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Archive for June, 2011

I absolutely love catching a glimpse of the brain in action, sneaking up on it actually doing one of those things we take for granted most of the time. Thinking, joking, jumping to conclusions, making connections…

A couple of weeks ago I caught it taking a short-cut. I was reading about the German E-coli outbreak in the online edition of the Guardian, and my eye glanced at the right-hand column which shows the most-read stories of the 24-hour period. I could have sworn I saw an article entitled “deadly tomatoes hit Massachusetts”.

Hurrying over to read the story, I found mere ordinary tornadoes. Which would probably have occurred to me first, had I not been softened up by fatal fruit and veg on the other side of the screen. Oddly, I just checked, and I’m still reading ‘tomatoes’ for ‘tornadoes’ when I do a Google search on that story.

So to today. This morning I read on the BBC site about a self-portrait of Vincent van Gogh that has now been identified as probably in fact a painting of his brother Theo. Here they both are:

My brain went on processing the images, clearly, long after I’d moved on to other tasks. Later in the day, I decided to catch up with what was happening at Wimbledon, and I have to say, I was pretty surprised to see Vincent sitting in the crowd.

Or maybe it was Theo. The jury’s out. The outfit definitely looks like Vincent’s, but the coloring is more Theo, and I’m not sure about the ear…

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Strange as it seems, even to myself, a few years ago, I did no crafting at all. None. I couldn’t knit; I didn’t bash metal; I didn’t know one end of a spinning wheel from the other, and I wouldn’t have known my lino from my litho if it bit me.This, after a childhood and adolescence spent almost entirely amidst craft materials. As a child, I stole the soap from the bathroom to carve into some kind of printing block in the middle of the night with my penknife. I spent my pocket-money in the hardware store on fuse wire, to bend and sculpt. I plagued my mother for months to save onion skins to use as a dyestuff (giving up when I realized that a) an entire toy-chest full wasn’t enough to dye so much as a t-shirt, and b) I had no idea how to access any kind of mordant in those pre-internet days). I calligraphed and illuminated my way through my teenage years, occasionally dabbled as a student in watercolor and acrylic (increasingly embarrassed, this was pretty much as covert as the soap-carving phase), and then… I gave up. I went into ‘making’-latency for about fifteen years. How ever could I have imagined I was me?

I guess, mostly, I was busy elsewhere. I was very much a word person during that phase of my life, and struggling to maintain equilibrium in a foreign-language environment (yes, I spoke the language in question – I even earned my living translating from it), but it drained my creativity to live, essentially, alienated from myself.

Also, I was making several other things. Like this.

Don’t you just love the cute father/daughter nose?

Anyway, that one is six today. Quite the competent young miss, off to school in the mornings, full of the joys of being six. Full of hope. Full of potential. With all the doors of life still open.

Look: I was making great stuff back then, now I think about it.

And here’s one I made today: this is drypoint, printed on the pasta machine press.

Happy birthday, my sweet.

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I’ve had so many things going on over the last few months that I’ve mostly failed to blog about any of them. I’d like to say it’s because I’ve been too busy doing to be writing, but mostly, it’s been more a matter of failing to organize my thoughts well enough to write them down. And then, time goes by, and with it another project (or ten) and the moment passes.

Anyway, here’s another ‘one I made earlier’. It started with a shawl. No, further back, it started with a KAL on Ravelry in the group devoted to probably my absolute favorite dyer, Twisted Fiber Arts. (Seriously: I can’t in all honesty recommend clicking that link. It’s not safe. Your money, possibly your life-savings and the deeds to your house, will be in the hand of the ultra-talented Meg before you can say “CVV number”). A Ravelry friend had destashed a double-length ‘Evolution’ skein to me a few months ago, and here was a chance to use it. These are skeins dyed in a gently evolving gradient of colors, some of which can be quite alarming on their own, but which always seem to work miraculously as a continuum. I really don’t know how Meg does it, but she does, time after time.

While I was as unsure as my friend had been about the colors (it was the salmon pink on one end of the gradient that bothered me), I was sure of two things: one, the yarn itself was an exceptionally high-quality blend of merino and silk that would be a pleasure to knit with (even in salmon pink); two, the final combination would probably prove as entrancing as every other TFA yarn I’ve used (and if not, would make a great gift). Also, I seem unable to resist a KAL, although I’m not sure why, and daren’t stop to analyse it. So, given that I had no other clear plans for 660 yards of luxury yarn in a random color I didn’t think I liked very much, I joined in and set to making a ‘crazy lace’ Citron shawl.

Now, Citron is a shawl of mind-bogglingly boring construction and curiously satisfying effect. It is semi-circular and comprises alternating sections of plain stockinette with sections of ruched stockinette (i.e. twice as much endless stockinette per inch of fabric). And of course, being a shawl, that means it’s knit flat, which in turn means that half of all that endless stockinette needs to be purled. Yay. Go me for the project from Hell.  Well, crazy lace improves it considerably. It means that you replace the normal stockinette portions with whatever lace chart you can fit into the stitch count and eight or ten rows. That’s pretty good fun, and suits me very well, as I’ve noticed I tend to get a tad bored with a lace pattern that repeats itself more than about four times. Also, I decided to use the ruched portions (which would, while eating yarn, and taking hours, also at least hide a multitude of sins) to learn to knit in the continental style, with the yarn in my left hand. (This in preparation for a humungous colorwork project – another KAL – about which, certainly, more soon.)

So, anyway – cutting to the chase, eventually I had a semi-circular shawl that used 657 of my 660 yards, and where the final section rows were 650 stitches long. That’s a LOT of stitches to purl. But hey, the yarn was nice, and the long rows made short work of the salmon pink, and lo! the whole thing was soft, an interesting color, and a pleasure to wear.

At least, it would have been if the dratted thing hadn’t kept slipping off my shoulder every few minutes. It’s a problem as old as humans wearing garments, I suspect, and the solution is a pin.

Now, shawl pins I do have. I’ve made several since I started metalworking and collecting handknit shawls. But none of them was right for this shawl. And I did have plans to try out another design, which looked as though it would do the trick.

So I went back to approximately the third century, and whipped up a Romano-Celtic classic: a pennanular cloak-pin in sterling silver. You pin the shawl, and then twist the ring closed to secure it. It does the job perfectly. Simple, but effective.

I am utterly thrilled with the notion that a design so simple, and so ancient still works and still has a job to do for someone living in the twenty-first century, and I’m tickled that, despite the many centuries of technological advances made by other people, it’s still pretty close to cutting-edge for my own humble metalworking skills. And as a side-note, I’m additionally more than a little amused at quite how perplexed the other students in my class are by my predilection for  such peculiar artefacts.

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