#wellMaking

by Natalie on February 3, 2015

 

 

Last week I went to the Craftivists #wellMAKING Garden event in London. I had such a great time making flowers and talking to makers from around the country.

There was an afternoon event where makers were invited to make flowers to add to the already impressive collection of flowers that were stored in drawers and on a table under a gazebo in the back of the room. It was very interesting to talk to to some of the organizers and hear about the idea behind the project, and to talk to other creative industry people who were at the event.

The Craftivists Garden was sponsored by the University of Falmouth, in conjunction with an organization called Arts for Health Cornwall, a group that provides craft and art workshops as a part of healthcare support. They decided to look into more concrete statistics on the effects of making and mental health. We’re always told that making is good for our mental health, it’s the new yoga!, but this was an academic look into what that actually meant. What they focused on was a World Health Organization recommendation that  recommends that part of wellbeing as ‘contributing to society’, they organized flower making workshops where the participants were encouraged to talk about their efforts to contribute to society and how they could work to be their best selves. They worked with groups that were affected by mental health in some way, directly and indirectly. This fostered debate and discussion of wider social issues locally and nationally.

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In the evening their was a series of talks. Individuals from a variety of organizations that had supported the project spoke about what they are doing to promote social awareness and crafts/making. It was so inspiring to hear from people in the academic and arts community talking about making in this way. I think that I have recently been finding that knitting can be a bit of a closed community in some ways. Don’t get me wrong, I think that it is a vibrant, rich and amazing community. Certainly within that community there are people who take inspiration and who influence, engage and collaborate with industries and movements outside of knitting. But as a whole community not as much.  We often think that non-knitters ‘don’t get it’. It can rub the wrong way when people try to change or affect what we hold dear. But by holding things dear we can also be pushing people away. Knitting events can be too niche sometimes. There are so many resources online that it can be overwhelming to even find where to start.

Knitting sits in an odd place in the greater making community. Is it too connected to the home, to function rather than form? Quilting certainly holds very similar ‘granny’ stereotypes to the outside community, but also has a rich history of art quilts that are displayed in art museums. I wonder if I am getting very frustrated and defensive with the ‘aw, a knitter!’ comments that I get when I tell people that I am a knitter and that I work in the knitting industry. When I have voiced this frustration to friends I have occasionally been told that I should lie, that I should say that I work in fashion. It’s only a twist of the truth anyway they say, it is an industry of making clothes. But being a knitter is more than making clothes. It is as much about the process, about making them for yourself, as it is about the finished product. I did once impress a stranger by telling them that I was a ‘handknit technician’, but that was as far as I got.

Maybe I’m just really out of it as well. Please send me lots of links if you know of interesting projects and makers around the world! This year my mantra is going to be ‘learn all the things’. I am already working on my knitting course, plus taking some shorter courses over the year. I am teaching more as well, to help others learn all the things as well. I guess that this is where I am for my wellness contribution to society.

What are you learning in your making practice this year? Are you learning about yourself as a maker, or honing your practice?

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Happy New Year

by Natalie on January 15, 2015

Creative Pile

I am finding myself surrounded by piles like this at the moment. Notebooks, yarns, projects. So many things happening at once, sometimes hard to keep track!

I’ve started working on Level 3 of the City & Guilds Handknitting Course with Fiona Morris. I really wanted to expand my knitting skills in a more structured way. It’s all well and good to take courses at special events when they come up, but that leaves gaps and lots of time not learning. So far it is lots of swatches; cast ons and offs, selvedges, hems and edgings. I’m trying to stay organized from the get go, taking notes in my new William Morris notebook that I picked up at the museum last week. I need to get some luggage tags to tie onto them so that the swatches don’t get mixed up between me knitting them and putting them together to get marked.

I’m also going to supplement the course with some of those weekend knitting courses. I’m signed up for two classes at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival, and I’m keeping my ear to the ground for other events as they come up.

For those of you who have been asking after my patterns, I know that they are offline. With moving last year and not knowing if I wanted to pursue designing, they went on hiatus. Now, just when I was thinking of starting up again, the VATMOSS system hit the fan and I am torn. I made $100 CND at most a month on my patterns, and that is not worth the headache of taxes in the UK, the EU and in Canada all at the same time. So until that settles down, or I settle down a bit more, they will remain offline.

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Always Knitting, Never Knitting for Me

by Natalie on May 12, 2014

It is a very strange thing to knit for one’s day job. I knit and knit and knit and knit all day, every day. I couldn’t tell you the number of hats I have knit in the last three months. 20? 30? I am a duplicate stitch master now, we do so much of it. Snoods, scarves and swatches, I’ve done it all. But I have no knitting to show you! When I get home my fingers are tired and my sewing machine calls, or a book, or dinner with my roommates and I maybe get a few rows in on the weekend, but very little knitting has been done for me since I arrived in London. My internship ends next week and I cannot tell you how excited I am to start blowing though some of the stash I brought along.

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First up is finishing this Pomme de Pin that I started way back in October. The sleeves were knit while I visited London for a week, and I managed to finish the body a few weeks ago. However, I quickly realized that some re-knitting was in order. For some reason (I’m guessing because of the lace pattern?) there is no shaping in the diameter of the sleeve. As written you cast on and then just knit. No increases. It fits as in I can get it on my arm, but it doesn’t match the overall ease of the body of the sweater and there is absolutely no way that I am going to be able to fit that sleeve cap into the armhole. Impossible.

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So last night I finally sat down and worked out what needed to be done. I ripped back to just above the cuff and have started re-knitting the first sleeve with added increases. Luckily this one fits in my purse easily and I am determined to be wearing this by the end of the month!

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Where’s Wally

by Natalie on March 17, 2014

 

 

My weekends in London mostly seem to involve running errands and enjoying the sunshine these days. This weekend I started the process of getting a bank account, bought a pair of house shoes (which was surprisingly urgent), celebrated my roommate’s birthday, discovered a park and a charity run, and hung out on a houseboat. Phew! It’s too bad there isn’t another day in there just to recover!

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I am so happy to have a giant park so close to my house. It has a little pond and some fantastic walking paths. I went by specifically as I had heard that there would be a 10k Where’s Wally* race on Sunday morning. The race benefited a literacy charity in England, so the theme worked pretty well. Almost everyone had a costume on while they ran; a striped shirt, hat and glasses. Not surprisingly I had the hardest time trying to find someone that I knew was there after the race. Everyone just blended together in their matching outfits. In the end I had to give up and head out to my next stop.

 

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The next stop was to visit my friends Joanna and Tom, who live on a houseboat in Regents Canal. It was delightful! We sat on the roof and drank wine for the whole afternoon. I knit away on the button band of my Pomme de Pin cardigan, which is almost done. We had a roast dinner with some friends of theirs who lived further up on another boat. In the evening we had homemade damson berry vodka with fizzy water. Delicious!

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I think I have fallen in love with living on a houseboat for at least a week while I live here. I’m not sure that I would want to do it full time, even if it is cheaper than renting a regular flat. The winters sound awful, and there is a lot to manage with a boat that you don’t have to think as much about with a house. Septic tanks and water tanks, coal heating etc. It all sounds just right for a holiday though! I think that this summer will involve quite a few visits down by the water with friends.

* Wally is British for Waldo. As far as I can tell they are exactly the same. Perhaps the name change helps in his quest to stay hidden from the world?

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Liberty of London

by Natalie on March 16, 2014

Yesterday I was downtown doing some shopping and I found myself near Oxford Circus, so I thought I would pop into Liberty and escape the crowds a bit. I have friends at home that are always asking me about the Liberty store, so I thought I would share with everyone.

It is a huge building, 4 floors. It is actually like a really fancy department store, with all sorts of big name designers that I only hear about because they happen to dress presidents and such. I usually just skip straight up to the 3rd floor for the haberdashery department.

 

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The floors are organized around two of these atriums that go right through the building. One of them had this huge chandelier thing in it.

 

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The skylights at the top let in lovely light.

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The second atrium was not decorated, but it does give you a better view of the fabric from the other side! The shelving is really boring compared to everything else in the store, but the contents are gorgeous!

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This was more of a reconnaissance trip than anything. I didn’t buy anything. I did have a lovely conversation with a woman named Jules who works in the Rowan yarn section of the store. I picked out this print as my favourite of the new collection. I’m going to have a hard time choosing which of the three colours to pick for a summer dress! The print is called Heidi Maria, for those of you who will ask!

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