“Everyone knows how darn after a fashion – one has, after all, to darn so often…” ~ Maureen Goldsworthy, ‘Mend It!’
“To sew is to pray. Men don’t understand this. They see the whole but they don’t see the stitches. We mend. We women turn things inside out and set things right. We salvage what we can of human garments and piece the rest into blankets. Sometimes our stitches stutter and slow. Only a woman’s eyes can tell. Other times, the tension in the stitches might be too tight because of tears, but only we know what emotion went into the making. Only women can hear the prayer.”
A couple of years ago I made a post describing a fine mending job that I did for my brother-in-law, repairing his tallis (prayer shawl). Little did I know that the post would lead to a small but significant flow of jobs mending precious, and sentimental, or just beloved textiles, for people here in Winnipeg.
Honestly, it’s been a surprise to me, how few people or businesses offer fine mending! I feel honoured to have had the opportunity to work on some really interesting and challenging textiles.
In this strange locked-down world, the one thing I can always count on is the Zen of String…
This really has been a strange year, hasn’t it? As a truly dedicated introvert and a serious homebody I have gotten the feeling that the world has joined me in my lifestyle rather than I have changed very much. Still, even an introvert needs some company, and I really miss hugging my elder family members…
The one thing I can always count on is string. My city has been in a very serious and total lock-down for the last month and I have been knitting up a storm. I am still knitting socks and they have gotten fancy lately! The pair I am working on now is pair number 35 I think, so they should be less vanilla by now:-)
Life has been a bit difficult lately, but playing with string is always comforting.
I thought I’d do a bit of a round up of the projects I’m working on right now, and well as a bit of what I’ve just finished.
My proudest recent achievement is definitely learning how to knit socks. I spent months doing nothing else.
I’m doing a bit of simple embroidery too. This is actually a napkin that I found in Ikea’s ‘as is’ bin for $1.00. It has four lovely little motifs, I’ve done two so far, a teapot and two hares.
I finished embroidering a very cute little lady. The variegated floss is hand-dyed by Bathtub Studios and I found it on Etsy. It’s a real pleasure to use. Her ruffled underskirt is done in Bayeux stitch and I am very happy with how it turned out!
It’s not hard to remember my first project as it was only 5 years ago! A friend had given me an old, soft and beautiful English linen tea towel printed with William De Morgan’s peacock and fish. She knew that I love the Arts and Craft movement. Although I had never embroidered, something about the idea of glorifying and honouring the humble tea towel and the anonymous feminine work that it represents tickled my feminist fancy and I thought I would outline a few lines. Ha!
I had never stitched but as a weaver-in-training (loom and tapestry) I was very comfortable experimenting with thread and yarn so I bought some DMC floss and a pack of needles and thought I would just doodle a bit.
By the time I was done, around 250 hours later, it was heavy with thread. It turned out to be a vivid and naive piece that I am still very proud of. And I have been stitching ever since.
These days I really enjoy learning, adapting, and practising different traditional styles of needlework, but I think that embroidery is, at it’s base, the most intuitive and natural of all the yarn and thread crafts. That first piece showed me that picking up a needle and thread, even with no knowledge of proper stitches, is enough to create a work of beauty.
…The most difficult part of learning any new skill is learning to tolerate the distress of being bad at it. Everyone feels clumsy and frustrated as they work to get a new skill from their mind to their hands…The feeling you get when the skill just clicks into focus, it’s just indescribably satisfying…
One of my favourite blogs, Crochet Concupiscence, has a list of questions that people can use to self-interview. This blog is all about crochet, and I do a number of needlecrafts, primarily sewing, weaving, embroidery, spinning and crochet, so my questions/answers are a bit different. Still, it’s a good way to think seriously about how string became the organizing principal of my life. And since I am currently snowed in following a blizzard, here is section one: learning to craft with fabric, thread and yarn…
My Inner Crone, Babushka Renata. (Illustration from ‘Thundercake’, a wonderful book by Patricia Polacco)
My Inner Crone, Babushka Renata. (Illustration from ‘Rechenka’s Eggs’, a wonderful book by Patricia Polacco)
All About Learning The Textile Crafts
Q1. When did you learn needlework?
A1. I came very late to the textile crafts. I was already in my mid 40s before I began and I am only 50 now. My grandmother had taught me a bit of crochet when I was 8 or so, but she had difficulty teaching a left-handed kid with learning disabilities that included directional confusion. It was frustrating for both of us.
In grade 7 I took a class called crafts (very unwillingly). The teacher was old-fashioned and refused to let me knit ‘backwards’ aka left-handed. The two of us struggled over a 12″ teddy-bear made of horrid blue variegated acrylic for the whole semester, with her smacking my left hand with a knitting needle every time she found me knitting left-handed. To this day I don’t like to knit!
My real start in needlework came via a general commitment to living more simply, I wanted to learn to sew enough to make myself a simple wardrobe of long dresses and pinafores. Basically I was aiming for the life and wardrobe of the Crones pictured above. (One of those is me!) And now that’s pretty much my life! Continue reading “Baba’s Story: Learning Needlecrafts”
I am pretty sure I don’t need to tell you what a colossally anxious year-end 2016 has been. And added to that, my yearly resurgence of feeling crappy has made it even worse. It seems to be dark ALL of the time…The upside? Lots of quiet middle of the night crafting. Here’s a quick round up of December’s projects.
Will this dreadful year ever end? Thank goodness for the Zen of String.
In Winnipeg, talking (aka complaining, bitching and/or ranting) about the weather is not small talk. It’s an all-important preoccupation. So please bear with me…
I am pretty sure I don’t need to tell you what a colossally anxious year-end 2016 has been. And added to that, my yearly resurgence of feeling crappy has made it even worse. It seems to be dark ALL of the time. Here’s today’s: Dec 26 – Daylight. 8:26 am – 4:33 pm 8 hours, 6 minutes. But of that there was only 3 hours of sunlight because of cloud.
May Biewe, the Sami Goddess of the Sun, Spring, Fertility and Sanity, who restores the mental health of those who go insane because of the continual darkness of the long winter, bless us all with strength, light and sanity. I think we are going to need it! (My fervent wish for all of us)
I have trouble with my circadian clock anyway, but this month it has been spinning around wildly. The upside? Lots of quiet middle of the night crafting. Here’s a quick round up of December’s projects.
Brenda’s Rectilinear Home-spun Scarf: This is a scarf I made for my mom out of my handspun yarn. She watched me use my new tiny lace-weight Turkish spindle to spin and ply the yarn…and then skein, soak, stretch, wind and crochet the yarn into a lovely little scarf for her. Completed 12/2016, Fibre is hand-dyed fair-trade merino from Manos Del Uruguay in the colourway ‘Wildflowers’.
Yarn being spun for Brenda Barrie’s Hand-Spun Crochet Merino Rectilinear Stole. Renata Bursten 12/2016.
Brenda Barrie’s Hand-Spun Crochet Merino Rectilinear Stole. Renata Bursten 12/2016.
Alpaca Coat Of Many Colours + Matching Scarf: Also, while my mom was here, I made a crochet alpaca coat of many colours and a matching scarf. There was no pattern, it is just an elaboration of a circle vest but I am very happy with it. It’s light but warm and I have been wearing it a lot. It took a bit more than three days to crochet and the beautiful multicoloured yarn that inspired the whole design came from a stitch’n’bitch buddy, Linda L. Thank you Linda! The scarf was made just to use up the last bits of yarn, but it turned out amazingly well. It uses arrow stitch, a cabling stitch I had never tried before, and it’s a new favourite.
Back. Crochet alpaca coat and matching scarf. Renata Bursten 12/2016.
Front. Crochet alpaca coat and matching scarf. Renata Bursten 12/2016.
Greetings my fellow String Sistren and Brethren, I have missed you all!
This has been a really busy few weeks for me. I have been working on finishing a commissioned crochet peacock feather blanket, my depression lace is looking better and better, and I have bought a brand new lace weight Turkish spindle and some beautiful fibre. I seem to be spinning all of the time now.
My teaching has been chugging along nicely. I have many new crocheters, lots of new kumihimo braiders, and a few people interested in trying embroidery for the first time. Exciting!
Today was an awesome day. It didn’t start well, but it improved rapidly.
On my way to teach at my Crafternoon group, while getting on my first bus, I stepped on the hem of my brand new dress and it tore in several places. Luckily, I had my needlework chatelaine pinned to my apron and a good assortment of thread on me. So while waiting for my second bus I sat on the grass under a tree and mended the holes.
People walking by looked at me as if I were performing an arcane bit of magic. A needle and thread! What is she doing? Two minutes later a quick and dirty repair job was done. I got a huge kick out of the teens trying to figure out if I was actually sewing or doing a bit of performance art. It was a small but real pleasure.
Michelle is my extremely talented twin from another mother. Look what she’s doing!
Michelle is my extremely talented twin from another mother. She lives and makes beautiful art in Tokyo. (Almost literally twins, we share the same birthday and in fact are both turning 50 this month.) Look what she’s doing on her birthday!
I am so proud of her. Click through to take a peek at the three pieces she will be displaying. They are incredible.
Mazal Tov Michelle!
Three of my drawings will be in Zen at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum in Ueno park from August 22-29, 2016. After the Abstract Narrative group show at the Artcomplex Center of Tokyo, I was contacted by someone who saw my work and wanted to know if I would participate in a large group show…