I’m spending twelve days in Anchorage for my MFA residency. All the folks in the UAA low-residency masters in creative writing program gather once a year in July. We spend the day attending talks about the craft of writing and discussing one another’s work. It’s inspiring and exhausting. It’s one of my favorite times of year. There is a lot of sitting. I bring knitting or crochet along to keep my hands busy and focus my attention on the speaker.
I didn’t have too much time to plan projects, so I grabbed some yarn and hooks, and decided I decided that to revisit double crochet mesh. It’s airy and summery; mesh fabric grows quickly and drapes beautifully. I can crochet it without much thought. I’ve finished a scarf, and I’ve just started this little triangle shawl in Kauni. I love seeing the subtle shifts in color. I started this shawl a few times yesterday playing with where to place the increases. I’ve settled with edge and center increases in each row, and I like the winged shape that is forming. As I crochet the simple shawl, I’m meditating on what kind of edge might look nice.
Somehow over the course of a couple of days, we got from this:
Well… I blame Rebecca, who said this:
See… On Sunday, my birthday, the kids presented me with a homemade marshmallow “shooter.” They made some for themselves too. After the kids went to bed, we adults tried them out. I have to admit they are fun. The photo (above) on Facebook was proof.
Rebecca glanced at my caption before looking at the photo and thought I was talking about some kind of mixed drink. I saw her comment and thought, why shouldn’t there be a drink too? So, I mused on it a little, and chatted with my friend Stacy and bought some supplies… And last night we experimented a little coming up with…
The Marshmallow Shooter
1/2 c. Chocolate Chips
2 Graham Crackers (crushed)
Crush the graham crackers (we did it by hand)
Melt the chocolate chips (we did it in the microwave)
Dip the shot glass in the chocolate (I was pretty generous with the chocolate), and then coat with graham cracker crumbs. Toast your marshmallows. (We didn’t have a fire or hot coals, we used a candle, which doesn’t really toast the marshmallow–but it got the edges crispy. I think it’s better that the inside of the marshmallow is not melted).
Fill your shot glass with bourbon.
Put the marshmallow into the glass and let it soak for a minute. Take a bite of bourbon-soaked marshmallow, and then a sip of burbon with the coated rim. Enjoy! (Warning: This type of deliciousness has been known to lead to repeat consumption, and even rare cases of ukulele playing.)
The last time I taught my Sweater Reclamation class (up-cycling old wrecked wool sweaters into fun felted projects) my students really got into the little needle felted embellishments that we were adding so I promised them I’d offer a needle felting class. Tonight we met at The Canvas–which is a wonderful non-profit art studio in Juneau–and I taught needle felted landscapes. Or at least, that’s what I called it so folks would feel like they had a purpose… Really, we were just playing with wool. The instruction part of this class takes about one minute, and then we chat and trade colors and share ideas and “crunch, crunch, crunch,” stab wool into wool to make a picture.
“This is really relaxing,” someone said just a few minutes into the process. We kept our projects pretty small so we could finish in the three hour class, and most of us did.
People brought inspiration photos and artwork. Two people brought their visiting moms to take the class with them! I love how in the photo above, one artist is using a postage stamp as her inspiration.
It’s not often I get to play along with my students, but I did get to tonight. My attempt is the one at the top of the blog. This photo I took on one of my walks was my inspiration. I was inspired to add the raven by a greeting card that another artist brought.
I love the variety of pieces that people created. This deep blue background in this one made us all think of Henri Matisse.
In keeping with my affection for up-cycling, we used old sweaters as our canvas, and this artist let the sweater become part of her piece. I love how she used dyed mohair locks for her fireweed blossoms.
The final landscape was created by a children’s book author. She’s writing a story about loons and we all thought she should illustrate it herself with needle felted pictures. I love how she blended her colors.
I’ve just gotten back from a long weekend on “The Spit” in Homer, Alaska attending the Kachemak Bay writer’s conference. As keynote speaker Barry Lopez reminded us that “the first rule of writing is to pay attention,” I realized that I want to return to blogging as part of my writing practice. I have neglected this blog over the last year or so because I’ve been focusing my writing time on my MFA. But I miss blogging. Some of what I like about blogging I find on Facebook and Twitter, but here I can talk about things that take longer to say. The thing is, I want to write about things that go beyond yarn and crafts. I want to write about writing itself, write about the books I read which aren’t always about knitting or crochet, write about life. I’ve thought about starting a new blog to do this, but I’ve decided to start here. I hope you don’t mind the change of subject. I’m sure I won’t get away from yarn completely, or food, or bears.
Lots of things caught my attention at this conference. First and foremost, the people. Writers, faculty, and staff have a generosity of spirit that you notice in their warm greetings, their eagerness to share the successes of writer friends, and their humor about living the writing life in Alaska. Alaska writer laureate Peggy Shumaker is the epitome of this generosity. It seemed almost every sentence she spoke was extolling the wonders of another writer. I told her she is my favorite book evangelist, and she said she’d wear the title proudly.
One of the wonderful things about my trip to Homer was the lodging. My friend and fellow student Judith Lethin lives in Seldovia–across the bay from Homer and off the road system. She and her husband keep a little RV over in Homer and we stayed in it–parked right on the beach next to the conference hotel during the conference. Here’s the view from my bed:
There were so many great classes offered that it was hard to choose what to take at each session. I decided to go for stuff I wouldn’t get in my residency–I went heavy on poetry and learned to write a Pantoum–one of the “obsessive forms.” (I’m quickly deciding that poets get to have all the fun). I met another Alaskan O’Neill–Dan O’Neill who talked about what it’s like to write about Alaska for non-Alaskans and entertained us all with stories of convincing editors that yes, all that stuff really happens up here.
I got a book I’d been waiting to read. Steam Laundry, by Nichole Stellon O’Donnell is a novel in poems (and letters, receipts, pictures, historical documents) about the sixth woman to move to Fairbanks, AK during the gold rush. I started it on the plane home and I was immediately hooked. It is captivating and beautiful to read.
If you want to know more about the conference please read one of the great write-ups by blogger friends, Theresa, David, Nichole, Linda, and Erin. I was inspired and refreshed–I saw old friends and met new ones. And as Theresa says, the conference ended with a bonfire and sharing music–I got out the ukulele, Theresa played her fiddle, new friends TJ and Ed joined us on Banjo and Guitar. Whiskey was had. There was harmony. I can’t wait to do it all over again next year. (Photo swiped from Theresa, who got it from our friend Nichelle Seeley.)
This pattern sat and hibernated by my desk for some time before I got a chance to publish it. Now that it’s out there, I’m thinking it might be fun to make another. I’m contemplating scrounging about in my stash for some complementary colors (it can be made with practically any yarn), but first I’ve got to finish an essay for a school deadline this Friday. No crocheting for me this week!
One of the fun things about moving is meeting new people, and I am exceptionally lucky here in Juneau to have Stacy La Mascus for a neighbor. She’s a teacher in Jay’s school, she plays the baratone ukulele and has a beautiful voice, and she’s a super-fun friend who indulges my occasional need for bad late-night TV. On top of all that, she’s a professional photographer, and she agreed to do the shoot for this new pattern.
We had fun down at one of my favorite spots near my house, Sandy Beach. It was chilly, and I would not advise wearing high-heeled leather boots in the sand. But we had a good time trying not to be too silly or too serious.
This cowl is one I love to wear because it’s so versatile. I usually wear it doubled around my neck, but I love that you can wear it pulled over your shoulders or even, as Stacy dubbed it, “babushka style,” pulled over your head.
Crocheting the cowl is simple and meditative once you get beyond the initial chain and mobïus join. One of the fun things about the project is the fact that it grows out from the center, so you get symmetrical stripes when you change colors. Play with the stripe sequence to come up with an entirely different look.
I always get excited when there’s a new crochet book to explore, but the ones that really catch my fancy are about techniques. Kristin Omdahl’s new book, Seamless Crochet: Techniques and Designs for Join-As-You-Go Motifs, is not just a technique book, it’s a technique new to most American crocheters. Lately, with the help of Robyn Chachula and other innovative crocheters we’re learning that motifs can be joined as you crochet them. There are a lot of benefits to joining as you go. My favorite is having a completed project once the motifs are done. Kristin’s book takes this concept one step further by using a special starting chain technique to create each motif without cutting the yarn. Not only do you join as you go–you avoid having thousands of ends to weave in. Of course, the book is not about saving time, it’s about making the most of this new technique to create beautiful fashionable garments.
The cover project, “Blissful Flowers,” is possibly my favorite. Kristin, who lives where it’s warm, is a pro at creating designs with gorgeous drape and textural interest. I love how the joining points create a beautiful structure and geometry. The “Eden Tile” wrap looks like a perfect project to try first: simple motifs that create a stunning finished scarf. Kristin explores how to use the technique with shaping to create garments and how to use solid motifs to make warm projects like a hat and a blanket.
Because I’m a bit of a technique geek, my favorite part of the book is in the back where she carefully explains how the technique works, and how you can use it to create your own designs. One of the things I’m most excited to play with is using the technique with color-changing yarns. Since you’re not breaking yarn between motifs, the projects in the book are are all of one kind of yarn each. I’ve got a skein of Kauni that is destined to be a shawl from the book. The book comes with a video of Kristen skillfully demonstrating how seamless crochet works.
You can play too! Leave me a comment here sharing how you’d like to use Seamless Crochet to create something new and you’ll be entered to win a digital copy of the book from Interweave. I’ll choose a winner at random on February 16th.
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Charly Hengen.
James has been in Nome for a bit over a week helping to coordinate the delivery of a Russian fuel barge that was led by a Coast Guard ice breaker. You may have heard about this story because it’s been in the news almost as much as the snow in Cordova, the town we left this summer. James’s project in Nome is exciting and cold work–he had a near injury when he absentmindedly stuck his keys in his mouth in 30-below temperatures! Yesterday, this picture of James smashing ice with a sledge was run by the Associated Press and his picture ended up in a little under 500 newspapers! In what to most of the world is a side note, he’s wearing a hat I made him!
Here’s the hat close-up on a warmer day:
I’m glad to be present and helping to keep him warm in some small way while he’s up there in the frozen north. Speaking of frozen, it’s quite cold here in Juneau this week, 5-10 degrees, so I’m glad to be making a pair of fingerless mitts for the class I’m teaching this Thursday night. When I’m sitting still at home, despite the heater and my cup of tea, my hands get cold. The mitts are a big help.
Ever since we moved to Alaska, I’ve thought it would be fun to spend the holidays here–avoid travelling, and get to experience an Alaskan Christmas. This year, I finally convinced my mom, and my brother and his family to come join us in Juneau for the holidays. I’m so excited, but I’m also completely unprepared. I have done no decorating or shopping or baking since I’ve spent the fall working on graduate school. I now have 10 days to get ready. This means I will probably not be posting new fun holiday crafts even though I truly love to. Instead, I’ll dig through my archives and re-post some of my favorite things from Christmas’s past.
I was walking last week and thought the snow on these rocks made them look like Chocolate Crinkle Cookies… At least I’m thinking about holiday baking.
Do you ever get the feeling, you’d like things to stay just as they are, thank you very much? I had to chuckle when I got this recent New Yorker in the mail, because that’s kind of how I was feeling that day. And of course, when you’re feeling that way, watch out. Change is coming.
Oh Daylight Savings, I am not your fan. Here in Alaska, the phenomenon seems to make little sense. Our summer days are so long anyway, and then in winter, we fall back an hour all at once when we’re already losing many minutes of light a day. It just seems cruel. It’s 4 p.m. right now and looking rather dim and dreary.
The other morning, I realized I’d probably have to change my daily schedule. I can’t keep going for walks right after I drop off the kids because it will be dark. I wasn’t even considering the time change. (I should have–because for the next few weeks it will actually be lighter in the morning).
Just last week, I got to see the sunrise as I approached the beach.
Then, a couple days later, I was the only one out walking in the morning. Who knows why?
The beach had transformed, and for once, my tracks were the first ones to appear.
When I catch myself mourning the loss of light, I quickly remember that we only have two months now until the solstice, and then the days will start to get longer again. I might as well enjoy the darkness as a time to bring my focus to things close to home. I got up this morning and started to address the bounty of vegetables from our produce box that were beginning to look a little sad. Now we have soup bubbling, and I have an evening of knitting ahead of me. Let the darkness come!
A few things have been happening around the Internets that got me thinking again about fair use. It’s one of my favorite perennial topics. I am passionate about the idea that artists, crafters, makers, writers and other creators can take inspiration and even content from other works of art. It’s a concept that can be misunderstood. Some people perceive it too liberally, others don’t believe that aspects of fair use are possible even if they are ethical and legal. Here are a couple of real-life examples.
The other day I was looking through projects on Ravelry. It’s such a treat to see when people make one of my patterns. I love seeing all the yarn choices and variations.
One of my most popular patterns is the Alpine Frost Scarf. (The beautiful photos in this post are all pictures of the design that I found on Flickr, they are not from the crocheter I discuss below.) There are a lot of ways people can get this pattern. It was originally published in Interweave Crochet, in Winter 2008. So if you have that issue in print or digital versions, you have it. You can buy the pattern individually from the Interweave Store. It’s even included in the new book, The Best of Interweave Crochet.
So, I was surprised when I was trolling the hundreds of Ravelry projects for this pattern the other day and I stumbled upon one where the crocheter said something like, “I didn’t have the pattern for this design, so this is my version.” Then, she proceeded to show the instructions for her version in the pattern notes on her project page.
Guess what? I’m not bothered that she reverse-engineered my pattern. More power to her! I applaud the ingenuity it takes to figure something out on your own. I’m not even bothered that she wrote down her notes. I am concerned that she thinks it’s ok to essentially publish those notes for anyone on Ravelry to use, and associate her publication with my pattern.
In my opinion, it’s totally ok to reverse-engineer, and even design and publish patterns inspired by the work of others. I’m a big believer in supporting derivative work. It should be derivative though, not just a copy. Publishing a simple copy seems uninspired and not respectful of the original designer’s intellectual property. What didn’t make sense was the fact that this crocheter used my pattern page to post her own version of the pattern.
So, I e-mailed her. Good news! She answered quickly, and removed the instructions from her notes. A happy ending. I wonder what she thought of my e-mail, she didn’t say. The long and short of it? I hope when people exercise fair use and publish the results that they’ll be polite, they won’t violate copyright, and they’ll use appropriate attribution–giving credit where credit is due. Also, I want people to experiment, be creative, have fun.
Today, I was trolling again and found a beautiful scarf that people have been making lots of, apparently. Since this pattern isn’t published in English, people have been sharing scanned versions of the (Japanese?) (Chinese?) chart on Ravelry. What’s the ethical crafter to do if she wants to make something like this scarf? Well, I would like to see her try and reverse engineer the scarf herself, and then come up with her own pattern–hopefully adding her own originality and spin to the design.
Finally, I wanted to mention one other great conversation about fair use happening right now (not surprisingly) on Kim Werker’s blog. (Kim and I worked together to try and launch Fair Use in Art and Craft Day back in 2009–maybe I’ll nudge her and see if we can get it going again for 2012.) Kim’s discussion is about Pintrest — a site where people keep track of things they think are cool on the internet. At issue is the idea that crafters are copying ideas from pictures instead of buying what’s being offered for sale. I’m with Kim on this one–I think that people selling crafts that are simple enough to copy from a photo shouldn’t be surprised when people do so.
Before I started working as a publishing designer, I sold fancy crocheted scarves at craft fairs for around $100 each (this barely covered my costs, so I didn’t do it for long). There were two types of people visiting the craft fairs–customers and crafters. Customers were happy to pay for my hand-work. Crafters were sometimes polite and engaging, but sometimes they’d just say things like, “Oh, I could just make this myself.” It can be annoying when you’re trying to pay the bills, but that doesn’t make it less true. Now that I’m a designer and teacher I don’t want control of my designs after I publish them–I want to see how people get creative with them. I’m happy to be in the position of saying, “Yes! Go make it yourself!”