Saturday, April 30, 2011

Island Rainbow

An amazing rainbow this week. It covered Protection Island. Of course it was even better than this picture portrays.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Tribal Textiles

[Photo: Judith's tribal rugs from Africa]
I've just come back from a wonderful 4 day workshop on Tribal Textiles taught by Judith McKenzie. Judith taught me spinning 25 years ago, so it was a wonderful way to reconnect up with her. So much to spin, so much to tell. It will take me a few postings to even begin to convey what was covered and the sense of adventure that went along with it.
It was held in the dead centre of vampire country apparently. One needs to be a female teenager or a vampire devotee to understand that the small town of Forks, Washington is the setting for the Twilight Series of books and movies about vampires, werewolves and teenage angst.
[Photo: Amy and Judith at the treaty line
(between the werewolves and the vampires)]
Vampires aside, we spent the four days learning from First Nations (Makah, Quileute, Salish), touring the Makah Museum at Neah Bay and behind the scenes at their storage facility, hiking to Cape Flattery, walking the beaches at La Push,working with cedar, Salish weaving and coiling, spinning, spinning and spinning, and, on one occasion howling at the moon.
Here's a list of fibres we spun or wove:
Texas mohair/wool - thigh spinning, Hemp, Hemp and feathers, hemp and down, Dog hair, Dog hair and feathers, dog hair and down, Wolf/wool, Bison/silk, Bison/wool, Cotton, and Cedar.
I'll try to do each one justice in later postings.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Play and Kumihimo

[Photo: Alison Irwin's 'O is for Ocelot'
Kumihimo braids]
When I think of the word play, I think of it having two purposes.  There is playful play, where you play around with something trying to learn 'it', to understand 'it', to be able to do 'it' (say, learning to play the piano).  There there is the powerful play, where you know 'it' so well, you have complete mastery and control that you can play with 'it', make 'it' do whatever you want (like composing new songs).
[Photo: My first sample, showing  various
geometric patterns, from the tip: a spiral, rake,
dark diamonds and lightning]
  I especially love it when someone takes a craft or an art form and plays with it,  gets to know it, tries this with it, tries that with it, really understand it and is able to create new forms, new uses, new functions, new knowledge of 'it'.  The 'it' in this case Kumihimo and the player is Alison Irwin who taught a group of us her Eight 'n Eight Kumihimo workshop - eight light threads and eight dark threads used to make 'Kongo Gumi' (hollow round) braids. A day inspiring me to want to play.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Coast Salish Spindle

[Photo: Coast Salish whorls at the
Royal BC Museum]
I have been spending some time investigating the Coast Salish Spindle with the idea of having a friend make me one and thought I would share some of what I have found. 

The Coast Salish spindle was used mainly by the Coast Salish of Vancouver Island (e.g. Snuneymuxw , Quwutsun, Tsartlip) and the mainland Coast Salish (e.g. Musqueam, Yale, Spuzzum). The Coast Salish Spindle is distinguished from other spindles, not only due to its size: the spindle shaft usually measures 90-120 cms (35-48”) and the whorl is commonly 18-20 cms (7-8”), but also due to its method of use –tossing into the air (more on this in a later blog...once I have had a chance to figure out how that worked).

The whorl, often made from Maple wood (have you ever seen those beautiful Maple trees in Cowichan Bay?), is placed either midway up the shaft or between half-way and two thirds down the shaft. The shaft is tapered with the larger end at the bottom. The whorl is often decorated by incised carving on one side of the whorl, the side facing down towards the spinner. The upper side of the whorl is sometimes flat or slightly concave. On many whorls the center shaft hole is thicker than the surrounding wood, tapering down to a thinner outer edge of the whorl.

[Photo: Salish spindle on display at
the Royal BC Museum]
The Salish spindle was used for spinning goat wool mixed with dog hair from the Salish Wool Dog. The yarn created was a thick yarn used for blankets. Later the spindle was used for yarns used in the Cowichan sweater industry.

There are a few things about this spindle that I find intriguing: its size; the way it is held; the method of tossing and turning; the use of a tension ring to add the tension to the drafting process. Intriguing enough to try to recreate one and to try it out. I will let you know how it works.
Edited to suggest a great book on the history of Salish Wool and sweaters:
Working with Wool, a Coast Salish Legacy . Although it looks at the history of the Cowichan Sweaters, it covers the history of the wool too.