On wellness

June 15, 2012

I’m sorry to have dropped out suddenly and in the middle of my series on the male gaze, too. Basically, I’ve been sick for a month now, and it’s been really wearing. We went to the Maker Faire in May, our yearly big family outing, and we went for both days, which was a blast. But I was recovering from a head cold at the time, and surprisingly, heading out into a crowd and being really active for a couple of days when your immune system is on the fritz is not the best way to get better. I got sicker just after the faire and I’ve been sick ever since. I’m tired of it, but what can you do? I’m starting to get better now, and it’s slow, but it’s happening, so that’s good.

But illness is only part of my life and I’ve had a lot of good things happening in this time as well. As you may know if you’re a longtime reader, or if you follow me elsewhere, I have never finished my undergraduate degree, and I’ve always felt self conscious and embarrassed about this. Last autumn, I started applying to universities to go back to school full time. It was a harrowing process, one that I loathed along every step, but the end result is exciting: I’m going back to school this fall to finish my degree at Mills College in Oakland! Mills is a women’s college, the oldest women’s college in the West, and I’m smitten in every way. It turns out a lot of my crafty Bay Area friends are also Mills grads, so I’ll be entering some lofty company.

While being ill is hugely unpleasant in many respects, lying down a lot gives one a lot of time to knit and I haven’t been idle.

Cables in Lark

Cables cables cables cables

I’m working on a couple of little boy sweaters for a dear friend with two dear boys, and I’m in love with everything about this project. The yarn is Quince and Company Lark, which makes the bounciest happiest cables ever. The color is River, a cool, gentle blue that is very cheery and very much outside my usual range. I’ve progressed quite a bit since that photo was taken and I’m still just as crazy about the project as before. The yarn is a delight to knit with. It’s not a fancy yarn, but it’s so clearly well thought out for the hand knitter. It’s lofty and strong and bouncy and each stitch feels good on the needles.

Lovely pears

The lovely Bosc Hat, by Robin Ulrich

I also knit a Bosc Hat as a chemo cap for a friend’s grandma. The yarn is Knit Picks Comfy in Peony. The pattern, by Robin Ulrich, is clean, easy to follow, and results in a lovely hat. I plan to make another in wool, which I think will show the stitch pattern better, but the cotton blend is perfect for a chemo cap and will wash well. It’s very soft and very pleasant to look at. I highly recommend the pattern, and there is a matching scarf, should you wish for a set.

There’s secret knitting just finished and secret knitting started, and so my life is very full of knitting at the moment. And in the moment, it is my wellness. I may be sick, but I can make something. I can keep my mind and hands occupied. It takes the place of physical wellness until my body can catch up.

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Dear Jane

May 2, 2012

Dear Jane 2012 1

Spring has sprung here in the Bay Area, as you can see by my delphiniums above! And I’m celebrating with a long delayed release – Dear Jane is back! I originally designed this hat for now defunct Sanguine Gryphon, and the yarn I got to use, Codex, was and is one of my favorites ever. Sadly, when the Sanguine Gryphon dissolved, Codex went with it. I went on a crazy buying spree in the weeks before the company closed its doors, but while I may have a supply of Codex for some time to come, it seemed wrong to release the pattern with a yarn so nearly impossible to obtain.

Dear Jane was designed with Codex in mind, and as it was a unique yarn, I wanted to find something that could live up to its shine, drape, and strength. There are a lot of single ply merino/silk blends out there, but Codex was a BFL/silk blend, and the longer fibers of the BFL lent it a strength that you just won’t get in a similar merino yarn. Enter Slick. As you probably know if you’ve read this blog in the past, I’m a huge fan of local-to-me A Verb for Keeping Warm. And Verb introduced their own BFL/silk blend last year. It’s a multi-ply yarn with a slightly different weight than Codex, but if anything could work in its stead, I figured Slick was the yarn.

Dear Jane 2012 4

I chose Thai Iced Tea as the color. Man, I love that color on every single Verb base. It comes out slightly differently on base to base and from time to time, and I have yet to see an iteration that I don’t love entirely. The yarn was a delight to knit with, and I think it has just the right amount of drape that is needed for this sort of turban-hat. The new pattern includes a small photo tutorial about how to thread the ribbons through the eyelet holes. For cost reasons, I tried to keep both sizes down to one skein of yarn, but it’s easy to adjust ribbon length or the amount of slouch up top to use the amount you want to use.

If you previously purchased Dear Jane through The Sanguine Gryphon and would like an updated copy of this pattern, please send an email and let me know.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a female knitter must in all likelihood have a weakness for Jane Austen. When contemplating a literary design, Jane Fairfax of Emma sprang to mind. The name Dear Jane refers both to Jane’s introduction through her letters to her aunt and to the way she is clearly perceived by her author. The Dear Jane hat is modeled on fashionable Regency turbans, part of a trend in which the far reaches of the British Empire were treated as both exotic and tame. Ladies’ turbans were ubiquitous, fashionable, and seemed rather daring to their wearers. What looked like a turban was really a hat, sewn into shape and prêt-à-porter. Dear Jane is similarly easy to wear. The unusual construction results in a hat you can pull on and style in a variety of different ways just by tightening or loosening the ribbons. Perfect for a girl who can use a little romantic spice in her life!

This hat has a very unusual construction in that you begin with a long ribbon knit in Tunisian rib, then pick up the brim stitches from the center of the ribbon before joining to knit in the round. The dangling ribbon ends are eventually woven through the large eyelets placed at strategic points along the hat body. The ribbon can be woven through in a large mock cable as directed, or straight, if so desired, and it can be used to adjust the shape of the hat as well by pulling tight or leaving loose. Crown length is given as slouchy, but can easily be adjusted for desired style and length. The new version of the pattern includes a small photo tutorial for how to thread the knitted ribbon through the hat.

Dear Jane 2012 3

SIZES
Adult S/M (20-21 inches), Adult L (22-23 inches)
17 (19) inches at brim

MATERIALS

  • 1 (1) skein A Verb for Keeping Warm Slick (70% Superwash Blue-faced Leicester, 30% Silk; 240 yds per 4oz skein); shown in Thai Iced Tea. Note: One skein may cut it close for size L, so it would be wise to purchase a second skein for insurance.
  • U.S. size 4 (3.5 mm) needles
  • U.S. size 6 (4 mm) 16” circular needle
  • 1 set U.S. size 6 (4 mm) double pointed needles OR long circular needle for Magic Loop
  • 3 split stitch markers OR waste yarn
  • start of round marker
  • tapestry needle

GAUGE
19 sts/29 rows = 4 inches in stockinette st on size 6 needles

Buy it now for U.S. $5.00

Mango Lassi

April 30, 2012

I don’t know what is wrong with me – I released this pattern weeks ago and completely forgot to add it to the blog. It’s been a little bit crazy around here, but still, that seems particularly silly. I’ll be rereleasing Dear Jane tomorrow, too, so stay tuned!

Mango Lassi gold 1
A mango lassi is a hot weather yogurt based drink from India, refreshing and relaxing. Mango Lassi is a simple knit tank top, relaxing to make and wear, and easy to style. Knit in a drapey fingering weight yarn, the top breathes and makes use of the Outlast © to keep you cool and comfortable in the spring and summer heat. An easy twisted stitch textural argyle pattern in the bottom corner of the tank adds interest to the knitting and a cute detail for later. Knitted in one piece to the bottom of the V back detail, Mango Lassi is then knit flat with the V back becoming the two tank top straps. Rather than place all the weight of the top on the two buttons, the straps are seamed to the garment and decorative buttons added afterward. This is a great project to show off your favorite buttons!

Mango Lassi back 1

SIZE
XS, S, M, L, 1X, 2X, 3X
Actual size at bust: 29 (33, 37, 41, 45, 49, 53) inches

MATERIALS

  • 2 (2, 2, 3, 3. 3. 3) skeins Lorna’s Laces Solemate [55% Superwash merino, 30% Outlast ©, 15% nylon; 425 yds per 100gm skein], shown in colorway Satsuma
  • U.S. size 2 (2.75 mm) 24” circular needle
  • U.S. size 3 (3.25 mm) 24” circular needle
  • U.S. size CD (3mm) crochet hook
  • 3 stitch markers, one distinct for start of round
  • cable needle
  • tapestry needle
  • waste yarn or holders
  • 2 large decorative buttons

Mango Lassi outside 1

GAUGE
24 sts/31 rows = 4 inches in stockinette st on size 3 needles

Tech edited by Lauren Cross

Buy it now for US $5.00

The male gaze in knitwear photography: The crafter’s gaze

April 15, 2012

This is a continuation of the exploration of male gaze in knitwear photography. For the working definition of male gaze as I’m using it, click here. For the second installment, about the spouse as photographer, click here. If you are interested in contributing to this series, either as a photographer, or as a writer, please contact me.

If gaze exists, and there is such a thing as a male gaze, then there are surely other types of gaze as well. Early in this exploration, it was suggested to me (by Alex Tinsley of Dull Roar) that there might be such a thing as a knitter’s gaze. I’m broadening the term to refer to crafters in general, because I think Alex is right, and I don’t think this gaze is limited to knitters. If we refer to the working definition of male gaze, then the crafter’s gaze would be media presented from the crafter’s point of view, looking at object or people as a crafter might, and idealizing or objectifying them accordingly.

I think, though, that the crafter’s gaze is actually derivative of male gaze. If we extend the word crafter to include cooks, then we can see a well documented trend in which a lot of food photography is actually based on heterosexual pornography. In other words, the visuals of desire are a language that is codified by the heterosexual male appetite and view, and by being presented to us over and over again from birth as the visual norm, we internalize it and learn to express desire in those terms, whether we are male, heterosexual, or otherwise part of the normative view ourselves. While the crafter’s gaze may, at first glance, appear sexless or feminine, it is in some ways an expression of male gaze internalized and used to express a different sort of lust and desire. Oftentimes, in photographs which express the crafter’s gaze, the human body is incidental or unimportant, which can make it seem as though this is a very different sort of view than we are usually exposed to. However, if we look at the photographs of examples of desire applied to objects rather than people, then I think the view shifts slightly, and some commonalities might be exposed. This is not to say that all photographs from the crafter’s gaze are explicitly a product of male gaze, or that there is only one visual language of desire, but rather that we should not assume that this is absent. I would add that I think this particular view is a bit of a two way street – the visuals of desire may be determined by nature to some extent, then used in combination with the male gaze, and manipulated by advertising.

Clothilde 2

Clothilde shawl, photographed by me.

This photograph of Clothilde is the one I use as the main pattern photo on Ravelry. As you can see, there is no human being present in the photograph, and no real detail in the photograph other than the shawl edge. It does, I hope, convey to the knitter some of the detail they would want to see and know about before knitting the shawl, but it’s also decidedly a beauty shot, despite just being a picture of a shawl tossed over the back of my couch. I chose the couch as a background because it gets really nice light and because I thought the red made a nice contrast to the silver shawl. I chose this photo for use because I liked the composition and the colors. Red as a color has a long association with danger, probably due to the fact that it’s the color of blood and also the color used in nature by animals to signify poison. In a safe setting, this danger becomes exciting, making red a slightly more daring and sexualized color than blue or green. It’s not to say that I think the above photograph invokes sex, but I do think it would have a very different effect were the background a different color.

Clothilde with different backgrounds

Like so.

None of these backgrounds is bad, but I don’t think any has the same pop as the red background. The fact that our brain is automatically sending danger signals when we see red makes something safe seem more exciting. A red dress on a woman has a similar effect, and there’s a reason why a red dress is considered more daring than a blue one, and more vampish than a white one.

I don’t think my photo is an explicit example of the male gaze as it translates to the crafter’s gaze, but I do think it borrows from some elements of a glamor photograph. It’s a portrait, but a portrait of a shawl rather than a person, and as a portrait, it’s easier to see the line, horizontal rather than upright, stretching back into the distance, and the color, and the softness of the light on the reflective yarn. In other words, if this is a portrait, it’s a bit of a sexy portrait.

There are photographs that demonstrate the crafter’s gaze that borrow less from this internal language. I encourage you to look at each of the following photographs as portraits of knitwear rather than simply a photo of a scarf or a hat. As portraits, they offer slightly different messages and meaning. I deliberately chose photos where any human bodies in the picture are somewhat incidental to the knitwear itself.

Vahl Hat, designed and modeled by Alex Tinsley. Photo by Vivian Aubrey.

Alex Tinsley’s Vahl Hat is shown here as a hat, the human head necessary only for showing the shape when worn. This is a pretty and also utilitarian photo – the star is the hat, and we’re shown what makes it special and different from other hats by focusing on the crown and back where there is interesting shaping and adornment. As a portrait of an object, I’d say there is little subtext – we are being asked to look at a hat as knitters and see what would be fun about it in terms of making it. The two parts of the picture that stand out to me are the feather tassel and the sequins. These are equivalent to jewelry. If I were to make this hat, my own might not have them, but they’re both so pretty that I can’t really take them out of the equation when I look at this picture. In other words, although I intellectually know I don’t have sequined yarn or feathers in my stash, it’s next to impossible for me to discard the information of feathers! sequins! from my brain when I imagine this hat as mine. In terms of the hat’s character, this extra adornment on something otherwise simple, if clever and pretty, adds a certain interest and richness. I see nothing in this photo to suggest that the person looking at it is male, and more than that, the objectification of the object depends on the visual interest of the tunnel like shape formed by the stripes, creating an optical attraction that is not based on anything cultural. All culture is kept to the pretty little extras.

Fast Forward, designed by Natalie Servant.

I really like this picture of Natalie Servant’s elegant unisex scarf, Fast Forward. We are treated to seeing how it would look in three strongly contrasting colors, focusing on the detail that makes the scarf special, and we’re given a picture of how it would look when worn without a single human being in the picture. In this photo the trees can be seen as stand ins for human models, and I think they do an admirable job of being composed as a group of people without clearly indicating male or female. Both the number and the grouping are familiar and pleasing.

The Acheson Sisters, by John Singer Sargent

Portrait of Charles Roeber, Tom Reece, and Jim Mikulenka.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By eliminating the human figure but keeping the humanity, Natalie has found a way to let crafters ogle her scarf as crafters without giving them an imposed idea of whether the scarf is for men or women. These trees could be the elegant women in the Sargent portrait, or they could be the tough cowboy types in the image from Texas history. They could be another group altogether. Because the “figures” of the trees are upright and confident in their demeanor, there is no real imposition of view here, just a template into which we can drop our own images. I think Natalie’s picture is a good example of gaze that lacks a specific viewpoint.

Morningtide, designed by Becky Herrick.

I chose Becky Herrick’s Morningtide mitts for an example of hands as they appear in knitwear photography. Hands are much easier to model if they’re holding something, and it’s not uncommon to see pictures of hands holding mugs or garden implements or flowers in photos depicting gloves, mittens, or mitts. The point of the hands in this picture is to give you as much of a view of the different angles of the mitts as possible. Becky’s added some setting to give the picture a narrative and a composition. As part of her collection of handwear themed around time, these mitts need the setting to keep the storyline intact. As a portrait of mitts, this one is pretty formal, depicting both the mitts and their accoutrements that depict their overarching theme. The colors and picot edging are enough, with our cultural context, to establish them as female, despite a lack of any other clear indicator in the photo. They are angled to create a composition that pulls the eye diagonally across and up the scene. Hands can certainly be depicted as sensual, but here they are more relaxed and casual, lounging, but not preening. As a portrait, I see these mitts as feminine and depicted as feminine under the societal mores we live with. The view here is a crafter’s view, but perhaps guided by a broader societal picture of gaze that allows us to clearly understand that a pair of mitts are female without clear cause.

Xochiquetzl, designed by Melissa Lemmons. Photo by Emerald Lemmons 2012.

I chose Melissa Lemmons’ Xochiquetzl for the last analysis, because I think her photo is a great demonstration of object portraiture and also of the sexiness that can exist in photographs of what should in theory be sexless objects. The foot pose in this photo is lovely, emphasizing the arch and curvature of the foot and creating a number of beautiful lines to follow. It’s also not a naturally comfortable position. (Try it. Arch your foot at this angle for a moment, and notice the ways in which your body tenses.) It’s a beautiful photo for showing off a beautiful sock, but it’s not just a picture of a foot. Again we have the lounging angle, this time somewhat more sensual because of the curves. It is ideal for showing off the elegant shaping in the sock, but also ideal for using the curves to create a feminine ideal. Once again, we have the sense of femininity without an explicitly female presence in the picture.

I realize I’ve gone pretty far down the rabbit hole in this post, and these interpretations are mine alone. I may be reading into these pictures only because I’m looking for signs of gaze as often as possible these days. I am also coming to this as someone with a background in visual art and analysis, so I’m used to examining images with the intention of looking for more than is explicitly portrayed. If I lost some of you on this foray, I hope you’ll come back for the next round or send me your thoughts for another view.

Grand Lake

March 21, 2012

Grand Lake, the shawl I designed for A Verb for Keeping Warm’s ProVerbial Club, is now available to everyone! There’s a lovely new sample, knit by a very talented sample knitter, and a new size, and some suggestions for modifications.

Grand Lake II 11

The new sample is knit in A Verb for Keeping Warm High Twist in Filigree, very different from the Floating used to create the original. Floating is a soft, haloed blend of alpaca, cashmere, and silk. High Twist is a tight twisted blend of merino and silk, strong and a bit ropelike before blocking. I think the way the pattern looks in each of these yarns gives a pretty good range to demonstrate the difference between different weights and different textures and how they affect a pattern. The High Twist is the light yellow, and the Floating is the warm pink.

Grand Lake 1.1

This shawl remains one of my personal favorite designs. I got to use so many beloved stitch patterns and ideas, and I think the end result is really pretty and special. The shawl is a dressy one, but as I think our second shoot demonstrates, it can be worn casually, too.

Grand Lake II 1

Although the stitch inspirations for Grand Lake come from fish scales and seashells, the end result reminded me strongly of architecture, specifically old movie theater architecture with its arches and flourishes and decorative motifs. Near Lake Merritt in Oakland, there is a 1920s movie palace called the Grand Lake. Kept open as a labor of love by its proprietors, the Grand Lake Theater is an Oakland landmark and a little piece of Americana with its beautifully cluttered mishmash of architectural styles. Wear your Grand Lake to a movie night and experience a little of the glamour of the old time movie palaces.

Grand Lake II 3

SIZE
Small: 52 inches wide, 21 inches in length
Large: 64 inches wide, 23 inches in length

MATERIALS

  • Small: 1 skein A Verb for Keeping Warm Floating 70% Alpaca, 20% Cashmere, 10% Silk; 400 yds per 100g skein
  • Large: 1 skein A Verb for Keeping Warm High Twist 70% Merino, 30% Silk; 660 yds per 100gm skein
  • Optional: 40 yards same weight yarn in contrast color for edging. Shown in Rocky Mountain Dyeworks Mistaya Lace.
  • Small: U.S. size 6 (4 mm) 24” or longer circular needle
  • Large U.S. size 5 (3.75 mm) 24” or longer circular needle
  • tapestry needle
  • stitch marker(s) (optional)

Grand Lake II 15

GAUGE
Small: 20 sts/29 rows = 4 inches in stockinette st on size 6 needles
Large: 21 sts/34 rows = 4 inches in stockinette st on size 5 needles

Tech edited by Lauren Cross.

Buy it now for $6.50 US

The male gaze in knitwear photography: The spouse as photographer

March 12, 2012

I have had such a response to the first post on this topic that I feel the need to add a small disclaimer to the top of this one! I am not by any means an expert in feminist theory or the male gaze. I have no degree, period, and anything I know on this topic is because I looked it up and read about it out of pure, somewhat idle interest. If I get something egregiously wrong or if my opinions seem off base, please don’t hesitate to let me know. I am trying to learn about this by writing about it.

I have had some awesome offers from others to use their photographs for future installments, and I am taking them up on it as the topic demands it. I want to say that my intention is not to hurt feelings with this project, so I am trying to be careful in how I use the photos of others.  Because of this, for this particular installment, I am sticking mostly with my own photos, but I will be using more photos of other designers in future installments. Topics currently planned are: The crafter’s gaze, The female gaze, Narrative in knitwear photography, and The self and the other. If you have other suggestions, or would like to contribute to one of these topics, either in words or photos, please let me know! For convenience’ sake, this post is titled the spouse as photographer, but could refer to any romantic significant other.

In my own photos, as in those of many independent designers, I often use myself as a model, largely for the sake of convenience and shyness to ask someone else to pose for me. I use my husband as a photographer. I’m not a trained model and he’s not a trained photographer, but we put some work into coming up with our ideas, and I think it’s safe to say that the image that results is a collaborative vision. As such, it is neither wholly male nor wholly female. I do the styling, present him with a series of images I’d like to capture, and I do the posing. He, in turn, often fusses about location and lighting and is ultimately the one who frames the shot and captures the image. From a very personal standpoint, he gets a more comfortable and relaxed version of me to photograph than someone with whom I am less at ease would. I smile differently for him than I would for a stranger.

In some cases, as in the photographs for Audrey Totter, we were deliberately aping photographs framed by the male gaze.

All about the contrapposto, yo.

The history of film noir is rife with shots that start at the feet of the female character and ride up her body to make sure that we’re seeing it as the male detective is. She walks in, and he appreciates her body for a while before the camera settles on her face, establishing her as a person. These shots place us in the shoes of the detective and allow us to understand, without a word being said, that he is sexually attracted to the dame, broad, or tomato who’s just wandered into his rat hole of an office. My pose in this picture is entirely unnatural. I don’t stand around with my hip thrown out and one of my feet on tiptoe. This picture is all about trying to capture a sense of film noir through the familiar, unnatural, and very male gaze that the camera gives us. The fact that the photo was taken by my husband probably means that it’s a different sort of picture than it would be if it were taken by a female friend or a stranger.

In what way different, though? I think we’re seeing, often, his idealized view of me combined with my vision for how I want my work displayed. In the case of Audrey Totter, we were aiming for a certain period nostalgia and a sexiness called up by the femmes fatale of the old movies. In the case of a more relaxed shoot, I think he often snaps pictures when I don’t expect it, capturing small, personal moments that are taking place between two people with the consciousness that they will eventually be shown to a larger audience over which we have little control. In this picture from 2010 (sweater is Liesl, by Ysolda) I am talking to my husband and looking down, not a moment I think I was expecting to be captured, but I think it’s a rather nice picture, though truly not my own view of myself. I’ve never seen my head from that angle, and I don’t have that picture of myself in my own brain.

A private moment, sort of.

It is, in a way, a romantic picture, a moment between two people who were talking and joking around, but with the self conscious awareness of capturing that moment for others. I don’t think the gaze in this photo is exploitative, but it is other, and it is the gaze of a heterosexual male.

Liz Abinante, designer of tons of amazing things, but probably best known for Traveling Woman, is another knitwear designer who often uses herself as a model and her significant other as photographer. In her case, her fella actually is a professional photographer, and between them, they get some truly beautiful photographs. What I most like about these pictures is their playfulness – again, I think, the moment between two people who are comfortable together.

Flurries Cowl modeled by Liz, photograph © colinfitzgeraldphotography.com

I wouldn’t say the gaze in this picture is explicitly male or female, but it is intimate in the sense that we don’t often get to see this sort of sweet goofiness from someone we don’t know well. It introduces us as good friends of Liz.

At the same time, this points out that a male significant other as photographer does not automatically introduce an explicitly male gaze. And I think a lot of what we’re seeing in that photograph is Liz as Liz, a combination of how she is choosing to present herself and Liz as she is seen by Colin, but not Liz as she is seen by an unknown and universal male gaze.

I don’t have any photos to present of male knitwear photographers taken by their spouses or significant others, or at least none known to me to have been taken by significant others, but I’d be curious to see if the familiarity apparent in many photos taken this way remains the same and what details are captured. The spouse as photographer can bring his or her gaze as an admirer and lover of the photo’s object, but can also stand back to capture the object as a friend.

How the photograph is set up and posed can draw from art and film and photography that is explicitly informed by the male gaze, but there’s still room to move around and allow for a more playful view. And, depressingly, I suppose it’s also possible to capture the sourness of a relationship that’s gone south, with the spouse as an angry or depressive photographer.

Pippa

March 8, 2012

I am working on some more installments of the male gaze posts (holy cats, you guys have a lot of good thoughts and ideas!) but in the meantime, how’s about a free pattern? I whipped up a quick spring scarf for Eleanor and it’s easy as pie. Easier, honestly – pie crust can be a bit tricky!

It’s called Pippa, after Robert Browning’s lovely little spring poem, “Pippa’s Song”, and it takes just one skein of some really scrumptious DK weight yarn and only two row repeats. You can of course adjust it to any width or length.

Size
4 inches wide, 52 inches long

Materials
* 1 skein Squoosh Fiberarts Silky DK [50% merino, 50% silk; 225 yds per 100 gm skein], shown in colorway Shell
* 40 yds scrap yarn in contrast color, shown in A Verb for Keeping Warm Alpaca Silk, colorway Magic Bean (optional)
* 1 pair U.S. size 8 (6 mm) needles
* crochet hook

Gauge
23 sts/26 rows = 4 inches in Tunisian Rib Stitch

Knit the scarf

CO 23 sts.

Row 1 (WS): K1, [yo, sl1 wyib, k1] to end of row.
Row 2 (RS): K1, [k yo together with sl’d st tbl, k1] to end of row.

Rep Rows 1 and 2 until scarf measures 52 inches or desired length, ending after Row 2. BO all sts.

Add fringe (optional)

Cut 96 lengths of contrast yarn 9 inches each. Holding 4 strands together, fold in half, creating a small loop near the center of the gathered lengths. Each group of 4 will be attached on every other st of the scarf, 12 groups of 4 to each end of the scarf. Using the crochet hook, pull the center loop through the edge stitch of the scarf. When the loop pulled through is large enough, pull all the ends through the loop and pull it tight. Work all fringe in this same way. Once all the fringe is attached, trim evenly to desired length.

Finishing

Weave in ends. With a silk blend like the one used, blocking is technically optional. For a deeper texture, leave unblocked. For a drapier scarf, block gently and dry flat.

Notes and modifications

Altering the width and length of the scarf may require more yarn, so if you plan on making a larger scarf, please purchase a second skein of yarn. To make a wider (or more narrow) scarf, cast on any odd number of stitches that matches your gauge and desired width and follow the pattern as written. Altering the length is as easy as binding off when you reach your preferred length. Be sure to use a soft yarn with some drape that feels nice around your neck. The scarf is reversible (both sides shown above) so you can display the side you prefer. Enjoy!

Abbreviations

BO – Bind off
CO – Cast on
K – Knit
RS – Right side
sl – Slip
st(s) – Stitch(es)
tbl – Through back loop
WS – Wrong side
wyib – With yarn in back
yo – Yarn over

The male gaze and independent knitwear design (Part 1)

March 3, 2012

I have been trying to formulate a post on this topic for a while. I suppose the first and most important thing to do is to define the male gaze as I am using it. Gaze as it is used here comes from a usage popularized by French psychoanalyst and psychiatrist Jacques Lacan and refers to the anxiety inherent in the awareness of one’s visibility to others. In being viewed, the subject of viewing loses some control over how that viewing is perceived. Gaze requires theory of mind – the ability to understand that others have their own reactions and emotions separate from one’s own.

I'm in your computer, staring at you staring at me.

The male gaze is a term created by British film theorist and feminist Laura Mulvey in her essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”. While the term was first used to apply to film theory specifically, it has since taken on a broader cultural meaning to refer to any medium in which the media is presented from the point of view of a heterosexual male. I would personally add that in broad Western culture, that view is also that of a white, upper middle class heterosexual male. In this way, the viewer is forced to take on (and normalize) the worldview of a narrow segment of society while other views are minimized or left out entirely. Most of the easy examples of the male gaze are overtly sexual, but sexuality is only part of that view. I would add that I do not think most male gaze is instituted in a way specifically meant to alienate or minimize other views, but occurs somewhat organically when the vast majority of our media is controlled from the top by white middle class heterosexual males.

In Tex Avery's Red Hot Riding Hood, Little Red is an object of desire for the wolf and Droopy Dog, a prize to be won, and curves to be admired. In many comics and cartoons, women are introduced as isolated body parts rather than as characters.

The male gaze describes a culture in which the person doing the gazing is male (white, heterosexual, middle class) and those who differ from this description are the passive objects of the gaze. I would argue that after so many centuries in which the male gaze is dominant in paintings, theater, television, movies, commercials, magazines, and billboards (to name a few examples), the male gaze is generally internalized as the normal view by even those who are not themselves white, male, middle class, or heterosexual. I’ve seen it argued that the male gaze accidentally portrays a lesbian gaze as well, but I think that’s a mistake in which sexual attraction to women is seen as a homogenous form of sexuality.

So, many paragraphs in, I think we have the male gaze decently defined for the purposes I’m writing about. I have only to say that there is nothing inherently wrong with the male gaze, only its dominance. If more views were equally represented, there wouldn’t be much to complain about in regard to the male gaze, which is one valid way to look at the world. Is there a female gaze? Yes, I think there is. It’s just not widely seen because few women are in control of media and those who are have often, perhaps in order to move up in their chosen field, internalized a male gaze and continued to present it as the normal, indeed ONLY, view.

Although Cosmopolitan is a magazine marketed to women, the magazine's visuals reinforce the male gaze as normative, and the idea that a woman should try to be pleasing to the male gaze rather than looking for herself.

Independent knitwear design is a field largely dominated by women (with a few outstanding exceptions) and many independent knitwear designers use themselves as models, so I want to explore the role of the male gaze in the photography used to accompany knitting patterns. I will need to gather examples for this exercise, so I will be contacting other knitwear designers in the coming weeks to see if I can use their pictures to talk about this. Stay tuned.

Orange you glad

February 19, 2012

Pantone’s Color of the Year for 2012 is Tangerine Tango, an orangey red or a red orange that screams, “HEY! I’m right HERE!”.

It is a coincidence that my new sweater is a similar red orange, but not an inappropriate one. I’m still here! I’m still hard at work. I’ve just reached pathological levels of mostly happy busyness. This frenetic, happy color seems apropos of my feelings lately, and I think it’s just gorgeous to boot.

The above sweater is of course the Jewel Lake Pullover, but for me this time, and with lengthened sleeves and torso. The yarn is Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Worsted in Poppy, and it is soft and cozy and warm. I really like Shepherd Worsted for its wooliness. A lot of superwash wools are smooth, slick, and quite different in texture than a wool that is untreated. I like that sort of texture quite well, but there’s something really special about the fuzziness of untreated wool, and Shepherd Worsted manages to maintain that quality. It comes in a whole mess of gorgeous colors to boot, but I had to pick the Poppy after realizing that I was drawn back to it every time. I’m so glad I did!

I aten’t dead

February 18, 2012

It looks like I just plain missed January, but I am still fully alive, if a bit tired. I’ve been hard at work on mostly secret projects, trying desperately to keep afloat, and then when I realized how long I’d been in writing, I started this post, only to have my computer wend its weary way to the computer afterlife. We weren’t ready to let it go just yet, however, and after shouting, “STAY ALIVE! No matter what occurs, I will find you!” we used some disk repair software on the ailing machine and brought it back from the other side. So. I’m alive, the computer’s alive, and here we are.

I’ve been trying to get back to drawing and I’m trying to learn how to draw people who are knitting. I’ve been practicing with paintings and photographs as references at the moment, just to undo some of my rustiness and to understand some usual poses. Hands are giving me fits lately, which just tells me I probably need to draw more of them.

My sister is getting married, and I bought yarn to make her a wedding shawl. It’s Dye for Yarn silk/merino in a one off colorway, Burning Fuschia.

And I’m trying to get through with deadline secretive projects and back to some Knitting Kninja projects that I will be able to release to you all.