Someone asked me the other day whether or not I ever spin non-traditional yarns.
Why yes, in fact, I do. But the thing is, I don’t use a lot of novelty yarn; it just doesn’t serve any real purpose for me. For the most part, I spin to produce yarn that I want to use. Sometimes I spin in order to master a technique or a new kind of fiber or something like that, but then I’m invariably left with yarn for which I have no use.
Usefulness is a key part of my aesthetic. I know — this gets into that tired old “art vs. craft” debate, a lot of which I tend to just find arbitrary and pointless. I admire both form and function, but most of all I love a marriage of the two. Achieving a successful blend of both is truly a masterful accomplishment; it is that which speaks to me, personally, more than either of the two separately. I don’t find myself drawn to most things which are created solely for form, nor most things created solely for function. I think if I did, then fiber arts wouldn’t be my passion, because a huge part of what makes fiber arts so scintillating is the unparalleled opportunity to blend form and function.
This isn’t to say I don’t appreciate things that push the boundaries or take risks. This isn’t to say I don’t do those things myself, or try to challenge my own thinking. I don’t mean I never do things, or like things, just because, or for reasons I can’t entirely put my finger on.
So, without further ado, a few random pictures of some yarns I’ve spun over the years that aren’t what I usually spin:
Mohair and Soy Silk thick-thin single
Adult Camel and Tussah Silk 2-ply
Merino, silk noil and nylon spiral yarn
Suffolk/Mohair Snarl Yarn
Slubbed misc wools/silk noil single
Assorted thick-thin space-dyed singles for knit, crochet, felting
Angora/silk space-dyed mild spiral
Tussah/Merino/Yak variegated 2-ply
But now we come to the moment of truth about my personal feelings about yarn — the statement that’ll doubtless draw all sorts of ire from folks who feel otherwise. But I’ve been asked, lately, why don’t I spin art yarn, or the new novelties, since I can? And here’s the answer.
Even when it comes to the “stuff I don’t usually spin,” though, it tends to be stuff that COULD be used in something that I might use or wear. I’ve no personal use for accent yarns, yarns that are tied together, yarns that have inclusions that can’t be knit, crocheted, or woven, and lacking a use for such yarns, I find them unsatisfying and boring to produce. They’d be destined for a life of nothingness; they would never become a Something. Yarn that can’t become a Something is, to me, a premature death, and choosing to do it intentionally feels to me like if I killed my kitten and had her stuffed so she would stay cute and small forever, instead of maturing into an older, larger, less playful cat, and eventually a grand old lady who must be cared for carefully like the aged queen she is, her prime only memories of running and jumping and hunting that linger sweetly while we feed her soft food because most of her teeth are gone. I wouldn’t rob my beloved pet of a life, even knowing it means time will pass and everything will fade; I can’t rob my yarn of that either.
Creating yarn that is intended to stop at a point of having become yarn feels to me like stopping short of having the nerve it takes to create things that will be used, flying audaciously in the face of the passage of time and the wear and tear all things must endure until they can take no more. It’s a stuffed animal, a posed photo of a make-believe family at a theme park — it’s not a living, breathing pet, or a memory of a real trip to Disneyland. It falls short for me, lacks depth and impact. It may be pretty, it may be cool, it may be interesting, but to me it isn’t yarn, because to be yarn is to be potential which you act on. You have to be able to act on it, or it isn’t yarn. That doesn’t mean it isn’t cool — just that it isn’t yarn to me, and it doesn’t sit right with me at a core level for me to produce that.