Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Addendum to the Installation

We made it back to NYC yesterday afternoon but it wasn't until this morning that I think I actually realized I was home. Yesterday was something of a fuzzy blur, as if by finally reaching our destination I was allowed to check out slightly from reality. But I have checked back in after a good night't sleep--is there any greater gift?

There were a couple of things that happened after the installation of The Knitted Mile that seem worth mentioning. As I made my good-bye's to the curators, Judith and Shannon, they both said that they really want to have the exhibition travel since it turned out so well. And it is a really interesting exhibition, in my humble opinion. That would mean perhaps The Knitted Mile would be installed another time, or even a couple of times. They both felt that it needed more of an audience that it received in Dallas. I have to agree with that. The installation was powerful and beautiful and we were the lucky few who saw it. It would be great to have more people really see it firsthand. So, there is talk about a northern installation, perhaps in Massachusetts where Judith lives and works. The only thing that holds me back, well - two things - that hold me back from being very happy that they want to re-install the piece is 1. the giant tangle! It boggles the mind to imagine getting it back into fire hose position. Patience will be on order. And maybe Patti, who is the world's best knot untangler.

The second reason I slightly hold back from pumping my fist in the air while hollering "yes!" is that I still have about a dozen skeins of Vanna sitting in my living room that I was looking forward to returning to Michael's or donating to a worthy cause or whatever. Now....if the thing yet lives....shouldn't I knit up those last skeins? Have mercy on me! On the brighter side, Janine's package never did arrive, so it may get a second chance to be part of the project. And with all those extra feet of knitting, maybe we can push the length up to an even 0.5 miles. I do love me those round numbers.

But I can not think about knitting garter stitch today. No, today, among the laundry and settling back in, I plan to dust off my lovely spinning wheel and have a little "getting re-acquainted" party. My I have missed you...

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Knitted Mile: Installation Day

We awoke to a grey day this morning - about 35F/2C. This is Texas? I hadn't anticipated the need for hats and mittens on installation day, but there you are. I donned my winter coat and loaded up the car. The only hitch was that it was only last night as I lay in bed that I figured out exactly how I would be able to get all the knitting onto the road without it becoming a tangled mess (unrolling the rolls only works if you hold the rolls on their side and that proved too squishy and unstable). So, at about 8am, I was laying the knitting in the back of the car like a fire hose.

I am sure the hotel maintenance staff were thinking "¿QuiĆ©n es esa gringa loca? " as they began their day's work with me carefully laying untold feet of yellow knitting into the back of my car. At about 9:30am, I was still not finished (it's hard to stitch when your fingers are frozen!) so I piled the rest of the rolls in the back and headed off to the gallery to finish the job.

Once there, we met up with Jenny, who also only just arrived in Dallas recently and who very willingly and generously offered to help out with the last bit of laying-in of the stripe. In fact, I don't think this would have come off half as well as it did without Jenny's assistance--thank you Jenny!

The car finally loaded up, we.....went inside the gallery to warm up! Isn't this supposed to be Texas? Did I say that already?

Then we headed over to the road carefully selected for its length and near total lack of traffic. For the detail oriented, it was called Hill Street from Main Street to where it meets up with N. Haskell.

Do you want to know exactly how long it was in the end? Is it important? I am tempted to not even mention it since it feels a little anti-climatic given that it felt very long. The experience of it was long in as much as we were only half way done and I was thinking "I can't believe we are only half way done!" I suppose not telling is like asking someone to take a test and never letting them know the results.

Ok, ok. it was 0.36 miles long. Do you feel differently about a mile yet?

Other random observations include:

- Some cars automatically followed the new line on the road despite the fact that it swerved across the road. One car even nearly ran off the road in order to follow the line.

- The stripe looked very convincing.

And then it would rise up slightly and twist in the wind. The road comes to life.

- Judith drove the car (heroically, btw) at 1mph while the stripe was put down. Finn and Lucy sat in the back (some of the pictures come from Lucy's camera). At one point, she went 2mph and Lucy said, "you're going fast now!" Finn said, "road rage!"

- One driver, who had observed us installing the stripe then got in his truck but stopped as he needed to cross the stripe. He, very politely, rolled down his window and asked permission to cross.

- When it came time to collect the stripe up again, we debated and decided that giant tangle was probably the best option.

The stripe now resides in the gallery, along with all the photograhs I collected from nearly all the knitters (the photo only shows about half of the photos--the other half are on the other side of the door to the next gallery).

It is hard to convey how beautiful it was. As someone other than me said, it was using the most humble means to take back something in a powerful way. It was funny and painfully lovely.

To everyone who contributed: your hands, your touch and intentions were here. We all felt it.

Thank you!

PS. I do have more pictures and video, and Shannon took many, many pictures as well. I will print out some for everyone who contributed when I get back to NYC.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

So Not That It Is

We had a very not-Dallas day. We took the commuter train - yes, a train! - into downtown Dallas to attend Shannon and Judith's session at the CAA conference, which was titled Gestures of Resistance (surprise, surprise). It was a wee bit academic for my personal taste but there were some really great things said about craft and slowness as a political act. I wish I could have a written transcript of their introductory remarks since they used some nice language that I wouldn't mind stealing for my next artist statement.

The session was rather long but I came prepared with the last skein of Vanna so I could finish up the last bit of yellow knitting. Did I just say that? Yes! The last bit of yellow knitting FOREVER! Alright, I did start on the Manos last night but I thought I should be knitting on the stripe at the session. Keeping up appearances and all. Lucy and Finn were great, especially considering it was 2.5 hours of talk. Finn read a book while Lucy knit on a totally adorable Japanese kit that makes a cellphone pouch. She will use it as a bag for general purposes but it won us over with its intense cuteness yesterday. Then we got on the light rail and went back to the commuter train and were back in Irving in about 40 car-free, stress-free minutes. I should add that day passes for all this train riding cost us a total of $6.50 for all three of us - $2 of it only because Finn lost his day pass somewhere along the way. Ok, I am starting to like Dallas.

THEN, arriving back in Irving, we were all pretty hungry so we decided to drive around a bit in Irving to see if we could score some tacos or something when it became clear that Irving is home to a large Indian community. I took a wrong turn that ended up being the best wrong turn ever. We discovered the Taj Chaat House, home to the best south Indian food I have ever had outside of, well, south India. Sorry Dosa Hut, they have you beat!

Between the train rides and the Indian food, Dallas is definitely growing on me.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

New Jersey X 1000 = Dallas

We made it to the gallery today and made an executive decision to postpone the installation until Friday am. For any and all who might be in the vicinity of Dallas and able to come watch and/or assist with the installation of The Knitted Mile, here are the details:

We will meet at Gray Matter (113 N. Haskell Avenue) at 10 am. From there we will proceed to the installation site nearby. The installation will be photographed and videotaped. After the piece is installed, it will be removed and transported back to the gallery. There will be an opening reception for the exhibition, Gestures of Resistance, on Friday evening at Gray Matter from 7 - 9 pm. All are welcome to come by and see some great art that speaks to craft, performance and the politics of slow. The Knitted Mile will be on view along with photographs of (most of) the 86 knitters who helped to make this project happen.

As an aside, we made a visit to The Shabby Sheep, a refuge from the car madness that has Dallas in its grip. The people working there, presumably the owner and her dog, and the woman who was knitting (who can blame her - it is a really lovely shop!) were all so welcoming. It was a very nice moment - to be surrounded by things I know and understand (that would be yarn) and people who feel the same way. I love knitters!

And, after nearly two months of knitting yellow acrylic yarn in garter stitch, I felt a reward was in order.

Not a very good picture of some Manos del Uruguay silk blend (30% silk, 70% merino). Move over Vanna!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Here We Are

We left Sunnyside on Saturday am, loading up the back of the car with the knitting. The knitting took up the entire back space so all our bags had to occupy the passenger seat in the front.

By Saturday evening, we were in Roanoke, Virginia. I am sure it is a lovely place but as it was pitch dark when we arrived, we saw very little. Despite my best efforts to find hotels on-line that were in downtown areas, not on the highway, we were, in fact, on a strip where the only food options were Hardee's and something called "Jersey Lily's." And McDonalds, but that is not an option in my book. So we went to a grocery store instead. Simple but it worked and we were set for breakfast as well. This was good since our next day's destination was Memphis - a twelve hour drive. And we made it! It was a long day but we ended up at the Heartbreak Hotel, which is run by Elvis's estate. It was pretty funny and a real education for Finn and Lucy, who kept asking why so many people love Elvis so much that they need a special hotel for them. A hard question to answer, my dears.

Still knitting. Is that why they call it the Heartbreak Hotel?

And today...Dallas! We made it!

Throughout this whole trip I have felt very strongly that I am stranger here. It feels very weird to me to head south and west. Most of my travels have been north and east. I am comfortable heading north and east. I don't know from south and west. And so it is that I discovered that the south, with its very visible love of Jesus and Cracker Barrel, feels as foreign to me as any trip to Europe I have ever taken. I realized that I don't know the ways of this world, that all my usual ways of obtaining goods and services no longer work here. I hardly know the language even. It is a strange feeling. But it is fun too. To be a stranger can give one a lot of leeway, which I hope to take advantage of as much as possible in the next few days.

Here is a car wash in Texarkana, Texas. The picture isn't very clear, but it is called the 15:13 car wash, and the numbers refer to Biblical scripture which is quoted on the white panel on the side of the building. Who knew the lord spoke on keeping your car clean?

My final, somewhat disjointed, three-days-in-a-car thought is that, when I imagined this place (Dallas) and its relationship to cars, well, I really didn't know the half of it. It is intense! I think the project is very, very appropriate. But will anyone slow down enough to see it?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Here It Is

After a wee bit of drama, the packages from Newfoundland arrived:

I am speechless! It made me cry for the care and joy and trouble that went into this contribution. Into ALL the contributions. A friend recently told me that she only cares now about "honest intent" and her words have stayed with me throughout this process. The intention that this work is filled with, and I by no means mean my own ideas and intentions here, is just overwhelming. Look at this picture that came with the yarn:

These are women who are part of the senior's club in Port Saunders on the Northern Peninsula. It is so beautiful and heart breaking at the same time. It makes me cry!

But wipe away those tears so you can see this. Here it is (minus one more contribution that will arrive this evening):

Dallas, here we come: me, Finn, Lucy and a whole hellava lot of knitting!

UPDATE: I have THREE more contributions coming tonight! And I tried to make a final tally of all the knitters who contributed and I am at more than 80. It boggles the mind. Let's just hope that the Dallas police department are as impressed as I am...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Postcards from the edge

This arrived in our mail today:

Let's take a look at the back:

It is made on wood with an actual knitted piece attached along with little metal cars. Isn't it great? It made my day and made the idea of knitting just a few more skeins, I mean, rows, I mean, stitches, I mean, skeins, seem do-able. But who in the world sent it? After a bit of thought, I think I know who it was.

A wonderful surprise that arrived at the perfect moment. I love it!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Obsession isn't pretty

Now that our living room is filled with yellow garter stitch, I find myself lurching between activities, unable to complete anything without feeling like the other is calling out. I am doing laundry but Vanna is hailing me! I have to finish two applications but again, that damn Vanna. Yet, while I am knitting, I can only think about all those other things that need doing--what will we pack for this trip? Should I make hotel reservations or keep it loose? And children need to eat...regularly, apparently.

Yesterday, I hit the wall. I just couldn't make myself knit another stitch. I have a pile of knitting in my living room the size of the Great Pyramids of Egypt and still I am knitting? You gotta be crazy!

Oh...yeah....crazy. I know crazy. That's why I have a living room filled with yellow garter stitch.

And so I knit on.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Knit Mile Pile

I sent this photo out with an email announcement for The Knitted Mile but it seemed worth repeating here. May I point out that there is more to come? A fair amount more. I still have to collect most of what I shared out to local Sunnyside knitters, as well as a goodly amount from our Waldorf-y homeschool friends (you have to love an educational philosophy in which knitting figures so prominently!). There are two big boxes (gulp!) and a smaller assortment of packages still coming from Newfoundland, and...this is hard to put into black and white...Janine's box has not yet arrived. Yes, Janine of Janine and Raj and two of their sons who knit 15 skeins. It hasn't arrived yet. I am still holding my breath, still not totally resigned to it being the L-word. Each morning our postal delivery guy (we call him "Smokey" due to the cloud of cigarette smoke that travels with him from his van to the front door) rings the bell and we joyously collect a box of knitting - like Christmas EVERY DAY OF THE WEEK! But where is Janine's box? It's coming, I know it. C'mon Smokey - you can do it!

There is another reason why I am so anxious to receive Janine's box. Janine put some samples of two of her sheep fleeces in it. She has a theory that sheep who are bottle fed (apparently a very typical way of raising lambs) produce coarser wool than those who are allowed to nurse. When I expressed surprise at this theory, she promised to send me some fleece from two of her sheep (same breed). One she bought when it was already weaned but it had been bottle fed and the other is from one who she raised and allowed it to nurse. Does La Leche League know about this?

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Some More Pictures

Things are adding up!

Patti's package arrived this morning (with Vanna still chatting away in there), and I collected over 100 feet from Zabeth Weiner, a knitwear deisgner who, as it turns out, attends the same Zen Center as I and generously knit up many, many skeins. She also invited some of her knitting students to knit too and five of them took up the challenge. The text you see says "slow labor, good results." One of the students had a friend who had a baby after a three-day labor while she was working on her knitting and it inspired her quotation.

Here is Lucy during our photo shoot yesterday. She is all wrapped up in the family business.

Why are this man's hands idle?

It may be that everyone entering our house from now on will be required to knit. This is Phillip Davies, the person who does PR work for Lion Brand. He came by yesterday afternoon and took pictures of me and Lucy knitting on the stripe. We actually had fun--I now fully swear by the following technique for feeling calm in the face of cameras: knit constantly. Phillip gave me a good idea about how to install the piece in Dallas and helped figure out that it will have around 1.5 million stitches, maybe more, when it is finished. He also convinced me to unroll the great wheel. It makes a lovely carpet...

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


Not sure how many times I can talk about knitting a 4" wide stripe of yellow garter stitch...

It is getting longer. The donated yarn is all gone and I scooped up 18 more skeins at our local Michael's in Woodside (on sale!). I picked up another five feet of knitting from Helen last night at a gathering of a Long Island City knitting group. It was very nice on several counts, and not just picking up five more feet of knitting. For one, I got to finally meet Helen in person, which was very fun, and I found a knitting group that is serious about knitting. People are Doing Things there. Better yet, they can teach me to Do Things too. And it is at a lovely cafe in LIC which means good tea and maybe a tasty cookie while we knit. What's not to love?

Today, a man who does PR for Lion Brand is coming by to take photographs of the stripe. Apparently some buzz reached the ears of my contact there and he wants to get some good pictures of this madness. The iffy part of it, besides the amount of dust and clutter I have to remove from my livingroom before it is photographed for all to see, is that I feel certain that I will have about 200 more feet to boast of....tomorrow. I am keeping my fingers crossed that Janine's large package arrives today, otherwise it may be a little disappointing.

Here is my stripe, which includes about 20 feet by Lucy and Carol Sommers in NM:

That's Helen's contribution sitting on top. The great wheel of knitting is more than two feet across and is blocking access to the dining room, but I am not so sure it will be impressive in a "you knit a MILE????!" sort of a way. I know they want pictures of me drowning in yellow stripe....and I will be! Just not this afternoon.

Ok, now I have to rid my livingroom of all signs that I have been spending all my free moments knitting on an endless yellow stripe rather than cleaning up the detrius of a family of four.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Landscape Doing A Moose

Heard, a bit late, that yesterday was a day to post poetry on your blog. Here is one that I love for many reasons written by John Steffler, who, until recently, was a resident of Corner Brook.

John actually was one of the very first people I met in Corner Brook when we were staying residence in Curling in 2001 as part of the Pouch Cove Foundation's west coast experiment (note that it is pronounced "pooch" not "pouch"). Colette Urban invited us to have dinner over at her place in Meadows because she had heard some artists were staying there. I still feel amazed when I think of it. She just called us up to invite us sight unseen and off we went to Meadows - a family of four no less!. We had never heard of Meadows or the North Shore but to say it planted a seed is a whopper of an understatement. We met John and his girlfriend there, along with Marlene MacCallum and David Morrish. Like any good American, I had no idea who these people were, except that they were very charming dinner companions who welcomed us into the homes and lives without reserve. The evening lives on in my memory in an almost dreamlike way. It was quite warm and we had BBQ fish and one of Colette's amazing salads. We even saw a minke whale swim up the bay: something I have never seen since. Who wouldn't have been completely seduced by that place?

A couple of years later, I asked John to record himself reading four of his poems for use in The House Museum. He graciously agreed and I tried installing them in the bathroom the first year. My hope was that, when one shut the door, the sound would start. But I never worked out the techincal details properly and it didn't work as I had hoped. Plus no one ever used the bathroom! I still have his recording of the poems saved and I will use them at some point when it feels right.

This is the one that has stuck with me the most, especially when we drive home from Stephenville.

That Night We Were Ravenous

By John Steffler

Driving from Stephenville in the late October
dusk -- the road swooping and disappearing ahead
like an owl, the hills no longer playing dead
the way they do in the daytime, but sticking their black
blurry arses up in the drizzle and shaking themselves,
heaving themselves up for another night of
leapfrog and Sumo ballet -- some

trees detached themselves from the shaggy
shoulder and stepped in front of the car. I swerved

through a grove of legs startled by pavement, maybe a
hunchbacked horse with goiter, maybe a team of beavers
trying to operate stilts: it was the

landscape doing a moose, a cow
most improbable forest device. She danced
over the roof of our car in moccasins.

She had burst from the zoo of our dreams and was
there, like a yanked-out tooth the dentist
puts in your hand.

She flickered on and off.
She was strong as the bible and as full of lives.
Her eyes were like Halley's Comet, like factory whistles,
like bargain hunters, like shy kids.

No man had touched her or given her movements geometry.

She surfaced in front of us like a coelacanth, like a face
in a dark lagoon. She made us feel blessed.

She made us talk like a cage of canaries.

She reminded us. She was the ocean wearing a fur suit.

She had never eaten from a dish.
She knew nothing of corners or doorways.

She was our deaths come briefly forward to say hello.

She was completely undressed.

She was more part of the forest than any tree.
She was made of trees. The beauty of her face was bred
in the kingdom of rocks.

I had seen her long ago in the Dunlop Observatory.

She leapt from peak to peak like events in a ballad.

She was as insubstantial as smoke.

She was a mother wearing a brown sweater opening her arms.

She was a drunk logger on Yonge Street.

She was the Prime Minister. She had granted us a tiny

She could remember a glacier where she was standing.

She was a plot of earth shaped like the island of
Newfoundland and able to fly, spring down in the middle of
cities scattering traffic, ride elevators, press pop-eyed
executives to the wall.

She was charged with the power of Churchill Falls.

She was a high explosive bomb loaded with bones and meat.
She broke the sod in our heads like a plow parting the
earth's black lips.

She pulled our zippers down.

She was a spirit.

She was Newfoundland held in a dam. If we had touched her,
she would've burst through our windshield in a wall of

That night we were ravenous. We talked, gulping, waving
our forks. We entered one another like animals entering

That night we slept deeper than ever.

Our dreams bounded after her like excited hounds.