Vintage Wool Update: Excelana Launch
Choosing the right yarn to knit up your vintage pattern takes time and effort and most of the enquiries I get are about which wool to use, so I got geekily excited when I heard that vintage knit queen, designer and author Susan Crawford was about to launch her own brand of wool to accompany her Stitch In Time series of books. I caught up with her at its grand unveiling at Unravel in Farnham – she’d only received the first batch that week and was thrilled with the result. Me too when I got it home … I knitted up a sample to find that it combines softness with strength beautifully and lives up to its description: soft handling, great stretch and excellent stitch definition.
Excelana is produced in conjunction with Devon-based John Arbon of Fibre Harvest and is 100% British wool, spun from the fleece of the North Devon Exmoor Blueface and the Blue Faced Leicester (I love sheep names). At present only the 4-ply is available, but DK, Aran and a unique 3-ply are also in the pipeline, with the promise of more shades to accompany the existing vintage-inspired palette of eight colours.
You can read more about it and place an order through through the Excelana website or through Susan Crawford’s Vintage site.
Knit The City's 'Oranges & Lemons'
Graffiti tag knitting, gritting (graffiti knitting) or knagging (knit tagging) … whatever you want to call it, it’s big news at the moment. Actually I made that last one up, but you get the drift.
Never one to miss the chance to point out the blatantly obvious, so … the ethos behind graffiti knitting is similar to that of conventional graffiti art – find an otherwise ordinary urban environment, attach a handmade knitted item to a blank object or space et voila, your own personal bit of subversive, urban-art-made-statement (you can see some fine examples at the Yarn Bombing Flickr Group).
The start of graffiti knitting is largely credited to Houston-based group Knitta who started out in 2005 “with a mix of clandestine moves and gangsta rap”. They are now a global phenomenon. Their public self-outing encouraged many other unconventional knitters out of the closet, irritated by the conventional view of knitters, full of pent-up creativity, passionate about their craft and determined to bring it to light. Well, that and the fact there is huge potential for fun and humour in collaborative, public outbursts and inventing tag names – wouldn’t you get a kick out of calling yourself PolyCotN or The Notorious N.I.T.?
Since then we’ve seen an explosion of new-wave knitters, expressing themselves in public with acts of knitted granarchy and recording it through their blogs. Some get political, many do it for the sheer joy of seeing members of the public doing a double-take and grinning as they pass. ‘Grrl + Dog’ in Sydney recently decorated a 100-year-old public toilet in her ‘Knitted Convenience’ project in July. Here in blighty the ‘Knit The City’ collective strung a delicate web trapping tragic and lovelorn creatures (and the odd sweary butterfly) on London’s South Bank, then swiftly followed it up with beautifully crafted episodes from the nursery rhyme ‘Oranges & Lemons’ in the City of London.
I Knit Weekender
er ... Joyce Meader?
The excellent ‘I Knit London’ are holding a weekender from 11th – 12th September with scheduled events including workshops, classes and presentations.
I spotted a couple of workshops to lure the vintage knitter: the first one features Susan Crawford (knitwear designer, knitting teacher and lecturer in fashion and textiles). Susan is co-author (and publisher) of the newly republished A Stitch in Time, apparently her presentation on Vintage Knitwear is not to be missed! You can catch Susan on Friday 11th September between 4pm – 6pm.
The second one is held by Joyce Meader, an historical hand-knitting expert. She has a wide and extensive collection of commercially printed patterns from the 1840s to the present day which are used to hand knit items for museums, re-enactors and for private commissions. Joyce will be hosting a free presentation and discussion of Knitted Comforts for Your Soldiers from Crimea to Today and showing some of her vast collection on Saturday 12th September between 12pm – 2pm.
You can find more information on these events at the I Knit London website.
Came across this rather brilliant and slightly surreal picture whilst browsing the Embroiders Guild website the other day – a trug full of smocked vegetables on display at the Whitchurch Silk Mill in Hampshire until 4th October 2009. It’s part of a larger exhibition – ‘Smocks & Smocking – From the Field to Fashion’ and is made by 4 dedicated (and patient) members of the ‘Smocking Branch’.
The mill itself looks pretty fascinating … a rare relic of the 19th century silk trade which is still managing to produce, albeit in limited quantities.
I’ve never tried or even considered smocking so wouldn’t even know where to start with this. Shan’t be experimenting with it myself any time soon but wouldn’t mind catching the exhibition and a quick glimpse into the textile industry’s past.
Knit Me Conclusion
Knit Me, Trafalgar Square
Looks like it went well! Congrats Kat, and good luck with your show.
Knit me flier
Kat Hall has organised Knit Me, a collaborative knitting event in Trafalgar Square this Saturday 14th March – as each person turns up, they have to join onto the main piece of knitting using their own needles, wool and imagination.
An unfeasibly excellent thing to do, although sadly can’t make it myself so am looking forward to seeing the outcome.
Looking forward to the release of Handmade Nation, a film by Faythe Levine (“filmmaker, author, independent curator and creative director” – some people are so lazy), but rather disconcerted to see that the only scheduled screenings in the UK are in Birmingham and Manchester (as far as I can see anyway), so I’ve contacted Faythe to find out if there are any more planned.
Looking at Faythe’s blog I scrolled down to her Indie Craft Fair’s section … now it might be that I’m looking in the wrong places, but I’d love to see this kind of quantity, hip-sounding, vibrant and non-elitist network of events in the UK (Urban Uprising, Crafty Bastards etc).
Inevitably, the events where Faythe is screening prove me wrong – UK DIY (“a craft uprising in the North of England”) and the Flatpack Festival (which is taking place as I type), but we need a few more. Near me in Brighton we have the great annual Brighton Craft Fair, Made, but it’s enormous and the kind of thing I have in mind is a smaller, more community based affair.
There’s a bit of a fusty air around craft here (as I’ve ranted many times before) and things tend to reek of ye olde England and country shows, we need a more exciting fair network to get going. The fact that when you Google ‘uk craft fairs’ nothing much comes up doesn’t mean that there aren’t any, just means they aren’t getting the web space, network gossip or press they deserve.
If you’re reading this and shouting out that I’m wrong, please let me know, I’d love to know where and when they are … if they’re out there they certainly need some SEO advice!
The Make Lounge
The Make Lounge
I know from my Sadler’s Wells days that Islington’s a bit of a craft mecca … the Craft Council, Loop, the Contemporary Art & Design Fair, I could go on but won’t. So I wasn’t surprised to see a piece in the paper the other day about The Make Lounge, a cool craft place “where you can ‘meet people and make stuff,’ through evening and weekend contemporary craft workshops”. According to the founder, Jennifer Tirtle, she needed more tactile experiences after hours of being glued to her computer in her day job as a journalist so started The Make Lounge. The idea behind the concept is a series of short craft courses for people who don’t want to spend a fortune on lengthy evening or day courses.
The courses sound great and interesting, titles such as ‘Survival Sewing’ and ‘Knockout Knickers’ kick the dull and dusty out of craft, but also have a practical use. They do parties too – sadly, that would be my preferred kind of hen party and I’d be sending any affianced acquaintances scurrying to the website, but most of my mates are married nowadays.
Cool website too, nice and clear, inventive header fonts …
I don’t get up to town too often at the moment but this would be worth the trip. They do gift vouchers (*HEAVY HINT*).
WW Knit In Public Day
14th June apparently … you know it makes sense, whip those needles out and do it in public. Or in my case maybe just browse their website and think about doing it, really convince yourself you’re going to do it, but probably won’t get around to it, so maybe next year? Actually, like, I knit in public A LOT not just on one particular day okay?
Yeah and my thumbnail pictures are bigger now, what of it?
The International Fiber Collective has issued a call to arms to knitters, crocheters and sew-ers (erm … not the drainage type) to “come together from all over the world to express their concerns about their countries extreme dependency on oil for energy”.
They’re asking for contributions of 3 foot square fibre panels to cover abandoned gas stations (next deadline due March 15th 2008), expressing how we feel about our dependency and the growing crisis.
There are some nice examples of submitted entries on the site, including one panel knitted together using 120 plastic bags as yarn which is a pretty neat tie-in.
I was thinking of submitting a panel using a combination of sewed and knitted elements, just better make sure I hand-sew instead of using the machine – kind of defeats the object!
Get knitting …