Sunday, February 28, 2010

Wolf Laid to Rest

Here's a photo of the finished handspun/handwoven wolf/dog hair project with handspun llama wool borders.

I hope the animal owners like it.

Howling at the Moon

I am 95% finished with a project that is unusual for me. A client brought over a large bag of wolf/dog hair they wanted spun and woven into a blanket. It took several weekends of spinning and plying to turn the fluffy hair into yarn. As a result, I will be finding fine, white, floating dog hairs throughout my house and on my clothing for months, I'm sure.

This weekend I completed the weaving on my LeClerc 4-harness jackloom, and the blanket has been hand-washed and is hanging up to dry. The two-ply yarn was fairly thick, so I sett the warp at 4 epi in an 8-dent reed. During the weaving, I experienced a few popped warp threads since some of the yarn was rather soft-spun and slubby (I like to say "interestingly textured") which will require some reweaving as I go over the finished product when it's dry.

Because the project is a simple plain weave and off-white/natural, I decided to add a bit of interest with a couple of brown/black stripes at either end of the blanket -- some handspun llama wool I happen to have on hand.

I'm including a couple of photos I took during the weaving process. I will post a finished photo shortly.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Weaving Dreams

I now officially dream about weaving. This week my dreams were very inspiring, so much so that I got out of bed at 3 a.m. and sketched the designs my psyche created in my notebook. Surprisingly, the sketches still made sense later in the morning over coffee.
I can't get them out of my mind and am eagerly awaiting time and a free loom to get busy.
The project is dresses.
For the past couple of years I've been signing on to to observe French, Italian and New York fashion runway shows all the while imagining my own unique, one-of-a-kind designs draping the models. I think I'm ready to begin designing these dresses now.
Fun designs, even when the ideas appear to fall from the sky, really do not come about so miraculously. A good idea is a synthesis of years of experience, observation, desire, immersing oneself in one's craft on a daily basis.
I know, because I took several years "off" when I was divorced and raising my four children, as well as returning to the university to train to become an English professor. I'm not sorry I did those things, but these past few years of rekindling my love of weaving and fashion have opened my eyes . I see how far behind myself I'd gotten. Ideas build upon ideas and swim out of our creativity like polywogs from the dark and quiet recesses of a stream.
When attending art and craft shows, at least one customer will ask the dreaded question: "How long did it take you to make this?" Initially, my mind would try to add up the hours measuring warp threads, sleying the reed, threading the heddles, rolling the warp onto the back beam, then weaving the cloth, finishing the cloth, etc. But now I say "62 years".

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Reinterpreting the Rescue Prince

Feminists have pretty much trashed Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel and other cultural tales in which handsome princes rescue "helpless" females from the evil clutches of witches, stepsisters, clueless fathers/brothers, angry dwarfs . . . These heroines are accused of being too passive, of not participating enough in their own rescue. Beauty being their only feminine requirement.

But after listening to an interview this morning with Eve Ensler (of "Vagina Monologues" fame) and reading journalist Nicolas Kristoff (co-author of "Half the Sky") discuss abuse of girls and women worldwide, brought about by war and social stresses warping "natural" male aggression, perhaps the rescuing prince needs further examination. Perhaps we need this guy. After all, we live in a patriarchal society. No matter how we try to write ourselves out of the patriarchy (as Ursula K. Le Guin discovered), we find ourselves steeped in it.

Let's celebrate this story-book rescuer, that variety of male who has evolved empathy for women, who seeks justice on their behalf against the smarmier sides of both genders, who seeks to right the economic inequalities that upset positive gender relationships.

If patriarchy is the "natural" state of our gendered world, then the rescuing prince has a place in it, but that doesn't mean that women should abdicate the powers they've won, or "reclaimed" from a mythical matriarchy. It appears we can, and do, live in the same house.

Traditionally women have been responsible for feeding and clothing their families ("A good wife, who can find . . ." -- Proverbs), planting gardens, harvesting, gleaning, twisting animal and plant fibers into threads, weaving them into cloth, fashioning them into clothing (except for the all-male weavers' guilds in Pre-Industrial Europe who lashed out violently at the factories that took the trade, literally, out of their hands).

Perhaps many of these "olden" tales involving spinning derived from women being bound to their spindles and wheels for hours upon hours because it takes several hand-spinners to supply one weaver with thread. These women would certainly want to be rescued from such tedious labor. If they married a wealthy prince, of course, the servants would be responsible for the spinning (and fantasizing); a princess or queen might engage in some of this labor, but she could perhaps have the option of dressing pretty, arranging flowers for the table and merely being admired.

As you may have guessed, spinning and weaving are meditative arts, and these are some of the things upon which I meditate as I throw a shuttle or ply my threads.