I’ve been away for a minute, because spring. In Germany, spring doesn’t just mean Easter and half-term Holidays, it means nature is waking up, and of Course working in the garden. Now I know, the British are known for simply fabulous gardens, but so are many Germans. They love a beautiful garden (of whatever size – from balcony to tea-towel size and bigger), to provide a lovely island of tranquility.
Spring is also the start of the beekeeper year, and I’ve been away for a while, getting my hives sorted. I’m doing a beekeepers course, so I thought I’d drop some bee-themed knits:
While I’ve been away, I’ve been watching fashion historian Amanda Hallay’s The Ultimate Fashion History on Youtube when I’ve been too tired to knit. She goes all the way from Prehistoric fashion to the present day, looking at History, Art, and politics and how fashion responded to the life of the times (Her favourite Quote is “Fashion is not an Island, it’s a Response”).
I popped over to Barcelona for a girly Weekend with two girlfriends and it gave me quite an emotional boost in the midwinter. Running on the beachfront Promenade, enjoying the sunshine, having Tapas, Cocktails and laughing just hit the spot.
We booked an audioguide tour to visit the Sagrada Familia Basilica (unless you’re in a travel group that takes care of everything, definitely book online beforehand. Apparently no one just Shows up and expects to get in anywhere anymore). I highly recommend going in the morning/mid-morning, so that you catch the sunlight coming through the Windows.
I was particularly taken with the tree-like columns within the Basilica. It felt like walking through a forest (but of stone), with the light streaming through the various windows in a fairly similar way to how light is filtered down to the forest floor.
I’m not sure yet what the final form will me: cowl, scarf, shawl or shrug, but that’s the start of an idea.
It’s been a while since I finished the MoMA’s online course collaboration with Coursera, “Fashion as Design” which run more or less parallel to their Exhibition “Items: Is Fashion Modern.”
We looked at various items, we looked at production, inspirational heroes, silhouettes, lifecycles, modesty and expression. There were some tricky quizzes at the end of each week, but all in all, I managed to pull myself together to get it done.
I learned some new things about fashion in the late 19th and 20th centuries. But I won’t lie, it got a bit tedious at times, because I was constantly looking at the course material through the eyes of a knitter.
And there is no easy answer to the question, ‘Is fashion modern?’ because people are doing so many different things with the clothes that they put on their/our backs. Recycling, upcycling or even restyling garments of a bygone decade may feel less than modern, but the actual idea that this should be important to us is a fairly new one.
Or that making (and in particular knitting and crochet) is not old-fashioned or quaint, but a growing niche of forward-thinking activism (where supporting shepherds producing wool locally can help with anti-desertification around the world)…
Of note: Coursera blog’s conversation with Curator Paola Antonelli.
Glitter yarns from Farbenpracht and a matching skein from Lütt Wollhus
Water colours from Filzlinge
There were about 26 vendors at Wollandia, but it seemed like more.
Even though sock yarn (ie fingering weight) is extremely popular here in Germany, I now get the feeling that the new trend (on top of Hand dyed and naturally dyed yarns) is socks with glitter?
I told Sandra from Farbenpracht, that you just can’t have enough glitter in your life. There is no way I would want to hide that in shoes! She even suggested the lovely Moonrise shawl pattern from Olga Buraya-Kefelian.
I found my Ultraviolet (every time I look at these skeins, I feel it in my Ajna!): The skeins from Filzlinge were by far and away the most Vibrant colours on Show. I realized that the yarns are single handspun, but the colours are so gorgeous, I figured that the Internet would teach me how to make it work: Charles at Knitmuch’s tips for knitting with fuzzy yarn.
So, I went to my first fibre Festival this Weekend: Wollandia. And it was awesome. It was an intimate (less than 100 exhibitors) gathering of independent dyers, Spinners and purveyors of other sheep-related goodness. It was Wollandia’s first time too, so we had that in common! The organizer Erica Carnevale did an amazing job.
If this is going to be a yearly event, then I can definitely recommend stopping by if you’re in the Pforzheim area (any good sat-nav will get you there). There were independent dyers (whose names I only know from Ravelry and browsing Etsy or its German pendant Dawanda). And of course it’s great to be able to take the yarn into your hands before buying.
Tips for visiting yarn festivals:
Wear walking shoes
Take a friend – or make friends there -complimenting dyers’ work, collecting cards and having a chat always goes down a treat.
Beforehand – look at the exhibitor list and develop a strategy.
Do a full circle and have a good look at everything before starting to buy. Unless you plan to visit a specific vendor.
plan for emergencies: Enough cash on hand? the location of the next closest cash machine may be good to know.
I love to give credit where it is due. The designer of Nakia’s Shawl in the Black Panther film has been identified (after a concerted group effort), and has released a FREE pattern on Ravelry. So knitters of Ravelry, well done. And well done Jeff Gillies.
Sheep Sorrel hat
Twisted Stirrup Socks
I’ve had to pause and restart some knitting. Since I last talked about my own knitting, I’ve picked up stitches on my Slow Knitting hat Sheep Sorrel by Pam Allen. I’ve also cast on for my Twisted Stirrup Socks and I visited my first wool festival.
One reason I cherish the day I stumbled upon Ravelry, is the community. Thousands of people who love handcrafts just like me. A place where it’s ok to geek out about yarn or the knits seen in a film.
Knitters actually left the movie theaters after watching Black Panther and got on Ravelry to find out more about that knit shawl/wrap.
Some knitters were wondering about the yarns used, while others wanted to know about the designer, if there is an official pattern out, and still others just want a good look at the piece, to see if they can reconstruct it.
So threads popped up on Ravelry, and sure enough fellow knitters posted pictures of the shawl within days. The shawl is on show in Los Angeles.
There’s been an impressive amount of detective work going on,
While some are waiting patiently, there is a very subtle convo taking place where folks want to make this piece but have to refrain from Reverse engineering it too closely or putting out patterns using the names of Black Panther or its characters, which are of course protected by Marvel copyright. No one wants to get caught in that trap!
What has impressed me though, is a new group that has popped up on Ravelry, which seeks to inspire knitters to take the Black Panther knit as creative inspiration.
That to me embodies the spirit of afrofuturism, where such a small thing like a handknit shawl in a movie can inspire the ongoing creativity of so many knitters and crocheters around the world.
It’s taken me a while to gather my thoughts on this film, because I had to continue with real life, while reflecting on what I had seen.
To be honest, I learned one thing and was reminded of another. I learned that filmmaker Ryan Coogler is not to be messed with. His newest film, Black Panther proves that he’s a talented director able to work on several conceptual levels, who is able to take what should be a ‘simple superhero film’ and turn it into something else altogether. Is there a category called ‘Superhero-Politthriller’?
Yes, it works as a superhero film that kids will have a blast watching. It even works as a faithful comic book adaptation. As a gorgeous love letter from the African Diaspora to the Motherland, it hits the ball out of the park (Well done Ruth E. Carter and the production team! Amazing job!)
It also works as a double-whammy political thriller. On one level, this afrofuturistic piece deep-dives onto the political intrigue following a change in government (head of state). On the other hand, it is a thought-provoking piece, which very subtly compares the US (and parts of the Western world in the throes of wrestling with issues of identity and ultra-conservative xenophobia) to the proud nation of Wakanda. High tech force-shields do the same thing that Mexican Walls are supposed to do.
I will admit that I was lulled into the haze of I-have-to-accompany-my-child-to-the-cinema mixed with admiring the costumes and production design, until one phrase jerked me wide awake: “The Sun will never set on the Kingdom of Wakanda.” I won’t lie, even as a naturalized German, the chills ran down my spine (because 1933-1945). These folks are such an advanced nation, and they are xenophobic. For me, it is therefore disconcerting to see folks running around post-cinema experience beaming “Wakanda Forever!” (And the Daily Beast’s Ira Madison III thinks so too).
That the society within the film manages to tackle such a thorny problem that propels them to the brink of civil war is makes it no less compelling for theater-goers to ask themselves what type of society do we want to be. And to keep talking about it.
That was the reminder, that comic books are often not just about fighting or solving problems with violence, there is a message, if you care to look.
And now, the handcrafts:
The fabulous blankets, seen above, are made in Southern Africa, and are called Basotho Heritage Blankets. Notably, worn by the royal family and their guest (for the sake of accuracy, the border guards/tribe do wear a similar blanket which appears to be part of a uniform). Regular people like Nakia (played by Lupita N’yongo) seem or choose to make do with knits and crochets.
This shawl-wrap was the only knit I spotted. It seems to be long, rectangular piece, done in stocking stitch with an occasional row of eyelets interspersed. While this knit is done in fairly sombre tones (at a fairly sombre point in the story) of her signature greens and blues of the River tribe, by the end of the film, she is in a lovely sparkly green crocheted pullover with a single cut out shoulder.
I know, we were talking about Amy Sherald’s Portrait of Michelle Obama, but I also learned that she takes great care in choosing the clothes her subjects wear for their sittings.
Typically, Sherald …pairs her subjects with outfits carefully selected for a similar timeless feel, rendering them in comfortable stances against monochrome backgrounds, cut off at the knee, forthrightly regarding their Viewer.
Doreen St. Felix of the New Yorker breaks down why Amy Sherald’s Portrait of former First Lady Michelle Obama is so haunting.
Milly by Michelle Smith / vogue.com
There’s a funny thing about inspiration: While the Designer, Michelle Smith of Milly mentions to Vogue that her Inspiration was Mondrian, Amy Sherald made the connection to the quilts of the women of Gee’s Bend.
So although Folks are getting all upset because the portrait isn’t photo-realistic, it is clear that Obama and Sherald had a great working relationship, and she loved Sherald’s work. She likes how Sherald portrayed her for perpetuity. This is Art. It makes you stop and take a long hard look. And gets you thinking (why grey?), why this artist, why this dress, filling in the blanks, and what not.
It shook me how much Mrs. Obama looks like her younger daughter. But also how the negative space on the skirt suggests a heart (until it doesn’t). Sherald only paints 10 – 12 portraits a year, seeking out subjects who project a timeless quality. She hit it out of the ballpark.