Wool Noir is my second batt club, and it features dark, brooding colorways with an accompanying barnyard mystery.
(I have to pause here to say that spellcheck doesn’t recognize the word “noir,” and would prefer I change it to “Nair,” which is ludicrous.)
There are so many things that I’m enjoying about hosting a club. Generally, I only make 3 or 4 batts of a single colorway, so it has been a lot of fun – and a lot of math! – working out a process for large batches. Plus, it’s always quite satisfying to see a big pile of uniform batts waiting in orderly rows to be sent to their new homes.
I also enjoy packing each mailer with fiber, goodies, and a note. It feels like sending care packages to treasured spinners across the continent.
My most favorite part of the club, however, is that my husband Bill writes a little story for each shipment. Very early in our relationship, Bill shared a short story with me that he had written for our college art “magazine” (aka 4 sheets of paper stapled together – our tiny college is primarily a science school). I loved it, and his creative writing helped me see another side of the mostly rational, not-very-emotive guy I was dating. The story involved a Being of Grain Alcohol that was waiting to have lunch with his cousin, who I think was a comet. Like, none of it makes sense in my brain nearly 20 years later, but at the time, it was a profound awakening, and admiring Bill’s writing remains one of my favorite memories of our early relationship.
Periodically over the last two decades, I remind Bill of this story and try to enchant him into writing again. He’ll politely give the idea a bit of thought, but that’s as far as it goes. He shares a few ideas but never puts pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. His other concerns – usually overdue farm or house work – end up taking priority.
When he offered to write for the batt clubs, I eagerly encouraged the plan. For the first batt club, focused on unicorns, Bill wrote a short story in rhyming verse, that easily fit on the back of the batt tags. He dreamed up a sweet, adventurous, shrewd unicorn lamb named Cora, who had sparkling wool and could fly.
He also complained, monthly, that the back of the batt tag was too small a canvas, and could he please have more space next time.
For Wool Noir, I removed the restrictions and encouraged him to write as much as he’d like. The story is fully his, and he has been drawing inspiration from our own farm. I love talking over his ideas and brainstorms. Reading his draft usually makes me giggle and always brings tears to my eyes. Bill is such a logical person, so focused on pragmatic concerns, and I really appreciate the chance to set aside conversations about solar panels, hay prices, and potato varieties, for the opportunity to discuss the talking roosters and flying sheep that live inside his head.
I hope club members enjoy the stories that accompany the fiber shipments, but to be honest, it’s for totally selfish reasons that they are included. Not only am I able to demand that Bill write me a story, but I get to set a deadline for him to do it. It’s pretty fantastic.
Below is the first part of the Wool Noir mystery. I’ll post parts two and three after club members have received them. If you have theories about solving the crime, I hope you’ll share them with us below!
Chapter One: An Imposing Shadow
The last beams of the day’s sunlight were still tickling the treetops as Cora descended upon the unruly mob. The red and gold rays of illumination had been holding their own against diminishing flashes from a departing thunderstorm. But now, the nighttime with its comforting darkness was arriving quickly, chasing the light away, revealing the first twinkling stars overhead.
It was immediately clear that a great discord had overcome the flock– enough so that none of them noticed Cora, the world’s only lamb unicorn detective (not something that you see every day) until she joined their circle. Accusations and recriminations spiraled about like a vortex of autumn leaves. Cora spied a single ewe that seemed to be trying to remain above the fray. She approached, showed her credentials as a private investigator, and offered her services.
“What’s your fee?” This ewe, Martha, was the oldest ewe on the farm. She looked it, too. Cora thought that her eyes betrayed a weariness, possibly from leading her flock for many years. Standing in the door to the barn, she was casting a long and imposing shadow. Weariness aside, Cora could tell that this was not a ewe to mess with.
“I get paid in feed,” was the response from Detective Cora. “My rate is 2 pounds of corn per day. Plus expenses.”
Martha smirked as she explained the problem with this: “Well then, you’re of no use. You see – that’s our problem. All of our corn has been stolen.”
“If you want my help, I’m sure we can work something out.” Cora offered, and Martha nodded in acceptance, adding with a welcoming note “There’s some hay in the feeder in stall two. Alfalfa. Good stuff. The rest of the flock isn’t eating any of it because they’re all worked up over the missing corn. And while half goats are arguing with the flock, the other half are MIA, having been accused of thievery. Go have a nosh as an advance, then come back when you’ve had your fill. I’ll tell you all about what happened. We could use an outside eye to figure it out.”
Cora returned the nod with a thankful shake of her own but had just one question before going to collect her advance. “Everyone on the farm seems worked up about this except you. How are you able to stay so calm?”
All signs of weariness faded as Martha considered her answer, replacing it with a surprising playfulness. “I’ve been in charge of this flock a long time, because I follow certain rules. One of the most important rules is ‘Save the Drama for the Llama’.”
Nodding as if she understood what this meant, Cora made her way into the barn to find her proffered hay. As she was taking her first bite and reflecting on Martha’s comment, she heard a commotion in the next stall. A young rooster – looking insane without half of his barred feathers – managed to fly over the stall landing on Cora’s nose and scratching it with his spur.
“Ouch – watch it buddy!” yelled Cora, with more than a little frustration. The rooster introduced himself as Tailpipe, and apologized.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to hurt or scare you. It’s hard to fly during my molt. Listen – I overheard you talking to the big crazy one about the corn heist-“
“Yeah, Martha. Don’t trust her. I know what happened to the corn… she took it. She took it all…”
To be continued…