Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Last Post

[Photo: Tree with wire rope
growing right through it]
Yesterday was the annual Christmas bird count. Our team consisted of Annie who is doing her PhD on sea birds, Russ, a biologist who has done a lot of bird research at all sorts on interesting places, mostly on islands, and me. I was their handicap to help even out such an expert team. We were in charge of the southern section of Newcastle Island. Three other teams who also knew their birds covered the centre, southern and northern sections. In all it took 36 man/woman hours, or around three hrs per team. How many birds? From memory and just from my team: 1 hairy woodpecker, tons of chickadees, 2 ravens, 3 eagles, a dozen golden crowned kinglets, 2 towhees, 4 sparrows, 16 robins, 6 Anna's hummingbirds, and a host of LBJs (Little Brown Jobs)...hmmm....doesn't seem enough for a 3hr hunt. Annie and Russ were able to identify most of these just by their calls.
[Photo: X tree]
[Photo: Tree with a handle]
[Photo: Miss 2012's last day]
Along the way we saw a few interesting trees which I photographed and thought I would share.

And tonight is the last night of 2012. We will be sending off the old year with written promises of what we are NOT going to take into the new year. These promises will be written on paper and stuffed down Miss 2012's top just before she is burned at the stake on the stroke of midnight. Say goodnight and goodbye to Miss 2012.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

It takes a long time to create a masterpiece

[Photo: Black kid mohair and tussah silk]

As regular readers (my mother, my sister) of my blog know, having spun for three short sweet years in my youth before putting spinning away, I am now endeavoring to roll 25 years of non-spinning, into 6 years of intensive focused and guided catch-up. Hmm, one could read I am attempting to recapture my youth through spinning. Anyway, in other words, I am paying for those lost 25 years by working on a Master Spinning Certificate from Olds College. I am now in year four of the six year program.  
[Photo: Blending on cards and making punis]
Each year you are required to do a major spinning project--this is on top of the regular years worth of spinning homework. The first year required a project that took 25 hrs. This includes selecting the fleece/fibres, cleaning, carding, spinning and, as long as you did it yourself, the weaving or knitting into a finished product. By year three we were up to 50 hours. Year four requires 75hrs! You may think this seems counter-intuitive. As the years go by, one gets better at spinning, so you would think it would take less time. Why by year four, I should be able to dash off an exquisite evening lace shawl in an evening or two of spinning and a weekend of knitting. But it doesn't work that way. Spinning doesn't get any faster, it just gets better. Last year I timed myself and it turns out I can spin and ply a yarn a meter per minute. I timed myself again yesterday and that hasn't changed. It is just my spinning that has. I can spin a decent yarn now. My yarn has integrity even at 1 meter/minute. 
[Photo: Blending on a fur carder]
75 hours sounds like a lot of time but considering I have not finished the spinning of the yarn for this years project and haven't yet begun knitting, the 25+ hours I have already clocked, points out that 75 hours will be a breeze to achieve. Reflect on my lack of knitting prowess, and you understand it will take me at least a hundred hours to knit something given my penchant for mistakes leading to re-knitting a second or third time.
So, what has taken the 25 hours so far?  
Planning 3 hrs; teasing, 4.5 hrs; carding, weighing and blending, 5.5 hours; sampling 2 hours; spinning, 6 hrs; changing my mind, 2 minutes; dying, 3 hours; re-sampling, 30 minutes; spinning up a different batch 5 hrs 15 minutes. Total 29 hours 47 minutes.

This year I decided to make another Holden Shawlette, since 

  1. I have extensive experience with this pattern having ripped it out and re-knit it at least three times, 
  2. having made many, many mistakes in the Holden Shwalette I just finished, I can easily recognize mistakes earlier in the knitting process, and
  3. I now know that I should stick to the pattern and cast on the required number of stitches and not think that I, a mere beginner, can willy nilly adjust lace knitting patterns.

[Photo: Subtle silk colours peek
 out of the black kid mohair]
The spinning goal: to spin a delicate lace weight two ply (two ply highlights the lace pattern) that is sophisticated, subtle, soft, and silky. I selected a black super soft and fine kid mohair and blended it 85/15% mohair and tussah silk. I loved the result and after spinning 408 meters decided the subtle sophistication needed a little jazzing up so I experimented and threw silk into various dyepots to find just the right colour to add the needed jazz. I ended up sprinkle dying the silk using a variety of harmonious colours. Next I experimented more with the spinning technique and blended the silk and mohair on hand cards, then rolled it into punis to spin in a semi-woolen technique. But that didn't produce much difference in the yarn (i was looking for more loft) from the semi-worsted method and it took a lot longer, so back to the fur drum carder and I blended the fibres into large batts and stripped off sections to spin in a semi-worsted style.
Stay tuned for adventures in the knitting.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Sleigh ride - Malahat style

[Photo: Click to see a bigger picture of  3
lanes of traffic, the middle going north
 and the 2 outer going south
]

Christmas day on the wet coast (aka west coast). A day to spend time with family, so we headed south to Victoria. But up on the infamous Malahat the wet rain turned to slush and then to snow. The west coast style snow--slippery. This is where you can categorize cars and I can tell you that while Jaguars look good parked along the side of the road, we saw three hopelessly stuck in 2 inches of snow. No traction whatever. Now this may be a fault of clueless drivers or drivers who don't spend money on good winter tires or bad snow design. But three, 3, THREE, Jags! By the way, vans, Cadillac and motor-homes towing a car are also bad bets in this snow.
It is hard to knit while all this excitement is going on: texting, a friend who had kayaked across in the storm and was wondering what the road conditions were as she was an hour behind us; phoning my sister who was 30 minutes behind (and wisely decided to turn back) and receiving emails from my brother telling us the conditions were terrible and here was a link to the road web cam to prove it. I emailed back with a picture showing we already knew that but to keep an eye on that web cam as we were coming up to it and would wave as we passed it. Modern technology is wonderful.
I did manage to knit 3 inches in 3 hours, but only had two inches to show for it, having had to rip out one inch. However, I think I am 'getting' it. It's all about eye patterns (as opposed to project instruction patterns) and knowing how to see them. This instruction pattern is based on 6 rows, but every second row is a plain purl row, used to bind things together. So really it is just a three row pattern. Easy as pie, really. Except, somehow I can't make pie easily but I am working on it.
The yarn is 70% Romney wool, 10 % mohair and 20% Alpaca, purchased already dyed and in a roving from Hummingbird Fibres. I spun it up to a fingerling weight which I thought might be perfect for a simple lace scarf. I am hoping to have the scarf done as a Christmas gift for next year.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Flax to linen

[Photo: Tow and line linen]
I have been spinning linen...or flax? I guess I have been spinning flax and at some magical Rumplestilkskinian moment the flax turns into linen. And like the captive maiden's spinning, mine too turned into gold!
[Picture from Franz Eugen Köhle'sr,
Köhler's Medizinal-Pflanzen 1897
]
I didn't think I would enjoy spinning flax but I do. There is something about the neat, tidy, golden threads that tugs at your ancestral memories. It is comforting. Well...maybe not comforting in the same way that spinning wool is comforting, but linen satisfies. I don't know why, I am just reporting how it effects me. And satisfying is the way I feel after spinning flax into gold linen.


"The life of a flax plant is 100 days of thought..."

[Photo:Flax stem cross-section
Photo: Ryan R. McKenzie
]
So here are a few things I learned along the way. Flax is a plant and the fibre comes from the inner bark or bast of the stem, so the fibres are, at the longest, the length of the plant, maybe around 2 feet. To make a long story short, during the processing of separating the fibre from the plant, you can end up with a pile of short fibres (the tow) and a pile of long fibres (the line). Okay, okay linen spinners, I know, I know, I am over simplifying, but we have to keep up the interest of non-spinners. If you want to know more about the very interesting processing of flax, check out this beautiful video 'Be Linen' video. I digress...

Each of these types of fibres can be spun. The tow will produce a fuzzy yarn and the line...oh, the line flax, sigh, will produce a beautiful golden yarn. There are a variety of spinning techniques from using the classical distaff to accordion folding of the fibres. Each method is designed o allow only a few threads to draft out into the yarn yet also allowing those threads to grab their following threads to keep a continuous line of yarn forming as you spin. Then, you can spin wet or dry. Wet spun will smooth the yarn and give it a higher gloss, and dry spun allows more frizz to show. Then we can get more technical and spin with water or spit. Yes, spit, as in drool, saliva. I haven't seen proof of this, but rumour has it that saliva works on the flax enzymes, making the fibres glue together, while water helps control the flax and makes it softer, easier to spin and creates a smoother yarn, but doesn't create the glue.  

But here's the thing...you can blend linen with wool, or cotton, or silk or....who would have thought? Endless possibilities!

EDITED Dec 31, to add 2 more pictures.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Another story--A thank you gift

[Photo: Soapstone carving with
 First Nations design]
Here's another story. A heart warming story told to me over lunch the other day.  Jill (not her real name), a woman I know went to an aboriginal conference four years ago. It was a three or four day conference held at a large hotel. While there, she met one of the hotel staff members who admired a bag she carried. The bag had a First Nations design silk-screened on to it, designed by a friend, so it meant a lot to her. Jill, who coordinates a major program to support young aboriginal children and their families, has a big heart. When she was leaving at the end of the conference she gave him the bag. He was overwhelmed with her generosity.
Four years later, she returned to the same hotel for another conference and was surprised to see him and even more surprised that he remembered her amongst the thousands of hotel guests that he probably meets every year. He was excited to see her telling her he had been searching for her--for four years!   He only knew her first name, but at every aboriginal conference held at the hotel he would ask participants if they knew Jill. He never gave up and sure enough, the right conference came along and someone told him 'Yes', there was a Jill at the conference who looked like the woman he described.
He told her he was so grateful for the bag that he took it with him to South America where he knew a soap stone carver. He had the carver make a few things for her. She had just received the package and she opened her bag (you can tell Jill is more of a bag than a purse person) and brought out a large package and opened it up. Tissue paper protected a large item and many smaller ones. She carefully opened each item up and placed them on the table. They took up half the table: earrings, pendants, necklaces and a large flat panel carved with the same First Nations design that the bag had on it that had meant so much to her.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Selling my yarn

[Photo:One of Marks (ImagePlay) cards]
I am a spinner. I am learning to knit and weave to use up my spun yarns, but let's face it, I am a spinner. People often ask what do 'I do' with my spinning. I am very honest in my sheepish (no pun intended) replies 'Oh, it just piles up.' And it does. The pile of yarn gets bigger and bigger. Strangely, the pile of fleece does not get smaller. So I have an ever growing pile but every now and then, usually just before Christmas, a solution comes up -- a craft sale! So this weekend, I took my pile of yarns to a friends house where we set up in her living room and participated in the island craft walk. About 15 craftspeople take part and islanders and visitors walked from house to house looking and buying handmade items.
[Photo: ImagePlay]
I don't sell much, but I appreciate their appreciation and I enjoy the socializing. This year three of us shared a living room filled with handmade items. Cathy had made some lovely colourful pony string puppets and dolls, while Heather had shibori silk scarves and a few felted items, including a gorgeous black top with bright needle-felted elegant flowers--it sold very quickly and way too cheaply. I also brought Mark's cards with his photographs on them and his sales were as much as mine which goes to show that small purchases are sought after.
Heather and I set up our spinning wheels and Cathy setup her rug hooking frame. We gave the salesroom a working studio ambiance. We had over 30 people come through and Heather plied them with mulled wine and hot chocolate which may have contributed to the loosening of purse strings. While people shopped and we chatted, I spun and spun and added yet more yarn to my growing pile. Next Christmas season look for black mohair blended with silk. Perfect for lacework.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Yippee! It is done.

Remember this <----? It is finally finished and is now this ------>
Holden shawlette by Mindy Wilkes. 5058 ravelers have made this oh, make that 5059 ravelers have made this pattern making it one of the most popular patterns on Ravelry. Me, I made it four, maybe six times, if you count all that ripping out and re-knitting. I may even make a second one now that I know how to knit.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Fibre-related acronyms

I started to create a list of fibre acronyms, things like UFO (unfinished object) and WIP (works in progress) but I couldn't find some definitions and so, had no idea of what WIM meant (work in mind). And then I found this list from the Spindlers yahoo group and there are even more acronyms than I could ever have imagined. Here's my favorite: WHACO: Wool Housing And Containment Overflow. Very apt.

BIGHI: But I Gotta Have It
BF: Boy/ Best Friend
BFL: Blue Faced Leicester - a sheep breed
BFN: Bye For Now
BRB: Be Right Back
BTW: By The Way
BUFO: Boring UnFinished Object
CAD: Compulsive Acquisition Disorder
CREMA: Computer Reading E-Mail Addiction
CVM: California Varigated Mutant - a sheep breed
CYA: See Ya
DD: Dear Daughter
DH: Dear Husband, Darling Husband or D(word of your choice) Husband
DIL: Daughter In Law
FIL: Father In Law
FO: Finished Object
Frog Stitch: To take out stitches (e.g. Rip it, rip it, rip it)
FYI: For Your Information
GC - Gift Certificate, preferably from a fiber vendor!
GCNI: Gulf Coast Native Improved - a sheep breed
GF: Girl Friend
HALFPINT: Have a Lovely Fantasy Project, I've No Time
HOTP: Hot Off The Press
HTH: Hope This Helps
IAGW: In A Good Way
IYKWIM: If You Know What I Mean
IMHO: In My Humble Opinion
IMNSHO: In My Not So Humble Opinion
IMO: In My Opinion
IOW: In Other Words
ISO: In Search Of
JIC: Just In Case
KM: K-Mart
L8R G8R: Later Gator
LFS: Local Fiber Store/Source
LFSO: Local Fiber Store Owner
LOL: Laugh Out Loud
LP: Life Partner
LYS: Local Yarn Store/Source
LYSO: Local Yarn Store Owner
MIL: Mother In Law
MAS: Magazine Acquisition Syndrome: The habit of collecting magazines
MVBFITWWW: My Very Best Friend in the Whole Wide World
NA: Not Affiliated
NAYYY: No Affiliation Yadda Yadda Yadda
NIPS: Spin, backwards; when you have to unspin something you messed up, or to use the fiber with something else.
NOSTEPINDE/NOSTEPINNE: See next...
NOSTY: A nostepinde or nostepinne - a carved stick used to wind a center-pull ball of yarn.
OFC: Obligatory Fiber Content*
OIC: Oh, I see
ORF or ORFIE: Orifice (on a spinning wheel)
ORF or ORFIE HOOK: a tool used to pull fiber thru said orifice
OSC: Obligatory Spinning Content
OT: Off Topic
OTOH: On The Other Hand
ROFL: Rolling On Floor Laughing
ROFLMAO: Rolling on Floor Laughing My @$$ Off
ROFLMBO: Rolling on Floor Laughing My Butt Off
SABLE: Stash Accumulation Beyond Life Expectancy
STASH: Our caches of fibers and yarn
sig: signature lines at end of email telling who you are, etc.
SIL: Sister/Son In Law
SIP: Spinning in Public (and you're encouraged to do it!)
SO: Significant Other ~or~ Spin Off depending on the context in which used
ThUD: The Usual Disclaimer
TIA: Thanks In Advance
TINK: to KNIT backwards, for when you must work a mistake backwards
one stitch at a time (see FROG above also.)
TMS: Too Much Stash
TPI: Twists Per Inch (Not to be confused with WPI, below.)
TTFN: Ta Ta For Now
TTYL: Talk To You Later
TY: Thank You
UDO: Un-Designed Objects
UFO: Un-Finished Object
UPGS: Unfinished Project Guilt Syndrome
USO: Un-Started Object
VM: Veggie Matter; commonly refers to all the crud in an unprocessed
fleece. Can include raw veggie matter or veggie matter that has already
been... through the sheep.
WHACO: Wool Housing And Containment Overflow
WIP: Work In Progress
WIM: Work In Mind
WM: Wal-Mart
WPI: Wraps Per Inch (not to be confused with TPI above)
YKWIM: You Know What I Mean
YMMV: Your Mileage May Vary
YW: You're Welcome

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Another story - life after death

[Photo: Protection Island lighthouse]
We met John this summer. Late fifties, early retiree. He anchored his 40' live-a-board sailboat just off Lasquiti Island. In the heat of the day we sat admiring it from shore with him. He had purchased it last year from a widow whose husband had spend over $200,000 getting it ready to sail around the world, just before the husband died. The boat sat for six years before John found it. When he retired from 32 years working in Alberta, he was desperate to live on a boat. Any boat. A hulk would do. He didn't care if it had a motor, he just wanted to live on the water. But he found a dream boat instead.  
He wasn't sure if he was up to sailing across deep seas, so he set sail with two friends, a retired FBI agent and a Navy Seal, two guys ready for any emergency, from Puget sound headed for the Baja. Off the Washington Coast they had engine troubles but John managed to jury rig some parts and they headed in to Astoria to make permanent repairs.
That was the last thing he remembered before waking up in the Portland hospital. He had been dead for 3 hours. His heart had stopped and paramedics had managed to keep him breathing. He arrived at the emergency operating room DOA and the doctor asked what the hell was he supposed to do with him. Someone said 'do what you can.' And the doctor did. John is alive 9 months later due to a series of little miracles: engine breaking down when/where it did, paramedics being so close by, the doctor doing what he could.
I asked if his friends had first aid training and had kept him breathing until the paramedics had arrived. He said they were both trained but neither had administered first aid for fear of being held liable. 
I didn't ask if they were still friends.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Judith MacKenzie - Spinner Extroidinaire

Judith MacKenzie, is the reason: I have a passion (some would call it an illness); a guest bedroom unfit for guests; and a potentially lethal bomb in the form of vacuum packed fibres and fleece and, as my husband often worries 'if just one of them pops, just one, it will have a domino effect; each bag exploding into the next until the whole house will explode outwards, with fibre bulging at every seam'.
Judith taught me to spin, and weave, and dye. She didn't just teach the techniques, she inspired with her knowledge. She taught me 30 years ago and I spun, knit and wove up a storm for a few years before my career took over and I put my loom and spinning wheel aside only to take them out again a few years ago.
Thirty years later, Judith is internationally renown. She has many articles in Spin-Off, books and DVDs (see below).  
[Photo:From Judith's textile stash - African fabric]
Two years ago, I met up with Judith on the Olympic Peninsula when I took her Tribal Textiles workshop (see the blog post here). Judith now lives in Forks, Washington, the centre of vampire Twilight country (ask any female teenager) and set up her teaching studio in an old historic building used by the local theatre group and arts groups. That building burnt down last week and Judith lost all her wheels, looms and OMG, her stash!
I know, I am guilty of wishing for a fire every now and then to clean out my guestroom but it is only a fleeting idea and it feels like such a sick thing to even think even if it is internal lighthearted humour to avoid the actual act of de-stashing. My stash isn't that exciting. It is merely a stash made by not being able to resist any fibre while I had unclaimed cash in my pocket. But consider Judith, who knows her fibres so well and has been collecting only the best, the unusual, the interesting. When at the Tribal workshop, Judith mentioned Texas mohair, I asked her what it was and she replied 'only the very best , the softest, the finest, mohair'. That night she dug into her stash and the next day presented me with a bag of it.  That's Judith. Not only does she know exactly what you need to do to improve your spinning, but she is so kind and thoughtful.
Franklyn Habit (that hilariously funny and slightly outrageous male knitter...you MUST read his blog) posted the news on his Facebook page, and Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, who also keeps us in stitches, blogged on her Yarn Harlot blog
about the tragedy. Her fan club 'Daughter's of Judith, in Ravelry have a discussion thread on it too. Friends have rallied and have created a web page 'Rebuild Judith's Studio' and have a Paypal link if you wish to donate: http://www.rebuildjudithsstudio.com/index.html#continue
I've put an amazon list of her books and videos below, but you can also purchase them from Interweave.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Never-ending Project - UFO to NEO/NEK

[Photo: My UFO weaving]
I have discovered fibre people have their own language. Their use of weird words (e.g. nep, noils, niddy-noddy, nostepenne and that is just the n's) and acronyms (KAL aka knit-a-long, VGM aka vegetable matter) can leave you confused and/or mystified. Knowing that once you understand what on earth they are talking about, you will have arrived. You can announce to the world 'Yes, world. I AM a knitter. - insert weaver, spinner, tapestry weaver, tatter, spranger, etc. Side note: And yes, I know, those last two are tough ones as only tatters and sprangers know who they are. Which means they have already arrived. In other words sprangers and tatters are born not made.
In any event I was curious to know what UFO's were and was not surprised to find that I had lots of those UnFinished Objects. Take my weaving on the 24" loom.  It just sits there waiting for me to be once again, inspired.  I am working up to it, now that I have a couple of weaving workshops under my belt this year. But I am very embarrassed to admit that in January 2010 my blog complained about it being unfinished.  My Gowd, that is almost 3 years of complaining!  

[Photo:My Never Ending Knitting (NEK)
 It just keeps repeating.
 Undo.  Redo.  Undo, Redo,
Unravel, knit, unravel, knit...]
Related to this but by no means the same, is a new acronymn, and maybe every knows this but I have a feeling I may be one of the few who knows and has this--NEO or to be more specific NEK. Never Ending Object (note NEProject or NEP has already been taken)or Never Ending Knitting. NEO or NEK is a type of UFO but the worst type. It is the project that is active and never ending. It does not sit around waiting, wishing for attention. No. It is that dastardly project that you have to work on, rip out, redo, rip out, redo, repeat. Yes, dear readers you have met my NEK, that colourful Holden shawl, the one that is so easy to do. The one on me needles for, oh, say, 10 or is it 12 months. The one where I learned about life lines. Yes, I find myself unraveling yet another row. Again. It had been living the life of a UFO for so long that I had forgotten on which needle side the un-knitted yarn should come from. And so, I knit backward instead of forward making half the shawl longer than the other half. Sigh.
On the other hand, thank god for those life lines and, I now have a WIP (Work In Progress) and not another UFO.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Blog interuptus

[Photo: Memorial in Washington DC]
Apologies for not posting. My Netbook died! Luckily I did do a backup a week before so I don't think I have lost all my newest photos from the Washington DC trip, nor my notes which for the most part were up 'in the cloud' somewhere safe. But I haven't replaced the Netbook yet so I haven't gotten all my files and myself organized.  
I am borrowing a laptop. Well, not exactly borrowing as in I have total use of...but more like I am sharing a borrowed computer. In other words I am limited in using the laptop as the rightful owner has a prior claim to it. In the meantime, I am watching the technology news as over 100 tablets are about to be released to the world. What do you recommend I buy??? In the meantime, I hope to post at least more than I have lately.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Textiles Day 3

First impressions of Washington: People are very helpful. I noticed this earlier having received emails from staff at the Smithsonian but, well, it can be easy to convey kindness, thoughtfulness, friendliness and helpfulness from emails. More importantly, I found it to be true in person. Doormen, security guards, hotel clerks, curators. They are all friendly, relaxed and helpful. Even in the National Museum of the American Indian cafeteria where there was a lineup of people desperate for coffee and food, a potentially stressful situation for the workers, but no, they took it all in stride. The were relaxed and just kept producing and serving all the while with a calm smile on their faces. This was also true of the corner Starbucks downtown, where the lineup went out the door. People seemed happy.
Second impression. Washington DC is a professional, urban city. Lots happening, lots of culture, lots of government buildings, lots of suits and ties, lots of slim working women and a ton of tourists who just may learn something from the locals.
[Photo: National Museum of the
American Indian]
I rented a bike from one of those bike stations scattered about the city. This is the way to see Washington! Although, I also saw groups of people both young and old, scooting around on Segways, those two wheeled stand-up vertical scooters.
I biked over to the National Museum of the American Indian which is a stunning building. Designed by the same architect that designed the Canadian Museum of Civilization. See my blog post about that building here.  
Built into the wall of the atriums' 4 story high lobby are prisms aligned perfectly to cast their rainbows into the bulls-eye centre of the floor at summer and winter solstice.
[Photo:Salish spindle whorls]
While there, a drummer sang and beat his drum in the centre of the atrium. It was a powerful performance with the beat of the drum going right through your being.

And it was wonderful to see, right in the entrance of the atrium, four Salish spindle whorls from home, three old ones, and a new modern glass one 'Sacred Circle' by Susan Point. One of the wooden whorls is from Snuneymuxw (top right)1840-1900, the others are from Cowichan one whorl with salmon and raven carved onto it and the other with a double-headed serpent design both from 1800-1860.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Textile Week day 1

Day 1 was get-to-know-Washington and I started with the Eastern Market. Part farmers market (the local white peaches were mouth watering good), part flea market (costume jewelry is big), part flash back to the 70's (incense, leather goods) and part international (Mali mud cloth clothes, Indian scarves and shawls). But of most interest to me was a little shop next door to the Eastern Market, 'Woven History' - Silk Road Tribal and Village Rugs.
The small, wrought iron fenced front garden was draped in colourful carpets from Turkey, Nepal, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbeckistan and half a dozen other ---stans.  Inside, carpets were stacked along 2 walls and in every corner.  Camel bridles, saddles, blankets and decoration hung on the walls, there were even shoes made from hand-woven fabrics.  I tried every pair on, hoping that the size 12 mens, or the size 6 women's might be a mistake and fit me, but alas, not one pair fit.  I felt like Cinderella, except I was looking for two woven shoes.  It was too much to take in one one visit so I plan to go back and find out more about the hand spinning that goes into all the rugs.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Textiles - full immersion

I have been blog absent for a few reasons. There was the usual summer R&R where the brain went on holiday and then the business of the university fall term starting up.  But a main reason/excuse is because I was preparing for a trip to Washington DC for a week of fibre. Three appointments with two museum research centers, a one day workshop on SouthWestern Textile Identification and Analysis and the 3day Textile Society Of America biennial symposium.
All this involved much research into collections databases, emails to collections managers, travel arrangements, scheduling and juggling appointments, etc. Then, a day before leaving I received a pre-reading list! I did a lot of reading on the airplane and have more to do.
You know when they tell you to turn off your electronic devices on planes because you will cause the engines to come to a full stop and the plane will crash and everyone will die a horrible death?  Hogwash.  Or so I thought until I sent a quick message just before take-off.  Well the engines stopped.  All of them.  It was a good thing we were still on the ground.  They had to get a mechanic in to do a reboot (of the engines, not my Blackberry).  I am not sure it was my email that did it but just in case, from now on I will be sure to turn my cell phone off until we are safely in the air.
So I arrived save and sound 9pm last night to find I made a mistake on the hotel reservation and only reserved for the last 3 days and the hotel was full! Luckily the one across the street had a room and at a very good price. Tomorrow is a free exploring day.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Spinning a cloud of camel down

[Photo:Spinning camel down
in Egmont]
The opportunity: to see the Sunshine Coast. 
The assignment: to spin camel--camel down, camel down/silk blends and camel hair and compare them. 
The resources: Spin-Off Fall 2007; hand carded punis of camel down, some with silk.
I usually mix up the two types of camel: Bactrian (2 humps from China and Mongolia) and Dromedary (1 hump from the Middle East), but I finally figured out a way to keep them straight in my mind. 'B' turned on it's side gives you 2 humps, just like the Bactrian camel.'D' turned on it's side gives you one hump, just like the Dromedary camel. Alice, the camel only had one hump, just like the Dromedary camel. There's 'a town called Alice' in Australia (also the title of a very good book by Neville Shute) where domesticated Dromedary camels have gone walkabout. Given the environmental differences between the deserts of Middle East/Australia (hot hot hot) and Mongolia (cold cold cold), which beast probably has a soft warm undercoat?  Yup, the B's, those 2 humped Bactrians.
I was given some of that Bactrian camel down, a soft carded light tan roving or top with 2" fibres. True luxurious fibres. Almost to good to spin on samples. To supplement that I bought what I can only describe as a cloud of camel down with shorter (about 3/4 to 1") length, but still very fine fibres.  I hand carded the cloud and rolled it into punis.
After spinning a few yards of the 100% down I found my spinning groove by using a point-of-contact (ie let the twist enter the drafting zone) short (around 1") backward draw.  The singles looked tight but I planned on plying them enough to open the yarn up and then have the yarn 'bloom' with a good finishing wash.
I'll include the final yarn in a post with the other samples.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Peaceful spinning

[Photo: Heading back down the
dock at sunset]
Spinning is relaxing, meditative,peaceful. I suppose that is why I do it. The sound of the wheel is like a heartbeat, woosh, woosh, and the feel of a double treadle gently messaging each leg reinforces the beat.
The other evening we held a spin-in on the island and I went to town to pick up a boatload of spinners and returned to tie up at a friend's dock. We sat in the warm evening sun spinning on her deck, spinning, chatting, enjoying the company, and looking at this view. What a relaxing way to spend a summer evening!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Stories worth hearing

[Photo:Sofa without a blanket]
Every now and then you meet someone and they tell you a stop-in-your-tracks story. Here's one I think is worth passing on. We were talking about weaving and that bought up a special woven blanket that a friend Brian had acquired from his father. Brian (not his real name) made an interesting observation that it is blankets that made a house a home. Even a tarp strung up for a cover from the elements with a blanket thrown on the ground, made that tent a home.  
Brian grew up in India where his father was a missionary. While there, his father met a very poor Pakistani blanket weaver. As was customary, Brian's father bargained with him and bought two beautiful blankets. Later, Brian was given one and he loves it. It is woven in a very complicated pattern and after all these years, it is still as beautiful as the day his father bought it. Where ever Brian lived, the blanket made his home a home.  
[Photo:Sofa with blanket.
More homey?]
When his father was on his death bed, he had one regret about his whole life. Just one. After all those years, he wished he had not bargained with the weaver. He wished he had paid the full price.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Lost .... and found at sea

Photo, design and
decoration by Laura Landry.


Readers of the blog will wonder where on earth I have been. Well, I have been up to my eyeballs spinning trying desperately to finish all my assignments for the year. D-day (driving-day) to get to Olds Alberta for year 4 class arrived and I still hadn't finished all my homework for year 3 of the Master Spinner program. The last homework assignment (spin embroidery yarns and embroider a 3 x 3" sampler) wasn't done. The thread had been spun for months but that doggone embroidery had still to be done. I embroidered for 1,000 kilometers, followed by two evenings before it got done. So on day three, tada, of level 4 class, I handed it in. Whew!
I returned home with a suitcase full of fibre and an armload of assignment instructions for the coming year. I have been back six days and still haven't had time to unpack everything. It was the Nanaimo Dragon Boat Festival all weekend and I was on the water all weekend. 
While I was away, our team, the Vancouver Island Ancient Mariners, posted a new bra on the Newcastle Channel 'bra pole'. I don't know what the original purpose of the pile was, but some years ago, it was decided that it should be decorated by bras, so dragon boaters, while out practicing add their mark. Note the miniature graduation cap on the left cup. Nice touch!
This years festival theme was the 60's, so we went as ourselves...hippies. We paired up again this year with Seventh Wave, a fantastic team from Vancouver who went Mondrian and British. Check them out.