Sunday, August 29, 2010

Back to the Magic & Mythology

I am still drawn to the fairy tales and mythology that surround the arts of spinning and weaving.  For some reason knitting and crochet don't get the glory like spinning and weaving.  I think perhaps its because there's a type of alchemy, "some magic", in transforming fluff into substance that can be woven and knitted.  Just about every other fairy tale is about spinning hay to gold.  Talk about making something out of nothing!  As I look into all the various folk tales, they are cautionary tales of laziness, or asking others to do your chores (that's when the fairy folk come to help and then wreck the place).  They are finger wagging admonitions that you won't marry if you don't have skills!  Of course, I also enjoy the reverse spin (pardon the pun) where the damsel who cannot spin shows her husband the hideous physical mutations that come of being a good spinner (mainly big ugly lips from wetting the flax as they spin, amongst other troll-like attributes).  There is so much to cover in the mythology of this art, from the ancient goddesses to the characters in Marion Zimmer Bradley's Mists of Avalon, that I cannot possibly cover it all.  I've wanted to, but it is truly overwhelming.

However, through the good graces of Wikepedia, who has neatly broken down the various mythologies for me . . . I thought perhaps I could go down the line and share the myths and some lore surrounding spinning and weaving one at a time.  It's a good way for me to learn as I go and saves us all from "TMI".

I'll start of with Neith (aka: Nit, Net & Neit), an early goddess in the Egyptian pantheon.  She was mainly worshipped in the Western Nile Delta of Egypt.   She was a goddess of war and hunting.  Her hieroglyph bore a resemblance of a loom, so in later years she also became the goddess of weaving.  Prior to this, her name was interpreted as water and she was linked to the primordial waters of creation:  a mother-goddess.  But a different interpretation of her name meant weaver and she was considered to have woven the world and all existence on her loom.  In art, Neith is often depicted as having a shuttle on top of her head and holding bows and arrows in her hands.  I guess women have been called upon to multi-task since the beginning of time.

As a goddess of weaving and all things domestic, Neith was considered to be a guardian of women and protector of marriage.  However, she was still a goddess of war and retained an association with death (I brought you into this world and I'll take you out -- comes to mind).  Actually, it was said that she wove the shrouds and bandages as a gift to the mummified dead.  She was considered a water goddess, the mother of crocodiles and the mother of Ra the Sun God.  But as the goddess of weaving she was said to re-weave the world on her loom daily.  She was a virgin goddess, yet all that she conceived in her heart came to be, including thirty gods.  Procius (412 - 485 AD) wrote of an inscription in the adyton of the temple of Neith (an adyton is a restricted area of a temple, usually at the farthest end, often housing the cult image of the god and accessible only to oracles, priests or acolytes).  Sadly the temple has been lost to time, but the words of it's inscription live on:

"I am the things that are, that will be, and that have been.  No one has ever laid open the garment by which I am concealed.  The fruit which I bore forth was the sun."

Only a goddess could lay claim to such powers of creation . . . that only a woman could appreciate.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Have Wheel, Will Travel

I still can't believe how fast my desire to learn to spin has manifested itself.  True, I have been stalking spinners at craft fairs for quite a few years.  But that was more curiosity than desire at the time (I think).  I checked the date on the first "Spin Off" magazine I bought out of  "curiosity".  It was the Winter 2009 edition.  When I first saw it on the bottom of the magazine rack, I was in disbelief.  I couldn't believe that there were so many people spinning that this craft had it's own magazine.  On the front was a picture of beautiful art yarn that had varying colors of green with a little bright yellow in it and it had these cool coils throughout.  I was in L-U-V.   I had no idea when I bought that magazine that I would already own my very own wheel and be learning to spin before the Winter of 2011!   I've been wishing to be rich for a long time and that never manifested itself.  Perhaps it's too vague or too common of a wish. 

I'm sorry to report that I missed my first Knit-In at the Osterhaut Library.  Underneath all my yarn and bills and snippets of material I finally found my buried calendar.  Upon it's resurrection I saw that I had a long overdue dental appointment.  Sometimes one just has to do what must be done.  So I will attempt the next months Knit-In.  I did make it to the Sit n' Spin event at WoodsEdge Farm in New Jersey.  That was quite a trip.  I learned two things about planning a trip . . . always check your map against the Map-Quest directions and no matter how much your friend loves you and wants to be there for you,  if you get them lost you will have hell to pay until you are "un-lost".  Fortunately we were able to laugh between the screaming and the hyperventilation.   Aside from some travel snafus, it was an excellent day.  The day was sunny with blue skies, the countryside in New Jersey was beautiful and WoodsEdge Farm was a paradise. 

The property was immense.  There were acres of open land and land populated by pines that provided a cool respite for the llamas grazing behind split rail fences.  There was a two story country house, a barn, and the main building had a very inviting front porch that begged to be sat upon.  However, the day was a hot and humid so the spinning was going on inside the building where it was airconditioned.  As I walked in I entered a huge foyer with big shiny square hunks of granite stone for a floor.  To the left and right of the foyer were rooms filled with beautiful knit garments and socks, wool for felting, felted hats adorned with huge fabric roses, adorable sock monkeys and some llama toys (complete with Sherpa hats), hand made molded soaps and even honey from their bee farm.  Continuing straight ahead were two deacons benches set on either side of the foyer (where the girls were parked) and wooden doors behind them that went into a huge barn.  The door handles were wrought iron llamas (too cool).   I was able to go out into that barn because the bathroom was a well-maintained and clean port-a-potty way in the back of the barn.  The barn was stocked with hay and there were some baby goats enclosed  half-way into the barn and half outside.  In the front of the barn were bags and bags and bags of fleece on several tables and a rack with some dyed scarves that were probably put there to dry. 

When my girlfriend and I first arrived and parked outside this magnificent building we were greeted by a very nice girl.  God forgive me, I am so terrible with names I cannot remember the names of anyone except for Jane and Linda (the owner of that beautiful farm) and the Etsy nome de plume of one girl, Ginger.  The girl that greeted us was a very nice girl with dark hair & blue eyes.  She told us she was spending her summer as an apprentice on the farm.  Three other girls were all from Gainesville, Florida and worked at the same college together.  They were friends of Linda and were spending their summer working on the farm while visiting with each other.  Another woman, probably close to my age was spinning away on some beautiful blue wool yarn.  I liked how she had a woven basket (like the kind we used to buy fruit in) lined with fabric, sporting a frilly border and several balls of blue yarn neatly tucked into it.   Another older woman joined us and was showing us the fiber she intended to blend together.  I got to watch while she used paddles that looked huge in her hands to card the fiber before spinning (Carding is when you use paddles that look like dog brushes to brush your fiber out or blend it).   My agenda was to learn to spin better.  But I've noticed that spinners are very single-minded when they spin.  I did learn many things, however.  I learned how to use a ball winder and a skein winder (items I will need to purchase myself).   "Ginger" was spinning very fine silk (I'm guessing about the weight here) lace weight yarn on a spindle.  She also produced a tahkli spindle that she was using to spin cotton.  I can't tell you how fine and perfect that cotton looked!  I should probably explain that spindles are the low-tech way to spin and great for traveling because they are small.  There are different types, top whorl, bottom whorl and the tahkli which has a small bowl that supports the spindle while you spin.  That's a whole other discussion and one I've yet to learn myself!   Ginger taught me so much about fiber.  She's a DNA forensic specialist at the college and obviously a gifted teacher!  She brought out sample locks of fiber to show me the difference between straight fiber and crimped fiber which gives more bounce and loft to the yarn.  She told me about the short staple length (that's the length of each hair or fiber and it makes a big difference when you're spinning) of cotton and the difference in fiber diameter of different fleeces and fibers.  My favorite moment was when she produced what looked like a brightly dyed hankie which was actually several layers of silk fiber.  She peeled off one of the ever so fine layers which was in the shape of a flattened cocoon.  It was like a oval cob web in blues and white.  Then she began to pull the fibers and it turned into a beautiful gossemar strand with the colors becoming ethereal and delicate.  Can you tell I think fiber is eye candy? 

All the while everyone spun and chatted and they were very happy to answer any of my questions.  I had such a great time.  I would like go back one day.  But next time I will have a mapped out plan and I think I will plan on staying in that cute little town of Stockton, New Jersey. 

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Blog Block

For those few who do look forward to my Blogs, I am sad to report that the muse has not stirred me of late.  So, this will be a kind of "Stay Tuned for More" blog.  While there has been a bit of a lull (financially, mentally, and there's nothing like a good hot spell to make you turn into a couch potato) there are things in the works!  My calendar is filling up with all kinds of cool things that I'm sure will be fodder for my Blogging future.

First, I have to give a tip of the hat to my generous benefactor, Craig Johnson, from the Worthington Acres Alpaca Farm and to PayPal (the only credit I have left--I hope) for making this gal's dreams come to fruition!  Craig sold me his used Babes Fiber spinning wheel at a significant discount so I am now the proud owner of my very own spinning wheel.  It's not a fancy wheel, but as long as I can spin on it, I am thrilled!  It's a light-weight portable wheel, so I can easily take it with me on my new adventures in spinning.

Next weekend, I'll being taking it to Stockton, NJ for my very first "Sit n' Spin".   I've never done anything like this in my life before, so it should be quite the experience.  Basically it's a bring your own lunch & libation, free event that you can bring your spinning and knitting too and hang out with all the others to learn and have fun.  I'm nervous but excited.  Anybody who knows me knows I'm not real big on crowds and especially crowds of unknown people!  Hopefully the love of all things fiber will be the bonding glue for me.

The Friday after that I'm going to my good friend, Andzia's, Amber Shop to see her "Jewels of Verve Vertu" open house and exhibit.  I'm really looking forward to that.   This is an exhibit of works of art in the form of batiks, felt purses, wall hangings and I can't wait to see what other surprises.  Andzia tells me I can expect to be wowed by the beauty.  This event is compliments of the art studio of The Deutsch Institute who helps special needs people and people with disabilities do something I'm fond of . . . embrace their dreams through creativity!

That Saturday, I will be attending my first "Knit In" that has recently been formed as a monthly meeting group right here in River City (Wilkes-Barre) at our wonderful Osterhaut Library.  I found out about that through my online group that I love, Ravelry.   Finally, something fiber related that isn't two hours or more away!

The rest of August looks to be uneventful.  But come September I'll be busy as ever.  The weekend of September 11th & 12th is the big Fiber Festival at the Harford fairgrounds.  Hopefully I'll be able to make that trip.  A second "Knit In" at the Osterhaut takes place the following Saturday.   The weekend after that I'm going to grit my teeth and aim the old rust bucket toward Cleveland, Ohio to visit my sister and attend "National Alpaca Farm Days" to be held at the MetroParks there.  The two of us loose around alpacas and yarn . . . it could be dangerous.  Either one of us may come home with a "new pet".   The following Monday begins everyone's favorite Pennsylvania fair . . . The Bloomsburg Fair!  And as a new member of the Susquehanna Valley Spinners and Weaver's Guild, I have the opportunity to participate in the Spinning Clatch and educational exhibit there.  I will be scouring the Thrift stores to find something vaguely Colonial looking to wear so I keep with the theme.  Yes, Laurel Ingalls, I'm channeling you!  Oh, that should be a hoot.  When was the last time I wore a dress?  I can assure you, there will be bloomers of some sort underneath.

God willing and the creek don't rise, I should have a very eventful and fun couple of months.  Stay tuned!