chocolate is a verb

colors, flavors, whims and other growing things

Tag Archives: crochet

found poem: going on…

found poem: bestiary

It was July 4, 1976…

She slept late. But eventually she rolled out of bed.

The sun poured in through the high window and she sat naked in the kitchen, her skin smooth.

She had never spent much time thinking about clothes, wasn’t sure that red, white and blue did much for her coloring, but it was the Bicentennial, and there was a party, and she was going, come what may.

She slipped into her gown. Zipped it up. It clung to her curves.

If it got hot later, well, she could always take it off. No one would mind.

She knew she was a tasty thing.

Bicentennial watermelon suit © j.i. kleinberg
Bicentennial watermelon suit © j.i. kleinberg

Bicentennial watermelon suit © j.i. kleinberg
Bicentennial watermelon suit © j.i. kleinberg
Crochet, mixed fibers, ribbon, buttons, zipper, watermelon

my father’s workshop…7

crochet hooks by jikAny child who spent time in my father’s workshop in the garage — and most of the neighborhood kids and cousins did — was given basic instruction in the use of hand tools. In my father’s world view, a person needed to know how to wield a hammer and saw, how to position an object in a vice and how to accomplish these things without injury.

The longer we spent in the shop, the more technical our lessons. In these, my father was severe about only two things: safety and cleanup. For the rest, we were encouraged to follow our whims as we worked on our birds and fire trucks and boats. He was watchful and didn’t interfere but was available for problem solving, and that often meant a short lesson in some new tool.

By the time I was 10, I was comfortable, if not skilled, with a chisel and mallet and had a half-dozen unfinished projects stashed in the box under the work bench. But I had no real passion for woodcarving and with adolescence my carving was forgotten.

More than 15 years went by before I picked up a chisel again. In that time I had immersed myself in the world of fiber, first weaving, then moving off-loom and eventually crocheting exclusively. My work and my materials got larger and commercial crochet hooks became pretty useless.

So I visited my father in his workshop and told him I wanted to make some larger hooks. He was more than simply happy to help. One of his persistent fears was that he would die and no one would care for his tools. He saw my return to the shop as both reassuring and hopeful.

He showed me dozens of pieces of wood — dowels and boards and branches — and I eventually chose two: a piece of hickory trim and a larger chunk of wood he had harvested from a roadside pile of lemon trees cleared for a housing development.

I wasn’t living at home, so the project took quite a few visits, but his lessons all came back to me. I sketched the outlines of the hooks onto the wood, first with pencil, then with crayon. Then I made careful saw cuts where the big chunks had to come out and used the chisel and mallet to shape the hooks. After that it was rasps and files and laboriously ascending grades of sandpaper until the two hooks achieved the silky gloss of real woodcarvings.

As it turned out, the smaller hook was a fine addition to my tool chest, but the large one, beautiful as it was to handle, could do little that I couldn’t accomplish more easily with my hands alone. Still, of all the things I did during my father’s life, I think this was the one that made him happiest.

. . . . .
crochet hooks by j.i. kleinberg
size K hook for comparison
A photograph of these hooks appears in the book Crochet (Little, Brown and Co.) by Mary Tibbals Ventre.


DAK untitled 1965 - egg cartonMy mother’s primary medium was paint, but of course she drew in pencil, charcoal, chalk, pastels and ink, and did collage. She made paper, did some printmaking and, for a while, created dense thread “drawings” on the sewing machine. She made some constructions, often humorous, with common objects — an egg carton, rubber bands, a piece of toast. She was tremendously creative, never seemed to lack for ideas, and readily identified herself as an artist.

Throughout my childhood, people had looked at Dorothy’s artwork and asked me, Are you going to be an artist, too? I fought determinedly against it, needing a sharp line of demarcation, afraid that if I did what she did, I would become her.

I went off to college at 17, resolved to save the world. It took me a year as a sociology major and another year of confusion and depression before I changed cities, colleges and majors. Yielding to the artistic urge that had, in my sophomore year, risen up in me like a tide, I transferred to Berkeley, started working in fiber and found my creative medium.

Over the course of several years, I worked my way through the gamut of fiber techniques — weaving on and off loom, basketry, knotting, netting, etc. I taught myself to crochet; there was an ah-ha moment and crochet became my method and then my career. I made and sold my work, did commissions, had shows, taught various fiber arts, and so on.

When my mother asked me to teach her to crochet, I was happy to do so. I had a minimal-technique, no-rules approach that appealed to her. Like her other artwork, her crochet was quirky and colorful.

After a while, she stopped painting and was crocheting exclusively. Some time later, I learned that the art classes she had told me she was teaching were in fact crochet classes. This was a little disturbing. She was blurring a boundary that I had worked most of my life to maintain.

When I was home for a visit, my parents had a few friends over for dinner. I was clearing the table when I heard Dorothy accept a compliment for a basket that was sitting on the sculpture shelf in the dining room. I had made the basket.

I didn’t say anything at the moment, but the next day I said we had to talk, and we did. I told her what I was seeing, what I had heard. She seemed innocent of bad intent, entirely oblivious to her own actions or their effects. As profoundly as I had wanted to avoid becoming her, she seemed unconsciously to want to be me.

To her credit, once she was shown, once we had talked about it with each other, and then with my father, she did not protest, and over the next few months returned gradually and then entirely to her painting.

Saying those things, standing up for myself, was perhaps the hardest thing I ever did.
. . . . .
Photo: Untitled by DAK, 1965, egg carton, watercolor, wood, 10″ x 6″ x 2″

a dozen…


crocheted bed detailFor years I slept on the floor on a sort-of-double-sized mattress crocheted of foam rubber strips. Neither as smooth as a sheet of foam rubber nor as evenly bumpy as egg-carton foam, it was actually quite comfortable. It was also lightweight, imperfectly rectangular and completely incapable of holding onto a fitted sheet, or a sheet of any description. The bedding was always in a tangle, one untucked corner often pulled back to show the huge foam stitches to curious friends.

I made it because I didn’t know how to buy a bed. I had always lived in places that already had beds — the house I grew up in, dormitories, apartments — and finding myself in an empty storefront studio, it seemed more expeditious to make a bed than to figure out how to purchase and transport one.

It was a good bed, hospitable to deep sleep and vivid dreams. I slept on it until the foam rubber lost its oomph, then rolled it up and stuffed it inside something else.
another photo here

opening day…

home plate

home plate detail

home plate © j.i. kleinberg 1974
crochet ~ regulation-size home plate with 22 stuffed and stitched green baseballs/peas and bat/fork
collection of Leonard Beerman family

“Seat and Read”

Seat and Read

Paper Cha(i)se

Seat and Read opening
Seat and Read was a July 1979 exhibition of seating and accompanying reading material at and/or gallery in Seattle. Curators: Joyce Moty and Buster Simpson.
Paper Cha(i)se – A Disposable Crocheted Paper Sofa © j.i. kleinberg 1979
Newsprint donated by the Seattle Times
Color photo by Cathy Hillenbrand; black and white photos from exhibit catalog by Buster Simpson.

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