Crocheted Fruit Covers

photo of crocheted fruit coversA frivolous idea, I know, and I’m not sure what practical use a crocheted banana cover has, although the pear and plum covers might cushion the fruit from bruising. I made these as a birthday present for my housemate. She already had a crocheted apple cover so these were to add to to her fruit cover collection.

I got the banana cover pattern from The Indigo Phial. I accidentally made mine two stitches narrower which meant I had to pick out a slim banana to fit it.

I adapted Planet June’s pear amigurumi pattern to make the pear cover. When I got as far round 17 (36 stitches) I switched to Indigo Phial’s apple cosy pattern and took off from round 18 (also 36 stitches, so it’s basically a franken-fruit-cover.

Finally, in my most adventurous fruit cover yet, I started out following Jan Bass’s crocheted plum pattern but deviated from this and winged it quite a bit to make it into a plum cover. When I was about half-way through the pattern, I decided to go out and buy a plum so that I could check I was on the right track. It turns out plums are not in season but passionfruits are plentiful and a similar size, so I bought one of those. I saw straight away that if I followed the pattern to the end, even including a hole to put the fruit in, the cover would still be too small. So I experimented and after a few false starts, I extended the cover and added a flap to close over the fruit. The result is somewhat nappy-like but I hope the cute button compensates for that.


The Sketchbook Project

ImageIf the Sketchbook Project Library is popping up anywhere near you, then you have to visit. It’s in Melbourne at the moment and I went to have a look at the weekend.

It’s a travelling library of artists’ sketchbooks. Every artist involved in the project started with the same blank sketchbook which they could then write, draw, paint, paste in, cut out, as they wanted.

The books we saw were absolutely beautiful. Some were travel journals, others filled with preliminary sketches to prepare for a larger work; some had a narrative, others were collections of random images and writing. It was amazing to be able to touch these books and leaf through them, to feel the paper that was almost solid with paint or to unfold pages that had been cut out to make intricate patterns. Getting such a close insight into an artist’s work and being able to interact with it is a very special experience. I went with two friends and we spent hours exploring the books.

Even checking the books out with our personal library cards was fun. We picked up a card at the entrance and registered it, then we looked at the online catalogue and chose a theme (travel, cartography, science, narrative, etc.). One book related to that theme was brought out to us along with a random book. This meant we saw amazing books on themes we might never have considered. We could only have two books at a time each so we went up multiple times to make different selections.  We saw around 24 books in two hours. There are a few thousand sketchbooks currently in Melbourne (the total collection comprises close to 28 000 books) – if only I had enough time to see them all!

I felt really inspired looking at the books. I wish I could draw! But the best thing about the project is that absolutely anyone can take part, regardless of their drawing skills. The next submission date is 15 January 2014 and you can choose to make a basic submission of a sketchbook only (25 AUD), or to have your work digitized (60 AUD). This means that even if you can’t get to The Sketchbook Library in person, you can still have a look at some of the work online in the Digital Library. Do it, it’s great!

The Sketchbook Project Pop-up Library is located at 234 St. Kilda Road, Dame Elisabeth Murdoch Building, Melbourne until 9 November.

Stitching Up City Square 2013 – Installation Day

There was a while there when I worried I would never finish my City Square piece on time. Three seasons of Downton Abbey later, I measured up again and found that my piece had grown to 3.94 m. Whew! That was close enough for me.

Bali from Yarn Corner suggested sewing the piece into sections since the height of the tree was only an estimation. I made a 3.18 m section and two 38 cm sections:

This is me lying on top of my city square piece to give you an idea of scale, and also because it was so lovely and soft.

This is me lying on top of my City Square piece to give you an idea of scale, and also because it’s so lovely and soft.

My sister came with me to City Square last Sunday to help with the installation and to take photos:

Installation Day - About to begin  Installation Day - An avenue of trees in rainbow colours

In the end I didn’t need to use the two 38 cm sections; the 3.18 m section reached right up to the branches of the tree. One of the City Square pieces did not arrive in time for the installation. We used left over sections from the other trees to assemble a yarn bomb for the naked tree. There’s one of my sections at the bottom:

Installation Day - Rainbow tree

While we were installing the pieces, many people stopped to ask questions and to take photos and to say thank you. It was lovely to be involved in a project that brings happiness to so many people. At the end of the day when I left the square, I noticed some tourists posing for photos in front of my tree! It made me very happy.

Art in Surprising Places

I heard a rumour that there was going to be a Shake Your Tail Feather flash mob at Southbank so I headed down there with my friend, Lucy, to check it out. (Youtube video by Miff D)

Afterwards we walked through Southgate Shopping Complex and came across artworks by Be Free. It was one of her colourful little-girl-with-bucket-of-paint paste ups in Degraves Street that started me off photographing street art just over a year ago.

Be Free Artwork in Southgate Shopping Complex

The first piece of Be Free street art I spotted in Melbourne. This can still be seen in Degraves Street but isn't in such good condition any more.

The first piece of Be Free street art I spotted in Melbourne. This can still be seen in Degraves Street but isn’t in such good condition any more.

Finally, Lucy and I went for a coffee in Manchester Press. Unfortunately, the amazing coffee foam art I’d been going on and on about was not evident in Lucy’s hot chocolate.

The picture in the milk foam of my coffee.

The picture in the milk foam of my coffee.

Lucy's hot chocolate looks dull by comparison

Lucy’s hot chocolate looks dull by comparison

Biting Off More Than I Can Chew

When I came back to Melbourne I started going to meet-ups of Yarn Corner, the group that taught me how to crochet and yarn bomb.

I was just getting enthusiastic about yarn bombing again when a notice went up on their facebook wall saying that they urgently needed volunteers to yarn bomb a tree at the Royal Melbourne Show. The group had agreed ages ago to yarn bomb a tractor so most of the core members were busy making their pieces for that.

I raised my hand. Why not? It would be good practice for me. I can knit a few squares, I commented on the post. By squares I meant shapes with four sides of unequal length, such is the inconsistent nature of my tension when crocheting.

The measurements for the tree came in. 4 m long and 1.8 m circumference. Four people had volunteered to make the piece. Two piped up straight away to say they would do 1 m x 1.8 m so I said I would do the same.

In my enthusiasm I didn’t stop to think quite how big a piece that is. It could wrap round a whole person. When the enormity of the task finally dawned on me, I quickly pushed my worries aside. At the last Yarn Corner meet up I’d learned how to loom, which was faster than knitting or crocheting so it shouldn’t be a problem.

In two evenings I’d already loomed a 1 m long strip. I was pleased. I could make loads of them then stitch them together to make a vertically striped piece. I measured the width of my strip. 5 cm. So if I did 5 cm in two evenings, I could do 10 cm in four and 180 cm in… bollocks. 72 evenings. I didn’t have 72 evenings. I had 21.

I switched to crochet, which would allow me to make large panels instead of strips. This time I tried to be scientific about it from the outset. Single crochet would involve fewer yarn over hook movements but double crocheted rows had more space between them. I predicted that single crochet would be faster since there would be fewer movements required to create every stitch.

I was wrong. With each subsequent row the tension became tighter so the rate at which my crocheted panel was growing became slower and slower.

I revised my yarn bombing pledge and reduced it to 1 m x 80 cm, less than half of what I’d originally planned.

I began making another panel in double crochet this time, and bought chunky yarn to make a third panel. These two sections grew much more quickly than the single crocheted panel, but still I had to take a ball of yarn and a crochet hook with me everywhere I went and add to my piece it at every possible opportunity.

I crocheted on the tram on the way to work and during break times in the staff room. In those few foggy minutes between getting up and making my first cup of tea, I added another couple of rows to my panels.

I made a few rookie errors in the production of my yarn bomb: I ran out of chunky wool and had to buy some more. I bought the exact same yarn but from a different dye lot, which turned out to be markedly different in colour.

When I sewed the sections together, I started at the top and worked my way down to the bottom. Although each of the sections came out at just over 1m in length, when I stitched them together, none of them joined up neatly at the bottom. Sometimes there was a huge difference in apparent lengths. I had to unpick a lot of the stitching and start again, but this time I secure the two ends before joining the two sections in the middle.

I finally finished my piece and handed it in.That’s it in the photo above. I’m pretty pleased with it. On the tram on the way home after dropping it off at Yarn Corner HQ, I had no idea what to do with my hands. I’ll need to get started on a new yarn bombing project straight away!

Tasmania Photo Diary Days 7 & 8

Day 7: I drove back to Hobart stopping off at Ross on the way. I’d read in my lonely planet that the bridge was the third oldest in Australia and one of its most impressive. I wasn’t blown away.

Day 8: I went on a sculpture trail around Battery Point where I learned about the history of Hobart’s waterfront. The sculptures took the form of numbers – weights, measures, dates, quantities and distances – that were important in the development of the waterfront and were made of materials that recalled the eras described. It was very thoughtfully done.

Yarn Bombing

I moved back to Melbourne last weekend and within only a few hours of being here, I was already convinced that it is the coolest city in the world.

On the way to brunch with some friends we spotted a bike rack on Lygon St that had been yarn bombed. That is, someone had given it a lovely knitted cover. Yarn bombing is like graffiti, but in woollen form. Some people consider this ‘guerrilla knitting’ to be vandalism, others street art. Personally, I think it’s beautiful. I would never buy a can of paint to spray a slogan on a wall, but I’m tempted to learn to knit so that I can make a woollen sleeve for a lamppost.

Perhaps I’m underestimating the political power of yarn bombing, but it just doesn’t seem like a naughty or controversial thing to do in the way that spray painting a wall does. Don’t get me wrong, I like graffiti and I think a spray painted scrawl is just as much a work of art as an image by Banksy, but I can understand why some people dislike it and why councils have it removed. At its best it can be inspiring, challenging and attractive; at its worst it can be ugly, hate filled and offensive. Yarn bombing, well, it just looks nice, doesn’t it? What everyday object cannot be improved by dressing it in a cheerful knitted jacket?

Over brunch in L’atelier de Monsieur Truffe (another one of Melbourne’s hidden cafés, where I had the most beautifully presented and delicious hotcakes ever), Grace, Anna and I decided to go on a yarn trail to discover more of the city’s knitted artworks.

The following Tuesday we went for a walk around Brunswick where we discovered pieces by the Brunswick Bomber, Poppy Tonka and Yarn Corner, along with other untagged works. We started out at Charles Street Market then made our way up Sydney Road. It’s amazing how easy it is to miss these yarn bombed objects if you’ve not got your eyes peeled. Sometimes we walked past one two or three times before we spotted it. All in all, though, it was a successful trail with plenty of yarn bomb sightings.

A few days later, Grace reported back that one of the knitted covers we’d seen on a bike rack in Charles Street had been removed. Only a fringed pink cuff remained. I wondered if the perpetrator was someone who disapproves of yarn bombing in general or who just objected to the combination of pink and teal stripes? Either way, the fact that someone was motivated enough to rip it off suggests that yarn bombing is perhaps more controversial than I initially suspected.

The Value of Art vs Writing

A couple of years ago I went to see a Damien Hirst exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. I was was really taken by The Last Supper series of screen prints which showed images of pharmaceutical style packaging with the names of the medicine replaced by names of food. I would have loved a print of Sausages, but unfortunately for me, Hirst does not allow prints of his work to be made.

I totally understand why he might feel that his artwork would be devalued by me hanging a photo of it on my kitchen wall. What’s interesting to me is that as far as an author is concerned, the more copies of their work that are made and bought, the better.

Is it a question of accessibility? One artwork in a gallery will be seen by thousands of people; a book will only be read by thousands of people if they can physically get their hands on a copy. But then, what if an artwork is bought by a private collector and only a select few people are able to see it? Does the artist care as long as s/he gets paid for it? There is a cover price on a book so the only way for an author to make a living from their work is to shift a lot of units.

This preoccupation with the value of art and writing was triggered by a recent trip to gallery Rhubaba, where there is currently an exhibition by Hannah James. Three of the works are slide projections which feature pots. According to the gallery directors, James found one of the images in a cupboard in a school where she teaches art. It shows two pots, most probably made by school pupils, side by side against a blue background. So she didn’t take the photo and she didn’t make the pots, but James is still recognised as the author of the work because she came up with the idea of projecting it onto a wall to a backing track of a purring cat (the exhibition is called Pots Purr).

Can you imagine if I found a short story written by someone else and posted it on my blog? It wouldn’t be called art, it would be called plagiarism. So the value of art and writing seems to be further complicated by the idea of ownership. The pots made by the pupils are valuable only to their parents. The photo of the pots lay forgotten in a cupboard for who knows how many years. The projection of the photo of the pots, as envisioned by Hannah James, is a work of art.

I don’t think any writer would thank you for reproducing their work uncredited, but I suspect that if a little kid were to visit a gallery and see their art project illuminating a wall, they might be very happy indeed.