So, yesterday’s Yarn Manifesto (if you’re just joining me, then you don’t know yet that I’m prone to those; if you’ve known me a while, you’re mentally patting me on the shoulder and murmuring “We know how you are, Abby, it’s okay”) has generated all kinds of comments and emails. Tons! Just tons! And you know… a few of you have said, “Why don’t you submit that to a magazine?”
I have to be honest here, and say that it would never have occurred to me to do something like that with such a rant. Seriously, is there a magazine you guys have been hiding from me called something like “Fiber Obsessed Nut Job Journal” or “Ranter’s Review” or “Manifesto Quarterly?” Because, you see, I’ve come to accept that I have a Problem. It’s this: if I’m presented with a textile topic, I can’t. shut. up. It is completely pathological. I’m sure there’s a name for the condition, but if I were going to go look for it I’d have to stop talking about fibery stuff for long enough to do that, and that’s just not going to happen.
I blame my parents. It is so totally all their fault. Let me see if I can explain it.
My mother sent me a package recently. Now, I don’t know what most people’s packages from their mothers look like, but this one was not at all atypical for what I get from mine. It contained a bunch of things she’d picked up on her last trip to Peru. I took pictures.
That was on top. Oooh, a costal! I mean, yeah, the tag says “potato sack,” but that’s just what a costal is. It’s a really nice costal though, and it’s new.
You know, I’m not sure when I last had a new costal. Usually they’re old. They’re handspun llama, and they wear like steel. Maybe better than steel. Nominally, yes, a costal is a potato sack, and it does indeed get used for storage and transportation of potatoes. And everything else. And to throw on the muddy ground outside to sit on when it’s nasty. And as padding for stuff. You use them nonstop. Fifty years old, a costal might have a patch on it or a rewoven spot, but that probably happened due to a story like “then the packs came off the llama and fell about a kilometer straight down, I wish I hadn’t tried using that gringo rope” or something. Anyway, the costal is purely a functional item. Just indestructible. This is a really nice one. I’ll have this one forever, no matter what I do with it.
Hey, wait… what’s this?
Yeah, what IS that?
That’s not the usual side seam on a costal. Done with a needle I bet. Huh. Hrmmmm. I’ll have to look more closely in a second here, this is just the thing on top.
Look, it’s a pillow cover (I love these, they’re a fabulous CTTC product), but this one is obviously special. Why? Andean warp painting. Rare, thought to have died out. But in 2005, Nilda had found an old guy who did it in another sort of out-of-the-way Cusco area weaving town, and their community had joined CTTC and I’d heard we’d be seeing their textiles shortly. So here one was, for certain.
If you’re Sara, definitely click for big and look at the pattern band on the right. I just asserted to Sara authoritatively that you almost never see things worked in non-pairs-based ways, and the supplementary pattern on the right there is a non-pairs-based variant, so do they always do this in that town, or what? Hrmmmm.
Then I got to the note that was stuck into the box:
Yes folks, you see, I come from a world in which the hastily-scribbled notes from my mother are on a postcard for Andean Textile Arts (a US not-for-profit sponsoring preservation of textile techniques in the Andes with organizations such as the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco) and say things like “cf. Paracas mantles.”
There were other things in the box too. For example, there was a chess set, in a lacquered wooden box with no latch, where the painted ceramic pieces were Incas vs. Spaniards — a classic Peruvian tourist item, but what the different sides are represented as varies. The set with which my father taught me to play chess was such a set, but from the 1960s, and the pieces were Moche-styled figurines, where the sides were “bronze” vs. “copper.”
Then there were these.
“Ed socks,” my better half said, immediately. “Definitely Ed socks. Your father liked doing things for the structural and technical aspects, and you can see it in the heels and toes.” He’s right — my guess would be that there was some thought process going on here involving the number of double-pointed needles that was ideal for which heel type, and that the socks were largely improvised using the “applying lace patterns to objects” section of the Susanna Lewis lace knitting book.
I don’t know how that happened, but I will fix it. So I got all maudlin about the apparent Ed socks for a bit, and then as I thought about the hole, it occurred to me — didn’t my mother promise me I could try to talk her out of an heirloom darning egg? She must be holding it hostage for me to get along with the Shaker great wheel.
And, you know, my better half knows full well what a really well-turned heel looks like. His mom used to make socks all the time; magically, insanely fast. One Christmas she made something like 11 Christmas stockings starting on the 21st and in time to hang up for Christmas eve. Not knitting during the day, just using her spare time in evenings.
So this is my life. It is full of fiber and textiles. My whole world is and has always been. I don’t know any other way to be. And everybody in it, well, they’re all used to me spewing my Yarn Manifesto du Jour. I’m always raving like that. So there’s a part of me that reads someone saying “you should submit that for publication” and just… reacts in shock. What? It’s a total rant; it’s not a piece of principled, helpful, worthwhile writing that I did to help people learn something — that kind of thing might well be worth publishing. This, this is dinner table conversation. This is how I can’t shut up, or as my son once put it, “That’s just my mom. Don’t talk to her unless you like boring yarn and stuff.”
So to hear from some of you that you liked that — hey, that you read it — is somewhat unexpected. I just don’t think of that sort of stuff as anything other than ranty blogfodder, mailing list discussion, that kind of thing. Definitely not article material. But maybe I’m wrong.
More to the point and dealing with interesting stuff, though, the new CTTC textiles are stunning, and Sayaj (the new community) has only been with CTTC for about 2 years. If they’re like other communities, by 5 years they’ll be doing really incredible stuff, and more people will be doing it — and lore thought lost will have been learned by many, and thus return from the brink of extinction. And you have to realize that these are mostly things that folks stopped seeing much value in for a long time, which is why everyone stopped doing them. So, I’ll ask you to think about this one: is there a textile tradition practiced by someone you know, that you’ve never thought useful, interesting, or worthwhile? If so, what is it? Let me know.
Edited to add: So it’s not that I can’t envision writing and publishing — that’s not so hard to imagine. What does strike me funny is, “What, you mean the rants? Seriously?” The technical articles and carefully written considered content, sure. Yarn manifestoes? That’s another story. It just would never have occurred to me that anybody would want to read that sort of thing.