Hand in Glove exhibition

Last Saturday, 12th November, the exhibition of my gloves opened at the Bankfield Museum, Halifax, West Yorkshire. It is on until Saturday 14th January 2017. The Bankfield is open 10am – 4pm Tuesday  – Saturday but it will be closed over Christmas and the New Year.

It was great fun setting up and preparing. The curator, Angela Clare provided me with large fabric panels for the gloves (pinned on) which went into frames and I had 5 glass cases to fill with contextual material. In these are items on loan from the Collection of the Knitting & Crochet Guild where I volunteer, sketchbooks and design work, and items that I’ve designed for magazines. There are five information panels and two frames of vintage glove patterns. There’s also a frame with ball bands from some of the yarns I’ve used over the years. Most of it was planned weeks before so that I could be sure that there was enough material for the space. I used A1 boards and laid out the gloves and items for the cases at home ages ago so I knew that there was sufficient material.

I gave a talk to open the exhibition, just so that people could find out more about why I have knitted all these gloves and some of the research work behind them. I had notified the Huddersfield Examiner   who ran a piece about the exhibition about 10 days ago, and I also had an interview on Radio Leeds. I had Tweeted a bit too, but on the day there were 30 chairs in the hall and about 80 people! Lots more chairs were found so only a few people had to stand. So thank you, print and broadcast media, and social media for getting so many people there. It was very exciting and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.

Here are some pictures:

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The first case with a variety of Sanquhar gloves: 2 pairs from the KCG Collection and one from the Bankfield Collection

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The Yorkshire case: gloves from the KCG Collection, with a first edition of the Old Hand knitter of the Dales, and knitting sticks from the KCG Collection.

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  I’m the one at the front, wearing a white poppy for peace

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With Angela Clare, from the Bankfield. She’s really lots taller than me!

Barbara, my fellow volunteer at the KCG has blogged about the exhibition here: and her blogs are always worth a read.

Knit for Peace

I’ve been experimenting with knitting gloves or mittens to send to an amazing organisation called Knit for Peace. Based in London they both bring people together to knit and understand each other better, but also collect garments and other things that are then sent out to people in need of them, in Syria, mainly.

So as a break from knitting fine gloves, I decided to make some simpler gloves and mittens for Knit for Peace, with the aim of designing a pattern for them; more on that later.  This I saw as an opportunity to explore some different structures for covering the hands, with a view to perhaps using them in my own designs, so not entirely philanthropic in aim! I started with their own patterns for hand warmers which are a garter stitch square that has a gap in the side seam for the thumb. Very straight forward.

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Waiting to be sewn up

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Ready to wear

These are knitted in 2 strands of vintage pure wool Jaeger 4ply which should be nice and warm, and which came from the Knitting & Crochet Guild Convention stash swap. I’ve got another pair on the needles and it’s great to have something straightforward to knit as a change from complicated gloves!

So far I have also knitted 2 mittens from Elizabeth Zimmermann, the 36 stitch pattern from Knitters Almanac, and the garter stitch mitts from Knitting Around. These are in the same vintage pure wool as the hand warmers. You can see these below, and although the 36 stitch mitts look rather long and thin they are actually fine once they are on a hand – like mine!

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EZ 36 stitch mitts

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EZ sideways garter stitch mitts

The sideways garter stitch mitts are interesting to knit, and cunningly constructed but I don’t think they are one of EZ’s most inspired creations – however, I’m still glad that I tried them.

I offered to write a pattern for mittens and perhaps gloves for Knit for Peace and apparently most of their contributors like to knit on 2 needles from patterns that they provide, not Ravelry or the internet. So, I started knitting some mittens on two needles, and I’m almost there with the pattern having realised that you have to knit the thumb before progressing up the hand. I struggled with this, having knitted a whole mitten and gone back to the thumb in the round with a pair of straight pins. It didn’t work. I then had to find a pattern for mittens on two needles, which is not as easy as you might think, to see how it’s done. I found a Canadian booklet for gloves and mitts which explained the process, so now I can progress with my pattern.

So that’s all for now about Knit for Peace, but I plan to be writing more soon.

Helsinki in July

When I went to Estonia, to Craft Camp, last month, see previous posts, because of the lack of direct flights to Tallinn the capital, from the north of England, and my horror of the larger European hubs (Charles de Gaulle, Frankfurt, Schiphol etc; bad experience both ways last year, long story), I decided to fly to and from Helsinki from Manchester, then complete the journey to Tallinn by ferry across the Baltic, just a couple of hours.

So it came to pass that I had two stopovers in Helsinki, one on the way to Estonia, and one on the way back.

On the way there, I had most of the afternoon and evening to explore and the morning of the next day, before catching the ferry. On the way back, I had an evening and morning before heading out the to airport.

So what did I find?

Well, I stayed in a trendy boutique hotel, The Klaus K, which was very central with helpful staff and had rather lovely bas relief in granite by the front door, the only thing is, I’m not sure what they are doing. Something with grapes perhaps, although you would think that Finland would be a little far north for that?

Bas relief outside the Klaus K hotel in Helsinki

Bas relief outside the Klaus K hotel in Helsinki

The water was not far away and of course it was light until late. I also found a great pizza place, my favourite, and some great shop windows.

 

The Louis Vuitton window complete with the planets

The Louis Vuitton window complete with the planets

The following morning, when I went into the main station to buy an English language newspaper (The Financial Times as you ask) I discovered that it is the most wonderful Art and Crafts/Art Deco building with it seemed, most of the original features still in place. Note the addition of the Burger King sign.

Railway station exterior

Railway station exterior

The railway station interior

The railway station interior

Then off to the docks to find the ferry, using the tram system, cheap and easy, but it would have been walkable in fact.

The ferry was brightly painted with a huge disco area and seemed to mainly serve people going across to Estonia to buy cheap booze, which I discovered on the way back when I saw inside a huge hard case full of multipacks of cider.

The ferry to Tallinn

The ferry to Tallinn

On my return visit, I stayed at the same hotel, and ate in the same pizza place (there’s no point in having to find out where things are all over again, I think). Then, having been told the names of the best yarn shops in Helsinki, I went out on a Saturday morning to find them. There were two out of three within easy walking distance of the hotel. Now, I am a big fan of people taking their holidays, and of having time off at the weekend, but in this case, these conspired against me. The first shop, Snurre, had just closed for a fortnight’s holiday, as I had thought it said on their Facebook page, which was confirmed by a sign in the window and my disappointed reflection:

The yarn shop

The yarn shop

It says it's closed for 2 weeks

It says it’s closed for 2 weeks

The second shop, within a few minutes of my hotel, didn’t open on a Saturday. The third was too far away to get to that day.

 

But after that, I had the Design Museum in my sights, Helsinki being one of the hotbeds of mid-century modern, so fashionable at the moment. The permanent exhibition is an excellent exposition of Finnish design from about 1850 showing how the emergent state used it, and still does to some extent, as a means of creating national identity and of improving standards of living. All this I approved of thoroughly and enjoyed very much.

Permanent display of Finnish design

Permanent display of Finnish design

Finnish hospital design

Finnish hospital design

Other exhibitions, which approached design more from the point of view of the design superstar, in this case, Eero Aarnio, I was not so enamoured of, although there was some interest in seeing the construction of ‘iconic’ 60s objects that he was responsible for like the ball chair that is an almost complete sphere.

Anyway, this is the type of ‘design’ that I find most irritating, the designer making statements about “it is also possible to create a new need, a good example of which is ‘Puppy’, which I designed. No one needs it, but there are so many who want it to have it” (from the web site). Why does the world need small models of puppies in brightly coloured plastic?

So that was Helsinki, for me. Next year, I might go via another route.

Estonian Craft Camp 2016

Estonian Craft Camp 2016

Readers may remember that I went to this in 2015 and posted about it here:

and here:

You can see the wristlet I made here:

I enjoyed myself so much that the only doubt I had about returning was that it could be as good again. In the end I decided to take the chance and signed up for Craft Camp 2016, the third one.

You can read about the organisation and aims of the camp here:

The Estonian Government takes the promotion of ‘folk crafts’ seriously and they are taught at university level, for instance at the Vilanjdi Culture Academy.

The camp, for me, is a perfect combination of activities, location and people, and the language is English, which makes it possible, as I don’t speak any of the languages heard there – Estonian, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, German, Dutch ….

The activities I chose this year were all textiles:

Fringed wedding gloves,

Techniques used in knitted garments in Saaremaa, an Estonian island,

Mugli embroidery, and

Saaremaa and Kihnu knitting bags

There are descriptions of the workshops here:

 

The fringed gloves workshop was taught by Kristi Joeste, author of Ornamented Journey, probably the most attractive knitting book I know. Fringes on gloves are said to protect against the evil eye and in this capacity they were worn for weddings. The fringes can be knitted in or sewn: this workshop did the latter. Kristi had studied three examples from the Estonian Museum collection and we knitted small pieces of these, flat rather than in the round, to have a base on which to sew the fringes. These samples incorporated purl ridges onto which the fringes are sewn and some two colour work. Here are the materials (note the 1.25mm dpns) and one of my samples:

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The next was Archaistic embroidery from the Mulgi region, taught by Liina Laaneoja and Annika Vaalma, see here for more information.

The teachers of this workshop are graduates of the Viljandi Culture Academy and have a business making garments decorated with embroidery. We were given the materials to make a game of noughts and crosses using a felt base and 9 small felt squares which were to be embroidered using the following traditional motifs: circle, cross, tree of life and rose. These are worked in only 3 stitches: blanket stitch, chain stitch and stem stitch.

There was a free choice of colours (fine wool thread) to use on a light brown base. I was stuck for colours until I decided to use a photo I had taken in the grounds of the camp that morning as a source:

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I chose to embroider 7 of these squares (about 2 inches/5.5 cm)  to put in a frame, rather than make the game. I discovered that I am a fast and accurate embroiderer (I did lots when I was a child), probably better at that than I am at knitting. This is what I made:IMG_0385(There’s a couple more too, but you get the idea)

The motifs are documented in this wonderful book and this is the page that gave me particular inspiration:

 

The day out was to the Setomaa region of Estonia, but I might post about this separately.

 

The third workshop was Knitted Sweaters and garments from Saaremaa, a large Estonian island. The workshop was led by Riina Tomberg, author of a book about these garments, see:

The project is a wristlet that incorporates some of the details found in these garments. This is tricky technically, as is all Estonian knitting, due to the extremely fine needles – 1.25 or 1.5mm – and relatively thick wool – 2/8s or about a woollen spun 4ply. Making stitches is physically difficult with this combination.

This is the completed wristlet, Riina’s example, NOT MINE, but one person did complete theirs in the course of the camp and showed it on the last day. However, I think they stayed up almost all night to achieve this!

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The opportunity to make a ‘traditional’ knitting bag was the last workshop and for this we were asked to bring fabrics cut ready for patchwork and a lining. These were to supplement those provided in the workshop by Riina. I decided to mix up the two types of fabric and was very pleased with the result:

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The national museum has examples of these bags in their collection and they can be seen here:

(not all have a picture, but it’s worth clicking through to see the variety). Most are clearly made from scraps and some include fabric and crochet; many have a similar aesthetic to the quilts of Gee’s Bend, which I blogged about in January this year.

So that’s all for now apart from a last picture, of me with my products at the show of work on the last morning:

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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.

 

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?