In the Shadow

 

Participating in a dialogue about race and equality is one of the hardest things a community can do. Understatement aside, the effort it takes to just get everyone in the same room can be a monumental effort, getting people to actually speak is even harder.

Me? I like to be quiet, often falling into the mindset of “I believe what I believe and that is enough”. I am often cynical about whatever good town meetings and potlucks will do and I’m even more cynical about the power of my own voice and opinion. So, when an art gallery in my college town invited me to be apart of their Black History month event, I was taken aback at first. I said yes, and immediately regretted it. What do I have to say? Well, nothing. I have a lot to knit though.

For my part, I wanted to knit several pieces that explore the anxiety of being an ethnic minority in America. The works will have a historical focus and use a variety of knitting techniques to make the art…well, art. Thursday was the first night of the month long event, and though I sadly couldn’t be there, my first four pieces were. Here’s a sneak peak!

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Photo credit: Sarah Burch

Later in the month, I’ll be bringing down my statement piece. For this, I wanted to really challenge myself. I decided to try my hand at illusion/shadow knitting.A lot of it.

I’ve never tried Shadow knitting before. Up until recently, I only understood it to be useful for creating subtle color change effects in knitting, which can be striking in a shawl or table runner. I felt compelled to pursue this new technique and master it while also creating a statement piece for the gallery! I did a few small test knits and then dove into my project. For the past few months, I’ve been learning to use a new charting software in order to chart my art piece. Steve Plummer of Wooly Thoughts, a prolific illusion/shadow knitter and designer, has been an invaluable teacher and support throughout the entire process. You should check out his website here.

My first illusion knit! Plus a hand drawn chart for practicing with Inkscape software. 


When I cast on for my Illusion Knit project- one swatch of the Illusion Circle pattern by Steve Plummer! It was very difficult to conceptualize the method of Shadow Knitting at first. Basically, shadow knitting uses purl and knit rows to create peaks and valleys. When the peaks and valleys are lined up correctly, they create a negative space between them. Because every ridge (shadow knitting is done in ridges, with two rows of knitting being one ridge) is one color all the way across, when the work is looked at straight on, it appears to be simple vertical or horizontal stripes. When the work is tilted, you see the negative image appear. Hence the name “shadow/illusion” knitting.

I’m keeping the design that’s hidden in my shadow piece hush hush for right now, but I can’t wait to share when it’s all done and mounted! This entire experience has been so surreal; now that it’s finally February, it feels totally unreal to be talking about my work to others and inviting people to view it in a gallery of all things. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be able to not only share my opinion, but also  help facilitate a productive dialogue on racial relations within my own community. Thank you for listening.


 

 

 

 

Spill

Spill

I’m new to the Word of the Year challenge. I found out about it last year and started following the hashtag on Instagram. It’s so fascinating to see how a word turns into a theme that lasts the entire year. I finally decided to commit to a word, and to be open to the interpretation of it in every part of life. 

Of course, I started with knitting. 


Nuvem. A 2,000 yard lace shawl is good company for a year long theme. I actually cast on way back in October and carried it with me everywhere. It’s enormous now, nearly 1,000 yards of lace on a US4. I have it on my 80in. interchangable cords. The amazing Maria hand painted yarn by Manos gives so much depth of color to the knit. Sometimes it just looks like a puddle of color.  I’ve spent a lot of time sitting with this knit and casting my thoughts and feelings into the endless waves stockinette stitch. 

 

I decided on the word ‘spill’ because I have a terrible habit of bottling up everything. A pretty typical problem, but at some point it has to come to a head right? Right! How long can anyone go being bottled up and stressed out? I don’t really want to find out, so once again I’m turning to my knitting to therapy me into a new headspace, or at least the start of it. 


It was such a comfort to have this project with me during the holidays. To be able to knit when the people around you are being insufferable is like taking off in an escape pod. To be able to discreetly pull out a project and quietly click away at it while everyone else shouts? Yes please. Pretty soon the rythm of needles and soft fabric allows you to totally tune out. But it’s not just about tuning out (or else I’d pull out my phone) it’s about pouring your frustration and hurt feelings into something beautiful despite being in the midst of ugliness. In the moment relief. 


I’m sure my word will apply to many more aspects of life beyond knitting, but I can’t think of a better way to begin working it in.