Block Printing

As the temperature rises, I’m reminded it’s Summer.  A linen blouse, crop pants, sandals and a ponytail pretty much describe my look for the season.  Comfortable clothes combined with the heat, and last but not least, barbecue ignite an intense creative curiosity leading me down an unknown path.  Perhaps I’m nostalgic for Summer days gone by when, as a young girl, the end of the school year meant staying up late and sleeping in, swimming all summer, making lanyards at my local Parks and Recreation Department or hanging out in the mystery section at the library.  Along the way, I loved biking through fields of flowers, racing with dragonflies, and collecting rocks.  A time and place I created for myself, the freedom to explore without any encumbrances.

My current Summer journey leads to an intense study of block printing.  Recently, I attended a block printing class at A Verb For Keeping Warm in Oakland, CA with Rebecca of Rekh & Datta. Rebecca shared a video of India, describing a brief history of  block printing along with the individual family that translates her designs to fabric.

Block Printing #1
Photo credit:  Mary Lou Fall

Here is my first carved block .

Photo credit:  Mary Lou Fall
Block Printing #2
Photo credit:  Mary Lou Fall

I decided to separate the block into individual segments to experiment with pattern and design.

Block Printing #3
Photo credit:  Mary Lou Fall

Much to my surprise, some interesting patterns emerged.  I feel fortunate to have the “time” to let my curiosity soar to new heights and discover amazing possibilities.

I used to think reminiscing about the past was not healthy, but I now believe my past is my present.  Looking back is not past history, and according to Sadie Stein, “As the deep vaults of history are made accessible to everyone via technology, the past has become an alternative present.”  Ms. Stein’s article appeared in The New York Times Style Magazine, entitled, We’re Living in a Copycat Culture, dated January 31, 2017.

“The past is never dead.  It’s not even past.”    William Faulkner







Pacific International Quilt Festival

Today, I took a break from the grueling removal of a thirty year-old carpet and went to the Pacific International Quilt Festival.   Here are a few of my favorites:


Splash! quilted by Janet McCallum from the United Kingdom measures 46″ x 47″, features Jackson Pollock inspired fabric.  All the fabric was hand-dyed and hand-painted by McCallum using procion dyes.  “I drew up a splash shape and appliqued it to the background by hand and added an extra layer of wadding to the shape.”


Flower Power (The Story of a Castaway)  measures 39″ x 57″, quilted by Martina Unterharnscheidt from Germany believes, “A quilt is a quilt; every quilt has two sides and tells two stories.” The original design was machine pieced with hand and machine applique.


Grandpa’s Model Twenty #1 quilted by Jodi Robinson from Enon Valley, PA measures 60″ x 60″, inspired by a cool mid-century modern stereo system that Robinson’s grandfather had called the KLM Model Twenty.  “It wasn’t until I was looking through some old photos, and found a picture of me as a child standing in front of it, that I remembered it…the design was amazing, angular wooden boxes, supported by white curved tulip bases.”


White Spaces quilted by Bev Bird from Absecon, NJ measures 54″ x 50″, influenced by French fashion icon Andre Courreges’ dramatically simple design in the 1960s.  “Influenced by modernism in architecture and his own engineering background. Sharp angular lines, geometric shapes and his trademark white with black and sometimes a single color.”

Though I appreciate traditional quilting, I’m drawn to the visual rhythm expressed in Mod Quilts through the use of pattern, geometric shapes and lines.

What To Do With All This Yarn?

After knitting for 20+ years, I’ve acquired quite a bit of yarn.  My yarn collection has a history all its own.  Like fashion, the color of yarn, texture and composition of fiber, records trends and style of a particular time period.  Does yarn marketed by the various companies  define a trend or does the knitter define the trend?

When I began knitting, my first project was a sweater.  Scarves, shawls, socks and lace knitting were not on my radar.  Self-stripping yarn (Regia) emerged and I couldn’t wait to knit a pair of socks on DPNs.  My knitting began to reflect my attraction to stitches creating patterns and dimension, texture and color.

In the late 80s and 90s, my worldview of knitting became a melting pot of yarn selection and pattern design.  The cross-pollination of knitting culture introduced a plethora of options from reading a Japanese knitting schematic, sitting next to a continental knitter, and a variety of knitting books drawing upon traditional folk costume and ethnic motifs from all parts of the globe.

So, what do I do with 20 balls of  Filatura di Crosa Zara?   Isla, a shrug designed by Martin Storey, “knit in a medallion seed stitch cable pattern with a deep rolled collar and brilliant deep curved welt” appears in Aran Knits, 23 Contemporary Designs Using Classic Cable Patterns.  A project influenced by traditional fisherman’s sweaters found on the ganseys of the British Isles.

Isla Shrug #2

Stitches Discovered

As mentioned, (see blog post Color, Pattern and Texture, dated  6/8/2012) pushing the limits of knit and purl stitches keep me awake at night.  Waking-up at 5:00 in the morning with an idea energizes my creative soul.  Last week, I discovered the Knitted Daisy Stitch/Star Stitch Pattern.

Stitches Discovered #2Stitches Discovered #4Colorwork, pattern and texture achieved using slip stitches offers a “freeform” of expression without the tangled mess of Fair Isle and Intarsia (my own personal experience).  I played around with different color combinations, manipulating swatches like building blocks in order to construct an “aesthetic knitted architecture.”

Knitted Daisy Stitch/Star Stitch Pattern:

Cast on 13 stitches (12 + 1) .  Row 1: (RS facing) Knit all stitches.  Row 2: K1, *P3 tog leave stitches on the needle, yo, P the same 3 tog again and drop them, K1; rep from * to end of row. Row 3: Knit.  Row 4: K1, P1, K1, *P3 tog leave stitches on needle, yo, P the same 3 tog again and drop them, K1; rep from *, ending last repeat with P1, K1.  These 4 rows form the pattern.  Repeat these 4 rows for desired length.


Color, Pattern and Texture

Creating motifs knitting traditional Fair Isle or Intarsia are not of interest to me. Each time I crack the cover of Kaffee Fassett’s,  kaffee Knits Again or Sasha Kagan’s, Country Inspiration, I marvel at pictoral images translated from rows of charted squares and symbols.  The knitter uses her needles, like a painter does her brush, with each stitch or stroke emerges color, pattern and texture.

In order to visually create pattern and texture, I am fascinated with the dimensional effects offered by knit, purl and slip stitches.  The textural quality of knit and purl stitches are unlimited.  Mosaic patterns are formed by slipping stitches over rows giving an impression that two or more colors have been used in the same row.  The Harmony Guides 250 Creative Knitting Stitches, Volume 4 and Mosaic Knitting by Barbara G. Walker have captured my attention.

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