Thursday, March 8, 2012

Pilgrimage to Italy and survival of shingles

The pilgrimage to Italy in early November with our Bishop Hebda leading the group, was nine days of walking over  stones and up steps through ancient history, worshiping daily in a different historic church or basilica, touching walls touched by saints, eating (especially gelato and many varieties of bruschetta ), sharing wine with new friends, pacing the eating by the number of forks at the plate, and being amused by the tiny black cars nosed up to the curbs at night, looking like bats hanging from a cave.

Textiles were scarce in the fiber, but plentiful in the art. I saw textiles in fresco - especially marvelous is the restored ceiling of the Sistine Chapel with Michelangelo’s gift for depicting the drape of cloth, and again in stone on his Pieta where a thin veil delicately separates the Virgin’s hand from the flesh of Christ.  Then I was eye-to-toe with his 18-foot tall David (wearing only a look of determination) with a strong and beautiful body and that oversized hand holding a stone. I relished the graceful curves of the paving stones mortared with  mossy threads and the mosaic ribbons climbing a column on an Orvieto church.  I hope for a return visit to seek out more fiber (and leave the shingles attack out of it).

With good ideas from the Braids and Bands Society, I devised a way to play with yarns via the five-finger braid, using my foot as the anchor and a foam disc to keep the loops straight when tucking work away in my purse.  I pre-cut a few dozen yarns to pack along.  This kept my hands occupied and circulation going in my legs while packed into seats on bus and plane.  The braiding also entertained fellow pilgrims, and back home, fellow patients in the doctor's waiting rooms.

Adrenalin and prayer sustained me during the pilgrimage, but once home the shingles and the medications to control pain, itch, and vision loss sapped me of much of my energy, brain and optimism. I managed to weave 6 towels (on an existing warp) for the first ever “Northern Michigan Towel Exchange” arranged by our Colors from Nature workshop leaders.  It took every ounce of my concentration and determination to weave these off, but it was exactly the push I needed.  I’ll plan to show off the exchanged towels in a future post.

Here are three of the towels in bold colors of  6/1 tow linen on a 40/2 cotton warp that I wove for the exchange. The brown one has a border inspired by the wing of the little brown Pine Siskins that have taken over our feeder.  We’ve named the group ‘a quarrel of Siskins’ (akin to ‘’a murder of crows’ and an‘unkindness of ravens’).

Our guild has last year’s new members weaving towels for the exchange and two more new weavers are already on the ‘slippery slope’ of fiber-holism.

The past four months have been the hardest since that illness in my mid 20's precipitated a determination to learn to weave; the start of this 40+ year exciting textile journey.  Now I am focused on using my best yarns first because now I understand that I may not live to 120 (and so use them all).

Happy almost Spring, Kati


  1. Hi Katie, I'm here from the Braids_and_Bands list, love your ingenious loop braiding ideas! Congratulations on being brave enough to go on your trip while dealing with shingles...what an ordeal, all my wishes for a continuing recovery. A good friend kept getting better even after he had resigned himself to permanent pain, I think he is almost completely pain-free now. Good point about using the good yarn now! Why save it even if we do get to live to 120...

  2. I say this all the time: Weave your best stuff. I told my 82 yr old Mom to use up her best stuff. "Oh, you think I don't have that much longer..." she said. "I've been using only my best stuff for years," I said, "and I'm 20 yrs younger than you." I was looking for your long rug, with the 90┬║ fold. I love long Scandinavian runners. I don't see it yet, so I'll come back.