March 2007


There are (as has just been made abundantly and publicly clear by the labors and inspiration of our beloved Yarn Harlot) a lot of knitters out there. Large numbers of whom ‘blog’. Knitting and blogging, creating this huge community… I think I’m having some sort of exclusionary crisis. I’m not worthy!

Nah, crisis is waaay to strong a word. But can I tell you how thrilled I was the other day when Domesticat told me she didn’t want to conceptually restrict her blog to just knitting? How I wanted to jump for joy and reach out to hug this person who, technically, I was only just meeting at that moment? And only virtually meeting at that?

I love knitting. I love knitting more than I love knitted objects, actually. I suspect that’s why I (and perhaps many others) like socks – they’re small to store, practical, they can be fun and/or fancy but plain is perfectly acceptable, and you can’t have too many of them. Maybe you can have too many, but it would take a long time. Knitting is soothing, sometimes meditational. Socks &c. are just a nifty side effect.

Knitting is portable. I can knit while riding in a car, or waiting in a doctor’s office. Since I live in a rural area and my husband is on medication that requires his doctor’s supervision and adjustment, I do a lot of both. I like to knit in the mornings – I sit on my porch and watch the day brighten, drink coffee until I can see straight (maybe it isn’t the day that is brightening after all) and knit. I can knit with morning coffee, when heaven knows I’m not competent to do much else! I can knit while watching a movie, which isn’t true of many other activities. Knitting offers a good balance of having something to do while not being so distracting that you lose the plot. (Papier maché works pretty well too, I’ve recently discovered, as long as you don’t mind the mess!)

But there’s the rub – I feel like I am not so much a knitter as I am a person-who-knits. I do lots of things. Most of them involve taking a raw material of some kind and turning it into something quite else. String into fabric. Newspaper into sculpted objects. Fabric into other fabric into garments. It’s the transformation that I love. I suspect that’s why I keep wanting to raise sheep spin (I know, I know, so do it already! Trust me, it’s on the list.) – raw wool into string into fabric (and of course knitting sneakily can skip a step and move directly into garment while becoming fabric) is an even cooler transformation.

I think secretly I’m looking for a way to create some not-horrible magnum opus that requires and combines all of these transformations. Probably that’s why I like decorating the house so much – it doesn’t combine the many things I like to do, but at least it utilizes them.

Next: The immediate relevance of that home decorating reference, or “I hate drywall this much!!”

This is just a quickie post to say “aaargh!”, because I feel all bad that people have actually been checking here and there are no updates… I’ve got about six hours to finish two and a half masks and a hat. But then? I’m free! Free to – well, muck out a chicken coop (and my house!) and catch up on orders. I’ll be done with the shows for a while, though, and I can actually finish my socks (so close! so very close!) and get that pattern up, and then figure out what the heck I’m putting on the needles next. There’s some lace that’s been calling me, and a couple of Warm Things that looked like a really good idea two months ago, but are becoming redundant now.

Meantime, here’s something to look at.

Conrad’s mask:

Yesterday I made a hat. I made a reticulated headdress from Cynthia Virtue’s instructions – which, if you ever find yourself in sudden need of one of these things is an excellent source – fantastic, clear instructions and good pictures. I do mean sudden, too – this baby made up quickly! If I had been at all serious about the process and not just been making a quickie costume for a minor character it would have taken slightly longer, but probably only an hour or so. This is one of those items that because it starts with a wire frame and has several layers of structure, begins by looking like someone has let a fourth-grader into a wire cabinet, and then suddenly transforms into something that looks beautiful (Where beautiful is a relative term depending on what you’re going for and the materials used). I love those moments!
Because I was working quickly, I skipped the “make a pattern for the wire” step and just dove in with the 14 gauge. I also skipped the lining step, just folded the muslin back up the inside after it was stitched on and called it a day. For regular use this would obviously not be sufficient.
Do not, no matter what your motivation for making this thing, skip the padding step! (No, that isn’t advice from my own experience – as the daughter of a woman-who-quilts, I never skip the padding step. It just comes at a point where you might be tempted, and if you succumbed to temptation you would be sorry after.) I went with Cynthia’s quick-and-dirty uncut batting alternative, instead of careful piecing, and the batting I used was really only a thick felt, but it still made a world of difference. It adds structure as well as thickness/smoothness. The padding stage was the point where this thing stopped looking like an odd bundle of wire and fabric and really convinced me that it was a headdress.


The crazy veil on top is not Cynthia’s brainchild, don’t blame that on her! I needed a veil since the purpose of this costume is a Red Hat joke, and since the character is comic and the director is in love with the extreme, this is what I added. You want to know the loopy part? The wire on top is NOT a coathanger, no coathangers were destroyed in the making of this piece. I could not have affixed an actual coathanger to the top with as much stability as this, so I wound up bending 14 gauge wire so that it looked like a coathanger, because I am just that lame. The wire actually loops across the top all the way to the front and is tacked in just behind the roll; it is very stable. The same contraption would work for pretty much any shape of veil support – I played with several before I settled on this one. The join is in the centre of the visible coathanger shape, and a number of the styles I was playing with actually used the wire in two separate prongs like antennae. In the end this structure best utilized the scrap of red veiling I had on hand, but with more sheer, any one of the crazy shapes I played with would have worked.

Aemmeleia got me looking at my blog stats, partly out of curiosity and mostly as a way to stall while I figure out what I’m doing today. It was thus that I discovered someone clicked on my site after doing a search for “blog dockside prostitutes”. What is going on with my meta-text? Admittedly, I had been joking with Kate about “Dorian Gray and the Syphilitic Dock Whores”, but not here!

I think I’ve been sharing a brain with the Yarn Harlot. To some degree, of course – to a fairly large degree, as far as I can tell, lots and lots of us share a brain with the Yarn Harlot, and I can think of worse ways to be! But I became slightly alarmed over the whole redecorating the bedroom incident: My husband is going away in April, and my shows will be over, and I have been planning for months to redecorate the bedroom while he’s out of the way. Like Stephanie, we live in a big old house with many a broken bit. Like her, we’ve been ignoring the bedroom in favor of the more public parts of the house, and like her I have finally reached my break point and realized that I want/need a bedroom retreat that does not make me feel like I’m camping out in a small storage facility. A small, broken, ugly storage facility. With sponge painting.

Our room used to be a child’s room – the actual master bedroom I took for my studio, because it has a giant wall of south-facing windows. (I live in Canada; south facing windows = light and heat.) Also because it was, when we moved in, big enough to contain the fabric, yarn and various other supplies that make sense to me, as well as my machines. Four years later, of course, I’ve got yarn stashed in nooks all over the house, and have formally co-opted half the guest room for extra fabric storage. But I digress.

Obviously, at some point, the child whose room this was was allowed to make decorating decisions, and help with the painting. Probably this was a fun and healthy exercise for said child. The room is pale blue, with dabs of white sponge blobs everywhere, and orange sponge leaf patterns as a border. These last are fairly symmetrical where done by an adult or older child, and blobby orange and crowded where done by a helpful younger child. The two techniques meet under the window. The window (all unreplaced windows in this house need very badly to be replaced) has had its drafts sealed with expanding foam, which (like The Harlot again) we have not cared enough to cut off. There is no floor, just sub-floor – and that will not change when I redo the room, as I haven’t a solution yet for that particular problem. I’m thinking at least a rug might help!

I don’t know whether I’m kidding myself – Raven will be gone long enough for me to get the job done assuming that I’m not swamped with other work, but “other work” is in fact starting to back up a bit, and I may be in denial, thinking about all this ‘free time’ I’m going to have in April. But I’m still planning to give it a go – at the very VERY least, I am going to get some paint on the walls and at last see the end of the sponge blobs! (Orange sponge blobs were quite the theme in this house – someday I will tell you about the bathroom!)

Much Ado opens one week from right now, (there’s a morning school show) and I’m not panicking. I can’t really imagine why. Went over the designs with Jeff last night; we hadn’t done that since January, and a whole lot has changed since. I know precisely what I have done, and what I have yet to do.

So why aren’t I panicking?

And now for something completely different: Baby Pictures! No, not mine – I mother vicariously through chicks and through other people’s babies. In this case, the baby belongs to my brother. He and his wife (well, his wife and he, she really should get top billing in this, don’t you think?) have produced a small and apparently somewhat blurry child:

That’s her at four days. (She was born on St.Patrick’s day, what great birthday party opportunities! ) I have yet to see the actual child, but I expect she’s a little sharper around the edges than this pic would indicate – on the other hand, maybe not – she’s a baby for goodness’ sake!

For those of you who aren’t moved by cuddly wiggly children, I promise there will not be many such pictures… maybe one more entry, and then I’ll restrain myself to pictures of things I’ve made for the kid – which could be a while. I’m looking forward to the dress-up box stage, myself. Kid’s gonna have the neatest costume box in the greater Toronto area!

People must be cleaning out their closets or something, because I am suddenly being asked all over the place to do alterations. Little hint? I don’t do alterations. Nobody has a close enough personal relationship with me to be able to expect that I won’t mind altering something. I’ve thought about it quite a bit today and I’m pretty sure that it is not possible to offer me enough money to do alterations. By the time someone got into a price range where I might begin to at least consider it, they would be mad to pay me.
I do occasionally turn things into other things, which is an alteration of a sort, I suppose. Until this morning, for example, this was two leather dresses:

That was Don John’s doublet. Here is an in-prog of Benedick (that is the greatest name Shakespeare ever gave a character, I swear!)

sleeve

And here is Leonato’s mask, waiting for varnish:

Managed to finish one above-the-knee cabled sock. Managed, in fact, to cast on the second one, and am hoping to get it well under way, because ‘second-sock syndrome’ is going to be a bitch on this pair!

Dorian Gray closes tonight, and Much Ado opens in under two weeks. That show is progressing not too badly, but I’ve got that “get everything started so it’s all going at once” thing going on – actually a decent approach, I find, but it takes longer to get the satisfaction of “well there, that’s out of the way!” Oh, and yes, definitely that robe is a tip of the hat to Eiko and the brilliant costuming she did for Coppola. I couldn’t not acknowledge how much that movie influenced the way that I approach costuming in the first place, let alone the fact that I was given so much freedom on a Victorian pseudo-gothic!

In the end, I’m happy enough with Dorian. There is a strange dissociation that happens once I deliver costumes; I can work on something for weeks and yet when I see it on the stage it’s as if I were not responsible for it at all, as if I had never seen it before. (At least, that is what happens when I do a decent job. That inexcusable thing that was happening on the back fold of Rob’s tailcoat? That was all mine, and I feel really bad about it!) But the ones that are good make me so happy. There’s pride, of course – of all the seven deadlies,Vanity has got to be my favorite – but more than that there is an almost disbelief, a feeling of being so lucky to have made this nifty thing. Then I become fascinated with them and stare at them, and tell the actors how great they look, and probably sound like the most vain bitch in the room – which, and I say this in the most loving and friendly way possible because I wouldn’t change it for the world – is a bit of a trick in a room full of actors! But really, it’s all about them, because by the time they’ve put the clothes on and are moving in them, I’m done, I don’t have anything to do with those clothes at all, I can only admire them and be grateful that somehow all that fabric is doing what I wanted it to do.

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