Friday, September 18, 2009

Square 60: Hymn to the sun

Square 060

In reading Barry Lopez's Arctic Dreams I have been struck again by the thought of how it would be to live months of the year without sunlight. Already in September I am intensely aware of the darkness when I wake at 6 a.m., the sharpening angle of afternoon rays, their poignant golden hues, and the swift return to darkness at dinner time. I tremble. October and November are a perilous time, when my mood might slip into a six-month rut. I have a stock of vitamin D pills in the fridge and am contemplating renting or buying a light box this year. But above all I try to face this challenging season with creativity and hope. It is a deep-earth time, when we bury our seeds of inspiration deep under fold of quiet reflection. After winter dormancy, I wonder what exotic flowers will erupt from my mind when the balance of sunlight returns to the northern hemisphere.

Sun, I knit your light into the texture of this yarn. While you wander, I hold you here with me, always part of my story.

The outer row (and several others) of rich ocre yarn is some Manos del Uruguay Silk Blend Danny gave me, leftover from a hat project. Along with the other darker colours I used here, it suggests the warm, hospitable retreat I would like to establish in my new apartment this winter.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Square 59: Asters and goldenrod

Square 059

There are few sights as resplendent as a September meadow full of asters and goldenrod. I dream of making a tapestry to portray this beauty.

A few years ago Danny and I dyed some yarn using goldenrod flowers. Natural dyes often smell foul, but that dye pot made the whole cottage smell like warm honey, and the fragrance clung to the yarn for a long time. I used that yarn for the three rows of light gold in this square.

Wild asters come in many colours. I took all the yarn for this square on an outing where I planned to knit it, but up arrival discovered I had forgotten to pack any white, one of the most common colours and an essential part of the meadow fabric. But several of the Noro yarns I had brought showed white threads of silk, so I used these, doing my best to set their highlights off against saturated solid rows.

Pale pinks are also common. One of my favourite species is Aster lateriflorus or calico aster, so named because the central discs of the flowers vary from yellow to pink, purple or brown on the same plant.

But perhaps the largest and most distinctive is the vivid purple New England aster, Symphyotrichum novae-angliae. This colour is not as easy to derive from natural sources, but I'll have to find it for my tapestry.

I haven't gone on a walk to see asters and goldenrod yet this year. When I thought of doing this square, it reminded me that last year I walked every day from April to December to create a daily photo journal of nature. This year my nature walks have been far fewer, and this story blanket is partly to blame. I haven't had time.

There is not time in life to do everything we want. I have a hard time accepting this truth. When I think about time I tend to feel impoverished. Instead I ought to focus on the richness of opportunities and savour each day as a gift.

Last year I went on a lot of walks, saw some things I had never seen before, took thousands of photographs and created a remarkable photo journal. It was good. I try to take pleasure in the memory, understand that it is still part of my life, even though it's in the past.

It's no good to regret what I haven't done in 2009. Instead of walking and taking photographs every day, I have worked long and hard on this story blanket. It commemorates many things I have seen and love, like asters and goldenrod. It is good, too.

When I am finished I will move onto another adventure, and it will be good, and maybe someday I will lose this habitual regret.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Square 58: Danny's chaos

Square 058

Danny is in his second year (of six!) of the Spinning Certificate Program offered by Ontario Handweavers and Spinners at Haliburton School of the Arts. This year he obtained from another student, Alanna, one of her batts of mixed fibres and spun it into some funky yarn for me to use in this blanket. It is the primary yarn in this square, and I added a few solid threads to draw out some of the interesting colours.

Alanna makes the batts from random pieces of fibre leftover from other projects, which resonates nicely with what is happening here at The Yarn. Danny said the different fibres are arranged in layers, and you can see bands of different colours whether you look at it edge on or face on. There is even some glitter!

To spin it into yarn, Danny tried four different methods, with varying degrees of success, and all ended up in the skein he gave me. He prefers to make fine, consistent yarn, but this batt of variable fibres challenged him. It was chaos. He had to welcome and celebrate its variability rather than trying to control it.

Another thing he has learned from spinning is that it doesn't pay off to be too analytical about what your are doing while you are doing it. You have to choose the best method you know to get the results you want from the fibre you have, then start spinning and go with it, let it flow, saving analysis and criticism for the finished product.

The yarn turned out much differently from anything else he has spun, as much as I have seen! This kind of yarn delights me: eccentric and full of surprises, with hints of different colours from which to draw inspiration. I highlighted some of them using burgundy Cascade, pale yellow Létt-Lopi, an unknown green wool remnant, and two yarns new to my collection: an appealing red Ultra Alpaca from Berroco and a delicious deep gold K'acha (merino wool, suri alpaca and silk) from Mirasol.