stitchin fingers, cyborg knitting, and the threads of story

A couple of things have caught my eye recently …

First is the new social network, Stitchin Fingers, started a few days ago by Sharon B of In a Minute Ago, and already looking like a great place for anyone who practises textiles to explore and enjoy. 

Next is Spyn. Alan brought a short flyer back from CHI 2008 about “a system for knitters to record, recall and share information surrounding the processes of handcraft”. It’s a prototype design using digital techniques to literally craft personal stories into the knitting.

That set me thinking about metaphors we use in English that link story and fibre – we talk about losing or picking up the thread of a narrative; of spinning a yarn; of unravelling the truth. Maybe others…

I was also reminded this week, by this post on Blue Beyond by Tiree artist Colin Woodcock, of a Hans Andersen story I loved as a child. The princess spins a yarn of nettles to knit shirts that will free her brothers of the evil enchantment that has turned them into swans. Her hands are burnt and blistered and she is forbidden to speak, but the pain and love she may not articulate is embodied in the healing garments she creates.

And something else comes to mind – I’m always a little overwhelmed by the fact that text and textile are actually, etymologically, related:

“The word text is a cognate [of textile], coming from Latin textus ‘that which is woven’, referring originally to a particular style of Medieval script which was so dense that it looked like weaving.” 
Quoted from Take Our Word for It Issue 33

I’m suddenly feeling very excited about the possibilities here.

knitting, with woven yarn

day out and colour mixing

Tuesday sounded as if it was going to be the last fine day for a while, so Alan suggested we went into the Lakes for a few hours. We drove up towards Keswick and over Honister Pass, then on to Whinlatter (a favourite haunt when our girls were children). I had fun taking pictures from the van window on the way, one or two turned out to be quite interesting combinations of blur and focus.

leaves through leaves

The range of autumn colours in the mountains is incredible.

mountain colours

This is the spectacular metal sculpture of an osprey outside the Visitor Centre at Whinlatter. (Real ospreys nest in the area). I’ve uploaded some more images to Flickr.

osprey sculpture

I have been working on colour mixing exercises with stitch for OCA Textiles 1, using dotty stitching – French knots in a pointillist style. This calls for good primary and secondary colours, and I soon discovered that I actually have very few of those in my stash – mostly variegated threads and random bits and bobs. I started a very small sample in some red and yellow threads I dyed a while back, and ran out of those, so today I went down to town and bought a small rainbow – well, two rainbows, one in stranded cotton and one in wool. That should keep me going for a while!

threads and French knots

I was in the library too and saw this dramatic, enormous knitting installation in the foyer. They said I could take some pics to share with you. Kendal is a town whose history is intimately connected with wool production – its motto is ‘pannus mihi panis’ – ‘cloth is my bread’, or as people often interpret it ‘wool is my bread’. We even have our own breed of sheep – the Rough Fell. This project celebrates that heritage.

about Timewarp

safe crafts and summer challenge

Today I finished the summer challenge I’m taking part in with the Embroiderers’ Guild – we have an online Members’ Forum and a few times a year there’s a swap or a challenge – this summer it was both, as we had to make a mixed media piece for our gallery, and an ATC along the same lines to swap. This was my piece for the gallery, it’s a collage of yarn, hand-dyed scrim, silk paper and buttons on the sponge printed background I mentioned in a recent post. It was inspired by the sight of my dyeing experiments blowing on the washing line, and all the colour studies I’ve been doing for OCA Textiles 1.

mixed media collage
A Good Dyeing Day

I also spent a lot of time (too much) today, trawling the web for safe, quick, funky crafts to use at the Youth Club where I run an art/craft session. Most of the kids who come spend every evening on the street, many have a short attention span, they’re boisterous and occasionally aggressive, they’re about 13-16, and most are boys. We don’t have a huge adult to child ratio – sometimes just me and one helper in the craft area, so anything that require needles or other sharp tools is too risky. Plus we can’t do anything too messy, both because of the limitations of our space, and because the kids are easily excited and prone to decorate each other with whatever is to hand! They love little kits from the excellent Yellow Moon – tiny boxes and picture frames to decorate, anything with funky foam, miniature mugs and candles to paint – and I’m always impressed by the way these bring out their creativity. But I do also like to offer them more open-ended activities sometimes (though they prefer the kits!). I’ve decided on rolled paper beads for this week – and while I was looking at paper crafts I found a great listing at Craftzine, linking to tutorials on Flickr and elsewhere. How generous so many people are with their skills on the Web.

One thing I really want to do more of with these kids is recycled crafts, but I need to train myself to plan ahead and get people at church to collect things for us. Alan does his best to amass a goodly number of beer bottle caps and lemonade bottles during the average fortnight, but I’m glad to say he doesn’t quite generate the amount we’d need, all by himself!