Archive for May, 2014

Mending As Art

I’ve become quite smitten with the idea of Darning As Art. The origin of the idea did not spring forth from my head like Athena did from Zeus. I discovered it in the blog Tom of Holland. He calls it Visual Mending. All I can say is, I can see endless possibilities in which the skill of darning crosses over into and becomes art.

The basic idea is to conserve well lived-in clothing. A while back, I had written that I rarely knit myself sweaters because I’m afraid to wear them. I don’t want them to become worn. It would kill a little bit of my heart and soul if I had to chuck a hand-knit sweater. But in what Tom does, the mending becomes a visual part of the item, adding character, charm, interest, another story line, entwining another life with the original and thus giving it continued life. Visual Mending is a wonderful way of conserving and being able to continue to use clothing that can’t be mended invisibly. What I love about it is it doesn’t pretend to make the garment look like new. Instead, the mending itself becomes a form of art adding to the personality of the garment.

This picture is posted with the permission of Tom of Holland. All rights belong to him. Please don't reproduce it without his consent.

This picture is posted with the permission of Tom of Holland. All rights belong to him. Please don’t reproduce it without his consent.

The picture above is an example of different mending styles. The mending was done in crewel wool. Below is the close up of the work.

Used with permission from Tom of Holland. All picture rights belong to Tom of Holland. Please do not reproduce without his permission.

Used with permission from Tom of Holland. All picture rights belong to Tom of Holland. Please do not reproduce without his permission.

This whole idea took me back to my teenage years in the 1960s. Every pair of jeans I wore were carefully repaired with needle and embroidery thread in worn out areas. They were a constant work of art in progress. The Home Economics teacher and the Art teacher always stopped me to see if I had embroidered any new designs. I was able to enjoy wearing my jeans and extend their usefulness in colorful and fun ways. I had forgotten about this until I saw Tom’s blog.

This picture is used with the permission of Tom of Holland. Please do not reproduce it without his consent.

This picture is used with the permission of Tom of Holland. Please do not reproduce it without his consent.

Don’t get me wrong, it takes a fine skill with needle and thread to do the work that Tom does. But I am eager to explore the various mending patterns out there and try my hand at it. I keep thinking, what if mending patterns were intentionally included in the original knitted piece? As both a form of decoration and in the places most likely to get worn out first? This idea keeps running around in my head and I am already designing a little boy sweater that will incorporate intentional mending.

I find it interesting, in an almost inexplicable way, that in the myriad of knitting books, and knit wear design books, little if anything is mentioned about the skill and art of mending. I have The Principles of Knitting by June Hemmons Hiatt and of the 790 plus pages only 1 page briefly mentions mending. How absurd that mending would not be given as much attention as the knitting itself. After all, I am not, for the most part, knitting garments out of stainless steel wool (though I have ruminated on the possibility). I am knitting garments meant to be worn and enjoyed and I can’t do that if I am fearful of ruining it.

In some ways, Tom’s Visual Mending, has given me the freedom to knit items for myself and opened a way for me to feel good wearing them. After all, isn’t having to be mended a sign that something has been both well-loved and well-worn?

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A moment of pure elation always follows the completion of a project that has posed creative problems along the designing way. The feel of that pure elation is always greater and more satisfying than the aggregate of troubles. The happiness and deep satisfaction I feel having completed the carrier is worth every bit of angst and hard work I put into it. It’s even worth the lymphedema I am now suffering through.

This piece is all I wanted it to be. The lights and darks of the river’s water, the heavy ropes of a boat, the visual feel of the boat’s movement in the braids, even the orange of the underside of the boat that shows above the waterline when the ship is not laden. What I saw in my mind is exactly represented before me. It’s a high like no other.

North River Baby Carrier

North River Baby Carrier

Two sizes, 0 to 6 months, and 6 to 12 months are designed to fit a fully clothed and diapered baby without restricting movement. The button front opening provides no fuss easy in and out for baby. The carrier is that extra little covering to help keep baby warm while running errands with mom and dad.

My next obession project is very interesting and I have much to learn. Darning as Art. I’ll explain next time.

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TGIF. While I am not doing more, the time I have to do it in seems to have shortened. I don’t understand why 24 hours does not seem like 24 hours anymore but that’s the way it’s been around here.

Water is still on the basement floor, not from the washing machine, but the monsoon rain. The sump pump is working. It’s a sensitive object. The smallest things upset it and it stops working. When its quiet for a while, I open the cellar door, remind it that it’s a nice sump pump, and nice sump pumps always pump water. It chokes and gurgles to life and I go about my work until I don’t hear it again.

Yarn Rascal has relapsed into deviant behavior. Ripping out grouted tile, tearing up rugs, and totally new behavior: stealing circular knitting needles. He likes to tightly clamp the cable part in his mouth and tear around the house like a Ferrari. Even when I catch him, it is pretty near impossible to get him to give up the needles. When he doesn’t want to open his mouth I can’t do it for him. So I’ve resorted to food treats, a piece of cheese (he likes cheddar) or his favorite bacon biscuits as a sort of hostage exchange. The negotiations before the exchange takes place are a bit long, depending on how determined he is to keep the knitting needles. His favorite pair is a 16″ (41 cm) length 5 mm / US 8.

Which brings me to the North River Baby Carrier. I am knitting the sleeves in the round on dpns. The sleeves are done in Seed Stitch. Since the Seed Stitch pattern can’t be easily maintained through decreases the same is true with increases. Sleeves need to have a gentle taper that grows wider as it reaches the upper arm. In a moment of delusion hope I thought of working the sleeve from the widest point down since I had spent so much time figuring out the decreases on the hood. It seems, (surprise, surprise), that a hood and its decreases are way different from a sleeve and its decreases. The major distinction being the distance between the decreases. In a row on the hood the distance in stitches between decreases is greater. In a round on a sleeve the distance between decreases is only a stitch or two. The sleeve decreases need to be kept in the middle of the sleeve underneath where a seam would be if I were working them in rows. The decreases with only a stitch or two separating them didn’t look all that great.

Back to the main idea, gently tapering to a wider upper arm. Swatching, ripping, swatching, ripping, research, research, swatch and rip some more and finally I learned a few things. There is no way to keep the Seed Stitch pattern completely intact and so I decided to use a little knitting trompe l’oeil.

Basically the knitter can use whatever increase is his/her favorite. Mine happens to be the lifted increase. An increase of 1 st on either side of the central marker keeps the disruption at the center of the sleeve underneath where a seam would naturally fall. The only two stitches affected are the immediate ones on either side of the marker. They got the knitting trompe l’oeil treatment when I decided to keep them as the same stitches within the round but alter them on each round.

Normally the two stitches would be k1, p1 on one round then change to p1, k1 on the next round. The increases atered that so the two stitches wanted to be the same stitch on each round. On the first round after the increase they wanted to be k2. So I thought let them be k2, on the next round they will be p2, on the one after that they will become k2 again. I was “maintaining” the way Seed Stitch alternates on each row. After working more rows I looked at the effect and the eye cannot see the increase. Neither does it pick up the two stitches that are similar within a round. Because the increases have a large number of rounds between them, there is virtually no disruption of the Seed Stitch pattern either on top or underneath the sleeve.

I am planning to have the baby carrier completed by the end of the weekend. Go ahead, laugh. But really, am I not due for a break?

Have a good weekend.

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