Archive for July, 2009

shaking and making

I’ve been gathering lots of new raw data this past couple of weeks. By that I mean that I’ve had a couple of seizures. While it is almost always inconvenient and often hurts quite a bit, this has also has given me some new ideas for Brainstorm 2.0 work. I’m pleased that all that going unconscious isn’t in vain. (Yes, I know I’m being flippant. It helps.)

Apart from the actual spinning I’ve been doing this week, I also made a tool for making a skein: a niddy-noddy. Using PVC pipe, this tutorial and a bit of help from my Dad I came up with this. I’m rather proud of it.

PVC pipe niddy-noddy

PVC pipe Niddy-Noddy

Niddy-Noddy with yarn skeined for dyeing

Niddy-Noddy with yarn skeined for dyeing


a week of new skills

I’ve been busy doing lots of new things this past week. As well as learning to dye with food colouring, I’ve been doing a lot of spinning and refining my technique. Overdyeing yarn that I don’t much care for has helped rejuvenate my stash a bit. I forgot to take a ‘before’ photo of this sock yarn. It was a sludgy green and quite uninspiring. Look at it now!

Bright Green Overdyed Sock Yarn

Bright Green Overdyed Sock Yarn

As for the spinning. Well. I had always pre-drafted the roving before this week. It was fine at first, but recently I had found it intensely frustrating when it didn’t spin up to be just how I wanted it. For all the preparation I had little control over what I was making while I was making it. Turns out that I was working with slightly suspect information and that you don’t have to pre-draft! Well, I was shocked. And relieved. Then I spent much of my free time this week learning to draft properly. It is such freedom. I used these videos in which drafting (and beginning to spin in general) was explained very well. According to my sources, you are best to avoid this one though.

This is what I’ve been spinning:

Not keen on this roving but now Im spinning it I love it!

Not keen on this as roving but now I'm spinning it I love it!

Stormy batt carded together by a friend (also gave me the lovely spindle)

Stormy batt carded together by a friend (who also gave me the lovely spindle)

As well as these, I received some gorgeous fibre from Caerthan on Ravelry which I will be spinning up very soon. The batt, pictured bottom has as its base fleece from his own alpacas.

Lovely chunk of indigo silk

Lovely chunk of indigo silk

Indigo alpaca-based batt

Indigo alpaca-based batt

I might even upload a skein of IngridNation handspun to The Yarn Museum soon.

kinetic knitting performance art

(via ArtYarn)

I really do love movement in a piece of art. For me, it can add so much to the experience of being its audience. I find that for some reason it makes me think more about the work as well.

Sometimes it is just mere the hint that the work might not be entirely static. Oh, and I don’t mean powered by electricity necessarily. The whole thrill of this for me is that it is people-powered. I think that is why I am often using garments as a vehicle for my work lately. There is that possibility of interaction. Someone could make them move and that’s quite exciting because then they take on further meaning.

P.S. I’d love to know who that is in the video. Anyone have an idea?

Mrs Miniver’s Petulant Sock

When I first received the Petulant Grey Sock UFO through the post from the Project Administration Service it looked like this:

Petulant Grey Sock UFO

Petulant Grey Sock UFO

It was about half of a top down grey man’s sock. It had been knitted to just past the heel turn and there were a few dropped stitches. I thought about what to do with it for about a week or so before actually trying anything out.  I was thinking about relationships and how two people can become very interdependent on one another. Also about what we bring to a relationship, whether it is a romantic, business relationship or a friendship.

There is a geometry problem called Mrs Miniver’s Problem that is about overlapping circles (not that I’m into maths: I’m a bit rubbish actually, but bear with me). It has its basis in a story…

[Mrs Miniver] saw every relationship as a pair of intersecting circles. It would seem at first glance that the more they overlapped the better the relationship; but this is not so. Beyond a certain point the law of diminishing returns sets in, and there are not enough private resources left on either side to enrich the life that is shared. Probably perfection is reached when the area of the two outer crescents, added together, is exactly equal to that of the leaf-shaped piece in the middle. On paper there must be some neat mathematical formula for arriving at this; in life, none. [Ref Wikipedia with thanks to Beth]

According to Mrs Miniver, two people in a relationship should share exactly two thirds of their interests with the other person. Personally, I think that is a bit much and have adjusted accordingly in my making! My sock  is perhaps a warning not to get too hung up on one another or you might not have enough of yourself left to keep adding anything to that relationship.

The basic sock pattern lent itself to the concept rather well. Instead of finishing it at the toe, I knitted another heel and up a second leg, making a visual metaphor for a relationship between two people. I interpreted the idea of the circles a into knitting by making the circles 3D, turning them on their sides and making staggered transitions rather than Mrs Miniver’s Venn diagrams. I wanted to make the change between one sock and the other pretty obvious so I used the contrasting yarn, and also (in somewhat of a stereotype I admit) made a female sock. Actually while I was making it, it was more about the relationship between the original sock maker and me, so I made the second sock to be one that I would wear.

The final piece which came out of around a month of thinking and experimenting is called Mrs Miniver’s Petulant Sock.

Mrs Minivers Petulant Sock

Mrs Miniver's Petulant Sock

I rather like that nobody can wear it. Also that it’s a sock: something that is generally thought of as a practical garment, but that I’ve been able to make into a piece of impractical art.

I think this might be the start of a series.

as yet untitled

I’ve just finished making this work.

It is the final piece resulting from the UFO I received from Rachael Matthews. I’d love to know what you think it is about (without me telling you any more). This isn’t a test. I’m genuinely interested in how people interpret things with no written clues.

Please leave any suggestions in the comments.

strawberry jam tutorial

One of the best things about the British summer is the strawberries. I love them. There seems to be a glut at the moment and all the shops are slashing their prices. With the season for my favourite variety Elsanta almost over, I went out and bought up a few punnets. The resulting jam was rather tasty and I thought it would be good to show you how I made it so that you can too.

Mums Recipe Tin

Mum's Recipe Tin

The recipe is an old family one which is tried and tested by four generations. Although it was originally written in imperial measurements, I’ve converted it to metric as that’s what we’re using in the UK these days and it makes it easier for buying your supplies here.

You will need:

1kg strawberries (hulled and  quartered)

1kg granulated sugar

The juice of one lemon

1 sachet pectin

300ml water

You will also need a perserving pan, jars and jam pot lids.

You will also need a perserving pan, jars, jam pot covers, a jam funnel, a ladle and a saucer.

Hull and quarter the strawberries and put them into the preserving pan. At this point also place a saucer in your fridge to cool and turn your oven to approx 150 degrees celsuis.

Weigh out the sugar and add it to the pan, along with the lemon juice, water and pectin.

Mix the ingredients and bring to the boil, stirring occassionally to make sure all of the sugar is dissolved and to prevent the jam sticking to the bottom of the pan.

While the jam is coming to the boil, wash your jars in hot water, dry and place in a hot oven to sterilise. You can use any jars, so don’t throw away any from your shop-bought goods.

Let the jam boil steadily for about 15 minutes before testing it to see if it has reached setting point. Spoon a little of the boiling jam onto the chilled saucer and leave to cool for 10 seconds or so.

If the surface of the jam wrinkles when you push it with your finger, the setting point has been achieved. If not, boil the jam for a little longer and test it again. It should not need to be boiled for longer than 30 minutes.

Turn off the heat and stir in a little butter or margarine to help remove any film. Some may need to be removed with a slotted spoon. Leave to stand and cool for about 30 minutes. This prevents the fruit sinking to the bottom of the jars when decanted.

Ladle the jam into the sterilised jars using the jam funnel before sealing with jam pot covers or lids. In Britain you can buy packs of jam pot covers comprising wax disks, cellophane covers, elastic bands and sticky labels. I use these, but you can also buy jars with lids. I believe there is a different canning system in America which uses special jars and lids, so use whichever way you are happy with.

Personally, I don’t like the look of the cellophane lid, so I like to cover it with some fabric too. I used some scraps from IKEA today.

Be sure to also mark your jam with the date it was made and show off that you made it too.

Lastly go and find some crusty bread and enjoy it!

The finished article: IngridNation’s Time Travelling Strawberry Jam

If you were wondering, the name comes from a Twitter conversation with @alliekbean that I had while making it. It started like this…

@InnyMThere’s a particular point when making this that the smell changes to intense strawberry jamminess and sends me hurtling back in time

..and continued in a sea of Dr Who references. That there are Torchwood specials on BBC1 all this week too adds further to my justification in naming it. I only wish I had some TARDIS-blue cloth for the tops.

Please do use the recipe and tutorial to make jam for your own consumption/charity fundraising, but please do not use it for commercial purposes or reproduce the tutorial without first seeking permission and linking to this blog.

Copyright © Ingrid Murnane 2009. All rights reserved.

Cosy, Cosy

Tea is important in my life. In fact it is important in British and Irish life, full stop. I don’t function well without four or five mugs of tea a day. Not at all. …and although I don’t always use one, I do think that tea tastes better when made in a teapot. Which brings me on to a real stereotype: the knitted tea cosy. You know the one. I bet that your Nan had a couple. Mine did.

It looks much like this…

Traditional Nan-style Tea Cosy

Traditional Nan-style Tea Cosy

Yep. I made one …and if you put it onto a teapot that is not meant for just one person, it looks far better too!

I didn’t feel that I could very well investigate the insulating properties and constructions of wool without having made its defining entity. I’m secretly rather pleased with it too. I used a beautiful sparkly purply/blue sportweight (I think) wool handspun by a friend as the main colour. The stripes are provided by using some pink and green DK wool.

The inspiration came from an old pattern which was my Nan’s and which I believe she used to make her tea cosies from. Notice the frankly terrifying doll in the right hand pattern.

Nans Tea Cosy Pattern

Nan's Tea Cosy Pattern

I used a combination of the above pattern and this one by Keren Smith of Tea By The Sea as I liked her idea of using horizontal stripes. My cosy is neither one pattern nor the other really, but a mash-up and reconstruction.

The reason this kind of pattern makes such a successful cosy is the construction of the knitting which provides two layers of wool with air pockets inbetween. It really does insulate beautifully.

So, I have knitted the prerequisite tea cosy. I thought that would get it out of my system. Well, I suppose it has for knitting tea cosies themselves. I probably won’t be knitting another. How many can you possibly need? However the construction is so good I wouldn’t be surprised if I revisit it somewhere along the line in the other insulation work. Maybe in drawings, maybe as experimentation. Watch this space.

Top View of Tea Cosy

Top View of the Tea Cosy

24/5/10: Finally! Here is the tea cosy on a properly fitting teapot.

Teacosy, as it is meant to be used.