Thursday, July 17, 2014

Goddess Women Cloth

What a fascinating program we had in June! Mary B. Kelly, artist, professor of art, and author, who now makes her home at Hilton Head SC, shared with us her study of textiles across time and geographic boundaries with a special focus on pattern and design found in various folk cultures' ceremonial cloth.

It was stunning to hear her deep expertise and see her examples of decorative patterns repeating almost exactly in different parts of the world and reoccurring from the earliest time documented to current days.

Ms. Kelly showed us samples of textiles made and used in Russia, Scandinavia, Asia, Europe, and North America that illustrated common folk culture belief systems in protective goddesses who shield women and their children in life and in death.
Mary Kelly
The first two symbols Ms. Kelly introduced us to were: "The Tree of Life" and "Horns". The tree of life image takes many forms -- sometimes it appears with sacred birds. Horns, representing fertility, also are represented in many different ways. Sometimes there are deer with antlers. Sometimes headdresses have horns or spikes at the top.

Trees take many forms but are found in textile designs of folk cultures from Russia, Scandinavia, through Asia, Europe and North America.
Another variation of The Tree of Life
Here there is a central Goddess figure with a horned headdress. Beside and above her are sacred birds with trees coming from their heads and tails. Smaller birds represent children resulting from the good fortune of fertility. Red is a protective color for the user of the cloth -- and the zig-zag design is also a protective feature.
These kinds of designs are found in cloth and clothing that accompany ritual and ceremony marking significant times throughout the lifespan -- births, coming of age, marriage, death. Sometimes a part of a bride's wedding garb becomes a swaddling cloth for her babies and sometimes that same cloth is used to dress her corpse so her ancestors will quickly recognize and welcome her in the after-life.

In some cultures, girls are initiated into womanhood in ceremonies that include robing, or "wounding". In other cultures, girls of a certain age receive and are allowed to wear flounced skirts, believed to make them strong and brave.

Weddings are perhaps where the symbolism of cloth expressing hopes and dreams for the future are most evident to us. Tall headdresses traditionally worn by many goddess deities have been adapted for the familiar bridal veil. In some cultures, including ours, the lifting of the veil is a very dramatic moment in the wedding ceremony. The Zuni (or Hopi indians of America's southwestern deserts) tradition is for the groom to make a wedding cloth for his bride. In the Ukraine, ritual cloth is used to bind the bride and groom's hands together during the wedding ceremony.
This beaded cap is typical of wedding garb in many folk traditions. It has a "horn", protective red is the dominant color, and zig-zag patterns occur in multiple variations. Surely the coins represent wishes for prosperity for the new couple.
Kayleigh could not resist.
This is a 20th century embroidered huipil (blouse) from Mexico. The diamond design at the top is a fertility message and the elongated design at the bottom represents the wearer's ancestors -- so the desire for safety for future generations and past generations is contained in one lovely garment. 

In some folk cultures, even for every-day clothing, red lines and zig-zag patterns are stitched or beaded around every opening of a garment -- around the sleeve cuffs, the neck, the hem. This is to protect the wearer from evil that might enter through these portals.

Red borders and zig-zag variations
Mary Kelly has traveled the world exploring textile traditions and folk lore. In the academic and artistic world, she is recognized for her authority on the goddess motif in textiles and all the rituals associated with it.

Mary Kelly's books include: Goddess Women Cloth A Worldwide Tradition of Making and Using Ritual Textiles, Goddess Embroideries of Eastern Europe, Goddess Embroideries of the Northland, and Embroidering the Goddesses of Old Norway.

Many thanks go to one of our newest members, Andrea Cochran-Pastel for sharing her notes and photos with me (Sandy) as I prepared this post. Andrea is an accomplished photographer and artist, including creative use of fiber. See more her work at .)

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Palmetto Fiber Arts Guild at 2014 North Charleston Arts Festival

We live in an area where art festivals abound - especially at this time of year. At the end of April, there was ArtFields in Lake City. At the end of May, Spoleto and Piccolo begin their 17-day run. In between is North Charleston's Art Festival celebrating arts in South Carolina for more than 30 years.

The first weekend of the festival (May 3 - 4) is considered The Main Event-- and this year, Palmetto Fiber Arts Guild occupied three booth spaces in the North Charleston Convention Center and members demonstrated fiber arts, met streams of people, young and old, who were fascinated to see modern expressions of our traditional arts, displayed a wide range of completed items -- and made some sales to the public. A fun and good weekend for all.
Palmetto Fiber Arts Guild booth has a lot going on!
Lots of people stopped to watch demonstrations and sometimes to try their hand at spinning, weaving, felting or something else new to them. It all makes us realize that many people do not have every nook and cranny of their homes filled with looms, wool carders, and knitting yarn -- and to see people creating thread or lace or a piece of solid fabric from a handful of "fuzzy stuff", almost seems like magic.
Barbara amazed visitors with demonstrations of making lace.

Nancy works on a beaded bracelet on her Kumihimo Disk
Results begin to emerge.
Anita Sloane's handiwork.
Jackets and scarves made by our seamstress extraordinaire, LuAnne Rosenzweig.
Ballerina dolls made by Barbara Vanselow
'Nuff Said.
Another celebration -- Arianne King Comer's stunning batik print was chosen for the South Carolina Palmetto Hands Fine Craft Traveling Exhibition, which will tour the state through the South Carolina State Museum’s 2014/2015 Traveling Exhibitions Program. This program gives galleries, museums, and art centers across South Carolina the opportunity to request the exhibit to tour their facilities, thus providing additional exposure for the selected artists. Congratulations Arianne!
Thanks go to Judy Warren who spearheaded our participation in this year's North Charleston Arts Festival. Our group enjoys these opportunities to interact with the public and stoke the fires of creativity in those who might want to join us in our fun times.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Waulking with Barbara and Sharon

Maybe it's just me, but I am constantly amazed at the topics our members know about -- and know a lot about -- that I have never even heard of! Barbara and Sharon Downey did it to me again with their great program on Feb. 15 about Waulking Wool. How could I not know about this?!!

Here's the deal, as I understood it. Waulking -- an ancient Scottish practice that is their term for "walking" -- because you are moving a piece of wet handwoven or hand knitted cloth in a sort of stepping motion (lift the fabric up, then slam it down on a hard surface) to provide enough agitation for the fibers to expand and the fabric to become tighter.
In the Scottish tradition, this process was accompanied by waulking songs, which women sang to set the pace. Waulking was followed by stretching the cloth on large frames known as tenters and attaching it by tenterhooks (hence the phrase "being on tenterhooks". . .)

So, it's like what we think of as felting, but the more correct term is fulling, with human beings providing the agitation that we get with the washing machine.  (Tidbit:  Felting is individual fibers manipulated with the use of a liquid and agitation. Fulling is woven or knitted cloth that is manipulated with the use of a liquid and agitation. So when we said we were going to felt thrift store sweaters to make insoles back in November, really we were going to full those sweaters.)

And here's the part you're just not going to believe: The liquid they used -- stale urine. Yep, you heard that right. They would pour hot, stale urine over the cloth right off the loom -- then slop it up on the table, and everyone would spend the entire day wringing it and beating it and passing it around the table so that each person had plenty of opportunities to wring and beat every square inch of the cloth.

Big surprise: in rural areas this was women's work, but men, ever mindful to be helpful, would hie on off to the pub every chance they got where they would save their urine over the course of the evening and bring it home to their wives. And apparently urine was saved at home, too, -- so kids, grandparents, everyone contributed! You can't make this stuff up.

In cities, being modern and sophisticated, fulling cloth was men's work. It was more likely to be done by stepping on the cloth ("walking" on it) in a tub or vat of urine. Even though fulling paid relatively well it was a low status job. If you know someone with the last name of Fuller, now you know what their ancestors probably did for a living. Wait a minute, I went to college with a Tiffany Fuller and she was a debutante so the stigma of the fuller's occupation did not live on to the current day.

Apparently the magic of urine is in the high concentration of ammonia -- ammonium salt compounds helped clean the fabric of oil and it made the medieval Scots' whites, whiter and brights, brighter. Eventually, substitutes were found for urine. Today we use soap.

Fulled cloth is more substantial than yardage straight off the loom. It is also water and wind resistant, and warmer in the winter, and cooler in the summer.

Here we are trying to get the waulking action down. Needless to say, we did not have "wet" cloth. We did get a sense of how this could be a great opportunity for neighbors and friends to socialize and catch up on all the local gossip!

This video produced by the History Channel is well worth the it's 6 minute running time.
 Barbara and Sharon -- Thanks for this fascinating program. Interesting and Fun!
The fulling process is what makes traditional Scottish plaids such fine wool fabric.

Friday, February 7, 2014

A good beginning to 2014!

The first meeting of the year is always a good time -- it's good to see everyone again, good to see the projects people have completed while they had some vacation -- and good to see the beautiful fiber gifts received over the holidays. We'll just show you one of many stunners.
Now, who do you think might have hand-spun the yarn and knitted this fabulous circle sweater for Kayleigh?
The yarn is core spun mohair with lots of embellishments added -- wool locks, ribbons, sequins, feathers, pearls, and more!
Yep, Moms are the best!
The program for the January meeting was special too. Barbara and Michaela took a trip to India in October, with their itinerary planned around their mutual interest in fiber arts. They showed us slides from their trip and shared some of their experience of this country that seems to cover itself in color and pattern .
Pattern and color were found everywhere they turned in India - often overlapping. In fabric, jewelry, in architecture, in walls, ceilings, floors, and furnishings. This is a fresco at The Amber Fort in Jaipur.

Michaela and Barbara took part in an embroidery class
Embroidery sample. Notice the tattoo on the wrist. It was explained that many women have similar tattoos representing important events and milestones in their lives -- a way of telling their life stories.
Michaela against an ornate background at City Palace in Jaipur.
A craftsman block stamping yards and yards of fabric.
Dyed sari silk laid out on bare ground to dry.
The intrepid travelers

Thanks to Michaela and Barbara for sharing this incredible trip with us!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

What Can We Do For Others?

In October and November, our programs have focused on what we, as fiber artists and crafter,s can do to help others. Beth Parrott led off with a great program on "Charity Knitting" with tips and handouts and loads of great information for anyone who wants to pass along some of what they make to those in need. Whether you knit, crochet, weave, or quilt Beth shared valuable, practical tips like:
  • use washable yarns, fabrics, and fibers. Recipients may not have ready assess to laundry facilities so "hand-wash only"--  no matter how lovely --  is not the best choice.
  •  Avoid lacy patterns or openwork. They too easily snag, trap dirt and are not warm or durable.
  • Take the opportunity to use "left-over" yarn and/or fabric. 
  • You don't have to make your piece a certain size to fit a specific person -- whatever size you make will fit someone -- so use the opportunity to learn something new -- a new weave structure, a new stitch, practice cables or colorwork.
  • Have Fun
Below are a list of links related specifically to knitting for charities. Please send me info you have about local groups who would welcome knitted/crocheted items, woven and/or quilted items (lap blankets, perhaps?). We'll make a current list of local organizations we can help. (includes patterns you should use)

In November, Judy Warren showed us how to make felted insoles to give to The Charleston Port & Seafarers Society which serves those who pass through our port city, -- can you imagine what a difference warm feet make to those who live aboard working ships?

Here is Judy's report on our November meeting:

"On Saturday, Nov. 16, the Guild's program was to perform a service project: making felted wool insoles to warm the cold feet of transient sailors who work year-round on the high seas. We started right after all other Guild business was covered and, once we got our system rolling, we worked until about 3:15 when folks needed to head home. We had already machine-felted a boat-load of 100% wool sweaters, so Saturday was the day to disassemble and then cut them up into pairs of insoles.

For over 90 minutes we worked and chatted while producing 53 pairs of X-Large, colorful, felted-wool insoles. We had decided to make them all XL - and a bit wide - to accommodate most sizes (our recipients can trim them down to their respective sizes.)

tightly felted wool insoles will make a sailor's work boots noticeably warmer.
The group we're donating these to is the Charleston Port and Seafarers' Society here in Charleston. The Director, Rev Len Williams, seemed very pleased I had called, and estimated that 30 pairs should take care of an average ship's crew.... so I intend to have a few more made (between me and the rest of the group) before Thanksgiving so they'll receive at least 60 ... hopefully for two ships' worth.

Sincere thanks go out to the 15-plus members who participated that day!"

These were 2 great programs to close out our year -- and a great project for us. We'll have more information on this topic early in the year. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Walterboro Fiber Fair -- A Great Success

Dear Guild Members,

Thank you to all who supported our effort at the Walterboro Fiber Festival! That includes people who drove a good distance to drop in and check it out. It was a wonderful day. We made a great showing and got to know fiber folk from other areas.

The mission statement of our guild of educating the community to appreciate the fiber arts was very well carried out. In addition, it turned out to be a great way to celebrate Spinning and Weaving Week which fell Oct. 7 - 13 this year.

Our display table looked great and the demonstration areas were busy. We represented lace-making, felting, spindle and wheel spinning, table, rigid heddle, triangle, and floor weaving, needle work and loom knitting, dyeing, and tools (Dale's lovely wooden yarn bowls and spindles). WOW!

One visitor told me she had a "wonderful time, everyone was so warm and welcoming". She was speaking specifically about our Guild! Our diversity is part of our strength!

And indeed, the Walterboro Fiber Fair turned out to be a great event and a great match for all that our Guild is interested in and has to offer. Coordinated by the Colleton County Museum and Farmer's Market, the event combined the regular Saturday Farmer's Market with crafter's booths, fiber animal farmers, all manner of fiber arts demonstrations, fleece, roving, and lovely pieces made from handspun fibers.

Lovely hand spun yarns from a Colleton County farm.
Four or five local farms were represented where sheep, alpacas and/or rabbits are raised for their fiber. The bunnies were the only ones who got to attend this fair.
Mostly alpaca hand spun.
Hand knits from hand spun alpaca.
All the yummy fleece and yarn and handmade pieces co-mingled happily with local Colleton County Farmer's Market produce, which was equally beautiful.
Kelly & Dale Fort and Kayleigh Osborne keep pushing Pluff Mudd Fiber to the next level. Their product mix now includes, handspun art yarn, felted ornaments, knitted and woven goods, hand turned spindles and yarn bowls and hammered metal jewelry. Their tag line says it all "Tapped, Tatted, Twisted & Turned Art". Find them on Facebook.
As we moved into the demonstration shed to take some pictures, Sandy and Michaela were delighted to see Wendy Kohler, formerly very active with our Guild. We know Wendy to be a talented weaver and knitter. Here, she was trying out basketry. She promised to be back around to see us soon!

Palmetto Fiber Arts Guild members were out in force, demonstrating what we know how to do and giving others a chance to try new things. Cindy and Kathy were busy all day introducing visitors to their rigid heddle looms.
Ron Kimzey even wanted to take the rigid heddle for a test drive.
Here, Barbara shows a fiber fair visitor how bobbin lace is made.
Maria Luisa demonstrated a continuous strand technique on her triangle loom. She was putting the finishing touches on this shawl as the day came to an end.

Kayleigh taught a class on needle felting where participants made fall pumpkins!
This young man was interested in the spinning wheel so Peggy gave him a quick demo.
Kelly encourages a new spinner.
Palmetto Fiber Arts Guild members got to see demonstrations as well as give them. This woman's daughter was one of the sheep farmers participating. While her daughter showed and sold fleece and wool, she patiently spun most of the day.
And just one more picture from our good day at the Walterboro Fiber Fair -- Dale's lovely drop spindles, each signed, dated, numbered, and labeled as to the wood. And each comes with a starter bag of fleece!

Kudus to the folks in Waterboro who planned and coordinated this event (including Palmetto Fiber Arts Guild members, Susan and Ted Chewning). They said they were afraid they were in trouble when they realized some people thought a fiber fair was going to feature dietary supplements. (Yikes!)

The day was well attended and the mashup of a great location, fiber artists selling and demonstrating, farmer's market produce, local animal farmers, food vendors, and beautiful fall weather created a good vibe for everyone.

At the SC Artisan Center, just one building over from the Museum and Farmers Market, there was even more going on -- a juried art show and more featuring traditional fiber arts. This first time event has great potential for annual repeat performances and offers our Guild the opportunity to connect with the public and with fiber animal farmers. If they let us, we'll definitely be there next year!