hi everyone,
just stopping by to let you know that i’m the featured artist today on the blog Transpositions. if you haven’t been reading this blog for very long, you may not know that it started as a way to keep track my Masters in Christian Studies in Christianity and the Arts at Regent College, which was a show of knitwear.  if you enjoy my post on transpositions here are some more pages to check out:

-all the posts marked thesis on this blog
thesis show write up – the short and quick answer to the question what my thesis was all about
-the photos on flickr

pour vous

these pages include lots of knitting history and many thoughts on theology and knitting – as well as the physical knit objects.

it’s interesting how this blog has changed as i transitioned into claiming my place as a full time artist. i had more time as a student and was reading lots of knitting history to share, pondering the depths of knitting and community. i still think about the same things, i’ve just already said them here. so now you get lots of pretty pictures of woolie stuff.  plus, i must pay the bills.

p.s. i also recommend watching the blog Transpositions all week long – it’s domestic crafts week!  and there should be some great posts ranging from preserves, to cooking, to quilts, to radical homemaking.  i’ll also be responding to comments on my post over there, so feel free to comment.

thesis show write up

this is what will be in the gallery booklet for people to take home with them.

I Reclaim: Knitting as Theological Reflection

In knitting I reclaim a lost domestic art that reaffirms family and home. I reclaim the idea that what we do daily and the items that we surround ourselves with are important and affect the quality of our lives.

I reclaim a rich tradition of provision, beauty, and care that has been passed down through the generations, as knitted garments and patterns are passed from hand to hand.

I reclaim the good gifts of God in natural fibers and use them to good ends that glorify Him. I spin wool from sheep. I recycle sweaters that have had too little thought put into their manufacture and create from them new, lively beauty.

And lastly, I reclaim for myself and for my neighbors, students, and friends the image of God given to us by a good creator ‘to make’ and be creative creatures ourselves. I nestle myself into Genesis one, reaffirming and revitalizing my relationships with God, His earth, and other people.

my own personal book meme

so. i was thinking about that meme and what a random group of books it is. so, i pulled this list from the website of image journal. the reasoning behind the list is here. i came to regent to study the link in between christianity and the arts, so you can see how this list fits me much better. although i’ve read and liked many of those books on the other list, some of these authors certainly have my heart.

bolding if i’ve read it (or bits and pieces of it)
italicizing if i own it, but haven’t read it

and i put an alternate book by the same author behind (they only allowed one book/author) if i’ve read another book and liked it

W.H. Auden Collected Poems
Georges Bernanos The Diary of a Country Priest
Wendell Berry Sabbaths – i adore wendell berry and own many of his books
John Berryman 77 Dream Songs
Doris Betts Souls Raised from the Dead – Heading West
Leon Bloy The Woman Who Was Poor
Heinrich Boll The Stories of Heinrich Boll
Robert Bolt A Man for All Seasons
Ray Bradbury Something Wicked This Way Comes
George Mackay Brown Selected Poems
Frederic Buechner Godric – his first three memoirs are amazing
Scott Cairns Recovered Body
Willa Cather Death Comes for the Archbishop
G.K. Chesterton The Man Who Was Thursday
Paul Claudel The Satin Slipper
Elizabeth Dewberry Many Things Have Happened Since He Died – Sacrament of Lies
Annie Dillard Pilgrim at Tinker Creek – Holy the Firm
Andre Dubus Selected Stories
T.S. Eliot Four Quartets – Essays
Alice Thomas Ellis The Sin Eater
Shusaku Endo Silence
William Everson Collected Poems (The Residual Years; The Veritable Years)
Horton Foote The Trip to Bountiful
Christopher Fry The Lady’s Not for Burning
Denise Giardina Saints and Villains
Jose Maria Gironella The Cypresses Believe in God
Julien Green Diaries
Graham Greene The Power and the Glory
Patricia Hampl Virgin Time
Ron Hansen Mariette in Ecstasy – Atticus: a Novel (great book)
Mark Helprin A Soldier of the Great War – Winter’s Tale

Oscar Hijuelos Mr. Ives’ Christmas
Geoffrey Hill The Mystery of the Charity of Charles Peguy
Edward Hirsch Earthly Measures
Paul Horgan Great River
Andrew Hudgins The Neverending
John Irving A Prayer for Owen Meany
Josephine Jacobsen In the Crevice of Time: New and Selected Poems
Mark Jarman Questions for Ecclesiastes
Elizabeth Jennings Collected Poems
David Jones The Anathemata
Nikos Kazantzakis The Last Temptation of Christ
Thomas Keneally Three Cheers for the Paraclete
William Kennedy Ironweed
Wally Lamb I Know This Much is True – She’s Come Undone
Anne Lamott Traveling Mercies – Operating Instructions is my fav.
Madeleine L’Engle A Wrinkle in Time – I’ve read a lot of her
Denise Levertov The Stream and the Sapphire
Philip Levine The Mercy
C.S. Lewis Till We Have Faces – Narnia Series among others
Torgny Lindgren Light
Robert Lowell Lord Weary’s Castle
Paul Mariani Salvage Operations
Francois Mauriac Viper’s Tangle
Alice McDermott Charming Billy
Thomas Merton Collected Poems
Vassar Miller If I Had Wheels or Love: Collected Poems
Walter Miller A Canticle for Leibowitz
Czeslaw Milosz Collected Poems
Brian Moore Black Robe
Robert Morgan The Truest Pleasure
Malcolm Muggeridge Chronicles of Wasted Time
Edwin Muir Complete Poems
Les Murray Collected Poems
Kathleen Norris Dakota – I’ve read most of her books
Patrick O’Brian The Aubrey/Maturin Novels
Flannery O’Connor Short Stories – Mystery of Manners (bits)
Virginia Stem Owens If You Do Love Old Men
Katherine Paterson Jacob Have I Loved – Love her kids books
Charles Peguy The Mystery of the Charity of Joan of Arc
Walker Percy The Moviegoer – Second Coming
David Plante The Francoeur Trilogy
Chaim Potok My Name is Asher Lev
J.F. Powers The Presence of Grace
Reynolds Price Three Gospels
Richard Rodriguez Hunger of Memory

Dorothy Sayers The Mind of the Maker – Mystery novels, plays
Ignazio Silone Bread and Wine
Louis Simpson New and Selected Poems
Isaac Bashevis Singer Collected Stories
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
Muriel Spark Memento Mori
Tom Stoppard Hapgood
John Heath Stubbs Collected Poems
Allen Tate Collected Poems
J.R.R. Tolkien The Lord of the Rings
Anne Tyler Saint Maybe
Sigrid Undset Kristin Lavransdatter – I’ve been looking for the good translation for a while now…
John Updike In the Beauty of the Lillies
Peter de Vries The Blood of the Lamb
Dan Wakefield Returning
Walter Wangerin, Jr. The Book of the Dun Cow
Evelyn Waugh Brideshead Revisited
Elie Wiesel Night
Richard Wilbur New and Collected Poems
Charles Williams All Hallows’ Eve
A.N. Wilson Wise Virgin
Tim Winton Cloudstreet
Larry Woiwode Beyond the Bedroom Wall

Tobias Wolff In the Garden of the North American Martyrs

i’ve got a lot to go here!  i started collecting many of these while i worked at the book store.  any on this list that you think i should read next?

another list of books i’d like to find is the pre-vatican II list of banned books by the Catholic Church.  i know that at least one of these above (Last Temptation of Christ) made that list.  i want to find this one just because my curiousity is peaked.

trumping along: what trumps what in your life?

if nothing else, those who know me will tell you that i’m a person with opinions. i consistently get asked sarcastically to tell how i really feel by many of my close friends. and really, i like having opinions. i like believing one way or another on a topic… and then after that i can change it as needed.

for instance, one thing i believe in is local and organic food. so, my husband and i try to buy in this order: local organic, organic, local, larger local, and then other. this is our loose guideline – if you can’t do it at some point, you don’t freak out, you deal with whatever you have to. it has been interesting to see people who come to regent college without a holistic vision of christianity be confronted with the idea that christianity has something to do with earth-keeping and food supply. they often freak out because it is too much to think about, too big an issue (what, cause salvation wasn’t?!?). one pastoral student friend sent an email back when he started working at a church that he had convinced them to use real mugs instead of styrofoam (yay!).

anyhow, this all came up because friday night, i went to another ‘integrated project in arts and theology’ and ran across a friend who needed to get some knitting needles from me. i happened to have them on me and passed them on. her husband then said “yay! i get a hat soon!” this particular instance struck me as funny and ironic. see, his grandmother had made him a scarf out of variegated acrylic that he would have never worn. so when i taught his wife how to knit, she hatched a plan to make it into a hat for him that he would wear. although they don’t seem to me like the kind of people that would be super excited about red heart, all thoughts of such things were trumped by the circumstances of the yarn.

this got me thinking about the opinions and guidelines that we live by. in the end, although i seem to have a lot of opinions, it seems to me that rules within life are really no good if they are not applicable (and bendable).  when i’m being good and not just obstinant, i allow this bending to happen under certain circumstances.

so, here are some of the places where i bend:

i believe in wool, but we’re not going to throw away the acrylic blanket that ben’s grandmother crocheted (seen in the picture above with the double knit polyester quilt that his mom made). in this case, the fact that the blanket was made by grandma trumps the fact that it isn’t made out of natural fiber.

i believe in using natural fibers (cotton has issues with pesticides, but you know… bend). i don’t really buy modern polyester/rayon/acrylic etc, but a huge part of my sweater collection is made up of 1970’s acrylic numbers (one of my favorites can be seen partially here.

although we generally prefer organic/free range or wild game meat, ben and i will both eat meat when the occasion trumps our food preferences.

generally against misc plastic made by slave labor, i love mass-produced weird christian stuff (especially catholic). a lot. so much that if i find something particualrily gaudy, i might even buy it new!

i also find that when i’m thrifting, the fact that something’s handmade will often trump what it’s made out of.

i love the little contradictions/bends in life… they crack me up. so what trumps what in your life?


Queen Cosy of the woodland realm Originally uploaded by alissa.piroska.

there’s a new interview with me up online over at the aesthetic elevator. the theme of this blog really resonates with me as something i think about daily. self-described as “Exploring the visual arts, architecture and community planning in the context of American culture — towards a well-considered visual environment.” How necessary! Paul, the artist who runs it, also has a lovely set of sculptures seen here. He found out about me through his wife who is a fellow etsian.

if you’re not so into theology, there is very different interview with me by shannon okey of knitgrrl fame here.

if you have any further questions from reading these, i’d be happy to answer them! my email is cosyknitsliterally (!at) gmail (!dot) com.

UPDATE: this blog entry is a brief description of the thesis too. i realize that many of you are newer readers and the entry had been buried back at the beginning. maybe i should learn more about blogging and put a link to a page in my sidebar…

fasting and feasting

tis the season
Originally uploaded by cosymakes.


as my thesis takes shape, it seems to me that practicality is a major part of it.  i’ve nixed projects that i originally planned to do on itty bitty needles and with cables.  i’ve pared back to some very basic shapes.  i’ve noticed in this that the version of knitting history that i hold up is very particular.

now, you may be thinking that of course a gallery show of useful knit goods has to be about practicality. but it is truly making me think about what is practical.  how to show care and make beautiful peices, but also be simple enough that one can execute it in the midst of daily life. historically, there must have been quite a fine line in between what was acceptable as beautiful and what was frivilous. and for that matter, what was acceptable as ingenuity in pattern- there must have been a tipping point when ripping just wasn’t worth it anymore, when working out the pattern had to stop.

although i appreciate (and buy) such things as handknit table runners, doilies, and bed spreads, i am not a victorian knitter. i am not primarily concerned with such things. the things that we surround ourselves with (down to our doilies) are all important, but i don’t find doilies to be as satisfying a knit as a hat that someone will wear.

within the christian tradition, it is particularily important to affirm matter. if we believe in a creator who made the earth and called it good, then we better take matter seriously. so many christians think that it’s all going to be blown up anyway, so what should we care. but really, if God (who you believe is an all powerful creator), called it good, i’d take him at his word any day. besides, being redeemed and being blown up are two totally different things.

as matter goes, a handknit doily is good (and will be redeemed). it is beautiful. however, it is not as deep an object as something one wears. the more connections something has to the earth and its ecosystems (including human communities), the deeper the item. Albert Borgmann would argue that in modern consumptive culture, objects lose their depth. objects like wool hats should mean something beyond mere commodity. they should at least mean sheep. and if they mean sheep, they should mean grazing and the earth. if they’re handknit, they should mean caring hands, love, etc.

circling back to thoughts on practicality, simplicity, and beauty. i’m a knitter who is known to rip things out if i don’t like them, or if they don’t feel right to me. in opening my little shop, i’ve been forced to find a fine balance for myself, making things that mean something, are beautiful, and yet somewhat simple to fit into my everyday life (and that are worth producing for sale). if i rip something out, it is not as big of a deal because i’m not using my smallest needles and the most complex pattern.  the time is worth it for the beauty.  the item has not reached the tipping point.

i am currently blessed with the freedom to knit in any size i’d like for the thesis and so very little ripping is happening right now. all these thoughts of knitting and ripping make me think this quote from No Idle Hands: The Social History of American Knitting speaking of 19th century knitters, “But since garments seldom required a good ‘fit’ of chest or bust, few knitters brooded about final measurements. In children’s clothes, if the garment didn’t fit, a child was found to fit the garment.”

it seems to me that there is a difference in between a good fit and a fit that trumps the fact that knit items have a purpose beyond fashion (warmth etc.). another balancing point. when do we become frivilous in our knitting? there is feasting, there is fasting – knit items that are celebrations of the people they are for and of beauty (i made some lovely cabled socks once) and knit items that are purely useful with little dabs of personalness like my friend amanda’s dad’s hat. our affluent culture of consumption does not encourage such thoughts (i may not go buy $900 worth of yarn to make 9 sweaters for myself – oh no!) but i think that they are important. i think the tipping points still exist, and that we can still fast and feast. but all feasting (or all fasting) is not healthy for anyone- us as individuals or for the world.