Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Brother, My Cup is Empty – YouTube

April 28, 2012 at 10:41 pm (Uncategorized)

I maintain that there is something seriously wrong with a world that values this guy’s smarmy love songs over stuff like this.

Dear god, this is amazing. Sing it!

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Experiments on the Martha Stewart Loom, Part Two (Revenge of the Weavette)

April 22, 2012 at 11:01 am (Uncategorized)

I spent yesterday playing around with Martha Stewart Crafts Knit and Weave Loom some more, still trying to figure out what I can do with this thing that would be truly amazing. I played around mostly with changing up the warp and seeing what that would do in terms of patterns for individual squares. (Now, Lion Brand does have a few patterns posted in this vein, but I find them totally confusing. I couldn’t make heads or tails of this one, like, at all. (Seriously, Lion Brand, it’s a website – would a few pictures kill you?) So I decided to just experiment on my own.)

I took pics of the piece on the loom and off the loom so that hopefully I can reconstruct my experiments… some day.

This was my first success, and I was pretty stoked. Stripes! So simple. So easy. So versatile. Here it is off the loom:

Then it was on to houndstooth, on the loom:

I’m not going to lie – this one was pure trial and error, with the giddy thrill of actually getting it right. I can’t say I had any idea what I was doing, but after trying different versions a bunch of times, it worked out. Here it is off the loom:

Ok, then just some basic playing around with mixing up stripes and that sort of thing:

I didn’t take a pic of the other version, because it’s obvious once you see the above image, but here are the two I wound up making that I liked, off the loom:

…and…

And then, feeling all cocky and good about myself, I tried this one, which basically looked like someone vomited all over my loom. LOOM FAIL:

Tevs. It happens.

Anyhoo, I decided that now would be a good time to try out different kinds of yarns and strings and see how they do on the loom, and I wound up with this:

Ok, LOVE. Here’s a closeup:

Seriously, I’m completely in love with this. I need some more string to play around with (my non-bulky options are rather limited right now), but this has great potential. I keep thinking a sheer skirt made out of this, worn over black leggings, would be awesome. It’s delicate, I don’t know how many wears you’d get out of it, but I’d like to find out.

So! After trying all that, I decided to turn to the internet for inspiration. Here’s where the day took a turn I had not expected.

Previously, I had done numerous Google image searches for terms that seemed to make sense: “Martha Stewart loom,” “Martha Stewart knit and weave,” “potholder loom,” etc. just trying to see what other people out there had made with it. The same three or four (relatively dull) “official” patterns (ie, those created by the company) came up, over and over and over. It was kind of hard for me to think that absolutely no one else out there was playing around with this thing and posting pictures. But truly, most of the love the kit seemed to be getting was for the knit side of things, with most reviewers treating the weaving part like a nice little thing to have just in case the weaving bug bit them, but it hadn’t yet.

Yesterday, I somehow finally managed to put in some sort of string of words into Google images that started kicking back to me pictures that caught my eye. I followed a link and then another, and then suddenly found myself sifting through pictures on Flickr that were exactly what I had been looking for all along. But… why are they all tagged “weavette”? WTF is a weavette? So I plugged “weavette” into a search engine and started clicking through pages.

It’s around this time that my brain totally exploded.

So, ok: pre-discovery-of-the-term-weavette, I thought that the genius of the Martha Stewart loom was that this company was taking a copyright-free child’s toy (aka, a potholder loom) and marketing it toward adult women. Pretty smart.  And just because the patterns that came with it were super boring, it’s not like you were stuck doing what they told you.

Winds up, there’s a whole history of selling potholder (or, “modular” if you like) looms to adult women. It seems to go back to at least the 1930s, and has taken on several different forms. The Weavette is simply one brand name for one particular spin-off; there’s the Weave-It and the Loomette and other versions as well, along with tons of patterns and books that came out along with them (all of which have that nice yellow-y old school craft feel to them, but look like they could be very inspiring).

More than that, there’s a ton of women online making and posting things that they’re making on the Weavette, or the Weave-It, or on their homemade versions. It’s not nearly as popular as other yarn crafts, but there’s a lively group of really smart people trying interesting things. Two great examples are the stellar eLoomanation site (which even has amazing downloads of some of the aforementioned old school craft books – yow!!!!) and Girl on the Rocks.

Now, this is all terribly interesting and all, but it leads me to wonder: do the Martha Stewart loom kit people know about the Weavette people, and vice versa? Because it looks like there’s pros and cons to each, and a lot of cool stuff to come out if info was shared between the two.

Like for one, look at the edges of this piece created on one of the other looms. (Photo snagged from eLoomanation; click on it and you get to the page it’s on.)

The edges end in this pleasant scalloped formation, which is actually quite pretty. It’s made by working the weave all the way up to the very end of the row, and then removing the piece from the loom. This is totally different than the Martha Stewart way of doing things, where you’re instructed to leave a little space and then crochet the edge.

Ok, I know – a minor difference. But, the edge pictured above is prettier, easier, and less time consuming (seriously, you save about 20 minutes not crocheting it) than the edge you make if you follow the directions for the MS Loom. So boom, right there, I feel like I just leveled up and learned something really valuable.

Around this time, I started to get paranoid that some sort of Martha Stewart Goon Squad was going to be sent out to get me for having discovered this thing that clearly I wasn’t meant to discover. I couldn’t find anyone else online who knew about both the Weavette and the MS Loom. It was making me paranoid. And Martha Stewart’s band of snipers and assassins would, I assume, look like this:

But don’t shoot just yet, kitty. I have an idea.

The Weavette people and the MS people should be friends and hold hands and share ideas and sit around in a great big circle. The Weavette people have been up to this for years and have so many cool things to share. The Martha Stewart people are the uncool newbies, but here’s why you might want the newbie loom rather than the cool old-fashioned one: Because the MS loom is collapsible and can be reconfigured to all different sorts of dimensions and shapes, and also it’s widely available and you don’t have to wait for it to appear on ebay or whatever. But the collapsible part is the real seller: the thing totally comes apart and then snaps together very strongly and it makes it really easy to store and also to set up and work on. Awesome for people in apartments or otherwise with very limited space.

Although I admit that the Weavette, et al, looms are retro and really cool and you get all kinds of awesome craft-nerd points if you’re seen toting one around. Also, it looks like the Weavette has its pegs grouped together in threes, which leads to some interesting patterns I’m not sure you can get on the MS Loom.

No, kitty, no!!!!

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Some experiments with the Martha Stewart Crafts Knit and Loom Kit

April 21, 2012 at 12:17 pm (Uncategorized)

So, perhaps you have heard about my growing insanity as it relates to the Martha Stewart Knit and Loom Kit?

Just as a reminder: Lion Brand yarn and Martha Stewart joined forces to make this really odd and possibly fantastic craft kit that allows you to loom knit (a craft previously unknown to me) and weave with a bunch of really interesting configurations.

Now, weaving is fascinating to me (way more so than knitting). When I was in high school, I found a loom in the school’s basement, set it up, and taught myself to weave. I made a rug which was pretty cool considering it was the first and only thing I had woven up to that point, and that I was 16 at the time. It’s in my mom’s house somewhere now, I assume, if not at a landfill.

But, as much as I enjoyed the process and wanted to try it again, after I left high school I quickly discovered that weaving isn’t the accessible hobby that other yarn crafts are. You can’t carry a loom on the subway with you; buying a reasonably sized one is a pretty big investment. So this is why I was really psyched to see Martha Stewart bring weaving to the masses.

Upon unpacking the kit, I quickly realized that this was not like most looms. Most looms have tension on the top and the bottom (which hold the warp) and then you weave the weft into them, with no (or limited) tension on the sides. The Martha Stewart Loom is constructed more or less like what we used to make potholders with in grade school. Holding tension on all four sides equally, it shows off the warp and the weft equally, where as in most weaving, the warp is totally covered by the weft.

So this leads to our first experimentation, which is pretty straightforward: using the Martha Stewart Loom as a tapestry loom. To do this, I set up the frame so that there’s pegs up top and on the bottom, and none of the side. As I wove my weft in and out and came to the end of a row, I just doubled around and started on the next row. Very easy. Test #1: Using the Martha Stewart Loom as a tapestry loom:

Now, as a tapestry weaving goes, this one is clearly a hot mess. But the point is, I just wanted to really quickly see if it could be done, if you could get curves and change colors easily, and the answer is yes.

Ok, fair enough. You’ve now paid $45 for a loom kit in order to turn it into something you could have made with just old stretcher bars, but it’s good to know it’s an option. On to the next test.

Test #2: Using the Martha Stewart loom as it was meant to be used, but with tweaks. So here’s the thing with the potholder construction – you can use it to get all-over patterns or solids, but can you use it to make actual pictures? You can, in a limited, 8-bit sort of way:

Full disclosure: this was supposed to be a bunny and then I panicked it would look like Miffy too much, so I made it a cat and then it wound up looking like a cross between Hello Kitty and Pikachu. Good times.

But the point is, yes: it is possible to make pictorial weavings, if you can force your braid to render what it is you want to depict in a grid. I thought that was pretty cool.

Test #3: Using the Martha Stewart Loom to make abstracted, geometric shapes in different colors. Potentially, this has a lot of applications. I used a solid-colored warp and changed the colors of the weft, but playing around with that combination more could yield some interesting results.

Here’s a basic two-color, red center with yellow/red border:

I made four versions of that, in two variants, and sewed them together:

Not too bad. I was cheered enough to try another version, this one with a tile of 9 different squares and variants of three different colors:

Here’s a closeup of one of the squares, which was made with a blue warp and purple and pink wefts:

Ok! So all that is cool, and there’s a million different versions you could play with, and that I personally will be playing with over and over, until my OCD brain explodes. But first, one more test…

Test #4: Use different materials, other than yarn, to weave on the Martha Stewart loom. This morning I made a tiny square with embroidery floss:

Finishing the edges was super tricky and I need practice and to get it down to a system. But! Potentially, I think this is the most interesting variant so far. Done right, it could make a lacy, delicate fabric that would be good for a table runner or something like that.

So that’s what I’ve spent the last week doing. More experiments to come, I’m sure.

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Interview with the quilters of Gees Bend

April 16, 2012 at 10:30 am (Uncategorized)

I love this.

(There should be a video embedded above. If there’s not, you can see it here.)

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Steps to crafting success.

April 8, 2012 at 11:12 am (Uncategorized)

Step one: Buy the Lion Brand Martha Stewart Crafts Knit & Weave Loom Kit.

Image

Step two: Come up with some sort of cool pattern or project to do with it. Or in the parlance of the day, “hack” the loom. (Ok, am I the only person who has noticed that we’re slowly but surely replacing words that have a gentle, labor/skill-intensive connotation with them (like “artist” and “craftsperson”) with those that sound like they’ve been cut with an axe and just explode with exciting-ness (“maker” or “hack”)?)

This cannot be that hard to do. Looms have been around forever; there’s a million amazing things that have been made on looms. But do an image search on “martha stewart” “loom” and you picture after picture of scarves, potholders, and socks. Oh great, because it’s not like I can walk down the street and buy a perfectly good sock for $3; no, I need to spend ten hours painstakingly weaving myself a pair (not to mention $15 on yarn). How about we make stuff that actually reflects some originality and personality? Maybe?

Step three: Sell my amazing pattern/idea/”hack” back to the Martha Stewart/Lion Brand corporation. And then this will happen:

 

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Not to put too fine a point on it

April 7, 2012 at 5:05 pm (Uncategorized)

…but the exact moment Dance Moms lost all credibility to me was in Season 2, Episode 12, 28:55, when they showed a shot of a person who was identified as a scout from the Joffrey Ballet School.

ImageHave you seen Dance Moms? It’s horrifically exploitive show that follows the travails of a dance troupe from the midwest as they go from competition to competition, being screamed at by their abusive dance instructor. It’s reality TV at its best.  Capturing such awful moments of these girls’ lives on tape will only serve to help them one day, when they’re older and in therapy, and can just cue up the appropriate youtube video of them being humiliated, point to it and say to the therapist: See, that happened.

But once you start involving adults who are involved with legit institutions, it changes. Especially because, since when is this a ballet troupe? The girls on Dance Moms do back flips and dance around half-naked on stage, which is fine and all (I guess), but it seems a little unfair to suddenly have them vying against one another for a spot in a prestigious ballet school. I mean, we could take all the contestants on America’s Next Top Model and have them all take the LSATs and then laugh at them when they crash and burn, but that seems a little unnecessary. And also, since when is Joffrey so hard up for funds that they have to lower themselves to appearing on fucking Dance Moms? Ugh.

(Spoiler alert: Chloe gets the Joffrey scholarship, Abby cries a bunch and appears to go insane. And for the second time in a season – the first being when Intervention cast a bunch of seriously creepy new interventionists – I wonder if I’ve lost another one of my guilty pleasures forever. Also, Dance Moms Miami is a huge huge HUGE disappointment.)

I can only watch Dance Moms online, which means I have to wait until Saturday to see the new episode. Which is fine and all, but the sinking feeling all week that this show that I so enjoyed watching while I do craft projects had crashed and burned and everyone knew it but me while I sat in the dark waiting til Saturday, and it was more than I could bear. I found myself fixating on strange things, finally settling on: I need a loom.

I’ve been trying to embrace my inner fiber artist lately. It’s cool… I guess? Eyes on the prize: I’m going to make a killing on etsy. That means it’s cool.

I generally avoid other crafty (and especially yarn-y) women because things can get scary, quick, but I was in a yarn shop yesterday when some poor newbie knitter walked in and asked one of the women working there to help her. As always happens in yarn shops, the place fell silent as we all eavesdropped and prepared to judge her.

Newbie knitter: Hi, I need some yarn. I started a project and I ran out of the color I was knitting.

Employee: Ok, no problem. What number dye lot was it?

Newbie knitter: Wait… what? I don’t understand?

Entire fucking store: (all together now) SIGH!!!!!!!!!

Right, I know, but it gave me a sense of belonging and like maybe I’d finally made it into the Fibre Artistes Clubbe or something, and made me feel like maybe I do actually deserve to spring for a loom, at least as much as say, Chloe deserves to go to the Joffrey School.

Problem is, there’s a million kinds of looms and they start in price around $15 and go up to the thousands. Naturally, you want a cool one that costs thousands of dollars, but naturally also, I have neither space nor money for such a loom.

But seriously, how do you go down to something like this:

Childs Wooden Peg Loom

…once you know that somethin like this exists?

Image

Well, I suppose I’m about to find out. Potholders for everyone!

 

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