winter/summer temple – scouring and offerings and tiny delights

this afternoon as i was taking the kitchen scraps out to the compost bin, i noticed a blue dyed lock of wool in the grass. apparently it has been there for about two weeks now, but i only just noticed it. it’s faded and a bit weathered, but i think that adds to the charm and i’m going to add it as a tiny delight to the thread that i am spinning for a divination cloth to be woven at another time. 

a piece of firewood as an altar with a faded blue lock of wool and the edges of my colorful dress

to me, tiny delights are both an offering of joy in small things and a way for me to bring a bit of light into my less joyful moments. 

tiny delights can be anything, really. but mostly they are tactile memories and visual moments that spark a positive feeling. there have been times when those feelings have been fleeting and in short supply and i have learned to catch and cherish them in little frozen moments in time. 

finding a faded lock of wool that must have blown out of my lap as i was carding this past summer doesn’t sound very joyful at first glance, but the process of that lock coming to me and becoming what it is is encapsulated in it. and now, every time i see this small variation in the threads of a future divination cloth, i’ll think of my summer temple and the joy i had in finally being able to work with the fleeces i bought as i was recovering from covid last spring and the work that i was able to put into processing them this fall and just the simple joy and Tiny Delight of finding a lock of wool the exact colors that i have been trying to reproduce in the dye pot just hanging out in the grass for 2 weeks. 

the first step to creating sacred thread is to create a sacred work space. a working temple of sorts. this is going to look a lot different than what most people think of when they think of sacred space, but in practice the bones are the same. 

a spindle with grey wool to be spun and a lock of faded blue wool ready to be added to the thread.

materials needed:

a work space – quiet(ish), out of the way and not close enough to disturb the neighbors is what i prefer. 

water- for purification and scouring, but also for drinking! this is hot and dirty work and you need to stay hydrated. self care is sacred too. 

this past summer we had several thunderstorms and i collected that water in rubbermaid bins and buckets to wash my fleeces in. Thunderwater!

fire – a tealight candle in a jar will do. the wind here is pretty constant, so a fire resistant jar helps the flame to not need constant relighting, but fire is optional and many times i just use a bowl of water instead. on red flag days, it’s good to keep the flames to a minimum. 

an offering – to the Land, the wights and the Gods. this depends on Who you are offering to, of course. 

and a small altar/shrine to leave the offerings and ask for assistance and blessings on the work. i use a piece of unsplit firewood turned up like a table, but you can use a bucket or a table or the ground itself. it’s all good. this work gets really messy and i’m always prepared to have to set some parts up in other places as time goes on. 

a summer day behind my garage. there is a table set up for processing fleece and green trees all around the concrete slab.

i begin by sweeping the leaves and brush off of the concrete and setting up my workspace. 

light the candle, pour the water, offer to the Land, wights and Gods for safety, blessings, and good work and give thanks for the use of the space, and then i get to work. 

this time around, the fleeces were very lanolin heavy and unskirted so i wore a mask and gloves to make sure that i didn’t give myself tetanus or trigger my asthma with the fine particulates that shake out of the fleece. safety is important! this is stinky and dirty work and this fleece has been sitting in my ancient open garage for 5 months now. who knows what beasties live beneath that yellowed surface. 

to come back to tiny delights, i find sorting wool and picking out large bits of brambles a tiny delight. it’s tedious, but also calming and relaxing while sitting out behind the garage with some music playing and all afternoon in front of me. 

i sort the wool by usability and skirt out the poopy bits and the felted bits and the bits with too many burrs. this fleece was a shearing demonstration fleece, so there were several second cuts (shorter locks where the shearer missed and went back over twice) that i picked out of the mess. i find that there is really no bad fleece, just fleeces that are not suited to some tasks.

after skirting and sorting, i have a table full of fleece piles! and it’s time to start the real fun! (and the long wait…) it’s fermented suint time!

a white resin table with piles of sorted dirty fleece.

suint is sheep sweat and holds a lot of potassium salts. when mixed with rainwater,  the natural bacteria of that sheep’s microbiome, lanolin, heat and time, then the mixture turns itself into a naturally soapy and soupy magnificent and stinky brew that once rinsed produces a gorgeous and lovely pile of clean wool to comb. i definitely recommend a mask and gloves for this part. the smell is not for the weak stomached; it’s a bit like a cross between a barnyard and a baby’s diaper. hence  placing your workspace a good ways from your neighbors and your house. 

this year i collected the rainwater from a few rather intense thunderstorms. my hope was to energize the process and use the wool that i’ll be processing for spinning thread for divination cloths and the thunderwater adds an extra layer of energetic purification. and that seemed to work quite well! 

i added the raw piles of wool to the bins of rainwater and pushed them under the surface before covering them with a lid to keep the flies out. maggots in the water is not a deal breaker, but it’s kinda gross to have to rinse out in 2-4 weeks. 

a purple rubbermaid bin filled with murky brown water.

this is the part where i talk about microanimism and the small friends who are now working so hard to clean my fleeces. when i set out the offerings to the Land the wights and the Gods, i was also thanking the bacteria and yeasts and fungi that ferment the suint and clean my fleeces. several years ago, i got a bee in my bonnet to learn how people scoured fleeces before the advent of unicorn power scour and i discovered the fermented suint method. it works so well, that the first batch of fsm wool i experimented with in a 5 gallon bucket in my bathroom shower (i do not recommend anyone do this.  my house did not smell very nice) came out white and clean and with vegetable matter that just fell out as i was carding. hooray for beasties!

the bacteria is what causes the smell, but they are anerobic and when exposed to oxygen they die and the dry wool just smells like wool and lanolin from that point on. the process of just trusting the little beasties to do the work and clean my fleece is such a tiny delight to me. i spin so much joy into my thread just from remembering the work that was done while i waited almost a month for the beasties to do their thing and live their generations in the sheep soup.

a garden wagon with rinsed fleece waiting to drain a bit and a purple lidded tub of fermenting fleece.

and the best part is, those beasties are still going. i save a couple buckets of the stinky water overwinter and add it to my new fleece ferments to help the process go faster next year. 

so back to the process, after 3-6 weeks depending on the weather, it’s time to take the fleece out of the soup and rinse and rinse and rinse it. this was a cool fall so i left it for almost 5 weeks. (i would have started much earlier if i had been feeling better. the warmer the weather, the faster the ferment) 

if it’s not too windy, i’ll lay the slightly acrid smelling rinsed wet wool all over the grass for some natural oxyclean and to dry out in the sun. a little breeze is good, tho and adds an additional purification process as well as helping to dry faster. it takes a few days of turning and fluffing up for the fleece to dry. this is definitely not short and fast, and sometimes it will rain and the fleece has to dry yet again, but that’s ok. it’s expected and part of the process.

clean dry wool on my desk being separated into locks for combing.

once the wool is dried, i keep it in pillowcases and laundry baskets until i need it for a project. never keep it in plastic unless you know that it is bone dry (which is also bad for the wool) or it will develop mold.

this is the initial ritual. the first scouring and offerings made to begin the process of spinning thread for sacred purposes. 

i save a small amount of the first sample of each fleece to not only test its mettle and find its character, but to spin an offering in thanks for all the work done and as a promise for things to come. 

footprints both human and animal in the snow covering my workspace behind the garage.

it’s winter now and i have a lot of wool to card and comb and spin and weave while the winter winds and snow cover my temple space outside. and each afternoon i walk out to take my kitchen scraps to the compost bins and thank the spirits of rot and decay for all that they do to bring life and cleanse the Land every day. 

i leave offerings to the Land, the wights and the Gods and a little extra to help the critters who live in the miniwoods and fields survive the winter. 

and sometimes i find a lock of wool that escaped my summer escapades and add that as a tiny delight to my spinning.