Tuesday, 20 November 2012


It took two years to organise, but turned out to be worth the wait. Susan Guagliumi, international star of machine knitting, came to share skills and opinions. And she came right to my living room, the original home of the Brunswick Machine Knitting Novices

We saw amazing samples and demonstrations of knitted effects achieved using bridging techniques.
Speaking for myself, I did not take a lot of notice of the directions on how to achieve particular effects. But I will read the book with much improved understanding if I am moved to try out some 3D embellishment in future projects

Have a look at Jules blog  for the beautiful photos of Susan's work. Evil gremlins have throated all my efforts to include them in this post.

Seeing Susan at work was an epiphany opening up possibilities for structural elements worked in the middle of a row. I see waist level cables used for shaping in my future.
An outsider's eye was as interesting as the knitting. Susan explained how the domestic machine market was never an independent market. Rather it was a handy supplement to the market for machines used in small factories, mainly in developing countries. It makes sense to support our local dealers and service technicians as much as we can, to preserve our machine knitting support networks as long as possible.
But perhaps there is another option as well as doing what we can to help the older businesses survive. After all, there will surely continue to be small factories knitting things as long as there are places with limited infrastructure and a need to sell something to the folk in places where they have money. And the businesses that make the machines for them will always be grateful for some breadth in their market. Susan was hugely impressed by Dairing , a business where the only apparent cobwebs are ethereal textiles constructed from fabulous contemporary yarns. 

Imagine a business that could sell a machine knitting virgin a shiny new machine (a good one, not one of those dodgy prerusted disappointments) and a selection of up to the style minute kits with beautiful contemporary yarns and bulletproof knitting instructions for the machine you have just bought. No swatch necessary! Please do not faint in horror, it is not you, the dedicated vintage machine knitting enthusiast, at whom this business is aimed. Rather it is the cashed up, time poor citizen who needs a short cut to the satisfaction of creation.

Thank youSusan, come back soon with some more ideas for us to think about.
Thank you Jules for giving me the photos you took, and thank you Libby Poppleton for doing everything needed to bring Susan to expand our horizons.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Good taste or brilliance?

Prompted by a session devoted to recycling knitting, Angela brought out to public gaze a couple of masterpieces last Saturday.
Pardon the less than expert photography. The photo of the fish featuring frock Is a pale representation of the fluro reality, even after I have fiddled with the colour, leaving Della apparently on the brink of apoplexy.

Dress featuring ocean life, with seaweed on the shoulders, made by primary teacher Angela for wearing while teaching a study unit on sea life.

Joseph's Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, made for a school production.

It would be crafting crime to recycle these into cushions. Archival standard storage, and occasional exhibition display at the very least.

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Friday, 16 March 2012

A wheel rediscovered

Last year I found myself in the position of exploring knitted jacket design in public. This was a daunting prospect as I have no design training, and most of the audience had more knitting experience than I have.
But it turned out that most in the audience had not met the technique of using cling wrap to prepare individualised patterns. Searching on the phase,"Saran Wrap Sloper" will give detailed descriptions online. This technique always fascinates, revealing strange and unexpected qualities in cling wrap. And it provides a number free way to generate a basic pattern block, which can be a comfort to those of us who may be sensitive about the disconnect between health and beauty ideals, and the reality of our own bodies.
The cling wrap antics turned out to be the highlight of the series. I wrapped a wide range of figures, the child shaped doll I used for demonstration, and variously shaped and sized women.

Wrapping Elizabeth in cling wrap. Place lengths of plastic without creating tension, otherwise the body will be squashed and your basic pattern block will be distorted. It is possible to buy narrow rolls of cling wrap, handy for the neck and armhole areas. If attempting this at home, use a premium brand of clingfilm, this is no time for trading handling quality for economy.

Marking in seam lines and edges.

Enjoying the mysteriously transformed cling wrap, which has assumed form and memory. The soft plastic shell has been cut off the subject. I wrecked only two singlets before I worked out that making the first cut along the centre back, with a strip of paper left underneath the wrapping, minimises the chances of snipping holes in undershirts.
By the end of the series of workshops, it had become obvious that everyone, including the child shaped doll, is broader across the front of the chest than across the back. For some of the subjects the difference is too significant to be ignored in designing or adapting garments.

A standard two dimensional construction is not going to work for this subject. If the bust measurement is evenly divided between the front and back pieces, the back will be too wide and the front will be distressingly inadequate.
Having made this useful discovery, and started improving my designs by allowing space where it is needed, and eliminating it where it is superfluous, I have gone on to discover that I am reinventing the wheel. My good friend Von opened my eyes to the fact that all the best old drafting references draw bodice fronts wider than bodice backs. A friend quoted her late mother, a professional dressmaker, advising that the front edges of a coat or cardigan should always overlap, even if the garment is to be worn unbuttoned. And it is not as if this design wisdom has been entirely forgotten. There is a Show Studio Design Download of a Martin Migiela basic dress pattern with the bodice front pieces, and the skirt back pieces, drawn with added space for the areas of greater curve.
To see plenty of examples where this principle has not been followed, browse a gold mine of shared knitting experience, the project pages of Ravelry. Then chose or adapt a pattern that respects a 3D body.


Saturday, 28 January 2012

.....just the wrong clothes. PS

Yesterday I spent the day in Maryborough, not cycling through the sweltering countryside with my companions. Looking for cool and sedentary diversions, I found myself at the Maryborough Flour Mill Gallery
home of the extraordinary Sew What collection of vintage, antique and toy sewing machines
I recommend a visit if you are passing that way.
Added attractions of the venue are the coffee and biscuit (included in the price of admission ), chairs and couches to relax in and retro reading material to browse.
As I leafed through the thoughtfully assembled folder of fashion articles from the 1940s and 50s, I was struck by the appearance of the models in photographs. Compared with fashion photographs you see now, the models then look almost pudgy. And as we know, on average we are bigger than our parents and grandparents. The publishers used quite a bit of artists' fashion illustration too. In the artwork, the models are elongated, have exaggerated shoulders and minimised waists, and look just like the real live models used in fashion display now!

Thursday, 26 January 2012

..... just the wrong clothes

For years I have been crediting Billy Connolly with a wise saying, only to find that it is something that Swedes say all the time, "There's no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes."
Billy said this on the cliffs near Wick, on what appeared to be a cold, wet and windy winter night such as you might expect by the northern tip of Scotland. When I saw this on the television I was surprised by a wave of nostalgia for this bleak landscape that I had never seen in real life. But one of my Great Grandfathers left Wick to try his fortune in Australia on the goldfields. I was touched to think of his grandson, my Dad, choosing to spend his working life in an equally harsh and beautiful Mallee landscape, battling a quite different set of climatic extremes.
But never mind the weather. It is one of the disappointments of modern life that many of us seem to be stuck with the wrong clothes for our shapes, our taste and our activity. In the dim past where I spent my youth, the range of clothing on sale matched fairly well the range of sizes to be clothed. And any dress shop with the slightest pretension to style, would have someone to do alterations. And then there were dressmakers, whose services could fit within quite modest budgets.
We are assured that we are much bigger people than our recent ancestors, and I believe it. But our wardrobes haven't adapted to changing shapes. Take this sentiment, attributed to Calvin Klein, "if a woman can't be bothered to keep herself in shape, I can't be bothered to make clothes for her" (he had been asked why he did not offer clothes over a certain size). Now that arrogant remark probably hides a truer explanation which might be expressed, " If I were to extend my range beyond that size there would be increased design and manufacturing costs due to altering the proportions to suit different shapes, and having to use different cutting layouts and more fabric. It is easier for me to make the cheapest possible versions of my designs, display them on models chosen to make the clothes look good, and hope the buyers are intimidated enough take whatever measures are needed to make themselves fit into the clothes I offer for sale"
Personal alteration by surgical means is a recent phenomenon, which seems to have become more common as the infrastructure for personalised garment provision has become scarcer. And the various branches of the weight loss industry are booming
My new year's resolution is to put more effort into designing and making humbler clothes. Clothes that will do their best to be comfortable and becoming to the wearer. Watch this space to see how it goes

Friday, 20 January 2012

Granny's squares.

Back in the 1930s, my grandmother made a cot blanket for my then baby sister. Not that she was my baby sister then. I wouldn't appear on the scene for quite a few years, by which time our Nana had departed it. My sister treasures this blanket, and has managed to keep it in near perfect condition, giving us a priceless glimpse at the colours of the family knits in the 30s.
I waved the iPhone over it a few times last night. Funny how I remember it as having no blue. A mistake, clearly. However the old rule, "blue and green should never be seen without a colour in between " has been followed.

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