Monday, 14 June 2010

The role of arithmetic in fashion!

Over the weekend I managed to do the right front and the first sleeve - which just goes to show that I don't have much of a life!  However, I do have a sense of achievement, which is also highly desirable and not always easy to have.

When I sewed the first sleeve in, I discovered that the shaping was slightly out, but I shan't worry too much about it as I have made a generous size, and with future patterns from the same book, I shall have had a heads-up that the shaping of the sleeve head doesn't translate readily to other yarns.  Once I have washed the finished jumper, I am confident I can shape the damp garment well enough. The shaping of a sleeve head can be tricky at the best of times, and was a job I really struggled with when I was at College in the mid 60s.  Pattern drafting involves alot of mathematics and that really isn't my subject!  As a result of changing schools so often (after my father died when I was 5, we travelled alot, going wherever my mother could find live-in work) my arithmetic skills were patchy, at best, and if it hadn't been for my headmistress at my last school, Miss Conrady, I would never have understood any of it at all!  Bless her, she seemed very stiff and starchy, but there was a caring heart in that rigid bosom, and she devoted many hours of one-to-one tuition in her study to my enlightenment.  Thanks to her I managed enough understanding to cope with most of the numbers that have been thrown at me over the years, and to gain my pattern drafting qualifications (though I wouldn't trust myself to draft anything too complex these days.)

Weather permitting, I hope the next post will be of my finished jacket - weather being crucial, as I like to wash, rather than press, my finished work, and I need good, dry  and warm weather to dry the jumper!  I have never liked the result of pressing knitwear, even with the lightest touch, it tends to flatten the yarn, and, while it may look neat and professional to the eye, my experience is that the result is less comfortable in wear. Maybe it's just me, but there it is - I'm fond of doing things my own way, and don't have much time for rule books!   Like Elizabeth Zimmerman, I like to 'unvent' things (for non-Zimmerman addicts, that's her word for inventing your own way of doing things and achieving the result you want, based on your own understanding of the techniques involved, rather than doing things 'parrot fashion')

What is your passion? Do you 'unvent' things in your own life, too?

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

First Knitting blog!

This jumper is for me!  It is based on a pattern by Jane Ellison, in her book 'Knitting Noro'.  However, much as I love them, I can't afford Noro yarns - they are hand painted, in Japan, and absolutely gorgeous, but aspirational for most people.  I also have a certain ethical discomfort with spending alot of money on extravagantly beautiful yarns, when most charity/thrift shops have either lots of odd balls of unused yarn and/or knitwear that can be unravelled and re-knitted.  At the same time, I am aware of the cost to the environment of synthetic fibres, so like to buy new wool, or other natural fibres, whenever I can afford to.  (Especially as sheep farmers are struggling not just to sell their wool, but to get enough for it to even cover the cost of shearing!)

About 6 months ago the low-cost supermarket, Lidl, offered for sale some all-wool sock yarn at a ludicrously low price, so - I went slightly bonkers and bought lots of it!  Not that I intended to knit lots of socks (though I'm doing that, too) but I have long been in the habit of mixing finer yarns in combination to create thicker yarns of my own colour and texture choice - it's a bit like being able to 'paint' with yarn.  The sock yarn was marked as 'Machine washable', sadly this turned out not to be the case, as it felted easily, and it was withdrawn from sale, many purchasers choosing to return it for a refund. I decided to keep it, make what I could with it for myself, and wash the results carefully by hand - after all, it was pure wool, in lovely colours, and a little care would give me quality garments to keep for many years.

I have already made several jumpers, and only one has shrunk - spectacularly.  I made a cabled jumper for my husband, which turned out to be very difficult to dry in a small space! Since the wool in it had cost about as much as normal wool for a crop top would have cost, we decided to take the risk of washing it in the machine, accepting that it could well be a total loss.  It was. By the time it came out of the machine it was too small for my 2 year old granddaughter!

I am using 3 strands of the sock yarn knitted together on 5.5mm needles for this jumper, blending 5 different colourways to create a tweedy, subtle stripe.  I am, as I almost always do now, using circular needles (Knit Pro Symphonie) as they support the weight, instead of creating leverage on my slightly arthritic hands, and they mean that I can never lose one of them, no matter how disorganised I am, since they are attached to each other!  So far I have made the back and the left front, and sewn them together at the shoulder. I am now working the right front. It is all in garter stitch - very simple, but I love the texture, and the result is very warm (if a little bulky) as it has lots of air trapped in the fibres, like a duvet.

Further progress reports soon!

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Finding a way forward?!

I gave myself quite a headache, yesterday.  I have been thinking for some time of selling my knitting online, but haven't been impressed with the usual suspects - ebay, etsy or folksy - as none of them really seem to be pitched at the market I want to reach. Also, i've been unsure of what product will best have a market and be something I can reliably produce - I'm not thinking of trying to run a full-blown business, but I do want to run things in a business like way.  As I have problems knitting large garments (between arthritis and a replacement elbow, my body isn't always that strong or reliable!) I had thought of making quality baby clothes in machine washable yarns, that are both stylish (to appeal to young Mums, rather than Grannies!) and practical (for the same reason) so, I decided to do some serious online research of what's already out there, how it's getting to the market, and what the pricing is like.

After some 4 hours of intensive surfing (Google must have been fed up with me!) I had an intense headache and a severe attack of despair.  The web seems to be awash with baby clothes (especially quirky hats - what's that about?!) mostly in nasty colours and yarns, or  very pretty, but not terribly practical, vintage style knits in horrendously expensive yarns.  Those seem to me to be rather turbulent waters into which to deep my toes - far too crowded with other craft, not very well steered!  So, I thought, what's the situation with adult hand knitwear?

Again, I could find quite a few sites, but while I could find wonderful traditional Fair Isles, Arans and Ganseys, or the kind of arty-farty knits that shriek "Look at me, aren't I clever?! Look what clever knitting techniques I can do!" or even the kind of In-Your-Face brightly coloured, so-called 'Ethnic' knits, there seemed to be no simple, wearable and modern hand knits at all!  Now, while I'm an experienced knitter, and have got my needles round quite alot of techniques (I do enjoy learning - just learned to do 2 socks at the same time, pure delight!) I see no point in designing a garment around a particular technique.  Clothes are meant to be practical, first and foremost, and stylish.  The technique should be a means to an end, not the end in itself, and while fashion is exciting, style is more personal and important.

When I studied Dress & Design at college in the 60s, I rapidly realised that a garment that is uncomfortable, difficult to keep clean, or in any other way impractical for the wearer is not going to earn its place in the wardrobe for long, and the purchaser is not going to return to that source for further purchases, either!  Classic designs last because they work, but they need to be re-assessed in the light of current life, so a style of garment that worked well in, say, the 1940s, is going to need tweaking more than a little to work well in the early 21st century!  However, it would be foolish to throw out the baby with the bathwater, the shape of the human body, and what it does, don't change much.

So, I'm thinking of making One-of-a-kind knits, and blogging about each one as I create it, from design, through yarn selection etc to finished garment, then making the result available for sale, so it will be more than just something nice to wear, it'll be a story, too.

So far, so good, but then we have the issue of a website.  In about 5 hours of surfing, I didn't see one site that I found satisfactory!  I have to start from scratch.  It must be easy on the eye, not too business-ey, but business-like.  It must load quickly, so my potential customers don't get impatient (it'll be picture heavy, so that's crucial)  It must have a youthful feel, as my potential customers will be young and stylish (not easy to get my head round that, as I'm no spring chicken) and not take itself too seriously.  Uuuuum!

I think I shall experiment by blogging about one or 2 garments on here, and ask anyone who reads this to give me feedback, please! And I don't mean compliments, but serious 'this is rubbish' type comments where needed, please!