The blog I have created is to help beginner and novice knitters create nice things! I love knitting simple yet stylish accessories and garments and I find it so rewarding for these pieces to become part of my everyday wardrobe.
We’ve all heard the saying, Netflix and Chill. However most people are not doing the ‘chill’ part when binge watching the latest Drama or Documentary series. (For those not familiar - the ‘chill’ part is mostly for the Tinder daters haha)
For many, watching these 8 hours of TV can create some kind of guilt for not using our time productively - HELLO KNITTING!
Knitting simple projects can be a great supplementary activity to do while you watch TV.
Even for beginners if you are knitting a scarf or small project with a simple pattern you can easily do both. Of course unlike other TV there is a pause button. You are able to stop whenever you like and you don’t miss a thing when checking your knitting.
I still have trouble with sub-titled programs which require me to look at the screen the whole time, but regular programs are great.
Last Saturday I went to support my friend Nicole Mallalieu (Nikki) as she presented a talk in a series entitled Creative Women in Focus.
Nikki from You Sew Girl presenting at Duldig Studio
The talk was held at the Duldig Studio, it was near my home but I had never visited nor heard of this Studio.
I’m so pleased I attended. Nikki’s talk was very interesting talking about her creative path from childhood dress making, progressing to leatherwork, hatmaking and of course her highly successful pattern making and sewing books and classes.
Her story fitted in nicely with the venue. A family space that celebrated creativity.
The Duldig Studio is the family home of Karl Duldig and Slawa Duldig and their family. I was incredibly fortunate to meet the daughter of this family, Eva, and she gave us an intimate tour of the studio.
Whilst it is a small venue, it is of course a 1950s family home, the creativity is simply bursting from the seams!
The home/studio is filled with ceramic masks and sculptures, bronze figures, paintings, drawings and beautiful furnishings.
The story of the Duldig family and their journey from Austria in 1938 (fleeing the Nazi invasion - Anschluss) is remarkable, with many of the pieces on display including light fittings and furnishings being the same pieces that graced their home in Vienna.
The family story and the artwork combined make it a fascinating space. I was absolutely thrilled to see this wealth of creativity and I can’t wait to go back for another visit.
There are other talks and events upcoming, including a book club run by Fiona Clarke on the first Thursday of each month.
Such a diversity of arts. Furniture, sculpture, painting, ceramics.
When people learn a new skill it is very common to feel inadequate or unsuccessful.
What seems simple and straightforward at first glance is usually a little more complex when you attempt it yourself. However with a little perseverance you will usually be rewarded.
Usually you need to practice things, before getting them right - knitting is no exception. I'm yet to meet the person who can pick up knitting needles and yarn, read a pattern and finish a jumper first time!
When I teach knitting I find it much more useful to encourage people to just keep going, rather than stress about every small error. Yes the end result may be different from the plan, but you have given yourself lots of practice. Hopefully your next attempt will be more inline with your expectations.
The more you try to be perfect when you start a new skill the more disheartening it is when the results are less than perfect. Accept your new challenge for what it is - a learning curve, understand that the more you persist and the less you criticize your lack of perfection , the more improved you will be!
This is why all my kits are small projects. I want to give people the opportunity to practice a small range of new skills in a short period where they can see results.
Art by Amanda McCavour - Compound Tangle
My three best tips for learning to knit are:
Often when we are focusing intently on something new we literally hold our breath! That deprives our brains of Oxygen and we think less clearly. So taking deep calming breaths regularly as you knit will really help.
If your hands are gripping onto the needles for dear life and the wool is sweating in your hands, you need to relax. Shake out your hands, shrug your shoulders up and down and breathe.
Don't pull your yarn as tightly - it won't jump of the needles!
By relaxing and creating a looser tension in your knitting you will find it easier and the yarn will behave as it should. Knitting will remain square instead of creeping into a triangle!
3 Don't panic
If you do make a mistake, it's not the end of the world. Don't scrap your intentions because of one small error. Everything is fixable.
Firstly take a look carefully and see where you went wrong, if you knitted a stitch wrongly only a few stitches (or even a row) back you can unknit it. Known as Tink - check out You Tube tutorials for help online. I actually need to make one myself... so remind me if you need help!
Then maybe look again at the pattern, are you following correctly, when you are knitting in rib or moss stitch you can often forget which stitch you are up to - purl or knit. Just take a moment and find out where you went wrong. Again if it's not far back you can unknit.
If you've created more stitches, then you can often easily just knit two together at the end of the row.
Not enough stitches, just make one or cast on another to make up the numbers.
If it all seems hopeless - unpull (Frog) your work and start again. Just call that previous knitting a test run. Don't dwell on it, just start again with renewed confidence.
So there you go, have the confidence to start and the persistence to continue without feeling like a failure if you aren't immediately brilliant!
It's back ... our annual day to celebrate knitting by getting out in public showing your local community what you do!
In the last two years we have gathered at Arbory Bar on the banks of the Yarra. This year I've arranged to meet up at Prahran Market. We will be opposite the Flawless Flower stand inside the market area.
You are all invited to join us. It should be a fun few hours, knitting and chatting. I would love to meet as many Melbourne knitters as possible.
There is plenty of food and drink available at the market so come along for lunch on Saturday 10th June between 12 and 2pm.
BYO knitting or other yarn crafty thing you are doing.
How many articles/ stories/ headlines have you read telling you how relaxing and zen knitting is?
More than you can remember I'm sure.
While I know that established knitters find the rhythm of knitting to be peaceful and relaxing (myself included) I do feel that these constant articles are a little unfair to the wanna-be knitter.
A someone who has taught knitting to people of all ages and competencies.. knitting is really not the magical stress relieving craft that most people imagine!
To be honest - learning to knit can be really stressful and frustrating.
To begin with, simply tying a slip knot can get people confused for at least 15 minutes.
Then wrangling the knitting needles, trying to make sure the cast on stitches don't fall off or simply disappear.
Once you have some stitches on your needles your initial knitting is more likely to look like random macrame than knitting. With holes and weird strings across gaps the norm.
If you manage to persist with knitting and get a few rows on your needles, you may find that scarf you endeavored to make is looking very triangular. No doubt the edges of your knitting are not straight and are likely to be shrugged in!
A the joys of knitting... at this stage you may wish to pull out your knitting.
You might just give up or create a new use for your knitting efforts!
Don't give up! With just a little perseverance you can get the hang of knitting fairly quickly. It really is about expectations.
If you accept that you may not knit like a pro within the hour you are more prepared to make mistakes and not be as frustrated. See your first attempts at knitting as an opportunity to practice. So if you can cast on and make a stitch - just keep going until you feel you have the hang of it.
Once you feel you are making fewer mistakes, then start again and this time try to make the edges neat. Tension is very tricky and something you will learn over time.
Part of the meditation aspect of knitting is that it makes you focus on the now. You can stop fretting about your existing problems or plans and pay attention to learning a new skill. This clears your mind so that it can be entirely present... and just like yoga you must remember to breathe!
I have 2 main tips for beginners and knitting:1. Start on a small project - don't be too ambitious. A pair of handwarmers or washcloth is a great starting place for the novice knitter.2. You Tube is your friend. I have a great collection of Tutorial videos that slowly and clearly take you through the basics of knitting.
Slow and steady...
Pretty soon you will get the hang of knitting. Of course finishing your first project will be really exciting and you can go on to bigger and better things from there! Just remember the process is often just as important as the result.
My beginner kits are designed to be as pain free as possible! For small easy to achieve projects...have a look here!
Recently whilst searching for some unrelated product, the internet led me to a very interesting topic of Woolen Coffins. Apologies if this seems mournful to you.
I don't know if I am way behind the crowd on this, but it was certainly new to me!
It seems that about 8 years ago a company by the name of Hainsworth, in Yorkshire UK created lovely tactile coffins made from felted wool. These attractive coffins have a softness that wood and brass don't have.
The adult sizes use the fleece of 3 sheep and obviously less for the smaller pet versions they create.
They have been very popular and promoted in New Zealand as well through Natural Living and are available in Australia through Serendipity .
You can see images here:
I've also come across these other wool and knitting inspired coffins.
A company called Expression Coffins can turn your regular coffin into a tribute to your passions with an image skin, of yarn and knitting. It seems you can have any number of worldly passions printed on your coffin.. Cappuccino coffee, surfing, even camouflage.
The ultimate UFO...
Another wool themed resting place I found was this Woven Cloud. Made from wool and willow. There was a successful Kickstarter campaign for a UK product named Rest In Fleece , but the link to the website is no longer working. The cloud does look very tribal and quite ethereal.
Woven cloud made from Wool and Willow
Then I came across this absolutely beautiful coffin, known as a Leaf Cocoon. Stunningly handcrafted by Yuli Somme. You can watch the You Tube video here of her carving wood and sewing the cocoon then finally felting beautiful leaves on the outer blanket.
Winter has well and truly set in now in Melbourne.
I’m wearing a scarf and beanie most days.
Alpaca Slouch Beanie, with Alpaca Super loop scarf
I guess I am pretty lucky that I have a few to choose from, as I am constantly knitting up samples or looking for simple knit styles.
I know the stores are full of acrylic knitwear made in China, but there is something extremely comforting about wearing a hand knitted winter accessory.
It’s hard to explain – there is an element of care and genuine love that seems to be embedded in the fibres of hand knitting.
Also if you have knitted the accessory yourself there is a huge an element of pride and self sustenance involved. Extra points if someone compliments your knit wear – but not even necessary to make you feel good.
So if you’d like to share to feel the love of hand knit winter warmers have a look at the knitting kits I have put together. Something for yourself or maybe the perfect knitted gift.
Alpaca Chunky Short Loop cowl
The patterns are super simple and I have made video tutorials if you need help.
The yarns are beautiful quality and I have selected a small but charming colour palette.
The projects are deliberately small so you can knit and complete and enjoy your efforts. (Instead of being left in a bag as something you’ll finish one day… )
Enjoy your southern hemisphere winter and give yourself a big woolly knitted hug!
So many pictures of me, I do apologise! I need to find an in-house model to do justice to the garments!
Knitting, needlework, sewing, weaving... all these creative activities have been diminished over the years as 'women's work'.
Initially these skills were performed (mostly) by women to maintain a household, clothe families and create furnishings.
Then the industrial revolution allowed many of these skills to become mechanized and woven textiles and clothing came from factories. Women were then employed to operate the machines and in places like Oldham (where my Grandmother was born) Mill work gave many women a social and sometimes financial freedom as they became part of the work force. Yet even as women gained some independence, the factory roles they held were never highly regarded by society.
There is much debate about the emancipation of women joining the workforce in factories vs. the enslavement of women working in dangerous and harsh conditions usually for less money than men.
Hand Craft work and the skew of women employed in this industry was usually viewed as less worthy than other creative endeavours and usually labelled in a derogatory manner as 'women's work'. As opposed to skilled crafts such as woodwork, leather work or shoe making which somehow were more masculine and therefore more respected in the workforce.
The history of women radicalising crafts such as needlework and knitting has become known as Craftivism. While Craftivism is making a resurgence, especially since USA elected Donald Trump as President, the seeds for women using craft as political activism have long been planted in the textiles industry.
Historically you could say the Craftivism movement started with The Arts and crafts movement from 1850(ish). establishing Craft as protest.
In modern times women are reclaiming the craft of knitting, sewing and needlework to protest against inequality. It has become a feminist rallying cry to use methods previously diminished as docile and subservient, to create loud art works to declare feminist rights. There is also plenty of evidence that throughout history there has been subversive work in embroidery, quilting and knitting.
Betsy Greer has been heralded as the initiator of the modern term Craftism. Often the act of simply creating our own products instead of purchasing mass produced goods is seen as a creative statement.
I enjoy the community element of craftivism. I have worked on community projects and it's very rewarding. One of my most favoured images of Craftivism at work was watching the sea of pink Pussy Hats worn by protestors around the world in 2017.
This movement was inspired by the vulgarity of President Elect Trump during his campaign - women took ownership of the slur and knitted kitten ear beanies in bright pink to wear in protest.
Needlecraft workers have also been forthright with embroidered messages. A recent article for Time Money magazine has heralded the popularity of Craftivism . Shannon Downey from Badass Cross Stitch has a high profile for her protest works. With high profile protests and clever images, the Craftivism movement is becoming more recognised and people are loving it!
In Australia, I have been following Tal Fitzpatrick, a long standing craftivism creator. Her current project is the curation of an embroidery collection of pieces celebrating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Her exhibition and talk on this project will be held next month in Melbourne.
Some of the works she has featured on her Instagram account are outstanding. Please have a look.
There is certainly a lot of political debate about what Craftivism is and what it stands for. You don't need to make statements or swear. You can create events, be part of a community, stand out from the crowd. Use your creativity as your voice.
There is a wealth of information on creativity and subversiveness to examine, this blog merely scratches the surface. Maybe this has peaked your curiosity if you have not been previously aware of the history of craftism. If so I hope enjoy exploring this subject in further detail.