Thursday, February 13, 2014

Knitting a Scarf for a Snake: Work in Progress on a Snow Day

This is a view of my back yard this morning.

As snow falls  fast and fine  (and don't we New Englanders know how to gauge the severity of a snowstorm by the speed and quality of the snow as it falls?), the day presents an opportunity to charge ahead on a bunch of artistic projects.  I don't usually work on two or three art projects at a time, but conventional wisdom says that when you do that, each piece cross-fertilizes and cross-inspires the others.

One of my projects today is to knit a scarf for a snake.

This is the fantasy creature I'm calling a snake for purposes of the image I'm creating.  It dwells in the base of a tree growing on the banks of Trout Brook.

Check out that face.  Look at that bunched-up enigmaticTolkienian visage.

 Aggressive nose, pugnacious chin, legs knarled and knobby as it crouches in its hole...what is it?

And check out the backdrop!  A tree with a hole in the bottom, yes.  But do not the round swellings on either side of the hole suggest thighs?  Does not the dark cavity in the center suggest that most feminine of orifices?  I think so.  Take another look.

I named it this creature The Serpent Within and decided to reproduce it using the materials with which I'm most comfortable:  yarn and fabric.  Today I'm knitting a scarf for it.

I created the two-legged, knobby kneed figure by knitting.  I left a wide, funnel-like opening at the top which I intended to transform into this mysterious figure.  I stuffed the legs and the body with cording of various sizes and left a wide, funnel-shaped opening at the top, which I intended to stuff with fiberfill, and a bead for the knobby nose.

It didn't work.  I couldn't get the materials to mimic the face in the photo.  So I went to Plan B:  I knew I'd seen a pattern for a snake head in Nicki Epstein's Knitted Embellishments.

So I made a snake head instead.  But when I inserted the snake head into the funnel-like opening of the neck, I could still see the stuffing (cording) down in the funnel.  It didn't look good.

I'm not the world's best photographer, and I took this photo with one hand.  Trust me, this is a photo of a wide, funnel-shaped knitted neck of a creature, with its snake-shaped head protruding from its body in such a way that its fibrous insides are showing along the top of its...well, back.

Thus the need for something to stick in that space and cover up the cording in there.  A scarf for a snake. What else?

But when I inserted it inside the opening and spread it down along the snake's...uh, dorsal side, it looked like a sort of dweeby thing for a snake.

So I'm gonna try again, make something in stockinette that's maybe the same width but three times the diameter of the neck, then gather it?  Or maybe make a ruffle the way those ruffly scarves are constructed--by continuing to add increases until you get a ruffle?  That's how I made the lettuce in Lunch Among the Cabbages:

But should a snake wear a ruffle?  Would a ruffle sap away some of its venom?  Or would a ruffle, on the other hand, give it some of the arrogant majesty of, say, the ice queen in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe?

Should the ruffle be an earth tone like the rest of the snake?  Or something with a little sparkle or glitz?

Here I digress to talk about the yarn I'm using for the snake's body, head, and neck.  I bought it from a vendor of vintage fabrics at the Brimfield Antique Show, which takes place three times a year in the otherwise quiet hamlet of Brimfield, Massachusetts.

Its oatmeal color and knobby texture put me in mind of whole-wheat bread, so I bought it for making knitted sandwiches.

The label on the one on the left says,

The great name from the Scottish Highlands
Spun and dyed by the 
Highland craftsmen of 
the Pringle mills for
The one on the right lacks a label.

Here's an example of one use for that vintage yarn:  Glad Sandwiches, currently hanging in my solo show at Hartford's Town and County Club. 

While I'm mulling over the neck treatment for the snake, meanwhile I'm preparing a piece of fabric to eventually become the torso and thighs of the tree trunk.  I started with a piece of Pimatex cotton from Dharma Trading

Then I sponged it with a combination of hand-mixed colors:  first, shimmer pearl blended with dark spruce green, then emerald blended with black, and finally black and shimmer jet black mixed with water.  Then I sprinkled it with salt and set it out to dry.  Now it looks like this:

...and here it is with the serpent posed on it:

In the final version, the serpent will be held upright, as it is in the original image, because I'm going to sew it right into that capacious crotch.  There, I said it.

Once this piece is perfectly dry, I plan to place a piece of tree bark underneath it and use the tree bark as a rubbing plate for/with Shiva paintsticks.

The leaves at the base of the tree torso will be leaf-colored fabric confetti entrapped with tulle.  Heck, I'm even making knitted leaves to crunch and toss at its base.  I have four made so far.

Meanwhile, as I wait for that piece to be dry enough to undergo the paintstick/rubbing plate treatment, I'm also working on an optical illusion quilt.  This one is for a jazz-themed quilt show, Jazz Tones, which will hang at Hartford's 100 Pearl Street Gallery from June to August.  Check it out:

What's the jazz equivalent of an optical illusion?  An unresolved chord:

a piece of music that gives the impression that it hasn’t ended properly...leaves a conflict unresolved...lacks a sense of closure.

Here's my unresolved chord, constructed with silks that shimmer with different colors as they are viewed from different directions.  Today, I hope to layer it with batting and begin quilting it:

Another piece in the works is A Love Supreme II, but that one's not ready to show you yet.

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