Knitting

To Squam And Back

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Twice each year, in June and September, the Squam Art Workshops take over the lakeside Rockywold Deephaven Camps in Holderness, NH. Founded in 2008 through the vision of Elizabeth Duvivier and now run by Meg Fussell, the biannual gathering boasts workshops taught by leaders in the fiber art and craft worlds, yoga classes, multi-use work spaces, and concludes with an exciting (read: packed, and a little sweaty) art fair featuring everyone's favorite indie vendors of the yarn and fabric varieties. 

my squam art fair haul

my squam art fair haul

I first heard about Squam (named for the sparkling lake that still requires a bit of bravery to plunge into in early June, which I obviously was powerless to resist) a little more than a year ago through various channels on Instagram. Makers I admired from afar were teachers and attendees alike, and all came home with glowing reviews of the transformative experience. 

haystack, 2011. not me, because i took this photo, but i definitely stood there too!

haystack, 2011. not me, because i took this photo, but i definitely stood there too!

It's been a whole seven years since I attended Haystack Mountain School of Crafts immediately after graduation with BFA in hand, anxious and uncertain and searching. Haystack was an essential part of my transition from student to working artist; I had the opportunity to work with  and learn from established professionals, graduate students, and lifelong hobbyists on a literal island of a maker's paradise. Now, approaching 30 (excuse me, what?), and somehow still similarly anxious, uncertain, and searching, I felt overdue for some cleverly veiled professional development. 

Creative growth masked as vacation, I was all in. My husband and I made a road trip out of getting me to NH, camping in Massachusetts one night and staying in a dog-friendly hotel in Concord the next, where Lottie had a bed to herself and was in a much improved mood compared to sharing my pillow in the tent.  On the way, we ate sandwiches on the porches of small town general stores and I had the opportunity to tour the spinning mill at Harrisville Designs. Pro tip: the women I encountered who worked at Harrisville were absolutely delightful humans and you should totally pay them a visit. 

the mill

the mill

Day one at Squam is an easy-going meet and greet. I registered in the early afternoon, filling the official tote bag with freebies from generous sponsors- like a gorgeous skein of silk and wool yarn from Harrisville Designs and a sewing pattern that I had totally been coveting from Fancy Tiger Crafts. Yoga at 4- I made (and kept) a commitment to attend the offered yoga classes each day, which were gentle, restorative and perfect after a day of crafting- followed by dinner and the so-called Opening Ceremony.

my finished hat

my finished hat

You have the opportunity to pick two classes to attend during your stay at Squam for days two and three (they try to honor you first and second choices, which is not always possible), and I landed myself in a cable class with Internet Knitting Hero Karen Templer of Fringe Association and Fringe Supply Co. as well as a paper/fabric cutting workshop with stitcher extraordinaire Tierney Barden.  Karen's class was a good example of taking a class for the teacher and the enjoyment of the activity; I'm already a competent enough knitter (but as I told my class, there are always things that you don't even know that you don't know), but I did pick up a few tips sitting in a circle by the fire, looking out at the lake, constructing an entire hat; i.e. not a bad way to spend a day. With Tierney's class, I aimed to challenge myself with a technique that was unfamiliar to me, but still related to my practice as an illustrator and fiber artist. I took to her methods like a fish to water, and will be forever grateful for Tierney's generosity as a teacher. 

in process: paper-cuts transform into magical fabric compositions

in process: paper-cuts transform into magical fabric compositions

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I filled the rest of my time attempting to work on my crazy self; I got up early and drew tarot cards on the dock, wrote, sketched, swam, and practiced being still in the twilight.  I did not cure myself of my social anxiety, but I did manage to show generosity towards myself for the time I needed to spend alone, away from the clicking of knitting needles and chatter. 

I attended a panel discussion featuring three small business owners. I did not attend the Journey Dance class. I wrote the following affirmation in my Saturday yoga/self-love workshop: "May I practice forgiveness and compassion for where I am on my own path."

my cabin was also very patriotic

my cabin was also very patriotic

I can see why so many folks, mostly women, return to Squam again and again, and I'm so happy that I went. So thank you, Squam, for giving me a much needed break, a place to come back to if I find myself in need, an experience which I let wash over me, embrace me, and return me to my studio, ready to work once more. 

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Special P.S. Lest you think I had all the fun once Bryan and Lottie dropped me off at camp, know that they hiked a few mountains and went kayaking in my absence, so, you know. A good time was had by all. 

Log Cabin Finale

At least for now! I had a lot of fun working on this project; I always enjoy participating in knit-a-longs (KALs) on Instagram and seeing the wide variety of work that gets produced from a single prompt. There's still plenty of time to join the  #fringeandfriendslogalong but I'm glad the execution of my plan resulted in a quick and satisfying knit that I'm happy to have in my home. 

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For more on my log cabin knitting: Here and here

When I was a Painter

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Before I was a fiber artist or an illustrator I was a painter, so I suppose I have always been a painter in my own way.


It was my drawing teacher my freshman year of college who first suggested I might be interested in fiber, and I made the jump in switching my major with hardly a second thought. That hasn't stopped me from seeing most things I make as paintings, namely the things that I weave. 
I'm comparatively new to knitting, having been working studiously as a knitter for a mere two years, and knitting, more than any other skill I have, has always presented itself to me in purely practical terms. One knits to clothe oneself. A skein of yarn becomes a hat.

 
But I cannot deny that the above piece is really a painting masquerading as a knitting swatch. My husband, encountering this small study blocking in my studio immediately remarked, "Oh, that's just like a painting." And a switch went off in my brain. For the entirety of the knitting processes, I had known that this piece was different, that it was meant to live a different life, I just didn't know how, or even what that could fully mean. If a weaving, which is just a piece of cloth that can unravel as easily as any piece of knitting, can hang proudly on the wall as Art with a Capital A, then why not this craft?


So what I've found in my practice over the years is that sometimes you make the art, you drive it, mold it, shape it, breathe it into being. You have directions and a map and you make it so. Conceive, plan, execute.


But sometimes you find that the art shows you what it wants to be. Sometimes your art bosses you around and you have to take the time to hear it out. A lot of the time, these things that are new to us seem so obvious once they reveal themselves, and that's okay. This knitting really being a painting is a simple solution to a belabored question about what my art does and what my art means. Change the title, change the context. But I don't have to do anything differently to make it into a painting. It's already true. What I have to do, what I have to remember, is to not force it into something that isn't true. It's knitting, but it isn't practical knitting. It's a block, but it isn't a pillow. Such a novel idea for this maker!


And what this maybe means for me is a whole new way of working. That's twice over in the span of a week that log cabin knitting has changed my life. Karen Templar, what have you done to me?!

Log Cabin Knitting and a New Way of Thinking

One of my goals for this year goes something along the lines of 'knit less, art more' but only in the sense that I don't want my studio practice (read: personal art) to suffer at the hands of my more practical pursuits. Of course I still want to knit all the things (it's a problem!), continue building my wardrobe through home sewing, and learn new techniques to challenge myself on both those fronts, but everything in balance.

That being said, leave it to me to spend nearly the first full week of 2018 knitting, and in the end finding that I might have struck a happy middle-ground between my Art and what I've up until now seen as just a hobby.

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I'm obviously not a knitwear designer, and yet I've spent the past week painstakingly bent over my Log Cabin knitting making design choices with every turn of my block, stressing every which way over right and wrong moves. But the funny thing I'm realizing now is, why do I spend so much time second-guessing myself when knit comes to purl, so to speak, if I'm comfortable (and confident) to make these kinds of choices every day in my illustration and textile practices?

I've always seen knitting as a relationship between the pattern designer, yarn company, and myself and never thought about there being room for me to call more of the shots. I don't think I trusted myself to know enough about knitting to mold it, to really put it work and extract things unexpected. With Log Cabin I'm finding that not only have I learned a lot about knitting since I started in earnest roughly two years ago, but I can trust myself to intuit moves like never before. I'm seeing now that knitting doesn't have to be a practice that is separate or opposite from my studio work, that it's just another tool in my belt and the possibilities are limitless. 

I've finished one block for the #fringeandfriendslogalong, a pillow front of lopi I picked up in Iceland on our honeymoon in 2014. Purchased before I was even a knitter, but that never stopped my yarn-obsessed butt (you can use any yarn when you're a weaver!). All these years I could never find the right project to do the yarn justice, not with heavy emotional burden I placed on it as a major part of my relationship history. A pillow is a simple thing, easy to adapt for Log Cabin knitting, and will guarantee it both a practical and special place in our home. 

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In terms of design, I'm most pleased with the transition from that cool, icy gray to mottled black, achieved by picking up stitches along the purple block with both black and gray yarns held together, then dropping the black to pick up stitches the rest of the way. In this manner I was able to knit continuously from solid to mottled on one strip, picking the black yarn up for the full width when I was satisfied with the proportions. A simple adaptation, but it felt like a power move. 

I started a second block to play with the ideas I developed in the first, so excited was I with this newfound magic power. I don't know how this will grow, or how it will live when it gets there, but the journey is most of the fun anyways.