I’ve been off my game recently because – like many others – I’m finding that life has become more than a little overwhelming.
The recent dementia diagnosis of one parent and the failing mobility of the other has added to an already overactive mind. It also hasn’t been helped by too much exposure to rolling coverage of the Covid 19 pandemic. So I took the decision to step back for a while. Why? Because when the previously pleasing process of creating a post for #thepattinrepeatgame feels like an added pressure rather than a thing of simple joy, you have to accept that something is wrong. And that’s how it felt. Like another heavyweight task on a seemingly endless to do list. Pressure on pressure.
So I’ve been keeping quiet and trying to look after myself. Having sought help I’m reading, practising mindfulness and pottering in the garden: a beautiful vibrant outside space for which I’m particularly grateful at the moment.
As a newbie gardener I’m finding my way, growing veg from seed and trying to outwit my arch enemy. A seemingly cute squirrel who lives in our olive tree who insists on digging into every one of my bloody pots to bury whatever treasure it’s found it’s travels.
As someone with a shockingly bad memory, limited horticultural savvy and no garden design skills I try to label what I’ve planted because I usually forget what I’ve planted and where I’ve put it. I buy a few cheap plants (just incase my over attentiveness becomes the kiss of death) and have been gifted others (thanks for the Geum @wendyswalksandboard)
so up to now that’s meant the garden is predominantly purple, pink. This morning however, I discovered something I didn’t know was there and certainly don’t recall planting. Like a burst of sunshine it’s appeared in a sea of purple, reminding me that even on the darkest days there can be glimpses of beauty, positivity or kindness that can lift your heart, encouraging you to keep going. This single yellow bloom did that for me this morning and I wanted to share it’s beauty with you, just in case you’ve also been finding life difficult. Please know you’re not alone, and it’s ok to ask for help.
A bit later than I’d hoped (ok 3 weeks actually) I’ve finally found the time to blog about a project that consumed much of my 2019.
Warm Hands is a collection of 15 fresh glove, mitten and fingerless mitt designs which I co-edited with Kate Davies. The patterns have been created by a global collective of 15 designers and each use either Milarrochy Tweed or Ard Thir from Kate’s own range of yarns.
Although I’ve written four books before this it was the first time I’d collaborated with anyone on a publishing project and of course because everything produced by KDD.com is done to such exacting standards, I knew the results would be good. I just didn’t know how good. Or how much I’d enjoy working on it with Kate and the KDD team.
In this, my first-time role as co-editor, I had creative input right from the beginning. This book is special because it brings together a mix of newbie designers (who were invited to submit designs in an open call on Instagram and Ravelry) as well as more well known designers. With the work of BIPOC in Fiber always in mind it was important to me that new BIPOC designers (black, indigenous and people of colour) felt encouraged to submit and, having creative input into the look of the book, I felt it was essential that they be represented in our choice of models too.
Trying to curate a collection of designs that Kate and I felt was balanced in terms of technique, style and skill level meant going through a pretty rigorous selection process. From over 100 submissions it meant looking and re-looking at each design and evaluating them in isolation, then how each would or wouldn’t fit in with the other design submissions. At this early stage I only knew of a couple of the designers and kept losing track of which design belonged to whom so as we gradually whittled them down to the final 15 I found that drawing the designs helped my shockingly poor memory. What I didn’t foresee was that when it came to the final layout these sketches would actually find a home in the introduction pages of the book.
Toasty Cosy is my own design contribution to Warm Hands. Like the majority of the patterns in the book it’s knitted in the Fingering weight Milarrochy Tweed but of course, being me I chose to use it held double rather than single. The back of the design is worked in columns of two colour calliper cables which, in the doubled yarn produces a really dense, warm fabric with a slightly ribbed texture. This is contrasted by a subtle slip stitch texture in stripes that echo the colour changes of the cables but this time on both the palm and thumb.
As I’d never previously worked with any of Kate’s yarns there was of course swatching to be done. I know many of you roll your eyes when I talk about swatching and tension but I find it a really enjoyable and necessary part of my design process. In this case I knew I wanted to make a mitten and fingerless mitten option and whilst the combination of Cranachan and Buckthorn immediately worked for the mittens the first combination I chose for the mitts – Cowslip and Garth – really didn’t work at all. It looked sludgy and sad so I ended up replacing Garth with Hirst and the results are much fresher.
Oh and why the name? Well Toasty Cosy is the term my best friend Margo uses to describe when she’s just perfectly warm. Seems appropriate don’t you think?
I hope you’ll enjoy Warm Hands. Aside from being the brightest book KDD has ever produced (yes, my work is done) a lot of thought has gone into how the finished collection looks. Kate and I pooled ideas – and clothing – to style the designs with a contemporary feel in order that you could see yourself (or your loved ones) wearing each of them. Those ideas were captured and brought to life by the fantastic photography of Tom Barr (Kate’s husband) and it was his invaluable local knowledge that kicked off the ‘in your face’ vibe for the location shots . As well as regular KDD models Fenella and Jane it was a pleasure to work with new models Samira and Mimi for whom this was their first job but who behaved like absolute professionals – even when I was trying to get them to relax on command while art directing the photoshoot. And lastly what brings all of that together so beautifully is Tom’s skilful graphic design that ties all the designs together but at the same time gives each one space and allows it to shine.
Warm Hands 15 fresh designs edited by Jeanette Sloan & Kate Davies
Format: Print copy
Each print copy comes with a download code for the ebook on Ravelry.
To order your print copy visit the website by clicking here
With Storm Denis on its way to the UK tomorrow I’m wishing you a weekend of Warm Hands and even warmer hearts
Let me start by saying this is a really, really quick blog post. As you know if you follow me on IG and here on the blog I’m primary carer for my elderly parents and at the moment they rightfully take priority.
The long overdue discussions of diversity and racism in fibre community have somewhat cooled down over on Instagram but last week (I think at least, last week was a bit of a blur) Casey Forbes, co-founder of Ravelry, started a new forum thread ‘Racism in the yarn community’. You’ll need to join up which costs nothing and you can read and contribute to the discussion by following the link. Just click here
When you login on the front page you’ll find there also a new series called Humans of Ravelry which aims to feature individuals who are doing particularly interesting work in the fibre community be it teaching, designing, charitable work, blogging or helping out in their forums. The first person to be features is Dana (dwj1978!) whose blog Yards of Happiness blog chronicles the knitted projects she produces for her, her husband and her two wee dogs Cher and Jellybean. I’ve never met Dana but she has an amazingly stylish and colourful Instagram feed plus an incredible smile that would brighten any day so follow her on IG here.
I’m hoping to be working on the POC Designers and Crafters list this week and will let you know when it’s been updated, this time with Asian knitters and crafters……
I started the the POC Designers and Crafters list last August before the current wave of discussion over on Instagram about racism in the knitting/ fibre community. It came about because I wanted to challenge the statement ‘black people don’t knit – they crochet’ which formed the basis of @lhamiltonbrown’s MA RCA dissertation ‘Myth: Black People Don’t Knit – the importance of art and oral histories for documenting the experiences of black knitters’. To find out more about Lorna click here.
For my part I simply asked the question ‘how many black knitwear designers can you name?’ because I genuinely couldn’t believe that I, as a black hand knit designer, could be one of so very few. The responses to my IG callout revealed many names of designers, makers, indie dyers, bloggers and podcasters working across knit. crochet, weave, embroidery and a host of other disciplines some of whom I knew and others of whom I wasn’t aware. The other thing I learnt, thanks to comments from the likes of Suraya Hussein @mahliqawire and Asian knitter and spinning teacher @su.krita was that as well as black talent being under represented; asian talents were too. So I chose to use the acronym POC in order to encompass all non white people hence people of colour. (Since then I’ve come to learn the BIPOC acronym for Black Indigenous People of Colour). At this point I feel I need to emphasise that this is the the only time I have or ever will make the type of definition that excludes a group on the basis of skin colour or ethnicity. Just in case you don’t know me well enough – and I’ve had quite a few new followers since this whole discussion took off again like a bat out of hell – I feel I need to state this quite plainly. I do not discriminate against white people, if I did I wouldn’t be married.
I’m not a bitter black woman with an axe to grind. I’ve been very fortunate to work with lots of good people none of whom gave a damn about whether or not I was black. They were simply interested in my talent. Unfortunately not every person of colour in this industry has had the same experience, opportunities or exposure which is why I started to compile and promote the POC designers and crafters list. It is something I have become more and more passionate about despite resolving at the beginning of this month to work less and practice more self care. That said I will continue to add to, update and publish it here on my blog. Back when I started this list no one else seemed to be interested in the work I’m currently doing, now interestingly enough they are. I know my motives for starting the list and have explained them above. If you’re thinking about starting something similar based on what I’ve been doing I’d like to ask to you do two things.
Firstly, what are your own motivations? Were you thinking about this the lack of racial representation and ethnic diversity in the crafting community 6 months ago? I know I was.
Secondly if you were why the need to ride on the back of the work I’ve done? (And it’s taken hours I’m not just reposting other people’s feeds though there’s nothing wrong with that on IG).If you think you need to cater for a group that’s under represented do your own work and start a new list.
If you know me at all you’ll know that I think long and hard before posting anything. Not just because of how my brain now works but also because I’m anxious not to hurt or offend and I use the word anxious deliberately because this is currently causing me to lose sleep. Another thing I’ve deliberated over is setting up a ko-fi page. More than one friend has been in contact telling me that I’m putting a lot of time, work and effort into this for which I deserve to be paid. One of them even sent me a link and nagged me to get started. So, thanks to Helda Panagary @heldap123 and Lorna Hamilton Brown @lhamiltonbrown I’ve now set one up and youll find it the end of this post if you feel you’d like to give your support by ‘buying me a coffee’. If not please continue to find, support and celebrate the designers and makers on the list. That’s why I created it.
Hoping this doesn’t sound like a rant. it wasn’t meant to.
You’ll find my ko-fi support page by clicking the image at the start of this post or by clicking here
It’s a dreary and wet Saturday morning and the March issue of Knitting Magazine has just hit my doorstep. Great you may think, a perfect excuse to hunker down with a(nother) cuppa and linger over the designs, articles and reviews held within the covers. But this issue is a little different for me as it marks the end of an era ….my last Ask Jeanette column.
I was very privileged to have been asked by Knitting’s previous editor to take over the column from Jean Moss and I can’t believe that was something like 10 years ago. Within that time I also took on other features including the yarn reviews and truly enjoyed all the drooling, petting, swatching and writing about yarn for ‘work’. It’s truly been one of the best jobs in the world. But, as you’ll know if you read this blog regularly life has taken a few unexpected turns in the last couple of years with the diagnosis of my brain tumours. Although mercifully they were both successfully removed in 2016 the surgery has left me quite a different person and no doubt along with getting older, has left me with a number of difficulties. This may sound odd but I no longer feel ‘present’ in much of what I do so on a good day I’ll write something – much of it back to front or spelt incorrectly (thank god for autocorrect) – but without a great deal of focus or concentration which means constant reading and re-reading in order to try and get it to penetrate my brain. Even then I may come back to it 24 hours later and it feels like reading someone else’s work. Alternatively on a bad day there are the migraines which I’d hoped to have seen the back of after the craniotomy. Fellow migraine sufferers will know how debilitating these can be and despite being caffeine free for over 5 years and trying to avoid cheese (boo!) & red wine (boo hoo!), getting lots of rest and drinking lots of water they still rear their ugly heads.
Unfortunately all this this has meant that trying to meet deadlines has become increasingly more difficult along with trying to juggle looking after my elderly parents day to day. I felt that something had to and has to change. So I took the difficult decision to bring to an end most of my work for Knitting Magazine. You’ll find my final column on page 44 but you won’t be getting rid of me entirely as I’ll still be responsible for the A to Z of Techniques along with the occasional design. As for who will replace me I’m very happy to say that the reigns will be very ably taken over by the wonderful, and hugely talented Sarah Hazell who I was fortunate to meet only last year at Ally Pally and will hopefully see a bit more this coming year.
Thank you for letting me into your favourite knitting magazine. It’s been an absolute pleasure to write for you. I hope you’ve enjoyed picking my brains over the last 10 years…it’s just time to put less stress on what’s left of them.
From the moment you turn the first page this book screams absolute class. The simple, elegant designs aren’t over styled and this allows you to see the clever details that will make you want to cast on as quickly as you can find the yarn. The title of the collection ‘Artisan’ sums the book up perfectly as it’s evocative of the skilled craft and attention to detail that’s evident in every single design.
Whether it’s the innovative yarn combinations that bring together contrasting or complimentary textures from across the Isager yarn range or a clever stitch detail that draws the eye to a shoulder seam or neckline I found something in every design that made me do a double take. I’ve got a milestone birthday at the beginning of next year and have been promising to find a real ‘hero’ pattern to knit for myself as a treat – well it’s definitely coming from this book. The trouble is, which one to choose?
There’s the Pearls sweater which is a highly textured raglan design where the dipped stripes of the pearls(bobbles) echo the shallow ‘V’ neck which is edged in a 3 x 3 rib. The body of the sweater starts with a 3 x 3 rib that gently rises at the sides forming a triangular shape above each hip when the garment is made up. The sleeves also begin with a 3 x 3 rib but rather than creating a hard horizontal band across the edge of the sleeve the rib, as on the body, rises up on the inside to create a V shape when the seam is joined whilst the pearl textured stripes on the top focus the eye down the centre of the sleeve towards the back of the hand when the garment is worn.
Isager Alpaca 1
When it comes to yarn the garment is worked in a combination of Spinni (a single ply 100% wool) knitted with a single end of Alpaca 1 ( a 2 ply 100% alpaca) which creates a intriguing ‘rustic/luxurious’ feel.
Another design that had my eyes popping out on stalks is the Lace Blouse. Admittedly it’s been quite a few years since I knitted anything this fine but again it’s the details that made me fall in love with this pattern. It’s a wide, scoop neck sweater that employs lace holes to create a faux ‘V’ shape at the neck which is in-filled with 1 x 1 rib that’s echoed on each side of the garment’s shoulder seam. There are vertical stripes of Bear Track pattern at the centre of the jumper that travel up the garment body cleverly widening out towards the shoulders and these are echoed by a single line of Bear Track on both sleeves. I don’t usually go for ‘pretty’ knits but this is both elegant & feminine but could easily be elevated to funky by using a really punchy colour. The yarn used for this design is Spinni but this time it’s used singly (just for the record this yarn shouldn’t be used singly if you’re knitting in the round).
Although there’s a lot of yarn combining in this collection none of the designs requires you to knit on anything larger than a 4.50 mm needle so even the 2 long jacket styles are lightweight and well fitting rather than heavy, shapeless and sloppy. I love the refined layout of this book; the clearly written instructions, the simple hanger shots at the start of each pattern that allow you to see the finish project ‘unstyled’ plus the charming line illustrations within the individual instructions that have a lovely hand drawn quality. As an avid note maker I like that there are several lined pages throughout the book where you can jot down details of tension etc and in the back of the book the ‘Knitting School’ gives details of some of the techniques used in the collection as well as advice on how to care for the finished items.
I lost my knitting mojo a couple of years ago and really didn’t think I’d want to knit let alone design anything again but this collection of designs literally fills my heart with joy. It makes me wish that the UK had the sort of Scandinavian Winters that would allow me to hunker down and knit my way through the book from front to back. You’ll find the book and the full range of Isager yarns online at www.isagerstrik.dk
Title: The Artisan
Designer: Helga Isager
Number of designs: 10 ( 8 garments, 2 accessories)
Even as recently as 10 years ago I was never really one for wearing neck accessories – you know, scarves, cowls, shawls and the like. That was of course until I cut all my hair off (if you know my medical history I won’t need to go into why) and it’s not until you have no hair at all that you appreciate having something warm and snuggly around your neck to keep you warm. Yes, whilst a hat may be the obvious option for some reason hats just aren’t my ‘go to’ accessory.
So as a proud wearer of neckwear I’m really pleased to present the Constance cowl, my second design produced for the Erika Knight yarn range.
Now as I mentioned in the previous post on the Camellia sweater these designs were commissioned/knitted around the time of my ‘brain squatters’ so even now some of the details are a bit hazy. I remember (I think) knitting it before my op then sewing it up and despite my best efforts to write notes for everything when I came to write up the pattern I couldn’t remember or see if it was knitted flat or in the round – so I had to search for and eventually undo the seam to confirm how it was made. Annoying at the time but it does say something for my expert mattress stitch technique.
Browsing through the many books in my library of stitch patterns always sparks off lots of ideas and in this case the stitch came before the project itself. I wanted to create a rib based stitch that had a touch of lace but with the advantage of being reversible. A couple of hours, a bit of graph tinkering and a few swatches later I was happy with the results. The 30 row repeat stitch pattern combines simple knit & purl with double yarn overs and slip stitches to create an unusual slanted rib structure that creates a lovely zig zag side edge that disappears when the project is sewn up after knitting.
The design is knitted in Erika’s British Blue 100 which is a beautifully soft DK weight yarn spun from 100% Bluefaced Leicester wool. It’s available in a choice of 10 shades and the cowl shown on the front of the pattern is knitted in Regent’s Park.
It’s generously sized so that it can be looped twice around the neck and of course you could always add a few extra repeats to the length if you wanted to make it deeper.
I hope you like the pattern and would love to see what colours you choose for your version #Constancecowl
No more filling bottles with water to boil for tea and no more hoiking dishes up the stairs in a box, to be washed, hunched over a bath silhouetted with masonry dust and shards of plaster, then hoiked back down the stairs in same box and dried on plastic trays in the temporary kitchen set up in the living room.
That is indeed a sink. With running hot water. But it’s in the new (unfinished) utility room. It’s 3 months into our ‘3 month’ kitchen renovation and the kitchen isn’t finished. Admittedly the builders have been fantastic doing the knocking out of walls and installing the mega steels that now hold up the back of the extended house. But as one team have moved on and the next have taken over for ‘second fixing’ the pace has changed and whilst I can’t fault the quality of their work I’m more than a little bored of the dust, disruption and dismal dinners. (A ‘bargain’ £1.00 Lasagne from Marks & Spencer just up the road was the final nail in my food loving coffin – even Sam turned his nose up at it). Now whilst this time 2 years ago I was still covered in Pilton filth with my nostrils haunted by the various smells from a stint working at Glastonbury and just a year ago I still had a fresh ear to ear scar in my head after my craniotomy I’d just like to…..ok I”ve just re-read this and there really is NO excuse to moan.
I’m here, I’m healthy, I’m happy and it’ll be done when it’s done. I just hope it’s before friends from Dubai arrive in the middle of next month.
Here endeth the moan, I’m off to put on the kettle.
We’re now almost into October and although it’s officially Autumn down here on the south coast it’s still warm enough to be walking around sandals, skirt and a summery vest top.
It’s 18 weeks to the day since my operation and I still have to pinch myself. Back in May I was looking at a very uncertain future with months of chemo ‘treatment’ rather than ‘cure’. Now thankfully I’m living in a wonderful new home just minutes from the sea and have just become a grand aunt for the 3rd time. (Welcome baby Imari, congratulations to my beautiful niece Danie & Ben).
That said I’m finding that living with a post-craniotomy brain is a perplexing and frustrating thing. The first few weeks of steroid induced euphoria meant I was desperate to capture thoughts that kept me awake in the early hours and doodling away to my heart’s content but recently it’s been more like living in the house of a complete stranger. It’s feels like I’m not fully present in my own self so looking back on projects I was working on before the op is like looking at the work of someone else. Did I write that? Where did I put that? What is that? I spend much of the day saying one or all of these things and yes, I know, we all forget the odd thing from time to time but when it happens all day, every day it’s very, very tiring.
So I’ve had to adapt a very Zen-like approach to my jumbled mind in order to avoid the stress that leads to a headache. Instead of getting upset at ripping back for a second, third or fourth time I just drop the needles, back away from the knitting and try again the next day. Physically I’m doing very well although all the weeks spent stuffing my face with ‘treats’ (homemade ice cream, sweet & salty popcorn, Pipers cheese & onion crisps) has led to a couple of extra pounds ( ok 1 stone) which I really need to shift but a full return to work is way off. At this time of year I’d normally be back at Kingston Uni helping to introduce the 1st year Fashion BA students to the delights of the knitting machine but instead of responding to cries of ‘its dropped off again!’ it looks like gentle beach walks to shift the lard and simple baby knits to ease the brain into gear will have to be the order of the day.
I’m off down to the beach, now where did I put those keys?…..