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.

img_4024

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.

img_4027

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.

img_4035

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.

img_4037

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.

img_4051

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.

img_4045

Jane McKeating, print and stitch on cotton.

img_4043

Lisa Baraona “Race to Progress” 

img_4047

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.

img_4038

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

img_4039

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…….

 

 

Leaf and lace Scarf (Winter 2015/16)

My leaf and lace scarf pattern was given a 2015 makeover prior to the Harrogate Knit and Stitch show with two current shades of the wonderfully soft and cosy Rowan Felted Tweed DK. It proved to be so popular at the show that I have now made the pattern available in my Etsy shop as a pdf download.

Leaf and Lace scarf lower res (Rob)

Leaf and Lace scarf in Rowan Felted Tweed DK shades 152 and 175

Originally inspired by my somewhat mature (some would say overgrown!) garden, and worked from the centre back downwards the scarf features a symmetrical leaf pattern finishing with the leaf motif at each end. Simple lace provides a border to the scarf. Using two 50g balls of each colour, this would be a perfect Christmas holiday project. Simple enough to do while holding a conversation or “watching” TV but with enough interest to keep you motivated to create a nice long, wrapable neck warmer.

Enjoy…….

Kitty Cushion

kitty cushion front etsy

Kitty Cushion front

Just to prove to you folks that it isn’t always about dogs with me, here is the front of the Kitty Cushion I designed for Harrogate Knit and Stitch Show. It got lots of admirers and the pattern proved to be popular enough that I had to get an emergency reprint done during the show (thank goodness the wonderful husband was there to deal with such emergencies).

The front is worked from a knitting chart (my version was done using double knitting but intarsia would work just as well) and the back is a simple but effective two colour slip stitch with a rib top. I did mine in two aran weight yarns. The grey is Rowan Kid Classic to give it a little fluff, and the cream is the super smooth Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran as a contrast.

Kitty cushion back etsy

Kitty Cushion back

I think this cushion would look great teamed with it’s inverse on the other side of the sofa so I plan to be making its opposite over Christmas. If you fancy having a go yourself I have listed the pattern in my Etsy shop. Happy knitting 🙂

Harrogate Knit and Stitch Show 2015 (Yikes! What was I thinking?!)

I’m back! And what a fabulous week I’ve just had exhibiting at the Harrogate Knitting and Stitching show sharing stand TG623 with the lovely Becca Tansley of Alterknitive.  It may have been wet and windy but I still enjoyed my third visit to this picturesque spa town in North Yorkshire, possibly helped by the warm welcome and award winning breakfasts provided by Andy and Tracey at Wynnstay House, and according to Mr Barfoot, THE best coffee shop in the UK (and anyone who knows my better half realises that this is a well researched accolade) Hoxton North, which conveniently turns into a champagne bar in the evenings!

Anyway I digress, so back to the show.  After a 4am start last Wednesday morning (Mr B still hasn’t forgiven me for that!) and only a 1 hour delay sitting stationary on the M1 whilst a broken down lorry took up two out of the three lanes (rude!) at rush hour, we arrived at Harrogate International Centre to this.

00018x

Photo credit Becca Tansley.

You can imagine what went through my head at this point? Yep you got it. Yikes! What was I thinking!?  But by the time we left at 6pm, thanks to the expert help and advice of Julia Neal of Velvet Beacon Ltd we had transformed to this.

IMG_2200

This was me

And this.

0001Py

Becca’s half of the stand (photo credit Becca Tansley)

Looking at my 2m by 1m share of our cubby hole now it is hard to believe the amount of effort that goes into putting something like this together. However, it is also difficult to describe what a buzz I got from seeing nine month’s worth of preparation (and panic) displayed professionally like this.  As a maker the opportunity to see a series of work in all its glory doesn’t happen that often and standing back it is extremely gratifying to be able to say to oneself, “Blimey, did I do that?”  And even better than that was the overwhelming appreciation both myself and Becca got from the thousands of lovely visitors who came by and came in.

So enough about us.  One of my favourite things about these shows is the other exhibitors.  We hadn’t been there five minutes on set up day before Kevin Powell came by for a catch up. I spent the previous two Harrogate Knit and Stitch shows as part of the UK Knitted Textile Awards on a stand next to the Spellbound Bead Company and had many an entertaining chat with Kev, mild mannered bead shop owner by day and Punk Rock star with the band Skimmer by night, usually about music or sharing anecdotes about our furry kids.  He also gave me a copy of Skimmer’s latest album, Baby Dinosaur, which if anything like their previous output will no doubt become my new favourite driving album.  After his comments that it is probably their best to date (and they’ve been around a while!) I’m looking forward to getting in the car later and having a listen.

Situated opposite us in the Textile Gallery was the Nicola Jarvis Studio, The Art of Embroidery. The stand was huge and when we got there they were busy putting up wallpaper and furnishing it with the most amazing wooden furniture.  The end result was a haven of calm in the midst of the show frenzy not unlike being in the drawing room of a large country house.  This impression was further enhanced by the wonderful Brian Hunt, a past student of Nicola’s who, despite the bustle and chaos of a show set up, sat tranquil in front of an embroidery loom engrossed in his technically superb stitching for much of the day.

IMG_2210

Brian Hunt stitching in the Nicola Jarvis Studio

I found out later in the week that Brian isn’t the only expert stitcher in his family.  That fabulous sweater he is wearing in the picture is one of his wife Helen Hunt’s creations. I saw the inside of that sweater folks, that lady knows her fairisle!

In another part of the Textile Gallery I discovered the work of talented felt maker Michala Gyetvai.  Not one usually attracted to landscapes in art, this has got to be one of my favourite pieces in the show. The title of the stand was Enchanted Landscapes and this one summed that up for me, invoking all sorts of fairytale esque narratives as I was drawn into its depths.

FullSizeRender-2

“After India” by Michala Gyetvai 2015

Another piece of work that stopped me in my tracks to have a better look and more in line with my usual tastes was this winner of the Art Quilts category at the 2015 Festival of Quilts by Susan Orchin.

IMG_2206

See how these quirky quilted characters, winners of the 3d festival of quilts category, are also mesmerised by this piece.

And no trip to the Knitting and Stitching show would be complete without a little bit of retail therapy.  I didn’t have to venture out from the stand for some of my Christmas present purchases, but obviously I can’t say any more about those as the recipients may guess who they are after reading this and it would ruin the surprise.  I have had a couple of orders for the dog blanket in recent weeks so I also had the pleasure of sourcing some yarn.

FullSizeRender-2

My new favourite yarn

And look what I found (and yes it feels even better than it looks!) The lovely ladies from the Wensleydale Longwool Sheep Shop guessed I might be a repeat offender as I came past most mornings for another look and a squidge, and gave me a shade card.  Good move ladies!

Right, that’s enough putting off the unpacking.  I also have a dog to pick up and all of those jobs I postponed until December to plan for.  Not to mention the other business to run.  But then I also have some lovely new yarn to play with.  Mmm, maybe there’s time for just one more coffee and a quick cast on before I get back to the real world.  Until next time……..

FullSizeRender-3

“Do we really have to get the other dog back Mum? I quite like being the centre of attention”.

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

Dog Blanket (but definitely not for muddy paws!)

Over the past month I have been a bit remiss in posting here due to the frantic production that has been required ahead of the Open Weekend at the Janice Barfoot Sugarcraft Centre 14 and 15 November (see previous post) and Harrogate Knit and Stitch show at the end of the month (what was I thinking!?)  However, I had to take some time away from stitching this morning as I am excited to share with you one of the things I have been beavering away making.  Remember my ongoing obsession with double knitting? Here is the latest product of this, my Dog Blanket (if either of my dogs goes any where near it there will be trouble!).

"dog portrait blanket by Nicky Barfoot"

“Dog Blanket” hand knitted in Rowan Creative Focus Worsted and Kid Classic

Featured in this collection (and working horizontally from left to right in the picture) are portraits of a Doberman, Boxer, Labrador, Weimaraner, Bull Terrier, Retriever, Spaniel, Husky and Greyhound. I’ve knitted my blanket (definitely NOT FOR DOGS) in a wonderful warm and soft combination of Rowan Creative Focus Worsted (the black) and Rowan Kid Classic (grey) and am now looking forward to relaxing in my chair this Christmas in front of a few films snuggled under my luxurious lap warmer perhaps with a cheeky little glass of port on the side table and a bit of stilton.

I have had the charts for each of the dog breeds in the blanket printed into A5 flyers so if you fancy having a go (they will work equally well for intarsia and double knitting) I will be selling them at Harrogate so do come visit stand TG623. I’m also happy to post leaflets out to any of you who won’t be able to buy in person but would still like to purchase so do drop me an e mail or PM me on Nicky Barfoot facebook page if you are interested.

Right, more caffeine required then back to manic stitching.  Hope to see some of you at the Sugarcraft Centre on 14 and 15 November for an open weekend of art and sugarcraft demonstrations, and at the Harrogate International Centre 26 to 29 November for the textile feast that is the Knitting and Stitching Show.

Ally Pally Knit and Stitch show 2015

The past few weeks have been filled with manic making as some exciting plans are now starting to hatch ahead of Harrogate Knit and Stitch show in November where I will be sharing a stand with the lovely Becca Tansley of Alterknitive.  More on this later.  In the meantime I wanted to share a few pictures from my quick visit to its sister show, Ally Pally, yesterday done in the name of research (and not at all a shopping opportunity!).  This was my first visit as a punter for ages having been on the other side as part of the Knitted Textile Awards in 2013 and 2014 and the Embroiderer’s Guild showcase in 2012 and it was a useful and enjoyable exercise to be reminded of the show experience from the customers point of view.

My first favourite gallery this year was Entwined memories, a beautifully curated exhibition by members of the Design and Crafts Council of Ireland.  I particularly liked this wonderful woven piece by Frances Crowe called Songs sung and stories told.

IMG_1953

Songs sung and stories told by Frances Crowe

Just a little walk up the textile gallery from this inspirational work was stitchmonger Kate Jenkins and her fabulous knitted fish stall.

IMG_1955

Kate Jenkins and her knitted fish stall

Now I’m not normally one to get excited about knitted versions of everyday things e.g. knitted cakes, vegetables etc (just ‘cos you can doesn’t mean you should right?), but I loved Kate’s fish. They manage to achieve a perfect balance between realism and the silliness that only knitting something can truly achieve.  And of course what female can resist the red sequiny bling of a knitted rock lobster?  If a number of household insurances hadn’t been up for renewal this month I would have come away with one of her framed pieces.  Sadly I had to settle for a card version of my favourite, Squid in Ink, which you can just see on the wall behind Kate’s shoulder in this picture.

The last of the three highlights of this year’s show for me which I wanted to share with you was the wonderful work of contemporary basket maker Stella Harding. I was blown away by this gallery which was full of amazing sculptural pieces woven from different materials including natural, wire, and my personal favourite collection, tape measures!

IMG_1956

Stella Harding: Geo-metric

IMG_1957

Stella Harding: “Another Star” and “Bling”

Of course it wasn’t all about research and inspiration. I caught up with some friends who were exhibiting, and there might have been a little shopping done as well.

IMG_1961

Ally Pally 2015 haul

As you can see I was very controlled. From left my Squid in Ink card from Kate Jenkins (don’t expect to receive this friends and family, this is going in my card collection and is not for sending until I can afford the original!), some lovely silk threads from Caroline Bell (definitely Weimaraner coloured!), a cheeky card from Embroiderer’s Guild Education Scholar Helen Dowdeswell, and pinking shears a requirement of one of the new projects I am currently working on. OK there might also have been four balls of yarn purchased but I’ll admit to those when I can show you what I have planned for them.

Overall a good day had, if a little rushed yesterday.  Now back to designing exhibition posters and stitching like a mad woman for the rest of the day (month!).  Until next time….

Pickle and Pongo: New homes required

Now that the Knitting and Stitching Shows are over for another year and the 2014 UKHKA Knitted Textile Awards have been announced, Pickle and Pongo’s jobs are done.  While I will be sorry to see them go, there are far too many dogs in my house already (apparently, according to the Husband though I can’t see it myself) so I have just listed them in my Etsy shop. Do have a look and feel free to share with anyone you think might be interested in purchasing a unique, hand crafted gift.

UKHKA Knitted Textile Awards: and the winner is……..

Me! (big grins and a little jig around the living room). Yep folks, the knitted dog heads did me proud and I was awarded the Gold in the Open category. I am particularly chuffed as I was up against some seriously talented knit and crochet artists/designers but those stern looking judges with clipboards who wandered around Ally Pally trying not to make eye contact with us have in their wisdom encouraged me to continue with my madness and unwittingly given me permission to make more. Yay!

I feel privileged to have once again been given the opportunity to be part of the Harrogate Knit and Stitch show by the UKHKA, this being a fantastic experience in a beautiful town. The regular exhibitors at the show tend to have the same location for their stands each year (probably so that return visitors can find them in the maze that is the Harrogate International Centre) and I was pleased to see that the Spellbound Bead Company were once again alongside and I had the opportunity to stock up on some new music courtesy of Kevin Powell, mild mannered bead seller by day and lead singer in playful punk band Skimmer by night. Anyway, I digress (there are just so many talented creative people out there it is difficult to stay focused!), now back to the awards….

The winner of the Graduate category was Camille Hardwick with her beautiful creations inspired by the concept of an “oxymoron”.

"Camille Hardwick"

Camille Hardwick, winner of the Gold in the graduate category of the UKHKA Knitted Textile Awards 2014

The Silver in the graduate category went to Elmina Fors with her fabulous colourwork.

Elmina Fors Silver winner

Elmina Fors Silver winner (graduate category)

And Bronze was awarded to Ainslie Mackie with these lovely wearable pieces.

Ainslie Mackie Bronze winner

Ainslie Mackie Bronze winner (graduate category)

All of the graduate finalists this year had managed to produce items of knitwear that were both worthy of the catwalk and wearable and I think the winners of the awards in particular did a great job of showing how innovative knitwear can also be functional.

In the Open category, Silver was awarded to Heather Drage for the wonderful Willoughby Brown.

Heather Drage and Willoughby Brown, Silver winners Open category

Heather Drage with Willoughby Brown, Silver winner Open category

And Bronze was awarded to Oksana Dymyd with her gorgeous cushions.

Oksana Dymyd

Oksana Dymyd, Bronze award winner in the Open category

So, back to reality now and I need to crack on with the Christmas commissions.  What an amazing experience it was to be part of these awards for a second year. I would encourage any of you hand knit and crochet artists and designers to consider entering this competition next year. Having your work viewed by tens of thousands of people and hearing their feedback is such a privilege and all of the finalists came away with a sense that their hard work and efforts had been validated both by the judges who selected the finalists and then again by the overwhelming response of the visitors to the stand.

“Caught on Calico”

Apologies to those of you who don’t “do” Christmas until December, but I couldn’t wait any longer to show you my 2014 Christmas card designs.  These three hand embroidered doggy doodles all show dogs (and cats in two of them) caught doing something naughty (hence the name of the series “Caught on Calico”) in a Christmas setting.  The names of the cards are: “The Christmas Party”, “Wreck the Halls” and “The Night before Christmas”. No prizes for guessing which title belongs to which doodle.

"embroidered Christmas doggy doodles"

Nicky Barfoot 2014 Christmas card designs: “Caught on Calico”

These embroideries have been transferred to printed cards for me by Moo on their lovely 340gsm paper.  They are for sale and are proving to be so popular I’m on my second print run.  If you have doggy mad friends or relatives who would appreciate a limited edition art card for Christmas, I’ll have them with me at the Harrogate Knit and Stitch show (20 to 23 November) so do come find me on stand A600 where I will once again be exhibiting my knitted dog heads as a finalist in the UK Hand Knitting Association’s Knitted Textile Awards.  Hope to see some of you next week.