Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Taking Knitting to Extremes

Knitting has always been a very utilitarian skill- using a few double-pointed needles, women and children could make stockings to keep their family warm and dry, and maybe even bring in a few extra bucks.

The closer to the 21st century we get, the more room for exploration is possible for knitting, and playing with size to make creative and inspiring art has become more and more common.

Today I came across this video:

Laura Birek, author of the book Picture Perfect Knits, had the innovative idea of knitting with unspun roving and PVC pipes, to make a gigantic, cushy knitted blanket.  I had already seen Bisuit Scout's knitted chairs defy expected proportions, but Laura Birek's oversized gauge produces a blanket of average size- it is the creation of the fabric, and the oversized stitches, that lend it a thickness and visual impact far greater than the average afghan.

Birek's polar opposite can be found in Althea Chrome, an Indiana based artist who spends her days knitting tiny miniature garments to scale (bug sized- hence the name of her company, Bugknits).

Chrome knits on tiny pins with the thinnest thread, and her creations sell for thousands of dollars.  Beautiful hand-knit sweaters and gloves that will never be worn are ogled under microscopes by art collectors.  When looking at pictures of her work, it is difficult to see that they are miniature, unless a hand is in the picture for reference.  Chrome stepped into the consciousness of the mainstream with her work on the movie Coraline, which finally allowed her beautiful, miniature garments to be modeled.

The artistic possibilities for knitting are endless, and playing with gauge is only one of the ways that artists can surprise audiences with unexpected use of proportion.  I'm very excited to see what projects knitters will think up playing with giant needles and tiny pins- and there's a part of me that wants to get started myself!

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