Alison Crowther-Smith

Archive for July, 2017

Two Courses at Spin a Yarn, Devon

Wednesday, July 26th, 2017

If you missed my Brioche in the Round courses here and you fancy having a go at this technique I am teaching it again at Spin-a-Yarn in Devon on 19 October, 10 – 4.  This is an easier way to knit Brioche than the flat version so it’s a great entry-level to a fantastic new skill.  I have designed three cowls, all variations on the same theme, in a range of yarn weights.  To take part, you need only know how to cast on, knit and purl and follow a fairly straight forward pattern – I will do the rest!  the Brioche cowls are the ones along the top of this gallery.

I am also teaching the Lined Fairisle Cowl on 9 November, 10 – 4.  I have taught this here and the courses were sold out so if you missed it, come along to Spin-a-Yarn and learn how to make this reversible cowl – a modern twist on a traditional Fairisle look.  To take part, you need to be able to knit, cast on and off.  If you have never knitted Fairisle before, the charts for this are moderate – I am happy to teach you how to read and knit from charts and how to hold the yarns in both hands for perfect and even stranding.  Other skills include picking up and knitting which again, I will be able to show you on the day.  The lined cowl images appear on the bottom line of this gallery.

For both events, you will receive the patterns for all the designs on the day, plus full tuition and notes.  Be great to see you there.  Please contact the shop for details on availability and to book.

 

A Knitted Time-Line

Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

The Knitting Archive (image shows 5 of 8 boxes):

kniting archive boxes 2

This summer I am taking some time to sift through things. Physical things.  I began because we are having some decorating done and this means moving things around.  This became a good chance to clear out some clutter and sort other things.  The art of minimalism (not so much an art in my opinion, more a commercially successful device for selling books, DVDs and life-style blogs) has and always will pass me by.  I am happy to wave a fist full of memories at it as it slides effortlessly by.  I sometimes think I’d like to be minimalist but then I go to somewhere that has almost no trace of human life being actually lived there, such as a hotel and I know it is just not for me.  In fact, I don’t think I have the personal discipline to be a minimalist, or the heart.  I am too fond of my comforting things, especially books, family items and pictures.

I once read that to practice minimalism you should pick up and hold each object (I am assuming that old Welsh dressers, sewing machines, sofas etc are exempt) and if it does not bring you joy, you should get rid of it.  On that basis, I would keep all the books, yarn and needles, my iPad, my iPod, my iPhone, my gardening tools, a spoon, a bowl and very sharp knife.  But the thing that gives me most joy is of course the iPhone/Pad/Pod charger.

Well, this blog can never be accused of, or congratulated on, being minimalist and I digress, as ever…

But the knitting needed a good sort.  This is knitting that I count as ‘work’.  Not things I use, or have given to others as presents, or keep about the house.  This  knitting does not pre-date the start of knitting for Rowan, or not by much.  These items are from my time as a Design Consultant, then my books, and my many years as a teacher of our craft.

So I gathered all the knitting into one place.  One big, very crowded place. I am not a diarist.  This blog is fairly close in some ways, but it misses out a lot of events and emotions because I assume you don’t come here to hear things that may be reminiscent of your own bitter and silent battle with the recycling regime where you live, or a boring account of each meal I had on holiday – obviously that is what Face Book is for; or just things that may be…triste.  But as I unpacked all the knitted things, going back more than a decade which is when knitting became a ‘job’ for me, it was an oddly transporting experience.

Each thing was a conduit back to that period in my life, the period in which I designed and often when I knitted it.  As one item was retrieved, I remembered being on a cycling holiday with Mark in mid-Wales and completing it, the last-but-one item in my third book.  Holding it, re-folding it, settling it into its new archive box, I remembered a lot of sudden flashes of that week, really vividly.  Falling off my bike, twice (it was the first time I cycled with clip-on cycling shoes).  The absolute blackness of the sky at night, with no light pollution at all, save the stars and the eerie moonlight:  it is silver and light enough to walk outside with no torch.  The odd, wooden bathroom side-room.  The happiness at being away, with Florence looking after the house and Lily, for our first ever full week away since – forever.

I also noted as I sorted the work, how my focus shifts.  You may never have noticed, but a tendency to become slightly obsessed with things is probably my one weakness.  Here they were, my phases of intense interest.  Felting, Shibori, Kidsilk Haze, lace, beads, form – especially Moebiuses, texture, edges, colour and Fairisle. One constant factor is mittens.  I appear to have been, and remain, obsessed with hand-wear.  So I felt happy that in this, at least, I am not fickle.

Nor, I noticed, am I and appear never to have been a follower of knitting ‘fashion’ or trends. This year, for the first time ever I think, I coincided with a resurgence in a trend – an interest in Brioche knitting – and if I am honest with you, it did thoroughly irritate me.  I much prefer it if I am not designing and teaching things that everyone else is Instagram-ing about until its five minutes passes, again.  I think I began my felting odyssey at about the time when wedding-ring shawls were all the rage.  I adored Kidsilk Haze when the whole world was backing away from it and making crossed-fingers-ward-off-the-devil gestures at the yarn display in Johnny Lou Lou’s.  I (not very secretly and in the absence of any corroboration from the manufacturer) do think I am responsible for this yarn’s amazing reign as the queen of yarns. You’re welcome, Rowan Yarns. This was achieved by simply teaching every knitter I ever met, to learn its ways, and how to knit with beads.  Job done.

There were some painful memories in those boxes too.  After my father died, and this happened 9 months after my mother died, I frogged and later gave away the yarn, from the project I was knitting as I attended his dying weeks.  So it wasn’t that project.  It was the project I most clearly remember knitting after that.  For all that I have experienced and witnessed the restorative, soothing, even healing properties of knitting, after my father died, I did not – could not – knit for many weeks.  I didn’t work for Rowan, so I had no imperative to knit, as I would now.  Working for Rowan came the following year and so in a way, I think it was part of the knitting-healing process.  But after many weeks when I didn’t knit – and now I do not know what I did do, other than work, tend the children, do the garden I suppose – I finally felt the need to knit again and I designed one of my earliest things. When it came out of the box, it trailed behind it a painful, bitter-sweet train of memories of the months that went before it.  I fervently wish I had not frogged and given away the yarn from the scarf I was knitting when dad died.  Do not ever do as I did, and pull the knitting out, then hide from you the yarn, as if you can pull out and hide the pain, for you cannot.  And if I had carried on, I’d still have that scarf and I’d wear it – easier now, now that the years have soothed the hurt somewhat.

Some things evoked the most mundane – but happy – memories.  I remembered meals I had planned, cooked and eaten as the item evolved.  Some of them made me recall their creation as a blissfully easy process from pencil to needle to book; others still had the taint of making me swatch, swatch again, and then yet again, to finally bring forth a thing of worth.  Sometimes I looked at a thing and thought:  ah!  that thumb-gusset (an example) was, after all, worth the torture of maths and placement.   Sometimes I looked and thought:  why on earth did I design that?

They are all now packed up, not in their stitched time-line, but in an orderly, categorised way, though this does often coincide.  The boxes are sealed and labelled.  There are 8 of them and they are hefty.  It has been a good thing to do, this summer.

One oddity:  the long-lost sock years.  Oh yes!  I too had sock years, my child.  I have rarely taught sock knitting, perhaps because when I first knitted socks, literally everyone was doing the same, or they were teaching it.  It felt as if the knitting universe had invented this ingenious foot-covering.  So of course, I could have nothing to do with it.  Also, I had a (now inexplicable) taste for socks in pink, orange and grey.  And for every pair I made, I also knitted a small pouched, draw-string matching sock-bag.  Why?  Answer came there none.  I unearthed 4 such pairs still in the special matching bags, all perfect (aside from the colours).  I also knitted some pairs as gifts back then including my first and last ever pair of man-socks, in Fairisle, which I gave to a friend.  I am unsure if the gifts of socks were fully appreciated and for these and other reasons to do with Marks and Spencer stocking lovely socks, I gave it up.  But I think I may design some new socks – not bed-socks but real socks for going out in – and teach it in 2018, for the entire world is either still teaching Brioche or will be teaching double-reversible-entrelac-intarsia top-down night-caps, which is what I was going to do…here is a shot of one of the long-lost socks, also proving how hard it is to shoot a picture of your own sock-clad feet.  You have to pick a foot and go for that one.

Sock solo