Friday, 24 December 2010

Knitted Advent - Day 24

DECEMBER 24th - Cally's Nativity Knits and Pattern

CHRISTMAS EVE: my Knitted Advent Calendar finishes with some of the nativity figures made by the very talented Cally of the Jam Factory Knitters using a pattern by Alan Dart. I'd like to take the opportunity to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas wherever you are.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Knitted Advent - Day 23

DECEMBER 23rd - Chilean Hat

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Knitted Advent - Day 22

DECEMBER 22nd - Chilean "Glittens"

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Knitted Advent - Day 21

DECEMBER 21st - Midwinter Knitting

It's the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. Outside my window in Oxford it is still snowing. Inside this morning's Advent window is a design inspiration from the Midwinter pottery of Jessie Tait, a 1950s classic named Quite Contrary.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Knitted Advent - Day 20

DECEMBER 20th - Norwegian Hat

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Knitted Advent - Day 19

DECEMBER 19th - Sands of Shetland
Will we get to see them for Christmas?
Snowed in in Oxford at the moment...

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Knitted Advent - Day 18

DECEMBER 18th - Fair Isle Hats with Shetland knitting belt

Friday, 17 December 2010

Knitted Advent - Day 17

DECEMBER 17th - North Star Scarf
(now we are really moving towards Christmas)

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Knitted Advent - Day 16

DECEMBER 16th -Shetland Lace

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Knitted Advent - Day 15

DECEMBER 15th - Books!

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Knitted Advent - Day 14

DECEMBER 14th - Sophie's Entrelac Blanket

Monday, 13 December 2010

Knitted Advent - Day 13

DECEMBER 13th - Video tape tube

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Knitted Advent - Day 12

DECEMBER 12th - Art Weeks

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Knitted Advent - Day 11

DECEMBER 11th - Alice and Clara's Hats, with Sam's Jumper

Friday, 10 December 2010

Knitted Advent - Day 10

DECEMBER 10th - Shetland Throw

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Knitted Advent - Day 9

DECEMBER 9th - Sam's Button

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Knitted Advent - Day 8

DECEMBER 8th - Dancing Shoes

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Knitted Advent - Day 7

DECEMBER 7th - Stash!

Monday, 6 December 2010

Knitted Advent - Day 6

DECEMBER 6th - A Shetland Knitter

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Knitted Advent - Day 5

DECEMBER 5th - A splash of colour

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Knitted Advent - Day 4

DECEMBER 4th - Helsinki Hats

Friday, 3 December 2010

Knitted Advent - Day 3

DECEMBER 3rd - It's cold out there

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Knitted Advent - Day 2

DECEMBER 2nd - Waiting hopefully

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Knitted Advent

In the run-up to Christmas, with all the pressure to get ready for the festive season, the period of Advent can sometimes get squeezed out or obscured. Yet it is an important time of quiet waiting. Waiting for the light of Christmas, with its renewed promise of a presence of Love at work in the world. Waiting for the dark of Winter to pass and the first signs of renewal and growth to arrive. On the way there is the Jewish Festival of Lights, Hanukkah, which this year began at sunset today; and on December 21st, the Winter Solstice, which marks the shortest day of the year and in some traditions is seen as the beginning of a New Year.

The traditional Advent Calendar has a picture for every December day up to the 24th, reminders of what it is we are waiting for, although these days the calendar is more likely to contain chocolate! This year I've decided to offer you a Knitted Advent Calendar. I hope you will appreciate taking a moment of stillness each day to enjoy the pictures and to celebrate this special time.

DECEMBER 1st - Winter is Here!

Sunday, 7 November 2010

November - my new favourite month

I've been a "silent blogger" for the past two months, busy with work and knitting projects for work colleagues who are embracing motherhood for the first time. City and Guilds has been a bit on the back-burner but did inspire a full-on exploration of entrelac, which led me to select this Debbie Bliss pattern for one of the baby knits. And before things got so frantically busy, I enjoyed designing my own combination of stitch patterns like this one for Module 6.

It has been a rich although sometimes confusing time and I've been wondering about my life's purpose along the way. Things suddenly became much clearer on Tuesday and I now have the sense of a vision of the way forward, that includes knitting and my connection to Shetland. This picture of a sculpture in London that we saw during birthday celebrations for my other half's 50th in September sums up the exuberance that I'm currently feeling (even though it looks a bit windy and my sense of balance is a bit dodgy!).

The conference on Shetland in September was wonderful - awesomely good weather and a splendid crowd of people attending and presenting. This is honestly a picture of Lerwick Harbour during the event, with some of the conference participants enjoying the sunshine. There is so much interest in Shetland knitting traditions and it was really good to watch people discover the place for themselves. There was a write-up in The Knitter (issue 24) and probably elsewhere too. We took possession of our new house while we were up there and the picture below is the view from my bedroom window there, down at the south end of the mainland near Sumburgh Head.
On a clear day you can see Fair Isle. There are two sandy beaches close by and on one of these I found this beautiful image.

Now it's November, the clocks have changed and the days are shorter. I've always found this a challenging time but this year I've decided to change my attitude to it. After all, there's lots to celebrate: the witchiness of Hallowe'en is swiftly followed by All Souls' and All Saints' Days at the start of the month, then Bonfire Night, if you like it (although actually I don't because of the distress that the loud fireworks cause to pets). This is undoubtedly easier when the weather is as sunny as it's been today. Back in Oxford, we went for a walk in the woods at Shotover Country Park and then I did some work in the garden. It was magical outside, with a strong sense of the longevity of the trees all around us, not dying but shedding old growth so that new can rise up. At home in the garden I found new growth pushing through at the base of a sedum plant that is still burning with its glorious autumn colours. So now November is my new favourite month, a time of winter ritual and celebration, getting ready for Advent, the transformation and promise of Christmas and renewal of spring.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Heading for the Northlands - again!

So where did the summer go? Summer School was fantastic - a group of amazing women produced some amazing knitting. You can see some pictures here:

Now it's back up to Shetland for the
In the Loop Conference 2010 - as featured on Woman's Hour. I'm really looking forward to it.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Preparing for Summer School

The Oxford Summer School is nearly upon us and New Directions in Knitting is almost fully booked. I'm really looking forward to it and think it is going to be good fun. There are still one or two places left if you want to join us and find out what you can do with an empty Pringles tub and some lollipop sticks...

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Promote Shetland

The Jam Factory Knitters' tour to Shetland was a great success. The weather was astonishingly kind to us, so much so that my more southerly friends don't believe it is ever wet and windy up there... We stayed right in the centre of the capital Lerwick, next door to the fabulous Shetland Museum. We did suitably "knitty" type things from Lerwick and up on the West and North Mainland for the first few days, including a tour of the Museum, a visit to Jamieson's Woollen Mill and Shop and a visit to the delightful little museum at Tangwick Haa. Then on 1st June we headed off to Fair Isle. We had a rough but memorable trip on the ferry over the notorious bit of sea from Grutness but once we were there the climate was positively Mediterranean! We stayed on a croft with Kathy Coull who gave us the most wonderful time and introduced us to many of the other talented people there: knitters, spinners, musicians and makers of traditional spinning-wheels and straw-backed chairs. We had lessons in spinning and Fair Isle knitting in the round using a knitting belt - and the opportunity to gain a little insight into life in an isolated yet creatively stimulating environment.

This was a pilot trip to Shetland for Stile Knits and we will certainly repeat it - more details on the website soon. Here are some of my pictures from the trip. Ross's Travelblog also has some excellent pictures and inspiring writing about the experience.

Meanwhile there is another interesting opportunity for knitters to visit Shetland in the very near future as the In the Loop Conference 2 is being held at the Shetland Museum and Archives from 1 to 5 September. This is being organised jointly by the Museum and the University of Southampton. The programme looks enticing and the two knitters we met on Fair Isle - Kathy and Anne Sinclair - are both presenting papers about their knitting interests. It should be a really good week. See for more information.

Contact me if you are planning to go as I hope to be there and may be able to give you some advice and help about accommodation etc. You can find more information about visiting Shetland at Promote Shetland.

Friday, 21 May 2010

3-D Knitting

Because we often knit flat pieces,then sew them together, it can be easy to forget that knitting is a three-dimensional craft. I've been reminded a few times lately that when we knit we are creating yarn sculptures. I've just completed Module 5 of my City & Guilds course (hurrah!) and part of that has been to manipulate paper into 3-D shapes as a prelude to designing assessment pieces. I always struggled with the geometry aspects of maths at school and this has brought back memories of all that frustration. I once asked my maths teacher what use symmetry would be to me in the "real" world and he had no answer. If only he had mentioned textiles!

NEW DIRECTIONS IN KNITTING is my Oxford Summer School course, which will explore knitting as sculpture along with other techniques - but no school maths, I promise!

You can find out more and register at or by contacting Liz Bryant, 10 Foxburrow Lane, Hailey, Witney, OX29 9UN Tel. 01993 704345

Mathematics is also connected with weaving, which I finally tried out last week at the Oxford Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers, inspired by my visit to the new Textile Gallery in the Ashmolean Museum. I was really pleased by the slight ikat effect I produced once I started using two colours on a rigid heddle loom ably taught by Angela Pawlyn. I'd like to do more. The Ashmolean display is a delight, too, if a little hard to find (just off the restaurant in the basement). It's so good to see all these lovely textiles on display, including Central Asian coats which drew my attention in an exhibition there over 15 years ago. The display includes this panel on Textiles and Mathematics: "Making textiles requires mathematical skills: both arithmetic and geometry are used to translate a pattern into a woven structure or textile surface design. The relationship of warp to weft creates the surface of the cloth, and the weaver learns to translate this into patterns...(these) may also require counting skills and sophisticated planning of space...Counted stitches are the basis of...embroidery and principles of symmetry are essential when designing printing with blocks." Now, why couldn't Mr Rogers have told me that?!!!

In my own knitting, I've also been experimenting with sculptural form, working on projects that are knitted in the round and can be completed without any sewing up. My main aim has been to find and design projects that I can enjoy as I'm knitting them as well as being satisfied with the finished product. Knitting five pieces of flat fabric and then sewing them together is not always the best way to achieve this for me. For a long time now I've wanted to design a waistcoat knitted on "no-sew" principles and my sister-in-law's 50th birthday provided an ideal excuse. I used Rowan 4 Ply Pure Wool in a fashionable turquoise (Pantone Colour of the Year!) and some contrast burnt orange wool from my stash. I developed the design from a lace vest by Sarah Dallas in her Scottish Inspirations collection for Rowan, using a Sasha Kagan base pattern for the waistcoat with her signature twisted rib back. I'm really delighted with the way it has turned out and I thoroughly enjoyed planning and constructing it. I also learned a lot on the way. I love that blue and orange complementary colour contrast. When I looked back at my photos from the day out to the Bath Fashion Museum last August I found that there was a Sarah Dallas waistcoat there in blue and brown mixed yarns with an orange trim - a subliminal inspiration?

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Objects of Desire

Good meeting of the Oxford Guild of Weavers Spinners and Dyers on Saturday with a talk from Jim Gaffney about Turkish Weaving - Colours of the Earth. It proved impossible to resist one of his natural-dyed woven kilims and it is now adorning my dining-room. I started a bit of a trend as two other kilims were also carried home by their happy owners. Sometimes it's necessary to succumb to beautiful objects... I read once that in Native American tradition there is no distinction between beauty and function: beauty arises from living in harmony with the order of the universe and a Navajo Night chant records how we are surrounded by beauty. That weaving is also a Navajo tradition doesn't seem a coincidence. And this harmony is also about trading fairly, and knowing that the kilim I now walk across each morning and evening has been made by Turkish women who are thus helped to preserve their traditions. Which is what this involvement in textiles is all about for me. Jim and his wife are going to be at Ally Pally in October so do check out their stall if you go.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Knit me!

I was up in Edinburgh last week and took some time out to visit a delightful exhibition at the Dovecot Gallery on Infirmary Street. Called Taking Time, it is all about slowing down to appreciate traditional crafts. There is really cool knitting wall where you can add your own yarn-related piece of art. So I knitted a piece of Shetland Lace and left some instructions for continuing it with the address of this blog. So, if you find it and add to the wall, do post a comment and let me know! You can see some more images of the wall here:

Edinburgh Knitting Wall

In other knitting news I managed to complete a Debbie Bliss baby jacket with matching shoes for a work colleague who has just started her maternity leave. The jacket was fine but the bootees, which I have made before, caused me some grief. The knitting is straightforward but the sewing up does my head in. I really thought I'd cracked it this time and was feeling very smug when I completed the first shoe correctly. Then I made a mistake with the second one and had to unpick it. I managed this successfully with no snipping of a knitted stitch by mistake and set about re-doing it. By now time was running out as I wanted to hand them over before heading up to Edinburgh. So I carried straight on with it - and did it wrong again! At this point only a disappointed knitter can probably understand how distraught I felt. And of course, what I should have done was put it down for half an hour and come back to it later.

But of course I didn't. Carrying straight on, again, inevitably I snipped in the wrong place and cut through a stitch. Disbelieving AND distraught - not a good combination. The only way out was to carry on snipping, which I did with great satisfaction. And then sat right down and re-knitted and re-assembled the second shoe, finishing about midnight (the stubbornness of the Reece clan is legendary!) I won't say I can laugh about it now but I do feel satisfied that I carried on and completed the project. Hopefully the new baby will appreciate it!

I took some comfort from Elizabeth Zimmerman's words of wisdom in the February section of her Knitter's Almanac which is called "Some Babies' Things". She writes: "Although babies rarely, if ever, express their pleasure at being dressed in wool, it is surely manifest when you dote on a small plump person soundly and contentedly asleep" in it. My friend asked for bright colours - and I took her at her word. So I was pleased to note that EZ also suggests using darker and less delicate colours for babies, ending with "And what's wrong with scarlet?". Indeed - it looks good to me!

Scarlet Knitting

Saturday, 30 January 2010

The Art of Losing

Feeling much better but it has taken a while. Didn't get back to work until the middle of the month and have definitely been pacing myself since. Jam Factory Knitters, I will come and see you again soon! There's a sense of time lost since that moment in the week before Christmas when I went under with my lurgy. For a while I just lay there and groaned and even when I began to feel better I still found myself spending an inordinate amount of time in front of the TV. Now I'm having to wean myself big time off repeats of House and CSI. The evenings are lighter and it's time to come out of hibernation. And the time hasn't been completely lost, of course, because I have been knitting - cables for my course and a baby jacket for a work colleague who has just started her maternity leave.
I've been musing on losing things this week because I seem to keep strewing my possessions about the place. I managed to leave a favourite scarf behind after the AGM of the Oxford Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers, practically my first social outing of the year. And then, dashing between trains that were running late, I left behind a very useful hat and a pair of gloves. Fortunately, someone picked up my scarf and we were reunited, although not before I had a few choice words to say to myself about not keeping track of my stuff.
To err is human, however. After the pre-Christmas gathering of JF Knitters at my house, I was the richer for one black scarf, a cable needle and a box of stitch holders and markers. (If they are yours, please reclaim!) And I was once fortunate enough to meet the famous "Historian of Ideas", Sir Isaiah Berlin, who left his hat behind in my office. When his wife came to collect it, she said that it was deeply psychological and meant he wanted to meet me again. It was a nice thought, but I think he just forgot his hat!
Elizabeth Bishop, an American poet, wrote a wonderful poem, a villanelle, called One Art, which starts: "The art of losing isn't hard to master;/so many things seem filled with the intent/to be lost that their loss is no disaster.//Lose something every day. Accept the fluster/of lost door keys, the hour badly spent./The art of losing isn't hard to master.". If you don't know it, I highly recommend it. If it's not my favourite poem, it's certainly in my top ten. I really like the rhythm of the villanelle form and the way Bishop uses it in this poem. Laying out lines of poetry is not unlike creating rows of knitting as the Welsh poet Gwyneth Lewis, has observed.
Bishop's poem goes on to talk about losing houses, cities, rivers and continents. "I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster". Nor is loss of love, she concludes, although it looks like one. It's as if she's saying I can take that one on the chin too, although perhaps she doesn't convince is. Musing on all of this while the television screen has been full of images of the people in Haiti who truly have lost everything, it's hard to get too worked up about the odd hat, scarf or glove.