Monday, May 30, 2011

Inspiration Mondays: In a world of light and movement

I had a very busy day at work today. My brain was tunneling through problems, trying to make things right. By the end of the day, I could feel how weary my eyes were and how pinched my face was from concentrating so hard.

I turned around and looked at a workmate of mine and said, "I've only just realized what it is you've got on your shirt." (That's you, Owen.)

It was a silhouette of a creature with long flowing hair. A mythical person? Thor? I never found out what it was, but it was striking against the pale teal of the shirt. Interesting.

Later on, while Rascal and I were out for a walk, I looked around, thinking about silhouettes and shadows. I've been recently fascinated by the effect of a well-placed shadow. Visit a haunted house (I mean, a pretend haunted house, it's easier) and look around at the shapes cast on the walls by the special filters put over top of lamps and lanterns: cats, bats, spiders, trees. They are effective, no? Turn a corner and be confronted with the silhouette of a gnarled hand stretching over you. Freaky.

Take these items in my Etsy favourites as an example:

Silhouettes suggest that these things exist in a world of light and movement. Even an amoeba can sense light, and therefore, a shadow passing over it. Birds scatter at a flash of light, or at sudden darkness. Even you start at a dark shape moving in front of your closed eyelids when you sleep in the sunshine.

What humans can do that most other sentient creatures can't is fill in the colours and features of a silhouette that are unseen by our naked eyes. We can even imagine the sounds created by those shadows. We hear the flutter of a bat's wing, feel the stickiness of a spider web, listen for the chirping of a bird, just by looking at their silhouettes. This is why psychologists get so much of people looking at inkblots: we can make something out of shadows and shapes that aren't really there.

So, what does this mean? Where does this fit in a blog about handmade things, knitting, crochet, garments, creative endeavours?

There are plenty of people out there who never move beyond the realm of scarves. They claim that sweaters and other garments are complicated, and therefore far too difficult to create. Some are afraid to try new styles, modern shapes, unusual cuts.

There are even more people who never venture into the world of drawn art. It's too precise, too many techniques that we don't know or even know how to begin to create.

But you exist in a world of light and movement.

You can not possibly know what these items will look like until you try them, and until you experiment with the myriad of textures, yarn weights, fibres, colours, or until you pick up a pencil and experiment with strokes, smudges and shading. The miracle of your eyes is that they will fill in the rest, fill in what you missed, what is out of place, and what can be done differently next time. If an amoeba can sense a change in light, you can sense what is out of place, or what has been placed absolutely correctly. It takes practice, and a willingness to experiment with the chance that you may end up with something that doesn't look quite right.

It's the difference between imagination and creativity: starting with an idea versus moving forward and creating something that did not exist before.

It is possible because we're built for it. Trust your eyes and watch the silhouettes come to life.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Thoughts Whilst Unraveling


  1. This yarn looks like mouldy ramen noodles after its been unraveled.
  2. If I'd knit this in one piece, I'd be unraveling twice as much.
  3. If I'd knit this in one piece, I probably wouldn't need to unravel it.
  4. I probably wouldn't need to unravel this if I wasn't so much of a hussy.
  5. Counting to 50 is much harder than counting to 49.
I'm still plugging away at my Krista Tee. I'd predicted that I would be finished sometime this weekend, and I was close. I finished the sleeves this afternoon, and decided to block them so that the edges were flat before I sewed them on. After I'd pinned them out, I decided to sew the front and back of the top at the shoulders and have them ready for the sleeves to be sewn on tomorrow.

Well, maybe not.

I slipped my head through the neckhole and stood in front of the mirror, holding the sides closed, turning left and right, checking to see if everything was fitting as it should. I had decided to knit in some bust darts to make sure there was room for "the girls," and I wanted to make sure they were hitting in the right place. And they were, but the neckline was a tad high.

Ok, not a tad. More like almost up to my chin. What the...?

I pulled the front down, to where I thought it should hit, but the back shot up to reveal the small of my back. I went and found some pins and pinned the sides together to see if I just wasn't seeing how this top would truly sit, and well... yeah. The neckline was just too high. Not an inch too high, but a few inches.

Now, let me just get this straight: I don't need to show off cleavage in every top, but I just knew that if I didn't lower this neckline, it would like like I'd knit my own hospital scrubs from the 80s. And, as much as I've enjoyed a few episodes of General Hospital in my time, I'm just not going for that look.

So, I've unraveled the front past the armholes and am now working on fixing the neckline. Luckily, even though I'd woven all the ends of my yarn in, it wasn't too much of a headache unraveling. It's just a bummer that I'm going to be working on this for at least another week. I'm getting tired of it, but hopefully it'll all be worthwhile.

One project at a time. Sigh...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Hoopla, Buzz, and Gimmick

Note: There was an errant login popup on my blog until today 5/29/11. It has now been fixed. Thanks for my friend, Dawg for pointing it out!

I think that, when you're in your thirties (as I am), you develop a particular pattern of thinking. Your brain develops a habit of dealing with ideas, both new and old, and you develop attitudes towards things that kick in immediately, once your brain has figured out how to categorize them. For example, what happens to you when you think about food, religion, family, news from abroad, your neighbours, your boss, your work...? What are your first thoughts, and how do you feel when you think them?

I read an interesting article the other day from The Guardian about science presented as art for the public, or sci-art.

My first reaction: Oh great. Another bunch of pretentious crap with contrived meaning.

I've been trying to train myself out of such reactions, because quite frankly, I'm starting to sound a lot like Mr. Burns out of The Simpsons. There's got to be more to life than being a clever cynic. And it's a lonely thing to be.

So, scanning inside my head and purging myself of such negativity, I saved the article and came back to it later to read properly. What is sci-art? What does it look like?

I wandered through the article and came upon a link of a video about a crochet display about the beautiful math of coral. It was created, stitch-by-stitch, not just by one person, but by thousands of people around the world. Started in response to the increasing coverage in the news as to how global warming effects coral reef systems, the people who started making this were invited to fill a 3000 square-foot galley in the Warhol Museum as part of an exhibit about global warming. Eight months of frantic crocheting later, and they did fill it, but the whole project took on a viral form.

Margaret Wertheim explains in the video:
The frilly, crenelated form that coral makes is a form of geometry known as hyperbolic geometry. The only way that mathematicians know how to model this structure is by crochet. It's almost impossible to model it any other way, and it's almost impossible to model it with computers.
I heard this and I thought, That means I can do something that a computer struggles with. I can make something that mathematicians can't make. Cool.

If you watch the rest of the video, Margaret goes on to explain how this form occurs not just in coral, but in lettuce, sea slugs, mushrooms... it's everywhere. And the mathematicians theorized that this structure was impossible. They just couldn't see it.

Until someone picked up a crochet hook and said, "There you go."

I love the idea that not all of science needs to be approached by people who get lost in their heads, who are so cerebral that they don't take the time to see the shapes in their lettuce or the colours of their candy. I also love the idea that people can be engaged in these "complex" ideas if they are just willing to look, play with, and experiment with the world around them.

Ok, so what's the point of all this?

The point is that, the next time I see an installation of art that claims to have a message for me, I think it's worth me stopping and seeing what that message is. Someone has something to to say, and the message might not be what is written on the signage of the exhibit.

I think that I can allow myself to be engaged, to exercise my brain and pull it away from its usual paths to cynicism. I might not agree with what is being presented, but I am giving myself the opportunity to do some mind yoga, to stretch myself and to examine what is happening in that melon between my shoulders.

It might be hoopla, buzz and gimmick, but perhaps those terms should take on new definitions. Perhaps those words can be synonyms for brain-challengers, mind-sparkers, or social-engagement-pushers.

What is the product of this? I'm not sure, but people are discussing, people are using their brains, working through ideas, working through problems, not being passive, not just receiving information, but creating new thoughts, new processes, new connections. That's what it means to grow, to be alive.

Like coral.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Inspiration Mondays: Growing Possibilities

It's been raining most of the day here, and, being a holiday Monday, the day lent itself to three things:
  1. Dreaming of sunshine.
  2. Snoozing on the couch.
  3. Making doughnuts.
And I did all three.

First things first, with thoughts of sunshine, I dug through my yarn basket and pulled out these treasures:

The skein on the left is madelinetosh's merino light in Candlewick. The two centre balls are Elsebeth Lavold's Hempathy in Golden Yellow. The skein on the right is my own handspun mentioned in a previous post, which I display with great pride!

I only have partial plans for all this yarn, but I'm particularly inspired by the Hempathy at the moment, because I'm currently very interested in plant fibres. I have been thinking a lot linen, a similar kind of fibre, especially after watching this video:

BE LINEN MOVIE from Benoit MILLOT on Vimeo.

The sight of those coils of flax is mesmerizing, and probably a bit misleading (I've heard it's tough to spin, and hard on the hands), but I love the idea of taking that rough plant and making it into something to wear. Like, how the heck did anyone figure THAT out?

I have some wild flax that grows in one corner of my garden. It's kind of a cool patch of land because I just let it go wild. Here's what it looked like last summer. How pretty, huh?

I am truly inspired by the fact that someone saw the possibilities in this plant and went ahead and made some fabric out of it, despite all the hard work it takes to prepare this fibre by hand. Someone then recognized the potential of sharing this fabric with the world, and built an entire industry out of it. The cities grew around this industry, and it is now a major part of fashion and daily life.

All because someone gave a little bit of thought to a little blue flower.

I think the true inspiration from this is that there's something important to remember about possibilities:

A possibility does not instantly change your life. It needs hard work and graft to make possibilities into something worthwhile. It involves sticking out your neck, trying, falling down, trying again. There is not one right way, but there are many ways. I must trust my own instincts and face failure, one step at a time. And in the same way, I can not judge people for fearing new possibilities if I fear them myself, and if I can not see and feel excited by them.

Anyway, after I played around with that yarn and made all these realizations, I had a nap this afternoon, and then got up and made these:

They're baked, not fried, and I coated half in cinnamon and sugar and the other half in a dark chocolate glaze I whipped up. And they're both quite tasty... pillowy light, and awfully good. I have a few favours to repay, and I think I'll use these for that purpose, but I'm thinking the hubby would probably like to keep a few. We'll see how many are left tonight!

All in all, it's been a pretty productive day, and exactly the sort of day I needed. The rain will end at some point, the flowers will grow, and the donuts will get eaten. I feel as though a seed has been planted in my soul that I need to nourish and cultivate into a part of me that welcomes possibilities and new ideas.

It's amazing what comes of playing around with a few balls of yarn, huh?

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Contenders

Here's the problem with being a one-project-at-a-time person: my brain won't stop working.

My eyes are on my work. I am watching each stitch form, one at a time, but my brain is flitting around like a butterfly, landing on idea after idea about what I will do next. Some people call that lack of focus, lack of commitment.

I call it fun. Crazy, but fun.

I'm nearing the end of knitting a Krista Tee (meaning that it'll probably be done late next week), and I am starting to get excited about what I will work on next. My criteria for the next project are:
  1. I want a quick project
  2. I don't want to worry too much about gauge.
Which pretty much means I will be making a shawlette. Do I need another shawlette?

What kind of silly question is that to ask?

I had a look through some of my bookmarked favourites in Ravelry and narrowed it down to a few ideas. Here are the contenders:

Mizzle - using pink/melon/cantaloupe-coloured Pico Accuardi


198 yards of heaven - using Blue Ridge Yarns Cotton Candy in Evening Jewel

Semele - using Twist, Yarns of Intrigue Sock Yarn

It's a tough choice, and while it's not really going to be a life-changing decision, it's not going to be easy to choose one of these lovely projects and which of these beautiful skeins of yarn to play with next.

I thought I'd try spin the bottle, but I ended up drinking the beer instead.


I thought I'd get Rascal to choose, but he was emphatically uninterested.

I'm so eager to get started... I only wish I could knit more quickly so that I could enjoy each of these as soon as possible! I love that each of these yarns are handdyed treasures, and no matter which I choose first, each one is going to bring me great pleasure as I feel it slipping through my fingers.

In the spirit of democracy, I think I'll likely go for whichever yarn I end up picking up most this weekend. The only problem with THAT is that I can easily fit all three skeins in my hand at once!

If you feel like helping me out with this dilemma, feel free to comment and leave your opinion about which one you'd choose. The only fear I have with that is that someone will suggest an entirely new idea for me to mull over.

Oh, indecision... thy name is Adriene...

Monday, May 16, 2011

Inspiration Mondays: Chaos and Order

I've had this image in my mind since our last trip to Canmore in April. We walk this trail each time we go there, and we always enjoy watching the water trickle past, ducks nesting or snoozing on the sunshine by the boardwalk. I find the whole path striking: a zig-zagging path, perfectly built in the midst of nature.

This time, I wondered if it was possible to convey this image in my fibre work. So often, I obsess over the mechanics of what I'm doing, watching the pattern, counting the stitches, measuring, calculating. I feel like I'm the person who is making the proverbial order out of chaos.

But this image tells me that it order and chaos can be harmonious.

I haven't yet figured out what I will do with this picture in my head, or how it will play out in my needles or hooks, but this pattern is attracting me:


I'm thinking I can work with something like that... take it and improvise somehow...

I think what also draws me to this image is the fact that the path is moving in all different directions, but it somehow belongs in the middle of the trees, the water, the sky, the mountains... Some must wonder, "Why such a crooked path? Why not build from point A to point B?" (I call those people "closet Romans.")

I've recently come to the realization that this path is somewhat metaphorical to my life (don't roll your eyes... hear me out on this one). I've taken a lot of directions with my life, done a lot of things, lived a lot of places, and made lots of awkward decisions with my career. I've been fretting a lot about how I really ought to stop doing that, to stop looking over the fence at what's happening elsewhere, to stop looking for interesting things to do with my life. Settle down. Stabilize. I worry that the multitude of positions I've held in the past will reveal a person who is erratic, unwilling to commit.

I think now that, while I'm happy to stay put, I'm proud of the zig-zagging path my life has taken. And I have a feeling that it's not going to straighten out anytime soon.

In his book, The Power of Purpose, Richard Leider suggests that we should stop thinking about life as a series of stages or phases, but rather as a series of improvisations. What will I do now with this life that is in front of me with the things that I now know?

I wonder to myself what would happen if we could present this idea to youth who are growing up in a world that tells them to take the path straight to college, the career, and the retirement. That life is not linear: it is organic, and will take you in different directions. All you can do is be ok with that, and be ready to adapt and change. Survival of the fittest and all that.

I think that, if and when I make this wrap, I might call it "Survival Lace" or "Adaptations in Nature" or "Zig While Everyone Else Zags..." A metaphor for being alright with a crooked path in the midst of a beautiful world.

It's not easy taking the crooked path, but what an interesting walk, huh?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Thoughts Whilst Untangling


  1. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
  2. This is hard, but think how much more difficult it would be with cats around.
  3. I think humans should re-think having only two hands. Four would be nice.
  4. Yarn bounces really well when you drop it.
  5. The arachnids must be laughing at me behind my back.
  6. It could be worse. It could be a $90 ball of qiviut.
  7. Life is a like untangling a skein of yarn. Everytime you think you're coming up to an easy bit, a big chunk slides off for you to work on.
  8. I wonder if anyone has ever injured themselves doing this? (Said shortly before I dropped the ball and banged my head on the frame bending over to pick it up.)
In case you're wondering, the red lobster is Rascal's. He left it there and wandered off because he got tired of waiting for me to play with him.

The backstory of this is that I decided to take the skein I talked about in this post and see if I could increase its loft and make it springier by soaking it in some hot water and resetting the twist. Unfortunately, I didn't have it tied well enough to prevent tangling, so I'm balling it all up again to try again later.

Ah well. Live and learn, as they say.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Wanted: Time-Stretcher, Size Large


Knitter/spinner/crocheter requires one time-stretcher for stretching days to include more time to clean house, make meals, exercise, write and pursue fibre arts. Used time-stretchers in good shape or slow hourglasses acceptable. No stopwatches, please. Contact through comments below.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Clearing the Voice

In going home, expectations grew
to return to big skies
and a can-do attitude,
where children did not question origins,
where difference was celebrated,
and where people thought of other things
than what box you fit into.

It was not realized that
the demons of ignorance wore many different guises.

Wandering lost and searching for a voice
that was forgotten,
a tongue that was not spoken
for so many years.
We can not remember how the lilt went,
how the words fit together.
Will they do so again?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Inspiration Mondays: The Rhythms of Your Visions

Sometimes, I spend time examining from where I pull inspiration, and I find a lot of it in people who do amazing things... marathon runners, frontline war workers, founders of charities. I also see light in people who overcome what most people deem "handicaps" to perform fantastic accomplishments...

Hence the size of the text of this post.

Presenting: Invisible Loom and Craft: Loom Knitting, Cooking and Crafting with Low Vision.

This blog is just what the title says, all with low vision. I was first introduced to this blog through a forum post of Ravelry, about this member who made beautiful things with knitting looms.

For those who don't know what a knitting loom is, there is a brand out there called the Knifty Knitter. I am well aware of these looms from my short stint working at Michaels, where I had to learn how to knit with them as part of my job (I demo'd all the stuff there. It was an interesting place for someone like me to work!). Knitting looms themselves have been around for donkey's years in less mass-manufactured forms (my mother-in-law had one made with nails on a board).

You can buy these looms in sets of four, and you can also purchase one that is flat in shape. I used to own two of these sets, but they eventually were given away as gifts. Why?

Because I learned how to knit "for real." I thought that these looms were limiting, that you could only make things in the shape of a tube, and that you couldn't possible make anything interesting out of them. How silly.

One look at this blog tells you something altogether different. In short, it's a poor carpenter that blames his tools (snicker). You can really do anything with any tool if you spend a bit of time thinking about it.

Knitting looms are ideal for those with low vision, because the pegs are large and you can use the "picker" to move the loops over each other. It is essentially knitting on pegs; you achieve the exact same thing as with needles, and you can do all the increases, decreases, and bind offs. They are also excellent for children, and, according to the lady who taught me how to use knitting looms, they tend to be easier to knit with on a plane since it doesn't look like anything remotely threatening.

In my opinion, the most astonishing of Renee's creations is the Dandelion Shawlette (apologies for all the linking, but I didn't ask for permission to post her photos). I find the intricate lattice along the edge naturally beautiful, like the work of honeybees in a hive. For Jane Eyre fans, she has recreated the shawl in the movie in Jane's Shawl for the Loom. For those who scoffed at the pattern for the loom (silly people), a friend of hers converted the same pattern into Jane's Shawl for needles.

Now, I want to be clear. I am not completely gushing over this site simply because this girl is a crafter with low vision. I am most impressed by the fact that this person has come up with a way to create beautiful things with a tool that many dismiss as a "kid's plaything." This is a true craft. She spent time working out how to create these shapes in her head, and then was kind enough to share her creations with us, even figuring out ways to chart it just as a traditional knitting pattern might be charted.

Amazing. Inspiring.

This doesn't necessarily mean that I am going to jump right back into loom knitting (although, I'm thinking I
might as my mom for my loom set back), but it does make me realize that it might be possible to be more of a designer. Do I have to search for a pattern to create the shapes that are floating around in my head? Do I have to give those ideas up for lost when I can't find a pattern?

Of course I don't. I just have to give it a try myself. Experiment. Rip it out if it doesn't work out, and try it again.

How many times have you told yourself that you can not alter instructions for a pattern, a recipe, that you couldn't paint a picture without full instructions from an expert?

Take a leap of faith and give it a shot. To quote an old piece of poetry of mine:
Watch the rhythms of this vision,
Then speak to me of your passions...

Thursday, May 5, 2011

For Lolo

Turning the pages of an old album,
I try hard to release the despair
that I should have felt
in the first flight.

Fresh paint
and the heavy smell of wood stain
flood the room, and the sawdust
covers my face
in ghost-like countenance.
Here is your very own rocking chair
that doesn't rock.
What good is a chair
that doesn't rock? I fumed.
He never answered.
So many days I sat there,
tipping back and forth,
back and forth,
vainly trying to feel the thrill
of swinging my hair forward,
the whish of the wind
blowing me back.
In kindergarten,
Wendy rocked back in the blue rocking chair
and landed
right on her head.
It's a good thing mind doesn't
rock, I said.
He was already gone,
and I was too late to thank him.

We went home,
Mom and Dad and brother and I,
his home,
their home.
And out of respect for an old man's dignity
and happiness
I was told not to speak.
Instead, I walked,
and he followed,
watching,
in awe of the tall sapling
that came from the acorn
he had once cradled.
An old man,
and a young woman.
A sudden glance,
or a word
would have moved him
far beyond anything
he wished to feel.
But in the wind
I felt his words,
felt the sunshine
that was his warmth.
I watched him as he delighted
the small children with
his puffed rings of cigarette smoke.
Up, up, up,
wider, bigger,
around me,
embracing me in wordless strength.
I learned more, then.

Miles and miles away again,
the telephone rings,
echoing through the house.
A cry of anguish,
and then the hours.
Long hours, quiet, gray,
and the blankness in my mother's eyes.
I comforted, cooked, cleaned,
whispering, creeping,
until the plane carried her away
to him.
It was then that I became a net,
holding together a house
that despaired for its carpenter.
Weeks and weeks,
falling into bed in exhaustion,
angry,
and never grieving.
Just tired eyes, aching muscles,
empty eyes.

The scent of jasmine
fills my nostrils,
and my eyes look up.
No one.
I wonder if it is he
that I keep searching for.
In my own ripeness
I have finally awakened to
a cold, hard tombstone,
remembering the fluttering candles.
The silence I have been holding
for so long
finally empties from me
in rivers of ink and thoughtfulness.

May he know I'm finally crying,
and that I'm thankful for my rocking chair.

-AJ

Monday, May 2, 2011

Inspiration Mondays: Tea Tin, Turned Useful

I haven't been writing these Monday posts very long, but so far the subjects for them have only become apparent to me in the two or three days before the Monday they are supposed to be written. Is that a good thing? Maybe so, but I wonder what will happen when I come to a Monday and I have nothing to write about...

I suppose that there can be inspiration found in anything, if you really take the time to look. And really, I'm hoping that these little posts are inspiring to anyone who is reading them... to take time to stop and look at colours and shapes and the things that surround you. Surely that is a worthwhile thing.

Last Friday, my hubby offered me a cup of tea, and he made a pot from this wonderful tea from Tea Forte called White Ambrosia.

I was introduced to Tea Forte at the bed and breakfast I stayed at during my first fibre festival last year. I can't say that I'm a tea expert, but I know what I like, and I was immediately seduced by the delicate flavour of this tea. Since it's made in the US and is sold only here and there in shops here in Canada, I spent considerable time trying to figure out where I could get it and if it was worth paying for the shipping to get it across the border.

I know, it's only tea... but look at the extents that I go for yarn and you'll understand that sometimes I latch onto things with the tenacity of a pitbull.

Anyway, we finished the first tin of White Ambrosia last week, and hubby asked me what I wanted to do with the tin: keep or recycle?

Both, actually.

On Saturday, I took the label off the tin and spent some time cleaning the adhesive off the surface. My favourite way to remove adhesive is to soak the item in hot soapy water for a few minutes, then scrape the first layer off (usually with my fingernails). After that, I spray the sticky surface with cooking oil spray, rub it around with my fingers, then scour the rest of the sticky stuff off with a scouring pad or rough sponge. Then I rinse it with more hot soapy water.

By the way, I learned the cooking spray trick when I was a kid and my mom had to figure out how to get gum out of my hair... twice...

After cleaning the tin, I took a trip to the dollar store (again) and came home with various stickers and sheets of scrapbooking paper. I am by no means a scrapbooker, but I'm a sucker for pretty paper, that's for sure.

Last night, before bed, I sat down and measured the tin, cut out a new label, laid out some stickers, got out some gel pens, and glued on some bits and bobs...

And ended up with a tin for my double pointed needles.


Even the hubby was impressed.

The only thing that I'm kinda bummed about is the fact that the cool little insert that goes into the top doesn't fit anymore, but I'm keeping it, just in case it comes in handy.

It could be a tiny wallpaper smoother.

It could be a paperweight... if it was heavier.

It could be a little boat for ants stranded in a puddle.

Just you wait... I'll think of something... After all, this is Inspiration Monday!