Tuesday, December 30, 2014


Every year for Christmas, instead of giving one big gift, my sister and I fill each other’s stockings. We usually try to make it a theme stocking and they, of course, have many things associated with knitting: patterns, notions, yarn, etc. This year my theme for my sister’s stocking was spice. It was fun coming up with different things for her like spiced lip balm, exotic cooking spices, spice colored yarn.

I also wanted to design her an original pattern in the theme. My sister loves mitts. She has knit a lot of them. They are her relaxing knit that provides quick satisfaction. So, I decided to design some quick mitts for her. I knew that I wanted to incorporate a more obscure spice, juniper berries. For my wedding, I had juniper and berries in my bouquet and my sister embroidered juniper and berries in white silk on my white wedding dress. I even had juniper jewelry. I think it is time I give back for her time embroidering juniper with some juniper berry mitts.

So, last month I swatched a couple juniper berry motifs that I created.

I liked the right hand one best and incorporated that into a mitt. They turned out very cute. The juniper berry motif is subtle but I like it. They are fun to knit and now I can publish the pattern now that my sister has already seen it.

And of course, I was inspired by my lovely Utah environment! Juniper is everwhere.

The Utah Juniper (Juniperus osteosperma) is the most dominant species of tree in Utah; they cover nearly one-fifth of the state. They are also very hearty and can live to be 650 years old. Juniper berries are the female seed cone (not a true berry) with unusually fleshy and merged scales making it look like a berry. The berries can be dried and made into beads for jewelry and are also deliciously eaten by jackrabbits, foxes, coyotes and people.

Friday, November 14, 2014


I have been playing around with knitting construction lately; how to mold knitted fabric into a three-dimensional form through just the knit and purl stitch. I have been thinking a lot about this idea mainly because I am fascinated with salt crystals, how they grow and how to translate growing crystals into knitted forms. As you have noticed, Great Salt Lake has been on my mind a lot recently and the salt has captured my imagination. The growing salt flats from the receding lake are both beautiful and terrible.

Salt crystals on the Bonneville Salt Flats

Part of my fascination began when last year my museum showed a work by CLUI (Center for Land Use Interpretation) called Great Salt Lake Landscan. It was an amazing and beautiful high-definition video commissioned by the UMFA. The video was shot in a helicopter and showed the outskirts of the lake along with the industry that harvests salt from evaporations ponds.

Of course this led me to research a little on the salt industry at Great Salt Lake. I was surprised to learn that no table salt is produced from GSL, only industrial use salt. All the salt is harvested from large evaporation ponds scattered around the lake. One such salt is called mirabilite.

In technical terms mirabilite, also called Glauber’s salt, is a sodium sulfate salt used in the production of salt cake. It is harvested from evaporation ponds on Great Salt Lake in the cold winter months and was named by Johann Rudolph Glauber who synthesized it. The salt itself crystalizes in sharp-edged shapes but dehydrates quickly turning the crystals into white powder. More poetically, mirabilite’s name is based on the Latin phrase Sal mirabilis or “wonderful salt.”

These geometric crystals have inspired me to create a seamless geometric pouch that can be knit in one piece: the Mirabilite Pouch. It is quite fun to knit and I created a pattern for two different sizes (mostly two different widths that create more volume inside). This is a great knit to show off your vintage buttons too!

I created a few different colors because I couldn’t stop making them. And there are two sizes. The white one is larger (more volume) and the blue and pink ones are smaller. They are a quick knit and so useful for holding a variety of things. I mostly store my knitting notions in them right now but I think one of them will be reserved for all the salt crystals I gather at Great Salt Lake. You can find the pattern for the Mirabilite Pouch on my Ravelry site here

Friday, November 7, 2014

Cross Section: Great Salt Lake

One of my sculptures was accepted into the Utah Arts & Museums Statewide Annual Exhibition for Painting and Sculpture! I was surprised which one was accepted because I truly liked the other one better. That is why you always submit because you never know what a judge will like.

The one that was accepted is my Cross Section: Great Salt Lake sculpture. The opening is on November 21 if anyone is local and wants to go see it. There were a record number of submissions this year (392) and they accepted 59 works so I am feeling honored to be in it.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Lichens at Rozel Point

Last spring on one of my many trips out to Rozel Point in Great Salt Lake, I climbed up to the top of Rozel Hill with my family. They, of course, got way ahead of me because I was too busy taking pictures of lichen on rocks. I am always in wonderment and admiration of Lichen. Not only can they live everywhere (even on the harsh salty shores of Great Salt Lake), but they thrive with beautiful colors that range from orange to blue to purple.

Lichen really do live everywhere. They are hearty little fungi/algae/bacteria that thrive in the harshest environment. The partnership between the fungi and the algae or cyanobacteria within the lichen allows it to survive with little water and extreme heat or cold.

So, an ordinary and ubiquitous rock found on the shore of Great Salt Lake can hold the most interesting and beautifully colored organism…which I then took a picture of and proceeded to design a project bag for me.

This is a silly little project but I like its quirkiness. My husband thinks it looks like a psychedelic giraffe but it reminds me of that one ordinary day at the Lake on an ordinary hike seeing an ordinary rock with ordinary lichen. But that lichen was not really ordinary, it was hiding a life of extraordinary survival and beauty.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Story of Two Sculptures

Well, I did it. I knitted two sculptures. I am still unsure about this new experiment of mine of knitting a sculpture but I submitted them anyway to an exhibition. I truly enjoyed the process, both the creative planning, thinking, dreaming, and the knitting. The first sculpture is the one I talked about on my previous post. I called it Cross Section: Great Salt Lake. Here is the finished piece with some information (or label for you museum geeks out there).

Virginia Catherall
Cross Section: Great Salt Lake, 2014
Silk/stainless steel yarn

Great Salt Lake’s shoreline is receding with the season becoming salty and white. The north arm of the lake is super saturated with salt where halorarchaea bacteria flourish. On the northern shores, the white is tinged with pink from the colorful bacteria. The north side became more salty when the Lucin Cutoff railroad causeway was built across the lake in the 1950s creating two distinct environments. The Great Salt Lake ecosystem is knitted together with its geography; change one thing, change everything.

The second sculpture came about after one of my trips to the shore of the lake. I am always intrigued by what I find in the salt bed of the evaporating lake. I have been collecting odds and ends for years. The salty lakebed is like a knitted fabric, knitting in the ecosystem and other flotsam with salt crystals instead of yarn. So, I created a small piece of the dry lake bed with bits that I collected from the lake shore over the years. I called it Dry Lake Bed: Great Salt Lake

Virginia Catherall
Dry Lake Bed: Great Salt Lake, 2014
Silk/stainless steel yarn, bamboo/copper yarn, glass, bone, salt, flora, fauna

Great Salt Lake is a terminal lake, the only way water leaves it is by evaporation, And because it is such a shallow lake–an average of 14 feet–about 2.6 billion gallons evaporate from the lake every day. Evaporation leaves minerals and salts behind making the lake one of the saltiest in the world. The salinity ranges from 5 to 27% (the world’s oceans average 3.5%). The rapidly evaporating shoreline traps animals, plants, bacteria, and objects in the salty crust; knitting the remains of an ecosystem within its crystals.

Both of these are knit with silk/stainless steel yarn so they are slightly moldable. This helps with making them more three-dimensional. But the yarn memory is a little hard to fight against. I will find out in a week or so if either piece was accepted. They aren’t the traditional sculptures that come to mind, but you never know.