Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Resolving to Progress

One of my Resolutions for 2011 is to do more needlework. It’s easy for me to forget, while in the throes of creating a plausible murder mystery, that one reason these books are popular is that almost every character in the books does needlework, and so a discussion of needlework is necessary – perhaps including some helpful hints.

In aid of that I have taken out my knitting needles and am re-learning how to do the plaited basket weave stitch. I thought I was doing all right, but if you take a close look at the photograph of my meager progress (I had to start over three times!), you can see that things are not going well on the left side of the pattern. Maybe it’s a tension problem; I’m going to try stretching the knitted yarn to see if things even out. . . . . . . . . .

Yes, that was the problem. It looks better now.

I also finally finished the Romanian point lace butterfly, a Christmas gift to a very good friend. She does marvelous beadwork, I actually had to ask her to come over and show me how to insert the tiny beads into the loops of the piece. It turned out I almost had it right, but again, I learn better by watching someone do it rather than by reading the instructions.

I think I’ll also get out one of my unfinished projects, counted cross stitch or needlepoint, and try to make some progress on it.

Meanwhile, I’m learning how to dye wool yarn. Well, actually, I’ve got permission to watch someone else dye wool yarn. There is a wonderful woman over at our Science Museum in Saint Paul who can not only dye wool, she can spin it as well. So far, to me the most amazing dye is indigo. When you first pull the yarn from the pot of dye, it is an attractive shade of green. Then right in front of your eyes, it interacts with the air and turns blue-jeans blue. This woman can also card wool, weave yarns into fabric, and sew. She can literally go from raw wool to finished plaid skirt, all by herself. She gave me some cochineal dye to play with, in case I want to try turning some white wool a bright red. Cochineal is composed of insect bodies. It was used first in Mexico, and the British used it in the eighteenth century for their army uniforms – that’s why they were called “redcoats.” Cochineal was the first dye that made a real, colorfast red. It was very expensive and the British elected to use it in huge quantities for their soldiers’ unforms as a way of showing the world how rich their kingdom was. It’s still an expensive dye, but aniline (chemical) dyes have replaced it, and most other natural dyes.

I love doing research!


Julie said...

That butterfly is beautiful! Is the pattern out there somewhere? Also instructions for the basketweave stitch. I have scarves to make, and that's lovely!
Take lots of pictures of the dyeing, ok? I'm sure we're all dying (I know, sorry) to see how it turns out.

Linda O. Johnston said...

What a wonderful goal, Monica--one that is already yielding lovely results! Doing research can be amazingly enjoyable.

Betty Hechtman said...

I love doing research, too. It is great how it can change your view of something -particularly when it is something that has been right in front of you all along.

Monica Ferris said...

Julie, go to www.sylviaslace.com to see what Sylvia Murariu has designed. She's the one who taught me the techniques at an EGA regional meeting last June.

Yes, Linda and Betty, I often think research is the best part of writing!