Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Textile arts are traditionally women's work. Historically, women have done most of the domestic sewing, spinning, embroidery, and weaving. There are numerous references in Egyptian, Norse, and Classical works to women employed in these occupations. Men tended to enter into these occupations when textile production left the realm of the domestic and entered into trade and industry. Men would then become weavers and tailors, but women still spun, embroidered, and sewed or knit items for the home and to sell in a cottage industry kind of setting. These are broad generalizations spanning thousands of years, but it is difficult to find historical references to men engaging in spinning or embroidery. If you find any, let me know.
There are those who would suggest that women have been oppressed by this division of labor. Perhaps in some cases this is true, but there's a part of me that's deeply offended by the suggestion that because women have traditionally been masters of the spindle and needle, we should cast aside these things as symbols of oppression. I say, to Hel with that. Brynhild, described as the greatest of great women in the Volsungas Saga, was as likely to pick up a sword as a needle. The same goes for Gudrun in the same saga. In the Nyals saga, the Valkyrie are depicted weaving on a loom using men's heads to weight the warp threads, a sword as a shed, and entrails for the warp and weft. Athena was born fully armored and carries the Aegis as her shield. She's not only the goddess of tactical warfare, but the goddess of weaving. Artemis, as skilled an archer as her brother, was the Queen of the Nymphs whose primary occupation was spinning. Maidens of Delos would bring spindles bound with their hair to the tomb at the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus.
So, if goddesses and heroines aren't fettered by their "women's work," why should we be? There is no reason to cast off the needle in exchange for the pen (or keyboard) when we can do both. There is no reason to put less value on the skill and industry of what is traditionally women's work because we now do work that was traditionally set aside for men. We can be doctors and knitters, lawyers and quilters, scientists and spinners. I am proud of the women's work that I do. I am proud that I can make thread with my own hands and then make that thread into something. I can make dresses one hour and work on my car the next. I can read academic papers and write on almost any subject one hour and embroider or knit the next hour. I can make lace, compose songs, and wield a hammer or screwdriver.
A modern woman's value is placed upon her ability to juggle children and an occupation outside the home. But to me, that is only a different sort of enslavement. A woman's value or virtue does not lie so narrowly, but rather in her kindness, her industriousness, her adaptability, and her strength of spirit and will. I would put the same values and virtues upon men.

Long story short, I don't care who you are or what your gender may be. More people should join me in my fabric and fiber goodness.
You will be assimilated.

(x-posted to Siamese cat, Zen Jail)
Feminist article that started this tirade:
King, Kathryn R. "Of Needles and Pens and Women's Work." Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature. v.14 no.1 (Spring, 1995) pp 77-93.
Okay, so I'm a lame-o with no pictures today.
My machine seems to be working just fine now and I hope, hope, hope, that I can keep it around another 5 years before it goes phlooey.
The dress was fabulous. Holy crap and go me. I hadn't ever done that level of alteration to a pattern and not only did the final product fit, but it was flattering besides. I finished a little pillow for Iree, a Yule present for "L," and Kell's Mock Croc socks. I had made progress on the Art gloves and made it all the way to the pinky, but it fit weird when I put it on, so I ripped the whole thing out. It's small, so it should go quickly when I cast on again.
I've about decided that the stuff I've been spinning for the warp is too thin. It's about 22 wpi, and if I'm using the wpi as the number of warp threads per inch, 22 is just too much for a first weaving. What I may do is send half of my Hickman County wool off to be mill carded and spin some thicker stuff from that. Since this brown is such an uber-doober laceweight, I can make lace with it. Crazy, no?

Monday, April 16, 2007

She's a sad tomato.

I have a New Home sewing machine that I bought about 8 years ago or so and it's been acting up. The top tension breaks, especially on the zigzag stitch, it gets tangled up around the bobbin case, and it rattles. headdesk -and at a time when I've got an impending deadline. Of course, to be fair, when have I not got an impending deadline? Oy. So, I take the thing in to the shop and the lady tells me that they can clean and service it and that should help, but the end is nigh for this little machine. Better start saving now. Geez, I hate planned obsolescence. I want something that's going to last me twenty years or more. Mom's singer is likely older than I am and still running. She's got one that's muuuuuch older than that, I don't know who manufactured it, but it's the foot-pedal kind that folds down into the table. I'm tempted to start using that one. I don't want an uber digital thingamy with 9,000 stitches and a computer that's smarter than my cat. That's not saying much for the computer (or the cat), but I don't want a computer in my sewing machine at all. More parts = more stuff that breaks. I feel the same way about my car.
Simple Pictures are Best. (Amazon link)

Thursday, April 12, 2007

I am a naughty blogger - and a honey bear.

I've been practicing an ancient art, passed down for thousands of years from crow to crow. I am honored that they have chosen to teach me this very ancient and revered zen practice known as "ooh! shiny!"
I am easily distracted, but I have pictures!
So, here are a number of various UFO's, including the muslin for a sleeve for a garment I'm constructing completely from scratch. No pattern, nothin'. I'm totally making this up as I go along and I hope it doesn't suck. Up in the left corner is the flower basket shawl. I've actually made a little progress on it, but it's not much to look at right now. What can I say? It's an unblocked lace shawl.

This is about how much wool I can hand card in an hour (thieving cat placed for size comparison). It comes out to about an ounce and a half, and that's at a leisurely "I'm not going to injure myself" pace. I've been working at about a hank of yarn a week, but missed last week due to washing machine woes. You see, I forget that I'm 115lbs soaking wet and not all that strong. When my washer broke down, I very cleverly tried to move it myself so that I could get to the back to disconnect it. It weighed about 200lbs according to the scrap yard scales. The new one, a Kenmore Heavy Duty, cost me $25 and is much much lighter. Anyhow, I had hurt my shoulder moving the old one and there was no way I was carding wool with a hurt shoulder.
So, this week's hank was about 1 7/8 oz and a bit coarser than usual. One of the types of wool in my big box o' sheepy goodness is a bit coarse, but most of it is rather soft. I just happened to get a bunch of the coarse stuff this time around. I wonder how much of this I'll need...
Anyhow, I think I've figured out a way to calculate how much warp I'll need.
1. Measure wraps per inch of thread to be used for warp. I figure that's about how many threads I'll need per inch.
2. Measure about how long the intended fabric is going to be. The dimensions for the himation that I'm going to make are my height in width by twice my height in length. Add about two feet.
3. Multiply wpi x (fabric length +2ft) and that's how many yards you need for warp. Go basic algebra skills!
So, here's the brown hat I've been working on. I'm at an impasse on this one, I'm afraid. It's worked on Knitpicks size 4 circulars and now I've come to the decreases. 'Cept I very cleverly don't have any size 4 dpns. Beckoo of the Hill People says that 3's should do just fine, but... I'm afraid it's going to look funny. I'm setting it aside until I can pick up some size 4 dpns. Oh - the yarn is the Teddy Bear roving that I spun up into a 3-ply and it's turning out to have this sort of wood grain pattern that's really cool. It looks terrible in anything but stst and plain ribbing, so here it is in stst and plain ribbing.
More homespun yarn. This is the rainbow soysilk/wool blend that my sweet husband gave me for Yule. I originally wanted to knit a pair of gloves on 0's, but I decided on 1's because I have a zillion of them. The yarn is very fine and these will be lightweight gloves, but they're going to be gorgeous. I'm seriously in love with this yarn. It holds my attention quite well because it changes color every so often and makes with the purdy stripeys. There's no way I'm ever ever ever going to be able to make two gloves exactly the same with this yarn, but I'm at peace with that.
I'm making progress on the Mock Croc. As you can see, I've turned the heel on sock #2 and seem to be plodding right along. Next pair in the queueueueueueueueuue is a pair in navy blue for Dr. Sanders. She wears a size 7 shoe, so I figure that the circumference should be about 8 1/4" and the length of the foot about 9 1/2". I'm only guessing because her feet live in Nashville. That's the best working measurements I've come up with so far. So, as soon as the Mock Croc are done, these are immediately next.
After that comes the next promised pair. Those are going to be huge. Not nearly as huge as my dear and darling husband's foot sweaters, but still huge. You see, for Bardic Olympics this Ostara, I made a sock certificate. Remember this? Scroll down all the way to the bottom and read the last two sentences. Now guess who won the sock certificate. headdesk
Do not name the well from which you will not drink.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Quickie update today. Right now, I've got three things on the needles. One thing for each level of stupid.
  1. Plain Brown hat in Jesspun yarn (stupid level: extreme)
  2. Kell's socks in Knitpicks Essential, black (stupid level: moderate)
  3. Flowerbasket Shawl in Knitpicks Shadow, lost lake (stupid level: minimal)
There's been a lot of hat knitting lately, but I'm making progress on the socks as well. The shawl is kind of crawling along, possibly because my stupid level hasn't gotten to minimal for some time. Today is tuesday, and tuesday is for spinning (so the Harlot says and it sounded like a plan to me). I'm thinking that I'll be doing some spindle spinning today so that I can have more yarn for the warp. I've researched loom design and it seems to be coming along rather well. I've about decided on a warp-weighted loom. I think it's probably the simplest design with the best means for keeping tension. I don't have a picture of my design sketches (pencil doesn't photograph well), but I think it's a good design and will be functional when it's put together.