Looped Fabric · Musical Instruments

Five and fifty years ago

The inaugural post on this blog appeared five years ago today, and has since been joined by over 130 more. I managed to prepare them with near fortnightly regularity until six months ago, when the preceding post went online. The one initially intended to follow it has yet to be finished and deals with a German gauge system for wire knitting needles.

One of the source documents consulted during its preparation reminded me about the relationship between the drawing of wire for such implements and for musical instruments. Music wire was a central concern in an earlier phase of my museum-based research and the pending post turned my attention back to it. That is also where the blogonym stringbed originated; a term used to designate the planar array of strings on an instrument such as a piano or zither. This all triggered an interest in once again writing about topics more closely related to its literal sense.

As it happens, 2022 marks a few other personally significant decadic anniversaries. It will be 50 years since the publication of my first article in a peer-reviewed journal, and 70 since I first played a musical instrument — the autoharp — which (soon followed by the clarinet) set me on my career path. The Music Museum in Stockholm (now the Swedish Museum of Performing Arts), where I was curator of the musical instrument collections from 1972 until 1992, holds a number of autoharps made in Sweden with innovative details illustrating the country’s largely unrecognized contribution to the development of that instrument. They are discussed in a homecoming article that was in progress when the present post first went online and its forthcoming publication has subsequently been announced here. It parallels my first article, which was about the woodwind instruments housed at the same museum.

As with the article on the history of crochet that provided the upbeat to this blog, research for the one about autoharp history turned up quite a bit of historically interesting information not included in the formal publication. I decided to put that material forward in posts on the present platform. Quite a few draft posts about loop-related topics were still in the queue (where they remain) but if I had started a separate second blog there would have been a significant risk of it becoming the sole focus of my attention.

A bit of synchronicity also nudged me toward expanding the scope of what was already here. One of the perennial themes has been the tool used in several traditional schools of slip stitch crochet — the “shepherd’s hook.” When I came across the same term used to designate a detail in the stringing of an autoharp, the resulting hmm resonated loudly. Another more fundamentally bemusing factor was also in effect. It had become dismayingly difficult, if not to say outright impossible, to keep track of all the posts and drafts that had accumulated during the first five years.

The only way to avoid unknowing repetition when revisiting an earlier topic is by plowing through the lot of it. The time and effort required to distill a coherent narrative on a given subject by such review, and recontextualizing the outcome to accommodate more recently uncovered material, can go a sizable way toward the preparation of a journal article. Since that mode of publication is of greater personal interest and academic value, another option would have been to leave the blogging where it was and focus on turning selected facets of what’s already been posted into such articles.

An additional unanticipated multi-disciplinary factor tipped the balance toward a decision to expand the scope of the blog rather than spawn a second one. Recent ventures into the online autoharp community showed that many of its members are involved with yarncraft and, in response to an explicit query, indicated interest in an extension of the preexisting blog from both perspectives. The new coverage was never envisioned as focusing on a single instrument nor has it, as the posts following this one demonstrate.

Subscribe to this discussion
Notify me by email about
This will be displayed with your comment
This will not be displayed with your comment
Clicking the name displayed with your comment will redirect to this address

Inline Feedback
View all comments
19 November 2021 10:03

Congrats on 5 years! I’m a fairly new follower, but I think learning about the intersection between musical wire and fibercraft sounds fantastic! Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us, it’s been a joy reading!

Caryn Hall
19 November 2021 11:56

Music and fiber craft are two of my joys. I would absolutely read both kinds of articles in a single blog.

20 November 2021 22:36

I am a new follower, but I agree with the previous posters. Talk about whatever interests you, and I’ll enjoy reading it! I’m a fiber artist, but I also own an autoharp my late husband used to play. It’s currently marooned across the country at my son’s house.

21 November 2021 08:06

I am interested in all kinds of uses for string, and I have an autoharp. Will happily read whatever you write here.

1 December 2021 07:47

I am a fiber person not musical except as an audience. That said I would still be very interested in the connection between the two.

1 December 2021 22:54

While I started following your blog primarily because it had information about crochet, I enjoy reading about a wide variety of topics. A well researched and thoughtfully written piece could be on just about anything, and I would find it interesting. Looking forward to reading about autoharps, and anything else that catches your fancy!

Vashti Braha
9 December 2021 13:46

I love it.