Indian Diamonds

I have just published a new lace shawl design – Gujarati Diamond shawl:

Gujarati Diamond shawl

It was designed in collaboration with Lindsay Roberts – The Border Tart (not a real Border Tart, we both live in the Scottish Borders, where the tart originates). Lindsay developed her range of natural hand-dyed indigo yarns, Blue Moon, after participating in a textile residency/exchange in India. The shawl was designed specifically for Lindsay’s indigo dyed lace weight yarn, and it seemed only right that the design should be inspired by India.

These are Lindsay’s Blue Moon yarns:

Blue Moon Sock Yarn

The different shades of blue are created as the indigo becomes weaker during the dying process. Unlike acid dyes where the yarn sucks all the dye out of the water; indigo slowly fades, so the strongest, deepest blues emerge first, and subsequent dye batches gradually end up pale blue. Indigo has to be oxidised to bring out the blue, a process I explained in my blog post – Natural Dye workshop.

A semi-solid colour is achieved by immersing the yarn in the dye and not stirring, so the dye is  absorbed unevenly, which creates a lovely soft ripple effect when knitted:

Gujarati Diamond shawl

These are her lace weight yarns:

Blue Moon Lace Yarn    Blue Moon Lace Yarn

She uses dip-dyeing and tie-dyeing techniques on her 4ply sock yarns to create different kinds of variegated effects:

Blue Moon Sock Yarn   Blue Moon Sock YarnBlue Moon Sock Yarn

Lindsay also dyes heavier weights of yarns with indigo. The most time-consuming part of the process is rinsing, it takes many rinses to get all that loose blue out.

Lindsay showed me the beautiful textiles she brought back from India, some stunning embroidery:

Indian Textiles

Indian Textiles

This is a purse:

Indian Textiles

The free-form shapes and the added buttons are fun on this one, a bodice of a child’s dress:

Indian Textiles

I love how unplanned the designs are – the embroiderer clearly ran out of space at the end of the central panel and had to squish down the size of the squares to fit the space:

Indian Textiles 3

This is a block print sampler piece:

Indian Textiles

Here is some exquisite finely tie-dyed fabric:

Indian Textiles

I love the run-off at the end, which almost looks like bobbing shore lights reflected in water.

Here come the diamonds – a woven geometric design:

Indian Textiles

This was a piece given to Lindsay as a leaving present, and is a good example of typical motifs used in Kutch, Gujarat:

Indian Textiles

These are also Kutch motifs:

Indian Textiles

You can tell which motifs inspired my shawl design:

Gujarati Diamond textiles

Even the triangles from the textile border appear on my edging:

Gujarati Diamond shawl

Lindsay and I had a fun time on the photoshoot for the shawl; I chose to go the Monteath Mausoleum, in the Borders, as it has quite an Indian feel to it:

Gujarati Diamond shawl

As it turns out, it is deliberately Indian style, as General Sir Thomas Monteath, who lies here, was an army officer in the Bengal Infantry.

It was quite an endeavor getting up the hill in a long white dress, and lovely to see the stone lions when we got there. Awake lion:

Awake lion

Sleeping lion:

Sleeping lion

We particularly liked sleepy lion, so we had to include him in the photos:

Gujarati Diamond shawl

There is a spectacular view over the Borders countryside:

Gujarati Diamond shawl

The shawl is a shallow semi-circle, correctly a semi-oval, nearly a crescent, and it’s very wide:

Gujarati Diamond shawl

Perfect to cover your head:

Gujarati Diamond shawl

Or for elegantly draping around your neck to dress up a pair of jeans:

Gujarati Diamond shawl

Or for talking to lions:

Gujarati Diamond shawl

Knitting in Wartime

Well, I’ve had another break from blogging. I’m OK; but overdoing it, stress at work and not sticking to my strict diet resulted in a bit of an energy drop. Fear not though, I’m nearly back to fighting fit, and haven’t been languishing on the sofa too long; in fact there is a new knitting pattern on the way, but more of that later.

I really wanted to tell you about The Kitchener Stitch: Knitting in Wartime event I attended at the end of March; this was organised by the excellent Knitting in the Round project people in Glasgow.

I was pleased to find my friend Catriona in the audience, who also attended the Sanquhar Workshop last year, and also vintage designer, Susan Crawford, and Glasgow based designer, Karie Westermann.

 

Jane Tynan (Central St Martins) kicked off the proceedings in her talk ‘Comforting Body and Soul: Knitting in First World War Britain’. She felt there was an unorthodox anti-mass production feel to the unsolicited knitting for the troops, from about 1941. This may have been a response to a perceived lack of uniform supplies. The government benevolently “allowed” this spontaneous knitting to continue until colours and styles of the knitting were undermining the uniform, and it was felt the knitting needed to be controlled. Standard patterns and wools were then produced to contain this “subversive” knitting.

 

Wendy Turner, (an ex-museum colleague of mine, and a knitter herself) told us about the vast collection of unsorted knitting patterns she discovered when she started working at the Glasgow Women’s Library. These can be viewed by visiting the library. She brought a selection of the wartime patterns to show us:

Service Necessities

Service Woolies

 

Joyce Meader (‘The Historic Knit’): practically showed us ‘Knitted Comforts from Crimea to the Modern Day’. She knits for battle re-enactors, film and TV; and a procession of long johns, balaclavas, WAF knickers, combinations, and even medical dressings were passed through the audience:

Balaclava

These socks were made for the American Civil War, so the soldiers walked on their opponents’ flag:

American socks

This hat is from the medieval period and is knitted and fulled (felted) to be worn under a helmet. The bobble bit at the top provides more of a buffer between the head and the helmet, and has a useful loop for hanging it up.

Early hat

Joyce is an enthusiast and entertainer, and regaled us with great stories about the items she knitted and their use.

Joyce Meander

She also brought along a vast collection of wartime pattern books and equipment:

Knitting pattern display

Knitting patterns and equipment

Old knitting books

Boer War knitting advert

Wartime Knitting patterns

I never knew there were music hall style wartime knitting songs!

Knitting songs

This one was popularised by the entertainer, Arthur Askey:

Knitting song

We had plenty of time to look at it all over lunch:

People looking at display

 

In the afternoon, Maggie Andrews (University of Worcester) talked on ‘”Men went to war and women knitted”: domesticity and crafts on the Home Front in Britain’. She focused on how women’s skills were commandeered for the war effort. The Women’s Institute was founded in 1915, with a focus on crafting; making items to sell, which brought needed money into rural areas. Toys were particularly popular, as it was no longer possible to get toys from Germany. There was a sewing pattern for Cuthbert Rabbit, an anti-hero based on a cartoon strip; and many versions of Cuthbert were made and spread all over the country. London exhibitions were held in 1917, selling items made by Women’s Institute members, which raised the value of women’s skills.

In World War II the idea of modernising craft pervaded: make do and mend was touted – no woollen garment was thrown out, clothes were re-fashioned. Knitting also enabled women to care for their family; having to knit was often resented as it was time consuming by the time-poor working classes. There was a class division, as people with money could buy refurbished clothing from department stores rather than having to make it themselves.

 

Barbara Smith (Knitting and Crochet Guild) highlighted the appeals and campaigns, often figureheaded by upper class women in ‘Useful Work for Anxious Fingers – Knitting & Crochet in the First World War’.

Barbara Smith

The Queen’s Appeal in 1914 was instigated by Lord Kitchener, and requested women of the Empire to supply 300,000 knitted belts and pairs of socks (see original newspaper request at the top of page 8: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/ww1-archive/11109716/Daily-Telegraph-September-23-1914.html) Lady French (wife of Sir John French, Commander of the British Home Forces) was asked by the War Office to instigate a similar appeal. In the end they got more knitted items than they needed. Lady Tullibardine enabled the Herring Girls, who followed the fishing fleet along the East coast, to earn money from their knitting during the war.

 

Aside from being an interesting event I really learned something about the lives of women in wartime and how women’s skills were commandeered or volunteered during the world wars.

 

Karie Westermann also wrote a blog post about this event.

 

If you are interested in the knitting songs, singer, Melanie Gall, is performing, long forgotten knitting songs from WWI and II at the Edinburgh Fringe through August – A Stitch in Time: a knitting cabaret.

I will be going along with some of my knitting friends.

 

Very, very soon, I will be publishing a new shawl pattern, here’s a taster:

Gujarati Diamond detail

 

Edinburgh Yarn Festival 2015

I’m still reeling in the aftermath of the whirlwind of yarny goodness that was the Edinburgh Yarn Festival. What a weekend!

My apologies for the poor photo quality, my camera has died on me, and in the interim these photos were taken on my phone, indoors with no flash or focusing capabilities…

As I mentioned in my last post I had a place on a shared stall with 6 other members of the Tea Tree Tea Knitters in return for volunteer work over the Festival. We had a good position in the main cafe area:

Craft Tree in the cafe

We decided to call ourselves Craft Tree as not everything we were selling was knitted, while still having similarities with our Ravelry group name. We all made bunting pennants to make our sign.

Craft Tree stall

Here you can see Becky’s knitted glasses and yarn buckets and my section with my samples and patterns and some of Jenny’s handspun yarn and knitted accessories. There were other knitted and crocheted accessories and gifts, knitting project bags, stitch markers, and felted and button-based jewellery on our stall. I was selling some Felty Folk greetings cards too:

Felty Folk and Evangelina

It was very quiet to start with as most visitors headed for the main hall; after they had worked their way around there, they were ready for a cuppa, and had to queue past our stall, which gave us plenty of opportunity to chat to everyone.

I had lots of interest in my patterns, and handed out plenty of leaflets with links to my patterns, so I’m hoping this with materialise some more online sales.

Becky’s glasses were a good talking point and ice-breaker. Here is Becky, Oom and I modelling them:

Becky, Oom and I

Thanks to Jenny, Sonia, Sigi, Om, Becky and Patricia for their good company and excellent crafting talent on the stall.

I didn’t get too much time to have a look at the main stalls on Saturday as I was either on rotas on the stall or volunteering. When I did manage to have a look around it was incredibly crowded, and the scale and choice of the stalls was completely overwhelming. I only bought a pair of vintage knitting needles on Saturday, which reminded me of the needles I learned to knit on as a girl, then sadly I broke them as I packed up my stall for the day. I am going to glue them back together and keep them in my decorative knitting needle jar just to look nice instead, they are 1960’s plastic tortoiseshell. I bought them from a stall selling jewellery made from vintage knitting needles – Yellow Bear Wares.

I was staying on with some of my friends for the evening Ca-baa-ret. This was hosted by Felicity Ford aka Felix aka Knitsonik. She entertained us with her own songs on accordian, and told us all about her adventure of publishing her book, the Knitsonik Stranded Colourwork Source book. This was a crowd financed book through a Kickstarter campaign. I got the book for Christmas, and I think it is an excellent creative resource for knitters and designers. She told us, in a very amusing style all about the project, and broke off in the middle for a tirade against the Shreddies breakfast cereal, Knitted by Nanas’ advertising campaign, and how it denigrates knitters and knitting. Her first point was that Shreddies are clearly woven not knitted! Her 2nd point is that it is impractical and clearly impossible to do this. She had attempted to knit a 4 layer Shreddie, and found it took her 1 hour. This is her calculations based on this:

Shreddie tirade

  • 1 hour to knit a Shreddie
  • 750 Shreddies in a box
  • £4,875 to pay minimum wage
  • RRP on the box is £2.29
  • underpayment of £4,872.71

It gave us all a good laugh. Ysolda Teague joined Felix for the 2nd half of the evening to put of a knitting quiz. Felix is also a sound artist, so one of the quiz rounds consisted of various sounds of sheep, and we had to identify which ones they were from a list we were given. Felix did a bit of a sheepy dance, with a sheep mask on during the sounds:

Felix the sheep

For another round, each team was given a kit of various craft materials, quite a limited kit, and had to make a sheep in 10 minutes! I had an idea that I could make one using the fleece rolling technique, that I had used in kids workshops before. However, I tried to make it a bit too big using all the fleece, and he was just too heavy to stand on his pipe cleaner legs and too woolly to see any features. Aww poor thing:

Our sheep entry

And he didn’t really bear comparison with many of the other entries:

All the sheep

Although some of the others were pretty deformed…

It didn’t affect our score though, as my team won – Team Evangelina – and we all got a goodie bag of Yarn Pony yarn from Festival Organiser, Mica. Thanks to my team for our pooled knowledge, and how lucky we were to have 3 people from Shetland on the team.

The Festival was a bit quieter the next day, which was a bit of a relief as we were all a bit tired. I had a bit of time and space in the morning after my volunteer duties to have a shop. The pathways between the stalls were much quieter than Saturday and it was easier for me to take some photos:

Sunday crowds

One of my favorite yarn shops, Baa Ram Ewe from Leeds were there:

Baa Ram Ewe

They have brought out their own range of yarns, and you can see their range of colours above. I had a skein of 4ply in the green bought for me for Christmas. This is their Little Fella kit, and the Vivid blanket, by Emily Wessel of Tin Can Knits in the Titus yarns:

Titus and Little Fella

I loved the way the Toft Alpaca displayed their Edward’s Menagerie pattern samples. It looks like the panda is having a ride on the stall holders back:

Toft Alpaca

I liked the sheep sitting above all the soft natural colours of the Rare Breed yarns on the Black Bat Rare Breed stall:

Black Bat Rare Breed Wool

They have sheep knitting patterns available.

The cute felted puppets on Ulrike Muehle-MacDonald’s Woolly – Felt – Design stall caught my eye. Reminded me of Jim Henson’s style of puppets.

Woolly Felt Design

Heather looked so cheery spinning away on her bright Little Owl Yarns stall:

Little Owl Crafts

I had got chatting to the Shamu Makes stallholders during the festival, they are a fairly new business, and their yarn colours were lovely:

Shamu Makes

Shamu makes yarns

I bought some beautiful emerald/leaf green sparkle sock yarn from them. Here is my yarn haul from the Festival:

Festival stash

The 2 skeins of purple yarn from Yarn Pony and are my winnings from the quiz, the cream yarn is also Yarn Pony and was in my volunteer goodie bag, the teal yarn is from The Border Mill, and the raspberry yarn is from Easyknits. The cream and raspberry yarns are going to be some of the stripes in the Missoni style jumper I have in mind to knit, I’ll probably adapt this pattern; they will go well with the yarn I bought back from Venice. The teal yarn will make Dusted Gauntlets when combined with some Aubergine Kidsilk Haze I have in my stash. The green sparkly yarn is just because I fancy some sparkly socks! And I have no plans, as yet, for the purple yarn.

I really enjoyed volunteering during the Festival. It added to the feeling of being “part of it”. I was mainly checking in people to their workshops at the Water of Leith Centre; everyone I met there was very friendly and happy to be there. It was also a good opportunity to meet some of the tutors, Hélène Magnusson (The Icelandic Knitter) who was wearing beautiful traditional Icelandic costume all weekend, Hazel Tindall (the World’s fastest knitter), Karie Westermann, Katherine Lymer, Rachel Coopey (Coop Knits) all were lovely people and it was great to meet them.  I did a stint on the main Info Point too, which was very much like my day job, when I work occasionally in the Info Zone at the National Museum of Scotland. I also had a couple of opportunities to chat to Nancy Marchant (the Queen of Brioche knitting), who is a bit of a knitting hero of mine; I hope I didn’t gush too much… I hadn’t seen Ysolda for a while, so it was nice to catch up with her, and her marvellous assistants, Sarah and Becca, I had a bit of a natter to Stephen West (WestKnits), and Mel, who knits for Kate Davies, was hanging out on Ysolda and Stephen’s stall too. And I chatted to many, many more knitting friends, old and new.

I had a photo taken in the photo studio with my Evangelina socks:

Me and Evangelina Socks

Loads more portraits from the day are on the Edinburgh Yarn Festival website.

This was a much larger event compared to the 1st Edinburgh Yarn Festival, held 2 years ago, which I wrote a blog post about; surprisingly, for its size, it still retained that friendly atmosphere, and a feeling that something special was happening.

Thanks so much to Mica and Jo for putting on such a great event.

Pushing up Daisies and Camellia

I have just published two new knitting patterns, Camellia and Dreaming Daisy shawl. This is Camellia:

Camellia02

The name came from the photos of the wristwarmers by the Camellia bushes in Durham Botanical Gardens. They had a working title of Victorian wristwarmers as I was thinking of the fine mittens the women wore at that time.

This pattern has been a long time coming, due to the slow down and concentration problems I experienced having M.E., the pattern got shelved many times. It started back in 2008, I had knitted the Garbo jacket from Sculptured Knits by Jean Moss, and I liked the textural quality of the faggoted rib in the pattern, and picot edges and flared lace inserts in the hems of some of the other patterns. I wanted to incorporate these ideas into some wristwarmers I wanted to make for presents for Christmas, but was struggling to make it work. I was discussing my problems with Kate Davies at our local knitting group, and she suggested that I decreased into the wrist and back out again to incorporate the lace inserts, which is what I did.

The first pair I made were in black angora for my friend Sacha:

Victorian Wristwarmers 1

in a light DK/Sport weight. I then fell in love with a dusty mauve yarn in my local yarn shop – Debbie Bliss Donegal Luxury Tweed Aran, and had to adapt the pattern for the heavier weight yarn. I made these for Alice:

Victorian Wristwarmers 2

Then I wanted a pair for me and went back to a lighter weight yarn – Rowan Felted Tweed:

Victorian Wristwarmers 3

I wore these until they wore out and had loads of holes. I then saw Alice in her chunkier version of the gloves again and decided they were better.

So I made myself these green ones in the Donegal Tweed 2 years ago and tidied up the pattern a bit:

Camellia on gate post

I was still struggling to make sense of the pattern, and then recently I bought a knitting design program – Stitchmastery, created by Cathy Scott in my knitting group, and that helped to finally get me to the end of the pattern. A real exercise in patience and perseverance.

 

The other pattern is Dreaming Daisy shawl, which conversely is the quickest pattern I have designed and published.

Dreaming Daisy Shawl

I started it because I took Amy Singer’s Plug and Play shawl tutorial on Craftsy. Amy is the founder and editor of the online knitting magazine Knitty.com, and I attended a workshop with her in Glasgow, so I knew she explained things in a clear and practical manner. I also knew about the Plug and Play concept because of the Pembrokeshire retreats she ran with Brenda Dayne from Cast-on.com.

I love knitting lace shawls, but I felt a bit out of my depth designing one, so this tutorial was great for simplifying the design process with lace and enabled me to come up with this design.

Dreaming Daisy Shawl width

The shawl is a combination of a bold daisy motif which bounces along the waves of the Feather and Fan stitched based lace pattern. The slow self-striping/ombre/gradient yarn stripes alternating with the solid colour stripes adds to the strobing movement across the waves. I found the simple lace patterns, with plenty of plain knit and purl rows made this a fairly simple shawl to knit, with enough detail to keep you interested.

Dreaming Daisy Shawl waves

I’m looking forward to see what colour combination knitters come up with for this shawl. It could be completely knitted in one colour, or you could use a semi-solid dyed yarn instead of solid for the main yarn, or you could do every stripe a different colour! I hope to be surprised!

You will be able to buy the nice shiny new printed versions of these patterns from me at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival, this Saturday and Sunday 14th-15th March, and my Tulips for Margaret pattern for £4.00 each. I have also got some greeting cards of the Felty Folk available. I am on the Craft Tree stall which is run by members of the Tea Tree Tea group in Edinburgh, we have been kindly given this opportunity in return for volunteer work throughout the Festival by Mica and Jo, who are also members of our group. Thanks Mica and Jo. Please come and find us, there are also lovely handmade items made by other members of the group. I’m really looking forward to squidging yarn and meeting everyone at the Festival.

Thanks to Sacha Man for modelling my shawl, and Kelly Golf and S. Miller for the use of their photos.