Preparing for Harvest

The academic year has ended, and apart from graduation the focus is entirely on September and preparing for new and returning students.  It’s also time for me to regroup and turn my attention to design work due out later this year, months before anyone else is really thinking about wrapping up warm.  That said, London and June have been in the midst of an argument for a few weeks now, and we’re all waiting to see whether the summer weather will win!

Early spring and summer has made me think of planting seeds, or nurturing young plants as they make the most of the warmth.  It’s one way of understanding my lifestyle of working behind the scenes on a design, or on projects that I will have to wait to reveal.  For sneak peeks of these, take a look at my Instagram feed – at the time of writing, the tiny bits of knitting will make a lot more sense and you’ll see what I’ve been building up to!  I could say something about finding pockets of time to do things, but it feels more like the quiet moments in a composition: those few bars’ rest that aren’t rest at all, but part of the music.  The poetry of silence that resets the ear and welcomes the time, rhythm and colour of the next movement.

I’d also like to share a small accomplishment of mine: drum roll please!

PurpleRib4These 16 rows of rib might not look like much, but for me they’re the equivalent of a marathon runner coming down the back straight.  Finishing this second sleeve is the final bend; picking up stitches for the front band and sewing up is the home straight.  Blogging about it and wearing it to death is the finishing line and beyond!🙂

This purple cardigan has been hanging around for so long, it can’t help but be a reward in its own right. I’ll need it for the colder days of harvest, when it’s time to wrap up warm against the brisk notes of the autumn wind.

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Adventures in Yarn Dyeing, Part One

Last week I tried two things for the very first time: drafting a bodice block and dyeing yarn.  It’s safe to say I’ll be doing both again!

My not-so-new job has kept me away from posting regularly like I used to, but it’s been a crazy, eventful and educational nine months in post and I hope – HOPE – that I have enough of a grip on things to get back into a writing routine.  It’s much easier to find time now that the graduate showcase is over (take a look here if you want to see the culmination of hard work by a group of talented people), and of all the things that I could have done this Monday morning, I chose to write.

PreInspirationThe yarn dyeing came about as a consequence of similar circumstances.  With all the students finished up and only Graduate Fashion Week on the horizon, a group of us came up with the idea of skill swapping as a means of enjoying each other’s relaxed company and actively appreciating our areas of expertise.  My contributions were intros to hand knitted socks and domestic machine knitting.  In turn, I asked how to learn how to dye yarn and draft a bodice block based on my own measurements.

I should probably be more explicit than I was at the start about having never dyed yarn: I’ve NEVER dyed ANYTHING.  Very truly.  Not even in the bath or washing machine at home.  The last thing I ‘dyed’ prior to this was my fingertips when mashing down turmeric root in a mortar and pestle!  Thank goodness that came off after a couple of days or so; I had the left hand of an 80-a-day smoker😦

So: I turned up last Thursday 19th with five hanks of Rowan Creative Linen in white, bouncing with excitement, a bellyful of beans.  I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited about anything changing colour! – or nervous.  Not that it wouldn’t turn out as I wanted; the nervousness that accompanies treading uncharted waters, the feeling that you get as you swell up to fill a new space in the world, a space held in trust for you until you’re strong and brave enough to understand it’s always been yours.  Discovery, excitement, trepidation, awe.

These feelings fuelled my elbow grease as I scoured the yarn, removing any coatings or residues from previous unknown processes.  Here’s a short video of me doing this:

The yarn was put into an acetic acid solution first, then well rinsed under running water.  Somewhat embarrassingly, I can’t remember whether it was hot or cold water – only that I kept scouring until I heard my colleague (find her beautiful print work on Instagram at @printmaking_paradise, including a snap of how her machine knitting turned out), say those magic words, “That’ll do.”

Next we followed an adapted recipe for the relevant dye type (cellulosic fibres like cotton and linen are treated differently from protein based ones like wool and cashmere) and I finally chose a colour.  I’d spent the day so far trying to remember what gaps were in my hand knitted wardrobe.  Unsure, I settled on a sea green/marine/turquoise vibe.  I later found out that I’d just got away with that guess: longline cardigan, yes; cropped wrap cardigan, still awaiting buttons, yes; summer sweater, NO.  Phew!  And this mental survey included the stashed yarn for incumbent projects.  Gosh, I have way too much yarn AM good! * high fives *

We threw in a wee bit of electric blue in case the colour came out a bit too green; green doesn’t love me as much as I love it.  Once the water had reached the correct temperature, in went the yarn.  No going back.  I may have likened this to a “Loch Ness monstery pit of aqua”.  Guess I can’t be articulate all the time!  Good thing I don’t do podcasts😉

Stirring and a bit of guesswork ensued: how long to keep it in and would it be the depth of colour I had in mind?  I’d gone for the medium range of the spectrum to play safe, but it’s always a tricky thing as people can have interesting ideas of what ‘medium’ is.  I guess that’s part of the process and the charm of textiles.  Most interestingly, it was the only time the knitting, engineering area of my brain felt a bit poleaxed; it made me realise just how structured and binary knitting is or can be in comparison to other textile arts.  You have knit, you have purl.  You have front loops, you have back loops.  You cable left or right.  Textured patterns have a right side, a wrong side, or can be reversible.  The creativity of knitting is borne of a profound understanding of how the structure is engineered.  My brain and personal experience relate it to Lego and music.  You have your bricks and your notes, your eyes and ears, your theory of how the relationships work – now go off and compose.  Technicality doesn’t forego manipulation and innovation; it enriches creativity to result in masterful, original works of art.

My way of dealing with the unknown is to let it wash over me.  It’s the only sensible option: how can you compare something you don’t know to something you do know?  Of course your brain wants to make sense of it as it grapples with new concepts and you try to execute tasks correctly – more than once I mused about cooking and recipes as I stirred the dye pot – but you have to welcome that openness and receive it on its own terms, its own merit.  This open space, this stretch of uncharted waters, can only be trodden with trust.

YarnOnDryingRackThis is true even on the most mundane or microcosmic level, boiling right down to whether or not the yarn you’re dyeing turns out beautifully, let alone the shade you had in your mind or imagination.  Trust begets synchronicity.  Worry and fear can’t coexist with trust and faith.  I have no real idea of what colour my yarn will be when I go to work and into the print room tomorrow, and I can’t remember whether it’ll dry darker or lighter than its shade when wet.  To the left is a shot of the freshly dyed yarn on the drying rack as a sneak peek.  I could’ve gone in today to find out, but I didn’t.  I chose to write.

PostInspiration

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An Easter treat for knitters: A NEW knitting group AND new classes!

I am excited to let you know that I have set up a new knitting and crochet group a stone’s throw away from the Clapham Sew Over It shop!

CrochetGrannySquares

It will be in The Landor pub (everyone who’s been to Sew Over It Clapham will have walked past this watering hole) and the first meeting will be on Monday 4th April at 6pm.  We will be in the back of the pub: head to the left as you walk around the bar and you’ll see an area with sofas that backs onto the beer garden.

MossStitchAndButtonsThe idea is that we’ll be indoors on the sofas during colder weather and decamp to the beer garden when the days are longer and the weather’s warmer.  All in all, a friendly relaxed atmosphere for knitters and crocheters to hang out together.

As such I won’t be giving any lessons at all during the knitting group (more than happy to help out with patterns and give tips, though!), but if you’d like to learn something specific please book a one-to-one lesson via me or Sew Over It – or keep reading for details of a few new classes coming to you this spring!

KnitSamples_CablesLaceIntarsia

In May there will be some one-off classes for knitters wanting to learn how to knit cables, lace and colour block knitting (aka intarsia).  All the details are on the Sew Over It website and each class includes a pattern for a small project so you can show off what you’ve learnt :-)  All these techniques follow straight on from the Intro to Knitting course so if you’ve got the basics (casting on/off, knit and purl) you’ll have all the experience you need to get started.  Learning how to read charted and written instructions is part of each class so regardless of your choice, cabled, lacy or colourful projects won’t be a scary prospect or a distant dream.  All you have to do is turn up – the Sew Over It team and I will do the rest.

If you’d like to come along to the knitting group in a couple of weeks, please let me know in the comments below or send me a private message via the form below so that the Landor’s proprietors and I have an idea of numbers – and so I can get excited to see how many people might come along after several weeks of planning!

So, a quick run-down of dates:

That’s it!  Looking forward to seeing you soon🙂

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