Monday, April 24, 2006

Cockroaches - what's not to love....

I had just finished posting about the crocheted coral reef when "The Women's Post" - it's a free local newspaper- arrived with an article about The Museum for Textiles here in Toronto. It seems that the museum is hosting the work of Wisconsin-based artist Jennifer Angus who has displayed her personal collection of 15,000 Southeast Asian insects (some have to be S.E. Asian cockroaches) on the walls of the museum as textile designs. The bugs are precisely arranged in patterns to emulate designs from Japanese, Egyptian and Indian textiles. I did not say "It's enough to drive you buggy" - someone else did.

Yes Virginia, every spot or line you see is actually a bug - amazing!
To see more use this link and click on the photos of the bugs!

The time taken to mount the exhibition alone is awe inspiring. The fact that these are actually preserved insects, may reach the sublime. Jennifer's message is: Preservation of the Rainforests. These bugs apparently play a vital role in preserving the rainforests because they reproduce very quickly pollinating flowers and decomposing matter to keep the rainforests alive, vibrant and disease free. I presume that they were harvested after their work had been done to play yet another role in sending an environmental message, through Art, around the world.

I have a pattern for a knitted butterfly. I wonder if you could knit a few hundred of these and assemble them as a wall hanging with a message. Ooops, just added another must do before I die project - that probably makes 857 give or take a few. Now where is that pattern or the beginning of the list, for that matter?

Save the world with a crochet hook?

I came across an article in the newspaper on the weekend about an institute in California - The Institute for Figuring, which is doing, among many things, a crocheted coral reef. It is a project that is both mathematical and environmental. The project is being co-ordinated to call attention to global warming and its disasterous effect on the fragile coral reef in Northern Australia. (environmental) You are invited to submit crocheted pieces to the project, however, they must be based on hyperbolic crochet .(mathematical)

The pictures are fabulous! I would love to do something like this in knitting. Any co-ordinators out there?

The concept of trying to heal the world in some way through our art is an amazing concept. I know that a lot of knitters and crocheters regularly contribute to social causes, such as, Blanket Canada - donating knitted squares to be assembled into blankets for the homeless.

This year, many artists participated in "Knit for the Cure" which in Canada - "" raised over $22,000.00 for breast cancer research - many thank-yous again to all who participated.

Even though to date, we haven't, through needlework, been able to stop wars, curb the destruction of rain forests or correct the myriad of the social problems that effect us closer to home; still many of us use our skills in awe inspiring ways to make a difference. Please post any campaigns that you know exist for knitters or crocheters to make a difference in your area.

I actually sat down one day and figured out the number of stitches that went into a fair isle sweater that I had just finished for my husband - it was around 75,000. Multiply this figure by the number of sweaters knit in a year by the number of knitters and you have quite a formidable force. The task remains to harness this force and direct it towards the greatest good.

Now where is that crochet hook?


Friday, April 21, 2006

Happy Birthday HRH

Today is Queen Elizabeth II's 80th birthday. It is the day on which she was actually born, but for some strange reason the formal celebration of this day is in June. I could never quite figure that one out.

A royal birthday suggests something regal and what better than a "cuppa" high tea brewed under a monarch's tea cozy. I actually knit this years ago from scrap yarns and never bothered to write down the pattern, but I think this is what I did.

It is worked back and forth in 2 pieces. Measure with a length of yarn held in a circle the diameter needed to pass over the teapot's spout and handle, maybe with a little stretching and angling. Divide in half and cast on stitches to make one side of cozy. Work 3 to 7 ribs of garter stitch (for a S, M or L pot) in gold. Join contrast yarn(purple) and work in stocking stitch for 1, 2 or 3 ins. Begin decreasing as follows: K2. SSK. Knit to centre 3 sts. Sl 1. K 2tog. PSSO. Knit to last 4 sts. K 2tog. K2. Repeat every other row intil 5 sts on needle. Leave sts on spare needle and repeat for other side. Graph top sts together to join sides and stitch 1" on either side of top join to make join a little longer.

For gold brackets make 4 strips of 2 garter stitch ribs each by castin on enough stitches to reach top of cozy plus 1\3 more (this allows for top detail and arching of brackets.) Brackets may be knit into the base of the crown or stitched on after. Join brackets at top by folding over about 8 sts at top end of bracket and tacking fold down. The loose end of the fold will stand up to make 1 of 4 points at the top of the crown. Tack brackets to top of cozy. Make "jewels" in scrap yarn of different colours by casting on 10-12 sts. knitting 1 row and casting of. Join in a circle and tack to base and brackets at suitable intervals. Join base of cozy and enjoy.

The other picture is a crown toilet roll cover. It was part of a show co-ordinated by Lucy Neatby for the Mary E. Black gallery in NS. Lucy asked designers and designer wannabees to design a toilet roll cover in knitting - not crochet. It was a little "tongue in cheek" take off on the crocheted versions. This was my contribution. It's similar to the tea cozy ( I can't remember which came first.) but beaded and knit in the round. You can see some of the other entries - this one included at the link below. It was fun and a long time ago. I think we need another one - any takers?

Enjoy Carol

Monday, April 17, 2006

Coffee Cozy by Sarah James Patterns

Here is our first designer coffee cozy. Ann, designer of Sarah James Patterns, has kindly given us the pattern for her basic coffee cup cover. Thank you so much! To see more cozies, beyond the basic, curser down to the bottom of this page on Sarah James' site. The pattern may be ordered from your favourite yarn retailer. It's gorgeous!

Knit up this cozy to add a fabulous "designer look" to those everyday coffee containers

You will need: One empty 12 ounce coffee container.

Yarn: One 50 gram ball of sock yarn for basic cozy.

Needles: One set of U.S. size 4 double pointed. One stitch marker and daring needle.

On DP needles cast on 16 sts and work as foll:
* K2, P2*, rep * to * across row. Repeat the last row till work is 4” in height. Swatch should = 4” in width.
Change needles to obtain gauge if needed.
Instructions are given for 12 ounce cozy.

Basic Cozy:
Use a double strand of sock yarn throughout. Cozy is worked in the round just like a sock.
Cast on 44 Sts and divided evenly onto double point needles. Place a marker to designate start of round.
Round 1: * K2, P2 *, repeat * to * around.
Repeat round one throughout.
When cozy measures 3½” from cast on, bind of loosely in rib pattern.
Turn cozy inside out and weave in all ends.
Turn cozy right side out.

Put your cozy on the empty container, you now have a coffee container cozy.
When you get your coffee (same size as your container) place it inside your empty container.

Thank you so much again for this great pattern. Be sure to tell everyone about Sarah James' patterns - they sparkle!

Enjoy Carol

Sunshine and Lollipops

I thought that you might like some eye candy, just in case you didn't get any treats from the Easter bunny. Here are two new scarves from Fiddlesticks Knitting which can be joined with a twist to form Mobius'. I think it's tricky to make that one plural. What was even trickier was trying to name the pattern. We started out with "Twice as Nice" and "Twisted Twins". Well the former was OK, but didn't really sparkle, whereas the latter was just a little too weird. I needed my thinking cap. I began picturing summer things, warm weather, skinny tops, strawberries, ice cubes, fizzy drinks with swizzle sticks. I said "Swizzlers" to Dorothy and she immediately responded with Twizzlers - scarves with a twist!

Both scarves are knit in Fiddlesticks Knitting Country Silk - demi. One demi skein will make one scarf - shown here in Teal and Copper. We should have Cream Soda available in the demi skeins soon, as well - swirl it up into one of these!

Lucy Neatby has a new scarf out too, Lollipops. It's a fun knit and a great way to use up bits of your stash. Nothing is ever predictable with Lucy's work, so I am not going to give away the secret of how the lollipops are attached to the scarf - it's very clever!

Hope that you're having great weather - we are! Enjoy Carol

Monday, April 10, 2006

Of cats, spats and Cream Soda

The story about Sir Humphrey reminded me of a poem by T.S. Eliot in his book "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats" - the basis of the musical "Cats". In fact I had had this particular cat in mind when I designed one of my cat mittens. Here is the first verse of the poem and the mitten.

Bustopher Jones: The Cat About Town

Bustopher Jones is not skin and bones--
In fact, he's remarkably fat.
He doesn't haunt pubs--he has eight or nine clubs,
For he's the St. James's Street Cat!
He's the Cat we all greet as he walks down the street
In his coat of fastidious black:
No commonplace mousers have such well-cut trousers
Or such an impeccable back.
In the whole of St. James's the smartest of names is
The name of this Brummell of Cats;
And we're all of us proud to be nodded or bowed to
By Bustopher Jones in white spats!

Not quite the same cat, though both were Jellicles. The location, I believe, is the same as that cruised by Sir Humphrey - St James. Also in the book by T.S. Eliot is a wonderful poem about Jellicle cats - "The Song of the Jellicles" It's really worth a read!

Also if you wanted to know more about the origin of the name "jellicle" and the funnier side of T.S. Eliot, here is a clip from a British paper written in 2002.

On the left is the sock version of a jellicle, the face is on the top side of the foot of the sock, so the cat "looks" at you, when you put your feet up. The sock is knit back and forth on two needles to make it easier to knit the face details.

Enough of mittens, though, and heavy socks. It's Spring and the temperature is rising so I had to show you a new colour of Fiddlesticks Knitting Country Silk - Cream Soda, created especially for warm weather knitting. A whisper of a shawl in this colour maybe all that's needed at a garden party or summer wedding.

Enjoy. Carol

Sunday, April 09, 2006

A Cat for All Seasons

Perhaps you've heard of Sir Humphrey Appleby, the infamous cat of 10 Downing St. Well I hadn't and I was amazed to read an article about him in a magazine recently. Apparently Sir Humphrey has been around for a long time. He appeared one day at the front door of the aforementioned address, when Margaret Thatcher was in residence. Well forget about all this "iron lady" stuff, she was really a pussycat at heart - or at least she had a soft spot for cats, especially a lonely black and white Jellicle, without a calling card. He was admitted (I can almost see him winking over his shoulder as he entered). He wasn't given a mat by the fire, immediately, in fact he was sequestered at 70 Whitehall Rd., the accommodation officer's quarters, where he immediately took up the position of "Cat in Residence." This actually is a bone fide position dating from the time of Henry VIII.

Sir Humphrey brought such grace and feline wisdom to the position that he was often allowed to sleep on the floor during cabinet meetings. No doubt his very presence enhanced their decision making. It was never actually documented that he had had an audience with the queen, but he did receive fan mail from around the world and even had a poem dedicated to him.

Once, however, he went missing for several days. The tabloids went "wild", posting pictures of Sir Humphrey, writing columns extolling his virtues and pleading for his "return". Well - the cat came back. His picture right there in black and white (he was a jellicle) in the Daily Telegraph, showed the London Bobbie (policeman) who had picked him up as a stray and brought him home-Sir Humphrey had a charmed life- that he really was a cat of renown and needed to get back to his duties. Once back at Whitehall he lived through the terms of a Prime Minister or two until he met the equally infamous - drum roll please - Cherie Blair, wife of the current PM, Tony Blair.

Sir Humphrey was "let go", no ejected somewhat unceremoniously onto the street from whence he had come so many years before. I can almost hear Cherie Blair repeating the words of Lady Macbeth on hearing of the murder of Duncan, "What in our house?"

Alas, sad indeed, that someone so wonderful could meet such an ignominious end. But wait, what's this. A photographer, a host of journalists, an invitaion to return? Yes, apparently, when an article appeared in yet another paper about Sir Humphrey' s eviction, the British public was aghast and demanded his reinstatement. Ms Blair was forced, I guess is the only word, into a photo op, posing with Sir Humphrey in her arms saying "Nice Kitty, it was all a bad mistake". I can see him winking again.

With that, he was allowed to stay and live out his days among the elite. Sadly, though, after 17 years of notoriety, Sir Humphrey died in March of this year. Cheers to a life well lived.

I have decided to dedicate my first coffee coat to Sir Humphrey. Sorry the cats aren't black and white; but really, it's the spirit that counts.

I used 4mm circular needles and worsted weight yarn. It's a little bigger than I wanted, so it will go on a large coffee cup. I think it was the short circular that was the struggle. You may want to use a set of 5 dps or knit it straight and sew it together.

Cast on 36 sts. Knit 2 garter stitch ribs (4 rows). Change to main colour (white) and increase 1 stitch every 9 sts. (40 sts on needle) Begin graph. The first stitch in the background colour is knit the first round and then purled the second round. I think that it makes a better nose. Then a row or so later the "nose" stitch is increased to create 2 stitches separating the eyes. When the graph is completed. Knit 3 more rows in the background colour, increasing 1 stitch every 12 stitches in the last round. (52 sts. on the needles) Work 2 more garter stitch ribs, cast off and drink a toast to Sir Humphrey. It works for cold drinks too.

Have a good one. Carol

PS the photo is from MacLean's magazine April 3, 2006.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Snuffiest of Snowdrops

When we use the superlative have we reached the sublime? I think we may have here. This is a link to a site with a wonderful picture of Snowdrops and a lovely poem about Snowdrops. I think that the poet must have distilled the essence of "snowdrop-ness" and had it drip (by drops) into her creative spirit. To me the poem captures the power and simplicity of this tiny white flower, which the Romans believed came down from heaven - divine indeed.

Here also is my attempt at capturing snowdrops in fair isle. I am actually quite pleased with the arching effect. It makes them look a little angelic.

Below is another poem about Snowdrops. Read this only if you like, rather love, 5 colour carries. It is as complex and convoluted as multiple yarn stranding. Really a little too much for such a small simple flower. It's by William Wordsworth. This one doesn't turn up often in anthologies - no wonder.

On Seeing a Tuft of Snowdrops in a Storm
When haughty expectations prostrate lie,
And grandeur crouches like a guilty thing,
Oft shall the lowly weak, till nature bring Mature release,
in fair society Survive, and Fortune's utmost anger try;
Like these frail snowdrops that together cling,
And nod their helmets, smitten by the wing
Of many a furious whirl-blast sweeping by.
Observe the faithful flowers! if small to great
May lead the thoughts, thus struggling used to stand
The Emathian phalanx, nobly obstinate;
And so the bright immortal Theban band,
Whom onset, fiercely urged at Jove's command,
Might overwhelm, but could not separate!

You may also have noticed a little poem about Scilla on Joann Macken's site. Scilla (or is it Scillae) carpet the ground about the same time as the Snowdrops do. I think that I'll try a little fair isle pattern to suggest a carpet of blue Scilla(e?) Maybe I'm on a little design "roll" here - let's see.

Here is the graph for the Snowdrops in fair isle. The background is blue. The X is green and the / is white.

Now back to data entry. The new site is almost ready.

Have a good one! Carol