I have always enjoyed a second chance story. My own story is one of not only a second chance but multiple chances and I still need a few more. More than once, the phrase “it’s only up from here, kid” has been uttered at the farm in regards to a second chance for a person or animal. I am also fond of the phrase “Redeeming the Time”- to make wise use of precious time to do the “needed” things that have real meaning, value and importance or have been put off for later.
Well, today’s story is not that philosophical, maybe. However, I do believe there was a valuable lessons in a recent “redeeming the wool” activity I embarked upon during my fall break.
To confess, I am a bit of a collector. My wool stash is born out of being very meticulous at what I put out to sell to the public and having an extremely critical eye when it comes to wool. I love to analyze and evaluate fleece! (It is such a treat to judge at the local fiber festival and for clients.) I also thoroughly enjoy excellence. Several years ago, Salieri in the movie Amadeus, expressed this standard well, as he spat the word “mediocrity” in relation to his own ability next to Mozart. When a friend once remarked that my wool cast-offs would make most fiber artists very happy, I brushed it off. “Mediocrity!” - but her words have stuck with me.
Back to the wool. Having several days at the farm to indulge myself in projects, I decided to look through the many fleeces that I have just sitting on the shelf. These fleeces were reserved back or got lost in the shuffle for a variety of reasons. Some needed washed to get up-to-snuff to use or were ones I wanted to work with personally. As I retrieved the patient fleeces off the shelf for a second look, the idea of redemption came to mind. Maybe I had been too dogmatic with the assessment of this fiber and evidently absent minded to forget about some of the gems. I took a before and after picture and wrote a description of what I critically thought each one’s end purpose could be. In other words, what they could be if they were given a chance.
One of the things I love so much about working with wool is the possibilities. Not only selecting two sheep to see the lambs they can produce: wool quality, confirmation, beautiful face, temperament, but the possibility of the wool product itself. Will it grow out to be a beard of a magical Santa to be brought out during the enchanting time of Christmas? Will yet another talented fiber artist work it into a needle felted creature to be enjoyed? Most of my wool is processed into lovely yarn to be a garment worn with both utilitarian and artistic value. Some of my wool has traveled to other countries to live out the rest of its days. One fleece went to California to have its locks felted into a cozy blanket for babies to be photographed upon.
"Tara" BL/BFL ewe, Carded "Paolo" wool, Yarn by the talented Silver Wheel Yarn artists.
The possibility of this wool on the shelf deserved a chance to be used, not to have its life end on a shelf. I had in the back of my mind though, the thought that I would give them all a chance but they still might not make it. I said a chance - not a pass.
A couple of fleeces went immediately to be ‘outdoor fleeces’ as mulch on the grounds. I decided to wash a small sample of the ones that made it through the first round. I think I can tell what a fleece is like in its raw form, but I am amazed at the result when a fleece is washed. Similar to how excited I get when spring arrives. Oh look, green grass, the trees are budding, FLOWERS! Like it is the first time it has ever happened. Same with washing wool.
After washing a few samples, there were more eliminations made and then the heavy (grading) hand was applied to each fleece. One long-stapled curly fleece showed real promise. I washed a small sample and was exclaiming with joy as the beautiful locks dried on the rack. After grading the fleece, I washed random handfuls of the wool as not to degrade the beautiful lock definition of those Border Leicester curls! When I weighed the washed “small batches” they ALL weighed exactly 4 ounces. Meant to be!
I continued this sample washing for each fleece. On the final day, I noticed in the corner, the sample rack of a few that had “made the grade”. As an homage, I decided to let these winners be an all-star team. I blended the fiber together as it went through the carder. By combining the best of each of these finalists, a dreamy 3 ounce batt was made! Special indeed!
I so wish I was a better spinner so that I could make it into something to remember this lesson-laden activity. A second chance yarn braided cuff perhaps, to remember that redeeming things that might have been initially cast off, is a good and worth while endeavor. A second chance cuff to remind me that I not only need to give others a second chance but myself as well. Sometimes I need to say “Self, be kind to my friend Hannah, give her a chance”. I think I may start by giving spinning another go and transform the little redemption batt into something beautiful and useful.