Garden sheds and curious finds

As you may know we’ve been undergoing some pretty major renovations in an effort to turn the kitchen-from-hell, inherited when we bought the house, into my kitchen-from-heaven. Now back in the early days of my recovery I swore last year that I was going to have a much less stressful life and take things at a more leisurely pace. Well that’s what I told myself (and my mother who’s turned worrying about me into a career). We’ve barely owned this house for a year and the kitchen-from-heaven is now a reality although there are still things like flooring to be laid and doors to be hung which is why there are no pictures yet. Well as one major upheaval comes to a close another is about to dawn on us with the moving of my elderly parents down from Essex to a new home in East Sussex. It’s a hell of a move for anyone who’s lived in and around London for over 50 years but at 87 and 93 realistically it’s the last move either Mum & Dad will make but it’s worth it to have them live just around the corner where we can keep and eye and look after them.

What this move also means of course that Sam and I are spending many hours at my parents’ bungalow rooting through long forgotten boxes trying to de-clutter prior to packing everything into boxes. Going through the garden shed we came across what you’d expect; 3 sets of secateurs, 3 forks, 2 hoes, enough lawn care products to see the Lawn Tennis Association through the Wimbledon fortnight and countless tins of paint. ‘It’s good paint’ my Dad protested when I told him we’d have to dump the lot. ‘Yes it is good paint Dad, but only if it’s the right colour’.

Digging towards the dusty, spider ridden corners of the shed what I didn’t expect to come across was a folder containing photos recording some of the first pieces of design work I produced as a freelance knitwear designer.

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Now back in the golden days of swatching I used to sell both machine & hand knitted, crochet and embroidery designs through a couple of agents that sold internationally to fashion companies like Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan & Etro. In those days the samples produced were really source pieces from which the companies could take a number of ideas that could then be put into production and this meant that sometimes the swatches were a bit over the top in terms of colour, texture and embellishment. I didn’t always find out where each swatch eventually ended up  and I wasn’t the most prolific designer (my friend Wendy H’s swatch count literally ran into the hundreds) but I’d like to think that even now someone, somewhere is wearing a beautiful piece of 90’s knitwear, crochet or embroidery that was at least inspired by one of my designs.

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Now before you go judging me on my colour and stitch choices every collection was based on a storyboard provided by the agent and this meant that I didn’t always love the colours I was working with. That’s just the job of a designer, to work to the brief you’re given.

As you can see, even back then I loved knitting intarsia…and vivid colour…oh and a bit of embellishment. In fact some of the designs didn’t sell because there was so much going on they were too expensive to manufacture. Ah, the mistakes of youth.

Thankfully my design ethos is much less ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ nowadays but these were a real blast from the past, in some cases I can remember every yarn used and where I bought it.

How have your creative tastes changed over the years, would you be embarrassed now by what you were knitting 30 years ago? Hopefully not!

J x

 

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Black people DO knit

I can’t be the only one who finds themselves scanning social media when they really should be doing something else….and it’s usually something that has a deadline attached to it.

Despite having a  very VERY heavy head on Friday I’ve actually been surprisingly organised and productive over the last week having delivered 2 magazine submissions (keeping my fingers crossed for them) and 2 more designs for a lovely project that’s a bit hush-hush at the mo.  I’ll let you know more when I can.

During one of my many Instagram visits last week I noticed that I’d been tagged in a post by Lorna Hamilton Brown (@lhamiltonbrown). She’s a black artist based just down the road from me in St Leonards on Sea and she’s currently studying for an MA in Textiles specialising in Knit at the Royal College of Art. Lorna’s knitting and illustrative work is diverse to say the least; from protesting Helen Titchener’s innocence when on trial for attempted murder in Radio 4’s The Archers to knitting life-size artworks that encourage us to reflect on the way that our youth  are portrayed in the light of the 2011 London Riots.  She’s produced a film called  ‘Knitting ain’t Wack’ that’s a rap video based on a traditional knitting rhyme that was recently selected for The Craft Council’s ‘Real to Reel Film Festival, has been referred to by  Deadly Knitshade  as the ‘Banksy of knitting’ and on top of that was awarded an MBE for services to her local community.

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Lorna with the knitting legends Kaffe Fassett & Brandon Mably

Now I don’t normally refer to people in terms of their skin colour but the fact that both Lorna and I are black is key to how we came to be in touch. For her MA dissertation Lorna is examining the myth that ‘black people don’t knit’ and one of her RCA tutors, the lovely Freddie Robins with whom I used to work suggested she get in touch with me.

I have to admit that when I ran a yarn shop in Edinburgh I’d hear ‘no one knits now’ daily (which was infuriating given that I was running a business based on that fact that people did and do knit) much more often than ‘black people don’t knit’. It’s one of those sweeping generalisations – a bit like ‘men don’t knit’ –  that’s worth examining in much more detail. Thankfully Lorna’s dissertation has set out to do just that and I was really pleased to be able to answer a few questions for her and hopefully have contributed in some small way to her thesis. It was submitted last week which must be a huge relief and I look forward to reading it when it’s made public. I haven’t met Lorna in person but given that she’s just up the road I’m hoping that we’ll meet up this Summer. In the meantime – again by the magic of social media – I’ve found Gaye Glasspie (what a great name) also known as GG whose blog Confession of a Yarn Ho can be found here. Well what do you know? One minute ‘black people don’t knit’ and the next thing you know there’s me, Lorna, GG, the great Shirley Paden…….ok you know where I’m going with this.

GG came to knitting later in life but this hasn’t diminished her infectious enthusiasm for creative knitting and all things yarnie. She’s extremely active on Facebook, in fact she puts me to shame, and has been generous enough to be promoting my work to the followers of her Facebook page here. You’ll find her knitting patterns, ready made accessories and her wide range of witty Yarnho products over on the blog which also gets a heads up in the latest issue of Knitscene magazine. I particularly like her ‘we knit too’ and ‘natural knitter’ mugs

 

Now just in case you read this and are thinking that this is a ‘race thing’ it really, truly isn’t.  I genuinely don’t judge anyone or their crafting habits on the basis of skin colour, race, religion or sexuality. I don’t care if you prefer knit over crochet, hand knit over machine knitting or whether you hold the yarn the Scottish way or Continental style. But ask me to knit something in high bulk acrylic and we may have a problem.
Have  lovely day and as the great Jerry Springer used to say. Please take care of yourselves… and each other.
J x

New look website

It has taken so much longer than I’d intended but I’ve finally managed to update my website. The combination of an incredibly manic 6 months couple with a wobbly brain that honestly couldn’t remember how to navigate my way around it’s back end features meant that many an evening has been spent re-jigging the pages and adding new ones. Hopefully it looks fresher and is easier for visitors to use.

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There are two big additions to the website. First there’s a new SLOANmade page with the latest Seersucker bags available to buy ( with more to come).

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There’s also a Latest Designs section on the front page showing you which of my knitting patterns have been published most recently.

Ah, but there’s been changes too…

The main change is that whilst the site shows all the patterns available to download in PDF form the handling of that process is now done either through Loveknitting.com or Ravelry.com. Screen Shot 2017-06-29 at 09.47.23

In the Online Shop when you see a design you like click on the picture for more information like materials, tension, sizing and measurements.

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You’ll then see the price of each pattern (£3.60) and to buy you’ll need to click on the pink link on that page  to be re-directed to www.loveknitting.com where the patterns can be found in the Independent Designer section and you can complete the payment process.

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To buy the patterns through Ravelry go to the new Ravelry tab in the menu at the top of the screen then click on the pink link or the big picture below it and you’ll be re-directed to my Pattern Store on www.ravelry.com where you can again buy the patterns as PDFs. I wish I could have added a link to that tab but my poor brain couldn’t figure it out, sorry!

I’d love to know your thoughts on the look and feel of the new site – after all your opinion counts, I know where everything is (I think) but if you can’t find it please let me know. I’m hoping to find a way to add back in the free patterns and ‘Help’ section without making it too cluttered so keep checking back.

In the mean time enjoy.

J x

On The Tiles Clutch Bag

Well hello!

Yes I remember back in January when I did the #31daychallenge that it was meant to get me blogging more regularly but over the past week the building work has had to take priority. We’re still living on ready meals (albeit very delicious ones from Cook), we’re still at the mercy of a temperamental immersion heater that produces water so hot it’s like standing under a boiling kettle so we switch it off 8 hours before we actually want to shower and yes I’m still washing the dishes in a plastic crate in the bath. BUT we’re definitely on the home straight.

The walls have now been plastered and the first ‘miscoats’ of white emulsion paint applied. I’m actually a little worried about how much light bounces around the newly extended kitchen / dining / lounge room. When I was painting last week it was so eye piercingly bright that it actually caused a migraine – no really,  I’m serious. I had to take two Sumatriptan and go to bed for an hour. Thankfully Sam and my nephew Jas were both around to pick up the slack, it’s amazing how hard a 19 year old will work when there’s hard cash involved. Anyway we’re definitely making progress – well the builders are – and we may even take delivery of the new kitchen by the end of the week. So with all this going on I completely forgot that my latest design has just been published in the July issue of Knitting Magazine.

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On The Tiles is a simply shaped clutch bag knitted in a pure wool yarn that’s then felted in a washing machine. It’s knitted in The Little Grey Sheep Hampshire Chunky which is a yarn I first saw when I visited Unravel back in February and I have to admit it was love at first sight. It’s rounded with a soft, lofty feel and a hints of black/grey and ecru that add lots of interest to the colour. I normally start with a sketch of the design but in this case we (that’s my editor Christine and I) had got chatting to Emma from TLGS about the possibility of a design and I had to select the colours then and there.  It wasn’t easy as the range of shades that Emma has put together is truly tempting and although I went for my usual spicy combinations of rust, reds and pinks I thought it would be interesting to venture in a different direction colourwise.

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Each of the 19 colours is intriguingly named after places and people in Hampshire so rather than my default combo of Mickelmersh (a weathered rust) and Sense and Sensibility (pinky brick red) I eventually plumped for Dragon Racing (a dirty teal) and Walking the St Swithuns Way  (a gobliny green with a touch of yellow).

 

fullsizeoutput_526Having chosen colours I knew that I wanted a stitch that would work as a stripe with some sort of texture where one colour ‘intruded’ in some way onto the next. I absolutely love the swatching process and after a few experiments found the combination of slipping certain stitches then eventually knitting them ‘out of order’ created an elongated stitch that worked as I’d imagined. As an added bonus it also created a scalloped edge that could be used as a feature cast on at the opening edge of the finished bag. I’ll admit that the stitch pattern does take a while to get your brain around it but if my wonky brain can manage then I’m sure you’re up to the challenge.

Once knitted the bag is felted and then the making up process begins. Now I really am not a fan of saggy knitted bags so as well as felting I thought that lining the bag with a heavyweight interfacing would help the bag keep it’s shape when used. I’ve recommended pelmet interfacing but since making the bag have found that Decovil interfacing has a nice heavyweight that works better. It’s slightly more expensive than standard interfacing but worth it for the quality, I found it here at Cotton Patch where you can buy it by the 1/4 metre. As it’s not the most straight forward making up process to interface and insert the lining into the bag so I’ll be posting a tutorial over on the website (which is currently being updated) so keep an eye out for that. I’d be interested to hear what you think about the design and would love to see what colour combinations you’ll be coming up with when you make your version of On The Tiles ( use #onthetilesclutchbag on twitter and Instagram and I’ll find you). Oh and the name? The way that one coloured stripe stacks on top of the next reminded me of tiles, plus it’s a great sized bag for carry the basics when you’re on a night out. Or perhaps it’s the influence of all this building work….

In the meantime I’d better get some knitting done, I’ve got a couple of design submissions to work on….and kitchen appliances to source.

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