Sunday, March 30, 2014

Writing for Knitters and Non-Knitters, and Learning to Knit

I know enough of my readers (assuming I have any at all) will be non-knitters (or "civilians"). I am going to provide a glossary that I hope will help civilians make sense of future posts. My knitter friends won't need this, so I'm going to add it to the row of separate page links at the top of the blog.

I have to admit that there is another reason for creating a glossary. Obviously, I do want to make my writing accessible to all potential readers. It is also a lure, an enticement to look further, something to pique your curiosity, I hope. You see, we knitters are also missionaries. If I can't teach you to knit myself, I will find someone (quickly) who can. In fact, I know a whole club full of ladies and gentlemen (the Smoky Mountain Knitting Guild), right here in town, that will be happy to introduce you to the wonderful world of needles and string.

Of course, you don't need to be sitting with a physical person to take up the historical path of creating hand-crafted things (they don't have to be garments, you, book covers, pillows, wall hangings, funny imitations of life-like naughty bits). I decided to teach myself to knit over the 2001 Christmas vacation while in graduate school. I can't remember why. Maybe I thought knitting would be the perfect thing for a professional librarian (that's what I was studying to become) to be able to do. I was also waiting for my hair to grow back out long enough for a proper bun. I'd be needing some hand-knit cardigans for my visions of wandering the drafty stacks of libraries that doubled as architectural wonders.

Librarianship didn't turn out to be anything like that, unfortunately. After a rocky start, though, knitting and I got along right as rain. I had purchased a Learn to Knit kit from Wal-Mart and just kept working at it, one night for hours in one sitting. My first finished object* consisted of rows with any number of wandering stitches (width), knit and purl stitches created with no care as to how the yarn was held or where the loop legs laid on the needles, dropped stitches, knots, bizarre combos of garter and stockinette bits...for the first five or so inches. Then, as I learned more, I kept working on the same piece, and it finally began to shape up. I eventually finished with the final several inches in squared, relatively neat, fabric. 

I kept knitting. I found more how-to books. I began to churn out simple scarves. There were inspiring, but intimidating, designs in magazines like Vogue Knitting and Interweave Knits (yummy!). Perhaps best of all, because I was financially challenged, there was the brand new online magazine with free patterns, Knitty. Then I discovered online tutorials. The patterns themselves were beginning to make sense to my eyes. 

To this day, I am still proud I taught myself how to knit. I don't know how to sew, crochet, spin yarn, paint, draw, or really do much else, so this was something special for me. Especially since my mother is a wonderfully talented role model and a positive force when it comes to exploring your own artistic interests. Here's a (selected) list of what she does (and does darn well): makes reed and grapevine baskets (blue ribbon winner!); grapevine wreathes; braided rugs (room size); garment sewing; refinishing antique furniture; crocheting with and without patterns and creating her own patterns; life and nature drawing and painting; metal jewelry making; not to mention gardening like a champ.

I knit. I read. I take photographs, and I'm slowly educating myself further about photography. I am not going to try to do all of those great things my mother can do. (I will need help some days to remind myself that being just me is perfectly OK. Will you help me?) I am blessed that my mother never expected me to do all those things. She does tease me when I slip up and let her hear me whine that I knit slow. She crochets like a speed demon! One Christmas season, if she disappears, I wouldn't be surprised to discover that Santa has kidnapped her to keep the elves on their crochet toy deadlines!

So that's how I came to knit. Over the years, my interest has waxed and waned, but it is very healthy right now. I have the time to dedicate more energy and attention to it. I am fascinated by its history, by other knitters' experiences, by the processes that bring yarn to the knitters, by new techniques, by creating garments beyond accessories and vests. In the past I haven't had the honor or opportunity to give special gifts to my loved ones, for various reasons. I'd like to make them hand knits that they will appreciate and wear, so I plan on collaborating with them to find or create patterns that meet their needs and wants.

Basically, I'm becoming braver, my confident, and I now identify myself as a knitter, a fiber artist (if you will). That means I have people out there! Other knitters who are bound to share some things in common with me. That just tickles me happy. Already Mom and I have joined the local guild I mentioned above, the Smoky Mountain Knitting Guild. Although I haven't gotten over my social anxiety completely to join the regular weekly knit-alongs, we do attend the monthly meetings and I help on the board.

Last fall, we attended the Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair, an annual event held at the WNC Agricultural Center, Fletcher, NC. My little blog and glossary is no temptation into the world of fiber arts compared to attending such an event. It was packed with everything that is needed, plus the fleece itself, to take the fiber from the actual animal (llamas, alpacas, sheep, goats, angora rabbits, all over the place) to beautifully hand-dyed skeins of yarn that begged to be touched.

The first Saturday in April, we're driving down to visit my aunt in Sanford, NC, and will attend the Carolina Fiber Fest. I'm so excited! It will be smaller, but that is just fine. I'll definitely report on our adventures there.

For me, knitting has now become a means of connecting to a larger community. It is still my secret joy. No one can take that away from me. I think it can become a joy for many others, too. Why? Because in a world where "touch" is advertised constantly as something you do with buttons and screens, hands-off technology is increasingly pushed, there is still a precious and important place in our society for hand-crafted objects. It is still critical for humans to create with their own hands, to design with their own minds, sketch on paper, day dream out of windows and pick colors based on what they find in flower beds. Don't get me wrong. I love some technology. But even part of the joy of this blog is designing it, tweaking some of the stock options to make it that much more mine.

*Finished Object or FO (see Glossary)

Friday, March 28, 2014

After the sweater troubles touched upon in my earlier post, I wanted to share this video, which brought me a moment of bittersweet joy. It shows artists Lernert & Sander unraveling designer sweaters. We get to see beautifully perfect stitches un-become. Frogged. (For the non-knitters, it is called "frogging" because we're really ripping out stitches and you can think of the process of ripping it or "rip it"...hence "ribbit" and the jump to frogs and, ultimately, "frogging".) I thank Sarah of Knit York City for sharing this in her March 28th post.


This is my first time embedding a video from Vimeo, so I hope it works for everyone. This will probably only have resonance with knitters. Maybe some metaphoric extrapolation play with the literary set. I swing both ways. I like it.

That vexing March sweater is getting partially frogged before I either start it again with a total different mind set...or it gets frogged completely and I make the recipient something else.

Temperamental March

This month has been vexing in more ways than weather-wise. There's no doubt we are inching into spring. I won't add any spring flower images to the volumes already blogged across the net, mainly because I didn't have a chance to take any pictures before a fresh layer of snow fell (see below). Two days later finds us soggy with nonstop drizzle. Mud. And thunder storms in the forecast. (I do love a good night of thunder for reading though!)

Snowy twilight on the mountain.

Lucy and Samson

Lucy has the beautiful white mantle. Samson is almost all black. 
You can see the Japanese maple just under the eaves.
Hopefully there won't be any weather colder than this that might kill the delicate buds. 
And this was the next morning:

The snow was pretty, we'll need the rain, but I'd like to have something reliable to expect when I peek between the blinds each morning. (You can smack me this summer when high temperatures and 100% humidity become plenty reliable.)

What else has been vexing me? Knitting! It is supposed to be a relaxing hobby. Add a deadline, and forget about it. Even a long deadline. My brain circles the knitting project and suddenly I'm feeling guilt, low self-esteem, and depression. It doesn't help that I'm a slow knitter. Or that I'm what is known as a "process knitter" (the journey is as important as the destination). For goodness sake, I crawled in bed and took a depression nap (you know very well what I'm talking about...that was no post-Thanksgiving turkey snooze) because I thought too long and hard about set-in sleeves!  (I've yet to actually sew a set-in sleeve, so the anticipatory stress is ridiculous. Any mistakes will be right at eye-level of everyone in the world. And, of course, everyone in the world inspects sleeve seam stitches, right?)

The anxiety for the gift cardigan I was knitting was so bad that I have actually set it aside regardless of the deadline passing this weekend. I was making so any mistakes! I'll finish it later. It is lace cardigan from DROPS Design (Ravelry link here). 


Now I've picked up a new project for myself. It is a simple cropped cardigan called "Moshup" (Ravelry link here) and is by my favorite knit designer, Norah Gaughan. This is actually the first sweater I've knit by her! Here is Norah Gaughan's designer page on Ravelry. Here is the Berroco Design Studio blog list of Norah's posts (up until just recently she was their Design Director). I just begun the gauge swatch for the project. Here is a picture of my work area right now:

The obligatory knitting blogger's working image: yarn on needles, laptop, pattern, and the all-important cup of something (coffee, here). Browse any random selection of knitting blogs and you'll find these scattered about. I love them.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Blog So Far

I'm rolling out this blog sort of like the government rolled out the site last year...not so smoothly or in one piece. And that is as far as we'll take that joke.

You can see that I've already begun a blog for my photographs last year, the art of seeing. There's a link to it in the right-hand side bar. There will eventually be a link to it from the panel of pages also attached to this blog, which are lined up below this blog's title image). Also in the works is the link to mom's gallery page, Mary Bryson Designs, see above. (Unfortunately, all of those pages at the top are currently blank. I'll keep you posted.) I'll be updating the content on both of those links as well. Soon.

Further down on the right-hand side bar are more links to places I hang my hat on the net.

I do have a copyright notice. Unless otherwise attributed, all of the images I'll include here will be pictures that I've taken myself. Please shoot me an email if you see anything worth sharing with others:

I'm working on making sure the comments feature works, but I'm not sure yet. I hope to receive lots of feedback! I look forward to reading every single line that comes my way.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Welcome to My New Blog Home

This is the official housewarming post for my latest blog. I am prone to startitis* in many areas of my life, but I keep returning to the blog world. I love to write. I love to tinker with websites. There is a particularly rich community of bloggers documenting their adventures in the fiber arts, but also writing their lives, their reading, and their unique perspectives on the world.

I love blogs! I much prefer a blog over any of the other currently available social media, including Facebook. I don't have a Twitter account and I have repurposed my Tumblr into a searchable database for all the links I've collected with useful knitting and crochet technical tips. I use Facebook primarily to share photographs with busy family that are far away. Ravelry is limited to the knitting and crochet crowd. On the other hand, the blogosphere is the beautiful place where I can read online. There is no word or character limit. There can be as many supplemental pictures as one wishes. And there is the glorious, magical webby nature of the Internet that lets you begin with one blog and end up falling through a rabbit hole to appear in a totally different place of mind with another totally different blog moments or hours later.

There are several creative bloggers that recently came together (unknowingly) to sway me back into blogging:
These women reminded me that blogging is what I make it. That it can be a powerful outlet and a way to connect to a rich and diverse creative community. I didn't jump straight into blog posting immediately, but I began to feel more confident. Confidence is something that has been scarce for me in recent years, so I've also had to be patient, which is not one of my specialties.
*Startitis is obviously not in any common dictionaries, but I assume most readers will know that it means the tendency to begin, but not necessarily finish, many projects, often having such projects stored about one's home in various stages of completion. Out of curiosity, I Googled "startitis" and, to my surprise, the first three pages of results all pertained to knitting, crocheting, or sewing. Are we the only folks who suffer from this affliction? Or just the only ones silly enough to go public with it? Or maybe Google's "smart" algorithms are showing off and only letting me see craft-related results. That's kind of creepy. And potentially not very helpful. Did I mention I will also happily follow tangents to the ends of the earth?