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.

Double filet crochet

Going back to the Knitting & Crochet Guild Convention in early July, one of the workshops I did was the Double filet crochet, on the grounds that it was something that I had never done and know little about. 

This is what I produced:


The piece is about 4 inches or 10 cm square and the top view is the face and the lower one the reverse.In the centre you can see the 2 layers of filet mesh, one over the other. The technique was very ably demonstrated and taught by Barbara a and Michael Mann, who have made this a speciality, running the East London Double Filet Crochet Group for many years. See their web site here for more about this fascinating technique. There’s also a Double filet/Interlocking crochet group on Ravelry.

So my scrap is but a tiny start, a beginning of many potential projects and design challenges.

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?

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!

 

A beautiful garment

Happy New Year!

I have many resolutions for 2016, one of them being to extol the virtues of machine knitting wherever possible. Over the New Year an old friend of mine appeared wearing a very lovely dark navy blue sweater with a roll neck. It was beautifully made and proportioned, and machine knitted in fine dense pure wool. It was perfect for the occasion where we were part of a group of friends staying high in the Lake District at Honister Hause Youth Hostel. We were at 1100 feet and not that far below the snow line so good functional warm clothes were essential even inside, especially when we first arrived.

Earlier today I had the chance to look at this garment in detail and find out where it had come from. In the past, I have knitted garments for him and also given him small knitted gifts like the small throw that I blogged about some while ago (I had trouble finding it, might reorganise in the next few days) and he is also the recipient of a pair of my hand knitted gloves. In short, I am confident that he has good taste in knitwear. I was curious about this latest model but he does sail and so I knew that he would know places to buy proper gear. It turned out that he just did a ‘heavy duty google’ for fisherman’s jumpers and this was what appeared.

I had a good look at it this morning and took some pictures of the fabric and the structure and also the label. It is made by a Danish firm that I have not come across before called SNS Herning. The web site shows their range of garments which is extensive for men, but rather limited for women. It is obvious from the site that they are pitching at a fashion market as well as to those who want functional clothing and the stockists in London are in key locations such as Redchurch Street, home to Labour and Wait, one of my favourite shops and Lambs Conduit Street, another place for great small shops.

The web site tells of the machines on which the garments are knitted and also a bit about the people who knit them and in many ways the set up is similar to that of small scale weavers such as Melin Tregwynt and Solva Woollen Mill, both in West Wales, who batch produce high quality goods using mechanised looms but hand finishing processes. Interestingly, the SNS Herning sweater label said that it was knitted in Denmark and made up in Latvia, presumably to keep costs down but it could also be to do with access to machinery or people with particuar skills.

So here’s the pictures I took:

IMG_20160103_100928

The rather wonderful retro back neck label

IMG_20160103_101044The sleeve and shoulder

 

 

Detail of hem finish

A rather dark shot of the hem

The fabric is constructed from a dense double jersey (the plain sections) interspersed with bands of a textured stitch, for you machine knitters a tuck stitch, which adds both elasticity and a textural interest. The garment is put together with a heavy overlock, often associated with cheaper quality knitwear but I was impressed by the superb quality of this manufacture which is really solid and immaculately done.

 

And check the label! The whole thing a great advert for machine produced knitwear.

Crochet (not about gloves or Xmas)

A while ago I bought two crochet blankets from a vintage shop in Huddersfield. They are both large, generous double bed size and nicely made. They were a lot of work for someone and are in a variety of mainly synthetic yarns, which does mean that they can go in the washing machine easily.  One is mainly red and the other mainly purple. I have had them in the house on the wall, the red one at the top of the stairs and the purple one on the landing where they looked pretty striking. They hang well on metal picture hooks one in every square onto the picture rail. However, they’ve made the journey to our caravan in the far west of Wales where they are now brightening up the rather beige sofas. Here they each are with a closer shot of the square too.

 

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P1010321

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Vintage crochet blankets

Interestingly, the red one has the squares set parallel with the sides but the purple one has the squares set on the diagonal so that the edges are serrated.

I’ve made several granny square blankets but over the last 10 years or so I’ve had a crochet blanket on the go in rows of double crochet (single in the States I think?). The idea was to use up a large bag of wool yarns, mostly left over from my Knitwear Design Master’s course, which I completed in 1986. So the continued existence of this yarn was and is a testament to whatever mothproofing it has had, and to the fact that I rarely throw anything away (especially yarn).

This blanket was supposed to be my ‘easy’ making – that I could do when chatting to friends or perhaps in the car and so on. It started life in small sections, some of which were plain, and some striped and then got added to in a purposely random fashion with a strip down either side of plain blue indigo and so on.

P1010323

P1010324My work in (very long) progress

The design inspiration came from several sources, including a piece o West African Kente cloth that was brought back for me and a crochet blanket seen on the bed at a friend’s house when staying overnight. I really wanted the overall look to be lively with not too much neatness and order and I think that I have achieved that, although the individual stitches are properly formed. I took the time to sew the side strips onto the main central block while I was in West Wales last week, where the days seem longer, and now I’m ready to finish it off with an edging down the sides and then one last stripe of bright red all round.

If you’ve read this far, thank you and best wishes for a lovely festive season.