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Posts Tagged ‘Knitting’

Having just returned from a three-week holiday, I had plenty of time to look back to 2013, and look forward to 2014. Last year has been amazing, and I’m sure this will continue in the new year!

Looking back

Darning

Darning at Wool House, Somerset House

I was invited to darn at Wool House, Somerset House, as part of the very successful Campaign for Wool event. I had a great time, and Wool House put my darning sessions in the “best bits” list! It was super-busy, and I think I have enthused quite a few people about darning, and also explain why I like using 100% wool products.

Hope and Elvis Darning Workshop

2013 also saw the first of my day-long darning workshops. I went to Hope & Elvis, lovely Louise’s great studio. It’s stuffed to the gills with vintage fabrics, blankets, threads, scraps, books and any tool you would possibly need, so it was a lot of fun to explore various darning techniques. You’ll be pleased to hear I’m returning there in April.

ShetlandWoolWeek Darning at Jamieson & Smith

Last but not least, my darning skills took me to Shetland! Here’s a picture of my darning class at Jamieson & Smith. I had a great time, I met so many amazing people, with amazing skills. I left a few loose ends on purpose, so I have a good reason to return.

Knitting

Curiosity Cabinet of Knitting Stitches Lace

Early last year I exhibited at Prick Your Finger. My Curiosity Cabinet of Knitting Stitches explored many different knitting stitches and techniques, some old and rare, others common and much-used. It was a good way to learn about different techniques, and investigate them in detail.

Altered Kasha Cardigan for Wedding Outift

Rosemary had seen my Curiosity Cabinet, and thought I’d be the ideal person to take on a commission for her wedding outfit. I gladly took this on, and I knitted a Kasha Cardigan for her, with some alterations: a different collar, and three-quarter length sleeves. It was a great project to work on, and Rosemary has been wearing her cardigan many times since.

Aleatoric Fair Isle Swatch

Last year I also explored stranded colourwork, and in particular the Fair Isle tradition. Together with my comrade in wool, Felicity Ford, we devised a method to learn more about Fair Isle patterns, which took away some of the hurdles we often face when trying to knit Fair Isle. Using rules we made up and some dice, we left pattern and colour selection to chance, based on John Cage’s compositional concepts. We called this Aleatoric Fair Isle.

Spinning

Diamond Fibre Mill spinning

Other highlights include my visit to Diamond Fibre Mill, where I met Roger, who runs this small independent mill, specialising in worsted spinning, and who owns his own flock of Romney sheep.

timbertops chair spinning wheel

I also became the proud owner of an original Timbertops spinning wheel. A chair wheel no less. I haven’t had a chance to write about this yet, so keep your eyes peeled for a blog post in the near future.

Special mention

And if all that wasn’t quite enough, Kate Davies, Felicity and myself curated Wovember 2013 to celebrate wool in all its myriad forms. We posted features about growing, harvesting, processing, working, and wearing wool. I did many more things last year, so these were just some of my highlights.

Looking forward

Plans for 2014 are forming in my head, and amongst others, I’m looking forward to releasing my first cardigan pattern, using Foula wool. A bit later than expected, but it’s important to me to get everything right. I will continue working on the Aleatoric Fair Isle swatches. I’ve also taken on a very special visible mending commission to repair an upcycling attempt gone wrong. As previously mentioned, not only will I return to Hope & Elvis for a darning workshop, I will also run a Darning Master Class at Unravel at Farnham Maltings. More classes and workshops are in the pipe-line, so keep an eye out for them.

Scotch darn on sock

2014 will also be the year of exploring. I did some free-style knitting before Christmas, and I found it very liberating. I found some good books on the subject, and I have also been inspired by Rachael Matthews’s approach to making, and in particular what became her Explosion Jumper.

On the spinning front I want explore more lace-weight spinning, using wool from both classic breeds (Shetland), and unexpected breeds (Rough Fell.)

Last but not least I would like to explore more mending techniques, and in particular learn more about darning and repairing woven textiles. And I still have one or two jumpers to complete…

darned jumper

 

I don’t know about you, but I think I have plenty of things lined up, and it will be my pleasure to share them with you and write about them here.

Happy New Year!

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Shetland Wool Week is only a month away, and that can only mean one thing: Felicity Ford and I are working hard on our Aleatoric Fair Isle swatches. We’ve created a number of rules which tell us how to roll dice and select pattern and colour combinations depending on the outcome, based on John Cage’s composition Apartment House 1776. Since knitting my first swatch, we’ve gone through some iterations of the rules, and after talking about my knitting experience, I feel it’s now time to talk about another part of our Aleatoric Fair Isle project.

In honour of our inspiration, the John Cage composition, Felicity and I have been recording notes about the sounds we hear whilst working on the Aleatoric Fair Isle swatches:

AFI_1_CU

Aleatoric Fair Swatch Number 1 – close-up

Sound recording: listening to Pearl and the Beard’s album Killing The Darlings; faint sounds from the other room where my partner is watching Coronation Street; creaky noises from the wooden table which shakes as I write; the clock on the dresser ticking.

AFI_2_CU

Aleatoric Fair Swatch Number 2 – close-up (apologies, it’s upside-down)

Sound recording: the clock on the dresser ticking; traffic driving by; TV programme noises from the other room.

AFI_3_CU

Aleatoric Fair Swatch Number 3 – close-up

Sound recording: various music pieces drifting past on BBC Radio 3; the clock on the dresser ticking; the washing machine going into a spin cycle; traffic driving by.

AFI_4_CU

Aleatoric Fair Swatch Number 4 – close-up

Sound recording: knitting in the office during lunch time: listening to Philippe Jaroussky and Ensemble Artaserse on my iPod; clacking keyboards; office chatter. On another occasion: listening to BBC Radio 3; traffic going by; washing machine.

AFI_5_CU

Aleatoric Fair Swatch Number 5 – close-up

Sound recording: whilst knitting on the train, train announcements, someone munching on crisps and the slight slurp of licking fingers; on the iPod listening to David Bowie’s album Station to Station.

AFI_6_CU

Aleatoric Fair Swatch Number 6 – close-up

Sound recordings: the clock on the dresser ticking; BBC Radio 3 music drifting in and out of my ears.

AFI_7_CU

Aleatoric Fair Swatch Number 7 – close-up

Sound recordings: knitting at home, listening to a CD with music composed by Giacinto Scelsi and Hans Zender; occasionally noticed the traffic going by; the startled sound of me accidentally hitting the worklamp.

AFI_8_CU

Aleatoric Fair Swatch Number 8 – close-up

Sound recordings: knitting on the train, listening to Stockhausen’s Stimmung on my iPod; noises from the train filter through, as does the occasional announcement.

AFI_9_CU

Aleatoric Fair Swatch Number 9 – close-up

Sound recordings: traffic passing by; the clock on the dresser ticking; snippets of YouTube clips coming through from the other room.

AFI_10_CU

Aleatoric Fair Swatch Number 10 – close-up

Sound recordings: listening to BBC Radio 3, a live broadcast from the Proms where they were playing Shostakovich’s 11th symphony; traffic going by, a bus’s squeaking brakes; as we live close to the train station in a basement flat, I can hear the thunder of a train pulling in as it travels through the ground; the clock on the dresser ticking.

I find a lot of rhythm in Fair Isle knitting: a pattern is built up by repeating its elements, patterns and colours repeat throughout a garment. In the case of Aleatoric Fair Isle, these repeats are sometimes syncopic: the pattern repeats and the colour repeats are not always synchronised, for example, see swatches 2, 8 and 9 above. And so it is with the sounds I’ve recorded so far. There are many recurring sounds, but not always at the same time; if I hear the clock on the dresser ticking, I might be casting on, charting, knitting, or tying knots in the cut steek. In contrast to the aleatoric experience, where I roll the dice to make a choice, many of the sounds I have recorded are completely out of my control. Yes, I consciously choose to listen to CDs and radio, which gives me a varying level of control of what I hear, but, as you have seen, there are always other sounds to hear, too.

And so it is with the Aleatoric Fair Isle: using 21 shades of all the beautiful Jamieson and Smith colours as selected by Felicity, colours and patterns play with each other in unexpected ways. We are looking forward to presenting our findings at Shetland Wool Week 2013. Our talk “Interesting Yarns and Aleatoric Fair Isle” is on Thursday, 10 October, 17:30-19:30 at the Shetland Museum and Archives.

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It has been long in the making, but I’m pleased to let you know that The Curiosity Cabinet of Knitting Stitches will be shown at Prick Your Finger in Bethnal Green, London. The private view is on Friday, 15 February. Come join me and marvel at the curious and the recherché!

bias_closeup

Swatch 15 – Bias effects from spacing eyelets and balancing decreases

Anybody who has visited me will know that I have quite a collection of knitting books, and it will come as no surprise that I have read all of them at least once.

reference_books

A selection from my library

There is only so much reading about knitting one can do. However well explained, if one is curious, then nothing quite beats picking up sticks and string and try things out. I ended up with a box full of swatches, and a head swimming with techniques, and it felt like such a waste to keep things to myself. Seeing some swatches pinned out on my blocking board reminded me of the Curiosity Cabinets of yore, with rows upon rows of insects:

CuriosityCabinet1

Painting of a Curiosity Cabinet

Cabinets of Curiosities, or Wunderkammern, arose in mid-sixteenth-century Europe as repositories for all manner of wondrous and exotic objects. In essence these collections, combining specimens, diagrams, and illustrations from many disciplines; marking the intersection of science and superstition; and drawing on natural, manmade, and artificial worlds can be seen as the precursors to museums. The key concepts and notions that lay behind the assembling of Cabinets of Curiosities were: 

experiencing a sense of wonder in all kinds of things in the world; discovering new and extreme examples of the natural and the man-made; making connections across the whole field of human knowledge; Experimenting with arranging, re-arranging and classifying parts of the world (and the connections between them) in many different ways. As Samuel Quiccheberg (an eminent curator of cabinets) wrote:
”The ideal collection should be nothing less than a theatre of the universe..keys to the whole of   
 knowledge.”

CuriosityCabinet2

An early example of a Wunderkammer

I created two Curiosity Cabinets. The first one deals with a small selection of cast-on and cast-off techniques, single and double increases and decreases, selvedges:

cast_ons_etc

Most of the techniques displayed here come from an anthology about knitting by Threads Magazine, Barbara Walker’s Knitting from The Top, Montse Stanley’s Knitting Handbook, Mary Thomas’s Knitting Book, and June Hemmons Hiatt’s The Principles of Knitting.

The second Cabinet is all about lace: lots of different fagotting stitches, exploration of bias in fabrics introduced by the interplay between eyelets and their balancing decreases, the many different ways of creating chevrons which is an essential shape in lace knitting, and a variety of eyelets:

lace

The lace knitting techniques are for a large part from Susanna Lewis’s Lace Knitting Workshop, sprinkled with some Mary Thomas and Montse Stanley.

But that is not all: I will reveal the top 3 Knitting Nightmares! It turns out that the regulars frequenting Prick Your Finger don’t have that many knitting nightmares, they are very good knitters indeed. Luckily when I asked the audience at In The Loop 3, I got inundated by responses. And indeed, I would like to thank The Knitting Reference Library, where you can find more books about knitting than you could dream of; it is where I learnt about the existence of quite a few books now also to be found in my own library.

KnittingNightMare2

Knitting Nightmare, based on Fuselli’s The Nightmare

I hope you will join me for the Private View on Friday, 15 February at Prick Your Finger. If your curiosity is not quenched by a drink that night, then I would urge you to join my Curious Stitches Class on Saturday, 16 February (details to follow).

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As you all know, I’m currently having a lot of fun over at WOVEMBER2012, celebrating wool for what it is. I’m curating the Wovember Words posts – woollen elevenses, if you like. Although WOVEMBER takes up a lot of time, I have found some time to make things with wool. I’m very pleased with all of them, and they will each get a separate in-depth post once WOVEMBER has finished. But as I’m too excited about each of them, I want to share some pictures with you:

First up, I made some Sanquhar gloves in the Prince of Wales pattern:

 

Of course, my name is knitted in the cuff:

Secondly, I finally managed to sew a pair of trousers! I bought the fabric two winters ago, made two (yes, TWO) toiles, and then wasn’t happy with the fit and didn’t know how to change it. But with a new pattern, and some encouragement from Zoe, I made this pair of trousers, which are perhaps more classic than fashionable in shape. Here some close-ups, as I will reveal the whole pair over at WOVEMBER later. A hand-picked fly with vintage button:

 

Welted back-pockets:

 

 

Last, but not least I’m finishing of this self-lined beany in the most amazing Wensleydale Longwool yarn:

 

The patterns are typically more often used on ganseys:

 

 

Come on over at WOVEMBER, there’s even a competition going on where you can win all sorts of prizes by sending in a woolly picture!

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Last week I attended the In the Loop 3 conference, organised by the Knitting Reference Library, part of the Winchester School of Art. From the individual to the industrial and from the technical to the intellectual, I had no idea that a conference on knitting could generate such a diversity of topics; there were 28 presentations in all.

Strangely, I did not take any pictures during the conference, as I was too geekily absorbed by the World of Knitting –  I hope you can forgive me. Here’s a selection of personal highlights from the conference, presented to you in chronological order:

(1) Dr Martin Polley, Senior lecturer in Sport (he’s a sport historian) spoke engagingly about Knitting and the Olympic Games. Not only was knitting part of the predecessor of the Olympic Games, The Much Wenlock Olympian Games, where women and girls were judged on the fastest and neatest knits; knitwear has also caused controversy at more than one Olympic event. Most recently the LZR Racer swimsuits developed by Speedo to emulate sharkskin, gave swimmers an unusual advantage. These suits have been banned since the 2008 Games saw an incredible amount of new records.

(2) Sharon Evans-Mikellis, senior lecturer in Fashion and Textile Design at AUT University, New Zealand discussed garment shape innovation in knitwear design. I don’t know a single thing about knitting machines, let alone the high-tech ones that Sharon works with, but I was struck by the fact that even with the latest technology, knitting machines are usually used to emulate flat knitting, even if they can knit in 3D. Sharon explored some new ways of shaping knitwear using these capabilities, which is much more easily done in hand-knitting. Her talk has inspired me to try some new sweater designs, on which I will report in due course!

(3) Hazel Tindall, knitter, spoke about her mother’s diary she wrote in the 1960s. It gave a personal voice on how knitting pervaded this woman’s live, who much preferred reading and writing. Before the discovery of oil, knitting was about the only way to earn extra cash for housewives in rural Shetland, so apart from making garments for her family, she knitted goods for local knitwear buyers. Hazel read out snippets of the diaries, showed some of the garments mentioned by her mother, and gave an insight in how live must have been for many a housewive in Shetland at the time.

(4) Juliette, knitter. I only spoke to Juliette during dessert at the conference dinner, but I so admire her. 78 years of age, she was so lovely to talk to, and she knew so much about knitting. She was not only wearing a perfectly fitting cardigan, but on her shoulders was draped a beautiful Shetland lace shawl (in Jamieson’s cobweb, of course). Then she pulled out of her bag some miniature knitting she was working on. Jumpers knitted to a 1:12 scale, using needles made from piano wires and knitted in polyester sewing thread. And not just any old stocking stitch. Oh no, one was knitted in entrelac and another in a Sanquhar pattern.

(5) Helen Whitham, recently graduated with a first class honours from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design showed some of her graduation collection and spoke about her research, in which she concluded that knitted textiles from Shetland are authentic products expressing a time, place and culture and offer a basis for emotional attachment. This then, will encourage owners to hang on to these garments for longer. In her graduation collection Helen managed to create a whole new and more intellectual approach to Shetland knitwear, creating her very own personal ‘tradition’ informed by colours and shapes of things she found, amongst others, on the beach. Amazing.

(6) Roslyn Chapman, researched the history of the fine lace knitting industry in the nineteenth and early twentieth century Shetland for her PhD, with a focus on the social and economic relationships between the production and consumption of the fine knitted items. During her research, Roslyn became more aware of things that she had never seen, descriptions of the sale of articles that seem to have vanished without a trace. Where are the Shetland knitted opera cloaks? The Shetland lace clouds, lappets and hoods? And what of the scarlet, crimson, purple and blue shawls and the lesser known spotted hap? Where are all the Shetland fringes, tassels and ‘balls’? Were they loved so much that they have been worn to death, or hated so much they have been relegated to the backs of wardrobes? Roslyn showed photocopies of photographs of photographs (yes, really!) of intricate gossamer lace blouses, contemporary adverts selling burnouses, and payment receipts to Shetlands fringers (who’s sole task was to add fringes to knitted items.)

(7) Sandy Black, professor of Fashion & Textile Design & Technology at London College of Fashion, University of the Arts. Sandy discussed couture handknitting in the postwar period, and especially the work of Maria Luck-Szanto. Hungarian by birth, she came to London in 1939 to establish her hand knitted fashion business, using the skills of British knitters to produce her unique creations which adorned the elite society of London and beyond. Her designs contained many innovations, including the minimizing of seams, and influenced the patents for new machine knitting techniques which are only now possible to execute, with the current advanced knitting machines. Looking at the incredible detail of these handknitted garments, I feel all the more inspired to attempt a high finish on my own knitted garments.

Last but not least I, too, presented at In the Loop 3. I spoke about my Curiosity Cabinet of Knitting Stitches. An installation that had to be put on hold due to personal circumstances. However, when I have confirmed new dates for the exhibition, I will write a detailed post about it. The Curiosity Cabinet of Knitting Stitches gives a voice to some of the more esoteric knitting stitches, by presenting them as the rarities they are, by displaying swatches as a natural history collection of yore. It will be accompanied by a series of short workshops, to show others some of these techniques. I got so much good feedback from the audience, that I can’t wait to have it all sorted out and share these cabinets with all of you!

There, I managed to squeeze in a picture after all! I hope this post has given you a flavour of the conference. Personally, I cannot wait till In The Loop 4!

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Post updated on 11 September to correct spelling mistake in Helen Whitham’s name, and put a link in to her blog.

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Welcome to one of the last few stops on Susan Crawford’s Coronation Knits blog tour. Coronation Knits is Susan’s fourth book and it contains 14 delicious patterns. If you have followed this tour, then you will have learnt a lot already about the book, Susan, its inspiration, colour choice, and much more besides. I certainly enjoyed every stop so far! You may also have noticed the odd give-away along the way. You’ll be pleased to hear that not only can you win a copy of Coronation Knits here, but also the yarn needed to knit the Diamond Stole featured on the cover! You will find entry details at the end of this post.

The Diamond stole is based on a pattern Susan found in an early 1950s needlecraft book, in which it featured as a table mat. Luckily for us, Susan recognised its beauty would come out much better when draped over someone’s shoulders. Or my sofa:

I like the slightly regal looking lace border, which uses the trusted razor shell pattern, used frequently in Shetland lace knitting. So are the little diamonds, although in Shetland lace knitting, they are sometimes called spiders. But the two elements that I really like, are firstly the chain columns either side of the small diamonds, with its gently opening and closing of the knit stitch columns:

And secondly, the way that the large diamond grows from a column of two stitches, and especially the top of the diamond. It has perfect symmetry:

This very elegant solution to creating the tip of the diamond is by virtue of a single decrease, but not one as we know it. This decrease makes two stitches out of three! The instructions read as follows:

2 stitches from 3

Slip 1, knit 1 leaving original stitch on left needle, pass slipped stitch on right needle over new stitch now also on right needle, then knit stitch remaining on left needle together with next stitch. This turns 3 stitches into 2 stitches.

Let me take you through this decrease, using some pictures for clarification.

Here we are , on row 45 of the pattern, and you can see the three stitches on the left needle, ready for the decrease:

The first stitch is slipped. Insert your right needle into this stitch as if to knit, and slip it off the left needle onto the right needle. It ends up looking like this:

Then knit the next stitch, leaving the original stitch on the left needle:

You can see the original stitch still on the left needle, somewhat stretched out, and the new stitch on the right needle, somewhat strangled. Now you need to pass the slipped stitch over that new, slightly strangled stitch on the right needle. This is a little bit tricky, as the original stitch on the left needle has a tendency to slip off as well, so keep an eye on it! Here my left needle has been inserted in the slipped stitch and is about to pass it over the new stitch and off the right needle:

This is what it should look like once you’ve passed the slip stitch over. As you can see, the original stitch is STILL on the left needle:

The last step in this decrease, is to knit that remaining stitch on the left needle together with the next stitch on the left needle. This can be a bit fiddly, but it gets easier once you’ve done a few diamonds:

What you end up with, is a very elegant single decrease, which looks like two paired single decreases:

And now, for all those readers who just wanted me to get on with it and get to the give-away part, here is how you can enter to win a copy of Coronation Knits AND enough of the beautiful Juno Belle yarn in the Heart On My Sleeve colourway by Juno Fibre Arts to knit your very own Diamond Stole:

To enter, leave a comment on this blog post and tell me about your favourite decrease. I will select a winner on Saturday, 21 July 2012. Please make sure to enter your email address when asked for it when posting your comment, nobody apart from myself will see it. I will contact you myself to get your delivery details. Please note, the book and yarn will be posted once the blog tour has finished, and it doesn’t matter where in the world you live!

The Coronation Knits blog tour isn’t over yet; please find below a list of all the stops past and future:

Tour Date

Blogger

URL

8th June Susan Crawford http://justcallmeruby.blogspot.co.uk/
12th June 2012 Jean Moss http://jeanmosshandknits.blogspot.co.uk/
16th June 2012 Jen Arnall-Culliford http://jenacknitwear.typepad.com/
18th June 2012 Helene Magnusson http://helenemagnusson.blogspot.co.uk/
20th June 2012 Knitting magazine http://www.knittinginstitute.co.uk/
24th June 2012 Ingrid Murnane http://ingridmurnane.com/
28th June 2012 Felicity Ford http://thedomesticsoundscape.com/wordpress/
29th June 2012 Donna Druchunas http://sheeptoshawl.com/
7th July 2012 Karina Westermann http://www.fourth-edition.co.uk/
2nd July 2012 Simply Knitting magazine http://simplyknitting.themakingspot.com/blog
6th July 2012 Ruth Garcia-Alcantud http://www.rockandpurl.com/blog/
10th July 2012 Tasha Moss http://blog.bygumbygolly.com/
14th July 2012 Tom van Deijnen http://tomofholland.com/
18th July 2012 Woolly http://www.woollywormhead.com/blog/
22nd July 2012 Mim http://www.crinolinerobot.blogspot.co.uk/
25th July 2012 The Sexy Knitter http://thesexyknitter.blogspot.co.uk/

Please note, the copyright of the first image (Coronation Knits Book Cover) belongs to Susan Crawford; of the last picture (Juno Belle Heart on my Sleeve yarn) to Juno Fibre Arts. Copyright of all other pictures belongs to tomofholland.

=-=-=-=-= COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED =-=-=-=-=

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For all you knitters out there interested in vintage styles, I’m sure you’ll be pleased to know that Susan Crawford, of A Stitch in Time 1 & 2 fame, has released a new collection of knitting patterns: Coronation Knits.

I’m not going to reveal too much about it right now, as Susan has started a blog tour, which will allow you to learn more about the patterns and Susan’s work involved, over the next few weeks. Keep an eye out for all the blogs involved – I have a list at the bottom of this post with links and dates.

There are 14 patterns in total, all around the theme of the Diamond Jubilee and the fashions of the time when Elizabeth II got crowned.

There are even some patterns for men, I’m pleased to report!

Susan did a sterling job on designing these patterns and to celebrate this, there will be give-aways of the book along the way, so keep an eye out for the stops on the tour. When it’s my turn, I shall reveal the ins and outs of knitting the Diamond Stole, which features on the cover. It includes a rarely used decrease (make 2 stitches out of 3), which is pleasingly symmetrical.

Not only will I be able to give away a free copy of Coronation Knits, it will also include the yarn needed to knit the Diamond Stole! So be sure to check back here on 14 July; and have a look at all the other blog stops along the tour.

If your hands are itching to start knitting right now, then you can purchase the book here (available as a hardcopy and an e-book):

 http://www.knitonthenet-shop.com/

CORONATION KNITS TOUR DATES:

Tour Date

Blogger

URL

8th June Susan Crawford http://justcallmeruby.blogspot.co.uk/
12th June 2012 Jean Moss http://jeanmosshandknits.blogspot.co.uk/
16th June 2012 Jen Arnall-Culliford http://jenacknitwear.typepad.com/
18th June 2012 Helene Magnusson http://helenemagnusson.blogspot.co.uk/
20th June 2012 Knitting magazine http://www.knittinginstitute.co.uk/
24th June 2012 Ingrid Murnane http://ingridmurnane.com/
28th June 2012 Felicity Ford http://thedomesticsoundscape.com/wordpress/
29th June 2012 Donna Druchunas http://sheeptoshawl.com/
7th July 2012 Karina Westermann http://www.fourth-edition.co.uk/
2nd July 2012 Simply Knitting magazine http://simplyknitting.themakingspot.com/blog
6th July 2012 Ruth Garcia-Alcantud http://www.rockandpurl.com/blog/
10th July 2012 Tasha Moss http://blog.bygumbygolly.com/
14th July 2012 Tom van Deijnen http://tomofholland.com/
18th July 2012 Woolly http://www.woollywormhead.com/blog/
22nd July 2012 Mim http://www.crinolinerobot.blogspot.co.uk/
25th July 2012 The Sexy Knitter http://thesexyknitter.blogspot.co.uk/

Please note, the copyright of all images in this post belong to Susan Crawford.

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The Sanquhar socks I knitted last year have seen a lot of wear this winter and even well into spring and when I washed them the other day suddenly loads of holes appeared. These socks are one of my favourites because they are so very comfortable and I managed to get the fit just right. The 2-ply yarn I used (a wool and mohair blend from Blacker Yarns, alas no longer available) is soft yet has a lot of spring and was quite hard-wearing, considering how much I wore them. I’m also still very pleased with how the Sanquhar-inspired design came out.

In other words, a good opportunity to reread those chapters on darning in one of my favourite mending books to ensure I’m going to do a really good job.

The darning tool I used for this job has a mushroom end for holes in the heel, and a toe-shaped end for holes in the, you guessed it, toes. I picked it up in a car-boot sale, and the toe-end is particularly well-designed.

A close-up of my darning tool reveals that somebody didn’t like it as much as I do! (click on the picture to see a larger version: GRRR!) I guess that in former times, when darning was seen as a necessity, and a skill every woman was supposed to possess, a little girl didn’t like it one bit. This is so different from my own views and feelings. In a society where it is easier to throw away and replace than repair (for whatever excuse), I often get the feeling that people think of darning as a hobby and a luxury. But I like my hand-knitted socks, if only because the fit is unsurpassed and it gives me pleasure to be able to make such an everyday item myself. As these socks took some time to knit (11 stitches to inch!) I want to be able to wear them for as long as I can possibly make them last.

Whilst I was examining the holes, I also noticed thin areas under the ball of the foot and on the side of the big toe. So not only did I need to fill in the holes with stocking darns, but I also wanted to reinforce the thin areas to prevent holes forming.

I tried out a couple of new things. First up is the biased stocking darn:

As you can see, these threads cross each other at the diagonal, and not in the more usual perpendicular fashion. This is supposed to give the darn more stretch. I shall report back in due time, although so far, I haven’t noticed any difference.

Secondly, as I like a Visible Mend, I decided to mix up the colours.

Solid patches in Swiss darning, and the stocking darn is speckled due to different colours for “warp” and “weft”. But as you can see in the following picture, it didn’t stop there. My cuff design was calling out to be re-used!

And so, esteemed Ladies & Gentlemen, the meta-darn was born. This self-referential pattern took me a quite a bit longer than a plain darn, but I had so much fun doing it. Suddenly the slightest shadow of a hint of an inkling of a possibility of a thinning area required to be reinforced. I’m very interested in adding something, which is related to thing added to. Another good example of “meta-interventions” is Amy Twigger Holroyd’s stitch-hacking work. As she says about stitch-hacking: “The [technique is] used to adapt existing garments and patterns to include personalised content. On a conceptual level, these pieces explore authorship and ownership; on a personal level, they allow me to put something of myself into my wardrobe.” *) Although Amy is talking about shop-bought clothes, which sometimes lack a certain individuality, this principle can also apply to hand-made things (although admittedly, the authorship and ownership does not get questioned as much here). In these socks, the cuff pattern gets referenced, and so the darn not only reinforces the fabric, it also reinforces the design.

I limited myself to the areas that needed reinforcing, so the pattern isn’t complete. It looks like an ancient Roman mosaic, or half-stripped wall paper. I’m not sure how this mending yarn will wear, as some of the mending threads I’ve used tend to get fuzzy. However, to me that is going to be an exciting development to follow. Will this design still be legible after having worn these socks for another winter? And once this has worn out, will I be able to perform another Swiss darn, will I need to do a stocking darn, or will I eventually have to resort to refooting the sock? Perhaps for some, these socks are just temporarily stopped on their way out, but for me, the journey with these socks has only just begun.

*) http://keepandshare.wordpress.com/2011/10/06/stitch-hacking-and-pattern-blagging-at-prick-your-finger/

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Dear readers, it is with great pleasure I can present to you tomofholland’s very first pattern. The Sanquhar Pencil Case Pattern is now available for download in the Prick Your Finger webshop.

The original pencil case, shown in the background, was a graduation present for my partner. I wanted to give him a small knitted item, which he could use every day, without having to worry about spilling food down the front… And as he was forever digging in his bag for pens, this seemed just the thing. The pattern is inspired by the traditional Sanquhar gloves, in the cornet & drum pattern. I have knitted Sanquhar gloves in the fleur-de-lys pattern:

The Sanquhar patterns can be broken down in four parts, which all come back in pencil case:

1) the cuff is knitted in a rib stitch, with the knit stitches in the light colour and the purl stitches in the dark colour. Usually there are accents of the dark colour in the knit columns. I have used one such cuff pattern for the top of the pencil case:

2) the wrist in a Sanquhar glove is always knitted in a salt-and-pepper spot pattern. I used this element at the underside of the pencil case:

3) the other distinctive feature in Sanquhar gloves, is that the wearer’s initials are worked in the cuff too. This can be found on one side of the pencil case:

The pattern comes with an alphabet and blank name plate chart, so you make your own initials!

4) the last element is the patterning of the hand and fingers. Sanquhar gloves can be divided into two distinct styles. Tweed patterns, like my fleur-de-lys gloves, and so-called ‘dambrod’ patterns, which has repeating designs in a strong grid. The cornet & drum version of this, is what I used for the other sides of the pencil case:

The original pencil case was knitted on double-pointed needles and required grafting the bottom closed. I was very lucky that Dr Felicity Ford offered to test-knit my pattern, as apart from invaluable feedback on pattern lay-out, she also brought to my attention Judy’s Magic Cast-On. This means that this pencil case is completely SEAMLESS. You cast on. You knit. You cast off. You’re done.

For the pencil case I used some left over fabric from a pair of boxershorts to line them. Who else can boast a matching pencil case and pants?

Releasing my very first pattern is a cause for celebration in my book, so one lucky winner will be given a free copy of the pattern, and two balls of Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift, in burnt umber and surf, to knit your very own Sanquhar Pencil Case. To enter, leave a comment below and tell me what you think is just the thing to co-ordinate the pencil case with this season. After two weeks, I will select the most amusing answer and post the pattern and wool to the lucky winner.

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After teaching a glove-knitting class at Prick Your Finger I stayed behind and sat in on Rachael’s excellent beginners crochet class. I used to crochet doilies for my granny as a kid. They barely poked out from under an egg cup, but she used them nonetheless. But that was a long time ago, and apart from making a crochet chain for cast-ons, I haven’t really used any crochet techniques. However, when I saw Colleen’s gorgeous crochet bag, I was inspired to put my newly learnt skills to the test:

It was a lot of fun to make. Crochet has the advantage that it’s really quick to execute, and if it’s not to your liking, it’s very easy to undo and start again. I embellished my bag with a plaited cord and a tassel. Despite the muted colours and, dare I say it, plainness of the wools, it adds an understated touch of luxuriousness.

I used some left-over wool for this: the brown is Manx Loghtan from Garthenor Organic Wool and the heathered grey is North Ronaldsey from Blacker Yarns. I love the texture of this fabric – and the slight contrast between the stitch definitions:

The notions bag is lined, and in fact, I’ve been enjoying lining things lately. In this picture is a lined Sanquhar pencil case*:

For the notions bag I have used canvas, as I frequently have DPNs, crochet hooks and other sharp, pointy things rattling around in it and canvas is sturdy. For the pencil case I used some left over fabric from a pair of boxershorts. Who else can boast a matching pencil case and pants?

I have enjoyed all the hand stitching this involves. In both cases I first installed a zipper and then added the lining. I’m particularly fond of the tiny stitches that attach the lining to the zipper band, as they are nigh-on invisible.

My thread snipper also needed its own little wallet. The thin plastic case it came with didn’t really stay on very well, so I made one from layered canvas. Thanks to my indestructible Singer sewing machine, stitching through four layers was a doddle.

These very practical objects give me a lot of pleasure in their everyday use. They are unique, and well made, using quality materials. Both items replace bland and boring cases I bought on the High Street. The notions bag replaces one which had gaps at the end of the zipper. They were there to add some ease when opening and closing it, but it also meant that small things kept falling out. The pencil case replaced a tubular affair. It was made from some really light, yet stiff material, and for some reason it would always roll so that zipper faced down. But only when I left the zipper open. Pens and pencils kept falling out. I never thought about all this when I bought these items, but I got fed up with these minor annoyances. So although I’m pleased to have replaced notions bag and pencil case with unique pieces, they would never have turned out this way if I hadn’t used their generic predecessors.

The Notions Bag is Raveled here.

The Pencil Case is Raveled here.

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*) As an aside: it won’t be too long before I can release a pattern for the Sanquhar Pencil Case. Keep an eye out!

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