Aleatoric Rhythm

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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

An Invisible Mend or Two

As regular readers of my blog know, I prefer my mending visible and decorative as well as functional, and I love to be challenged to create something beautiful. However, occasionally I have to concede reluctantly that an invisible mend is more appropriate. A few weeks ago, I had not one, but two of concessions to make in my quest for the visible mend when I got the following commissions:

The Side Seam Rip

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A ripped side seam on the right

Sometimes the invisible mend is called upon, because of the nature of the damage. In the above example the side seam on the right was ripped. To be more precise, for the machine knitters amongst us, the linking thread had snapped, or hadn’t been fastened off properly. Linking is a way of “sewing up” seams of knitwear, often used in production knitting. The linker produces a chain stitch, so a quick and easy way to fix this, is to emulate a linker by means of a crochet hook and buttonhole thread.

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Invisible mend using a crochet hook

Invisible Mend: As Requested

And sometimes, it’s just what the owner wants. Here’s a gorgeous cardigan combining cables and yarns, by Lark Rising, a Brighton knitwear studio.

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Cardigan by Lark Rising

It’s a severe case of elbow fatigue! Although I could think of a few nice ways of performing a visible mend, Zoë preferred to go the invisible route.

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A hole right in the middle of a lace pattern

As I really enjoy lace knitting, I was up for the challenge. In fact, the more difficult part of this fix was not necessarily to work out how the stitches and eyelets were formed, but to try and make it blend in. It’s difficult to find the exact matching colour, and as the cardigan had been worn lots, the surface had started to full a little.

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Near invisible mend

By virtue of tripling up some crewel wool, I managed to get a close enough match of the colour and yarn thickness; and with some judicious brushing with a tooth brush I managed to raise the nap just enough to emulate the surface texture. When viewed from a distance the invisible mend blends in completely.

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Voila, an invisibly mended lace cardigan

However, this is not the only cardigan Zoë asked me to repair. Next week I’ll blog about the return of an old friend.

Tea Cosies and Cardigans

Due to my Dutch heritage I’m an avid coffee drinker, but living with an Irish man has shown me the joy of tea. Recently we switched from tea bags to loose tea leaves and we moved on from brewing in a cup to brewing in a new, shiny Brown Betty:

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The latest addition to our ever-expanding collection of crockery

But it looks like there’s something missing in this knitter’s household. One, where are the biscuits? And two, what about a Tea Cosy?

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Tea pot with the obligatory tea cosy and biscuit tins

The stitch pattern is a classic honeycomb stitch, which, despite appearances, is a very easy slip stitch pattern. In other words, you only knit one colour at a time. However, I did use a genius technique to avoid the jog in the stripes on crown of the cozy. TECHknitter explains all on her blog – I used her so-called travelling jogless stripes variation. Can you see where I changed colour?

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Invisible change of colour on the crown of the cozy.

When I had finished the cosy, it looked a bit bare. In my mind a tea cosy needs a whimsical flourish on top. Enter i-cord. I made a long cord using all available colours, and added it to the crown of the cosy.

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I-cord crown in all its glory

I knitted this tea cosy using left-overs from a number of Fair Isle swatches, using Foula wool. Magnus and Justyna from Foula Wool have asked me to write a knitting pattern for a men’s cardigan, so I’ve been swatching like crazy. Those of you who follow me on Twitter and Instragram will have seen some swatches already.

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Foula Swatch Number 1

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Foula Swatch Number 2

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Foula Swatch Number 3

Knitting the swatches and the tea cozy has allowed me to get to know the yarn. It has a great handle and is full of character. And of course, I love the seven natural colours it comes in. As it’s a DK weight, it knits up quickly. As somebody asked me this on twitter: the swatches are knitted in the round, with additional steek stitches. These are knitted with both colours together. I only casted off the fabric, not the steek stitches, as these were all dropped down all the way. Then I cut all the loose strands and knotted them in pairs using a reef knot. For swatch two I made a calculation error, so I ended up with only three steek stitches, so I used a crochet reinforcement instead.

I have now selected the stitch patterns I want to use. If you want to know how the cardigan will turn out, you will have to be patient, as I will reveal the cardigan and knitting pattern during Wovember 2013. But don’t be surprised if I post some teaser pictures in the meantime.

The Tea Cosy is Ravelled here.

An Aleatoric Fair Isle Swatch

Since the start of our Aleatoric Fair Isle project, Felicity and I have had lots of fun swatching, throwing dice and posting teaser pictures on Twitter*, Instagram**, and facebook. After all the begging and pleading from our followers, we decided to reveal a swatch here and there in their full glory.

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Aleatoric Fair Isle: my first swatch, Da Rulez notebook, dice and chart

Today, I would like to share some of my own thoughts on my personal experience so far; and, of course, reveal a swatch!

But first let me briefly recap the concept of Aleatoric Fair Isle. Both Felicity and myself find inspiration from a variety of, sometimes, unlikely sources. So when we were exitedly chatting about both having been invited to Shetland Wool Week, John Cage popped up on our conversation. John Cage was a 20th Century composer who was inspired by everyday sounds and questioned what it means to make music. He frequently employed what are now commonly known as aleatoric processes, whereby its course is determined in general, but depends on chance in detail***.

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Aleatoric Fair Isle Chart, with the all-important dice

Both Felicity and I find John Cage’s ideas very inspiring and we were sure that these can be applied outside the realm of modern music. Of course, we’re not the first to be inspired by music, or using chance to create charts. We both love the Fair Isle knitting tradition, with its myriad choice of patterns and colours. And therein lies the rub. Neither of us have grown up within this tradition, and for us to design a Fair Isle pattern means thinking really hard about these elements.

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A typical KNITSONIK/tomofholland Aleatoric Fair Isle out-of-focus teaser picture

So what happens if you let go of choice and deliberation, and roll the dice instead? At the start of this exciting journey Felicity and I spent hours discussing The Rules. How to determine what patterns to choose, whether they are placed horizontally or vertically, which colours to use, and how to place the colour sequences – all these things we have tried to capture in rules. We’ve made a number of grids, we have a palette of beautiful colours to choose from (kindly supplied by Jamieson and Smith,) and we have dice. For some rules we use the number as rolled, for others we look at whether it’s odd or even.

It will come as no surprise that each swatch and each chart so far (I’ve knitted four swatches now,) has led to new iterations of our rules. One surprising outcome for me was that although usually I find colour selection and placement the most difficult part in Fair Isle design, it was the pattern selection processes that has been most difficult to pin down.

Many Fair Isle knitting books tell you that most patterns can be placed vertically as well as the somewhat more usual horizontal way, however, I seem to have a real issue with this. Each time the dice tell me I have to place the patterns vertically, I feel a reluctance to do so and I’m sorely tempted to keep rolling until I get to place them horizontally – so far I have managed to overcome my aversion, although when I finally got a horizontal placement again for swatch 5, I was almost disappointed! Clearly, not only am I learning about my own preferences, I’m also changing them through the aleatoric processes.

Here is my Aleatoric Fair Isle Swatch Number 1. I hope you will enjoy following us in our journey, so keep an eye out for more teasers and the occasional unveiling of a swatch on both Felicity’s blog and mine.

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*) Follow us on twitter: @KNITSONIK and @tomofholland; #AleatoricFairIsle

**) and yes, also on instagram: (@felixbadanimal and @tomofholland; #AleatoricFairIsle)

***) A quote from Meyer-Eppler, read some more about Aleatoric processes and chance operations here.

Aleatoric Fair Isle – Alea Iacta Est

Aleatoric Fair Isle is A KNITSONIK/tomofholland art project to be realised by Felicity Ford and Tom van Deijnen between Spring 2013 and Shetland Wool Week using gorgeous Jamieson and Smith yarn in a huge variety of shades!

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Followers of thedomesticsoundscape and tomofholland will know that we like mixing our knitting with sounds, literature, wool-appreciation and archival or collecting practices! We first met at a launch in Prick Your Finger where I was exhibiting “The Reading Gloves”, a collection of hand-knitted gloves portraying literary figures like Lady Chatterley and Dorian Gray. In our second meeting, (also at Prick Your Finger) Felicity was making “KNITSONIK 01” – a podcast about the sonic world of knitters. Considering our mutual interest in the auditory, the literary, all things woollen, and making our own archives and libraries, it should come as little surprise that we have invented a new project for Shetland Wool Week that combines all these elements!

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This project is “Aleatoric Fair Isle” and anyone who follows us on instagram will already have seen some tasty glimpses of the outcomes.

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But wait a second: what is this “Aleatoric” when it’s at home? In musical terms, aleatoric music is “music in which some element of the composition is left to chance”.

There are several examples of knitters appropriating aleatoric processes in order that some knitted compositions leave an element to chance – an aleatoric pattern generator; a child’s sweater in which the cables are all determined by die rolls; and I bet some of you have found similar projects!

However what we have become specifically interested in for “Aleatoric Fair Isle” is finding ways of using dice to liberate us in our explorations of Fair Isle knitting and remove some of our anxiety over colour choices, pattern placement etc. which we have found can impede the pleasure of experimenting. Although this may not be true in Shetland, in the prim South of England where we are based, many knitters – including us – seem mildly afraid of designing stranded colourwork! Informal chats with knitbuddies reveal fears of choosing colours that don’t work well together, of making something ugly or un-wearable, and ultimately, of wasting time or yarn on making things that are unpleasing. In our own experiments, we have found we veer towards using the same safe and familiar palettes and patterns, rather than venturing forth with boldness! This seems a shame when the Jamieson & Smith shade card offers such an infinite variety of daring possibilities to the adventurous knitter, and when examples from the Shetland Textile Museum convey such a wealth of incredible possibilities.

To combat our fear of failure, to challenge our own ingrained tendencies, and to find a way of approaching the inspiring world of Fair Isle knitting, we have devised a system for remixing Fair Isle patterns based on both observing some principles of colour theory, and leaving many of our decisions to the roll of a dice.

Our experiment is loosely based on one aleatoric musical composition by John Cage – “Apartment House 1776” – Apartment House 1776 was composed to coincide with the bicentennial celebrations of American Independence, and is meant to evoke the sense of sticking your head out of the window of an apartment in 1776, and hearing drifts of music from the instruments and composers of that time appearing in snatches and snippets on the wind. Charlton Lee comments in a review,” one can still recognize that the music comes from the language of the 18th century, but often the harmonic function is destroyed, morphing the result into a bright and fresh new gesture. When a cadence has been lost, two separate phrases seem to blend into one longer thread”.

As in Cage’s composition, we like the idea that you could stick your hand into our eventual pile of samples and have a similar sense to Cage’s audiences; that of finding something recognisably “Fair Isle” but also reworked into something new, and fresh. We are using Mary McGregor’s amazing book “Fair Isle Knitting Patterns: Reproducing the Known Work of Robert Williamson” as our source text. This book details the knitting patterns noted by Robert Williamson, 1885 – 1954, spotted in Shetland, which we are reworking in 21 shades of Jamieson & Smith yarn.

Our creative experiment, “Aleatoric Fair Isle”, will result in the creation of a great number of Fair Isle swatches derived from dice rolls to determine patterns used, and yarn-shades chosen at random.

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In homage to Cage (who was a great appreciator of everyday sounds) the sounds we hear whilst knitting each of the swatches will be carefully documented. Our respective discoveries and process will be shared on our different blogs (Felicity’s blog can be found here), twitter (@knitsonik, @tomofholland), facebook, and instagram (@felixbadanimal, @tomofholland), and where all relevant photos will be hash-tagged #AleatoricFairIsle, but the full experiment and its workings will only be completely unleashed in its full glory at Shetland Wool Week! So far we have knit a couple of swatches and it has been extremely fun to put our ideas into practice. We have ended up using colours which we would never have thought to combine, in patterns which we may not otherwise have chosen, which is exactly the point of our experiment!

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All the images used in this post first appeared in the instagram feeds of @tomofholland or @felixbadanimal!

My Stranded Year – or, a Sanquhar vs Fair Isle Mash-Up

It slowly dawned upon me that I shall be knitting heaps of stranded colourwork this year.

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Sanquhar vs Fair Isle mash-up swatch in Foula wool

Let me start off by saying that I’m very excited that I have been invited by Shetland Wool Week this year to work on a project together with my friend and purveyor of finest quotidian sound artefacts, Dr Felicity Ford. We will be joined by talented knitwear designed Di Gilpin., who was awarded The Balvenie Master of Craft award for the Textiles Category for 2012. I, for one, cannot wait to go to the Isles that have such rich knitting traditions and see them firsthand.

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Shetland Wool Week, image © Dave Wheeler and used with kind permission

Secondly, those of you who are familiar with Susan Crawford’s work probably know she is working on a Vintage Shetland book. I’m pleased to say she has asked me again to knit a sample garment for her. It will be a very special Fair Isle jumper, and that’s all I’m allowed to say for now.

Lastly, my obsession with Sanquhar gloves knows no bounds, and I will be doing some research on them over the summer. A good excuse to 1) knit some more Sanquhar gloves; and 2) plan a visit to the Knitting Reference Library.

In preparation for all these stranded colourwork projects, I thought I’d investigate something that’s intrigued me for a while now. It’s colour dominance in stranded colourwork.

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The top and bottom bands shows the Midge and Fly pattern from Sanquhar. The middle bands show typical Fair Isle patterns: a classic OXO border pattern and a peerie pattern to separate the two.

Although Sanquhar knitting typically only uses two colours, and Fair Isle usually a greater number of colours, for both you will only ever knit with two colours in one given row of knitting. This can be achieved in a number of ways. In all cases, you will strand the colour not in use along the back of the fabric, hence the name “stranded colourwork.”

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The back of my swatch, showing the strands of the yarn not in use

For a long time, I used to knit with one colour in each hand: the one in my left hand to be knitted continental style, and the one in my right hand to be knitted English style. But I was never quite happy with my tension as the stitches made continental style were much looser than the one made English style. This was exacerbated by the nature of stranded colourwork: one yarn will always appear more dominant than the other. If you peer over the needles whilst you’re doing stranded colourwork, you will see that one yarn will always come from underneath the other. Usually, this is the dominant yarn.

In order to even out my tension problems between left and right hand, I first tried holding both yarns in my right hand. That didn’t work for me at all and not soon after I started knitting with both yarns in my left hand. My tension between dominant and non-dominant yarn is much more even now. I was curious to find out how big the difference is, in order to make an informed decision for my next stranded colourwork project. I decided to use both Sanquhar and Fair Isle patterns, as the effect might be different. The bottom half was knitted such that for each row, the light colour was on the right of my index finger, and the dark colour on the left. The peerie pattern (the small band separating the two bands of OXO patterns,) is where I switched over and the top half was knitted with the light colour always on the left and the dark on the right.

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Bottom half: lighter yarn always on the right on my index finger, and darker yarn always on the left

Looking at the Sanquhar Midge and Fly pattern in the bottom half,the white stitches appear to be larger than the black ones, and the flies appear almost more like vertical stripes rather than small crosses, especially in close-up. As you can see from the picture of the back of the swatch, the floats of white yarn almost hide the black yarn floats.

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Top half: lighter yarn always on the left of my index finger, darker yarn always on the right

Now for the top half: again, looking at the Midge and Fly pattern, I think that the black and white stitches are much more even in size, yet somehow the flies seem to be a bit less pronounced in the top half. In addition, I find the results of switching dominant yarns less obvious in the OXO border patterns.

Before knitting this swatch, I was convinced I would be able to clearly show which way looks better, and make up my mind about which side (left or right,) I ought to use as the dominant yarn. However, now I’m not so sure. For each of the Sanqhuhar and the Fair Isle, which one do you think looks better, top or bottom half of the swatch?

To Knit Socks

“I wish I knew how to knit socks,” “I’d love to be able to knit my own socks,” “wow, did you really knit those socks yourself?” “do you teach sock knitting?” are comments and questions I frequently hear whenever I run one of my darning classes or workshops.

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I’m happy to announce that in April, I will start my first sock-knitting short course!

This sock knitting course is aimed at the intermediate knitter, who already knows how to cast on, knit, purl, increase, decrease, and cast off. You may have knitted a sweater, but haven’t tried knitting in the round yet. I will teach you how to knit basic, well-fitting socks on double-pointed needles from the cuff down.

During the first session (Sunday, 14 April, 11am-1pm), you will learn how to knit in the round on double-pointed needles (also known as DPNs); a suitable cast-on technique for socks; and taking the right measurements. Then, when you get home, you can be confident to cast on the right number of stitches to knit the cuff and the leg.

During the second session (Sunday, 21 April, 11am-1pm), you will learn how to turn the heel. Although I’ve knitted many socks, I still find turning the heel a small miracle. I will also show you how to decrease for the toe. Again, I’d expect you to do some home work, and knit all the way to the toe.

During the third session (Sunday, 28 April, 11am-1pm), you will learn how to graft the toe closed. This technique is sometimes known as Kitchener stitch. We’ll discuss some common sock knitting pitfalls and you’ll leave with the confidence and knowledge to knit sock number two, three, four, and more!

Sock wool and a set of double-pointed needles are included in the price, as is a handy cheat sheet to refer back to techniques and to help record all the necessary numbers to continue your sock knitting adventures. All this for a mere £65! the classes are held at Super+Super HQ, Brighton.

You can sign up by following this link.

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Socks with a Sanquhar-inspired design.

To Be Busy

Dear readers, I can’t believe it’s already mid March! I have so much to share with you, that I’m not sure where to start. So, in no particular order I shall mention some of the highlights of the last few weeks and the coming few months.

First of all, a few announcements on upcoming classes and workshops:

Sock Knitting

Whenever I run a darning class I show my hand-knitted socks that I have darned. For all of you who have asked if I will teach sock knitting, I can now say: yes I do!

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My first sock knitting class is in April, run over three consecutive Sundays (14, 21, 28 April). I will expect participants to do some “homework,” but as this involves knitting, I think it could be worse. You can book here and find more details. This class is aimed at the confident beginner, who already knows how to cast on, cast off, increase and decrease. Learn to knit in the round, turn heels and graft toes.

Darning

Darning is really taking off, and I will be doing quite a few events in the next few months, spreading my love for darning and mending.

First of all, I will be at Wool House at Somerset House, London, for some drop-in darning this weekend (16, 17 March) and a darning class on Friday, 22 March. All for free! Wool House showcases some different uses for wool, and promises to be spectacular.  Check all Wool House events here, including my darning activities.

Secondly, I will be doing my regular Super+Super HQ darning class on Friday, 10 May.

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You can book for this event here. And for those of you who wonder: although these techniques are used for knitwear repair, no previous knitting experience is necessary.

Still there is more! Third and fourth mention go to two one-day darning workshops. These run from 10am-4pm and are a more informal affair. I will introduce the concept of Visible Mending, show examples of various techniques, and then we’ll discuss everybody’s repair needs. Then we will all just pick up needle and thread and start mending!

I will be at Hope & Elvis, in Worksop, Nottinghamshire on Saturday, 4 May. This event is now sold out.

I will be at The Stitchery Studio, Glasgow on Saturday, 18 May. Find details here to sign up.

And more…

Yes, there is still more to share! I will just give you some glimpses of what has kept me so busy in the last four weeks or so. I will expand on all of this in my next few blog posts:

The Curiosity Cabinet of Knitting Stitches was exhibited at Prick Your Finger, London:

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Crafty Magazine interviewed me about The Curiosity Cabinet of Knitting Stitches. It’s a new magazine and it will also feature male crafters, because we do exist!

I have been bitten by the spinning bug. I went to the spinners meet-up at The Green Centre last Friday, where Sue Craig is leading the Knitting The Map project. The aim is to prepare, spin, dye and knit a 1792 map of Brighton; known as Brighthelmstone at the time. I spun up some Lincoln longwool, which I combed myself:

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When I went to Prick Your Finger last weekend to collect my Curiosity Cabinet, we had a right spin-off, as Cecilia Hewett was visiting, and so was Felicity Ford. You may have read her three-part spinning story over on the Wovember blog. She gave me some invaluable advice on how to spin Wensleydale wool into a lace weight yarn:

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I have also been knitting a jumper, mixing some amazing deepest, darkest Romney from Prick Your Finger with some of my first handspun:

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And I haven’t even started taking pictures of my machine knitted swatches. My friend Amy Twigger Holroyd, who runs the fashion label Keep & Share, and who is working on amazing PhD research, invited me round to her studio for an introduction to machine knitting. Despite my initial prejudices, I really enjoyed it! I hope to do more in the near future.

And more darning. Yes indeed! If all this wasn’t enough, I went to the first Brighton Repair Café a few weeks ago. The Repair Café Foundation was originally founded in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, but has gained huge momentum and has gone global now. I first heard about it at the MendRS Symposium and I was so glad to see that we now have one in Brighton, too.

I think I’m done sharing for now. I hope to see you at one of my sock knitting or darning classes or at Wool House. I hope you have all been creatively occupied, too, with exciting new projects!

To Finish as You Started

Have you ever wondered about cast-offs that matches your cast-on? Well, my Curiosity Cabinet of Knitting Stitches contains not one, not two, but three such matches. The Curiosity Cabinet opens to the public on 15 February at Prick Your Finger, so come along for a wee drink from 6 to 9pm.

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long-tail cast-on matched with Elizabeth Zimmermann’s “casting on casting off”

Matching your cast-off technique to look like your cast-on won’t take you any extra effort, yet it is one of those details that really gives a finishing touch to your knitted item. One of my favourites in these matching looks is the tubular cast-on and tubular cast-off for 1X1 ribbing:

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tubular cast-on paired with tubular cast-off

I just love how the stitches just roll over the edge to the other side, and as this cast-on is tubular, you have also knitted a neat little channel in which to hide your yarn tails. A winner all round. Indeed, these are the techniques I used for Susan Crawford’s Kasha cardigan, to match the ribbed edges throughout the garment.

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Kasha cardigan, with matching ribbed edges

As you probably know, the most common used cast-off is the chain cast-off: knit 1, [knit 1, pass second stitch on right needle over the first stitch and off the needle], repeat to end. This is a nice, firm cast-off that gets used very often, and wouldn’t it be great if you could have a matching cast-on? Well, you can. May I present to you the crochet cast-on!

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crochet cast-on complements the chain cast-off

This would be a good match for a scarf, for instance, as they give a firm edge and thus prevent the ends flaring out. If you would like to see these curious stitches in person, then come along on 15 February to the private view at Prick Your Finger, or pop in over the following few weeks.

Or, if you want to add these little gems to your knitting repertoire, then you can join my Curious Stitches workshop on 16 February 1-3pm; sign up here! I will teach you all six techniques shown in the green swatches above. This class is aimed at intermediate knitters.

The Curiosity Cabinet of Knitting Stitches

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!

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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).