Wednesday, April 26, 2006

For The Love of It

silk bag front

Who can predict the paths our lives will take? I am often asked how I got into weaving (or dyeing or spinning or beads). I can't remember. Weaving, at least, is part of my alien abduction event, a story for another day.

But really, I think, the core of the question is: why do we stick to it? Why do we do this stuff?

It must be fun. But it's not always.

It must be satisfying. But it's not always.

It must be rewarding. But it's not always.

It does not make economic sense. Neither as a consumer nor as a producer is the creation of textiles the path to riches. We consumers know there is no justification for spending $20 on sock yarn when socks are $6 a pair. And very few of us have been able to put a price on our work that brings satisfaction in the selling.

So it does not make us rich or famous or beautiful or sophisticated (hah!). But we persist. We knit and spin and dye and weave, and sometimes fling beads on everything, and call it good.

It has to be for the love of it.

It is rewarding to be capable. It is fun to solve little dilemmas, invent ways around blockades, create a finished work that suits, or fits, or is the right color, or feels just right (or not, and there are lots of *or nots*). It is satisfying to just make things.

That can't be all that sustains this practice. It might be an ingrained need to keep busy, an ancestral link to people who made things, an inherited ability to create. It might be Adult onset ADD.

Or it might just be for the love of it.

There are the people. Real people, in needlework groups, guilds and at conferences, who understand without words, share the same passion for the inexplicable, and provide support, encouragement, answers and companionship. The conncections we make are sometimes lasting, often important.

I've been encouraged, taught, helped, advised, congratulated and commiserated with by people who know little else of my life, but know that the textiles I create are important to me. The people who have done this are important to me. The people I meet at conferences and in classes are important to me, even if I meet them only once, or if I see them once a year, or once a month. They can be important even if they are virtual and I just read their blogs. We have a common language, an understood vocabulary, and such contact sustains me and keeps me doing all of this.

Textiles are a basic commodity all over the world. We in the developed West have a ruptured view of what it takes to create those textiles: on the whole, we are removed from the process. Those few of us who raise fiber animals, process the fiber, spin it, felt it, dye it, knit it, crochet and weave it, enjoy a connection with this basic commodity that overrides age, class, country and language barriers. We can communicate, on this subject, without distinction.

I once thought it was just so with textile people, until I went with my sister to a Rose Society meeting. The people there had that same enthusiasm about their plants as we do about textiles. Old and young, well heeled and penniless, they communicated with enthusiasm, shared where exotic and rare plants could be found (and how to rustle a clipping and sprout it!). Their eyes glowed and their hands waved as they talked about their passion: roses.

My sister is also a birder, her friends are birders, and much traveling surrounds her birding activity. Just like my life in textiles. My sons leap off of cliffs, and travel to places to find higher cliffs to leap off. They hang with friends who leap. They throw themselves down mountains, and then labor back up them, with ropes and bikes and snow-cats. Then they throw themselves back down.

Perhaps, to me, people who care about something are more interesting. People who do things are more interesting. People who have found things to be interested in, are interesting.

It's easy to be on the sidelines and criticize. It's easy to read all about it and think that you know. But the real evidence is in the doing. The real joy comes from doing, creating, and sharing that creation with people who understand, who don't say "but you could buy that for cheaper, and not waste all that time".

At the end of the process, I've enjoyed the time spent, *and* I have a product. Which, more often than not, I put in a box and jump right back in a make another.

It's not the product, although ostensibly that's why we start (I need a new shawl. heh.). It's the process, which, as we work through the projects, becomes more ingrained, easier to do, and in a meditative, thoughtless way (as in no thought is required to sustain the activity, we can just *do it*). Fingers dance across the stitches, stretch the fiber into yarn, and the mind is free to think, to remember, to contemplate, to plan, and to give thanks that over 30 years ago, the fingers started down this path.

It must be for the love of it. Why else?

Monday, April 24, 2006

Blue Monday

Valerie was right in her comments last post: dyeing was inevitable.

Box of wool, dyed and ready to be sent off to Morro Fleece Works to be blending into roving:

blue wool

an antidote to the white silk weaving. Also, ongoing Fir Cone shawl (from Folk Shawls):

fir cone progress

Not very picturesque, eh? But those mountains and valleys are indicative of the completed center panel, as I now work around the border patterns.

All this under the stern eye of Commander Mojo:

mojo commander

who is getting used to his surroundings, and is training his captors to do his every bidding.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Inch By Inch

and row by row, small things are happening.

Some silk yardage is on the loom:

silk shawl

30/2 silk sett at 48, 1100 ends, woven with 30/2. Just starting out: I had to stop and order more heddles, luckily I caught the shortage before I started sleying. I've had the loom for over 25 years, and apparently never needed more than 1000 heddles (until now). I now have 1500. It may be another 25 years before I need them all, but I'm prepared.

The silk fabric has a (very) subtle texture: there are 20/2 silk threads spaced randomly across the warp, which I think you can just barely see here:

silk shawl3

They will be more evident after finishing, as of now I live on hope.

Also inch-by-inching along on a cotton pickup band for the CNCH demo:

CNCH pick up band

A Latvian design, done in somewhat untraditional colors, the red is classic, but the remainder not so much.

In hunting for something else, I found a long lost, thought-never-to-be-found-again small silk band:

pickup band

This is a sample, I still have the larger band. I used to take this around in my class stuff, but it went missing about 3 years ago. As small and as light as it is (about 5 inches long), I just assumed it had gotten thrown away, or attached itself to someone's clothing and was never to be seen again.

I was happy to see it, and it inspired a desire to do more of the same, fine threads and all. So more silk spinning is the result:

inch by inch

inch by inch.

I've been distracted too:


Mojo. Who apparently likes to sing along with the blues. He is prowling and getting used to his new home, not quite sure yet. I haven't had a cat in the house for about 30 years: cats outside, and barn cats, and garage cats, but not house cats. The things I have to put away in a safe place are legion :-).

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

A Bit of Much Needed Red

This is just too cheerful not to share:

Kerry Blue yarn

I needed that! Contrasts nicely with the gray that is *here* these days. I've been traveling, and I know the weather is better elsewhere. I hope you people in CO are enjoying it!

This is approximately 1800 yds. of two ply Blue Faced Leicester, for the Kerry Blue Shawl from this book. The pattern does not specify yardage needed (darn!) so if anyone knows if 1800 will be enough, please let me know. I have plenty of time before starting this: I am still in the throes of Fir Cone Shawl, from this book. Kerry Blue might be a month or so away.

Here is the dime shot:

dime yarn

I don't have any more of this dyed BFL, the dyeing of which I chronicled many posts ago. If the pattern needs more yardage, I'll use this for something else. We are nothing if not flexible here. On this subject. At this time.

Well, okay we are not flexible, but I have several shawls in the queue that I'd be happy to knit. And I can spin something else for Kerry Blue, perhaps even something blue? Yardage anyone?

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Eating Crow

Today's dye samples:


I know the formulas to dye camouflage clothes now. Woo. Hoo. Perhaps the yarn is not so colorful, but wait! What is that strange light? Is it emanating from the sky? And, are these samples hanging, dare I say it?, outside??

Yes, perhaps I spoke too soon:


In this photo, although you probably can't see them because of scale, are two crows, flying around and laughing at me. I am metaphorically eating crow. They know it.

The breezy sun gave me a chance to prepare some wool fleeces and mohair, given to me by Sue and Lindsey, which were just waiting for a good day when I could set up plywood and sawhorses outside, and skirt their stinky selves. Here is how I do wool prep:

wool mohair

Yep: skirt, bag and box, and ship it off to the mill (in this case Morro Fleece Works). It comes back clean, carded and pin-drafted. Then I can sit, one hopes on a lazy summer day, and spin and spin and spin.

Lindsey gave me two fleeces, one Romney, which I'm sending out here with the mohair from Sue, and one finer fleece, which I am dyeing as we speak. Pot after pot of blues, then it too will go off to Morro, and come back ready to spin.

It seems I was not the only one under gloomy skies yesterday, judging by your responses. Hope your various days improve, as, obviously, mine has!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Gratuitous Whining

How much can I whine about the weather? Well, today started out as rain, and then, early on:

snow yurt2

light snow, mixed with the rain. Miserable weather, eh? It just makes dyeing out on the back porch too cold!

I did a run yesterday:

dye sample book2

and another is out there cooking this morning. As you can probably tell, these runs are various mixes of blues and oranges. So yes, Charleen, greens (sort of), and some interesting neutrals.

I promise I won't bore you all with shot after shot of dye samples, but for now, that's all that is photogenic. Otherwise, you'd be seeing the most recent rows of fir cone lace, or the next bobbin of red BFL on the wheel. Weaving is on hold while I wait for more heddles to arrive in the mail: there is a reason I usually weave narrow fabrics. See? I can whine about more than just the weather: multi-faceted whining.

Thank the gods and goddesses for spinning, it is keeping me sane. That and a few books on tape. Thanks to a recommendation from Anne, I'm on my way out to the library to pick up Chevalier's The Lady and The Unicorn today, and looking forward to it. I may pick up some chocolate macaroons while I'm out, too, that ought to cheer me up. Thanks Deb, for the idea!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

And So It Begins

I dyed some wool samples yesterday, for Book 2 of the Dye Sample Books that Deb and I are doing. These are more complex colors than Book 1, and are fun to dye and see what comes out of the pot:


I was hoping to dye under blue skies and warm weather, but alas, that is not to be. Rainy weather is expected for at least the next two weeks, so I donned the rubber boots and fired up the steamer. By the end of the afternoon, I was toasty (or rather steamy) warm, so I guess there are compensations (other than all the glorious color!).