Sunday, March 18, 2018

Slogging Along

I began the year with a new project; to spin, weave, and sew a shirt from cotton to wear at Convergence 2018. Ambitious, but achievable, this is going to push me out of comfort zones, and allow me to finally accomplish a lifelong dream of making a shirt from scratch.
I am spinning Sally Fox's naturally colored cotton in green and brown and white. I purchased a pound of each from her years ago before I realized quite how much a lb of cotton will spin up.
As you can see, gorgeous colors of cotton and they will end up woven into a Tattersall plaid of  narrow lines of brown and green on white. I am excited for this. I have the pattern (my friend Sara recommended it).
 It is so much fun to spin and dream and think of the fabric I will be making and the next one and the next one. This fun, however, does not stick around and now I am at the point where the spinning is a slog. I still have about 2500 yards left to spin (of two ply) to reach the 8000 yards estimate I will need. The problem is, I am tired of spinning cotton and I am tired of spinning for this project. I know I will LOVE making and wearing a garment from scratch. I know the weaving will be fun because I always love seeing cloth build up on the loom. I know I am improving my cotton spinning, and spinning in general, because of the the time I am putting into this. All of those things are wonderful, but in the end, it has become work, a chore, a slog, to get through the spinning.

I think this is a good thing, however. Sometimes working through a project is not always fun, but putting in the time and the effort and pushing through when it gets difficult is what makes a project valuable. It will take me at least 100 hours to spin and ply the yarn for this shirt, and that surprised me. Even though, intellectually, I knew that it takes a great deal of time to make a garment I was surprised by what it FEELS like to put in that time. It makes me think of our ancestors who, until that last three centuries or so, would have had to make everything from cloth that was handspun. What a tremendous amount of time and effort went into every scrap of cloth and no wonder it was valuable, stored and displayed as wealth, carefully mended and patched and cut down and refitted and recycled and used until literally it fell apart or rotted. It is a valuable reminder to me, in this world of disposable fashion and cheap clothing, to step back and remind myself that while there may not be as many hours of work in a garment, there is still the work of people who are most likely being exploited, the resources that went into processing the fiber and dyeing it and transporting around the world the various parts that make up a garment. Textiles are so easy to take for granted, but the slog reminds me that they take work and resources.

4 comments:

Charlene Schurch said...

Beautiful yarn. I admire your challenge for yourself and will enjoy seeing your process.

fibergal said...

Wonderful yarns and a great plan. You have my deep admiration.

Meg Caulmare said...

Good morning, Devin. I haven't checked your blog in a while and I LOVE this entry. Everything you describe about your excitement at one end of the scale to the slog at the other end, and your observations about how precious and important hand-made textiles (ANYTHING hand made!) are illustrate for us all what it's like to take on something new, to learn something, and to remain focused enough to finish it. When I'm tired in a long spinning project, I opt for audio books. It feels a little easier to keep spinning with P. D. James or Jane Austen speaking to me (I know, my tastes are, um, "eclectic"), or the story of the race for the south pole is unfolding. It doesn't distract me as much as music, which affects my treadling rate, and I can still concentrate on the yarn while hearing the story. This project is going to be even more successful than your beautiful Jacob blanket. Really enjoy the blog and your articles in Spin Off. Keep up the good work.

Devin Helmen said...

Thank you!! Audiobooks are a lifesaver and i often will listen to the Amelia Peabody mysteries, about a late victorian lady egyptologist and hysterically funny at points!