27 June 2015

Textiles on Display

In addition to being involved with both knitting guilds in Atlanta -- and occasionally one in Maryland -- I'm also a member of Textile Appreciation Society of Atlanta. If the guilds are the artists, then TASA members are the patrons. I love attending their quarterly events just to see what everyone is wearing!

This quarter's event was an excursion to a pair of wonderful textile exhibits at The Ernest G. Welch School of Art and Design Gallery at Georgia State University. Yes, this in downtown Atlanta. I took MARTA to the Five Points Station. If you exit towards Peachtree Street, just cross the street and walk a couple short blocks north towards Woodruff Park. Turn right and walk west a couple blocks on Edgewood Avenue. The gallery is on the corner of Peachtree Center Avenue SE and Gilmer Street SE. They both sort of intersect Edgewood Avenue at one of those strange multi-street intersections that seem to be too common in Atlanta. You'll notice the gallery off to the right down Gilmer Street because it has a nice prominent "Gallery" sign.

The two exhibitions are "Flight Patterns" and "Velocity of Textiles." "Flight Patterns" was on the T Concourse at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport last year. I did try to see it there, but managed instead to find just about all the other art at the airport. (I'm not quite sure what it says about Atlanta that some of the best art in the city can only be viewed after TSA screening.) "Flight Patterns" was curated by Dorothy "Dot" Moye and was by invitation only. "Velocity of Textiles" is the Chattahoochee Handweavers Guild biennial exhibition. This year celebrates their 60th anniversary. To commemorate their diamond anniversary, the guild had an international call for their show, juried by internationally-known Atlanta-based textile artist Jon Eric Riis.

Since this is a blog about knitting, I'm only going to show you some knit and crochet pieces. There are pieces in weaving, felting, embroidery, and an extraordinary piece of wire needle lace. Both shows are up until 31 July. If you find yourself in or near downtown Atlanta over the next month, it is well worth your time to take a look.

First up, Parasailing Pink Elephants by Della Reams. The label indicates this work is "digitally designed, hand-manipulated machine-knitted, hand-sewn, fulled wool."

This large tessellation has a wonderful sense of whimsey. Although the wool has been fulled, in the detail you can see the fabric is knitted. 

Next up, Exodus by Adrienne Sloane composed of "hand knitted and wire sculpture." This is also a fairly large piece. The basket/gourd itself sits nicely on a pedestal, but the wire exploding out the top and the knitting dripping down the sides extends the space requirements.

In the detail below, you can see that the red (blood?) is knit. The basket/gourd is knit-like. I'm not sure if it is knit with twisted stitches, or if it is nalbinding.

The contrast between the footprints flying lightly away and the drops pouring heavily towards Earth is what I find most interesting about this sculpture. The wire seems more ephemeral, looking a lot like a pencil or ink drawing brought into the 3-D world. The yarn seems heavier and more substantial. To my eyes, it almost looks as if the yarn is weighing the basket/gourd down onto the pedestal.

The final work is crocheted wire. This is Macemanio-Conflux by Naomi Wanjiku Gakunga, composed of "stitches, crocheted, stainless steel wire, washers, beads."

I must immediately confess I have no idea what the title means. The wire is very shiny and hung from one bar. The overall effect is that of a curtain, sail, or garment. Below is a detail.

As you can see in the detail, the stitches do run in different directions. What is clearer in the overall photograph is how the wire creates ghostly shadows on the wall. I've seen this effect with other fine-wire artwork. If stained glass is painting with light, wire sculpture seems to be drawing with shadow. The play of light, especially the glint of highlights, gives shiny wire a very different feel. Black wire seems like pencil or ink drawing. Shiny wire -- I'm not sure there is an obvious analogue.

Overall, good work to ponder. I hope some of you have a chance to look in person, and see how your responses are similar or different to mine.

26 June 2015

Pentagonal Entrelac

One of my new library acquisitions this spring was Entrelac 2 by Rosemary Drysdale. Rosemary's previous entrelac book, Entrelac, the Essential Guide to Interlace Knitting, was published in 2010. In addition to having projects, the preceding book had a nice section of stitch pattern swatches. Entrelac 2 continues that exploration. While there are projects, there is also a large section of swatches of entrelac worked with different stitch patterns. So often we think of "plain" entrelac -- stockinette blocks with color changes to differentiate each course. Rosemary shows us that cables, lace, and texture can all combine with entrelac in ways worthy of the challenge.

I was particularly smitten by the pentagonal entrelac on the cover of the book and its variations on pages 63 through 75. The "Five-Star Knit 2, Purl 2 Rib" on page 72 was intriguing. Because Rosemary uses normal joins, her blocks are 8 stitches wide. I used Jay Petersen's flat joins à la Rick Mondragon and reduced the blocks to 6 stitches wide.

This was a project in search of a reason to exist, other than, "I just want to try it." Pentagons are surprisingly un-useful shapes. They don't seem to lend themselves to blankets. To be a shawl, they really need extensions along two sides. Mine is 18 inches/ 45cm along a side. If I wrap one edge around the back of my neck and pin it in front it almost works as a capelet. I suppose it could be a throw for a cat.

In the end, I decided this might work as a cover for my great grandmother's piano stool. The original fabric cushion is worn, as one might expect from a piece of fabric dating back 75 to 100 years. By dropping a cover over it, I am leaving the original fabric intact but updating the stool for modern use. And it is an item I use. Since it is adjustable, it is particularly good for sitting at the spinning wheel or the weaving loom. This stool also connects me to members of my family, all gone now. My grandmother was the previous owner of the stool. And when my father was a child, he and his Aunt Luella -- who was only a few years older, and still a child herself -- would take turns spinning each other around.

To give the edges of my pentagon a professional finish, I worked an attached i-cord in a method combining Rick Mondragon's sliding loop intarsia join and Gwen Bortner's method of picking up a reversible border. Video illustrating that technique is in the previous post. I turned corners by working a short round on the outer 4 stitches of the i-cord, then working a round on all 6 stitches normally, then working another short round. This technique produced not just an edging but a casing. I twisted the remaining yarn into a three-ply cord, and then threaded the cord through the casing. You can see the little knot where it pops out the side (upper right in the photograph below). I can drop the pentagon over the stool cushion and cinch it on. But I can also take it off and lay it flat.

The rib pattern was very appealing in entrelac; in my opinion, it is even better than plain entrelac because the directionality complements the construction. I am thinking rope cables might also be flattering. Working the ribs over 6 stitches rather than 8 means that the fabric is reversible but double-faced. Both sides are good, and it is difficult for me to say which I like better. The "right" side has blocks with two ribs and a gutter in the center, while the "wrong" side has a single rib highlighting each block. This would be a great pattern worked square or rectangular for a blanket or scarf.

For those of you wondering, yes, there was some grafting in pattern involved. I could work two rounds of entrelac, then I needed to cut the yarn and graft. Because I used a long-print yarn, it is pretty obvious where I shifted from round to round. You can even see where I grafted the i-cord closed.