Componium punch-card with the light filtering through the punched-notes (holes) and lots of grid space where there are no holes.

One of many things which makes listening to music so beautiful is space around the notes. The rests, the pauses, the silence, in which pitches and rhythms sound, hang, resonate. On our punch-cards for our componiums, such space shows up as unpunched card, and you get loads of areas where nothing happens. Against the gridded card, dots spell out the shape of every song – its pitch and melody.

Componium punch-card with the light filtering through the punched-notes (holes) and lots of grid space where there are no holes.

This balance of notes/space is hard to accurately represent in a literal way, using my preferred technique of Stranded Colourwork. For, if you imagine each note in the music as a stitch worked in a contrasting colour against a background, then the only way to produce the proportionate space required around that note, is to have incredibly long strands in the background. If you look at the punch-card above, some of the shapes in the sounds lend themselves to the repetitious nature of small motifs worked in stranded colourwork. But the outrider notes, the incidentals, are as much a part of the song and very much harder to represent, if one is going to be literal about it and attempt to exactly replicate the shapes of songs, note-for-note Yet other techniques – such as applying beads in the patterns of notes – enable more space to appear around any pattern made of notes as there are no long yarn-strands to manage.

mysterious closeup of punch-card next to detail of beaded knitting, where beads placed in the knitting speak to the notes placed on the grid of the punch-card

So one of the techniques I ended up exploring as part of Yarnadelic Remixes 0.1 is Beaded Knitting. This was a means of overcoming the limitations within the proposal to turn music into patterns and shapes that can be knit. Another way to place dots – NOTES – within the framework of knitting, and to allow space around said dots, is to turn to DOUBLE-KNITTING. In the course of working on Yarnadelic Remixes 0.1, I found two patterns of notes which could be beautifully rendered as double-knit fabric. No stranding issues, as you are always creating a double-sided fabric, and the yarn not in use making a NOTE on the front of the work is busily engaged making a NOTE on the back of the work – ditto for when you are knitting SPACES AROUND THE NOTES, as it were.

just a glimpse of a curvy shape, covered in large spots in contrasting wedges of orange dots on mauve and mauve dots on orange.

Slowly, as Muriel and I ventured forth in our KNITSONIK adventure, we accrued all sorts of different strategies for overcoming the restrictions of our chosen mission to turn the songs behind the Yarnadelic yarn range into punch-card patterns to Hear and to Knit.

One of my favourite designs of the project is by Muriel and features BIG HOLES

a gridded garter-stitch fabric features holes through which the sunlight shines.

…and, as it’s the medium through which we consolidated our friendship, Muriel and I both ended up using some stranded colourwork, but also pushing the limits of this medium to see how far we could take it, for expressing our ideas.

Closeup of a fabric featuring a kind of checkerboard of patterns and shapes, in a wild mix of mauves, burgundy shades, and off-white pearly creams.

closeup of stranded colourwork fabric featuring little purl-bumps and a sort of mellowed palette of watery greens and a soft coral shade.

At times, as we’ve puzzled over the venn diagram of knitting techniques/underlying mathematical basis of music/maths of knitting, I have laughingly referred to Yarnadelic Remixes 0.1 as “our ridiculous contrived project” but as we’ve gone on with it and solved each puzzle, it’s pushed us each to make something unlike anything either of us has ever made before. It’s amazing to find how working with limitations like the shape of music, and how it appears on a punch-card, can push you to make new things.

The Yarnadelic Remixes 0.1 project features several different techniques, then, including Double-Knitting; Beaded Knitting; Purl-Bump “Notes”; Stranded Colourwork; and Big Lace Holes. I made a video to promote the project on social media, which I am sharing here as well. The sound for the video features a recording I made about ten years ago of – I think – my friend Brenda Dayne‘s spinning wheel. I couldn’t resist mixing it with the image of our “album of techniques” twirling around the turntable of the video.

I’m happy to report that I’m feeling much better from COVID, but the heat and my ongoing autoimmune stuff are making this a really difficult summer for me, work and energy-wise. I’m realising I can’t rush this or any of my other projects and am giving some serious thought to the sustainability of what I’m trying to lift up here and where I can get/need help. Maybe if I can see these problems as puzzles to solve, just like the one of how to turn music into knitting, maybe I can find the answers and make my work/life/health balance work as well as the ideas in my knitting. These are things I am constantly trying to balance as you’ll know if you’ve done my KNITSONIK Bullet Journaling Course, but it’s very easy for that balance to come undone.

Loving the restrictions and creativity forced by turning songs into stitch patterns reminds me that working within the limitations of this body and its depleted resources can – and must be – an adventure in creativity, too… I’m really enjoying reading Josie George’s beautiful and important Memoir A Still Life and certainly finding hope for all this there.

Yours in Knitting, Sounds and Slowness –

4 thoughts on “Limitations

  1. This is really astonishing to me. I am a musician and knitter and did not even once in this lifetime think I could knit my music. They were separate for me. If it is so easy to embroider words and knit them on solid backgrounds, why not notes? Now I am thinking BIG..Beethoven’s 5th on a scarf?

  2. What a mad, delightful project! Loved the little film. It takes a truly adventurous spirit to push a project like this to its limits. Fascinating and well done comrade xx

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