Why I Do What I Do

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At Wellesley Junior High School I had a marvelous art teacher, Mr. Nason. I spent every  time period I did not have a class in his art room. I spent after school time in his room until it was time to take the very last bus home. I did not care about any other class – just art. I loved Mr. Nason because he asked me questions about what interested me and then he would give me challenges to  explore my interests. Looking back I have to say that this has become, in my mind, what a true teacher is. Mr Nason inspired me to be more me. Though I loved art museums and painters from  Rembrandt to Picasso, what spoke to me at the deepest level was color and its relationship with itself and what it was on. Silk  fascinated me. Clothing became of interest in what designers did. I think if we had stayed in Wellesley instead of moving, I would have gone into the fashion industry just to spend my whole life  working with colors on silk. It would have fed my soul at every level. To me, this is life. Feed the soul – not just your soul but all souls. Create something that speaks to one’s passion and how we see the world. Why art? Passion and inspiration. That has never changed.

We moved. We moved to a small town further from Boston to a house I truly hated. It was modern and  angulated in ways that  were like nails on a  chalkboard to my sense of beauty. Being more of an introvert personality, I had trouble making friends  right away. I longed for art class with Mr. Nason. But the new art teacher, because I did not have any interest in  realistic art (no I still to this day cannot draw a  horse) felt that I would be better served in English class. And that happened. I was 13 at the time. I look back and the 60 year old me wants to say a thing or two to that man who called himself a teacher. I did not fit into his mold of what an art student at 13 should be so please go to English class. The lesson was, don’t let anyone dictate to you what your passion is, right? He successfully bullied me. Happiness was over.

I told no one of this event and ended up in all English classes to the point of  graduating second in my class at Emerson College with a  degree in writing and literature. Now don’t get me wrong. I love literature and writing is an art form. But it wasn’t my soul. It wasn’t the match or my motivation but by the time I was in college I had walked so far away from the  young teenager in Mr. Nason’s art room that I no longer knew her. I was good at the things I did but the underlying happiness was not there.

I ended up with an art to wear gallery in California selling other people’s art. Still not happy. I think because that underlying happy was not there, the gallery failed. In the meantime I had been making hand painted dog collars and leashes for my dogs and other people at the dog park. One day when I was walking to my gallery with my Newfie, I found a bag of  fabric paints  abandoned at my doorstep. I brought them in and held onto them expecting the person who dropped them to come looking. They did not and I ended up using them on my dog’s collars. Then the fellow down the street who had a pet shop asked me to make some collars for him. I did. 20 years later I was making collars and leashes from an entire floor of my Vermont home and mainly exporting to Japan and also selling to a chain of shops in Hawaii.

Some years ago an earthquake hit Japan and suddenly the orders from Tokyo stopped. They were my bread and butter. My eggs were essentially all in one basket. I had to stop what I was doing and take a very hard look at my life and my now lack of income to pay for it. What had happened. At the time my cat was having troubles recovering from major surgery and had to wear a stiff neck brace to keep her from licking herself open. If I say Siamese, many of you will understand. They are such determined insane little creatures! So I would sit with her in the bathroom where it was confined and I could take her brace off and still reach her to keep her off her wound but she could have some freedom from that horrible contraption.

I was an avid knitter and during those days on the floor in the bathroom I knit a Doctor Who scarf.  When I was knitting, the fears of losing my house and the anxiety of my cat’s illness and surgery and the cost of it slipped from me. Things went through my head like thinking of the people who had come and gone from my life and those who stayed. It seemed that the one thing the people who stayed had in common was passion. I started to question mine and to look back at where I walked away from what lit it up like an Aurora Borealis! What mattered most? What mattered most was the why behind what I did with my life. I made the decision on that bathroom floor that whatever came next in my life had to come from my heart and soul. It had to be the nourishment for each day of my life and that the income from it was secondary. I would not do something anymore that did not come from that bigger place inside.

Spring forward to now. The scarf on the bathroom floor led to yarn which led to spinning which led to dye work. Now I am a dyer and a fiber artist. I put those colors with silks and wools and get to touch them and understand them and be them. If this did not feed me in a  way that put a fire under me and within me, I could not work the 60 – 90 hour work weeks that I do. The income, though important in its own right, is secondary to the passion of who I am. Every single colorway I make has been thought out like a chess game as to how it can be used and what it could be. I could never ever  have anyone else do my dye work for me or have someone else make my dyes because this is where I feel the magic.

Magic is what happens when you are yourself and you do what is your soul. The rest of your life falls into place after that. I nearly lost my house in getting back to who I am – the why I am. And that’s okay. It’s more than okay because I now have a very deep understanding of what it means to live a life without what matters. It is not a life at all. It’s just days, months years. So Mr. Nason, where ever you are, thank-you.

Size Matters

Most regular bobbins in general hold about 4 ounces of fiber, depending on the fiber. Why then, do I make five ounce plus braids for the Allons-y! fiber arts Etsy shop you ask? Good question!

A greater part of the braids I make for the shop are gradient colorways. I found over time that most people who buy gradients want  more than four ounces of fiber. The norm was  five ounces  and often they would buy two or more for a project. I started having two sizes of braids, a four ounce  for multis and semi solids and a five ounce for gradients. But I started running into an issue of never having the size I needed for  the next round of fiber to dye. After much consideration I opted to make all my braids  the five plus ounce size.

The amount of fiber you need to purchase, of course, depends on the project you might have in mind or  the size singles you would like to spin then possibly ply and how many plies. I try to  put three to four (and sometimes more) braids of a colorway in the shop at the same time.

Hope used three braids of Mystic Minds to make this sweater:

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Photo copyright Hope Vickman. Used with permission.

Hope spun three braids for her Mystic Minds sweater and created a pattern which can be found on Ravelry.  Mystic Minds Sweater . The fiber she chose for this is  my custom blend of Merino, Cashmere and Mulberry silk.

It’s gorgeous! Now if I could get her to make me one…

What’s Coming Up in the Next Update?

I have some wonderful fibers for socks such as Kent Romney and Southdown wools. I will be doing some of these  combed tops  in my 4 times repeat gradients. The purpose of a four times repeat is to be able to divide the   top into four equal parts that have the same exact dye work on each piece. Each of those four pieces can then be spun into singles then  two singles plied together and the other two plied together so you end up with two two plied yarns that are identical and can each be used for a sock. End result – gradient socks!

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Shown is  Haven’s Promise as a 4x repeat gradient.

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The same Haven’t Promise gradient combed top.

 

People find this kind of gradient, where you can divide width-wise instead of lengthwise, easier to handle and more accurate to get two exact  yarns. The gradient colorway in these 4x repeats is  shorter from one color saturation to the other than in a full combed top gradient that goes from one color to the other across the entire top. This works better for getting two finished socks.

I also do make palindrome gradients that are the same coming and going and can be split in half widthwise into two equal pieces to spin and then ply together. You can request these for the shop.

 

I hope to also be dyeing some 100% silk, some merino/silk and other wonderful blends.

Next shop update is March 29th at 9 PM EDT.

 

 

 

 

Mellow Yellow

Spring is a moment away here in Vermont. Though there is snow on the ground, one can feel the longer days and the closeness of the sun. Pretty soon it will be time to start drying fiber outside again. Despite not being much of a Summer person, I long for the days of outdoor fiber drying. Indoors, no matter what the fiber, and no matter how dry I get the combed tops in my trusty spin dryer, they always seem to take a good 48 hours to dry. Outside they can be ready to chain in an afternoon of beautiful sunlight.

The change of seasons  has me flipping through photographs of colorways gone by, deciding what shall make a return to the shop and what will inspire me for new colorways. Among some of my favorites for warmer months are two such colorways with yellows in them.

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The first is Witness to a Sunrise with a soft pink fading to a delicious pale tangerine to a sunny yellow. It was inspired by all my days catching sunrises at Kehoe Access in Castleton, Vermont, when I had time for my love of photography.

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The second is Plant Spirit Medicine that goes from a new spring green to another gorgeous yellow. It reminded me of the years I spent studying nutrition, plants and herbs.

I keep the marked bottles of most of gradient colorways. That numbers into about 10 bottles per colorway so you can imagine the bins around here filled with marked up squeeze bottles. I keep them because though I have basic formulas for doing my kind of gradients, not all colors react the same and tweeking happens right on the bottles. So those bottles become precious to me for getting the same smooth color changes within the colorway.

I think these two may just need to reappear. It’s time for some cheeriness, don’t you think?

Grey Merino and Tussah Silk

Allons-y! fiber arts works with two  different blends of grey Merino and Tussah silk. The first is a custom blend of 60/40 grey Merino and Tussah. The Merino is 23 microns and is fully blended with Tussah silk. Tussah is a silk produced in the wild by silk worms feeding on juniper leaves and oak. It is not a controlled environment so the silk tends to be a little courser than Mulberry silk and a bit less shiny. Here is an example of a semi-solid color way called Old Soul on this blend.

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Old Soul on 60/40 Grey Merino and Tussah Silk Custom Blend

The second blend of grey Merino and Tussah is not a custom blend. It is 70% grey Merino and 30% Tussah silk. The silk is not fully blended into the Merino. Some of the spinners who have worked with this fiber have said that it is very smooth to spin and they love that it feels like jewels where the silk is  not blended as fully into the Merino. It has been a huge hit in the shop. Here is a photo of the same colorway as shown above but on the 70/30 blend.

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Old Soul on 70/30  Grey Merino and Tussah Silk

This colorway will be in the update on March 15th in the 70/30 blend. It is a repeatable colorway  so you can request for it to be in the shop done on either blend.

 

Another repeatable colorway on the 70/30 blend is Silver Surfer.

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Silver Surfer on 70/30 Grey Merino and Tussah Silk

 

Here is a photo of a finished yarn from this fiber that is 735 yards from 10 ounces and is a DK weight. The spinning and the photo are both from Shawn U., an incredible spinner!! Always excited to see her work and  love the contribution of this photo (thank-you!)

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and no blog would really be complete without the Allons-y! fiber arts  photo from Toes!

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Toes with A Wrinkle in Time  ooak (one of a kind) on Grey merino and Tussah.

We will be seeing more of Toes in the warmer weather. I’m looking forward to that! Stay tuned and don’t forget the large shop update on march 15th at 9 PM EDT.

 

 

Time Time Time

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Who doesn’t need more time!!

With 50 – 80 hour work weeks time is not on my side these days for keeping up with this blog. But as time gets closer to Tour de Fleece, I think I will make a strong effort to be here every  few days.

In the meantime I have thoughts of playing hooky for a few hours this afternoon. Should I ???