Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Knitters Say the Darndest Things

I'd suggest that you play a drinking game when watching this video and take one swallow of an alcoholic beverage for every thing this knitter says that you've said before, but I wouldn't want you to get too drunk to knit.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Now Your Off-the-Wall Knitted Efforts Can Go on the Wall

It can require some doing to find some attractive art work to hang on your walls. Original art is very expensive, and inexpensive prints and posters can look chintzy. It's one of those Martha Stewart-type decorating rules that framed personal photos should not go on the walls but should sit on the furniture, and I agree it's a rule that upgrades one's décor, because family photos almost never look really artistic.

But your walls needn't remain bare until you can afford original artwork. One way to go is to expand your ideas as to what constitutes art, because you can hang up anything you like so long as you find it interesting and attractive. The question to ask yourself is, simply, "Do I really enjoy looking at this?" In my front entrance way, I've hung up a wooden checkerboard that my father (a very talented and award-winning woodworker) made for me. A friend of mine has an antique post office window hanging over the couch in her living room, and I've heard of people mounting a large tree branch over their dining room table (they decorate it with lights at Christmas), or mounting and framing collections of small items such as buttons, or making collages out of personal momentoes.

Another option is to make your own art, and don't think that you have to be an accomplished painter, sketch artist, or photographer for this to be an option. If you can make anything beautiful that can conceivably be hung on the wall, go for it. I have a little stained glass butterfly hanging over the doorway in my bathroom, and I'm always surprised by the number of my guests who come out of the bathroom and immediately comment on it. In my front hallway, across from the checkerboard, I have hanging a framed counted cross-stitch of a magnolia that I made. It has approximately 29,000 stitches in it and took me two and a half years to stitch, so I had it professionally framed and hung it by the front door so I could see it every damn day of my life and think, "That's right. TWENTY-NINE THOUSAND STITCHES."

People have been framing needlework such as embroidery and needlepoint for many years, and now crocheting and knitting are getting into the picture. I ran across the picture above on the net a few weeks ago, and was very impressed. Finally, someone found a contemporary use for doilies! The collection looked so sharp I made a mental note to myself to find some comparable shots of framed knitting and write a post about it.

There were fewer examples of framed knitting on the net. Knitting tends to be less purely decorative than doilies are, so it might take a little more imagination to produce a decorative knitting piece, but it can be done. The blogger at Crafty Yuppie made this piece for an art show at work (and had a bit of time convincing her co-workers that knitting could be art), and I thought it quite lovely.

I found this piece, which is about contrasting the colour and texture of the knitting, in the My Mountain Studio shop on Art Fire, and it's striking.

This is a new direction to explore, and I'm sure most knitters could make a beautiful collection of knitted pieces that would suit their homes and become the admiration of all their house guests. You might even have swatches on hand you could hang up by the end of today, or say, a lace scarf that you can't finish because you ran out of yarn, that would be a perfect candidate for framing.

One important factor in knitted art's success is that the pieces should be framed to a professional standard, because a good quality framing job really adds to the aesthetic viability of a piece. I can't do framing myself and professional framing is one of my few extravagances in decorating, but so worth it. Especially when it comes to a piece of needlework that has TWENTY-NINE THOUSAND STITCHES in it.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

What to Do When You Have Three Hours, a T-shirt, and a Skein of Yarn on Hand

Ute Rehner, a Facebook user and a member of the Heute Strick Ich Faceboook community page, decided one afternoon that she needed something to wear for an evening appointment. She took a plain charcoal gray jersey top and a single skein of Rowan Kidsilk Haze Glamour, and set to work, knitting a collar and cuffs, cutting away part of the original neckline and sleeves from her shirt, and then pinning and stitching the knitted ones in place, all in the space of three hours. The result looks wonderful — you can see more pictures and Rehner's narrative on here.

This is definitely a great idea for making a lovely little top that can be worn almost anywhere, will flatter most women, and that isn't going to take much time or money. But if I try it, I'll be allowing myself more than three hours of leeway for the job. I have never found that knitting and tight deadlines marry well.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Today's Knitting is Yesterday's News

If you're still one of those who indulge in the delightfully archaic practice of reading the newspaper on actual newspaper, or if your local newspapers are so desperate to entice you to do so that they leave freebies on your front porch, you may be wondering what to do with the paper once you've read it. Well, if you're a knitter, you can turn it into yarn and knit things with it. Back in 2007, Design Academy Eindhoven student Greetje van Tiem, from the academy's Man and Leisure department, presented a graduation show project that involved old newspapers into yarn that can be woven into carpets, curtains and upholstery. Accordng to van Tiem, each sheet of newspaper yields twenty yards of yarn.

Italian artist Ivano Vitali, who is interested in zero waste art and was experimenting with tapestries made of backdated newspapers, plastic bags, eggshells and aluminum foil nearly forty years ago, now works almost exclusively in recycled newsprint.

Vitali makes not only art installation, but newspaper garments that are not only quite attractive but even wearable. He produces different colours in his garment by carefully pre-sorting the newspapers before producing the yarn. And these are remarkably well-cut styles, but I can't help wondering what would happen if one got caught in the rain in newsprint knitwear. Mightn't it disintegrate completely?

I don't think for instance, that I'd have the nerve to go swimming in this Ivano Vitali-made bikini.

If you'd like to give knitting with newsprint a try, you might begin by checking out this Craftster tutorial on how to make newspaper yarn.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Why a Knitter Shouldn't Marry a Rollerskater

Franklin Habit of The Panopticon brings us an animated drama showing us what would happen if Queen Elizabeth, who is a knitter, were married to a roller-skating Albert Einstein.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Knitting Fables

I've previously done a "knitting narratives post", for which I wrote fictional captions for various photos of knitting weirdness. It did quite well pageview count-wise, and so I have decided to start doing these knitting fable posts fairly regularly, say, twice a month. This may be my frustration over not getting to my novel-in-progress talking, and probably no one finds my captions as hilarious as I do, but I find them easy and a lot of fun to write. With knitwear this bizarre, the jokes write themselves.

Many of the pictures and captions below have already appeared on this blogs's Facebook page, but there are a couple of new ones. From now on I'll try to be sure that at least half the entries are new.

Chantal has always really gotten off on static cling: the flyaway hair, the crackly sounds, the slight electric charge, the feeling that her undies might be showing. She was sure she couldn't be the only person who felt that way, and her newest knitwear creation was designed to give the wearer that fresh-out-of-the-dryer, forgot-the-fabric-softener feeling.

Lola thought her knitted outfit needed just a little something more to jazz it up a bit, so she tied a legwarmer around her leg just above the knee. There, she thought, that was just what it wanted. Like her mother always said, a classic look does require a touch of the unexpected if it's not to look staid and boring.

Ginevra thought she'd come up with the perfect design for an après-ski outfit: a tensor bandage or cast from any ski injuries would fit right underneath, if she spilled a drink the mark would just blend in, and it complemented her husband's lederhosen.

Tarquin is a complicated man, and no one understands him but his knitwear designer, Bikram yoga instructor, and shadow puppet coach.

Dr. Void was proud of the way her knitting project had turned out. She'd made a sweater that looked polished and professional and that could double as a Rorschach inkblot test for her patients in her psychiatry practice.

Whenever one of the kids woke up crying in the night, Grace always put on her special face mask and Fred quickly donned his Insane Gopher Man costume before they went to their child's room. As they told their friends at Curling Club, one of the parenting how-to books they'd read had said that they could help their children lose their fear of nightmares by making reality even more terrifying.

Yvonne had hoped her new dress would do double duty for her position as High Priestess of Loki and for her job as a claims adjuster, but then the Bishop of her diocese told her The Book of Loki forbid the use of hot pink in ceremonial robes for any priestess above the rank of Semi-Exalted. These weekend role playing games could certainly get exacting but then, as Yvonne reminded herself, that was what she liked about them.

Morticia hoped her new spring dress wasn't too young or bright or pretty for her. Gomez had been enthralled and Thing had given her a thumb up, so she decided it would do.

Per her therapist's instructions, Suzette dutifully swathed herself in fabric from her mother's sewing room and afghans from the rec room couch, sat in the woods behind her family's house, and said to herself, "I am a princess. I am a princess. I am a princess," for two hours every day. But after two weeks, when her self-esteem didn't seem to be improving, she began to think her therapist was full of it. Maybe, Suzette thought, the way to feel better about herself was to dump her douchebag boyfriend, train to run a marathon, and begin working towards the career in medical research that she'd always wanted.

Annabella had learned years ago that any stitch gauge snafu could be compensated for if she just threw enough attitude and the right shades into the mix.

When Teoma found she didn't have the goods for slalom kayaking or roller sports, she decided the brand new Olympic sport of rope climbing and knitting would be her best bet of taking home the gold.

Twin sisters Aurora and Dawn had a knitting time ritual: Aurora would strum her ukelele while Dawn sang twelfth century chantefables and knitted. Unfortunately Dawn had only turned out ugly afghans so far, and Aurora was considering suggesting that they switch roles, but the subject had to be approached with care. Aurora remembered well what had happened the time she wanted to be the one who wore the fascinator.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

If You've Ever Felt Like Mending a Sweater

Has your favourite wool sweater developed holes? One way to mend the hole, or to embellish a plain sweater, is to needle felt patches over the holes with a small amount of roving and a felting needle. Erica at the blog Honestly WTF has written a tutorial explaining how to make heart-shaped patches for your sweater elbows.

If you want to see a video of the felting patch technique, the one above demonstrates it well. You'll have the option of making the patches in different simple shapes, such as those found in cookie cutters (stars, hearts, trees, Easter chicks or eggs), or if you're feeling really artistic, in more complex creations of your own design: birds, insects, flowers, text, or whatever you like. If you wish to simply mend your sweater unobtrusively, you can try to find roving in a very similar colour, or if that's not possible, mend the sweater with the closest colour of roving you can find and then dye the whole item a new colour.

There are considerations to keep in mind. Felting won't work with synthetic fibres or with superwash wool. To be a candidate for felt patches, your sweater must be natural, non-superwash woolly fibres such as sheep's wool, alpaca, angora, or cashmere. The felt patch, while it may look unobtrusive, will have a very different texture from the rest of the sweater, so you'll have to ask yourself if you'll be okay with that or if you'll be constantly fingering that stiff, lumpy little patch. Needle felting involves fast, forceful stabbing motions within inches of your fingers, and you're bound to stick yourself with the barbed needle at some point in the process, and it will hurt a lot. Felting isn't a quick process, either — darning is faster. The video above, as you can see, isn't real time.

I've never used felt patches to mend my sweaters. I do mend my clothes whenever I can, but I mend knitted items by darning them with the same, or a very similar, colour. And generally my rule is that mending has to be invisible, or at least unobtrusive, or the item goes out. I'm really not into the grunge/Dickensian urchin look. I must admit though that those heart-shaped elbow patches would be adorable on a little kid's sweater, so there might just be some felt patching in my future.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Political Correctness in the Bag

In Toronto, where I live, plastic shopping bags have been something of a political sore spot recently. A three-year-old by-law mandating a 5 cent charge for plastic bags was revoked effective July 1, 2012, and in the following November a decision by Toronto city council to ban single use plastic bags entirely by 2013 was reversed when it met with strenuous opposition from the Ontario Convenience Stores Association. While the latter political move really was probably too draconian and impractical, at least for the present, I agreed with the mandatory 5 cent charge bylaw and thought it worked well as an incentive to get people to use cloth shopping bags. When the by-law was originally enacted, plastic bags became a much less common sight overnight, and I especially liked that I, who had been already avoiding the used of plastic bags for years, no longer had to tell cashiers "No bag... no bag... no bag... I don't need that bag," before they heard me, because giving out plastic bags was so routine that it was an autopilot task for them. And it reduced Toronto's landfill and waste disposal costs. But our illustrious mayor, Rob Ford, didn't seem to think fiscal and environmental responsibility was a good reason to continue to impose a slight inconvenience on his voters. No, I didn't vote for him, thanks for asking.

Regardless of what the plastic bag status is in your locale, if you want to avoid the use of the plastic shopping bags but are discouraged by the ugliness of the environmentally friendly cloth bags out there, you can always knit your own. There are loads of patterns on the net for such bags, many of them free. I like the one above, from the blog Homebaked Online, which is partly based on a Knitty pattern.

This one from Worsted Knitt is a good basic pattern. These bags will be useful for other things besides grocery shopping, such as heading to the beach. These bags can also be made in your favourite colour, or in a set of different colours to coordinate with your outfits — I know I need more than one bag to bring home a week's groceries.

And if you don't like those I've featured here, check out the selection of string bags on Ravelry.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Knitting Jubilee

How do you make a large-scale yarn bomb or knitted art installation without having to do all the work yourself? By asking the public to help you out, of course. One weekend in June 2010, sculptor Dan Preston, jewellery designer Holly Packer, and some Superblue Design Ltd. employees took 7000 metres of rope, a giant circular knitting loom, and some large plastic balls to Jubilee Park at Canary Wharf, London, and enticed over 100 park visitors into knitting a 72 metre tube.

I'm wondering if I could try something similar the next time I'm behind schedule on knitting Christmas presents.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

How Daniela Edburg Sees Knitters

In 2010, photographer Daniela Edburg staged and took a series of photos about characters who deal with restlessness, obsessions, and the passage of time by, well, knitting. You can view them on Edburg's site, and see a few more pictures in a gallery posted by The Morning News.

Of course the photo you see above is from Edburg's set. My best guess is that it's Dickens' Miss Havisham, slightly recast as a knitter. And you know it's a surreal depiction of her, because if Miss Havisham had taken to her knitting instead of merely watching her adopted daughter Estella knit, she wouldn't have spent decades in that wedding gown. She would have preferred to wear her nice new sweaters, shawls, and other items.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Knitting Needles That Jingle, Jangle, Bangle

If you want to signal your fetish for love of knitting to the world in some other way than actually knitting, and don't think you want to go as far as getting a knitting tattoo, you might try making yourself a knitting needle bracelet. Time for Tea offers an excellent tutorial on how it's done. And I must admit that if you've got a suitably interesting mateless plastic or metal knitting needle sitting around that you never use because you care about having your 4mm needles match each other visually, turning it into a rather fun and funky bracelet isn't a bad way to make use of it.

That's my rational reaction. My visceral reaction is something similar to that engendered when I see crafts made from "extra" books. There's no such thing as extra knitting needles or books. What's next, eating our young?!

Friday, 19 April 2013

Twist Collective Spring 2013: A Review

Let's have a look at Twist Collective's Spring 2013 issue.

I very much like the Viridis jacket which has a beautiful lace front panel and good overall proportions and modern lines, but it's one that will have to be worn closed, because when worn open the front pieces are going to sag and the waist tie will trail. If you want to make this cardigan be prepared for that, and also be aware of the bulk it will add to the front of you as double-breasted styles inevitably do.

Twist Collective has offered the beautiful lace Castanea shawl in both a rectangular and a circular shape so that you have the choice of the shape you like best. That's a terrific perk for their customers and one I would like to see offered more often.

The Eliza sweater is a smart little lace-patterned number. If you don't like to emphasize your waist, you might want to decrease the height of the cabled waist section, or just make another sweater, since the waist section is what gives this design its visual interest.

Love the Sprocket baby blanket. It's original, striking, cute and it's backed with fleece which makes it reversible and all the cosier. And if you want your baby to grow up to be a robotics engineer, you can't start programming too early.;-)

The Alvinda design is a nice little fitted lace cardigan. As with the Eliza pattern, you'll want to decrease the height of the waist ribbing if you don't want your waist to be a focal point.

The Lilium cardigan is a sharp little number that will serve its wearer well for years to come. I like that the back looks as sharp as the front. I think designers tend to focus on the front view of their designs, forgetting that in real life one is always seen in a multi-dimensional and dynamic way. Those around you will view you from the side and the back just as often as they do from the front, and it's well to make each aspect give a little something to the eye.

The Romanesco shawl is attractive and seems to drape well, but all I can think when I look at it is that those holes at the pointed edges around the hem look like accidental holes that shouldn't be there.

The Alenia cardigan is quite pretty and will be wearable and flattering for most women. The narrow belt tie won't work on everyone, but it's easily omitted. I would do something a little different with the neckline edging though, such as adding a bit of crocheted edging, because it looks unfinished the way it is.

I love "the twenties middy gone modern" look of the Charleston cardigan. The top-buttoned cardigan style isn't for everyone's figure or taste but you could easily add as many buttons as you like.

The Trifle shrug is one of those very feminine little confections that will look really piquant and pretty on the right person and with the right outfit. It will probably suit the girly type the best, and it's a daywear look. Knitting it in one colour would upgrade it to possible evening wear.

The Tendrils shawl isn't going to be warm or practical, but it is exquisitely delicate. And like the Castanea shawl above, it's rendered in both the rectangular stole and crescent shawl shapes so you can make the one you like best.

Love the Pont Neuf cardigan with its lace panel and side buttons and vintage vibe. Of course, you will want to wear something under this and you will need to wear it closed.

The Cays socks are my kind of sock pattern. Though I might admire intricately colour-patterned socks on someone else, I don't really like the idea of making my feet a focal point. Textured socks with professional-calibre shaping does it for me.

The Galleria tam is a lovely piece of work. Of course I suspect I like it just as much for the colour of its yarn as for its design, though I have no fault to find with the latter. Mmmm, that lovely sea glass blue.

The Wavelettes shawl has a beautiful and interesting texture and drapes well.

The Peking top has a beautiful lace front panel, but unfortunately the rest of the sweater doesn't live up to it. The shaping is sloppy and isn't going to flatter anyone (it's not doing this model any favours whatsoever) and with a neckline that open and a shape that loose, the wearer will be giving every interested and uninterested onlooker regular viewings down the front of her top, which is overkill given that much is visible through the front lace panel already.

The Rosewood design is another beautifully textured and well-shaped pair of socks.

The Cayley cardigan is another pretty and useful cardigan with interesting back detail.

The Haussmann cardigan is a romantic little piece for the girly type. You'll have to wear it closed, but it's so light and lacy and open it's not like you run the risk of getting too overheated in it. I would want to make that tie considerably shorter because it's going to be getting caught on or falling into everything. Such as the toilet.

The Merise top is a pretty and totally wearable little top. It will look good on almost any woman and show some skin without showing her undergarments. Well, okay, I can see some white bra straps there, but you have to look closely to see them and a skin-tone bra would be even less visible.

The Lyssia cardigan is a lovely piece of which I have just one nitpick to make: that the neckline looks a little unfinished and rough. But I really admire the technique used for the butterflies, and I was taken aback to realize how simple it was: the whole sweater is done in the same shade of yarn with the butterflies knitted in stockinette stitch against a reverse stockinette stitch background. So easy and subtle, and yet so innovative and striking.

I want to praise the Fine Kettle shawl because I admire the technical proficiency that went into its creation, and yet I can't. I find this piece really unattractive visually. It looks for all the world like a section cut from a late sixties-era bedskirt. Doing it in another colourway might help.

The Trigere top is a simple little thing with some great side detailing to give it the polish and distinction it needs. This will go to work with a skirt and take a woman through the weekend when paired with jeans. You may want to watch that doesn't wind up being too big through the waist and hips or tight through the chest, but it'll be easy to control the fit by adjusting those side gores.

The Spoletto stole isn't terribly striking but it's attractive and wearable enough. The pattern description says it has some beading on it but I'm not sure I see any in the pictures.

The Lindis sleeveless top is another great little simple yet detailed summer top that'll go anywhere and always look polished and smart.

This Floriston cardigan lies beautifully smooth on the model and has that terrific cabled lace around the neckline and front edges, and then in the back it has that fantastic back detailing. I don't know how they got the pleat to keep those sharp creases, but if it actually stays that way through a day of real life wear, it's quite a technical accomplishment. This piece is my idea of the ultimate design: it's an almost universally flattering item, it's simple and wearable enough that it'll be a go-to wardrobe piece for years, and yet it's so distinctive and technically accomplished that it'll never fail to impress those who really look at it.

Not at all enthusiastic about the Winona cardigan. I don't think the extra width around the hips is going to flatter anyone. It's not doing anything for even this tall, slim model.

The Morisot tank looks simple to the first glance but actually owes its fit and flattering to some very able shaping in front and back. You'll want to make this one in a variegated yarn as the sample knitter did, because it'll help hide the shaping.