Knotty Bits: Knit Crit Essays (or Long Winding Yarns)

New year, new energy, new ideas! Knotty Bits will be a recurring feature of the hAMImono blog focusing on controversies in knitting. Lots of people “preach to the choir” about the joys of knitting. As an ardent choirmember, I sing the praises of fiber and fibre play as well. However, I notice a gap among the community of barmy yarners in addressing knitting as seen and experienced through the eyes of the majority world of non-knitters. The knitting minority lives with and among non-knitters and must, in some way, mediate/negotiate/interpret the craft with them. There are aspects of this which lead to tension, misunderstanding, and in some cases, discrimination. Those issues are what we will address in Knotty Bits.

Real knitters love to knit, appreciate knitting as a structure and art, and have an urge to practice their craft. True knitters will, in the absence of proper materials, knit with sticks and grass, or pens and twine, or shishkabob skewers and kitchen string, or chopsticks and ramen. (Disclosure: guilty on all counts). Once stricken, dedicated knitters are passionate about knitting and will knit when not otherwise engaged. Take me, for example. I am about as far from the demographic of the steretyped grandma-in-a-rocking-chair-knitter-of-gaudy-polyester-potholders as possible. Not old, not female, not sedentary, not devoid of taste. Why do I knit? Fascination with the architecture of the stitch, the evolving structure, process of planning and creating and editing to closure, and the knitting-with-breath zen/meditative aspect of the act itself. I am well aware that I could achieve the same experience with almost any strong interest properly executed but it is knitting that does it best for me. Those who have uttered to cliché that “knitting is the new yoga” are trying, in vain, to verbalize the “zone” of the artist/athlete/thinker in process. Impossible. One might as well try to truly explain ecstasy, or grief, or sublimity. All transcend language.

So. one either “gets it.” Or not. But the “not” is not necessarily a fixed-forever thing. Barring a stereotyped barrier (“Guys don’t knit.” “Knitting is for sedentary couch potatoes.” “It’s a weird granny thing.” “Knitting is boring.” “I can’t do that.”), one can be introduced to knitting and knit-art, or “re-see” them if knitters and knit communities can frame them thoughtfully. Art, fashion, design, and decoration are all ways of expressing emotions for which we have limited vocabulary. Knitting falls into all of these groups, thus is an expression, a language. Unfortunately, it isn’t a language that everyone speaks.

Which brings me to the contemporary street art of “yarn bombing.” Like many young knitters, I revel in a concept of yarn art that is populist, naive, ubiquitous, celebratory, and subversive/inexplicable. I get that the spontaneous eruption of color and “sweatering” of inanimate objects can reframe sites and the art for both knitters and non-knitters. Alternately, I am conflicted. Primarily, I find most of it—- like most, but not all graffitti— ugly: too bright, too random, too slapdash, too unreflective of the site, too susceptible to an even more unattractive degradation in the elements, too divorced from accessible concept. Secondarily, I irrationally bemoan the hours of time and miles of yarn wasted on something that is often kind of pointless. Lest you misunderstand, let me elaborate on my complaints. Bright colors are not bad but there is bright and there is bright. I admit to not being a fan of bright color in general, except for the POC (pop of color) design technique. Rather than whatever-random-yarn-was-available, I would rather there be a palette or color story or some aesthetic that engages with the site or background. Yarn bombs, because they are often applied in unusual conditions, on irregular shapes, in darkness, in a hurry, are often applied crudely, often broadly mattress-stitched together. An example that looks really ugly to meAnother ugh-ly example. And a lesser offender. Don’t mind this one as muchTacky: looked better before. Stupid and pointless. Everything on this page is ugly, inharmonious, and cheap-looking. Really? As for degradation, as a native of New Orleans, I am an afficionado of the elegant decadence of degradation: the mossy tree, the moldy wall, the patina-ed spout, the pitted brick, the faded poster, the tattered flag. Filthy unraveling polyester, on the other hand, looks like none of those things. Concept: is there a goal for this art experience (other than promoting a business or busying the restless fingers of the youth)? Is it one that people can/will access? Will it potentially lead to dialogue and community (transparent, uniting, including), or division and opacity and exclusivity?

Just to let you know I’m not a complete crank, here are what I consider good examples of “point-ful” yarn bombing: decorating a park with items for anyone to use/recycleI love and totally understand and appreciate these,  artful and color-sensible, huge collection of both good and hideous examples here.

In summary, I like the idea of yarn-bombing. In practice, I want the knit-work to be well and thoughtfully placed and executed for maximum engagement. I don’t want it to be a) pointless and b) uglier than what was there to begin with. I want non-knitters and knitters to have a conceptual and aesthetic bridge to Knit-iopia!

Do I have a point? Am I knit-picking? Am I just stitch-bitching?



My Top Ten Audio Knitcasts for 2009

Last year was a great year for solid and enjoyable knitcasts.  I want to share my top fifteen (or so) list for good knitcasts and then a couple of others as well.

#1 is my guilty pleasure. They may not be highfalutin but Lime & Violet never fail to educate, entertain, and enlighten. Brimming with knit-energy, Starbucks, and gin, these foul-tongued fiberistas got it going on 24/7.  Even tho Lime ain’t been heard from in many a moon, Carin does her best to contain and channel that force of nature that the world knows as Violet (but Sideshow Husband knows as “The Chesticle Host”).  God bless em, these gals’ll be rich n’ famous one day (as opposed to poor and . . .)!

#2 would be on anyone’s list, and almost always is. Number one under “knitting” in iTunes search is Cast On with Brenda Dayne. Long-time caster and a smooth-throated master, Brenda casts out a professional airing every time. Ask anyone.

#3 is David Reidy’s Sticks and String. The guy is so knice, and knowledgable, and knit-busy that I defy you to not be pulled into his bustling Sydney circle. It’s all so well organized and seamless that you feel like you are at the best yarn party every time you listen. His essays are always sensible and vehicles for the “that’s right” insight.

#4 is Stash and Burn. Jenny and Nicole are SF yarnettes with know-how and charm. Phocused yet phun.

#5 is a newbie but already on the lips and iPods of many a string-picker (or thrower, as the case may be): Never Not Knitting. Alana is a pro who share her largesse with the world with creativity and verve.  Seriously, look at her blog: this gal can really knit! Inspirational and elegant.

#6- Knit Spirit

#7- Knit Picks– Top in iTunes under ‘knit”

#8- It’s a Purl, Man

#9- YKnit

#10- Knit Obsession with ZKnits

Honorable Mention for Sheer Heart: Knaked Knits and Knitting at Night

Podcasts that are good as far as they go but have dissappointingly podfaded: Unwound, Yarn Thing, Knitters Uncensored, and SSK

Podcats that I really really really want to like and have listened to every episode but think are just boring every time I do: Stitch Stud and his Bride (who’s the “stud” and where’s the “bride”?-  overly earnest and monotone) . Sorry guy, it’s just dull . . . Infrequent schedule hurts this one as well.

Sweaters for Dragons– I must admit that I’ve never really gotten the dragon/sweater connection. Eric, you are funny when you are with Violet but (I take responsibility here), I may not be geeky enough to appreciate your infrequent, Star Trek-infused podcast. Actually, these last two may be examples of the difficulty of making an good single-presenter podcast. Unless you are really a fascinating speaker (ex. Brenda, Kelley, David), a conversation is usually more interesting.  

More later. My fingers are itching to knit.

Cool Vest or Hot Mess?

Back on track. Have been very busy for a while and unable to really write this blog correctly. I’m back now for a few months (my work cycle is very cyclic . . .) and have lots of time to knit.

As I’ve said before, I’m really not a collector of anything, so not a stash person. I like knitting a project from beginning to end. For me it’s about the interplay of the colors and textures on the needles; uncommitted balls of yarn look kind of lifeless IMO. But, despite my spartan outlook, yes, I have amassed bits and pieces from previous projects. These were bothering me as they were on the verge of  assuming “stash” status, thus ruining my stash-free reputation. Over the new year’s holiday, I got a great idea. I dumped all the bits out onto a shelf, and culled out anything not at least 80% wool, anything too bulky or lace weight, and any very bright colors or black. Then I sorted the yarn into color groupings: blue/grey, green/blue-green, brown/rust/tan, cream (no bright white), and Noro ends with red and black removed. I lined them up and first cut them into 4 metre lengths and then tied these together with square knots, moving in order from group to group and then repeating. I plan to let those ends show in a regular pattern on the front of the work. The resulting yarn is one that I like very much. Reminds me of the sophisticated striping motifs used by Missoni. but also has a bit of the raggity look of used sari yarn. 

The un-stash


Enjoined Yarn

Ends Swatch

 Swatch Close-up

Interesting side note: Livejournal diva/sage sleepsong noticed fron this pic that I had been purling the wrong way, causing a twist in each stitch. I am so grateful. I might have gone on forever screwing up project after project in ignorant bliss! I spent all yesterday doing purl swatches to get the right way into my fingers. It is amazing how much better my knitting looks now! (Duh!)

Thinking of making a sweater vest for me out of this glorious ragtag yarn. Can see it really popping with a brown turtle-neck! Here’s the thing: the last few sweater vests I’ve made,  I’ve thought that the Noro or other striped yarns I like have not offered a flattering horizontal stripe across my body. Anyone relate to that? So, I’d like to do a sweater knit from side-to-side to make my new yarn stripe vertically. Subequent to writing  this I have decide on the Bold Zebra pattern from Guy Knits , done in the vest design from Knitting with Balls. It really allows a striping effect of alternating yarns that I really like while still emphasizing the vertical up and down lines without being knit side-to side. I think this will be a cool vest.

Readers Demand Full Disclosure!

After the last entry, reader Luneray incisively wrote in to say: 

What, no pics of the portrait on the building? That’s almost as interesting as your thrift-score sweaters!

Well, we here at the hAMImono main offices aim to please, so here is the aforementioned official sign/portrait:

Don't Worry! We aim to please! You aim too, please!

Don't worry, the Iwata Shop will recycle anything!

Sign says: Anshin desu. Benriya desu. Nandemo katazukemasu.
Iwata-ya Tel 402-6848
Translation: Don’t worry. This is a convenient shop. We will take absolutely anything off your hands.
Iwata Shop Tel 402-6848
Also, here is a pic of the whole place. looks like a junk pile but is actually a labyrinth of hidden treasures!
Iwataya Recycle Shop

Iwataya Recycle Shop

Again, thanks to reader Luneray for zeroing in on the heart of the previous posting and bringing this lapse to public attention. Her scrutiny has enhanced our lives.

New FOs and Mad Skills

Long time, no see.  Been knittin’ n workin’ n livin’. Finished new projects. First the Noro Seaming practice sweater:

Noro Practice Seaming Vest

Noro Practice Seaming Vest

Love seaming! Picking up stitches- not so much. Lack of technique?

Next up, this, the Arty Sparkle Sweater Vest:

Arty Sparkle Italian Vest

Arty Sparkle Italian Vest

detail of i-corded collar and sporty button

detail of i-corded collar and sporty button

This was a sale yarn from long ago. Lots of it. Black wool, thick and thin, with bits of iridescent sparkle. Fun, huh? No! A nightmare to knit. Splitty, couldn’t see it, … Finally I got tired of fighting with the knitting and decided to deep-six the whole binful by machine knitting a sweater vest. I machine-knit six panels, seamed them together, ribbed the bottom, i-corded free-form around the neck and armholes. Love the result. Warm vest. Learned a lot!

Next on to Forks in the Road from Guy Knits and then manfully forward to the Knee Length Coat. Recently inspired by news of a completed coat by Uvon of Ravelry. His looks really great. Can I do as well?

New Inspirations

This summer was a big lift for me, knitting-wise. I really speeded up my knitting, making it much more fun. I discovered that while cotton and I will not be soulmates, we can at least be friends. I learned alot more about new techniques and EZ’s various projects. Worked diligently through three (count em!) three different  wool and sizes of baby Surprise Jackets. Currently, making the EZ Snail Hat to match one of them.

Lil Skunk Toddler Surprise Jacket

Lil Skunk Toddler Surprise Jacket

I’ve begun a vest in Silk Garden yarn to rev up my attempt to do the Knee-length Coat in Silk Garden. I’m concerned about the seaming . . . but, happily, I have a lot of support from Alana and the gang at the NeverNotKnitting fan forum on Ravelry. Just between you and me, I don’t know if i would go for it if they weren’t there to support me. It’s been a very helpful group so far, knowledgable and friendly. But then, that seems to be the rule with knitters, not sure why . . . 

Mango Lace

Mango Lace

The Sunset Picnic lace yarn Series

The Sunset Picnic lace yarn Series

Got two great samplers of lace yarns from Knit Picks, one in blues and greens, one in reds and salmons. Both rich and sophisticated palates. First thing I had to de-skein all of them and came up with a good system for these really fine-easily tangled yarns. After balling them on my yarn-baller, I get a fine plastic mesh food strainer bag (we use them in the drains of Japanese sinks), pull the bottom through the center of the yarnball and wrap the rest around the ball. Keeps the yarn from tangling/falling apart but allows it to feed to the work. Good system for me! I’ve started Miriam Felton’s Seraphim Shawl in the red series and am planning to use a bit of all the red/salmon yarns in the shawl. The series goes like this: Shadow (100% merino) Sunset Heather, shading into Gloss Lace (70% merino, 30% silk) Chipotle, shading into Shadow Hot Rod, shading into Alpaca Cloud (100% baby alpaca) Papaya, shading into Shimmer (70% baby alpaca, 30% silk) Sunkissed, shading into Gloss Lace Mango. Have also started the same shawl in Filatura di Crosa mohair fingering weight #3001, an opalescent blue-grey shading into lavenders and pale pinks. Why two? Well, this lace knitting is some fine and tedious shit. Even with sharp Addi Turbos, each stitch is hard to see and pick up, easy to split and will take beyond my life expectancy to complete. When I cast on the same thing in my favorite yarn, even though it is mohair and I know lots of people have issues with that, I had doubled what I did with the other within twenty minutes. Encouraging! So, I will continue with this lace spiderwebby stuff as practice but will actually get a shawl in reasonable time out of my workhorse fingering yarn. That works for me.

Winter Diamond FO: Sofa Rug, or Shoulder Shrug?

Finished the Ghost Cable Winter Diamond Room Throw today! My design. Fun and easy to knit. I say it again, recycled yarn is a great way to go.

Sofa rug or shoulder shrug?!

Sofa rug or shoulder shrug?!

It’s a very easy pattern, based on the Lion Brand Baby Love Diagonal Baby Blanket. The center has progressive cable fragments, called “ghost” or “shadow” cables, drifting sinuously to and fro. The many cables pull the square into a long diamond, great as a sofa topper or shoulder cozy in the chill of winter. 

Sofa rug? Shoulder shrug? Your choice. The icy gale shall not prevail! 

Check my Ravelry page for more pics and info on this project.

Finished edging the Origami Hat and Scarf with i-cord . . .

Origami Scarf and Hat with i-cord trim

So now on to BSJ, complete with i-cord trim. (But, may *lacivious wink* cast on Seraphim Shawl today . . .)

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