Publisher’s Notes: This week Spin Artiste is featuring the wonderful words and work of Joy Hayworth of Fabulosity. Prepare to be bathed by color and inspiration!
Joy Hayworth (JH): It all started with a skein of undyed worsted weight wool yarn and 7 packages of Kool-Aid: one “flavor” for each color of the rainbow, plus pink. It was the summer of 2005 and I had started reading in online knitting/crochet forums about people dyeing wool yarn with Kool Aid and was instantly intrigued. On a ridiculously hot day in July, with my then 1 year old son hanging out and wondering why I had taken off with his wee plastic wagon to use in making hanks, I set out to make my first skeins of handpainted yarn. Over the next couple hours I painted and steamed the skeins in the microwave and the results were rainbows (my most favorite thing ever) on yarn! I was instantly smitten.
In the winter of 2006, I attended an arts and crafts show and was walking through a building full of completed fiber arts projects. I came around the corner and found a dozen women all sitting at spinning wheels, piles of wool in bags and baskets heaped around them and my heart quite literally skipped a beat. I had bought a drop spindle online a couple months before and had been too afraid to work with it. I started visiting with the women who were spinning and then ended up running home to grab the spindle to return and spend the rest of the day learning how to use it. By the end of that day I had one recurring thought “I need a spinning wheel!”
SA: I love it — that “aha” moment is never a want — always a “need!” Your hand-painted yarns are beautiful. I know you said your favorite method of dyeing is kettle dyeing, why is that, and tell us about your other methods of dyeing?
JH: I love to kettle dye because it is always intriguing to me to see how the dyes move throughout the roving, fleece or yarn in the kettle. I like that I can never get the same outcome even if I use the same colors two times in a row. I also enjoy handpainting in large pans that go into the oven as this gives me a little more control over the disbursement of the dyes. Even this method still creates a one of a kind colorway. For me part of the enjoyment I get out of dyeing wool/fibers is the constantly changing results. I would rather have something different every single time than a guaranteed repeatable colorway. My style of dyeing is rather slapdash; I’m more likely to just grab and toss and see what happens than measure and carefully apply the dyes.
SA: The sunflower dyeing you showed on your blog looked amazing. Tell us about the process of hand-painting?
JH: One thing about my parents is that they have never once told me I can’t do something in regards to being creative. They were and continue to be game for anything I dream up and generally don’t flinch when I call them up and say “So, I was reading in this book that you can make dye out of sunflowers, what do you think?” It’s that kind of unconditional love and support that found us picking sunflowers which grow wild on the sides of the road late in the summer. Wild sunflowers are considered a noxious weed (I’m rather offended by that term, to be honest) in my part of the world and are usually sprayed with chemicals or mowed down. I set out to save as many as I could and turn them into dye! The process includes gently simmering the sunflower heads until the dye extracts and then cools down. I then reheat the dyebath and add wool that has soaked overnight in a mordant solution, in this case water, alum and a bit of white vinegar. The color results I’ve managed to create have ranged from a light avocado green to bright yellow. This year, armed with the latest editions to my dye library I hope to explore a bit more in the natural dyeing arena. Just last month my son helped me pick dandelion heads to make a dye that yielded a soft green color and I’m currently planning extract a dye from rhubarb. I see a lot of it growing with wild abandon in the alleys in my neighborhood; I’ll likely be knocking on doors to ask if I can have some. If anything this will firmly cement the notion in my neighbor’s heads that I’m weird, they are already perplexed by my makeshift clotheslines for drying yarn outside and solar dyeing experiments!
SA: OK, you are making me want to go out to the back yard and see what I can find…what makes you so passionate about fiber dyeing?
JH: As I touched on previously, I’m in love with the way that even if I use the same dye or dye process that I’ve done a hundred times before, the results are never the same. I have loved all things rainbow themed since I was a kid growing up in the 80’s (Lisa Frank, I love you!) and I’ve never been able to recreate the same rainbow twice and I love to see how many colors I can stuff into a pan of wool without tearing a hole in the universe. To be able to offer a one-of-a-kind yarn to someone who knits, crochets or weaves and know that the finished piece will include material that can’t be reproduced exactly gives me great satisfaction.
SA: Can you tell us about your studio?
JH: I have pretty much taken over the entire house! Fortunately my son and husband think nothing of having to make room for a couple spinning wheels in our upstairs living space and are accustomed to seeing baskets of roving, fleece or batts sitting around. In our basement/family room, I have set up an area that mostly contains everything and about once a week I have to make a sweep of the upstairs and relocate everything back to its proper place downstairs. I have bookshelves, a cube system that my brother made that holds my finished yarns, and a wide assortment of containers to hold everything else that is Fabulosity Yarn. My favorite part of my studio is the old desk that my dad rescued from a school a few years ago, it was destined for the trash and my dad saw a functional (albeit extremely heavy) piece of furniture under the layers of paint and ugly formica top. He hauled it home and refinished it and soon after I expressed an interest. You can see where a former teacher used the edge to place a lit cigarette because there are burns in the wood among the other scars. I, of course, got it and immediately drilled right through the top to anchor down my drum carder; fortunately my dad was not offended by this! My space is very small but everything I need is only a couple steps away should I be in the mood to card some batts, which is often! I have drawers full of sparkle and assorted mix-ins for the batts that eventually become my Bedlam yarns. I refuse to throw away any scrap of fiber, fabric or mix-in, my rule is that if it can be run through the drumcarder, it’s priceless and must be saved! I love to venture downstairs when the house is quiet and start working. I fire up my record player and find some suitable carding music (My favorites are Bruce Springsteen, CCR and my collection of big band hits. Also, the Purple Rain soundtrack makes for most excellent creativity music!) and just start running things through the carder to see what I can create! Between carding sessions I tend to start a batt with assorted scraps and walk away from it for a couple days while I work on something else. I’ll come back, add to it and so on.
SA: And, speaking of drum carders…what equipment do you use, and why?
JH: One of the best things that happened to me on that cold winter day in 2006 when I learned how to spin was that the event I attended was hosting a raffle for a variety of items that had been donated by organizations within the community. The local spinner’s guild had donated a brand new Ashford Traditional spinning wheel for their contribution to the raffle. The lady that won it was less than thrilled to have done so; she wanted the deer rifle (Helloooooooo Montana!)! She was walking out the door rather grumpily with the wheel tucked under her arm and the lady who was the president of the guild chased her down and asked what she planned to do with it. Her straight faced answer was “I don’t know, probably put it out in my garden for a decoration.” (That noise you just heard was spinners all over the world sucking in their breath in horror.) The guild president said “No! Please! I will pay you to buy it back!” Money exchanged hands and a week later I bought the wheel and have had it ever since, her name is Ferdie. I inherited a Louet S75 from a friend a couple years ago and also have a Babe Bulky Electric Spinner which doesn’t see as much use as it should as over the years I’ve come to appreciate the quiet meditative process of handspinning over speed/production. My most recent wheel acquisition is an Ashford Country Spinner that my husband bought me last year. Of all four wheels that I own, the Ashford wheels see the most use. I am extremely fond of them due to the fact that they haven’t ever failed me and also because of the sentimental history attached to them. I also have an Ashford Coarse Cloth drumcarder that I snagged off Craigslist five years ago and last year I bought a Lil Dynamo woolpicker. Finally, a friend of mine who owns a building/antique salvage business found a huge handmade yarn winder and send it my way a couple years ago. I have attached a digital counter to it and use it when I have to wind sock yarn in a hurry. Like many spinners, my equipment built up over time and will likely continue to evolve.
SA: Given your penchant for saving scraps for carding and yarn-making, what are the most unique materials you have used/added in making your yarns?
JH: My Mother-In-Law has two fluffy white Samoyeds that are show dogs. This means they are on a pretty intense bathing and grooming schedule and I get to reap all the outcome of those hours of brushing! Their combings come to me in bags and I either spin it or dye it in colors not seen on a dog in nature and then spin it. Samoyed fur or Chiengora when spun halos out similar to angora or mohair in appearance and is one of my favorite fibers to spin. People are either instantly fascinated or grossed out, which is amusing to me because have you ever looked at the south end of a sheep as it goes about its happy sheep life in the field? A lot of this fiber arts journey isn’t “pretty” until the end, I think that is one of the aspects about it that is the most appealing to me.
SA: On your blog you talk about your appreciation for the transformation process that goes into making a skein. How has fiber art transformed you?
JH: I can’t exactly pinpoint it, but I know that I am an entirely person now from the one I was before I starting spinning and dyeing yarn. The day I dyed my first skein of yarn and later spun my first skeins I changed as a person. I felt and still do feel as though a missing piece in my life snapped into place. For me it really is all about the start to finish process. To be able to physically have my hands in every aspect of the processes that go into each skein is what I was missing in all the years I chased other creative pursuits.
SA: What is your greatest fiber dream?
JH: Well, if you must dream, dream big, yes? My greatest fiber dream is to own a spinning/dyeing studio with my best friend Jen. She lives in Maine, I live in Montana. There is currently no teleportation device in existence!
My car license plate says “Spinja” and someday I’d like to transfer the plates to a van or Airstream trailer and spend a year traveling the country to attend shows and sheerings. Maybe get a bunch of other spinners involved and make it a spinning convey!
Finally, I have recently entertained ideas of saving up my pennies to buy an electric drum carder and I can tell that whenever I mention it my husband’s heart rate increases and his eyes dilate a tiny bit. Be that out of fear for my safety (I’m kind of a klutz) or for the safety of the yarniverse, I still haven’t been able to determine. I’ll get back to you on that one.
SA: I will join you in the convoy — we recently bought a VW flatbed pickup that will be a “Spin-wagon” in about a year.
You’ve accomplished a lot since you began. What advice would you give to a new spinner?
JH: Lots of patience and lots of practice. My first spinning sessions were spent sitting up well past my bedtime with a big bucket of brown/black Romney roving sitting next to me while I spun bobbin after bobbin. Also, never, ever, stop learning. I apply this to other aspects of my life and it has served me well. My spinning skills continue to evolve as I practice and set out to learn new techniques, the same goes for my dye adventures. Some time ago I read a quote that said “Whatever you is, be that!” and I think that is some sound advice for spinners. Find your style, perfect it, and always be on the lookout to learn something new!
SA: You sound like a busy woman with you husband, son, house, and cat. How do you make time to work on your art, with all of the other things going on?
JH: I love this question! A couple weeks ago my life consisted of working full time, part time student (I’m a year away from finishing my Bachelor’s), family, yarn, and a heavy little league schedule. Now the semester has ended so I’m replacing part time student with my fiscal year end accounting responsibilities at work. I do have a lot on my plate but I don’t consider it a burden because everything I do is because I want to. I put it there, whining about it isn’t an option. Some things I have to do, like work a day job. Fortunately, I enjoy what I do and it’s the kind of job that doesn’t weigh on my mind when I’m done for the day. I am free to come home to my family and creative pursuits feeling good about a job well done and not worry about it until I walk through the door the next day.
get up before sunrise to drink coffee, exercise, and to occasionally flick locks before the day starts. I run the kettles at night while I spin and in the summer I do a lot of solar dyeing. I also carry a little notebook with me everywhere I go so I can jot down yarn names, colorway ideas and assorted brainstorms as I move throughout my days. I’ve been extremely fortunate to be able to share my work with others though Etsy, Facebook and at arts/crafts shows and a local yarn store here in Billings, Purl Yarn Boutique. Fortunately, my family and friends are all extremely supportive and accept that this is a major part of who I am and what I do. My life is indeed very full I have zero intentions of slowing down. I’ve lived my entire existence up to this point with a creative dream, it just keeps getting better!
SA: In one or two sentences can you describe your philosophy of fiber art?
JH: Do what you love and don’t force the issue. If you insist on being forceful, learn to appreciate the results! That yarn you absolutely hate? Will be the Most Favorite Thing Ever for a fellow fiber artist.
SA: That’s great! One last question: If you could travel anywhere in the world where would you visit?
JH: A couple years ago my brother went to Ireland and came back telling me about all the different breeds of sheep he saw while traveling the countryside. I would love to go on an international tour to learn about different breeds of sheep and wool; Ireland would be one of the first stops on my list!
In the meantime, the third round of the Secret Stash game is underway! Packages went out this week and we’ll see the projects later next month. This particular round was hard and quirky. You will see why in a few days when I post the pic of the kit contents. I went through my stash and pulled out some very special items. In addition, we had wonderful fibers and other components from Wild Hare Fiber Studio, Namaste Farms, Alba Ranch, Picasso’s Moon Yarn Shop, Homestead Wool and Gift Farm and Mada Vemi Alpacas. I can’t wait to see what our players come up with this time.
I will be back in a few days with some more fibery goodness…until then, my best, Arlene