Adventures in Silver

Over the last 8 months my work has understandably taken a back seat while I adjust to a life I didn’t anticipate and certainly wouldn’t have chosen. As many of us have had to accept, sometimes life just happens and if we’re lucky, we somehow find the strength to adjust. If we’re very lucky there are people around to help us when we fall, listen when we scream and hold us when we cry. There have been days when I could barely lift my head off the pillow and others when life feels entirely normal, but Sam is never far from my thoughts. Or my heart.

The process of making – whatever the craft – has always helped me to heal. Whether recovering from breast cancer surgery or brain surgery, being creative in a practical sense has always helped to centre me. You might imagine that as someone who gets paid to write, I’d commit my thoughts and feelings to words, but not so. Making is the thing that always enabled me to find a path through days of physical pain and mental exhaustion.

Then, along came grief.

The dark bitch that has floored me twice over the last 18 months, first with the death of my precious Mum and then with the loss of my wonderful husband. For me, bereavement combined the worst physical hurt with acute mental weariness and interspersed it with periods of emotional paralysis so severe, I couldn’t process what happened to me. I’m doing much better now but there are still days when I can’t believe that Sam has gone.

Friends and family have been remarkable in their support. I’m truly blessed to have the most thoughtful, kind, loving and often funny support network around me. I say funny because if I didn’t find time to laugh, I’d really never stop crying. One particular friend, jewellery designer & maker Laila Smith offered me a chance to heal in the most unexpected way when she invited me to participate in one of her jewellery workshops. At first I thought, what do I know about jewellery? I think the older we get, the less likely we are to open ourselves up to anything that takes us out of our comfort zone. But given that my world had already been turned upside down AND inside out I thought, ‘exactly, what do I know about jewellery? Nothing. Then I have nothing to lose by going to a class’.

The first exercise on the morning of my first class was to explore mark-making using a set of textured stamps and a small piece of copper sheet. This remarkably straightforward task opened up a completely new world to me. Handling a material so far from the soft, easily manipulated world of fibre that I’ve inhabited for over 30 years was like taking a kid to a sweet shop. I was instantly hooked.

I’m not one of life’s natural squealers but I was lost in what I was doing and giggling like a child. Laila is an excellent teacher who guided me through the use of the basic kit with tools like the hide mallet, binding wire, piercing saw and files of varying shapes.

Before long, I’d learned how to measure correctly for my first ring. This process comes so naturally to me now but at the time it felt like I was learning magic. Choosing the right thickness of wire (the correct term for the lengths of metal used to make a ring), accounting for that thickness when cutting; there are so many elements to consider. Especially if like me you choose to work in silver. With precious metals, nothing should go to waste.

What I also thoroughly enjoyed was documenting my thought and making processes with photographs and my sketchbook. Looking back over these shots as I write this post, I’m instantly back at the bench in the workshop. Immersed in what I was making. Without being aware of it I was healing with each piece I made.

It would have been so easy to stick with rings and to date, I think I’ve made four in total. But the more classes I attended the more I wanted to push myself to see if I could achieve even more. There is something truly magical about taking the germ of an idea and, over time, lovingly applying a combination of annealing, cutting, soldering, filing, burnishing and polishing. Looking at my finished pieces I can recall every decision that determined how they came to be.

This sterling silver bookmark was made for a close friend who loves to read
This sterling silver pendant was a gift for the friend who brought Sam and I together
And these sterling silver initial keyrings mark my first attempts at gem setting
These sterling silver earrings are a work in progress, haven’t quite got the balance right yet…

I’ve loved my adventures in silver. They’ve seen me through some of my darkest times and the results bring me joy because they’ve enabled me to pass love onto both friends and family.

Thank you Laila for sharing your skills, your limitless patience and introducing me to a world I hadn’t imagined I would love as much as I do. I won’t be giving up knitting any time soon but you know, with a bullion dealer just down the road in Brighton I know where to get silver in a hurry should I take a notion to start classes again.

Laila regularly teaches short courses at West Dean College and if you’re looking for original handmade jewellery you’ll find her work for sale through her website Laila Smith Jewellery.

J x

Knitstrips Giveaway – and the winner is…..

Congratulations Pauline Lofkin!

You’re the lucky winner of a brand new, stash-busting copy of Knitstrips – the world’s first comic-strip knitting book. I’ll be in touch by email to get hold of your shipping details and, depending on your location, the book should be with you by the end of the week.

Thanks to everyone who posted a comment, I really appreciate you reading my blog.

J x

Book Review: Knitstrips – The world’s first comic-strip knitting book

This book feels like it’s been in the works for absolutely ages, and to be honest, it has. 

Back in February 2019 I received an email asking if I’d like to contribute a design to what was billed as ‘the world’s first comic-strip knitting book’. The message was from the creative partnership of Alice Beltran and Karen Mar who created the Knitstrips feature on the Modern Daily Knitting website. To be honest I hadn’t seen the feature so I had to pop on over and have a look. You should too, it’s a genius concept where the instructions are presented in comic-strip format, tearing apart the traditional knitting pattern which is text heavy and image light. The email dropped at a time when I’d already done a lot of publishing work in the preceding months. Having completed my collection of lace designs for the Modern Daily Knitting Field Guide no 15: Open and co-edited the Warm Hands collection with Kate Davies I was really brain tired. But, intrigued by the Knitstrips concept and up for a challenge to my usual work process I said yes. 

Nearly 3 years on and the world is a very different place and sadly my personal circumstances have changed beyond recognition. But receiving this bold beautiful book through my letterbox this month brought a huge smile to my face. It takes me back to a time when I could share my work with both Mum and Sam and they’d give me honest feedback. (Sometimes brutally honest in Sam’s case “you know I like everything you do, why are you asking? Stop worrying and just do it”). 

So you may be wondering, what is Knitstrips really like? Is it worth the hype? Is the format user-friendly? What are the projects? Who are the designers? Well read on and I’ll tell you…

The format

Knitstrips is based on the concept of IK (pronounced eye-kay) or Interactive Knitting. That’s where the patterns are: 

  • Yarn neutral – so you’re free to play with different yarn weights, colours and textures.
  • Based on the wearer’s body measurements not a defined set of dimensions.
  • Presented with specific instructions while at the same time allowing you to personalise the project to suit your personal style.

The book opens with a foreword written by founders of Modern Daily Knitting Ann Shayne and Kay Gardiner, followed by an explanation of exactly how  you should work from the comic strip instructions (this is particularly helpful as we’re so used to page after page of nothing but text). Then to set you up, there’s information on the different types of yarn, how much you’ll need, knitting needles and other necessary tools before exploring tension (gauge), various types of fabric covered by the patterns and how to finish your projects. Once you’ve read all this you’re all set to jump into the 4 collections or themed comic books that contain the Knitstrips patterns. 

The patterns and designers

Each themed comic book is named to give you a taste of what to expect:

  • Issue 1 is OMJOM (One More, Just One More). Have you ever kept telling yourself that you’ll stop after the next row, then you don’t? Well these are knits you never want to finish.  
  • Issue 2 is Focus Pocus. The projects feature the kind of techniques that take a bit more focus while you’re  making them. 
  • Issue 3 is STASH (Skeins That Are Special and Here). Lots of patterns that can be made from what you’ve already got hidden all over the house.
  • Issue 4 is Bucket List. These are knits of a lifetime, you know the kind you might choose to knit for someone else? 

I’ve just realised this is turning into the worlds longest blog post so rather than describe every pattern in the book I’ll just give you a run down of who – other than myself – has designed something for this book. It’s a lovely diverse group in terms of ethnicity, ability, design signature and skill level:

Ana Campos

Casey Rich

Cecilia Campochiaro

Hikaru Noguchi

Julia Farwell-Clay

Julie Kornblum

Rebecca McKenzie

Natalie Warner

Lauren McElroy

Norah Gaughan

Alice Ormsbee Beltran

Karen Kim Mar

The designs range from a slouchy oversized tunic that cleverly turns into a sweater with the addition of sleeves, to a bobble hat worked in sequence knitting. Or perhaps you fancy a pair of toe up, short row heeled socks, a drop sleeve custom cabled sweater or a two colour brioche cowl – that’s my humble contribution. You’re probably asking how patterns that are so technically dissimilar can make sense as a comic strip. Well, that’s the genius of this book, they absolutely do and if you’re someone who’s previously struggled to make sense of the large bodies of text used in conventional pattern instructions you should check out this book. Hopefully you’ll be pleasantly surprised. 

This book encourages each of us to think a little more outside the box when knitting from the patterns is contains. It doesn’t give information about the specific yarns used but instead gives an idea of the yarn’s weight, characteristics and an idea about how the gauge should feel. That could mean yarn with a light, airy yarn handle, a hardwearing wool or even a gauge that’s ‘medium to chewy’. No I hadn’t heard of that one either! 

At the back of the book you’ll find lots of other helpful hints and tips along with a gallery of bios on every contributing designer, the authors and illustrators who have created the most wonderful comic portraits for everyone involved. 

Here’s my comic portrait

There’s so much that makes this is an exciting new style of knitting book and from moment I noticed the brown hands on the front cover I knew I was going to love it. Alice and Karen, thank you so much for inviting me to be a part of this beautiful thing called Knitstrips. I hope there’s a second one on the way. 

J x

Jan’s January Sale

A belated Happy New Year everyone! I know what you’re thinking – it’s January 17th where’s SHE been for 16 days? But as the great Ken Bruce commented last week on Radio 2, in Scotland people pretty much say happy new year throughout January so if it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me. Plus it can’t be a bad thing to wish people happiness for the coming year can it? We all need it. Really. Need it.

If you follow me over on Instagram you’ll know why last year was particularly hard for me with the death of my precious Mum. It still chokes me to write those words as it’s just 2 months since her passing and as everyone who’s lost a loved one knows, learning to live with that loss is a long, painful process. But being the funny, creative, loving, feisty, caring, formidable woman she was Mum continues to live within me and I’m determined to honour her memory in everything I do from now on. That includes offering more free content on my website and social media platforms, continuing the work of BIPOC in Fiber and more exciting design collaborations with people and companies whose work and ethos I admire and respect.

Before all that though I’m having a January sale! (Cue fanfare)

Why? Well as I said it’s the middle of January, I’ve got two new patterns to release – and let’s face it we could all do with cheering up. The patterns were created for collaborations I did last year with Diane Ivey of Lady Dye Yarns so while they’re not exactly ‘fresh off the pins’ this is the first time they’ve been available to buy in PDF format. Say hello to the Eudine Cowl and the Up To No Good Mitts.

Both are great for using up small amounts of fingering weight yarn which I’m sure you’ve got stashed away in a corner somewhere. You can find out more about each pattern over on Ravelry – sorry if you’re unable to use the site since its redesign, I am looking into Payhip as an alternative so please bear with me.

Anyway, back to the sale. How long does it last? 53 hours from 9.00 am today Sunday 17th January during which time there’s 20% off in my Pattern Store over on Ravelry. Looking to buy a book instead? Well purchase a print copy of Warm HandsField Guide no 15 or the new Warm Hands Field / Guide Bundle and you’ll get a free PDF copy of either the Eudine Cowl or the Up To No Good Mitts with your order. ( Books subject to availability, T&Cs apply).  If you’d like your books personalised with a message or signature I’m happy to do that and of course there’s no charge, just let me know when placing your order*.

Sale ends at 2.00 pm Wednesday 19th January 2021. Why 53 hours long you ask? Well it may have something to do with a recent birthday I celebrated. Coughs.

J x

*Please be aware that due to the UK departure from the EU non-UK orders may be subject to additional customs charges and taxes in your home country. Free patterns are in PDF format only and limited to one per customer. Your PDF pattern will be emailed to you seperately after completing Checkout.

Mood Cardigan Knit A Long or should that be Knitalong?

KALs are something that are often dropped – like seasoning – into the chat of enthusiastic crafters. ‘Have you joined the so-and-so Knit A Long? Did you see the yarn what’s-her-face is giving away at the end of her Crochet A Long? Well for the uninitiated a KAL, MAL or CAL – Knit / Make / Crochet Along, depending on your preferred discipline – is basically an online crafting party where a group of like minded, nimble fingered makers work on the same pattern or selection of patterns, at the same time for a specified period. Sounds pretty straightforward doesn’t it? And it is. So why would you want to do one? Well it’s a good opportunity to support each other: you can inspire each other with yarn choices, swap tips when you get to any sticky bits of the pattern, post progress updates (or not, it’s your choice) and perhaps even ask the designer themselves how the pattern came to be. It’s a lovely way of keeping in touch with each other while making, something we’ll no doubt need more with Summer now officially over here in the UK, nights drawing in, the temperature dropping and the threat of another lockdown on the cards.

So I’m really REALLY excited to be hosting my first Knit Along – that’s right, MY FIRST – and oh my goodness am I starting my KAL-ing in some style. (Strictly speaking I’m not sure KAL-ing is actually a word but bear with me, I’m excited).

Together with Aimée Gille of La Bien Aimée and the gorgeous knitter and blogger extraordinaire (Bintou) Nappy Knitter I’ll be hosting a KAL for the Mood Cardigan from the Modern Daily Knitting Field Guide no 15: Open. This design has captured a lot of hearts on IG and also over on Ravelry, probably because its simple construction and generous shape make it flattering to pretty much any body shape. Oh and then there’s the fact that you can choose which way to wear it. Rib up, or rib down.

AND you can choose whether to work it as I designed it, in a light fingering weight yarn held double – in this case Aimée’s Helix in shade Yellow Brick Road – or in your favourite fingering weight yarn, used single. So very many choices to be made. Now you know how we came up with the concept of ‘open for the collection’. As if the prospect of knitting this design amongst friends isn’t enough there are giveaways too. Ah yes, thought that might catch your eye. *winks* More details of those to follow.

For now, just remember that the KAL begins September 30th and runs until December 30th 2020 so if you haven’t yet got your copy of Field Guide no 15: Open there’s still plenty of time to buy a copy from my online shop here. (Don’t forget you can also get your copy signed and gift wrapped at no extra cost)

Take care and see you soon,

J x.

‘MDK Field Guide no 15: Open’ : The designs

It’s a very strange feeling to work for so many months on a project and with such intensity, that when it comes to a close, the deadline met and the projects sent off, there’s a slightly empty pause. I wouldn’t call it an anti climax exactly but it’s almost as though finally, there’s a chance to catch one’s breath before the next project comes along.

Well for me, working with Modern Daily Knitting on ‘Field Guide no 15: Open’ came just after the release of Warm Hands which I co-edited with Kate Davies. And, at the start of what was to have been a very busy year: visiting fibre events, teaching classes, promoting BIPOC in Fiber and travelling around the world. And then of course, along came Covid 19.

So it felt a little strange to finally get my hands on #FG15 when it finally launched last Friday and to be honest my feet haven’t touched the ground since. I knew it would be beautiful, after all this is MDK we’re talking about and together with Melanie Falick they are a formidable combination. The book is small in size but packs a bright, beautiful punch. Because despite following in the Field Guide series after the likes of stars such as Norah Gaughan. Kaffe Fassett, Julia Farwell Clay and Carol Feller they encourage each designer to leave their own design signature and that works magically within the guide’s house style. It means the guide is completely me, but it’s also MDK too.

When Ann and Kay first invited me to design for them we quickly established the technique would be lace but from there I was left to follow my own creative path as to the exact projects and whose yarn I”d like to use. And that’s a really exciting prospect. What you’ll find in the guide are four accessories – no surprise there, it’s me after all – and one garment. But it’s not quite as simple as that. There are little twists and turns that, as the theme suggests, invite you to be open. To be open in terms of creating airy fabrics with open textures, to playing with needle size, yarn weight, and open yourself up to learning a new technique. After all, lace really needn’t be scary. I firmly believe that if I can do it, you can too.

The 5 projects gradually grow in size and skill level from a skinny rib scarf with a two row repeat to a cardigan that can be worn either of two ways. There are little tweaks and details that made this collection such fun to design and should make them fun to make. So here’s a little taste of what’s inside.

I’m so tempted to tell you lots more but I’ll be writing much more about the inspiration and design process behind the guide over on the Modern Daily Knitting blog in a couple of weeks’ time. You can buy your copy of ‘Field Guide no 15: Open’ from the Jeanette Sloan Online Shop here

For now, enjoy the weekend

J x

Making a Life: The Conversation with Melanie Falick, August 8, 2020

Join me this Saturday August 8, 2020, 18.00 – 19.00 BST (13.00 – 14.00 EDT) when I’ll be over on Zoom talking to Melanie Falick, author of Making A Life.

More of an intimate conversation than a formal interview we’ll be talking about making by hand as a pathway to wellness and fulfilment, diversity in the fibre arts community, and of course working together on MDK Field Guide 15: OPEN which launches tomorrow! (Cue Chaka Khan again)

This is a free event but does requires pre-registration which you can do by clicking here.

The nature of social media means it’s often easy to reveal too much about a project pre-launch so I’ve been very careful NOT to post any spoilers on Instagram. But, I do happen to know you can see all 5 of the projects I designed for #fieldguideno15 if you sneak on over to the Ravelry page here. But where would the surprise be if you did that?

You could just order a copy from the Jeanette Sloan website and wait for the surprise to hit the doormat when it comes through the post. Just sayin’.

To pre-order your copy of ‘Field Guide no 15: Open’ for Launch Day despatch (tomorrow Friday August 7th) click here

J x

MDK Field Guide no 15

Well this is something of a change in mood from my previous post. I didn’t realise it was so long since my last blog post or that I’d been in such a dark place when I wrote anything here on this precious space. Sorry that I’ve been away for so long but I needed to take that time away but I’m back and very happy to say that I’ve got some really exciting news.

Back in the days before Covid – remember those? When we could travel without face coverings, gather in large numbers and god forbid, actually hug the people we love! Anyway, it was way back in 2018 when I first met Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne, the brilliant and very funny ladies behind Modern Daily Knitting. We were supposed to be having a fancy breakfast meeting before going to the 2018 Edinburgh Yarn Festival and I was already in fan girl overdrive when, after talking their arses off for 2 hours, they asked if I’d be interested in designing one of their Field Guides. Well after picking my jaw off the table for a second time I said “hell YES!”

Scroll forward 24+ months. To say that it’s been eventful would be something of an understatement. On a personal level I’ve had to come to terms with a serious decline in Mum’s cognition which has meant she and Dad now need more support than ever which has made keeping up with work very difficult. But on a positive note the fibre industry is finally tackling racism, not just within but globally, the BIPOC in Fiber website is live and the positive response to it has been amazing. So following in that spirit of positivity and excitement I can finally reveal that Field Guide no 15 – you know, the one the Queens of MDK asked me to design? – is due to launch on August 7th! (Cue the screams, popping corks and sounds of Chaka Khan’s ‘I’m Every Woman’ playing LOUD).

I’ll be writing a longer post about FG15 once it’s launched but just wanted to give you a little teaser to tide you over for now. Oh also to let you know that I’ll be stocking print copies of Field Guide no 15: Open over on the Jeanette Sloan Design website along with Warm Hands.

But for now I’ll just leave you with this ……

And yes, that is pink and orange packaging

J x

Designer of the Month at Stephen & Penelope, Amsterdam

S&P Designer of the monthYou go for months without so much as a word from me and then you can’t shut me up.

Ok so maybe that’s a bit of an overstatement but there will definitely be a few blogs posts coming up in pretty quick succession over the next week or so as a number of things are revealed.

Today’s reveal is that throughout June I have the absolute pleasure of being featured as Designer of the Month at the Stephen & Penelope store in  Amsterdam. If you haven’t heard of them – how could you not? Owned by the amazing Stephen West and the gorgeous Malia Mae Joseph the store is a real h(e)aven where you’ll find yarns from all over the world, most recently stocking yarns from UK based indie dyer The Urban Purl.

The shop will be home for the next month to four of my lace designs: Dionne, Diamond Corner, Naomi and No1 Skeete Road. Earlier this year I was lucky to have the opportunity to work with Stephen & Penelope’s own yarn brand West Wool and knowing that I’d be featured this month I thought it was the perfect excuse to re-knit two of these designs in Bicycle which is the brand’s fingering weight.

NSWWB1 copy

I’m not usually a sucker for grey but decided when re-working Naomi to choose Dutch Sky for the main shade with the bobble edge knitted in Citroen which is the BEST acidic yellow I’ve ever laid eyes on. If that colour doesn’t lift your heart, I really don’t know what will.

NSWWBmain

NSWWB3

And of course if you’ve seen the previous post about No1 Skeete Road you’ll know that I reverted to type and went for the spicy orange warmth of Kardemumma when having that one re-knitted. Thanks again to my friend Mary Alderton for putting your skilful fingers to work and knitting it so beautifully and so quickly too.

All four designs are available as PDFs in my Ravelry Pattern Store and for the first time they’re also now available through yarn stores signed up to Ravelry’s Instore Pattern Sales. If you’re heading to Amsterdam you’ll find the store at Nieuwe Hoogstraat 29, 1011HD Amsterdam, The Netherlands  if not their website is www.stephenandpenelope.com

I am so, so happy to be featured, thank you so much Emily, Malia and all at Stephen & Penelope for featuring my work in your amazing store.

 

J x

NSWWB2

 

No1 Skeete Road

No1SR 1

How did we suddenly get to June already?! This year is absolutely raging past and whilst I haven’t been committed to regularly posting here on the blog I have been busy pretty much everywhere else so I’ll be doing a series of quick blog posts just to keep you up to date with what’s been happening.

Today I just wanted to let you know that my design No1 Skeete Road is now available in my Pattern Store on Ravelry. Originally knitted in John Arbon’s now discontinued Alpaca Delight it was first published in the December issue of Knitting (no 188) but the pattern has been updated to include full instructions in both written and charted form which should make it more accessible to both chart lovers and chart haters. Oh and what’s that amazing yarn you’re asking? This new version was knitted (by my lovely friend Mary Alderton) in West Wool Bicycle. It’s a fingering weight blend of 90% Falkand Merino 10% Texel which comes in a really uplifting palette of colours and includes eye popping brights as well as cool greys but of course I went for this shade of spicy orange called Kardemumma.

No1 SR 3

I can’t really decide whether this design is best described as a shawl or a scarf but I guess it depends on how you wear it. However you style it you’ll find the pattern for No1 Skeete Road here

J x

No1 SR 4