Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wool Gathering

Last week I visited my local crafts store to buy materials for the scarves I plan to sell this fall market season.  To anyone who has worked with fibers, fabrics, papers, beads, buttons and other oddments, from the casual crafter to the expert textile artist, stores like this are the equivalent of letting a mouse run free in a cheese shop!  Windsor Buttons in Boston has every yarn in every imaginable color, texture and animal of origin, including my favorite, alpaca. These creatures, whom I had the opportunity to care for and train as a volunteer on a working farm five years ago, have personalities as deep and rich as the fiber they produce!  Windsor Buttons not only has a huge selection of alpaca yarns, but also all the trimmings and equipment to make something marvelous out of them. There is no such thing as leaving there without a large sack full of the makings of things I didn’t even know I was going to be making! I try to be disciplined, but… 

Before I left to indulge my addiction, Brian asked me “is it like buying paint?” and I said “yes! exactly!” though up until that moment I hadn’t made the connection, not only that painters must experience this same kid-in-the-candystore feeling of endless possibility and ravenous hunger in an art supply shop, but also, that when it comes to selecting and using yarn, I’m like a painter choosing colors. It is always a combination of what I have in mind, plus what’s available, plus my surroundings feeding ideas subliminally into my thoughts, plus how the colors themselves eventually sit next to each other and tell me what goes with what.

Not surprisingly, I’m greatly influenced by painters when I conceive patterns for my scarves.  I have always been intrigued and inspired by masters like Mark Rothko above and Clyfford Still below who possessed such an amazing grasp of how colors behave alongside each other, how every pairing will be different, that just as it is with different people bringing out different qualities in each other, red with black is not the same as that same red next to white or maroon or yellow.

I didn’t realize until I’d finished this most recent scarf that it was a direct borrowing of Still’s primary palette of colors and vertical thrust. I now want to do a piece that will even more directly follow his jagged lines and shapes, or a Rothko tribute that blends the color transitions with more painterly smoothness. This won’t be easy using a traditional crochet stitch, but where’s the fun in doing something familiar, expected or easy? 

Half the yarns I bought last week were suggested by some gorgeous blue and purple beads I bought 5 years ago that were getting tired of waiting to be useful, so I selected colors that would help fulfill their long-delayed purpose.  Perhaps they will be the materials for the more subtle Rothko style I’m envisioning. The other half was thanks to a last minute suggestion made by some brickwork I passed on my way to the train -- the salmon pink, light terracotta, brown and beige mortar looked stunning in the full noontime sun!  And while I don’t usually work in such pale or earthy colors and had no plans for a piece that would employ this palette or design…how could I resist the command of such a lovely brick wall? So, here are the beginnings of possibly the first brick facade built entirely out of crocheted alpaca fiber!

And speaking of things that aren’t easy, in only four days, Brian and I will be participating in the SoWa Market in Boston for our first of 5 Sundays scheduled through the end of October. My next post will be a review of how it all went!  And more documentation of my progress as a fiber mason! Enjoy the rest of your week and weekend, all, and as ever, thanks for stopping by!


  1. This is SO COOL! I loved Windsor Button as a kid. That's where my mom got all my hair ribbons (we were there all the time).

    Those scarves are beautiful. I had no idea you did that.

    Also, any photo of alpacas makes me giddy.

  2. So it took the memory of hair ribbons to get you to comment, eh? I'll bet they matched your outfits too! (pause for sympathetic girlie childhood shudder). I'm glad you like the scarves. Fred caught me working on one up at VC one semester and made the same remark! Yeh, alpaca photos do the same to me, that's why I posted two. I may yet add another...can't have too much giddy.

  3. That must have been great fun buying that yarn! It is quite the same experience, I'm sure, as buying paint or handmade paper or any other art supply. Deliciousness...all that color and texture! Love your scarves next to the paintings! And those dear alpacas...they're just too much delightful fun! Hope things go really well for you guys at the market!!!

  4. Thanks for the well wishes, Patti! I'll try to get some pictures Sunday of our setup in the tent, but hopefully I will be way too busy making sales to record the market experience! If all goes well, this might be our main gig next year and beyond, for the full 6 months May-Oct that the market is open for weekend business! Looking forward to learning the ropes...

  5. i cannot wait to see what you create! i recently bought some varigated yarn with the intention of making some missmatched socks which seem to be so popular right now. the 3 skeins are still in the bag, but i did put the needles in with them. short of magic, i will have to get to work soon if i want to wear them this season.

  6. I can't wait either! I'm sure these various projects will evolve and to a certain degree take on lives of their own...or at least I hope they will end up defying and surprising me in a good way! Now, go open that bag and get to work on those socks!

  7. I have also no idea you do it.. super now I like you even more!

  8. Laura - your comment makes my day! Many thanks, my dear!

  9. Wishing you fun and succes at the market,looks like you are making lovely scarfs.Playing with colours can be so relaxing.

  10. I appreciate your good wishes, Renilde! The key word here is "play" -- sometimes we have to give in to the child in us that can delight in simple things, and remember to have fun with what we do!

  11. the relation you've done here with art is really cool.
    and the alpacas ( that i call all lhamas ) are really cool on these photos.
    i liked the bricks idea.
    I think it must to be more exiting buying textiles than painting... i have for the last 11 years bought the same colors of the same brand .... and the worse part is that i am very proud of being extremely conservative about materials . hahah! even so i am considered a reabel as the purists say : "ohhh acrylic isn't a serius paint" . hahah!
    Come on !! aren't alpacas really cool animals ? I like their faces , and now you told they have strog personalitys i like even more .

  12. I do have fun buying luxurious yarns, yes, but I still believe it isn't the quality of materials used but the quality of the artist using them that really counts. Everybody loves my alpaca photos - enough already with all this talk about art, maybe I should just do a post with nothing but adorable animal pictures!

  13. The yarn actually got me to speak up. I'm a sucker for yarn and fabric. I remember the actual buttons at WBS too. I could look at those for hours...

  14. They really give you no choice putting them up front in rows upon rows of possibility! How to resist? No accident they keep them behind the counter. I'd have my hands in every little box/drawer otherwise! Guess it's the magpie in me..

  15. Your chosen colors for the scarves are matching.
    So I wish you and Brian as well a great success
    at the market!
    Hug you..

  16. Hey Gabriella,
    Thanks for visiting me and for sharing this with us.
    I make my own scarfs, but you make real art with them. Waw!
    Lovely images too.

    Warm hugs!

  17. Monika - thanks for your wishes! We have been working very hard for the market and now it's time for the hard work to pay off! Hugs to you too.

    Crissant - your comments mean so much to me! I am trying to move more and more in the direction of art with my scarf creations, so I'm glad to hear you say this! Thanks for stopping by.

  18. Hi Gabriella,
    when i read about the candystore feeling i smiled, because that's indeed how i feel in an art supply shop or in a paper shop as well.
    Your scarfs are so cool! And like Caio i love the connection with art a lot. They're so unique and different. They're art itself. I'll buy me a wonderful scarf of you some day for sure.
    Great photo's as well and the lhama's are adorable.
    Have a great weekend and i wish you and Brian lots of succes at the SoWa!

    Sweet greets and xoxo for you.

  19. Yes like a mouse in a cheese shop indeed. There are times when you just have to throw all caution to the wind and follow your dreams and heart. The earthy tones, and incredibly soft alpaca fibres are just superb gabriella.

    The inspiration from the brick wall, the many artists colour studies, and those beautiful scarves, how could your market be anything but a raging success.


  20. Glad to see you here, sweet one! I can see you are catching up on posts and I'm glad you made a visit to me on your rounds! The more I hang out with you painters, the more I start thinking like one! I think my scarves will be becoming more and more connected with art sources...perhaps one day I will crochet a Momo Luna design!

  21. Hi T (that previous reply was to Monica) - this first market I am only bringing photographs mounted in mats and notecards plus my poetry book. Didn't think people would be ready until maybe October to think about warm alpaca accessories! Will be back next week with a full report of how things go - but I think with so many strong women wishing me well, I'll be an unstoppable force!