Sunday, May 12, 2013

Tre Palline

Tre palline. That's Italian (pronounced Tray pa-LEE-nay) for three scoops, like three scoops of gelato. And the word "palline" is a much improved name from the original term I was using: woolly balls!

It's been nearly a year since I last posted in this blog, and the topic was fear, fiber, and felting. Well it's still about fiber and felting, but I am free of the fear about getting started and "sucking" at making art with wool fiber from my own sheep. After a couple of starts and stops from last May through December, I overcame my inertia after discovering a tool to make the wool-carding process quicker, more efficient, and, well, reasonable! My "rural chick" friend Heidi came over one Saturday morning after New Years with her hand-cranked drum carder, into which we fed pieces of my clean wool and converted it into neatly combed batts! We watched how-to videos on youtube, talked away, and after a couple of hours, I was sold on the idea that I could actually card my own wool. I traded Heidi a bottle of two of wine for a 10 day loan of her drum carder, and a few days later, and I had myself some wool batts to work with!

In mid-January, five of us Rural Chicks gathered for a woolly play date out at Canvas Ranch. I brought all my wool, as did the others. Heidi also brought her felting needles and accessories. Deborah had a felted sheep on the kitchen table, and I immediately knew what I wanted to make. Sheep that would become ornaments for my 2013 Christmas tree. With some basic instruction from the Chicks, I started making my first sheep. I gave him a single ear, and pronounced him to be "Junior," the name of my one eared sheep.

Junior became a gift to his Grandma, who was just as thrilled with my adult artwork as she used to be with my childhood art projects! I ordered some of my own felting needles, and packed up a bag of felting supplies to take along on my 6-week ski trek to Wyoming. On a few evenings, I sat around making sheep, crafting companionably with my old friend Joyce, who was knitting a cowl for me. After a couple of sheep, though, I got a little tired of fussing with attaching legs, and searched for a new project.

The idea of making eco-friendly dryer balls appealed to my practical side. These are baseball sized densely felted balls of wool that you can put in the clothes dryer to decrease drying time, add a natural softening agent, and give fluffiness without static cling to clothes and towels. I started making felted balls, but I didn't want to "waste" my carefully carded wool, so I began making the balls from pieces of clean, but uncombed chunks of wool. The balls came together pretty quickly, but I decided they were just too plain, and what they really needed was some color. I had brought along some yarn from a knitted scarf that had begun to unravel, and also a pair of knitted slippers that just didn't fit my feet. And I felted these beautiful yarns onto the balls.

I played with different designs and techniques for felting the yarn onto the woolly balls, and quickly decided these were way too pretty to use in the dryer! I remembered a beautiful Steuben crystal vase that was a wedding gift from my coworkers, but was just the wrong shape for a vase. It would be perfect as a holder of woolly balls, and it would be perfect displayed on a bench table in my bedroom!

Last month, while visiting family in North Carolina, I discovered a bin of handspun yarn in my mother-in-law's vast inventory of crafting supplies. She encouraged me to take them home, and I was excited about making more woolly balls with some new material.

My friend Sherry, who's an artist and a cyclist (unless it's raining, in which case she's an artist and a cyclist), said she'd love some woolly balls and picked out one of the new yarns she liked. I started felting, allowing myself to let my creative spread organically, and veer from my process of using a single yarn. Soon I had three more woolly balls.

As I selected the bowl as a prop to photograph the balls, I came upon the idea for what I could call them. They reminded me of little scoops of ice cream! I did a quick search to find the Italian word for small scoops of gelato, and voila: pallina (singular) and palline (plural)! Perfecto!

Where does this go from here? Who knows? But I did just save another couple of fleeces from this year's sheep shearing, and I am just about to send them off to a mill for the first time to be scoured and carded into batts for me. I am imagining some new felting projects, including some wet-felted pillow covers, although I'm not necessarily limiting my imagination :-)

Who knew I could morph from a practical, analytical, not-very-artistic woman into a fiber artist who could just "go with" her own creative juices and see where it took her? I don't really know where I'll be going with my woolly creations, I have no specific expectations for what I create, and I'm okay with that. Wait -- check that: I'm GOOD with that!