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Featured Artist: Allison Jai O’Dell of CompassioKnit

by The SpinArtiste on January 26, 2012

Publisher’s Notes:  I met Allison of CompassioKnit last year at a small fiber festival and was captivated by the quality and beauty of her hand spun yarns.  I was also intrigued with her focus on vegan and animal-friendly fibers.  Immediately, Allison was at the top of my list for people to feature on Spin Artiste.  I am so pleased to be able to share this post!  Please enjoy getting to know more about Allison.

Spin Artiste (SA):  Hi Allison!  Let’s start with getting into a description of philosophy or approach to your work. 

Allison Jai O’Dell (AJO):  My work is born from a love of fiber and textiles, but it also draws on a lifetime as an animal advocate. I say in my mission statement that, “my goal is to provide spectacular yarns and other fiber art products to the conscientious crafter” – and that’s a really accurate summary of my approach! Always when I would purchase yarn for knitting and crochet – but even more so when I began handspinning – I found it difficult to readily locate materials that I could feel good about purchasing.

I was never entirely sure how the sheep used in wool yarns, for instance, were raised, or whether the bamboo in my knitting needles was sustainably sourced. The spinning community puts a strong focus on the work of individual farmers and artisans. It seemed to me that we should take it one step further, and start telling the stories of our fiber.

SA:   And, what has been your personal creative journey as an artist to date?

AJO:  I like to say, “thus was born CompassioKnit!” – a place that honors compassionate approaches to fiber farming and harvest, where consumers can find truly unique, hand-crafted products for working in the fiber arts. I try not to come across as preachy, elitist, or foofy – but this is the culmination of my journey as an artist exploring issues in modern farming.

SA:  What is it about hand spinning as a method and fiber as a medium that fuels your passion?  

AJO:  Every time I sit down to spin, the process feels both intimately familiar and excitingly brand new at the same time. Depending on fiber characteristics, dyestuffs, how much caffeine is in my blood stream, or a range of other variables, each project is unique – but always comfortable.



SA:  What materials do you like to work with and why?

AJO:  Golly, I’ll spin anything! Finding new materials to play with is part of the fun. I’m always on the look-out for exotic, or strangely prepared, plant fibers – whether for spinning or papermaking. Lately, I’ve been exploring the properties of synthetic fibers – I love how a splash of nylon can add a real color punch to a project, because of how it interacts with the dye. The lustrous quality typical of regenerated fibers is also a strong enhancement to the yarns that I’ve been spinning lately. I prefer to purchase dyed fiber in small lots from indie dyers – there’s something so alluring about knowing that an object is one of a kind.

SA:  Tell us about your equipment —  What equipment do you use and why?

AJO:  I live with a single wheel (a Louet S10 single treadle), a lone drum carder, and more spindles, needles, and hooks than I’d care to admit. I choose fiber tools based on their ability to handle funky (and oftentimes chunky) materials. Call it cliché, but I have a distinct interest in spinning art yarns!

SA:  What’s on the horizon for your work? What direction are you heading in?

AJO:  Can you keep a secret? I’m in the process of renting a studio space suitable for large-scale dyeing batches. My next offering will be a boatload of hand-dyed vegan rovings!

SA:  Wow…that is very exciting!  I’m sure I’m not alone in looking forward to seeing those beautiful rovings.  What inspires you creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

AJO:  I’m a hopelessly visual person. I simply can’t stand living with uninteresting or ugly things. I think this is why I became a maker! I derive incredible pleasure from seeing something beautiful form underneath my hands. I think that 99% of the reason that I spin, is that I love watching colors and textures literally come together before my eyes.

SA:  Tell something about yourself that people might be surprised to know.

AJO:  I’m working on a master’s degree in book arts. Yes, book arts – not fiber! I fell in love with book history, and wanted to know more about how these objects of every day life are actually constructed. You may occasionally notice a few hand-bound journals or handmade papers if you visit me at craft fairs. I’m increasingly fascinated with the intersection between various media and techniques. My book and textile arts definitely inform one another – like I keep telling my colleagues, “it’s all just fiber and dye.”

SA:   One last question:  What is your motto?

AJO:  In my life, I have lovingly co-existed with four different bunny rabbits. I say with experience that the two sagest words of wisdom are: poop happens.


SA:  How true!  Thanks so much, Allison.  Readers, if you haven’t already done so, check out Allison’s website to see her yummy yarns and batts.  Here’s a pic of a little hat I knitted out of one of her yarns — the model in the picture loved the hat so much I ended up giving it to her as a thank you gift.

Secret Stash Update!!!  OMG, to my great delight, the game sold out almost right away and there is a waiting list for the round starting in March.  You can click here to get to the post where the paypal button is if you’d like to get in on the next round.  Goodies have been arriving throughout the week from some wonderful fiber folk such as Homestead Wool and Gift FarmLunabudKnits , Looliemom Fiber Arts, and Mada Vemi Alpacas.  I will be putting together the kits this weekend and the round will begin! 

Till the next time, all my fibery best, Arlene

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