Interruption #2 by Linda

13 Feb

Sorry Mel, here I am taking up space again on your blog – but you talking about a swift put me in mind of this painting.

C19 Dutch interior with swift

19th century Dutch interior with swift

It’s one of those Dutch interiors which used to sell very well all over Europe and the UK, like the Delft crockery which has been judiciously included as one of the props.  At that time, people liked story-pictures, preferably with a moral implication, and today we are inclined to shrug our shoulders at the story and look for social history instead.  And therein lies a problem.

A story . . .

This kind of story is always going to be a bit of a giggle, isn’t it.  Father has answered the door.  He is head of the household, but he steps back when the urchin says he has been told to hand the letter to the youngest daughter instead.  The fun is in people’s reactions; everyone except the cat  looks at said daughter.  Our little heroine blushes as well she might, because the letter is a billet-doux from a sailor who has just left with the tide: the sea is visible through the door, and the lover is absent.  Her friend sniggers, her sister is jealous, and Father is indulgent and bemused. The girls drink tea; is the lover from a tea clipper?

 . . . and questions . . .

As with all of these things, the more you look at it, the more questions you find yourself asking. Two of the women are not working; is it a Sunday?  And if so, where is the Bible, why is one woman working, and why is Father wearing his working clothes?  So it’s not Sunday.  According to his costume, Father is perhaps an artisan, or maybe he works on the wharfe in the fishmarket or making blocks and spars.  No tools of his trade are visible in the house, so he works elsewhere.  If so, why has he been sitting in that now-empty chair and smoking, while it is daylight? Maybe Father is a prop, made to act like the rich buyers of paintings of Dutch interiors; men who could afford to spend time at home during daylight. Maybe Father has hastily accompanied the urchin to his own home, in the middle of the working day, because he thinks the letter is important? 

So in that case, what’s with the empty chair, half pulled out from the table?  The teacup is unused – although there was a tradition of telling fortunes by swirling remaining tealeaves in the bottom of the cup, inverting the cup on the saucer to remove the last drops of tea, then imagining you could see pictures in the tealeaves now stuck around the inside of the cup.  Perhaps the friend was sitting there and telling fortunes, and has now run round to the eldest sister to whisper what she knows about the lovers?  Mother is missing, presumed dead – more symbolism for the empty chair – but there are still three cups and four people in the room (urchins don’t count).

. . . and secrets

The room is almost unfurnished by modern standards – a style beloved of the Dutch interior painters, because no clutter means more perspective to show off, and more focus on the actors in the story.  In this picture it’s a simple and honest setting for simple and honest folk, but the result is frustratingly that we can’t work out what these girls do for a living.  Our heroine winds wool from a peg-swift (yes, we’ve got there at last), but what is she going to do with all that white yarn?  There is no sign of needles, hook or loom.  Her wool is white; is it symbolism of virginity, therefore purity?  White wool was inconvenient to knit with in those days, because steel needles stained it, so you had to use bone needles, if you could get them.  Everyone in the picture wears dark-coloured and woven outer garments, which leaves undergarments and baby clothes as targets for the white wool; this is yarn for intimacy and domesticity; private things.  

If we’re into symbolism, then, is there anything to tell us whether our heroine is as virginal as she is made out to be?  She’s cute and fluffy and looks down modestly.  Tick.  But the cat looks down too, not too cutely, and she has her tail up: a lively cat, maybe?  Big sister’s apron covers the whole front of her dress – you can just see that under the table.  But little sister’s apron is pulled halfway up; what is that supposed to mean? Is there going to be an embarrassment in her life?  The picture appears to show the briefest of moments, but the swift is turning, like time. It’s in the foreground at centre-stage, so take another look at it; what does it remind you of?

Close-up of 19th century Dutch swift, painted to look like a woman holding a baby

Close-up of Dutch swift

So there’s really so much scene-setting and story-telling and symbolism there, that there’s not much left for us social history hounds – except the swift.  They had jolly good swifts in the Netherlands in the old days, didn’t they, complete with stash boxes, and I wish that one was mine.

tags: swift holland netherlands 19th century winding ball skein

Ball winders and belts

10 Feb

I spent a puzzling afternoon with a new friend once when I had just started knitting again after a 20-year gap. She was using a ball winder and a swift to make lovely balls out of a skein/hank of yarn. What puzzled me was that she didn’t just wind a ball and leave it at that, she wound it into a ball, then wound it again into another ball and finally into a third ball which she kept. I couldn’t understand why she would spend good knitting time fiddling around with balls. Well, this week I found out why.

Wendy trad aran

I borrowed a ball winder from a lovely friend with the intention of making balls from some skeins I had recently bought and from a HUGE ball of wool she gave me herself. So, I wound a ball and enjoyed it. But it was a bit loose. So I wound it again from the first ball and it was better. But it still wasn’t right. So I held the yarn going in between my fingers to give it some tension and the ball was fantastic. I was hooked. From then on, I spent the rest of the evening playing with a 500g ball of wool, making perfect little 50g balls with it. The feeling of satisfaction was enormous. I particularly like the moment when you pull the ball off the winder and the yarn rushes in to fill the gap it left. Super!

Wendy trad aran

All wound up!

So I finished the belt pattern and it’s published. In case you weren’t reading my last entry, it’s a free pattern for a Tunisian crochet belt that you can do without buying any special equipment. All you need is a 6mm crochet hook that can hold 6 stitches at once, some aran yarn and something fancy to edge it with. Then you can go mad and decorate it as much as you like. So, Linda will add in the link here because I’m rubbish at that… She will probably put in a photo….  or 2…..  as well.

Opus 1901

Opus 1901

Linda has been very busy recently and has published lots of new stuff. I’ll tell you more about that next week, or Linda will herself. Or she might have another rant, which is all good.

Happy knitting/hooking 🙂

tags: ball winder swift wendy traditional aran yarn free tunisian crochet pattern belt winding cake

Interruption . . . by Linda

6 Feb
by Richard Dunkley at Schmidts, UK Vogue 15 Apr 73

"Mad English at Schmidts" by Richard Dunkley, UK Vogue 15 Apr 1973

Mel says I can interrupt her blog for one of my rants. This should be fun, then. It’s not about Mel; she’s a lovely lady, a good friend and a great designer. It’s not about you, our lovely knitters. It’s not about other designers. It’s about certain people who make designers look daft when they’re not.

The naming game . . .

A million years ago in the early 20th century, before even I was born, UK patterns came in leaflets, and each one tended to have exciting names, like Sirdar 8438 and Beehive 7811. The lucky patterns which made it to books and magazines got called Blue Cardigan, Baby Hat and the like. So now, today – what’s with all these girls’ names given to patterns? And what happens when you design a man’s sock? Call it Leaves? Lancaster?

Now designers are artists, and they can call their pattern whatever they like. If they want to name their jumper after a relative, friend, celeb, fictional heroine – that’s romantic and lovely, and good luck to them. If their stitch pattern and yarn colour remind them of banana leaves, then of course they can and should call their pattern Banana Leaves if they want.

But all that only counts if it’s their own idea, and where this is going wrong is in knit mags, where the editor first invents a story (what?) and then hastily cobbles together a list of names – any old girls’ names and place names; same number of names as pattern pages in their mag – and asks their designers to design on a theme. Well, the last bit is fine – and these mags all have great designers doing gorgeous designs. So then the editor slaps the names on the designs as they come in, and there you have it – pretentious pattern-naming that has nothing to do with the patterns.

So that is why Mel’s and my patterns have these more-pretentious-than-thou names. “Opus” just means a work, and tends to be used for classical musical compositions. “Untitled” tends to be a name given to fine art pieces along with catalogue numbers. (For our overseas audience, this is called British humour, and has to do with irony).

. . . and stories

Oh, and what about the design “story”? What’s that when it’s at home? As far as I can see it means getting together those designs made to the editor’s theme, and bunging the whole lot in front of the same photo location. That’s not a story; stories have plots.

Back in the 70s, Vogue UK (fashion mag, not knit mag) used to feature a wonderful photographer called Richard Dunkley, who would put all his very young fashion models in a public location and make them muck about and run riot. I remember one rather blurred photo in particular, where there’s a bunch of very brightly-dressed and over-made-up girls giggling and crashing through a quiet and grey restaurant. Now that’s a story. Wake up, knit mag editors!

Reduce, Reuse, Knit

30 Jan

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without” …

I often wonder if we will ever get to a stage with our planet that we have to reuse everything rather than making new things. In the last few years, we have become so skilled at this that I think we would probably manage it OK. So, work on your reusing skills with Linda’s latest pattern.

She has dyed and cut up several old t-shirts and made them into something new – a beautiful and unique cushion cover. I think the best thing about this type of project is that no two covers will be the same – the raw materials will vary in fabric and colour, the edge bits will come at different places, and you put a bit of your own personality into each one. And then you choose to embellish your cover as much or as little as you like. And the best thing is – the pattern is free. You just need to download it, find some old t-shirts and get going.

Opus 2100 Cushion Cover

Recycled t-shirts

You can browse our free catalogue or just go straight to Opus 2100.

I promised you a pattern for Tunisian Crochet that didn’t need any extra equipment. Well, the pattern is written and we just need to get some outdoor photos taken and the pattern will be available to download. This one will be free as well. Here’s a sneak preview of a couple of samples:

Opus 1901

Opus 1901

Happy knitting all 🙂

Opus 1901

Opus 1901

Tags: belt cushion free opus knitting opusknitting pattern patterns tunisian crochet recycled teeshirt tee-shirt t-shirt yarn ribbon embroidery

Tunisian Crochet

19 Jan

This strange mix between knitting and crochet is also known as Afghan crochet. It is generally deemed to be easier than standard crochet and produces a dense fabric that looks woven. It’s a wonderful backdrop for embroidery as the simple stitch creates an even weave with clear spaces for stitches.

You use a crochet hook with a long handle to hold lots of stitches. You start with a chain, just like in standard crochet, but then you work the stitches in two passes: on the first pass you pick up stitches and keep them on the hook, on the return pass you work them and end up with just one again. There are some great tutorials online to help with this – have a look at the Crochet Help pages on our website – there are several for Tunisian crochet there.

Linda gave me a Tunisian crochet hook and pattern nearly a year ago and I have been wondering what to do with it ever since. She recently created a lovely pattern for a kindle case in Tunisian crochet – see Opus 1900 in our catalogue. It’s free to download 🙂

Opus 1900 in Tunisian crochet

Opus 1900 in Tunisian crochet

This got me interested and I started playing with it. It occurred to me that when we look at a new craft, we always have to buy more stuff for it. If we don’t know yet whether we want to take it up, it’s a lot to ask to spend money on it. So I thought I would design a pattern that would allow you to have a go at Tunisian crochet without buying any extra equipment. So, in the next week or so, I will be publishing a free pattern for a Tunisian crochet belt that you can make without buying anything special – you will just need a standard crochet hook and some yarn. It will also give you the opportunity to embellish with embroidery stitches and use some more unusual yarns if you have them. So, find some aran yarn, a 6mm crochet hook and watch this space.

BUSY LADY

11 Jan

Happy New Year to you all. Half of Opus Knitting Patterns has been very busy since I last wrote. There are several new patterns and the launch of our ‘untitled’ artwork series. Check out the artwork catalogue for some truly awesome designs.

Untitled 801

Untitled 801

As well as socks, we now have patterns for a cardigan, hat, scarves and a kindle case. There have been some new additions to the Opus 301 beaded cuff as well – 2 new options to make it even more exciting.

Opus 301 wristlet option

Opus 301 wristlet option

Several of the patterns are free so have a look and see what you fancy 🙂

BRANCHING OUT

22 Sep
Opus 800

Opus 800

CableMabel has suddenly decided to produce a hat pattern and done it – the things that woman can do when she gets her mind focused! So Opus 1400 has been published – it’s a simply beanie hat knitted in chunky yarn and beautifully modelled by the designer. Have a look  on Ravelry or on our Catalogue on this website.

I have put my Opus 600 ruffle sock to be test knitted and that has started. It’s really exciting to see my design being knitted by someone else. So far, it’s in Germany and the US – tomorrow the world!

I finished Opus 800, diamond socks and Linda has almost finished hers as well. Mine are pink with blue features and Linda has gone for a Christmassy theme with red and silver. Not sure whether to publish that before or after getting it test knitted – will make a decision this week about that.

Knitting for Xmas is starting to invade my time which is fantastic. I love the thinking, the planning, the trying, the swatching, the buying, the knitting, the giving. From early autumn onwards, I am building up to it slowly 🙂 Roll on December!

BACK FROM THE BEACH

10 Sep
Opus 600 socks in Wharfedale woolworks merino bamboo and Sirdar Salsa!

Opus 600 socks in Wharfedale woolworks merino bamboo and Sirdar Salsa!

It’s been a while since I posted and lots has happened. My building work has finished and the children are back at school so it’s all systems go. CableMabel is on the mend and making up for lost time. We have published our first hat, Opus 1200, and have started to make sales on the others.

We have started using some test knitters and there are several working on Opus 200 as we speak. The feedback has been great and very useful, and it’s wonderful to see our socks in someone else’s choice of yarn. I will be putting Opus 600 out to test soon so if you’re interested, find us on Ravelry and get onto the test knitters group.

My new design, Opus 800 socks, are finished and the pattern is with CableMabel to write the top-down version. As a sneak preview, it uses Sirdar Reflection to give a fluffy glitzy pattern on the leg. The top-down version will be quite Christmassy so they will make a great present.

Experiments with dyeing are afoot and I will update you on that as and when any success is achieved!

Publishing patterns

8 Jul

CableMabel is getting better slowly but not up to much knitting yet 😦

The big news for me is that I have finished the first 2 patterns of my own and published them.

The first is Opus 301 – this is a variation on CableMabel’s Opus 300 beaded glove. I wanted to use the beautiful motif she had designed for the wrist but to make it like the Indian jewellery that goes over the back of the hand and finishes in a ring on the middle finger. My first attempt was good but I wasn’t happy with the way the edge sat on the wrist or the shape or the way the decreases looked, so I took the brave step or reknitting it. Brave because of the number of beads involved. But by this time my beading technique was pretty good. I also took the opportunity to show off a bit and added a second bead colour into the design. The second knit corresponded with a quiet week at home so was done in no time. Now the pattern is available on Ravelry for £3 as of this week. No buyers yet but it’s so exciting just to see it there 🙂

The second pattern is Opus 600 – this is a creation entirely of my own. CableMabel bought me some Sirdar Salsa as a holiday present and it made me think of Ra Ra skirts in the 1980s, which was my era. I’ve seen ruffles on socks but I wanted to do something outrageous. I was also inspired by Wimbledon to think of socks to wear with trainers or tennis shoes. So these socks are very short with 3 huge ruffles sitting right on the ankle bone. Because they are so short, they are ideal for summer and they can be knitted with 50g of 4-ply, so you can get 2 pairs for the usual 100g. It took me a while to work out how to get the ruffle in the right place – when you knit it, the ruffle comes out on the inside of the sock. When you purl it, the ruffle looks great but better from the top than the bottom. As I normally design and knit toe-up socks this wasn’t ideal. So I decided to knit this one top-down to make the ruffle edge look great. They knit up really quickly as once the ruffle is done, it’s stockinet all the way, except for the lovely fisherman’s rib heel, which is quick and easy and looks great. This pattern is on Ravelry for £3 as well. Lots of people have Favourited it so looking forward to some buyers soon.

Building work is taking over here so there will be a slower pace from Darley for a while. I am playing with an idea using Sari ribbon and another outrageous idea for socks with beads. Not for everyday wear, for sure, but stunning and fun to knit.

The first 4 patterns we published, that were mostly CableMabel’s work, are proving very popular. Opus 100, 200, 300 and 400 are attracting a lot of attention. They are all £3 to buy except 400 which is free.

Catch me on Ravelry and let me know what you think of the new patterns.

Clothing or jewellery?

30 Jun
Opus 600 in Wharfedale woolworks merino bamboo and Sirdar Salsa!

Opus 600 in Wharfedale woolworks merino bamboo and Sirdar Salsa!

CableMabel is laid up with back pain so I’m in the driving seat this week. There’s lots happening.

I was knitting curly fries last time. They are so cute. A bit fiddly to knit, because you start with 35 sts, knit into front and back of them all, making 70 sts. Then you knit into front and back of all of them, making 140 sts, which you then cast off. They look super, though, and really finish off Opus 400 nicely.

Remember the beaded cuff (Opus 301) that I said I was taking it slowly with? Well a sudden rush of enthusiasm got that moving again and I finished the prototype last week. It was lovely and our official photographer took some great shots of it but I wasn’t happy with a few parts of the design. So, I reworked the pattern and have just finished Mark II. I have started to show off a little and put beads with 2 different colours in 🙂 I sorted out all the kinks from the prototype and I’m ready to publish this one. I have written up the chart and the instructions and just need to get the pattern checked and the thing photographed.

My first totally solo effort took shape this week. It’s Opus 600 and it’s sub-titled “Ruffles”. I finished the first sock last week and I love it. It’s the first of a series of socks I am going to design that combine a simple foot with an outrageous leg. This one is a short summer sock ideal for wearing with pumps or tennis shoes. It uses so little yarn that it will great for using up odds and ends. This is the first top-down sock that I have designed so it’s new ground for me. Second sock is well in progress so hope to photograph that next week and publish it soon after.

I’m thoroughly enjoying this process and looking forward to more ideas taking shape 🙂

Mel