Friday, August 21, 2009

Spinning as Therapy

I haven't felt like doing much of anything since I received some pretty heavy news last week. Last Wednesday my mom called to tell me that my stepdad has been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, which is a cancer of the plasma cell. He'd been having rib pain lately, which we all initially thought was due to broken ribs from when he took a fall while installing storm shutters. He has been tired and even drifted into confusion one day. Rib & lower back pain is a classic symptom of this type of cancer, and the confusion was caused by an elevated amount of calcium in his blood. I could go on and on about the technical details, but I'm not sure how much I want to delve into it here...all I can say is that I've been sad and frustrated that I live so far away from my parents. I can't help. They're in Florida; I'm in Colorado.

A heavy weight has settled down on me. It pushes down and makes me feel pretty consistantly sleepy...just wrung out. And there's guilt involved, too. My family needs me to be strong. The last thing they need is a daughter/sister that feels ready to collapse with exhaustion.

And so I've turned to my wheel. It rests patiently in the living room until I'm ready for it. I picked out some superwash merino from the depths of my stash, and slid the drive band to the smallest whorl. Spinning sock yarn is something I've never done before...creating a three-ply fine yarn takes time and dedication. But that's exactly what I have right now. I'm a fast treadler in even the most relaxed of settings, but now the wheel positively purrs and the flyer flashes with the blur of the hooks. My heaviness turns out to be pent-up energy and crushing sadness, and now it's pouring into the wheel, flowing down my arms, through my fingers, and spinning away. It's magic. The depression begins to lift, and my thoughts become more organized and less panicky. I can be useful to my family again.

Love you, Dad.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Dyeing with Nancy Finn of Chasing Rainbows

It has now been MONTHS since Nancy Finn was here, and I kept forgetting to post about the dyeing and color theory class she was conducting over at Shuttles . Naturally I jumped at the chance to take the class and spent a happy day at Shuttles dyeing everything in the immediate area with big, bold, bright colors.

Nancy Finn is the owner of Chasing Rainbows Dyeworks, and if you have a well-stocked LYS (local yarn shop) near you, you have probably seen her work. She runs a studio where she and four employees handpaint complex fibers full of subtle tones and gradations. Her teaching method is thorough and very complete...I learned so much!

She started us out with dozens of small strips of silk ribbon. Silk doesn't necessarily need a heat source for color to set, so these were going to make up our color wheel notebook by the end of class. We then got right to playing with color, mixing drop by drop to create new tones, using only red, blue, yellow, and black as bases. Among the concepts I learned were how to alter shades via the use of a special mix of colors called toner, and how to actually use black. Black changes everything. I have always been afraid of black, thinking it would muddy my colors and make them horrible and ugly. Not so. Colors seem to gain force and depth with the use of even a few drops of black...they become infinitely more interesting.

Nancy uses a special method of I've never seen mentioned before. Most people who casually dye know about the plastic-wrap method of handpainting. Nancy said she can't stand the thought of how much plastic she'd be using if she went this way. Instead, she uses restaurant steamer trays to do her dyeing. She dyes 2 oz. at a time, because that's all that she says fits well in a tray.

Nancy pours well-mixed dyes directly onto the fiber:

Next, she presses the dye throughout the fiber to make certain it's saturated:

She also likes to add a little zing of color that doesn't necessarily "go" at the end:

We all took a turn, handpainting silk top, merino/silk top, and fiber from home:

And here is the Drying Rack of Loveliness:

All in all, such an informative class!!