Exhibitions, General, Knitted Art

Soft Engineering Exhibition, a review of Textiles Taking Shape

In Hampshire (UK) we have been gifted yet again by the Winchester Discovery Centre with another fabulous textile exhibition. This time it is a group show by soft engineers: Alison Ellen (hand knitting), Ann Richards (weaver) and Deirdre Wood (weaver). Together they are demonstrating the common threads between knitting and weaving and show how the materials they use in their methods, particularly when working with materials of very different qualities side by side, spontaneously shape the constructed fabric.

Deidre Wood weaves with materials of contrasting physical property. The work is straight during the weaving process but when cut from the loom and soaked in water it reshapes itself.

Deidre Wood interlocking circles low res
Deidre Wood, Interlocking Rings, silk, linen and wool.

In contrast Ann Richards work exploits the different spin directions of high twist yarns to create her sculptural effects. Again the work is woven straight and the properties of the yarns are allowed to exert their influence once it is cut out and wetted.

Ann Richards scarves low res
Ann Richards double cloth pleated scarf

I was fascinated by the work of these sculptural weavers, having not been exposed to it before. I was, however, more familiar with the work of hand knitter Alison Ellen who introduced me to the joys of modular knitting a number of years back when I attended a couple of her workshops at West Dean College.

At the time I was working through my City and Guilds Hand Knit Design course and was struggling a little with the process of translating seemingly unrelated visual inspiration into knitted fabric. As a life long knitter with no previous design training, I had always worked from the other way around. That is using an ongoing inquiring experimental process with yarns and stitches (a “I wonder what would happen if I did/used this to……”), creating samples, and the properties and appearance of those samples then suggesting to me what garment they would lend themselves to.

It was a relief when I met Alison as she also appeared to be working (successfully) in this direction too and while it wouldn’t have helped me to pass my City and Guilds, I have continued to use this process, particularly in my knitted art practice, alongside the more conventional design process which I am pleased to say with practice has now become second nature.

Alison Ellen sweater low res
Alison Ellen modular sweater in wool.

Alison’s garments allow the stitches to shape the fabric. She is well known for using a modular approach, allowing herself to effect the drape of the constructed fabric by changing the bias. I have had the pleasure of trying on some of her cardigans and sweaters at a previous workshop and have seen others in them too. They transform once a body is put inside them, and create the most flattering garments due to this bias and drape effect. She has a number of wonderful design books too so if this type of knitting excites you I highly recommend them.

Alison Ellen Books low res
Alison Ellen’s books (you can see my copies are well thumbed)

So my love affair with modular knitting is probably all Alison’s fault (thank you lovely lady!). Some of you will already be familiar with my Weimwood Shawl design (pattern available from Etsy here and if you would like to learn more about this type of knitting, I have two workshops coming up devoted to modules. The first is on Saturday 10 February at Wyvern College in Eastleigh. More details and booking is via the Ashcroft Centre here. The second is a slightly shorter session on Saturday 17 February 2018 at the fabulous Unravel Festival of Knitting in Farnham. More details can be found here.

modular scarf portrait low res
The Modular Scarf design for my upcoming workshops.

I highly recommend you visit this exhibition at the Winchester Discovery Centre if you can. It is free entry and I’m sure those of you interested in textile art and engineering will find it very interesting. If I have whetted your appetite for modular knitting it would also be lovely to see you on one of my workshops.

Until next time….

 

 

 

General, Knitted Art

Tribute

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

0001v1
“Tribute” hand knitted and stitched in alpaca/merino and silk mohair

 

General, Knitted Art

Dog Blanket: Hints and Tips for making up

A number of you lovely people who have bought the set of dog portrait knitting charts have asked me for some guidance on how I made up my blanket.  So if that is you, please read on for hints and tips on how I put the portraits together.

I used four balls of Rowan Creative Focus worsted (100g) (black) and seven Rowan Kid Classic (50g) (shade 885, cloudy).  Using 4mm needles and working on 48sts and 61 rows my portraits came out at 26cm square.

Please note that most of the charts are 48sts wide by 61 rows high. However when working out your tension be aware that the Retriever and Spaniel charts as printed are 49sts wide (61 rows high) and the Greyhound is 62 rows high.

My cable bit was worked separately on 12 sts as follows using 4mm needles:

Row 1: P1, k1, p1, k6, p1, k1, p1

Row 2: K1, p1, k1, p6, k1, p1, k1

Row 3: P1, k1, p1, C6F, p1, k1, p1

Row 4: K1, p1, k1, p6, k1, p1, k1

Row 5: P1, k1, p1, k6, p1, k1, p1

Row 6: K1, p1, k1, p6, k1, p1, k1

Repeating the above, I created six cable lengths that fitted the height of the portraits and attached them to the inside borders of the edge portraits and to either side of the central portraits.

I then made two more long cable borders to fit the entire inside width of the blanket and attached them.

I put a moss stitch external border around the whole blanket as follows: using 4mm needles and the black by picking up and knitting 48 sts per square and 7sts per cable band along the top and bottom of the blanket.  I worked 4cm in moss stitch, knitted a garter stitch turning row on the WS, changed to the grey and continued in stocking stitch for 9 more rows.  The side edges of the blanket were then picked up and knitted as per the top and bottom, adding in an extra 6sts at either end for the top and bottom border bands and completed in the same way.

Hope this helps, and I’ll leave you with the latest double knitting portrait: Kitty Cushion. Who says I don’t listen to feedback 😉

Kitty Cushion header low res

Knitted Art

Knitted Textile Awards 2014: Ally Pally

Wow, what a week! I had an overwhelming response to my knitted dog heads at Ally Pally from the thousands of lovely visitors to the Knitted Textile Awards stand. If only I could have captured on camera the smiles they provoked, particularly Pickle the fluffy terrier.  I got lots of interest in commissions, was shown lots of pictures of people’s dogs and even got to stroke a little chihuahua who had been smuggled into the show in a handbag!  Probably the funniest comment from viewers was a lady who laughed out loud at Pickle stating “that dog has eyebrows just like my Dad!”.

IMG_0783
Pongo, Biffa and Pickle welcoming visitors to the Knitted Textile Awards at Ally Pally 2014

The stand looked fantastic this year, thoughtfully curated by Sam Elliott from Kingston University, and it showed off the work of the finalists beautifully.  In the Open Category we had plenty of knitted sculpture to keep my doggies company including a full size brown bear by Heather Drage of “Born to Knit”, a cheeky seagull enjoying a feast of fried chicken by Claire Sams, and the ENTIRE cast of the Hobbit (minus the dwarves as there wasn’t enough room!) by Denise Salway.

IMG_0802
“Herring Gull eating fried chicken” by Claire Sams

In contrast to the sculpture there were some lovely crochet baby shoes with sparkly soles by “This little”, a striking picture by Tina McCara, a wonderfully wearable asymmetric jacket by Becca Tansley, Babsi Cooper’s sculptural crochet dress inspired by the Yorkshire countryside, a colourful crocheted unisex T by Matthew, aka one man crochet, the cutest kiddy colourwork clothes by Anita Joyes, and last but by no means least some gorgeous hand knitted cushions by Oksana Dymyd.

IMG_0805
Hand knitted cushion by Oksana Dymyd

And this was just the open category!  The graduate competition was also amazing in its diversity, managing to be both inspired, technical and wearable all at the same time.  I didn’t envy the judges their job and many of them told us afterwards how difficult they found it.  We await the results at Harrogate.

There was also some inspiring work on display at the Knit and Stitch show by other artists and makers this year.  I think my favourites were Renate Keeping and Jean Bennett.  More on them in another post. That’s it for now.  After a week away being looked after by my Mum, real life and the day job now beckon.  Firstly though a wet and muddy run around the woods with a hyperactive and neglected Weimaraner.

DSCN2864
Way too much energy!