Saturday, January 29, 2011

Fashion Reflection

Well, I've finally developed my film and had a chance to otherwise process the four days spent in New York for VK Live. Here are my highlights:

1. The Gallery: I was scheduled to help out in the Gallery as part of my volunteer duties during the Market Preview Friday evening. I must say it was one of the highlights of my weekend. Let me give a huge shout-out to the five artists that made those two hours just fly by lickity-split: Ben Cuevas, Alyssa Ettinger, Anna HrackovecRuth Marshall and Hannah Haworth. Each artist brought something unique to the gallery, but far and away the most impressive was the oversized beluga whale likeness hanging from the ceiling. Hannah knit it from roving and other thick types of fiber, and it presided over the Market like a giant knit blimp, only way cooler.

2. My fellow volunteers: What a standout group of individuals! From our introductory meeting on Thursday (when I was bleary-eyed from my overnight flight to the Big Apple), we were friendly and helpful to and with each other. Nothing more to say but thanks for a great volunteer experience.

3. The designeratti and editorial mavens: I could ask for nothing better than to see Doris Chan striding through registration, sun glasses on, hair waving behind her. Or providing an identification badge to Melanie Falick on Saturday. Or having a really fun conversation with one half of Mason Dixon Knitting. Or not letting Cirilia Rose slip through the registration area unnoticed. Or seeing Franklin Habit conducting an impromptu discussion with participants. Or watching Vickie Howell teach the knit basics at the Beginners' Bar. Each of these individuals, as well as the rest of their milieu, was genuinely kind and giving of their time and good nature during the entire event. Whoooah! And we won't even discuss the transfer of all that knowledge.

4.  The Magic of Mohair: Indeed! As a lover of what some might consider "the devil's fiber," I was thrilled to see it everywhere. It was a mohair celebration, and I was right on time, wearing my own mohair and mohair blend FOs. The South African Mohair representative and I had a nice chat about the country (I've lived there, briefly, in 2000), and she even took a photo of my shawl (my self-designed Rustic Elegance shawl, no less!). How is it? It's mohair, baby. More whooooah.

5. The attendees: There were approximately 3,000 pre-registered for the event, and another few thousand registered for Market entrance during the event. It could have been a long, nasty weekend. But no. Most were willing to help their fellow fiber enthusiasts (unless they were within eyesight of a yarn sale bin), and class participation was just, well, enjoyable.

6. Finally, New York, herself: Yes, it was cold. Yes, it did snow. But New York in the snow (before the slush kicks in) is magical. I couldn't wait to get out of my hotel room on Friday morning to take photos. I'm only sorry I didn't have enough time to quickly get to Central Park during the morning prime time snow photo-snapping window. 

Were there hotel logistical issues and snafus? Absolutely. Are there things I would have liked to see go differently? You bet. At the end of the day, however, the first VK Live event was a success. I will eagerly await the preview for the next event.

I've set up a separate page for my photo show of the event (4/5/11 update: the slide show of my photos can now be viewed on the Photography page). Please enjoy one person's view of the weekend, and I'd love to hear your thoughts, so please feel free to leave a comment either here, or on the photo page.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Still Blissed Out

I haven't updated the blog over the past several days because I was attending the first ever Vogue Knitting LIVE! event in New York City. Or, more specifically, I volunteered to work the event, and attended when I wasn’t on duty.

To say that it was a jam-packed three days would be an understatement. Since I’m still in the process of developing my film, I’m going to wait to provide my overall commentary until I have photos at the ready.

There are thoughts from two subjects I do want to share with you right now – my review of Vogue Knitting’s latest book, Vogue Knitting Knitopedia: the ultimate A to Z for knitters, and my Tunisian II class experience.

Initially, let’s talk a little book. As volunteers, each of us received an advance copy of Knitopedia.  Trisha Malcolm, editorial director of Vogue Knitting, informs in the introduction that Knitopedia is a book five years in the making. Its goal is not to be the end-all, be-all guide to knitting, but to provide a guide to knitting and knitting culture that is purely from a Vogue perspective.

So, what’s that? Well, as best I can tell, it’s a guide to knitting that is fresh, young, complete with entries for most every knitting term found on Ravelry and the Internet (can anyone say UFO? WIP?), as well as good (and in many cases) helpful photos. Additionally, this book is imminently readable. There are many entries on knitting history, as well as topic essays from notable names in the knitting world (Vicky Howell, Meg Swanson, and Kristin Nichols just to name a few). One small drawback: the editors opted for a category index, so you'll need to know that to find all the entries for, let's say, Vogue Knitting in the book, you'll need to look in the "magazine" category section of the index. A little clunky for the non-librarian set, but, c'est la vie and all that.

So, if you are looking for an all-inclusive, multi-hundred page book filled with nerdy, obtuse entries, this isn’t for you. If, however, you are looking for a solid knitting resource that is, for the most part, reader-friendly and one that you will actually want to read and consult, Knitopedia should definitely make it to your book-buying short list.

Finally, my Tunisian II class. Mary Beth Temple taught a beginner Tunisian crochet class and an advanced section – both on Sunday. As we learned in class, she wasn’t initially supposed to teach an advanced Tunisian course in the afternoon, but broomstick lace. That got shelved by the Vogue Knitting PTB. However, since the beginner Tunisian class was so well populated, organizers might have wanted to play to that seeming strength. So much for broomstick lace.

 We were seven of us, plus Mary Beth, which worked out well for everyone. Mary Beth was very good at juggling the speed of the information given to accommodate multiple levels of knowledge, as well as provide good individual instruction. As you can see from the class samples I plunked onto my scanner, we learned an entrelac technique (and she provided instruction for one additional entrelac piece), as well as some Tunisian lace. The lace was taken from a Japanese Tunisian pattern book, and it is really pretty (don’t let my sample, done in a worsted weight yarn, fool you). The lace, as well as the chart reading exercise to accomplish the sample, was totally fun and something I can’t wait to do again.

One small, niggling issue: I asked Mary Beth if she had designed anything using these techniques, and she honestly replied no. I do appreciate and respect her honesty, but wished organizers would have thought about this prior to switching up the course contents. While Mary Beth’s instruction was fine, her knowledge depth on advanced Tunisian techniques was weak. Guess that’s my own 3+ years in the classroom talking.

Needless to say, I’m excited that I have so much to chew on from the conference. Stay tuned for more about … well … everything else, complete with photos, later in the week.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Crafting from My Shelf

As many of you know, in addition to textiles, color, and art, I love books. I’ve written about several books in the last few months – here, here, and here. I have a decent book collection (given my space constraints) that reflects my love of and preoccupation with humanities, philosophy, literature, law and craft.

I made a commitment to myself at the beginning of the year (well, it was really made sometime last fall): that if I used a pattern to create anything in 2011, I would look to my own book and periodical collection first. They're in my personal collection because I liked something in them. While it doesn't mean I won't add to my collection because, hey, I love books, it does mean that I'm going to give crafty priority to what I've already identified as stuff I like.

Sooooo .... I’m pleased to post my first project from my 2011 crafting-from-my-shelf commitment – my Purple Rain Scarf. Made from a pattern found in Sharon Hernes Silverman’s Tunisian Crochet: The Look of Knitting with the Ease of Crocheting, it’s a quick, fun scarf made with a luscious silk and mohair two-yarn combo (seen in the first photo above). It’s incredibly soft, yet surprisingly warm around the neck.

 Additionally, I thought you might also like to take a gander at my completed stole from the Japanese pattern I wrote about here. I added some Japanese silver-lined number 3 seed beads to the short ends of the stole for just a little spring bling. Since I made this with Berroco Pure Pima cotton yarn, I’m looking forward to wearing this when the weather gets just a little warmer and dryer.

Finally, I’ll leave you with a sneak peak of the next project from my shelf. The color is passionately eye-popping:

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A Proustian Grab-That-Bag Moment

Yesterday I received a package from Paris that I had been impatiently expecting (stomping of foot) for the last three weeks. The specific contents were a surprise to me, although I knew it would have something to do with tricoter and les bonbons.

As I opened each small item (there were several), I was instantly transported back to my own 2009 Parisian visit. I can still taste a lemon and prune tart I had after a memorably homey meal in Montmartre on a warm, twinkling light-filled Saturday evening. The streets and restaurants were crowded with people. A grand yet informal party, complete with a communal red wine bottle and Rastafarian music, was taking place on the steps in front of Sacré-Coeur. A couple, kind enough to ignore my earnest attempts at speaking French (the hard “r” always gave my tourist status away), showed me to the nearest Métro station. They, of a nearby French suburb, had also enjoyed a convivial Saturday evening out.

From that three week visit to France, the one aspect of French culture that still amazes me is its incredible socialness. Unlike the isolating solo living of many American cities, Paris comes alive at night, in groups, over drinks and food. The ingrained French cultural connection between table and
community was a refreshing change of pace, and one that my small parcel from the 14th arrondissement made me yearn to experience once again. Along with that great lemon prune tart.

Of course, whenever the second Parisian visit occurs, I will undoubtedly have a stylin’ bag in which to carry all of my stuff. I am a confirmed accessories gal. Below you’ll find my second completed bag, the fabric of which was sneaked in my previous blog entry. It’s actually done in Tunisian crochet, which utilizes a long hook (sometimes called an afghan hook) and certain stitches that look almost woven and can be very sturdy. I used three different yarns to achieve this color effect.

I’m most pleased, however, with my addition of a hand-sewn lining because ... like ... I am no fan of sewing. No, no siree. It’s not that I
don’t know how to hand sew, I just don’t like doing it.

Nevertheless, I’m determined to improve my patience with finishing techniques this year, and this bag presented me with a perfect opportunity to do just that. I am pretty pleased with the result, if I do say so myself.

Et, voilà!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Continuing the Inquiry

So, I thought it a good time for the second installment in the art inquiry started in November, and one that I had for almost three years with design school students in the classroom. Specifically, what constitutes art?

Ok, now before you shake your head, tell me that question is just too difficult and subjective, and are annoyed that I actually asked it (!), I’ll provide for you the criteria Dutton sets forth. As you’ll see from the list below, some categories deal with aspects of the art, and others deal with the feelings occurring from witnessing and/or otherwise experiencing the art:

  • direct pleasure;
  • skill and virtuosity;
  • style;
  • novelty and creativity;
  • criticism;
  • representation (of real or imaginary experiences in the world);
  • special focus;
  • expressive individuality;
  • emotional saturation; and
  • intellectual challenge.
While I’m not going to further define the above criteria (most of them are self-explanatory), ask yourself how many you consider important when assessing an artwork. I’ll go one step further and ask: when was the last time you tried to determine whether some thing was art?

I am keenly reminded of a conversation I had last summer with a vendor at an art fair associated with an arts and crafts museum. She sold handmade, felted bags. They were beautifully embellished, well-made, and to my eye, art. I told her as much. Her reply, without skipping a beat: “Oh, this isn’t art, it’s craft.” Hmmmm. How might Dutton’s criteria set mucky up the bag lady’s neatly segregated perception?

I would absolutely welcome all your thoughts and comments.

Finally, whether or not you consider it “art,” I leave you with a sneak peak of my next project.

Enjoy – and get out there and create!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

All Good Things Flow from Shepherd’s Crook

Lyn Robinson's Festival Shawl,
a free pattern released on Ravelry 
Yesterday was a busy, fun and amazing day. Remember the pattern that was languishing, the one I wrote about here? Well, it was released today from the designer – utilizing my photos. I cannot tell you how thrilled I am not only to see my photos used in this way, but also to see the creative interpretations of this shawl that are certain to follow. The designer, Lyn (the Crochet Guild of America's book reviewer) released the free pattern on Ravelry (under the pattern name Festival Shawl), and as I wrote to her earlier today, I think I’m more excited than she is about the release! To see more of her original designs, feel free to visit here.

Lyn is also an adept instructor. She, along with a few other Ravelry crocheters, started their own crochet discussion group on Ravelry at the beginning of the year – the Crochet Small Talkers. (An aside: there’s nothing small about the volume of talk generated or the beautiful finished objects crafted by these Ravelers.) In connection with this new group, Lyn is currently leading a “class” on reading crochet charts – utilizing a Japanese organic cotton scarf pattern. Not only has she provided useful links to key resources for non-Japanese language readers who wish to make these incredibly designed Japanese patterns, but she has been so generous with her time and wealth of crochet knowledge in helping us demystify the instructions, which are fairly uniform across Japanese hand-craft publishers.

For the uninitiated, all hand knit and crochet patterns contain written instructions. Many (although not all) utilize craft-specific charts – a series of symbols that instruct the hand crafter which stitches to use, in the appropriate sequence, to achieve the garment or accessory’s design. Depending on one’s learning style, charts are either a blessing or a curse. For some, these charts can be a real deterrent when choosing a pattern to craft, so there’s some incentive to increase skill in order to widen one’s crafting options.

Lyn has superbly walked us through how the pattern is structured, where to find specific information, and how to (with a little deductive reasoning) translate what’s there into something an English reader can understand.

I admit: until this experience, I have used written instructions and charts together. In many instances, charts and written instructions inform each other. While I am generally proficient in reading charts, since virtually all of the written instructions in this pattern are in Japanese, I am without an important piece of the instructional puzzle. I am forced to rely solely on my chart reading abilities. The result? It’s making me a much better and intuitive chart reader.

A big thank you to Lyn for absolutely making my day … and making me a better, more crafty crafter. She rocks!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

And In The Beginning ...

… of 2011, it starts with a painting, a book, and a shawl.

Perpetually Waiting for Spring
Acrylic on Canvas
36" x 48"
Sold, 2010
Initially, the painting. Here is the second painting completed last week before the end of the year. Not only do I love the colors, but at 36” x 48”, it’s the largest painting I’ve completed. 

Next, the book. I have always viewed my creative pursuits – textiles, painting, photography, writing – as intertwined. One usually informs another. Last fall, I was looking for some, how shall I say? textile pattern staying power. While I always think the next great pattern is just around the corner, I was searching for some insight into which patterns already out in the craft world would have long lasting personal appeal.

So, computer mouse at the ready, I headed over to the Vogue Knitting site. In case you weren’t aware, one can create one’s very own customized book of patterns from their online pattern database, which goes back a few years and includes other Soho Publishing magazines. Brilliant!

I spent considerable time going through it, and culled 20 favorites. The results? Overall, I love lace and cables, at least on the page. The test will be in the actual garment- and accessory-making. I have several of my book’s projects in my mental queue for 2011 (along with shawls and crochet projects of various kinds). Stay tuned.

Finally, the shawl. Here is my final shawl for Ravelry’s 10 shawls in 2010 challenge. At number 10, it was the smallest in terms of textile yardage (at just over 276 yards), as well as the quickest, completing it in 8 days flat. That broke all kinds of project speed records for moi. I named it my Café au Lait Stole, since it reminds me of a warm, frothy cuppa.

“Now, let us all take a deep breath and forge on into the future;
knitting [and crochet] at the ready.”

The Opinionated Knitter

Ladies and gentlemen, the New Year is officially on.