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How begin 2016? With whichever craft I please!

14 Jan

Blocks of quilting, knitting, mending, drawing and dreaming frame the early days of 2016.

Alanna Nelson knit Boston

One Sunday afternoon to do list.

Soon I’ll finish the second quilt in the Cowabunga Cat series. This one kind of got away from me. Originally, the second surfing cat quilt would also be a baby blanket. After the first, I felt like the fabric needed more room to breathe. So I unsewed the top and placed the large isosceles triangles in a larger setting…. try queen size. The top is still pretty busy…. but I can definitely see waves of surfing cats moving through the tube.

Although I said I’d never use a Statler Stitcher on my quilts after Karina Kowabunga, Laurena’s Longarm Quilting now has several of the Anita Shackleford Modern packages available for the computer guided quilting machine. “Modern Paisley” seemed the perfect choice for this surfing cat quilt.

Alanna Nelson Statler Stitcher quilting Modern Paisley

Anita Shackleford Modern Paisley Digital Quilting Design

Trimming out portions of the pattern, changing height and other diddly choices means I’ll spend more than 8 hours quilting the 81″ x 90″ top. Over the autumn, I wrote several little haikus about surfing cats, two of which I’m quilting into the top. I’ve got some leftover fabric and a few more haikus… a third quilt in the offing? While these projects weren’t even on my horizon in January 2015, it’s been a fun little hike.

Already the pull of the 2016 quilt diversion dots my day dreams: Quilt du Jour by Marni Buck and Jill Guffy.

Quilts 2016 by Alanna Nelson

Quilts du Jour by Marny Buck & Jill Guffy

Plucked from the library just before Christmas (along with Margaret Radcliffe’s completely approachable and useful Knowledgeable Knitter), the simple blocks have lots of opportunities to play. We could use a few more large quilts at home. I’ve signed up for studio blocks as a subscriber at Laurena’s through the summer. With only two large WIPS destined for machine quilting, I do need to look at stash and play with possibilities.

Ah, how pleasant it is to just jump into whichever craft calls me today! Random craft choice won’t last much more: we’re leading a Knit a Long for the Aidez cardigan at Sit and Knit. Who knows what 2016 will bring?

Trends of Quilt National 2015

7 Sep Alanna Nelson visits Dairy Barn Quilt National 2015

Alanna Nelson visits Dairy Barn Quilt National 2015A flash sale on Southwest Airlines suddenly snapped my long held daydream of visiting a Quilt National exhibit in Athens, OH. Owning several of the exhibit catalogs is never the same as seeing art in person. How I thoroughly treasured my afternoon dose of reality at the Dairy Barn, hanging out with the 84 expressions of art quilting today.

Choosing quilts must have been challenging for the jurors. Quilt National seeks to create a statement of today’s quilting trends; quilts that balance historic roots and yet incorporate new techniques and experimentation. As such, one could easily define this as a quilt exhibit and not a surface design or mixed media exhibit. Rich in message and layers of media, I saw these quilting trends:

  • Upscaling and recycling: True to a patchwork tradition, many artists used clothing and scraps in their work.
  • Adobe Photoshop: This software has become the quilter’s favorite. Whether creating images or modifying photographs, digital image manipulation is part of many quilters’ visual vocabulary.
  • Beyond textiles: From Deidre Adams‘ layers of paper to Wen Redmond‘s metal, to stones and other ephemera become integral to art quilting.
  • Machine quilting: The norm and not the exception, by longarm or free motion, machine quilting has become the norm. Storytelling through stitching was evident in many works. Hand quilting, what will happen to you?
  • Machine Embroidery:  Creating embroidered texture and images made dramatic statements on many works.

The show was hung well, using a variety of different mechanisms to let the work hang. Lighting was also generous and focused, without being detrimental to the longevity of the work. I walked around the exhibit once, soaking up the different artistic flavors… and the flavors were striking. There was often an enormous shift from one quilt to the next. Certainly the curators spent a lot of time trying to find the right flow.

Next to each quilt, the label stated basic quilt information and a QR code that would take you to the artist’s web site. I appreciated the artists who gave you a landing page with their QN15 image and perhaps a statement about the piece before exploring other aspects of their web site.

The Dairy Barn Quilt National 2015 You Tube Channel gives you a fantastic background for many of the works on display. Throughout the summer, I had viewed videos as they were released. This formed the basis of my second tour of the exhibit, back to visit the quilts I remembered from videos. I toured the exhibit one last time, listening to the artist’s video as I looked at the quilts. Got two minutes? Watch one of their videos… they are well done.

Quilt National closes today, but fortunately you can enjoy their YouTube channel to hear many of the artists speak about their work. If Quilt National 2017 is on your summer travel list, swing over to my travels in Athens, OH blog post for more scoops about enjoying the area as well as the art quilts.

Tips for Knitting Wild Animals

21 Jun Alanna Nelson knitting in Melrose MA

My 3D knit mojo rolled along over the winter. Most recently, I turned back to Knitted Wild Animals, by Sarah Keen.

Alanna Nelson knitting in Melrose MA

The giraffe, panda and elephant in their new home

Sarah’s patterns are easy to knit but need a chunk of time to assemble. These three animals used almost an entire bag of polyfill (I chose not to stuff them with wool, as the panda was really quite big and I wondered if the wool might get a bit felted over time).

The last time I knit patterns from this book, there were mental notes about what I might do differently next time. Did I remember them? Of course not.. but this time I’m writing it down.

Alanna Nelson knits wild animals in Boston

Knitted Wild Animals by Sarah Keen

  • Leave 8″ long tails at the cast on and bind off edges to seam your pieces together.
  • If you have difficulty identifying the cast on and bind off edges, tie a bow on the cast on tail to help you remember which is which.
  • Tie sets of arms, legs, horns… everything that’s knit in twos and keep them together until the seaming begins
  • Consider knitting pieces in the round on double pointed needles (the shorter, the better). The legs, arms and horns could have been knit in the round for the giraffe, elephant and panda. The body sections for the panda and elephant could be, too.  Just put markers in between the 2 pieces so your increase and decrease points are easy to identify.

So, there! Now, have you knit patterns from this book? I’d love to hear your tips about what worked for you.

My Ignite Craft Boston 2015 Video

10 Apr

Huzzah for the fine board members and volunteers of the Common Cod Fiber Guild! Not only did they hold another fantastic Ignite Craft Boston in January, but their video recordings are up!

Here’s my 5 minutes of quick enlightenment on the different ways to quilt a sandwich.

Ephemera and the design process

29 Mar Alanna Nelson design ephemera knit quilt textile prodution

In celebration of Boston Design Week, I had the pleasure of visiting the Morse Study Room to view selections from the Print and Drawings Collection. Meghan Melvin, Sharf Curator for Design, selected a variety of ephemera that represent the stories and secrets of furniture design, textile and fashion, banking service, graphic art and even interior design for cars. I could have listened to Meghan talk for hours! Hopefully she did not sense my internal pandemonium as I forced myself to leave after the 30 minute tour. Tiny fireworks sparked ideas, evolving into whirling thoughts which eventually I distilled into four categories:

  • The ephemera of my design process
  • The challenges of conserving such an enormous range of objects and untangling their mysteries
  • The opportunities to research new project inspiration in museum collections
  • How digital design will change future ephemera: Will historians’ and curators’ work become easier or more difficult as our creative process and presentations transfer from physical to digital representation?

Historic New England encourages people to contribute supporting documentation and tools for their collection that reflects New England life. Perhaps the things we create should be documented more clearly? Should cleaning up after a finished design or quilt take on a different meaning?

Obviously, the thoughts are still whirling!

Kleam Kerchief in Rowan Cotton Lustre

25 Mar

When Janet invited us when the Rowan yarn rep stopped by in February, I had no idea I would fall for their new bulky weight ribbon yarn called Cotton Lustre. When Jess first showed the ball of ribbon yarn, we were all a bit “Eh.” When she showed us the knit swatch, we all said “Ah.”

The first bags of Cotton Lustre arrived without the pattern books, so it was time to take matters into my own hands. Thus, with 2 skeins of Lustre, I whipped up any airy kerchief in a lace mesh pattern, which I share here with you!

Kleam Kerchief free pattern

You are fab!

18 Feb Alanna Nelson at New York Fall Winter Fashion Week 2015

The stars have entire armies of people dedicated to telling them how fabulous they are every day of their lives. You have a mirror. Get in front of it and be your own publicist, darling.

This fabulous quote from Tom Fitzgerald and Lorenzo Marquez’s giggle read, “Everyone wants to be me or do me” could be a motto for many.

As I sit on sides of the Lincoln Center Plaza, watching young stylists, models, photographers grasp a bit of that Fashion Week feeling, considering their quest for fame and fortune, it seems a bit preposterous. On the other hand, how many other people are their own worst enemy?

You are fabulous dahling. Go out and share that brilliance with the world!

Comparative Art Forms: A Week of Inspiration

20 Nov Image of Tomie Nagano buffet MFA textile costume society

In a season known for gratitude, events this week permeated my heart with thankfulness. It all began last Wednesday, when the Museum of Fine Arts Textile and Costume Society friends met for an evening of contemporary art. Tomie Nagano and Marilyn Pappas shared works in progress and outlined their work flow.

Long an admirer of Tomie’s quilts, the peek behind the stitches was much anticipated. However, Marilyn’s embroidery and collage were new to me. I am now completely a fan. While their creative process varies tremendously, both artists devote copious time to each piece. Clearly both women savor the process despite the gradual, meticulous nature of their media.

Tomie collects used textiles from Japan (fortunately, she says, this started when few appreciated the gorgeous silk kimono and obi or the cost would have been prohibitive!). Seeking to create an emotion, she cuts narrow strips, creating traditional patchwork blocks. She decides the size of her work, places each strip and block, numbers it all. Next, Tomie organizes each block into layers laid out in boxes, separated by tissue paper. Hand stitching and hand quilting the entire work, she methodically moves through the process. Her current project is enormous!  A silk quilt displayed for us on her bed simply shimmered. This was one of the many advantages of the evening being hosted at Tomie’s home. I do love viewing bed quilts on a bed. Not to knock displaying bed quilts on a wall, but it’s a different experience.

Marilyn’s approach is more free form and yet equally time consuming. Her early work included textiles, but for many years, collage was a favorite mode of expression. Inspired by classical sculpture, she draws a rough outline on linen and begins to paint with one or 2 strands of cotton embroidery floss. The shading, the vivid dimensionality, the sheer quantity of stitches is mind boggling. She brought several pieces from her History Lessons series. We are not talking about small works of art.  The torsos are often life size.

Can I ever embroider again without thinking of her?

Image of Tomie Nagano buffet MFA textile costume society After feeding our souls with their creative energies, Tomie led us to a magnificent buffet that she had prepared for the group. From the sushi rolls, stuffed avocados to delicious salads, the table was a visual and gustatory delight.  A quick camera phone photo could only capture half of the bounty! A thank you note felt so flimsy after Tomie and her husband offered such hospitality. I am truly grateful for the evening.

Italian ceramics provided a glorious setting for Giardini di Sole’s Meet and Eat this week. Giardini di Sole curates a collection of beautiful and useful Italian home dec and garden tableware, lighting and stone tables (simply beautiful things! And in all transparency, I assist with their marketing and events). Goddess of hospitality, Josephine Wennerholm prepared multiple examples of starters, salads, main dishes and desserts with Elatia Harris of Lucy’s Mom Cuisine. The lively crowd left satiated both spiritually and physically! Jo believes in the ties created by sharing a meal. I know that nothing can be more inspiring than happy people enjoying and a good time together.

Each of us has the creative spirit, expressed in all kinds of ways (providing that we take time to listen). In the knitting classes I lead, the creation process simmers, coming alive in stitches or in thoughts while knitting. This week, we celebrated many new finished objects. What joy when your first knit sweater looks great on your tot or you wrap your first scarf around your neck! How stunning to see the color combinations felted into tote bags. What a vision when a beautiful scarf catches my breath as a knitter walks into the room. How cozy winter evenings will be with that newly completed afghan. I’m delighted to see their accomplishments.

As Fred Wiseman noted in his question and answer session at Sunday’s MFA showing of National Gallery, his documentary was a study of comparative art forms. My week was a study of creative expression. From stitches to squash, ice crystals to philosophical notes, I’m grateful for the perspicacity in my life.

Lovely yarns at Loop Knitting, London

16 Sep

I won’t have time. I may have time. Wow! I have a morning free.

Those of you who travel with non yarn loving family members know the dilemma: you head blissfully into a yarn store, content to browse for at least an hour. Even supportive and appreciative gift recipients can only handle so much yarn handling and pattern browsing. To truly enjoy a yarn shop sejour, send the friends and family away and soak it up yourself.

While planning a stopover in London with my hub earlier this month, I believed I might do my usual pilgrimage to Liberty (which was a bit disappointing this time… the fabric shopping is better in their online store!). With the London Fashion Week just days away, perhaps I missed the good stuff. I hoped to stop by Loop Knitting in Islington to pick up the newest issue of Pom Pom Quarterly. That seemed unlikely.

Yarn Islington Loop London

But serendipitous schedule scrambles allowed me to jump on the Tube on morning, knitting happily as the stations sped by. Once in Islington, I escaped the quickly moving escalator to find a cute little espresso truck. Good sign!
Yarn Islington Loop London

Loop’s little map did not have a scale identifying the actual distance from the station to the yarn shop, so I was surprised to find it not more than 200 yards away. The cozy little shop is spread on two floors, filled with foreign accented chatter, lovely shop samples and WHAT? – large selection of Quince and Co yarns. Fun offerings from Habu dotted the downstairs as well. Grrr.

Did I travel all of the way here to find yarns I already enjoy at home? Being Boston based, I know we have a fabulous LYS scene. I expected Debbie Bliss and Rowan yarns, UK standards available across the continents. But all of the way here for these quality materials I already knew? Has globalization hit the yarn scene, diluting the local characteristics of all yarn shops?

I found my Pom Pom Quarterly right away, but I felt like the spoiled little girl. Where were the UK indie yarns?

Whew! Upstairs, I found the cozy sofa, Jamieson spindrift (like smelling salts, I tell you) and a variety of hand dyed and small UK yarn providers.
Yarn Islington Loop London
Yarn Islington Loop London
Yarn Islington Loop London
Yarn Islington Loop London
Of course, I couldn’t resist the Old Maiden Aunt sport weight alpaca, silk and wool combo… and I needed a pattern to use that precious shank. So I purchased the Juju’s Loops book, which had a lovely fingerless mitt and sweater pattern that I couldn’t resist.

Excellent souvenirs, I decided.

Back on the Camden Passage, I continued up the pedestrian street to admire shop windows.Yarn Islington Loop London
Yarn Islington Loop London
Yarn Islington Loop London
Yarn Islington Loop London

Cafes, antique shops (all closed on a Tuesday morning), chocolate shops mingled to create an interesting little walk. I was glad to for time to wander into Loop.

Taking the 4 Saori Weaving Slogans into the Weekend

12 May Alanna Nelson Master Hand Knitter

Mihoko Wakabayashi of Saori Weaving Worcester spoke to the Common Cod Fiber Guild on Friday night. Already intrigued by her Ignite CraftBoston talk in 2013 (catch her talk on the Common Cod’s Youtube channel), my Friday frazzled brain was ready for another dose of freestyle weaving inspiration.

Mihoko learned Saori technique while still in Japan, bringing her skills with her to Worcester in 2000. Founded in the 1970’s by Misao Jo, the Saori Weaving philosophy seeks to establish a worldwide movement to

  weave and learn together in search of our true, hidden selves.

The practice encourages everyone to:

  • Consider the differences between machine and hand made
  • Be bold and adventurous
  • Look out through eyes that shine
  • Inspire one another and everyone in the room.
Saori Weaving Worcester loom at Common Cod Fiber Guild

Mihoko brought the portable Saori Loom for demonstration

I’ve admired weaving and weavers for years, but kept my toes “out of the water.”  When Mihoko opened up the Saori loom, I felt myself tiptoeing closer. Oh, I could have all the fun I want with this loom and it wouldn’t dominate any space in my house.

With my winter focus on the Master Knitter Level 3 portfolio, most of my free time has been dedicated to fitting into tightly defined parameters.  This soul needs opportunities to wander and explore. A Saori weaving day will be in my future, perhaps with other Codders?

I still need to finish the last written details and pattern checking on my Master Knitter portfolio, but it’s very near completion…

I honestly thought that the portfolio would have shipped last week and had signed up for a free Pebeo demonstration at the Fenway Dick Blick store on Saturday. There was a bit of internal discussion… don’t go, focus on the portfolio…go, didn’t you learn anything at the Saori talk last night? You are so ready for a shot of creative playfulness. I’m so glad I did.

Tristina Dietz-Elmes led the group through 2 hours of possibilities using some of the new multi media. She shared a few of the results on her Instagram DietzArt account. As you know, I’ve enjoyed using Pebeo setacolor on silk and cotton since my days in the Castelli Romani. The session opened whole new playful doors.  I had a great time watching Tristina mix, dip and dabble. As one who loves textiles, most of the mixed media products would send me into other creative zones, but that’s ok.  Pebeo’s mixed media line allows acrylics to mix with resin or  reactive paints. And they have new liquid resin panels where you can pour, stir, spread and watch cool things happen.

Wow! What a shot of energy that was for my compartmentalized black and white knitting soul.  It gave me great energy for Sunday’s session with StitchMastery and assorted reference books. Can’t wait to play with the Pebeo Mixed Media line some sunny evening soon.Alanna Nelson Master Hand Knitter