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And they say never meet your heroes…

23 Mar

I distinctly remember when I was in my early 20s watching Aerosmith’s Steve Tyler on a UK chat show.

Man, I’d always loved that band (yes, I know they are The Cheese). But seeing Tyler on TFI Friday, talking about women in a most unsatisfactory way – though Lord knows what I was expecting, put me Right Off.

And then there was the time I made an absolute fool of myself when I bumped into Noel Fielding (lovely) and Julian Barrat (less so) in Soho Square at the height of Mighty Boosh mania. You don’t need to know more than that.

I’m rambling. But because of the above, I was a little wary about meeting a more recent hero of mine – Jane Brocket.

Jane was on the Mollie Makes stand at the Stitch and Craft show at Olympia, where I was working at my day job for The Knitter. It was a perfect opportunity to say hello and have my copies of her books signed…

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Happily it was third time lucky for me. Not only was Jane absolutely lovely, she told me a little about her next two books, and her plans for some time off after six years of working solidy. Fair enough I think.

I didn’t get a picture with her because, if it were me, I wouldn’t like that at all. But as she was absolutely instrumental in my decision to take a chance on a new kind of career, it was great to pay a little homage, without any actual fawning/ grovelling involved.

While at the show I also finally permitted myself a Moda jelly roll (you can blame Jane for my ever growing quilting obsession)…

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And was also treated to a little yarn freebie by the utterly delightful Martin Storey (thanks Martin!)

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So tell me, who are your heroes?

 

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First ever sewing – crafting with kids.

31 Dec

“Look Dada, I knitted you a pie with fabric!” Storm’s words of absolute glee this morning after finishing her first ever piece of embroidery.

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OK, so she’s a bit muddled on the terminology, but she was completely engrossed in this little project, for which we used some hessian (about £3 a metre from Fabricland – brilliantly retro website) a blunt needle, some pink wool, and an embroidery hoop to keep everything stable.
(When sewing with kids, knot the yarn around the needle, so that it doesn’t slip off – top tip from Amanda Blake Soule’s lovely book The Creative Family, which is a great source of ideas for projects with little ones, but has a slight tendency to make you feel like you are Not Doing Enough, ho hum.)

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Anyway, the deep concentration this little bit of work involved was quite something to see, with Storm breathing heavily and singing Winnie The Pooh and Jingle Bells in a whisper to herself as she worked.

Later on today I had a request to do some more ‘sowding with noodles’. Bless.

I have got a ‘proper’ New Year’s Resolution – I’ll tell you about that tomorrow. But I also hope that, now Storm is older, and I have a little more time, I can spend many more mornings like this one, wrestling with needles and thread, and yarn, and hooks, and beads and wire, and fabric and lace, and feathers, to show my little one that the possibilities for creation in this life are endless.

And yes, I am going to frame it.

Thanks for stopping by in 2011. Have a wonderful New Year!

Crochet Christmas snowflakes

8 Dec

This weekend I taught my last class at The Makery for the foreseeable future. I’ve really loved working with Kate and Nigel, the lovely owners, and their fantastic assistant Anna.

But travelling to Bath and back to teach for just a few hours was eating up a lot of time I could be spending with Storm, so I’ve decided to concentrate on teaching in my home city next year.

Four lovely ladies turned up for Sunday’s learn to crochet class. As it was December, and Bath was enjoying its ever-so-festive Christmas market, I decided to forgo the granny squares for once, and create some pretty tree ornaments instead.

I made the pattern up on the train in, and finished crocheting my sample on the short trek from the station to Walcot Street, where The Makery’s main workshop is.

Happily, despite my rather spontaneous concept, all went swimmingly, and my ladies left with ornaments they’ll hopefully be proud to hang from the tree this season.

If you’d like to make one, you’ll need some cotton yarn – mine were made with Rowan Cotton Glace, which is great for crochet, a 4mm crochet hook, and some basic skills.

Then you just need one of the zillion free crochet snowflake patterns online. I particularly like this one from Attic 24 and this collection of lots of them!

When you’ve finished your lovely snowflake, you might find it looks a bit wobbly-bobbly (like this ‘before’ picture).

Just give it a squirt with a plant sprayer filled with water, or a bit of steam from an iron, smooth and stretch it out, and then spray it with starch and leave it to dry on a radiator. Lovely!

See how nice and smooth it is?

If you came to one of my classes at The Makery over the last couple of years I just want to say thanks! It’s been great fun, and I’ve been so happy to send so many people off with a new skill I know will bring them years of pleasure.

I’ll be teaching my Knitting In The Round class at Get Knitted in April (21st) and November (10th) in 2012, but that’s the only teaching I’m doing. It should leave me more time to design, tech edit, write, and, most importantly, spend time with my family.

That’s what Christmas is about after all!

Teaching knitting and crochet at The Makery

8 Aug

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It’s about a year since I began teaching at The Makery in Bath.

A lot has changed in a year.

I started there as a tutor for fun sewing classes, mostly for hen parties.

I never graduated to leading the nipple tassel class (secretly relieved about that one..), but after many a Saturday afternoon keeping a watchful eye on ladies enjoying some Bucks Fizz and operating sewing machines (never simultaneously, I promise!) I can make a saucy garter in about 5 minutes.

Should the need arise.

In my time at The Makery I’ve also taught a lot of jewellery classes, and sent lots of hens on their way with divine fascinators to wear on the bride’s big day.

These days, though, I mostly teach knitting and crochet. I do love sewing. But it’s sticks and string that I feel the most comfortable with.

My classes cover the basics of knitting and crochet, and these are the most popular. But I also run knitting finishing techniques classes, which are great fun, and really collaborative.

If you’d like to find out more about all the amazing classes on offer from all the other delightful tutors at The Makery, do check out the full Makery workshop calendar here.

Felt badge making. Literally hearting it.

29 Jul

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Working for the lovely peeps at The Makery is truly ace.

Not only do I get to dream up classes to teach even more people how to knit, crochet and sew (hurrah!) I also get to hang out at The Makery workshop in Bath. It’s a truly delightful space, with shelves overflowing with fabric, ribbon, buttons and felt.

But sometimes I need to talk to The Makery’s owner Kate, quickly, so I pop into The Makery Emporium instead, as it’s closer to the offices of The Knitter, where I have my ‘proper’ job.

Last week I swung by Bath’s best haberdashery to discuss a sewing workshop, and somehow left with three needle-felted hearts, and a mini square of thick grey organic felt too. Total cost £2.72 (with my tutor discount – yay!)

It was the perfect mini project. That evening I sat down with the husband, a big bowl of salty popcorn, and a good film, and by bedtime I had a new (giant) badge! I can’t really call it a brooch, as it’s not exactly ladylike in proportion…

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As well as my Makery goodies, I added a few cute buttons, and finished the edge with blanket stitch in some amazing handspun wool I bought from Two Sisters Stringworks on Etsy.

OK, it didn’t exactly reduce my burgeoning to-do list, but a quick easy project was just the treat I needed before wading back in to the ol’ pattern spreadsheets. Happy times!

Knit Nation swag. Guilt-free. Oh yes

27 Jul

Ah, Knit Nation. Was it only ten days ago?

Setting aside the usual parade of birthdays, weddings, and babies it really has been my most anticipated event of 2011.

As you may have seen from my earlier post about Cookie A and Cocoknits’ awesome classes, I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Here’s my swatch from Cookie A‘s class. This is getting added to The Knitter’s Refuge Comfort Blankets (after some serious blocking!).

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I also did a little shopping.

And I mean little. Here it is…

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That’s three cones of Habu yarn (Japanese, hard to find, exotic), and a Cocoknits pattern from Julie Weisenberger. The Habu is made up of two skeins of single ply, slubby silk, and a skein of linen paper. Yes, paper. And the pattern, well I’ve never seen anything like it before. I just HAD to know how Julie had done it!

I did also buy four skeins of natural yarn from the wonderful John and Juliet Arbon, to go into the stash I’ve gathered for my dyeing class at Get Knitted in September. But that wasn’t for me, so it doesn’t count. Honest.

It was refreshing to go to an event stuffed with all my favourite goodies and still restrict myself  to just a few treasured items.

At last year’s Knit Nation I spent four times as much. All budgeted for, but nonetheless, I definitely felt like I’d over-indulged. This year I’ve enjoyed challenging my own perception if how much I really need/ want something.

At Wonderwool in April I did buy a fair amount of natural yarn for said dyeing workshop, but only one skein of Easyknits Twinkle Sock for myself.

Ooo, look, here it is…

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Gorgeous, yes? (I am such a sucker for grey). And all the more lovely for not being accompanied by that slightly sick feeling that comes from spending til you drop…

Because all this stuff is well, just stuff.

The best bit of the entire weekend wasn’t knitting related at all. It was seeing my two brothers.

The Boys xxx
Here they are. Even more awesome than yarn. By a long way!

Pattern writing. Warning, spreadsheets involved…

24 Jul

If I’ve been a bit quiet the past week, it’s because I’ve been busy teaching advanced knitting and sewing at The Makery, working on deadline for The Knitter, and pattern-writing whenever I’ve had a spare moment.

Phew!

If you’re reading this blog, then chances are, you’re familiar with knitting patterns.

But, unless you’re a designer, or tech editor, you probably don’t get involved with the numbers side much.

This is a snapshot of what it looks like.

I say a snapshot, because this particular spreadsheet actually has 711 active cells or calculations…

My friend Jen Arnall-Culliford, The Knitter’s last technical editor (I’m dep ed, but with a tech ed’s remit, plus other fun stuff) introduced me to using Excel for pattern checking a little while ago.

It’s extremely useful for that, but arguably even more so for pattern writing in my case.

Yes, you can sort out a schematic for different sizes of the same garment with some fairly simple maths.

But add in lace or colourwork motifs, and other complicating factors, like working seamlessly, and that’s a lot of sums to do on the back of an envelope.

One of my favourite designers Ysolda Teague, recently tweeted about an Excel pattern writing tutorial by designer Marnie Maclean, and it really is excellent.

If you’re up for the challenge of writing graded patterns, Ysolda’s own sizing information is also incredibly useful.

Of course, it isn’t JUST maths (thank goodness). But it’s not surprising to me now, just how many technical editors and designers have a maths or science background.

I never thought I’d say it, but I really do heart Excel.

I’m off to Camp Bestival later this week, and will be popping in to the knitting tent run by the delightful chaps at iKnit London, so perhaps I’ll see you there!