The Beginning

The Beginning

I thought it’d make a fun first post (not including my last one) to talk about how I started the various things I do. In the attempt not to write a whole novel, I’ll keep to the broad strokes.

I have a clear memory of when I was younger my mom teaching me to cast on and knit. I don’t actually remember learning to bind off, and honestly, I didn’t keep with it for very long so she likely didn’t have the chance to even show me. I had to be… under 10. That’s about the best dating I could give you, which puts me in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s. I don’t really remember my mom knitting herself, so it wasn’t like there was this long tradition of fibre things in my home growing up – not like some people have anyway where there’s hundreds of generations of fibre artists going back to Lucy.

Skip forward at least 8 years. I’m in my first year of university, and like a lot of people in their first year of university I was feeling a little ungrounded because of the move to another city and the brand new experiences all that brings. I do not remember why, but knitting seemed like a good thing to try again.

So I did.

This time I actually stuck with it, despite the first scarf I produced being full of holes and weird increases and decreases.

I still have that scarf.

And that was pretty much that. That was about 20 years ago, so I have been knitting consistently (besides a brief time when I had a wrist injury and couldn’t) for about 20 years, which is kind of crazy to think about.

Between then and now, when I was in my early 20s, not being satisfied with just buying yarn, I decided to take up hand spinning. I was interested in learning what made yarn, yarn. I picked up a very cheap, student drop spindle by Ashford, and some fibre and started.

A 14 year old digital photo of my very first yarn, spun on a drop spindle.

I had a bit of a rough go, as we all do, when we first start spinning. The choice of tool didn’t help, and I maintain that student Ashford drop spindle is really quite a deplorable tool, especially for a beginner. I’m really surprised that I kept with spinning honestly, although I quickly said to myself I did not like spindles. It moved me to getting a wheel likely a lot quicker than I could have otherwise. For my 25th birthday my mom gave me my Kromski Sonata. 13 years later I still have that wheel, and only that wheel as point of fact. I love that wheel, and it has served me very well over the years. So well I’ve never felt the need to get another wheel – although the Kromski Minstrel is gorgeous and I kind of just want it to look at.

I didn’t try a drop spindle again for years. More than 10 years actually, until I got a Turkish spindle made by my friend Katrina’s husband. It is beautiful, and completely turned my view around on spindles. I will never be primarily a spindle spinner, but using a nice tool that is well made has made me very much appreciate using it.

I’ve had a bit of a spurt the last 2-3ish years of picking up some new crafts. I like to learn, and while you can always learn something with spinning and knitting, I was craving something completely new that I had no or very little experience with in order to really challenge me. I’m a person that likes to be challenged, and I’m a person that honestly believes that failure is the best part of learning. How do you learn without failing miserably at it? That’s the point you really learn how the thing works that you’re trying to do.

Natural dyeing is a process for me that started in 2018, which almost puts me at four years. More so than any other craft I do I feel like this one really is a journey you go on while learning. There are so many variables, some of which you have no control over, so it’s utterly unlike most of the other things I do. I really like the technical side of it, The Art & Science of Natural Dyes being my favourite go-to resource. Natural dyeing forces me to slow down; there’s no way to speed up this process. There are so many things I still have to learn, and I’m not really sure you can learn everything there is about natural dyeing.

Weaving I am newer to. I have an Ashford 24″ Rigid Heddle (see I don’t hate all Ashford tools, just that damned drop spindle) in March 2019. I don’t use it as much as I spin and knit, but I do enjoy using it a few times a year. I’m not a fanatical enough weaver at this point to really graduate beyond the rigid heddle, but I do specifically spin yarns to weave on it. I much prefer weaving with animal fibres than cellulose. Cellulose is rigid and doesn’t stretch, where the wools allow for much more flexibility. Over the next year I think I’d like to expand my knowledge of using the rigid heddle. I have a few books with different types of weave, and I would like to branch out from plain weave. We’ll see how I do with that.

First quilt, completed in August 2020.

Quilting is my newest textile foray, which I began in 2020, and really started as an excuse for me to use the cottons I was naturally dyeing. Little did I know I’d really fall head over heels in love with it. I mostly blame Kristine Vejar’s book The Modern Natural Dyer. There is a pattern for a simple quilt that uses shibori indigo dyed squares that you hack up and sew back together (that’s the one above). It looked like a great idea. After that first one I was hooked. I’m slowly building up my stack of naturally dyed fabrics. I find particular inspiration in traditional quilt blocks, and I’ve yet to use an actual quilt pattern, but I have several quilt block books.

Finished blocks for my first naturally dyed, queen sized quilt.

I made my first, large, almost queen sized quilt using all naturally dyed fabrics this past summer, and I love it. I used wool for the batting, which was quite a different experience than the cotton I had always used before, but I love the results. In less than a year I went from small, lap sized and not knowing what I was doing at all, to using my own hand dyed fabrics for a full sized quilt. I think it’s safe to say I’m officially hooked.

My first quilt you can see I used my machine for quilting, same with my second (which now lives with my sister). Since then I’ve moved into hand quilting, which is definitely not something I expected to see myself doing. I’ve never really enjoyed sewing things by hand, but I’ve come to see it with a completely different light since taking up quilting.

If you had told me a few years ago I’d have fallen head over heels about quilting I would have called you a dirty liar and laughed. But here we are.

I said I wasn’t going to write a novel, but I have anyway. Novella at least. This doesn’t really quite cover everything I dabble in, but it is the main ones and likely what I’ll talk about the most. In spring and summer you’re likely to see an uptick in plant and gardening talk because I’m quite the avid gardener, although I feel like that’s less craft/making something with your hands, than it is fostering survival for the time I’m allowed in my climate.

I’m looking forward to having this kind of space again.

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