Trend Pieces: Text/iles

I've been vaguely aware of designer Olympia Le Tan for a few years now (I remember Natalie Portman and Michelle Williams carrying her book clutches on the red carpet), but this post about literary style on Looks & Books had me scrambling to find more images of her work. It's not just that her bags are charming; each one is painstakingly made by hand and requires two to three days of dedicated embroidery work.

I'll admit, I do find a certain discomfort with the idea of book-as-fashion-accessory. These bags are the very expression of the idea of judging a book by its cover. When you separate a book's title and cover from the ideas inside, what are you left with? … But these are awfully fun to look at.

A much more affordable thing to carry is one of the many books with fiber art–inspired covers. The Penguin Threads series, which features the embroidery of artists Jillian Tamaki and Rachell Sumpter, might owe a debt to Le Tan, as does the vibrant string-art cover of The Color Master, Aimee Bender's most recent collection of short stories.

Made by Dominique Falla and art directed by Emily Mahon

If you could commission a book clutch from Olympia Le Tan, what cover would you choose? I'd love to see her interpretation of a cover for Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca, or recreate the original cover of A Wrinkle in Time. Imagine how beautiful those concentric circles would be:

Artwork for the first edition of A Wrinkle in Time (1962), published by Farrar Straus & Giroux; cover design by Ellen Raskin.
If you need more Olympia Le Tan, try her site, her Tumblr, Net-a-Porter, or this charming Oyster magazine interview with her six-year-old niece.


On Being Realistic

"On Being Realistic" by Lisa Borgnes Giramonti
I think I might be the last person on Earth to discover Lisa Borgnes Giramonti, the embroidery artist and writer who blogs at A Bloomsbury Life. But I spotted one of her cheeky cross-stitched samplers in this interview with Jenni Konner, and it tickled me. Maybe it'll tickle you, too.

(Psst: she also knits.)


Art Lessons

Clockwise, from top left: Modular Felt CoastersLog Cabin WashclothsWatercolor Quilt, and Shadow Stripe Baby Blanket. All projects and photographs from the Purl Bee.
Have you read that New York Times article about Tim Gunn's Sunday routine? I love the entire Sunday Routine series, but this particular installment is just wonderful. He visits the Metropolitan Museum every Sunday. "There are paintings there that just lift me off the ground," he says. It's a ritual I'd love to emulate with the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. It feels like a radical act, when we can do so much living in front of a screen, to visit a public space and be alone with art and with other people.

I don't manage to get to the Walker every weekend, but the last time I went a work by Agnes Martin caught my eye. I immediately thought of the Watercolor Quilt from the Purl Bee. One of my favorite craft blogs, the Purl Bee draws inspiration for many of its projects from fine art. Some of the posts are as good as art history lessons. I've rounded up my favorites:
  1. Molly's Sketchbook: Modular Felt Coasters | "Sometimes the most original and creative things are devised because of, and not despite, limitations. These constraints can be practical, like using old clothes or flour sacks to create beautiful quilts, but sometimes they are self-imposed. Think of Piet Mondrian and the De Stijl movement using only primary colors and simple shapes or Henri Matisse creating masterpieces using just scissors and colored paper."
  2. Whit's Knits: Log Cabin Washcloths | "… [A] color morphs depending on its size and neighbor. A small pink square surrounded by a field of cream, outlined by sherbet orange strangely becomes a glowing lavender. When the same pink surrounds a big square of watermelon, it fades to the color of an old ballet slipper. All of this brought to mind the artist, colorist and influential teacher, Josef Albers, who spent his life exploring these ever evolving relationships."
  3. Molly's Sketchbook: Watercolor Quilt | "Since [Agnes] Martin’s drawings and paintings use so many straight lines, they make for perfect quilt inspiration, and this Watercolor Quilt is my humble homage."
  4. Whit's Knits: Shadow Stripe Baby Blanket | "If a blanket is a painting, then the Shadow Stripe Baby Blanket is high Minimalism, circa 1966."
And here are some arty links you might like:


Bits and Bobs (Spring Awakening edition)

I'm just coming out of hibernation from the Minnesota winter. There wasn't much snow to be found in the Twin Cities this year, but we managed to get into a winter groove a few hours north, in Biwabik. There we stayed at a hygge-filled cabin where I went snowshoeing, built a roaring fire, and snapped the above photos. As I shake off the last traces of winter, enjoy these crafty links:
* That said, I'm not too broken up that the plans for more episodes have stalled, are you? I'm becoming more nostalgia-phobic with every reboot announcement.


Making … a Bundle of Joy

Last week I packed up a pair of jaunty booties and a cheerful cardigan to send to my little nephew-in-utero in Texas. I've been planning this gift since well before we left Virginia, so it was a joy to finally plant the package on the UPS counter and send this little bundle southwest.

The sweater (Oscar, by Lili Comme Tout) is a beautifully textured grandpa cardigan, knit up in sand stitch with bands of garter stitch at the hem, cuffs, and collar. The pattern is similar in style to a free pattern called Baby Sophisticate, but it's constructed very differently. I found it a bit fussy to knit at times, but the lovely details—the nubby texture, the slipped-stitch raglans—make for a very special garment. (If you're pressed for time, though, the Easy Baby Cardigan from Joelle Hoverson's Last-Minute Knitted Gifts just can't be beat.)

The booties, I love: they're the perfect mix of slipper and sock, and my new favorite pattern for TV knitting. This pair is brought to you by a couple of episodes of The Americans and a home screening of The English Patient.

These are just two of many baby things I'll be knitting over the next couple of months—we have a lot of babies coming into our lives this summer and fall—so if you have a tried and true baby knit, please share it here! I'm eyeing Petit Artichaut (my head having been turned by Christine Chitnis's and Alicia Paulson's gorgeous versions) and the Vintage Pixie Cap from Vintage Knits for Modern Babies.