Sunday, 19 June 2011

Crafty Men

While I was threading beads and buttons on cotton thread on Father’s Day today (to be spun into merino fibre), I was musing about the men in my family who were creative, although they might not always considered themselves as such. In fact, there might have been more male then female creatives in my immediate family.

My late father was a brilliant hand sewer. He made some of the tiniest and neatest stitches I ever saw. Dad was the one who altered all our clothes, gave me scrap fabrics to play with, and made me a fabulous Cyndi Lauper skirt from flurescent-coloured net fabric. He was also delighted when I asked him to give me a sewing machine for Christmas when I was 15, less delighted when I broke so many needles and gave up (not after managing to make myself a carneval’s costume though). So he took the machine to continue doing the family’s clothes alterations, but I think he preferred sewing by hand. In that respect I am very like him, I also prefer hand sewing.

My Dad also could draw well. I had totally forgotten that he used to draw animals for us when we were kids before my sister reminded me. He also loved singing Sea Shanties, although he had no connections to the sea or boats. And he used to tell us kids lovely stories in which my sis and I were the main characters!

My Dad’s Da was a farmer, who however was also the tailor in the small village they lived in. According to my Dad, Grandda tailored some beautiful suits and we have a picture of my Dad as a young man wearing a checkered suit (made by his Dad) which must have been the height of fashion then.

I don’t think my Dad or his father ever considered themselves as crafty or creative, but rather perceived sewing as a trade or useful skill.

My mother’s father was a printer, who as a young man wanted to join a circus. As a kid I always regretted that he hadn’t done it, because then I might have grown up to be a trapeze artist! Grandpa also loved doing magic tricks, and entertained the kids in the neighbourhood with his magic skills and spectacular cartwheels. Doing cartwheels is an ability I inherited from him.

Often people assume that craft skills are handed down from mother to daughter, but in my case, my first crafty influence came from my Dad. I could sew, before I ever picked up a knitting needle, and my barbie dolls had the grooviest outfits ever!

Happy Father’s Day!

Monday, 13 June 2011

The motivation returns!

Freshly spun yarn

Last week, while I was sick, my motivation reached sub zero temperatures. In fact, it disappeared, and unlike Arnie, it didn’t shout ‘I’ll be back!’

I tried to coax it, used every trick from my motivational books including planning and goal setting, treated myself to lovely food, took it easy…still, my motivation was gone. This, of course, is bad when you are self-employed and have to bring home the bacon.

I tried to use creative visualisation, imagining myself as an energetic, successful and wealthy crafter – that lasted five minutes, and I was in deep slumber on my sofa.

I was desperate for somebody to feed me motivation with a big wooden spoon, because I kept lying postrated on my bed, reading chick lit from years back, and eating nuts.

My knitting was abandoned, my spindle hadn’t been twirled in weeks, and my sewing basket was overflowing.

Even the prospect of new yarn only caused a mild fluttering of eyelashes.

On Saturday morning I wrote a song about why I want to be my neighbour’s dog.
(It is actually funny.)

Things were bad!

OK, I did have some kind of virus, but this seemed to have turned into a motivational crisis, a creative blank, and the desire to sleep all day. Maybe I was knitted-out, but maybe I just needed to get a kick in the proverbial…?

However, motivation suddenly has returned! Not with all guns blazing like Arnie, more with a tentative ‘hello everybody’, but yes, it is back.

Hear the clicking of knitting needles and the whirring of the spindle!


Wednesday, 1 June 2011

A Crafty Collaboration!

Last week, Sue from Amazing Beads wrote on the Fondelifair website about her Scottish Mountain Sheep. This lead to comments going back and forth about sheep and wool, and as a result, a few days later, a big parcel winged its way to my door.

Wool! Real sheepy goodness!

Sue had warned me that it was smelly, and yes, the wool was very…erm… fragrant, but I was too excited to worry if my neighbours thought I was hiding a flock of sheep in my flat.

I washed the wool in a bucket first, and then in my bath tub. I washed it quite a few times, and afterwards sat in the kitchen and picked the twigs and the lumps of soil out of the fibre.

It was hard work (very labour intensive), but also very satisfying. It would have been easier, however, if I had an extra utility room, because there was fibre everywhere, and some later made its way into my dinner… Also, I think if you wash wool in bulk, you need better equipment and a proper comb.

I decided to do some wool dyeing, and  separated the whitest wool from the rest, and left it to dry. That’s the wool I want to spin undyed. The other wool was divided up in heaps, and I dyed it in bright textile dye I had left from dyeing cotton yarn about two years ago.

I never dyed sheep’s wool before but remembered with a shudder that I once ruined a natural white Aran jumper which I tried to dye black!  This time, I did  much better, but know now, that I probably should have used some proper wool dye. The colours came out rather pale, and I had the feeling that the fibre didn’t really soak up the dye. My attempts to tie dye also did not work – there were no groovy stripes and shapes on the fibre. However, there is a lovely effect in that some of the tips are darker than the rest of the fibre.

I have now a big pile of colourful wool  still drying in my bathroom, thanks to Sue and Fondelifair!

The next step will be to spin it…