Art is a Bitch

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Bob and I went to see the Cindy Sherman exhibit at the Wexner yesterday. Cindy Sherman was my favorite artist in college. I was a photographer (degree is BA in Visual Arts Studio, Emphasis Photography) so of course she was a huge influence on me. Seeing the Film Stills in person made me feel nostalgic, but I enjoyed being introduced to her new work as we moved through the exhibit. She is still one of my favorite artists.

I wondered if her work had influenced any of my fiber art. Then I thought of this piece.

The Watcher

This is “Watcher,” and as you can see, she is basically a vulva. I think this piece shows Cindy Sherman’s influence, but also my own experience as a woman. It’s funny that I called her “Watcher,” don’t you think? Shouldn’t she be the one who is being looked at? But she’s looking back. She’s also cornered by her sex, and other than her defensive gaze, she is helpless.

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I haven’t completely given up on art making. I started this piece about a year ago, when another artist who collected my work said to me, “You are one of my favorite artists. You have to keep making art!” He actually gave me this copper plumber’s wire, so I was making this piece for him as a way to try to get inspired to keep making art. I am going to refocus on it, and spend a little time with it today.

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In the spirit of trying something new during the 12 days, I tried crocheting wire in the round – basically a crocheted i-cord. When I knit i-cord with wire, the join is never as tight and consistent as I want it to be. I thought if I crocheted it, I might be able to make a more fluid join. As you can see, I struggled reading the stitches and maintaining any kind of consistency. I ended up with a tiny bird’s nest, gave up, and let the cat play with it.

It did remind me, though, how difficult it is with wire knitting (and crochet too, I guess) during the early stages of the project. It’s like being a pioneer, or cutting your way through the jungle with a machete. You have to keep doing what you started, and keep going, until the fabric starts to form itself. If you give up too early, you end up with a tiny mess, wad it up, and throw it across the room! (Maybe that’s just me.)

I haven’t made any art since 2014 because I felt like I didn’t have anything to say, and I stopped participating in group shows with deadlines — which was, at the time, the only way I could get motivated to make anything. But we watched a video about Cindy Sherman before we went to the exhibit, and it showed her process. She doesn’t start out with something to say. She experiments and eventually the work comes out, which is pretty much how my figurative knit works were created when I started experimenting with stainless silk thread. So maybe I need to keep experimenting?

Are you a process or product oriented knitter/artist? I think I may be both?

Sunny Scandinavian Topper – A Look Back

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Here’s an old hat. I found it in my youngest’s closet. It was my first stranded knitting project. I made it to match some mittens I purchased at a Scandinavian festival, 17 years ago.

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The gauge is obviously not a match, and neither is the pattern, for that matter. I don’t remember what pattern it is, but I do remember substituting colors to match my mittens. The yarn is Peace Fleece. I love how they continue to expand their mission. This hat is a toasty warm sunny topper for a cold winter’s day.

I don’t think my youngest will notice I’ve stolen it back from his closet.

I have been anticipating starting the stranded colorwork on my J&S Swatch.I love knitting two colors with both hands! I remember learning all the techniques I could in the early days. I’m an English knitter (thrower,) but I can also knit Continental (picker,) and even backwards! So stranded colorwork will be fun.

What’s your favorite knitting technique?

Are you a Thrower or a Picker?

Swatching Shetland for Christmas

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If the week between Christmas and New Year’s is a sign of things to come for 2018, I’ll be working on a lot of new projects next year!

I was very excited to get my hands on some J&S Jumper Weight yarn. I’ll admit it. I became fascinated with the idea of knitting with shetland wool yarn after binge watching Shetland on Netflix. I couldn’t order it directly, or find it online, until Ravelry pointed me in the direction of Lost City Knits. The fact that she is in Oklahoma City (I’m a displaced Okie) sealed the deal for me. I only ordered enough to swatch, though.

My first idea was to knit a simple navy blue pullover for myself. That is the type of thing I enjoy wearing: basic and neutral. It’s a gorgeous yarn, a little smaller gauge than I normally like to work with, but the fabric is perfect.

Now I have more ideas, and this swatch will hopefully help me flesh some of them out. I ordered an additional color to experiment with, and will probably introduce some cabling as well as 2-strand color knitting. Hopefully I’ll be able to work on both sweaters in the coming year. The big question is, of course, funding for yarn.

I see some bingeswatching Shetland in my immediate future.

We had a nice, low-key Christmas with mostly-grown kids coming and going. My Christmas cactus bloomed again because I locked it in the root cellar for a month. It is beautiful but it bothers me that I have to deprive it of sunlight to bloom. Why is it that some of us only perform under pressure? I’m hoping to change that for myself in the coming year and become the kind of person who can succeed without trying too hard.

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Big Knit Girly Cowl? Check!

Welp, this didn’t take long. The size 19 needles yielded a rather stiff fabric. I’m torn between borrowing those size 50 needles and ripping it out to start over, or telling my favorite 9-year-old that the ruff is back in style after a 400 year hiatus.

From a fashion perspective, I like the look of it. From a comfort and practicality standpoint, I’m really not sure.

Maybe I’ll let the 9-year-old decide.

Merry Christmas Eve! I’m off to work! Ho ho ho!

Christmas Cookies!

I baked Christmas cookies today! Everything has to be vegan and gluten-free at my house, so that makes it challenging. Luckily the internet is full of exceptional vegan and gluten-free recipes!

This was my first time making vegan and gluten-free shortbread. I was pleasantly surprised by how well they turned out.

I did knit today. I worked on the big knitting cowl and started a swatch for a new design that is still in the concept phase. I hope to be able to blog about that soon!

Big Knitting Christmas

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Somewhere along the way, I picked up a Yuletide tradition that says whatever you do during the 12 Days of Christmas will represent what you will be doing throughout the entire New Year. That’s a lot of pressure! That means I don’t clean (because I hate it and I don’t want to do that ever) and I take off work the week after Christmas, if I can.

(I should mention I celebrate those 12 Days from the Winter Solstice through January 1. Traditionally, the 12 Days are Christmas Day through January 5.)

As a knitter, I take this pretty seriously. It means I need to do the following during the next 11 days: (Happy Winter Solstice yesterday!)

  1. start something (no problem)
  2. finish something (pressure)
  3. design something
  4. try something new
  5. knit every day
  6. blog every day

At the last minute I decided I wanted to knit a gift for my favorite 9-year-old. It needed to be girly, chunky, and hopefully sparkly. I went to Yarn It and Haberdashery and found this scrumdilliumptious yarn from Knit Collage. The sparkles are minimal, but the colors are so perfectly girly without being too sweet, and it’s so soft, and has the loft of cotton candy! I’m smitten.

I’ll be knitting a big cowl for her. I won’t see her until New Year’s, so I have the week to make it. And I get to check off number 1 and number 2 on my list!

Normally, I’m not a big knitting fan. Give me some worsted wool and size 7 needles, and I’m in knitter’s heaven. Big thanks to Esther at Yarn It for loaning me her size 19 circulars for this project. She offered a pair of size 50, and I took one look and said that did not sound enjoyable, so I am making do with 19. (Flashback to learning to write on a Big Chief tablet with a giant pencil.)

What are your knitting plans for the Yuletide?

Word of the Day: Big

Bobbles Thursday

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I finally finished the twilight row on (not raspberry) beret. It is full of bobbles! It took me some time to get around to this row because of the changing of the needles and change in pattern. I procrastinated, because change is hard.

But bobbles are fun and satisfying when complete!

This post reminds me of the holiday quiz where I found out my elf name several years ago. It was Baubles.

I celebrate one month of blogging today with an upgrade to a personal plan and the headknits.com domain. This is a big step for me!

I used to blog regularly many years ago. I had multiple mommy / crafting / art blogs. After a major life upheaval, I stopped. I had too much other work to do, both internally and externally. After some false starts, I’m very happy to finally get back to blogging. It feels like putting my feet back on the right path.

Why do you blog?

Holiday Q&A

I love these Q&As. I got this from nothingbutknit2, but it was originally posted by compassionknit. I hope it’s okay I jump on the bandwagon!

Have you asked your kids to do something you wouldn’t do?

I can’t think of anything. At work, one of my staff told me she respects me because I do not ask them to do anything I am not willing to do myself. I guess I’m that way with my kids, too.

Do you understand: Football, Bridge, or Cricket?

If by Football we mean the same thing as Soccer, then yes. I also understand the basics of American Football. I do not understand Bridge or Cricket. I also do not watch sports as a rule, unless my children are marching in the band during half time. I have never played Bridge. I am fascinated by Rugby and Curling, though.

Have you talked to your family about Organ Donation?

No, I am a registered organ donor, though. It’s a little scary signing up because I always think about Monty Python’s “Meaning of Life” movie when they come for the man’s liver while he is “still using it.” I almost included a link to the video on youtube, but you know what? It is so gruesome, if you really want to see it, you can google it.

Did you knit something that you thought you might not be able to this year?

I think I can knit anything, and I probably have knit almost everything, at least once. There are some things I choose not to knit because I do not enjoy it. The fact that I am knitting at all at this point is pretty remarkable, because I had almost given it up. I’m so glad I clung to knitting!

I-phone or Samsung?

I have an iPhone. It’s fine.

Do you put bows or trinkets on your packages?

We wrap gifts in reusable holiday fabric bags that I made. So, no.

Do your pets get a Holiday treat?

Yes, if we remember. Thanks for the reminder.

Do you use headphones, earbuds or nothing when you watch something on your phone, computer or tablet?

Earbuds.

If you could take a craft/knit/crochet class in January for free, what would it be?

Weaving. Jewelry casting.

Have you ever made a traveling knit? (you knit part and send it on?)

No, but I would love to do that. I participated in an Exquisite Corpse art exhibit where my part of a piece was wire knitting. Here’s a pic!

exquisite corpse hannon, dorsey, head

I guess I couldn’t get away from the gruesome today.

Swatching plus a Gratuitous Kitty Pic

I am swatching and researching stitches for a gansey-inspired bed cover. This is a tiny home retirement hope chest project. I imagine I will blog each square when it is complete, and share information on the stitches and what they represent, and why I chose them. Maybe I’ll include some charts and sketches?

This is my progress so far. A swatch! I love this Cascade Yarns Ecological Wool!

I pulled out my old gansey books and laid them out to photograph. Of course JoJo had to get in on the action.

Work and the holidays are keeping me very busy, but as you can see, I am still finding the time to dream and design and knit! 6 more days! Ho Ho Ho!

Nostalgia, Fun with Words, and Family Legacies

Lately I find myself conundrumming (what a great verb that noun makes) about what to do with keepsakes – both those left to me by my Mother and Grandmother, and those I have kept to pass on to my children. Since I plan to retire into a tiny home, I won’t be able to keep these… sakes, and that’s okay, I guess. I’ve never been overly sentimental.

I asked my boys if they would like to keep these sweaters I knit for them when dey were just wittle babies. They responded, “Why?” like when they were 5. I guess they can’t see any reason why they would want to hang on to these:

The blue one is the first sweater I ever knit! for my oldest. It is from superwash! lamb’s wool worsted! (ironic exclamation points.) This was all the rage back in the day during Y2K. It was next to the skin soft (they claimed) and you could throw it in the washer and dryer! (Uh huh.) Okay, maybe the over-zealous yarn shop clerk is to blame. She really talked it up.

It proved to be too itchy for him to wear as a toddler, but he did wear it once or twice over a button down (because I made him.) The blue matched his eyes (for real.) I don’t remember where I got the pattern.

The top right design may look familiar as it is the quintessential Baby Surprise Jacket by Elizabeth Zimmerman. Thank you EZ for teaching me how math and knitting work together to show you how the universe was created. Did I add that hood myself? I may have. I’ve always been a maverick. This was for my middlest when he was fresh outta the oven, from some combination of wool and hemp, because I was am a hippie and I love the earth.

Bottom right is what I think may be a pattern from a Debbie Bliss book for my youngest. The fiber content is cotton and wool, and I think it may be O-Wool OR it may be Cestari 3 ply cotton and wool heather. I still have a photo of him wearing it on my discs of old blog photos. He is at the zoo mesmerized by a turtle behind glass… in a really great sweater. (Are you now imagining a turtle in a really great sweater? I am.)

Both of these hooded baby sweaters prove that babies have huge heads in relation to their body size.

What to do with these handmade treasures? I considered donating them to a drive for underprivileged children, but found I couldn’t part with them. I also have stacks on stacks of quilts, handmade by my Grandmother. I would never dream of giving them up, even though several of them are starting to fall apart. My Grandmother’s quilts are a family legacy. I guess I think of my knitting as being the same thing.

Today I started reading Hillbilly Elegy. It was like going home to my Grandmother’s house. Although my family isn’t from Appalachia – they are from the foothills of the Ozarks – my maternal Grandmother’s family are Kentucky Vances transported to Oklahoma around the turn of the last century. (Whether they are of Scots-Irish or German descent is up for debate.)

This book is about other kinds of family legacies. I can relate to the proud hill people culture – although my Grandmother identified as “country folk.” I can also relate to the less healthy cultural attributes, though not from my Grandparents who were the same for me as the author’s Grandparents were to him – love and stability.

We didn’t grow up calling ourselves hillbillies by any stretch, and we weren’t poor. My Mother – who shares memories of her childhood trying to sweep a dirt floor clean, taking baths outside in galvanized tubs of rainwater, and walking to the outhouse in the middle of the night in winter – did her best to ladyfy her daughters. (She didn’t wholly succeed. I’ll admit, the things she experienced as a child sound kind of fun to me.)

The quality of life my Grandparents could offer (as ranchers and homesteaders) over the years improved, but it sounds like times were tough when my Mother was little. My Grandparents worked odd jobs and as seasonal migrant cotton pickers to make ends meet.

My Grandma could really stretch a dollar. Don’t throw your used foil away. Roll the pieces in little balls and string Christmas tree garland from it. It’s pretty! And free!

So my Grandparents were poor, even when they weren’t. Because they survived the depression and only escaped the dust bowl because they lived in the southeastern part of the state. Yet they left a legacy of love, and quilts made from feed sack and old pajamas.

So I’ll hang on to these sweaters because, as the tag clearly states, they were made with love. I have an idea to make each boy a care package of his sweater and the Christmas ornaments I made for him when he was younger. I will vacuum seal it together and we can call it a “care chip” – a new tradition! At some point, they may be discarded, and then later in life they may wish they still had them. That’s been my experience of how these things work, anyway.

Word Origin and History for keepsake. n. 1790, from keep (v.) + sake; on model of namesake; thus an object kept for the sake of the giver.