Archive for the ‘Fiber’ Category

Amazing lace

May 21st, 2010

Nadine Kam photos

This is a gorgeous 17th century lace fragment from Italy. Just left of center you can see two figures dressed in panels of lace.

Sara Oka, collection manager of textiles at the Honolulu Academy of Arts, couldn’t have come up with a more titillating title for a new exhibition than “Men in Lace.” Sure enough, ladies and gents showed up in droves for a preview of the show during a Members Appreciation night on May 19.

The exhibition will remain on view in Gallery 22 through Oct. 10, giving all frill seekers plenty of opportunity to see the show.

The bulk of the academy’s 300-piece lace collection was a gift of the museum’s founder, Anna Rice Cooke. About 40 of the items are on display here, along with paintings, drawings, prints and costumes from the museum’s other collections, that illuminate dress standards 400 years ago, when men wore the lace in the family.

Honolulu Academy of Arts collection manager of textiles Sara Oka, outside the exhibition on preview night.

Oka said that night, that, though beautiful to look at, viewing dozens of laces at once can be repetitive, and calling the exhibition, “Men in Lace,” offers a fun approach to the subject, while putting the history of lace and lace-making in context. Rather than a symbol of frilly femininity that it is today, lace from the 1700s represented power and manliness. At a time when all lace was made by hand, the intricate patterns took a long time to create, making it a rare and precious commodity that only the rich and powerful could obtain.

According to notes accompanying the displays, many historians believe lace-making grew out of linen embroidery. Drawing out threads, cutting threads, or pulling threads from woven cloth created open spaces that were then covered with a variety of stitches. Eventually, the patterns were freed from the ground cloth.

These days, it seems the only men who wear lace—uncloseted anyway—are entertainers, and even then, lace on stage seemed to have its biggest surge in the early 1980s.

Not in the show, but I took a moment to ponder who my favorite men in lace might be. Prince, circa 1984, and Adam Ant, circa 1981. Honestly though, it would be difficult to date a man in lace because that would indicate someone who probably obsesses more about clothes than relationships. It would not be restful.

The evening wasn’t all about lace, though. A lot of people were there to see William Blake’s Engravings of the Book of Job, which will be on view through Sept. 12, 2010.

And, as soon as I arrived, I spotted ceramist Rochelle Lum in the courtyard, set up at a table to help guests create their own ceramic objects. It was going to be messy, but I had to join in.

Artist Rochelle Lum with some of her clay menagerie, plus pieces created by guests that evening, waiting to be fired in a soda kiln.

Alas, the last time I was good at building with clay was when I was about 8 years old. At that age, one tends to have more imagination than inhibition, a requisite for creativity. After that, you start heeding too many rules, learning technique, what’s right and what’s wrong, growing self-conscious and second-guessing yourself.

So, in about a quarter of the time it took for me to produce a tortured, overworked turkey and turtle, this other woman came up, and with a squish squish here and a squish squish there, ended up with rough but adorable facsimiles of an armadillo and pig. Oh!

The academy is great at combining education with fun. The “Men in Lace” exhibition will be accompanied by a costume station where visitors can try on lace ruffs, collars and cuffs, from 10 a.m. to noon Saturdays and 1 to 3 p.m. Sundays.

Museum goers study one of the ensembles on display.


Yarn ‘tasting’ at the library

June 29th, 2009

mk carroll

Nadine Kam photos
MK Carroll shows the many knit and crochet possibilities available through patterns in books in the Hawaii State Library system.

The culinary world is known for its wine, cheese, chocolate and cigar tastings, or tastings of whatever ingredient happens to capture the imagination.

The Hawaii Public Library’s main branch hosted a tasting of its own on Saturday, to introduce yarn afficionados to its vast collection of knit and crochet books, as well as its large craft-book section. When deciding whether to borrow or buy one’s craft books, librarians shared the wisdom of adding stitch glossary books and classic patterns to one’s collection, while borrowing some of the trendier titles with designs likely to go out of style in a few years.

Designer MK Carroll was there to introduce her favorite books, past and present, and guests were able to share information as well, such as the pitfalls of trying to recycle yarn from thrift-shop sweaters. Depending on the garment’s construction, you could a continuous strand of yarn, or hundreds of barely usable 2-foot long pieces. The audience oohed when told of recyclers who, knowing what to look for, have unwound skeins of cashmere for a mere dollar.

In addition to sharing such book titles as “Stitch’n Bitch Nation” (I borrowed this one) and “Get Hooked: Simple Steps to Crochet Cool Stuff,” staffers shared Web sites such as, a social community for knitters and crocheters, and You can also check out for the designer’s latest goings-on and Etsy sales.


Shown clockwise are some of the yarns in my “tasting.” From left is a Maui Yarns sample of its hand-dyed 100 percent Merino wool yarn; a blend of wool, soy silk, cotton and chitin made from crab and shrimp shells; a Mini Mochi ball of 80 percent Merino wool and 20 percent nylon; and Araucania 100 percent sugar-cane fiber yarn.

Of course the highlight was looking at some of the newest yarns on the market, and taking them home to see how they knit up. It’s great that crafters always see the beauty in raw materials and have the creativity and imagination to see alternative possibilities. They’ve always been green minded, so yarns incorporate chitin and unusual plant fibers that might otherwise go to waste.

When it came time to actually borrow the books, I didn’t have my library card. I don’t know why librarians always make a person feel 10 years old. It’s been a long time since I borrowed any books, and cards expire in five years so I was hoping my card had expired, but it was still good so a friend borrowed two books for me rather than pay for a replacement card. The last time I borrowed a book was when I was living in Kailua and the parking situation made it easy to go to the library. (Market forces prevail even in the free public sector.) Now I just stop off at libraries mainly to drop off (recycle) magazines. I leave some and pick some up, although the titles are limited. People tend to pick up the fashion and women’s magazines first and leave the news and finance ones, though once I hit the Mother Lode and scored a bunch of Japan fashion magazines.

At the end of the session, all were invited to join the Aloha Knitters group (crocheters and spinners are also welcome). The group meets at Mocha Java Cafe in the Ward Warehouse from 7 to 9 p.m. each Thursday. There are no dues, and it’s OK to be a newbie. As Carroll said, they just want to be able to talk to people who understand them and who don’t think it’s weird to want to spin one’s dog or rabbit hairs into yarn.


One of the knitters in the group shared one of her recent projects.