Consider this a variation on the oft-repeated theme in the blogosphere: blogger is long-absent from posting, returns with renewed vigor and faithful promises for frequent posts. 

My absence can largely be chalked up to some people-moving that’s been happening in my life (all good things, but a little more time-consuming than anticipated!).   The studio has not been idle space, though, and I have lots of fiber-related bits to show-and-tell.  I’ve also been trawling the web and finding lots of really top-shelf blogs, so look for a newly-updated blog roll in the near future. 

Cheers!

Though knitting has become something of an addiction, I haven’t forgotten my letters this summer… I’ve been working on a few different calligraphy projects, mainly for friends.  This is the only non-wedding name project I’ve done lately.   A friend of mine commissioned it to give as a wedding gift – she plans to put a photograph of the couple in the window and wanted this particular verse to be featured below.

 

As a design historian (my day job), any new project I undertake in my own artwork is informed by objects I have seen and studied.  When I decided that my brand-new nephew would need a proper blanket from his brand-new aunt, early design ideas drifted toward piecework and samplers, concepts more commonly seen in embroidery and quilting.   

 My sense of flat textile design is heavily influenced by the needlework samplers and quilts that I saw my mother make as I grew up.   Whenever I play with ideas for knitted or crocheted pieces, I think about subdivided planes like this Spanish sampler at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  The idea of arranging different stitch patterns in one whole opens up oodles of design possibilities, possibilities not unlike those imagined by quilters who piece.  Album quilts like this Philadelphia example, also at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, offer the same design principle as the sampler but on a larger scale.  Diverse design motifs are separated by a line of ribbon that creates unity through its overall latticework pattern. 

Last winter, a knitting friend organized a group-made baby blanket project where she employed a similar technique.  She pieced out knitting and crochet work to multiple hands and then sewed the parts together, along with a fabric border and back, to make a quilt-like knitted blanket.  Each knitted piece was the same as the others in terms of pattern, but constructing a piece of knitted fabric from pieces instead of from one continuous string of fiber added an unexpected dimension that I really enjoyed. 

So I borrowed her idea, built on concepts of sampler and patchwork, and played around with my limited palette of crochet and knit stiches.  For the knitted strips, I used stockinette and seed stitch; for the crocheted portions, I used a single crochet variant and basic granny squares (both from my favorite crochet book).  Most of the yarn used was Encore worsted, because my local yarn shop ladies swore by its washability (one exception: I did indulge in a washable chenille yarn for one portion of one square to add to the sampler-like variety – so soft!).  Because my brother and sister-in-law didn’t know the baby’s sex ahead of time, the nursery was painted a wonderfully soft sage green, which I was only too happy to use as the base for my blanket.  I started working with only that and ivory, but after my nephew was born and I knew I could add a stronger, slightly more boyish look to the design, I included a few pieces in a clear grass-green.  

 

 Pieces, pre-assembly
Pieces, pre-assembly

 

To assemble the pieces, i used ivory yarn and a single crochet, using the seams to similar effect as the ribbon binding in the album quilt referenced above.  When I connected crocheted pieces to one another, this worked beautifully – I’ve been crocheting for nearly half my life and have enough consistency in my tensioning to produce a reasonably uniform fabric.   I’ve been knitting for less than a year, though, and in hindsight, I should have switched to smaller needles to make a sturdier fabric.  Because the fabric I knitted had a lot of give, I had trouble making each strip the same length.  This meant that when I tried to join them (with the goal of matching ends), pieces were stretched at different rates (which resulted in bunched seams).  My brother and sister-in-law very kindly refer to this as “character.”  Bless them.    To add a finished look, I used the same ivory yarn and did a quick row of single crochet around the outside edges. 

When I first imagined my sampler-blanket, I knew I wanted to add some sort of image or lettering to a particularly plain panel of ivory stockinette – either baby’s name or some sort of cheerful animal.  When my sister-in-law picked out nursery linens and decorations with a jungle-animal theme, a giraffe floated to the top of the design pile.  When serendipity struck and I found this stuffed giraffe to take to my nephew the day after he was born, I found out that the giraffe is actually my sister-in-law’s favorite animal … so really, I could choose nothing else but a lovely leggy fellow for the blanket!  Outlined simply in soft yellow, I think he’s my favorite part of the project.  Start to finish, this blanket was both a fun excuse to play with the familiar and a learning experience to be sure.   But mostly it was a very special chance to make something with my hands for my brother’s firstborn.

 

Wrinkles and all, it's done!

Wrinkles and all, it's done!

once again, taking inspiration from Design*Sponge DIY Wednesday, (see last week’s entry

I made a little cosy for my french press.  Actually, since I’ve mostly converted to espresso, I’ve made a cosy for my friend’s French press.  Since my friend is a bloke, I tried to make the colors and fasteners a little more “guy.” 

So… after a few episodes of “Miss Marple” and some scraps of skeins leftover from a baby blanket, a scarf, and a hotwater bottle cosy, I knit up my own version of the d*s project.

cosy-yarn.jpg

I liked the colors together, so i modified the d*s pattern to include stripes… I had some felt onhand that matched the charcoal grey, and some fusible quilt batting, so to bulk up the insulating power of the cosy, I cut some batting and felt to match, and ironed them onto the backside.   There was hardly any change to the bulk of the cosy, but hopefully it will help keep the java nice n’ hot!

For fasteners, instead of using yarn ends at the top and bottom, i used some scraps of leather that I had in my toolbox and made some loops in the middle (my friend’s press is constructed a bit differently than the standard Bodum like mine, which models the cosy below).

cosy-on-press.jpg

This was exactly the sort of project I needed to occupy a few hours while home sick with the flu – I highly recommend it for a quick and easy happy little knitting event!

My first love, and the reason for starting this blog, is letter-forms.  I’ve been delving more and more into calligraphy, and into making it a side business instead of just a here-and-there-hobby.  One of my current projects is the calligraphy for a friend’s wedding, for two friends who have a very streamlined, modern sense of style (and a wedding that reflects that).  I had been playing around with fancy copperplate-style scripts, and then found out that all they really wanted was a simple, sans-serif version of a foundational hand… 

february-2007-096.jpg

these are some of the samples I’ve been working up, based on the preferences they outlined for me at our last get-together.  They identified a basic foundational hand, that they liked – just without all the little “flips” at the edges of the letters.  We all decided that “flip” was much more descriptive than “serif,” so this hand will be henceforth “sans-flip,” in their honor. 

Following a tutorial on  Design*Sponge on a recent DIY Wednesday, I made a new cosy for my laptop! 

This couldn’t have been any easier… on the way back from a visit to the dentist, i treated myself to a wander through the fabric store (so what if it wasn’t strictly “on the way home”!) and found some great wool-blend felt in grey and gold.  To heft up the case just a bit, I bought a batch of fusible quilt batting (not called for in the tutorial, but it worked). 
computer-cosy-in-progress.jpg
After cutting what looked like a giant Red Cross symbol out of both colors of felt and the batting, I added some fusible tape to the edges and ironed everything up…computer-cosy-unfolded.jpg

To make it look smart when folded up, I left the gold under-layer a little bigger than the grey, and trimmed both to let the contrast show. I found some great ribbon at the fabric store, too, so I tucked that into one corner between layers of fusible tape to make a little pull-tab. The resulting case has been really handy, and all told, it was cheaper and quicker than finding a case somewhere online or in an electronics store!computer-in-cosy.jpg

For Christmas, I got a lovely wee digital camera, which has been great fun to play around with.   Getting a camera made me think of how I would carry it (especially such a wonderfully portable little model) – what sort of case i could find to keep it safe while running around.   Combine that thought with being back home for the holiday, with my crafting-heroes of parents, and I started wondering how I could make something that I might otherwise buy…

I’ve been really enjoying knitting lately, though my expertise thus far extends to the stockinette stitch (not terribly complex).  I knitted up a couple of hotwater bottle cosys, one for my roommate and one for me (our apartment can be a bit chilly of a winter evening) and was ready for the next adventure.  On a trip to Michael’s, my mom and I fell in love with some of the projects in a book called Alterknits by Leigh Radford (www.leighradford.com), including this one… http://www.leighradford.com/alterknit_projects/pda.html  , a felted case for a pda, complete with a little bit of embroidery.  Intrigued by the idea of felting, I started knitting up a bit of Lamb’s Pride chunky to see what might come of it.  In the book, she suggests sewing the fabric together before felting, but since I was completely guessing on how much the fabric would contract in the felting itself, i decided to leave it unsewn before tossing it in the washer. 

One round of felting didn’t quite make the stitches disappear, which is what the instructions said should happen:
camera case felting, round one

So I put it in for a second round, and got a much denser fabric:
camera case felting round two
This yarn is amazing… it knits so nicely, but the felt is just amazing to the touch!  as luck would have it, the felted fabric came to just the right width to fold and sew into an envelope-style case, which closes with a little tiger’s-eye button.  For kicks, I used some dark, dark brown embroidery floss and outlined a classic Leica on the back of the case…

100_0406.jpg

now if only I could figure out how to use the camera to take pictures that aren’t blurry!!

items-of-necessity.jpgRight now, I work full-time in an antique gallery, so my time for calligraphy is carefully carved out of a work//friends//family schedule.  When I have a day off, I try to carve out multi-hour blocks where it’s just me, a pot of espresso, and vast stretches of paper.  Some days, I work on practicing one particular hand – either learning a new one or refining an old standby.  Last week, I gathered a couple of favorite books of poetry, a box of oil pastels, and a big, blank sketchpad.  I gave myself a deadline by which to produce a project.  Didn’t have to be completely refined, but it had to be a complete, start-to-finish 2D expression… sort of an extension of the gesture drawing concept that my professors used in college to train our eyes for quick drawing. 

 So…

1) picked poem.  Rainer Maria Rilke is a favorite of mine, and his Book of Hours was my favorite Christmas gift last year (thanks, Ann!).  I dearly love the German language, so I decided to play with the un-translated version of I,17 of “The Book of a Monastic Life.” 

3) read through a few times to get a feel for the natural divisions of the text… read in English and German, playing with the differences to get a fuller sense of Rilke’s meaning. 

2) pick a hand (any hand!)… i’ve been playing around with an upright italic for a little while now, so I decided to continue for today.

3) choose a simple layout (this is where I most often get bogged down, so for the purpose of this exercise, I exaggerated the simplicity).  The goal was to begin and end in one afternoon, so this was streamlined.

4) Letter!!  This is the fun part.

5) Play with conceptual/aesthetic embellishment.  The English translation of this poem talks about ill-matched threads woven into a single cloth… so, feeling experimental, I started to lay down stripes of color according to the order of the oil pastels in the box. 

 Because I wasn’t working on a particular project (for a particular client), I got to play with ideas and techniques that, in the end, I’m not sure I completely loved… but I got to play!  and now I know.  I’m not displeased with the “finished” product, but I keep spotting ways to tweak it.  I suppose that’s part of the exercise, too!  so here it is…
exercise-complete.jpg

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.