Welcome to my blog! This site is specifically dedicated to the pursuits and engagement of crafty young men who make fantastic things and things fantastic. As a life-long crafter and after 10 years in the craft business, I find that there just isn't enough being offered in the way of crafts for men. Every now and then there are some cool patterns that some of us would actually wear, but on a whole most patterns are written for women, by women and allow women to make and learn while most men are still waiting for a chance to learn through the making of things that are actually useful and handsome! So, let’s get crafty guys!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Lilacs and the mildew that love em!

Sorry it has been so long since I’ve posted anything. My life is so chaotic right now that the last thing on my mind is crafting. By on my way into work today I became totally inspired by the Bleeding Hearts and Lilacs that are blooming all over town. I am always envious of them in the in the spring because of their gorgeous blooms and relieved that I don’t have any at the end of summer when I see their leaves turn gray and mildewee. There are a few things you can do in the garden over the summer to keep fungus from covering your beautiful green leaves though weather it is a lilac or anything else.

I have been mad about dahlias my whole life and grow a few from tubers ever year. However they also suffer from mildew problem as well. In fact a lot of plants do in the garden; lilacs, dahlias, cucumber, asters, tomato, squash, zucchini, and zinnias are just a few. If you try only to water at the base of the plant and leave the foliage dry when watering, this will highly lessen the moldy effect that might happen regardless. The mildew is usually not toxic to the plant, but it is unsightly and sort of gross. It also will leave a dried out-itchy feel to your skin when you are dead-heading and pruning. Try mixing 1-part milk to 1-part water in a sprayer. If you don’t have one and borrow one from someone make sure that it wasn’t used as a herbicide sprayer before because it will kill your plants, and be sure to clean it out very thoroughly before using. Spray the infected areas and let them sit. They might have a strange milky appearance for a day or so but soon the natural enzymes in the milk will eat the mildew and the leaves will be able to breathe again, turning greener and more lush and new growth should appear as well.
Natural remedies in the garden make for a healthier crop, a cleaner and safer space to play and you won’t be supporting the big-business herbicide/pesticide companies that are polluting the world for the most part.
(find more remedies here: http://www.ghorganics.com/page15.html#Garlic%20Oil%20Fungicide%20Spray:)

Things that I am starting this week:
Nightshade (Solanum) plants: this includes tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, wonder berries etc. These should have been planted by seed indoors a month ago, but the nurseries will be stocked full if you didn’t get on it earlier this spring. Set them outside during the day and take them in at night for a few more weeks, or at least until the night-time temperature is around 50°. In Denver I wait until the third week in May typically.

Squash: This family of plants includes your typical yellow and green long-necked varieties, butternuts, acorn, zucchini, luffas, gourds, and ever some seemingly-pumpkin-like fruits. You can go ahead and plant these seeds if you haven’t already. If you think there might be a cold snap and the seeds have sprout then make a little cloche for them out of an old plastic bottle by cutting off the bottom inch and just set it over the seedling when you think it might get cold.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Project Hello and the hottest quilts in the world!

A few Months ago Sandra Fettingas asked me to be part of a one-day-group-event called Project Hello. The main goal of this event is to create a space for introduction for creatives of all sorts; musicians, artists, writers, crafters, etc. all coming together to expand our idea of a creative community. I decided that the piece I would do for this show would have to involve my love-craft of 2010: quilting. I have only began in this world, but find that the design and layout of the piecing for a quilt is much like painting, but in a material that is sculptural and dimensional and therefore more rational and easier to translate as a media for the masses, plus at the end of it all, you have a fantastic huge quilt to keep you warm and any art form that involves utility always lends itself to a process oriented thinker like me.

For the event I plan on having the quilt in its final stage: Quilting. I chose to do hand quilting for my first real quilt and will have it placed on hoops. As my form of introduction I invite anyone to sit and quilt by hand with me for a few minutes, introducing ourselves and getting to know anew. See below for details and I invite you all to come and help me with a quilt.

Every night this week I have been frantically trying to get this huge queen sized quilt all pieced together. It will be the first non-baby quilt that I have ever made and I can't tell you guys how excited I am about it. The bed-top portion of it is mostly a pinwheel pattern that I modified and turned to create a different composition. The rest of it is going to be striped and have keystones of the block pictured below. I will post a picture of it after it is all complete. I am using almost all of my fabrics from Fancy Tiger of course, and under the supervision of Jessica Bridge have learned a shit-ton about the way fabric is pieced.

I went through a little slow-moment with my quilt when I ran out of funds for it a few weeks ago, but was stopped in my tracks when a regular customer of Fancy Tiger Crafts came in to show of his latest quilt. Randy Bear is a Lakota Native American and my former neighbor, he is currently unemployed and looking for a job, but his drive and passion for his craft keeps him together somehow. He has been quilting for a number of years and follows the tradition of Lakota quilting, using 4 to 8 star-bursts which are symbolic in Lakota tradition, the number of the starbursts vary depending of the purpose of the quilt and the colors used also have symbolic meaning, "Black is for the west where the thunder beings send us rain. White is for the north, where the great white cleansing wind comes. Red is for the east where springs the light and the morning star. Yellow is for the south, where summer comes along with the power to grow.” (Black Elk)

Quilting is a tradition in my family as well. My grandma Vivian was a quilter, my Aunt Kathy is a quilter and the town my family comes from in Iowa has a huge population of Dutch, Danish and German quilters that keep the craft alive and thriving. I think in that past handful of years though, that quilting has fallen out of vogue in the craft world. I beg you to do a little research into the history of quilting, some of the English pieced works from the 1700's will blow your mind, not to mention the innovation and re-purposing that you can find in the quilts of Gee's Bend quilters of Selma Alabama. The Amish are some of the best craftsman’s in the history of the world and their detail work makes me wonder how anyone does anything like that by hand. It really isn't hard of a hobby so give a simple quilt a try guys, it is really fun.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Unicorn Hat- Completed!!!

The gentle and pensive maiden has the power to tame the unicorn, fresco, probably by Domenico Zampieri, c. 1602 (Palazzo Farnese, Rome)

Sorry that I haven’t put anything up on this blog in a few weeks. It has been a hard few weeks in my world; poverty-stricken-shit-show-with-a-lonley-heart-kinda-time. But I am pulling myself up by the boot straps and getting back in the game, starting by hopping in the saddle of a mystical creature that I find fascinating; The Unicorn.
A few weeks ago I started a yarn-dying extravaganza that began with a ball of yarn that I called the Unicorn. It was just a random silly idea to take colors found in a painting of a unicorn that I ran across on wiki and use it as a starting point for a color way. It was really fun and I did a little tutorial on the process here. After that the simple design for a hat began. At first I thought about trying to make it silly and whacky with a corny-horn for the front, or a color-knitted thing that would be fun, but this hat is something that I really want to wear, so I forewent that idea and just put a bill on it.

I modeled the pattern after a hat that I bought on the black market in China a 10 years ago, but added a front-stockinette stitch pattern above the bill and ribbed the sides and back. I temporarily am wearing a pin on it by the fashion/textile designer Jay McCarroll that a friend brought back for me from a quilting fair last year. It is a really simple top-down pattern to provide a little clarity in what sometimes feels like such a noisy, colorful world. Shoot me an email if you would like to buy a copy of my pattern for 10$ USD, zibstudio@gmail.com.

Many people don’t realize that the unicorn comes from the Hebrew bible and is mentioned 9 times as a mystical creature of strength, power and beauty which is named “Re’em.” It later found homes in mythic and epic tales stretching across all of Europe and much of Eurasia, in face some of the earliest imagery comes from ancient Mesopotamian. It is traditionally described as a monster with a horse’s face, a billy goat’s beard, cloven hooves and a single horn upon its head. It is sympathetic, strong, powerful and a creature that blesses. The unicorn varies in size, from a small dog like creature to a giant stallion in popular culture that is reared up on its back legs in a passionate pose.

When I was a kid my father was a cocaine dealer and my brother and I would spend the weekends with him at his house in north Denver. In his bedroom he had a really cheesy waterbed headboard that was a fish tank full of live piranha and on the apposing wall was a scale with a huge tapestry of a unicorn hanging above it. I loved that tapestry. It was one of those cheap black and blue velvet hangings that you buy along side the road in mid-summer. It was the only thing that I liked about my weekends with my father and I would lay and stare at it, passing the hours, imagining a life that I will one day lead. Although I don’t really have any strong spiritual beliefs and I typically scoff at the idea of a great mystical power, I do believe that a totem to keep as a metaphor is a great tool to keep you on the path you want to follow. I hope that you make a mystical-creature hat to aid in the creation of a fantastic life lead.


Sunday, April 4, 2010

Bulbs and Bronze

This morning I woke up a little late, knowing that I didn’t have to work until 1 pm at my friend Matthew’s shop Fancy Tiger Clothing. I took my time with morning coffee and strolled a few blocks from my house to Denver’s Botanic Gardens. I am a total dork for plants and right now some of my favorite miniature bulbs are in bloom. The first thing that I noticed upon entering the garden this spring is that there is an exhibition of Henry Moore’s fabulous sculptures. Moore was an English abstract sculptor who made bronze works in extremely large scale for the outdoors. When I was 19 and living in Beijing I had an opportunity to see others of his works in an exhibition at the national museum on WanFuJing where I often shopped for my groceries. I love them for a garden. They provide such substance and weight and when placed into an ever-changing landscape-they provide the opportunity to partake in a natural setting while being in the human mind, and critique, much like we do when going to a gallery or museum show.
(For more info on Moore check out the foundation in his name: http://www.henry-moore-fdn.co.uk/hmf/)

The second thing that I noticed during this visit was the Miniature Iris Reticulata. They are so tiny that they can bloom with hardly any leaves/spears at only 4 centimeters in height! They are amazing for a good splash of color and if you think you see them coming up at the end of March, be aware because they can look like grasses and you wouldn’t want to treat them like a weed. Check to see how juicy the stem is and let them go to bloom if you think they might be a little something different. (If you would like to plant some go shopping for bulbs at the nursery in the autumn. Like all spring bulbs that is the time to plant them. Give them a good dose of bone meal and be amazed the following year.) At one point in the garden there is an amazing little section that the garden treated naturally by burning the grasses, much like would happen in nature. Through some of the collapsed and the chard poked out a patch of these gems. Omigod I freaking love em! I cannot wait to plant some this fall so I have some of my own next year.

So you might think I am a queen about this and think to yourself, What does any of this have to do with men and crafts? Well, a lot! Men who garden are usually fitter, have a better eye for what exists in nature when taking part in any outdoor activities and it is a really great hobby to take up. Not only is it a great work out, but it is like any creative craft; a palette; a time to relax; and an investment in something that offers more than just a beer with friends or a new t-shirt because it lasts and the money and effort put into a garden will show through time and give you back more than a shopping habit or a night out on the town. Go to your local botanic garden and get inspired like I have. Effing plant something this year!

My garden…doesn’t exist anymore L I lived in the same house for 6 years and had to move this past fall. It broke my heart to leave that garden. This year I am living in a studio apartment with a huge balcony so stay tuned for a few gardening projects for containers as I am sure I will be doing quite a few. The miniatures, bulbs, veg, and flowers, mixed with a few essential herbs and green-manure crops are a good way of approaching this plan. Not only do they require less space but they also have a fiction affect as in they make everything around them look bigger!

Gardening has always been the best form of meditation that I can find and I realized this when I was only a kid, at the Denver Botanic Gardens in the Japanese garden. The light pink magnolia in the north-west corner of the garden (pictured below) made me rethink everything that I knew about nature. A hybrid that had taken years and years to be developed into this shape and form and to this day I always make sure to visit when it is in bloom for its shear impact on my perception, the way man has impacted nature and the familial encounters that I have with it every time I see it in bloom. It is like an old friend or sibling and I hope it lives as long as I do.
Have fun in your garden this year guys and let me know what you are doing?


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Cup Dying…..It takes balls and balls

Last week I went totally hog wild on yarn dying and would like to share with you my favorite ball that I dyed. The final product is going to be made into a hat that I am calling “The Unicorn” and it is really a fantastic way to make something that fits exactly what you have in mind. You know how you go to the craft/yarn shop and all that they have is the sweet-girly yarns that make you puke a little in your mouth when you think about wearing it to home depot. Well, this process might make you feel a little empowered and allow you to make something a color that you will actually wear!

I started off with a skein of Spud & ChloĆ«’s “Fine” sock yarn in a colorway called “popcorn” which is really a basic cream. It is a blend of 80% wool and 20% silk and although it is a superwash it takes dye like a champ.

You begin the process by making a number of balls that weight approximately the same amount. If you don’t have a ball winder at home, ask your local yarn shop if you can use theirs when there is a slow moment. Each one of these balls will eventually be a color so think about how you would like your yarn to strip when it is knitted up and figure out how many balls to make by how many different color stripes you want. My general rule is to throw in one extra ball into this equation. This way you can mix your dyes and create a color that is somewhere in between the colors you want and give you more variety and a smoother transition to your yarn.

For this dye-job I used Jacquard acid dye. You can go more granola and natural than that though, there are some great recipes out there for natural dying, using food-stuffs and herbal mixes. (A few good books that I recommend are Natural Dying by Jackie Crook, Hand Dyeing Yarn and Fleece by Gail Callahan and The Complete Guide to Natural Dyeing by Eva Lambert & Tracy Kendall.) For the purpose of The Unicorn I really think that the faker the better; Unicorns are fictional after all, aren’t they?
You will need a lot of Vinegar for this project. Vinegar is used to set the dyes into the yarn. Put a little into a cup with some boiling water and mix in a half a regular teaspoon of dye. Mix it all together and if it doesn’t want to break down, put it into the microwave for a few minutes and get the water hotter to help break it down and mix it together.

Place a ball of yarn in each cup of color that you have mixed. The ball of yarn should eat up all of the dye and sink down into the dye. (If the ball of yarn doesn’t want to sink and floats on top of the dye, chances are that you don’t have the dye mix hot enough.) Once the ball has soaked up all of the dye it can let it sit for 5-20 minutes depending how saturated of a color you want. The longer the better for a really intense color. During this time crack open a beer and leisurely mix the bath-wash for these balls.

Get a mixing bowl and fill it with equal parts of very cold water and vinegar. This bath is a communal bath. Gently scoop the balls out with a spoon, being very careful not to rustle up the ball to much and making it tangle. The colors will sort of soak into each other a little, drabbing out the intensity to make them look a little bit more mixed. (If you would like to maintain the intensity of the colors do this part of the project in separate baths so that the dyes do not interact with one another while soaking.)

Leave these balls to soak for a about an hour, stirring every now and then, gently tea-baggin and squeezing them. Then cup the balls in your hand one at a time, and rinse them in cold water from the tap on LOW until you cannot smell the vinegar in them anymore. Gently squeeze out the remaining water and set them on a towel to dry.

Let these sit over night before making a new skein out of them tied all together. The skein should hang for at least 24 hours before it is re-balled and will be ready to knit with again.

Hollah to the ballahs! Now knit and made something great.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The posse...

In the past few months I have met so many men in Denver's knitting community and I'd like to introduce you to a few of the guys I knit with on a regular basis. My friend Milton was the first of the crew. He took a Knitting 101 class from me at Fancy Tiger and it was pretty clear that I wouldn't be able to shake him. His first few projects were some of the most gorgeous hats in a simple pattern that I helped him make up. He is really a natural and took to knitting like a fish to water. He has lofty political views and a fabulous laugh. Currently he is working on a pattern by the hot young mansigner Stephen West. This "Daybreak" pattern is currently part of our knit-a-long at Fancy Tiger, click here for more information.

Second up we have the handsome and talented Pelham. He too is currently working on the knit-a-long but in the thinnest, most delicate lace-weight yarn from Malabrigo. I am so jealous and impressed with his abilities. In fact he just had hand surgery and still he knits on, amazing everyone around. Way to go huzzy!

Third up we have the young writer-actor-composer extraordinaire; Jacob! This sweety is the youngest and newest knitter to join the gang. He is working on his third project, a color knit scarf in seed stitch. It is turning out really interesting and I can't wait to see him in it, strutting towards an off-broadway theatre where he is the headliner in some kinda fantastic~!

Lastly there is your's truly. A former art-world-slave turned yet-to-be-told.

Around town you might see us sitting, knitting, shit-talking and breaking hearts right and left; it's just the way we roll. Don't be afraid, kick back and introduce yourself! The more the merrier and the cuter the better!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Men who knit...

Although crafting is not at all synonymous with knitting and crocheting it is something that has really impacted my life and I would urge you to give it a whirl. I began crocheting when I was about 6 years old. My mother, a single mom, worked a 3rd job at home as a medical transcriptionist and to keep me busy and out of her hair she took an afternoon to teach me crocheting. Within a few weeks our living room was filled with miles of chains and swatches of single, double and treble crochet. I began making hats and scarves around 8 or 9 years old. Around this time the name-calling started and I was dubbed a fag at school, when in reality I was just an over stylish twerp with the first spike hairdo in the school. Alas, I dated a girl and dropped the hook for a few years. It wasn’t until I was 20 years old and in art school that I took up the practice again. I took a refresher course at Strawberry Tree in Denver and started teaching.
Around that time I started knitting. I took lessons from a crazy lady…’nough said. I fell madly in love with the art and practice of knitting. I have taught now 9 years. I usually don’t make garments; usually I only make things that are conversation pieces.

(Men making socks on sock machines! Old school fabulous!)

I started making this sock a few nights ago. It is made out of Malabrigo sock yarn. The pink is “Light of Love” and the purple color is a hand-dyed color that I came up with last week when I began experimenting with RIT, Coolaide, and Jacquard acid dyes. I am really excited about these-over-the-top-socks for this spring. I thought that they would be really cool to make because they are so loud and one of those things that will go great with a pair of black slacks, as a little surprise-surprise.
The pattern comes from a cool book called Knitting Marvelous Mittens, Ethnic Designs from Russia by Charlene Schurch.

Keep your eyes peeled for the finished pair as soon as I get them done.