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. A homecoming article now in progress presents and discusses them, just as my first article 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 in gestation is turning up quite a bit of historically interesting information that will not be included in the formal publication. I haven’t decided whether to put that material forward in blog posts but, if I do, they will likely be sharing the present platform. There are quite a few draft posts about loop-related topics still in the queue but if I start a separate second blog it risks becoming the sole focus of my attention for a while to come.

There is also a bit of synchronicity nudging me toward expanding the scope of what’s 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 is also in effect. It has become dismayingly difficult, if not to say outright impossible, to keep track of all the posts and drafts that have accumulated during the past 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 is to leave the blogging where it is and focus on turning selected facets of what’s already been posted into such articles.

No matter what ends up happening, the pace at which new material appears will remain far more relaxed than it has been. If a two-discipline blog is to be a part of it, a question arises about how best to permit the respective areas to be followed selectively by anyone not interested in both. There are several readily implementable means for doing this but finding the one that fits best here deserves forethought.

Recent ventures into the online autoharp community showed that many of its members are involved with yarncraft and presumably might be interested in the envisioned expansion of this blog from both perspectives (although the new one would not solely focus on a single instrument). If any of its current followers have a corresponding interest — or active disinterest — it would be truly useful if you would please leave comments to that effect.

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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.