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?