Embracing Imperfection

This is a tough one for me. I’m pretty sure I was born a perfectionist… born first, of course. I can spend hours, even days, lamenting the smallest of mistakes I’ve made. And even when I’ve been able to adopt a wider perspective and accept that life is full of both good and bad, joy and heartache, it’s still the hope of things becoming better, or more perfect, that gets me through the tough times. But what if sometimes what is imperfect, full of “mistakes,” is really the very best thing? I’m currently having this epiphany because of a spinning project I’m working on. I’ve been experimenting off and on with the undyed suri baby alpaca I bought from Woolgatherings when I first started learning to spin, but now that I want to use the rest for a secret Christmas project, it hasn’t been cooperating. Or maybe it has, but I haven’t been happy with the results. I tried spinning it worsted with pre-drafting, like I’ve been doing with the merino, and it looks good, maybe even close to “perfection,” but it feels pretty dense and tight, and doesn’t at all do justice to the wonderfully silky, soft raw fiber. So I started to play with it, open it up, muss it up in my hands, spin it this way and that to see how to best achieve the maximum amount of softness. I settled on spinning it from the fold, to acheive a bouncier, semi-worsted density, and I just mussed the heck out of it, before and during spinning. I let it go pretty much wherever it wanted, with lots of slubs and thicker and thinner parts. I tried to channel my daughter by delighting in the “fuzzy” parts. I then tried several dyeing experiments with it, wanting to find the “perfect” color for my project, but none of them seemed quite right, so I guess it just wants to stay its own “perfectly” natural creamy white.

Here is the result… completely imperfect, and incredibly soft, warm, light and silky. It’s been a joy to knit with.

handspun baby suri alpaca yarn

So here are my thoughts about how this relates to my life, and the Christmas holidays in general: So many of us long for perfection in this season. We all want the perfect presents for everyone, perfect decorations, perfect family dynamics, perfect peace for all. But in reality, this season is always VERY imperfect. It can have its magical, joyful, loving moments, but it can also be melancholy, stressful, lonely, and full of pain and longing for those we have lost. In my experience, there have been many Christmases surrounded by loss, and many people I know have been surrounded by sadness and loss this season as well. Our family is not immune. This morning, I sat wrapping Christmas presents next to the cage of our remaining guinea pig, Tornado, as I watched her life slip away. She has been sick, but I wonder if her immune system was also weakened by loneliness after the loss of her sister a couple of months ago.

It seems appropriate that today is the shortest day, the longest night of the year. But, as my Mom reminded me this morning, there is also hope in knowing that the days will start to get longer from here on out. My favorite Christmas songs are those that capture that feeling… of sadness, longing, hope and joy… all in one. My favorite band, Over the Rhine, put out a Christmas album several years back called “The Darkest Night of the Year”, and this year they are giving away a digital version of their latest Christmas album, also full of this kind of music (possibly my favorite Christmas album ever), “Snow Angels” to their supporters and friends, so I wanted to share the download link with you, my dear readers and friends, in the hope that their music can help you embrace whatever you may be feeling and experiencing this season… both the darkness and the light… and in so doing, your hearts might be warmer, more imperfectly perfect, and filled with peace.

Merry Christmas to all.

christmas tree angel

peach melba australian merino

This has been a very busy month, so I haven’t really had time to blog… and I also haven’t wanted to give up any of my spare crafting time. I have some secret Christmas projects going, but I just had to take a tiny bit of time to post about this amazing fiber from Woolgatherings that I am spinning at the moment. I am absolutely in love with the hand-painted colorway, and it’s very surprising to me, since I’m not usually an orange / yellow person, but I really find this combination deliciously mouthwatering. It reminds me of something like a peach melba, and I’m having a hard time not putting it in my mouth… I feel like a toddler! Plus, the fiber is Australian Merino, at 15.5 microns, it’s even softer than superfine merino. It feels like velvet, and I’m very glad I didn’t try dyeing it myself… I’m sure I would have felted the whole batch in a heartbeat.

woolgatherings hand-painted australian merino being handspun

Something about the colors just make my heart happy, like a gorgeous sunrise or sunset, and it’s been brightening my dark, cold, December days just to spin it! Maybe it also helps that it’s from Australia… where it is Summer now… as well as reminding me of the flower arrangements at my sister-in-law’s wedding this summer. As my mother-in-law was arranging them, and my other sister-in-law was putting the finishing touches on her bouquet, the beauty of it all almost brought tears to my eyes.

Here it is as a single.

woolgatherings hand painted hand-spun single

I had a hard time deciding whether to leave it single, try to keep the colors together when plying, or to mix up the colors as much as possible as a 2-ply. I decided on the last option… with a little help from the kids: “mix it up!” And Mae helped spin some of it, as well as a ply quite a bit of it. So here’s our Australian merino peach melba velvet tiger! What should it turn into next?

 woolgatherings hand-painted australian merino handspun 2-ply.