Thursday, June 04, 2009

What I Learned

First I want to remind local folks that Maiwa Handprints now has their complete list of fabulous workshops, lectures and events that comprise this year’s Symposium up on their website. The workshops only happen every other year and I’m going to attempt to get into the one from France’s Bleu de Lectoure on dyeing with woad. There’s also a lecture with Elizabeth Barber on her book “Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years”, a Slow Clothes fashion show and a whole bunch of other interesting stuff. Registration opens June 22 at 10am PDT. It’s a singular opportunity to expand your knowledge of world textiles and cultures. Don’t miss it if you live close enough – or even if you don’t!

Speaking of classes, the ANWG conference included 3 half-day seminars (as well as optional post-conference workshops which I skipped). The first one on Friday morning necessitated me bringing along a spinning wheel. I took Tori (Louet Victoria) since she’s the most portable wheel I have but I really think I could have gotten away with a drop spindle because this is all I produced:

WorkshopSkein A couple of yards of chained-3-ply fingering weight wool in a hideous colour combo (which I can’t blame on anyone else since I chose it). The seminar was “A Fistful of Colors” with the lovely and talented Michelle Boyd from Ft. McMurray, AB, who apparently reads this blog (as I do hers)! <waving> Hi, Michelle! Don’t you just love this photo I captured during class?

MichelleBoyd Here she’s demonstrating chain (aka Navajo) plying. She has the most expressive hands! No wonder she’s such a good spinner, eh? I had said that I wanted to avoid making mud when combining colours, but I think I missed the boat completely judging by my sample. However, I think I know why now so that is a net gain. I also learned that I need more practise with long-draw and, despite what Michelle says is possible, I’m not going to give up my carders (either drum or hand) anytime soon. One small criticism: there were murmurs of complaint that the class supply fee was too high for the amount of fibres that we got. Just sayin’. Though there were a few leftovers on the floor because we were too polite to grab ’em up.

After lunch (I haven’t talked about the food on campus yet, have I?) on Friday was another seminar: Ode To Woad with Bobbie Irwin, author of a number of books and articles for Interweave. Her original article on the many colours she got from woad came out in Spin-Off in (I think) 1997. (I’m going to have to look it up.) I got to hold the original blanket that she wove from her handspun woad samples and it was really lovely. Not only did she use woad in the more traditional way to get blues but used the leaves, immature and ripe seeds as a regular plant dye in a boiling water bath with alum mordant to get red-browns, straw yellows and even something close to pink. I suspect the woad Bobbie was using which was growing wild in a field across the road from her when she was living in Utah was the invasive (and considered inferior) kind called bastard woad. Though she did get deep blues, in the slides she showed the plants looked somewhat different from mine and the leaves were hairy rather than smooth. She seemed very concerned that woad would get loose in the wild if we tried to cultivate it! In several states it has become quite a pest but that can be explained if it’s bastard woad and not the true “pastel” variety long used as a dyestuff in temperate climates where true indigo won’t grow.

Since I’m going to have a lot of seeds from my two second-year plants, I might try using them a a dye and see what colour I can get. I only have room for a dozen plants so there’s no need for thousands of seeds! And no, I won’t let them get loose though I suspect the “tame” woad is much less aggressive. And yes, I did check first that it is not listed in BC as a noxious weed. From Bobbie I also got a limited-edition t-shirt:

WoadWarrior I just might wear it when I’m harvesting leaves for a dyepot!

On Saturday morning I took my last seminar with Anne Field from New Zealand on Collapse Weaves. I had already read her book on the subject but wanted to see what else she had to say. I did get to see some lovely mostly-wool fabrics that she had woven but I find her approach somewhat limited. There are so many other fibres to work with! However if you come from a land with ten times more sheep than people I guess you work with what you’ve got handy. It seems to me that her colours were mostly natural white also but I think that was deliberate for the book in order to concentrate on structure. You can’t really dye energised (overtwisted) yarns without losing the energy and apparently pre-dyed overtwist yarns are rare as hen’s teeth. (You’d have to do it in the fibre stage before spinning.) As a dyer herself though, you’d expect more exuberant experimentation with applying colour after the fact but she said she prefers to keep it simple to let the structure tell the story. Anne makes scarves and shawls from her collapse fabrics and utilises the help of a bridal couturier to design and sew high-end garments. Not my taste really since they only suit the figure of a young thin thing.

What I did get out of her class is the idea for this nifty device:

ConeKateIt allows you to wind off yarn from a cone without adding or subtracting twist as you would if you drew it from the top of a standing cone. It’s like a lazy kate but with thread going under the roller allowing it to wind back and forth along it as it comes off the cone. The end then goes through the eye and directly to a bobbin or around a warping reel, keeping any overtwist intact as it winds. Cool. I want one. Yoo-hoo, T-Man?

I briefly mentioned the campus cafeteria food which was, um…edible. But not good. A phrase I heard lately was “You can’t eat low-carb by accident.” and it’s totally true. In a situation like this it’s nearly impossible. I swear I had potatoes in some version for nearly every meal and I usually only eat them about once a week on average. I tried to avoid the sugar and starch but without a lot of success. I ate a lot of iceberg lettuce with grated cheese. I avoided the fruit which was mostly melons which I’m allergic to, except for the excellent apples. I tried to have the eggs and sausages and not eat the hash browns and pancakes that came with them. I succumbed to a chocolate chip cookie…or two. I drank lots and lots of tea in my big 8-oz. cup. I have to say the banquet was really good though: barbequed salmon. Yum! Orange mousse for desert too. But the juice was melon-based and there was no wine, tea or coffee served so I had to make do with water. I never usually drink water with a meal but the heat was making me dehydrated. Even when we ate in a restaurant, the portions were huge and it was hard to avoid the carbs. (Yeah, I know I don’t have to eat everything on my plate. But I paid for it!) So I was very happy to get back to cooking my own food and eating my normal portions.

Best get back out in the garden before it gets stinking hot again. Lots more to catch up on. I’ll carry on the story tomorrow. I haven’t told you about the winery tour yet.


michelle said...

Hey, Louisa, thanks for the kind words--I do apologise for the material fee, though. The fee is for a full day workshop where we use more exotic stuff and silk in the pm, and I didn't realize that the larger amount had been collected until I was leaving town on Saturday. Mea Culpa!

...and next time, be rude and grab! That'll learn me to not do my paperwork properly!

Anonymous said...

Love Michelle! I had classes with her last year at Gibsons and learned a tonne!

Looking so forward to Sunday's festivities! :)

Louisa said...

Oh, I grabbed, Michelle! I was afraid to be too greedy though. In my teaching experience, it's not too hard to figure class fees. Just take the cost of the materials you plan to use (including handouts) and divide by the maximum class number. You shouldn't be trying to make a profit though you want to cover your expenses. Sometimes it's a bit tricky when you buy lots of supplies and the class is very small. (Or in one case, it got canceled and the class supplies were very pricey! I got left on the hook that time.) At least you can always use the leftovers for another class.