CNCHnet . . . The Textile Arts Webzine of the Conference of Northern California Handweavers

MFYP Turns Up Surprises

When I was a new weaver, 25 years ago, one of the regular treats for me was the monthly Redwood Guild newsletter.  Besides the latest news, the back page was an essay by Marilyn Petty, also my weaving teacher.  She shared her inner thoughts and experiences with us all on those pages.  It goes without saying, she is a very talented and gifted lady.  I have admired both her writings and her textile skills for all of the 25 years.    Marilyn recently published a compilation of those essays.  The following is  just a taste of what we enjoyed then.  Georgianna Chess


October 1996

This summer I successfully drafted My Five Year Plan.  I’ll not describe it in detail.  Suffice it to say, I am pleased with the concept and development of MFYP, which entails using up or getting rid of the yarn on my shelves.  In addition, I am most delighted to realize that I can actually plan a Plan.

The inspiration and guide for MFYP was the Book Learning by Heart: Teachings to Free the Creative Spirit by Corita Kent and Jan Steward.  It is not a book about plans as such, but about learning to see, being aware, working, doing, trying, pushing the limits; about using sources and brainstorming; about stating the problem and about creatively solving the problem.  The book didn’t tell me I had to make a five year plan.  It just gave me the idea that I could.  So I did.

MFYP is quite simple and exquisitely flexible.  For example, the initial project was to weave using my blue-hued yarns.  But even with my first warp design I was overwhelmed by too many choices.  I needed to reorganize the shelves.  So I altered MFYP, a change which turned out to be propitious.  While dust flew and rotten rubber bands disintegrated I cleared off the first three shelves finding lovely yarn I’d forgotten I had, rejecting stuff I didn’t want.  Don’t like it so dump it was surprisingly easy.  I was so taken with the idea of rearranging, rediscovering and rejecting that I decided to set the weave plan aside and continue on to other shelves and other colors.

Midway through the whites, naturals, brown, grays and black section I came across several small boxes of Lily cotton.  I had more in a cupboard across the room.  The boxes needed to be stacked together (I thought) so I interrupted the orderly flow of revamping adjacent shelves, in order to redd out the cupboard.  That’s where I discovered bitty bags of spinning fibers and samples of handspun.  All spinning fibers needed to stored together in the big wicker basket (I thought) so that was sorted and organized.  I was certainly making progress as well as unearthing treasures!

Next I turned to the large lidded basket on the shelf above the cupboard, the one that had an assortment of bags piled on top.  The basket was full of handspun, some vintage fledgling efforts done on my then-new Ashford spinning wheel bought in 1974 for $65.72.  I found a couple of wads of scratchy, clunky wool singles dyed an insipid dirty yellow, a ball of wool dyed a ghastly, garish orange and a pickled green skein sandwiched in amongst later and prettier efforts.

I remember one of my first spinning teachers, a sweet young thing who earnestly but mildly embraced the mores of the ’70’s–the back to the land, back to the basics, all “natural” lifestyle.  She offered a several Saturday spinning and dying class at her rickety house down a nasty country lane.  We cooked up pots of natural dyes mordanted with natural chemicals like deadly chrome while we spun greasy wool, the hunkier the better.  We ate cheese and sprout sandwiches and I really mellowed out on her old couch covered with a cotton bedspread from India, after I drank a cup prepared by our hostess that tasted like burnt barley but was, in fact, chamomile, a fine concoction for inducing nightly sleep but highly unsuitable, at least for me, as a midday restorative.  It was all I could do to keep upright.

My hunky chunky scraps of ugly yarn have a certain charm.  They remind me of where I was, of places I’ve been and people I’ve met, of what I’ve learned and of how things change.  So I’ll not discard them.  Also, I shall include several fat skeins of rusty orange 2-ply wool handspun as a project for MFYP under How to Use An Ugly Color  category.

But first I shall finish sorting yarn, always making discoveries and adapting to serendipitous surprises that come with MFYP.  Next on the shelves at the white wools, the reds, the yellows, the oranges and the greens.  Option–overdye , of course!  Aren’t Plans wonderful?  The prospects are endless, whatever happens.

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