Hands, Found Objects, Mismatched Mitts, Drones and Experimental Knits & Sounds

gradient scarf rolled into a cylinder with palest shades at the centre, darkest colours outside

LOOKING FOR A STRANDED HARMONIUM (19 - 24 NOVEMBER)
19. 	HANDS (KNIT)
20.	HANDS (SOUND)
21. 	INSPIRED BY FOUND OBJECT (KNIT) OR (SOUND) 
22.	MISMATCHED MITTS
23.	DRONE
24.	EXPERIMENTAL (KNIT) OR (SOUND)

It’s my weekly digest for Yarnadelic Remixes 0.1 and this set of prompts speaks to the creative context around Muriel’s wonderful design, Looking For A Stranded Harmonium.

Looking For A Stranded Harmonium - we see hands playing a piano; they are wearing mismatched mitts; below, a graphic image shows the parts of the pattern for each of the mitts, so you can see how the colours have been reversed on each

19. HANDS (KNIT)
20. HANDS (SOUND)

With this pattern, Muriel has found a beautiful way to explore handedness. Each hand in the pair of mitts bears a pattern that speaks to what that hand does when playing the Harmonium in Music For A Found Harmonium. The very process of making the mitts also speaks to handedness – for, however you hold your yarns – you must consider how your hands are working together to produce the stranded colourwork fabric, and the purl bumps that help the musical notes to stand out from their background.

Will you hold the yarns in both hands? Will you hold them both in one hand? Which hand?

To me, Stella Sutherland’s poem – Da Allover – perfectly encapsulates how the hands work together to produce stranded colourwork. In her deft weave of words, she describes the harmonious way in which stitches come together in Fair Isle fabric; and how the hands and knitting needles work in concert to make that happen. Stella likens knitting Fair Isle to “writin a rhyme”, but her “joy o’creation” could just as easily apply to sewing a pair of trousers; playing the guitar; doing a painting. The commonality is the hands working together to produce something gorgeous, celebratory and life-affirming: in this case, an Allover jumper.

Your mind haes a joy o’creation
laek writin a rhyme — hit’s nae lee —
whin your fingers and wires in relation
maks da colours an patterns agree!

Stella Sutherland, Da Allover

I first heard this poem read by Hazel Tindall on the KDD&Co. blog. I love Kate’s recording of Hazel reading Stella’s poem white noise, teacups and all; a highlight for me this year at Shetland Wool Week was hearing this poem when it was read at the opening ceremony.

21. INSPIRED BY FOUND OBJECT (KNIT) OR (SOUND)

Simon Jeffes found a harmonium abandoned in an alleyway in Japan while touring there, and this fortuitous find inspired him to write Music For A Found Harmonium. I love how objects found in the course of daily life can inspire us to produce new things – things we would never have made without the inspiration they provide.

Last year I received a message from Dawn on Ravelry that made my day. After many months of planning to translate an everyday inspiration source into stranded colourwork, she had succeeded in producing a most glorious pair of mitts.

a pair of mitts on a pair of model hands; they each bear an elaborate, intricate stranded fair isle pattern on them in gold, worked on a black background; the inspiration is a necklace

They are based on a favourite necklace, worn by Zodie – friend of Dawn. Though not found in the sense of “finders keepers”, I think this necklace counts as a found object that produces inspiration, because it’s something special that crosses your path by chance, and sparks a creative idea.

Zodie's necklace - the inspiration for these lovely mitts

a pair of mitts on a pair of model hands; they each bear an elaborate, intricate stranded fair isle pattern on them in gold, worked on a black background; the inspiration is a necklace; we can see in this image that the back of the hand features a design based on the main shape of the necklace, while the palm features a pattern based on its intricate filigree surface

I just love the way the detailed patterning on the necklace, its distinctive shape, and the sparkly gold colour have led to such a delicate and intricate design. Simon had to work with his hands to coax something joyous out of the found harmonium and Dawn has done the same thing here – in knit. Find Zodie’s Mitts on Ravelry and marvel at how they celebrate their source material – just like Music For A Found Harmonium!

22. MISMATCHED MITTS

My favourite pair of mismatched mitts was made by Sarah, during the Skystone Armwarmers KAL organised and run by my friend Jen Arnall-Culliford. This was part of a series of KALs designed to launch and celebrate each pattern included in Boost Your Knitting by AC Techniques. This book is a smorgasboard of enabling patterns, each of which speaks to different knitting skills. I was thrilled to be involved, and Skystone Armwarmers was the design I offered as a template for exploring colours and palettes. The KAL on Ravelry when my pattern launched was a thing of joy. I think about it often, because it was such a good example of an enabling and encouraging KAL in which much knitting got done. I think Jen is a superlative teacher and cheerleader and the success of that KAL comes down to her, and the special space she carved out on Ravelry. All of which to give context for why I love these mismatched mitts so much:

Pair of mismatched mitts by Sarah - they feature the Skystone Armwarmers design, but with the date added, and each mitt is a reverse of the other

Pair of mismatched mitts by Sarah - they feature the Skystone Armwarmers design, but with the date added, and each mitt is a reverse of the other - the one on the left says KNITSONIK and the one on the right says BYK (Boost Your Knitting)

They are such a joyous interpretation of the brief – which was to find an inspiration source and then to work within your limitations to use the Skystone Armwarmers design as a framework for putting together a palette and celebrating your inspiration source in knitting. I love how Sarah has contextualised her approach to the brief in her notes on Ravelry:

In her wonderful essay on choosing colours Felix talks about finding yarn that is within budget, represents the inspiration colours, is available, and looks harmonious. She also talks about compromise. I have a budget of zero for this project so I’m interpreting this as doing the best I can with what I’ve got, it’s a good opportunity to use up some of the scraps that I seem to be unable to throw away.

Mine is not at all a literal interpretation of the colours in my photo, I am using up my bag of tweed scrap to try to capture the mood, the light, of a walk in cool woods on a hot day. Movement and the stillness.

Not always succeeding but always learning!

I followed the colour choosing method from the video, but only from what I had in stash, tweed single ply.

I only had really tiny amounts of several colours, but I wanted to use them anyway. I picked all the colours that fitted my palette, more than in the pattern. To eke out the scraps I picked a main light and main dark shade and alternated one round main colour, one round oddments. This had the accidental advantage of harmonising the colour changes and matched well with the soft tones of my photo! Mostly my colour changes occurred when I ran out of each colour, or just when I felt like it.

– Sarah, KИITSOИIK/BYK branded dappled light mitts

dappled light on dogwalk in forest inspiration source

I love everything about these mitts. The ingenious way they use up scraps of yarn; the clever hacking of the charts to include the date of the KAL (8/19); KNITSONIK; and BYK (Boost Your Knitting); and the creative approach to working with leftovers and using the methods provided in the pattern as a way to edit together a project palette from stash. Plus? It’s got KNITSONIK on it.

THEY ARE MAGNIFICENT!!!

23. DRONE

For each design in Yarnadelic Remixes 0.1, Muriel and I did a deep dive into the musical context for the song(s) that inspired us. Beadism and Looking For A Stranded Harmonium were both inspired by Music For A Found Harmonium – the context for which is a fascinating mix of global folk influences, and Minimalism (a musical movement which was itself largely influenced by the classical music traditions of India). I found an amazing book about Minimalism called On Minimalism: Documenting A Musical Movement, by Kerry O’Brien and William Robin. I love how they outline or define Minimalist music, and feel there are so many crossovers with what they are speaking to – meditative, repetitive, durational – that apply as much to “tuning in” to our knitting as they do to listening to Minimalist music.

Like everything that has been historicised/canonised, the story of Minimalism is overly focused on the achievements of white men, at the exclusion of the non-Western influences, the input of people of colour, ideas from the Global South, and the work of women. I love how this book repopulates the story of Minimalism with that missing context and those missing voices, and was thrilled to meet, in its pages, many Minimalist musicians not usually celebrated in the mainstream definitions of the movement. I especially enjoyed listening to the following works, each of which is very drone-y, durational and slow. The quality of attention – tuning in and out of what’s going on, thoughts wandering away from what’s happening and then back to it again – remind me so much of those same qualities of attention that we can experience when we are knitting.

Earth Horns with Electric Drone by Yoshi Wada
The Long String Instrument by Ellen Fullman

Both these musicians – Yoshi Wada and Ellen Fullman – built new kinds of instruments for realising their amazing minimalist works…

Massive Earth horn of Yoshi Wada - a huge horn lying on the gallery floor and connected to microphones

Yoshi Wada constructing legendary and epic Earth Horns

Ellen Fullman playing The Long String Instrument

…and Ellen Fullman building The Long String Instrument, in which extended lengths of piano wire resonate for hugely extended amounts of time. Is this another way of hearing the fingers and wires working “in relation”?

These works and these instruments speak to slowness; they take a long time to unfold their sound; they are repetitive; they are durational. Listening to their incremental changes, and the slow and subtle developments of sound within what is essentially one droning and continuous sound remind me of when I knitted the Parallelogram Scarf by Cecelia Campochiaro. This is one of Cecelia’s amazing Sequence Knitting projects, in which a stitch pattern is repeated over a number of stitches that are not its exact multiple. This means that a textured fabric emerges with its own underlying pattern; the purls and knits stack up in ways you wouldn’t expect, and yet the experience of repeating the stitch pattern over and over is extremely soothing and rhythmic. To add joy to this experience, I held some yarns I had dyed myself double with a full ombre set of six mini-skeins of John Arbon Knit By Numbers, to create an extremely long and subtle gradient. The idea was to move almost undetectably from one shade in the ombre set to the next, so that you could barely see the colour-changes as the scarf progressed.

another view of the gradient scarf with a big swathe of dark on the left, and folded over, paler sections on the right

Close up of the lightest tip of the shawl lying underneath the darkest tip

You can in fact just see the colour changes when you lay the scarf tip to tip, so that the lightest Knit By Numbers section and the darkest Knit By Numbers skein can be spied together.

gradient scarf in biscuity/beer colours, folded messily on a white bed, and with colours flowing from pale to saturated, from left to right

Like Earth Horns or The Long String Instrument, this scarf is really long. The colour changes are buried in the other two yarns held double throughout the project, and knitting it was meditative and also full of interest observing the shifts from one colour to the next in the ombre sequence of Knit By Numbers.

24. EXPERIMENTAL (KNIT) OR (SOUND)

Much experimental music (John Cage’s dice pieces; the back catalogue of works by Fluxus) is like Sequence Knitting, in that it uses rules, dice or other means to organise sounds via a system and thereby create totally unexpected and fascinating results. I confess that I do think of Cecelia Campochiaro and her innovative and imaginative impact on creating knitted fabric in the same way that I think about composers who have transformed how we make music by creating playful and inventive approaches for the organisation of sounds.

For maximum experimental (knit) and (sound) joy, I recommend listening to Minimalist music while knitting on a Sequence Knitting project.

YOURS IN KNIT + SONIK,
Until soon!
Fx

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