Monthly Archives: August 2011

Green Man 2011

Our festival knitting tent tour stopped off last weekend at the wonderful Green Man festival, nestling in the Brecon Beacons near Crickhowell. For once it didn’t rain (much) which meant our festival knitting activities went at full swing all weekend. Big thanks to Verity, Kate and Tim for their sterling assistance and knit/crochet tuition.

Once again (like at Latitude) we invited people to knit ‘ribbons’: long, narrow strips of knitting approximately 6cm wide. Each ribbon was knitted by several people – one person would have a go, and when they’d finished, leave it on the needles for someone else, who was then free to change stitch or colour. We asked all the knitters to leave a message for the next person on a tag. Just like at Latitude, we ended up with lots of weird and wonderful ribbons, and an endearing array of messages.

On some ribbons the tags tell a story…

While on others, the knitting itself tells an intriguing tale…

Our next and final festival stop is End of the Road, next weekend. We’ll create another batch of ribbons there – and then I’ll begin working on what will happen to them next. I’m beginning to think of them as a study in how people (quite wonderfully) don’t follow instructions – especially interesting when knitting can sometimes be seen as a restrictive, pattern-based craft.

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Improvised knitting at Working Title

Last week I worked in residence at Aspex Gallery in Portsmouth, as part of an exhibition called Working Title. The idea was to work with junk that had been donated by local people. There’s more info about the exhibition in my previous post. Below are some thoughts that I wrote for the Working Title blog.

When I was on the train to Portsmouth, I thought about the different approaches I might take to the pile of junk awaiting me at the gallery. I could knit or crochet with anything long and thin, or crochet into objects to decorate them. The ideas that most excited me were to make an object into an improvised knitting machine, and to repair an object using knit.

In my very first dig through the junk, I found a coat hook ideal for using as a knitting machine – so my first piece was pretty immediate. There were loads of cables lying around, so I used them for yarn.

This next piece took a little more time, and continues a theme I’ve been exploring recently, of juxtaposing ‘masculine’/hi-tech stuff with ‘feminine’ decorative craft. I’m calling it ’16 Appliances’ because it’s made from… you get it. This one is macramé rather than knitting, because there were 16 strands to work with all at once.

In the junk pile I found an old wooden chair with the back totally missing – it had been somewhat savagely sawn off just above the seat. I thought this was a prime candidate for knit-based repair, and was pretty excited when I had the idea of using the chair itself as a french knitting bobbin to knit the replacement back. It’s almost as if the chair is rejuvenating itself (with a bit of help).

The french knitting is working the opposite way round to usual – going round the outside of the leg, rather than inside a cylinder. You get the purl (reverse) side of the knitting on the outside, but that’s ok. I swapped the yarns of the two sides at times, to create two horizontal bars across the back of the chair. A row of nails along the back of the frame allowed me to knit a new (somewhat dysfunctional) seat.

I love the idea of an object becoming the tool for mending itself – and that the final appearance of the repair is controlled to a large degree by the tool and process. A few people commented on how savage the nails look, compared to the seeming fragility of the knitting.

I made this coat-hanger-knitting-machine on my first day in the gallery, when I was hunting for anything hook-like that I could improvise into a knitting machine. First, I knitted a little piece using scrap yarn and some random objects as weights (an egg cup, 2 pairs of broken sunglasses, a Power Ranger and some beads).

On my way into the gallery on my last day, I impulsively popped into the car boot sale and picked up an old blouse. I chopped it into one continuous strip, with some features still recognisable, and knitted it on the hangers. It’s like the hangers have ganged up on a garment in the wardrobe, and reformed it to their own taste. I like imposing a knitted structure onto a woven garment, too. (As I told a visitor to the gallery, I stand firmly on the knit side of the knit-weave divide).

I took my improvised knitting machine experiments outdoors on Saturday, knitting with electrical cables on the railings outside the Royal Garrison Church. It was a fun experience – and I got to meet lots of dog walkers – but next time I want to use something much thicker to knit with – like rope, yum.

More improvised knitting machines, on a smaller scale. I used plumbing parts as french knitting bobbins, attaching the nails with loads of elastic bands and working with the junctions to create multiple knit outlets. A pipe that can knit its own water, maybe?

This wheel had been looking at me all week, asking for a knit-based repair. It wasn’t until Sunday that I swung into action, crocheting it a scalloped replacement tyre.

All in all it was a great week at Aspex. The intensive week of experimentation sparked off lots of new ideas, which I’m looking forward to exploring further in future.

Working Title at Aspex Gallery

I’m preparing to take up temporary residence in Portsmouth next week, as I’m going to be taking part in an exhibition entitled ‘Working Title’ at Aspex Gallery.

Here’s some information about it from the excellent Working Title blog:

’Sometimes things fall apart so that better things can fall together’ – Marilyn Monroe

“This summer aspex will undertake a rag and bone-style collection of unwanted domestic and small-scale industrial items within Portsmouth and Southsea. Selected artists will take these objects, which are no longer fit or have served their purpose and will turn them into something that is potentially beautiful and definitely different.

“aspex’s main gallery space will function as both workshop and exhibition space with artists working for fixed periods throughout the project. Visitors will be able to access the gallery, observe & talk to the artists while they transform cast-offs into new creations or incorporate them into performances. An auction will take place during the final weekend of the show where the artists’ work will be available to the highest bidder.”

It’s a totally new experience for me. I’m planning some knit and crochet-based fun, though what I come up with will depend on what I find. I’m taking my ‘Mon Tricot’ knitting dictionary (gifted by my grannie), and some trusty crochet books too – dependable sources of inspiration and information, whatever you’re working with!

Keep & Share Knitting Workshops

I recently sorted out the dates for my next round of knitting workshops, from October 2011 to May 2012. I’ve listed them below, or you’ll find full details on my Creative Breaks page here. I run a range of workshops, for both complete beginners and more experienced knitters, in hand knitting, machine knitting and there are also more unconventional workshops, like Calculate Your Own Patterns (ideal for those who want to knit ‘off-piste’!) and Stitch-Hacking.

The workshops are always great fun with a nice relaxed atmosphere and a friendly bunch of people. The maximum group size for any workshop is 8 participants (with myself and my assistant teaching), though often the group is smaller, with just me teaching. All equipment and materials are provided (we use chunky Knitmaster 155 machines for the machine knitting workshops, which work in a similar way to all Knitmaster/Silver Reed and Brother single bed machines) – or you’re welcome to bring your own. At the workshops I also provide advice on buying knitting machines and sourcing yarn – essential at the moment while machine knitting is an underground activity!

All the courses take place at Keep & Share HQ, my studio at Lugwardine Court, Hereford, HR1 4AE. I’ve got a list of lovely local B&Bs – so if you’re thinking Hereford is a bit far, why not treat it as a weekend break? There’s plenty to do for partners/family etc if you want to bring them along.

All Saturday sessions run from 10am to 4.30pm, Sunday sessions from 10am to 1pm, followed by a pub lunch. Workshop fees (listed below) include all materials, equipment, lunches and refreshments. A 50% deposit is due on booking, with the balance paid 2 weeks before the course.

KNIT YOUR OWN GLADYS CARDI 2 days £170 

5-6 November 2011 | 14-15 April 2012

Join us to knit our award-winning style, the Gladys Cardi, in a single weekend. We’ll guide you through the making process, including basic machine knitting, using a punchcard and seamless joining techniques. We’ll show you how to hand finish the piece, and before you know it, your very own cardi will be ready to wear. Suitable for both absolute beginners and those with more experience. More info and booking for this course here

HAND KNITTING & CROCHET WORKSHOP 1 day £60

15 October 2011 | 17 March 2012

Our hand knitting and crochet workshop welcomes knitters of all abilities to pick up new skills in relaxed and supportive surroundings. Amy will work with you on whatever techniques you are interested in – from knit and crochet for absolute beginners to lace and cables, multicolour knitting and garment finishing. She can also help you trouble-shoot individual knitting problems! More info and booking for this course here

CALCULATE YOUR OWN PATTERNS 2 days £150

28-29 January 2012 | 12-13 May 2012

At this workshop, designer Amy – who has produced scores of original patterns – will introduce you to her pattern design techniques. She will cover the selection of stitches and structures, taking accurate stitch counts and generating shapes for garments as well as calculating rectangles, angles and curves. You will gain the confidence to start designing your own pieces, freeing you to work more creatively. Suitable for both hand and machine knitters. More info and booking for this course here

MACHINE KNITTING FOR BEGINNERS 2 days £150

1-2 October 2011 | 18-19 February 2012

Whether you’re an absolute beginner or looking to refresh your skills, this course will give you a good grounding in the basics of machine knitting. Amy will teach you how to cast on, cast off, increase and decrease, and create textures, patterns and edgings using simple manual techniques. You will be confident in the basics and have a range of samples to take away. More info and booking for this course here

ADVANCED MACHINE KNITTING: SEAMLESS 2 days £150

1-2 October 2011

One of the key properties of the knitted structure is the ability to create seamless three-dimensional shapes. Working on the knitting machine, pieces can be joined seamlessly during the knitting process. We’ll introduce you to these principles – signature techniques of Keep & Share – and guide you in producing sculptural and seamless samples with many potential applications. More info and booking for this course here

ADVANCED MACHINE KNITTING: PUNCHCARDS 2 days £150

18-19 February 2012

Build on your basic machine knitting skills to get to grips with the punchcard function of machine knitting, allowing you to create a wealth of different structured fabrics including tuck, slip and fairisle. Amy has loads of tricks up her sleeve for creating both basic and more advanced fabrics using this versatile method of programming – you’ll leave the workshop full of ideas! More info and booking for this course here

STITCH HACKING 1 day £60

17 March 2012

Stitch hacking – a new textile technique recently developed by Amy – involves the laddering and reconfiguration of stitches within existing knitted fabrics. This versatile technique allows you to retrospectively create integral knit/purl designs on plain stocking stitch fabric, and many other unconventional effects. Learn the skill, and you’ll never look at a plain jumper in the same way again! More info and booking for this course here