Sunday, 27 January 2008

What started it all....

In the spring of 2005, overwhelmed by a small tyrant dominating my universe, I went to a local craft fair with my mother. There was a small booth full of beautiful wool, all locally produced. Inside the booth, a woman was spinning with a drop spindle, her hair the same colour as the fine grey yarn that was forming beneath her hands. It was mesmerizing to watch. I had always wanted to learn to spin, but had never even seen a spindle before.

My whole life, textile arts have taken up some of my time. Sometimes more than others. My mother is a wonderful knitter and sews as well. In the 70's she tried weaving. My grandmothers are also accomplished knitters and seamstresses. And standing in my mother's loft is my great-grandmother's spinning wheel. I was taught to knit and sew and crochet and embroider at a young age. I'm not really sure when, but I know that I was sewing my own clothes when I was 13 and doll clothes before that. We hooked rugs and I even had a small wooden loom, which has since been lost. Unfortunately, I completely forgot how to knit . . .

Anyway, when I saw the spinner working her magic, I leapt at the chance to try something that seemed to call to me. The fact that the wool in her booth was all from Alberta just made it all the sweeter. I had no idea that such fine wools were available hereor that we even had a wool industry! But I was told by Margaret, owner of Celeigh Wools, that the sheep breeder whose sliver I was buying had won an international competition for her fleeces. Apparently, Alberta wool rates high.

I chose a spindle because it was pretty. I didn't know anything about spindle weights or whorls or anything and I could hardly choose from all the bags of wool that were on display. Margaret said, " Just feel them — put your hand in and feel them. Then choose." Wise words. I came home with some amazingly soft Romney and a small Alberta made spindle.

After that an obsession began (my sister asked me stop talking about wool with her . . .) which has since mellowed to a reasonable interest in all things related to textiles. I tried to remember how to knit and managed to figure it out, or so I thought. I went over to my grandmothers to proudly show her my little swatch. She got a really odd look on her face. Then she asked me to show her how I had knit. So I did.

"Who taught you to do THAT????"
I replied, "You did."
"No way," she said. "I can't knit THAT way."

Hmm. Well, it turns out that although I couldn't remember how to knit, I could remember how to crochet and I just merged the two into some weird kind of knitting. Not long after I found out it wasn't weird, except for all my twisted stitches (hence the odd look), but simply the continental style of knitting, carrying the yarn in my left hand. The twisted stitches though implied some technique refinement was required. Thank heavens for the Internet!

I still sew and make clothes for my family. I mostly use the patterns from Ottobre. They are clear and easy to follow, with fantastic design. I also knit and spin, a little bit anyway. I borrowed my sister-in-law's spinning wheel and am trying to become more consistent. Over the next while I'll try to post some photos of things that I have done in the last few years.

Chunky yarn on the bobbin. Some of the first wool I spun.
July 2005. Romney, dyed with Kool-Aid.

I used it to knit a pair of soakers (diaper covers), but I sort of read the directions wrong. I was sure it said to lightly felt them . . . oh well. Who knew Romney would felt so well? Well everybody but me probably. Maybe I'll turn them into a wallet or something!

1 comment:

Visty said...

Those are hilarious!! You just need a teeny dolly to wear them!