If you know me, you may have heard me say that here at OTR we don’t support fiber apartheid. Unlike some places in the world, we class all fiber arts as equals. We invite, nay, encourage crocheters to come into the yarn shops and give their creativity the good stuff to work with.
I was reminded again this week that not everyone shares my view. A woman slinked in the door and scuttled along the walls, darting from shelf to shelf and taking fearful glances over both shoulders at every aisle intersection. Okay…maybe that’s an exaggeration. But she did seem a little uncomfortable and seemed to be avoiding my super friendly, cheerfully helpful Minions. She even blushed when one of the Minions asked her if she needed help. I got curious and sidled up to her. You know how I do it; I find a little bit of busy work that will take me to the part of the store where a shy person is trying to hide. I do a little bit of fussing with yarn on the shelves, or find a particularly dusty bit of floor in that part of the store that needs mopping right now. Carefully, slowly, so as not to startle anyone, I get closer to my target, prey, quarry, new friend. When I get in proximity, I, oh, so casually begin an innocuous conversation. It might go something like this:
(swish, swish of the dust mop) ME: Please excuse me for dusting around you. It’s hard to keep up with the lint in a yarn shop, and we want everything to be tidy for you.
SHE: Hmm. Of course.
ME: That’s a very pretty scarf. (or sweater or hat or bag, etc) Did you make it yourself?
SHE: Yes. (or no, depending)
ME: (if she says “yes.”) It’s lovely. What is the yarn?
ME: (if she says “no.”) Well, you could. Do you knit or crochet?
See that? I don’t automatically assume she’s a knitter.
So this past week, a shy one came in and resisted all the Minions attempts to engage her. I went to the area where she was skulking hiding perusing the shelves and began to put some yarn in a neater stack. I opened with one of my friendliest smiles and a comment on the beautiful blue and green hand paint she was fondling.
ME: That’s such a pretty color way. It always reminds me of oceans. Did you knit the hat you’re wearing?
Imagine my surprise when she blushed again, put down the yarn she was holding and leaned closer to whisper to me.
SHE: No, my mother knit it for me. I actually crochet. I’m sorry, I probably shouldn’t be here. I just wanted to try something new and pretty that I can’t get at &*%#&$@’s (name of big box craft store withheld).
Seriously? Seriously! She apologized for coming into what she thought was a knitters sanctuary. I immediately showered her with compliments on her good taste, revealed that I am an out and proud crocheter…actually, I am bi-craftual. I showed her our section of crochet books and magazines and my current crochet projects which I leave, oh, so casually, on the front coffee table for all to see. I offered her a cup of tea and invited her to sit and hook a while. I gave her the schedule of our Stitch and Spin gatherings, assured her that she would not be the only crocheter there, and explained our “End Fiber Apartheid” philosophy.
She wound up with some gorgeous lace weight and left with her shoulders squared, her head held high and a smile on her face. And I’m on a campaign. Even if you think of yourself as a “only a knitter,” in solidarity with your crocheting sisters, consider these points:
Just like knitting, crochet has come a long, long way since the 70’s. We would none of us want our entire craft judged some of these beauties…
Fashions come and fashions go and we can all learn a lesson from the padded shoulder, drop waisted, Laura Ashley print dresses of the 80’s, and the less said about big hair perms the better.
And before you mock granny squares, ever, ever again, consider this… With color sensibility and an eye for complexity and style akin to Gustav Klimt…
Or maybe this… With a cross between Jackson Pollack and the French Impressionists…
These pieces make the leap to fiber art…with emphasis on art.
And if it’s fashion you’re after, there are some great designs finally showing up for crocheters. How about this?
It’s enough to make you want to take up a hook.
Hear me now, and hear me loud…Crocheter’s of the world, be out and be proud!
All you fiber artists out there, if you have a crocheting friend who is still closeted, still ghetto-ized to the big box craft store, still apologizing for wanting something more, tell them we’re here for them. And it wouldn’t hurt you to try a little hooking, too. We’re here to help.
This may be a bad week to talk about bombing. Of any kind. But while our hearts go out to the people of Boston and the victims of the marathon bombing, that very incident makes me want to look around me and appreciate the beauty of my world, especially the human made kind. Maybe it’s just a personal quirk, but whenever I am faced with the difficult or the ugly, the uncomfortable or the sad, the angry or the shocking, the only thing that keeps me from becoming overwhelmed is to make a gratitude list.
I am grateful for my health (yes, I am getting over my cold) and my body’s ability to heal itself. I am grateful for the abiding love of a good man and my love right back to him. I am grateful for a wonderful child who fills me with pride and laughter every day. I am grateful for parents and siblings who are alive and well, and some of my favorite people on the planet. I am grateful for friends who keep me in their hearts and who stay in my heart even when we don’t see as much of each other as we could wish. I am grateful for satisfying work and the people who share it with me. I am grateful that the sun is shining today and that Spring seems to have finally made up its mind to stay in residence…though, fickle flirt that she is, I may yet be fooled on that score. My list could go on and on and on but the thing it all boils down to is joy. I am grateful for the things that fill me with joy. Serendipity, whimsy, bits of beauty where and when I least expected it delighting me and reminding me of all I have to be grateful for.
Today I got to witness first hand another kind of bombing. It is a direct contradiction to the Boston bombing and touched all my joy buttons. The Mid-Coast Yarn Ninjas finally got to celebrate spring and bring some beauty to our fair city.
(Forgive the blurring; these gals want to remain somewhat anonymous. They don’t really do commissions and they want the focus to stay on the installations rather than on them, personally)
In a world where things can go very badly very quickly, seemingly randomly, I am grateful that there are flowers. And in some places, those flowers are made by human hands and placed with love in places where they will bring joy. Yesterday, this was a fence at a neighborhood playground. Now it is a bit of public art intended to delight random strangers.
A network of people came together to make this happen. Some folks knit or crocheted the flowers while others made leaves and stems. Still others did the actual installation. Like Spring, there is an evanescent quality to this beautiful thing. It won’t last. We all know it won’t last. But while it’s here, it stirs the soul. And even while I know these little treasures will be gone some day, I’ll remember watching these lovely folks, on their knees in the dirt, making magical imaginary flowers grow before my eyes.
And long after they are gone, the lovely folks and their lovely flowers, when the world grows dark and I feel afraid or vexed, I’ll be able to add them to my gratitude list. For the celebration of Spring, for the radical act of beauty, for the physical manifestation of whimsy, however brief, I thank you Ninjas. Remember Keats? He was right; a thing of beauty is a joy forever.
I have a cold. I mean I have a cold like I haven’t had a cold in a long time. Lungs on fire, dry, painful cough, drippy nose and deep, deep fatigue. So what am I doing here? I find I can’t stay away for more than a couple of days at a time. I start to worry and wonder what kind of fun y’all are having without me. Oh, and I left all my knitting and crochet projects here so I had nothing to work on while I suffered on the couch. So I’m here for a little while and then I’ll go home and try to take better care of myself.
And while I’m here…
Here is a pretty little sweater knit by our very own Gig McMorrow. It’s Cascade Pacific Chunky in a lovely shade of deep purple with soft creamy stripes.
It’s super soft and warm, but my favorite part is that she started by making the buttons…
…then matched them to the yarn.
So clever, and so sweet!
I am still plugging away on my knit wire bracelet. I really love these things and we’re thinking seriously about having a workshop sometime this summer.
There are a few tricks, but it’s not difficult at all. And what a great accessory for summer.
We got some new mittens in for the Mid-Coast Mitten Tree.
I think that brings our tally so far to 16 pairs. That’s a great start! Just keep us in mind while you’re looking for quick summer projects, or stash busters. Remember, the only requirement is that they be green.
I think I’ll go home now and fix myself a cup of that nasty but compelling chinese medicine tea my naturopath gave me, and pray for some sleep without coughing.
It’s always like this at this time of year. Sunny and warm one day, dreary and cold the next. It’s always like this. Yet, somehow I am always surprised. I always feel cheated by fickle spring. It’s such a short season here in Maine. Wedged between mud season and blackfly season, this brief, ephemeral moment that we’ve been waiting for all these months takes two steps forward, and one step back on its way to becoming real summer. And today is one of the dreary days. So I am extra glad to have my new muffatees to help me remember the promise of better things to come.
What’s a muffatee, you ask? Well, a muffatee is like a fingerless glove, but it has no thumb gusset. Just knit a simple rectangle that is big enough to go around our hand and as long as you want it to come up your arm. Yup. it’s that simple. You don’t really need a pattern.
You can use any yarn you like in any color that inspires you. I started out with this beautiful skein from Lorna’s Laces. (We don’t have it in yet, but will be ordering it soon. It’s lovely stuff!)
The colors are so evocative of spring and I so needed a little more spring in my day. I cast on 30 stitches and knit is Fisherman rib until they were about the right length. Then I stitched them up the wrist, leaving a hole for your thumb, and stitched the last inch or so above the thumb opening. Done. well, almost. They really needed some embellishment. What do you think?
The flowers are six stitch I-cord, knit about six inches long then scrunched by drawing the tail through the middle of the tube and pulling it tight, stitched on to the backs at the wrist.
Then I added a little smocking on the inside wrist to give them a little shape and a kind of English country garden feel.
And I’m in love with them. Pretty, like spring. Warm and colorful for the dreary days.
Practical and whimsical at the same time. They make me want to sigh a lot. They maybe even make me look forward to the “One step back,” days that would give me a reason to wear them. Okay, maybe not quite that far. But they do make me smile.
I might have to make some more. And you could, too. Send me pictures of the muffatees you come up with. I could use some more inspiration.
You know we have a great time making our Stitch and Spin reminder memes. There are very few places where part of ones job is to cruise the internet looking for handsome men, then fantasizing about what they might say to us about our yarn habits. But here, it’s a twice a week event. Several of us ponder, make selections, dream and finally select a beautiful guy and compose a sweet annotation. And we put them up on Facebook just for you all. We have a great time doing it, and most of our friends really enjoy them.
And then I got a funny kind of eye opener. It seems so intuitive and universal a thing to do. Everyone has dreams and fantasies, right? And externalizing them in visual form is fun and whimsical and maybe just a bit silly. Posting them on our Facebook page acknowledges the nature of an interior life and brings it into a sharable community experience. Right? Right?
I could go on a political rant about the over exposure of women’s bodies in the retail marketing industry and how there is no concomitant use of men’s bodies. Or maybe a liberal feminist lecture on turn about being fair play. But neither of these explains why we do it. We do it because it’s fun. Somehow we thought the impulse was self explanatory, until we tried to explain it to a couple of the men in the store. They just didn’t seem to understand. Why would we want to take a picture of a handsome man and put words in his mouth…and such ridiculous words?
We had our Cascade yarn rep in this week. He’s a great guy. He’s fun and smart and handsome in a tall, slender athletic way, and very knowledgable about yarn. He’s actually “Hey, Girl…” material himself. And he knits. He works with yarnies all the time and seems to have a great handle on how we think and feel. We started talking about our Facebook page and our thriving yarnie community, and how we do a great job of getting people to turn out for our community events. Then we got to our “Hey, Girl…” memes…and he didn’t get it. And we had a hard time explaining it him. We showed him some of our favorite “Hey, Girl…” shots and talked about fun and fantasy and our passion for both yarn and whimsy. He shook his head for a while, but finally kind of got the joke. Then, we showed him our final example…
You know his response? “Oh, yeah I kinda get it, but…who’s the guy?” Really? Maybe it’s just a woman thing. Or maybe it’s just a yarnie thing. Or maybe it’s just us few here at OTR. But seriously…don’t you all recognize this guy?
It’s really hard for me to imagine that a whole season has sped by since I was here with you last. I have had my head in a million other places, learning a million other things. When I hibernate for the winter, it seems I really do it up, dreaming away in my cave, mulling plans for the active time to come. Now the active time has come and, like a bunch of dropped stitches, there are strands of things left undone which have to be picked up and put in their proper places. Yesterday, I saw robins in my yard, and this week the summer yarns have started to arrive. These are the signs of a season changing once again.
As with any season change, it is also a time to assess our direction and see if the old plans are still the right ones. It’s time to take a look around and see what’s actually here, not what I dreamed would be here when I awoke from the winter. And you know what I see? Yarn! Glorious yarn! Such wonderful summer yarns that I am having all I can do to stick with my design plans and not go haring off into a serious case of startitis.
Um…actually…I have a confession to make. I have not been able to resist the startitis temptation. I have a darling skirt back from the test knitter, and a lovely shawl out to the test knitter, and two more concepts with swatches in various states that need to be written up into followable patterns. But they are old news. All I want to do is cavort with the Berroco Lago and Universal Bamboo Pop. I have visions of beach wear and flirty summer laces. To heck with heavy sweaters; give me mesh tunics that can be thrown over a short skirt and cami for a night of dancing. My crochet hook is smoking, my knitting needles are steaming, and I’m getting into the summer groove with two different versions of a sleeveless summer duster type vest thingy that can be worn over a bathing suit or can elevate a pair of capris and a tank top to an ensemble. One will be crochet in Bamboo Pop, one will be knit in Lago.
And I can’t wait to show you the finished products. The Game of Thrones folks have it backwards…the truth is, winter is over. Summer is coming!