Sometime last year, Anne Lawson and a few blogging friends came up with the idea to send one of her beautiful handmade sketchbooks around the world for artists of all kinds to add to it. I think I saw the call for volunteers over on Kate’s blog, and signed up immediately. This was just the kind of project I love to be a part of! Quite a few others from around the world liked the idea as well, and so the Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook was born.
The sketchbook has been making a very leisurely trip around the world since then. You can read all about its adventures here. So, back at the end of January, when it was actually winter around here, the sketchbook arrived at my place. What a treasure to see!
After some thinking, I ended up taking my cue from the time of year for creating my contribution. I love how the trees look in winter, with snow on the grounds and the leaves all gone to reveal the complex structure of the branches. So this is what jumped out of my brain into the sketchbook:
On the facing page I added a little letter to my fellow sisters about the inspiration for my addition:
I’ve now sent the sketchbook on to its next stop on its travels around the world, and I hope everybody is going to enjoy it as much as I did!
Wandering around Greenwich on my trip to London a few weeks ago, I also ventured into Queen’s House, lured in by a poster that had of all things something fibery on it! And my eyes weren’t deceiving me. There’s currently an exhibit by Alice Kettle at Queen’s House, named The Garden of England. It’s still running till August 18, 2013, so if you’re in the area go ahead and have a look, it’s free! It’s a small exhibit, just four or five pieces, but it seems to have left an impression on me, since my mind has been wandering around making flowers lately.
Flowers have long been a favourite motif for all kinds of needlework, so I started to rummage in historical needlework books. First, my favourite source, Project Gutenberg’s Crafts Bookshelf. Since I want to create free-standing flowers, to be applied to a larger piece later, I skipped the embroidery books and landed on the Bath Tatting Book. On closer inpection it turns out that the first three doilys presented there have a small flower as their basic unit. Just what I was looking for!
I then realized that my last tatting projects were long enough ago that I had forgotten how to make the knots. Another favourite to the rescue: the Encyclopedia of Needlework has the clearest tatting instructions I’ve ever come across. Half an hour later I was up and running. Here’s what I made:
What I did not expect just from looking at the pictures and a cursory readthrough of the instructions, was that the flowers are actually three-dimensional. I started with the rose shown in the middle. Here’s the doily it comes from:
On the left there’s the cornflower from this doily:
On the right is the sorry attempt at the chrysanthemum from this doily:
I’ve currently given up on that one. There’s a lot of picots and not many double knots holding them in place, so they tend to turn round or vanish when you’re not looking. Even after looking closely, in the current round I’m never quite sure if I’m tying to the correct loop, since those are loops I already tied to in the previous round. And there’s lots more of that kind of stuff coming when creating the spirals on the outer edge of the flower. I think the result would be stunning, but I’m not quite sure if I can pull it off. I may try to pick it up again in a few days or so.
The folks over at Botanica Mathematica have started an art project that’s right up my alley: illustrating mathematical concepts through needlework. I found them through Ravelry, where there’s a group to coordinate things.
Technically this is a perfect binary tree, since all the levels are completely filled. Of course there could be other versions, where not all branches are present. This would also be nearer to a natural growing tree, since nature tends to be messy. The important part so it stays a binary tree is that at each intersection, the branch splits in two.
Naturally other types of binary trees are knittable as well, but if you want the smallest branches to have always four stitches, calculating how many stitches to cast on and how to split can get a bit more interesting. To illustrate, I drew a few examples:
To the left is the perfect tree, this is the one described in the original instruction. The tree in the middle has three levels on the left side and four on the right. The tree on the right is even more sparse. You can easily calculate the number of stitches starting from the top: The last branch always gets the number “4”. When two branches meet, the branch below gets the sum of the stitches of the branches meeting. Repeat till you’re at the trunk, and you know how many stitches to cast on.
Those concepts are really fun to play with, I’m very tempted to do another one! As if I didn’t have enough projects on the go as is.
I’ve been including something handmade by me in the birthday presents I’m sending my nieces each year for quite a while now. Problem is, the crazy quilt box wasn’t going to get finished for the ninth birthday of the younger one this month. There’s just too much work left on it, and I’m missing some inspiration for the remaining seam treatments for the sides of the box. So I needed to come up with something that I would be able to finish in a week of half and hour here and 15 minutes there every day. So I remembered temari. I made my first project over a year ago for the older one’s birthday, so it only fit that the younger one would get a temari ball this year.
I used a different pattern from the same book, Temari für Einsteiger, but this time I didn’t just use the colours suggested for the project, but came up with my own combination. The green background reminds me of a spring meadow with beautiful flowers growing on it:
I’m pleased with how the colours came out. The book uses a similar gradation for the foreground colours, but has a pale blue background instead of the green one I chose. This one feels like spring, which is exactly what I wanted to achieve! I hope my niece likes it as much as I do.
While cleaning up my crafts area, I came across a piece in progress that I’ve last shown in this post, over a year ago. So I started fiddling with it again, and made some more progress:
As I got back into the project, I realized that achieving any kind of consistency with the lace stitches would take a lot of practice, and that is not very likely to happen when I can forget something in the corner for a year at times while being busy with other things. The problem is that I’m interested in way too many things to have the time and patience to achieve mastery in any one of them. I’m more interested in trying out things and understanding the basics of something than I am in knowing everything about one thing. No, that’s not quite right, I’d happily learn all about one thing if that wouldn’t steal time from other interesting pursuits.
With the amount of knowledge available today and multiplying every day, it’s become impossible to get even an overview of what’s out there to know, much less aquiring detailed knowledge in several fields at once. Most of us have had to become specialists in a narrow field out of necessity, since the body of knowledge even in a small field can be vast. The internet is playing its own role in making lots of knowledge available to everybody at the other end of a search. So, being naturally curious about a lot of things, fibery or not, I get drawn in all directions and never put in the time to go really far into one topic.
But why should I want to? While it might be nice to be a specialist in whatever area, I think having just basic knowledge of many different fields has its own benefits. One of the goals of this blog is to help keeping as many old needlecrafts as possible alive and well. And alive for me doesn’t mean 5 people on the planet know perfectly how to do it, but as many people as possible have tried it with a simple project and know the basics. If then a few people fall in love with a craft and want to go deeper, so much the better. So I think I’ll go on providing tutorials and patterns for small projects in whatever craft takes my fancy next, and stop worrying about achieving mastery in any of them.
As little as a century ago, women were expected to be proficient in a variety of needlecrafts. In today’s world of cheap mass production, this is no longer the case. So if you are interested in fibery things, finding people who share the same interest is not as easy any more as turning to your family and neighbours.
Luckily, the development of the internet has made it much easier to communicate and find like-minded people around the planet. Being the only person you know who’s interested in a particular topic can make you feel isolated. Using the internet, finding people with similar interests is often as easy as reaching out and telling the world what you’re doing, for example with a blog like this. But it gets even easier: there are quite a few communities around catering for different interests, and participating in them has a lot of advantages. Let me show you what joining a new community has done for me just in the last couple of weeks:
Since I’m not primarily a knitter, I resisted the buzz building up around Ravelry for quite a while, but a couple of weeks ago I finally gave in and joined. I have to admit, I’m captivated. I can browse the projects of new and old friends and let their projects inspire me. I can easily build up a collection with all the patterns I’m stumbling over on the internet. Most of the patterns are already on Ravelry, complete with nice pictures from folks who’ve already completed the project. I even found a knitting group right around the corner from where I’m living, so I spent a nice evening knitting in company about a week ago, and I plan to repeat that. I’m definitely spending a lot more time knitting than a couple of weeks ago.
Browsing through my friend’s projects, I rediscovered Celestine. This definitely is the kind of project that appeals to me: a quick, geometrical pattern, and I had the perfect yarn and a recipient in mind. So here’s what I came up with:
Ravelry allows me to easily track the progress of a project, record what yarn and needles I’m using, and add my own comments. Just periodically raising that progress bar has kept me amused and motivated the past days I’ve been working on that project.
One thing I keep noticing over and over again with different interests is that it is often the community connected with an activity that keeps me going. Exchanging experiences and showing the results of my work to like-minded people is a powerful motivator. If I get stuck, the solution of the problem is often just a search or a question away. And knowing that others take an interest in my work often motivates me to actually finish a project instead of just forgetting it in a dark corner.