Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Lucienne Day's "Calyx"-A Ground Breaking Classic

Calyx, 1951

Lucienne Day rocked the design world in 1951.  She debuted her fabric design Calyx at the Festival of Britain.  This pattern was designed for a room that her husband, Robin Day, had created for the festival. Her ability to mix eye popping color contrasts with organic abstract shapes was a dose of good cheer that post-war Britain needed.

Calyx was the beginning of a career that would  expand into different types of textiles, working with numerous companies and winning many awards.

Designers are always telling us that they can get their ideas from the smallest things.  As an art teacher, I told my students to open their eyes up and really look at the world because a designer and artist will never know where the next inspiration lies. 
Starting from the top left: Joan Miro, Saul Steinberg, Wassily Kandinsky, Naum Gabo, and Paul Klee-possible influences for a young designer in the early 50s

Lucienne Day was no different.  That she looked to nature is obvious.  However, during her formative years, several wonderful artists experimented  in abstraction and color.  Some of these were Klee, Miró, Kandinsky, Gabo, and Calder.  I think these artists and their styles influenced Day. 

Lucienne Day had a great fifty years in design.  She  was a trail blazer in a world at that time dominated by men. This is the first of a few articles I want to write about her.  
Portrait of Lucienne Day

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Joplin-Hope and Healing

Mural of Hope-15th and Main, Joplin, MO-taken on a rainy afternoon last October with my iPhone-so not the clearest

Today's extra blog is dedicated to the people of Joplin.  I know that the year anniversary of Joplin's tornado is today. But the one thing I will always remember is that it was a Sunday.

I have been to Joplin many times since that defining day. Throughout this tragedy, Joplin has shown its mettle. The people in this town are tough. They are survivors.  I will forever respect the leaders and citizens of this old town.

But another thing has caught my attention.  And that is how the arts have been one of the healing powers for people who have faced difficult circumstances. 

The Mural of Hope, located at 15th and Main was one the the first pieces to rise. This work was started and  finished last fall.  It was initiated by a public art group called The Tank.

 The Tank has also started to create the Spirit Tree.  This work is inspired by the spirit stick of the Native American medicine man. The group hopes that the tree will serve as inspiration for the survivors of the May 22nd  tornado. The tree is located on 20th street by Dillon's (destroyed grocery store) parking lot. The full article from the Joplin Globe can be read here

The Spirit Tree as of 5/21/12. I stopped by before I left town and took a picture with my iPhone
I know the citizens of Joplin have been amazed and blown away from the world's concern and generosity. People are still coming to help.

One way  the survivors have been able express their gratitude is through Dear World, From Joplin With Love. The George A. Spiva Center for the Arts is presenting this show by Robert X Fogarty as I write.

This photo was shared on Facebook by Spiva  earlier this week-the artist is

Robert X. Fogarty

Finally, Sunday night I attended (with my daughter) a very powerful performance entitled Job In Joplin. This oral interpretation from the Book of Job is a creation of Outside The Wire. The actors involved were: Paul Giamatti, David Strathairn and Arliss Howard, joined by director and Outside the Wire co-founder Bryan Doerries. 


Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Iconic Newsboy Hat

Even Barbara, Barbie and Buster have their Newsboys

The last item of my knitting trilogy* is the Newsboy hat.  The Newsboy is one of the most iconic hats of the late 19th and 20th century.  This hat goes by many other names: Flat Hat, Gatsby Hat, Gold Hat, Driving Cap, among others.  

Call it whatever name you want, the newsboy is a great looking hat.
I have read that this style goes as far back as 14th century England.  It has been claimed by every class of people, starting with the working class and eventually taken up by the upper classes as part of the weekend country attire. 

Traditionally, the Newsboy is constructed from eight panels cut from plain wool or tweed.  It is a soft rounded cap with a small brim and a stiffer back.  I have seen versions of the hat with the top snapped down to the brim and remaining free of the brim. 

 Knitted versions abound.  It is no surprise that something this popular would eventually be interpreted by knitwear.  I scouted the Internet for what I thought would be the perfect style and found one.  The newsboy that I knitted was found in Debbie Stoller’s   Stitc’n Bitch Nation (by far not my favorite knitting book-I probably would give it one star). I managed to find it as a used Amazon book.  For me, the total $5 (including shipping) is worth the hat alone.  I will continue to knit this one over and over.

The listed weight of yarn for this hat pattern is worsted.  I used DK, which meant I had to re-adjust the gauge.  This is a good skill to have.  It gives the knitter, more options of yarn, as long as the yarn fits the design. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Can't See The Forest For The Trees-Craft National 2012 & Thought Splatter

Can't see the Forest For the Trees. Rachelle Gardner-2012
Two years ago, I gave my youngest daughter a $99 sewing machine so she could sew, mend, and what not. The what not has turned into some incredible stitched visions.  One of them is Can't See The Forest For the Trees. A link for the process of this technique is:

This piece was accepted into the Crafts National 2012 at the Mulvane Art Museum in Topeka, Kansas.  The exhibition opened May 5th and will run until August 19th. 

Rachelle with The Forest. It is  3' x 9'

Details of work-100% Gütermann thread

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Borrowing From Vintage (again)

Close up of the finished scarf with it's silk Shibori lining

I have always been drawn to the below shawl in my book Vogue Knitting's Vintage Collection. The pattern combines knitting and sewing, which probably explains the attraction.

Halfway into the “Purple Scarf”, I decided it was a good candidate for the lined option. There were two reasons. The yarn (Shetland that I hand painted) was in my opinion a tad bit scratchy. Choosing the pattern that I did, also contributed. I used the “Mock Cable Rib”* that is found on page 42 of Barbara G. Walker’s A Treasury of Knitting Patterns (this is her 1st Volume).

My first swatch was wonderful. But as the scarf progressed, it was obvious that it was going to be very heavy (especially at the length that my daughter wanted). I thought it could double as a small shawl if needed.

Out came the silk, dye, cut wood pieces, and clamps. It was Shibori time. I had a few lessons to learn about “off the bolt silk”. It shrinks big time. I ruined two linings because they were to short when I got finished. ** Finally, with the third try I got it right.

Cut wood pattern (wrapped in plastic to keep dye from soaking in) clamped to folded dyed silk

The Shibori piece that lines the scarf is a simple dye,resist, and over dye. I used the same dyes that I painted the yarn with. Now it is a double duty piece with some visual interest that it would not have had if I had just left it as a knitted piece.

*Mock Cable Rib

Multiple of 5 sts plus 2

Rows 1 and 3 (Wrong side)-K2, *p3, k2, rep from *
Row 2-P2* k3, p2, rep from*
Row 4-P2 * skip 2 sts and insert needle knit wise into front of 3rd st then taking point of needle in front of the 2 skipped sts,past these sts and around to the right, catch yarn and knit; then sl the 3rdst off left-hand needle over the 2 skipped sts, taking care not to let the skippedsts come off with it; k2, p2; rep from *.

**Sometimes mistakes turn into good things. I turned the botched linings into a scarf that I love wearing. A picture of it can be found here.