Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Samhain Season

Today, the world is shrouded in silence. Snow coats the trees and houses, it is a reminder that this is the season to stay inside, and reflect.

Several sources close to me have pointed out, that the ancient celts did not celebrate Samhain on just one night. Indeed, the first night of Samhain may have had many of the festivities we now associate with Halloween, but Samhain was in fact an entire lunar month. Samhain was a season.

I recently did some house cleaning and rearranging. A cleared off bookshelf now hosts a small shrine (shrines happen!) with a focus on the dead. Nearby are photos of family, both living and passed, and an old envelope with my full name on it. My paternal grandfather died before I was even a year old, but when I was born, as with the dozen grandchildren before me, he wrote me a check. It was, naturally, never cashed. It's hard for babies to get bank accounts, after all. But it serves as a reminder - He wanted me to be Prosperous. 

Just two years ago my maternal grandfather passed, in about this same season. I recall, in fact, that Thanksgiving plans were made to accommodate him, and he was unable to attend. He too was concerned about the prosperity of the family, making extensive estate plans to ensure that his wealth would benefit his children and grandchildren. Both of my grandfathers were very involved in securing a good future for their families.
My Grandfather was born a very serious looking old man.

And too, did my grandmother work tirelessly. Her concerns were more immediate. She was always baking and cooking, checking to see if people were comfortable. From Her and my mother I learned to bake  - a box still exists with box sides and handwritten cards, recipes used again and again. We have never worked ourselves up in Holiday hype in December (I'm rather a Humbug type myself) but cookie baking is a holiday standard. Recipes with old fashioned ingredients, recipes that call for "a piece of butter the size of an egg."

And so, from them I learned to invest, and I learned to be generous. I learned to plan for the future, and to be frugal. (Grandpa Popo would warn that one should only ever borrow money to buy the family's house or start a business.) And so, as a gift demands a gift, I must be concerned with their prosperity too.

Many folk around the world, Pagans and pagans alike, engage in Ancestor worship. Some are concerned very much with the memory of the dead. Others are concerned with creature comforts. I am often rather equivocal about the afterlife, I am unwilling to commit to any idea with much fervor. If I expect the summerlands of the Vanir, is that optimism? Is that a reflection of the heaven of the Abrahamics? But the cold, dark realms of the Lady Hel, is that a fearful punishment to encourage warriors? But, no matter the shape of the afterlife, if I spend time communing with my ancestors - engaging with them, then there is a realm where they must dwell. And so, as they were concerned with my wellbeing, I am concerned with theirs. I set out for them a piece of fresh baked bread, or fruit, or tea. But on Samhain eve I offered them a fine treat, popcorn and rootbeer floats, much like we had every Sunday at Gramma and Grampa's house.

Because I am now responsible for ensuring for them, all the prosperity that they worked so hard to give to me. And I wish to stand, not in their shadows, but on their shoulders.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Heimtali School Museum - Native Textiles

During our week of workshops in Estonia, we had a Field Trip to the Heimtali School Museum. It's an old parish school, similar to the one room schoolhouses of the American west. In fact, any students who lived far away would sleep in the upstairs and go home on weekends!

The school is still in use, but the classes are for students from Viljandi who are recording and conserving textiles, and for youth who are learning about Estonian culture. In a recent project, the fence posts were painted in the style of traditional mittens! (Take that, Pinterest!)
The youngsters also made these, a project to rescue a lonely glove when you've lost its mate. It's a small and simple way to teach them traditional skills and patterns.

The collection included traditional weavings - these remind me of pieces from the American southwest! Surprisingly, the stripes are created in weft, instead of warp.
Here is an entrelac crochet blanket, being held up by Anu - the museum's curator and a champion of Estonian Native textiles.
Here's an embroidered blanket with crochet borders. Anu told us that, after the collapse of the USSR, she would find these old blankets being used for dirty jobs and neglected. She said that she would go buy cheap blankets, and trade them to people she saw using them for things like placing car parts and gardening.
This one is crocheted, with embroidery on it!
Here is a pair of socks in the characteristic bright orange of the Islands. They were gotten from a young woman who was embarrassed to wear them, but they were knitted by her grandmother. She wanted to be more fashionable.

Here we have some of the traditional mittens, along with a detailed record of the pattern.
Students from the College learn to draw extremely detailed records of the collection, many of these I could have used as a knitting pattern!
Anu has written a book of patterns for stuffed animals and puppets that use Estonian patterns. She wants children to be able to recognize and name some of the many patterns that are part of their heritage! As a knitter, a stuffy is also more accessible than knitting an entire sweater on size 00 needles...
The museum included a selection of traditional farm tools, including these cards and combs. There were also a number of models of people doing traditional work and play that involved horses.

And here, in careful storage, is the meat of the collection. Knit garments from around the country and islands! Mittens, which can be traced to their origin by pattern and colors alone. Above, the mittens in black with greens and purples, are very modern takes on old patterns. The use of black/brown/grey with white and red is more common.
Here we have a pair of very simple gloves, but they have been darned and darned and darned some more! Well loved...
A baby bonnet, with a traditional "eye" on the forehead. All baby hats had such a structure to protect the infant from evil spirits and the like. Even today the custom is still common throughout the country.
And an entire dresser full of tablet and inkle woven ribbons! The patterns ranged from very old, to complex modern styles. The most common colors were red and white, and motifs with sun wheels and crosses were the norm.
Pawing through the collection (With gloves on!) was a textile historian's dream! However, having the curator on hand to give you the stories behind some of the objects was half of the experience. A blog post is coming up where I'll show you Anu's studio and tell you more about her work!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Inktober - Steampunkery!

This year I took part in Inktober for the first time. It was an excellent challenge, and a super fun way to push me in new directions. Half way thru I found my sepia ink, and the steampunkery began...
Your confections should look as good as they taste!
 Pastry chef results every time. (Scullery Maid not included.)

For the maintenance of perfect headwear
in the most blustery of weather.

Increased speed and accuracy of delivery in
the most crowded of Biergartens.
Still doesn't receive as many tips as a Brüfrau Automaton.

Minimizing the labor needed to create perfect
bouquets for every cafe table in London.

Promotes activity while ensuring your feline
companion's nutritional needs are met.

For a superior cuppa.

Add vigor and vivacity to your life by removing
the filth of modern living from your lungs.

Because a shoehorn is passé... 
I may expand this series over the winter, and choose the best to become a card set! Be sure to follow Vonklank's Emporium if you enjoy steampunkery!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Spinzilla 2015!

It's a monster! Well, it's been long enough for me to fully recover from Spinning all week, now I can actually sit back and think about what to do with the yarn! I spun 8255 yards, beating last year's tally of 6756! But, last year I ate through 7 lbs. and this year only 5.5 lbs. was eaten up. I spun a bit thinner and more efficiently!

But, sadly, my improvements were not enough to carry the team to victory... We spun less than last year and only came in at 4th place. (Well, top five is nothing to sneeze at, there were more than 60 teams!) 
The top spinner was also an impressive show, over 48,000 yards! No, I did not goof and add too many 0s. We did the math, spinning 14 hours a day, all week long, that would be an average of 5 inches of yarn through the orifice per second! (And people thought I was being weird and crazy with it...)

It's never too early to think about next year. I've been wanting to do a re-build of my wheel for a few years now, and hopefully get it tuned into a maximum speed spinner! I also think I need to plan my fiber. I've been moving through the stash to use up materials, but I might have to actually but roving just for spinzilla next year. The dye pots will come out. The carder will be set up. The fiber must flow!

In the mean-time, I guess I just need to start knitting...

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Scandinavian Travels - Tartu Estonia

Our next big stop in Estonia was Tartu. It's the home of the only major university in Estonia, which happens to be one of the oldest in Europe. These guys welcomed us.
Oh hi, just some nightmare fuel coming through...
Because Tartu is a  College town it is well known for being the more liberal and progressive city, a haven for artists, innovators, and entrepreneurs. It also had some really great places to drink, all nice and centrally located.
No idea what that is, but it looks dangerous!
Up on the campus is the National Museum of Estonia, in the remains of the original church for the campus.

Dem buttresses! 

A reminder that we were there just after midsummer, all this nice golden sunset glow is happening late in the evening. Like 10:30 PM. No wonder we were out so long drinking...
Screw your gargoyles, we've got DRAGONS!
Each block seemed to have a new design of concrete block, apparently placed to be a traffic and parking blockade. Thus, much of the downtown of the city was pedestrian centric.
A number of monuments are situated on the hilltop in the center or town, mostly to scientists and educators. A nice break from seeing war monuments everywhere!
This guy studied embryos and shit.
And, the old ways still live in Tartu as with much of Estonia. This is an ancient stone, rumored to be used for rituals since time immemorial. While the pre-christian rites may be forgotten, each semester students gather to burn term papers and pour out drinks on the stone. A modern sacrifice in search of knowledge.
There is, however, one particularly notable war monument which we sought out. Barclay de Tolly is an ancestor of Mr. Crafty, and a noted war hero. What is more remarkable about the monument, is that it was not erected by a victorious state or a wealthy patron. The men who served under Barclay paid for it themselves!

Our last experience in Tartu has no pictures, because none would have come out. In the perpetual twilight and nearly totally dark skies of summer, we explored the ruins of the derelict soviet airbase. Also, photos might be considered evidence... or something.

Our tour of the northlands will continue, I've got plenty of photos still to share!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Scandinavian Travels - Viljandi Castle

As part of our field trip during Craft Camp we went to Viljandi - Home to the Culture Academy with Native Craft departments.. Also, site of a super cool castle ruins!

The town was settled in the 5th century, and the first stronghold built by the 12th, captured by Livonians, Germans, Russians, Estonians, Danes etc. throughout the years. Each owner built it larger, and rings of moats surround the central square.

The largest remaining wall serves as an amphitheater backdrop for performances.

The entire site overlooks a calm meandering river.

The castle passed out of usefulness and was left to ruin, with many wall torn down for their stones. The church near the gates, however, is still in use.
It was a windy, but rather nice, day for us in Viljandi, and not a bad spot to go to school! (Wink-wink.)