What the heart wants

I am sure that this has happened to you with yarn, and maybe (whether you are a spinner or not) maybe this has happened to you with a fleece. You are minding your own business, living the cheery life of a textile artist, surrounded with all the yarn (and maybe fiber) that you could ever want (or more) and one day, there it is. Yarn, or fleece or fiber or whatever it is, leaps into your life and proclaims a destiny mingled with your own.

This happened to me a while back, at a retreat at Port Ludlow, when I was helping Judith to spread about thirty (30) fleeces out onto tables, so that she could acquaint some knitters and spinners (and proto-spinners) with various different kinds of beast – so they could learn the differences between them, tell which kinds were good, and generally huff a some wool fumes. I was taking the fleeces from the bags, and Judith was directing me. “That one’s a long wool” she said, waving a hand at the fleece in my hands “put it with the Leicester.” I did that, and then reached into the bag for the next one.

That’s when it happened. I pulled out the next fleece, and it was a little one (I like the wee ones, for starters) and I think that as I lifted it from the bag, I knew.  I might have even made a little noise. A sort of involuntary “Oh…” and Judith looked over to see what I’d found, and she smiled.  “Isn’t that a perfect little Jacob?” she said, and I mumbled something like “Oh yes it is perfect…” and then somehow, I put it down on the table and went back to my work.  It was too late though.  The heart wants what the heart wants, and I wanted that. Never mind that it was not mine. Never mind that it was not for sale. Never mind that it belonged to Judith and that she loved it too. I wanted it with a burning passion, and in my mind I knew what it could be. I could see it, entire. In the two seconds that I’d had that fleece in my hands, I had already fully realized it’s destiny, and it was with me.

I have a weakness for Jacob fleeces.  Not all of them, but… most, to be fair.  I find the idea of one sheep with several colours on them really fetching, and the wee spotty sheep with their charming horns are right up my alley. They look wild and a little sketchy, and I love that too. I thought about all of that, and I thought about how to get that fleece from Judith, but I didn’t.  It was hers, not mine, and I even helped her bundle it up neatly at the end of the evening, though not before a bit of a cuddle.

Fast forward to the next retreat, when Judith arrived and began unpacking a thousand things from her car,  and she thrust a soft package, neatly wrapped with gold paper into my hands.  My heart skipped a beat as I hefted it. I peeked in the corner, and lo – it was the Jacob. Freshly washed – because Judith knows you’re not supposed to take raw fleece across the border.  She said she could see from the look on my face when I first spotted it that it was an accident of fate that it was in her stash and not mine. I think I kissed her.

I brought that little fleece home, and it and I spent some time in the backyard. It took the better part of an afternoon, but I sorted it – lock by lock, into all of its individual colours. Locks that were white, ones that were darkest brown, and then the ones that were grey, or a mix.

Then into the house – and over the course of several days (in which I had the entire dining room jacob-ified) I ran all of it through my little drum carder, and made batts.

When I was done, I had five shades of Jacob – ranging from cream to chocolate, and I started getting organized to spin them all up. Then The Rally happened, and then after that I broke my wrist, and then Christmas and I didn’t exactly forget that I had the Jacob, but I didn’t move it to the top of the pile either. Last week I was tidying the stash (I watched that Marie Kondo show and the reverberations were felt all through the house) and there it was. All the Jacob, in sweet little batts, and my heart skipped a beat, and I moved it back to the dining room. (The astute among you will note that this action thoroughly undid any impact Marie Kondo had on that room, because I’ve watched that whole series, and she never has an allowance for fleece in the dining room, carded or not.)

The largest grouping, the cream (there were four batts of that, and only two of the four other shades) is now all spun up.

And I plied it, and it’s now about 180m of a really lovely laceweight.

I’ve started the next shade – and if all goes well, I’ll have it all done by the end of the week. (Or tomorrow. I’m a little obsessed.)

I think I know just what it’s going to be too – and I’ve known since the minute I saw that fleece. The heart wants what the heart wants. I’m so glad Judith knows that.

As an aside (and since it’s those retreats that brought that gorgeous thing into my life) it’s my pleasure (and Debbi’s too) to let you know that the Spring Strung Along Retreat is open for registration.  There’s details here – and we’re doing something a little different this time.  Our June retreat is the only one that doesn’t have spinning, and the November retreat is already full (so’s June, just about) so this one is the only Retreat with room still, but we know that many of you would love to come, but don’t know how to spin, so we’ve got you. The day before the retreat proper begins, Judith will be teaching an optional “learn to spin” workshop. It’s suitable for rank beginners with no idea what they’re doing, and by the end of that day – you’ll have skills enough to take you through the rest of the retreat quite easily.  There’s limited space in that workshop, but if that sounds good to you, give that page a read, and send us an email. We’ll get you all sorted. (There’s room without the workshop if you already sort of know how to spin, of course.)

Now off I go.  It’s a snow day, and my wheel beckons.

88 thoughts on “What the heart wants

  1. How utterly beautiful, and how kind of Judith to share with you! (If I sound like mother to a five-year-old it’s because I am one.)

    I wish I could go to one of your retreats, but weekends are hard because of Shabbat. One day I’ll work that out. Somehow. Somehow.

    • Hi, I have the same problem about the Shabat. Perhaps we should start a Shabat Girls group!

      Coming I to a workshop on Sunday having missed the first day, or finishing a workshop one day early is not ideal.
      What do you think?

      • The nice thing about Strung Along Retreats is that each day of the traditional schedule (No spinning workshop) is a stand alone class. One day with each of the instructors. So you wouldn’t be coming into the middle of any one class. I’m not sure how the Inn would accommodate kosher meals, but they are brilliant and could figure-out something, I’m pretty sure.

    • Happy to talk this out with whoever likes by email! Just follow the link in my name to my website where you can find my email address. Then email me, and we can talk! It would be great to organize something knitterly that’s Shabbat/kashrut friendly! I just don’t want to post my email address here so it won’t end up getting me crappy spam, but you can find it easily on my blog. 🙂

  2. A little bit of joy is all we need sometimes. You have had a rough year, and I am so happy this little bit of Jacob has brought that joy. We get so wrapped up in what is wrong with our life, that we fail to see the little bits of joy. Enjoy your snow day. Here in Iowa, we are experiencing high winds, low temps and – 20+ wind chills. Spending the rest of the day in my quilt studio finding a little joy in my current project -a baby quilt for my new grandbaby due in August. Enjoy, Steph!

  3. I have a jacob fleece that I bought at shearing day at Meredian Jacobs (near Davis, CA). I washed and sorted it while visiting my mom. Mom passed later that year and I haven’t had the heart to do anything with it, but you’ve inspired me to pull out that fleece, spin it up, and knit something in her honor.

    • It’s totally covered, under Komono. Her book goes into more detail. I completed the process last January. I made separate categories for spindles, yarn, fiber, and wheels.

  4. Marie Kondo would appreciate just how much joy the Jacob fleece “sparked”! I don’t spin but I love the look of that wool just being wool. I can’t wait to see what is becomes.

  5. That fleece is gorgeous. Those are the kinds of colours I love. Can’t wait to see what it becomes! 🙂 Spin on, Stephanie!

  6. It’s so wonderful when bits of joy kind of fall into our lives like that. The Jacob is beautiful, and I look forward to seeing what you make of it. As for Marie Konda, I tend not to watch shows where someone tries to tell me how I should live my life. You do you, and do what makes you happy.

    I would love to attend one of your retreats (or more), but it just hasn’t been in the budget. Someday, somehow, I will get there.

  7. Lovely. I have SO MUCH fleece to spin from the alpacas I used to own, and some sheep fleece I bought here and there….and your post reminded me I need to get on it. Since I became a weaver my spinning has been neglected.

  8. If fleece in the dining room brings you joy, Marie Kondo can go spit into the wind! (It looks great, BTW. Can’t wait to see what you plan to do with it!)

    • You are so right. I enjoy all my belongings and I have three fleeces in the dining room. I know what makes me happy. The charity shops here are groaning with the stuff people have thrown out as a result of Marie Kondo. Most will end up in landfill (and some is ending up in my place to be made into warm clothes for Syrian refugees).

      Stephanie, your reaction reminded me of how I felt when I opened a plastic bag in a charity shop a few weeks ago. It contained a tiny merino lamb fleece… it was filthy and covered in burrs. I tried to resist it for a millisecond but now I am half way through flicking out the burrs and washing it. It’s pure fairy down!

  9. Okay, cliff-hanger. What’s it going to be?? Did you choose a pattern or just a rough idea? This is totally the knitter equivalent of ending the first book of a series with the reader unclear whether or not the main character lives…

  10. I hoped as soon as I saw you were playing with fleece that you were destined to have another Jacob. Can’t wait to see what you do with it.

  11. Am I the only one who sees the face while the fleece is in the bag? I see 2 eyes, an ear, a nose on a white snout, and a mouth. He’s beautiful.

  12. Oh how lovely a gesture and such a gorgeous little fleece. I just finished spinning about 4 ounces of Jacob for Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em and it is such a delight to work with. Enjoy and can’t wait to see what it is to become.

  13. So glad that fleece got to eventually go home with you and I’m looking forward to seeing what it wanted to be. It was SO pretty and I’m not even someone who wanted to spin from fleece

  14. Bless Judith! Such a true friend!! Happy spinning and knitting! I can’t wait to see what is in store for this precious fleece!

  15. Soooo lovely. Wonderful Judith. We’ve been watching the Marie Kondo show as well—my favorite effect is my 5-year-old asking to make his room beautiful like on the show.

  16. I came away from Port Ludlow in November with A Plan. A few ounces of muga later, much joy has been sparked. Now to find the fiber to ply with it, and then to narrow down my pattern choices….

  17. Bravo,Jacob totally rocks. I knit a sweater with each color, as q shetland yoke, then the “left overs” mashed altogether as the body/background. I love it! You will, too. Be wel!l

  18. I REMEMBER that Jacob fleece. I am so glad it landed on the top of the Stash – to bring us all some joy (I’ve got a contact-high)…. Enjoy your snow day!

  19. Your timing is perfect: today I skeined up my first ever skein of Jacob! Rather than the colors being separated out like yours, it’s all mottled together into a lovely variegated gray.

    I have to admit that I don’t properly know who Marie Kondo is, but if she doesn’t allow for (carded) fleece in the dining room, then she’s just plain wrong.

    Can’t wait to see the Jacob’s destiny!

  20. Hooray! I remember how you gently tossed all sorts of figurative kisses over to that wee fleece on the table at Strung Along and it is just the sweetest thing ever that it now is becoming what it should be in your happy hands.

  21. I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to open my computer and find this beautiful tale of carding and spinning and loving the wool. Just witnessing your care and joy is such a blessing as we try to survive such a busy, non-tactile, computer interfaced world. Thank you!!

  22. That Jacob is so magical it’s sparking joy here in the US! I think Marie would appreciate that you are using it and have a use for it. Clearly she would put that under treasures. Maybe store the batts upright together in a box for the full Kondo effect? Can’t wait to see what it becomes!

  23. Everything about this entry cheers me up and gives me hope! Jacob is dear to my heart, as well, and I rarely pass up the chance to buy their fleece. Every step of your prep process makes my heart sing! There’s nothing like an array of fluffy, carded, natural-colored batts to make me feel like anything is possible. I’m so glad this is in your hands. You really deserve it; you and the fleece will do each other good.

  24. A wonderful story. I read a bit about Jacobs on the link. They are good mothers, give birth easily, and you can make buttons from the horns! I see a whole project evolving here, which definitely includes sheep-horn buttons!

  25. I look forward to see what you will make with this lovely material. Also – thanks for the inspiration – I learned something today by looking up information about Jacob sheep … and it’s heartening to know that there are an increasing number of people raising heritage breeds of sheep, and breeds that are hardy and fit well with earth-respecting agriculture practices. Kind regards!

  26. Oh, that retreat. Exactly what I need (I spin, but am helpless with color). If only it were a week later. Sigh. Next time…

    It’s good to see you spinning again. It’s what the heart wants!

  27. Judith is truly one of a kind and a real sweetheart. She taught me to spin when we were both living in Montana and we’ve been really good friends ever since.

  28. My parents went to Maryland Sheep and Wool years ago and bought me a Jacob fleece. At the time, I’d never heard of them, and I loved the sheep rainbow of it. I can so relate to your reaction… Thank you, Judith!

  29. I’ve been wondering about the spinning. Lovely fleece, I can see why you’re smitten. Now to see what you have in mind for it. Anticipation!

  30. It’s so cold today the mail service is cancelled. In Chicago they’re warning contact lenses will freeze to your cornea. So why do I have this lovely warm glow?

  31. You are Pure Inspiration! It’s -20 below here and I needed someone to remind me that the Spark of Joy that fiber (or fibre, to you) give is a real thing and very much OK!

  32. Ooooh, I may have to acquire a Jacob fleece in the near future.

    I love the sheep themselves. And not only are they eye-catching, how can you not like a sheep that is Biblically linked (not really…but it makes for a good story!) AND linked to manor houses (because it looked good out on the lawn before lawnmowers were a thing!)?

    Actually, when I used to fantasize about actually owning sheep, Jacob were among my top choices…because they are the right size (not big) and have lots of options. The fact that I would be a novice sheep owner working with animals with lots of horns kind of got glossed over.

    Some people have fantasy sports teams; I have a fantasy sheep flock!

  33. Yep. I have a couple fleeces that are going to be attended to now that a drum carder has entered my life. I know just how you feel.

  34. What a lovely little fleece, you will have so much fun with that and the end result will be beautiful.

    For a wonderful blog where you can see and read about Jacob sheep (and lots of other wonderful sheep too) look for “The crazy sheep lady” or Equinox Farm. You won’t be sorry – and you might find more joy if Sara has a Jacob fleece for sale!

    Chris S in Canada

  35. Karmic balance. Judith had an annus horribillis not so long ago. It would appear that she’s passed along a bit of the positive. Nice!

  36. Your series of posts from a few (?) years ago where you took us through the steps from fleece to finished shawl fascinated me. Looking forward to seeing what this beautiful bunch of fiber becomes!

  37. Judith is truly an angel, and you are an enabler of the finest skill. Reading your palpable JOY at that fleece and the satisfaction of those wee batts has reminded me of just HOW MUCH I used to enjoy spinning, and now I’m making arrangements to meet a man in a train station and take a spare wheel of unknown provenance off his hands. It is all your glorious fault for being so blimmin HAPPY!

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