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).
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…..
Despite 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.
The reason you’ve not heard a lot from me over the last week is because I had a busy and stressful week that was thankfully peppered with the odd joyful moment that kept me from falling into utter panic. Back in the days of the old brain the design commission I was working on would generally have taken me less than a week to knit, then translate into written pattern instructions with charts for submission to the appropriate magazine. However with the new brain it turns out that even knitting one of my own designs whilst enjoyable, was also exhausting and frustrating almost in equal measure.
The design in question is a simple slash neck sweater in mosaic and purl stitch texture and it was originally designed last March (I think) before the brain squatters were diagnosed. Having decided on a simple, easy to wear silhouette I was really looking forward to getting started. Having cast on and knitted the first few repeats I thought I’d got the hang of the 16 row pattern. Then of course I’d lose where I was or just rock on for a few rows forgetting to decrease when needed so back I’d go, rip, rip, ripping it out and cursing under my breath. Damn brain! It took longer than planned and took more yarn than requested due to a definite difference between Rowan’s old denim and the new definitely skinnier-in-the-fingers ‘Original Denim’. (Just a word of caution, if you’re planning on knitting a vintage Rowan Denim design using the newer yarn take the time to swatch before you cast on for the garment).
By the time I’d finished sewing it up over a year after it was originally submitted although I’m happy with the results my lack of confidence issues mean there were lots of nagging doubts whilst I was knitting and praying that the commissioning magazine is equally as pleased. Oh and that it fits ok.
It was only once I’d cleared the decks and finally posted the garment off that I could truly, truly relax. I’m not sure in what issue of the The Knitter it will appear but here’s a little sneak peek of the lovely purl and mosaic textures.
We all have a favourite yarn, season, stitch, technique or colour don’t we? For me the yarn would be anything deliciously soft and expensive, the season would be winter, the stitch would be mmm…you know I’m not so sure, I guess it depends on my mood. As for colour it would have to be orange…..or pink…..or better yet a combination of both. So it’s a little strange to have so much blue yarn sitting on my desk this week.
I like blue but I don’t LOVE it…. unless it’s a really vibrant turquoise bringing to mind warm tropical breezes, cool rum cocktails and soft white sandy beaches. In general blue tends to leave me a little cold and it although it doesn’t feature largely in my wardrobe there are some notable denimy exceptions. I mean who doesn’t wear denim in one form or another?
As for the fate of all this blue yarn, the chunky baby alpaca is for a friend’s surprise birthday gift that I’ll be hand knitting tomorrow. The variegated sock yarn is for Sam’s ribbed scarf that will be machine knitted later today and the denim yarn is for a magazine commission that’s been lingering around for a while. (I was due to submit it last year but got waylaid by the brain squatters). I’ve loved working with Rowan’s Denim since I was a student and am definitely looking forward to knitting with it again. Not only can you machine wash it at 60ºc but it can also be tumble dried so it’s pretty indestructible plus it ages beautifully with every subsequent wash which adds wonderful character to the garment. This for me makes it a classic and a winner.
The week started off a little wobbly yesterday but I’m hoping I’ll catch up as my diary is pretty full.Thankfully though it’s a good mix of work and play and to get me in the mood I’m going to start by listening to The Mighty Wah! whilst I work
What story will be told by the yarn you’re using this week?
I don’t really like to going to networking events. People who don’t know me will laugh when I describe myself as shy but I am in situations such as these. I just can’t help feeling awkward. Anyway on Friday night Sam and I went along to a Glug meetup that was held at Patterns in Kemp Town. Organised by Crush Creative and Agency Rush the meetups are designed for young and funky creatives to get together, drink, chat and collaborate. Yes I’m well aware that I’m neither young nor funky but our friends Ben and Ceri are and Sam worked in the creative /advertising industry for over 20 years.
So in order to inspire us guest speakers are invited down to give short presentations (actually more like chats) about their work and on Friday night the first speaker was a London based artist called Kyle Bean. Now normally I’m more than a little cynical about the advertising industry having been around it in Edinburgh and seeing a little of how it works. The Glug blurb described Kyle as having “a passion for handcrafted design and tactile illustration” and to be honest I had no idea what to expect from his talk. Well I’m so happy that I dragged myself out of the house because I loved his work and his attitude to it. He’s a true craftsman in every sense of the word and his work is often playful and witty. In a world where lots of the advertising images thrown at us are comped together in Photoshop or created using CGI his ‘illustrations’ often use simple coloured paper (in varying grades) but could also include other random media such as toothpaste, plastic piping, vegetables or egg shells. I absolutely love the hours of work and the level of detail that each hand made piece demands. He’s worked on campaigns for Moo, Emirates, Google and Wallpaper Magazine as well as creating installations for fashion brands like Matthew Williamson and Hermes at Liberty, London. In particular you should watch the Honda ad which was filmed using the same stop frame photography method used for ‘My First Tv Ad‘. You can see more of his work on his website here
Enjoy his work and all going well there’ll be an extra post today to catch up. Then there’s only one more day to go!
Every month a package of yarn is delivered to my door. Now that’s not unusual, I’m very lucky to have been Knitting’s resident yarn reviewer for some years now and surely, it’s every knitter’s dream job isn’t it? Playing with yarn and then getting to write about it? For each issue the yarns are selected and ‘themed’ by my editor Christine so I’m never quite sure what to expect from the mysterious package until it actually arrives. And you know what, I love that element of surprise.
Because we work a few months in advance the yarns don’t always chime in with the weather at the actual time of writing. I could be knitting with chunky wintry wools in the middle of August or slinky summery cottons in December. (Today it’s a cold, foggy day and there’s a mix of cottons and wool with a touch of mohair thrown in). It’s also really interesting that the yarns reflect just some of what’s available on the market and the thing that really challenges me is that they’re not always yarns I’d choose to knit with were I knitting for myself. Ok I’ll admit it, I’m a bit of a yarn snob. On a personal level I prefer natural fibres such as wool, cotton, viscose and bamboo and as for the luxury of fibres like alpaca, silk and cashmere well, that for me is fibre heaven. I’m drawn to strong colours because they literally make my heart sing with pink, orange, red, lime and turquoise among my favourites whilst washed out, pale shades..well, they just make me feel a little sad. I don’t mind if a yarn is roving, plied, twisted, chainette or eyelash in it’s construction or commercially versus hand dyed in it’s colouring but I’m not a huge fan of 100% synthetic fibres. I think it was learning to knit with nylon as a child (it literally set my teeth on edge) but I understand that they’re durable, can add strength to other fibres and are easy to care for so they have their place allowing lots of people with tighter budgets to knit away to their heart’s content.
The monthly knock of the postman followed by the cry of ‘MORE yarn for you’ marks the arrival of the next 8 yarns that may just shake up my yarny status quo. And rightly so, it’s too easy to get stuck in a rut. I don’t get to choose so they could include all, or more interestingly, none of my ‘got to’ favourites but it really doesn’t matter. My job is to explore them all and tell you what I make of them.
So would you admit that there’s a yarn snob in you? And what, if anything, will you do you do to challenge it?
I first came across John Arbon’s Alpaca Delight way back in 2015 when reviewing it for Knitting Magazine (issue 154). Writing yarns reviews is a job I really enjoy as I get to ‘play’ with a wide range of yarns from a variety of spinners and dyers, some big and some not so big. I can’t begin to think how many I’ve swatched over the years but I fell in love with this yarn at first sight, well actually it was first touch. It’s a 4ply blend of 70% alpaca 30% Falklands merino with an incredibly soft feel and just the right amount of blur.
Now you may imagine that I’ve got the world’s most mountainous stash (Sam already thinks I have) but no, thankfully I return the yarns to my editor Christine once the job is done and it’s just as well otherwise I’d be the mad, bald, wool-stashing woman of Hove. Somehow though this yarn never quite made it out of the house (coughs) and it’s destined for a one hank design that I’ll be working on today. Not quite sure how that happened (coughs again) but I do love my job….