crochetlab issue 1
crochet
lab





i asked lexi of pluckyfluff yarns to answer a few questions and she agreed!

the eyes of pluckyfluff are upon you
crochetlab report

 

 

 

all material
© linda scharf
linda at
crochetlab dot com

 

pluckyfluff yarn

 

 

 

 

 

 

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all material
© linda scharf

linda at crochetlab dot com

 

 

 

 

crochetlab.com::better living thru experimental crochet
art and research about what happens to string when it is hooked up to a stick, turned loose and encouraged to run wild

i recommend scrolling down to read the whole “conversation” with lexi at your leisure, but you can also click on a question and be directed to the answer for the quick and dirty version. but it is not a bad thing to slow down...

march 21, 2005

:: in the beginning...
:: how yarns evolved from traditional to the pluckyfluff we all know and love

:: pluckyfluff, the name
:: nozzlers
:: jenny neutron star and drucilla
:: dream fibers?
:: limited production vs. pluckyfluff yarn factory
:: pluckyfluff's connection to history of spinning
:: thoughts about how the yarn will be used?
:: influences on yarns
:: elusive colors she hasn't gotten yet?
:: anti moth suggestions
:: the pluckyfluff quilt
:: book
:: funny disasters?
:: yarn names
:: earthships
:: technical stuff

Where did you get the idea to start spinning? What was the impetus, if you
know.

A: I am lucky enough to live in a town that has a great little yarn and
spinning shop.(Lofty Lou's in Placerville) Lou, the owner, offered
spinning classes and I took one. This was about four years ago. But what was the impetus? I think that would be owing to my shortcomings as a
knitter/crocheter. I knew how to crochet and was OK at it, but I finally
realized that I got much more enjoyment and excitement out of picking the
yarns than actually crocheting them. In fact, I never liked the final
project as much as I had liked the yarn in it's original state. I began to
appreciate the yarn for what it was; a beautiful form in and of itself.
What really sealed the deal though, was when I bought a handspun yarn from
Lou and handled handspun for the first time. It was a traditional two ply
yarn, the type that most commercial yarns are patterned after. But it wasn't how it looked that got me, it was how it FELT. It was hand processed wool and must have retained some natural lanolin for it was dense and left the memory of the feeling on your fingertips. It was not over processed, bleached or stressed. It had a liveliness and energy that you could feel as you worked with it. This is the essence of handspun yarn. This is why once you have worked with handspun, you can never go back.

On your site, you've noted that you spun a lot of "yarn by the rules"
before you branched out to your vision of handspun. Did these new yarns
start to evolve because of projects you wanted to use the yarn for, or
because of what you thought others might use it for or some completely
different reason? How much is planning and how much is happy accident/surprise in your yarns?

A: My yarns evolved through my personal progress as a spinner. In the
beginning it was a matter of mastering the elemental process of spinning.
Getting familiar with the feel of the fiber and learning and being able to
predict how it is going to behave. Also, being able to control the wheel and it's functions, and finally controlling myself and my role in the process. It was when these three pieces (the fiber, wheel and myself) fit together seamlessly that I had become an actual spinner. This is the point where many people stop. Not just in spinning, but in any endeavor. Most people see mastering the skill as the final destination, but actually it is only the very first step. Mastering a skill requires an incredible focus, a
narrowing of vision down to the very core of your subject. Finding and
understanding the nature of it until you know exactly how it will behave
when you do this or that. Know it so well that you can see it in your mind
first and the reality follows exactly as you envisioned it. When you reach
that moment it's like going through the eye of a needle. You have focused
down to it's tiniest detail, and if you don't stop the process at that
point, you pass through and you come out the other side into a world that is
blown wide open. This is where creativity BEGINS.

So this is where I was when I began to make my first yarns that “broke out”
of the traditional form. Once I knew exactly how the yarn was supposed to
behave, I was ultra tuned into the moments when it didn't act as it should
have. There are times when, despite all the constructs you have set up and
all the control you wield over the fiber, it simply does something
unpredictable. You realize then that it also has a will of it's own to some
degree, and if it wants to form a lump or tweak in a weird way, it will, no
matter how skilled you are. Instead of fighting these things I accepted
them, then instead of just accepting them I began to exaggerate them when
they happened. I figured out how they happened and learned to repeat them.
For example, the yarn might make a little coil around itself where it gets
a little extra twist, so I would stop feeding the yarn but keep the wheel
spinning, adding coil after coil in the same spot. The result was a coily
twisty lumpy knot that was absolutely beautiful. It was perfect, since it
had formed itself in a way. So this is how I get most of my effects, or
whatever you want to call them. Letting the yarn break the rules.

Sometimes, I think of an effect in my mind first and then try and figure out how to make it work, but the same thing ends up happening. I will start out trying to achieve the thing that is in my mind, but usually the yarn will do something else. Then you just have to give in and let it develop as it will. Every now and then it works like I had planned, though those times are rare!


The name is great! Where did "pluckyfluff" come from?

A: Oh this is funny. Years ago I was signing up for an online hearts/poker
game site. You were supposed to create your login/password and character
name. Well, I wanted to be "Ducky" but it was taken. You all know this
routine- ever tried to get a hotmail account? So then I entered "fluffy
ducky", taken. Plain old "fluffy"- nope. "Plucky ducky"?- try again. After
about 20 tweaks on this I came up with "Pluckyfluff" and I got it! Then I
thought it was such a cool funny name that I used it for all my online fun:
cards, Sissy-fighting, Ebay, etc. When I started the yarn thing it fit in
perfectly. If you could see my studio- there is plucky FLUFF everywhere!


What about the nozzlers? Where did they come from?

A: Oh that's another funny story. My first nozzler was a total accident. I had seen some felt hats in the yarn store. The lady said she had simply knit a hat extra big, threw it in the washing machine to shrink it, then stretched
it over a hat form. Easy right? Sure. So I decided I wanted a round felted
throw pillow for my couch. It would be a sphere with big spots. So I started crocheting this thing, it looked like a bunch of potholders stitched together. I added one little tube about 2" high to make a little crater. (it was supposed to look like a planet or something) I was very excited and threw it in the washing machine. When I pulled it out it looked terribly distorted and I could see that the crater had stretched into a tentacle. I thought maybe I could stuff it and form it back into a sphere. As I began stuffing it became quite apparent that it was never going to be a sphere. In fact it was more like a buffalo/rat. It was so funny looking and the more I stuffed the more I laughed. My husband walked in, took one look and started cracking up. So I knew I was on to something good. I made a whole bunch more, never knowing what they were going to come out like. It was always funny and suprising.


Jenny Neutron Star and Drucilla - alter egos, imaginary friends?

A: No, they are perfectly real imaginary friends.


Any elusive dream fibers or mythical animal/creature fibers you'd like to
spin?

A: Oooo, I don't set my hopes on things I can't have. So unicorns are out.
But I really want to spin buffalo fiber. It is very, very, very expensive
though!

Would you want larger quantities of your individual yarns available
ideally, or do you like the limited production thing?
Ever try to reproduce a yarn or do you always go for something new?

A: Oh I'm definitely incapable of producing more of the same. I get bored
very easily with repetition. For me, every yarn is a new experience, a new
lesson. Once I have figured it out I need to move on to a new thing. This is what keeps it interesting for me. I actually try to do a “technique of the week”, meaning: come up with a totally new technique, skill, style, color etc at LEAST once a week. This keeps me from getting too comfortable.


Do you feel connected to the history of spinning or what do you feel the
connection to be? Do you have any sense of why there is such a great
appreciation of handspun yarn these days?

A: I feel a great connection to the history of spinning. The technology has
not changed much over thousands of years. It is 2005 and I use a
drop spindle or a wheel just like people all over the world have done for
ages. I feel it most when I am processing the wool from scratch. I get a
very comfortable feeling when I'm washing the wool, the steam comes up in
your face, the smell of the sheep. You know that that is exactly the smell
and sensation that someone a thousand years ago experienced.

I think the current interest in handspun yarn is driven by a couple of
things. One, the huge resurgence in needlecraft of all kinds. So many more
people are using yarn now. It is a big pop culture craze and I think this
group of people is interested in trying out new things and finding something unique. Handspun fills that bill. Second, and probably more to the real core of the phenomenon, is a desire to get back in touch with our craftsmen roots. We live in a world where we are surrounded by mass production. Big and cheap is king. We go to walmart to buy something that we can use once, then throw away. Or use twice and it breaks and we throw it away. The "stuff" we are surrounded by is soul-less, flimsy, unnecessary. You can't live surrounded by this without being subconciously drained by it. So when something comes along like handspun yarn, it reminds people that there was a time when we had to "make-do". You wanted a chair, you went and made one for yourself. Your baby needed a sweater- well, time to wash the wool, spin the yarn and knit one. When you put the work into it yourself, or you know the person who made it, it becomes much more valuable. Suddenly, it has integrity. It has a backbone and soul, and by making it or using it, you too regain your integrity, backbone and soul.


Do you (or HOW do you) take into account the idea that people will
knit/crochet or somehow USE your yarns?

A: How it will eventually be used is not foremost in my mind when I make a
yarn. It's my opinion that a yarn "is what it is". The yarn should inspire
an original idea in the knitter, crocheter. In a sense, the knitter has to
also let go of their preconcieved idea of what they want to make and let the form grow at will. Or at least, there should be some give and take between the yarn and the crocheter. With some of my yarns, a change in plans is inevitable since some sections just can't be knit in a regular stitch. A five inch giant cluster of sequins, for example, will need to be dealt with in a different way than the regular yarn sections.

When I spin a yarn I am pretty confident that I can envision how it will
look when knit, though sometimes I am suprised! I definitely think of how it will be knit when I spin patterns such as stripes, spots, heathers etc.
Some yarns I spin specifically to be a hat or scarf. For some hat yarns I
consider what the edge around the face will look like and try to put a
bright color there or an interesting texture. When adding big elements like
felt balls or sequins I try and space them out in a way that they will be
balanced through out the knitted project. So, in that sense I am thinking
ahead.


Any big influences on the yarns you create? (Literary, visual, landscape?)

A: Yes, always. Landscape is a big one. I try and pay attention to color
combinations that I see occuring in the landscape and in nature. We have
all had the experience of seeing a stunning landscape or view, but we don't
always ask what is it that makes that so beautiful. It may be the texture-
I live in the sierras where the granite mountains are quite impressive, cold and dramatic. If I respond to that in a powerful way I may try and transfer that impression to the yarn. I will look for materials that suggest that scene. Maybe grey wool with silver sparkles, or something like that. Color is the number one thing I steal from the landscape though. I will look at a view that calls my attention and try and see it only in terms of color. So I don't see trees, hill, rock, I just see greens/yellow/brown etc. I try and pay extra close attention to which colors in the scene are making it attractive. It may only be that there is an ultraviolet flower right next to a very dull brown and the one is necessary to make the other come alive. So, these are the things I try and use to make a yarn that is interesting. If I had to do it from my own mind every time, the colors and textures would eventually start repeating themselves. I don't believe that anything can actually be generated purely from your own mind. Our minds are filters that the world goes through. It comes in through our eyes and senses, gets interpreted, taken apart and reassembled in our minds then comes back out as a thought or creation. So, in this sense all of my creations are in response to some experience or environment that I am in contact with.

Sometimes it will work in reverse. I will make a yarn and it reminds me of
some charater or song or something and I'll name it that. You know, like if
it's extra soft and pasty I might name it Dick Cheney. Or if it has big
shiny black swooshes and sequins it could be Elvis 1972, and so on.

Any elusive colors or effects you want but haven't been able to get yet?

A: I don't plan ahead that much. I work more spontaneously. I think of a
color or effect and try it right then. If it works out good, if not I just
try and go with what it turns into.


Pluckyfluff's anti-moth secrets/suggestions?

A: Good old cedar chest!


You had a request for quilt squares on your site for awhile. How's it
coming?

A: I'm very excited. I finally have enough squares for the quilt. Luckily
one of my good customers sent me a big stash of little woven squares that
her grandma had. They are the perfect filler to frame all of the unique
squares that I received. I am beginning to arrange them now. It is going to
be a great record of all of the creative people I have come to know through
the website. Each square is very special and unique. They also play off
each other in interesting and diverse ways. It really is a great metaphor
for our creative community: every square is a unique individual coming
together to form one whole body connected by a common craft.

Book details(“handspun revolution”):when available and how to get it? Book tour planned?

A: "Book tour" makes me giggle. I don't think I am going to be a very good
promoter. I think I'll just sell it online and hopefully the bookstores and
knit shops will pick it up. It is getting printed now. It has been a long
process but it's almost done. It is a pretty straightforward book. It
covers 23 techniques with very simply written instructions and lots of
pretty pictures. I also cover some helpful tips on materials, preparation,
creative mindset, etc.

Any funny disasters? Something that sounded like a good idea but...?

A: I always have what I consider small disasters. I have often thought:
"This has got to be the ugliest, worst yarn I've ever made.". Then I put it
up on the website and that is the one everyone tries to get! So, who knows.
It is such a subjective thing.

Your yarn names are wonderfully evocative! Does each yarn suggest its own
name or ...
?

A: Usually the name comes after the yarn is made. It also depends whether
it's coffee hour or cocktail hour just how crazy they get.

On your website you mention your desire to live in an Earthship and have a
Pluckyfluff yarnstand. Have you stayed in one or done one of their 3 day
live-ins?

A: I have never set foot in one! But I always have to maintain some dream to hope for. I can just imagine the pluckyfluff ship on the side of the road. It will probably have to have a big fleecy cover so it blends into the landscape like a giant sleeping sheep.


Technical:

How early in the wool/fiber process do you get involved?

A: I do everything but the shearing!

Do you dye fiber? If so, what types of things do you use for dyes?

A: Hand dyeing is key. I use the standard store bought wool and cotton acid
dyes as well as food coloring, natural dyes, easter egg kits, beets, you
name it.

What determines the yardages you spin?

A: When the bobbin is full. Sometimes I'll spin a couple of bobbins and
ply onto my jumbo wheel for really big skeins.

What kind of wheel/wheels do you use?

A: I use an Ashford Traveler with a quill attachment and an old handmade
bulky box spinner. I am just beginning to plan with jenny neutron star and
drucilla for a design for a Pluckyfluff wheel. Though these wheels I have
are good they are not accommodating for all of the crazy things we want to
do.

Do you spin at home? Do you travel with a wheel?

A: I spin at home. I don't get out much. (Got a one-year-old!)

What's the relationship of your website and your beginning to spin? Did
they evolve simultaneously or did the site come later to be a vehicle for
getting your yarns out to a bigger audience? Or some other connection?

A: The website came much later. I started selling on ebay a long time ago
but that was too limited. There was so much interest in the yarn and the
process that I felt a website would be more of a "home" for the people who
were into the yarns. With the site I can have more of an open conversation
and just give a lot more information. I am trying to set up a chat section so that we can be in even better contact, but I suck at setting that stuff up and have been pretty slow. But I will soon! Especially now that many of my customers are starting to spin. I think it will be helpful to have a place to post questions and answers as well as share our projects.


pluckyfluff yarn

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