Saturday, July 27, 2013

Turning the Page

A big chapter of my life ended on June 30th. After 17 years of worrying about lesson plans, grades, keeping a classroom safe and productive, and all the other tasks that go along with being a full-time high school teacher, I have finally retired. It's a little earlier than I expected (I'm only 57), but it was time for me to move on to other things.

I have never been a "typical" teacher. I've tried to make room in my overly busy life for my friends, my hobbies, and my passions. I've never let teaching define a big part of who I am. As a result, retirement from teaching simply means I don't have to start worrying about lesson plans at the beginning of August, and getting up before the sun (and the students) once school starts in mid-August.

So, what am I doing to fill my "empty" hours? We will now pause for everyone to laugh hysterically. OK, enough of that. I started my own business as a fiber artist. Its name is Cal-Oro Fibrewerks. I have a tiny, tiny store on Etsy, a Facebook page, and I'm busy turning out handpainted fibers, handspun yarns, and handwoven textiles for people to love and (hopefully) buy. That's taking up a lot of my time, and I've never been happier.

In addition to the new business, I have a couple new "jobs." I'm now the president of the local historic preservation non-profit. I joined another fiber arts guild (Silverado Handweavers) and am serving as guild's liaison to the regional fiber arts organization.

I'm also doing some additional costuming, both for some historic spinning demonstrations, and for attending some Steampunk events. I think I even have time to start writing my blog again.

Basically, I'm busier than I've ever been, and a lot happier about it. Turning this page has been a very good thing.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Yarn Washing Day

Once again, I've accumulated a large quantity of yarns that need to be washed. A lot of it is handspun awaiting wet-finishing; the rest is millspun from an unraveled sweater, then quickly run through the indigo pot. No matter its origin, it all needs to be washed.

I like yarn washing during the summer. It's dry, and I can use my drying rack outside. It's also warm (it's forecast to be 82F today), so my yarn dries in a few hours. This is today's washing (before):

The green is about 1,100 yards of green multi-color merino top from Ashland Bay Trading Co. that's been spun into a nice tweed worsted-weight yarn. The little skein of wildly-colored yarn is a 2-ply sock weight superwash merino that I handpainted and spun at some point last year, but never got around to plying until this morning. The white is more of the Falklands 2-ply; again, I don't remember exactly when I spun it, but I plied it just this last week. Finally, there's all the wool/viscose/angora millspun worsted-weight that came from a sweater I unraveled in April. It used to be brighter, but a quick dip in the indigo pot calmed down the turquoise and knocked back the blinding white.

Washing (really, wet-finishing) is a fairly aggressive process. I use the technique recommended by Judith MacKenzie McCuin, which involves soap, boiling hot water, ice cold water, and a small sink plunger. If you want more information on how to wet-finish yarns in this fashion, check out Judith's article "Wet Finishes for Yarn" in the Summer, 2007 issue of Spin-Off magazine. I finish off the wet-finishing process by "thwacking" the skeins on the side of the claw-foot tub before hanging them out to dry on the drying rack: it straightens and settles the yarns into place, and is good for releasing any frustrations.

Once the yarns are hanging, I can forget about them. My drying rack is on the upstairs porch, on the north side of the house, so there's no direct sunlight that might fade the yarns. It's also up high enough that ground-based critters can't get up there, so the yarns are safe.

So, this is what it looks like when everything is dry again. How much yarn is hanging on the rack? I don't know exactly, but somewhere in the neighborhood of 3,000 yards, of which about 1,500 is handspun. It's a good couple of weeks of work.