There has been a great deal of ruckus the past couple of days at the popular social platform Ravelry due to it's stance against white supremacy. (8 million some users justifies the word popular, I think.)
Some people are furious that they should be 'censored' and can no longer post patterns or comments in support of Mr. Trump and white supremacist viewpoints. They rail against the suppression of 'free' speech (without understanding what the term actually means, assuming that they get to say whatever they please without any push back.)
The comments from some of these people on the more 'liberal' groups has been rude and in some cases downright vile. And yet we liberals are supposed to roll over and let them say such things without objection. Because something something free speech. On the other hand, they object to my using my free speech to tell them what they are espousing is not acceptable to me.
Another segment insists that politics and textiles should be kept entirely separate, that they knit for enjoyment not to be made uncomfortable by politics.
Thing is, textiles have been political pretty much from the beginning of human beings working with fibre.
In the very early stages of human development string or cordage was used for a variety of things, including string skirts depicted on the paleothitic goddess figurines. Since string/cordage was very time consuming to make (still is, by hand) the fact that these skirts were made most likely had some sort of religious or political significance.
As human beings evolved, textiles continued to play increasingly political roles in culture, from the ceremonial robes worn by 'royalty' or religious leaders, to funeral uses such as mummy wrappings.
Textiles were used as trade goods as were chemicals for dyeing such as alum. Nothing more political than trade goods between nations. (Dorothy Dunnett wrote historical fiction and includes this in a couple of her books - the Niccolo Rising series stars 'Claes' as a dyer's apprentice in Bruges, who rises to become a wealthy merchant (Niccolo) in the 1400s, Francis of Lymond series has one book using cloth as a trade good with Russia during the 1500s. Recently republished they are also now available as audio books.)
Textile workers were a large and important part of any work force of all the cultures. Fibres had to be harvested, processed, spun, dyed, woven, turned into garments or for other uses. This all meant enormous numbers of people to grow the crops, harvest them, break the fibre out of the flax or hemp or which ever crop was being used. In colder climates, shepherds had to tend their flocks, shear the sheep, and then the fibre needed to be spun/dyed/woven.
As cultures evolved even further, restrictions were placed upon the populace about who could have access to certain textiles. The royal purple dye, silk damasks, gold and silver threads, to list just a few. You could tell at a glance what level of society a person was by the clothing they wore. Look up sumptuary laws.
Again the most expensive textiles were reserved for royalty and religious/ceremonial use.
Come the 1700s and the development of the flying shuttle which immediately put half of the broad cloth weavers out of work. Only one was needed to throw the shuttle once the fly shuttle was developed.
Luddites were sworn to destroy the latest textile equipment to preserve jobs in textile manufacture.
It is said that the word 'sabotage' comes from the French weavers tossing their wooden clogs, called sabots, into the factories to damage the looms. This is in dispute, although it makes a great story.
The US slave trade was largely developed to produce cotton for export.
During wars, textiles become war materials, for example WWII, silk for parachutes, wool for soldiers uniforms, etc.
Knitting was used as a way to code. In the series of books by Susan Elia McNeal, one of the books uses knitting as a way to pass information between resistance groups. Maps were printed on silk and were folded up into small packets for concealment.
Even today, textiles are fraught with politics. Groups of people in society wear certain styles of clothing and we know exactly where they are in the social strata.
To admonish people to keep politics out of textiles is futile - it's all around us. White people can easily say they don't see it - it is part of the 'bubble' of white privilege that they (I) live in. However, I have become aware of my privilege and I now make every effort to educate myself.
The first step is to listen. Hear the stories of the people who have been oppressed. Acknowledge the injustice of what has been done to them. Give them the mic. As I learn more I will understand better how I can leverage my white-ness to be a better ally than I have been previously.
Ensuring that all people have human rights is not diminishing mine. Jane Elliott did a famous experiment on attitudes and has a powerful video clip on You Tube. I highly recommend listening/watching it and think carefully about what she has to say.
Textiles are political. My father fought against Nazis not all that long ago. I do not want to see white supremacy become so normalized that it takes over. My father is most likely spinning in his grave.
Taken from the website of the United States Courts:
"Freedom of speech does not include the right:
To incite actions that would harm others (e.g., “[S]hout[ing] ‘fire’ in a crowded theater.”). Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47 (1919). "
Freedom of speech does not include inciting actions that would harm others.
Freedom of speech does not include inciting actions that would harm others.
Freedom of speech does not include inciting actions that would harm others.
To those who, on Ravelry, issued death threats over not being able to publish patterns, who stalked someone who objected to such things happening? This is not acceptable. To those who popped up on a group I belong to calling us 'libtards' vile and horrible and awful? This is not acceptable. To those who caused Ravelry to shut down their Facebook page due to rude, vile posts? This is not acceptable.
Ravelry has told their users that they will not tolerate hate speech or posts that incite harm to others. If white supremacists desire a lily white environment, they can go build their own social platform. This is not acceptable, not on Ravelry, not anywhere.
playing with elastic yarns and shrinkage differential
Inspiration can come from anywhere. It could be something someone says, or does. It could come from nature - a walk in the park, the bark on a tree, a sunset, or -rise, clouds roiling in the sky, water falling. It could be sparked by something someone else has done or by the materials themselves.
The conference was a confluence of all of these things. A chance to meet and talk to other textile people in real life. An opportunity to touch the textiles others had made (with permission, of course!) Workshops and seminars were inspirational in terms of bringing new information and sparking the 'what if I...' question.
The vendor hall had materials to die (and dye!) for. Jane Stafford brought her silk yarns and the colours were glorious.
Truth be told, I only ever saw my booth and Jane's. I was wearing 77 hats and never did manage to go shopping. Not that I need more yarn, mind you. I have a basement full as well as more in storage. On the other hand I have dug deeply into my own stash over the past few years and made a credible hole in it.
But I am making new/different conscious choices about my life going forward. Somehow my 69th birthday seems...momentous. Of course it is just a confluence of health issues and a number, but there seems to be a significance to this birthday. One where I will spend it at Olds during Fibre Week, amongst a community of textile folk. It seems right.
As I contemplate what the next few years will be like, I am steadily working towards reducing stress in my life by saying 'no' to more things. No to dark o'clock flights, arriving at midnight. No to worrying about lost luggage. No to deadlines. No to road trips through the Rocky Mountains in winter driving conditions. No to doing expensive shows, not knowing if I will do anything but recoup the cost of doing said shows. No to business expenses that drain me because I need to keep doing those long trips and shows to generate the income to hopefully cover them.
All of these things have been a constant in my life for too long and I need to get rid of those thoughts and concerns so that I can free up brain power to think about my weaving practice.
I have mulled over the concept of writing more articles but have not settled on anything. I have mulled over the kind of things I would like to make versus the ability to actually make them. My eyesight continues to deteriorate, plus I was told last year I have 'baby' cataracts so at some point choosing colours is going to become more of a challenge until they are 'ripe' enough to be removed.
The new Megado should reduce the physical effort of weaving while still allowing me to weave 'fancy' cloth.
Plus I will be picking up the entire silk stash of a weaver who died recently. I have no idea what that stash consists of, but...SILK! If the yarns are very fine I can bundle them or even spin them. I do have a spinning wheel after all! If they are undyed, I could even dye them, although I did get rid of all my dye stuff when I stopped dyeing yarns to sell. However, there are dyers in the guild and a trade could be effected. Confluences!
I have several very tight deadlines and trips coming up so I am focused on those right now. The Olds marking from last year is done - just waiting for one more thing from one person and then I can submit their marks to the college and cross that off my list.
Yesterday I started winding skeins onto cones so I can wind the warps for the level one class coming up. I need to check how many Harrisville brass hooks I have and order enough for the class. Tomorrow I will go to the annex and fetch the rest of the bins of teaching samples and start a pile to be packed up to go to Olds.
In the meantime I am not pining over what I will do next year when my deadlines are complete. I am just nose to the grindstone, plodding through the deadlines, confident that once I am through the next six months something will come to me. Just like the silk. Out of the blue, completely unexpected. And will no doubt bring inspiration as I contemplate and consider what to make with it.
Inspiration comes in many ways. Sometimes in a blaze of glory, sometimes on quiet feet, slipping into the nooks and crannies of your mind, quietly waiting until you take notice. Sometimes you need to quiet your mind to discover it has been there all along...
I weigh more now than I ever have before in my life. I don't feel comfortable in my own skin. It's too tight. I can't bend the way I could before I got this big. I'm quite sure my feet, knees and hips would be much happier with me if I could just shed some weight.
But here's the thing. I weighed exactly the same weight - given slight variations - for nearly 20 years. And then I took a medication with the adverse effect of weight gain. I gained almost 60 pounds and when I was done with that medication, I only lost 30. So my 'normal' weight increased by 30 pounds. I wasn't happy, but I had got 'me' back again, so accepted the new 'normal' and moved on.
Another 20 years went by and failing bodies need additional medication so I started a new drug to help deal with chronic pain, neuropathy from two partially collapsed discs, both pinching my spinal nerve. I gained those 30 pounds 'lost' - and then a few more just for good measure.
Am I happy? No. Not at all. I know I'm overweight and apart from starving myself, the weight will not shift. If I could be more active, that might help, but my body is not co-operating with that variable, either.
According to society I am 'fat'. According to some standards I am 'obese'. According to the cancer clinic, I have 'resources'. When they ask if I've lost weight since last time, they are not concerned about my being 'fat' but that one of the primary indicators of my cancer is sudden unexplained weight loss. So not losing weight? Is A Good Thing so far as they are concerned.
Even my cardiologist never seemed particularly worried about my weight so long as I stayed active and took the cholesterol medication (not statins, Praluent) and kept my blood cholesterol levels down low.
I eat 'healthy', which for me means fresh fruit and vegetables, plain meat. I have followed a (very) low salt diet since a child. I eat too much sugar, but it's not hidden in baking or processed foods. I eat lean cuts of meat and drain the fat off. I have fish almost every day.
I have consulted with the cardiac nurse about my lifestyle and - when she assessed the results and said that I had been doing everything right? I asked why, then was I dealing with cardiac blockages. She looked at me and said that you 'can't fight genetics'.
None of us gets out of here alive. We will all, at some point, some sooner, some later, die. That is the way life goes. You are born, you live, you die.
I'm aware enough that I want my being here to mean something. I want to share my love of textiles with others. I want to encourage others in their journeys. None of us know the extent of the potholes in someone else's life - just know that everyone has them. I have wonderful people in my life who show me, sometimes daily, what it means to navigate those potholes with grace and a generous spirit.
I want to be like those people, not the ones who are never satisfied, never grateful - it seems - for anything. I want to live in peace, not anger. Anger takes too much energy and I have so little energy - I want to keep it for doing the things I love, helping the people around me as much as I am able.
As I turn 69 in a few weeks, I work towards retiring from production weaving. I have worked hard, long hours, scrambling to make and sell my textiles for a long time. This year marks 44 years since I made that fateful decision to quit my job and become a full time production weaver. Turns out I also became a part time teacher of weaving - either through workshops or writing.
Travel is becoming more and more difficult for me so it is time to give up that baton and pass it on to others. Time to stay home. Have quiet, not chaos. I am not 'fat'...I am...'substantial'...
The dust from the conference is settling. We had a wee meeting tonight and wrapped up a few things. I have some conference errands to do tomorrow, plus my final report to start writing.
I made a mighty effort today and dug deep into the pile of homework to be marked. One last box, with two others to send additional info. But I should be mostly done tomorrow. And then I start doing class prep. I leave in exactly two weeks!
I also need to deal with my own business bookkeeping - GST, PST from the conference sales, plus submit the GST I owe, preferably before I leave. I am on a very tight schedule from now until - well - the end of the year. That retirement I keep talking about? Beginning to look more and more attractive!
There are 12 registered (the max) for level one at Olds. There are 7(?) for level one in NC. I emailed today to try to find out about level two. Also emailed the folk school about September.
I have a trip to Vancouver and Vancouver Island when I get home from Olds and before I leave for NC. I need to finish the warp on the AVL, then we can dismantle it and figure out what can be sold on, clean the studio up in preparation for the Megado to arrive sometime the end of August.
In the meantime I am VERY low on inventory for the upcoming craft fairs, but have been having problems physically. I'm hoping to feel well enough to finish that warp before I leave for Olds.
Once the AVL is moved out of the studio, I'm hoping my floor cleaning elf can come but she may have gone off to her dad's for the summer by then. I'll have to do it myself if so. But I can slam some place mat warps through the Leclerc while I wait for the Megado. I started winding rayon chenille warps, but I'll begin with place mats. Then see about the rayon chenille. I'm very low on those - like maybe a dozen? Too few.
Things seem to continue to be 'complicated' with on going health issues, but I'm hoping the trip to Vancouver will provide a solution for at least one of them. My next cancer clinic appointment isn't until after the last craft fair so unless something seems totally 'off', I can ignore that for a few months, at least.
Right now I'm focused on meeting each deadline 'just in time' - because there doesn't seem to be any 'extra' time. But at least the dust from the conference is settling...
Understanding your materials when you work with yarn is one of the cornerstones of being a textile artist.
I discovered this book (the first edition - it's all you really need, not the 2nd edition which is a lot more expensive) back when it first came out in the early, oh, 1980s?
The format appealed to me because the information was given in concise clear language and there were lots of diagrams/charts illustrating various points. The fact that it was then, and may still be now, a textbook for textile science classes and that the two authors were, at the time, teaching textile science at the U of Manitoba just made it all that much more appealing!
There are other textile science books. I even own some of them. But time and again I return to this one.
So when people offer opinions, especially when they are incorrect, this is the book I point them at. When I'm teaching I always give the title and authors to my students. And I consult it regularly.
There seems to be such an emphasis on someone's experience or opinion and a de-emphasis on actual science these days, textile science is not immune.
For the Olds master weaving class especially, the whole point is to steer students towards actual, factual, information, not my opinion or someone else's opinion, but facts.
The book has great charts which allow me to compare the characteristics of one fibre to another. My experience at spinning allows me to understand how the spinning of yarn from the fibres can be used to modify the behaviour of fibres in thread, then how to further modify them during weaving.
I have also learned as much as I can about the actual production of fibre - how animals are raised, plants are harvested and how each are prepared for spinning.
I know that sheep are not routinely killed for their fibre, but shorn. Some animals that are killed, either for meat or because they are ill may possibly have their hides shorn to harvest their fibre, but the whole point of sheep and other animals that produce fibre is not to kill them for their fibre but to keep them as a renewable resource - producing at least one crop a year. Shearing is not harmful and it is not traumatic when done by an experienced shearer. Most shearers can complete the job in a matter of minutes and then the sheep are free to return to the flock. There might be a nick at times, but I've had a hair dresser snip my ear or poke me with scissors and I was just fine afterwards, too.
There are ads for 'vegan' fibres, by which it is meant that the fibres do not come from animals. Fair enough. Cotton, linen, and other plant fibres can be lovely. I admire people who have the courage of their convictions. But by and large, and most especially small holdings of rare or 'exotic' sheep breeds are not mistreated. Domestic sheep pretty much must be shorn because they don't shed their fibres anymore and the burden of several years of grown can actually be harmful to their health.
My opinion is that I want to use fibres that will degrade back to dust, just like I'm going to one of these days. I prefer to not use synthetic fibres. I do still have some acrylic yarns in my stash, and I will use them. They might as well be put to use since they already exist. But I don't buy them and prefer to not use them.
But that is my personal line in the sand and I don't insist that everyone else follow me. When it is a moral issue, we each have to decide how to approach our textile practice and work accordingly.
However, I do strongly suggest that people find out facts, not react to a meme they saw on social media. Those memes are designed by media folk, they rely on emotional trigger words/images, and may not be the best thing to be paying attention to when facts are out there, readily available when you take the time to look for them.
When doing a web search, pay attention to who is sponsoring a web site. If the web site is paid for by the cotton council, they may not be telling the whole truth about bamboo, for example. I'm not saying bamboo is 100% wonderful - like every other fibre, it has issues!
It is because I think this information is so important that I included some fibre info in my book.
And listed A Guide to Textiles for Interior Designers in my bibliography.
Sunday the facilities were emptied of the equipment that was delivered there on Tuesday. One trailer came here because I feel like I dragged half my studio to the conference! The other trailer had things that were carried on up to the guild room.
Monday Doug and I went to the guild room to collect more of my things that did not have my name on but that we needed to remove from the guild room so there was space to move up there.
Birthe has spent most of today finishing the documenting of the Awards, which are now - all except the People's Choice ribbons - listed on the conference website and the conference blog.
On Sunday I had the able assistance of many hands which made light work of dealing with the worst of the mess in my studio. Yesterday Ruth went home and today Cindy and Mary are on their way.
I had every intention on jumping right in on things today, but of course more organization needed to be done!
However, I did sort through the boxes of homework and even opened one. Got the essay/research paper read and crashed and burned.
Since getting up from a rather lengthy 'nap' I've been catching up on messages and emails and now, here it is, half way through the afternoon and I feel like I've accomplished nothing much at all. Except I have. It's just not anything concrete that I can point at.
One of the things simmering in the back of my mind is the wrap up report to go to the ANWG board.
I intend to write that up in the next couple of days while it is still 'fresh' in my mind. But not today when I'm still so tired. Plus homework to be marked. Class prep to start for Olds level one happening in ack, three weeks! LESS! 17 days until I hit the highway!!! Yikes - my how time flies when you are having fun...
So - we aren't quite done, done, but getting there. I think most of the committee will drag themselves to the guild room tonight for a quick meeting and reminder of what else needs to be done.
For now? I need to go do some marking. I've promised five students to get their homework done and the marks to the college by Monday.
Any future 'big dreams' are going to be rather smaller in nature...I'm getting too old to be having this much fun!
There will be no time to drive Mary out to the Ancient Forest this trip but when choosing a photo for this post it seemed to sum up so much of the last few years.
I am still processing the experience of helping organize the conference, still processing the amazing experience of being involved with a group of women who came together (a confluence of women is mighty!), still mulling over the all too brief contact with such an amazing group of people, yes, men too, but mostly women. Fibre arts are, in the 21st century mostly the 'preserve' of women.
Each tree in a forest stands tall and is impressive. Putting many trees together in a forest becomes awe inspiring.
And so it is when a group of people get together to share their love of all things textile.
Each tree grows from it's roots, reaching towards the sky. Mother trees shelter and protect saplings. All the creatures of a forest live together to make an environment. A community.
Textile artists came to Prince George from many different locations - north, south, east and west. One instructor came all the way from the southern hemisphere. Truly a global gathering.
Textiles can reach across cultures, across time zones, across continents. Textiles have been part of the human experience since time beyond written history. The archeological record of the impression of textiles in pottery shows that even though the textile has transformed back into 'dust', they existed, they made things 'better' for the humans in that community.
I have so many thoughts swirling in my mind right now. It will take time to find the loose end of my thoughts and begin to tease out the sense of them.
But in the meantime I am grateful beyond words to the local people who put shoulders to wheels and gave a mighty push every time it was needed. The instructors, many who came in spite of challenges, willing to share their knowledge and encourage others to learn and grow. The attendees who frequently also saw a need and willingly offered to help - especially as I was setting up the exhibit. Their help shaved at least an hour or more off set up time. Many hands do make light work!
Since I set up the exhibits I got to see the entries up close and personal. There were many items that were unique, creative, intriguing.
There were garments in the fashion show that were amazing in their concept, their execution.
I was able to catch brief moments with most of the instructors, but as always, it's hard to do more than just touch base at such a busy event.
I wish there could be more personal interactions with people, but cherish the time I did have.
Confluences of thoughts, ideas, plans for the future are tentative, but they are the seeds that produce the trees that make that forest. No seed? No forest. It all has to begin somewhere.
There is still the clean up and once again the committee has already taken care of moving out of the facilities. From there the borrowed things will be distributed to the loaners.
On a personal level, I have to clean up my studio, which got ripped apart, tossed like a salad, and is in even more than the usual disarray. But Mary says she will help, so we will begin by sorting through samples, getting the ones that are important to me (the GCW samples) and put them away. We might even get to the point of sorting and putting away yarn that got pulled and never put back.
One has to find a loose end and begin to tease it out of the jumble. One has to begin. To take that first step.
In the meantime, I will continue to process this experience and wait to see what the future will bring.
Abby and I had talked at length two years ago when we booked her to teach and speak at the conference.
Last night she talked about how she had written and re-written the presentation over and over again while she thought about the concept of confluences.
To me it seemed as though she had spent time peeling the layers away to reveal new truths with each layer.
When she talked about a confluence as sometimes being tumultuous, chaotic, energetic, it was as though a light had been lit.
As she explored how, in so many ways, change can be challenging, difficult, and amazing, I thought of all the times change had come to me, usually in the form of a person coming into my life to be a teacher.
At times this new direction, new energy, new person, were challenging and I was forced to change - my thinking, my life direction, my attitudes. Perhaps 'forced' isn't the right word, although I didn't - at the time - feel I had much control over what was happening - I just knew it was going to be an exciting 'ride'!
And while I 'shot the rapids' of this energetic meeting of two 'rivers', I always, always, came through it to a deeper understanding, a greater body of knowledge.
Conferences are unique vehicles that bring disparate people together, sometimes literally from across the globe.
But we are all human beings. We have similar dreams, hopes, desires.
People in the craft community sometimes lament about 'politics' getting in the way of their crafting. But throughout history textiles have pretty much always been about 'politics'. The sumptuary laws, banning certain classes of people from wearing 'royal' purple, velvet, silk, etc. The Luddites, trying to prevent automation from throwing thousands of weavers and spinners out of work. The word sabotage comes from the French weavers heaving their wooden 'sabot' (clogs) through the windows of the weaving mills, trying to damage the new dobby/Jacquard looms.
Confluences of ideas can be volatile. They can also bring light.
Thank you Abby for a thought provoking presentation and a greater understanding of how textiles are held in esteem in another context.
One of the fun things about conferences is being able to connect with other like minded people.
As a co-host of this event, it has been fun watching the delight of friends catching sight of each other, the hugs, the laughter. It has also been fun watching people get introduced to people they may have heard of, but never met in real life. The connections that people are making, some of which will no doubt carry on with the assistance of the internet.
There has been much to inspire already, and the best thing about all of this? Is that people are enjoying themselves. They are sharing their love of textiles/fibre with others who completely understand it, even if they might not work with exactly the same methods. It's all fibre. It's all making. It's about creativity. It's about making connections. The experience of attending a conference is just the tip of the iceberg - it's all that follows that becomes important. Many things coming together. The confluence of meeting people, discovering resources that were previously unknown. The interchange of ideas and concepts, directions that may have not been known before, and now are.
Personally I've already made a few connections, things that will inform my practice going forward. Opportunities that I hadn't known were there. The gift of friendship from acquaintances. A deepening of a relationship that was unexpected. But welcome.
I am excited to see where a new loom, new yarns, new directions will take me going forward.
Conferences. Confluences. If you've never been to one, try to go and see where the journey takes you.
We are on day two of the workshops and the vendors have moved in and are ready, willing and able to help people with their shopping. Shopping started at noon.
The guild booths are excellent - only a few, but really nice work to see.
The exhibit hall is coming together. Also some really lovely textiles - felting, spinning, knitting, weaving.
This afternoon the award ribbons will be readied in preparation for the jurying. The Tzouhelem Guild has done a magnificent job making really lovely ribbons. Many guild have been very generous in providing cash awards. Some of which may make their way to the vendors?
There are People's Choice awards and I'm getting that ready while I have lunch. Ballots for the guild booths will be near them in the vendor hall. There will be no People's Choice award for the fashion show as the conference ends with the fashion show and there is no opportunity to vote on them. A few people finished garments 'late' and they have been invited to wear their garment to the fashion show.
The instructor's exhibit opens at 7:30 tonight. I've managed to peek into a few classrooms and some interesting things are happening.
The fun thing is randomly encountering friends as I buzz from one location to another, collecting hugs.
Better finish eating and get back to the hall. Once the exhibits have been juried, I can focus on the seminars I'm presenting on Fri/Sat.
Lots of really good energy flowing, connections being made, learning happening. A couple people have commented that they think their brains may have exploded. In a good way, I hope!