Sunday, January 25, 2009

Spiraling around

Nautilus 9

Lately there are so many ideas spiraling and swirling around in my head, I find it hard to focus on just one thing. I'm playing with a series of shapes, and thinking about how they translate into useful objects. This project, the Nautilus Poncho may have been one of the catalysts on shape considerations.

We all know what a genius Norah Gaughan is. Her mind works in ways I can only dream of! This project, which had its start as a humble knitted strip gets joined using crochet edges and joins to become a spiral evoking a nautilus shell.

Nautilus Poncho

When I photographed the blob that was destined to became the poncho, it was at the transition point between the finished knitting phase and the start crochet phase. Looks sort of like an octopus to me. It was really really long. One endless strip of fabric that started with three tiny stitches and then grows to 22 stitches.

Nautilus 10

Crochet does not come naturally to me. So I struggled to get this right. It took me four attempts to get it. But that's mostly because the instructions were rather vague. I found myself seeking help from crochet friends, from books and through correspondence on Ravelry. One night, while working the crochet during the Flatbush Stitch n Bitch, Barbara told me she too, struggled with the crochet part. Well! So it wasn't me after all - she's a master knitter!

Nautilus 6

Turns out, it wasn't the crochet that was the problem, but understanding when to do what - each side has different stitch sequences and it's critical to know when to do them in the right sequence. If you miss this, you end up with a straight sided tube, not a spiral that extends out like a... yea, like a nautilus shell.

Nautilus 2

I wanted to knit this so I could wear it in the office on those days when the air vent blows down on my shoulders and makes me really miserable. I had a test run this week, wearing it a few days and man, this thing is warm! The bulky wool really packs some power. And this color is useful for an office environment.

Nautilus 1

There will be few (like maybe just this one) ponchos in my collection, so I am glad I chose this design as the one. The yarn was a real find. I am one who really doesn't find bulky yarns very appealing, mostly because so many of them are loosely plied. Those fat singles look real nice in the skein, but I can't help thinking they will start fuzzing and pilling in about an hour after wear. It is something that really bugs me to no end. So when this yarn went on sale at Webs, I ordered a bit. Then I ended up ordering a whole lot more! In fact, I picked up so many different colors, I had to buy a new bin just to stash it all! hee hee. Look for more projects using this brand real soon.

Nautilus 3

So, I am pleased with this knit. It satisfied the original objectives - something to keep my shoulders warm in the office, something that was a bit unusual but not so avant garde that it would scare the corporate nerds, something that would hold up to use without getting shabby looking, and something from my existing pattern collection. Along the way, I learned a few things - like the crochet thing.

I bought the book and am slowly, ever so slowly opening my mind to crochet. And while I doubt I will ever end up crocheting baby afghans in acrylics, there are a few interesting patterns that have me intrigued.

And perhaps most important, this project really got me thinking about shapes. I've jotted down a few shape ideas in my pda and have started working on some things I have in mind for future projects of my own design. I credit Norah Gaughan AGAIN, for a really inspiring project!

Nautilus 4

The specs:
Pattern: Nautilus Poncho by Norah Gaughan
Source: Knitting Nature by Norah Gaughan
Yarn: Cascade 109 LE Bulky, Silver
Needle: Size 11 ; hook - my biggest one
Started: December 14, 2009
Finished: January 14, 2009 (my first FO of '09!)
Verdict: Better than I thought; it was shaky for a time.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Kitty Crack

catnip miceAlign Center
It seems all my friends and family are cat people, not dog people. What's up with that?!
My sister has two dearly loved cats, my friend Rene and another friend at work both acquired new cats for their respective homes.

During a recent Knitting Party at my house, the conversation was definitely heavy on the cat antics. All the cute and silly things cats do. This was probably an effort to counter the effects of my very persistent hounds staring down guests for nibbles, laying around releasing pungent odors, and generally making themselves a complete nuisance.

Hmm...maybe there's something to be said for cats....Ooops, sorry Lola, sorry Rudy!! I didn't mean it, really I didn't!! I just know so long as I have a Coonhound and a Basset Hound under my roof, cats are pretty much out of the question. I mean, I do value the few pieces of furniture and decor in my house. Broken lamps and ripped upholstery are not my favorite thing.

Which is all a lead up to share a recent diversionary project with you, one that came together over the Holiday break. I made up a bunch of catnip mice. Mice filled little packets of kitty crack, sure to make any cat go completely insane.

catnip mice

These were really fun and really easy to make. Once I mastered the basic pattern, I was able to knock them off in about an hour, with a few more minutes to add eyes, nose and work up the braided tail.

I used bits of leftover yarn, knit on much smaller needles for a dense fabric. Then I sewed up the body, stuffed with some polyfill and a tissue filled packet of catnip. Once the body cavity was completely filled, I finished off the seam and used embroidery thread to add the details.

My sister reported that Spike and Flippy were thrilled with their toys and played with them for hours. These are really fun to make and a great way to use up some scraps.

The specs
Pattern: here
Yarn: Cascade 220
Needle: size 5

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Importance of Scale

My friend Marci Senders is part of a wonderful exhibition of textile art at the Phoenix Gallery this month. The show is a called Economies Of Scale - a Juried exhibition of Miniature Works in Fiber by members of the Textile Study Group.

I attended the opening on Thursday night, getting there at the tail end of the gathering. On my way over, I ran into Marci and Daniel who had been there, done that. Of course I was running late, what else is new? And this place is a serious hike over to 11th Avenue, through throngs of Art Gallery Opening crowds everywhere. 25th Street was like a party atmosphere, all the lights blazing, clumps of artists and patrons grabbing quick smokes on the sidewalks, walking here and there.

This show was a real eye-opener for me. The whole idea of doing works in miniature hadn't crossed my mind. Well, duh! When I contemplate fiber related works, whether hanging or not, my mind conjures projects that lean toward the huge. I don't know why really. Maybe because all my past references into fiber art work have been very large and imposing. And my historical references are tapestries like the ones you see at the Cloisters. Everything large, everything hanging. My concepts have been to break out from those traditional approaches by altering the fibers, work with hand spun or hand dyed, modernize the narrative, etc.

So to see this show, where everything was done in miniature stopped me cold. I'd not thought of going small. Maybe I'd have come around to this on my own, in time, but going to the show just accelerated the possibilities. I loved the intimacy that you get by doing small items, things you have to view up close and personal. Many of the pieces were all about the textile, or all about the technique. Manipulations of fiber, materials, technique, that sort of thing. In my mind, some of them were academic because of that. Very nice, don't get me wrong and interesting to be sure and they provided some ideas for me to really chew on.

Marci's piece was one of the few representational pieces and one that also offered a narrative. Her piece tells a story, though it is an ambiguous one. I loved the sly, 'don't believe everything you see' message to her piece. This being one of the main themes in my life, I snorted in recognition! I loved that it was all at once this cuddly little bear and at the same time there is a sinister possibility of something else happening. Ah, don't make assumptions, friend, you just never know!

Marci's piece had so much going on, a text and subtext. Very clever. It stood out among a crowd of beautiful work as the one with the most to say.

At this point I must tell you I have no authority to speak as an art critic. So what I've just said above are merely my opinions after seeing and thinking about what I saw. I am no expert, just gut level response, folks.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Baby got a brand new bag!

Ever since I took up knitting the carry bag has been a bit problematic. I've looked at a number of bags advertised online, but none of them appealed to me, or they were simply too expensive and I'd rather invest in yarn! So it was with great interest that a few months ago while knitting with friends at the local cafe, I spotted a new knitting bag on Stew (Mike). After he demonstrated all its unique characteristics, I knew I had to own one. This bag, oh, this bag caught my fancy big time.

And so when I sat down to write out my Dear Santa list, I had only one wish: a Tom Bihn Knitting Bag. Boy, am I pleased with Santa!

baby has a brand new bag!

From Seattle, Mr. Bihn manufactures a number of really nice products, all super well designed using sturdy construction. As the story goes, he entered a contest of sorts, sponsored by, to design a bag suitable for knitters. He hit the ball out of the park!

My bag is purple on one side, black on the other. It's a cordura nylon fabric, so it's going to withstand the rigors of urban travel. It's lined with rip-stop nylon which means it can take a beating inside as well. The seams look like they can take lots of stress - great for excessive yarn shopping!

baby has a brand new bag!

There are clear plastic zip pockets on each side and little loops and attached clips. And it came with a removable project bag, also made of rip-stop and a clear plastic bottom (to see what's inside without having to open it!), and an attached yarn tab to help guide your yarn, reducing tangles. The project bag can clip to either end on the inside, so no matter which shoulder you carry the bag, your knitting is always up front and close. Smart!

baby has a brand new bag!

But the real benefits of the bag are realized out in the field. Its padded handles reduce stress on the hands. Best of all, this bag does not slip off my shoulders! I have yet to own any bag that doesn't slip, something that I find super annoying. Not this bag. It stays put even when jostled. How's that for an endorsement! The bag's low profile won't jab people in the ribs when getting on and off the train. And it can also carry lunch and other shopping errands at the end of the day. No more multiple bags. Yay!!

baby has a brand new bag!

While it's not cheap, it won't break the bank. I feel like my projects have been elevated to a new level. No more zip lock Hefty bags jammed into my laptop case. Or shoved into my pocketbook. As far as tools go, this one looks to be a real winner.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Waffles, Mosaics & Swirls

It's New Year's Day. The sun is shining, though the air quite nippy. I made a batch of waffles to celebrate the occasion.

New Year Waffles

I could spend a few moments looking back on 2008, giving you all the round up of knitting projects, riffing on my accomplishments and failures. But I really don't feel like doing that. Suffice to say my plan in 2008 was to conquer knitting socks. And I did make a few pairs, so that was good.

2008 Socks

2009 will take a different form. I have some very specific plans that will build on what I've learned so far and what I still want to learn. In the learning department, there are the following:

- Spinning
- Weaving
- Upholstering (oh, yea....)

All of the above are intended to fuse what I've always loved with what I am learning to love. It's exciting, and I sometimes get that clenched feeling in my stomach when I think about it all at once. I have to remind myself to take it one step at a time, and the future will unfold the way it's supposed to. But I AM listening to that inner voice. And maybe that's what 2008 was really about: learning to listen.

I will leave you with some images captured yesterday, of my Sister with Rudy. The hat she is modeling was one I made ages ago. Back before I chronicled the knitting in photographs. I asked her to bring it along on this trip so I could update the files. I forgot how cute it came out. Turns out she really likes the hat, and so do I. It's a very simple pattern, but it works.

Claudia and Rudy

We stepped outside to grab these shots and it was snowing. The snow didn't amount to much, but it made everything sparkly for a few minutes. The hat is made from the now ubiquitous Malabrigo worsted, this one in the Verdes colorway. I also used the yarn to make one pair of the socks above (more like house sock footies). The pattern escapes me, but it's a simple combination of knits and purls and shifting the repeats as you go around, to make the staggered design. My only modification would be to make it a bit shorter next time, but that's quibbling.

Green swirly hat

green swirly hat

Happy New Year, everyone. Thanks for joining me on my little adventures. Your support is deeply appreciated.