Historic Crafts

I first met one of the owners of Historic Crafts, Eddie, a couple of years ago when I started attending a local knitting group. We didn’t speak much at first, and I really don’t know why, because she turned out to be a very friendly Danish archaeologist who crochets the most amazing gloves. (and knits, and weaves, and sews …and I could go on).

As she knows, I’m a textile historian and big craft geek, so it wasn’t long before Eddie asked me if I’d like to get involved in her new website, Historic Crafts. So late last year I signed up as a blogger and on the launch in January 2010, wrote a little bit about what I do, and more recently some posts about spinning. There are all kinds of articles including using natural dyes, as you can see Historic Crafts blogger, Louise from Haandkraft doing in the image below (image copyright, Haandkraft).

The Historic Crafts website was set up by Eddie Roued-Cunliffe and Helene Agerskov Madsen and is a really great resource for anybody interested in craft history and making in general. It is based on a series of blog posts, how-tos and reviews by a little group of collaborators (you can find them here: bloggers). Some of the posts are even available in Danish!

In June 2010 Eddie and Helene launched the Journal of Historic Crafts as a supplement to the website. It isn’t exactly a more academic tome, but has much more in-depth information.  Whereas the blog-posts on the website are slightly more informal and divided into series such as “learning a new craft”, “Easter” or “Spinning”, the Journal has a more overriding theme. You can see one of my posts about the language of flowers there.

Go and take a look! From woodworking to tablet weaving, there really is something for everybody.


Technical Stuff: Yarn Weights

Holly Handspun Yarn by Marlana. Used under Creative Commons License.

Just when you thought that you were on top of your knitting lingo, along comes something else to learn. As a beginner knitter, you might just grab whatever yarn and needles come your way, but soon enough you will come to realise that there are differences in yarn weights and indeed in what they are called. For instance you might be using an American pattern, but be based in the UK and wonder what on earth sportweight yarn is in the first place …let alone where you find it, and why aran weight yarn won’t do instead.

The basic reason for needing to use the right weight of yarn is for sizing. If your yarn is too thick or too thin, you can’t get the right tension and your sizing will be out. Because of this, it is important to know about the differences in yarn weights, and what they are variously called.

Here are some general guidelines:

UK – 2-ply/ Lace
US – Baby / Laceweight
UK – 3-ply
US – Light Fingering

UK – 4-ply
US – Fingering

UK – (light-ish DK)
US – Sport weight

UK- Double Knitting
US – Double Knitting / Worsted

UK – (light-ish Aran weight)
US – Worsted

UK – Aran
US – Aran / Fisherman

UK – Bulky
US – Chunky

UK – Superbulky
US – Superchunky

As you can see, sometimes there isn’t a direct equivalent for the yarns, but you can generally make a near- match. Another useful thing to know is that sock weight yarn will be either 3-ply or 4-ply, depending on the manufacturer, but due to its need to wear well, it will often have nylon content or be a superwash wool, which withstands machine washing.

GBP: Workshop

Digital SLR, image copyright Giles Babbidge Photography

If you, like me are not making the most of your digital camera, Giles’ SLR Startup workshop might be just the thing for you.

He’s running four workshops this summer to help improve your photography using a simple, hands-on approach. Using your own camera, Giles will help you to master its key functions so you’re able to consistently get the great results that you want.

He says:

The premise is simple: Beginners’ guides assume too much knowledge, which means people reading them often end up none-the-wiser. They don’t want to be bombarded by photo-jargon – they just want to know what they should be doing in order to improve their image making. Is that really so much to ask?

As we know, it is so much easier to learn to knit from a real person and it is just the same with photography. The great thing about these courses is that there is ongoing online support afterwards too, so you can keep in touch.

Please visit the GBP: Workshop page on Giles’ website to find out more and to book your place (be quick – they’re going fast!)

world wide knit in public days

WWKIP days 2009 are on the 13th and 14th June. I have taken part for the last two years and it has been great fun. The idea is that knitting, a generally solitary act is brought out into the wider sphere. I knit in public most days, especially if I’m travelling on a train or bus, but the collective experience of knitting with a large group of people is entirely different to that (you don’t get the nosy people on trains asking if you’re knitting them a scarf when it is obviously socks for a start!)

World Wide Knit in Public Day 2007 by Todd Huffman. Used under Creative Commons.

World Wide Knit in Public Day 2007 by Todd Huffman. Used under Creative Commons.

I like that it gives a sense of community that I might usually only get when I attend a knitting group, but the thing about WWKIP day is that these are people that I might never have met before. They will have new ideas about knitting, techniques which I’ve never seen before, ways in which they hold the needles that are different to mine, even yarns which I’ve never heard of.  I have learned to knit lace and cables, had books and patterns recommended to me and myself, taught three people to knit in past years. It is a time to share ideas and be open to learning new and exciting things.

The Cornershop, Winchester by Zabdiel. Used under Creative Commons.

The Cornershop, Winchester by Zabdiel. Used under Creative Commons.

This year I’m going to be at the Cornershop gallery in Winchester (just behind the Hambledon on St Thomas’ Street) where Linda Newington from Winchester School of Art will have an interactive exhibition of items from the Knitting Reference Library. There will be a knitting lounge, reminiscent of that set up at the In the Loop conference last year. I’ll be there knitting and teaching on both days and also during part of the previous week (more details to follow).

It all looks to be great fun: hope you can join us, or if not please do visit the Knitting Reference Library at WSA if you’re round that way sometime. It holds the collections of knitters and knitting historians Montse Stanley, Richard Rutt and Jane Waller as its basis and is a brilliant resource. There are books, patterns, knitted objects, tools, photographs and magazines. The librarians are really helpful with finding all sorts of weird and wonderful stuff, and it is definitely not to be missed if you’re at all interested in the history of knitting.