Tuesday, 23 February 2010

more houndstooth...

Strangely enough, after my last post about a houndstooth cardi, I have just discovered this blast from the past. It is a picture of one of my outfits from a project on my degree at Middlesex University - Fair Isle houndstooth galore! I must be obsessed...
p.s. please also take note that this photo was taken nearly ten years ago...

Sunday, 21 February 2010

houndstooth cardigan

I have been so busy recently that I totally forgot to post about my pattern in the last issue of Yarn Forward. It is influenced by the Autumn/Winter 2010 trend for houndstooth and checked woven fabrics, which I translated into a simple yet effective all over Fair Isle pattern. It also has pockets which you can wear hidden or as a plain garter stitch contrast to match with the collar and edging, which isn't shown fully in the spread.
Alexander McQueen's collection especially was a great inspiration here and I was extremely saddened to hear of his untimely death this month. I for one will miss the anticipation of wondering what he will do next in his theatrical catwalk shows.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Point de Croix

Here are the pictures as promised from the amazing cross stitch exhibition at l'Aiguille en fete in Paris at the weekend.
The first section of the exhibition displayed some sweet and incredibly complex samplers in the Souvenirs de jeunesse or 'Memories of Youth'. These demonstrated how, in the exhibition's explaination, young school girls of past years learned the skills of women by practicing their cross stitch, sewing, knitting and repairing skills on small samplers. There are some great examples on the website, so check it out.

Amongst these were also more complicated and beautifully detailed samplers from the colleciton of Joke Visser, some from the 17th century. My personal favorites were this stunning olive green piece and the one below it with a very cute yet, strangely, at the same time stately stag.
Another section was from more modern cross stitchers, called Treasures of Cross Stitch. Amongst other pieces, I liked this one based on the metro. Each part represents a station on the Paris underground system.

The most intersting exhibits to me were definitely the hundreds of vintage sewing, embroidering and cross stitch artefacts. I liked everything about this section; the way the objects were all arranged higgledy-piggledy; the colours; the retro pictures and graphics printed on the packaging; the small and intricate cross stitch embellishments on scissor cases and needle wallets.

I am a sucker for a hook and eye, especially when its packaging is as sublimely pretty as these:

What I would give for some of these storage solutions, especially this wooden and glass box, labelled appropriately of course!

This arrangement of items is really appealing to me, it has it all - some religious iconography, wooden spools (with or without yarn - I don't care!), tin boxes and pretty, shiny threads. Sigh.
Overall, though, I think these star shaped darning thread cards are simply divine and my absolute favourite display. They are almost like little gleaming war medals or falling snowlakes. My cards of darning yarns are almost always square, I would be so, so happy if I were to find a little six-pronged wrap of yarn like this, let alone a collection as fab as this one. As it is, I had to settle for this intriguing exhibition. However, it left a fabulous impression and was a great inspiration.

Monday, 15 February 2010

l'aiguille en fete, paris

Loop yarn shop had a stand at the 'needle fair', l'Aiguille en Fete in Paris last week and I went along at the weekend to help out, or rather to hinder sales with my pigeon French. I understand quite a bit of the language but tend to dry up in fear when I have to speak it, so I stuck to such reliable terms as point mousse (garter stitch) point tricot (stocking stitch - except apparently it is not, it is 'jersey' oops! See comments below), tres doux (very soft), the numbers for prices, grams, meterage and needle sizes and the trusty old Parlez-vous anglais? when all else failed!

It was really interesting to compare and contrast the fair with British alternatives such as the Stitch and Knit show. There were very few yarn stalls and the French crafters were intrigued by many of the yarns on Loop's and Habu's stands which we knit with frequently in Britain, such as the hand dyed sock yarns and unusual fibers we are used to. Most of the fair consisted of needle point and cross stitch, although there were a few things that caught my eye. There was an incredibly cute toy kit stand, la Sardine and you know that I cannot resist a plushie textiles creature.
I also spent most of the spare time I had poring over the Japanese book stall Junkudo. I have long admired Japanese craft books, but had yet to make a decision on which of the many beautiful books to buy. However, it almost proved more difficult having the hard copies there to thumb through as I found I wanted them all! I succumbed eventually to this retro styled amigurumi book which reminded me of some pictures I have of myself as a child with my own toys. I also really wanted a sewing book, however I spent most of Sunday agonising over which one to buy - I know from my previous forays into sewing that I would not end up using them all, so I was very restrained and decided on the simple tunics and one piece book, as it seemed the simplest.

The draping book, while fabulous, may be beyond me and the one with the fantastic grey dress with pockets on the front (regular readers note; my dress/pocket obsession is getting ridiculous) had no other patterns I liked.

Aside from the Japanese book stall, my favourite part of the fair was an amazing cross stitch exhibition. This was so fabulous, it needs another post, so stay tuned for a lengthy post on vintage needlepoint and artefacts and in the meantime feast your eyes on the la Tour Eiffel at the top of the post in glorious textured cross stitch to tide yourself over 'til then.

I cannot leave you without sharing a great and very apt picture, which I promised the lovely Juju I would post. Outside of the fair, it seemed the needle fever had spread throughout the city, as across from our hotel was the amazing 'Knitting Pig' restaurant. It was actually called Au Cochon de Lait, but the sight of the milk laden pig knitting ecstatically in the sign was all we needed to change its name. So there you go dearest internet, even the livestock knit in Paris; now I feel my affinity with the country of my ancestors even more...

Friday, 12 February 2010


I took a trip down memory lane yesterday when I visited the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture at Middlesex University's Cat Hill campus; I was a student on the constructed textiles course there when it was built in 2000 and it was a great resource. The museum is a little gem if you are interested in interiors or textiles, with a fabulous and extensive collection of artefacts which you can use for reserch or just for inspiration.

The current exhibition is called Japantastic and is small but perfectly formed. There are beautiful Japanese inspired textiles fom the late nineteenth to early twentieth centuries, when there was a craze for all things relating to Japan. The wallpapers and fabric were produced by the Silver Studio, who supplied designs to Liberty.

I would highly recommend that you get down to see this exhibition if you can and if you haven't been before, check out the permanent exhibition Exploring Interiors about domestic living from the early twentieth century. There are some fabulous pieces, including a stunning singer sewing machine cabinet, which I could easily have walked out of there with if it wasn't so darned heavy....

Sunday, 7 February 2010

i love lucienne day

It was a sad moment when I heard the news of Lucienne Day's passing last week, so I felt I must write a little about why she was such an creative inspiration to me. I had the great priviledge of hearing her talk about her career a few years ago, while I was studying textiles at the Royal College of Art. She must have been the grand age of 86, but stood for a couple of hours talking eloquently about her fascinating work, her life and her husband and also held a questions and answers session, throughout which the passion she held for design and textiles was still very much in evidence.

Although she is extremely well known for her fifties and sixties prints, such as the infamous Calyx (top), which hung at the Festival of Britain in 1951, she talked most about the tapestries which held her interest for most of the latter part of her life, and were very beautiful. She was an inspiration of a designer, working with a great creative drive, right into her final years, yet also with a solid home life as a mother to her daughter and wife and occasional collaborator to her husband of over sixty years, Robin Day.
Robin is a furniture deisgner and for those of you who do not know, he designed the ubiquitous polypropylene chairs we all grew up with, sitting on at school, in church halls and pretty much everywhere mass seating was needed. The couple rarely collaborated on the same projects, but their pieces worked harmoniously together, as with Calyx, which hung in Robin's display at the Festival of Britain, and in this great photo from the Design Museum of their house. I would move in tomorrow - what a stylish and classic yet cosy pad!

The pair met at an RCA dance in the forties, which is a lovely reflection of how I met my own partner. Although I am also a textiles designer and a RCA graduate, I can only hope to achieve her success and level of creativity and prolific output. Her designs were truly groundbreaking at the time and even now, although they are very familiar and well worn, they do not look dated, with similar designs continuing to be replicated in contemporary interiors. In fact, her designs are still being produced by companies such as Heals, with whom she worked for long periods.
One of the aspects of her own and Robin's ethos which I most identify with, similar to William Morris' Arts and Craft Movement, which she also admired, is the idea of great design for the masses at affordable prices. Usually this is a contradiction which connot be reconciled, but the Days managed it with style.

A sad truth is that most ideas and avenues in textiles have been explored today, so it is unlikely that we shall ever see such a startlingly new and groundbreaking textiles designer again, so Lucienne will be sadly missed. However, her designs, I believe will be relevant for many, many years to come.

Friday, 5 February 2010

artreach craft workshops

Here are some photos, courtesy of Joy, from the workshop with Artreach in Northwood last weekend. We made crochet flower necklaces and simple floral corsages, while other groups made hand sewn brooches or painted silk greetings cards.
Here is Susie Johns, who it was a pleasure to meet again, showing her groups how to paint beautiful designs onto silk.
And here I am reintroducing a mother and daughter to the delights of crochet.
Lots of fun was had by all and I have since begun a series of mixed media workshops with the group, aiming to create a colourful textiles wall piece, or 'quilt' around the theme of snow days. Will post pictures here when it is completed in a few weeks time.