Tag Archive for 'Craft'

Hipster Domesticity in the WaPo

domesticity27So here is an article about hipster domesticity–the rise in canning and knitting and backyard chickenkeeping by young, city-dwelling ladies. It’s not that interesting an article or discussion (asking the question of whether this is empowerment or a rolling back of feminism isn’t a very sophisticated analysis), but it does have a great illustration by Julia Rothman who is one of my favourites.

One thing the article mentions is a bunch of new books, including the new Bust DIY Guide to Life, most of which I find pretty bothersome, in that they are all really entry-level. I don’t need multiple books that are about cooking and crafting and cleaning and fixing stuff; at this point in my “career” I want more substantial books on the parts that I’m actually interested in. The internet is full of lots of intro and beginner stuff, what’s really hard is figuring out how to learn and advance, such as how to go from following canning recipes to understanding the science enough to make your own recipes and can things safely. If the world keeps pumping out these overly generalist books trying to capitalize on a trend, it belies the fact that it is a trend, and that you’re not expected to take it seriously, it’s just for dabbling.

I was, however, pleased that the article mentions the competitive aspect of some of these domesticity project (especially the ones with beautiful blogs). The WaPo says:

You could say these women are simply homemakers searching for a purpose beyond driving carpool. As work-life balance scholar Joan Williams tells me, extreme domesticity can be a refuge for educated women who’ve left the workforce: “You’ve been trained your entire life in a high-pressure, high-achievement atmosphere, and you need somewhere to put that,” she says. “So you turn your household into an arena for dazzling performance.”

I would have taken that sentiment in a different direction though, because I think the over-perfect aspect of some of these blogs (eg. the DIY projects in something like DesignSponge) is gross and annoying. Those of us who love canning and cooking and sewing and knitting and gardening do it because we love it, not because it makes for a perfect blog post to show off on to the internet design and lifestyle hubs. Things are canned to be eaten, not to be beautifully labeled and photographed (though those things are fun); tomatoes are grown and eaten because they are delicious, not because I’m showing off just how committed I am to overthrowing the industrial agro-food system (that change doesn’t come from the garden, I promise you). What I think is needed in this realm is more discussion of failures, mistakes, misconstrued goals and oh-yeah-that-will-make-do solutions. Because that’s how it really works, at least in my kitchen and on my needles.

UPDATE: I want to mention a few sites that really speak to my sensibilities about all this. Food in Jars is my very favourite canning blog, Punk Domestics understands the rough-around-the-edges approach (and has great stuff), You Grow Girl takes on gardening in small and odd spaces and learns from mistakes, and the Smitten Kitchen does magical things in a tiny kitchen. Oh, and of course, my friend Kat has thrifty fun in threadbare times.

thrift and craft

worksite accients

I’m a few pages into a book I picked up at a used bookshop in Rockville, MD–the book is called “In Cheap We Trust” (by Lauren Weber), about the idea of thrift, frugality, and cheapness. Pop sociology and good summer reading (I hope). In this into, though, she writes that “thrift advocacy has always carried a whiff and often a stench of preachiness.”

Let me state: I don’t agree.

This statement came after a bit of discussion of the need to patch and mend and darn when good were scarce, and got me thinking about the world of craft and its connection to thrift. It’s true that the two are not synonymous: there are big-box-craft-stores on the side of the highway with aisles Martha Stewart branded official scrapbooking supplies; there are very shmancy brands of yarn that are just another thing to covet or splurge on; even knitting a sweater out of reasonably priced yarn isn’t going to be cheaper than buying something new. But craft is thrift not in the sense of paying as little as possible for anything, but in the sense of being careful and conscientious about things and objects and materials. Advocacy of this sort of thrift is not preaching, it’s exploration of how things are made and what things can be used for. It’s full of wonder.

charming darning (explorations in darning techniques from karen barbe)

I also think of my rad friend Becky Johnson, who I had the immense pleasure to see speak at Etsy when she came through Brooklyn in June. She officially spoke on the subject of “Crafting a Well-Rounded Business” but really she spoke about what she does (tour America in the summers, selling her wares at craft shows and visiting boutiques and other sites-of-handmade), and how she makes it work. One of the points she made to the room full of lovely Brooklyn Etsy ladies seeking success, is that her version of “success” is a wildly different recasting of the idea that you can craft your way into a profitable business. Becky’s success is that she makes her life work on not very much income, in part because the principles of craft and thrift encourage sharing, reciprocity (she talked about being able to travel widely and have somewhere to stay because of the art-and-craft community she has cultivated), and a very different sense of what’s important and worth spending money on. Her successful craft business is not about winning at capitalism, it’s about existing on sort of the outside edge of capitalism.

(my friend becky)

I just read a book called “The Chairs are Where the People Go” by Misha Glouberman, and in a short section titled “Social Capital” he points out that artists and other creative folks may not have a lot of money, but they are certainly not “poor.”

I think this might be related the point that Weber is beginning to make. Thrift out of necessity is what it is, not particularly virtuous, just a way to live within your means. Weber’s feeling of “preachiness” is a similar sense of discomfort to Glouberman’s disapproval of artists considering themselves poor. In this understanding those claiming thrift or poverty are trying to set themselves off as different from what is expected of folks in their socioeconomic position, and receive some sort of credit for it.

Its true that the poverty of artists and musicians is different than the systemic poverty that really exists in our world. But the idea (and this is not the point that Glouberman makes, but is the point implied by Weber’s statement) that anyone who lives outside of the capitalist matrix is inherently smug about it feels really defeatist. Being able to take on a different mode of life is really valuable. Being able to make that work–through thrift, barter, art, travel, and careful darning of one’s handknit socks–is what is really exciting and inspiring about all of my friends amazing diverse lives and professions.


The image up at the top of this post is of the “Worksite Accidents” Gocco prints I received from Becky for pledging her Kickstarter campaign that she used to fund this summer’s craft tour. Here it is in its milieu on my kitchen wall: most of these things are thrifted.

worksite accident print

Hexagons for Karen and Sammy

I have awesome friends, Karen and Sam, who got married this past September, at a Bowling Alley in Asbury Park, New Jersey.
Karen and Sam!

Hexagon Piecing Tattoo!At the wedding, I met a friend of theirs who had this rad hexagon paper piecing tattoo. (Please excuse the terrible picture). We got to chatting about hexagons; at that point I had never attempted making them because the whole things seemed so finicky and daunting and I was convinced that I needed to take a class to learn how to do them. But oh how I love the way they look! A few weeks later I sat down with the internet and a hand sewing needle and my bag of scrap fabric and figured it out. Of course, it was kind of finicky and tedious and the prospect of doing a whole quilt like this continued to seem daunting. I made a few random blob shapes and declared myself done.


Of course, at this point I still hadn’t gotten anything for Sam and Karen, and remembering the pillowcases I’d made for Jamie and Rufus, I decided that I’d do that again. Pillowcases are a great gift idea–hand made and lovely but not months and months of work. So I appliqued the hexagon blobs (well, one blob and two hexagon flowers) onto grey fabric, and sewed them up into pillowcases. I used some bird fabric and a chopped up old pillowcase (that had an interim life as a pillowcase skirt, that ingenious new-sewist project that is actually unwearable because people and pillows are very different shapes, as it turns out) for the edging, and voila! Pillowcases!

Pillow Cases
Pillow Case Edges

Girasole post at the Chronicles of Yarnia

Girasole,originally uploaded by dorywithserifs.

I have a guest post up at the Yarnia shop blog about the Girasole.

Sticks and Stones

I am off to Calgary tomorrow to participate in the Mountain Standard Time Festival! David McCallum and I are performing Sticks and Stones

Sticks and Stones is a long-duration public intervention performance that makes use of knitting and the ancient Chinese strategy game, Go. The project explores the subculture of the reclamation of craft, strategy games and public gaming and the public’s relationship to these things. Go is played on a grid and knitting - as a series of rows and stitches - is an excellent medium for representing this grid. The long performance will see two competitors engage in the public knitting of a game of Go, resulting in the gradual creation of roughly 300 swatches, representing the state of the board at each move throughout the game. As the swatches accumulate, they will be gathered and presented, documenting the process of the performance.

Exhibition: October 11-28
Venue: TRUCK +15 Window
Performances: October 8-10
Venue: Art Central
Presented by M:ST

This is the outcome of this pile of books on our coffee table, back when D and I were roommates in Toronto.

go and knitting

A works-in-progress roundup

Okay, this is just a crafty works-in-progress list. There are other things going on.

1. Quilt for me. 6-inch squares all cut, laid out, two rows sewn together. Old photograph:
fabric squares

2. Crocheted granny-square blanket, in browns and orange and teal and white. All squares done, time to begin joining them

3. A Girasole! Just begun. Here is linds winding up my yarn cones:

4. Pair of lace knit socks (can’t remember the pattern at the moment). I knit one fully, then decided that I need to go down a needle size or two. So I will frog the whole thing. I’ve never done that before.

5. An Entomology shawl. Nearing completion! You might recall it from that bike and gardens and coffee day in Red Hook a while ago:
good day, good knitting

6. The thing with the hexagons. This is a secret.

7. Kindle case/cozy for my mom. In nascent stages of existence.

triangles for Rachel and David

I want to show off a few photos of the quilt I made for Rachel and David’s wedding gift.

Tree Cases

Last week, my dear friend Jamie and Rufus got married! They had their friends decorate squares of fabric that were then pieced together into a chuppa quilt by some family friends.

Here’s what it looked like hanging up at the party:
wedding chupa quilt

Mine is the square with the little triangle trees, far right of the second row from the top.

So, as a gift for Jamie and Rufus, I wanted to make something that complemented this quilt I knew they were going to have after the wedding, so I made some pillowcases that matched (well, close to matched) the patchwork pattern of my square. Inspired by the Little Forest Quilt I made these pillowcases for J + R:


I had never made patchwork pillowcases before, and freaked out a bit when I realized that I wasn’t quilting the work and that there were all these raw edges on the back of the tree panel. Inside the pillowcase, yes, but still problematic. Their exposure would mean that they were going to fray and come apart after some number of washings. For a small while I thought I was going to have to line the pillowcases, which would require more cream-coloured fabric and not making my June 6 deadline. But then I dug through the box of craft ephemera in my closet and found some super lightweight fusible interfacing, which I ironed onto the back of the patchwork panels, sealing the whole thing up without making the pillowcases stiff. Amazing!


A lot of the things I look at regularly on the internet are about dresses. Some of it is about making dresses and some is unabashedly fashion. Yeah. I read fashion blogs!

Mostly it’s that journal articles are in black and white and badly photocopied and I need to look at pretty things every now and then, or I’ll wilt. It’s like the poster or print up on the wall at Kat’s house, “girls need cute things or they’ll DIE.”

mociun tie-frontDresess like this one! (which is from mociun) And Built By Wendy stuff. And all the vintage patterns over at A Dress A Day. I have a few patterns and some washed and pressed fabric that’s meant to be magically transformed into dresses, but I’m not actually working on that at the moment.

I will say, though, that I am bored bored bored of all the Japanese dress books and the adoration of them on many of the dress and craft blogs. The dresses are all so shapeless and boring (and no doubt would look terrible on anyone with boobs), and the books all seem so samey-same, with models standing in front of white or grey-ish walls, holding on to some inane object. It’s better than the overcutseyness of the amigurumi japanese craft stuff that I’ve never been a fan of, but I have no desire to look at any more shifts or tunics. Urgh.

For those of you that love the japanese dresses (or just don’t know what I’m talking about), Karyn has a quite a collection of them that you can see here.


Oh wow, this dress is amazing!
3d glasses dress
From etsy, of course.

more friends, more quilts

So the most recent life-changing-event-secret-quilt-project has been quilted and bound and photographed and folded and handed off–this is the log-cabin quilt that I made for Anna and Naf’s wedding (coming up this weekend, in Rochester!)

anna and her quilt
back of the quilt

anna/naf crestOrange centre squares, other fabrics include some orange flowers, some John-Dere kitch, some city-print stuff, a thrifted pillowcase, an old skirt of Sarah Zarrow’s, some yellow katie jump rope flowers, some yellow stuff from Anna’s mom’s stash (which made it into a quilt she made me years ago!) and some grey and pale turquoise stuff I bought in Berlin.

I’m still working on some wedding stuff for A+N: handwriting the escort cards (that are not as awesome as these ones), and planning for the Brooklyn Sheva Brachot early next week, which includes drawing the little Anna+Naf crest you can see on your right there.

tuesday night notes

1. That thing that I was working on, with the blue and white triangles is done:
back of awesomequilt
In the photos it’s not bound or quilted, but those things happened, and it got shipped off to its rightful owner. It makes me so so so happy to have it out in the world. I’m kind of amazed that I only really knit for myself, but the quilts I make are meant for others. I have a new project in the works, but it’s still at the stage where I stare at strangers on the subway, looking at the colours of their shoes and totebags and wonder what they would look like as log cabins or flying geese.

2. I also made a new dress, for the studio presentation I have to give on Friday. It’s another Amy Butler Lotus Dress, in blue corduroy. Pictures eventually, maybe

hanging vines3. I’m knitting these socks, Hanging Vines out of dark grey yarn from Yarnia. They’re going quickly and are really fun, unlike the German Stockings that I bought the yarn for, and have started and ripped back twice. I love the way the German Stockings look, but they were so many stitches that I needed my super-long dps, and then I couldn’t knit on the subway because I kept poking people, so I gave up! Cookie A, I’ve made your Monkeys and your Pomotomous socks twice each, I’ve loved them lots, but the German Stocks are amazingly un-fun.

4. I made some maps of Saginaw:
saginaw housing

Get ‘er Done!

I think I can I think I can

I finished this crocheted afgahn in November of 2005. I’ve been usinging to sleep under and rad on the couch with and give to guests when they crash. I’ve taken it on trips and am even using a photo of it as the header of my blog here!

Thing is, it’s not really done yet. There are about 8 million yarn ends to weave in, and I know that it will be a much more glorious project if I get it done. I worked on it during last year’s Oscars, and hauled it to Quilt Sunday at the workroom at least once. But mostly, I’m making no progress.

But thanks to the Crafty Slackers Get ‘er Done giveaway at the Toronto Craft Alert, I’m thinking about working on it again. I can’t really take this mammoth thing on the subway or work on it in class, so it probably wont’ happen before the March 16th project deadline, but I’m on it! Going to happen!


I went (with my friend Katie and roommate Kurt) to the BUST Holiday Craftacular craft fair a few weeks ago, and came away really disappointed. Lots of vendors doesn’t actually mean betters stuff, and the cool things seem to blend into this overarching sea of same-ness. Knit things, charm bracelets, silkscreened t-shirts, peacock feather headbands, more knit things, more charm bracelets, some silkscreened hoodies, and MORE PEACOCK FEATHER HEADBANDS. I bought one letterpress postcard and then left.

I think that my real disinterest is because all of it seems to be about adorning objects with the images that are currently in the zeitgeist. Birds, vegetables, pirates, ninjas, raccoons, whatever. The tacky crafts are the ones that say “hey, I’ve got some things cut out of a magazine and some bottlecaps, what can I glue them to? How about this picture frame! How about this notebook?” The stuff at the craftacular was much much nicer that that schlock, certainly, but it’s the same kind of idea, even if it’s putting a beautiful drawing of an octopus and printing it on an American Apparel t-shirt. Or putting birds onto charm bracelets.

Say you have a sister, and she’s really into mermaids. You’ll buy her pretty much anything that has a mermaid on it because you know that she’ll like it…but why are you buying that particular thing? The best craft stuff are things that are made because their object-ness is important. Like handmade furniture. This is what I think of when I think of craft–useful objects made in the most beautiful of ways. And so I like the things that are made because the maker is skilled at making such a thing–I find myself buying prints or postcards or flat things, because if I love the image, I don’t necessarily want it on my chest.

The booth of the kids who had made their own t-shirts in great colours and shapes–they totally prove the rule!

I like pottery. I respect soap. I bought beautiful hand-printed fabric at Brooklyn Flea many weeks ago that is now being incorporated into the secret quilt project.

I like objects (they become part of collections, which is something I’ve been thinking lots about and will write about later). I think that you should love the object you have because they either work well (you should have seem Emily’s face when she was explaining how great her square measuring spoons were) or because they are beautiful (I have some tea towels that I’m very very fond of, and not because they dry dishes better than others). I think people should make beautiful things, and make things beautiful. But so much craft feels like it was done because it could be, and lots of it starts to feel very cafe-press-like, with your design on a t-shirt! a tote bag! a mousepad! a thong! and not about lovely things at all.

Regarding collections, here is the assemblage of things on my living room wall. Since this was taken the colony of objects has grown a fair bit…

And regarding craft: Look! The yellow octopus apron came true:
yellow apron

new secret project

new secret quilt project

speaking of apples

Here’s a small piece of a totally secret craft project I’ve been working on it. It involves this amazing fabric with these hilarious “I like you apples.”
i like you

crafty problem solving

sweatshirt with leaves

There’s been this stain on my favourite sweatshirt for some time now, and I finally got around to fixing it–by appliqué-ing leaves over it and adding a few others to make it work.

After it was done, though, I realized that this sweatshirt now looks just like my favourite bag:

bags and sweater, orange and green

I have a new appliqué-heavy project that I’m working on now, but it’s best kept a secret for a bit.

Following Instructions

I’m looking up scone recipes on the internet this morning, and they all suck. They all say things like “2 cups of bisquick” (bisquick? seriously? if was into using premade stuff I wouldn’t be looking up recipes!) or “spray pan with non-stick cooking spray” (that stuff is scary and gross!). Maybe it’s my own cooking up-bringing, raising myself on vegan cookbooks that all say things like “your choice of sweetener” to accommodate all the folks who don’t eat sugar/honey/agave nectar/whatever, but I want these recipes to say things like “do what you need to do to prevent these from sticking to the pan.”

If these recipes were in cookbooks, there’d be a whole intro section on nonstickage (or on sweeteners, or about substitutions, or whatever), and the recipes can refer you back to the what-cooking-is-all-about pages. But with the dumb internet, recipes are not part of a collection of anything, they’re one-offs. They’re hit singles with no album.

This makes me sort of sad–I feel like all these awesome skills, like the ability to curate or edit or collect or compile are slipping away. We get things totally disjointed and discrete.

I know that there are plenty of people curating all the stuff that’s on the internet–that’s what all those lovely blogs like CRAFT or Swissmiss or Kottke do. And I like them, but sometimes the endlessness of them feels tiresome. ESPECIALLY with the CRAFT blog–if anyone does anything crafty on the internet, it gets reposted there. And just as a link. It’s pointing: “look at this!” “look at that!” and most of it sucks. I know I shouldn’t get all righteous about something that is so clearly a promotional marketing tool for an overpriced magazine ($15 an issue!), but somehow it’s positioned itself at the head of the internet craft world.

Now I’m actually going to go make some scones.

First quilt on the right and straight on ’til morning…

After 10 weeks and then some of my quilt class with Johanna Masko at The Workroom the quilt, my quilt, my first REAL quilt is finally done!

Here is is on the couch:
quilt on the couch
and on the balcony, in that spot where the hammock used to be:
quilt outside

The only other quilted thing I’ve made has been the Go board, which, now that I’ve made this one according the “rules” (or I guess, techniques that build on the wisdom of others), feels like such a misfit item.