06 March 2013

If it hangs, is it art?

It is time again for Southeast Fiber Arts Alliance's annual Square Foot Fiber Pin-Up Show. Last year's inaugural show was pretty successful -- about 45 entries in a range of fiber techniques. I've already seen some of this year's show, and as good as last year was, this year appears to be even better. I believe there are more entries and also even better work. I was fortunate last year that my entry received enough votes to get into the annual SEFAA calendar. I don't think that's going to happen this year, as this competition will be very stiff.
Sea Dream
knit and crochet, handspun and commercial yarns

Of course, I'm not entering a square so that I can get into the calendar. I'm entering a square because I would like to see more knitting and crochet exhibited. Quilters and weavers already exhibit their work, and their workmanship and skill is more highly regarded because of it. I can't very well complain about knitters and crocheters not exhibiting if I don't!

The rules for the exhibit are simple -- use fiber, and the entry should be less than 12 inches by 12 inches. The exhibit isn't juried and there is no entry fee. Consequently, there is a wonderful range of work.

I decided to push myself artistically by working outside my usual methods. My usual approach is to plan my work from the outset. I fearlessly crunch the math, when needed. I sometimes swatch; and I often rip and re-knit repeatedly as I change my mind about details. But for this project, I improvised. I gathered up lots of little bits of yarn. Some of these skeins were leftovers from completed projects. Some were samples. But much of it came from the Jacey Boggs spinning workshop I took last April. I ended up with lots of little bits of very bumpy, lumpy, funky art yarn. But I didn't have a lot of any one yarn -- just lots of small samples. And I wasn't sure what to do with any of it. Art yarns are fun to spin and pretty to observe, but I hadn't thought of a project that would benefit from their special textures.

I started by casting on with a very bumpy yarn called a coil (p. 85 of Jacey Boggs Spin Art). It is made by plying a thick and thin handspun in a special way that creates fluffy bumps that are softer but similar to beehives (p. 56). I worked reverse stockinette back and forth in short rows until I used up all the coil. Then I picked up some other handspun yarns made with corespinning techniques. I don't remember exactly how all of these were made. (If you take Jacey's workshop, bring some cardboard and write down what you make, then attach a sample. I found that although it was a great workshop, afterwards I don't recall clearly which yarn is what, and there weren't any class handouts to help me remember.) I knit back and forth, throwing in short rows in a semi-random way. When I got to the dark part at the top, I actually held two yarns together. One is a balanced corespun yarn -- the black batt was corespun around two plies as they were plied together. The other is a pretty cobalt blue singles with sparkles. I just held them together and knit a pattern similar to Lizard Ridge. This was the first time I knit any of my handspun.

Once I had the background, I then thought about what to add to it. I decided that the chartreuse coil yarn resembled a reef. I've seen articles about crochet coral reef projects. So I decided to try that. My rule was every time I picked up a new yarn, I tried to work it in a way that was different from what I had already done. So the goal was to use up little scraps from stash and to constantly improvise. I also worked most of these in crochet. Because crochet stitches are firmer than knit stitches, they have enough structure to support three-dimensional work. But the knitting worked great as a background because it could be stretched to fit the canvas, whether or not what I knit was actually one foot square.

The first piece I made was that nice roundish ruffle near the right. It is circular single crochet worked alternating 1 sc, 2 sc in next sc around and around until I ran out of yarn. I used leftover Skinny Stripes from my summer 2012 TNNA swatches.

Then I picked up some Habu FQ-1 Fique, which is some plant in the pineapple family. I crocheted branching chains and slip stitches. That became the coral near the center of the picture.

The orange and yellow coral on the left is Kauni wool in an ever-widening wedge of garter stitch with ever-lengthening picots based on my Bootkicked scarf.

The blue-green coral at far right is a supercoil (I think) handspun yarn worked in four rows stockinette, four rows reverse stockinette, with picots on one edge. It is mounted sideways from the direction in which it was worked.

The three-colored coral in the lower left is Ella Rae Seasons leftover from Ginny's granddaughter's baby surprise jacket. Those were whipped out lickety-split by working foundation single crochet stitches out of a central circle and then single crocheting back to the center.

Next to it is a coral that is a linen stitch tube worked side-to-side in a beehive handspun. I adjusted my work so that all the beehives would lie on one edge of the tube.

For the seaweed in the upper right -- a sample of South West Trading Company Bamboo -- I pulled out my copy of Crochet Master Class and learned how to make hairpin lace.

The seaweed on the left is bits of Mini Mochi from the Curlique Shawl, using foundation single crochets, and making little fans up one side and down the other by working sc, chain 1, hdc, chain 1, dc, chain 1, hdc, chain 1, sc all in the same stitch. Sometimes I worked two or three double crochets in the center of a fan.

The starfish is a sample of Miss Babs Yowza. I started circularly in the center with 5 single crochets. Each time I went around, I extended the pentagon by working taller stitches near the increases as shorter stitches between the increases.

Lastly, the sea slug on the lower right is a tiny bit of fingering weight handspun. I cast on in the center using Judy's Magic cast-on. I worked around, increasing one stitch at each end on every round. My strange increases account for the odd bias in the shape. Then I bound off with single crochet.

After all the scrumbles were arranged and attached to the background, the picture needed to be hanging-ready. I sewed the picture by hand to a commercially-prepared canvas. I even put proper picture wire across the back.

I won't hazard a guess as to the quality of this art. But I can say I accomplished several goals:
1. produced something to put in the show
2. used up some stash
3. stretched myself artistically
4. learned a new technique (hairpin lace)
5. re-learned another technique (foundation crochet)
6. finally made something with my own handspun
Whether the picture is well-received in the show or not, it has already been worth the effort.

One last reminder --  if you attend the show, be sure to vote for your favorite squares. Also, many of the squares (mine included) are in the silent auction to benefit SEFAA.

Update: To my surprise, I won't be getting this piece back. "Sea Dream" sold in the auction. In fact, someone placed a bid on it, and someone else bid it up! And it placed high enough in the voting to be included in the 2014 SEFAA Calendar. Thank you everyone who voted for it, and a special thank you to the bidders!

1 comment:

rowndabout said...

This is most certainly art! I love it. I think it is exquisite. Well done. Louise