Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Woollen woods 2014 - first knit a swatch...

A few months ago I was thinking about creating a 'knitting creature' of some sort; no not a completely random thought! the idea was sparked off by the new 2014 Canopy Arts woollen woods event at a local National Trust property here in the South Lakes. For this event, anyone can create a woollen creature (something which might normally be seen in a woodland) and send it in to be exhibited in the woods at Sizergh Castle. I did a woolly caterpillar last year and thought this year I might try something else, maybe a bird...

Caterpillars are so last year...
Now the advice when starting a new project with some unknowns thrown in is to knit a swatch but what to do in this case?! I knew I wanted it to be a mixture of a little bit of knitting but mostly created through using pre-loved woollen garments.Anyway after a bit of pondering I decided to create not a swatch but a small prototype. Largely because I had bits of white cotton kicking around;the prototype turned out to be a knitting sheep. It meant I tested out the overall effect a bit and had somewhere to start when it came to the real thing.

A sheep knitting, not something you see every day...
For my 'proper' creature ie my bird, I had a slightly moth-eaten Fair Isle cardi bought from a charity shop in fawns and greys and browns and it seemed perfect for the main role in this upcycling opportunity. I forgot to take any photos as I went along so here is the finished character, my knitting bird, with some idea of what I did along the way.

One knitting bird, complete with knitting...
I loved the colours and pattern on the Fair Isle cardi as a rather nice patterned bird body but wanted them to be quite subtle so turned the garment inside out (I also liked the idea of the seams being visible on the outside) and then just stuffed the sleeves inside and turned the bottom rib up to help give it some stuffing. Next I found a charity shop gent's jumper and cut off the sleeves to make the wings, sewing them into a tapering point I attached them to the shoulders and used the rest of the jumper also to stuff the body. When it came to legs I made a couple of short cord lengths and used a shaped piece of felt attached to the end of the body for that nice Chicken Run/Aardman Animation look.

Now the body was looking ok I needed a head - at first I thought like the prototype I'd knit it but then remembered a handknit bag I'd knitted already and no longer used;  it was perfect for reshaping into that long round shape and had different colours front and back. On went the head, pushed into the neck of the cardi and again stuffed with itself. A scarf (made from a discarded piece of picture knitting left behind from a previous art project) helped to give the head/neck a bit of support. For that look of intense concentration I knitted a nice yellow beak, attached a couple of wooden button eyes on ovals of felt and the bird itself was complete.

Don't disturb me I'm knitting...
Finally, I knitted the knitting that the bird was knitting (is that too many 'knit' words in one sentence?). I used intarsia for the trees but added the letters and National Trust oak leaf on with coloured wool afterwards with a sewing needle and wool.

Echoing the National Trust's advertising approach...
The last thing needed was a shifty visit to the park for a few small branches snipped off to be the bird's knitting needles; I slipped the knitting into position and tacked it in a few places to keep it in position and tucked the knitting needles under the wings and there we have it. Don't you just love how things evolve - from small knitting sheep into large knitting bird!

From prototype knitting sheep to my finished knitting bird complete with message!
I had intended to put the bird into the actual Woollen Woods show but got quite attached to it and couldn't bear the thought of it being out in all weathers over the next 6 months so decided I could use it myself with a different 'message' as a textile artist's mascot. So it seems now that never having thought of myself as (or indeed been) a person who knits woollen creatures I seem to be gathering quite a menagerie, better hope it doesn't get out of hand...

The 'knitty gang' so far (caterpillar and reindeer are absent friends)...

When I can I'm making textile art or blogging about it; here's my web site; or follow me on  Facebook and Twitter for my knitting and textile art news.

Monday, 21 October 2013

A beautifully packed Knitting and Stitching show experience

As those who keep up with all things LindyD know, I was at Ally Pally recently exhibiting my work as a finalist in the UKHKA's Knitted Textile Awards at the Knitting and Stitching Show; I had a great time at the show itself, alongside a couple of quick visits to central London for museum/gallery visiting and even having a go at ice-skating - yes, it was a varied and busy week!

Outside the Pally after set-up, ready for a central London visit
If I had to use one word for it all ? ... difficult to choose just one but I think 'packed' might do it justice.

Living in the Lake District we do see our fair share of visitors and on occasion in the summer we think our villages and towns are 'packed'. I can say now that in comparison to the K&S show on all four days there's no contest, our villages and towns are busier than usual but they aren't packed!

The area round our stand, late afternoon so a bit of room to move...
This was taken c 4pm on day one when the crowds had thinned a lot...
It was amazing to think that so many people out there love their own particular version of knitting and stitching so much that they can't wait to come to this kind of show; they say 60,000 can come through the doors in the four days it's open. Shopping of course is a serious pastime for some with show bargains to be had (the really serious come with a wheeled shopper bag) and in no time on each day there were visitors bustling around with their bags fully packed with things to keep their hobby going (probably into the next millenium!). The cafes and corridors and every other space were packed, so too were the stands of the stall holders with lots of lovely stuff to buy as they maximised the space available to sell.

But it's not all about retail. For others the attraction is a bit different, for the show was packed with creative and talented people showing their work, demonstrating their techniques and ready to chat about what they'd done and how they'd done it. With the people came the ideas, lots of them, quirky fun, and fascinating - packing the space and permeating the atmosphere.

A creative way to knock out any preconception of a Knitting and Stitching show as dull!
On our own stand the range of hand-knitting packed into one relatively small area was amazing and to think we all started with yarn and needles!  I think this was one thing that struck the visitors to our stand since we had everything from plastic insects wearing tiny knitted jumpers to large knitted garments; from lovely knitted interior furnishings to painterly artwork.

Stand TGQ13 - our home for the week
For people who came to our stand and chatted many were looking for ideas and inspiration, packing the experience of what they'd seen away in their head so they could take it out later and maybe try some of the ideas for themselves.

Finally, for me I met a load of lovely new people. We packed a lot of hopes and dreams onto our little stand and when it came to show close on Sunday, 'packed' took on a new meaning as we scrambled to put our treasures safely away ready for transport to part two when the show moves to Harrogate.

Exhibits came down quicker than they went up!
So, if I had to choose one photo to sum it all up? .... this is it below: taken in the V&A contemporary design area and not at the K&S show at all.  For me it sums up the quirky, varied and exciting time I had and all the lovely and different thoughts and ideas I've taken from the experience, loosely joined together and which will be put to good practical use at some future time I'm sure.

It was described as a chest of drawers...!

photos are a mixture of mine (poor ones) and Dayve's (good ones)

When I can I'm making textile art or blogging about it; here's my web site; or follow me on  Facebook and Twitter for my knitting and textile art news.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Laura's Wood - textile art with knitting and weaving combined

I thought this time rather than comment on things from the outside world, I'd do a post about my latest art work. I've called it Laura's Wood because without Laura of Laura's Loom it wouldn't exist...
I'm assuming she'll be pleased with the compliment! As anyone artistic knows, the creative process sometimes takes a long time to come to fruition and this piece was probably longer than most!

So my tale starts almost 4 years ago when I was given a lovely birthday present by my other half Dayve to go to a one-to-one tuition session with Laura at Farfield Mill. It was a beautiful late autumn morning as I recall, Laura welcomed me, we talked about what I'd like to do (we agreed I'd have a go with an Ashford table top loom, rigid heddle, don't worry it didn't mean anything to me either at the time!) and we agreed our day's programme.

The wonderful Farfield Mill, near Sedbergh, looks (and smells) great!
This is Laura ( from her Laura'sLoom Facebook page, backstrap weaving in Bhutan apparently!
 For the rest of the morning Laura showed me the way that the warps are prepared for the loom, this is a skill in itself! I particularly liked her tale of the bloke who'd been weaving for some considerable time but came to her for a workshop and admitted that until she'd showed him this cunning technique he'd relied on the fact that he had a really long hall to lay out his warps while he set up his loom! Weavers will understand the impractical nature of this 'solution'; for non-weavers I suppose an artist equivalent would be painting with a really long handled brush a long way away from your canvas to get perspective or for knitters it would be like trying to knit with the fleece still attached to a sheep...  It reminds me that in all crafts there is a technical body of knowledge built up over many generations that it's really handy to know!

A warp frame complete with organised warps ready to be taken off for warping
We had an excellent lunch and then afterwards we got onto some actual weaving using the warps we'd set up before lunch. I had a brilliant day, it's a wonderful place, Laura's teaching was excellent and it was a good way for a beginner to get an idea of weaving. She kindly offered to let me borrow the loom as she didn't need it for a few weeks and so I had it at home and was able to design and make the piece I had in my head. I was pleased with the end result, only needed to find the right piece of artwork to use it in, and the loom was returned to Laura with much thanks.

The famous Ashford Rigid Heddle loom (a handsome devil) this isn't my weaving by the way!
Now fast forward the rest of the (almost) 4 years! My woven piece had still not found a place in my textile artwork worthy of it but then I went to Woolfest in June this year and met Laura again. My good buddy Helen spotted the selveges (edges cut from Laura's woven cloth) and immediately I knew that combined with some fab slubby hand spun wool I'd bought already that day from (I think) Freyalyn's Fibres I could create some suitable knitting to go with my woven tree trunk and finally complete the artwork it required.

A short time, ie a couple of months, was it all needed to complete my creative vision;  my only plan was a hastily drawn and rather wonky sketch in my ideas book and the rest was done by eye. I first knitted a woolly bit in an uneven shape and then tried to knit a selvege bit to roughly match up with it  and then did the same again etc. I sewed them together onto a felt backing piece, placed the woven tree trunk in place and used recycled wool-mix material to pad it out giving it a nice slightly rounded contour. I'm pleased with the finished item and like the way the knitted sections work with the woven sections.

The finished piece, named 'Laura's Wood' - knitting and weaving combined
As it seems to work so well, I had been thinking I might try another mixed technique piece like this... but I fear I may have to stick to knitting as when it comes to warping a loom sadly I've forgotten the cunning prep technique employed and unlike some I don't have a long hall!

More about the wonderful weaving from Laura's Loom; and here she is on Facebook;
More about Farfield Mill, if you haven't visited you should go!

When I can I'm making textile art or blogging about it; here's my web site; or follow me on  Facebook and Twitter for knitting and textile art news.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

As I walked out...

For someone like me living in the Lake District and also interested in 'woolly things' my interest was caught recently by an attention-grabbing article involving the Lake District, hill sheep farming and being a bit rude about Wordsworth and artists.

Stock Photography by Ward: Landscape &emdash; pbw_15Sep12-110953-0001
Little Langdale, a typically beautiful Lake District scene
The Lake District owes much its famously beautiful landscape to sheep grazing the fells; and a recent article in the Guardian by journalist George Monbiot has put the cat among the pigeons (or maybe that should be the wolf among the sheep?!).... If you look back at some of his previous journalistic contributions, you realize that he does tend to go about life with a literary pointy stick poking things and this time he certainly seemed to get a suitable reaction.

You can read his piece here but in essence he says the existence of subsidies for sheep grazing the fells (aided and abetted by supporters who want to keep the landscape looking just as it was in centuries past and as loved by Wordsworth and other artists and poets of the past) has produced a barren mono-culture bereft of bio-diversity. He'd prefer fewer sheep and more trees on the fells as native trees support more insect life. In reply many people have naturally jumped in to the debate defending the sheep and the farming practices.

Some of the 'accused' Herdwick sheep
My experience of the Lakes landscape is, however, that it is not all about the iconic upland fells and that it has a lot of variety in a relatively small area, especially when I see it through my textile artist's eyes. In that context it has a host of different textures and surfaces, light and shade, and large and small patterns of interest.

Wooded slopes of oak

Gorse in flower and scrub trees coming into leaf
When I go for a walk (which is never just straight up the nearest mountain to the top, that's not only dull but hard work too!) I inevitably encounter a number of different settings. In one relatively short walk of just a few miles you can go from grassy valley bottoms with drystone walls and hedgerows, through slopes of mixed woodland (with wild garlic and bluebells in Spring), trek through rough fell pasture, fight through head height bracken, trudge across moorland and heath, paddle across boggy patches, pick your way through rocks and scree...and that's before you get to any watery things like lakes, tarns or streams. That sounds like a Tolkein-like odyssey but actually it's a real pleasure!

Coniston Water with its birch tree-line shoreline
Whilst what I describe may not be quite the same thing as bio-diversity in George's sense, it is a view of landscape in the Lake District seen more broadly and so experienced as much more varied than George's 'sheep-wrecked' fells.

Perhaps the moral of the story is that environmental campaigners who carry pointy sticks and artists who carry knitting needles don't see the world in the same way...thank goodness!

Little Langdale photo from stockphotographybyward

When I can I'm making textile art or blogging about it; here's my web site; or follow me on  Facebook and Twitter for knitting and textile art news.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Too much chit chat as you knit-knit

I like to delve into the internet for knitting-related stories and came across this one recently. Of course only one side is represented fully in the report and we all know how tabloids love to 'pep up' a story so I generally take them with a pinch of salt but ...

A screen shot of the story as it appeared on-line.
This sad tale is of a knit and natter group in the North East that has been asked to move out of its local library; there is some doubt as to whether it's because the group's too big or makes too much noise. Of course for the members of the group it's a shame since a place where they've become established and obviously feel comfortable is no longer going to welcome them but for me it also seems great that there's a knitting group with a lot of members all of whom are apparently having such a good time. What a fab advert for the social power of knitting, who cares what the knitting yarn outcome is when the social outcome is this good! I do hope that a more sympathetic venue will snap them up, after all good vibes are a benefit to any space.

I saw the Express story on-line and was intrigued to see displayed straight after it what were thought of as 'related articles' as suggestions for further reading ...

A list of five 'Related Articles' carefully selected for the on-line reading public!
The first few I can (sort of) understand as having some connection with the story (if a bit tenuous) but it gets a bit weirder the further down the list you go! I struggle to see how these stores can be 'related' to the original, certainly not as close cousins but maybe in the way that completely different species of animals are connected through a distant common ancestor millions of years ago!

Using the same kind of 'logic' you could have had equally random related articles on fishing (the nets can be mended by hand with needles), betting (you place bets in a book-makers) and rock groups (they do make a lot of noise)!

Good luck to the knitting group in question (here's a link to the Express article if you want to read it).

When I can I'm making textile art or blogging about it; here's my web site; or follow me on  Facebook and Twitter for knitting and textile art news.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Knitted Textile Awards Finalist - quick someone pinch me!

Occasionally a week brings you news that makes you want to pinch yourself just to check you're not dreaming. This week was one of those!

I wasn't dreaming after all!
Back in July I saw a Twitter message saying that anyone who knits or crochets could enter the UKHKA's Knitted Textile Awards 'Open' category competition with the prize of  being an exhibitor in the Showcase at the amazing Knitting & Stitching Shows at Alexandra Palace and Harrogate.

The award is Sponsored by UK Hand Knitting Association (UKHKA), Love Wool UK and Twisted Thread. The brief was for :
"Dynamic, innovative design - dramatic fashion – idiosyncratic furnishings – intriguing artworks – hand knitting and crochet in all its guises.
Work will be judged on originality, overall concept and the innovative use of hand knitting and/or crochet techniques."

All you had to do was send off some photos of your work, come up with an Artist Statement and then let the judges decide. Well, I happened to have some excellent photos of my work already, thanks to Dayve!  Here's a link to the Facebook album with the photos on my Facebook page.

So I sent them off, thought no more about them and then this week I got the e-mail telling me I had been chosen as a Finalist - needless to say I had to keep checking the e-mail to see that it was still there in my in box and hadn't mysteriously disappeared and that yes it had been sent to the right person, which was indeed me! First reaction was delight, second reaction was blimey I've got a lot to get sorted out before the first Knitting & Stitching Show in London on the 9-13 October 2013 .....

First stop London!

I still have some questions, like :-
  • which art work do I need to take with me (one or more than one), they'll let me know?
  • how will I be able to sleep the night before?
  • how many finalists are there?
  • who's going to look after the dogs?
  • what am I going to go and see on my days off in London?
  • it's so long since I drove in Greater London how will I manage?
  • how many questions are too many questions
But for now I'm just enjoying the experience of telling people I've been chosen as a Finalist - it's great!

Now better get on with things - find a hotel in North London first I think .... where is Ally Pally anyway? (Oh that's another question!)

When I can I'm making textile art or blogging about it; here's my web site; or follow me on  Facebook and Twitter for knitting and textile art news.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Too hot for knitting?...

No I'm not talking about the latest Hollywood star (male or female) I'm thinking weather, yarn and needles. Sitting here in temperatures of 28 degrees, lovely as it is and I'm not complaining, it does seem a bit hot to be thinking about knitting!

Of course I realise that makes me a non-fairweather friend of knitting but it just seems wrong to think about sitting there with bits of woolly knitting draped over your bare legs. So I googled it and came up with several examples of people knitting on the beach so clearly I've got a point of view that isn't shared by everyone....

The owner said she was knitting a sock...planning ahead!
This owner said this was Mexico, I like the green and orange thing going on...
The owner has circular needle - this is serious stuff!
So knitting on the beach is clearly an unremarkable thing... but I've got some practical questions:

When/How do you put your suncream on ?
How do you get the sand out of your knitting ? 
At what point do you notice your knitting mistakes? (attributable obviously to wearing your sunglasses instead of your 'proper' specs, as who gets themselves prescription sunspecs in our UK climate!)

In any event I only have to recall the historic link between wool and the beach to realise that there's nothing new in the idea of combining woolly knitting with a hot day and especially a hot day on the beach.

Not a great look!
This photo is actually showing a 1940s revival of knitted swimming 'cossies', part of the early attempts to invent wet-suits for surfers when they combined old wool with thin rubber...(if you don't believe me check out the source!)

If you're tempted to give it a go there are vintage bathing suit patterns out there - just remember to knit that all important tension square first!

When I can I'm making textile art or blogging about it; here's my gallery; or follow me on Twitter for knitting and textile art news.

the knitting on the beach photos came from blogs by:
yarn on a stick;
the surfing dudes photo has its own credit!