Lorna Hamilton Brown knits the blues

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Very seldom have I met someone with as much energy as Lorna Hamilton Brown.

We were put in touch by the lovely Freddie Robins (who I used to work with back in my technician days) when Lorna was researching for her Royal College of Art MA dissertation ‘Myth: Black People Don’t Knit’. I was very happy to play just a tiny part in this brilliant piece of writing since me, Lorna, Gaye Glasspie, Natalie Warner, poorpockets (on Ravelry), Dana (@callmedwj on Instagram) and countless other black crafters not only knit but also crochet with both skill and style. (Honestly, don’t get me started). Anyway since meeting up and finding that we get on like a house on fire Lorna and I have stayed in touch and I’m really proud and privileged to call her one of my friends.

She is a rare soul who puts so much passion and energy into her work and shows that through knitting, teaching and performing her work can touch and improve the lives of  others, be they victims of domestic abuse or sufferers of mental illness. In fact I’d go so far as to describe her as a Design Hero #designheroes.

As her final MA project her film ‘Knitting The Blues’ is a fun, funny music video behind which there is a serious, pertinent message. Knitting offers a huge therapeutic benefit to mental wellbeing and as someone who has had to cope with a lot of physical illness over the years I can definitely say that it has helped me to both relax and recover.

You’ll find the video over on Lorna’s website here on follow this YouTube link. There are a number of cameo appearances in the video including Kaffe Fassett and Brandon Mably, oh yes and you may just spot someone else you recognise. (Coughs)

Congratulations Lorna on being awarded a ‘Highly Commended’ for your dissertation!  I really hope you enjoy your graduation today. You’ve worked hard and deserve it.

Sending much love to you.

J x

 

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New tutorial: Three colour cast on

IMG_4948It’s been a long time since I posted anything on Youtube. So long in fact that I couldn’t remember my login password and had to frequently search back through my archive for clues to access it again. I post pretty frequently on other social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook (which I still can’t get my poor head around) but only started my Youtube channel because there were a couple of techniques used in my designs that I felt could be best illustrated by video tutorial. The trouble is that since posting my first two videos for twisted chainstitch and the Edie infinity scarf 5 YEARS AGO all has gone quiet on the Youtube front. Oh the shame. I’m not going to try and come up with any lame excuses like ‘I’m not very organised’ or ‘I was a bit ill’ because you already know them both to be true but I will promise that I’ve got a number of techniques that I know would make good, and more importantly helpful video tutorials and it’s something that I’m interested in developing. So with that in mind let’s start afresh with the latest video for the three colour cast on.

This is a lovely, colourful braided cast on technique that is used to kick off my Hove Actually sweater design. It’s based on the long tail cast on method so if you’re more used to casting on using a two needle method you may find this a bit of a challenge at the start   but it’s definitely worth persevering. As I said I’d like to do more of these videos so it would be great to get some feedback. If you think there are things that could be improved upon just leave a comment under the 3 colour cast video on Youtube or even on here, it would be lovely to hear from you.

I hope you enjoy it and most importantly find it useful

 

J x

Riley Stripe Wrap, The Knitter issue 122

IMG_4271There’s been a significant lack of knitting & designing going on in my life recently and rather than bang on about the reasons why I thought instead that I’d focus on something more positive. My latest design for issue 122 of The Knitter magazine which has just hit the shops.

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‘Riley Stripe’ is a design that’s partly inspired by the work of British painter Brigit Riley. Her signature Op Art paintings play with simple geometric shapes like squares, circles and rectangles to stunning optical effect. She began her first Op Art paintings in 1960 whilst on a part time teaching post at Hornsey College of Art initially choosing to work just in black and white and only cautiously introducing colour from around 1967. At this stage she began to explore the precise placement of colour, line and shape in addition to the grouping of colour in order to convey a feeling of movement in the paintings which led onto works like Cataract 3 below.

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Cataract 3 Bridget Riley

Anyway back to this design….

More generously proportioned than a simple scarf I’d call this more of a wrap as the size makes it perfect for draping around the shoulders to keep out the slightest chill and it’s lightweight enough for wearing whatever the season. Riley Stripe features two different stitch patterns, each made up of a combination of slip stitch blocks, single columns and garter stitch stripes. RileyStripe5JSloan

The first section of the wrap begins with a two colour cast on and a textured pattern with large blocks of slip stitch alternated with garter stitch stripes.  These square blocks create a series of attractive curves up the side edge of the piece that eventually become the bottom edge of the wrap once you’ve picked up from the other side edge to knit the longer section in the smaller scale pattern.

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This is really a design that explores contrasts; there’s both large and small scale pattern plus the ‘pick up and knit’ off the side edge of section one which places them at 90 degrees to each other. Then there’s the contrasting yarns which both come from the Isager yarn range. It might seem slightly odd to bring together Highland Wool (a 100% wool light fingering weight) with Viscolin (a 50% viscose 50% linen 4ply weight) but I really love the mix and actually it was playing with yarn combinations that inspired this particular match. As well as being beautifully lightweight the finished knitted fabric has a softness and warmth but there’s also a lovely bouncy quality due to the garter stitch. Once the finished wrap has been cast off (a two colour cast off to match the cast on of course) and given a gentle block and steam it also drapes like a dream.

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If you haven’t tried a two colour cast on before I’m planning to do a couple of video tutorials to demonstrate this and the two colour cast off so keep an eye out for a blog post when they’re done. There really aren’t any other tricky techniques to master other than that and once you’re set for alternating the yarns it’s a really enjoyable knit, especially if you’ve had enough of heavy winter projects.

Brigit Riley may well have used black & white to knit her version of Riley Stripe but as you know I’m very much from ‘the brighter the better’ school of thought so I chose to use Highland Wool in Rhubarb (shade 3) and Viscolin in shade 40. I thoroughly enjoyed the process of creating and knitting this design and really hope you like it too.

Happy knitting

J x

 

 

 

 

 

Changing times & tools

I’m loving my knitting at the moment. Now that may sound a little odd but when knitting is your day job  the joy of it can seem to go out the window when a deadline looms large and a million other things get in the way of what you actually should be doing. Happily though that’s not the case for me at the moment although I do have my hands full looking after Ma & Pa Trot. I’m currently working on a scarf design for The Knitter which is due for publication in the February issue and that’s why I’m keeping it under wraps rather than posting any pics of my progress online. Well, that would  spoil the surprise wouldn’t it?

I’ve chosen an unusual combination of yarns from the Isager range for the scarf and, mixed with garter stitch, the results are much nicer than I could have hoped in terms of colour, texture and drape. So I’m knitting away happily with that little excited knot in my stomach hoping that others will like this design as much as I do when it’s finally published. What has also occurred to me is that it’s been absolutely years since I worked on straight needles. Years ago, probably around 15 years when I ran a yarn shop in Edinburgh I fell in love with the feel and colour of Boye needles. So much so that, a bit like Victor Kiam who famously liked a razor so much he bought the company, I liked them so much I started stocking the range. Straights, circulars, crochet hooks and dpns I pretty much bought in the lot and worked on nothing else because they were light to handle, smooth to knit and oh so very purdy to look at.

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Fast forward to today and my tools of the trade have changed. Nowadays my ‘go to’ needles for knitting are Knit Pro Interchageables because whether I’m working in rows or rounds they’re light in the hands, will accommodate almost any size of project and wherever you are there’s no chance of jabbing innocent bystanders in the eye with the end of the needle whilst you work. So why am I back to the Boye’s for this project? It just felt like the right thing to do to be honest. Horses for courses as they say. The yarns I’ve chosen are quite fine and I’m finding the knitting is much quicker on straights especially as I can revert to shoving the left needle under my arm for stability… plus of course although the deadline isn’t exactly looming it’s for work so I need to get on. I wonder if any of you find your tools of the trade have changed over time? Do you look for the latest trend in needles/hooks and buy those or do you prefer to stick with your favourites? Or perhaps like me it depends or what you’re knitting?

I’m sure I’ll be back to my Knit Pros when this is finished but in the meantime what I can show you is how pretty my Boyes look with what I’m knitting today

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Oh yes and for those of you wondering who the hell Victor Kiam is click here 

J x

Book Review: The Artisan by Helga Isager

*This is an unpaid/ unsponsored book review

fullsizeoutput_68cFrom 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?

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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.

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.

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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).

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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

 

The details

Title: The Artisan

Designer:  Helga Isager

Number of designs: 10 ( 8 garments, 2 accessories)

Instructions: Combination of written and charted

Language: English, Danish, German

Price: 199.00 DK (Around £24.00)

 

Constance cowl for Erika Knight

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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.

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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

Have a great weekend

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