Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Yarn Bombing

There are certain activities associated with youth, like questioning authority, and then there are other activities associated with our golden years, like knitting. The lines between the two are now blurred, so hang up your shawl and grab your needles because baby, knitting ain't just for grandma anymore. Knitting has taken on cult status, and young and old alike are going guerrilla.

Behold these innocent balls of wool, unaware of their power to change the world, one knitting needle at at time
I started innocently, learning to knit when I was a mere child, all of eight years old. Well, technically I corked before I knit, using a knitting spool. This is a craft that has been around for a hundred years, which is odd given its limitations. Take a large wooden spool, hammer four nails in a square shape around the hole, then "knit" around in circles to create a tubular chain through the middle. That's corking in a nutshell.

This is about as practical and esthetically pleasing as tongue depressor sculpture. You always end up coiling it into a potholder, or in my case, many potholders. My grandmother - a master knitter who could watch TV, chat and knit a sweater at breakneck speed without looking down at her hands - was exasperated at the energy wasted on something that resembled knitted tapeworms. She taught me to knit properly and with purpose.  I never matched her skill, but I produced a decent scarf or two. I eventually abandoned this gentle pastime in exchange for more adventurous and age appropriate pursuits like disco hopping. Knitting didn't fit my image in the 80s, but maybe it would when I got to my 80s.

My 20-something artist daughter convinced me to pick up my needles again. She attends university on the east coast and she taught herself to knit. Forget grandma, Google is the new mentor. Cast on, knit, purl, "tink" (knit spelled and performed backwards in order to fix a mistake) - the basics and more are all on YouTube now. She quickly mastered the art and completed complicated hats, scarves, fingerless gloves, even socks for everyone on her Christmas list. I did not advance as quickly and made panicky Skype calls with my work-in-progress - usually a scarf (okay, always a scarf) - held up to the camera. 
Requests for more raw material meant I had to make regular pilgrimages to the yarn shop. One look around told me these are not the days of my Nana's knitting. Forget garish acrylics and scratchy wools. There is now a plethora of soft, vibrant fibres - bamboo, silk, organic cotton, soy and hand-spun and hand-dyed from a variety of sheep and goats whose pedigrees are lovingly listed on the label alongside their portraits and pet names. (I kid you not, no pun intended.) The colours are enough to knock your hand-knit socks off - luscious jewel tones, earthy shades from nature and screaming electrics from Japan.

And if you have any remaining doubts about knitting being a gentlewoman's craft, let me introduce you to the concept of Yarn Bombing.
The Before, Pre Yarn Bombing

Near where I live, and a place I pass by often when I walk The Budster. And just look at their innocent little statue faces, oblivious to the yarn carnage about to take place. 
To the uninitiated, yarn bombing is where genteel meets renegade; its the art of knit graffiti or "textile street art." An international guerrilla movement, it inspires people to take up the knitting needles and along with stealth, a disguise and a dose of chutzpa, work for total cosmic yarn domination. Fighting for political change, when expressed with yarn, becomes a message delivered with a cuddle. All over the world, girls and boys yarn bomb; even grannies are leaving their wooly calling cards in random places. It grabs the notion of knitting as a gentle craft and knocks that theory on its fuzzy behind.

It's easy. You just target a post, bike stand, bench, anything that needs yarn beautification, and covertly cover it with a hand-knit item. It can be as simple as a tiny square on a chain link fence, or a garment covering a tree, statue, or even an entire bus. Unlike graffiti, it's not permanent and it makes people smile. It might be up for only a few minutes, or it may last for years. Sometimes tags accompany the item - like the Swedish yarn bombing group called Masquerade whose motto is Nemo Attexet Sobrius! (Nobody Knits Sober!) And sometimes the pieces remain anonymous.

So bearing all this in mind, Buddy and I stumbled upon this one morning. Someone came with stealth in the night and yarn bombed the crap out of these two. 

I prefer it this way, but clearly the art gallery owners did not, as the yarn was removed after only a few days. The piece is now back to its nudie-pants state. You can tell from the way Buddy is gazing longingly into the depths of their crocheted souls that he fancies the fuzzy.

The After, post Yarn Bombing

I wait patiently, and wonder where I can stake a claim as I nurture my inner yarnarchist.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Thursday, February 14, 2013

How I feel about Valentine's Day

 Yes, these are actual goats making actual goat noises.

The. Best.

Thanks, Katrina, for posting this on FB. If I watch nothing else for the rest of my life, I will die happy.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Griffintown Horse Palace

This is yet another example of the many things I love about Montreal, this juxtaposition of old and new, cosmopolitan and country.


This is the view from the counter that serves the best burgers in Montreal.
 Walk down pretty much any street, and you'll see modern buildings squeezed side by side with centuries old gems.

You can be in the heart of the city, all traffic and bustle and tall buildings, then a few minutes later, you can stroll past a working horse stable built in 1860. The Griffintown Horse Palace is home to some of the many caleche horses found in the old port. The stable was owned for over thirty years by Leo "Clawhammer Jack" Leonard, one of the last Irish Quebecers still living in Griffintown. Just before he died, he sold his land to a developer and now everyone fears it may be torn down and replaced with more housing. Condos now dwarf the barn, and its future is in serious doubt. Even though the stables are considered to be a heritage site, the city of Montreal has not shown an interest in protecting it. Wonder why?

There is a news story HERE and HERE

This video tells the story of the man and the stable.

Horse Palace (EN) from The Rake on Vimeo.

There is a foundation set up to save the stable, but its future remains in jeopardy.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Birthday Boy Turns Nine Today

Guess which little doggy has a birthday today?

 He was around 12 weeks old when we brought him home. He couldn't walk very far, so someone
always ended up tucking him into a jacket midway through the walk.

In fact, we learned we needed to add another half hour because so many people would stop and say hello, or rather "ooh" and "aah" and fuss over him. Grown men would throw down their shovels and coo like new mothers. People would stop their cars and dash out through traffic to get to the sidewalk. I'm not exaggerating. Every walk was like this. Even now, people stop to give him a pat on the head.
 He got along with everyone and every other animal in the house. With some exceptions.
It wasn't for lack of trying on Buddy's part. They agreed to disagree.

He endured his share of humiliations over the years. Interesting wardrobe choices and bad haircuts, like so many of us.

And who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks? He learned to swim at the age of seven. After years of trying to coax him into the water, he suddenly decided that swimming after sticks was fun. This from a dog who would sidestep puddles.

 So happy birthday, my little Buddy.


You may be getting gray, and your eyesight isn't what it used to be. You kinda smell a bit like old socks and ripe cheese and your breath could strip paint, but I love you just the same.

Live long and prosper.