August newletter

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.

 

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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.

IMG_4681

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!

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