Saturday, March 18, 2017

Fiber Arts

Recently I taught myself to knit…... Again. Proper knitting, you know not just that single knit stitch and nothing else crap, but real bonafide knit, purl, rib, stockinette knitting. Over the course of a month I’ve churned out a bright pink pussy hat, (yeah FUCK YOU Trump!) I think it’s saying something, I did it, little old me, all by myself. I did it with such determination, such satisfaction, such empowerment, hell, even joy. But there’s this one thing…..I hate pink.  

Will I wear it? I don’t know. That was never really the point.

So it seems now I’ve caught this bug, I found myself today browsing at knitting books in the library and rummaging in op shops purchasing various sizes of second hand needles.
I went home to dabble in my next project & as I’m working that variegated wool onto my massive size 12’s my mind wanders, it roves, back to the time of my simple childhood and all those ancestors surrounding me. It suddenly dawns on me, this thread, this craft, this yearning to create, it has flowed in all of us, for all of those generations before, we were fibre artists!

My earliest memories are of my maternal grandmother “Dossie” (Dorothy) always project in hand, threads of cotton stuck to her bosom, little smocked dresses, fine embroidered doilies, handkerchiefs, whitework bedspread covers & patchwork cushions. Even the fabric scraps turned into bandages for christian missions. Her own father too enjoyed the pull of a thread in a long stitch project, but it was her who inspired me to learn to cross stitch.

“Ma” (Jean) my paternal grandmother was known as the knitter, always something on the go, occasionally children’s toys but mostly blankets. Crochet granny squares made from the miss matched off casts of wool she gathered from the op shop she worked at. For the grand & great grandchildren once you hit 18 you’d earnt it, your “Ma Rug” & if you were lucky in her latter years (as she was decluttering) you would have received it many years earlier -you know “just in case”! Always prepared well in advance was she. But now even she too has passed & I greatly regret not seeking her skills at a much younger age.

One woman with the patience to teach me was my own mother. Known under many names Dianne, Di, Annie, or simply mum, it was her who first taught me & my sister Donna to sew.
Unlike Donna who’d design dolls clothes from a very early age I wasn’t that interested until I hit my teenage years, textiles classes in high school were compulsory & while they taught the basics they were by no means very inspiring. Sorry Mrs Watson!!!  

Mum was the one who educated me properly on pattern reading, drafting & alterations for my weird body shape, how to place the right sides of the fabric facing inwards, cut allowing for seams & pin in the correct direction so they didn’t stab you while trying garments on!
We even had sheep at one point on our dairy farm. I recall the smell of lanolin on the freshly shawn fleece, mum carding it & spinning the wool into tightly wound, yet slightly uneven threads of yarn to later be knitted into a beanie. Sometimes there’d be a cable knit jumper, or a bottle green number (for my high school uniform), but it was always the sewing she did most frequently.  

Donna taught me what it was to appreciate the differences in fabrics, fibre and those everyday items we’d often overlook. Fabric wasn’t just a garment, a curtain, or upholstery covering, it carried a story, the warp & weft wound cloth woven with secrets & lies (yes it’s 20+ years later and I still have all the pages of the machine embroidered book you made for my birthday). Fabric to her was something else. I’m proud that she still shares with me that delight in the mystique, discussing current projects, future inspirations & most importantly her deep seated teaching aspirations.

There’s been many others, a gaggle of patch-workers, brown owls, roller derby sweatshops, Lycra sewing bodysuit fanatics & not too distant knitters, but these are the people I hold most dearest in my journey.

So to you all I raise the good scissors high, acknowledging my foremothers & expressing my endless gratitude, here’s to our pre-washed past & our fiber-riffic future.

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