3KCBWDay7 – Crafting Balance

As a knitty knutter and a constant crocheter, the question of balance is an interesting one. I switch between the two on a regular basis, sometimes combining techniques in one project. Hence I often have something on the needles and something on the hook. Sometimes this is related to teaching – for example if I’m knitting to order but teaching crochet I’ll have a group or student project on the hook and at least one knitting project on the needles. I also do some crochet for a lovely group of ladies – Angels on Loan – who make memory boxes for parents who’s child has passed away either before or after birth. They also make clothes for preemies and for babies where due to circumstances Mum doesn’t have alot. Please pop over to Facebook and visit their lovely page and say Hi, they appreciate the support and love to have new knitters or crocheters join their team.

So this week for example I’m:

1. Knitting a circular shawl to order

2. Designing and making a crochet table set for a wedding, including some simple napkin rings a bride could make herself

3. Crocheting a mini blanket and firming up 5 cradles with PVA for Angels on Loan

4. Have a blanket and 2 scarves on the needles that I’m making up for craft fairs.

5. Have a broomstick lace scarf on the needle for me – but there’s fortunately no rush on that one!

I think my area where I lack balance is crafting for me! The only thing I have made and kept for myself is a peace and orange bag knitted from fabric strips. Most of work is either on behalf of others, sold on stalls or given away as gifts.

I personally feel its more important to have a sense of balance between what I do for the business   and what I do for others. Its very easy to get focused on money and earning from your craft. But for me that takes some of the pleasure out, so I knit and crochet for Angels on Loan and run a knit and natter group, where I help out and teach others the basics for free.

I also help out friends and try and make sure that some of my Christmas and Birthday gifts are made by me. I think its easy to overlook the pleasure you get from giving when your crafting becomes a business.

Here are a small selection of gifts I’ve made:

Wedding Gift in Filet Lace

Snowy Hoodie - Newborn Gift

Star Hat - a gift for a friend's newborn

Preemie Blanket for Angels on Loan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And a small selection of commissions:

Granny Squares Bag for a very satisfied customer

Bespoke Bag in Knit and Crochet for a friend's very pleased Mum

Red Double Moss Bolero

Poncho in 2 strands of DK for a happy customer

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3KCBWDay 6 – Extending your skill set

The original brief for this post posed 2 key questions which I’m going to attempt to answer  one step at a time. Its generating similar feelings to the appraisals I used to have when I was employed and boy did they make me sweat!

1. How far down the road to learning your craft do you believe yourself to be?

I think after knitting and crocheting for over 30 years I’ve learned alot, but there are challenges out there waiting for me. I don’t believe you can know everything ever – there is always something you can learn. When I add teaching others into the mix, it gets more challenging – at the moment I feel I learn as much from the groups I teach about the best ways to explain things and how to plan lessons and courses, as I teach them. Its important when undertaking and teaching skills that you maintain a sense of humility, as this is a good reminder that you definitely don’t know it all. After all if I knew everything about knitting and crochet, as a learning junkie, I’d get very bored and lose interest.

The glittens on the right are an example of recent learning, I’d never done 2 coloured rib or fairisle in the round. I’d read it was all really tricky and I nearly wimped out and went out and bought a variegated yarn but decided I was going to try the “hard way” first. And I’m glad I did as I loved making these glittens, they weren’t as hard as I’d imagined and I’ve added to my repetoire of skills.

 I’ve also finally bit the bullet and had a go at felting my work intentionally! I produced a beautiful gadget case using Adriafil Carnival yarn. It was a challenge doing the maths, adding 30% more stitches and 10% more rows to allow for shrinkage and then hoping the finished case was the right size but it worked! And I loved making it so watch out for more felted items from me!

2. Are you comfortable with what you know or are you always striving to learn new skills and add to your knowledge base?

I always want to learn more! I can’t seem to help it, I just love learning. I’ve got a list a mile long of new techniques to try! Here’s a “learning plan” for 2012:

Double Knitting

This stunning piano scarf from Knitstant Gratification is knitted double, giving the appearance of stocking stitch on both sides. I’d love to master this technique by the winter so i can make eye catching, snuggly scarves in amazing colour ways. I’ve done some reading round it as I want to make “non-curly” stocking stitch scarves and this very much seems the way to go!

 

 

Solomons Knot

 This is a pretty and effective crochet stitch that can be used to make net scarves and lace. There’s a really exciting weddings project in the offing that I’m very involved with and I want to produce a bridal wrap in the beautiful stitch, especially as its also known as the lovers’ knot! This beautiful example is by “Waltzing Matilda”.

 

 

Estonian Shawl

Currently I have a simple but beautiful 3ply circular shawl on the needles and despite a few reservations about knitting on 432 sts I’m loving making it! So its kind of given me the shawl bug, aided and abetted by my friend Michelle who bought me a gift in a recent shopping trip to Hobby Craft. Its a book full of traditional shawl patterns from Estonia. I was tempted by some hemp laceweight yarn at this year’s Unravel and as both book and yarn came home at about the same time, I feel its a strong hint that I need to use this yarn to make a shawl, similar to the one featured on Girl In Sheep Clothing’s lovely blog! I want it for my birthday in June but I think its realistically not going to be possible as I also have a full board of custom orders and prototypes, including baby pants and guinea pig jumpers to knit.

Lanolisation

This is a definite an urgent “must do”! I’ve been asked to knit some pure wool baby soakers for a natural nappy network  – which I’m really looking forward to, especially as this might become a regular income stream. However I’ve been asked to price up and offer both lanolised and non-lanolised versions. I understand the principle of lanolising as it means the moisture evaporates keeping baby’s bottom and the lap of the adult they’re sitting on when they “over flow” dry. I’m researching the subject at the moment and the best method to use. It appears it comes in solid blocks, liquid or spray. Although this isn’t a knitting technique per se, it is definitely part of producing a finished garment the customer wants. And who knows it might lead on to other lanolised products – like pooch wear for example!

3KCBWDay5 – Something a bit different

This was proving a challenge until I came across an article or two in this month’s Knit Today! Both articles featured either an unusual recipient or reason for knitting. So today is going to be a show case of “Exotic Knitting and Crochet”. Yarn bombing probably dresses the oddest items, but I’ve decided that as amazing as this art form is, I’m going to challenge myself further by excluding such subervise activities from this piece and sticking firmly to the worlds of fauna and flora!

I’ve limited myself to 4 search engine terms: “Plant”, “Pet wear” and “Caricature”, “animal” ,  obviously with the addition of the word knit or crochet 🙂

1. Not All in the Garden is Roses!

Its not uncommon for us yarn addicts to make flowers and occaisionally fruit and veg, they’re great embellishments and provide fun play toys for children. However there are many other things that are knitted or crocheted in the plant world, many of which do not spring readily to mind. Whilst trawling through Google Images I’ve come across many cacti, fungi and flowers. However one thing I did not expect was crochet seaweed! Helle Jorgensen is a crochet artist, who creates all manner of unusual designs and shares them on her blog – Gooseflesh.

2. Jumpers for What????

A few years ago I got roped in to knit mini scarves for snowmen for a church fundraiser – a friend decided they were penguins and an in joke that still surfaces today was born, that I knit beak warmers for penguins – personally I’d prefer to do them for puffins as I could do stripes then 🙂 But I digress, but only slightly, my reason for mentioning  penguins is that they were the inspiration for this topic. There is a yarn shop in New Zealand, called Skeinz,  that co-ordinates an international effort to knit wooly jumpers for penguins unfortunate enough to be living in areas where we carelessly manage to spill oil. You can read all about it on their lovely blog – The Yarn Kitchen.

With the rise in exotic pet keeping in the UK, the penguin story got me thinking about which of these creatures I could find dressed in their very own knitwear and I discovered none! But I did find a range of lady chickens in their very own bikinis and some really cute guinea pigs in sweaters – and being a guinea pig fan, it was those little cuties that made it! They’re featured on a slightly too sweet site called “Cute Overload”

3. Caricatures

The inspiration for this section was the work of an anonymous knitter, who “knits the news”. She is French so a bit of translation or a dictionary is helpful, but the work is exquisite and as well as knitting the caricatures, she also creates the sets and will travel if needed to capture shots of her little people in just the right setting. You can see the work on her blog – Delit Maille

There are loads out there, from Barak Obama to popstars, but I was charmed totally by a set of little zoo gardeners knitted by  a lady who cleans there. They’re all based at Paignton Zoo in Devon. which is none too far from where I grew up. And was one of the many places Mum would knit for the entire  journey to and from. There are pictures of me in Dad’s photobox in a pram being pushed around the zoo and later of my brother and I having family days out, so it seems sort of fitting too as it links to my earlier piece about knitting heroes.  As the photo showing both gardeners and their alter egos  is part of a local newspaper report I sadly can’t share it here, so please click here  to view.

4. Animals

There are many knitted animals out there  and ordinarily I’d struggle to choose! However I’m going to introduce you to the Squiddies, created by Southampton knitter Faffy McFaff. I’ve met Faffy and am really pleased that she’s now got a Facebook page up and running where she can share her critters with the world. I never thought I’d describe a squid as cute, but these really are!

3KCBWDAY4 – A Knitter or Crocheter For All Seasons?

Do I knit or crochet for all seasons? The answer is yes! Today is a trip down ” Inspiration Alley” as I choose 4 key pieces that on first viewing have a definite seasonal range and consider how they could be reinvented to appeal to lovers of bespoke makes throughout the year.

AUTUMN

These beautiful arm warmers are made of 4ply pure wool using a slip stitch pattern to add detailing. They are wonderfully cosy but lightweight.

My inspiration for them was the colours of October woodlands

However they’d look just as good in cotton in bright zingy summer shades. As pure wool is wonderfully insulating they would also add warmth beneath a coat on a winters day. Alternatively they could be re worked in a space dyed chunky yarn in deep christmas hues of red, green and edged in white!

And for Spring  – what better accessory for your wedding outfit, but DK cotton armwarmers in floral inspired shades that provide a key accent to your outfit!

WINTER

Winter brings the need for Christmas Decs and ast year I went all out knitting and crocheting covers for baubles. But thinking seasonally, its time we  coined the slogan in the craft world “A Bauble is for Life not just for Christmas! Why?????? I hear you ask! Well there are many uses for the common or garden bauble. Brides – Cover 1 for each guest in knitting or crochet in your wedding colours, attach some coiled wire to the top and use as a place card holder. This  doubles up as a unique wedding favour, especially when a ribbon with your names and the wedding date is added. Each time your guests decorate their tree, they’ll have a lifelong memento of your special day! Or what about filling a bowl or jar with covered baubles? Use them to add an accent to your living space! You can ring the changes and have different colours for the seasons or  rotate  techniques and finishes. What about delicate crochet lace for the summer? Or a plethora of mini knitted flowers sewn together to make your very own spring ball!

SPRING

Spring in England means changeable weather and what better to wear out and about but a poncho in fresh shades of aqua and purple, bringing to mind the colours of burgeoning life.

Poncho’s are wonderfully versatile and again are a knit for all seasons….

For summer, imagine the poncho in a light cotton yarn, an ideal cover up for evening strolls along the prom on your holidays!

Autumn, calls for a rework in an aran weight yarn in rich shades of russets and golds, with matching hat and mitts. Ideal for bracing strolls through the woods or kicking up the leaves in the park with the kids!

Winter and a warm chunky poncho is an ideal for snuggling up on the sofa or keeping the chill off on days when the skies are clear blue and its just too nice for a coat, especially if teamed with hat and glittens. Ideal Christmas shopping wear!

SUMMER

This pretty matinee jacket is handknitted in strawberry shades of cotton and makes an ideal gift for a new baby girl!

To warm it up for autumn, a change of palette to muted autumnal hues and a light, soft and snuggly DK baby yarn reinvents the piece beautifully

And for a winter arrival, what better to wear on Christmas Day over that special outfit, than a snowy white matinee jacket and soft socks with just a hint of fairy sparkle

In Spring we’re back to the cottons again, colours chosen to reflect Mum’s favourite flowers, bursting into life along with her own new little lamb!

If you would like more information about commissioning bespoke pieces from Bits and Bobs Crafts, please complete the contact form and Bev will be pleased to assist you:

3KCBWDAY3 – Knitting or Crochet Hero

The Knitting Group - John Hunter

There are many people I could blog about who got me started and then carried on in their own ways to inspire. So although this might be ever so slightly cheating I’m going to share the stories of the 3 women in the family who helped along the road from absolute beginner to someone who can create their own designs!

What was amazing about these women was that none of them saw what they did as special, they’d all knitted through WW2, inspiring my love of recycling. They all had various health issues and disabilities, but never let it stop them having a go, which in turn provided a “life saver” for me when my spinal problems deteriorated. And despite all these challenges and experiencing hardship and tough lives in many different ways none of them ever threw the towel in. Sitting and knitting or crocheting together was a great way to hear their stories too and as I’ve faced some of those experiences myself, I’ve been able to draw strength from knowing that they got through, without all the help and support services out there for us today.

Sadly none of these women are alive today – in someways this might be a blessing in disguise as I can imagine the “What you doing that for maid” and “The maid’s knitting with carrier bags” type comments I’d get! For those not used to UK dialect etc, “maid” is a Devon term of endearment for a young girl or woman – I wasn’t literally the maid. even if I sometimes used to feel like it as a somewhat stroppy teenager with a love of books and an very well developed aversion to housework! But I often wonder if they were what they would make of all the fashion yarns and the plethora of patterns and techniques we can use today that they would perhaps have never attempted…

Turbo Knitter Mum!

My Mum taught me to knit at 6 – there were tears, tantrums and multiple dropped stitches!  And the mystery of why my work wasn’t growing – bascially Mum would have overtaken James Hunt at the time with the speed she went and I didn’t see her wrap the yarn around the needle so spent a good while passing my stitches from needle to needle! But Mum was a fantastic knitter, the family legend was she only needed to read the pattern once to get it and she’d be away – a skill I often wish I’d inherited. We’d spend afternoons playing in the garden, Mum in the background knitting. Out in the car, Dad driving, us squabbling in the back and yep Mum was in the front knitting! Sadly Mum died of a massive brain haemorrage when I was 7 – but she was the person who kick started my love of knitting, getting me knitting odd looking “squares” to make covers for dolls, full of holes and dropped stitches, weirdly shaped where I’d gained some. And she kept going with patiently casting on again and again.

Nan Field – who literally knitted blind!

Nan had glaucoma, and as a result lost her sight just after I turned 8 or 9. But she used to babysit on a regular basis both before and after and kept on knitting, despite not being able to see. One of the last things she crocheted was a cardigan for me in my then favourite colour pink. She also taught me the basics of crochet, despite me being left handed. I used to love listening to her telling stories of the wonderful work her and her sisters did before they were married, crocheting bedspreads in cotton for their trousseaux. I love visiting the antique pattern library and browsing through and choosing motifs and I often wonder if Nan and her sisters ever attempted them. But her heroism for me was that when her sight went completely she carried on knitting, through the local blind club. She made endless peg bags – Dad still uses his some 30 years on, and coat hanger covers. The partially sighted ladies then took her work and sewed it up and it was sold to raise funds to keep the club going. So many people give up hobbies and interests when they lose their sight, understandably so as it must be a huge mountain to climb, but for her sheer tenacity, Nan has to be up there in my “Hall of Knitting Heroes”

“The Trio – Nan Newman, Aunt Mill and Wilkie”

Whilst these ladies were elderly when I knew them, I’ve chosen an image of younger women knitting during WW2 to symbolise this group of heroes. These 3 ladies spent so much time together it almost felt as if they were one person, and it was nothing unusual to walk into Nan and Aunt Mill’s lounge and see a trio of ladies with their needles flying. After Mum died, out of all the family members who helped Dad out, these were the women we spent most of our time with. Nan had “nerve trouble”, Aunt Mill had been left lame with a short leg thanks to the polio epidemic in 1914 and had arthritis too and Wilkie was just a whirlwind – she lived over the road and was a whizz at anything creative. They were a mini production unit, turning out endless tanktops, jumpers and cardigans for the chapel bazzars – there was always a queue for their work too! They had cupboards of vintage patterns – oh what I’d give to have some of them now – needles made out of anything and everything that has ever been used to make them and loads of odd balls of yarn they would happily donate to my efforts to make a tea cosy  – not sure any of them actually got finished but they were destined for the bazzar too. I spent alot of time with them, as a teenager we must have made an odd group, all sitting in the evening knitting but it gave me the female company I craved. They used to encourage me to change a design too by using a different stitch pattern. And they often talked about the past and how they’d recycle yarn in the war to make fairisle jumpers, knit for the troops, take their knitting to the “pictures” when the local travelling picture house pitched up at the village hall to do their 3ins of rib. To me knitting was just part of who they were and its odd that today I love knitting groups where ladies of all ages get together as its somehow a comforting memory of many an evening sitting in an armchair knitting with older ladies and listening to their stories.Like Nan Field these ladies lived and knitted into their 80’s and again apart from their patience and willingness to show me how to do things, again its their tenacity that puts them in my “Heroes Gallery”

There are so many knitters  / crocheters out there who for reasons of their own are heroic, it might be their design skills, their ability to whip up a multitude of gifts for the whole family, knit prolifically for charity. For others even learning to knit is a massive triumph over adversity.  Which leads to me to ask…….. who are your knitting heroes? And why?

3kcwday1 -Colours and Creativity

Having a commission really focuses the mind on colour! I’ve got 3 commissions to draw up designs for at the moment and then make 1 alone and 2 with community groups. The one I’m going to focus on is  deceptively simple,being  jubilee focused so I know my range – Red White and Blue. !

The plan is to make a  Jubilee Wall Hanging using knitting, crochet and textiles with a group of older adults living in sheltered accomodation or receiving community support.

The back ground will be a mosaic of blue squares   in either knitting or crochet, the red and white crosses could either  be formed from rosettes, reflecting the red and white roses of England, as well as the flags of  the union, or white ribbon and red mosaic knitted and crochet squares. To bring in the diamond theme I’m thinking beads and buttons in clear. We also need to add in something about the Jubilee in text – dates, where it was made etc.

As I’m working with older adults it will also be interesting to explore the memories these colours evoke. Our senses give us great memories of place – colour included. Will we have ladies remembering the kisses and dances from the boys in uniform on VE day?  Will we have former guiders, soldiers making sure the flag is the right way up – and yes there is a right way and wrong way – something to do with the stripes that are at the top. What memories of Coronations, Royal Weddings, Empire Days and Jubilees past will I be priviledged to hear about?