V McClellan loves yarn. In fact, the Kaufman resident and mother of two admits her obsession with the fiber arts is so strong, she herself calls it an addiction. Her interest in yarn goes back more than 10 years ago when her first husband bought her a loom as an engagement present.
McClellan grew up in Mesquite and graduated from North Mesquite High School in 1987. After she married, she moved to Forney and then to Kaufman in 2003.
Although horses used to be her passion, her yarn addiction soon took over and McClellan began devoting virtually all her free time to weaving.
McClellan said she soon began spending so much money on yarn she decided she needed to try her hand at making her own.
“As the kids came along, I had to scale back on my yarn budget so I decided to learn to make my own yarn,” McClellan said.
In 1999, McClellan bought her first spinning wheel and taught herself how to make thread from raw fiber by watching a video.
“I watched it about four times and then figured it out,” McClellan said.
McClellan now devotes just as much time to spinning as she does weaving.
“I kind of go in cycles, but I like spinning because I have a portable wheel that I can take anywhere,” she said.
To make yarn, McClellan takes raw fiber and spins it into thread. Once she gets two or more bobbins full of the same thread, McClellan spins them together to make yarn that she uses for knitting and weaving projects.
McClellan has purchased several looms and spinning wheels over the years, each with different features that allow her to work on a variety of projects. Her current loom is 60 inches wide and has eight harnesses that she says is large enough to accommodate most anything she would want to make. She also has two smaller looms that can be used to make smaller projects such as belts and scarves.
McClellan has four spinning wheels at home, including a replica of an 1860 Scottish castle wheel. She also owns three others –an antique one in Boston that she’s still trying to figure out how to ship, one on loan to someone in Oak Cliff and one being made by a man in California.
Although McClellan said she would love to have a full-time career in fiber arts, she currently works as an executive assistant for an oil and gas company in North Dallas, a job she’s held for 15 years.
McClellan always has some sort of yarn project within arm’s reach. In fact, she even takes knitting projects to work so she will have something to do when there’s down time.
Weeknights she can often be found spinning thread in her living room as her kids watch television. On the weekends, she tries to find time to set up her loom and make projects from the seemingly endless supply of yarn that she has amassed over the years.
McClellan said she has some raw wool that a shepherd from Scurry gave her, but she admits that she has to be careful about bringing raw fiber in the house because it tends to aggravate her son’s asthma.
”I keep the batches in the garage and then send it to a processor to clean,” McLellan said.
McLellan said when she gets the fiber back from the processor she usually dyes it herself.
“I decided I was going to inventory and weigh all my yarn. I quit at 100 pounds when I hadn’t even put a dent in it,” she said.
Although her projects include sweaters, socks, scarves, shawls and mittens, McClellan admits her current craze is dishtowels. By the time she completes the dishtowels, they will each have 490 threads, each eight yards long.
McClellan said preparation time is far more time consuming than the actual weaving process since it takes about four hours to measure the yarn before it can be transformed into something on the loom. The yarn is measured on something called a warping reel.
After she measures the yarn, McClellan generally spends another four hours setting up the loom for a specific project. Consequently, McClellan tries to make multiples of each project so she will not have to change the loom out in between projects.
So far, McClellan has not sold any of her handmade pieces but said she gives plenty of her things away as gifts. McClellan said she sometimes trades yarn for other handcrafted items or services.
“I probably give away 60 percent and keep the other 40 percent,” McClellan said.
McClellan said she also enjoys the luxury of wearing only hand-knitted socks that she makes in a variety of colors.
“I wear a pair every day except during the hottest part of the summer,” McClellan said.
McLellan said she enjoys wearing the things she makes and takes pride in her work. In fact, one of her red-white and blue cup towels will never be used to dry a dish, but instead she intends to frame it.
“I’ve had people try to buy something off my back, but so far no one’s been willing to pay what they are worth to me,” McClellan said. “I don’t know what I’ll do if they ever are willing,” she said with a laugh.
McClellan’s long-term goal is to make a tartan kilt from start to finish.
She also wants to learn the dying arts of bobbin lace and tatting.
In fact, about the only yarn art she hasn’t mastered is crocheting.
“I can’t seem to get the hang on using just one needle,” she said.
Even when she can’t take her portable wheel, McClellan still can make yarn using a hand spindle.
“That’s how yarn was made before the spinning wheel was invented,” she said.
Her children, C, 10, and I, 7, also have taken up the art form, using the smaller looms to make projects of their own.
For the past two years, McClellan and her children have entered their creations in the Kaufman County Fair and have brought ribbons home for virtually all their entries in the creative arts categories.
“Our main reason for entering the fair is to draw attention to the art and hopefully get more people interested in it,” she said.
McClellan also is working with Kaufman County Texas Cooperative extension agent Katie Phillips to try to form a fiber arts guild.
Anyone who is interested in learning weaving or spinning or who would like to join a fiber arts guild can contact McClellan at (xxx) xxx-xxxx or Phillips at (xxx) xxx-xxxx.
:giggle: I've already had 1 phone call from it....whee!!!!!!!!!