31 January 2008

Never mind...

Step 1: Cast on for the second pair of socks a total of six times. (Two times it had to be ripped out because the stitches were twisting. Four times because it looked backwards.)

Step 2: Stare at new sock and cuss like a sailor because you are knitting the stitches backwards. The knit stitches are on the inside, the purl stitches are on the outside. Begin to worry obsessively about the first pair. The knit2, purl2 ribbing on that cuff is identical inside and out so there is no telling yet just how spectacularly you've managed to screw that pair up.

Step 3: Email sock knitting yahoo group you belong to, search the internet for videos and pictures, and screw your face up into a permanent fit of frustration.

Step 4: Remember that Kate will be at the Running with Scissors meeting and she knits sock. Email her and beg for help. She agrees. We love Kate.

Step 5: Decide that in order for Kate to be of help (she is many wonderful things but its unlikely that she will be able to look at just a cast on sock and diagnosis it), you must knit a decent length of the cuff in order to demonstrate your knitting stupidity.

Step 6: Cast on. (again)

Step 7: Knit ten rounds and become dumbfounded. It doesn't look backwards. Decide you are hallucinating and keep knitting.

Step 8: Get up to almost twenty rounds and realize that you've been hitting the cold medicine entirely too hard the past two weeks. You are knitting it correctly, there just wasn't enough length for you to realize it.

Step 9: Get an upset stomach when you realize you've ranted about this in public on the blog for all the world to see.

Step 10: Go take more cold medicine and accept that you are a complete idiot. But you are an idiot who apparently is capable of knitting socks correctly so life isn't all bad.

30 January 2008

An explanation for it all

I've never really been sure if I believe in astrology but I have to admit that when I read stuff like this, it makes me think twice about it:

'I ANALYSE' is the motto for Virgo. You have an eye for detail and a discriminating mind. You like order in all things and are neat, clean and precise in your habits.

You are modest and don't like to draw attention to yourself. Where others seek the limelight, you get quietly on with the job, doing it as well as you can. You get a lot of satisfaction from making yourself useful and enjoy being of service to others.

Outwardly you are cool, although inside you may be seething with nerves. You have a sensitive digestion and you're careful about what you eat and drink.

You can also be overcritical and have a tendency to worry too much.

You are the perfectionists of the zodiac.

It is eerily pretty much one hundred percent on the money. It came from this site if you are interested in some insight about yourself.

I blame the last two sentences for my knitting and crocheting issues of late. Let's take a look at things one by one, shall we?

1. The first pair of socks.

They are progressing. The one on the left has the heel flap that I managed to knit inside out. The one on the right has the heel flap being knit correctly. The heel flap on the left is about to be murdered. Once I'm done doing it correctly on the right one, I'm going to rip back the left one and do it correctly. Why? See the explanation above. I just can't leave it alone, I want it to be right.

My next sock knitting class is not until Feb 9 so I'm going to turn the heel while I'm at it. I found a really good site with videos on how to knit socks. That's all it took, I'm forging forward. The cussing should be spectacular, don't be alarmed.

2. Amigurumi sushi. I bought a pattern for these. Couldn't figure out how to do the rolls. I think I tried doing them a dozen times, scribbled revisions all over three copies of the pattern and then decided to just make up my own. These are the stress free, easy to do, happy go lucky sushi rolls that I have come to love. I have one more I want to design and when I'm done making about a million of these, I'll post the pattern here so that you too can submerge yourself in crochet sushi heaven.

From left to right we have an avocado roll, a shrimp tempura roll and a cucumber roll. The last one I'm making up will be a spicy tuna roll. They are oddly soothing, trust me, you'll want to make these. They are like crack.

3. My second pair of socks. Yes, you read that right, my second pair. I'm aware that I'm not done with the first pair yet and that I completely lack the knowledge to finish them, but I'm antsy and I have to wait two weeks to learn the next step. So what's a crazy Virgo girl to do? Start a second pair with the knowledge she does have so she will then be faced with finishing four socks instead of two. (Yes, there is logic in there.)

Here's how they are coming along:

I've cast on four times for the *bleeeepppppin'* things and I've discovered something very disturbing about how I knit in the round. I knit things inside out. I want to do a simple pair with a rolled edge at the top and then just stockinette down the leg. My plan is to knit the heel and toe in a different color so that its a simple but interesting sock.

I posted to a yahoo group for sock knitters about what I was doing and asked for advice on how to correct it. The answers that I got made me twitch. Here's the most common: "You're knitting inside out, just knit the stitches on the right side." Ummmm....yeah....thanks. I know that, how do I fix it? What am I doing that's causing them to sit on the outside? I'm planning on hauling it into work tomorrow and whining at my co-worker about it. I'm pretty sure she came out of the womb knitting socks and will probably take three seconds to tell me what I'm doing wrong.

If I can sit still long enough and leave them alone. Do you think if I cast on again for them and threatened them they would turn out correctly? Its worth a shot...

I really want to figure out what I'm doing wrong because this came in the mail yesterday.

I cannot even begin to describe how gorgeous this yarn is. Its called Mums the Word and it came from Spindle City Yarns. I got it from their shop on etsy. Purple and orange is my all time favorite color combination. Oh, and I should mention that Spindle City yarns dyes their yarn exclusively for PRO Chem & Dye. Which means these dyes really sing and are a high quality.

I need to figure out how to not knit socks inside out so that I can use this. I have to use it, its so pretty. Once those socks are done I may never ever never take them off. Pretty yarn.

That is, if I can figure out how to knit the stitches on the correct side without making the men in the white coats show up for a visit...

28 January 2008

Every time

I was watching a movie last night called “Infamous.” It’s the story about how Truman Capote wrote In Cold Blood. Harper Lee is his best friend. In one portion of the movie, she is being interviewed about Truman and his book. She talks about how Fred Astaire said that every time Judy Garland sang, a little piece of her died, that’s how much of herself she poured into it. Harper said she thinks the same thing happened with Truman when he wrote In Cold Blood. It simply took so much from him that he didn’t have much to give to his writing after that.

And this really stuck in my head. Especially with the death of Heath Ledger so fresh, you have to wonder how true that is. The entertainment news has been implying that his recent performance as The Joker in the new Batman movie drove him over the edge. That it resulted in needing sleeping pills and anti-depressants and the combination of those and some pneumonia medication is what did him in. I admit that I’m sad he’s gone, I think he is a phenomenal actor. It was clear that he emptied himself for every role he played, he left nothing unsaid.

I look to my own art and wonder if I’m capable of that. How much of myself is really present in what I do? How much am I willing to give away in order to really make myself heard? How much are any of us willing to hand over?

I’ve never believed that I can explain where my ideas come from. They have sources of inspiration but beyond that, they have a life of their own. The projects I try to control are often the ones that tend to fail and I have to leave for dead. The ones that use me as a means to an end are the ones that really come alive and make people pause.

I’m not sure anymore what facet of the art world I fit into. I’m not sure I’m keen on certain venues and I struggle with the arrogance that is attached to much of the gallery world. I do know that once you make the decision to show your work, they pull from you to get what they want and don’t stop until they are done. It can really wear on you after a while and maybe that is what Harper was talking about. Maybe it’s the idea that the truly great work is the work that breaks you in some way. The work that changes you, the work that makes you into something that you weren’t before you started it.

These questions are important to me right now. I’m struggling with whether or not I should continue the art quilt series I’m working on that deals with violence against women. To do this work means to take it all in. To feel each practice, to understand the ramifications of it, to know what life for the victims is like. And I do view them as victims, even if their culture demands it as normal.

It’s important, it needs to be seen. It needs to have a voice that it hasn’t had before. Trapping it in fiber makes it unique. It takes a medium that is soft and comforting and stains it with violence. The contradiction is unsettling. I have one piece completed and another almost done. The speed with which they come together is unnerving. They are done, literally, almost instantly. There is a complete lack of control on my part.

I’ve promised myself that I will begin working again in February. Kind of a little bargain I made with myself. I’m hoping to complete a dozen pieces for this series. I have topics for eight, which means I will have to dig deeper and look harder for the secrets that women try to hide.

And even now, even before February has arrived, I find myself wondering just how much this work will pull from me. Just how much it will take and if every time I will be willing to give it everything that it needs. It has a life of its own, one that I will need to absorb in order to finish it. But this direction feels right, it feels like this is the piece of the puzzle that’s been missing. And I know that I will see it through to the end.

How much of yourself do you put into your work? How much are you willing to give in order to really make it say what you want it to?

27 January 2008

Where I Stand Sunday

There is a constant dance between opposites: light and shadow, fragile and solid, memory and present. The events that happen as a result of this balance is what we call life. What we do today will fade into the fold of time and no one may ever know that we stood here, that we stopped and listened to the change.

Where I Stand Sunday is an ongoing photo essay examining the different places I spend my life standing. Too often we take for granted the everyday places we spend our lives walking on. The ground we tread on has its own stories to tell.

26 January 2008

Something is rotten in Denmark...

At least I think there is...

I decided I was thinking clearly enough to do the heel flap on one of the socks tonight. I know some sock knitters work hard at avoiding the heel flap and do short rows to make them look more like socks you can buy in the store. To be honest, I kind of like the heel flap. Its kind of like a great big neon sign that screams "This is hand knit!"

So, armed with Godfather I & II on the telly (don't speak to me of Godfather III, I will not acknowledge its existence), I opened the book I bought at the first class and took a look at what I was supposed to do next.

Then I looked up what the pattern told me to do on the web. *sigh* I'm so new...

I have to admit the first few rows produced a disturbing combination of swearing and whining. Dooley was frightened. Then I seemed to get the hang of it and was happy and then I finished and I noticed something odd....

The side that is supposed to face out is facing...in...

I have to say, I'm pretty impressed with this (and not in a good way). I cannot for the life of me figure out what in the **bleep** I did. I can pretty easily resolve it by simply turning the sock inside out but that might make it hard to finish it. I might have to work the whole thing inside out and then flip it once I'm done. **bleep**bleeeeppppp**bleep**

Seeing as how I've never knit a sock before, maybe I'm not doing anything wrong. Are you supposed to knit them inside out and then turn them when you are done? No? I didn't think so...

I feel like whining. I feel like ripping it back down and trying again. Would that be insane? I don't want to knit an inside out sock. **bleep**

I have the second cuff almost to six inches so I may just finish that and then try the heel flap on that one and see if my backwards brain decides to not create an inside out sock.

Oh, and someone asked me what Fibra Artysta means. Its Polish for Fiber Artist. I'm a Polish girl and a fiber artist so it made sense when I picked it. Okay, I'm going to give the sock dirty looks because swearing at it this time didn't seem to help...

24 January 2008

Pass the kleenex...and the socks...

There's no fighting it now. Just when I think its gone away and I'm feeling human again, it creeps back in and knocks me flat on my face. This charming virus/cootie/plague/punishment is apparently happy with the real estate it has found in my body. I give up, I'm not fighting it anymore. Denial will only get me so far and its time to let the drugs do their work.

So I've retired to the sofa...and the socks...until this virus/cootie/plague/punishment decides to move on to its next victim. I'm pretty sure I caught it from someone at work, such is the pleasantries of co-existing in cubicle hell. I shall find the culprit when I return (this is my second day off work) and make sure I hack in his direction several times.

In the meantime, I've been working on the socks in the lucid periods of the day. Here's how they are progressing:

I contemplated starting the heel on the first one yesterday but considering the fact that my head feels like someone has poured concrete into it, I chose to start the cuff on the second one instead since that is easy and I don't have to think. Not thinking is good.

Oh, and I got my invite for Ravelry yesterday. I am redheadknitter75. I don't have much up there yet, just the sock. Woo. I started to build my page up and then realized it would take quite a bit of effort to finish. I got woosey. So I will return to it when I am human again and add more stuff to it. I'm starting to think knitters are even crazier (in a good way) then quilters are. This should be interesting.

Dooley has been supervising the sock progress.

He tried taking one of them yesterday. Sometimes I worry that he can tell the yarn came from another animal and he will want to chew it up in a fit of jealousy. Either that or he is trying to rescue it from further torture. Either way, he needs to be watched.

Time for another nap. You might want to consider wiping your keyboard off with anitbacterial wipes after reading this post. You can never be too careful.

21 January 2008

Removing the static

Mary and I had made plans to go fiber hopping today last week. I wasn't sure I would be able to go since I still feel like poo but I started thinking about fabric and yarn and I became less sensible by the second.

So I drug my snot infested head out into the 14 degree weather and we went to what we call Fabric Heaven. In case you're wondering, it does have a real name. Its the Viking Sewing Center in Ann Arbor and they have the best selection of batik fabrics I've found anywhere around here.

To be totally honest with you, I didn't really expect to buy anything. Don't laugh, it is so possible for me to be around that many bolts of batik and not go into fiber shock. I've been feeling anxious when it comes to my art quilts lately. I've not exactly lost enthusiasm for them, but I've been standing back from them lately. I love what's on my design wall but mostly I just stare at them. You know...waiting...for what? Dunno....

I did find some fabric for my botany quilt and for another one and as I stood there looking at all that fabric, I finally realized what the deal is. I want to let my work marinate. I want to let it be, on its own for a while. I've trained myself into believing that the only purpose for making them is to show them or sell them. So I'm taking away all the outside static and I'm not even going to photograph them for the blog or website. Maybe its weird but I want some alone time with them. I know I said I wasn't going to show this year but I don't think I even want to put them up on my website just yet. I'm going to post detail shots of them as I complete them but I don't want to expose them yet. I'm not sure why I'm feeling so protective of them but that's the only way to describe it.

What I'm working on now is so different from what I've done in the past. I just need to stare at it long enough so that it feels like it came from me before I kick it out into the world.

With that said, I've also been thinking on my current obsession with all the knitting and crocheting. Its basically satisfying the want to do some 3d work with fiber. So it continues and probably will for some time. Want to see some more of it? Good, because I took some pictures of the stuff I've been working on...

There has been much progress on the amigurumi and sock front. First and foremost is Dotty and his pumpkin house. He is done and his pumpkin house is mostly done. But I kind of like it as it is so I think I might call it done. The pattern shows a jack-o-lantern style face on the pumpkin. What do you think? Should I add it or leave it naked?

Dotty likes hanging out in his house...

And here is Frida in the Day of the Dead style. I added flower beads to her wreath on her head and those are skull beads hanging from the side. I like how zombie she looks.

Pattie asked if these things are super tiny. They can be. Most of the patterns I have call for 2mm size crochet hooks. I luckily still have some sanity in tact and use a 4mm hook. Just for an idea, my version of Dotty is 3.25" high and Frida is 3.5" high. They are still pretty little but not too bad.

I've moved on to sushi now. Mary also drug me to a yarn shop today I've not been to before (totally by force I assure you) and I picked up some more colors to do the fish in the sushi pieces. It feels odd to be crocheting sushi, even by my standards.

And there has been sock knitting. I'm at 5.5" now. I likes it.

I got a little worried about it maybe not fitting. I remeasured my foot and checked the book again and I have the right number of stitches. And I checked my ankle again. Nope, its still not the size of a tree trunk so it should be fine. Look, see how stretchy it is?

It should work fine. Right? Do you think? I think it will be fine. Should work out great....don't you think? If it doesn't fit for some reason, keep an eye on the blog, I may be giving away a pair of hand knittied socks....

20 January 2008

Where I Stand Sunday

Tile work has a voice like no other art form. Its charged with not only being beautiful but must be able to endure conditions no other medium is built for. Clay is cut, fired, colored and laid with intent in patterns across floors. People spend their days walking across the labors of the creator, paying homage to its beauty by pausing ever so slightly in their stride to admire the beauty beneath their feet.

Where I Stand Sunday is an ongoing photo essay examining the different places I spend my life standing. Too often we take for granted the everyday places we spend our lives walking on. The ground we tread on has its own stories to tell.

19 January 2008

Murphy's Law loves me

It figures...I've got a four day weekend in which I had mostly no concrete plans and could do as I wished...and I get the head cold from hell. I have become one with the sofa and the TV remote.

But lest you think I have been doing nothing but dozing and staring at bad movies (which there has been plenty of that), I've been working on the sock and my amigurumi friends. I've got some neat stuff to show you but not in this post. That requires some effort to take the photos and this is one of those lovely colds that sucks all the energy out of you. Taking a shower this morning warranted a nap afterward. This thing is truly evil.

I have discovered that knitting and crocheting are probably the best crafty activities you can take on when you are sick. So I bring you my Top Ten Reasons Why Knitting & Crocheting are a Good Idea When You Have a Head Cold From Hell:

1. There is no pattern you will not try. Your static position on the sofa will have you seeking out new challenges. What's that you say? You have a crochet pattern to make the Lost City of Atlantis? Excellent! Bring it on!

2. Keeping away newly completed amigurumi friends from your dog (who believes every plush toy on the planet is for him) is loads of fun. Yeeeaaahhhh....that game never gets old.

3. Everything you make is perfect. Every stitch is in the right place, your tension is wonderful and it holds its shape perfectly. (It may not look that way once you come off the high of your cold medicine but for right now, you are a genius.)

4. Flat stuff like scarves and socks come in handy when you run out of kleenex.

5. Your yarn choices are infinitely more interesting. Its especially thrilling when you select three yarns that all need a different size needle/hook. It just adds to the excitement.

6. You believe that you can knit and crochet much quicker then you actually can. You pull out more projects then you could complete in a year, much less a couple days. But it makes you feel like superwoman and the disillusionment is fun.

7. While watching umpteen million bad movies on cable, you begin to admire all the knitwear and crochetwear. You begin to believe that you can create said items because you spent a full ten seconds looking at it from one angle. You feel really really smart. (Did I mention cold medicine is fun?)

8. You can crochet laying down. Eight years of lower back pain has taught you well how to still accomplish things while in a horizontal state. Necessity is the mother of invention.

9. Knitting laying down is not a good idea. Especially with double pointed needles. Ouchie...

10. You decide that all of your friends need presents. For no particular occasion, just because. You love them, they need proof of that in the form of a scarf or crocheted octopus. This gives you an excuse to go shopping online for more yarn. Luckily, you are too tired to actually get up off the sofa and get your credit card so no actual shopping gets done.

The smaller Dotty is done, his house is mostly done but I'm still obsessing over the overall squishiness of the pumpkin house. (Quit rolling your eyes, Leann.) I've come up with two possible solutions for it but both of those require moving and since there is no energy for that, it will wait.

I've also completed the body for a Day of the Dead version of Frida Kahlo. Honest. This pattern is not a hallucination. You can go see it here. She's the second one from the top. I'm to the point where I just need to do her flower wreath for her head and then sew her face on. The pattern calls for a combination of crochet and tatting for the flower wreath. I imagine this makes anyone who doesn't tat twitch with anxiety.

I'm wondering if the lady who wrote it was also on cold medicine when she did that part because I can't figure it out. But don't worry, I've got skills. I dug through my tatting thread yesterday and pulled out a bunch of different colors and some shuttles. I also rooted around through my bead stash and pulled out some tiny skulls and flowers and leaves. I am fully prepared to get carried away with her finishing.

I also found a Yoda amigurumi pattern the other day. Mary and I want to make an army of these. And no, that decision was made without the influence of cold medicine, we're just weird.

Okay, I'm exhausted. Dooley is pleased, he gets to hug me all day. I hope this thing goes away soon, its most annoying. My next post should have some pictures.

15 January 2008

I feel dizzy...

You know, people warned me. They said it becomes an addiction in an unnatural way. I poo-pooed their sillines. After all, they're just socks for goodness sake. Get a grip, people, get a grip.

But ever since that pitiful quarter inch of cuff ribbing I produced at my saturday class, the sock has been on my mind. Every time I sit still for longer then ten seconds, the thought creeps into my mind that I'm wasting time that I could use for knitting the sock. I sat through a meeting at work today and the constant droning made my eyes glaze over, and I again cursed the fact that I could have been made the sock just a teeny bit longer if I didn't have to sit in this $#@%^& meeting.

So today I vowed to work on the sock. The dog wouldn't leave me alone and I kept flinging toys at him. I was getting annoyed - especially when he asked to be let outside and I dropped the fifth needle but didn't realize it and proceeded to knit with only four. It seemed odd to me that I had so many stitches on one needle all of a sudden. There was cussing. Although, Lynne the Sock-Knitting-Goddess, told me that some knitting projects benefit from swearing at them. I took that as a good sign and gave it dirty looks too just to be sure.

But LOOK!!! Look at this!

See THAT???? I did it! The cuff is now about 2" long. Woo! Who knew 2" could make me so giddy? Who knew that pink-infested yarn could make me run into the other room and squeal like a two-year-old as I showed my mom what I made with toothpicks and string? (I'd ask her to put it on the fridge but I'm not done with it yet.)

I posed it on the computer and was feeling pretty good about it. Then mom said, "Is that going to fit? It looks kind of small."

Damnit, she was right.

I kind of panicked a little bit. The thought of having to frog my baby just seemed far too cruel. I wouldn't be able to tear it apart. Even if I decided that it was too small, I thought maybe I could just save this part and keep it forever...put it in a shrine...carry it in my purse...maybe make it into a leg warmer for Dooley (he's pretty short, it could work)....anything but unraveling it.

I went up to my bedroom and grabbed a pair of socks from my drawer and decided that I would compare it to my sock. And that's when I realized that for all the things I do, for all the complicated engineering I do every day, for being a complete math geek and seeking to find logic in pretty much everything in the world....

...I can be such a freakin' blonde sometimes. (And blonde is my natural color so stop shooting me the evil eye.)

I'm knitting this on four needles. The sock I brought down is flat so when I collapse my sock to two needles, they are about the same size. I am such a genius. I was ready to start over, wondering how I had made such a terrible miscalculation. Turns out I'm just high on the fumes from producing something that millions of other people have figured out how to do long before me. (Kind of kills some of the buzz doesn't it?)

Regardless, I have hope that this will move along at a bearable pace. I had visions in my mind of retiring and finding this partially finished cuff collecting dust in the back of the basement. But I think they will be on my feet sooner then that...stay tuned...

13 January 2008

Its all about the yarn...

**Warning: Apparently my lack of interesting things to feed the blog with has made me overly enthusiastic now that I have something to share. This is a long post and has lots of pictures. You've been warned.

Yesterday was a day stuffed with things to do. Most of them were fun and got me going on things I've been wanting to try for a while. All in all, it was one of those Saturdays that makes the rest of the week bearable.

I started my sock knitting class yesterday at the prettiest yarn store in the world, Artisan Knitworks. Its in Grosse Pointe Parks and takes me 45 minutes one way to get there but I don't care. If this place was on the other side of the world and I had to hire NASA to get there, I'd do it. Why? Glad you asked....

I called there, quite downtrodden, a couple weeks ago inquiring about a beginning sock knitting class. You see, my level of frustration about trying to find a class had pretty much hit the ceiling and was working its way through the roof. You wouldn't think its that hard but trust me, its not easy either. The yarn store closest to me has a class policy that makes me twitch in the most unattractive of ways. So they are out. The other yarn store that I really like that isn't too far away didn't have a class until March and it was on circular needles. I want to learn it on double points. (Remember I said that. Remember I said I want to, that implies an open willingness. Its important for later.)

I called Artisan Knitworks, Lynne Wardrop answered the phone and I'm not sure if it was the tone of my voice (I'm sure I sounded like something akin to a five year old who lost her blankie) or the fact that we actually know each other from when I had my store, but she offered me private lessons to fit my schedule. I latched onto that offer and scribbled it in my calendar and every time I was feeling like a trapped rat at work, I would open my datebook and look at the fact that there was a human on earth that willing to teach me to knit socks and the day would get brighter. (Yes, I am just that simple.)

And not only does Lynne teach sock knitting, she designs and publishes her own sock patterns. She's currently distrubting them through Lorna's Laces. To say this impresses me is an understatment. I'm not saying there aren't tons of talented sock knitters out there but to be taught by someone who is so prolific and has clearly mastered the art is kind of like the difference between being baptized by the pope as opposed to your local minister.

And it kind of made me nervous.

Which is why I wanted to practice my purling. I had visions in my head of Lynne looking at me like I was this alien that she just wanted to eject from the store. (Lynne is extremely nice and would never do such a thing but I wasn't sure I had made it clear enough just how much of a beginner knitter I am. Like really basic. And slow. And did I mention I hardly know anything beyond knit and purl and decreases? Yeeeeaaahhhh...not sure I mentioned that to her on the phone.) So I started this scarf late friday night in an effort to calm my obsessive Virgo jitters that I would cause my new teacher to scream in agony when she realized how slllllloooooooooooooooowwwwwww I knit and how little I know.

Its a pretty scarf, all in a rib pattern. Just like socks. Clever, aren't I? I practice this, I create the illusion that I know what I'm doing and then I can get Lynne to keep teaching me. Ha.

So Lynne takes me to this wall when I get to the store and says, "Pick one."

Huh? Just one??? This is their wall of sock yarn. Its all hand dyed, its all gorgeous and it includes the new Noro sock yarn. Which frankly would have to soften up considerably in order for me to knit with it 'cause its really scratchy. So Lynne helped me pick something and I think I must have been drunk being surrounded by all that fiber because the yarn contains....are you ready?...pink. Not a lot, just a small part of the variegation but its there and its laughing at me. *sigh* But it has a lot of other colors in it that I adore and since I love 99.9% of it, I will keep using it.

We sat down in the cutest of seating areas complete with leather chairs/loveseat, glass coffee table, current magazine for browsing and right smack in front of a big window so there is lots of natural lighting. (Have I mentioned I love this store? Love it. Love it. Love it.) And Lynne tells me to knit a gauge swatch.

Ummmmm....I've heard of those things. (Did I mention I was new?)

Lynne patiently explained how to do it and I came up with this. (I am not going to out myself as to how long it took me to produce this.)

Okay, step one accomplished. Then on to casting on to the tiniest needles ever created. Well, not tiniest as they are only 3mm and its my understanding they come smaller then this. Hats off to all you crazies who knit with needles smaller then 3mm. I suspect that you would knit with needles that come in negative sizes if you could, just to prove a point. You're nuts.

So here is my first sock newly cast on to the toothpicks:

I'm tellin' ya, its a good thing I don't have a kung-fu grip or these puppies would be goners in a second. I think gnomes use bigger toothpicks then these.

So Lynne bravely soldiered on and taught me how to knit in the round. We had a great time talking and catching up and visiting (which its good I had that to offer because watching me knit can not be interesting in any way) and I kept asking questions and I made this:

Here's a closer look:

That's the ribbing for the cuff in case you are wondering. That took me two hours. Go on, giggle away...I'll wait....

Done? Okay, good. Lynne assures me it gets quicker once you get more done and while I know this to be true because a similar thing happens when I'm knitting scarf, the notion that I will be trucking along on these soon seems unrealistic. I know, I know, too hard on myself. I just need practice. But holy yarn batman, two hours??? For that???

My homework for this class is to knit 6" of ribbing and start the heel so that my slow-as-molasses-knitting skills will allow Lynne to teach me the hard parts of the heel at the next class. Add to that that my goal is to cast on and work on both socks at the same time and I've got lots of work to do. It would be nice to produce more then one sock every ten years.

I've vowed to keep going. I'm determined to make it look like something. It will be a sock, its personal now. I will take that pink-infested yarn and wrestle it into something I can wear on my feet. Stay tuned...this should be interesting...

Oh, and I may have slipped and bought more yarn...it may look like this...

The colors suck in this picture. Its called "Harvest" and has purple, tan, brown, orange, red and I love it so much I want to build a shrine to it. I've never knit with yarn with this content...its got cashmere and lambs wool in it. Would it be wrong put it in my purse and carry it around so I can pet it when I feel stressed? Yeah, you're right...too weird.

I foolishly believed that I would only spend two hours at the yarn store. Yeah, you can resume giggling...I ran later then I thought and had to speed grocery shop because Tom was coming over. I've never grocery shopped that quick in my life, and I may have run over some small children with my cart in the process but I'm confident there was no permanent damage so don't worry too much.

Tom went to Mexico for New Years and when he intially told me he was going, I shamelessly blurted out, "BRING ME BACK SOME DAY OF THE DEAD STUFF!!!!!" Yes. That loudly. That rudely. And I continued to remind him until the day he left. Its a lucky thing the man likes me so much.

He brought me back these and I love them:

Thanks Tom!!!

We had dinner and went to see Sweeney Todd. I'm not sure I liked it (the movie, dinner was good). I liked parts of it but not all of it. I didn't fall in love with it the way I thought I would (its Tim Burton and Johnny Depp and that combination usually equates to obsessive drooling for me). Not sure why, maybe if I see it again it'll grow on me.

I realize the blog has turned into a lot of knitting and crocheting. I used to just play around with these from time to time but it seems they are becoming permanent additions to my fiber obsession. It'll taper off after a while. But come on, how can you not love all that yarn? Say it with me.....Oooooooooooooohhhhhhhh, yarn. Okay, moving on...

Today is for domestic duties and homework. Yeah, you read that right...homework. I'm taking an online writing class from here and I am painfully out of practice when it comes to meeting homework deadlines. I have to really bury my head in the sand and get most of it cleaned up today. I have almost everything started but it really needs revising. I have to turn it in by tuesday evening and I am planning to make a schedule for myself for during the week to get future assignments done. Homework. Ack.

So I'm still obsessing over amigurumi. But I realize not all of you see the appeal nor care about the adorable little crocheted friends. So I'm going to leave those parts of future posts to the end and if the thought of reading more about crocheted devils makes your eyes glaze in a fit of irritation, they you can skip it. For those of you who like it just as much as I do, read on...


The Dotty saga continues. Here is our latest dilema, note the lack of structural integrity of his pumpkin house:

Dotty and I aren't pleased with this. So I found some smaller yarn in the baby section of another yarn store and started making a smaller version. Here is a size comparison of the original monstrosity I made and the new one:

Its not done yet, I'm getting distracted by too many things at one time so I have to narrow down my focus a bit but I work on this here and there and its getting done. Of course, a smaller house means needing to create a smaller Dotty. What will happen to the original Dotty? Well...he has an avid admirer:

Poor Dotty.

Where I Stand Sunday

Confused January weather is doing its impersonation of spring. The snow has receded quickly and an afternoon crawl through Greektown in downtown Detroit offers much needed distraction. The city has been working for some time to find its voice again, to remember who it is. Not all of its inhabitants have hope for the future, though. Nature is barricaded behind steel cages, held captive in a place where it once had the run of the land.

Where I Stand Sunday is an ongoing photo essay examining the different places I spend my life standing. Too often we take for granted the everyday places we spend our lives walking on. The ground we tread on has its own stories to tell.

11 January 2008

Let me tell you why...

Here are the top ten reasons why I haven’t been blogging in the past few days:

1. Work is sucking out my life force and turning me into a zombie that is incapable of writing blog posts in the evenings.

2. I have nothing new to show you. I could blather on about Dotty but I’m worried that everyone who reads this is sick to death of the little crocheted devil and will start throwing rotten tomatoes at me if I continue to post about him. (Oh, and you’ve not seen the last of the crocheted amigurmi patterns…I found more I loved yesterday…I may have bought some more patterns involving a zombie bride and groom and sushi….I may be stopping at the yarn store today in search of smaller yarn…which means you get to listen to me blab about them…why yes, you are lucky...)

3. Dooley licked my laptop again and this time I’m sure he got zapped. I usually blog while I’m sitting on my sofa with him next to me. Until I can figure out a way to discourage this activity that doesn’t involve large amounts of electricity, I’m using it as an excuse.

4. I’ve been busy almost every night after work. Its never ending. Of course, I play no active role in the fact that I go out nearly every night for art meetings or getting my hair dyed or seeing movies. I am completely forced into it and this cuts into my blogging time.

5. My obsessive Virgo personality prevents me from producing unorganized posts. In fact, this one makes me want to scream in agony. (Quit snickering, Leann.)

6. I just started an online writing class. The blog will distract me. (Yes, I know blogging is writing and will only give me more practice. Shoosh…)

7. I’ve noticed that when I get together with friends now, they blankly look at me and say “Anything new since your last blog post?” I’m becoming boring in real life.

8. I’ve noticed that a lot of people are reading my blog that I didn’t realize were. Now I wonder who out there is reading it. And if they are coming to get me. Or if they are plotting my devise. Or if they are reading it and thinking “She’s full of crap!” Or if I’m saying things that offend them. Or if I’m developing a stalker following. And no, I’m not paranoid…why would you ask me that?!?!?!

9. I’ve spent an unreasonable amount of time looking up amigurumi patterns. Yes, I know I already mentioned these but its computer time that I could spend blogging. But I like ‘em…I know, I know…there’s a 12-step program out there for me somewhere….

10. I suck.

I start my sock knitting class tomorrow. Tonight I practice doing ribbing like I promised I would do throughout the week but never did. (See #4.)

I’m a bad blogger and a bad knitter…excuse me while I go stick my head in the sand…

08 January 2008

Announcing 2008 Breaking Traditions Art Quilt Exhibit details!!!

I am extremely pleased to announce the details for the 2008 Breaking Traditions Art Quilt Exhibit.

Breaking Traditions is an exhibit that I am honored to curate each fall at the American Sewing Expo. The expo takes place at the Rock Financial Showplace in Novi, Michigan. The exhibit is from September 26-28, 2008. It is an open call exhibit, and welcomes both U.S. and international participants. 2008 is the exhibit's third year.

The theme for 2008 is With One Voice.

This year we will give a voice to all the good that is present in the world. From the next door neighbor who helped to shovel your snowy walk, to organizations built solely on the purpose of serving those in need, to famous individuals using their influence to do good. We honor all those who stand up and say, in one loud clear voice, "I will make a difference."

Breaking Traditions is proud to team up with Virginia Spiegel's Fiberart for a Cause. Participation in this year's exhibit will help to support the
American Cancer Society.

The format for this year's exhibit is a little different then last year's and I'm very excited about the changes!

  • In lieu of an entry fee, each participant is asked to send in a $10 donation for the American Cancer Society with their entry, which will then be forwarded to the ACS through Fiberart for a Cause. Even a small donation can make a big difference in the lives of cancer patients and their families.
  • Quilts will be fixed at a 12"x12" format. When the exhibit is hung, the squares will be hung together so as to appear as one large quilt. A notebook will accompany the exhibit identifying each block and the artist statement for the work.

The exhibit is not juried, anyone may participate. I am very pleased to announce that we have many prizes that have been donated for those who participate this year. They include:

Early Bird Incentives - The first ten artists from whom I receive quilts will receive a fiber postcard created by Virginia Spiegel.

Exhibit Favorite Prize Package - Each year a favorite is chosen and this year's winner will receive Altered Photo Imagery from Beth Wheeler, hand dyed fabric from Carol Larson, a $20 gift certificate from Embellishment Village and the opportunity to participate in the 2009 FFAC Invitational Reverse Auction.

Participation Drawings - Everyone who sends work in for the exhibit will be entered in a drawing for a chance to win items from Artgirlz, Embellishment Village, Gailforces Fabrics, merchandise from the FFAC Shop and a fabric postcard from Liz Berg.

Thank You Gift - All artists participating in this year's exhibit will receive a fabric bookmark made by Lynn as a special thank you!

I've also created a blog widget for this year's exhibit. Take a look at the top of my sidebar, it links back to my website with all the info about the exhibit and how you can participate. If you are participating this year or would like to help get the word out about the exhibit, you can find the code on my website.

You can find all the details for the exhibit here. Please join me in making this another gorgeous display and helping to support Fiberart for a Cause!

07 January 2008

They are conspiring against me...

While the title of this post may bring to mind an attack by ninjas wielding numchucks while screeching obscenties in a language I can't identify, its meant to describe these two devils.

These two yarns could not be more different. The colors are on opposite end of the spectrum. The cream color is wool, the orange is the cheapest crappiest acrylic I ever bought (it was on sale for $1.29 and is a 325yd skein, that should have been my first clue. Its like crocheting with plastic, I kid you not.) The cream requires a size 13US knitting needle while the plastic orange only needs a size 8US.

Clearly they are very very different yarns...save for one thing...they are out to get me.

Neither one is cooperating at the moment and in an effort to get them to comply, I am going to publicly shame them on the blog. (I warned them, they scoffed off my threats but I consider the fact that I have thumbs a distinct advantage. So now their good names will be drug through the mud for all to see...)

Let's begin with that pretty cream colored yarn.

I got this yarn when Mary and I went to City Knits not too long ago. I fell in love with it immediately not only because its so soft and squishy I could use it as a pillow but because the label says to use a size 13US knitting needle. That translates into four beautiful words:

Large needle = quick product

So I plucked it off the shelf and promised to hug it and squeeze it and call it George.

But now I hate George.

I've tried knitting him, I've tried crocheting him. I've even used the wicked sized Speed Hook that I picked up for crocheting (which weighs in at a hefty 19mm, please note that a US13 needle is only 9mm) and still the fabric being produced...well...sucks. Take a look:

Looks like a freakin' dishcloth, doesn't it? That would be fine and dandy...except its supposed to be a damn scarf. And while I'm all about multi-tasking, being able to scrub the dinner plates while staying warm just sounds like a nasty proposition.

I'm open to suggestions at this point. I'm thinking about knitting it in stockinette (which I know will make it a little curly at the beginning), drowning it in the washer (at which point I will laugh maniacally as its little fibers suction themselves together) and then tossing it into the dryer. I have these little colored felted beads that would make a cute fringe. Felting may be in the future for this bugger.

The other options I have been considering involve weaving, staples and a match.

Okay, now that George has been humiliated, let's move on to his little orange friend. Meet Mr. I-Hate-You-Because-You-Feel-Like-Plastic. (That's his full name by the way.)

I cannot convey to you how much I hate this yarn. So why am I using it? Because its producing something cute. For those of you are regular readers, you will recognize this as the yarn being used for Dotty's pumpkin house.

I finished the second half of the pumpkin house. Here's are both halves:

Come on, say it with me: Aaaawwwwwwwwwwwww, isn't that adorable! Well...no, its not. And let me show you why, take a look at another picture:

See that? See how the one half can sit inside the other? Yeeeeaaaaahhhhh....its not supposed to do that.

The intent of the pumpkin house is such that Dotty can hide in it and peek out of it and sit on it and just generally pose in front of it in such a manner to entice you to make him. (This is a photo from the seller, that's why its right.)

Instead the pumpkin I created has inspired Dotty to do nothing but give me the filthiest of dirty looks. (He doesn't have eyes yet but trust me, he's glaring at me right now.)

I'm not sure what in the heck happened. Of course I don't expect them to be perfect but at least reasonably close so as to create the illusion of being correct. I'm blaming the yarn. Its clearly its fault. It even acts difficult when I take its picture. Most shots come out a glaring neon orange that could burn out your retinas but being the good blogger that I am, I torture it into submission in photoshop before I post it.

*sigh* I'm determined to finish Dotty's pumpkin. I briefly considered frogging the second half I made and then realized, "Why? Because I paid so much for the yarn? I think I can splurge and use more of the "$1.29 for 325 yards" yarn." Because after this, I will gleefly burn the Mr. I-Hate-You-Because-You-Feel-Like-Plastic. (That's his full name by the way.)

I will make another pumpkin half soon. Although, can I call it a half since it'll be the third one? What would that be called? Maybe I'll prove the saying "Third times a charm" to be true.

In the meantime, I've decided to commit to working toward entering Quilt National next year. The idea makes me twitchy but it gives me a goal concerning my art quilts. QN is the mother of all quilt shows and not all that easy to get into. I'm not sure I'm good enough but what the heck? Won't know until I get rejected...oops, that's not very positive.

So me and the vindictive yarn are going to stare at each other tonight. I'm locking them up when I go to bed, I don't trust them anymore...

06 January 2008

Where I Stand Sunday

The thick winter in Michigan continues, punctuated by continual thawing and refreezing. Trees that had not dropped their leaves at the first shock of cold are now giving in and shedding their clothes. It creates the effect of mixed seasons, leaving one wondering if we are to remain trapped between various combinations of autumn and winter.

Where I Stand Sunday
is an ongoing photo essay examining the different places I spend my life standing. Too often we take for granted the everyday places we spend our lives walking on. The ground we tread on has its own stories to tell.

05 January 2008

Because I like it - THAT'S why...

Is it wrong to pick a fight with a stranger when you go to a Joann's store? Well, maybe "pick a fight" is not the right terminology -- after all she started it.

I enjoy knitting and crocheting. And like I mentioned in a previous post, I like to crochet for afghans especially because I feel like they are more open and cozier and its just my personal preference. Its also really the only time that I will reach specifically for acrylic yarn. I'm not knocking acrylic, just saying that I like wool better for scarves. But when it comes to an afghan, let's face it -- do you really want to have to hand wash and lay it flat to dry and pay a zillion dollars for the amount of yarn needed to create it? See my point? Go get the acrylic.

So I swung by Joann's today to pick up some yarn for this afghan:

Its a free pattern from Lion Brand Yarn, go get it here if you like it. I'm diggin' the circles and the colors are among my favorites.

I also decided to pick up some much needed stitch markers (a decision made easier after I impaled myself trying to use a safety pin as a substitue and got blood on my cream colored wool) and was intrigued by the notion of a 19mm size crochet hook. (This huge hook is aptly named the 'Speed Hook'. Holy crap batman, this thing just seems wrong for some reason.) So I was dwelling in the yarn/crochet hook/knitting needle area of the store. That's when I heard it.

A woman was sashaying through the main aisle of the store very loudly proclaiming that crafts are stupid. This is not art. These people are wasting valuable time and money on stuff that isn't important. Why don't they create something worthwhile? Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah...

To say that this caught my attention - and pissed me off - is an understatement. She was with another woman who was standing in line waiting to get fabric cut at the cutting counter. And she kept griping. And I kept getting more ticked off. And she wouldn't shut up. And I felt like smacking her. (Don't worry, I refrained.)

So as I was walking past her she said this: "Why do people waste their time on this craft junk?" I paused, she looked up at me and I said: "Because they like it. Leave 'em alone." And went on my way...there were a few choice words tossed in my direction after me but I don't care. That woman needed to shut her flap.

I kept thinking about it after I left the store. (With my wasteful craft supplies that included the wicked looking 'Speed Hook'. We'll see if it lives up to its name, if it doesn't I can always use it as a weapon.) This isn't really the first time I've heard this type of sentiment. I've even been "advised" that if I want to be taken as a serious artist, I shouldn't use my time doing stuff like crocheting and knitting and ATCs and other little piddly crafting things. Sorry, I don't agree. You'll never change my mind on this, don't even try.

Why can't I show in galleries and be published in books and get juried into national shows AND crochet toy devils and knit scarves and hang art quilts at local shows? Why is it one or the other? Why do people place these kind of restrictions on what they create?

I enjoy goofing around with all types of things. And I'm sorry, but when I've got work on my design wall exploring rape as warfare and an entire art quilt series conveying what the grief process feels like to me, sitting down to crochet an afghan is a welcome break. Leave people alone, let them do their thing (even if its crocheted toilet paper roll covers) and try not to suck the joy out of the act of creation for other people. Sheesh...

Okay, I now step off my soapbox. Moving on...

Here is a picture of a happy westie:

Dooley has been suffering from cabin fever in the worst way. Before it snowed, I would walk him almost every night when I got home from work. Now that the ground is all covered in the white junk, we've not been walking. (And we both have gotten a little rounder because of it.) The trouble is that little man's legs are only about six inches high. That means he gets all muddy and nasty really easily and washing a westie everyday is not really something I can add into my agenda. So he hasn't been walked. And he's been cranky because of it and just generally being bratty.

Today's schedule included tossing him in the tub. He was due and I figured that since he was already going to get scrubbed, let him get all slushy. Its a bad sign when your westie is the same color as the dirty snow. But he is clean now, smells nice and is snoring at the other end of the sofa. All is well in Dooley land.

I worked more on Dotty. I made one half of his pumpkin house and started the second half. I'm going to work on finishing up the second half tonight. I bought him googly eyes while at the store today but haven't glued them on yet.

The whole thing makes me giggle snort. I love it.

I have to stop on the crochet for a bit and practice my purling skills because....drumroll please...I am fulfilling one promise to myself and taking a sock knitting class! You have no idea how much this excites me. I'm giddy, positively thrilled! I have a pattern for a scarf that is nothing but ribbing so I'm going to practice with that over the next week. I can do it, I'm just really slow and want to be able to keep up with the class. Plus I don't want to look like a dork.

So I'm off to go waste some time crocheting the second half of a pumpkin for a devil. Why? 'Cause I like it. :)

01 January 2008

Closing up shop & some promises...

This has been the scene at Chez Fibra Artysta this past week. This is the kitchen table, where I've been working. (And yes, the irony that I chose to work downstairs when I've gone to such extents to make my studio a creative paradise is not lost on me. The truth is that the kitchen counter is at the perfect height for ironing and the kitchen table is at the perfect height for cutting. These are things I hope to incorporate in my next studio when I buy a house.)

Its been a productive week. Much to the Dooley dog's chagrin, who has chosen to stand in the middle of the kitchen and chirp at me endlessly. (He is a bit of an attention whore.) Its a good thing I'm going back to work tomorrow because the endless supply of cookies tossed his way to shut him up would undoubtedly make him very round if it continued.

So let's take a look at what I got done:

  • Five new pieces for the Fragile art quilt series. (Actually, thirteen if I decide not to assemble the one that I cut up into nine small squares. My intention with that one was to make little squares that I could sell since I've had several requests to buy the other two that are already done. Still not sure how I feel about selling those pieces, they are really personal and it just feels...well...dirty. We'll see if that changes as time goes on.)
  • 43 leaves for some botany quilts. (I sketched out the design for the quilt today. With the size that I plan to do the quilt on, I can get five quilts created to use up all those leaves.)
  • laid the foundation for two political quilts, both of which need an extensive amount of surface design to get them to where I want them to be but the basis is done and they are ready to go
  • designed a means to incorporate each photo from my Where I Stand Sunday posts into artwork (I had to order supplies but as soon as I have one done, I'll post it)
  • experimented with a new series focusing on wool and an organic theme. (Sorry, I'm not showing you that one because the first one is beyond rough and needs much more work. Leann and Joan have been subjected to it for feedback, we'll see if they are horrified by it or not.)
This is a phenominal amount of work for me. They are all beginnings but I think that working in stages will help keep me moving. Meaning spending blocks of time laying foundations for work and then completing them as I go along. All in all, I'm pretty pleased with what I got done, hopefully it keeps going.

Spending all this time doing pretty much nothing else but creating things has thrown into sharp relief what a disservice I have done to myself by not doing work for work's sake. I've spent far too much time over the past couple of years creating artwork solely for the purpose of shows. Conforming to their themes, their size requirements, their time lines....its often left me wondering what my work could be with all that pressure stripped away.

I believe I'm well on my way to finding out the answer to that question. I'm not really much into making resolutions for the year. I find it somewhat odd that so many people corner themselves into ideas for improving themselves or their lives simply because the date rolls over on the calendar. But I have decided that I want to make some Promises to myself concerning my artwork. Here they are:

  • Continue with weekly Where I Stand Sunday photo essay/art series
  • Do not enter any shows this year in which I have to create new work just for it. If I already have something completed that qualifies and I want to submit it, that's acceptable. (There are two exceptions to this: Michigan Quilt Artist Invitational and American Sewing Expo. I'll be making pieces specifically for those.)
  • Make ATCs to trade each month with paper art group
  • Complete 25 art quilts by the end of the year.
  • Be proactive about learning new topics. (This means signing up for classes, reading up on subjects and actually doing them.)

My design wall contains the beginnings of 10 art quilts, and I have designs in my noggin for five more. So I'm hoping to exceed the 25 art quilt goal for the year. Its ambitious and all seems doable now. But I know that going back to work tomorrow will torture these Promises to the limit. I guess that's what makes them worth accomplishing -- they won't be easy.

And just to keep things light and happy, I'm continuing on with Dotty. I actually finished him up yesterday and sewed him together. Here's how he looks:

He is still lacking a face. I contemplated stitching his eyes on but I think he will look better with the plastic googley eyes like the pattern shows. (Yes, I'm actually following the pattern. Have you checked to see if the sky is falling?? Watch your head...) Which means another trip to Joann's and since it looked like this outside today, I opted to stay in.

I'm going to create his pumpkin house tonight. Its the last peaceful night at the end of a very pleasant, much needed, quiet vacation. Dooley is snoring next to me on the sofa, its a nice day.