BACKSTORY: The World of Alpacas, Wool, and Weaving
I love my job. Until I started working as a journalist, writing was a way for me to make sense of the world and my place in it. As an emotion-centric person, I tend to feel my way through life. When traveling, for example, I’m less inclined to visit historical sites than I am to sit in a coffee shop, watch the people, wonder about their lives, and feel the atmosphere. What I end up writing in my journal is a collection of my feelings and observations, and ruminations on me, how I’m moved, affected, inspired or whatnot.
But the writing I do as a journalist is different. It takes me outside of myself and gives me a direct connection to people outside of my own insular world. Years ago, while awaiting my copies at a copy shop, I tried to make small talk with a man who was also waiting. I asked him what he was having printed, and he pretty much told me to shove it up my arse and stay out of his business. I get the same response every now and again in my work, but for the most part, people want to talk about what they’re doing, what they think, and who they are. And the more they talk, the more curious I become.
How fortunate for me that this particular job means I get to spend my days satisfying my own curiosities.
The Sheep to Sweater story I wrote for the San Diego Reader began with my curiosity about Beryl Warnes, the weaver. I heard about her Fiber/Dance Festival, and I found weaving and belly dancing such a strange combination of festival themes that I had to know more. My research took me to Warnes’ website, and eventually up to Julian Weaving Works to meet her.
The weaving itself was interesting enough, but when Warnes told me that she and a group of seven other women participate in an annual contest to shear a sheep, spin the wool, and knit a sweater in the fewest possible hours, I was done for. My curiosity was full-blown. I asked her to introduce me to her friends, and then I spent the next week knee-deep in the world of alpacas, wool, and weaving.
Below, Miranda the alpaca gets nosy, Michaelin Marie spins wool, and Beryl Warnes explains what she’s doing on that giant loom.
If I had a bucket list, the latest entry on it would be to create a piece of wearable art made from the wool I’d spun after shearing an alpaca. And ever afterward, I’d hope to have the following conversation:
Where’d you get that scarf?
Why, I made it from the wool I spun after shearing an alpaca.
Well, aren’t you something.
Why, yes. I am.