Sunday, January 15, 2012

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York.

Winter has finally claimed our city.  I am so glad to have had this Sunday off, and to have been able to spend most of the blue skied day in hibernation, only venturing out between 2 and 3 this afternoon, hoping that the strong winds will have brought the official effective temperature closer to freezing.

This was not the case.  The wind was still strong, and everyone I encountered along the sidewalks on my quick walk to the grocery market seemed very intent on their own individual destinations.  These folks were not always mindful of their fellow pedestrians, sort of like what happens when umbrellas give us an excuse for bad walking manners on a rainy day.

It was wonderful to get back home and make that inevitable pot of tea.  PG Tips it was.

My apartment is usually very overheated, but today I am grateful for all the heat that the continually hissing radiators are emitting.  Yesss, I am.

Enough of this weather report.

I'd like to show you some of the projects I've been working on in my hours away from my job.  The following photos show a two-toned, popcorn-stitch-accented crocheted hat that I can report has been keeping my head warm this past week.

I made this up as I went along, using a black worsted weight black wool yarn, accented by a dual strand of vintage Rowan 4-ply Botany yarn and Rowan ivory-ish tweed 4-ply.  The overall shape is like a Russian turnip dome building, meeting up with a classic beret shape.

I was also inspired by the pop-up Japanese tie-dye technique called shibori.  I have several scarves made by this intricate method, and loved the idea of making my own modest tribute.

Another of my New Year's projects has been an initial experiment with a medium new to me, acrylic ink.  Perhaps many of you are also fans of Milly's beautiful Drawings from Nature posts?  If you have not visited there, may I encourage you to do so?  She is one of the folks who initially encouraged me to start this blog.

She's a fine artist, who definitely has mastered the use of acrylic inks.  Last week, I made a quick visit to my favorite NYC discount artists' materials shop, and bought three bottles of acrylic ink, in black, white and sepia.  This afternoon, I opened up a page in one of my mostly empty sketch books and played a bit with the sepia and white ink.  I'm being brave in showing you all the results, and hope that in the weeks to come, I'll have much better examples to share.  I did like using the inks, finding them somewhere between watercolor and gouache, featuring some aspects of each of those two media that I have liked.

Now, let me return to another yarn fueled project.  I am knitting a long, fringed scarf as a surprise farewell gift for a work colleague who will be leaving at the end of the month.  I'm using all four-ply yarns, most of which I bought many, many years ago at Liberty's then excellent yarn department.  I do hope that department still exists!

The colors in this scarf are a bone  Botany (same as in the hat) and three different grey tweedy yarns.  All are Rowan yarns, though I think most might no longer be available.

Let's see, what else have I been doing when not at the shop, trying to keep up with certain 2012 resolves?  I'm reading two books.  One is a recent Alexander McCall Smith novel, The Forgotten Affairs of Youth, featuring his philosopher heroine, Isabel Dalhousie.  

The other novel is Heat Lightning, by Helen Hull, published in 1932, by Coward, McCann, Inc.  I was not yet born in 1932, and Coward, McCann, Inc. no longer exist.  However, Persephone Books are going to reissue this book.  I am finding its plot rather like the story line to a classic film of that era.  I see the scenes in black and white, though Ms Hull's excellent writing also exposes all sort of grey.

Perhaps you readers will now sense that this post has featured a certain colorway?

As we all take our additional steps into this new year, le'ts hope for lots of color, more as each day dawns.

Thank you all for your comments.  I continue to be amazed to have visitors from all over the world.


  1. The art in your projects is always startling. You blend and counterpoint colours and textures so effectively. I'm starting again to put pencil and colour on paper; not much success thus far.

    My first thought, when I saw the hat, was that it was a tea cosy. But that's because I have this fond relationship with tea! As do you.

    Hope the winter doesn't bring any difficulties, and that others improve their sidewalk manners.

  2. I love your idea of just 3 colours. I'm a terrible colour magpie so will buy materials in lots of colours and then agonise over which to use! We are having an unseasonably warm winter over here - I gardened in a t-shirt last weekend so I hope your winter winds are coming our way.

  3. We have got some of the New York chill here in the UK but without the wind, so it has been quite magical these past few days. The colours in the sky and glittering frost have transformed the landscape. I too thought the hat was a tea cosy at first glance... I like it alot and the scarf looks so soft. My crochet may be very colourful, but when it comes to dressing myself I will confess to wearing alot of black and greys. To look at me, you would not think I lived in the home I do!
    I look forward to seeing more of your ink sketches. Keep warm x

  4. You are a true artist, Frances. Not only that you can knit just like that a new warm, nice hat - you also try out new techniques with acrylic paint just like that. I do admire those skills you have. Good to see, that you have made good use of your time, I can sense how much you enjoyed it!

  5. Glad you are keeping snug and warm. Mild weather here has lulled us into thinking we will perhaps not have a cold winter but there is plenty of time left.

    I love the scarf you are knitting, so delicate and airy - is it on a circular needle?

  6. Good morning from France, Frances!

    You'll be pleased to know your post has REALLY made my Monday morning. Any form of artistic inspiration is uplifting and yours REALLY appeals to me. My fascination with garden aesthetics, knitting, etc. have one glorious element in common; structure! That hat of yours is fabulous and screams out structure, texture and beauty!

    Ahh, a post about reading, knitting, and art... what more could I ask for?

    Thank you so much for sharing your new year's creations with us.

  7. Hello Frances,
    Well that has answered my question over what three colours might you choose in the inks. And I do love your cup and saucer. Did you discover how quickly the ink drys and I like that it is waterproof and allows you to paint on layers of colour.
    The knitting is wonderful as always. So glad to hear how you are filling your new free time with lovely projects.
    It has become much colder here, hard frosts and time to enjoy wearing all those knitted socks and feel warm wrapped in a scarf and hat. Even better if you had made it yourself, you are an inspiration with your knitting. So we know you are keeping warm.
    And thank you for mentioning my blog, thank you for your thoughtful comments. Millyx

  8. Ah, so many layers to this wonderful post! Thank you showing us all your creative work, Frances.

    Ooh, I can still remember how cold it was in New York at this time of year - I've never known anything like it! Stay warm, Cx

  9. Hello Frances Your tea cup painting is beautiful. I'm so glad to hear that you have more time to create again. I love your subtle, textured knitting, both the hat and the scarf. And Alexander McCall Smith's Isabel Dalhousie is quite a heroine of mine, I'm so glad you like her too. I have all the books (love the titles) and love the writing style and humour.
    Have a wonderful week.
    Helen x

  10. Frances your color theme is lovely!
    The hat reminded me of shibori too and your gray scarf is dreamy!!! The yarn looks soooo soft!
    Hope you have a great week and stay warm!

  11. Grey is appropriate for winter, though here today the sun has shone and the weather had been brittle bright and cold - or coldish for we do not know continental cold very often. Our radiators do not hiss. I am envious of your art, seeing that I can neither draw nor knit, though my great aunt used to knit a great deal and could turn heels etc. She used a lot of grey as well.

    I do like that onion domed hat!

  12. The grey stripey scarf is absolutely gorgeous. What a beautiful intricate pattern. Your friend is a lucky person to be receiving such a fabulous piece of wearable art.

    I knit too, and know whereof I speak! :0)

    Hugs, Carol

  13. Dear Frances,

    Thank you for your sweet comment on my blog. I feel a bit stronger every day.

    You are a busy lady. So many projects! The hat looks lovely and so does the drawing of the cups you made. The scarf for your friend looks very pretty too. It will be very useful when it's so cold. It's getting colder in Holland too. You never know, we might even get some snow :-)!

    Good luck with the knitting.

    Madelief x

  14. Why amazed? Visitors from all over the world continue to enjoy the gentle rambles through your days.

    I agree, there are an awful lot of grey tones in this post; grey is a very elegant colour, of course, but I still hope that the current preference for muted colours does not describe your own mood. I am almost convinced that you are far too happily busy to let any grey into your heart.

    I love your life, dear Frances, it is exactly the sort of life I would chose were I in your shoes. Except that my art and craft talents are sadly missing.

  15. Your drawing is quite good and I am pleased your showed it to us. I am also doing some needlework – crochet actually. I am trying to crochet as fast as I can another baby blanket for Everett, our 6 months old grandson. He is going to start daycare next Monday and my daughter asked if I could make a blanket that would stay there for him. I am using shades of blue from the lightest ice blue to the darkest navy – and I crochet while listening to Cuban music so I’ll have fast rhythm to help me! Your scarf is going to be a very special gift c’est certain!

  16. What a treat to see all your latest pieces of artwork, all are amazing. I especially love the scarf and the acrylic ink pic. Stay warm dear Frances, it is freezing here too but not as cold as last winter!

  17. For me, there's nothing better on a cold winter day than a cup of tea and a book by Alexander McCall Smith.
    Your teacup picture is beautiful.

  18. I can just imagine you in that quirky hat - it's perfect for your bob!
    The knitting, the painting, the writing - you inspire, Frances. I'm sure your neighbours in the over-heated building would be stunned at what goes on behind your door.

  19. Loving yr popcorn hat!
    Very you indeed.
    And love the drawing from nature site! Teriffic artist.
    merci carolg

  20. Grey is my favourite colourway :D

    I LOVE that hat, it is glorious! And I have been peering at the scarf trying to discover the stitch pattern, I thought linen stitch, but now I'm not sure?

    Back in my art teaching days I used to use acrylic inks and found I favoured different colours from different brands. If you haven't worked with them before I'd recommend going back to all those basic exercises - you know the sort of thing, different 'brushes', different degrees of dilution - and just playing, these babies bring with them an amazing range of possibilities.

    Hope New York is a little warmer today :D

  21. As a big fan of greys and neutrals, I just love your popcorn hat and scarf with their intricate and subtle details. Most of all I am bowled over by your ink teacups, though! How incredibly talented you are, Frances - as another commenter says, a true artist.
    Colourful or not, I look forward to seeing your next creations!

  22. Bravo Frances, you should be very proud to show us all your sketch book, your drawing skills are very strong. I read an article recently about how drawing is not taught as much in art schools now, which seems a great pity. I suspect that your art education was similar to mine with much emphasis on drawing and observation.

    I love the little hat too but cannot for the life of me work out how you made it! Is it knitting with crochet added? Very clever whatever it is. Keep warm x

  23. You are so very Manhattan elegant, Frances.
    THE HAT is a delight --so very you as I hope my hats aren't me!
    Gray is always rather tasteful.
    Snow expected tonight so have to buy rubber booties for a certain someone who hates the damn chemicals they will put down.

    I liked Heat Lightning but did not LOVE it as I do Dorothy Whipple's rather similar English books.
    Am hoping snow storm will bring on grandchild #2 due on Sunday.

    I do so hope they do not make you dig out this year.....

    ox and a wag from Buster

  24. hello frances! it's so very nice to 'meet' you. i am always so amazed at the blogging world, as here i find several of my friends in your comments. how lovely that we share so many!

    i love your painting, i am feeling inspired to pick up a paintbrush now. and your knitting is lovely, i do love rowan wool too. i wish they hadn't discontinued some of their yarn. maybe you could model the hat? it's so pretty!

    i love alexander mc call smith and collect all his books too. the #1 ladies detective agency are my favorites, but the dalhousie series are a close second. and i do so love grey. i'm glad we've met!

    enjoy your sunday, i hope you have it off. my job is always getting in the way of my fun too!

  25. The hat is so divine! Love it love it...kind of French??

    Your teacup drawing is wonderful...the color is so aged. I've never heard of acrylic "ink". I will have to investigate.

  26. Hi Frances,
    I hope you are keeping well!
    Love all your little projects. You are very clever and creative!!
    Stay warm and out of the cold.
    All the best,
    xoxo Ingrid

  27. Love the hat, and am green with envy over the scarf my friend. Am off to e-mail you, long overdue I know, mea culpa!

    Am crocheting a cardigan [bit by bit as time allows] in lilac and duck egg blue myself. The work helps the arthritis in my hands.

    Stay well. IE xx

  28. I have to turn the computer off and go to the market. Enjoying so much reading what you share. Love the hat - wish I could knit? You are so talented.
    You have such an exciting and interesting life. So pleased I found your sharing..