Textile Conservation & Further Thoughts

March 2015 157-tile Yesterday I was invited to an event at Glasgow University's Centre for Textile Conservation and Technical Art History. Not only did this mean I got to meet students and see the objects they were working on, but I also learned about the science behind what we see in museums and private collections. Some things were familiar to me (like dye pots!) and then I ran into a Ph.D. student who showed me a fantastically complicated machine that extracted chemical profiles from 17th century China textiles. The Centre had only invited people working with textiles one way or another, and I found it hugely invigorating to see the multiple ways we can approach textiles (it's been a very good week for that!). If I had not been absolutely shattered, I would have stayed much, much longer.

But I have been very shattered this weekend thanks to a very hectic weekend. EYF has rippled into this week with plenty of emails and a lot of follow-ups - I am still trying to get to grips with those, apologies. I have also been curled up in my favourite arm chair thinking about stuff. I spent the past weekend in the company of some rather incredible people. The Edinburgh Yarn Festival was home to a lot of strong, bold and interesting people with Thoughts and Ideas. I came away encouraged by the positivity, the warm support, and the ingenuity of the people I met. I spoke with some very smart people who gave me plenty food for thought. I was surrounded by people who did not fit into society's preconceived ideas of what we should think, believe or do - and I feel so encouraged to see people questioning all the big narratives surrounding gender, fashion, consumerism, and technology.

These past few days I have been thinking a lot about the Thing-ness of Things, too. What materiality means and how the physical nature of Things impact our perception of them. A weighty tome. That yarn has a nice handle. I have a favourite knitting needle that 'sits right' in my hand as I work with it. I will need to think more about these Things and start figuring out what the Thing-ness of Things mean when it comes to my work. Maybe when my brain is back to full speed.

Plans for the rest of the week: tomorrow I'm releasing the very last instalment in the Old Maiden Aunt/Karie Westermann sock club (this last sock pattern happens to be my favourite..) and Saturday I am teaching Continental Knitting at Glasgow's The Queen of Purls, so do pop along to that one!

Blocking Shawls - Experiment no. 1

A cautionary tale ahead. Sometime ago I had a run-in with some Danish knitters. They were asking questions on how to block a shawl and I replied with my usual answer (I include a longer version with all my lace shawl patterns, by the way):

Weave in the ends of your shawl, but do not trim off the ends. Then soak your shawl in lukewarm water for 15 minutes rinsing it gently afterwards. Wrap your shawl in a spare towel to blot out as much water as possible. Do not wring your shawl. Pin it out and leave it to dry for a few days. Unpin, weave in ends, then wear with love and pride.

I was told in no uncertain terms by a series of people that I was wrong. Instead of soaking shawls in lukewarm water and then patting them dry, I should put them into the washing machine to spin them before pinning them out. I don't mind being told that I am wrong, but this advice ran so counter to logic that I decided to experiment a bit.

In the name of knitting science I grabbed my Mosswell, my version of Elizabeth Freeman's fabulous Aeolian Shawl from Knitty, and I put it in my washing machine. I chose the absolutely lowest setting possible on my machine and the absolutely gentlest spinning cycle - and then I hoped for the best.

This was Mosswell before my experiment:

This is Mosswell now:

No, the photo is not blurry. My shawl felted quite dramatically and is now roughly the size of a bib.

So, what went wrong? I shall stick to my guns and say: "the washing machine is what went wrong". Unless you have a really state-of-the art washing machine (perhaps?), I would stick to soaking your shawl in the sink/tub and patting it dry with a towel. You have much greater control over the process than if you were to just stick it in a washing machine and hope for the best.

Also, if you have spent 2 weeks to 6 months on knitting a shawl, why not spend another 20 minutes (of which 15 minutes is the shawl soaking and you drinking coffee) on preparing it for blocking?

Have you any experiences with blocking that you would like to share? Leave a comment - I'd love to hear from you!

In Kansas City With My Favourite Tattoo

norwaylightsOn Tuesday, northern Norway experienced a strange light show. No, the photo you see on your left is not a Photoshopped image. It is the real deal. But what caused this bizarre phenomenon? Bad Astronomy can tell you (incidentally, if you are not following the Bad Astronomy blog, do so! It is great). All that aside, my first reaction was: "Oh my giddy aunt, northern Norway? Philip Pullman got it right!" This reaction was quickly followed by: "Northern Norway? Wonder if there is a Bad Wolf Bay close by..? Oh no, not Rose again?!" And then I realised that maybe I am a bit of a geek after all..

Speaking of which, we watched Duncan Jones' Moon the other night. I enjoyed it, although it did not move me (but I do not think the film intended to move me and I appreciate that). A man stuck on a lunar mining base with a three-year contract about to run out, a robot to keep him company and an unreliable video link to Earth. Space is not a brilliant, adventurous place. It is lonely, cold and remote and it forces people to address questions about human identity, the frailty of memory, and the relationships between Man and Machine. Maybe this sounds dry, but Moon is a good film. Recommended.

And the other side of my geekiness: literature. This photoblog of literary tattoos has me wishing I wasn't so scared of needles, because, seriously, there are some really amazing tats there. One of my favourite songs of this past decade (and just maybe of all-time) is about a literary tattoo: The Lucksmiths' "Fiction"(youtube link)

Oh, and the new Drops Summer Collection has just been unveiled. Voting decides which ones will be given full translation priority, but I just enjoy looking at the patterns. A few look interesting, but, really I'm not that bowled over. Perhaps it's because it's not even Christmas yet and they are talking about summer designs?!

Those Who Cannot Remember the Past..

.. are condemned to repeat it. Or, in other words, try reading this news article about Switzerland banning minarets, replace the words "minaret" with "synagogue" and "Muslim" with "Jewish" and then ask yourself what it reminds you of? A simple semantic trick, but a very useful one.

Meanwhile, I have become slightly addicted to Galaxy Zoo. When Earth becomes a bit too much, it's nice to disappear into space. Literally.


"My understanding of zombie biology is that if you manage to decapitate a zombie then it's dead forever. So perhaps they are being a little over-pessimistic when they conclude that zombies might take over a city in three or four days" - Professor Neil Ferguson, Imperial College London

Science ponders "Zombie attacks" (BBC). It sounds wacky but apparently it can help scientists understanding virus pandemics. I knew my good friend M. (an international expert on infectious diseases) would eventually come up with a really good explanation for his zombie film collection.

A Beautiful Day

It's going to be a beautiful day so the bluebirds sing. I have booked myself a short, but much-needed flight home to Denmark in May. I need to spend time with the Danish part of myself, I have decided. Going back is always odd because it invariably ends up being a long series of meet-ups with everybody I have ever known in Denmark. I cannot remember the last time I spent a few hours in Copenhagen just, you know, hanging out with myself. I am not complaining. It just feels strange after having spent fifteen years in Copenhagen and suddenly the way I engage with my city is transformed. I think this is something most expats experience.

Linkage, then:

+ When I read "Glasgow Artist Restores Lost Mural" on the BBC website, I knew exactly who and what they were talking about. Wooh! + Cover Versions: "Classic records lost in time and format, remerged as Pelican books." + Speaking of which .. Pelican paperbacks. I used to own a lot of them. + Art-House Book Trailers. Just as vile as the name suggests. + CraftGawker. Look, be inspired, create. + This Is Not A Riot: An effective, non-violent response to riot police. (I miss going to demonstrations) + The Fall of the Spanish Hapsburgs, or why marrying your first cousin is a bad, bad idea. See also this pictorial guide to the Spanish Hapsburgs. Ouch. + As seen everywhere on the web: Uncomfortable plot summaries. To wit: "Groundhog Day: Misanthropic creep exploits space/time anomaly to stalk coworker." + And as seen on John's blog: "Over the weekend, sharp-eyed Cassini-watchers on noticed a series of way-cool photos on the mission's raw images website." Mindblowingly cool photos.

I finished reading The Time-Traveller's Wife. It was rather "girly". I have also begun yet another knitting project: Geno in duck's-egg-blue milk-cotton. It's rather lovely and very summery.