I plyed the first skein of the year on St. Distaff’s Day, and now I have a photo. This is Mermaid’s Wool, a blend of 70% Bluefaced Leicester and 30% Seacell, from a roving hand dyed by Frabjous Fibers in Vermont in a colorway they call Moulin Rouge. I had been wanting to try Seacell, a new cellulose fiber derived from seaweed, since I first heard of it two or three years ago. I found this roving at the Fiber Event in Greencastle Indiana last April.
It is loosely blended and the Seacell absorbed less dye than the wool. I spun a two ply thick and thin yarn to preserve the contrast between the two fibers so there are lighter shiny spots of Seacell throughout. It feels soft and bouncy, and the long staple of the BFL should help it to wear well. I think I will make myself a hat and see how the blend behaves when knit and worn before looking for more of this fiber.
Happy Saint Distaff’s Day! The fiber arts community celebrates this holiday, also known as Roc Day, on January 7 each year. It is said to be the day when women traditionally resumed spinning after the twelve days of Christmas. It happens that I haven’t been spinning for the last couple of weeks since I was finishing a late knitted Christmas gift, but I never understood why women in general would stop spinning for the holidays. I found some context in a New York Times article about winter solstice:
While Roman Christianity was the dominant culture in Western Europe, it was by no means the only one. By millennium’s end, the Danes controlled most of England, bringing with them “Yule,” their name for winter solstice celebrations, probably derived from an earlier term for “wheel.” For centuries, the most sacred Norse symbol had been the wheel of the heavens, represented by a six- or eight-spoked wheel or by a cross within a wheel signifying solar rays.
The Norse peoples, many of whom settled in what is now Yorkshire, would construct huge solar wheels and place them next to hilltop bonfires, while in the Middle Ages processions bore wheels upon chariots or boats. In other parts of Europe, where the Vikings were feared and hated, a taboo on using spinning wheels during solstices lasted well into the 20th century. The spinning-wheel on which Sleeping Beauty pricks her finger may exemplify this sense of menace.
Now that the danger is over, I think I will do some spinning.
I just discovered the graphic novel Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword, which features an orthodox Jewish girl who wants to be a dragon slayer. The story begins with Mirka arguing with her stepmother who wants her to pay attention to her knitting. Both of the skills she learns from her stepmother, knitting and arguing, come to her aid when she needs to challenge a troll to win her sword.
Yesterday morning I slept a little later than usual, so my sweetie brought me coffee in bed. I had a good book to go with the coffee — William Gibson’s Zero History. It is a vision of the future full of adventure, intrigue, guerrilla advertising, high quality fabrics and retro fashion. Seeking out the secretive designer of a very special jacket turns out to be a very dangerous adventure. It puts the life of a textile artist in a whole new light.
After coffee, breakfast, came the ritual changing of the calendar. The old calendar is too pretty to throw away, so I will use it to make an origami box or two as a substitute for gift wrap. I went for a nice walk on ground that was clear of snow for the first time in a few weeks, then made lentil soup to ensure a prosperous year. The rest of the day included time to contemplate the year ahead and to listen to my favorite radio show, the Midnight Special on NPR.
Today on the public radio show Morning Edition there was an interesting story about a woman who is reviving traditional embroidery in the Swat Valley of Pakistan and training women there to be self-supporting. There are a few good pictures on the web site to go with the story.
About ten years ago I started to make fiber-related New Year’s resolutions which I recorded in a notebook — projects to finish, new skills to learn, organizing my stash. It didn’t take many years to notice that the same resolutions appeared on the list year after year, and to wonder how I had let another year go by without finishing my sweater and learning to spin flax. I wondered what I had been doing all year, and realized that I hadn’t wasted time — instead, unexpected opportunities and inspirations had replaced my original plans. Now before setting goals for the new year, I review what I have accomplished in the past year.
In 2010, I spun 37 skeins of yarn, wove two scarves, carded a Shetland fleece and dyed the batts with onionskins, dyed 7 tshirts, 3 scarves, silk and rayon yardage, silk and wool yarn and a variety of fiber, made a basket, a pine needle mat and a felt basket, knitted a hat, three stuffed slugs, and a pair of fingerless gloves, sewed a vest lined with fabric I dyed. Before making this list I was thinking of the things I left undone – three sweaters and a pair of gloves which should have been finished long ago, and I still haven’t learned to spin flax or to weave a double-wide fabric that looks right at the fold.
One other goal that has been on my list for several years is to create a web site. And here it is, just in time on December 31.