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Steve Lets Out His Inner Artist

T shirt 3

This is my husband Steve.
He is a right-brained mechanical engineer and he is very, very smart.  He knows lots of math and science things, but he also knows history and the arts.  He can name any rock guitarist in 6 measures.   He doesn’t think he has any artistic talent and, about this, he is dead wrong.

Steve's sketchbook

This is one of his sketchbooks.  Yes, it is a piece of shim with equations written in Sharpie.  He has lots of ideas–but that’s another story.  When I saw some of his designs, I  said YOU SHOULD DO SOME T-SHIRTS.  Ands he did.
Golden ratio

Recognize this formula?  Me, neither.  It is the Golden Ratio, or Mean, or Spiral.  It defines the perfect composition for an artwork.  Ask Leonardo.  It says a lot about Steve that this would be his first piece.  And that he would not label it and make it easy for the rest of us.

Here are some more of his early ones:
Avogadro's (Avocado') Number
Avogadro’s number. As an avocado. Pun. They get better.


Log of natural e
This defines the log of the natural e. Well, both daughters recognized it and it was a gift for Erice–E, get it? The white paint was not satisfactory. Already he is looking to improve his materials.

Kekule-benzine ring


This is his shirt from the first picture. Kekule discovered the Benzine ring. Turns out he was having a hard time figuring out how to visually represent it until he had a dream about a snake swallowing his tail. Hmmmmm.

Planck's constant
Another gift for Erica. Planck’s constant. So he drew a plank. Erica fell down laughing.

These were my Christmas presents.

Dali's iPhone


I love art that makes me stop and then maybe laugh. Salvadore Dali’s melting clocks fits
the bill in spite of its deeper meaning. Only for me I got a melting iPhone.

Chrysler Building
My favorite building in the world is the Chrysler building in New York City. Lots of Art Deco and gargoyles. Beautiful. He cut the stencil out of freezer paper. Lots of little pieces. I love it.

He, too, has been experimenting with art supplies.  He started with fabric paint from the craft store.  For Christmas I gave him Shiva Paintstiks.  He is having a great time.

Here are the new ones:

Sagitarius A (black hole)
This is the black hole in the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. I love the effect on the black sweatshirt.

Leo Szilard
This is Leo Szilard, the guy that discovered nuclear chain reactions.

The Shiva Paintstiks leave the fabric unchanged. No stiffness. And they can be mixed like oil paints. We both like them.

I’m so proud.


Embellishments for fabrics

Favorite t-shirt with food stain covered.

Favorite t-shirt with food stain covered.

Those of you who know me are aware that I cannot eat without staining my clothes.  This is why I always take a busy scarf to restaurants.  So much more attractive than a bib.  Some years ago, in a moment of genius, I combined some of my bits of freeform knit and crochet with my stained T-shirts.

This new challenge to alter Erica’s jacket (here) has sent me a different way.  Paint and thread, but embroidery.  Since I know little about painting cloth, I experimented.  (Not knowing what I am doing has never inconvenienced me in any way.)

Acrylic paint with stencils on muslin and flannel

Acrylic paint with stencils on muslin and flannel

Painted Cloth2

Acrylic paint with stencils and stamps on cotton gauze and a medium weight cotton.

Painted Cloth3

Acrylics with stamps and other stencils and some embroidery on a linen/cotton blend.

Painted Cloth4

My favorite after I change the pink thread on the right–A light weight cotton, with paint smudged on and actually used to wipe up a spill. The birdcage is stamped using acrylic paint.

These samples are made without a textile medium to change the paint from regular paint to fabric paint.  Fabric paint has additives that increase its ability to be soft and flexible even after washing and drying.  Tulip makes a good product available at Michael’s.  I haven’t played with mixing my own colors using that paint.  Crayola makes an awesome fabric marker and they are cheap.  Still I have the color problem.

Yes, I have dyes–lots of them, but they involve measuring and not breathing powder and it is sort of like cooking.  I don’t do that.

I even have a bottle of Golden’s textile medium (GAC-900, I think), but in my excitement I forgot all about it.

I kept the paints sheer  and thin except for a few stamps.  This makes if very easy to handsew on it.  The handsewing was important to me because I wanted this to be a portable project.  I have avoided beads and plastic buttons only because I don’t think they fit with my “vision.”

Next time, I will also drag out and paint bits of shiny cloth and some upholstery things buried somewhere in the attic.  I have already washed some dark pieces to try, but who knows when.

My next decision is whether or not to just deconstruct the whole jacket so I don’t have to wrestle so much as I try to add pieces.  If I do that, I can also trace the pieces and make some other jackets.  Yeah, right.  Too many ideas, too little time.

If you have any advice, please don’t hesitate.

More later–


Grand Challenge 2: Finding a Palette

First choices mostly new purchases

Now that I love the color of Erica’s jacket, I need to plan the fabric and do-dahs for embellishing it.

No problem. I bought some nice pieces in Athens and I own batik in many colorways. The piece at about 1:00 in this pic has great colors and Erica loved it. But it is shiny, silky. This is an unstructured linen jacket and the shiny, silky stuff I bought just don’t fit the rustic texture of the linen. The leftover turquoise gauze is nice, and she has fallen in love with turquoise. Ribbon and buttons are okay, but. . . None of the solid color batiks excite me, but the block printed batik is awesome. Turquoise yarn could be couched in some kind of pattern. Just need to play.

Best option so far--not good.

Best option so far–not good.

Cut—Fold—Pin. Try it forty ways. Looking for vertical effect and asymmetry. Just looks dumb. Too matchy-matchy.

some knit and crochet

some knit and crochet

I need to temper my wild side with Erica’s more traditional taste. (Think English country garden and dainty calico prints.) If it is too out there, she won’t feel comfortable wearing it.

BUT—it must be colorful. She looks so good with clear, intense color near her face.

Just the kind of problem I like. But this is not the right palette. Something is missing.

Off to the attic and closets.

Everything in the house that is possible--and some that isn't.

Everything in the house that is possible–and some that isn’t.

Threads, yarns, beads, buttons, ribbons and fabrics. Most of this pile has been pinned on or arranged in some way. Arr-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-gh. My design process is always so slow.

Nothing works. Time to walk away and work on another project for a while. Decided to work on the batik skirt I am adding to a knit vest.

lightning bolt


     SHAZAM!   Green!


 The skirt batik and a bit of turquoise cotton. I kinda like.
The skirt batik and a bit of turquoise cotton. I kinda like.
A different strip of the batik—love the mottled black stripe—and a touch of the first batik. Almost there.
A different strip of the batik—love the mottled black stripe—and a touch of the first batik. Almost there.
Add the block print batik from the first try and I am in love. This is the palette.
Add the block print batik from the first try and I am in love. This is the palette.

Now to decide on reshaping the jacket. I think I can make it hang better, and I know I don’t like the neckline. Also need to consider what she can wear with it.

More later–







New Sock Design Published

VOGUE Knitting Crochet 2014, photo by Rose Callahan

VOGUE Knitting Crochet 2014, photo by Rose Callahan

Big news.  My favorite sock design was bought by Soho Publishing and will be in the next issue of Noro magazine.  Woo-hoooooooo!

VOGUE Knitting Crochet 2014, photo by Rose Callahan

VOGUE Knitting Crochet 2014, photo by Rose Callahan

Item name: Faux Cable Socks

Designer: Jane Prater

Yarn Information: Noro Silk Garden in #304

For sizes: Adult Woman

Amounts: 2 skeins (for matching stripe pattern, otherwise one is enough)

The coolest part of these sock is the effect the long repeat color found in Noro yarn.  I think they invented it, but other yarns exist, especially in this world of independent hand dyers.  The faux cable cuff pattern is easy to learn, so you can go Zen while knitting these.  The wrap around arch (so comfy) is more complex, but if you place the markers, it is almost Zen.

Special tip:  I try mine on when I finish the arch to see exactly how much more to knit before I start my toe.

Here are my photos of the finished pair.

Heel and Arch (2)

Faux Cable Cuff

Arch Structure

I’m told the issue will be out June 3.

More later–













Trust the Pattern

I tell clients all the time to just trust the pattern.  I also told my kids to do as I say, not as I do.  Well, I’m just not trusting this pattern to turn out to be what I want it to be.  So I’m cheating.–My best skill. It’s the Shawl/cape pattern from Maggie Jackson, a marvelous, inventive designer.  But her models are 10 feet tall and weigh 87 lbs.  I, of course, am not and do not. So, I cheat.

I found some old pellon interfacing.  How old you ask?  Well, the package of 4 yds cost 99 cents.  How long has it been since anything was 25 cents a yard?  It is a bit discolored and will tear if you pull on it, but it will serve this purpose.  That’s why I don’t throw things away.  It is to be a template, a pattern, a sloper.

Pellon and pattern for shape and size

I went to the shawl drawer and found the best of my shawls, shaped like I like.  The one I altered the pattern from a triangle to a curved one by short rows .  The one I finished in Australia.  Yes, the one that has a bad side where I didn’t quite do it right and the good side where I finally figured it out.

Layout with good half on the fold

I only traced the good half of the shape and placed it on the fold of the pellon.  You can see that it didn’t quite fit.

The extra bit that didn’t fit the 22 inch width

I am Knitter!  I am resourceful.  I have strong packing tape.  A little pencil outline, some scissors, and voila.

My body curved template

Now to put it to use–

Disclaimer:  The owner of this blog in NO WAY means to imply or guarantee that what you see next will in any way resemble the final product.  The whole point in this practice is that you don’t have to commit to anything until you have completed the project and sought the advice of every knitter you know.  These pictures represent Plan A.   Like that mystery writer,  I have 25 other letters.

Using the template

Closeups of the swatches so far–Click to enlarge if interested.  Uh-h-h-h, I stopped following the pattern on these as well after I knit the second one.  Don’t blame Maggie if this doesn’t look great.   Did I mention that I am having fun?

center back plan A

More later–

Why I Love Architecture

I was thinking about this while drafting a Tangle based on a building I spotted in Boston last week. It was a modern enough skyscraper type building, but one section had windows shaped like—to me—medieval altar triptychs. It was subtle, but it introduced a different pattern and that difference drew my eye. I took a picture.

If you were to browse through my vacation photos—OMG, why would you?—you’d see that I take more pictures of buildings than I do of people. (What does that say about me?)

It started on my first trip to England in 1976. Standing on a platform over a Roman mosaic in Fishburne, I announced, “I can quilt that,” and started snapping pictures. A few years later I looked at a tall building in a distant city and said, “I can knit that.” Think intarsia.

I think it’s the patterns within that I see. The repetition of squares or curves or lines draws my eye. Then the “maker” in me starts to construct. Clearly this is why I love Zentangles.

This is how I design and make sweaters. I CONSTRUCT them. I knit them in pieces; I like to look at the shape of each piece and see how they fit together. Putting these flat pieces on a round body still fascinates me. I also like that pieces allow me to make changes (huge ones, sometimes) when I get a better idea while in process. Options, you gotta love options.

Knossos from Greece inspired new cape shawl

I’m very comfortable when I think about constructing the shoulders or the neckline, etc. To think about the entire sweater all the time is simply too daunting. But to build it one piece at a time is manageable. Small goals, better focus, more rewards. This process applies to whatever I make, no matter who the designer is. Maybe this is why I can easily think about and attempt to change someone else’s design to suit me—V-necks, longer “short” sleeves, waist shaping.

Give this a try. Just like doing the Red section of a cross stitch pattern, break something down into pieces or forms or sections–Even if you do it just mentally. Does it change your view?

Sorry if this is too philosophical. I could have written about this new economic theory I am formulating based on absolutely no knowledge of economics—just human nature. Hmmmm.

Dala horse from Sweden

Houses in Bryggen, Norway

Led me to this design–

My Scandinavia Hat

Even bought the yarn in Denmark.  Later I sewed Krone to the top.  If you don’t want you coins used in design work, don’t put a hole in the middle of them.

More later–

Fusing some petals

Sitting at the mall waiting on Janie, who is always late, and I am always early, so I bring plenty of toys to play with. I ran into Sandy from Charlotte Yarn and emailed her a link to Franklin Habit’s article in the newTwist Collective, ” Ten Knitters You Meet in Hell.” If you haven’t read it, click here. Then saw Chris and her husband. Didn’t know the Starbucks at Cotswold was such a happening place.

I’m excited. I finished my iPad purse this morning. Designed it “seat of the pants” as usual, so it has a few forced places, but that is just me.

I added some flower petals to create a flower to cover the one little place on the flap that I didn’t like. I just fused some pieces of batik together and drew the petal kind of freehand with the machine. I even used some Zentangle patterns for the vein areas. I did this with black thread and blind dumb luck led me to pairing some dark with lights. These are reversible so I can have some options in placing them now and in the future. The leaves were done a while ago when I first received Alissa Burke’s book/CD Sew Wild. She is the source for this technique and for the courage to try it. Messy is okay!

Found the button in my deep stash. Remember what I always say in class: if you don’t like it, sew a button over it!

The pocket in the flap doesn’t work at all. I may try to handsew a zipper in it. Maybe.

About the rayon Habu yarn I plan to use for Olgajazzy’s Infinite Loop. I knit a swatch, soaked it for more than two hours as recommended (out shopping) and I love the feel of the yarn. It has body but is soft. Still it is a bit of a challenge to knit. Worth it.

More later–

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