Sunday, May 30, 2010

Twirling Spindles

I am trying to learn more about spindles and thought I would see how two different spindles handled twirling. These two spindles are close to the same weight but twirl very differently. The lower one was purchased in Husavik, Iceland last summer. It weighs 36 grams. The whorl is a little smaller than the top spindle, but the stick part of the spindle in short and, well, squat. When I twirl the Icelandic spindle it twirls to the count of four and then starts to untwist by twirling in the opposite direction. The top spindle, weighing in at 38 grmas, when given a spin, twirls to the count of ten before stopping and reversing. So for drop spindling, I much prefer the top one. However, If I were to use my thigh to roll the spindle to get the twist, the Icelandic one is preferable as there is more substance to roll against as I spin the spindle along the thigh.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


It was a busy weekend that involved four islands. First we headed over to Maple Bay on Vancouver Island (Island #1, count 'em) for a photo shoot on wooden boats. Then over to Saltspring Island (Island #2) to check out the Saturday morning market ---ooh, the cheeses! We also stopped by Stitches a great store for fibre artists.  
The store is crammed with inspiration. Want proof? Check out this picture of felted fabric and their web page and their blog which contains information on techniques, newsletters, etc.

Then it was off to Shawnigan Lake to stay with my sister and her husband on their tiny little island (no name island, Island #3). They live off the grid but that doesn't mean they have to put up with second best.
Heck, they live a better life than most: tranquility, a view that restores the soul, the sounds of many birds, and a lifestyle that includes books, music, time to think, and a loom to weave by.

And to finish the weekend, on our island (Island #4), we went over to some neighbours whose deck faces the Nanaimo harbour and downtown to watch the Victoria day fireworks.
Three days. Four islands.
PS My travelling scotch tube spindle kit was put to use. Another 60 meters of 2 ply yarn.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Have spindle, drink scotch, will travel

Last year I attended a Victoria Hand Weavers' and Spinners' Guild meeting along with around 70 other people. I was pleasantly surprised to see lots of people knitting, while listening to the various speakers, as knitting in public seems to have waned ever since the French Revolution (or. at least the publication of Charles Dickens Tale of Two Cities in which he describes the evil tricoteuse Madame Defuge madly knitting away in the courtroom while the gentry were being condemned to the guillotine). But I was amazed to see three or four women spinning with spindles. I had never been in a public space where people spun with their spindles. One young woman was carefully taking note of everyone's spindle. It turns out that she designs and makes wooden spindles, turning the wood on a lathe.
A few weeks later I noted that the Victoria Fibre Fest (happening again this year) had a public event 'Spin around the Spindle and a Spindle walking tour. Outside. In public! Both events encourage spindlers to come out of the closet and spindle in public. And last month at the Quadra Island Retreat, a woman was spinning in the lunch lineup and then kept her spindle stuffed in her back pocket of her jeans ready for the next opportunity to spin.
So this is my travelling spindle kit which I keep in my backpack, ready to bring it out and spindle. My top whorl spindle, some dyed Blue Faced Leicester top, and a scotch bottle tube to hold it all. And next to the spindle is 66 meters of two ply yarn done on the spindle. I confess to only spindling in the car and, on one or two occasions, in a hidden location outdoors, but I am gathering my gumption and will burst forth in public spinning away one day.
My ultimate goal is to learn how to use the Salish spindle which has a technique, unique in the world, where somehow, the spindle is turned and tossed in the air, but before mastering that, I thought I netter figure out the plain ordinary ways of the spindle.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Glenbow Museum, Calgary

A quick trip to Calgary for a conference gave us the opportunity to check out the Glenbow Museum. This museum is well worth the visit. One of the highlights is their exhibit on the Niitsitapi (The Blackfoot) - Our way of life. It covers how their culture, connection with the land, connection with plants, buffalo and other animals.  

I was particularly impressed with the pictographs recording major events such as the year smallpox struck and killed so many. Here's an example of Raw Eater's (a warrior hunter) recording on a buffalo hide, of his hunting and other feats.  
We were lucky to see a special exhibit which closed a day or two later, the Sacred Robes exhibited five hide shirts that had been collected over 150 years ago. These shirts (with one exception) depicted sacred stories and histories of the Blackfoot nation.

On another floor, is an exhibit of First Nations artifacts from the north, south, east and west of the Niitsitapi. I spotted the Coast Salish spindle whorl and had to take a picture of it.

And now for something completely different

This is an interesting video that packs a punch. Created by The Khaki Group for Dorling Kindersley Books, a UK bookseller and written for the book publishing and marketing crowd but it speaks to a much wider audience. 

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Canadian Literature Prof + Artist * Knitting = Inspiring works

This is really part two of another post - The Original Knot March 10th post- where faculty were paired and charged with creating, well, something. 
The March 10th post told of their progress and the inspiration it provided me. Last week they presented the end result of their collaboration.

Materfamilias provided the inspiration of knitting and her partner in creativity came up with a series of photographs based on knitting stitches. The images contain words and stitches, some superimposed, some small, some enlarged and manipulated until you can not see the individual components but the patterns are there. I think 10 images were created and shown on a very large screen. I noticed with interest the difference I saw in viewing them, first as he showed each one and explained it, then when he just ran the slideshow automatically from the first to the last image, each image blending and morphing into the next one. There was a flow and rhythm in the series that was quite beautiful.

Saturday, May 8, 2010


Finally. Spring is here. Unfortunately, I am off to Calgary for a couple of days. Calgary which received 6" of snow recently, where the temp is going down to -2 and all the way up to +4. But ignoring that, it is time to bring the sandels out and expose the feet. Which brings me to this picture, a tray full of nail polish. I loved the colours. A friend gave me a gift certificate for a pedicure so off I went and had a glorious hour in a spa and came out with happy feet....ready to put them into winter boots.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Quadra Island Spinner's and Weaver's Retreat

This was another first for me. My first Spinners AND Weaver's Retreat and my second foray into the world of the fibre sisterhood. Who knew that you could go away to a fantastic location which included: island; eagles; petroglyphs; a First Nation owned lodge with art everywhere; hot tubs; good food, workshops, a fashion show, talks, show and tell, wine and women, spinning and knitting away and having a great time. I mentioned my amazement to a friend who looked at me and said, 'well, of course we need it. It feeds our soul.' She was right. You come away inspired, you have learned something new, a nagging weaving/knitting/spinning problem has been solved, you have met new friends, connected with old ones, you come away with project ideas, you've laughed and you have revived. I guess that is what retreats are for. My friend paused and still peering at me over her glasses with a particularly sharp and loaded piercing look, as if she had seen a hollow empty, echoing soul desperately needing filling, continued on 'And it is about time that you joined in!'