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Monday, June 24, 2013

Ode To Grey Sheepswool

Hello grey sheepswool yarn. It's been a long time. When you arrived in the Dawn dish liquid box today, shipped all the way from Schoolhouse Press in Wisconsin, I could hardly wait to get the box opened. I knew beforehand what I would do. I put a beautiful skein of you right in my face so I could inhale your sheepy goodness. And I cried. Healing, cooling, comforting tears. 

Back in the early 80's I bought several skeins of some relatives of yours from the very same Wisconsin source. It was the first time I was going to knit a wool sweater. The only sweaters I had made prior to this were a kelly green and yellow, striped, garter stitch top out of Red Heart yarn for David, our oldest son, then a baby. And next on the needles was a rust-colored, cotton, 'fashion' top for me that I never did quite correctly figure out the knitting directions for, but finished it somehow and wore it proudly...well, more or less proudly. 

The first grey sheepswool sweater was for David, then a growing little boy. I also bought a skein of red and white wool in order to incorporate a color pattern. Never mind that I had never knit with more than one color of yarn in the same row before. I was enthusiastic and optimistic. I saw the sweater featured in some women's magazine, but I was loathe to follow the commercial directions given my problems with the cotton top I had earlier knit for myself. I decided instead to follow Elizabeth Zimmermann's EPS (Elizabeth's Percentage System) allowing me to make the sweater as a circular raglan at a gauge that I decided upon. A "thinking" knitter I was going to be, by golly! When I finished David's sweater I was very excited that it looked pretty darn good. The ribbing at the cuffs and lower border was a bit flaccid, but nothing that a little stretch nylon couldn't correct. I showed my Ma. She said nothing positive. To be fair, she said nothing at all. I don't think she even smiled. Soon after Ma bought David a lovely, finely knit, navy sweater made in Italy. I shouldn't have let myself get so upset over this. I shouldn't have let her lack of enthusiasm color my opinion of what I had created. What Ma did (or for that matter, did not do) said much more about her than anything to do with the dear little sweater or my gallant knitting efforts. After all, nothing should or could dampen the love that went into each and every stitch of that sweater for my beautiful boy. And at least she didn't say about this sweater what she did say about another sweater when I was knitting it years later. She was visiting us in Massachusetts one summer. If memory serves me Ma said that she wouldn't wear THAT sweater to a dogfight. My mistake was that I obviously shouldn't have looked for any pats on the back or encouragement from her. Such motherly-daughterly hip-hip-hurrahs were never forthcoming. A year or so after this proclamation about my 'ugly' sweater, Ma started showing signs of Alzheimer's Disease.

Years went by. Early on I learned to spin. Then I learned to dye. I was specifically interested in learning about plants that offered up their natural dyes. For the most part, I appreciated and saw worth in every single adventure I was part of, though not all of them were easy and carefree. In fact, I encountered many a boulder on those fiberish adventures. Still I went forward as positively as possible. I thought, wrote, and taught about all that I had learned in the fiber arts. I got hurt when folks I met and/or admired in the field didn't meet expectations I had unfairly set for them, or act how I would have liked them to act. Never mind that no one need be required meet another person's expectations. Never mind that we all have free will to think and act as we'd like. Never mind that I would have done better not having any exacting expectations in the first place.

I made many treasured friends through fibers. Some of them I'm still close to and delight as we celebrate each others new adventures and laugh at many of the crazy, old times. Over the years I have attracted a few folks who were jealous of me, no doubt because I, too, harbored doses from that same murky well of jealousy. I attracted folks with various fears, often having me look straight into the abyss of my own set of fears. I attracted critical, overly sensitive people, mirroring my own critical. over-the-top-sensitive penchant! What goes around comes around. What one sows, one reaps. Karma gets balanced, that's for sure. Oh yeah...the lessons continue... I shall aim to learn from my past and make the future brighter in all ways.

Today, a warm June day in 2013, I am going to begin knitting a grey sheepswool sweater. I haven't knit, spun, or made much of anything with wool for a few years. Oh yes, I knit a few prayer shawls for people. But I couldn't bear to make them out of wool because all the reasons I had stopped spinning, knitting, and dyeing would have been too painful to admit if I did. But I'm happy to say that it's time to renew my love affair with sheepswool. It's time to go back to the source of my knitting joy by creating an Elizabeth Zimmermann garment for me. Perhaps before I cross over I'll have made a good % of EZ's published patterns. No matter what, I plan to have a blast enjoying each and every loving stitch. And if someday you see me spinning and dyeing, as well...then it'll be clear that I've tackled some of the biggest boulders of all and was successful at putting them where they belonged.  


  1. Great post. I like grey wool.

    (It's so hot here today I'm sure I could set dye on wool in bucket out in the parking lot.)

  2. Thank you, Ted! I'm not surprised at all that you like grey wool, too. Hugs!

  3. ENJOY your wool!! As long as it brings you happiness