Jazz of the Knitting World

Knitprovisation: 70 Imaginative Projects Mixing Old with New by Cilla Ramnek. St. Martin’s Griffin, 2004. 9780312362942.

Sarah: I grabbed this book because the projects in it are really cool, and I thought you might like it because it makes use of all of your half-finished knitting and crochet projects. If you get started on something and don’t know how to finish it, or get started and it doesn’t look like you thought it was going to look, or if you buy something from the thrift store and want to know how to use it for something else, this is how you do it.
Gene: (looks at a picture of a project, laughs out loud)
S: This one reminded me of the sound suits made of doilies in the Nick Cave book you love.
G: Is the shirt part of this project?
S: This is two projects. A t-shirt with a really fancy multicolored doily sewn to the front of it, with a circle of buttons sewn around it, and then on top of that, the model is wearing a sweater that juuuuust comes to nipple level? It’s sleeves and a neck and just the very top of the body.
G: A long-sleeved half turtleneck sweater. It is very sound suit-ey. I like it.
S: How to take a half-finished thing and make it into something else…
G: Can you make a sweater that’s just from the nipples down, too? A tube-top sweater?
S: Keep reading! (laughs)
G: Oh my god! That looks really unfortunate!
S: It’s a skirt that’s made out of some really plain knitting, maybe a sweater that’s been chopped up, and she’s put on some patterned ribbon and a zipper and a doily and put on some new edging…
G: “Skirt with pot-holder in front” Holy crap. This looks like sweaters I’ve seen in photos from Mongolia, of people packing up a ger.
S: It’s really little pieces made into bigger projects. It’s not overly twee, it’s not cutesy.
G: But there’s kind of an adorableness to this.
S: Yeah!
G: (laughs at another page)
S: There are some garments where people are wearing a t-shirt underneath, and some where they SHOULD be wearing a t-shirt underneath. Stuff that doesn’t totally work as a functional item of clothing.
G: This one is an apron dress worn by a little girl with no shirt on underneath. Paper, plastic and yarn…

S: This is kind of cool, I think she got this bag used, mostly as-is. It’s greeting cards that have holes punched along the edges and then they were crocheted together into this bag.
G: Did you come from a family that had crocheted beer can clothing?
S: No, but I have made a crocheted library card hat.
G: Ooooh!
S: I bought the beer can pattern and made a library card hat. It’s cool to wear for outreach — people can tell you’re from the library, they recognize their cards on the crown.
G: Some of these things look demonic.
S: They do! Which is kind of why I like it. There’s a pair of gloves in here that are just tremendously disturbing. This one is nice, they took a piece of crochet and made an iron-on from a photocopy of it, then put it onto a sweater.
G: I think we have different definitions of the word “nice.”
S: You can’t duplicate any of these projects exactly, because so much of each is based on stuff that the author found, which I kind of like. There are so many craft books that say “here, copy this perfect, beautiful thing” or more like “fail at copying this perfect beautiful thing and then hate yourself.” This is the opposite of that. It’s just ideas, to get you to think differently about creating and about what you can make from what you have.
G: I think someone could re-market this as post-apocalyptic craft fashion, maybe turn it into a book about re-knitting the clothing of the dead (or repurposing their handmade potholders, at least).

I Want It Now!

Polaroid: The Complete Guide to Experimental Instant Photography by Rhiannon Adam. Thames & Hudson, 2017. 9780500544600. 240pp. 840 illustrations. (A weird thing to say, especially about a book about photography, but it’s noted on the title page, so there.)

Gene: This is not the kind of book I read cover to cover, and I don’t think it’s supposed to be that kind of book.
Sarah: I’ve got to start bringing more cookbooks. I don’t “read” them, so I don’t think of them as being “books I have read.”
G: Bring any books you’ve loved. (Flips the book over for the reveal.)
S: OooooooOOoooOOoh!
G: You seen any experimental Polaroid photography? Where people draw on photos or scratch them and do crazy things?
S: Yeah!
G: I find analog photography compelling, just the idea that you can’t mess with it forever like digital. Somehow it feels like mistakes are more natural, more allowed, more a part of the process. And here’s my guidebook. There’s a How to Use This Book section, which I of course skipped. There’s a Quick Start Guide, which tells about types of cameras. And then there’s a Film Compatability Guide, because there’s a lot of old film stock out there and folks covet it. Will it fit your camera? Find out here. This is instant camera porn. There are so many more instant cameras in the world (and in this book) than I ever knew about.
S: Here’s a Party Time Instant Camera.
G: It goes right up to now, with some instant cameras funded via Kickstarter. I think the core of this is the Impossible Camera. There are lots of dated photos. It starts with old peel-apart cameras. It details which accessories are compatible with which cameras in case you’re buying on the secondary market.
S: This is the book to have next to you when you’re shopping eBay.
G: And it gives a user guide with troubleshooting tips for each style of camera covered. It explains how peel-apart film works — apparently you can do things with it you can’t do with other film types.
S: Double exposures and stuff?
G: Weirder. And apparently it depends on how you peel.
And there are tips on dealing with jams, and lots of buying advice for each type of camera.
These are boxes for drying and storing instant film. And then there are little bits and pieces. Large format 20 inch x 24 inch Polaroid cameras, which are a thing. A primer on how instant film works, the chemical processes. It is apparently one of the most complex chemical processes developed by man and available at the consumer level. And then different camera series. It gives ideas of what happens to film when things go wrong (but maybe that’s what you want?). Pictures on different kinds of film stock.
S: More buying advice.
G: Here’s my favorite, the Tasmanian Devil instant camera. And look, the outline of the photo makes it look like the camera was in the character’s mouth (which is what the camera looks like). There’s a Hello Kitty camera of course, but also a Jaegermeister branded camera and other oddities, Legoland, McDonald’s, other branded cameras.
S: Is that an ER medical camera?
G: It’s for emergency medicine, somehow. Then there’s a transparent camera.
Here’s a guide for swapping film. This whole thing is very practical.
It starts to hint at how to do different things. This camera has a stand people use to create instant film mosaics. It doesn’t quite explain how… Accessories continue, different types of cameras, and then it gets to the Impossible Camera Lab, which you can use with your smart phone to create instant photos. Ridiculous? Maybe. But cool.
These are the instant cameras that took photos on little stickers, like Japanese photo booths.
S: I remember those, yeah.
G: And this is the Impossible Camera that I talked about earlier, which you can control with your phone and of course it has an app. There’s a user guide, lots of info. There are machines that let you print from slides onto instant film.
That’s a little more than 1/3 of the book.
And then it gets into creative techniques, all the cool things you can do with the film, my favorite of which is lifting off the front part where the image is printed and using it as a transparency.
S: Cool!
G: You can lay it across surfaces to create different effects.
So many more techniques. More troubleshooting. Lots of examples to inspire you or scare you off, including using expired film to get weird effects, because apparently no one knows what it’s going to do. And the great thing is they don’t care — it’s all part of the art.

Put a Bird On It

Arne & Carlos Field Guide to Knitted Birds: Over 40 Handmade Projects to Liven Up Your Roost, Arne Nerjordet, Carlos Zachrison, photographs by Ragnar Hartvig, translated by Carol Huebscher Rhoades. Trafalgar Square, 2017. 9781570768231.

I attended the Nordic Knitting Conference this year and learned some pretty cool new things: how to work with more than one color of yarn at a time, how to use Sami patterns in a sock, and how to use a non-sewing machine style of steek. I didn’t end up going to any of the programs by celebrity knit designers Arne and Carlos, but I did see some examples of their projects — they looked really cool.

The knitted birds in their book are made with sock yarn on double-pointed sock needles, using the same techniques used in sock construction. If, like me, you knit a heck of a lot of socks, you’ve already got everything you need to get started, and this will give you a way to use up your leftover yarn. Plus the birds are pretty small and you don’t need to make two at a time if you don’t want to, so the projects go really fast. The book includes a lot of fancy variations: birds with sweater patterns, birds with tiny hats and scarves, birds with glasses, tropical birds with sequins — enough to fill this good-sized book. But after knitting my first awesome-looking bird with self-striping yarn and no other decoration, I think I may never need the variations!

Nice Package!

The Packaging Designer’s Book of Patterns, 2nd edition, Lászlo Roth and George L. Wybenga. John Wiley & Sons, 2000. 0471385042.

Folding Patterns for Display and Publicity, drawings by Laurence K. Withers. The Pepin Press/Agile Rabbit Editions, 2002. 9057680408.

Sarah: I looked up the addresses and hours… (thumps book on table)
Gene: You scared my cat!
S: I looked up the addresses and hours of all of the Powell’s Books locations in Portland recently and I probably knew but had forgotten that they had closed Powell’s Technical Books.
G: That was across the street from the big bookstore?
S: Yeah, it was all of their… not just computer stuff, but technical books in every field. If you need super-technical books about constructing drainage systems, they had those. Super specialized books in every field.
G: Do they have those books in the main bookstore now?
S: I believe so. Powell’s Technical is where I picked up this first book, The Packaging Designer’s Book of Patterns.
G: Wow!
S: I thought you’d really like it.
G: Oh my god!
S: Because it’s about how to die cut, where to fold, where to glue to make all of these different possible paper and cardboard packages. From really simple stuff, like a cereal box, to one that looks like a cathedral. You can make a box look like a specific famous building if you want to sell a souvenir whatever. This is aimed at people who are designing packaging and need some ideas.
G: You paid $65 for this???
Continue reading “Nice Package!”

Go Outside and Paint

Colors of the West: An Artist’s Guide to Nature’s Palette by Molly Hashimoto. Skipstone, 2017. 9781680510973.

Sarah: I got this book, Colors of the West, it’s a gorgeous book and the writing is wonderful but I realized I am the worst person to review this. I’m an indoor kid, I don’t go to a lot of state or national parks, I’m not a visual artist, and the author does a lot of amazing programs for my library so there’s no way I can be objective. So I gave it to my friend Bibi to review. You have a degree in art, right?
Bibi: Yes, a couple of them, actually.
S: And you actually go to national parks and camp and hike?
B: Yep.
S: So what did you think?
B: It’s fabulous. It really reminded me of places I’ve been. I would turn a page and say, “Oh, I’ve been to Olympic National Park!” Hashimoto really captures the feeling of the places she paints. There’s a painting of a pueblo in New Mexico and I remember being there and trying to take photographs and they just did not get the essence of the place. Her painting did, it caught the light and the feeling of it.
S: She’s got paintings of animals in the book, too, wild animals, and I know she sometimes uses stuffed specimens from Seattle’s Burke Museum and the Audubon Society as models.
B: I love how she will pick certain animals and not do a big background, just really make the animals the center of the paintings. She gets the character of their actions and how they live in their environment. It’s really sweet.
S: This book isn’t just her paintings and her views of these places, it also teaches how to use watercolors, techniques and materials.
Continue reading “Go Outside and Paint”

How to Take the Gravel Road

If Found Return To Elise Gravel, translated by Shira Adriance. Drawn & Quarterly, 2017. 9781770462786.

Gene: This is Elise Gravel’s sketchbook. It’s got this nice elastic band on it, to hold it closed like a real sketchbook! Like the elastic bands on Moleskine notebooks.
Sarah: Yeah!
G: Do you know Elise Gravel?
S: Yes, I read her books Jessie Elliot Is A Big Chicken, I Want A Monster, The Rat
G: What is that series called…? Disgusting Critters! Did you read The Great Antonio?
S: Yeah!
G: I like her drawings, she has a very loose, fun style. This is her book about making art and creativity. It has an emphasis on just letting go and drawing. Look, the endpapers at the front are deer, with the most marvelously simple pictures of plants that I’ve ever seen. And the back endpapers…
S: (gasps) OH!!! Those shrimp are great! They remind me of Ed Emberley‘s drawings.
G: Yeah, very much so. The book is all done on graph paper. What I really like about Gravel’s work, I’ve realized, is her lettering. She just has so much fun lettering in different colors, outlining and coloring around words, she’s clearly having a great time. Basically she says that her sketchbook is just full of complete nonsense. After her kids go to sleep she just draws, paints, puts anything she wants to in her black notebook. It contains all her bizarre ideas, she doesn’t critique herself at all, and in the morning her kids look at it and they all have these crazy ideas about what she drew.
Continue reading “How to Take the Gravel Road”

Hacks and Snacks

Edible Inventions: Cooking Hacks and Yummy Recipes You Can Build, Mix, Bake, and Grow by Kathy Ceceri. Maker Media, 2016. 9781680452051.

Like I said last time, maker books cover a lot of territory, from the sort of safe educational activities you used to learn about on PBS science shows to building a robot that spits fire. Edible Inventions spans a fun segment of the usual danger and futuristic-ness spectrums. You can build a hydraulic Lego 3D printer (a sort of food-based pen-plotter that can draw on a graham cracker with frosting), do your own molecular gastronomy by making gelatin dots and agar noodles, freeze a sorbet with dry ice, and make fancy fermented ketchup from scratch. There are also the projects I remember fondly from my own youth: solar ovens, homemade granola, home-fermented yogurt, and a tin-can cooker. Which is not to say that these golden oldies haven’t been updated! The section on that old standard, growing a tree from an avocado pit, also has instructions for growing new plants from the root ends of leeks, garlic, and romaine lettuce. There’s enough here to not only appeal to kids but to challenge them as well, plus chapter bibliographies in case they want to go further.