Thursday, February 28, 2008

Art or craft?

Episode 2 of Y Knit, Art or Craft? is asking a fascinating question. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to their interview with Sabrina Gschwandtner, and a lively discussion is going on in the Y Knit Ravelry group about what people think of their own handwork: is it art, or is it craft? (Send them your opinion and enter the contest!)

Since I'm not really interested in the contest prize (sorry guys--I have really limited bookshelf space, so I'm big on using the public library!), I thought I'd ask the question that I think of whenever the "art vs. craft" question is raised: why do you ask? We inherited this distinction from Victorians who were compelled to classify everything into hierarchies. Is even asking yourself this question useful? Are you engaging in the marketplace, so need to think to think about whether to sell your creations in a boutique (craft) or gallery (art)?

I spent untold hours considering this question until I gained a little historic perspective by reading Rozsika Parker's history of women and their embroidery, The Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine. Why do most women give their handwork away? Why are female-dominated creative endeavors usually seen as "craft" rather than "art?" If these questions interest you, read this book. And if you haven't heard it, Philosophy Talk's What is Art? is well worth a listen.

Of course, Timson doesn't care about such distinctions. He has a more Eastern approach. Rather than if his knitting is "art" or "craft," he asks himself if he's finding joy and fulfillment in the work.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Introducing Slightly Daft Cedric

Wee Timson is not the only gnome that we know. Slightly Daft Cedric appeared on Christmas; apparently he heard from a little bird that our place was friendly to traveling gnomes. Where Timson is a homebody, Ced's a real explorer. The first place he wanted to visit? The local grocer's beer selection. He says you can really judge a community by the beer it keeps, and said he wanted a snap of him with the imports to show his mates back home what's available in our local selection.

He also tagged along at New Years. (Yes, I made the pink sweater--the pattern is Child's Guernsey from Debbie Bliss' How to knit.)

Saturday, February 9, 2008


What do you do when you're a winter bike commuter and find an Italian merino sweater at Goodwill for $4.99 with some small holes in it? Darn it! Yes, I mend, and sometimes I darn.

Timson is showing one of the holes. I've found the easiest way for me to spot holes in dark fabric is to hold it up to a bright task light, or, as Timson is doing, hold a piece of bright, white paper behind, and move the fabric over it. The amount of small holes in this sweater, all in the front, makes me think some moths are to blame. So tonight it's a quick mend, and into a plastic bag to go to the cleaners.

My favorite book about mending is Mildred Graves Ryan's Thrift with a needle. It tells you how to mend everything including knitwear. I also like the darning technique on HJS Studio's Darn Those Socks (she has lots of close up photos and very detailed instructions).

The mends turned out pretty well. This one is the best; in person you barely notice it. I don't have any yarn this fine, so I used buttonhole twist. And the holes were so small that I didn't darn them, but just took a few stitches to secure the rows--this is why the mends show up as slight waves in the long row of stitches. But on a bike, with jeans, I'm betting no one will notice. And I'll be warm. And for $4.99 and about ten minutes of mending, it won't break my heart if I get bike grease on it.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Scrubby performance

The results are in! According to our home's Chief Evaluator of Dishwashing Products, the Chinese Waves scrubby is easier to handle than dishcloths and outperforms the Tuffy with greasy dishes. It is heavier in the water than the Tuffy (due to water absorption), which is a drawback, but outperforms the Tuffy on most smooth surfaces (like glassware). It is equal to the Tuffy on all scrubbing jobs except for one: scrubbing baked-on pumpkin bread pudding.

So the Tuffy remains in our dishwashing arsenal, but if we use it only when needed, e.g., for baking pans, it will last a lot longer and need replacing less often.

And by the way, for a lighter pumpkin bread pudding, substitute 3 egg whites for 3 whole eggs and lowfat or nonfat milk for the light cream (or lowfat soymilk). We also use agave syrup instead of the brown sugar.

Monday, February 4, 2008


We've always been Tuffy-brand-scrubby people. Our parents were Tuffy people. We come from a long line of Tuffy homes. But recently I've been looking at the amount of plastic that we purchase, use, and throw away, and when the rubber band broke on yet another Tuffy, I took a good look at it--the Tuffy seemed like a knitted tube.

Sure enough, there are many patterns for knitted and crocheted scrubbies, but every one that I found seemed minuscule. (If you have a child in your life who likes to do dishes, or whom you would like to do dishes, make them the Dishcloth Duo scrubby--it's wee!) So I tried out a few of the dishcloths I had knit, and the Chinese Waves Dishcloth did as good a job as any plastic Tuffy. The only downside--it was a cloth. We wanted something balled up so you can get a good grip.

So I knit another Chinese Waves dishcloth, and then took two strands of worsted weight cotton, and wove them around the edges, about the second row in. I tied knots in each end, so they couldn't pull out, and then pulled them as tightly as possible, tied a double-bow, and turned the ends into the inside. Voila! A scrubby! And it unties to go through the washer and dryer flat, so no yucky bits of food get trapped in the inside. I really like the size, too--it fits in the hand well, and is just a bit bigger than a Tuffy, and a lot more solid.