Posted by on July 28, 2012 in Yarns | 14 comments

So often we see only the end (and best) results of peoples experimentation. It makes it look effortless doesnt it? My daughter once complained that her sketches didnt look as good as the ‘sketches’ shown in her How to Draw Manga book, but of course they all had their rough sketch lines removed, the mistakes rubbed out, and what was left was a perfect looking line drawing presented as progress images as details were added in stages. It looked like they started out able to draw perfect lines already.

That kind of thing sometimes makes me feel… inadequate.

Its even easier to feel that way these days, with online groups, Facebook, Twitter, people posting a steady stream of wonderful  ‘look what I just made’ images of beautiful finished items. In the online groups I frequent I see amazing yarns pictured on bobbins, incredible knits, beautiful dye jobs, total eye candy and the poster (quite rightly) proudly sharing their creation. Its enough to make you want to just stick to what you know you can do well so you also have something to bring to show and tell! I know I can dye pretty rainbow rovings and make nice yarns with it. So I do that. Often. I also know I can spin a nice coil yarn, and people seem to like those! So I do that too. But sometimes its too easy to get in a rut, staying with the things we feel safe with.

As a fiber hoarder collector its also difficult to imagine wasting any of the wonderful fibers in my possession, I dont want to risk a single staple to some weird idea that I dont know if it will work or not! Crazy right? But sometimes I get ideas (usually after my third coffee) and occasionally retain them in my head long enough to start thinking I want to do them and planning how. It requires experimentation.

I saw it work for the cat once. She saw the pond and glimpsed that flash of gold as the fish darted under a lilypad. It must have caught her imagination, because she sat there just watching. I know she was thinking because the tip of her tail was twitching. She sat there a long time. I got bored and left. She still sat there, but the next time I looked she had changed her  position. Much closer to the pond and on the shady side. Clearly she was after the fish. The risk involved was of course a fate worse than death for a cat, getting wet. She could have stuck with her usual activities, sleeping, eating, meowing for food, waiting by the fridge for food, sneaking on the bench for food, or chasing marbles around the floor, whilst waiting for food. But today that flash of gold had grabbed her imagination and stirred up her instincts, she was willing to take a risk and experiment with the pond and try something new. 

Next time I looked she was sprinting to the front door with a wriggling goldfish clasped between her jaws. And was she ever proud of herself (and rightly so!) She had wet feet, but she didnt care, that fish was quite a prize and she wanted to come and show us! Ok so her triumph was somewhat marred by the gasps of incredulous disbelief closely followed by panic, the grabbing of plastic containers and the sound of sprinting feet. I rescued the fish, and when returned to the pond it swam off apparently unharmed. The kids and I were certainly pretty impressed, but the cat was most definately very proud of herself and meowed with renewed vigour for food, and chased that marble at double speed after such a revitalising experimentation with the new medium of water and fish (food).

I can see how a cat catching a fish could be a somewhat odd analogy for talking about experimentation and risk taking. But look at it from the cats point of view, her curiosity was too much to walk away from her fabulous but risky idea, and she had to try out a few different things to catch her fish, moving from light to shadow, creeping up close to the pond, and figure out a way of taking a fish out of the water while minimizing the amount of wetness to herself. Its a bit like designing a new yarn. Really!

I had this idea for making a new series of yarns, based on my Lord of the Rings geekiness and to celebrate my elven inscribed spinning wheel. My first idea was colour based, different coloured yarns to match different characters and groups. But then I was thinking of the Hobbity Feet yarn, and it needed fluff!  I moved closer to the pond. I had some alpaca, soft and fluffy and a rich brown, it would be perfect, but it was so yummy! I was really worried about wasting it if my experimenting didnt work.. I decided I might have to get my feet wet if I was going to make this yarn, there was risk.. I made a plan, a nice single, I can do that, no problem, using a lovely blend of said alpaca with some delightful dark rich polwarth. That was low risk, I was sure that was going to work, so at least the basis of my idea was sound, just like moving into the shade to reduce visibility from the water, a tried and tested thing and no chance of falling in. Finally I had to figure out the fluff part. Hobbit feet are small, earthy, and distinctly hairy. I thought about corespinning then just wrapping the alpaca so the ends would stick out, but it seemed too random and loose and likely to fall apart unless plied anyway. Then I thought of Navajo plying the single and tying the alpaca tufts into the loop of the chain. It was a bit of getting my feet wet on the way, because it took some number of ‘chains’ and ‘tufts’ to get it so the alpaca didnt just fall out. Here is the result. You may have seen this in a previous post already!  However I am about to jump in and get both feet wet, because I am going to add one more step to this yarn. I already knitted up some of this and was pretty happy with the result (see my previous post), I can see it would make a wonderful textured yarn for monster hats and feet, gloves, even a pretty scarf or shawl, but I am not completely happy with it, I think this is still a swipe in the water while I was still a bit scared to actually get my foot wet! I am going to redo this yarn with the extra step and fully commit myself to making a textured Hobbity Foot yarn that fufills my anticipation and curiosity, its going to be a wriggling mouthful of goldfish that will make any soaking well worth the effort!

In  the meantime, I will leave you with pics of a failed yarn I am still working on too. The image on the left is so failed its actually not much more than a tangled mess. I am working on my Elven yarn, in silk, which also needs to work as a similar yarn for a friend, who would like a gold and silver wrap. So far I am not at all satisfied with what I have come up with, I want to keep the silkiness despite the wrap and so far I am just not feeling it. The goldfish is escaping! And my hoarder brain is worrying about wasting silk while my experimenter brain is telling me not to worry as there will be a use for my experiments and at the end I will have just the right yarn and ‘know’ how to do it again. I just need to find the right place on the edge of the pond. Two skeins on and I think I finally know how to do it with the third! I am however, hoping that the cat doesn’t realise that she has in fact now mastered a sure method of catching that goldfish..



  1. Love your site. Would love to get on your email newsletter list. Carol-Ann

    • Hi Carol! To sign up for my mailing list you can fill in this form HERE on my FaceBook page, you will get a confirmation email so dont forget to click ‘confirm’. I can send you the most recent newsletter with the earrings info then! If there are any problems with the sign up let me know, I can add you manually too, but its better to go through the form, it gives you all the opt in and out info etc. xx

  2. Bravo!! You are a dazzling yarn spinner, in both senses!

  3. This is inspirational. I have lots of yarns that I am “afraid” of wasting and yet they are wasting away in the closet not being used.

    Recently, I inherited yarns that my grand-mother had been “hoarding” … please read “collecting” since the 30’s. I feel the need of making something with them in her honour but I am afraid of taking the first step.

    These are yarns that were left over from the “war effort”. She was knitting for the Red Cross and making woollen sweaters, mitts, toques, etc for soldiers and prisoners. Some of the clothes she made was also sent to what they call “Canada” in the prisoner camps. There is also baby yarns dating of about the same period – yellow, blue and pink. A lot of history is at stake in this closet and chest. I have to do something great with it but what?!?

    I cannot get myself to use it because Grand-Maman never wasted any small or short pieces of yarn, everything was safely saved and tucked away for later use (granny square blanket, tea cozy, etc…).

    Imagine, all this unused creative energy just sitting and swirling around in the cedar chest and cedar closet… I should just open the pandora box and release it and release my creativity and mostly NOT BE AFRAID of making a mistake.


    • Wow Ariane thats some history to live up to in those yarns, I can imagine why you are hoarding! It would be amazing to find a way to incorporate some of that history into it somehow as an heirloom with a story, so your grandkids know where it came from too. And if YOU dont do it.. does your daughter knit?! 😀

      • Victoria knits a little, so far only scarves. What is terrifying me about these yarns is that there are no labels and I don’t know what they are made of or how to maintain them – wash them.

        Do you think that after this long in a cedar chest that they can be knitted into a blanket or a sweater? Will the wool fiber have been damaged by time?


    • That is beautiful, Ariane! Why not use it to make beautiful bags for your rhunes? Imagine the extra energy it would give them!

      • That’s a great idea. As a lot of these yarns are in earth tones, it would make nice bags. I was thinking also of felting them.

        I have had pretty good results with felting wool before.


        • Oooh! Felted wool bags would be cool!

  4. Hahaha! This is such a great post! Super funny and inspirational and deep at the same time! I also tend to hoard really pretty materials because I’m afraid I’ll run out of them and I’m always wondering if certain projects are worthy of those hoarded pretty materials, but now I think I should just use them to try out something new and cool 🙂

  5. Hi Ladies, wonderful post! You know the worst thing that can happen is that you produce a yarn that wasn’t what you had in mind and the first person you show it to ( without mentioning your disappointment ) LOVES it! Over the years I have decided that if it doesn’t fall apart and is truly a “put together” yarn then it counts as a “good” yarn. When I teach I try to instill this into my student so that they are not totally disappointed in yarns that they spin. I’m not saying just throw in the towel and have a whatever attitude. Spin it again and again, and viola in the end it will be what you saw in your minds eye. Meanwhile knit it, give it away or sell your earlier project yarn. With the creativity of yarns today you’d most likely be surprised at the reactions you’ll get with your first! I say go for it! Spin that cotton, blend it and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Great subject……

    • That reminds me exactly of something my mother always said to me when I was a kid and trying (and in my eyes) failing to achieve what I wanted in my artwork. She told me simply to keep working at it, and eventually it will come right. Its really true! I had some yarn recently that I didnt like at all, but I kept plying and re-plying in different ways and adding different stuff to it, and what I ended up with I loved 🙂 It paid off to keep going for sure. At the moment with my silks, I am trying over and over like practicing the piano, altering tempo, and fiddling with the notes, I just have to trust that eventually it will come right 🙂

  6. This is why I have had handpainted cotton and a huge ball of tussah silk for almost 20 yrs. I dont have the skills for those fibers and I dont want to waste them screwing it up. Do I think I will just wake up spinning cotton like a pro? I also never thought to blend the silk…duh. Im expanding my circles of creativity thanks to you!

    • Hi Heather! Its really easy to end up hoarding things and never using them just because we dont know where to start, OR how to finish once we did start! I try to keep reminding myself that the process of trial and error can be more interesting than doing something that comes easily. I dont know if its good or not, but I often have to imagine what the ‘worst’ thing is that could happen, and move up from there! 😛 I hope you find a way to use your cotton and silk!

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