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…..
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.
When I completed last month’s #31daychallenge to blog everyday I had such high hopes and plans to blog twice a week and less than a month later I’m failing….. miserably. I do have quite a bit of work on at the moment and this seems to be turning my brain into mince so almost every word I type first appears like the 7 letter selection you get in Scrabble. Absolutely nothing makes sense until you take time to untangle the letters. Anyway, I’m not posting on a grey Monday morning to dribble on about any head yet again but rather to say what a fantastic time I had on Saturday at the Unravel festival.
I was really looking forward to going having had so much time out from yarnie gatherings so after being picked up early by Christine, my lovely editor from Knitting, we toddled off to Farnham Maltings for the show. When I say ‘toddled’ I actually meant that Christine drove while I sat, knitted and double checked the sat nav wasn’t going to lead us up a narrow one way street with a deep muddy puddle at the end of it.
I’ve had a stall at Unravel in the past and although you always plan to have a good look around there’s never quite enough time and before you know it the show is over. This year it was lovely to have a leisurely mooch around with a friend who drools over yarn as much as you do and will step in when needed should you look like you’re about to make an impulse purchase of an expensive yarn in an unflattering colour that won’t even knit a pot holder. No danger with Christine and I though. We were really very restrained. When we first arrived Christine had to pop over to interview Louisa Harding about her recently launched Yarntelier range of luxury yarns and while she was gone I seized the opportunity to have a coffee, look through the catalogue and make a plan of action based on who was showing where.
The internet is a very strange entity as it can make you feel that you already personally know people whose social media account you follow when in fact you only ever see tiny, daily snatches of their life. Well once I met back up with Christine we started off in the Great Hall and after saying a quick hello to Maggie and Colin at Textile Garden we wandered up to the stage and found JulietTillyFlop. (I know that’s not her actual name but that’s how I know her on Instagram ). Now I’ve never met Julie in person before but we gave each other that ‘we’ve never met but I know who you are’ look before actually introducing ourselves. Oh yes and she’s also got one of those wonderful, broad smiles that makes you feel you think ‘I do know you…don’t I? Like the lady herself there is a genuine warmth and wit to Julie’s work and despite swearing to myself that I wasn’t going to buy anything my first purchase was a handful of her beautiful cards one of which will be winging it’s way to it’s recipient in London later today. You can shop online through here Etsy shop Tilly Flop Designs.
Stunning crochet by Jane Crowfoot
Rich tones at Triskelion Yarns
I spent the rest of the day chatting to, being inspired by or flashing a quick hello to the likes of (deep breath) …. Triskelian Yarns, Easyknits, Fine Fish Yarns from Belfast (who I hadn’t known before so thanks to Bronagh Miskelly who I also saw for flagging them up) Louise from Sincerely Louise (who from this week will be working full time with Iesha previously one of my Kingston Uni students), Lyn Roberts whose solid silver crochet hooks, dpns and cables needs are just exquisite, Mariusz and Vida from Namolio, Nicola & Louise from The Knitting Shed, my lovely friend Jane Crowfoot, Sarah from Bigwigs Angora who chatted so affectionately about her 100 rabbits from which she ethically sources her British angora fibre, Heather from Sparkleduck, plus Rachel Coopey, Joanne Scrace (notsogranny), the ladies from Waltham Abbey Wool Show (who recognised me whilst I looked at them blankly, I’m so sorry my memory for faces is even more crap than it used to be), Francesca Hughes & Juliet from John Arbon, Belinda Harris Reid, Sue Blacker and Woolly Wormhead. Phew! Oh yes Christine and I also had a lovely long chat with Susie and Emma from The Little Grey Sheep whose display of soft, juicy coloured, hand dyed yarns smacked you in the face as soon as you entered the hall and whose Hampshire Chunky yarn I’m looking forward to using for a design to be published in an upcoming issue of Knitting. Of course I’ll post more details nearer the time. Now whilst this may sound like a hideous round of name dropping it’s really just to give you an idea of the great selection of makers, spinners and designers that the Maltings brings together so if you weren’t fortunate enough to have visited at the weekend, get it in your the diary for next year.
There was lots of chat at the weekend about the Edinburgh Yarn Festival which is the next stop for a lot of those showing at the weekend and whilst I’m hugely jealous that I won’t be there I hope they have a great time. I’ll content myself with the good vibes I got from meeting so many lovely people on Saturday and look forward to Unravel 2018.
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?
A little late to the party (but who cares) I’ve taken up another monthly challenge for February. This one was devised by Mary Heather & Christina from Ravelry has a yarnie theme. It’s called the #yarnlovechallenge and prompted by a list of daily themes you’re encouraged to post pictures showing your current project(s), your stash, your crafting room, library and….well basicallly it’ll be a month of yarn /craft porn.
The lovely thing about it is that when you ‘sign up’ (there is no formal sign up you’ll be relieved to hear) there’s absolutely no pressure to post every single day which is what made me start even a couple of days in. Not only can you see what every other yarn obsessed crafter is up to following the #yarnlovechallenge hashtag but hopefully also find out a bit more about the non fibre side of their lives. All of this is happening over on Instagram here but don’t feel excluded if you don’t have an account. There’s also a group over on Ravelry where you can join in, share pictures and chat to others taking part.
Right I’d better get back to winding off this yarn.
I’m really enjoying this blog challenge but have to admit that some days are a more of a challenge than others when it comes to writing a post. It’s been a bit of a strange week for me, one moment I’m mentally focussed and the next my brain ‘flatlines’ when it feels overloaded (I’ve been working with a tech editor on some designs completed before my operation – now there’s a strange headspace to try and get back to). The one thing that is giving me more enjoyment than ever is the actual process of knitting. The click of the needles, the snaking of the yarn through my fingers and the wonderfully repetitive process of in, over, round and out as stitch after stitch is created. There have been a few periods over the last couple of years when I really thought I’d lost my passion for a craft I’ve loved for so many years and as a designer I felt unfulfilled, unsuccessful and uninspired. It’s probably quite common for people whose living depends on their creativity but it’s also very unsettling not knowing when (and if) your mojo will make it’s return.
Well in my new mindful habit of living in the moment I am embracing my newly returned mojo and following wherever it leads me. Let’s hope it sticks around for a while
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?