Singer, Knitter, Tissue Box Decorator?

by Jan

It's hard to explain the Christine Lavin experience to those who haven't been to one of her shows. She sings amusing and insightful songs, as one might expect from a folk singer of some renown. But she also tosses out books she's written about Pluto's dubious planet-hood, passes on chain cassettes, provides her famous petite pain au chocolate recipe in song and photocopy forms, and after the show she might offer manicures to attendees, or gather folks around in a knitting circle to share in one of her newest passions.

As you might have guessed, Christine is a performer with a variety of talents and interests. As a folk singer/songwriter, Christine has recorded 13 solo albums of original material and performed on three albums with Four Bitchin' Babes (a group she founded and performed with in the 90s). You can also find her sitting in as guest host of the City Folk Sunday Breakfast radio program, teaching the occasional songwriting workshop, and who knows where else? Christine was kind enough to join us on the Craftygal porch for a little chat about knitting and all things creative. Here's what she had to say:

Craftygal: Our dear friend, Colleene, has long raved about your shows, but we knew we had to get out and see you once we heard about your post-show knitting circles. Have you met lots of interesting crafty types since you took up this hobby?

Christine Lavin: I meet a lot of interesting people with my knitting--at an airport my ball of yarn got loose and rolled a few feet away. An old lady picked it up and brought it over, sat down and told me she knitted 9 sweaters for her grandchildren for Christmas, knitted so much her hands got all cramped up and she had to take a break. Talked all about how she had to be diplomatic, since she had so many grandchildren, not to knit too many things for one particular family, but spread it out so no one thinks she's playing favorites. After my show in Seattle I went out with two women from the audience and one of them knitted in the bar where we sat. I was having a cosmo, so I didn't knit in the bar. I know my limits. Dim lighting is one thing. Dim lighting with a drink is an invitation to disaster.

CG: What made you interested in knitting in the first place?

CL: I'm not sure. There was a short report on the Yarn Co. in my neighborhood where you take one class, they get you started on a project, and then you can stop by any time for the rest of your life and they will help you. That appealed to me, the 'one lesson' thing since my schedule has me traveling everywhere and I'm never able to take a series of classes, since I'm not around enough. So after seeing that report (on NY1, the all-news channel here in NYC) I called the Yarn Co.

CG: When you were first starting out with your knitting, did you find some knitting terminology confusing?

CL: You should have seen me at 2 am following my 'one class.' I was surfing the net to find out how you tie a slipknot! I had to rip out all the casting on stitches, and then didn't know how to do the initial slipknot to get started again. Now it's so easy, but that bleak morning, surfing the net, looking at fishing sites, was pretty comical.

CG: Do you do any other crafty things? We know that you make a mean newspaper crown, and your little books are adorable. What other types of stuff do you make?

CL: This is a scream--the craftiest thing I have ever done is this: I became a huge fan of Dame Edna (went to her Broadway show 25 times). After the 8th time, I noticed that at the same point in every show she went over to the piano, picked up a tissue and dabbed her eyes. I thought to myself, "She should have a beautiful tissue box, not a single tissue that some stage hand left for her. Eew, germs!" So I went out in search of the perfect tissue box, but couldn't find one. So I figured I would make one. I bought a plain white tissue box (vertical style, not horizontal). Then for the next few performances I really studied the set, and decorated the box with rhinestones and fake gems--on each side of the box I made a big curly "E" like the one that was projected on the front curtain when you entered the theater. Since Dame Edna would occasionally change outfits during the show, each "E" was in a different color of rhinestone (white, pink, black, blue) and then I had rhinestone trim framing each side of the box. I must say, it looked pretty cool and I was very proud of myself for being so 'crafty.' It doesn't come naturally, but I was doing it out of necessity. Inside the box I wrote with a sharpie "To commemorate Dame Edna's triumphant appearance on Broadway, October 1999. Rave reviews from The New York Times, New York Post, Daily News, New York Magazine and The New Yorker." I FedExed the tissue box to Dame Edna (Barry Humphries) and a few days later got a very sweet note back from Dame Edna thanking me and telling me it was now a permanent part of her set. I went back to see the show again and again, and there was my tissue box sitting atop the piano. It has traveled with Dame Edna ever since, so if you ever see his show, please make note of it!

CG: Thanks for taking the time to visit with us, Christine. You're proof that crafty gals don't need to be pigeonholed into one particular area of expression. You're an inspiration to us all!




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