Never apologise, never explain

I’ve started hand knitting gloves again after a break since the end of February, and blogging about it too. I have a pair of Sanquhar damrod pattern ones on the needles, almost up to the fingers, which I returned to today. As always after a break, they take some sorting out. This is the general scene as I deciphered the pattern, which hand is which. I had to find some other Sanquhar gloves, one pair that were the first I ever knitted, just seen at the top of the picture, and a pair I bought in A’the Airts, the arts centre in Sanquhar when I made a research visit there in October 2014. These are brown and yellow, a rather unattractive (in my opinion) combination, but often found as an alternative to black and white for Sanquhar gloves. In fact, one pair in the Knitting & Crochet Guild Collection is in these colours.

 

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I found out after much trying on, deciphering notes etc that the initials and date are falling on the inside of the wrists … I thought that I had it planned so they are on the outsides, but no matter how much I tried to alter the layout of the patterns and which hand is which, there was no alternative. I much prefer knitting my own designs for this reason – you (I) know where I am with things, far more than when I am following someone else’ pattern.

There are several written patterns for Sanquhar gloves – from the Scottish (rural, now sadly dropped) Women’s Institutes, Patons and Baldwin’s, The People’s Friend,  the Alison Thomson booklet, and the one that’s on the Japanese web site. I wrote a bit about this in the Center for Knit and Crochet on line exhibition.

Anyway, now I’m knitting again it’s fun with the fingers as you have one square or damrod on each of three double pointed needles. I’ve started the first finger on each hand.

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A major reason for getting going again on the glove front was the workshop I gave a week or so ago, in York, on Yorkshire gloves, for Westcliffe on Tour. This was a very pleasant day as part of a Yorkshire themed knitting weekendbased in York. By the end of the day a good start had been made on the Yorkshire gloves that I designed for the workshop.

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I think the one that is furthest up the hand is the one I am knitting to test the pattern!

Never apologise, never explain, is a phrase that a friend of mine uses and I had always assumed that it was said first by someone like Dorothy Parker or Oscar Wilde … not so. According to Google (or similar) it was said by some naval commander in the first World War. However, I do usually try to do both, except today it would take too long. Sorry!

Project finished

In the new year, I set myself a challenge to design and knit a group of gloves that I would enter for an exhibition with the deadline of 1st March. Well, the challenge is completed, the entry is sent off, even though it hasn’t turned out as I expected.
I decided to machine knit so that I could make a group of gloves. In previous years I’ve hand knitted and made either two or three pairs in this period. The odd thing is that I still only made 7 pairs of gloves or mitts as I spent a lot of time researching and designing the range.
I actually went down some blind alleys too, and then had to start again … and in between times life intervened.

I went to the Lake District to stay with some very old friends (5 days out), then again to the Lakes to give a talk with my partner on his recent book about the Pyrenees (2 days away and lots of preparation), then half term and a 70th birthday party ceilidh to cater for – chilli con carne for 80+ anyone? which took a whole 7 days out of action but this included going swimming in the Splash Pool at Huddersfield and going to Leeds and visiting the university and family). Then there was the visit to Birmingham with the Knitting & Crochet Guild Trunk show, a further 2 days out. Plus I went to the opera in Leeds twice and to Lee Mills two days a week most weeks. So all in all, not really two months of designing and making at all …..

So this is the finished group. I hope you like them.

Gloves, mittens and armwarmers
Gloves, mittens and armwarmers

 

So now I’m wondering what I’ve learnt from this. In terms of designing:

  1. Stay focused
  2. Work around one theme.
  3. Not to get too complicated.
  4. Ugly colour combinations may be a novelty in folk art but are still ugly if you use them in designs to be worn now

In terms of machine knitting

  1. You can make many more problems when machine knitting than hand knitting as it’s so much quicker
  2. The quality of finish depends on the quality of make – very dependent on edge stitches and selvedges
  3. There’s no substitute for making good design decisions. If you don’t, then you are always compensating for it.
  4. You can never have too much good quality yarn.
  5. It’s harder to pay the same attention to detail when machine knitting as hand knitting  – WHY?
  6. You have to make the machine do what you want it to do – concentrate!

So what am I going to knit next? I’m not sure but watch this space.

 

Comments

Dear Reader of this blog,

First of all a big Thank You for reading!

Secondly, since I changed the theme, the comment box has disappeared from the bottom of each post. However, it is still possible to comment using the speech button that is at the top right of the screen.

(At least I think that’s how you do it!)

It would be good if some of you out there could let me know if this works. I really like getting comments (and likes) – it’s an important part of blogging I think.

Thanks again.

Angharad

 

2016 Estonian Craft Camp

Last year I went to Estonia, my first visit. I attended the second Estonian Craft Camp in the beautiful campus of the Olustvere School and Manor. Estonia take ‘traditional’ crafts very seriously and have used them as part of nation building in a similar way to other countries such as Finland and Norway.

I blogged about it here:

https://knittinggloves.wordpress.com/2015/07/13/estonian-craft-camp/

and here:

https://knittinggloves.wordpress.com/2015/07/24/more-on-estonian-craft-camp/

You can see the wristlet I made here:

https://knittinggloves.wordpress.com/2015/08/09/estonia-wristlet-finished/

So this year I’m spreading the word about it, as it was one of the best weeks I’ve had for a long time. The crafts were fascinating, the surroundings were interesting, historic and beautiful and the people were wonderful. So I’m recommending it most wholeheartedly. Have a look at the official information here:

http://www.kultuur.ut.ee/en/craft-camp

 

This is the Facebook page:

 

https://www.facebook.com/events/1654902244780252/

And there’s a 2 minute video on Vimeo – do have a look here:

See you there in July 2016?

A major project finished!

I’ve been working on this crochet blanket for, probably, 10 years, perhaps more. It was supposed to be my ‘easy’ project, that I could do when talking to friends or in front of the tele. It was also started with the intention of using a large bag of wool, mostly left over from my Masters course in the mid 80s, and a batch of indigo dyed wool. This wool was in hanks, very overspun, grey, originally from Craftsman’s Mark, a yarn firm that some of you may remember, which was owned and run by Morfudd Roberts. This I indigo dyed to various shades of dark blue.

The idea behind this blanket was to be quite improvised looking. I was freed from being too neat with crochet by the book, Louisa Calder’s Creative Crochet in which she shows visible joins in colours and other irregularities. Some of the reviews on the Amazon page are interesting – some people ‘get it’ and some don’t.

 

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Anyway, the whole project has been a design challenge as the quantities of yarn seem to have altered – more indigo dyed wool to use, then less, then more on one side than the other, then the whole thing getting far too big and so on. It started as a series of pieces and then got added to with strips being crocheted for the sides, and so on.

I am pleased with it though, although I think the wools used for the final edgings are too new and bright, but I’m hoping that I’ll stop noticing this in time.

The final round was going to be done in crab stitch, which I like to use as a finished edge, but I had a brain wave and decided to use a purple wool boucle for the last round. I think I must have dyed this too, as there’s quite a lot of it and it’s pure wool, not easily obtained now. It completes the piece. Here it is:

Crochet blanket

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I’m pleased with this – it looks like I intended it to look, by and large.

I now have a large bag of hand spun yarns left from my mother -what am I going to make with them?

A ten minute blog

I’ve had a page of prompts, one for every day of the year to ensure that I blog more frequently, if not every day. The prompt for today is this:

Ready, set, go

Set a timer for ten minutes. Open a new post. Start the timer, and start writing. When the timer goes off, publish.

So this is it:

The exhibition that I’ve been working on for nearly a year went live last week and was launched at Vogue Knitting Live in New York last weekend. The exhibition is about Sanquhar gloves and brings together a lot of information about them in one place. The link is here:

It has been organised by the Center for Knit and Crochet in the USA and co-curated by me and Beth Brown-Reinsel. The web work and the launch has been done by the CKC and it looks fantastic. I hope you go to have a look at it.

London exhibitions

A great textile-y start to 2016. Last weekend, 9 – 10th January 2016, I caught a couple of textile exhibitions in London just before they ended. In fact, I went down specially for them, as one in particular had work that I’d only seen in books.

 

The first one I went to was the Fabric of India at the Victoria & Albert Museum.

 

http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/exhibitions/the-fabric-of-india/

 

This was a huge show, taking up all of the galleries that the V & A use for their temporary shows. It was pretty comprehensive too, covering work from thousands of years ago to that produced by contemporary fashion designers. I watched a video about Ghandi and Khadi cloth which was interesting and I enjoyed the contemporary work too.

Then it was a 2 mile walk to St James’s to the White Cube Gallery in Mason’s Yard, itself worthy of a special trip, to see both the yard, which appears little changed since the time of Dickens, and the large modernist building that houses the White Cube in the middle of it. (You can Google images of it, but I wasn’t able to download an image to put here, sorry).

 

The exhibition, entitled ‘Losing the Compass’ featured textile work by a range of artists and included selection of quilts which were labelled as Amish and Gee’s Bend. As I have only seen Gee’s Bend quilts in the book of the same name, I wanted to see some of these in the flesh as it were. They were displayed in a very odd way, I thought and you can see it here.

http://whitecube.com/exhibitions/losing_the_compass_masons_yard_2015/

 

Most of the quilts laid out on large steps overlapping with each other, which didn’t allow the viewer to see the whole quilt.

Amish and Gee's Bend quilts laid out on steps
Amish and Gee’s Bend quilts laid out on steps

On the opposite side of the gallery three were hung from a single point on the gallery wall. I was reminded of the dormitory of one of my favourite French refuges, the Marialles, where I saw the same thing done with the blanket for each mattress in the communal dormitory. I think this is quite stylish for a fleece blanket, as each one has a large eyelet so it can go on a nail above each bed, but as a way of displaying a pieced quilt I think it is deeply flawed. Firstly the quilt can’t be seen in its entirety, because of the deep folds that are created, and secondly, and possibly more importantly, the quilt is put under a huge strain as its weight is being supported by one point.

Gee's Bend quilt at the White Cube Gallery
Gee’s Bend quilt at the White Cube Gallery

 

Blankets hanging in a French mountain refuge
Blankets hanging in a French mountain refuge

 

So although it was wonderful to have the chance to see these textiles overall it was a rather frustrating experience. There was no context or provenance given for the quilts and I couldn’t help contrasting both the way in which they were displayed and the lack of information with what might have been had they been shown in the gallery of the Quilters’ Guild in York. This ironically closed at the end of October last year due to low visitor numbers but was the site of some excellent displays of historic and contemporary quilts. You can see images of it here.

 

The third exhibition I visited is on for a while longer and that was at the Whitechapel Gallery about a movement called the Kibbo Kift. This was a display of memorabilia which included banners and costume as well as papers, photos and letters. You can see some of it here:

http://www.kibbokift.org/

 

So lots of interesting things to see at the beginning of 2016. Please keep reading, there’s another exhibition that I’m going to post about SOON!

 

More crochet

I’m at my daughter’s house and this smallish blanket is on the sofa. I made it perhaps 10 years ago and it’s rather interesting. The design references old pieced quilts such as those made by the Amish and the Welsh, with the five panel centre. Colour is limited and the fibres are natural all hallmarks of these textiles. It’s all wool, mostly aran weight with a variety of hand spun and commercial spun used in the borders. The yarns are indigo dyed, by me and include some greys and dark grey natural wools. These take indigo or other colours beautifully.
The central panels are machine knitted on my chunky machine and were then joined, a further section knitted and then the crochet border worked round. The corners are mitred and the edge finished with a line of crab stitch, one of my favourite ways of ending crochet.

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Here are some images, one of which is duplicated and won’t go away!

Teaching and learning

I’ve picked up on a document put out by WordPress which suggests a prompt for every day of the year for a blog post. Don’t worry, there’s no way I’m going to start posting every day, but perhaps a little more often than I have in the past.

The suggested theme for today is ‘teacher’s pet’ which I’m taking as a start for generally thinking about teaching and learning. I, like so many of my generation, learnt to knit from my mother. She tried and tried to teach me, over two or three years when I was 5 or so. I am left handed , but it didn’t really occur to anyone that you should or could knit anything other than right handed, so that’s what I did, eventually. I also can have very sweaty hands, and the resulting damp or wet, tight mass of yarn and needles was not good. Once I had got the knack, or the penny had dropped, I was away, knitting doll’s clothes, mittens (at school) and a jumper for myself before I was 11. Crochet was acquired as a skill in my teens but in between times I did plenty of French knitting (i-cord on a cotton reel), lots of embroidery, which I loved to work and small amounts of tapestry, the needle worked sort. I learnt to machine knit when I bought a machine in the late 1970s, and that was a battle too, the instruction books being in poorly translated Japanese and YouTube not having been invented at the time.

In the context of knitting and other textiles, I had no formal teaching at all until I was in my 30s when I went on the Knitwear and Knitted Fabric Design MA at Trent Polytechnic, now Nottingham Trent University. I was a proficient machine and hand knitter but had no idea about design or designing. That is what I learnt at Trent although the balance between learning for myself and being taught was a fine one. There I learnt about using design concepts, colour, garment shape and construction, markets, fashion forecasting, promotion and a ton of other stuff. It was a massive sacrifice at the time, involving a weekly commute away from my school age family, and taking a large financial risk. However, it was probably one of the best things I have done, over the years.

Fast forward 30 years or so, and teaching and learning has changed a lot. Now we are all experts. Oddly enough I wrote about this some weeks ago, and then didn’t post it, but now it seems to be a natural follow on from this piece. It will be the next post.