I’ve been an avid knitter for about 10 years. My grandmother introduced me to knitting when I was 13 years old and it was one of the greatest skills she could have taught me. Throughout the last decade I’ve picked up my needles here and there for a Christmas present or two, however in the last 3 years I have used my spare time (or my time procrastinating from my school work) to really hone in on the talent that I have. I’ve made everything from socks to sweaters to tea cozies (and way too many ‘quick’ scarves to count). My inventory of needles and yarns has grown an overwhelming amount, so much so that my mother suggested I find an apartment with an extra bedroom to house it all in! That’s why when I was given the chance to learn about finger weaving here at the museum, I knew it would be a good fit.
I started out working with Ipie Van der Veen, our in-house textile artisan. With her brilliant instruction I learned about traditional Metis finger weaving techniques and patterns and was able to put together a basic chevron style ceinture fléchée (arrowed belt) with only a few mistakes.
Though very different from knitting, I found the patterning relatively easy to pick up because of the number of hours I’ve spent deciphering knitting patterns and charts. I was proud of the work that I had done in this first attempt, though I was terrified to show it off. However, upon showing Ipee she gasped and exclaimed “Now that’s finger weaving!” and shook my hand. It felt nice to hear that from her. My next attempt turned out a little smoother, but the pattern took a few frustrated hours to figure out. The ‘lightning bolt’ pattern really caught my eye so I decided I would stick with it for my final piece.
I traveled to Needles in the Hay, which is located downtown on Water Street (if you’re a yarn worker such as myself and can’t get enough of the stuff, you MUST go to this store if you haven’t already. It’s a knitter’s dream!) to find some nice quality yarn. I went with shades of yellow, blue, and grey. I was beyond excited to get started, however the next step was the most tedious – measuring out my strands. Each strand is about 5 feet and there are 90 of them. Eventually I had a small curtain of soft yarn streamers, and I got to work.
I tripled up the ‘lightning bolt pattern’ and began working with all 90 strands. I was expecting the bolts to be a little thicker and was a little disappointed by the look at first. However, overtime I’ve come to really appreciate the aesthetic of my sash.
I’ve put in about 10 hours of work on my sash already and there are a couple issues with it. For one, it was tough to make my tension consistent with so many strands and a pattern involving several colour changes. One side of the sash is much tighter than the other causing it to curve, an issue I hadn’t noticed until I had already woven about 8 inches.
Another is that when working with so many strands I find that they tangle easily, making the weaving process a little tedious at times. Maybe I will learn the solution to this as I pick up on the ‘tricks of the trade’. None the less, I’m trekking on and attempting to make the best with what I have.