Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Red Post

First up, the least red:
red 020

This is the pile of handspun yarn I bought at LaLana Wools in Taos. It's a fluffy woolen dubbelmossa, a doubled hat, so it is two layers thick all over, and four over the ears where it folds up. Warm! and best of all, it fits :). It was interesting knitting with handspun yarns spun by other people. These are singles, and knit up nicely, but skewed slightly when I washed the hat to block it:

red 007

Singles have twist inherent, of course. That twist will torque in some knitted constructions, which can be used to advantage. Here, there is not enough skew to worry me; in a sweater I'd be more annoyed. I have enough yarn left for some mitts, perhaps fingerless, and again, the skew will no irritate me there either.

Next up is this cowl, now red:
red 022

having been thrown into a dyepot. I have not worn it. I took a good look at it in its previous incarnation, and decided it was just not the right colors, so I threw it in a crock pot with some red dye (people who know me will not be surprised). Now, it goes nicely with everything I own! (Again, people who know me will not be surprised). I liked the close up of the colors:

red 023

Several yarns in the cowl were multi-colored, so they took the red dye in their own way. Yes, the irony of buying multi-colored rovings and over-dyeing them is not lost. I updated my Ravelry project page with these new photos: the pattern information is there too.

Speaking of red:
red 004

This is commercial yarn, from a flock in NY, which came to me white:
red 001

I actually thought about knitting it up in white, but, alas, could not. It is part of my allotment as a member of a wool-and-fiber CSA from Jenna's Coldantler farm in upstate NY. The wool is crisp and crunchy, good also for a hat, and will be taken with me as knitting on my next trip. I was not sure if the amount would be enough so I added a few skeins of handspun to go with it: the top one I over-dyed (and yes, it was multi-colored rovings I purchased to spin, then yes, I over-dyed the dyed yarn.....):
red 016

In the photo you can see some of my very favorite knitting needles, the funky all-one-piece nylon ones from the 50's, by Susan Bates. I loooooooove them, and other people seem to not, so I collect them whenever I find them (thrift stores, friend's stashes, estate sales, yard sales, whenever).

Also? I have neglected to brag about this:
red 010

A *gift* from Deb, as a thank you for weaving her silk shawl last summer. I put gift in quotes because I made her give it to me. It's embroidery, using her handspun yarns, and was her gallery piece for several conferences this year. At some point, I just told her she needed to give it to me, and she did. I should be embarrassed, but I'm not. I'm incorrigible :D!

Why all the red? Well, it's seasonal, cheerful, festive, pretty, I like it a lot, and one of my favorite little elves is wearing it this year:
Marin elf

Merry Christmas! or Happy Solstice! or happy other holiday, whatever you may celebrate.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Layers of Meaning

We were driving through Arizona on our way to Canyon de Chelly, when I spotted a very small brown road sign for the Hubbell Trading Post. We screeched to a halt and turned into the driveway. I was totally unprepared: I did not know it still existed, nor did I know it was a National Park Site, nor did I know we were anywhere near it (because, doh, I did not know it still existed).

The was a pasture with churro sheep(!), a guard llama, and a guard dog. There was a visitors center, and then there was the (tiny!) trading post, living quarters and stable. There were carts and buggies in the stables, which smelled of horse, but no horses were there at present.

John Hubbell played an integral part in the re-settlement of the Navajo after Kit Carson slaughtered many, then rounded up and marched the survivors to Fort Sumner NM in the 1860's. A fragment of the Navajo population had finally returned to their homeland, decimated by war, disease, marching for 300 miles and years of incarceration. Hubbell, and several other trading posts, began to supply goods to these survivor/returnees in exchange for weavings, which the traders then sold back East.

In order to sell native-made rugs to picky Eastern householders, traders had designs drawn up that would suit their homes, designs based on Turkish rugs, or rugs that the buyers would see as familiar patterns.

Paintings were made of these designs, and then potential customers would pick out what they liked, the weavers would look at the painting, and then weave up the commission. The rugs we know today as Navajo designs are based on these paintings. Previous to the Trading Post Period Rugs, Navajo weavings were mostly striped blankets, some with geometric edgings including triangles and points.

The paintings were there.

They hang on the walls of the trading post, along with examples of baskets. There was a case of silver and turquoise jewelry, at which I barely glanced, making my way into the Rug Room.

There were stacks and stacks of rugs. Size, color and quality varied, and the prices were well beyond what I could invest. I searched anyway. There were some that I thought I might be able to stretch for, but (not being much of a Navajo rug collector) I resisted the big ones (even though I looked through them!).

There were a few very small rugs, and some saddle blanket sized, some even smaller, decorative, including an oddly colored, poorly woven one I thought was charming. It was what we think of as a traditional Navajo design, but the colors were irregular, and some of the yarns were larger grist, making it lumpy, and hard to beat properly with the finer yarns.

The proprietor told me it was woven by a 90 year old grandmother, who still lives on her own, doesn't see well, and is not as capable as she once was, which I also found charming. Being new to this grandmother business, I thought it was a good investment of my few $$.

I picked up some churro yarns, and we were writing up the ticket, when I spotted this:
hubble 002

How could I resist? There are sheep! There is even a black sheep! There was the desert, with distant mountains and clouds, just what we were seeing on our drive through AZ and NM. It was beautifully woven, the colors were lovely, and the yarns and beat were even, and it was sheep!

It is a non-traditional design, one based on the weaver's imagination rather than a prescribed set of patterns. It's what I like in contemporary work, not blind following of tradition, but good use of traditional techniques to make a contemporary weaving. This weaver was a young woman, in her 30's, not so very well known to the trading post staff.

I changed my mind, had the purchase switched to this one, (the price was the same as the one I had chosen previously) and the proprietor was annoyed with me. I knew why. The grandmother-weaver must have been a friend, she knew much about her, and was encouraging the sale. The grandmother-weaver probably needed the money from the sale for the coming winter.

It made me stop and think. I had to decide: support the grandmother-weaver or the new younger, contemporary woman? I teach weaving. I want younger people to learn to weave, to be able to support themselves with their weaving, to keep traditions alive. I'm not a collector of Navajo textiles, much as I love their designs.

I bought the one that charmed me. I bought the younger woman's work. I bought the better weaving.

I wish I could have purchased both. I like to think my near-purchase left a ghost of attachment on the grandmother-weaving, and the next person in will buy it.

Now? I will take my second pile of churro yarns:
hubble 003

And head to the studio to weave my non-traditional designs in my very traditional knotted pile techniques.

I hope I chose wisely.