Tag Archives: fibre arts

T is for Tools – Pagan Blog Project 2014

Everything Important Has A Name.
This is something that my wife taught me, though I’m not sure if she just picked it up through observation, or if one of the those Dutch cabinet-makers who taught her carpentry also taught her this but, either way, every time she gets a new tool, particularly if it’s a tool with moving parts, she tells me the names of all the parts and, frequently, the name of the specific tool as well. All the sewing machines have names that they’ve told her as she’s used them.
My wife just bought me an antique Walking Wheel, which is a kind of spinning wheel that doesn’t have a treadle (you turn the big wheel by hand, and the big wheel turns a much, MUCH smaller wheel which, in turn (ha!) turns the spindle and spins the yarn/thread and you go) and which is the kind of wheel that Sleeping Beauty would have pricked her finger on, around about 800 years ago. Typically, this would have no “fly wheel” – the kind of thing with hooks to help keep the spun thread lining up on the spindle all at once – and would have a spindle that was, essentially, a great big nail that you could absolutely hurt yourself on. That said, since mine is missing its spindle, we’ll see what we can come up with as we go.
She is probably around 200 years old, though I could be wrong (and it looks like a couple of her legs have been replaced over the years). She might be the type that the Shakers tended to make. The big wheel turns the little wheel. The little wheel is called the Mother Of All, and she – supported by two delicate posts who are called The Maidens, turns the spindle, which twists the yarn as it spins. I can’t help wanting to call the big wheel the Crone or the Grandmother, though I know that’s not its proper name.
I put my hand on that big, bent oak Wheel, and she told me, very clearly, “Sarah”.
My spinning wheel’s name is Sarah.
Everything important has a name.

Q is for Quilt – Pagan Blog Project 2014

So, as-you-know-bob, there’s a tonne of stuff out there (relatively speaking, at least) about spinning and yarn as can be used in magic – spinning for trance work in Seide, for example, or using yarn (hand-spun or not) for binding or other knot-magical purposes. But, being as I’ve started sewing more of my own clothes of late, and being as one off-shoot of that is that I’ve got a small (thank goodness) but growing (er…) bag of scrap fabric sitting in my craft cabinet, I’ve started wondering if quilting isn’t somewhere in my near future. To that end, I have started wondering how quilting can be turned to magical purposes.
I mean, there’s the obvious stuff – stitching pieces of people’s old clothes together in the form of patch-work is a way of binding them together, strengthening family ties, and so-on – but I’m wondering what else it can do.
 
Creating quilts as devotional art, for example, by choosing colours and patterns that would appeal or depict your patron deities. Quilting wall-hangings that fit with a given seasonal rite as it pertains to your own bioregion. The act (and final product) of quilting as a multi-layered means of ancestor remembrance/connection – both as a skill-set and with regards to which fabrics get used. Using the pattern of stitches to, say, cursive-write a spell directly into the quilt without “lifting your pencil” (that would actually be really difficult, since quilts are on the big side and needles tend to need re-threading multiple times during the quilting process). Including specific elements/components in the quilt’s stuffing or stitching different stone beads into a quilted wall-hanging might also apply.
 
Right now, the fabric scraps I have are bits of various wedding dresses (mine and my wife’s) plus some scrap fabric from a dress I made for myself, and the odd shirt or two that I’ve tailored. Not a whole lot to work with, spell-wise, but using scraps of my own clothes – stuff I’ve made for myself because I wanted something specific to fit my needs and my desires – could be a great way to quilt a glamour spell for myself, for example, using the quilted fabric (with or without some sort of warming in-between layer) to create a magical dress or skirt for myself – in the same way that I’m creating a Fetish Shawl for myself out of yarn that I’ve hand-spun and then knit into various stripes – and treating it as a means to stitch bits of my empowered, desirous Self back together.
 
Might be worth a shot.
 
Thoughts on quilting magic? Ever tried it? How did it go?
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

H is for Handicrafts (Clan Tartan Edition) – Pagan Blog Project 2014

Moving right along, and going for another two-posts-in-one slingshot, we have Handicrafts. I’ve written before about how fibre arts, kitchen craft, and other such things are ways for me to connect with my ancestors, so this is nothing new on that front.
However I wanted to share my latest bit handicrafting, which is adding another layer to that connection.
 
See, my latest weaving project – the reason I wanted to learn to weave in the first place, no less – is the weaving of my family tartan.
 

Purple and green with black and red accents.  My loom is only wide enough to do half the warping pattern at a time, but I'll get there eventually. :-D

Purple and green with black and red accents. My loom is only wide enough to do half the warping pattern at a time, but I’ll get there eventually. 😀


 
I (re-)warped the loom this morning and did one (wefting) cycle of the colour pattern.
That’s how you weave a tartan. The warping pattern and the wefting pattern are the same, and you get the complicated interweaving by using a variety of colours in a simple (1-2-1-2) up-down alternating pattern, rather than by using a complex mix of warping levels – which would require either a more complex loom or – in my case – a more complex understanding of how to weave using a more complex loom (as my loom can do four+ heddle “levels” at a time… apparently).
 
My paternal grandmother was a weaver. The tartan I’m weaving belongs to my paternal grandfather’s line. The line that bears my name. My paternal grandmother was Beligan/German/Scottish. My paternal grandfather was Scottish. My maternal lines were English, Irish and Scottish (and I have Plans to do a weaving of my mother’s clan (her family line is a sept of a particular clan) tartan as well, but I want to do this one, first).
 
When I was a kid, I had a kilt in my clan tartan. By the time I hit puberty it was too small for me, but I’ve wanted to have one ever since. My plan for this hand-weaving is to make a garment that is part tartan and part leather, with the two pieces joined (and edged) with a thin (1″-2″) strip of black leather. I’ll get my lovely wife to do the sewing on it, I suspect, and – most likely – I’ll throw in a cotton/broadcloth lining (so not really a kilt, but something of that ilk).
 
My wife said to me today: You might be the first person in your line, in two hundred years, to weave the family tartan.
And I might be.
Of course there’s that small situation where the Clan Tartans are a “noble savage” fabrication by the Brits, connected with a Scottish fabric mill that named its different tartan patterns – somewhat randomly – after highland and lowland clans (and a number of other things, such as towns) and that this was going on about 200 years ago. Before that, Scottish folks wore tartan, to be sure, but they weren’t specific to any given clan. The wearing of tartan was forbidden by the English crown in the mid-1700s because of its associations with Scottish nationalism – that bit’s true – but my people in the West Marches and near Whiteadder (about 3 hours by bicycle, or a day-and-a-half by horse-drawn wagon, from Edinburgh) didn’t have tartans specific to their family-names until about 1815.
 
So it’s more likely that I’m the only person in my family line (barring anyone who worked in the mills for William Wilson & Sons (which, being located in Banockburn, an being therefore rather a ways from our traditional lands, so probably didn’t employ many, if any, of my ancestors) to have woven my family tartan.
Non the less, I hope they like that I’m doing it, that I’m thinking of them and glad to have them in my history and on my side. 🙂
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

F is for Fetish – Pagan Blog Project 2014

So, Lee Harrington has a podcast about leather and spirituality (yeah, yeah, that totally narrows it down), in which he says “It’s called a fetish for a reason” with regards to the power/symbolism with-which we imbue certain fabrics (leather, rubber, as just a couple of examples).
I tend not to wear my leather skirts to Any Old Event. I wear them almost-exclusively to kink-related events (with some added queer events thrown in because Representing). Part of this is, honestly, because my leather clothes are not that comfortable. They’re fine, as clothes go, but they tend towards pencil skirts and corsetry, which means they’re not the best for every-day Getting Things Done wear.
None the less, the idea of clothing as Objects of Power and Place, is both (a) a thing that gets me thinking, and (b) something that has resonated with me since my mid/late teens.
See, back when I was dressing my most gothically – complete with black lipstick and velvet everything, even on my most casual days – I still had what I thought of as “Regalia”. I think we all did. Our very best dress which – like leather garments, particularly gifted ones, in the Leather Community – were on par with full formal wear. When I dressed in that stuff, did my makeup all the way, added the extra, more cumbersome accessories (the finger armour, the rings connected to bracelets by delicate chains, the collars, the ear cuffs, the pony-falls and veils), I felt like I was putting on Full Ceremonial Dress: Regalia.
 
And – possibly because my leather clothes aren’t the easiest to move in, but also because I’m investigating Sacred Kink and Leather Woo more and more these days – I find myself wanting some sort of Ceremonial Garb. Something elegant and comfortable (and warm, but not oppressively so) that I can toss on to Formalize whatever I happen to be wearing (or not wearing) to this Ritual or that Leather Event.
I am making myself a shawl. Knitting it myself and, in a lot of cases (the shawl is, essentially, going to be a bunch of sewn-together scarves) hand-spinning the yarn as well. And, when I thing about this shawl, I see myself at Unholy Harvest. I see it fringed with bone beads and stone rings, soaking up all the sex-blood-desire energy – and also the home-phamily-tribe energy – of that time-outside-of-time world. I think about the way the colours I’ve chosen to spin together for my colourful stripes (a) are reminiscent of the bi pride flag, and (b) unexpectedly correspond to my own kinks (see: Hanky Code) in remarkably accurate ways: Purple. Maroon. Fuschia. Dark blue. Black. I didn’t pick them for those reasons – I picked them because they look good on me – but they work out that way anyway.
I think about the fact that wool – like leather – was once alive, came off the back of someone else, and that matters to me, that’s part of what makes it magical, makes it holy. I think about the fact that, as the creator of this object (on a number of different levels), I will be imbuing it was a lot of my own energy – and that effects the mindset that I try to hold while I’m working on it. Spin joyfully. Knit with love and certainty. That kind of thing. (Like making bread).
I think it’s that – the mix of magico-religious materials and the imbuing of an object with power and place – that make me think of this shawl as “kinky attire”. It’s “fetish” wear in the religious sense, and that’s carrying over (in multiple directions) to “fetish” wear in the bdsm/leather sense of the word.
 
Anyway. Thinky thoughts.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

A Stitch in Time

You know that saying, “A stitch in time saves nine”?
For decades, I had no idea what it meant. I thought the stitch in question was a bit like the “wrinkle” in the Madeleine l’Engle novel. In reality, it’s way more practical than that.
It refers to saving yourself a heap of work if you fix something quickly, while it’s still a minor problem.
 
Case in point: Darning socks.
 

On the left-hand side, a sock in the process of being darned.  It is stretched over a "mushroom" (a wooden thing - shaped like a shiitake, or maybe a portobello, mushroom - in order to make the process easier.  On the right-hand side, the same sock (and its mate) once the darning is done.  This took about 3.5-4 hours, most of which was spent on the first (upper) sock which had much, much bigger holes in it.

On the left-hand side, a sock in the process of being darned. It’s stretched over a “mushroom” (a wooden thing – shaped like a shiitake, or maybe a portobello, mushroom – in order to make the process easier. On the right-hand side, the same sock (and its mate) once the darning is done. This took about 3.5-4 hours, most of which was spent on the first (upper) sock which had much, much bigger holes in it.


 
Yes, I really did just blog my day’s mending. And it involved sweatsocks.
Why am I darning a pair of socks that cost me $6 for a package of two pairs?
Well… Partly, because I feel a little embarrassed to wear socks with big holes in the toes. Partly because there’s still a lot of really good sock left, if I’d just fix the holes. Partly because, right at the moment, I don’t actually have $6 with-which to buy a new package of mostly-cotton socks. And partly because I want to feel productive (I seem to have inherited my mother’s guilt around Being Idle), don’t want to throw out a pair of otherwise-perfectly-good socks, and would kind of prefer to create things (even if what I’m creating is Repairs) rather than just consuming them (although, honestly, I’m game for consuming things, too – Discount, formerly-Valentines-Day-related chocolates; new urban fantasy novels, DVDs of “RENT”, poetry performances, matinee showings of opera-at-the-movies…).
 
But there you go. I waited and waited to fix those socks, and finally did, and it tood For Ever. (The rip in my burgundy corduroy skirt, which I also fixed today, took maybe six minutes at a generous estimate).
Darning for the win!
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Shawl Project Plans

My altars are lit – finally, after too long (a couple of weeks, easy) having gone without – and I’m relaxing at home while my lovely wife is out on a date with one of her other sweeties.
I may have to send her a note suggesting that she grab a bottle of white wine on the way home, so that we can enjoy a glass of reisling (one can hope) with the chicken and sweet potatoes I’m (eventually) doing in the oven.
Right now, though, I’m messing about with the blogs. I finally got caught up on my Pagan Blog Project posts (see previous entry) and will, shortly, be caught up on my GGBP posts over on Syrens as well.
YAY!
Right now, though, I want to talk about knitting. I’ve decided that I’m going to knit myself a heavy, striped shawl via the simple means of knitting nine (or so) long, skinny scarves and then sewing them together. The idea is that I’ll have black stripes (odd number, so that both “bookend” stripes are black) alternating with stripes of Various Colours and the plan is that each of the Various Colours will be a hand-spun yarn, ideally one with some verigation or colour blending going on. The shawl should end up being about 2.5′ deep by 5′ or 6′ long. At least that’s the hope.
 
Right now, that means one stripe done in the deep blue (with hints of purple and white) silk-merino that I got fairly early on in my spinning endevors, and one stripe (eventually, once I’ve spun some more) in the same deep ruby that I turned into arm warmers back in December. I do have a small heap of other roving that I can work with – most of which I got for felting soap and making felted jewelry (haven’t done much of either, though so might as well turn it into yarn) – and I’m thinking I’ll do a combination of turquoise and lavender with, maybe, a bit of darker purple thrown in here and there, and another skein done in the dark purple (though I’m not sure what I’ll mix it with… maybe white? I’d have to see how that went).
 
I’d like to spin something like a peacock blue, or a teal that I’ve heavily mixed with royal blue and just a few hints of emerald, but we’ll see… I’d have to get new roving for that. Likewise, I’d like to do a deep, bloody red – and I have some crimson roving lying around for just that purpose – but… Again, I’m not sure what I’d mix it with. Based on what I’ve got… carefully mixed feather-fine touches of ruby and dark purple, probably. And I’d love to do a variety of pinks… a rich fuschia couple with touches of the ruby plus something very pale but still in the pink spectrum.
 
Each colourful stripe could be a different width, too – possibly getting narrower as the colours get lighter? – for extra visual interest.
Who knows.
 
Anyway. That’s where I’m at. I won’t be hand-spinning the black yarn although I may be buying it. I’ve got three skeins of black merino already BUT it’s a really fine gage – like sock yarn, or close to it – and, while it’s turning out beautifully using a twisted-stitch and 2.25mm needles… it’s taking for freakin’ ever, and that’s not the idea here. the idea here is to be able to put the black stripes together on 7mm (or 5mm) needles, using a twisted stitch, and get each one done on a given lazy afternoon while watching Lord of the Rings or something.
 
Anyway. That – along with my erstwhile pair of socks – is my current Project for the moment.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Knitting with Handspun Yarn – Opera Length Arm-Warmers (in the round)

So. Quite a while back, I learned how to hand-spin using the drop spindle that my wife made me out of a cupboard-door-pull, a bent nail, and a bit of skinny doweling. It works quite well, fyi. There’s a reason you can make these things out of tinker toy. 😉
 
Anyway. One of the fibres I’ve been spinning is corriedale. I went with this partially because it’s the least expensive fibre available at my local fibre-geeks shop, but also because it came in (among many other things) a lovely dark wine/berry colour that happens to be something I can wear.
So I spun a heap of that, all the while wondering what I would make from the stuff once I’d spun all the roving I’d bought. (For reference, I’ve used about 2/3 of the stuff as of now). I mean, yes, I know there are a zillion suggestions up on Ravelry for what to do with a small amount of slightly lumpy single-ply probably-worsted-weight yarn.
I’ve even used some of them.
But, this being me, I’m more likely to just futz around with something until I turn it into something useable (see: my method of cooking, for reference).
 
Right.
So where is this going?
It’s going to my attendance at a clothing swap, just shy of two months ago, where-at I was able to pick up a totally adorable 3/4-sleeve (on me…) funfur coat in, oh hey a lovely dark wine/berry colour. That just happens to match the yarn I’ve been hand-spinning for ages.
 
😀
 
See, I live in a climate where winter is, for the most part, Serious Business. But we do get occasional weird-ass thaws, like the one that’s happening as we speak. The temperature is hovering around freezing (a week ago it was -28C not counting the wind chill, so…) and it’s safe for me to wear my totally adorable funfur coat out and about. BUT! It’s still not bare arms weather, which means: arm-warmers!
 
Yeah, I know. Who’s never made arm-warmers?
But I only just got the hang of making them using circular needles, so I’m feeling rather chuffed about the whole thing. I made myself a pair of elbow-length arm warmers to go with a specific piece of clothing. And they look good! 😀
 

Elbow-length arm-warmers made with berry/wine single-ply handspun corriedale yarn.  :-D Go me! :-D

Elbow-length arm-warmers made with berry/wine single-ply handspun corriedale yarn. 😀
Go me! 😀


 
Something I’ve learned, though, is that when knitting with hand-spun (or at least with yarn that I’ve handspun…) there may need to be an extra row here or there to make up for the variations in yarn thickness. My second one is just a tiny bit (maybe 5mm?) shorter than my first one.
Woops.
Still! They do what they’re supposed to do and look like they’re supposed to look, and I managed not to drop any stitches, so I’m happy! 😀
 
If I were to do this pattern again with a similarly weighted (or “gaged”, I suppose) yarn, I would probably make some changes.
But let’s take a look.
 
Original Pattern for Opera-Length Arm-Warmers (for a very tall woman)
 
1) Cast 40 stitches onto a set of 4mm (or so) circular needles sized for making socks and baby-hats and similar.
 
2) Knit back-and-forth two rows
 
3) Knit in-the-round five rows (pattern continues in-the-round unless otherwise specified)
 
4) Knit two, Pearl two, for seven rows
 
5) Reduce (one row of stitches only) using the following stitche pattern: [Knit two, pearl-two-together, pearl one] –> You should now have thirty stitches on your needles
 
6) Knit two, Pearl two, for 14 rows
 
7) Knit (everything) for 50 rows
 
8) Knit back-and-forth (to make the hole for the thumb) for 24 rows
 
9) Knit in-the-round 10 rows
 
10) Cast off, keeping stitches fairly loose
 
~*~
 
If I were to do this pattern again, I would change steps 3, 4, and 5 as follows:
 
3) Knit in-the-round 16-20 rows, depending on how far over your elbow you want the arm-warmers to extend (NOTE: must be an even number of rows or the rest of the pattern won’t look right)
 
4) THERE IS NO FOUR
 
5) Reduce (one row of stitches only) using the following stitche pattern: [Knit one, knit-two-together, pearl two] –> You should now have thirty stitches on your needles
 
~*~
 
So there you have it. 🙂 The original pattern makes a very fitted pair of 16″ arm-warmers that can be worn with or without thin gloves underneath. With the above changes, the arm-warmers will be 17″-18″ in length. If you’re a tall or long-limbed individual, these should run from right around where your palm meets your fingers to just above your elbows. There’s lots of space (in those fifty rows of knited stiches) to modify these for either length (remove – or add! – extra rows) and pattern, for example if you find the knitting-for-ever stuff to be insufficiently challenging, you could add a really spiffy cable pattern along one side to fancy it up a bit. 🙂
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden. 🙂