Tension doesn’t have to cause headaches (or how to avoid disappointment 50 hours later)

Hello and as promised, welcome to a post all about tension.

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Nooo, not the T word!

Tension has many meanings in modern life and while this one may not cause muscle spasm (although that depends on how tight you have knitted it!) it can cause headaches. I’m sure many of you have occasionally wondered after a huge time and financial investment, how come this garment that definitely said it would fit your bust size appears to have been created for a small child (or indeed, a giant).

Whenever I mention tension and tension squares in my workshops, the utterance gets met by a rolling of the eyes and a groan from my attendees. After all we have the yarn, we have the pattern and we are desperate to get stuck in to the knitty goodness that lies therein. The last thing we want to do is knit one or multiple samples before we can get going on the dream project. Believe me, I get that, but my counter would be, what is an hour or so of initial investment to ensure that the 50 plus hours of garment construction isn’t wasted. Tension explorations can be entertaining in themselves and once viewed as part of the project rather than an obstacle to hurdle are a habit well worth forming (honest!).

So why do we need to measure tension? The pattern has told us what it is, the ball band has confirmed that we have an appropriate yarn for this project, where is the problem?  It is useful to remember that the tension given on any pattern is that of the designer. They may have a very different knitting style and technique to yourself. One person’s 22 stitches to 30 rows on 4mm needles may measure quite differently to someone else’s, and our own tensions change depending on such things as needles (e.g. a metal needle might result in a different tension to bamboo due to the difference in friction), the weather, if we have had a stressful day, whether it is gin o’clock, etc etc.

Am I convincing you yet? Before you start any project where size matters take the time to knit a sample(s) in the main stitch(es) used in the pattern. Modern patterns use 10cm square as the standard measure of gauge (4 inches in US patterns). The way I tackle this is, using the stated pattern tension as a starting point, I get the needles I am intending to make the project with (as mentioned before, even if the needles are the same size they may not result in the same tension) and cast on the number of stitches to 10cm given by the pattern and then add some either side so that my sample is big enough for an accurate measure to be taken, away from the edges where tension is often different to elsewhere. Let’s say I was looking at a DK yarn with a stated stocking stitch tension of 22sts x 30rows, I would probably cast on 30sts. I would work the 30 rows plus a few more (ideally I’d do about 40 rows), again so tension isn’t skewed by cast on and cast off.

A good argument for having a number of projects on the go at the same time is that after creating your tension square you don’t rush to get the ruler out straight away. The square needs to be allowed to relax and settle as fresh off the needles can be a very different tension to after it has been washed/worn for the first time. So, ideally, the tension square gets treated to a care routine similar to that which the final garment will undergo. A gentle squish about in a bowl of warm water with a few drops of the washing liquid you use for your woollens, followed by a rinse and a gentle laying out on a flat surface (blocking mats or ironing board) to allow to dry overnight is ideal. If you really can’t wait 24 hours plus then you might get away with a damp cloth and a steam iron on wool to help the stitches to settle. Don’t force the damp fabric to conform to your measurements at this stage but let it find its own tension i.e. don’t measure and pin, gently smooth out and leave.  As you can see, having another project to pick up to keep those hands busy while you wait is a good distraction.

Right, let’s get down to the actual measurements. In the pictures you will see a sample square (not big enough I hasten to add!) on which I have measured 10cm across with a ruler (better than a tape measure for this because it is more rigid) and placed pins to mark this distance (there is a slight distortion on the left hand side of the picture which makes it look like the pin is 2mm in from the start of the measurement, please ignore this as it is due to the buckling caused by pinning and a slightly dodgy camera angle).

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DK sample tension square

If I count the number of stitches between the two pins it comes out at 22. If I was working with a more textured yarn I would be wise to repeat this process at different places across the width of the sample and take an average of at least three readings. However, as this is a lovely smooth yarn, one measurement is possibly enough as the fabric is very even.

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DK sample tension square

I would repeat the process with the rows, and in this case I get 31 rows. Be warned that half stitches (and rows) matter with tension squares and shouldn’t be ignored or rounded. Remember that you are working on a 10cm sample where half a stitch might not make a big difference. However, if you multiply that up to a sweater circumference for example, those half stitches will add up and could be quite significant.

If your measurements come out the same as the pattern instructions then it is all systems go. However, if they don’t then it’s back to the needle bag again and trying out a different size. If you have too few stitches then try a smaller needle. If you have too many stitches then try a bigger needle. And repeat……..

A final point about tension is a reminder that different stitches have different properties (and of course designers use this to shape knitted fabric). In the stitch sampler shown below, all of the stitches have been worked on the same number of stitches and rows and you can see from the result that they have varying tension.

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Stitch sampler worked on 26stitches and 14 rows per stitch type.

In particular you can see from this that garter stitch is a much fatter stitch than the others shown, producing less height for its 14 rows and rib creates a narrower fabric for the same number of stitches (which is of course one of the reasons why it is often used at the base of sweaters, sleeves etc to stop them from sagging and bagging).

So, to summarise, tension squares are a good investment of your time. However, I shall leave you with a word of warning. It is also worth checking tension from time to time as you work through your project. The increasing weight of the work as you progress can change the tension (as can relaxing into the project and getting the hang of the pattern etc) so it is worth keeping a regular check on it. So while the square is a good start, it is only the guide to get you knitting. Monitoring progress is also well worth the time (not least as I know people who have mistakenly picked up the wrong needle part way through a project and not noticed until a long way down the line when they have realised that the garment size changed part way through).

I hope that this post has been helpful and/or encouraged you to think of your tension before you start your next project. Best of luck developing your new habit. You will thank me for it (you are welcome!).

 

 

The Importance of Ball Bands (or holding it all together and entertaining bored pooches).

This year I am introducing some short tutorial style knitting know how articles based on some of the questions that come up during my workshops, partly as a place of reminder and reference for those who attend the Knit Ins and also perhaps as an “Ah Ha” moment or a reminder for those more experienced for whom the collection of hints and tips might make their knitting life a little easier.

The first of these is all about that piece of paper that holds your ball of yarn in a nice neat bundle just before you rip into it to indulge in the yarny goodness held within. Yep, I’m talking about the ball band.

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“What? Those bits of paper I steal and rip up actually have some use?”

While they all look slightly different due to branding etc, ball bands all have the same basic information displayed somewhere on them. Here is a typical example from Jamieson’s.

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Probably the first thing you will need to know when searching for your yarn is what exactly are you holding in your hands? Somewhere on the band it should tell you what the yarn is made from, in this case 100% Pure Shetland Wool. This is very important information as different yarn types have different characteristics when knitted into a garment so if you are substituting yarns in a pattern, unless you use a similar type of yarn as the original design you might get a very different result e.g. drape, stitch definition, hold of shape etc. While not necessarily a bad thing as a design can be transformed into something new and exciting just by using a cotton for example in place of a wool, be prepared for a bit of experimentation first before investing in the entire garment.

The next thing I would be most interested in is the tension, and that is given on the band usually by a square grid with numbers along the sides. The grid tells you how many stitches and rows knitted in stocking stitch it typically takes to create a 10cm (4in) square of knitting using the recommended needle size, also given somewhere near by. Sometimes the name of the yarn will suggest what weight it is e.g. if it is a DK, aran or 4ply for example but often the tension and needle size is your clue to this. In the example I have given above, the 3.25mm recommended needles and tension of 30sts to 32 rows suggests to me that I am dealing with a light 4ply as these numbers fall within the usual range for that yarn weight. Now of course these tension numbers are just a guideline. We all have our own unique tensions when knitting and one person’s 30/32 on 3.25mm can measure quite differently to another persons as can the same person using metal needles versus wooden ones etc. So, the numbers give you a guide but unfortunately you still need to work your own tension square before you can safely embark on a project. A post dedicated to the joys of the tension square will be coming shortly.

Other important information given on your ball band is the weight of the ball and the approximate length of yarn in a ball of that weight. When knitting a pattern it will tell you how many balls of the yarn it uses to create the various sizes. In the example I have shown above, these balls are 25g each. Thicker yarn such as DK and aran will usually come in 50g or 100g balls. Hand dyed super special skeins of yarn will often be non standard weights but will be labelled. The length of the yarn is especially important if you are substituting yarns as 25g of a wool such as Shetland goes a lot further than 25g of, say, a cotton which is a much heavier yarn. The moral to this story is if you are not using the yarn recommended by the pattern do check the relative meterage/yardage as you might find that you need an extra ball to that given by the pattern instructions.

If you are buying more than one ball of yarn, the dye lot reference is another important thing to check from the band information. The colour will usually have a numerical reference (805 in this example) and often will have a name too (here it is Spruce). As balls of yarn are dyed in batches a slight difference in colour can occur between batches which might not be visible when holding two balls of yarn together but may show in a sweater front if a ball from a different batch is started part way up a front. To prevent this happening to your treasured hand knits, a reference number is given for each dye lot (here it is 8714) so you can ensure when you are buying your multiple balls that they have all come from the same batch and will all knit up the same colour.

Lastly, somewhere on the band should be care instructions i.e. how to wash, press and generally look after your item knitted in this yarn. These are standard symbols and can be found easily by searching on the internet. For the Spindrift example working down the columns we are told:

care-instructions

So lovely knitters, the ball band is your friend (and not just because it stops your yarn getting tangled up in the bottom of the project bag) and it is probably best not to let the dog steal it and rip it up as you may need to refer back to it at a later date. Try and keep at least one for the project you are working on and put it somewhere safe just in case you need to check some of the information again at a later date.

I hope that you have found this post helpful and will join me next time when we discuss the joys of the tension square.  Until then, happy knitting……..

 

 

Farewell 2016 (or the shite year that woz, leaving a legacy and street/river art arrives in Bishop’s Stortford)

Hello Blogland. Over the next week or so I’m sure you will be inundated with annual roundups and messages of new year resolutions so I thought I’d get in there early in order to draw a line well and truly through this frightful year and focus fully on the new challenges that 2017 will present. Despite the title (and of course you will already be fully aware of my leanings in this matter) I am leaving politics out of this post so please do read on.

This morning’s dog jog gave me some quiet time to muse over the latest sadness to hit our social media streams today, that of the death of yet another of the performers who, along with Prince and David Bowie, formed the musical backdrop to my teenage years. RIP George Michael.  Personally I don’t remember a year of celebrity loss that has been so affecting and I am wondering whether it is because of my age (i.e. I am older therefore statistically those entertainers and musicians who were significant to me whilst I was growing up are also older and therefore more at risk), or whether the rise of Celebrity and social media have made us feel both like we know these people personally because they live their lives under a spot light, and links us to others who are mourning their passing thereby generating almost a sense of self promoting “hysteria” when faced with news of the death of someone most of us have never met (apologies to any actual psychologists out there, these ramblings are purely personal musings and not an attempt to explain anything scientifically). Of course it could also be that 2016 was the year of unprecedented loss that we actually think it was.

Of course, regular readers of my blog will also be aware that I said goodbye to two very important men from my personal life this year and those of you in similar situations will sympathise with how family and friend centred celebrations such as Christmas can highlight these bereavements. So where am I going with this post I hear you ask. There is a link between loss from this year and planning for next. As you may have gathered from previous posts, I don’t do New Year resolutions as these tend to be statements of intent with no real planning and are therefore often doomed to failure. However, I do find the end of a year a great time to focus on what went well/didn’t go so well in the year I am about to leave and let these feed the goals for the one ahead. A planning technique that has been brought to my attention recently is the use of a word to guide, inspire and motivate. I have been struggling to come up with a single word for my business planning but have come up with a word to guide my life generally inspired by a letter that I read from an old work colleague of my Dad’s in response to the news of his passing. The first word that this man, like so many other people who interacted with Dad used to describe him, was “kind” (“I remember him as such a kind man”). While he may not have had a wide circle of social interaction, particularly after his retirement, I find it so moving that those people who did share him with us did not refer to his achievements, material possessions, hobbies etc but instead used this somewhat mild and greatly undervalued adjective to sum him up. While those celebrities we have lost this year leave behind them memories of their respective talents through their fame, music, writing and entertainment, for me, to leave “kind” as a legacy is such a noble and worthwhile thing to aspire to so for 2017 and beyond, my motivation shall be the word “kind”.

Right, bitter sweet indulgences over, here are some pictures to brighten up this post. While pulling into Bishop’s Stortford station last week I noticed some rather colourful and attractive graffiti so armed with Mum and her crazy Labradoodlepoodle, we went on a photography treasure hunt along the River Stort to find out more. And here they are.

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Ella and Mum duck watching

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Bright and colourful wall decoration 

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Still wondering how they did this, from a boat perhaps (no path on that side of the river)

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Decoration on a warehouse wall

I have so much wonderful visual inspiration from my treasure hunt I can’t wait to get started on some work. In the meantime, goodbye 2016. I (and many others) will remember you but not so fondly.

Wishing you all a healthy, happy, peaceful 2017. I’ll see you on the other side……….

2017 Knit In Knitting (or things to do in Fareham on a Saturday afternoon)

So, after a fun session of fair isle purse and bauble making at the Ashcroft Arts Centre on Saturday I have now completed my first year of teaching at this super little venue in Fareham and am delighted to tell you that they have asked me back! For the first quarter of 2017 we are once again offering a monthly project based Knit In and as the first of these is only six weeks away and some of you lovely knitters might be struggling with your Christmas lists and in need of gift ideas, I thought I’d better let you know what we have in store.

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Modular Scarf shown here in variegated sock yarn and cashmere 4ply

Modular Scarf Workshop 21 January: Learn how to knit on the bias to create the perfect square in garter stitch, and then how to join these squares together to make a beautifully draping scarf (to be started in class and finished at your leisure). Modular knitting is an easy technique to master and can be used in a variety of knitted projects from scarves and blankets to extremely flattering jackets and sweaters. But be warned. Working in bite sized pieces can become highly addictive and you’ll soon be seeing squares in everything! This workshop is suitable for all levels of knitter except complete beginners.

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Simple DK sock

Simple Sock Workshop 11 February: Learn how to knit in the round with this introduction to simple sock knitting. Working to a basic pattern terms such as “turning a heel” and “grafting a toe” will be demystified as participants are led gently through the anatomy of a sock.  Through a combination of tutor demonstrations and tutor assisted student practice, attendees will gain the skills and confidence to begin their first sock during the session and will take away a printed pattern to enable them to finish the project at their leisure. To get the best from this workshop participants will need to be able to cast on and off and be able to knit and purl.

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Kitty Tea Cosy (pattern available in my Etsy shop link here)

Knitted Tea Cosy 1 April: This is the knitting workshop for creative tea lovers. During the session knitters of all abilities (except complete beginners) will be encouraged to use their knitting skills and imagination to create the perfect cosy for their pot. A variety of patterns will be available to suit individual skill levels from a simple stocking stitch cosy which can be surface embellished after it has been knitted with buttons, beads or embroidery stitches, to a kitty cosy for the more advanced knitter who would like to have a go at the double knitting technique.  Any one for tea?

As well as these Knit Ins we are also offering a beginners and improvers session on 11 March where participants will experience an introduction to the wonderful world of knitting. Learn how to cast on and off, and how to knit and purl in a relaxed workshop suitable for complete beginners and for those who have dabbled in the past but need a refresher to pick up the needles again. Participants will be encouraged to work at their own pace through a combination of tutor demonstrations followed by assisted individual practice. For those who are ready to move up a notch this workshop will also cover basic shaping of knitted fabric and touch on pattern reading.

These workshops are bookable through the Ashcroft Arts Centre either by telephone 01329 223100 or in person at the Centre during opening hours, or via their website link for Knit Ins here and beginners/improvers here.

I’m looking forward once again to sharing my passion for this creative, meditative and useful pastime. It would be wonderful if some of you are able to join me.

Keeping the glass half full (or survival tactics in a Trumped up world)

So, folks, it happened. That which many of us had been fearing came to pass this week and Donald Trump was elected as President of the United States. Initially social media streams were flooded with statements of incredulity and blame, and then progressed to reminders of historical events, leaving many people in a state of unease (and reading some posts, severe distress) about the future. Teenage children of friends and clients have been quick to point out the potentially worst case scenarios of a post Brexit, Trumped up world, probably because they have been studying 20th century history and are closer to the concept of political alliances and their consequences than some of the voters involved in these recent democratic decision making processes. I remember when I was a child growing up in the cold war era how I would be fearful on a near daily basis of a nuclear attack and that was a time when the only news I was subjected to came from the constant drone of radio 4 which my parents left on in the kitchen all day. The young people of today (along with the rest of us) are now constantly bombarded with news and uncensored opinion via social media, countless TV channels and general access to the internet. How on earth do we stay positive during these unsettling times?

I was pondering this question when I was out running this morning. Today, in the South of England we experienced my favourite type of weather. I don’t mind the Summer months but for me a frosty start to a blue sky morning, immersed in the oranges, reds, browns and greens of an Autumn wood bathed in low golden light streaming through the trees is pretty much my idea of heaven. It reminded me of how fortunate I am and this combined with recent events and interactions, prompted me to come up with a personal plan of action to focus on the things that I can control in order to spend less time worrying about that which is out of my hands.

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Yesterday I saw Professor Brian Cox speaking passionately and eloquently about the wonders of the universe at the Southampton Guildhall. He used the word “beautiful” many times during the evening, both to describe a photographic experience but also an equation or theory perhaps something that the non scientists amongst us would find surprising. It is very easy in these overly busy times to concentrate our experiences on areas where we already have an accepted sphere of interest and knowledge, either professionally or recreationally and maybe a science lecture might not be an obvious choice of entertainment. However, at the end of a fascinating and uplifting evening (despite and possibly even helped by the opening remarks about how insignificant we are both as a planet and hence individuals in the context of cosmology, and how fragile), I vowed to myself that I would allocate the time to explore these subjects further, read more widely and change my radio station from time to time. There is so much passion and knowledge out there and it is constantly evolving. We need people like Professor Cox to share this stuff with us, particularly in the light of recent political persuasion and public opinion that “experts” (and by that I read people who have dedicated their career to a field of study) and science are of questionable value. (I was appalled to read some of the abuse that Professor Cox received on his social media streams after the Brexit vote when trying to explain the value of the scientific method to people who refused to accept its worth).

So what? I hear you asking. How will exploring more help me to stay positive in the times ahead? I think there are a couple of ways this could help. There is the obvious distraction element that if I am busy concentrating on something new (to me) and exciting then I have less time to dwell on situations outside of my control. It also helps to remind me of how brilliant, creative and tenacious humans can be.  While we may be a race intent on self destruction, we are also capable of incredible things. So, I shall continue to be grateful for, encourage by my interest in, and wonder at, the creativity of others by reading, listening to music, attending lectures, going to gigs and wandering around art galleries. This stuff is all great food for the soul and along with the wondrous spectacle of the natural world, makes me glad to be alive.

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And while we are talking about exploring, the other coping mechanism that I shall be endeavouring to implement more of was also prompted by an evening out, this time with a couple of friends in a restaurant. When I began to recount a recent positive experience to them involving something that I am quite passionate about, I was met with blank looks, a perceived lack of interest and no interaction. I can’t say that the conversation floundered as I don’t think it even got off the ground. Are we gradually losing the art of conversation (one only had to glance around the theatre at the Brian Cox event during the interval last night to see everyone getting out their mobile phones to check their life rather than turning to the person next to them to ask what they thought of the gig so far)? You may feel having got this far down my rather wordy and self indulgent post that you can’t really blame them, but I fear that social media may be contributing to this sad state of affairs by creating a forum where we shout our opinion at our “friends” (and the world in general) but don’t really engage in discussion. It is evident from recent political events that on both sides of the Atlantic we have some serious social and political divisions to heal, and listening to alternative view points must be the first step to understanding how to move forward. I can’t heal these large scale divisions but I can make more of an effort to engage with and listen to the people I personally interact with, particularly those with alternative points of view to my own.“Sometimes all a person wants is an empathetic ear; all he or she needs is to talk it out. Just offering a listening ear and an understanding heart for his or her suffering can be a big comfort.” ― Roy T. Bennett. If people feel that their views are being valued, listened to and openly discussed would there still be the perceived need for the “protest vote”?

So friends, family, clients and acquaintances beware as I shall be making sure that you feel valued. If you write a blog I shall endeavour to read it, if you have art in an exhibition I shall try my hardest to visit it, if you write a book I shall read it, if you play in a band (or on your own) I will be grinning at you from the front row of your next gig. I can’t change the world folks, but I hope that I can contribute to someone else’s sense of well being by listening to them and appreciating the hard work and passion that they put into their careers, families, hobbies and sports. When I do take the time to try to understand what excites the people I interact with I am always amazed at how interesting people are (even if their passion is Saints Football Club!). People are never boring, some are just a little more challenging to get to know and it is almost always worth the effort trying.

“Nothing ever lasts forever” as pointed out by the fabulous Echo and the Bunnymen (another expedition I had this week and I’ve gotta say Mac still has an amazing set of lungs on him, 20 years down the line) and change can be scary and disorientating as we venture into the unknown. I choose to take the view that for every cloud there must be a silver lining (although sometimes it needs a little polishing) and while 2016 will be remembered by many of us as a year of huge loss both in terms of national identity, and by the death of so many talented and iconic entertainers, musicians and presenters (RIP Leonard Cohen, the latest sad loss to the cultural world) we can strive to make things better. I shall begin by improving my listening skills. I’m all ears…….

 

The “C” word (or being ahead of the curve for the first time and a little bit of bling brightens up the day).

Hello blog land (Mum), it’s been a while, but what a productive while it has been and I am feeling just a little bit smug. For the first time I have Christmas designs before November and am now a little bit embarrassed to mention them for fear of offending some of you lovely people who find the “C” word used before December highly offensive.

There was a reason to be super prepared this year (and not least because I only managed a hand full of Christmas cards last year which sold out within two days of receiving them back from the printers) as I have a stand at the Let’s Make Christmas event on the 20th November at the Ashcroft Arts Centre. So, with these festivities in mind I have been beavering away to produce some new stitch kit designs which thoroughly embrace the season with red and white, blue and white and a little bit of bling (although personally I would be happy to stitch in these threads at any time of year but then I also have fairy lights on in my kitchen all year round).

So here they are. First up is Christmas Kitty Skittle, which takes one of my most popular stitch kit designs and reworks it in folk patterns and gold highlights.

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Christmas Kitty Skittle  limited edition embroidery kit by Nicky Barfoot

The next kit design is Sam, a new character to add to the collection, who is dreaming of the treats Santa will be bringing him on Christmas morning.

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Sam limited edition embroidery kit by Nicky Barfoot

And of course I had to include a canine character and this one is modelled on my favourite muse.

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Seasonal Sas limited edition embroidery kit by Nicky Barfoot

I shall have these kits with me at the Ashcroft Centre if you are planning on coming along but for those unable to partake of the fun I have also listed the cats in my Etsy shop with Sas to follow in the next few days.

So, that’s it for now folks. I’ve got some very exciting stitching on the hoop at the moment which I can’t tell you about just yet. More on this in a future post so until then……..

Ally Pally 2016 roundup (or the stuff I liked this year, shop ’til you drop, and why do Mum’s carry mobile phones?)

I took a cheeky day off on Wednesday of last week to spend some quality time with Mum at the first day of this year’s London Knit and Stitch show, and what a blinder it was.  I may be considerably poorer (totes ran out of dosh by lunchtime) but I came away wishing that I had another day to go back and visit all over again.  So, as is my usual practice, here are a few highlights for me this year.

First highlight was actually achieving a meet up with Mum despite her habit of leaving her mobile in the bottom of her handbag, usually switched off to save the battery life (“I turn it on if I want to make a call”).  We used the old fashioned method of arranging a meeting place and time in advance and sticking to it and amazingly it all worked to plan.  So, partner in crime at my side, we began our shopping spree.  In my defence, Mum is a bad influence, tending to make a bee line for the back hall and the goodies on sale whereas if I visit on my own I start with the galleries in the front hall and run out of time before I get to do any shopping.  Two hours in with empty purse and rucksack full of yarn, needles, buttons and a book, we made it back into the relative calm of the gallery space and began a tour of the wonderful work on display.

First stop was the Embroiderer’s Guild graduate showcase which was full of  young, talented and enthusiastic artists exhibiting a diverse range of work in textile and stitch.  I was particularly taken with the vibrant work of Sam Hussain Designs.

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Sam Hussain Designs hand painted and hand embroidered cotton jersey vest

Next on the agenda was the more calming art of Debbie Lyddon in her Moments of Being gallery.

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Debbie Lyddon, Sluice Creek Cloth: Marsh Shadows (linen and wire)

For any Game of Thrones fans amongst you, the Embroiderer’s Guild had this chap striking a pose in the entrance hall. More info on the Guild’s involvement (and better photos although I do think he looks good against the Ally Pally brickwork!) with this popular dramatisation of George R R Martin’s epic fantasy adventure can be found here.

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White Walker from Game of Thrones

At this stage I saw Mum off the premises to catch her train (and get home before her highly energetic Poodledoodle started climbing the walls and destroying the house) and I reentered the show to enjoy Dionne Swift’s landscapes.  Unfortunately this photo just doesn’t do her work justice so I recommend a visit to her website to enjoy a better look.

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Dionne Swift

I loved the weirdness of Cos Ahmet’s “Thread is a Thought” exhibition comprising sculptures made with woven tapestry and other materials representing his idea of the body as a container.  After all it makes some kind of sense to me to depict the various fibres that make up the human body with the more commonly seen and experienced fibres of woven textiles.

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Cos Ahmet

And the Manchester School of Art’s “Significance” exhibition inspired by the historic collections of the Gawthorpe Textile Collection (over 30,o00 artefacts related to stitch production) was a diverse and inspiring display from both tutors and students.  I particularly liked the vibrancy of Jane McKeating’s work, the simplicity of Lisa Baraona’s fabric stitched line drawings, and in direct contrast, Alice Kettle’s complex and heavily stitched contribution to the exhibition.

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Jane McKeating, print and stitch on cotton.

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Lisa Baraona “Race to Progress” 

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Alice Kettle

And last, but definitely not least, a word of congratulations to Marks and Stitch for their impressive “Impressions” exhibition. A big fan of Alison Hulme’s hand printed pinnies (I own a couple) I was drooling over her latest work featuring prints inspired by graffiti. I was also enamoured by the effective simplicity of Janet Steer’s woven silhouettes, and entertained by the intriguingly composed and colourful free machining of Catherine Fox.

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Janet Steer’s woven tapestries and Alison Hulme’s hand printed pinnies

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Catherine Fox’s free machining: “Pyramus and Thisbe”

There was just so much to see in the four hours I had to play with that I wouldn’t be surprised if I missed out a few gems. However, I came away thoroughly inspired from this year’s show so if you get a chance to visit Dublin or Harrogate I can highly recommend it.

Until next time…….

 

 

Knitting Workshops (or back to school with bobbles, cables, lace and fair isle).

Hello lovely people and welcome back to the next instalment of “what I did this Summer” and this one is all about going back to school.  I am delighted that the fabulous folks at the Ashcroft Arts Centre in Fareham (Hampshire) have invited me back to deliver a series of workshops this side of Christmas. Four of these we have called “Knit Ins”.  Booked as standalone or a series of four (one a month), they have been designed for the knitter who is comfortable with the basics but would like to push themselves a little further by working on a small project which I have designed over the past few months specifically for each workshop.  For each session we shall be looking at the skills required by the pattern, learning and practising them where appropriate, and starting on the pattern itself which attendees can then take away with them to finish at their leisure. For those who are coming back to the next session there will be an opportunity for a show and tell and/or a recap of anything they didn’t quite get the hang of first time around during our tea break.

Bobble Hat 24 September 2016

nelly and me bobble hat

Nelly and me having a head cuddle in September’s project

The first project we shall be tackling is this “Bobble Hat”.  Knitted in an aran weight yarn on straight needles the skills covered include 2×2 ribbing, making a bobble, decreasing and seaming. For those interested we can also cover knitting in the round.

Cable Tablet Cosy 22 October 2016

cable tablet cosy lowres

October’s project is an introduction to cables

For the second Knit In we shall be looking at cable construction using double knit weight yarn to create a bag (hopefully big enough to keep an i pad warm!). This session will also cover seaming (for those who didn’t attend September’s workshop) and moss stitch.

Simple Lace Neckwarmer 12 November 2016

sas modelling scarf

Sas modelling the lace neck warmer project

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Dora making a slightly better job of modelling 

In November we shall be looking at a simple lace neck warmer in an aran weight yarn with skills covered including reading a lace chart, yarn over increases, directional decreases and a three needle cast off.

Fair Isle Purse 3 December 2016

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An introduction to colour work in December’s Knit In 

The last of the Knit Ins is an introduction to two colour stranded colour work with this cute fair isle purse. I chose this one as the December project because of it’s nordic star motif and its potential as a stocking filler (if you can bear to give it away!). This project is knitted in a double knit yarn and my sample is in one of my favourite yarns for fair isle work, Rowan Felted Tweed DK.

If you would like to book on any of these Knit Ins (or would like more information), click on the link I have put on each project’s title and it should take you to the relevant page on the Ashcroft Centre’s website.

I will also be teaching a beginners knitting workshop, also at the Ashcroft Centre, on 8 October for those who would like to give this wonderfully relaxing and creative pursuit a go for the first time. It would also suit folks who have dabbled in the past but need a confidence booster to get back in the saddle.

I am looking forward to sharing my knitting know how and designs again in this relaxed and friendly environment and I do hope some of you can join me.

The Purrfect Summer (or where did August go?, Mum is introduced to Henry, and a few random sheep)

Well, that has got to be the shortest August ever? It was jam packed with exhibition visits, sculpture park perambulations, public garden sketching, drinking gin cocktails at a music festival (yep you heard correctly, it was a classy event) and enjoying a few cheeky fish and chip evenings by the sea side (we are so rock ‘n roll!). In amongst these happenings was wedged juried open exhibition entries, art work delivery trips and opening dos, paperwork and lesson planning for upcoming workshops, and a knit design itch that just had to be scratched (why I felt the urge to work with wool, silk-mohair and alpaca during the hottest month of the year I can’t say, perhaps the anticipation of cooler evenings and with it the return to wrapping up in cosy knitwear, hand knitted socks and boots (yay!)?).

So, firstly, all about me and what have I been creating? The latest of my new knitting designs is this rather cute looking kitty.  I have been pleasantly surprised at the high level of interest I have had in the double knitting technique, so last weekend I put crayon to paper and created a new character to add to my existing chart collection. After a few false starts I eventually found a suitable yarn combination from my stash to test him in, and here he is, fresh off the needles in Sublime organic cotton DK and Rowan Felted Tweed DK.

He looks like a Sydney to me……

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Sydney, light on dark version

 

 

Sitting Kitty light low res

Sydney, dark on light version

Or do I prefer…..?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think he would look rather cute on a cushion, as part of a blanket, as the front of a knitted bag or on a child’s sweater? I have made the chart available in my Etsy shop (Sitting Kitty Knitting Chart) so you creative people can incorporate him into your own fabulous knitted creations (it would work just as well with intarsia as double knitting).  I’m going to put my Sydney to one side while I design a few friends for him as I feel a TV snuggle blanket coming on (yep, I am getting old!).  I’ll keep you posted.

Right, back to some of the other stuff. I grew up in Hertfordshire and I spent my teenage years during the summer months charging across stubble fields usually with a local farmer in his Range Rover (the old fashioned mucky and dented type that was bought specifically for towing livestock and driving off road, usually brown, dark green or burgundy, not the shiny white with black trim yummy mummy version we see these days parked outside school gates) hot on my hooves, to shouts of “Get off my Land!” Little did I realise during these adrenaline fueled adventures through the bridleways and fields around Perry Green that I was galloping past the home and estate of one of my now favourite artists, Henry Moore. This amazing sculpture park and house is open to the public during the summer months so during a weekend at the family home a couple of weeks back Mum and I thought it about time we paid it a visit. And I was sooo pleased we did.

Having seen Henry Moore sculptures in internal spaces such as Tate Britain, I didn’t really appreciate the scale of most of his work.

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Mum and a Henry Moore sculpture (wotta whoppa!)

It was pure joy to see these fabulous structures placed in the landscape and then to get right up close to see the intricate marks on the surface (which apparently were all intentionally placed using various gouging and scratching tools such as bits of wood with nails stuck in). You are allowed to touch the work in the grounds (and photograph it) and the tactile nature of the scarred bronze in the sunshine was very seductive.

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Surface marks

We even got to meet the sheep which inspired his famous sheep sketchbook (well probably not these actual three but you know what I mean).

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Curious critters in the Henry Moore Sheep Field

As well as a very pleasant walk around the 60 acres of grounds and a visit to the workshops and tapestry barn (I finally got to see the (mainly) West Dean produced work I have heard so much about and it was awesome) we experienced the tour of the house.  As no photos are allowed in there you’ll have to visit yourself to get an idea of the creative clutter that the Moore’s lived in. The house has been left as it was when he was alive and living and working from there, and is crammed full of the artefacts that inspired his work including african tribal masks and sculptures (he wasn’t well travelled apparently and most of these were given to him as gifts) as well as natural forms such as stones and shells, along with a few paintings from well known 20th century artists and a huge wall of reference books. It was wonderful to see how these treasured possessions fed his work.

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Reclining in the garden at the Henry Moore sculpture park

I am hoping to revisit before the end of the season, this time with a sketchbook so I can draw some of these amazing structures.  Apparently there is also a reason to visit next year as a big exhibition is planned to include work from other artists connected to Moore.  I can’t wait!

Anyway, I have probably tired you out enough for one blog post. I have lots more to show you but they can wait. In the meantime I hope you all had a good Summer, hopefully with a bit of a break to enjoy it, and good luck to all you folks who are getting your offspring geared up for the new school year next week.  Until next time…………

 

 

Woven eccentricities (or a wonky weave of a geriatric Jack Russell)

Since topping up my sleeved sweater stash (see previous post) we have had a mini heatwave here in the South of England. With temperatures soaring to 30 degrees and little let off at night I have found it difficult to get stuck in to another knitting project. So what to do with yarn that doesn’t result in sweaty hands and squeaky needles and allows a little air flow around the old bod? Yep, you got it, back to the tapestry frame and warp speed ahead on another coptic inspired weave of a wonky portrait, this time Nelly being the muse.

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“Today I shall mostly be fabulous!” Hand woven tapestry in wool, cotton and metallic yarn.

My aim with this one was to use eccentric weaving (where the weft is not at right angles to the warp) to mimic the nap of the fur and to help give the illusion of three dimensions via the suggestion of contour lines. And here is the result: Nelly looking resplendent (and slightly worried i.e. her usual expression) on a majestic looking cushion. Note to self, for the next weave try to create a design that can be woven the right way up rather than on its side as previous ones have been if I wish to avoid developing a permanent kink in my neck and spine from regular progress checks.

Now, what to do next I wonder? I still have a knitting itch to scratch and the temperatures are becoming more conducive to picking up the needles again. However, I wouldn’t want to upset the Big Dog by showing favouritism to the Little and Noisy One so perhaps I should be sourcing some Weim coloured yarn for another wonky weave. Mmm, decisions, decisions, perhaps a cup of tea (or at least the tea leaves) will help? Until next time…….