Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Let the fur and feathers fly.....

I am always amazed at how inter-related people, events - well life in general - really is. I was looking at renting new space for Infiknit and I met a Real Estate agent which Marsha White of The Needle Arts Book Shop had recommended. At the end of our meeting, John asked me if I knew Paula Lishman. Many of you will know Paula as the "fur" lady. Years ago Paula discovered a way of cutting fur pelts into fine strips to make yarn. Knitting with fur became a reality - an expensive reality at $100.00 or more per gram; but for those who wanted to, there it was

I knew of Paula, but I did not know of her husband. Well, Bill Lishman, I discovered is the brains or the insanity behind "Fly Away Home." A film about migratory birds that was bought by Disney. You've probably seen it, my kids have seen it, in fact everyone I talked to had seen it, except me - just added it to my must see list!

For those who haven't seen the film, Bill Lishman's hobby is training migratory birds to fly with his intervention. Anyway my issue of Canadian Geographic arrived and there on page 11 was an article about Bill working with endangered Whooping Cranes in Wisconsin. He is trying to train them to fly to Florida to establish a breeding colony.

Bill (Father Goose as he is sometimes called) actually flies an ultralight aircraft that looks a lot like a bird with a propeller on its nose. To make him look more like a bird, when it comes time for the actual journeys, he and the others working with him don white bird costumes. Now this is pushing the envelope. This is living your dreams in a most amazing way. I think it comes pretty close to the sublime. It's not knitting, but then a fur scarf in Paula's yarn may also be pretty sublime.

According to my real estate agent the Lishman "kids" are just as wildly creative as their parents. Can you imagine the family at dinner - that's if they ever have time to sit down together

Above is a knitted, felted Flamingo(no knitted whooping Cranes, sorry) from Fiber Trends. Start your own breeding colony. Even house them in these fancy flats also from Fiber Trends. Sorry no pink elephants, but then I don't think that Bill intends to train elephants to fly - at least I hope not. Anyway Disney has already done a movie about a flying elephant!

Enjoy Carol

PS Coffee cup holders can be felted too! Please read the previous post and send on a photo of your original design!

Friday, February 24, 2006

Once more into the breach

Just as Salvador Dali can be a study in opposites, so too can the work of Debbie New - not the person - just the work. We have on the one hand teacups that melt and on the other a knitted vest as rigid as cement. At left is the Armoured Vest, an amazing work. Debbie designed and knit the vest, then soaked it in Plaster of Paris. In order to have the vest harden in the shape of...well... a vest, Debbie had to wear it around - cold, wet and rather heavy - for the day. Such is the artists' dedication to their work. For most of us the challenge is just to knit and, oh yes, finish the vest.

I am not sure how Debbie actually got the vest off her body after it had hardened, but there it is. Armoured Vest is available as a card from Philosopher's Wool.

I have given this card - sad to say- to several friends whose businesses have failed. It is a way of saying - be strong, things will change and you will have been made stronger by the experience.

Knitting can say so much in just a stitch or two. And we as knitters can give so much with just a stitch or two.

I was thumbing through a magazine the other day and came across a company that is marketing coffee cup protectors. Perhaps you have seen them or even have one or two yourself. For those who haven't seen them, they are the sleeves that you put around your paper coffee cup to protect your fingers from the heat. Well there were a lot of trendy styles - polka dots, fur, I-pod type skins, even a knitted one. Now there was something that I could work with. Just think of all the quick little gifts that you can make while using up your stash. I went rummaging through mine and came up with this.

It is a very basic attempt at a coffee cup protector in an Aran weight yarn and an ultra simple K1, P1 rib. But just think of the possibilities!

1. Practise fair isle or new techniques.
2. Bead them or add appliqued details.
3. Turn your left over swatches into them.
4. Practise cutting your knitting and make a number from an unfinished piece.

Send me pictures of your best coffee cup protectors and I will post them on Divineknits.

To start, using the size of the coffee cup you use most often, measure the circumference at the middle point. Cast on the number of stitches that will give you that width or size of circle. Begin your knitting with a border that will not curl. Knit to the length that you want the protector to be. Finish with a border that will not curl. Cast off. Stitch it together, if you have not used circular needles. Work in your loose ends and enjoy!

The title of this post, of course is from The Charge of the Light Brigade - not that light in vests like Debbie's; but still the concept of struggling, maybe even losing the first time; but getting back at it and finally winning GOLD is all part of the process!

I'd love to see your gold medal coffee cup protectors!!


Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Chambered Nautilus

Thank you, Knitti-me for your request to see something done in Opal the colour that I suggested most resembled a seashell for the Venus Vest pattern. Kaleidoscope Wrap is knit in Opal. The soft peach tones melt into beiges and creams with hints of pink and blue. The dyer has tried to capture that gorgeous pearlescence that we see when we turn over a seashell after its occupant, the chambered nautilus, has left. Hope you like it!

Of course, I couldn't leave you with out a look at Debbie New's take on seashells. Here is her card entitled "Renaissance". Again the rigid form of the seashell made soft by the knitting, surrounds a knitted bather - perhaps Venus resting. Everything is so serene; but underneath there is a lot of activity. Debbie was experimenting with certain mathematical formulae - fractuals - in her development of the spiral shape of the shell. Debbie decided to knit her shells as they grew. They are, says Debbie in "Unexpected Knitting", self-similar shapes that retain their form as they grow. Perhaps there is a lot of activity going on in the mind of the bather too.

Debbie's cards are available from Philosopher's Wool. Finally, I could not finish without a mention of The Chambered Nautilus by Oliver Wendell Holmes. Again, there is a lot going on. Shells are amazing structures. I think that a knitted beach bag in the shape of one might be very interesting.

The Chambered Nautilus
by Oliver Wendell Holmes

This is the ship of pearl, which, poets feign,
Sail the unshadowed main,
--The venturous bark that flings
On the sweet summer wind its purpled wings
In gulfs enchanted, where the Siren sings,
And coral reefs lie bare,
Where the cold sea-maids rise to sun their streaming hair.

Its webs of living gauze no more unfurl;
Wrecked is the ship of pearl!
And every chambered cell,
Where its dim dreaming life was wont to dwell,
As the frail tenant shaped his growing shell,
Before thee lies revealed,
--Its irised ceiling rent, its sunless crypt unsealed!

Year after year beheld the silent toil
That spread his lustrous coil;
Still, as the spiral grew,
He left the past year's dwelling for the new,
Stole with soft step its shining archway through,
Built up its idle door,
Stretched in his last-found home, and knew the old no more.

Thanks for the heavenly message brought by thee,
Child of the wandering sea,
Cast from her lap, forlorn!
From thy dead lips a clearer note is born
Than ever Triton blew from wreathed horn;
While on mine ear it rings,
Through the deep caves of thought I hear a voice that sings:--

Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,
As the swift seasons roll!Leave thy low-vaulted past!
Let each new temple, nobler than the last,
Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,
Till thou at length art free,
Leaving thine outgrown shell by life's unresting sea!

Enjoy Carol

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Pssst....wanna buy a watch?.....

Well, OK, so it needs a little work. Do you really need to know the time? Maybe we all could use a little break from "Time" now and again. Read on....

Playing around in my mind was the comment that I had quoted about Debbie New being the "Salvador Dali" of wool. (I have posted about Debbie and her art in the medium of knitting in earlier posts.) I was puzzled by these comments partly because, I knew very little about Salvador Dali and partly because I know, I will never know a lot about Debbie New! When you divine that well of creativity, do you ever actually find the bottom? Anyway, I consulted Wikipedia for information about Salvador Dali. Well if ever there were a study in opposites, it is Salvador Dali! He's the artist who often depicted "soft" watches that draped over things in his paintings.

Critics suggest that Dali was making a statement about the rigidity of time. Perhaps suggesting that through Art we do not have to be bound by the realities of this world.

I have to believe that there is something in the creative spirit that objects to restrictions like time, gravity - all that science "stuff". Possibly this is why the watches (or teacups - from Debbie New) melt; the rigid structures of this life have no substance, if we decide they don't, in the surreal world of the imagination.

We accept the earth as we know it, to survive; but we challenge its laws in our art. We knit teacups from yarn - these will never hold tea - but they will hold things that are much more important - ideas, love, memories. We paint watches that - slip, slide away - do we really want to know what time it is, when we are dealing in decades, centuries, millennia or when we are experiencing through our knitted Art all that is grand and enduring?

We knit lace that was designed hundreds of years ago, (as Barbara Walker often says - patterns of great antiquity.) We knit jewellery - with yarn as rich as a precious metal? We knit bird houses or Flamingos, if this is our escape. We knit the amazing, design the impossible, to say what has to be said, or knit what has to be knit, before the watchman cometh. Create something enduring and he may never come.

The picture top left is from a poster reprint of Salvador Dali's "Soft Watch at the Moment of Explosion". It is available from poster stores on or off-line. The tea cup is Jasmine, the last of my teacup designs. Debbie New's original tea cup pattern is in Unexpected Knitting from School House Press

Enjoy! Carol

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Amaryllis and the lost shepherdess

In checking my spelling of Amaryllis, I discovered that it is also the name of the shepherdess in a love poem by Virgil. How appropriate! This is the intricate layering of Art and Nature, yarn and knitting.

I also found another pattern that made me think of being wrapped in a flower. At the right is Ole Bolero from Fiddlesticks Knitting. The lovely flared sleeves look like the flowers of the Trumpet Vine - spectacular flashes of red in August. This fetching cropped top could also be knit in Periwinkle, at left, then it would be like Canterbury bells - soft shades of blue and mauve to colour a summer evening. The garment itself is very pastoral - something a shepherdess might wear. "Ethnic" is still very much in fashion so there is still time to knit and enjoy it!

I also found a poem "The Lost Shepherdess" by Robert Herrick (1591-1674). His shepherdess is a little truncated, but the idea is still the same. There is even the word "knit" in the last line. Why I may have met my soul mate. He's 415 years old and lost....hmmmm. The poem you will remember by Robert Herrick starts out "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may..." The picture on the right is my gathering of rosebuds - It's a scarf done in a crocheted rosebud stitch (more on crochet later) using Country Silk in both Berry and Wine.
Here is Robert Herrick looking for his shepherdess:

The Lost Shepherdess
Among the myrtles as I walk'd
Love and my sighs thus intertalk'd:
Tell me, said I, in deep distress,
Where I may find my Shepherdess?
--Thou fool, said Love, know'st thou not this?
In every thing that's sweet she is.
In yond' carnation go and seek,
There thou shalt find her lip and cheek;
In that enamell'd pansy by,
There thou shalt have her curious eye;
In bloom of peach and rose's bud,
There waves the streamer of her blood.
--'Tis true, said I; and thereupon
I went to pluck them one by one,
To make of parts an union;
But on a sudden all were gone.
At which I stopp'd; Said Love, these be
The true resemblances of thee;
For as these flowers, thy joys must die;
And in the turning of an eye;
And all thy hopes of her must wither,
Like those short sweets here knit together.
Have a great weekend - Carol

Thursday, February 16, 2006

An Opening of Amaryllis

Amaryllis always make me think of the work of Georgia O'Keeffe. That wonderful American artist who paints pictures of flowers - amazing flowers - flowers so big you could crawl inside them, like Thumbellina. The image of actually living inside a flower is so surreal, maybe even sublime. Just think. You would be surrounded by the exotic perfume, touched by the velvet petals and rocked by the gentle movements of the blossom.....Where can I buy my next ticket to paradise!

I thought of the equivalent in knitting. I thought of little capelets of petals, draped over the shoulder or a calyx of a pretty collar, perhaps beaded here and there to suggest dew.

Or perhaps a poncho done in something very soft and delicate or an afghan, again in something petal like. Add a little scent, open a window on a mild day and you are one with the flowers.

Such is the magic of Art. It transports one to realms unknown, to experiences beyond the ordinary. I have included pictures of Berry and Brick(a new shade) from Fiddlesticks Knitting Country Silk and smaller skein size (125g & 400m). These are the reds I remember from the flowers of Georgia O'Keeffe. Paint(knit) yourself a floral wrap, with the amazing palette of yarns available to-day.

Let your knitting transport you to new and wonderful places.


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Valentine's Day and the Romance Shawl

To-day is Valentine's Day or St. Valentine's Day as it used to be called before St. Valentine was stricken from the roster of saints by the Catholic Church for seemingly not having created any miracles. I don't know about that. He used to be reverred for his letters, mainly on the subject of love - spiritual love. But he did write letters, that in itself could be considered miraculous!

He wrote letters; we send cards - pretty or funny or really sloppy, commercially generated cards. Some of you will be lucky and get a hand made valentine - I think that these are the best!

Even better might be a knitted Valentine. Martha Stewart in one of her Living magazines had a pattern for a pair of mittens with a simple heart motif on it. Come to think of it Maggy Radcliffe of Maggie's Rags has a mitten pattern with a heart motif. In fact below is a listing of all the patterns that I stock with a heart motif.


A little late to knit some of them for to-day, but there is always next year! Start now too if you plan to give someone - yourself included the beautiful Romance Shawl from Fiddlesticks Knitting. I saved this one for last, because it is one of the best! I remember when Dorothy showed me the finished garment. I gasped as many do - her designs are really breathtaking - read Knitti-me's comments on the Venus Vest.

Yes I loved the romance motifs, - the cupid's arrows, the hearts, the exquisite shade of rose pink of the Artisan lace weight yarn. But what I really marvelled at was that extra touch of the true artist - that detail that sets a work of art apart - in this case it's the edging.

There are lots of shawls with engaging motifs, and pretty extras, but this accent - is not just another pretty extra - it is a edging with an underlay of a deeper wine red. This has depth, and layers, like love itself. Love can set our emotions on edge, with the promise of a deeper commitment. Love is intricate like lace; it is complicated and at the same time very fragile. It caresses the body and swathes the soul. I believe that Dorothy has captured in this beautiful net of lace the magic of love. That miraculous power that powers us forward, think of the heart or stops us dead in our tracks, think of the arrow. It heals and slays at the same time.

Dorothy's shawl says it all. It can stop people dead in their tracks when they see it. Knitting it can heal the soul. Indeed, I believe that this is one of Dorothy's talents as an artist. She can capture in a flow of stitches the very stuff of life. Dorothy connects on an emotional level through her designs with other knitters and other people who appreciate art. In fact non-knitters have learned to knit, just to be able to create one of Dorothy's pieces. More on that particular pattern later.

To-day is a day of cards and love poems and so I have to post my offering of a love poem for workers in the needle arts. It's by W.B. Yeats and I love it!!

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread upon my dreams.
Knit a dream to-day - Enjoy Carol

Saturday, February 11, 2006

A Flowering of Forsythia...

There are more signs of Spring in evidence even though our mild January has turned into a pretty frosty February -10c with wind chill factors. Don't put those needles down yet. There's plenty of time to wear out a mitten or two.

Still Orion is in the Southern (oh, how I love that word) sky - at least I think he is. It's been so cloudy that I haven't seen a star in days - and the Forsythia brought in for forcing is now in "forced" bloom. Actually very lovely blooms of sunny yellow to get us another week closer to the real stuff. I love bringing in branches of blossoms to have them bloom early in doors. It's just the term "forcing" that makes me think of medieval torture chambers! I know I should really be thinking of that rejuvenating force that brings everything back to life. That wonderful creative force that brings us the sublime in Art and Nature. How could I not think of it - look at those flowers!

I promised details of the winner in my Robert Burns post. I had quoted a line from a poem to sum up the poetry of Robert Burns and yes my struggles with finding samples I had knit ages ago. The quote was from a poem that described a highland lass singing and the poet suggests that she is singing of - "old forgotten far off things and battles long ago".

I had actually mis-quoted the passage - funny how the brain works. The line should really read:

"For old, unhappy, far-off things,
And battles long ago"

My mind substituted "forgotten" for "unhappy", maybe I have forgotten all those unhappy things - well maybe not all of them.

Anyway Ginny posted - It's "The Solitary Reaper" by William Wordsworth. "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" is in my son's rhyme treasury, and I've rediscovered my appreciation for Wordsworth. I just recently stumbled across your website through the knitting blogs ring, and I really appreciate your connection between knitting and creativity. I only started knitting in November and blogging just after that. It's amazing how I've also been inspired by the yarn and the needles. Thanks so much for putting your thoughts and creativity out there on your blog. I hope you see it return to you threefold.
Thank you Ginny - that's what it's all about - cast your words, your work, your thoughts upon the waters, waves or - something - of the world - throw caution to the winds, create beyond your wildest dreams and you will have moved yourself, if not others a little closer to the sublime - I hope!

Anyway here is the poem - thank you again, Ginny, for knowing the title and the author!

William Wordsworth. 1770–1850

The Solitary Reaper

BEHOLD her, single in the field,
Yon solitary Highland Lass!
Reaping and singing by herself;
Stop here, or gently pass!
Alone she cuts and binds the grain,
And sings a melancholy strain;
O listen! for the Vale profound
Is overflowing with the sound.

No Nightingale did ever chaunt
More welcome notes to weary bands
Of travellers in some shady haunt,
Among Arabian sands:
A voice so thrilling ne'er was heard
In spring-time from the Cuckoo-bird,
Breaking the silence of the seas
Among the farthest Hebrides.

Will no one tell me what she sings?—
Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow
For old, unhappy, far-off things,
And battles long ago:
Or is it some more humble lay,
Familiar matter of to-day?
Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain,
That has been, and may be again?

Whate'er the theme, the Maiden sang
As if her song could have no ending;
I saw her singing at her work,
And o'er the sickle bending;—
I listen'd, motionless and still;
And, as I mounted up the hill,

The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more.

Also, Ginny, please send me your address - info@infiknit.com - so I can send you the skeins of organic cotton! I am saving the other poem you mentioned for March.
The knitting pictures are samples in organic cotton - colours of the earth - shades of a more pastoral age.

P.S. There are still 2 skeins of organic cotton to be won!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Put on your dancing socks...

When I asked the question in an earlier post whether a work of art bore the "genetic" imprint of the artist, I thought of Robyn Gallimore of Red Bird Knits. Robyn is a sock knitter and a phenomenal sock designer. She has a sock of the month club and so designs a new sock every month. The club has been going for more than 3 years that means more than 36 sock patterns WOW!!! and I thought that I had trouble with math.

I once commented to Robyn about one of her new designs. I had noticed a sequence that was repeated every now and then in a new sock here or there. I said that this was her signature.

Take a look at Robyn's socks and see if you can pick it out before you read on.


If you picked out the little row of small blocks - you're right! I called Robyn the other day and asked her if she could explain why she often used this sequence. Of course I called just after 9:00 in the morning - I'm a morning person and Robyn is a night person - well you know how night people just hate morning people - they're the ones who sing, make jokes an slap you on the back before you've had your morning coffee or maybe even while you're actually drinking your morning coffee. In a voice that said - get lost, Robyn said that it might have had something to do with math. Now Robyn has no trouble with math - she majored in it at university, thought about taking actuarial science and well, on a bad day, I still count on my fingers and have trouble both saying and spelling actuarial and I majored in English.

Math people played with blocks as children. They are very good at sequencing and all those left brain functions...but wait, Robyn is an artist where does the right brain functioning come from? Then I remembered that Robyn is a concert Cellist who also studied dance at university. I pressed her for more information on what I saw as her more creative side. ( I know that really higher math is very creative - if you have ever knit a moebius, you know what I mean)

She e-mailed me back, this is 9:30 a.m. (why virtual afternoon for a morning person) - My mother studied music - organ, my great grandfather played the Cello and my grandfather played the violin...yes music has timing and rhythm and I definitely can see a musical theme repeated with the various "passages" of the sock. There are stitches in the cuff which are echoed in the turn of the heel. Often the instep is a small refrain of the upper part of the sock...but the dance...tell me about the dance....no answer.

I blew it - no more e-mails, and just voice mail, when I called...It was just too early in the morning to think seriously about anything! So I went back to Robyn's sock patterns. I noticed that there were 5 or 6 socks with references to dance or music in their titles. I also saw lovely dancing piris in many of the fair isles. Some socks had stately quadrilles of cables and ribs, while others had quiet pas de deux passages of knit and purl. There were arabesque patterns in lace and spritely slip stitch motifs. Not to mention the lovely diagonal sashays and the sensuous curving tangos. All phrased within the sonata of the sock!

So much of the art of dance and music.... for a sock!... click, click, click...ooops I've just lost a good number of sock knitters. I only say this because a knitting friend once said to me that she never knit socks, - "Why spend all that time and money for something that is just going on your feet."

Why in deed? There is something to be said about feet that dance, even just figuratively. There is something about the uplifting of the spirit, about the energizing of the body, about the restoring of the soul (not sole). Why not create something very sublime for your feet!

Wait, is this a recent e-mail - it's after 12:00pm - morning for night people. Robyn says.......

"Socks are a compact piece of art - easily done, quickly finished and wonderful to wear. Can never go back to wearing commercially knit socks. Instant gratification for your feet!"

Robyn's patterns and kits are available from her website. Also the place to join her sock of the month club.


Give me my dancing socks - it's time to party - after all 6:00pm is close to bedtime for morning people!!! enjoy


P.S. We have a winner in the Robert Burns posting. I'll save the details for another post. You have to read the poem; enjoy the comments and know that we have a most scholarly following in this weblog. And some people think that knitting is all about rocking chairs.. well maybe "ROCKING" chairs!!!

P.P.S. Robyn e-mailed with a note on an oversight or two in this post. She says that she is a Cellist-not a concert Cellist. Well she plays the Cello in concerts. (Is this like a Viola joke?). Also Robyn points out that she thought of taking Economics and Finance, not Actuarial Science - now who was it that was going to study Actuarial Science?...maybe I should try sleeping in longer!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The disarming Venus Vest

Venus is the goddess of Love. Her other name is Aphrodite - may have something to do with aphrodisiac - not sure? I mentioned in my last post that Dorothy Siemens of Fiddlesticks Knitting has just finished a gorgeous garment called the Venus Vest- the graphs are being checked at the moment and the pattern should be available very soon.

I asked Dorothy about the finished project. She said that she was very pleased with it, although it was a difficult "birth." I think that you should hear directly from the artist how much labour and love went into this creation.

Dorothy Siemens writes:

In her blog of Monday, February 6, Carol muses on birth-the birth of a child, the birth of myth and the birth of an idea. She asks, from where do ideas come, what goes into the birth of a new design? She mentions one of my newest designs, soon to be released, which I've called the Venus Vest. I honestly can't say how this idea arose in my head. Like Venus rising from the sea, it just suddenly appeared in the middle of the night.

I spend a lot of time looking through books about ethnic clothing, wearable art, and yes, knitting magazines and books. I believe that many of the images percolate in the subconscious until a quiet moment when an idea will burst forth, seemingly spontaneously, but in reality, the brain has been working away behind the scenes. It seems almost magical at times. My idea for the Venus Vest was a bit different from what was ultimately designed. This is not unusual, in that many of my designs start as one thing and morph into another as I swatch, chart and work. The concept of an all-lace vest was retained throughout the process, though. I originally thought of it as having Empire styling, with one lace pattern ending below the bust, where the vest would nip in, and another lace pattern over the bust to the shoulders. This proved difficult to design, though, as under-bust measurements are not standardized, and furthermore, neither are busts!

I consulted my friend, Fiona Ellis about this problem, and she suggested I consider a higher line where the lace patterns changed. This made a lot of sense and had the added advantage of being much more flattering to a greater number of female figures. Now the vest could flow over the body gracefully. My original idea was to knit the lace for the body from side-to-side, so that any striping of the hand-dyed Fiddlesticks Knitting Country Silk would be vertical on the body. It also eliminated the need to sew seams at the sides, making the body all one piece from one front edge to the other. I experimented with lace patterns, since I wanted them to run vertically also. Finally, I incorporated a sawtooth lace edging at the bottom, also knit right along with the main piece. The bodice lace, a different pattern, is picked up from the body and knit to the shoulders. The only seams to sew are the shoulders, and all edgings except for the armhole edgings are knit along with the body or bodice. This followed my original concept for a vest that needed minimal sewing up.

When I write about the steps I took to design the vest, it sounds easy and quick to do. In reality, I struggled with this design, as one would with a difficult labour, before I was finally able to give birth to it. Working out the bust sizes from 35 to 54 inches, in lace, with charts for ease of working, proved to be extremely time-consuming also. But once my sample was completed, I was very happy with the result. I feel that the design meets my expectations for ease of knitting and a feminine attractiveness on a variety of figures. The name stumped me for awhile, and Carol suggested I look at mythology for inspiration. I thumbed through my thesaurus and found "Venus." It seemed just right-a graceful name, for I hope, a graceful, feminine design, rising from the sea of my subconscious to become another Fiddlesticks Knitting offering.

Thank you so much Dorothy for taking the time to write about your source of inspiration and the design process for your very elegant Venus Vest - definitely worthy of a goddess! I know that other designers will enjoy and connect with your experiences. I also know that these details will add to the knitting experience for anyone choosing to create for themselves "The Venus Vest". Keep checking Dorothy's website - the pattern and kit should be ready soon.


We also have a winner in the details of the birth of Venus - this time the goddess - question. Knitti-me wrote in the comments of yesterday's post the following:

Regarding the birth of Venus, according to Greek mythology the Titan, Kronos castrated his father Ouranos and then cast the severed genitals into the sea. From the foam that gathered around the member, Venus or Aphrodite (in Greek) emerged, fully formed.

If not fully clothed...never mind, dear, you'll look stunning in this.

Knitti-me, please send me your address so that I can send you the skein. info@infiknit.com

Still no takers for the organic cotton offerings. Where have all the poets gone?

Have a good one


Monday, February 06, 2006

Born somewhere between Bloor and Wellesley

My husband came home last night to say that a child had been born on the subway some where between Bloor and Wellesley. Now I have always considered one's lot in life to be primarily an "accident of birth". I know for many parents, birth is not an accident. It is generally a considered undertaking, with lots of preparation, lots of pain, lots of joy... all that goes into a moment we call life, which we actually happen to give at that moment!

On the other hand the offspring of all this care, pain, joy, often look upon their lot in life and say..."if only.." If only what? I had been born rich, been born here rather than there or there rather than here, been born with this and that or without this and that...the litany goes on.

I thought of the accidents of birth in literature. The first that came to mind was Ernest - from "The Importance of Being Ernest" - Oscar Wilde. He was found in a handbag at Victoria Station in London. Another "underground" or subway birth. Now Victoria station is where you get the train to either Brighton or Calais. Why Ernest could have come from anywhere - quite shocking when you think of it!

Then there was that accident with Leda and the swan. Well she ended up giving birth to Helen and her twin sister. Helen was, of course, Helen of Troy - the face that launched a thousand ships - another transportation story.

In fact, just the other day, I was musing about the birth of Venus. Dorothy Siemens of Fiddlesticks Knitting was trying to think of a name for a new vest design that she had been working on- completely finished now, almost ready to go!! I suggested something from mythology and Dorothy decided to call it the Venus Vest. If you can remember "The Birth of Venus" from the fabulous painting by Botticelli, you've got the idea. Watch for this mythical vest in Fiddlesticks Knitting Country Silk!!!

One skein of Sari "Rainbow" Silk to the first person who can post in the comments the details of the Birth of Venus. (That is: Why Venus was born in the sea?)

The Venus Vest brings me around to thoughts on the birth of ideas. Art is often considered the offspring of the artist and the gestation period varies from seconds to decades, but ideas have a conception - what causes that? and works of art have a birth - most often in a studio - but still they have been developed and nurtured over many months or many years - with much pain and\or joy. What do we use to nurture these ideas? What does the womb consist of? (OK. Of what does the womb consist?) What do we feed them? Are they genetically similar to the artist or born of an alien source like the swan?

The pictures are hanks of Marrakesh and Opal yarn from Fiddlesticks Knitting Country Silk. Dorothy has designed the Venus Vest in Marrakesh and I added Opal which is the colour of the seashell in the painting by Botticelli. Clothe yourself in Art!

Now about that baby that was born. I am happy to report that it's a girl who will be named "Mary". Can anything be more classic? She is fine, as is her mother, father and 3 siblings. They were all apparently on the way to the hospital when Mary decided to join them - ex utero.

Well fortunately there was another passenger, who recognized the mother's condition. (All had actually reached the platform at Wellesley station by that time.) Thankfully, this Good Samaritan, who had never actually delivered anyone else's children before, just her own, assisted with Mary's delivery, while Mary's father tried frantically to get someone to call 911. Now this is morning rush hour with hordes of people rushing on and off the trains. You would think that someone might have noticed and helped - not even the subway official, the one who makes sure that everyone gets squished into all those trains, had time - it took 3 more trains to get someone to call 911.

Another call, this time to the hospital, suggested that they tie off the umbilical cord with a shoelace. Again, it took a lot of coaxing and a few more trains to get someone to part with their shoelace. All of us are forever grateful to that person walking around town with 2 shoes and 1 shoelace! Well, Mary, I think that you will just have to grow up to be a very important person and show all these indifferent people, what life is really about!


Thursday, February 02, 2006

La Folie de Laine...

When I started out in the knitting business or this business of knitting, there was a small mail order yarn store in Quebec called La Folie de Laine. I once asked the owner what the name of her business was in English - not a great question since we should be a totally bilingual country - but we're not. Anyway she - sad to say I have forgotten her name - Shirley Scott will remember - said, it is difficult to translate exactly, but basically it means - "the madness of wool". What a perfect concept - maybe not a perfect translation - but WOW can I identify with "the madness of wool."

Yes, I think that we have, certainly at present, realized that raving image of insanity, in knitting. We have at our finger tips such a vast selection, such a dizzying array, such a frenzied offering of yarn - wool- that it could drive one mad. What yarn to buy? What colour to choose? What garment to knit? The fits rage on.

This is the sublime, surely. The Champs Elysees or Elysian Fields of knitting. Have we indeed reached the fashion Nirvana? It begs the question - yes Virginia - Heaven does have an opposite.

What? But wait, I haven't even had a chance to truly savour this elevated state, this "madness". Well unfortunately there is another type of craziness or madness in this business of knitting. There is the real world or the real world of business that would shake us from our lofty whirl.

There are companies that are offering all this yarn at unbelievably low prices, below - can I say it- wholesale. So what is so horrible about that, you ask? Nothing on the surface to those that need a quick fix for their passion.

This madness, though, like a mental illness, has a much deeper consequence; it permeates the fabric, no pun intended, of the industry. Like the deep discounters, large box stores, that offer goods at unbelievably low prices, they are poised to squeeze out the local - read small, specialized retailer. They force the mid-sized retailers to down-size, going with the tried and true - no experimenting here, no creativity, nothing ventured, for nothing will be gained. They push out the truly creative and substitute it with their own mundane standards. And finally when this knitting craze is over, "They(will) fold their tents, like Arabs, and silently steal away" - Longfellow.

The discounters know that the knitting business is cyclical and when it comes down off its current high, they will go back to their other sources of income and leave in their wake a crumpled industry strung out on the margins of mediocrity, wondering what happened to the "rush".

Support these companies at your peril, both designer and consumer. To have any true diversity, true depth in our lives, we must KEEP A BALANCE. Like the balance in nature, to preserve our bio-diversity, we need to conserve with effort, support with funds and nurture with time and attention. So too, to protect our fibre-diversity, we need to preserve the micro-retailer, support the bricks and motar stores -(remember they teach, creating the infrastructure we need to pursue our passion) and nurture a creative and diverse retail base that will give us the unique materials that we need to create beyond our wildest dreams!!

Would that we all could be the "Hermes" of knitting - which has nothing to do with speed, but everything to do with privilege - immune to the vagaries of everyday life. Most of us, however, will never reach this level of the sublime - we'll get stuck in the river Stix, with our needles and try to punt our way out.

To avoid this Hades - keep a balance. Keep the independent designers alive; keep your LYS alive; keep that unique ultra creative, maybe a little mad, on-line reseller alive or your legacy will be the nadir of the celestial co-ordinates. The knitting universe from Hell!

Enough said!


P.S. The pictures are from my Crazy Quilt patterns. Everyone knows that there is a fine line between creativity and madness - sometimes it is hard to know which side of the line one is on...well when it comes to knitting and yarn....hmmm what was it that they used to say about Edgar Allen Poe?