Thursday, January 31, 2008

All Tied Up on Thursday

Yesterday I had the thrill of receiving the first package of knit stripe in the mail--from a woman in New Mexico who knit up two skeins. Then a fellow homeschooler handed me about five feet of stripe during our first annual Queens homeschooler Mardi Gras party. Fifteen feet in one day! Yahoo! Then I heard from the reluctant Helen that she had finished her skein and I could collect it anytime. We were up to 20 feet! And then I received this photo from my friend Janine in Wisconsin. She taught her husband, Raj, to knit just for this project, making for two new husband/partner knitters generated by this project by my quick calculation. Janine and Raj and two of their sons all pitched in and knit up 12 skeins.

At least they are still smiling!

UPDATE: Raj points out in the comments that they knit 15 skiens, not 12! Thank you Raj for clarifying! That is 15 more well-earned feet of stripe!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Kick'n Some Knitt'n Butt

One of the Knitters of The Mile came by last night. She is fairly new to knitting but has an enthusiasm that I admire. She wants to knit a hat, and she knows how to knit and purl, so she picked a pattern that she liked entirely based on the fact that she really liked it. She asked me to look at with her and clarify anything she might not understand.

I almost fell off my chair! She had picked a pattern that was two-colors (very funky skull and cross bones repeated - I agree it is a cool pattern!), includes a provisional cast-on, and uses size 1US/2.5mm needles. You gotta give the woman some credit for ambition!

While inside my head, I was saying "what???", I didn't want to discourage her. So we went over a provisional cast-on and walked through the pattern and, you know, I think she will be able to do it.

I had a flashback to when Patti and I started a knitting group back in the day in Sunnyside. At first, nearly everyone needed lessons to get started but soon enough people were up and running. Except that most didn't actually run, they walked. Slowly. Patti and I would ask if they wanted to learn how to increase/decrease so they could make something other than a square or rectangle, but no, they were happy. And they were happy! It drove me nuts in a silent sort of a way. "C'mon people! Don't you want know...knit a mile or something????" Nope, no, they were happy chugging along on their novelty yarn scarves.

I suppose my admiration should go to those who find contentment in their 10th novelty yarn scarf - especially at this juncture (Vanna, I love you!) - but my understanding is with the two-colour, provisional cast-on, size 1 needles, first pattern ever knitter.

Sometimes you just have to go for it!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Check it out!

Wee Ball Yarns is the featured shop this week at a blog called etsytreasures. I did my best to spin and knit up lots of new yarn and hats so there would be something to see. Have a look!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

To Thine Own Project, Be True

We were out and about most of yesterday, on trains and all over midtown and the village. I noticed that I was looking at everyone's hats and scarves with great longing. A woman on the train had a gorgeous red hat that looked so soft, perhaps it was alpaca or even cashmere. Another had a neat fair isle in colours that were a surprise. I was staring at knitwear with lust in my heart. Finally it occurred to me that it was yellow garter stitch backlash. All around me were lovely knits of all styles and colours and there, in my bag, was Vanna.

But to Vanna I will be true, especially after seeing this photograph.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Everybody Knows

For a break from the insistent yellow garter stitch...the perfect song for our times. Written by Leonard Cohen and sung masterfully by Rufus Wainwright. Hint: it is worth staying to the very, very end.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Yesterday morning at about 7:15 am (EST), I was on the phone with Dorothy King of CBC radio in Corner Brook. She was speaking with me and Corner Brook artist/resident, Shawn O'Hagan, about The Knitted Mile project. Due largely to Shawn's efforts, the project has about 20 knitters in Corner Brook sitting at the ready to take up needles for the cause. (Side note to the greater powers including, but not limited to, the Canada Post: please let the yarn arrive today!!!!)

Dorothy gave us an opportunity to describe the project and let people know what the basic instructions were, and Shawn gave out her phone number on the air so people who wanted to knit could give her a call. Within a couple of minutes after hanging up, I received an email from Shawn telling me she had heard from a elderly woman in Port Saunders (a town on the Northern Penninsula) and that Dorothy had committed to a knitting up a skein. Several others also called her over the course of the day.

May I digress here a bit to mention that people in NYC frequently talk about real estate and quality of life. Being an artist, I tend to hang out with an artsy crowd, which means mostly people who do not have lots of extra cash floating around. The cost of living in NYC is very high, especially the real estate part, and people are always talking about moving out of the city to a place that is more affordable. The catch often seems to come when people start to imagine what kind of neighbors they might have--would they be conservative (socially and/or politically), would they frown on alternative lifestyles, etc. I hear a kind of us vs. them mentality, although most of the people making these observations or predictions are not cruel or narrow minded or snotty as a rule. It's just that, when you live in NYC, the rest of the country (and that includes Westchester) can seem like "the other." I mean, those 26% of Americans who still support George W. Bush live somewhere, right? Despite that fleeting moment on 9/11 when we were all New Yorkers, the fact is that New York City is not the rest of the country. Things are different here.

So, let's just say that, more than once, I have had a conversation about moving out of the city where the other person says, "I worry about having other people I can talk to." I am not saying this is right thinking, I am just saying that I have had these conversations.

May I digress further and mention that, while working on projects past that have included large amounts of knitting, I have received several comments from people (in NYC!!) along the lines that I should be knitting for a more useful cause. For one project where I knit miniature baby sweaters as part of a piece for a health care clinic, one person said I should be knitting real sweaters for real children who are homeless. For another that consisted of granny square blankets for light and sign posts on Canal Street in Manhattan, a woman complained that all that energy and effort would be wasted when I (or "we" since I had some dedicated granny square makers working with me--cough, cough, Patti, cough, cough) could be making blankets for the elderly, etc. etc. The notion that this kind of handiwork would go toward making an art work that had no obvious social funtion was irritating to those people who commented. It really bothered them. Yet, I suspect, that most painters rarely hear comments about how they could be using their skills to paint houses for Habit for Humanity.

I guess NYC doesn't have the market cornered on enlightenment after all.

To bring us back to Corner Brook, Dorothy King and experience in Newfoundland has not been what my friends fear when they talk of leaving the city. Yes, it is a rural place. It is even quite conservative in a way. But I find that even people who are very conservative are open minded enough to allow others to live as they like to live. They might not ever live that way, but they won't interfere if that is your choice. And as for finding people I can talk to...well...this is not a problem in Newfoundland. But it thrills me even more that people heard what Shawn and I said on the radio and decided that they wanted to participate. Perhaps some people thought it was total horsesh*t and a gigantic waste of time, but some people went ahead and made a phone call to a total stranger so they could join in the process. And as I think of it, not just any process but one instigated by a part-time CFA for a project that will take place in Dallas, Texas, of all places.

I am full of love for my adopted home!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

All Yellow, All Fun, All the Time

Yesterday I was feeling a bit under the weather so I undertook a strict regimen of sitting on the couch and knitting as a way of heading off a full-blown cold (it worked!). By the end of the day, however, I felt some photographic evidence of all our efforts-to-date was needed.

First and foremost, I want to remind everyone who is participating, should you be reading this, that I would like to get a photo of you knitting on your stripe. It need not include your face but it should include your hands knitting. These photos will be part of the gallery installation in Dallas. Here is mine - talk about greased lightening!

Here is what the stripe looked like at about 7pm last night:

The edge that stands out as slightly more rippled is about 6 feet knit by Lucy--must give credit where credit is due.

Then we started having fun with Vanna. Maybe she will come to Dallas and see her stripe...

(Does anyone besides me find it alarming that he can put that on his THIGH while wearing jeans?? I assure you that he eats more than most adults...)

So much for knitting increasing muscle mass...

Today, I have been trying to avoid the siren song of my spinning wheel. But damn, that merino I bought at Rhinebeck looks so tempting.

Must. Stay. Focused!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

On the road with The Knitted Mile

A couple of the knitters participating in The Knitted Mile project have posted about their experiences. See them here and here. One thing that I have heard from several people is the way knitting the garter stitch becomes a kind of meditation. It creates a new awareness of their thoughts and that allows them to lose any sense of actual knitting. I know I have experienced this as well. And there is a kind of satisfaction in coming out of that dreamlike state to discover several more feet of stripe have been accomplished. If only I could knit while sleeping....

Thursday, January 17, 2008

"It's One Loudah" or "Shocked....and Stunned'

When one sets a goal that is ambitious, that is going for a big impact, the risk is that it will fall short. The Knitted Mile becomes The Knitted 100 Feet, and frankly, who cares about that? One aims for no end in sight but ends up with just up to that lamp post.

I keep thinking of this scene...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

It's here! I never thought I would be so excited about having over 100 skeins of acrylic yarn in my livingroom, but I am!

We made our way through the maze that is east Jersey, just outside of the Meadowlands, to the HQ of Lion Brand Yarns. We were greeted with kindness and two big boxes of yarn. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Lion Brand! I immediately packaged up about half the yarn to be mailed to various states and taped up a powefully large box headed to the knitters of Corner Brook, Newfoundland.

We, of course, missed the turn-off to the local Carlstadt, NJ, post office and found ourselves headed back to the Lincoln Tunnel. Our goal was: get yarn, pack up yarn, mail yarn, celebrate at Mitsuwa, the fabulous and huge Japanese supermarket with the best food court east of the Mississippi in Edgewater. But after we missed the proper turn off (do they ever put up signs in NJ???), we agreed that getting back to the safety of New York was a worthy goal. Sorry Garden Staters, I just can't love your home, much as I have tried.

But now, with packages mailed and the remaining yarn securely here, I can breathe a sigh of relief and get to work. Only 5,230 feet left to go!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

If it's brown..?

In between garter stitches and trying not to freak out about the fact that the clock is severely ticking and *still no yarn*, I made a couple of skeins of my own yarn and a hat (the hat was nearly done before garter stitch fest started).

During the making of both the hat and one of the skeins of yarn, I kept saying to myself that this was likely to be the ugliest damn thing that I ever did see. First the hat, with its brown colour...I mean, I hate brown! But I soldiered onward in the belief that it would be nice in the end. And in the end, I did like it a lot, mainly for its colours. I almost kept it for myself except that it doesn't actually look that good on me. Someone else will have the pleasure, I guess.

Then the yarn...the fleeces looked interesting together and I have been trying to be more experimental with my colour combinations but somewhere along the line, while spinning, I was almost embarrassed to be seen with it. What was I thinking? Again, with the brown! Yet, when I got the singles plied, I really liked the finished product.

You just never know.

Ok, back to freaking out now.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


Tomorrow is Finnian's 11th birthday. Yesterday he had a small get together with some friends--a good mix of ages and genders (hooray for homeschooling and the way it allows children to mix with all kinds and not form ideas about who they are supposed to like or dislike!). They dueled with Yu-gi-oh cards, a sport that is entirely beyond my comprehension in its intricacy and attraction. They used stamps to make cards and they almost to a person rejected the ice cream cake that I made. How, you ask, could children, nay, anyone of any age, reject an ice cream cake? We are talking Julia Child's recipe here, not some Carvel whale of a cake. The answer lies within--at Finnian's request one layer was coffee ice cream. Hint to parents: most children hate coffee ice cream.

Finnian is not most children.

And that is what makes him so wonderful and so frustrating. I think I have written more about Lucy because Lucy has embraced what I embrace (at least for the time being - believe me I am enjoying every moment knowing it may be short-lived). But Finnian and I often clash. He knows his own mind and does not want or need me to interfere. Being of a rather controlling nature, I like to interfere, or as I prefer to think of it, help out. We frequently find ourselves looking at each other thinking "how in the world can you....?"

I have noticed in other children that their 11th year is an interesting year. No longer children, not quite teenaged, definitely not adults, they wander between all those states: dipping a toe into adulthood, dangling their fingers into teenage life and then plunging back into childhood (how's that for a watery metaphor?). Finnian has been working his way there. One moment playing with his toys, one moment discussing Zeno's paradoxes. We see flashes of the person who he may become--someone who is a very caring, thoughtful person with a strong focus of mind and a killer sense of humour. I really like that guy and I look forward to seeing more of him.

I know he would not appreciate a photo of himself here, being of a rather private nature. Instead I will share a drawing he made for his cousin for Christmas. Please don't ask me what it means.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Knitters Rule!

The response to my request for help has been so gratifying. I have nearly 25 people lined up to help knit the mile. We may just do it! The list includes people in six US states and a strong contingent from western Newfoundland. Knitters, you are the BEST.

Now all that's missing is the yarn...

I am trying not to freak out about the fact that I still don't have the promised yarn. Deep breath. A million reasons why.

In between rows of garter stitch, I added ten new skeins of yarn to my etsy shop. I finally broke the one-page barrier! I re-photographed the yarn I still had on hand and tried a new look for the new stuff. I think it makes for more enticing photos. It is always hard to get the colour correct but I guess people know that computers are not colour correct, right? It all makes for a nice distraction from wondering where is the yarn???

I'm taking another deep breath...

Monday, January 07, 2008

The Knitted Mile - What's It All About?

Gestures of Resistance: The Knitted Mile

In late Feb. I will be installing a site-specific installation in Dallas, TX, as part of the College Art Association's annual conference. My piece is part of an exhibition titled "Gestures of Resistance: Craft, Performance and the Politics of Slow," which also is the title of one of conference's sessions led by Shannon Stratton and Judith Leeman, two curators who work out of Chicago and Boston, respectively. They also are organizing the exhibition and possibly an anthology of the session and exhibition. They have a website called Performing Craft.

My project, The Knitted Mile (working title) is to knit a mile of duplicate road stripe that will be placed over the actual road stripe in Dallas. The knit stripe is done in garter stitch and is four inches wide. I also am using a crocheted chain stitch to create words that are sewn on top of the garter stitch stripe. The words are (or will be) quotations and/or other thoughts about how knitting is a gesture of resistance, particularly in the context of our culture of immediate gratification as embodied or evidenced by Dallas and its car culture.

The gesture of placing a mile of knitting upon the roadways of Dallas is intended to be an intervention, an interruption of the everyday environment created for cars and trucks (all that they imply) with this lovingly made, handmade element. For me, it is as much a poetic gesture as a political one.

The Knitted Mile - The Details

I went ahead and purchased some yarn to get started knitting while I wait for the donation to arrive from Lion Brand. Yesterday afternoon/evening I knit up a skein and got about 5 feet of a 4 inch stripe completed. (I checked with the Texas DOT about the width of their stripes and confirmed it is 4 inches.) So, if a mile has...what? 5,780 feet? that means I need how many skeins of yarn? Well, you do the math. Clearly, I need help! Here's my plan:

1. If you knit and are willing to help out in this scheme to cover Dallas's roads in knitwear, think about how many skeins you can knit up before 2/10/08.

2. Email me at thehousemuseum(at)nf(dot)sympatico(dot)ca and let me know how many you want and where to send them.

I will pack up the yarn and send it along asap after the donation arrives. Complete instructions will be included but they amount to knitting as long of a 4 inch stripe as you possibly can in garter stitch. For me, this was 15sts in the selected yarn. If you wish to add any thoughts about slowness as an act of resistance to the culture of immediate gratification, original or from another source, you are invited to do so by crocheting the words on top. (Helen suggested i-chord as another way to generate writing - that is fine too)

3. Return your knitting to me by February 10th. This will give me time to stitch together the pieces and possibly mail some of it ahead to Dallas before heading down there myself. The installation will take place on or around 2/20-23.

4. All contributions will be gratefully acknowledged where ever and whenever possible.

5. I am happy to accept any help, be it 1 foot, 10 feet or 100 feet. No contribution is too small or too large.

6. If you want your piece might be possible. Let's talk about it.

Please feel free to pass this along to any knitters you know who might be up for knitting some yellow garter stitch. I am still doing the math on how many skeins I will need for an actual mile and I am starting to feel a little woozy.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

A Little Tingle

On Thursday night, I was driving home after a WAMER (Women Artists Meeting, Eating, Reading) meeting. It was late, almost 11:30pm, and I turned on the radio. I heard a man's voice giving a speech--what sounded like a victory speech--and it occurred to me that the Iowa caucuses had ended and that it wasn't Hillary speaking and it wasn't John Edwards speaking, it was Barak Obama.

For a moment, I felt a thrill, a real thrill, such as I haven't in a long, long time. A thrill that maybe the US would get on the right track again, a thrill that reason and smarts would govern, not fear and secrecy. That multicultural America would be embodied in our leader, someone who has lived in other countries and sees connections, not just opportunities for dominance. For a moment, I felt hopeful, as cliched as it instantly became, but it was true, I felt hopeful. When I got home, Dan was still up, also listening, and we both sat there grinning like fools. Maybe...just maybe...

Perhaps it was just a sign of how profoundly alienated we feel after seven years of Bush & Co. that the absurd circus that is the 2008 campaign actually moved us. But it did and we enjoyed the moment. A crack of light through seven years of tragedy and despair.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

The Knitted Mile

I have been in conversation with Lion Brand Yarns about donating the yarn for my knitted mile project. They have been generous supporters of my work in the past and they seem willing to do so again. In the meantime, however, I need to start knitting! I decided that, given the time factor, that I will crochet any words on top of the stripe after knitting (or while knitting if a mile of garter stitch in one colour gets too boring--I know it sounds hard to believe that that might be a wee bit dull after, say, the first 1000 feet, but just in case, you know).

I think I recruited my mom to knit some of the mile if I send her up some yarn. Anyone else interested? I will send you yarn and basic instructions (cast on 15 stitches, knit in garter st for the rest of your natural life) and encourage you to add whatever text you want in whatever way you want. Unfortunately, since I am receiving only room and board in exchange for the experience, I can not offer to pay in cash money. I can only offer the thrill of being part of it all.

Any takers???

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Every Day is a Good Day

Lest I begin the new year only yammering away about me, me, me, I offer up this koan and a link to some commentary.

The Blue Cliff Record, Case 7

At mid-month Unmon addressed the assembly, saying, “I’m not asking you about before the fifteenth of the month, what can you say about after the fifteeth?.” When no one could answer, he himself said, “Every day is a good day.”

Click here for the commentary.

2007's legacy is 2008's addiction or A Year of Yarn in Review

I think it is official. I am a total spinning geek. The rest of the family has gone off to a hip, happenin' party at a loft in Williamsburg sure to be full of artists and dancers and creative people of all stripes, and I have chosen to stay home and spin. Dan is totally sick of seeing me at the wheel, disbelieving that I could possibly be happy, once again, spinning or plying or what have you. Happy is not even the word...not even the word...

It was early in 2007 that I pulled the pieces of my new Ashford Travellor out of its box and put them together. Dan had given it to me as a Christmas present. It was like introducing your spouse to their future mistress, or something like that. I made everyone clear out of the house so I could make my mistakes in private (and curse out loud in the event of frustrating errors of which there were many). And I sat at the wheel and spun. I tried to remember everything that Cassie had said in the afternoon workshop she led that Lucy and I attended months before. I used up my 2006 Rhinebeck purchases determined not to care about "wasting" them--heck, fleece is cheap compared to yarn! I made terribly overspun, uneven yarn but I was totally inspired and completely undeterred by my mistakes. Little by little, my hands came to understand what needed to happen to make even, thin singles that could be plied to make lovely medium weight yarn.

Then came dyeing,

Then Wee Ball Yarns was born,

Then another wheel came into my life so I could make even more yarn, then a drum carder, and on and on.

Today, I successfully navajo plied for the first time (I had made many attempts that all looked pretty bad).

So the learning curve continues, perhaps less steeply than in January 2007, but with no less enthusiasm.