Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A "River of God" Liturgical Stole

I was busy in November creating a stole as a surprise for a Lutheran minister in Australia.  His wife Kirsten contacted me in the summer, and we started a lovely conversation by e-mail.  In one of her earliest messages she wrote:
 I've collected a few small pieces of material which I could post to you with a little note about their significance but I'm happy to leave it to you about how much of what and where to place things. Just as it happens the pieces are all mainly blue so a blue stole looks like it will be the first one :-) I like that idea because I believe that the blue symbolises "hope". In terms of a theme, I love the stole on your blog. My husband and I have a deep affinity with the "river of God" which flows from the cross to heal and bless and refresh the nations. So I'd love the river to be incorporated and the cross. It may seem odd but the symbol of the Ulysses butterfly is also important to us and we have one in stained glass in our church. It would be lovely to see one in the stole!!

Kirsten  sent me the materials on the far left. The rest of the ties are from my inventory. 

In my stash I found a tie with kangaroos--perfect!

The initial designs.
Stitching spirals--Working out some technical issues.

The stole starts to take shape on the design wall.

Continuing progress.

In the foreground is a stand that I hang cut strips of ties, ready for piecing.

The piecing is completed, and the stole is cut out.  At this point I was contemplating how and where to attach the yarn that Kirsten sent.  I eventually couched it on by hand along select lines.

Detail view, lower fronts.

The next task was to make the piping.  I decided to incorporate some ribbon that Kirsten had sent along.

You can see how I stitched and flipped short segments of ribbon while attaching the piping (which I had made out of striped ties.)

Excess ribbon cut off to be used a little further along.
The next decision to be made was about the Ulysses butterfly.  I knew that this was best done as an applique, but thought I'd try it out as a paper cutout first.  Yes, this is going to work.

I had a lot of fun creating this free form butterfly.  Thanks to Google images, there is lots of inspiration on the web.  Here I was considering a placement lower down.

And decided on placing it a little higher.
Next it was time to decide about the Celtic cross on the centre back--plain and simple, or...

...with a little bit of red behind, or...

...a lot of red??
I was happy that Kirsten chose to have a little red, and so I then attached it with some lines of stitching mimicing Celtic knot work.  (My husband is the model in this photo.)
The finished stole!  Lloyd put on long pants especially to model!

I chose a William Morris cotton print for the lining, and attached a custom label.  The "thistle" was in the box of materials that Kirsten sent.

Detail lower fronts.

Butterfly detail.  The wings are free floating---I just stitched around its body.
Whenever I finish a stole, I can't bring myself to part with it right away.  I like to keep it hanging in my studio for a few days to say good-bye. It's a very intense process to create something meaningful for the minister and for me.  It's important to be in constant communication with the commissioner, to make sure I'm on the right track, but also I need to keep control of the process and excercise my artistic licence too.  When a stole is finally completed, there's a bit of sadness but excitement about how the stole will be received in its new home.  I finally entrusted it to the post office and within a week it had arrived in Australia.  Here is what Kirsten wrote:

Dear Janet

I've just arrived home from work and your package was waiting. It's difficult to describe what it was like opening the box and seeing the colours greet me like an old friend who I've just met for the first time. I had a sense of something before me of remarkable wonder and depth and significance. There are little fore-tastes of heaven sprinkled throughout this life and unfolding the stole was one of them! For better or worse I couldn't wait to give it to Noel! He will just be getting a card for Christmas now ;-) I thought you'd be touched to know that once he unfolded it and realised what it was and recognised some of the pieces, he cried. He asked me to pass on his warmest greetings to you and your husband and to say he hopes we can meet you one day. I wrote down what Noel said so I wouldn't forget..."It's the most beautiful thing in the whole world that I've ever seen or had. I can't believe someone would make something so special...wearing this stole when I preach will be like wearing a garment of love and wonderful memories".

This beautiful message made me weepy too.  Thank you Kirsten and Noel!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Fabulous Four Days of Knitting with Lucy Neatby

This past week I spent 4 days in the company of the very adventurous and inventive knitter, Lucy Neatby.  This series of workshops was part of her broader "tour of British Columbia" that I've been involved in planning for the last 3 years (since her previous visit).  It almost didn't happen--at the last minute, there was an emergency at home in Nova Scotia, but fortunately for all of us the crisis was averted.  (See Lucy's blogpost for details.)

The setting was the wonderful Okanagan Centre Hall in Lake Country, about halfway between Vernon and Kelowna, on the shore of Okanagan Lake.
This is a former Anglican church, now beautifully restored as the community hall.
The weather was perfect, from driving south from Vernon just after sunrise, to taking a walk along the lake at noon.
Inside about 20 knitters learned new tricks and techniques from a master.
At the end of the colour class, the yarns in my bag had been in a party--all tangled up!  

I was bitten by the double knitting bug.  I had dabbled in this before, but it hadn't "taken".  Now it has, and I've started a simple scarf using leftover sock yarns to develop some skill.  Both sides of the fabric are "right" but mirror images.  I'm experimenting with a chequerboard pattern to get used to manipulating two yarns, one in each hand, knitting the "near" stitch with one and purling the "far" stitch with the other. So far, so good!
My selection of yarns--odd balls of "printed" sock yarns on the left, and odd balls of more homogenous and darker yarns on the right.
Side one

Side two

On the last day, I wore the cardigan I'd knit from Lucy's pattern Venus Rising using the Kauni yarn specified in the pattern (haven't knit someone else's pattern in the specified yarn ever!), even the same colourway, mainly because I had a couple balls leftover from knitting a sweater for Lloyd.  Here are Lucy and I in the same but different sweater...

Happy stitches...

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Wrapping up the Knitting the Seasons project (July--Alaska).

And so here is my final posting in this year-long project that I called Knitting the Seasons.  Regular readers will know that I started in August 2012 by choosing Blackberries as the theme, and spent the month of August "knitting" blackberries and their leaves.   (If you want to read all the posts in this series, click on the label "knitting the seasons" on the screen left.)

Back to the business at hand...

When packing up for our Alaska adventure at the end of June, I decided that I was going to knit "en plein air" while in Alaska.  This meant second-guessing what colours I'd need, because unlike a painter who can mix the right colour on his/her palette, I had to work with what I packed.
I assembled an assortment of greens, blue-greens, and blues as well as a few browns and other neutrals in anticipation of the ocean and rain forest.  This is the first time I had selected the yarns in advance of identifying the colours in a landscape.
Knitting in the solarium on the upper deck of the ferry.  The yellow fibreglas windows made this a bit of a challenge!
The result--A simple Alaskan landscape.
Knitting on the rocks at Bartlett Cover in Glacier Bay

Selecting the yarns
Getting started

The completed "rock beach" swatch, done mostly as short rows rather than intarsia or fair-isle.
Leaning over the edge of the railing--the ferry wake.

Interpreting the wake of the ferry in a random honeycomb pattern.

A calm day on the ferry

Another landscape from the ferry.  I found it hard to knit fast enough!  I started with observing the landscape above, and then by the time I got to the mountains, there were some higher peaks behind, so I added them in too.
Alaskan swatches.
Reflections about Knitting en plein air:   I didn't have quite the right colours with me, and found that I was looking for landscapes that matched my supply instead.  I also felt a little uncomfortable knitting in public on the ferry, fearing that I'd be asked what I was doing...and having to stop and explain.  It's way easier to knit socks in public!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Sitka--A Jewel of a Place!

Not only have we felt incredibly welcomed here, of course it helps to have had glorious weather for the three days we've had in Sitka.  Everyone--from our hosts to the bus drivers, restaurants servers, and store clerks--have been friendly and engaging.  This is a small town of about 8,000 people.  Tourism is a big industry in the summer when as many as three ships can visit town. Commercial fishing is another big industry--our host Terry has been out on his boat catching lots of salmon.  He and Sylvia have also been smoking and canning salmon, and I'm looking forward to a smoked salmon quiche for breakfast.

Downtown Sitka with the Russian Orthodox church.  The Russians were the first Europeans to this area--drawn here by the furs.  There are still many people of Russian descent, and apparently about 60 people attend this icon-filled church regularly.
Totem Park
Lloyd took this artistic photo in Totem Park.
Syliva drove us up Harbor Mountain--a narrow twisting road (SE Alaska's highest road), about 5 1/2 miles, built in 1942 to establish a look-out during WW2.  Now it's a park and the start of the Harbor Mtn trail, about 2.5 miles mostly through alpine meadows.  We started along the trail at about 11:30 AM Wednesday and arrived back in Sitka by 4:15 just in time for our 4:30 dinner reservation at Ludwig's Bistro!
The view of a volcano, Mount Edgecumbe, from Harbor Mtn.

A delightful snag
Harbor Mtn trail
At the end of this trail is an alpine hut and the start of another trail back down into Sitka.  The "Gavan Hill trail" is a tortuous series of stairs (stone and wood), an elevation change of 2,500 feet over 3.5 miles.  The view of Sitka sound from the top is gorgeous.
The town of Sitka and Sitka Sound.
At the top of some very steep stairs!
When we finally got down to the bottom, our legs were like jelly and our kneecaps were screaming.  And there were two runners going up the trail!!  At the trail end was a poster advertising "The Hill Climb", a running race this Saturday covering the same route we had just done in reverse.

We leave this jewel of a town this afternoon on the fast ferry at 3:15, back to Juneau in time to transfer to the ferry to Prince Rupert at 9PM tonight. We have a cabin booked on this ferry so we'll be able to get some sort of sleep each night! We will be arriving in PR at 3:30 AM Saturday picking up our car and starting the two day drive back to Vernon...