July 25, 2015


My goal of a handmade wardrobe continues to elude me.  I would ideally like it to be made by me but in the meantime I could make do with pieces from other people.  After scouting around on Etsy I have concluded that most of the naturally-dyed clothing is too muddy and blotchy looking for me, and the handwoven clothing is too busy and geometric looking.  Few of the handknits appealed either.

You can see some things I did think were interesting or well executed, here, under favourite items.  But some of the appeal might have been the photography.  A lot of them would need modification before I would wear them, such as a different colour, a thinner yarn, natural fibres, or some shaping.

Also, in Etsy clothing, apparently the key to sales is to chop old lace tablecloths up into abbreviated tops with string for straps, dye them with mushrooms, and allude to faeries and woodsprites in the ad copy.  I don't think I could do that with a straight face.

What else.  I gathered from the Internet images of a number of old Roman spindle whorls in glass, lead, and clay.  I successfully cast a pewter whorl in sand on my own without help, and now have to cut away the sprue, file the edges, and bore a hole for the shaft.  If I can do that, especially the hole part which worries me, then I'm in business.

More dyeing with indigo today.  I am going to put a perfectly good, unworn cashmere sweater in the vat.  Hope the colour comes out evenly.  Wish me well.

July 18, 2015

Holland Covers

There is this thing in historical novels where the author describes a room with the upholstered furniture covered with white fabric cloth to protect it.  The name for it was holland covers.  It was something you did as a maintenance chore for when you were away from the house, travelling.  I've always thought it sounded rather nice, all that white and an uncluttered feeling.  Not livable, but interesting and out of the scope of my ordinary life.

I was recently given a vintage damask linen tablecloth with yellow stains and holes to see if I could revive it.  The woman said, "lemon juice and sunlight."  I used citric acid powder in the wash, followed by time to dry in the sun out on some grass.  Had to wash the cloth twice, and then the stains were gone.  Then I gave the cloth two dips in the indigo vat, a vat which was successful by the way.

I threw the mottled blue thing over some boxes of packing supplies and buckets of wool in the wool room to envelope them and get them out of sight, sort of like holland covers.  It's mottled because the cloth was too large for the dye to penetrate everywhere.

Over top is a thrift store linen dress, bright blue flowers on a white background.  Someday it may become an apron.

I still have most of an indigo vat outside, dormant, and am thinking what I could do with it.  When I finish knitting the baby hat, I will pop that in the vat.  I keep forgetting to pretreat some wool with alum mordant overnight for a madder dye pot.

July 11, 2015

See and Be Seen

I've been spending my time acquiring supplies and skills, which is to say my to-do list has gotten longer.  I've been doing this largely to the exclusion of working on projects and as a result I am a little cross with myself, ready to instate resolutions and revolutions.  Maybe I'll track every day I make stuff for at least an hour.  Or maybe I will slough off again, lying on the couch reading the messy stack of how-to books I have out from the library.

I heard a quote from Ted Wright about the difference between hipsters and yuppies: "Are you doing it because you want to be doing it, or are you doing it because you want to be seen doing it?"  Certainly I do fiber arts because I want to do them, and so do all the fiber artists I know.  And yet, we love our show and tell.  In person, at exhibitions, online, in print.  Blow by blow, or in a big reveal.

Speaking of being seen, last month I went to a World Wide Knit in Public Day event.  It was fun.

I went to a local meeting for the Society for Creative Anachronism, to see inkle weaving and tablet weaving, and while I was there I got to see a centuries-old lead whorl and got to hear about probable methods of making shafts to go with such whorls.  I should have taken a photo of the whorl but I was intent on taking measurements, and forgot.  The whorl was about 1 inch in diameter and shaped like a donut with a hole about 3/8 inch in diameter.  The height was a little over 3/8 of an inch.

And this is why we are seen doing fiber arts, for the free flow of information to better our understanding, our skills, and our stash.  And for delight.  Because it's fun to make someone happy by showing them your yarn.  We don't see knitting and weaving much in ordinary daily life as the traditions got interrupted, and so we compensate.  Each conversation is like finding another puzzle piece to construct an idea of what is possible, what was done and what can be done.

Today I plan to manage my first indigo vat.  I've invited a friend to come over and dye some yarn, and I must say that this is helping me get to it and not put it off.