Monday, 30 November 2015

Fair Isle Knitting with the London K&C Guild

The London Branch of the Knitting & Crochet Guild met this Saturday afternoon and the extremely talented Mary Henry presented an excellent Fair Isle workshop. There was so much to learn about this most "traditional" of techniques, from the beautiful symmetry of colour and stitch in each design to the most practical ways to manipulate two colours on one row. 

Fair Isle knitting by Mary Henry

Mary had brought along some of her own garments to illustrate techniques. As well as being beautiful on the outside, each garment was stunning on the inside with the floats having the same symmetry as the design. 

Fair Isle knitting by Mary Henry
Mary demonstrated the usefulness of a camera phone to work out colour combinations. Taking a photo in colour then changing it to black and white shows the difference between hue and saturation. This can make all the difference when selecting multiple shades for a complex design.  

Colour Shade card

The same shade card in b&w

We had a lively discussion about techniques for steeks! Mary had brought a swatch with her and showed us one technique that uses crochet to secure the edge stitches. Mary used a contrast yarn to crochet two lines of stitches on either side of the stitches to be cut. Then, with much trepidation for some of us, we all got the chance to cut the steek!
Crochet edges in progress

Crochet edges in progress

Partially cut steek

Philippa Thomas joined Mary to talk about machine knit fair isle. It was extremely interesting to hear about Philippa's lovely designs and how her design process changed over time. 

Fair Isle Knitting by Philippa Thomas
There was time to try some of the Fair Isle techniques and I particularly enjoyed trying out corrugated ribbing. Reversing the colourways changed the look of the ribbing and although I ran out of time to test this fully in the meeting, I did finish the swatch on the train home!

Fair Isle sample in progress by Emma Vining

The next K&C Guild London branch meeting will be on 6th February 2016 and will feature Jennie Atkinson on "Sparkle: The Art of Beaded Knitting". All are welcome to come along, members £10, non-members £15.  More information on the K&C Guild and the London Branch can be found on the Guild website

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Knitting History Forum AGM and Conference 2015

The Knitting History Forum (KHF) Conference was held at the London College of Fashion on Saturday 14th November. This excellent afternoon covered knitting history topics from "Gunnister Man" to "Medieval knitting in Spain". Our speakers shared their in-depth knowledge and passion for their subjects and left us wanting to discover more! Thank you to Professor Sandy Black and the KHF committee for such an interesting Conference and thank you to all the speakers for their wonderful presentations.

Pence Jug by Sally Kentfield

Knitting History Discussions at the KHF Conference

Carol Christiansen: ‘Late seventeenth century knitwear from the Gunnister Man find‘

To enable the remarkable Gunnister Man reconstruction project, an enormous amount of research and testing of materials was carried out. Some of this detailed research was outlined by Carol Christiansen from the Shetland Museum in the first presentation of the afternoon. Throughout the project, the importance of specific sheep breeds and the different characteristics of their wool was very clear. I was very impressed by the extensive comparisons Carol and her team carried out, especially the dyeing of fleece and yarn samples with tea to simulate the look of the Gunnister Man  textiles that had been buried in peat for so long. 

Slide from Carol Christiansen's presentation
showing fibre comparison

Slide from Carol Christiansen's presentation
showing knitted samples

Similarly the fulling/ felting of samples of different combinations of wools to find the exact fibre 'curl' for the inside of the Gunnister Man cap revealed important new insights into these fibres. Learning how wool behaves through extensive testing was the only way to determine which specific fibres were originally present. I particularly liked Carol's conclusion that the correct fibre mix for recreating the knitted cap was a combination of yarns that were "long, but not too long" and "silky, but not too silky"! More information about The Shetland Museum can be found here

Slide from Carol Christiansen's presentation
showing felted samples

Kirstie Buckland: ‘Saintly Socks and Silken Pillows – a glance at the mysteries of some medieval knitting in Spain'

Kirstie took us on a journey through Spain as she tracked down a reference to knitting depicted on a huge altarpiece painted in the fifteenth century. One particular panel shows the Virgin and Child surrounded by Saints. The Saints are working on domestic tasks including black work, spinning, embroidering and braid making. Knitting is also clearly represented! An elegantly painted Saint is holding 5 short wooden needles. Her hands are positioned to knit and she is working on a sock or a gator. The only details missing are the stitches on the needles!

Lesley O’Connell Edwards: ‘Who wrote what when? A study of the publications of the Hopes of Ramsgate in the 1840s'

Lesley's investigation into the Publisher "I Hope" and the authors "Mrs Hope" and "George Curling Hope" was a very interesting detective story. Many craft and knitting publications are attributed to the Hopes, either as author or publisher but very little information exists about the family. A review of journals and books from the same time period revealed clues to the actual identities of the Hopes, but it was Lesley's investigations through Census data and family history that lead to the interesting conclusions. 

The publications Lesley looked at were delightful and my favourite had an advertisement for a "Magic Puzzle Kettle Holder" kit that contained the rhyme "Except the kettle boiling be, Filling the teapot spoils the tea".

Zoe Fletcher: ‘Designing for breed: Enhancing the potential for British wool in UK knitwear manufacture, through design, new technologies and marketing strategy’

Zoe Fletcher's presentation emphasised the importance of individual British sheep breeds and their very particular characteristics. She has looked in great detail at 72 British Breeds that are promoted by the British Wool Marketing Board. The aim of Zoe's research is to collate this massive database of information on each breed and to make this information easily and usefully accessible to designers working with wool. Zoe has created imagery and data entries that are not only informative, but beautiful to look at. 

Zoe Fletcher's Research on British Sheep Breeds
Zoe Fletcher's Research on British Sheep Breeds
Using all the characteristics data and scans of individual yarn fibres along with Shima Seiki 3D technology, Zoe can simulate knitted swatches and whole garments. These designs can also be mapped onto the body. This amazing tool kit for designers even allows simulation of wear points and drape. 

Zoe Fletcher's Research on British Sheep Breeds
Zoe Fletcher's Research on British Sheep Breeds
Zoe Fletcher's Research on British Sheep Breeds
This fantastic British Sheep Breeds Breeds database currently contains 71 of the 72 breeds and Zoe would like to hear from anyone who can send her some Vendeen fleece to complete the set! You can read more about Zoe's fascinating research on her blog.

Jane Malcolm-Davies: ‘A knitting revolution? A scientific survey of sixteenth century knitted caps'

Jane Malcolm Davis is a Marie Sklodowska Curie Fellow at the Centre for Textile Research, University of Copenhagen, Denmark. She has previously presented at the KHF Conferences on her work with the Tudor Tailor.  She is currently researching sixteenth century knitted caps and looking at knitting as a key technical innovation of the sixteenth century. In particular, Jane is considering how raw materials and techniques travelled around Europe at this time. She describes her research process as "re excavating" items from Museum collections using archaeological techniques. 

Jane is currently looking for volunteers to participate in this fascinating project. If you would like to find out more, please contact her direct at the following email address:

Jane will be running several workshops during her research project and on completion, there will be a free online database with high quality 3D images of the sixteenth century knitted caps. We have also all been invited to the concluding Conference in July 2017!

The KHF Show and Tell Table had some very interesting historical knitting on display. Sally Kentfield had recreated a delicate pence jug and tiny booties. 

Pence Jug by Sally Kentfield
Booties by Sally Kentfield

Joyce Meader, otherwise known as The Historic Knit, had brought along a small selection of her fascinating knit collection, this time focusing on knitted swimwear. Joyce will be hosting an open house next year for us all to take a look at her extensive collection of historic knits.

Knitted Swimwear from Joyce Meader's Collection
Knitted Swimwear from Joyce Meader's Collection
If you were at this year's Conference, please get in touch to share your thoughts and ideas from this inspiring afternoon. If you were not able to make the Conference, I hope this brief overview of the talks will give you a taste of the Knitting History Forum. If you would like to know more, please take a look at the website and join us for upcoming events. The Kitting History Forum is open to everyone who is interested in the historic aspects of knitting and crochet. Details of the Conference and other events will be posted on the KHF website here