Archive for the ‘Curiosities’ 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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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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AMy friend Ellen, TikkunTree-leaf knitting machine, regularly attends a “hot yoga” class after work … she joins twenty other lunatics in a sauna-hot studio in our city to spend an hour trying to contort her body into a series of pretzel-like positions. She loves it. She claims the endeavor is clearing her body of the dust she inhaled re-plastering her ceiling. She’s nuts.

We’ve been trying to survive a mid-Atlantic heat wave – in the heart of the city – without air conditioning (which has been defunct since last summer). We’ve been running fans wherever we parked in the house, consuming cold cereal and salads and cold roast chicken, and iced lemon water by the bucket …. With all the blinds drawn, we’ve been hanging out in our skivvies (I knew my son-the-graduate had a sock monkey thing, but never knew he had a pair of sock monkey boxers … until last week), trying to move as little as possible. On a couple of weekend afternoons the extreme heat prompted us to visit the movie theaters, something we haven’t done (as a family) since the boys were much smaller (I have a low threshhold for the high volume sound and/or violence typical of most mainstream cinema these days).

In spite of it all, I managed to knit and crochet, many small and light things, while sitting in front of one of the Vornado fans. I also managed to plan many projects. And to think about other projects to plan or execute. All the while trying to keep the house and meals as cool as possible.

I’ve made slow but steady progress on my sister’s Stormwater shawl (photos to come), an easy project to carry to cooler venues on account of the gossamer-light rayon yarn. I feel cooler just handling the stuff. In spite of my best efforts, I haven’t been able to make much progress on my 198 Coins tote (a medium-sized Noni carpetbag) … though I managed to locate and organize the foreign coins I’ll be embroidering onto it, the heat makes this one project too hot to handle for long (though even if I do complete the embellishment, I can’t imagine when I’ll get to the lining; this one will join the rather large striped carpetbag I fulled last month).

The Color Orange project continues to inspire me, and I spent a few hours in front of the living room fan crocheting metallic threads into earrings, and started on the miniature skulls that will eventually adorn a curtain for my son’s new apartment (he says he really will be moving in, sometime soon, maybe even next week, so he says). In addition,

And then there’s the handful of felted kippot I’ve managed to complete. I’ve had in mind to make a few of these for my brother and a niece for some time now, and the heat wave seemed a perfect time to turn out a few of these simple projects (not to mention the advantage of a bit more waterplay in the sink, fulling them by hand). CozyColeman‘s (stranded or needle-felted) fulled kippah pattern works perfectly every time; I’m already dreaming of a few hours in the cool-er basement, trying out a few embellishment techniques on a few of these.

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With the change of weather it’s been a challenge to continue to work with wool, to finish all the projects over-flowing my baskets. The arrival of bright new green leaves has brought with it a desire to work small, to knit growing things. Inspirations?

The Color Orange project prompted me to try some jewelry, to design a few items that could be worn easily at the Beijing Olympics. I’ve managed some knitted peapod earrings, with coral “peas” to start. The lives of musical friends and relatives have also inspired some knitting … a friend’s new organic garden produce knitted peapods with dyed-green pearls, and another friend’s successful loss of more than 100 lbs (!!) led to “New Leaf” earrings, a variation of a Mountain Laurel Leaf pattern (available here on Ravelry)

A sister-in-law’s second cabaret show inspired me to try a version of the How Does Your Garden Grow lariat designed by Roxie Day (Marnie Maclean’s mother; pdf link here). Showing all of us just how to live after 50, there was no way I could avoid celebrating my SIL’s success but with something special. She’s a cabbage rose lover, so this was perfect (and I certainly learned much more than I’d anticipated about knitting and felting flowers along the way).

Finally, an invitation to test-knit came from fellow Ravelry member linnaea resulted in this artichoke. As children in the early 1960’s, my sister and I often snuck downstairs on weekend mornings to watch re-runs of the Little Rascals shorts. A favorite was The Pooch (1932), for its hilarious artichoke-peeling scene and Stymie’s memorable line: “It might choke Artie, but it ain’t gonna choke Stymie”. I’ve had a passion for artichoke’s ever since.I managed to finish most of the leaves (35 in all!) during a day’s jury duty, a public knitting event which let to a number of interesting conversations about needlework with the women sitting nearby. As far as I know, the pattern is now available as a Ravelry download (here). This artichoke will be a wonderful addition to our harvest basket of sukkah decorations next autumn.

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I’ve been researching spinning. Not that I’ve ever had a yen to spin. No, I’m quite content to support the labor of other spinners. And I’ve promised my family I would not acquire any more equipment for any more media. Period.

What happened was that I crossed paths with this image of spun newspaper. Kismet. I’m still reeling (no pun intended, I think). What is this? Greetje van Tiem‘s “Indruk” project, her contribution to the Design Academy Eindhoven graduation show. Van Tiem is a recent graduate from the academy’s Man and Leisure department, has been spinning newspaper into useable fiber for household textiles (carpets, curtains, upholstery).

Now I’ll knit with just about anything – casette tape, grape vines, plastic bags, telephone cord, etc. I’ve got to knit with paper. This has possibilities. This is the solution to technical obstacles for some projects on a back burner.

So I’ve been researching spinning. After working out that a purchased spinning wheel is beyond my reach, I looked to home-made versions. And then kismet struck, in the form of Chris Jordan’s Build Your Own Spinning Wheel page, and his reference to Thomas Kilbride’s Spinning and Weaving at Home: Expert Advice …. With only a bit of effort (what would we do without abebooks.com or alibris.com?), I located a serviceable copy of the book in a small shop in England, which arrived by post a week later. What does Kilbride recommend? Making a spinning wheel out of an old bicycle.

Now I have son who’s become something of an urban bicycle maven, collecting old junkers and fixing them up at the “Bike Church” program (which both teaches bicycle mechanics and maintenance but also helps more than a few inner city kids with their bikes). And the result of my son’s bicycle addiction is the “bike graveyard” he’s maintaining. He’s sworn an oath, on Mother’s Day, to make me a spinning wheel with that bike in the rear. That very one. By the end of the summer. Kismet.

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Be the change that you want to see in the world. Mohandas Gandhi

There’s been a lot of orange on my needles this past week since I crossed paths with Ravelry’s Color Orange group. Not that there hasn’t been plenty of other projects to work on or finish. But the Color Orange campaign’s goals really grabbed my attention and inspired me. According to the website:

We are launching the project The Color Orange to highlight the violations of the human rights in China on the occasion of the Olympic Games in Beijing August 2008.

The idea is both sophisticated and simple: We want to introduce The Color Orange as a symbol of the protest against the human rights violations in China. The strict censorship can ban the use of obvious symbols of human rights, but the use of The Color Orange cannot be banned.

So we will encourage sports people and spectators to make vast and creative use of the color for clothing and all sorts of accessories. It can be anything, like an orange hat, camera bag, tie, pen, paper, dress, suit, bag etc. Even pealing an orange will be considered a poignant statement.

So what could I contribute? These knittivist projects are usually terrific opportunities for creative thinking and knitting, and the chance to create visible expressions of solidarity with human rights victims and activists especially motivating.

Returning to the knitnotwar 1,o0o peace crane seemed a natural starting point. I rustled up a couple of birds with some satisfyingly orange Araucania Nature Wool, which felted quickly and beautifully. I’m not sure how they’ll be used in Beijing, especially the one I “stiffened” into a rigid sculpture after a soak in my “ceramicizing” recipe (a mixture of white glue, water and acrylic medium).

I looked for other symbols relevant to the issues and venue. Knitted chains have been on my to-try list for a few years (inspired by Knitty’s Marley’s Ghost and Loop d Loop’s version), and felted orange chains followed quickly. I’ve given them a name for the sake of the project: Un-chaining Tibet. Whoever gets to wear these will enact in a small way the discomfort of life without basic human rights – these are pretty scratchy.

Not wanting to subject another Olympics spectator to the discomfort of the chain necklace, I’ve made a felted medallion of Olympic rings which will get a black waxed cotton lariat. These took the knitted chain technique a few steps further, a pleasant challenge for me, and more importantly, a valuable symbolic exercise for the inter-connections among all peoples, grounded in common human rights.

None of these items took long to make – a few hours at most – so there’s no excuse for any of us with a concern for human rights not to contribute. There are plenty of ideas, and more information, on the Color Orange website, and its Flickr group is working to promote distribution of the handmade orange items.

In the meantime, I’ll be working out some knitted sculpting techniques, so that I can contribute a couple of orange figures from the website, who are literally appealing for support for the campaign.

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Knitting Machine

The effort to complete most of knitted haggadah for our seder has certainly kept me busy, but there have been other projects pressing me around the edges. My sister’s birthday shawl is growing ever so slowly, but a floral lariat for my sister-in-law (based on the How Does Your Garden Grow pattern by Marnie McLean’s mother, Roxie Day) is nearly done. I’ve never been one for flowery stuff (unlike my sister-in-law), so this project has been a chance to study and try some techniques for felted flowers.

I’m only hours away from completing my last brioche beret for the season, for a musical friend. I’m overdue to finish my contribution to the Knit A Condom Amulet project, an effort to promote HIV and safe sex education for women over 50 – I’m working on a “peace pouch” based on leaves from the TikkunTree. This is an ongoing project led by Little Red Hen, working towards Knit in Public Day 2008, and well worth taking a look at.

So, I have to admit that I’ve felt like a knitting machine this past month or so. That said, it was a wonderful surprise to stumble across the real “Knitting Machine” (Tricot Machine), a Quebequois music duo, and their delightful, amazing knit-animated video …

Whether this is the result of commitment, addiction, or the miracle of knitting machine technology, the 700 knitted panels in this piece animate “sweater music” in a way that has to stimulate a knitterly response. Ideas of mobile knitting are crowding mine. (More information about this video is available here).

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