Friday, 15 April 2011


My web browsing and other reading recently seems to have led me to lots of successful, productive artists of one kind or another - writers, knitters, designers. I mentioned feeling stuck last time and, although sometimes the success of others can be encouraging, at other times it can feel downright overwhelming and intimidating. I've definitely been in the latter place for a while. I've written about the double meaning of knitter's block before, so I thought this time it was worth celebrating those glorious times when one feels able to blast through something and unblock it. This is the story of my Quite Contrary Midwinter purse, finally pictured here. I had the idea for this ages ago at a Debbie Abrahams Design Workshop when Debbie miraculously produced a selection of Rowan Hand Knit Cotton yarn in exactly the right colours for my inspiration piece, a saucer designed by Jessie Tait for Midwinter in a pattern called Quite Contrary. We decided quite quickly that Fair Isle was the best technique to render the essence of the piece and I knitted a sample that day and did the calculations for the purse at the second part of her workshop (well worth doing if you are interested in designing your own knits Debbie Abrahams).

I finished the knitting part quite quickly after that. But I was then blocked for ages about how to line and attach the bag to its frame, kindly donated by my friend Margaret from a Simply Knitting free gift. It was not knitting, you see, and therefore difficult to do! Several times I made the attempt, reading instructions from different places and by different writers. I also tried various techniques to get unblocked, including an exercise from Julia Cameron's book The Artist's Way, in which I am a great believer. However, nothing seemed to work, although the Cameron exercise did help me to see that it was my fear of failure that was keeping me stuck. But for eighteen months this project has languished in my "unfinished" basket, to be taken out at various intervals, another attempt tried, ripped out and put aside.

Finally it was a coaching session with Chrissie McGinn of Wisborough that helped me. Chrissie asked me whether I believed that I could finish the project - and I realised that I didn't. But that realisation somehow seemed to help me to shift it, so last Friday I simply sat down, sewed up the seams and attached the purse frame.

It sounds simple, so why couldn't I finish it before? It's hard to explain but I expect those of you who've been stuck like this will understand. Of course it isn't always just a case of mind over matter - there needs to be an understanding of technique and of what you need to do. But I came to realise that I already had that and that I was just afraid of making a mistake. It did take a few goes to get this to work and of course it is not perfect but it is finished and I am using it - hurrah! And the mystery of unblocking? Well, perhaps we will never fathom it fully. You might even call it Quite Contrary...

Friday, 1 April 2011

It's a long wait for Easter!

Struggling a bit with my creativity at the moment - torn between several options and not sure which way to take things. Shetland life seems a long way away, although I am going up at the end of May and I enjoyed encouraging other folks to go there, through my talk to the Oxford Guild of Weavers Spinners and Dyers on the 19 March. I think they will publish my presentation there at some point so do take a look. Meanwhile, isn't it a really long wait for Easter this year? Here are some Shetland sheep to look at in the meantime...