Monthly Archives: April 2015

P is for Peacocks

Standard

P Today I have contributions from both China and Romania!

I have a friend in China, who blogs as Spaceship China  and recently visited Xishuangbanna, a region far south in the southern province of Yunnan, home to the Dai people, and took some stupendous photos.

One of my customers, Florance, lives in Romania, and happens to breed peacocks.  She sent me some pictures of her peacock chicks, after seeing ‘my Easter chicks’.  They have both given me permission to use their photographs.

peacock+feather+image+graphicsfairy3bThese stunning iridescent peacock feathers, which almost everyone, at some time, has admired, come from the male of the species and are used in as glorious mating displays to attract the far duller brown female of the species!

They have inspired countless artists and writers, and have at various times, been fashionable additions to hats and fans, and home decorations.

male in full display

male in full display

Just to blind you with science – this bit comes from Wikipedia – smile – it explains how the colours in this display are produced by ‘reflection and refraction’.

As with many birds, vibrant iridescent plumage colours are not primarily pigments, but structural coloration. Optical interference Bragg reflections based on regular, periodic nanostructures of the barbules (fiber-like components) of the feathers produce the peacock’s colours. Slight changes to the spacing of these barbules result in different colours. Brown feathers are a mixture of red and blue: one colour is created by the periodic structure and the other is created by a Fabry–Pérot interference peak from reflections from the outer and inner boundaries. Such structural coloration causes the iridescence of the peacock’s hues since interference effects depend on light angle rather than actual pigments.[2]

But going back to the whimsical – this is a myth about ‘The Peacock Princess’ as recounted in spaceshipchina.com!

peacocks in Xishuangbanna, China

peacocks in Xishuangbanna, China

The Dai people have a legend about their ancestors. One day, the Prince of the Dai was visiting a lake, and he saw seven peacocks fly down. At the lakeside, the peacocks turned into young women. Fascinated, the prince waited for them to return. As they took of their mantle – feathers on their head – they turned into the women and went bathing.

The prince stole the youngest swan’s mantle, and when the others turned back into birds, she stayed human. The prince married her, and she became known as Princess Peacock.

img_0114 Nearby kingdoms were jealous of the Dai’s riches and wars broke out. The prince was far away fighting. Some people blamed the Princess Peacock and called for her death.

The peacock woman asked the king to perform a dance to ensure the safe return of the prince. Taking her feather mantle, she started dancing and transformed back into a peacock and flew away.

The Dai people worship peacocks as being messengers of peace, kindness, love and beauty.

The story of the seven heavenly peacocks is reminiscent of other myths regarding the constellation Cygnus.

White Peacock, Xishuangbanna

White Peacock, Xishuangbanna

Peacocks have other Royal Connections – During the Medieval period, various types of fowl were consumed as food, the more wealthy gentry were privileged to less usual foods, such as swan, and even peafowl were consumed. On a king’s table, a peacock would be for ostentatious display as much as for culinary consumption.[30] 

And there are many other myths associated with these beautiful birds see Wikipedia again!

Before Florance sent me the pictures below, I had never seen peacock chicks, they look like any other chicks until they are about 2 months old, when you can start to see the differentiations.  This is a selection of the pictures she sent me from Romania.

She doesn’t currently have a website or blog, but if you want to ask her any questions about rearing peacocks, I will be happy to pass them on to her, or if you leave a comment below, perhaps she will answer them herself!  Her English is very good.

To see the titles, hover over the pictures, or click on them and you will get them enlarged in a slide show format.

M is for Merino Wool

Standard

MThanks to the A-Z challenge, I would never have known what a merino sheep looked like if I hadn’t needed to write about something beginning with M!

Merino wool is the most popular wool fibre used by spinners, as it is consistently good quality.  The sheep are bred from an original Portuguese strain, and are mostly farmed in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA.

This is short video made for the WoolMark Company following a “single piece of fleece in pursuit of its family. From the shearing sheds of the Australian outback, to the ancient weaving mills of Yorkshire, discover how modern technologies and age-old techniques combine to transform fleece into fashion.”

 

 

pure white merino wool fibres for spinning - otherwise known as 'tops' or 'roving'

pure white merino wool fibres for spinning – otherwise known as ‘tops’ or ‘roving’

Of course, I sell merino wool fibres for spinning, you can find my listing both HERE on etsy and HERE on ebay – both listings are current at the time of writing, but may not be current if you are reading this a few weeks from now, altho’ they will be relisted.

creamy white merino pre-felt

creamy white merino pre-felt

I also sell some beautiful white and black pure merino pre-felt, which can be used for felting projects, both for pictures and 3-D items like hats.

 

Merino wool is becoming very fashionable for sports clothing, as it holds the moisture without being uncomfortable, and at the same time provides insulation for cold weather.  I have nothing to do with the Woolpower company, but I was impressed that they gave a full page over to talking about Merino Wool, so if you want to learn more, this is their link – and for more technical information on merino wool this is the wikipedia link.

 

L is for looms for weaving

Standard

LYou might be surprised to know that you don’t really need a loom to weave, or at least not a conventional one.

You just need to be able to put a set of vertical parallel threads (the warp) under tension, so that you can ‘weave’ other threads, of any material, horizontally – ‘under and over’ them – (the weft) – to form a piece of ‘material’ that will remain in place and can be used as a wall hanging.  Common yarns used are wool, cotton, linen, silk or a mix of any type of yarn

There are all kinds and sizes of looms that can produce all kinds of cloth, which can be taken off the loom and used to make braids, straps, clothes, blankets, rugs, carpets etc.

warp & weft in a plain weave

warp & weft in a plain weave

This diagram is just to show the basic weave, and the warp & weft.

Most yarns can be used for the weft, but only yarns that will take the tension without breaking can be used for the warp see here.

There are many other types of patterns that can be woven, and more complicated looms that can allow you to weave these, but the basic loom can be as simple as two lengths of wood.

Women_weaving_in_Beni_Hassan_tomb_(Вертикальный_ткацкий_станок_Египет) Flax was the predominant fibre in ancient Egypt (3600 BCE) and this is a picture comes from a wall on a tomb from this period.

You can see that one length of wood was fixed to the wall, and another weighed down by a sack on the floor. The warp seems to be being held under tension by the two weavers, who would be passing the weft yarn across the warp to each other, using shuttles that have been wound with the flax – the cross beams in the diagram.

f6b6dacfb8b3681be4f1316c0c2d7dd3This simple method is still used for weaving ‘Persian’ carpets.  This is a specialised type of ‘tapestry weaving’ using single knotted threads to make very complex patterns – the loom is enormous and is hung from the ceiling.

matchbox weaving from http---marisa-ramirez.tumblr.com

matchbox weaving

On the other hand, you can just as easily make something small like this – using a matchbox as a loom, and piercing the cardboard to create the warp.  The wood from a picture frame also makes a basic loom – just choose your size of frame and warp it up!

52b1593d3590c4645fb3a067ea0f939bSome beautiful wall hangings can be made with very simple looms, and if you really want to play with weaving ideas, you can try this kind of set up for weaving anything from plastic bags, to lengths of  tree bark, adding embellishments like lengths of ribbon, beads knotted onto the threads, un-spun wool fibres tucked into the weft – the world is your oyster – and yes you can use shells too!

woman working with a backstrap loom in Guatemala

woman working with a backstrap loom in Guatemala

Another fascinating ancient  weaving method is the backstrap loom, where you actually wear the loom!  The warp is attached to a tree, or something stable, and to keep the tension up, the weaver wears a belt around the back of her waist.

She sits on the floor so that she can move further away from the fixed point when she needs to extend the length of the woven piece, thus keeping the warp taut.

If you would like to make your own backstrap loom, I found a really good set of instructions here.

A Picanol rapier loom

A Picanol rapier loom

So how did we get from these easily understandable looms to this industrial monster!  To be honest, I’ve no idea, but this is how most cloth is woven industrially – I can’t see a single  person in this shot!

ALL THE PHOTOS IN THIS POST HAVE BEEN PINNED TO MY WEAVING IDEAS BOARD ON  PINTEREST.

If you click on any image on the board, you will see that below it, there is usually some text that tells you where the image came from. Click on the text to see the full article and credits. I have not had room to add them all here.  There are also loads of other weaving ideas on this board – feel free to browse – and to copy them to your own board – and by following links to other weavers boards you can access loads more information and inspiration!

HAPPY WEAVING!

K is for knitting – the history of

Standard

K Knitting, in fact all the textile crafts, are ancient arts, they go back so far in our history that I doubt you could fix the date – and unlike pottery and metal work, wool, linen and flax, the first fibres to be used to make cloth – ie clothes – are bio-degradable, so there are not that many artefacts to be found in archaeological digs.

Oddly enough, having just done a search for ‘the history of knitting’, the trawl is very sparse – this is from Wikipedia – the never failing first place to go!

Nalbinded socks originally thought to be knitting. Can you tell the difference? Circa 250 – 420 AD (Victoria & Albert Museum)

Nalbinded socks originally thought to be knitting. Can you tell the difference? Circa 250 – 420 AD (Victoria & Albert Museum)

“The oldest artifact with a knitted appearance is a type of sock. It is believed that socks and stockings were the first pieces produced using techniques similar to knitting. These socks were worked in Nålebinding, a technique of making fabric by creating multiple knots or loops with a single needle and thread. Many of these existing clothing items employed nålebinding techniques; some of them look very similar to true knitting, for example, 3rd-5th century CE Romano-Egyptian toe-socks. Several pieces, done in now obscure techniques, have been mistaken for knitting or crocheting.

Most histories of knitting place its origin somewhere in the Middle East, from there it spread to Europe by Mediterranean trade routes, and then to the Americas with European colonization.[2] The earliest known examples of knitting have been found in Egypt and cover a range of items, including complex colorful wool fragments and indigo blue and white cotton stockings, which have been dated between the 11th and 14th centuries CE.[3]

51V3CW-QCSL._SL500_AA300_PIaudible,BottomRight,13,73_AA300_There is a tantalising listing for an audio book ‘A History of Hand Knitting’ on Amazon, that says “this product is not available in your region”, and several reviews that refer to a well illustrated hardback book published in 2003, which seems to be utterly  unobtainable.

I listened to the audio sample given, and heard enough to know that the author Richard Rutt, has delved into the subject with true academic rigour, and if it was available, I’d buy it like a shot! I can’t image why it is out of print!  Are you listening out there?!

I did find some interesting information in a post published in February 2014, on Sheep & Stitch,.  The unnamed author has found some great photos in various museum collections, which I have shamelessly copied here – smile.

These cotton socks found in Egypt are some of the earliest knitted pieces. From L to R: Textile Museum, ca. 1000 – 1200 AD; Victorian & Albert Museum, ca. 1100 – 1300 AD; Textile Museum, ca. 1300 AD

These cotton socks found in Egypt are some of the earliest knitted pieces. From L to R: Textile Museum, ca. 1000 – 1200 AD; Victorian & Albert Museum, ca. 1100 – 1300 AD; Textile Museum, ca. 1300 AD

 

This is the one of the the sample of Egyptian knitting, mentioned above.  It is very reminiscent of FairIsle knitting – see my i/sheet on this – and seems amazingly advanced!

egyptian knitting

egyptian knitting?

 

There is also what appears to be a stone carving, that was taken by a tourist in London, probably in one of the museums, but it doesn’t say which one.

I highly recommend you have a look at both parts 1 & 2 of the Sheep & Stitch posts, if you are at all interested in knitting or history!  Part 2 has some lovely medieval images of knitting, and then onwards, to the present day.

14th century painting of Madonna knitting!

14th century painting of Madonna knitting!

It’s difficult not to take the feminist stance about the lack of documentation on the History of Knitting – and I normally avoid any involvement in feminist politics!

It feels like ” knitting was always considered to be ‘woman’s work’ it wasn’t taken very seriously”. It has always been a very practical craft, and before machine knitting came in, was the only way to provide the family with warm clothing – something that was a necessity in cold climates – so why wasn’t it valued?

And before you men shout out loud at me, yes, many men knit and have done so far back into history – there is a proud tradition of seamen knitting to pass the time on long voyages!

tricoteuse - image from http://www.allaboutyou.com/craft/knitting/knitting-how-it-all-began-52451

tricoteuse

However, the majority of modern knitters are women, so why haven’t we valued it enough to give it a place in history?

With the introduction of mass production machine knitting, hand knitting seemed redundant, and gradually fell out of fashion after the 2nd World War. This also led to a huge fall in the price of wool, and a lack of choice for those who continued to knit.

However, there has been a heartening resurgence in the popularity of creative hand knitting in the last few years, and its great to see so many people on sites like Ravelry!  There is now a serious market for all kinds of yarn, and thankfully, hand spun yarn is particularly valued, and it is now worthwhile for home spinners to sell their yarn and even make a living out of spinning.

the mohair jumper I made, showing the repeat pattern detail

the mohair jumper I made, showing the repeat pattern detail

I was taught to knit by my grandmother, when I was a child, and have knitted on and off ever since.   At one time, when mohair jumpers were all the rage, I actually gathered a few knitters around me and paid them to knit some of my own designs, which sold quite well – until fashion moved on to something else – smile.

This is one of my favourite designs, which I knitted up for myself.  I still have it in the wardrobe, but sadly, it no longer fits!

Its really quite easy to adapt a standard pattern to add your own design, so all you knitters out there – be adventurous, and try making something that is truly individual!

Happy Knitting!

 

Woman’s Hour (BBC Radio 4) on ‘The Business of Crafts’

Standard

bbc_radio_four Prompted by an Easter theme, and broadcast yesterday, Easter Monday, this is an interesting slant on the “business of crafts”, by the BBC Radio 4’s long running Woman’s Hour.  Unusually, the whole programme was about crafts, and features several woman who have made successful businesses from their their various crafts.

The full programme is 45 mins long – so make sure you bookmark this page if you are not able to listen to it in one go!

NB: if you go to the page on the website below, its broken up into the separate interviews, which allows you to choose which of them you’d like to hear – might be easier for you – the pattern for the scarf kimono was not there last time I checked, but no doubt, it will be up asap. (9 May – you can find the pattern here)

A Celebration of Craft

Listen in pop-out player

a scarf what I wove!

a scarf what I wove!

 The UK economy is boosted to the tune of 3.4 billion per annum by craft skills, which also provide millions of hobbyists an outlet for problem solving, creativity and sustainability.

Far from being design’s handy little sister, craft is practiced by three quarters of women with ever improving skill.

We explore the past, present and future of making with a look at the history of women and craft and craft education. We meet a woman who has embarked on craftivism; three women who have turned their passion and skill into a business and hear about the benefits of craft to focus and de-stress. And Jane Garvey wrestles with a sewing machine.

Presenter: Jane Garvey
Producer: Corinna Jones.

If by any chance this does not work for you, here is the direct link to the Woman’s Hour Page

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05plght