More Yarn Will Do The Trick

Monday, 24 April 2017

Oriel Hat

I recently picked up my needles again for the first time in more than a year. I've tried to knit before, but found it so stressful it was counterproductive. Not for me the calming effect it has on most knitters. The hypnotic smooth repetition of rows, the colours, textures and stitches combining as if by magic to form an unfolding work of art before one's eyes. Strange as it may sound to those who knit for pleasure, I associate knitting with deadlines for books and magazines. It was even worse when I did production and two collections a year for both myself and other large design houses. Deadlines were ever-looming, forcing me to push myself to the limit to create my signature knits, featuring both technical interest and classic, timeless style. In the past I've tied myself in knots over the years making sure the patterns were as near to perfect as could be, sometimes bringing on excruciating bouts of sciatica.

So.. all this stopped couple of years ago when I was diagnosed with myeloma. Everything was thrown into flux as I fought for my life. By the time I came out of hospital four months later,  I was as weak as a kitten. However, one of the things that sustained me through it all, was the mountain of good wishes and gifts I received from other knitters. I would receive such heartening messages daily, and these contributed so much to keeping my spirits up and making me determined to recover.

Many of you were already good friends from our knitters' tours, some of you I'd never met except on Facebook, and there were others whom I'd had no contact with, who had enjoyed my designs in books and magazines. Every kind message I received played its part in galvanising my resolve.  It was like being wrapped in a cuddly, warm comfort blanket. In fact one super kind knitter in the States made me a patchwork quilt, with a lovely dedication sewn into it - you know who you are and I can't ever thank you enough! I was so overwhelmed, I burst into tears when I saw it, and it's been on my bed ever since.
I immediately fell in love with this one

Two years on I happened to be browsing the Fall 2017 collections. I've always loved Missoni and their amazing 70s inspired knits caught my eye immediately. Their geometric, zigzags and innovative combinations of vertical and horizontal stripes reminded me of the smock dresses I'd made in the late seventies, they were the ones that kickstarted my career as a sweater designer. Seeing the gorgeous Missoni designs made me itch to get my hands on a pair of needles again, despite the pain and stress I still feared.  I had a definite design for a hat in my head and was determined to give it a go. Also a hat was just about the size of project I thought I might be able to handle.
This reminded me of the smock dresses
 I made in the seventies
So I gingerly grabbed a few balls of colourful yarn from my stash, then started to dig deep into my design reserves. After they'd been dormant for so long, I was unsure as to whether I'd still be able to find a way of interpreting the inspiration. I knew I wanted to create something that would be wearable, beautiful and knitable. What I didn't want was to spend all my time working things out beforehand as I used to do, so I just picked up my needles and took the plunge.
These two tops show how different the basic pattern can look, depending on the spacing of the horizontal stripes... 

...and this cropped top and longline vest are SO reminiscent of my stripey dresses  (below, with yours truly modelling in the late 70s)
Photographed by Philip in Finsbury Park
Once the knitting started, I was immediately transported into my own knitting universe, where nothing matters other than the pursuit of the perfect piece of fabric. P finds this state of mind totally alarming, as I seem to him to be completely incommunicado, and he knows well the damage that can incur.

However, on this occasion the project was a small one, so I found it utterly charming and rewarding as it unfolded in front of my eyes. I was totally absorbed and in tune with the Missoni aesthetic and in no time it was ready to sew up. I quickly found my Clover pompom maker and tada... finished!

I was so pleased with it I put a photo on Facebook and lots of you lovely knitters left some amazing comments. It then occurred to me that if I could still write a pattern - as I took no notes whilst knitting it - I could then make it a free pattern. This gift would be my small thank-you to all the knitters who took the time to send thoughts, messages, cards, gifts, hugs and love my way when I most needed it. 

So here it is... the Oriel Hat, named as several people said it looked like a stained glass window. If it brings to you a fraction of the pleasure your kindnesses have brought to me, I'll be well chuffed.
Enjoy! xo
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Saturday, 21 January 2017

New World Order

I'm not talking conspiracy theories here, no, just the sharp right turn the western world seems to have taken in 2016. 

First of all Brexit - and if I hear one more person tell me to get over it I'll scream. Then Donald Trump's election to the most powerful position in the world. And yes it does affect me, even though I'm not an American. The world is a much more dangerous and brutal place with Trump and his cronies in the driving seat. What happened to the caring society? Barack Obama did his best to address the social problems in the US but obstructionist tactics more or less blunted his sword every time he tried to get anything through congress. And now apparently Obamacare is to be abolished. What a shameful state of affairs - a dog eat dog society, where only the strongest and richest prevail, whilst people on the poverty line perish. Whatever happened to compassion?

In the UK we now have a situation where politicians are hungry for power at any cost and therefore have to pander to popularism. How could Theresa May change her tune so abruptly after the referendum? My only guess is that she's terrified by the 52% who voted for Brexit and therefore feels she has to woo them to stay in power. The will of the people is mentioned a lot these days, I call it the tyranny of the people. What happened to the will of the 48% who value the progress made by brave people who were willing to stand up and fight for what they believed in in the last century. One by one the rights of women, ethnic minorities, LGBT, disabled etc etc are all being eroded, substituted by a culture of celebrity worship and greed. 

There's no option but to wait and see  but I can't help feeling it's fiddling while Rome burns. I truly hope my understanding of the situation is wrong, but the initial signs are not looking positive. 

But life goes on. Many of us need some positive input at the moment so here's some of the things that have lifted my spirits this month: 

I'm not a fan of orchids as they usually curl up and die on me, but this one has given me a lot of pleasure recently, even flowering a second time.
The petals of the orchid reflect perfectly the pattern on this glass ball
A closer look

We had some beautiful sunsets at the beginning of the month!
The sun doesn't get any lower than this!
Gorgeous blue and coral sky
Coming back into York from a trip to the coast
I love the boldness of amaryllis in January, nothing to lift the spirits better than watching one thrusting its green shoots up boldly from the bulb, then the incredible explosion of colour once it starts to open... with the bonus of four blooms on every shoot... and sometimes two or even three shoots to every bulb.
Promise of what's to come
First bud to open
And there's still some lovely things to feast your eyes on outside. Like this old tree stump, colonised by moss and fungi.
The moss is like velvet 
Beautiful textures and colours - must be a sweater design in there somewhere :)
And there's no lack of scent either, the mahonias and hamamellis or witch hazels have a heavenly delicate scent at this time of year.
Mahonia
Hamamellis Pallida, the best for flowers and scent
Always looks good in January
We have a sweet box in the front garden. Its flowers bloom through the early part of the year and scent the path to the front door. Sorry no photo at the mo.

Shadows are always interesting at this time of year and I was particularly struck by the shadow of this magnolia grandiflora. 
Echoes of Matisse don't you think?
I'll leave you with this picture of Arlo resplendent in this winter coat. 
Arlo enjoying the damp winter air
Thanks for dropping by x

Monday, 2 January 2017

Happy New Year

Peace love and light to all my followers in 2017. May your creativity flourish and your dreams come true. I'm looking forward to sharing more of my observations on life in Yorkshire with you.

More anon,
xo