Thursday, January 15, 2015

Karen Ihrig: The Knitting Guru

Karen Ihrig, artistically known as Clarice, is a wife, mother, and dog-lover who is turning the common hobby of knitting into pieces that are anything but.

Jasmine Reckinger models a matching
coat and hat designed and knit by Clarice

        Most of the time someone says that they love to knit, there seems little to be excited about since the common hobby of knitting usually results mainly in generic baby blankets and simplistic scarves that could easily be found at any department store. However, I hope that by the end of this article, you will see knitting for the complex skill that it can be, and see that its artistic potential reaches far beyond squares and rectangles -- that is, if someone is creative enough to take it there. 

A Clarice hand-knit skirt with ribbon
belt and pearl button appliqué 
        Mrs. Ihrig, who tags all of her pieces with the pseudonym "Clarice" (named after her cat who has a propensity for taking naps in knitting baskets), has something that is more commonly found among great artists than it is among knitters: vision. She has the amazing ability to look at a tiny ball of yarn and see infinite potential. I myself have had the privilege of observing her creative process over the years, watching her use needles (and various other knitting tools I don't understand) to transform balls of yarn into accessories and items of clothing that would look just as fitting on a high-fashion runway as they feel when I wear them to school. 


Jasmine wears a gray hat and scarf set
        Part of what makes Clarice's  creations desirable is not only the fact that she designs them herself, but the fact that each piece is made only once. Each item can be worn with pride in its beauty and confidence that you will never see anyone wearing an identical piece. 


Fingerless gloves featuring
pom poms and a ruffled edge
        A trait that Clarice is gifted with aside from both vision and talent is patience. I have seen her spend hours knitting a complex item of clothing filled with challenging knots and patterns, and then, without hesitation, unravel it almost entirely because somewhere along the line she had made a mistake that could be seen by no one but her.  It leaves me absolutely dumbfounded every time. However, as ridiculous as it seemed to me to watch her start almost completely from the beginning on a piece that looked flawless to the non-knitting eye, it is impossible not  to acknowledge the way that she respects and values both her creations and whoever will be wearing them. She is surely a perfectionist when it comes to her work, and it shows.  

Function Meets Fashion Meets Versatility: 

A multicolored hat and shawl set
        Perhaps what is most unique about Clarice's designs, is their multifaceted quality. It is sometimes hard to find fashionable clothing that is equally functional and comfortable, let alone versatile. However, many of Clarice's pieces can be rearranged to serve multiple purposes; each piece of clothing is specially designed to be worn several different ways.  

All in all, in a world of mechanization and mass production, it is always refreshing to be able to admire beautiful, handcrafted,  and unique pieces of art -- especially ones as wearable as these. Below I have created a photographic gallery in order to let Clarice's creations speak for themselves. 

Thank you Karen Ihrig for allowing me to feature you on my blog and for creating all of the beautiful pieces in this article.
Additional thanks to Jasmine Reckinger for being a great model.