Study for Meditation Mat

Study for Meditation Mat
Handspun Tapestry Weaving

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Time of the Season: Deep in the Emerald Green Forest (That's a Wrap)

I love autumn weather. It's not officially fall, yet, but I can feel the crisp chill in the air in the evenings as the dew comes down. The moist air hangs heavy on the rooftops and grass when I haul myself out of bed to feed the animals after the sun comes up, which happens a wee bit later each day. Autumn is the time when I pack up my dye tools, finish summer projects and scout about for new things to explore when winter sets in and the snow is deep.

I finished my Emerald Green Forest Shawl yesterday.  The high twist in the spinning and plying made for very firm knitting and a very shriveled piece of work (Remember, you can click on the photos for a closer view):

My decision to fractal spin the tops for this shawl was a good one; the stripes show nicely here. The unblocked measurements of this shawl were 17 inches x 41 inches. I gave it a good soak in hot water and Eucalan and then pinned it out to its maximum size to block.  On the board, it measured 28 inches x 60 inches.  The relaxed measurement is 25 inches x 60 inches:

Here's a detail of the simple short row lace patterns:

It's been a productive summer.  I dyed many kilos of fleece, yarn and fabric and finished 3 wraps (2 from scratch in the past few months and the dyeing of the cashmere shawl). 

It was in assessing the summer's work that I came to an understanding of why I might be so obsessed with twist in yarn this past while. Although they are all protein fibres, the yarns in these shawls are very different in terms of twist, which affects their wearability and durability. The cashmere wrap on the left is made of a low twist hand spun singles-it has a luxurious hand, is the most comfortable to wear and has the most "street appeal;" this is the piece that people will touch and ooooh and aww over.  It is also the most delicate.  I'll have to warn people to be careful of their jewelry when they handle it and I'll have to be mindful of zippers and my earrings.  Any snag might break a thread.  

The middle wrap is knitted from a 2 ply hand spun Merino with more twist than the cashmere yarn. The Merino is still soft, but the addition of a ply and firmer twist means the shawl won't snag as easily or pill as badly as the cashmere will, although it is still quite fragile. Changing those factors means that this wrap will not be as luxuriously soft as the first one. 

Then we come to the Emerald Green Forest shawl. I spun Blue-faced Leicester tops for this yarn and I put a lot of twist in both the spinning and plying. I wanted to find the twist maximum in this piece, i.e., the point where I could add the most twist to the yarn, yet not have it be unwearable. I wanted to knit a wrap that will travel, something I could toss in a bag and not worry about having it pill or catch or, if it did snag, the yarn wouldn't break.  I wanted a shawl that, in theory, could survive a trip through the washing machine and the dryer without being destroyed, which would happen to the other two pieces if they had such an unfortunate adventure.  I think I've done just that-the shawl has a very firm hand, but it's not scratchy.  While it's visually appealing, people who touch it will get a surprise, because they'll expect it to be softer.  If I intended to sell my work, the Emerald Green Forest wrap would be the one languishing on the sale table, because people would think it too harsh. On the other hand the shawl will do exactly what I expect it to do and that's the point of all this testing for twist business, is it not?

You can see the shifts in yarn twist in this closeup of the wraps  It's a nice bit of serendipity that the three together remind me of the lovely fall colours soon to come:

If the last few posts about why I approach spinning and fibre arts in the way I do were confusing for you, perhaps this post and the accompanying photos explain my thought processes better.  When I make an effort to keep an open mind about the yarns I make and the ways in which I use them, I avoid being caught in expectations such as "Shawls, or lace knitting should be this or that." From a yoga perspective, practicing with an open mind and an open heart to all possibilities in the small things in life helps us to develop open minds and hearts to larger matters.  

I'm nowhere near that larger acceptance in most of my life, but I'm working on it.  When I pay attention, I sometimes get a glimpse of what the Dine/Naabeeho people mean when they speak of "Walking in Beauty." 

In beauty may I walk
All day long may I walk
Through the returning seasons may I walk
Beautifully will I possess again
Beautifully birds, 
Beautifully joyful birds
On the trail marked with pollen may I walk
With grasshoppers about my feet may I walk
With dew about my feet may I walk
With beauty may I walk
With beauty before me may I walk
With beauty behind me may I walk
With beauty above me may I walk
With beauty all around me may I walk
In old age, wandering on a trail of beauty, lively, may I walk
In old age, wandering on a trail of beauty, living again, may I walk
It is finished in beauty.
It is finished in beauty. (Navajo Prayer)

There is much joy in this.



  1. Emerald green Forest - an enchanting name for an enchanting shawl. Can't get enough of those colors. Nice work/meditation!