Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Artistry and Genius -- The Case of Elizabeth Zimmermann

I've just completed reading a 1984 copy of Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitter's Almanac. If you haven't read it yourself, it's a friendly and charming way to visit with the late great expert knitter. Many of my knitting friends have owned several copies. They get so well used. Elizabeth was a passionate knitter who knit all year, day in and day out. Creative and artistic she was also a genius. Who would have thought to design a knit shawl based on PI? Elizabeth did. She claimed the shawl was based on the "...mysterious relationship of the circumference of a circle to its radius. A circle will double its circumference in infinitely themselves-doubling distances, or, in knitters' terms, the distance between the increase-rounds, in which you double the number of stitches, goes 3, 6, 12, 24 and so on." You don't need to be a genius to understand this book. It's a charming book full of practical hints and tips. You will like Elizabeth and if you're passionate about knitting you'll become even more so.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Taking Time to Be Creative

So often we feel overburdened by the chores of every day life that we choose not to take time for our creative selves. There's always laundry to be done, the dog wants another walk and the grass still needs cutting. In fact, the creative person needs to schedule time to follow a pursuit -- whether it be singing, writing, making music, painting, drawing, sewing, quilting or knitting. Make creative time a priority. Think of it this way. During the last moments of your life, will you think,"I'm so happy that I've got an organized sock drawer and my home is clean?" Or will you be happy to reflect on your creative pursuits ~~ a beautifully knit sweater, a quilt to hand down to the next generation, a painting or photograph that will stand the test of time?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Repatching the Old Quilt ~~ A Lesson in Sustainable Living

The old quilt is 32 years old this month and has lessons for all of us in its carefully repatched squares. None of them are straight or perfect. The fabrics don't match and are of varying textures. Originally, the fabrics were from dresses I wore as a child. Some fabrics were from my Great Grandmother's dresses and those of my Mother's. The backing and sections of materials separating the fabrics are salvaged fabric. The inner layer, an old wool blanket and heavy cotton sheet came from the linen closet of my Great-Grandmother's house. I continue to repair and repatch it every fall as I am doing now, each square a reminder of an occasion and person in my life. It stays on my bed, whatever the season. It is light enough in summer and warm enough in winter. I wash it frequently ~~ not by hand, but by tossing it in the washing machine. I hang it outside on the laundry line to dry. It always smells good. And strangely, year by year it seems to become a little stronger. Sometimes, more colorful. Just a little bit more like me . When I am done with it, (and I am hoping for another 60 years use!) I will carefully pass it down to someone else who will appreciate the different colors and textures and continue to mend, patch and repair it every fall.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Caring for Cashmere

I've upcycled 100% cashmere into a tank top that is both sophisticated and cuddly soft. A very pale gray, this top has machine embroidered flowers on the front, highlighted by clear seed beads. Cashmere will regain its shape after being washed. Repeated gentle washing of cashmere will help it to remain soft. Dry cleaning should be avoided as it may remove the natural oils from cashmere and reduce the luxurious soft feel. Rinse several times when washing and gently roll up into a towel. Lay the top flat to dry. If possible, dry it indoors as light colored cashmere may fade in the sun. If any pilling remains after washing it can simply be cut off with sharp scissors.

Making Things ~~ The Benefits of a Creative Mind ~~ Crafting Keeps You Healthy

My passion for making things began early. I was inspired by my Great-Grandmother whose home was filled with beautiful things that she had made herself. From table linens, to her own clothes, Great-Grandmother found a way to re-use fabrics in beautiful and unique ways. I started making doll clothes when I was 7. Later on, I graduated to designer duds, buying Vogue patterns and creating my own Paris Originals. I made my first quilt when I was 16 using up material from my old dresses. I devote a portion of my day to creating something, whether it be working on an on-going project (French needlework), creating my own clothing, or re-patching that old quilt. Quite simply, I've discovered that a creative life is a healthier one. Here are some tips to make your life a craftier one:

  1. Crafts help you concentrate on the here and now. Enjoy the process! So find something that you really love to do.
  2. Rhythmic crafts such as sewing, knitting, woodworking, crocheting, improve the mind-body benefit
  3. Think of crafting as a medical necessity. Making something allows you to tune into your emotions and creativity and help release frustration. Practice it daily.
  4. Get into the flow! Be completely absorbed by your activity and lose all track of time. Push yourself a little harder to improve your skills so that you won't get bored.
  5. There are no mistakes in creating! Some of the best inventions were the results of so-called mistakes. The process of trial and error opens your mind to extraordinary things.