Thank you for signing up to my newsletter. I am grateful for your support and interest in what I do. I've been working hard at this beautiful caper for five years now and am only just starting to feel like I am finding my footing. That might sound completely bonkers to most but when you find yourself at the very beginning of something with no road map to follow, plotting your course takes time and a great deal of faith in many aspects of life. I have made some great learnings and I am proud that I have made a new contribution to a very established and time honoured craft. I've also met many wonderful people and grown exponentially. But I have also struggled. A lot! From self imposed roadblocks to intense moments of introspection about human behaviour and questions of faith and the universe, I find myself still without many answers to some pretty big questions. But that's okay too.
And so here we are in December and I have finally carved out the time to write to you. I love December. It's my favourite month of the year. Yes - it's stressful as we all turn ourselves inside out to tie up loose ends before the invisible line in the sand that is Christmas. But, in the case of my family, it is also the month we celebrate 5 birthdays, including my own. It's 43 for me this year. I am enjoying the process of getting older. The begetting of some measure of maturity is a blessing as is the growing ability to care a little less for the white noise in our lives. But my greatest challenge still remains my difficulty with "letting go" and trusting that everything will be alright. Perhaps it is my somewhat conservative Capricorn nature that holds me back but I am determined to overcome this limitation and to embrace 2016 with a much lighter grip on my world.
I'm not sure what's ahead for me in 2016 (I gave up on assuming that life will be a certain way long ago) but you can be assured that it will involve the creation of luscious woollen textiles and art installations on an ever increasing scale. After all, my work has become my salvation and I would be bereft without it. While Little Dandelion is a business, this is not business to me. It never has been. This is my life, my passion and a reflection of my very essence.
But before 2016 rolls in, I just want to reflect on some of the more significant events of 2015:
The School: Extreme Knitting Workshops
This year marked the start of my extreme knitting workshops with The School using my K1S1 Extreme Knitting Yarn. These workshops have been in the pipeline since 2012. When I first launched Little Dandelion, the indefatigable and talented Megan Morton approached me to become a teacher at The School, an incredibly chic and stylish platform she built from the ground up to facilitate the exchange of craft skills in a contemporary interpretation of the traditional workshops of a master and his apprentice. But I wasn't ready then. I had only just begun my foray into the public sphere so to speak and I couldn't get my head around how to teach my process of working with merino wool tops and roving. I also wanted to protect my concept for as long as I could before others picked up on the idea and ran with it as their own, as they were bound to do. Such is life!
But the arrival of my K1S1 yarn changed all of that. In 2015, we held 6 classes in Sydney, Brisbane and New York. The School has opened up a whole new world of discovery and self development for all who attend, including me. I learn as much from my students as they do from me. This is a unique and gentle exchange of ideas and lovely energy. These classes are never just about the craft being taught. In Megan's own words, "For me it's the bonuses people discover at this class. Jacqui's inspiring story, the meditation, the incredible potential of what they have learned, the hands-on-ness. The scarf is simply evidence of all that is good about making with hand and heart."
K1S1 Extreme Knitting Yarn at purl soho new york
2015 also marked the arrival of my K1S1 Extreme Knitting Yarn. Whilst still really in development in terms of building up my colour range and fine tuning production issues and stock levels, K1S1 is the embodiment of all my learnings over the last 5 years from working with unspun wool. Unspun wool is divine and pieces made from it look as soft, luxurious and cuddly as a cloud. But it is also insanely delicate and, if not felted, anything made from it will not stand the test of time I'm afraid. It will also pill excessively with in the lightest of uses and so the functionality is just not there.
From the beginning I have felted my woolies made from unspun wool to provide the fibre a stability, longevity and a robustness that it otherwise would not have. But felting unspun wool is a fraught process and not one easily learned or taught for that matter. That's why I developed K1S1. Designed to my specifications, it is made from fully felted and finely twisted fine merino tops and, while it is still beautiful and soft to the touch, it has been specifically designed with a low pilling quotient and an easy care factor. A K1S1 piece will last a lifetime if cared for and stored appropriately. I am particularly proud of this yarn because it now enables knitters to make their own extreme knits without the hassles and weaknesses associated with unspun wool knowing that their creation will stand the test of time.
Purl Soho in New York is my first stockist of K1S1 yarn and needles and I am thrilled that they have partnered with me to retail K1S1 exclusively for the US market. They have created a project for K1S1 already and it's available to all on their incredible blog.
the book that almost was
In 2014 I was contracted by an Australian publishing house to write a book about my journey. It marked the beginning of an incredible year that took me to new places around the globe and into the homes of creatives I very much admire and look up to for inspiration. With the help of my family, I managed to carve out chunks of time that gave me the space and quiet to write my manuscript. Just like the creative process, the process of writing was exciting, challenging and at times completely horrendous as I struggled to find the words. Overall, it was one of the most cathartic experiences of my life and one that I thoroughly enjoyed and long to do again. My manuscript was due in August this year. On the 30th July, one month out of deadline and with an almost completed manuscript under my wings, I received a call advising me that the division publishing my book was to be shut down and most titles due to be published in 2016 and 2017 were now cancelled. Mine was one of them. Many other authors suffered the same fate that day alongside many brilliant creative minds in publishing who sadly lost their jobs in the corporate reshuffle.
I allowed myself to be sad about it on the first day. On the second day, I processed what plans in motion now had to be undone. By the third day, I resolved to move on. After all, the prospect of having my own book was an unexpected privilege and delight. But it was not my raison d'être. Ultimately, writing the book had cost me only my time (albeit a lot of it). The closing of the publishing division had cost people their jobs and I can only imagine the financial consequences stemming from the closure for the various professionals surrounding the books involved to have been huge and horrible.
But what to do with the new work I had been creating since signing the deal in 2014? As you know, I work from home and I had projects stashed in every corner of the house in various stages of completion. As you also know, I work large and so we were running a little short on space. I was also in the throes of collaborating with the creatives I intended to feature in the book. I didn't know whether to stop the work or continue on in the hope that I would find another publisher to take on the project. Many of these issues are still unresolved and I have just parked it for now. This is a living example of me trying to "let go". I am trusting that the universe has something else in store for the book and in the interim I will go about making the story even better. Happily, some pieces have found new homes such as the extreme wall hanging pictured above. This now measures 3m x 7m and will be installed at Sydney Airport in the New Year.
the book that almost wasn't
And finally, the most important thing to happen in my life this year is the publishing of my Mother's book "Wishing on a Dandelion." This precious book chronicles Mum's story of living with a terminal disease called Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. This disease is the family curse: Mum has lost her father and eldest brother to it in 1990 and her surviving brother sadly succumbed to the same in Januray 2014. It is highly likely that subsequent generations will be affected. Mum had to pursue self publishing after a number of mainstream publishers "rejected" the manuscript, unanimous in their assertion that people don't want to read about terminal illness. But I think they got this one wrong and I am proud of my Mum for doing whatever it took to get her story out to the world. Mum's fight for life was awe inspiring to behold and should this disease ever cross my path I will look to her example of how to care for myself, manage the stress and essentially prepare for the end with dignity and grace. Mum's life saving double lung transplant in 2009 spared us all from a deep and shocking loss, something we all face at some point in our life. Her 11th hour reprieve proved to be a powerful lesson in gratitude and one which completely transformed me. Without this disease entering our lives and Mum's careful and strategic management of it, my dormant creativity may never have been ignited and Little Dandelion would certainly not exist. Stories like my Mums remind us all of our humanity and what is most important in our lives - love, good health, hope in our hearts, trust in something bigger than ourselves (whatever that may mean to you), compassion and empathy for others. Everyone has an incredible story to tell and they deserve to be heard. You can purchase a copy of Mum's book here.
I promise my future newsletters won't always be this long.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.