My scarf today is two metres long with about forty ‘legs’, very soft, furry, rich burgundy colour and I would like to think I can describe it as chenille silk. Wrapped around the neck, it drapes so well and feels quite luxurious. For its photo shoot, I have hung it between my orange and fig trees.
Chenille was a later invention in the French silk trade in the 18th century, developed by the ‘lano’ method where two warp threads were twisted round the waft thread, then cut to make chenille yarn. The name came about as the thread now resembled a furry caterpillar. This was something quite new in the French silk business. A century later Alexander Buchanan in Scotland developed the yarn into a fabric to make shawls and others following him would patent it to make rugs. Around the same time in Georgia, America, yarn was being used to make bedspreads starting yet another tradition. The caterpillar was getting around.
Today, the yarn is made by placing short lengths of yarn between the two cone yarns and the resulting loops are then cut to make a fuzzy pile. I think it must be quite pleasing to hand knit with this kind of yarn. If I get desperate in a further lockdown, I may start knitting again. Amazing how this virus makes one remember lost skills and unlocks memories. My interest in yarn and fabric may possibly go far back to visiting, as a very young child, the linen mill where our father worked as the Mill Engineer. It was incredibly noisy with unfamiliar smells of flax and oil. I wonder how it smells in a silk workshop?
And now to my little tale, hardly a story, but it had our family puzzled for some time. I was happily sitting in a Wiltshire garden a fortnight ago enjoying unusually hot weather for England, when a cry came from my daughter. She had just seen a weird creature in the grass. Was it a snake, a slow worm or what? It moved quickly when poked gently and looked quite menacing with a yellow eye in its trunk-like body, the size of a fat thumb. More expert opinion than ours was sought and the creature was identified as the caterpillar of the Elephant Hawk Moth, DEILEPHILIA ELPENOR, so named as its body resembles the trunk of the elephant. It was carefully transported to a refuge created by daughter, supplied with leaves thought to be suitable caterpillar fodder and left to enter its next cocoon stage.
I trust the very ugly creature will emerge as this beautiful moth.
As I luxuriate in my long scarf today, with its many legs, I will wear my silver elephant earrings, my elephant pendant and I may treat myself to a bag of Colin the Caterpillar Jellies from M&S.
Vive La Chenille!
Busy Bee, Scarf Face!
Series 2, Blog 7.