Thursday, 5 January 2017

The giving season!

a snap of some Waterfall Scarves
in my studio at a Coburg House.
[update: One scarf sold this season so I decided to pay it forward and made a donation of £95 instead of £9.50.  The scarves will go on sale again later in the year and if I sell more than ten I'll donate again.]

Yes it's that time again! The time when we arts and crafts folk hope you'll give creative handmade things to your nearest and dearest. I'll be giving back too -  fifteen percent of the sales of my Waterfall Scarves at Open Studios or the Arts Market will be donated to Medecins Sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders) who do life-saving voluntary work providing healthcare in conflict zones, at natural disasters and fighting epidemics around the world.

Hand-dyed yarns make these scarves are unique.  There are lots more colours in the collection than you see in this photo. They come in two sizes - long and narrow or shorter and wider. The fibre content is varied too - some are  traditional wool/nylon sock yarn, some are pure Merino wool and some are a mixture of Blue Faced Leicester wool and silk.

Some of the yarns came from Natural Dye Studio who sadly no longer exist. A couple are from Yarn Pony and quite a few are from Ripples Crafts who inspired me to do this with their Crisis in Malawi yarn project.  They raised just over £600 for the Mary's Meals charity with this special batch of yarn. I don't have enough scarves to match this amount but every little helps the world be a better place.

"Where can we buy one?", I hear you ask!  At Coburg House Open Studios 3&4 December, where you can visit me in Studio 37, and at the Out of the Blue Arts Market on 10 December where I'll be part of the Craft Reactor Edinburgh crew.  Follow the links for full details about location and times.

New Year To-Do List - Old Stuff, New Ideas!

Ready for knitting in 2017
Happy new year from Knot Unknot. I'm not one for seasonal resolutions but I've heard that setting targets is helpful. I think it's more giving hostages to fortune but I shouldn't knock it until I've tried it. To that end, I'm listing a bunch of studio-related stuff I want to get done soon. There's a lot more on the personal to-do list but, well, it's personal!
  • Exhibitions for Botanica Mathematica
    Last autumn Jo and I sorted out all 75 trees in the Botanica Mathematica specimen collection and created taxonomy with species names.  This means the project is finally ready to exhibit so I'm making enquiries with likely hosts this month.  The main things I need for this are time and old-fashioned display cases.
  • Learn to use new equipment
    Towards the end of last year I bought some second-hand kit (a ribber for the hacked knitting machine and a linker) and a new overlocker sewing machine.  They all need a bit of setting up and some practice but once they're up and running Knot Unknot's output will be transformed!
  • Website update and online shopping
    Currently the only outlets for my work are the Open Studios events at Coburg House and a contribution to the occasional Craft Reactor market stall. I've got the facility to have online shopping on my static website but never used it properly. This site is in serious need of a make over too. Hopefully this will come to life in the first half of this year. If enough of you buy things then Knot Unknot could move from money pit status to microbusiness!
  • Mathcramé
    Coined by an old friend, this wonderfully bad pun might just be my next maths/textile project. Watch out for knotted string with a mathematical twist - and some workshops at science festivals too! Perhaps not this year as it'll need quite a bit of development.
  • More 3D felting
    I made a few felt hats last winter - wet felted from prepared wool fibre - and they've had lots of very positive comments.  I'd like to make a few more and some pots and bowls.  No particular maths/science motivation, I just like them. 
  • New presentation style for knitted hangingsThe last batch of knitted wall hangings were designed to hang from a wooden slat with another at the bottom for weight.  I'd like to get a new system that stretches the work horizontally as well as vertically. Each one would need to be made specially for the knitted image.
New ideas using the hacked machine and the linker

Embroidered Brooches
Flames of Autumn
(mixing machine knitting and needle felting)

The North Ronaldsay hat - made from the wool of North Ronaldsay sheep
who live on the island's beaches and eat seaweed.
The linker and something that's been linked

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Live nerdy knitting!

A quick blog post to let you know that I have a spot at Event Horizon 12. It's Edinburgh's monthly science fiction night and there's music and readings too. The theme of the evening is Star Trek is 50 and I guess I've been a fan for almost as long so expect some trek knits in the slide show at least.  Mostly I'll be talking about  my current projects, Botanica Mathematica and hacked knitting machines.

You find  Event  Horizon in the Blind Poet pub on West Nicolson Street, Edinburgh,  starting at 19.30 approximately, on Monday 3 October. Come in and geek out -or you'll forever be a Herbert!

Monday, 16 May 2016

What now?

Lots of stuff happening  at Knot Unknot these days so here's list.

New work being created for summer events includes tuck stitch scarves in silk blend yarns, hand dyed silk scarves, needle felted Harris Tweed brooches  (picture below) and felted crater vessels.

Main summer events at Coburg House are our art and craft market 10-12 June and Open Studios 5-7 August.

To get ready for Open Studios, I also need to have a big clear out so there will be surplus yarn for sale as well as my work.

Last call for contributions to Botanica Mathematica went out recently. At the end of summer we will be classifying the  trees and creating a taxonomy so get those knitting needles clicking.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Knitted space dogs and other animals!

It's April and Edinburgh Mini Maker Faire is almost upon us and I don't really know where the time has gone since my last post in December! Most of my creative time has been spent learning just what the hacked knitting machine I posted about last time can and can't do.

We had a great weekend break in London during February, visiting inspiring exhibitions meeting friends and going to shows.  The Cosmonauts exhibition in the Science Museum certainly gave me a lot of immediate inspiration for the machine and is likely to do so for some time to come. I was very taken with the story of Belka and Strelka, (the dogs who came back alive - along with a rabbit, 42 mice and 2 rats!).  They went on to be Soviet celebrities with children's books and animated TV series being created as well as a huge souvenir industry. So I'm adding to the souvenirs...

That's just a test piece - the yarn turned out to be unsuitable but the colours are good. Some of my other test pieces for the machine have been images of animals: a baby tapir and a giant sunfish.  The notion slowly emerged that I should work up a series of science celebrity animal wall hangings. The obvious first choice for woolly science in Edinburgh is Dolly the Sheep, the first cloned mammal, so here's the first sample towards making a final hanging.

I've thought of a few more animals to include but I'm still working on the list and open to suggestions.

You can see all the animal sample pieces and my finished cosmonauts (Yuri and Valentina) at Edinburgh Mini Maker Faire on Sunday 10 April.  I'll be bringing the hacked machine too so you can see it in action. 

Finally, a big shout out to my friends from team Craft Reactor who are going to be helping me over the weekend. 

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Full of Beans for 2016?

In the last days of 2015 I finally made a token part of what was supposed to  be this year's grand project. Honour is somewhat asuaged if not completely satisfied.
The United Nations declared 2015 to be the International Year of Light for many reasons including the anniversary of James Clerk Maxwell unifying electricity and  magnetism in his famous equations. Having worked in his birthplace at 14 India Street Edinburgh among all sorts of memorabilia, I have long harboured ideas of celebrating his work in textile form. 2015 was  the obvious time to do it but life happened instead.
In October 2014 I attended fashion technology conference in Berlin. Inspired by things I learned there I was going to hack an old electronic knitting machine in order to knit red, blue and green portraits of Maxwell in the style of his invention of colour photography. I also envisaged a Victorian gentleman's jacket embellished with braided emboidery symbolic of intertwined light waves.
My big mistake was to apply for grant funding. If successful I'd have a decent budget for the project but it meant I couldn't get started until the results were announced in March. In the meantime the day job and family life were getting increasingly demanding so by the time I found I hadn't got any funding, I'd missed out on other supportive events and the project faltered. Shorter term ideas filled the time and took over.
Anyway, on 28th December, I finally got to grips with the hacking of the knitting machine and the next day I got the software working and made some test pieces. Yesterday I knitted one portrait of Maxwell in scrap wool to resrmble a sepia toned photograph. You can see all these items in the image collage in this post.
Now, on the last day of the year, I'm wondering whether to push on with the Maxwell project, continue developing the new ideas I've had, go back  and work on the final part of 2013's project or come up with some new stuff for 2016 - the UN International Year of Beans!

Monday, 9 November 2015

Felting Fun!

At the beginning of October, Felt United Day and Fun Palaces coincided so with the help of Craft Reactor I celebrated them both.  We had a free felt making workshop that attracted 17 people completely new to making felt.  By the end of the day there were 21 felt flags based on the Felt United 2015 theme of "home". The flags were stitched together overnight by Carmen from Craft Reactor and decorated the following day's Fun Palace events. That's them at the top of this post strung along the balustrade at Old College Quad, University of Edinburgh in a photo by Heather Rea who made the tenth flag from the left. There was a lot going on in the Quad to celebrate the arrival of the Mini Kelpies sculpture - chocolate science experiments, circus skills workshops, geometric sculpture building and more. I'll put a full post with lots more pictures on the Craft Reactor site in the very near future.

For about a week around the workshops I felt totally burnt out but it was a great thing to be part of both Felt United and Fun Palaces. Now that I've got some energy back I'm making some new felt scarves for December's Open Studios at Coburg House. I've been spending a lot of time learning about machine knitting over the last year or so. It's very technical, with more investment in the planning than the final act of making. It was nice to get back to something more fluid like these big colourful felt pieces.  There's always planning with felt but there's more scope for ad hoc changes as well and you often get surprised by what the wool does when it's rolled up.  Here are a few phone pictures for a sneak preview of the new felts.  Come to Coburg House on 5 & 6 December to see the finished collection.