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!


  1. You've come a long way girl? Can't wait to see what your next project is.

  2. LOVE this post, Deb! Inspiring me to keep at my fiber projects (none yet from my sheep) and break out of my analytic scientist mode into something more creative. Love your work!!

  3. Hey: Your writing is fun and easy to read! Now its time to make a wall piece! Your ready!!

  4. Okay, Deb, beating me at WWF is one thing, but crafty sheep projects??! I say that when we go to Paris to train little sheep and their people, we do a felting workshop! Are you in? Also, we'll have to swing over to Amsterdam to visit this woman: Her work is just amazing.