May newsletter (about designing)

DESIGNING – what I love doing most of all

I’m a bit of a design evangelist as for many years I ‘just made’ things, deciding on colours and so on as I went along. When I went to Trent Polytechnic (as was) I quickly learnt that some thought at the planning stage can save lot of time and effort on something that isn’t quite right once it’s finished. So for me, designing what I make, sampling, drawing, dare I way it, swatching ? is all crucial before the knitting starts. I come clean, I think there should be more of it done too!

As I wrote in my April newsletter, I’m planning a group of hand knitted gloves that are different from any I’ve done before. When I started ‘The Glove Project’ I knitted knitting existing patterns so that I could understand about construction and ‘traditional’ design, and from there I designed my own.

Now, there’s a limit to how many pairs of gloves someone can knit without wondering what’s going to become of them all and after about half a dozen pairs with my own initials on them, I decided I would knit gloves for other people although so far they haven’t been able to wear them …. but that’s another story.  After that the gloves became more bespoke with customised patterns, initials and dates.

Here’s an early group:

The red and beige ones in the April post were the last in that series I think, highly personalised with bespoke colours, full name and date.

Now, though, I want to use my own colours in response to design ideas but I don’t want to knit gloves that nobody wears. So this series is a fudge, a sort of quid pro quo between me knitting someone a pair of gloves, personalised with their initials and a date of their choice, but my design apart from that. So no treble clefs for the musicians this time round, sadly.

The focus of this group, which might be another half dozen pairs, is their design. I am obsessed with design – not just my own design but that of others and all the examples of good and bad design that we see around ourselves all day everyday. I love exploring design ideas through knitting gloves – they are ideal for what I want to do – use colour, explore proportion and communicate ideas through making textiles.

My starting point is the natural world, as it so often is, especially the sea and beach, a theme that I come back to again and again. There is some imagery from simple rural buildings and forests too. Most of the images I’ve taken are from places in California, but some are from Wales. I showed some of these last time too.

The colour palette is limited to neutrals with a very grey blue and I’ve chosen the yarns from the finest that I have in my stash, so they are all 3 ply, Marion Foale, Jaeger botany wool 3 ply or Regia 3 ply wool that has 25% polyamide in it.

Once the colours were more or less decided then I was able to start to design in more detail. The usual rules of UK style hand knit gloves apply:

only two colours per glove (really hard to stick to)

rib cuff

date and initals above that

small geometric patterns

These constraints actually make the designing easier and more of a challenge simultaneously. 

I’ve been working out colour combinations, patterns and so on in a couple of sketchbooks, totally absolutely vital to the making process. I’m also planning four pairs so that they all sit along side each other so that’s quite complicated. It’s a help to look at gloves I’ve made already to see what I like about my favourite ones. This is the pin board in my studio (spare bedroom) at the moment.

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Here I’m planning out each pair in more detail with little tiny samples knitted over 24 stitches to get a good idea of how the colours are working together. This has been going on a few weeks:

 

I started knitting the cuffs of all fours pairs, both cuffs, and this is the result so far: I promise you they do come apart!

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I’ll post more pictures as I carry on knitting but it will be one pair at a time after this.

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March newsletter

Hello again!

I could say this newsletter is late because of the snow … which actually wouldn’t be true at all as the snow has not held me up! It has stopped me making a trip to the very west of Wales where I have a caravan overlooking St David’s Head but that’s all now put back a week so I’ve had more time at home not less.

So what’s being going on knitting wise?

I’m machine knitting at the moment. This is a fine 3ply wool sweater for my partner, Gordon, to wear under his McNair walking shirt, a Christmas present from me.

The McNair shirt is made in Slaithwaite, a village near Huddersfield where we live, and is a great example of local small scale production. You can read all about it here, on their rather slick web site.   The shirts are not cheap and raise all the questions about how much we are prepared to pay for our clothes, showing it is that global capitalism has made mass production of so many goods so cheap that we can treat them as disposable blah blah … I’m sure most of you are familiar with the arguments on this. Anyway, it was a lot of money, like anything made in the UK that pays the maker anything more than living wage.

Gordon had been wearing an old cashmere jumper of my father’s under it. This goes back to when I worked in the knitwear industry and sometimes visited factories that would have garments on offer, so this is a beautiful garment, classic bottle green etc but with a moth hole right in the middle of the front, probably where some food or drink’s been spilled down it. No amount of mending, visible or invisible, is going to restore it to its former glory, but as an underlayer it’s perfect. However, a change is needed from time to time even if all these wool garments do hardly ever need to be washed, hence the call to action.

I suggested buying a merino base layer but when I admitted that I have some 3 ply pure machine washable wool on cone, a rare beast indeed, an order was placed. So it’s almost there, not quite enough for a photo though. I love machine knitting but as a process it’s not very photogenic, (unlike say hand spinning) which is a shame so here’s some not very attractive pics: (I don’t think machine knitting is meant for blogs or Instagram).

This is the start – the tension swatch, the working out and notes including the special green ruler for reading off stitch and row gauge. And while I was working out the shape of the garment, I had to search for a sleeve top shape and sound everything I needed on the Knitting & Crochet Guild web site here under the heading ‘Finding out more about designing’. It’s a mine of information and highly recommended although it’s not what I’d term designing, more pattern drafting.

Here’s some pics of the work in progress:

The blue is the garment and the yellow and green are waste yarn, used a lot on the machine.

Machine knitting is a great way of producing good quality garments quickly, or it can be combined with hand knitting or crochet to make items like blankets such as this one, featured some while ago. The central panels are machine knitted on my chunky machine and the deep border is double crochet. The yarn is all my own indigo dyeing, some over natural greys and dark greys. Design inspiration Amish and Welsh quilts by the way.

I’m also carrying on with hand knitting gloves for my friend Jenny a process not without upset as I had to undo about 3 hours of work when I realised that the yarn I was using was just not the right thickness. I do my utmost to use only stash yarn for these gloves and I’d run out of the perfect vintage pure wool 3 ply in the exact right shade of red, so I put in a heavier red which didn’t work. It’s on the white background, 2 pics, below. I then found a very thin pure wool on cone, and have continued with that. All is ok and progress is again being made.

And I’m also thinking about exhibitions, workshops and a lot of travel …. and hosting Beth Brown-Reinsel at the end of the month – thanks for the heads up Beth in her recent newsletter.

and wondering what I can do with this gorgeous yarn, a present from someone who knows I like to knit with 3 ply pure wool, (and there’s none better than Marion Foale’s) here:

 

I almost forgot to say that I have finished one or two of my many half finished projects …  a couple of Estonian wristwarmers.

Deadlines

In September the plan was to knit three pairs in three months – one in September, October and November, leaving December free to do more Xmas-y things … well the road to hell is paved with good intentions so here I am at the end of November with two pairs complete and one still to knit in December. Artificial deadlines are just not the same as proper external ones.

Still, the pair I’ve just finished have turned out rather nicely, I’m hoping that they fit well too. I’m showing some pictures of them with one or two ends waiting to be darned in – that can be done at any time though without daylight or any superhuman effort.

(Brief aside). Mentioning daylight, I have just bought a Luxo work lamp. As my eyes get worse and the days get darker, I need more and more light to see what I’m doing – that’s true for hand and machine knitting and any sewing – in fact more or less everything apart from gardening and doing yoga. Some while ago, I was given a Luxo light from an architect’s office that no longer needed them – it’s all on screen now. I have since bought another two Luxos – in addition to the rather ancient Habitat one (red) and an IKEA one (purple) attached to various tables. So wherever I am in the house, I’ve got a well lit spot. Luxo is the light that is dancing in the famous animation at the start of Pixar films, in case you didn’t know (I didn’t either) but they are lovely lights, very stable and not too industrial looking. I prefer them to the Anglepoise which I checked out while in London a week or so ago.

So with my knitting deadline a month late, on Monday 30th November I tried to get them finished. The first picture shows them in the morning and the second one at the end of the day – actually early Tuesday morning. So in the day I knitted three fingers and started the first thumb. That wasn’t non stop by any means – I did other things as well and while I was knitting I listened to the Zola adaptation on Radio 4 (harder than you might think while knitting gloves).

 

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Missing three fingers and both thumbs early Monday morning

 

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Late evening Monday, all fingers present and correct and the start of a thumb

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The completed gloves, in need of ends darning in and a press

(The colour differences due to using daylight or flash on my phone’s camera I think)

A note about the patterns – they are all Faroese taken from an actual Faroe jacket in the KCG Collection or a book of Faroes patterns in the KCG library. Most of them have a float of 5 stitches, one more than ‘allowed’ by Elizabeth Zimmerman, but meaning that the patterns often use multiples of 3s and 5s and are therefore really easy to work.

On to the next pair. I wonder if I should be knitting anti war mitts like Lisa Auerbach??

Gloves for Linda

I’ve been knitting these since the end of last month and they are coming on really well. So well that I haven’t had time to blog about them although I have put them on Ravelry.

The colours are a good contrast which makes them instantly easier than the previous pair, in which the greens and blues were so cloes I had to wait for daylight to be able to knit. I also didn’t have enough of any two colours and had to change several times which I usually don’t mind. However, on this pair, the changes didn’t seem to sit well with the design and it made me wonder about the wisdom of sticking to stash yarns when the amount of yarn in a pair is so little compared to the time spent knitting them. Add to that, that there are some wonderful yarns available such as Marion Foale’s 3 ply pure wool  which is shown on the web site.

Anyway, back to the current pair. Tried and tested Regia 3ply, a sock wool but totally suitable for gloves, and what is used and sold in Sanquhar, an endorsement I think, and knitted on 2.25mm circular needles. These are Knit Pro wooden ones, my preference over the metal Addi turbos, the tips of which I find too blunt for picking up stitches and correcting mistakes (always plenty of that going on). Perhaps I need the Addi lace, but I’m not spending any more on needles now, especially as I have several boxes of dpns lying unused.

The patterns on this pair are Faroese inspired using the same sketch book sources as the pair for Stan:

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The Faroes page in my sketchbook

I’m using some motifs almost directly, such as the large zig-zag but these patterns are interesting as they mostly use 5 stitch floats which is one more than I am generally used to using. Elizabeth Zimmerman generated her patterns with a maximum of a 4 stitch float. I catch in the middle of the 5 stitch float and like the tiny suggestion of texture that that can give to the fabric. These patterns are wonderfully easy to knit though, the zig-zag being various permutations of 3 and 5s and therefore quite easy to work.

Almost forget to put in some pics of the knitting:

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The cuffs with initials and dateP1010303

Up to the thumbs, back of handsP1010305

Up to the thumbs, palms facing up.

Still catching up

As usual busy busy, but all good stuff so here goes.

On Saturday the Knitting & Crochet Guild Collection visited the Northern Society of Costume and Textiles at its quarterly meeting, to present our trunk show. My fellow volunteer, Alex, and I had chosen a great selection of garments from the collection including some vintage ‘art silk’ (that is rayon) from the 1920s, vintage fine knitting from the 1950s, some 70s and 80s exuberance and a couple of very fine examples of Irish Crochet. The audience really enjoyed what we showed and they had time to put on white gloves and have a closer look when we’d finished the presentation.

Examining vintage art silk pieces from the KCG Collection

Examining vintage art silk pieces from the KCG Collection

In the afternoon, I was invited to give a talk about the history of knitted gloves, which I have been researching over the years since I was first given a pair in the 1980s. I took along that original pair and the Sanquhar ones from the collection and a very precious pair of Dales gloves, sometimes called Dent gloves, or Mary Allen, after the knitter.

On the knitting front I’m getting on with Stan’s gloves. I have decided to knit the thumbs before moving on to the fingers. I quite like doing this and it means that I can plan out the use of the wool between the fingers. I don’t have enough of the yarn I started with so I’m moving on to other shades of green and blue and this means that I will knit the thumbs and the little fingers in the same combination. You can see the first thumb on the right of the picture below and the second one just being picked up on the left. The thumb is alternate stitches of blue and green apart from above the gusset where the small diamond pattern continues.

 

Stan's gloves up to the thumbs

Stan’s gloves up to the thumbs

In September I planned to knit three pairs before Christmas and as it’s already part way through October and I still haven’t finished one pair I think my schedule is going pear shaped … must be all this blogging!

Trying to catch up

As in life, so in the digital life ….

no time to blog and too much to do.

Since I blogged last, which was a month ago, I have spent three days in London grandson sitting (FYI the Globe Theatre, the National Portrait Gallery, the Olympic pool and the Barbara Hepworth exhibition at the Tate Britain, and a river boat trip), had 8 days in the French and Spanish Pyrenees, and a long weekend in Venice at the Biennale.So lots of fun in all of those, not least a 15 hour walk, more or less pathless over a high pass used by desperate refugees in both the Spanish Civil War and WW2.

Knitting and craft wise I have started a new set of three pairs of  gloves –  more on that later, given a glove workshop in Blackpool at the Westcliffe Hotel where Paula Chew runs fabulous knitting breaks and holidays, run an evening of casting on and off for the Huddersfield branch of the KCG, been at Lee Mills in the collection a day or so, had a day at Yarndale on the KCG stand, and started preparing for a day with the Northern Costume Society where we are presenting about the KCG collection and where I am giving a talk about the history of knitted gloves. And for times when I can’t knit – like on European flights where the security doesn’t let on knitting needles in my experience, I’ve got some crochet hexagons on the go.

So, the gloves. These three are for three more friends, a husband and wife and the sister of one of them. They have northern connections and have travelled and worked in the Faroes so those are the patterns I’m using for two of them. The colours chosen and blue and green for the first pair. After a lot of looking at Faroes patterns, including a jacket from the KCG Collection, and some photos of knitwear in Torshavn, the capital, that my daughter took ages ago, when she was there, I’ve come up with small diamonds with the initials and date in a larger diamond on the back of the hands. This is a page of images from my sketch book:

The Faroes page in my sketchbook

The Faroes page in my sketchbook

This is how they look so far. I need to start the initials and dates so it’ll be a line by line exercise.

The Faroes gloves with their charts

The Faroes gloves with their charts

 

So that’s it for now, although I would like to tell you a bit about Yarndale, gardening gloves from Estonia and a fabulous exhibition of glass in Venice. In the meantime I need to press on with the knitting.

 

 

 

Jan’s gloves

This pair has been on the go since the spring, but they are finally finished. The friend they are made for tried them on a week or so ago and they fit perfectly so I was very pleased as all I go on is the outline of their hand that they give me. Sometimes I ask for their measurement around the hand too, but I’m not sure that is essential. This is knitting after all, which is inherently flexible.

I think that these might be my most favourite pair of all – it took me a long time to settle on the colours which are just right for the atmosphere I had in mind. The grey is Regia 3 ply sock wool and the fawn is a vintage yarn from the KCG eBay shop when suplus from the collection was being sold for Guild funds.

In these images they have hardly been blocked or pressed at all as I want to keep the slight texture of the pattern. I also did not have to mend the base of the fingers or thumb at all, which I usually do, to close any small holes left after picking up and casting on for the fingers. I must be getting better at doing this!

I took photos on the usual light wood background but them tried a dark wood which I think makes them look better.

This is the third pair I have knitted this year, not including the Bonham mitts, which were fingerless and much less of a proposition. I am planning to knit three pairs for friends in the autumn, before Xmas. So, I’ve said it, so I’ve got to do it!

 

Here they are. As you can see, I decided to put the date and initials on the palms of this pair, as the pair that Bonham’s auctioned about a year ago. You can see them here:

PalmsPalmside up

The backs

The backs, above and below on a dark background

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