Friday, 28 June 2013

Can you say 'Procrastination'?

Today has been a design day. I knew the shop would be slow (though you lot have surprised me a bit) so I hunkered down with lots of coffee. I thought I'd brought some cake but apparently I forgot that. Perhaps why I haven't been as productive as I should have been...

So, today is a blog about a thought or two to get it down on paper (as it were...).

To start with, whilst browsing facebook (essential for a productive day I find), I clicked on this link. It's a blog post by Doris Chan about how she chooses yarn for her crochet projects and a bit about her design process. Pretty interesting. I clicked through a few pages, I must admit I didn't realise that she had a blog and I do love a good blog but they very specifically need to post at least two or three times a week before I'm interested properly so I'll have to keep an eye out. I clicked through onto a payment page for this little project:

Not my usual style. I think it looks a lot like 'crochet', kwim? I find it difficult to put into words without being a bit offensive (and I try not to be offensive to people that don't deserve it). I suppose it's a bit fussy and old fashioned? But I do also have a friend who would love something with a dog doing a flip in it and I've only ever filet crocheted a swatch before so I hopped on over to rav to see if I could find anything of any more interest to me. Before I even did that, this little beaut popped up. Seriously, look!


And then I was reminded of this pyt: 

Looking back through the facebook group  it appears that I found that on the 9th of March and I know I bought the yarn for that the very same day (King Cole CottonSoft DK in Cherry), popped it in stash and promptly forgot about it. I can't start a new project that's very similar to a project I've already got the yarn for before I've even started said project, can I? Can I!? 

Besides, I've only just managed to cast off the back piece on Dad's Father's Day/Christmas 2012 jumper...

AND! A lovely customer called Ann came in today. She has an obsession with blankets. LOTS of blankets and an occasional ill-fated jumper. She put together a delicious mix of mostly Pricewise and Comfort DK and a little bit of Dolly Mix, Patons Diploma Gold DK but most importantly the Cygnet Merino Superwash DK in Kingfisher. 

What a photo! I was trying to get a photo of me giving the yarn a little kiss. But I'll settle for the constipated look seeing as the colour looks the closest to what it is in real life.

Anyway, I have a big bag of ten of these suckers that would make me something like this: 




But none of this gets my designing done. And the only reason I allowed myself not to clean, tidy and sort on this miserable day when I thought no customers would be in was to knit and design these little cuties: 

And at the end of the day, I know it's all just one big long procrastination because all I want to be doing it knitting THIS: 

Which I can't tell you anything about but is dancing around in my little brain and won't be forever because it's a boring stitch so I half think I need to knit as much as I can whilst the inspiration is there and I half think that watching Big Brother whilst knitting something as brilliant as that is too enjoyable to be called work. So instead of doing something enjoyable and productive for the shop, I end up spending the day browsing Rav and listening to Destiny's Child. What a plonker. 


Love Eleanor. x

P.s. I still haven't looked up filet crochet patterns... what a tit. 

Monday, 24 June 2013

Art and Craft - An Essay.

Tomorrow I'm going to be on BBC Radio Nottingham to talk about the business, the lessons I'm teaching at Radford-Lenton Library and I suppose, the 'rise of craft'. Every time I do anything for the radio, tv or newspapers I'm always asked about why knitting is so 'popular right now'. My stock answer is that 'I hope it is, blah blah slow fashion, blah blah Primark, blah blah, grandmothers'. In all honesty there's never enough time or the inclination (on the reporter's part) to actually talk about it in any meaningful way. They might want me to talk about feminism (probably not), or how cheap it is (little do they know), mental illness and stress relief (perhaps) but what they actually want is one or two sentences. I've just been in the shower, and as I often do, I had a little rant to myself so this would be my answer, or perhaps part of it if I start going on and on, if I had all the time in the world...

I've talked about Dee of the Singing Bird Artist Blog before. I love Dee. She's a fabulous friend, a great support to me, a f.a.n.t.a.s.t.i.c. cook and a fibre artist. Note: "fibre artist". It's not very often I hear her describe herself as an "artist" (though I know she thinks of herself that way), she usually qualifies it with "fibre". I hate saying 'qualifies' because it makes the term "fibre artist" seem somehow less than "artist".

Dee went to the Trent Uni Degree shows this year to see what was going on in the Nottingham scene. She she was less than impressed with the Fine Art setup. As an artist she was worried that the work wasn't resolved, as a member of society she was worried that the students hadn't had value for money from their very expensive course and as a human she was physically unable to see some of the work because of the layout. You can read about her experiences here. About two paragraphs are dedicated to those issues and the rest of the blog is about her much easier and more enjoyable experience at the design school.

I went last year and reading through my blog about it I was made to feel similarly at points, I'm thinking the smashed clay plinths. I think I expressed quite well how I mainly felt a bit bemused as we were walking around the art sections - never quite knowing if we were supposed to be there, or if that pickle was supposed to be there, or if that was a piece of art (this year Dee saw a box and some rubber gloves on a moulded plastic chair. Ummm. I still don't think she's quite sure if it was art...). I remember specifically feeling much more at home in the design section (and not just yarn and textiles). It's much less stressful if you know that what you're looking at is supposed to be looked at. I got the distinct impression that the people from the art section wanted you to feel uncomfortable - as if that was part of the art.

Now, if you haven't already - go back to Dee's blog and read the comments. Mostly made my people on the art course you'll note. I think it's brill that they feel that they've got value for money and that they feel protective about their course - that means to me that they were obviously engaged with the content and formed the relationships with staff, students and the uni that are such an important part of uni life. But wow - aren't they rude?! I'll paraphrase: "I'm sorry you feel like that but everybody else said that our work was brill so you're going to have to cocoa and if you don't like that then we don't care because it's all about the art and not about selling it".

See, I see that as - say what you want because I'll do whatever I want to do with no regard for the rest of the world and any practicalities. Well, if you can survive on that philosophy without a student loan then good on you. I highly suspect however, that art without any concept of how it can be used in, intertwined with and combined with real life practicalities is a fast road to flipping burgers. Which brings me to craft.

Ahhhhh craft.

My definition of craft is essentially art that is useful. I suspect I need to revise the definition now that I've thought closely about it - cross stitch is getting in the way (ha). But on the whole I stand by it. It's a very personal definition, one that I've come up with myself and it certainly doesn't match anything that's found in a dictionary but it does sum up for me why I make things and why, as I see it, the majority of you (my customers) make things. To be useful and to be beautiful whilst we're doing it. It's taking art i.e. beautiful, interesting, thought-provoking things and planting them firmly in the real world.

Ganseys. Read up about ganseys. If you're really interested look here, here and here. Every aspect of the gansey is designed with a use in mind - in the round for strength, arms from the top down for reknitting, gussets for movement and on and on. And you cannot tell me that these are not beautiful?

Beautiful AND useful. 

And look at how that knowledge and style has been brought into the modern era:

Now, I come back to the difference between the art and design sections of the degree show. In my humble opinion, the designers were more helpful than the artists because they've spent their degrees thinking about how to make things work in real life for people as well as being visually pleasing. The artists, as they themselves pointed out, don't have to deal with such earthly matters as allowing for wheelchair access, or putting their labels at head height, or not stopping and staring at people looking at the work as if they're bonkers. How Dee was treated is a very stark, and frankly quite hurtful, physical description (for lack of a better term) of the difference between art and craft.

Now, I'm sure there are people who think that an artist's way of looking at things is brill - certainly the Contemporary do (blurgh). I personally don't, I think there's an exquisite beauty in something that's perfectly suited to the job:

Tube map anybody? And that just can't happen if you're pleasing the artist's eye and nobody else's.

Now we come back to why people are knitting. I think humans love beauty. I think we're poorer now than we have been before. I think that radio and tv presenters and journalists think that knitting is cheap. I think what knitting is is a way of expressing creativity whilst at the same time making something useful. I think that we've come to realise that that's a more cost and time effective way of spending our energy. I think that if the artists that I've come across truly understood this concept they'd be much nicer people (said tongue in cheek. Kinda). 

Right, that's all my little brain can cope with. I'm off to finish my nails which truly are a work of art because they serve no other purpose than to make me smile: 

Ha, you get the idea anyway. 

Love Eleanor. 

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Tee Shirt Market Bag Pattern. Beauts.

Or is it t-shirt? Or t shirt? Or tee? I don't really care  - it's my pattern. Mwahaha.

As usual, I'll be bothering the vocabulary down below, so if you haven't got the time or patience, click here for the pattern and here for the rav link. :)

So, I've been talking about it and promising a pattern for a little while now - the photos were taken on mine and Vezza's posh day out.  I've genuinely been meaning to do it but I've been trying to finish commissions (not happened), boozing at Knit in Public day (did happen. Very badly.) and shopping with my mum! This week just seems to have flown by! And the two weeks before actually disappeared before I had a chance to live them... 

Anyway, I started the tee-shirt whilst Dee was in the shop during one of the weeks that disappeared I think. I kept looking just behind her left shoulder and seeing three colours in the Patons 100% Cotton DK that shouldn't have been together sitting happily on the shelf. And then I thought, well it's hot and I ought to make myself a tee shirt (it was a lie. I. do. not. need. another. knitted. or. crocheted. tee. shirt.). 

The next day I realised it was a bit of a mental colour combo, especially seeing as my new year resolution was to wear more black but I was enjoying the variation of spike stitch - simple, easy and effective and I still loved the colours together so I decided to make it into a bag. It's not how I would have designed a bag if I'd have thought about it but it's functional, big and I've used it every day since... 

I struggled to get a gauge for you for the very reason that I've used it every day and it's stretched out a good way. It's for that reason that I would recommend making only four or five repeats rather than my six. And the same reason that I'm glad that I used the Patons 100% Cotton DK rather than the Bamboo Cotton or the Cottonsoft - they're both just a bit too stretchy for this kind of thing and a market bag needs to be properly bash-about-able too. Thinking about it, the King Cole Craft Cotton would be a lovely replacement if you're looking for a slightly less in your face colour combo (and woohoo, I think that's the first time I've mentioned the Craft Cotton in the blog!). 

I've written the pattern for beginners really, but I'm expecting you to know the stitches (or be able to look them up...), how to use turning chains and how to work in spirals. The two bits that I think might cause some bother I've written up some how-to pdf's for you so that more experienced crocheters don't get a too busy pattern but new crocheters aren't left in the cold. Aren't I brill!?!?!?! 

So, without further ado: 

I'll mention at this point that it hasn't been test crocheted so if you struggle at all get in contact with me and I'll help you and put the pattern right. 

And, as seems to happen more often than not, this bag has a theme tune. Enjoy: 

Let me know how you get on!

Love Eleanor. 

Friday, 14 June 2013

Pattern Addition

We have some new patterns. Well, actually they're pretty old but I lost them under a pile of magazines, yarn and FO's... Bad yso...

There are a few beauts in this new batch. Beauts I tell you. I've already cast two things on. If you're on facebook you'll have seen my question as to whether this colourway is suitable for little girls:

I try not to have much to do with gender stereotypes but I thought this might be too dull for any child and too pink for a boy? I don't know. Old fashioned. Anyway, you lot said it was brill so I cast this on: 

I can't actually say I'm keen but people have been pawing it all day so apparently other people are! :)

Can't be that bad though because I started a pair of these: 

SQUEEEEEEEEEE! I haven't knitted booties forever!

Anyway, the patterns are here and here and it's various colours of the Pricewise DK and a colour of Fab DK that I haven't got on the internet yet (slap my wrist).

So, click here for the patterns. And here's the obligatory pastiche (good word!): 

And I'm going to take the unusual step of highlighting a couple of them because this is a seriously good set of patterns!

Firstly, you may or may not know how much I dislike ponchos but I seriously dislike them. They make my blood boil. But, how, how on earth, am I going to live without one of these in my life!?!?!?!

King Cole have gone overboard with CUTE baby stuff! Almost enough to make me want a baby in the vicinity that I can clothe. And reclothe. And reclothe again. 

A ONESIE! King Cole 3734. And they've promised me an ADULT version. OmG oMg OmG oMg.

HAVE YOU EVER SEEN ANYTHING CUTER IN THE WHOLE WORLD!? Rest assured, when I've finished some of the twenty million projects I've cast on this week I will be knocking up a King Cole 3722 myself. Perhaps in the sage and cream of the Cygnet Aran. Ooooooweeeeeeee. It's beauts ain't it!?!?! Seriously! 

And finally, it came to my attention last week that people might think that I'm cool or sophisticated or know where I'm going in my life. Ohohohohohoh. I am a tit. Let this little tale prove it to you. On Wednesday I decided to start a jumper for Father's day. Because I can totes knit a jumper in four days and run a shop and get these patterns on the internet and finish my commissions and have a social life and watch Big Brother and sleep. Totes. Well. Today, Pat came into the shop for a chat and I'd not got to the position where I could do any work so I settled down with this easy knitting - knit a row, purl a row, knit a row blah blah blah. Couldn't be easier could it? I set it down to admire it: 


Apparently some point yesterday I dropped a load of stitches and didn't notice. Didn't notice that the row was 20 stitches short (that's about four bloody inches short). And there's your proof that I'm a tit. 

Love Eleanor. 

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

King Cole 3006 - A Review (Sort Of...).

On Saturday, after all of the malarkey on Friday, I couldn't even begin to think what work I had to do. I just couldn't face it. So I started another project - I really didn't ought to have done but I didn't have any of the million wips with me. I knew it had to be quick and I wanted a t-shirt-y thing after the unsuccessful t-shirt-turned-bag-episode. Crochet was the only way to go and pattern 3006 was something I've had my eye on for a while. It's originally crocheted in the King Cole Merino Blend DK but I wanted a summer top and I love the Cottonsoft DK, I just had to choose the colour. My new year's resolution was to wear more black and the only other option was the wine but we only had one ball of that so decision made. I ended up with this:

Which I'm really happy with as an easy to wear summer top. (Not quite so happy with my modelling skills...).

The pattern is well written and clear. I would go as far as to say it would make a fab first garment. I'm not keen on the other side though I can see it in a horsey-countryside sort of setting...

I was pleased with my choice of yarn - reckon it would look lovely in the Bamboo Cotton too - however, I suspect it's a bit thicker than the original. I got 4 rather than 4.5 stitches to the inch but naturally, didn't do a gauge swatch so didn't notice until a few inches in. At this point I thought that the set up was a front and a back sewn together and I've made something like that before, here:

That's King Cole 3491 in navy Bamboo Cotton DK

Completely by accident I made the front and back different sizes here and it worked quite well. I never follow a pattern exactly for the length, so the only difference there was the width of the pieces. It's actually a pretty easy way of giving a slight shape to a garment if you're bigger in front that you are in back (naturally I want to talk about short rows and darts but not everybody's got the time, patience or knowledge for that so different sizes will do). 

If, as I had suspected, the front and back had been two separate pieces this little garment would have been a lot easier. But actually, you work the front, the arms shaping and the neck shaping and then start increasing for the back neck before chaining across the neck opening at the back and then into the back. Does that make sense? Think I may have over-egged that explanation... Once I'd realised that this was the shape I was kind of thinking that it would be simple, I'd just chain less for the neck opening and all would be well but the stitch pattern is six stitches and I'd have had to think about it to get it right and since when have I wanted to think about my crochet? In the end I fudged that bit a little, used the actual stitch count for the chain and then increased a bit when I knew it wasn't going to be quite right.

It makes the shape a bit off-the-shouldery which I like:

I made it all the more difficult by changing the amount of stitches that I added for the sleeves - I just like mine a bit smaller so I did six instead of 10. Those stitches are part of the count around the neckline obviously so I just fudged it a bit. I tend to like my necklines wider than King Cole do (a phobia of things touching my neck if you must know... although onto in certain circumstances) so not only was I messing with the numbers of the sleeves, I was messing with the numbers of the neckline and then I was messing with the numbers of the chain...

What I suggest is that you do a gauge swatch. Ha. You might be more on point if you do use the Bamboo Cotton because it's a fair bit smoother than the Cottonsoft and you might just find that it makes enough of a difference to get gauge without messing around too much. I'm sure if I'd have done a swatch I'd have gone down a hook size (maybe to the 3.5mm in the tiger stripes ) and would be able to wear it without a top underneath - as it is, it's pretty risque.

The stitch pattern is so simple it's unbelieveable. Really effective. For anybody that's wondering, you can do all of those stitches at the end of our Crochet Number One lesson, simple trebles and chains so it's just a matter of confidence in making garments. I think they maybe over explain the stitch pattern - once I'd finished the second row of the pattern I knew where we were going so a good four rows of explanation went unread - but it's a good handhold for newbie crocheters.

Now we come to the only thing that I really thought about before changing rather than just fudges because I'd done something else wrong. The sleeves.

The pattern asks you to get to where the sleeves are and put the body down, use a separate bit of yarn to slipknot and chain nine and then carry on across the body, chaining nine at the end. This is to avoid that 'step'  issue when you add chains at the end of the next two rows in crochet, with the stitches being so tall. What I did instead was to, when I got to where I needed to be, ch6 (or whatever it was), turn, work trebles into the ch, carry on with my row and work foundation treble crochets at the other end. That meant that I avoided the 'step' effect but I didn't have the ballache of sewing in extra ends and it's just a whole lot more elegant, and, if I'm nothing else I'm always elegant...

(Foundation treble crochet - note US terms (i.e. our tr is their dc) apparently no English people have made a video...). 

On the back you have to come in for the arms rather than adding stitches and they ask you to get to the end of a row and then slip-stitch to where you need to start the next row, I just stopped early on the row before. 

I also haven't done any of the edgings required - they're pretty simple dc's all the way around. I sometimes feel that edgings, even simple ones like that, make crochet look old fashioned and too 'finished' - just my opinion. 

And talking about old-fashioned, as I was crocheting I was increasingly overtaken by the idea that I should have made this in white and it might have fitted it with the must-have-festival look for this year - crochet!! 

If I were to make it for this kind of look, I'd deffo use the Patons 100% Cotton DK, but it's not really my style, can't see me taking time off for festivals this year so I'll just leave the thought out there for all you young trendies.


Pattern: King Cole 3006
Yarn Used: Cottonsoft DK
Size Made: Weird mix of 40/42 inch and 36/38 inch. 
Easy?: Deffo!!!
Changes Made: Sizing, foundation treble crochet used for the sleeves and no slip-stitches on the sleeves coming back.

Overall a dead good pattern and I'm pleased to have another wearable tee in my wardrobe. 

Love Eleanor. xxx

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Fannying About in front of Proper Business Owners and Politicians.

WOW! Yesterday was quite a day! The weather was spectacular, the place was stunning and I was, as always, effervescent. Ha.

First thing's first, I'll post the speech:

Hmph. It's really hard looking at yourself on video. It took me three attempts to watch this but overall I'm pretty happy. I spoke too quick and waved my arms around too much. I'm also slightly worried that I made us sound like something out of Grand Theft Auto. I maybe should have made it more clear that the vast majority of my time is spent with my lovely customers talking about wool, knitting, crochet, gossip and drinking tea. My mum also reckons I should have taken more time to speak 'properly' but that's not how I speak so I'm pretty happy that I didn't.

Having said all of that, whilst I was eating my (beauts) lunch I had all sorts of people coming up to congratulate me and do something about it! WHAT!??! I wasn't expecting that! I seem to have hit some sort of a nerve. Vernon Coaker MP (for Gedling) actually texted Paddy Tipping (Police Commissioner for Nottinghamshire) in front of my eyes and told me that if Paddy didn't ring then I had to e-mail him. I spoke to Richard Stones of the National Business Crime Forum - he has all sorts of letters after his name but, I think most importantly, his wife has her own small business and is a fellow member of the FSB. We also met Mark Spencer who is the MP for Sherwood (and therefore Verity's MP) whose wife also owns a small(ish) business (Spring Lane Farm Shop) he came up to me afterwards to tell me I was brill and I, really weirdly, found him rather attractive...

Now, this is all brill, fantastic and if something gets done then all the stress was worth it. But, why should I have had to do that in order to get some sort of service?! Let me remind us all that no fingerprints were taken at a break-in! None! Why the bloody hell not?! And what about all the other people who've been treated like that and haven't got the platform or the confidence to speak like I did? Now, I know that there's nothing that can be done for my actual crimes but I'm going to do my damndest to get something changed. Whilst bearing in mind that I'm no longer a lawyer, nor am I a politician, I'm not really even a business person - I am a mere knitter and I'll try not to get myself bogged down.

Right - let's get on with the day. It's going to be a mixture of mine and Verity's photos because on the whole we took the same ones and mine are a bit more blurred than hers - terrible photographer. I'll post a link to her blog because she's deffo going to write one but hasn't got round to it yet and I know I'll forget to link when she does so maybe she'll have done it by the time that you read this... 

So, we met earlyish at Starbucks to have a calming coffee before we set off. We had some rants together, called a taxi and we were off! As we rounded the corner to the house we were both blown away. I'd completely forgotten how stunning it was:

Me looking a bit shocked. 

At this point I was a bit overwhelmed. So glad to have Verity there wittering on about bits and bobs because I might have pooed my pants that that point. And that would seriously have shown me up... 

We signed in and got our name badges: 

Which Verity said made this a very. posh. engagement. Oh dear. 

We milled around a bit taking 'photos for the blog': 

And then a lady rushed out to tell us that I was down to do some filming. Oh god. I had no idea! But them I am the least organised person in the world so it's probably my fault... She took us up to a smallish but grandly-painted room in which we met THREE FIT BOYS! FIT! Omg! I felt like a teenager. And then I had to sit there and be filmed whilst I talked about why small businesses are important. I lost it a little and did indeed say 'fml' at least once... Vezza says I was professional but she would say that...


We went to the toilet....

STUNNING IS NOT THE WORD! We were so excited we squealed quite a lot! Screeching... I hope nobody heard us. 

My bag looks at home here... 

Look at that marble! That big slab of marble!

Hand carved? Beauts!

The corridor in and out. 

Us in the mirror. V. myspace. 

Vezza, Vezza's bag and I enjoying the thrones. :)

Then we made our way into the reception room and stood around waiting. I was so nervous I started crocheting and then Vezza followed suit with knitting and we spoke to a few people but on the whole we sat in the corner wishing we were in business suits or that the people around us were wearing something more comfortable... 

We enjoyed looking at the booze cupboard: 

And then we sat outside in the sunshine. The speeches were late (I think) so it was a while. A lovely while: 


Then we all piled into the room where the speeches were taking place. I asked Verity to film me so that's up at the top and she took a few photos before that started. I was a bit put on edge because I was supposed to be last but the lovely people before us from Aubergine Cuisine had a mix up with their slides so I had to get up earlier than expected. But it was fine: 


Then it was time for lunch and we were sat on tables with very. important. people. I had no idea what to do so I channeled the Titanic cutlery scene and started from the outside. People kept talking to me and I was the last one to finish each course. That never happens. Never. 

We went out for a fag after lunch and to take some photos of my new bag (pattern-ish to follow I promise): 

And we ended up going for an impromptu stroll around the lake and grounds which meant that we didn't get to say goodbye to anybody. 

So I'm going to to the professional thing and e-mail them today. 

It was worth it though: 


Once we'd walked all around the big lake and put the world to rights, we headed towards the road and ended up walking through a meadow type thing which was lovely. We rang for a taxi and sat down for nearly half an hour whilst it battled through traffic. Lovely. 

I honestly thought that I'd be good and do some work after this but we went for a beer and then I had a BBQ and then I spent the rest of the night crocheting and admiring my granny squares. I was knick-knacked. 

And what a glooooooorious day it was!

I'll keep you updated if anything comes of it. 

Love Eleanor. xx