Adventures in art yarn.

I’ve been in a spinny mood.

All in the last few weeks, I’ve finished at least four spinning projects—depending on how you look at it.

fullsizeoutput_eb5I would not count those two shiny orange skeins on the left, but they are included as finished products of the Yarn Revival, which began for me in April.

Next up is the original Rainbow Connection yarn. I dyed this merino top on Easter, and it inspired nearly all of my new colorways.

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Apologies for the terribly blurry photo.

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9CA4973D-E698-4A3C-9613-D575E24422C2I did a fractal spin with this one, and somehow, I completely misjudged the weight of the two plies. That’s okay. I ended up with a lovely chain-plied mini skein.

IMG_2003And the softest two-ply I had ever spun—up until that point (foreshadowing).

IMG_2007Then, at Mount Saint Joseph last weekend, my buds Kate and Maria were both spinning their new Fencerow Fiber braids.

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Maria’s “Twilight” merino top, split and spun as a two-ply.

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Kate’s two Rainbow Connection braids that had yellow ends, split and spun end to end , Also two-ply.

Not to be left out, I pulled out a Rainbow Connection braid (Pink, Purple, & Blue), which I spun as one single from end to end.IMG_2037At first, I wasn’t sure if I would ply it with another contrasting or coordinating single or chain-ply it. I have some merino/silk top in gorgeous blues that would have been beautiful plied against this, but it wasn’t already spun. And I wanted yarn, right then!

 

Maria and Kate spun theirs in a single day. It took me all weekend to get the four-ounce single spun. I’m slow. Which is okay. But the impatient two-year-old in me was throwing a hissy fit.

So chain-ply it was.

fullsizeoutput_ee1This has to be the bulkiest yarn I’d ever spun—up until that point (more foreshadowing). It was right at three hundred yards, and most of my four ounce braids come out between four and five hundred.

And then I came home.

I decided, since I was in such a spinny mood, I could ride that wave to finally get the light and dark BFL off the Matchless.

So I buckled down with the first season of Anne with an “E”—highly recommended, now streaming on Netflix—and made it happen.

fullsizeoutput_ebfAnd then it was time to ply. This yarn was always going to be a two-ply, so that was no mystery. What was a mystery was this wheel.

Let’s just say that my entire Monday was lost to learning all the fiddly bits about the Matchless: how to change the flyer and maiden, how to switch from double-drive to scotch tension, how to change the drive band, how to set up the lazy kate—each, its own little nightmare.

Most Matchless owners might disagree with me, but my spinner self was born and raised on a Lendrum—so wonderfully simple and comprehensible and manageable—and this finicky thing had me literally screaming.

Luckily I was home alone.

Eventually, I started plying, and if there is one thing I love about the Matchless, it’s its truly gigantic “bulky” bobbins, which have an inch or more in diameter on the Lendrum “jumbo” bobbins.

IMG_2065I don’t have solo photos of the BFL skeins because, let’s be real, I have a bit of a grudge against them, so kindly refer to the photo at the top of this entry to see the finished yarn.

I don’t see how people spin plain, undyed fibers all the time. I would go bonkers.

And in a way, I did after that BFL.

I finally pulled out those two ounces of rolags that I blended back at the beginning of the Yarn Revival. Remember these guys?

fullsizeoutput_ec4Well, I collected them all together and just started spinning, no rhyme or reason, just a willy-nilly single without a plan.

fullsizeoutput_ec3And then I remembered the random bit of thicker, white yarn on one of the BFL bobbins that I accidentally started plying with the brown single. (I have no idea where that white single came from, but I’m guessing it’s what I played with when I first bought the wheel, just to get a feel for it, and never took it off the bobbin.) I liked how it plied with the skinner, darker yarn—before I ripped it out, of course.

Maybe I could do something like that with this, I thought.

And then I remembered a bump of fluffy, white alpaca from Alpacas d’Auxvasse that Kim gave me way-back-when. I dove deep into the stash and ran back to the wheel. The next thing I knew…

IMG_2078My first ever art yarn!

Once I started I couldn’t stop. Well, I was able to stop making googly eyes at it long enough to spin more and more of the alpaca. I had not realized that it would take so much of it. Two ounces of a color single and all four ounces of the alpaca bump. Actually, I didn’t even ply in all of the color before I ran out of the white.

fullsizeoutput_ee3This, my friends, is the bulkiest and softest skein of yarn I have ever spun. I have no idea what I will make with it, though I think it is a fine thing on its own, but I know that when I made this, I fell in love.

My first set of rolags, my first time spinning them, my first time spinning alpaca, my first time spinning this kind of playful yarn. Puppy love, galore.

And then, in all that fibery and loverly goodness, I just started playing.

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What if I made an extremely thick and thin single?

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What if I knitted it? (On size US 8 needles because that seemed to somehow meet the thick and thin weight the yarn in the middle. And cast on with another yarn because casting on with this stuff seemed ludicrous.)

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What if I plied colorful fluffy yarn…

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…with a skinnier white single?

And then, well after midnight and knee-deep in crazy yarn, I went to bed.

But I did go to bed with some questions: What constitutes art yarn? Does it mean there is artistic technique involved in its making? Is it actually used for making garments? Or is it just pretty to look at?

These are all subjective concepts.

I think by now that y’all know I’m not too much into labels. Yarn is yarn, but this wild and crazy stuff is different from anything else I’ve ever made.

And boy, is it fun.

Questions of weight.

It is finally summer!

Not on the calendar, of course, but school is out. My grades are posted. My classroom is packed up so the floor can be waxed. I worked that last baseball game. (Well, kind of. It started to rain an hour in, and the athletic director let me leave, which I did—very, very quickly.) I am a free woman.

One of the first things I did with my freedom was (surprise, surprise) dye some yarn!

It was different, though. First of all, it was cotton. I had never dyed cotton before, but when one finds thirteen skeins of it clearance, well, one knows exactly what to do.

Buy that stuff up and get some color on it immediately.

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My inner Lisa Frank is always just under the surface.

Plus, these skeins of yarn came in two weights—lace and worsted—neither of which had I dyed before. I’m a sock yarn girl, through and through, so this was also new. Though honestly, I’m not totally buying that the “lace” yarn was really lace weight. It seemed more like a light fingering weight to me.

Over the course of a couple hours, I dyed all thirteen skeins, which I rinsed and hung out to dry the next day.

IMG_1876I freestyled some of the classic Fencerow Fiber colorways: Wild Blackberry, Honeysuckle, Red-winged Blackbird, Summer Storm, Tiger Lily…

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Same yarn, different angle.

Mockingbird, Bluebird, and what was supposed be Red Fox, which turned out to be more of a Brown Squirrel. And of course, some Rainbow Connection colorways.

I had such fun playing! And I was so impressed with how quickly cotton just sucks up dye. I think I will always be a wool loyalist, but the cotton-dyeing experience gave this plant fiber a new place in my heart.

I was able to get the lace cotton to dry enough to show off at the first MadCity Street Market of the year, which was a neat experience.

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Terrible photo, but I forgot to take one in the daylight!

The market is every third Friday of the month, May through October, from 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm on Sugg Street in downtown Madisonville, Kentucky. I was happy to share a booth with Maria Lee of Black Dog Fiber Studio (where I’m headed here in a minute for knit night!), Kim Hardesty of Bicycle Botanicals, and local artist Susan Henley.

It was a great summer kick-off.

And then yesterday, I did something I haven’t done in several years, kind of like dyeing fiber: I went kayaking.

Frame-23-05-2017-03-59-20I know it’s not fiber-related, but it is somehow related to the part of me that I let disappear for a few years, the part of me that feels reawakened since I’ve started dyeing again.

Honesty: I gained quite a bit of weight since I’d last kayaked, and in my mind, it was something that I couldn’t do at my size.

Yesterday, I proved myself wrong.

fullsizeoutput_837And it felt good.

Body image and body positivity are themes, a little like my inner Lisa Frank, that float just beneath the surface with me. I can’t promise that they won’t make an appearance here occasionally.

But I will always try to come back to color.

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A-tisket, a-tasket.

More than once, I’ve had the idea that I would crochet a basket using yarn and rope. (Thanks, Pinterest.)

It looked like a perfect job for the cone of cotton yarn in variegated blue, green, and natural.

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Isn’t my Peter Rabbit necklace just the most perfect thing?

First, I started with some jute that I had in the closet, but the weight of the yarn and the diameter of the jute weren’t a good match. The yarn was swallowing the jute. I needed something heavier.

By my own volition, I went into Lowe’s. (I know.) And I came out with this.

fullsizeoutput_6c9Top left: sisal rope. Middle: that jute I already had. Top right: coconut husk rope. Bottom: manila rope (as you can read).

For some reason, I really wanted that coconut husk rope to work out. It might yet, but for now, it reminds me too much of my ready-for-summer, adolescent students: It’s prickly and grabby and has a mind of its own, which has zero interest in conforming to any plans I have.

It’s in timeout.

I moved on to the sisal rope, and we got along much better.

IMG_1747I love that orange crochet hook. It’s a cheap one that came in a set, but it’s the perfect size for this yarn. Plus, I am a sucker for anything amber or anything that remotely looks like amber.

So I was totally bummed this morning when it snapped like a twig.

IMG_1753I wasn’t the least bit surprised because I could feel the pressure put on it by the cotton and rope, which have no give to them at all, but I was still sad and probably (definitely) muttered a few curses.

Things went completely off the rails from there for a minute.

In my flurry to find a replacement hook, I dumped the dishes from brunch into the floor.

IMG_1755Suddenly, the headache that’s been poking at my brain for the past few days decided to make itself noticed.

I took several deep breaths, cleaned up the mess, and found a slightly larger—and considerably stronger—hook.

Soon, it was time to cut the rope, and I was a little worried about how that operation could go wrong considering the preceding events.

IMG_1758It went fine, though the cool little clippers you see there in the photo literally and figuratively couldn’t cut it. (They are perfect for yarn, though. Thanks, Maria!)

I finished my first rope basket!

IMG_1760It might be hard to tell here because I was super-conscious of the camera angle, but it is really wonky.

I apparently didn’t keep even tension on the rope, so it buckles in irreparably on one side and bows out on the other.

IMG_1761I also didn’t know what I was doing when I made the handles (or any part of the basket, really), so I made the mistake of not doing the first one at the beginning of the row, leading to some seriously lopsided row-ending. (Not pictured because I would like to maintain some shred of dignity.)

IMG_1762All in all, though, I think it’s a pretty decent little piece of work considering it was my first foray into the world of basketry that actually involved rope.

And then, I went out to the garage and did something I feel a smidge more confidence in: dyeing.

This is the colorway from the Rainbow Connection Collection that I have been calling Pink, Orange, and Yellow, though I am thinking of simplifying the names to be only the middle color, since it figures most prominently in the scheme. That would make this one just Orange.

fullsizeoutput_6c8If I was going to give each individual colorway in this collection a “creative” name, which I’m not, this one’s would totally be Tequila Sunrise.

Keeping afloat.

Things have been a little quiet around here lately.

Perhaps it was a bit capricious of me to open my online shop during the last few weeks of the school year. Not only is teacher-work moving at a breakneck pace toward finals and posting grades, but there are so many springitme events. This past weekend, I was happily out of town for my niece’s college—college!—graduation. (Congrats, Victoria!) Next weekend is Mother’s Day. Then it’ll be the last week of school, though I do have to work a baseball game the following Saturday.

May is simply slipping through my fingers.

I have been playing with fiber some between traveling hither and thither and filling some Fencerow Fibers orders—yay!

When I was done dyeing Callie‘s merino top in purple, pink, and orange, I discovered that I had some excess dye, so I decided to goof off a bit.

I had pre-soaked one of those tubular yarn blanks without a plan, so suddenly, a plan was hatched! I used my expert professional dyeing tool, a turkey baster, and squirted color through the roll of yarn. I sucked up that extra dye in the dish with the spinning fiber and injected it into this totally one-of-a-kind skein.

And I love it!

I don’t have a picture of the finished yarn on me, but I will update with it later this week, hopefully. It is wonderfully variegated, and I think it would knit or crochet up beautifully.

So I have this idea. While I have a few years of experience dyeing fiber, I still occasionally end up with excess dye, especially when I am playing around to create a new colorway. Of course, throwing out leftover dye is terrible for the environment, so I’m thinking of getting some extra jars and storing these remaining bits of custom mixed color than I can’t return to the stock. And then, when I have several colors, I can dye a totally unique and non-repeatable skein of yarn or braid of top. Aside from the fun colors, the beauty of it will be its individuality and its preservation of my play. These braids and skeins would be colorful hybrids. And they would use up the excess dye.

I know it’s not a novel idea, but it’s one I’m excited about!

Before I leave the coffee shop and head out to knit night, I have to show you something awesome.

My friend Heather, who made the first purchase from the Fencerow Fibers Etsy shop, used her new yarn to crochet an unbelievably fun hat. Check it out!


Isn’t that great? It gives me the flutters to see the yarn I dyed growing up and becoming real-life things out there in the world!

Dreaming of verbs.

I am wary of nouns of identity—the ones preceded by forms of to be.

I am a teacher. I am a writer. I am knitter. I am a dyer. I am a spinner. I am a blogger. I am a designer. I am a photographer. I am a creator.

Those feel like lies. Like they require membership cards that I am too uncertain to carry.

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The Rainbow Rhombus Wrap continues to grow slowly, here while I wait for an oil change.

I much prefer verbs and this sentence structure:

I teach. I write. I knit. I dye. I spin. I blog. I design. I photograph. I create.

The actions are undeniable. The verb doesn’t have to be followed by an kind of adverb like well or professionally. They are just facts, objective.

But the nouns? Entirely subjective. I mean, have I passed the certification exam for those titles?

Do I care to?

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Some of the tiny wild strawberries that dot our yard like miniature Easter eggs that reveal themselves only once you start looking for them, and then, their cheerfulness can be seen everywhere underfoot.

Being is another thing I do.

My being isn’t determined by my writing—just like my writing isn’t determined by my knitting.

So I’m weird about labels. I recently started adding #indiedyer to some of my Instagram posts, but every time, I feel a little uneasy about it.

I know some would say that this is an insecurity, like I think I’m not good enough to own certain titles.

Maybe.

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Delicious rolls of yarn, ready for dyeing.

But I think it’s more of a rejection of the idea that I should be “secure” in those titles at all.

Titles, labels, categories, genres. They limit. They point to a set of expectations and parameters.

I am not anti-boundaries, but I think that’s something different.

If I call myself a writer but don’t write for a while, would that change who I am? Would it  mean I’m not doing what I should? Should I, then, feel like a failure because I am take a short—or long—break from doing what that label implies I should do?

I think the answer to all of those is no.

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My most recent dyeing experiment, the results of which are simply this: LOL.

So these days, I’m not doing much writing, though I am doing more now that this blog is moving and shaking a little.

No, these days, I do a lot of other things, and one of them is dream.

Introducing Fencerow Fibers.

Approximately twenty-four hours ago, I opened up my Etsy shop. Fencerow Fibers: hand-dyed yarn & spinning fiber inspired by the flora & fauna of Kentucky’s fencerows.

Yesterday morning and early afternoon, I hung out with Kim at the local lawn & garden fair, while she sold her handmade soaps and homegrown gourds.

It wasn’t really the market for fibery wares, but I had fun spinning and talking to interested folks about the wheel and yarn-making process.

And then I came home—with my half-body sunburn from sitting too near the tent’s edge—and stocked up the Etsy shop I’ve been dreaming about for four years.

I wrote a long-winded About page and dug up my old Flickr account, where I had stashed photographs of my homeplace’s fencerows.

Before midnight, I received my first order from my fellow fiber enthusiast and friend from way-back, Heather. (Check out her Etsy shop, Skittish Coyote Studio! She crochets some killer goods with a real eye for style.) I happily prepared this first shipment earlier tonight.

I put together a Facebook page for Fencerow Fibers, and now I’m mulling over my options with Instagram and Twitter. I’m not sure if I should create new profiles for this entrepreneurial project or if I should just change my personal handle from @raisininthespun to @fencerowfibers or what. I don’t want to spread my social media “presence” too thin, but I also don’t want to bombard my non-fiber friends with marketing-type posts. Also, I don’t want to lose the identity of this blog with the name change. I suppose there is the option of changing the name of the blog to Fencerow Fibers…

I’m just not sure what to do.

Well, except go to bed. It’s been an eventful weekend, I’m tired, and it’s late. Good night, friends!

Wholeheartedly.

On a dreary, rainy Sunday afternoon last weekend, I trudged back and forth across our wet back yard in the rain to fill and carry two five-gallon buckets with the water I needed for dyeing in the garage.

As I slipped and sloshed—hood up and hands full—I thought, I am willingly enduring long hours and physical labor, and I’m loving every minute.

That’s not something I’ve said or thought about other occupations or creative endeavors. Regular “work” and even writing fill me with dread and garner lots of avoidance.

 Not this. I am wholeheartedly in it.