Seeing Double (or perhaps, tangle free intarsia?)

Have I ever told you Chaps how much I enjoy gift shopping for Mum? It gives me the perfect excuse to “research” knitting books, gadgets and textiles for an obsessive yarn addict other than myself, the only concern being that she might already have got one of those (think blocking mats, carbon fibre knitting needles, stitch markers etc and you get the idea). Of course it also presents an opportunity to get a trusted review on whether said book or gadget can change a life for the better (how on earth did we ever survive without it?) and if so, well you can guess the next instalment.

So while perusing the latest books on Amazon, sifting through all of the mouth watering delicacies that have probably already been digested from cover to cover by the intended recipient, I came across this little gem.  While the front cover photo would normally have put me right off (embarrassing memories of 1980s knitting patterns and how many hats does one really need living in the south of England?), what competitive nature could resist the title!?

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Also, being a big fan of Nini and Wink‘s cheeky double knitted scarves (and do check out their wonderful knitted faces, they make me chuckle every time!), I have been intending to give this technique a try for quite some time.

Nini and Wink double knitted scarf (photo credit Nini and Wink‘s facebook page)

So, as one can never have enough books, I gave a copy a home and have been obsessively double knitting ever since.

Between you and me, I have to admit that after skimming the first few pages and finding the rather dry narrative too much to bear for my enthusiasm to just get on with it, I quickly skipped to the how to cast on section and haven’t really dipped into the book since (don’t tell the Long Suffering Husband this, as far as he is concerned I am working my way methodically through it, just like I do every other book that takes up all available shelf and floor space in the house).  But the seed of inspiration has well and truly been planted so I say it was a purchase well made!  The most exciting thing about knitting a front and back of a two layer fabric at the same time is that two or three colour intarsia becomes a piece of tangle free cake! No more twisting bobbins dangling off the back of the work as you go. The downside is how many scarves and blankets does one really need and of course, knitting two sides of everything is a little time consuming.

“The two sides of a Spaniel” double knitting in Rowan Cotton Glace

I am currently obsessively working my way through portraits of various dog breeds, some of which have come out a treat, and others have failed to meet expectations.  Currently I have a Jack Russell, Weimaraner (of course!), a Spaniel and a Pug. More terriers are on the way and a gauntlet has been thrown down by a labrador! I was thinking Andy Warhol when I started these but who knows where (or in what) they will end up.  A Dog Blanket, probably.

“What are you looking at?!” Double knitted pug in Rowan Cotton Glace

Anyway, I have a French bulldog in mind that needs charting and a rummage through the cotton glace stash for two suitably contrasting colours is required (not as easy as one would think after the blue, green and orange combo I tried for that pesky labradog just didn’t work!). I am also keen to experiment with a bit of texture in double knitting too so until next time…….

Mixed Media Messing

As alluded to in a previous post, I have recently been forced into a clear up/out of nearly 20 years worth of stuff. While this might sound like it would have a negative impact on creativity due to diversion of time and energy (and during the most intensive week that was probably true), it has since led to a surge of productivity due to the distraction caused by reacquaintance with my ever expanding library of inspirational reading.

Two books in particular have driven me to obsessional making over the past week. The first is “Creative Illustration Workshop for mixed media artists” by Katherine Dunn, one of those wonderful spiral bound books full of fabulous photographs of this illustrator’s quirky work.

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Apart from thoroughly enjoying drooling over her inspirational illustrations, the most helpful thing I picked up from her hints and tips is to “honor your muses” (page 48).  I find I can from time to time lose direction, caused by concern with what I think other people would value as suitable subject matter in my work (sometimes driven by an observer’s throw away comment and sometimes totally made up by my inner Critic). This never works well for me, as without full involvement and engagement in a subject matter, the resulting output is lacking.  While not everyone likes dogs, cats and life studies, if an abstract landscape (for example) doesn’t do it for me I’m hardly likely to do it justice am I? So with Ms Dunn’s permission I have for the time being put aside concerns that my art isn’t pleasing other people and am indulging in some work purely for my own amusement, entertainment and satisfaction. 

So, the first of this weekend’s finished outputs is this mixed media piece called “Hebe Dreaming”.  During the Summer months my Weimaraner can be found in the garden either flat out bathing in her sun puddle by the garage, or she can barely be seen as she stands with her head in our overgrown hebe, quite literally a hive of activity with bees, bugs and butterflies, just watching the activity around her.  When people ask me what type of dogs I have, they often don’t know what a Weimaraner is and I am forced to attempt a description of her colour using words such as grey, green, pink, purple, brown……. Basically, Weimaraners adopt the colour of the vegetation around them and this camouflage effect of her colouring was the inspiration behind the picture.

"mixed media weimaraner picture on water colour paper"

“Hebe dreaming” mixed media on watercolour paper

The second book that has grabbed my attention this weekend is “Playing with Sketches” by Whitney Sherman, another talented illustrator.

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Whereas the previous book inspired me visually, this one has inspired me intellectually (?) having me working methodically through the exercises.  One task was to create a “tile” for repeat purposes by cutting up a simple drawing into four pieces and rearranging it to form a frame for another drawing. This is what I came up with using a fish as the original sketch, and creating a physical tile using a combination of ink, pen and collage, then digitally arranging and repeating by scanning the original into Photoshop.

"Something's Fishy repeat pattern"

“Something’s fishy” digital reproduction of mixed media on watercolour paper

I am rather taken with this technique, not least as for each exercise you get two pieces of work, one being the original tile for framing purposes etc and the other a digital piece where the applications are endless (at the moment I’m thinking the creation of a custom fabric via Spoonflower.com) so, dear reader, I will stop here as I have another “tile” to create before close of play today involving a chopped up and rearranged bunch of flowers and a poodle. Au revoir.

Pooch Portrait, hoighty toighty style

Forced into a major clear out over the past few weeks, I have had to throw away my collection of arty magazines.  This, as some of you will appreciate, has resulted in much distraction leafing through said treasures prior to deciding which should be saved and which should be thrown.  Whilst embarking on this long winded filing process, I came upon a picture of William Larkin’s “Portrait of Lady Anne Clifford” (1618) and inspiration struck!  All I could see in place of the non smiling, slightly smug face gazing at me with unblinking eyes was my Weimaraner’s snooty stare and I just had to pay homage to it with a hoighty toighty, mixed media pooch portrait.

"mixed media Weimaraner portrait"

Portrait of Lady Saskia: stitched water colour and mixed media on cotton rag paper

I now can’t wait to get going on an homage to Cornelis Johnson’s “Portrait of an Unknown Gentleman” (1631) featuring Alf the ridiculous Cocker Spaniel in place of the ginger bearded man in his lace collared jacket.  First things first though, where did I “file” the rest of my vintage lace………..