19 Sep
2022

I received an invite code from an outreach person at Shop My Shelf who said that some perfume brand brought me to their attention. I don’t know exactly what that means, but I do know that I like to curate lists of things I like! So I made a little page for myself and now you can shop my skincare and fragrances and home goods and various other things! These are affiliate links, which means I may eventually receive some commissions someday. I have also put a permanent link on my site, right up top next to the Amazon shop link, to make it easy for you to find.

So…am I an influencer now? Have I finally MADE IT??? MUAHAHAHAHHAAAA.

*wipes away a tear in influencer*  

..and yes, I am totally stalling. I do have a Stacked installment of book reviews for you that I hope to post very, very soon!

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18 Sep
2022

Well okay then! I have, as of this past week, just sent off the final batch of chapters for the book I am currently working on (The Art of Fantasy!) That means I am KINDA SORTA DONE! I will probably have to make some edits, and then I will have to write a few intros–which are easier to write after I’ve written the thing being introduced, hee hee!–and then start reaching out to artists for permissions to use their works and then get a lot of rejections and then go back to the drawing board and start researching appropriate imagery all over again…so, yeah. I still have a lot more to do, but the hard part is DONE.

It’s been a bit of a struggle, this latter half of the summer. I did not expect to be writing a book while sick with Covid. Nor did expect that I would ever get Covid. I know, I know–that’s a really naive and privileged thing to say. But being vaxxed and boosted to the max and not ever going anywhere, doing anything, or seeing anybody, I guess I thought I could avoid it forever. Not so. Yvan had to attend a week-long corporate team-building exercise thing, and guess what he brought back? UGH. As I’m sure many of you can attest to, this is pretty miserable stuff. I don’t think I’ve ever been so unwell in my life. I tested positive on the 23rd of August and it was really just this week (the week of September 10th) that I am starting to feel normal again.

…and I just deleted a whole bunch of gripes I have about people’s cavalier attitudes about all of this,  because you know what? Typing it out was really getting me wound up and upset and furious and that’s not what I wanted to bring here today. I realize it’s my blog and I can write about whatever I want…but all things considered, I don’t actually want to dwell on that. I have a habit of feeling some kind of way and then just stewing in it, really settling into a swampy morass of fury and resentment. It’s not good for me and it’s just a GROSS feeling, and I am not going to do it. I wanted to write a little blog post about how I had just finished something that I was struggling with, how I was feeling better after some “health challenges,” and now I am feeling pretty good again and want to do all the things!

All of the AT HOME things, that is!

A home in which we have lived for five months now! I get that to some folks, settling into a new place is a really exciting venture, but to someone who craves stability and doesn’t love change, these past five months have been weird and unsettling (ok, maybe a tiny bit exciting too, I am not a total monster.) But coupled with having to head back to the old place every weekend to fix it up for sale–which is a four-hour trip total, but in some instances, we just got a hotel and stayed the whole weekend–and then the frustrations of trying to sell it, well, it’s been a PROCESS. I don’t know if it’s indicative of the market or if our house just wasn’t super appealing, but we put it up for sale in May and we’re finally closing on a sale right now, the second week of September. OOOF. That took a while, but…I think…we are done!

So, this summer I had big plans for  ~tending to and treating my inner child~ but I didn’t always have the time and energy to devote to it. I’m putting together a more detailed YouTube video about this, but here are a few things I did in service of little Sarah: we got the Jem and the Holograms rockstar hair we’ve always wanted; we’ve been wearing fantastical clothing all summer long, tops and dresses that make me feel like I’m in some sort of fairy tale or enchanted garden, or napping on top of a treasure chest, helping a dragon guard their loot–this magic sword top above is by Jordan Piandedosi; aaaand I have been doing so much reading! Nearly 30 books in the past three months! I think that definitely gets all the sticker stars on my Book It! pin (IYKYK) and so therefore I most definitely deserved a personal pans pizza. And if you are curious about all of the titles that I read, I hope to be sharing that here on the blog as soon as tomorrow.

Here’s the recipe I used, which I think is extra cool, because the person narrating the voice-over sound pretty young (and bonus-bonus! I think they live in the same town I moved to!) Anyway, if you are interested, it came out PERFECT but be prepared to spend five hours making it and five minutes snarfing it down.

Here is a very crooked photo of what one would see if they were to walk into the front door of our home! Yvan’s mother painted this adorable gnome couple for us as a wedding gift, and we wanted it to greet people as they walked in! The only problem is, no one really ever uses the front door, we all come through the garage, hee hee! At any rate, the underneath of the painting was looking pretty bare and we found this small table at a neighbor’s house. She is getting ready to move and had just sort of…invited the neighborhood to come in and poke around? I felt a little nosy, but I recall more or less doing the same thing when I left NJ. It’s the perfect space to display my sunflower bouquet from the day of the wedding!

 

Here’s another few pieces that my mother-in-law painted and which are hanging in the kitchen! I hope to have a whole freaking gallery in the next few years. She paints the sort of storybook canvases that I just want to crawl into and wander around in for a while. Maybe dangle my feet in the sea, hang out with the fisherman’s wife who is yelling at her husband to not forget his lunch!

Anyhoodle, it is September 18th and fall is hopefully just around the corner and perhaps next time I check in I will have some more interesting things to share. Or, at least I won’t be so hot and sweaty when I am sharing them!

Oh yeah! One more thing! I made a little shop and you can shop my skincare and fragrances and other stuff. I got an invite code to set it up! Am I an influencer now? Have I finally MADE IT??? MUAHAHAHAHHAAAA. *wipes away a tear in influencer*

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HOLY OTHERWORLDLY DARKNESS! I have an interview up with Beautiful Bizarre Magazine today!

Thank you, Elizah Leigh for your fabulous questions tuned to “the key of melancholy”, to get to the “shuddering heart” of things– this was such a treat! (And man, Eliza just GETS IT.)

Folks and friends who have been curious about *either* of my books, whether The Art of Darkness, published this month, or The Art of the Occult, published in 2020–this spectacular interview is teeming with images from BOTH books!

“So pour yourself a cup of something deliriously depressive to balance out the macabre yippie-kai-yayyy endorphins that this interview will surely flood the pleasure center of your brain with.”

Underworldly, Otherworldly or Otherwise: Author S. Elizabeth on The Art of Darkness

art above, L: Rachael Bridge / R: Jana Heiderdorf

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My fantastical, fabulous friends! I am so excited for Kjersti Faret’s Everyday Fantasy Clothing Collection, which she just launched on Kickstarter earlier this month–and I think you will be, too! I have long been a fan of the fierce, joyous, tender oddball sensiblilities manifesting in her art, which explores fascinating facets of art history, queerness, and the occult (read more about this in a previous interview with Kjersti)

…and now we can WEAR some of this artful magic!

The “Everyday Fantasy: Clothing Collection” is inspired by medieval art and fantasy worlds but made for daily life. A dress, tunic, leggings and cincher belt – each piece has been thoughtfully designed by artist Kjersti Faret, the creator behind Cat Coven. The clothing is made in LA and is available for all genders in sizes small – 5XL. Right now the campaign is live on Kickstarter, which ends October 1st.

Read further for Kjersti’s insights regarding the inspiration and process for this marvelous, and I will insist –MUCH-NEEDED– collection,  and get a peek at all of the magical pieces that will be available!

I love dressing up in fantastical clothing (think Renaissance Faire) but most of it is impractical for everyday life. I took the designs I love and made them to suit modern wardrobes while still feeling playful. Most fabric is made from a machine-washable blend of linen and rayon, and everything has POCKETS! Also, when I usually see a beautiful laced-up dress, they’re just a solid color and I wanted to make it more whimsical with the prints. I want my clothing to be fun!

I put a lot of humor in my work and the art that gets me excited are things filled with silliness. Medieval manuscripts are my number one all-time favorite inspiration since they’re serious religious texts with silly doodles in the margins. These monks are spending the majority of their time crafting these, and yet the margins are filled with pooping monkeys or nuns picking dicks off a tree. To me, those manuscripts are the physical embodiment of “don’t take life too seriously.”

The “Tapestry” fabric pattern was inspired by various medieval tapestries and the classic “mille fleur” (“thousand flowers”) pattern that was popular in the middle ages and early Renaissance. I created some of my own creatures to add into the pattern based on other forms of historical art like manuscripts as well. While coloring the design I tried to imagine I was a weaver and what would translate well to graphic shapes in a textile. That’s what helped me choose colors and shapes, to keep it as authentic as I could to the source material.

The patterns were drawn on multiple pieces of computer paper with microns. To make the pattern repeat you have to shuffle the squares around as you draw so all the edges meet. Once the ink part was done, I scanned and stitched it in photoshop and added the color digitally.

The “Armor” pattern was inspired by decorative etchings on armor. A lot of the armor I looked at was “costume” armor, or armor that was worn for ceremonial events and was way too fancy to have actually been worn out on a battlefield. There are so many good examples in the Met’s Arms and Armor exhibit. None of it is a copy from historical references – I created my own filigree swirls and put in creatures that are nods to existing beings or my own imaginings. If you take a close look at this pattern it’s like a weird “where’s Waldo?” game. Little witches, toads, faces, and boobies are hidden throughout.

Being an art history nerd, I also named each piece after some of my favorite artists.

The Leonora Belt is named after surrealist Leonora Carrington. I love her work so much and think she would have enjoyed the sphinxes in the screen printed design.

The Edvard tunic is named after my favorite expressionist, Edvard Munch who you will know as the artist behind The Scream. A secondary layer to the name is that it’s a nod to Edward Teach A.K.A. Blackbeard, because inspirations for the shirt came from “pirate shirts”. By that I mean, shirts pirates usually wear in movies and television shows. It’s got a loose flowy fit that goes perfect with a belt and of course, has pockets.

The Artemisia Leggings are named after Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi, who I just love and wanted to name something after her. The leggings are made from recycled water bottles. They also have “chito sante” (organic biomass from crab and shrimp shells AKA food waste) impregnated on the fabric, which gives it anti-bacterial and moisture wicking properties. Side pockets are perfect for cell phones.

The Gunhild dress is named after someone nobody will recognize because it’s my own grandmother. She was an artist and art teacher who passed away in 2020, partly due to Covid. Without her encouragement in my early years, I wouldn’t be the artist I am today.

I love this dress because it looks like a princess dress but it’s actually comfortable and there is a practicality to it – the laces in the back are adjustable. If you gain or lose a few inches, the dress can be adjusted to your shape. And of course, pockets!

The inclusive sizing was really important to me. Right now the range is from small to 5XL, but if I continue doing clothes like this in the future I’d like to expand it further. A lot of brands (both small and large) barely go beyond 3X (and a lot of times they aren’t even true plus size measurements). I looked at other true plus-size brands to make sure we got the measurements right. As a very small business, I understand how expensive it can get to grade so many sizes. But at a certain point (for larger companies) it becomes a conscious choice to exclude larger bodies.

When it comes to how clothes fit, I personally dread it when I gain or lose a few pounds over the years because then my favorite pieces become too tight or too baggy. Each piece in this collection is meant to be forgiving. The leggings are stretchy and the laces on the bottom give a little extra room in your calf if you want. The dress has adjustable lacing, as does the Leonora belt. The tunic has a flowy, loose shape that can be worn as is or cinched with a belt. So while the prices are more expensive, it’s because they are made of high-quality materials and fair labor and are made to evolve with your body.

This collection is really an ode to art history and the craftspeople that came before me. So many artisans throughout history were anonymous or just lost to time. Printmakers, etchers, weavers, embroiderers, woodcarvers, engravers – these and more are all crafts that inspire me and require much time and dedication to become a master. Some of these I’ve tried myself so I know the patience required and how tedious the processes can be. A big project like this couldn’t have been created without many hands. I had a great production team and factories in LA that helped make this collection a reality.

All the chainmaille in these photos is hand woven by It Is Known, a women-owned small business in NYC. Get 10% off on Itisknown.net with code COVENXKNOWN10 until October 1, 2022.

Click here to visit the Everyday Fantasy Clothing Collection Kickstarter!

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I’m so delighted to share a few reviews from Arcana Wildcraft’s new Hel’s Belles collection, a series of scents celebrating the goddesses of ancient Norse cosmology! Friends who have been reading my reviews for a while may recall my frequent mention of Arcana’s Holy Terror, a fragrance in my All-Time Top Ten favorites, so as you might imagine, I always thrill at the opportunity to try something new from them.

Frigg: (black tonka bean, raw cashmere wool, French bakery vanilla, soft warm skin, confectionery sugar, and sweet almond)  is a really soft, intimate close to the skin scent, but it’s not really a skin scent, per se…unless your skin is comprised of the gentle sweetness of a dollop of real whipped cream atop a marzipan-stuffed almond sugar cookie. It is an achingly subtle, tender scent and I thought it was sold out but I must have imagined it because it is still available and you definitely need this one.

Valkyrie (mosses, tree resin, dry heart cedarwood) is all the gravitas and stillness of the strongest and most fragrant of the ancient woods, a fitting olfactory embodiment of these valorous women seen as transformative agents, both arbiters of fate and psychopomps of the dead.

Eir (Roman chamomile tea, wild lavender buds, vanilla bean, warm flannel, ivory patchouli, coconut milk, tuberose, and magnolia) is the loveliest, dreamist herbal dram of cozy nap-time herbs and flowers, sweetened with a scant sprinkle of vanilla sugar and a spoonful of mildy, milky coconut cream.

Nott (labdanum, Madagascar vanilla, benzoin, black cardamom, vintage patchouli) is the richest, chewiest amber and cardamom toffee caramels, all dense balsamic resins and buttery vanilla and wrapped in a smoked patchouli leaf. It’s A LOT and it is freaking devastating.

Lofn (rose, violet blossoms, iris petals, orris root, apple peel, the arc of a rainbow, and wild berry nectar) Unlike the previous scent in this collection of reviews, Lofn is not A LOT. It’s elusive. It’s subtle. It is also devastating…in a gorgeously quiet, low-key way. Rose is never going to be one of my favorite notes, and I’m always so surprised and grateful when someone creates a rose-centric that works for me. (I mean I know this scent wasn’t created for me, but I still appreciate it!) It begins as a jammy rose, but not obnoxiously so. This is a rose stewed with other flowers, not fruits. Those cool purple blooms, the iris and the violet, temper the exuberance and summeriness and passion and opulence that I often associate with roses. And it’s such a cool, level-headed rose that when it dries down it almost seems like there’s woods of some sort in there to ground it...like the peppery, cedary floral of rosewood …but again, I think it’s those sober-bordering-on-somber amethyst-lustered flowers doing the heavy lifting. I staunchly refuse to actually learn anything about perfume, so I don’t actually know that. This is really just all wild conjecture and FEELINGS. I’m okay with that, but I feel like I have to remind the people reading this every once in a while, heh heh.

Rán (caves filled with incense, tendrils of briny seaweed, slivers of amber emerging from salt-soaked earth, ocean-crashed rock, and damp blonde woods) is perhaps the most terrifying aromatic evocation I can imagine of a scent to honor a goddess who presides over the realm of the drowned dead…and I truly, truly respect that. Imagine an incense made from all of the flotsam and jetsam you’ve caught in your salt-crusted nets from the shallow, sandy tides of the ocean as well as its vast, lonely lightless depths, and burn it at the place where the waves break on a moonless night, in offering.

Arcana Wildcraft: website // instagram // facebook

 

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This interview was originally published at Haute Macabre on February 19, 2018

Maude Nibelungen is a textile artist with a passion for knitting unique, wearable objects of desire–evocative, avant garde knits full of elegant contradictions, which are equally lovely as sultry loungewear in the boudoir or as unexpected, expressive streetwear–and which are also equally encouraged for all types of people and all of their wonderful bodies.

In our interview, below, Maude stressed to me that her knitting designs are for absolutely everyone. Everyone!  Including you! With your unruly human curves and planes, gorgeous angles and hollows, beautiful bumps and lumps and bits. If the sizes listed on her site don’t match up to what you may need,  she will work with your individual measurements to create a customized treasure that fits like a glove. She wants everyone to feel special in her designs, to feel like a precious piece of art, to evolve into their fabulous selves alongside and inside her pieces.

Read further for more insights on Maude’s inclusive vision, her desire to express her feelings and exorcise her demons through her craft, and the special bond she creates between her knitted intimacies and those who would wear them.

 

Maude! There are so many things that I want to talk with you about. But first, one thing that I want to comment on right away, is how often I see you modeling your own pieces–and I love that. One, because I always want to see the creator of the things I love adorning themselves with the things they have created– instead of modeling them on impossible fantasy humans. And two, because it’s always refreshing and exciting to see someone comfortable in their own skin, showing a little skin. Can you speak to these observations?

I’m glad to hear because honestly, I’m always afraid that people will be annoyed with seeing me! I was modeling my pieces before I really started my brand. When I launched my first collection, I worked with “real” models because I wanted everything to look as professional as possible, and I still do! I didn’t really model my pieces for a few years after that. But I started again in 2014. It was a big year for me. I had an on-and-off phase as I was pregnant and then had some issues accepting my postpartum body. But I’m trying to see/ do things differently these days! I think everybody is beautiful and I am trying to show that to whoever wants to read/ see.

 

In that vein, you recently wrote a fantastic piece for Lingerie Addict on how to wear underwear as outerwear – how empowering it is to take your “unmentionables” out and let them see the light of day! It was a fairly comprehensive guide, but I’d love to know the impetus for this article, which pieces of yours you might choose for this purpose, and do you have any tips for the timid, in getting started with this trend?

Thank you! It was exciting putting this piece together for them. Well, first I think it’s important to say that lingerie as outerwear isn’t necessarily something that others will notice; one can easily create a simple/ casual look. For the more timid, the Alice crop top can be a very nice way to ornament the skin under a v-neck or any other open neckline. The Audrey socks are perfect to add some texture to a skirt/dress ensemble or also under shorter pants/ shorts. I would also suggest layering the Marlene dress over any plain black dress for instant glamour. For anyone more daring, well I’d say any piece could be worked into an outfit, haha; but my favorites would be the Anais BodysuitDenise DressLola ChemiseJean Step-Ins, and Georgia Capelet.

 

I read somewhere that you “turn your demons into knitwear” and I am curious about this concept, though, as a knitter myself, I think I know, after a fashion, how you mean that in a general sense. Tell me how you came to knit, how your demons became entangled into your stitches…and how row by row, piece by piece, these exorcised demons transformed knitted lingerie? 

That’s… the story of my whole life haha! But basically, I always dabbled in some type of art form, migrating from one to another as I nothing felt quite right; I had to find an artistic medium in which I could create something unique. I just felt like I could play piano, make jewelry, but nothing… different enough. Eventually, I started knitting more (I started when I was 5 but wasn’t doing it every day). In a particularly rough time in my life, I had a flash where it became clear that knitting was what I had to do. It just felt right. I finally was able to process and express all the feelings and thoughts that were locked up inside of me, in an artistic/ unique manner. I had found my voice… As for the lingerie, it was at first kind of a joke (an inside joke, that’s what happens when you spend hours and days and weeks knitting alone). When I started modeling my pieces again, in 2014, I was feeling the need to express myself differently. That, combined with the fact that for a while, I felt like I had to prove to people that knitting wasn’t a thing that only grandmothers did . It seems silly now, but not that long ago, and you must remember this, knitting wasn’t trendy. SO, I started modeling my sweaters but with only knickers on, or in more provocative angles. Knits make me feel good and that’s something I wanted to show and share. I started using the hashtag “knits are sexy”. One night, I was joking with some friends and said: I should just go all in and make a lingerie collection… that was in 2015, I have since put out 3 (and a half) lingerie/ loungewear collections. That’s also what I sell the most of these days. too!

 

You’ve described your designs as “Matter and anti-matter dancing on the skin”-that’s a beautiful sentiment, can you elaborate on that?

Yes! It’s somewhat like the demons we were just talking about. I play a lot with the gauge (the tightness) of the knits I create. I design for people, with them in mind. I like to play with their skin too, create pretty patterns, make them feel like they are part of a piece of art.

And until I see my designs on someone else, I feel like that they are fully complete/ alive.

Texture is everything to me. That’s actually the sentiment behind my permanent collection, “Peau de Chagrin“; the pieces are all black, but I tried to recreate prints (floral, plaid, polka dots, stripes etc).

 

How would you describe your personal style? How does that inspire and influence the designs you create? And where else do you find your inspiration for your collections/individual pieces? I saw mention in a previous interview that patterns in music inspire you, which I find very intriguing, and I would really love to hear more about that, as well.

It’s a bit of everything; I wear a lot of black but also love certain florals, reds and pinks. I’m actually finding more ways to wear colors lately without “betraying” my style. I often go for very structured/form fitting, femme fatale-type outfits, but I also love wearing power suits, and going for a more androgynous look with leggings and oversized tops and big sneakers. I love Japanese fashion and I think it does inspire my style to an extent. What I wear influences my work, as I am always trying to make thing I want to wear everyday. I love staying home and being cozy, but I care about how I look, so I’m perpetually trying to mix those two things together. Otherwise, my inspiration mostly come from feelings, seasons, things around me. I think of the way certain things smell, and I long for them. I remember how the sun feels in a certain season, how it affects the colors of the trees and the sky. I feel the vibe of things around me; sometimes it’s the city, sometimes it’s the country, very often it’s a place that only exists in my head. As for the music (patterns), I think it can create a lot of these feelings/ vibes I just mentioned. You can just close your eyes, listen to music and travel to somewhere unique. That’s what inspires me.

 

As a further to that, tell me about the type of people that you envision wearing your pieces.

Everyone! I think that a lot of my pieces can be incorporated to a lot of different styles/ looks. If a person can appreciate the organic process behind my knits, I think they will find a way to wear them. I am talking about organic, because all my pieces are handmade and I like creating little irregularities. No one will ever own the same piece from me. It’s a special bond between me and my customers.

 

Can you share any thoughts or give us any peeks as to what we might expect from your forthcoming collections?

I am in the process of moving to the USA for March! So I am expecting to work with a lot of new people (email me if you want to work with me! NYC/ NJ/ Philly!) I am currently working on a ready-to-wear a lingerie line for a collaboration with another company (but that’s all I can say for now). I’m also torturing myself with the thoughts of a whole new unisex collection I would like to launch this summer. I say torturing myself, because between the orders, the move and the family, I have to wait a few weeks before I can actually start designing and sampling. Right now it’s all marinating in my head. Oh, and I also just started a Patreon to support and share my endeavors!

Find Maude Nibelungen: website // instagram // facebook

 

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morph-knitwear-angela-thornton-featured-graphicThis interview was originally published at Dirge on January 16, 2016.

When I began knitting in the winter of 2005 as a means of keeping both warm and sane during a weird and terrible time in my life, I never dreamed I would come into contact with and eventually become part of such a diverse community. As I knit and purled away the hours, and eventually the years–in what I now refer to as “the shitty black abyss of Central New Jersey”–I was soothed by the slow magic of softly slipping each stitch from one needle to the next.

I came to think of this wooly sorcery, this stitchy witchcraft, as “yarnomancy.”  It provided a connectedness, sometimes quite literally, that I was sorely lacking in my life at that time. As I gave form to each new knit I crafted–connecting each stitch, one at a time–I tapped into a creative drive I didn’t know existed within me, and in my growing confidence, I connected with a community of like-minded people. These knitters, along with their craft, saved me.

One such knitter who believes in this ritual connectedness is Portland, Oregon-based designer Angela Thornton, of Morph Knitwear.

Designed for individuals who want to feel “powerful, mystical, and like a total bad ass,” Angela Thornton’s Morph Knitwear is an intensely personal endeavor melding artistry and utilitarianism to create handmade garments that challenge the traditional perception of knitwear, while retaining classic virtues of durability and timeless elegance. Her pieces are fashioned from a single strand of fiber, the process of creation “giving a unique connectedness to the fabric of each piece, a connectedness which allows the knit to give form to the emotional processes and explorations of its maker. “

We recently caught up with Angela after her completion of Morph Knitwear’s Sand and Storm collection and its corresponding editorial. Read on to learn more of this bad ass knitter’s unique vision and the magic that she weaves into each of her creations.

Angela Thornton. Photographer: Courtney Brooke Hall
Angela Thornton. Photographer: Courtney Brooke Hall

As a fellow knitter, I can’t help but to be immediately interested in how you came to knit in the first place. I think I read somewhere that you began knitting in 2010 or so, is that correct? And what prompted the desire to learn?

Angela Thornton: I actually began knitting as a little kid. I can’t recall who it was who taught me, but all of my grandmothers knit, as well as my mother, so it’s safe to say it was one of them. My earliest solid recollection of knitting a real project is with my grandmother–we would visit her in Minnesota in the summers and she would set us kids up with a ball of cotton each and some old plastic needles to have us knit dishcloths for her kitchen. I loved that kind of project when I was younger: fast, and satisfying. I casually knit through high school (especially after I had seen Rodarte’s knit tights from their F/W ’08 collection), but then didn’t touch a pair of needles again until I was living in Germany in the summer of 2010. Through that summer and fall I re-learned the basics and then that winter I got bored with what everyone else was knitting and began designing my own patterns.

Sand-and-Storm.-2015.

What was the catalyst behind launching Morph knitwear? What was/is your vision for the brand? How would you describe your brand, the essence of Morph Knitwear?

The catalyst behind launching Morph Knitwear was really experimental, and a direct result of beginning to design my own patterns. I decided as a personal challenge to try to create pieces that were cohesive, and as I did so I also thought, “hey, fuck it, why don’t I try to sell this online?” I was actually really surprised when things sold! I took that, coupled with my immense creative satisfaction as signs to keep at it, and I think I’ve essentially kept it very true to me, and to what I see the brand to be–evolutionary, textural, and created with integrity of design, method of production, and ethics. My vision for Morph Knitwear is and has been essentially the same since my experimental launch: to create clothing that I want to wear, made using ancestral techniques in a non-exploitative manner. Morph Knitwear has definitely become more refined as I have honed in on my own personal style and simultaneously grown in my technical ability, but essentially it is born of the same concept-to create because I cannot fathom not creating, and in doing so, bringing awareness back to mindless material consumption.

chunky-beanie-and-net-sweater

I have read your remark that the things you make are really just an extension of yourself. How would you describe your personal style? How does that inspire and influence the designs you create? As a further to that, tell me about the type of people that you envision wearing your pieces.

They really are! Not only because I make each piece by hand, so while in the process the pieces are physically extending from my body, but in a more liminal sense as well. Everything I make comes from somewhere in my head, from the need of somehow being able to express myself. I’ve always used what I wear as a direct method of self-expression, so naturally I feel the need to create things that can be worn as such. My own personal style has evolved and solidified over the years, and at this point is basically an armor of black. I value tactile quality and timeless shape in the clothing I wear, as well as integrity in its method of creation. I envision people who are self defined, strong willed, tender, and unique as the wearers of my creations.

Do you wear your own knits? What are some key pieces that you can’t live without?

I do wear my own pieces, though not as many as one would expect! That being said I absolutely can’t go without my merino wool vest or the newer pieces I’ve designed for Sisters of the Black Moon (the Haze sweater in particular) once the temperatures drop. I also wear a lot of my lighter weight dresses in summer, so perhaps upon reflection I do wear more of my work than I think!

Shapeshifter-shawl

How long does it take you to design a knit? And how often is one of your creations knit by hand, as opposed to a knitting machine? I’m assuming that there is an entirely different kind of pattern for hand-knit vs. machine knit? Do you have a team, or are you a one-woman operation?

The length of time it takes to design something is completely arbitrary. Sometimes I won’t even make a sketch of a piece, I’ll have such a clear vision of what I want it to be that I just get working and bust it out. Sometimes, though, a piece can take me weeks to make and remake in order for it to be right. That process holds true for both machine and hand knitting, though the actual pattern writing process is different between the two. For each collection I usually do about 60% of the pieces on the machines, and 40% handknit, though it really just depends on the end product I want to make–handknitting is ideal for some, and machine knitting for others. At this moment I have one amazing intern who helps with production, but other than that Morph Knitwear is a one-woman operation!

Nix-Hood

That brings me to my next question; I know you have made a few of your patterns available for intrepid knitters who may want to bring one of your creations to life for themselves, with their own hands. How do you choose which patterns to release for this purpose? Many knitwear designers eventually release a book of patterns–is this something that interests you at all?

The patterns I’ve chosen to release are generally archived pieces that I am no longer producing, though honestly several of them have been popular designs that I just got sick of knitting myself! (Re)writing patterns to be readable to the general public is such a time-consuming job for me that I don’t see myself releasing a book of them anytime soon, but I think if I ever have the spare moments I will try to release several more of my archived pieces to Ravelry. And who knows the future? A book might happen sometime!

Behemoth

Your previous collections–Infinite Abyss; Behemoth; Blood, Ash and Bone–these all conjure wonderfully dark, gritty, fierce, primal imagery. Can you talk a bit about the inspirations for these collections, and what we might expect from future collections?

I think the inspiration for the collection names (as well as the collections themselves) all come from a place of wanting to imbue my creations with those aspects. I want to create pieces that express a deep, dark, primal ferocity, a connection to the old while being a clean slate for the new. I want the people who wear my pieces to feel the fierce, animal beauty and power of natural fibers, the human magic and intent woven into each piece. I want the clothing I create to simultaneously be a shield and a proclamation of self. The places I find myself most shielded and most myself are in shadows and mystery and the cycle of light from darkness. I simply try to create worlds reflective of these feelings through each of my collections.

Find Morph Knitwear: Website | Instagram | Facebook Twitter

 

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This interview was originally published at Haute Macabre on April 10, 2020

Not to sound tone-deaf–I realize we are all experiencing these strange times quite differently, and we are coping with them in our own ways–but for me, at least, I am finding that diving headfirst into my obsessions is alleviating at least some of my anxiety, as well as that vexing tendency toward distraction, and lack of focus that occurs when I am feeling freaked out about something beyond my control.

Anyone who knows me probably can guess where I am going with this. KNITTING. In the past month or so I have become a knitting fiend, even more than I was already. I have knit two sweaters! And I live in Florida! Where am I even going to wear these heavy woolen things? Who cares? It’s keeping my hands busy and my attention on tricksy stitches, and I haven’t yet had a complete nervous breakdown, so here we are.

Another thing that helps quell the horrors, of course, is learning more about those brilliant folks who share in an interest I have…but through creativity, talent, and a much more driven nature than I possess, have put their singular spin on that mutual obsession, and who have elevated these passions to an extraordinarily beautiful art form. April Carter of Our Widow is one such individual, and I am utterly obsessed with her gorgeous knit and crocheted creations.

Using skills she developed as a child, and others acquired along life’s path, April is a fiber artist who aims to honor age-old handcrafted traditions, while also seeking to imbue her work with a distinctive unconventional quality. She believes that fashion should seek to complement the individual wearer, while also existing in a realm free from boundaries, expectations, and criticism.

I am thrilled to share with you our recent interview, below, where we discuss her splendidly heart-warming familial influences, the joy and inspiration found in breaking free from tiresome rules and dated constraints and taking a good, hard look at what it means when you realize that your passion–or its practices, or people involved in the community built around it–has become problematic, and what you, as an individual, can do to change that and do better.

And April, thanks again, from the bottom of my heart, for taking the time to answer my questions and share of yourself during what I know is a strange and scary time for you, for me, for everyone.

Haute Macabre: You hail from a long line of creative women–seamstresses, painters, fiber artists, and “one chain-smoking, black coffee guzzling grammy with a passion for ceramics.” I’m curious as to who it is in this marvelous line-up you may have been inspired by in your own craft and does how does their influence inform your practice?

Our Widow: Every one of those marvelous ladies has inspired me in some shape or form, personally and in my craft, but I am most indebted to my mom for passing onto me the skills that helped guide me to where I am now. Some of my earliest childhood memories are of her crocheting, sewing and embroidering. She was constantly creating things for us kids, I had crocheted afghans, embroidered pillowcases with my nickname (Pumpkin), rag dolls, dresses with lace collars and pinafores, custom Halloween costumes, punch needle rugs, clothing for my stuffed animals, and even couches for my Barbies. It all looked like such fun, and not only did she let me peek over her shoulder and watch her work, but she also encouraged me to learn, taught me as best she could, and kept her patience with my clumsy kid fingers.

It was only when I was older that I realized the reason she did so much was due in large part to our financial situation, or lack of finances. Even then though, the things she created were never drab or dull, and although they were made on a budget, they always looked splendid; she loved using vibrant colors throughout her work, cute prints, pretty lace, ribbons, ruffles, and oodles of flowers. Not only did she enjoy her finished creations, but she also delighted in seeing our eyes light up with glee at each new masterpiece we were presented with. Through her I learned to be proficient in different mediums, take pride in my work, be true to myself, and to have fun with design; it also seems apparent now that I’m writing this, that I too have quite an affection for lace, ribbons, and ruffles, so I can confidently say that her influence has indeed endured long past my childhood.

 

You consider yourself more of a “fiber artist” than a “knitwear designer”–can you share more about that distinction and what it means to you, both personally and in terms of your business?

The distinction is not important to me on a personal level, they’re just words, and have no impact on my creative process, professionally though, they exist purely in an attempt to be direct about how I run my business. My online presence has grown quite a bit since I started focusing mainly on knitting, in that time, I have received an abundance of messages inquiring if the written patterns for my pieces are available for purchase. The short answer to this question is “Thank you for asking, but no they are not.” The long answer is a rambling list of all the reasons why it’s probably never going to happen – I’m erratic and unorganized, I hate taking notes, I rarely plan ahead, choosing instead to wing it roughly 96% of the time, I often mix mediums, I’m a perpetual procrastinator, I haven’t the faintest concept of how to write a proper pattern, and I do not swatch, ever.

Knitwear designer sounds so polished and professional, I see many pattern writers using it to describe their occupation, and aptly so, but it is far removed from where I am as a maker. I am not a fan of labels, but the word “artist” carries with it certain stereotypes that allow those labeled as such a pass when it comes to existing on the fringes. I had hoped characterizing myself as a fiber artist would allow me the freedom to create without expectations, and possibly clear up any confusion as to what individuals who stumble across my website, or social media accounts could hope to find within.

 

You urge your fellow creatives to “learn the rules, then break them all”–what broken rules can one expect to see in the fiber arts of Our Widow?

In this instance, the word “rules” to me encompasses that which can be thought of as traditional, or every day. Knitting, crocheting, and similar fiber-based art forms have generally been looked upon for generations as “homemaker” crafts. When I was a teenager, my contemporaries would poke fun at me for crocheting, sewing your own clothes meant you were poor, and in media, knitting was something only grannies did, while rocking away in their wooden chairs. These stereotypes persisted throughout my 20’s, and into my early 30’s, with fiber arts only becoming trendy within the last decade. I’m thrilled with the rise in popularity of my favorite pastimes but feel like bits and pieces of that tired old mentality still exist, which is why it’s important to me as an artist to continually push the boundaries. By “breaking” the rules, I’m encouraging my fellow creatives to not be constrained by what is routinely expected from a knitted design, a crocheted piece, a sewn garment, or any other discipline.

In my work, I prefer to utilize techniques that I feel are oftentimes overlooked. Mixing mediums, such as working a crochet edging onto a knit cape, adding fabric trim to a knit collar, or sewing chiffon bell sleeves to a crochet top, has been one of my favorite approaches for constructing fresh styles. I enjoy using unconventional shaping methods, like those which help to create the long defined points on my neckpieces. I like unusual designs with bold details, like the loops on my Tentacle Cowl, or my collars made with highly contrasting colors.

I refuse to chase trends, will make chunky knits in the summer, delicate cobweb knits in the winter, and am not bothered when things get a little off-kilter, or look a bit strange once blocked out, it’s not important to me that every seam line up, or that my stitches be perfect, I have more fun just rolling with it, and embracing the imperfections. I also have a tendency to shy away from traditional knits such as sweaters and afghans, choosing instead to focus on pieces that are not typically made from yarn. One of my personal favorite designs has been a cabled piece that resembles a knight’s gorget collar; I am more than just a little obsessed with it, and desperately want to make more knitted armor.

Your tagline is “Unorthodox Pieces for Peculiar Souls”– aside from family lineage, I’d love to hear about some of your other unorthodox and peculiar inspirations.

I grew up in an isolated area of West Texas, far away from any cultural centers, so early exposure to the arts was limited. I have since branched out and could say so and so designer inspires me, or this painter is where it’s at, but honestly I’m very much a product of my youth. I was born in 1980, and cut my teeth in an amazingly weird and wonderful decade, I spent my days playing Atari and Legos, riding bikes, shooting BB guns, jumping off houses, and beating up trees. Being an 80’s kid had many perks, but undoubtedly the best part was binging on bizarre TV shows, and fantastically dark movies, of which there were many to choose from. I was obsessed with The Dark Crystal, The Last Unicorn, and The Secret of NIMH, asked Santa to bring me my own Falkor for Christmas, cried when ET almost died, sang (terribly) along with the Chipmunks, and screamed my head off when someone said the word of the day on Pee-wee’s Playhouse.

I grew up feasting on the brainchildren of former acid popping hippies turned producers, writers, and children’s entertainers, and I could not be more grateful. The sheer creativity and wackiness of it all, the gorgeous (trippy) visuals, and the absolute detachment from reality that could be found in these creations was a haven for me; early on I realized that imagination was a sacred and powerful thing, with no limits to its depths. I still hold true to this spirit, spending my days immersed in my own fantastical creations, watching cartoons, reading comic books, playing Legos, and casually tossing out 80’s catchphrases to my very unimpressed teenager daughter.

Can you share anything about the pieces you are working on right now?

Since COVID-19 began spreading, it’s been difficult to find any sort of inspiration or direction, the world at large is in complete upheaval, and I’m not going to kid myself by saying what I do is essential in any way. I have never felt quite so insignificant, and motivation has been scarce. I usually have several projects going at one time that I can jump around and work on, but for weeks, I had nothing on my needles. I have busy hands though, and started to go a bit mad without anything to keep them occupied.

Fortunately, spring comes early in the south, and the fields around my house began bursting with wildflowers. They’ve been a beautiful oasis in an otherwise ugly world, and although it took a little time, I eventually found myself digging through my yarn stash looking for skeins that mimicked the poppies, bluebonnets, and larkspur outside. I usually stick to a moodier color palette, but working with these lively shades has helped uplift my spirits. I also recently purchased a collection of lovely Japanese crochet books online that have some gorgeous edging patterns; I’m very excited to tweak those for use in my collars and cuffs. Also pink, I never thought it would happen, but I made something pink; these are strange days indeed.

As someone only recently again paying attention to knitting blogs and knitters of note, I became aware, sometime in 2019 I guess, of various platforms opening up the conversation on knitting and inclusivity and reckoning with instances of racism, prejudice, privilege, and whitewashing in the knitting community. That’s tough to reconcile with a hobby or a career that you love–and that maybe you, or I, might be part of the problem, even inadvertently– but it’s also a conversation that can’t be ignored. Do you have any thoughts on this?

I was also not a very active participant in the knitting community when this subject really started gaining attention in the media, so it was only after Ravelry (an online knitting community and pattern database) sent out an email stating hate speech would no longer be tolerated on their platform, that I educated myself on what could have pushed them to that point. While what I found was alarming, it was not at all surprising– intolerance has an uncanny yet incessant way of seeping into every foundation of society. Initially though, upon realizing the scope and scale of the situation, I did not feel as if I was a part of the problem. I kept mostly to myself, stayed far away from the forums and Facebook, and, as I stated, rarely interacted with the knitting community, but after more consideration, I realized that my lack of awareness was a very clear sign of my privilege.

It is easy for me to roll my eyes and say “Are you kidding me??” at the absurdity of those who would try to spoil something as seemingly wholesome as knitting, because those same individuals would not scorn me, but instead, likely support my business. I have yet to face a situation where I was denied recognition for my work, or been unjustly criticized for my individual style, nor have I ever received a derogatory comment on my public accounts based on my sexual preferences, or the color of my skin. The same cannot be said for many others in the knitting community, those who have suffered through the discrimination, and encountered a lack of visibility, continued harassment, and probable loss of business, as a result of pages and groups specifically created to identify minorities, POC, and LGBTQ designers, with the sole intent of shunning them, and sabotaging their livelihoods.

I should not have realized all of this after the fact, it should not have taken an email to enlighten me, I should have known it was happening all along. These issues have existed for ages, and go well beyond knitting, spanning across all art forms and disciplines. Each and every one of us benefits from taking the time to inform ourselves as to what is happening within our own little worlds and beyond, be willing to accept a level of responsibility for the unpleasant things we might discover therein, and decide individually how to proceed from that point. For me, that means engaging more with my fellow yarnies in the knitting community, becoming more cognizant and compassionate concerning the struggles of my fellow creatives, and increasing my efforts to support artists of all colors, genders, faiths, and cultures.

Find ourwidow: website // instagram

 

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This interview was originally published at Haute Macabre on November 30, 2017. Bonus! Caitlin has since written a Ten Things list for us here at Unquiet Things!

When I initially discovered the captivating knitting patterns of Vancouver-based textile artist and knitwear designer Caitlin Ffrench, a glorious thrill vibrated throughout my soul, and my fingers itched madly for needles, yarn, and an immediate opportunity to try my own hand at her stitchy, witchy designs. While I like to think that up until that point I had knit up some lovely things (is it weird to compliment your own work? I mean, they did turn out rather nicely!) I had never before seen knitting patterns reflecting my own beliefs and imaginative fancies–those of myth, magic, and the beauty found in the wind and tides and the light of the moon.

The natural world is a huge inspiration to Caitlin, and “slow fashion” and “wildcrafting” aren’t just buzz words with which to pepper her Instagram and fascinate followers. Her connectedness to the world in which she lives is the unbreakable thread that runs throughout the rich, earthy fabric of her craft, and her dedication to this connection is undeniably apparent in her passions and practices. See for yourself in our interview to follow, in which we discuss the origins of her art, her relationship with the land, and the deep magics found in both wearing handmade adornments and laying one’s self bare.

 

 

Unquiet Things: I understand that you initially attempted learning to knit at your Oma’s knee when you were a child (and she told you that you were really bad at it!) You picked it up again in your late teens on the way to a punk show, and then again, when you were thrown into the thick of it with a new job at a yarn store? You’re obviously very persistent! What is it about this craft of sticks and strings that appealed so much to your persistence and will to learn? What advice do you have for those who wish to begin wielding the needles, themselves?

Caitlin Ffrench: My Oma was a very sweet lady, but took knitting very seriously. Looking back i’m glad she didn’t get me hooked as a child- I was too busy ripping around the mountainside and riding my bike to stay still. Trying knitting again on the way to the punk show was alright. I got the hang of it a little more, but almost instantly put my needles down and forgot about it.

It was when a friend opened a yarn store and gave me a job that it really stuck. After the first day of work I figured that I was way over my head and decided to start taking on newer and harder projects every chance I could. When customers would come in with questions about their patterns I was able to help them ‘see’ the pattern by drawing and breaking down the patterns for them- I have a Fine Arts degree in sculpture and my brain likes to work three dimensionally. That’s when I started writing my own patterns. I put them out on Ravelry for free and they were simple–but they worked! When I decided to learn how to write triangle shawls with lace, I knit 4 patterns that other people wrote in 5 days. To the non-knitters please note: that is a hell of a lot of knitting in 5 days. But I learned the inner working of lace!

I think my persistence in sticking with knitting came from the slow meditation it gave me. It isn’t easy at first, but if you’ve got a willingness to keep going (and to rip back your mistakes) you’ll be fine. It was the perfect thing to take up for me because it is portable and I’ve been able to knit without looking at my hands for years now, so I can knit at shows and on transit.

A few nights ago I was at a Propagandhi concert working on a shawl and I got a lot of funny looks from the ‘dude’ guys at the show. But that’s part of the magic of knitting in public–breaking down people’s ideas of who the knitters are. I’m not a little old lady. I’m 6 feet tall with blue hair and a lot of tattoos.

 

 

You are very passionate about the “Slow Fashion” movement; designing, creating, and buying garments to encourage slow production schedules, fair wages, lower carbon footprints, and (ideally) zero waste. With regard to slow fashion and making the least possible amount of impact on the land as designer, you have previously spoken to the difference between “landscape” and “landbase”; the former, relegating yourself to the role of a passive viewer, and the latter wherein you are an active human being, where you live. Can you speak to how this viewpoint informs your practices?

The idea of Slow Fashion was first introduced to me as a child. My mother made most of our clothing and the rest were hand-me-downs from my cousins and sister. I grew up on a farm in the middle of nowhere, and ‘Slow Fashion’ wasn’t a hip thing in the 80’s, it was just what you did on the farm. My Oma survived WW2 and from then on always used everything to it’s full potential and didn’t waste anything. She passed that onto my Mother and myself.

I went to textile school for a year in the middle of getting my degree where I learned the art of making cloth, dyeing, spinning, weaving, and clothing construction. My professors were amazing women who took great care in teaching the magic of cloth, and this was the first place I connected my magic with cloth. Standing around cauldrons of plants boiling to extract color and learning the history of how these methods came to us was what I took away with me with the most passion. That is where I started my natural dye journey.

It was in natural dyes that I connected my political beliefs in defending the land with my fine art practice. This is where I honed my thoughts on landscape vs. landbase. In a landscape we are observing the world around us, but with a sense of disconnect. In recognizing the landbase around us we are acknowledging that we are only one small part of this world, and that we are connected with the water supply, animals and plants in our area, and that the land is something we need to protect.

I wildcraft natural dyes from my landbase and use them to make color on cloth, but also paints and inks. I am mindful in my wildcrafting practice, and know that without respect for my landbase I am doing harm to it. Some rules I hold myself to while wildcrafting are:
– I never take the first of a plant that I find. It may be the last in that area, so I walk past it and look for more. (If you take the first, it may be the last!)
– Before I do more than a very small harvest of an area I spend a season going to visit it and watching how it progresses. If the next year it looks healthier than the last, I know I can harvest a little more. I have some spots i’ve been wildcrafting from for 7 or 8 years and they are flourishing.
– I remember to give thanks to the plant and to the area I take it from. Either bringing water to the plants in the hot summer months, or removing garbage from the area. These are acts of service that give great thanks.

 

There’s a witching thread that runs through all of your patterns, tying everything together on both an aesthetic and thematic level–altar cloths, shawls, hoods, and cowls, referencing time and tides, cycles of life and death, divinity, and the magic of the natural world–can share how your beliefs have shaped and inspired your work?

I started integrating my pagan beliefs into my knitting practice a few years after I started designing. It seemed strange that I had divorced my beliefs from my handwork, and when I actively connected them my work became much more real to me. I started working with my friend Amanda of Brutally Beautiful Photography around the same time, and her amazing photo work speaks to my beliefs perfectly. Amanda encourages my practice to push farther into the world of magic.

She is also game for adventuring in the forest at all hours to find the perfect light. We have integrated ourselves into each others work in a symbiotic way, where she takes the stunning photographs that accompany my patterns and I model for her in her photographic practice. I’m willing to stand naked in the rain for her to get the perfect shot anytime.

Your newest book of knitting patterns, Wheel, and its pictorial companion, Sabbat, are dedicated to “those who find beauty in change” and takes inspiration from the changing seasons, and the Wheel of the Year. I’d love to hear how how this concept developed and how you incorporated seasonal elements, motifs, and traditions into the individual patterns.

These books were a hard project for me. They incorporate my knitted work, my magic practice, my writing, and my own film photography together and this scared the hell out of me. It was a way of really laying myself bare to the world. The four knitted works are for the four seasons- Ostara, Litha, Mabon, and Yule. Each of these giant lace works reflects it’s own season, and for each work I wrote a companion work about my own traditions to mark the seasons changing. This project started small in the way that I thought it was going to be a single book that was just the patterns- but incorporating my writing and photos was a good move. It feels real.

 

All of the photographs for Sabat were shot on film in the California Redwoods; the deeply profound beauty of this location is astonishing– can you share how these patterns called out for the singular backdrop of these woods? And why the decision to shoot on film (some of it expired or no longer in production), as opposed to digital?

The California Redwoods are a place of worship. This project had so much to do with my traditions that it made sense to go to a place that holds my heart so deeply. I had visited these stands of trees a number of times before- but they give something new every time. This trip started with me attending the Northwest Magic Conference in Portland. I had driven to Portland with my Partner (Arlin) and he continued on to Redding California on the train with his bicycle. After the conference I headed out to the coast and spent a few nights camping alone while making my way to the Avenue of the Giants in California. During this time Arlin rode his bike though the mountains and met up with me. We’ve been partners for over 12 years and we hadn’t done solo camping trips since then, so we took this chance to adventure alone.

To shoot the work on film seemed second nature. Arlin and I both shoot film in our artistic practices already, and film holds a deep magic.
We shot my second knitting book on film in Iceland in 2016 (The Darkness Fell) so we had an idea of what we were getting ourselves into.

 

 

As a fellow knitter, I sometimes lose myself, trance-like, watching the rhythmic slip and slide of stitches from one needle to the other; from the initial cast-on, to the completion of each row to the next, I work my worries and frets, or my passions and adorations into the emerging pattern, and it becomes a spell of sorts, thoughtful magics building upon themselves as the piece grows and changes. Other times though, I sit with my knitting and binge an entire season of Hannibal, hardly paying attention at all to the knits and purls as I create them. I’d love to hear your thoughts as to the virtues of both–knitting with mindfulness and intent, as well as, the mindless stitchery that occurs when we’re say, engrossed in our murder husbands.

HA! Yes- you’ve struck it exactly. My direction of working depends on how open I am to putting myself and my magic into the work. Designing new work is when I do knitting spellwork, making sure to put good intentions into what I’m creating. Every stitch is an act of love.

But again- I do knit just to occupy my hands, and I do this a lot. Large swaths of stockinette mean that I’m binge-watching something or out at a show. These are times to let my mind wander and to have my hands work.

 

 

How do you occupy your hands (and heart, and mind) you’re not writing up patterns and creating new knits?

-I make paint and ink from botanical and earth pigments, and I paint. I’ll be spending January in Iceland at a painting residency in Reykjavik working with my paints and photographs to complete a body of work.
-I write poetry and stories, but have only really started putting those into the world in the past short while. My most recent written work is called Collective Grief– an 8 page book with words about being orphaned and about the loss of a child.
-I try to be in the forest as much as possible. Arlin pushes me to hike farther, canoe to new places, and to experience new wilderness. We camp a lot year round.
-I read a lot. Both in real book form and in audiobook when I’m working- Fiction and Nonfiction both.  [EDIT: we asked Caitlin for a handful of titles she might currently recommend, and she obliged!] Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer- “I’ve read this one a few times in the last year. It resonates with me so deeply. Her methods of seeing the world make perfect sense.” • Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach- “I listened to this audiobook while working recently. I had no idea about the rich history of cadavers!” • On Writing by Stephen King– “My friend and editor recommended this to me. This is such an important work for any writer.” • The Modern Natural Dyer by Kristine Vejar- “Hands down this is the book to read if you want to know about natural dyes. Kristine is a natural dye wizard, and so giving with her extensive knowledge.” •  Teaching My Mother to Give Birth by Warsan Shire- “This poet broke something for me. She is whole and good and everything necessary to read.” •  Sometimes a Wild God by Tom Hirons- “This is a short and quiet book. Meditative.” • Cold Moons by Magnus Sigurdsson- A book of poetry that was translated from Icelandic- “This one is a heart filled work.” • We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie- “A very important read. Especially in today’s political climate. ” • Anything by Kate Berwanger– “A poet from Seattle that has ripped my heart from my body so many times with her beautiful words.”
-And music- it holds a deep place in my heart. My taste in music bounces around to many genres- currently listening to Ólafur Arnalds all the time.

 

 

It seems you are always releasing new patterns! What are some of your current inspirations? What can we expect next from you?

Currently, I’m inspired by grey and cold landscapes- I’m working on a whole new collection (between 10-13 pieces) I will be shooting these in Iceland this winter. This capsule is a gathering of draped wearables that will mimic the cold and surreal place that Iceland is. It will be my third time in Iceland- and it keeps drawing me back. When I fall in love with a place it feels like I leave a large piece of myself there- that hiraeth; a longing for a place that is more homesickness and grief and longing than anything else you’ve felt.

I also have a large gathering of new patterns that I will be shooting with Amanda of Brutally Beautiful Photography where we will be pushing the boundaries of what knitting ‘should’ look like. We are going to be pushing our collaborative work into larger scale installations in the forest. Amanda and I have a hell of a lot of magic to share with the world soon.

Find Caitlin Ffrench: Website // Instagram

All photography by Brutally Beautiful Photography, except: photos taken from Iceland and photos from Caitlin’s new books.

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31 Aug
2022

I don’t have many perfume reviews for the month of August, as midway into the month I got sick and my sniffer stopped working. Still, I think there were definitely some fun scents that I tested, and some very pretty ones, too!

There is a lovely painting by Gaston Bussiere of a pair of frolicsome nymphs bathing in a pool of purple iris. If you could bottle that scene and its cool, playful atmosphere of ephemeral spring florals, the greenest violet leaf, and some sort of woody-musky-powdery mystical fairy soap flakes, you’d have L’Iris from Santa Maria Novella.

Ganymede by Marc-Antoine Barrois is briny saltwater and shiny leather and two craggy stones rubbing against each other in a vaguely suggestive way over the course of a thousand years; alternately, Aquaman x Tom of Finland mashup fanart interpreted as a Chuck Tingle title.

Celestial Gala by Scent Trunk. Milky gossamer wings, the effervescent glimmering frost and fizz of stardust, and the pearly aura of Glinda the Good Witch mingle gigglingly in this opalescent, sparkling Venusian fairy-spa water fragrance.

This version of Burberry Hero begins with the fleeting season of apricots and musing on how easily they bruise, how you’ll never again know the childhood euphoria of that pretty smocked easter dress the color of rice powder and coconut with ruffles and lace and three pearly buttons but you will never forget the unabashed joyful flavor of a mouth crammed full of jelly beans. What Hero where and who is it that smells like the sour cream powdered sugar sweetness of picnic ambrosia salad, all pools of Cool Whip, and marshmallows soaked in the juice of tiny mandarin oranges and pineapple syrup, but not that really–rather the phantom of that atomic summer fruit confection, the faint lingering fragrance of it, at the bottom of a polished cedar bowl.

Marrisa Zappas Annabel’s Birthday Cake. I tell you what, for the longest time, for years, I was like no, no sweets or gourmands for me, thanks, not my thing! And now it’s weird, it’s basically all I want. And yet…I don’t actually want to smell like literal cake. Like a baked good. Yes, the smell of glaze drizzled atop freshly fried hot doughnuts is mouthwatering, but I just don’t want that to be the scent that clings to my clothes or that precedes my bod with I walk into a room. I also don’t ever want to use the word “mouthwatering,” again. I am sorry. I don’t want the smell of leavening agents or the chemistry of eggs and flour and sugar, or really even, a sweet, fluffy crumb. Simply put, I don’t want to smell like food. I want the artistic rendering of cake, a cake run through the filters of someone’s imagination, and maybe in the end it’s not really cake at all, but still, you know it when you smell it. Annabel’s Birthday Cake is a bit like this. This is the fragrance from the elusive flowering cake vine, a rare species of flora that only blooms once a year on the date of one’s birth, pearly pink petals that exude the scent of rich, fruity vanilla bean and heliotrope frosting and closes after a brief 12-hour window with a soft, powdery breath of white chocolate musk.

Libertine Sweet Grass is a scent that ticks all my boxes and tickles all my fancies and I am not trying to sound like some sort of horny perverse gremlin about it, but those are the phrases that best describe how perfect I find this particular combination of notes. It’s a dusty honey, dried tobacco, and a sort of balsamic oakmossy ambery situation that all smells very much like something glamorous trying to play it lowkey. Like Sofia Loren in a farmgirl apron napping in a hayloft in the heat of a late summer afternoon. Sure, that’s a threadbare gingham dress she’s wearing and there’s chicken feed in her hair but come on, you can’t pretend that’s not Sofia Loren. And that’s a bit how this fragrance makes me feel, both uncomplicated and easy-breezy, but utterly beguiling and drop-dead gorgeous at once. And actually…now that I think about it, shouldn’t that be the criteria we use when looking for a fragrance? Something that feels so simple to slip into and yet yields an incredible wow factor? That’s what Sweet Grass does for me.

 

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