Friday, July 27, 2012

Everything Changes, Nothing Stays the Same

I just discovered that the manufacturer of the dark brown Paternayan tapestry yarn that I was so delighted to find the other day has gone out of business. Early this year, JCA closed its doors. For all the troubles in the world, I feel really sad about this one. Paternayan had a reputation for being the highest quality needlepoint and tapestry yarn on the market - it was developed 75 years ago by brothers Harry and Karnick Paternayan who repaired Persian rugs. It was spun from New Zealand lambswool that was sheared at 18 months, resulting in an extra long, soft, strong fibre that dyed beautifully.

I can't really fault a business for closing because they were no longer profitable, but it is another small loss of skill and technology, of fine workmanship. Although there are still yarns made that can substitute, what also saddens me is the story on the consumer end of the equation. There just aren't as many people interested in doing needlepoint and crewel work these days, and although they may have taken up other skilled crafts such as knitting or cross stitch, I suspect there is a net loss of knowledge in the general public about the textile arts.

I think of all the small businesses that have sprung up with the recent revival of interest in knitting, the artists who dye small batches of unique fibre for quilting and embroidery. What will happen to them when the winds of trend shift direction? To some extent the skills of needlework are transferable - if you have the patience to learn the stitches and follow a pattern for knitting, you can probably also learn to crochet, or cross stitch more easily than if you had never learned to knit. One's hands develop a "thread sense" over time,  a sensitivity to tension and the way a particular thread wants to behave.

But true mastery of a craft takes time, and good materials. Think how frustrating it is to try and stitch with cheap Chinese thread. it is not worth one's time, and gives poor results. My left-leaning heart wishes that manufacturers of high quality materials could be given more support so they don't have to just rely on a capitalist market economy. At the very least their methods, tools and machinery should be documented and preserved so that future generations might be able to learn from them, or even start them up again. We have all heard about the fineness of ancient Eygyptian linen, that it can't be reproduced with today's equipment. That's a loss, maybe a tiny one in the grand scheme of things, but a loss nevertheless.

P.S. I see that Alan Getz, the owner of JCA died and that is why they have closed their doors. They also distributed Reynolds Yarn, and I'm not sure what has happened to that line, surely a much bigger one than Paternayan.

P.P.S. I may have jumped the gun. The Chilly Hollow blog posted a month ago that a company called Suripaco has purchased what's left of Paternayan and perhaps will continue manufacturing it. The Suripaco
blog is quite interesting, they sound like good people.

3 comments:

  1. and I complain about the large variation in quality from the same cloth manufacturer...as is they only make as much as was ordered in a batch.

    You'll experience more moments like this as you age..although new things come into existence, many of the old things were indeed finer. I long to simply be able to pick up a real rotary phone, dial a long distance number and really feel connected to my distance loved ones, and not like I'm whistling into the wind.

    And you can't tell me Hershey's Kisses are the same as they were 10 years ago.

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  2. and it's on a bigger scale too....houses built nowadays have lower quality materials, and simply won't stay up for as long as houses that were even built in the 1980's! Eeek! Unless you have loads of money, you just can't get good quality stuff. And as you mention, so many skills and techniques are being lost. BUT! remember, you are part of the treasury of retained knowledge! Hang on in there. Jan, Wakefield, England.

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  3. Ken Raessler9:24 AM

    Re Paternayan yarn. You are correct. The dye house is being moved to Biddeford, ME. and should have Paternayan Persian yarn available in limited colors by Jan 2013. Maine Textiles Inc. dba Saco River Dye House purchased the dye house and trademarks for JCA in June 2012. As one of the owners of SuriPaco LLC, I am also a part owner of the new dye house, along with Pam Allen of Quince and Co. and Nick Burnett of 3D design in Portland

    Ken Raessler@sacoriverdyehouse.com

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