Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Tactile Touching of Minds and Hands

Sometimes, an event can change your life so drastically that you wonder how you ever lived beforehand. Attending my first fiber festival (Fiber Christmas in July in Kellyville, OK) a couple of years ago was one of those moments that set me on my merry fiber adventures. I spent the day petting all the wools and watching all the wheels spinning in wonder and excitement. I knew instantly that I had found my niche.

My mother recently shared with me her memories of when I was younger, on how I used to stroke all my blankets and play with me hair. It had never dawned on me until that festival just how tactile I was. In high school, I would visit thrift stores to purchase clothes, firstly, because my mother had horrible tastes in teenage clothes, and secondly, because I was an intensely independent person who wanted nothing more than to prove she could take care of herself. I walked aisle after aisle just brushing my hands across the tops of the fabrics on the hangers until I found something that felt quality. It was never my way to choose the fashion clothing that fell apart after washing it a couple of times. I wanted a durable clothe, be it either satin, cotton, wool, or any other, it had to make me feel comfortable.

So when I started back into Fiber arts, I found myself using those same techniques. I would walk the yarn aisles just feeling the different yarns. Depending on what I was making, some yarns suited and some not.  If you are making a rug for your kitchen, you wouldn't want 100% fluffy angora that slips out from under your feet when you step on it, nor would want to make a baby hat out of scratchy 100% wool (not pointing fingers at any particular brand, but you know what I mean).  Knowing the right fiber that works best with the right project is key to making an object that lasts. I have found that many forget this step and just grab a color they like without thinking of it's function. Yes, there are a lot of pretty colors out there, but that's only half the picture. 

Anyway, back to my story, after purchasing my spinning wheel, I immersed myself in all things fiber related. I read books and magazines discussing fibers and through the wonderful efforts of Jessie from Phat Fiber, I got my hands on dozens of varieties from silks to wools to bamboos and so many more that are under-used and under-appreciated. I "played" with them. I did not just simply take for granted that what ever an individual book or magazine said. I tested it. It may be the long way, but without experiencing it for yourself, I feel that you don't truly understand of appreciate them. For example, it's one thing to read stories about sailing the oceans and watching the dolphins play in the waves, but an entirely different matter to get on a boat and swim with them.

At Fiber Festivals, I feel like I found a wonderful group of people who understood this simple outlook: to experience rather than passively abide. Everyone was touching the fibers and asking questions. I had detailed conversations about the mechanisms of spinning wheels and talked with several women about how their knit items came about. Everyone had an experience with what they made. Sometimes, I fear, that the art of conversation is being lost to use. Sometimes though, in those rare moments, when like minded people come together like at this festival, we actually converse. It's not about me being right or you. It's just the simple joy in exchanging thoughts and ideas to better each other. 

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