Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Extreme Knitting & A Tree

Extreme Knitting - A Tree in Progress

If anyone asks what I've been doing recently I'll say,"Knitting a tree," which will no doubt confirm their worst fears that I am in fact completely bonkers! And I expect if they saw the size of my extreme needles they'd be certain of it. 

First batch of extreme yarn - 2.8kg

It's not quite that simple however as such big needles (50mm diameter) require extreme yarn!  So the first task is always to prepare some yarn.  First I gathered together some suitable materials - curtains (a lifesaver from the charity shop as they were already the right colour!), an old brown tablecloth, a dark brown fabric remnant, then an old sheet, the curtain linings from the charity shop curtains and some blankets, all of which I dyed.  They ended up various shades from terracotta to brown to grey.  Next I cut them all up into long strips, 3.5cm to 5cm wide (1.5 to 2 inches).  I rolled them up into balls and knitted them into a tree using 2-3 balls at a time.

More yarn - 1.5kg
That sounds all very straightforward but I kept running out of yarn and having to either cut up more or dye and cut up more.  In the end I used almost 400 metres of yarn weighing about 4.3 kilos.  And, funnily enough, the resulting tree is uniquely coloured!

Knitting (detail)

I did manage to finish the tree but couldn't lay it out anywhere inside to see how it looked - so I took it into the garden....

Tree knitting

I only have a small garden and it took up most of it!  Once down, I added a few leaves and the odd bird and took another look...

Tree with leaves and birds

It'll be in Rowntree Park, York in June as part of the Brilliant Birds Installation supporting St Leonard's Hospice (#BrilliantBirds).  You can read about the Brilliant Birds Yarnstorm here.  My tree still needs stabilising which will be quite a job so I hope the weather stays nice for it.  Keep your fingers crossed!

Tree, birds and person!

And in case you needed an idea of scale, there's a small person in the above pic to help you visualise it.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Significance at Gawthorpe Hall

Alice Kettle - Lost Limb (detail)

On at Gawthorpe Hall, Significance is a textile exhibition of work by staff and students from the Manchester School of Art, inspired by the Gawthorpe Textile Collection. The Textile Collection was amassed by Rachel Kay-Shuttleworth, the last member of the Shuttleworth family to live at Gawthorpe Hall.  'Miss Rachel' was passionate about textiles and collected lace, costume, fabrics and textile pieces from around the world and used them as a teaching resource and to inspire people to craft and create.   

Georgia Heaton
Hermione Crowe
Tabitha Muggeridge
Gawthorpe Textiles Collection Pieces

In the exhibition, as well as Alice Kettle, Georgia Heaton, Hermione Crowe & Tabitha Muggeridge, don't miss Lisa Baraona, Nigel Hurlstone, Lynn Setterington, Jane McKeating and more.  On until 25 June 2017, you still have time to catch the Significance exhibition.

(Thanks to Rachel Pilling for the photos after my own camera ran out of charge!)

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Fairfax Court Yarnstormers Make Brilliant Birds

Fairfax Court Yarnstormers - Jean, Hazel, Edna & Doreen

Stalwarts of the yarnstorming scene in York, the Fairfax Court Yarnstomers - Jose Smith, Edna Shilleto, Doreen Fleetenby, Jean Elliott & Hazel Laws, never fail to impress and today was no exception.  Over the last 5 years, the Fairfax Court Knit & Natter Group have participated in all my community yarnstorming projects, coming up trumps every time.  Having been to see them earlier in the year to tell them about the Brilliant Birds Yarnstorm, I went along recently to pick up their offerings and was frankly blown away.

A Truly Enormous Partliament of Owls

A Very Cute Flock of Robins, Blue Tits & Other Round Birds

Lovely Stitched Birds from Hazel

Fab Birds Knitted to the Sue Stratford Blackbird Pattern

Doreen's Sue Stratford Pattern Hummingbirds Roosting in the Outdoors

In all, there were over 250 additions to the #BrilliantBirds flock.  Jose, who made a large number of the above and couldn't be with us for the handover, is the team leader and keeps everyone on track and upto date with all the news.


What can I say except thank you so much ladies, you're amazing!

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Lasting Impressions: Cloth Taxonomies at Salts Mill, Saltaire

You may remember that last year on a trip to the Saltaire Arts Trail, I took part in textile artists, Hannah Lamb & Claire Wellesley-Smith's Lasting Impressions project which you can read about here. To put you in the picture, we were asked to leave imprints of our clothing on small porcelain tiles and in doing so, to consider the value of cloth and clothing and to complete an information tag about the garment.  One year on, the artists were back in the Spinning Room at Salt's Mill, so I went to see how the project was developing.

The Lasting Impressions project laid out

The imprinted tiles had all been fired... 

Imprinted fired tiles

My tile, 234, bearing an imprint of my cardigan, was there too...

My tile is no. 234

The garment information collected on the tags last year, was being used to create a series of weavings.

Finished woven strips

The fibres identifed as making up the garments were selected and woven into fabric strips incorporating the information tag.
Table showing various fibres


Fibres on cones to be selected for weaving

I worked on no. 27 and was given the tile and the tag in a cardboard box.  I had to weave a section of the fabric strip using the information on the tag.  It said that garment was made of viscose and polyester.  From the cones hanging above one of the tables I chose two strands of fibre - one viscose, one polyester, each about 2 metres long.  Next I threaded the tag onto the fibres so that it was in the middle of the length of fibres.

Tag 27

Table loom

Under instruction, I operated the table loom so the fibres and tag were incorporated into the woven strip of fabric.  A piece of red thread identified the start and end of my weaving.  Once my weaving was completed, the associated tile was stored away such that the tiles moved from drawers at one end of the display to the other end as their information was catalogued through the weaving process.  The loom was now ready for sometime to carry on and catalogue no. 28.

My completed weaving for garment no. 27 lies between the two lines of red thread

It was interesting to see the project develop and to be involved in this new stage.  Fibre content was the aspect Clare and Hannah had concentrated on, and the chosen method of development leant itself well to audience participation, also to exploring what the different textile fibres look and feel like and how woven fabric is made.  

What might be next?  They could explore the garments' country of origin, age or what people like about them.  Or perhaps they could scan the tiles and print out the textures on fabric and make some composite textural piece or country of origin based piece?  Who knows, we'll have to wait and see.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Big Knitting Brilliant Birds Owl

Big knitted owl and his much smaller friend

To accompany all the amazing birds that keep flying in for the Brilliant Birds Yarnstorm in Rowntree Park, York later this month, we are going to have a display on the tennis court fence with birds of somewhat larger dimensions.  You may already have read about the woven Hula Hoop birds.  Well, now there's also a big knitted owl.

25mm & 15mm needles

Using 25mm knitting needles and selvedge edge ribbon from the Cone Exchange, Gillian knitted the owl in record time.  (Quick aside - the Cone Exchange is a community scrap store in Harrogate set up by Bettys & Taylors which recycles and reuses waste materials from their own and other local businesses.  It's an amazing place!)

Selvedge edge ribbon for the owl and black yarn for the pompom eyes

Gillian, having finished the owl, works on another #BrilliantBirds project at The Winning Post...

So fast, Gillian had already knitted the owl (see far left) before I remembered to take a photo!
Next, using 15mm needles, I knitted the beak and part of the eyes with a couple of pompoms to finish them off.  And there you have it - a big knitted owl approx 56cm by 30cm (22 inches by 18 inches).  Watch out for him flying in!

If you want to join in with the Brilliant Birds Yarnstorm supporting St Leonard's Hospice in Rowntree Park, York this June, you can find out all the details here, the patterns here and you have until Saturday 10 June 2017 for your birds to fly into Rowntree Park Cafe.  Go on, #whatwillyoumake?

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Hula Hoop Weaving & Brilliant Birds

Hula Hoop weaving

I've wanted to have a go at hula hoop weaving for some time but somehow just haven't got round to it.  As an incentive I decided it would be on offer at our #BrilliantBirds workshops.  And, in order to do so, I had to test it out.

First warp up your hula hoop

I cut up a yellow T shirt into 2.5cm (1 inch) strips and used these stretched across a hula hoop for the warp.  Then starting in the centre, I tied the first piece on and started weaving in and out. After a while I changed to blue and carried on until the hoop was nearly full but there was enough warp to tie off all the ends.  Then I cut all the warp loops and tied them - a little too tightly which made my blue tit curl a little.  You can find out more about hula hoop weaving from wonderfuldiy here.

Finished weaving cut off the hoop with the ends tied off

This was quite a small hula hoop - approx. 55cm (21.5 inches) diameter, but still took 4 or 5 T shirts to make my bird.  The blue tit has a 70cm (27.5 inches) wingspan and is about 43cm (17 inches) from the top of his head to where his legs begin.

For the features I made pompom eyes...
Pompom eyes

and recycled some finger knitting into a beak and legs...

Finger knitted legs and beak

Then using some of the cut up T shirts, I knitted some wings.  I used the same pattern for the wings as in the Blue Tit Knitting Pattern but with a few more stitches and bigger needles...
Knitted wings

Then I laid all the pieces out to see how it all looked...

All laid out

I sewed the wings on and then stabilised the body and wings by stitching it to some plastic fencing, added some more blue to cover up the yellow ties and then attached the other features...

Finished blue tit with his smaller knitted cousin

and off he flew to join his little cousin. 

Linda at Rowntree Park Cafe - photo by Peter Bayliss

Linda started another blue tit using selvedge edge ribbon from the Cone Exchange.  (The Cone Exchange is a community scrap store in Harrogate set up by Bettys & Taylors which recycles and reuses waste materials from their own and other local businesses.  It's an amazing place!)

Selvedge edge ribbon from the Cone Exchange

Lara also helped and in the end the size was constrained by the amount of blue ribbon left...

Not much blue left

Once finished it was cut and tied off the hula hoop...

Bird cut off the hoop

and it'll look something like this when finished...

Laid out ready for pieceing together

with a wingspan of about 80cm (31.5 inches) and a body diameter of 38cm (15 inches).

Watch out for the hula hoop birds flying in to join the Brilliant Birds Yarnstorm supporting St Leonard's Hospice in Rowntree Park, York this June.  You can find out all the details here.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Brilliant Birds Roost at The Winning Post

Anna, Jane, Sylvia, Diana, Cath, Deborah & Heather

We had our final #BrilliantBirds workshop of Craft & Design Month at The Winning Post pub on Bishopthorpe Road, York.  They made us very welcome and had reserved a super spot for us...

Gillian, Sarah & Pie

Jane popped in with a delivery of these fancy fledglings...

Jane's birds

and Diana brought a basket of owls...

Diana's owls

Lara was crocheting a very colourful bird...

Lara & Izzy

while Katie was knitting a blue tit...


Heather & Sarah were knitting colourful birds to Sue Stratford's blackbird pattern...

Cath, Deborah, Heather & Sarah

Cath finished her stitched bird...

Cath's bird

whilst Jane's is still a work in progress...

Jane's bird under construction

And here's what came to roost with us at the end of the night...

The Winning Post wonders

If you want to find out more about the Brilliant Birds Yarnstorm that will be on display in Rowntree Park, York later this year, the details are here.  If you'd like to make some #brilliantbirds for the installation, the patterns are here but you don't have to use these - any knitted, stitched, crocheted or felted bird would be lovely.  

Please deliver your finished birds to Rowntree Park Cafe by Saturday 10 June 2017