Alison Crowther-Smith

Archive for August, 2014

New Workshops For 2015 Posted Next Week

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

evening shadow in front garden

The 2015 Court Cottage events will be added to the site next week.  This time I am planning (let’s see if I can manage it…!) to add the whole 2015 calender in one go.  I have a mailing list, but if you think you may not be on it and would like to be, please contact me and I will add you. 

The 2015 menu is going to cover:  Shibori felting; full-moon shawls; Fairisle – simple, easy and effective, a day suitable for Fairisle novices and others alike; knitted flower throws; a design weekend with a choice of design options; frill-seekers day – frilled boas a-go-go; Halloween; and of course, Christmas.

It would be absolutely lovely to see you here.  I will post again when the dates are available to book.


Dachshund Therapy!

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

Here I am getting some Dachshund (and cream-tea) therapy courtesy of the lovely Jackie and her little girl, Bronte.

Me, Bronte & Arthur, Aug 2014

On a solo-mission, one of my first unless you count Asda last week, I met up with Jackie and Bronte by the seaside for a really happy afternoon, yesterday.  Bronte often attends my workshops – she is the petite girl on the right.  Bronte is just adorable and they get along very well indeed.  Arthur, on the left, is a very quiet boy and it does him good to get out from under the shadow of his big brother from time to time.  Rupert stayed at home…!

We walked on the pier, the dogs soaked up the Dachshund love from the passers-by, and then we had tea.  The cafe provided a little dish of dog treats too.

It was lovely to catch up with my dear friend Jackie, and I think it did me a power of good – even better than Fairisle or antibiotics!  Thank you Jackie, and Bronte, we will see each other again soon.

Colour Therapy

Friday, August 1st, 2014

Colourwork is not really my thing.  Though I rarely knit it, I do love the way Fairisle looks, and the more trad the better; I like knitting it too.  I actively dislike intarsia – both the look and the execution of it.  I can do it.  It looks quite neat, if I put my mind to it.  But it’s a lot of faff.  I once knitted an entire intarsia blanket for Lily’s room.  That cured me of my wish to do any more.

Fairisle appeals to me because it has a soothing rhythm. I prefer to knit real Fairisle with just two colours on a row, so I don’t often do stranded multi-colourwork, even that which masquerades as Fairisle.  I like making up Fairisle patterns, or adapting them, so that there are never more than three stitches to carry the ‘float’ across, though I will catch-and-carry if I need a five stitch or more float. And Fairisle in the round is the best.  Obvs.

Why I don’t do Fairisle more is not really something I have thought much about until recently.  The Fairisle ‘boom’ of the last few seasons kind of passed me by (late adopter, as we know).

Recently, I was ill.  I went to Amsterdam right at the start of July for a long weekend.  When I got back, I also got sick.  I do not think Amsterdam and the illness are related.

While I was poorly – in fact, before I went to Amsterdam – I was thinking about a Fairisle design that I wanted to make.  One of those ideas that kicks about in your brain and demands a life of its own.  I’d even kind of swatched it.  Swatching is like scratching an itch.  Sometimes, the swatch will cure the itch and it all goes away. Sometimes, it just proves that you do need to make the whole design.

I became unwell really fast.  From: I’m getting a cold, bother; to: I’m not getting a cold, I’m really ill, damn and blast it – all in the space of 48 hours.  The illness is now, hopefully, waning.  But it’s been a long three-and-a-bit weeks.  Not all of it has been bad though.  I mean, yes, lots of it has been properly poo, and the after-effects look like hanging around for a bit yet.  But when I was at my lowest, and ought really to have just gone to bed and stayed there (I didn’t because I was in that area of pain where you can’t lie still, and bed had become a bad place), guess what saved my sanity and, I really believe, helped me to start recovering?  Fairisle:

The design is knitted in the round.  It has four shades, one of which is always the contrast shade and never changes. The background does change.  It’s beaded.  It is not a complicated Fairisle, but there is quite a lot going on, with background switches and beads and what-not.  Clearly the ideal time to swatch and then cast on this massive project (300+ sts in the round, 20 row rpt) is when you are a) in the grip of a pretty grim systemic viral and bacterial attack; and b) dosed up to the eye-balls on f-off amounts of (apparently legal and ‘safe’) pain-killing cocktails and a 12 day course of heffer-sized antibiotics.

Daily round, week one:

Say goodbye to the World Service and hello to BBC radio 4 as  the shipping forecast heralds another day. Consult drug diary and take whatever is allowed.  Some hours later, shuffle into dining room.  Begin/continue painfully slow progress on planning and then knitting the Fairisle design.  

In the end, I got the charts right – that was Day 1. On Day 2, everything was the same as above except that I cast on.  I counted the cast on about 20 times.  There were tears.  Pure frustration.  Not anger.  I used stitch markers every 50 stitches.  Still tears.  Dimly, I was aware that using black Kidsilk Haze double as my starting point, was part of the trouble.  In the end, I did it.  That was day 2.

This pattern to my nights and days,  insterpersed in week one with several journeys to the GP and the local hospital, was largely unchanged for about a fortnight.  I didn’t knit anywhere except in that room, in the same spot (usually I knit in other places and switch chairs depending on the light and the heat).  I usually managed two sessions of about  2 or 3 hours each.

The pattern is not difficult, but my brain was really not functioning properly.  It took enormous levels of concentration to make the pattern for each row stick in my mind, and my hands.  I made a lot of errors.  Usually, I’d look at it the next day and realise the error, and then slowly and patiently knit it back. There was no scope for ripping back Kidsilk Haze beaded Fairisle.  The knitting backwards was more soothing than the knitting forwards because I couldn’t go wrong.

I am very grateful that, as someone who can sometimes be impatient with other aspects of life, I never, ever lose my patience with knitting, whether it is my own or that of other people. I don’t know why this is, it is not a conscious effort.   In fact, it’s no effort at all.  I just look at the knitting, and I decide what, if anything, can be done, and if there is something that I can do to rectify it, I just do that.  So it was with this piece.

Aware that my brain, sometimes even my eyes, were not really quite right, I invented a code for the rows so I didn’t have to use the (my own) chart.  Each of the 20 rows had a different line of code, which at the time of writing the code, made perfect sense to me.  I was often feverish. Now I am better, I wonder why I thought code would be a good idea.  It’s such a weird code, too, even by my standards of weird.  However, I am still knitting it and I’m still using the code.  This week I will chart it on the PC and type out the pattern, minus the code.  Probs.

Each day, I’d regard the by now very scruffy bits of paper on which this design was being dragged out, and wonder what I had meant.  So I then, having worked it out, wrote myself notes for reference the next day.  Like a character in a dreadful book I once read for the doomed Book Club, who lost her memory every day, and who left clues for herself each night…

One side effect of the illness is a perforated eardrum.  Aside from the general nastiness of this in other actually really gross ways, I was, and still am, almost completely deaf in that ear.  The deafness is accompanied by tinnitus.  You’re never alone when you have tinnitus.  Mine – shrieking banshees, high-pitched drills a la dentist, and sirens – was at its worst in week 2.  This, plus the deafness and loss of voice, made me feel quite isolated.  The world shrank really fast, to a corner of the dining table, with an audio book playing right next to my good ear, and the Fairisle code book.

As I gradually got better, I made fewer mistakes.  I knitted faster.  The Fairisle became associated with a slow recovery.   I love this bit of knitting, because it really did give me a much-needed focus when I was too poorly to do anything else.  Reading, TV, films, sleep, food – all no good.  It’s odd (and Mark certainly did not understand this at all) that it was a piece of colourwork knitting which helped me through.  Had I emerged from the cocoon of illness, looked at the knitting and hated it, I wouldn’t really have minded, because it would still have served its purpose.  But happily, I do really like it.

It has, and always had, a destination and it’s not a commission or a workshop knit, or a pattern for the website.  It will be fit for its (quite exciting) purpose, but it won’t be taught or sold.  I will however be running a Fairisle workshop here in 2015. No code-breaking needed.  My approach to Fairisle is quite simple, it won’t make your head explode, it is best knitted in the round, and if it can’t cure you of what ails you, it will at least take your mind off it for a bit.

July, largely, has not happened for me.  This is a shame, as I believe it’s been hot and pretty.  The Amsterdam bit right at the start of July is clear and happy.  Then the rest is all blurry, with some regaining of focus in the last few days.  My diary for July is a graveyard, littered with cancelled events, visits, appointments and treats.  I’m glad it’s over, but I don’t regret or begrudge a moment of the Fairisle odyssey.  Throughout it, a black, grey and white Fairisle knit has kept me company, and I will never forget it.  I am going to call this piece Enigma…