Camellia sweater for Erika Knight

*Before we start I should pre-warn you that there may be a bit of waywardness in this post

It’s been quite a whirlwind of a year, in fact that’s a bit of an understatement. I try not to look back too often and dwell in the past but as you’ll know if you (hopefully) read this blog regularly I occasionally have days when my brain doesn’t work as it should. Mind you whose brain does?

Mum often tells me that I don’t allow myself to recover properly when I’v been ill and to be honest she’s probably right. Since my craniotomy following the brain tumour diagnosis last May we’ve moved house (hooray), overseen a major renovation on the kitchen from hell (even more hoorays) and this Friday we’ll finally be moving my elderly parents from Essex to East Sussex so we can look after them. Understandably at ages 87 & 93 respectively  Mum and Dad are excited and more than a little anxious. They’ve lived in and around London since they came to England from Barbados at the end of the 1950’s and I think they’ve only visited Brighton on day trips to the seaside with the church…..a church they attended for the last time yesterday having been members of the congregation for over 35 years. So it’s fair to say there’s been a lot going on and somehow I’ve also managed to do what seems to be lot of design work. (More by luck than careful planning take my word for it).

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Camellia is the latest design to be published but the first I’m proud to say that I’ve designed for Erika Knight. As I mentioned in my previous post I met Erika at a yarn festival here in Brighton and we got on so well we’ve stayed in touch ever since. Erika has a very understated, modern design style and her eponymous yarn range focuses on the highest quality, natural fibre yarns produced (where possible) in Britain. To be asked to design in any of her yarns really is like being a kid in a sweet shop; from big fat Maxi Wool to the wonderfully hairy Fur Wool my creativity went into overdrive and I soon scrambled to sketch out more designs than I’d done in a long, long time.

Camellia sketch J Sloan

Oh yes, that brings us back to Camellia. Knitted in Erika’s Studio Linen it’s a long sleeve, scoop neck sweater with a very simple silhouette that allows the characteristics of the yarn to shine through.  Made from 85% recycled linen and 15% premium linen fibre this is an extremely special yarn and an absolute dream to knit with as it’s not only soft but has a wonderful slinky handle that means it drapes beautifully . I chose a really subtle rib stitch for the sleeves and yoke and contrasted it with good old stocking stitch for the body but just to make things a bit interesting added a small gather detail at the centre of the bust at the start of the rib section. I’ve used a long tail cast on for both body and sleeves to keep the edges nice and soft and there’s gentle ruffle on the cuffs where the stocking stitch gives way to the rib.

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It’s been a long process to get this design published as it was originally designed before my diagnosis and to be honest it was a bit of a struggle to get back into my pre-op headspace. Whilst I really enjoyed knitting the garment myself it was, at times, really frustrating that notes I’d made before no longer made sense to me. In fact even 14 months after my surgery it’s like looking at someone else’s work and I still can’t remember whether it was knitted before or after the op. I’d like to say a huge thank you to Erika and Bella for their patience and understanding, it wasn’t easy getting this done but I’m so pleased with the results and hopefully you knitters will be too.

The garment has been sized from S – XL oh yes and I should also thank Bronagh Miskelly for her brilliant tech editing skills, I really couldn’t have done this without her help.

You can buy the pattern for Camellia #camelliasweater from your nearest stockist of the Erika Knight range or from the Erika Knight Pattern Store over on Ravelry

Have a great week

J x

 

On meeting your heroes

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I’m not sure who it was that one said you should never meet your heroes. No doubt it’s because they often don’t live up to our far-too-high expectations and are therefore not worthy of the pedestal on which we’ve placed them. Or they’re just bloody rude. This is a case however where any expectations I had were far, far exceeded.

I first met Erika Knight in 2014 (I think) at the Unwind yarn festival here in Brighton and have to admit to being a little star struck. At the time I’d been trying in vain to get the Jeanette Sloan yarn range off the ground and was feeling more than a little jaded about my work and my place in the ‘knitting community’. So meeting someone whose work I’ve admired since being a design student was no small deal but I couldn’t have imagined where it would lead just a few years later. We chatted over the course of the show and did that ‘oh we should meet for coffee’ kind of thing, you know the one that normally never transpires. Thankfully though it did and we’ve met up on more than one occasion over coffee, gin and cake (not at the same time mind).

As someone who is incredibly modest she won’t thank me for talking about her in great detail so I won’t embarrass her by doing so. Instead I’ll simply say that she is a genuinely warm, funny, beautiful  and classy lady whose personality is reflected in her designs which are timeless whilst at the same time feeling current. (Right Erika, no more gushing I promise).

When I was asked by Erika to do a couple of designs using yarns from her own range you literally could have picked me up off the floor. In fact I was still pinching myself when I rushed home – again starry eyed – to tell Sam. Life however got in the way of our best laid plans and last year when I was diagnosed with the ‘brain squatters’ it meant that I couldn’t meet the original deadline set for the designs.

Fast forward around 14 months and thanks to a bit of re-jigging and a lot of patience from this incredible lady and her fantastic daughter Bella – her right hand woman – the designs have finally been published. (I’m planning to write a longer post to talk about the designs in more detail).

Erika you are definitely a design hero to me. I hadn’t really thought of exploring my yarn / design heroes before but I think it would make for some interesting blog posts as creatively we take influences and inspiration  from countless diverse sources.

Ms Knight, I owe you so much. Thank you…xxx

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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