Fiber artist promotes original knitting

Posted Dec. 06, 2010, at 6 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 12:54 p.m.

The following is information written and sent to me by Christine Macchi, executive director of Maine Fiberarts in Topsham. I know this will be of interest to By Hand readers:

Maine Fiberarts has on display through Feb. 25 the sculptural knitted work and clothing of Maine artist Katharine Cobey at its gallery at 13 Main St. in Topsham. The exhibition, “Diagonal Knitting: A Different Slant,” is a celebration of her new book. Many of the knitted pieces featured in the book will be on exhibit at Maine Fiberarts. Sales of the book will take place during the three months of the exhibition.

“Diagonal Knitting” is the result of several decades of exploration into the knit stitch by Cobey. For years, she has implored knitters to move away from printed patterns (the very word comes from “patrone,” or patriarch, she said) toward studying shape and techniques that allow the knitter to freely create works that are original and of their own design. The book is an exploration of knitted squares, triangles and rectangles and about how these shapes may be put together to create sweaters, coats, capes, dresses and much more.

Working three-dimensionally, the knitter can begin to imagine creating sculptural pieces and works that have meaning.

Cobey skillfully guides knitters toward this thinking, and the book is beautifully illustrated with photos of her clothing and sculpture, works of inspiration and clear, precise drawings.

The exhibition at Maine Fiberarts’ gallery will feature several of the pieces from the book. One dramatic piece that will be installed in the gallery is “Ritual Against Homelessness,” a series of five coats — knit from simple squares that are folded and embellished — arranged in a circle. Of this piece Katharine writes, “Inspiration often comes in bits and pieces. For ‘Ritual Against Homelessness,’ the women living on the streets in Washington, D.C., and what I had read about American trade blankets coalesced with the character of the unspun wool [a friend] had sent. I decided to make a circle of coats protesting homelessness.”

An award-winning artist, Cobey has participated in national solo shows at the Torpedo Factory in Virginia, the Textile Museum in Washington, D.C., and the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft in Texas, among others.

In Maine, her work has been shown at the Portland Museum of Art, the Farnsworth Art Museum, the Center for Maine Contemporary Art and others. Several of her works are on view in the show “Altering Matters: New Work by Maine Members of the Surface Design Association” at the Atrium Art Gallery, Lewiston-Auburn College.

Cobey is Maine’s 2010 Master Craft Artist, a title designated by the Maine Crafts Association.

An accomplished master teaching artist, Cobey offers classes in spinning, knitting, diagonal knitting and design from her studio in Cushing. She will offer a workshop on “Diagonal Knitting” at Halcyon Yarn on Feb. 25 in Bath.

For more information visit www.mainefiberarts.org or call 721-0678.

Once again, thanks, Christine, for keeping us abreast of what’s going on, “fiberly” speaking.

Snippets

• Hope Spinnery in Hope will hold its annual Winterwork sale 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 11. The event will feature vendors selling locally produced goods from midcoast and beyond, including hand-stitched cards, felted toys, organic body care products, local honey and beeswax, knitwear and children’s items.

• From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. there will be a Community Knitting Circle and Pastry Fundraiser for Partners for Enrichment, an organization that promotes arts in our local elementary schools.

The event will finish with hors d’oeuvres and music from 5 to 7 p.m.

The event is free and open to all.

For more information, call 763-4600 or e-mail info@hopespinnery.com.

• The Pine Kneedlers Knitting Guild will hold a holiday party 6-7:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 13, at Chopsticks Restaurant, 167 Center St. in Bangor. The cost is $10 per person. The event is open to members and other knitters who want to attend. Call 943-6909 or e-mail Knitting@Pine-Kneedlers.org to RSVP or for more information.

• Shane McCarthy, owner of State Street Wine Cellar in Bangor, is raising funds for next year’s Komen Maine Race for the Cure in Bangor. McCarthy and her friends who sew are making and selling fabric wraps for wine bottles. The group has supported Team Cristy, named for Cristy Sullivan Warstler, who started the team and which continues in her memory, in the last five Bangor races. Several of the group members were sewing partners in a home economics class at Bangor High School in 1958.

The bottle wraps are made from the felted sleeves of sweaters.

For more information, e-mail McCarthy at teamcristy@aol.com or call 262-9500.

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