ritual


mamanSeeing Louise Bourgeois’ mother-spider on the banks of the Thames put me in a right webby mood.

I used to be terrified of spiders. Most people have a mild phobia but mine was paralyzing, sometimes literally. I would have nightmares about them and wake up screaming.

And then one day I was sleeping in an old apartment in Vienna and I was bitten. The bite was a spreading necrosis– truly awful. I got medical care in Austria which saved my leg and perhaps my life. It was only when I got back to America and had the wound cared for again that I was told it was most likely a brown recluse that had hidden in the suitcase of a past traveler.

Strangely, after that I no longer had the nightmares about spiders. I could not only be in the same room with them, but I also became fascinated with them. They were not so alien after all, but a part of me.

knitted spiderBarbara Walker has written many books on women’s myths and mysteries and fairy tales. I had no idea she had also written books on knitting. Most seem out of print or unavailable in the UK. Someone on ravelry tipped me off to this charted spider of twisted stitches from Charted Knitting Designs: A 3rd Treasury. I looked in vain for an affordable copy of the book from a UK seller and then I started asking around.

From the Walker book:

Here’s Arachne herself, the great-grandmother of all the world’s spinners and weavers, and still one of the best among them. Who of us can match her skill?

What’s that? You don’t think she is very pretty? Well, never mind. The pattern techniques to make her in yarn (as well as all her busy, real-life children in your garden) have much to teach you.

I plan to knit her as part of my Samhain meditations.

Guess who had the book and shared this pattern with me? My mother.

It’s warm in London, but I’m still thinking about scarves. This one is particularly lovely (gleaned from Elle). I have some jumbo buttons I bought at Fabrications. Originally I was thinking they should go on a bulky cardi, but now I’m thinking scarf…

Another scarf gleaned from Elle. From a Max Mara ad. I’m wondering if the feathers have been inserted just for the photoshoot. I would never use feathers in my knitting, unless I gleaned them from the forest floor or something. Even then, I’m allergic. But I still love the way feathers look on garments, even if it troubles me how they got there. This scarf reminds me of a witch’s ladder I saw in the Pitt Rivers musuem– a rope stuck with feathers found in the attic of an old woman. It was said to aid in the stealing of milk and the cursing of enemies. I could use a scarf that stole (soy) milk and cursed a few people, yeah.

Gautier jumper gleaned from Elle. I’m intrigued by the panel insert here. And it’s of ingenious design– lovely and feral-goth-fey. I think I will have to knit something like it. It has a similar feel to the apocalypse blouse I knit for one of Edith Abeyta’s shows. I also like the use of angora at the sleeves and hip. I have some white angora which I don’t know what to do with. I think this cuts the potential “snow kitten” vibe rather well, especially with the asymmetry– the angora is on only one cuff. I mean, you either have to embrace the snow kitten and knit a fuzzy bikini or you have to subvert it.

I also like how this sweater is knit from the top down, with raglan increases in a tighter gauge on smaller needles (or maybe it’s also a different yarn) and then it’s picked up right over the bust and at the sleeves on bigger needles.. Or perhaps the inset is knit around, and the stitches are calculated based on the bust measurement, and knit as one big center-puckered circle which is seamed up the back. It looks like there might be a purl ridge right there before the switch. What a great idea. I am taking notes.

Me knitting at Avebury, originally uploaded by velvetdahlia.

It was my birthday so we went to Avebury, my “home” here. I found one of the stones in the far circle which had a “seat” in it and well, started knitting– not unlike the myriad spiders who spin in the crevices of the stones.

kiki Smith Spinster, originally uploaded by velvetdahlia.

I love this print by Kiki Smith.

It captures the secret fiber ritual…the intimacy of craft, and the real reason why I knit– It keeps me threaded to the yarns, the stories of countless women who’ve come before me. Stitches can be rhythmic, sacred things.