Thursday, December 10, 2009

Winter Tree

Cut from a watercolor done by Janet Lindell


You're wondering if I'm lonely:
OK then, yes, I'm lonely

as a plane rides lonely and level
on its radio beam, aiming
across the Rockies
for the blue-strung aisles
of an airfield on the ocean.

You want to ask, am I lonely?

Well, of course, lonely
as a woman driving across country
day after day, leaving behind

mile after mile
little towns she might have stopped
and lived and died in, lonely

If I'm lonely

it must be the loneliness
of waking first, of breathing
dawns' first cold breath on the city
of being the one awake
in a house wrapped in sleep

If I'm lonely
it's with the rowboat ice-fast on the shore
in the last red light of the year
that knows what it is, that knows it's neither
ice nor mud nor winter light
but wood, with a gift for burning

Adrienne Rich
Diving Into The Wreck

Thursday, December 3, 2009

when I am among the trees

Birthday card for a friend inspired by a Mary Oliver poem.

When I Am Among the Trees

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness,
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, "Stay awhile."
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, "It's simple," they say,
"and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine."

~ Mary Oliver ~

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

let it snow let it snow let it snow

It all started when my friend Anne gave me a waterlogged copy of a pop-up book called Leonardo DaVinci, A Three-Dimensional Study. Sadly, Leonardo did not make pop-up books, but his 3D geometrical designs inspired me to make a 3D snowflake. My kids told me that snowflakes were flat, but I took artistic license with the subject anyway. Besides, they look all fluffy and big when they are falling from the sky and school is about to be canceled.

I took to my studio determined to recreate the feeling of the design. It reminds me of translating poetry. There's no way to duplicate it, but you try to capture the spirit of the thing in your own native language. What I found out in this process is that I really should have paid better attention in geometry class. Guessing got me nowhere. I had to be precise to get the angles and the movement right. I used Adobe Illustrator to do my measuring for me on the basic structure. I looked to The Elements of Pop-up by David Carter as my reference for creating a stable platform, strong enough to support the fully extending snowflake as it opened. At first my base was too high and looked awkward, but I didn't give up the idea of the two different levels of the structure. I'm enchanted by the fact that something completely flat can be tall and multi-directional when opened. I don't think pop-ups have to be complex to achieve this, but they do have to be interesting.

I'm pretty happy with my little snowflake. Now that I have it drawn up in Illustrator, I can recreate it easily whether I hand cut it or use my CraftRobo to do it. I can now make minor tweaks as needed or take a completely different direction, using the structure to make a flower or a tree. Of course I would never make two of my snowflakes exactly alike.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The devil made me do it. again.

A simple request: I want to be the "soccer player from hell" for Halloween. I love a costume that comes ready made. Great. You can wear your soccer uniform, but how can we make it hellish. I've got it! A crocheted devil hat. What could be scarier?I had a surplus of red Red Heart yarn, so I was ready to go. I could make a highly washable hat out of an unnatural color of red.

I based my hat on the Viking Hat in my earlier post. The base of the hat is for the most part the Boy Beanie from the Stitch N' Bitch book. (Note: I just discovered that there is an extensive collection of errata for both Stitch N' Bitch books at Knit Happens.) I used the same concept that I used before for the horns, but improved on the idea. The horns for the Viking hat were a kind of cornucopia shape with an open end for stuffing. The stuffing kind of leaked out a bit while I was stitching up the hat so I thought I might make life a bit easier on myself by making a completely closed stuffed horn.

I started out by making a Magic Ring. This circular start can be completely cinched up so that you don't get the hole that you see in a crocheted flower or Granny Square. I cast on about 5 stitches in single crochet, slipped the first stitch and then increased in every stitch all the way around. The following row I crocheted in the front loop only, to make the piece go in a vertical direction. To make the horn shape, I decreased at the first and last stitches in the round every other row. You might have to adjust to make a longer or shorter horn. For example, you could crochet 2 rows between decreases. When the horn started getting really small, I put in the stuffing. In a couple more rounds I slipped the yarn through the remaining few stitches and fastened off. I attached the horns to the beanie and my hat from hell was complete!
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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sunflower Surprise

I think this is the most grannyish project I've ever done, but I'm not afraid to push the envelope. I find a certain freedom in crocheting in both the avant-garde and the traditional style. I've learned a lot from months of sunflowers which I will apply to my other projects.

It all started when my mom decided that we should have a family crochet group. We would get together once a month and work on afghans, help each other, and have some girl time. Mom dragged out the Herrschner's catalog (where you buy the pattern and all the yarn in one go). The only one I could get my head around, was the Sunflower Afghan. Everything else seemed to have dizzying stripes or chevrons. Still new to crochet, I figured I could learn whatever I need with the proper motivation. Besides, the kit seemed pretty affordable. If I really screwed it up, the price wouldn't be too high. (We will not speak of the alpaca sweater that I never finished. $200 worth of yarn.)

When the kit arrived, I was disappointed. The catalog pictured a beautiful sunlight afghan of warm greens and golds, but the yarn I got was more of a mint color. What was supposed to be tan and green, turned out to be tan and white. Gold was dark orange and Dark Orange was more of a neon orange. The yarn was synthetic, so I knew what I was getting into, but I didn't expect all the knots and breaks in the skeins. Herschner's sent the wrong afghan to my mom, so she went through the headache of having to return it and wait for the right one. You get what you pay for. To be fair, she did have a very positive experience with her second project, the Navajo Afghan and my sisters' kits turned out to be great beginner's projects.

In spite of my complaints I did enjoy making this afghan. I learned about crocheting circular flowers and squaring them off, picot stitches, triple clusters, and reading a crochet pattern. While the colors weren't what I was expecting, I was surprised to see how well it turned out. I guess I got in touch with my inner granny. I'm okay with that!

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Pop-Out Map

A friend of mine took a trip to Washington D.C. and brought me back a pop-out tourist map. Since I am a huge fan of anything pop up, I tried to recreate this map. In Adobe Illustrator, I made a document delineating all the fold lines I would need. Using a light table I looked through the map to see the score marks and note all the measurements. I searched for the address of my choice in Google Maps and printed it on white cardstock. I do a lot of hand cutting of my paper designs, but in this case I wanted it to have very precise score marks. I used my CraftRobo ( a cutting plotter ) and had it automatically score all the lines I had designated. It was easy to fold as long as I kept track of which lines folded in (valleys) and which lines folded out (mountains). A satellite photo of the house at the address added that finishing touch!

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Why do birds suddenly appear?

My parakeet is the perfect crochet buddy. We have the best talks. He often starts with "Tell me a secret" followed by "That's a good secret!" I always feel better about myself after hanging out with him. He tells me I'm a "good birdie" and gives me a wolf whistle now and again.
Just as Leonardo DaVinci looked to nature to model his flying machines and watercraft, we should look to birds to gain inspiration. After all, birds are some of nature's original fiber artists. Take the weaver, who forms his nest from grass and plants, or the Tailorbirds of Southeast Asia who pierce holes in big leaves and thread plant fibers together and knot them.
So when you're digging through your stash to create a new project, imagine you are a bird rummaging through the forest, looking for materials to build a nest.
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Friday, April 10, 2009


Does a fish need wings?
Does a bird need whiskers?
Does an alien need, well, whatever an alien needs?
You decide. I'm not very talkative today.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Crocheted Viking Hats

Never walk away from home ahead of your axe and sword.
You can't feel a battle in your bones or foresee a fight.
--Viking Proverb

It was a seemingly innocent email on a Friday afternoon, dropped like a challenge to an obsessive craft-a-holic such as myself. "My son and I are headed out to Eastern Oregon. I need a bearded Viking Hat by Tuesday..." The tone was playful, but the message was serious: "Make one of these if you dare!" I dared. Yes. I dared.

I went in search of a pattern online. My time was short, so I knew it had to be a crochet project since knitting would have been too slow. In my search I discovered Instructables, a website devoted to craftiness of all kinds: repurposed computer parts jewelry, papercrafts, toys, robots. There's even a section for manly crafts. I used the Crocheted Mustache Hat Costume posted by momwithahook.

I bought two kinds of yarn: Lemongrass Lion Brand 100% Wool and Lion Brand Homespun in Edwardian Gray. Using a size J hook I tackled the green hat first. I realized pretty quickly that the pattern suited itself much better to the thicker Homespun yarn. The opening for the face was too large, so I had to pick up and crochet a few rows around it. The top developed a visor effect, which I liked. The steel gray hat had a completely different effect. While it crocheted up quickly, I had to get used to the squiggly, non-stretchy yarn. After I lightened up my tension, I had an easier time seeing the stitches. In contrast to the the wool hat, this one was soft. The beard looked more realistic. I considered crocheting an optional piece of food for an accessory.

I finished the two hats by Monday. Father and son would head east in style. Mission accomplished. I breathed a sigh of relief. But then things got complicated. His
9 year old daughter asked me for a hat with a hot pink beard. Her hat would have to be much smaller than the Homespun hat for dad so I used a light gray, red-heartish kind of acrylic yarn for the hat and pink Homespun for the beard and mustache. I wanted the mustache to be less intrusive, so I worked it to have a more upturned structure. The result was a snug fitting hat with a beautiful furry beard.

Having been beaten down by requests from this family, I gave in and offered to make one for the mom. To my surprise, she didn't want to look like a hirsute Viking. This turned o
ut to be my biggest challenge: A lady Viking hat complete with horns and yellow braids. I started with the boy beanie hat in The Happy Hooker by Debbie Stoller. I used the same light gray for the hat. The pattern uses double crochet throughout, but I'm tempted to try it in all single crochet next time for a more solid look.

My next task was the horns. I started with a tube. After a few rounds I began to decrease on one side only to create the upturned horn look. I kept the horns small, so that they wouldn't be floppy when I stuffed and mounted them on the hat. For yellow braids, I used Lion Brand Cupcake . It had a pleasantly kinky/shiny effect. I liked it so much, I'm making one for myself!

My work is done. Go forth and enjoy your hats, but don't wear them into a bank or government building.....

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Friday, March 27, 2009

The devil made me do it...

I did not set out to make a gonzo-like creature, but the inner muppet in me emerged when I tried to crochet the devil in the book Creepy Cute Crochet by Christina Haden. Her book is full of ninjas, office zombies, evil monkeys and even a Xena warrior princess look alike. They are all based on a two part head/body pattern, with myriad variations. I did achieve the basic body structure, but when it came down to embellishments, I had to go my own way. She uses a lot of felt cut outs for decorations and accessories. I'm more of a purist at the moment, wanting to fashion any facial characteristics or accoutrements with yarn. I tried not to stray from the path.....
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Friday, January 16, 2009

Crocheting outside the box

Don't ask me why. I don't know why. I tend to get a bit obsessive about my crafting. I start seeing crochet possibilities everywhere. What kind of materials can I crochet with? Wire? Dental Floss? Rags? Plastic? And apparently, pasta. I also start brainstorming on my subject matter. I could create crocheted sushi, articles of everyday life like telephones, computers, teapots, people animals, tubes of toothpaste. I've been a knitter for many years, but I'm finding the flexibility of crochet design fascinating. I never thought of it as an art form before. Let's come up with a name for ourselves to honor the artistry of the craft: Crochettiste. Fiber Engineer. Yarn Wrangler. Yarn Sculptor. Mixed Media Twister. Let me know if you have any ideas of your own!
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