April 19, 2014

Following Ariadne's Thread

The thing to know about Ariadne and her thread is not that she was a spinner. In her world, all women spun, all girls spun, and wove, too, even the richest and most high-born. Remember Penelope, weaving and unpicking the same stretch of cloth for ten years. It’s not even that she spun magic into her thread, joining her witchcraft with her spinning. No, the thing to understand is that her thread, like all thread, or yarn, was not just a thing unto itself. Thread, and the creation of it, is neither an end nor a beginning, but part of a process and part of a journey.

Before you can spin, fiber must be created, whether grown from the ground, grown from or pulled forth by an animal, or even created by technological processes. It must be harvested. It must be prepared. Before you ever started to spin.

After you have spun it, the thread must be prepared. Washed to set the twist. Dyed, if that’s desired. Measured and cut and tensioned and whatever else might need doing for the piece at hand.

And then it must be woven, or knitted, or crocheted, or embroidered. Whatever craft it is put to. Thread is not useful thing on its own — even Ariadne’s thread was used to make a pattern. I bet she wove something with that later, too, and I bet it was a powerful thing.

But then whatever cloth or lace or whatever is made from it? It is an object unto itself, and is not thread or yarn, and yet without the thread or yarn, it would not be. There would be nothing there at all. All it is is thread, but it becomes a new thing.

And that thread is a path to follow, as Theseus followed Ariadne’s thread through the labyrinth. It winds and twists and goes over and under and across. It meets other threads, or other sections of itself, again and again and again. A stitch witch traces those paths, goes where they show her, and much is revealed thereby, and much can be built by choosing those paths and shaping thread into them.

Every craft has its secrets, has its esoterica. This is the most foundational secret of all fibercrafts I know (except felting, which uses fiber but not thread). It underlies weaving, knitting, crochet, lacemaking, cordmaking, sewing, embroidery, quilting… any and all of them.

There’s a wonderful graphic novel series called Finder, by Carla Speed McNeil, and I recommend it to anyone. One of the key phrases it uses is “Awake or dreaming, follow the path.” It applies well to what I’m talking about. If you’re a fiber artist, and would study the esoterica of these crafts, then awake or dreaming, follow your thread.

There’s been some interest expressed by some of the Starry Bull people in discussions of the esoterica of fiber arts. I’m happy to facilitate that, and to talk about what I have learned, either individually or in a group. I’m not sure what form that might take. It’s not practical for me at the moment to hold live chats, although we might do that in the future. A discussion board somewhere, maybe? A community blog on Livejournal or Dreamwidth? Or a mailing list? If you’re interested in participating in such a thing, let me know, either in the Disqus comments here or by email (madgastronomer at gmail dot com). We’ll see what we can manage.