Things handmade. About making things.
Is music a thing?

Friday, March 7, 2008

Expen$ive Le$$ons

I think the day I stop learning things, is the day I stop breathing but I wish I could learn a few things faster. As a friend quipped to me after an airport mishap that cost me close to 500$ (pesky 24-hour clock - who would think the flight was really at 3 am??!),

"Tuition for the School of Life is very high, and you've just learned an expensive lesson."

I take some consolation that lessons from knitting are not quite so costly - at least not individually. The collective cost of yarn as yet unused, perhaps purchased rashly, and the associated guilt can take their toll but generally errors in knitting can be resolved by ripping the thing out and starting over. How many things in life have that advantage?

So, to the slippers,
whoops that's
I made a second $lipper to match the first. More or less.

Le$$on 1: I actually love mohair and I know it sheds. I have a black mohair bolero that I made from a fine Italian yarn 15 years ago. It still sheds. Mohair sheds. Period. Leaves fall off of maple trees in the autumn, mohair sheds. How can I be upset with a yarn for shedding if that is in its job description? Working with the yarn I began to remember why I love mohair. It has a unique silkiness and a warmth. It is animal. Maybe that was the problem with this yarn. Maybe the colours weren't animal enough (unless you are in fact a tropical fish or the snout of a baboon). Maybe if it looked animal, I wouldn't mind the fuzzies. I meditated on that.

Le$$on Two: When fulling or felting, consider the colourfastness of the dyes.
Which I did not.
Once $lipper number 2 was finished, I decided that a little tightening up of the fabric was in order. They might shrink to be too small for me, but that was okay. In a shoes off household, a good supply of slippers in many sizes is only hospitable. I tossed them in a pot of boiling water - going for the old stove-top method. Away they burbled. I took a break from researching grants and tour proposals to give it a good poke and vigorous stir every 10 minutes or so. Hey, what's this? The water is sure getting murky. Hmm I guess a bit of the dye is being released, well, that's okay. They are $lipper$ after all. Fibres are coming up, but gee they don't seem to be getting any denser. Oh well, let 'em percolate a little longer. Hey now that's funny, the water is getting clear again. How long have they been bubbling? Nearly two hours. Okay time for the cold water plunge. Ugh. In spite of the loose knit, in spite of the fact that mohair will mat, very little shrinkage. Loads of fluff (especially on the garter stitch sole which turns out to be good for dusting the floor). And the colours? zapped, blanded, made mud. They are actually not bad. Maybe they are even looking a little animal (if you happen to be a fox with a penchant for muted Manic Panic), but the rich Fleece Artist hues have been browned over. I think the reds must of leached out of then back into the yarn with the heat. The blue is gone! I can't call them clown feet anymore. But I did clown around a lot while making them.

Le$on Three: This is actually a revelation. You can revere a fibre too much. Perhaps it is because when I first learned to knit, I had basically no money. I loved wool and angora and mohair but I put it on a bit of a pedestal. I questioned my worthiness to even touch things with silk & cashmere in them. I bought wool whenever I could and used every little bit of it. I have little balls of leftover wool from the first sweaters I made. That was 22 years ago. I still like to use my fibre like that. Even if it did grow on trees (like rayon, bamboo & banana silk), it has been through the mill (literally) and a great deal of energy (oil) has gone into its growth, manufacture and distribution. Dyeing it can add more chemicals to the environment, and lets meditate for a moment on sheep, goats and other ungluates. There is the whole issue of methane emitted by the sheep, not to mention what grazing does to the landscape. Goats have had a HUGE impact wherever they are raised in any numbers. Okay, so we can credit them for turning us on to coffee and I love them for that and their sheer goat-iness but really, they are hard on the planet. And then there are things like water contaminated by manure, antibiotics & pesticides & chemicals used to clean and treat the fleece etc etc. Yup, wool and fibre are to be respected and used judiciously. Unless you are raising your own animals for fleece and spinning it, or buying it from your neighbours, you are partaking of an industrial product at some level or another. And if you've seen the amount of skilled labour and hours it takes to go from "sheep to shawl", you know that it is not a substance to be squandered.

But you still have to have fun and be creative and create lovely things.
Yet I can't bring myself to make silk gift bags. Or cashmere cat beds.
& what do you do when good yarns go bad? Its a dilemma - and one must try to strike a balance.

I realized that my $lipper$ were cathartic. I actually LAUGHED when I cast on to make mohair slippers, and giggled when I discovered I had no plan or gauge swatch. I realized that I have been hoarding and waiting on quite a bit of yarn because I am a little afraid of it. I fell in love with it enough to buy it, and since I'm usually between jobs that means I probably overextended myself to get it. I don't want to make something ugly and ill fitting with it. It might happen. I have certainly committed more than my fair share of knitting disasters. BUT, I can probably rip it out, start again & learn something in the process. And I am so lucky that I have a really nice collection of yarn to play with and explore. (And this is just part of it!)Co$t of this le$$on? 2/3 of a skein, that's 20 dollars, and a couple of hours of knitting.
What to do with the remaining yarn? Make more slippers using a real template? Pass it on to someone else?

As yet undecided. But I have miles to knit before I sleep.....

No comments: