Monday, 6 March 2017

Maker's Month at Norwich Forum

Last month the Forum in Norwich ran Maker's Month again this year. It is a month long event in a large space in front of the wonderful library and this year was throughout the month of February. Volunteers and others are invited to take part. The main aim is to show our crafts to the public and enthuse visitors to consider taking up or finding out more. Diss Weavers, Spinners and Dyers, along with the other Norfolk WSD Guilds took part last year but I wasn't really well enough to be involved, the migraine was still vicious. 
This year the 5 Guilds were there for 5 days and there was a real buzz about the place. Personally, despite misgivings of not feeling in control before it started it worked well. The 5 Guilds had met during the year but I wasn't quite sure what would happen, and having organised exhibitions before it is much easier, for me, to know exactly what will happen when. I spent 2 full days there and was also involved in the setting up and taking down of the Diss Guild contribution. For me it worked brilliantly, lots of really interested visitors and lots of communication with other guilds with mutual exchange of tips. I even began a journey on  a completely new skill, spinning with a Bavarian Spindle. 
The Bavarian spindles are on the left. These were on the sales table.
I demonstrated on my 8 shaft Katie Loom and took my little rigid heddle lap loom one day so that it could be used by a visitor to see how it worked. I had with me long samplers for both the Katie - it was a 4 shaft sampler but long and gave an idea of the scope of 4 shafts, and mesmerising thoughts of what 8 shafts could yield in terms of pattern. 
Honeycomb on the loom at the Forum, the wool warp will shrink when washed to accentuate the honeycomb pattern. 
The  rigid heddle sampler was a 'pick up' sampler that I had made in preparation for teaching a workshop when based in Cheshire. This in particular caused a lot of interest with many owning rigid heddle looms were surprised that it was produced on what they thought was such a simple system. ( am going to blog about this soon) 
Our main display piece was Diss Miss - a mannequin fully clothed in knitted and woven items, complete with socks, boots with inkle woven laces and with a half mannequin showing some possible underwear for our Miss! 
It was a real talking point. We were continually involved in talking to the public, demonstrating and teaching or letting people have a go on an ad hoc basis. 
I also had my natural dyeing with me so spent  some considerable time talking about that and reassuring people that all that was there was naturally dyed, despite the strong colours! 
We had the opportunity to run a longer workshop for up to 6 people during this 5 day period. After much thought I decided I would give it a go and choose to teach 'Natural Dyeing by solar dyeing ' for complete beginners. Not doing this at home, but in the confines of a part of the Forum meant lots of preparation in advance and also much list checking to ensure we had everything with us. I had a group of 6 very keen participants  so that was great. The workshop was over subscribed and I got some lovely feedback so I feel it was a real success. 
A lot of preparation was involved as in all successful exhibitions but all well worth it. The Forum team were fantastic, calm and very flexible and seemed able to respond to any request from the 5 Guilds as personnel and activity varied over the 5 days. Unfortunately I was also running a workshop for Diss Guild the day after this 5 day event so I missed going to see the Costume and Textile Association ( there was a talk on Chanel!) but I hope to catch up with that again soon - in Norwich Fashion Week. When I went to the Guild on Thursday we had a new member - and she had been to the Forum and decided to learn spinning and weaving- how great is that? 
My mind is already full  of ideas for next year....where's the list? 

Friday, 10 February 2017

Make do and mend

Last week I helped at the second make do and mend workshop which took place in the library of the Norwich Costume and Textile Library - I had to try continuously to keep my eyes from wandering ! 
It was another busy session this time led by Patricia ( from the Castle Museum). Louise ( from the Textiles Department) talked us through a number of items related to mending from the collections. The most memorable of these to me were miniature garments showing stages of hand sewing and mending and also what were a true delight- the sample books of sewing and mending completed by girls in the late 1800s. It was explained that these were like cv's - they would be shown to a potential employer ( for girls going into 'service') and would demonstrate their skills. Remember there were no sewing machines and what was striking was the regularity and small size of the stitches. Some mending even simulated more complex weave structures, 
Following this demonstration more recent items were shown with patching, 'moth hole disguising' by embroidery and needle felting  and I showed the 'easy weve' little loom in operation ( see previous post). 
Then it was time for the attendees to have a go at doing a patch of their own - all materials used having been prepared beforehand. There were 4 volunteers, 2 from the Norfolk Waste Department and 2 of us via Norwich  and Textile Association. We were kept busy helping as there were about 15 attendees. Some were particularly interested in knowing more about darning knitwear and I was able to demonstrate how to use duplicate stitch (Swiss Darning) to reinforce a thin area by tracing the individual stitches and also how to do more traditional darning by weaving. We discussed how to find and 'borrow' an identical thread in a garment and failing that sources locally to get a close match. Unfortunately time ran out on us. Attendees noted that they would have liked a full day for this ! 
The day really got me thinking. I could remember making a sample folder when I did O level needlework. Unfortunately I was not able to take this as a subject until the VI form.  I did so want to do needlework as one of my GCE choices but being in a small Girls Grammar school I was taken on one side and told my choices would be Biology, Physics and Chemistry as I was in the top set. I can't remember ever not being able to sew and knit, being able to do both before I started school, but it was pointed out to me that needlework was something I could ( and would do) in my spare time. I was not impressed but got on with it and in the VI form persuaded the school that I could do O level needlework in my non A level time. This I did but I had to sit at the front of what are now year 10 and 11 classes. I am glad that many things in education  have improved and this is one of them.
 (In fact I spent a career enjoying teaching science. I took a different approach in my teaching from that which I received and took much trouble to show my pupils how relevant science was to their lives and how to love science. Due to the approach I took I was able to make a contribution to science teaching nationally.) 
As my school teachers well knew I would continue with my textile interests in my spare time. I now use my science background in my dyeing ( and other textile disciplines) and still find teaching others very rewarding. 
I have enjoyed looking through my sampler folder - these are my mending samples on 1/4" gingham and plain calico 

These show the reverse side. 

These are my darning samples on woven wool - thin place darn left and hedge tear darn on right

and hole darn 


I have often met people in workshops who were not allowed to follow their subject passions at school - I hope you are not one of them. 

Friday, 27 January 2017

A tiny Lancashire Loom

This is a really special vintage loom from my collection that I have had for a few years. It is also called Lancashire's Smallest Loom, made by A Chesstok of Manchester.  Original cost was 5/- or Five shillings which translates to 25 pence in the current currency. 

It is a little mending weaving loom and here it is in use. 

The idea ( briefly) is that the warp is formed over the hole to be darned by making stitches opposite the hooks and looping the yarn over the hooks in turn, then taking another stitch opposite the hooks.  You then weave and change the shed to give plain weave by pushing the metal oblong at the top which tilts the hooks to the right and left in turn. Once the weaving is complete, the remaining 3 sides are stitched down to the garment. Ingenious. 

Here I am using a contrasting thread to show how it works. You can make the weaving as small as you like. The width is constrained by the width of the loom ( a bit over 2") but the length could be more. I will be taking it with me tomorrow as I am helping at a Costume and Textiles Association event in the Bridewell Museum tomorrow on ' make do and mend'. I think the participants might enjoy seeing this lovely vintage item. 

Tom of Holland has described it's use in detail on his blog of 23 June 2011

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Using a circular sock knitting machine

In 2001 soon after we moved to Cheshire I bought this vintage sock knitting machine and had a lesson with the sock knitting guru  Denys Wright, who I bought the machine from. I just loved the engineering and it joined my two other vintage knitting machines - both normal flatbed type. I didn't  really expect to produce anything useful from it. 
Full set up 
This machine is a Berridge and made late 1800's early 1900's, still trying to track the model down. It was built in Leicester and is a Griswold design, but he went back to America between 1890 and 1892 and Berridge took over! 
I wasn't really interested in getting it to knit  socks, but played a bit and managed the heel and toe ( both the same thing in a machine knitted sock ) and even the ribbing for the cuff, as samples. But then we moved to another house in Cheshire  so I took the needles out and stored it safely. Then I was busy- mainly working! 

Then last January, now living back in Norfolk and having more space I got the machine out again, fitted it all together and checked it was working. It has sat covered up in my 'sewing room' since then. Now it is 2017 I have decided I am going to try and knit a pair of socks with it. I have done a little bit on it most days over the last week. 
Here is the progress so far. 
Sock  1 
Trying  ( and managing) to get a sock and a heel in the same sample. 
I never even tried to get a decent leg length or foot length. It has worked but the grafting of the toe - the last bit in making a sock this way) is not neat enough for me.

Sock 2 
Nearly happy with this one, some tension errors, fits my foot beautifully but still unhappy with the grafting

Sock 3 
Pleased with this. A different method of grafting that is brilliant. Decided to use a contrast yarn and make it match the simple cuff I am currently doing. Tension is better too. 
I am not going to try to add the ribber section ( on back left in top photo) until I can knit a perfect sock without any hiccups at all. If a latch sticks open on a needle  there is a ladder and the knitting needs so much weighting that the ladder runs very quickly. The other two keys to success are getting the tension right, there is pointer on the side of the machine that adjusts the height of the needles and getting the weight just right when knitting the heel and toe. Too much weight and the stitches can't knit and too little and the stitches come off the hooks. 
The toe is grafted to the top of the foot by hand, and I am now pleased I have a neat method for that. 
It is much more complicated than an ordinary knitting machine as you have nowhere to park the carriage easily  where it is not sitting on the stitches being a circular set up. 

I am pleasantly surprised how it knits fine yarn. 

I have some old books to help me. The best advice was :
This ( knitting a sock correctly with shaping at first sitting) should not be anticipated; but anyone can become an expert in working the machine within a short time, from the book only, without personal instructions, provided they will commence at the beginning and learn perfectly ONE THING AT A TIME, following the order herein given' - so true!

You tube is proving very useful in finding extra hints and tips. 

I might just get my own knitted walking socks yet but the you tube video labelled the 8 1/2 minute sock is not something I am aiming for! What fun would there be in rushing with a wonderful machine? 

Sunday, 1 January 2017

End of 2016, start of 2017

When I returned home after Shetland Wool Week, my first treat was to knit the Sanik shawl by Donna Smith from the Wool Week Annual . I had bought two balls of Shetland Organics 1 ply lace wool, each ball 50 grams, length 350 metres. This was short in length of the yarn Donna used ( 194x4 m  allowed) but I crossed my fingers and got started. Donna recommended long needles so I used my 40 cm dpns as I wanted to use the project to practise with using a knitting belt. I loved ( and still love) the  simplicity of the shawl. I also liked it as I had not made a shawl in this shape - achieved by working short rows. 

I loved knitting the cockleshell edge and used many wool knitting markers(1)  to make counting stitches easier. At one stage in the cockleshell pattern there were 781 stitches on the needles. I needed an extra 40 cm needle for these rows. 
In time, the shawl was finished, with quite a bit of yarn left over so that was good news. 
I managed to block it on my large blocking board - it just about fitted. 
Here it is sharing the block with another favourite shawl. 
I love how it works around the neck, very light ( total weight used was 61.6g )  and lots of shawl to drape. 


I am going to knit one in natural ( off white) too- it's on the hand knitting project list but 
not at the top of the 'to make' list - yet! 

So a fitting end to a great textile year for me and now looking forward to my next hand knitting project- one from Kate Davies lovely 'Book of Haps' I think and it might be another Donna Smith design too! 

Happy New Year to you all. 

(1) my favourite knitting markers are the ones I make myself out of yarn - I can have different colours for different things and no concern about them catching on the yarn of the project 

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Shetland 2016: Day Twenty two: Arriving Home

Thurs Oct 6
The journey from Knaresborough to home seemed short and there were no hold ups. In fact I didn't write a thing in my journal! 
We were home about 15.30 and then of course it was unpacking,sorting through the mound of post that had built up and finding a home for our purchases. 
We had had a great time and although initially we planned to return in two years we are now wondering about another trip next year. How can we miss the great scenery, wool week activities, camaraderie and birds? 
But before then we need to complete the decorating. I am not sure we are refreshed as we feel pretty exhausted but we have a large lounge & dining room to decorate and hopefully have finished before Christmas. But of course there are other priorities too-like the order for extra long double pointed needles so I can knit the Makin Shawl by Donna  Smith from the Wool Week Annual.  I have the wool and want to practise my developing skill of using a knitting belt!  Then of course there is the Shetland lace knitting, the jumper for M, more dyeing, teaching a Nuno felt class and so on..... It all keeps the brain going. 

I hope this has inspired  you to take a look at Shetland and maybe visit. The landscape is special and the people are very special too. Thank you all for making our visit, once again, special. 

The fingerless meadowsweet gloves finally get finished- shown on my new gloves boards

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Shetland 2016 : Day Twenty one - Rheged and Bowes Museum

Wed Oct 5
Today was a short travel day so we treated ourselves to a visit to Rheged. So often we are just passing and don't feel we have time to stop. Today we had a second breakfast in the cafe which was very nice indeed. There was an exhibition of Cumbrian Artists ( being defined as artists with links to Cumbria), some nice shops including an excellent extensive toy shop. It was so nice to see actual toys, rather than rely on online shopping. 
An interesting piece - thought it was great when I saw it in the exhibition but now I am home I 'm not so sure. ( Fortunately, it stayed in the exhibition!) 

We then drove on to Barnard Castle along the A66, a journey which has lovely scenery. We determined that we would come and stay in the area for at least a week in the spring. We like to park at Bowes Castle and eat in the cafe. We were lucky to get a seat by the window and had a nice lunch. I like to do clothes ' observing' when in the cafe- usually there are one or two lovely pieces and today was no exception giving me ideas for a modification to my normal shawl cardigan pattern (clever use of lace placement!) 
We arrived at The Caravan Club Knaresborough  site at about 15.30. One of the bonuses to staying here is the Bistro. We had booked dinner which was enjoyable. So our last meal out before  driving home tomorrow
As I have mentioned our motorhome is a Wildax and we were interested to find that another was in the spot next to us. On talking to these neighbours we found that there were another two on the site. We have never seen so many together before.