Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Canadian Museum of Civilization

[Photo: Canadian Museum of Civilization] 
[Photo: Salish blanket at SFU Museum
of Archaeology & Ethnology
Last week I was lucky enough to meet with one of the Curators of Ethnology at the Canadian Museum of Ethnology who gave me a tour of the back rooms where the Coast Salish Textiles are stored.
[Photo: Coast Salish blanket at SFU
 Museum of Archaeology
 & Ethnology]

It was amazing to see so many in one place. I was allowed to photograph them but copyright of the objects only allows me to use the photos for educational/research use not for posting on my blog, hence I found a few others which I can post. The one on the top right shows the more Interior Salish style blanket, very close woven, with many colours. To me, this style rivals the famous Navajo blanket. These should be just as highly valued as the Navajo blanket is. I suspect the only reasons these blankets are not, is because they are not as well known.
The one below it shows the Coast Salish style - mostly white, often with a red stripe woven into it. In this case the red strip is actually a strip of commercially woven fabric.
[Photo: Chief George and his daughter 1902
wearing Salish woven coats
The Coast Salish blanket is typically woven in a twill pattern and sometimes, the added stripes or plaids are done in a plain weave. The Interior Salish usually use a twined weave where the weft yarn completely covers the warp yarn.  I am using the terms Coast Salish and Interior Salish very loosely.  Where does one group end and one begin? Even within one group, there are different First Nations.  They may share a similar language but they each may have their own unique culture, history and protocols. With weaving, the techniques will cross these artificial boundaries, so it is difficult to say that a particular style blanket would only be made by one group.  Chief Joe Capilano's blanket (click this link to view it) is interesting because it contains both techniques, the bulky Coast Salish twill style, bordered by the finely twined Interior Salish style.
[Photo: The Perth Blanket] 
The blanket next on my list to see is one of the oldest and rarest it is known as the Perth blanket, as it is in the Perth Museum in Scotland.  More on this one in July when I plan on seeing this blanket in person. 

Questions I have about these blankets and spinning - 
  • what techniques are used to spin the yarn?  The yarn in the Coast Salish style is quite different than that of the Interior Salish style.  
  • Did they use different methods?  Thigh, spindle, toss or roll?
  • Different fibres? 
  • Different size whorls? 
  • S or Z twist?
By the way, the Canadian Museum of Civilization is a work of art in itself. The building was designed by architect Douglas Cardinal, a Canadian. Check out his website for some inspiring photographs of his work: http://www.djcarchitect.com/

Thursday, May 19, 2011

THE Hill - The centre from which Canada revolves

[Photo: A rodent - marmot?]
I am in Ottawa for a few days, so I tried to make the most of it. By coincidence the city had just installed Bixi's - bicycles for rent. When hoofing it back to the hotel I came across them and was inspired to rent one. $5 for 24hrs. A cheap way to circle round THE hill. I immediately headed across the river to the Canadian Museum of Civilization (scouting the route for a visit there, with the curator who specializes in Coast Salish textiles, the next day - more on this later), along the river bank, back across the river, along THE Hill, up along the locks and parked the bike back in its stall. Interestingly, I saw more wildlife (of the animal variety) than I expected. First ducks in the locks (not sure how they get out since they need a flight path of a certain length and those locks look short), some sort of a rodent (parliament must be inundated with them), a family of Canadian (well, this IS the capital) Geese and a bloody big fish that surprised many passer-bys.
The Bixi bike was great fun. Since you can park it in any Bixi location, I ended up picking up another one the next morning (remember, $5 for 24hrs!) for my visit to the Canadian Museum of Civilization, parking it there, and picked up another one for the return trip.
I had time for a visit to the National archives where I came across a monument with a thought provoking quote which is a good way to end this posting:

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Tierra the wonderdog

[Photo: Tierra and her brood of eight - less than 8 hours old] 
Readers of this blog (all three of you, plus my mother) will remember Tierra, the kayaking wonderdog who was stolen and rescued by accident (click here to read that story). For those who are new to Tierra, she is a labradoodle who has some of the best doggie adventures as part of the mis-adventures of her owner Trudy, including kayaking to town and back everyday--although I am not sure if this is classified as an adventure, it being a daily activity.
[Photo: Tierra and her many foster parents]
Tierra has always LOVED little toys that squeek. To Trudy, this was an indication that Tierra was destined to be a mother, so a date was arranged with a distinguished poodle. At a party at Trudy's, three of her close friends wondered about this pregnancy and knowing Trudy, we just KNEW that something would go awry. The question was what. A sense of joint ownership of Tierra made us try to predict and prevent any possible hiccups in this process. The question was raised 'how long is a dog pregnancy?'. Page 25 of a convenient doggy breeding book told us....' the average dog pregnancy is 63 days, although they can be anywhere between 58 and 68 days.' I looked at Denise and laughingly suggested that Trudy would probably be away at the critical moment. When Denise mentioned it was a distinct possibility as Trudy was going to be on a boat in the Queen Charlottes sometime in May, we knew this was the hiccup. Trudy, passing by with a tray of cheese and crackers pooh-poohed that suggestion. She would be home on day 61 a few days ahead of the due date and Ian would care for Tierra until she got home. I looked at Denise and Denise looked at me and we knew!
Today is day 58 and look at these beautiful puppies. They are perfect all eight of them! Trudy, as far as we know is somewhere off the coast out of cell and email range.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Spins with wolf

[Photo: Samoyed dog on the left
and wolf on the right]
I recently had an opportunity to spin both wolf and dog (Samoyed) hair at a workshop with Judith McKenzie. I will do a separate post for the dog hair as there is so much to say about it and for now focus on the wonderful wolf fibre. The wolf was a dream to spin. You would think wolf has more rigid hairs and hence a rougher feel to it but the down from its coat is so soft it gives it a silky softness and it has a halo like mohair. The dog in comparison is soft as well but has a firmer feel and lacks the silkiness of wolf.
Interestingly, wolf doesn't smell like, well, like wolf. Dog, on the other hand, smells like dog. One wants to make sure that smell is vanquished completely from the fibre long before being caught out in the rain wearing a dog sweater.
[Photo: Wolf on the top and dog on
the bottom]
Judith and her wolf spinning friend Debi (who was also in the workshop) had collaborated on a chock-full-of-information-for-the-wolf-wannabe-spinner-in-all-of-us article on spinning wolf for Spin-off magazine (Fall 2009) and the whole class benefited from their incredible knowledge. Here's the short version: make a cloud of fluffy fibre; spin semi-woollen; wash vigorously to bloom and lock the fibre; luxuriate in the softness.
Where does one get wolf to spin? Well, I suppose you could hope to find natural shedding of their winter coat out in the wilds, but it is a better bet to try zoos, captive wolf sanctuaries, owners of wolf/dog crosses and ambassador wolf programs. Check out this story about an ambassador wolf.