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.
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.
I can’t read everything on the Internet the instant it comes out. And sometimes it takes me months to get back around to casting a glance on well-loved knitting-related sites and magazines. What with kids, work, keeping up with the news, politics, and life, things get hectic.
And I thought this New Year totally needs to also be about not stressing oneself about the knitting. Hobby-stress is not cool.
I say why not just relabel it a pause. A break. A chance to regroup.
That’s the tack I’m taking. I plan to finish certain Things; but I also want to start new challenges: I want to knit a friend of mine a set of hats for when she starts chemotherapy.
Isthmus by Gudrun Johnston for Brooklyn Tweed
Femte by Sari Norlund
Rebe by Fiona Ellis for Twist Collective
I’m particularly taken with these hat Patterns (ClockWise): Gudrun Johnston’s Isthmus, Sari Norlund’s Femte, and Fiona Ellis’ Rebe. Honourable mention to Margaret Miller’s Svartifoss, which is so beautiful, but I’m not ready for laceweight hats just yet.
Femte and Isthmus make me see, that I need to brush up on my provisional cast on.
I have a natural proclivity to think things over and over, which looks a lot like procrastination. And I honestly cannot say that it isn’t.
Every year, I knit a hat for my extremely knitworthy sister-in-law. Every year, I follow a pattern. This year, I decided to design one myself. It took me ages to decide how I wanted the hat to look: I even went to a Christmas Market, hung around sipping Mulled Wine (= Glühwein) and had a look at people’s heads, to get inspiration.
By the time I got it cast on and knit the band, I realized that I had cast on too many stitches. I had to rip it out and start again. And then I realized that I had to keep it simple because I had so little time to get to it, in-between shopping, menu-planning, and prepping to have the house full of relatives for the Holidays.
The Yarn: Lana Grossa Cosy by Lala Berlin. A soft fuzzy alpaca-wool blend. With just a smidgen of Nylon.
Very cozy and cuddly bulky yarn with a nice hand. And a gorgeous halo, which means that this yarn does not love too much frogging, but on the positive side, the easiest yarn splice ( I prefer not to splice with spit. I use water) I’ve ever done.
I’ll get into my new design once I’ve got it all written down. Suffice it to say, I finished it on Boxing Day while we were all watching Paddington. And it’s now winging ist way to Japan where my sister-in-law is on Holiday.
In the second week of the course, we have been looking at society’s heroes: Military, pop and cultural heroes. And of course, how these have influenced Fashion, from Bruce Lee’s tracksuit, to the trenchcoat, hoodies and MoonBoots. We were also asked to reflect on our own heroes. And what they would wear.
My hero of the Moment is Binti, from nigerian-american sci-fi and fantasy author Nnedi Okorafor. Binti is a young math prodigy from a future Earth, who leaves her home and Family to be the first to go to University off-world. She’s a member of the southern African Himba People, who cover their Skin and hair with a red clay mix called Ojitze.
In the novel, even though they are skilled craftsmen of futuristic Technologies, they maintain a crucial link through their clothes to their roots. Okorafor describes Binti as being the only one from her ethnic group going to University, so she pretty much stands out (as she does in the general science-fiction/ fantasy landscape) with dark skin, different clothes and hair braided with her family codes and coated with ojitze.
Her clothes and the accessories she takes from home with her basically help her become heroic, and broker a peace between warring civilizations. The collage above, is my visualization of Binti’s ‘running away’ outfit, which is at once a mix of traditional and futuristic: A silky red skirt, a functional orange softshell jacket, anklets to protect against snakes in the grass, her high-tech astrolabe on a chain and mysterious edan (reimagined as a box clutch).
I vaguely remember the opening of the MoMA Exhibition Items: Is Fashion Modern?At the time, I thought, ‘What a pity that I’m not planning on being in New York to see this anytime soon.’
Well, now they’re offering a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), based on the Exhibition over at Coursera.org. Enrollment is open until December 25.
The Course is run by the exhibition’s curator Paola Antonelli along with her team from the Department of Architecture and Design at the musem.
Among all objects of design, our clothes are the most universal and intimate. Like other kinds of design, fashion thrives on productive tensions between form and function, automation and craftsmanship, standardization and customization, universality and self-expression, and pragmatism and utopian vision. It exists in the service of others, and it can have profound consequences—social, political, cultural, economic, and environmental.
Fashion as Design focuses on a selection of more than 70 garments and accessories from around the world, ranging from kente cloth to jeans to 3D-printed dresses. Through these garments, we’re going to look closely at what we wear, why we wear it, how it’s made, and what it means. You’ll hear directly from a range of designers, makers, historians, and others working with clothing every day—and, in some cases, reinventing it for the future. Studio visits, interviews, and other resources introduce the history and development of each garment and their changing uses, meanings, and impact over time.
I’m knitting Pam Allen’s Sheep Sorrel hat using Falkland Aran by Debbie Bliss in Claret. This is a soft, shiny organic wool, from a farming community in the Falklands. It’s a three-ply, with a good amount of twist, stitch definition, and has a good amount of loft (ie very springy and squishy) and elasticity.
The pattern is clearly and efficiently written, even including instructions on how to do the cables with and without a cable needle.
Why bother You can knit faster. You know when sections change, and know what comes next. You can find (and correct) errors faster. With a recurring pattern, you reading your knitting means you understand what the designer intended, and you can actually let go of the pattern (which means portability). Many people often praise patterns for being easy to memorize. Reading your knitting means you don’t need to memorize at all.
How-to Read the general description in the pattern introduction first. This will not click at first. But we’ll come back to that later.
Then look at the pattern section. Make a rough stitch chart if there isn’t one. (If there is, then skip to the next step). It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be good enough for you to understand. The Sheep Sorrel hat has a 15 stitch repeat over 4 rounds.
Do a mini-swatch
If you are a learning-by-doing knitter like me, making a swatch to learn a pattern isn’t such a hardship. Cast on the required stitch number plus 6 extra for a 3 stitch border on each side. Place stitch markers, so you don’t forget where your border sits. Knit three rows (for a garter stitch/ non rolling edge) and then get going. Once you’ve done two or three repeat, finish off with with three knit rows and bind off.
I wouldn’t bother cutting my yarn. This swatch isn’t to be blocked, so it is perfectly fine to rip it out after, and knit it into the hat.
I definitely am not a big fan of swatching in the round, however I wanted to see how quickly it would take me to learn the pattern on the fly. I took me four repeats, dear Readers. In my defense, a glass of red wine was involved.
On the fly
Once you’ve gotten into knitting the pattern, exactly as written (a stitch marker after each repeat will help you keep your place), stop and have a good look at what’s on the needles.
Now is the time to revisit that general description and compare it to what you have before you. Sheep Sorrel seems to be about panels and mini-cables (actually twisted stitches, but hey, let’s not quibble). We can see that the garter and patterned panels alternate and are separated by columns of cable. We also see that each column of cable has a p1 before and after it.
Once I realized this, I realized that one type of twist was used per column. Some columns twisted to the right and others to the left. That meant I could undo and repair any twist that was incorrect (if something looks like an S, then it’s wrong). I left one S, because nothing in this world is perfect.
At this point, I knit another round, without peeking, to see if I understood the pattern. Once I had done that, checked, then made my corrections, I knew I could let go the pattern and continue the required length of knitting. I wouldn’t say that I’ve memorized the pattern, but I’ve understood the logic behind it: I want to keep my panels going, and the cables twisting the right way round.
This survey in no way claims to be a comprehensive list of all knitting magazines published in Germany. It is however a list based on what you would find in any well-stocked local supermarket or yarn shop.
Publications by Yarn Companies – like the one above, the yarn companies are now putting out their catalogues, which look more like Fashion magazines. Filati from Lana Grossa, and Made by Me – Handknitting from Rico. Depending on which yarns the LYS carries, you’ll find a variety of these magazines in yarn shops, but also on the magazine racks in supermarkets, bookstores and even railway stations.
Publications in women’s magazines – like Brigitte. Although Brigitte has recently branched off into the yarn market. They have launched a wool line, in cooperation with Lana Grossa, they publish a yearly knit-issue, and have launched a Special Edition Brigitte Creative magazine, with patterns and kits for sale. Another notable magazine venturing into patterns and yarn and kits is Landlust, which started out as a magazine celebrating living the good life in the countryside. Their patterns turned out to be so successful, that it seems only natural that they now offer the yarns (lovely tweedy yarns).
Publications by craft companies – for some strange reason (probably post-war Mad Men era publishers and ad-men deciding what housewives wanted) most of the craft-focused magazines have girly names like Ana, Diana, Verena, and Sabrina. There’s also Häkeln for you (for crocheters) and a Stricktrends (Knittrends).
A solid exception is Burda, well-known for years in sewist circles, they started out with Burda Stricken, and has recently responded to the growing market for more creative crafty magazines by putting out a Burda Creative with a wider mix of interesting craft projects.
Following this upsurge, we also saw the introduction of Mollie Makes in German, and of course, The Knitter, more or less recycling years-old material for German knitters.
One final note: International knitting publications from the US (like Interweave) and the UK (like the english version of The Knitter), are available mostly in railway stations or in the larger chain bookstores. Vogue Knitting is called Designer Knitting outside the US.
Where do you prefer to get your knitting magazines?
I know so many people are talking about this book. There is reason. It’s actually about time that someone wrote down and gave a name to so many of these concepts that have been swirling around the knitting community for a while now. In much the same way that the Slow Food community has changed the way many of us think about and even talk about food, it is my wish that Slow Knitting and the concepts outlined here, will change the way we think about our craft and the connection it has to the wider natural world around us. Well done Hannah Thiessen!
The concepts at a glance:
You can find the patterns included by various designers here. Katie Meek’s photography is stunning, allowing the yarn to be the main attraction, while not detracting from the atttractive designs. My favourites from the collection are
Grow by Norah Gaughan
Sheep Sorrel by Pam Allen
Grow by Norah Gaughan and the Sheep Sorrel mini collection of hat and fingerless mitts by Pam Allen.
Karen Templar’s short guest essay, Reflections on a Slow Wardrobe is both moving and inspiring. And yes, it fits perfectly that this book has launched in Slow Fashion October. The book is thankfully more than the sum of the patterns it contains. Each concept is covered briefly in a chapter, with yarn profiles and patterns to round them out. There is also particularly tempting Yarns for Thought, which I feel barely skim the surface of important topics like Handmade, Organic, Free Range, Innovation and Wanderlust.
I’m looking forward to taking part in the global discussion around the concepts of Slow Fashion and Slow knitting. Of course there’s a Ravelry Group with discussions and knitalongs (KALs) in the works.