28 May 2009

But is it art?

I've come across several articles recently about art, the purpose of art, why we have art, and the like. If you followed the links in the previous post, you'll notice I said something in the video about art being transformational. I wanted to expand on that idea a little bit with the challenge, is knitting art?

Now in this case, I'm not talking about the centerpiece flowers, the eight-foot tall scarecrow, or other items that seem to be knitted sculpture. I think the jury has already come back regarding sculpture and art and that sculpture can be made out of a great many different things. What I'm wondering about is clothing or fashion. Is what we wear or how we dress art?

And the example I'll use to make my case comes from Lars dah'link, a dear and long-time college chum who works in Manhattan. Lars dah'link has a friend who is planning her wedding. The bride is around forty, and this is her first time walking down the aisle. She is trying to keep to a budget. Lars was helping her shop for wedding dresses. Eventually, they found a wonderful dress that was very flattering but, alas, about 25%-50% more than what the bride had planned to spend. Much discussion and debate ensued for about a week, as other shops were visited and other dresses tried. The deciding comment came when the bride said the dress made her "feel beautiful." In this way, clothes can be art -- they can be emotionally transformative.

Thespians or others who enjoy costume play already know this. Sometimes what you need to get into character is that person's clothes. For a bride, wearing a dress that makes you feel beautiful makes you feel like a bride. It transforms you from whomever you are each day, into the special, desirable, fabulous blossom of female loveliness that is a bride. For a lawyer, wearing a tailored suit that makes you look smart can help you feel smart and be smart in your arguments. For someone in a more athletic or active job, wearing the special gear can make you feel brave, capable, or powerful. The exterior change in attire is not even skin deep, yet a deeper and more fundamental transformation occurs.

When we dress ourselves each day, how we dress can play a role in who we are. For one thing, it affects how others perceive us. Those perceptions affect how we are treated. How we are treated affects how we react in a situation. And sometimes we rise to those expectations, or at minimum respond to them. Very often we give the best of ourselves when people expect the best of us.

So when you dress, aim to dress for the best possible you. Showcasing your good soul is part of the Art of Fashion.

21 May 2009

What Have I Been Doing With My Time?

For those of you wondering why there hasn't been more on this blog, it's because there's been a lot over on the Atlanta Knitting Guild blog. Since starting a guild blog was my idea, and since I was president, the first around 130 posts are mostly mine. Hey, if you aren't willing to put in the work, don't make the suggestion. I'm very happy as I head into my sabbatical to be handing the blogging off to the new board. It will be good to get more voices and other perspectives. I also hope my personal neglected blog here will get the attention it deserves from me.

So what have I been doing? Or what has Atlanta Knitting Guild been doing that would make me devote so much time and energy?
Check out this post, from photographer extraordinaire Alexis Xenakis.
And watch the videos here. I enjoyed watching the other guild members in these videos, as they said some truly beautiful things. It was a privilege to lead this group this particular year. In the 24-year history of AKG, I probably got the best year to be guild president.

18 May 2009

Interlocking Leaves Success

I haven't knit much for myself over the past several months. So it felt really good to work on these. And it feels really good to finish them, even if they are autumn/winter knee socks and we're about to head into high summer. I discussed these socks previously in this post back in March. The pattern is from Knitty Fall 2008. I used 2.4 skeins of Plymouth Happy Feet in colorway 4. I was working both socks at the same time magic-loop style on a 47-inch Knit Picks circular needle, size 2.50 mm. At the time, I had worked past the heel turn. The rest of leg was mostly uneventful. I worked the 22-row lace pattern over and over. At the end of the row repeat, I'd try on the stockings to see how they stretched over my calves. For the most part, they seemed to be fitting pretty well.

If you've made knee socks or stockings, you know that the danger is in getting enough stretch through the calf. I am fortunate to have fairly narrow legs -- truth be told, long and narrow is pretty much my morphology all over. For a broader calf, increases in pattern might be necessary. On Ravelry, smrjunior has knee-high interlocking leaves socks and the graphs (here & here) for the increases. I was able to avoid the extra graphs and merely go up needle sizes. In the picture at right, the green arrows indicate where the dental floss lifelines were inserted. The lower lifeline is where I changed from a 2.50 mm needle to a 2.75 mm needle. I worked one full 22-row repeat. Then I changed from 2.75 mm to 3.00 mm and worked most of another repeat. (I'll note here that one of the things I find attractive about the Knit Picks needles is the metric sizing. The 0.25 mm jumps in the small sizes are quite appropriate. I wouldn't mind seeing Skacel offer a set of Addi lace tips in the 47-inch or 60-inch length with the metric sizing for magic loop socks.)

At this point, I was nearly past the widest point in my calves. I had a pretty good sense of how much length 22-rows would give me, so I decided it was time to move to the ribbing. The pattern calls for ending the lace after round 19 of the pattern, so that's what I did. I inserted a lifeline. Note: I should have been more generous in the length on the lifelines, because they popped when I later tried on the socks. At least enough was left that I could easily measure the length of the ribbing. Then I dropped back to the 2.50 mm needle and worked the ribbing as written in pattern. I did make my ribbing a little longer than the pattern specifies, but that's partly because the proportion is better on the longer stocking. I bound off somewhat loosely in pattern.

A note on the this ribbing. While I like the way the pattern and the ribbing coordinate, this is not the most elastic ribbing. Also, I had trouble with the purl stitch to the right of the twisted knit being much bigger than the purl on the left side. If I had to do it again, I'd work that right purl using combination knitting - wrapping it the wrong way to make it smaller. And my bind off is simply loose in pattern. I would prefer a tubular bind-off, but that's not really an option in a pattern with a 5-stitch repeat. So for this ribbing, aesthetics = A, functionality = B- or C+. We'll see how well the stockings behave when I wear them this autumn.

15 May 2009

A Good Cookie

I've said previously, I'm really not a sock knitter. I prefer to knit sweaters, jackets, and shawls. However, I am a book harlot. I am just as likely to buy a knitting book as I am to buy yarn. In fact, the only purchases I made in the STITCHES South marketplace were printed matter. Four days and I bought no yarn. Partly that's because I can read faster than I can knit. Partly that's because I've done four shop hops in the last five years and worked for two different local shops, so my stash really is full of very nice stuff that needs to be used and loved. But partly too, I enjoy knitting for the intellectual and creative stimulation. Reading knitting books gives me more ideas. It expands my mind as well as my creativity.

If I have enough yarn, what I don't have enough of is time. And I'm not all that fast a knitter. So when I cast on a project, it needs to be worthy of the precious time resource that is being devoted to it. I haven't knit anything out of Cookie A's new book yet, but already I can tell this book is worthy of both my reading time and my knitting time. Sock Innovation is about constructing socks from the top down. As I've stated previously, I'm a Cat Bordhi toe-up kind of sock knitter. But Cookie A could make me a convert. Her reasons for top-down are compelling -- not the least is getting the fit correct so that the cuff is snug but not tight on the leg, and that it also has enough elasticity to pull over the heel. But for those of us who enjoy designing, her discussion of design, pattern, and considerations as you split for the heel and instep are worth the price of the book. And even if you don't design and just knit from her patterns, well, you should have people cowering at your feet just to admire your socks. (When I am an evil overlord, people will kiss my toes just to glimpse my stockings.)

Can someone out there come up with sock yarn that wears like Kevlar so we can all walk around shoeless and show off our great socks?

One unhappy note: while this book is a very worthy addition to your shelf, there are a few mistakes. You can find the errata here.