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Wall of Linen

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Dear Ann,
I rarely suffer from any serious malaise in my knitting. There is always something to knit that is much better than what I am knitting now, and I am generally racing as fast as I can, jettisoning UFOs to the left of me, WIPs to my right–to get to the promised land of the next cast-on. Except for lately. Last night I was invited to a cozy Knit Nite at a friend’s and I didn’t have a project to take with me. Not so much as a scruffy dishrag in my knitting bag. Plenty of UFOs not suitable for public viewing, but not a thing to just sit and knit away on whilst sipping prosecco and inhaling green tea ice cream. A sorry state of affairs.
But you know I wouldn’t be making such a sordid confession if things had not righted themselves, and they have righted themselves in a big way. I’m on fire. Here’s how the soul salvation occurred.
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Revelation Step 1: Belinda brought me this cushion cover. Like the alleged roller towel, it spoke to her. She knew I would like it, given that Gee’s Bend is busting out all over it. I’ve been staring at it for days. Not consciously thinking it had anything to do with knitting, but everything has something to do with knitting.
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Revelation Step 2: This book made me remember how much I love Sean Scully’s paintings. I saw them almost accidentally at the Metropolitan Museum last year. The large oils have layers and layers of paint, an effect which does not come through in photographs. They glow like laquer, but with more texture. It is kind of scary to be alone in a gallery with one of these paintings–there is a feeling of awe. Some of the large canvases have separate small canvases set into them, which is terribly exciting to me all by itself. There is an obvious connection to knitting and quilting, no? Sean Scully started painting stripes when he saw striped fabrics in Morocco in the 70s. Been painting stripes ever since.
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I do not aspire to do them justice.
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But I’m going to try real hard not to do them injustice.
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I have to knit something based on this cushion and these paintings. I think it needs to be a blanket. I have some plane and train travel ahead of me in early May, so I want to construct it in portable pieces. I want it to be reversible in that there will not be a clear wrong or right side. I want it to be linen because I like the luxury–the hedonism really–of linen in a dense garter stitch that really drapes. (I know the distressed blues are screaming “DENIM!” but I can’t stop thinking linen.) I’m in the early cook-up phases of thinking how to do the seams so they don’t look too wrong-sidey. Right now I’m hot on i-cord, but this decision is a long way down the path from where I am today.
Does anybody know of a good how-to on doing short-row stripes whilst keeping the edges parallel? I don’t want the stripes to be perfectly straight.
I’ll keep you posted of course.
Love,
Kay
PS It goes without saying that I’ve been checking the Oliver’s Fund blanket auction listing every 5 minutes or so. So exciting! I think Oprah will be bidding by the end of the weekend. (Yes She Can!) Many thanks to all the lovely anonymous bidders with weird eBay names! Love you guys!

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36 Comments

36 Comments

  1. True words of wisdom: “Everything has something to do with knitting”!

  2. I don’t have anything constructive to add, really, but I wanted to weigh in with whole-hearted support. This is a damn fine idea. I can’t wait to see it come together!
    (My only constructive thought: what if you were to alternate which sides the seams showed on? If both sides had the visible tic-tic-ticking of sewing up, they would instantly become “design feature” instead of “necessary evil.”)

  3. Occasional commenter connecting comments to a weird eBay name. suzanne = peanut.chew = salmon_roll (on eBay) = curriedfruit (on Ravelry)
    So. All that food goes into making up my internet self.

  4. I just started a similar thing. Not really similar, but quilty and garter stitchy and not straight. Your best source is nona’s tutorial: http://tinyurl.com/3jzx9v
    Can’t wait to see it!

  5. what if you used a fine yet strong silk thread or floss for sewing it?? something that wouldn’t show very much no matter how it was seamed. do they make such a thing?
    could you leave some of the edges live and graft them together?
    if you’re going to short row i would guess it would be wise to do a subtly as possible. go long into the row before turning and do a just a few rows so the wobbliness is subtle and not exaggerated.
    i think this is a fantastic idea! you better keep us posted and not let this become a UFO.
    if you need a portable project I am having a boy in july and could use bibs and burp cloths…just saying… PO Box 681 Branford CT…
    :)

  6. There’s a sweater in an old issue of Knitter’s that incorporates short row stripes. I’ll give my back issues a look-see this evening to see if I can find it for you.
    There is also a designer Katherine(last name? – sorry it’s the curse of this age) who has kits and holds workshops who has incredible shortrow patterns.
    Also, try Susan Haanson. I took a class from her at Stitches a while back on Japanese short rows.
    You’re so famous, you probably know these folks.

  7. I love the idea! Could you use a technique like Lizard Ridge does where the short rows are offset to keep the overall module square. You’d have to experiment to see how much latitude you have in making it all match but isn’t that part of the fun?

  8. This is a GORGEOUS idea! But to me, it says: SILK! Shiny, lovely silk!!!! And then my right brain says, try some synthetic shiny leftovers instead. Maybe shiny cotton? Kay, I’m usually all about the blue tones like you, but that blue, red and orange and grey at the bottom is wonderful! I like the edges of the stripes. I might crochet mine together with a matte dark grey. I’m going to finish beach tents so I can put some leftovers into this table runner.

  9. Look at Nona Knits Swatches for March O7. She was working towards similar concepts.
    http://nonaknits.typepad.com/nonaswatches/2007/03/index.html
    Her tutorial is here:
    http://nonaknits.typepad.com/nonaknits/pdf/ImprovisationalKnittingTutorial.pdf

  10. Look at Nona Knits Swatches for March O7. She was working towards similar concepts.
    http://nonaknits.typepad.com/nonaswatches/2007/03/index.html
    Her tutorial is here:
    http://nonaknits.typepad.com/nonaknits/pdf/ImprovisationalKnittingTutorial.pdf

  11. I used to work in an art museum here in Washington where we showed Sean Scully’s work (nice guy, by the way; really great answering kids’ questions) and remember thinking that his work would speak particularly well to us knitters.
    And I agree about the linen because, as I recall, his work didn’t emphasize the shine of the oil base but rather the deep intensity of the powdered pigment.

  12. It’s interesting how different people can look at the same thing and arrive at varied interpretations. While Kay sees luxury yarn, such as linen, for this project, I see it screaming out for Rowan Lightweight DK, Yorkshire Tweed, or Donegal Tweed, due to the primitive nature of the art. Yet, again, I see it knit out of a DK-weight yarn with slight variegation of the same color (such as Araucania (which isn’t made in a DK weight) to imitate the artist’s lighter and darker brush strokes. Kay favors the uneven stripes; I favor the even stripes. Since Kay is obviously a glutton for self-punishment with her desire for the uneven stripes, it appears that the excellent Nona Knits tutorial mentioned in the comments above is exactly what she needs to accomplish this feat. I would explore using a three-needle bindoff-type for joining the squares together. The two sides will look a little different, but will still look as though each is the right side.
    Speaking of the comments above, since Meg McG. was brave enough to put her mailing address out there in Blogland, we should inundate her with enough bibs and burp cloths to last that baby boy until he’s old enough to be attending frat house keg parties in college! (Yes, Meg, he’ll swear he was the only one in the frat house who was studying, not drinking.)
    Mary G. in Texas

  13. NonaKnits had a tutorial on this topic. She has disappeared lately, but her site remains.

  14. Hi Kay,
    Why couldn’t you do the linen and denim together? Some squares linen, some denim. Then everybody (you and the blues) wins. No limits!
    Great idea, by the way. Good luck!

  15. Hi Kay,
    Why couldn’t you do the linen and denim together? Some squares linen, some denim. Then everybody (you and the blues) wins. No limits!
    Great idea, by the way. Good luck!

  16. Wow. I just looked at the auction, and it is amazing. I could never afford this blanket, though as soon as I saw it finished (not that I’d ever be able to find the squares I contributed in that beauty) I coveted it.
    I think I’ll have to consider knitting a blanket of my own. It will take a long time, but that’s OK. I’ll be knitting!

  17. But — what about doubleknit? No seams, completely reversible, takes longer but not really twice as long, and *no seams* which for me makes up for the extra knitting. Now I’ve got to go cast on a doubleknit stripy washcloth right now.

  18. I am overwhelmed by the blanket auction. So much love for Oliver. Joan is, truly, a wonderful woman.
    All I can do is thank everyone who contributed, and especially those who are bidding. It seems inadequate, but all I have to offer is thanks.
    xxx
    Beautiful paintings, fab cushion, and, what will become, a mot gorgeous blanket.
    Well, not as beaitiful as Oliver’s blankets !

  19. Whoops — never mind that last post. I just realized that you want to knit squares with wonky stripes. Short rows in doubleknit make my brain hurt. And the seaming would still be problematic.
    I swear I have been channeling the White Queen lately.

  20. Shoot, Kay – there was a Sean Scully show at Dartmouth earlier this year, called Art of the Stripe:
    http://hoodmuseum.dartmouth.edu/exhibitions/scully/index.html
    You should have come up. The paintings were stunning. The show commentary, if I remember correctly, in spite of a lot of talk about stripes missed the boat on drawing any connections to quilting – but I’m with you, it’s so there: the inset canvases, the seams between blocks of color. The show did include, however, a large Scully photograph of a stacked stone wall… there’s an inspiration for you.

  21. EVERYTHING has to do with knitting….

  22. EVERYTHING has to do with knitting….

  23. I have just realized that all my not-even knitted edges are *not* novice artifact…they are *design elements* – HA! :)

  24. I’m with Quinn. On my first foray into knitting, it was my parents “date night”; there I was ensconced infront of the T.V. (“McHale’s Navy” was on)with my new knitting needles and pink varigated yarn. As the babysitter did her homework, I was knitting. Knitting, knitting, knitting, row after row–feverish pace! By the end of the evening: a swatch (for want of a better term) approximately 8″ long x 1 1/2″ at one end, and 3/4″ at the other. Little did I know, I was a prodigy…..
    Happy Knitting!
    LoveDiane

  25. Swooning here over your Scully stripes & cover inspiration, can’t wait to see what it turns into on your needles, Kay.

  26. This is going to be soooo good.

  27. Yum, yum, YUM, Kay. Thanks for the food. We all need some new & different stripe input once in a while. Best of luck, I know you can do something wonderful.
    Me, I’m in cushion-cover-stitching mode, so I’m gonna stare at yours for another several hours…
    (Thanks, Belinda!)

  28. That is so strange. I *just* saw that book for the first time yesterday on a shelf at a bookstore I was at. I did not bother to look inside, but I do remember seeing the cover. And now I read about it on your blog. Looks like I need to go back and take a closer look!
    Can’t wait to see how this project turns out. It’s going to be amazing I’m sure.

  29. I love those designs–perfect blanket inspiration! I’m knitting a stole right now with Euroflax linen in the Neptune colorway, and it’s very denim-esque. Something to consider!

  30. Take a look at knitty’s lizard ridge which may help you with short rows and a blanket.

  31. Cool. I wondered when we’d see your Sean Scully project. I’m working on a Mondrian inspired blanket for an Romanian-American couple. Romanian flag: blue, yellow, red. American flag: red, white, blue. Result: Mondrian blanket in red, yellow, blue, white, and black. After this blanket is done, I’ll move on to the Sean Scully.

  32. Mad props on use of the word “whilst”

  33. Ditto on absorbing the wisdom and swatches of Nona. And to keep the edges straight, I think ending with a few full rows with a prescribed number of stitches will set you to rights, even with uberwonky centers.
    And the closest I’ve come to a seamless garter stitch seam is to run the needle from piece to piece keeping it pointing straight ahead and getting just the sticky-outy edge bump on each. I think Debbie New describes it in Unexpected Knitting. It lays completely flat though some would dislike its lack of perceived sturdiness. How to join a side to an end may be trickier, but I’m sure it’s doable.

  34. The layered colors of the painting might be mimiced by knitting two very closely related variegated yarns together.

  35. As art inspires you; You inspire us. Can’t wait to see the results.

  36. I would think that if you balance the number of times you short row stripes from each side of the square the edges should come out to be the same length and straight. Right?