Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Fear Factor: Fiber and Felting

Intimidated... Who me? That's just not a label that anyone who knows me even a little bit would likely pin on me. Assertive and confident (sometimes too much so) yes, but fearful? Nope. So I've struggled a little in the past few weeks with the exploration of something new and different, something in an area where I see myself having very little skill, vision, or propensity. But my tendencies towards acting efficiently and frugally, joined by my dislike of wasting anything, trumped this fear, so I've thrown my guard down and am trying something new: wool crafting or as it is increasingly called: fiber arts.

Newly sheared fleece, 2007
I decided that I would save a fleece or two this year, and that I would do something with the wool. Why would something so natural be so intimidating for me? I have six sheep, abundant suppliers of wool right outside my door. They have to be sheared every Spring, so finding something to do with the fleecy wool makes perfect sense. It's logical. Eco-logical. Thrifty. Green. It's so me, but it's so not! I see myself as non-artsy, and not very visually creative. I've never been very good at Arts & Crafts kinds of projects. I've always viewed them as delicate and requiring finesse, where I am, by nature, more prone to activities that take more physicality and even brute force. And I really dislike the feelings that come along with being "not very good" at something... Uh-oh! An epiphany. Time to ditch my old and untrue belief that if I can't do something well, I shouldn't do it at all.

So... A bag full of wool stood in a corner of the garage for a month while I noodled and brainstormed with friends. Sherry brought me a book on wool "felting." I browsed through, looking at the pictures of project ideas and techniques, and judged felting to be "more burly" than spinning the wool and knitting with it: perfect!

But the wool sheared from my very-dirty vineyard-grazing sheep does not come already cleaned, skirted, carded, dyed, and ready to make felt. These things I would have to figure out on my own. Google was dispatched to my rescue, and I got the basic how-to's of skirting (trimming away the wool sheared from the rear end, legs and belly because it's too full of manure to use) and hand-washing the wool. This morning I spread out a tarp on the driveway, put a single wool fleece on top, skirted and pulled out big thorns and dirt clods, and then double-washed and double-rinsed the wool in two grape picking bins.

I re-purposed the bench above and a clothes drying rack to hang the clean wool outside to air dry. I still have another fleece to clean, but I am feeling just a little bit proud of having taken the first steps. Next up will be figuring out the dye process and carding, although I'm not sure of the order in which I take those two steps! Who knew, when I said I do, that someday I would (1) have the courage to identify and understand an old fear and (2) get past that fear and get "crafty"?! 

Once again, I'm drawn back to the quote I inserted in my blogpost from mid-February: "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind there are few." Zen master, Shunryu Suzuki.