The Land of Yarn Drobe

I am the happy recipient of a magical gift! My son has been working on repurposing an old gun cabinet into a yarn display case for my studio. It was to be my birthday gift this summer, but has just recently been finished. Knowing that I would not house guns in it, he and our neighbors, who are in the business of upcycling furniture, added shelves and painted it the perfect color for holding yarns in my studio. I could not be more delighted with it!!

The wonderful thing about a gift like this is that it sparks the imagination. As soon as the small cabinet was situated in between two picture windows in my studio sunroom, I saw it as a magical wardrobe, much like that of C.S. Lewis’ in the Chronicles of Narnia. The blue cabinet sat empty for a couple of days as my busy life prevented me from filling it. As always, the busy-ness of life allows for ideas to percolate and simmer. While on my morning walk yesterday, the whole story of this Land of Yarn Drobe unfolded with each step and I worked all day, in between laundry and the daily to-do list, to complete it.

Macy, Purl, Marisol and Clarissa the friendly Cat, had been eagerly waiting for me to finish filling the beautiful blue cabinet so that they could enter and have a look around. Here is a brief account of their first venture into the Land of Yarn Drobe.

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All you need to enter the enchanted world of Yarn Drobe is this magical key. As the door creaks open you will shrink in size so that you, dear human, may romp on the hills of woolly color, climb spindle trees, and meet the big, tall, but NOT terrible giants of the land. Yarn Drobe is a place where sheep roam the hills and birds spin the wool into swirly nests of yarn. There is even a twinkling spindle tree to light your path.

Those who enter this magical world have a difficult time leaving, as the cheery colors and soft fields of wool soothe their hearts and inspire their imaginations. Macy, Purl, Marisol and Clarissa the friendly Cat ventured into Yarn Drobe warily, not knowing what they might find. But when the giants, Mortimer and Millicent, greeted them warmly and the spinning birds pulled up woolly nests for them to sit upon, they soon felt they could stay here for many seasons. They passed the day with their new friends touring the colorful landscape and spinning to their hearts’ content.

As evening fell, Macy began to wish for her own cozy bed back at the Spinning House. Purl and Clarissa decided to go with her, albeit reluctantly. Marisol, however, knew in her heart upon entering this magical land, that this would be her home. She bade her friends farewell for now, with many hugs and kisses, inviting them to return as often as they wished. She made sure to point out to them where the key was located and that they were always welcome to come walk and play on the woolen hills, spin yarn, and sit under the light of a spindle tree.

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And so begins the adventures of Marisol the Mouse

in the Land of Yarn Drobe.

The Magic of Morning

Out here on the deck, still feeling the traces of a weary fog, I am enveloped and enlivened by what I can only call pure magic. Perhaps you have felt this too? The titter and chirp of birds and crickets singing a song of hope for the new-made day. Their chatter is a lively conversation of what we might do today, what we could make, how we could repair and revive, what needs to be done, and what loveliness can be spun all around the daily-ness. We long to keep the crickets chirping and the birds singing their hope song.

At some point they will go quiet, giving way to the sounds of cars on a nearby highway, a train in the distance, neighborhood lawn mowers, and the voices of those with whom I live. I will spin today. I already have and I plan to spin more for it is bringing me so much joy lately. As the loose fibers are strengthened by a dance of twirl and twist, so too I am strengthened. Solace, hope, joy, color, excitement, purpose, and a useful work, are all granted as I spin. How this is, I cannot say, for I do not know.

I imagine myself sometimes as others must see me…a middle-aged woman standing with a spindle twirling suspended from her hand. Or an outdated snap-shot of a woman at her spinning wheel, albeit a brightly painted one. It must be odd to see an artist who once twirled paint on paper to be twirling colorful fibers in a similar manner. It doesn’t really make sense.

Perhaps it doesn’t make sense for any of us to do the creative things we do when we look at it from the outside. Yet from the inside we know who we are. We enjoy life a bit more when we are making things. We see things differently. We carry that making-magic into all that a day brings us. We consider how we might spin softness and color into every mundane chore and challenging situation.

This is why we create. Whether it is spinning fibers into yarn or words into story; swirling paint on a page or clay on a wheel; stitching wool into socks or thread into quilts…we are bringing the magic of morning into the rest of our day, spinning hope and a new song as we go.

Encounter

It was so brief! Hardly long enough for it to register in my brain. A blink, and he was gone. Yet for those few seconds of the buzzing, hovering dance, I held my breath and didn’t want it to end.

It was evening a few days ago and I was in my studio spinning to unwind the day. The thought to go out on the back deck to spin Wool flitted through my mind. There was much to keep me indoors…heat, mosquitoes, end-of-day weariness, just plain laziness. But something drew me outside and the moment I breathed in the fresh air and began to twirl my pink spindle, I knew I needed to be there. Plein-aire spinning is the best!

Instinctively I pulled my hands away from the large, buzzing visitor. He hovered a second and I knew it wasn’t a bumblebee. The hummingbird must have thought my spindle was a flower and wanted a closer look or a place to land for some nectar. I could hardly move a muscle as we stood face-to-face for just a few seconds before he flew away.

I gathered up the yarn and wound it onto the shaft thinking how cool it was to have encountered a hummingbird whilst spinning. Thinking that had I not stepped out onto the deck, moving out of my comfort zone, I would never had had that encounter with such a lovely creature. Thinking that a spindle truly is a flower, the colorful wool is the nectar, and I drink deeply of its nourishment every time I spin.

I’m headed out on the deck! Won’t you join me? We just might have a visitor. 🙂

YARN LOVE – a song

Well, this is a bit out of my territory but a fun thing ( I hope) for everyone who loves yarn. Whether you knit or crochet, spin or weave, this song is for you!

But first…a little back story…💖

I have the privilege of teaching ongoing small groups of women who knit and crochet. Several of the ladies also spin and weave and felt and batik…its a very talented group of gals from all walks of life, all ages and levels of expertise from beginners to life-long knitters. The groups (which I like to call knitting communities) meet in a fabulous yarn shop every week. I think of myself as a cross between a cheerleader and a fix-it gal. We inspire each other, do knit-a-longs together, have yarn parties and all sorts of fun and engaging things.

Just a few of the lovely hands that make beautiful things.💖

A couple of years ago, I wrote a little song to the tune of a well known camp song called Pass It On. These ladies indulged my silliness and we learned it together and sang it at one of our evening parties. Here we are singing the YARN SONG, complete with harmony and all!

My original idea was to also make a cool video of us singing the song, share it online and maybe even sing it at that year’s Southeastern Fiber Festival in Asheville, North Carolina. But I never quite got it all together. We have sung it once or twice more at other parties just to keep the song alive.

But it was intended for everyone…for all yarn lovers! So here it is…

a PDF of the YARN LOVE SONG for you to print off the words to the song and share with a friend.

And if you can stand to listen to me singing it here, then perhaps between this and the one of all of us singing, you can learn the tune as well! I hope you have fun with this and of course…

PASS IT ON!!!🧶💚😍

Revolution

It takes 365 days for the earth to make one full trip around the sun. That’s 8,760 hours. Or 525,600 minutes. Or 31,536,000 seconds. Small increments, tiny moments, so many ordinary events which create one revolution.

Birthdays remind me of this. One more turning of the years has been made up of many days and minutes lived. There have been more breathtaking, joy-filled days than I can count. There have also been days of heartbreak, fear, and concern. This is living. This is revolution.

I suppose for both the American and the French, their Revolutions were also preceded by numerous days and moments, small yet not insignificant actions suffered and endured, which turned the wheels of decision, adding strength to what would become historic events. A spinning wheel will likely not bring about such history-making. Nor will spindles of all kinds—Turkish, Russian, Tibetan—create monumental, earth-moving events. But they do remind me that it is in the tiny, inconsequential turning of our minutes that a Revolution is achieved.

There are now 54 such revolutions in my life to date. I am grateful for each and every one of them! I am also a bit wary of those to come…the unknown daily turning and spinning on this beautiful planet. What will this year’s spinning bring? My usual hope is that it would bring good and happy things. But a revolution is taking place in my heart where I am hoping more for strength and grace to meet the moments of the coming days.

As I spin, I watch the lovely light-filled fibers twist into a strong line, which will bear the weight of far more than its substance. The resulting yarn may or may not be called upon to carry heavy loads. But if it is…it’s ready and able. Once it is plied with another strand, it’s strength is even greater. And a chord of three strands is not easily broken.

Sitting here at the end of one year’s revolution and the beginning of another, I see sitting on my desk, an exquisite pile of gorgeous hand spun yarns. Rich colors, varied and textured, have been wrangled into skeins of yarn ready for making into something else. They are not the final result, even though I do think they could be set in a frame and hung on a wall, just to look at and admire in hank form. But they beg to be fashioned into something else…a weaving perhaps, or a knitted garment, or a crocheted piece.

I too am a skein of hand spun yarn. I’ve been and am being spun by Loving Hands which are adding strength even in the twist of my life and daily living. I need not worry about the coming revolutions or how many I and my loved ones have left. He will use what He is spinning for His glory and purposes…and all of it for my good.

Today, on my 54th birthday, I will spin on…creating with my hands in the trust and knowledge that strength and grace are being wrought.

 

Notice & Observe

Here we are…again…at the starting gate of a New Year! All the hopes and fears of all the years (or at least those of 2018) seem to gather together in a clump as we look ahead, hoping the New Year brings less difficulty than the one before, and fearing that it might not. The temptation for me is to rally all my best efforts to keep things running smoothly, without wrinkle or wrench. I know by now this is an exercise in futility. Life brings to us each day a panoply of blessings and challenges…both of which I want to be in a position to notice and observe.

The lovely thing about a New Year is this turning of the number, or page, on a new vista of days, weeks and months. It can feel fresh and clean, unfettered by previous months’ busyness, waiting with anticipation for us to walk through it, holding promise and positive outcomes almost as carrots to lure us into the days ahead. I love this fresh feeling and the excitement of good things to come. Yet I also know that 2019 may very well hold some difficult, painful and confusing things for me as well. I neither want to blindly march into the year with a pasted grin on my face, nor do I want to wallow in future castastrophising (dreaming up all manner of trials and tribulations that may or may not happen). It would seem that “Que sera sera” might be a good tack to take…whatever will be, will be. Though helpful in some ways, this forward thinking version of “It is what it is”, doesn’t carry me through a New Year in the way I wish to experience it.

What I need this coming year, and what I intend to uphold as often as I am able to do so (no goal setting or resolution here), is to meet the New Year moment by moment by Noticing and Observing. To Notice is to say “oh look here at this little (or big)  thing”. To Observe is to pick it up and to ask questions like “I wonder how it got here?” or “look at the colors within” or “see how the shape is so lovely” or “does it have a purpose or is it simply a gift to enjoy?” and so on. Though I have had a good many years of Noticing and Observing, I still need this practice of meeting each new day with space to consider the small moments of my life. A sketchbook is a wonderful tool for Noticing and Observing.

On the 20th of December 2018, I began a new sketchbook which was given to me by a dear friend. To be sure I had not finished the 2 or 3 other sketchbooks I have going, but I had been wanting a book of days, one without a spiral in the middle, one in which to drawcument the days as I notice and observe them. It was also to be an anchor for me as I faced the craziness of the holidays. It has indeed been that anchor.

It is perhaps not a proper watercolor sketchbook, as in having the precise paper on which watercolor shines. But I love the almost cloth-like feel of this paper, and the handmade look of it with fabric cover and twine stitching. It is made by Anthropologie and I do hope they are still making these when I finish this one. Another will surely be in order. The very best thing is that my favorite markers, both fat and thin ones, do not bleed through the other side, thus allowing me to draw on all sides of the woven pages.

To Notice & Observe, is like dancing in puddles. When life gives us rainy days, as it has in abundance here in central North Carolina, it is best to notice where the puddles are and dance in them. Drawing and painting are perfect puddle activities, as are any other creative endeavors. Knitting, spinning, weaving and the like are all beautiful ways to notice what’s going on in your life and to observe it from a place of beauty. Writing is also excellent…I write every morning all the noticings and observations of both my interior and exterior worlds.

There is something amazing that happens when we Notice & Observe. Somehow, our hearts are lightened a bit. Perhaps it is in the lines and colors of pen, paint and wool that weaves into our eyes a renewed palette for the day. We also receive insight when we Notice & Observe. There is a direct connection between the lines on the page,  the strands of yarn and wool, to our minds and hearts. We receive hope, clarity, lessened anxiety and so much more in the act of making something with our hands. I look forward to this blessing today and on through the New Year. I wish it for you as well.

Happy New Year to you!

May it be filled with many moments to Notice & Observe!

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

The Brink of Something

I have wakened, as I do every morning, to the blissful sounds of a quiet house. Of a coffee pot gurgling. A fridge humming. A clock ticking. In this pre-dawn deliciousness, I feel poised on the brink of something…

…a day

…a holiday

…days off from the norm

…a barrage of emotions which accompany being with lots of family

…creative hopes & dreams.

This “brink of something” is a familiar place for me. Don’t I experience this at least once, no five, even ten times in any given week? Don’t I find myself, as it were, perched at the edge of a glorious view, on tippy toes, arms outstretched, ready to leap and fly?

I think this is the truest index of my real situation. This “brink of something” is what gives me the delight, joy, excitement and wonder in my life. Yet it is also the culprit for much confusion, inner turmoil, even sadness and downheartedness. I often waken with the dindle and twitter of that ready-to-fly feeling…and then the day gets rolling and I’m left scratching my head wondering –

Is this it?  Was this the grand landscape into which I jumped?

The view from where I land each day isn’t so exciting or glamorous. And I haven’t landed in that “something” I thought I was in line for. By day’s end it all feels like the same mish-mosh of emotions, sad news from a world of woe, unrequited creative plans and dreams, weariness from slogging it out in the highways and byways of living.

Yet I awaken the next morning and there it is again… the desire to put on my jumpsuit and wings.

I could even go so far as to say that this has been my experience for all of my 53 years. Give or take a few mornings where grief and difficulty, or just plain ole monotony, have taken the wind out of my wings completely, I can see that this is the near daily ebb and flow of my life. To begin each day with such an exquisite hope, such a childlike desire to don my cape and wage the war of life with my paint brush, needles and wool…this is a brink I hope I always waken to.

The difficulty however is this — how does one live “on the brink” day in and day out? How do we, despite what life holds for us moment by moment, maintain an attitude of hope and expectation through it all? I write this not to offer a step-by-step  how-to. Although in just writing those words, I can see the hint of a path through.

Here, poised on the brink of this holiday season of Thanksgiving and then Christmas , my wings are more glittery than my average everyday wings. Woven with tinsel, rimmed in twinkly lights, they are fluttering with the anticipation of a kid on Christmas Eve. Yet 53 years has thankfully taught me a thing or two.

The real joy and delight of this season is not found in tinsel or lights (although I love festooning my home with them!) It is found in turning around from the edge of an imagined stunning vista, to view my life. The work I have daily, is to bring that dindle and twitter of anticipation to bear in my every day world. To stand on tip-toes with arms outstretched and to lean into whatever the day brings. My work each day is to walk step by step into it , wings unfurled, with the full knowledge of what this season is all about —

Gratitude that  I am not alone for the Christ child is coming and has come into our world.  Though I will one day stand on the brink of that heavenly realm, today’s work is thanksgiving for the view I have right here in my life.

May each of us embrace the now-and-not-yet-ness of this season. May we not lose heart in daring to stand tippy-toed on the brink of our days, anticipating our wings taking flight in all our joys AND in our difficulties and sorrows. May we brandish whatever swords of love we have been given, be they pens, paintbrushes, voices, instruments, yarn, clay or fabric.

And remember… you are not alone! I am on the brink here too and the Christ Child has paved the path before us, while also walking hand in hand , step by step, Emmanuel, with us.

Twist

I’ve been mulling over, spinning ’round in my head and heart, a thought. I don’t know if I read it somewhere, or if it just floated into my head like a bit of woolly fluff. It’s one of those thoughts that brings both a sigh and solace. It winds and weaves its way into the moments of my days, both pleasant and difficult. It is this:

Strength is in the twist.

Spinning one’s own yarn speaks to me. This is no surprise, as drawing and weaving and stitching have done so as well. Creativity in general is a strong teacher in my life. The process of making can bring clear and concise help on days that are less than sunny, and can magnify the light on bright days. This one, this clear yet colorful thought, gives me hope in the ongoing whirl of life.

Spinners know that fiber must be spun in order for it to withstand the pull of weaving it, knitting it or crocheting it.  Without twist, a fiber can be pulled apart, and more-so the thinner the strand of fiber. A thicker strand requires less twist, but the thinner you go, the more twists it needs to be strong. And for even more strength, two or more strands are plied together. This last statement deserves its own post and I shall save it for another day. It’s this twist idea that holds such hope for me.

The way spinners speak of this is to say that as we spin, energy is being added to the fibers. Whether you drop spindle or use a wheel, you add energy into the fiber and then release it to creep down the drafted bit of wool, thus securing and adding to its strength.

I may be hard-pressed on busy and difficult days to feel that energy is being added to my life. But it heartens me to think that in the torque of living, in the ongoing revolutions around the sun and even in the hour hand moving ’round in circles, strength is being worked into the fiber of my being.

I am grateful that strong, loving, Masterful hands hold me as my days go spinning by. I  can trust that strength is being wrought into my weakness, one twist at a time.

‘Round the World & Going Again

When I was a young girl, my dad had a sing-song chant he would say every now and then:

Jennifer, Jennifer my girlfriend…

‘Round the world and goin’ again!

I loved this little ditty and I looked forward to actually traveling around the world someday. Though I have not traveled nearly as much as I had once dreamed, I do feel that in some way, I get to go ’round the world through my passion for all things yarn.

From knitting pursuits that take me to Norway, Scotland, England and elsewhere through Fair Isle stitching…

…to Guatemala, Bolivia, and other places where the Backstrap Loom thrives…

…to New Zealand where my Rigid Heddle Loom came from…

…to Japan where Saori Weaving originated. And to Chapel Hill, NC where I learned to use a Saori Loom just a week or so ago…

…to numerous lands and cultures, even Native American, where the drop spindle is used…

…and to dreaming of supported spindles and their origins in Russia, Tibet and elsewhere. I also think it would be fun to make yarn on a Turkish spindle. Who knows where else I will get to travel  from the comfort of my studio in North Carolina?

So you can see that my Summer of Weaving continues to enchant and inspire!  I did have a momentary itch return to my fingers yesterday for knitting fair isle mittens and holiday ornaments. There was something in the air, quite literally, as it sprinkled rain and a few leaves were falling from our birch tree. A first whiff of autumn. And I still have my little twiggy tree adorned with the Arne & Carlos Julekuler I knitted last year. Making & creativity have always, for me, been inspired by the seasons. It all comes full circle, with new adventures along the way. Yes indeed…for this yarn and fiber loving gal…Around the World and Going Again!

The Summer of Weaving


There once was a girl named Jenny

Whose interests were varied and many…

Crochet and knitting

Stitching and spinning

Drawing and painting aplenty.

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To choose only one of them filled her with gloom.

There must be a way to give all of them room.

So lines and colors

Fibers and textures

She wove all together on a loom!

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Her sketchbook remained like a song’s refrain-

The common thread keeping her sane

Through all explorations

Ideas, iterations…

Her sketches were the heart, that was plain.

***

But her loom was a canvas, creativity rife-

Weaving fibers she’d spun without tears or strife.

Over and under

Back and forth.

Learning to see through the warp of life.

-jpe

In April, as I anticipated summer’s arrival, I began to think of it as My Summer of Weaving. It seemed crazy and began quite suddenly when a friend shared with me a book she had of amazingly colorful weavings created on a rigid heddle loom. Thus began what has been a delightful foray into weaving cloth!

I have also enjoyed making some tapestry weavings, tried a few bracelet/cuff thingys, and am now dreaming of a larger rigid heddle loom (wider…24″ or 32″…ooooohhhhh:).

I have also gathered the supplies I need to try backstrap weaving. My next step is to warp the sticks and have a go at this amazing style of weaving that truly has me in awe. I was mesmerized by this video of Guatemalan women working magic on such a simple loom. And I found an amazing blogger who shares how to make your own backstop loom. I’m not as interested in weaving a tiny strap, so my sticks are wide and will hopefully allow for a wider cloth. Ideas, ideas, ideas….my head is quite full and happy.

 I have even been offered a Leclerc Floor Loom to bring home and give it a try. I’m not settled about that one, as I simply do not have the space for it. But boy does it seem fun to try out. Well, not the warping part…that completely overwhelms me… the thought of warping a big floor loom. My 16″ Ashford Sample It rigid heddle loom is so accessible and easy to understand. I’m not in any rush with this weaving path I’m on. Slow and steady wins the race and will allow me to relish and savor the learning and enjoyment of weaving.

Spinning goes hand in hand with weaving, as I so love to create yarns to either weave or knit with. For now, I seem to want to add into the weavings all kinds of yarns with lots of texture and color! So I haven’t woven with purely handspun wool yet. Perhaps I will try that in future. But my recent excitement was in discovering how to ply two handspun yarns together! My family can attest to my crazy delirium over being able to do that!

Of course, there are project bags in the works filled with knitting and crochet projects! And though I am no longer doing my morning #100DayProject pages, I continue to drawcument life, often doing so in the mornings and evenings as a way to greet and end the day.

Heart full. Hands open to receive. This artful life continually calls to me. I am consciously working to slow the pace of making so that I can just relish living artfully. I don’t know if this makes sense. But I’m finding goodness in just sitting for periods of time WITHOUT MAKING ANYTHING. Just to be in the presence of the One who made me. Just to be present in my life with wherever it is I am at the moment. It feels restful and slower than my usual. It is summer. And I am so grateful for this Summer of Weaving!