I promised that I’d elaborate on the symbolism of the sun and the black hole that I’ve been working on for the past week.
Let’s explore the pattern design process for this sweater and see where ideas came from and what they led to.
As a darkness, a thick haze that obscures everything, falls upon the world, I feel everything shrinking, getting further and further away the more I try to get close.
It is not the first time that I feel like this, in fact I’ve felt like this several times in my life. I used to call it “leveling up”. It means that I’ve passed all previous tests successfully, so it is time for an even more difficult test. It’s never easier, it’s always more difficult. But as I’ve succeeded before, I will somehow succeed now. It doesn’t mean that I’ll know exactly when I pass the “finish” line, as life is unpredictable and likes to throw surprises your way, but I’m sure I will know at some point.
Now, as being autistic is my life, but learning about autism has been my focus only for the past year, concentrated mostly during the past few weeks, I need to include this new knowledge into the new me, into my work. And the knowledge contributes not to the solving or passing the current test, but to making it even more complicated. I think, I’m not sure right now.
I cannot think clearly, there are too many things happening at the same time and my mind is overwhelmed. Still, I am a really patient human and have learned for many years that the best thing to do when confused is to take a step back, look at the whole picture (after analyzing all of the accessible details) and to stop for a while, look somewhere else or at something else. I think I’ve forgotten to do this during the past few years, but I’ve started doing it again now, since it’s the only way I know how to get out of this state.
So I did this, went for a walk in the forest, found a few mushrooms (some edible, others not, but perfect for dyeing) and returned home with the desire to create something. I got some skeins of white yarn from my little wall of yarn and threw them into the boiling pot of mushroom slices. It would have been better to maybe strain the liquid before submerging the yarn, but I didn’t know anything about dyeing with this kind of mushrooms, so I just went with the flow. I tried a gradient technique too, using strained liquid.
I prepared the yarn by soaking it into some diluted vinegar, to intensify the color, but I only soaked parts of the yarn and only for a short amount of time (so I am not sure if this created the effect I have seen in the yarn, but I assume that it did create the mottled appearance of the color). For the gradient, I soaked the whole cake in vinegar solution, as it is important to have as much uniformity as possible. I soaked up the remaining color by submerging four big balls of light brown speckled yarn in the half-spent solution, after removing the initial two balls of wool and silk-merino. I only got color on the outside of these balls, so I’m thinking to overdye the remaining parts using some more mushrooms that I found on a subsequent trip. I only need to get my energy back, to get boiling.
I washed all of the skeins after removing them from the solution. I really love how the sock yarn came out, with speckled darker and brighter golden hues. The other ones are a bit more towards a golden brown, rather than yellow, but I’m also looking forward to seeing them work up.
Since I only dyed one ball of white sock yarn and the resulting colors are so nice, I decided to start a new project using it. And not give up on it or work on anything else until it’s finished, as I am known to begin so many projects that I maybe never finish.
Since the golden colors are so beautiful and I only have a small quantity of this yarn and I’m really not at all good at colorwork in any craft (be it crochet or knitting), I decided I needed to make this yarn into a spot of color and to show it off, so I started creating a sun motif.
The sun is a very important and complex symbol in general, but it’s really special to me, as a designer and as a human who loves science. If I’m going to use it as a symbol on a wearable garment, there are so many messages that it can convey, that I need to explain some of them (you can, of course, add your own).
The sun will be on one side of a reversible sweater. The other side will have a black sun on it, or better yet, a black hole. Depending on the mood of the wearer, the sun can be worn in the front or the black hole can be in the front, facing the world and the people.
The sun is warmth, kindness, light, wisdom, openness and softness. These are all things that I feel when I allow the sun’s rays to caress my skin. They can also be harsh, burning, piercing, loud, honest, painful, curious. These are also things I feel when I spend too much time in the sun (ahem, more than five minutes at a time).
All of these are also attributes that define me as an autistic person. I can be all at the same time and you’d never know, because they are too many to be perceived at any given moment. Spend some time with me when I’m in a good mood, and you’ll notice my wisdom and kindness, as well as my piercing words and criticizing looks, my painfully honest opinions and my curiosity to touch anything and everything.
On a day when I feel fully myself, I would wear the sun in the front. I know it might look silly, but I love how the concentric circles remind me of a Mayan calendar, with all of its majestic beauty (of course this design has nothing of the majestic beauty of a Mayan calendar, but there is just the slightest hint in there). It would tell the world that I’m ready to shine, to burst with laughter and happiness, to spread my arms wide and embrace the whole world.
But I’m not like that on all days. Sometimes I’m down, in a dark pit of nothingness and sometimes even in a dark pit of despair. Sometimes I’m tired and overwhelmed and just need the world to give me some space. That’s when I have the option to turn the sun on its head and wear the dark version in the front. The black hole in this design is identical with the sun, except it’s completely black. It has the three concentric circles and the rays of darkness, but they blend into the dark background. They can only be seen by a careful observer, and even then just as a hint of what they represent. They make me invisible, as black holes are invisible.
We don’t know much about black holes, mostly that they are massive enough that light or any matter cannot escape their gravitational pull. That is, no matter how much input you give them, you’ll not get anything out (except maybe when two black holes collide, but that’s another matter, for another symbolism-filled design). We know that they warp space and that they sit in the center of galaxies, ours included. We cannot see them, but we feel their influence.
Once again, these are all properties you can assign to an autistic in burnout. If I’m burned out, you can talk to me, prod me, question me, you’ll not get anything out. Not because I don’t want to, but because I can’t. I’ll try to become invisible, knowingly or not, maybe through a mechanism of self-preservation. But I’ll still be myself inside, feeling, thinking, processing, being overwhelmed by sensory and emotional input. And at some point in time I’ll have finished processing it all and I’ll be able to revert to the happy little sun you enjoy (or not, maybe you like me moody and desperate, or maybe you never like me, who knows).
So the point of the whole sweater having these two sides, the sun and the black hole (as opposed to the moon, that is usually paired with the sun because they have a similar size on our sky) is to send a subtle message to those around, without using words or any special communication device. “Today I’m feeling fine, I’m bright and full of joy, ready to go on an adventure with you” or “Today I need a break, please leave me alone, let me process everything, I’m not feeling so well” would be two sides of the same person, expressed simply by a choice of color.
I haven’t said anything about the dark gray background in this sweater. I chose it because it represents the almost darkness of space, it almost blends in with the black and it lets the yellow shine in all of its glory. It is neutral especially to let the two motifs reveal their symbolism, without taking anything away from their seriousness or aesthetic appeal.
I’m still working on this design, having almost finished one panel after frogging tens of times, until I settled onto a good stitch combination for making Tunisian crochet stitches with a usual hook. It took me almost a week to get here and there’s still more work to be done, but I’d like to continue working on this project until I finish it, maybe it will motivate me to concentrate fully on other patterns, one by one.
Maybe you like this idea for yourself or someone in your life, maybe you’d like to make one of these symbolic sweaters as well. It will be a lot of work to finish this off and it might end up just a square or rectangular design (sorry, I’m not experienced enough in making garment patterns to make anything fitted), but once it is finished I hope you’ll enjoy it. It will be my first truly symbolic piece and I hope it will come out as beautiful as I am imagining it. Even if it doesn’t, I’ll still love it.
Patterns inspired by the same idea
Since writing this, I haven’t actually finished writing down the pattern for the sweater (I’ve been a bit afraid of starting, to be honest), but I have made progress on smaller projects and patterns inspired by it.
I’ve also perfected the technique, the stitch counts for various combinations of yarn weights and hook sizes and made a few videos.
And soon you’ll be able to make your very own Tunisian sun blanket square, since I’ll be releasing the pattern for a blanket square in Arunima’s 2021 Tunisian Blanket CAL that’s ongoing. Check it out!
Now I’ll go back to crocheting, see you soon with some photos and maybe a testing call!