What year is it?!

This blog’s having a bit of a Rip Van Winckle moment, waking up, bleary-eyed, from a long nap, staggering around and wondering if it can survive in this strange new world.

Ok, slight exaggeration there.

What with studying an MPhil in textile conservation, I decided it would be wise to focus my time and writing efforts on studies.

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This is what a textile conservator looks like (working on a bloodstained jacket from Annan Museum)

The course has been a mighty learning curve; I’ve learnt about the science behind textile fibres, and how and why they degrade, researched an ornate Afghan coat, seen the weavers in action at the fantastic Dovecot Studios in Edinburgh, unwrapped and humidified 1500-year-old archaeological fragments from a burial site in Sudan, talked my socks off at the Centre for Textile Conservation Open Day and the Edinburgh College of Art, and conserved  an amazing  bloodstained military jacket from Annan Museum.

More than that, I’ve met, made friends and shared way too many embarassing stories with my coursemates (two of whom write awe-inspiring blogs: https://textileinvestigations.wordpress.com/ and https://hannahsuthers.com/blog/).

Right now I’m applying for jobs and preparing for the trip of a lifetime to Japan next week. I’ll be taking part in a traditional Japanese indigo-dyeing workshop in Fujino, so thought it would be a crime not to share what I see and learn while I’m there. Check back here for updates!

 

The Burrell Collection

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border detail of embroidered panel depicting Judith and Holofernes, English, mid-seventeenth century, silk and metal on silk.

There are some places that draw me back again and again whether I intend to go or not. The Burrell Collection seems to be one. I visited for the first time during my first week living in Glasgow, then returned with friends for a tour of the embroidery collection, then once again a few days later, when I hopped on a bus intending to go north, and ending up going south instead. I realised in a panic, leapt off (kicking myself) then, seeing the leafy entrance to Pollok Park, consoled myself with a wander around the collection and a Tunnock’s teacake.

But then, there’s certainly the quantity and variety of artefacts to warrant more than one visit. When Sir William Burrell bequethed his huge collection of Chinese ceramics, ancient Egyptian art, Medieval embroideries and Rodin sculptures (amongst other things), he stipulated it should be housed in a building 16 miles from the city of Glasgow. He worried that city pollution would damage the objects, particularly the tapestries, so wanted them to be housed in a clean rural setting – showing great foresight in terms of conservation. Although not as far from the city as he wished, Pollok park provides ample green space for the collection building as well as Pollok House (now a National Trust property), herds of Highland cattle, dense woodland and blackberrying opportunities. Yum.

burrell01Unfortunately, nature is also creeping into the building in the form of clothes moths and rain water, so some furnishings have been taken off display for deep freezing to eliminate any unwanted hosts, and in a couple of rooms furniture is swathed in plastic whilst stray buckets collect drips.

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Peasants hunting rabbits with ferrets, French, 1450-75, wool and silk tapestry.

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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

Kiev: National Museum of Ukrainian Folk Decorative Art

NatMusUkrFolkArt13Perhaps my favourite museum I visited in Kiev, the National Museum of Ukrainian Folk Decorative Art is situated within the grounds of Pechersk Lavra, a huge monastery complex founded in the 11th century on the banks of the Dnieper.

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Entrance to Pechersk Lavra

This post is simply an overview of the museum and its contents, but I hope at a later date to research Ukrainian costume and its making and history in more detail, probably by picking one of the pieces below to start my research. Please comment if you are interested in any particular costumes or elements.

The incredibly informative and well-illustrated folkcostume.blogspot has a number of posts about Ukrainian dress and embroidery, so I recommend having a look to find out more about the items featured here.

Rushnyk

The Folk Museum (as I’ll refer to it from now on) has a huge display of embroidered rushnyk (pronounced ‘rooshnik’). As I mentioned in my last post on the Ivan Gonchar Museum, these strips of cloth have traditionally played an important role in rituals throughout life, being used in baptisms, weddings and funerals.

Rushnyk were traditionally made by individuals for use within families, but their organised production also developed into a sophisticated textile industry during the 20th century, enjoying considerable growth in the 1960s and 70s. State-run factories were set up, which later became part of the “Ukrhudozhprom” (Ukrainian Art Industry), under the Ministry of Local Industry. The rushnyk displayed here largely come from these factories. I’d love to know more about how their production and design differs from family-made rushnyk.

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NatMusUkrFolkArt04Hand-embroidered linen rushnyks (рушники) made in the “Red beam” factory (фабрика “червоний проминь”), New Sanzhary, Poltava region, 1951 – 67.

This chest was displayed in the rushnyk room, so I assume it could have been used to store textiles.

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Carved and painted wooden chest, early 20th century, Ivano-Frankivsk region

Costumes

The museum displays 28 sets of Ukrainian folk costumes from the 19th to 20th century. Organised by geographical region, they are displayed as full outfits, with all the jewelry and accessories to go with the clothes. I’d be interested to know whether they came to the museum as full outfits, and if not, how it was decided to put items together. Most are women’s outfits, which were generally less likely to be made from factory-produced textiles than men’s clothing.

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NatMusUkrFolkArt06Women’s outfits, late 19th – early 20th century, Vlasivka village, Zinkivsky District, Poltava region. Detail: Wrap-skirt, or ‘plakhta’ (плахта)

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NatMusUkrFolkArt08Late 19th- early 20th century costumes, Sumy region.

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NatMusUkrFolkArt10 Early 20th century, Chernigiv region.

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NatMusUkrFolkArt12 Late 19th – early 20th century, Volyn region

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Svyta (overcoat), 1917.

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Svyta (overcoat), 1930s, Vydrychi village, Kamin-Kashyra district, Volyn region.

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NatMusUkrFolkArt17 NatMusUkrFolkArt18 Late 19th – early 20th century, Yavoriv district, Lviv region

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Mans costume, early 20th century, Kosiv district, Ivano-Frankivsk region

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NatMusUkrFolkArt21 NatMusUkrFolkArt22 NatMusUkrFolkArt24NatMusUkrFolkArt23 Two early 20th century costumes from Torgovytsia village, Gorodenkiv district, Ivano-Frankivsk region

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late 19th – early 20th century, Nyzhni Kryvchi village, Borshchiv district, Ternopil region

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NatMusUkrFolkArt27Late 19th – early 20th century, Chernivtsi region

Rugs

There’s an impressive array of handwoven rugs at the museum, most with colourful floral designs.
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NatMusUkrFolkArt3018th century, Poltava province. Wool, handwoven.

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19th century, Kyiv province. Wool, handwoven.

Carved tools

I think more museums should display the tools used to make and maintain the objects on display – after all, they determine an object’s appearance and present state. At the Folk Museum I found a printing block and these beautifully-carved ironing implements. If anyone can guess/knows how these ‘rubels’ are used please let me know!

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Printing block, 19th century, Poltava province. Wood, handcarved.

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Implements for ironing – ‘rubel’ (рубель), Kyiv province. Wood, handcarved.

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In descending order: back of a cart, 19th century, Poltava province; back of a cart, 19th century, Kyiv province; back of a sleigh, 1870s, Poltava province.

Painting

During the 20th century, many Ukrainian artists made drawings and paintings inspired by folk art. They drew upon motifs and subject matter in textiles and ceramics to make a genre of art which also fed into and was influenced by trends in the international art scene. Many chose to re-imagine and keep alive folk tales by depicting them in paint.

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“Bird on Guelder Rose”, T. Pata (1884-1976), 1951. Gouache on paper.

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Y. Mironova (1929-2010), “проводжала дівчинонька” (The Girl’s Farewell), 1970. Gouache on paper.

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M. Prymachenko (1909-97), “Wedding”, 1959. Gouache on paper.

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N. Bilokin (1894-1981), “Wedding Procession”, 1938. Gouache on paper

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Ceramics and glass

As with textiles, Ukrainian ceramics have a long tradition; pottery from as early the Neolithic era has been discovered here. The Folk Museum houses a whole range of plates and vessels and sculptures, but my camera was most attracted to the animal-shaped ceramics on display.

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‘Two-faced lion’ vessel, late 18th- early 19th century, Kyin province.

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Ceramic goat, 1967, Kyiv

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Late 18th-early 19th century plate, Sunki and Dybyntsi villages, Kyiv region.

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O. Hriadunova (1898-1974), Kyiv, 1940s-50s.

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O. Zhelezniak (1909-63), ceramic sculptures, 1960s, Hrybovaya Rudnia village, Chernihiv region.

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Glass containers, 15th -18th centuries

Artist Textiles at the Fashion and Textile Museum

The Fashion and Textile Museum’s current exhibition looks at “20th century art in textiles and fashion from Cubism and Surrealism to Pop Art”, as the tagline puts it. The many pieces on show are predominantly printed textiles designed by figures better known for their paintings, drawings or sculptures.

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Salvador Dali, Dress in ‘Flower Ballet’, Screen-printed rayon ‘pebble crepe’ fashion textile. Wesley Simpson Custom Fabrics Inc., New York, c. 1947

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‘Hostess Cocktail Culottes’ made from Picasso’s textile ‘Musical Faun’. Screen-printed cotton corduroy velvet. White Stage Clothing Co., Portland, Oregon, 1963

I particularly loved Dali’s ‘Flower Ballet’ design, which shows a Daphne-esque half-ballerina, half-bouquet pirouetting on a stage, and Picasso’s ‘Musical Faun’ daringly printed onto velvet corduroy and made up into rather enviable ‘Hostess Cocktail Culottes’. A few designs diverge from the artist’s usual style, but most, such as John Piper’s ‘Chiesa de la Salute’ could be a repeat copy of a canvas painting.

John Piper, 'Chiesa de la Salute', screen-printed 'Sanderlin' satinised cotton furnishing textile. Sanderson & Son Ltd, London, issued 1960

John Piper, ‘Chiesa de la Salute’, screen-printed ‘Sanderlin’ satinised cotton furnishing textile. Sanderson & Son Ltd, London, issued 1960

This seeming lack of imagination or adaptation is unsurprising, since making a dress or some curtains out of a print by Picasso (which actually looked like it was made by Picasso) was a cheaper, more widely accessible alternative to actually owning a unique Picasso artwork. Artist-textile company collaborations allowed the masses to buy a piece of modern art for a pound a metre.

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Pablo Picasso, screen-printed cotton. Scarf designed for the Berlin Peace Festival, 1951

Why does a textile print not count as ‘A Picasso’ or ‘A Dali’? Yes, the initial drawing is the only bit actually in contact with the artist’s hand, after which printers take over, but this is also true of etchings sold for millions. The distinction seems to lie in the near limitless production of a textile compared to one-off paintings or artists prints, which are restricted to an edition of, say, ten, to ensure the high price that comes with exclusivity. It’s also down to the puzzlingly prolonged distinction between ‘greater’ and ‘lesser’ art forms, with textiles and their usually anonymous makers consigned, for now, to the latter.

Mass production and repetition are themes that played a key role in Andy Warhol’s work. His very sweet ‘Happy Bug Day’ design interestingly predates his first silk-screen artwork by several years.

Andy Warhol, 'Happy Bug Day', screen-printed cotton fashion textile, mid-1950s.

Andy Warhol, ‘Happy Bug Day’, screen-printed cotton fashion textile, mid-1950s.

With this exhibition, the big (male) names and movements of the Western art world inevitably take over. The curators have used them to both structure the exhibition, with section titles such as “The 1960s: Pioneers of Pop”, and no doubt to attract an audience outside of the FTM’s usual fanbase. However, they have also paid tribute to lesser-known groups such as the Edinburgh weavers and Hammer Prints Ltd, whose intention to “anonymously encompass all aspects of interior design” reminds me of the ‘no-brand’ ethos of Japanese company Muji.

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Edinburgh Weavers designs

Although too many exhibitions now seem to be put together like books or essays, with visitors plodding through a beginning, middle and end in that order and only that order, I think it’s important for curators to wrap up with a summary or ‘take home message’. This show fizzles out rather disappointingly, leaving us wondering where the final section is. What happened to artist textiles after the 1960s? What about the rest of the world, outside of Britain and America? What are today’s equivalent artist-fashion company collaborations? Although the show succeeds as a comprehensive look at artist textiles specifically in Britain and the States from the 30s to 60s, it lacks the context and points of comparison that would allow us to see these designs in the bigger picture. It also misses out on a good opportunity to discuss issues in the textile and fashion industry; for example, the decline of textiles sold for home sewing as cheap, off-the-peg clothing took over.

Zandra Rhodes, 'Lipstick', screen-printed crepe fashion textile, c. 1967-8

Zandra Rhodes, ‘Lipstick’, screen-printed crepe fashion textile, c. 1967-8

‘Artist Textiles: Picasso to Warhol’ is on at the Fashion and Textile Museum until 18th May

Kelmscott House

Screen shot 2014-03-19 at 14.18.21ROM Piccadily Circus to the foot of Hammersmith Bridge is just an hour – if one catches the bus with the right flag. The Upper Mall is hard-bye, though not easy to find, if one loses his head in the maze. “You turn right at Bridge Court, pass Mall Road, cross over the foot bridge, and pass the house where Thomson wrote the ‘Seasons,’ next the Dove’s Inn, and there you are, you see.” All of which sounds easy enough, if one can identify these landmarks when one sees them. The streets are little more than alleys, the bridge one could almost carry under one’s arm, Thomson’s house falls beneath one’s notice, and The Dove’s will just hold a barmaid and a barrel of “bitter.” No sign marks the Kelmscott Press, the objective point, but after stumbling into two or three door-ways, the right one is finally reached, and here..

..I should explain that this is an 1896 account of a visit to Kelmscott Press, now a museum which I had the pleasure of visiting last week.

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Hammersmith Bridge

wmsoc17wmsoc20wmsoc21A few things have changed since W. Irving Way’s visit 118 years ago; Kelmscott House is now largely privately occupied, with the William Morris Society and Museum found in the adjoining Coach House and basement. We are no longer greeted by Mr S. C. Cockerell, the Secretary of the Press, nor can we hope to meet Morris himself, who died only a few months after Way’s account was published. But visitors can still expect to find many artworks made and equipment used by Morris and his friends, in:

“A quiet, tidy, orderly place …, but with nothing modern about it. No noise of machinery, escaping steam, or hum of electric motor, distracts one”. p. 79

wmsoc02wmsoc03wmsoc04Morris lived and worked at Kelmscott House from 1878 until his death in 1896. Here he was busy designing furnishings (which he is most well known for today), as well as writing poetry, translating Icelandic sagas, printing books and pamphlets and holding Socialist meetings. Morris was known for working on several different projects at the same time, and once said ‘If a chap can’t compose an epic poem while he’s weaving tapestry, he had better shut up; he’ll never do any good at all.’ After his death, his daughter, May Morris and others continued Morris’ legacy, and in 1955 the society was set up.

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Despite its modest size, the museum pays fitting tribute to Morris by representing the sheer range of his activities. The coach house, where he first experimented with tapestry-making and hosted Socialist talks, now holds a changing exhibition display, and, fittingly, talks and educational activities. In what was once a kitchen, there is now a display of furniture, textiles, stained glass, drawings, pamphlets, books and a Socialist banner. In another room stands Morris’ original printing press, which he used to self-publish books and pamphlets at extremely high quality (and cost). The press is still in working order, with hand printed cards in the gift shop to prove it!

wmsoc08wmsoc09wmsoc10wmsoc15On one wall of the gift shop hang an impressive embroidery piece by William’s daughter, May Morris, alongside her full scale sketched design. As this and other surviving examples of her handiwork show, May was a talented designer and embroiderer herself, as well as an editor and activist.

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Today, the society is run by a small number of dedicated staff, volunteers and trustees.

William Morris Society and Museum, Kelmscott House, 26 Upper Mall, Hammersmith W6 9TA

Opening hours: Thursday and Saturday afternoons from 14.00 to 17.00 and at other times by appointment.wmsoc16

Opening text from ‘A Visit to William Morris’, by W. Irving Way, Modern Art, Vol. 4, No. 3 (Summer, 1896), pp. 78-81.

William Morris Gallery at the London Antique Textile Fair

Tomorrow the William Morris Gallery is off to the London Antique Textile Fair at Chelsea Old Town Hall. We’ll be selling books and cards, as well as giving visitors the chance to try their hand at printing with some very beautiful little Indian woodblocks.

I’ve never been to the Antique Textile Fair, but from looking at this video of their show in Manchester last year, it’ll be a challenge not to drool on all the costumes and fabrics on show .

It’s run by the Textile Society, who promote the study of textile disciplines and provide museum and student bursaries raised from the door entry funds from the fair. So it’s for a very good cause too.

See you there!

London Antique Textile Fair

Chelsea Old Town Hall, King’s Road, London

Sunday 6 October 2013, 10.30 – 16.30
Admission £6, Concessions £4 (all profits made from the door entry funds the museum and student bursaries granted by the Textile Society)

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

Softer

Last week a new textile exhibition called Softer opened at the Mill. A follow-up to last year’s Soft show, Softer  showcases the variety of textile talent in E17 and includes a crocheted reindeer head, an applique wall-hanging, a patchwork piece and a book of children’s stitches, to name a few. Oh, and our knitting group’s piece, Softer Light is proudly on display in the window!

Take a look at the Mill’s website for more info, or, better still, come and see the show in the flesh fabric.softeropening1 softeropening4softeropening5softeropening2softeropening3 softeropening6 softeropening7

Group Knitting Project

This morning I’m busy sewing together our Softer Light group knitting piece. Over the past couple of months us knitters at The Mill have made squares for this ‘stained knit window’, to be featured in an upcoming textiles exhibition, Softer.

To do these beautiful squares full justice, I’m knitting a mile (well, not quite) of i-cord as ‘leading’ to hold the ‘panes’ of knitting in place.

The i-cord was made on two double-ended needles by casting on two stitches, knitting them, and, after knitting the second stitch, pushing the stitches from the left to the right-side end of the needle, transferring the needle back to the left-hand and continuing as a round by bringing the working yarn around the back. This forms a very tiny tube of knitting with four sides formed by the two stitches.

 

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