Saturday, 27 April 2013

Come Together

Tomorrow my friend Laura and I are jumping into the car and driving 250 miles to be with hundreds of other wool enthusiasts at Wonderwool Wales. I should be packing and tidying the house (nobody wants to be judged by the cat sitter) but of course I am finding lots of things I'd rather be doing instead, like chatting on the blog.
As I at least mentally prepare ( I have made a list...) I am drawn to thinking about how, even though it is only April, so far this year I have packed up and headed off to different corners of the country to spend the weekend with fellow knitters, crocheters, spinners and other sorts of textile artists and enthusiasts at least four times. This doesn't include afternoons and evenings I have spent happy in the company of fellow knitters. There was a time when knitting was something I did at home at the end of the day, usually on my own or at best with women from my own family. Now, it has become a major part of my social life and the means through which I  have met some of my very best friends.

The most recent of my knitting and spinning related excursions was to Eggesford Barton in Devon, organised by the lovely Terri. This is a wonderful former farmhouse and associated buildings which have been transformed int self catering accommodation for large parties such as ours. 17 of us, plus Syd the chocolate Labrador spent a really warm and wonderful (and I'm not talking about the weather) weekend doing the things we like best, eating drinking, spinning, knitting, laughing and chatting.

For a country girl living in the city, living a busy life, trying to make a living from her craft it was blissful to be in a gorgeous, tranquil environment, making things amongst other people who are also quite happy to spend half an hour discussing the merits of different forms of cast on without thinking that this is in any way unusual.

Being lovers of knitwear, when challenged to go for a picnic despite the unseasonable chill we were not to be thwarted. Thank heavens for good cake, hot tea and the insulating properties of wool...

Our little getaway wasn't just about sitting around and making things, we also went out on a little trip to visit the Natural Dye Studio who have recently moved to a location not far away. It was lovely see how Amanda, Phil and their daughter Daisy have settled in to their new abode after a few ups and downs to say the least and can give their full attention to what they do best, producing gorgeous, naturally dyes yarns.
 It was interesting to see the yarns as they came fresh from the dye pot.

 Wonderful flashes of colour from yarns and other 'bits and pieces'

Juxtaposed with the tools of the trade.

Interesting things to see in every corner.

I may have brought back one or two souvenirs....

The weekend was over far too fast and we're alreay planning to come back next year.

Good grief - look at the time! And no, I haven't packed yet. Better get on with it!

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Introducing the Palm House Mitts

Today I am really delighted to be able to show you my latest knitting pattern, the Palm House Mitts. They were inspired by the elegant simplicity of the iron and glass arches of the Palm House at Kew Gardens. Using cable and twisted stitches the pattern highlights the thumb rather than leaving it as an afterthought.   

They are a lightweight, close fitting mitt, perfect for chilly spring days, knitted with less than 50g of a sock weight yarn. The mitt above is made using Juno Buffy in the colourway Stone Age.

A solid or semi solid yarn works best. This version is made with Yarn Yard Toddy in the Deco colourway.

I have lots of people to thank in helping me get this pattern ready for publication. Firstly, Natalie Fergie for yarn support and photography, Judy Wilmot for test knitting. The version above were knit by Judy in Yarn Yard Clan, now unfortunately discontinued. Thanks also to Rachel Atkinson for Tech editing and to Hayley Rohrich Ford for modelling.

The pattern is available for £2.50 via Ravelry by following the link here.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Precious Things

Spending time going through the drawers and cupboards of our family home has given me plenty of opportunity to think about my family and some of the influences that have led me to where I am now.

One of the themes that unites the very different characters that make up my extended family is that we have always loved making things with our hands. Everywhere we looked there was something that someone had taken time and trouble over and these are the things that my sister and I have kept because they say the most about the people we are and the people who made us what we are. I thought I would show you a few things today to illustrate what we mean.

My maternal grandmother was a village school teacher who married a farmer. Hard times during the depression led to him becoming a forester, living in a tied cottage in the forest with neither electricity, running water or indoor plumbing. This didn't mean that she had no use for beautiful and intricately worked household linens like this tablecloth decorated with fine cotton crochet and cut and drawn thread work.

By the time I knew my grandmother arthritis meant that she was unable to do such work any more but she still managed to teach me to knit and do the ribbing for jumpers which she would hand over to my mum to finish.

It's lovely to have this beautiful tablecloth which shows what she was capable of at the height of her powers.
My Aunty Ena was a very petite woman standing at 4ft 10inches tall with size one and a half feet. She worked for a time at a cigarette lighter factory where she was apparently one of the fastest on the production line due to her small hands and dexterity. When she had the time she used these natural gifts to better effect and did some beautiful embroidery. This simple piece has seen a lot of use, some of the stitching has disappeared but it makes me smile as it reminds me of my Aunty.

Next we have a baby shawl knitted by my mum. It is a circular shawl in traditional Shetland stitches. The yarn may well be acrylic but it is soft and cosy despite being over 50 years old. She used it for both me and my sister after which we used it for wrapping up our dolls as well as Tibby, the long suffering family cat. In recent years Dad had taken to wearing it around his shoulders when he sat up in bed to read to keep the draughts off the back of his neck.

Finally I wanted to show you this rather bedraggled latch hook rug made by me when I was about 10. Mum and Dad made quite a few rugs for the house and I was always mithering them to have a go. Eventually dad drafted out a pattern on graph paper for me and with rug wool left over from their projects I made this little mat which sat in front of the dressing table in my bedroom.

Some of these pieces may be old fashioned, some slightly bedraggled and worn others made in materials and colours that yarn snobs might baulk at but they sum up to me what handmade is all about. They are so rich with meaning and memory, created by active and busy women who thought it was important to use their hands to make something beautiful and to share those skills with the next generation. Whenever I look at these things I am reminded how important  and sustaining a legacy I have been left.