Tramway

tramway3Yesterday I visited Tramway, an arts venue in the south of Glasgow. Formerly a tram depot, the space is big and bare enough to allow ample breathing space for contemporary art exhibitions, but still bears traces of its past life.

Before electric trams came in, they were pulled by horses which were stabled, oddly, in the floor above the tram shed. The slopes up which they trudged to their hay now lead to a workshop space. When the last trams were taken out of service in 1962, about 250,000 people turned up to watch the procession of vehicles make their last journey, some putting a penny on the track by way of a squished souvenir.

tramway2The old metal tracks run the length of the main exhibition room, currently inhabited by Cathy Wilkes‘ work – a frozen theatre-like assemblage of tatty, forlorn figures and bits of detritus. Her work sits well in the space, with an unnerving edge which adds to the slightly sinister impression I have of tram tracks (ever since a childhood visit to Barcelona, where I learnt that Gaudi died after being hit by a tram – a feeling recently confirmed by poor Berlioz’s death in The Master and Margherita).  tramwayI spent the remaining afternoon with Glasgow Knit ‘n Stitch group, who meet in the cafe every Wednesday and Sunday. We knitted and talked socks, Glasgow history, wool shops, politics and mitred squares. An afternoon well-spent!

Aside from contemporary art and knitting groups, Tramway hosts music, film and performance.

Tramway – 25 Albert Drive, Glasgow, G41 2PE

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Cockpit Arts – Holborn

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Abigail Brown’s papier mâché parrot

The array of handmade delights on offer at Cockpit Arts Open Studios left me too befuddled and incoherent with awe to mumble anything more profound than the odd “mmm, lovely” or “that’s really nice”. I occasionally remembered to take pictures inbetween drooling over crafts (actually, I did see someone literally drool on Katharine Morling’s work), so here are a few of my many, many favourites.

Click on the images for a direct link to the artist’s page.

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Fanny Shorter’s nature/ anatomical-inspired textile prints

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BeatWoven. These woven patterns are based on pieces of music (see the sound waves?).

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Mariko Sumioka Jewellery

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Katharine Morling

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Clara Breen’s necklaces made from shredded maps

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Action Space art, made by artists with learning disabilities

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Nette’ leather goods

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Mica Hirosawa

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Carréducker llp handmade bespoke leather shoes.

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Sophie Manners, who kindly gave us a little weaving lesson on her Harris loom.

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Sophie Manner

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Laura Long’s textile interpretations of children’s drawings

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Kerry Hastings

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Abigail Brown

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Abigail Brown

Herculaneum pillars

In an effort not to come across as bragging, I’ve failed to even mention an amazing family holiday in Naples last month. Better late than never.

It was wonderful to spend a week exploring a beautiful but gritty city (but not in the way London is, with more history and noise and round-the-clock street life), enjoying an espresso and fogliatella pastry for breakfast and pizza for lunch and dinner, and taking the train further out to the sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum. It was an odd sensation to wonder around the streets of these two frozen Roman cities, stepping from ancient cobble to ancient cobble, passing food stalls with their terracotta pots set into marble counters and occasionally wandering through a doorway into a villa or public baths. It felt like the locals had all just gone on holiday somewhere.

Here’s a picture of a courtyard in one of the grand villas of Herculaneum, the pillars of which struck me as good for a striped knitting pattern. I still find graph paper and felt pens the easiest and most satisfying way of designing patterns.pillar2

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vesuOn the train back from Pompeii, Sayed and I listened to PJ Harvey’s ‘This is Love’ on headphones, restraining ourselves from leaping around the carriage and nearly imploding in the process as we passed Vesuvius, which I was convinced was about to erupt. If any song could make a volcano erupt, it would be this one.

Phone Case Knitting Pattern

Back in January 2013 I wrote this post on double-sided knitting, a technique that drew lots of ‘oohs!’ and ‘aahs!’ from fellow knitters and Pinterest users. So here’s a way of using a slightly different double-sided  technique to make a simple phone cover.

This pattern is also featured on the East London Craft Guerrilla blog. Recently I’ve helped out with a number of workshops and events run by Craft Guerrilla – a collective of designer makers dedicated to spreading the craft – and we have some exciting projects lined up for the future. Do please check out what we’re up to on the CG blog and website.

Pattern by No Idle Han. Many thanks to Penny Vickers for her astute pattern testing and Sayed Hasan for his photographic expertise.

phonecaseDifficulty level: average

Sizing: One size fits most smart phones (approx. 14cm circumference)

Click here for the no-nonsense, 1 sheet pdf version – Phone case pattern

01 02 03-204 05 06 0708-2 09 10 11 12-213 14 15 1617-2 18-21920 slip121222324..and you’re done!knitutorial68knitutorial69

Sudafed commission

Hello! After (another) long break from posting anything, I’ve found the will to blog again.

Apart from reminding myself that I started a blog in the first place to prove that there’s no lichen growing in my fur I’ve realised that there are a few important (to me) and maybe interesting (to you?) things to share from last year, before even contemplating what’s going down in 2014.

So here’s one of them: a knitting commission.

Last summer I was very excited to be approached by an animation company to knit a piece for a Sudafed advert. They wanted to repeat the handmade stop-motion animation style of their previous ad, which very delightfully used a green ball of wool to represent some mucus in a knitted cross-section of a head, grey french-knitted brains and all.

So, I was commissioned to knit the piece below, a much larger-than-life packet of “mucus relief day and night capsules” in 4ply intarsia. Yes, some adverts really are made like this!

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And here’s the advert itself –

Bye bye Wool Week

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Wool Week is nearly over. As anticipated, I spent much of it knitting, talking about knitting and lusting after other people’s knitting.

Much of this indulgence went on in a couple of visits to the Oxford Street branch of John Lewis, which has been playing host to five days of knitting workshops. What a wonderful event! But woefully under-advertised by the store. Their beautiful and entertaining ‘live knitting’ window would have surely attracted many extra customers both into the haberdashery department and the rest of the store if displayed up front. Instead, it was relegated to the far side of the building, where few but staff on their fag break got to see it.

Ah well, at least I can show you here.

Tuesday

I bounded up the escalators with great zeal and camera/ knitting needles at the ready; slightly nonplussed to discover, on my arrival at the haberdashery department, a distinct lack of Wool Week activity. Shop assistant not sure where it is. Am I in the right store? I wonder on way back down to the information point on ground floor.

Directed up to first – through shoe section and into ladieswear, round to the right – and eventually find the woolly haven. It’s an admittedly intimate spot, squeezed between clothes rails; browsers step over balls of wool and beanbags, knitters make friends fast as they rub elbows on squashy sofas. I meet today’s knitting gurus – Norwegian duo Arne and Carlos  – and get to work on Magnus Mouse. Having expected a variation on the beginners staple garter stitch square, I’m pleased to discover Arne and Carlos’ mouse cuts an elegant, elongated figure, knitted in the round on double-ended needles. After nearly two hours I am still working up Magnus’ ankle and am well into a continental style (left-handed) vs English (right-handed) knitting debate with Arne, Carlos and accomplished Canadian crafter Natalie Selles. Time to go, unfortunately, but will return – soon.

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Thursday

I return on Thursday night, armed with a better camera and greater resolve to use it. Meet the designer of tonight’s workshop and pattern, Sarah Hatton, who kindly demonstrates her extremely efficient underarm knitting technique. Her design for Rowan’s workshop this evening cleverly comes in garter, stocking stitch and cable options for all knitting levels. DSC_4874

DSC_4877DSC_4876DSC_4880There was some awesome cable needle accessorizing on the part of fellow knitter/ blogger, Snowfox of I am Snowfox.

Look, look!

DSC_4906DSC_4894DSC_4889DSC_4898Wool Week on Make A GifDSC_4915DSC_4888

We wrap up the evening snapping away at the Toft Alpaca team in their glass tank of yarn. I leave with a warm fuzzy feeling.

Goodbye Wool Week! Until next time..

Odd socks

Last week I bought some beautiful Noro sock yarn from the Knitting and Stitching show.

DSC_4864Here’s the result of my first attempt at sock-knitting. It’s a much more enjoyable and interesting process than I’d previously thought, and made especially easy by Charlene Schurch and her book ‘Sensational Knitted Socks’. She’s basically done all the possible calculations you might need to knit a sock regarding guage, fit and pattern variations, and then put them in handy charts.

While I was teaching new knitters to cast on at Ally Pally, I got a lesson myself from a very kind Danish lady on how to knit continental style. Instead of holding the yarn in the right hand, as I was first taught, she, along with much of Europe, knits with the yarn in the left. Once you’ve got the hang of it, this is supposed to be the most efficient and fastest method, although I think I need to finish the other sock before my brain gets round the switch.DSC_4865

One side effect of the Noro yarn coming in beautifully graduated colours is the difficulty in making two socks roughly the same. Here’s my second attempt at starting sock no. 2 – which came with the realisation that ball no. 2 was wound in the opposite direction to ball no. 1.

See?

DSC_4867But I figure that the colour scheme isn’t crazy enough to warrant worrying about matching them up. They’ll be odd, but in an endearing, eccentric way, not in a ‘where’s the other sock?’ way. Let’s hope my Dad* thinks so anyway when he unwraps them.

*don’t worry, he doesn’t read my blog so his Christmas present will still be a surprise

Knitted Tudor Caps

In a recent post on the Tudor and Stuart Fashion exhibition at the Queens Gallery I mentioned the Museum of London’s amazing collection of sixteenth-century caps.

There’s little or no archaeological context for most of these hats; they’ve probably survived the past 400+ years thanks to being thrown into the city cesspits by fashion-conscious Tudor workers and businessmen, as they adopt the latest style. In the 20th century they were uncovered by workman building the city business district as we know it today, and then gradually found their ways into the collection.

Portrait of Sir William Hewett (d. 1564), wearing a split-brim knitted and fulled cap.

In the anaerobic conditions of layers of city waste their wool and even dye have survived remarkably well. The construction details can still be seen and recreated: knitted on the round, the hat then went through the ‘toughening-up’ process of fulling (washed, beaten and felted) and knapping (raising and trimming the pile, for a velvety finish). Then the cap might be dyed a bright red or blue, colours that have long-since faded. Presumably, the finished product shrunk thanks to the felting process, so would have initially been knitted on a much larger scale. The resulting hats were extremely tough and waterproof, so could have fashionable slashes cut into them without fear of unraveling.

So here are a few examples, skimmed from the museum’s excellent online collection. Click on the images to access detailed individual records on the MoL site. All images © Museum of London

The Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace

The London Knitting and Stitching show is on next week, 10th – 13th October. I’ve never been to any of the shows (two in London at Ally Pally and Olympia, as well as Dublin and Harrogate) so am looking forward to exploring as many of the stands, galleries and workshops as possible.

A few galleries that have especially caught my eye are:

the Knitted Textile Awards

the Graduate Showcase

‘Sewing for Survival: Arctic Stitchery’

‘A timeline of crewel work, 1630-1930’

I’ll also be helping out on the UK Hand Knitting Association stand, so come and say hello if you’re there on Thursday afternoon!

Visit the show’s website here for more information on tickets and how to get there.