Archive for the ‘Artknits’ Category

Take a tour of Elaine Bradford‘s Museum of Unnatural History, where taxidermy and crochet are taken to unnatural extremes …

For Museum of Unnatural History, Houston-based artist Elaine Bradford has created a faux natural history museum filled with a variety of animals and specimens “discovered” by the fictitious fringe scientist Dr. Thomas Harrigan during his explorations into a dimension known as “The Sidereal”. According to the museum’s pseudo-scientific text, The Sidereal is “in many ways a mirror image of our world [that] has produced a variety of species possessing adaptations wildly divergent from those we see on earth.” A visitor to Museum of Natural History will view creatures that include the Pushmi-pullyu (Tragus januali), a lichen eating two headed sheep; the longcat (Lynx metamorpha), a blue mite covered feline whose powerful limbs and body can expand up to ten times their at-rest length; and the Procyon besheret, fondly known as the “pair-bears” due to the permanent fusing of tails during a secret mating ritual. The animals on view are constructed from taxidermy animals, sometimes in their original state, other times cut in half or fused with the bodies of others, which are then sheathed in outfits which Bradford carefully crochets, an art taught to her by her grandmother, when the artist was a child growing up in Alice, Texas. Elaine did not really appreciate the calming, repetitive act of crochet, nor did she take it seriously as an art, until she was in graduate school at the California Institute of the Arts. Here Bradford developed a project in which she crocheted individual sweaters for everything in her refrigerator, including all the baby carrots. “I was really interested in the connotations that came along with crochet for me, ideas of comfort, warmth, and family; the absurd act of making labor intensive objects for things that have no need for them always makes me chuckle.”


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Recently, research for a special knitting project (still under wraps) has uncovered all sorts of spectacular finds, including some fiber-related short films and animations, some of which must be shared.  I’ve already posted about animated shorts most of us are familiar with by now: “The Last Knit” (Spring Fever: knitting addiction), and Tricot Machine’s knitted music video (Knitting Machine). Thanks to the generosity of those who have shared their work online, it will be possible – as my needles click away during the next few weeks, to bring many others I’ve found together in a miniature  fiber film & animation “festival”!

First on the program: “Ball of Wool” (1968), an animated short film made in 1968 by Russian artist and filmmaker Nikolai Serebryakov (1928-2005) (more information about this remarkable animator is available from this obituary).  “Ball of Wool” is a knitted fable, rather like “The Goose that Laid the Golden Egg”.

So I’m thinking, if animation is “the rapid display of a sequence of images of 2-D or 3-D artwork or model positions in order to create an illusion of movement. It is an optical illusion of motion due to the phenomenon of persistence of vision” (source), then mightn’t the use of fiber and related fiber arts (knitting, crochet, weaving, etc) to create the illusion be called a(k)ni(t)mation.

More aknitmation tomorrow!

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December knitting nearly overwhelmed me, I suppose.  The challenges posed by the holidays are always something to contend with. In many ways, there was little transition from November’s efforts to the final push in December, but in the end, when I look at all the photos and the reduced stash, it’s clear I was productive.

Sometimes I knit for the sake of trying something new, and the fact that the object will be gifted is the excuse. This month, another Elizabeth Zimmerman wonder, a pair of mittens based on her mitered mittens pattern (May, The Knitter’s Almanac), fit the bill.  I can’t say why it was so satisfying to make these mitered mittens (US 6 / 4.0 mm, 1 skein Noro Silk Garden), except that the luck of the draw -my two skeins of Silk Garden started in roughly the same place (check the thumbs! which I typically knit before continuing on the hand upper, rather than after) – were an enticement.  FYI: I added thumb gussets similar to those proposed by GraceIvy (gusset technique) (rather than the steeked thumbs proposed by PurlBee).

Mid-month there was the “Pencil Project” – I executed (for pay!) one seventh of a commissioned giant water tower cozy project led by weeballyarns (Robyn).

Most of my 7′ x 14′ section was produced over the course of a single weekend (!), delivered by 12.10.08 for installation on 12.13.0.   The Pencil” lasted liitle more than two days – a short but sweet life.  My work was one seventh of this commissioned giant water tower cozy project he project, conceived by fiber artist Robyn Love to publicize the Golden Pencil design award.  There’s more information about the project-in-progress here, and about the final installation in the NY Times and Daily News; plenty of photos of the pencil in situ are available on Robyn’s blog: Big Day for Pencils, and here’s the video documentary of the project:

And then there was the holiday knitting … always (for this inter-married Jew) an excuse for learning something new.  This year that meant knitting a few globes for in-law’s  trees.  First , I jumped on the viral bandwagon and tried Eunny Jang’s simple Cabled Globe Ornament (with Cascade 220 leftovers); this pattern’s  a quick and effective platform for exploring the interaction of cable and globe.  Next there was a more complicated aran ornament (Heirloom Cabled Holiday Ornament by Terry Morris, fingering weight Knit Picks Palette, Cream, US 1 / 2.25 mm needles); this is an impressive, special pattern which makes a special gift, a design worth revisiting as is, or using as a point of departure for one’s own cabling or colorwork ideas.

A son travelled to Texas to spend Christmas with his girlfriend’s family, and wanted something special to put under their tree. With a bit of surface decoration, a felted teacup (Knitted/Felted Teacup and Saucer by Anita M. Wheeles; US 8 / 5.0 mm, Lion Brand Lion Wool Solid) was just the thing. It’s a quick knit (less than an hour for all pieces), and an equally quick felt in the sink; with a bit of embroidery, it was transformed into a delightful gift.  To finish as an ornament, I tacked the cup and saucer together with a few stitches after embroidering the cup and added a crocheted cord to hang.  

Hannukah came and went in our home.  Since this minor Jewish  holiday celebrates, in essence, a military victory, I’m always ambivalent about effusive observance.  Nontheless, there are always ways around the “problem”.  Having married into a Jewish family, my husband rarely misses Christmas; but he especially loves “little people” (young, or old) – these are for him.  For him, one Hanukkah gnome (Korknisse by Mann, US 3 / 3.25 mm, Araucania Nature Wool Solids) for each night of Hanukkah!

For the in-laws, a fewmore  ornaments … felted and beaded “Persian” Orbs (Ornaments by Leigh Radford, 2.75 x 4.5″ after felting (2.75 x 6.5″ before felting).   The shape of these ornaments remind me of Persian jars.
Needle Felting !

Pattern: Festive Felted Garland splendid tutorial, by Purl Bee’s Whitney.

Another holiday project for in-laws. We’ll be using them as dangles for their tree.
Now that I’ve learned a bit about needle felting, I’ll be doing some serious experimentation …

NB. Instead of purchasing and using the rather expensive Hamanaka Futte (Felt Ball Maker) recommended by the Purl Bee designer, I used a couple of small kitchen strainers I’ve had lying about for years. I simply attached them together with a rubber band, filled the basket with a soggy soapy ball of roving, and smacked the basked against a sponge in my other hand. I checked periodically to be sure the ball was felting evenly. Then I “finished” each ball manually, to make them a bit denser.

I used a Clover 3-needle tool from the closest LYS and scraps of Noro Kureyon to decorate each ball (I knew there was a reason I’ve been saving every single scrap of the precious colored stuff over the years).

Corrugated Cabin Scarf, inspired by Mabel’s Scarf by Larissa Brown (Patons SWS (Soy Wool Stripes, US 9 / 5.5 mm) — Wanted a scarf to complement a corrugated rib hat I made for my BIL a few years ago with Kureyon Big. The corrugated rib pattern Larissa’s pattern reminded me of the many Log Cabin quilts I’ve made, and the others I saw recently at an exhibit of Gee’s Bend quilts. Since BIL is looking for a new place to live, a “log cabin scarf” seemed just right.
(n.b. I’m afraid I’ve “unvented” my own approach to the logs, so this may not be a fine example of Larissa’s lovely original).

A nice straightforward pattern, that works up with striated yarn quickly to an enticing hat. This is a perfect stash-busting (one skein) walking pattern!  My modifications: I decided to add some additional garter st interest top and bottom on the Noro Kureyon version (US 7/4.5 mm needles).  Completed the blue soy-wool cap, and decided to go garter all the way on the Paton’s SWS (US 8/5.0 mm needles).  #3 – Noro Iro, bulky, worked as Medium (13 sts x 120 rows for band, 60 sts around for top, 62 sts for bottom band) on US 8/5.0 mm needles; soft and dense!

vibrant Noro Cash Island cap (US 6 4.0 mm needles).

And finally, there was another Ravelry swap, the Rock Opera Swap (I don’t know what I was thinking when I agreed to participate in this one).  The few “rock operas” I was familiar with (Tommy, Hair, Aida and Rent) were already taken by the time I had to choose; I grabbed for Pippin was because of a strange childhood association with one of the songs:  “My Corner of the Sky” – my mother played Diana Ross’ cover of the song incessantly on her 8-track tape player during my high school years in the early 70’s.

Pippin (sometimes called Pippin the Hunchback) was the ill-favored son of Charlemagne the Great, the first Holy Roman Emperor (ruled 800 – 814 CE).   I decided to knit a hat, the elements of which were guided by the refrain of “Corner of the Sky”:  “Rivers belong where they can ramble / Eagles belong where they can fly /I’ve got to be where my spirit can run free /Got to find my corner of the sky”.  So I aimed for a crafted jeweled crown (the source of the conflict between Charlemagne and Pippin, and Pippin’s wandering, the imperial eagle (I must have made half a dozen different charts!), a fleur-de-lis for the emperor’s French wife who supplanted Pippin’s mother and created many of the problems for Pippin, Bavarian twisted river cables and chain-maille-like twisted stitch sections.

The other items in the package included:

  • music (I tried to reciprocate the wonderful CD my swap partner sent to me in the earlier Day of the Dead swap, and used  Christmas as a guide to include a range of genres – chant, organum, isorhythmic motets, hocket, medieval instrumentals and Crusader songs); there are a few covers of “Corner of the Sky” (alas, not Diana Ross’, which is not available for download anywhere), and a few contemporary responses to the music of the period
  • 100 g Regia Fassett sock yarn
  • organic (medieval) spice tea & chai recipe (spices were the only medieval foodstuff I could reliably and conveniently connect to Pippin and his royal father)
  • bone yarnball stitch markers

Those last few days of December were entirely knitting free.  Almost.

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October (nearly) always means Sukkot, and the harvest we associate with the holiday certainly included needlework this year, in spite of the demands of campaign work.  I added a knitted and felted etrog to my growing collection of handmade harvest bounty.  A knitted lulav is alos underway.  (Lulav and etrog patterns available here shortly).

I managed to finish some new political knitting – a pair of Encouraging Hope hats which kept me and others warm during the long and cold final nights at voter registration tables on the street.  And to help get out the Jewish vote, I charted the candidate’s name in Hebrew to share as Oy-Bama! knits (blogged here).

(additional photos and charts here).  It was especial  fun to have these projects included in the Obama Craft Project.

A final push during the wee hours of the night one week enabled me to finish the Israel-Palestine flag for the 198 Countries Peace Project.  The continued conflict in Israel-Palestine is a constant source of pain for me, and the mortuary image by Ada Jacobowitz is an apt visual metaphor for the imminent crisis of the conflict.  My flags unite the flags of Israel and Palestine with a twining trunk of an olive tree, reflecting their shared history, texts and terrain, and are intended to communicate some measure of hope for a just and productive resolution of their conflicting claims (more here).

Other flags were needed for this peace project.  But with time so constrained by the campaign, I volunteered to paint a few:  the flags of Flags of Slovenia, Turks and Caicos Islands and Kyrgyzstan.

I made my first foray into the world of fiber “swaps” in October:  the Ravelry Day of the Dead Swap was a fun challenge to take on, and produced both projects to be exchanged and also numerous designs for future projects.  This project was especially fun to work on, since it entailed new research into the symbols and rituals of the Mexican holiday.  My DotD swap partner was a new knitter, Jacob (Knit-to-Bond) and his family (wife and young daughters); planning the project for the entire family opened the project up to some special fun – the package included:

  • a knitted Catrina Calavera Tea Cozy (for a 6 cup pot; pattern loosely drawn from the One Skein Wonders pattern), topped with a hat full of crocheted roses and marigolds (the latter are prized on the Day of the Dead for their scent, which is believed to attract the spirits), felted skulls embellished with buttons and pearl cotton threads
  • a pair of cloth skeletons I painted for Jacob’s daughters
  • a box of skull and crossbones (Pirate) band-aids
  • a trio of hand-made honeyed Jabonita Day of the Dead hand soaps from dugshop (on Etsy)
  • an embroidered Calavera patch from Lizmiera Embroidery (on Etsy)
  • a box of Ibarra Mexican spiced hot chocolaté bars, from The Cantina, Reading Terminal, Philadelphia
  • 100g “marigold-infused” sock yarn, Opal’s Hundertwasser Modern Art collection
  • a melamine goblin plate, ready to serve visiting spirits

On the other side of the swap, I was partnered with Carol (mollub on Ravelry, sunkist1 on Flickr) in Canada, who sent me a box chock full of treats:

  • a skull lace dishcloth
  • a Dia de los Muertos CD (Mexican music and other music)
  • chocolate skull treats
  • 2 skeins purple cotton KnitPicks Crayon yarn
  • a set of calaveras paper weights wildflower pellets
  • a Monarch butterfly magnet
  • a pattern for an amigurumi Mexican doll

Carol’s package was a real treat, and I’ve spent many hours with the music she thoughtfully selected for me.  The skull cloth is a pattern I’ve been working with on a curtain for a son, and we’ll save it from the sink so that it can be turned into a pillow cover.

(Barack-o-Lanterns channeled the seasonal spirit at Yes We Carve!)

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September is always a busy, busy time … the beginning of the school year (a son returned to university), the Jewish holy days, family birthdays and the resumption of the choral season.  And then there was the presidential campaign as well this time around.

When not working at the local Obama campaign office, I managed to squeeze out enough spare time to finish a number of special projects.  In honor of the Jewish New Year, I finished a knitted shofar and pomegranate, symbols of the holiday.  In advance of Sukkot (in October), I added some new knitted and felted etrogs for our family sukkah, to make the space even more hospitable to the interfaith and peace groups we expected to visit. (more here).

The Sarah Palin “pigs in lipstick” broohaha prompted a bit of needlework fun – to raise a few smiles at the campaign office and on the street (and as a contribution to the Knitters for Obama fundraiser on Ravelry), I executed some crocheted kitsch:  Pigs on Parade – a toilet paper cover, lipstick case, mobile phone case, condom amulet, keychain and badge.  For a few weeks it seemed I couldn’t make them fast enough! (more images here, and more information here and here).  With the holidays imminent, I also made a few Obamulke’s – one for the Minyan Project, another for the Ravelry fundraiser (inspired by the efforts of Jews for Obama to encourage the use of political kippot).  Seeing this kippah featured on Judaicablog was especially gratifying.

My youngest sweet niece-let had her 5th birthday this month, and she asked for a set of playfood for her kitchen (“Some ice cream and desserts, and hamburgers and hot dogs. Any maybe some sandwiches. And hot chocolate. And ….”).  What did I manage for ZB’s big day?

  • Breakfast:fried egg, toast point, turkey bacon slices and a croissant
  • Lunch:  cheese sandwich on whole wheat bread (cheese, tomato, lettuce)
  • Dinner: cheeseburger (bun, burger, onion, tomato & lettuce, cheese slice) and curly french fries
  • Desserts: 2 ice cream cones, 3 oreo cookies, and 3 chocolate cookies

[For the ice cream cones I used the Scooped, by Em-En, at I Like Lemons patterns.  The rest of the food items were improvised, though influenced thoroughly by many wonderful examples of others’ work (such as here, here, and here, here, here and here). more images here.]

There must have been a few moments of spare time, since I signed onto my first “swap” on Ravelry, the Day of the Dead Swap.  This Mexican holiday is something of a family favorite, in spite of its Christian and pagan meaning, and I began to research furiously in order to come up with something special. With so much information stewing, I found it hard to avoid making calavera skulls wherever I went and with whatever material I had at hand – that meant masks made from hot glue (left) or felted wool (right), or craft project leftovers at my niece’s birthday party (center).

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And then there was August ….  dancing with family in West Virginia, choral singing with the Orchestra in Saratoga Springs, working a way into volunteering for the general election, knitting, and more knitting, for the Ravelympics.

My annual upcycling contribution to the CDSS Family Week auction this year was a crocheted tote bag made with kitchen cotton and prepared juice pouches.  As in years past, I worked on this at camp, and was glad to see how enthusiatically friend and children responded to this recycling effort; three little ones left camp with some semblance of crochet skills to explore with over the year.

Much energy went into creating the first of a set of flags for the 198 Countries Peace ProjectI signed on to the project early, claiming the flags of Israel and Palestine for (for obvious reasons), as well as the flag of Cambodia (in honor of my friend Onn, a survivor of the genocide). I finished the Cambodian flag in early August, exploring ways to translate into knitting the special structural details of the 11th-c. Wat Kohear Nokor temple represented on the flag.  I managed to finish designing the Israel-Palestine flag in August, but set the knitting aside for after the Jewish holidays.

With the excitement of competition, I cleared up the “studio,” sorting out piles of unfinished projects to enter in the WIP Wrestling event.  I managed to complete quite a few projects, among which were:

  • five hats for the HatDash (on the ChinaCare team, which executed hundreds of hats for Chinese orphans).
  • my Passover “unborn egg” (based on Mochimochiland’s Reversible Egg pattern).
  • the embroidered coins on a felted tote bag inspired by Tink Knits Penny Bag and the [198 Countries Peace project; I composed and international coin mosaic with all the coins retrieved from my sons’ rooms (received from their grandfather after his travels).  Having made the “rather large” Noni carpet bag already, I thought I’d have a go at the medium.  It’s a very nice size, though a bit narrow – like a laptop case.  I don’t know if I can bear to give this one away, though I really don’t need it.  Maybe it will be my new laptop case.
  • a felted bowler, to add to the growing collection of Jewish headgear in my Minyan Project.
  • a reversible cabled Steam Scarf, lusciously thick and cozy.
  • a niece’s neglected birthday present (fluffy tutu, too heavy to be worn, so turned into a pillow).
  • a densely-knit cap (DIY Peasant’s Cap), made from ultra-soft bulky merino from handpaintedyarn.com.

In August I joined a group aiming to help resettle Iraqi refugees (mostly families of translators who had helped the American military and had to flee for their lives).  To add something handmade to the used household items we collected for their new homes, I designed and knitted a number of dishcloths based on the traditional Hamsa (Khamsa) Hand (the Hand of Miriam for Jews, and Hand of Marjam or Fatima for Muslims).  I modifed the traditional hand, converting the outer fingers to peace doves.  With the eye in the center of the palm, the design is suitable for Jews; without it, I make it for Muslms, for whom (I’ve been advised) the eye is pagan and offensive; to my knowledge, Jewish folk tradition has always made affirmative use of the eye symbolism.

This seems like quite a bit was accomplished, and yet I recall being disappointed with what I wasn’t able to finish as well (I had to withdraw quite a few projects from the WIPs Wrestling match).   But by the end of August, the heat of the season and the presidential campaigns were serious competition with the knitting baskets.

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