Projects, stories, memories and myths of knitting and crafts

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Weaving and the thoughts it produced.

I have managed to produce two pieces of beginner's weaving that I find acceptable. The finishing off needs work but I am quite proud of myself.

I have reserved some books from the library and can't wait for them to arrive.  There are not many books available to buy which surprised me. The one that I really want is a book of patterns will only be published in August. Perhaps now I will take the time to read the book I have a bit more thoroughly!

This is a photo of the first piece which is a table runner that measures 40cm x 80cm without the fringe. The second piece is a secret gift and I will post pictures of it after it has been received.

The table runner pulled in on the multicoloured rows as this was 4 ply rather than double knit yarn of the rest of the piece and this is one of the learning curves of the piece.

It was  my first attempt at a little pattern too which I really enjoyed.

While I was doing this, kelmscott cardigan was looking at me accusingly. She has one sleeve and a side sown and the other sleeve started. I plan to work on her tomorrow for a bit before I go off to the knitting group but this too could change. I can't wait to finish her.

While I was peaceably enjoying playing with weaving, some serious thoughts did come to visit. I thought about how I pressure myself to finish garments as I often have the next project planned or queued somewhere. It made me think of instant gratification and wanting everything at once rather than slowly enjoying what I have and am busy doing. Being like this, causes me to loose some of the pleasure and enjoyment that working with each piece brings to me as I am no longer present with it but rather dreaming of the next one.

What also visited me was how when I make something for someone else, I think about them wearing or using it. I think about the pleasure that it has given me to make it and the love and happiness that is infused into each stitch created by my energy and commitment.

I do love to make things for others because of this. I love to see their faces and their astonishment that someone would take the time to do this for them. Blessedly, years of selling what I make has made me unattached to whether they actually wear it or not!

Even with all the fun of weaving, the best part of this week for me, was Monday afternoon spent quietly sitting knitting the Aeolian shawl. It is still such a joy.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

A Rigid Heddle Loom

The Master Craftsman Series on BBC has a lot to answer for. It got me interested in wanting to try to weave. I love the woven fabric that I have seen at Craft Fairs and have been quite happy to admire it and buy it should the desire take me. I have even watched ladies at their looms in these places but I have never before wanted to try to weave.

Seeing the whole process as the programme unfolded seemed to open a deep yearning inside me. I really wanted to try it! I have spent some of my free time since then, surfing the web, reading articles and watching You Tube videos all about different forms of weaving and itching to try.

I had decided that it was an itch that I was probably not going scratch. I mentioned it to Borneo and we looked at some websites together. After breakfast on Saturday, he suggested that visit the craft shop conveniently situated opposite the cafe. He asked them if they had looms. I did not for one moment even think that they would have, but they did! The kind lady there discussed the little that she knew about weaving with me and then, Borneo, being the kind of man that he is, bought me a rigid heddle loom. I am soooooooooo excited.

It came flat-packed. He built it for me the moment we stepped through the front door. I adore this man! Here it is - my huge 80cm rigid heddle loom waiting to be threaded!

That was me set for the weekend. I got busy straight away. I threaded 140 strands of different colours of pastel cotton for the warp. It took a very, very long time... I am sure my inexperience showed terribly!

That wonderful man came to help me too when I needed someone to hold the threads taut to wind them onto the loom. He is just outside the picture in the bottom righthand corner.

Then I got to secure all the threads to the front.

Now I was ready to attempt my first weaving. I must hasten to add here, I followed the tiny instruction booklet that came with the loom. I was in too much of a hurry to read the beautiful book that Borneo had bought for me at the same time as he bought the loom.

Here is the start of my fabric.

By the end of the evening, I had a piece woven, a first attempt with no instruction as such and I was quite pleased with myself. I could see that the edges needed work but it is not to bad for a play and it was such huge FUN. I finally found a use for some of those scraps of luxury yarn that are sitting idly in my stash.

I went to bed to read my new book and learned a few helpful techniques. I so wanted to try them as soon as I awoke this morning. Alas, we were due out to meet a friend for brunch and so I had to try to sit still and be an entertaining companion when all I wanted to do was go home and play some more!!!! Finally, we got home and Borneo, being the kind of lovely man he is, went and did all the chores so that I could play some more. I am so blessed!

Today, on my second attempt, I think I managed some decent fabric. At least, it looks like it to me! I am sure that I will look back in a few months and laugh at my vanity! This time the edges are actually flat and quite straight.

It is so meditative and great fun too.

I am sure that a teacher and expert would find plenty of mistakes. I love it and enjoyed every minute of it.

What do you think? Any comments or hints would be gratefully received.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Aeolian Shawl

Aeolian Shawl - Elizabeth Freeman -

This weekend, the Aeolian Shawl crept into my heart and stole it. I am in love with it. It was most unexpected as we had a precarious start together.

When I started knitting her about two weeks ago, I chose to start the pattern without swatching. This itself was not a problem.

However, she showed wilfulness by letting the metal needles kept fall out of her delicate lace stitches and I had to restart several times as the stitches dropped. I have not knitted with lace weight for a while and the skills had taken a holiday. They did come back refreshed though!

I kept on loosing the stitches off the second needle when I was beading the stitch on the first as there was little knitted fabric to hold them there and the metal is very slippery. I solved this by using a needle cap to secure the stitches while I beaded. I still did not like the metal needles though.

As I was knitting kelmscott, I put her aside to complete this and while it was blocking this weekend, we were reunited and got along grandly. On Saturday, I sat down for a couple of hours with her and fell deeply in love. She is a gracious knit and an easy pattern, though not quick if one is beading her. By Saturday evening She had grown substantially.

I love the slowness of the process and the need to stop every few stitches to place the beads. There is a timeless rhythm that flows as her beauty is created and each stitch is thoughtful and mindful. I just love this. Last night, I had reached the first row of Nupps - the small back dots at the bottom of the fabric.

These were easier to knit than I remember but they are not as uniform as the perfectionist in me would like and it is screaming at me to unpick the last 2 rows and redo them. I might just this because she is such a beauty and it would be a joy to reknit.

However, there is the part of me that says that part of the beauty of something handmade, is all those uneven bits that show the process of the making. It is all part of the beauty.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

kelmscott and a new blocking board

Today has been a productive day. The Aeolian Shawl has been lurking into the background singing a siren song for me to knit it for days now. It has taken all my willpower to resist it but I did and have managed to finish the collar for kelmscott first. Now the pieces need to be blocked.

This brought another dilemma as I have been without a blocking board for many years and all kinds of inventive methods have been used to block garments. Living in a tiny house, means I constantly have to think about storage and packing things away.

So earlier this month, I bought some children's foam floor tiles to use as a blocking board because they can be taken apart to stack away easily.

This meant that I now needed a cover that can be removed easily too. I placed two tiles on some wadding (or batting as I know it) and cut out around them.

Then I placed them on some Gingham fabric and cut around them, allowing for a large fold over, about 18 squares on each side.

Once this was done, I folded the fabric into four so that all the corners were together.  I used a side plate to round the corners.

I drew a line along the edge of the plate.

Then I cut this out.

I turned over a hem of about 1.5cm all the way around the edge of the fabric leaving a gap of about 2cm between the stitching lines so that there was an opening to thread the string through. Using a safety pin, I threaded string through the hem to make a drawstring around the edge of the fabric.

I placed the gingham flat on the table with the wrong side facing upwards. Then I placed the wadding on top of it and  the foam tiles on top of that.

I drew the stings in so that the overlap of fabric came to the back of the tiles and gathered it evenly around before I secured the strings with a bow which can be undone to undo it. Turning the completed board over it looked like this. Ready to have some knitting blocked on it!

Out came kelmscott and it was duly blocked on the new blocking board which worked a treat. 

 The collar with the back above it.

The best part of this is that I also managed to answer Aeolian's siren call too and knitted about 30 rows. It is a lovely knit too but that is story for another time!

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Simple Braiding

I became restless yesterday and started looking through my project baskets to find my crochet hooks. I intended to start swatching the Aeolian Shawl. Instead I found some simple braiding that I started last year, intending to use it to make one of my Christmas presents.

It is very easy to do and can be a great deal of fun. I decided it might provide some light relief while I am knitting intricate lace. I used a square with the corners cut off so that it is an 8 sided figure with a circle cut in the middle and a cut into each one of the sides. I threaded seven different colours of yarn, embroidery cotton, down through the centre hole and seat one colour in each of the cuts, leaving the eighth one open. Knot the colours together underneath and tie a weight onto them. I used metal washers. The skeins lie over the top and hang down the sides anchored in the cuts. 

Work in a clock-wise direction. Take the 3rd colour thread to the open space. Repeat with all the strands and the cord begins to form. It looks like this.

Move the weight periodically as the cord grows and soon there is a growing length of cord. It is simple and fun. I have used them for draw stings, hat ties, bag handles and cardigan ties. The thicker the yarn is, the faster it grows and the thicker the cord is. I have used embroidery cotton here because I am making a coaster and I want it to be washable.

This is what the start of the coaster looks like. I am stitching the cord together in the round.

It is great fun. It is also a project that is easy for children to learn quickly and enjoy.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Am I getting wiser or just plain fussy?

I am not sleeping very well at the moment which is delaying my quest for the completion of Kelmscott. I find myself making too may mistakes when I knit at the end of the day and the lace is taking longer than I would like.

I realised how much I am pushing myself to finish it. Instead of sitting back and enjoying the creative process, there is a part of me that drives me to finish what I have started. All the incomplete projects (3 of them) sitting in my project basket are calling out to me to finish them.

They are an eclectic collection as I enjoy knitting a full range of styles. I love cables, arans and guernsies. I love delicate lace. I love textured stitches. I love knitting in the round. I like'd to have one of each in my basket to satisfy my knitting needs in the moment however I do practise some restraint.

Then there is the seduction of the new. It is always delightful to start a new project, to get excited about the colour and the style and to be enticed by the allure of sumptuous yarn. Like the sea sirens of old that lured the fishermen into the sea, beautiful yarn tantalises me. It is a passionate adventure.

Yesterday, as a therapeutic retreat, St Grant the Long Suffering escorted Robyn and I to Bristol. We visit Get Knitted. I love the shop. It always takes my breath away to walk in and see the wonderful array of yarn everywhere. I especially love all the hand-painted, hand-dyed skeins that line the shelves. They lie in baskets waiting to be stroked and admired. 'Choose me', they all yell at once. Who do you listen to?

It was Robyn's first visit and she was speechless. I imagine her face looked the same as mine did the first time I went there. It was a picture to behold. I walked around enjoying it all but I did not feel drawn to anything. It felt really strange. There was so much beauty and an unrestrained budget. I wanted nothing. At the moment, I am blessed with so many beautiful yarns in my stash.

Now, I must tell you that most would consider me quite mad. St Grant was actually amused. One friend commented that I am a 'fussy mare' and I agree with her wholeheartedly! There was a time in my life when I would have bought everything in the store to add to my stash to knit 'one day'.

I hope that this reticence I am experiencing is a case of 'as I get older, I get wiser'. I have no other explanation for it. I am still a bit stunned. Over the last year, I have been looking for patterns to knit up from my stash but to no avail. I have spent a huge amount of time swatching numerous garments only to be dissatisfied by the results.

So it seems that at the moment I have reached a halt on the stash hoarding habit. I don't know if it will last. I may I need to go into therapy. Any comments will be duly noted, all 
family excluded!

St Grant says that I should go back to designing my own garments again but I am lazy. I am looking for the utopia of the perfect pattern which I can pick up and knit blissfully without any thought and in pure enjoyment. At the moment, Kelmscott delivers this.

Still, I am in search of the next perfect pattern although I believe there is an Aoelian shawl somewhere in my near future. This might just serve the purpose.

Robyn bought herself beautiful yarn to knit an intarsia summer cardigan. It will be her first attempt at colour work but I am confident it will be beautiful.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Knitting 'Kelmscott by Carol Sunday'

I instantly fell in love with this design when I saw it. I bought it immediately because I knew that I wanted to knit it. I placed it on the coffee table so I could see it often to help me decide what colour and yarn I would use.

Boy, did I swatch for it. Over the course of a week, I must have swatched ten different yarns and yarn combinations. I did not like any of them. So it sat on the coffee table looking at me and taunting me to order the yarn from the States. It just looked so beautiful.

As I was sorting through my stash and relocating it to a new stash station, I came across some Rowan tapestry that I bought somewhere on sale. As a last resort, I thought I would try a swatch.

To my amazement, it worked, still giving the slightly fluffy look of the pattern.

Still cautious, I started by knitting the right front to see if I liked it enough to continue.

With the start of the Olympics it was a perfect knit as most of the sleeves and back are reverse stocking stitch. I have now completed a front, the back and a sleeve and a half. I am  knitting the second front, all the lace, at the same time as the second sleeve, when I have the chance to sit and concentrate on the lace.

Detail at the bottom of the sleeve

It has seemed a very haphazard way to knit a garment and does not appeal to the knitting pedant in me who likes to complete bits before I start the next. However it has worked very well as the garment has developed a lot faster than it would have if I had concentrated on one piece at at time. Strangely enough, I have also enjoyed doing it this way.

The best part about it is that it has been great FUN and it has brought a smile to my face often. The pattern has been easy to follow and I have had great enjoyment watching it grow, however slowly. I will post the finished garment when it is done. I am looking forward to the collar!

Monday, 1 March 2010

Mothers and Legacies

My mother refused to teach me to knit, to sew or to cook, yet knitting has been a part of my life for longer than I can remember. She was one of the women who was never without some handwork to keeping her busy. I have memories from my childhood of fabric, yarn, paint brushes and flowers all muddled together. 

Mom was a florist who earned her livelihood with both boring and creative designs of flowers. She was artist who had to create beauty in whatever she did. There were births, deaths and weddings, anniversaries all waiting to be celebrated with flowers and she brought to life the dreams of her clients 'to say it with flowers'.

When she was not doing this, there was a sewing machine set up in the shop where she made all our clothes, dolls outfits etc. She seldom had a pattern. I could show her a picture from a magazine and she would make me a dress to match it. There were sixties faux leather mini skirts and boleros, sundresses, and ball gowns for all the dances I attended at boarding school. I never realised how blessed I was until I had to go out later in life and buy store garments that did not fit.

She hated knitting yet made the most beautiful aran jumpers for the entire family. She had a knitting machine and lots of other knitwear was produced on this. I can remember going to visit Auntie Pixie on the farm where the two of them would set up their machines side by side and spend a Saturday afternoon knitting together whilst I roamed the farm or watched the cows being milked.

I grew up immersed in all this craft not really absorbing the beauty of the objects created. It was just part of every day life. Next door to the florist was a haberdashery that stocked yarn. I visited Mrs Steadman's shop often as I grew up to choose yarn for various school projects. I seldom made any of them as my mother would work on them week by week, changing the tension to make them look as though I had made them. I showed little interest.

The irony to all this is that now I am an avid crafts woman. My mother's skills must have transferred to me through osmosis. She died not long after I married as a 'child' bride. She lived long enough to meet and become besotted with her grandchildren to make them the most beautiful clothes. She made my son and my daughter a new birthday outfit every year. They loved them.

R in her last party dress Gran made

I had to teach myself to sew and to knit in the early years of my marriage as she lived over 1000 kilometres away and could not help. I was so grateful that I did. When she left our lives, she left me a legacy to continue. Every year when I made the children's birthday outfits, she sat with me, inspiring me with her love for my family, to continue the traditions that she had started. 

The Queen of Hearts and Robin Hood made by me

We all remember this with such joy and delight. That is exactly what she would have wanted for us. Without her work around me as I grew up, I would not have the wonderful skills that I have learnt now.