Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Knitting for Peace at the Courtauld Gallery

When I look back over the last few months I am amazed at all the places that my knitting has taken me - Camp Bestival, the foot of the Plinth...and today is no exception. Knitters for Peace were invited to be Knitters in Residence for the weekend at the Courtauld Gallery which is housed in the very grand surroundings of Somerset House on the Strand in London.

So what connection might knitting have with the rarefied fine art atmosphere of the Courtauld? Well, it all starts here with their current special exhibition: Beyond Bloomsbury -designs of the Omega Workshops 1913-19.
Here, in the words of the exhibition is a synopsis of the work of the Omega Workshop.
The designers who worked at the Omega Workshop decided not to sign their work - instead it was all marked with the Omega symbol. Other aspects of their values were that they valued the hand made and irregular, bright colours and bold lines and group activity. They were also pacifists who worked with refugee women in France to produce embroideries for them to make a living after they had been driven from their villages by the advancing armies. Can you see the reference points for Knitters for Peace?
Much of the works are applied arts - here is a painted screen.
And a needlepoint chair back. The colours are bold and the designs are moving towards abstraction.
Many of the pieces are designs for textiles such as rugs drawn on graph paper.

Some have a deceptive simplicity.
When we were discussing the project and things we might do I had the opportunity to look at the catalogue and decided that it might be in keeping with the spirit of the exhibition to put together a piece that was inspired by one of the designs of the Omega Workshop.

One of the patterns caught my eye as being vaguely reminiscent of a log cabin blanket.

However, it needed to be simplified and adjusted to be suitable as a group project to suit most levels of skills.
Knitters soon got to work.

Refreshments were, of course, essential.

Over the two days we not only knitted a good number of squares but encouraged members of the public to stop and knit a couple of rows or we taught children to knit and added their contributions.
And here you can see the way in which the project is developing. The differences in tension make the squares a little irregular so the finished piece will require some fairly ferocious blocking if it is to be neat and regular. However, having spoken to the curator and several other very knowledgeable members of staff I may leave it a little rough and ready as this is very much in the style of the Omega Workshop.

All in all this was a fabulous experience. We raised awareness for Knitters for Peace, we connected people with parts of their past they had forgotten by allowing them to knit a few rows and reminisce, we set children on a path of what we hope is a fun and worthwhile pastime and we paid appropriate tribute to the Omega Workshop by working on a piece that not only referenced the exhibition but worked very much in the spirit of the members.
I think Roger Fry would not only have approved, he would have picked up a pair of needles and asked for a quick lesson!

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Exclusive! Knitter P/hopping on the Plinth!

One more nail in the coffin of the idea that knitting is something that ladies of a certain age do behind closed doors.Knitters are out and about and doing amazing things!

Today Rooknits joined the ranks of knitters who have taken part in the One and Other project inspired by Anthony Gormley where over four months, 2400 people take turns in spending an hour on the empty plinth in Trafalgar Square. Roo chose to spend her hour knitting a blanket square and building awareness for the P/Hop project where knitters share their skills, knowledge and stuff to raise funds for Medecins Sans Frontieres who take desperately needed medical care to people in the direst of circumstances.

Here's Roo, on the plinth, also building desperately needed awareness for Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club....

This photo gives a sense of the scale of the setting. You might be surprised to know that I also volunteered (unsuccessfully so far) for the project but having seen this shot I have a nasty feeling my vertigo would kick in and I would spend the hour clinging to the edge!

Of course, these days where you find one knitter in public you are likely to find a whole crowd more so here are a few of the group of supporters who roused themselves from their beds at such an unearthly hour on a Saturday morning for the occasion. It was great to see Pete, P/Hop's legendary sponsored knitter and my star pupil making such good progress on his Arsenal scarf. Will he get to wear it this season? His exciting news is that he has been sponsored a further $500 to learn to knit a sock. His generous donor will, I hope be delighted to hear that I gave him his first mini tutorial at the foot of the plinth. If you watch the footage of Roo's hour of fame you can just make us out.... thanks to my yellow cardi!

I had no idea that the cameras strayed onto the surrounding area so it was alarming but gratifying to receive text messages from friends saying 'Nice cardi!' I told you that in the hands of a better photographer it was far less of a shapeless lump!
How could the camera not stray onto this group of happy knitters?

No man was safe from being drawn into the mysterious world of the knitter. Steve will have needles in his hand before he knows what has hit him!

And here's Roo being brought safely down to earth. She did us proud!

And here are some of the blanket squares that supporters have been knitting ready to be sewn together int a beautiful blanket which will be raffled at the IKnit day next month to raise funds for MSF. It is shaping up to be a very beautiful and well traveled piece!

Never a dull moment when you're a knitter!

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Abysmal photography

Despite my lovely new camera, there is one sort of photography that I just can't seem to get right - cardigans and jumpers. Here, finally, after a stern talking to and another trip to the blockers I can reveal my new yellow cardigan in all its limp and shapeless glory!
You'll have to believe me when I say that it's really a very perky little three quarter sleeved cardi that makes me feel like one of these ladies when I wear it over my little black dress.

So much so that I had to invest in a pair of these....
and another gratuitous shot just to takes your mind off the knitting....

Of course I know what you are going to say - let's see the outfit! Well, I think it's going to take the help of a lovely assistant or the revolutionary step of reading the manual entry on self timing and a few more weeks off the pies before I subject you to that sort of apparition....
For those not completely mesmerised by the shoes the cardigan stats are as follows. Yarn, coned Elsbeth Lavold (allegedly) Silky Wool from Coldspring Mill, in an unnamed but very cheerful yellow. Pattern, Knitting Pure and Simple Top Down Tie Fronted Cardigan modified for three quarter sleeves and addition on eyelet pattern from Barbara Walker's Treasury of Knitting Patterns.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Testing, testing...

As regular readers of this blog may know, Natalie, yarn dyer extraordinaire and owner of the Yarn Yard and I are great friends and collaborators. Most of the schemes we dream up at half past midnight on the telephone never see the light of day but we do all we can to support each other in whatever we are planning or working on.

As you can imagine, I was delighted when Natalie asked me to review an exclusive new yarn for her. Last week, this little beauty and its partner arrived in the post. Although Natalie and I are friends I did give this yarn a thorough work over and hope I have been fair and objective.

It's an eight ply, 100% merino and as you can see, the fineness of the plies gives it a very smooth, solid construction with virtually no halo at all. It's also a little heavier and not so fuzzy soft as Natalie's current sock yarns, similar in weight to say Socks that Rock Light and very reminiscent in texture to Wollmeise but lighter than something like Colinette Jitterbug.

In order to give it a thorough test I chose a pattern which combined a lot of pattern stitches with a range of construction elements. This is, once again from Wendy Johnson's Socks from the Toe Up, the Riding on the Metro Sock.

The yarn is lovely to knit with and produces a fabric which is a lot more solid than the other Yarn Yard staples, Bonny and Toddy and very smooth and crisp in its stitch definition. It doesn't split too badly when working on those tricky little ssk's although it does have a slight tendency to twist up on itself during knitting but nothing compared to some that I have tried.

The skeins weighed in at 60g each so I wanted to make sure I got as much out of them as possible. This yarn doesn't have the yardage of Bonny or Toddy and produces a heavier weight sock. Because the lace pattern has quite long repeats I decided to stop where I would usually finish with a 50g skein and only had this 6g ball left so people who like a decent amount of leg on their sock will be pleased to hear that Natalie is planning to sell it in 65g(I think) skeins.

Here's a close up of the stitch pattern which is, as you can see very firm and defined. People who prefer their socks slightly less textured may wish to choose one of the other alternatives. Because of the eight ply construction I think it will make very hard wearing socks despite the absence of nylon. Natural fibre purists like me will be very chuffed about that!

All in all I think this yarn is a really exciting addition to the yarns available in the UK and as merino absorbs colour beautifully there is opportunity for some striking colourways.

I think it stands up to scrutiny pretty well.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Thank you!

I'd just like to thank the very kind person who has nominated my blog for the Dorset Cereals Little Blog Awards (link in the sidebar). I am delighted that anyone should think so well of my ramblings...

Monday, 3 August 2009

Lurking within tent

Just in case anyone thought I had abandoned my stash and taken to a life on the open road after Camp Bestival, I'm back, vowing eternal love for my duvet and hot running water. I did have a fabulous time and as usual completely failed to capture most of it on film. Here, however is a small taster. This is the I Knit tent where we spent two days teaching people of all ages how to knit and finger knit.

The tent was packed most of the time. I think parents thought we were some sort of magicians as by teaching a very simple technique to make strings and strings of.....knitting from old scraps of yarn, their children were happily mesmerised for hours. You could hear the grateful sighs as they sank into our big comfy sofas.

For us, as people enthusiastic to share our love of the fibre arts it was a good opportunity to share what we know and to show people that children don't always need the latest gadget, and that they really enjoy making stuff. It was a real pleasure to work with them but also exhausting. The weather held good for most of the weekend but this was my favourite part of the day - the view from our tent before the crowds were let in first thing in the morning.

And here was my knitting spot.
As with any festival, you never know who is going to appear next. The Ladies of the Lawn dropped by to give us a few acapella numbers. Lithium by Nirvana was my favourite.

The clouds gathered on Sunday afternoon and after an insanely long train journey and missing the last tube train home I sank blissfully into my duvet and reflected on the simple pleasures of life....
Despite all this excitement, knitting has to go on! I have finished my On Hold socks. I am quite pleased with the way they have come out. They are made in a wool and silk blend by Posh Yarns which I think suits the pattern very well. They have a lovely sheen and texture.
Here is the customary blocker shot.

Here they are on the lasts which really shows off the scroll pattern running down the front of the foot.

And finally, I am still enjoying playing with my new toys and camera even though some people may find my interpretations a little..... creepy....

Surely this one is alright?

This one? Maybe less so....

What do you think?