Working hands

Today, because it is a new year and that’s always an opportunity for a fresh start, I tried once again to tackle my wool website. The one where, in theory, I conduct business. This is a joke, in the same fashion that any artist conducting business is a joke (or would-be artist in my case). It was with relief that I laughed at Robin’s FB note about exactly how arbitrary these dates are (and that it makes far more sense to keep track of things according to the sun and the moon and the tides) because, as usual, I end the day feeling somewhat like a failure, technologically-speaking. Here are a few of the things that have been hampering me:

An ancient MacBk Pro, the first off the production line and now ready for the Smithsonian, that stopped typing 4s and Qs and then 1s altogether.

Finding enough money to buy this lovely new MacAir. We found it.

Trying to get a page, any page, to stay still long enough to work on this new MacAir. The pages hover and swoosh and dart about ala CSI Miami as I try to learn new  keypad techniques.

My kindly tech support team at iPower. They are always there, 24/7, with never much more than a couple minutes wait time and they are always really happy and willing and eager to give me technical support- and they are all named Peggy. Hence, makes even less sense to them than it does to me.

All of my photos are scattered about the virtual universe, on hard drives left in the mountains, in Clouds, on servers. Half are degraded to thumbnails and most I can’t find anyway. This is really discouraging because, of course, along with photos of wool and bad alpaca teeth are photos of my mother, my babies, Adelor the lion at LPZ, my best wol shots (WOLS! reference Pooh), and past homes with trees and flowers and cats.

And so forth. Today, after one of those completely debilitating trips to IKEA in Tampa last week to buy more storage, after carting and assembling and unpacking and sorting, I pushed my luck and asked Rich to take a couple of new photos of me working on the drum carder. I wanted desperately to post something, anything, at so I could then send out e-mails to all the lovely people who have contacted me at one time or another about felt making. So I can conduct my business (this is a joke). Of course, all of those e-mail addresses are the way of my photos, half disappeared and some of them have co-mingled in adulterous ways with garden club lists and book club lists so that if and when I do get out an e-mail half of the addressees will be irritated at more unwanted junk in their mailboxes.

Anyway. Rich took photos of me working on my new old electric drum carder and as he was taking them he said, “you are not going to like these. They make everything look messy.” What he meant but was kind enough not to say was that, as usual, I was looking terribly un-photogenic, hadn’t combed my hair or put on clean clothes, let alone-God forbid- any makeup. Also, as usual, my skin is rebelling here in Florida by turning flaming red with blotches, further exacerbated by a new SPF moisturizer. So I just went about my business. When the sun hit the porch and I had to come in out of it, I uploaded the photos and found that I really like them.

I like them because of my hands. They are working hands. I never get manicures and I have never, at least since I’ve been felting, grown my nails or engaged in any other hand care maneuvers. As I get older my skin has gotten thinner and knicks and scrapes show up most every day as I go about my business. Horrid age spots have appeared. They are in pure olive oil sludge many hours a week -I think that’s actually good for them. And they are working hands. Feltmaking is hard work. Turning loose bits of animal fiber into durable and sometimes artistic product is hard work. I scrub, squeeze, rub, twist, push, pull, tangle, smooth, lather, rinse, toss, throw and rub some more. That is the work of a felt maker. I liked looking at my hands in these photos. Looking at these photos, I didn’t mind that I don’t photograph well, that I have quite a bit of surplus chin, the my complexion is ruddy, my belly paunchy and my eyebrows Vulcanesque. Most of all, I didn’t mind that my hands look shopworn and sinewy. I thought about all of the pleasures of working with my hands, I thought about my hard-working father, I thought about how very much I enjoy felt-making.

In all of these photos I am carding wool, in preparation for making felt. I found this old used and adapted electric drum carder in the mountains of Madison County, near our home in NC. It was originally a Louet hand carder and up until now, I have only ever used a hand carder that you crank away at ad nauseam. Somebody who worked with his hands built a housing for this carder and added a workhorse of a motor and automotive belts to drive it. It took forever to clean it of the alpaca (there were about two and a half beasts) and vegetative matter (enough to fertilize my garden for a season) but once done I fell in love with this machine. I think it will run forever.


10 responses to “Working hands

  1. I enjoyed this post. I also like my “working hands”; the hands that seldom grow nails, are dry, have spots and nicks, nooks and crannies that my young hands didn’t have. I have earned these hands, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. Your wool looks beautiful in the carder, and I can’t wait to see the finished products.

    I don’t know if anyone else has a problem with your blog, but it is very large for my screen (15″) and I have to scroll left and right to read it all. The photos are huge – which isn’t a problem – but the words are very small and I can’t seem to make them larger in the way I do other’s words (clicking control and plus). That only serves to make the spaces between the lines deeper. Maybe it is a problem with WordPress, I don’t know, but it won’t keep me from trying!!

  2. Nice hands. You could be a hand model. And your belly is not paunchy. So, what are you going to do with the drum carder that you have to crank?

  3. I know, Judy. I may need to change template. It’s been a long day of trying to fix typeface on various sites, etc. etc. I’ll work on it, I promise. And I like your hands- and handiwork- too. 🙂

    Not sure yet, Cathy… 😉

  4. Those are fine hands!
    Vulcan ears might be a problem, … eyebrows, not so much.
    It’s good to be lovely and capable.
    Keep working.

    (Okay, I confess that the felting stuff eludes me, but it seems to me that a carder must straighten out/detangle wool?”)

    • No doubt you will hear from other readers about the working hands aspect of your post. I understand your assessment completely. I have one friend who is a pianist–she has lovely long slender fingers. And at times I look at them, and then at my own. I have working hands that are descended from a farming family background. Totally utilitarian, they are. Not beautiful.
      But I love it that I (and they) have strength enough to do work. I love putting my hands in dirt–planting things, tending what is planted. So, no slender fingers for me–thank you very much. I NEED to work with my hands.

  5. Well, I’m a pianist with short fingers, and I’d love to have the longer slender ones so I could get a little reach, but the nails would still be unceremoniously lopped off and the hands unsoftened and, in general, I would serve as a “before” hand model–but I’m fond of my hands too. I’m grateful to them for all they do. Even if all I do is scratch my butt, I’m grateful. And I think you look quite lovely.

  6. I respect this art more than I can say. My mother was a weaver and had many friends who ran the whole show from carding to spinning to weaving. It is phenomenal. Your “working hands” are beautiful.

  7. well done, on all fronts!
    I love my MacBook Pro but it is a newer one than yours, I bet!

  8. Lovely photos. Rich did a great job with them. What a gorgeous drum carder. I don’t know anything about them, but it looks beautiful to me. That wood! oof.

  9. Wow, it is soooo beautiful, thanks for sharing! Colorful!
    white azalea wedding

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