3,2,1 OH NO!

2011 had many ups and downs ,creatively speaking.

I was invited to speak at the Nelson WOW designer forum. I was delighted to be asked, although a little freaked at the prospect of speaking in front of a crowd! What could I possibly have to say to those amazing designers? What would they be thinking… hmmm ” you have no qualifications and can’t draw to save your life”!!?!?!?! lol… well  I am glad to report it was went fine and I didn’t get thrown out:) Phew!

I left that forum excited that ‘Toys Are Us’ was  about to go on display in the Museum.Friends and family were anxious to go see them up close in the Museum.It was  a great example of what I was capable of whipping up with 2 long pointy sticks and I was happy people would see  my knitting!

I also left with a tonne of creative energy…I was going to enter more than one section in 2011 and I would  complete my  5 year project..my most emotional entry yet. It felt good to have made the decision to finish it. I had  met with the  WOW competition director,Heather Palmer ,who was  also very positive about the  2 entries I had presented to her, especially the NZ Section costume,which was her favourite of the 2.Very Kiwi and very very  me!

I left WOW with a great deal of positivity and drive…this was going to be my best year yet! I was on fire…I got out the boxes and got started literally seconds after getting home..but the bubble burst not long after.

Earthquakes occurred in  Christchurch ( where I lived as a child) and Japan ,which devastated me, changing my design course for a variety of reasons, both emotionally and morally. It suddenly seemed strange to be creating something for WOW when people were struggling to survive only a few hours away.My garments were suddenly the least of my worries. I needed to help affected families, so set up groups on Trade me and Facebook and focused on that for  a few months while I dealt with the reality that WOW was not looking good for 2011.

The donation runs had begun....

One of MANY loads!

I no longer felt it appropriate to enter the Open Section entry as the visuals were linked to what had been playing on tv screens for the previous month or 2.All I saw  was  broken people, the rubble, smashed buildings , shattered lives ,it was strange to see something you have worked on , playing out on the news. It freaked me out to be honest!I had spoken with Heather Palmer about this only a week or 2 before the first Earthquake occurred in Christchurch…What are the odds of an iconic building being destroyed ,that  had previously been written into a costume concept, that also was broken?!??!I knew 2011 was not the year for this piece as soon as I saw the  news footage.I withdrew it out of respect  for my designer friends in Christchurch and my friends and family affected. It was one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make. It had a positive message behind it,but I couldn’t change the visual impact and knew it was really  bad timing. Heather agreed I should leave it for 2011.

At least I had 2 more to fall back on right?  EHHHH..Wrong! My NZ section  entry followed soon after, It had to be withdrawn after the wool order was delayed 😦 Boy was I disillusioned by this stage! My third entry intended for the Children’s section had similar issues with lack of wool, I did try  using fabric but $70 later I knew I couldn’t do it. My problem  with fabric, is I keep looking at it and  saying “It should be knitted” …..so it went from 3 —>2—>1  OH NO…..zero entries left! Arghhhh! Then just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse…it did! WOW rung and said they were not going to display my entry  in the museum after all 😦   Funny, but in that moment all I could think about was what I was going to tell friends and family,who I knew were going to be very disappointed. Most my friends and family never attend the sow, so the museum would be the only place to view it. My biggest disappointment is that I told been told yes, and now had to tell them No.

I started thinking I might have to  leave it for 2011 .  I was struggling to come to terms with the devastation  happening in the world and needed to do something.My friends inspired me to enter in the end.

I figured if  my friends were creating garments while living in their garage,  or creating  a garment from paint, as it was all that was on offer after earthquakes devastated their homes and city, or creating while dealing with some serious health needs, then I would make something and dedicate it to them! I was very inspired after talking to a designer friend in Australia….you know who you are:)

While I thought about what to enter in the short time left…I designed a jumper ‘Love Christchurch’. A 3 day challenge.

Love Christchurch.


Toys CAN change your life!

‘Toys Are Us’ pushed my creativity level up a notch or 2. It pushed me to a new level of knitting… Giant sculptural Knitting here I come! Sure it might seem like I was in  my comfort Zone with all the  wool and knitting, but certainly not the Bungy Cord used to construct one of them!! I would happily never touch the stuff again!

I have had lots of  exposure with this design, it has helped me carve a name for myself and give me the confidence to start my own line of clothes.  Who knew Toys could change your life:P

Here are the Videos showing How I made them. Imagine these few minutes of your time, watching these, were actually almost a year of mine knitting and creating 😛 My biggest stumbling block…where will I put them when they come home again?!


and finally ..PART 3

When Toy Catalogues come to life :)

Straight after WOW 2009, I started my next entry.I  needed something to take my mind off the empty feeling I was left with ,after handing over our foster son to his next caregiver. It affected me more than other placements.His level of care was very demanding due to his inability to do anything for himself, as a result we  became very attached to him, especially after all the hospital appointments,  daily therapies and seizure management. He is forever my hero.

I set about making something as a dedication to this amazing little boy, who was etched into my heart. I  needed to make something to represent children who would be babies forever, due to head injury/shaken baby syndrome , caused by people who should have protected them. During the 8 months we  had  our foster baby, there were another 4 cases  of head injury/shaken baby syndrome on the news..it breaks your heart, as most  of these children die.Our little man is a miracle:)

The theme for  the Children’s section  2010 was  ‘ Love of Books’ Entrants were required to make a garment that related to a book in some way, so  the possibilities were endless! I could have spent a month deciding, but head injury makes the topic pretty easy. Many of these children will never learn to read.So I had to think outside the square, to what type of book would the parents read,while parenting their child.

I thought of my experience and it was always a toy catalogue , as I searched for a developmental toy that would suit a child that could not control any of his own limbs, nor could he see. It opened a new world to me.

My  costume was created while looking through the catalogues. Often huge books, that carried toys from newborn right through to teenage years…some seriously cool things.Sadly nothing appropriate  that we could buy.

I would dream of the day when our little man would be able to play with the toys meant for his age group, but even at 1, he still couldn’t hold anything with purpose,  or see things around him.

I decided to make toys that we knew were good for children with special needs. Sensory and tactile of course!

So the idea was  born…..3 giant toys . Dedicated to children who have lost everything, through child abuse or are born with special needs, so severe that their brain development will never reach its potential..stuck at a baby stage forever . The hope for caregivers, that the simple pleasures..playing, will soon be realised.

I used my toys to  paint a picture.

The clock toy was about time. It could be interpreted a few different ways, depending how you looked at it.It could represent societies obsession with perfection and the pressure it puts parents under, when their child is NOT reaching the milestones.

The front of the clock is the smiling face.The face parents put on when in public..everything is fine..when really it isn’t and they know it. It also could represent the smile society gives, when really, the thought are ” why  is that child still not sitting up” etc.

The toy with bungy cord was one I wanted to have a bit of fun with. A child caught up in all this pressure, a parent who has to protect them from societies opinion.  The safety gear reflected that. In a small way it also was a reminder to me of the padding we had to add to our foster son, in order for him to explore toys. most had to be strung onto his arms, so his involuntary movements would cause the toy to make a nose when banged, but would not hurt him.

The last toy was one I dedicated to our foster son, who had moved on to another caregiver in his family. I made it as the dream toy..one I could picture  him playing with one day.

I won’t bore you with how I made them..BUT you can  watch the videos on my youtube channel ‘onefabknitter’ There are 3 in the series. I will post them in the next post for those that struggle with technology:P


2010 wearable art Entry has officially started...

Here I Come (ready or not!)

I was blown away by all the things that happened during 2009 WOW season, it just kept getting better and better!
I found out that A Song And Dance At Dinner Time was to be displayed upstairs in the TSB BAnk Arena, in a corner promoting Neonatal Care in NZ.I was so honoured WOW picked my garment.They knew it would put a smile on my face because of my link to caring for babies with serious health needs.I managed to snap a photo !

Lovely to see my babies again:)

I did cause a little concern though, when I started playing with the saucepan.I was shocked to find it was on upside down!!call me a perfectionist, but come on…wouldn’t you fix it if it was your art on display?!!!
Can you imagine if it made the headlines? ‘ Designer caught defacing her own costume’! 😛
I was actually very nervous about going to the Awards show , I didn’t know any WOW designers, and felt pretty intimidated by the talent in the competition! I started to panic, as I had no formal training in the arts and was not doing much outside of being a mum. Would people find me boring?
I made the decision to branch out and ask the WOW forum if any designers would like to meet and it changed everything! I met some amazing people through facebook chat,and the on the International Day . The Wellington Council heard how I had been networking with International entrants,offering to host an Indian designer, So paid for my Accommodation and a backstage tour of Weta Workshop! What a dream come true ,I even got to kiss Golem:P

My secret lover...

I made some amazing new friends, so was buzzing with excitement.I was especially excited to make contact with the Indian Designers because it meant I would have friends to visit, if I ever travelled to India.How exciting!
I went to Wellington feeling a part of the WOW family!In 2009 I made some wonderful friends from Australia,NZ,USA,Canada,Uk,The Arab Emirates, Alaska,India and Sri Lanka and this was just the start!

I went to the dress rehearsal for the first time and was really glad I did. I loved how my entry stood out on the stage, full of colour and life.I was proud to represent the hand-knitting world again!woo-hoo!
It took a little time to get used to how it was choreographed.It wasn’t a huge deal,it was just a matter of coming to terms with someone else’s interpretation.This year was the fist time I have handed over an entry, with no thought in mind for Choreography..I said ‘have fun!’
I remind myself how important it is to let your garment go with a free mind and trust in the knowledge that WOW will love your entry,like they made it and do a wonderful job bringing it to life. Once you can do that, the whole process becomes a little more relaxed each year.

Initially ,I was bothered the back of the frame was not used,I wish they had choreographed it so Little Miro became the centre of attention, which was how it was intended.My little miro would cower in the corner, ironically making herself more visible in the process.
‘What do you make of this picture’??This is my question to society who don’t always take the time to understand.Look closer at this picture..everything is not as it first seems.
I really liked my frame, but later heard that I lost points in the final judging for having a plain back to the frame..I was surprised to hear that!The competition reminds you that you can never be sure about your entries!
I researched picture frame styles for months and never saw any decorated on the back,so I would not change it, given the chance.
I smiled when I saw the 2010 WOW entry kit.It had a judging recommendation along the lines of ” make sure the garment back is as exciting as the front” I pictured my Miro entry within that statement.

I had 2 nights to reflect on the new choreography and knew what to expect the next time I saw it..so I let the disappointment go and used the Award show to look at all the Garments I missed seeing at the Dress Rehearsal.My daughter was sitting beside me on Awards night, and said “I am not like THAT ” !I said “maybe WOW wanted to show you having fun with some friends” 🙂 I was delighted to win a prize again! Better than this though..some friends won too!I even had a laugh when I couldn’t find my way onto the stage!

It would take hours to add photos and tell you everything I did, so will show you some highlights and some of the beautiful friends I made:)

Miro Miro Quite Contrary.

I love Joan Miro.I love the simple shapes and lines that feature in many of Miro’s paintings.If I painted, that would be my style, since I can’t do ‘real’things any justice! Think scribbles on steroids..that’s me!Here are some of my favourite pieces..

I thought long and hard about this concept. What was my daughters main struggle.Where was she most comfortable being.What could represent those difficulties,the highs and lows in her daily life. The vision for how it would look was born…..:)
I thought of how she hates being centre of attention.It made her feel like everyone is looking right into her,so she tries to hide. Her ability to cope reminds me of a kite.When the conditions are right, she soars..when they are not,she crashes.

My, what big eyes you have!

My little miro that held the kite,was symbolic.It had 2 different sized eyes to represent the fact that different eyes will see different things. When people see a child that looks perfectly able they dont always see an issue, but with another set of eyes, they will see the exact opposite.I wanted the eyes to stand out,as this is the main thing my daughter notices..how people expect you to look at them when speaking. This is the hardest thing for Autistic people to do.
My daughter has a secondary issue caused by her anxiety, and has been an issue since she was a toddler. This is called Selective Mutism. In a nutshell she does not talk in public to most people.She also never answers the phone or the door if someone knocks.She has been out of school for the last few years due to her fear of changing classrooms, and we have not managed to get her back yet.This is how strong her fears are.
The Miro figure has no mouth to represent her mutism .

The garden was my way of imaging a world where she could carry her most relaxed place with her.Her sanctuary, in the garden at home. If she could carry it around, her kite could fly all the time and she would be able to talk.

I made most of this entry while fostering an emergency baby,his head injury and subsequent seizure activity stopped his ability to sleep,so while it could have been a negative..I used this to my advantage.I would bounce his baby chair and sew or latch hook while staying up through the midnight-6am shift.It was a creative way to stay awake and monitor babies frequent seizures.I loved those shifts, even if I was tired.The whole house was asleep except for us,I found him a great companion while I knitted my colourful creation.

Here is one of the Newspaper Articles published before the show…I thought it was well written, considering he took zero notes!

The Article was good..ignore me!


I had to laugh taking it in…we needed a trailer! It kept raining and the back of the trailer fell off on the way !

I recycled the Kiwi Quarter Acre entry into this piece.I always wanted that piece to be in the children’s section..this was my way of achieving that wish!
Boy was I delighted to get accepted a few weeks later.I walked away from our foster son ,leaving him at a rehab centre in Auckland,ready for his new caregiver to be trained in his needs.I needed this good news..I was pretty sad seeing him go:( Yet again a negative turning into a positive. My costume was fun and lively, when things had been pretty grey,knowing baby had to move on.
These were the badges I wore to the awards show.Each year we get a new badge for our collection.I love them:)

what will I wear ??? Guess the next post will cover the 2009 show season!

My little Hero And Miro….

Winning a major prize in any competition is amazing. Winning a major prize in a competition ,where your competition are some of the best designers in the world, is totally unbelievable! It is an incredible feeling to be considered along side people from around the globe.Amazing backgrounds, world-famous fashion designers,incredibly talented designers who work with fibre,wood,mixed media,metal ,costume designers who work on film sets, Weta staff!To be in the winning circle,is a dream come true. I still pinch myself!LOL Maybe I’ll wake up soon and realise it WAS a dream and someone else got the prize in reality?!?!

That Award gave me something more important than the money and laptop.It helped me to free my past,to finally erase my art teachers tactless comment that I would never have a future in art.I was very happy to prove him wrong!

It made it very easy to enter a costume the following year.
I found the children’s section perfect for 2009.The theme was ‘At the bottom of the garden’.Basically entrants had to design a concept relating to gardens,somehow.
I like to brainstorm..lol,cough.. obsess over the concept, before I start it.I get the name and catalogue sorted in my head,see it on the stage or in the catalogue in my minds eye.Then I work backwards from that step.If you know it has been completed,you know you can finish it. It has worked for all the garments that I keep believing in.If doubt steps in at any stage, I withdraw.
This ritual came about after reading an inspiring book ‘The Secret’ that I was given,after feeling like I should give up costume designing.

A book that saved my costume life!

I was feeling really deflated by some family comments,questioning why I was continuing with WOW. I originally entered WOW as a chance to meet other creative people,to take a break from thinking about Autism all day ..but I was getting mixed messages about my costumes taking time away from the kids .I was asked if I should take a break the following year. It felt like the support around me was crumbling away. I simply couldn’t win..if I returning to focusing wholly on being a parent and fighting for services, I was told I needed an outside interest..but when I had one, I was told I should be concentrating more on the kids! Funnily enough…my costumes are mainly done at night while the kids are in bed,when they get more intense at the end, they are always made in the lounge WITH my kids! They love it!
I found a perfect solution though…The next costume was going to deal with this contradiction!It would be about Autism and the highs and lows! Something very relevant. My daughter would be the main focus.
So I set about using art and wool to deal with my daughter’s increasing anxiety,and my frustrations.I wanted to prove to family that I could do both..and do it well!

I was approached by CYFS to care for a baby during this time.It was not an easy placement, as it was a baby caught up in the media.We had to hide the baby everywhere we went,the needs were also exceedingly high, due to injuries he had sustained.I was honoured to be asked.Caregiving had paid off,people were hearing that we were very well-respected at IHC and Care Solutions,having care given lots of children since 2000. This baby would go on to change my life in the most positive ways 🙂
It was a really incredible time for our family, here was a baby who had lost everything and demanded more attention than all of my children put together and my kids ADORED him! It was months of hiding baby in public, not being able to say his name,incase someone knew the family,this was all while the parents were waiting for sentencing and CYFS trying to find another family member to take over his care.A placement of 4 weeks, turned to 8 months,so we were very attached to him.We spent an extraordinary amount of time with him, as he started seizuring everyday and as a result stopped sleeping.He had so many special needs as a result of his injuries,it made me so angry at times. What made it all ok, was the baby himself!! He never ever cried,he simply smiled and laughed at sounds he liked.That was all he could do.Everything had become involuntary,so he could not hold objects,could not drink from bottles, He couldn’t see what was around him,so we spent our time tapping tunes on his tummy or bouncing him to calm his increasing involuntary movements. It was full on, all the time,but we loved every single minute of it.My kids were the best! They never showed any sign of frustration that he was here, instead spending every moment they could playing with him.It still brings a tear to my eye ,it was an incredible experience for our family.To see your children loving such a damaged child,without hesitation is a beautiful thing.I am so proud of them.
What I learnt from the experience was how silly some of our gripes can be.This child will be dependent on others for the rest of his life and he doesn’t have a care in the world:) My hero. It showed me a new side to my daughters growing anxiety. This is what my next garment would reflect.
It would be called Miro Miro,Quite Contrary.

Moths Can Eat My Jerseys Anytime!

Ok..here comes a little known fact about this knitter… I have come to love the humble NZ moth!These little insects have changed my life! They even sent me to Bali!:P
If they didn’t eat holes in peoples clothes, I would never have found my garments to recycle, un-pick and finally re-knit into A Song And Dance At Dinner Time!

This entry was about the fuss kids can make at dinner time.Before dinner has finished being served on their plates, kids are dreaming of better things to eat such as cake.
I decided on spaghetti as it is hardly graceful to eat, with the contrast,a beautiful dessert, which many professional dancers would never touch for fear of gaining too much weight!

Spaghetti plate was a lot of fun to make.I knitted hundreds of i-cords from recycled jerseys.My moths had chewed many holes in them,so they were perfect for spaghetti lengths,as you never knew how long it would be until the wool would suddenly snap.
This entry was going very well,I even thought it was going to be handed in early..grr.. until I got my wisdom teeth out!!! Silly me,true to form, I decided at the last minute,to do a matching dessert plate ..(Note- day before the surgery) I guess I thought I would bounce back in a couple of days.I hadn’t banked on being allergic to the compress they put in my mouth and the yucky infection that developed after they left a piece of my jaw bone exposed to the air.Needless to say this set off some major complications,which have led to nerve damage on one side of my face. Maybe I should have left those wisdom teeth in??!

Anyway,I handed in my garments with a black and blue face in a fog of sedation.I was thankful for the distraction to be honest,as it was the most excruciating pain I have ever felt .I was grateful for the distraction my costume gave me, it allowed me to have my mind focused firmly on something else, a little more comfortable.
The cake was great and never caused me any grief,same went for the saucepan hat, which was made from close cell foam,my knitting and some wire.I dyed all the grey items,on my stove,dried it and then set about hand sewing it all in place.note.. the night before handover! For the record,The fork was a pain in the butt and I won’t be making one again!

The choreography for the spaghetti plate was different to how I had pictured it….I saw it being more graceful,swaying or slowly twirling, whereas wow saw it as high energy fun. I found a very bent plate of spaghetti by the time I got to see it on display in the WOW museum.
I ended up taking it home over a weekend and changing one of the plates from close cell foam to plastic sheets.I could not bear to have a garment on display,that was obviously NOT meant to be bent in half!
note to self…DO NOT use close cell foam for plates again.
I learnt a lot from that garment. It’s important to think of the stress garments will be under, and how many times they will be worn.You also need to remember that once you hand your garment over,the choreographer will see it in a new light,in turn interpreting it their way, and usually very different to yours!

I still think it is funny that this was my first prize and everyone in NZ knew before me!! I found out at 7am the next morning, when Nelson mail rung. One time I didn’t mind being woken early!