Landscape of a story, and the stories of a landscape

The scarf from my last post is finished!

This one took me two and a half months. Yikes. Part of this is because of the tension problems I had (I had to rip out the first eight inches or so to try to fix the tension once, but it did a strictly limited amount of good), which were infuriated and frustrating and made things really difficult. I eventually figured out how to deal with it on the fly (those knots from the last post), but even with that, it was a pain in the ass.

But it is finally done.

The original idea for this was simply to weave a scarf for my wife in rainbow colors and black. It morphed into something else entirely, in a very organic fashion. It became all about landscapes, curving shapes, color shifts, and transitions. In my mind, it grew into a series of snapshots of a quest out of a fantasy novel, or possibly science fiction; the last bit of landscaping had the bit from Heinlein about “We pray for one last landing/ On the globe that gave us birth/ Let us rest our eyes on fleecy skies/ And the cool green hills of Earth.”

It was as if an adventurer, finally venturing out of her comfort zone of home, saw incredible vistas and scenes that stuck with her all her life, bigger even than all the wonderful and terrible things that happened to her, simply because she always thought about places, about the land itself and the way it moves and lies, because she connects with that before and after all else. She returns home, and she tells her story again and again, but when she thinks about her journey, the images that come back to her again and again are all about the land and the sky.

This idea of a personal narrative being rooted in images of the earth rather than events connected for me with the way Literata talks about a landbase, and how having that kind of connection being centered in one’s personal world changes how one sees other places as well. To me, the hero of the scarf had, like Bilbo and Frodo Baggins*, never been outside her landbase before this journey, and never had to think about her connection to the land before, but traveling made it really come home to her. She saw all these other places, and they were amazing, and they imprinted themselves on her for the rest of her life — but each of them made her long for her own land again.

It’s also a very narrative scarf. Obviously. So it’s also about the power of stories, the infinite possibility in an outline of a story (how many different stories could be written about the journey sketched in that scarf?), and how the story in one’s head can differ from the story as one tells it to others, and about how setting shapes a story.

I don’t know what she’d think of the comparison, but the emotional, mental, and spiritual process of working on this reminded me of the way Elise Mattheson talks about the jewelry she makes, and what each piece is about, their names, how they tell her what they’re about. I feel like there’s a story in this scarf — no, many potential stories in this scarf — but I don’t need to know them to create the scarf in a way that is true to those stories.

I posted a bunch about this scarf on Ravelry, but never really talked about any of this. It’s a thing I find difficult to talk about in more secular spaces. Which is why I started this blog, really. I feel very deeply about my religion and my experiences, but I don’t always feel very comfortable sharing the details of that. It’s not, most places, that I feel unsafe talking about it, but more that I feel like it doesn’t necessarily belong. Sex, politics, and religion are Not Polite Topics for mixed company, traditionally, but I’d much rather talk about either of the first two in public, unless I’m specifically asked.

There it is. A scarf that’s the outline of a story, told in images of the places it takes you.

The next project will, I hope, be more literally literary, as in I’m planning on weaving actual words into it. If I can ever find the right prayer to Athena Ergane (Athena of the Works, her title as patron of crafts, particularly spinning and weaving). It will also have some of the first yarns I spun.

*And yes, the mountain is a reference to the Lonely Mountain, and that black spot on one side of it is a reference to the Back Door.

Weaving Landscapes (or just curves)

Weaving Landscapes (or just curves)

This is something I posted to Ravelry, at the request of a mod who had seen some of the Work In Progess (WIP) pictures.

Process post! Someone suggested I do one for the curves and hills when I posted this scarf in the WIP thread. I didn’t start taking detail pictures until past the middle, but the technique is the same. (Er, lots and lots of pictures follow.)

I shamelessly stole this technique from tapestry weaving, because one of the awesome things about Saori is that you can do that, and I suck at tapestry, but this technique is pretty awesome.

I’m working on a 15″ Schacht Cricket with an 8dpi reed. The project itself is MadGastronomer’s Kate’s Rainbow [NB: This link leads to a Ravelry page, and you’ll need to have a login there to see it].

So. For this first bit, I already had a hill, and the idea was to build up more curving shapes around it to make a mountain.

To start a new curve, I wove a few passes (four, here) on just a few warp threads (again, I used four). If you want to try it, how many will depend on the size of your warp and weft threads. Fiddle with it. It’s really very organic. I loosed the warp very slightly, opened sheds as usual, and then used fingers or a pickup stick to lift the individual warp threads. You may not want to change sheds, but just use the pickup stick. I sometimes get lost doing that, so I did it this way.

I began moving outwards, one warp thread at a time.

Leaving lots of extra length in the warp, I packed it quite closely, creating the beginning of the curve.

What was I using to beat in such small and irregular bits of yarn? A little pickle fork.

I did several more passes, moving outward from the center by one warp thread in each direction with each pass, again leaving lots of slack in the weft threads and beating them in tightly to get that curve. (You can beat them in more loosely, but this is a warm winter scarf, and I wanted the density.)

Since I was building up multiple curving shapes together, I would occasionally run a couple of passes along the entire shape, to keep things cohesive, once the two shapes met up. I also do this when doing a row of hills.

Then I started building a third shape in the crook where the first two met.

Again, I laid down rows of weft across the entire shape periodically. Since I was using variegated yarn, this became especially important to build up color relatively evenly later on.

And then I started building up more shapes on the other side.

And back to the left.

See what I mean about threads going across the whole thing keeping color relatively even with the variegated yarn?

Then I put a peak on it.

And this is Uther, who wants you to know that he Helped. That’s very important, he says. He Helped.

So, having created all those curves and steep angles, I now had to fill in around them. Which I apparently got exactly one picture of the process of:

As might be apparent, I started weaving on just the outermost two warp threads, just going back and forth and beating them down tightly until I built it up enough that I could reach the third warp thread, and then added that. Again, since I used a variegated yarn, I kept switching sides, to keep the color shift even. I think I did a pretty good job.

…of course, it all came out a bit trippy. A friend commented that the mountain really did look like a Tolkein illustration, and I could not help but respond, “Yep. Complete with the psychedelic colors from the 70s paperback editions.” But I’m pretty pleased with it.

Other things I did with this technique in this piece:

A line of rolling hills receding off into the distance. If you look closely, you can see the texturing in each hill where I decided to make the curve steeper, so I built up another layer of short rows with longer rows on top, basically building a hill on a hill.

A trio of hills, the middle one being done with clasped warp, in a way that manages to remind me of the sheen on an old vinyl record.

And a series of small iterations, building up curves unevenly here and there (again, look for the texturing) to achieve in appearance of a rolling plain and eventually the bed of a river. And here’s the river:

I threw in a few more curving shapes so that the ground under the mountain wouldn’t follow the line of the river exactly.

This technique is pretty simple, and the only real problem is creates is that if a row of weft reaches the selvedge at a steep angle, it can make the edge a little weird and loopy, but what the hell, it’s Saori, it doesn’t have to be perfect.

The real problem I’ve had with this scarf has been tension. I managed to screw up the tension once, and had to tear out about eight inches of weaving and try to fix the tension. Only I still mucked it up. The paper I used to layer the wraps of warp was too crinkly, and I managed to get the threads all crossed and bunched and messed up, so the tension on each thread keeps changing.

I ended up dealing with it by tying knots in individual warp threads as they go too slack. (You can see some of the knots sticking out from the weaving). It got really bad towards the end. I’m sure the finished piece will be all kinds of warped and buckled and weird, but my partner assures me she doesn’t care and she’ll love it. She’s sweet that way.

Ta-da!