Happy Friday! Our fingers have been busy over here, and not just with blogging. Half of Fiber Archive’s mission is to showcase inspirational projects from the annals of textile history*, but the OTHER half is to put our own hands to work—to re-make those historical objects into inspired new pieces.
In that spirit, we will follow up many of our History Project entries with DIY projects of our own making—some, from original designs; others, based on existing patterns that we think capture the essence of the historical object. So, with a couple of History Project posts under our belt now, it’s a good time for a check-in of sorts, a little sneak peek at two of the history-inspired projects currently underway.
The first WIP [work in progress] is a petit-point upholstery piece inspired by the Toklas X Picasso Petit-Point Chairs from a few weeks ago. The collaboration between Alice B. Toklas and Pablo Picasso (facilitated by Toklas’s partner, author Gertrude Stein) brought up questions of creativity, originality, “art” versus “craft,” and the slow, repetitive nature of domestic handicraft. Thinking about all of these issues, I enlisted my friend Leah Cover to play the role of Picasso to my Toklas. We discussed palette and motif options, and then she drew her whimsical take onto mesh embroidery cloth (Isn’t it gorgeous? Thank you, Leah!)
I bought thread in the corresponding colors and set to work…
That was two months ago! It is an even slower, more tedious process than I had imagined. My respect for Toklas grows with every stitch—that woman had PATIENCE (and, you know, no Netflix to steal half of her attention). Anyway, the needlework is finally almost complete. There is still one more step in the process, though: another collaboration, this time with my woodworking husband.
The second WIP is a knitting project: Dianna Walla’s Aspen Socks (the Leg Warmer version), as foretold by our Brief History of Long Underwear post. The Aspen pattern motivated me to look into the history of wool undergarments in the first place, and it turned out it was a doozy. Pseudoscience! Camel hair! Women’s rights! Rationality! So by the time I cast on for my leg warmers, I could say I was participating in a long history that dates back at least to the overlapping narratives of Dr. Jaeger’s natural-fiber cure-all and the Rational Dress Society’s call for social liberation. And that’s not to mention the rich Scandinavian history of Walla’s chosen stitch motifs.
I’m about one-quarter of the way finished with my Aspens (i.e., I’ve done half a leg warmer) and am at that gratifying point where I understand the pattern and method well enough that the knitting has become more meditative and less instruction-following. I am loving this knit so much now, due both to the charming motifs in the stitch pattern and to the wooly squishiness of that Snoqualmie Valley yarn. I can’t wait to finish up and slip them on (probably just in time for the warmer weather, I know.)
Ok, that’s where things stand right now. I’m looking forward to the completion of these projects and many more—along with many more doses of fiber history on the way. Thanks for reading, and stay tuned!
* And that is not necessarily the easy half, since “women’s work” rarely registers as visibly in the historical record as the feats of men do. But that’s the stuff of another conversation…