Finding and Learning your Own Way or FLOWing into Flowmadic freeform...
There is a very normal world of fibre arting and crafting, full of rules and ‘the proper’ ways to do things, that usually revolves around Spotlight and specialist shops and commercial yarns and patterns. Then there’s the Spinners and Weavers Guilds world, where it’s different because you’re spinning your own yarns, but there are still rules and proper ways to abide by.
And then there’s the worlds and worlds and WORLDS beyond all the rules and proper ways, that can be literally felt out and intuited, where marriages can happen between all sorts of diverse and ancient thoughtways and craftways, and absolutely anything can happen. When a weird idea whispers, you go chasing down that rabbit hole, on a whim of ‘what would that look like?’
I inhabited the normal world of Spotlight and patterns until I was 30, when my mother bought me a spinning wheel and told me to ‘spin clockwise, ply anti-clockwise, and learn when to stop’. Which I never did. Learn to stop that is. Given the basics, and not much else, I just worked it out for myself. Staying up till 2am, so nobody would see me so un-coordinated.
When I could spin good enough for my standards, I went along to a Spinners and Weavers Guild, expecting open arms and not getting it initially. So I humphed off on my own again, and just kept finding my own way. What initially felt like rejection, was actually a blessing, as once I started going my own way, and hacking into my own world of fibre, I started sensing the myriad possibilities of frankensteining all the different crafts together. And also learnt great respect for instinct, and the scientific experiments I performed after a whiff of an idea took hold.
I felt out completely different ways to use tools that have been used for millennia, like crochet hooks. Learnt how beautifully knitting, crochet and weaving can go together. And realised how very many more worlds there are beyond our comprehension, held back by an overabundance of ‘rules’, and ‘the proper way to do things’.
For a long time I didn't properly esteem the skills I'd taught myself by Finding and Learning my Own Way. I thought I was just being lazy by trying to cut out as many unnecessary steps as possible, and crocheting with massive hooks. But when our family was still in its infancy, we went traveling around the country working out whether we could make markets and festivals our lifestyle, with my fibre art and Currawong's drumming. And about halfway through our journey I had an experience that totally validated my unique approach and evolving skills, and helped me to start appreciating what I was doing.
We'd decided to stay put around the Eumundi Markets for a while, as I'd got in almost instantly, much to the horror of stallholders who were on year long waiting lists. And the first market we did, a gorgeous young woman bought a single ply mohair Mantle from me, and was so mesmerised by the whole concept, that she bought a spinning wheel on the spot (you can do such a thing at these massive markets!). She told me she was going to a Noosa Spinners and Weavers Guild meeting on the next day, so I said I'd go along with her for a hoot.
She got there half an hour before me, wearing the Mantle that I'd made, and they ooohed and aaahhhhed over that for a bit, and then spent the rest of the time telling her that you could NEVER spin mohair on it's own, it always had to be blended with sheep or alpaca, and if you DID spin it on it's own, you could NEVER spin it single ply!!
And then I got there with a suitcase full of single ply mohair creations, and realised how good it was that I hadn't even known about those rules, and how if I had known them, I probably would have broken them just to see!
Now is the perfect time to share the latest piece I've made, which is the ultimate demonstration of how beautifully handspun weaving, knitting and crochet go together. It also breaks some new rules that I found out about weaving. Which is mainly, that western weavers have a very strong belief that handspun yarn is not strong enough to use as a warp, but only as a weft. Warps go longways, and wefts go from side to side. And not only is handspun not for use as a warp, but if you ever were to use it, you could NEVER use single ply. Now where did I hear that before?
If you hunted down all the western spinners and weavers, you'd notice that they all use commercial yarn for their warps. Apart from me that is. Right from the start I got into handspun warp, it's never given me a problem, and is beautifully soft in the fringes.
At this point I have to explain that I'm saying single ply, as there is only one thread that is black alpaca, but in reality it's really two ply, as I've plyed the single of alpaca with sewing cotton. This gives the yarn the bobbled effect that you can see clearly, as well as the extra strength of the cotton thread.
Years ago when I first started weaving, I had a strong memory from when I was about 8, and had to sit through long church ceremonies full of serious talking for hours, and I'd read all my books, and eaten all my snacks, done some colouring in, and was having a bit of a lay down. Mum had this loosely woven, fuzzy mohair blanket that I was laying under, and I stared and stared at it, until I felt like I was traveling down all the warps and the wefts, and it seemed so easy to imagine how the yarns would wrap around each other so sweetly, up and over and down and under.
I never forgot that feeling, and my eye's delight at the loose weave, and after doing what the Weaving Loom Booklet told me to the first couple of times - including using a commercial warp - I soon set sail in the seas of more sensual pursuits in my weaving exploration, determined to.......you guessed it......Find and Learn my OWN Way! So here is a very loosely woven alpaca warp, with a sumptous luxury fibre weft, both handspun, and both single ply. As in, plyed with sewing cotton.
Here I've finished weaving, and taken it off the loom and finished off the warp ends, and it's so light and delicate and fluid. As beautiful as a loose weave is, it can leave the edges of the woven piece a bit scattered. Solution?
Crochet around the edges with a hook that matches the gaps between wefts, giving the whole piece structural integrity, and a lovely smooth edge keeping the weft in place.
Not only does this next photo show my little mushroom crochet hook pouch, the finished woven piece with it's crochet edge, and the yarn left over that was just begging to be used, but it also shows the card of the gorgeous Charly McCafferty of Ixchel Luxury Fibres & Yarns
How could I stop there though, with a whole ball of yarn left after the crochet edge? Of course I couldn't, and thought this would be a great opportunity to really combine the three fibre arts, to show how beautifully they integrate.
It's as easy as picking up loops on your knitting needle from the stitch behind the crochet, so that edge lays like a knitted stitch as a border between weaving and knitting.
It was such a gorgeous day, that I took it outside to work on for a while, which was a great time to show the loose weave and weft and knitting textures. When I'd knitted enough to be a hood, all that was left was to pull out the crochet hook again.
Crochet the two halves together to make a hood shape, and then crochet around the edge of the hood to give it some strength and connect it to the rest of the woven scarf.
And there you have a perfect example of how well spinning, weaving, knitting and crochet can all get on together in one piece. I like to think that my work carries the same kind of vibe and look as my ancestors might have seen around them as their clothing. That textured and obviously handspun look.
And because I have very beautiful daughters who are happy to model for me, I asked Lilly to play supermodel, and show how this piece looks when being worn.
Hope you enjoyed that little journey with me, and if you're interested in purchasing this piece, check it out on my Etsy site here....