Musings on knitting, crochet, and a fairly loopy life.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

for my mom

Mother's Day is three days away, and while I have a mom-in-law and a step-mom, I no longer have a mom of my own to celebrate the day with. My own mom died of ovarian cancer 21 years ago ... and I REALLY can't believe it's been that long! But this year I've found a satisfying way to honor my mother's memory.
Mom & Dad at their engagement party (1958). Great-Grandma Esther in the background.

Patternworks is trying to collect 1,000 chemo caps by the end of October. As a gift to my mother's memory, I'm doing my part. I just finished my first cap, using a pattern from the Patternworks website. I plan on making one cap each month between now and September, and mailing them out at the beginning of October.
Anyone interested in contributing their own caps can log on the Patternworks website. In addition, if you buy the yarn they're suggesting for the project, they'll donate a portion of the sales to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, and the American Cancer Society.

Happy Mother's Day, everyone! And happy knitting and crocheting.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

i is for inspiration

Inspiration can come from the most interesting places. A beach at sunset, a forest with the late afternoon sun piercing through the tree tops, a New York City housing project ...

"What?" you ask. A housing project? Yes, indeed.

After I drop my son off at pre-school, I walk down Nostrand Avenue to pick up my car from wherever my husband has parked it that day (stopping off first, of course, at Dunkin Donuts for a infusion of caffeine). My walk brings me past the Sheepshead Bay/Nostrand Houses, a 34-building New York City Housing Authority development built in the late 1940s.

The development is designed in the "modernist, tower-in-the-park style" popular during the post-war decades.  The buildings are blocky, 6-story red brick, set among emerald lawns planted with oak, sycamore and young fruit trees.

At various corners and entrances, there are red brick columns with stone finials. Set into the brickwork are bas-relief squares with stylized oak leaves.
Something about those oak leaves really caught my attention one morning. The way the early-morning sun emphasized the shadows and highlights made me think of Aran sweaters, and all those lovely textured cables. I got an inspiration for a sweater..

Now, I'm no fashion designer, and I'm even less of an illustrator. But this sweater nagged at me. And I knew that if I didn't put something down on paper, I would lose the idea before I was ready to knit it. So off to the library I went, to borrow books about figure drawing for fashion design. And with a lot of tracing paper, a ton of patience, and much erasing, I came up with the following sketch:
It's hardly Project Runway material, but at least I have a starting point. Now all I have to do is figure out how to actually design the sweater, and I've got it made.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

favorite (fictional) knitters, part IV

It's been a while since we've visited my favorite fictional knitters and I don't know about you, but I've kind of missed them. Here's one who resides at the top of my list:
Gromit, from Aardman Animations' Wallace and Gromit franchise.

Gromit lives with his human companion Wallace in an indeterminate English village. He doesn't speak. After all, that would be silly -- animals don't speak. (Of course, knitting is another story). Even wordless, Gromit manages to be wonderfully expressive in the style of Buster Keaton and other silent film greats.

Gromit's birthday is February 12th, which makes him an Aquarius. Aquarians have keen intellects and are highly eccentric, and usually prefer the company of other eccentric types. They seek out people who are original, creative and exciting, and sometimes even a little dangerous or unstable, in order to obtain novel experiences. You can see this in Gromit's relationship with Wallace, who has opened up their home to a bank-robbing penguin, built a rocket to the moon for a cheese-tasting holiday, and repeately gotten them both involved in some sort of wacky mayhem.
Gromit graduated from "Dogwarts University" with a double first (the highest honors) in Engineering for Dogs. He and Wallace are both excellent engineers and inventors; one of their most famous inventions being the Knit-O-Matic. The Knit-O-Matic was featured in the animated short "A Close Shave," which won the Academy Award for Animated Short film in 1995.
This little film introduced Wallace's short-lived love interest -- yarn shop owner Wendolene Ramsbottom -- and Shaun the Sheep, who has gone on to become a famous fictional knitter in his own right. In the movie, Wallace and Gromit save England from a (gasp!) wool shortage, and Wendolene from the clutches of her sinister, sheep-rustling robot dog, Preston.
In 2008, reality and fantasy merged when the Wallace and Gromit's Children Foundation tried to set a world record for the biggest ever hand knitted Tea Cozy. (That record was set in April 2009 by BUPA care homes across the UK.)

Monday, May 3, 2010

the kitsch kollection

I couldn't help myself. I had to do it. I was surfing the net, looking for crocheted hat patterns and this one popped up. I had to have one.

We all had one of these growing up. The toilet roll topper that someone's grandmother crocheted for them. Come on ... admit it ... you had one too. When I saw the pattern, all I could think was "What a perfect solution for my bathroom!" You see, my bathroom is an itty bitty little thing, with very little storage space. The only logical place to stash extra toilet rolls would be in the vanity, but that's pretty much filled up. So we keep our extras stored in the linen closet, which is in my bedroom at the opposite end of the hall. Very inconvenient if you run out of paper before you're done.

So I've started keeping an extra roll on an open shelf. But it kind of skeeves me out knowing that there's dust collecting on it while it's waiting for its time to go to work. And then I saw the pattern, and all of a sudden I understood why all our mothers just had to have one of these things.

Or maybe I'm justifying. Maybe I wanted it because it's a connection to a more innocent time in my life. Or maybe it's that perverse part of me that really wants a black cat clock with a swinging tail for my kitchen. I know it's kitschy, and that's why I like it.

Now, what's the use of being a fiber artist if you can't crochet yourself a toilet roll top hat? So Friday night I threw this little baby together and put it to work in my bathroom Saturday morning. The best part of all came when my husband went into the bathroom for the first time after I set it up and laughed long and hard. My kids ran to see what was so damn funny, only they didn't get the joke. That only made it better: a little private joke between the old folks in the house.

I could have saved this photo for my ABC-Along K picture: "k is for kitsch," but I really wanted to post it now as a little lighthearted touch after all those days of esoteric religious rambling.

And I'm putting out a warning to all my friends and family: don't piss me off between now and December, or you may just find yourself on the receiving end of one of these for the holidays.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

victory and splendor

Last week's Divine aspect was Netzah (Victory or Eternity). This week's aspect is Hod (Splendor or Majesty). It makes sense to discuss them together, since they are counterparts to each other. They can be viewed as the more earthly versions of Hesed (Lovingkindness) and Gevurah (Might) respectively. Netzah represents God's active grace and benevolence in the world, and Hod represents the way in which God's judgment is dispensed on earth. Hod is also associated with the power of prophecy.
Netzah and Hod are associated with the Divine names Adonai Tsva'ot (Lord of Hosts) and Elohim Tsva'ot (God of Hosts) respectively. When associated with parts of the human body (as all the aspects of God are in the Zohar), Netzah often corresponds to the right leg, and Hod to the left; the foundations and propellors of the body. However, these two Divine aspects can also be associated with body parts that are related to knowledge and fertility: they are sometimes linked to the left and right kidneys, which are considered the source of advice in talmudic lore - go figure), and other times linked to the testicles or female breasts, which are sources of fertility and nurturing sustenance.

Meditating on these two aspects of the Divine calls to mind God's generosity and majesty; they remind us that the Almighty created the universe and continues to provides support for it (as long as we don't mess with it too badly). We can be reminded of our own responsibility to both create and sustain life, to nurture and preserve the world that the Eternal has given us.

Netzah's color is light pink; Hod is dark pink.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


Tiferet (Beauty) (also translated as "glory")  is a balancing force between Hesed and Gevurah. It is,  in fact, considered their offspring. This balancing force is essential to the proper running of the universe. Tiferet is considered the primary "male" attribute of God. (In some versions of the sefirot this attribute is called Rahamim [Mercy].)
The Kabbalists devised an image to show how the sefirot acted upon each other. It is supposed to represent a tree, with Tiferet located right in the center:
Often associated with the Written Torah, Tiferet corresponds to the Tetragrammaton itself (YHVH: the unpronouncable name of God); but spoken as Adonai or "The Holy One, Blessed be He." As the primary male attribute of God, Tiferet is seen as the bridegroom who seeks to be united with Shekhinah, the primary female attribute of God. When these two aspects are united, they produce the human soul.
Tiferet corresponds to the torso or spine on the human body, and is also symbolically represented as the Sun. Its color is purple.

Friday, April 30, 2010

mighty, mighty, mighty

Gevurah (Might) (also called Din [Judgment]) counterbalances Hesed (Lovingkindness). It is the side of the Divine most familiar to those with a superficial understanding of the Old Testament, the wrathful God of awful punishments. But as in other world religions, Divine attributes that may seem harmful are not necessarily negative once you understand their true function. Without Gevurah, the world would be so overwhelmed by God's love that it would be reabsorbed into the Divine; without Hesed, God's judgment would unleash forces of destruction on the world.
The seeds of the "Other Side" (Sitra Akhra), or demonic forces of evil are found in Gevurah, as well; the Zohar teaches that an excess of Gevurah is the source of Ultimate Evil. It is the balance of Justice and Mercy evoked repeatedly in the Hebrew Bible, that is the key to the world's thriving. And that balance, necessary in the Divine realm, is also essential in human endeavor. 

This balance of love and might, of strength and compassion, of destruction and rebuilding is understood by many world religions.  This concept is exactly what yin/yang expresses. It is the constant balancing act between good and evil in Christianity. The Hindu religion expresses this balance via different deities. Contrary to popular Western belief, these deities are not "individual gods." They are, rather, different representations of particular aspects of the one god, the source, known as Brahman. The "human" or physical representation of Brahman's aspects or attributes in the form of deities is a vehicle for the devotee to focus his or her attention, devotion or meditation on that particular aspect or attribute in a form more easily visualized and held in the mind.

For instance, the goddess Durga symbolizes the violent and destructive qualities of the loving Mother Goddess (Shakti). However, Durga protects mankind from evil and misery by destroying evil forces such as selfishness, jealousy, prejudice, hatred, anger and ego.
Gevurah is associated with Elohim as the name of God. Its color is red. (Notice, please the color of Durga's robes. Think, also of the traditional color associated with the Devil in Christian thought. Coincidence? Maybe. Maybe not. But definitely something to think about.)