Two summers ago, when the Iowa Sheep and Wool was still held in Colfax Iowa, I picked up a drop spindle and quickly began to repeatedly drop it. The frustration of learning (which I celebrated in a sheep-y picture that I called Spinning Gone Wrong), continued for several long weeks. I had been told that patience and practice were key. In the evenings, my family watched me with sideways glances as I faithfully spun, dropped, and reconnected the roving. I had fallen into a regular rhythm of spin, thud, and sigh. One memorable day, indeed one memorable moment, I realized that I had reached the other side of the elementary spinning abyss. In fact, at that moment, the family fell silent and watched. Finally, my mother-in-law quietly remarked: "Well, something has changed." By the time I had plied and wound my first ball of artsy, uneven, super-bulky yarn I was sure I was a genius. The roving I had chosen to spin is as deeply symbolic as the deep blues and purples of the color palette. I had bought it from a neighbor at the Wool Festival, Janette, who had been so kind and welcoming when I first showed up as knitbaahpurl at the 2012 Festival three years earlier.
Janette was in fact my first on-line purchase...which was also hilariously problematic. By May of my first full year as knitbaahpurl, I had learned how to put a website together and was busy drawing images for my Sheep Species Alphabet. It would take me another year to finish all twenty-six, but I decided to put them up one-by-one with an optimistic "coming soon" on the website page. I set up a payment page and got a business cell phone... and I left on vacation with my husband and sons. I was scared of that phone, always wondering if I had missed something really important, and jumping when it rang. Sitting in the car in Elizabethtown, NY, the phone rang. It was Janette. She was trying to buy 2 of my alphabet cards for her shop and the website was misbehaving. I remember the thrill of someone actually wanting to buy my cards mixed with the horror of having to figure out how to fix the problem. At that point I could only access the web in the public library about 20 miles from where we were staying. I went back and forth from the Schroon Lake Library trying to figure out what the problem was. Many trips later with many motivational inside-my-head talks and phone calls to Janette, I figured it out, everything worked, and I made my first on-line sale. So Janette will forever be part of the memorable moments of learning to be knitbaahpurl.
In 2016, I bought the rest of the roving from Janette and little by little drop spun and plied the lot. I had enough for a short sweater. It took me another year to "risk" knitting my hard-earned wool into something. This summer I remembered a pattern I had fallen in love with at least ten years ago and decided that was it. I learned how to knit holes (an illogical fear, I know), and made my first top down sweater. I finished it in the cabin where I first managed to spin, and in the area where Janette had first phoned to buy my cards (they were B is for Blue-faced Leicester and J is for Jacob). When I finished blocking I took the picture you see here. A left-over bit of yarn on a finished piece: all part of a creative journey that speaks of wool, learning new skills, and a treasured connection with Janette,