I am a bonafide fiber addict. I believe this has always been true for me, as I can recall playing with yarn bits, raw wool as a young girl. Hand crocheting chains in 10 foot lengths, twisting things to make string. I am the oldest of three, and our favorite childhood game was a sort of survivalist scenario…possibly inspired by my love of The Wilderness Family (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Adventures_of_the_Wilderness_Family) and most definitely by my homesteading libertarian parents who taught us many life skills in preparation for the collapse. We’d play that we’d been in a boat or airplane crash, and were left as orphans to survive in the woods. We assigned ourselves archetypical roles: my brother made weapons and protected us from wild animals, helped build a shelter, and perhaps did a bit of hunting; my sister was the little baby; and I was responsible for setting up the shelter, gathering and preparing food, and making a variety of household tools. I now realize that I was making cordage from plant/cellulose fibers, although I didn’t have the terminology as a 9 year old.
I wove potholders, made friendship bracelets, sewed countless doll outfits at Grandma Wentworth’s. Both of my grandmothers were instrumental in my fiber education. Grandma Bryan (paternal grandmother) taught me to crochet and play with yarn, Grandma Wentworth (maternal) gave me free reign with an old Singer and huge box of scrap fabric. Looking back, I realize that I was a pesky little git who probably pushed poor Grandma’s patience to the limit as I trudged upstairs to interrupt her over and over again with a request for her to re-thread the machine. How many times did I do that in a single sewing session? 5? 10? 20? Possibilities are endless.
But yes, fiber. Always fiber. I like lots of other things–music, teaching, growing plants, dancing, reading, performing, writing. I think fiber is one of those non-negotiable ones though. In my better moments I see myself as an artist and fiber as my preferred medium. Other days I find it to be a compulsion, the various techniques (knitting, spinning, sewing etc) as repetitive behaviors aimed at reducing anxiety. That wouldn’t be so bad, except that I wonder if I am caught in some sort of feedback loop in which I spin to stave off anxiety caused by thought of sitting still and doing nothing. The Italians say “dolce far niente”…how sweet to do nothing. Or more specifically I think it’s “how sweet to make nothing.” The very thought makes me uncomfortable. I really need to work on this.
I have recently decided that going to Italy will be the way to learn this–go right to the source and learn blissful laziness and how to take pleasure in being deliciously idle. I just have to make a whole bunch of yarn so that I can save enough money to go to Italy, and then maybe I could find a craft or yarn event so that I could vend and offset the cost of the trip…tax write-off…wonder how much it will cost to bring my suitcase with the spinning wheel overseas….how fun it will be to spin yarn in an Italian courtyard….I’ll have to also bring knitting of course…can I fit enough yarn to keep me busy in the spinning wheel suitcase or will I have to bring another bag?
See? I think I am just too Anglo for this concept. My people are Irish and Scottish, with a bit of English (South Yorkshire) and Welsh. My people say things like “Ní dhéanfaidh smaoineamh an treabhadh duit” or “You’ll never plough a field by turning it over in your mind.” We also have gems like:
Poverty waits at the gates of idleness
A handful of skill is better than a bag of gold
One does not tire of a profitable occupation
Lose an hour in the morning and you’ll be looking for it all day
Don’t even get me going on the Scots who set the bar for thriftiness…and what’s left of my ancestral pool can be summed up by Sherlock Holmes “I never remember feeling tired by work, though idleness exhausts me completely.”
Fiber as art and occupation, obsession and therapy.
I am getting ready to order another 25 pounds of fiber, and about 20,000 yards of yarn for handpainting. This brings to mind another Irish saying, this one meant for drinking but I think is also appropriate to this situation…”If it’s drowning you’re after, don’t torment yourself with shallow water.