Master Knitter?


I just started a program with The Knitting Guild Association to become a master knitter. It is the strangest sensation to be doing this, and also the most comforting thing I have ever embarked on.  Unfortunately, I do not trust myself.  I know how I am, how I get really into something and then later get bored and move on.  And really this is only the beginning of one step.  Oddly I have tried everything all the way through to the last part of the program, and yet here in the trenches, starting fresh and new, I am learning somethings.  Like how to capture stitches before you rip out to a mistake.  (As you knit so shall you rip).

I have been reading, already, about the history of fiber arts, and about world textiles.  I am absolutely fascinated by the first archeological record of fiber, woven fabrics, knitted string skirts, embroidered and knitted things found in various digs.  I am curious about the way indigenous people create their traditional arts, like Navajo blanket weaving, Mayan (Guatemalan) blackstrap weaving, Thai story cloth,  mud bark paintings from India and parts of Africa, String” fabric from Myanmar and Tapa cloth from Hawaii. I am, and always have been, fascinated by traditional patterning and motifs, going deeper than Fair Isle and looking at the Sammi people.

I was interrupted in my knitting fever, and now am fully in remission.  I went through a phase where I knitted all the time.  I don’t want to always go back to the giant rift in my life, but it had such a significant impact on my life I don’t know what else to talk about.  While I was putting my ex through graduate school, I added 20 hours a week of waitressing to my full time teaching job.  The only thing left that I could do creatively was knit.  And knit I did, I designed several sweaters, failed at a few too.  And I think my ex was disdainful of it, like hanging laundry on a clothesline, I think he viewed my knitting as something loser country people do.  Maybe that is why he left me?  I will never know.

When he left though I mostly stopped and didn’t knit for 8 or 9 years.  There was a brief layover period where a friend and I knitted purses and sold them, and I started a blanket as a wedding gift for a friend I lost in the divorce, I was heartbroken when I wasn’t invited.  And I never finished the afghan.

I did buy a spinning wheel, and I love using it, the rhythm of the wheel, is soothing and calming.  But it is not something that ever drew my interest deeply.  I adore and love weaving, but a large and complicated loom necessary for intricate patterns hold no interest for me.  Warping my little rigid heddle is hours of work and pain in my lower back, makes it hard.  Knitting however has jumped back into my hands, knowing you will never be an expert weaver at this late stage, leaves a prohibitive feeling in you as you work it.

One could say that perhaps I should return to painting, and perhaps I should, in time I might with the same vengeance I am embarking on with knitting.  I have many ideas swarming in my mind.  image


Its not the spinner, its the spindle



My sweetie is the best really, and game for going to a fiber festival.  We wander up and down the tents, he stopping to talk about bison fiber, how do you use it, how do you spin it.  I am a novice I say, not so much apologetically as uncertain.  The woman who seems most knowledgeable, feet resting comfortably on her spinning wheel as she talks to us, says what I thought, the long hairs too coarse and no twist, the short hairs too short.  My assessment was correct, just never spoken.  Perhaps my pirate can use the long hairs to make a cord for his knife making enterprise.  My goal here is to get a new drive belt for my spinning wheel, and two starter kits, one for a student, and one for my friend’s daughter.  I find two inexpensive ones, one which is a phenomenal spin, solid, stable, balanced, not pretty but quite impressive.    I stop at a booth and try some unusual spindles.  The proprietor is not pretty, he makes me think of my daughter’s father in his gnarled hippy state.  He talks the talk, speaks of physics, of centripetal force, and spins per minute.  I try both a low spin and a high spin, they are strange bulbous spindles.  After several tries, I am perplexed.  Hm, it wants to spin in the wrong direction.  Too much twist in your roving, she says.  It wobbles, I say.  It is not the spindle, he tells me, it is the spinner.  You must let it fall perfectly straight or it will wobble.  Ok, I say.  Thank you.   Meanwhile I wander up and down the rows, I buy roving from a man whom I like, something in his eyes.  I buy roving from a woman I met at one of these years ago.  I touch bags of soft wool, and silk, and bamboo.  I think he was trying to bamboozle me.  I think.  I think.  I say as I spin the dark and blond spindle, first this one, then that one which drops a lot, then a third.  Which is the one.  The pirate now rejoins me.  He watches as the spindle falls, no wobble and spins like it will never stop.  He laughs, its not the spindle he says.  I nod as I wrap my yarn round.  It is a beautiful spin, isn’t it, and balanced beautifully.  The sales woman talks of their efforts to balance to perfection.  She tells me, I see you are not so much a novice, you started that spindle with no draft, and you are spinning a nice yarn.

I am nodding.  It is not the spinner then.

Pfaff Passport

machine applique

When my daughter moved into her own apartment several months ago, I was given my notice.  Mom, I want my sewing machine, not right now, because I know you use it, and right now I don’t have time, but eventually, I want it back.  Then one day I asked her where she got her jeans, and she told me they were the hand-me-downs my co-worker gave her, but she had hand altered them to be skinny jeans.  This was about two months ago, I knew my time was up.

I shopped around at a couple different stores, but her’s was a Pfaff Hobby, and I loved it.  It sewed thru anything, and the maintenance was low, and it was easy to use.  I was comfortable with it.

I went into the Pfaff store and they tried to sell me an old embroidery machine, the next day I went back and talked to the owner, she sold me the new Pfaff Passport, and I couldn’t be happier with it.

It has a little bit of everything.  It has their well known IDT walking foot, for even feed of the fabric, it has a free motion foot, a must have for me that was not on the Hobby, it has a number of decorative stitches, a high presser foot height (important to me because of various stuffed animals, namely bigfoot, who is made of fake fur).

In February my Mom bought fabric for a challenge quilt, one where two or more people get the same fabric and then make something with it.  I worked on mine all morning.  The very very best part of today’s art quilt making involved my adoration of the machine applique stitch.

And a few kisses to my Pfaff Passport.  Because I LOVE IT!!

You Have No Idea




This beautiful doll has been long in the making, it has taken me over two years to complete, with many tear outs, and several give ups.  But finally I think she is done.  She is a survivor and one cannot even imagine how strong she is, stronger even than one might give her credit for, she has survived the worst fires.  I once heard that the only living thing to survive Hiroshima were the ginkgo trees at a Buddhist temple so the outside of her cloak is blackened ginkgo leaves, but the inside of her cloak is the stuff of life, leaves and spirals, and passionate purple flowers, the spiral a symbol of enduring life.  And yet she is an homage to death, her belt is made of silver leaves and white skulls, and the skeleton of a dead fish.  And as a nod to Kali the goddess of empowerment, of death and destruction, but also of time and change. The closure of her cloak is two daisies, side by side, right as they should have been.  Her shirt is made of handspun yarn, a nod to her origins, her craft, her intellect, and her inner belt is made of a silk ribbon, a gift from one she holds most dear to her.  Her necklace is the actual vertebrae, a symbol of having back bone, strength against adversity, great inner strength.  She stands with her arms outstretched, here I am, as I am, with no apologies.  Mouthless she does not speak, but she has eyes to see, and in the palms of her hands the eyes of wisdom, such as it is.  In her hands she holds two talismans, with secret messages.

You have no idea how strong she is.  You have no idea what she has endured.  More than you can ever imagine, she was knocked off her feet, and struggled to regain them, knocked again and again by the crashing of the ocean waves, and yet here, she stands strong.


Spinning and Winding Yarn

I have spent so much time in the last four months just working on house.  Climbing ladders, trimming trees, scraping, painting, climbing chairs, neck craned to paint ceilings, on my hands and knees scrubbing floors, baseboards, putting in tile, rolling out carpets, I found it quite difficult to squeeze in exercise or art.  The exercise part was covered by 12 hour days and exhausted falling into bed, waking only to begin again.  And when all of that was done, packing what was left after my daughter left, and then unpacking in my new single room abode.  How simple this room is.  I look around and it is like the inside of me, in a very materialistic way, my favorite drawings, only my favorite books, my favorite elephants, my favorite photos done by my childhood neighbor, the counted cross stitch tigers.  Hanging here on the doorknob is the Navajo sheep wool, a rough textured cream and soft oily grey, that I spun and plied after my trip to Arizona three years ago.  It is greasy with lanolin as I wrap it over my feet, holding my legs out when my feet start to hurt from resting them on the edge of the tall bed with storage drawers underneath.  Next the first roving I ever bought with my Mom, a mixture of bamboo, silk and lambs wool, green like spring trees mixed with wool I bought from a lovely woman I met at a craft show, the wool of the Finnsheep, so soft and so lovely.  I prepare myself for tangles, it sat too long on the niddy noddy and then too long on the back of a chair, then too long on a towel hook in the bathroom after I washed it.  But my method for winding wool alone works beautifully and with care and attention it is soon wound into a fat ball.  I contemplate some hippy poncho, or a throw blanket with squares of my hand spun wools.  When I am done I spin a fiber bought at a flintknapping festival this summer, where I met a woman with Firefly Farm, the wool is a lovely pygora and cornedale mix.  A similar green, but a totally different feel.  And when I have wound that last of it onto the spool, I dig out the fine black alpaca I bought last winter from a woman I work with.

Winding Yarn with my feet

It felt good to do something creative again.

Colleen Brown’s Creative Outlet

I bought these repurposed fingerless gloves a couple weeks ago… the artist had several sweaters, if I had much spare change I would have bought one.  The pirate and I get into these discussions where I say, its too much, whereon he says, its handmade by an artist, its a unique one of a kind item.  Meanwhile inside my brain I am laughing because it is like my voice came out of his mouth – made even more funny because he says stuff all the time that make me think this way.  The other day he gave me a hard time for not weeding a tree out of his garden, I told him I wasn’t sure what it was so I didn’t pull it.  You know, he said, I like to leave stuff to grow, because I just want to see what it is.  When he says this it is another moment when my brain giggles… I am exactly that same way, it is a curiosity and a respect for life.  I love that about him, just love it.  And that he really appreciates art too, that he has his own style and it isn’t all cream and beige nor garishly bright, its kind of just right, he generally has good taste.

So anyway I love Colleen Brown reclaimed and repurposed sweaters and handwarmers.  If you get a chance check out her Etsy site.  Colleen’s Creative Outlet

Here are the fingerless gloves I bought

Way cool fingerless gloves from repurposed and reclaimed sweaters

I seem to like artist’s who tend towards reusing already existing products.  There was another booth and I just didn’t get their card or take a picture, and they used those thick Hippy sweaters to make the best carry alls.  And then of course the spoon woman and then Colleen whose sweaters were so unique that as an artist and a girl who is a bit crunchy, they really appealed to me.

Tartan Acres

I play it off like I haven’t been creative at all, but I have been.  I have been knitting like crazy for the last two months.  I almost made a whole sweater before I tore it all out and am going to start again.  I have made socks, mittens, and a hat.  Today my knitting pal and I went to visit my co-worker’s alpaca farm.  It was delightful to see the animals, which are stunningly gorgeous with their giant liquid eyes, long eyelashes and thick soft wool.  We loved the Peruvian made articles of clothing that she had for sale in her shop.  She told us that the business they have done with them has greatly improved the cost of living for the whole village, that just rocks!  But in the end it was the yarn for both of us and the roving for me that drew me in.  She chose a marbled dark and light grey yarn, and I chose a gorgeous, luxuriously soft black yarn for new mittens for me.  Both of my mittens are worn enough to have big holes in them, and I realized today that my green mittens are probably 5 years old!  The purple ones less so, but they are not my favorites, they have never fit quite right.  I also bought a small bag of black roving also so soft it is indescribable.  It was a good day for the long drive and we both came away happy with our little purchases.