Tuesday, March 25, 2008

This is all the Smithsonian's fault.

It didn't take much of a search, but I figured out where this odd urge to weave sixty million yards of silk to make my own kimono, or tapestries for the walls of my office, or overshot twill for my dining room table came from. Oh yes. I know who to blame now.

5,000 years of textiles, edited by Jennifer Harris, published by Smithsonian Books. (For those of you overseas, the Smithsonian is our many-branched national museum, and one of the few things I know of still running properly in this government. Knock on wood.) I've been reading this book for about a week, and it's wonderful.

The book starts off with a discussion of methods - spinning, weaving, tapestry, knitting, lace-making of various types. Then it heads off on a worldwide survey of everything on the planet that could possibly fall under the heading 'textiles', from European iron-age wool twill to African ikats to Indonesian batiks to Muslim carpets and Japanese silks. The head spins. I have finally faced the fact that knitting cannot copy EVERY kind of textile - so here we are at this lunatic urge to buy a loom and weave, oh, I don't know, warp-dyed ikat or a Gobelin tapestry.

I may yet get a grip and control myself with this whole weaving thing. Last thing I need around here is another hobby.

But I doubt it.

Among all the woven textiles, there is the very first close-up view of the silk knitted jackets thought to have been produced in Italy during the 1500s. With my nose pushed up against the page (couldn't find the magnifying glass - the Goober's been playing with it), I'm about 90% sure the stitches were twisted. The color knitting methods make me suspect it was knit on a frame or rake... anyone out there who does frame knitting, is it easier to make twisted stitches, than regular?

Oh, and add that to the list of stuff I want to knit: a copy of those jackets. Like this one.

And, holy crap, the Cooper-Hewitt (the textiles branch of the Smithsonian) has an on-line store.

I'm writing a complaint letter. I swear it. My hand is killing me, so I'm trying to take a break from the knitting and spinning, so I sit down to read a book, and see all this fantastic stuff I want to knit, and... and... and...

A very strongly worded complaint letter. How dare they inspire me and make me want to learn? What do they think they're doing? Their jobs??!!?


Donna Lee said...

I love the jacket. And I love the Smithsonian. We are planning a trip to the Air and Space museum and of course will take in the American History part. I want to see Julia Child's kitchen which I heard is set up there. Thank God they are so inspiring. What we do without them.

Ginger_nut said...

Is there any mention of hemp in the book? I have heard that all mention of Hemp being a major crop and early handy fibre had been erased from US History (and in particular the Smithsonian and Textile Museum) due to its association with marijuana. Of course, the banning of hemp in the US had nothing to do with drugs, and everything to do with Dupont wanting to get rid of a strong competitor to nylon... (Apparently the politicians voting to ban marijuana had absolutely no idea that it was the same sub-species as hemp...)

So..to hemp or not to hemp???

Anonymous said...

yeah, if not for political stu- and cu- pidity, there could be u.s.-grown-and-spun hemp yarn. instead, we have to import it. just another small weight on the wrong side of the balance of payments. since i'm trying to shop as locally as possible, my son won't be getting a hemp sweater he covets anytime soon.

given the many stupid decisions by the good ol' boys who dominate politics, and the recent exposes of their sexual indiscretions, i am reminded of the saying about the male blood supply being insufficient to power two crucial bodily parts simultaneously, one of them being the brain.

-- ellen in indy

Amy Lane said...

That jacket is amazing! But maybe give your hand a rest and stick to the inspiration for little while longer? That sistine chapel of fiber-dom is just waiting to bake inyour amazing brain, I can feel it!

Alwen said...

The Smithsonian was just in the news because of its various troubles. I hope G. Wayne Clough can straighten them out better than Larry Small.

Anyway, frame knitting. Yeah, one of the first things people usually make on those round Knifty Knitters is an "e-wrap" hat. It's called e-wrap because it loops like a cursive letter e.

In needle knitting, it's a twisted stitch, but on the frame, it's the easiest way to wrap and lift over.

Rachel H said...

A complaint letter to people who put things in front of you that make you want to learn and do and try? Excellent idea.

Please send an address forthwith so I know where the one I'm writing to You can be delivered.

historicstitcher said...

I've been dreaming of knitting that jacket for over 10 years.

Along with several other artifact knit garments.

I've already sewn all the garments I wanted to sew, time to hit all the garments I want to knit.