Modular Knitting (or working in bite size chunks and creating a fabric one square at a 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.

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.

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The creation of a mitred square, showing the fabric bending around the centre stitch

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.

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A diagram showing an example pick up from the top of a square module

The diagram above shows how a second square module with the same bias direction can be created from the top of the first.

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Picking up modules from squares placed as diamonds 

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.

Scallops

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.

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A scalloped shape modular design

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.

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“Did you tell them why it’s called Weimwood, Mommy?”

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.

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Weimwood shawl pattern

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.

Until next time, happy knitting.

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.

ball-band

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……..

 

 

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.

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

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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

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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

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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…………

 

 

Stash Busting 1940s style (or the British weather, the folly of a beetroot addiction, caravan claustrophobia and a feminist applause)

In this country one of our favourite pastimes is complaining about the weather, particularly at this time of year. We love a good whinge about what a terrible Summer we had last year, are having this year and will probably have again next year, particularly how it rained EVERY weekend and for MOST of the school holidays. You may be forgiven for thinking that if it is like this every year we as a nation would have resigned ourselves to this fact and would no longer point it out as the opening greeting at every meeting from May until September but I guess in our own strange way (to the much asked polite greeting of “how are you?” how many times do we get a response of “not too bad” or “could be worse“) it is a sign of an enduring if slightly warped optimism.

As a family we gave up going on holiday when I was in my early teens when the challenge of trying to find alternative care for a house full of pets and horses far outweighed the “relaxation” of sitting in a caravan in rainy Devon playing Monopoly. The final straw occurred when Mum in her wisdom and strange addiction decided that what a family of five and a dog in a caravan in Devon could not possibly be without for two weeks was jars of beetroot. On arrival, after a particularly swervy journey avoiding head on collisions on the narrow West country lanes, we opened up the caravan door to find open cupboards and yes, you guessed it, purple everywhere! Dad decided after this incident that he would probably find his precious two weeks off work a year far more relaxing sitting in his armchair at home listening to Jazz. I for one had way too many horse competitions and stuff to do at the stables during the Summer months to miss the tradition of 2am starts to travel across the country with the prospect of enforced time with family members in an enclosed space with no bolt hole or bicycle for escape, and secretly applauded his decision.

Personally I love the British weather. Cited by many of my friends and clients as a potential reason to flee these green shores, I look forward to the changing seasons and the energy associated with the unpredictability of what we might awake to each morning.  I enjoy the full spectrum of possibilities from snow through to heat wave but with none of them out staying their welcome or being too extreme (usually!). Whenever I have flown to hotter climates I am always struck by how dry, dusty and brown everything appears and can’t wait for the lushness of the British countryside underneath the plane as I arrive home. I guess always having had animals to look after and exercise, one becomes somewhat immune to rain and cold as outdoor jobs still have to be done and as the famous saying goes, there is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing (who did say that anyway?).

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the sky may be grey but the garden is lovely and green (except for the piddle patches!)

Anyhoo, neutral introductory ramblings over, let’s get back (briefly) to the political situation in good old GB which continues to fuel the headlines. So, we now have a new Prime Minister and while in my opinion she was probably the best choice out of the prospective candidates, the Brexit farce has somewhat dampened down what a significant time for women in politics this currently is. Theresa May is only the second female to take on the role in British history and one of her first trips as new PM was to visit Scotland’s female First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon in an attempt to avoid us becoming the DUK that I spoke of in my previous post.  This, along with the prospect (everyone please cross your fingers for this one because the alternative is just too awful to consider) of Hillary Clinton becoming the first female President of the US, and Angela Merkel already firmly ensconced as the first female Chancellor in Germany makes this an unprecedented time for woman in prominent positions of power in political history.  With particularly challenging times ahead I don’t envy them but politics aside, as an inspiration to the homogametic sex I applaud them and wish them good luck and judgement in their roles.

If you are still with me (I thank you for that!), this is where the relevance of the past four paragraphs will hopefully now become apparent in the context of creating.  Regarding the weather: I have no sweaters of a suitable weight and sleeve length to cope with chilly British Summer evenings (yes, really!).  Regarding all the political stuff: I needed a calming creative pursuit to lose myself in over the past month or so while escaping into the imaginary world of audiobooks. As far as the beetroot is concerned, that was just a childhood memory that surfaces from time to time at family functions and still causes much amusement.

I have a strange shape for knitwear, having a square body with broad shoulders, minimal bust and a high almost non existent waist (when I was in my early twenties I remember a Summer of baring midriffs completely passing me by despite having a rather splendid belly button ring at the time which I was desperate to show off as non of the T shirts or tops on sale in the shops were short enough to expose any of my flesh!).  I dread fashion returning to high waisted trousers which might as well be over the shoulder dungarees as far as I’m concerned.  Over the years I have learned that while I may lust after flowing or chunky knits, the only way to avoid the “Yikes, what was I thinking?” moment when first trying on the masterpiece that took 100 hours to knit, cost £100 in yarn, and made me look like I was wearing my Dad’s old gardening sweater, is to stick to 4ply and keep it small, fitted and neat. Hence you will not be surprised to hear that my favourite knitwear era is the 1940s which was by necessity a time of stash busting and colour work with unpicking and reworking and slim, neat silhouettes. I am a collector of 1940s patterns and while perusing my library I came across this in “Knitting Illustrated” by Margaret Murray and Jane Koster published in 1948.

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from Knitting Illustrated by Margaret Murray and Jane Koster (Odhams Ltd, 1948)

After taking a quick stash inventory it occurred to me that I had enough Hobbycraft Women’s Institute Shetland 4ply (made in the UK by JC Rennie and Co Ltd and now sadly discontinued) to recreate this rather striking design so after a couple of false starts while I worked out that I needed a purple to complement the blues and green (luckily I had some Rowan Felted Tweed DK which worked well for this) and a provisional cast on so I didn’t have to decide on welt stitch or overall length until the end, this is how it came out.

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Fair Isle sweater in Shetland 4ply and Rowan Felted Tweed DK

And of course, since I finished it on Friday night, we have had a mini heat wave in the South of England with temperatures soaring (comparatively) to 25 degrees or more. You are welcome!

So, folks (Mum), thanks again for reading my ramblings. I am now without any knitting to do and feeling distinctly twitchy so I feel this afternoon I may be returning to my stash to see what else I can conjure up.  This little beauty also arrived in the post yesterday so I think a cup of coffee, a little sit down and a bit of a riffle is next on the to do list. Until next time…..

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New book!

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

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

 

Exhibition news and other stuff

Oops, it’s been a while. Spring has sprung, stuff is a-growing and those without lady dogs have probably already mown their lawn a few times (our back lawn doesn’t have much grass left on it these days due to the muddy craters created by piddling pooches).

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Spring has sprung

Last time I blogged I told you about the Canine Partners textile challenge and exhibition. I am delighted to report that both of my pieces sold, along with lots of other lovely work, making the event enough of a success for the charity that they are looking to hold another one. I’ll keep you posted…..

I also mentioned a rather exciting course I was doing throughout February with talented artist Este Macleod . Every day at 9am we logged in to a class room portal where we were given a creative task to do, based on the letters of the alphabet. I found some of these quite testing, which was my main reason for undertaking the course as I am usually more inclined to draw a literal representation of what is in front of me rather than exercise my imagination, but great fun and rather liberating.

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Faces created from letters of the alphabet

I particularly enjoyed the relief printing exercises using cardboard tubes (toilet roll innards but don’t tell the Health and Safety police ;-)), cosmetic sponges (never had any use for these before!) and Golden’s high flow acrylic ink.

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Relief print, acrylic ink on paper

And, as it happens one of the looming deadlines for me last month was the annual Printmakers Exhibition held at the Oxmarket Gallery in Chichester so my experimentation with relief prints during this course was definitely time well spent and inspired the work I ended up submitting to the exhibition. It finishes on 3 April so if you are in the Chichester area there is still time to have a look.

I also spent much of February working on my submission to the Embroiderer’s Guild celebration of the 300th anniversary of Capability Brown. This was a new challenge for me as you will probably be aware that landscapes and gardens are not my usual subject matter. After a few false starts and a couple of knitting tangents (why is it that whenever I have an embroidery deadline I get a knitting itch and vice versa?) I created a piece of work based on Hydrangea Walk at Sir Harold Hillier Gardens where it will be on display in the exhibition room of Jermyn’s House at Hilliers with work from members of the Solent, Andover and Salisbury branches of the Guild from 11 April. It will also be at the Knitting and Stitching shows later in the year.

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“Hydrangea Walk” hand stitch, acrylic, pastel and fabric crayon on calico and vintage lace

And, the final exhibition I am excited to tell you about is taking place at the Ashcroft Arts Centre in Fareham, Hampshire from 10 to 30 April where I will be exhibiting my knitted life paintings and doggy heads. Talented textile artist Caroline Bell will also be exhibiting her work during this time. On the 10 April the centre is hosting a “Fabrics” celebration with workshops, stalls and demos from local textile artists and makers. I will be teaching a knitted jewellery workshop and also doing a demo of my work processes in the morning. It would be lovely to see you there.

I’ll leave you with my latest knitted life painting created for the exhibition at the Ashcroft Centre. Until next time…..

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“Private Dancer” hand knitted painting

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.

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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…….