Friday, February 22, 2013

Seagull and Cricket

I drew out little crickets and seagulls for the baby sweater but my husband says that the crickets don’t look like anything but blobs.

So I swatched them out and embroidered them to try and help.

The seagulls are adorable but the crickets do look a little blobish. I think maybe if I embroidered the legs, eyes and antennae in a contrasting color (like grey) it might help. I used stranded yarn across the back for these swatches but in the final version, I think intarsia would be better. The spans that the yarn has to travel is just too large. It means I will need a lot of bobbins, I think. I am leaning toward designing a cardigan that has either the seagulls or the crickets on the bottom marching around the edge. Maybe it can be two versions of the same design.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Deconstructing the Miracles of the Gulls

Betty and the Seagulls, 1936 by Minerva Teichert

It has been very interesting looking into more depth of the Miracle of the Gulls story. Although it is such an important story to the LDS church today, some of the journals written during that time in the Salt Lake Valley don’t even mention it. Although some journals do write about the crickets eating crops, they have no mention of seagull. It seems that the seagull phenomenon was not widespread but more localized to a few areas. A letter to Brigham Young in June 1848 does acknowledged the gulls saving crops from infestation: “The sea gulls have come in large flocks from the lake and sweep the crickets as they go; it seems the hand of the Lord is in our favor.” At the time the event was called the “cricket war” but later became “The Miracle of the Gulls” and in 1913 the monument in Salt Lake was built to commemorate it.

Scientists say that gulls regularly devour crickets, grasshoppers and other insects during summer months in the Great Basin (where Salt Lake is located). I have not been able to find any mention of gulls regurgitating food except for when they feed their young. The indigenous gull that is the main character in the story is the California Gull. It has a white body, grey wings and a yellow bill. The Mormon cricket is actually a katydid with very small wings that cannot fly.

I like the idea of having a motif that is on a baby sweater or cardigan of the cricket and the seagull; like a row around the bottom of the sweater. I made a quick sketch of what I am thinking.

My next step will be to graph out a cricket and /or seagull motif.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Miracle of the Gulls

Like most knitters, I love to make baby presents. They are quick to knit up, adorable because they are so tiny, and received with such enthusiasm it makes all the knitting doubly worth the effort. When a friend is expecting, I like to choose something that is not only used by the baby, but can be saved as an heirloom.

A few weeks ago when I learned that my friend at work is expecting, I began pouring over my numerous baby knitting books. I wanted to make something with a fairy tale theme. Fairy tales are everywhere these days; TV, movies, books. I think it has to do something with the anniversary of the Grimms Brothers. Regardless, the idea of a fairy tale themed gift was on my mind.

But as I wrestled over whether to make a Red Riding Hood topsy-turvy doll, or a Three Little Bears cardigan, I began thinking about which fairy tales would be most relevant to her and her baby. Because she grew up in Salt Lake and is a practicing Mormon, I started to think about some fairy tales that were local to this place and that I could maybe design something from. I remembered the legend from Mormon history of the “Miracle of the Seagulls” and I knew I had to make something based on that. 

The Miracle of the Gulls 1936 by Minerva Teichert

The Miracle of the Gulls has everything a story could want; drama, adventure, adversity, triumph and even animal characters. This is a perfect tale to create something that is more relevant to her and her little Salt Lake baby.

My knowledge of the story comes from hearing it as a child so I think I want to research it a bit more to get a good grasp of it. But in a nutshell the story goes like this (from my memory):

When the Mormon pioneers first came into the Salt Lake Valley in July of 1847 they immediately began homesteading. They made crude houses and foraged for food. Because the planting season had already passed, they would have to wait until the next year to plant wheat and other grains. So in 1848 when their first harvest was ripening, it was a joyous time.

Then in May a swarm of crickets (now called Mormon Crickets) began devouring all the crops. There were so many of them the ground looked black with their bodies. Then a miracle occurred, legions of seagulls came and began eating all the crickets. They gorged on them then flew to the Great Salt Lake to regurgitate the crickets in the water only to come back and eat some more. In this way, they eradicated the plague of crickets.

The crops were saved! And all the Mormon pioneers did not starve that winter because of the miracle of the gulls. And because of this miracle, the seagull became the state bird of Utah and a monument was erected downtown to memorialize them.

 Vintage postcard of the Seagull Monument in Salt Lake City

It’s a great story and I have found nothing out there in the knittingverse that pays homage to it. So, I think I will incorporate imagery from this story into something for baby. I might even try designing a toy!