Spinning: Mother Earth Shawl

Handspun.handknitted shawl
Mother Earth Shawl

Lately all the best laid plans, for instance that one that goes I will be ultra organised, seem to have gone seriously astray. Life has taken on a very scrambled essence. To keep calm and centred I find myself drawn to a “core” crafting – spinning.

The rythmn of the wheel is sustaining and imbues one with peace and also connection. Connection to nature and her raw products, connection to self and connection to ancestors. Ancestors who, so long ago in the mists of time, discovered that twisting fibres made a string or yarn, a stronger element that could be used in many ways.

I wonder who first thought of knitting and crochet.  How did it develop from a simple finger chain to the wonderful arrayof techniques and seemingly infinite number of patterns we have now? I am in awe and admire all the pattern makers and their skill.  I find it exciting and intriguing  to contemplate this link and especially to become a part, however miniscule, of this larger tapestry of life.

As the wheel turns thread forms, slipping  through fingers coiling onto the bobbin. This process gives rise to lovely imaginings. Time flies away and a space is created; a dreaming place, a resting place , a place of peace and creativity. For this space is a sanctuary far removed from the frenzy and chaos that reigns without.

Calmness is necessary, essential and so the thread forms made in peace and pure joy. It is made with care and love. The world outside seems rather to use the emotions of fear, panic, greed and jealousy as motivation. This must impact so deeply on our psyche and the planet.

Yes, lately we have had our health dramas that, should we go into panic mode and be “realistic”, could make life rather bleak and terrifying, but rather I spin and make a pact for health and life and recovery.

Spinning the roving was not altogether an easy task. It was left over from my desertscapes and beginning to get sticky and dry. It needed to be used and also to be gently teased.  Slow and steady, it gave beautifully and became a finer yarn than anticipated.

Once the roving is all gone  plump balls of knobbly, earth coloured yarn are waiting. This is the exciting part – a project needs to be chosen. For a time  a dilemma. It has to be something simple.

My first attempts at spinning were decades ago- literally. Three actually. Then a beanie or two resulted. A scarf comes to mind or a beanie.  Again? No, it has to be something special and significant. A shawl perhaps.  

In the mind it is simple and has a texture. It has to be a reminder and maintain that connection to nature and tradition and it has to provide comfort and reassurance. A shawl it must be.

An internet tour became necessary. Firstly to find some information about using handspun yarns. Immediately a new piece of knitting knowledge came up – how to gauge needle size for handspun yarns, (lost the link sadly but it is out there). Probably it is common knowledge, maybe I forgot but it certainly helped and worked. For those of you who like me are clueless, it is so simple- just double your yarn and place a needle over the width of the doubled yarn. This will give an estimation of the needle size required. Try a tension swatch then and go up or down in size accordingly. It worked well for me- first go .

Next a search for pattern. I wanted to make something that was simple, and preferably did not need specific tension or lot of concentration . The inspiration for this I found at this wondeful site- http://www.cosmicpluto.com/blog/simple-yet-effective-shawl. The picture popped as it was so close to what I had in mind. Instead of changing the width of the garter bands my version kept to alternating eight rows each of garter and stocking stitch, making increases of yarn overs at the edges and either side of the centre stitch every alternate row. The shawl grows from the neck down. I loved the way that the garter stitch became mitred stripes.

No tension swatch required, just a tally ho and into it. The shawl was begun shortly before  Brian had his heart attack so it was a good project to have to fill in long hours at the hospital and sleepless nights at home. The project  kept hands and mind busy and did not require a lot of concentration. Rather it was a simple rhythmic and calming activity, extremely therapeutic.

There was no real plan other than to knit up the wool. That determined size which turned out to be just right- a little Goldilocks effect in play. To finish a row of crab stitch was crocheted along the top edge. Crab stitch is double crochet  backwards (single crochet in U.S terminology) which reinforced the top edge and also gave a  more interesting finish.

I have dubbed this my Mother Earth Shawl. It reminds me of Her power and comfort, Her ability to destroy and to create and the need for the dark and light in life for wholeness and balance.

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