I am not a quilter, I am just making a quilt.
This might seem an odd distinction to make to non-handcrafters perhaps but maybe you understand what I mean? Just because I practice a craft does not mean that I identify as someone who does that thing. I take photographs but don’t consider myself a photographer but I know that Annie Cholewa does (and rightly so!). I sew most of my own clothes but I don’t consider myself a sewist/seamstress but I know that Stephanie of My Vintage Inspiration does. I crochet (infrequently now) but I do not consider myself a crocheter but Alina of The Gift of Knitting does. I garden but am not a gardener, I cook but I am not a cook.
I do consider myself a knitter though and have done for about 15 or so years, however, I have been knitting much longer than this. Similarly, although I learned to spin seven years ago, I only began thinking of myself as a spinner a few years ago. I am not sure when I started to call myself a spinner or why…at some point I just knew I was.
Why is that we identify with some crafts as a practitioner and not others? What is the point at which we know we are a knitter, a spinner or a quilter? Is it when knowledge enters the bones and muscles? Is it perhaps about what engages our sustained curiousity and delight? Do we know we are a knitter when we take stitch dictionaries to bed? Do we know we are a spinner when we find pleasure in being arms-deep in mucky fleece water?
I have been reading some literature recently on consumption and how since the fifties we have become increasingly identifying with and identified by our consumption practices. Colin Campbell is an American sociologist who describes several different ways the consumer has been defined: as the passive consumer who is the unwitting dupe of advertising and the status quo; as the heroic, rational consumer researching about product choice; and, the lifestyle consumer who buys to express their personality through brands. I remember very clearly a moment in the mid 90s when I was working full time after graduating and could finally afford to buy new clothes. I was wearing a pair of Converse sneakers, Oakley sunglasses, Levi’s jeans and a Mooks hoodie. I was feeling mighty fine. And then suddenly I had this odd realisation that the brands I was wearing were acting as symbolic representations of me and I could combine brands in different ways to say different things about me. Brands were like identity codes. It was a memorable and rather horrifying moment as I at once realised that I had finally got a style that was saying all the right, cool things (for that moment) and also that this was a projected, aspirational, fictional me rather than flesh-and-blood-interior-furniture me. Ah yes, I was the emperor feeling so fine just as my brain pointed out I was actually naked. Loss and insight! Now, this was no revolutionary epiphany, more the beginnings of a discomfort with lifestyle brands, a vague sense that as desireable as the bright shinies on offer were, there was more to being than buying.
Still, that was the nineties and the ascendancy of brand culture. Colin Campbell argues that there is another category of consumer that is significant today, that of the craft consumer who consumes in order to create. A craft consumer buys materials (often mass produced materials) and uses skills and knowledge to make something like a meal, a garden or a room. Whilst craft consumption is an increasingly significant category for understanding contemporary consumption, there is the risk of overstating the role of consumption in craft practice. Crafters do consume, sometimes a lot. Sometimes we buy and accrue vast amounts of fabric to make quilts or buy more yarn than we can knit in a lifetime. Sometimes we are proud of this and boast about how big our stashes are. Sometimes we feel uncomfortable about the buying and hide our stash around the house to make it look less. We go on yarn diets and participate in stash busting projects in an effort to discipline our buying habits.
Consumption is definitely a part of contemporary crafting. But are crafters simply craft consumers? It is entirely possible to make a meal or a garden without buying anything, nor does the buying of the raw materials constitute the defining activity of making something. Even if you buy all the fabrics to make a quilt, making a quilt is still more than an act of consumption. Buying fabric is but one activity among many that make up the entire practice of quilting. If someone makes a quilt by cutting up old worn out clothes to hand and another makes a quilt from mass produced fabrics bought at a shop, are they not both quilters? Surely we are more that what we buy or how we buy?
Let us return to role of practice in craft identity. Some of the literature that I have been reading for my thesis has focused on the social and health benefits of craft. Again and again, researchers have observed that the practice of handcrafting provides a very strong source of identity for practitioners (I have listed one of these papers below). It is the making that is the source of identity, it would seem, not the buying. But what exactly is that identity in relation to a specific practice, how is it formed and how is it understood by the practitioner? How do we know when we become a quilter? Why are we a knitter but not spinner when we might do both?
I know I am a knitter. I know I am a spinner. I feel it in my bones. My fingers find their own way and my mind can play and ponder the infinite possibility residing in materials, technique and purpose.
What are you? And how do you know? I would love to hear.
Some writings you might find interesting:
Colin Campbell, (2005) The Craft Consumer: Culture, Craft and Consumption in a Post Modern Society
Gandolfo, Enza and Grace, Marty, (2009) It Keeps Me Sane: Women, Craft and Wellbeing, Vulgar Press
There is a little person arriving in the world this coming summer and I wanted to knit a welcome.
I don’t normally knit in cotton but you can’t give wool to newborn in January in Melbourne! In the past, I have enjoyed knitting with Twilley’s of Stamford recycled cotton and I have a wee stash of Patons Gem 4ply from an opshop find that has seen me through a few baby knitting adventures. I thought this January baby might be a good opportunity to try out an organic, fair trade cotton I have been hearing about, Pakucho DK. This lovely undyed cotton is made by Perunaturex (which seems to be part of a larger Naturex company) and is distributed in Australia by Wool and Cotton Road.
This yarn is from Peru and is certified by GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard), Control Union Fair Choice: Social and Fair Trade Standard and Control Union Eco Sustainable Textile. You will find lots of interesting information about organic cotton and the history of cotton growing in Peru on the Wool and Cotton Road website.
As I mentioned before, this yarn is from Peru which is 13, 000 km from Melbourne! I can buy cotton locally from Bendigo Woollen Mills but I can’t find any information to say where it is grown (here, China or India perhaps) or processed (possibly China, like the wool yarns). So I decided to go with the yarn that was least processed and had certification attesting to fair labour practices and organic growing, trading-off the carbon miles. Yes, this is yarn buying in the global market place, a place of paradoxes and trade-offs!
The yarn I bought was undyed and is a lovely creamy white. It is very strong and sturdy being made with 4 groups of 2 singles plied together to form a chain plied yarn. This is unlikely to pill or sag overly as the yarn is very structured. It is a soft as butter however. The lack of dye and pesticides used in production and processing, coupled with the sturdiness and softness of the yarn make it ideal for a baby cardigan that will be worn next to the skin and washed many many times.
Just to let you know: I have not received any benefits or inducements to promote this yarn, I just like it a lot. If you pop into the Wool and Cotton Road website you can see all various weights of organic cottons, dyed and undyed they stock.
This post is part of a collaborative natural dye and mapping project with Annie Cholewa called Waysides: Local Colour from our Home Grounds. Waysides: Connections is the second of two reflective posts that Annie and I would like to share with you, written in response to our experience of the Waysides project. Please pop over and read Annie’s response to Waysides: Connections.
I discovered something rather horrifying in the course of this project. I discovered that I feel alienated from the land. Actually, I felt this already. I have felt this for a long time. But I as I began to work on Waysides the feeling only grew.
I don’t feel a sacred to connection to the place where I live but I think I ought to. Books like Philip Marsden’s Rising Ground: A Search for the Spirit of Place and Robert MacFarlane’s Landmarks seem to suggest that a deep connection with place and the land is intrinsic to humanness.
But when I think about the land itself around here, I find it hard to love. I see a broken waterway with its bluestone bed ripped away to make road gutters. The wild spaces along the creek are plantings in a place that has been so modified, the original inhabitants would not recognise it. The weed are invaders, relics of pastoral colonialism, choking out native grasses, flourishing in the scars of urban growth. It is so hot in summer, the earth cracks open, the plants wither and leave the soil bare and baking. You need to walk carefully along the creek then as there are snakes, venomous snakes that somehow have managed to cling to the vestiges of what remains of their habitat. It bothers me that I don’t know the names of the trees here, the trees that were here before the land was robbed and pillaged.
As I gathered my bits of bark, leaves, pods and flowers, I felt like an interloper. The act of identifying the eucalypts in particular was so frustrating and laborious that it only escalated my feelings of disconnection. The weeds made me angry, the garden plants made me angry, the trees in the park made me angry. What are we all doing here? I kept asking myself.
The skeins began to mount and I made alot of beige. Each colour was very hard won, what with the fibre preparation and spinning and mordanting and gathering and dyeing. The results were underwhelming. I couldn’t really talk much about the colour in my posts so I started focusing on the stories instead. I reflected on the paths where the plants came from, what they meant to me. I read about the plant species. I read about the history of the wattle in Australia, I listened to a podcast about Australian birds, I started reading about Aboriginal life along the Yarra before European Settlement and up to the present day.
But it wasn’t until I was puzzling over the Waysides shawl design, that things really shifted for me. I was writing a bit list of dichotomies: exotic vs native, modified vs wild, grid vs creek when I realised that the whole lot was beautiful. The weeds, the plantings, the creek, the trees, the cracked earth, the bare soil, held in tension between history and the will of all things to live. I saw that even the scars on the earth, the overlaid grid of roads and concrete, they were all beautiful, in their way. The whole thing is flawed, a remnant of a brutal incursion, but it pulses with life. The land is determined to live, to grow, despite all that has happened, all that is happening, it burns with a will to live, to endure, to continue.
I still feel uncomfortable about my relationship with where I live but I am determined to know more about this place and see the whole of it, if I can.
Some books that changed my perspective:
Ellender, I. and Christiansen, P., 2001, People of the Merri Merri: The Wurundjeri in Colonial Days, MCMC
McLellan, R and O’Toole, J. (eds) Creek Life: Flora and Fauna of the Merri Creek Valley, MCMC
Moore, S., Howard, E., Topalidou, A., 2013, Moreland City Council
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The KnitBritish Breed Swatch-along is an inspired idea. Not only does it promote and stimulate exploration and use of breed specific yarns and thus preserve sheep diversity as a knit-along but it also creates a permanent, collaboratively generated resource to assist others in sourcing and using breed specific yarns in more informed, purposeful ways. I am not in Britain, but Louise Scollay has encouraged non-Britonians to trial yarns that are local to them instead.
I thought I would try the Corridale which is a dual purpose sheep, bred simultaneously in Australia and New Zealand in the late nineteenth century from Merinos and Lincolns. It is medium soft with a long staple.
I bought this yarn from Wilanjie Coloured Sheep whom I found through the Black and Coloured Sheep Association website. Marion Stewart raises coloured Corridale sheep, in Wangandary, Victoria about two and a half hours north of Melbourne. Buying direct from the farmer is a real thrill I reckon, even when it is only a single ball!
The yarn is a DK weight made from (3 plies) so it is nice and round. It is mill spun so most likely semi-worsted. The yarn feels firm and robust but bouncy. It is a natural light grey but on the beige side, more like a silver mushroom colour. Some lustre and sheen.
Using 4 mm, metal Birch circular needles I cast on 55 sts and adding or subtracting a one or two stitches to make the repeats, knit 3 stitch patterns from The Harmony Guides 450 Knitting Stitches Vol 2, p 19: Reverse Stocking Stitch Chevrons (6 st repeat + 5 = 57 sts), Double Fleck Stitch (6 st repeat + 4 = 56 sts ) and Double Basket Weave (4 st repeat + 3 = 57 sts). 5 sts either side form the selvedge.
The knitting was exceptionally pleasant. The yarn did not snag, split or slip. Occasional small noils easily removed and no vegetation encountered.
Observances of unwashed swatch: The unwashed swatch measured 25 cm high x 26 cm at base, 25 cm at middle and 24 cm at top. The fabric is firm but not stiff. It has structure and integrity.
Wash, Block and Wear – Test 1
Washing: I washed it in tepid water with a little liquid pure soap and eucalyptus mix. Soaked for 30 mins and soaked in clean tepid water for 30 mins. Faint odour of naphthalene detected.
Blocking: I blocked it by laying it flat, smoothing and squaring but not pinning. It came out to 26 cm x 26 cm. It dried to 26 cm at the base and 25 cm at the top and 25 cm tall. This probably reflects the stitch types, the top pattern acting like a rib stitch and drawing the fabric in.
The swatch still feels sturdy and robust after washing but has softened. I was surprised to find no itch factor wearing it next to my skin. It has shrunk by a centimetre and whilst it has flattened and evened out, I would not say it has bloomed particularly. I rubbed it vigorously against itself (through the middle pattern zone) and after repeated vigorous rubbing, I raised a few pills which were easily removed.
Wash, Block and Wear – Test 2
I washed the swatch exactly the same way. Naphthalene odour not noticeable. Blocked to same dimensions and dried to same dimensions. Still OK to wear against the skin but the swatch feels a little denser, a little less springy than before. Some signs of wear in the middle section where I really rubbed it. I rubbed it vigorously against itself again and raised a little halo but nothing more.
Final and Overall Assessment:
This is a sturdy wool yet a surprisingly wearable yarn. I think it would wear well as an everyday cardigan with lots of texture. It might possibly full over time but this would not effect the durability of the garment. It might actually make it more robust. I can imagine a very useful cardigan with deep pockets that I could wear dog walking, gardening and bike riding, an everyday companion-in-life cardigan. I have been surprised by its next-to-the-skin wearability so as a garment, it could be worn over a tshirt without itching. I plan to breathe life into that cardigan vision.
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I usually post on a Friday evening but this week, we went camping instead.
I took some knitting but really didn’t do much of it. Sometimes I feel that my knitting gets in the way of connecting with my kids and my partner. It is something I focus on and that takes up room on my lap. So I left my hands mostly empty this trip and filled my lap with children, marshmallows and smoke from the campfire.
On one of our walks through a part of the bush that had been burnt out quite badly, I noticed the work of human hands. Of course, I know intellectually that the tracks and campsites are maintained by Parks Victoria but this was something a little different. With all of the ground cover and shrub layer removed by fire, water erosion along the gully lines was quite severe. To counter this, fallen trees had been placed perpendicular to the slope to slow the water flow and to catch leaves and sticks to build up the humus layer. In the gullies, sticks and logs and stones had been thrown into the erosion fissures again to slow the water and catch debris. Pot holes that appeared in the tracks were infilled with big rocks.
The work of human hands indicated a care for the land that was contagious. We too looked for big rocks to put in other pot holes that had formed. How many walkers had seen the same and were moved to do the same? We are moved by the evidence of human hands for good or ill. Often, we are less inclined to care for a place when we see the evidence of damage, rubbish and neglect. We are a curious lot.
It is still birthday season here, so what better time to suddenly decide to make birthday bunting! Inspired by the recent heroic efforts of Something From Seaview and fueled by the panic that Our Dear Boy didn’t have anything handmade for his birthday, I decided to whip up some bunting. Time was short, planning was nil but somehow a few hours later, there was bunting.
We used to have bunting, lots of it. But I accidently left it behind at the park after a party. The subsequent storm blew it all over the park and after my kind neighbour had identified its bits and collected them for me, it was never quite the same. Its bits decorated cubby houses and fairy trees after that and weathered into the ether over time.
The main fabrics for this bunting were drawn from my Operation Manshirt collection, specifically the sleeves part of the collection. There is probably not that much that can be made from the sleeves of polycotton business shirts except bunting. It is a good size and will last a very long time. If you too wonder what can be done with worn out shirts, you might like some of the ideas in my Pinterest board.
The letters were cut free hand from scraps, sprayed with some quilters’ starch so they adhered to the backing without pinning or moving during sewing which was fast and furious zig-zag in a cotton I was unlikely to use for any other project. I struggled to get the contrast between the backing and the letters right. It looks OK as you are making them, but then when you come to read the letters from a distance, the contrast isn’t quite enough.
The bias binding was home made and also very quick. I rotary cut the necessary width from a multi folded fabric on the bias, sewed the strips together and then pressed them into bias binding using this ingenious tool. You feed the fabric in one end, it follows the metal conformations and then you just pull it along with one hand whilst following it with a hot iron in the other.
This bunting is rough and ready, made entirely of scraps to hand. It is not finely finished nor beautifully co-ordinated, but it is done, fit for purpose and quite merry. And I am not naked before the handmade-less birthday!
I participated in Spinzilla last week for the first time. Spinzilla is a week long, international competition organised by the National NeedleArts Association, a US industry group which promotes knitting, crochet, spinning, weaving and various kinds of needlework. For one week, as part of a team (usually a fibre shop or publishing group) or by yourself (spinning ‘rogue’), you spin as much as you can, tally your yardage and submit your results. You can win prizes for most spun and your entry fee, a modest $10 USD goes to the NeedleArts Mentoring Program educating young children in needlecraft skills. This year 1754 spinners participated.
I don’t normally join things like this. I don’t normally join things…period. I did my first KAL (knit along) only last year and only when I was specifically invited and led gently by the hand. Thanks to that single invitation from MySister’sKnitter, I have got braver and more participatory. I have tried a number of KALs now and am currently part of FiberTrek’s Shackleton CAL and the Knit British Swatch-Along. In fact, it was being part of the Shackleton CAL that prompted my Spinzilla venture. Shackleton is all about embarking on an epic feat of fibre related endurance and my feat is conquering my fear of the woollen long draw, spinning up all the fleeces I currently have and turning them into something useful and beautiful.
The emphasis of Spinzilla is on mileage and that is quite freeing when learning a new technique. Learning by doing and doing alot is so useful when you are trying to train your fingers to do other than what they are used to. Kim Werker also took part this year. In her book Make it Mighty Ugly she recommends shifting your ideas of beauty and perfection to make room for creativity and learning. This was also her approach to participating in Spinzilla as someone new to spinning. She wrote,
There’s no sense trying to learn how to do something new, or trying to get better at doing something you already know how to do, if you’re simultaneously trying to nail it on the first go. On paper that’s a no-brainer, but in practice it can be a hard walk to walk. Spinzilla is a gift of dedicated time. It’s just one week, so it’s not a stressful gift. But it’s long enough that daily practice can make a serious impression.
So I’m here to champion the mess. I’ll go so far as to encourage you to make as big a mess as you can. Like the fifty pounds of clay people, let’s go for the learning and productivity that come with a focus on quantity over perfection.
This is not quantity over quality, but practice over perfection. So with this in mind, armed with a shed-load of prepared fibre and chanelling a fair few woollen spinning youtube vids, I spun my little heart out. Well, actually I spun my heart out in the very limited time available to me between kid bedtime and my bedtime. The time did seem limited but a week of dedicated spinning activity added up to 2007 yards/ 1835 metres of spinning. I found this very heartening.
And that is perhaps the other lesson of participating in Spinzilla…just concentrating on spinning, not preparing, not knitting, just spinning. By preparing all my fibre ahead of time, carding rolag upon rolag in the weeks leading up to Spinzilla, I could just spin for a week, concentrating on getting that technique of the long draw really working.
At the end of the week I had spun up 25 grams of silver Romney from a sample batt from Romney Ridge Farm in Maine, USA; 125 g of white Finnsheep from Fairfield Finns and a bobbin’s worth of dark grey Polwarth from Tarndie.com, both local Victorian farms. The Finnsheep was the first fleece I bought I think and I have been using bits of it for the last 7 years. It is now all spun up. The Polwarth is almost as old but I have barely made a dint in it. More spinning required!
- A good fleece is even more important in woollen spinning than worsted. Flicking and combing remove second cuts, noils and vegetation in a way that carding does not. Unless you want to be stopping very often to pick out bits in your singles, start with a good clean fleece and pick your locks carefully.
- It is easier to spin a scoured fleece woollen than in the grease. The Finnsheep fleece was washed but unscoured, the grease made the fibres stick together and clump. The Polwarth had been scoured but not very well (it was my first go at scouring) and I noticed how easily the spinning went when the rolag was free of grease, like a fluffy cloud. The Romney was scoured and almost spun itself, despite being my first go at the long draw.
- I need to move a little faster in drafting my singles. Looking at the washed and scoured skeins now, I can see that the singles are slightly over spun.
- The woollen preparation and spinning is remarkably different to the worsted style. This is springy and airy and a lot less lustrous than the worsted style using the same fibres. Of course, I know this to be the case intellectually but to see and feel the difference in hand spinning is quite a remarkable insight.
Did anyone else do Spinzilla this year or previous years? What did you think worthwhile from participating? What are your thoughts on the bulk preparation, single focused production approach to getting through a big project?
Spring is birthday season in our family and there has been some tiny sewing going on in preparation.
Our Dear Girl has reached the age of asking for Barbies. I struggle with this stuff. I worry about corporations and advertising executives hijacking childhood and defining gender just to sell stuff and then I worry about me controlling what my kids play with too much. These are my own worries…I am not judging playing with Barbies or launching into a tirade about buying popular toys. But I have been compelled to try to find the middle ground that allows my kids to participate in peer play and creates spaces that encourage self expression outside of the product catalog.
I interpreted Our Dear Girl asking for a Barbie to mean that she wanted a companion dressing doll…not the squishy baby dolls she has loved since a wee one, but a hard doll with hair that perhaps reflected herself more than a baby doll did.
Tree Change Dolls were my middle ground. These dolls are the brain child of Sonia Singh, a Tasmanian research scientist. When she found herself retrenched, she started collecting discarded Bratz dolls, removing their heavily made-up faces with acetone and painting on a new, more childlike, relaxed kind of face with simple acrylics. With some hand knitted and sewn clothes, she started a small revolution. Her first batch sold immediately and she encouraged folks to make their own.
So when the Barbie call came, I thought I would do as she suggested and make a couple for Our Dear Girl. It was trickier than I expected despite looking so easy on Sonia’s DIY Youtube vid.
Despite going through almost a whole bottle of acetone and all of my smell receptors, these girls still have smudgy noses but I figure that will be nothing to how dirty they will get in Our Dear Girl’s company. The eyes became larger than I had intended because apparently you need quite a steady hand to do eyes! But the wonkiness and smudginess is part of them, a symbol of my enthusiasm and lack of skill, a symbol of my anxieties for my daughter. And the dolls, themselves seem relieved by the change.
The knitting was extreme. I used handspun laceweight and sock yarn on 2.5 mm needles. I first knit a tiny cardigan in sock yarn from this cracker of a knitting book. Yes, that is a Farrah Fawcett doll!
I knit the cardigan in pieces from yarn scraps from a pair of Rivercats. I then wet blocked the pieces, sewed them together and finally blocked the garment. I will never ever do that again.
The other tops, hat and skirt were knit in one piece in the round or flat to minimise the tiny sewing. The hat and top were from leftovers from Baby Lottie and the skirt from a wee bit of yarn from Jillybean Slow Socks.
I also sewed a skirt and some tops and hand stitched a ball gown out of raw silk scraps left over from making my wedding dress. Whoever has the job of sewing clothes for dolls like these on industrial machines for mass production better be paid a squillion dollars, cos this is hard, fiddly sewing. I could barely see what I was doing, nevermind get my fingers to work with the tiny seams.
Here are the girls, hiding in their bag before the birthday. Our Dear Girl was delighted and declared them ‘just like Barbies’. I think have dodged a bullet…for now.
Postscript: a few weeks ago, in response to the movement of many thousands of refugees across Europe, the desire to knit articles of clothing for Syrian refugees was raised in comments by a number of readers. At the time, there was no locally based point of co-ordination for such a project but I read this week on knittyblog.com of a project co-ordinated by Nelkin Designs Blog. One of her Ravelry group members is doctor in a public health centre outside of Munich, Germany who is seeking knitted woollens to distribute to refugees for the approaching winter. You will find all the requisite details on the Nelkin blog if you are keen.
This post is part of a collaborative natural dye and mapping project with Annie Cholewa called Waysides: Local Colour from our Home Grounds. Waysides: Walking is the first of two reflective posts that Annie and I would like to share with you, written in response to our experience of the Waysides project. Please pop over and read Annie’s response to Waysides: Walking.
When Annie and I first started building this collaboration, one of the things that resonated most strongly for me was that this was a walking project, a colour map of the ways I walked through my neighbourhood.
Walking builds knowledge of the landscape around us and it does so through acts of our own creativity as we decide where we will go, when we will stop, what will hold our gaze. Walking enables us to experience the world through our eyes, ears, nose and limbs. It can be slowed and quickened according to need. It can be easily paused to explore, examine or interact. It enables vast amounts of information about our surroundings and other beings to be effortlessly accrued. By these means, we transform places on maps into meaningful spaces where our lives are lived.
But we don’t really come to know the whole place just the bits we walk, the paths, the shortcuts, the ways to places, the destinations and of course, those liminal spaces that border the paths, the waysides.
I had assumed in the beginning that I would gather from the waysides as I walked on my way to various places but then noticed that nothing was being gathered. I had to plan special journeys to collect leaves or forage for spent seed pods. I would ride my bike as it was quicker. Ride, collect, go home.
Where was the walking? Somewhere along the dye journey, I realised I wasn’t walking much anymore. We no longer had a dog to walk and the children, whose preschool days were spent ambling very slowly to nearby places, were riding bikes now. I was either striding purposefully after them or riding my own bike to keep up. I would ride to the shop now, it was faster. Ride to school and home again.
Riding is faster but it doesn’t create the same opportunities for chance encounters and side by side conversations. It is harder to stop and look, gather or chat. Perhaps then, these colours I have made of the waysides are artefacts of my walking days? Actually, I think they are more active talismans embued with the enduring creative power of walking. Whilst I walk much less at this particular stage of my family’s life, I retain all the knowledge and experience of my neighbourhood gained through walking. Just as walking creates a meaningful neighbourhood, the meanings do not diminish when the walking declines. The meanings endure. They can be recalled and retold and remade. Active walking of course adds more layers, creates more opportunities for making meanings, connecting, imagining, looking, collecting, talking…
Recently, I have noticed that I have been choosing to walk more. I might let the kids ride ahead and walk at my own pace, or walk to the shop instead of riding. Life slows a bit, I notice more, I feel less urgent.
References (if you fancy reading more):
Horowitz, A. (2013) On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes, Scribner International, New York.
Certeau, M. (1984) The Practice of Everyday Life, University of California Press, Berkley
Demerath, L. and Levinger, D. (2003) “The social qualities of being on foot: a theoretical analysis of pedestrian activity, community and culture”, City and Community, Vol. 2, No. 3, pp 217-237.
Sometimes, it is easy to forget that the Royal Melbourne Show is primarily an agricultural show amid the showbags, fairy floss, giant rides and booming music. These certainly make it a giant spectacle and if you get one of those amazing blue sky, spring days, it looks marvellous. But inside the pavilions, there is a different pace, a respite from the noise and the urgency and a glimpse into other aspects of the Show.
Inside the Craft Pavilion, you can see an extraordinary array of domestic crafts from baking to preserving to knitting to basketry displayed and judged. This is no art and design fair but a competition for serious amateurs pushing their skills to their utmost for best bread loaf, best fruit cake, best sweater, best sock.
As a young adult, I remember being scornful that the entries looked so ordinary. I didn’t place any value on the skills displayed. The everyday crafts celebrated here offended my aesthetic as I thought being fashionable, avant garde or artistic was the mark of …well, everything. And now, somewhat wiser I hope, I marvel at the breadth of the craftwork. I am awed by way it seems to undercut what corporatised fashions or lifestyle subcultures think is cool or saleable. It celebrates instead what actual people make and value: the everyday made with skill, the useful made with experience, and the decorative made with joy.
Fully humbled over best biscuits and junior cupcakes, I went next to the livestock pavilion to fill my lungs with smell of hay, lanolin and manure. Heritage Sheep Australia had a great display of rare sheep breeds in Australia.
I saw Tintern School showing their rare breed Romney’s for which they win lots of prizes. Secondary school girls raise these sheep, breed them and show them as part of their studies. If you want to buy a Romney fleece from the school, you can make contact with the Farm Manager on 9845 7777.
Granite Haven had a great display of fibres and yarns in the Livestock Pavilion with Wool2Yarn. If you remember, I got rather excited about Suzette Sayer’s Paddock to Ply fibre mill project? Well, the things really do seem to be changing in Australia, as Wool2Yarn is a new micro-mill based in Mornington, Victoria. They specialise in small quantities (really small) and can take greasy fleeces! They will scour and process into roving or semi-worsted yarn. They are also creating some of their own yarn lines that can be purchased at a bricks and mortar shop in Mornington.
Cheryl Crosbie from Granite Haven has had some of her Gotland fleeces processed into these amazing rovings ready spin into art yarns. Her fibre range has really expanded and she has some lovely naturally coloured yarns in a shawl kit ready to knit.
I also saw a display of natural coloured sportsweight yarns from Kan-B-Colours. These new-to-me yarns are from prize winning Comeback sheep raised by Helen Wright at Glenlofty, Victoria. I haven’t found a website but the yarn can be purchased through an email firstname.lastname@example.org. It looks beautiful and is a fine wool but it was in display case, so no squish test sorry. Have any of you tried these yarns or know about them?
Again, just so we are clear, these are my own opinions, I have not been asked to endorse or promote these sellers in any way and have received no financial gain from doing so.