Saturday, July 5, 2008

Cage Dress and Oblique Strategies

In my last Explorations piece, I did a little round-up of crocheted coats. In the research for that article, the magazine's index sent me to the coat you see above on the right. But it was the dress featured in the same photo on the left that really caught my eye. For those of you keeping score, this is from the Spring/Summer 1971 issue of Good Housekeeping Needlecrafts.

While I do have a fascination for the ugly side of crochet (and I don't think this qualifies, but some may differ on that), I confess that there is something very interesting about the approach of this design. Would I wear it? No way. But I love the idea of this wacky stitch scale, so much so that I did up a little swatch of it:
Granted, it's nothing special in and of itself - it's a long triple treble, big deal. But I love the idea of taking a stitch that most of us would relegate to belt loop functionality and dragging it kicking and screaming into the main event. It's a bit like making a whole dress out of buttonholes. And the whole concept reminds me of an idea from a favorite object of mine: Oblique Strategies. This is a set of cards created by the great Brian Eno, musician, composer, and producer extraordinaire, along with artist Peter Schmidt, as a tool for shaking loose creative blocks. Each card contains one "dilemma" such as these:
  • State the problem in words as clearly as possible
  • Only one element of each kind
  • What would your closest friend do?
  • What to increase? What to reduce?
  • Are there sections? Consider transitions
  • Try faking it!
  • Look closely at the most embarrassing details and amplify
  • Not building a wall; making a brick
  • Repetition is a form of change
  • Honour thy error as a hidden intention
Now, I'm sure I don't have to connect the dots for you here, do I? Whether following a pattern, dreaming up one of your own, creating music, or designing your living room, these ideas could help any creative endeavor, from the prosaic to a mosaic. I think the creative process is fascinating, and the various means of achieving creative nirvana are equally so. What do you do when you're stuck? While I don't immediately run to the Oblique Strategies for help, I do have my own little tactics, like googling random concepts and seeing what comes up. Or diving into one or more of my thousands of books to move my head in a different direction. Whatever works.

And all of this considerable tangent comes back to the Cage Dress. I'm not sure what the designer was thinking. Chances are, she was not consulting with some obscure artsy-fartsy oracle cards. But she did take an odd stitch and turn it into something oddly interesting.


Chenney said...

Interesting post!! I too like to wear unique designed dresses.

Scarlett said...

I just love the term "cage dress." It makes me think that there's a grudge match between warring body parts being fought beneath its crotchet borders.

Scarlett said...
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Anonymous said...

It is an oddly interesting coat. I like the way the large stitches drape and the stripes give it more character. Adventurous use of this stitch.

BillyJo said...

My mom gifted me a cage dress on my birthday anniversary.