On the value of craft

If you frequent various social media outlets on a regular basis you probably will have seen this article from The Observer causing a bit of a stir amongst the online knitting community.

If you can’t be bothered to read the whole article (and I don’t blame you – it’s almost guaranteed to raise your hackles) here’s a quick summary of the main points:

  • Knitting used to be a necessity.  Now it isn’t.

Fair enough, knitting used to be cheaper than buying ready made clothes, so being able to knit and sew was an important skill.  Now high street bought clothes are cheaper to buy than knitting or sewing your own, so you don’t have to.

  • Once knitting wasn’t a necessity it was an activity only practised by grannies.  To quote the article, knitting is:

old-fashioned and something you did if you were a little frail and didn’t get out much

Oh good, a well worn stereotype.  Knitting is just for grannies!  Are you feeling cross yet?  Well brace yourself, we’re not finished!

  • Knitting has been revived thanks in part to celebrities who knit, such as Kate Moss and the Duchess of Cambridge.

Of course, we’re all shallow little girls who want to do whatever Princesses and models do!  I started knitting nearly eight years ago, not because of celebrities or anything like that, but because when I was a child I’d had a knitting kit with appalling instructions and it had always beaten me.  I was quite poorly at the time (and no longer a child) and in some ways life had beaten me, through no fault of my own.  So I thought maybe I can conquer this!  Then I will have done something worthwhile!  With the help of books (not the internet) I taught myself.  At the time I had no idea that knitting would help me rebuild my life like it has done, but I got addicted and it just went from there.  (The rest is another story for another time.)

I’d also like to point out that knitting has been in a revival for the past decade, not just the past week, and perhaps this is more likely to be down to the internet and social media (Ravelry and it’s 4 million members anyone?) which has improved access to patterns, yarns and information and made solving your knitting problems easier than ever before (YouTube is a godsend if you’re stuck with a technique).

Perhaps handknits coming back into fashion also plays a role.  Knitting patterns are so much more fashion led now than ever before and all yarn companies and magazines study fashion trends in both garment styles and yarn colours and textures when launching their new ranges.

But of course knitting is basically a waste of time because to quote the article again:

Needlecraft, it seems, is just not relevant to the reality of modern women’s lives.

If that wasn’t enough, the article goes on to even more bizarre territory:

  •  Needlecraft is mentioned in Greek mythology, but according to myths, legends and fairytales, spinners are power crazed and evil.

What?  How is this relevant?

  • Knitting is empowering and Ghandi knitted, spun and wove.

Is this included for balance after the evil fairytale spinners?

  • Knitting is subversive

This statement is not qualified.

So to sum up, according to this article, knitting isn’t something anyone needs to do, it’s old fashioned and mainly practised by grannies, if you’re not a granny, you must be knitting because celebrities knit, because knitting is irrelevant, the stuff of myth, legend and fairy stories but subversive all at the same time.  You know the worst thing?  This article was supposedly written by a knitter.

Personally I think these attitudes and poorly written articles are all part of wider perception that crafts in general are unimportant, outdated, a waste of time, or produce silly and badly made things that nobody wants.

But why are crafts not valued?  I don’t think I have a definitive answer to that.

But I do have a few thoughts on what might contribute to this view.

Maybe we have to look to the experience of crafts that non-crafters have.  When do all of us make things?  At school, I suppose, and being inexperienced in making, often the products of school crafting are not as well executed as they might be.  But you’re just learning so that’s fine and only to be expected.

We all have to start somewhere and which of us can honestly say that our first attempts at knitting were perfect?  Certainly not me!  My first piece of knitting had very loose stitches at the start and very tight stitches at the end and all the stitches were knitted through the back of the loop!

I present exhibit A, my first ever piece of knitting:

20140416-205825.jpg

The only way to become proficient at something is practice.  There is no shortcut to skill and if you only try a particular craft once you never have the opportunity to improve and improving your skills is very rewarding.

Now for exhibit B: Look what I can design and make now!

Avocetta Capelet

Avocetta (Photograph Copyright Dam Walmsley for Practical Publishing 2013)

 

The other common experience of knitting in particular is the unwanted Christmas jumper, knitted by the well meaning elderly relative who didn’t realise that you wouldn’t like it.  I can’t say that this was something I experienced myself, but lazy journalism does tend to refer to this quite often when mentioning knitting so I suppose we have to assume that it is one of the things that springs to mind when knitting is mentioned (think Bridget Jones’ Diary).  See my guide to gift knitting to avoid disappointment and the unwanted Christmas knit!

If these are the only things someone associates with craft, is it any wonder that it is undervalued?  If you’ve never spent the hours, days, weeks or even sometimes months it takes to make a sweater (hideously Christmassy or otherwise), or spent even longer getting good enough to attempt that sweater in the first place, you won’t be able to see why paying £20 at a craft fair for an adult sweater is pitifully inadequate.  (Of course this leads into the free pattern debate, but I don’t want to open that particular can of worms right now.)

But is the attitude to crafts improving?  Certainly in some areas of the media I think.  The Great British Sewing Bee, for example presents sewing as a worthwhile activity that takes time, patience and skill, but rather than present the competition in an X-Factor style, the BBC has chosen to focus on the enjoyment and camaraderie of the craft, the joy of learning new skills and improving.  All the sewers gain from the experience, which is wonderful.  I’d love the media to view more crafts in this way.

Phew!  What a long post!  I’d love to hear your thoughts, whether you’re a crafter or not.  I’m sure there’s more I could say on the subject and I certainly can’t claim to have covered everything, but I hope I’ve been able to set the record straight a little.

For more insight and opinions on the Observer article, check out the hashtag #ANDknitting on twitter set up in response to the article and the assertion that knitters have too much time on their hands.  There are some really well thought out blog posts to be found and much better written than the original piece, especially this and this.

Next time I’ll have a new design to show you :) along with the story behind it!

Lottie x

 

A.W.O.L.

This post starts with an apology. I have been very neglectful of my little blog recently, but unfortunately this has been unavoidable.

First, deadlines for new designs kept me away, though I expect that when said designs are published it will prove to have been more than worth it!

Much as I would like to keep my blog updated at least once or twice a week, I have to remember that the reason I have a blog is because I design knitting patterns and if it wasn’t for that, this space wouldn’t exist at all. There are only so many hours in the day, so with freelance design deadlines and going to my day job, at some stage something has to give.

Well, the deadlines have been met, but since then other things have kept me away. Personal, non-knitting related things. To be perfectly truthful I would quite like to start the year again, as apart from the excitement of my first front cover (which I would have gladly traded for all the other things to be fixed) everything else has been difficult, upsetting and exhausting. Some of those closest to me have been put through the mill and this is always a very difficult thing to witness, especially when you are in many ways powerless to fix any aspect of it.

Anyway, enough of the doom and gloom. Things are beginning to slowly return to normal, so I thought I should pop in and let you know I’m still here and haven’t dropped off the face of the earth.

I guess you probably want to know what I’ve been knitting as well!
A little while ago I started Ysolda Teague’s incredibly successful Follow Your Arrow KAL, so when a few moments have been free for a bit of relaxation I’ve knitted a few more rows on this.

I’m up to the final clue on this now (the clues I’ve chosen – each of the five clues have an A or B option – are BAAAA, which surely makes it a sheep shawl :) this pleases me greatly even though it is really a happy accident!) and I’ve really enjoyed seeing this take shape. I expect that time to make another will be in short supply, but I’d love to make more with different combinations of clues!

20140319-140406.jpg

Please excuse the iPad picture! In reality the red is more of a coral red than the orange it looks in the picture, but the blues are fairly accurate.

As you might be aware if you’ve been participating in the KAL as well, the pattern is really for either one or two colours, but I’ve decided to use three colours because 1) I just can’t leave a pattern alone without faffing about with it to make it my own, and 2) I wanted to make a shawl to go with the budgie print dress underneath it in the picture and these colours of Araucania Botany Lace from my stash were just perfect! I’ve seen a couple of other three colour shawls on Ravelry that looked good, so I just decided to go with it. I did start with a plan of how to use the colours, then promptly forgot what it was and just decided to wing it, but I’m pretty happy with how it looks at the moment despite this.

Hopefully normal service will be resumed shortly, but I need a little time to re cooperate first! I’ll try to catch up with your blogs when I feel up to it.

Take care of yourselves!

Lottie x

Tian – A rather unusual design story!

Yesterday, I showed you my latest design, Tian, a pair of fairisle mittens that (to my great excitement, as this is a first for me) made the front cover of Let’s Knit! magazine:

Let's Knit Issue 76 February 2014

Copyright Let’s Knit! 2014

At the end of the post I mentioned that Marvin might be involved in the rather daft design story behind these mittens.  Perplexed?  Well, prepare to be less perplexed (and quite possibly think I’m completely mad).

Marvin, for those of you who might be new to this blog, is a rather dapper little meerkat:

Marvin the Meerkat!

Meet Marvin the Meerkat!
(Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013)

I made him about a year ago, after my brother bought me a particularly amusing knitting book for Christmas called ‘Knitted Meerkats’ by Sue Stratford (if you click that link and look at the projects on Ravelry you’ll see that Marvin has many little knitted cousins around the world).  Anyway, meerkats are desert creatures, used to warmer climes than chilly, wet and generally dismal Britain in winter, so Marvin was clearly going to need something to wear.

The book has a section of different meerkats that you can make, each with it’s own outfit, some of with are separate and some sewn on.  One of these is the skiing meerkat who wears a sweater and bobble hat along with his knitted skis.  In the book, the sweater is a fairly simple affair, striped with a small band of fairisle dots in white mohair yarn against a pale blue background, but I had a different picture in my head of the sweater I wanted to make.  To be a true skier, Marvin needed a proper, Nordic style fairisle sweater:

Marvin's Nordic sweater

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

I wanted to put a snowflake on the front, but the area to play with was too small, so I charted out the size of the original sweater and fiddled about with the stitches until I had something I liked.  I had to alter the shape of the sweater quite a lot to make it fit, as the stranded pattern changed the tension compared to the original.

It’s so cosy, Marvin even went out in the snow last March:

Marvin's Nordic sweater

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

After I’d finished the sweater, my Mum mentioned that she liked the motif, and did I think it would work as an all over pattern?  Never one to refuse a challenge, I started charting, and after a few alterations I knitted a swatch:

Tian Swatch

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

Once I’d knitted this, especially after adding the folded picot hem at the top and the corrugated ribbing at the bottom edge, it was clear to me that the swatch wanted to be mittens.  So it was time to sketch:

Tian Mittens Swatch

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

I sent it off to Sarah at Let’s Knit and she liked it!  Before I knew it my first choice of yarn (and a personal favourite), Manos Del Uruguay Fino (70% wool, 30% silk) in #2440 Lapis and #2800 Cream had arrived, so last summer I got started and knitted them up!

Tian Mittens

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

The pattern goes right the way round the mittens, even on the palms, and the thumbs have their own smaller complementary pattern (I love the thumbs on these!):

Tian Mittens

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

(You can tell this was in August from the flowers in the background!)  Then, yesterday, the best bit, seeing them in print:

Tian Mitts

Copyright Let’s Knit! 2014

…. and on the front cover of the magazine, something I certainly never dreamed of when I set out to make Marvin the meerkat a silly, overcomplicated fairisle sweater and wrote this:

Marvin has a sweater, but as I decided to make up a fairisle pattern for it, as the sweater in the book was too simple (i.e. perfectly adequate for anyone without a burning and unnecesary desire for fairisle) – and Marvin deserves only the best ;)

Basically I made a small stuffed meerkat an overcomplicated fairisle sweater (sanity anyone?), which turned into an idea for an overall repeating pattern (which I am swatching), I can’t show it to you, because it might become a design.  *sigh*

Yay!

Let's Knit! Issue 76 cover

Copyright Let’s Knit! 2014

Yes, I am still doing a happy dance.

No you can’t see.

It’s not very dignified.

Happy Knitting lovely blog followers!

Lottie xx

(P.S. Is it wrong for me to be just a little bit chuffed at being in the same magazine as Pauline McLynn, who played Mrs Doyle in Father Ted?  She knits too!)

First front cover!

Exciting news!

I’ve got a design on the front cover of a magazine! Look, these are my blue and white fairisle mittens!

20140116-223341.jpg

This is the latest issue of Let’s Knit! Magazine (Issue 76) out tomorrow (I can’t wait to go and get a copy!) and there is a rather interesting (if slightly daft) design story behind them, but you’ll have to wait until tomorrow for that! The mittens are called Tian and you can see them on Ravelry here. I can’t believe my mittens are the cover picture, I’ve had small pictures of my designs on magazine covers before, which is always pretty exciting, but never as the main picture and I love the photos (more pics tomorrow). If I had more energy this evening I’d be bouncing off the walls!

Sorry for the lack of posts recently, I am still here, I’ve not dropped off the face of the earth, just been really, really busy (up until half two in the morning knitting big fairisle sample/lace and cable sample/trying to get a pattern tested/doing tax return kind of busy). And by the weekend I will be again! Don’t get me wrong, busy is good, but busy is also tiring and lacking in social contact (both in person and online) and it makes you feel guilty for not working (even on Christmas Day – I am my own worst boss), so I’m sorry I’ve been off the radar for over a month!

I hope you all had a good holiday season and I’m looking forward to catching up on all your blogs!

More tomorrow (Marvin my be involved in the daft design story – if you can guess how, you can have a little prize from my stash ;) )!

Lottie xx

Marvin Needs YOU!

Marvin Needs YOU!

Are you looking for a speedy stash busting project?  Do you have a little bit of extra time to check the pattern while you’re knitting it?  Then Marvin Needs YOU!

Ok, well I need you actually, Marvin can’t knit or type, so he’s basically nonplussed about it.  But he did agree to a pose for a photo.  You might remember that earlier this week I did a mini photo shoot and there were some photos that I couldn’t show you yet.

Well, I’ve made this cowl (I’ve knitted two of these now) and the pattern is written up and ready to go up on to Ravelry as a pre-Christmas treat for you all, but first I need to be absolutely sure that it is correct, so I need some pattern testers :) if you’d be interested in testing this for me, full details can be found on Ravelry in the Free Pattern Testers group here.  You don’t need to be an experienced tester, just willing to have a go!

If you want to know what all the fuss is about, here’s a couple of little teaser pics:

Hadlow Cowl

Photo copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

Hadlow Cowl

Photo Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

If you can’t get on to the test, don’t worry, there will be a KAL when the pattern goes live so you can get a cowl made in time for Christmas :)

Hope you like it!

Lottie x

Autumn Bloom Mitts

Yesterday, I did a little photoshoot (that sounds very grand doesn’t it?  It’s not, I just went out with my Dad and a camera and tried to get a few pictures taken in between persuading passers by that we weren’t completely mad).

I can’t show you most of the pictures just yet, but I did take my Autumn Bloom mitts (by the very talented Rachel Atkinson) with me and we managed a decent picture of them at the end just before my Dad’s notoriously short attention span wore thin (he doesn’t really understand designing or why I do it, so there are only so many photos you can get him to take before he gets bored and a bit Victor Meldrew-ish).

Despite this I am grateful for him giving me a hand, because unless I clone myself I can’t model my knits and take photos of them at the same time (I suppose I could use a tripod and self timer, but then I’d get some even funnier looks!) and he can take good pictures as long as you give him very specific instructions!

Autumn Bloom Mitts by Rachel Atkinson

Autumn Bloom Mitts by Rachel Atkinson
Photo Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

I’m so pleased with these!  They were really fun to knit, I’ve already worn them loads and I used up some Mirasol Qina that had been lurking in my stash for ages.  I’m pretty pleased with the picture too actually – thanks Dad!

The mitts are Ravelled (is that a word?) here.

What have you been making?

Lottie x

Echo Mitts

Exciting news!  I have a pattern in the latest issue of Let’s Knit, out today (Friday 15th November)!

Echo Mitts

Copyright Let’s Knit Magazine 2013 (used with kind permission)

These are my Echo mitts knitted in Manos Del Uruguay Fino (my favourite, I’ve used it so many times and I really love knitting with it) and Rowan Kidsilk Haze (another yarn I keep coming back to).

Like many good ideas, these mitts came from another idea that didn’t work as well as I’d hoped.  I’d had the Manos Fino left over from Cleome and I’d bought one ball of Kidsilk Haze with the intention of combining it with another yarn.

I had intended to swatch for some ruched mittens and picked these yarns out simply because they happened to be near to each other in a rather disorganised section of my stash and I noticed how well they co-ordinated with each other (unusual for two yarns from different manufacturers, as each brand tends to have it’s own colour palette – Debbie Bliss yarns for example often include a duck egg blue in their colour range and Rowan tend to have fewer very bright colours than other brands, Louisa Harding yarns also tend to have a very distinctive palette which crops up across her whole range).

The ruched idea didn’t really work and just looked a mess, but I liked the contrast between the textures of the yarns, so I undid the swatch and started again, working broad stripes (without ruching this time) and a pretty lacy scalloped edging.

Then I added a garter stitch edge on one side and some buttons:

Echo Mitts swatch

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

… and a cosy lined hem:

Echo Mitts swatch

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

I didn’t really plan the design before swatching, instead just going with whichever design elements I liked best.  Sometimes I think this is when you design best, when the ideas just flow on to your needles without thinking too hard or overanalysing what works and what doesn’t.  Sometimes you just know if you’re happy with it or not.

Then it was time for a sketch:

Echo Mitts sketch

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

Once they had been commissioned all that was left was to knit them up (while watching Father Ted on 4od, which kept me sane as I didn’t have very long to make them – but then it’s easy to look sane compared to most of the characters) and write up the pattern – not much if you say it quickly!

It’s been a little while since I made these, but it’s really nice to see them professionally photographed :) I can’t wait to get the sample back, so I can wear them.  They’re really comfy to wear, incredibly light but really warm because the mohair in the Kidsilk Haze traps the heat despite it’s sheer appearance.

Echo Mitts

Copyright Let’s Knit 2013 (used with kind permission)

If you fancy making a pair they don’t take very much yarn, I used less than half a skein of each, so you could easily make two pairs from a skein of each yarn, or use left overs of plain 4ply yarn and laceweight in either coordinating or contrasting colours.  They’d look great in black and white – or how about using Rowan Kidsilk Haze Eclipse or Debbie Bliss Party Angel (both of which have a bit of sparkle) instead of Rowan Kidsilk Haze for a more glamourous look?

Alternatively, if you wanted you could use two 4ply yarns and use up your stash!  I made the sample in a week, so you’ve got plenty of time to make some for Christmas gifts if you’re feeling generous :)

Hope you like them!

Lottie x