I’ve just announced the latest @platea project (our sixth) over on their blog: excitingly it is to be PlateaKnit! Well, there had to be a knitting performance sooner or later, didn’t there? It is going to run 25th – 29th January 2010 (Monday to Friday), just on Twitter. I’m really excited to be leading a @platea project and I do hope that lots of you want to will join in.

The full instructions of how to participate are over on the @platea blog, but I’ll give you the gist of what is happening here. If you think you’d like to join in, please let us know in the comments section of the  @platea blog post, and be sure to follow the other performers taking part as well.

The basic idea is to create a knitting pattern by crowdsourcing it onto Twitter.  You can take part by either giving instructions, or making something from them. Although the instructions may primarily be knitting-abbreviation-based, you can actually contribute the the instructions by describing what you would like to see in a row or two of the project,  and by using the hashtag #plateaknit. I’ve written a cheat-sheet of some possible basic ideas which might help. If knitting isn’t your thing either, you can still take part as a maker, interpreting the instructions in any way you see fit as perhaps a painter or photographer. I’m really looking forward to seeing what people come up with! Everybody’s performance will be difference as will the outcomes made: that’s the fun of it.

I will be making something whilst dipping in and out of the instructions throughout next week. It may be a hat: it may be a scarf. After the performance is over I will be making up a larger item ( probably a scarf) following the full set of  instructions.  I’ll post what I come up with here along with links to what others come up with.

If you’d like to participate yourself, just drop your name and Twitter ID into the comments at the bottom of the @platea post, follow the other performers, and get instructing or making!


Making it up as you go along…

Sometimes a whole lot of similar ideas come out at once, independently of one another.

I’ve been thinking for a while about crowdsourcing tweets to make a knitting pattern. I’d flip a coin to tell me to knit or purl but receive the rest of the instructions from my twitter followers. It’s something which I’ve sort of done before, with the aid of a few friends, but not on such a scale.

This is Mmm – Entrails, or The Red Un-Round. The result of pub-instruction knitting, it was originally cast on as a mobius wrap. It didn’t end up that way.

Mmm - Entrails (or The Red-Unround)

Mmm - Entrails (or The Red Un-Round)

From my Ravelry notes:

I liked the first version of The Round so much I decided to cast on another.

But… what happens in this one is going to be dictated by other people’s suggestions at the pub quiz.  I’ll cast on the amount of stitches they suggest, knit the amount of rows that they want and make it to their specifications rather than mine. I will change colours when they say and make the buttonholes to their request (size and placement).

Given that I usually knit this at the pub, random suggestions are making it all the more entertaining!

So, they asked me to stop knitting. I did.
Then they said: Cut it in half. Er… okay.

I think its quite good actually!

I’m planning to make a pair of wrist-warmers this time with the crowdsourced instructions which will come out with all kinds of weird patterns on them: I hope! There’s still a bit more planning to do, but I’ll be setting that up and executing it within the next couple of weeks.

It seems that quite a few other people have had similar kinds of ideas for knitting just recently: playing with making patterns or being influenced by social media.

How about knitted tweets? Knitters in the north of England, organised by the glittyknittykitty blog came together at the Shipley Art Gallery for an evening event which included freeform knitting something in 140 stitches or under. You can see one of Brendadada’s knitted tweets here.

Then, last week I found knitting dice, which are available from Knitivity. Basically, you throw a set of five dice to determine where your pattern goes. I’d love to have a go with some of these!

Lastly though is Lee Meredith’s new e-book Game Knitting.

Orange Game-Knitted Hat by Lee Meredith. Used under Creative Commons licence.

Orange Game-Knitted Hat by Lee Meredith. Used under Creative Commons licence.

Its concept is ace. In her own words:

The easiest way I’ve found to describe how game knitting works is this:
You make a list of reoccurring things that happen in a TV show, as if you are going to play a drinking game to the show (drink each time something on the list happens), and you want it to be a crazy night!  Which means, if you really were to turn your list into a drinking game, you’d either want to take very small sips of light beer, or you’d be too drunk to play after a couple of episodes.  So, once you have this game list, you design a knitting pattern around doing/changing something in your work every time something on the list happens.  This may be as simple as switching from knit to purl stitches, or making an eyelet hole, or something a bit more complex, like cabling or turning your work for a short row.  Just don’t try actually playing a drinking game as you game knit!

So, I tried this out while I was watching Strictly Come Dancing with my family at the weekend. Casting on for a sideways hat, I knitted an eyelet every time one of the following happened:

  • Len Goodman said ‘seven.’
  • Someone went wrong during the dance performance.
  • Bruce Forsythe made a dire joke.
  • One of the professional dancers got feisty with the judges.
  • One of the dancers came on in something akin to a tablecloth.
  • Craig Revel-Horwood said something bitchy about the performance.
  • There was actual paso music for the paso doble.
  • Tess said that the judges’ scores were in.
Strictly Come Knitting Hat

Strictly Come Knitting Hat

I was knitting in a mid-grey, and you can’t really see very clearly the patterning of the eyelets whilst it is being knit. I think it will come out more when it is blocked. In the meantime, above is a glaring photo in front of the window so you get the general idea. I’m going to continue with it next week, but with shows of two and a half hours each week right up until Christmas I think I’m going to end up with a whole lot of Strictly Come Knitted items!


Earthed Handspun

Earthed Handspun

This evening has been all about spinning. I’ve been trying to make a yarn with the look of the earth wire in a UK electrical plug for a hat that I am planning. I plyed this as an exercise in seeing how these two yarns would work together. Although not entirely what I was expecting, I’m pleased with it as a first effort. It is a purposefully slubby single handspun wool, corespun around a yellow commercial DK weight yarn. The plyed yarn’s texture is reminiscent of brainwaves in some places; of the yellow and green earth wire in others.

I don’t think I’ve made enough though. It may have to be a child-sized beanie.

I really want the hat to use the language of insulation at cross purposes. The idea of keeping a head warm, but using a visual of electrical instulation makes a certain kind of sense to me. It should enable me to talk about epilepsy via this and other visual cues.

But more on that later.

from hibernation to reinvention

I won some sock yarn in a competition a few years ago, but as I hadn’t tried socks at that point (and the mere thought of sock-knitting scared the be-jesus out of me) I decided to knit it up as a first lace project.

Lace Scarf of Doom

The Leafy Lace Scarf

I chose this pretty leaf pattern, which seemed easy enough and used my new red needles which made a great contrast to the mossy greens in the yarn. It all went quite well to begin with. Well, once I had got the hang of reading a lace chart anyway… I knitted away happily on the train and the bus and in front of the TV. The scarf was to be a present for my partner at the time who liked green leafy things and who had a coat which this would match really well.

So far so good…until we split up. Now, I know what you’re thinking: the infamous ‘Curse of the Boyfriend Sweater‘. Well I don’t really think that I can blame it on that, (or in this case perhaps the ‘Curse of the Girlfriend Scarf’) as I’d already knitted her a bag. But in any case, as you would imagine after the breakup I didn’t want to knit any more of it. Retitled ‘The Lace Scarf of Doom’ it was effectively put into hibernation as an UnFinished Object.

So, why am I telling you this?

Well the other day I happened across the UFO Project Administration Service which is a really interesting art project set up by Rachael Matthews of Prick Your Finger yarn shop.

UFO Project Administration Form

UFO Project Administration Form

The basic premise is that you can send in a UFO which you have totally given up on, or sign up to finish somebody else’s UFO. You sign up for an invitation and are sent a specially designed form on which you fill in details about both yourself and your UFO (or the kind of thing you might like to knit of somebody else’s). Rachael will then matchmake knitter with UFO. The brilliant thing about this is that you don’t have to continue to knit the original pattern: you can be as inventive as you like. Jumpers with extra arms, parts of tea cosies made into bags, using a totally different yarn to continue, crocheting something that was started in knitting; the possibilites are endless. Of course you can just continue to knit the original too, if you like. As you have probably guessed, I have decided to send in the Lace Scarf of Doom for somebody else to have a try with and I’m also going to ask for somebody else’s UFO to work on.

The Red Round: another possible contender

The Red Round: another possible contender

What I find so interesting to about this whole idea is that the unloved, unwanted knitted object now could gain a new lease of life and its social life and object biography will be added to in an unexpected direction. Every UFO will have a story behind it: that of its making, the yarn that was used, how the pattern was picked, about the person who knitted it, why they made it and what was going on in their life as they knit. As a UFO going through the Project Administration Service it will now have many added layers of history. Who knows what will happen to the Lace Scarf of Doom, but one thing is sure: it will be much more interesting than had I just finished knitting it to its intended pattern. I can’t wait to see what someone else does with it!

There will be an exhibition at the Jerwood Space in London from 10th June – 19th July 2009, which will also tour Britain and which will feature some of the now-finished UFOs.

Braiiiinwaves: further spinning experiments

I’ve been learning to spin on a drop spindle for a while now. I have two: a CD spindle with a hook which you can alter to be a top whorl or a bottom whorl spindle, and also a far heavier bottom whorl spindle without a hook. I like the latter the best, so far. A bottom whorl spindle seems much easier to use for me as I don’t like the whole ‘rolling the spindle on your leg‘ bit that comes with the top whorl. Seems awkward to me and means I can’t be ambidextrous in my spinning so easily (I like to do be ambidextrous where I can for efficiency and also in doing so I’m hoping to tone up both arms by spinning rather than just one!)

Bottom Whorl Drop Spindle (plying)

Bottom Whorl Drop Spindle (plying)

In previous experimentation I had tried core spinning the fibre to make something visually redolent of a brainwave pattern, but it didn’t really come together. I was trying to make a sketch; a drawing in yarn to work on from. Reflecting on this afterwards I realised that I had taken it too far when I had actually knitted it into something. It seemed like the natural thing to do with the yarn (the natural thing or the done thing? hmm), yet when I was knitting I felt as if I was taking something away from what I had created.

I also gave some to a friend who I was teaching to knit at the pub quiz, and as she knitted the yarn, she pushed the chunkier bits of the yarn along to straighten them out: to make it like a commercially spun yarn. I was horrified! (Having said that, I was very English and didn’t say so in case she thought I was rude.) But basically I had a breakthrough in realising that the yarn was the medium for expression in itself. If I want to sketch in yarn, then my technique for it presently must be spinning.

So I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and yesterday finally decided to try it out again. Core spinning, I made this:

Green Brainwave Sketch

Green Brainwave Sketch

It is made from a commercially dyed green blend of wool, with a commercially spun metallic silver crochet thread as the core.  I’m not liking the green much: I used it because I was thinking about ideas of ‘earthing’ the electricity (in older UK plugs the earth wire was green: now green/yellow). In the end my ideas changed somewhat from the time I drafted the yarn. The colour now doesn’t add anything to what I’m trying to say: it detracts in fact.  However it is a good spin because I can play around and sketch with the yarn: I’ll be working on the colour.

Brainwave Sketches

Brainwave Sketches

The amount of people who have asked me what I am going to make it into is into the tens now. Certainly within my circle of knitters, spinning for its own sake; as an end in itself seems a little ‘out there’. I aim to continue my experiments and will be coming up with more ‘redundant yarn’ as they put it, yet. It might get made into an installation, maybe a fibre sculpture, and certainly I will be working out my ideas and sketching with it. I don’t honestly have a good answer to what I am going to do with it all   …but I probably won’t be knitting it.

To begin…

I’ve recently realised that in writing about my textile work, I have become much more active in my making.

I will be updating this blog as somewhat of a visual diary and reflecting on the processes, techniques and outcomes that I use to create the many and varied arms of my practice. I will be writing about a variety of textile related work that I am making, thinking about or am generally interested in.

I make work in a number of guises: the craft education researcher, the hobbyist-knitter, the knitter-designer, the new crocheter, the art-yarn spinner and the conceptual artist. Most of these areas seem to overlap at one point or another. I’m generally technique-led and like to learn something new and then see how I can push it. I do tend to be more interested in the process than the outcome a lot of the time.

One project that has I have recently been thinking about a lot is Brainstorm 1.0: my BA Textile Art degree show work. I’m revisiting and attempting to resolve it as, you guessed it: Brainstorm 2.0…

I’ve been trying to make work about human electricity for a few years now. I made a lot of pleated work at university in which I was trying to talk about the brainwaves, and the correlations between epilepsy and storms. This is something from my degree show.

Brainstorm 1.0 version 27.8 -2005

Brainstorm 1.0 version 27.8 -2005

This idea has been dormant for a while now and while I think I took it as far as I could with pleating, I don’t feel like it ever was fully resolved.

I’ve recently started to learn to spin on a drop spindle, and am exploring the ways that the fibres ply together to form a new yarn. There seems to be a lot which I could draw on and use in this technique to take the electricity idea in different directions.

Thinking about ideas of nerves and neurones, insulation, and the ways that the actual action of spinning can lend itself to talking about these ideas.

I’ve a lot to explore and experiment with in this new project.

I’ll keep you updated.