Vintage Knitting, Retro Dressmaking, Make do and Mend, Original and Vintage Inspired Knitting Patterns, Vintage Inspired books

Monday, January 30, 2012

Vintage Valentine Workshop

On Sunday 5th February I will be hosting a Vintage Valentine's workshop at Waterstones in Lancaster. The workshop runs from 11am until approximately 3.30-4pm. We will be making vintage inspired knitted love tokens. The workshop only costs £8 including all materials and project information sheets AND lunch. What better way to spend a Sunday? You can see full details on the poster below.

Bookings should be made directly with Waterstones Lancaster by calling them on 0843 290 8435

A final treat for the day will be a little pop-up Excelana shop within Waterstones with 10% discount on all yarn sales for workshop attendees. Please note that as the pop-up shop is run by myself I can only take cash on the day.

for now
Ruby xx

Sunday, January 29, 2012


Its a couple of weeks now since I set up my installation at the Rheged Gallery in Penrith, Cumbria but its taken me until now to feel confident enough to blog about the whole experience. I enjoyed the process enormously but at the same time was completely over-awed by the people I was sharing the gallery with and also terribly worried that my work wasn't very good. In fact, far more worried than I've been about anything in my career. I guess if this blog shows anything its that I'm not afraid to be open about myself and my work but this installation basically lays my working practices and therefore myself, completely open.

It was however a great way to achieve closure on a project that had totally taken over my life and from which, I've found it quite hard to move on. Taking the working papers, swatches, notes, unresolved garments etc and altering their purpose has created a distance for me that hopefully means I can tidy up my mind as well as my desk. The stacks of papers have been carefully arranged to reveal little tit bits from the process, notes in different hand writing, sketches, scribbles and above all, numbers. The title of the piece, 3000 hours, was, as I've previously mentioned, the approximate time I spent on the 'mathematical' part of the project. Its an enormous amount of time and I felt it was important to try and express that time spent in a physical form. Scarily the finished installation does not include all the papers. It would have become quite overwhelming and unstable if it had!

I took a lot of photographs of the piece as it built up none of which really do the piece justice but they do help to show some of the detail. This first batch of photos are from my studio as I first starting trying to piece it all together. As the piles were created they were then glued together into a whole:

The very first pieces being laid out.
The first pile

The first stacks of glued sections

Detail as it starts to come together

a completed pile

the layout starts to come together

Once the layout was worked out and glueing was completed the installation had to be dis-assembled and packed up to take to the gallery. I then had to begin again arranging the work according to my plan.

Here I am working my best Ena Sharples look - pin curls at the ready

Not quite sure what I'm doing here. I appear to be listening for the sea in my cup

The installation starts to come together

Final adjustments

A section of the final piece

Charlie relaxing before the launch listening to Knitsonik's amazing recordings

the only not completely dreadful photo of me at the launch, wearing the Helen Shrug
There is some amazing work on display at the exhibition including other specially commissioned work from the likes of Knitsonik and Rachael Matthews, and a chance to see the thought provoking work of Freddie Robins and the unbelievable knitted BMW engine by Amy Twigger Holroyd and that's just to name just a few!

WOW  is showing daily until 15th April of this year (opening times are 10.30am-4.30pm). Its most definitely worth a visit.

for now
Ruby xx

Monday, January 09, 2012

Christmas Knitting and New Year Happenings

I do hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and that 2012 is a happy, contented, successful and creative year for us all.

I managed to contract an ear infection over the holidays which slowed me down somewhat however I did manage to finish off a few garments from volume 2 of A Stitch in Time to wear over the festive period. I cleverly failed to get any pictures of me wearing the garments so for now I'll have to share them with you photographed on their own.

The first garment is Warm Jacket with a Bobble Stitch Yoke.

Copyright Susan Crawford 2011

 This is one of my absolute favourites from the book because of its sheer wearability. The version in the book is knitted using Jamieson's Spindrift. Mine is knitted in Excelana in Saharan Sand. It comes out slightly 'plumper' and is even warmer than Shetland wool which is what I wanted.

Copyright Susan Crawford 2012

 It is a fairly simple knit, worked in separate pieces using a 1x1 rib with short rows worked on the upper front and back bodices. The raglan seams are then sewn together and the yoke is picked up and worked in one piece around the cardigan. What is particularly special about this version of this pattern is that mum knitted this for me as far as the short rows. Knitting is hard work for her since the stroke but she hates to be without it so we find patterns or parts of patterns that she can do, enlarge and simplify the written instruction so that she can follow it properly and then she's away. At this point the pattern needs to remain the same over a piece of knitting but she is now incorporating sleeve increases and side shaping. She can't as yet tackle buttonholes so my mother in law Dorothy knitted the right front. I finished the jacket off with only one small change, which was to fold under the cuffs to the wrong side and slip stitch loosely in place. I have stupidly short arms and had forgotten to adjust the sleeve pattern before I gave it to mum. However I really like the folded cuff as it looks smart and is very hard wearing.

Copyright Susan Crawford 2012

My favourite thing about the cardigan though is the yoke which is simplicity itself but looks so effective.

Copyright Susan Crawford 2012
So to sum up:

Warm Jacket with a Bubble Stitch Yoke (pg 223 A Stitch in Time volume 2)
Yarn: Excelana 4ply Luxury Wool in Saharan Sand
No of balls:12
Needles Used: 2.75mm and 3mm
Notions: 12 Buttons 
Knitted to pattern for size 42-44 inch bust

The next completed garment is Charming Neckline.

Copyright Susan Crawford 2011
The sample garment is knitted in Fyberspates Scrumptious 4 ply which is a silk and wool mix giving the garment a beautifully soft drape and handle. I had  in my stash some Drops Alpaca Silk in a dull pink along with a single ball in a pale grey. This garment was to form part of my Christmas Day outfit along with some fabulous wide leg palazzo pants in dull pink, grey and deep red. (I will get some photos of this all together I promise!)

Copyright Susan Crawford 2012
This time I remembered to shorten the arms so that the cuffs sit just nicely on my wrist bones. 

Copyright Susan Crawford 2012
I also knew from prior experience that the Drops Alpaca Silk does indeed 'drop' quite a lot so I made the 38-40 chest size instead of 42-44. However as I had lots of yarn I added an inch in length to the lower body to give me more expansion room. Because of the nature of the yarn, the back neck is proving a little sloppy so I'm going to add a row of Double Crochet (US - Single Crochet) around the side and back neck edges to stop it losing its shape. 

Copyright Susan Crawford 2012
I bought a fabulous hair clip from Accessorise when I was in Edinburgh to wear with the outfit which you can see in some of the photos. The colours matched perfectly.

Copyright Susan Crawford 2012
I felt great in this jumper,  glamorous and yet relaxed, which is a great feeling, and I could cook and eat without feeling uncomfortable. What more could a girl want on Christmas Day?

Charming Neckline (pg 31 A Stitch in Time volume 2)
Yarn: Drops Alpaca Silk in dull pink (shade 1306) and soft mink (1760)
No of balls:12 + 1
Needles Used: 2.75mm and 3.25mm
Knitted size 38-40 inch bust with 1 inch added to lower body length

The next garment was actually sewn up on Boxing Day, ready to wear for another family gathering the next day. This is Summery - and a New Pattern.

Copyright Susan Crawford 2011

 A strange choice for winter? Well mum and dad's house is very warm so this seemed the perfect choice. Knitted in Baby Rooster as in the pattern as it was just the right weight for the garment and for the occasion. This one was knitted in black and I called in the services of super knitter, Dorothy to get it knitted in time. I know most knitters really don't like knitting in black and this certainly wasn't a knit in the cinema type of project but the pattern is extremely three dimensional and clear which makes life much easier.

Copyright Susan Crawford 2012
The jabot is knitted but not yet sewn on due to lack of time. I was also keen to see how the jumper worked without it and I personally think it works really well. Possibly on a larger chested person such as myself, the lack of a further layer is probably beneficial. I wore it with the glass brooch shown on the photos and a thirties-esque bias cut skirt. 

Copyright Susan Crawford 2012
 With having very narrow shoulders compared to my bust size I played with the sizing a little on this one. Knitted in the second size for 38-42 inch bust but then extra decreases worked at the underarm taking the shoulders down to the first size stitch count. This reduced the shoulder to shoulder measurement from 16.5 inches to 15. The design has a very slightly dropped shoulder line to give the sleeves their hang but I wanted to be sure that it was only slight, which it was and worked perfectly. All other details were exactly as to the pattern.
Summery - and a New Pattern (pg 53 A Stitch in Time volume 2)
Yarn: Baby Rooster in 410 (liquorice)
No of balls: 12
Needles Used: 2.25mm and 3.75mm
Knitted size 38-42 inch bust with adjustments to shoulder width

And the final finished garment is the Fair Isle Cardigan. Knitted in Excelana 4 ply luxury wool as in the book but in a very different colour way. 

Copyright Susan Crawford 2011
My colour choice focused on the closeness of French Rose, Ruby Red and Persian Grey in tone with a dash of Powdered Egg, Alabaster and Nile Green thrown in for good measure.

Copyright Susan Crawford 2012
I love how this works as  a combination and have been wearing the cardigan with a dress from Cath Kidston of exactly the same red.

Copyright Susan Crawford 2012
Again I stayed close to the pattern except for working extra decreases at the armholes again to reduce the shoulder width. On this occasion I knitted the 40-42 inch bust but reduced the shoulder width right down to that of the 32-34 inch bust as the sleeve caps need to sit high on top of the ball of the shoulder so I needed a very narrow shoulder width. Other that this change the garment was knitted exactly to pattern. I had some beautiful 1930s buttons that worked really well with the cardigan, picking out the Persian Grey in the fair isle design and was fortunate enough to have just the right number to complete the cardigan.

Copyright Susan Crawford 2012

They are quite a thick button, almost looking like liquorice. What I love about this cardigan most of all though is that it shows how wonderfully well Excelana knits up for colour work. The stitches stick together and the colours meld into one another beautifully and yet retain definition. I love it soooooo much!

Copyright Susan Crawford 2012
Fair Isle Cardigan (pg 206 A Stitch in Time volume 2)
Yarn: Excelana 4 ply Luxury wool, main shade French Rose, plus Persian Grey, Ruby Red, Powdered Egg, Alabaster and Nile Green
No of balls: 9 + 1 ball or oddments of each of the supplementary colours
Needles Used: 2.75mm and 3.25mm
Notions: 7 buttons
Knitted size 40-42 inch bust with adjustments to shoulder width

Since completing all this knitting I've been working on a very exciting project which launches on Saturday 14th January at the Rheged Centre in Penrith. I'm thrilled to have been asked to create a piece of work for the WOW exhibition, which "will unveil an ambitious new exhibition that shows how knitting and stitch are used as a medium for contemporary art and design. The exhibition will feature of work by 20 internationally renowned British contemporary artists and designers who have been inspirational in their creative uses of wool."

My piece, which is an installation, is entitled 3000 hours and looks at the numeracy and labour behind hand knitting design. I can't quite believe I've been included in this list of amazing people:

Featured artists include: Max Alexander, Susan Crawford, Stewart Easton, Felicity Ford, Fay Godwin, Kate Jenkins, Rachael Matthews, Steve Messam, Deirdre Nelson, Kate Pemberton, Trevor Pitt, Celia Pym, Joss Wrigg, Freddie Robins, Annie Shaw, Amy  Twigger-Holdroyd, Hazel White, Rich White, Donna Wilson, Fine Cell Work, Carr├ęducker and Wool Clip.

There is also a resource area which will have information about the artist's influences, their work and knitting will be going on throughout.

The Rheged Centre is an amazing place on the outskirts of Penrith in Cumbria and is Europe's largest grass covered building, yet disappears into the Cumbrian landscape. The gallery space opened early last year. 

The exhibition runs for three months until Sunday 15th April and you can find out more about it at the Rheged Centre website. Do go along if you get the chance. We have the set up and then the Private View this Friday for which I'm frantically trying to knit up my own version of the Swagger Coat. However I'm not sure if I'll get there... but we shall see.

So for now,
Ruby xx