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.