With the coming of spring and the sudden flood of warmth and yellow light, the desire for cozy evenings evaporates like mud puddles in the yard. Gone is the yen for yarn, the need for knitting needles and the craze for crochet hooks. Gone is that vague sense that if I had just one more hand-knit sweater or afghan to wrap up in I’d be completely insulated from the icy breath of Boreas, the north wind.
Instead, the focus on fiber unravels and the basket of yarn under the little table in the middle room is forgotten in favor of the larger, more inviting world of the outdoors where the flower beds put forth green shoots and the lattice of branches on the lilacs fattens with green buds and the expectation of a purple haze of flowers.
Yet, out there in the woods and meadows, at the edges of lakes, rivers, ponds and ocean, interest in fibers and weaving is, literally, in the air as birds glean materials for nest building and get on with the giddy business of propagating the species.
The nests the birds weave are as small as the hummingbird’s and as imposing as the bald eagle’s, and use materials as surprising as pet hair, moss, tree branches, mud and strands of last year’s grass.
Nest shapes vary from the swaying, suspended pouch of the Baltimore oriole to the spiky-edged fortress of the osprey’s domain established on the crosspiece of a utility pole along the pole line crossing I-95 or the undulating surface of a green buoy off the beach at Fort Point.
Already this spring, sheep have given birth to lambs, presenting to the knitting, crocheting and weaving world yet another generation of fiber-bearing animals. Soon, Maine farmers will shear the sheep and lovely skeins of yarn will spill from the spindles of Maine spinners. Those skeins will be immersed in pots of dye containing hues to dazzle the eye in December when the nights are long and cold, and the light of day is thin and short.
As the days grow warmer, now, another kind of weaving done by human beings begins to take place — the invisible warp and weft of social interchange as family and friends gather for clam bakes, impromptu cookouts, Fourth of July picnics and reunions of one kind or another. Even though it has no bodily substance, this weaving of old and new friendships, this re-weaving of family relationships, is the very fabric of life, and from which we derive safety, comfort and a sense of belonging that anchors us, enhances our sense of self and causes us to think about how we can contribute to the common good.
Of course, the knitting needles and crochet hooks won’t stay put away for long. Cotton yarn will take precedence over wool, and stitches will be taken on rainy days, or during an idle hour in the evening at camp when loons are adrift on the lake and the owl is casting its ghostly call out into the night.
For now, however, the needles in their infinite variety are idle. Right now, I’d rather be digging in the dirt.
ä Chapter Two in Corea will hold an open house 4-7 p.m. Friday, June 19. The event will mark the annual opening of the Spurling House Gallery of Contemporary Art. A part of the proceeds from the gallery artists’ work will benefit Schoodic Arts for All. Visitors to the event will be invited to help rug hooking artist Rosemary Levin dye wool she will use to create a rug that will be up for bid at the Schoodic Arts for All silent auction on Sunday, July 26.
ä The Simplicity company has patterns to make everyday living easier for those who require special assistance. A pattern for wheelchair and walker bags features roomy compartments, simple closures and are easily attached to wheelchairs and walkers and are designed for easy access without getting in the way.
A pattern for adult garment protectors is designed with full coverage, from neck to lap, in mind.
When sewing for those with special needs, Simplicity suggests using bright, cheerful colors. Fabrics should be washable, soft and comfortable. Closures should be simple and minimal.
ä For scholarly articles on ancient textiles, visit www.comp-archaeology.org/AncientTextiles/. The Web site has links to news, reports and articles relating to the study of ancient textiles.
ä Visit www.textileasart.com to find photos and information about antique textiles from all corners of the world.