crafting a meaningful little project at a time

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Baa Baa Black Sheep...We've Got Wool!

Me and my big mouth.

We steered clear of the fair food and rides at the midway at the State Fair today, and stuck to the animals and agricultural attractions. As we wandered through the family arts building, the littles exclaimed over the antique toys, pointed out the African patchwork quilt with the elephant in the middle, and ogled the Lego creations. Since this was mainly a “look don’t touch” building, I figured we would take a quick tour and move on to the animal barns.

As interest in the cross-stitched ornament display wore thin, we turned and happened across an exhibit featuring wool. There were several women demonstrating the art of spinning wool, and Little Lady was fascinated, especially when she saw a spinning wheel that was designed for use by a child. She watched the spinning wheel turn; I watched the wheels turning in her head.

Touching and trying the equipment was off-limits at this display, but we were able to watch the women work the spinning wheels. Watching them deftly twist the fibers, pick free the pieces of straw, and guide the newly-formed yarn onto the wheel was inspiring, even for Little Man. One of the women talked directly to Little Lady, showing her a picture of the llama that had “gotten a haircut” to collect the wool she was working from the big bag on the floor. Little eyes flashed from photo to bag to hands on wheel…the wheels turned…

We had a chance to feel a several types of wool, fibers, yarns, and knitting equipment. Wool from sheep and llamas, fibers from corn protein and skim milk- we talked about which ones were soft, which were more coarse, how these might feel against our skin if they were made into a shirt, a blanket. We looked at the raw wool, the balls of yarn, the knitted sweaters and scarves. Turning, turning…

textile fashion show
We were walking down the stairs when activity on the main stage caught Little Lady’s eye and she was off.  She clamored into a seat in the front row next to a bored looking little girl. Slumped into her seat, I assumed this young lady was there against her will- stuck waiting for her mother or grandmother to finish up their crafty wonderings. Little Lady provided a stark contrast to this dejected youngling: my girl sat crisscross applesauce, leaning forward on her chair, staring raptly at what turned out to be the Textile Fashion Show. A small collection of older women and one little girl made up the runway model crew; a gray haired, bespectacled matron announced the models and described the fibers and processes used to create the crocheted vests, knitted scarves, and woven wraps displayed to the meager crowd. My boy was impressed, but his attention wandered after a few minutes and he moved on to explore the antique toys display behind me. My girl was enthralled: she watched, perched on the edge of her seat, for over 20 minutes. The wheels in her head spun faster than the spinning wheels…

I will admit: I lost interest shortly after my son, and kept an eye on the top of her cowgirl hat in the audience as we looked at other things.

I should also admit that I don’t know much of anything about wool, yarn, or anything related to knitting. In fact, within the last month I sold a huge bin of yarn and several teach-yourself-to-knit books in our garage sale. I had some pipe dream a while back that I would learn to knit and crochet…but it turns out that my little sausage fingers were clearly not made for clicking those sticks. I kept a few balls of yarn and my round looms (the only knitting that has ever made sense to me!), but I sent the rest on its merry way with a happy little lady and said “Good riddance!”

Clearly, I made a mistake.

Back to the fashion show: after nearly half an hour, Little Lady flew over to me, yammering on and on about the scarves and hats and sweaters she’d seen. Questions, answering her own questions, more questions: What kind of wool was that blue sweater made out of? It was probably a sheep or a llama. How did the wool get blue? Llamas and sheep don’t come in blue. Maybe they painted it. Then, the kicker:

“Momma, can you teach me how to make a scarf out of wool?”

Ummm…no? I don’t know how to knit? I don’t have the patience? My fingers are too fat, I am too busy, I don’t want to? Clearly I needed a better reason to offer up to those big eyes under that cowboy hat…

“I would love to honey, but we don’t have any wool.”

That did it. I felt only marginally guilty at the let-down I saw then: it was true that we didn’t have any wool, right? I mean, I do enough cool stuff, don’t I? I can’t do everything, can I? No knitting- that’s out. End of story.
"A bag of wool, just for me!"

It was about that time, when I was finishing up my inner pep talk and congratulating myself on my clever diversion, when we walked into the gift shop, directly into a big sign that said “Wool for Sale.”

Well, crap.

Me and my big mouth.

Now we have this bag of wool, and I have no idea what to do with it. Little Lady is thrilled- even Little Man couldn’t wait to get it out of the bag and fee how soft it is. I am less than thrilled: I have no spinning wheel, I don’t know where Rumplestiltskin’s studio is, and a cursory search on Pinterest turned up nothing! I obviously could have come up with more reasons why I shouldn’t, couldn’t, or wouldn’t get involved in this project…but I’d just be lying and making excuses. Isn’t there an old adage about weaving a web of lies, and getting hung up in it? Seems like that would be fitting here…

If it was a new toy from Target she was asking for, I’d have had no problem saying no and dropping the whole thing. I am not a pushover when it comes to buying new, impulse buy stuff for the kids: I don’t suffer that kind of guilt. My guilt comes when I say no to something meaningful because I just don’t feel like doing it. She’s intrigued, she’s engaged, she wants to learn a time-honored artistic tradition inspired by first-hand experience with it in an unlikely setting…we have the materials right in front of us, she’s ramped up about learning, and doing, and making something with her own hands…and I’m ready to weasel my way out of it? Why?

So here I am, staring at this mass of soft cream and brown wool (ok, ok, I’m kind of glaring at it), waiting for some inspiration. If I can just figure out how to make it into something more yarn-like than this wobbly wisp of fluff, that will be a start.

If I only knew how to build a spinning wheel…

kind of looks like a squirrel...sigh...

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