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.

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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.