Glasgow

Screen shot 2014-06-02 at 08.52.01In September I’ll be moving up, up, up to Glasgow, to study textile conservation. It’s a two year MPhil course combining historical and scientific research with hands-on skills; it involves everything from learning how to display and store fragile textiles, to gaining an understanding of the ethics and compromises involved in conservation projects. This broad and challenging mixture is exactly what I want out of a career, and after visiting the studios on an open day, I finally took the plunge and applied last year. Having bitten my nails through the last few months, I’m still slightly delirious after recently being offered a place on the course. Some big changes are afoot!

I’ll be sad to move out of London, and away from family and friends, but can’t wait to make a start towards a career as a textile conservator and get to know a new city. I’ve only visited Glasgow for five days altogether, so there are many things I’m yet to explore. Lately I’ve been simultaneously reflecting on the places I know and love in London, and the places I’m yet to discover and fall for in Glasgow, so here are ten of each.

(in no particular order)

Ten places I’ll miss being able to stroll down the road/ hop on the Underground to visit:

1. William Morris Society and Emery Walker Trust, Hammersmith. I’m trying to make the most of the time left helping at these two gems, making lino cuts for workshops (in previous blog posts here and here) and learning how to use Morris’s original press.

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2. Leighton House. The recently re-opened house of the Victorian artist Frederick Leighton – worth visiting just for the ‘Arab Hall’ decorated in tiles from Syria, Turkey and Pakistan.

3. Golders Hill Park, Hill Garden and Pergola

4. Queen of Sheba Ethiopian restaurant, Kentish Town. Wonderful curries and fresh roasted (in front of you) coffee.

5. Victoria and Albert Museum. My favourite museum to wander/ wonder around.

6. Walthamstow marshes and the Lea Valley

7. Yildirim Bakery. This little place on St James Street, Walthamstow, does excellent freshly-made Turkish breads filled with cheese, lamb, spinach or potato.

8. International Supermarket, Walthamstow High Street. I sincerely wish I could take this well-stocked, well-priced little Turkish supermarket with all its fresh tomatoes, coriander, mint, fennel, pointed peppers, birds eye chillis, scotch bonnet chillis, lemons, water melons, sweet mangoes, quinces, plums, pomegranates, olives, cous cous, pistachios, flat breads, orange blossom water and rose petal jam with me to Glasgow. I realise now how spoilt I’ve been to have it on the doorstep.

9. Camden Arts Centre. Good for an interesting variety of contemporary art and working or lazing in their peaceful garden. Just round the corner from the Freud Museum too.

10. I can’t decide. The William Morris Gallery, The Windmill Portugese Restaurant in Walthamstow, British Museum, Somerset House, National Portrait Gallery, Alison Jacques Gallery, both the Tates, the Hayward..

Ten places in Glasgow I’m looking forward to visiting for the first time:

1. House for an Art Lover. This house was designed by Charles Rennie Macintosh, who also designed the beautiful Glasgow School of Art which sadly suffered fire damage in May.

2. The Mackintosh House. A reconstruction of Charles Rennie and Margaret Mackintosh’s house.

3. The Modern Institute. A contemporary art gallery mentioned in a recent article on Glasgow’s generally fantastic art scene.

4. Centre for Contemporary Arts. The programme includes exhibitions, film, music, literature, spoken word and festivals.

5. The Burrell Collection. I’m particularly interested in (surprise surprise!) the textiles in this enormous and varied collection gathered by the shipping magnate Sir William Burrell.

6. Botanic Gardens

7. Bibi’s Mexican restaurant. I’ve never been to a Mexican restaurant, so I’m looking forward to trying a new cuisine at a highly-recommended eatery.

8. Tenement House Museum

9. The Yarn Cake and all the other Glasgow wool shops I will soon be happily foraging in.

10. Orkney and Shetland. Not in Glasgow, I know, but after moving 400 miles, another 200/400 to visit these beautiful islands shouldn’t be too difficult.

The Textile Conservation course at Glasgow has its own blog here – textileconservation.academicblogs.co.uk and Hannah Sutherland, who will also be joining the course in September, has an excellent blog that can be found here – hannahsuthers.com.

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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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Nålebinding attempt

Ever since I saw these socks in the Victoria & Albert Museum I’ve wanted to try nålebinding. Thanks to some excellent tutorials on youtube and Richard Rutt’s The History of Knitting, I’ve started to have a go. Even though it can produce a fabric structurally identical to knitting, nålebinding is sewn with a threaded needle. I doesn’t unravel like knitting because the yarn is pulled through each stitch. I describe it as ‘knitting backwards’. The easiest way to explain how it’s done is through photos, so here’s the first stage: making the initial ‘knot’ and row of loops.

Old Socks

Another find from the V&A Museum collection. This pair of socks was excavated in Egypt and is estimated to have been made around 250 to 420 AD – that’s 1590 to 1760 years old! They may be a bit grubby, but otherwise these ‘sandal socks’ seem to be in remarkably good nick.

Although they look knitted, they were actually made using a technique called nålbindning, the slower, one-needle forerunner of today’s knitting.

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

A Trip to the Victoria and Albert Museum

Yesterday I paid a visit to the V&A Museum with Sayed and our friend John, hoping to visit Light from the Middle East: New Photography.

Unfortunately, I failed to account for it not opening until the 13th November.

So, what to see? The idea of going to their current paid exhibition Hollywood Costume on a busy Saturday afternoon made all of us wrinkle our noses, so we struck out in a random direction, up a flight of stairs and into pretty much the first gallery we found.

Wow. These are some of things I was engrossed in for the next three hours:

Woman’s Smock, England, 1575 – 1585, Linen embroidered in silk.

Knitted Jacket, Italy, 1600 – 1620, silk and silver, hand knitted and sewn.

Pair of Mittens, England, ca. 1600, Crimson velvet and white satin, embroidered with silver and silver-gilt thread, coloured silks, beads and spangles.

Embroidered linen cloth, England, 1570 – 1600, linen, embroidered in silk with bobbin lace border. In the verses framing the central image, the artist has cleverly replaced some words with images, known as rebuses.

N.B. These objects were all on display in the British Galleries, Room 57 and adjoining galleries. Since the V&A rotates its display to protect objects from light damage, they will not be on display indefinitely. Also, the online collection entry for an object may state ‘in storage’ but actually be on display, and visa versa.

All images © Victoria and Albert Museum, London