If I had a knitting machine and the talent of Kerfe I would knit some sweaters. I was very impressed with K’s lobster and it got me thinking, what would I knit? Of course I’d have to do a dog sweater.
Next I would do some rainbow stripes.
When Teresa at One Good Thing published a post about knitting, I told her I had made a sweater for my daughter for Christmas, and she requested that I post a photo. I finally got around to taking one, and here it is! I made a lot of sweaters back in the day (oh about 25 years ago), but I hadn’t done one in a long time, so I was a bit apprehensive. My daughter wanted a lobster, blue on red, and gave me one of her sweaters for fit. Even though I made a sample swatch for size, it’s definitely shorter than her sample sweater, but she seems to like it anyway–at least she’s worn it. The neck was what I was most concerned about–a crew neck would have been much easier for me–but it turned out OK too.
Then for her birthday, she saw this Star Wars fabric and requested pillow cases. The fabric was sold out from the original source, but I managed to locate some more. Again…I used to sew, but it’s been so long I had to look up how to thread the machine. On the other hand, pillowcases–the only dilemma was how to construct it: fold at the top, or on the sides. We have pillowcases made both ways. I chose fold at the top, and used an existing pillowcase as a pattern. And actually sewing (a seam anyway–I would not attempt a zipper at this point in time) is like riding a bicycle, it comes back.
My daughter has seen the new Star Wars movie at least 5 times that I know of (once with me). But here’s what I really like: she just assumed I could make these things. And so I did. There’s a little lesson here I think…
I’ve spoken before about the show I saw at The Drawing Center with textiles as its theme (http://www.drawingcenter.org/en/drawingcenter/5/exhibitions/9/upcoming/806/thread-lines/). It was interesting to me that a few of the artists used sweaters and sweater graphs in their work, but I was put off by the fact that they used sweaters that other people had designed, once again exploiting the creative work of those mostly anonymous and underpaid textile artists.
It occurred to me that I could exploit myself. I’ve been re-purposing my unsold swatches from my own design work for pillows and dolls–why not make an artistic statement derived from their original purpose? Over the 20+ years that I designed and made these miniature sweater fronts, I must have produced thousands of designs. I have hundreds that were returned from my reps (because they didn’t sell) to choose from.
Animal skin as a motif is perennially popular; I decided to combine some of those patterned sweater designs with my concern about endangered species. I embroidered in black and white duplicate stitch a statement–“there are less than 4000 wild tigers left in the world”–and a ghostly tiger face on top of the knit sweater front.
What do you think?
Anyone with a child of a certain age (20 years, give or take) will recognize the glassy-eyed stare of Zip, the beanie baby cat. My daughter was given 2 beanie babies for her 3rd or 4th birthday, my first encounter with them. She promptly named them blackkitty and brownkitty, but blackkitty was clearly the favorite, and remained so for many years. She ended up with several although I can’t remember the names she gave the other ones. The one pictured above guards my drawing table.
I made her a blackkitty sweater, back when I had a ribber for my knitting machine.
And sending out good vibes to the real black kitty in our lives, our neighbor’s cat Geri, who’s under the weather these days. Hope to see you on the deck soon.
I’ve been making dolls from my knitted swatches for awhile. I finished my sixth one last week. The one pictured above was completed several years ago, but I like the multiple view photo layout my daughter did for me.
The original inspiration for these dolls came from eye idols. Hundreds were found in the Eye Temple in Tell Brak, located in northeastern Syria. Dated at 3000 BC, they were thought to be offerings to the gods. The eye is a magical and religious symbol in many cultures: a window to the soul, a gateway to awakening, offering both protection and enlightenment.
The first knitted doll I did was simple, like the eye idols.
Another inspiration comes from Peruvian fiber dolls. The ancient ones were found in graves, and seem to have been created specifically for each burial. Modern textile artists in the Andes have used ancient textile fragments to recreate dolls in the old style for sale. I was lucky enough to purchase one in a thrift shop, although at the time I had no idea of its connection to history.
I’ve called the doll I finished last week Magician. It took me a lot longer than I anticipated because I decided the hair and head covering needed beads and sequins. Lots of beads and sequins. I like the effect, although it makes the doll a little top-heavy.
Saturnalia is a mask made from a knit swatch that has been manipulated and stitched with embroidery floss. For over 20 years I made knit sample swatches for a series of reps to sell to manufacturers in the fashion industry. Of course, not every swatch would sell, so the reps would return them, and I’ve used them to make many things. This is my first swatch mask; I sculpted and stitched it directly onto the canvas. As with many of my textile projects, it’s a long process, and the second one I expect will also take many months. One of the advantages of working slowly is that things evolve, often in unexpected forms. I like that.
Nina already posted some graphs from Fair-tex Mills, the garment center business where we met when we both worked there in the design department. Despite her attribution to me of higher status, we both had the same boss, who had started out as a print designer and wanted to introduce a line of prints on knits to the knitting mill. That’s why she hired Nina. I was there to do knit patterns.
Like Texfi, Fair-tex did plenty of double knits, and I found some plaid graphs in my files. But fashion t-shirts were beginning to have an impact, and they not only had single knit machinery, but machines to produce velour. That’s the image at the beginning of this post.
Stripes, stripes, stripes.
That’s what I was really mostly doing. Remember, no computers back then in the 1970’s, so I did “paste-ups” of different color combinations and stripe arrangements, both for the line as special requests from customers.
No one would ever call me detail-oriented, yet I cut out thin rows of knitted color and placed them painstakingly on masking tape to produce what looked like a knitted stripe. Over and over and over. If we didn’t have a knit-down of the correct color, I matched it as closely as possible to Pantone Paper, and cut and pasted that.
Well, I was younger then…and I’ve always loved working with color. And I met Nina! Here we still are, 35 years down the road.
And I’m still designing knitted stripes.