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Archive for July, 2012

Earlier this year my friend and sound artist Dr Felicity Ford went on a month-long residency at the MoKS Center for Art and Social Practice in Tartu, Estonia. Dr Felicity Ford spent some time travelling, recording sounds, visiting sheep farmers, interviewing amazing makers, before staying at MoKS for her British-Estonian textile traditions swap-out, using native sheep breed fibres and traditional indigenous plant dyes. You can read all about it in this wonderful blog post here. She also visited a couple of local history museums, which showcased some of the amazing textile traditions in Estonia.

As it turns out, not only were the Estonian women (as traditionally it were women who did all the needlework), amazing knitters and weavers, they were also astonishingly good at darning. The following pictures were taken by Felicity Ford and she has kindly given me permission to share them with you in this blog post. So, without further ado, here’s a highlight of Astonishing Estonian Darns:

A beautiful knitted jumper, with darning in contrasting colours, how could I not like this mend?

 

There were also incredible socks. The knitting has a mind-bogglingly teeny-tiny gauge, and the colours have been carefully chosen to create rich patterns. The plain sock shows a beautiful pattern in travelling stitches.

But not only the knitting is beautiful, the darning and mending skills shown here are in a league of their own.

 

 

 

These were clearly very valuable items, a lot of time, effort and skill must’ve gone into creating them. All the evidence of mending makes me think that these garments were worn a lot and were not only for Sunday Best. If only these socks could tell their stories, from the moment the fibres were spun into wool, knitted up into the most beautiful things, down to all the hard work they will have seen and the necessity of repair – I would love to hear them.

Furthermore, Felicity also bought an Estonian book on needlecraft. She doesn’t read Estonian, but the book is so full of diagrams and pictures, that it is still a joy to browse through. It contains a whole section in fabric repair, with lovingly made illustrations.

Rebuilding a stocking web with supporting threads (you can make completely invisible mends in knitted fabrics this way):

 

Classic darn for rips in fabric. Look at the detail of the frayed edges:

 

After that close-up to show how to do the darn, here is an illustration of two finished darns, showing the little loops you should leave so that the darn has some give:

 

There is also a section on embroidery or damask darning, so that you can rebuild a particular weave in fabric. I would like to learn more about these techniques:

 

 

I really like this illustration of a fabric patch in a checked fabric, as the patch doesn’t quite line up with the fabric, even though clearly the same material was used for making the patch. A dotted line shows how the classic hedge tear has been covered:

 

I would like to thank Felicity once more for letting me share these pictures with you. I hope you enjoyed these pictures as much as I did, and marvelled at the astonishing Estonian craftsmanship showcased in these items.

Please note that the copyright of all pictures in this post belongs to Felicity Ford.

 

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I own a pair of shoes that were in dire need of a Visible Mend. They were once very smart, yet comfortable to wear, and clearly made by highly skilled shoe makers. But now they are more than love-worn, as I haven’t always taken care of them as well as I could and I neglected using a shoe horn:

I remember very well the day I bought them. It was in the autumn of 1999 and I was visiting London with a friend. I would normally not have enough money to justify buying something by Vivienne Westwood, but I knew the sales were on and so I dragged my friend to her shop on Conduit Street. I fell in love with these shoes straight-away, but when I tried them on, I could not get my feet in. With a sad face I put them back on the shelf and looked at other things. However, nothing really appealed to me and I was drawn back to the shoes. I tried them on again. And I could not get my feet into them. So with a sad face I put them back on the shelf, again. After another trawl through all the racks and shelves, clearly nothing would do but those shoes. So I tried them on one last time. The helpful shop assistant started chatting to us and said that after nothing much had happened in the shop, I was her “amusement of the day.” And as if by magic, at that moment my feet just slipped in. I laced up, paid up and walked away with the most gorgeous shoes.

But twelve years later, I realised that if I wanted to continue wearing these shoes for another few years, something had to be done. So I bought a box of macarons, and paid a visit to my friend Alex, who runs Laste Shoehop in Brighton:

As you can see, not only were the heels run down, the insoles were also in need of replacement. Note that the box of macarons was still full at this point:

We decided to make a new heel piece, which would line the inside of the heel and a flap that would fold over to cover up the ugly mess. To put this into place and keep the shoes comfortable, we also had to take out the insoles. Or socks, as they are called by shoe makers! They clearly needed replacement, too. There was some shoe maker evidence about the size of the shoes hiding under the sock of the right shoe, if you look closely:

First, we made a pattern out of paper, which had a curved seam in the middle to create the heel shaping. The macarons were proving to be very tasty indeed:

I also traced the socks, so I could use that as a pattern for the new ones. Once we were happy with the pattern pieces, I cut them out from card. In the shoe maker trade, seams are indicated on the pattern by a few cut-outs, instead of cutting the wedge out completely. This makes the pattern more sturdy, as they are usually re-used a lot. One cut-out has a squiggly side, so you can tell left and right side apart. In this picture you can also see the so-called click knife. In shoe making, cutting the leather pieces from the pattern is called clicking – and using scissors is frowned upon at all times!

Alex explained how leather stretches in only one direction (across the belly), and when you click the pattern pieces, this is taken into account, so you can give the shoes stretch where they need it, for example across the foot. Once I had clicked the pattern pieces, it was time to sew the seams. Leather is a wonderful material, as you can use a very small seam allowance, without it ripping it. Alex has an old but sturdy domestic sewing machine for this:

Here are the heel pieces just after sewing up. They somehow remind me of moths in this picture:

In order to keep the seams open, and to make sure they don’t give you blisters by rubbing against your heels, they are flattened out with a hammer. This shoe makers hammer has a special head, one side of which is made from raw hide, which won’t damage the leather when you give it a good bash:

On the inside the heel pieces will fold under the sock, so here is Alex using the naughty scissors, cutting out small wedges to make shaping easier and avoid buckled up leather under your foot. Tut tut tut Alex, scissors!

Next stage is to put contact glue on all surfaces to be glued together. The smell of it made me feel a bit giddy:

Once the glue had dried, it was time to stick the pieces in place. This was a bit tricky to do, as the two glued surfaces should not get in contact with each other where you don’t want to:

When the pieces were in place, I had to let the glue dry properly, so the finishing touch: a nice contrasting seam in bright yellow strong top stitch thread, had to be done at home. It would be difficult to sew through layers of leather with a leather needle and at the same time making sure the stitch lines would be neat and tidy, so I used a little trick. I borrowed Alex’s awl, which is also known as a bradawl (pronounced as |ˈbradɔːl|), to pierce holes through the leather. To keep the holes equidistant, I marked them on the leather with a pair of contractors:

One heel done, one left to go! If you look carefully, you will see I also made a small piece on the right shoe where another seam ripped. I’m a bit obsessed with using yellow as a contrast colour:

I made new socks from this lovely thin blue leather:

I thoroughly enjoyed visibly mending my very favourite pair of shoes. I learnt a lot from Alex about making shoes, and I got to use some great tools:

Clockwise from top left: cup of coffee, bradawl hiding under shoe, left shoe, right shoe, upholstery hammer (there was one pesky nail poking through), contractors, click knive, lighter to burn ends of nylon sewing thread, ballpoint refill with silver ink (this rubs off easily), a rubber made from a piece of crepe sole in the shape of a shoe, heel piece pattern, sock pattern, right sock, left sock.

Although using special tools was nice and made certain things go a bit easier, I truly believe it is possible to do this repair at home with tools you have just lying around; you just need some courage and patience. Thank you Alex, for a wonderful day!

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The Coronation Knits Blog Tour stop-over at tomofholland was accompanied by a giveaway of a copy of Coronation Knits and enough Juno Arts Fibre Belle yarn in the Heart on my Sleeve colourway to knit the Diamond Stole that features on the front cover:

After my tutorial on the elegant decrease used in the Diamond Stole, which made two stitches out of three in a very pleasing and symmetrical fashion, you could enter the competiotion by telling me what your favourite decrease was. Here are the results, some people mentioned more than one decrease, others didn’t specify a particular decrease, but K2tog was the clear winner here:

K2tog (knit two together): 13

SSK (slip one, slip one, knit together): 8

S1, K1, PSSO (slip one, knit one, pass slipped stitch over): 6

CDD (centred double decrease): 4

S1, K2tog, PSSO (slip one, knit two together, pass slipped stitch over): 3

K2tbl (knit two together trough backloop): 3

“Anything with a slipped stitch”: 2

Diamond Stole 2 from 3: 2

P2tbl (purl two together through backloop): 1

SSK as slip one purl-wise, slip one knit-wise, knit two together: 1

SYTK (Slip, Yank, Twist, Knit, a left-leaning decrease by TECHknitter): 1

And I learnt something new, too: according to Margaret Stove via Jean Miles: “the stitch the needle enters first, is the one that winds up on top.” The only exception to this rule I can think of is a rarely used decrease as it’s quite laborious: slip one knitwise, slip one knitwise, slip both stitches back on the left needle (this just changes the stitch orientation), purl together through backloop. This is a decrease you can use if you require a left-leaning decrease with untwisted stitches, worked on the wrong side. I learnt this from the Myrtle Leaf Shawl with Willow Border from Victorian Lace Today, where you have shaping on all rows.

And now for the winner: I used a random number generator to pick a post:

And the winner is:

Sue Schwarz, who likes the symmetry of using a K2tog and a Sl1, K1, PSSO opposite each other.

Sue, I have contacted you by email to ask for your delivery details. I will pass these on to Susan Crawford and Juno Fibre Arts.

Happy knitting!

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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 https://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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You’ll be pleased to hear that after a short hiatus the Tom Says Darn It! darning workshop is back at Super+Super HQ. Come along and learn to darn with me on Friday, 27 July, 18:30-21:00h.

In 2.5hrs I will teach you two classic techniques:

(1) Swiss darning, also known as duplicate stitching, which is a great way of reinforcing thin patches in knitted fabrics that are about to wear through; however, you can also use it to brighten up an otherwise dull garment. What I like about his technique is that once you have gained some experience, you can start using a variety of colours, like I did on the soles of these socks:

(2) the classic stocking web darn, using a darning mushroom. This technique is great for darning holes in knitted garments and regular readers of this blog will know I use this technique often, and that I like to use contrasting or complementary colours:

And that is not all! If there is any time left (and there usually is), I will give you a demo of Lancashire’s smallest loom: The Speedweve! This clever little contraption is frequently available on auction sites for under a tenner.

To book just send an email to supersuperhq@gmail.com or call them on 01273 – 773 910. The Tom Says Darn It! darning workshop costs £25 for 2.5 hrs, and this includes:

(1) all the tools and materials required for darning

(2) a comprehensive hand-out to take home

(3) two types of darning needles to take home

(4) tea and biscuits to keep you going

I will provide all required materials for darning, but I’d like to invite you to bring your own love-worn knitwear lurking in your mending basket.

As an aside, there was no darning class in June as I attended the Mend*RS Symposium, from which I came back totally inspired by all the people who have made mending and repairing an integral part of their life. A blog post will follow soon, as I think you’ll be amazed by our burgeoning Mending Movement!

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