Sunday, August 26, 2007

Look what I made!

Okay, Manimal helped a little bit, but I did all the carrying and pushing and stuff like that...and it's going to be really hard for me to resist shouting "I was in labor for 69 hours!" the next time I see a pregnant woman.

And since then it's been nothing but nurse nurse nurse all the time, apparently my milk bar is open 24 hours a day whether I like it or not, and I have not mastered the art of nursing and knitting, although I've been told it's possible. And I have to get it figured out because he's teeny weeny and I need to knit more soakers since the ones that I made while pregnant come up to his armpits.

I will try not to turn this into a baby blog, but it will be very hard. Harder even than my resolution not to talk to him in baby talk. The day after he was born I had him sitting in my lap and I was cooing and gahing at him, and Rat Girl gave me a look somewhere between amazement and disgust and said "I have never heard you talk like that." So a certain amount of baby will probably sneak through, but I'll try to keep it knitting related.

See? It's not a baby, it's a baby in a knitted hat.

Ragnar...stupid happy mama.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

And speaking of craft...

I've been knitting a lot lately. Knitting is a good thing to do when you are sitting around waiting, (and waiting). My attention span is microscopic though, so mostly I've been knitting things like this: Baby hats can be finished in about 3 hours, making them the perfect thing to knit while sitting around trying to decide if you are actually in labor or if you're just having more braxton hicks "practice" contractions. My uterus has had so much practice contracting... yeah nevermind.

Have I mentioned the fact that I love! love Nancy's Kona Superwash? There are obvious reasons for this, like the washable, merino-ness of it, and the hand-dyed wonderfulness, but there are purely material reasons as well. Like the seemingly never ending skeins. It comes in 8oz bundles, which is just under 600 yards, in the $22 to $28 range (depending on if it's hand-dyed or hand painted...) which makes it about $5 an ounce...for washable hand-dyed Merino, and it's all in one beautiful chunk that you can knit off of forever! Bliss!

Needless to say when this orange showed up in the store it had to come home with me, and the black as well, since they go so well together, but after knitting a microscopic baby hat I have A LOT of yarn left over. After the hat I started these legwarmers:

If you are a geeky like me you'll notice that the pattern is based on the fibonacci number sequence. I have been told that legwarmers are very practical baby gear, since they facilitate diaper changes....although since it's 90 freakin' degrees out, I doubt that wooly leg warmers will be high on the list as far as outfits go.

As I near the end of the second legwarmer (only 8 more rows to go) I still have a crap load of yarn left-over. I have this insane urge to only knit baby stuff out of this yarn, to answer that age old question: "How much baby stuff can you knit out of a pound of wool?" I'm sort of out of ideas though, so I thought I'd open it up to the bleaders....what should I knit next?

Ragnar...still pregnant, for now.

PS...I do have plans to post some of these patterns. It has long been my intention to be one of the "cool" kids with free patterns on my blog, but it's that attention span thing. I really only have one thing on my mind at the moment and it doesn't leave very much room left over for writing patterns.

Push my buttons...

It seems like my blogging is taking on sort of a pattern posty for awhile and then two posts on the same day. I suppose I could combine these into one big mega post, but somehow it seems more appropriate to divide them up along subject lines.

Firstly I wanted to weigh in on something that Imbrium brought up over at Nerd Knits, and

Secondly a knitting update.

So Imbrium got her panties is a twist over an article that she read in “Real Simple.” I haven't read the article, and confess to not liking the magazine very much (a little too much “simple” and not enough “real” for my taste), so first of all go over to Nerd Knits and read what she had to say. She touches on some of the issues of this debate that never fail to get the metaphorical fly up my butt, specifically the gender divide between "crafty" and "arty" pursuits. She is as always insightful and well spoken (written). That being said this is one of my push button issues, as in push Ragnar's button and stand back because it will take her awhile to wind down.

Consider me "pushed."

The “craft” vs. “art” debate is something that I've been bumping up against for a long time. My bachelor's degree is in “fine art” whatever the fuck that is, and I joke that this gives me a legit claim to the title “artist,” (pronounced with a long ahhhh). While I was studying art I concentrated on printmaking, and bronze casting, which interestingly enough are both areas of art that have been denigrated in the past as being too close to craft to be considered “real” art. Printmaking gets hit because of the reproductive aspect; sure the first one might be “art” but what about the next 250? Bronzecasting admittedly hasn't been subjected to the “craft” label since the Renaissance, but the material was considered to be of lesser quality than other substances because it was an industrial material, and the skill required to craft it was less than the skill required to sculpt marble where one wrong strike of the chisel could ruin months of careful workmanship. When Michelangelo wanted to sculpt in bronze he had to take his model into another city-state and find a group of cannon makers to cast it for him. The Greeks sculpted mostly in bronze but the Romans made copies of them in Marble and then melted the originals use as cannons. Anyway, the important thing to note is that as an artist I am attracted more to those mediums which require a mastery of craft, than those which lend themselves more to pure expression, so consider that to be the full disclosure of my crafty predjudices.
My other major pursuit in college was working in the costume shop, I did a lot of costume design while I was in high school, and thought that that would be my major in college. I quickly realized that I needed more freedom of expression than theater would allow me, but I still enjoyed sewing and was lucky enough to land a work study job in the costume shop. Both my printmaking prof and my sculpture prof made no secret of the fact that they thought I was wasting my time with sewing. When I mentioned printing on cloth I was told “this is not the happy craft hour,” and when I was working late nights in the sculpture studio trying to get my portfolio together I was told that I needed “stop fucking around with this fabric shit.” Sort of hard to take that as anything but hostile. Had I been working my 15 work study hours in the library reshelving books, I doubt that I would have heard lectures on how I “needed to stop fucking around with books,” but because my job happened to involve the “craft” of sewing, it was somehow taking me away from the important work of creating “art.”
Interestingly enough now that I am out of school my primary medium is fabric, specifically quilting, and when people ask me what I do I am equally likely to introduce myself as an artist or as a quilter. Admittedly I'm being slightly bloodyminded when I tell people that I'm a quilter, since I know that they look at my black clothes, my fuck-all attitude, my skull and cross-bones bumper stickers and try to reconcile that with the quilts their grandma used to make. Inevitably when someone sees my work they will say something like: “Oh you're an Artist,” as if I was selling myself short by using the lesser label of “quiltmaker.” I could of course call myself a “fiber artist,” which is the category that I apply in when I do art shows, but I feel like that's even more confusing. Fiberart is a catch all phrase that includes, wearables (down to and including pictures of kittens glued on to sweatshirts with puffy paint, but also hand dyed silk kimonos), baskets, weaving (both functional and non), leather, dollmaking etc. I feel like I owe it to my craft (yes I embrace that word) to call it what it is. It's a quilt. I make no distinction between artist and quilter, although after working in a quilt shop for 6 years, I know that the majority of the quilters in the world are not artists. That's not to say that they don't do great work (although there are a lot of really awful quilts in the world), it's just not approached with the attitude of an artist.

To me the distinction between art and craft lies mostly in the attitude of the maker. I think that if you make a soap dish, or a wind chime, or a wreathe for your front door out of silk flowers that you bought at Michael's and hot melt glued together with polyester ribbon, and you approach it with the attitude of an artist, whatever that means to you, then you are making art and screw anyone who says differently. Hot melt glue is an extremely useful thing if you use it in applications that are appropriate. Similarly if you sit down and a paint a still life because you need something to fill up the hole on the wall and you want something to match the couch, no matter how technically accomplished it is, it's not going to be art.
The British have a term that I really like: “maker.” Which basically means someone who makes things, specifically things that don't fall into the category of art. When we call someone a craftsperson, we aren't using it as a job title, and it's usually applied somewhat condescendingly. I think the word “artisan,” comes close, but it has that misleading “art” stuck in the front of it. My understanding of the word “maker” is someone who works with their hands, carefully crafting things, taking pride in their product, but who doesn't feel the desire to classify themselves as an artist. On my business cards I give myself three titles: artist, designer and maker. I feel like that encompasses most of what I do. Even my art is done in a somewhat makerly spirit. I spend a couple of hours composing a new design, and then dozens more crafting it. The fun creative part is over very quickly and the boring sweatshop part takes much longer...then when it's done and I hang it on the wall and realize... "oh yeah, I'm making artwork here.”

The word “craft” has so much more depth of meaning than art. Art carries a lot of baggage around with it. Craft has become associated with the world of Michael's, Jo Ann's, kits and projects, but it also can refer to the quality of craftsmanship, meaning that something is done with care, attention to detail and a high level of quality that can't be duplicated by machine, or by someone working in haste. To say that something was done with “old world craftsmanship,” is high praise indeed. To call some “crafty” is to imply that they are not only wise, but somewhat sly and tricky as well. Conversely if you say that someone has an “artistic” temperament, you're probably implying that they are creative and quirky, but also unreliable and self-centered.
So what am I saying? Basically that I'd rather be the crafty old woman than the flighty artist, even though “artist” is what I put under “profession” when I fill out my tax returns.

End of Rant...
Ragnar....just prop me up on my soap box and tie me to the mizzen mast.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Secret Pal...

Everyone else was having so much fun with the Secret Pal stuff that I decided that I wanted to play along as well. So it's a two post day. If regular bleader's don't want to know my preferences in knit gear you can all skip this post:
1. What is/are your favorite yarn/s to knit with? What fibers do you absolutely *not* like?

I am a sucker for the Kona Superwash from Woven Art (new website coming soon!). It's a no frills washable Merino. I am basically inclined to knit with solid colored (or not super "painted" hand-dyed) smooth yarns, but as far as wool, cotton, silk, linen etc. there is nothing I wouldn't take home with me. I leave you the fun furs and eyelashes of the world. They have no place in my stash.

2. What do you use to store your needles/hooks in?
One of these: only mine has skulls on it, and if any of you want one, let me know and I'll make you one. You can even tell me how many pockets, which fabrics, etc.

3. How long have you been knitting & how did you learn? Would you consider your skill level to be beginner, intermediate or advanced?

I've been knitting for about 4 years and was originally self taught. I knit backwards for six months or so until someone pointed out to me that you knit through the front loop, not the back loop. Duh. Mostly I figure out new techniques by making lots and lots of mistakes and reknitting many projects. I think it's safe to say that I'm an advanced intermediate knitter.

4. Do you have an Amazon or other online wish list?

I have a baby wish list on Kaboodle, but as it's mostly diapers and more diapers, it's nothing you should concern yourself with.

5. What's your favorite scent?

I'm pretty partial to Lavender, it's good for my blood pressure.

6. Do you have a sweet tooth? Favorite candy?

I have an intermittent sweet tooth, I will eat sweet stuff all day one day and then avoid it for weeks. Dark chocolate is always appreciated.

7. What other crafts or Do-It-Yourself things do you like to do? Do you spin?

I do it all I'm embarrassed to say. Fiberwise I am a quilter, knitter, spinner, and new weaver. I can crochet if I have to, and I have been known to dye things. I also cook, grow things (when I can bend, not while I'm 39 weeks pregnant), can things etc. And did I mention we are remodeling our house. I suspect I'm going to be an A+ #1 drywaller by this time next year.

8. What kind of music do you like? Can your computer/stereo play MP3s? (if your buddy wants to make you a CD)

I'm sort of a "classic" heavy metal/punk kinda girl, but I also like "good" country and bluegrass and some out there new stuff (Rasputina! cello playing women in underwear...can't beat it with a stick)

9. What's your favorite color(s)? Any colors you just can't stand?

It's not so much that I'm against pink, I'm against what pink stands for...except you know, pink triangles, those are fine. I mean in the gender classification, sit still and be a good girl so you don't get your dress dirty sense of the hue. So yeah, not so much pink. My closet has a lot in common with Johnny Cash, the man in black: it's dark in there, with spots of grey, red and brown. I like to knit in color though. I'm and fair isle, intarsia, mosaic freak. I like strong colors and saturated hues, especially reds and oranges but as long as they look good together that's fine with me. Just not pink.

10. What is your family situation? Do you have any pets?

I live with the Manimal, the father of my soon to be born, and we have partial custody of his daughter Rat Girl. We have a cat, or perhaps the cat has us. She is named for the sound that a cat makes when you throw it over board...Splash.
She is helping us figure out all of our new baby carriers. She likes the Mei Tai...or maybe she just couldn't get out of it.

11. Do you wear scarves, hats, mittens or ponchos?

I wore a poncho once when I was about 6 years old..since then, not so much poncho. I like scarves, am obsessed with hats (admittedly more the knitting of them than the wearing of them, but I wear them too) and can never find my mittens.

12. What is/are your favorite item/s to knit?

Right now it's baby anything, but mostly soakers. I also knit many hats, mostly of the bizarre and unwearable variety.

13. What are you knitting right now?

The UFO file runneth over. Let's see, I think we're down to three unfinished sweaters for me, they won't fit for awhile so why bother. I just started reknitting the Rat Girl sweater:

It's not so much like frogging if you just knit off of the the old piece right? And then there's the teddy bear (body stuffed, but no arms yet), the baby sack, and random other pieces that are so far gone they're not in the active file anymore. As soon as I can get a few of them wrapped up I have promised Manimal a Gansy.

14. Do you like to receive handmade gifts?

Yes please.

15. Do you prefer straight or circular needles? Bamboo, aluminum, plastic?

I'm an Addi Turbo Whore. I love those things, and I prefer circulars. Bamboo is lovely but doesn't stand up to my aggressive knitting style....that would be tight.

16. Do you own a yarn winder and/or swift?

I am semi-permanently borrowing both from a friend who has fallen from the true faith...that would be knitting. I suspect that when she's done with this PhD thing that's taking up all her time she will want them back. I work at a yarn store though, so I have access.

17. How old is your oldest UFO?

That would be the "free wool" sweater. Started spinning for it when I first started spinning, and that was at least 3 years ago. It's almost done, I just have to reconcile myself to ripping out the top half of the second sleeve.

18. What is your favorite holiday?

Seriously I like the solstices and the equinoxes. I don't celebrate them in any special way, I just like to observe them. And not seriously there's international talk like a pirate day, and also my birthday, which is just like talk like a pirate day.

19. Is there anything that you collect?

Hmm...I have sort of a collection of pirate stuff, it's not conscious so much as incidental. I also collect fabric with skulls, flames, or any other cool print on it (Alexander Henry, I love you so) (at least 1 yard pieces), and yarn of course.

20. Any books, yarns, needles or patterns out there you are dying to get your hands on? What knitting magazine subscriptions do you have?

I've been looking at rogue for years, trying to justify buying a pattern for what is essentially a stockinette sweater with a cable on it...I mean, that pretty much describes the three unfinished sweaters in my stash why should I get another one (but it's sooooo purty). There's also a really cute pattern on etsy for baby booties that look like chuck taylors. I also pick up "vintage" knitting books and patterns anytime I see them, some for entertainment and some because the patterns are really good. I don't subscribe to anything because if I like it one month I hate it the next, Interweave Knits is consistently the best.

21. Are there any new techniques you'd like to learn?

All of them. I'm obsessed with adding to my "arsenal" of available skills. I'm working on Mosaic right now, and I'm anxious to improve my dying techniques.

22. Are you a sock knitter? What are your foot measurements?

I don't wear hand knit socks (you just can't beat wigwam silk/merino hiking socks, my feet feel good just thinking about them) but Manimal does and although I don't generally knit socks, I have promised to knit him one pair a year. I wear a size 10 at the moment, we shall see if I am still a 10 after I am unpregnant again.

23. When is your birthday?

May 22nd. The year is not important to anyone, I'm 30. I have been 30, and I will continue to be 30 until I get really good at it and they let me go on to the next level.

24. Are you on Ravelry? If so, what's your ID?

I've thought about it, but honestly just schleping the laptop up to the cafe is almost too much for me, so I've decided to exempt myself. I'll breakdown sometime next year and then I will be 102,457,098th on the waiting list. I'm okay with that. are now returned to regularly scheduled blogging.

The finish line...

Lots of things are finishing up around here. First and most important to me is the fact that Ragnarson is due a week from today! Yay! Although many an overdue Mom has warned me that that means nothing and he might hang in for several more weeks. He is related to both me and Manimal so the lateness is not so much a possibility as a probability, but seriously, my waist, how I've missed it. It's not just the bending and the backaches, it's the fact that waists actually do a lot of work, like holding up skirts and pants.
If you want to see an embarrassing picture of me with my pregnant ass belly hanging out, you will have to come up with a compelling reason for me to lose what dignity I have and post it on the blog.

I suspect that babies have a sixth sense about whether or not you've finished all their sweaters and booties, so I've been finishing like mad, just in case he is hanging on in there until he's sure there will be plenty of knitwear out here for him. Not that he'll need it since it's been 90+ degrees here on the "outside."

This is the "sue" sweater from Elspeth Lavold's Designer's Choice 6. It is knit out of silky wool, which I fell in love with after knitting the golden harvest hat. It's actually going to be a shop sample for awhile until Ragnarson grows into it, I'm going to teach a "knitting for babies" class, and this is a great, stylish beginner's project. I have every confidence that an absolute beginner could tackle this with good results. We will knit, we will purl, we will make button holes, decrease and pick up stitches.

I also finished the strange brown sweater, I'm hoping it will look better when it's actually on a baby, so I'm not showing it here. It has a shawl collar, which persists in curling oddly in spite of the fact that I tried no fewer than 4 different bind off techniques...ah well. Babies are cute, so they can wear sort of wonky sweaters right?

And Manimal's socks are done just in time for the Woven Art, Hand-dyed, Hand-knit show...but like I said it's been 90 degrees out so he won't want to wear them for a month or so at least right?

You can't tell from this picture, but they actually have a really nice depth of color. Come by the shop next weekend and check out lots of customer projects that have been knit out of Nancy's yarn. You can also peek at my weaving which has almost passed the half-way point. My unreachable goal is to have it off the loom before the baby comes, so that Nancy's not stuck with a half woven blanket for a month or so while I adjust to being a mommy...yes yes, I hear the collective cackle. Thanks.
And I finally finished the last 6 inches of I-cord on the Intarsia pillow. It was an interesting experiment in deciding that something should work and then making it happen. I wanted a "piping" effect around the edge of the pillow so I combined a three needle bind-off with an i-cord bind off and I think it worked pretty well.

We have been practicing our new parent skills on this stuffed gorilla. We call him Monkey baby, and here he is modeling my first attempt at knitting a "soaker." For those not in the know, a soaker is a diaper cover which crunchy cloth diapering mom's everywhere assure me are "the bomb" as far as diapering accessories go. When you treat the wool with Lanolin it becomes moisture resistant, I hesitate to say "proof" because there really is no such thing with babies is there?

It's all soakers all the time at my house these days, here's an in progress shot of a pull on variety. This is actually left over yarn from the intarsia pillow. Cute no? I tried to make the skulls sort of friendly and baby like...uhm yeah. My poor baby is probably going to be one of those sensitive poet types, but when he looks back at his baby pictures it's going to be nothing but skulls and flames.

See you all next weekend at the Hand-dyed show! If I'm not in labor that is.

Ragnar...skully diapers baby!