Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Yo Mama's

Argghh…I’ve probably mentioned this before but nothing gets my back up like statements such as “Not your mama’s _fill in the blank_” or “Not your granny’s _same thing_”. I’ll bet it was your mama or your granny or an aunt or somebody who’s mama/granny/aunt taught them who taught you how to knit or crochet. What exactly is wrong with how your mama or your granny did it? Styles change, sort-of, and yarns change, but the techniques are mostly pretty much the same as they were a hundred years ago. So why do today’s crafts have to be separated so emphatically from what has gone before? I mean they can’t really be afraid of looking too “retro”! Everything seems to have a 1950’s, ’60’s or ’70’s flavour to it these days. They just put it together it in different ways than we did.

Which brings me to my next peeve: I can’t tell anymore what’s fashionable and what’s just plain ugly. Recently I’ve seen so much that I remember from my childhood but the new combinations are sometimes bizarre! If I remember it the first time around, does that mean that I can’t wear it the second time? More importantly, would I want to?! Ah well. It’s hard to get me out of my sweat pants and Birkenstocks anyway. But please ’splain to me why anyone in their right mind would even consider a tartan blouse with puffy sleeves and a big floppy bow at the neck? Anyone?

I’m really happy that some styles have changed over the years. When I was a girl, we couldn’t go downtown shopping without a good dress, hat and gloves on. Men always wore hats when outdoors too. Girls had to wear skirts to school. No pants allowed until the year after I graduated when the rules changed, though they still weren’t as indulgent as they are now. I can’t imagine how my teachers would have reacted to the “thong panties sticking up above the low-rider jeans” fashion among young teenagers! Immediate suspension comes to mind. On the other hand, some of the new trendy little purses would have been right at home with my mom and I owned a black velvet newsboy cap when I was 15. Everybody seems to be wearing that shape, male and female, in all kinds of fabrics. Looks terrible on me now with my 2-inch hair. But I still adore hats. Ah fashion, fickle and strange!

So I forgot to mention how my guild meeting went. I was working away on my Little Squares Sweater and it was amusing when a new member and her mom who were sitting behind me exclaimed “Oh, you knit like we do!” We started looking around at all the knitting going on and it was pretty much split 50/50 for English vs Continental styles with maybe a slight edge to the English way. I really don’t think it matters as long as you get the results you want anyhow. Lots of people knit at guild meetings, at least until the lights go down for slides or whatever. The program was a slide show from a former member who used to weave rugs for interior designers but found that 1) it was a lot of work for not a lot of money and 2) it’s hard to weave even 2 rugs a year with a small child demanding your time. Heh. So now she works as a liaison between a Tibetan-owned rug weaving atelier in Katmandu, Nepal, and North American interior designers. A perfect job since she has had plenty of experience with both sides of the exchange. She showed slides of her stay in Katmandu studying with the weavers and dyers which were really interesting.

The atelier owner is a very smart Tibetan woman and she employs a mixture of both Nepali and Tibetan artisans, male and female. The styles they create are a mixture of traditional and Western modern depending on what is wanted. The traditional motifs are tigers, dragons, phoenixes and clouds. The biggest loom allows weaving a huge pile rug that would probably only fit into a commercial building and it takes 6 months to weave it! Impressive. They use silk as well as wool in their rugs and sculpt the pile after it is off the loom to enhance the design. She had an example skein of the handspun wool and it was lumpy and hairy and altogether not nice but the result after weaving was amazingly beautiful and long-wearing. Quite a lot of the yarn is lost after trimming with big iron shears which seems like a waste but you need a long enough length to work with. The Tibetan style of creating pile uses a rod and the yarn is knotted around the warp threads and wrapped around the rod to create the pile. The rod is left in until the whole row is knotted, changing colours where necessary for the pattern and then it’s beaten into place with heavy hand forks. Then the rod is removed for the next row of knots. This is quite different than the technique used in the Middle East, where they don’t use rods and the pile is also clipped after weaving but just flat without sculpting.

This isn’t the same company, but it’ll give you an idea of the designs and some history of rugmaking in Tibet and Nepal. And here is another interesting read.

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