At the Still Point of the Turning World
Residency is over, NOW what? (While I'm waiting for the answer, I'll get some spinning done....)

Tuesday, October 28, 2003


With all the wonders SOAR has to offer--workshops, door prizes, galleries, lectures, companionship, and the prospect of the Spinner's Market--what am I most thankful for? That I am not sick this year.

If you remember, I was sick as a dog at last year's SOAR and barely managed to attend my workshop, much less actually get much out of it. (My shopping abilities at the Market, however, went undimmed.) This year, so far--and touch wood for me, if you please--I am hale and hearty and full of piss and vinegar, as DSO likes to describe this particular state of perky enthusiasm and full-bodied engagement in a beloved pursuit.

It helps to have Judith MacKenzie to look forward to every day. Today, in the course of fifteen minutes, she demonstrated the correct technique for each of the following spinning techniques: true worsted, semi-worsted, true woolen, semi-woolen, slub and boucle By "correct," I mean "not the way I've been doing it for the past three years." With each technique, she spun a sample as naturally and effortly as some of us open our eyes. Her spinning technique is exquisite; she holds the point of twist as delicately as one might handle a hummingbird.

None of this is meant to slight Nancy Bush, who has been wowing us with fantabulous examples of knitted lace, and doing her best to teach us about Estonian lace patterns and construction techniques. Here are my examples, brought to you by the miracle of digital photography but corrupted by the poor lighting our our hotel room:

These are swatches of a Twig Stitch pattern, each bordered in garter stitch. The upper swatch was knitted with a millspun 2-ply yarn of Columbia wool, spun worsted at a WPI of 16/inch. The lower swatch was knitted from my own workshop handspun, spun worsted at a WPI of 18/inch from white 62s wool top on my Journey Wheel.

This is a sample of a traditional Estonian scarf/stole construction, with a typical lace edging at each end and a center motif called Lily of the Valley. This motif includes a raised bud called a nupp which is fashioned by knitting and bringing the yarn over several times in a single stitch, sort of a modified bobble which lends interesting texture and dimension to knitted lace without looking awkward or heavy.

No matter how much lace you've knitted in the past, there's something about learning a new lace stitch pattern that tests the toughest knitter. Our swatching sessions are carried out in a mix of grim silence interrupted by cries of frustration or triumph. What it somes down to is that there will never be enough time in one day to get all our spinning and knitting done, and we all leave the classroom with homework in hand.

Still--better than junior high any day. More reports to follow...