Amusing Yarns

A repository of ideas, images, and information that inspires the Amusing Yarns studio

I missed all the excitement yesterday.  The launch of the Fred Perry “British Knitting Patterns” collection* set off a little explosion in the hand-knitting world.  The response seemed to begin with an initial euphoric excitement (free knitting patterns, by a real designer!) and then the righteous indignation backlash arrived.  (When doesn’t it, when knitting is involved?)
Sure, Ms. Davies, of Kate Davies Design, made some very valid points about missing information and glaring factual mistakes.  Factual inaccuracy (i.e., stating the Aran Islands are Scottish, not Irish, and making up some heretofore unknown breed of sheep), does not really add to the “authenticity” of the campaign, but it doesn’t exactly result in a resounding slap across Everyhandknitter’s face.
Neither does the missing critical knitting information such as yardage, gauge, and measurements.  It would have—if these “patterns” were intended for actual knitting.  But, let’s face it, these patterns were not.  (At least, not by any modern-day knitter, which perhaps Fred Perry did not have any real understanding of.)
The “patterns” are just background, literal patterns in the sense of “a style, type, or class of decorations, composition , or elaboration of form” (OED). Do you get upset when the musical notation on gaudy Christmas wrapping paper doesn’t amount to an aria?  Or when the faux-French on that “Parisian” upholstery fabric is total gibberish?  Maybe you do, but that’s another issue altogether.
The campaign is cute and kind of clever.  It fits in perfectly with the Fred Perry brand and it even tips its hat to the craft of hand-knitting, as practised by our grandmothers.
Also, have you ever tried knitting from a 1950’s knitting pattern?  Seriously, the Fred Perry marketing team wasn’t far off.

*UPDATE:  Hmph.  The link I provided above now redirects to the RTW collection.  Maybe all that knitterly outrage was heard and Fred Perry pulled that part of the campaign. Ah well, another example of knitter activism hard at work saving the world. View high resolution

I missed all the excitement yesterday.  The launch of the Fred Perry “British Knitting Patterns” collection* set off a little explosion in the hand-knitting world.  The response seemed to begin with an initial euphoric excitement (free knitting patterns, by a real designer!) and then the righteous indignation backlash arrived.  (When doesn’t it, when knitting is involved?)

Sure, Ms. Davies, of Kate Davies Design, made some very valid points about missing information and glaring factual mistakes.  Factual inaccuracy (i.e., stating the Aran Islands are Scottish, not Irish, and making up some heretofore unknown breed of sheep), does not really add to the “authenticity” of the campaign, but it doesn’t exactly result in a resounding slap across Everyhandknitter’s face.

Neither does the missing critical knitting information such as yardage, gauge, and measurements.  It would have—if these “patterns” were intended for actual knitting.  But, let’s face it, these patterns were not.  (At least, not by any modern-day knitter, which perhaps Fred Perry did not have any real understanding of.)

The “patterns” are just background, literal patterns in the sense of “a style, type, or class of decorations, composition , or elaboration of form” (OED). Do you get upset when the musical notation on gaudy Christmas wrapping paper doesn’t amount to an aria?  Or when the faux-French on that “Parisian” upholstery fabric is total gibberish?  Maybe you do, but that’s another issue altogether.

The campaign is cute and kind of clever.  It fits in perfectly with the Fred Perry brand and it even tips its hat to the craft of hand-knitting, as practised by our grandmothers.

Also, have you ever tried knitting from a 1950’s knitting pattern?  Seriously, the Fred Perry marketing team wasn’t far off.

*UPDATE:  Hmph.  The link I provided above now redirects to the RTW collection.  Maybe all that knitterly outrage was heard and Fred Perry pulled that part of the campaign. Ah well, another example of knitter activism hard at work saving the world.

Yarn stashing is an epidemic afflicting an untold number of knitters and crocheters. Save yourself with this handy flowchart brought to you by Amusing Yarns!

Yarn stashing is an epidemic afflicting an untold number of knitters and crocheters. Save yourself with this handy flowchart brought to you by Amusing Yarns!

Old tattered bras in the back of a drawer = Gross
600 year-old bras found under the floor of an Austrian castle = Awesome!
Austrian archaeologists discovered the oldest known bras amongst a hoard of textile fragments found in Austria’s Lengberg Castle.  Even then women understood the importance of locking and loading the girls, to borrow a line from Stacy London. View high resolution

Old tattered bras in the back of a drawer = Gross

600 year-old bras found under the floor of an Austrian castle = Awesome!

Austrian archaeologists discovered the oldest known bras amongst a hoard of textile fragments found in Austria’s Lengberg Castle.  Even then women understood the importance of locking and loading the girls, to borrow a line from Stacy London.

Spool by Mara Skujeniece
Porcelain vases cast from spools of yarn.  (Because it’s not enough that I have actual yarn in every nook and cranny of my abode.)

Spool by Mara Skujeniece

Porcelain vases cast from spools of yarn.  (Because it’s not enough that I have actual yarn in every nook and cranny of my abode.)

Araphorostic

Adj.  Unsewed, seamless.

Example: 1828 E. Bulwer-Lytton Pelham I. xxxiii. 292. You are as impervious as an araphorostic shoe.

(The things you learn from the Scripps National Spelling Bee!  Or don’t learn —I spelled it incorrectly in the original post. Oi.)

Penelope, Chapel of Morumbi, São Paulo, Brazil  (2011)
By Tatiana Blass
Thank goodness for the internets because I would never have ended up in Brazil to see this amazing installation by Tatiana Blass.  Let’s take a look at the scale of this piece from the interior:

And from the exterior:

(Photos by Everton Ballardin)
At one level, the work can be read as a representation of the myth of Penelope as we know it from Homer’s Odyssey.  The loom suggests both the never-ending shroud Penelope weaves and her secret nighttime unravelings.  For the viewer, this creates a sense of uncertainty since one cannot determine whether the cloth is in a state of construction or deconstruction.
The feeling of uncertainty is further heightened by the rather unsettling impression that one has of having stumbled on the scene of a bloodbath.  We know from Book XXII that the suitors which Penelope had so deftly kept at bay with her cunning are violently cut down by Odysseus and his son and the maids are hung for having cavorted with the suitors.  Penelope’s happiness comes at a steep price, as the artist reminds us.
The location and the unique conflation of interior and exterior spaces suggests a discourse on the role of the viewer and the relevance of context.  The necessity of moving from inside to outside the chapel forces the viewer into the role of active participant rather than passive observer.  This forced participation inserts the viewer into the narrative and by extension, implicates him (or her) in the tragedy that has or is about to occur.
I wish I knew more about Blass’ work and the thought process behind this  installation in particular.  I find myself constantly coming back to this image and thinking about the myriad issues which this work invokes. View high resolution

Penelope, Chapel of Morumbi, São Paulo, Brazil  (2011)

By Tatiana Blass

Thank goodness for the internets because I would never have ended up in Brazil to see this amazing installation by Tatiana Blass.  Let’s take a look at the scale of this piece from the interior:

Penelope, by Tatiana Blass

And from the exterior:

Penelope, exterior

(Photos by Everton Ballardin)

At one level, the work can be read as a representation of the myth of Penelope as we know it from Homer’s Odyssey.  The loom suggests both the never-ending shroud Penelope weaves and her secret nighttime unravelings.  For the viewer, this creates a sense of uncertainty since one cannot determine whether the cloth is in a state of construction or deconstruction.

The feeling of uncertainty is further heightened by the rather unsettling impression that one has of having stumbled on the scene of a bloodbath.  We know from Book XXII that the suitors which Penelope had so deftly kept at bay with her cunning are violently cut down by Odysseus and his son and the maids are hung for having cavorted with the suitors.  Penelope’s happiness comes at a steep price, as the artist reminds us.

The location and the unique conflation of interior and exterior spaces suggests a discourse on the role of the viewer and the relevance of context.  The necessity of moving from inside to outside the chapel forces the viewer into the role of active participant rather than passive observer.  This forced participation inserts the viewer into the narrative and by extension, implicates him (or her) in the tragedy that has or is about to occur.

I wish I knew more about Blass’ work and the thought process behind this  installation in particular.  I find myself constantly coming back to this image and thinking about the myriad issues which this work invokes.


Dix-sept cercles oranges excentriques, 2010
Centre Europeen de la ceramique Limoges, France
Felice Varini
What is painting but an optical illusion?*  In a complete reversal of Renaissance-era illusionism, Varini makes 3-dimensional paintings to render the illusion of 2-dimensions.
*Except when painting attains objecthood, of course. View high resolution

Felice Varini

Dix-sept cercles oranges excentriques, 2010

Centre Europeen de la ceramique Limoges, France

Felice Varini

What is painting but an optical illusion?*  In a complete reversal of Renaissance-era illusionism, Varini makes 3-dimensional paintings to render the illusion of 2-dimensions.

*Except when painting attains objecthood, of course.

Construction Kit

Nikki Gabriel

Knitting kit packaging doesn’t get slicker than this.  Sure, there is Wool and the Gang which has a fun, hipster vibe, but Nikki Gabriel delivers the goods in an intellectualized style that makes WatG look positively giddy by comparison.  (No disrespect, WatG —much appreciation for what you do!)

The serialized nature of Gabriel’s Construction series is reminiscent of Conceptual Art of the 1960s and 70s.  Sol LeWitt’s Incomplete Open Cubes (1974) comes to mind. And the DiY aspect of a kit is something like LeWitt’s Wall Drawings, except without the certificate and the artworld price-tag.

How awesome is it that the kit works on both a conceptual and practical level?  You don’t even have to knit —just put the kit on display in your studio loft and immediately boost your cool factor.  (Be sure to throw around names like Merleau-Ponty and Hegel and terms like “serialization” and “reductivism” when your friends come by for maximum effect.)

Nikki blogs here

The Design Files interviews Nikki here

Stylist Pia Jane Bijkerk posts about her Construction cardigan here

Spider silk cloth!!  I have always wondered if it could be done for apparel.  On display now at the V&A until June 5, 2012.

This display will showcase the world’s largest pieces of cloth made from spider silk. It will include a brocaded shawl made from the silk of more than one million female golden orb-weaver spiders collected in the highlands of Madagascar, as well as a cape on public display for the first time.
View high resolution

Spider silk cloth!!  I have always wondered if it could be done for apparel.  On display now at the V&A until June 5, 2012.

This display will showcase the world’s largest pieces of cloth made from spider silk. It will include a brocaded shawl made from the silk of more than one million female golden orb-weaver spiders collected in the highlands of Madagascar, as well as a cape on public display for the first time.

From the One Sheep Sweater 2010 by Christien Meindertsma
An exploration of the disconnect between process and product in a consumerist world. View high resolution

From the One Sheep Sweater 2010 by Christien Meindertsma

An exploration of the disconnect between process and product in a consumerist world.

Nudes 3
Erin M. Riley
 2010
Handwoven tapestry with hand dyed wool on a nylon warp, 24” x 28”
Erin M. Riley is an artist working mainly in Philadelphia and her medium of choice is tapestry, which, even in this current boom of textile art, is unusual.  Her series of hand-woven tapestries which recreate images she finds on the internet of girls behaving badly really caught my attention.  The images shock, partly because of their explicit content and partly because of the desperate attention-seeking behaviour we associate with this kind of exhibitionism.  (Aside: yes, I am a prude, but no, I do not consider the above image “explicit”.  This particular piece was chosen in part because I’m trying to keep it PG around here.)
In an interview with SAVANT, Riley discusses how her work explores the ways in which women participate in their own exploitation as they attempt to conform to a misguided ideal of the hyper-sexualized woman.  Riley is also interested in how the internet can capture and immortalize those events.  Riley says: “I choose the images I do for their inherent lack of thought for the consequences.”
When I saw the tapestries, I couldn’t help thinking of the ancient Greek myth of Philomela who, after being brutally raped by Tereus, her brother-in-law, had her tongue cut out by the offender so that she could never tell of the crime.  As further insurance, Tereus locks her in a cabin in the woods and returns to his wife, Philomela’s sister.
Philomela, whose “speechless lips cannot address the wrongs that have been done her,” uses her “native wit”, sets up her loom and “starts to weave / threads of deep purple on a white background, depicting the crime.” (Ovid, VI.827-834)
Riley’s tapestries, in a modern-day twist of this theme, depict young women offering sexual imagery of themselves, but unlike Philomela, who sacrifices what is left of her modesty to tell the tale of her suffering with the view of getting justice, the young women in Riley’s tapestries appear to have sacrificed their modesty without any coercion and with very little care for the potential fallout.  In some ways, I see Riley’s hand-woven tapestries as a proxy for these girls, giving voice to an unconscious victim.  Riley weaves her sorrow, her rage, and her accusation into the work and perhaps she directs her response to both the young women who blindly participate in their own objectification and the male-centric culture which encourages them.  The work is simultaneously sad and funny, protective and accusatory.  In short, Riley’s tapestries reveal that uncomfortable disconnect between the feminine and female sexuality, forcing the viewer to consider the validity of such notions.
I keep seeing images of Riley’s work popping up on Tumblr, but I get the sense that people are more interested in its shock value and its novelty rather than the ideas that produced it, especially since more often than not, the work isn’t attributed.  Anyway, sometimes it’s worth slowing down to stop and consider the what and the why when an image captures our attention.

Nudes 3

Erin M. Riley

 2010

Handwoven tapestry with hand dyed wool on a nylon warp, 24” x 28”

Erin M. Riley is an artist working mainly in Philadelphia and her medium of choice is tapestry, which, even in this current boom of textile art, is unusual.  Her series of hand-woven tapestries which recreate images she finds on the internet of girls behaving badly really caught my attention.  The images shock, partly because of their explicit content and partly because of the desperate attention-seeking behaviour we associate with this kind of exhibitionism.  (Aside: yes, I am a prude, but no, I do not consider the above image “explicit”.  This particular piece was chosen in part because I’m trying to keep it PG around here.)

In an interview with SAVANT, Riley discusses how her work explores the ways in which women participate in their own exploitation as they attempt to conform to a misguided ideal of the hyper-sexualized woman.  Riley is also interested in how the internet can capture and immortalize those events.  Riley says: “I choose the images I do for their inherent lack of thought for the consequences.”

When I saw the tapestries, I couldn’t help thinking of the ancient Greek myth of Philomela who, after being brutally raped by Tereus, her brother-in-law, had her tongue cut out by the offender so that she could never tell of the crime.  As further insurance, Tereus locks her in a cabin in the woods and returns to his wife, Philomela’s sister.

Philomela, whose “speechless lips cannot address the wrongs that have been done her,” uses her “native wit”, sets up her loom and “starts to weave / threads of deep purple on a white background, depicting the crime.” (Ovid, VI.827-834)

Riley’s tapestries, in a modern-day twist of this theme, depict young women offering sexual imagery of themselves, but unlike Philomela, who sacrifices what is left of her modesty to tell the tale of her suffering with the view of getting justice, the young women in Riley’s tapestries appear to have sacrificed their modesty without any coercion and with very little care for the potential fallout.  In some ways, I see Riley’s hand-woven tapestries as a proxy for these girls, giving voice to an unconscious victim.  Riley weaves her sorrow, her rage, and her accusation into the work and perhaps she directs her response to both the young women who blindly participate in their own objectification and the male-centric culture which encourages them.  The work is simultaneously sad and funny, protective and accusatory.  In short, Riley’s tapestries reveal that uncomfortable disconnect between the feminine and female sexuality, forcing the viewer to consider the validity of such notions.

I keep seeing images of Riley’s work popping up on Tumblr, but I get the sense that people are more interested in its shock value and its novelty rather than the ideas that produced it, especially since more often than not, the work isn’t attributed.  Anyway, sometimes it’s worth slowing down to stop and consider the what and the why when an image captures our attention.

Tree Restoration
by Hannah Streefkerk
Landart Biennale in Valkenswaard, Netherlands, 2010
From fiberarts.com:

In a large-scale installation at the Land Art Biënnale 2010 Valkenswaard, Netherlands, Streefkerk “restored” approximately thirty trees in an area called de Malpie. To create the appearance that textile bandages were actually stitched into the trees, she drilled tiny holes to nail yarn into the damaged bark. Through her land art restorations, Streefkerk brings awareness to trees injured by both natural and human influences. The artist skillfully incorporates traditional embroidery techniques into these site-specific outdoor interventions, triggering a unique dialogue between observer and landscape as viewers walk around and in between the artistically “healed” trees. 
View high resolution

Tree Restoration

by Hannah Streefkerk

Landart Biennale in Valkenswaard, Netherlands, 2010

From fiberarts.com:

In a large-scale installation at the Land Art Biënnale 2010 Valkenswaard, Netherlands, Streefkerk “restored” approximately thirty trees in an area called de Malpie. To create the appearance that textile bandages were actually stitched into the trees, she drilled tiny holes to nail yarn into the damaged bark. Through her land art restorations, Streefkerk brings awareness to trees injured by both natural and human influences. The artist skillfully incorporates traditional embroidery techniques into these site-specific outdoor interventions, triggering a unique dialogue between observer and landscape as viewers walk around and in between the artistically “healed” trees. 

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