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Showing posts from October, 2011

Ryan's Daughter.

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As part of my homework for next year's tour,  Knit Ireland, I rewatched David Lean's Ryan's Daughter last night.  It was shot on location in several of the places we'll be visiting such as Inch Beach, Dingle town and the Cliffs of Moher. Based on Flaubert's Madame Bovary, this is an epic in the same mould as Lean's previous blockbusters, Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago, but in my opinion over long and indulgent and it fell far short of my expectations.   

I found myself irritated by how it constantly portrayed the Irish in a very bad light. There was hardly a likeable character amongst the major players, in fact the only one was the priest, the rest were depicted as cruel ignorant peasants, an adulteress, a village idiot and a traitor who was willing to sacrifice his only daughter. 
My experience of Irish hospitality was totally different when I visited in August.  In one family-run hotel, on commenting how delicious the potato cakes were at breakfast ti…

Eine kleine knit music.

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Rediscovered the Knitting Song this morning whilst editing the website and fell in love with it all over again.  Written by Ashley Hutchings and Jo Hamilton, I first heard it a couple of years back at the Early Music centre in York, when their band, Rainbow Chasers, did a gig there.


Jo and fellow band member, Ruth Angell, are both avid knitters.  Have a listen - Jo's beautiful voice is haunting and fragile at the beginning, building up to a lively crescendo at the end with some fine fiddle playing.   Jo is now working solo and her gig for us last year on our Devon & Bath tour was a highlight of the tour.  She's just released a special edition of Gown, featuring one of her greatest songs, Think of Me.  Here she is at Dartington Hall playing air piano, apparently the first one in the world!

Blue skies over Mid Wales.

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Having a few days downtime in our home in Wales.  Brought lots of knitting, but it feels so good to be outside that I'm not getting much done.  Fabulous weather for this time of year, had coffee in the garden this morning under blue sky with not even a hint of a nip in the air.
Lots to do in the garden, mountains of leaves, but can't bear to sweep them away as the colours are just glorious. Still some flowers around - the odd Japanese anemone, catmint going strong, gunnera nursing next spring's massive magenta buds, few bright blue salvias and gay yellow Welsh poppies soldiering on, tiny campanulas and herb Robert dotted around - but the best displays are from fuchsias and the hydrangeas which are just phenomenal and a real bonus.  There's something about the equinox light that makes the garden glow, especially at dusk everything looks luminous. Not many birds around when we arrived, swallows and cuckoos have definitely left for warmer climes, so I've filled the b…

Sweet Shawlettes sneak peep

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Sneak preview of the project gallery of my new book, Sweet Shawlettes, to be published by The Taunton Press in January 2012 in the US, but not till March 2012 in the UK.  A collection of twenty-five shawls, capelets, cuffs, collars and more, it's available for pre-order on Amazon.  Here's the blurb:

Shawlettes are hugely popular fashion accessories worn about the shoulders and meant for showing off. They're not only stylish but these budget friendly pieces make for perfect portable projects. The garments are grouped by style: Country, Couture, Folk, and Vintage, and feature gorgeous yarns including cashmere, wool, silk, cotton, and sustainable blends. Knitters of all levels will draw inspiration from the brilliant patterns and variations. Additionally helpful are illustrations, charts, schematics, and an appendix with instructions for special stitches. Each shawlette can be easily reinterpreted in beautiful ways, and the patterns in this book will capture knitters imaginat…

Coat for a boat

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Son Felix sent me this photo from Bristol -  eat your hearts out vulgar yachts , this stylish knit boat knocks the socks off boring uniformity!  Even the mooring is adorned.  Fabulous job by the knit artists -  check your local marina for more or get one like this from Knitiffi.

Blast from the past!

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Just noticed another sweater from my back catalogue (below left) on Joanne Conklin's blog.  It gives me such a buzz to see someone has taken the time to actually make one of my designs, especially an allover fairisle - awesome!  Originally designed for Ralph Lauren Womenswear more than twenty years ago, Joanne has knitted this sculptured fairisle so beautifully, not an easy knit either with both fairisle and reverse stocking stitch patterns.  The version on the right is from the very first Rowan Journal.  My thanks go to Joanne for reuniting me with this long-lost friend.  If anyone else has pictures or stories about making one of my vintage designs it would be great to hear them.

I'm going through my portfolio at the moment, revisiting many old favourites and deciding which, if any, I could bring into the digital age.  I can then make them available as downloads or even make a best-loved Ebook.  It's a big project - I have hundreds of designs, but it'll be a good thin…

Knit Real Shetland

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Noticed today that Jamieson & Smith's new book Knit Real Shetlandis at last published.  It seems like a lifetime since I was asked to submit a design.  As Ralph Lauren used a lot of J&S's yarn, I thought it  appropriate to feature one of the original designs I did for Polo in the late 80s.  From what I can see on the J&S site, it's a collection of fifteen wearable and doable projects by some great designers.


In my sweater, Olly's Allover (mark, name not chosen by me), the main aran design was taken from Gladys Thompson's fantastic book Patterns for Guernseys, Jerseys & Arans.  There were several mistakes in her written pattern and it was a minefield to navigate. However, I know that ultimately I must have got it right as we made about 500 pieces for Polo and then an order came in from the womenswear line and many more were made without further correction.   In those days delivery dates were strictly adhered to and we were often left with many sweate…

Blog Action Day on Food

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I love food!  Growing it, cooking it, eating it.  Some of my happiest memories are centred around food, so celebrating it with Blog Action Day gives me a chance to talk about one of my favourite topics.   I've put together a slideshow of some of my best-loved food images - just click on the caption to view.
I am a longtime vegetarian, but don't usually stand on a soapbox about it as some tend to roll their eyes when they hear the word vegetarian.   Sometimes people can't imagine what we lettuce-eaters find that's at all tasty to put on our plates.  Other times people feel threatened and so feel they have to justify being a carnivore by going on the offensive.

There are many reasons why I choose not to eat flesh - the environment, animal cruelty, healthy lifestyle to name a few.  I try not to be sentimental about animals (though I'm totally in love with our two kittens - life is full of contradictions), respecting their right to basic freedoms in the natural order …

Playing For Change

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Watched this video on a blog called Rhythm on the Needles and was blown away by the idea.  Playing For Change Day is a creative day of action that uses the universal power of music to create positive social change.  How wonderful that there is a global community of musicians performing on street corners, cafés and concert halls playing together to build better lives for future generations.   The next Playing for Change Day is 22 September 2012.

Friday night curry club!

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Up early today with a delivery of logs to be stacked.  I just love knowing that the logs are in for the winter, or at least for part of it as no doubt we'll need another load before next spring.  Makes me feel warm and reassured just looking at them - my very own security blanket!
Looking forward to a roaring log fire tonight, the nights are drawing in and there's a nip in the air - definitely a good enough excuse, so I'll be snuggling up with my knitting hatching some new designs - I hope!  Having a lazy Friday today.  We have a Norwegian guest this week who's here to learn English, so I'm trying to make an extra effort on the food front.  So... what's in the pot?  For tonight I'm making a veggie curry with nan and raita, with baked apple and Yorkshire ice-cream to follow.  
My family has always loved any excuse for a celebration and the grandchildren are getting very excited about Halloween.  Here's Izzi at a dress rehearsal trying on her witch's…

The Quilt Museum, York

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Spent the morning at the Quilt Museum here in York, arranging a visit for our Lakes & York tour next May.  This is a fabulous space, not to mention the beautiful quilts.  Set in a stylish, well-planted garden glowing with autumn colour, St Anthony's Hall is a medieval guildhall in the centre of York dating back to 1446.  In its long and colourful history, it has been a guildhall, a workhouse, a munitions magazine, a prison, a Blue Coat School, the Borthwick Institute (historical archive) and now a museum.  
Managed by The Quilters' Guild of the British Isles, its aim is to promote the crafts of patchwork, appliqué and quilting through changing exhibitions of historic and contemporary textiles. The current exhibitions, Structured (modern)and Quilting from the British Isles (traditional) were just amazing, especially so set beneath the dramatic black and white vaulted interior of the hall.  My favourites were the heritage pieces - just to die for!

SO much inspiration in colour…

In The Pink!

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Was reminded of this design (aka Blackberry Ice-cream) from my back catalogue yesterday when someone ordered a kit.  It was featured in Knitting magazine way back in 2005 and I love the way the cables continue beyond the edges.  Made a note to develop this idea further.  It's always too tempting to rush on to the next design without fully exploring all the possibilities of the previous one, so a stroll down memory lane is like seeing afresh all the things I've found really inspiring in the past.  There's always a different angle in terms of yarns, silhouettes, stitches etc, but unfortunately I think I'd need another lifetime to review every design!  My aesthetic is one of the few things that remains core-constant (though still evolving) -  with all else I'm open to persuasion, except on my longtime devotion to vegetarianism.  I must have hundreds of designs sitting on the shelves in my studio all waiting to be rediscovered - in fact the sheer volume makes me feel a…

Inspiration from nature.

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Been looking to nature for inspiration today, to a cauliflower to be precise!  I don't know a lot about fractals but the word immediately springs to mind when looking at this gorgeous geometric pattern.

The term fractal was coined by Benoit Mandelbrot in 1975.  The dictionary defines them as a complex geometric pattern exhibiting self-similarity in that small details of its structure viewed at any scale repeat elements of the overall pattern.  Whatever, it's very obvious that nature has her own complex way of creating patterns within patterns and it's hard to believe that this amazing structure has grown in the ground over the summer.  In fact it felt like almost a crime to cook it,  however I did and very good it tasted too, as delicious a cauliflower cheese as I can remember.

Steve Jobs

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It's been a hard couple of days on the planet - two massive visionaries gone.
Your time on this earth is limited, don’t live someone else's life, live by your vision. - Steve Jobs, 1955 - 2011 iReflect, iSad, iInspired... so iShare!  iSource: http://jmak.tumblr.com/post/9377189056
(Steve Jobs tribute logo created by Jonathan Mak, a 19-year old in Hong Kong) Art Jonak

Bert Jansch

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Was shocked and saddened to hear of the death of Bert Jansch yesterday.  One of the greatest guitarists of our time, he is another musician who has provided a substantial part of the soundtrack of my life.  I remember as a young teenager hitching a lift from Lancashire down to London to see him play at the Horseshoe bar on Tottenham Court Road where he, John Renbourne et al performed every Sunday. He was one of the guitarists who inspired me to play guitar and I remember well struggling with Angie, Courting Blues and Jackson C Frank's (another late great) Blues Run the Game amongst many others.  An irreplaceable loss to the music world.  I shall miss you Bert Jansch.




The edge of the precipice!

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Aaaarrrgh - am facing the void today, trying to get started on a new book.  At least I have a synopsis so it's a void with a framework, but as yet nothing to flesh out the skeleton.  For me the cooking time  is just that and I go into overdrive at home, especially at this time of year with all the wonderful fresh produce around, making soups, pies and chutneys, all the while pondering on the next design, in this case it's the first design!

Had a lovely day with grand-daughters Izzi and Ava, yesterday, so today I've no excuse but to knuckle down.  The cats are being supportive, Django has a lot to say as ever about the design process and sits at my desk as I write, Arlo is reading the Guardian.


Left to my own devices I'm disorganised in my life, but organised in my work, and the first thing I do is to clear my desk so there are no distractions and I can focus my thoughts.  Then I have to get an idea of the book as a whole in my head - the theme,  the chapters, the colo…