Finally…classes

I have finally started offering hand spinning classes. Now that I have a space that I share with other artists, I feel comfortable inviting people to come and learn the beautiful skill of creating yarn from wool!

So if you are visiting or live in La Serena, and you would like to learn how to hand spin, click on the classes link on the right, or visit our page Creatif.cl

Classes can be in English or Spanish, and there are a lot of other classes too, like ceramics, weaving, painting, paper mâché, and yoga…so many!

Who is Creatif?

Creatif is a Cultural collective of artists, crafters and designers, who believe in the creation of spaces where artists can display and sell their work, as well as educate and connect with other artists.
My first encuentro with Creatif was on a cold winter day, in June 2012, when my family and I visited a small craft fair. I didn’t know who they were and my main memory was how pretty and original the products were. Fast forward six months to the summer of 2013 and we visited the 1st Observatorio. It looked beautiful and I loved that everything was handmade, and we could watch the crafters and artists share their techniques with the public.
I started to follow them on facebook and when they asked for new applications for their 3rd Observatorio, I applied, and was accepted! I was nervous participating in my first fair, but it was full of great people, and I believed in Creatif’s goal; to show the public how local art and crafts are made, and why people should be supporting them.
After the 5th Observatorio the group Creatif invited me to join and work with them. Yeah!
We are a diverse group of women who work with different materials to create beautiful objects. We come from different backgrounds, with different ideas and strengths, which we use to compliment each other.

“CREATIF es una agrupación Cultural  sin fines de lucro, es un espacio de cooperación entre creadoras y emprendedoras de la región de Coquimbo creada en el año 2012 con la idea de compartir, organizar, participar, integrar y convocar. 

Desarrollando desde su creación un conjunto de soluciones relacionadas al emprendimiento, la educación, la difusión y la generación de nuevas redes, por este motivo uno de sus principales objetivos es generar espacios de interacción que faciliten el quehacer creador y que permita generar alianzas, convenios e intercambios, potenciar oportunidades y abrir espacios de difusión de iniciativas y trabajos tanto en Chile como en el extranjero.” – From Creatif’s blog.
Creatif is made up of nine women. Here are links to some of their blogs and examples of their work.
Calzados Mamba
Ceramicas Veronica Ruiz
Spiders Workshop

Before you buy gifts at the mall, look local and handmade!

In time for Christmas, the 6th Observatorio Cultural will offer residents and visitors of La Serena the chance to buy local and handmade gifts, as well as participate in free mini classes. image This Observatorio will also see the launch of Creatif products inspired by the life and work of Gabriela Mistral. These products are made by combining our knowledge and use of different materials to make unique gifts. It is going to be good. And it is going to be fun! We will be in the plaza Santa Domingo, from the 20th to the 23rd of December. image image image image image

Sheep shearing at Hacienda El Tangue

The IV Region, is not known for its sheep, and when people see Chilean wool it usually comes from the South. Patagonia is full of sheep, most of them merino. The wool I use for most of my spinning comes from my sheep, which are basically for meat, similar to Oxford and Suffolk breeds. So I was very surprised when I heard there was a flock of merino sheep about an hour drive from my house, at the Hacienda El Tangue. I didn’t want to visit without contacting them, so I had put off going.

But then I heard of a small craft fair being held at the hacienda; an event organized by El Tangue and Innatura, a vegetarian restaurant located in La Serena. I couldn’t miss the opportunity to see some sheep, so this weekend with my family, we drove to El Tangue.

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El Tangue is twenty minutes south of the seaside town Tongoy, and as well as the craft fair there was horse riding, trekking, BBQ, vegetarian food, and (most importantly), sheep shearing!

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Sheep waiting to be sheared

The building where they shear is tall, dark, and impressive, made of wood and a thatch-like material. I talked to the man who classifies the wool, and he said that at the moment there are 8000 sheep and they are sheared between October and November. The wool is classified and pressed into bails ready for sale. Information on the internet, from 2009, says they had over 10,000 sheep, shearing 600 a day with 4.5 to 5.5 kilos per fleece, making 12 bales a day.

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Fleece sorting and pressing, bales at the back

I asked about buying some wool but, all of the wool is sent to the south of Chile for processing and export.

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Sheep after shearing where they are checked and given worming medicine

My family and I watched them shear along with other visitors. Here is my video of the shearing.

The shearing demonstration was scheduled for 10am till noon, we saw them shear at 1.30 and there were still people arriving to watch. It was Saturday, their day off, and they weren’t being paid for the demonstration. So the shearer may not have been working as fast as a work day, and may have been a bit grumpy.

I was fascinated by how he moved the sheep, something I can’t do when I shear. I loved being there. I loved the smell of the lanolin, the sheep and the metal grease, the cool dark air compared to the sunshine outside, the rolls of soft greasy wool. I could have stayed there all day.

But unfortunately, the rest of my family is not so obsessed with wool, so with two sleepy girls we drove home.

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And the weekend continued with more surprises; as I wrote this post on Sunday, it was raining outside. In fact it rained for most of the day, rare for November. The rain is great for the plants, not so great for my laundry, which I had to wash, and had to peg out, rain or no rain. Although my girls said they didn’t mind if they stayed home from school because of wet uniforms…they are so thoughtful.

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3er Observatorio Cultural; their third, my first

Their third, my first

This is a cultural gathering of artists and crafters. I will have a stand and be giving free mini-classes to kids on how to spin wool with a drop spindle.

There will be lots of beautiful hand made objects and free classes, and good vibes, and kids, and fun!

Oh, and I am so excited!

The little things and the big ones

It has been a while since my last post, sorry, I have been busy. Mainly with little things, like my dying washing machine. (I am such a terrible house wife, and hand washing the whole family’s clothes really is not fun and I did not do it very well!) I finally got a new machine, and it is a joy to be able to put clothes in, walk away, then come back and put them on the line…nice and clean. Be thankful of modern luxuries.

Also I started going to yoga classes, which I love. Many people have recommended yoga, and for a long time I have thought about it, but the breathing in yoga has always scared me, (and it is a big part of yoga!) My problem is that when I think about my breathing it makes me feel short of breath. However, when a good friend came back to Chile and started teaching yoga, I couldn’t miss the opportunity of having a friend help me with my breathing fears. She is a great teacher, and also speaks excellent English. For anyone looking for a bilingual yoga teacher in La Serena, here is her facebook page Yoga Jessyyoga.

And the results are great! I love how the yoga makes me feel; it pushes me, but at the same time helps me relax. Which I really need. Since I started taking the ergot based migraine medicine last year, I haven’t had a really bad, (as in a day in bed vomiting) type migraine, but I am still having lots of small migraines and feel I am taking the medicine too often. (not more than what the box says, but still a lot) However, without the medicine I know what my migraine will turn into, (a day in bed vomiting and another day to recover).

So this past month I have been going to yoga, taking a multi-vitamin with magnesium in it, (good for migraine sufferers), and trying not to eat foods that I think are triggers. Part of this is to control my migraines better, but it is also to look after myself and give the freckle in my eye everything it needs to stay a freckle.

Ah yes, the big ones, my freckle, which is actually a nevus/melanoma. That is what my scans and doctor call it. I visited my doctor again last week and she said that my nevus looks good; no changes, clean edges, not too thick. She also explained that there is less than 5% chance of it turning into melanoma. However, she also explained how a nevus can grow but still be a nevus, and a melanoma can be small and never change, so telling the difference between the two is difficult. So we wait and watch because there is more risk from operating, than what a large nevus or small non-growing melanoma could do.

Looking on the internet, (which they tell you not to do) the statistics from one study of 1611 patients with iris nevus, showed growth from nevus to melanoma to be “<1%, 3%, 4%, 8%, and 11% at 1, 5, 10, 15, and 20 years, respectively” and “risk factors for growth, identified by ABCDEF included Age young, Blood (hyphema), Clock hour inferior, Diffuse configuration, Ectropion uveae, and Feathery tumour margin”. Of the six risk factors, I have A (age ≤40 years at presentation) and C ( 4:00 to 9:00 clock hour location of tumour).  from “Iris Nevus Growth into Melanoma: Analysis of 1611 Consecutive Eyes: The ABCDEF Guide.

And because I visited the doctor last week and have to go back in July for another scan my nevus-not-cancer-but-may-be-one-day is on my mind. Always is when I have an appointment, (the rest of the time I don’t dwell on it so much). And really, I don’t know how to think of this. Do I think of it as just a nevus that will probably never change, and ignore the cancer side of it, (that kind of feels like denial). Or do I admit that I may have cancer but as long as it doesn’t change, it is not very dangerous? And I don’t understand why this feels so complicated. Maybe I am a bit of a control freak, and controlling starts with having the correct name! Maybe I should call it a tumour, not as innocent as a freckle, but not as scary as melanoma. Maybe that is easier to explain to people as well.

I know this is supposed to be a craft blog, or farming, or expat living in Chile, and not a cancer blog, (but it is mine) and this small brown freckle is causing me all sorts of thoughts and questions when it looks back at me in the mirror every day. And putting this all out there, into the wide world helps me put it into perspective. Because there are many things worse than what I am dealing with, and I know I am very fortunate; I have the little things in my life, not just the big ones.

A good start to the New Year

Really, this is supposed to be a blog about fibres and soft squishy handmade objects, but we haven’t seen many of them here for a while. I have been knitting and creating things, and to prove it, here are some completed projects to start this post.

The scarf and hat I knit for my husband for Christmas.

Scarf hat

And this is a scarf I started in December of 2010, (gulp) and only just finished this week. I had not forgotten the scarf; I would pick it up, knit a little then tuck it away. For two years.

Seaweed Scarf

And a felted doll, just playing.

Doll

But, I must admit that after visiting the ocular oncologist last month about the freckle on my iris, I have spent a lot of my time learning about Ocular Melanoma, or OM.

This week I went to Santiago to have an ultrasound biomicroscopy scan done of my eye.  The doctor did this by numbing my eye then putting a small tube over it which she filled with water. Into this she put a probe to scan my eye. The results will be ready next week, (however, we will probably collect them when we see the oncologist in a few months), but she said the nevus, or freckle, looked fine. Flat, this is a good sign.

Of course, she also said that this will not show if the nevus is benign or malignant. That takes time and observation.

I am finding everything a bit confusing. What I have learned from reading on the internet, and cyber chatting with people on Ravelry, is that Ocular Melanoma is a rare form of cancer, around 2500 cases in the USA a year. OM in the iris is the least common, but with better survival rates. This may be because it is visible and it can be treated earlier. Also, because OM of the iris normally grows slowly, it is sometimes never detected as cancer, and just appears to be nevi. I think that is what the doctor meant when she said I have to wait. There may be malignant cells in the nevus but until they do something different, like grow fast or change colour, nothing needs to be done.

So even though I have been given a green light, and during the day I can accept that I don’t have cancer, in the night it is not so easy. I have been waking up scared and I am trying to turn these feelings around to make changes in my life to stop the cancer from ever coming.

Three months ago I had never heard of Ocular Melanoma, and what a “sneaky” cancer it is. Most people know what to look for with skin cancer, when to have a mole looked at, or the risks they take when smoking. Women know to get regular Pap smears and mammograms. Men know to get their prostates checked. But then there are cancers that sneak up on you; childhood cancers, or cancers that are rare and receive little news coverage.

Ocular Melanoma is rare, but like many cancers, survival rates seem to be improved when the tumours are detected early. A person may have no symptoms and because most tumours are inside the eye only a doctor can see them. Regular eye checks are important.

I know I do not have Ocular Melanoma, (for now my freckle is only a freckle) and so have no right to warn people or give out information, but this is the internet, and if I can help someone searching, and find more information, then I will. (However, remember this is the internet and does not replace talking with a doctor). Here are some links I found useful, although it is all very confusing, and what gave me the most comfort was cyber chatting with people who have OM.

A Cure In Sight – a new charity to help people pay for their treatment. This site has a good list of links for more information.

[Love X Infinity]2 – The Not-Quite-Fairytale of a Cancer Princess, good links and personal perspective.

Interview with Oliver Sacks on Vision, His Next Book, and Surviving Cancer.

I went and voted

No, not in the USA, but here in Chile’s local elections. For the first time in Chile the inscription for voting is automatic and voluntary. Before you had to be registered, and once you were you HAD to vote.  I was never registered before, but now I was put into the system automatically.  Last week I went on-line to see where I had to go to vote, and today with my husband we went and voted.

There were no lines and the people were very friendly.  Unfortunately there were no instructions on the voting slips and I put a tick and not a line, so my vote may not count! With all the moving I have done, I have not had much chance to vote.

Now we have to wait till 6pm when they will start counting the votes.  They do this by hand marking each vote on the classroom chalkboard. (Voting takes place in different schools.)  It will be the same for the presidential voting in 2013.

I also have some other news, sadder news.  I don’t really have the heart to write about this now but I couldn’t ignore it either.  For anyone who follows my blog, you may remember that my father’s mom died earlier this year, (this post).  Earlier today my Uncle called my father to tell him my Grandfather had died this morning. We knew his quality of life was not good, and it is better that he is not suffering, but it is still hard.

I wish I could say more, but for now that is all.

A Spanish post – Un post español

Soy inglesa y normalmente escribo mi blog en ingles.  Pero, vivo en Chile, cerca de La Serena, y creo que aveces debo hacer mi blog en español.  Mas que nada para ver si alguien esta interesado en que hago.  Yo trabajo con lana.  Tengo ovejas y lo esquilo yo misma y después hago cosas con la lana.  También trabajo con lana que compro.  En este post voy a incluir “links” a otros posts mios que estan en ingles, pero que muestra mas fotos del tema.

I am English and write most of my blog in English.  However, since I live in Chile, near La Serena, I think I should sometimes do parts of my blog in Spanish.  I am doing this to see if there is interest in what I do amongst Spanish speakers.  I work with wool.  I have sheep and shear them myself, and then I make things with the wool.  I also work with wool that I buy.  In this post I will include links to my other posts that cover each theme in more detail.

Con la lana que compro me gusta hacer cosas de fieltro, como bufondas.  La lana de mis ovejas no es tan buena para hacer fieltro, porque no es tan fina.

Bufandas de fieltro / felted scarves

With the wool that I buy I like to make felted objects, like scarves.  The wool from my sheep is not very good for felting, because it is not as fine.

post de fieltro/ felting post

Para empezar, primero saco la lana de las ovejas esquilando y lo lavo suavemente para sacar algo de la lanolina y suciedad.  Cuando esta seca yo paso la lana por un “wool picker” (que yo hice), que abre la lana y deja caer mas mugre. Luego, paso la lana por mis “hand o drum Carder” para peinar la lana.

Maquina para abrir la lana / machine that opens the wool

Lana sin lavar, lavada, abierto, y dos vellónes peinado/ wool unwashed, washed, picked, and two carded batts

To start I remove the wool from the sheep by shearing and then I gently wash the wool to remove the lanoline and some of the dirt. When the wool is dry I pass it through my home made wool picker, which opens the wool and allows some of the dirt to fall out.  Next, I pass the wool through my hand or drum carder to card the wool.

post de ovejas/sheep post

post de esquilar/shearing post

post de como hice mi “wool picker”/ how I made a wool picker post

post de cardar/ carding post

Ahora la lana esta lista para hilar.  Yo hilo con husos y ruecas dependiendo de donde estoy.  Los husos yo puedo tomar a todas partes porque son chicas y livianas.

Lana hilada con una rueca/ wool spun on a spinning wheel

Lana hilado a mano/ hand spun wool

Now the wool is ready to be spun.  I spin wool with drop spindles and spinning wheels, depending where I am.  The drop spindles I can take with me anywhere because they are small and light.

post de husos/ drop spindles post

Yo puedo tejer o usar la lana para telares, o yo puedo teñir la lana en mis hornos solares.  Yo teñía con colorante de comida o con plantas naturales.  Mis favoritos son cascara de cebollas, que hace un color naranja y hojas de el árbol nogal, que hace café o verde.

Lana con cascara de palta en el horno solar/ wool with avacado peels in the solar oven

Lana teñida con cascara de palta y cebolla/ wool dyed with avocado and onion skins

I can use the wool to knit or weave, or I can dye the wool in my solar ovens.  I dye with food colouring or natural dyes from plants.  My favourites are onion skins, which give an orange colour and walnut tree leaves, which give brown or green.

post de teñir en hornos solares/ solar dyeing post

Este post es solo una introducción a las diferentes etapas del procesamiento de la lana.  Si alguien esta interesado en algo específico me puede dejar consultas en la sección de comments.

Gracias por la visita!

Lana de mis ovejas/ yarn from my sheep

This post is only an introduction to the different steps in processing wool.  If anyone is interested in something specific you can leave questions in the comment section.

Thanks for visiting!