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Interruption #4, by Linda

23 Feb
2101 close-up

Untitled 2101 close-up

 What question . . . ?

Oh no, not that question again. You can’t cover it with an elegant lie, as with, “Mummy, how did that baby get into your tummy?” or “How much have you bloody spent/drunk/shot your mouth off this time?”. This is because you’re a Nartist and they’ve asked you what is art, and of course there is no answer.

Oh, that question . . .

Unless of course you look it up in Wikipedia, hoping for some nice, comfy, sweeping statements, such as (I paraphrase:) art used to be merely skill and craftsmanship in the West until the 19th century, and now it’s supposed to make you think and feel. Oh, and there’s no mention of knitting and crochet on that page; is that because if you can’t get a baby or elephant or chimpanzee to do it so you can flog it as abstract art, then it’s a craft, therefore it’s not art by 21st century definition?

. . . so who gets to be the artist then?

Talking of craft, this question of “are we artists?” is often discussed by knitters. One of the suggested answers is that if you knit or crochet to a pattern, you’re doing craft; if you have designed the pattern then you get to be The Artist. And the problem with that is the naming game again, because names of trades carry implications of hierarchy: a company director is better than an executive because he earns more; an artist is nobler than his studio craftsmen because he or she is the one who puts the soul into the art – or so the Romantics might have you believe. So take a bow, then, Jeff Koons, Rolf Harris and that chimp who did the spatter paintings.

So why don’t we just say it’s all art, and that the epiphany – or the lucky break that makes you realise stuff – is the best bit. So if you’ve just bought some new blue yarn and you’re mucking about and experimenting with it, and your toddler grabs it and chucks it on the stash pile, right next to a green that should never match it, and the two colours make beautiful love, then that’s art – well it would be if you got off your backside and made a scarf with those two yarns together.

Opus 800

Mel's beautiful Opus 800

Happy crafting, my artist friend.


Ball winders and belts

10 Feb

I spent a puzzling afternoon with a new friend once when I had just started knitting again after a 20-year gap. She was using a ball winder and a swift to make lovely balls out of a skein/hank of yarn. What puzzled me was that she didn’t just wind a ball and leave it at that, she wound it into a ball, then wound it again into another ball and finally into a third ball which she kept. I couldn’t understand why she would spend good knitting time fiddling around with balls. Well, this week I found out why.

Wendy trad aran

I borrowed a ball winder from a lovely friend with the intention of making balls from some skeins I had recently bought and from a HUGE ball of wool she gave me herself. So, I wound a ball and enjoyed it. But it was a bit loose. So I wound it again from the first ball and it was better. But it still wasn’t right. So I held the yarn going in between my fingers to give it some tension and the ball was fantastic. I was hooked. From then on, I spent the rest of the evening playing with a 500g ball of wool, making perfect little 50g balls with it. The feeling of satisfaction was enormous. I particularly like the moment when you pull the ball off the winder and the yarn rushes in to fill the gap it left. Super!

Wendy trad aran

All wound up!

So I finished the belt pattern and it’s published. In case you weren’t reading my last entry, it’s a free pattern for a Tunisian crochet belt that you can do without buying any special equipment. All you need is a 6mm crochet hook that can hold 6 stitches at once, some aran yarn and something fancy to edge it with. Then you can go mad and decorate it as much as you like. So, Linda will add in the link here because I’m rubbish at that… She will probably put in a photo….  or 2…..  as well.

Opus 1901

Opus 1901

Linda has been very busy recently and has published lots of new stuff. I’ll tell you more about that next week, or Linda will herself. Or she might have another rant, which is all good.

Happy knitting/hooking 🙂

tags: ball winder swift wendy traditional aran yarn free tunisian crochet pattern belt winding cake

Interruption . . . by Linda

6 Feb
by Richard Dunkley at Schmidts, UK Vogue 15 Apr 73

"Mad English at Schmidts" by Richard Dunkley, UK Vogue 15 Apr 1973

Mel says I can interrupt her blog for one of my rants. This should be fun, then. It’s not about Mel; she’s a lovely lady, a good friend and a great designer. It’s not about you, our lovely knitters. It’s not about other designers. It’s about certain people who make designers look daft when they’re not.

The naming game . . .

A million years ago in the early 20th century, before even I was born, UK patterns came in leaflets, and each one tended to have exciting names, like Sirdar 8438 and Beehive 7811. The lucky patterns which made it to books and magazines got called Blue Cardigan, Baby Hat and the like. So now, today – what’s with all these girls’ names given to patterns? And what happens when you design a man’s sock? Call it Leaves? Lancaster?

Now designers are artists, and they can call their pattern whatever they like. If they want to name their jumper after a relative, friend, celeb, fictional heroine – that’s romantic and lovely, and good luck to them. If their stitch pattern and yarn colour remind them of banana leaves, then of course they can and should call their pattern Banana Leaves if they want.

But all that only counts if it’s their own idea, and where this is going wrong is in knit mags, where the editor first invents a story (what?) and then hastily cobbles together a list of names – any old girls’ names and place names; same number of names as pattern pages in their mag – and asks their designers to design on a theme. Well, the last bit is fine – and these mags all have great designers doing gorgeous designs. So then the editor slaps the names on the designs as they come in, and there you have it – pretentious pattern-naming that has nothing to do with the patterns.

So that is why Mel’s and my patterns have these more-pretentious-than-thou names. “Opus” just means a work, and tends to be used for classical musical compositions. “Untitled” tends to be a name given to fine art pieces along with catalogue numbers. (For our overseas audience, this is called British humour, and has to do with irony).

. . . and stories

Oh, and what about the design “story”? What’s that when it’s at home? As far as I can see it means getting together those designs made to the editor’s theme, and bunging the whole lot in front of the same photo location. That’s not a story; stories have plots.

Back in the 70s, Vogue UK (fashion mag, not knit mag) used to feature a wonderful photographer called Richard Dunkley, who would put all his very young fashion models in a public location and make them muck about and run riot. I remember one rather blurred photo in particular, where there’s a bunch of very brightly-dressed and over-made-up girls giggling and crashing through a quiet and grey restaurant. Now that’s a story. Wake up, knit mag editors!