Art is the Handmaid of Human Good

Life in Lowell, Massachusetts, USA

Interesting things I’ve read in the past 24 hours…*

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Yesterday was a very exciting day!  Why?  Knitting Nature arrived.
Day 215 - Tuesday, August 26th 2008 - Deadline?  What deadline?

Sometime this weekend, as I was stuck on the couch with a back spasm (boo!), I fell head over heels in love with Norah Gaughan.  I was Raveling away and I came across all of these gorgeous patterns so I did what any sane person would do – I hopped on Amazon and ordered her book, Knitting Nature (I also may have run to The Woolpack to get Berroco: Norah Gaughan Vol. 1 and later regretted it because it certainly didn’t help matters with my back *ahem*).

Knitting Nature arrived yesterday while I was at work, and I managed to tear myself away from this MEGA-HUGE, SUPER-BIG work project with it’s LOOMING DEADLINE to check out a couple of the patterns.  On first glance I wasn’t disappointed and immediately fell in love with the Spiral Scarf.  However, as I was at work (and should have been, um, working), I didn’t have time for much more than a quick perusal.  At first glance, each piece is gorgeous and modern.

My evening was pretty busy and I didn’t have a chance to read until right before bed.  I began with the forward and introduction and was immediately sucked in – these patterns aren’t just gorgeous, they’re based on science (Norah Gaughan studied biology).  Knitting Nature was inspired by another book – The Self-Made Tapestry: Pattern Formation in Nature by Philip Ball, which examines why certain patterns repeat themselves in nature, often in wildly different objects.

Each pattern in Knitting Nature falls into one shape category – hexagons, pentagons, spirals, phyllotaxis, fractals, and waves and at the beginning of each chapter there is a definition of the shape and a discussion of how it appears in the natural world.  Norah Gaughan doesn’t just use the shapes as decoration, however, the properties of each shape is used in the construction of the different garments.  So, because pentagons behave in a certain way, they are used to create the yoke of the Swirled Pentagon Pullover – brilliant.  Another garment I was quite taken by was the Coastline Skirt (and Camisole).  Now, I’ll be honest here, neither of those garments are something I’d ever wear but their inspiration and construction?  Fascinating.  The trim is based on Koch’s Snowflake, a mathematical curve mirrored in nature in coastlines.  Most, if not all, of the patterns make connections between mathematical concepts and how they appear in the natural world.

Knitting Nature contains a variety of gorgeous patterns ranging from aran sweaters to mittens, and everything is offered in  a wide range of sizes, always a bonus in a knitting book.  The photography is stunning and the prose is clear.  I enjoyed reading Knitting Nature and I’m really looking forward to knitting from it.

The other thing I read that was interesting (and on a totally different subject), a New York Magazine about Buffalo, NY.  It’s sub-title?  What could possibly make someone want to leave New York and move to Buffalo?  Sound familiar?  The article talks about how young, hip, artsy New Yorkers are moving to Buffalo for it’s low housing prices and friendliness to the creative class.  The creative class, saviors to industrial cities everywhere!  Cue trumpets!

The article mentions people and organizations who are committed to making Buffalo great for the people who currently live there, including PUSH Buffalo.  They seem like an interesting and effective organization and I’d be interested to hear about how they feel about the changing face of Buffalo and the city’s push to draw new residents.  It’s such a struggle, how do your improve neighborhoods and cities and bring in new people without pushing out the people that are already there.  Is is possible?  I know I don’t have that answer.

I’m also very interested in how Buffalo is marketing itself to New Yorkers.  Most of the struggling cities *ahem* Lowell *ahem* market themselves as just like fill-in-the-blank city.

“This, after all, is how struggling cities sell themselves, especially in the post–Creative Class world, as though they’re designer-knockoff versions of more attractive destinations. We’ve got many of the things you love, at a fraction of the price!

Not Buffalo.  They’re all about why they’re different:

“Buffalo is a frontier. And when you think of the actual frontier, you’ll recall that no one ever packed up and moved West to a gold-rush town because they heard it had really good local theater. They moved looking for opportunities. They moved for the chance to build a new life for themselves.”

Anyway, if you’re interested in knitting and science (or just knitting), go get Knitting Nature. If you’re interested in gentrification or community development or the creative class (or just Buffalo) clicky-clicky on that link up there.

*Because what is a blog for if not to blather on (and on) about what you’ve read…


Author: Marianne

Hi my name is Marianne Gries, welcome to Art is the Handmaid of Human Good. I use this space to write about and share pictures of things that interest me. That includes my life in Lowell, my adventures in car-lite living, the food I cook and eat, my dogs, home improvement projects, vacations, knitting, and interesting things and places I see and visit. Thanks for stopping by!

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