Thursday, April 30, 2009

1st Annual Airing of the Hotties Stash

Fiber enthusiasts have a tendency to collect- patterns, ideas, materials- and these collections have a tendency to accumulate into what is known as a Stash. For knitters, it's exorbitant numbers of skeins of yarn. You buy one extra skein of something soft, or the last skein of a really great color, or three too many skeins of sweater yarn because you're too lazy to do the right math to find out how much you actually need... anyway... after a few months you realize that you have SO many of these extra skeins that you've stuffed them into a bag or box and forgotten about them. Therefore, knitters invented the traditional "Airing of the Stash." Once a year (or whenever you get to it) you pull down the box of unused yarn, pull out each and every sumptuous color and fiber, look at each one lovingly in turn, and then put them back in their box and forget about them again immediately. Ha! No. Sometimes you find the perfect yarn for the project on your brain, or remember about some really great fiber that inspires some great new design. Airing the stash is wonderful for reinvigorating inspiration (you know you already love the yarn 'cause you've already paid for it) and it's a great way to remind yourself that you really don't need to buy anything new because you already have a shit-ton of material!

I have quite a large yarn stash myself, but today I'm going to air another kind of stash. A stash of Hotties.

After my computer told me that my "startup disk was almost full" I thought I might as well delete some of the (ridiculously huge number of) images that I keep on my computer for reference. As I was perusing my collection to see what to get rid of, I stumbled upon a folder marked "hotties." Hence?

The First Annual Airing of the Hotties Stash!

Here are this years' Hotties... vaguely assembled in order of least nerdy to most nerdy. (What? That was what made the most sense.) I've also added links so you can check out my Hottie collection for yourself! Enjoy!

Alan Rickman, circa. 1976. Yum...

Gary Oldman, in real life. Adorable much?

Collette, the amazingly beautiful French author, performer and bisexual lover.

Rachel Maddow, journalist, nerd, hottie.

Amelia Earhart. Female pioneer in plane-flying and pants-wearing.

Rachel Maddow as Amelia Earheart. Uhm... need I say more?

Han Solo. Mrrreow.

Legs (aka Angelina Jolie) in Foxfire. Just stopping in to cause some trouble and break some hearts. She then went on to date Jenny Shimizu... hawt.

Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. His love defies the fact that he doesn't even have a soul. C'mon... that's so tragically romantic...

And, of course, Agents Mulder and Scully from the X-Files. And although they never actually hook up in the show... in my head they usually look like this:

Stay tuned for next year's Airing of the Hotties Stash!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Spring Sweater!

Now that it's warm out... I've finished my sweater!  

All right, to be fair, I finished it almost a month ago but there are a few things about it I've been hemming and hawing about so I waited to post about it.  

I started with a pattern from the Fall 2008 Interweave Knits called the "Little Blue Sweater" which called for a ridiculously expensive yarn.  So, after perusing the vast selection of yarns at Webs I settled on a similar yarn:  Valley Yarns Berkshire, in a similar color to the original pattern because, hey, I love that color.  Unfortunately, the Valley Yarn had a lightly smaller gauge than the one called for, so I decided to make the sweater an increment larger than my measurements (it would only change to size of the sweater by an inch or two).  I also decided that although the original pattern made the sweater with short sleeves, the odds my ever wearing a short-sleeved sweater were pretty nil.  So I improvised some long ribbed sleeves.

The sweater has these great cable and lace rows running vertically up the front and back.  I got to do a double yarn over for the first time, which was exciting, (y'know, to me anyway,)  and I finished it pretty quickly.  I wet blocked it, sewed it together and knit the collar. 

Trying on a completed sweater for the first time is always a little frightening.  You've been knitting and knitting for so long and you never know how it's actually going to fit.  No matter how much you measure or how many times you hold it up to yourself, the finished product is always different and always unpredictable.  There's this moment as you're pulling it over your head where you're holding your breath and thinking, "this is when I find out whether I'll ever actually wear this sweater."  This is only the second sweater I've ever completed.  I knit the first one in college out of a yarn that turned out to be excruciatingly itchy.  Although the pattern was simple and the sweater looked ok, the turtle-neck was impossible to stand with the itchiness of the yarn.  So I put the sweater in my closet and promptly lost it.  I have no idea where it is today.  Needless to say, I was a little nervous when I tried on this, my second sweater attempt.

It's not perfect.  The ribbed sleeves are a little bulky and, for some reason (I'm ready to blame the wet-blocking) it's way too big in the under-arm region.  The yarn is really thick and, because it's just slightly too big for me (thanks, of course, to my making it a size bigger.  dumb dumb dumb...) it's not the most flattering of sweaters.  There's no way it's going to fit under a jacket and the large double-yarn-over lace holes make it a little breezy...  I haven't worn it yet.  Le sigh.  But I'm hoping that it'll be a good summer night-time pull over type sweater.

Over all, it was fun to knit and, hopefully, I'll get some good wear out of it over the next few years.  And even though it wasn't a perfect outcome... I'm already thinking about my next sweater.  I'm thinking....  gray lace cardigan?  Yum...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Wool Equal Bronze/ Time Does Not Equal Money

The past few month, during which I have been admittedly blog-negligent, I have actually been quite busy! It was just the kind of busy that takes a few months to get results... y'know... applications kind of busy. Show submission, summer scholarships... I feel like all I did in February was apply for shit. (After which was followed by a period of unprecedented productivity.) But it's all starting to pay off! I'll be posting exciting news as it is confirmed.

First! I've been offered a Teaching Assistantship at Haystack School of Craft in Deer Isle, Maine! If you haven't heard of Haystack, it is a fairly prestigious program for students of all ages. Last summer I didn't even get in, so I'm pretty stoked about this year.

("Studios remain open 24 hours a day, seven days a week while workshops are in session." Basically, all I want in life.)

The class I'm going to TA is called Knitting: Wool Equals Bronze/ Time Does Not Equal Money, with artist Janet Morton:

"This workshop will explore hand knitting as a valid and vital sculptural/installation medium and as an alternate means of measuring time. Through a series of slide talks, discussions, and exercises, participants will be encouraged to playfully and critically examine their relationships to the natural world, everyday objects, and equations that link time to “value”. Experimentation with materials, scale, technique, and ideas will be encouraged. Participants will develop personal projects, and will be invited to work collectively on an onsite project."

O. M. G. !!!!!!

Sorry for my temporary lapse into 14-year-old-ism but, c'mon! Could this class possibly sound like something I'd be MORE into?!? The TA application asked for a MFA level education in the subject you were hoping to work with and since there really are no MFA degrees in knitting I managed to convince the scolarship committee that my two-straight years of doing basically nothing BUT knitting (and watching copius amounts of tv-on-dvd) was just as good as a degree. It's SOO vidicating: I'd been spending quite a bit of time lately bemoaning my "waste" of knitting time spent over the last few years... mainly because I wasn't making Art (capital letter.) Now I feel like it was worth it... and here's my chance to transition all of my new knitting skills back into a conceptual avenue. YES!

I refrained from looking up Janet Morton's work until I got into the program (mostly in an attempt to not get my hopes up, I think.) It's AMAZING. Here are some of my favorites:

Sweaterbike, 1994. hand knit bicycle covering
When you're cold... put a sweater on your bike? Now I really want to make one for my bike... but I'd have to make it removable for easy laundering.. this city is so dirty...

Canadian Monument #, 1994. hand screened red flannel, dinner plates. 20 x 12 ft.
Lucy Larcom reincarnated! Maybe a lumber-jack love interest? Anyway, totally awesome.

Newsflash Blanket, 1995. hand knit blanket. 23 x 9 ft.

Newsflash; Madame Defarge Eat your Heart Out, detail.
1995. stacks of the three Toronto daily newspapers, 12 framed images of knitter, 1000-plus balls of wool, a false floor, chair, vinyl text, and a television playing.
I think the title for this is HILARIOUS because my mother mentions this Dickens character in response to all of my text-based fibers work. Seriously, she's mentioned it at least 3 times. Here, at least some of the irony is the fact that knitting anything that complicated can HARDLY be called a "flash." To me, it also references traditional women's work and the overwhelming contemporary news consumption.

Capitol, 2004. hand knit model of the Capitol Building. 30 x 20 in.
Swoooooon. This way beats the knit turtles.

Felled, 1997. 300 leaves sewn from used work socks form poetry translation.

Felled, detail. 1997.
"I interpret this making of beautiful delicate items, from work-worn, day-to-day socks as a mark of respect for the labour they participated in." (From the Lovely Textiles blog, linked to below.) I also wonder if the title isn't a reference to the sacrifices one makes for "work;" injuries and sheer time spent toiling.

Changing Channels, 2000. 36 gutted televison sets, plants.
What a fantastic container garden! There are a number of my favorite artists who blend fiber art with gardening. I know that Ghada Amer has spoken briefly about the connection between gardening, domesticity and women's work, but I feel like there might be something more there. It's a topic I might explore more in the near future.

And those were just the highlights! For a much better interpretation/discussion of Janet Morton's work, check out this blog I found while google-ing "Janet Morton". Also check out the rest of Janet's online portfolio. Amazing!

I can't wait to have the opportunity to work with such an amazing artist and to experience the creative atmosphere I've heard such wonderful things about at Haystack. The end of August it gonna rule!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Mel! the Amazing Stuffed Dog and Drummer

I got an email a while back from my brother and sister-in-law with an entreaty to make my nephew, Angelo (1.75 yrs), a stuffed dog of his favorite tv character. This dog, Mel, is a drummer on the Noggin tv show Jack's Big Music Show. (Nope- I hadn't heard of it either.)

Cute, huh? Apparently, not only has the show been off the air for a few years, but Noggin (not the highest budget station) never even made any show-themed products for resale. My sis sent me some pics and a video or two and wondered if it was even possible...

Uhm... sure? I mean... it can't be that hard, right? (Bear in mind, I've never made a stuffed animal.) So I get on the internet, make some sketches and order some fabric samples, and start patterning...

Moog! Cute nose!

A paw in action...

A pile of appendages... (hehe... say that 10 times fast...)

O.M.G. This could be fun...

Ahahahhahhahaahaaa! Ok, that was probably the funniest part! Also because sewing his butt closed on the machine didn't even work and I had to sew it by hand. There's something about creating a stuffed animal that feel sort of... wrong? That's not the right word... but... uncanny. It has so much character so early on in the process. Anyway, here's the finished product!

How'd I do? Not bad, right?

I brought Mel down to Baltimore this past weekend to present to Angelo. It was such a hit! That kid is CRAZY for Mel! He's just starting to be able to understand abstract concepts and it's so funny to watch him: any time he started drumming on something, or there was music with a beat, he was like "drum! Mel! Mel Mel Mel Mel!" and then ran around the room looking for the stuffed animal. Mind, the dog is only a few inches shorter than he is. ADORABLE. I make gifts for each of the nephews (total count: 4) at each holiday, but because I don't get to hang out with them that much, I'm usually shooting in the dark as to what they will and won't like. So this was an especially great opportunity to try to cement myself in Angelo's memory. One can only hope? Maybe someone got some photos of him with the dog...

Ok, that's done. Next?