I’ve been spending a lot of thought on this essay all week, but I procrastinated on actually writing out my lists. I think this is something that I’ll need to come back to in the coming weeks. I’ve recently shifted my focus somewhat due to various reasons, which has caused me to feel a little scattered. It’s not that I’ve moved on, or moved to something brand new, but that I’m spending time flexing this muscle for a while rather than that one.
Thus when I had written out my list of skills, and reviewed them to see which I’d leave behind when I got stranded on that desert island, I felt protective of all of them. They are all my children, and I love them all, or I wouldn’t have pursued them. There are skills that I hadn’t used for decades which I’ve pulled out of the chest, dusted off, and put into practice. I don’t love them any the less for having put them on hold. Granted, exercising skills is the best (only?) way to improve them and may be the surest road to perfection, but for many of my skills, I am okay with competency.
If I had unlimited time, it’s very likely I would pursue perfection in a few select skills. When I reach retirement, I hope to do more of that, but for now there are some purely practical things I want to do with my available time (right now it’s sewing tiny garments for a granddaughter who will be arriving in January). I have spent some concentrated periods of time pursuing various other skills, which I’ll share for Part Two of this week’s assignment.
One of my completed pieces that most satisfies me in terms of alignment is a jakima, a narrow band woven on a backstrap loom, from wool that I prepped by hand, spun on traditional Peruvian spindles, dyed using natural dyes, and plied from the skein, using a spindle, in the traditional manner. First off, I love the simplicity of the traditional Andean textile processes - they involve the simplest of tools, and use materials that are found out and about in the countryside. The spindles are carved by hand using local woods; the dyestuffs are from plants, insects, and minerals harvested locally; and the loom is created entirely of sticks and string. If one were dropped into the Andean mountains with just a pocket knife (and perhaps a kettle for dyeing), one could ostensibly create these textiles with found materials.
The pattern I used for this band is very simple; it’s one of the few most basic patterns that young weavers learn when they first begin weaving. It’s called maya kenko, or crooked river. Though simple, it’s a pattern that I find pleasing to the eye. The backstrap technique that I used is called a complementary warp technique, where the warp pairs for the patterned section are done in contrasting colors. The colors on one side are reversed when it’s turned over. The outside warp threads use two threads of the same color for each pair,so it’s the same on both sides.
I love the subtle variation in shades of the blues/greens on the outside of the band - these were done using yarns dyed in various shades of yellow, and over dyeing with indigo. The pattern threads were dyed with walnut (the light brown), and cochineal for the red. I like the contrast, and I like the way that the blue background sets off the red of the pattern.
What pleases me the least about this piece is that the selvage is so uneven. I’d practiced quite a bit on narrower bands, which are easier to weave off evenly, but because of the wider width of this band, I found it more difficult to be consistent. This is the kind of thing that I would be willing to spend a great deal of time on to aim for perfection, and the only way to approach that is to keep doing it over and over again. I’ve temporarily set aside my backstrap weaving (though I still have some work in progress), but I will get back to it, and will continue practicing until I either learn to make consistent selvages or become too old to weave at all.