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Category Archives: Knitting

Something About Lace

I am working on a series of blog posts – hence the silence. For now enjoy this wonderful little video about Shetland lace (via Snàth Handspun):

On a similar note, I am running a workshop on triangular lace shawls in Edinburgh’s Be Inspired Fibres later this month.

Be back soon with that mammoth blog series ..

Botanical Gardens Shawl

Welcome to new visitors brought here by Knit Now and Yarnwise magazines! It has been a bit of a bumper week in terms of media coverage, it is fair to say.

I have a pattern in the latest issue of Knit Now. The Botanical Gardens Shawl was a lot of fun to design: it starts off as a standard stocking stitch triangular shawl and then moves into a striking flower pattern which gives way to softly falling petals. I really enjoyed designing something that just flows organically from one stitch pattern into another and which  looks clean & non-fussy.

Botanical Gardens Shawl

© Dan Walmsley for Practical Publishing

The shawl also served as a master-class in how magazine work actually works. It is not a designer having a definite vision: it is always a collaboration.

I designed this shawl for Knit Now‘s Garden Party story in December or January. I first envisioned the shawl knitted in lace-weight yarn and in soft pastel colours – a very soft sage green or a pretty primrose. The Knit Now team suggested the gradient SparkLynne 4ply yarn from The Knitting Goddess instead – the chosen colourway ran from a cool white via pale lavender to  a dark violet. It was a completely different direction but the graduation works perfectly with the way the stitches travel and a 4ply makes far more sense too. The ombre yarn meant that the shawl was moved from the Garden Party issue to the Colour Graduation issue as well – and the shawl works so well within the context of the other designs in the issue.

(I know that Joy of The Knitting Goddess is planning on restocking her shop with more colour-gradient yarns, so if you don’t see a colourway straightaway – keep looking!)

Both Knit Now and Yarnwise focus on my Doggerland collection – Knit Now has a wonderful interview with Fiona of The Island Wool Company and Yarnwise has written an entire feature about the collection(!). I know a lot of people are still trying to catch up on knitting from the collection, so I am slowing things down a tiny bit. The next pattern is a unisex pattern and it should be out by mid-week next week.

So, it has been a bumper week – maybe it is more like a bumper year, really. Apart from the Doggerland collection, I have more ‘things’ in the pipeline. I am working with Old Maiden Aunt on a special project which will be unveiled in November, I’m collaborating with The Yarn Project, and I am also busy swatching for other 2014 work. I can show you a tiny, tiny glimpse of what I worked on yesterday – any guesses?Swatching

A Joy Forever

We are all of us, like the man in Plato’s cave, seeing the shadows of ourselves on the walls of our prison house and, alas, all too often we mistake the shadow for substance. The knitter’s craft has taught me to have a profound respect for the aesthetic heritage that is the birthright of all mankind. It has led me to seek the Good; the best tools and the finest material out of which to create the ideas that have dominated my days; to seek the True; the perfection in line and structure that is the most perfect expression in terms of design I can find for those things I have made with my hands; to forget Beauty; knowing that if a thing is good and true then beauty can well be left to look after herself.

– James Norbury.

Funny Old Life: An Knitterly Interlude

Taking a tiny break from writing about Doggerland. Of sorts. Here are some other things that have been happening..

+ BBC4 continues to have unlimited access to my brain. They have just started an archaeology season, for heaven’s sake. If you have access to BBC iPlayer, I recommend watching The Peat Bog Mystery. It first aired in 1954(!) and it is an excellent insight into how archaeology was communicated to the masses. No gloves when handling artefacts! Lady archaeologists get to talk about cooking! Sir Mortimer Wheeler is especially fascinating (just check out his wikipedia page). Also, the artefacts themselves are fabulous and you get to see some of the highlights of the National Museum of Denmark including an awkward assessment of the Gundestrup Cauldron (“Nazi eagles”!).

+ I was very amused by this news story: the author of Fifty Shades of Gray went to a Romance Book convention/trade show under an assumed name, unveiled her real identity interrupting a panel discussion before telling them to “stop talking about my book!”. Good times.

+ I have been playing with the new Rowan sock yarn, Rowan Fine Art sock. It’s their first sock yarn, it’s ‘handpainted’ (well, sponged) in South Africa and has a really interesting base: merino, polyamide, silk and mohair. Hmm. It looked very pretty in the skein:

Rowan Fine Art

I wound the yarn last night for a quick swatch. It is quite variegated compared to the semi-solid sock yarns I have been using over the last couple of years, but the variegation works pretty well. For shawl design purposes, I think you’d look at slipped stitches, textures, and well-defined big-chunks lace.

Rowan Fine Art

The base is interesting – it has a fairly tight twist compared to other commercial sock yarns but not quite the high twist you get from, say, Wollmeise. The silk makes for nice drape + sheen. Such a contrast to the rustic yarns I’ve worked with over the last few weeks.

+ I found a photo from my old primary school the other day. This was taken a few years before my time, but I loved it as soon as I saw it. Look at all the handknits! And do I spot handknitted socks on the young gent on the left? My friend Kaisa told me the photo looked like  a cross between Grange Hill (British kids’ show) and The Killing. She may have a point.

+ Finally, the fine people of the Netherlands have a new king. Seeing I am not a royalist, that shouldn’t really register on my radar. What did register was Garnstudio’s patterns they released to coincide with the coronation. Fun little fact: my first knitting project in many, many, many years was a little stripy cotton jumper for the little Queenie when she was first born. Isn’t it strange how life works out?

It is a funny old life.

Pattern & FO: Baskerville Hat

Baskerville

The November pattern in the Old Maiden Aunt/Karie Bookish yarn club is now live. SO excited!

Baskerville is knitted in OMA Bluefaced Leicester DK in the club-only colourway Grimpen Mire. I originally asked Lilith for a green that was somewhere between sage and hunter green – I think she outdid herself with this one. I want to knit everything in this colourway.

Every time I release a pattern I say that this is my all-time favourite pattern, but it’s particularly true for this one. I first toyed with the idea of creating an even lacier hat based upon the stitch pattern I first used with Serpentine Avenue, but I realised that I like hats to be warm. So, instead I let the stitch pattern run all over the body of the hat before incorporating it into the crown decreases. I love how it looks.

Baskerville

Pretty, right?

Designers like to talk about “samples” and “not touching the samples”. I can tell you that I will be wearing the beep out of this so-called sample because I just love it so much.

(It is also a handy replacement for the hats I lost to the moths but I couldn’t tell you before now)

All the patterns and colourways in the yarn club take their cues from late Victoriana with a special nod to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Baskerville takes its name from the Sherlock Holmes novel The Hound of the Baskervilles in which Holmes investigates the mystery of a supernatural hound that supposedly takes revenge upon the Baskerville family. It’s a also a sly nod to baskerhue – a Basque hat – which is the Danish name for a beret!

The colourway is named after the location where the Baskerville Hound roamed. There is no actual place called Grimpen Mire but Conan Doyle was inspired to write his story after a visit to Dartmoor’s Fox Tor Mire.

Many thanks to my testknitters and my patient stylist/photographer/cake devourer. Let the knitting commence!

 

Knitting & the Marketplace – Reflections 3

This post is one in a series of posts extending the talk I gave at Glasgow University as part of the Handknitted Textiles & the Economies of Craft in Scotland workshop series.

It is no secret that I work in the knitting industry and that I wear a number of hats. When I was first approached to work within the industry, I was unsure what it would be like to turn my hobby into a job. Would I still enjoy knitting? Could I maintain a decent work/life balance? Would my knitting friends treat me differently? Would I treat knitting differently? Several years later I still do not have all the answers but right now I’d say “yes”, “no”, “a bit” and “somewhat”.

I work in both sectors of the industry: the commercial and the independent sectors. Each sector have its own idiosyncrasies but having a firm grounding in how the commercial knitting sector works has helped me understand how I can carve out a space for myself within the independent sector and which pitfalls I should avoid. More on which later.

But first let me clarify what I mean when I talk about the “commercial” sector and the “independent” sector:

  • The “commercial” sector is mainly made up of big yarn companies with their own in-house designers, publishing houses, and established “name” designers who work extensively with subcontractors.
  • The “independent” sector is mainly made up of one-person businesses with personal creative control. This could be yarn dyers, pattern designers, yarn shop owners, workshop tutors etc.

Arguably the shift in the public perception of knitting has been led by the independent sector via social media but the ongoing success has been facilitated by the commercial sector offering easy and affordable access to patterns, yarns, workshops etc. I would actually say the two sectors are far more symbiotic than they may appear.

Furthermore, the division between the two sectors is often hard to see: is Fyberspates an indie dyer or a commercial yarn company? The lovely Sarah Hatton works as an independent but with close ties to Rowan Yarns. The sectors work together in a myriad of ways to ensure knitters a vast variety of products and experiences. I would suggest the dichotomy is illusory at best: we need to think of both sectors as being commercially viable in the marketplace. Despite what some people may think about independents (especially when it comes to our intellectual property!), we do like paying our bills as much as we love being passionate about yarn and knitting!

For me, the key point revolves around creative control. When I work within the commercial sector, I do have a small say in yarn development or pattern support but I will not see the result of my suggested changes for nearly 18 months because I am just a tiny part of a very big whole. The independent sector is much quicker to respond: I see the result of suggested changes within 18 hours – sometimes within 18 minutes.

What has the commercial sector taught me that I can apply in my indie work? Plenty of things.

  • I think in terms of “collections” now. A cohesive theme. A controlled colour palette. One underlying idea.
  • I think about the technical skill level needed to knit one of my pattern. I am probably guilty of “aiming low” when it comes to technical fireworks in my patterns but I am passionate (to the point of obsession) about the idea of accessibility.
  • Consistency in pattern writing. I’ve set up my own in-house style sheet so I can provide consistency in my own patterns (when writing for others, I’ll use their style sheets when provided with one)
  • You are nothing without your network. Even as an indie designer with a tiny portfolio, I could not do what I do without a vast array of other people supporting me. This ranges from yarn support and test knitters to fellow designers being my sounding board and tech editors crunching my numbers.

Right now I am happy to be working within both sectors. I have had to learn on the job as I do not have a design or textile background, but I am never bored, new challenges/opportunities come knocking constantly, and I meet some incredibly interesting people. It’s fair to say that people who work within this industry all have unique backgrounds and their own special stories – it’s quite unlike any other industry I have ever worked in.

Addendum: I am indebted to my friend Esther Maccullum-Stewart (University of Chicester) for her definition(s)of “indie”. Esther is a media reseacher with a particular interest in “indie gaming”. During a conversation about online communities, we were intrigued by the many structural overlaps between the online gaming and knitting communities.

That awkward moment..

.. when the media decides to call you an expert .

STV

(thank you Alison for the commemorative photo)

Work In Progress: Doggerland

The weather in Glasgow is hawt – as in ‘I need to stay indoors or I shall melt’ hot. I have put aside my cardigan project for the time being – although I did find time to separate for back and sleeves – and I have been yearning for a shawl project. Small, light and portable is acceptable for Surprise Summer knitting, right? I had no shawl patterns on the go, so trustworthy Ravelry came up trumps with a delightful shoulder shawl and so I cast on for it the other day. I abandoned it just as quickly. The shawl was not to blame – it was beautiful and very well-written – but I kept going “but if I change that and, oh, you could insert a lace repeat that spanned that section..” Evidently I did not want to knit a shawl; I wanted to design a shawl.

I have long wanted to work on a new collection and today was that day. I am currently working on a chart quite unlike anything I have ever worked on before. My other patterns have all been triangular, aimed at beginning lace knitters, easy to modify and rather intuitive. The new shawl pattern will be a semi-circle, aimed at confident lace knitters (although it still has rest rows rather than lace worked on both sides); and you won’t be able to combine charts as you please. Working on this is exhilarating, scary and a learning curve. I cannot wait to show you the final shawl.

However, what I can show you is the moodboard I put together for this collection and also explain a bit about the inspiration behind the collection (which will contain other patterns than just shawls).

The collection has a working title of Doggerland, although that is likely to change. Doggerland is a submerged landmass between Great Britain and Denmark which was last inhabited during and after the last great Ice Age to hit Europe. Today Doggerland is covered by the North Sea but once it was a rich, fertile habitat for prehistory humans. Maritime archaeologists are incredibly interested in Doggerland as the seabed may yield fascinating insight into Mesolithic life.

The Doggerland collection is using yarn from the North Sea regions – Britain, Faroe Islands, and Denmark – to explore organic textures inspired by Mesolithic prehistory.

I took a lot of inspiration from visits to the prehistory sections of The National Museum of Scotland and the National Museum of Denmark. I took a lot of photos on worked flintstones, carved antler bones, well-preserved fykes, and excavated shell middens. Lately I have also thought a lot about the landscapealthough this is a construct at best – with peat bogs, rolling hills, estuaries, ferns, moss and lichen. Colours play an important role in me imaging Doggerland – expect a lot of earthly tones combined with mossy greens and pale greys.

And so back to work..

Denmark 2012: A Bit of History & A Lot of Knitting (part 3)

Photo Shoot Feb 2012Denmark was not just us larking about Viking settlements or eating six types of pork for lunch (true fact!). Denmark was also about knitting.

I had a photo shoot! I am about to release a new pattern – Elsinore – and we had the photo shoot in the middle of the Kastellet fortifications in northern Copenhagen.

It was an incredible cold day, so whenever there was a break in the shoot, I rushed forth to wrap a warm cardigan around the brave model. The photos turned out amazing. Stay tuned!

I also met up with Signest, aka Signe Simonsen who has been published in Knitty, Twist Collective and Petite Purls among other places. She is one of my favourite designers for innovative, colourful and bold childrenswear (check ouWrapped In Wordst the Nova dress and the Viola hat!) but Signe has several, several strings to her bow as you are sure to find out in months to come. I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at a design she is currently working on for Danish yarn company Filcolana.

And Signe’s also the genius behind my current favourite attire, the I YARN CPH tee. Sorry about the photo – it is not the most flattering one of me but it is the only one I have of me wearing the tee.

Yes, I rather liked Peter Greenaway’s The Pillow Book. Why do you ask?

Oh, and there was yarn. Nothing really, really fascinating because I only had a few hours to spare so I could not explore new yarns, but I did buy a vast amount of yarn: mainly laceweight – which shocks no one – and mainly of the North Atlantic variety – which should shock absolutely no one either.

My usual Snældan yarn pusher had shut down since my last visit to Copenhagen, so I ‘settled’ for some more Navia Uno from Jorun Garn in Frederiksberg. They have similar fiber content (though the Navia introduces some merino into the blend) but the construction is slightly different. The Snældan is a slightly overspun  single ply whereas Navia Uno is plied with a tightly spun ‘thread’ around a soft wool core. Navia Uno works up slightly softer than Snældan but has a smidgen less stitch definition. In other words, I should not be writing about ‘settling’ for anything as the two yarns are so similar and so beautiful. I am just concerned about minutiae.

Alt Om HåndarbejdeAnd then I visited a charity shop where I uncovered a pile of Alt om Håndarbejde (eng: All About Crafts) magazines from the 1970s.

Alt om was really instrumental in kickstarting my lifelong love of all things crafty and I remember trying out loads of their easy kids’ projects when I was a kid. I even think the first garment I ever made for myself (a pair of shorts!) was from an Alt om pattern.

Some of the projects are just outlandish seen with today’s eyes but others transcend their time period with aplomb. I only took some of the magazines with me (the rest are staying with my mum until further notice) but I picked a few with fantastic sewing patterns for dresses and skirts. I don’t think I shall ever outgrow my 1970s dress sense..Alt Om Håndarbejde

There are also quite a few big knitting projects that I can admire knowing I will never ever knit them. Just look at that coat. It is absolutely stunning. I have instructed my grandmother to snap up any old Alt Om that she might come across as the tutorials are worth their weight in gold.

I tried finding Alt Om‘s modern incarnation – the rather splendid Symagasinet which is all about sewing – but the local shops let me down. Earlier this year I also contacted the publisher about a possible subscription but the shipping costs were ridiculous, so I dropped that idea. Oh, Scandinavia, why do you taunt me so?

Anyway. To come: a brand-new pattern release, news about other patterns, some FOs and so forth. My life’s really busy right now!

Making, Mending, and Doing

February has been a good month so far. With several deadlines met, I now have a bit more time on my hands and this has resulted in a lot of crafting time which I have used well.

Making: I have finished writing a brand-new shawl pattern which I hope you’ll love as much as me! I have also finished knitting the sample shawl which has lived around my shoulders ever since. I’m yet to shoot the pattern photos as my model is currently overseas, but it won’t be long until the pattern’s released.

I have begun a lovely crocheted shrug in a new Rowan yarn, Creative Linen, in a gorgeous apple green. So far I am zipping through the shrug as the pattern’s an easy two-row repeat. It’ll be ace for wearing this summer. And I have a baby project lined up as my friend Katherine is expecting a boy very soon.

Mending: I finally took pity on my winter coat.

The coat is clearly on its last legs – in fact, it has been on its last legs the past three years – and I probably shouldn’t even be seen wearing it in public. Unfortunately I have been unable to find its replacement (why is a classic pea-coat in warm navy or Make Do & Mend 2black wool that hard to find?) and so I keep dragging it out of retirement.

Anyway, I sat down to repair the holes in it – I crocheted some small, decorative (and practical!) patches which I sewed on. Inspired by Kate I then replaced the dull black buttons with some lovely red vintage buttons. The coat is still on its last legs, but at least I don’t feel totally embarrassed to be seen wearing it in public.

I have more mending to do: David’s jumper has been worn non-stop for two years and the bottom rib is now in tatters and will need to be reknitted. Any tips on reinforcing ribbing?

Doing: I turned thirty-mumble-mumble yesterday and we went to Edinburgh for the day. We caught the FCB Cadell exhibition at the National Gallery of Modern Art before heading down to the refurbished National Portrait Gallery.

Cadell was one of the Scottish Colourists – a loosely bound group of painters working in the 1920s and 1930s. I’m easily excited by anything early 20th century (particularly 1914 to 1925-ish), so Cadell and his cohorts should be right up my street. The Colourists are a touch too post-impressionist for my taste, though, and although Cadell edged close to a sort of Matisse-esque Art Deco by the mid-20s, his work proved too polite and too safe for me. I left the exhibition feeling a bit grumpy because I have always admired Cadell’s paintings in Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery and suddenly faced with a whole exhibition he felt wanting and limited. Maybe the curating was at fault – the transitions and contrasts in Cadell’s style were never really explained and the obvious queer aspect to his art was not even mentioned.

The national Portrait Gallery has recently reopened and as a result the place was heaving. EdinburghWe only had time to peruse a couple of the galleries – predictably enough I swooned over The Modern Scot (where I discovered William McCance – a painter and book designer clearly in artistic thrall to Wyndham Lewis) whilst David enthused over Romantic Scotland, a photography exhibition.

I could write an entire blog post on the political implications felt throughout the Portrait Gallery – but I’m possibly too influenced by the novel I am currently reading – the very excellent And the Land Lay Still by James Robertson.

And so it goes.