Thursday, 30 August 2018

Remembrance of Holidays Past. . .

Roughly this time last year, I had returned from the most fabulous trip to Shetland, and was anticipating an equally glorious week in the Outer Hebrides.  These trips were full of inspiration and memories and I have tried to recapture them in two recent projects.

This is my finished Bressay, designed by Marie Wallin from her book Shetland.   It's knit mostly in natural shades and though the body is a Wensleydale from John Arbon, many of the shades in the yoke are Jamieson and Smith's Shetland Supreme, jumper 4ply or Jamieson's Spindrift.  There's nothing like knitting with Shetland wool to evoke those islands with its history and knitting heritage.  Especially if you are also working on some fair isle too.

I did add one line of yellow as a nod to the actual island of Bressay and its iconic lighthouse which featured in a wonderful walk we did.   This is surrounded by a colourway called 'Peat' which also abounds in the Shetland landscape.

I've also been knitting with Hebridean wool.  I've just finished the Areto hat by Rachel Coopey as a gift for our walking guide on that Hebridean holiday as he's also going to be leading us on our upcoming trip to the Torridon area of Scotland.  This will hopefully be the warmest hat he's ever owned and I just love the rich chocolate of hebridean wool.  This is from the Birlinn Yarn Company and I bought a skein of their DK from a ferry shop on the Hebrides. It is so lovely to work with.

I can't be too sad about the past though - September is going to be filled with lots of other woolly adventures to look forward to. And with the cooler weather, it's so nice to be taking the knits out of storage and wearing them again. 

Thursday, 23 August 2018

In Which I Fall Down the EPP Rabbit Hole. . .

Never one to shy away from starting a new project  - no matter how big - I am now officially obsessed by English Paper Piecing (EPP), which is a quilting technique that wraps each piece of fabric around a paper template. The pieces are then sewn together with a whip stitch and the paper pieces are removed before the final quilting. 

I recently bought two beautiful books: English Paper Piecing by Florence Knapp aka Flossie Teacakes, which is a celebration of the craft, an historical overview and an instruction manual, and Millefiori Quilts 3 by Willyne Hammerstein which quite simply contains the most detailed and staggeringly beautiful and intricate quilts I've ever seen. They positively dance with colour and movement. 

Now perhaps a Millefori quilt is not theideal choice for one's first attempt at EPP but since most quilts take a heck of a long time, why not go for it? So I've chosen her Tarantella quilt and will be sewing it mostly from stash (I may need to buy some fabric for the border but if I ever make it that far I'll be happy to go shopping).  I chose this design in part for its exuberance and the number of colours; hopefully if each colour works with the one beside it, somehow it will all come together for the bigger picture. I am going to start in the middle and slowly work my way outwards.  In case you wondered, there are only 2981 pieces.  Plus the border.  And then of course the whole thing will need to be quilted. Yes, I am slightly nuts.

I have a few friends who are quilters and they gave me lots of tips for specialist EPP tools which I picked up along with some sashiko supplies at the Festival of Quilts.  In particular, I like the travelling needle gadget in the bottom left hand corner made by Clover. I can thread ten needles and stick them in there, to pull out when needed.  Life is too short to baste every piece (did I mention there are 2981 pieces - I can't even begin to do the maths to figure out how many sides of each need to be sewn), and so I've bought a handy fabric glue stick and lots of refills.

And I started with my first rosette! Here you can see how the fabric wraps around the paper. 

And how it looks from the front:

Twenty pieces down, 2961 to go!

Things I have learned already:

1. Cutting out paper shapes is oddly soothing.

2. I don't like cutting out the fabric (too fiddly and I worry about fraying )

3. I am very glad to have the glue pen, although I'm going to need even more refills. I love wrapping the fabric around the paper.

4. The initial appeal of EPP was its portability. I keep my little wrapped pieces in a see-through pouch along with my needles and thread, and just sew a piece here and there when I have the odd ten minutes. The wrapping creates really smooth edges and if I've cut my templates correctly, in theory, the pieces will all line up nicely. The advantage over regular hand piecing is that you don't need to iron open the seams afterwards (I hate ironing and it's definitely not portable).

5.  I will never, ever think of knitting as a slow craft again.

This is obviously a long-term project but one I am very happy not to stress about. I will try to do some quilting every week and will just let this project evolve and grow as and when it does. It's nice to be using different materials and hand movements from the knitting and after years of hiding the fabric stash under the bed, I'm having a great time re-acquainting myself with all those fat quarters I've collected. I have no idea what direction this quilt will go in colour or tone-wise, but I do have several Kaffe Fassett charm packs so chances are good that it'll be a colour explosion.

Stay tuned. . .

Thursday, 16 August 2018

The Festival of Quilts 2018. . .

Last Saturday, I travelled down to Birmingham for the annual Festival of Quilts. I love this show - it's a sensory overload of talent, colour, texture and inspiration. There are over 1,400 quilts on display, plus a large marketplace, but with some comfy shoes and a packed lunch, you can cover quite a lot in one day. 

There were so many fabulous quilts on display but here's a tiny round-up of some that really caught my eye.  I'll start with my favourite of all the artist exhibitions - Pieces of My Life by Shizuko Kuroha.  She sews with mostly vintage indigo-dyed fabrics and her play with shape and colour is exquisite and mesmerising. 

Remembrance of Wind by Shizuko Kuroha

Cosmos II by Shizuko Kuroha

Gifts from the Sky by Shizuko Kuroha
She was attending the quilt show and as I was so impressed by her work, I just had to buy a copy of her book, which she signed for me.  It is such a beautifully designed celebration of her life and work, with some stunning photography and wonderful patterns, not only for many of the quilts, but for some smaller projects too, such as a lovely quilted drawstring bag that would be perfect for some knitting.

One of the best aspects of the show is the huge variety of quilting styles.  I will always enjoy seeing traditional quilts:

Sailing Home by Sue Faulkner

Twinkling by Regina Maier

Ruby Anniversary Celebration - Group Quilt by the Malvern Quilters

Hexagon Quilt 'La Passion' Challenge by Under-the Edge Quilters

Knit and Purl by Eleanor Birchell Hughes
Some quilts I loved for their colour palettes, others for their texture.

Retro by Sophie Zaugg

Green Thoughts by Amanda Jane Ogden and Alison Moore
Deep Blue by Paola Zanda

Japanese Zen Garden by Hanna Farquharson

There were modern and pictorial quilts:

Retorno Al Paraiso by La Flor Y Nata Del Patchwork 

Curled by Charlie Mankin

And the Sky Danced by Jean McLean

What a Relief by Brenda McDonnell

This quilt had an ecological message about our over-use of plastic.

Plastic Ocean by Kathy Unwin

And this quilt actually used plastic as its fabric.

Anthropogenic Wave by Kay McKiernan

Finally, this was another favourite - one of those quilts that looked even more amazing, the further you stepped away from it. The use of fabrics to create shading and colour was just incredible.

Forty Shades of Green by Ethelda Ellis

I dabbled in quilting long before I took up knitting again so I have . . . ahem. . . a rather large fabric stash in boxes under the spare bed. This show has inspired me to take up a multi-year project which I'll blog about in another post.  It's definitely a show to catch if you are ever near Birmingham in August. 

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

The Lovely Langdales. . .

Despite my many trips to the Lake District, last Sunday was my first time walking among the Langdale Pikes.  It's an area that my walking group regularly frequents (and now I know why!) but we had always been busy whenever it came up in the schedule.

And all I can say is WOW!  This is a post where really all the photos can speak for themselves - we had perfect weather and perfect views. It was a circular walk about 8.5 miles.

From the National Trust parking lot, it was straight up into the climbing, but on a very good, stony-stepped path.  You can see how popular this area is - almost all the paths we went on were well-maintained.

This is about halfway up looking back on the valley. The path follows Stickle Ghyll.

And ends up at Stickle Tarn.  At the opposite end is Pavey Ark and there is a diagonal scramble of a path called Jack's Rake. My partner went up that, but he was on the harder walk - I don't have a head for prolonged scrambling so was happy to just skirt the tarn.

We then started heading up Harrison Stickle with lovely views looking back on the tarn.  You can also see Lake Windermere in the distance.

At the top was time for a break and a bit of knitting. That little round knob of a hill in the middle is Pike O'Stickle which we headed for after lunch.

It looks a little bigger as you get closer.

This was one of those walks where you had spectacular views in every direction. Here on the top, you can just see the top of Great Gable disappearing into the clouds with Green Gable beside it. 

Looking back on Loft Crag.

We then descended over glorious moorland with spectacular views in every direction - you can see Skiddaw in the distance.

I love the dramatic play of light and shadow on the landscape. It was such a stunning day out in the hills.

We then came across these huge bags full of Herdwick fleece.  My guess is that it'll be used in much of the path repairs taking place in this area. The wool forms a good barrier between the bog and the stone path.

Finally we swerved around and returned back along this valley path.  Definitely a walk for the top ten list!