Even William Morris didn’t get it right the first time

William Morris (1834 – 1896), Philip Webb (1831 – 1915), Trellis wallpaper design (1862).
Pencil, ink and watercolour on paper, 66 x 61 cm.
© William Morris Gallery, London Borough of Waltham Forest

In this sketch for his first wallpaper design, Trellis, William Morris made light sketches, altered the position of leaves and tested out colours for the background before settling on the final piece. He even got his friend, the designer and architect Philip Webb, to draw the birds for him.

The drawing is on display in the delightful William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow!

Blocked

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The swiggle sweater front and back are now settling into their new, better behaved shapes, thanks to my first attempt at blocking!

Blocking is great (why haven’t I done it before?!) because it allows you to have a bit of control of the size and shape of a piece of knitting after you’re done with the needles. It seems to help even out the tension a bit too.

I soaked the pieces in water, then rolled them up in a towel to spin on a low setting for a few minutes. Then I laid them out on dry towels and a cotton sheet and pinned them down, using a tape measure to make sure the sides were straight.

I ended up spraying them with a bit more water because the spin dry worked a bit too well, so took the opportunity to add a bit of rose water to the bottle for a sweeter, less damp wool smell.

The end of this sweater is starting to come into view.. nearly there!

By the way, do you like my peep-toe slipper?

Photogenic Drawings

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For Christmas, Sayed bought me some solar paper. This is light sensitive paper that you can use to produce monochrome images (called photograms) by placing objects on it, exposing it to bright sunlight for a while and then washing it in water (no darkroom chemicals needed). The photographer and inventor William Fox Talbot used a similar process in the 1840s to produce what he called ‘photogenic drawings’.

Now we’re having a few bright sunny days, I’ve been testing my solar paper out. It seems fitting to follow in the footsteps of the first female photographer, Anna Atkins – who used her images to illustrate a botanical guide – by starting with the houseplants.

More information on photograms can be found here on the Victoria & Albert Museum website.

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Afghan Box Camera Project

I’ve just been introduced to an amazing collection of Afghan Box Camera Photography – images taken by photographers in Afghanistan using a “simple type of instant camera called the kamra-e-faoree”. The comprehensive website is dedicated to keeping a record of this generations-old, culturally important method of making portraits. There are even instructions on how to make your own kamra-e-faoree.

Benazir Bhutto

Benazir Bhutto, former president of Pakistan. Hand-coloured by Tahir.

The website also shows related collections of photographs, including beautiful hand-tinted images such as the one above.

Nålebinding Tutorial

After a slow start, I’ve finally got round to finishing my first attempt at nålebinding – by making a möbius strip (a mathematical object which is a surface with only one side and one edge). Here’s a step-by-step tutorial. I’m left-handed and so is this tutorial, but I hope my instructions are clear enough for right-handers too.

Nålebinding Tutorial

Nålebinding is a technique used to make a knitted structure. Instead of using two needles to create rows of loops, the loops are sewn with a threaded needle – creating true stitches. Unlike two-needle knitting, nålebinding does not unravel, and the yarn must be continually rejoined because the entire working length must be pulled through each stitch (it doesn’t work with a ball of yarn!). It is thought to be much older than two-needle knitting, possible originating in Egypt. These Egyptian socks in the Victoria & Albert Museum date to around 250 to 420 AD.

Möbius strip bracelet

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Materials

  • A few grams of yarn, any type
  • A large blunt needle (a tapestry needle is ideal)

Casting on

Step 1

Cut a length of yarn about 1 metre long and thread the needle.

Make a loose knot with the yarn, leaving a short tail.

Step 2

Insert the needle into the loop of the knot, and underneath the working yarn.

Step 3

Pull the yarn through, until you have a loop about the same size as the first one.

Repeat steps 2 and 3 until you have a row of about evenly sized loops about the circumference of your wrist.

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Joining the loop

Step 4

To make your mobius strip, put a single twist in the row of loops, then join the loop by sewing a single stitch into the very first loop and pulling the yarn through. Alternatively you can make a straight tube by leaving out the twist.nal16

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Step 5

Start the first round by inserting the needle into the join of the first two loops of the cast-on row. Pull the yarn through to make a loop.nal18

Continue making a new round of stitches in this way, working in the opposite direction to the orientation of the needle.nal21

Rejoining the yarn

Once the yarn becomes too short to work with, knot a fresh length of yarn to the end and continue stitching.nal23

Continue working rounds of stitches until the band reaches the desired thickness. Sew in any tail ends to finish.nal24

Happy Nålebinding!

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PJ Harvey’s England

For a few months now, I’ve had PJ Harvey’s album ‘Let England Shake’ going round and round in my head. And I’m still not sick of it.

I think this is testament to her unlike-any-other, ever-changing voice and singing style, catchy tunes and, above all for this album, incredible lyrics.

I came across this interview with her online, which helps to explain why her lyrics work alone as poetry in their own right.

The words of the song ‘England’ are perhaps my favourites. They capture my own love for and ambivalence towards this country.

England

I live and die through England
Through England
It leaves a sadness

Remedies, never were
Within my reach
I cannot go on as I am
I cannot leave

A withered vine
Reaching from the country that I love
England
You leave a taste, a bitter one

I have searched for your springs
But people stagnate with time
Like water, like air
To you England, I cling

Undaunted, never failing love for you
England

Okay Knit!

Cary Grant learns to knit!
A little discovery I made after googling “men knitting” (what can I say? everyone has a fetish).
I’d love to see the rest of the film – ‘Mister Lucky’, made in 1943 with Cary Grant as Joe Bascopolous, Laraine Day as Dorothy Bryant and Florence Bates as Mrs Van Every, the knitting instructor.

Some favourite quotes:
“We want a group of obviously masculine men to take up knitting, do it perfectly casually in public places.”
“We’ll educate those little piggies!”
“Take off your hat! Take that cigarette out of your mouth! Now siddown! ..Give him the needles!”
“Oh! Don’t be alarmed young man.. let me look at your hands..”
“You take the one gimick and you stickitinhere like this, and then you take the string and putitbetween the two gimicks and then you takeit and you just..all off!.. that’s all there is to it!”