I’ve always felt a bit of a poor relation in the world of weavers and spinners: In the groups I have belonged to it was only possible to exhibit knitting provided it was handknit from handspun yarn. Woven pieces could be made from mill-spun yarn, but the knitting didn’t seem to count as a creative fibre endeavor in its own right. I suppose that was fair enough, after all, I had joined a weaving and spinning group, and knitting wasn’t their raison d’être.
This was very much on my mind when I proposed a knitting exhibit for mainly local knitters in the Mary Black Gallery in Halifax in 1996. It is difficult for a knitting artist to find the hundreds of hours required to create a piece whose primary purpose is to be Art in a particular exhibit. The resulting show used quite a number of garments that combined art with practicality, and some knitting artists came up with pieces specifically for the show, including Ilga Leja, Corrie Watt and Jane Thornley.
The resulting exhibit that came to fruition in 2008 is described on my web site.
To our delight, the toilet roll category attracted an extraordinary number of entries from across Canada and beyond. The size of the piece made it a reasonable investment of time and money, and we heartily encouraged knitters to play with the concept of toilet roll covers as art. We were richly rewarded.
One of my friends, a truly talented artist, is Stephanie Dean Moore. When time was freer (BC – before children) she spent thousands of hours knitting exquisite pieces to combine with her other limitless areas of expertise (such as book binding and silversmithing). Check out her fern brocade silk book chemise on this website (unfortunately it is not possible to enlarge the photos sufficiently to see the stitches, but they are knit).
This year I was approached by local glass artist Su Hood to join her in producing something of artistic merit for a collaborative exhibition (two or more local artists had to create the piece together) at the Mary Black Gallery.
I really, really tried to say no. That is my new new motto: just say NO. I tried, but Su came by and persuaded me by flaunting her beautiful glass (I have a weakness for glass). Time was tight, I was busy traveling, working on a book, writing patterns, blogs, newsletters and new workshops, along with reformatting patterns in my free time (free time?), and potentially knitting in my sleep. Yet, somehow, I was swayed. We discussed ideas and came up with Su making glass links which I would string or link (a la Chain d’Amour Scarf) together with a knitted structure.
Su did her bit. But, when the beads arrived, they were not at all what I had imagined from our conversation. Time was short was and I was off on the road again. The holes weren’t big enough to knit the beads in or thread a cord through, so a major rethink was in order. All that, and NO time! It had to be possible to complete the knitting whilst I was on the road, otherwise the deadline would do me in. So it is in life: Once you’ve committed to someone else, you have to follow through. Somehow, I always find that imposed third-party deadlines invariably trump whatever I happen to be working on for myself. How very irritating.
I decided that some confection with i-cord would be best to form the fibrous structure of our piece, and then I’d hold the beads in place with stuffed bobbles. Armed with i-cord and some luscious Cats Pajama’s yarn, I headed off on the road. Quite a few people questioned me (and my alleged sanity) as to why I was knitting miles of pale pink i-cord!
Once I returned home, I then had to wrap my brain around constructing something from the great heap of pink stuff. I worked a length of D cord; a curled-around strip that looks like i-cord that someone has cut open. (It would be better named C cord.) This strip I knit until it would just stretch around a bead, encasing its edges, and grafted it together. This became the base of the whatever-it-was; onto this I would stitch my i-cord. With lots of judiciously aplied mattress stitch, a vessel began to take shape. Stuffed bobbles were made, and beads attached at the top. I needed to ensure that the basket was sturdy enough to support the weight of the beads at the top edge.
I’d completed the basket just in time for me to be about to head off to the UK, off on my next trip. Imagine my equilibrium-rattling horror when, having sent photos to Su, she came back with the cheerful suggestion that it should really have tentacles as well. Tentacles, of course; why didn’t I realize it was pining for tentacles? Aargh! I just wanted it finished and off my plate: not what you’d call a truly artistic sentiment.
Strangely, at this very moment, fate took a hand, in the form of the Icelandic volcanic eruption. This caused me to rethink the advisability of going to the UK immediately prior to a teaching engagement in Ontario, when there was no time to spare for cancelled flights between the two events. I cancelled my UK trip, which was for a major social family event. This gave me just enough time to produce serious tentacles and add more beads and bobbles. I grudgingly concede that the basket was immensely enhanced by their addition (thank you Su), and we were selected for a spot in the exhibit. But, in the meantime back on the knitting farm, no DK mittens were knit nor was book progress made*.
Knitting is such a time hog: good thing that we love it!
*Cool Knitters Finish in Style has since been finished and will be available early Fall 2010.