A Teaser Trailer for Folk Knitting
Many great moments occurred while I was editing this new publication: sorting through beautiful projects, seeing our cover sweater on the model at the photo shoot, and finding authors to write travel stories. These travel stories relate a textile artist’s personal experiences with folk art in exotic locations. Here’s a taste to whet your appetite:
I went to Mongolia with my husband a few years ago
to see a solar eclipse. Well, that took about three
minutes. I spent the rest of the time looking for fiber
work in the vast expanses of the Altai Mountains
and the Gobi Desert. There was much art to see, but
the makers—the spinners, weavers, felters, embroiderers—
were elusive. “Oh yes,” our guide would say. “I know a lady who spins camel down. I don’t know where she lives, though, because she moves her yurt
every three months.” We lived in felt yurts (or gers, as
they call them there), which were remarkably comfortable
both in the frigid mountains and the blazing
desert. “Where did these big pieces of felt come
from?” I would ask. “Oh, somewhere in Ulaanbataar,”
they would say. But nobody knew quite where.
Somewhere they still make it the old way, dragging it
behind horses. Somewhere.
We visited a family in the desert, a family who enthusiastically
shared their camel-milk cheese, yogurt,
beer, and vodka. (You have not imbibed until you’ve
tried camel-milk vodka.) A huge bale of cashmere
was pushed up against the wall of their yurt, big as
two refrigerators, enough to buy the family a brandnew
SUV. “Where are the goats that produced all
this?” I asked. “Oh, out there,” they indicated with
a wave of the hand. All we could see for miles and
miles was sand and camels. It was a mystery.
In the mountains, we saw acres of fine chain-stitch
embroidery. It embellished the interior of the yurts,
the saddlebags of the horses, the panniers of the
motorcycles that are a favored vehicle there. Yet I
never saw a woman (or man for that matter) holding
needle and thread.
Mongolia is vast and empty. Almost half of the
population of 2.8 million is crowded together in
Ulaanbataar; most of the rest live nomadic lives
scattered about the open spaces. You can drive over
the landscape (there really aren’t many roads as
such) for hours without seeing a soul. People have
few possessions, just what they can load up on their
camels or their trucks for their seasonal migrations.
Yet so much is made by hand, somehow: the camel
trappings, the yurts and their beautiful interior hangings,
the felt rugs, the ceremonial garb. The touch of
human hands infuses the land like a secret whisper.
If only the whispers had told me where to find the
makers . . .
If you’re craving more tales to satisfy your wanderlust, be sure to check out Folk Knitting!