Monday, December 5, 2011

Astounding News from Andy Holden

Astounding Knits! fans will remember Andy Holden as the sculptor who recreated a nugget of Egyptian pyramid in fantastical scale. Taking his extreme pebble knitting to the next level, Holden is currently displaying a piece called the "Cookham Erratics" at the Benaki Museum in Athens, Greece. Here's how he describes it:

The six knitted sculptures each have wireless speakers in them, each transmitting a different monologue, part of a long fragmented story which attempts to explain how the rocks ended up in the museum. The idea of an 'erratic' is a rock deposited by a glacier as it melts, which often results in rocks that seem incongruous in the landscape.  The other part of the story involves a tale about the British Painter, Stanley Spencer, and his image of the Resurrection at Cookham Churchyard.

Maybe you're lucky enough to be traveling in Egypt right now and can stop by to see the exhibit. For the rest of us, here are some photos:

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Say YES to June!

It's corny, it's true, but June will persist in being the most popular month for weddings. One June bride, UK artist Freddie Robins, went so far as to knit her own wedding; admittedly, she was already married to her husband Ben Coode-Adams, and she had a great deal of stitching help from the Cast Off Knitting Club for Boys & Girls, and London's Pumphose Gallery, where the so-called "Ceremony" was staged. But that hardly makes the undertaking less impressive. Below, a few of the "wedding" snaps that didn't make it in to Astounding Knits!

Coode-Adams in knitted top hat and scarf; Robins in knitted wedding dress with 95-foot train

Knitting guests in knitted dresses

Accoutrements of an all-knitted wedding
Of course, any wedding requires two soft hearts. If you are Iris Eichenberg, better than 2 are 120 diminutive (4-inch) specimens, each meant to represent a friend or family member of the Dutch artist.
30 of Eichenberg's 120 free-hand knitted hearts

Finally, every wedding begins at least on some level with family members. To celebrate the genetic ties inherent in this most superlative of June ceremonies, the photo below illustrates the philosophy of Reknit, a small, quietly brilliant company comprised of graphic designer Haik Avanian and his mom, Gayane Avanian, in which participants mail in an old piece of knitting to be reknit by Gayane into something newly useful.
The Avanian family, and a favorite reknit, traced through the decades

Thursday, May 19, 2011


It's always aggravating, when compiling a book that includes photographs, to decide which ones stay and which ones go. This was certainly the case with Astounding Knits! So abundant were the pictures sent in by some contributors that a good number of favorites were tragically consigned to the surplus folder. Luckily, thanks to the miracle of modern technology, I can share them with you here.

Below are two new additions to this post, from a great favorite artist in our house among both resident and visiting kids and husbands, Mark Newport. If you've seen the book, you've already been introduced to his knitted Batman and Argyleman suits. Now I present...

Sweaterman 6, 2010...

...And W man, 2009. Photos courtesy of the artist

Alle Honde

I'll admit it, I'm a sucker for miniatures, which is why I've written about the work of Dutch micro-knitter Annelies de Kort on several occasions. In the book, I wanted to focus on the absolute smallest of her knitting, which meant that the strange and joyful context of her work was missing. Such as with the above collection of her knitted coats for wee dachshunds, and the small figure, below, which has been cast into a dollhouse-ian terrarium. Has she leapt from a great height of inches, or is she just sunbathing?

Garden. Photos courtesy of Annelies de Kort.
Visitors to Susette Newberry's blog have watched in fascination as over the years, she's stitched up all the letters of the alphabet, using her rabid interest in the history of typography as a jumping off point. It all starts with A, for artichoke (Cynara scolymus), of course; although in the book, this gorgeous specimen lost out to J is for Jacquard, Q is for Quatrefoil and T is for Turkey.

Photo (c) Susette Newberry,

I've written almost as often about the work of Australia-based artist Helen Pynor as I have about that of de Kort (you can find my Twist Collective article here). And while the book focused exclusively on the organs that Pynor stitched up using human hair as her medium, she has knit other things as well, such as the "hair shirts" (my term - must be my Catholic upbringing) below.

Exhale, 2005
Pynor working with knitted hair. Photos by Danny Kildare, courtesy of the artist and Dominick Mersch Gallery, Sydney

Last but not least, who doesn't love a bit of crocheted phantasmagoria? Here, two examples from German sculptor Patricia Waller, whose slightly more gory work graced the pages of the book.


Antlers. Photos (c) Patricia Waller

Friday, May 13, 2011

That Knitting's Alive!

One of the most frustrating components of Astounding Knits! was the chapter that featured knitted animation. No matter how fabulous the stills sent in by the featured artists they were still, well, still.

So without further ado, I herewith present links to the book's animated entries, in all their glorious animated-ness. Enjoy!

"Brain", crocheted by Kate Fenker

"Brain," in its still form.

The knitimation of Max Alexander, featuring "I Am Ahab" and "The Knitties"

A scene from "I Am Ahab."

LOVO Films' commercial for Natural Gas Belgium (the making of the commercial is equally compelling)

The house heats up...with knitting!

I know I'm not supposed to have favorites, and I don't, really. But the final piece of animation (from which I couldn't even get a still for the book – couldn't reach the director, Michel Gondry; couldn't reach the band, Steriögram; couldn't reach the artist responsible for the knitting) has a personal story that goes along with it. Just after my daughter was born in 2003, I stumbled upon a tiny East Village shop run by a woman named Lauri Faggioni. In its window were hand-sewn and embroidered birds of the most fantastical whimsy and skill; equally amazing, the shop was open – Lauri kept what I will generously call "East Village hours." I was mesmerized by the creatures she had created and we got to chatting. I told her I had just written a book called Knitting Lessons, which sought to answer the question of why so many people were seemingly, suddenly knitting at the turn to the 21st century. And she told me she had just knit an entire music video. We agreed that I should write about it, and exchanged email addresses and phone numbers; but I could never, back then, find the appropriate forum and finally last year, when I was writing Astounding Knits!, she had already moved on to bigger things – like designing the incredible set pieces for Gondry's movie The Science of Sleep. I never managed to see or speak with her again. But one of her silk birds swings in my daughter's bedroom window and this music video, titled "Walkie Talkie Man," blows my mind every time I watch it. Lauri made THE WHOLE THING. And yes, that's her in the blue sweater.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Spring has Definitely Sprung!

In Brooklyn, at least. And to prove it, here's a photo of Astounding Knits! contributor Desirée de Baar (with husband Frank) in front of a bright gaggle of tulips. The couple were on their way to visit what's left of the cherry blossoms at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden but first stopped off in my neighborhood to say hello. It's so great to meet in person (as opposed to over the Internet) the artists and craftspeople who populate the pages of the book – I hope to get to know many more of you as the weeks and months progress.

If you've seen the book, you know de Baar from her knitted Keuken, an accurate scale model of a sink and faucets rendered entirely in pink wool:

Photo by  Joep Vogels, Audax Textielmuseum, courtesy of RAM, Rotterdam
Here are a couple more signs of high spring:

Gayle Roehm's Spring Flowers Egg, a knitted interpretation of a Fabergé egg of the same name. The original was one of  50 bejeweled creations made for tsars Alexander III and Nicholas II of Russia in the late 19th/early 20th centuries and given at Easter to members of their family. Roehm's was fashioned of red and gold crochet cotton.

Photo by Miriam Rosenthal, ThirdEyePhotography
And a selection of Anita Bruce's knitted plankton - because as any coastal enthusiast knows, 'tis the season for Spring Bloom, an up-tick of phytoplankton that occurs in the North Atlantic. Alas, Bruce's "hypothetical" plankton, made of 0.25mm enameled copper wire, probably won't be washing up on a beach near you.

Photo courtesy of Anita Bruce

Friday, April 15, 2011

1,0o0 (Knitted) Cranes. For Jun Miyamoto.

Knitnotwar 1,0o0 by Seann McKeel.
It will come as a surprise to no one that books such as Astounding Knits!: 101 Spectacular Knitted Creations and Daring Feats, do not happen in a vacuum. Each featured artist and craftsperson (such as Seann McKeel, a picture of whose work you see above) generously gave their time to answer questions, and pass along photos and press materials; and it's no exaggeration to say that this project could not have manifested without them. But there are hidden contributors as well – people who work behind-the-scenes and sometimes without all due credit, to help certain aspects of these projects come together.

Jun Miyamoto is one such contributor – both to Astounding Knits, for which she tracked down the elusive Kiyoko Yoshikawa (of Food Knits and the Descente penguin); and to the upcoming Knitting Around the World: A Multistranded History of a Time-Honored Tradition, in which I'm pleased to note her name is plastered all over the Japan chapter. She elucidated the history of Japanese knitting as well as its current state; interviewed the "Prince of Knitting," Matsuhare Hirose; and generally made sure that the chapter was in good (and accurate) working order. So today, I'd like to honor Jun.

This is in no small part because I learned last week that she and her family have had to abandon their Tokyo apartment, condemned due to earthquake damage. Her boys have been packed off to France to stay with their grandparents while Jun and her husband move house. And still, in the midst of all her own chaos, Jun is getting ready to dye her stock of yarn to sell for northern Japan's earthquake refugees. While I figure out how best to use this blog help in her endeavor, please feel free to leave messages at the end of this post for Jun. I know it will warm her heart to hear your good wishes.

Finally, a word about the knitted cranes pictured here. They are part of Seann McKeel's project, Knitnotwar 1,0o0, which she conceived in 2007 and finished in June 2010. They were meant as a gentle protest against the war in Iraq, and were constructed by Seann, her mother, and scads of other knitters who heeded her call for crane submissions. By now, they are on their way to the Children's Peace Monument in Hiroshima, which itself was constructed to honor Sadako Sasaki, a young girl who contracted leukemia after exposure to the atom bomb dropped on her hometown during World War II, and who believed that she might be able to save her own life by folding 1,000 paper origami cranes. Seann has recently put her pattern for the knitted cranes up for  sale on Etsy. Proceeds are earmarked for Mercy Corps, to benefit victims of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. Thank you, Seann, for providing a way for generous knitters to help.
Photo by Seann McKeel Knitnotwar 1,0o0.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


For those of you whose heads exploded after last week's extra-brainy Math post, here's some cute stuff from the folks in Astounding Knits!: 101 Spectacular Knitted Creations and Daring Feats to help you recuperate.

Toy designer Anna Hrachovec's "Luvgun" (pictured below) "shoots" three knitted hearts. Since contributing to the book, Anna's moved on to more and more cuteness: a solo show in Berlin (pictured below, below) and two books: Knitting Mochimochi: 20 Super-Cute Strange Designs for Knitted Amigurumi, available right this very second, and Teeny-Tiny Mochimochi: More Than 40 Itty-Bitty Minis to Knit, Wear, and Give, which will be available in August.

Photos courtesy of Anna Hrachovec and
Emily Stoneking's frog, rat and fetal pig "dissections" are perfects gifts for cute-loving biologists. One of them was purchased for the permanent collection of the National Museum of Health and Medicine.

Photo courtesy of Emily Stoneking.

Every Teddy bear deserves some love. Even if it's made of lead and therefore, completely toxic. Dave Cole's sweet-but-deadly little stuffed animal (yup, stuffed with lead, too) perhaps takes a back seat in the danger department to its cousin, the 14-foot fiberglass bear Cole had to wear a full-body Hazmat suit to knit, since he used his arms as needles.

Photo courtesy of

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Math! Only Knitted!! (And Crocheted)

One of the most revelatory aspects of putting together Astounding Knits!: 101 Spectacular Knitted Creations and Daring Feats was discovering the incredible diversity of objects and ideas conjured by the brains of knitting craftspeople, artists and scientists alike. But honestly, it was the math that really blew my mind (spoken like a true non-mathematician, I'm sure).

"Global Warming," 2008.

"The Day and the Night in Hyperbolic Space," 2007. Photos courtesy of Daina Taimina

The two crocheted marvels pictured above represent hyperbolic planes - surfaces that constantly curve away from themselves, like some lettuce leaves, and wood ear mushrooms - and were created by Cornell mathematics researcher Daina Taimina. Incredibly, the first example, which measures 28" x 28" x 28", is comprised of 3.5 miles of ribbon.  The second used 30 skeins of yarn and weighs in at 6 pounds. 
"Double Base." Photo courtesy of Pat Ashforth and Steve Plummer.

English mathematicians Pat Ashforth and Steve Plummer knit to visually teach students various rudiments of math. "Double Base" pictured above, represents the binary system's Base Two counting system. The duo - aka Woolly Thoughts - have also knit afghans representing multiplication tables and equi-angular spirals, and that seek to answer such questions as, "what makes a pattern?" 

Finally - from the department of "it's math, even if I don't remotely understand how it's done," comes this extreme- double-knit hat by Alasdair Post-Quinn. Post-Quinn, who knitting enthusiasts have followed for years on his Falling Blox blog, has discovered how to knit two patterns simultaneously on the same piece. You can find out how to do it yourself (maybe) when his book, Extreme Double-Knitting is published. (This site wouldn't let me type in the caption for the hat this morning, so here's what you need to know about the photo: "Falling Blocks Hat," photo courtesy of

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Mystery of the Speed Knitter - Solved!

Miriam Tegels of The Netherlands, breaking the record for fastest knitting.
Over the weekend, Shay Barsabe wrote in to ask about the above photo, which appears in Astounding Knits!: 101 Spectacular Knitted Creations and Daring Feats and shows Miriam Tegels breaking the speed-knitting record back in 2006. Was the photo reversed, Shay wondered? And furthermore, was Miriam supporting her right-hand needle (something Shay had never seen)? The answer is in, provided by Miriam herself, who says: "I knit continental style, picking the yarn with the left hand, as the picture shows." An unusual method to some, to be sure, but then again, so is knitting at Tegels' breakneck speed of 118 stitches per minute.

Carla Meisjen, founder of Stitch 'n Bitch Nederland, was the event's official witness and stitch counter. She emailed to say: "Mystery? Not to me...Miriam uses continental knitting and does not cross stitch, she doesn't do any kind of combination knitting (all stitches are always right leg in front)."

Miriam getting ready to beat the world record, pictured here with Carla Meijsen (in the flowered stole) and the mayor of Swalmen.
Carla makes an appearance in my next knitting book, Knitting Around the World: A Multistranded History of a Time-Honored Tradition, (October 2011), discussing a project dear to her heart: her recreation of a Dutch knitting sampler. I'll be posting updates about my next book in coming weeks. In the meantime, keep your questions and comments coming!

Friday, April 1, 2011

We Have a Winner! (Well, Two Winners, Really...)

A big HURRAY to Jenni from Queensland, Australia and Ellen in Westchester US of A, who each won a copy of Astounding Knits!: 101 Spectacular Knitted Creations and Daring Feats. Thanks for playing! I can't wait to hear your thoughts on the book.

While it wends its way to your disparate locations, here are some pictures to tide you over. Today's theme, in honor of the tedious snow that persists in falling on Brooklyn, is Penguins. First, Kiyoko Yoshikawa's all-knitted penguin, which readers of my newsletter will recognize from a couple of weeks back. I show it here from practically every angle, mostly because I just can't get enough of this gorgeous bird. (And to everyone who expressed concern over Kiyoko's well-being and where-abouts after earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan last month, I have yet to hear from her. But she has always been a poor email correspondent and the fact that she lives in Kyoto, at a distance from the disasters, gives me hope that she is in good health and spirits as I type this. Thank you so much for asking.)

Photos courtesy of Descent and Kiyoko Yoshikawa.

Next up, a gaggle of penguins from Annelies de Kort, the Dutch miniature artist whose microknitting – at 1:160 scale – was absolutely the smallest of all Astounding Knits. Her latest penguin coats and balaclavas are not quite so minute (penguin models shown are 6.5 cm), but they are sure to keep tiny penguins the world over free from chills.

Knitting, sewing, styling, and photos by Annelies de Kort.

Meanwhile, at the Philip Island Nature Parks, staff members (and dozens, if not hundreds, of volunteers) knit for life-size penguins. It was the most logical way to keep Australian Little Penguins caught in oil spills from ingesting the toxic goo; and the success rate for rehabilitation, thanks in no small part to these knitted "jumpers," was an impressive 98%. Pictured below is a simple model, but enthusiastic volunteers sent in everything from scaled down Australian football league sweaters to a complete wedding party ensemble.
Photo courtesy of Penguin Foundation: Philip Island Nature Parks.

Last but certainly not least are two of Laurel Roth's crocheted Biodiversity Reclamation Suits for Urban Pigeons. Okay, so pigeons are not penguins but according to Laurel's logic, maybe they'd like to be. As I wrote in the book, she conceived these suits to "disguise our nation's winged urban pests as more savory...members of the avian community." And at the same time, to recreate our faltering animal biodiversity – because each of Laurel's suits represents an extinct species of bird.  A little research has unearthed a potential penguin candidate: New Zealand's former Chatham Islands Penguin. The trick will be training the penguin-pigeon to swim...
A dapper suit to disguise your pigeon as an Ivory Billed Woodpecker.

Dodo suit. Photos courtesy of Laurel Roth.