An October highlight for UK textile enthusiasts is the Knitting and Stitching show at Alexandra Palace in London. Not only do we get to fill our boots with yarny goodness, it is also an opportunity to catch up with fellow enthusiasts from the Textile World, find out who is new and inspiring, and some of us get to spend a day with our wonderful Mums!
I was particularly excited this year as a friend of mine, the super talented and rather lovely Sarah Waters, had a solo exhibition in the textile gallery. I couldn’t wait to see what she had done with it and as expected it was amazing.
Sarah is an experienced felt artist based in the UK’s New Forest. Her work is inspired by our connection to nature and she has a particular interest in sustainability. Her exhibition at the Knit and Stitch shows this year consists of large scale wall hangings, rich with texture and full of beautiful natural colours, depicting stone, the natural inspiration behind it. Felt sculptures add a three dimensional element to the exhibition. Sarah’s exhibition will be at the sister shows in Dublin and Harrogate so if you are lucky enough to be going to these I highly recommend you pay her a visit. More information about Sarah and her work can be found on her website here.
Another gallery which stopped me in my tracks for a better look was Ann Small’s Layered Cloth exhibition. She has recently published a book of the same name and the work she had on display tempted me to add it to my Christmas List. Beautiful ruffles, folds, puffs, slashes, you name it, anything you can do to create a three dimensional effect from stitching and fabric was here.
Her work made me smile, it had a sense of fun to it as well as a technical wow factor hence I wasn’t surprised when I read that she has a background in theatre and fancy dress costume making.
The final artist I’d like to introduce you to in this post is possibly my new favourite textile artist having not come across her work before. Rachael Howard’s gallery “Red Work” consisted of large scale grids of colourful, simplistic illustrations depicting everyday family life. Her inspiration for the exhibition was taken from 19th century red work story quilts and she likens the effect of these historical textiles to modern day Instagram.
Her work is rich in humour, is very accessible and evokes a personal narrative from the viewer. If you get a chance to check out Rachael’s art she has a website here.
In this post I’ve mentioned three of my favourite galleries from this year’s Ally Pally. There was so much to see I always wish I can have another day to fully appreciate everything but unfortunately dog dinners awaited and we had to dash off. We didn’t leave without a bit of shopping though (my Mum is such a bad influence on me!).
Please feel free to leave a comment on this post if would like to share a highlight from this year’s show and if you are visiting the Dublin or Harrogate Knitting and Stitching Shows I hope you have a wonderful time.
I was so excited about Kaffe Fassett’s “Colour” exhibition at Mottisfont this month that I booked a cheeky day off today to go have a look. Kaffe Fassett (apparently pronounced as “safe asset” for those of us who have been getting this wrong for over thirty years!) has been a huge influence on my creativity over the years and as such could probably be described as one of my artistic heroes. His bold and vibrant designs have inspired me from childhood to the present day. I remember as a teenager drooling over his cabbage and frog tapestry kits wondering how many weeks of paper round wages until I could afford one. And his fabulous 1980s sweaters drove my first tatty attempts at intarsia. Overall his creative career has spanned more than 50 years and he is still a highly respected name and sought after public speaker by knitters and stitchers worldwide.
This exhibition has been beautifully curated with each room focused on a specific colour scheme and painted accordingly to show case the fabulous knitwear, tapestries and quilts. As you enter the first room there is a wonderful quote from the man himself to put you in the right frame of mind: “like so many other crafts, knitting has the potential to create magic in our lives”. I couldn’t agree more.
The theme for the first room of the exhibition is set by the quote “the older I get the more classic blue and white appeals to me”. Something I can certainly relate to myself. He also discusses his love of neutrals in this room, likening them to stonework. I guess this is not something we usually associate with the man but there is no denying the power of beige even to those with such an elevated design status!
The next room makes the wonderful statement that “vegetables have such elegant shapes” and is full of the cabbage, aubergine, beetroot et al images and designs that I remember fondly from early Rowan magazines.
More colour themed rooms unfold as you wander through the upper floors of this richly historic house, including a yellow corridor (unfortunately not enough natural light for photos in there) where he comments on the mood enhancing properties of this sunny hue. Also a richly coloured blue room, and then finally a pink room.
One of the reasons for Kaffe Fassett’s enduring appeal is his fearless use of colour. A quote from the man himself from his 2003 book “Kaffe Fassett’s Pattern Library” explains his approach to an area that many people find quite scary and intimidating.
“The main thing is to have a go at trying out colours, the wilder the better. None of us designers really know what works until we see it, so sampling becomes wonderfully exciting as you stumble on really unpredictable and interesting colouring.”
In my recent knitting workshops we have concentrated on the use of sampling both as a means of gathering technical skills but also for design inspiration. Sampling is a wonderfully safe environment (after all we don’t have to wear the end product if it doesn’t work) for putting together different textures, colours and yarn types in a playful way. We were all excited by some of the outputs.
If you are local and are interested in colour and design do try and get to see this collection in the flesh as the photographs I have shown you don’t really do the textiles justice. Above all I for one can take a bit of advice from this talented man and while I do love a bit of beige he always inspires me to live a little more dangerously. Pink, red and orange!? Hell Yes!
The wonderful thing about knitting your own fabric is the ability to shape and manipulate it as you go. One of the methods to do this is called Short Row Shaping. Simply put, short rows are areas of the knitting where incomplete rows are worked to create more volume than elsewhere in the fabric. This results in a curved or shaped section, with perhaps the most obvious example being the heel of a sock when knitted in the round.
Why Short Rows?
As well as creating a heel, short rows have many other uses:
Shoulder shaping without the stepped effect of the more usual cast off method.
A colour work technique creating non linear areas of colour.
Adding three dimensional texture effects.
Knitting Circles and other curvy 2 dimensional shapes
Working a short row shoulder
A common way to create the slope of a shoulder seam in a sweater is to cast off a certain number of stitches every other row in a stepped fashion as shown in the top diagram. So for example, over 20 stitches, for a right slant, 5sts are cast off at the beginning of each wrong side row four times.
Using short rows, the same slant could be achieved by working 15sts on the first right side row (leaving 5 sts unworked), turning and working back on those 15 sts. On the next right side row, only 10sts would be worked (leaving 10sts unworked), turning and working back on those 10sts. On the next RS row, 5 sts are worked (leaving 15sts unworked), turned and 5sts worked back. On the final RS row all of the 20sts are once again worked, and then all 20sts are cast off on the next row. This achieves a smooth slant versus the stepped one in the first example.
Read on for more clarification on how to do this.
Creating non linear areas of colour
The photo above shows a short row panel on the front of one of my sweater designs. Here I have used short rows to create non linear areas of different colour and texture. “Stripes” can take on a whole new meaning!
Three dimensional texture stitches
The blue section in the photo above shows a lovely textured bobble stitch which is created using short rows to add volume to parts of the fabric. It can be seen from this example that a hole/gaping stitch is visible at the start and finish of the bobbles. In this particular design, this is desirable and forms part of the overall texture. However, as you can imagine, a holey stitch in a shaped area of stocking stitch e.g. on the shoulder shaping or the colour work examples above, would not be desirable. Thankfully there is a method to prevent those elongated, gaping stitches from occurring. This is called “wrap and turn“.
How to Wrap and turn
On a Knit side:
Knit the required number of stitches to the turning point (so using the e.g. of the shoulder shaping above it would be knit 15sts).
Slip the next stitch purlwise to the right needle. Bring the yarn to the front between the needles (diagram 1). Return the slipped stitch to the left needle over the top of the working yarn. Bring the working yarn to the back between the needles, ready to purl. Turn the work and purl back. One stitch has been wrapped (W1) (diagram 2).
When it is time to work across the wrapped stitch in a later row, the horizontal bar which is visible across it will be hidden by working it together with the wrapped stitch (diagram 3).
On a Purl side:
Purl to the turning point.
Slip the next stitch purlwise to the right needle. Bring the yarn to the back of the work. Return the slipped stitch to the left needle. Bring the yarn to the front between the needles. Turn the work to knit back. One stitch has been wrapped.
When it is time to hide the wrap on a subsequent purl row, work to the wrapped stitch. Use the tip of the right needle to pick up the turning yarn from the back. Place it on the left needle (diagram 4) and purl it together with the wrapped stitch.
This is the basis for the wrap and turn method of short row shaping. I hope this post has given you the confidence to give it a try. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll never have a bulky shoulder seam ever again!
I am teaching a workshop on this technique at the Ashcroft Arts Centre in Fareham (Hampshire) on Saturday 7th October where we shall be using short rows to knit a circle (diagram 5). If you are in the area and you would like to come along, booking is available on their website here. It would be lovely to see you!
If you have anything you would like to share about short rows or this post generally, please do leave a comment.
I’m going to make a confession to you. I am an unsociable knitter. Knitting combined with nattering is not for me and while wonderful supportive multi generation communities have evolved around a common love of the craft (and even a genre of “chick lit” has been inspired by these gatherings) it transpires that I can’t stitch n’ bitch. Even the careful selection of specific projects suited as a background activity hasn’t helped me to join in with these social and sociable events and I have come to the realisation that the act of knitting for me is no longer the distraction activity of a hand wringer and cuticle picker but has evolved into an all absorbing meditation.
Finding an inner peace
Quite when this happened I couldn’t tell you. In my twenties I was a keen student of yoga. During this time I was never able to undertake a satisfactory guided meditation at the end of a workout in a smelly school hall, wrapped in a prickly blanket. Perhaps it was the idea of all that sand sticking to me (we were always told to imagine ourselves on a beach!) and the possibility of bugs crawling into my sweaty hair, which left me more tense than relaxed. Similarly the action of staring at a candle flame only resulted in a headache despite plenty of disciplined practice, while chanting just left me feeling self-conscious.
What is relaxing anyway?
My wonderful husband often berates me for my inability to relax as he equates relaxing with doing nothing (something that I actually find quite stressful). I disagree with him as I think that I relax very well but I do have to be concentrating on something repetitive and methodical in order to still my mind. If I have needles in my hand I will be fully engrossed in the action of creating a piece of fabric, slowly, one stitch at a time and as long as I am not struggling with a particularly difficult pattern, what is more relaxing than that?
Enjoying the Journey
Now I am not an unsociable person but I do enjoy my own company and the quiet companionship of my four legged friends. The term “journey” is probably much overused these days as a way of expressing an involvement and investment in a learning experience (of which life, of course, is the ultimate), but I believe it is a word which explains how I have come to view my knitting and other creative pursuits over the years.
Gone is the focus on an end product. This is quite possibly influenced by years of mild disappointment when that final stitch is placed and the physical result never fully lives up to the time, skill and effort involved not just in the making of this particular item but also in all of those items that were involved in the learning and practice to get to this place. Perhaps there is also a mourning of the end of an enjoyable process with the inevitable what to do now state. And of course for those of us who have tried to sell hand made goods there is also the realisation of the very low value that others put on our invested time and skill when the only comparison they have is how much a “similar” item would cost them if they bought it in Primark.
Meditation in the making
While it would be a bit of fib to suggest, when pattern and exhibition deadlines are looming, that a physical end result is not important. However, there is so much to be gained from the process. There is something wonderful about that suspended state where the only thing that matters is total absorption in creating which I can only really describe as a sense of zoning out. Knitting and drawing are the two activities that really bring on this internalised state for me (running with the dog in the local woods has a similar effect although a higher sense of alertness to my external environment is required for obvious safety reasons) and allow me a temporary escape from the outside world. The great thing about this drug free induced state of calm and meditation is that it can be achieved very easily with practice just about anywhere (I never travel on public transport without a set of sock needles and 4ply in my handbag). The downside is that it can become very addictive and some discipline is required if cooking and cleaning also feature on your list of job priorities. It can also lead to the occasional missed train station stop and appointment but hopefully the calming effect of the preceding meditation will over ride the stress of these hopefully infrequent downsides.
I’d love to hear what drives your making. Is it the creation of an end product, or are you all about the process? Please leave me a comment and let me know.
I am sitting at my computer looking out of the window at a glorious Spring day. The sky is blue, the grass is green and there are signs of growth everywhere. It has prompted me to write a short post about colour inspiration (but is probably really just an excuse to show you some recent photos of the amazing plant life that is currently inspiring me). After 10 years of using a robust mobile phone where the battery life was more than a month long and I could throw it across the room (accidentally of course not because I am prone to tantrums) without fear of breakage, my lovely Mother in law upgraded her phone just after Christmas and I inherited an i phone 5. While I have yet to get to grips with a painfully short battery life (that has caught me out on a number of occasions already) I have fallen in love with the amazing camera on it. Helped and inspired by the generous teachings of Emily and Stef at Makelight, my photography has come on leaps and bounds and now I can’t go any where without documenting the amazing visuals around me that I had previously taken for granted.
I know that some of my students on my knitting workshops have told me that they find choosing colours for a project quite scary and friends have also confided in me in the past that they don’t indulge in the relaxing past time of adult colouring books for fear of choosing the wrong schemes. Having done a City and Guilds course and various art qualifications I have explored colour in an academic way and I have got to admit that rather than being more equipped to use it, the theory put me right off. Until, that is, someone suggested that I went back to observation. Nature so often gets it right (after all, survival depends on attraction) and with the ability to take a quick pic of a pleasing colour scheme pretty much whenever one is exposed to it, what could be easier?
Taking more of an interest in my surroundings recently has also highlighted to me just how beautiful the parks are in central Southampton. While everyone was crowed in to West Quay shopping centre yesterday I escaped to this glorious setting a few hundred metres away, which we are so lucky to have and which the council do a great job of maintaining. And yes, it smelled as good as it looked. A great little trick to appreciate the familiar of home surroundings that someone suggested to me recently was to pretend that you are a tourist, seeing your city or town for the first time. What would you look at, take pictures of, write about?
And it’s not just the parks that are blooming marvellous at the moment. Everywhere you look stuff is growing, sometimes planted with care and sometimes quite randomly.
I hope I have inspired you to go on a photo walk and given you a few suggestions to help you choose your next project colour scheme (or at least tempted you to look at the familiar with fresh eyes). I haven’t mentioned shape and structure inspiration in this post but as you can see from the few pictures I have shared with you that nature is also an amazing source of inspiration for that too. So, enjoy the Spring folks, get inspired by colour, get snapping and until next time….
I have recently reignited my love of modular knitting (also known as domino or mitred knitting), and have quickly remembered how satisfying it is to work in bite size pieces while creating knitted items with wonderful drape courtesy of the resulting bias in the fabric. This post is an accompaniment to a modular scarf workshop that I had the pleasure of teaching last month at the Ashcroft Arts Centre in Fareham and is intended as an aide memoir to those lovely ladies who attended and also as a beginners guide for those who would like to experiment with a different method of knitted garment construction.
The term “modular” refers to any type of knitting where modules are made individually and the next module is created from the previous one by picking up and knitting stitches from it. However, it is most often used to describe the specific method of creating a module by decreasing a cast on number of stitches until only one remains. Various shapes can be created by the placement and number of the decreases, the simplest being the mitred square module in garter stitch.
Knitting a garter square module
To create this simple square, an odd number of stitches are cast on. This cast on edge will create two of the edges of the resulting square, with the centre stitch the corner. A stitch marker comes in very handy when working the modules as it can be used to mark the centre stitch. For each right side row, two stitches are decreased either side of and absorbed into this centre stitch using an appropriate decrease. One that I particularly like for this as it has a non directional appearance and an aesthetically pleasing little bump in the centre (hence easy to spot if it accidentally begins to wander off), is the centred double decrease or s2kp. This is worked by slipping two stitches together knitwise, knitting the next stitch, and then passing the two slipped stitches over. The result is two stitches decreased. This is continued until only one stitch, the centre stitch, remains and the result is that the initial cast on edge is gradually brought in towards that stitch, thereby creating a square.
Once the square has been completed the next one can be joined to it by picking up and knitting the stitches along the top of the finished square for one side of the new module, and then casting on the remaining stitches to form the second side of the new module. The process is then repeated.
The diagram above shows how a second square module with the same bias direction can be created from the top of the first.
Of course, squares can also be turned on their sides to form diamonds and in this case the centred decrease is now a vertical element. When a module is created in between the two below, the pick up occurs down one side of the first module and up the side of the next, with the centre stitch in the corner where those two modules touch, as shown in the photo above.
While mitred modules in garter stitch create squares, other stitches such as stocking stitch, create a more elongated diamond shape. It is great fun experimenting with these to see what happens and what design possibilities these shapes present.
If three or four decreases are placed along the cast on edge, the module begins to curve. This is the modular construction technique I used to create my Sparkle design which was awarded second place in the Rowan international design competition a few years back.
So, as you can see, modular knitting is a versatile method of knitted fabric construction which, due to its bias, can create very flattering garments.
For those of you who wish to take your mitred squares to the next level, I have just published a modular shawl pattern called “Weimwood” (so named as it was inspired by and conceived during my daily runs with the Velcro dog around the local woods) which uses mitred squares and triangles in three different 4ply yarns (sock yarn is fabulous for this design) and in different sizes to create an eye catching asymmetrical pattern. The modules are worked in garter stitch with a simple eyelet pattern along the bottom of each and the shawl is finished off with a classic picot cast off edging.
The pattern is available in my Etsy shop as a digital download and can be purchased here.
I hope this post has inspired you to have a go at modular knitting. As you might have gathered, I’m a huge fan so I would love to have passed on a little bit of my modular addiction to you.
Hello and as promised, welcome to a post all about tension.
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.
Measuring knitting tension
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).
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.
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.
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!).
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.
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.
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:
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……..
My inbox is currently inundated with companies trying to sell me stuff for Father’s Day (19 June). This has prompted me to share with you some drawings and memories of my wonderful Dad who has encouraged and inspired me in so many aspects of my creative and sporting life and who I sadly lost at the beginning of this month (and who adamantly refused to believe in Father’s Day on the basis that it was an invented celebration purely created for commercial purposes while still appreciating the card that I would send him anyway!).
A genetic predisposition to making stuff
Dad made stuff and while my art and textile interests are thought to come from my creative and talented Mum, I think Dad also played more than his part. Dad spent weekends in the garage creating amazing things such as the dolls house I was given for Christmas and which I treasured for many years, the go kart made out of pram wheels with a foot and string steering mechanism and a sibling powered motor, and the stilts on which the children of our cul-de-sac competed and broke records for number of widths, lengths and how many times you could go up and down the kerb. My dining room table at home is referred to as the table of doom by my better half in reference to the vast quantity of drawing and painting materials, sketchbooks, needles and wool which cover its surface. It made me laugh the last time I visited my brother’s house to see his dining room table covered in bits of motorbike motor and bicycle. We can’t help it. Making stuff is in the genes!
An athlete was born……
Dad taught me how to ride a bike (a skill which through the encouragement of my husband I later learned I was good at when I started competing locally and nationally in cycle time trialling). All three of us children went through the rite of passage progressing from trike, to stabilisers on a hand me down bike which was usually slightly too big for us (we’d grow into it) and then to Dad holding the saddle and running down the road behind us. Or was he?! When it was my turn, I remember getting to the bottom of the road, putting my feet down and turning around to see that Dad hadn’t moved and was standing grinning at me from outside number 3 where we had started from. From then on I could ride a bike and as the saying goes, I never forgot it. Bicycles have played a major role in our lives both socially and practically from the hours spent cycling up and down outside the house with the other children on our road, to being our main source of transport and our ticket to independence as teenagers. For me, cycling also became a competitive sport. A similar thing happened with swimming. I remember running out to meet Dad who was bobbing up and down in the Devon waves one camping holiday and being told to “swim to me Nicky”. And I did, completely forgetting that I hadn’t put my arm bands on.
Shine on you crazy diamond
Dad instilled in me very early on a passion for music. I was encouraged to play the piano for five years but never really got on with my teacher’s choice of music (classical or nothing) so fulfilled Dad’s prediction of “you’ll regret it if you give it up”. I continue to return to the piano from time to time and still dream of playing jazz. He went halves with me when I bought my first album, “Purple Rain” by Prince, another of my teenage heroes who sadly passed away this year. Dad had a really wide taste in music, with no genre excluded, and which thankfully I have inherited due to early exposure to jazz, classical, rock and blues. He told me I couldn’t sing but it never put me off. I can still sing whole albums that I haven’t heard since I was 15 (if only I could remember where I left my car keys or why I walked into a room) and as I have mentioned to you in previous posts, singing is a mood enhancing therapy that I have always resorted to in times of need and still use to this day. One of my greatest pleasures is attending live music and I am lucky to have a number of excellent venues within a three mile radius of my house which I frequent on a regular basis. The music I associate most with my childhood and my Dad is that of Bowie, Pink Floyd, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong and Kate Bush.
Always in my heart
During his final year of life Dad would often ask me when I telephoned if I was happy. He also told me regularly during these calls how much he enjoyed hearing my cheerful voice and to “keep cheerful”. The happiness of his children was so important to him and I think he needed to know that he had done a good job. I was lucky enough to visit him in the last few days of his life and while he wasn’t aware I was there I was grateful to be able to spend some time drawing him as he slept. Dad told us that you make your own luck in this world through hard work and perseverance. I agree with him up to one very important point. You have no control or say in who you are born to and we certainly lucked out on that one. Rest in peace Dad. I couldn’t have asked for a better male role model in my life and I thank you for your unconditional love and support which have encouraged and inspired me to become the person I am today.
Over the past month I have been working on probably the hardest piece of art for me, to date. It represents my humble tribute to an extraordinary man who’s sudden and unexpected death this March has left so many of us in a shocked state of bereavement. It is difficult to categorise what he meant to me personally: friend, mentor, brother….. none of these quite describe his constant presence in my life over the past 30 years. He was there helping and advising me during the pivotal moments in my adulthood. He taught me how to revise for my first degree, introduced me to competitive sport and the hard work required to train for it, helped me through the stress of buying my house by negotiating on my behalf, and found me a business premises to work from when I changed career.
He was also an encouraging if somewhat brutally honest supporter of my art endeavours (if you didn’t really want to know the answer you wouldn’t ask his opinion) always making an effort to attend exhibitions where I had work on show and was the first person to buy one of my knitted paintings.
A high achiever in everything he did, his no nonsense hard work attitude was an inspiration to so many of the people he interacted with, both within the local business community and particularly the national triathlon and cycling communities. As it was originally through cross country running that I met him it seemed most fitting to me to celebrate his sporting achievements in this piece of work as competitive sport was such a major part of his life from runner to triathlete and finally, cyclist. One of his most significant achievements was as holder of the British Ironman record. This 8:15:21 time stood for 13 years until it was broken in 2008. In 2010 he was also national 12 hour cycling time trial champion covering 275.01 miles in the allocated time.
So here it is, I hope he would have approved. Made with love for John, Karen and especially Erica (the yin to his yang). RIP Julian x