Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Peerie hooses and jumpers

In the last post I promised to write another on my new laser cut felt brooches, I have been so busy with craft fairs and orders that here I am a couple of months later and I haven't written a word until today.

The Peerie Hoose (little house in Shetland dialect) Brooches are inspired by the traditional croft houses and fishermans' cottages found though out Shetland like the houses pictured below that are a couple of minutes walk from my house. I love that time of day when it starts to get dark and yellow coloured lights flood out from windows, the hoose brooches have either yellow, orange or lime green felt as a background, reminiscent of a cosy interior.

Fair isle yoke jumpers and cardigans have been very much a tradition in Shetland knitwear for many years such as these ones pictured in  "The Art of Fair Isle Knitting, history, technique, color and patterns" by Anne Feitelson. 

 They are very much back in fashion at the moment and my jumper brooch pays homage to these garments.  Like the house brooches they are laser cut from 100% wool felt and I have added some wool stitches to the felt jumper to represent the yoke.
I remember having one when I was about 8 or 9 and I hated it.  It's funny how things come around.

The yoke jumper above is available as a kit from Jamieson and Smith.

The brooches can be purchased from my online shop at Not On The High Street

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Summer Months and New Things

I think this is my favourite time of year, over the past few weeks there has been a huge change in the weather, we have had gales and rain and we have lit the rayburn which always indicates the start of a new season, the nights are getting darker sooner I am sitting knitting without feeling guilty about not being outside.  We seem to have spent a lot of time outside over the past few months, which hasn't left much time for much work (work can wait).  The following pictures are a summary:

We have had several beautiful sunsets.  This is the view from the front of our house, looking over to Westerwick

We saw lots of puffins at Sumburgh head this year

Joseph had his second birthday and seems to have take to crofting quite naturally

We spent a week in Brighton with friends and enjoyed amazing weather

Summer is the time for the country shows, where you can see many different entries including this very cute vegetable dog

One of my favourite bits of the shows is looking at the knitting entries, these were at the Voe show 

 The hay goes in in August, we still use our 60 year old tractor and traditional methods

When I can, I have been working on some new products, some of these use lasercut wool, the range includes felt brooches, hangings and keyrings.  Here are some of the pieces, these are currently on sale in the craft cabinet at the Bonhoga Gallery, Weisdale, Shetland and hopefully will be available to buy online within the next couple of weeks all going to plan.

Yoke Jumper Brooches

Croft House Brooch

Fair Isle motif keyring

More details about these next time!

Monday, 29 April 2013

Peerie Fair isle jumper

I finished the peerie Fair isle jumper a couple of weeks ago (isn't it great when an UFO becomes an FO?).  We haven't had very good weather over the last week or so, but the sun was shining on Saturday so we headed to Minn beach at the south end of Burra-Isle (5-10 min drive from our house).

It's a good fit (thankfully) and it is good for digging in the sand and gathering stones as we discovered.

I tried knitting it without putting buttons on the shoulders but no matter how much I pulled it wasn't going over his head. I undid the neck, opened the left shoulder (the arms were attached by this time)and added in an opening with buttons which makes it much easier to put on. Serves me right for being lazy and thinking I could get away without putting in the buttons.

I used my Mum's old jumper board to block the jumper; Shetland wool benefits from being dressed and at one time every home in Shetland would have had at least one jumper board.  This one was made by my Grandad and has seen many garment over the years:

The pattern were taken from a little jumper I borrowed from my friend Wendy of Burra Bears shown here modelled by the lamb on the right - this fantastic photo taken her Brother Kevin Ritch has been made into greeting cards and you can see them on the Burra Bears website. To Joseph's jumper I added a coloured 2x2 rib and used wool I had in my stash - a good way of using fairly small amounts of wool.

Since then I have made my first headband, the pattern is by Hazel Tindall (the World's fastest knitter), you can download the pattern here

It only took a few hours to knit and is a great thing to knit as a first Fair isle project.  Its also a good way to try out colour combinations.  I used Shetland yarn from Jamieson's of Shetland in 6 different shades of grey and one row of sage green in the middle of the pattern.  I changed colours in the background rather than foreground colour as the pattern suggests.  That's the beauty of Fair isle knitting, there are so many ways of doing the same thing which can create hugely different effects.

I have a couple of extra rows in the rib as I knitted too much (got distracted) and it seemed a shame to take it back.  It works OK but I will make sure I stick to the pattern next time.

I am now working on gloves to match - more about them later.

Work news: I decided a few months back that I wouldn't work in the evenings unless I absolutely had to as I spent so many years with no time to myself.  This means I don't have a lot of time during the day to make products to sell other than fulfilling my orders from Not On The High Street, but I am "picking away" as we say here and hope to have some scarves into the shops soon, although it is an extremely slow process as pin and needles and toddlers don't mix very well.  I have decided that Joseph won't be little for long and I want to enjoy the time at home with him without being stressed about the unfinished pile of work on the desk.

My temporary work space

I am working on a range of laser cut products which will reduce my time spent on each item, once I have sourced the materials I will be ready to go.

In the meantime - happy knitting!

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Hooked on fair isle knitting

When I was little, part of the daily "uniform" usually consisted of some sort of woolly jumper, often fair isle and usually hand knitted by a relative.  Here is myself and my cousin Ingrid sporting fair isle jumpers a few years ago.....

As I was growing up, my Mum and both Grannys spent a lot of time knitting Fair isle. Knitwear, and in turn knitting, became unfashionable, so I never wanted to be taught Fair isle garment construction, which is something I regret. I have knitted many garments from patterns but never knew how to create my own designs. Traditionally garment construction wasn't written down but was something that was "just done" and skills were passed on from one person to the next.  Women used to spend their evenings together knitting and passing on these skills. 

Last winter I attended a night class in the local primary school. Each Tuesday night for ten weeks, I went with 8 other women to learn to knit a traditional fair isle jumper. Knitting a Fair isle jumper is basically about scaling up proportionately and having a pattern repeat to fit the number of stitches (or sometimes the other way around).

In order to learn the basic construction we knitted a mini jumper.

I haven't finished it as you can see, mainly due to the fact that the nightclass mainly took place during November and December last year which is my busiest time of year and also leaving it like this shows the construction details better.  Jumpers can be made any size you like, its all about proportions and fitting in patterns.  Nevertheless, I thought I should start small and I have been working on a little jumper for Joseph.

I cut the steeks in the armholes last night, I have never done this before so my heart was in my mouth - I reinforced the cut edge first by a couple of rows of machine stitching, my Mum and Granny did this and it means you can have a neat hem that doesn't need stitching down.

My least favourite bit of any knitting project is the finishing, look at all these ends waiting to be woven in......*sigh* 

But the most exciting thing about finishing is the prospect of starting a new project - just look at all this yarn I have inherited just waiting to be knitted up.


Friday, 22 March 2013

Emigration - an installation

You may recall back in October I wrote a post about an installation I completed for the Swapbox exhibition in the Bonhoga Gallery.


I promised I would write more about it in the next blog post and here we are in March already.  November and December were unbelievably busy, and I think I needed two months to recover!  I was delighted to sell the installation, currently I am transferring the discs onto a board so it can be hung in the chosen place, working with it again has spurred me on to write the post.

The exhibition was by the group Text-Isles, which I am a member of, and as the name implies, started off with us swapping boxes which we decorated and filled with materials and inspirational items based on a chosen aspect of Shetland culture.

I decided to base my box on the popular past time of tea-drinking, machine embroidered the top ("A peerie scar of tae" means "a little drop of tea" in Shetland dialect) and filled the box with various pieces of felt, photos, fabrics etc.:

Once night last February the members of Text-Isles met at the Bonhoga Gallery and swapped boxes.
I said goodbye to my tea themed box and gained this one put together by Emma Blain of Aamos Designs.

Emma had chosen Emigration as a theme and had cleverly covered her cardboard box to look like an old fashioned suitcase.  Then the thinking began....

This was a very different way to work for me, to basically be given a random topic and materials to create a finished piece of work that would go on a gallery wall and be seen by the general public (I am almost having palpatations even thinking back to that time).

Between the mid 19th century and the mid 20th century a huge number of people left Shetland, some were forced out due to hardship and homelessness and others left in search of a better life.  When I thought about this, one of the main things that came to my mind was that as well as gaining new lives, skills and cultures they also took with them skills, knowledge and culture which they would pass onto their new neighbours.  I read the stories of several people that had left but decided to concentrate on one particular individual, Jeremina Colvin who moved from Shetland to Cowichan in Vancouver Island where she lived until she died in 1937.  Legend has it that she passed on advanced knitting skills to the local women who at that time made socks and other accessories out of their thick natural coloured wool.  This lead to the production of the Cowichan sweater which is now one of Canada's national symbols

It is generally a "chunky" knit in natural colours with some Fair isle borders and larger motifs on the front.

I based my installation on the motif on the jumper below:

This is basically a Fair isle star, several variations of which can be seen in traditional Fair isle garments.  I had been thinking for a while about how Fair isle patterns are "dotted out" on paper, a series of dots making up the designs.

My challenge was to create 115 dots for an installation, each dot to represent a piece of Shetland culture using the materials that were in the box, and I wanted each dot to be different.  I began by knitting many, many samples of lace, each a Shetland lace pattern.  The colours used were based on a piece of fabric that Emma had woven and was in my box.

These were stretched over felt and fabric discs and a pin inserted on the back of each.....

I painted some fabric and embroidered on extracts from the poem "Fair Island mid the Northen Seas" by William Hughson in From Old Rock to New Life, a Shetland Museum and Archives publication, and some dialect words........

.......Fused them onto felt and cut them out with my die cutter....

Each disc was pinned on the wall with the help of my template...

By keeping them a few cm off the wall they appearred to float by creating shadows....

Overall I was very happy with the result and it has sparked off my latest obsession with knitting.

I really hope Jeremina would be pleased with it too.

Brooches made to accompany the installation, lambswool knited fabric covering wool woven fabric (fabric woven by Aamos Designs). 
Patterns L to R, Bird's Eye stitch, Bird's Eye stitch knitted on larger needles, Bead stitch.