Tag Archives: knitting

Charting a Course

After a year and a half of openly seeking all the knitting instruction and techniques I could, I feel I’m ready to start heading into some focus areas. I have two knitting areas that really draw me and that I truly enjoy: lace and designing accessories.

I love lace. Everything about it. Reading the charts  (forwards and backwards), the phrasing of a pattern row, the very real potential that a few seconds of lapsed attention can lead to hours of undoing/redoing work, the way the bunched up wrinkly mess dangling from the needles becomes elegant gossamer fabric once finished and blocked (stretched). Lace is a lovely process and I’m, well, rather process oriented… hence the whole 10,000 Hours project.

Designing accessories is another process; one in which I have to solve structural as well as aesthetic problems. Creating wearables for hands, arms, necks, or heads gives me limitations and pushes me to find unique solutions within those confines. I can continue to incorporate various knitting techniques into the accessory design as well, still allowing me to feed my appetite for various styles, techniques, and methods.

I feel like this is definitely a milestone along the path… discovering which areas I’m ready to focus on. No longer completely adrift in the vast ocean of knitting skills.

As far as the 10,000 Hours project as a whole is going… I’m more and more enthralled with the neurological processes that go along with skill development. I’ve started seeking out articles on what happens in our bodies as we learn. Then, when I am actually experiencing those things, I have this, “Oh, so that’s what that feels like,” moment. My driving force: always asking “What’s going on here, what effect is this having, and what’s it like?” Exploring the fascinating and bizarre world of subjective experience through objective ends.

Happy Birthday to #10kHrs

Exactly one year ago today I launched my biggest project yet, 10,000 Hours (#10kHrs). It’s a massive performance piece with mixed media, video, and installation components as well. It’s both my albatross and my North star.

I must admit that the past two weeks I was feeling more burdened by #10kHrs than inspired. I was not enjoying my knitting time; I was feeling drained financially and emotionally by this beast. Every hour I marked down in the log book felt like three and, given that I’ve got five to eight more years of this, I was a bit down.

However, there’s something about a good anniversary that rejuvenates my spirits. So the past couple of days leading up to the one-year mark I’ve been happily scheming and planning new avenues for 10,000 Hours; visualizing some local “art interventions,” planning public outreach, and thinking of ways to turn all this fabric into art that I am genuinely excited about.

It is neither a good luck omen, nor a curse; it is merely my companion for the foreseeable future and I look forward to making something truly beautiful with it. Happy Birthday, #10kHrs!

10,000 Hours Call for Help

Entering this first quarter of 2012, I need help funding the instructional side of 10,000 Hours. Here’s a breakdown of what I have lined up:

$150 – Local immersive knitting weekend. Including 6 hours of instruction from a professional knitting teacher.

$35 – Local class on knitting gloves. New techniques for me will be creating a thumb gusset and learning how to knit the individual fingers.

$28 – Local class on seaming knitted items.

$90 – TKGA (The Knitting Guild Association) Master Hand Knitting Program Level 1. Correspondence research and instruction program.

Total = $303

If you can help, please visit the 10,000 Hours Sponsorship page and look over the sponsorship levels and their corresponding benefits. I have added the Sea Change print (pictured above) to the $100 sponsorship level. (For which you also receive a photo from the 10,000 Hours project and an invitation to The Amateur Hour party once I reach 5,000 hours.) Only 20 Sea Change prints are available. And of course sponsorship at any level is greatly appreciated.

I truly am at a point where these things won’t happen without sponsorship; so, I thank you in advance for any help you can give in sponsoring the instruction side (the absolutely essential part) of 10,000 Hours. And please spread the word! Thank you so much.

*About Sea Change: I made Sea Change to commemorate the first 500 hours (1/20th of the journey). I knitted a “Sea Foam” stitch lace swatch, attached it to a printing block, shellacked it for durability, and have run a limited edition print & watercolor on 100% rag linen paper. This print is currently available through  10,000 Hours Sponsorship at the $100 level. You can read more on Sea Change in my June 2011 blog entry.

A New Year of 10,000 Hours

Here it is, exactly 11 months since I started down this 10,000 Hours road and I’ve crossed the threshold into a new year. So, in the spirit of New Year’s traditions I thought I’d share some of my plans “resolutions” for the coming 12 months of this project.

  1. Clean Up the Books: A huge chunk of 10,000 Hours is data. I enter the hours weekly. I track the progress of individual knitted projects. I have a large spreadsheet with formulas and orderly columns. It’s all very official and number oriented. When a knitted project is finished, I title it with the number of hours it took. For example, my very first square took 8 hours to knit and is titled Hours: 0 – 8. Here’s the problem though. Let’s say I then work on a big sweater for a while like 30 hours, then I stop and work on a quick pair of mittens for 10 hours. I haven’t finished the sweater so it is not in the list of finished projects and is not titled. But the mittens are done. They are the project that were finished after Hours: 0 – 8, they took 10 hours to knit, the mittens then get titled Hours 9 – 18. In this example, however, I have 48 hours of knitting done and a sweater languishing on my desk. The project titles aren’t reflecting the progress of the over-arching project. Over the course of 2011 my knitting-hours to project-titles discrepancy grew. A lot. I did, in fact, have a sweater languishing on my desk as well as a really, really ugly hat that I couldn’t bring myself to finish, and various other small unfinished objects (UFO’s in knitter-speak). My knitting-hours to project-titles gap was around 200 hours at one point. So… I am tackling those UFO’s. I’m deciding to either finish them, rip them out, or give them new life under glass with sketching and commentary. Currently the hours/title gap is down to about 40 or so hours. There will probably always be a bit of a gap but it just feels much better to have the books neat and tidy.
  2. More Art: Okay. I’ve been at this 11 months now. Time to start producing more 10,000 Hours related works.
  3. Design: In 2011 I designed four knitting patterns. I LOVED doing it. Figuring out how to actually knit my ideas has pushed me to learn new techniques, solve various knitting problems, and clearly communicate knitting instructions. Designing seems to be a great way to keep pushing myself along the 10,000 Hours path.
  4. Take 10,000 Hours Out on the Town: It’s high time I get this project out and about and not just talk theory with the people I meet; actually bring my work out into the light of day. Yeah, that’s the scary part.

So, Happy 2012!!! Here’s to continuing down the uncomfortable (but glorious) path of growth, discovery, and art.

Get Up & Walk Away

I had the honor of going to a lecture given by Kaffe Fassett at The Nelson-Atkins Museum this past Friday evening. If you are unfamiliar with Kaffe’s work, it’s all about color. The most vibrant crazy and luxurious color. He treats knitting the way he does painting. He knows what he wants to create and he makes the yarn do just that. He does not think “within the medium” but lets it serve him.

Then on Saturday I took a workshop given by Brandon Mably. I sat in my chair and worked Kaffe’s Persian Poppies design for seven hours. Nearly 20 balls of yarn bouncing around at my feet. It’s an easy design, and you only work with two yarns at a given time, but you switch through colors rapidly. And that’s the point: the colors. Although Brandon absolutely insists that it’s not color theory… it essentially was. What he arrived at through intuition and trial-and-error was basically good color theory. And just like all the other color theory I’ve taken before, it’s exhausting. I remember walking outside to take non-smoking breaks as an undergrad just to look at something other than blocks of color… but you can’t escape color, it’s everywhere. And so we would all point at the beetle crossing the sidewalk and joke about whether or not the colors were vibrating pleasantly and then rub our eyes and shake our heads before trudging back to our paints and color wheels.

So, sitting in Brandon’s class, going cross-eyed trying to figure out what combinations I could possibly make out of my odd assortment of yarns, I realized something. Although I’ve had the training and I take care in my yarn color choices… I haven’t been pushing myself. I simply haven’t been putting any extra effort into pushing the colors in my knitted projects the way I would with inks for a print. Why?

Then “ah ha” moment number two came. Brandon told us all to tack our knitting to the wall and stand at least six feet away from it to look at it. I couldn’t believe it. I’ve been TRAINED to do this. My mentor drilled it into my head in my first life-drawing course ages ago. I’ve nagged my own students about it. How can you possibly know what you’re working on until you look at it from a respectable distance? I wouldn’t dream of making an image without tacking it up and standing back from it… very often turning it upside down as well. Why wasn’t I doing this with my knitting?! Obviously on some level I still hadn’t fully embraced it as a legitimate medium.

So now, inspired by Kaffe and Brandon, I am pushing those edges. I should and will treat my knitted works like any other of my projects. I will remember the tools and techniques I’ve been lucky enough to acquire over the years. 10,000 Hours is about pushing myself to become the best knitter I possibly can, this includes respecting my work and pushing it aesthetically as well as technically. Thank you, Brandon & Kaffe, I needed that.

Not My Baby

10,000 Hours Dress

Meet the “Thousand Hours Dress.” Isn’t she lovely? I commissioned this piece from local artist & designer, Peggy Noland. I told Peggy that I wanted a dress for my new project, Wait. , that I could also wear for ongoing 10,000 Hours events. It somehow needed to involve knitting and I needed to be able to knit while wearing it. (So no long flowing sleeves or miniskirts.)  Everything else was up to Peggy. I was to be client & knitting labor only.

This filled a few purposes. One, I needed a dress. Two, I love to collect Peggy’s work. Three, I wanted to know what it’s like to knit what you’re told for the purpose of fulfilling someone else’s vision. Up until now I’ve always had at least some creative input in my knitting projects, even if it’s just to choose the pattern and/or color. But knitting completely to others’ specifications is something that many knitters do. There are test knitters for designers who make sure that the design actually yields the product it promises. There are knitters-for-hire who will knit you that sweater you want. There are knitters who work in the sweatshops that make the fancy little headbands sold at the hipster store with the French name. Now, obviously, I didn’t have the sweatshop experience; but I knitted what she asked, how she asked, and (give-or-take 24 hours) when she asked.

Her orders:

Color – Sky Blue

Pattern – Pleated Skirts Lace

Piece 1 – large square swatch 12’’ x 12’’

Piece 2 – collar, 4-6’’ wide by 40-98’’ long

Lace. This was not easy. It was a pattern repeat of 22 stitches & 14 rows. It was slow going. It pushed me to the edge of what I was capable of. I could not talk to anyone or think about anything else while working this pattern. I did an internal cheer when I got to the end of each row. Every hour spent on these pieces felt like two. It mentally exhausted me.

Peggy brilliantly scanned in the large swatch, created a mirrored repeating pattern, and ordered a silky crepe fabric printed with the design. She made a fabric from my knitting… but it was not a knitted fabric. It looks like a snake skin print! Which, my mother pointed out, is odd since one rarely looks at a snake and thinks, “How lacy!”

The lace collar (which I managed to make just over 60’’ long) ruffles around the top and pieces of the swatch line the arms. Yes, she cut my cotton lace knitting and it did not fall apart. (She steeked, surged, & fabric-glued it, but it is secure.) Luckily, she did not do this in my presence; surely I would have fainted in a very dramatic “fetch the smelling salts” sort of way.

The result is gorgeous. I poured thirty fully-concentrated difficult hours into that piece. I simultaneously want to wear it everywhere and to frame it and hang it on my wall. I love it. But… it is not my baby. Peggy Noland created this work. When people ask me if I made this dress I will say, “No, Peggy did. I just knitted the lace for her.”

It’s a strange feeling to work on something giving up any creative control whatsoever. I trusted in Peggy, but I had no idea what the final outcome would be. It really did make for a different knitting experience. Hired needles.