Tag Archives: Free Form Knitting

And do something different now…

About three years ago a friend and fellow gardener told me of a wonderful book she had read called The Morville Hours .  Written by Katherine Swift it tells the story of the creation of a garden at the Dower House in Morville, Shropshire.   The Morville Hours is not your normal gardening book of Latin plant names (don’t do them), pests (got too many of them) and so on; rather it is an invitation to follow the author on a very personal journey of self-discovery with digressions into planting, history, nature and the priniciples of the Benedictine Rule.   I know this because three years after Susan lent me the book, I have reached page 164 (which means there are 184 to go: at this rate I will finish the book in October 2019).

Dyffryn Gardens (National Trust)
Dyffryn Gardens (National Trust)

I should now apologise to those who lectured on the Creative Writing Course at the University of Glamorgan, in particular Maria Donovan , Barrie Llewlyn and Rob Middlehurst because my speed and enthusiasm for reading books is no further advanced now than when they despaired of me between 2004-2007.  Maria instilled the values of sharp editing and good punctuation into me, Barrie taught me objectivity and quality control while Rob and I shared a fondness for 1940s detective stories and surreal humour.   None of them persuaded me to read for the sake of reading.

For a little while I considered whether I should continue my embryonic career in writing but when push came to shove, I found that I could either write or sew – there wasn’t enough in my creative reservoir to do both.  The call of the needle and thread proved stronger than the pen or keyboard and the rest is history.  Except, that is, for me  nurturing a small disappointment that I never did the MPhil in Creative Writing.  At the end of this month however, I embark on the MA in Contemporary Crafts at Hereford College of Arts which should satisfy my postgraduate tendencies for a bit.

Carnedd Cynddylan
Carnedd Cynddylan

I was accepted onto the MA course by virtue of embroideries like ‘Carnedd Cynddylan’ and ‘Dark Tonight’, and tempted by the prospect of learning how to blow glass and forge metal that I could use on pieces of Textile Art.

dark tonight

Over the summer my idea for the MA project has developed and spread like one of the plants in Katherine Swift’s garden.  At first I intended it all to be inspired by my interest in landscape history.  Then I thought about how I could incorporate myth and legend; next came the need to include artefacts and relics; now I realise I have the opportunity to include all the things I learnt through studying Creative Writing with Maria, Barrie and Rob.  Whether all my ideas and plans will ripen into fruition is another matter but I am nothing if not optimistic.

Back at the start of the year I set myself some goals (as opposed to New Year’s Resolutions).  The first was to do some form of further education so I think that one can be ticked off as achieved (or at least a work in progress until December 2017).  Another was to end the year leaner and fitter than I started it.  To this end my sister and I have been doing a 500 mile challenge to raise money for the British Heart Foundation. (You can track our progress here .)  It started back in March with the Carmarthen Mayor’s Race and

I am not the green dragon.
I am not the green dragon.

our challenge finishes next weekend at the Swansea Bay 10k.  In between, my quota of 250 miles has seen me doing a fabulous run around the National Botanic Gardens of Wales,  trekking miles along the wonderful Wales Coastal Path

Llanrhystud Beach
Llanrhystud Beach

and completing the iconic Severn Bridge Half Marathon.

Sut ydy’r her  o deithio 500 milltir cysylltiedig â Chelf Tecstilau?  Oherwydd fy mod i’n cael fy syniadau gorau drwy bod y tu allan.  Does dim ots a fydda i’n rhedeg, cerdded neu eistedd a chael picnic!  Mae rhaid i fi fod yn yr awyr agored i gael syniadau ac ysbrydoliaeth am waith creadigol.

In much the same way as Katherine Swift and the garden at Morville came together to produce a magical book that was as much about the human condition as it was about gardening, I find that just being outside is a huge inspiration to my Textile Art.  I saw  the glistening raindrops on moss covered stone walls that edged the lanes I was running through at the National Botanic Gardens of Wales, I felt the sense of isolation and aloneness along parts of the Ceredigion coast and I smelt the swirling muddy waters of the Severn Estuary.  These are memories which no camera could capture as an image.  The next time you find yourself short of inspiration, try moving through the landscape whether it’s a worked garden like the one at Morville , the wild and rugged hills of Wales or anything you are within reach of!

 

 

Less is More

“You can’t see the forest for the trees”

Once I make up my mind to do something I am completely committed.  It’s getting to the point where I make up my mind that causes me trouble.  Take going on holiday for example.  When I was young there was no choice when it came to destination or activity.  We had days out  when Mum convinced us that walking miles, beachcombing and swishing little fishing nets in mountain streams were the ultimate holiday pastime.  Picnics of squidgy beef spread sandwiches and  warm orange squash with the promise of an ice cream cornet for good behaviour were all we wanted – which is just as well because that was all we got.

Black Mountains Picnic
Black Mountains Picnic

These days I keep my holidays short and pack them with all sorts of activity.  Last week I combined walking part of the Wales Coast Path with, amongst other things, meeting my chum Lorraine from Greenweeds.  Lorraine tries her very best to get me interested in and interacting with social media.  To some extent, she has succeeded but not, I suspect, in the way she anticipated when she created this website.  Anyway, let’s go back to the Wales Coast Path.  The weather on Tuesday started off cold and squally and ended up like the tail end of a hurricane.  Not ideal conditions to be walking along cliff tops with waves crashing on jagged rocks a couple of hundred feet below.  Nevertheless I started walking at Llanrhystud and aimed for Aberystwyth.

Is this the way to ...
Is this the way to …

Before the weather closed in I got some spectacular views of where I’d been

Llanrhystud Beach
Llanrhystud Beach

and where I was going.

Yes,  that path is heading for the cliff edge ...
Yes, that path is heading for the cliff edge …

Photographs like this are not much use to me as an artist.  They’ve got too much detail and not enough atmosphere to remind me of what it was like to actually be in the landscape.  Diolch byth am fy llyfr sgets!  Mewn gwirionedd, dw i ddim yn dda iawn yn tynnu neu beintio go iawn ond dw i’n mwynhau sgetsio. Using a sketchbook allows me to pare down the information and give myself a starting point for a piece of textile art.  These are some of my sketches of the part of the Wales Coast Path between Llanrhystud and Aberystwyth and I don’t apologise to purists for the standard of drawing.

Sketches on Artist Trading Cards
Sketches on Artist Trading Cards

These sketches are the size of Artist Trading Cards and you can find out more about the background of ATCs here.  They are a perfect example of how working with less can bring you more.  Even if you don’t get involved in the trading aspect, restricting your design information to a small piece of card can really focus your mind on what’s important in your artwork.  ATCs are a great way to network with other artists but also help you to develop your own abilities.

Day 2 of the holiday involved a trip to Dolgellau to visit the amazing wool shop Knit One , which is run by the beautiful black cat, Bramble Murgatroyd and her assistants, Angharad and Kate.

Bramble surveys her realm
Bramble surveys her realm

Bramble, Angharad, Kate & I would never have encountered each other if it hadn’t been for Lorraine persuading me to use Twitter as a form of micro-blogging.  In 140 characters and 4 images, I can show the world – or at least the tweeting part of it – what I’m up to as an artist.  I soon realised that more people are interested in what Lily, my cat, is doing than what I’m creating.  In this example of less being more, getting a tweet from Bramble about how cats don’t like circular knitting needles, led to me spending a fabulous morning in Knit One having a lesson in how to knit using a  magic loop.  On the journey back to Aberystwyth, my sketchbook was at hand, recording less detail and more memory prompts.

Slopes of Cader Idris and Tal-y-Llyn
Slopes of Cader Idris and Tal-y-Llyn
Near Corris
Near Corris

With a rucsac packed full of fleece that Lorraine didn’t want, day 3 saw me back in Llanrhystud, this time walking the coast path south towards Aberaeron.  The weather was glorious, the terrain kinder and the views spectacular.  I could put some photographs here to prove it but my third example of less being more comes from looking for shapes and lines rather than a whole picture.

Shapes, textures, shadows
Shapes, textures, shadows
Lines and angles
Lines and angles
Balance
Balance

Incidentally on my way back from Dolgellau I called into the Centre for Alternative Technology which is where I first discovered Permaculture.  For ditherers like me, being spoiled for choice can be a real challenge because I spend too much time and effort on trying to deal with the whole picture Instead of the bits which are important.  There’s a great website describing Permaculture principles that you can view here and I’ve deliberately directed you to Principle 7 which is about designing from patterns to details – useful when you can’t see the forest for the trees .

Last word to Bramble
Last word to Bramble

 

 

 

 

Too much of anything isn’t good

“Nid da rhy o ddim”

Let’s get the important stuff out of the way first:  Aunty Betty the chicken has made a full recovery and rejoined the rest of the flock.  I can hear your sigh of relief from here but before you get too comfortable and secure, you should know that Miss Myfanwy Price (our Jack Russell) has developed a problem in the Waterworks department.  It is like going back to her puppy hood: the familiar little crouch coupled with the guilty look – I’m talking about her now, not me – followed by a new stain on the carpet.  Is it any wonder that I’m having ‘stitcher’s block’?

Miss Myfanwy Price
Miss Myfanwy Price

Actually the reason I’ve been having ‘stitcher’s block’ is not because of a dearth of ideas but because I’ve been having too many of them.  If you’ve ready any of my previous blogs, you’ll know that I’m not brilliant at keeping journals or sketchbooks which means all the ideas jostle about in what passes for my brain.  Add to the chaos a garden which demands more attention that I can give, animals with genitourinary issues and a bit too much interest from other people in my work as an artist and you have a perfect recipe to stop someone like me from threading a needle.

mumma doll

Luckily at this time of year, the pressure builds in the form of Christmas Craft Fairs.  I wish I could say that I only do these to earn the money but I don’t.  I do them because I love being part of events like the RWAS Winter Fair.  Two new events for me are the Green Fayre and the Christmas Fairs at The Wildlife Trust’s Parc Slip Reserve.  More pressure has built because I have agreed to demonstrate crafts at these last two.  I’m going to showcase my abilities (!) at needlefelting, free form knitting and free weaving.  If you’re in the area, come along and say hello.

Needlefelted Robins
Needlefelted Robins

But it’s not enough to just say you are going to do something; showing is always better than telling so I’ve decided the time has come for me to make some things too.  This means grabbing a couple of ideas and making them come alive.  I’ve found a craft that I really want to have a go at (I’ll tell you what it is next month) but I needed to get hold of some fabric, hopefully cheaply and preferably free.  I called in on Clem, a mate of mine who runs an upholstery business.  As luck would have it, he was clearing the stock room and I staggered back up the road carrying armfuls of fabric that was heading for landfill until I arrived.  This is the first thing that I’ve made out of it – cute or what?

I was nearly landfill!
I was nearly landfill!

Now that I have fabric, a garden which has been harvested and a stock of puppy pads on the floor to mop up after an incontinent Jack Russell, there should be no obstacle to me producing some craft after too much of a summer break.

All is safely gathered in
All is safely gathered in

Hefyd, wrth gwrs, mae llawer o ddosbarthiadau Cymraeg yn dechrau yn yr Hydref.  Rydw i’n hapus i siarad Cymraeg â phobl (yn enwedig pobl sy’n dysgu’r iaith) felly pe hoffech chi ymarfer eich Cymraeg, byddai’n bleser i gwrdd â chi.  Hwyl am y tro!

 

A rose by any other name …

Don’t think you are on the right track just because it’s a well beaten path

It’s not the first time I’ve started my blog with a Permaculture Principle.  There are twelve in all and I find some of them more relevant and useful than others.  This one aims to teach people to ‘use edges and value the marginal’ and like most Permaculture Principles, you can apply the ethos to all aspects of your life, not just the garden.  I know this because last month I gave a talk to a local gardening club.  No-one there admitted to knowing anything about Permaculture but when I mentioned the principle above, everyone in the audience nodded in silent agreement.

I confess I often find myself on a well beaten path but doubt that I ‘m on the right track.  I struggle to explain myself to friends, relatives or complete strangers when all I can say is ‘it doesn’t feel right’.  The clue to what is going on is in the word ‘feel’.  It indicates that I express myself in a tactile world so when I find myself in a quandary, the best way for me to work things out is start stitching or creating a design for some textile art.   Of course not everything I make is the result of some inner doubt; some things I do because I’ve come across a story which inspires me.  This, for example, is my reaction to an old Welsh legend surrounding a standing stone called  The Lonely Shepherd.

The Lonely Shepherd
The Lonely Shepherd

I made the hanging about 4 years ago but as I got a bit more skilled at needlefelting, I stopped being proud of it.  The wool hadn’t been worked into the backing fabric enough and I didn’t even like the colours much.  When I was sorting through my work for exhibition at Wonderwool last month, I was a bit distracted because I wanted to create a new range of craft that wasn’t the same sort of thing that I’d done before.  My problem was that I knew what I didn’t want to do rather than what I did want to do.  This was all bubbling about in my mind as I pulled out The Lonely Shepherd and realised that, as a wallhanging and as an expression of my own creativity, it had outlived its usefulness.  I ripped out the offending needlefelted wool, poured a jar of acrylic paint over the backing fabric, turned the piece through 90 degrees and reworked a lot of the embroidery stitches with additions of needleweaving and scrumbling.

Mercia
Mercia

I loved the result and, it turns out, so did loads of people at Wonderwool, many of whom had seen it in previous years but didn’t recognise it, reincarnated.  What I also loved was that the repurposing of something which was no longer  relevant – as opposed to throwing it away or leaving it, unused and unloved, in the bottom of a cupboard – summed up the underlying principle of what my new craft range would be.  I still can’t explain what it is I’m after, but I can see it and I know it.  And if I can see it and know it, then do I really need to label it?  After all, a rose by any other name is still a rose.

If it’s April, it must be …

Friends are people who walk in when the rest of the world walks out

When I did my first Wonderwool Show I had no idea what to expect so I was completely unprepared for the reality.  It’s a festival of wool and sustainable Textiles and Fibres held in Mid Wales on the last weekend of April – that’s what I knew.  No-one mentioned the thousands of (mostly) women who used it as the perfect opportunity to stock up on raw materials, meet up with some of the best Textile and Fibre practitioners in Britain and catch up with old friends while making new ones at the same time.  But until they come in, the immense halls in the Royal Welsh Showground are COLD!  In 2007, there was I, bare legged, wearing sandals, in a summer skirt and blouse – freezing.  Across the aisle from me was the warmly muffled up Lorraine of Greenweeds, dispensing words of wisdom, humour, experience and cups of hot coffee.  I have learnt a lot since my early days of Wonderwool so whether you are going this year, have been before, hope to go in the future or may never get there but want a glimpse of one of the most enjoyable weekends of the year, this is what I’ll be doing on the last weekend in April 2015.

Scrumble 1Scrumbling is a fun way to play with texture.  You can scrumble with knitting, crochet and weaving and I’m teaching workshops on both days called Scrumble Scramble.    In just one hour, with chopsticks and an egg timer, we’re going to produce some mini wallhangings.  Should be fun.

Many of the standholders at Wonderwool sell everything from fleece to finished article.  Just because you can afford the stand is no guarantee that you’ll be allowed in so it’s great to know that the people who are working there are really passionate about what they do and what they use rather than only thinking about making a profit.  Some stands are based around specific events being held.  As well as the amazing Wool and Willow Festival , the http://cambrianmountainswool.org/ design challenge will be hosting an exhibiton of submissions including my entries:

The Cambrian Doll
The Cambrian Doll

and

cambrian bears 1

Other standholders (I’m in this group) are there mainly to exhibit and educate.  I will talk a glass eye to sleep if you get me on the subject of Textile Art.  This year I have created a series of works under the title ‘Etifeddiaeth’ which means legacy or inheritance.  I have used techniques like wet felting, needlefelting, creative embroidery, free form knitting and needleweaving.  If you are going to Wonderwool and get to my stand, R5, I can (and will) talk about any of these for hours on end.  If you’re not going to Wonderwool, here are two of the new pieces I’m showing this year.

Creative Embroidery, free form crochet and painted tyvek
Creative Embroidery, free form crochet and painted tyvek

dark tonight

INFORMATION FOR SCRUMBLE SCRAMBLERS!

This is for everyone who took part in the Scrumble Scramble Free Form Knitting Workshops over the weekend.  Firstly, I hope you enjoyed yourselves and secondly, I apologise for the non-ticking egg timer!  The whole point of the pattern we were using was to show you that Free Form Knitting comes from inside your own head.  We cast on 14 stitches and worked a few rows in K2, P2 rib simply to give our hangings a stable header.  After that, as you may have noticed, there was very little that we were all doing at the same time or in the same way.  Have a safety pin ready to move stitches on and off, add and change yarns, stitches, needles and direction of work at your whim rather than by following a pattern.  I thought you were all brilliant and I know how far out of your comfort zone you were.  Pats on the back all round!

Srumble Scramble!
Srumble Scramble!