If you’ve been to Seed Stitch at all over the past several years, you probably know Michele. She holds down the shop every Tuesday and Wednesday, offering advice to knitters new and experienced on everything from casting on to complex cables. She is a serious knitter, without taking knitting too seriously. She’s known to shrug over the stitch you knit instead of purled twenty rows back and say with a smile, “It’s not worth it.”
Years ago when, half way through my second scarf, I finally figured out how to keep tension, I brought my lopsided project to Michele and told her I’d have to rip it out, she gave me an emphatic, “No!”
“But it’s not perfect!” I protested.
“It’s not supposed to be perfect!” She told me that if I wanted a perfect scarf, I should buy one knit by a machine. Every knitter knows that knitting by hand is not a means of making something faster or cheaper than you could buy. It’s about craft. It’s skill and hard work and sometimes even swearing. But always, it is emotion. It is the pride of making something with your own two hands and the love of the craft, the fiber, and perhaps even the person for whom you are knitting. And though many will argue the fine line between art and craft is the idea of functionality, I would argue that though both can be made with emotion, the thing that we make when we make art is meaning.
Michele overlooks the imperfections in knitting, but she makes meaning, she makes art, from the imperfections in the world around around us. Where some people see a heap of discarded clothes, Michele sees the raw material for making a message. For her piece Hide, which you can see at her joint show with husband and fellow artist John Bonner, opening this Sunday at the Marblehead Arts Association, Michele sewed hundreds of designer labels culled from unwanted clothes. “Hide speaks to the world’s obsession with labels for both people and objects,” she told me. By reassembling the labels into a new kind of trophy to be hung on the wall like a moose head or bear pelt, Michele did not simply deconstruct a status symbol: she skinned it.
The labels hold personal meaning for Michele as well. The heaps of clothes she combs for labels are from Lifebridge, a local homeless shelter here in Salem, where she has led a knitting and crochet group for the past four years. Michele says that much of her work acts a “link to a backstory, a feeling, or an event.” The Short Window of Cherries, for example, found it’s beginnings in a memory of growing up in Switzerland, climbing cherry trees in the back yard to pick for dessert. The piece is a sphere of tiny jars that no longer preserve jam, but instead moments spent with family. One can look through the small, round glass windows to see memories of fleetingly sweet cherry seasons gone past, punctuated by cherry stones spit out through puckered lips, not unlike hundreds of kisses goodbye.
Michele’s family and friends also play a part in her work by helping her collect. She has enlisted their help in finding lost gloves for a piece she is currently working on about gun violence in response, in part, to the Sandy Hook massacre. “I need so many, it would take too long to get them [by myself].” Sometimes, though, Michele will collect objects before she has an idea of what to do with them. In addition to gloves, she is currently collecting hair, tea bag tags, and window weights.
Take 2 is the aptly named second joint show between Michele and her husband John, who Michele says is her biggest supporter. When the two began dating, Michele took photos that John would later use to paint from. It wasn’t until recently that Michele considered herself an artist as well. Even if Michele is still modest about calling herself an artist, others have begun to take note. She is a graduate of Monseratt College of Art’s Artist Professional Toolbox program, was selected for a two week artist residency last summer at Haystack Mountain School of Craft, and, last month, was invited to give an artist’s talk and workshop at East Carolina University.
Take 2 opens with a reception from 2 – 4 at the Marblehead Arts Association this Sunday, April 27th. 25% of all proceeds from work sold will be donated to benefit Lifebridge. For more information on Michele Fandel Bonner and John Bonner, check out the hyperlinks.
Tonight, from 6-8, we will be joined at the shop by Tara Gitt, Courtney’s talented and knowledgeable sister, who will be sharing her expertise in essential oils. Tara took some time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions for us here on the blog.
Tara was introduced to Young Living Essential Oils last year after using the Stress Away blend for herself and a blend of oils called Peace and Calming to help her 10 year old son fall asleep. ”It really worked!” she told me.
“I began to research the products and the science behind them… I began sharing with my friends, and they love the products as well. So, what started as personal use…has turned into a mission to inform people everywhere of the truly life changing uses of these oils.”
So, what are some of the ways we can put essential oils to use? When applied to the body or diffused in a bath or humidifier, essential oils have effective anti-inflamatory, anti-bacteria, anti-depressant, anti-fingal properties. Knitters and crocheters familiar with essential oils have used scents like lavender to help repel moths from their yarn and their finished knits. You may have noticed that we keep satchels of lavender on our shelves in the shop to do just that. Though dried herbs can lose their scent over time, they can be refreshed by adding just a few drops of essential lavender oil.
If you ask Courtney about her favorite oil, she’ll tell you all about Thieves. This essential oil blend was created by combining rosemary and clove oil, among others, as these were the scents that four French thieves cloaked themselves in while robbing dead and dying plague victims! Not only did it mask the stench of the robbed, but it also helped to protect the thieves themselves against disease. The Thieves blend of essential oils is particularly useful in cleansing both self and surroundings while supporting the immune system.
Tara has lots of stories of different people she has met who have benefitted from essential oils. “From the burly roofer who carries a bottle of lavender with him during work day and applies it on his nose and hands to alleviate allergy symptoms, to the mother whose kids line up at night for some Mommy time and a foot massage of lavender and peace and calming, for the owner of a cat who spent hours meowing and wailing over the loss of it’s companion cat who diffuses lavender to relax the cat, to folks who have found resolution to their arthritis pain, the lady who uses the oils to make her laundry smell fresh, there are so many uses for heath, mood, hormonal balance, insect repellent, home cleaning, first aid, fever reduction, ease stomach pain, reduce stress….it goes on and on.I love the oils and the products! They have changed my life and impacted the lives of people I care about! I love to share the oils and their possibilities with folks!”
Hope you can join us this evening, 6-8 for drinks, refreshments, and all things essential oil!
The Yarn Crawl this weekend was a huge success!
We hosted three local knitting artisans: Ana Campos, the Salem yarn dyer behind Toil & Trouble; Newbury knitwear designer Leslie Scanlon of Mac and Me; and Knitink Yarn and Fiber dyer and spinner, Ady Bee.
Ana’s soft, subtly variegated yarns made the shop feel like spring.
And she can multi-task! Below, Ana (right) knits while showing a customer her wares.
Leslie showcased her clean, fun style in blankets, clothes and accessories for both babies and adults.
I think I’m going to have to knit these adorable baby booties (above) to compliment what will surely be my favorite hat this winter. It’s the fuzzy white one on the table below in front of Leslie (right).
Ady’s comic book inspired, homespun yarn was so freshly dyed, some of it was still damp!
Of course, she came decked out in her own knitting (above).
If you missed some of the fun, don’t worry! Check back here soon for an interview with Mac and Me’s Leslie as well as summer knitting suggestions, sculptural yarn and more.
As my mom would say, “Can you stand it?!!” No I can not stand how cute these crochet Quahogs (pronounced ‘ko-hog’ for all of you that are not from ’round here) turned out. They are another part that will go into our Seed Stitch Sound:community art project celebrating New England Marine life.
I didn’t use a pattern for these, just free from single and double crochets where I increased to make the shells and then via single crochet increases and decreases to make the Quahog bellies. I almost want to eat them!
To keep your creative juices going, I’ll be posting projects a they are created and patterns for you. Stay tuned!
Ok I’m super excited that I’ve finished the first of a school of “minnows” for our Seed Stitch Sound project. The pics are not great so forgive me but I just had to share them. Hopefully it will get you all as excited as I am to start crafting all sorts of New England Marine-y things for our community exhibit.
These are both made from cut up Crosby’s grocery bags. They were both just sort of free form knit and crochet to make the shape as I went. I love the way the bits of red and blue writing on the bags add to the scaley color of these minnows. I’m thinking I’ll make a whole school and have them swimming through some eel grass once we assemble the exhibit in September.
PS Happy first day of Summer!
We’re sooooo excited to announce we’ll be hosting a free concert for kids 2-7 at the shop with one of our very favorites, Debbie and Friends!!!!!!!!!!!!
Debbie is a big favorite around these parts and we’re so happy to share her music with all of our Salem friends. The concert will be held Sunday August 7th, starting 10:30 AM. It will be a great opportunity share some fun music with your kids.
Be sure to tell all your friends. We can’t wait! If you plan on coming, it will be a free event, but please give us a call to let us know you might be coming so we can be sure to plan ahead for the kids!
Ok gang, I’m super excited about this group project that I’m organizing. I’m sure many of you have seen and been totally inspired by Margaret Wilhielm’s crochet hyperbolic coral reef projects. Well me too, but we don’t live in a place that is known for it’s coral reefs. Being a New Englander through and through and a die hard beach, ocean, shore, sand and sail kind of gal, I’m putting my own twist on it.
In September we will be constructing an underwater environment inspired by New England Waters, sort of like The Seed Stitch Sound. We’ll be creating many of the elements that will go into this shop exhibit but we’d like to involve all of you. So put your thinking caps on to see how you can manipulate fiber to create some wonderfully New England underwater gems. Think eel grass, jelly fish, lobsters (uncooked of course), felted rocks, cod, minnows, periwinkles, spider crabs, etc. We’d like to try to stay true to marine life of our area, but of course we always welcome a bit of creative license around these parts.
We’d like to have all submissions as of September 1st. We’ll be posting an inspiration board in the shop in the coming weeks. As well to really make this a community event, we’ll be hosting a lecture series throughout September, every Friday night, with different local experts talking about some super cool marine focused topics. Schedule in the works but this series is not to be missed and open to non-fiberholics too so please spread the word to all your other eco-conscious NE friends.
We were so excited to come home to a package at the door. Oooh what was it?!!!! I giant pile of buttons!
This is the first year we’re offering buttons to crawlers for purchase $1.00. Quantities are limited and will only be on sale during the crawl itself.