More Motifs and Motives

Mindful and Artful lifeways and habitats are not conspicuously compatible with contemporary consumer and man-built environments. Certain pollutants, for example noise from gas-powered leaf blowers as well as the actual microfloral disturbed by your neighbor’s leaf blower have serious effects on whether you can even be outside sketching or planting or writing or stitching.

I’m inside right now then, working cotton yarn in a simple but extremely versatile pattern in crochet to cover cushions in all my habitats from the library to my cab. The three stitch pattern repeats across the row, then, when I turn to come back the pattern stays the same so that both sides of the fabric are the “right” side. The pattern works to different effect when I work in a circle.

I want to understand not just the artfulness and craftiness of crochet as fabric making — but the physical properties and qualities that the stitches in a pattern create; fluffiness, bumpiness, softness, strength, durability, stretchiness…all this just from a hooked stick and yarn knotting in a row. If crochet can be such a delight, I may not be able to contain my wonder when I start learning the loom!

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Fun Fur?

Even though one slipped stitch managed to make a gaping hole in the second slipper, I had to hack and snip and yank and pull and waste all the yarn to get the mess undone to redo. The manufacture calls this fuzzy stuff that I twist with bulky yarn “Fun Fur”. It is a misnomer — not “fun” at all. When I’m testing yarns, especially “specialty” yarns, the first thing I do is make a simple good sized swatch and then attempt to undo it. I’ll be more attentive this next redo.

Fuzzy yarns

Working through the second slipper with fuzzy yarn mixed with bulky. I thought the mistake was two rows too long, then sewed up the top. Suddenly a big hole appears from a dropped stitch, growing bigger. I can’t get the construction stitches undone, too fuzzy to even see where they are. It will take more time to UnDo this mess than it took to make it. Fuzzy yarn is not difficult but it gets “out of hand” if I am not attentive enough, watching to secure each stitch.

Around the Edge

I’m on the third time ReDo around the edge of Dora’s scarf. I only have a certain amount of the colors and they have to go all the way around. I had thought about variegating or carrying different colors before I started on my way around. Variegating would be a more cautious approach but carrying color is a bit harder for me to do in crochet than knitting. I’m more adept at knitting. I’ve much to learn still in crochet techniques. IF I have to try another ReDo, I will see about variegating three colors instead of one. 

The first thing I always underestimate is how far around the edge is. Edges are at the top of my list for studying, in all mediums these past two decades. In the garden, the edges takes years of study for a single margin or ecotone. In the workshop there are hundreds of different edging techniques and results from DoNothing, to Fringing; there’s Binding, Blanket Stitching, Borders, Trims, Facing and many many more depending on the materials and tools.

These last few years I’ve been learning and studying lace edging. Unlike many techniques which try to draw attention away from the edge — or make the edge blend in or be invisible — lace edging is meant to stand out. Lace edging makes the Edge more important that the bulk of the fabric or made item. As with all  composition, some edgings are “right” and others aren’t. Although my first time around Dora’s scarf, I liked the results, I ran out of the right color yarn less than a third away around. The next time I kept the color and changed the stitch and made it  more than half way round. The next ReDo, I kept the color and changed the stitch again and made it all the way around with less than a dozen inches of yarn left. Then I switched color and found what I believed was a very fat skein plus. With a lovely contrast I started around again with a more complicated stitch. I was so pleased and encouraged with the lovely results I made it only half way before I noticed my skein was almost gone; paying too close attention to results and forgetting other important factors. So I’m on the third ReDo of the edging. This time I changed up the stitch and kept the color in anticipation of making it all the way round. As I said before, if I fall short this time, I will attempt a variegated pattern of stitches and probably go back to the more complicated stitch that pleased me before. 

I believe most crafters and artists do not want to revel their DoOvers and ReDoes. I believe this is shortsighted and shows a lack of confidence which equates for me to a pathological need for control over creativity. If crafters and artists do not admit to many many DoOvers and ReDoes, I believe they are not being truthful AND not showing their best work. That’s ok. We are all fragile about some things and have strength in other things. To show misstep or misjudgment or even response to the unpredictable makes some people feel vulnerable, lacking or out of control.

Not me. I excel in DoOvers and ReDoes. I take great pleasure in problem solving and coming up with one more (three more) alternatives that just might work. I rejoice in the errors of others because it is an opportunities to learn something unexpected — why didn’t it come out as expected? 

But here’s the difference between me and most others. After spending years learning to map the edges, finding patterns and pleasures in all the diversity of outcomes and inputs, and beginning to perceive the dynamics of the margins; I realize that I am mostly alone in enjoying the look and feel of Creative Discovery, the oekologie of making. Finding that solution to not enough yarn and too far to go makes a big mess and takes way too much time. It takes more time than doing it a simple way, by the book or following the instructions exactly — the way everyone else did it. After spending years learning to see the complicated differences in technique and materials of the edges, experimenting with compatibilities and collaborations in all the abundance of outcomes and inputs, I realize I’m only just at the beginning of my studies and projects. It’s taken a long time to get here, round and round, back to the beginning, round and round again, and back to the beginning. I never lacked confidence, I only felt confused because others defended “control” instead of “discovery”. 

I most likely will run out of fiber or color or try a different pattern before I’m done. Because all my life I’ve been able to learn to see more and more complicated patterns in more and more complicated circumstances, I am enthusiastically confident that my studies of the actual process in Change will round out and complete a lifetime of DoOvers and ReDoes. Spinning fiber to thread and weaving thread to fabric will be the focus in the workshop for Change. In the garden, I will be studying the changes in the plants themselves, seed to fiber and what happens when I try to process fibers for use. ReMaking fabric and fiber, UnDoing and ReDoing, will also be included. How do I take old fabric or fiber and ChangeIt for ReMake?

If I’m two thirds the way done with my life — if I have another 20-30 years left I may learn what I need to know about this chapter called “Change”. I can only keep going and see if I make it all the way round on Dora’s scarf this time.

Leaf Rain

The sounds of night and morning were like rain. Then, I thought the wind must be blowing. It wasn’t rain or wind. But gentle breeze wisping the leaves to the ground and around. There are swishes of them everywhere this morning. Not rain, not wind. Leaves whispering dry coming down to my broom and pan to fill the bins with color and sound. 

I started a blog here yesterday morning. Only two or three sentences. Then I forgot and went off to something else. I can’t find it anywhere, so suppose saving is important in those first two or three sentences, even if the whole thing may not be worth saving.

Kathy came yesterday with warm bread from the bakery. We ate one slice after another and I ReDreamed a cob oven. Then with her expertise and advice I undid the 40 inches of scarf I was making Dora and started again with a much bigger hook. What a difference. Even with my loose crochet the yarn wanted much looser still. I was using old alum Boyes, then remembered I had a set of Harmony hooks. The smallest not serving well, but the largest was a K so I started again. This one was just right, I remember Goldilocks saying. The scarf grew soft and patterned each turn.  The Harmony hooks have no weight, so my hands fared better.

I worked on it more in the evening, when I’d had enough of ReSorting the Haberdashery. With the light, the sky is clear and a bit cool, so we are all back inside. I will take up the scarf again with the “Just Right” tool. Not at all what I would have guessed was right, but the soft fabric it makes in my hands tells me so. And my friend who guided me to a different choice than the instructions provided. 

Experience and sharing experience account for much in a maker’s life. I’m envisioning Stone Soup Thanksgiving Gathering to be that kind of quiet advice and thoughtful sharing of the abundance and joy of the creative life.

Cool, damp and dark

From inside the parlor workshop the morning light is obscured by indeterminate clouds that detoured here last night. There are only patches of gray sky lightening to blue. It may stay cool today, for Chico “cool”. Not Zundel & Hager North Dakota “cool”. The soft cowl I had around my next last night has folded into a headband round my ears and forehead. I must make a note to make double-duty cowl-headbands 6 stitches smaller.

The next big thing for making is Stone Soup Thanksgiving Gathering. Even IF there are only a dozen people here this first year, I need to have all the cuffs and mitts and warmers and cozies out that I can. I’m also working on the CD and Deli Totes. The CD tote is a completely new design that happened on the ironing board. The Deli/Bakery tote happened with a friend in the haberdashery. Both had purpose, but in my creative mind, the Deli/Bakery tote is a remake of my grandma’s grange tote.

Last night, while watching second season episodes of Continuum on Netflix, I started the Twinkie Chan scarf for Sarah’s birthday present. I’m going to do one for Dora and Sam, too. Zach? Not sure he would even wear a hat, let alone a Twinkie Chan scarf. This first one should be simple enough, but I’m always glad crochet is so easy to take out and do over. The simplest patterns and tasks or projects seems to be the ones that take forever to accomplish, have the most doovers, or just turn out wrong. Sarah’s scarf could go around the room three times if not the pullitoutagains. It’s not even 18 inches yet. Part of the problem was I found the color yarn I wanted in the bin, but it is a retro acrylic dacron and not very lofty, so it shows all my inadequacies in crochet. Of course, I could knit something similar with much better technique, even lace or something fancy or go buy a high end yarn to hide my insecure crochetwork — but I want Sarah to see that I’m trying new styles and techniques that I don’t have as much confidence in — “outside my comfort zone” they used to say. Sarah’s scarf in my unsure crochet stitches reminds me of the treasured gifts I received from her when she was in grade school. Simple gifts made while learning hand eye coordination tasks (or maybe craft therapy depending on the teacher). Seems right that I’m old enough now to begin returning the affection as my thumbs begin to kink with arthritis and my vision has difficulty finding focal length. Will she keep these intended treasures as I have kept my grandmother’s last afghan; the one where the colors and stitches are not so careful and clever as they once were; the one I treasure most because it was the last handmade she gifted me?

I can’t put a pic of Sarah’s scarf, it’s to be a surprise, so here a bowl of gingerbread people to get any reader in the mood for making and gifting too.

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Family Foto Fun Figures

I’m starting new prototype. Find photo of loved one, or two or the whole family cousins and all. Scan and resize to scale. Make a few adjustments to the distortion needed for 2 dimensional figure and create Flat Cloth dolls. Sillouette cutter will come in hand for cutting figure. We used to call these Paper Dolls, but what are they called when you remake from cloth and other materials? Board Figures? Flat Figures? Family Figures. I even have fabrics that are retro. So I can make “period” clothing from all these scraps Tina and I have been sorting boxing and moving, then moving again; 1940s to present. Challenge how to attach clothing to figure. Vecro always an options, but hard on fabrics. Maybe a ribbon tie to the back? Or even duvet-type slip over on back. Can’t wait to get started, and, of course, has to wait until weekend activities and Sherri’s pottery finds homes. Tonight I’ll be making gingerbreads, so may just make a couple figures to add to all the cakelettes.