Alison Crowther-Smith

Archive for April, 2015

Show and Tell: a new Bump Bag

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015

Meet Andrea’s Bump Bag and matching needle case.  I ADORE the colours she chose in Rowan Felted Tweed, and the gentle muting effect the felting has had.  Andrea attended a Bump Bag event here in February and I loved the sample she made then – here is the finished work.  I love it.

andreas bump bag

New Technical Event: casting off, Thursday 9 July 2015

Monday, April 27th, 2015

The next technical event is now live. It’s all about the cast-off.  You can view and book here.  There are literally 1000s of options and there is always a cast-off solution.  We will be focusing on a few really helpful ‘standards’ both practical and decorative, sometimes both.  Plus a re-cap on what works best for different projects.

I am aiming to add two or three new technical half-days in the autumn soon.  The topics I had in mind were converting patterns to be knitted flat or in the round; adding embroidery to your knitting; maybe needle-felting although this is very light on the knitting content; top-down sock basics; toe-up sock basics; intarsia basics.  I mention the latter as I *can* knit intarsia but I never design anything in it as it much prefer Fairisle colourwork, so it will never feature as a main workshop.  Nevertheless, it’s a good skill to have.

Let me know of any topics you think I might include.

Design Event

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

The 4th Court Cottage Design Weekend has just happened.  It was really good, I hope the participants would agree.  The range of ideas which the ‘mood-boards’ generated was impressive, as was the scale of the visions we saw emerging.  The concept for the weekends has evolved and now I send out 2 mood-boards with some themes, yarn suggestion, and some guidance as to what I want to see at the weekend.  There are 2 options, so you can choose from the brief that is quite narrow and prescriptive, or from the other which is much more relaxed.

The whole weekend was a real joy, for me, and for Millington.

I think however, that I will not hold a 2016 Design Weekend.  This is partly because when my new book, ‘Elements’, comes out later this year, my co-author, Donna Jones and I, may hold a knitting retreat weekend, or weekends, one of which may well have a design theme.  It is also because I fancy ringing the changes.

So in 2016, I have some half-formed plans for an event – which may be a short series of one-day get-togethers – where we design something together. That is, I design half, you design half.  And if you don’t want to design half, you can double up on my designs.  My (rough) plan is that folks can book for 2 days, a few weeks apart, so the plan can evolve, with a final free-of-charge afternoon reunion, the purpose of which is  to eat cake to see where we have all got to, go ‘ooooh/aaah!’ at what we’ve done, and to sort out any final points.  I am loath to call it a Knit-Along (KAL) but it will be a version of that, I suppose.

It’s brewing in my head, and now it needs to get to the test-knit stage.

A Week of Great Contrasts

Thursday, April 16th, 2015

This last week just about sums up my life:  2 days caving in Wales, followed by a knit-wear fashion show in Devon at The Artist Guild.

The weekend was spent at the South Wales Cave Club (SWCC).  On Saturday, a hike up the hill to OFD2 and a 5 hour trip underground, searching for areas of the system called Moonlight and Midnight.  It is 0.5 miles each way to reach the cave on foot, and it is a really beautiful walk.  This is the entrance to the cave:

Once inside, you quickly reach the imaginatively named ‘Big Chamber Near the Entrance’.  It is not pretty, but it is impressive.  This image was taken by Will using a long exposure and our head lights to illuminate the cavernous areas of the chamber – this is really only about one-third of it, too:

En-route, we re-visited ‘tourist’ areas which I have only seen once – Trident and Judge.  This is Trident, an impressive, amber coloured stal many feet long:

There are little challenges, such as The Corkscrew, a little twisty slide/climb with an exposed drop to the left as you go down it.  I remember, the first time I went to this cave, sitting at the top of this climb and crying for about 10 minutes, I was so afraid.  I still do not know how they coaxed me down it.  Now I have done it 3 times, it seems just on the edgy side of normal.  One thing I really like doing is traversing rifts (note to real cavers:  I am aware I may have got all the words wrong, but what I mean is, going along a ledge or even just a bumpy bit of wall, with another bit of wall within arm or leg distance, and a significant drop below.  I like it when you can lean your back or bum on one side and shuffle along sideways with your feet on the wall opposite. On this trip, there is a bit of that, but there was also this short passage with very useful foot-sized ledges on both sides.  This is me, the floor below the rift is not that far, but you wouldn’t want to slip.  It’s a very easy bit of awesomeness – which is the best kind:

I really do love this cave system.  We think we ended up about 10 meters short of Midnight/Moonlight (I am unsure which), but we deviated from the passage we were in to go up an awkward little climb, and into a crawly, muddy passage which then gave out to a really lovely bit of cave, well decorated with straws and stals, plus some crystal formations in the floor.  Here are some images:

On Sunday, the others caved but I went for a very cold and windy, wet walk, and then I stayed in the cave hut and knitted for several hours.  Lovely.

But on Tuesday, I was at Spin-a-Yarn for a fashion show with Martin Storey, which was a really lovely evening.  Here are a few snaps:

The room – this is the Guild.

And some of the goodies:

My advice to anyone (real cavers, look away now) – and I know many of you are in this camp – who wish to have a dual life of caving and knitting is this:  have a super-robust manicure every 3 weeks and cave wearing 3mm thick wet-gloves.  Your nails will be fine.

Places Available: Casting-On Skills, 30 April

Friday, April 10th, 2015

Cast-On Close-Up

There are 2 places available for my mini-workshop on 30 April:  casting-on skills.

This is one of a series of technical skills events, 3 hours long, strictly limited numbers, 5 being my maximum.

The event on 30 April is all about casting-on.  The itinerary is:

  • resume of the 3 most widely used cast-on techniques, and when you would choose one over another
  • technical cast-on session, covering: the seamless cast on for knitting a ‘closed’ piece in the round such as a sock, or a mitten; the provisional cast-on; a super-stretchy cast-on for a ribbed cast-on edge
  • decorative cast-on session, covering a folded picot edge cast-on; and a twisted edge cast-on

That is a lot to cover in 3 hours, but it’s an intense techie session with lots of one-to-one teaching and the opportunity to practice as much as you need to.

The events start at 1.30 and end at 4.30.  We also have afternoon tea!

I provide all the practice materials, plus notes so you can take these away, plus examples of when you would use the techniques, and refreshments and afternoon tea.  All you need to bring are knitting needles, which I will specify.

2 places left, so please book here.

New Cave: Ladder Dig Extensions in GB Cavern

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

You know how much I love GB Cavern?  You do know, you’ve just repressed the memory.  It’s a lovely cave, big, gentle, and beautiful.  Anyway, I have finally got up into the upper series of GB, known as Ladder Dig.  You cave as ‘normal’; in our case, we did the first half-lap of the standard round trip, but half-way, you deviate upwards, via an electron ladder, into the bit of cave called Ladder Dig.  A previous possible trip some months ago was aborted due to rain.  After heavy rain, Ladder Dig sumps.  But it has been quite dry.

We caved with Wayne (he’s the chap who owns a cave, Cuckoo Cleeve.  Yes, really.  He owns a cave).  He knows Ladder Dig really well.  Usually, when I cave in GB which is a cave I go to more than any others except the Wales caves by SWCC, I just take my time and never tire of staring at the scale and beauty of the place.  I am not a speedy caver.  Except that time I fell off Swildon’s.  That was pretty speedy.

But this time, we absolutely legged it to Ladder Dig, and I was really pleased that I was able to cave fast.  Progress.  A ladder was already rigged by a group ahead of us, so we used their kit and left our ladder at the top for them to rig when they left, which they did.  It’s an easy and short climb with a simple, non-scary exit off the ladder at the top.   Once up, there is a short period of quite unpleasant crawling/lying down wriggling.  And then you come to the muddy duck.

A duck is a confined space with water but an air space.  This duck is not that long, but it is really quite tight.  Not squeeze-tight, but you need to do three things, I think:  1)  bail the muddy water for a bit first and then go through as fast as you can before all the water you bailed runs back in.  There is a very broken bucket by the duck to do this.  When I go back I am going to take a new bucket.  2)  feel about for the loose stones/small boulders that are in the duck, which dips quite a bit, and throw them out.  Will went first and got wedged with some boulders under his arse so we had to send Florence in to liberate the rocks before he could proceed.  And 3) place yourself in the right bit.  It’s not wide, but if you aim for the really low part, there is not room for your helmet.  I know, as I did this on the way back out.  Associated with this, it’s a good idea to move as gently as possible, whilst not hanging about, as rapid or desperate flailing  would just make the tiny air space disappear.  You do this duck on your back, both ways.  It’s really fine, even good fun.  I liked it.  I’m weird.

I did not flail or even feel anxious.  I had a good look at it, watched Will go and then I went.  Coming back was harder I think but only because I got a bit stuck due to going at the wrong angle and had to reverse and go in at the right point. Here is a link to someone else doing the duck on the way out.

We caved on to Bat Passage, a very beautifully decorated chamber.  It’s really gorgeous.  At the end, it is taped, so we stopped and hung about there for a bit but sadly had no camera, and then caved back.  Another trip will take us to Great Chamber, but we needed to get back for travelling home and so on.  Wayne showed us two of the ways to this part of the Ladder Dig Extensions.  I believe there are four routes.  The one we will possibly do involves pitching a short ladder over an otherwise very exposed climb which I know I can do if I am belayed but not otherwise.  At least one of the other ways is via a tight bit, I only know that because we met a caver who had let his party go on because he did not fit through that squeeze.  Wayne told him of another route on, and he went off to explore that.  Anyway, he didn’t look all that big to me, so it must be really tight, or perhaps just very awkward.

We climbed back down the ladder – which the other party had rigged for us, having departed first, and Wayne, last down, abseiled it.  Very cool.  He made a harness of two slings.  Then a spirited cave out via the waterfall climb, which was only moderately wet and very easy.

It was a lovely trip.  Ticked a lot of my caving boxes:  GB (obvs); fun; not scary; pretty; and best of all, a new bit of cave.  Even though I love GB, I have probably only been there maybe nine times, in three years.  Because, I love doing new things far more than repetition.  But having caved more in GB than anywhere else, I do see how repetition makes it seem easier with each trip.

Next up:  Easter caving in Swildon’s, back to Sump 1, onto Sump 2, I hope.  And the next weekend, two full days of caving in Wales, land of the best caves.  Evah.  True fact.  If all goes to plan, I will be leading a trip in OFD 1.  I say leading.  I will be in front.  I never, ever thought I’d be allowed to do that, or want to.  I have done this trip twice and the standard round trip is pretty straightforward, plus they won’t follow me if I go the wrong way. Probs.   We will also be going up into The Waterfall Series, which I have only done once, so I will cease ‘leading’ for that part.