Last May (!) I gave away many of the gloves I have knitted for my friends. One of them, Frank Abbott, is an artist and filmaker and this is the video he made:
This is a very occasional blog, with no regular posts at all in the last year or so. However, if you do happen to come by this way at all, please have a browse around and find out a bit about my glove knitting activities.
These are focused on research rather than knitting in the last few months. I actually wonder if I’m knitted out as all I do is either on the machine or extremely simple hand knitting.
Season’s greetings to any readers, wherever you might be, or what ever season it is – mostly to create light in the darkest time of the year for us northern Europeans.
Those of you who’ve read this blog for a while will know that I justified knitting so many pairs of gloves by starting to knit them for named people. When I began The Glove Project I knitted the Sanquhar patterns and a Yorkshire Dales pair and then some of my own designs. This meant I have enough gloves to last al life time with my initials around the wrist. I hit on the idea of knitting for friends to their choice of colours, initials and dates around the wrists. Going back to 2013 I now have 20 pairs all belonging to different people.
I’ve been planning to give these to their owners for some while, once the Bankfield exhibition was over and then shown at Farfield Mill, it seemed that they should go. It’s taken this long to find a suitable weekend as there are others involved.
I wanted to have photos taken of the gloves, the people and their hands and explored this photography over some months with my friend Geof. We did some test shots and looked at existing images.
Aunt Tilda’s hands, above, is a favourite. This comes from the Center for Knitting and Crochet site here:
At New Year, another friend got interested while trying on his pair. He is a video artist so now we have videos being made as well as still shots. Here’s a couple of the very quick pics we took then:
It’s all very exciting and a good excuse for a get together.
Watch this space for more!
Places are still available on my Estonian Knitting workshop on Sunday 24th March: details here:
It would be lovely to see you there!
The beady eyed among you will have realised that even my intentions to write a monthly newsletter have fallen along the wayside … but the road to hell is paved with good intentions ….. so every time I post I have to re-invent why I’m writing, especially if progress is slow on the glove front.
This blog started life as a record of my glove knitting activities, including knitting, researching and designing them. So it still stands as a record of that. As well as knitting gloves I have plenty of other textile interests – knitting things that aren’t gloves and volunteering in the collection of the Knitting & Crochet Guild mainly but these are not the main subject of the blog.
I also do quite a lot of hiking, travelling, playing music and seeing friends and family. I can’t imagine anyone being interested in any of this, or at least not very much of it, perhaps some of the travel, so I generally keep those things separate. Sometimes I put them on Facebook especially if Oscar the borrowed dog is involved. He always gets lots of likes.
However, and you can probably tell that I’m arguing with myself here, I think that the main purpose of the blog is glove knitting. It’s mainly for myself I think, although if other people – you – ? – read it than that’s great and I hope that you find it useful and interesting. I know people find it when they are thinking about knitting a pair of patterned gloves and I have had commissions because of it.
I also post on other social media – Instagram and Facebook – but that is also intermittent. I do also try to put my projects on Ravelry, which I like a lot as it is so structured and leaves a detailed record of projects. These are my projects on Ravelry:
So, here’s the glove knitting news for the last couple of months:
The group of four pairs that I called the Nature series are now more or less complete, rather later than I had planned. They were supposed to be knitted at the rate of a pair a month starting in April which means they should have been complete by the end of July. But that was only an imaginary deadline, not a real one, and without one of those, I find it hard to maintain momentum. Here they are waiting to have their working threads taken out and the ends darned in:
They were lying on the only patch of grass I could find outside our caravan in West Wales where they weren’t being blown around but you wouldn’t know that from the picture.
All the ends are now darned in. Here’s a look at the inside before doing that:
They will need a hot press so that picture will have to come later.
So what do I think of them? Well, I’m a bit pleased, but perhaps not as much as I had hoped … I have a track record of being very self critical of my design work the instant it’s finished … so nothing new here.
What would I change about them? Perhaps another couple of pairs bringing colours together – the ecru and dark grey, perhaps blue and ecru …
What’s worked well ? I think the light brown and ecru pair is the nicest pair I’ve ever designed and knitted. I love the texture in combination with the colour and will use that again, where appropriate.
When they’ve been finally pressed and tidied up I’ll post another picture.
I’m also busy with some machine knitting, some shells and some hand sewing but the project’s a secret so you’ll have to wait until early 2019 to find out about that. Here’s a couple of pictures if you didn’t see them on Instagram.
Work on my chunky knitting machine
And on my trusty Hague linker
Just one more thing for glove and mitten knitting nerds. I found a pattern for mitten thumb shaping that I’d never seen before on the Purl Soho site a day or so ago. They call them ‘Arched Gusset Mittens’ and this is the link here: I think they are rather wonderful and plan to use this shaping as soon as possible. Here’s a little picture of them from Purl Soho:
So that’s all for the moment. Thank you for reading if you’ve got this far.
I’ve been travelling again during September and October and not getting half as much knitting done as I’d planned (that’s a surprise).
So the month, September, went like this:
The first week I spent in France and Spain, travelling by train from home, Eurostar to Paris and then daytime TGV to Toulouse. I was certain that this would allow hours of knitting time.
However, I was wrong.
We, that is me and partner, had to get up so early for the first Eurostar that once on it, I slept soundly most of the way, waking up just outside Paris thinking we were in Lille. So no knitting done between London and Paris.
Getting across Paris from the Gare du Nord to the Gare Montparnasse also proved to be hard work as was queuing for almost an hour on the train at the buffet. It made what we used to call British Rail look absolutely perfect! So not so many undivided hours left there either.
And then I always expect holidays to have endless hours for knitting, preferably sitting in the sun, but somehow, after walks and drinks and meals and talking there’s not that much time left over, especially for stuff that needs attention like two colour gloves. But at least they had their photos taken – here they are, in various stages of completion in the Spanish sun at Bordes de Graus:
You can read more of what Meghann is doing here: https://meghannobrien.com/
I was fortunate to be timetabled to present my paper on the first day which is always a relief. Here I am waving a pair of Sanquhar gloves around.
I had the chance to have a little look around Vancouver which I liked very much. Here’s a little taster: some interiors of a church and a fabulous Art Deco building, views of the harbour, and the hotel where the conference was held, the Sheraton (very posh!).
The final keynote speech was by Charlotte Kwon about her business importing crafts from India, Maiwa. It was absolutely fascinating to hear how she and her team have done this over the last 30 years. Have a look at the web site to see what they have produced in India and how they support the artisans they buy from. It’s inspirational.
The next part of the trip was to California for a family visit and this we (me and partner, Gordon) did this by bus and train. Bus from Vancouver to Seattle, and then sleeper train from Seattle to Oakland, California.
We had a sleeper roomette, as Gordon said, more ‘ette’ than ‘room’ and some great views during the 24 hours on the train. Here’s some of them, urban and rural starting at the very grand station in Seattle and ending with our arrival at Oakland:
So that’s all for now. California happened in October mostly and includes a couple of great wool shops so look out for the next newsletter.
I hope you’ve read this far – if so, thank you!
I think this is a case of better late than never – I nearly didn’t bother because it’s so late in the month.
However, I have been busy knitting, trying to complete the four pairs of gloves I’ve called the Nature Series.
During August I also walked the Yorkshire Three Peaks, visited Wales, went to London and got ready to go to the Pyrenees.
I’m now preparing to go to Vancouver, Canada for the Textile Society of America biannual symposium, for which I have had a paper accepted. It’s about knitted gloves, specifically those knitted in Sanquhar.
I’m going to put in some pictures of all these things and hope to write more for next month.
Here’s the seashore gloves for Rachel: one of them is now complete:
and here’s just a finger on John’s pair: I don’t have a name for this pair but I do like them.
And here’s a thumb being knitted while on the TGV on the way back from the Pyrenees: all the fingers need to be altered as they’ve worked out too small for the would be owner 😦
And so that’s all for now. I do post occasionally on Facebook, more personal things, and on Instagram for knitting things.
There’s two parts to this month’s post – a bit about Craft Camp in Estonia and some thoughts on my design processes for glove knitting.
So if you read last month’s missive you know that I have been to Estonian Craft Camp since I last wrote here. It was lovely as usual, and I went to two knitting workshops with Riina Tomberg and one workshop on Estonian natural dyes with Liis Luhamaa, who is probably the best natural dyer in Estonia.
Here’s a small slideshow from Craft Camp – it’s not just knitting, there’s images from a trip to a remote island and the glass blowing studio too.
I really want to talk about designing in this blog as this is something that I give a lot of thought to because I feel it’s so important.
My design life has had several stages:
- No design (making it up as you go along) when I made garments on the knitting machine, often bespoke, therefore following design ideas from the customer.
- Design education (learning How To Do It) when I did my Masters in Knitwear and Knitted Fabric Design at Trent Polytechnic in the 1980s
- Being a Designer while I worked for the British Wool Marketing Board – although I didn’t actually do most of the design work, that was done by the rest of my team.
- Running Design Studies, a degree course at the University of Salford, where courses included Design Theory and Design Thinking, as well as quite a lot of design work.
- And now, being a designer once again, this time fully armed and conscious of what to do and how to do it!
So the major feature of the glove knitting project for me, is the opportunity to design and then to execute that design, taking into account all the factors that have to be considered:
* Appearance – so choosing colours, designing patterns, selecting rib type and so on
* Construction – for me, usually a conventional glove, but it doesn’t have to be (could have been hats or socks or houses or whatever … but gloves fits the bill nicely)
* Existing traditions – referencing all the gloves knitted in the UK or wherever else chosen
* Message – what I want to say – about the world and my relationships with it, usually very buried.
* Materials – almost always vintage wools, again reflecting wanting to use the earth’s resources wisely. This also adds a constraint of colour choice, limiting it to what there is in my stash.
* Time available – so usually hand knitted, but occasionally machine knitted to explore ideas faster
Since April this year, I’ve been working on a series of four gloves, (might go up to seven pairs), at the moment with a nature theme. I frequently like to use the natural world as a starting point because it is a place where I like to spend time. Using images collected from the natural world acknowledges its importance to me. This is a highly edited story – backstory concern for the welfare of the planet, membership of environmental groups since the year dot, organic gardener ditto, lifelong mountain walker, blah blah!
The pair I’ve been working on – I’m knitting all four pairs simultaneously – uses a picture of pebbles on a storm beach as the starting point for the pattern on the back of the hand:
When I did my MA it was drilled into me that design had to come from visual sources and visual research. It had to reflect values that were found in this material so that still informs the way that I approach design. Drawing, whether from life, objects, photographs or whatever, had to be done. Only then could fabrics be made. I still follow this design process, even if in sketch form as I believe it gives the work depth and credibility. So following this I started playing with shapes in quite an obvious way.
(I used to be afraid of being too literal in my translation from visual research to fabric but I saw a terrific exhibition of pottery by Emmanuel Cooper at the Ruthin Craft Centre and he had made pots with bright colours as a response to the lights of the city at night and I realised that it was ok to do this!).
So here are some of my pebble related scribbles:
This is the tiny swatch that I knitted to check the pattern was coming out as I wanted. There was a lot more work than you might expect fitting the pattern into the stitches available, and the computer printouts seen above had several versions in total.
This image is probably much larger than the knitting!
And here are the gloves so far:
I hope you have been interested in this short explanation of my design process and why I think it’s important. Do let me know!
I’m posting from the capital town of Saaremaa island, part of Estonia. I’ve been at the Nordic Knitting Symposium and plan to go to Estonian Craft Camp on Sunday.
The knitting symposium was intense with workshops all day and three lectures every evening about Estonian, Latvian and Russian knitting. There were workshops on knitting from all the Baltic countries And north west Russia, which for me was one of the highlights. It was an opportunity to meet knitters from Russia, whose workshops I took.
The knitting they showed is larger gauge than that done in Estonia, using on 2.5mm needles with a light double knitting type wool. The patterns are from an ethnic group called the Komi, which were new to me, but they have been documented in an English language book by Charlotte Schurch, Mostly Mittens: Ethnic Knitting Designs From Russia.
One of the teachers was Zlata Ushakova, here on the left. She hand and machine knits, selling her products by travelling to Moscow by ferry and overnight train from her home in Arkhangelsk.
This is what I made, which is described as a holder for small things; it’s actually a mitten without a thumb and a cord attached, but quite ingenious.
My final project was a small wristband using another Komi pattern; we had the choice of three, a fish, arunning dog or a seagull. Mine is the running dog, in case you can’t tell.
I also went to the machine knitting workshop which was a challenge. (Hand knitters look away now). The teacher had designed a project for a single bed machine including many techniques – a picot hem, a complicated buttonhole, a pocket, some punch card patterning, increasing and decreasing, and finished off with short rows. It was fun following the instructions and as there were only 4 of us in the class, two beginners and two experienced machine knitters we were all able to get finished.
I finished the pouch with buttons cut from a jacket found in a second hand shop in Viljandi bought for .25 euro. After taking off the buttons, the jacket stayed in the shop! The pouch was then washed and dried and pressed in my hotel room. I think it’s the first time I have asked for the iron and ironing board in a hotel.
At the end of the event we were all given a sheet of A3 paper on which to arrange our productions and the final show was an impressive display of hand work.
For me, the lectures were the most interesting and useful part of the symposium, and they added to my knitting knowledge, especially that of Russian knitting. Of course the chance to meet up with old knitting friends and make new ones was perhaps the greatest pleasure and benefit of attending.
It was also interesting to look around the Department of Native Crafts, located in a former bakery in Viljandi, with impressive workshop spaces for textiles and wood and metal work. It made me wonder if such a thing might ever be possible in a UK context.
So, onwards and upwards to Craft Camp. I’m being really brave about missing the heatwave in the UK.
The big news is that I have found clothes moths in the house. The warm weather brought out a lot of moths of all sorts and so I renewed my sticky moth traps and found that I caught three small clothes moths almost immediately. Here they are:
So then I decided that I should turn out the places where I store wool and woolly things which turns out to be more than I’d bargained for. There are garments – current and old, yarn in stash, yarn in ongoing knitting, cashmere, alpaca and wool tops for spinning, and wool blankets – knitted, crocheted and woven, Not to mention a couple of suits and jackets.
First to get opened up was a trunk full of old garments that I keep, a personal archive. There’s a mixture from things I made years ago to things I bought and have never worn to outfits from Trent Polytechnic back in the 1980 s.
Here are some of them:
This is an Orenburg shawl, brought back for me from the USSR as it then was by a friend who’s a research physicist, so he know lots of Russians and used to go there quite a lot. It was bought in St Petersburg and is now at the dry cleaner’s.
A Shetland scarf, bought there on a visit in the 1992. Also at the dry cleaner’s right now.
A rather nice hat, hand knitted. The label inside says it’s from Lithuania but I’m not sure how I came by it … it has been hand washed.
A Shetland tam, bought there.
Hand spun and hand knitted by me, Jacob’s wool scarf, a long time ago
Ethnic socks, think they might have come from Nepal when I visited in 1995
A cotton bag to put handkerchiefs in, hand knitted in Zimbabwe and brought back by me in the 1990s.
The Urban Jumper. My design, machine knitted in glorious synthetics. Worn by my partner in the 1980s
My hand knitting, inspired by the Danish book, Everybody’s Knitting.
It started out life as a dress, and ended up as a skirt and top for my daughter aged about 7 at the time. All wool was unravelled from other garments bought in charity shops.
A cardigan designed and knitted by a Japanese company from when I worked with Japanese knitwear producers.
My sweater drawer has been taken wholesale to the dry cleaner who are giving me a good discount on bulk, including lace items that I really don’t want to have to block and quite a lot of cashmere.
The yarn has gone into the freezer for a while. Information on the web varies on the length of time things should stay there, from 2 days (Vogue magazine UK) to a week. I have been told 3 weeks so who knows what the correct time is? (If you think you know, please tell me pronto!).
Other items have been handwashed and are now ready to go back in the trunk, all sprayed inside with moth killer spray and new newspaper.
And then of course, there’s the big question – why keep most of this stuff at all?