Study for Meditation Mat

Study for Meditation Mat
Handspun Tapestry Weaving

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

The Way We Do Those Things We Do: Moving Towards a Yoga of Fibre Work (Why I Blather on About All This Stuff)

I've had a number of responses and questions about my last post on twist and measuring yarns.  Some of them make me wonder if I'm simply trying to set straw men/women/spinners on fire because it seems that other spinners haven't experienced situations where twist and yarn measurements haven't been clearly explained nor has it been suggested that the way we measure twist in yarns is set in stone. To those people, I say most sincerely, "Wonderful!  Glad to hear it! May you always have such positive experiences." People have asked me why we don't generally list TPI as a range; others say that people most often do just that.  (I've asked for examples.) Others don't understand my math. (I don't either, sometimes.) It's been suggested that I may have misunderstood writers like Peter Teal because his later work argues in favour of using TPI. (I haven't checked this out. There is so much material on measuring yarns out there that I've only reviewed a tiny bit of it. If I've misinterpreted someone's results or intent, I apologize and stand corrected.) I'm going back and forth on common yarn measuring systems with my very knowledgeable Master Spinner fellow spinning geek, Coleen. Every comment, contradiction and unanswered question means that I need and want to explore spinning further. I will continue to do this, but for now, I've decided to change directions and lead you back to the path I was walking when I first began this blog.

Apart from attempting to understand the practical applications of spinning theories, my main goal in my explorations in fibre is to contribute to a clearer language for those of us interested in discussing our passions.  I'm not a big fan of dichotomies; I don't tend to believe much in "I am right and you are wrong." (Except when I am convinced that I am right, of course.  I am exquisitely human and very capable of spouting off while standing on my favourite soapbox, which usually means that I will get knocked off of it. Sometimes, that means a hard and very public fall.) My biggest pet peeve is that people tend to accept what they are told without investigating things for themselves, which might not mean much in the fibre world, but which can lead to a world of hurt in larger perspectives. (I've witnessed a few epic battles in the fibre world, too.) My second largest pet peeve is with those who undermine (which is not the same as questioning and challenging) other people's work or beliefs or experiences without recognizing how their personal biases, actions and make up might influence their own conclusions.  As I noted in the post on twist, it's not always a case of right and wrong.

In Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, there are passages which discuss Right Knowledge and Wrong Knowledge.  (I'm stating this very simply here.  The study of yoga is complex and just as open to debate as spinning, if not more so.) Right Knowledge means that we know things which can be verified through various systems:

1.7 Of these five, there are three ways of gaining correct knowledge (pramana): 1) perception, 2) inference, and 3) testimony or verbal communication from others who have knowledge. 
(pratyaksha anumana agamah pramanani) 

Wrong Knowledge involves working with false perceptions:

1.8 Incorrect knowledge or illusion (viparyaya) is false knowledge formed by perceiving a thing as being other than what it really is.(viparyayah mithya jnanam atad rupa pratistham) 

We come to Knowledge in various ways (Click here for one explanation of these systems.), but the best way to attain Right Knowledge is to practice direct experience, reasoning and then validation from authority. These 3 paths must converge in order to attain Right Knowledge.  Wrong Knowledge arises from, among other things, shifting perceptions, relationships with other people and entrenchment in beliefs. If we cling to what we are told or think is true, we are likely on the path of Wrong Knowledge.  Testing one's assumptions is a first step in moving back to walking towards Right Knowledge.

Here's a visual example.  The first photo shows a section of one of my small tapestries:

Pretty simple and easy to understand, no?  It's likely that you see some kind of floral image. Now, suppose that I begin shifting the framework and filtering the original image, like so:

Although you can still get some idea of my original weaving, the layers I've added distort the image so that we may no longer agree as to exactly what is shown here.  The more layers I add, the more our perceptions of the original image will shift.  You may believe that you prefer one image to the other. The original weaving remains the same but our experiences of that weaving diverge as soon as I photograph it, and increase with each filter I add.  Well, life is exactly like that: we have an experience, but instead of appreciating that experience, we begin to add layers of meaning and filters which we've acquired through the stories we tell ourselves. Those filters are there whether we are examining yarn or discussing politics. Having filters isn't wrong, but our refusal to acknowledge them can make it very difficult to find, let alone walk on, common ground. (A very heated public battle over a local barbershop and its practices comes to mind as a prime example of how filters affect our perceptions.)

If this discussion is getting pretty weird for you, you have my sympathies. If it bores you to tears, I get that, too. It's not often that a fibre person works to unite yoga with spinning. (If you're out there, please let me know. I'd love to chat. For everyone else, well, I do warn you what this blog is about in its title!) It's important for me to apply my yoga/meditation practice to my life; yoga, after all, seeks to unite, not divide.  If yoga doesn't have practical applications in even the smallest areas of life, it is simply another way to exercise (to quote Sarah, my teacher).

So on I go, searching and searching for Right Knowledge in every space in my Universe. Sometimes, this makes life difficult and I get a practical lesson as to why Colin, another teacher, warns people to be careful in starting down the yoga road at all. On the other hand, the more I apply a yogic system of seeking knowledge in my life, the more I discover that opposing viewpoints are simply matters of perception, not actual conflicts.  Working within this perspective means there are fewer schisms among people.  You may be right; I may be wrong or vice versa.  We may also both be wrong or both right.  By accepting these possibilities, maybe we can begin to understand why we do those things we do in the way we do them.  If we start small, with our hobbies, vocations and passions, perhaps we can expand such shifts in perspectives and apply them to the larger world.  Think of the possibilities.



  1. Thank you so much. As a spinner/knitter/weaver who is currently in yoga teacher training, I really LOOOOOOOVE your blog, ESPECIALLY when you unite the two! Thank you for sharing your path and perceptions.

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Margaret. It's wonderful to know there are others on the same path! Enjoy your teacher training-it was a life-changing experience for me.

  2. I am not sure I understand a lot of your last couple of entries, trying to catch up after being away means a bit of spead reading, but I have to say I am glad that I weave and don't spin, it sounds very complicated.

    1. It's really not, Debbie; it's just rather difficult to put thoughts and practice into words, sometimes. Spinning is very, very simple, far more so than weaving, which is where I started. You don't need to know any of those measurements in order to spin. In fact, modern systems of measurement for the hand spinner are quite recent. I don't do a lot of measuring when spinning, but sometimes, I like to play with the formulae. Don't let me scare you off-above all, spinning should be fun!