Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Felting With Wool

Felting with wool was project I had wanted to try for a few weeks. There is a handy pattern and felting instructions included in a nifty book I recently bought entitled "One Skein Knitting" by Leigh Radford (referenced at end of post).

I began with two skeins of wool purchased from the local craft shop (not finding the bulky wool which the pattern suggested be used), held the two different colors of wool together and began knitting the project.

Then I discovered I had made a mistake. No worry. Since perfection is not in my vocabulary, I remembered the Japanese word/thought process which my brother John had told me about several years ago. The word is “wabi-sabi”, which means that to have something flawed in a hand-made item only increases its intrinsic worth.

From wikipedia...

Wabi and sabi both suggest sentiments of desolation and solitude. In theMahayana Buddhist view of the universe, these may be viewed as positive characteristics, representing liberation from a material world and transcendence to a simpler life.

And another source says:

The primary aesthetic concept at the heart of traditional Japanese culture is the value of harmony in all things. The Japanese world view is nature-based and concerned with the beauty of studied simplicity and harmony with nature. These ideas are still expressed in every aspect of daily life, despite the many changes brought about by the westernization of Japanese culture. This Japanese aesthetic of the beauty of simplicity and harmony is called wabi-sabi (wah-bee sah-bee). Wabi-sabi is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.It is the beauty of things modest and humble.It is the beauty of things unconventional.

After that excursion into wabi-sabi, let’s continue on with this felting project.

Here is a picture of the beginning project, in which I inadvertently twisted the circular needle, making a twist in the final product. But I did not take out all the previous knitting in order to correct this minor mistake, and soldiered on, finishing the piece with that flaw incorporated into its beginning.

Then I washed the final circular knitted piece and began the felting process:

Felting Guidelines
"Fill washing machine with hot water at lowest water level possible and add 1-2 Tbsp of dishwashing soap. Place knitted piece in washing machine, along with a tennis show or some tennis balls for friction. Set machine to agitate and check progress every few minutes - felting time will vary, depending on temperature of water, type of soap, and intensity of agitation. When knitted stitches are no longer visible and the fabric is smooth and impermeable, remove the piece from the machine. Do not let the piece run through the spin cycle, doing so may cause permanent creases. Remove the piece, squeeze out the water, then roll it in a dry towel to remove excess water. Lay it flat to air-dry, checking on piece periodically and reshaping as needed. Depending on the climate where you live, it may take several days to fully dry.”

From One Skein: 30 Quick Projects to Knit and Crochet, Leigh Radford, published by Interweave Press, 2007, Loveland, CO, p.116

And here is the final result, on my kitchen work station, with no one the wiser for the one mistake initially begun while knitting the third round. It typifies the concept of wabi-sabi. It is impermanent, it is simplistic yet utilitarian, and by gosh, I like it.

I plan on making several more smaller bowls in different colors, using the recommended chunky wool yarn. Perhaps there will be no knitting mistakes in the next bowl.

But, perhaps there will be more wabi-sabis in many future projects and relationships, thereby somehow increasing their worth. After all, we are all flawed human beings, but valued in the eyes of God in spite of our individual personal wabi-sabis.

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