Friday, August 26, 2011

Begin at the beginning, I suppose

No reason for this picture, just a lovely picture of my rescue Airedale, Henry being adorable in the snow last winter. Enjoy!

My friend M said in a comment: "As far as writing/blogging goes, I think the best always comes from deeply felt things we haven't quite figured out yet. The road we're on isn't a passive object that we act on; it has its own ideas on what the journey's going to be about. That's the risky thing about writing, even if nobody sees it."

I've been away from here for a while.

I've not been idle or living a life without introspection – it’s been that I've been too deeply in my head and heart to be able to surface. I am and have been in the process of emerging from a tough decade.

My need for variety, for change that I choose – these things I have learned to feed by learning new skills.

I used to change my life by changing my boyfriend, but I really like my husband and have taught myself to instead immerse myself in learning a new skill.

A new skill gives you a new way of seeing and approaching the world, it changes the world because you have a new set of tools and new language to describe and interact with it.

I remember the first word I learned to read was “baby” - there were the letters I had learned as A,B,C arranged in a certain way with letters that followed each other, now in a different order and a photo of a baby the teacher had cut from a magazine and pasted on pink construction paper. She must have done it several years before because most of the paper was faded pink, there was a ring of deeper pink under the picture of the baby which had started to come unglued and curled up. “Baby” – my world changed. And all babies were girls, girls and pink, for many many years.

For the past year, I have been revisiting a skill I learned first as a very young girl. I was working as a docent at the Living History Farm in Des Moines, Iowa right out of high school. Among the many things I learned that summer was how to boil up a mess of weeds and dye some of the handspun yarn I had created a color.

Off and on since then, I've been doing about this same thing. Throw a mess of something in a pot, make colored water, put some white yarn in and make it a color. Great fun! There is something so amazing and enchanting to do this. I would spin all year and make a small pile of handspun yarn, which I would throw in a pot and it would turn lovely colors and be done in way too short of a time. It is way quicker to color the yarn than it is to spin it. I didn't knit or weave or anything, I just liked spinning and making color. I gave away a couple of fleeces worth of yarn over the years.

At Sock Summit 09 ( I learned (oh, stop laughing, it is a great event - 3000 people gather to learn more about knitting socks) about this thing (really, it's amazing, you should go in 2013 when the next one will happen in Portland OR) called a "mill". These folks actually spin yarn for people to dye. There was a whole group of people who have been dyeing mill spun yarn and selling colors for years. How the heck did I miss that?

I came home and cogitated and soon started making colors on yarn that we actually got in the mail from a mill almost every week with my friend Agnes, who also has been fascinated with color. But more about her, from her. I'll get her to guest blog some time.

And to keep the house from filling completely up with yarn, which is not a bad thing entirely. But also to be able to afford to keep making colors, we decided to sell our skeins.

We have learned so much over the past year. We are focused on being able to make a reasonably even color (as in not lighter/darker) and able to make about the same color from batch to batch (which even professionals who use commercial dyes struggle with). We are getting to be pretty happy with what we are doing.

But I'm still quite often boiling up a mess of weeds and making a color.

This is a pot of Russian thistle, you might know it as tumbleweed. But this is cut before it dries out and tumbles along. I just needed to make some colors as it had been weeks due to busy life stuff.

So I went out to the acreage and cut up a pot of weeds. And boiled it for a while. Then took the well cooked weeds out and added some skeins of wool to the colored water.

The skeins didn't start out as white. I was out of white wool so I found a couple of unsold skeins of light blue from being dyed with indigo (which is another couple of hundred blog posts to talk about this fascinating, infuriating, enchanting color).

They came out of the pot, a ethereal sea foam green (the middle one), and two different shades of green brown (less gray than they look in the photo).

See --- cool, huh!


Paula said...

Very Cool.

anita said...

what she said

Susan said...

I've got more tumbleweed for you! And knapweed. And pigweed ... and dying books!

Susan said...

And ... welcome back to the journey. May it take you wonderful and unexpected places!

Spike said...

Thank, you all! It's great to see your smiling faces! I look forward to your next posts, as well!