Friday, April 18, 2014

Giant Yarny Caterpillar

I have in mind a lunatic, puffy bomber jacket made with triple stranded novelty yarn with flags in it, edged with ribbon.   Stay tuned.   svb


....having said that, let's be clear:   I HATE SUMMER.  I hate heat.  I am not a tropical plant.  At the slightest HINT of a temperature higher than about 75 degrees, I head for the nearest air-conditioned space.   So I am, at best, ambivalent about the central feature of summer -- high temperatures.  It is important to remember that I grew up in Minnesota, where I really do think people become highly intolerant of heat, and a good deal more tolerant of cold than lots of other people. 

But summer has other, important attributes.   Summer is the time for lots and lots of work that some of us cannot do the rest of the time -- in my case, the completion of books and articles and other things that I have promised to write and postponed because of all of those students who keep showing up at the office door (!). 

And summer is a time for long, beautiful drives to festivals, fiber expos, and conferences -- such as the TNNA conference upcoming -- all of those gorgeous displays of yarn and new designs, and a round of hugs....It's a wonderful event, and this year, I will be going with Ellen Taylor (manager at Artisan Knitworks) and Lynne Wardrop (ex-manager of City Knits Detroit and a once-in-a-while sock teacher at my place).  If we want, we can stay up all night.  Or not.  Nobody will ever know.

Summer is also a time for knitting and crochet.  Yes, I know.  It's hot.  The warmer temperatures (refer again to air-conditioning reference above) have never slowed me down.  I even like to sit at picnic tables and especially at bistro tables outdoor at coffee shops with a big ball of wool and something beautiful in my head........watching it  happen with no particular time limit.....It is a time of pure  joy.  I like to take some yarn I've never used before, an array of needles and hooks, and play with it  until it starts to speak ("YES.  That's what I want to be...DO IT").  You laugh.  Yarn speaks.  If you don't believe me, take a ball of it to a quiet place and start to make swatches.  Then, if it wants to be a sweater, I make a little drawing of a possible garment (you have to make provision for the possibility that the yarn will change your mind about what it wants to be as you go along) and start making something like a size 40......beginning with the back.  (Sadly, I have lots of backs, or starts of backs -- what I lack is not ideas, but time).

At places like Artisan Knitworks, we don't entirely look forward to summer -- It's a time of dropping revenue because people don't think of knitting in summer.  So there is a bit of anxiety until maybe August about how to pay rent.  (If you have  a favorite shop, for god's sake buy something this summer!!!!).  But what a lovely time for people to come and just sit in the cool -- talk with friends -- make new friends.

Up with summer.



Monday, April 14, 2014

Some things perhaps shouldn't be undertaken......

OK folks...just because you CAN crochet something, doesn't mean you SHOULD!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Dyed on the Hoof Sheep

I used to make jokes about how I was going to buy a herd of sheep, dip them in dye, and array them over a  hillside to amuse motorists.  GOD.  SOMEBODY DID IT!   svb

Art-ish: Freshly dyed sheep run in view of the highway near Bathgate, Scotland. The sheep farmer has been dying his sheep with nontoxic dye since 2007 to entertain passing motorists.
Art-ish: Freshly dyed sheep run in view of the highway near Bathgate, Scotland. The sheep farmer has been dying his sheep with nontoxic dye since 2007 to entertain passing motorists.

Art-ish: Freshly dyed sheep run in view of the highway near Bathgate, Scotland. The sheep farmer has been dying his sheep with nontoxic dye since 2007 to entertain passing motorists.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


Sorry for absence from the blog -- it's very nearly end of semester and here is more or less what it feels like (a Meishan Pig -- who ever heard of such a creature?):    Look for me after April 21!!!!   svb

File:Görlitz - Tierpark - Meishan pig 04 ies.jpg

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Gratifying But Not Surprising Story....! Knit On...!

Purls of wisdom: A daughter finds relief for grief in knitting 

6 hours ago
Knitter C.J. Arabia, who took up the craft after her mother's death, is shown working on a new project.
At the end of 2008, the unthinkable happened to C.J. Arabia. Her mother — the healthy one who lived on baked chicken and broccoli and who wouldn’t let her kids use a microwave — was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer and given three months to live.
To ease her through grueling chemotherapy, Arabia’s mother took up knitting. When she passed away at 59, Arabia’s brothers gave her their mother’s leftover yarn to keep, though she had never knitted before. But she absolutely knew that was the yarn’s purpose. “I stared at it in the corner,” she said. “It’s weird how a bag of yarn can give you so many feelings.”
So after several months of waiting to start and when YouTube tutorials didn’t do the trick, she took a local knitting class in Los Angeles and has “kind of been knitting excessively ever since.”
There have been hats, scarves, masks for dogs, mittens — anything that strikes her fancy — and she doesn’t follow patterns when making her artwork. The 44-year-old has documented herself knitting everywhere from the Grand Sumo Tournament in Japan to castles in Europe. Her designs are whimsical (a "Clockwork Orange" ski mask), intricate (multicolored hooded capes) and practical (soft, knitted bookmarks). She has given herself carpal tunnel syndrome from all of the knitting, or maybe it was the purling.
Acclaimed songwriter and "Shudder To Think" singer Craig Wedren wears a cape gifted to him by C.J. Arabia.
Courtesy of CJ Arabia
Acclaimed songwriter and "Shudder To Think" singer Craig Wedren wears a cape gifted to him by C.J. Arabia.
But most of all, she has healed her grieving heart. “For me, knitting is like a meditation. It almost takes me out of my head when I can be sad or stressed or anxious … it helps so much.”
She read somewhere that knitting and meditation light up the same parts of the brain, and though she had always had trouble meditating, she finds that “knitting is a way to just kind of float. You’re floating with the waves, just bobbing up and down. That’s how the stitches are for me. That’s all you can think about.”
Arabia’s family and friends have been the beneficiaries of her habit — “If you know me, you have something knitted from me.”
She gives away almost everything she makes. “People tell me I should sell my stuff — and occasionally I do — but I give the vast majority away,” Arabia said. “For one, nobody wants to pay what a hand-knitted item, made with really good natural fibers, is actually worth.”
Yarn is purchased anywhere from $36 a ball to $60 a ball and up through her travels, though her favorite store is Knitty City on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, which she calls her “Vatican.”
“Going into a yarn store for me is like kids walking into a toy store,” Arabia said, adding, “I smell the yarns, sometimes I smell the sheep or llama or alpaca or hay. The more natural the fiber, it has little bits of dirt and hay. To me, they’re lucky and I leave them in.”
No scrap is wasted — she will use colorful odds and ends to create vibrant designs. And knitting has become so natural that Arabia doesn’t have to see what she’s doing. “I can feel in the dark if I have made a mistake,” she said. “I can go back and fix the mistake without looking.”
She does have a following in certain Hollywood circles. Her boyfriend is film and television actor Mather Zickel (of “Rachel Getting Married” and recently Showtime’s “Masters of Sex.”) A longtime friend is Janeane Garofalo. She has other famous friends, not that she’ll drop any names. “I live in L.A.,” she said, “it’s just my friends happen to be celebrities.”
C.J. models a winter design, an item she will most likely give away to one her friends.
C.J. models a design she will most likely give away to one her friends or someone in need.
C.J. Arabia
Aside from hats, capes and scarves, C.J. also fashions items for shelter cats and dogs.
While Arabia is a Web engineer by day, she has turned knitting into a way to give back and help others. She has knitted with residents at a local nursing home, many of whom speak languages other than English. “What they all spoke was knitting,” she said. “I could help them with their stitches and it didn’t matter what they spoke.”

Saturday, March 8, 2014

OK -- I've had it!

So here I am, on spring break FINALLY trying to complete this g___ d ___ (think "gosh darn") book manuscript, and I sit down to listen to news for a few minutes, and WHAT DO I HEAR.  Apparently the Rutgers faculty decided to not invite (or disinvite -- not clear which) Condi Rice to lecture or speak or some such thing.......A couple of journalists known for their associations with the liberal media expressed disgust at the very idea that she would be barred.  So did the anchor.  So would I.  So what happens?  This smug little Republican surrogate (I can't even remember the usual term, so hopped up am I) through pinched, ruby-red lips and an AFRO, as if she isn't aware of that party's posture toward a good many people of color, announces that the real problem is the "fact" that universities are full of those nasty, intolerant "liberals" who want to silence everyone who disagrees with them.

I really HAVE HAD IT.  Let's set the record straight.   It  was Daniel Issa who silenced ranking Congressman Elijah Cummings not two days ago by shutting off his mike.  Why?  Because the attorney for the person being interviewed (who was taking the Fifth) had agreed to proffer, which means that the woman pleading the Fifth was about to say what she knew.   So.  Can't have Cummings doing THAT.   Remedy?  Shut him down.   In the south, in places like Texas and Mississippi, it's social conservatives, not liberals, who want to strip textbooks of all mention of the more deplorable episodes -- among them, Darwin's ideas, the civil rights movement, the fact of white lynching of black people, the women's movement, and so on and so forth.  They have pretty much succeeded, by the way.  It is sure as h___ not the conservatives who wrote the American BIll of Rights and have defended it in federal courts against hundreds of attempts to shut down speech.  Indeed, when liberals do that, it is conservatives who keep saying that liberals tolerate too  much speech, that we don't know when to draw lines -- whereas they do.   John Stuart Mill and John Locke were not conservatives.  Thomas Jefferson, who tried to beat back the CONSERVATIVE attempt to silence Republicans (who were liberal, by the way) in the late 1790s, was apparently one of those intolerant people. 

When I sat on the Detroit board of the ACLU long years ago, I actually got SO annoyed with the board's insistence upon hearing ALL voices and in the process being completely hamstrung that I ended up quitting.   One of liberals' problems, in fact, and it's really serious, is that we have a lot of trouble saying that X or Y or Z is "right" -- because it seems to exclude other points of view.

It's time to call a halt to this nonsense.  When I write a syllabus -- and, indeed, when my colleagues write a syllabus, no matter what their political views -- the idea is to represent as many points of view as possible.   Sometimes it makes for confusion.  Students actually like clarity -- a single 'fact,' not competing information.  I think that's why social conservatives, the ones who reduce things to a single, easy-to-memorize slogan ("Obama is a Nazi") are so successful -- and here, I pointedly exclude the many conservatives I know who welcome discussion.   It's the ones who would shut down the public forum that are intolerable.  In the law school, there used to be one professor (a political conservative, I quickly add) who decided to fix the whole problem by assigning a textbook that simply cut out all of the materials he thought were "wrong," such as Roe v. Wade.


When I finish this book, I will report in again.  In the meantime, disagree with someone!    svb