Sunday, October 30, 2016

Think Tank(top) - Part 2

After several weeks, I have finally finished my first full-knit garment. As mentioned in an earlier post, I have been working on the Beach Tank pattern by Jess Schreibstein. I initially began the tank top as a summer challenge. The top was intended to be an ideal knit for warmer weather. I chose to knit the piece with hemp so that it would be light and airy, and the finished pattern - mostly stockinette - would add style to any Beach Babe outfit (after all, it is the Beach Tank).  

The finished Beach Tank with high-low hem. 

"What took you so long? What could be tricky about a tank top?" you ask. In my imagination, I would whip up this garment in a few days, but as you probably can imagine, the project was not a piece of cake. 

The pattern appeared to be within my knitting skill range, but I did not anticipate a few of the challenges that arose along the path to completion. In particular, I was not aware that I would have so much variability in my tension. I have not experienced issues with tension since my earliest days of knitting. This variability led to two the creation of two tank top components of different size; even though I had used the same materials and the same needles, the front of the tank top was smaller than the back. Gauge can be fickle. The math is reliable, but sometimes, the crafter is not. 

I sat in my living room, looking at the two problematic tank top pieces. The edges did not line up. I thought back to all of the places I had carried these materials: Indiana, Illinois, Oregon, California. These materials were with me as a I stressfully waited for my airplane to arrive at O'Hare and also as I calmly observed the Cascades, just outside of Eugene. In these moments of reflection, it occurred to me that the context in which I had knitted the different sides of the tank top had varied, and this variation in context could have led to variation in tension. There is some humor in this reflection. Who else can look at a knitted piece and identify the rows that were more cathartic and perhaps less meditative? Can you look closely at the last cowl you made and find the point at which you changed location (mentally or physically) in your knitted project? 

The high-low hem is visible at the end of the seam. 

The two knitted pieces flew with me across the U.S., bundled in my backpack until I arrived in Bloomington, IN, where I could stop in Yarns Unlimited for some fiber art expertise. One knitter at the shop listened to my story about the two tank top pieces and responded in an "it's no problem" tone that caught me off guard. I had been worried that I would need to reknit one complete side of the tank, but this knitter communicated that there almost always exists a way to incorporate mistakes into the complete project. We measured the sides of the tank top, and she then suggested that I seam the sides to make a high-low hem. I had never heard of this type of hem, but I did recognize the idea once she explained. She then showed me how to seam the two sides of the tank top together from the inside. Lastly, I completed the i-cord straps and wove in the ends. 

I-cord straps weave in on both sides.  

Friday, October 21, 2016

Yarn Bombs

Have you noticed trees in your community that are wrapped in yarn. Or a light post that wears a sweater? How about a bike rack, adorned with granny squares? 

What is going on there?  Two words: Yarn Bomb

Yarn bombing, otherwise known as graffiti knitting, is a form of street art through which an artist covers an object or space with knitted or crocheted pieces. This "kniffiti" can be traced back to Houston, TX, where the movement began in the early 2000s. A group of six artists collectively began to cover objects in the city with yarn. They called themselves Knitta, Please. Though this group has since dissolved, one member - Magda Sayeg - continues to cover her world in wool. In fact, many people look to Magda as the leader of the global yarn bomb movement.

Yarn bombers are percolating in crafting communities (and actual communities) worldwide. Like other forms of street art, the yarn bombers often use the material as a medium though which to fire up conversations about controversial topics. For example, one group of artists in California has been working on an environmental textile project titled There Is A River Here, which serves to draw awareness to healthy and vitality of the Santa Ana River. 

It is interesting to note the contrast between harsh nature of hard-to-talk-about topics and the softness of natural fibers. In some ways, wool is nearly limitless*. Further, we tend to conceptualize bombs as destructive, eradicative creations, but it seems that yarn bombs function exactly oppositely. Yarn bombs are constructive and hold presence without requiring permanence. 

Over the next few weeks, I will be taking a closer look at the practice of yarn bombing. In particular, I will be exploring the mathematics, collaborative design, and engineering involved in these wooly wonders. Quite frankly, how does an artist figure out how to cover a curvy park bench in a nicely-fitting sweater? 

*Note: Different than this form of limitless.