Monday, December 20, 2010

The Craft Wisely Podcast, Episode 12: Reaching Outward and Upward

Each week, a group of students from the Craft Wisely course will invite listeners into the discussions taking place in our classroom. The conversation starts with ideas derived from our texts and our practice, and ranges into the podcasters' interpretations and experience.

The Bitches on Stitches celebrate the completion of service projects and mull over the role of craft in forging relationships -- including between people often marginalized or forgotten. We also discover what the students are making for holiday gifts, and how they think knitting and crocheting will continue to be a part of their lives. It's an energetic conclusion to a semester of growth, conversation, and integration.

Download the podcast here. To subscribe to the podcast, add the Craft Wisely podcast feed to iTunes or your favorite podcast reader.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Craft Wisely Podcast, Episode 11: Ability, Genius, and Quality Work

Each week, a group of students from the Craft Wisely course will invite listeners into the discussions taking place in our classroom. The conversation starts with ideas derived from our texts and our practice, and ranges into the podcasters' interpretations and experience.

In their final podcast, the Arachnias muse on the conditions under which quality work can be done. Is it a matter of inherent talent or developed skill? Ella describes the genius factor; Kate reflects on the role played by equality of access and opportunity; and Natasha discusses how experience combined with reflection leads to learning.

Download the podcast here. To subscribe to the podcast, add the Craft Wisely podcast feed to iTunes or your favorite podcast reader.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas Knitting

For my Core I paper, I wrote a "This I Believe" essay about the magic of Christmas. My thesis statement was "I believe in the magic of Christmas, which makes people grow in their relationships, in their beliefs, and in their sense of self." It's a pretty big deal to me because this time of year has always meant family, cookies, wrapping, spending time with my loved ones, and thinking up new and better ways to make them smile through personalized, thoughtful gifts. This year, my roommates and I decided we would only give each other handmade presents, not only to cut down on cash but to really make it personal.

I, of course, chose knitting. I trolled Ravelry for days looking for hat patterns that perfectly matched their personalities. I can't say too much because two of my roomies are in the class and have access to this blog. I can only say about Kate's that it perfectly matches her inner eco-freak. Sarah was hard because I had to design a brand new hat, I used a few different colors, and it took me four tries to get the sizing right (and it's really kinda epic). That's all I can say about their presents, but I can tell all about Megan's (as long as you promise to keep it a secret).

Megan coveted my entrelac hat, which uses different colors and a special technique to make it look like strips of knit fabric are criss-crossing over themselves like a basket. Her favorite color in the world is teal, so I found a soft teal yarn and paired it with black and white (to match just about all of her clothes). I made it slightly larger than my own head, and it will have a little bit of a slouch. Here's a picture.

She's gonna love it.

I am really enjoying making Christmas gifts this year. Certainly, not everyone gets a knit object for their presents, I'm buying stuff offline and in stores as well. But by knitting these presents, I spend hour upon hour thinking about how much their going to love it, what their face will look like when they unwrap it, how they'll proudly put their new hat on their head and model it for the whole world to see, grateful and happy because I put in the extra effort to get their present just right. By knitting these presents, I am extending my Christmas season, stretching it out as long and as happily as I possibly can.

Reaching Out with Knitting

Like many others in this class, I had never knitted before the class began. Over the summer, I awkwardly handled my needles, trying so hard to ward off the frustration of not being good at something. Looking back, I think the reason I struggled so much with knitting is because I tried to do it somewhat detached, not putting my whole self into it. I saw it as merely homework that I needed to complete for a grade. I didn't realize that I was learning a powerful skill that would give me the ability to create my own articles of clothing or even objects for the needy. I did not become aware of the power of knitting until I really allowed myself to lose myself in it and experience it without judgment or expectations.
The red scarf I began over the summer had a width of 24 inches. I had no idea what I was doing. I was just trying to knit a scarf. After spending copious amounts of time knitting a scarf with a width of 24 inches, I realized I was getting nowhere. Two weeks of knitting had gotten me around 8 inches in length. One day I showed my freakshow beginner scarf to my godmother, Aunt Carole, desperate for advice. My godmother talked sense into me, informing me that I was wasting time by creating way too much work for myself to enjoy what I was doing. That night, at her house, we ripped out the entire scarf. I felt as if I was destroying my past feelings of frustration and defeat. Then, my godmother and I knitted together. She taught me how to count stitches, and I started my red scarf over (with a width of 8 inches) while she began a beige scarf. We talked and knitted together that night for a few hours, and if felt so good to share that connection with my godmother. She told me about how she knits all of her socks and scarves for herself and others. Her spirit and drive to create was so inspiring.
After my visit with my godmother, I had a completely changed perception of knitting. Instead of homework, I saw it as potentional and options to help others and myself. It's hard to give to charities when all they want is money because I'm a broke college kid. I can barely take care of myself. However, knitting gives me the ability to help out with projects like the Red Scarf Project and the Conway Cradle Care service project by giving my time, efforts, positive energies, and abilities. This handcrafting class has seriously been one of my favorite classes in college, and I feel like I've learned so much...not just because I learned how to knit, but I also learned how to relate such crafts to myself, my community, and the world.

I finished my hat for Conway Cradle Care today, and in the pictures below, I am wearing it along with the red scarf that will be donated to the Red Scarf Project.

In between those two projects, I had made another red scarf identical to the first one which I to La Lucha for their fundraiser to become a non-profit organization. La Lucha is a community space open to all members of the community for creative expression (music shows, art displays, poetry readings, etc.), fair-trade coffee, and meals prepared with local food. It is all ran by donation and aims at educating people about the importance of being conscious of what we consume. I'm excited that my second red scarf was able to contribute to such a wonderful cause!

Newfound Skills

I had never held a knitting needle before this semester started, so I've been giving myself a crash course in knitting techniques in order to make gifts for my family before Christmas.

So far, I've finished a purple checker-patterned scarf and I'm well on my way to finishing two others. Much of what I'm doing is modifying the same pattern for slightly different looks, but I've also been teaching myself how to crochet.
After an unsuccessful attempt at learning how to knit in the round, I decided i didn't have enough time left to figure it out and opted to teach myself how to crochet instead. You wouldn't think that would be easier or faster. Thankfully though, I was able to pick it up quickly and within two days I've got a vaguely hat-shaped red thing that I hope I can finish before the end of the week.
I hadn't planned on learning how to crochet, but I'm glad I did. It has a totally different feeling than knitting, and I enjoy switching from one to the other as I attempt to finish all of my projects.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Craft Wisely Podcast, Episode 10: Moving Forward into a Brighter Future

Each week, a group of students from the Craft Wisely course will invite listeners into the discussions taking place in our classroom. The conversation starts with ideas derived from our texts and our practice, and ranges into the podcasters' interpretations and experience.

The Dust Storms whirl in for their last podcast.  From the notion of metamorphosis (the transformation of the craftsperson through interaction with material) to anthropomorphosis (ascribing human qualities to crafted objects as a way of valuing them); from the intersection of technology with handwork, to the processes that influence whether workers care about quality; and from the conception of the class as an experiment to feedback about how to make it better, Anna, Lynn, Ariel, and Adrea give their final word on the course.

Download the podcast here. To subscribe to the podcast, add the Craft Wisely podcast feed to iTunes or your favorite podcast reader.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Our most recent assignment of the Craft-Wisely curriculum was a comprehensive research paper that correlated handcrafting with the discipline of our undergraduate study. Under initial evaluation of the assignment I felt a bit besieged with the concept of having to parallel Biology/Pre-Medical with the seemingly simple act of knitting.

After a few weeks of letting the notion bounce through my thoughts I began to follow the question of why knitting provides its practitioners with an overwhelming sensation of well being. All knitters have experienced the emotion and yet for most, although welcomed, it goes un-researched. I began with a simple evaluation of how one can attribute values to the sensation. The foundation of the sensation, although a simple suggestion, seems to revolve around an easement of stress through elimination of intruding thoughts: a pseudo. In my first bit of research, bounds of material provided specific examples of the therapeutic qualities of knitting, yet none cantilevered into any form of explanation. Further examination of stress relief techniques finally directed me in a suitable direction- the juxtaposition of mind and body through physical and mental techniques of meditation. The research of one particular individual, Herbert Benson, went to dimensions of research that no other individual had even thought pursue. In multiple quantitative studies, he showed the physiological changes that meditation elicited. The easiest way to logically portray the concepts he discovered can be seen through counter evaluation of stress. When an individual crosses a particular stressor, their body sets off a series of reactions that heightens an individual’s awareness and strength, preparing them for a reactive evasion of danger. Although this is one the most innate and simplistic bodily reactions to stimuli, it is an overworked system that taxes the body due to constant stimulation during the constant hustle of life.

So how are we supposed to escape the escape the pounding pressures of life? Knit! Herbert Benson, the same individual who studied the stress response, developed an adverse concept called the relaxation response. This response elicits the reverse physiological response as the fight-or-flight response- lower blood pressure, slower heart rate, and slower breath rate. The body’s hormone levels are calmed. After further exploration as to how the relaxation response is induced, Benson found that repetition- of parse motion or sound- blocked intrusive thoughts and allows individuals to relax. In knitting, as mentioned previously, this escapable mind-clearing phenomenon is the concept I so desperately questioned. According to Benson, the key lies within the repetitive act of knitting. Under further investigation I discovered some research that went hand in hand with Benson’s ideas. This study found that the rhythm of one’s fingers, as long as following an external focus, stimulates the cortex to allow for a greater degree of concentration. I’ll explain how I feel this logically flows with the concept of relaxation but first let me take a side trip into how this cunningly correlates well with our class structure.

Each Craft Wisely class, we, the student, come in and knit for the first fifteen minutes of class. After the fifteen minutes are up, the class is started and we continue our knitting. At the beginning of semester I found it a bit difficult knitting while class discussion was firing around the room. I honestly felt uncomfortable knitting during class despite my highly attentive state of mind. But now, after discovering positive fingertip-cortex paralleled research, I found evidence, and subsequent ease of mind, establishing knitting driven attention peaks.

An increased level of attention logically supports the relaxing nature of knitting because if the mind is heightened to greater state of attention, it must be cleared and free from intruding thoughts. Thus such fingertip-cortex connecting research, through logical deduction, might just lead to the root physiological processes that I have been seeking. Stimulation of the finger nerves may stimulate certain regions of the cortex that in turn elicit the relaxation response where blood pressure decreases, heart rate slows, and reactivity to noreprenephrine decreases- all causing the relaxing sensation experienced while knitting. Although the pathway is not concrete I find it reassuring to be able to identify a scientific basis for knitting induced relaxation, showing that the sensation is not merely a fabricated emotion.

The Craft Wisely Podcast, Episode 9: Crafting-In -- Out in Public

Each week, a group of students from the Craft Wisely course will invite listeners into the discussions taking place in our classroom. The conversation starts with ideas derived from our texts and our practice, and ranges into the podcasters' interpretations and experience.

Cogs in the Wheel delivers their final podcast of the semester! Eric, Kirsten, Shannon, and Sara discuss the Craft-In for Conway Cradle Care, an event the class held on the UCA campus to raise awareness about teen pregnancy. Individual contributions, reactions, audience, and ideas to improve the event are raised in a lively discussion of this audacious experiment.

Download the podcast here. To subscribe to the podcast, add the Craft Wisely podcast feed to iTunes or your favorite podcast reader.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

So for this blog I'm going to again discuss my current knitting project. Right now I am working on some color work fingerless gloves. This is my second attempt at color work. My first project was a mini American flag, that I created the design for myself, which turned out to be very simple. I actually chose a flag because I happened to have extra red, white, and blue yarn and it just seemed meant to be.

Moving forward to my current project. This is actually the first time that I've used double pointed needles, or knitted in the round. I really like this way of knitting, the only problem I have is that the area where I carried the yarn is much tighter then the rest of the glove. This I hope to fix in later work by just keeping the yarn loose.

This pattern I actually modified to include the purple and I have changed a couple other little things that aren't visible yet. For some reason I seem to be unable to leave a pattern as it is, which I don't think is that bad of a habit. For example, this pattern involves the bass clef. In the pattern the clef is actually located on the wrong line of the staff and being a music person I feel that it is important to have the clef located in the right spot. Hopefully this will be an easy fix, but you never know!

Well that's all for now,
Happy Knitting!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Rekindling my love of crochet

A handbag my Grannie crochet while in college..

Growing up, I always had short infatuations with some type of artistry. Starting at age two I was mesmerized by construction while my Dad was building the edition on to our house. By age four, I wanted to paint everything in sight.  My parents put up with months of me paint plates, rocks, and furniture. By age six, I would spend countless hours in my Dad’s shop building bookshelves, birdhouses and the sort. I was convinced at age six that I wanted to be an architect. After a few days at my Dad’s office with his fellow engineers and contractors, my architect days were over—I wanted to be a teacher. Then, I set up school with hand held chalkboards and Dr. Seuss. After visiting a staff meeting at my mother’s school, my teaching days ended and I now wanted to be a Chef.  The next three months, my parents were subject to eating my many creations until that infatuation subsided. Finally, by age eight, my Girl Scout leader had suggested that we learn crochet. For about four months, my only hobby was crochet. I crochet scarves and hats and even worked on a blanket project with my Grannie Iris. I remember during this crochet infatuation my Grannie and I bonded as I had come to learn of her crochet days during college. In the 1940s when she attended the University of Arkansas, she took classes on crochet as a part of the curriculum for females. While this phase of my crafting infatuation did not last, I do remember the bonds of crafting that were made between my Grannie and I during those months.

Grannie Iris' matching hat as well!

Fast forward about 10 years, I’m a sophomore in college and suddenly want to learn to knit. For Christmas 2009, I asked my mother for knitting lessons and materials. She wasn’t surprised because every year I ask for a new type of skill to be learned—piano, running, driving, painting, cooking, baking, making homemade noodles, sewing, and so forth. This January 2010 was no different when I met my mother’s secretary, Mrs. Charlotte, an older lady that has been knitting since her youth. I learned the basic stitches and got after it. Within months, I had exhausted my knitting abilities and needed a break. I went through phases, scarves, hot pads, headbands, and leg warmers. By May 2010 I had packed my carry-on bag for the plane ride to Peru with enough knitting to keep me occupied for the 15 hour flight. However, I was burnt out on my knitting, so I decided to sleep instead. From May until August, I didn’t knit. I knew that for my upcoming class, I needed to start my red scarf project and refresh myself on crochet, but I kept putting it off. Finally, motivation came back to me, I resumed knitting and did a little crochet. I was glad to be knitting again and still did not have the desire to crochet.

Last Thursday, I borrowed one of Tamami’s crochet hooks to simply fill time crocheting a square out of boredom. That rainbow square turned into the start of my first crochet project since I was eight! By the end of the weekend I had crochet a hat, without a pattern. It is a combination of my yarn scraps and is rather unique. I call it my angry man hat because if you look closely enough, you see this odd shaped, unhappy face! I was so excited from this hat, that I spurred by re-ignited romance with crochet. Much like any of the other short live infatuations with different artistries, I have rekindled this flame. In the last ten days, I have crochet two hats and am on my third. I’m looking forward to crocheting over the Thanksgiving Break, hopefully with my Grannie Iris, and perhaps making many gifts!

See the original crochet square in rainbow? it is the start of this hat!

My second crochet hat of the week!

The front of my first crochet hat in 10 years!
Can you see the angry man face?

I’m not sure how long this crochet phase will last, but it has curbed my desire to knit. I’m sure I’ll be setting up a system between knitting and crochet in which I can switch back on forth on each until I get burnt out again. I know that some people would find it difficult to keep switching from so many different skill sets, I just get tired of one and decided to go to another. I find it exilerating to be able to do whatever I want when the desire hits me! And, clearly, crochet is my newest infatuation!

and the start of my third crochet hat this week..

Knitting for Others

So earlier in the year, I decided that I would try to knit at least 50%of what I made for other people. So far this is going excellently, considering that I only have two scarves made for myself, and I am actually considering giving one of them away. I have currently finished four other scarves that are Christmas presents, four headbands that are birthday presents, the red scarf project, and four panels of a baby blanket.
This has been a very interesting process because with each new object that I knit for someone else, I try to
push my skill. The first picture on the left is where I learned how to increase and decrease, and the second was my first ribbing. The second picture on the left was a particularly challenging scarf because of the yarn. The pattern is a checkerboard, but the yarn has a foil strand which rubbed my fingers raw. I think this scarf really helped me realize that I was doing something for someone else,because a large part of me constantly wanted to quit, or make it short, but I continued, because I wanted it to be special. I also finished these three male or unisex scarves as Christmas presents. Recently, i have become a fan of the simple garter stitch used with earthy colors. However when I knit it, I found myself becoming very bored with the monotony of knitting the same stitch over and over again.
I think my favorite aspect of making presents for others is that I can match the object with the person. I am knitting with color, texture, and personality in mind, to make a finished object that is deeply personalized for the individual. Learning how to knit has shown me how I can craft in a way that is meaningful and stitched together with love. Therefore, giving away my knitted objects gives me great pleasure and joy.
Special thanks to Hughes residents for modeling my scarves.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Craft Wisely Podcast, Episode 8: Rage Against The Machine

Each week, a group of students from the Craft Wisely course will invite listeners into the discussions taking place in our classroom. The conversation starts with ideas derived from our texts and our practice, and ranges into the podcasters' interpretations and experience.

Kim, Becca, Christabel and Kat discuss the challenge posed to handcrafting by machines.  Technology threatens the self-conception of the laborer and the relationship between work and product.  One response is solidarity -- of which our efforts for Conway Cradle Care could be seen as an example.  In their second podcast in the series, the Bitches on Stitches connect awareness and activism with a machine-filled twenty-first century lifestyle.

Download the podcast here. To subscribe to the podcast, add the Craft Wisely podcast feed to iTunes or your favorite podcast reader.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What "magic" can one do with a pair of circular knitting needles? I call it whatever can be done "magic" because not everyone can master using circular needles well--I once tried and failed. I think of this as a challenge to me, but my classmates in my Honors Crafting class keep motivating me with the work they are doing.

I opted for making hats for the Conway Cradle Care project that we are doing. This idea sounded crazy to me at first but then our class is going to have a knitting workshop in which I look forward to learning this new craft.
When I started working on the circular needles, I searched on how to use them and one website ( impressed me by giving 5 tips for knitting on circular needles:

Tip #1 -- Always read your knitting pattern before starting

Tip #2 -- Educate yourself about circular knitting needles

Tip #3 -- It's all in the details.

Tip #4 -- If at first you don't succeed...keep trying.

Tip #5 -- Choose a beginner level pattern.

I have been trying to work on these tips, but I know the crafting workshop we are going to have will help me a lot in figuring out what exactly to do. Therefore, what I am trying to show in this post is that crafting requires most of all, patience and co-operation because I believe those people who know how to knit in the round faced difficulties as well at first. Co-operation is required in terms of helping each other out in figuring how to do something, through my class's cooperation I am going to learn how to knit in the round.


Dear Crocheting,

You were my mortal enemy. You haunted my nightmares. You stalked me in dark alleys, always whispering “Kimmmm, I have bested you. You will forever be condemned to work with two needles. You can never conquer me!” So, I’d just like you to know...




At the craft-in Ariel taught a group of us how to crochet a hat (Well, we learned how to crochet the first part of a hat.) There was this wonderful epiphany I reached. I finally understood the basic principals of this illusive hand-craft. I give all the credit to Ariel and our little crafting group. There’s something so fantastic about physically knitting (or Crocheting!) together. I had a person there every step of the way to teach me where to put the needle and how to hold the yarn. I think everyone should thrust aside their youtube videos and call an expert to come to your house and craft right next to you.

So, after our craft-in, I went straight to Wal-Mart and bought a size I crochet needle, came home, and then found a crochet scarf pattern. I decided that I wanted to re-make my Red-Scarf for the Orphan Foundation of America. I knitted one scarf during the summer but didn’t really know what I was making it for. Crocheting a scarf for them felt more...right. I encompassed on our class goal of expanding our crafting knowledge and I got the benefit of understanding the cause I was crocheting for WHILE crocheting.

At first I had some difficulties. It was quite cold at the craft-in so my hands were dry and smooth, allowing the yarn to easily move around my fingers. My warm bedroom caused my hands to become a little sticky. It was hard to hold the yarn but after a while I got the hang of it. I was surprised to find that crocheting was both quick and easy! I used the trinity crochet stitch and whipped through that scarf in two days.

I guess this little allegory should warm you up to the idea of learning a new craft. If I can learn crocheting, anybody can.

Monday, November 15, 2010

My First Hat!

For the Conway Cradle Care project I wanted to learn how to knit a hat. So i went onto Ravelry and found this really cute hat called My Blueberry hat here. I thought it would be a really nice and cute hat for one of the mothers. (and i know its not unisex like we were shooting for, but its so cute!)I have heard that crocheting hats are really easy and they go by quickly, but i didn't know how quickly! I made the first one in under three hours. I got about halfway through and I couldn't understand why the seam was so noticeable. There was a vertical line of huge holes running up the side. I had already wondered why thepattern called for a turning chain of three when i was just doing rows of double crochets, but I thought it was different with hats.

So, for the next two rows I just chained two at the beginning of each row. It looked so much better! The seam was starting to blend into the rest of the row. I guess i should have just started over, but i really wanted to see the finished product. The only problem was that the rows weren't as tall anymore, so i had to guess at how many more rows to do to make it the right length. I lost count of how many times I asked my roommates to try on the hat to gauge the length.
Of course, when i finished with this odd looking hat I had to try it again to make it good enough to give to CCC.
My second attempt was a great success! This new hat is so cute! I am actually thinking about ripping up my first hat to make myself one, too. But i need to also work on my red scarf, because I only have about three feet done.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I Do It in Public

People always think of grandmothers and knitting like they are peanut butter and jelly. Great conversations are started about grandmothers and their impact on our lives. I went into Midas for a routine oil change one day and took my knitting inside with me while I waited for them to service my car. An elderly man walked in the store ten minutes later and made arrangements for his brakes to be checked and then sat down a couple of seats away from me. At first he just sat and read the newspaper that had been lying on the table in front of us, but it wasn't long before he noticed me and my knitting. He watched me for a few moments and then smiled and chuckled slightly at a memory that had made its way back to his thoughts. After a moment longer he turned slightly toward me and told me a story about his grandmother. She had been a charming old lady who's passion was knitting. Whether it was a pair of socks or a hat or a vest, she was always hastily chugging away at a project with a crinkle on her brow from the concentration and a slight smile on her face. When he would visit her, she would be sitting in her favorite dark brown, wooden rocking chair knitting away. A blue and white checkered quilt would hang on the back of the chair and a white cushion with a large blue flower on it was attached to the seat with strings tied underneath the chair. When she rocked, you could hear the chair creak with old age and extensive use. He told me how he loved to visit her and sit in front of her chair, just listening to the creak of the chair, the quiet clack of the needles as she knit, and the stories she told of her adventures from when she was "his age". 

He laughed as he told me she loved to tell the same stories over and over again, but somehow the stories always got more exciting and outrageous with each telling. I sat and listened to some of the stories his grandmother had told him, but it wasn't long before one of the mechanics came by and informed me that my car was ready. I reluctantly paid for the service and said goodbye to the old man who had kept me entertained with stories of his grandmother's wild youth. This is what happened to me one seemingly ordinary day not just because I knit, but because I do it in public. I will never forget my experience that day and how I reminded a stranger of someone he loved very much. 

Yarn, I like the Fuzz

Knitting is often a light-hearted activity, and I often count yarn time as some of the dependably enjoyable moments of my day. Fascination with knitting is contagious, and like all bugs, it spreads rapidly in families. Not only do people desire hand-knitted items, I have found that friends and family members soon become fascinated with the strange possibilities that knitting offers for creativity. Over the fall break, my younger brother texted me a picture of himself in his friend’s knitted beard hat. The outgoing pair had been making a stir among the other freshmen. What an ice breaker!

When I had gone camping with my family a month ago, my littlest sister, Ella grabbed my face in her doll-sized hands, looked me in the eyes, and whispered, “You drink too much coffee. You are going to grow a beard, and Mommy will braid it and put bows in it.” And thus was born a new long-time joke between me and my sisters. After Jake sent me the next, I decided to write about the escapade in a letter to my three siblings at home. I included a sketch of three of them with their future knitted beards. Anna, had a long flowing beard, like the mains of the horses she loves. Josh had a curly black goatee to sport when he was a master spy plotting against his arch enemy. Ella, the baby of the family, had whiskers that were larger than life. The kids loved the drawing. Dad had just read The Hobbit to them, so I plan on making them bearded dwarf helmets before they end the series. When I talked to Anna on the phone, she wanted me to make a little beard for the cat, Sparkles Elizabeth Diamond Castle Pitts. What a hairy feline!

Although it is strange, I look forward to learning the knitting techniques for pulling together a few of these bearded monstrosities. Wayne and I talked about wearing them as our costume for a climbing event we plan on going to next year. I admit, this is a strange kerfuffle of events, but all of them centered on a very beautiful thing, my family’s laughter. (And with Ella’s plotting smerf giggle, that is something special indeed). I love the beard pattern, and I am looking forward to making several for my family and friends. They are not exquisite like scarves or “cool” like funky hats, but they are undeniably fun. It is a hat for kids in which to play pranks, host a nerdy Lord of the Rings Trilogy, dance to crazy music, or amuse your friends. It is a hat that is as irresistible as a ghoul mask at a cheap thrills store. People want to pass it around so that they laugh at themselves and others when they look like Gimli or a lumberjack.

To join the Ravelry Beard Group click here!

Monday, November 8, 2010

stereotype hype

I believe that crafters and artists hold a crucial role in society. Not only is this role necessary, but it is beautiful and respectable. My classmate Eric blogged about his hesitancy to knit in public as a male. I don't feel that a handcrafting hobby of any sort should be looked down upon in any context, whether the creator is male or female. Class topics such as craftivism reinforces my thoughts on crafting. It is important for society to consider that men might perform stereotypically feminine tasks to prove a point or to stand up for something that they believe in a way that might not be easily understood. Art and crafting gives us an outlet by which we may express ourselves in a productive, non-violent way.

Coming from an environment that embraced creativity and crafting, until this point I don't feel that I have ever considered any stereotypes that I might have toward people who craft and create. However, after entertaining this question, I have concluded that I lump artists and crafters into one category in my mind. I believe these people to mold the world that we live in.

Consider what the world would be like with no one that created. We would not have snazzy looking iPhones. We might possibly possess the concept, but with no designers these handy inventions would not be nearly as attractive as they are in our society. Consider jewelry and clothing without the weavers, knitters, crocheters, or jewelers, we would have neither of these goods. In fact, if we examine how most of today's goods are made, we would see that there is still some human element required in most of production.

If we search back in our history books to when people had to be self sufficient, we will see that it was crucial for people to create with their hands to survive the elements. If we were to lose machines and cheap foreign labor, we would be forced to once again return to creating for ourselves. Many people who craft for themselves today do so as a form of protest against the machines and unfairly treated laborers. I cannot find a reason to cast negative judgment upon these people.

The Craft Wisely Podcast, Episode 7: The Arachnias' Workshop

Each week, a group of students from the Craft Wisely course will invite listeners into the discussions taking place in our classroom. The conversation starts with ideas derived from our texts and our practice, and ranges into the podcasters' interpretations and experience.

Natasha and Kate explore our relationship to objects both as workers in structured settings of production, and as consumers. Our things have religious, political, and emotional meanings. How do we deal with them when we are placed in predetermined positions to things by our jobs and by our overwhelmingly economic society? The Arachnias suggest that we prioritize based on the creation of meaning and the spreading of sovereignty widely throughout our communities, and that we be careful of layering unrealistic personal goals onto our work for others.

Download the podcast here. To subscribe to the podcast, add the Craft Wisely podcast feed to iTunes or your favorite podcast reader.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Embrace the Self, Burn "The Man"

In last night's reading, "Arts, Crafts, and Socialism," author Sheila Rowbotham explains Ashbee's social ideals. Rowbotham writes, "These new social relations for Ashbee were not just about external change, they involved inner, spiritual, and personal sentiments (49)." This quote really spoke to me because I had an experience last August in which I was surrounded by people who embraced radical self-expression, self-reliance, and the positive power of community in a place where there were no intolerances. I was in a place called Black Rock City, Nevada, a city that only exists one week out of each year in the middle of the Black Rock Desert. This week long event is an experiment in temporary community within a harsh environment. More than 50,000 people from all over the world come just to experience the community for a week. During this week, Black Rock City is the 3rd largest city in Nevada. There are industrial buildings there. During the week of the city's existence, there are many art installations, giant artistic structures, and huge sculptures with fire and lights. However, when the week is over, there is no trace left behind of the city because the strict "carry in, carry out" policy.

This experiment of temporary community is also known as the Burning Man Project. Participants must bring all of their own water, food, and supplies to build a living structure for the week made to withstand the harsh desert storms. Survival is not hard, however, because people help each other out. Radical self-expression is encouraged within this city as well as informality and collective effort. There are small communities within the city in which people hold craft fairs, yoga sessions, meditation classes, environmental education classes, discussions of feminism, discussions of gay rights, classes on organic gardening, etc. There is no government in this city. The power lies in the people who live there. There are no rules other than to respect one another and the earth. Burning Man offers a different experience from the norm of a world shaped by insitituions, service workers, and commercial transactions. Black Rock City is a place of sharing and free exchange within a gift economy, thus there is no money allowed. In Black Rock City, people are just people. The entire Burning Man experience reminds me of Ashbee's social ideals because Burning Man first encourages radical self-expression. Within our modern society, our "selves" are often stifled by what commercial society tells us we should be. Thus, we are disconnected from ourselves, creating dissonance between ourselves and the world, other people and within ourselves. Once we are able to embrace our individualities, we can once again connect with ourselves and connect with the world around us. Social relations are not entirely external because it really takes each individual to first become mindful and conscious of his/her self. Then, we can connect with others, creating strongly bonded communities.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Question of Appreciation

I’ve done numerous crafts over the years, but none of them have engendered such a good response from those around me as knitting. When I showed my family my first scarf, they were instantly curious, asking how I did it, how long it took, and what other patterns I knew. Though predictably, my little brothers were only interested in how fast I could work the needles. My grandparents were even more thrilled, and they wasted no time in giving me ideas for things to knit for them. Each member of my family is eager to receive a knitted item, even going so far as to encourage me to learn faster so that I can make them blankets and night caps.

I’m not sure what it is about knitting that fascinates people who aren’t involved with the craft, but they seem to regard it as a novelty, a unique skill that, while they don’t practice it themselves, is interesting and compelling. Rarely do I see my family members get worked up about factory-made clothes. Their reaction was solely reserved for my handmade clothing, and this makes me feel that more people appreciate handcrafts than we think.

Many of us are concerned about the prevalence of factory-made products and people’s willingness to rely on these things. But I don’t think we’re giving them enough credit. How many of them have immediate access to homemade crafts? Sure, they can buy pretty much anything off the internet, but people have come to expect their commodities to be immediately accessible. Convenience is key. How can we make handcrafted items more readily available to those around us? That’s a question I think we should all consider.

Good from Grief

This week, I learned that a Residential Mentor from my high school, the Arkansas School for Math, Sciences, and the Arts (ASMSA), passed away. His name was Dan Benton, and he was a great, funny guy who loved watching movies and listening to music. He's pictured here on the left in a pink pastel vest and tie that he wore to my senior prom. We called him "Dan-ger" and "Dan the Man," and he always, always, always had a smile on his face. Thursday morning, he got into a head-on collision driving back to Hot Springs. And I can't believe he's gone.

When I found out, I started crying and felt really lonely. So, the first thing I did was hop on Ravelry to find the perfect grieving pattern. Yes, I knit when I feel sad; my addiction has gone that far. I wanted something colorful, slightly challenging so that I could focus on something but not so hard that it would frustrate me (because I didn't need frustration on top of my grief). After looking through the prayer shawls, I thought they were all too stuffy to fit Dan's carefree personality, and I finally decided on this great pattern called "Simple Fair Isle Hat." It's been in my queu for a while, but I never found the inspiration to make it. I chose my colors (two blues, a grey, and a beige), and cast on, gauge be damned!

Between classes, hanging out with other ASMSAers, and sleeping off my tears, I finished the hat in just over a day. Gathering the stitches at the top and weaving all the colored ends in, I felt peaceful. I no longer felt the need to be sad over Dan's passing. I know that he's gone. But I knit all my sadness, all my grief, all my loneliness, and all my shock at the face of death, into this colorful hat.

And as I finished it off, tried it on for the first time, and took pictures, I listened to a song by Yellowcard. It's one of my favorites, and the in the lyrics they say, "I'm sure the view from Heaven beats the hell out of mine here." Ain't that the truth.


Note: I'm having a hard time attaching the photo of the hat to this post because it's a huge file, so I'll try to attach it at a later date, in case it's just my computer screwing up, but if you would like to see a picture of it, you can click here. That should take you to my Ravelry project for the hat, which I titled "Mad Hat-ter."

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Craft Wisely Podcast, Episode 6: Knitorious!

Each week, a group of students from the Craft Wisely course will invite listeners into the discussions taking place in our classroom. The conversation starts with ideas derived from our texts and our practice, and ranges into the podcasters' interpretations and experience.

The Dust Storms -- Anna, Ariel, Lynn and Adrea -- close out our discussion of the views of handcrafting that come down to us through objects and stories from the past.  Then they point us toward the future by asking how handmade objects change the world of commerce and charity.  Our Conway Cradle Care service learning project is underway but still in the planning stages; how do these crafters, both experienced and novice, envision contributing to the health of our community through their participation?

Download the podcast here. To subscribe to the podcast, add the Craft Wisely podcast feed to iTunes or your favorite podcast reader.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Male Public Knitting

Last post I was working on my Red Scarf Project contribution. It just so happens that I am still unfortunately working on the very same project. In attempting to diagnose the factor responsible for my lack of progression, time restraints were the first to emerge. Although I recognize that some truth exists with a lack of time, as I am a busy person often surviving on four or fewer hours of sleep a night, I find it frustrating when individuals complain about time availability. So instead of letting myself fall to the same ill behavior that I often find so inexcusable, I decided to dissect my daily time regiment and see where possible knitting opportunities elude me. I narrowed the task by assigning opportunities during the day where knitting would be viable. More specifically, times during the day where my hands were unoccupied and my visual attention could be devoted to knitting needles. I soon discovered that most of the situations where these criteria were met happened to be on campus during class, lunch, and inter-dispersed downtime. To many knitters, these small opportunities are golden moments of productivity that transform limited spare time into an item of fruitful labor. So why do I not join in on utilizing these precious spare instants?

Simply put, I’m a closet knitter.

I have yet to actually knit in public. I only knit in the privacy of my home. Which, although I live in a fraternity house where privacy in limited, I am at least surrounded by those who I feel family-comfortable around. When I first started to knit for this class, I was very proud of my newly acquired skill and I had no shame practicing the craft as a male. I expected to march on campus, needles in hand, and knit my way through the semester. But now I sit here halfway finished with the semester and I have yet to grace the campus with my presence while knitting. I still have no shame of knitting as a guy, but yet I am often stationed in the student center, relaxing post meal with my partially finished scarf sitting in my bag, and consciously choose not to work on it. At this point in the day, knitting should be a relaxing escape where pressures of class and upcoming assignments melt away.

I would like to think that I am not nervous of judgment as a male knitter but subconsciously I must be. I would otherwise knit in public frequently. Through Ravelry I have observed groups such as S.M.A.C.K (Straight Men Also Crochet & Knitting) and Men Who Knit (fellows who love the fibers: for those of us with a Y-chromosome) that promote knitting

within the male gender. Some even go as far as attempting to connect the opposite sex through knitting. Despite this positive male influence, I still have yet to gather the courage to knit publically on campus. Our newest knitting service project, Conway Cradle Care, has not been introduced to Craft Wisely yet but it involves an afternoon where we knit openly on campus. Although it will be a new experience, I actually look forward to this opportunity to group knit in public, I feel that it will serve as a perfect opportunity to break my private knitting habits. On that note, I extend a question to any possible readers. What would you think if you spotted a male knitting in public? Would you have a certain default perception of sexuality? Do you have any enjoyed skills/crafts that you won’t perform in public?

The Art of Illusion Knitting

So I know that in my last blog I talked about illusion knitting as well. However, in doing research for our research paper for our Craft Wisely I found what I think is the most amazing thing.

Our research paper assignment is to connect knitting or crafting to our area of study. As it is, I am a Mathematics Major, so I was looking for articles and sources that relate knitting to math.
While searching, is a free site for knitters and crocheters, I came across this group titled "Woolly Thoughts," a "A group for fans of Woolly Thoughts, and mathematical knitting and crochet in general." Woolly Thoughts is a series of books as well as a website that is run by Pat Ashforth and Steve Plummer, a married couple that are mathematicians as well as designers and knitting enthusiasts.

They have developed a mathematical and logical method for creating really amazing illusion knitting pieces. For example, they have been able to recreate images such as the Mona Lisa and the Girl with a Pearl Earring.
These are just a few of the works that are posted in the gallery on their sister site

I was completely amazed that they were able to create such detailed works of art, especially in an illusion format. I'm hoping to either recreate one of their patters or create one of my own at some point. Wish me luck!!!

The Craft Wisely Podcast, Episode 3: Crafting for a Cause

Each week, a group of students from the Craft Wisely course will invite listeners into the discussions taking place in our classroom. The conversation starts with ideas derived from our texts and our practice, and ranges into the podcasters' interpretations and experience.

The Arachnias (Ella, Natasha and Kate) meditate on the connections between craft, education and community in this podcast (delayed due to technical reasons, hence presented out of order).  Engage with theory, practice, and outreach as the Arachnias discover children knitting, discuss whether adding handcrafts to elementary classrooms would be discouraging or beneficial to students and their instructors, and share the first-person experiences of knitters and those who receive the benefit of their energies..

Download the podcast here. To subscribe to the podcast, add the Craft Wisely podcast feed to iTunes or your favorite podcast reader.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sue Madison- Knitter and Senator

For this blog, I decided to interview Arkansas State Senator Sue Madison of Fayetteville. As a long time acquaintance, I’ve seen Senator Madison knitting or crocheting on multiple occasions. A little background on the Senator, she is a real estate investor originally from South Arkansas who received her Bachelor’s in Business Administration from Louisiana State University. She has two children and a few grandchildren. She comes from a Presbyterian background and is very active in her community. She serves on the Legislative Budget Committee and on the Senate Committee for Arkansas Girls State. She is a Democrat and a very progressive advocate of both education and environment. Recently, she sponsored the first bill making animal cruelty a felony in Arkansas. She is a civil servant to the state and is still pushing for the Equal Rights Amendment to be ratified by the Arkansas Legislator. Below is the dialogue of my recent interview with Senator Sue Madison.
Senator Madison

Sara: So I remember you saying that you learned to crochet in elementary school at recess because the teacher would not allow girls to do physical activity, so when did you learn to knit?

Senator Madison: I learned to knit in high school. My first knitting project were black socks for my father because he could not wear socks with elastic and wanted to hire someone to knit socks for him. I told him I could do it, went to the library to check out a book on how do knit, and did it! My next knitting project was a sweater I knit for myself, it took so long!  By the time I was done with it, it looked so hideous that I ended up taking it apart after the first time I wore it and re-knit it into a new sweater.
Senator Madison (sorry I do not have any pictures of her knitting)
Sara: So what other projects have you knitted?

Senator Madison: I knit mole hair sweaters for my sister and mother as well. Then when I was studying abroad during college in Scotland, my roommate and I were knitting sweaters for our boyfriends, but by the time she got back, her boyfriend had broken up with her. I also have knitted baby blankets for my children, my sister’s children, and my grandchildren.

Sara: So which do you enjoy more, knitting or crochet?

Senator Madison: I find knitting is easier and faster for me. Crochet is more difficult and slower. I sometimes pack my knitting to work on when driving between Fayetteville and the Capital so I can knit if I get stuck in traffic. I started knitting in the Budget Committee meetings at the Capital because they were just so boring, and Senator Bisbee told me “You better not let the press see you knitting!”

Sara: Oh wow, so what are some of the more unusual places you’ve been caught knitting?

Senator Madison: Well, when I go to the football games, I knit while tailgating and sometimes skip the games and knit by the tailgate and watch the stuff. I was so relieved I could just tailgate and not have to go to the games. I knit at the Capital, but not when in the Senate Chambers. No one has ever given me any problems about it, they are often curious as to what I’m knitting. I’ve been working on socks for my husband, son, and son in law lately from a pattern off of youtube. I’ve found many a good videos for knitting on the internet that would have made it so much easier for me learning to knit. It is easier to knit and focus on other things, so I knit most often instead of crochet.
Senator Madison with
Razorback Coach Bobby Petrino

Sara:  What is your favorite knitted project?

Senator Madison: I just hate coats because they are so bulky around the arms, so I knitted a shawl for myself in the winter that I get so many compliments on!

Sara:  So, with all your political actions, have you taken part in any craftivism?

Senator Madison: No I haven’t. But I think it is important to know these skills or everything we have will be imported from China or Indonesia. I find these skills very essential and hate to see them disappearing. These skills have been around so long that I would hate for people to distance themselves from their objects. Shepherd’s used to knit while minding their sheep and with the technology today, it is easier to learn so there is no excuse.
Senator Madison with former President Clinton

Sara:  Do you think there are any gendered stereotypes to handcrafting?

Senator Madison: No, matter of fact men have made some of the best patterns online and like I mentioned, shepherd knitted while tending their flock. Women just happen to be seen more often knitting then men.

Sara:  Well, thank you for your time. I appreciate it and happy knitting!

Senator Madison with her daughter and Attorney General McDaniels

(For full notes and recordings from the interview contact me at