Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Malabrigo lace love...

I was lucky enough, a few weeks ago, to have bought a skein of Malabrigo lace in the colourway Cinnabar (though I would describe is as terra cotta) on sale! I've used this yarn before and immediately fell in love with its softness, so you can understand how happy I was to have found this stunning colour on sale! It will be perfect for autumn, and although the British weather has finally (!!!) decided it is summer after all, I reckon you can't prepare too early for the change of the seasons! Besides, I've chosen to crochet a cowl in granny stitch, which in lace weight yarn will take me forever to finish anyway, by which time the British 'summer' will be long gone! I have yet to decide if I'm making this for myself or to put up for sale in my Etsy shop, but I have a feeling it will be a present for me! 

Saturday, 21 July 2012

bioRe cotton: organic, ethical and fairtrade

Debbie Bliss yarns are known by most knitters, are found in most of the yarn shops I've been to but although I've used various yarns such as cashmerino, I've never really looked into its origins. But as I was looking for organic cottons, it was mentioned on one website (www.texere-yarns.co.uk) that the Debbie Bliss Fairtrade range used cotton obtained from the bioRe textile chain. I had never heard of this (and it's also not mentioned on the ball band!), so I looked it up and was pleasantly surprised to find a company with a very interesting philosophy!

Quoted from their website (http://www.remei.ch/en/biore-philosophy/)

"Remei AG established the bioRe® Foundation in 1997 with the goal, to strengthen farmer families by means of organic farming and to improve their living conditions. The bioRe® Foundation is the umbrella organisation of a unique value chain originating from the cotton companies in India and Tanzania.
bioRe® India Ltd. and bioRe® Tanzania Ltd. cooperate directly with more than 8,000 bioRe® farmers. Farmers are treated as partners receiving agricultural advice and support.
Organic farming enables farmers to build up agricultural production on a sound basis giving them increasingly stable income without the need to take out loans for expensive chemicals.
This makes farmers less vulnerable financially. bioRe® India supports farmers by means of both a guarantee to purchase their organic cotton and payment of a premium on the local market price."

There is a lot more information on the website.

Luck would have it that the Debbie Bliss Eco Aran (part of this range) was on sale so I bought a few balls and have made some lovely dishcloths, using probably the most traditional design in the world. There's some traditions you just can't beat! The cotton is also dyed with non-toxic dyes in recyclable water. 

I've loved knitting with this yarn, it's incredibly soft! The only negative point I could make is that the yarn splits quite easily. But that was quickly overshadowed by the softness and the amazing colours. Plus knowing that this cotton is pretty much as sustainable and ethical as it gets (of course other than reusing yarn) probably added to my enjoyment. However, I do find it strange that this information about bioRe is not on the ball band or the Debbie Bliss website. I would've thought they'd be proud to be using ethical and sustainable cotton and that the bioRe Foundation would get more exposure. 

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Exhibition: Heatherwick Studio in the Victoria and Albert Museum

Living in the great city of London means that there is always something to see and do. The frustration when you know this, and you don't find the time to go see and do all these things, can be huge. But this Monday I managed to make some time and my best friend and I visited the Victoria and Albert Museum to go see Heatherwick Studio: Designing the Extraordinary. The Studio is probably best known to the general public for their design of the UK pavilion for the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai, the Seed Cathedral (image below). 

When entering the exhibition I said: "but this is only one room!" In the end, I am glad it was only one room, as we managed to just about get through all the content 5 minutes before closing time, leaving me just enough time to purchase the book before the shops were cordoned off by the staff waiting for us to leave!

So you guessed it, I was very impressed with the exhibition! Unfortunately we weren't allowed to take pictures, but here's a video link from the V&A channel: 


I was familiar with a few of the projects, having seen them in various design magazines, but there was a lot that was new to me, in particular projects from Thomas Heatherwick's student days. It looks like over time the studio has moved more and more into the field of architecture and urban design. One of the aspects I enjoyed most about this exhibition was that there was a real focus on concept and thought process, on materiality and craftsmanship, through experimental models and images. On occasion I liked the concept better than the end product!  

And as I am not able to show any photographs, you have until the 30th of September to visit and see for yourself! 

As for my next visit: Barbican here I come!! Bauhaus: Art as life will be there until August (though I hope to visit in the next couple of weeks).

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Learning new techniques: macrame!

My friend at work is a very talented girl in many areas. She's a brilliant painter, makes bags with applique fabric, beads and sequins, and also she makes incredible macrame necklaces and bracelets. The other day she made me a necklace (see below) for my birthday. She made it in a hurry and, no offence to her and I absolutely love the necklace, her other necklaces are much more complicated and intricate. 

She had brought her other necklaces to work before, after we'd been talking about handmade work, and I thought it was about time that I asked her to teach me how to do macrame! So last night I went to her house, where she has boxes full of thread, beads, stones and more, it was like a treasure trove! She uses a waxed synthetic thread, which was a bit hard for me to get used to, being used to knitting with natural materials. I chose a burgundy red thread to work with, because, if I was actually successful in making a decent looking item, it would match a dress that I've not worn in a while. I've only just starting experimenting with the basics, but here's my first attempts. The thread is a lot darker than displayed in the pictures. 

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Let's go to the market!

Ok so spring has decided to skip London, and it's still raining and cold (despite the fact that England is suffering a drought, yes I know the irony!) However, I've been stubbornly creating things for spring and summer regardless of the weather! My shopping bags are of course suitable for every season, but during the spring and summer visits to the farmer's markets are much more appealing. Now I just have to find one in my area! In an area dominated by the major supermarkets Sainsbury's and Morrisons, and Tesco is under construction (they only got planning permission because they are building homes and a sports centre) and Polish supermarkets it's going to be a tough task and I may just have look a bit further outside my local area. It's not a farmer's market but maybe Brixton market is going to be my next stop! 

The yellow and orange bags are made of linen (the same linen as my feather and fan scarves) and the last one is made of this amazing Peruvian organic, fairtrade, naturally coloured cotton called Pakucho that I found the other day in Loop in Angel. It's very soft! The bags can be found in my Etsy shop:


Tuesday, 24 April 2012

It's been a while...

As you may have noticed, I'm not used to keeping a regular blog yet. What do I write? Does anyone care? Should I write about personal things? Should I keep things strictly focused on my work? I guess the answer is: it's completely up to me! I can write about absolutely anything! Most people probably figured this out years ago when they started their blogs, but this is still a little awkward for me, sharing words and thoughts and images with the world.

So, what's been happening? Well, we've had our one week of summer in March, and now it's freezing cold again (even if the sun is shining, it's very deceptive!!) But I tried to make the most of that one week in our local park (of course accompanied by my knitting bag) which has some beautiful areas, I should take some photos next time! Living in South London means that I'm surrounded by huge areas of greenery. Both Streatham Common and Tooting Bec Common are in close walking distance of my flat, so that makes up a little for the lack of outdoors space in my flat. But I'm growing more and more jealous of those people that have even just a little balcony to grow some flowers/herbs/veg... I can't even grow anything on my window sill as my windows open outwards and would knock everything over.

I've also painted my kitchen, with much help from my boyfriend, and it now has one bright wall in a burnt orange colour (Charlotte's Locks by Farrow and Ball) and grey skirting boards. It looks great! All I need now is a nice piece of art to break up this bright wall! I hope to take some pictures soon! This is only the beginning of my decorating, I've been hating the peach feature walls of my flat since we moved in, but time and money are always the issue...

Of course I've been knitting too. My orange linen scarf is ready and listed on Etsy and Folksy.


I have also made a few string bags in linen, which have yet to be photographed. And the baby blanket I wrote about before is also finished and waiting to be photographed.  So I have been busy and I'm hoping to update this post with photos very soon!

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Done and listed!

I have finally finished, blocked and listed my linen scarf! It has actually turned out a little longer than anticipated, but I love it that way! Plus it's quite wide so you can wear it like a shawl or wrap. It just means that maybe shorter people might want to take some of the length off.. Anyway here are the pictures! Let me know what you think! I've already started another one in orange...


Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Work in progress...

For a long time I've had several skeins of Patons cotton lying around. I started making something, changed my mind and ripped it all out again on many occasions. Finally I decided to make a baby blanket in a crochet ripple pattern to practice my crochet skills, since a friend of mine got pregnant. I liked the idea of taking a traditional pattern and bring it into the 21st century using modern combinations of colour. However, halfway I ran out of yarn (I highly underestimated the amount needed as I've never made a blanket before!) and I couldn't find the same colours in any of the yarn shops, until this afternoon! So I've taken some photos of what I have so far, and will finally continue and hopefully finish this once and for all. I have a reasonably large stash of yarn that I would like to finish, such as these cottons, because I would like to start using more ethically and sustainably sourced yarns.

The photos were taken as the light was fading, so they have come out a bit on the dark side. I cannot wait for the days to get longer!

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

On dentists and other news...

As I am writing this, my mouth is half numb, as I have just returned from the dentist. As lovely as my dentist is, I really rather not see him. But I had a broken tooth and that needed to be fixed, and that was going to happen today. I thought. But no, I have to come back TWO more times before it's all fixed. That is, if the nerve in my tooth doesn't die, in which case I would need a root canal treatment! Either way, drinking water at the moment is quite a chore and I don't have any straws in the house! 

My linen scarf is coming along beautifully, it's going to be tough to sell it! I might have to make one for myself! I'm still waiting on the merino wool I ordered nearly 2 weeks ago, which I hope has not got lost in the post. I'm also waiting to receive some yarn from my best friend in Holland. I made a cowl for her just before the new year, and her mum loved it so much that she wants one too, so my friend has chosen the yarn and is going to send it over. Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures of my friend's cowl, so I'll have to take some when making the second one. 

Since I last wrote I have decided to open up a shop on Folksy alongside my already existing shop on Etsy. This has been fairly easy for me to do because at the moment I'm not making a lot of sales (I will have to work harder on networking!) and can therefore use duplicate listings, but if sales pick up in the future I will have to see how to deal with that. Folksy is still very much an underdeveloped site, but I like that it is for UK sellers only and therefore encourages local shopping. And I think that in the next couple of years it will work out its kinks. I still spend most of my time on Etsy rather than Folksy due to the community that exists on Etsy and I feel is currently lacking on Folksy. We will see how this develops! In the meantime, I'll keep two shops running! 

And lastly, I have opened a Flickr account so I can upload photos from my travels and my work and general interests. I've been spending a lot more time online lately trying to get this blog up and running, sorting out my shops and I have just discovered Pinterest... Hopefully I'll learn to manage my time efficiently so it doesn't eat up too much of my days! 

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

First linen experience

I've started my first linen knitting project, a reversible feather and fan scarf. I've heard that linen is rough to knit with, but softens up when washed. So I'm trusting in that advice, although it does indeed feel like knitting with twine. But it doesn't hurt my fingers (yet!) and so far I like the look of it! I'm guessing it will be a lot more drapey and loose once washed and blocked, which will make it a perfect luxurious scarf for spring and I cannot wait to finish it! 

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

My linen yarn arrived!

Although I'm still waiting for the merino to arrive (which is coming from the US so that'll take a few more days) I have just picked up my linen from the post office and I was not disappointed!! I'm so excited to start projects with these lovely spring colours (the photo does not do justice to the colours due to bad light)! Each cone is 400 g! I can't decide what to start first: I want to make a few market bags, some lovely lacy spring scarves, and maybe even some cushion covers, although I might have to get some thicker linen for that. I would like to look into some patterns for summer tunics as well. Lots of possibilities!

Monday, 20 February 2012

At the moment I am reading...

The Craftsman by Richard Sennett. I haven't got very far yet in this book, but there are already a few quotes from this book I can identify with.

Firstly, relating to the perfectionist that I can be:

"The craftsman's desire for quality poses a motivational danger: the obsession with getting things perfectly right may deform the work itself. We are more likely to fail as craftsmen, I argue, due to our inability to organize obsession than because of our lack of ability. The Enlightenment believed that everyone possesses the ability to do good work of some kind, that there is an intelligent craftsman in most of us; that faith still makes sense."

Secondly, I thought these were very relevant quotes for modern material society:

"History has drawn fault lines dividing practice and theory, technique and expression, craftsman and artist, maker and user; modern society suffers from this historical inheritance. But the past life of craft and craftsmen also suggests ways of using tools, organizing bodily movements, thinking about materials that remain alternative, viable proposals about how to conduct life with skill."

"The emotional rewards craftsmanship holds out for attaining skill are twofold: people are anchored in tangible reality, and they can take pride in their work. But society has stood in the way of these rewards in the past and continues to do so today. At different moments in Western history practical activity has been demeaned, divorced from supposedly higher pursuits. Technical skill has been removed from imagination, tangible reality doubted by religion, pride in one's work treated as a luxury. If the craftsman is special because he or she is an engaged human being, still the craftsman's aspirations and trials hold up a mirror to these larger issues past and present."

Finally, I like his definition of a craftsman: someone who is "dedicated to good work for its own sake". 

And I've only got to page 20... More to follow!

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Waiting for the postman...

I have just bought this beautiful fingering weight merino yarn on Etsy from lightbrownhare to make a lightweight beanie for my boyfriend, James. He wants a non-slouchy beanie this time, that is suitable for the weather leading to spring time. This is the first time I've bought yarn on Etsy, and the first time I'm using a hand-dyed yarn so I absolutely cannot wait to find my package arriving in the post! I had wanted to buy recycled yarn, but James insisted on this colour, and to be honest, I fell in love with it too.

I have also ordered some yarn in preparation for spring, again online. I'm still a little weary of ordering yarns online because the colours are always slightly different from what you see on the screen, and you can't feel the yarn, which is of course the biggest pleasure when shopping for yarns. But it's probably a good thing I bought this online, as the yarn I bought is linen, which I've been told is, until washed, very rough to touch. I've never knit with linen before, so this will be a great experiment. The raw linen is mixed with recycled linen, so I'm happy that I found a linen yarn that is sustainable and affordable!

Monday, 13 February 2012

Sustainable knitting

Sustainability has been a big trend buzzword the last few years, and there are many definitions of sustainability with regards to economic, social and environmental fields. Here I would like to focus on the environmental field: how eco-friendly is knitting? I am thinking of four main areas: the sustainability of the growing/production of the material, the process to turn the material into fibre, the dying process, and the use of the fibre. The last one is an easy one, hand-knitting requires no energy other than human labour. So it's sustainable on that front. But the materials are a bit more tricky. There are of course numerous materials that make fibres, animal fibres, natural fibres and man-made fibres. I'm going to rule out man-made fibres here. Synthetic fibres are created from petroleum, creating a higher dependence on oil, at a time when we are running out.

When I started knitting I thought that as long as I bought yarn that was not man-made, it was sustainable. Wrong. I can't really go into detail here about every single type of fibre, but here are a few points and links to further information. 

One of the most used fibres in the world is cotton. Particularly in summer this is a very popular fibre for clothing, accessories, bags, towels, etc. http://www.ecofashionworld.com/EcoFashion-Pulse/HOW-THIRSTY-IS-YOUR-TSHIRT.html contains a very good article about the pros and cons of cotton and discusses the water usage and the use of pesticides and fertilisers. AND... it points out an issue I had never even considered: a garment's lifecycle impact: the sum of environmental impacts caused by a product's existence. Washing and drying uses a lot of energy and water.

http://organicclothing.blogs.com/my_weblog/ is another website that is entirely dedicated organic, natural and sustainable clothing and contains lots of information on a large variety of fibres and other materials. Bamboo for example, has in recent years been hailed a the new sustainable fibre, and indeed it is a very sustainable plant to grow. But the process to turn the bamboo into fibres uses huge amounts of chemicals renders it very unsustainable.   

Another way to go would be to use recycled yarns. Etsy shop ThoughtfulRoseSupply sells yarn obtained from unwanted sweaters. She points out the following:

"Did you know--soaring US demand for cashmere has devastated parts of China's landscape? Overgrazing by cashmere-producing goats has led to the "desertification" of formerly rich grasslands. If you want to help reduce demand, enjoy the luxury of cashmere in a more eco-friendly (and wallet-friendly) way, by buying recycled yarn instead of new."

Gridjunky, who's creations I highly admire for their graphic textures, also mainly uses recycled yarns. So hit the charity shops (in the UK) or (in the US) thrift stores or go through your wardrobe and ask your friends for their unwanted sweaters, or if you want to save the time to carefully unravel and wash the recycled yarns, find shops such as ThoughtfulRoseSupply who've done the hard work for you!

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Latest listing on Etsy

This iPhone cozy is my latest listing on Etsy, I'm currently working on a few bigger projects (lightweight scarfs for the period when winter moves to spring and a lovely green cable and lace hat made from merino and camel yarn is currently drying from blocking) but in between I'm making the quicker little things such as these, with left over yarn from bigger projects. I love the simple texture of it and think it would be great to make a cowl in this pattern, spiralling around your neck, I'll have to think of a suitable yarn for a larger scale of this pattern.

The link below will take you to the listing which has more photos!


Slowly getting the hang of it

Ok so I got up this morning determined to figure out how to add 'gadgets' to my blog. I finally managed (after having to change templates because for some reason the 'dynamic view' template wouldn't allow me to add gadgets)! I have added a few of my favourite books, fiction and non-fiction, and some books that are on my bookshelf as yet unread... If only we didn't need to sleep! Reading has always been a huge part of my life, I started devouring books when I was 4 years old. And even if I undertake creative design work, I like to do research and back up my designs with ideas and theories. It inspires me, but on the other hand it gives me great anxiety, because the world of information has become sooooooo huge that I sometimes feel completely lost and overwhelmed and realise there is never enough time in the world to know everything!

Eventually I will make these lists more sophisticated and will have categories and links, but I'm only a beginner now. Right now I'm focusing on creating a base for this blog.

Although I have a pile of books reaching to the ceiling that still needs to be read (and that is just the books at home, let alone all those in the library!), I love recommendations so if anyone has read a book they think that I should add to that reading list, or maybe even put on top of the reading list, please do let me know!

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

My first attempt...

Welcome! This is the first of what I hope will be a fruitful collection of posts exploring, well, everything! The main focus of my blog though will lay with exploring ideas for my projects: textures, patterns, theories, ideas, sketches, works in progress, and last but definitely not least, materials. I am currently into knitting and a bit of crochet and I have been researching about the use of different fibres in my work, and not just the behaviour of the fibres but also the sustainability of the process to create these fibres. I am doing this blog mostly so that I can develop my creations and designs, through a clear process, by taking it out of my head and putting it in one place, but also so that people interested in the items in my shop can see the process of thought and creation.

The other focus of my blog will be related to my studies (and once finished hopefully my career!!), which is a masters in international planning and sustainable development. This course focuses on urban design, planning and development in general and more specifically in developing countries, with a principle focus on social, environmental and economic sustainability.

To these two 'main' subjects of my blog I will add general thoughts and things I like. I have no clear view of how this will work out, we will see where it will take me! At this moment, I'm still trying to figure out how to work this blogging thing, so please bear with me!