Tuesday, October 11, 2011


A little bit more Australia.  Or more specifically, New South Wales. I was impressed with how many national parks we saw, and how well-maintained they all are.  I think we visited six different public lands in as many days, and this was blissful, having come from the heat of the desert summer.
We only spent an hour walking through Washpool National Park, on the way from Armidale to Byron Bay. It was a brief stop and a ramble through the most accessible part of the park, but I honestly think it was my favorite part of the trip.
I am partial to water.  Particularly running water in the midst of an old-growth forest.
The depth of peace and rightness that such a place instills in me is not easy to express.
I believe all forests are enchanted, and I wander awed and absorbed in the textures, colors and patterns. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Gratitude, or Generosity II

We interrupt this account of mass generosity to note that the surface has barely been scratched.
I was brought up short by this realization while opening up the batt from Made by Pixies last night.  I showed the general goodies I received, but that batt in particular was looking very demure when first photographed.  Once opened, it is four ounces of wild celebration and excess, and I felt chagrined that I hadn’t fully acknowledged its enormity before.  The official swap was for the grey fibers, the glorious grey Gotland, which was already more than I could ask for.  I sent her some piddling amount of stuff, and I get not only the greys in abundance and those gorgeous shell buttons, but also this outrageous batt.
And the truth is, I could say that about any of these gifts.  Each one is enormous in its way, and if I stopped to think about it I’d just have to sit down with my jaw hanging open.  
Those three yarns?  Left to right: Laura Mayotte, Janet Scanlon, Michelle Snowdon.  On my wall, singing like a gospel choir.  Each one could provoke a rapturous ode (and the one in the middle is in fact three.)
But all of those gifts actually pre-date the packages that prompted me to write on this topic, both of which greeted me very soon after my return from Australia. The package from Janet was in fact waiting for me, having just arrived the day before, which is impressive timing.  
This contained a basket’s worth of sunshine, more cotton than I can spin in a very very long time, and spindles that increase my collection of Janet-made spindles to a number I won’t even disclose, for fear of attracting the evil eye through others’ envy. (Including the one in the first photo of the previous post, her latest manifestation of a pareh, or Qashqai-style spindle.)
The cotton is accumulating on these spindles daily.  How lovely is that carved whorl design?  And how did Janet know that I was, at that very time, enjoying the Ethiopian spindle so much, which is similar in weight and material?  The spinning community is cosmic, I tell you.

The second parcel came by way of a personal courier, a dear knitting and spinning buddy here in Doha who was backpacking across South America while I was in Oz. Having persuaded her to visit Laverne Waddington, my remote backstrap weaving teacher, in Bolivia, I sent a handwoven Bedouin bag with her as a thank-you gift to Laverne for all her continuing guidance and generously shared brilliance in the realm of backstrap weaving.  Once again, I got back way, way more than I sent, and nearly started crying as I opened her gifts one by one.
It is impossible to put them in any sort of order based on importance or the extent to which they blew me away, so I'll just dive in. Beautiful, knotted bags made from a hand-twisted plant fiber by the Ayoreo people of lowland Bolivia.  A pure piece of traditional textile art, radiating authenticity and mastery. She included an older, smaller one because of its superior quality (the little one is less than 2" square!)
And tucked inside the tiny bag, something older than I can fathom:
Yes. Pre-Colombian spindle whorl.
I know what you're thinking.  You're thinking How generous!  What great gifts! But these thoughts are premature, because we're nowhere near done yet. 
Laverne sent me a sample of her own weaving, which has to be seen, touched and examined to be believed.
This cellphone pouch is woven with doubleweave - looks the opposite on the reverse side, using motifs from Bhutanese textiles. She claims the sewing up was rushed, but it's superior to any finishing I've ever done, or am likely to do!  This hit me forcefully, this piece, because I knew that my teacher was good, I knew she's prolific and weaves like, all the time.  But I did not know how good until I held this little bag in my hands. I'm honored to have it, beyond words.
Okay, and inside this bag? What, you think she sent it empty? Have you learned nothing in these last two posts?? The bag contains cochineal. A packet of dried bug bits, with which I can magically make fibers turn red! I'm already mordanting my fibers in anticipation.  I've never ever had the chance to work with cochineal before.
Now, in spite of how amazing all that is, the next piece is what moved me the most: a genuine handspun, handwoven jakima from Chinchero, Peru.
It's just a wee little narrow thing, and it's not a long piece, just about ten inches' worth, but you'd have to know what this means to me. This pattern, the place it came from, the way I've been learning weaving and my motivation for doing so are all deeply intertwined, and Laverne knows this.  I won't go into the whole story here or you'd grow old reading the post. Suffice to say, here's the very first backstrap-woven thing I've tried to weave (still unfinished, to my shame,) warped for me by Abby Franquemont at Golden Gate Fiber Institute, 2010:
Mine is silk thread, which I considered very fine, smaller than anything I tend to spin - but look how close the Chinchero one is in size.  So I have something to aspire to, supplemented by the samples of handspun wool and alpaca Laverne sent on a card - extremely thin, fine, even, frighteningly skilled handspun yarn.  I keep it on my desk to give me perspective, and to urge me on. The affirmation that there are people out there to whom my textile adventures mean enough that they will shower me with gifts like this - that is what fills me with gratitude, and with the urge to keep on improving, learning and sharing as much as possible.
Muchas gracias.........Shukran leki...........Ma mangpo julley!