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More thoughts on slow making

September 13, 2015

I have been thinking a lot about slow making recently. The socks were one kind of slow where I knew the process and outcome at the outset but they were long in the making. The Waysides project is another kind of slow, where the outcome was unknown at the beginning and emerged through the process. I am still working on Waysides…at the knitting end. I have plans for a colourwork yoke and have knit up the body in some lovely silver grey sports weight from Jumbuck Wool. I have cast on for the first sleeve and have not a clue yet about the colourwork! So we shall see.

General_Map_Showing_the_Explorations_and_Surveys_of_the_Expedition,_1907-09_WDL95Shackelton’s Map of the Nimrod Expedition. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Another slow project which has been murmuring softly to me since I first heard of it on FiberTrek is the Shackelton craft-along.  Shackelton is a joint CAL organised by FiberTrek and Shineybees. Named for the British Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackelton, it is to be an epic project that pushes you to the limits of your skill and endurance. It will run over a year and half. That is an bold undertaking for a CAL. It has me very intrigued and I have been pondering just what my challenge could be. Perhaps this is the opportunity to tackle my nemesis of spinning, the woollen long draw?



I will make myself survive, just Shackelton’s team did after the Endurance was crushed by pack ice, on my existing stores, spinning only the fleeces I have already. The aim would be to transform these stores into a set of naturally coloured, two ply, woollen spun yarns for a colourwork knitting project. I have begun preparations carding up the remains of a white Finnsheep fleece and have begun carding a dark grey Polwarth fleece. Maybe I will even spin rogue in Spinzilla in early October to get acclimatized for my epic journey.



This would sit nicely against another slow project I have brewing. With both my kiddlies now settled in school, a few months ago, I began a PhD.  Obviously, it is early days but I am interested in focusing on an aspect of the contemporary fibrecraft movement, particularly in how it intersects with ethical consumption.



A PhD is said to be an apprenticeship in the craft of research. This idea sits well with me. Just as I share my other makings with you, I will be sharing this one too and will be needing your advice at various points.

Before I close this post, I would like to encourage you to visit Something From Seaview. Katherine and Polly have written a fascinating joint post about the GiveWraps they have made together and separately. GiveWraps are an alternative to disposable paper wrapping. They are handmade wrapping cloths for gifts that are given away with the gift, to be passed on and on. You will be staggered by their work. It is extraordinary. It is exciting. It is inspiring.

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  1. This is another thought provoking post and I admire your aim to participate in such an extreme CAL. I also look forward very much to seeing the finished colourwork yoke. The waysides project was very interesting to follow. I wish you good luck as you embark on your PhD. I obtained my Doctorate in 1999 during which time I gave birth to my daughter (in 1996). Not to be recommended! It is an immense undertaking but one that is extremely worthwhile and rewarding. I was interested to read your definition as “being an apprenticeship in the craft of research”. I was told at the outset of my studies that a PhD is a “love of knowledge “. I wish you much success and would willingly offer encouragement throughout your studies.

  2. Congratulations to you, Rebecca!! You will be so busy for at least a couple of years with the spinning and PhD work.
    I love seeing all the fluffy puffs of fleece ready to spin. Fall is beginning here with winter coming up too soon but the wheel is ready to go for some slow making.

  3. Interesting dissertation topic! What discipline would this be in – sociology? If you haven’t already, you may want to take a peek at some of the ecofeminist theory that came out of the 90s and 2000s … you may find some of it insightful. There was one ecofem philosopher whose work I found very compelling … if you’re interested I could dig up the name.

  4. I really enjoyed your spin on the Shackleton CAL. There are so many elements here from which to riff personally and “craftually”. Thank you for a thoughtful reflection!

  5. Wishing you luck and great enjoyment from your PhD, and your CAL – an inspiring post, and I am in awe at your drive and wealth of ideas and experiments! Look forward to reading more about it all.

  6. How exciting Rebecca! Have been starting to think about finally attempting my Masters, but a PhD… !!!! Your topic sounds fascinating and I cannot wait to hear more about it. An amazing journey to share glimpses of. xx

  7. I do so enjoy reading your thoughtful posts. Today, I am now thinking that I too could consider a long term fibre challenge…. perhaps I could persevere with my very slow spinning practice – I would love to learn long draw too and also navajo plying but first I must actually practice basic spinning!

    I just watched a programme on SBS about Ernest Shackleton (Britain’s Islands) … a man who seems to have been almost superhuman… he lies in peaceful surroundings on a quiet plot on South Georgia which I found so moving…. so your words are very pertinent this morning.

    Many congratulations on commencing your Ph.D – such a fascinating theme for your thesis… wishing you great success with all your studies.

  8. Lovely wise words about Slow making – savouring the making. I’ve never heard of Fibertrek and their Shackleton CAl – thank you for the pointer there. And many thanks again for your kind words on our GiveWrap post! Every good wish for your PhD project – I’m looking forward to hearing your developing thoughts in future blogposts.

  9. Lovely post as always. I believe it was the Yarn Harlot who said that at the heart of knitting (and probably all crafting) is the lesson that small, simple motions and steps repeated over and over again grow into something beautiful. I truly believe that all truly great things are brought to pass through small and simple means.

    That Shackleton CAL sounds fascinating. Now that my little one has started school maybe I can really devote some time to a major undertaking like that. I often wonder about a PhD as well (I was so exhausted at the end of my Masters that I just couldn’t think of anything I wanted to do for that long any time soon) someday and I applaud your endeavor. I look forward to hearing about your research and your other ongoing work. Thank you so much for sharing.

  10. Such exciting news! What a beautiful balance between the challenging intellectual work of the PhD and the grounding physical labour and handwork of the spinning. x

  11. Thank you for another interesting, exciting, informative, and inspiring post Rebecca. I watched the documentary on Shackleton a few days ago. What an extraordinary story!!!!!!! I think its a great inspiration and metaphor for a looong and challenging cal. And for a PHD. Congrats on this new endeavour.

    I love reading your journey and celebration of Slow Making and yes!!!! the Give Wraps are beautiful. i also look forward to seeing your jumper/cardigan? with colourwork yoke as a continuing part of your Waysides Project. All in its own slow and soulful time.

  12. I am interested to know about who you are conducting your PhD through, because when I enquired about studying I could find nowhere that offered a degree in fibre craft apart from Melbourne, where it was not offered online (I’m in NSW).

  13. Me again. Just wanted to add, because of your blog I’m now joining the Shackleton CAL and perhaps getting in way over my head with the goal of spinning, (maybe designing) and knitting my own cardigan. Yikes. It feels epic to me.

    Also I just read this review from Clara Parkes about a new natural dying book and her experience dying part of the Great White Bale project with a natural dyer. Thought you’d enjoy it:

  14. If you’re wondering why so long passed between my earlier comment on your more recent post and this one, I was completely sidetracked by the Shackleton KAL (I’m hoping I’m not too late to join in) and in consequence waylaid by Ravelry. Judging by Becca’s comment above I’m not the only person you’ve enabled!

  15. I really look forward to reading your thesis. Ethical consumption fits so well with what’s happening in the ‘slow’ and ‘local’ movements whether its food or fashion.
    Enjoy your journey.

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