Monday, February 23, 2009

Beyonce Stole My Bling!!

In a fit of creative genius, I sat down to spin an art yarn a couple of weeks back.

Inspired by a pack of red sequins, Dorothy's ruby slippers, and the Queen of Hearts...

...BLING! Though I often wrestle with the merits of art yarns, this one is a beauty, spun up strictly for the fun of it. The fibres involved are Ashford Corriedale top and nylon/polyester metallic thread, along with hundreds of little red sequins. A soft thick'n'thin Corriedale single was plied with metallic thread threaded with the sequins, then I plied again with the metallic thread, using an uneven ply and the technique for making "cloud" yarns to create spots of metallic red twist throughout. The end result was a little overplied, but a good hot bath and a hang with a little weight fixed that up nicely.

Oooh, the soft-focus glamour shot! Sexy!
So, as my lovely little bit of glitz was hanging from the knob on the door of my entertainment unit to dry, I was watching the Oscars. Not a bad show, overall, until the tribute to the musical movies of the past. I was about to go fix myself a snack until it was over when this little number caught my eye:

What's that Beyonce is wearing? And why is my sparkly yarn dangling from it?!?
I actually had to glance over to the side of the entertainment unit to make sure the yarn hadn't just crept into the TV. It was till there. I was stunned. How could this be?
It seemed a little strange to me that 50 g of fibre only made 95 yard of yarn. Could someone have snuck in and stolen some for Beyonce's costume? Surely, Teagan the Wonder Schnoodle would have protected the yarn from intruders--or licked the intruders to death--so the theft scenario seems implausible.
Could I be psychically linked with Beyonce? I have been listening to the song "Single Ladies" a lot lately....but no, that seems pretty implausible too.
The only conclusion that I can draw is that Beyonce's spies have been watching me spin this yarn and they told the costume designer about it. It couldn't possibly be just a coincidence. No way!
So from now on, I have to spin with the blinds drawn.
Or stop making such damn sexy yarn!

Monday, February 09, 2009

The Rebirth of Knitting Cool


This little news story came to my attention via Ravelry this morning. There was some mildly indignant discussion attached to it, with many knitters pointing out that knitting has been growing in popularity since long before the economy tanked and not as a response to the current economic woes. Or that not all knitters are grannies. The biggest beef, though, seems to be with the closing comment that "this is one hobby that doesn't take a lot of dough". Many of the forum posters point to this statement as clear evidence of the reporter's ignorance of our craft. Speaking as someone who is currently knitting with a yarn that cost me $25 a skein, I would have to concur!

There are a great many of us fibre lover types who seem to get quite agitated when non-crafters misrepresent our beloved techniques. (Don't get me started on the whole spinning wheel thing in Disney's Sleeping Beauty! ) The stereotypes of knitting grannies and frilly little toilet paper cozies abound out there. But this weekend, I had the pleasure of seeing two movies that countered those stereotypes. Two movies about "cool" fiberistas! I was blown away!

We have been working hard to get caught up on our movie viewing around here. We're usually big movie fans and see lots of great and not-so-great flicks, and now we have about a dozen movie channels on cable, but we've fallen woefully behind. We have, however, accumulated all of the summer blockbusters on DVD and have been chipping away at the pile.

Friday night, we watched Wanted, starring James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman, and Angelina Jolie. I'm a bit of an action movie fan anyway, but everyone told me that I had to see this one. Now I know why--it's about the most kick-ass gang of weavers ever! I will not give away the plot details, but suffice it to say that there is a little preface that tells us that 1,000 years ago a group of weavers established this elite assassination squad. I actually had to skip back and check the DVD because I thought I had misread. But, no, it said weavers. And, let me tell you, if more weavers acted like the characters in this movie, nobody would ever mess with us again!

So, that was pretty cool.

The next night we watched Zach and Miri Make a Porno. (WARNING! Not for the faint of heart! Pretty damn raunchy, actually.) I am also a Kevin Smith fan, though I totally understand that not everyone appreciates his sensibility. But, as we are watching away (and laughing our asses off), I commented that there were a lot of conspicuously handknit scarves and hats (some of which, frankly, were pretty bad). Then Miri says that she got to try some clothes because she gave a sales clerk a deal on wool. SHE WORKS IN A YARN SHOP! The movie is crass, but hilarious, and remarkably sweet. I loved it a lot. So we're watching the deleted scenes, and there is a scene where Miri is getting dressed while Zach starts the car. She runs into her room, and there, right beside her bed, is her stash!

I think I actually squealed a little.

I've also heard rumors of knitting content in Lars and the Real Girl, but I'm having trouble getting my hands on a copy.

And, lest we forget, Marge Simpson is a knitter. As is Emerson Cod on Pushing Daisies.

So, for every Ford truck commercial that tells us that you can settle for a lesser vehicle "if all you're hauling is yarn" (Clearly, the folks at Ford have never seen my stash!), there is Angelina Jolie catching a flying shuttle with her bare hand. And for every knitting granny, there is Seth Rogan wearing a chunky blue scarf and talking about pornography. The cool is beginning to balance those stereotypes.

And, for those who still wish to cling to the image of knitting or spinning or weaving as the domain of little old ladies, may I remind you that we are little old ladies with pointy sticks. And we know how to use them!

Friday, February 06, 2009

Zen and the Art of Hand Knitting

I have come to the conclusion that I just cannot follow some one else's pattern anymore. Or, rather, that I will not follow some one else's pattern. It's not that I don't want to. There are so many great patterns out there! But I just can't seem to do it.

Case in point: my Almost Annetrelac Socks.

Oh, they look great, but the closest I came to following the pattern was to look at the picture. You see, this yarn (Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock) was given to me for my birthday, with the proviso that I make myself some socks. Yay! And after a fall and winter of making socks for others, it seemed like a thing to do in January. But I was tired of knitting basic socks, and, frankly, I thought that both the yarn and I deserved something a little spankier. So I started perusing patterns on Ravelry and The Annetrelac Socks from Interweave Knits Holiday 2007 fit the bill. I wound the yarn into balls and pulled out my Lantern Moon rosewood dpns and away I went.

Now, I will admit that I did skim over the text of the pattern. I cast on the wrong number of stitches out of habit. So, instead of starting over and adjusting to the pattern, I made the right number of base triangles to suit the smaller number of stitches. Once I started working, I found myself stopping and thinking "Oh, crap! I should check the pattern!" Which I did, then discovered that I would have to tink out several squares of entrelac to get back to where the pattern said I should be. So I tucked the magazine away and knit on.

The socks are great--I'm wearing them as I type--and they look just like the Annetrelac Socks (as well as any number of other entrelac socks out there), but there was no actual "following" of patterns involved.

This is certainly not an indictment of the pattern--in fact, I read it over before I sat down to blog and found that, aside from the fact that I cast on and worked with my own number of stitches, it was pretty much what I had done anyway. So did I follow it, or not?

Well, I figured, socks are one thing. I mean, aside from stitch patterns, knitting a sock is knitting a sock (hush up you Kat Bordhi fans!). Perhaps a larger project would be different. And it just so happens that I was looking for inspiration for a shrug. So off we go to Ravelry's pattern search again. And, lo and behold, a perfect shrug pattern, from, presented itself. I printed it off, balled my yarn and cast on. And frogged out. And cast on. And frogged out. And cast on, and knit 4 inches, forgetting to decrease. And frogged out. And cast on and knit 6 inches before I realized that I really didn't like the way the lace pattern was working out in the handpainted yarn.

So I pulled out my Barbara Walker Treasuries, and Nicky Epstein's Knitting On the Edge, found a lace pattern I liked, cast on and away I went. There are 7 inches on the needles and it's looking fab. And I am happy with the knitting.

Okay, so maybe this was more a case of choosing a pattern that didn't suit the yarn. But it also reminded that I just don't like following patterns. Even as a novice knitter, I would alter patterns by substituting yarns, changing the ribbing, adding a stripe or a cable. As the songs says, I did it my way.

It hasn't helped that I have been reading a great deal about the nature of craft and its place in history lately. That sort of reading always seems to lead to a bout of navel gazing, making me ponder each thing I do in way too much detail. Some authors seem to trigger more pondering than others and the current crop are far too effective in that department!

Right now, the culprit is Soetsu Yanagi, a Japanese Zen Bhuddist art critic from the early 20th century. He was a great proponent of the preservation of traditional craft in Japan and Korea, with a soft spot for pottery, but his comments on craft, handwork,and art, should be inspiring to artisans in any field.

Yanagi writes about craft as "true art", springing from instinct, with none of the pretensions of fine art. Once the craftsman had mastered the form of the craft, anything is possible and instinct dictates the actual execution of the product. There is expression of the individual through the process, not through the brilliance of the intended message. And it is the improvisation of the individual maker that makes each piece a work of art, rather than the cleverness of a preconceived design.

So, as I read this, and I struggle with the words some other clever knitter has laid out to lead me through her/his design, I find my own Zen state of being. This is what I make, and this is how I make it. It is what it is.

And I'm okay with that.