Fiber Art DOTW - Week 7
Aka the fiber art diaries (damn… I wish I’d come up with that term seven weeks ago, LOL. Note to self: do this for 2020) - read up on week 1 to see what this is all about.
February 10th (sewing sunday)
I wanted to get back to doing some clothes, although this week is going to be focused more on stitching than creating. It’s still sewing, right? A few years ago I picked up these no-name jeans at a thrift store with the intent of doing something creative with them. I’m serious, there’s no branding on these whatsoever - no tags, no evidence of tags, nothing. They’re my size in the waist, but they’re definitely a bit too short, which is amusing because I’m also a bit short so I’m not used to finding things that are too short on me. I’d say that they fit the way I believe boyfriend jeans do? Not skinny jeans tight, but also not baggy. They aren’t cuffed though, so alteration #1 is to stitch the cuffs so they stay put. Sure, I could just roll them up when I put them on, but the cuffs on my jeans always end up coming undone, or they’re mismatched or whatever. The next step is to personalize them. I really love this channel on Sashiko stitching, and I really really really appreciate that he created these amazing tutorials. I’m all for learning from the masters, especially from those whose culture a particular method of craft comes from, rather than learning from someone who might only know how Sashiko pattern is supposed to look but doesn’t know the method or the history behind the stitches. For a better understanding of Sashiko, watch the following video (and definitely check out/subscribe to the rest of the channel if you’re interested).
I can definitely relate to the spirit of Sashiko on a deeper level. For one, that’s how I approach most things in my life (most, some things just aren’t worth fixing). I frequent thrift stores, love yard sales, and love the idea of upcycling things. But it’s not about being the most frugal - for example I don’t buy cheap things just because they’re cheap. I do appreciate quality, and would rather spend a bit more on something if it’s better quality. I am picky about the things I acquire, and I let go of things that no longer serve me (in a bit of Konmari fashion, though I’m not as religious about it as some people are). My family, being that my parents grew up in a cold war country at a time when my grandparents stood in bread lines, is much the same way, and while I had difficulty with appreciating this as a child - I wanted to be like all the other kids and have all the new things and the latest fashions - things changed once I was on my own. I see the problem now with our consumerist culture, and it’s not just a matter of affordability. In a society that depends on people buying things, but also one in which profit margins are more important than paychecks, things aren’t made to last. It doesn’t make sense to make quality items for two reasons: one, quality cuts into profits, and two, if people don’t need to buy things, companies make less money. There’s a fine line that companies walk between making something quality enough to earn a good review, but shoddy enough that they’ll need to replace it within a certain amount of time. Quality craftsmanship isn’t profitable on a mass scale, and pride in the quality of one’s product is practically nonexistent in 90% of the things you’ll find. “Quality craftsmanship” and “We take pride in our product” are often little more than a tagline. There is no pride in big business that has to do with one’s product. It’s become mostly meaningless, hence the push for slow consumerism.
I could write a whole separate post with my thoughts based on that quote, but that’s a post for another day (yes, even DIY as a trend often ends up being more expensive - you need all the right tools, the right supplies, etc., and it’s something I constantly battle with myself).
On the other end of things, because there’s no pride in the things made, because they aren’t made well, and because they aren’t made to last, because they’re meant to be expendable, I think it’s also difficult to understand what it means to take pride ourselves in caring for the objects in our possession. I honestly think that’s part of why so many people didn’t seem to get the concept behind Konmari, or laugh off concepts of animism. Not that you need to be a Shinto practitioner to understand the ideas of where their respect for their home comes from or for the items that reside in their home, but I don’t think Westerners would appreciate if people outside the country mocked their belief systems either. Besides, I know many a person who would swear that they feel a deeper connection to a beloved heirloom that’s more than just nostalgic.
So whereas Sashiko (and similar concepts around the world, such as the concept behind Kantha stitching) was originally born out of a need due to a lack of resources, I see this as having a renewed purpose when it comes to returning to a time when things were made and mended by hand, but this time by choice in order to jump off the consumerist hamster wheel. Instead of there being shame behind it, as it did once, it’s now a purposeful act of defiance. I know I’m bordering on sounding like a hipster here, but this isn’t about being trendy in one’s attempt to be anti-trendy. In fact to get into Sashiko just for the trend or because it looks cool is both doing it disservice and appropriative. Not that it’s part of my personal cultural history, but to me, if there was a craft that had a deeper cultural meaning to it, and it was something I wanted to share with the world, I would want people to try to learn about its history and meaning. I do hope that more people connect with the ideas of slow consumerism, of Konmari, of upcycling and mending, and it doesn’t just end up another passing trend. I could go on about this forever, but we’ll move on.
Anyway, back to my project… Regarding this particular pair of jeans, I’m using what I have (though at some point I would like to get Sashiko thread, as there is a difference) - I have this old cotton thread that’s probably as old as I am that I inherited from my mom’s craft stash. The jeans are definitely something I want to work on for a while before I call it “done,” but since these are what I’d consider warm-weather jeans, the goal is to have it ready before the weather warms up. I did both cuffs (though only the front, need to do the back side too) on Sunday, and then worked on the Asanoha pattern throughout the week.
February 11 (make-it monday)
I’ve lost count how many times I’ve attempted to learn how to knit. The first time was in 5th grade, when my school tried introducing a new extracurricular type program (for lack of a better term for it) where the teachers all offered to teach something off the books, and we signed up for the various classes. My homeroom teacher, Mrs. Purtle, offered a knitting class, so I signed up. I’d also learned that year how to crochet - starting with the Tunisian (aka afghan) stitch - thanks to one of the admins in the afterschool program. She was working on some baby blankets for her friends, and a group of us became fascinated with the process, so she agreed to teach us after school if we all brought our own tools/supplies. Needless to say, I got hooked on crochet (pun intended) because I found it to be much easier. I did actually manage to knit some sort of potholder, was told I knit backwards. I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing but it was definitely different and unusual so I gave up - I didn’t want to be any more different and unusual than I already was. Being a child of immigrants, with long, frizzy hair, glasses, good student/nerdy/geeky and rather socially awkward and clueless (among other things), I was different and unusual enough thankyouverymuch. I already had a hard time making/keeping friends beyond those who were also considered social outcasts, and the last thing I needed was to be told I knit differently than everyone else. Thinking back, I think they meant left handed? I don’t know - it’s where the stitches were on the right needle and I was moving them to the left. Also, I don’t do that now, but moving on.
I still loved the look of knit, as it seemed tighter and less “chunky” than crochet does, and saw the value in knowing both. To me it’s not about one being better than the other. They’re just different. I no longer think different is a bad thing. Crochet is better for some things (I think it’s great for lace for example) and knit for others (like socks). Every now and then, I’d pick up the needles, grab my encyclopedia of knitting book, and try again.
The last time I tried, in the beginning of December, something about it finally clicked. I started out with a regular garter stitch, and then I started playing around with it. I ended up with something that resembles a weird swatch with oddball stitches all over it, cast it off, and was pretty proud. That being said, I’d always been interested in learning the really complicated looking stuff, but trying to figure out what’s going on by reading the book just wasn’t happening. I also learned during this time that I much prefer bamboo needles, because the metal ones are heavy and the stitches slide right off.
This past week, someone posted a gorgeous knit blanket covered in cables in the mildly offensive fiber artists group (MOFA for short), and I just had to figure it out. When other people see something they love, they want to buy it (she wasn’t selling it though, said she’d be buried with it). When I see something I love, I want to figure out how to make it myself. Thanks to this personality trait/quirk of mine, I’ve learned how to do all sorts of things in my life, and what ultimately brought me here. Here with felting, here with sewing, with weaving, with spinning, with tatting, with knitting (also plenty of other non-fiber-related things). There simply isn’t enough time in my life to learn all the things I’d want to learn, but at least I’ll never be bored, right? Anyway, I looked up how to do a cable knit, which looked simple enough on video, then found this really awesome tutorial (and channel in general) hiding in the sidebar. Actually it was a Celtic braid knitting tutorial, and that had the Saxon braid tutorial in the sidebar.
So I did what I also have a habit of doing, which is instead of starting with something simple like the basic cable, I go for ultra complicated: four cables all at the same time! Luckily for me, once I figured out how it works, it actually isn’t all that complicated at all. I did have to frog it a few times. First time was when I got confused on the back side, and I was only a few rows in, so I ripped the whole thing. Later on I was more than halfway done, got ahead of myself/the tutorial, and threw in an extra row after the middle cross that didn’t need to be there. I frogged it back to a spot without cabling involved, picked up the stitches, and tried again. There was a third time where I had to undo just one row because RJ Knits only mentions the cable X’s and not the crossing over that happens to move the cables over a purled section, so I missed a switcheroo. Eventually though, I finally managed to get a whole Saxon braid section done. Took me most of a day to do it (so much for balancing my time) but I just couldn’t put it down. That and I was stressed about the aforementioned bull that reared its head today, and this helped to calm me down rather quickly. It turns out that knitting seems to be an excellent coping mechanism for anxiety for me. Next, I’d want to try doing it with contrasting colors for the cables and purled sections. OOOooooh. But first I think I’ll continue practicing with this one until I run out of yarn. I don’t have much left as it was scrap left over from a crocheted connected hat/scarf thing that I made years ago, like this one but seamless, also more of a hat than a hood.
Tiny confession - I ended up ordering some super cheap knitting needles with really long cables - 40 inches total from needle tip to needle tip, with the hopes of making a large blanket on them at some point. It was only $9 for the set on Amazon. As long as they hold up, that’s all that matters to me - but then again I’d probably be willing to create my own long cable needles out of dowels and cording of some sort if they’re not long enough. That and some actual cable knitting needles to make the process a bit faster/easier than what I was using to do this.
february 13 (tatting tuesday)
As I mentioned last week, I decided to become a patron of Spite & Sparrow, and wanted to attempt the beautiful Crush heart motif that she created. I screwed up big time, LOL. What I mean is it involved quite a bit of snipping and sewing because I joined to the wrong picots, lost track of which ring I was on and made the wrong one, and then I forgot a picot somewhere, and it was just a mess. I ended up just making it work the best I could, enough to make it look like a finished piece, but without the outside border. Looks good enough as a gothic valentine’s day heart ornament. I’ll make an attempt at doing this motif again next week, this time hopefully without all the mistakes. That’s what I get for attempting to watch a documentary while shuttle tatting a new pattern.
february 14 (weaving wednesday)
I was pretty excited to weave in some of this icelandic yarn I spun up last week into the scarf project, and there’s a mix of nubby goodness from the thicker parts, as well as a few lock ends sticking out here and there. I definitely need to practice lockspinning more, because I’d love the kind of yarn that has really long lock tails in it. This one was just based off one lockspinning tutorial. Since I actually managed to fill the whole bobbin up with this yarn, I’m not using all of it for the project, but the idea is to preserve at least a little bit of every yarn I spin into a learning-to-spin sampler scarf. I mean, in the beginning I was using up the entire yarn as I was weaving, because I really didn’t have all that much spun up. To think that the first time I tried spinning I kept getting stuck in the pedaling, and now I can keep things going and focus more on the drafting.
february 15 (threadful thursday)
This week had three stitches! The first main stitch, the “easy” stitch, was the detatched chain stitch, which I used too make the primrose, one of the February birth flowers (depending on your source), in the top right corner. I then used satin DMC thread to outline the border between the blue and silver with the alternating barred chain stitch, and finished off with circles stitched using the barred chain, first around the primrose, and then a few other bubbles which will be filled in over the next two weeks. Two more TAST weeks to go before the next block - February is such a short month.
february 16 (felting friday)
This week I continued working on the “big project,” which I wrote about a bit on Instagram when I shared it there. I’m also not sure if I mentioned that I am filming this entire process from start to finish, which will eventually get put up on Youtube, either in sections or once it’s completed. Most likely in sections. In any case, today I continued working on filling in the areas I started last time, fixing up the eyes, and building up the brow bones. The bridge of the nose still needs too be fixed. Eventually everything is going to be completely smoothed out and built up before the real fun begins with the color (as tempting as it is to start filling in the color now, like the irises).
I have an idea in my mind of who this is supposed to be to some degree, and I already know what colors will be involved, but I don’t know enough yet to give them a name. So for now I’m going to continue calling it my “big project,” LOL. It really seems like not much is done between last photo and this one, but this really is how much was done in the course of maybe an hour and a half. It takes time with projects such as these. As you’ll likely see in the videos, I feel it with my hands. I squish the pieces to see if they’re where they need to be. I run my fingers over it to feel the smoothness, to see if needs more felting, or more wool. I also feel it to guide me. I know to some that might sound silly, but I know at least a handful of people who would agree with me that the wool guides us. That’s maybe the best way to explain it.
“A hand that obeys the intellect can discover it…” I think every artist at some point reaches this, and this is where things really start moving from craft to art. I don’t get this with everything I make by any means. Maybe that’s the difference? Craft is stuff we make, either for fun or with a purpose in mind. Art tells us what it wants to be. Just a random thought.
That was it for crafty things this week, because this weekend I took on another major undertaking, that being upgrading my website! Very soon, you’ll see a shop link at the top where Etsy shop used to be (though my Etsy will still be open for the time being), and I’m finally all set up to send out email newsletters. The shipping is going to take some time to set up, because I have to input all the info/prices manually, and then there’s the matter of adding all the products. So for my international patrons, you’ll be able to get the digital downloads on here as soon as it opens, but it might be a while before I have the international shipping stuff set up. Going forward, I am going to have products that are exclusive on this site only, and not on Etsy, as I slowly move away from that platform.
If you are interested in signing up for my newsletter, just click on Star Magnolias at the top left corner of this page, which will take you to the home page. There, at the top, is the newsletter sign up form. If you signed up on my website in the past, I already have your info - it had been sitting in a spreadsheet until I was able to get the email campaigns running. That’s it for this week (oh, and I do have a blog post that I want to get up this week, so you’re not just inundated with DOTW posts - there’s the vegan needle felting post I’d promised you the other week that I need to finish up for example.)
Happy Felting, and see you next week!