The Real Time Canine II

After spending 2 years writing the Real Time Canine, the adventure continues with The Real Time Canine II. Read along as I look for just the right puppy to continue the experience. After false starts with Tim and Jed, I am currently training young Tam, and Spot, which are both off to a strong start. Please visit the RTC II to read about training sessions as they occur.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Needle Point

Antique spinning wheel
That's the way it was explained to me. Women who participate today in the women's crafts of spinning, dying, weaving, knitting and crochet represent our female fore bearers. We are just the tip of the needle pulling a thread of continuing traditions that date back hundreds of years in this country alone. Those who are furthering these arts have a big responsibility to get it right, and a lot to live up to.

A Cotswold ewe
I have been playing with processing the wool from my sheep since I sheared them all last Spring. As I became in touch, (literally,) with the resulting fiber, I began to cast about for someone to show me the ropes. Of course, online, I found any number of tutorials about washing, picking, carding and spinning wool, but I was looking for something more. I met lovely, amazingly talented women, both in person and online, all of whom had a slightly different take of how and what to do with wool. I bought books and magazines, learned a lot in a relatively short amount of time, and I began to tinker.

Wool on a set of hand cards
I washed wool, I picked wool, I bought some hand cards and I made rolags, cigar-shaped bundles of separated wool fibers that are ready to spin. I even sold some wool online through Ravelry, a website for spinners, knitters and crocheters. But, I knew I didn't have it right, and I still wanted a good teacher. I found a very nice lady who spun beautiful yarn, and had some of the right equipment, but her studio was her tiny livingroom, and she seemed disenfranchised to me. I picked up some good tips, and kept looking.

From Handspun Yarn
I bought some ewe lambs from a friend, and she told me about a talented fiber artist who was teaching her to weave. Karen gave me her business card, I called the number and Pat and I talked on the phone for an hour. I had a good feeling. Pat hosts open houses for her students a couple times a month in her sprawling hilltop home, and invited me up. Suddenly I was in an airy, high-ceilinged room with a view surrounded by mature, confident women who were spinning, knitting and talking about sheep, wool and fiber art. I was in the right spot.

Pat's first love, and my interest is wool preparation. I want to learn to take raw wool, literally off the sheep's back, and process it into clean, separated wool fiber that can be used. I want to dye it too, but I'm getting ahead of myself. As I was talking to this 50-year fiber artist, the similarities between us became apparent, mainly a shared passion for perfection, and doing things the slow way, which is so often the best way. Pat takes no shortcuts to her finished product, and it is very clean, very soft, incredibly uniform wool for which there is great demand. From experience, I understood immediately that learning the basics her way would be the cornerstone on which I will build my way. It had been the same with my mother and her approach to business. No shortcuts, no nonsense, and in 1975, no pants in the office. I chafed under my mother's tight rein, but was admired by future employers for doing things well.

Pat is extremely talented at her craft, and this beautiful woman is excited to teach me. Apparently, there's lots of women who want to learn to spin and weave, but not that many who want to wash and pick. I want to get my hand's dirty, and can't wait to work by her side. While she showed me around, we talked about her equipment, the Pat Green Studio Carder, and Picker in her studio. Of course we talked about wool, we examined it, handled it, and talked about sheep breeds. She talked to me about lost traditions, and the differences between artistic expression, and craftsmanship. I've never considered myself artistic, but as Pat explained it to me, I would very much like to become a craftswoman.

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