Saturday, June 28


I've been thinking a lot about creativity and art/craft recently. I have been mulling it over, trying to figure it out so I could write something really insightful on this blog.

Unfortunately, the creative impulse is a very complicated topic, and I haven't figured it out yet. Here's a nugget of what I've been contemplating though:

I have been designing recently. I have a set that loads into the theater on Monday, and the show that Christopher and I are producing starts rehearsal on Tuesday. Once these are under control, I will start work on another set design, for a show that opens on Cape Cod in October.

Designing sets -and visual art in general- is so different from knitting. Of course, I haven't really designed anything I've knit (I don't think choosing yarn counts). My experience with knitting usually entails:

-picking a pattern
-picking the yarn
-doing a swatch (if I'm feeling at all patient)
-measuring myself or whoever is getting the knitted thing
-following the pattern and making the object.

There's not much improvisation with knitting. It takes some planning and math and research before you can just try something out, though I do know that designers make sketches. (The Yarn Harlot has been designing a baby sweater recently, if you'd like an example of what goes into designing a knitted garment and what I'm talking about.)

Designing a set is different for me. I'm not sure if it's because it's a different medium or just because I'm more experienced at it. Each time I design a set, the process changes, and I find the process very exciting. For the set that I'm loading in on Monday, I did a bunch of research on schools and then built a rough model that incorporated some of those school elements (chairs, risers, a blackboard and a curtain). There is no one way to make a scale curtain, so I had to figure it out (crinkled tracing paper works well in my experience). This then became a starting point for the director and I to talk and hone what we wanted the set to look like.

What I love about this process is that I may have an idea of what I want as an end result, but I never know exactly how I'm going to achieve it until I'm in the middle of making it, and I may encounter something unexpected and end up incorporating it.

It's a very intuitive process. When I design, my mind stops using words and I grab whatever materials I have that will aid me. It's completely thrilling and is usually also terrifying, as I let myself go to my subconscious. For this reason I actually feel like I can only do it in small spurts, 20 or 30 minutes at time, and then I need a break.

I love knitting, but it seems so slow and safe compared to my experiences in my design studio. So, my question is: can knitting be this exciting? How? Or does it just need to do its own thing, fill the time in front of the TV or on the subway? Is it a pleasureful means to an end (a beautiful garment)? (I know some of you are knitting-artists, so I especially look forward to hearing your opinions on this!)

Tuesday, June 24


Have any of you heard of Ted?

My neighbor is hosting a Ted girls' night, and invited me. She has DVDs of some talks, and we're going to watch them and then discuss them.

I can't help wondering if this is some sort of brain washing-cult thing. The graphics on the website don't make me feel any more comfortable. And the fact that it costs $6,000 to attend one of their conferences makes me super wary.

I guess I'm just really hesitant to join groups. Am I the only one?

On another subject, I have a new nephew! He was born this morning at around 10am and weighs 8lbs 5 oz. (that's a big baby for my sister-in-law to carry. She's only 4'-11") That's really all I know about him. Hopefully he'll have a name before too long!

Sunday, June 22


I haven't blogged all week, and I feel a little guilty about it. On the other hand, I didn't have much to write, so you might've gotten some silly post about all of my unfinished knitting projects or something.

The big news this week is that we went to an eye muscle specialist on Friday. By "we" I mean, Christopher was examined and I sat in the room knitting furiously as I hoped for the best and tried to remain calm. (Those who know me may think that I'm always calm, but that's just a facade. I'm very good at hiding my stress.)

First we saw a resident, who did a bunch of basic tests, more or less what the regular eye doctor did a few weeks ago. Christopher has been complaining about feeling something gritty in his eye when he looks down, almost since he got home from the hospital. This made sense at the time, as there was a stitch underneath his lower lid, and its ends would sometimes creep upward. I actually saw it a few times. The stitch has now dissolved, but he still feels something. After the resident did her tests, she pulled his lower lid down and gasped. Then she ran into the other room, where we could hear her talking to the doctor. (Doesn't that feel good?)

A few minutes later they both entered, and he took over the exam. It turns out that there's some scar tissue on the muscles under his eye, including a little bump. He said that this is very easy to fix, just a little snip and it'd be gone and Christopher would probably have a little more mobility in his eye.

He also recommended that he see an ocular plastic surgeon, who could do that snip and also give Christopher's now drooping lids a little tuck at the same time, so his face would be more symmetrical. So now we've got more stressful things to look forward to, and we don't know if our insurance will cover any of this. For now, we'll hope it will and at least get the surgeon's opinion.In more cheerful news, the weather has been perfect and I spent another afternoon outside knitting with my beloved knitting group. While I was there, Christopher sanded the woodwork in our hallway and started to paint it.
We have big plans this summer to get our apartment into shape. Other than the woodwork, we would like to: tile our back splash, refinish our floors and strip all of the interior doors. Our tax refund and stimulus check just cleared, so I think that's where that money is going to go.

(A total side note: Have any of you tried Benjamin Moore's Aura paint? It's low VOC, which means fewer fumes and it's more eco-friendly. It also gets amazing coverage, so you actually use much less of it. It does cost a little more, but I think it's worth it for less work, less paint and a lower chance of feeling dizzy while painting.)

Saturday, June 14

Knitting in Public

Today is World Wide Knitting in Public Day (aka WWKIP Day). Around the world, groups of people are getting together to knit in public places.

The group I knit with coordinated with some other local Brooklyn knitting circles and organized a get together on the steps of the Brooklyn Museum. We thought it'd be a great place to get noticed, to show people that knitters aren't all little old grandmothers. What we didn't anticipate was the heat, and the fact that we wouldn't actually get that much notice because, well, who wants to go outside in weather like this? Somehow we also didn't think much about the fact that our location didn't have much shade.Some of us huddled next to granite wall, where there was a little shade from the trees and the wall itself. Apparently the wall was also very cool. This woman on the left was very smart and brought a fan.

One highlight of the afternoon, aside from knitting with other knitterly people, was meeting MissMildred, who sometimes leaves comments on this blog. She lives around the corner from us, and also makes lovely knitted things. It was pretty cool meeting her in real life!As the afternoon wore on, the sun moved west and our shade went away. By then the whole group had moved along the wall. It wasn't the best way to get to know people, since my back was to half of them, but I enjoyed the little group near me. I was working on (a very sweaty) square for a Buncha Squares blanket, which I'm making for my sister-in-law's new baby. She is having a c-section on June 24, so time is a wasting. I think it's safe to post a photo of the blanket here, as (as far as I know) she doesn't read this blog. There are two white yarns on the border of each square, and I've run out of the off-white one. I went back to the store to buy another ball, but the color was a little pinker than what I had before. Someone on Ravelry agreed to sell me a ball in the right dye lot, so I'm waiting for that to come in so I can finish. In the meantime I'll make the center parts of the squares, and add the paler white to an edge or two.

Happy WWKIP Day!

ETA: if you are interested in hearing more about the WWKIP day at the Brooklyn Museum, here are some links (with photos of me, though it appears that I did very little knitting and lots more chatting)

Friday, June 13

the mystery of a machine

I've noticed recently that a number of regular knitters are writing about sewing on their blogs. I wonder if this is because temperatures have risen, and wool just seems less appealing.

I have not been exempt from this interest in sewing, though in my case it was inspired less by creative impulse and more from necessity. I recently had to make a faux baby for a play I was working on, something that the actors could hold and that would force them to handle it as they would a real baby. I whipped that up in a few hours, and felt a pang of regret when I had to put the sewing machine away. (There's really not enough time for everything I'd like to do!)

As I often do when I pull out the sewing machine, I looked on ebay for the parts for my machine. Perhaps I should backtrack.

My sewing machine belonged to my grandmother. I think it's from the 70s, not quite as ancient as my mother's old Singer. Anyway, many years ago when I got my machine (brought to New York by my parents, no doubt)it had attachments. Lots of them. My machine is designed for little cams to fit in and then it sews different patterns of stitches. Anyway, my roommate got confused and in a fit of cleaning threw away the attachments. Gone. No stitch designs for me, just straight and zig zag (that's the cam that was in the machine, luckily!)

So when I made my baby prop, I went on ebay and found the attachments. And I won them. And this week, they arrived!All those designs are the stitches the machine does!
In the box, along with needles, bobbins and a few stray buttons were these sewing machine feet. As I have no instruction manual (my roommate threw that away too), and no formal sewing training, I have no idea what they are for. I feel like I'm looking at some medieval machine, though perhaps someone out there knows exactly what I'd use these feet for.This one might turn the fabric under as you sew??Anyone?

Saturday, June 7

a day of fiber

Christopher has been in Dallas all week. A theater there did a staged reading of his play tonight, and he was there for the rehearsals and to revise it. It was a busy and stressful week for him, and it was our first time with one of us in another city since he was assaulted. I think it's good for us to be apart, though I also think that Christopher would have benefited from having a familiar face down there with him.

Anyway, I've had a bunch of deadlines in the past week, and today was my first free day all to myself since I can remember. For months I've been dreaming of fiber, and of what I can do with it, and so today was a bit of a fiber day, even though the weather was extremely hot and humid. I'm not sure why I would want to play with wool on a day like today, but well... I guess I'm obsessed!

This afternoon I made a trip to the Yarn Tree, a yarn/fiber store in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. I had to take two buses to get there, and stood around at the bus stops in the 90+ degree heat, but it was totally worth it. I got some undyed merino, undyed Blue Faced Leicester, some more Kona Mohair Merino, and some undyed superwash merino. I also got some things that I'll need for dyeing with plants this summer: alum and soda ash. And I got tons of advice on how to dye with woad.

In fact, the women in the shop were all excited that I was going to grow woad and then dye with it. One of them wanted me to send her photos of the woad flowers and she told me about her own experiences dyeing with woad. It was nice to meet someone who had as much enthusiasm about this as I do, and now the pressure is on to get this to work. (I think my family is beginning to wonder when I'll get tired of this fiber and dyeing thing. The knitting thing is fine as long as I keep making them hats and scarves.) Honestly, I feel like it's a grand experiment, and though I'm planting 6 dye plants, I'll be happy if I dye successfully with one of them. And if that happens to be the woad, so much the better.

When I got back I did a little spinning and then somehow decided to start in on prepping some camel hair that Christopher's aunt had sent me. She was in Mongolia a few years ago and collected some cashmere and camel hair directly from the animals. In March she sent it to me, but I was rather overwhelmed and unsure of what to do with it. I've done some research on Ravelry and felt at least somewhat ready to try prepping it. So I pulled out the camel hair and started separating the guard hairs from the fuzzy, fluffy part. There was more fiber than I thought there was, so I only did 1/2 of it.
Once I pulled most of it apart, I threw away the guard hairs and put the fuzzy part into a lingerie bag, which I dumped (carefully) into a bowl of warm soapy water. I let it soak for a while, eventually changed the water, and will soon pull it out and let it dry.

And then?? I'll card it and pull out the rest of the guard hairs, but I'm not sure whether I'm up to spinning it. Camel hairs are pretty short and hard to spin. I might need to wait till I'm more experienced...

Wednesday, June 4

a meme

Those of you who read lots of blogs will have noticed that there's a new meme circling around. Ewephoric tagged me a few days ago, and I've been thinking about how and when to respond...

First of all: Rules.
Each player answers the questions about themselves. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5-6 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer.

Now, the questions:

1) What was I doing 10 years ago?
In June of 1998 I was finishing my first year as an "adult," that is: post college. I had been free lancing, and landed a summer job as a programming assistant for the Independent Feature Film Market (which is run by IFP). It was one of those intensely interesting jobs with a steep learning curve, lots of responsibility and almost no pay. I was calling indie directors and producers asking if they'd speak on a panel. And then, once we moved into our venue, I was responsible for organizing our squads of volunteers. Trial by fire!

2.) What are 5 things on my to-do list for today (not in any particular order)
Things I've done:
-read the script for Couldn't Say
-write a note to Anne's husband (see previous entry)
-Call Christopher (he's in Dallas for a reading of one of his plays)
-email a theater company that has tentatively hired me, and confirm that I am hired (I am!)
-unclog the vacuum cleaner (it seemed to have a blockage, and I pulled out what looked like a hairball!)

Things I need to do:
-clean the apartment (we'll see)
-pay some bills
-think about the set design for Couldn't Say, and perhaps do some research
-make a healthy dinner for myself
-get the publicity photos for Couldn't Say from the photographer.

3) Snacks I enjoy:
-hummus and pita
-apples and pears (though not together)
-rice chips (I really like salty snacks. I just try not to buy chips much, as I'll eat a whole bag in one sitting)

4)Things I would do if I were a billionaire:
well, I couldn't keep all that money, right?
-I'd give a bunch to charities, a mixture of arts organizations and groups helping in third world countries, like the AFSC.
-I'd renovate our apartment, and I'd do it right (like with an architect and a contractor, and we'd stay somewhere else while it was happening) And we'd buy the apartment next door and expand into it.
-I'd quit my day job.
-I'd rent a studio space for myself, and a writing space for Christopher.
-I'd spend a few months a year in Tuscany, and I'd learn Italian again. Or I'd brush it up, anyway. And I'd cook amazing food. Or I'd hire a Tuscan cook who could cook for me when I'm too busy to bother.
-I'd collect art.
-I'd buy tons of yarn. Or a sheep farm. (Christopher would kill me.)
Really, my life would change. Drastically. That's what it really comes down to.

5) Places I have lived:
I'm not sure what counts as "lived..." Here's where I've lived for more than 6 months.
-Philadelphia (18 years)
-Maine (though only in the summers)
-Northampton, MA (college)
-Florence, Italy (9 months)
-New York City (Manhattan for 6 years and Brooklyn for 4 years)

6) Six people I would like to tag are:
Terra, Alyssa, Boodely, Friender, Meg and Kristina.

Monday, June 2

slightly speechless

My mother called early this morning and told me some sad news. One of their oldest friends, someone I've known my whole life, died very suddenly last night.

The whole event is very hard to wrap my head around. Anne (and her husband Joe) have always had a strong and intimate presence in the life my parents (and I) have in Philadelphia-- at Christmas dinners, our wedding, birthday parties (though not mine), dinners at various people's homes. She and her husband hosted a brunch the morning after our wedding and when I was in third grade I interviewed her about her memories of the Civil Rights Movement. And a few years ago she invited me down for brunch when her young Austrian cousin was visiting. It was a friendly and fun meal, and the only time I remember spending with her without my parents around. This is Anne with her husband Joe at our wedding.

Anne also had a very public life, which makes her passing somewhat more abstract than other deaths. She was the director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. All day I've been scanning the web for obituaries. There's not much yet. The NY Times has a blurb from the AP wire. The Philadelphia Inquirer has the most in depth article, and it's not very long. So far the best article is actually a puff piece from the NY Times written in 1996. It captures her beautifully.

I'm going to miss her.

Edited 6/4 to add one of the NY Times obituaries. And an older interview from Fresh Air.