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Featured Artist: Lynn Wigell aka The Yarn Wench plus Fiber Giveaway!

by The SpinArtiste on November 30, 2013

LWYW - Self with yarnsPublisher’s Notes:  Lynn Wigell, aka The Yarn Wench,  is an artist I have wanted to feature for a long time.  If you are a new spinner, it is inevitable that you quickly encounter Lynn’s luscious fiber offerings.   Her creations are simply breathtaking and as you will soon see, Lynn has an interesting story to tell as well!  Take it away, Lynn!!

Spin Artiste (SA):  I know a lot of people have been waiting to hear…Lynn, tell us your fiber tale.
Lynn Wigell (LW):  I’ve always been a maker of things and obsessed with color.  As a child I drew constantly, made lots of paper dolls, took art lessons, and adored sewing buttons onto bits of fabric. By the time I was a young teen, I was making almost all of my clothes and was very involved in art making including doing my first small weaving. In college at Indiana University, I started out in anthropology with lots of art history classes, but by my sophomore year I switched over to fine arts and began to take ceramics, painting, printmaking, sculpture and drawing classes. In my 2D design class I remember being told that my work would translate well into textile design and I immediately signed up for the printed and dyed textile design class as I loved silk screening. Unfortunately the class was full, so I decided to bide my time in the woven and constructed textile class. And guess what? I found my love in weaving and it became my area of concentration! I never did end up taking the printed and dyed textile design class.  I went on to be a weaver for a number of years after I graduated from college and taught myself to spin in order to keep myself supplied with yarn. LWYW - FO - Lynn 1986 handspun handwoven ruanaI sold my yarn and weaving through craft shows, my weaving guild, did commissioned spinning for a weaver, and commissioned weavings for individuals. When I was 29, I had my first daughter and found I could no longer squeeze in dressing a loom with a thousand threads! I put it aside for many years. I continued to spin occasionally but motherhood became my focus.
SA:  Wow, Lynn, you have such a rich background to draw upon.  How would you describe yourself as an artist?
LW:  I feel like I’m all over the place and somewhat good at a lot of things but a master of none! My favorite quote is one by Chaucer “The lyfe so short, the craft so longe to lerne.” I like to dabble but devote myself to nothing these days. I may play with eco-printing and weave a scarf and make a pair of earrings but dyeing and spinning is the only thing I’m consistent with. I’m okay with that for now.
LWYW - HSY - 4SA:  I think it’s safe to say, however, that you have certainly mastered dyeing fiber! You have been spinning for over 28 years and dyeing for over 30.  How has your spinning and dyeing process changed over the years, and do you feel like you have “arrived” as a fiber artist?
LW:  In college we did hot acid dyeing – a very exact science that involves pipettes and sulfuric acid so that you can reproduce a color accurately every time you dye. I’m now a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants dyer using commercially
available acid dyes with nothing stronger than vinegar and I’m constantly trying out new methods. With spinning, I’m self-taught and those initial yarns were thick/thin bulky and coiled!! Seriously, I remember my first attempts at plying and I was totally mesmerized by the coils I ended up making! I thought they were so cool but they got really strange reactions in the 1980’s!  After several months of making nothing but what might be called art yarn nowadays, I watched Celia Quinn spin a fine thread in my weaving guild in California and I went home that day and spun fine thread that I plied. I used to spin all of my warp and weft that way, often plying with rayon boucle, which became my trademark.  When I started The Yarn Wench in 2006, I’d been away from steady spinning for a long time and took a peek on the internet and was delighted to discover Lexi Boeger and art yarn!! I immediately took my coiled thin/thick bulky spinning technique out of hibernation! The time was ripe for creative spinning!
LWYW - HSY - with buttonsSA:  You were rather ahead of your time.  I’m glad we caught up to you!  After all is said and done, what is your favorite spinning technique to execute?
LW:  As much as I love art yarns and the great freedom that brings to spinning, I will always enjoy sitting down to the wheel to spin a fine single and then Navajo plying it. I find it very soothing and rhythmic.
SA:  Your colorways are great; what is your thought process before and during your dyeing?
LW:  I credit my woven and constructed textile design professor at Indiana University, the late great Budd Stalnaker, with developing my color sense. He was a fantastic artist but a very demanding and often intimidating teacher. I remember a small sample weaving I did in turquoise and rust that he declared to be “K Mart colors.” He always spoke his mind, sometimes jarringly, and it was usually the truth! It caused me to step back and become more daring with my color choices. I’m not afraid to try any combination. LWYW - Batts - wild card bling battAs a young dyer I was very much into the jewel tones and shiny things but as I age I find myself in love with the warm earthy hues and the rustic.
SA:  OMG, “K Mart colors”!  I would have crawled under the table after such a comment.  Let’s turn to talking more about your business.  How long have you been a fiber business woman, and what do you love about being your own boss?
LW:  My current business The Yarn Wench (yarnwench on Etsy) began in January of 2006 after my husband lost a job he’d had for 15 years when the company he worked for was sold.  He’d always been the bread winner. I’d been a stay-at-home mom for 18 years when I threw myself into starting that business. Mr. Yarnwench and my then 13 year old daughter created my website and I began selling handspun yarn within a month of his job loss, and quickly added hand-dyed fiber to my inventory. I initially worked 7 days a week for about 12 hours a day with very little time off! Luckily, the business took off for us as it took 2 years for Mr. Yarnwench to find another job and I amazed myself by supporting our family! I do love being my own boss. We had a number of struggles, especially with my younger daughter who became very ill with an auto-immune disease in 2007, and I was able to close up shop when it was necessary. LWYW - Still LifeThankfully my customers were still there when I’d pop back in again. The business has also been good for my mental health during those tough times and many of my customers became my very good friends and support team. I’ll forever be indebted to the kindnesses shown to me. You all know who you are.
SA:   Speaking of your business, you keep your Etsy page pretty well stocked; you must be a hard working woman! How do you balance fiber and family life?
LW:  In the first few years with The Yarn Wench I had a pretty strict routine down. I spent Monday and Tuesday doing my dye pots and spinning, Wednesday was for photographing and inventorying everything for my website, Thursday was for launching an update in which I usually had between 30 and 60 new items for sale, and Friday was for packing and shipping.LWYW  - Batts - Indonesia Wild Card Bling Batts My work usually spilled over into the weekend, too. It was a little crazy with family life but being my own boss allowed me to shift my tasks around family obligations.  Now I have an empty nest, a new home, and my husband travels extensively. I actually don’t work nearly as hard as I used to and I have no school schedules or carpooling to do so it’s all pretty easy. I enjoy what I do so it never feels like a job.
SA:  We would love to know more about your studio. Do tell!
LW:  Back in my New York home my business was spread all over the house but here in my new house in the Pittsburgh area I have most of my business in one very large bedroom including a carding station, a photography set up, a loom,and  my fiber and smaller equipment. I also have a guest room/office where I have my desk, laptop, printer, and packaging area set up. I do my dyeing in my beautiful new kitchen which scares me half to death – luckily I am a very neat dyer. Right off the kitchen is a giant laundry room with a great fleece-washing sink and my drying racks. It all work so well for me!LWYW - Studio
SA:  What is your wheel of choice these days?
LWYW - HSY - Blues, Coral, OrangeLW:  I own an Ashford Traditional which my husband gave to me right before our wedding and is the wheel I learned to spin on, but I use my Schacht Matchless (one of the first ones made in the 1980’s bought with the first $400 I made with
my spinning/weaving) for my traditional spinning, and an older Ashford Country Spinner for my art yarns. The Schacht Matchless and Country Spinner sit in my family room where I do my spinning surrounded by a small but growing collection of ethnic textiles.
SA:  I hear you are also a button maker, so what inspired you to start creating buttons?
LW:  I like taking a button and creating a yarn to go with it. I was doing this for a while with commercial buttons and then commissioned the wonderful potter Emily Jull to create a line of buttons for me that became the focal of my Muse Emily
line of yarn. I finally decided that I needed to start making my own so I began designing polymer clay buttons. I don’t do them often but I do enjoy them. I did a line of Haiku buttons that I loved – they were sold in a set and each button had a few words of a haiku on them. Sewn in order down the front of a sweater they would form the whole haiku. I’d love to continue working on those!
LWYW - FO - Buttons
LWYW - FO - Buttons - Haiku
SA:  Yes, please do!  I would love to have some of those. You once said, “I love keeping a journal – it has allowed me a space to watch my business, my family, and my creative soul grow” What has it been like as a blogger, now sharing your journal and life with the world wide web?
LWYW - HSY = 2LW:  Sadly, I’m no longer blogging. I keep saying I’m going to get back to it and I’ll blog for a day or two and then forget about it. I did keep my blog for several years and it was a way to introduce myself to my customers and a way to form some lasting online friendships. Life got really rough for a while with my younger daughter’s illness and I no longer felt that I could put the details of our lives online and withdrew. Maybe now that life is calmer I’ll get back to it again. But don’t hold me to it!
SA:   What do the next 28 years of spinning have in store for you?
LW:  The first thing that comes to mind is sore hands!! Honestly, I’m becoming a bit arthritic but as long as my hands will cooperate I’ll continue to spin. I’ve started spinning yarns for my weaving and am building up a palette. I’d also like to ikat dye my yarns and get back to weaving ikat pieces.
SA:  We look forward to seeing that happen as well.  One last question before we let you go, what is your favorite family tradition?
LWYW - Self - with MR. YWLW:  I always insisted on sit-down dinners when my kids were young. I think that together-time is important to a family.
Another thing I’ve enjoyed with my husband and two daughters over the years are those little inside jokes and
funny words we’ve made up that only mean something to us.
SA:  Thank you so much, Lynn!  Readers, it is time to squee with delight…Lynn is going to give one of you folks the chance to pick out any wool top or batt on sale at her Etsy shop!!  What a fantastic pre-holiday gift, huh?  Please leave a comment on this post letting us know which product in Lynn’s shop is your favorite.  A winner will be drawn at random after 5:00 PM EST, next Sunday night, December 8th.  LWYW - RolagsBest of luck to all!
Before I sign off, I also want to share a little more fibery goodness with you by directing you to the blog post written by my partner in fiber, Suzy Brown, over at www.fiberygoodness.com.  It includes a cool interview with Glynis Poad from Majacraft where we find out a little bit more about Glynis, the fiber artist.  Enjoy!


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