Sunday, November 22, 2009

A bit After Medieval... Image of the Day :)

Jean Francois Millet: Young Sheperdess , 1870-1873. Millet died in 1875. I love his work. He has so many paintings of country life and those who worked outdoors. This is a beautiful painting located at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. I had the recent opportunity to visit while I was doing some work locally.

In this painting the young Sheperdess holds a distaff in one hand and a stick in the other. The distaff is dressed and the fiber is secured with a ribbon wrap. The question is what is she doing with the stick. I have gone back and forth on my own thoughts as to the answer. I have blown up the image to look very closely at the stick to see if the light areas are extension of the fiber or if they are light reflections on her skirt. I have looked at her face to see a distraction upon it. Truthfully, I think she is simply sitting on a hillock staring off into space... seeing something that she is dreaming about. Millet's paintings have the dreamlike about them in the midst of the practical. It is the romantic ideal.

The stick does not appear to be in the fiber or that the fiber is being pulled from the distaff by the stick. The light color near the mid level of the stick (where little stick protrusions appear) are not related to the fiber. There is no fiber being pulled there by the stick. The paint color and texture tell me this. At the tip of the stick there is a question. The texture of the paint and the color are similar to that of the fiber. Has our Sheperdess pulled a bit off the distaff? The other thought is that she is going to use the stick like a hook and perhaps spin off her leg. This is the fiber artist speaking. This is me supposing... But honestly even with these thoughts... I look at her and think about me being out on the hill under a sunny sky and I think she is dreaming and her hands are meandering doing much of nothing but holding everyday objects. It is my 2 cents and the art critics can correct as necessary. ;)

Well this has nothing to do with fiber, but it is visually intriguing. There is a fabulous exhibit of glass near the museum restaurant and bookstore. A million different images fill the mind. This is just a taste to inspire the heart and soul.

Let's remember folks that these are items that belong to the Museum, not to me. I place them here to discuss and to learn. Go visit and see them for yourselves.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

It was a Vortex....

The swirling winding windy vortex of so many things.. caught me and has been sucking me down, sucking me dry, making me cry in my pillow that I have not re-found my fiberish focus to touch fiber daily and find in it some latent will of creative thought.

It is in fact a season of life that helps the thread of fiber to elude my view. Motherhood grasping me and squeezing all that I can possibly give out to the success and growth of my children. And it is therefore a choice as motherhood was my choice in the beginning of this season of my life. Part of it nears the abrupt ripping yet flowing change of stations as one of my children grows to adulthood and her next adventure. I try at this season of fall to find some of the shoots of spring to reach towards.

fiber.... fiber.... and therefore more...

At least my goal is to show and speak of more frequently of the things my mind peruses and where my hand is spinning....

Thanks for your understanding as I come back from the Vortex (still there .. still sucking away)and revive some life here in the ether.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Medieval Image of the Day

It is not medieval, post medieval perhaps, but I didn't want to mis-lead those that come just to see the pictures. :) Hope you enjoy it. Feel free to leave a comment and click the image to see it larger (It is really worth it!).

Velazquez 1657, This is such a fabulous painting. There is so very much going on! It is all about Arachne. In the background Arachne and Athena are duking it out... Arachne loses in case you are wondering. ;) In the foreground is the spinner and weaver of the thread needed by both Athena and Arachne. I love that the spinner's knee is showing! How many of us have a barefoot or bared knee when spinning? Next to her is a lovely woman winding yarn from a swift into a ball.

Now it could simply be a spectacle put on about Athena and Arachne, but it is all incidental to what is going on. What does the woman by the curtain have to say to the spinner and what does the woman toting the basket say to the ball winding woman? What does the artist want us to know? There is the lesson of arrogance that we learn from Arachne and respect from Athena. There is the toil and labor of the spinster and others that exists and there is the everyday quality that we see in the background of the grandeur of an incredible tapestry and the presence of a Goddess. The normality and rhythm of everyday life and everyday tasks is perhaps what is valuable not the opulence and attention of the apparently grand.

I am quite busy over extending myself. I am sewing and helping co-ordinate a local musical for youth of The Pirates of Penzance. It is totally delightful, happy, energizing, but I am sewing at all hours and days. I must be done by Thursday morning at the latest and preferably by Wens. evening at 5pm. Tonight however I am going to sleep as I was up to 3am last night. Good night all and sweet dreams! May your spinning turn well.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Just lazing about...

After the long scarf project and the stress of a deadline I put myself on a fiber vacation... yup, simple spinnin' fer me. So I just picked something colorful that someone else had processed, dyed, and put out there for happy hands. I picked a lovely optim skein from Chameleon Colorworks. Great fabulous colors. I think this colorway is 'Figgy Pudding'. I looked at many of her colorways in each fiber and I chose one from each... without checking the name.. who cares about a name after all... it is the fiber color that counts, right... Each one looked different to me. It was so funny... They were the same colorway each time only different in Border Leicester, Merino, and Optim. At least I'm consistent.

Spin optim sometime. It is just like butter and pre-drafted spins like frog's hair. I'm loving it. Just sitting back and spinning. I suppose the yarn will find a purpose. I'm almost half done (further than the photo indicates), then the other half, then plying and who knows... And guess what... I don't have to worry about the time! Whenever is fine. True process,,, thank goodness.

Hope you have a great week. It's June!!! I wonder what my niece is doing today in Greece?

Medieval Image of the Day

An image from 565 bce. I love this image. Depicted here are Greek women pre-drafting most likely flax to be spun, spinning it on what appears to be a bottom whorl spindle, weaving it on a Warp Weighted Loom, and Women folding the woven cloth. Note that there are two women in each image, but particularly weaving together. Weaving on the Warp Weighted Loom is traditionally thought of as being done with two women in Nordic cultures and is born out in this image as well. (and note the shape of those loom weights - is that a regional/traditional shape?). Now it appears that the women are different women in each image. So what does this mean? Are there many women in the household? Are there many women employed / enslaved in the household? Do different women complete different tasks within a household or by tradition? Did the artist simply enjoy drawing a variety of women?

So instead of drawing too many conclusions, I leave a fair number of questions to be answered. I think that often the archaeologists leave us with to many drawn conclusions leading us to say... but it's document by Dr... that this was a religious spindle for spinning ... who knows? But we need to be able to think of the question and to subsequently ask it. So much of what we think we know has changed or been revised through different eyes reviewing it and asking similar questions.

Philosophy on a spindle... that's me. My niece is in Greece digging up history for us. I think of her everyday. Hope you are all having a great weekend!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The Spin-Off Scarf - International Year of the Natural fibre

The big adventure for April and May was participating in the Spin-Off Scarf Competition to honor the International Year of the Natural Fiber. It was quite an experience and I had an enormous amount of fun and learned many things. I also made ... A FINISHED OBJECT! Always a nice accomplishment. Sadly, I did not make the cut to the final selection. I heard today via email. I almost never participate in competitions and I am a bit on the sad side of things. A blog is not just about all the successes and the discoveries... it is about the journey, the problems and challenges. I hope that my mistakes help you.

Photos speak a great deal so here are are the highlights of the past two months.

Poking around at the Spin-Off Website there was an announcement that there would be a competition in honor of the International Year of Natural Fibre. (Now It is being called, 'All Wrapped up in Natural Fibers'). The basic rules were that one had to start with raw fiber of some sort and process it through to the end product. Any dyeing would have to be naturally dyed.

Karakul on the Bobbin.
I was so excited by the idea of the process to weave that I grabbed the only fleece in my stash, a karakul fleece. It was a prize winner from the Taos Wool Festival a few years ago. I washed it right away, combed it and spun it up at the same time ordering and waiting on another fleece from Colorado - a Teeswater.

The Karakul fleece was absolutely stunning. The locks were perfect, the color was varied (and I often like a variegated yarn since to me it gives more depth to the yarn). I realized after it was spun up that it wouldn't feel nice on the neck no matter how lovely the locks and how much fun it was to comb and spin... It is after all a rug wool. Sometimes I just want something to be a certain way... I need to respect its nature more.

Karakul Skein.
This is a skein from the Karakul. It is lovely and I am sure it will dye up well too. I will probably use it for something nice, but not clothing.
Then I realized it wouldn't feel nice on the neck no matter how lovely the locks and how much fun it was to comb and spin... It is after all a rug wool.

Black Welsh Mountain Skeins
The skein on top is combed, the skein below is carded. Both spun worsted.

Well, I was playing on Ravelry when I saw a lovely black fleece sample and without really knowing what I was getting I ordered my Welsh Black Mountain sheep fleece. It is an absolutely lovely natural black, but it is much too coarse to wear anywhere near the skin.

Teeswater Skein
I also ordered an incredible Teeswater, which was a joy to spin up. The locks are incredibly long and the luster is very strong.

Curly on the bobbin

I was a little discouraged that the Black Welsh Mountain sheep fleece was so coarse. I had spent a fair amount of time on it and I had limited time at hand. I was lamenting this fact to my wonderful friend, Leslie, and to help out she sent me a large portion of a clip from one of her Pygora goats, Curly. Curly's fleece told me that she loves to play outside a lot, however her fleece came beautifully clean and was lovely all spun up.

Last, I ordered some incredible true black alpaca from Bay Springs Alpaca. It arrived and it was delicious. I washed it up, combed it, spun up a lovely big giant skein. Velvet has a lucious fleece. The black absolutely glows. Sometimes when I was weaving I would simply sit and look at the black; it was so beautiful. It was also soft. I knew that I would love to have it on my neck and that it would keep me warm.

Some things I do not have photos for. As the deadline drew near I worked into the early morning. I put everything aside and I did not get all the photos I usually do. I was seriously running low on time.

I wanted to warp my loom, but Curly's skeins needed to be dyed first. I dyed one skein in onion skins with a mixed in bath of asafran using alum and cream of tarter as the mordant. The second skein I wanted to be red. I started a bath of cochineal. It turned purple because I have very hard water. I soaked my little skein of curly in the dyebath, but to no avail. It would not turn red and it appeared to have difficulty getting the red dye to strike deeply. The gold turned out well. So after some consultation with a friend, I made another dyebath using bottled water and a bit of pre-soaked madder (one has to pre-soak it since the first soak brings out an off yellow that is discarded.). I spent 3 days dyeing that one skein and in the end it is merely an off pink. However it is a respectable color and worked well in the final design.

Alpaca (Velvet) & Pygora (Curly) skeins ready for warping and weaving.

I wish I could say that I had taken pictures of it on the loom, but there again, I was so short on time I could not get it done. But lest one think that the weaving was easy... HA! For something that was plain weave in threading and treadling HA! I made a mistake in my warp calculations and so it was shorter than I wanted, but I had no time to spin more warp. I wanted to do a card woven border, but it looked terrible so I axed it. I wanted to do a sample first, but I had no time so I axed that. I wanted to do a tapestry design in the little squares, but the time it would have taken me would have precluded me from participating in this International Year of the Natural fibers so I decided to adapt my initial design.

To begin with the scarf was inspired by and ancient Peruvian piece from a book I have. Perhaps I will try again and do a better job.

I found that my reed and beater was abraiding my warp too much and so I used my mini-tapestry beater to beat each section into place. Since I alternated tapestry squares in the lattice work it made sense to do this. The tapestry work was incredibly time consuming. It looks nice, but the hours I put in were very intense. Eventually it was done being woven so I did my hem stitching, washed it, set it, and ironed it. Then I put together my entry notebook and sent it into Spin-Off.

The scarf in full view

Here is a full view of the finished scarf. My daughter has decided to adopt it (especially since the dog ate her Christmas mitts in half). She likes it a lot and to me that is a great success story. (Teenager likes scarf Mom makes... film at eleven). The creativity of the many fiber artists participating in this competition is intense and this scarf was not enough to make it even to the final cut, but it was still a worthwhile journey.

Medieval Image of the Day

In honor of a wonderful weekend with lots of people doing things together I submit this image for your enjoyment and edification.

Mary appears at a type of loom. Some wonder if this is a loom for sprang. One modern maker I've seen uses this type of loom. We see the warp, but no cards. Nothing is on the loom so we really don't know. Note what appears to be a skein winder and another woman sewing. Really and afternoon fiber retreat or an everyday's work. Depends on one's viewpoint. This is clearly a very early image.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Fields of Fiber -- A Sea of Color .... Griffin Dyeworks Fiber Retreat

Wynken, Blynken and Nod one night
Sailed off in a wooden shoe,
Sailed on a river of crystal light
Into a sea of dew.

Where are you going
And what do you wish
The old man asked the three...
[excerpt from Wynken, Blynken,and Nod by Eugene Field]

The Griffin Dyeworks Fiber Retreat was at a camp a little north of Castaic in California. Driving there is where I went and what we wished for was fun, fiber, dyes, and the camaraderie of other fiber folk --- all good friends.
Fiber brings out the best in people and this event has a special spirit of relaxed learning. Everyone is good to one and other. People share, everyone has something to offer and teach. It is communal education at its best even with accompanying scheduled classes of every ilk.

Misty Evening

The Yucca plants were in bloom and I stopped after getting off the highway to get some photos. I love yucca plants. They aren't easy to grow (the seeds have to have been in soil during a fire -- part of the natural chaparral habitat -- in order to germinate.. but once they get going they are equally difficult to move. I believe they are protected in California as well.

Ruth taught a number of things including a great felting class.

Bridget (not in this picture) taught several card weaving classes. Here are two tablet weavers on Saturday morning. Card weaving (tablet weaving) is like other fiber activities... pervasive, obsessive... delightful!

People let their hair down ...

...And did what made their hearts happy...

Friends got together...

Some people danced...

MUCH spinning was to be had at the 72 hr spin-in...

We never did think to count up the number of different wheels and spindles that surrounded us.
[Group Photo by Melissa]

[Photo by Sherry] Bru teaches on her Antique Great wheel.

Color was pervasive and basic in its presence everywhere. But the world is like that... perhaps we just become aware at intense moments of saturation.

The dye pots were warm, the dyes were intense, we were there to make color!

The thing that started it all was the seduction of color. It wove its way into our brains and Bjo got this idea for a retreat... One thing led to another, but it was the dye pot that brought us here to begin with.

[Photo by Melissa]
This artful photo caught the movement and some of the color of the dyepot artifacts as well as the diversity of vision from the dyepot artists.

[Photo by Melissa]
The indigo pot was THE place to be and everyone had a different idea of what to put in it. The results were tremendously exciting!

Some of us got a bit carried away with the indigo... 'We can even dye your hands to match your eyes'... Blue nails guild motto... (and Dorothy thought emerald green was the way to go...).

[Photo by Sherry]
Indigo and shibori by Bjo -- The wind caught and flew a good many fabrics and yarns. It was part of the grace of land and we embraced it fully.

[Photo by Melissa]
MANY different colors came out of the dyepot this weekend!

This class, taught by Ellen was on a specific style of tapestry weaving. Ellen a long time weaver and print artist was incredibly organized and shared much of her artistic vision and thoughts with us. She really opened up some areas where I have been stuck. It was like a dam breaking and the water flowing freely.

Here is Ellen's sample that she worked out for our little class project. If one wanted to move in a different direction that was fine too. The techniques are not difficult. If you are interested in seeing more about this process you can go to Ellen's blogsite Weft to my own Devices; tapestry entry.

[Photo by Ellen]
We were all very concentrated at each step. Part of the magic of this technique is the consideration and use of yarns in a color family and the use of yarns of completely different textural qualities to communicate a feeling and idea.

[Photo by Ellen]
Here Dawn shows her amazing progress on her pin tapestry.

Esther always comes with a class as a larger concept. [Visit Esther at Star Cross Designs] Last year at the retreat she had a full weekend class, 'Come weave on a Warp Wt'd Loom', and then the finished shawl was raffled off on Sunday amongst those who had done the weaving. This year it was an embroidery tapestry a la Bayeaux Tapestry. She collected a variety of medieval illumination images depicting all sorts of fiber activities and had Melinda and Bruce do line drawings. These line drawings were transferred onto linen and the lines are then embroidered... with hand spun and naturally dyed yarns. If you've seen the Bayeaux Tapestry, you will note that it is really an embroidered artwork. People did a wonderful job and everyone did a little bit of something. Of course it isn't finished... it is a work that will travel and continue to be a communal piece of art something like the real Bayeaux Tapestry.

A piece of the long view... the linen with fiber activities - eternal from then to now and onto the future - stretched for about 5 feet.

Our illustrious leader and archetypal goddess of natural dyes, Bjo in her own line drawing, a part of the essential spirit of fiber arts over generations. A woman of the 21st century fits completely with a woman from the 12th century and I'm sure those from a millenium before.

These three women came from illuminations and tapestries working together in their common theme and purpose.

And soon enough the color began to be added...

[Photo by Ellen]
How appropriate ... a dye pot and fiber about to be dipped.

[Photo by Melissa]
Where would we be without sheep shearers???

[Photo by Ianuk]
Everyone tried to do some embroidery or spin and dye some thread.

Cynthia taught a class on netting.

Cynthia works on her net near the Lapidary area she set up.

[Photo by Sherry]BASKETRY
Therese teaches Basketry... an ancient and honored art form.

This class was Therese's annual Basketry class. It is always full and the baskets are intensely amazing and beautiful! One erstwhile gentleman worked into the night.. with no light to finish his basket on Saturday. People get excited at the retreat... a bit obsessed, but always lots of fun is had.

[Photo by Ianuk]
On the floor...
[Photo by Ianuk]
... In a Chair... Baskets were made everywhere.

[Photo by Ellen] TIE AND DYE
Here is a little view of the annual Tie Dye with twists and folds class. This is on Sunday 24 hours (or so) after applying the dyes. The magic in this class as in most is that there is no wrong answer. There are only design elements. People got excited as rubber bands and string came off their garments to reveal... COLOR!!! of all sorts.

[Photo by Ellen]
This t-shirt being held up by Cora will be walking (with a person inside it) at the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer Research in October.

[Photo by Ianuk]

[Photo by Ianuk]
Tied and Dyed as far as the fence is long...

[Photo By Sherry]
There were classes for everyone. This class was felting on soap. (and that felted soap works really well to clean dye off the hands).

[Photo By Sherry]

[Photo by Bru] MUD DYEING
From Clean to Messy... There was a very unusual class in Mud Dyeing using various soils to produce a paintable mud. Interestingly enough the use of mud brought out the earliest paleo in the class participants. Some incredible beautiful things were made. The cloth was pre-soaked in a special natural solution and then the mud was painted on (in a very simplistic instruction... I was late and missed the class). The mud must stay on for two weeks and then it can come off and there should be color and design.

[Photo By Ellen] Ellen did these Paleo Horses. She has explored the paleo part of her psyche through weaving, printing, drawing, and now painting with probably the same materials as so long ago.

[Photo by Ellen] Here are some shirts by the Tan family done using muds as the dyestuff.

It was impossible not to be enthusiastic and come away with a bit of mud somewhere.

[Photo by Ianuk]
This is an experiment Eowyn came up. She dyed her bag with indigo and then painted on that. Hopefully, the mud dyes will come through in two weeks. I'm curious to see.

[Photo by Ianuk]
When we had dyed things all day ... there was a great drumming circle for a bit after dinner.

The difficulty is that there were lots of classes and of course my camera didn't travel enough even with the kind loan of photos from other attendees. There were many other classes including Tablet Weaving, Rams Horn Tablet Weaving Pattern, lapidary grinding, glass lampwork, kumihimo, Tri-loom weaving, Rigid-heddle weaving of early medieval patterns, graduated dyeing, Plying Parade, and others... There were many many classes and students could move easily in an informal way to catch classes. It is an unusual, but highly successful format.

At the end of the weekend we had a show and tell. My camera battery died so I am dependent entirely upon the generosity of fellow retreat attendees and their photos.

[Photo by Melissa]
Melissa likes to practice the art of not sleeping when at the retreat. She comes with a plan and a purpose. Her sample cards made using only natural dyes will allow her to duplicate and understand what she did to create the colors of individual yarns, wool and cotton. (yep, she saved the cotton tyes on her skeins to put on the sample cards... no moss growing on her...

[Photo by Ianuk]
This was an amazing tied and dyed shibori piece. After folding and tying her cloth, She dyed the yellow portions in either Kamala or dodder (I can't remember). Then she did some careful dipping in the indigo pot. When she was done she equally carefully rinsed et voila... designer tablecloth.

[Photo by Ianuk]
Mud painting, spinning, natural dyeing work. I believe that the spun work is a wolf hybrid blend.

[Photo by Ianuk]
This shows inkle weaving, tri-loom work, rigid heddle historic weaves, and naturally dyed yarns. Indigo is of course a big favorite.

[Photo by Ianuk]
Mud painting and basketry by the Tan Family. They do as much as they can. Visit them at GoshYarnIt.

Bjo did manage to get some work of her own dyed. Shown here are some incredible yellows from the Kamala dye bath and some red (hiding) that was done using brazilwood. The dark brown skein is a skein of lovely soft brown alpaca dyed in indigo. It gave an intense deep brown.

[Photo by Ianuk]
This is Carolyn's work, Tiger's eye lapidary and some lovely felted soap. The lapidary work took some serious patience and care not to sand one's fingers off. Great work Carolyn!

[Photo by Ianuk] THANKS FOR FEEDING US!!!
And lest we forget our absolutely fabulous Cook... she kept us extremely well fed. My personal favorite... apple crisp with icecream. You have no idea.... YUM!!! (and thanks for your hard work!).

You can see more photos and read further tales of the Dye Retreat at some of these links: Weft To My Own Devices, Lissamc, Tender Loving Work, Ianuk's Photos, Syrendell (The Tan family), Eowyn's Artifacts, Carol's Retreat Slideshow, Laurie's Photos, Catherine's Photos, Griffin Dye Works Retreat (scroll down to past retreats for links to photos). For Griffin Dye Works on Ravelry Click link. NOTE: To see a photo larger - simply click on the photo.