Knits: Summer Shawls

 

My exploration of shawls this summer was inspired by favorite local yarn shop, Eat.Sleep.Knit, and their Flash KAL (Knit A-Long) for the simple yet stunning pattern Clapotis. This pattern was perfect for showing off the beauty and texture of hand-dyed yarn and I loved how it turned out using Blue Moon Fiber Arts Marine Silk Worsted (now discontinued) in the color, The Final Frontier.

I enjoyed it so much, I decided to pull out some beautiful Debbie Bliss Fine Donegal I had stashed about two years ago to knit up another one. This fingering weight yarn created an even lighter shawl perfect for fall in southern climes.

Encouraged by my success, I looked for another project and found Shockwaves by Beata Jezek. I was immediately drawn to the quirky asymmetrical chevrons and bold color choices of many of the projects on Ravelry. In the end, I decided to contrast the pattern with a soft ombre of beautiful blue-greys of Madelinetosh Eyre Light. The depth of tone and soft single ply of the yarn kept this very large shawl from becoming overly heavy.

My last shawl project of the summer looks forward to autumn with the sunset colors of Claudia Handpainted Yarns Addiction (aptly named) in Be My Valentine and Makes Me Hungry applied to Melanie Berg’s Assante. The simple striping of this pattern allowed the brighter mix of colors to emerge from dusky darkness for a light and fluttery shawl that can be worn like a scarf. While I love the result, the shawl is knit length-wise, so as the rows build, the row length becomes considerable, especially to a knitter used to row counts of under 200 stitches. That aside, I highly recommend this pattern and may knit another one in the future.

 

Summer Tunes: Heavy Water Factory, “Painfield”

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The humid heat of summer has finally settled in and has us thinking of classic summer songs. First up: Heavy Water Factory.

Not many bands can capture a specific mood or aesthetic and ride it out successfully over a career. Not many bands can do it unintentionally, either. Heavy Water Factory made the heavy, humid heat of a classic Mid-Atlantic summer palpable and managed to do it time and again, consistently bringing the heat over the course of a two-album-plus catalog in the mid-90’s. While it surely wasn’t their intent, their songs feel like summer.

Heavy Water Factory was brought to my attention in the summer of 1996 by a college roommate who boasted of this “new” talent from Michigan (the songs were written two years prior to the record gaining true promotional traction). Their debut, Fluid & Meat was a curious collection of songs – definitely not we expected from the electro-industrial scene of the time – with a slow, heavy atmosphere clouding the body of work. The songs were there but not there. There was a nuance and texture and delicacy to the tracks unlike what were looking for at the time. I came away from my first listen totally zapped of energy and found it surprising that the soundtrack totally meshed with the view outside my window: bright sun, blazing pavement, few people.

“Painfield” is a prime example. The mid-tempo track slowly plods along, building steam at a snail’s pace and mustering just enough energy to hold a groove. Just when you think it’s on the verge of something substantial – a big chorus or massive breakdown – it consistently recoils back to the same easy groove, seemingly succumbing to the weight of the sweltering heat. It’s like they’re gassed out, happy to simply coast along for the remainder of the track and not move too much.

The atmosphere conjured up by Heavy Water Factory is hazy and hot, lazy and lethargic, sultry and sort of sexy. They offer the perfect soundtrack to those blistering summer days you just hope to survive – riding out the day and waiting out the sun for the cover of darkness when you can crawl out into the night in search of something more substantial.

Further Listening: “Shreck Bild”, “Vampire”

Prints: Stop! Look! Listen!

Flutter

At some point in recent years the image of this hazard sign popped into my head and I had to recreate it. There was some allure to taking a simple, banal caution message and recreating it with my own hands. Would the impact and meaning be drained from it once isolated and out of context? Maybe. Sort of. But this wasn’t the time for such questions. The task was just something that needed to be done.

I was obsessed with road signs as a kid. The graphic forms and bold colors. The deceptive scale. The simplicity. The immediacy. The minimalism. As Frank Stella once said of his hard-edged, geometric paintings, “What you see is what you see.” Well, I saw what I saw in those signs – and it was awesome. It’s no wonder I was soon obsessed with pop art, posters, packaging, signage and typography. They’re all clean, simple, designed things.

I was so obsessed that my dad and I salvaged an arrow sign (seen in this photograph) from a knocked-down post when I was in elementary school. We were driving along and saw the sign – still attached to the post – strewn off to the side of the road peeking out from a thicket of tall grass. To see it languishing there, out of reach, was just too much. We went back that evening with some tools – under the cover of darkness – released it from the post and took it home. Dad did the heavy lifting. I stood lookout. I was so excited. I couldn’t believe that the thing was sitting in our living room. I stared at it all evening.    

I was so very obsessed that my mom made scale replicas of my favorite road signs with poster board and permanent marker. She faithfully recreated the precise circles and arcs of the No U Turn sign by tracing the perimeter of a mixing bowl. She was a trooper. I just sat back and art directed to assure that the details were totally, completely accurate. We amassed quite the collection. As props they made bike riding a treat for me and a nuisance for everyone else – all needed to obey the posted signage.

I’m glad I kept this sign. It brightened my days back in the suburbs of Philadelphia and it brightens my days in our workshop here in Georgia.

So here, again, is Untitled. Pure and simple. Perfect.

Mom, Dad, PennDOT – this one’s for you.

Prints: Test Dept.

Natural

Up and running slowly but surely this fine 2017 season. I kicked things off, oiled things up and dusted of the cobwebs (from the elbows, that is) with a little test run of an old favorite.

In case you wanted know, here are a few things I learned printing that day:

  1. Printing with art stretched on wooden frames is really frustrating. After washing the ink out of the frame a few times, the wood begins to bow and warp making it quite difficult to get a clean, even pull of the squeegee. And this is a treated frame, too. Maybe it’s just old. Aluminum frames are much better in this regard – and much lighter, too.
  2. Printing with copper (a mixture of gold and red and perhaps something else) thickens and gunks up your screen rather quickly. A bit of humidity certainly doesn’t help the situation. But I was surprised at how quickly said situation deteriorated.

This season is shaping up to be a little more unusual – pleasantly and surprisingly so – than seasons past. I’m rolling with it and I think the body of work will reflect this embrace of the fluidity.

More to come.