Showing posts with label akin to knitting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label akin to knitting. Show all posts

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Macramé: Why Knot Indeed

Circa 2006, when I was planning on redoing a couple of old lawn chairs, a Google search for instructions on how to work macramé lawn chairs led me into exploring the craft of macramé itself, which in turn left me shaken and scarred. Every click seemed to reveal some fresh new horror. I couldn't seem to find a single attractive use of this craft. There was nothing but bad jewelry, terrible home décor items, tacky lawn chairs, Elvis-style belts, wretched Christmas decorations, and really bloody awful owls.

Remember these plant hangers? They were ubiquitous in the seventies. Although fortunately back then it didn't generally occur to people to make their plant hangers do double duty as a wine rack.

And then there were the macramé owls. So many owls. For some reason people who did macramé had a real fetish for owls. There were macramé owl earrings, macramé owl key chains, and especially macramé wall hangings. If you have the fortitude you can peruse seven freaking pages of macramé owls here.

Eventually, defeated and demoralized, I just printed off some instructions and did my chairs in the "I heart Bingo" pattern above.

I kid. I actually worked them in a plain pattern using cream-coloured cord. And they turned out fine, but to this day that's my only foray into macramé.

Then a little while ago it occurred to me that I ought to write a post on macramé for this site as I've done for a number of other crafts that are akin to knitting. This time my image googling results were more mixed. Some of the same traumatizing crafts were still popping up (go ahead and google "macramé lingerie" if you dare), but there were also a number of very attractive items. I've since learned that macramé is also known as Canvandoli and knotted fiber art, which helped me uncover some of the better examples of macramé. As of course exist. There are bad crafts out there, but there's really no such thing as a bad crafting technique. When crafting goes wrong as it often does, the fault lies in the design and/or the execution, not in the medium itself. Every tree produces some bad apples.

So yes, macramé has loads of potential as a craft. If anything, it's underexplored as a medium. I do think it's fair to say that macramé is more limited than knitting. It isn't well suited to making clothing. Loosely knotted macramé will be too open weave to be wearable (unless one is, say, J.Lo), and knotting it more closely will make it too stiff and heavy for clothing.

Macramé does have some limited use as overlays and embellishments for clothing, as is the case with this hammered silk crepe and jersey macramé dress from the Spring/Summer 2010 Ready-to-Wear Collection by Tadashi Shoji.

Macramé can also be used to make straps or halter back detail for a garment. It could also be used to make a shawl.

The stiffness and sturdiness of closely knotted macramé makes it a good technique for purses and handbags, as in the case of this clutch and shoulder bag from Banana Republic.

Macramé can make some quite striking jewelry, in which the crafter can incorporate beads and stones and other findings.

If you've got a simple wooden or metal chair frame about, you can make a quite comfortable and attractive macramé chair that will be suitable for indoor or outdoor use.

Macrame can also be used to make pillows, as in the case of these from Amenity, though you will want to line them.

And I don't see anything objectionable in a simple macramé plant hanger, like these ones, the pattern for which is available for free on the Lion Brand site (I can't link directly to the pattern as anyone who wants to access it must register first). But please, no plant hangers with tassels hanging nearly to the floor, and no sticking wine bottles into your plant hanger, because that's just wrong.

If you wish to give macramé a go, there is, which offers some patterns (of varying quality, but that's to be expected given the price) and, more importantly, instructions on the basics and more advanced techniques of the craft. There's also Macrame School on Youtube, which offers a number of instructional videos, and for inspiration, there are quite a few macramé boards on Pinterest.

But it doesn't seem that macramé will ever distance itself from the owl. If anything, macramists seem determined to embrace the owl, as artist Andy Harman has done with this owl installation. There is, in fact, Macramé Owl, an "organisation [that] is dedicated to saving, rehabilitating and reviving the Macramé Owl".

I couldn't make this stuff up.


Friday, 14 March 2014

Tatting for the 21st Century

I was reading Franklin Habit's February 26th post on his first foray into the art of tatting last Saturday morning when I remembered that I've been meaning to write about tatting for my own blog. This tatting post intention is actually of such long standing that I thought perhaps I already had written about tatting, but the search tool assures me I haven't.

Very well then. Tatting is about 200 years old, emerged as a way for women to make their own lace at a time when real lace was extremely expensive to purchase, and declined as commercially made lace became affordable. Georgia Seitz's amazingly thorough article on tatting in the 19th century will probably tell you all you want to know about tatting's history. There are three kinds of tatting: shuttle tatting, needle tatting (which is similar to shuttle tatting but looks slightly looser and thicker), and cro-tatting, which is a combination of crochet and tatting, employs a tatting needle with a crochet hook at the end, and is reportedly the hardest of the three to learn.

I first heard of tatting when I was little girl and my grandmother told me of it. She mused over the idea of teaching me but said she didn't know whether she "could learn me to tat or not." She wasn't sure she could remember how herself and she also didn't know whether she still had her tatting shuttle. So the tatting lessons never happened. The closest I got to tatting was when my mother complained bitterly of the "tats" in my very tangle-prone hair every morning before school. I instead learned the craft of English paper piecing from Grandma. Over the years I have often toyed with the idea of learning to tat in memory of my grandmother and because I always want to learn every craft going anyway. But whenever I've picked up a book on tatting I was put off by the fact that I had no use for any of the projects therein. I mean, that picture on the cover of the book above is one impressive piece of work, but what the hell would I do with it? The patterns in the books were always all about collars and lace trim, edgings for handkerchiefs and table linens, and doilies. And I don't particularly like lace. I do have tastes that are so retro they're anachronistic, but they run early to mid-twentieth century, and lace is Victorian. Unless you count knitted items that have lace patterning (I don't), I don't have a single lace-trimmed garment in my entire wardrobe unless you count my underthings (and no I don't make those). I use tissues, not handkerchiefs, and lace-trimmed table linens wouldn't suit my house, though I do dream of someday embroidering some. And who even uses doilies these days? My 75-year-old mother thinks they're hopelessly antiquated. But... my urge to learn to tat would not die. So when I researched this post I also tried to find justification for my acquisition of the skill. Surely someone somewhere was tatting things I would like to make.

I did searches and found the expected traditional collars, cuffs, lace-trimmed linens and handkerchiefs, then upon digging a little further some less traditional uses such as pasting pieces of tatting on cards for special anniversaries or using it artwork, seasonal decorations such as angels and baubles for the Christmas tree, which was more interesting but still wasn't the kind of stuff I'd want to make. These, which are by deviantArt user a asfina, are lovely, though.

I'm happy to say, I now have the excuse I wanted to learn to tat. The tatted jewelry I came across really got my attention. Deviant Art and Pinterest have loads of great examples of tatted jewelry. Necklaces and earrings and cuff bracelets are suitable for tatting, and there are even some fabulous masks for the goth/steampunk types. The necklace and earrings above are by deviantArt user asfina, whose blog is worth a look.

From asfina's blog. I wouldn't wear anything like this except on Halloween, but it's pretty awesome.

These earrings are by deviantArt user spinstermaiden.

This incredible necklace is all the reason I will ever need to learn to tat. It's from the blog Yarnplayer.

How fabulous is this one? I do a little beading, and I'll be learning to tat as an adjunct to that skill.

A tatted lace bookmark might make a good starter project. This one is the work of deviantArt user seandreea.

I'd say my first task is to pick out a tatting shuttle. I'm most drawn to shuttle tatting purely because I get to buy a lovely shuttle to work with. Shuttles are made from every possible material: wood, metal, bone, plastic. It's possible to buy antique shuttles, though when purchasing those you'll be competing with collectors who don't even know how to tat. The shuttles above are made from acrylic, brass, decoupaged, sterling silver, and carved wood. If your local craft stores don't have shuttles to your taste, try eBay or Etsy for an antique or hand-crafted shuttle. The decoupaged shuttles above are made by Etsy user La Cossette, and the acrylic and wooden shuttles by Grizzly Mountain Arts.

How does one learn to tat? YouTube has many instructional videos, such as the one above, which is first in a comprehensive series. There are plenty of other resources on the net, such as the British-based, international tatting organization Ring of Tatters, and Tatting Pattern Central, which has tutorials and tips for beginners as well as the patterns the name suggests. Do be prepared to be patient. Franklin Habit reports his first five-hour attempt at tatting resulted in a knot so small it would have disappeared up his nose if he'd inhaled deeply, and it's not like he's a stranger to crafting.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

The Wool Paintings of Cayce Zavaglia

You probably admire the meticulous detail and realism of the painting above. As you should, but it's not technically a painting. It is, strictly speaking, a piece of embroidery. Artist Cayce Zavaglia trained as and was a painter until she got pregnant with her daughter, and consequently decided she no longer wanted to use oil paints because of the turpentine and fumes that inevitably accompany working in oils. Instead, she began "painting" with wool.

Zavaglia initially found it frustrating to no longer be able to just create any shade or tint she wished as one can with paint, and resolved the problem by learning to layer different coloured stitches in order to create the illusion of the specific colours and tones she wanted. Her stitchwork mimics drawing techniques in their direction and layers to create a visual depth, volume and form. Her pieces are entirely hand-stitched, can be as large as 1' x 3', and take as long as six months to complete. She uses a single ply of wool or acrylic yarn, as well as cotton and silk threads, and works mainly on linen.

Zavaglia still considers herself a painter and finds it difficult not to refer to her works as "paintings", but also considers her work an "unabashed nod to the tradition of tapestry and her own love of craft". You can see and learn more of Zavaglia's work on her web site.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Luceting: I-cord's Older, Stronger and Possibly Cooler Cousin

If you need cord to finish off a knitted project such as a drawstring bag (or the perfect, period-accurate take-along project for when you're headed off to a Renaissance Faire), one option is to learn luceting. The technique for lucet cording dates back to the Viking and medieval periods, is fairly easy to learn (it may take a few cords before you get the tension down), and only requires a single tool, such as the one shown above, available from Stitch Diva Studios.

This video from Stitch Diva Studios will show you how to make a basic lucet cord. Once you are comfortable with the technique, it's possible to move on to adding beads to the cord, and even to making your own jewelry. Ziggy Rytka has written a book and a DVD on advanced luceting that are available from The Lucet Co.

When shopping for a lucet fork, you'll find it's possible to get styles ranging from the very simple and functional to quite decorative, such as the ones above, which are offered by Wooden Knitting.

This one from Grizzly Mountain Arts was too beautiful not to include, though it seems to be a one-of-a-kind piece made back in 2009 and that was sold on eBay, so if you want one like it you're probably out of luck unless you can either carve wood or know a woodcarver who can be talked or bribed into making you one. I do wonder whether a lucet fork needs a handle as it seems to me it would easiest and most comfortable to use if it had one, but there are plenty of both handless and handled lucet forks available for sale on the web, so it's plainly not absolutely necessary. It does look as though the handle is useful when it comes to making a very long cord, as the cord produced can be tidily wrapped around the handle.

This lucet fork is definitely not available for sale, being "a whalebone line-winder incised with the figure of a bird" Viking artifact from north Norway. Those Vikings certainly knew how to make cord.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Have a Forking Good Time Making Pom-Poms

Here's a video from the people of Loom a Hat that will tell you how to use a fork to make pom-poms. You will be limited to making very small pom-poms when you use this technique, but I suppose if you wanted to move on to bigger ones you could use a slotted spatula or the garden fork.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Viking Knitting Isn't Just for Vikings Anymore

The Vikings, pillagers and plunderers that they were, were the possessors of quite a bit of metal that needed to be used in some way. So they made jewelry. By the 8th century they had created a technique that is called trichinopoly or more commonly "Viking knitting", although it is really a type of weaving. It's possible that the jewelry was used as currency on those occasions when the Vikings actually paid for their acquisitions, like some sort of wearable bank account. Ostentatious types, those Vikings. It's not like anyone in our society would string twenties together and wear them around his or her neck. I suppose when you're known for your ferocity and lawlessness, you don't have to fear being mugged or looking nouveau riche.

If the Viking style of adornment appeals to you, you can learn this technique and make your own Viking-style jewelry. It's less complicated than it looks, and you don't even have to know how to knit in order to learn. You can learn to make the bracelet above through the accompanying tutorial here.

Here's a YouTube instructional video by, and there are a number of other such videos on YouTube.

Once you master the basic technique, you'll be able to start improvising by adding beads and findings. The necklace and earrings above are from the artist behind Woven Wire Jewelry, who offers a tutorial in the Viking knitting technique for $10 here.

I found quite a lot of lovely pieces on the net, and just included a few of my favourites here. I don't know who made this necklace. If you made it, please let me know and I'll be more than happy to credit you and add a link back to your web site or online store.

I found this necklace quite stunning. If you do, but you have no interest in learning the Viking knitting technique, it can be ordered from A Myriad Vice on Deviant Art.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Tonight You Can Nailbind Like It's Still 399

Can you guess how old these socks are? I'm sure you'd estimate them to be at least a few hundred years old. Would you believe they are over 1600 years old? These socks are Egyptian and date from between A.D. 250 and A.D. 420. That is one colour-fast red dye. The split-toe style would have been created to allow for the wearing of sandals over the socks. I can't imagine that putting sandals over these socks would have looked or felt anything but awkward. Our no-socks-with-sandals prejudice was cemented early and with good reason.

However, though these socks might look knitted, they are in fact not knitting samples but examples of nålebinding, or in English "nailbinding" or "single needle knitting". The single needle used for this technique was crafted from wood or bone that was “flat, blunt and between 6-10 cm long, relatively large-eyed at one end or the eye is near the middle.” Some of what were long thought to be the oldest surviving pieces of knitting have since been determined to be nailbinded — the techniques do produce such similar pieces of work that it can be difficult to distinguish one from the other. Nailbinding, however, is the much older craft. It dates from prehistoric times while the oldest-known examples of knitting date from about 1000 A.D. and knitting is believed to have originated circa 800 A.D..

Nailbinding is slower and more labour-intensive than knitting, but easier on the back, shoulders and hands, and turns out a fabric that is, if less stretchy, more dense and durable. It is still practiced in Peru by the women of the Nanti tribe, an indigenous people of the Camisea region of Peru, who use the technique to make bracelets. Nailbinding is also used in Iran to make socks, and in parts of Scandinavia to make very warm hats, gloves, and other items.

If you'd like to give nailbinding a try yourself, there's a illustrated tutorial here, an instructional video here and samples of nailbinding and other resources at Dilettante.

Friday, 8 February 2013

I Am Not a Knit Wit, But I Have One

One Saturday afternoon in late 2008, while I was happily browsing the racks at Value Village, I found a Knit Wit kit. By which I mean one of the above. The Knit Wit, despite its name, is not a knitting tool, but is rather a sort of small, simple hand loom. Knit Wits used to be advertised on TV when I was little. The commercials showed a woman and her little girl happily making afghans by winding yarn around the pins on the tool and then twisting the handle to make the finished rosette pop dramatically off (there was even a special sound effect). In retrospect, the items the two of them made on the commercials were freaking hideous. But I was the kind of child who always wanted to try my hand at every craft going (actually, that's the kind of adult I am as well), and I clearly remember how much I wanted a Knit Wit. So I bought the Value Village kit. It was only $5 and I was pretty sure I could put it to good use. Plus I got to gratify a childhood desire, which is one adult pleasure I totally recommend.

Then I went home and began doing some research. Knit Wits seem to have been around since the 1950s, and this is one of the former reincarnations of the kit.

In company with a lot of TV-advertised plastic gadgets, they don't work quite as easily as the commercials lead us to believe. This is part of the instruction manual from one of the older kits. Apparently there were also several pages of written instructions to accompany these visual aids.

Looking at the official Knit Wit website that night in 2008 made me laugh until I had tears streaming down my face. The company was using the same images they used in their commercials circa 1981, and offered almost no recent designs or patterns. Unfortunately the Knit Wit web site is not extant anymore, or I could show you horrendous pantsuits and mini-dresses and daisy afghans (such as the one above) that dated from the sixties and seventies. They were offered for sale individually, as if anyone would ever buy them. And as God is my witness, I swear I could hear the yarn screaming.

There aren't too many Knit Wit patterns or examples on the net at all, and most of them are decades old and/or terrible. This, for instance, is one of the pattern books from back in the day. I wish I could page through it, because I'm sure it's a gem of its kind.

Here's another book, with two close ups of the afghans in it. On second thought maybe I don't really want to see the rest of the patterns in these booklets.

This is one of the very few recent designs I could find, and it... leaves something to be desired.

But there aren't any needlework techniques or tools that can't be used for good rather than evil — the failing is usually that of the crafter's taste or skill rather than inherent in the craft itself. And there are a few good examples of Knit Wit items on the net that prove that yes, it is possible to use the Knit Wit tool to make something attractive. I don't care for the pink snowsuit above, but I must admit the cocktail dress is quite something.

Blogger Kathleen Gauthier has written a post on her site about her mother's 50s-era Knit Wit dress, which was made out of purple organza ribbon, and gotten her own daughter to model it for us over a vintage slip (Gauthier's mother wore it over a purple silk sheath). It's lovely.

Martha Stewart has featured a few quite desirable Knit Wit designs on her site. There's certainly nothing wrong with this delicate scarf.

Martha Stewart also offers us some Knit Wit décor ideas: making a cushion from Knit Wit rosettes, or using the rosettes to decorate a plain cushion or throw.

But even so I know I will mostly be on my own as far as Knit Wit designs go. And I am afraid but ready. The Knit Wit tool kit doesn't seem to be in production at present, but if you'd like one of your own, try your luck on eBay, or perhaps make your own with pins and cardboard.


A reader named Karen (thank you Karen!) has helpfully pointed out that there are more Knit Wit designs available on the net. Rather than limiting myself to what's under that one brand name, I should have searched under "daisy loom", "bloom loom", "flower loom", and "square loom".

This is not to say that all the flower loom designs are attractive. A western skunk cabbage by any other name would still smell just as bad. You know how I keep saying some designs are too afghan-like in my magazine issue reviews? This photo must be the ultimate illustration of my principle that though an afghan is a fine thing, you can't wear it.

Here we have an afghan/skirt, and a rather cute little top.

Here we have a collection of atrocious items with one that's actually quite good. As you can see, this little cardigan is a clever hybrid: it's partly flower loomed, and partly knit. If you want to try making wearable items with flower looming, you probably will need to incorporate some knitting into it at some point. I don't know how you'd shape the rosettes into a flattering garment otherwise.

Great photo. This woman actually looks chic. The purse and hat are useable by contemporary standards. I'm going to reserve judgment on the blouse because I can't see enough of it to tell whether it's flattering and attractive. What we can see does look promising.

You can see more pictures of flower loom items here, and check out the many related links here.