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Archive for January, 2015

Having lived in the UK for almost fifteen years, I’ve come to understand the importance of Tea. Not the “tea” I was accustomed to drink in The Netherlands: a tea bag is briefly suspended in a glass cup of water gone off the boil, resulting in a light-brown warm liquid. Of course, the tea bag is used to make not one, not two, but three cups of said liquid. Adding milk is only for children under ten. Tea it ain’t! It’s like taking your shoes off and dipping your toe in the sea, and pretending that’s the same as doing a mile-long swim in the sea. Not only that, I’m quite sure it’s only the British who solve any emotional distress with a “cuppa to cheer you up.” Luckily I have seen the error of my way a long time ago, and now much prefer a “builder’s tea” without, however, the regulation two spoons of sugar.

Tea Hat Tea Cosy from handspun wool

Wool is a good way of keeping your tea warm!

We regularly make a pot of tea here at Casa Tomofholland, and in order to keep it hot, I wanted to make a tea cosy. For some reason most tea cosies in the UK seem to be the kind that fits around the pot, with openings for the spout and the handle. Or maybe that’s just something that knitters do to show off their knitting prowess?

Fitted tea cosy in Foula Wool

A tea cosy knitted in Foula wool; my way of showing off the beautiful, natural shades of Foula wool

However, we’ve been collecting Wood’s Ware crockery for a while now, in the Beryl colourway. Wood’s Ware is another English institution: it was the crockery of choice for many canteens in schools, hospitals and other communal spaces. Although it is no longer made, it’s easy to find the pieces secondhand and they’re not very expensive as so many were made over the years. Although of a most unassuming colour and shape, I like the simple lines of the cups and saucers, tea and coffee pots, plates and tureens. I didn’t want to cover up my beloved teapot and hide what I like so much about it.

Wood's Ware England, in Beryl

 

A few pieces of our evergrowing collection of Wood’s Ware in Beryl

So I cast my mind back to when I was very young, and remembered the more usual tea cosies we used to use in The Netherlands (so there must have been a time where the Dutch drank proper Tea after all.) In Dutch they’re called a “theemuts,” which translates as “tea hat.’ And that’s really what they are: a hat for your tea pot, to be removed when you want to pour another brew. And what better material to make it from than wool? A perfect project for using some old handspun yarn; small skeins I had made a long time ago, trying out a few techniques.

Tea Hat with toast, marmalade and Wood's Ware in Beryl

My Tea Hat spotted in its natural habitat: a breakfast table with toast, marmalade (lime jelly marmalade if you must know,) some books to read and a random skein of yarn

The grey is coarse Herdwick: a sturdy fibre with excellent insulating qualities. The creamy white is lustrous Wensleydale: also surprisingly sturdy, but very soft, too. Apart from the appeal of using British rare sheep breed fibres, I was also reminded where the fibres came from when I knitted this up. The Herdwick was a gift from Victoria of Eden Cottage Yarns fame (who apparently has a shed full of fleeces.) The Wensleydale was a gift from my dear friend and woolly comrade Felicity “Felix” Ford. She gave this to me when I became interested in spinning, and she was very enthusiastic about it, in a way only Felix can be. It was very infectious! It comes from Julia Desch’s flock of sheep, and her Wensleydale really is something else.

I also wanted to try out knitting two-colour brioche, and take another opportunity to do some free-form knitting. Apart from taking some rough measurements I didn’t plan anything upfront. It soon became apparent that the very bulky Herwick yarns would not stretch to a whole Tea Hat in brioche stitch, so I ended up using a variety of stitches. Some stocking stitch on one side, some garterstitch with woven in strands at the other. After the pompoms were made, I had quite literally used up all of my yarns, apart from the small scraps I trimmed off after sewing in the ends!

Tea Hat, toast rack, Wood's Ware England in Beryl

The luminosity of the Wensleydale is accentuated by the matte Herdwick

I’m really pleased with this little folly of a Tea Hat. The interplay between bulky and thin yarn, the contrast between the rough Herdwick and slick Wensleydale, the lustre of a creamy longwool against the matte appearance of a fibre most often used for carpet yarn. I’m sure it will provide its warming service for years to come!

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Dear readers, first things first: a happy new year to you! I hope 2015 will be full of many fullfilling spinning, knitting, darning, and other crafty pursuits. I’d like to thank you all for following my blog and leaving me comments; I really appreciate your interest and support.

It’s a time for reflection, so I want to share with you some of my 2014 highlights, and also talk about what I have planned for 2015. I hope you will be as excited about that as I am!

2014

Looking back at my blog posts, I find I have done a lot of things, and I also realise there are a fair few things I haven’t even got round to share with you.

In chronological order here are some of my personal favourites of last year:

Creative knitting

Mary Walker Phillips Exploration Swatch Wall Hanging

A linen swatch, exploring Mary Walker Phillips’s book Creative Knitting

Returning from my parents after Christmas 2013, I had found out about Mary Walker Phillips, who wrote, amongst others, Creative knitting. For somebody who usually does a lot of planning and swatching this was a refreshing approach. After knitting this linen swatch I have been taken her philosophy to heart, and it’s given me a sense of freedom and let things happen as they come. As I always need a balance in my practice, I have also started a jumper with the largest amount of planning and swatching I have ever done. Using these different approaches side by side means they inform each other and make me value them both more than I did before.

Playing with wool with Deborah Robson

Wool Types workshop with Deb Robson

Deb Robson in her element: wool and spinning wheels, and a captive audience

2014 was the first time I went to Fibre East as I really, REALLY wanted to attend Deb Robson’s class on wool types. I almost didn’t make it, as I had an awful flu the days before, but I’m glad I went, as half a year later my head is still spinning (pun intended!) with all the possibilities of wool. Deb Robson is most generous and amazing in sharing her knowledge and knows how to get anybody interested in wool. Unfortunately I did not have much time for spinning since, so this is something I would really like to remedy in 2015.

Friesian darning samplers

Fries Museum stoplap darning sampler 4

One of the many darning samplers I saw at the Fries Museum

When the textile conservator of the Fries Museum, Gieneke Arnolli, invited me to view their collection of darning samplers, I couldn’t wait to get on the plane! I thoroughly enjoyed my visit and Gieneke’s hospitality. I learnt so much from it I had to write not one, not two, but three blog posts about it. It has inspired me to learn more about repairing cloth in the coming year.

A visit to Sanquhar

Sanquhar Gloves with Initials

Darned Sanquhar gloves, what a treat!

I have a bit of a “thing” for the traditional gloves from Sanquhar, so I was more than happy to attend the one-day workshop in Sanquhar itself. I gave a presentation on the Sanquhar knitting tradition, met a lot of interesting people, and developed a bit of a “thing” for Scotland – to be fair the first seeds for that were sown a long time ago.

Hacking the KNITSONIK System

KNITSONIK System Swatch Complete

A swatch made according, or against, the KNITSONIK System, depending on your point of view

My comrade in wool and good friend Felicity “Felix” Ford, published a book on how to find inspiration for stranded colourwork patterns in everyday things. She asked me to hack her system and I enjoyed taking on this challenge. As I had helped her out a bit with the book, we have had many conversations on rules and guidelines you can set yourself, and on how strict her instructions in her book should be. I think we both learnt a lot from this, and it has added a new perspective on my quest to be a more creative knitter and trying to let go of rules and planning.

Mending

Of course my year is not complete without some mending and repairing, and I have worked on two very special commissions this year, so they deserve a special mention.

The Visible Mending Programme - repaired jumper

“A Mother’s Work” repair commission for a private client

A Mother’s Work” was a very special repair commission that went much further than simply fixing a jumper. Being asked to repair somebody’s jumper made by her mum who has passed away proved to be a very intimate experience.

Knitting and Crochet Guild Commission in colour

Knitting & Crochet Guild Repair Commission

The other special repair was commissioned by the Knitting & Crochet Guild, and it allowed me to use some traditional techniques, which I have highlighted by using naturally coloured undyed yarns.

And apart from the things I did blog about, I have done some other things that made 2014 a great year for me: I made a jumper with a graphic design on the front built up in single row stripes and other technical details; I have been interviewed a few times by PhD students, magazines, and newspapers, which helped me think about and better understand my own practice; I volunteered at the monthly Brighton Repair Café, which I thoroughly enjoy, so I’m looking forward to many more meet-ups to come (incidentally, the next one is on 31 January 2015.)

2015

I’m much looking forward to 2015, as I have plenty of things I’d like to get done, such as:

Repairs

Late last year I met up with my good friend and repair comrade Bridget Harvey, and we have started a repair dialogue. We want to explore the difference between functional and non-functional repair, using a pair of tatty tea towels.

My visit to the Fries Museum has given me an insight in repairing cloth, and also about the way you can learn to repair, and who traditionally performed repairs of household items and clothes. I want to learn more about repairing and darning cloth, using some early 20th Century Dutch lesson plan books I have.

Spinning and creative knitting

Spinning and creative knitting will meet each other this year, as I have a project in mind that involves first spinning up British rare breed fibres, and free-form-knit them up in some sort of mythological cloak. I want to learn more about the role of clothes in myths, sagas and folklore at the same time.

Finishing things

There are also some things left over from 2014 that need finishing. Most importantly a Shetland fleece spinning project that’s currently on hold; I have started a jumper in brioche stitch (this is the project I mentioned earlier, for which I’m doing a extraordinary amount of swatching and planning.) I’m also knitting a  version of my Tom of da Peathill cardigan in a more roomy version; I have one sleeve left to do!

In summary, 2015 will be a year in which I will be doing a lot of personal, slow craft projects. Some of you may know that I also have a full-time office job, so in order to make sure I get to do the things I want to do to grow as a maker and mender, I have decided to run fewer darning workshops this year. I’m sure I’ll keep myself busy with planned things, and any surprises that might pop up. I hope you are looking forward to a new year as much as I do!

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