Knitting Progress

Books I Love



FO – Large beaded Brangian

This is the large version of Brangian, knitted to the pattern but with added beads (‘cos I do love the sparklies!) I finished it during the week, but it took me a few days to organise myself to block her, and then another day or two to get some photos outside. It’s not the best photo – the sun was bright – but it gives an idea of her, anyway!

I added beads to Charts 2 & 3 – I didn’t have a close match in colour, so I used the Dark Amethyst AB mix from Empire Beads – I think it gives the colour an extra lift!
Brangian shawl Beadiing detail

This is the fourth Brangian I’ve knitted this year – I think I can say the pattern is well-tested now! I’ve got another one in laceweight on the needles, but it hasn’t progressed very far yet. I’m going away for a week or two on Tuesday, so I’ll take that one with me and aim to make more progress. And in the meantime, just for a change, I’ve been trying to finish a Shetland Triangle that I started on January 1st – only one or two more pattern repeats to go on it, and the edging, and then I will have liberated an Addi circular, and can cast something else on to it!

Dyeing an autumn day

I’ve had some undyed yarns in the stash for a while, and in the past week or so I’ve got out the dyepots and transformed them. I used to be a haphazard dyer, but I’m aiming for a little more discipline and stretching my skills, for planned results rather than happy accidents!

I don’t (yet) have a proper dyeing space set up. I’ve been dyeing outside, on a plastic-covered fold-up table, with my camping stove on an old milk-crate; this works, except I’ve discovered that breezy days are not the best days to dye, especially with limited working surfaces – sudden gusts can blow dye powder just where you don’t want it, and therefore two skeins have some tiny spots of darker colour.

I’m not usually very ‘arty’ about dyeing, but I got inspired in this last batch to aim for the colours of an early-autumn day. And this is the result, before reskeining:
Hand painted yarns

And here they are, after reskeining:

Hand painted yarns after reskeining

From left to right: First Light; Warm Sun; River Picnic; Sunset; Night Sky.

I plan to do a lot more dyeing, but need to have a better and more efficient set-up. I bought a second camp-stove the other day, so now I can have two pots going at once. And perhaps another fold-up table might be in my near future… I do fantasize about a textile studio, with space for looms, and stash, and a long bench, sinks, stove etc for dyeing, but if that ever happens, it’s a way off yet.

Racing the clock

When I was researching in the UK a few years ago for my Honours thesis (on 18th century British worsted textiles), I came across a newspaper article about a coat made entirely in one day, from raw fleece to finished product. I can’t at present find my notes, but I think that one was earlier than the similar event, described in the following article, which originally appeared in the Leeds Mercury, and was reprinted in the Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser in it’s first edition on January 7, 1843.( Courtesy of the National Library’s Historic Australian Newspapers site.)

MOST EXTRAORDINARY PERFORMANCE IN THE MANUFACTURE OF A COAT.- The somewhat surprising statement which we published on the 2nd instant, of a beautiful brown dress coat having been manu- factured and made in Leeds in the space of 19 hours, can scarcely equal the following as a feat of expedition, one we should think, unparalleled ín the history of coat-making. The late Sir John Trockmorton, Bart., a noble minded gentleman, and one ardently devoted to improvements in agriculture, with a view to encourage the growth of British wool, at five o’clock in the morning of the 25th June, 1811, presented two sheep to Mr. Coxeter, of Greenham Mills, Newbury, Berks, for the purpose of proving that a coat could be made of the wool before night. The sheep were immediately shorn, and the wool sorted, &c., it passed through the usual process of scouring, dyeing, scribbling, spinning (on the jenny,) weaving (by hand,) and a fine kersey cloth was manufactured before four o’clock in the afternoon. The cloth was then put into the hands of tailors, who completed the coat at twenty minutes past six, and Sir John had the pleasure and satisfaction of appearing in it at a public dinner at seven ? Some thousands of persons were present, who at the appearance of Sir John, rent the air with their acclamations. The said coat is now in possession of the nephew of Sir John late member for Berks. We have seen a large painting in the inn at Newbery, representing a view of Mr. Coxeter’s manufactory on the morning of the day, when this extraordinary performance took place at the above mills, also representing Sir John in his celebrated coat, and portraits of the most distinguished persons present at the dinner.-Leeds Mercury.

I suspect that this type of racing-against-the clock challenge was not entirely uncommon at the time, in the days of entrepreneurial gentleman clothiers and manufacturers, prior to the wide-spread introduction of steam-powered machinery. It’s quite an amazing feat though, when you consider all the process that had to take place, and only the spinning done by machine, everything else done by hand. I can only assume that it was a dry day, given that the processes included scouring, dyeing, and presumably at least some wet-finishing of the kersey cloth. I hope Sir John didn’t catch a cold over dinner, if his coat was still slightly damp 🙂

Art, craft, and yarnosophy

Having been involved in textile crafts in various ways for many years, I’m very aware that ‘Craft’ is rarely valued as much as ‘Art’, sometimes to the extent that the very notion of ‘craft’ is often derided – especially if it relates to women’s activities. When I was writing the new ‘About’ page for this blog, I included a quote from Japanese philosopher Yanagi Soetsu that I’d come across some years ago, and always loved. It really captures for me the essence of craft and its importance, and I think it makes an effective differentiation between the arts and the crafts, while placing value on both:

“The special quality of beauty in crafts is that it is a beauty of intimacy…. The beauty of such objects is not so much of the noble, the huge or the lofty, as a beauty of the warm and familiar. Here one may detect a striking difference between the crafts and the arts. People hang their pictures high upon the wall, but they place their objects for everyday use close to them, and take them in their hands”.

The beauty of intimacy… of the warm and familiar… I was contemplating this morning how art could, in a general sense, be regarded as being a public practice. While the creation may be a solitary process, it is often with the goal of a statement, a performance,  a display, aimed to challenge and provoke thought, a reaction, or to provide a perspective on an idea. Whereas with craft, the creation is generally more personal, indeed more intimate, the item usually crafted to be used by individuals in daily life.

Perhaps art has the potential to take us beyond ourselves – the catch in our breath as we see an idea in a new light; the awe of something so beautiful we cannot help, for a long moment, simply being still and admiring it. I remember, at age 20, sitting in a small, dim room in London’s National Gallery for half an hour, just gazing at Leonardo Da Vinci’s cartoon of The Virgin and Child with St Anne & St John the Baptist:
Leonardo da Vinci: Virgin and Child with St Anne and St John the Baptist

It’s a beautiful work; what caught me most, and what still captures me every time I see the image, is the expressions on the faces of the two women; the young mother, absorbed in maternal wonder, watching her child, and the other mother, watching her, her expression full of shared understanding and empathy with that maternal wonder.

I don’t know the name of the potter who made the mugs, sugar bowl and milk jug I bought in New Zealand, on my first trip overseas, back in December, 1980. But almost every morning for 29 years, when I wrap my hands around my mug of morning tea, and in the evening when I drink a mug of chamomile tea, I appreciate the work of the unknown potter, the perfect shape of the mugs for my hands, the smooth texture, the beauty of the deep blue glaze against the dark brown base.
Pottery mug, made in New Zealand, 1980

But the value of crafts often goes beyond that of a beautiful, functional item.

When my DH wears his hand-knitted cap in winter, with his name knitted in binary code into the cable pattern, he knows it is a practical expression of love and commitment.

When my niece, then a toddler, insisted on putting on her Christmas gift dress immediately, she already had some concept of handmade gifts.
Lauren in her Christmas dress

And as she and her brother grew up, the various items that Mum and Aunts and Grandma knitted, embroidered and sewed for them were worn with pride, the kids’ self-esteem boosted by the knowledge that they mattered enough for us to spend time making special gifts.
Cross-stitched kite waistcoat Cross-stitched zoo waistcoat
Cross-stitched butterfly pinafore

And each time my sister wears the beaded Aeolian shawl I gave her for Christmas, she knows I spent weeks knitting it, thinking of her, and feels wrapped in love.
Beaded Aeolian Shawl

All around the world, millions of people every day hand craft items for daily use; some to earn a living, some out of necessity, some for pleasure, some to give as gifts. While an attempt could be made to estimate the value of those crafts in simple economic terms – cost of materials, cost of production, cost of distribution, value at sale – no economic measures can ever hope to convey the personal and social value, and the richness and beauty that crafts can bring to our lives.

Welcome to Yarnosophy!

Welcome to my new textile blog!

After four years of the Twisted and Warped blog, I felt it was time for a change, a slight refocus, a more accurate representation of myself and my approach to yarn and textile creativity. And I’d been thinking for a while about moving from to an installation on my web space, and today things have all come together to create Yarnosophy.

I’ve imported all the old content from the Twisted and Warped blog, and I’ll gradually beautify and polish this site. For now, the only thing I’ve really changed is the About page – and that still needs some work!

There will be some more patterns eventually! I’m currently experimenting with some Brangian mittens, and also playing with ideas for a new shawl pattern. But they’re not at a shareable stage, yet.