My daughter was working on a new project this weekend - some wet felting. Something she hasn't done before, but has been excited to try. With the older boys still in teenage sleepy morning land, the youngest two occupied with some ukuleles and guitars by the fire, I had a whole morning to dive into the project, one-on-one with her in my studio. My sweet darling girl (and fellow Virgo, ahem) was eager, excited, and then...oh so quickly frustrated. That she couldn't quite "get it" immediately. That her hands felt clumsy (her words). That the piece in front of her didn't match the piece she had envisioned in her head. She wanted to abandon the project, give up on it, and found all sorts of reasons why she should do just that. "Oh but honey, this is the very first time you've ever done this in your whole life! It's just a beginning!" I told her. I was full of empathy and Motherly words of gentleness and patience with her. There were tears and even a bit of anger that she walked through that morning as I held her hand, on the way to that first felted project of hers. The project she wanted so much to do. The project she, ultimately, was so proud of.
I'm not sure exactly when it clicked for me, but somewhere in my studio that morning, I found a parallel in my own creative life. Perhaps it was when she so well articulated the feeling of seeing something different in your head than what's in front of you. Perhaps it was in her tears, in the way that I know her, in the ways that we are so much alike. Perhaps it was when I reached over into my own big basket of our sheep's wool to hand her some roving. Yes, I think that's it. That's when it clicked...when I realized that I could use a little empathy of my own, a little bit of patience, a little bit more gentleness with my own process.
I had not spun in months. I told myself it was because the days were just too busy - and certainly that's true. I told myself that there was something 'up' with my wheel (also true, though just a tiny bit of a sit-down to oil it is all that I really needed to do). But....I do think there's a bit of frustration that had gotten in the way most of all. Frustrated that my hands felt clumsy. Frustrated that the yarn in front of me didn't look like the yarn I was picturing in my head, or the yarn I'm used to buying in a shop. Frustrated, that I didn't know the difference between a fine wool carder and a drum carder or English combs and viking ones. Frustrated, that this precious wool we sheared from our very own sheep wasn't being given it's proper due by the way in which I was spinning it. And on and on.
It was a most wonderful realization that morning in my studio. When I could turn the words I gave to her right back onto myself. This is the very first time you've ever done this in your whole life! It's just a beginning!
I told her about this, that I thought I was doing the very same thing with making yarn. "Well Mama, you just need to keep practicing" she told me, matter of fact, her own hands deep in her basket of roving. It really is as simple as that, isn't it?
Later that night, after tucking my little girl into bed with her felted project drying close beside her, I dusted off my wheel (literally). I gently oiled her (the wheel) with the recommended paraffin wax (so much easier than I had told myself it would be). I tried to refresh my memory on all the parts and pieces I needed and where my hands belonged. I picked up my new combs - the ones that I literally drew blood on myself each time I'd tried to use them prior. And I just started. I tried - as best I could - to talk to myself as I would to her. With gentleness, and kindness, and patience. It's just a beginning. Let's think of this as practice. Let's just enjoy the making of it. I gave myself permission to never even use this particular yarn - to think of it as practice only. And that, I think, worked. I've found a bit of a groove with my combs and it's been days now since I've injured myself with the sharp tips (progress!). I like them, for my Shetland fleece anyway, so much better than the carders. I'm getting more bits of vegetable matter out of the fleece for one. And I love that I can lay the fiber all in the same direction for combing. The spinning is coming along too - feeling freer now that my expectations of it are just 'practice' instead of something useable, something pleasant to knit with. My thoughts wander to that tansy still hanging from the library ceiling and maybe some dyeing experiments ahead. Playing.
There are four very plump and likely pregnant sheep out in the pasture. And if they happen to birth like their breed is known to do - frequently having twins - I may just have a pasture full of lambs on my hands very soon. We won't keep them all - though, likely the females all will stay. And I anticipate not just four fleeces sheared this fall, but a whole lot more than that. And maybe - just maybe - one of those lambs yet to be born will be the eighth or twelfth fleece I spin - the one that looks just like the yarn I have pictured in my head. Maybe. Until then, though...I'll keep spinning my way there. Gently, with patience, and yes...great joy in the process.