Friday, 30 April 2010

Location, Location, Location

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Day 5: Where do you like to indulge in your craft? Is your favourite arm chair your little knitting cubby area, or do you prefer to ‘knit in public’? Do you like to crochet in the great outdoors, perhaps, or knit in the bath, or at the pub?

I'm a complete fidget. I cannot sit still for any great length of time. So on many occasions, where I go, my knitting goes too. It keeps my hands and more often than not, my mind, occupied. I am really quite addicted to knitting, but that's just fine by me! At least it's a productive obsession. :)

One of the best things about knitting is that it can liven up an otherwise dull journey. Travelling the daily bus journey that I have done so often I hardly even have to look up to know where I am (useful when I am in the middle of a row, definitely.), it's nice to have something interesting to look at and alleviate any impending boredom. I also love to knit on train journeys, especially ones that are a bit longer, as it's dedicated time where I can settle in and indulge in my favourite craft without (too many) interruptions. My recent jaunt up to Aviemore was just great for exactly that reason, well, that, and the fact I got to ski, on real snow, in Scotland, for the first time in years.

the Cairngorms
My favourite place to knit is at home, curled up on the sofa in the living room where I can catch the last rays of afternoon sunlight at this time of year. It can be cosy on winter evenings there in front of the television too, if my pattern doesn't require too much concentration. I often find knitting a great way of soothing my mind, especially when I have a lot going on. I like to knit in bed, as it has helped me to get to sleep in the past. In truth there are few places I won't knit, and that includes sitting in front of the computer reading blogs.

I am also not a stranger to knitting in public, and have been known to do so on a park bench on my lunch hour in Princes Street Gardens on Knitting in Public Day. One particular time I was working with a vibrant fuschia yarn and even managed to attract a very young admirer and passing butterfly!

hot pink fuschia-ness
I also like to get together with a few like-minded crafty types most Monday nights from 6pm for a knit/craft/scribble, a natter and the odd cheeky pint at the Auld Hoose. If you live around Edinburgh and are that way inclined, it's on St. Leonard's Street (behind South Clerk St in the South Side) and you are more than welcome to come and say hello. Just look for the 'chicks with sticks' huddled in a corner, nursing a pint or two...

Search for the tag 'knitcroblo5' to find other blog posts for today's topic in Knitting & Crochet Blog Week.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

The Skills to Pay the Bills (or not!)

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Day Four: Write about a new skill you would like to learn related to knitting or crochet.

In actual fact, I always feel with each new knitting project I complete that I am learning new skills and/or improving my existing ones. Knitting is one of those things I see as a life-long skill and one where you can always learn a new technique or a different way of doing something. This is something I love about it and with my hunger for knowledge, it certainly keeps me busy.

In terms of specific skills, there are quite a few I would like to learn or develop further.

I have suffered from the well-known, problematic Second-Sock Syndrome (SSS) when learning to knit socks, something which I would very much like to overcome. It would also mean my poor lonely sock would finally have a partner!

One lonely Baby sock
Oh yeah, and DPNs (double-pointed needles, for the uninitiated) are something I have yet to master, while we're on the subject of sock knitting. Somehow knitting on circular needles, or knitting in the round generally, seems to be beyond me. It has a lot to do with my favoured knitting style, which is on long straight needles. I like to tuck one needle under my arm when knitting and have always knitted this way, so find it more than a little tricky working with little stubby needles. I inevitably end up stabbing myself with them.

sock WIP
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I really haven't ever really gotten terribly far with crochet. Not for lack of trying - I just find it quite awkward and counter-intuitive somehow. I also found that I need to be able to see the technique being done in front of me, books just don't help. Trouble is I don't often see anyone who knows how to crochet! So far I can do a chain or, well, pick up dropped stitches in my knitting with a crochet hook! One day I will do a granny square. Maybe.

The other thing I would very much like to do in order to 'raise my game,' as it were, is to brush up on finishing techniques. I'm talking about the sewing up and weaving in of loose ends, darning and all that malarkey. I'm sure that I would benefit from properly learning mattress stitch, and for the sock-tastic stuff, I reckon the infamous Kitchener stitch would prove pretty handy too.

This was not intended to be a post on my shortcomings as a knitter, but it does seem to be turning out that way! Mind you, it's not as if anyone is an expert on absolutely every single aspect of knitting as a craft. It definitely keeps things interesting in any case.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

The Art of Knitting

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Day Three: Write about a knitter whose work you enjoy.

A confession here: I simply cannot restrict myself to just one... there are too many talented knitters out there! So, here are a few whose style and work I particularly admire.

shibori knitted felt
Alison Crowther-Smith
I met Alison in my capacity as a Rowan Design Consultant a few years ago and was very excited (as were many of the other DCs) when I heard she had a book on felted knits coming out. Needless to say I put in an order for one! Felting is so much fun and she definitely knows a thing or two about it, harnessing the Shibori technique of resists to design beautiful fabrics which are both felted and not.

earth stripe wrap
Kaffe Fassett
I admire this designer for his unique eye for colour, not just in delicious knitwear designs but homewares and patchworking fabrics and blankets. A real inspiration to anyone who loves colourwork.

glamour knits by Erika Knight
Erika Knight
I truly covet so many of the patterns I have come across by Erika Knight, in particular the timeless, classic designs she produces which ultimately make you want to start a lovely new project straight away (or they do in my case!).

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

An Inspirational Pattern

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Day Two: Blog about a pattern or project which you aspire to.

To be honest, there are many patterns I daydream about having the time to complete. It seems I am rarely actually knitting for myself these days. In terms of skill, I always enjoy those which pose some kind of challenge, for example an intricate lace pattern. I love most lace patterns because they are truly something to get your teeth into, and I enjoy the almost meditative focus they require to successfully complete.

This particular pattern is one I have wanted to make for quite a while now. I have had the pattern book - Rowan's Magazine 42, which is one of the best Autumn/Winter ones - for a good couple of years. Choosing a single pattern from it is difficult enough! I also have a bundle of the yarn required...cosy Cocoon, a lovely and soft Merino/Kid Mohair blend, which looks as though it will be wonderfully warm too. I chose a neutral colour so that it would work with different ensembles (and my skin tone). Since I bought the yarn when it first came out, Rowan have introduced more colours in the range, including a gorgeous teal. I always find that choosing the colour in which to knit my pattern the toughest part, can you tell?

Rowan's Iceland
It was the slightly unusual construction and lacy cabled leaf or wave motifs that drew me to 'Iceland' (ravelry link) - I like the fact that it's knitted across the way and the almost kimono style batwing sleeves. The deep rib also appeals, although I did start it and lost my way (and my cable needle) a little. I have since ripped it back / frogged it as I felt it would be better to start afresh with renewed vigour. Plus, it means I'll know where on earth I am in the pattern!! Hmmm, must remember to make better notes this time around.

Cables are not something I have tackled very much at all really. I have done a bit of playing about, swatching sections of a pattern before but never an entire garment. Coincidentally, here is my swatch of cabling in Cocoon:

cocoon cable
Yummy! I really look forward to having another go at cabling.

I can see the relaxed style of 'Iceland' becoming a great addition to my autumn or winter wardrobe, that is, if I ever have the time to actually complete it. I'll be sure to add it to my ravelry projects.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Where it all Began

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Today is day one of Knitting & Crochet Blog Week! Hurray!

Theme of the day is all about how you started. Suffice to say I have never been much of a crochet type person, though I have tried. I think the main reason for not getting on terribly well with it is because of an irrational fear that it would take away some of my precious knitting time, ha ha!

I have always been interested in texture and textiles, for as long as I can remember. This led to doing a degree in Textile Design and trying different disciplines to see which I liked best/could actually do... put it this way, I was never meant to be a weaver! I did enjoy playing around with unusual yarns in a completely different way, but I found the whole setting up of the loom rather tedious. As for printing, well, I did my best, made a few BIG mistakes and yet I have some prints I designed that I'm still proud of, but I couldn't see myself sustaining a career in print design somehow.

Blues Stripy fingerless mitts
This led me to the natural choice of knitting. At university, it was entirely machine knitting we were taught. It was fantastic to have the opportunity to use some wonderful and diverse machinery: my favourites were the Dubied v-bed machines (love!), the Shima and the single-bed domestic knitting machines, which opened up a whole new world of possibilities for me - particularly once I got one of my own, purchased for the princely sum of £5 from a local charity shop (score!). It was at this time I also discovered felting for the first time, something which still drives my work today.

Felted Butterfly Pincushion
Learning to hand knit was only a natural progression from that point. Many years before, my mother had tried to teach me to knit. I never picked it up, partly because I just didn't get on with the circular needles and I think maybe also because I am left-handed and she right-handed. This may explain why I had much more success in the summer of 2004 when my friend Clare taught me - she is also left-handed and it all seemed to make much more sense to me from that perspective! It was a skill passed on by her grandmother and it was around the time Rowan yarns produced their R2 range of patterns and yarns.

After learning to hand knit, I really felt that I had the best of both worlds at my disposal because I had a field day when designing pieces for my Honours year final collection. I even had a go at making my own yarns from fabric, lace and other trimmings.

Handmade yarn scarf
The whole thing has since come full circle, because believe it or not, I ended up working for, yes, Rowan yarns as a Design Consultant! It was great to be able to be in a position where my job involved passing on my love and enthusiasm for such a timeless craft.

Kate's Shawl detail
These days I am lucky enough to be a self-employed Textile Designer, producing hand and machine knitted pieces, using gorgeous fibres and beautiful colours to make accessories for my WildCat Designs label, which has been going since 2005. Last year I also started WildKittens, a part of WildCat Designs, which encompasses accessories for babies and children.

WildCat Designs Promo photo
Image above courtesy of Clare Dakin Photography

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Beautiful Texture

I have to admit, one of the things which really inspires me and gets my 'creative juices' flowing is texture. Unsurprising, I suppose, as I am a Textile Designer after all. I think it's something I've always subconciously been drawn to.

In fact, I remember when I was preparing my portfolio for art college, my Art teacher at the time suggested that I consider Textiles, having noticed a textural theme in my sketchbooks. Oh how right she was! Strange though, that I never spotted it myself before, and yet now I can't believe I didn't realise sooner, as it is such an intrinsic part of my nature.

So, without further ado, here are some rather beautiful examples of texture that have caught my magpie eye recently.

grey ruched leather bag

Ruched Leather Bag from Pixie Market - Just the description 'crackled leather bag with ruched leather' makes my mouth water! Such a gorgeous grey colour and an almost crinkly look to it.

Sonia Rykiel AW 2011

Deconstructed Corset Top from Elizabeth & James - This is simply divine, grown-up feminine glam but a little bit rough around the edges. Rock chick chic!

Ah, if only I could afford some of the loveliness above... *sigh*

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Knitting and Crochet Blog Week!

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I shall be taking part in this, and it promises to be a week of crafty goodness! To find out more, see who's taking part, and/or join in, see this post on the lovely Eskimimi's blog, who was clever enough to think of it and organised enough to plan it too :)

There is also some ongoing Ravelry action related to Knitting & Crochet Blog Week in The Blog Hub group:

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Fabric Crush

I was idly reading the Conversation Pieces blog today (including a fab post about a Las Vegas wedding idea!) and was intrigued by the mention of Ikea fabrics...

moutain print fabric
Which inevitably, led me to looking at the fabrics available on the Ikea website!

Sure enough, there was loveliness to be found:

naive tree print

blue leaf print

ivy leaf print
(All fabrics can be found on the Ikea online catalogue under Textiles: Fabrics & Sewing)