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March 2013

From granny's crochet to modern art

Catching up on BBC Radio 4's Front Row programme I heard an interview with the American artist Chuck Close who currently has a show at London's White Cube gallery.

As in this section of a self portrait, Close works in great detail building up is work section by section on a grid. A technique he says, in the interview, that may be at some level influenced by his crocheting grandmother.

He talks about her building up a tablecloth motif by motif and how his work breaks things down in the same way. It is lovely to hear a fine artist talk about "craft" in this way and worth a listen - his interview is at 7mins 12s.

From sketch to catwalk

Recently I worked on a project that drew on my technical knitting skills and my knowledge of garment construction and pattern writing in new ways.

Elly Arrif_002

I was put in touch with Elly Arif, an MA designer at the London College of Fashion preparing for her final show. Elly was creating a menswear collection that drew on ideas emerging from the London riots and concepts of hierarchy for which she wanted over-sized knitwear. The challenge was that she wanted the pieces to have distortions so that they could be draped, pulled and pieces of the garment overlap.

IMG_2503The first thing on the agenda was to work out how to create the bulges and folds.

So off I set with a bundle of sample yarns - all cotton - to experiment and produce a selection of bulgy swatches for Elly to look at.

For distortions where the curve ran vertically I used increases and decreases but the more horizontal/pouchy one's required short row shaping and developing an understanding of how different curves behaved in the chosen yarns.

Once I'd come up with some basic shapes and techniques that gave the effects Elly wanted, she provided me with sketches and measurements to work from.

Jumper (1)
Sketches like this were my "patterns". From my swatches I worked out the stitch and row counts, etc to work to the measurements of Elly's pattern toiles and then used what I'd learnt from the tests to reproduce the distortions from the sketches.

It was an interesting process but not as arduous as it sounds. Because I had come up with methods for the distortions I was able to adapt them to different sizes and even create asymmetric curves as I went.

Once I'd worked out the basic processes, I created a basic jumper pattern for the main yarn for the collection, so other knitters could come on board although I created four pieces including a jacket with a curved hem an asymmetric front closure. 


But until I received the show photos here I never saw the final effect because I deliver the pieces ready to make up and I was out of the country for the show. But now I can share here as my first foray into the world of the catwalk (well since I was a v little girl modelling a party dress at a local fashion show...).


Making Monday - a riot of colour

As it was my birthday this Monday, I made sure I planned the week to set aside some quality making time today. 

And as the sun came out, it became all about spring colour.

This cuff of a fingerless mitt is a glorious daffodil yellow (yarn from Sparkleduck) which I've using to bring some brightness to a grey few weeks - and of course bright colours are a big fashion trend this spring.

IMG_3580And adding the first contrast edging to my Pinion cardigan today made me smile - it's exactly as I hoped.

The purple is used for the edge of the rib and as the quills of the feathers worked round the yoke of the cardigan and I really think I'm getting the jewel/peacock tones I had hoped for.  IMG_3598a

All this colour made me have a bit of a poke about in my yarn stash and came across a skein or two I'd forgotten about.

In particular there is this Crazy Zauberball with orange and turquoise. I'm not sure what exactly it should be yet but the really strong colours make think of a light but dramatic statement scarf to drape over a plain top or jacket.

Once I'd reorganised the yarn and plotted future projects, turned my attention to the bead stash which has plenty of colour.


 I recently learnt traditional pearl knotting and wanted to practice.

IMG_3588I've been experimenting with using less traditional thick cord with some vintage carved beads and am quite pleased with the necklace I finished today.

(Ok so I compensated for the natural tones with a bright background here. The day was clearly turning into one for photography practice.)

 Then I turned to some more traditional practice using silk cord and semi precious stones. 

I've had a string of hot pink faceted jade beads in the bead box for quite some time. The bright colour is perfect for this spring but I wanted as vintage style as well - something that could go with a tea dress for example. I had black silk beading cord which made for a strong contrast with the pink and I also had a handful of smaller watermelon tourmaline beads with pinkish tones to add extra interest. 

An hour or so of happy knotting practice later - plus a little work with pliers and findings - and I had created a lovely birthday present for myself.






There Will Be Steeks...

...and thankfully no blood.

This year I have said I will do three things with yarn I have never done before: knit socks (yes, it's true, I'm a sock virgin), crochet a lace shawl and steek.

The most scary of these is steeking. Socks are just a different construction using the basics of knitting and I've crocheted lace motif's before - this will just be bigger. But taking the scissors to my knitting is hard to do.

But a friend and I have decided on the Pinion cardigan by Christa Giles for our 6 nations challenge this year. This is a mini-KAL running between the kick-off of the first match of the rugby championship and the final whistle of the last day.

IMG_3551 Actually we somehow decided that steeking would be our real challenge and Pinion with its colourwork feather yoke and clever shaping gave us the incentive.

This week I finished the body and decided I should steek and knit the edgings before tackling the sleeves so I could try the cardigan on as I worked.

So then there was some procrastination - which I am officially labelling as thorough research - while I assessed my reinforcement options.

I considered the sewing machine method but was concerned about getting the stitch length right and the possibility of snagging the knitting as well as not being able to see the cutting line.

So I choose the crochet method as beautifully explained by Kate Davies.

For me the advantage of this method was that the crochet lines make it very clear wear to cut and give the impression of solid reinforcement.

I chose to use the contrast white yarn from the garment for my crochet lines because it would make things very clear for me.

The crochet method involves working a row of double crochet into the stitch legs on each side of where you plan to cut.

(Kate explains it better)

You work one crochet row from top to bottom and then turn the knitting through 180 degrees and work the second row in the opposite direction so that you end up with two lines with the stitch "ladders" you are going to cut between them.

And then you have to get the scissors out, take a deep breath and make the first cut. 

And suddenly it is not as scary as it first seems.

The knitting didn't suddenly unravel and I have two "facings" to fold back and an obvious line of stitches to pick up for the edgings.