SLOANmade & Artists Open Houses

Yet again I should start this blog post with an apology for not writing it sooner. BUT I reckon that as you’re here reading it, you know me well enough by now and that given the events of the last year you’ll understand why I’m not going to beat myself up when life gets in the way of a planned blogpost.

So speaking of the last year, back when I was recovering from surgery and I couldn’t do much more than wash and dress myself without needing to lie down for the rest of the day I decided that if I got the opportunity I’d really like to get back to the process of ‘making’. It’s been a good few years since I made ready to wear accessories under my ‘duppdupp’ label in Scotland and whilst I don’t want to buried under  mountain of coned yarn knitting endless hats, scarves and bags I missed the joy of designing, sampling, making and finishing an item. Plus of course my newly liberated brain was coming up with some new ideas. This is how SLOANmade was born.

SLOANmade  is really an opportunity for me to explore my sometimes random ideas, techniques, shapes and designs that will be translated into a small collection of ready to wear accessories. As well as focussing on a slower, hand crafted approach to items that are carefully and lovingly hand made,  it’ll be an ideal way for me to explore new techniques and generally get back the ‘making mojo’ I’d lost way before my brain tumours were diagnosed. Plus it will be another way in which I can celebrate my new, less-stressed approach to life and, to be honest, the fact that I’m still here at all.

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The first collection of bags revisits one of my favourite stitches that I developed back in the days of ‘duppdupp’. The Seersucker clutch bags are machine knitted in fine lambswool on a hand flat knitting machine before being felted in a washing machine to  make the fabric more durable. It’s then interfaced, lined and made up into the new clutch bag shape and if I’m honest – given the way my head works now – I’m really pleased with both the look and feel of the bag.

As you can see from the pictures the bags are fully lined and this provides a contrast piped effect on the outside of the flap plus the natural curve at the knitted cast and cast off edges provides a really pretty edge detail which is tipped in a contrast colour on many of the bags. The pinched bottom shape allows the bag to sit upright when full, plus there’s also a small inside pocket and it closes securely with a magnetic clasp.

As I mentioned in a previous post I’m showing the SLOANmade collection as part of Brighton’s Artists Open House event. Along with my husband Sam who’s showing some of his brilliant photography and Ben King who crafts  handmade furniture from a selection of English woods we’re collectively exhibiting as ‘Created’ at  Digital Freelance  in Kemp Town so if you’re in the East Sussex area why not pop down and see us?

To celebrate the new making me I designed a new business card and it arrived yesterday. I”m really pleased with them, what do you think?

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I’m also in the process of updating the website so you’ll also be able to view and buy the SLOANmade collection from there. I promise there will be a blog post soon about that!

Have a great weekend

J x

 

One of THOSE weekends

There’s a very good reason – well two actually – why I haven’t been posting on the blog for a good while. Over the past few weeks I’ve been trying to find my very elderly parents a new home down here in East Sussex so that they can be nearer for us to look after them. At ages 87 (Mum) and 93 (Dad) this move will be daunting for both of them not only due to their age but also the fact that since arriving in this country in the late 1950’s they’ve always lived in and around London. (I’ve actually just looked back to see the date of my last blog post and it was March 30th, that’s disgraceful!).  So in addition to looking at property after property and dealing with solicitors and the dark arts of estate agents I’ve also been working on some new designs for the Brighton Open House weekends (more in a post later this week) and of course dealing with the renovations to the kitchen from hell in our own house. The builders have been  here for around a month so far and things are going pretty well but of course they haven’t knocked any walls down yet, it’s all been structural work on the outside of the house. The May Bank Holiday weekend was a great opportunity to escape the escalating chaos of the building works and you may notice that our antics had a bit of a gastronomic theme.

First there was afternoon tea at The Brighton Hotel with our friend Clare (thanks Bonnie and Seb it was a really thoughtful gift, sorry we couldn’t share it with you) followed pretty swiftly later that evening by a meal at Moonstone a Sri Lankan restaurant on New Church Road, Hove. Yes, there was room left in my stomach for a curry (though I did skip the starter) and the Kingfish curry with rotis was delicious – rich and spicy with a bit of heat, which I’ll ask them to ramp up  bit next time.

On Saturday we took ourselves off to the Brighton Foodies Festival which was held   on Hove Lawns  from Saturday to Monday.  I was lucky enough to win tickets over on Instagram after answering the question ‘if you could eat anything, what would it be and who would you eat it with?’ (I chose shawarmas – if you’ve never had one look them up, done well they’re fantastic). Now before I go any further I do get a little niggled at companies charging for an event that’s held on land like The Lawns where we can normally walk for free but that’s by the by. It was a great excuse to get away from our increasingly dusty house and fill my greedy face with lots of local and not so local produce and I thought I’d share a few highlights.

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This lovely man from The Garlic Farm came all the way from the Isle of Wight to cook up a storm with a something called a ‘Vampyre Slayer Burger’ that was actually more like a sandwich but honestly that really didn’t matter. The meat was soooo tender and after being cooked in an indescribably smoky, garlicky sauce it was served up in a wonderfully fresh ciabatta roll with garlic mayo, cheese, rocket and caramelised onions. This thing was so damn good I ate it on Saturday and then again on Monday, by far the best food there.

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The picture below shows what was apparently turnip coloured with beetroot juice and of course I was drawn to it because of the colour. Disturbingly though the taste  was so sharp it made my eyes water so I passed on whatever else she had on offer. Talking of foods that are disturbing and pink one of the stalls selling BBQ fell foul of Mr Sloan when he tried to explain that finding blush-pink flesh when you bite into a chicken wing is NOT a good thing. ‘They’re meant to look like that’ said the two very young blonde grill girls, not they’re bloody not … unless you want to lose weight very VERY fast. Pink beef? Okay. Pink lamb? Yes please. But as a middle aged woman  of Bajan heritage let me tell you girlie, pink chicken is NOT ‘a thing’.

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This guy was selling truffle products, the cheese and black truffle oil was particularly good.

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Rose Cottage Liquers make the most delicious gin based drinks. Thick, sweet and strong the label suggests that you may want to put a little into the bottom of a glass of bubbly but we drank it in small measures served over a couple of blocks of ice. My favourite flavour by far was the Rhubarb and Haw, and as I normally hate the taste of rhubarb you can imagine how good it must have been. I say ‘must’ have been because the bottle we bought on Saturday afternoon didn’t see the light of day come Sunday morning. Well! It was only a wee one and we took it round to a friend’s house. They (Rose Cottage not my friend) have a website here and so you can order online, if you love gin please try it.

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random shot of hot sauces – and there were a LOT of sauces.

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And lastly here’s a sot of my VIP goody bag. Yes that IS a peanut butter flavoured hot drink you see at the centre. The first thing I did when I saw it was check how many calories in a 100g serving……463! I’ll let you know when I’ve tasted it.

 

J x

Never too old to learn

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One top tip that The King of Spare Parts gave me on Monday was that you’re not supposed to leave the sponge/needle bar in your knitting machine. Really? To be honest that was news to me. Do you leave the sponge bar in your knitting machine?

 

As you can see from the pictures mine needed replacing as it was nearly 30 years old and the needles bounced upwards which can lead to them getting caught in the sinker plate.

While we’re on the subject of tips here’s one from me. Unless your machine is brand new don’t pick it up by the handle as the plastic can become brittle over time causing it to break and your machine will hit the floor with a sickening thud.

If you’ve got any other top machine knitting tips let me know by adding a comment below and we can pool our knowledge.

J x

 

Old capacitors and the King of Spare Parts

There’s nothing more horrifying than the smell of burning and last Friday’s episode with my Brother 950i knitting machine was, for me, the stuff of nightmares although it provoked endless chuckles from our builders. “Your knitting machine is broken?” *Cue builder-type cackling to the power of four*…….yes yes, ha ha very funny. Wouldn’t be laughing so much if the kettle was broken would you?

Anyway on Friday when the ‘great unmentionable’ happened I made a desperate Commissioner Gordon-type phonecall to Doug at Heathercraft and arranged to take the machine over for him to work his magic and bring her back to life. Faygate is a hamlet tucked away in the West Sussex countryside and it’s here that you’ll find the Heathercraft Knitting Machine Centre. The business is run by husband and wife team Brenda and Doug Bristow with Brenda responsible for all types of tuition from knitting machine to DesignaKnit & Fittingly Sew and Doug (or as I’m going to call him from now on The King of Spares Parts) taking care of all manner of repairs and spares.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I got there on Monday afternoon but walking (ok struggling slightly with poorly machine clenched in my arms like a sick child) into the workshop  was like entering an Aladdin’s Cave where every manner of knitting machine happily goes to die. I have never seen so many spares waiting to be re-used. Sinker plates, carriages, circuit boards, yarn tension units, brushes, hook weights, claw weights, (ok you get the picture) from all manner of brands including Brother, Passap, Toyota, Silver Reid et al were spread – no packed – around the room. All it takes for them to find their way to their next owner is one desperate phone call then they’re dispatched  to an ever grateful knitter –  or in my case the desperate knitter to turns up at the shop for Doug to work a miracle.

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As he rightly diagnosed it was the capacitor and to be honest, I can’t complain. I’ve had 27 years of use out of it after all. After removing 3 screws and a couple of plastic rivets he whipped out the foul smelling object and soldered the new one in place while I wandered, slack jawed around the room taking photos. Sam said he’d never seen me so happy and that may seem a little sad but I was like a pig in the proverbial. The repair took around 15 minutes and whilst I was there I picked up a new sponge bar, some brushes and spare needles for the main bed. Well, nothing’s too good for my baby.

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Since Brother stopped producing knitting machines and supplying spares it’s become increasingly difficult to find parts for machines like mine. Yes of course there’s Ebay but men like Doug – who can actually offer practical help in addition to the parts – are as rare as hens’ teeth. When I contacted Steel’s in Brighton (who would have been nearer) and explained what had happened I got a surly “don’t touch 950i’s anymore – too old”. So I’ll definitely be adding The King of Spare Parts to my little black book because in the event of another machine emergency his will be the first number I call. (Oh yes he also sells brand new and second hand machines too)

Thanks Doug!

J x

 

One step forward and the smell of burning

It really has been a mixed week.

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The kitchen from hell

When we moved into this house back in July I knew that the ‘kitchen from hell’ wouldn’t be staying. Well I really only have to endure it for a few more weeks as the builders started working on the downstairs extension on Monday. Hooray! They’re a lovely bunch, turn up when they say they will, they’re polite, WORK and actually clean up before they leave at the end of the day. (Yes we’ve had past issues with bad builders – who hasn’t?)

Speaking of work for the first time since moving to Brighton I’ll be taking part in the Artist’s Open House weekends in May and have been getting a little stressed that up to now no work has materialised. That was until yesterday when I had a fantastic day researching materials and techniques for a new collection of ‘ready to wear’ accessories that I’m really looking forward to producing. So today I pulled my beloved Brother 950i knitting machine out of it’s hiding place under my desk, the plan being to knit some test swatches and try out some construction techniques.  If you follow my Instagram feed (@jeanettesloan) you’ll have seen my posts showing me cleaning my machine and knitting on it for the first time in …let me think….let’s just say it’s been years. I’ve owned this machine since 1990 when my parents bought it for me from John Lewis on Oxford Street. It’s like my baby. No-one else touches or uses her. When we’ve moved house no-one lifts her apart from me and I still have all the mylar sheets, pens, tools (intact) and cast on combs all with straight teeth, in fact the double bed ones even have their wires! (Take note every BA knit/fashion student I’ve ever taught).

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The first sample was going so well, she even read a mylar sheet without stuttering and then it happened. …That popping sound…. Then the smell of smoke.

Given the age of the machine I knew it could happen and shouldn’t have been surprised. It looks like the capacitors have gone – well she is 27 years old – so my work plans for the day have been abandoned.

The good news is that thanks to the Guild of Machine Knitters’ website I’ve found a lovely man called Doug in Faygate (near Crawley) who should be able to fix her on Monday. As for the rest of the day I’m off to make a fish pie for dinner. Let’s hope I can read the recipe through my tears…..

J x

Dreary Monday

IMG_0001Despite it officially being Spring the weather is filthy down here today. It’s grey, windy and wet and all I want to do is snuggle up under a blankie in front of the fire and knit.

I try not to let this foul weather get me down but the endless lack of blue sky is really beginning to get to me. The builders start work on the house tomorrow (that means the kitchen from hell will soon be a thing of the past) but even shopping for a new kitchen can only lift my mood for a little while. Thankfully though there was a little ray of sunshine.  A beautiful bunch of flowers that I received from my lovely friend, textile artist Ealish Wilson. Originally from the Isle of Man but now based in San Francisco we met when studying at Heriot Watt Uni for our Mdes in Textile Design and in fact if it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t have met the entertaining Mr Sloan. So whilst I’m enjoying my flowers, the fire and swatch knitting for a new design pop over and have a look at her website. Her work explores a number of techniques including printing, pleating, smocking, photography and digital manipulation with final applications ranging from cushions and scarves to bags and large scale art pieces.

Her Design Bahn website can be found here.

Less whingeing next post, promise.

J x

A clear head

It’s been a stressful couple of weeks.. first the fridge/ freezer gave up the ghost within a whiff of the builders arriving to start the kitchen renovation and then the full on days and nights of knitting up my denim design. Life really is back to normal. It’s now nine and a half months since my craniotomy and I’m still incredibly grateful that life is so normal and that this is all I have to worry about. Those little ‘problems’ are easily resolved; we have a new fridge/freezer (it’s amazing how keeping the milk in a cool box for a week makes you appreciate modern appliances) and the beautifully finished garment has been carefully wrapped and dispatched.

Last Monday I dipped my toe back into serious waters with a visit to see my neurosurgeon for my second post op check up. It’s more than a little bizarre that I’ve met him only four times and yet he knows my brain more intimately  than I do. The fantastic news is that the MRI scan that I had before Christmas shows no sign of tumours (or lesions as he refers to them) and although he can’t give me any answers as to why I still suffer from migraines and occasional dizziness he’s happy with the scan results and won’t need to see me until next year. I may have an awful memory and occasional migraines but I’m truly grateful that he’s given me the ‘all clear’ and whilst I’ve been sweating the seemingly small stuff I have to remember that this is what really, really matters.

(The pre op MRI is on the left -the white mass in the top right is the larger tumour and the post op MRI is on the right showing all clear).

Thank you to everyone who has supported me over the last 9 months. Have a fantastic day

J x