joy, and I look forward to continuing my learning in this wonderful medium!

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