Category Archives: Felting

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, TangledUpInWool.com 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 tangledupinwool.com 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.


I was going batty, now I’m going birding

The transition to life in Asheville has kept me going full tilt. The cats made it with ease: Sophie helped me drive by sitting in my lap and digging in her claws if I went over 79 mph or changed lanes too quickly and now they are both happy to be here watching the constant cluster of hummingbirds who appeared the moment I hung their feeder. We unpacked two cars worth of stuff, mostly wool, before I sprained my ankle running up and down the mountain ala “Sound of Music.”  I love it here and the view from every window is of native azaleas, dogwoods, daffodils, poison ivy…I’m thinking there’s a market for felted bars of Fels Naptha. I could call it Felt Naptha, yes?

The first week I rushed to finish some birdhouses for the Grove Park Inn Annual  Bird House Competition. First place went to a master wood carver and his bird house was absolutely fantastic. I was pleased with my entry other than one minor issue that arose the night before during assembly. I had done a series of four barn swallow nests and Rich and I went off in search of a suitable piece of barn siding on which to mount them. It was all completed and just before going to bed I went out to photograph my entry sitting on the dining room table. I was at first annoyed and then alarmed to see ants crawling about and it took less than two minutes to figure out that we had constructed the support base with a termite-infested 4 x 4. Midnight found me in the garage spraying the backside of my artwork with “Mountain Fresh Scent Raid” and gnashing my teeth as an entire colony of winged insects staggered out of a crack in the board. I was thinking that no matter what, Raid smells like Raid but when we delivered it the next day to the competition the woman at the desk exclaimed, “Beautiful! And it smells so nice!” Since then I’ve had a couple of recurring nightmares that the historic arts and crafts era Grove Park Inn is being consumed by termites and it’s all my fault.

(This was the first place winner. Well deserved, I think. I would like to live in this house!)

The next big project was to get some felting batts ready to market at Friends and Fiberworks and Asheville Homecrafts. I’m excited that these two great shops are going to be carrying my fibers. I’ve dropped off one big batch and another is being delivered today before I leave for a week to go birding. Rich and the cats will stay here in a house full of wool bunnies; that much drum carding makes a lot of tumblin’ tumblewool and there’s no time to clean before I head out.

(Do I still think of my Ann Arbor peeps? You betcha. Every day.)

Birding, you ask? Yes, I am one of those lucky ducks heading for New River, West Virginia for the Birding and Nature Festival. There I will tsay in a farmhouse with some of the best birding bloggers (The Flock) and go on daily birding hikes with some of the nation’s leading ornithologists and biologists. I’ll send a post, with photos of some bird I think you’ve never likely seen. The camera, binocs, knitting, iPad with iBird application downloaded, and rain suit are all packed. New waterproof hiking shoes have been broken in. Today is pack, oil change and plant all the herbs purchased yesterday at the Asheville Herb Festival.

If I posted more routinely you would see some interesting things here because most of my days on the mountain I encounter new and beautiful things and make great discoveries. Like last night in bed, when I went to fondle affectionately pat Rich goodnight and he squealed, “Don’t give me that poison ivy!” we had a eureka! moment and realized out is was that we are both getting it in exactly the same places, on the bases of our thumbs, near our wrists. This despite constant hand washing, wearing gloves and long sleeves and so forth. It’s those damn cats! They hang out under the deck where there is a lot of the stuff, walking around in it and rolling about and then they come in and nuzzle our wrists for attention and feed, especially as we work on the computers. Sophie, especially, is one to plop down and grab your hand at the wrist and start rubbing and treading. Arghhh. I never thought RoundUp would be in my life but lately I wouldn’t mind winning a enough to clear a football field.

Instead of photographing my poison ivy which looks pretty gross, I leave you this image (which some of you have seen on my Facebook page already.

We went into Asheville and these two were “doing it in the street” as my grandmother used to say (referring to hippies, not turkeys) and stopping traffic. We watched for about 3 minutes until someone honked and ruined our fun. But he was determined and chased her down the sidewalk.

I’ll put up bird photos and see you on the other side of a week of birds, nature, interesting and learned folks and a whole new adventure. Have a great week at your place.

Down by the dock of the bay

Our company left today- not really company, more like family. They didn’t want to go and we didn’t want them to leave but it’s back to snow, doctors and work for them. The week was wonderful. Much as I dislike the expression, I would say that some parts of it were down right magical.

(I get up every day and throw on whatever is close at hand and brush my teeth. Juanita, on the premise of “look good, feel better” looks lovely no matter how crummy she feels. Lexi says she is the most beautiful mommy in the world.)

(Lexi had an appointment at the Bibbidy Boppity Boutique. Being transformed into a princess is serious business.)

(Okay. It’s magical.)

For the rest, it was time spent relaxing, having some heart-to-hearts, sharing the love and living in the moment. Bittersweet time. At night, after it was quiet and dark, Rich and I would talk about what wonderful parents Chris and Juanita are, how delightfully charming and smart and quick Alexis is. She certainly is the center of their universe, rightly so, and impossibly easy to spoil because she is so polite, well-disciplined and exceptionally adaptive and well behaved. Always the conversation ended with big sighs and sadness that Juanita has to go through this. Chris wears a bracelet that says, “Save the ta-tas” and I want one. I want Juanita’s ta-tas to be saved more than anything.


Coming off the visit, Rich and I have been sort of listlessly spending the day working at business, laundry, things set aside for a few days. We took a break a bit ago to wander down to the bayou to see if the manatee were at the wall but they were still out a ways; we could see them breaching the surface but the tide was still a bit low. While we were looking for them I spotted this: the sad demise of my regular friend. For four years, this little green heron has been perched, without fail, on a dock rail close to the water, picking off the little minnows for dinner.  It looked as though he had been fish hooked with some line dragging around his neck. Very very irksome. I was ready to go at that point, all grumpy and sad, but then Rich spotted another familiar feathered friend, this Yellow Crowned Night Heron. Closer inspection says he may not be the same one I saw last year because I think this is a youngster, but I’m not sure.

Thinking about birds reminds me of my most recent felting folly. For whatever reason I thought I might felt some bird houses. Laugh. It’s okay. Rich says it looks like a Jimmy Durante muppet. I’m going to cheer myself up by working on a magpie palace tonight.

My new best excuse

(This photo was taken by Yann Arthus-Bertrand and is not copyrighted. He is one of my all time favorite photographers and I also think he is an incredible steward of the earth, maybe the best. If you haven’t seen his work or you are not familiar with his GoodPlanet.org, I highly recommend you check him out.)

Made up my mind. I am definitely going to keep up this blog, if for no other reason than to get Bonnie’s comments. And really, FC is right: FaceBook is sort of sucking the life blood out of some good blogs but there’s something lacking over there. It’s sort of promiscuous, a kind of cheap intimacy. (It ain’t pretty being easy, but sometimes I love it.) Also, it encourages those of us already challenged around editorial boundaries to just cut loose, not that I would ever do anything like recount my adventures with Bank of America, ala some bizarre impersonation of Robin Williams negotiating a mortgage.

Anyway, today I am coming clean and I have this new link for you: TANGLEDUPINWOOL.COM

I have been a busy feltmaker and I’m happy the site is up and launched, if not completely written, stocked, or padded out with all the bells and whistles I would like. I do hope you all will come visit me there. And for those of you chickens willing to cross the road? The first three to add a note at TUIW with your address will get a lovely surprise in the mail. (I promise not to share it with anyone, not even B of A)

And just to show you that I am, indeed, keeping up this blog that will no longer be all about things wool, guess who is back in the ‘hood? We thought he might have finally moved on, but two days ago I heard his call, went out and looked and there he was: Hannibal! Our old friend is back, perched next to his nest but I haven’t seen the missus yet this year. She usually arrives about a week later. That’s how Coopers stay mated for life, you know. She takes a separate vacation for a few months each year. I’ll keep you updated on their progress this season. Promise.