November 13, 2013
if you’re a crafter
with any internet presence,
you’ll remember an ‘incident’ in 2012
when one of my favorite bloggers, completely cauchy,
got some heat for a guest post she wrote on whipup (now, sadly, defunct)
that included an image of a quilt
with a provocative word on it.
some people went a little crazy after seeing it,
but i applauded it (and reblogged it)
because for me,
it was a work of art
and a genius work at that.
i emailed cauchy
with an idea
after a lot of emails
and more than a year of work and thought,
the quilt is now complete.
(to be clear, i only gave the word; she did everything else)
because some may consider it nsfw,
you’ll have to scroll down to have a look.
if you have a delicate constitution
or an aversion to potential controversy
now is the time to exit.
after the image is a mini interview with cauchy about the project.
after reading it, head on over to her blog where she interviews me.
on the quilt is a word that’s especially powerful to me,
and my take on it and the issues surrounding it
are likely different from a lot of yours.
so there is but one disclaimer:
you are entitled to your opinion on the piece, but this blog is my house.
if you start acting a fool in the comments
they will be deleted.
it seems like your crafting, whether it’s a deeply thought-out expression of a philosophical idea (as with the fuck quilt or the n-word quilt) or making a knitted stuffed bunny, everything is ultimately an expression of you. your life, your tastes, your thoughts, what makes you happy. what was it like to have the seed of an idea given to you from someone else? and how did you put yourself into this work (if at all)?
I’ve tried things like testing patterns (in knitting and quilting) and even a fully-dictated commission or two and found that there’s something far too confining to me in those situations. It always feels like dungeon crafting at the behest of a whip-cracker. However, you just provided the kernel of an idea by just putting one word before me. To begin, I had to check you out, observing your blog and other social media interactions to learn more about the requester. Once you seemed fairly reputable, I felt like I had to give it a try by living with the idea long enough for it to begin to feel like my own. Honestly, I don’t think it’s reached that status completely, but we’ll discuss that more later.
How did I put myself into the work? Well, the use of such a word expressed in quilt form is the beginning, of course. Not too many folks are doing that at all. But, definitely the picnic theme came from within; it’s a darkly comedic approach rather than resorting to the more obvious forms that might come to mind. That is, I played with dusty pinks and purples in a flouncy font, for example. But that seemed one-dimensional and too easy–too easy for me and too easy for a viewer. The final form is the result of a year of rumination and conveys more of my own internalization of the seed of the idea–it came to me at breakfast one Saturday, I sketched and started impulsively sewing within a few minutes.
i requested that you make this quilt after the inclusion of your n-word quilt on your whip-up post almost two years ago. i had a very visceral response to that whole internet encounter, but even more so to the quilt itself. obviously, faggot doesn’t have the same personal effect for you as the n-word but what does it make you feel? what is your reaction to it?
As a Southerner, I hear these words in my mind in the most countrified accent. Those double g’s in both words are lingered over. In the n-word, the “errrrrrr” drawls on and hangs in the air, while the ending of our f-word, the “ot!,” comes out as a hard and violent pop like a firecracker. Both words bring an element of fear since my first experiences of them were in threatening situations. And I tend to assume that one who uses our f-word would also use the n-word, actually, and vice versa. And these words tend not to be followed up with coffee and cupcakes.
The first time I heard our f-word it was hurled at a neighbor kid who was always bullied in middle school. I had no idea what the word meant nor why it was used. But the force behind the yelling and the teasing that surrounded the incident only incited fear in me. Ever the nerd, I looked it up in the dictionary right when I got home from school. It was puzzling… why is he a bundle of sticks? It took quite a while to get a full explanation out of my parents.
in our exchanges during this process you mentioned some reticence to making this quilt because (correct me if i’m wrong) the word faggot wasn’t “yours” to quilt. can you talk a little bit about that? and what ultimately made you agree to make this quilt?
Yes, indeed. I started this body of work as an exploration of my identity as viewed by others. The concept is simple. With the quilts or comforters one chooses to buy from department stores, one expresses some portion of one’s self-image. Albeit there is a limited selection (one is confined to the choices made available by current industrial-scale designers), one chooses a style and builds a decor accordingly. What do those choices project about one? And, in turn, how can one project oneself into a quilt?
The words that first came to mind for me were: oreo, bitch, princess, and the n-word. While the n-word quilt ultimately was an angry cathartic project, the others were light-hearted and playful explorations. And eventually I’d go on to give c*nt a try and that is probably the best of the series so far. These are words that are personal and for which I have clear personal experiences that give me license to use and illustrate them. Initially and throughout my one-year deliberations on our f-word, it just seemed to me that I wasn’t allowed to use the f-word. I’d even been accused of racism on that Whip-Up post, by commenters who just assumed I wasn’t black and therefore was not allowed to go anywhere near usage of the n-word. So I had to pause to think. One must quilt responsibly, right?
I gotta say that 2012 was the perfect year to be in this perpetual tailspin: the nation was finally moving forward on marriage equality. Amid daily immersion in this civil rights movement, I was making sure to steep myself in history and, at the same time, just happened to revisit Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, first by finally viewing the beautiful mini-series with Jeremy Irons and, second, by nipping into the novel again to recall contexts. Volumes have been written analyzing the characters, their relationships, and the religious themes of the novel so I’ll refrain here. For me this reading in 2012 brought on visceral feelings of social contrasts of all sorts and I reveled in the joy of the early moments of Charles and Sebastian’s relationship. All of this led to finally acknowledging the anger and frustration I feel about the entrenched resistance to this equality movement.
It slowly dawned on me that our f-word is part of my world and my AmericanExperience. My reticence was right because I want to avoid offending (to a certain extent) but I have a right to use this f-word responsibly for the same reasons that I defend others’ rights to use it. [First Amendment for all, my friend.]
Now, even though I claimed ownership of the vocabulary, I remain wary in ways I cannot articulate.
i know you put a lot of time and thought into this project; it’s been almost two years in the planning/making. can you talk a little bit about the process? both technical as well as what the making made you think or feel?
My “process” for quilt design differs with each project. While most are improvisational and/or impulsive, this one started out as a long deliberation that built up to an impulsive move. I started sketching whenever ideas came to me, a practice I rarely indulge in. On my cutting table, there’s a pile of old receipts, boarding passes and envelopes that explore this one concept. Each idea has some potential, but never compelled me to start stitching; see purple-pink example above.
But then one day I woke up ready, I did a mock up on my computer over coffee, and it just felt right. The only certainty I could articulate was that the instinctual simplicity of the design was what was missing in previous versions. Technically, this is traditional Quaker sampler design executed with simple and efficient sewing.
While sewing, I thought quite a bit about the bullied neighbor kid and another dear friend of the family with whom I’ve lost contact. There was so much about them that I now realize I was too young and too oblivious to understand at the time–ten year-olds shouldn’t have to know everything, of course. All I knew was they were nice folks who, in my presence, incurred wrath expressed through this word.
do you have any idea what your next “word” quilt might be?
Well, since I tend to embark on these projects impulsively, I cannot be sure. There are ideas always on my mind, but none have risen up to need to been made yet. That’s not such a satisfying answer? Let’s just say that one of these designs involves the word “fingerpainting” in an unexpected way.
thank you, cauchy, so much.
this collaboration has meant more to me than you can know.
i’ll cherish the quilt forever.
and don’t forget to read the companion post on completely cauchy!
October 28, 2013
October 7, 2013
i am so. behind.
in the past two weeks or so,
i’ve been fighting off some kind of plague
and been dealing with the death of my grandpa.
it’s been one of those times when one is reminded
that being an adult fucking sucks.
(it also means there might be some big life changes in my future)
but for right now,
i have a lot of catching up to do.
so of course i’ve cast on a boneyard.
i never get bored of a plain triangular shawl.
i imagine it’s what sock knitting is like for sock knitters.
*t-10 days to rhinebeck.
September 8, 2013
August 4, 2013
I want to say something but shame
yet if you had a desire for good or beautiful things
and your tongue were not concocting some evil to say,
shame would not hold down your eyes
but rather you would speak about what is just
that’s some heavy shit.
more than 2500 years ago,
and the bitch knew what was up!
*from anne carson’s translation, If not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho
July 27, 2013
photographing these socks was a bittersweet event for me.
as you may recall, i began these socks with the intention
of giving them to stephanie pearl-mcphee
at the next knot hysteria retreat.
it’d become a tradition of mine.
but of course knot hysteria is no more,
so god only knows when and if i’ll see her.
when i finished the socks,
i was in the tipsy fog.
and it didn’t hit me
until i took their picture
that these socks are basically homeless.
so as i see it, i have two options:
a. – give them away on the blog to someone with similarly tiny feet.
b. – use my super secret sneeky plan to get them to canada.
what do you think i should do?
still, i’m totally happy with how these turned out.
they’re as close to perfectly matched as one can get, even the heels.
i love the heels. (pattern details: here)
now i ask you,
because maybe this is just my ignorance about dying,
but how can two socks be so different when:
1. same knitter
2. same needles
3. same pattern
4. same gauge
5. same fucking yarn.
can someone please explain that to me?
while i do love the second sock
and recognize that it is beautiful,
i still completely prefer the first one.
there’s always gonna be a favorite,
as with any siblings.
these socks are not homeless, though they will be a surprise.
luckily, i have the recipient’s address this time.
(and believe me it pains me to say this)
i need advice on . . . a baby sweater.
let me be clear: i’m cool with babies.
it’s parents of babies i can. not. stand.
which generally results in the same thing: avoiding babies.
but this universe has a sick sense a humor
and frequently makes us deal with things we’d rather not.
so i’m going to knit my friend a baby sweater.
it’s not going to be any degree of cutesy;
nor will it be even the slightest bit wootsy.
if i see any baby blue acrylic yarn, i’m pulling the plug.
i want to make something dignified and stylish for a small person.
so what would you recommend?
is the baby surprise over?
July 18, 2013
i began this post
in the middle of the night
in a guest bedroom in scappoose, oregon
with the intention of recounting my day’s activities
and proceeding thusly for the rest of my mini-vacay/retreat from life.
it soon became obvious
that scappoose lacked the bandwidth necessary
to blog on a daily basis, at least if i wanted to show you my pictures.
so now i am home
literally weeks after my return.
and must resort to the recap format for today’s blog
this might take a while.
coffee at ristretto roasters
which was the only coffee i had in portland that lived up to the hype
(this mocha was not fucking around)
there were a couple trips to grand central bakery
where i was more impressed by their breakfast sandwich and shrimp po boy (scroll down) than their sweet stuff.
in portland proper,
there was the ubiquitous
homeless/punk/beggar with cute animal entourage.
this group was outside powell’s where i had a pretty amazing haul
the next day,
tina and i went to black sheep gathering
where we saw judith mackenzie judge the fleeces,
a thoroughly delightful and educational experience.
(note: apparently, shetlands are in this year)
(the aforementioned shrimp sandwich)
we ran into beth hansen of hansen crafts
she is . . . a character. if you meet her,
and it feels like she’s making fun of you,
that’s because she is.
it’s totally normal.
i have strong feelings about the miniSpinner,
but this is all i’m going to say about it: i’m a traditionalist.
if you’re not, and aren’t bothered by the electric component
you should definitely buy it;
it’s a pretty fucking awesome product.
i won’t be buying one because
i am a fuddy duddy.
i stopped by black trillium fibre studio‘s booth,
one of the only booths i thought worthy of documenting, really.
the problem with all of these shows,
especially the smaller ones,
is that these people aren’t business people.
sure, i bet 90% of them make an amazing product,
but that doesn’t mean they know shit about how to sell it.
you’ve got to make a booth that makes people want to come in,
or you might as well not even bother to show up.
melanie knows how to work with what she has;
simple set up, a few beautiful samples, wide open
so people can get in and out easily.
similarly, the men at the clemes & clemes booth knew what was up!
these dudes are professional, know their product, work well together,
have their demonstration down, and there’s something to be said for a uniform. this dude had me wanting a fucking drum carder
something for which i have no use or space in my life.
that, my dears, is a salesman!
(sorry for the shitty photo)
then i met some west coast knitters
though i can only remember angela davis (the knitting one)
with her amazing mustard eye shadow (right) and parna
(with the broken hand), both of whom i hope to see again.
(sorry angela, not the best photo, i know, but better than the other one)
the next day,
tina took the misses newton, heidi dog, and me to the beach
before which we hit up this joint,
pacific way bakery & caféwhich, was fucking amazing…last year.
but made us a but queasy this time around.
and our waitress?
then we returned for more chicken time, but with a twist.
i don’t know what it is, but i fucking love deer.
maybe it’s from watching bambi as a kid, i don’t know.
but i can not get enough deer.
and i got way close to this guy.
i was then treated to a ________ about which i cannot tell you.
what i can tell you is that it was a moment when i felt
humble, special, and kinda fancy.
because it was fancy.
and more than a little pantsy.
though likely wasted on my middle class ______.
the whole tripped was capped off
by an amazing meal at cocotte bar & bistro
a meal totally worth live tweeting. which i did.
(click pics to read descriptions)
then i immediately hopped on a plane and headed home.
this trip was my vacation,
a flight, really, from my incredibly stressful summer.
there were whole swathes of time when i was not seized
by crippling work-related anxiety.
that level of ease is only surpassed
when i escape to my parent’s house,
or as i still think of it,
tina’s guest room
is a close second.
she’s the kindest host.
i even get my own bathroom.
*there was an undocumented fabulous indian dinner with tina, megan, and deb, friends from three very different epochs of my life, followed by a night out with megan at a former bowling alley dive where, once the lyons’ club bingo night rapped up, we watched the mentally challenged and tone deaf sing karaoke.there’s no picture in the world that can capture that.
July 16, 2013
or to be more accurate,
his work, as we’ve never met.
we have corresponded a couple times
and he seems like a lovely person.
now, you all know me.
i am not one to utter any unkind word
especially against a tall, handsome, ginger-gay
who could probably take me in a scrap.
this new “tripartite”?
this lace-weight linen thneed?
gurl. i know probably spent a lot of time on this,
and that linen probably tore up your fingers.
but no t no shade, not everything you knit
is a publishable design.
she does know how to work her angles to her advantage though,
looking all young and thin and such.
anyone is, of course, free to disagree with me.
you’d be wrong, but still, if you do,
you can purchase the pattern here
and join the other
who’ve cast this on.
*you gotta click the links to see the pics.
normally, i’d snag them, but as they’re copyrighted,
you’ll just have to visit westknits’ flickr to see the madness.
July 14, 2013
July 10, 2013
i shouldn’t be up.
to say that it’s late
and that i have a very full, important day tomorrow,
would be to laugh in the face of anything resembling “understatement”.
but i promised you all a sock
and i so rarely finish a knitted thing these days.
(though if you’d prefer, i have more korean food i could share)
i saw this skein
et les membres de sa même famille
during my last visit to portland, oregon.
(i know i know i owe you a post)
the tipsys had just been born
and i kept eyeing this skien.
if you’re lucky to visit the tina newton
and you stare at one of her skeins long enough
and she likes you
she might give it to you.
apparently she likes me.*
i only had the one set of needles with me
and they were already in another sock.
well i’ll tell you what, i ripped the needles right out the sock in progress and cast this puppy on. though it occurs to me now
that i was staying with a woman
who specializes in sock yarn.
i bet she has some needles i could’ve borrowed.
i chose this pattern,
not only because i basically have it memorized at this point,
but because this is a brand new colorway,
and i wanted to see what it would do.
and because the pattern is so easy,
i was able to revel in the color,
how it built in each new round,
seeing what would change
at the heel flap
i am completely enamored of the swirly flashing;
the copious amounts of white make it for me.
and i should have taken a pic of the wrong side.
the reverse stockinette made me want to knit something
for a baby.
i was actually walking around saying,
"but have you seen the inside? look at the reverse stockinette!"
"someone needs to knit something for a baby in this colorway!"
i said it several times to anyone who'd listen.
luckily, someone else took a pic for me. go ahead, take a look.
now you tell me, don’t you think someone needs to knit something in reverse stockinette for a baby in this colorway?
as i was finishing up this sock
while watching silent hill: revelation on netflix,
it ended up being about an inch longer than i had indented.
(would that i always had such problems)
i wonder who i’ll give this pair to?
how will i decide who gets them?
i’m open to suggestions.
it’ll have to wait.
i owe it to the other sock i left hanging.
*there may or may not have been a chocolate mousse involved in this decision