Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Lineage of Craft

Wednesday night my arse was deposited firmly in my chair, eyes glued to the television, watching Craft in America on PBS. Have you all seen this three-hour mini-series yet? If not, you definitely need to.

In a word, phenomenal!

The series is organized into three themed hours: memory; landscape; and community. Each hour provides the viewer a glimpse into the studios of a handful of makers, exploring how their art is informed/embodied by the theme du heure. Now, I don't know about you, but I find this type of televised process-related expedition to be riveting. So much so that I hardly paid attention to my current knitting project while watching the show, and that my friends, is saying something!

I love to hear artists speak about their individual processes. It takes me back to my art school days where process-related dialogue was the name of the game. I also love to hear artists speak about the detailed aspects of their respective crafts. Being the process junkie that I am, I revel in the intricacies of how one creates a masterpiece from a pile of stuff. It's truly a magical phenomena. However, the aspect of the series that really resonated for me was the fact that most of the artists profiled learned their craft either as apprentice to a lifetime devotee to that particular trade/process/craft/artform or they were taught by a family member, usually a parent or grandparent. I cannot tell you how awe-inspiring it was to gaze upon three female basket makers, mother, daughter and granddaughter, creating containers together, speaking to one another about their craft, forging a deep connection to one another through their shared creative experience. Really, it was mystical to behold.

Of course paying witness to these technicolor individuals upon my television monitor, masterful craftspeople able to articulate the ins and outs of their thaumaturgical trade, veritable spokesmodels for the handmade, provoked reflection upon my own craft-informed lineage and how important a role making has played in my life. My entire childhood, from toddler-hood to tumultuous teenage-hood, is heavily pockmarked with memories of spending time with my father and maternal grandparents engaged in creative exploration and discovery. I covet the memories of drawing and painting with my Dad, my father transporting me to and from classes ranging from the fine to the applied arts on evenings and weekends in an effort to hone my expanding skills, sitting quietly with my grandmother (Nana) in her den, our needles and hooks simultaneously enmeshed in knotting yarn while engaged in idle conversation, my Nana and I leaning over her dining room table, carefully pinning pattern tissue to unending lengths of fabric, bisecting scraps of wood with the blade of my grandfather's table saw, inhaling the scent of freshly cut lumber while my Poppie instructed me how to honor the grain. These memories are just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. There are so many more that dance about the recesses of my gray matter.

All of my childhood memories denoting the borders of my creative dominion have literally become the foundation for an adulthood devoted to making and sharing my skills, knowledge and experience with my mother and my daughter. The three of us spending endless evenings and weekends together engaged in myriad crafty pursuits such as knitting, crocheting, sewing and needle felting while simultaneously strengthening our shared bond through conversation, laughter and camaraderie. The result of which is a foundation for which my daughter's creative castle, if you will, shall find its supports.

This is my gift to my beloved child who has become my sister in craft. May she go forth into the world and spread her knowledge, skills and love of making to the ones she adores and cares for. In her my Nana will continue working her magic with yarn, thread and fabric. Through my child, my father's vision and talent will extend far beyond my lifetime. In Magdalena will my mother's efforts to heal her saddened soul through creative contemplation persist. Through Lena the fearless creative spirit that was my grandfather shall continue to think outside the confines of the proverbial box. By my daughter shall the history of our family's making survive and profit for generations to come.

You see, the process of making is more than mere object creation. It is history. It is the harbinger of both experience and wisdom. It is a transcendent force that connects we humans to one another as links in a chain from the present to the infancy of human history. A human history in which I am positive that some early human plucked a stick from the ground, cast an eye into the very essence of that stick and then attempted to transform the stick into something above and beyond its mere raw stick state, for we have always been makers. Craft truly is an essential part of our humanity. Taking this notion one step further, I believe that craft is actually the essence of humanity.

Craft, my friends, is power.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Conversion Version

I worked up my crocheted skully sweater into a knit version for Little LadyLinoleum. I think it turned out okay (not great mind you) despite the issues I had with the conversion, mostly due to the yarn.

You see, I usually create color work using the fair isle method as opposed to the intarsia method. Fair isle is my color work process of preference due to the fact that I feel that I have more control over the procedure in that I have less yarn to manage at the back of my work (and less ends to weave in when complete). Whereas intarsia usually requires use of a bazillion bobbins of yarn hanging off the back of my work (and God only knows how many ends to weave in upon completion). Really, too many bobbins to manage takes the fun out of color work for me. However, on this particular sweater I thought I'd throw caution to the wind and bust out my bobbins in an effort to prevent Little Lino from snagging the fair isle floating yarn at the back of the work when attempting to pull the finished sweater over her head.

Now, had this been knitted from wool, the intarsia process itself and the resulting gazillion ends to be woven in would have been a cake walk (or less painful anyway). To the contrary, this yarn is shiny, slippery and decomposes into a ply-free state in a matter of moments. Really, can you say nightmare? I think that the backside of this skully looks terrible; frayed ends escaping left and right. I hate that!

I may have to combat the fray with a little fabric glue. Any advice you may have with regard to this particular set of issues is welcome.

Needless to say I am trying another knitted version of this sweater for moi. This time I will be employing the fair isle method for the color work. I'm hoping the second time 'round is the charm. We'll see...

Copyright 2007 Regina Rioux Gonzalez. All rights reserved.

Friday, May 25, 2007

News From LinoleumLand


Beginning in June, I will be teaching crochet classes on Saturdays at Abuelita's Knitting & Needlepoint in South Pasadena. So, if you're in the Los Angeles area and you'd like to partake in a little crochet-o-rama with me come mid-June, I'd love to have you.

I'm actually looking forward to my return to teaching. I never thought that I'd utter those words again. Oh, not because I disliked teaching. Quite to the contrary. I loved each and every minute of it to the depths of my art-encrusted soul. I just didn't like the politics involved, nor the pay rate for said soul-crushing employment. However, Abuelita's is not a California State University and I currently have supplemental income with which to support my family. So, this teaching experience shall be altogether different. And as I said before, I am looking forward to the journey.


I have several projects on the horizon. First and foremost I am joining forces with a very talented handbag handle designer. I will be designing patterns for use with her stunningly beautiful handles. I just received a package from her filled to the brim with her wares and people let me tell you, her designs are truly wonderful. More to come on that front later...

Second, I have three design projects on my schedule for the months of June/July. Two of those are for Crochet Today mag and the third is for Knitscene mag. I have begun to work consistently for these two publishers now and I really like them. The editors and their staff are a delight to work for. I consider myself lucky that they'll have me.

Book Proposaling...

Yeah, can we all just acknowledge that I am a HUGE procrastinator when it comes to this particular aspect of

Oh, don't get me wrong, I do have TWO proposals started. By this I mean, the outlines are done. The intros are begun. I just have NOTHING else completed on them and I cannot seem to break my roadblock, wordblock, timeblock, whatever the block happens to be that seems to keep this particular project from progressing.

And can I state for the record that my lack of progress is completely freaking me out? Oh yeah, welcome to NEUROTICA!

A feature of living in the land of Neurotica is a weekly trip to my local bookseller whereas I nonchalantly saunter over to the craft book section of the store and take note of all of the new crochet and knit tomes that have found their places on the shelves. Immediately thereafter, I remind myself of the fact that I could, in fact, have a book of my own designs gracing those very shelves were it not for my shameful lack of progress on my freaking book proposal! Heart begins to beat quicker, sweat develops on my furrowed brow as I continue to castigate my seriously deficient book proposaling self. Then I go back to the cube farm and inhale my lunch. Methinks this process is not really helping me to complete my proposals, yet I've opted to stay locked into this cycle of madness. Go figure...

Anyway, I realize that I suffer from total middle class white girl issues. I'm under no illusions. I'm just whining because, well, this is my blog and I can!

So all, there you have it! Lots of stuff going on and NOT going on too!

Have a wonderful and safe holiday weekend everyone!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Jeepers Peepers Cape

Always trying to get a jump on the Halloween season here at ChezLinoleum. As such, there's nothing like a passel of felted bloodshot eyeballs to put me in the spirit of all things orange and black!

Presenting the Jeepers Peepers Cape...

Modeled by my co-cube farmer, Sunny!

This behemoth of knitdom was created using my favorite crunchy synthetic, Red Heart Super Saver, then adorned with a pile of felted balls.

It took me about 2 weeks (not working daily) and 1200 yards of acrylic to knit this puppy in stockinette stitch (with garter stitch border) from top to bottom. The points were worked individually. It 'twas actually a quick and easy knit for me as I knit continental and am a bit of a knitting speed demon.

In fact I think it took me longer to felt the eyeballs and hand sew them onto felt backing. Not to mention the fact that I then had to hand sew them onto the cape itself once backed. Yep, that took a while.

I like the effect though.

Now all I need is some matching headgear. No, wait. I've got it!


Yeah, definitely more to come...

Copyright 2007 Regina Rioux Gonzalez. All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Ye Olde School Crochet Along

It always amazes me when things deemed uncool are spun 180 to super cool in a relatively short amount of time. You see when I first began my blogging adventure two years ago, crochet was considered to be a bastion for the uncool fiberholic (unbeknownst to me) whereas knitting was for the super cool elite (also unbeknownst to me). [Classic rant located here.] Really, I had no idea that (i) people were gettin' their yarn on in huge world-wide numbers, (ii) knitters disliked crocheters as a rule, (iii) those of us who could both knit and crochet seemed to be few and far between and (iv) granny-bashing slogans were the website, blog and publication graffiti of choice. Poor granny! [Read more about my issues regarding this subject here.]

Seems the tide has turned however, and we are now experiencing a crochet love fest where those who could always crochet have been elevated to the ranks of the super cool elite (Congratulations!) and those who've not yet gotten their hook on are learning to do so in droves. And hey, the granny-bashing has subsided too.

Works for me!

As a result of this new found love for the hook we're seeing an interest in a few classic pats that have soldiered on through the decades, everyone wielding a hook learning these techniques, becoming a sort of right of crochet passage. You know that of which I speak...

Yes, ripples and grannies!

It just warms my heart to see piles of peeps making ginormous blankets and untold amounts of other items using these classics! Here's one of my SNB buds, Molly (with help from Ellen) showing off her creation...

How cool is that? Oh, and if you haven't paid a visit to the queen of granny squares lately, I highly recommend popping over to her acrylic-laden lair. Always a good time to be had.

Anyway, just in case your wondering, I will hop on the granny bandwagon every now again. Probably won't git my ripple on, but then again, I might be feelin' it at some point. Regardless, I will continue to watch and revel in the experience of others.

And can we all agree how refreshing it is to be one big happy yarn-addicted family again?

Jeez who knew all we needed was little ripple? Fred Sanford would be so proud!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Let's Get Acquainted

Last weekend was one of a social nature. I had a chance to greet a few new faces, get reacquainted with some familiar faces and indulge in an entire day of mother/daughter festivities.

Friday evening kicked off my weekend o' fun with a visit to Bri's new "den of mid-century modern chic". At which we sipped her freshly made gazpacho and imbibed more than a few bottles of wine before entertaining dessert, more inebriant and two new faces. New to me anyway.

We veteran winos always double-fist our booze with water...

A few hours into our evening Bri and I were joined by two creative chickadees from the blogosphere...Lisa and Wendy! We had a wonderful time getting acquainted while chowing down on Bri's faboo polenta cake.

Oh, and there was sangria involved too (which attests to the strange camera angle of the pic above). Hey, it was a long night! A good night, but a long one nonetheless.

Saturday the party continued. Only this time the hubby accompanied me as we traveled eastward for a birthday celebration (with margaritas) at Uccellina's abode. Basically I spent the entire evening talking to Miss Kendra about subjects as varied as bribing your tatoo artist with cookies for a better rate to the temperament of felines to debating the wisdom of eating Thai food in the Valley after 10:00 pm. Definitely love to make much merriment with my SNB girls!

Anyhow, rounding out the weekend I spent Mother's Day Sunday hanging out with Little LadyLinoleum. Sorry no wine or margaritas were involved. However, we did get a little stitchy.

Yep, I busted out ye old machine and the two of us explored the path to garment creation from pattern piece liberation to finished baby-doll top for her.

Little Linoleum claimed this fabric the minute she spotted it on this here bloggy. The kid's got a thang fer skulls.

Not a bad way to spend a couple of days eh?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Needle Felting LadyLinoleum Style

You may not be aware of this, but I'm a sucker for process. I *love* learning. Once more, I *love* learning even more when it involves digging my hands into some new-to-me art or craft endeavor. Difficulty levels mean little when pioneering into unknown creative territory. Beginning, intermediate, advanced...what's that??? I like to just jump in feet first and deal with the challenges along the way. It's true, this method of exploration is not for the faint of heart, but it works for me. That said, I'm definitely not opposed to easy processes either. Easy processes are fun and have proven to be just as rewarding as the not-so-easy fair.

Enter my foray into needle felting!

Not only is needle felting unbelievably simple, but it's inexpensive too! Oh, and I get to work through my issues by repeatedly stabbing extremely sharp implements into stuff. Vewry, vewry therapeutic.

Other than working through my apparent homicidal feelings toward wool, why needle felting you ask?

Well, I desire to create embellishments for my knitting and crocheted pieces that utilize the same material (generally wool) without using the same process(es) to create said accoutrements. I also endeavor to give my hands a break from needling and hooking due to the associated soreness I tend to experience at overwork of the wrists and digits. In addition, I purchased the tools and materials last summer for my progeny, so no further expenditure needed. So, why not create felt with needles?

Ahem, let's get down to the 411 of felting with needles shall we?

Okay, let's talk materials!

First you need roving. Wool roving seems to be the material of choice for needlus feltus. I purchase mine from here.

Second, you need needles. Not just any needles, but needle felting needles. These type of needles tend to be sharper, longer and have a little "handle" at one end so the felter can get a grip, so to speak. Also, needles can be grouped into larger settings called punches. Punches are good for felting large areas.

Lastly, you'll need a high density foam pad which can be obtained at many of the same resources that sell needles.

Got yer stuff? Okay, let's start stabbing! Um, I mean felting...

Boys and girls gather your materials for we will be making flat, felted eyeballs today.

Oh come on! When embarking upon new crafty journeys one ensures a measure of success when sticking to imagery one feels comfortable with...Sheesh.

Step One:

Place a few layers of roving atop foam pad in the shape of a circle thusly...

Step Two:

Stab the hell outta of roving circle with punch, turning piece over ever so often to prevent circle from felting to pad.

Stab until circle looks something like this...

Step Three:

Add a circular layer of iris color roving to felted white of the eye.

Step Four:

Stab away with single needle!

Is this not fun???

Step Five:

Repeat steps three and four to affix pupil to newly fashioned flat ball.

Step Six:

Take small amounts of vein colored roving and twist into an elongated strip. Place onto white of eyeball in a vein-y sort of shape.

Step Seven:

Stab vein with single needle, working it into the white portion of eyeball.

Repeat steps six and seven until desired amount of veins are worked into surface of ball.

Ta Da!

Stabbing, um I mean needle felting, is fun!

Copyright 2007 Regina Rioux Gonzalez. All rights reserved.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Spinning the Spent

Last week after a long, looong day at the cube farm, followed by a pretty hard-core kickboxing session with my trainer (how bourgeois is that that statement?) I dropped into my chair in my living room in an attempt to (i) crochet or knit something, anything, (ii) generally just decompress from the day's events and (iii) get through the hours of tube-action recorded on my DVR. Flipping through the list of the unwatched I settled upon an episode of Iconoclasts featuring Quentin Tarantino and Fiona Apple, both of whom I really like. (I also like that they're friends and have a sort of mutual admiration society going. )

Anyhow, as soon as the show/dialogue began I immediately found myself coming back to life and of course, sinking deep into thought (as is my way) at some of the ideas/conundrums/concepts debated and discussed by the dueling fonts of creativity. Although there was much said that resonated for me, I have to say that the portion of the dialogue that I cannot seem to shake centered upon the act of pouring huge amounts of self into a project and the subsequent "recovery process" that this kind of output can entail upon completion of said project. Obviously for Tarantino and Apple project is defined as entire film or album. For moi project is usually much smaller in scope (60" piece of wool bacon and the like) with occasional larger efforts here and there (large sculptural pieces like the squid - terrible pic, pirate and mermaid). Nonetheless, creative efforts cause us to expend the required amount of energy commensurate with project purview.

Definitely an intriguing topic for us who make stuff, yes indeed-y.

So, what happens to the maker after the energy has been expended and the project is complete? I can only speak for myself in this regard, but sometimes this completion signals a green light to begin something new, something never tried, something that builds upon the wisdom acquired from the previous effort, something that's been on the back burner desperately waiting to come to fruition. The remaining times I feel completely and utterly spent, having pushed forth a huge amount of myself literally outside myself in an effort to nurture an idea from conception through creation to completion. This process, my creative journey if you will, is all at once exhilarating, frustrating, exhausting, energizing, fraught with problems and solutions, wrought with pitfalls, freefalls and wonder. Really, after an experience of making such as the one just described I just want go have a smoke, and that's saying something for someone who hasn't taken a puff in 10 years give or take. It is in those times when the making is made and my creative self is exhausted that the time is ripe for turning my back to workspace in order to give mind and body a rest.

Whoa LadyLinoleum! What are you talking about? You seem to be switched to "on" 24/7!

Well my peoples, this current chick of the green blog that you now know as LadyLinoleum, is a direct result of the empty artist taking a break. And I don't mean weeks or months folks. Nope. After having expended copious amounts of energy to complete graduate school and a subsequent stint in teaching I was quite simply, empty. And being without contents? Yeah, I just couldn't make a thing. For about three years. And I survived. And when I was rested and ready, I hit the ground running so to speak, creativity intact and stronger than ever, if I do say so myself. And you know what? Apparently the Tarantinos and Apples of the world experienced similar if not longer respective hiatuses, each making nothing in between projects for about six years.

I am not alone. Nor am I anomalous I believe.

The great thing about human nature is our ability to rest and regenerate. The frustrating thing about human nature is our need to rest and regenerate. At least I found it frustrating when I was a young Linoleum, raring and ready to go for the next challenge or event. Now that I'm older, I recognize the positive aspects of rest and relaxation and their ability to quiet mind and body. When mind and body are quiet, they are also open. Open means those creative receptors are charged and queued, ready to tackle a new masterpiece.

Who knew empty could be so deep? Well, if you did, you are not only on your way to becoming a Buddhist monk, but you're a much more evolved person than I. However, if the pencil tip of your mind is, um, a little eroded much like mine, there's hope for you yet! Woo Hoo!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Hangin' with Ms. Yarnpants

A few weeks ago my fellow craftanista, Stitchy McYarnpants, let me know that she'd be in LaLaLand soon and wondered if I'd be available to meet her. My response went something like this, "Hell yeah!" So, I filled out my Cube Farm Furlough Request Form and prepared myself for a day of shopping, eating and general camaraderie with Mistress McYarnpants. How cool is that?

Fast forward to Monday, which shall henceforth be known as McYarnpants Day. Yay!

Stitchy was staying in THE VALLEY, but nonetheless insisted upon braving the mass of traffic over the Sepulveda pass to mi casa. The poor thing. I warned her though. Driving 10 miles in this town can take 10 minutes or 2 hours and 10 minutes depending upon the time of day. It's nuts really AND getting worse year by year. We definitely need mass transit, but that's another post entirely.

Upon her appearance, the hubs made sure she was fed and caffeinated before exiting our domicile to my vehicle for a trip Downtown. What's so important Downtown you inquire? One of my favorite places on the entire planet she responds. Michael Levine's! Now, if you've never been to Mr. Levine's, which consists of three separate stores filled to their rooftops with fabric, notions and yarn, you're life is lacking completion. Seriously. Store number one houses the garment fabrics and collateral materials, including yarn. Store number two encases all of the interior fabrics and brick-a-brack. Store number three, called The Loft, sells fabric by the pound, $2 per pound normally, but the management has been known to reduce the per pound price to as low as 50 cents. Really, each store is a joy in an of itself. All three combined? Nothing short of PARADISE. Paradise that empties the wallet in a matter of hours that is. Really, I cannot leave those venues empty handed.

Okay, yes, we all know by now that I have a serious issue when it comes to shopping for crafty supplies. Do we need to revisit The Tulle Incident? I think not.

Moving right along.

Mostly, Stitchy and I stuck to the garment fabric portion of the program. Literally, we spent most of our visit in store number one. Although this venue is literally busting at the seams with uber-cool fabrics, my heart lies in the printed cottons section of the building. I mean the variety and selection is nothing short of amazing. Needless to say I toddled over to the cutting table with bolts of pirates...

Sugar skulls...

And milk carton labels...

Finished my pile off with this super cool plastic coated orange satin quilted stuff...

Printed elastic...

And a couple of these panels from the sale bin...

Unfortunately, I blitzed on stopping by the pattern department before leaving Levine's. However, yesterday my friend, co-cube farmer and seamstress extraordinaire pointed me in the direction of online pattern acquisition. How did I not know this? Whatever. I'm in the know now.

Anyhow, Stitchy and I rounded out our fabric fest with a bit of food at Phillipe's. I've expressed my adoration for this LA landmark before. It's simply scrumptious! Upon our return to ChezLinoleum, we launched into a several hours long dialogue regarding all things crafty and life-y. Very enlightening and definitely a good time. Hopefully I will be able to hit your turf next time D!

I love the Blogosphere. Truly. Had I not begun my little online experiment, Stitchy and well, all of you would be unknown to me. I lead a much richer existence having met you all. That's fer sure.

Oh, Susan and Mimi? We will definitely get together when I'm in your neck of the woods. I'll email you individually. Blogging rocks!