Knitting Yarns

knitting yarnsAnother book that I got for Christmas was Knitting Yarns edited by Ann Hood, given by my friend Anne, who is a voracious reader. (Last year she set a resolution not to buy any new books – unless it was to read for her book group – and instead to read books that she already had but had never read. That took more self discipline than I could muster – she blogged about the experience under the delightful title Mrs Dalloway is in the Cludgie.)

But I digress. Knitting Yarns is a collection of essays by different writers that celebrate knitting and knitters. There are stories about learning to knit, knitting as therapy, the memories evoked by knitting and the role it plays in relationships. There are even a few knitting patterns, though sadly no photos.

I haven’t read the whole volume yet – I just dip in as the mood takes me. But I was delighted to find a piece by Barbara Kingsolver, whose book The Poisonwood Bible is one of my all-time favourites. (And Anne says that her new book Flight Behaviour is the best thing she read last year.)

Barbara wrote a piece called “Where to Begin”, about shearing a sheep and the transformation process of turning the fleece into yarn. I was reminded of it by a comment on yesterday’s post by Avril of Stitch in Science, wishing that a photo could convey the feel of an object.

Here’s an extract from “Where to Begin”:

“It starts with a texture. There are nowhere near enough words for this, but fingers can sing whole arpeggios at a touch. Textures have their family trees: cloud and thistledown are cousin to catpelt and earlobe and infantscalp. Petal is also a texture, and lime peel and nickelback and nettle and five o’clock shadow and sandstone and ash and soap and slither. Drape is the child of loft and crimp; wool is a stalwart crone who remembers everything, while emptyhead white-haired cotton forgets. And in spite of their various natures, all these strings can be lured to sit down together and play a fiber concerto whole in the cloth. The virgin fleece of an April lamb can be blended and spun with the fleece of a fat blue hare or a twist of flax, anything, you name it, silkworm floss or twiny bamboo. Creatures never known to converse in nature can be introduced and then married right on the spot. The spindle is your altar, you are the matchmaker, steady on the treadle, fingers plying the helices of a beast and its unlikely kin, animal and vegetable, devising your new and surprisingly peaceable kingdoms. Fingers can coax and read and speak, they have their own secret libraries, and illicit affairs, and conventions. Twined into the wool of a hearty ewe on shearing day, hands can read the history of her winter: how many snows, how barren or sweet her manger. For best results, stand in the pasture and throw your arms around her.”

Isn’t that fab? I’m off to the felting table to generate an illicit affair between some merino tops. 😉

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Silk paper

Right at the beginning of last academic year at Morley College, we were shown how to make “paper” by lightly spraying gummy silk waste with water and then ironing it between baking parchment. I remember thinking that it was an interesting technique but with so many other things to explore I never got round to having a go.

silk paper by sarah lawrenceI was reminded of it when I found this book in a discount bookshop. The author, Sarah Lawrence, was British (she sadly passed away last year) but the price on the back is in dollars, so it must be a US edition. The cover is different, but there seem to be a couple of similarly titled books also by Sarah Lawrence available in the UK and published at the same time, and I’m assuming the content is similar.

The book starts with the ironing method, combining it with layers of sinamay or knitting, or using it as a base for embossing, moulding and die cutting. It also explains how to make paper with degummed silk by soaking it in a mediium like PVA, or by stitching through layers using water-soluble film to create 3D vessels .

Finally, there’s a very inspiring section on using silk carrier rods and cocoons.

Of course, I immediately began to wonder how I could combine these techniques with my beloved felting and shibori. Felting should be fairly straightforward – adding silk is an easy way to create more texture and colour.

But would silk paper fall apart if I put it in an indigo vat? Is it strong enough to stitch or bind? I may have to find out.

Nuno felting book review

I’ve not had much opportunity to make anything recently, but it doesn’t stop me reading about textiles. So the next couple of posts are going to be about books I’ve got hold of recently.

First up, Nuno Felting with Chrissie Day and Nicola Brown, which is a follow-up to their first book, From Felt to Friendship. I have to declare an interest here – both Chrissie and Nicola have been extremely supportive to me, offering useful advice and comments on this blog and elsewhere. I haven’t actually met them in person (people?) but hope to rectify that one day. 🙂

As the title suggests, this book focuses on the technique of nuno felting, or combining fabric with wool or other animal fibres. Although Nicola includes instructions for a simple first nuno felt scarf, this is not really a book for beginners – it’s best if you already know something about basic felting techniques and principles.

Where this book really scores is on providing inspiration to try new techniques to produce interesting patterns and textures (Chrissie’s deconstructed screen printing and use of needle felt and even jute, Nicola’s use of synthetic fabrics, felt beads and alpaca).

Nicola also explains a couple of techniques to help speed up the nuno felting process – which is great for me, as I’ve so far avoided making large nuno felted pieces as I get so exhausted! Unfortunately I don’t have a tumble dryer, but I’m tempted to get one now to save hours of rubbing and rolling. 🙂

Something else I haven’t attempted so far is making felt clothing. Chrissie’s section gives lots of ideas and advice on this, especially on how to calculate shrinkage. And when you buy the book you can email her for free templates in your size of the garments that she includes.

In short, lots of ideas for experimenting from two of the most committed and passionate felters I know.

Nuno Felting costs £22.30 as a paperback from Blurb. It’s also available as a hardback (£38.15) and an ebook (£14.99).

 

Felting books

At the weekend I picked up a second-hand copy of Fabulous Felted Scarves by Chad Alice Hagen and Jorie Johnson. What I found fascinating was not just the ideas for different scarves (network felt made by winding strands around giant bubble wrap, plaited felt, shibori felt) but also the techniques they use for making felt. This includes speeding up the process using a portable electric sander.

I’m a bit wary about mixing electricity and water, but anything that helps speed up the process and saves my back must be worth a try. Nancy E Schwab, who also reviewed the book, used to have some great tips and tricks on making nuno felt on her blog. But she’s now pulled them all together in her own book, incidentally called Nuno Felting Tips & Tricks, which sounds worth a look.

And last but not least, Nicola Brown of Clasheen has teamed up with another felter, Chrissie Day, to publish From Felt to Friendship,  which includes an amazing felt bag incorporating fish skin. I haven’t bought this book yet – have to pay off my holiday first! – but an order will soon be winging its way to Ireland.