A Pause and a Purge

OPEN! OPEN! The Felted Wool Blanket Master Class
is OPEN FOR FALL!

Have you been saving wool? Are you ready to make a blanket?
Go here to learn more.

It’s been a bit.

The nutshell version of the past 3 months is:

1)  I retired, freeing me to
2)  spend more time with family (especially Mom) and to
3)  put our home on the market to move.

Yes! in July I retired from my regular position as an occupational therapist at the neuro-rehabilitation clinic I have fondly mentioned here for years. I still fill in as needed. It’s been a sweet way to cut the cord, as I love the work and the people.

A huge component of wanting to retire has been to gain flexibility to visit my mom across the country more frequently and for longer periods. In fact, I was able to go see her for a good part of September. That was significant to us both.

Here we are last month, in Southern California, with a backdrop of sorrowfully ashy sky. After the shot we each said, “Do I really look like that?!” (Ummm, perhaps it actually was, “Do I really look that old?!)  We said that, but I honestly think we look just right. I love and appreciate this woman so much.

In addition to attending to a bunch of doctor appointments, doing a fascinating 4-layer puzzle of Los Angeles, we purged and organized. This is a monstrous, large-looming theme over the past months, both with Mom and back home.

At home, we are sprucing up our abode and paring down our possessions in order to put this house on the market. Now that the kids have grown and gone, it’s time to go traipse after them (with their permission!).

In encouragement to purge well, one of our daughters briefly described the idea of “Swedish Death Cleaning,” adding with a good-natured wink how thoughtful it was of us to unburden the family of things now so she and her sister would not have to do it later.

The hubs and I have laughed over this often since then, because in actuality, our versions of cleaning out are perfect reflections of us. So he is out in the garage surrounded by stacks of boxes, in a thoughtful reverie of Norwegian Death Cleaning, wherein he carefully reflects upon every backstory and possible future need. Meanwhile I’m whipping through the house with my DNA-bestowed German Death Cleaning skills, winnowing items with a 2-second decision and a flick of the wrist.

I should add that we are both eldest children and thus we are each certain our approach is best. I will also add that we have managed this with no fights and with frequent interludes of laughter.

(I did check out Margareta Magnusson’s “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning” from the library to see what fine points I might be missing. In a nutshell, she recommends giving away one’s dear possessions while one is living, to people who have admired them or who have similar passions. While at present we’re mostly getting rid of excess stuff that’s not especially meaningful, I do plan to take her advice to heart in the future.)

One more note on the topic of purging. For several years I’ve been grateful that my husband has tolerated the multiple stacks of felted wool sweaters everywhere: on open shelving in our loft, in my work areas, and finally standing tall against the walls of our bedroom. The numbers became overwhelming even to me. So I challenged myself to choose my favorite 2/3 of the sweaters and pass the rest on. I again employed my 2-second-decision-and-flick method, and I cross my fingers that I don’t live with regrets. But honestly, thinning out the throngs brought a new sense of lightness and inspiration to me, and I can’t wait to set up my workspace again in a new place. I miss sewing so much!

After sorting, I photographed several beautiful stacks of 1/3 of my wool collection, and put a call out for shoppers on Facebook Marketplace.

In less than 24 hours, I had wonderful, creative, interesting (and bemasked) “strangers” slip into my family room, just inside the sliding glass door from the deck, where I had set up a browsing area in the shade but it was still TOO DARN HOT that August week to be out there handling wool.

Each person who came had a different plan for the wool. First was a mitten maker who pored through sweaters looking for appropriate sweater weights and edges for cuffs. The next woman was planning her wool appliqué work. Another was looking for cashmere for her favorite baggy bed socks. Later came a teacher in search of materials for right-brain projects to relax at the end of her work days. The final woman of the afternoon wanted to make simple items for an annual handmade Christmas gift exchange with friends. She was considering little pocket purses, or maybe coasters with flowers.

All in all, I was very happy for the in-person human interaction, so rare lately, and found this a delightful way to say good-bye to much beautiful wool ♥.

And one final reminder:

The Felted Wool Blanket Master Class is OPEN FOR FALL!

Go here to learn more.

A golden wash of afternoon sun

[Don’t forget: During the coronavirus shutdown, the Wool Blanket Master Class is open for enrollment. It’s a work-at-your-own-pace video course with clear instructions and access to me for questions and feedback. Check it out here. Questions about it?  Write me a note here.]

Amid many rainy days, we have had some spring beauties: clear, warm and sunny. To my mind, there’s no better place to work with wool than in lucid sunlight, where color and texture come alive together.

A recent day like that beckoned me to cut the sweaters for a custom-order blanket I’ve been sketching out. The late-afternoon slant of the sun set such a tranquil mood that I wanted to share some photos.

This blanket was requested by a friend and colleague I’ve worked alongside for over 20 years. The blanket will be a gift from Sara and her sisters to their father for his June birthday. In it will be three handknit sweaters made with care by his mother, Sara’s grandmother, many years ago.

A record of my work environs is incomplete without a quick pic of my “foldable rubbish bin” below, tucked in by the legs of the antique table which, when it’s not being called upon as a dining room table, holds my cutting mat.

I’m delighted that both my cutting space and my sewing space, two separate areas of our home, face west, into the sunset (and toward my the land of my roots!). Each spot coaxes me to linger and do just a little bit more in a golden wash of afternoon sun.

This weirdness calls for: a Master Class opening!*

Gosh, you guys. How the heck are you?

I’m smiling underneath this mask.

Two months and so much naivete ago, I wrote about having a “luscious lull” near the end of winter in which to tackle projects. What in the world??

I knew nothing of what was about to hit, and my mind is now officially blown. Wiser and more thoughtful voices can inform the internet about the complexities of our current situation. But let me say this:

In the silver lining of this coronavirus cloud, we makers suddenly find ourselves at home with precious time on our hands.

And–since interest has been expressed–
the Felted Wool Blanket Master Class 
is open!

This time, the course will run completely at one’s own pace rather than with a cohort of students. All videos and PDFs will be accessible immediately upon purchase and, as always, participants will have access to me for questions, trouble-spots, etc.

Have you been collecting beautiful sweaters for a long while and want to finally commit to making a blanket from them? Learn how in the Felted Wool Blanket Master Class! Go here to learn what’s offered and to read what several past students have said about it.

I’ve set up a new Facebook group for all who enroll in the course and wish to interact with others about blankets. This is one of the best places to contact me (I check in regularly) although it’s purely discretionary and you don’t need to be a Facebook user to take the course. You are always welcome to email me directly as well! (For any of you who have taken the course and were part of a Facebook page for just your session of the class, I’ll invite you to the new page. Be on the lookout for an invitation.)

———

You may or may not know, but I’m a healthcare worker: an occupational therapist in a neuro outpatient clinic. I am still going in to work–and feel fortunate to be able to do that, in spite of the risks. I don’t feel like a genuine front-line worker, as I watch nurses, physicians and assistants conducting tests and treating infected patients. I tip my hat to all of them. Thank you, all who are truly right up front, fully covered in PPE (personal protective equipment) and battling an unseen infiltrator!

*Please don’t interpret this title as flippancy in the face of a disruptive and deadly virus. I do take it very seriously.

How I Store Felted Wool Sweaters

Living in the Midwest, this time of year always feels to me like a big gift: The cold, the winter, the lure of the indoors provides a luscious lull for doing projects. (The Luscious Lull! I may coin that.)

In previous winters/early springs, in addition to working on many, many blankets, I also…

This year, a welcome burst of energy has alighted upon me and I’ve tackled household painting projects—trim, doors, bathrooms. It’s a task I actually love to do. I get to put on old clothes, turn on some funky music, and take my time at making something old into something new.

But you know what? I’m still dreaming about sewing.

What dreams, you ask? Well, first, I have two custom blanket projects I’m ruminating upon. I’m pretty sure I’ve talked before about how I enjoy this stage: looking at the sweaters, mixing and matching them, mulling over stories the client has told me. So that’s one sewing thing I’m dreaming about.

Second, for my birthday (it’s this month and it’s a milestone one), I asked for a fitting system for adjusting, designing, and sewing clothing. I caught the bug last year with Brooks Ann Camper’s Skirt Skills course and want to learn more. We’ll see what dream-worthy sewing projects I can fit into this season along with the household painting.

But all of that to say—
♥ THIS SEASON MIGHT BE YOUR Luscious Lull TOO ♥

And if in your lull you are working with wool sweaters, you might be wondering about storage.

First of all, you need to know: I will never win an award for being either terribly organized or fastidious. The ranking motivators for my storage choices are:

functionality and efficiency
with an margin for laziness.

Thus, my outlook on wool storage may not be the one with which you’d align yourself. There are certainly other great resources and opinions online. (Google “felted wool storage.”) However, if you’d like to know what my own experience has taught me, keep reading.

<<<<<<   •   >>>>>>

My 5 recommendations for wool storage:

Start with clean wool. Wash and felt your sweaters before storing. Any food or other organic residue left behind on a pre-worn sweater will invite pest damage or stains. (For neat stacking in storage areas, I also cut my sweaters apart prior to felting.)

Allow wool access to air. I don’t store my wool in anything air-tight. There are opposing views about this online. Some believe air-tight plastic is the best protection; others have found moisture inside of plastic bags with their wool. I choose to provide some air. A lidded plastic bin likely still allows the wool to “breathe” as long as the bin isn’t air-tight. But even in bins, I recommend nestling a paper-wrapped bar of lovely-scented soap inside with the wool. I don’t like how felted sweaters smell if they are closed up.

Keep wool away from insects and critters. A garage or a dark, quiet basement may allow unwanted creatures to get to your wool. Store the felted sweaters in a clean area where there is some human activity.

Don’t expose wool to direct sunlight. Over time, the whites/creams will yellow and the bright colors will slowly fade. I learned this from experience.

Don’t use mothballs for storage. At least, I don’t recommend it. First of all, there’s their toxicity. Second, it can be very difficult to get rid of their odor.

<<<<<<   •   >>>>>>

How I apply the 5 recommendations in my own studio:

Because I love to have both easy access to and inspiration from the wools I’m working with, I store most of my working sweaters where I can see them. My studio is a loft space in our home: a large open area above our living/dining room. I have a west-facing window and, nearby, shelving that was once an enclosed closet. Years ago, prompted by a daughter headed toward interior design school, we removed the closet doors and had lovely wood shelves built and installed by a friend. It’s been occupied by wool ever since. The shelves are inset and protected from the sun, and the wool has done very well here.

This shelving alone is not enough space for all  the sweaters I have. Let me just say, I have a very patient spouse who tolerates The Green Sheep business spilling over into other storage areas, all in neat stacks and easily accessible to me.

I store most finished product in clean, fresh cardboard boxes also in the loft area, where the wool can breathe, be kept clean, and be protected from sunlight. I include a bar of soap in each of these (just as I recommended above with plastic bins).

I store scraps worth keeping in plastic bins, stacked without lids in an unused closet, also where the wool can breathe, be kept clean and protected from sunlight. I occasionally organize the scraps into neat piles according to color shade within their bins, but it all quickly becomes disorderly again when I go searching for the perfect match for a project.

Pretty much, that’s it! That’s the system I’ve decided upon through my years of working with wool. It has worked very well for me and my situation.

Did I forget anything?
Do you have any questions?
Especially, how do you guys store your wool and what have you learned through trial and error?

An interview with Marina, blanket-maker

The Felted Wool Blanket Master Class begins Tuesday, October 1! If you’ve been wanting to learn how to make a felted wool blanket of your own or for a gift, now could be the time. To learn more or to enroll, click the button:

• • • • • • •

Last week, while in the midst of settling the final pieces for launching the Felted Wool Blanket Master Class, I got an email from Marina.

Marina was a Fall 2018 student and was writing to say she was heading back into the course materials (lifetime access!) to begin her third blanket. This made me do a little happy dance :)

As I wrote her back, I spontaneously asked if The Green Sheep could feature her in a blog interview to help people learn how the class might fit them. She generously said yes.

So here’s Marina, along with photos of the adorable blanket she made while in the class. Welcome, Marina!

• • • • • • •

Joan: Marina, tell us a little about yourself, what you value, and what makes you you.

Marina: I think of myself as a maker of things and a life-long learner. I grew up in France in the 60s when cooking from scratch and making things by hand was valued. Whenever I make something, whether it’s food or a garden bouquet or a quilt or a knitted gift, I want each thing to be something people use and gain joy in every day. Then I feel nurtured and alive!

I gladly share what I know, and I am grateful that I have found equally sharing folk along the way. I see a newfound respect for handmade things, I see a time when we will have less stuff and finer objects, made with love and caring, and that fills me with optimism!

Joan: What was your sewing background before taking the Felted Wool Blanket Master Class?

Marina: I have been sewing on and off since college, from making household furnishings to clothes, then simple quilts, at first. I am also a gardener, and like to pull my areas of interest together, like when I made pin cushions with the log cabin quilt design and filled them with lavender from my garden. (Gardening is, by the way, much like quilting and blanket making: color work, on a grander scale!)

Joan: Would the course materials be appropriate for someone who may have sewn a bit in the past but who considers themselves still a beginner?

Marina: I think the course materials are appropriate for anyone who has a basic understanding of how to operate a sewing machine and has had experience with simple assembly.

Joan: What caused you to choose to sign up for the Master Class?

Marina: I came across your work through Pinterest, I believe, and I was so impressed with the aesthetics, the quality and the thoughtfulness of your blankets that I started following this blog. I jumped on the opportunity to take the class because I love the idea of repurposing beautiful textiles. I think of it as a modern version of the quilting tradition to make do, to be thrifty and creative at the same time, and to create something new from something that has served a previous purpose.

I was particularly impressed with the concept that the master class would be available to use indefinitely, since I knew I’d need to refresh my memory after a hiatus when the garden, or knitting, or quilting, takes first place.

Joan: You described so well the value in being able to go back to the curriculum! I found that to be true in online classes I was in—that’s what caused me to offer the same.

In the course, I encourage class participants to not be afraid to experiment. With two blankets under your belt now, can you share what you learned from the process of doing and experimenting?

Marina: That is some of your best advice! Working with felted knitted woolens is at the same time more challenging and more forgiving than working with woven materials, with which I am very familiar. The only way to make progress and get comfortable with the process is to do—I think that is true of all crafts. Be brave and do it! Truly, what could seem daunting is not if you follow the step-by-step approach, get your first blanket done, and then plan another.

Joan: I’m so glad to hear you’re going back to the course materials as you start this THIRD blanket—it tells me the curriculum has longevity. What can you gain from the course again at this stage?

Marina: After the master class was finished I went through it twice more in the process of finishing my first blanket. What happens, as you get more familiar and comfortable with the process, is that little things pop up that you may not remember the first time. And I can assure you that I will refer to the master class video every single time I make the binding! I found with your method that everything you recommended matters, and if I follow your advice, I don’t steer too far out of line!

My first two blankets have a lot of graphic detail. They were gifts to newborns and I wanted them to be as much play mats as blankets, fun and cozy. The bonus appliqué advice at the end of the class was enough to give me the confidence to “do and experiment” there as well.

My third blanket I hope will recall my garden. Swaths of color, paths, a timber frame garden house, a huge hedge, a woodland in the back ground. Right now I think it will be a more abstract design, more impressionistic than literal. In that project I am going through the master class again to focus on improving my techniques: better seams, tidier corners, using some more challenging felts, such as thicker material and textures.

Joan: I’m eager to see what you do next! What attracts you to working with wool?

Marina: I have spent so much time handling material that I really value the hand feel of wool, especially felted wool. I also have an affinity for what comes from nature. One of my dearest friends raises alpacas, and working with fiber that I have seen literally seen grow is very inspiring.

Joan: Thank you, Marina, for spending this time talking to me and to the readers. It was a pleasure working with you in the class, and it’s been an extra treat here for me to get to know you better!

“What one thing in class surprised you?”

Tap here for class details and to enroll.

IMPORTANT: After this Fall 2019 session of the class, I don’t plan to open it again until fall of 2020. Even if you intend to wait until after the new year to start a blanket, you might consider signing up for this session. You can access it—and the group’s private Facebook page—ANYTIME!

• • • • • • •

In offering the Felted Wool Blanket Master Class again this fall, I want to provide useful information for anyone wondering if this course might be the right fit. Earlier this week you were able to read what things students have found most valuable in the course. Today I thought it’d be fun to hear what most surprised class participants. Here you go!

“What was the one thing in the class that surprised you?”

“I was surprised that it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. You break every step into small, easy to follow segments. I wasn’t as overwhelmed as I thought I would be.” —Anonymous*

“Your wonderful design tips! This was an extra bonus beyond the mechanics of blanket construction.” —Annie

“How much fun it is so see everyone’s creations, and also how helpful it it to communicate with everyone through FB, on different issues we might be having making the blanket.” —Anonymous

*Some responses are “Anon” due to my experiment with one anonymous survey.

“I was totally surprised at how wonderful my blanket turned out, a testament to your organized way of instruction! I made a few mistakes along the way, but I was either able to fix it or it wasn’t noticeable. The wool was forgiving, especially on the binding.” —Linda B.

“I was surprised at how much I looked forward to seeing everyone’s work and questions.” —Sara

“How manageable it was!” —Anonymous

“The wonderfulness of the group. So much fun.” —Linda C.

“How difficult the design phase is! It’s also arguably the most important part.” —Timary

“Gosh, there were so many things. I have been making my own blankets for several years now, and I guess I was most surprised and delighted to learn from you some techniques for improving the quality of my blankets. This last blanket I made was a vast improvement in quality from some of my more recent blankets, and that thrilled me.” —Pat

“All of the practical tips and demonstration. The color selection and design section was a pleasant surprise.” —Anonymous

“How fun it was to be part of a group all doing the same thing, reading the comments, and seeing the pictures.” —Sally

“That there is such a thing as twin needles. I’ve had my mom’s sewing machine for 18 years. She had the twin needle in with the accessories; I had never even noticed it before. I will definitely use the twin needles again.” —Simone

Earlier this week I posted answers to the question, “What was the most valuable part of this class?” Later this week,  I’m excited to be able bring you a special guest interview with Marina, a student from an earlier session of the class. She is about to begin her third blanket!

Would you like to learn more about the course? You can find that info HERE. Do YOU have any questions you’d like to ask me about the course? Please contact me HERE. I’ll be glad to answer!