Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Ever the Outlier

Well, blogging for ten years has finally paid off. I received a package in the mail last week that contained three balls of yarn (gratis) for me to test and report on to my faithful readers. No, it's not Habu or fair-trade, ethically harvested cashmere. It's pure polyester yarn, "Scrubby" from Red Heart, intended for knitting, you guessed it, dishwashing scrubbies.
Now, those of you who know me know that I'm pretty much an old hippy treehugging environmentalist, so it was definitely a long shot as to whether I would think polyester yarn was worth my investment of time in trying it out. Odds would be on a total thumbs down review.

And, yup, that would be right. In my opinion, this is the most seriously evil yarn I have worked with since Phentex back in the 1970's. It's like everything a yarn shouldn't be packed into one fibre. Rough and unpleasant to touch, impossible to rip out, uncompliant, harsh, catchy in a bad way. Perfect for the intended use however. I suppose.

This yarn made me so crazy that I began concocting fantasies about how it was created. I imagined a failed experiment to make some kind of biotoxin that some marketing genius looked at and said, "How can we find a use for this toxic waste, now that we've spent so much money developing it?" "It looks like some kind of supersnarled thread. Maybe the knitters would like it." "And it will erode microscopically into the oceans every time you wash it! Disposal problem solved!"

I see that many whimsical patterns for this yarn have been developed by the online knitting community. Obviously there is a market for this stuff. It has a cute name and there are many bright, synthetic colours named after things in the natural world. It has been marketed well.

I did ask the nice Red Heart rep who offered me the yarn if the yarn was virgin or recycled polyester. She didn't know. (There is a huge issue with recycled polyester microfibers coming off in wash water and entering the food chain.)
(And here's another good article.)

The yarn is made in Turkey, a country with an incredibly long and noble tradition of producing fine textiles. I found a PDF of a report on the Turkish synthetic fibre industry published by the Swiss company Oerlikon:
"Growth in the Turkish textile industry exceeds expectations
The Turkish textile industry, full steam ahead!"
Sorry I couldn't make the link work, but if you google that headline you will find it. Lots of corporate bafflegab but they do acknowledge the problem of the high relative cost of the petroleum used to manufacture virgin polyester.

I have sent an email directly to Red Heart asking if the fibre is virgin or recycled. It matters because recycled polyester fibres are more likely to break down into micro fibres. But either way, I am the person who had a dream once wherein I shouted, whilst brandishing a Phentex purple poncho, "Polyester equals Death!"

Probably the wrong person to do a fair review.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

By The Sea, By The Sea

First off, maybe you can help me decide which of these three shots is the best. They are of a beautiful cast paper bowl made in 1998 by Canadian artist Janet Moore, with wasp paper and bone insertions and a whale vertebra base.

The sun was setting as I took these photos. Just as I was leaving I caught this shot of a fisherman on his way home.
And slow but sure progress is being made on the whale.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Plenty of Fleece

A couple of Sundays ago, my rug-hooking friends and I went on a field trip to Coombs, BC, for the annual 100 Mile Fleece and Fibre sale. I was feeling flush with all that money I have piled up from selling my time. I thought I might just go wild, relive the past, and get a good ol' stinky raw fleece. Just for old time's sake.

White for once, instead of the coloured fleeces I usually fall for, so maybe I could dye it and have more options.

I found a gorgeous Romney (named "Bea") -- silky white fleece, fantastic crimp -- and snapped her up.

It could have ended there, and I would have saved myself a lot of heartache.

But wait, my friends had to look around at all the sumptuous top and roving for sale at the 30-odd booths. I loitered outside, I ate my lunch in the sun, I tapped my toe. Finally I went back in to look for them.

You know what happened.

A raw Icelandic fleece the colour of caramel started winking in my direction, rendering me weak-kneed and handing over $20 before I could think straight.
 I took him home.

In the light of day, he wasn't so good-looking.
 And he had scurf.

So why am I letting the beautiful Romney languish in the basement while spending time I don't have in lovingly washing and combing the Icelandic in the hopes that he will be spinnable? Have I learned nothing?

Once teased, he even looks like something I would find under the chesterfield during my twice-yearly vacuums.
Uh huh.

Let this be a permanent record of my repeating folly.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Not Dead, Only Resting

It doesn't take long to get out of the habit of updating the blog. Ten years of building it up and maintaining it and then, poof! It's off the radar. No excuses, I've got a lot of catching up to do.
Nice wooden floor in a Victoria restaurant.
I did get in to Victoria for the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry. Here I am with two of the panels dealing with the Selkirk Settlers, from whom I am descended. (Great-great-something-or-other Robert MacKay arrived in Canada in 1815.)
 The show was very impressive, although I had been expecting a single long banner like the Bayeaux Tapestry. The single panels are a practical solution to the problem of shipping the exhibition around the world, though, and make the installation more flexible for the hosting venues.
 The panel below, from India, was probably my favourite. The stitching was exquisite.
 There were a number of panels concerned with the Scot's contribution to textile production around the world.
 This one had a particularly nice rendition of lace. Apparently the different embroiderers had free choice as to the filling stitches.
And the Christ Church Cathedral was a glorious venue.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Time is the Most Valuable Commodity

I have been selling my time, as Kurt Vonnegut described having a job. I am working for the census, which has sucked up an enormous amount of energy and my precious time. I haven't had much time to stitch even, but I have completed the white porpoise, complete with unseemly breasts. I wonder if Louis Nicolas actually saw a real woman's breast, being a priest and all. His image is like a naughty school boy's, but I am pretty sure he was trying to be scientific.
Continuing in the realm of biology, hundreds of tiny golden spiders appeared on my jasmine the other day, rappelling up and down their silken threads. The next day they were gone, leaving a puff of gossamer web and the jasmine unharmed.
 I have started stitched the great whale - just working on the spout right now, and her Cleopatra eye.
So much is calling for my attention these days: work, dogs, garden, art. I have an unscheduled day off and was ready to fly out the door and down to Victoria to see the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry, which I only found out this morning is on tour across Canada! That didn't work out after all, but I will go on Saturday before the exhibition closes.

This too might make it into an embroidery:
"You are born alone. You die alone. The value of the space in between is trust and love." - Louise Bourgeois

Saturday, May 07, 2016

The Vacuuming Can Wait

La Maison de Louise Bourgeois (2016). Hand embroidery on vintage linen, 24"x 16"
About a week ago I read this article about Louise Bourgeois's New York house, which has been turned into a museum. Apparently it has been kept as she left it:

A sense that at any moment Bourgeois might walk through the door is heightened by the atmosphere of bohemian dilapidation: Surely this place is in no shape to be seen by anyone other than its owner. Crude patchwork testifies to the cave-in of a plaster ceiling. A two-burner gas hot plate that fills in for a stove and an ancient television that stands next to a small metal folding chair further the impression of a home not ready to receive company. “I’m using the house,” she told a visitor, when she was in her mid-70s. “The house is not using me.”
As soon as I read that line, I thought "I must make that into a sampler." And I did, putting aside all the tidying and organizing that needs to be done before my new roommate arrives next Thursday. I hope she understands.

The piece went directly into a new show at Twin Beaches Gallery featuring many of the textile artists on Gabriola. I'll post pictures of the show soon!

Sunday, May 01, 2016

La Petite Balene

 La petite balene, or the small whale, is done. She's quite the girl, with her wing-like flippers, powerful waterspout, and, yes, breasts. Louis Nicolas made a detailed mention in his notes of how the whale's young would cling to her bosom as they swam. At that time (late 17th C.), whales were just becoming recognized as mammals and distinct from fish.
Her teeth are unusually square, yet fearsome all the same. She's half the size of the other whale in the piece, whose magnificence I will tackle after a couple more small critters, the seal and the porpoise.