Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Stories Matter

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Stories Matter

Stories Matter. Do I think the little images I write as part of each skein matter? No, I really don’t. The process of creating the yarns and the images matters to me. But the end result, not so much. But there are stories that matter and make a difference in the world. One such story is that of a little girl called Kycie.

Kycie’s story touched me deeply from the very beginning, because it started in such a similar way to my own daughter’s story. At the tender age of 5, Kycie developed the unpreventable, incurable, autoimmune disease Type 1 Diabetes. Tragically for Kycie, and for far too many others, her condition went undiagnosed. Doctors told her parents she had the flu. By the time she was flown to hospital she was seriously ill with diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA – the result of undiagnosed type 1 diabetes). Against all the odds, Kycie survived, but she was left with a traumatic brain injury as a result of the severe DKA she suffered. She and her family did such a great job of working towards recovery. Kycie spent months in hospital working through intensive therapy to help her move, help her regain some control over her muscles, maybe even speak again one day. Kycie captured so many hearts, particularly from those of us who’ve had our own brush with DKA.

My daughter’s story was not one of misdiagnosis. She developed type 1 diabetes at an incredibly young age. She was just a baby; hadn’t even celebrated her first birthday. Her diagnosis wasn’t missed, it simply progressed so fast in her tiny body that her first contact with medical professionals was when her body was failing from severe DKA. It’s a shocking thing to see your child go from completely healthy to a critical care bed over just a couple of days. Somehow she survived that first day, but we wouldn’t know until she came off the sedation and artificial ventilation whether or not she had sustained either brain injury, or even brain death. Most children who die from DKA die as a result of cerebral oedema (brain swelling). When her sedation was turned right down , it wasn’t to allow her to wake up, it was to see whether or not she started moving again.

Somehow, my beautiful daughter made a full recovery. (Aside from the non-functioning pancreatic cells which means she will forever be dependent on an uninterrupted supply of synthetic insulin to stay alive.) Kycie’s story has always been one of ‘There but for the grace of God go I.’ I have such a deep admiration for what her family have achieved in the midst of all they have had to cope with. They have shared and shared every part of their story, they have raised awareness of this deadly condition. They have pushed the message of the ‘Test 1 Drop’ campaign out there. They have saved many other children’s lives with their publicity campaign, and ensured that these children were diagnosed early enough that their lives were not put in danger.

Type 1 diabetes is unpreventable. Death from DKA is almost entirely preventable. All it takes, at the slightest suspicion of diabetes, is to test one drop of blood. Please familiarise yourself with the symptoms, and share this image:

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It is with profound sadness that we heard the news of Kycie’s death, around 6 months after her diagnosis, on Saturday the 11th of July 2015. The Type 1 community is further reeling from the death of 4-year-old David on the 12th of July, also from DKA, also after his symptoms were misdiagnosed as flu. Their stories will outlive them, and go on to do good in the world. But right now, there is a lot of sadness, a lot of pain and a lot of grief.

Both families are families of faith, and sharing Kycie’s story over these last few months, it is extraordinary to witness the strength that these parents have derived from their worldview. The following prayer was written for these and too many other children by Richard Bailey:

For a loved child

Father, you know the desolation we feel when a loved child is parted from us by a fatal illness. It is a sorrow that you have felt at the death of your Son, Jesus, and which you feel every time a loved child dies. Each one of us is one of your beloved children. So we turn to you, as our loving Father, in our sorrow. Take our loved child into your arms, for in your presence all things are made new. In your presence there is healing and new life. So, take our loved one into your presence, and keep her in safety, until that glorious day dawns when we shall be reunited in your kingdom, where all sorrow has an end.

You can find Kycie’s story at Kisses for Kycie.

If you would like to help the Type 1 community, please consider donating to JDRF.

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The Story So Far …

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The Story So Far …

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[Quote by Lexi Boeger.]

It’s just over two months since Story Skeins officially launched. I’m feeling reflective tonight, so I thought I’d write a little blog about it.

This time last year I was working my way through The Artist’s Way as part of the training course I started in 2012. It was challenging in lots of ways. I was challenged to explore my creativity (after having been challenged to think of myself as someone capable of creativity in the first place…). I was challenged to identify my dreams. I was challenged to become more authentically, and wholly, myself. I was challenged to drop some of the artifice I thought I was using to protect myself, but was actually trapping me in the small space I had labelled ‘safe’.

How far I have come in just a year. One of the dreams I identified was to become a yarn maker. Why does it fascinate me so? I guess it’s always been how my creativity has snuck out, even whilst I was denying it and safely labelling myself as someone capable of learning practical skills. I still deeply appreciate the practical skill element of the work I do, but it’s not what fires the heart and soul. That fire is fed by the abundance of possibility. The freedom to play with shape and space, twist and angles and geometry, fibres and textures and wacky inclusions, colours and patterns and combinations, and ideas. Every creation is unique. Every moment is unique. As long as I don’t forget that, I have the excitement of a beginner every single day.

I’ve never liked attention. Making my work public has been one of the biggest challenges for me. Because my approach to my work is very experimental (not just in the spinning, but in the writing and the planning and the kind of projects I explore) I rarely have any sense for whether the work I’ve produced is any good or not. Old me finds that very difficult. I have about three decades behind me which are full of trying to be good and trying to get things right. New me thinks a little differently. New me is excited by the uncertainty. (Old me looks on from the sidelines, wondering WTF is going on.) New me has, to a large degree, given up rushing to judge myself as succeeding or failing. New me just wants to play. Old me just wants to play it safe.

So, I took a risk. I decided to show you all my creations. You may love them, you may not. So far I’ve loved most of what I’ve made. Sometimes right from the start. Sometimes a slow burn. Sometimes not until the moment of completion. Some stuff I’m still not sure about. Every bit of it has taught me something. Being brave enough to put it out there has taught me something. Why brave? Because maybe, if you really look at the things I make, and the way I do it … maybe you’ll see the real me.

Neolithic technology stands the test of time

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Neolithic technology stands the test of time

The thought recently occurred to me that I am extremely easily amused. A stick, or sticks, and some fibres will keep me entertained for hours on end. A hooked stick and twisted fibre: crochet. Two pointy sticks and twisted fibre: knitting. Add a weight to the stick and start with raw fibre and you’re ready to spin.

It really is that simple. The drop spindle, made typically from a wooden shaft and a spindle whorl, is an ancient tool which has been in continuous use since at least neolithic times. It is a cheap and easily available way to try spinning your own yarn. You can even make your own spindle (a length of dowel and an old cd will do it).

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The drop spindle is a beautifully modest, stunningly effective tool. When I received my first drop spindle I hit youtube for some guidance. I didn’t know it at the time, but I struck gold. The first video that seemed worthy of investigation was by Abby Franquemont. Her clear tuition got me started, and I didn’t look back.

I did, however, look further into Abby Franquemont’s work, and bought a copy of her book “Respect the Spindle” [1]. I think the title tells you everything you need to know. The drop spindle, humble though it may be, is no poor relation of the spinning wheel (a relative newcomer, not in general use until the 16th century, or thereabouts). I do a lot of spinning on my wheel, but my drop spindles are not neglected. They are fine tools. I especially admire the craftmanship evident in my Schacht Hi-Lo spindle. I love the portability of a drop spindle. I never leave home without some kind of fibre project to hand, and a bag containing fleece and spindle fills that niche perfectly.

But the thing I love most of all, amongst the wide vista of possibilities involved in making your own yarn, is the meditative experience of spinning on a drop spindle. Flicking the spindle to set it in motion, the feel of the whorl spinning, angular momentum in your hands, the balance of drafting fibres through your fingers just in time for the twist to bind them together into a thread strong enough to support the weight of  the spindle. And seeing the classic “cop” of spun fibre build up around the spindle shaft as an undeniable measure of what you have achieved, of what you have made with your own hands, during this day. I lose all sense of time when I spin on a drop spindle, and what flows in is a profound sense of peace.

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[1] Respect the Spindle by Abby Franquemont. Interweave publications, 2009.

Odds and Ends

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Odds and Ends

As an experimental spinner, I often end up with little bits of spun singles here, there and everywhere. They may be left over after making a plied yarn from two or more singles. They may be from a yarn experiment that didn’t work out as planned, or one that was abandoned. Or they may just have been bits and pieces that I was trying out, such as this bobbin that was created during a Wingham Wool Work sample day:

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This is an eclectic bobbin containing the following fibres:

Soya bean

Cashmere

50/50 Cashmere & silk

Pure mulberry silk

Recycled plastic bottles

Milk protein fibre

Alpaca

Camel Down

Camel Hair

Herdwick wool

Carded sari silk

Yak

Acrylic

Cotton

Vicuna

… and possibly more that I’ve forgotten.

This week has been “Clear the Bobbins” week, which is a perfect opportunity for experimental yarn-making. I also had a couple of drop spindles full of Bluefaced Leicester:

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So, the obvious solution was to ply off the sampler bobbin with the bluefaced leicester.

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Here, in the middle, is the resulting skein called “Pick ‘n’ Mix”. It is joined by “Lapis”, made from remnants of a merino & silk mix 2-plied with itself from a centre-pull ball, and “Jovian Joy”, named by my daughter, which is 50% alpaca and 50% merino.

I think this trio demonstrates that you can make beautiful, useful yarn from virtually any combination of colour and fibre mixes. Freedom to experiment is vital to creativity and growth. The things I have learnt from this experiment, some of them very unexpected, take me further forward in my learning journey and will certainly be seen again in future yarn.