3KCBWDAY7 Crafting Balance

Some craftspeople I know do a great variety of disciplines. How they manage I am not sure, and I cannot even say that in some cases, that the expertise is diluted by doing so many things. One person I know would likely be considered at a master craftsman level at a number of activities. It makes me a bit tired to think about it, tiredness maybe tinged with  a little envy. It isn’t wise to live in the future, but there are definitely a couple of things on the ‘back burner” that I would like to  explore. Weaving for one. But I remind myself that a floor loom is a substantial thing, and try to focus on getting good at what I have available to me. And when I take a closer look, of course, the humble rigid heddle loom, which I do have, has a lifetimes worth of potential exploration, should I so choose. Knitting and spinning are the same way. I don’t think one arrives at a place and says, “there, I am fully accomplished, time to move on.”  I just purchased the 700 plus page opus The Principles of Knitting by June Hemmons Hiatt. That hefty book is a great reminder that there is a long way to go on the path of this particular little craft.

But balance. Well, once the obsessive love affair with fibre eased a bit, as obsessive love affairs almost always do, and more balance set in, I actually think my skills started to improve. It has been in doing other things, like walking in the woods, or spending time with good people, that have freed up some of the more creative parts of my brain and hands. When balance settles in, I also find I spend more time actually knitting or spinning than I do stalking other people’s work on the internet, or indiscriminately buying any magazine or book that has knitting in the title.

So, all good. I admit to being a bit tapped out at the end of this week of daily blogging and am looking forward to going back to an approximately weekly schedule with more scope in the topics. No complaints, this has been very helpful and fun. I have been exposed to some lovely other bloggers that would not have crossed the radar otherwise. Thanks to all my family and friends who are not crazed crafters too, who had to read the daily posts! You all put up with me rather nicely.

Searching some quiet in the city I headed to Foreshore Park this afternoon for a walk in the trees. It was a bit overcast, and all the willows and poplars are budding like mad. Glorious colours, and lots of noisy birds. Aren’t we lucky?

3KCWDAY6 Improving One’s Skillset

When I first took a spinning class the instructor asked if we wanted to learn to make “novelty yarns.” “Thanks, but I don’t think so,” was my response, internally snorting and thinking, “no way, I am a traditional type. Just show me how to do the thin stuff.”

Well. The thing about spinning my own yarn is that when I did,  I started to notice all the potential aspects of the fibre that frankly, I had been a bit too clueless to notice in the milled yarn I had been working with before. Not a criticism of mill spun, because now that I know a bit more about what I am looking at, I really, really appreciate some of the mill spun offered. Gorgeous, lovely yarns. But all of a sudden, things like amount of twist, bounce, life, texture and drape came to the forefront. I have been attempting to learn how to achieve these things, in a deliberate way, and this has been very challenging at times. And then I started to look at what some of those “art yarn” types, those funky people who made yarn for its own sake, the ones that didn’t have to have a particular sober project in mind, in a whole new way. There was a website called the Yarn Museum, gone now I think, I haven’t seen it in a while. I understood the term “yarn pron”. And then I started trying to do some of them myself. It is so much fun!!

So, I have made some really awful combinations. Coils are hard. I tried to spin in some feathers, well, that’s interesting in a wheel with a small orifice. Didn’t finish that one. All along  attempting to develop a sense of humour about the learning process, ooh that being a beginner again, and being a bit inept sure sets things off. (In a good way, it is hard to be complacent when I am sweating and swearing. Over yarn. Really.)

At Fibres West this spring I bought some batts from a local vendor, (sorry the card went missing, can’t remember who it was.) Colours that were not my usual, batts of wool, nylon, some kind of tencel stuff, and a whole lot of  bright red fire star that ended up all over the place. The cats wore it for days. It had to be spun woollen, and ended up a very thick, very thin slubby yarn. I left it in a singles, (gasp), washed it, fulled it slightly. (Whoa, really getting into it here). And now I have to figure out what to do with it. (I love it. I have to do something with it. I can’t change my personality completely.)

3KCBWDAY5 Something a Bit Different

Ode to my Socks

Maru Mori brought me
a pair of socks
which she knitted herself
with her sheepherder’s hands,
two socks as soft as rabbits.
I slipped my feet into them
as if they were two cases
knitted with threads of twilight and goatskin,
Violent socks,
my feet were two fish made of wool,
two long sharks
sea blue, shot through
by one golden thread,
two immense blackbirds,
two cannons,
my feet were honored in this way
by these heavenly socks.
They were so handsome for the first time
my feet seemed to me unacceptable
like two decrepit firemen,
firemen unworthy of that woven fire,
of those glowing socks.

Nevertheless, I resisted the sharp temptation
to save them somewhere as schoolboys
keep fireflies,
as learned men collect
sacred texts,
I resisted the mad impulse to put them
in a golden cage and each day give them
birdseed and pieces of pink melon.
Like explorers in the jungle
who hand over the very rare green deer
to the spit and eat it with remorse,
I stretched out my feet and pulled on
the magnificent socks and then my shoes.

The moral of my ode is this:
beauty is twice beauty
and what is good is doubly good
when it is a matter of two socks
made of wool in winter.

Pablo Neruda
   1904 – 1973

3KCBWDAY4 Knitter for All Seasons

Well, obviously! It is clear that I don’t worry too much about time of year. I have knit in the shade in the Utah desert at 40 degrees. I have knit in our friend’s cabin at 25 below zero, curled up on the saggy couch near the wood stove. (That’s one of the best places honestly.) One just works around the conditions. Seasons might be seasons of life too, to not be too precious about it. Having something to do when one has to wait interminably. Hospital waiting areas, when there is worry, now that’s a part of life, a season, and the knitting has provided a lot of solace. (It has also helped to still my tongue, a good thing when there is stress, just “concentrate on the sock. It all will work out.”) Waiting to hear the news. Casting on for the new little being when we get the news. (I am thinking of some enormous baby booties, my first ones for a friend. Huge and pink, but baby footwear isn’t really my expertise.) Just wanting to show love in a tangible, warm way. I know the scarf is not going to change the hurt, or the worry, but it is an offering of the good wishes extended. Or the thanks for the kindness shown to me.

It is a bit cold in the campground, and getting dark. We are waiting on hearing the owl again.

Tips for travel knitting: Sock yarn and needles fit well into backpacks. Alpaca is really sticky in the heat, find shade. Superwash yarn can handle multiple washes to get the wood smoke smell out. Don’t bring the really good stuff, keep that for the couch at home. Knit in public in campgrounds, people love it! And google all the yarn shops on your route. It may drive your partner wild at times but it gives the trip some structure I say!

3KCBWDAY3 Knitting Heroes

I don’t tend to have “heroes” per say, maybe it is the effect of working in health care for so long. (One gets to see lots of people so close up and personal.) Or maybe it is about daily life and spiritual practice being one and the same –  it is hard to maintain another person on a pedestal above others for long if you are seeing clearly the interdependence of us all. Not to say there aren’t people I admire, and admire deeply. Judith Mackenzie, at the recent workshop I took with her, impressed me tremendously. Not that we had some kind of personal connection, I don’t think we necessarily did, but that didn’t matter. In fact, one of the things that impressed me the most about her was her generosity to the group as a whole. She appeared to appreciate every member of the class and reflected this to each of us individually, whether it was for our ability to spin, the enthusiasm we brought to bear, or the willingness to spend time learning together, to keep the craft going. So that’s a kind of heroism.

A colleague of Grant’s met Barbara Walker, who gave her this tiny amulet bag she had knitted. The colleague gave it to Grant to give to me in return for some knitting he had taken to work for donation. This colleague and I spoke briefly but will likely not meet or speak again, different walks of life and all. It was a nice appreciation, this little bag, and the closest to “knitting royalty” (whatever that means), that I will likely come to. Again, while I would likely be overawed and subsequently tongue-tied by Barbara Walker’s achievements if I met her I am not sure I would call her my hero. More likely a very, very interesting woman who has done many things, knitting and otherwise, and wouldn’t she be great to call a role model!

Maybe that’s a better way to put it than hero. Someone to inspire, or emulate. Though definitely not imitate, it is hard enough to find one’s own path, I surely don’t want to try to imitate someone else’s.


3KCBWDAY2 Photography Challenge

And a challenge it is. I am not pre-planning these posts, I hope it doesn’t show too much. My personal challenge with this event is to just get home from work and sit down and type. To try to wing it, try to loosen up. Anyhow, I kept trying to figure out how to present a project that was in use. Something being worn, or being utilized in some way. I got some very awkward shots of hands wearing mitts, some supremely unflattering angles on a sweater. Trying too hard! When in doubt, go with the absolute cliché I guess. The  hand knit that gets the most use in this household is my wonky knit/crochet blanket made of leftovers. I blogged about it before, how much I loved it when it was done, but it is a tad embarrassing if one looks at it with an eye for the technical details. Still, you can’t argue with success.

A six pound cat weighs a TON when he is unwilling to move. This is what I compete with when I want to stretch out on the couch and read.

And the photo has a bit in common with the blanket itself. Not technically much, but serves a purpose, I hope. It conveys that sometimes function trumps form completely and that is good enough for me.

3KCBWDAY1 Knitting and Crochet Blog Week: An Experiment in Discipline.

A post a day, that’s pretty challenging. How on earth can one write every day? And still, what a good exercise in trying to loosen up a bit. A bit of background. This is the third year this has been offered. What it entails is writing to a deadline and within a structure, in that the topics are given and what we do with them is up to us.

Today’s topic is “colour lovers.” Well, that is pretty wide open isn’t it?

So, its the colours of the natural world that populate my daydreams, and make my hands itch. Years ago, it was pencil, and pastel, and ink and pen that eased that itch. Nowadays it’s fibre, the feel of it in my hands, and that lovely sense of aha! when it all comes together to evoke something.

These are details of a couple of fair isle vests knitted in handspun. The yarns were spun from un-dyed fleece and then some were dyed with a number of different natural dyes – some logwood, some lichen, some tea. There is an inner radiance with natural dyes that is unmatched by the brighter acid dyes. The lower vest was inspired by poplar trees in the spring, the upper by the colours of the coastal rainforest where we live.

The projects don’t come together immediately, it takes a bit of time to gel, the way I work. Sometimes the colours have to sit together in their unworked forms, a pile of fleece next to another, or skeins of yarn piled up on the desk, till a bit of an image comes to mind. Some people do sketches, or create grids and plans. It doesn’t work that way for me, it is actually more of a feeling than a thought on many occasions. At least for the projects that I really love.

A friend of mine was over to do some spinning yesterday, and at one point she kind of sighed and said “it’s really more than we can learn in a lifetime, isn’t it?” But so rewarding to try anyhow.