Thursday, 30 April 2015

A Question of Storage (Part One)

I was recently listening to the Prairie Girls Knit and Spin podcast, when Susie and Danie were discussing their storage solutions for knitting needles. What made me think was how fixed in space their solutions were: from vases, to mugs, to pencil cases, they were all focused on the moment before the project is begin. Since almost every knitter you meet will have a different preference for DPNs, or circulars, or straights long enough to hold under your arm, it isn't that surprising that each knitter's knitting basket / toolkit is different, and yet, everyone's normal is their own way of doing it.

So in the interests of show and tell, I thought it might be worth sharing my own choices. They aren't perfect (and I'm thinking about ways to improve them, but am wary of pushing too far towards processes that won't be followed – if I don't end up using my systems, they aren't very valuable!)

First, my straight needle holder: I don't use these often, so really, this has become a long-term storage solution. It has a handy diagonal slant to allow access to shorter needles, and pockets of a variety of widths, together with a top flap to stop things falling out! When I'd made it, I found the usual Needle Roll idea wasn't going to work with my collection of needles or fabric choice, and so I have what I rather like to think of as a Needle Fold, instead.

Much more useful and regularly used is my small Needle Roll with Swallows, which holds my circular tips and DPNS. With two rows of pockets, it does still hold all of these at the moment, though it is possible that, were I to finish all my WIPs, it would be rather tight. The button and ribbon closure works well, though I'm ashamed to admit that I completely failed to add that vital 'stop them all falling out' flap, so it is somewhat less portable than I would have hoped in the planning stages.

Finally, the circular needle storage has lost its button (#ugly), but is nonetheless my preferred option. I looked at various ways of storing circular needles in a long, straight or dangly fashion, and couldn't bear the thought of the tangles... so I made felt tubes and sewed them to the centre of a cotton wrapper. The resulting pockets take my range of circulars and cables, plus crochet hooks, and occasionally (when I remember to put it away) needle gauge.

And as for notions - I have a couple of re-purposings for you. My absolute favourite stitch marker and small notion keeper? The egg from the middle of a Kinder egg: will fit enough to keep you knitting, and you get to justify the chocolate purchase!

For those times when the egg isn't quite enough, I've a lipstick holder (that I got in a Christmas cracker), which has the benefit of being big enough to hold a selection of yarn needles.

Monday, 27 April 2015

What is Ugly?


APlayfulDay's series of blogging inspiration prompts has spread ripples throughout my crafting (particularly knitting) community. If this blog started as a way to stay in contact with the knitting group I was leaving behind, and to share my experiences in craft and creativity with my friends and family as our lives moved geographically further apart, it still exists because I have found so many new, fascinating and wonderful communities of creative spirits and funny, enthusiastic knitters, bakers, writers, ponderers, and seamstresses that I want to be a part of.

 I may disappear for months at a time, and then re-appear with a flurry of posts (while carefully not mentioning that I was ever away, or the re-curring possibility that I'm talking to myself), but I have learned these things about myself: when my 'real' life is busier than usual I retreat from extra external interaction; I still want to contribute to the conversation; I plan far more posts than I will ever have time to write; work-life balance is a work in progress.

This challenge has made me sit up and take notice of blogging, of sharing thoughts (in format longer than 140 character) and of my wider community once more, and so, while late to the party, let's think about 'Ugly', the penultimate theme.

When I think about blogging, I often think about the very opposite of Ugly – the time taken over layouts, backgrounds, styling and taking the most perfect photograph tends to ensure that the blog is Beautiful, maintained as the best presentation of our creative lives, especially where that life is perhaps aiming for a professional finish. The glimpses we have into another's life through their blog may make it look as though they have a wonderful, dedicated, crafting space, full of satisfying and successful creative projects. Their wardrobe is carefully curated, and their photographs full of natural light and good focus.

In our online communities (distinct from the 'village' where everyone's news is everyone else's speciality), we can curate the image we present of ourselves: my knitting group knows that I'm finding one project particularly difficult not because it's hard, but because I'm bored of it; they know when I decide not to knit for a week, or when I've had to rip out a project three times; I don't tend to share this with the blog, because it is tedious, because I am bored of my moss-stitch project, because ugly ripped-out-knitting is not appealing.

But perhaps it's time to make a change. Let's wave a banner for all the means we have to share our imperfections. Why not carry on the #messytuesdays tradition? Why not share our #whenknittingattacks moments?

Maybe it's time to remember that a mistake shared is a mistake you might not make again, or might spare someone from making. Maybe now is the moment to share my lessons learned, so that someone else doesn't have to make it, or could believe that blocking will make that much difference.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

A knitting workshop focus: Introduction to lace 22nd November

Lace knitting can be chunky, warm and rustic, or delicate, light and ethereal. It can be modern or evoke a vintage feel. It can be geometric and striking, organic and intricate.  (All the images here are of my knitting, simply because I don't want to use other people's photos without permission, but search any image collection for lace knitting, and you'll see what I mean!)

It can brighten up a formal look, or add a touch of elegant glamour to a casual outfit. For the product knitter, there is plenty to like; for the process knitter, there is a world of possibilities, of intricate stitches and fun techniques.

All that, and in terms of pennies per knitting hour, lace knitting is by far the most economical road to tread. I'm planning my next garment: Bonny, by Tincanknits. It will cost me less than £20 in yarn - a single skein of laceweight - and that's despite more stitches than I'm going to think about very hard.

At the same time as offering all these opportunities for the knitter, lace tends to daunt us a little. But there are charts! But it's difficult! But it's so fine! But, but, but!

It isn't that difficult, and charts in and of themselves aren't incomprehensible. They're different, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing, and written instructions can run parallel to those charts to ensure you are comfortable with both forms.

My Beginner's Lace class is designed to teach you all you need to know about knitting simple lace. Beginning with a focus on reading your knitting, and exploring specialist cast-ons, increases and decreases, we'll experiment with swatches to see how these elements work together.

We'll explore patterns for lace knitting, looking at the differences between charted and written-out instructions, and you will start to knit a simple sampler scarf, which you can finish at home.

If you'd like to join me for this class on the 22nd November at the Malvern Cube from 10 am - 1 pm, please email me: ruthcrafts [ at ] ruthv [ dot ] co [ dot ] uk. The class costs £25, to include materials (needles and yarn) for the workshop, as well as the pattern and kit to knit the Flower Lace Stole so that you can consolidate your skills.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Stitching catch-up: A Question of Pieces

Sometimes, I embark on a project and set its parameters without really thinking through the scale of the task ahead. Like when I suggested to a friend on her hen do that I'd be happy to make her a quilt for her wedding gift, as long as she didn't mind it being late. Patterns were pored over, and one finally approved (Italian Tiles from Popular Patchwork July 2005 - subscriber access is available). Then I procrastinated. And procrastinated. This was going to involve a lot of cutting, and everyone knows that's easier to do with a bit of time ahead of you. And there wasn't really any sense of urgency... Until this Spring, when I looked at the calendar, saw how many bank holidays fell very close together, realised that we were visiting her and her husband in their newly-purchased and decorated home, and thought I should just get it done already.

Easter weekend thus began with cutting, and kneeling, and cutting some more, until I had a lot of squares. Which were sewn together, and cut into two, and pressed, and at the end of a full day's work I had the same number of pieces as I'd had at the beginning, but they were all two-colour and two tonal (mid light and mid dark).

The next day was a cutting day: lots and lots and lots of light and dark squares, which were then cut along the diagonal: so, triangles. Triangles to be individually sewn to the edges of the two-toned squares prepared, so that they can be pressed again, and the extraneous triangle carefully excised by roller cutter (this was waste fabric in this project... if I have reason to use this pattern again, I will plan a secondary project to use them too somehow).

One final step before it would be time to focus on the layout: sewing the half-square triangles into squares. These squares are 5 1/2" wide, and there are 196 of them.
By this point, I'd run through my first weekend, and through weeknight evenings into the second. We had a computing friend of Mr P's to stay, so sewing and programming and takeaway made for a fun time, and, thankfully, a third pair of eyes. I had been planning to sew my squares into blocks of 4 before laying out the whole quilt top, but it was pointed out that this might limit where I was willing to place them beyond what was actually physically possible. So we discussed the rules for colour repeat / nearness that I was happy to abide by, cleared the comfy chairs and general stuff from the living room, and covered the floor with fabric. Better eyes than mine pointed out colour meetings, and where I'd offset the whole design by one square... 
And then I began the to-ing and fro-ing, marking the squares in a block with pins and numbered pieces of paper, and carrying them carefully back to the sewing room to be completed. And pressed. And sewn into long strips. And eventually, into a full top.

Which I must now find the motivation to make into a quilt sandwich, and wrestle gently with through the quilting process. When the pieces will finally be the promised gift, is a matter of time. Time, and patience, and perseverance!