Ferrara-Pisani: A Fiber Journey through Emotional Places

words and photos by: Marilyn J.Ferrara-Pisani

A clap of thunder brought me back to the moment. Sitting in front of my wheel, I looked hard at the wool in my hands. It had been cold, gray, and rainy for the past week. A few hours earlier, I’d pulled out my drum carder and decided to make a few batts from some of the beautiful Jacob fleece I had washed and separated into piles of grays, whites, blacks, and even a pile with tan overtones. My mood was pretty damp, and I’m pretty sure I said out loud, “might as well make one that matches the weather.” Two batts, affectionately named Storm Clouds were created, and it was those that I was in the process of spinning. 

As I continued spinning, I began to wonder and then recount, how often my creativity has been influenced by where I was physically as well as emotionally. 

With our move several states away, where the temperatures would be warmer and seasons different, I was encouraged by friends to try new fibers. Living in the South would offer me the opportunity to become more familiar with plant fibers that were new to me: cotton, hemp, and linen for example. I was also encouraged to entertain new projects instead of knitting mostly socks and mittens. Though truth be told, Western North Carolina does get cold. I could learn to needle felt, knit bags, and perhaps make wall art. Emotionally I was charged for sure. Intrigued now by the thought that my fiber journey could actually be influenced by more than the physical places we lived, I went to my wool room, opened the old chest that held so many fibers – spun, unspun, leftover bits of old projects – and realized every piece was an actual expression of an event that words would have left hollow. 

There was angora yarn spun to make a wedding shawl for our future daughter-in-law. A lace weight yarn spun from my bunnies’ angora. It was delicate and just a tick above thread. A reminder of the delicateness of marriage and at the time, an expression of my apprehension entering into a mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship. It was a fragile place for sure. 


When my brother-in-law was undergoing chemotherapy, my sister asked if I could make him a pair of mitts to wear because his hands were often cold during treatment. The Babydoll Southdown roving, full of neps and noils, made a textured yarn that was also easily washable. As I knit those mitts, I believe the yarn itself had me saying, “This is only a bump in the road.” I repeated that the entire project. 

There was the lockspun Wensleydale full of confusion, twists, and turns. It was spun during a time of personal illness and job loss that created financial hardship and actually necessitated our move. How horribly sad I was to have to leave the place where our children were raised. I dyed it a deep blue. As I turned that yarn over in my fingers, I gave thought to texture and color. 

How important color is to our self expression! I picked through the yarns in the storage chest and found another yarn created several years back. I was out early doing morning barn chores. A light snow had fallen overnight, and I was taken by the morning sun rising between breaks of blue, gray and white in the sky. Later that week, I dyed some Leicester Longwool in those very colors. The luster of the Leicester added the glow of the rising sun to the gray, blue, and white yarn. Even now, I can recall that moment. 

Then, in the bottom of the chest, I found a yarn that made me literally laugh! It was a beehive yarn. Arriving in North Carolina, I found myself getting lost, a lot. I could make it to the library though, and to venture out, I visited it often. I was grateful for the many spinning and fiber books they had available. It was then that I decided to try my hand at spinning a beehive yarn. I felt like I was in fact trying to become part of a new hive! It took me a lot of practice and patience for me to eek out a sad strand of yarn. I reasoned that new places deserved new efforts. My beehive yarn won’t win any awards, yet it expressed my determination to try. 

By the time I sat back down at my wheel, I had visited so many experiences and places in my heart and mind, and I began to wonder how many yarns, textures, and color choices were actually deliberate? I’d have to say that most were an extension of the mental and emotional places of the time in which they were created. A way to express the unknown at the time. I looked down at the fiber in my fingers and pondered what story it would eventually tell.

Marilyn Ferrara-Pisani lives in Western North Carolina with her husband, a spoiled Boxer, two rescue cats, and two angora bunnies. She loves exploring all fibers but prefers raw wools. When she is not knitting or spinning, she loves to read and garden. She can be reached at RestedRiverFiberArts@yahoo.com.

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