Big Yes! Chaos Theory Scarf by Lesley Starke

Prepare your nerdy heart for some seriously geeky and gorgeous patterns generated by an eight-point, early chaos theory computer code.

Science + Craft = Joy.

No, you did not read that wrong. My Durham String Thing buddy Lesley Starke is knitting up this double-sided scarf using Rule 30 from early chaos theory, written by Steven Wolfram (father of Mathematica.)

She is knitting with two skeins of yarn at the same time.

Lesley is a scientist in ecology. She says that the project is the brainchild of her friend Joe Sexton (not a knitter). “He and I use similar approaches to the ecology work that we do. To put it broadly, we use satellite images to detect and analyze changes in the landscape.”

Back in 2009, while he was finishing up his PhD in Ecology from Duke University, they had a conversation about their work that exploded into this wildly beautiful creation.

Random triangles and shoots!

I love the stark black-and-white translation of the computer code and the random waterfalls and pools it creates.

The Code (pattern) runs along the bottom of the scarf.

Lesley claims that there is no pattern to this double-knit scarf. Here she explains how it works:

“I'm using a code that has 8 keys to it-- each produces a single answer: black or white, to create a random/chaotic image of black and white. The keys are each three-stitch sequences that I read on the row below to determine what color I should stitch in the present row. Four of the keys yield black and four yield white”

Their friends on Facebook
 recognize the code.

Don’t you adore this combination of computer code, utility (this is a scarf, after all, and will eventually warm Joe’s neck), wildly open creativity and the randomly beautiful patterns it creates?

Lesley, mad scientist & knitter, at work.

Big Yes to Lesley! 

"Big Yes!" is a blog feature where I share, with their permission, a piece of textile art that has opened my eyes to the possibility of what we can create.  When faced with things that are truly beautiful or moving or that fill me with awe, I try to say yes. More than that, Big Yes.

My Lips, Stitched, Part 1

So, here is another take on self portraiture. These are my lips.

My lips, stitched.

The outline of the lips is chain stitch and the textured fill lines are in a combination of back stitch and chain stitch, in pearle cotton 5, 8 and 12. Had so much fun stitching this up, that I'm going to stitch up another pair and play with the textured stitches even more, trying different flosses, colors and line stitches. I love the idea of layering line stitches (feather, chain, etc.) to create a heavily embroidered surface.

I am truly happy stitch nerd... This is fun to me!

The world's cutest gnomina, Maeve!

Speaking of fun, headed to NYC this weekend to hang with my girl Erin and my beautiful, little gnomina, Maeve, seen here wearing a yellow kimono sweater I knit for her and the special gnome booties I made, too.

Lots of stitch-speration awaits!

Brooklyn Bound, baby!

I’m headed up to NYC , land of my birth, this weekend. Woot!  Going see old friends, including finally meeting Maeve, the little Irish princess that I made this sweater for.

The pattern is the Seamless Kimono Baby Sweater from Jackie Kelly at The Complete Fabrication.   

I found it on ravelry and I just love it.

While in NYC, I’m geeked to be seeing the Felter Skelter Needle Felting All Stars Show at the Gallery Hanahou.  

This show features the work of four needlefelting goddesses who I have long admired, Moxie, Hine Mizushima, Kit Lane and Yoku Nomura.  I own a few pieces by Yoku Nomura (aka feltmates), including this insanely cool panda brooch that I purchased her etsy shop.  I’d wear every day if I could.

I plan to roam, have cocktails, play with old friends and just enjoy myself.  For me that means looking for fabric for my Andy Warhol embroidery piece, seeking out lumnious fibers and threads, visiting the Japanese toy store and pursuing all things handmade. Hopefully I won't freeze to death, as I've become a bit thin-blooded from living in the warm South for so many years. (It was 83F/28C degrees in Durham, NC, today!) 

Looking forward to three days of doing whatever I want!


Durham, You have been Gnomed!

Yesterday was Gnoming Day in Durham!

Over 120 Cork Gnomes hit the streets and parks of Durham, NC, yesterday, thanks the devious plotting and maniacal knitting of the Durham String Thing.

The little cuties found new homes in the toes of an enormous metal camel sculpture, nestled in the bells of beautiful spring tulips, cuddled up against an enormous houka pipe on Ninth Street, leaning against the gothic spirals of the Duke Chapel and hiding inside parking meters, among many other locations.  One even flew into the open car window of a passing car and was caught by a lucky, suspiciously festive young Durham man.

Updates of their adventures can be found at their official site

For now, here is a fantastic composite created by the amazing Kay (a.k.a. “little red”) featuring the adventures of Katherine, Kay and myself as we found new homes for some of the little gnomes. Click on the image to see it better.

(I’m the dark haired one in black making a lot of crazy faces.)

Cork Gnomes to Invade Durham this weekend!

Tonight in the Independent Weekly Online, "Heaps of little creatures are prepping for debut, from bitty bunnies to budding bulbs and... lucky little cork gnomes, as the Indy staff has learned.
The news came in an "a-gnome-ymous" letter of Lilliputian proportion, attached to this little guy (or gal?). Locals will start spotting these little cuties beginning March 20, according to the message." Read the complete Indy piece here.
And don't forget to track their adventures at the newly created tumblr blog, Cork Gnome Home.
A little friend was just spotted in Seattle!!  Oh my!!

Something Gnomish this way comes

Look out, Durham, NC! On March 20th, an unholy army of cork gnomes will descend upon you! They will be hiding in secret places downtown, on Ninth Street and in other locations TBD.

Look at these murderous faces.

And if you’re lucky enough to stumble upon one and take it home… alas, I cannot say what will befall you. 

Brought to you by the devious fiberistas of Durham String Thing, of which I am a card-carrying member. 

My days have been consumed with knitting these Korknisse. To make my gnomes, I’ve modified the original pattern, found on raverly and designed by Manne. (An English version of the pattern, translated from the Norwegian by Saartje, can be found here: )

More details to come, gentle Durham.  Do not be afraid!

Beware: Pixie Messenger Bags found in the woods

Pixies have been leaving their little messenger bags in the woods behind my house!

This is the bag that every stylish Pixie grabs before she sets out on one of her troublemaking adventures!  Inside is an official Pixie Journal where the little trickster plots her fiendish schemes.

A little secret... I am totally obsessed with my own version of pixies, which I call O’Pixies.  I have an entire fictional world constructed (in my mind and in my notebooks) about the O’Pixies Universe, including details for each of the six tribes that I created.  The little people are complicated and at times dark…

The O’Pixies take up such a large place in my imagination that it is almost hard to sort out all of the projects, stories and items that I want to create for them. It is actually overwhelming!  I will write more about the O’Pixies as the project continues, but for now, here are some of their tiny bags.

The Pixie Messenger Bags are a version of the my Ornamental Joy - Tiny Handbags pattern, the same pattern that I've used to make Mrs. Claus' Date Night Handbag and many other types of little wool purses.  I knit them and then felt them in the washing machine. 

I’ve made dozens of Ornamental Joy bags in various versions over the years. I've sold most of them at Center Fest in Durham or at my OJ Designs partner Juline’s Arts Education conferences.  They are a quick, fun way to use of scraps of yarn and other embellishments like beads and buttons.  Some people use them as Christmas ornaments, but I keep them around all through the year.

For these Pixie Messenger Bags, I embroidered little wool/rayon felt cloud faces and used a pastel pencil to give them rosy cheeks.  I embroidered around the handles in silver DMC floss.

I especially like the little snouty nose on this cloud’s face.

A proper tutorial is in the works for my blog.  The pattern was originally published in String Thing Theory, which my fiber arts group String Thing published on, but if anyone wants a copy of the pattern, please just let me know and I'm happy to send it. It is super simple.

But, be very careful with O’Pixies. They have a dangerous streak. Next to the little bags I found piles of tiny bones, some hair that looked suspiciously like Rico's and at least one tooth that was decidedly human. That is all I’m going to say.

Mrs. Claus’ Date Night Handbag Ornaments

Making ornaments is one of my favorite parts of the Christmas season.  I’m calling these "Mrs. Claus’ Date Night Handbag."   It is a very simple pattern that I wrote up 2 years ago that I call Ornamental Joy Tiny Handbags.  I’ve made this pattern in all types of yarns and with all types of embellishments.  (I’ll post photos of the various versions over the next few days.)  Mrs. Claus doesn't always want to be a frump.  But she is a hard working woman, so she never ventures forth without her "Naughty or Nice" notebook.

Fortunately for those of us who are on the wild side, Mrs. Claus enjoys drinking rich, red, Italian wines (vino nobile di Montepulciano is her favorite) and, despite her ample frame, is a bit of a lightweight.  She is a happy drunk and after the first glass and a half, she simply adores every person she sees and we all get our names scrawled into the “Nice” side of her notebook.  

Forgive me for this hopping around among the holidays, but back to Halloween… Rico and I carved these faces into our pumpkins and presented them to my parents.  Mine is the friendly face on the left. (Looks like one of my creatures!) Rico’s is the deranged face on the right.

Today we roasted the seeds and OH MY, I’d forgotten how yummy freshly roasted pumpkin seeds are! We soaked the seeds overnight in salt water, let them dry for a day and then roasted them for 45 minutes at 300 degrees in a mixture of butter, salt and garlic.  Shazam!!

What the heck is "stitch, stab & scrawl?"

I know... Stitch, stab and scrawl... a little odd sounding...

Thought I'd create a simple blog to collect my adventures in toy making and other creative endeavors! And to make my toys and other objects, I do a lot of stitching (sewing, embroidery, knitting), stabbing (needle felting) and scrawling (sketching designs, doodling, writing about the creatures I make).  See, not as fearsome as it first sounded, huh?

Here is an example of two creatures who I made with lots of stitching, stabbing and scrawling.

Meet Shabadoo & Shabadee, the demented bunnies of 2009.  They are sisters living on separate coasts.  Shabadoo lives with my friend Lisa in Portland and Shabadee lives with me in Durham.  Huge fans of The Beastie Boys "Hey F*ck You!" from which they got their names.

Shabadoo & Shabadee have knitted and felted bodies. Their heads are needle felted and ears are wet felted. They have various embroidery on their matching frocks and paws. And they sport art shrink paper images of their own skulls.  They are tough girls.

Two of my girls!