Special Sub-Topic: Crochet Tiger, Knit A Dragon
|Woollen Grasshopper, unique styles of both martial arts and knitting originate in almost every part of the world. The arts of Dirk Dancing and Bhata, and the styles of Aran and Fair Isle, all come from which area?|
British Isles. Aran style knitting is traditional to the Aran Isles off the coast of Ireland, and is recognisable for being richly textured, although it is made in a uniform cream colour. When spun, some of the oil is left in the wool, which gives finished garments water-resistance, and the intricate patterns are not only loaded with folk-meaning, but create air-pockets, making the garments even warmer. Fair Isle lies off the coast of Scotland, between the Orkneys and the Shetlands. Fair Isle knitting is a technique for creating patterns of multiple colours, simple in themselves, but which build up to make highly sophisticated designs.
Dirk Dancing is a Scots form which is thought to originally have been a training exercise (a 'dirk' being a dagger), and Bhata (or Bata, or even Bataireacht) is a semi-formalised Irish style of stick-fighting, including the delightful-sounding but no-doubt somewhat intimidating "Rince an Bhata Uisce Bheatha", literally "Whiskey Stick Dance".
The British Isles are also home to the unfortunately mythical "Ancient Lancastrian Martial Art" of "Ecky-Thump", as demonstrated by Bill Oddie on "The Goodies" in 1975. The art involves the wearing of flat-caps and braces, and lots of whooping around smashing people on t' noggin wit' black puddings. There are serious news-reports claiming that a man in King's Lynn, Norfolk, UK, actually laughed so much while watching the episode ("Kung-Fu Kapers") that he suffered heart failure and died on the spot. His wife apparently wrote to The Goodies and thanked them for making her husband's last moments so enjoyable. She was with him at the time of his death, though there is no record of whether or not she found the episode amusing.
|Woollen Grasshopper, in some martial arts a reach, snatch and pull-back movement of the non-punching arm is used to balance an advancing blow. In what productive way can an exponent of 'extreme crochet' make use of a similar arm movement?|
They can use their whole arm as a giant crochet hook. Well, I guess they could use it for snatching wool in shops - "I have what I wanted, now I'm making a dashery for it" - or in case they're making chain-mail and the pattern calls for steel wool (all complaints to my management please).
The leading wielder of the arm as crochet hook is UK "yarn activist" Rockpool Candy - no, I'm not making this up. Good old Youtube* provides scenes of her demonstrating the technique to make a giant bacterium, which somehow ends up as a chair. Unsurprisingly I didn't watch all of this the video - the rinky-dinky banjo soundtrack alone is enough to drive anyone nuts. I'm not sure exactly what a yarn activist is supposed to be, but I can't help but think of the old gag about accosting people on the streets and screaming at them "do you know how many acrylics had to die so you could wear that tasteless cardigan?" She does offer a handy tip for turning plastic bags - or any other soft, tubular object, like pants legs or t-shirt bodies - into a continuous strip for crocheting or knitting. A handy tip, that is, if you can work out just why you'd want to make anything out of plastic bags or grandpa's old bowls trousers, or indeed what on earth you could make out of them. I guess it shows a failure of imagination on my part; *sigh* so I can kiss goodbye to ever becoming a yarn activist...
|Woollen Grasshopper, Rumi Maki is an Incan martial art divided into five levels. Two of these levels share their names with very popular fibres used for spinning into knitting yarn. Which animals are the sources of both?|
Alpaca & Llama. Alpaca 'wool' is a prized fibre for spinning for several reasons. Unlike sheep wool, it does not contain lanolin, which makes it both cleaner to work with, and hypoallergenic. It is also warmer than sheep wool, naturally water-repellent, and not prickly, plus it has a natural crimp which gives it inbuilt elasticity. Llama fibre is very similar, but generally somewhat more coarse. Both animals are farmed commercially all over the world.
The vicuña is another member of the camelid family, but wool spun from its fibre is the rarest and most costly in the world. The fine quality of this fibre has helped lead to the near-extinction of these rather sweet-looking animals, and, while it is still possible to buy vicuña wool, anyone who does so should ensure it comes from a responsible, legal source.
The levels of Rumi Maki are Llama, Alpaca, Vicuña, Condor and Sun. Each involves different parts of the body moving in different ways, which supposedly represent the animals they are named for. I get 'Condor' for flying kicks, though I wasn't aware that llamas, as opposed to alpacas or vicuñas, were especially known for head butting; but it's all about learning, isn't it?
|Woollen Grasshopper, controversy is never far away from martial arts in one form or another, but it can also hit crafting circles. Which phrase - long-associated with social crafting groups - was the subject of heated debate and legal action in the early 21st century?|
Stitch & Bitch. Documented examples of "Stitch & Bitch" groups - social gatherings for sewing, knitting, crochet etc, often with a charitable function - date back to at least WWII, but it wasn't until the late 1990s - with the advent of online groups - that people began thinking about gaining exclusive use of the phrase. Without going into the details of disputants - at the time of writing all legal issues are yet to be settled - the whole mess appears to have started with a small company trying to raise its profile (ie its sales figures) by making exaggerated claims as to their 'miracle' teaching methods, and swiftly spiralled out of control.
In the end it amounted to a monumental failure in public relations for the company; although they were legally granted a US 'service mark' (a 'trademark' for a service rather than a product) for the use of the phrase "Stitch & Bitch" in 2002, their less-than adroit handling of subsequent issues saw them established as 'the enemy' of online social groups who were forced to change their names, or, in some instances, were deleted by service providers altogether. Aside from irate social groups - who went so far as to orchestrate a boycott of the company's products and services - the company's right to claim service mark status for the phrase has been legally disputed, as have counter-claims for the use of "Stitch & Bitch" - or "Stitch'n Bitch", which just adds a whole other level of confusion to the issue - as a trademark for specific products.
My solution will surely be viewed by many as overly-simplistic, but why not come up with another name, already?
|Woollen Grasshopper, murder mystery stories involving martial arts are not at all rare, but those involving crafts are much more difficult to find. Which of these is NOT a 'Crochet Mystery' written by American author Betty Hechtman?|
Cast Off Purls Before Sewing. Betty Hechtman (date of birth a state secret) always wanted to be a writer, and always wanted to be able to crochet. The writing part apparently came naturally, but crochet she thought contained some sort of arcane knowledge which would forever remain beyond her, until she discovered a kit for children (in Las Vegas of all places), and painfully taught herself the art. The experience didn't quite lead her to murder, but it did somehow give her the idea of writing about a killer crochet circle. Now I've known crafty people to be extremely catty, and I've worked on projects which have made me want to find whoever wrote the pattern and do something unmentionable to them with a crochet hook, but I think murder is going a little too far for the sake of art...then again, there are some granny-rugs I've seen which have left me in a fair state of rage...hmm.
"Hooked on Murder" and "Dead Men Don't Crochet" were released in 2008, "By Hook or by Crook" in 2009; "Cast Off Purls Before Sewing" would of course make a ridiculous title for a 'Crochet Murder', as 'cast off' and 'purl' are knitting terms...
|Woollen Grasshopper, spinning and turning feature in martial arts as kicking movements. Fibre obviously needs to be spun before it can be used for knitting, but what kind of 'turning' is specifically a knitter's nemesis?|
Turning a heel. Consider the sock, that commonplace, humble, yet deceptively complex item of footwear. Most sane people have never contemplated what goes into making a sock, but many knitters have, and, obviously, before the machine age, the only way to make them was by hand. Now, unless you want a bulky and uncomfortable seam in your sock, it is best to make them using four needles - a set of, funnily enough, four needles, which are pointed on both ends, so instead of finishing a row and then turning to knit back along the stitches you've just made, you continue on to the next needle and so work in rounds to make a tube. This might sound complicated enough - and it is, trust me! - but it's nothing compared to the intricacies of turning a heel. I don't want to scare anyone, so I won't outline the entire procedure - I get queasy just thinking of it anyway. Should you at some point feel so inclined, however, have a look at the shape of a sock heel, and imagine the dropping and picking up of stitches along edges, and the management of multiple needles and unruly wool necessary to form such a complex shape. There is surely something not-quite-human about anyone who doesn't shudder during such contemplation, or at the very least they show a superhuman resistance to intimidating craft concepts.
In times not so long ago, people were looked up to - nay, veritably worshipped - for mastering this skill; men as well as women. I happen to know for a fact that my tough, salty father-in-law's heel-turning abilities were as much admired aboard ship as his uncanny knowledge of sails and knots. Furthermore, I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that the expression of gentility in describing someone as "well-heeled" didn't come from this very accomplishment.
|Woollen Grasshopper, the Ninja of Japan were masters of not being seen, and there are textile activists who work by stealth too. What is the name given to guerrilla-style raids in which public spaces are 'decorated' with knitted or crocheted items?|
Yarn Bombing. The idea is no doubt noble, in that Yarn Bombers proclaim their aim is to "improve the urban landscape" by putting cushions on bus-stop seats and draping oversized scarves around lamp-posts. At least this what Canadian exponents Mandy Moore and Leanne Prain claim in their 2009 book "Yarn Bombing: The Art of Knit Graffiti", but perhaps the use of the word 'graffiti' here should sound a few warning bells. Some 'traditional' graffiti does actually improve the urban landscape, but most of it is an eyesore, and this is the case with knit graffiti too. Some great examples exist - red English phone-boxes covered in giant multi-coloured phone-box cosies can look just fabbo - but most of it looks like exactly what it is: cheap materials in the most jarring colours imaginable made up in obvious haste and thrown haphazardly over tree-branches and retaining walls. And I can't help wondering what happens when it rains...still, I guess there are many worse things they could be strewing the streets with. I guess.
|Woollen Grasshopper, spiritualism plays an important part in the study of many martial arts. What is the title of a book which explores the spiritual aspects of knitting?|
Zen and the Art of Knitting. "Zen and the Art of Knitting" (2002), as its title page declares, is about "Exploring the Links Between Knitting, Spirituality, and Creativity" - which comes across as a bit new-age hippy lightweight to my cynical eye. But author Bernadette Murphy - who was brought up Roman Catholic and obviously has some 'issues' which have seen her looking to Eastern religious sources for answers, as also evidenced by her other book, "The Tao Gal's Guide to Real Estate" (2006) - makes some interesting points. Most 'serious' knitters will know the meditative quality involved in the repetitious nature of the work; once you get to a level of proficiency where you don't have to keep your eyes on absolutely every part of every stitch, that is. This also applies to other crafts of course, such as crochet, tapestry, hand-sewing, and even some forms of painting or drawing. Murphy quotes a teacher of 'primordial sound meditation' and Tai Chi (Taiji Quan), as well as knitting, as saying "I find the rhythm of knitting to be the most satisfying part [...] It's definitely meditative to a degree, but a different, lesser degree than meditation". My own experience tells me it's certainly different, too; I've never fallen asleep while meditating - a common trap for young players - but I've fallen asleep many times while crocheting - really!
|Woollen Grasshopper, the Sikhs practice Gatka Punjabi, and the Norse the art of Stáv. What do they share with the international yarn art known as 'extreme knitting'?|
The use of really big sticks/needles. There are several variants of extreme knitting, but they all involve the use of oversized needles, compared by some to fence-posts. One noted proponent of the art is Gloucestershire-based Rachel John, who, by knitting with 1000 strands of yarn simultaneously, claimed a world record in 2006. A video capturing the event is available on Youtube*, but as it clocks in at nearly 7 minutes, I can't in all good conscience recommend it to anyone but the very devoted, or the very very bored. I skipped through most of it myself - it also has an annoyingly 'atmospheric' soundtrack - but the images of the 1000 differently coloured, textured and weighted yarns being pulled up over a balcony to be carded up are pretty stunning. John certainly puts her all into the enterprise, with each stitch requiring her whole arm becoming almost an extension to the enormous needle as she reefs the strands through.
Unfortunately, the resultant mattress-sized work looks like nothing so much as a bath-mat made by a caring, giant, colour-blind grandmother for her long-suffering - and hopefully equally colour-blind - giant grandson.
Gatka Punjabi - or just Gatka - as the name suggests, originated in India, c1600s. Its main weapon is the sword (Talvaar or Kirpaan), but bamboo or wooden sticks (Soti) are used for practice. Also, staffs of up to 7' (over 2m) known as Lathi are used to fight multiple opponents. Stáv is as much a philosophical system - or quasi religion - as it is a martial art. Claimed to have been handed down through the generations of the Hafskjold family since around 500CE, it employs elements of Norse Mythology and Runic Lore in its teachings; as well as the really big stick (staff).
While blood may be spilt in the practice of any of these arts, it is not considered absolutely necessary for the enjoyment of either proponents or spectators.
|Woollen Grasshopper, a teacher - or sensei - is very important in martial arts, but there are crafting gurus too. One highly respected teacher of knitting and other crafts is Kaffe Fassett; for inspiring work in which craft is he NOT known?|
Woodwork. Born in 1937 in San Francisco, California, Kaffe (rhymes with 'safe') Fassett settled in England in 1964, after completing only 3 months of a scholarship to the Museum of Fine Art School in Boston, Massachusetts. A visit to a wool mill in Scotland - at which, to his delight, he found wools in all the colours of the surrounding country-side which he so admired - acted as impetus for Fassett's first venture into textile arts; having bought a variety of wools and some needles at the mill, he convinced a fellow-passenger on his return train trip to London to teach him to knit, and he was on his way.
Fassett has written over 20 books and run courses on knitting, needlepoint, mosaic, painting and patch-work, but his love for colour is the abiding thread - so to speak! - which joins all his work together. Through his books, teaching and craft kits, he has certainly made more than a fair living out of his art, but Fassett has also 'given back' to society through such projects as (with international charity Oxfam) advising Indian and Guatemalan weavers on producing patterns more saleable in the West.
In 1988, Fassett was the first living textile artist to hold a solo exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. Around this time he toured Australia with a series of lectures and 'appearances' at craft shops all over the country. Now I am not in any way susceptible to hero-worship, but I do have his signature on an old College sketch-book, and I do believe this was also around the time I wrote a short story about a young girl who - much to the scandalised astonishment of crafty old ladies the world over - ran away with a somewhat older but terribly dashing knitting guru...no no, I always blush when I'm writing quizzes...
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