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Archive for the 'Self Portrait' Category

A Gathering of Guilds: My Self-Portrait

Friday, April 30th, 2010

Some of you remember that I knit a self-portrait a few summers ago. It was a bit of an internal growing experience to get through the self-doubt that all artists have at times, and complete the project.

Coming out at the end with something that actually does look like my face… in 10,374 stitches, 11 colors of yarn… well, it’s something I am proud of. I am thrilled that there have been places for me to display the end product.

I’m pleased that it got a lot of display time that first year. My piece was at Susan Hensel Gallery in Minneapolis first. Then it was displayed at local yarn shops, both Rae’s Yarn Boutique where I teach each week, and Threadbear Fiberarts where they had a customer art exhibit (that one got in the paper, a lovely article indeed).

After that the portrait was also displayed with a Working Women Artists show at the East Lansing Public Library. I was pleased. After all, I don’t plan on doing another one of these, it required I put my work and life pretty much on hold for several weeks while I knit (and crossed fingers and toes that it would work out).

Well, starting Sunday May 1, my self-portrait will again be on display, with a lot of fine hand-created items from a lot of other creative folks. This time it will be for the “Gathering of Guilds.”

This show has been organized by the Grove Gallery Co-Op on Grove Street in downtown East Lansing. It is directly next door to Woven Art (a yarn, knitting, weaving, crochet shop) and across the street from the Grove Street Parking Ramp.

There is a “First Sunday Gallery Walk” show open house at the Grove Gallery Co-Op location on Sunday. I think it will be exceptional. There will be several guilds involved:

Greater Lansing Weavers Guild
Lansing Area Patchers
Mid-Michigan Knitters Guild
Mid-Mitten Basketmakers Guild
Capital Area Lace Makers
Mid-Michigan Art Guild
Greater Lansing Potters Guild

Details for opening reception:

Sunday, May 2

325 Grove St., Suite A
East Lansing, Michigan

I will be there. Maybe some local folks will come out and say hello? I expect a wonderful, artful, friendly crowd.

How I Made My Self-Portrait

Monday, September 28th, 2009

Someone wrote to ask me how I made my self portrait. She wants to do one of her son, and did not know where to start. To be honest, I can’t imagine ever wanting to do this again… but I tried to remember the steps I had followed, and in case anyone else is curious, this was what I wrote:

The very bare-bones essence of what I did (as far as I can remember in this order) was:

Before starting: Try to talk yourself out of the project. Try to think of another project, try to find an easier, faster, simpler way. Explore tapestry crochet (stitches are not in a grid, would not work for the chart I made), stranded knitting in a tube and then cutting/steeking (too many colors to strand across the back with sometimes inches of not using a color), even imagine duplicate stitch embroidery over flat knitting in one color. Then decide to give it a shot, since this is the idea which won’t die.

1. Find a digital photo which is very clear but simple. Brian took this photo of me while I was dancing. That meant no eyeglasses, which turned out to be a good thing.

2. Open image in PhotoShop, crop and manipulate a bit. I’m not sure what I did in any detail. I did airbrush the background so it became one solid color (rather than ceiling tiles). I think at one point I tried the “Posterize” command, but ended up minimizing my colors in the “Save for Web” feature under the GIF file type (rather than JPEG).

3. Save for web as a GIF and work with the number of colors in the “save as web” box until you can reduce to the absolutely lowest number of colors you can live with. Manipulate which colors it retains by clicking on the colors you want to keep, and reduce number of colors by one at a time rather than using the pull-down list choices.

I saved my image with different names as I worked, so that I could go back if I didn’t like my direction and start again without starting at zero. I saved at least 17 versions of this by the time I was done, so that I could compare them side by side rather than losing the older ones forever.


4. Reduce the size of the photo until it has a large enough pixel that you are willing to knit it, but small enough to give detail which reads as a face in the final image. (This step might have come before the step I called #3, I can not remember now.)

I believe after I did this, I either changed the image size again to enlarge the pixels so I could see them well, or I figured out how to use Windows Photo Gallery print as an 8×10 “photo” and in the meantime increase the pixel size on the sheet of printed paper.

Definition: Pixel = “Picture Element” = dot in digital photo = stitch in my project


5. Print full image with the colors you chose. I ended up feeling that a minimum of 18 colors was absolutely required for this to work. Keep it as a reference for while you knit, to keep the goal close at hand.

eudora14contrastcolors6. Save as with a new name, and replace all the colors with totally garish contrasting colors. I don’t know how to do find/replace color in PhotoShop so maybe I did a magic wand selection with settings of “non-contiguous” and the anti-aliasing turned off. Then if you choose a new color and hit Alt-Backspace it will replace the selection with the paint color you just chose.

Print the new “ugly” image. This will be the graph you knit from. You want the medium brown and the dark brown to look very different when you are knitting. So change them to green and orange, for example, or at least medium brown and orange. All colors should be so unique that when you print them it is clear which is which. Then make a piece of paper with all the new odd colors on it, and tape a piece of each yarn it represents next to the strange color it goes with, as a “legend.”

7. NOW is the hardest part. Find the colors/types of yarn you need. What happened for me is that I wanted 18 colors. I had only 6 days to find yarns. I found 11 colors. Wool worked very well, but I tried cotton and it made a messy surface and didn’t block well with the wool.

Finally (thanks to the suggestion of my friend, Rae), I bought four colors of laceweight yarn and mixed them together to make new colors at a fingering-weight gauge. Three taupe and one cream was one new “color,” three creams and one taupe, was another. That gave me more colors and it worked.

I wish I had been skilled at dyeing subtle shades that would work for my skin tones. Neutrals are not my area of expertise, so I depended on commercial yarns. Alpaca was my friend, since it comes in so many natural colors. Sockyarn was perfect, but in my town neutrals were hard to find.

8. Spend 2 weeks knitting pretty much every waking minute. This includes having hubby bring you meals, and not wasting time some days to change out of pajamas.

I used post-it white removeable tape to keep track of where I was in the graph as I knit. I had a stomach ache the whole time I did it, I was not sure it would actually turn out. I started at the bottom of the face and worked up.

You just can’t know if it’s working until you have already knit thousands of stitches. My graph was something like 120 stitches wide and I had to knit my shoulders before I could do the mouth and eyes. If the mouth and eyes were not right, the project would fail. I knit 11 days before I finished knitting the eyes.

At 11 days, I thought that the piece had not worked out. I took it to my friend Altu, who owns a restaurant. I cried that it had not worked. She said, “Oh, yes, it’s working… I can see my Lynnie!” She took the piece across the restaurant and held it up. She was right, it worked. What would I do without my friends?

9. I left yarn ends all over the back as I worked. I had to finally admit I had to tie knots on the back because there was no way to sew in all the ends without ruining the fabric on the front side. (Mind you, I just never tie knots in knitting… I am a socknitter, and knots hurt in socks.)

I couldn’t knit it in any traditional method of intarsia, because there was no pattern to the repeats. There sometimes was one single stitch of a color with nowhere to twist that color, next to it. I call this “folk” intarsia, mostly just figuring it out as I went.

Tying knots was essential, because I could not do that twist which is so important in intarsia. There were lots of potential structural holes in the fabric (because of abrupt color changes), and knots fixed that problem.

10. After tying the knots, I held up the piece from the other side of the room, looking into the mirror to get a good distance view. I then made small shading corrections by duplicate stitch embroidery.

For example, an eye looks almost demonic if it does not have a glint of light reflecting in it. I had to add a glint in one of my eyes, it had not reduced properly into the graph I had. So I guessed where it should go and made a duplicate stitch with a lighter yarn.

Then I held it up. It was in the wrong place. I figured out what direction it needed to move, then I took out the wrong stitch and tried again.

At one place my hair didn’t have enough depth, it was all the same color. So I also duplicate stitched a bit of the next color into an area between those two colors, sort of a checkerboard blending of the edge.

11. Steam it/Frame it/Present it. To even out my uneven knitting, I steam-blocked the piece. This is a miracle step… there was no time to wet block, but the steam did the job and did not take too long to dry.

I wanted to leave it looking somewhat unfinished, because it was a self portrait and I am not yet finished myself. I glued the last stitch to the bamboo needle on the top where I had live stitches, without binding off. I took the other needle and ran it through the cast on stitches at the bottom. This gave it weight and a frame of sorts.

I say that the front of the piece is “LynnH on a Good Day.” The back? “LynnH on a Bad Day,” of course. I think in the show it was just titled “Self Portrait.” That’s accurate, too.

You can see the rug-like ends hanging from the bottom of the piece when it is on display. Between that and the needles, I expect that is my own personal touch. Others might want a more traditional frame.


So that is what I did. Except this only says what I did, not how. Honestly, picking the yarn was the hardest part of all. I really wanted more colors, but any more would be too hard to knit. Then I could not even find the colors I had compromised “down” to!

I’m a “Grown-Up” Now

It was the most grown-up thing I’ve ever done. I did not really know it would work the whole time I proceeded. Had I been any younger, I would have lost courage before I approached the final stitch.

Every year I’ve lived, I’ve learned a lot. One thing I learned in my 40’s was that often I am critical of my creative output right after I complete it… but if I give it time, it can become familiar and positive to me.

So I proceeded… knowing I might hate it for a while, and I wouldn’t know how I really felt about it without at least 6 months behind the final stitch. Fortunately, I was proud of it for the show opening. How nice that was!

I gave up 2 solid weeks of income to make the portrait work. It was really worth it after it was done. However, you can imagine that it was painfully difficult to proceed at times. I had to arm-wrestle occasionally with the doubt that plagues all creative types at times.

Perhaps a More Simple Answer

I hear that there are commercial services that will make photos into a graph and maybe even sell you yarns for the project. I would like to think mine looks more like an artist’s hand created my piece than the commercial ones (but I may be comforting myself after having done it the way I did). I do like the unmatching types of yarns I used; I love the textures they created on the surface.

At least I know in my case, I did every step myself. It is truly my own work rather than following the directions created by someone else. (Well, Brian did take the original photo of me, but I did the rest.)

May your project proceed as you dream it will. Mine turned out better…

For the curious, this is only 1 of 6 posts I’ve written about this subject. For the whole series of posts on the Threads in Space Show and my piece, Click Here.

Threads In Space Showtime

Wednesday, July 12th, 2006

Susan Hensel Gallery(Please forgive the delay in this post, I’m a week behind for the first time since I started this blog in 2002. I’m back-dating it though I’m writing it a week later than the date, to keep my posts in chronological order.

Saturday night. Showtime. The Susan Hensel Gallery opened the Threads in Space show. Susan and I had been anticipating this day for nearly a year. It was very exciting.

Threads in SpaceIt was essentially a show to exhibit fiberart that was not practical, not wearable, was art for art’s sake. There was knitted work, crochet, handspinning, weaving, paper, bookmaking, an assemblage with found objects including a lot of yarn glued on for texture, a piece that reminded me of my days in mail art with what looked like letters and envelopes but with the “writing” sewn on in a cryptic non-language.

There was a video about knitting as art. There was a tent made of ripped fabric pieces out in the garden. There was also a performance art piece that involved sewing.

Threads in SpaceIt was/is a strong show. It made me think. Some pieces beckoned from across the room, some invited intimate examination from inches away. All inspired.

Somehow my piece got finished and hung with time to spare. We changed into art-show-opening clothes (it was extremely hot and sunny so we wore African clothing) and we waited for the crowd. And they came.

Threads in Space with Self PortraitAt some point during preparations, I told Sue that Brian and I had our instruments in the car and we would be delighted to play background music if she would like. She was delighted. So we played three different sets with talking time allowed between them… first indoors, then in the garden and on the sidewalk outside the gallery (before the performance art piece began) then again inside just before closing time.

I especially enjoyed meeting the other artists. One woman, Karen Searle, knits on large needles with wire, and makes sculptural pieces you can see through. She did a wonderful dress and then shoes that dangled below.

Threads in SpaceAnother woman, Carla Mantel, did a piece including unfinished socks she’d started and stalled for some reason. It also included a sort of spiral that looked like a striped scarf, using remaining yarns from projects she had finished over the years. It hung from the ceiling and the spiral spun around and around. I really enjoyed talking with Carla, we have much in common. It’s too bad she’s in Minnesota and I’m here in Michigan or we’d be friends for sure.

Gail Wagner crochets highly colorful sculptures that hang from the wall in a picture frame, but do not behave themselves in the rectangular space, growing and drooping at times into the room closer to the viewer. I loved these pieces! They sort of act like deep sea creatures. Wonderful.

Threads in SpaceRosie Casey did a woven piece where she dyed yarn in an ikat technique, where she had several different shapes of buffalo, with stars on their sides. Some of the buffalo had printed stars on top of the dyed-in stars, and in front of the full floor-to-ceiling weaving on the floor was a pile of what looked like buffalo horns perhaps. She was not at the show so I could not ask her about the piece, but clearly she put in a huge amount of time, thought and work into that piece.

Sue Hensel’s piece was a huge, lumpy-bumpy ball of yarn she spun herself, about waist high. On top of the ball was a book she made with a poem she wrote (about hair and how it does not behave at times) inside.

Threads in SpaceThe piece outside in the garden was intriguing. It was tall enough for adults but reminded me of the forts we would make as children with blankets over a folding table. Much prettier, of course, but that was the idea. It must have been about the size of one of those tents people would change clothes in at the beach during the late 1800s-early 1900s. However, at times I’d see three sets of feet showing from folks inside. For some reason I never went inside. Hmmm, surely that means something deep but I don’t know what!

The performance piece was Laura Lewis’ brainchild. She went out into the garden where we all could see her, having changed from her party dress into a pair of jeans and standard shirt. The jeans had a hole in the knee and she started sewing the knee together but soon started sewing her pant legs together, and then kneeled and sewed the thigh of the jeans to the calf of the jeans on both sides, then worked up to sew her arms as well until she could not move much.

Threads in SpaceIt took a good long time even with loose stitches, and for one my feet hurt just looking at her perched on the balls of her feet for so long. (Later she said that she was not in any discomfort through the process.) In the end she freed herself from the bonds of the sewing thread. It caused a lot of talk afterward… one woman felt compelled to help her sew parts on her back where she could not have reached herself. I felt sad that she was restraining herself, it sort of pushed my buttons from a previous part of my life when I really did tie myself down in many ways. It was quite thought-provoking, as performance art almost always is.

We had such a wonderful time! I know I’m leaving people out… the cool guy who assembled a piece starting with a wood headboard and a ceramic head he found… the woman who did some felt pieces based on a trip she took to Iceland… so much to say but it was all good, really good.

Threads in SpaceThanks to Susan Hensel for encouraging me to push myself into true artist territory. You know, for years I was sure I was not an artist because I don’t draw. I sewed as my artful outlet for many, many years. Then I did polymer clay for 10 years and nothing else. I called myself “a one-song canary.” I had images of several pieces I made into a book, while I was focused on polymer.

Then I got bored of that and did mailart and soft-block printmaking (sometimes called eraser carving). I got in another book with a self portrait I did in printmaking. I will have to post a photo of that print here sometime… someone remind me in a week, and I’ll do that. (Added much later… here is the same self-portrait block, printed on a sheet of polymer clay rather than on paper.)

Threads in SpaceThen I got bored again and started working with wool, first feltmaking and then knitting. And I can’t imagine ever getting bored again!!! But Sue has been with me since my polymer clay days. She encouraged me to go to my first feltmaking workshop where I remembered my love of wool, and that lead me quickly to socknitting.

During every step of the way Sue has encouraged me. When I have doubts, I can call her and she understands. When I’m bogged down, she pulls me out. And when I’m too busy she understands and does not feel ignored. She’s really a perfect friend. Thanks a million, Sue!!!

Photos: 1)Exterior of Susan Hensel Gallery with me in African dress talking to Mike Elko and his wife whose business card I’ve lost in the shuffle. 2) Visitors viewing the show just inside the front door to the right. 3) Show inside door on left side. 4) Straight ahead as you opened the front door, with view into second room. Notice my self-portrait is in back on the left. 5) Carla Mantel showing a child visitor how she spins yarn with a drop spindle. She also described to the child how she made the knitting needles used in the scupture.

6) Another view of child in front of Carla’s sculpture which included unfinished socks. 7) Performance Artist Laura Lewis between Karen Searle’s wire knit dress and Susan Hensel’s ball of handspun yarn with book/poem on top. 8 ) Garden beside gallery, where tent and performance art took place. 9) Folks near tent in back of garden. 10) Performance, early in procedure, starting to sew legs of jeans together.

Preparing for Threads in Space Show

Monday, July 10th, 2006

Cedar Avenue, Minneapolis, MNThis starts part 2 of a travelogue, where Brian and I traveled from Michigan to Minnesota and back over 4 days, for the Threads in Space art show at the Susan Hensel Gallery… followed by a family 50th anniversary gathering.

Brian and I got to Sue Hensel’s gallery early Saturday afternoon, desperately in need of some food. We also needed to find (if at all possible) some bamboo or wooden knitting needles, at least 11 inches long, in size 1 US (2.25mm). One more reason to love big cities, my friends. It was a cinch.

Sue directed us to a block not terribly far from her (same street, even), where there was a lovely yarn shop (Depth of Field) and a good number of possible lunch spots. We proceeded immediately.

Cedar Avenue, Minneapolis, MNDepth of field was not disappointing, I wish I’d had more time to really enjoy it. I got bamboo needles that were exactly what I wanted. Then I took a quick circle through the shop (not wanting to delay Brian much). I was looking for anything I’d not seen before. I guess I live in such a great place for yarn that I didn’t find much in that vein, but I did find 2 balls of Berrocco Foliage to finish a project I’d started with merely a single ball (which turned out to be significantly not enough). Very good.

Cedar Avenue, Minneapolis, MNI started to pay and realized that above me was a sort of mezzanine floor with sale items. Brian suggested I go peek. I ended up with two skeins of Rio de la Plata yarn in pale pink with an overdye of hot fuschia in a few spots. It will make a nice sample for my new shawl pattern.

Two transactions later, we were on the look out for good food. Someone in the shop said the Thai place directly across the street was really good. We went into an african place but it seemed to have fried food which was not promising with my food allergies so we left. We contemplated a few of the middle eastern places but decided in the end to try the Thai. We were not disappointed. Oh, my! Very tasty.

Cedar Avenue, Minneapolis, MNI had my usual Pad Siew (spelled differently sometimes). It’s thick rice noodles with broccoli and a thick brown/soy sauce that is a bit sweet, then usually eggs and some sort of meat or tofu. It was very nice. Brian got a spicy duck dish which was also very tasty. And it was all presented so beautifully! Asian food is often a work of art when it arrives at the table, and this was more so than most.

I loved this neighborhood. It wasn’t just a business district, clearly people lived there. There was a good mixture of cultures and many women passing by were dressed in African clothing. Sue said that there are a lot of Somali people in that area. I love seeing women float down the street wrapped in beautiful fabrics, whether they be African or Indian or some other culture. When I was in Africa I noticed that nobody seemed afraid of color. School uniforms for either girls or boys might be purple, turquoise, mauve-pink, you name it. And the fabrics!

If I had not been on a deadline, I would have gone looking for African clothing to buy and wear. As a matter of fact, I was wearing my Senegalese dress at the time… perfect summer clothing. It doesn’t cling, allows the breezes to cool the body while creating shade. Perfect.

To be continued…

Photos: 1) My little blue New Beetle in front of “Depth of Field” yarn shop on Cedar Ave. 2&3) Women in African dress on the same block. 4) Our lunch, a work of art.

A Self-Portrait, an Art Show Opening

Saturday, July 8th, 2006

(Note: To read all 6 entries about my Self Portrait and the Threads in Space show, click here.)

I did it. Not only did I actually finish the knitting, I embroidered for several hours (duplicate stitch, it looks just like knit stitches but I did it in very fine laceweight yarn on top of the base sockweight yarns to slightly change color in a few areas).

LynnH/Lynn Hershberger Self Portrait in yarnI blocked it in the hotel room on Friday night. Then when I got to Sue’s, we steamed the heck out of it with her Scuncii steamer and I went looking for the closest yarn shop that had size 1 knitting needles. I decided I really wanted to hang the piece with a straight knitting needle at top and another at bottom, sort of as if it were unfinished. Because it is about me, and I am certainly unfinished myself.

We found our way to Depth of Field yarn shop (more on the Minneapolis adventure later) and they had size 1 (2.25mm?) bamboo needles (about 11″ long), perfect! We proceeded back to Sue’s shop, where the piece was mostly dry and after inserting the two needles at top and bottom of the piece, we hung the thing.

It worked, my friends. It really worked. I’m sort of in shock after all that rollercoaster emotional stuff I felt while I was “attempting” a self portrait. Well, I am here to tell you it’s not an attempt. It looks like me.

LynnH/Lynn Hershberger and Susan HenselIn 10,374 stitches. Officially using 11 or so yarn colors, but then I blended different yarns together in different ways and so who knows how many “virtual” colors actually ended up in the piece? I’m not sure I want to know how many color changes I made in one 91-stitch row, either. It was a lot of work. But as often is the case, now that it’s over I can tell you the effort was worth it.

Whew. I need a vacation! Oh, yeah. I’m sort of on one. Or that is to say I’m out of state seeing people I really like.

Photos: 1) My self portrait in yarn… wool and alpaca and wool blend yarns, with bamboo needles. Yes, the ends are dangling. The back looks like a rug. I’m smooth on the outside and frayed inside at times, and so this felt like Self Portrait: good day (front) and bad day (back). 2) Me at left, and my beloved artist friend Sue Hensel. Who pushes me harder than anyone else I know but without trying. Some of my biggest projects have been in concert with her creative and networking energies. Sue, you are the best!

The Pursuit of Absurd Goals

Friday, July 7th, 2006

I have been beating around the bush about my big project until now. Actually, I’m doing two projects, both in anticipation of a trip to Minnesota. We leave Friday. I guess I might as well talk about it now.

I don’t know how many other artists are like me, but I tend to try to do things that are either a little or a great deal out of reach. I sometimes know they are absurd goals and I figure I’ll try anyway, and sometimes I don’t realize the project really is… until I’m far enough into it that it would be a shame to quit.

A First Too-Big Project
The first project I’ve been working on is not absurdly out of the question, but since I’m sort of a sequential-deadline girl, I didn’t start on it until it was a sprint to the finish. (For some reason I can do this repeatedly without regretting it enough to stop such nonsense.) My beloved, on the other hand, both has the ability to see the full scope of a project and a way of starting things when other things are not yet wrapped up. So of course he gets dizzy watching me.

And this time he actually knew more about the first project than I did, and he ended up doing a good deal of the work because it was just faster for him to do it than to explain it to me.

He has done a lot of genealogy work in his own family, especially with going to folks’ homes and photographing the family picture albums. So our family had a special picture album everyone wanted to see, and we live from Minnesota to Michigan to Georgia, Florida, Alabama. So how could we share? Take digital photos of all the pages (the photos are glued in) and make a “web” page on a CD that people can run on their own computers. Even if they are not connected to the Internet. Cool, huh?

So Brian already knew he had a computer program that takes a folder full of images and makes a website from it. Not a perfect program, but one which did enough of the programming work that we could do something with over 900 images and not go nuts. (He has Linux, not Windows or Mac, so the program is not commonly used.)

Of course we had to take the photos and then either crop or rotate or enhance many of them before they were ready to go. Then we needed to make captions for at least some of the photos we knew information about.

Brian and I both worked on taking photos, he did most of the taking and the editing of the photos. I did captions, he ran the program to make the web page. I made covers and label/stickers for the CDs, printed them, cut them out and assembled the covers. We shared duties of burning the CDs. It was a team effort, which worked pretty darned well in the end.

We tried to put the photos on a photo website, too. With over 900 photos, we really were stretching the possibilities. We had to give up that idea for the moment.

But Brian figured out how to make a CD an auto-starting one (doesn’t require an icon on most Windows computers), and I figured out how to make a picture for an icon so that if someone looks at this CD in “My Computer” they will see a tiny sweet face of my Grandma Ruthie in the 1920s. Trust me, she was a dynamo but she looked sweet while she packed that power. An amazing woman. And lucky me, I take after her personality more than anyone. Her sons also took after her in great part. We’re enthusiastic and loud and socal, always on the go. And at least speaking for myself, I can’t be anything else if I try.

A Second Too-Big Project
But what is my other project? Um… Susan Hensel, my artist friend who moved to Minneapolis, is having an art exhibit entitled “Threads in Space.” It opens Saturday. It’s all about using knitting and other needlework to make things not expected of the realm of fiberarts/needlework. I called her enough times about cool non-wearable knitted things, that she said, “OK, let’s do a show!” In the end, she did the show almost totally without me, but I will have one piece in it. And I sort of started the idea in the first place, or at least shared the idea early on.

My piece? Oh… now this is where you find out how disconnected from reality I can be. I’m knitting a self-portrait from a photograph. Well, Brian took the photo and I scanned it in, spent hours and days and weeks manipulating it and saving it in a zillion ways, and then chose one graph of many to knit from. Then I had to go find as many variations of cream/tan/taupe/brown as I could, which could be knitted together (mostly sockyarns, and a few lace yarns used in three or four strands held together). Changing yarns sometimes every stitch for a dozen or so stitches in a row.

It’s 91 stitches wide, and 114 rows high. That’s 10,374 stitches. I worked on the computer part of it in 2005. I bought the yarns in June. And I started knitting after the CD release party, not two weeks ago.

The bad news is that I think for me every big project has a day at least, where I hate it. I want to give up, throw it away, say I never wanted to really do that. This is why I did not say much about it here. I needed to save my energy to get through the blue days. And they did come.

Last week when I got sick, I would work and space/doze and make mistakes, then the slow work had to be taken out. It took way too long to make progress, for someone like me who really does feel colorwork is not generally as difficult as lace or knit/purl patterns. But I sort of forgot that this project was essentially intarsia. Again, no big deal except that means that half the stitches are purls. And I just am not as fast at purling (especially with 20 color changes in one row) as I am at knitting. So that slowed me down.

Well, yesterday I took it to Altu’s restaurant. And of course I’m working up close on beige stuff. It looked to me a bit like the shroud of Turin but not holy at all. But Altu exclaimed “I see it, that’s my Lynnie!”

Susan Hensel's pieceI hadn’t looked at it from enough of a distance. It does in fact look like me. It’s spooky, actually, how as you step back all of a sudden the eye can see what I have been doing on faith, one stitch at a time.

I do have two areas where the color I used is the wrong saturation. I will spend some time in the car (we leave Friday morning on our Minnesota trip) doing embroidery, duplicate stitch with lace yarn to sort of damp out the intensity of the somewhat bright pinkish-brown. I also intend to intensify/darken a shadow in my hair. But generally, this thing is working. And I have worked my way through the “I hate it, why did I start this?” phase of the project. Which, by the way, happens to me with dance concerts and new CD releases as well. In the end I’m glad. And thank goodness while I was working on this last week, I kept going because I knew that I could not have a chance to work through that phase if I didn’t keep proceeding to the goal.

I will do photos of the installation when I get to Sue’s gallery on Saturday. Well, I’ll take photos anyway. I don’t know when I’ll have internet access on the trip.

OK, time to sleep. It’s a long haul to Minnesota from here.

Photos: 1)My grandma Ruthie. Grandpa Oscar wrote below this one in the book: “My Ruthie” (makes me choke up just thinking of it). 2) Susan Hensel’s entry in Threads in Space. She learned to spin for this show… and it’s no surprise to me that it includes words as well as fiber. She’s done book arts and writing for years.


Saturday, July 1st, 2006

I’m working on a complex project. It is about 11,000 stitches on size 2 needles. However, those facts are not the big deal because a pair of socks can have more stitches than that (and on smaller needles to boot).

I’m using about a dozen shades of laceweight-to-sportweight yarn, in a sort of folk intarsia. For the record, that means that half of my stitches are purls rather than knits… and you know how rarely I do something with more than a handful of purls in it.

And it’s all about a zillion strands of non-color. Taupe, beige, cream, brown… well, one beautiful sort of an aqua-turquoise. And the rest, boring to me. It’s elegant, perhaps, but I’m not the sort to appreciate that.

I won’t know if it looks like my plan until I’m at least 2/3 through the knitting. I just have to try… you can’t know if you don’t give it a shot… you know?

I’ve been working every free moment since Tuesday on this project. Well, every free moment until I give up faith, freak out that it won’t work, take a walk around the block or get some food, then start in again.

My wrist is behaving nicely, anyway… it gets a bit tired, I stretch and rest a bit, put on my brace for a while, then I’m good to go again. I’m pleased about that since on Friday my only important task was to knit for hours and hours and hours and hours…

It can’t last forever. You will see pics when it’s done. For now, here’s the tangled mess I call a project.